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PlayStation Vita -- First 24 Hours (or so)

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Alright, so I got the Vita that I pre-ordered 9 months ago and then paid about $20 a month towards... Got some games as well, and other stuff for it. There's a lot of material online about the console, so I thought I'd give you my opinion after having spent a day with it.

In short: Until there are more great games for Vita, specifically, it's really just kind of a PSP++ with a big nice screen...

Included in the box:

  • The Console!
  • An AC wall power adapter
  • A Vita-to-USB cable, which is also used with the wall adapter
  • 6 augmented reality (AR) cards
  • Manuals

Not included in the box:

  • A #$&%(&# memory card, which is REQUIRED to play games...

The Good!

  • Lighter and thinner than I expected. Weighs about the same as a PSP2000, less than the PSP1000.
  • The screen is gorgeous, big, bright, colorful, viewable at almost any angle
  • Buttons, slot covers, analogue sticks, etc. all feel very solid and well made. The console "feels expensive".
  • Rayman Origins -- The Vita version is really excellent! Looks utterly the same as the Xbox360 and PS3 version, but also provides good touch controls. Also, the touch controls are optional -- you can just use sticks/buttons, too
  • PlayStation store I found to be much easier to deal with than even the PS3
  • Flickr, LiveTweet (Twitter client), Facebook, and Netflix are all available and work great.
  • Videos look and sound great on that screen.
  • Several of the new "HD" PS2 ports to PS3 will also run on Vita! (e.g. Final Fantasy X HD is due later this year.)

The Bad!

  • The Vita will only charge when the cable is hooked to the Vita power adapter. NOT when plugged into your PC. NOT when plugged into a generic USB wall adapter.
  • Proprietary memory card format -- Vita does not ship with one, it's _required_ to have one. I bought the 32GB, which was $100. It's tiny, about the size of a micro-SD.
  • An extra wall adapter is $20, an extra USB-to-Vita cable is $15
  • I also picked up a cradle, which does NOT include any kind of cord -- you must provide a USB-to-Vita cable and an AC wall adaptor.
  • You cannot buy games on a PC and transfer them from your PC to the Vita. For example, I have all of my PSN downloads from my PSP sitting happily in Media Go in Windows. There is NO WAY to now transfer those to my Vita. I have to either re-download from PSN with the Vita, or manually move the files to my PS3 first, then to the Vita. Sigh. (Media Go does not work with the Vita at all. You use a separate app.)
  • When connected to the PS3, you control data transfer using the Vita -- the PS3 screen is basically frozen with a message that says to use the Vita. So I have to hunch over my Vita, which is cabled to the PS3 by a 3 foot cable, instead of sitting on my couch looking at my TV using the DualShock... Oh well.
  • Vita browser is just terrible. No Flash. Terrible keyboard access and navigation. Yuck.
  • No Themes (at least, not yet) -- the only thing you can change about the main system screen is the background image, which is static. You can't change the background music (but you can, and will, turn the music off)
  • The three free AR games in the Playstation store for Vita are unbelievably terrible. To loosely quote Joystiq: "Only one, Fireworks, was worth loading a second time, barely."
  • Release day games are like most console release day games: pretty weak. Rayman is the exception so far. Many of the games are really "B+" (even Uncharted). Then there are some really ridiculously bad games: Dungeon Hunter is the same game you get for $0.99 for the iPhone, but for Vita it's $35! But I've heard a one or two others are good, like FIFA and BazBlue.
  • PSOne games will not run on Vita ("at this time" according to Sony -- maybe later?)

General notes:

  • A 1 year protection plan w/ full accidental damage coverage is $45 (2 years for $70)
  • A couple of games -- Wipeout 2048 and Hot Shots Golf -- charge $10 extra for online play
  • I've gotten about 3.5 hours of battery time, and that was with pretty much continuous downloading on Wifi (downloading other stuff while playing games)
  • "PS Minis" games work fine on Vita
  • The menu screen look, background music, and general feel of the menus and tutorials feels very Nintendo-like. I could've just as easily been on my 3DS. I like the crossbar on the PS3/PSP much better, personally.

So overall, it's clearly a super powerful and awesome system. But, like most newly released consoles, is so underutilized at this point by the launch titles that it's hard to stay excited about it right now. I'm glad I bought it, the PSP games look great on there, but I am really just using it as a PSP right now...

3DS Nine Months In -- there's hope for this system...

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I bought a 3DS on launch day in March (USA), and it's been rough going... Nintendo already dropped the price to make it competitive, and they've gone nearly silent on marketing the system in the USA. On launch day, the game selection was pretty terrible. I bought a couple of titles, and they smacked of the usual games you see on a game system launch -- basic, bland, slightly show off the new features.

When Zelda hit this summer for it,that was a good start -- finally, a game worth owning on the 3DS! I finished that a couple of weeks later, then what...? What was I to play then? I'm an RPG gamer, and was waiting not-so-patiently for a 3DS RPG... Downloadable titles were fairly basic, too -- most were ports of mobile versions of games (e.g. Bejeweled Twist), and the original titles felt like homebrew.

Come October, my 3DS sat and collected dust, and I figured it may just not mature. However, since early December, things are looking up, and the system is getting some momentum:

1. The December firmware upgrade added 3D video filming. It's limited (max 10 min), really doesn't work with lots of action (the 3D focal point moves too much as you film and makes the resulting videos a mess), but is cute and fun to play with. They also added some other new Spotpass (Internet sent/received) and Streetpass (passed via short range when you're near someone)based games, and the new person-to-person messaging/drawing service. The social aspect is picking up (hello, Nintendo? You're last to the party to add gaming achievements... get on that!).

2. A couple of new releases game-wise are getting there: Doctor Lautrec (not a Professor Layton knock-off, really -- just being badly marketed), Mario 3D Land,Mario Cart 7, and Cave Story3D. They're not perfect, the Mario is the best of the bunch, but we're slowly getting more titles.

3. A few fun bits on the downloadable scene: the charming and addictive Pushmo, the first of the GBA downloadables (but a weird set... Yoshi 3, Warioware 1, the original Fire Emblem, etc.), and more mobile ports (Puzzle Quest, etc.).

4. Good looking upcoming titiles, including some RPGs: Tales of The Abyss, a new Professor Layton, Etrian Odyssey, Fire Emblem: Awakening (no US release date yet, though), and plenty of others. Probably a dozen I'm looking forward to, which is similar to what I am looking forward to on other consoles. A few titles announced before the 3DSsystem releasecontinue to have delays, though, which is concerning: Paper Mario, Kid Icarus...

So overall, I think there's hope for the system. I still think the 3D feature is a gimmick, but if Nintendo and the game developers can take advantage of the better system specs on the 3DS, we could see some fun new games. Also, Nintendo needs to cash in on the addictive and compulsive buy advanatges of downloadable purchases: if they put a lot of the best GBA and DS titles as downloadable purchases on the cheap (< $5 for GBA, < $10 for DS)... they could sell systems and old software.

Anyway, I think the system will see a surge in 2012. It'll be interesting against the Sony PS Vita, and to see if doomsayers saying smart phones will kill off handheld consoles are right. Of course, I'll get 'em all because I'm a sucker.

PS/2 Classics a precusor to the Vita? Oh please please please please...

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Sony just released the first of what they say will be many PS/2 classics on PSN, designed to run on the PS3. Woohoo! (My wallet sobs, though, because if it's even close to PSOne classics, I'll buy waayyyy too many...)

With the upcoming PS Vita's specs, I keep wondering: can it emulate the PS/2? If so, is it possible that the Vita will play the PS/2 Classics, just like the PSP was able to run the PSOne Classics?

Oh my, if so, that could be the Vita's "killer app" that drives sales. WoooOOOOO!

3DS Hands-on -- First thoughts

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So I bought my black 3DS, and have played with it for a few hours. Here are my good's and not-so-good's for it:

The good:

  1. 3d is much cooler than I expected and not used in gimmicky, stupid ways. 3d photo taking is groovy and works well. The 3d use in the two games I bought (Street Fighter IV and Ghost Recon) are effective. Don't expect miracles -- you won't be able to tilt your head and see around a corner, etc. but it provides a nice sense of depth. For example, in Ghost Recon, in bird's-eye view of the map, you get a nice sense when bad guys are below or above you in a multi-level building.
  2. The built-in games are super simple, but show off the system very nicely. The Augmented Reality (AR) games are pretty simplistic, but what they do is very cool -- the image processing on-board the system is great. For example, you'll lay an AR card on your kitchen table, and the AR game will warp, bend, and tear holes in your table, and it looks actually pretty darned realistic. It will be muy interesting to see how this gets used.
  3. The system's overall feel is very solid, not cheap. It's heavy and a little chubby, but feels fine in my hands. The 3d screen is on top, and is large, while the bottom screen is just like the DS lite.
  4. The system can FINALLY use WPA/WPA2 wifi access points. *whew* I was dumbfounded when the DSI XL still didn't support WPA access points, but we're now past that...
  5. The first system update gives you a 3d music video -- OK Go's "White Knuckles" -- cute!
  6. Menuing system is quite a bit better than the DS, and obviously mirrors the Wii.
  7. Mii sharing system shows some promise, but we'll see if it works when I'm out an about. Since I'm a 40 year old engineer, I'm not sure where I'll run into other 3DSs as I wander but maybe I'll just go hang out at Chuck E Cheese and see what happens... :)
  8. The ability to suspend a game, go back to the system menu and write notes for that game is very cool.
  9. System ships with a charging dock, AC power adapter, and a 2GB SD memory card -- nice touches.

The not-so-good:

  1. Still no web browser or marketplace for games yet. No real date on when yet, either. Given the limited number of launch titles, your 3DS may get a bit lonely until Summer...
  2. ~3-4 hours of battery life, but plays while plugged in, so not too bad. However, the system has some cool proximity features where you just put the unit on standby, and as you walk around, it will sense other 3DS's and exchange info, Mii's, etc. which gives you points. For encouraging that kind of activity, 3 hrs is pretty sad...
  3. The stylus sits in the system vertically on the left side of the unit behind the hinge of the screen, so it's awkward to remove and replace when the system is open. Presumably, it's the only open space they had to put it...
  4. Because of the direction and location of the stylus slot, the stylus is super short but extends to normal length. But it's hollow cheap aluminum, and feels terrible, very cheap and flimsy. Yuck.
  5. Shoulder buttons feel great now, but stick out enough that I'm afraid they will get banged up quickly and could break. Time will tell. Probably good to get a case for it.
  6. No ability to shoot 3d video (yet? will it ever?). I wanted to try placing some 3d glasses against the 3d camera lenses on the back and seeing if it could film a 3d movie from a 3d tv, but no luck yet...
  7. The system wouldn't recognize any of my 4GB SD cards... either it needs something higher speed, or it doesn't support high density cards. If it's the latter, I wonder if that's a copy protection issue? Supposedly games may be up to 2GB, so if you can't put more than 2GB in the system...??? I dunno. Still, lame.

That's all for now...

Dragon Age II -- Splitter of friendships, ender of worlds...

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So PC and console users alike are split -- violently -- about Dragon Age II. Half of the populace is granting it ratings in the 1.0-3.0 range, ripping on its 'simplified' or 'dumbed down' gameplay, characters, and game world. The other half of the populace is going 8.0 to 10.0, praising the 'sharpened gameplay', 'more colorful visuals', and 'strong visceral feel'.

This made me think of Mass Effect 2 -- I, personally, enjoyed ME2, but did feel as an RPG it was dumbed down from ME1 quite a bit (I _loved_ ME1). But as I look at the user ratings, it hovers at a comfortable 9.0 average. (It won many game of the year awards as well.) Even though I didn't love it, I granted it a solid 8.0 rating.

For DA2, the split is much deeper, and we're seeing some crazy DA:Origins fanbois versus DA2 fanbois. It's always funny to me how some people can't just like a game for themselves -- they desperately insist that everyone else that doesn't agree is somehow flawed...

I'm a huge DA:O fan, and I'm excited to play DA2 (as soon as I finish this blasted semester-end project that I should be doing instead of blogging). I'm very curious to see what camp I fall into, but I suspect it'll be in the middle somewhere...

Any DA:O fans out there try DA2 yet and form an opinion?

To Pokemon, or not to Pokemon, that is the question...

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I need the Gamespot public's opinion... I've never --never-- played any --any-- of the Pokemon games. I'm ancient, by human terms (a teen in the 80's), so my experience of Pokemon came in the form of anime well past my interest in anime cartoonage.

I've heard Pokemon called anything from online strategy, to adventure, to RPG. If it's the latter two, I may well be in for trying it.

I like western RPGs, Japaanese-style SRPGs, some JRPGs, etc. I'm not so into online play (loser!!).

Do you recommend I try these games out? If so, which title is good to cut my teeth upon?

3DS Launch Lineup -- no RPGs?!?!?!

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So the launch day (USA) titles for the 3DS have been announced:

  • Super Street Fighter IV 3D Edition
  • The Sims 3
  • Madden NFL Football
  • Pro Evolution Soccer 2011 3D
  • LEGO Star Wars III: The Clone Wars
  • Ridge Racer 3D
  • Super Monkey Ball 3D
  • Bust-a-Move Universe
  • Samurai Warriors: Chronicles
  • Asphalt 3D
  • Combat of Giants: Dinosaurs 3D
  • Rayman 3D
  • Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon Shadow Wars

There is a horde of strong RPG franchises on the DS (even some borrowed from other platforms effectively): Shin Megami Tensei, Dragon Quest, Final Fantasy, Etrian Odyssey, and so on...

Yes, those are all coming on the 3DS, but none on release day? Not ONE? Not even Zelda? *cry!*

Yet I still bought a 3DS, and will pick it up with some bitter glee on release day, rewarding Nintendo despite my rant. Yes, I'm my own worst enemy...

NGP? PSP? PS2 games on NGP?!?

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The dear old PSP is coming up on 6 years old in the USA (original release in North America was March 2005), and _finally_ we're getting an actual next-gen replacement for it, code-named the NGP (Next Gen Playstation).

The NGP looks absolutely spiffy... so much tech. After the PS3's initial release failure (due to its $600 retail price), but then surge as it continues to be technologically advanced even 3 years later and is now selling for a profit, it looks like Sony is taking the same approach with the NGP. Sell it for $349 to early adopters, lower the price later when the tech gets cheaper and sell a ton of them, and the hardware will still be relevant 3 years from now.

Lots and lots of scuttlebutt on the Internet about the games. The one question I haven't seen asked but is killing me: will we see PS/2 titles ported to this platform? It seems like a no-brainer if it's technologically possible, and could be the "killer app" for the NGP. PS/1 titles on the PSP are wonderful, but it got half-arsed support in the USA, yet when PS1 classics like Final Fantasy were released on PSN, they sold like gangbusters. Imagine the hot and huge PS/2 collection getting released in downloadable form on the NGP -- awesome!

(Speaking of PSP, and the PS/2... wow, you can get a refurb PS/2 Slim w/ controller and three games on Gamespot.com for $50, and Amazon is dumping brand new PSP 3000's for $129! If you've ever been tempted to get a PSP, for that price it's a steal.)

I used to blog, then stopped and deleted all the entries because they were stale. Now, w/ the NGP and 3DS, we're getting some fresh life in the gaming world -- time to start talking again! That is all.

Mike