Tag Archives: game

Monster in my Pocket – Review a Great Game Day

Monster In My Pocket (U) [!]-1

Licensed video games. Just think about that for a second. Licensed video games. For most of us, a cold chill from scenes of Beetlejuice, Back to the Future and Friday the 13th that haunted as children and for some, still today, creeps down our spines.

There are a few of those titles that still hold supreme though: Batman, Gremlins 2, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2. Plus I’m happy to say that licensed games have really taken a big leap forward in terms of quality, gameplay and sadly, basic game mechanics. Something us retro gamers were not privy to that in the olden days.

Monster In My Pocket (U) [!]-3

These licensed games weren’t subjected just to movies and cartoons. In an era where anything was possible, we saw video games based on girl’s dolls, books and even toys. Tiny toys, especially tiny toys that could fit in your pocket. Toys of a haunting, evil nature that graced many silver screens in force of horror, terror and downright awesomeness. This is where our story begins.

Toys for kids during the late 1980’s and the early 1990’s were all about small moving parts. You’d be crazy to find such a toy now that was rated for kids 12 and up due to something they call a “choking hazard”. Back then, small was in. Hard, possibly metal, tiny toys were what you wanted. The smaller, the better they’d say. One particular franchise that saw that light started from two former executives from Mattel that created a line of miniatures based on monsters and legendary creatures from religion, mythology and popular science fiction. This is Monster in my Pocket.

Monster In My Pocket (U) [!]-5

Developed by Komani, Monster in my Pocket was released on the Nintendo Entertainment System in 1990. Basing its storyline primarily on the comic book series (I guess you can’t have much of a story with just toys), you are thrown into the world that is Monster in my Pocket. And it’s a world that you are familiar with. A world where your platforms and environments are your kitchen, your coffee table and your backyard. Places where these little guys had been in my house. Hoping from couch to couch. Attacking enemies from the stove to the countertops. I didn’t have much of an imagination growing up to create elaborate backdrops and scenery. Just a couple of books and a dream.

It’s a beat-em-up. Every one loves beat-em-ups. It’s not the best. You have two characters to pick from (provided you are playing a single player game): the vampire and the monster. Or basically Dracula and Frankenstein’s Monster. See? They didn’t have much of an imagination either. Both characters play the same; no different movesets or characteristics. Most of the enemies repeat over and over again. There are some interesting stages like going down into the sewers or fighting a boss in the freezer. Good stuff there.

Monster In My Pocket (U) [!]-6

Here’s why Monster in my Pocket is a great game. It’s a childhood dream come to life. It doesn’t make itself out to be something it’s not. It’s not trying to be groundbreaking or have some crazy overarching story that only a psychologist would understand. You’re playing with your toys around the house. Just like you did when you were a kid. The graphics are fine. You can make out everything with a decent amount of detail. And you get to experience something that we all seem to miss out on as adults: playing with toys around the house.


Go ahead and try. No one is watching. I won’t say anything.

Internet Killed Console Gaming–Point 2

 

Oh, Internet… It’s a love and hate relationship. I’ve become so tied to the Internet, like most of us, and it’s hard to live in a life where you don’t exist. I also can’t stand what you’ve done to one of my most precious loves: console gaming. There’s nothing like hooking a system up to my T.V., holding that controller pad in my hands for the first time and wasting away in the glow from the television set for hours on end. But you have to stop!

Point 2 – Broken games

nes360

I’m a firm believer that it’s about the game play not the graphics which decides the top performers in the gaming world. Shiny cutting edge graphics are no match for great story telling and compelling character arches. You can have the faster processors and load times, but I will not play it if the game just down right sucks. And the Internet has allowed more of these shitty games through the gates with the idea that “We’ll make it better!”

A.

The Internet has made game developers of all kinds lazy. They release broken games with slapped together physics just so they can hit their delivery date to get full exposure for important dead lines such as a system launch date. By doing so, we as gamers, are now teaching these corporations that it’s OK if your game is broken, we will wait for updates and sometimes, even pay to get them. What has become of us?

A perfect example is the newly released The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim for the Xbox 360, Playstation 3 and PC. Developed by Bethesda Game Studios, Skyrim quickly become the number 1 game at the top of many reviewers charts. The crowd was unanimous: this is an amazing game. Or is it?

Released on November 11, 2011, the first patch was made available for download on November 29, 2011. 18 days after the game was released to stores. 18 days! Now, what did the patch do? Well let’s see what the book of knowledge has to say:

Patch 1.2 was released on November 29, 2011 to fix some of the game’s issues;however, some players reported new bugs in the game following the patch, including more frequent game crashes.

wikipedia.org

18 days after it’s initial release, the game was already broken to the point of the system crashes deeming it completely unplayable. What happened? Well, I will admit that Skyrim is a fucking huge game. I’m talking big. But, the thing you need to remember is that this is the fifth in the series. This is not the first game released by Bethesda Game Studios. With the reputation they have created for themselves, they are vets even gods among game developers. 18 days… it only took players 18 days for them to realize that the game was broken to the point of it being unplayable.

So, they released a patch. To fix things. But that didn’t help. So they released 5 more patches to get the game into fighting shape, the last of which was pushed out on March 20, 2012 again to fix the bugs and system crashes. To me, this shows that Bethesda released a broken game, an unfinished product, a worthless attempt to get my money.

My point is, if the game isn’t ready to be released then don’t release it. There’s a reason that every game company has play testers. They are there to find issues with a game that wouldn’t be found by someone who is making the game.  A new set of eyes if you will. Now, I’m not saying that these play testers will find “every bug imaginable” but if it’s crashing your system… that’s a problem… especially if they need to release 5 different patches to fix the problem. Only with the ability of the Internet can a game company get away with this and make it the norm.

If you have the ability to fix an already released product months if not years after it’s release date, then where is the bar? What would stop a company from releasing a game that just consists of an environment and few if not any actually playable game aspects? I mean, couldn’t the definition of a game be ripped down to just an avatar running around on the screen with no real objectives? Anything is possible.

The lack of updates throughout the life of a video game has forced some game developers in the past to really go that extra mile to do something amazing… Case in point —

B.

Final Fantasy

250px-FF1_USA_boxart

Some of you have heard of a small company called Square (now known as Square Enix). But a few of you may not know that Square was, at one point,  becoming a distant memory. Yes, they were at their wits end ready to call it quits.

Square was at the bottom of the barrel with it came to video games back in the mid to late 1980s. They just couldn’t put anything together to turn a profit. They had one more game in them and if it didn’t work out, well… that was it. Close the doors, pack up all of the Japanese porn and call it quits. It was literally their “Final Fantasy”.

The idea came from a similar company called Enix (which they ended up purchasing, I’m sorry “merging” with later in 2003). The game was called Dragon Quest: an RPG for the Nintendo Famicom. It was a hit, but Square thought they could do it one better. Final Fantasy was released in December 1987. It spawned many squeals and is easily the only reason why Square still exists.

Now, let’s fast forward to today. With all of the technology we have available, what would be of Square if they decided to start today? If those dead drop games they released before Final Fantasy were able to be updated, to fix bugs, in short, to make the game better, would Final Fantasy ever be? Without getting too philosophical, yes, someone down the road would have created the game sooner or later. But would it have been Square? Probably not. Because they weren’t faced with that moment of terror that could close them down forever. They didn’t have the ability to fix a crappy game like game devs do today. Once it was released it was up to the players to decide if the game be worthy or not. If not, that was it. No second chances. Nothing. You’re done. Thanks for playing.

Let’s look at today’s games. What if a company, that released a crappy game, who now has the chance to fix it a second time, does instead of scraping the entire project and go for something different? We’ll never know for sure what amazing games we could be playing other than the 20th version of Call of Duty. But I can tell you, you back someone into a corner with one last chance, the possibility of doing something wonderful and beautiful is more likely than not. Think about that…

Join me for point 3 where I discuss the losing game of…. TROLLS!

Point One

Internet Killed Console Gaming — Point 1

 

The Internet (it is capitalized right?) has killed console gaming forever. It wasn’t something that the causal gamer saw coming, and in fact, very few gamers of any age can really see the implications of how gaming was infected and destroyed by the Internet.

Point 1: Physical Media

Classic_Game_Carts_by_NoSmokingBandit

Ew… gross… what are those disease carrying, oddly shaped things?

Those, my ignorant gamer of the future, are called “game cartridges”. Those use to be how we played games. They weren’t beamed down from a space station, through your body, to your T.V. set. No, the information was placed on these “carts”, we plugged the “cart” into the game system and played until our hearts content.

This might sound silly now, but I’m telling you, in no more than twenty years from now, no major game company will think about the possibility of placing their cutting edge game on any kind of physical media. Physical media has some major flaws that a business doesn’t want to be apart of anymore.

A:

netflix-wii

I have to buy them again!? But I can get the cart for $2 at my local game shop!

It’s a one time buy – Companies don’t want you to purchase their content once. They want you to purchase it as many times as possible. A game cart, if taken care of, can last the life of the player. Look at the some of the oldest games that are available at your local game shop (i.e. Atari 2600 games). These carts are decades old, but with care, they will still function. This is bad news for companies. The media has to be disposable, forgotten about, or unreliable so that, years down the road, when you want to play that “retro game for the Xbox 36o” you will have to buy it again via an software download.

Look at the popularity of the Xbox Arcade, Playstation Network, or Nintendo’s Wii Shop Channel. The games that are on these services already exist in one if not multiple versions stretch across many consoles and PC set ups. Game consoles you probably already own, maybe even the game itself, but people will buy it yet again for many reasons: convenience, minor updates typically in a graphical nature, rare if not impossible find, etc. The issue with this is that we are feeding the monkey. And it’s not a nice monkey. It’s an evil, evil monkey. By buying into this program, we are telling these game companies that it’s OK to release the same game year after year with little to no incentive to us and we will keep on buying.

B:

Stacks_of_money

Money – placing any kind of information on a disk, whether it be a cartridge or compact disc, is expensive and prone to failure over time. After coping so many discs with the same application, there is always a testing phase to make sure that the games actually work on the console.

Now you might be thinking, well I can get 50 CD-Rs for 10 bucks surely a major corporation can get a better deal on media than I can and I’d say you were right. And they more than likely add that additional cost into the price of the game itself at the point of purchase. But if we are so use to paying $50 and $60 dollars for the latest Xbox 360 game, why would we shake a stick at paying the exact same amount for the same game only to have it downloaded to a hard disk that’s attached to your console? With the blazing speeds that are available for the internet now-a-days including broadband and fiber optics, to download a 4 GB video game would be done in minutes not hours like in the past. Which would cut their production of developing a physical media all together. Less work means less workers means more money in the business’s pocket. Because the games sure as hell won’t cost less.

This type of model has been around for ages really pushed through by Apple’s iTunes app. Here’s my story. Many years ago, I purchased an album from iTunes that was recorded locally and was no longer in production for a physical copy. A few years later, my iPod had crapped out on me, so I went back into iTunes to download the album again. To my amazement, I had to purchase it again since so much time had gone by. But I bought it already didn’t I own it? No. I didn’t. Most digital media that is purchased online is actually only being “rented” from the company for an unknown amount of time. Meaning, if I lost my copy, I will have to buy another.

Now, this is similar to a physical copy as well in some small cases. If I own the CD, and I lose it, I no longer have that copy and I will have to purchase a new one. The difference is I have the ability to make a software “back-up” copy of the hard copy for just this case. Now, the laws of copyright can be read in either direction pertaining to “back-ups” but at the time I was allowed to have one backed up copy of any physical data that I owned.

Apple, and many other companies, use a security called DRM or Digital Rights Management that will only allow you to have one copy of the medium. You are not legally allowed to copy that DRM media from one source to another. Many other companies and just about everyone else is against this model of security but that doesn’t stop deep pocket companies from using it. And the only advantage is to the company not to the user.

In part two, I will be discussing the issue that has cropped up with console games that are just down right broken and how it’s considered “OK” now to release such titles.

Stay tuned!

Point Two

FIGHTWARE–The Ultimate Gaming System–Part 2

hardware

All right, let’s get down to the nuts and bolts of the machine. The idea here is to be slick and tiny. The motherboard, ideally, would be a mini-itx. They are small, cheap, and full of power. Preferably one with HDMI or RCA out. That way you could hook it up to a normal T.V. and play off your couch. USB ports on the front and back, built in Wi-Fi or Ethernet port (would be nice more on this later), fans and all that jazz. Hard drive would be a flash HDD. Less moving parts means less things to go wrong. Anything from a 4 GB to 1 TB would be more than enough to support the actual software running the system and space for games, DLC, etc. Built in Bluetooth would also be a plus for more choices of game pads to use or even your mobile phone. Cool idea right? I’m full of them.

Now that is a sexy piece of hardware.

The case itself again would be slick enough to put next to your DVR or your DVD player or even your other consoles. Then the normally stuff like a power button, reset button, USB ports on the front for controllers (4 for multi-tap play) and a DVD drive for games, updates, etc (More on this later).

Now, ideally, everyone could purchase the same unit so everyone has the same type of hardware. But, more or less, people want their machines to do different things. The average gamer probably won’t need 1 TB of space. I mean, that’s a ton of space. The software of FIGHTWARE can be placed on basically anything. The software portion will cover this more, but FIGHTWARE should be able to run on the minimal of hardware of any kind.

controllers

Ah, controllers. There are so many to choose from. And you can choose which ever one you’d want! By placing 4 USB ports on the front of the box will allow up to USB gamepads for 4 player action. Or with the built in Bluetooth adapter, it’s possible to use even wireless controllers with the same capability or even your mobile phone!

I chose you!

There have been great advances in pc gaming with Linux. There are even libraries that will allow you to use your Nintendo Wii Remote to controller your mouse. You can’t tell me that someone wouldn’t be able to mash this over to a gamepad for Duck Hunt, Time Crisis, or House of the Dead. Don’t you tell me that! Because it is possible.

Another great thing with Linux, is it’s able to name every bit of hardware that is plugged into it even if it has no idea what to do with it or what it’s suppose to do. Let’s say you plug in a Retro NES USB controller. Now FIGHTWARE has no idea what this is. Linux is able to at least name it something that’s legible such as “NES USB controller”. With that, it’s just a simple script to run and try to figure out what the hell it is. For instance, the NES controller has 4 face buttons and an 8-way directional pad. That’s 12 total buttons. Everyone of those buttons has a name as well such as Button 1, Button 2, Button 3, etc. Every emulator has a “map controller” feature to allow the program to assign what each button will represent on an actually NES controller. The script would do the same thing, save it in a text file somewhere that way when another emulator needs it to map the controller to the system it’s emulating, it’s just a small load away. On top of that, this text file can be uploaded to a main server and the next time that a player somewhere else plugs in the same controller, the user won’t have to map it again. Just select it from a drop down menu or list. Done and done.

online? not online?

You crazy kids and your online gaming. When I was a hardcore gamer, we spent weeks, saving up our allowances, finishing up homework, and begging parents to allow me and 3 of my friends to hang out on a Friday night, rent Goldeneye 007 for the Nintendo 64 to toss proximity mines all around and sit in a corner while my friends would  look for me only to kill themselves. Well, that wasn’t me actually it was another friend of mine but still!

Online gaming has defiantly taken a crazy leap forward with games such as Halo, Madden Football, and Call of Duty. I have also taken part in these crazy marathons and it’s hard not to consider a system that isn’t online.

As I have already stated (or will state. I’ve lost track already) most of these emulators have Netplay. Basically Netplay allows you to play 2 or 3 or 4 player video games online with friends or foes. With the invention of TeamSpeak, a software that allows you to chat with others, it would be a simple switch to set up an online game through the emulator, create a chat room in TeamSpeak and be able to play and chat with the players.

I’m not too big of a hardware guy so other than the above, I don’t have much to add. Hardware’s boring.

The next installment will focus on the software. Oh yeah.

FIGHTWARE – The Ultimate Gaming System–Part 1

what is FIGHTWARE

FIGHTWARE is an idea that can create the ultimate gaming experience in emulation. It combines the love of retro gaming with the computing power of today to allow the player to replicate the gaming experience of conventional consoles in a all-in-one tight, cute little package.

Basically it’s a computer. Just like all modern consoles, it will consist of a motherboard, hard drive disk, controllers, etc. But the beauty of FIGHTWARE is to strive to feel exactly like you are playing on the actual console with real controllers rather than on a computer keyboard. With today’s technology in emulation, anything is possible.

why “FIGHTWARE”

A name is just a name. Actually, my original name for this console was “Agent Orange”. I just thought it was a sweet ass name. Could call it AO for short. But after some serious thinking, and realizing that it might upset some people, I decided on FIGHTWARE. It has a better ring to it than AO does. When you ask someone what they’re doing  they would say something like “I’m playing Xbox” or “I’m playing Playstation”. I’m playing “Agent Orange” doesn’t really sound good. I’m playing FIGHTWARE sounds way better. Then again it might just be me. I can go either way.

is FIGHTWARE legal?

Short answer, No. According to the law of copyright, you are allowed to have one soft copy (in this case a rom) if you own the hard copy that you’ve legally paid for. This is an old law and more often then not, this is also against the law. The main purpose of FIGHTWARE is to play through emulation, but there can be so much more you can do with the system which will be outlined in later installments. So no, it’s not legal. With that in mind, let’s continue shall we?

origins

FIGHTWARE was created out of my lonely days of trying to mod my original X-Box console. The idea that I could put emulators and roms on the system and play them without having to blow into cartridge slots, wiping smuggie discs on my white tee, or placing a Coke can on top of the console to play got my heart pumping. A modded X-Box. It was heaven to a retro gamer like me.

But… talk about a pain in the ass to get working. You need the correct game to load the installer, a Memory Card with the files on it. Just getting the files over to the memory card was a pain. Or you could get an Action Replay which is fine, back then, but now finding one is almost impossible. Most people at game stores have no idea that an Action Replay was made for the original Xbox. Then I get those dumb looks and crazy questions of “Why? Original Xbox? Just buy a 360.” I don’t want a 360. I want to mod my Xbox. Back off nerd so lame that even I wouldn’t talk to you on the street!

And updating the system or adding anything new was a pain as well. You had to connect a patch network cable to your computer, run a certain kind of FTP software because NO OTHER FTP PROGRAM WOULD WORK CORRECTLY!!! make sure that HDD was “unlocked” and that the system defaults were set to even be able to connect to your computer. Pain in the ass!

So you might be thinking “Well, I mean yeah it’s a pain, but it’s got to be easier than creating your own custom console.” And to that, I would say you are correct. At least in part. The hardest part of this whole idea of FIGHTWARE is the beginning stages. Getting everything together, connecting hardware, making sure everything works correctly. But after that’s all good, it’s a simple plug and play concept for everything else. And you will be much happier to use an original NES controller to play those roms rather than the bulky X-Box controller. Even the S version doesn’t feel well to the hands. Plus you wouldn’t be restricted to out-dated hardware to make things happen. Still with me?

The next installment for FIGHTWARE will be about the hardware.