23 November 2015

News: Win shooters and guides!

There is a competition going on over at The Dreamcast Junkyard right now. The challenge is to identify 25 Dreamcast games from just looking at the VMU. For someone like me, who never owned an original VMU (I only have third party ones with no screen/buttons), this is absolutely impossible - but I am sure lots of you can enter this competition and have a very good chance at winning:

1st prize: Dux 1.5 + Redux: Dark Matters + The DCJY Ultimate Collectors Guide
2nd prize: Dux 1.5 + The DCJY Ultimate Collectors Guide

There will be two winners of the first prize and three winners of the second prize, so there are five winners all in all. I would say that is pretty good odds if you are up for the challenge!

19 November 2015

Review: Me & My Katamari (Playstation Portable)

Ever since I first played We Love Katamari on PS2 in co-op mode with a friend I have been in love with the universe that is Katamari. I have played most installments in the series and now the time was here for Me & My Katamari. It is exactly what you would expect from a Katamari game. For those not already familiar with the concept, imagine a sticky ball that you roll around to pick stuff up. That is it. And the more time you get to roll, the larger your ball, or Katamari, can grow. From picking up dice and paper clips all the way up to picking up entire islands the game never seize to be utter fun. And it is beautifully developed for the PSP format, it runs and looks great and sports a whole bunch of challenges to overcome, cousins to collect and secret presents to open.

Since it is such a regular Katamari experience (I mean this in the nicest way possible) it comes with the same old pros and cons as they all kind of do. The pros are that it is refreshingly whimsical, funny, pretty, cute, engaging, addicting and inspiring. The cons are that the King's never ending talk gets old fast and if you try to play more than an hour at any given time you can get pretty bored to be honest. The game is, even though it is extremely imaginative, a bit repetetive. There is only so much you can do with the concept "roll a ball" I guess. But it is more than enough. It is not a miniature Katamari experience for a handheld system specifically, but a full fledged Katamari game with everything intact. If you love the Katamari games you will love this. I know I did.

11 November 2015

Review: Killzone: Liberation (Playstation Portable)

What could go wrong? It is Guerilla themselves that made this PSP title. It must be great. So I thought, jumping in to Killzone: Liberation. And at first I felt it. It was a good game, I had fun. And then... things fell apart.

It is a top down (well, slightly isometric) third person shooter that tells a main story from different factions viewpoints. It sports an offline multiplayer mode, it has lots of details and interesting areas to explore and it can be quite challenging, especially if you play it on hard or above. But that is pretty much where the good things end. Then we come to the controls. The controls are not very good, particularly not in situations where you and your opponent are on different height levels. The aim assist is a complete joke. I would even argue it borders on totally broken. I died so many times due to the aim assist freaking out that I was ready to just give up on the game at times. I stuck with it though, but only to say I beat it. When it was over I quickly put it back on the shelf and moved on.

So, what is my final verdict on this game? From the above we can deduct that I think it is forgettable. Further on I would say that Guerilla do not completely understand third person games in the same way as they do first person games. If you have a PSP and love the Killzone universe I would say it is worth picking up at a cheap price, but there are much better games in the genre on the PSP. For example Resistance: Retribution. Or even the GTA games.

10 November 2015

Article: How the PSP became my most neglected console

When Sony first anounced that they were going to do a handheld gaming device I immediately throught "yeah, good luck with that", since Nintendo was completely dominating that market since forever. Do not get me wrong, I am no fanboy, if anything I prefer variety and since Sony had proven themselves capable of great things with the PS1 and PS2 I saw no reason as to why they would not make a great handheld. The problem is how the market is today. I just did not think they would be able to gain footing at all in times when Nintendo had completely ruled the handheld world with the Game Boy Advance SP and also had this new shiny thing called the Nintendo DS coming up. And to some extent I was right, the DS outsold the PSP with... well, let us just say there was never any fair competition. But this article is not about the DS. It is about the Playstation Portable, and why it became my most neglected console that I own. To understand my situation we are going to look both at the systems pros and cons from a general viewpoint and then from my personal one. Let us start right away.

The general pros

First of all, the graphics. The PSP was capable of running impressive games for the time, it was almost like having a portable PS2. Miles ahead of the Nintendo DS.

Huge and impressive display together with great design and a bit of weight to it gave the console a very premium feeling.

Then there was the fact that you could play movies and music on it, even though no one ever did. So I guess this last point is fairly mute when I think about it.

The general cons

Battery life
The graphical powers together with the huge display meant that battery time was taking a big hit. Many of us ended up playing the PSP only at home plugged into the mains so we did not have to worry about the battery running out in the middle of a gaming session.

Loading times
Since the games come on discs there are plenty of loading times around. Something that does not really go too well with a handheld system. It should be quick to fire up, play a bit and then shut down in a second.

The memory card
The memory cards that were compatible with the PSP was not cheap. It was not as extremely bad as with the Vita, but it was much more expensive than getting an SD-card for the DS.

My personal pros

Great exclusives
The PSP had two incredibly good God of War-games (Chains of Olympus and Ghost of Sparta). It had a Little Big Planet of its own. It had LocoRoco 1 and 2. Two of the best puzzle games I have ever played (Lumines 1 and 2), Me & My Katamari, the Patapon-games, and of course the most terrifying survival horror game I know of: Silent Hill Origins. It also had that Castlevania game with Rondo of Blood and Symphony of the Night as hidden bonuses. The list just goes on and on. So many great exclusives that I really wanted to play.
Many of these games found their way onto the PS2 at a later date, I know, but they were exclusives from the beginning.

Pretty format on the media (UMD)
I recently heard a few people complain about the UMD discs. That they were too sensitive and drove the price of the console up way too high. Well. I love small discs. I loved them on Gamecube, I loved them in my minidisc player and I loved them in my PSP. I love to put UMD:s into my console, take them out, sort them... Mmm...

My personal cons

"Too" premium
The big pretty screen felt a bit too fancy to just be knocked around in the backpack. It was a similar feeling to getting my first smartphone and hesitating to just pop it down my pocket.

RPG's is not my thing
Although I absolutely can enjoy an RPG it is not my main interest in gaming. And the PSP had RPG's as one of its main strong points. The system was overflowing with great RPG's that made everyone go crazy - except me.

The analog stick
While the PSP actually had an analog stick I always wanted to avoid it, even in 3D-based games. Because my thumb would hurt if I played for more than half an hour, since my hands are pretty big and my thumb had to knuckle down in a very awkward angle to use the analog stick. It rested much more comfortably on the d-pad.

So, here we come to the conclusion as to why the PSP is my most neglected console. It is the most regrettable combination of "too premium" and the poor battery life. For some reason it always was out of battery when I wanted to play, so it always had to be hooked up to the mains. And I never took it anywhere since it felt too expensive to risk dropping it. And when I was home, ready to play, I figured "why not just play a regular game on one of my many stationary consoles instead?". So it just sat there, in my bedroom, hooked up always charging but never on. And then stores stopped carrying the games and people moved on.

It is a shame really, but it is also never too late to give it some attention. I am actually playing it right now, I am in the middle of Killzone: Liberation. What I think of that game? Read my upcoming review and find out!

08 November 2015

Review: Shenmue (Dreamcast)

It was time. Ever since I got a Dreamcast I had my sight set on a copy of Shenmue. I had heard it was one of the systems truly great and that I should not miss it for anything in the world. And then all the shoot 'em ups happened. I mostly used my Dreamcast for shooter goodness and soon forgot all about Shenmue as it gathered more and more dust up on my shelf. So this one day I met a guy who was new in town and we had quite a bit of stuff in common. Mainly video games, and more specifically we both felt we had used our Dreamcasts way to sparsely over the last years. And the one game we had in common, that both of us owned and had not played, was Shenmue. It really was time. We decided to go "book club" on it and play it separately but report to one another from time to time with thoughts and impressions. And here is what I thought.

Shenmue is a groundbreaking game in many regards. It is one of the first open world games to feature so much attention to detail and realism. Time schedules, high resolution textures in every corner you care to look closer at, mindboggling amounts of dynamic dialogue with the many NPC's, the arcade in the town has real arcade ports... Heck, I have been told even the weather is accurate for the time. It is truly a world to lose oneself in. And here lays my first realization: Shenmue is a cosy and engaging game that does not take it upon itself to mercilessly entertain with tense action and explosions and so forth. It counts on you, the player, to give as much as you want to get out of it. I went all in and even if the game does have a neat notebook to store things,that needs to be remembered in, I grabbed myself a real notepad and a pen and kept some notes of my own.

I play as Ryo, a teenager living just outside of a small town with his family and their dojo. One day this mysterious man comes to visit and demands some kind of mirror. Ryo's father refuses to give it up and only when the man threatens the life of Ryo, Ryo's father explains where the mirror is hidden. But it is in vain because he gets killed anyway. Ryo then takes it upon himself to get to the bottom of this and revenge his father's death. Who was that man, what was it with that mirror he wanted and why was Ryo's father prepared to die to keep it safe? The first part of the game then becomes an exploring part where we get to know many of the locals as we ask around for the mysterious man and his speeding black car. A great way to slowly show us the ropes and present the characters, the villages and towns and the overall setting.

The story unfolds in a steady and pretty slow pace, I can understand how this would frustrate stressed gamers as the game demands that we take the time to look around, chat with people and go on with many every day life tasks. At one point I had to just... wait for the bus. But that is okay, because I have the time to let Shenmue be what it is. I am not in any hurry to complete the game as fast as possible. I go with the flow.

So, I sooner or later find a second mirror, the plot thickens with connections all the way up to the top of the Chinese mafia all while I still feed kittens, return home every evening to not worry my mother and I am also trying to earn enough money to pay for a ticket to Hong Kong, the city where my father's murderer supposedly are currently residing. And a strange Gollum character starts following me, always one step ahead. This is... quite something.

But for every, for the time, new idea there is a drawback. The part where every NPC has an own life with a schedule and real things to do is awesome, but this also means that if you want to talk to a shop owner that has closed for the day then you have to wait until the following morning to be able to talk to them. And if you have nothing else to do at the moment, you are just going to have to wait. Stand around and just wait. Another cool thing is that you can talk to every NPC in the whole game, and they will have unique and sometimes interesting things to say. The drawback to this is that you sometimes can not steer the conversation in the direction you want at the time. There is something you must trigger to get the NPC's to talk about something else, and you have no idea what or when. And when they do change, you have to go around the whole village and talk to every last one of them again. And this is something you will have to repeat several times in order to progress the story.

All in all I think that Shenmue had some great ideas that overshines the shortcomings and the tale of Ryu was engaging enough to make me want to play the sequal.

01 November 2015

News: The Dreamcast Junkyard Ultimate Collectors Guide is available as a physical copy

If you are a die hard Dreamcast collector chances are you have come across the wonderful website that is The Dreamcast Junkyard. You might also have looked through the guide to collecting Dreamcast games written by Mike Phelan. It is a guide that lists every game ever released for the system world wide, including the indie titles and even upcoming ones. This guide has now become a real physical thing to hold in your hands for the relatively low price of £10 + £4 in shipping (roughly $20 all in all).

Bear in mind that the guide is not a coffee table kind of book, it is meant to be a tool for collectors. This means there is no bells or whistles. It is pure text, charts and checklists back to back. For a closer look at the guide check out this YouTube video.

If you want to buy a copy then here is a link to their shop.