Project X Zone for the 3DS

The different dimensions, worlds, universes, are converging, crossing over. Why? Who is behind this thing? Why is this happening? And this is the basic concept behind the storyline for this game. The characters are being pulled from their world into different realms.

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In case it hasn’t dawned on you this IS a fan based game for anyone wanting to see characters from Bandai, Sega, and CAPCOM together in one game. If you are expecting to use the characters the way you use them in their respective games, you will not be satisfied. And you might find this game disappointing.

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How does the game play? Seemingly it is a visual novel in between fights and that is how the game relates the story to you. There chapters, stages, to the story. (No roaming or exploring.) And the story gives you a reason for the confrontations. Strategy RPG elements are used in the battles, the only time you can actually move your character, confrontations are mixed with fighting game influences, but you are limited in your character control. Many have considered this an RPG game. If it is classified as such it is not in the traditional sense. I found no purchasing of armor, or supplies, to buildup the fighters other than just leveling up after a battle. Any potions, or food, etc, are only obtained after a successful battle. After the battles you can equip your fighters. Each battle is mission based, kill all enemies, get the boss guy, etc. Story, battle, story, battle, story, battle, is the way the game plays, and the battles might be too repetitive for some.

Odd concoction of gaming elements that seem to work together.  The strategy element during the battles to reach your goal is what has hooked me. The fights consist of button mashing, with special moves initiated by the directional button. You are sometimes given a character you can call in CAPCOM style to help in a fight. And when you have several pairs of characters on the board to use in a fight, if you are close together, you can call on them to help. I have had six fighters battling the boss all at once.

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Graphics and animation are smooth and fun to watch, awesome. I purchased this game locally in a used media store for $8. And I have liked it so much I purchased the second one in the series.
I find it a hard game to recommend. It might not be for everyone.

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Run & Gun Gaming on the GBA!!

I consider the Gameboy Advanced SP, with the bright screen, the pentacle of Nintendo’s achievement in portable gaming design. Even though they have introduced other, more advanced, portables over the years, I still maintain this perspective concerning this little console. It fits so well in your pocket and still offers plenty of gaming that has aged well.

Gunstar Heroes was a pleasant surprise back in the golden era of the Sega Genesis. It appeared in the latter half of the system’s lifespan. With me, it became an instant classic and has stood well the test of time. And it only made sense to bring this to portable gaming with a release of a sequel in Gunstar Future Heroes for the GBA. Excellent, story, hand to hand combat, run and gun gaming that brings joy to any lover of the genre. If you do any retro gaming and love the GBA SP you owe it to yourself to pick up a copy. Especially if you love the genre. But if this only wets your appetite for this type of gaming and want more, I got something for you. These are my recommendations if you love this type of gaming.

Alien Hominid: Only released in Europe, as far as I know. I managed to get me a copy. And wow, this is my game. Unrelenting humorous pure run and gun action, agents pouring in from everywhere, love this game so much. A totally must own. The one game I run to when I just want to shoot.

Metal Slug Advance: This is Metal Slug. If you have not played a Metal Slug game, then may I ask, where have you been living? Fun, humorous, Contra like, pure run and gun continuous action. If you liked Alien Hominid then you will love this one too. There is just some magic in the way the Metal Slug games are designed.

Astro Boy: The Treasure touch is strong with this one. I remember being blown away by this game back then. (But then I am an Astro fan.) This is run and gun Astro style in a Gunstar sort of way. It begins with a good training mode, which is needed to know how to use Astro. Even though you can see, and feel, signs of Gunstar, there is enough here to differentiate and take it to a whole new level. You have a good story to follow and the ability to choose how to level up your character. The leveling of your character, and multiple weapons, moves to learn, is what stands out to me. So I really don’t feel that it is more of the same, even though it is more of the same, in a way. You will have to play to understand. But this is still Treasure at their best.

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Fei Hao Sega Genesis Clone with HDMI

I have three Sega Genesis consoles, Original first one, Genesis two, and the portable Nomad. They all work perfect, fine, good, gaming machines. But I have this quirk about me that I love messing with clone systems, always comparing them to the original hardware. Recently I picked up the Fei Hao Sega Genesis clone which contains HDMI output, my main reason for wanting this console. Here are some of my first impressions as I test drive this console.

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Console:

The cosmetic design of the console shell is taken from the first original Genesis, or Mega Drive as it was called across the pond. And really it looks just like that original Mega Drive outwardly more so than the US release of the console, colors match. It almost leads you to believe that they used the same molds for the plastic shell as was used for that original Sega console, with a little modification. The reason I say that is because it has the snap out area where you would normally plug in the Sega CD, but there is nothing there to attach the CD system. No mother board in that area. There is very little on the inside as with all clone systems, typical. And the snap out cover will fit my old Genesis exactly. The console will even fit the CD system base. One could gut this thing and use it to mod your old Genesis for HDMI, maybe. Just a thought. And no it will not take the 32X because there are no hook ups and the cart connection sets lower due to no motherboard.

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Same setup as original console. Below the  original Sega controller is in the middle.IMG_1152

One thing they did include was the headphone feature with the volume control. I am glad they kept that, but one thing that is lost, which is a deal breaker for many Fans I am sure, no stereo. I don’t understand why. The original Genesis one had stereo in the headphone jack. The original didn’t have stereo out of the back, but it did in the headphone jack. Audio is, what word am I looking for, shallow? Not as deep and rich as the original? But it is better than a lot of clone systems that I have come into contact. I don’t get that gritting of my teeth, or wincing while playing. I can enjoy playing the game.

It has both HDMI and RCA outputs, so you can use it on HD flat screen and old CRT televisions. It has a switch on the back so you can toggle between Japanese and US games, sorry, no PAL. Cart slot on top has no guide for the US games that we are use to, reason for that is because you could not use a Japanese game if it did. So you need to be careful as you push a cart in and sort of feel your way into the correct position. Not as bad as you would think but still something you need to be aware of if you plan to get one of these things. Not sure of the damage that can happen because of that, or durability.

In The Package:

You get the console, two wireless controllers, one wired controller, HDMI cable, RCA cable, AC adapter, instruction leaflet (how to hook it up), and they threw in an 11-N-1 multi cart. If you get it in the box, the name Fei Hao is on the package. There is nothing on the console or any of the accessories to indicate the name of the manufacturer. For some reason they took mine out of the box but left the stuff in the box divisions that were inside. It resulted in the same dimensions as it would have been if only they had left the outward box intact. Go figure. It was tripled bubble wrapped then taped, shipped.

Controls:

You can use the original Sega controllers which is a big plus. But it also comes with a couple of 2.4ghz RF wireless six button controllers. I put these controllers to the ultimate test this week. I pulled out all my Genesis shoot’m ups, including Gunstar Heroes, and some platforming. Responsiveness was spot on and I did not detect any lag. I set 15 feet from the console. The controllers, themselves, felt good in my hands, but they are noticeably smaller than the original. Buttons, for some reason, set high, clicky, and the directional, a bit floaty. Other than those oddball quirks, it played well, I had no trouble using them, and never thought about those things, which might be annoying for some. There was one other controller that was included in the package that was close to the size of the original, wired. There is a switch on the bottom that I have no idea what it is for. It also has the feature of attaching an arcade stick to the middle of the directional button. The directional button has this annoyance, for me, of being able to push down into the controller. What is up with that? None of the included controllers are like what you have grown to love about the original. But that is what is nice about being able to hook up your tried and true favorite Genesis controller. I, personally, will use the wireless, for now, just because I want to get the feel for them and I like the idea of having wireless for the Genesis. At one point I will return to the original controller, maybe, for certain games.

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Graphics:

As for playing the games in HDMI? You have to keep in mind that these games were made to work on the old CRT televisions which depended on the scan lines for them to look good. They are pixel, sprite graphics which have a tendency to look a bit blocky with jaggies. If you hook the original Genesis to your HD flatscreen, this is what you see, stands out, and shocks most diehard retro gamers. Or it concerns them and is what retro gamers find offensive. With the HDMI hookup on this console there seems to be a smoothing effect, sort of like there is some anti-aliasing going on in the output. I am speculating, but, I am thinking that they have done that, there is some sort of up conversion going on. This makes everything look softer and pleasing to your eye. There are those games in which it works better than others.

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I have tried Phantasy Star IV. It read the saved game and saved back to that file with no problems. I saw a bit of shredding in the graphics of one of the sub boss sprites in Grind Stormer. But over all it played everything that I have thrown at it so far, including reproduction carts and the Sega Everdrive China version. Played games like, Soldiers of Fortune, Street Fighter 2 the New Challengers, Gauntlet 4, Sub Terrania, Contra Hardcorp, Ms. Pacman, Lightening Force, with basically no issues. I did have problems pulling off fire balls in Street Fighter with any of the supplied controllers. Switched to my original controller and had no problem. That directional button made all the difference. Ha-Do-Ken!!!

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The Japan Mega Drive game cart is the one on the top. This was part of the region lockout used on the Sega 16-bit consoles.

I have tried a good chunk of games, but I have not played anything completely through. Did not have Virtua racing out, I usually play that game on 32X. If I can’t find it, I will purchase it. I want to know.

Last Words:

What is the best way to play your Sega games? Simple, on the original hardware. You can pick up a Sega Genesis or Mega Drive cheaper, or close to the same price as I paid for this clone, $60USD range. There is that concern of playing your games on an HD TV. This is only one alternative, there are others. And it is not that bad, IMO. On the down side, you are limited to using only the game carts. Personally, I have been more satisfied with this clone, more so, than any other Sega clone. If you don’t mind the cons with this console, this might be for you. The plus side is the HDMI, wireless controllers, and the ability to play both Japanese and US games. What is my recommendation? I will let you decide. So just set back and think real hard about what you can live with and be satisfied.

Major Update: This system does not boot Virtua Racing. All I get is a green screen as with other clone systems.

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Family and Gaming

The scenario begins like this. You see a fellow worker who can just barely keep their eyes open. You ask if they are okay. They begin to explain that they just got this new game and they have been staying up until 3AM every night playing and that I should get it too. (They make it sound like they have just won an award, or became a man. And their long late hours into this is proof it is great. It is really such a mega fantastic super colossal game as their story goes.) Work starts at 7AM and they commute 45 minutes. Now this is a disaster waiting to happen in many ways. One should not even venture from their home in that condition, especially if it could have been prevented. If there is a wife, and children involved one can only imagine the problems in relationships festering. And it could also apply to the wife if she is an avid gamer, but nine times out of ten it is the guy. We obsess.

My main point of all this, is, if you are going to continue being a gamer, you have to set guidelines and standards for yourself. You have to set priorities. It is totally unhealthy if you don’t, both mentally and physically. Ummm….your not a kid anymore.

As my Daughter was growing up I integrated some of our Family time with gaming. Bomberman was a fun Family activity. Everybody was an equal and everybody got blown up. Fighting games also was a popular item. If anyone walked up to our front door in the middle of a session, they would think an actual fight was taking place on the other side of that door. There was a lot of yelling and trash talk.
Those were some fun Street Fighter days. Any multi player game was worth a try.

But I know priorities when it comes to personal gaming time. The Family may not always want to game. And then there is yard work and other necessary things that make a home and Family work. I love my gaming but I know “when to” and “where to” game. Spending time with the Family where “they are at” is worth more than avoiding them so you can spend hours upon hours into the night with your game. When you are young and single, no problem. But when there are other people in the house, you are sharing your life with them. You gotta make that happen.

My Wife recently found games that she personally enjoys on the DSi xl. I let her have the DSi xl to keep. I had two DSi xls of that color anyway.

Majora’s Mask New 3DS xl

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Okay…. the price was right…. and my money was right. And really, this is the only way I would have purchased another 3DS system. And it is nice, very good, well taken care of. Got the box and everything. I couldn’t be happier. I even slipped in my copy of Majora’s Mask N64 here for a cameo appearance. There are only two tiny light scratches on the top, which I am okay with. The person said there was one dead pixel on the top screen but I have yet to notice. And the head tracker tech really works well if you get into playing your games in 3D. This should have been the launch system and this is the one to own. But I am sure that Nintendo did not fully explore every angle of the new 3D feature and its flaws at that point in time. Seems to have a better camera than any of the other portables in the 3DS and DS family of handhelds. Handles low light better and is sharper. The unit even feels better in your hands as there is a total redesign of the shell. If this had been my first 3DS I would have not looked in purchasing another. Love the Majora theme. Hate to say this, but my launch version 3DS xl will probably catch dust now. Other than the “New” internals which makes the system more powerful, it is still the 3DS. And you will not notice the power unless you have a game that takes advantage of it. And sadly there are only a few available. There is a noticeable difference in some games running a little smoother, but that is not the selling point for this system. The worse thing about this version of the 3DS xl portable is microSD access. You need a screw driver to take out two tiny screws and remove the bottom of the 3DS xl. That is crazy and messed up. I have a 32gig microSD in there and feel that I will never need to go into my unit, hopefully.

If you want a 3DS I would highly recommend the New 3DS xl. And I would strongly suggest you look for a theme you would enjoy. It is just part of the fun. And no, this does not take me away from my 2DS xl. I think the New 3DS xl compliments my 2DS xl. Because I found some games that I might be able to enjoy playing in 3D, like Ridge Racer 3D and Animal Crossing. And that is saying a lot for the head tracker tech. I could not play not one game in 3D with the launch version of this system. My eyes just could not handle it. I will play my games I like in 2D on the one and keep a game I like in 3D in the other. I am like that.

Now all I need to do is pick up a copy of Majora’s Mask 3D……

Animal Crossing on the N64!!!

(Well ummm….. not really the Original Cart, but it is the original hardware, on a retro cathode tube TV. The way it was meant to be? More like it should have been. Right?)

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I think reproduction carts are, in a way, some type of gray area. Not sure how to view them except I have picked up quite a few of them recently. Games that I could not afford due to high prices in a collectors market. This is the first one that I have purchased due to the translation into English.

Okay I am being very thankful for those who take the time to do fan translations of those games that did not make it to the US but stayed in Japan. I am also being thankful for those who have the ingenuity to produce reproduction carts for retro consoles. For without that, I would not have this English translation of the Animal Crossing game which initially first appeared on the Nintendo 64.

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What can I say, this is Animal Crossing in its rawest form. Originally titled Doubutsu no Mori or, Animal Forest. This is the one that started it all. I love this game and was first exposed to it on my DS. My Daughter and I have logged hours and hours of time into this game. I finally purchased it for my Game Cube when it was Nintendo’s number one console. Each successive game has its improvements, but it is still this game. The same, for me, addictive gameplay. Work, spend your cash, build your house, fill it with stuff, and interact with folk. This little game has that winning touch. If you have ever played any version of Animal Crossing then you will find this game intuitive.

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One quirk that this reproduction cart has, is, no real time clock. I think the special chip is missing from the reproduction PC board. The game knows that there is something wrong with the clock and warns you. But if you are playing it every day, like I am, you can adjust it to the time and date you begin. The game saves with the internal battery, your game,time you stopped, and the date. And this is saved to the cart, not to a memory card. So really no big deal. Can’t really complain with what I got here. It mostly baffles me why Nintendo did not bring this to the US while the N64 was on the shelf. The game was later ported to the Game Cube, so we did get it, in a way, just a little late to the party. Cost me only $25 USD. Not bad.

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There are many games like this, which, when I get my hands on it, makes me wonder, what happened? What was going through their heads that caused them to not release this to the US market? This would have been a system seller no doubt. There are many Japan only titles which would have been good for the US Nintendo 64 game library. It is sad when a game company is out of touch with the market that they are catering to.

This game is a great big thumbs up and is highly recommended to anyone who owns a Nintendo 64.

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The New 2DS xl: My First Impressions

I really like the outward matte finish, shiny color trim, and slight ridges on top of the console, feels good. Even though sometimes you can see the natural oils of your fingers from handling, it is easily wiped off. Not a finger print magnet like the very shiny reflective screen area, but you shouldn’t find yourself handling that part anyway. I wonder if they will introduce new color schemes, I can see the potential. When these saturate the market, we will see. It will all depend on Nintendo’s timetable and original intent of releasing the console. Though I see they’ re already releasing the Pokemon Ball themed unit which will probably sellout to all Pokemon fans.

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The New 2DS xl is on top and the DSi xl is on the bottom.

I find the return to the DSi xl designed button & camera layout around the bottom screen area very welcome. I can not get used to the 3DS layout. I always find myself fumbling around those buttons at the bottom screen, sometimes can’t see them. With the 2DS xl I feel back at home. Though I never left my DSi xl, it is where I play DS games. Yes I know the 3DS has those capabilities, I just like using my DSi xl. I pick up my DS lite to play Zoo Keeper, which always stays in that system. I grab up my original small DSi to play Space Invaders Extreme. That is just what I do. (Sorry I can’t be everything you want me to be.) Like with the DSi the inside camera has returned to the hinge. The outside camera has been fixed to the bottom of the unit! Really? This makes it very awkward and difficult to use while trying to look at the top screen to frame your picture. What were they thinking? Did they ever test this out? I usually use the camera feature, but this might be almost impossible to use. If you could open the unit flat that would help but there are stops on the top lid at the hinge preventing this. My 3DS xl and DSi xl wins here with the camera thing.

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This was such a terrible idea.

Taking my 2DS xl and 3DS xl and having a set of calipers handy, (Who doesn’t? What, you don’t?) I found that the top screen lid was about the same thickness, only a slight hair difference with the thicker falling to the 3DS xl. Really nothing to make any one better than the other. The big difference is that the 2DS xl top screen is recessed which gives it a certain amount of protection, the advantage. A design improvement over the 3DS & 3DS xl which also had the bottom screen raised and touching the top screen area. Both top and bottom screens on the 2DS xl are recessed. But my main concern, as I close the system, is the height of the buttons, not sure if they are touching. Not sure if that is an issue, only time will tell. That raised bottom screen has been in their design all through the DS line of consoles. It only presented a problem in the 3DS models when the top screen took on a wide letter box view.

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The top stylus is the original 3DS and the bottom is the New 2DS xl.

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The original 3DS stylus fully extended.

There has been a lot of complaints concerning the length of the stylus. It is really only a little shorter , and thicker, than the first original DS. Successors of that original DS have increased the length to what we have become spoiled, or accustomed to. (We have become such finicky gamers.) And the first 3DS had a very short stylus, same length really of the 2DS xl, which was telescopic and would extend to a full 100mm. I wonder why they did not use the telescopic stylus for the 2DS xl? Was it because they were marketing it toward a younger gamer? Honestly, I use my fingers mostly in the games I play, or I use a bigger stylus. If I pack a unit with me, it usually contains a game that is played only by using the buttons, not a stylus.

Speakers, left and right, are moved to the bottom edges of the unit. Turned up, to full audio, and you find that the sound seems very low. If you are in a room with other noise you will have trouble hearing any game sound. I don’t think it is specifically the location of the speakers as much as the console just has no volume. Even with ear buds, or headphones, I still had to use almost full volume. Something I dare not do with my DSi xl. Using Ear buds was a better experience than the headphone.

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The flap which conceals your game and micro sd card.

Some quirks and observations: I don’t like the power button. I have difficulty powering the console on and off. I usually end up using my thumbnail. Some reviews had trouble with the home button. My experience was totally different. I had no problem, worked great. But my Daughter did find it troublesome at times. So I would judge this, as, there is a problem, maybe with the height and would present itself as a random individual gamer issue. It has the lowest profile of any other button on the face. Too bad you have to find that out the hard way by purchasing the console. Turning the wifi off and on is within the menu, software only. No switch on the console. This is fall back to the DSi which used the same method. The Game card and the micro-SD are hidden behind a plastic flap, same way as the SD card in older units in the DS line. I love this feature. Of course if you change games very often you would find this fiddly and meddlesome. There is a noticeable difference in the weight, the 2DS xl is much lighter. And the complaints concerning the wiggle between the top and bottom in the hinge. My feeling, whoever is noticing this has never owned a DS console. Every console in the DS & 3DS line has that same wiggle or looseness between the top and bottom, or every one I got, is a lemon. I pulled out every one that I own and compared, I couldn’t tell the difference in any but one. The only one I noticed a difference was the original fat DS. There was little to no wiggle and felt like it had two points where it sort-of locked in place. Also there are no little feet on the bottom of the 2DS xl, prepare for a scratched bottom. The unit has a very different shape, which gives it a more of a, slender pocket friendly, comfortable in my hand, lighter, enjoyable gaming experience. Feels natural in my hands.

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Gameplay? Handles and plays like any other DS console. Plays the full line of games from DS to the “new” 3ds software. Although I have read, and heard, that there is a small list of games that it will not play, I had no problem even with one of the games on that list, Space Invaders Extreme. Of course all of the 3ds games are in 2D, but that is the whole point of this console, right? There is a question concerning the 3D and the young gamer’s eye development. Parents will have no fear picking up this system for that younger gamer. And then there are gamers like me. I never could use the 3D feature. And I have no interest in playing games in 3D. To me it is impractical, awkward, and not necessary in the gaming experience, just gimmicky. (Put me on your hate list.)

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Why does this console exist you ask? Who is this console for? It is, as we have mentioned, for that conscientious parent and their concern for their kid’s eye development. It is also for that gamer, like me, who may own the older 3DS model but wants to play the “New” software, games like Xenoblade Chronicles. The price point of $149 USD makes it more tempting, and appealing, to upgrade, especially when it includes the power supply. It is also for that gamer that never has upgraded from their DSi and has never been attracted by the 3D feature. And it is also for that gamer out there that has to have every console that Nintendo manufactures. (The party is over for 3D gaming on the go. Buy a box of tissues on the way home.)

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As always with Nintendo, this is a solid, well built, quality piece of hardware. If the lifespan of the 3DS line was an ice cream Sunday, this is the cherry on top, the icing on the cake, the cream between the cookies, the last dance. The end of the line. I really honestly believe that you will not see anymore updated hardware past the “New.” It is just that time again. Even with its annoying quirks, I really love this latest version of the 3DS line of consoles. This console, along with my DSi xl, will become my main gaming portables.