2017
11.14

I had been waiting for this release for a month or so now and was very excited to pick it up when it launched. For me I don’t have a good gaming PC nor do I have Xbox or a PS4 so this was my first chance to try this game. I had many people tell me it was a fun and exciting game on PC and I was hoping the Switch version could also deliver an exciting experience

It does

Once I got past some irritating initial patching and a 7GB download I jumped into the game. During the intro when the character is chained up I felt the tugs of the chains through the Pro Controller and the scene on my TV had set the mood. I was in.

I wasn’t sure if I was watching the game engine or a video at first but once my cross hairs appeared and I instinctively started pressing the RT button the monsters fell before me and I was stoked.

I picked up the shotgun down the hall and got into my first “battle” up the hallway with a horde of monsters who quickly dispatched me 2 times. I was terrible at it but I loved the game.

Good 3rd party gaming is back on Nintendo

An important step

The last time I can remember 3rd party support being really good on a Nintendo console goes all the way back to the SNES, that’s a long time. Nintendo has since been able to carry their consoles on the backs of their very solid 1st party offerings but if you wanted anything outside of the Nintendo ecosystem and you wanted the game play to be good you have had to rely on other consoles essentially. Everyone is always concerned with every new Nintendo console release “How’s 3rd party support going to be” “Will it be passed over” “Does it matter?” and really I suppose in general it doesn’t matter. Even without it Nintendo sold millions of Switch’s, millions of copies of Zelda, Splatoon and I’m sure Mario will as well but I saw Doom as a potential turning point if it worked. After playing Doom now for a few days I think it has worked and we’ll see more adult geared 3rd party content in the Switch’s life because of it

What about the GFX

Yes I know everyone goes on about how the GFX had to be reduced in quality to work on the Switch I have even looked at the comparison images and you can see it is quite extensive. I don’t care. Once I’m in a fight I don’t see that, I see monsters, I see explosions, I see glory kills. It all looks amazing as I’m playing and the only time I notice the GFX is if nothing is going on and I happen to stop and take a close look at stuff. The point is they crammed an x86 AAA title into a portable tablet. It’s amazing, it’s portable. The changes while they can be noticeable don’t matter. The experience of Doom still remains

The future

I am hoping with a week filled with games like Doom, Skyrim and Rocket League released for Switch that this catapults other publishers into at least attempting to make their games work on the platform. We know it won’t be perfect but if you can make the gameplay experience translate to the Switch you will have a winner. We have solid proof of this now. 3rd party AAA titles can work, they’re enjoyable, we’ll buy them!

 

2017
10.12

After getting to try the SNES Classic last weekend it made waiting for mine to arrive a little easier but it was a short wait. Last night my SNES was waiting for me at home and I spent a few hours breaking it in.

There were about 7 games I felt it needed to be complete for me and thanks to some crafty developers this is possible with the SNES Classic using the Hakchi2 tool.

After installing the Hakchi2 tool and running it for the first time you’re asked what system you have and then presented with a simple GUI showing an item called “Original” which lists all the default games and 2 buttons at the bottom “Add games” and “Synchronize select games with NES/SNES mini”. Pretty straight forward

Adding games allows you to select the files to add to the system. The tool processes them and in most cases it detects the publisher and launch date of the game. There is a browse/google button for adding box art to the title I found the google button fairly effective and it worked for each of the items I was adding.

 

Once you’ve added the games you want you can synchronize with the console. The first time it will run a kernel flash which is the most nerve racking part of the entire process (in theory like any bios/rom flash it could brick the device). The application provides instructions for each step and it is easy to follow along. Once you complete the steps and the application detects your console it will flash it and reboot the device. After this one time process all that is required for future uploads of roms is plugging the device in over USB and powering it on.

I tested the 7 games I uploaded, 5 worked 2 didn’t the two that didn’t were also ones it had issues detecting the publisher so I may try other roms and hope it was just an issue with the files.

The UI placed the games I uploaded in a separate sub folder and the games all appeared with the box art data I had provided.

Fairly simple process, well done Hakchi2 devs.

Keep in mind any roms you may upload you should technically own in some manner otherwise you may be in legal troubles but anyone involved in this type of process probably knows that already.

2017
10.07

So 2017 it seems I’ve gone full Nintendo this isn’t something that’s happened since 2006-09 with the Wii/DS but yet again Nintendo found a way in. This time I’ll be speaking about the SNES classic and why it has managed to drag me in despite the fact that it is literally just a tiny ARM box with a rom carousel like I and everyone have been using for years now on the Pi.

Background for me and the SNES

For me the SNES was THE console of my youth, every generation has that console the one that *seems* to go on for decades and defines a good portion of your youth and friendships with others. Yes I know you’re saying “What about the NES”. I had (and still have) my NES and it was important too but I enjoyed a lot more games on SNES and it set up what genres I’d prefer going forward more than the NES so the SNES is it.

On September 29th 1992 my birthday I had asked everyone who was asking about gifts to give me $20. This seemed odd to most people but I explained it. I wanted a SNES and asking one person to buy it was too much so if everyone pitched in and I got to go buy it then it was like everyone got me a SNES. The plan worked and I had enough to buy the base system with one controller/no game. The first game I played/rented on it was Krustys Funhouse and the first game I actually owned was Sim City. The SNES had hit after hit after hit and there was never a shortage of games to try and it seemed to go on forever.

The SNES Classic comes along with 20 great games packed in, a tiny SNES shell,old fashion dog bone controllers and the release date was September 29th 25 years to the day of buying my first SNES. I had sold my original SNES when I was 15 to buy some parts for my new “console” a 90’s PC rig that needed a good sound card and CD-ROM. The only thing that saved my NES from being sold was that is was barely workable at the time (I fixed it in 2001). Since I still had my NES I wanted something to represent the SNES time of my youth and this was perfect to fit the role.

Getting one

I wasn’t able to get one launch day like many others but the sounds of the initial stock were much more promising than usual for Nintendo launch days. I kept an eye on NowInStock for the next week and the following Friday I was able to nab one from Walmart.ca. This is good news for anyone trying to get one it means Nintendo is continuing to populate stores with them compared to the nightmare of the NES classic last year.

SNES Classic review

As luck would have it my GF also picked one up in Simcoe  and brought it that same Friday so I got to try it without having to wait for mine to arrive. The system itself is absolutely tiny but it is a good replica of the original console. The power button slides up and clicks in place just as the original and the reset button has the same push up and release function. there is a red LED on the front of the system so when running it looks just like the original.

The shell has that same grainy plastic feeling as the original, it really feels like you’re holding a SNES…a tiny SNES.

The system comes with 2 SNES “dog bone” controllers and they have that same grainy feel on the casing. The buttons and directional pad feel like the original. I have used a couple brands of replica controllers in the past they do not replicate the feeling you get of holding a real Super Nintendo controller whereas these do.

Interface

The interface is very similar to Emulation Station with a carousel to select your game. There are a few display options available to adjust how the games are displayed with 4:3 being the default. I find 4:3 is bright and very pixelated it feels like you could count the pixels if you wanted. Pixel perfect renders it in the systems native resolution which looks odd to me as that was never how it was displayed. CRT emulation adds scaliness, this was the best mode. The colours and pixels just look better in this mode.

Issues

Cord length

Cords are still to short even though they’re better than the NES classic. There’s plenty of extenders for reasonable prices out there and I already ordered a set.

Phoney Port cover

I like that it makes the SNES classic look like a SNES when not in use but I bet by the 10th-20th time you pop it open it breaks off. Feels very flimsy

 

Overall

Yes a Pi does all this stuff but it’s still not an official Nintendo device and Nintendo did a great job of making this easy, fun and affordable. It looks like Nintendo wised up supply wise, Yes you still have to work to get them but you can actually get them. Nostalgia wise it perfectly fills the SNES gap in my games collection without having to spend the now ridiculous cart collecting prices that have popped up in recent years. If you loved SNES you’ll love this.

2017
08.08

I bought Splatoon 2 on launch day, I had never tried the original because I never had a Wii U so I wasn’t sure what to expect. It didn’t take long after going through the tutorial and playing some turf wars to become addicted to this seemingly harmless online shooter.

What makes this relevant to the topic is Nintendo decided to launch the initial offering of their future online services using this game which brings us to:

Nintendo Online app

I downloaded the app the first day to see what it did. It is a very plain screen with a brief helper on how to set up a lounge and an invitation list. At launch tapping Splatoon 2 icon seemed to do nothing which seemed odd. I set up a lounge fairly easily from within the game and then my phone popped up a notification and I opened it up. So far worked as expected even if it is a bit unusual to use the phone in this manner.

It did seem a bit odd to me that there was nothing else to go on but after being an avid Wii user long ago I wasn’t expecting much from Nintendo’s online attempts to begin with so I shrugged, closed the app and didn’t look at it again for almost a week.

Splatnet 2

About a week later I noticed a news item on the console for Splatnet 2, it may have become available sooner but I wasn’t paying attention much during the week. I followed the instructions in the article and found that all my stats and progression were available. Pretty cool.

You could also click share on pretty much every area of your game play. Also cool

So now Nintendo is showing their hand a bit more and I like what I see. This allows me to have a portable brag device to show off to any of my buddies or to share on Facebook to try and lure some competition into the game.

Another nifty feature is it seems to be able to “share” to any supported app on the platform, I was able to do Facebook, Twitter, Save to Photos and even shared it to a group on Whats App. If this is what they’re planning to do for other games I’m on board. I hope they add Mario Kart 8 and Street Fighter II to this service at some point as those are two other multiplayer games I play ranked on a regular basis.

One ask I do have is it would be nice if you could access your Switch screenshot gallery from the app to make sharing easier than the 1 at a time system that is available on the console.

Aside from the awkward voice chat set up which I don’t even care about anyways, Good job Nintendo, Splatnet 2 is a hit with me.

 

2016
10.16

I was reading the latest edition of MagPi last week and it was chock full of things I wanted to play with. The one thing that really caught my eye was Chromium with support for videos over the GPU.

I installed a fresh Raspian image from the foundation and dove into the new rebranded Pi desktop.

Pixel

Part of this launch was Pixel which is the Pi foundations attempt to add a branding face to the Pi desktop experience. This was a good idea because to be honest up until now the Pi desktop experience was something you’d want to avoid¬†.

The theme is basic but refined and you get a nice boot screen instead of Linux text. You can also set it up to boot to log in screen instead of the usual boot to desktop. This isn’t a huge jump but it establishes a look and feel which was the intent.

Chromium

If you install the current Raspian image with Pixel your default browser is already Chromium without having to install anything because why bother refining the desktop if you still had those junky old browsers right? Chromium goes along perfectly with the new refined image the Pi foundation has started to put forward. Finally you have a browser that can do everything you expect to be able to do and not completely slaughter the system doing it.

Youtube

I was able to play youtube videos without much issue. I did notice going full screen still hits the system hard and it will start to stutter but just watching them as is without full screen has no problem.

Facebook

Facebook was torture trying to use on the Pi’s previous browsers but it works as expected even inline videos played. Facebook chat was also co operative on Chromium for Pi.

Twitter

Twitter performed very well considering it autoplays videos. I was concerned that would be an issue but it wasn’t

WordPress

I use wordpress obviously to make these posts and I am writing this post on my Pi 3 right now. This would have been completely impossible on previous Pi’s and browsers

So while full screen videos seemed to be a bit much this is still such a huge improvement in the Pi desktop front. I look forward to seeing where this goes as further refinements come forward. One thing is for sure, the Pi Desktop is here to stay.