Saturday, March 17, 2018

2DS vs 3DS XL

The day has come. I was out thrifting at a local Salvation Army and there it was. Its bright blue shell beckoning my gaze to it, as it sat half visible in the glass case among a sea of bland, grey items. My 3DS XL. I think it's time I write a followup to the my 2DS experience post.

The 3DS XL and everything it came with.

Now, I need to explain a little bit here, so bear with me. I was gifted my 2DS on Christmas eve 2015 and I had written that entry back in November, in anticipation for posting it on Christmas eve 2017. As things go, the holidays came and went and I had totally forgotten about it until I recently, literally three days ago, bought my 3DS XL. That's why it was posted in March, the same day as this article.

I can't deny that I was excited to find a 3DS XL, but nearly everything I said in the 2DS experience post still holds true. I emphasize nearly because two things about the 3DS XL really do stand out for me, but I'll get into that in a little bit. Obviously this one has been well used and is slightly beat up, but on the first day of owning it I gave it a thorough cleaning and inspection to see how well it had stood up to being used. As per usual with acquiring used electronics I also formatted the memory and setup a new 3DS account on the console. After cleaning the screens and clearing something crunchy from the right bumper button everything worked fine.

There are many scratches on the top and back, many bumps on the sides too.

What blew me away about the 3DS XL? The first thing I noticed was the sound, which is pretty amazing, I won't even lie. The 2DS only has mono, but even after comparing them side by side it doesn't make me hate the mono sound of the 2DS. It's not terrible by any means, it's just not the stereo the 3DS XL offers. I could take it or leave it, the mono is fine, but the stereo is just slightly more appealing.

The second feature that blew me away was the screens and just how big, vibrant and beautiful they are. Sadly I've had to change the screen in my 2DS, perhaps that's a check mark for the hinge crowd, and the aftermarket screen isn't as vibrant, but even so I still know what is what and I can still play all my games on my 2DS. After the side by side comparison, even with the sound difference and the complete difference in screen sizes and vibrancy, nothing has changed my mind on my love and adoration for my 2DS.

What did I not like about the 3DS XL? Well, it's the elephant in the room now isn't it? The fucking hinges! What I find exceedingly frustrating is that I have owned my 3DS XL for only three days and within that time I've noticed hairline fractures forming in the right side hinge. During the initial inspection and cleaning, the first day I owned it, I took a good look in the sunlight and noticed a few small cracks, nothing major but there were a few. A whole two days later I'm noticing brand new ones forming. Nothing seems to be flexing or popping out of place when I open the top, yet, but it's only a matter of time. I can't say enough just how much I hate Nintendo's hinge technology.

Visible cracks on the right hinge just waiting for
their time to render the whole console useless.

Since I ranted about the hinges I guess I'll explain how I feel about the clamshell design. If I was a person who took his 3DS everywhere to collect streetpass stuff, if any of that stuff is still available, I would feel much more secure with a clamshell design to protect the screens from accidentally being bumped into by something or someone, even in my pocket. However, I'm not that type of person and since my 2DS never leaves the house, and if it did I have a fairly rigid carry case for it, I'm perfectly fine with my 2DS. Plus I find the 2DS slab to be far more comfortable than the clamshell design.

Now we get to the namesake of the console and the whole marketing scheme behind its existence, the 3D capability. I'll state it as simply as I can here; the 3D is pretty neat, but you have to stay in one exact spot for it to work. I did some testing in the store just to make sure everything worked and when I first flipped on the 3D it looked like a vomited disarray of pixels on the screen. My eyes adjusted and I moved the console a bit further back and it popped in. If I moved the console any closer, further, left or right everything was, once again, a blurry mess.

Listen, I get it, the 3D was a really cool addition. When it works, it works and it does look really cool, but it's just so darn fidgety. You can turn it off, turn it down, but for the most part I keep it off, and as such that's why I prefer my 2DS. The major thing I would take away from the experience of owning both a 2DS and a 3DS XL is the fact that I heavily prefer my 2DS. Yes I love the stereo sound and I love the big, bold screens of the 3DS XL, but the 2DS is still the most useful of the two for me.

Friday, March 16, 2018

My 2DS Experience: Two Years Later.

Just over two years ago I received a Nintendo 2DS for Christmas from my girlfriend. At that point I didn't have any working DS consoles, but I had a good sized library of DS games that I wanted to play. Originally I thought I would repair one of my broken DS consoles, but the parts just weren't available anymore. That's when I decided it was time I looked into something that not only played my original DS games but would also open my collection up to the 3DS library. I read many reviews and wanted the most bang for my buck, that's why I requested the 2DS.

Reviews seemed fairly positive, but there were some who panned it as a kid's toy and the useless, handicapped brother to the 3DS. Something that struck me as funny though, was that most people who called the 2DS useless were also saying they rarely used the 3D capability of their 3DS. If I'm not mistaking, doesn't that make their 3DS a 2DS with hinges?

That leads us into one of the major reasons why I wanted a 2DS; the fact that the 2DS doesn't have hinges to break. It could go without saying, but throughout the life of the DS family, Nintendo never could get the hinges right. From my personal experiences seeing used DS family consoles I can say hinges for the original DS were horrible, the DS Lite was horrible, the DSi/XL and original 3DS seem to fair better but still break, but the 3DS XL went straight back to being a broken hinge nightmare. So why would I want to buy a console I know would break because Nintendo never bothered to test and perfect the technology? I wouldn't, and I didn't!

I do enjoy playing DS games on my 2DS, but it wasn't until I actually starting collecting 3DS games that the console really become my favorite handheld. It seems Nintendo took care to make, at least their first party, 3DS games quality, enjoyable and addictive. The console came with a download code for Mario Kart 7, and although it's much of the same from any other Mario Kart it's still great fun. Undeniably the 3DS games look better than the original DS games, but I still don't miss, or need, the 3D capability.

For my personal needs the 2DS was all I needed and all I would need for a while to come. Within the past few years I've acquired a handful of 3DS games and even more DS games to play on the system. I've also managed to acquire a DS and a few DS Lite consoles in rare, unbroken condition, but still the 2DS wins out as my primary console to play DS games.

I'm not saying I wouldn't love to have an original 3DS, a 3DS XL, a New 3DS/XL or even one of the New 2DS XL consoles, because I would. For me it's about simplicity, functionality and not having to worry about the console every time I open and shut the thing and wonder whether it will function the same way again. Hopefully soon I'll find an original 3DS to at least see if the 3D capability is as horrible as people say it is, regardless the 2DS still remains all I currently need.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Gran Turismo Retrospective!

Years ago I wrote an entry about how much I hated the Gran Turismo license tests, and to a degree I still stand behind that entry. Yet, all these years later I can't help but be nostalgic about the series that gave me so many good times, although I won't deny it also gave me many frustrating times too.

Gran Turismo seemingly broke the mold when it came to racing games. Many games up to this point were arcade racers that didn't really come with all the trivial things that true life can throw into the mix. While you did need to have some degree of driving skills, Gran Turismo amplified that and enforced the need to become better. What could have easily been banal, Gran Turismo turned into a whole new genre!

Gran Turismo was one of the only games that I actively talked to friends about, as the Playstation was one of the only systems I actually had while people still gave a shit about it. Armed with my DualShock controller and my Greatest Hits edition of Gran Turismo, I was well educated in the subject when it popped up on the school grounds. Trading cars with friends, learning tuning settings and generally having a lot of fun with the game was exactly what I did in that time, and boy do I miss it.

The sheer depth of customization and tuning were things you never saw before. You could reach back into the NES era with games like RC Pro Am or F1 Built to Win, where you could upgrade parts on the car, but it was all superficial. There was a slight handling difference but nothing changed about the avatar you were controlling. Which is a great deal of what I enjoy about Gran Turismo; even though they did enforce the need to get better, you never really had to fully understand tuning or be an F1 level driver to play the game, enjoy the game and ultimately be good at the game.

It never hurt to do the license tests over and over until you mastered them all, in fact if you did master them all you received hidden rewards cars for your efforts. Again, I absolutely hated and dreaded a lot of those tests. What made sense under normal racing conditions was never allowed in the test, which makes no sense to me. I understand they wanted to lay down a strict learning environment, but if I can slide half my tires into the grass to pass someone under normal racing conditions, I may need to do so in the test teaching me how to pass 2 cars racing side by side.

After being overcome with a sense of nostalgia, as well as forgetting whether or not I officially had the exceedingly rare Yellow Dodge Copperhead, I decided to do some good old fashion Gran Turismo racing. After a while I thought to myself I wonder what a more modern Gran Turismo would be like, so I purchased Gran Turismo 5. Hey, I said more modern, I didn't say current day!

After I purchased the game off Amazon the day had finally come to see how a more modern Gran Turismo felt. I was in a more modern era, I was going to play what previously only Forza 2 had offered to me; racing cars in beautiful HD. Upon popping the disc into the PS3 I was greeted with 12 hours of updating. Yep, 12 whole hours that I couldn't use, nor shut down, my PS3 console. Lucky for me, however, the bonus car codes had not been used and, unlike the expiration date on the codes stated, they worked just fine!

Do you know what happened then? I did what any person who just bought a Gran Turismo game would do, I immediately started trying to do the license tests... and quickly became pissed off again! To help me suffer through I took breaks, and mostly learned from my mistakes, but those tests are still fucking awful! Oh, but isn't that just the greatest thing? They never eased up and they instill a strict learning environment, which brings all that nostalgia rushing back once more. I love you Gran Turismo!

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Micro Machines: I Miss Them!

-Rapid, incoherent speech- Well, it's not as good as John Moschitta Jr, but what I was attempting to say was how much I love and miss Micro Machines from when I was a child. I believe I grew up in the best era for children, although I think everyone thinks that about their childhood era. I grew up in the late 80s and all throughout the 90s, so there was never a day gone by that there wasn't something new and exciting pushed out to rot my child mind.

TV commercials of my generation were filled with seemingly endless ways to incorporate technology into toys and video games. That means my childhood was chock full of bleeps and bloops and anything you could imagine. When Micro Machines came on the scene they dethroned the previous king, Hot Wheels, or maybe Matchbox... one or the other. These tiny, easily swallowed vehicles came multiples in a single package. Your child mind thought why would I spend 75 cents on a single Hot Wheel when I could spend $4 and get 5 or 6 (I can't remember) Micro Machines? WHAT A DEAL!!

One of the kids in my neighborhood, who was a spoiled child who grew into a spoiled adult, had a large suitcase filled with Micro Machines. Almost every one produced, so I thought. Anything from the normal vehicles to the ones with light up headlights and tail lights all the way to airplane Micro Machines. He even had the monster truck ones that had huge wheels that were almost the size of a whole other Micro Machine! I remember often going to his house and watching him drag out that big, blue suitcase and plop it down in a patch of grass just beside a little dirt spot and force me to watch him play with them. I was never allowed to touch them, of course.

Eventually I would obtain my own, albeit small, collection of Micro Machines. I believe I got a few packs from Christmas, then a few more for my birthday, and from there I just obtained singles from flea markets for pocket change. Sadly as childhoods go, they come to an end and everything you own gets donated to Goodwill without your permission. Gone were all my childhood memories, Micro Machines and all.

Even though my actual Micro Machines were gone, my mother tried to make me feel better by buying me the video game for Game Boy one Christmas. I actually really enjoyed that game, although it is much different from the console versions. The video game filled that void for a short period, but it could only do so much, which wasn't enough. I missed my tiny vehicles.

Well, as of the past 5 years Goodwill has been paying me back, while I'm digging deeply through their outlet store bins. Not very often, but on occasion I will find myself a roughed up Micro Machine inside the bin and toss it in my purchase bag. I may not have as many Micro Machines as I did when I was a kid, but I will continue to pick them up when I can.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

The Era of Farming Sims.

For years there has been a strange obsession with farming style games. Most notably when Zynga brought Farmville to the most popular social media website to ever hit the internet. More recently there has also been an ever growing series of Farming Simulators, almost in the same ilk as Madden or FIFA.

For me it all started with Sim Farm on the PC, way back when I was just a young, dumb kid that wanted to while away the hours looking at a computer monitor. Addictive, yes, but Sim Farm was quickly ruined when I found the best crop to grow. I just made a few massive fields and grew nothing but that and there never really seemed to be much challenge. Sure, they would sometimes go bad before the field was fully harvested, but what I did manage to harvest and sell ended up netting me more cash than I ever needed to use in the game.

Another farming style game that caught my attention was Harvest Moon. I was in my early 20's, looking for SNES RPGs and kept seeing Harvest Moon pop up on lists of beloved SNES RPGs. The name conjured fantasy imagery in my head of a dark mount rising into the sky to slightly eclipse a full moon as dragons and warlords took to the sky to do battle. Harvest Moon harbors none of this, it was an adorable little farming sim.

Throughout the years I've played and loved many Harvest Moon games. With their open ended game play you can get tired of the repetition, but there are also many other things to keep you occupied and to keep your eyes peeled for. Harvest Moon offers such variety in the things you can do outside of tending to your farm that I felt it was quite possibly the first life simulator, in some ways.

Then came Animal Crossing and while Animal Crossing isn't strictly a farming sim, you have elements of Harvest Moon incorporated into the game. You can buy tools to do a small bit of farming, planting, harvesting, etc. Animal Crossing is more about socializing and helping make the town in which you live a better place, but there are some elements of farming you can do as well.

Most recently, however, I decided to look the horse straight into its mouth and purchase myself Farming Simulator 15. This wasn't my first romp with a Farming Simulator; the addiction took hold when I downloaded the free Farming Simulator 14 on my tablet and lost so many hours, days, weeks and months to that game, I felt that a console version might be more fun to play. If only I knew the truth.

The truth is yes, it is more fun, but at what cost? DEAR GOD AT WHAT COST!? You see, I don't necessarily have an additive personality, I find myself far too apathetic and lethargic to be addicted to much of anything. Things will catch my eye, I will play them to the point of repetition and get sick of them and cease all association with it. Farming Simulator 15, however, took control of me on a near molecular level.

I started playing as I did the free mobile app, but I soon found myself doing all kinds of things like running around to collect lucky coins, cutting down annoying trees, planting saplings to grow up to become even more annoying trees that I may very well someday cut down.

I would run the game as much as possible, and even more when I was making more money than I was paying out. Farming Simulator 15, and quite possibly the rest of the Farming Simulators, is an addiction I've not found repetitive, not yet at least. I'm not saying I won't, but I truly fear if and when I do I may not stay gone for too awful long.

Sunday, September 3, 2017

Why I'm ok with Greatest Hits Video Games.

Why does it seem that most video game collectors hate Sony's Greatest Hits editions of games? I don't see that much opposition to Nintendo's Classic Series on the NES, their Player's Choice on SNES, N64 and Gamecube, nor their Nintendo Select for Wii and Wii U. It seems as though Sony is the only brand collectors actively enjoy bashing for offering a lower price on an already proven great product.

When the original Playstation first launched I was a teenager, which means I didn't have much expendable income to throw around carelessly. My tactic was either to buy used from video game stores or swoop in and pick up a $19.99 Greatest Hits edition of the same thing that was sitting on the exact same shelf beside black label versions for $49.99. To me the choice was obvious.

The only difference was the bright green edge, which never really bothered me. However, this was before the time of DLC and other such things, so if you move into the world of PS3 (I know we're skipping PS2, just bear with me) you'll find a bright red case, but this will often times be the best version of the game to buy, since it will also include DLC packs. Sure you don't get the satisfaction of being among the first people who play the game at launch, but then again that's not really a distinction that matters because literally millions of other people are doing the exact same thing.

Sticking with PS3, I'm not sure why people don't complain more about PS3 spine labels because they're not very cohesive anyway. You will find original releases having a red horizontal PS3 logo at the top, which later changed to a black vertical PS3 logo. These aren't even Greatest Hits, these are just standard releases! Although I haven't dug very deeply I've never seen a single person complain about this, but if the case is red because it's a Greatest Hits edition, whoa boy! Fuck that shit! Right?

Now the PS2 Greatest Hits don't seem to garner as much hate as the original PS1 and PS3 games, but I have witnessed the occasional "Boy them red labels are ugly!" comment. Even if I was a case snob I would have to say the PS2 isn't that much of an offender! The label structure stays the exact same, only the color of the PS2 logo and the SLUS number are turned red. Not even an eye offending red, just a much different color than the original black labels.

What people are forgetting is regardless of how groomed your shelf may look, it's the same game at, often, a lower price that includes more content than the original did. If you prefer black labels, more power to you, but I'm a cheap bastard and I want as much as I can get for the lowest price I can get it for. Even if that means taking shit brown colored cases and placing them among shiny platinum cases, as long as I got the best deal I could. Again, because it's the same game!

Monday, August 21, 2017

Quick and Dirty DIY Footswitch

Sometimes it's not about saving money; it's about doing a project just to prove you can do it. And also a little about saving money. Either way today's project was super quick and super cheap. All the parts came from, you guessed it, the Goodwill outlet store. For about $1 I built myself a footswitch for my Fender Mustang Mini.

After I bought the amp I started testing to see how to setup a footswitch, which turned out to be far more simple than I ever imagined. A simple on/off switch would work, that's all the amp needed to go between both selectable channels. I already had a latching push switch so all I needed to do now was find a cable with 1/4" end and a housing to put everything into.

The housing began life as an Archer RF amplifier. The basic shape, even though it's significantly smaller, reminds me of a guitar effects pedal, so that's why I bought it. After a brisk steel wool rub down all the markings and the little bit of tarnish that had accumulated was removed. It may not look it in that picture, but it's a fairly mirror finish.

The next step was to eliminate the flares on either side that the Archer used to attach to wherever it was attached to. In what I can only call a sheer stroke of genius I folded the top flairs in and the bottom flairs up so the unit closes up tightly, as well as giving me two simple screw holes to keep the whole thing shut once it was all done.

The next piece of the puzzle was the cable. I just so happened to find an XLR to mono 1/4" cable, which is honestly not going to be useful for microphones, so I decided to remove the XLR end and use it as the cable I needed. Nothing special, it's unbalanced and it wouldn't have been ideal for microphone use anyway.

Finally came the switch, which is nothing more than the only latching push switch I had at the moment. It's all plastic, it's all cheap but it all functions. All functions? WTF? Anyway, as the saying goes "If it works but looks stupid, it's not stupid.", or something like that.

After modifying the housing, again by folding the flairs, drilling some screw holes, making the switch hole bigger and removing all the lettering and tarnish, I was ready to put it all together. I simply put the switch in, slid the cable through the slightly modified wire restraint system that sticks out of the side of the box and soldered everything together. Easy peasy!

The finished product is a thing of beauty!
Admittedly, this isn't perfect but it was a quickly put together, and above all functional, project that I wanted to attempt. In the future I'm pretty sure I'll be changing the switch to a more heavy duty footswitch as well as swapping the cable to one with a 90 degree angle. This project also gave me the idea to buy more Archer boxes from the outlet store, when I see them, to use for future guitar pedal projects. I mean look at it, it's perfect for a guitar effects pedal! I would have to miniaturize the guts and find the right parts but I think that's totally a doable project.