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So what am I playing?

Mostly, I've been playing lots of games for a short while each: grazing, one could say. A mixture of being busy with other things, low attention span at present and drifting from game to game.

On the PC

Aside from the various contents of the Humble Indie Bundle, my PC gaming focus has been scattered with the usual Minecraft making an appearance here and there, particularly when I'm semi-distracted and thinking about/watching other things (mostly I'm invading others' servers to poke around their creations).

For a bit of destressing and distraction, I was playing a bit of Zen Bound 2. It's an indie 'puzzler' game that's meant to be something calm and relaxing to play. I say puzzle game in the loosest sense: you have a wood carving of something that has beads of paint on nails sticking out at various points. Attached to it is a rope which you wind around it (by spinning and rotating the carving with your mouse) that splashes paint where it touches the surfaces, and also triggers the paint blobs. You complete a level by covering a carving in at least 95% paint. It's a weird little game that doesn't hold my attention for too long but for a change of pace it's very nifty. Out now on Steam.

Zen Bound 2

On the other end of the spectrum is the action-packed and fast-paced Diablo-clone dungeon crawler RPG known as Torchlight: it has a cutesy graphics scheme, game play and music almost entirely ripped off from Diablo II but overall is quite polished if somewhat easy. There's a mod to allow multiplayer but it's quite buggy, sadly. Where Diablo II is hardcore, Torchlight is much more casual gamer friendly. Where Diablo II has 7 classes, Torchlight has 3. Where Diablo II has hired mercenaries, Torchlight has pet wolves/lynxes that can nip off to sell your junk whilst you continue to bash through a dungeon. It's a nifty little game but it's nothing groundbreaking. A native multiplayer option would increase its interest and longevity enormously.

Torchlight Logo

Finally, I seemed to have acquired a copy of Breath of Death VII through Steam and after ignoring it for a while decided to fire it up on a whim, not having read anything about it. Immediately I was entertained at it's faux-8bit (with bits of up to 16bit!) graphics, the tropes and stereotypes that are at once both gleefully hammed up and spun on their heads and the incongruously modern music. The gameplay is classic RPG with convenience added, like being able to run without having to collect a magic item, being able to pick a fight whenever instead of running round in circles on the world map waiting for a random encounter, MP regain being a function of how few turns it takes to kill stuff and leveling up giving you an option to pick one of two extra sets of stat bonuses. The dialogue is brilliant and every moment (so far) has been a giant tongue-in-cheek parody of every 8 and 16bit RPG I've ever played. Absolute gold and well well worth the price on Steam.
Breath of Death VII

On the 3DS

I have to admit that in my 'ooh shiny new toy!' phase of Droid ownership, my poor 3DS has taken a back seat. Aside from regular maintenance of my Streetpass Plaza and Pokedex, I've had a bit of a play with Dragon Quest VI: Realms of Revelation, one of the first Dragon Quest games released outside of Japan. As I got past the pompously orchestral opening theme it brought back that warm 'n' fuzzy retrogame feeling as it harked back to the 16bit RPGs of yore. None of this was a surprise, however, given it was originally released for the SNES back in 1995 and re-released for the (regular) DS in May 2011. It's a classic Japanese RPG and so far has been quite fun to play.

Dragon Quest VI

On the Android

My Snes9x EX revival continues almost unabated, hampered only by the slight awkwardness of the sensitive touch controls. I'm slowly getting the hang of it but it's taking time as I'm used to lightly resting my thumbs on the controllers as default with button pressing being the application of a bit of force. I'm avoiding twitcher games for the moment for this reason.

To the future!

I'm eying up the potential expansion of Minecraft for the 'Droid. Currently it's only for the Sony Xperia Play phones which is a huge shame as there's plenty of Android phones out there that have the power to pull it off and it's all because of this exclusivity deal that the rest of us have to wait. No word on an iOS version as yet.
achtungexplosiv: (Default)

The gamer war of Consoles vs PCs has been around since the earliest days and that is a topic worthy of a post in itself. By the mid-90s, the cost of a console was peanuts compare to the cost of a PC that could run games and in general the two markets preferred a different spectrum of games. Of course, the PC gamers didn't want to lose out on anything tasty the consoles could produce and so Emulation was employed to allow software written for specialist consoles to be run on computers.

Software that Emulates game consoles in order to play ripped versions of the games on other formats, most commonly PCs, took off in the 16-bit days and was predominantly focused on the SNES, with other consoles such as the NES, Game Boy and Megadrive coming along fairly soon afterwards. A peripheral named the Super Magicom was built in order to rip the SNES game ROM files onto floppy discs that could then be read by the emulation software on a PC. All you needed was a reasonable joypad and you were set.

With the advent of home internet, acquiring the rom files to run through an emulator was child's play and it meant you could have access to a huge catalogue of excellent games (and a plethora of rubbish) for nothing without having to buy a new console either. Naturally, this is game piracy and there's been long-running wrangling of exactly what you are and are not allowed to copy, rip, emulate etc. Is having an emulator containing a ripped copy of the console's BIOS to play ripped copies of the games piracy when you actually own the console and the game in the first place? What about backups? As a SNES owner with at one point a considerable library of games, was I pirating by also having those games on an emulator on my PC?

Anyway, plenty of competing emulation programs popped up at the end of the 90s, each with their own way of organising everything from sprite layer display to save games. The biggest names included NESticle for the NES, (Kega) Fusion for the Megadrive and other Sega systems and as the next generation of consoles took off, emulators for the Playstation started to pop up as well. This was made easier by the fact that some fo the developers of the systems were making notes to allow for easy emulation later on; this most notably occurred with the Nintendo64 and lead to the likes of Project64.

For the SNES, the eventual winner in the race was the Snes9x series which had the best performance in terms of correctly replicating the S-SMP sound system, Mode 7 scaling and additional chipsets that were included in special game carts (such as the Super FX chip and it's successive iterations as seen in Starfox, and the DSP maths co-processor as seen in Super Mario Kart). I tried plenty of others in my time (an honorable mention goes to ZSNES) but in the end the most complete and least buggy version I found was Snes9x, and knowing the original cart versions of the games meant I was particularly keen-eyed/eared for emulation errors. Snes9x is still going strong today, in fact.

Snes9x Logo

Retro gaming and Smartphones

All of this brings me to here and now. I got myself a shiny new Android phone recently and in a frenzy of app hoarding I went after a good SNES emulator. I was pleasantly surprised to find several free versions available through the Market. After trying out the rather awful SNESlator Lite and discovering it didn't work with 90% of my ROM collection, I was pleased to uncover Snes9x EX. I'm still getting the hang of a touchscreen for the D-Pad controls but aside from that it's great. It runs fine with the games I've tested and whilst the sound reproduction could be better, a crappy mobile phone speaker isn't giving it a fair chance in the first place.

And now if you'll excuse me, Secret of Mana shall be keeping me sane on the tube ride home...


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May 2012

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