05.09
2012

Caanoo

I recently purchased a GP2X Caanoo from Think Geek and holy crap am I happy! In short, the Caanoo is an open-source, Linux-based handheld gaming system that you load emulators and ROMs onto (a ROM is a file that contains all the original game data). It plays Nintendo, Super Nintendo, Sega Genesis, TurboGrafx-16, Arcade games, and more. It’s amazing, especially for a retro gaming nut like me. Initially it takes a little bit of figuring out, but it’s totally worth the effort. Here are a few tips to get started:

  • Charge the Caanoo fully before using.
  • Pop in an SD card (it doesn’t come with one). It supports up to 32GB, but I fit a lot onto a single 1GB card.
  • Download emulators from OpenHandhelds.org
    • GPFCE – Nintendo (NES, Famicom). NES ROMs are small so it’s no sweat dropping the entire library on there. (tip: close out of NES games by holding the Home button and L trigger at the same time.)
    • DrPocketSNES – Super Nintendo (SNES, Super Famicom). The Caanoo has L and R shoulder triggers so all SNES buttons are present.
    • PicoDrive – Sega Genesis (Mega Drive)
    • Hugo – TurboGrafx-16 (PC Engine)
    • MAME4ALL – Plays Arcade games (MAME). Leave the ROMs zipped. A list of compatible games is supplied by the developers, and I’ve re-formatted it nicely in this PDF: Mame4All Compatibility List
    • GpSp – Gameboy Advance
  • I’ve had success downloading ROMs from FreeROMs.com and ROMNation.net. Each emulator should have a “roms” folder that the ROMs should be loaded into. If it doesn’t have this folder, make one.
  • Not every ROM will work. Some will get an error, and others won’t show up at all. Downloading a different version, or from a different site, may work.

I unfortunately haven’t gotten the NeoGeo emulator, GnGeo, to work yet. Regardless, there are thousands of retro games to be played on the Caanoo. The control pad and buttons feel great and are programmable in some emulators. I got my Caanoo for $120 USD and it’s worth every penny. More details and specs are on the Caanoo Wikipedia entry.

10.22
2011

The Legend of Zelda is one of the Nintendo community’s (and my) most coveted franchises. With Skyward Sword on the horizon, I’m looking back at the past decade of Zelda reviews, and the critics who score them.

Zelda Scores

The graph above charts seven Zelda scores from IGN.com and GameSpot.com, plus Metacritic’s average of many critical scores. GameSpot has a reputation for being harsh when reviewing games on Nintendo systems, and Zelda is no exception. Their average score for a Zelda title is .3 less than the average critical score. We can argue that their review system is stricter than most, but their scores for XBox-exclusive series Gears of War and Forza Motorsport trend higher than industry average. Is there a bias? I believe so. I’ve been listening to GameSpot’s podcast, The HotSpot, for several years and I hear them openly bash Nintendo systems and games. It’s no conspiracy theory; they have taken a stance as the “too cool for Nintendo” kids.

IGN, on the other hand, tends to be much more Nintendo-friendly. Their reviews are equally as thorough, and they go above and beyond to deliver news, previews, and features that Nintendo fans want. Plus, they have a great podcast specifically for Nintendo fans: Nintendo Voice Chat. Have a listen and you’ll hear them genuinely excited about all things Nintendo, including a new series dedicated to previewing Skyward Sword.

My point is, as a Nintendo fan, I feel more welcome at IGN than GameSpot. The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword launches on Wii November 20, 2011. My predictions: IGN 9.5, Gamespot 8.5.

UPDATE: IGN has awarded Skyward Sword a perfect 10, along with over a dozen other sites and magazines. GameSpot has given it a lousy 7.5, the lowest score on release day. The critical average is 93, according to Metacritic.

09.17
2011

Damian Wayne as Robin

I’ve been ingesting an unhealthy amount of Batman lately: comics new and old, animated series, basically whatever I can get my hands on before I get Arkham City. One thing I didn’t realize is that there have been several different sidekicks playing the part of Robin. Here’s a quick cheat sheet, in the order they took on the role of Robin:

Dick Grayson

The original Robin. He was adopted by Bruce Wayne after his parents died in a sabotaged flying trapeze tragedy. He later became Nightwing, and even took on the role of Batman for a while when Bruce Wayne was thought dead.

Jason Todd

Became the second Robin in 1983 after Grayson became Nightwing. He was killed by the Joker in the late ’80s in the comic story arc A Death in the Family. He was later resurrected and took on the role of Red Hood.

Tim Drake

Earned the right to be Robin after using his detective skills to discover the true identities of Batman and Robin, and saving their lives from Two-Face. In 2009 he took on the role of Red Robin.

Damian Wayne

The son of Bruce Wayne and Talia al Ghul (Ra’s al Ghul’s daughter). He was trained since birth by the League of Assassins and as of this writing is the current Robin at his father’s side.

There have been a couple girl Robins, too, but the guys above have been the major players. Robin’s come a long way over the years, and has evolved into being much more than just a sidekick. Plus he looks really cool wearing a hood. We can call it his “Robin Hood”. For even more poorly-written details check out the Robin Wikipedia entry.

05.25
2011

Black Knight 2000

I picked up Pinball Hall of Fame: The Williams Collection for Wii a few years ago. I highly recommend it for pinball fans. The gameplay very closely matches actual pinball, including the ball physics, the table art, and sounds. The game would be perfect if it only included my favorite pinball game ever: Black Knight 2000.

Many hours, quarters, and curfews were blown on that table. The gameplay itself was pretty slick, with 3 flippers, a 2-leveled playfield, a lowering drawbridge, and multi-ball were you keep up to 3 balls going at once. It even had a kickback AND magnasave (a player-activated magnetic spot) to help save the ball before it slipped down the side gutter.

Oh, yes, the game itself was sweet. But the coolest part was the sound! The Black Knight talked trash, guitars squealed, and if you kept the ball in play long enough you were treated to some motivational singing. The Black Knight would even say “No way! Give me your money!” if you tried to start the game without first inserting a quarter. Now that kicks ass!

Black Knight 2000 quick facts:
Released in 1989 by Williams Electronic Games, Incorporated
Designed by Steve Ritchie
See Black Knight 2000 in action

01.26
2011

Droid Incredible running Tecmo Super Bowl

I picked up a Droid Incredible last month right before Verizon announced the iPhone (damn!). Even though I’ve wanted the iPhone for years, I’m very happy with the Droid. The Android Marketplace seems to be a little more lax than Apple’s App Store, and has several game emulators available. I downloaded Nesoid Lite and it’s little helper ROM Gripper. Both are free apps, and between the 2 you can download and play almost any NES game for free! I’m not sure how it’s legal, other than the old “I already own the cartridge” thing. Here are some points:

  • ROM Gripper has a list of all the available ROMs (the game files) ready to download, and works seamlessly with Nesoid. It’s way too easy.
  • ROMs are downloaded and stored on the Micro SD card. I didn’t realize my Droid Incredible came with one pre-inserted.
  • The screen can switch between vertical and horizontal orientations. Virtual buttons and d-pad are on the touch screen, or you can map to the device’s buttons.
  • The paid version of Nesoid is $4 (less than one NES virtual console game on Wii) and adds game saves. While my Legend of Zelda game save works in the Lite version, the paid version could save any game at any point.
  • 2-player is available via Bluetooth and Wi-Fi.
  • Similar emulators exist for Gameboy Advance and Super NES.

01.23
2011

The Gamers: Dorkness Rising

I forgot I had The Gamers: Dorkness Rising on my Netflix list until it arrived this weekend. As a former D&D-er, it had me laughing out loud. That’s not something I do often while watching a movie, but it’s just that good.

The film tells the story of a group of Dungeons and Dragon players and their relationships with each other, their Dungeon Master, and the game. It also depicts the characters they’re role playing in the fantasy world. Many of the jokes are about the decisions gamers make on behalf of their characters, and are meant for gamers to laugh at themselves (not being mocked). I highly recommend The Gamers: Dorkness Rising for anyone who’s ever role played with paper and dice.

I dedicate this post to Pyre, Narb, Exsavior, Umbra, and DM Dicky-Doo.

10.30
2010

Warcraft DSI’m not trying to complain, but just asking, “Why the hell hasn’t Warcraft made its way onto the Nintendo DS?” I’m not expecting a full portable World of Warcraft, but would love a solid port of Warcraft 2: Tides of Darkness.

Warcraft 2 was memorable in so many ways: gorgeous sprites, catchy sound bites, classic human vs orc conflict, character and building upgrades, harvesting lumber and mining gold, multi-tasking across the map…

It just seems to be a natural fit, and the DS should have the muscle to pull it off. The DS homebrew scene has been playing with a couple Warcraft efforts, so why won’t Blizzard make a proper version? Maybe they’ve been busy over the past 6 years swimming in their World of Warcraft earnings like Scrooge McDuck.

10.19
2010

Dragon Age: Origins

I’m about 20 hours into Dragon Age: Origins, and while I really like the game, I’ve had enough.

I had been searching for a Dungeons and Dragons style game for a while now. I wanted it to have a classic medieval fantasy setting and characters, not too Japanese, and I wanted to play as a rogue. Dragon Age: Origins delivered on every front. And as a bonus, the characters are highly customizable, there are tons of side quests, and you can save at almost any point in the game.

So why do I quit?

    • I’ve gotten bored with managing inventory.
    • The difficulty was too high (and too easy on the easy setting).
    • Load times are frustratingly long.
    • Drastic slowdown in battle ruin the excitement.
    • The game has completely frozen up on me three times.

      From what I’ve played I agree with IGN’s review, and I’m interested in checking out Dragon Age 2 when it comes out. Hopefully they’ll include more generous inventory system for us hoarders.

      10.11
      2010
      Future of the X-Men

      Future of the X-Men, by artist Marko Djurdjevic

      After attending Comic Con 2010 in New York a couple days ago, I realized just how little I know about comic books. My big question was “Who are Marvel characters and who are DC?” I was surprised that my simple question wasn’t already answered a million times online, so below is my own list of popular characters from each.

      DC Characters:

      • Superman
      • Batman
      • Flash
      • Green Lantern
      • Wonder Woman

      Marvel Characters:

      • Spider-Man
      • X-Men (Wolverine, Cyclops…)
      • The Incredible Hulk
      • Iron Man
      • Captain America

      Looking at the lists, I guess I’m more of a DC guy. I’m not sure if comic book publishers are as polarizing as Star Wars vs. Star Trek, but I did see some dude walking around Comic Con with a Batman mask and a Spider-Man shirt. I now see the madness behind what I originally interpreted as harmless cosplay. Next time I’m going as a Jedi Klingon.

      10.07
      2010

      Mike Tyson's Punch-Out!!Back in the mid-’90s I worked at a local ice cream place. Every week I would pick up my paycheck and immediately bring it to the bank to cash it. On one occasion, I forgot my account number so the teller asked me for my social security number instead.

      I responded, “007 373 5963″.

      She looked at me strangely and said that was one number too many. I was stumped for a moment, as I was so confident that the number was right. Turns out it was the code to get to Mike Tyson in Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out!!