Tokyo 2020 – The year of the gamer

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Gamers and geeks alike should embrace the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games. If the Tokyo 2020 handover ceremony during the closing of Rio 2016 is anything to go by, the opening and closing ceremonies may well show the world just how relevant our culture now is. The handover ceremony that took place in Rio included nods to traditional and modern architecture, the bullet train and Mount Fuji while also fully embraced geek culture, anime and computer games. We were treated with appearances from both Pac-Man and Super Mario and although brief these mascots showed just how important computer games are to Japan as a nation.

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Japan’s president, Shinzō Abe even went as far as cosplaying as Super Mario, entering a warp pipe which then remained front and centre for the remainder of the show. Tokyo 2020 could do far worse than using a mascot such as Super Mario and indeed there’s a good chance that Mario, Pac-Man, Sonic and other famous faces will feature in the 2020 opening and closing ceremonies. These mascots would be far more appealing and relevant than the tragic London 2012 mascots and what the fuck was the 1996 Atlanta mascot supposed to be? What better mascots to use for the 2020 games than Mario and Sonic, some of the most recognisable characters of all time? Nintendo’s relationship with the International Olympics Committee stretches back to 2008’s Beijing games with the release of the first Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games, and this could serve to bolster that relationship.

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While it’s true that the games themselves will be much the same as previous hosts games the opening and closing ceremonies are a spectacle that show the host nation’s culture, history and industry. Pushing computer games forward on a stage like this not only shows how big this industry really is but will go somewhat towards brushing off the notion that games are for kids. That’s not to say the 2020 games should be used as a marketing tool for the games industry, far more is at stake here. This is about showing the world what we’re all about and inviting everybody to take part.

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Let’s not forget there is still a stigma surrounding games, despite the medium being more popular than ever before. We still have the age old problem, particularly with older generations frowning upon anybody seen as “wasting” their time playing a game. The reality is an awful lot of people are now gamers without realising it, just take a look around the train on the way to work and see how many people are playing Candy Crush Saga on their phones. They might not consider themselves “gamers” but they’ve probably ploughed more hours into that game this week than I’ve put in on my PS4. Part of the importance here is Japan outright saying this is us, this is our culture and not just a child’s pastime. So let’s rejoice over Tokyo 2020, it might a unique opportunity for both sports and computer games.

 

NX Launch title speculation

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The NX should be in our homes within a year but what games can we expect to play on Nintendo’s new box? Nintendo has to strike a balance between releasing enough 1st party games on a regular basis to satisfy its fans yet not shoot its load too early and leave fans in a software drought for months at a time. After all, with Nintendo’s track record we can’t count on 3rd party support, especially if the NX turns out to be drastically different from the PS4 and the Xbox One – making porting more hassle than it’s worth. 

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild Legend-of-Zelda-Breath-of-the-Wild-Screenshots-02-1280x720

Nintendo have already confirmed Breath of the Wild will be an NX launch title1. No doubt this will please many hardcore Nintendo fans looking for a meaty title to get their teeth into during the launch period.

Personally I think Skyward Sword and Spirit Tracks are among the worst Zelda games Nintendo have released. Breath of the Wild needs to do something special to restore my faith in the franchise and after watching some of the footage that Nintendo have released I have to say this is shaping up to be one of the best Zelda games in recent years. That being said, Nintendo aren’t very forward thinking so Breath of the Wild could go either way. It’s all well and good offering us new mechanics, new items and a vast open world but will it have substance? Walking around a large open world scattered with a few fetch quests and several handfuls of heart containers placed slightly out of reach just isn’t going to cut it. Nintendo needs to make a believable, fun world packed full of a variety of side quests that offer up new experiences and offer unique rewards.

Chance: 100% 

Super Mario

Super Mario Galaxy and its sequel were both critically acclaimed2 and many fans were hoping that Galaxy 3 would find its way onto the Wii U. What we got instead was Super Mario 3D World which was also a fantastic game, although it didn’t quite hit the sale note that the Galaxy series did. So what does this mean for NX? Will Nintendo finally release a Galaxy 3?

The Galaxy series would undoubtedly make it into my list of favourite games of all time yet I think it would be a shame for Nintendo to bring us another. Nintendo needs to do what Nintendo does best and bring us yet another fresh, genre redefining Mario game that we know they are capable of. We want to be blown away with an all new concept that shows us why Mario is truly the king of platformers.

Nintendo have released six home consoles to date with only two of them (Gamecube and Wii) not having a core 2D or 3D Mario game as a launch title. The chances are then that Mario will either be a launch title or released within the launch window (a moving target, that let’s say for arguments sake will be within the first 12 months). Nintendo have a lot of fans to win back with the NX so a Mario game early on will be a no brainer, and let’s face it 3D World was released back in 2013 and aside from some smaller projects the team have been pretty quiet since.

Chance: 90%

Donkey Kong Country

We know that Retro have actively been working3 on an unannounced title since Tropical Freeze was released back in 2014. Based on Retro’s previous track record we could be looking at a new Metroid game, a 3rd DKC returns game or even revitalising another beloved Nintendo franchise. I’m playing this one safe then as I don’t think it’s a certainty that we’ll get another Kong game any time soon. Nintendo have been known to rest many well know franchises with Metroid skipping the N64 entirely while Donkey Kong has been put to bed a few times throughout the decades, coming back years later reinvented.

Chance: 33% 

Metroid

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Nintendo would do well to come out swinging with this one. We haven’t seen a core 3D Metroid game since 2007’s Corruption while a core 2D game last graced our screens back in 2004 in the form of Zero Mission (a remake of the original Metroid game). Of course we all remember the rather lack-lustre Other M4 which was a bit of a bastardisation of both the 2D and 3D games but even that, as the most recent Metroid outing was released in 2010.

Metroid producer Kensuke Tanabe stated to Eurogamer that a new entry in the series likely wouldn’t drop until the NX is released5 due to the development time of a new game. It’s also difficult to predict whether a new entry in the series will return to the games classic 2D roots or if Retro would pick it up for yet another Prime-esq game. While it’s not strictly an FPS, my guess is that Nintendo will want to offer up something within that genre.  After all the prime series looked gorgeous and was perhaps the Trojan horse to help sell the Wii to the FPS market.

I do think though that a new 2D Metroid could be on the horizon but this would suit a more niche audience and so Nintendo would do well to develop a 3D game first.

Chance: 70%

Kirby 

There’s no shortage of Kirby games, we tend to receive one in some form every couple of year. Be it a pinball spin off or a platformer with a new aesthetic, Kirby is constantly being reinvented, some love the franchise and some hate it. Kirby is a great addition to Nintendo’s library as the games are generally kid friendly but appeal to old skool Nintendo fans.

Kirby is arguably one of the lesser franchises that jumps to mind when thinking about Nintendo games so while the chances of getting at least a few Kirby games on NX is fairly high I wouldn’t hold my breath that there’s going to be one for launch. In fact, to date no Kirby game has ever been released on any platform for the launch date. Kirby doesn’t have the appeal to draw in gamers looking to invest in a new piece of hardware; instead this franchise should be used more as “filler” to bolster months with fewer 1st party releases.

Chance: 20%

Pikmin 4 

While not strictly a lunch title, the original Pikmin was a launch window game, releasing within a matter of weeks of the GameCube. Pikmin 2 followed around 2 years later, also for the GameCube while Pikmin 3 hit around 6 months after the Wii U launch – technically being another launch window game.

Back in August 2015 Shigeru Miyamoto confirmed that Pikmin 4 was nearing completion6 and with no word on progress since it has presumably been ported over to NX. The chances are then that Pikmin 4 will certainly be released within a matter of months of the NX launch, if not on launch day.

Chance: 80% 

Fire Emblem

SI_3DS_FireEmblemAwakeningAs an old school Nintendo fan I’m always surprised when a game emerges that I know nothing about – Fire Emblem is one such franchise. I was already familiar with Advance Wars but I’d never even heard of Fire Emblem until Awakening was announced for the 3DS. Glancing at sales figures, previews and news articles makes one thing clear since the release of Awakening; Fire Emblem is now more relevant than ever. A Fire Emblem game heading to the NX then seems like a no brainer.

With Fates releasing very recently for the 3DS it’s hard to predict what developer Intelligent Systems will do next. They may return to the sister series, Advance Wars or work on something totally different. With the huge sales enjoyed by Fates7 (even outselling the massively successful Awakening) Nintendo may decide to strike while the iron is hot and choose to release a follow up as quickly as possible. And what better way to release a follow up to a successful franchise than to develop it for a new piece of hardware that they are trying to push?

Although Fire Emblem is far more relevant than it’s ever been its important not to overstate how big this franchise is. Nintendo’s big hitters such as Pokémon, Mario Kart and Super Mario regularly shift in the region of 10 times the amount of copies that Fire Emblem can8. Why send out Fire Emblem to die when Nintendo could ship it during a slower period?

Chance: 25%

Pokémon

“Pokémon on a home console?” I hear you cry? Rumours are rife9 that the NX will in fact be a hybrid console, combining both the power of a home console, playable on a TV along with the flexibility and portability of a hand held.

Pokémon is without doubt one Nintendo’s most beloved, best selling franchises and since its inception back in the late 90’s the franchise has never skipped a handheld generation. With Sun and Moon arriving later this year it’s doubtful that we’ll see a new entry in the series for the NX launch. We don’t yet know what compatibility will be like with previous consoles though so it’s not beyond the realms of possibility to see a 3rd game to complement Sun and Moon. The last time we got a 3 game generation was back on the DS with Diamond, Pearl and Platinum.

Chance: 30%

Star Fox

Over the years Star Fox has gained average to good review scores10, with the most recent entry in the franchise, Star Fox Zero scoring among the lowest in the series. Nintendo need to plan their next move carefully. It’s fair to say Star Fox has never been among the top echelons of Nintendo’s all-stars so it would come as no surprise if Star Fox doesn’t make an appearance on the NX any time soon – if at all (Star Fox was notably absent from the Wii).

Chance: 10% 

Mario Kart

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Since being introduced on the SNES, Mario Kart has had a single release on every piece of Nintendo hardware (with the exception being the Virtual Boy). There’s no doubt that Mario Kart will make an appearance on the NX but what’s more difficult to predict is when it will see the light of day.

Mario Kart 8 was released around 2 years ago so it’s fair to say another entry in the series could be well into development but then again how often are Mario Kart games launch titles for a system? The answer is never. Although we’ve seen Mario Kart games during the launch window we’ve never actually been able to pick up a copy day and date with a new piece of hardware. The chances of Mario Kart NX being a launch day title then? Not good. The chances of it being released within the first year? Fairly good. 

Chance: 60%

Splatoon

Splatoon is a hard one to call, is this destined to become a staple Nintendo franchise or will fans see it relegated to the likes of Pilotwings, Wave Race and Kid Icarus, popping up every couple of generations with no real consistency?

Considering Splatoon was universally praised11, sold fantastically well12 and had its own range of Amiibo it seems only logical that Nintendo will continue pushing it in the coming years. Not only does Splatoon fill the role of a pseudo-shooter (a genre lacking from Nintendo’s 1st party teams) but it appeals to a wide range of gamers and offers online play, a market which Nintendo really needs to cater to.

Chance: 50%

Animal Crossing         

Animal crossing is another heavy hitter for Nintendo. The game uses a tried and tested formula and iterations don’t tend to offer much in the way of new mechanics but nevertheless fans lap up each entry in the series. Animal Crossing hasn’t made an appearance on the Wii U so there’s a good chance a game might have been in the works and is now being ported over to the NX.

Animal Crossing would be one of the better games to show off the capabilities of the NX. Taking the game on the move and street passing with other players then heading back home and visiting their village with your home internet connection all while enjoying the graphics on your HDTV seems like a great way to sell a new game in the series. 

Chance: 70%

Super Mario Maker 2 

Super Mario Maker was a great idea. Take the LittleBigPlanet formula; throw in a bunch of Super Mario Brothers items, power-ups and landscapes then create a bunch of near impossible obstacles or novelty music levels for friends to enjoy. After offering players all the recourses they need to faithfully recreate levels from the golden age of Super Mario Bros. what more can Nintendo offer?

Chances are a Super Mario Maker 2 would do something completely different. The less likely idea would be to offer players a Super Mario Maker 3D, featuring elements of games from Super Mario 64, Super Mario Sunshine and Super Mario Galaxy. Not only would this overwhelm players but seamlessly transitioning between these 3 generations of Mario games and mixing up mechanics such as FLUDD from Sunshine or planetoids from Galaxy would be an absolute nightmare.

The other, far more likely scenario then is to tackle a different franchise. How about a The Legend of Zelda Maker? A Metroid Maker or a Donkey Kong Maker? All 3 of these would work well and after up different, unique experiences. Imagine creating dungeons in a Zelda maker or creating sections of a space station in Metroid and deciding which doors can be unlocked with which upgrades? What about designing mine kart sections for Donkey Kong?

Sales of Super Mario Maker were pretty strong so Nintendo must have had the conversation about where to take the “maker” franchise next. That said, this type of game probably isn’t suited as a launch title to show off a system and its graphics. I’d expect to see a game like perhaps 2 or 3 years into the NX’s life.

Chance: 20%

Super Smash Bros. NX

Smash Bros. is now a staple Nintendo franchise, with an entry hitting each Nintendo home console since the N64. Each game in the series is received with overwhelming praise14, so what better way to celebrate Nintendo’s rich history and character roster than with an all-star game?

There’s no doubt that during the life of the NX a Smash Bros. game will release, the question is when? Furthermore who will develop the next game? The wait between Melee and Brawl was 7 years, while the 4th entry in the series Super Smash Bros. Wii U and 3DS came a further 6 years later. With that in mind were not likely to see a new game until around 2020, well into the NX life-cycle.

Series director Masahiro Sakurai has also expressed a desire to move on from Smash Bros. due to its lengthy development time and fan expectations. If Sakurai really is done then Nintendo will want to carefully select a worthy development team to take over the reins – this could take some time. All signs then point to the next Smash Bros. being a fair few years away yet.

Chance: 20%

  1. https://www.nintendo.co.uk/News/2016/April/Nintendo-provides-updates-on-mobile-NX-and-The-Legend-of-Zelda-along-with-annual-earnings-1102529.html
  2. http://www.metacritic.com/game/wii/super-mario-galaxy
  3. http://uk.ign.com/articles/2014/02/28/wii-u-is-a-powerhouse-says-donkey-kong-country-developer
  4. http://www.metacritic.com/game/wii/metroid-other-m
  5. http://www.eurogamer.net/articles/2015-06-17-next-proper-metroid-prime-would-likely-now-be-on-nx
  6. http://www.eurogamer.net/articles/2014-07-20-pikmin-4-in-development-and-very-close-to-completion
  7. https://www.nintendo.co.jp/ir/pdf/2016/160427_4e.pdf
  8. https://www.nintendo.co.jp/ir/pdf/2016/160427_4e.pdf
  9. http://www.eurogamer.net/articles/2016-07-26-nx-is-a-portable-console-with-detachable-controllers
  10. http://www.metacritic.com/search/all/star%20fox/results
  11. http://www.metacritic.com/game/wii-u/splatoon
  12. https://www.nintendo.co.jp/ir/pdf/2016/160427e.pdf
  13. https://www.nintendo.co.jp/ir/en/sales/software/wiiu.html
  14. http://www.metacritic.com/search/all/smash%20bros./results
  15. http://www.gamesradar.com/super-smash-bros-creator-may-be-done-series/

The Vita – Sony’s love letter to the games of yesteryear and the hidden gems you’re missing

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Note: This article was originally published November 10th 2015 over at Playstation Enthusiast

I’ve always been a bit of a Nintendo devotee when it comes to handheld gaming. There’s something about Nintendo that just nails the handheld experience every time. Not only is the price point typically pretty good but you are generally offered a different experience than what you’re presented with on the big N’s home console counterparts.

Although I’ve owned every PlayStation home console I’d skipped right past the PSP because I found nothing about the system appealing. After all, what did I want with a multimedia device with big clunky mini-disc inspired game discs? Sure the PSP looked great but it didn’t really speak to me, it didn’t offer the experiences I was looking for. After all the PSP was well known for trying to replicate the PS2 experience on the move, I was interested in new experiences like using the touch screen on my newly acquired Nintendo DS. Eventually during the dying days of the PSP I decided to borrow one and I bought a couple of essential games to play on it (Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker and Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII).

Not long after my hands on time with a PSP the Vita was announced. Unfortunately it didn’t ignite my interest; I did however keep a close eye on its catalogue of games. So what changed? Why did I feel the need to dive in and finally buy a Vita? Certainly one of the more common complaints is the lack of AAA games on the device, what could I possibly want with it?

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Here’s the reality, the Vita will never please the gamer looking for the latest blockbuster. What it will absolutely do is please the gamer looking for the curve ball, the unique, crazy Japanese experience, the niche visual novel that nobody has heard of. There is a treasure trove of gold if you’re willing to take the time to look because unfortunately, Sony does a bad job of advertising not only the system but its unique collection of games. The Vita doesn’t have to be about Call of Duty, Mass Effect or Bioshock; the Vita is about Danganronpa, Tearaway and Freedom Wars. Indeed it was upon hearing about the imminent release of Danganronpa that ultimately convinced me that the Vita was worth buying, that and the recent announcement that the original 1000 series (with the OLED screen) was about to be discontinued. I had recently played through and enjoyed 9 Hours 9 Persons 9 Doors on my DS and upon hearing about the visual novel-esq Danganronpa I started looking at other games that I might be interested in if I owned a Vita. I gathered a small list of games that I either wanted (but were not system sellers alone) and games that looked interesting but had previously passed me by because I didn’t own a Vita. The time felt right to grab a Vita, after all even if no other games would be released that interested me at least I’d got together a handful of games that I was happy buying a system for. And so my journey began.

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Here’s where it gets interesting, originally I didn’t want a Vita because much touted features such as cross-buy to me felt like a nice extra but not a reason to own a device. I’d rather have a great library of games exclusive to a system rather than the ability to play many of my PSN and PS3 games on the move. Over the next few months I started to notice sales crop up on the digital store for PS1 classics and I found myself grabbing bargains here and there for many classic games that had passed me by. You see I’d owned a PS1 but I primarily did my gaming on my N64 so I’d played Final Fantasy VII yet I’d missed out on Grandia, Wild Arms and the Suikoden games to name but a few. Rather than paying the outlandish prices some of these games now fetch on disc I grabbed them for £2 or £3 per game! I then started searching for great PSP games I’d also missed out on and I discovered delights such as the Patapon series and added Final Fantasy Tactics: The War of the Lions, LocoRoco and Lunar: Silver Star Harmony to my backlog. Suddenly I found myself in a position where I couldn’t keep up with all the gems available to me and to top it off another Danganronpa released, I caught up with Persona 4 Golden and grabbed Steins;Gate. The vita really was turning into a love letter to the PlayStation legacy, offering not only some unique hidden gems but a library full of classic games from yesteryear. As for the “nice extra” in cross-buy I found myself downloading previous games I’d purchased for my PS3. Some of which were games I’d purchased several years ago, yet as soon as the Vita version was released it was available to me for free. What more could I ask for?

This sleek, small device has proved to be my go-to console of choice. I found myself disregarding my 3DS and spending many hours while in bed, commuting on the train or simply taking a breather from house renovation to play on my Vita. I could happily leave the Vita in my work bag, still in sleep mode from the previous nights Persona session and resume during my lunch break at work. It’s luscious OLED screen, its dual analogue sticks, the fully encased screen flush with the chassis and multi-touch screen. The Vita feels like a serious bit of kit, the total opposite of a Nintendo handheld. Don’t get me wrong, I still find myself sucked into a good 3DS game every now and then but my preference is generally with Sony’s handheld masterpiece.

Surely there are downsides though right? As previously touched upon, many gamers feel the absence of AAA games has left the Vita gasping its last breaths and yes, I’ll admit this is a deal breaker for many but it’s not the only problem the Vita suffers from. One of my biggest complaints is with the memory, unlike the PS3 and PS4 which both have the ability to easily replace the internal hard drive with any 3rd party 2.5” drive, the Vita uses proprietary memory – and it’s not cheap! You’re looking at approximately £1 per 1GB if you go all out and buy a 64GB card; go for something smaller and you’re going to get significantly less bang for your buck, somewhere in the region of £20 for an 8GB card. Keep in mind that many Vita games and all PS1 and PSP games must be downloaded and you quickly chomp through your GB’s! As the Vita isn’t exactly the must have gadget it doesn’t seem that 3rd party companies are even interested in trying to create their own memory cards for the system either so Sony have the monopoly on this purchase. For this very reason I find myself looking out for bargain Vita games on physical media, I have both a 16 and 32GB card so if I see a game cheaper in its digital form I’ll normally grab that over a physical copy.

The future looks pretty bleak for the Vita, with Sony exec Andrew House referring to both the Vita and PlayStation TV as “Legacy Systems”1. It’s also a pretty fair assumption that the handheld won’t see any big hitters so you can forget another Uncharted, God of War or Killzone. Likewise you can kiss goodbye to the once, much anticipated Bioshock game and don’t expect any sign of infamous. What I can promise you though is that even if the Vita were discontinued tomorrow and development on all titles was halted there would still be enough content on the device to satisfy even the most hardcore PlayStation fan.

A few Vita facts for you to digest:

  • PlayStation TV can be used with a selection of Vita cartridges or downloads to continue playing on a TV using a controller
  • You can stream many of your old PSN games from your PS3 and any PS4 game to continue playing over Wi-Fi via the Vita
  • Vita was originally codenamed “NGP” which stood for “Next Generation Portable”2
  • Uncharted: Golden Abyss is Vitas best selling game with around 1.46 million units sold3
  • Lifetime sales of the PSP far exceed that of the Vita with an estimated 80+ million4 units shifted, compared with the Vitas estimated 4 million5 or so units revealed during 2013

1 http://www.gamesindustry.biz/articles/2015-05-27-sony-admits-first-party-lineup-a-little-sparse
2 http://uk.ign.com/articles/2011/01/27/psp2-announced-codenamed-ngp
3 http://www.vgchartz.com/platform/43/playstation-vita/
4 http://uk.ign.com/articles/2014/06/03/sony-discontinuing-psp
5 http://www.theguardian.com/technology/2013/jan/04/playstation-2-manufacture-ends-years

SEGA Mega Drive/Genesis: Collected Works

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Being a fan of retro games and gaming history in general I jumped at the chance to back my first ever Kickstarter campaign last year. The book’s Kickstarter page promised:

“…the definitive volume on the landmark console. The book is officially licensed by SEGA and celebrates the 25th anniversary of the console’s release. It will be an unparalleled treasury of production artwork, interviews, development sketches and hardware manufacturing plans.”

After receiving the book last week I have to say the guys over at Read-Only Memory fully delivered…and then some! The 352 page book is rammed full of interviews, concept art, sprites and an in depth history lesson about the Mega Drive and it’s various add-on’s. The hard back book is of very high quality and various types of paper have been chosen throughout to best compliment the content. Included are some nice gate fold pages featuring original technical drawings. The book is also fully supported by SEGA who released never before seen content specifically for this book.

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I’ve taken a few pictures of the book placed next to a standard sized PS3 / Blu-ray box for size comparison purposes.

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Read-Only Memory already had previous success on Kickstarter when their first project (Sensible Software 1986–1999) reached it’s funding goal. This made my decision to back the project that much easier, knowing they had already delivered on a promise.

Throughout the project Darren (Founder of ROM) kept the backers updated on the books progress. This included sneak peeks at initial designs, free desktop wallpapers, interview snippets and photos.

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Photo courtesy of ROM

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 Photo courtesy of ROM

For anybody who doesn’t understand the kickstarter process, a company or person has to state how much money they want to raise in order to complete their project. During the funding period at least 100% of the money asked for has to be raised otherwise the project is not funded at all. This also acts as a bit of a safety net for backers as their money isn’t taken away immediately or at all if the project funding fails.

With great projects like SEGA Mega Drive/Genesis: Collected Works what can often happen is that funding is so successful that over 100% of the money can be raised. In this case ROM were asking for £30,000 in total but they actually raised £98,725. So what happens with the extra funds raised? Well companies generally have a list of “stretch goals” in order to improve the project with the extra funds generated. Mighty No 9 was one such project that smashed it’s goal by a massive amount and offered several stretch goals. ROM was no exception and addressed how they would spend the extra funds in their Kickstarter update comments. Backers eventually ended up with an improved book with around 50 extra pages of content and several gate-fold pages. Based on the finished product I’m sure our money also went into improving the hardback cover quality and general presentation of the book including the quality of the pages themselves.

At the end of the book several pages can be found listing the name of every Kickstarter backer.

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SEGA Mega Drive/Genesis: Collected Work can be purchased now from the ROM site here for £35 with free UK delivery.

GRID 2 Show Reel

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This is my GRID 2 show reel which highlights a few of the cars I worked on during the development cycle of the game. Stylistically we aimed for the vehicles in this game to be realistic but slightly larger than life. This is in contrast to our previous project, DiRT Showdown where the vehicles were more heavily processed with a smaller dynamic range.

A variety of cars have been selected for this show reel, the details of which follow:

  • Nissan Silvia S15
    • 4 Cylinder
    • Turbo
    • Street
  • BAC Mono
    • 4 Cylinder
    • Natural Aspiration
    • Open Cockpit
  • Nissan 370z
    • V8
    • Natural Aspiration
    • Drift Tuned
  • Mazda RX7
    • Rotary Engine
    • Twin Turbo
    • Drift Tuned
  • Dodge Challenger SRT8
    • V8
    • Natural Aspiration
    • American Muscle
  • Chevrolet Cruze
    • 4 Cylinder
    • Turbo
    • Touring Car
  • Volvo S60
    • V6
    • Natural Aspiration
    • Touring Car
  • Chevrolet Camaro SS
    • V8
    • Natural Aspiration
    • American Muscle
  • Aston Martin Zagato
    • V12
    • Natural Aspiration
    • GT

Club Nintendo Game & Watch: Ball

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Anybody who buys a reasonable amount of Nintendo games will probably be aware of the Club Nintendo Stars Catalogue. This is a store that allows a user to spend points of a range of items such as key rings to miniature statures to rare items such as a replica SNES controller specially designed for the Wii.

Stars are collected by buying a Nintendo system or game, generally you can pick up something like 500-1000 stars for registering a code included in a system box such as the WiiU or the 3DS while games will generally bag you 250 stars. In the past I have spent stars on “Nintendo Points” which can be redeemed on the virtual console to purchase digital games.

Some of the rare items cost thousands of points, one of which is the Game & Watch reissue of “Ball”. This classic was the first Game & Watch game Nintendo released, dating from 1980. I decided to save my points and bag myself the exclusive Club Nintendo gift.

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The system comes complete with a cardboard box, packaging and far too many manuals (multiple languages).

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The system itself is tiny, far smaller than I expected. For dimensions I’ve compared it to a 3DS XL (the blue console) and a DS Lite (White). The build quality is fairly decent, with a burgundy shell and a mock chrome faceplate. The buttons are rubber while the screen itself is a monochrome LCD display.

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As for the gameplay, don’t expect to be blown away, after all the game is over 30 years old. The premise is to catch the balls that you toss up into the air, in other words it’s juggling. Game A has the player throwing 2 balls and scoring 1 point per ball caught, each ball is tossed into the air and over to the opposite side of the screen. The left and right buttons are then used to adjust the position of the left and right hands in order to catch each ball. Game B is much the same but there are 3 balls in play and 10 points are scored for each successful catch.

As the system name suggests (Game & Watch), the system is also used as a watch. You can set the time and when not in play the LCD screen will display a demo and the current time.

SNES Controller Mod

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A while back I decided to have a go at creating a bit of a console mod, I had no intention of taking apart my original SNES and giving it a lick of paint without first experimenting. After routing through boxes of retro consoles and accessories in my loft I came across a SNES controller with a broken shoulder button. I decided this would be my guinea pig and if it failed I hadn’t lost much.

The Preparation

After taking the pad apart I found the problem – the shoulder button had snapped so I repaired that with a bit of super glue. I gutted the pad and removed the circuit board then washed all the plastic and rubber.

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I had to spend far more than I originally thought, I ended up with a pack of sandpaper of varying grades, a face mask, a can of white plastic primer, a can of white spray, blue spray and finally a can of lacquer for the finish. In total that lot came to about £40.

The Process

  • Take the controller apart with a standard screwdriver. No “gamebit” screwdrivers are required for these controllers.
  • Wash all plastic and rubber parts in hot soapy water.
  • Sand down both the front and rear sections of the pad
    • This process should be done in stages, starting from rough sand paper such as 120 then onto 400, 600 and finally 1200.
  • Use a plastic primer spray.
    • You should give the pad 2 or 3 coats, leaving at least 15 minutes between each coat.
    • It is also a good ideal to gently go over the primer with very fine sandpaper (1200) to smooth out each coat.
  • On with the colour, I chose white and dark blue as I wanted to compliment the original SNES colour scheme.
    • The pad will require about 3 coats of paint; this process is similar to the priming stage but you should leave a few hours in between each coat of paint. Preferably leave each coat to dry overnight.
    • After each coat sand down with a fine grade sand paper, again 1200 is probably the best for this.
  • The final stage is to spray the controller with a clear lacquer. Use 2 to 3 coats and allow time to dry in between each coat.
  • Reassemble the controller.

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The Problems

  • Spray in a garage or dust free area.
    • I don’t have access to a garage so I waited for dry, sunny days. Unfortunately, even with the relatively calm weather each coat of paint still ended up with tiny dust and dirt particles being attracted to it.
  • That damn grey sticker!
    • The A,B,X,Y grey section of the controller is actually a sticker, not a clip on face plate as I presumed it would be.
    • I had already started trying to remove the supposed faceplate so I continued removing it and reapplied it with a coat of super glue.
    • I used masking tape over this section to preserve the original design but the blue spray with a grey sticker really didn’t suit so I removed the sticker.
    • This resulted in a scratched up mess where the sticker used to sit. This proved difficult to smooth out with sand paper, so if you look at the final pictures of the controller you can still see an awful lot of scratches.
  • Choose a colour and stick with it!
    • Originally I wanted the entire controller to be blue but after the initial spray I thought the blue front made the controller look like a cheap knock-off.
    • I once again sanded down the front but it became very difficult to strip it back down to the original plastic.
    • I then ended up having to use many layers of primer and white paint to cover up the previous colour.
    • This resulted in uneven coats, paint running and layer upon layer of paint being used. None of which are ideal!
  • Leave the controller to dry
    • I didn’t leave long enough in between most coasts of spray. Because the good weather is generally limited in this country I tried to get as much spraying done as possible.
    • This resulted in some coats not being adequately dry, so when sanding down coats I would find the paint would still be soft just under the surface.
  • It just doesn’t look that great
    • Maybe with a bit of practice and dry indoor location and plenty of time in between coats the controller might turn out a lot better. As it is this still looks like some sort of 3rd party controller.

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