Thursday, September 29, 2005

Trace Memory - Nintendo DS

I apologize for all the Nintendo DS entries lately. The problem is that I haven't come across any games with enough allure from my consoles (other than Halo 2). I want Ninja Gaiden Black, but I don't want to spend money on it yet since it's just an enhanced Ninja Gaiden (which I already have).

Trace Memory is a point and click adventure. If you ever played D, 7th Guest, or Deja Vu, you would already know what this is. For a brief explanation of the gameplay, the bottom screen shows a top view and the upper screen shows a detailed view of what the character is looking at. From there you select an option (if available) to be able to click on items in view in order to work through puzzles.

I enjoy puzzlers, so this game got my attention (at least for several hours). What is great about some of these puzzles is that they require you to draw, blow, close, and half-close the NDS. It is a unique experience indeed. The developers really took advantage of the NDS hardware for this game.

Unfortunately, the game came with some problems. The first problem is the game is short. I completed it in several hours. This is due to the player's inability to lose. The only way to get stuck is to not figure out a puzzle. Admittedly, I did have to cheat for one puzzle. I would have NEVER thought to use my DS that way in a game. That gave the game some major cool points. Thanks

The next problem is that there isn't much to "explore" in the game. The areas in the game just aren't very large. The game is very linear as well, and the player will find themselves backtracking to complete some puzzles.

The story is a pretty decent one, although without doing "everything" in the game, the player may not get the whole story. This is probably to add some replay value. Essentially, you will be trying to figure out two people's story, although the second is more of an extra.

All in all, I would say to defintely borrow (rent?) this game, but I can't say it is worth buying.

Friday, September 23, 2005

NDS/PSP stuck or dead pixel fixer?

A stuck pixel on an LCD screen almost always stays the same color. A dead pixel always stays off. Mine for example, has a red pixel in the middle of the top screen. It does not show on white screens, but on every other color is is always red. It's stuck.

There may be a fix...

I didn't believe it, but in the Lik-Sang forums somebody was asking about a video for the PSP that supposedly fixes dead pixels. Not very believable, right? As explained, it is a video that flashes through the color spectrum quickly and repeatedly. Apparently, this can get stuck pixels to resume their normal function.

Anyway, the person in the forum was looking for a NDS version of the pixel fixer. Others mentioned that some homebrewers had already done it (since it would be simple code).

From there, I figured that I might as well try it.

I started the pixel fixer in GBA mode, and after some instructions as to NOT look at the flashing screen (in case of seizures), it started flashing away. Since I don't have a seizure problem, I watched. Yup, I could still see the stuck pixel. I decided to leave the program running for 5 minutes while I did something else. Upon my return, I could still see the stuck pixel within the flashing screen.

No dice, I'll have to try leaving it on longer.

I'm guessing the flashing is supposed to get the liquid crystal moving or something as to nudge the stuck pixel into working. Just a guess.

With all the pixel problems I've read about online, this quick test is worth a try. Note that you will need a GBA flashcart, GBAMP, or Supercard to run homebrew code. If the problemed pixel is outside the resolution of the GBA display, you may need to search for a full screen NDS one.

Renewed interest in the Nintendo DS

I found a homebrew program called Moonshell (Get it here) that plays MP3's and displays Jpegs. The MP3 playback is leaps and bounds better than the GBA Movie Players. No file conversion is required on a modified GBAMP, but on flashcarts and the supercard you have to add the MP3s into a bootfile. I hooked up my DS to my computer speakers and it sounded great! There are minor skipping problems, but I don't mind since this is homebrew software. I'm sure the author will improve it since it's gaining popularity.

A few games got into my hands for me to test out. My comments on those are below:

Tiger Woods - PGA Tour

My PSP-owning room mate said that someone showed him this game the last time he went to Arizona and he thought it was weird using the stylus to swing. That left me slightly skeptical going in.

After figuring out the controls in a couple of minutes, my opinion is: There's nothing weird about it! I find it BETTER than doing the age-old double button press. A game finally showed me how unique the Nintendo DS is.

Admittedly though, I was slightly disappointed in the graphics. However, I'm sure this relates to me having already played the PSP version. But I did enjoy the GBA version, so graphics really aren't all that important.

The only other problem I've come across is trying to use the stylus for putting. It's hard to be precise because of how fast your aiming cursor moves. Thankfully EA put the ability to do the familiar tapping-of-the-D-pad option which makes up for it.

For players into golf games and the Nintendo DS, I give it my 100% recommendation.

Need for Speed Underground

Racing games haven't had my attention since Grand Turismo 1 & 2. This probably relates to the fact that I love Taurus SHOs, and GT2 had one. The car selections were amazing. My automechanic buddy did introduce me to Burnout 3's crash mode which we played for hours. I never did buy that game though.

The first thing I noticed about NFSU was that there were street drag races available. Although far from the real thing, it's fun to shift through the gears while having to pay attention to engine temp. It's my favorite race type in the game. Thankfully it is simple to jump into a drag with a car, which makes this racing game perfect for a portable.

What would a racing game be without the ability to modify your ride? NFSU has the player earning points to use toward obtaining modifications to keep up with faster cars as races become unlocked. One unique feature is the ability to create your own decal. I haven't done that since some NASCAR game I used to play on the computer. My Halo logo was easy to draw really quick, so I slapped that on my hood. And it looked pretty good! Unfortunately, I haven't unlocked the ability to put a custom decal on the sides yet, but that is also a cool option.

I cannot say a player should rush out to get this game, but it's a good one to have if your NDS case.


It is easy to see why this game has mixed reviews. A shooter is still a shooter, no matter what special guns or options it has. Shooters being one of the oldest action-type games, I personally believe they have lost their appeal over the years. I've recently found a copy of Einhander for the PSX and have been enjoying it though.

Nanostray is actually quite a beautiful game from what I've witnessed so far. The enemies and backgrounds have some of the best graphics I have seen on the DS. Everything is clear, and I haven't noticed any pixelation yet.

The gameplay is interesting as well. Rather than starting with a weak boring weapon, the game starts you out with a few options. From what I remember at the moment, there is a front laser, side spray, curve shot, and one more. Each of those have a stronger secondary attack but with limited ammo. Bombs are standard. Changing weapons is done via the touch screen which is a novel idea, but can get difficult since there is so much to dodge in this game. The player has to learn the locations of the touchscreen buttons (without looking) which may be awkward at first.

I didn't get very far in the game, but I will probably play it more later. The other games have my attention for the moment.

Is Nanostray worth getting? I say yes since it's cheap, but get it as a side game that you'll only play once in a while.

Friday, September 09, 2005

That was a crazy halo game for me. I got a hold on the sword and got my first "Untouchable" in an online game.

Thankfully no one was being a fat kid sniper the whole game. It's annoying not to be able to go in certain areas or you'll be instantly dead.

I give Bungie the double-thumb for the Multi-team playlist, and the double-deuce a la Strongbad style for Team Fat Snipers. Always appeasing the pansies.

Friday, September 02, 2005

New angle on portable gaming...

I was wandering through forums and development information about the Nintendo DS. I must say that WinDS looks promising. I purchased a PassMe device just so I could do a FlashMe on my DS since the Supercard is finally supported. PDA functions would be extremely helpful; unfortunately I am at the mercy of homebrewers. Although I know how to program in several languages, doing something on a DS wouldn't interest me enough.

Anyway, I was thinking about how little the portables in my household are used. I'm rather regretting purchasing the DS at this point, and I am really glad I didn't burn more money on getting a PSP. Games are meant for consoles, and I will be playing them there. Why buy a PSP when I have a PS2? Why buy a Nintendo DS when I have a GameCube? We can hope and pretend all we want, but the portable versions of our favorite games will never compare to their big brothers.

My personal observation with the PSP owners I know buy more movies than games. That is just plain silly, especially since they already own most of these movies on DVD! I can watch movies on my DS, but I don't ever do it. If I have time to watch a movie, I'm going to do it on the television or on my LCD monitors on my computer. Sure screen size is an issue, but I'm sorry, the PSP is nothing to a 27" flat screen television.

"Gaming on the go" is the phrase here. The NDS and the PSP are really too large for my pockets; they require a bag to carry them. When I have time to actually whip out my portable, I generally have 10 minutes or less to burn. I don't want loading times, so the PSP is out. I don't want to flip open the DS. I want to pull out a small device and start playing. I don't really care if the screen size is 2-4" inches. As long as it's big enough for me to see what I'm playing. Graphics aren't important because I'm not looking for realism; I'm looking for entertainment.

Revelation? Not really. But it hit me that this is where the Gameboy Micro comes in. It's definitely a pocket device, and there's so many games for it I wouldn't know what to do with myself. If I wanted to go against what I previously said, I could watch movies on it too with my GBA Movie Player or Supercard. When I was done, I could turn it off and tuck it away. Brilliant.

The hardcore gamers will dismiss the Gameboy Micro because Sony has completely whored its PSP's multifunctionality and specifications. They want the best, and Sony instills that in the brain well, even when the result falters from expectations. However, reality may prove the GBAM will outsell the other portables, because it is up to the casual gamer, not the hardcore gamer, on whether these devices will be successful. It's up to Nintendo to convey that it will be the most portable color gaming device available.

It is really difficult to predict the future of portable gaming. So far I'm finding that the gaming public (including myself) are outright suckers. We fall for hype a little too often. It is saddening that the PSP vs NDS arguments constantly set fire to message boards when realistically, neither system has any compelling, attention grabbing games. The arguments of specs and "kiddie vs adult" are really out of line. To me, all I can see is a comparison of available games; the comparison being which set is less crappy as opposed to actually more solid.

Off topic comments

I miss Sega; damn Sony for ruining them. But I'm no innocent; I bought a PSX and a PS2. Unfortunately, I knew it was Sega's time to relinquish their place in the console market.

Sony better redesign the look of the PS3. The XBox 360 is already way sexier than it's incomplete competitor. The PS3 looks like a stubby, overstuffed pizza pocket. I wouldn't be proud to display it and its current design in my entertainment center. It reminds me of the last couple of Ford Tauri. The 96-99's were too round and bubblish. They looked ridiculous with the "smiley face" for a front end. The 2000+ models now look more full while keeping conservative on roundness and keeping a sleek look. Like the XBox 360.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Further research

I realized today that I've never looked at other modchip diagrams. It looks as though most of the points are the same for all chips. Some show the 3.3v and Ground in different places, but that doesn't matter; those are available in multiple spots.

If I ever decided to go with an actual Matrix Infinity, I could just desolder the chip and solder the new one in. That'd be easy. Or solder 2-3 more points for any other modchip.

Makes me wonder why no one just sold PS2s with presoldered wires but no modchip. Leave the "cutting to length" and "soldering to the modchip itself" to the user. I think it would be more appealing, because the points on the chip are larger, you could use any chip you want, and you'd be less likely to damage your PS2. The price could be lowered, and sales would increase for installers.

My two cents.