Thursday, April 28, 2016

Gamecube Controller Cable Repair

Last year I wrote an article about a platinum Gamecube controller I bought from the outlet store many years ago. For unknown reasons the plug had been completely cut off, rendering the controller effectively useless. Regardless of any possible reasons, I decided it would be well worth my time to spend the small change on the poor thing. If for nothing else other than to use it as parts for potential future Gamecube controllers.

This past weekend I was at the new outlet store and came across a pair of Gamecube controller cable extensions. At first I tossed them into my bag just because they were video game related, but after bringing them home and finding that one of them didn't work, other plans started to formulate. The port in which you plug the controller into wasn't working correctly, so I decided to snip off that end and use the cable to repair the little platinum Gamecube controller that could.

The controller and donor extension cable.

After cutting off the end and exposing all the wires, I decided to map out which wire went where; lucky for me the color codes matched exact to the normal Gamecube controller cable. All I had to do was carefully remove the OEM controller cable, tin up the ends of the extension cable wires and solder them into place.

My haphazard way of connecting the new cable
The OEM way of connecting the cable

Admittedly my soldering skills aren't the prettiest, nor is my soldering iron, but after a few minutes of sharp concentration I had all 6 wires soldered into place. Again, she ain't pretty, but she'll do! She'll do...

After a quick test the controller is now fully functional again. I'm still cautiously optimistic, to say the least, but for now everything works as it should. Even with my soldering skills this was a fairly simple undertaking. In researching how to change out the cables I've found the typical, lazy internet answer of "No way man!", "Can't be done", "Impossible", and many other answers from people who are too lazy or stupid to try it for themselves.

The finished product!

If you're thinking about doing this project I highly suggest you understand how to map the pinout for the controller, as I felt that's the hardest part. I mean, look at that soldering job, it's hideous! But it works, and as long as it continues to work, that's all I need. Just another case of outlet store trash being turned into a fully working product once more.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Mario Kart vs Mario Kart 7 vs My Sims Racing: DS Showdown!

For Christmas I received a Nintendo 2DS, which came with a code to download Mario Kart 7. I held on to the code hoping I would find a physical copy in the future, or perhaps I could trade it to someone who was more into having a digital version. As my birthday arrived, three months after Christmas, I decided it was best to just use the code and make do with what I was given.

After having the DS version of My Sims Racing for a few months, I was a bit underwhelmed by Mario Kart 7. Mario Kart 7 is pretty much the same as any other Mario Kart, except now you have to worry about collecting coins and holding on to them throughout the race, while any weapon used by an opponent, and sometimes even yourself, can quickly and easily deplete them. After a while I felt like Mario Kart 7 was just too repetitive for it's own good as all I was doing was racing, re-racing and yet still racing the same tracks over and over trying to collect the coins.

I will say that My Sims Racing isn't exactly the best kart racing game, but at least it feels better and offers more than Mario Kart 7. In the Wii version you were restricted to a top down, board game style map where you would go from point to point and then appear in races to help people do random things. In the DS version you actually get to drive people around, sure it gets boring but you're now driving them around, instead of a simple point to point with a single press of the directional pad. Where Mario Kart 7 has menus, My Sims Racing has actual driving, albeit with shallow objectives, but actual driving.

The online feature for Mario Kart 7 didn't really help me like it anymore either. All the online multiplayer option did was make me feel stupid, because I hadn't played enough of the single player and collected enough coins to unlock new, better parts to be more competitive in the online mode. Why would I want to play online if it's going to penalize me for not having played enough of the single player side of the game? And why would I want to keep playing the single player campaign when all it is is me playing the same tracks over and over, stressing about being in first and having to cross the finish line with 10 coins?

I'm no stranger to Mario Kart, I loved Mario Kart 64. Sure Mario Kart 64 was more of the same, but it made me want to keep playing, it made me want to keep racing and doing better. I quite like Mario Kart Double Dash too. The graphics are great, the game play is fun, although I still find it to be more of the same, I like the power up weapons, as well as having a co-driver is sometimes quite entertaining. Mario Kart 7 just doesn't have the same effect on me.

Let's get back to My Sims Racing for a little bit. In some ways it's better on the DS than it is on the Wii, and vice versa, because they're clearly two different games with the same name. Even though the DS version should be the weaker version, in many aspects it comes out ahead. The main thing that sticks out to me is that you get to freely roam and drive around a few different sections of town, as where the Wii version has what I thought would be more suited to a portable version; a slimmed down map screen.

My Sims Racing offers pretty much the same experience as it's Wii counterpart as well as what Mario Kart 7 offers, and then some. You have power up weapons, drifting that fills a turbo meter, although you need to manually use it, track shortcuts, and the list goes on and on. I truly can't think of something Mario Kart 7 offers that My Sims Racing doesn't offer, apart from it's graphics, which even so aren't too bad.

As I was growing ever more weary of Mario Kart 7 I started playing more My Sims Racing, but all that was about to change. You see, a few months ago my girlfriend had bought me a copy of Mario Kart for the DS, the original one, and soon there would be a third game on the race track. After receiving Mario Kart DS I quickly became addicted. Why? I can only assume because I'm not fucking stressed out by trying to collect those fucking coins!

Yes, almost instantaneously I was addicted to Mario Kart DS. Sure there were menus again and sure I was racing the exact same tracks over and over again to unlock new circuits, new racers and new karts, but I wasn't stressed out if I was smashed with a red shell or fell off the side of the track, because there are no coins to lose.

I don't hate Mario Kart 7, I just feel that a game should be fun and items earned should be earned and retained, not lost over every single teeny tiny little infraction that sometimes aren't even your fault. The original idea was to race and do your best, the rewards will come. Mario Kart 7 seems to say race, do your best and even so I'm still not going to allow you to obtain what you really wanted.

My Sims Racing is a phenomenal game with a lot of strong points as well as it overall feeling like a Mario Kart clone. It's not that the characters are bad, because they're not, it's just a simple matter of familiarity. Over the course of my life I've become familiar with most, if not all, of the characters I can use in Mario Kart, as where I haven't the slightest interest in why any of the Sims in My Sims Racing need me to take them across town, all I know is that I need to do it to progress.

Mario Kart DS is an amazing game, even though the graphics look really choppy and dated. Going from Mario Kart 7 back to MK DS was like night and day, and it helped me suss out why I disliked Mario Kart 7 so much. Maybe because I'm more a fan of older games, maybe because I don't like to be stressed out and on edge when I'm playing a game, which only leads to me making more mistakes within said game. I can't say for sure why, but I absolutely prefer Mario Kart DS to My Sims Racing. And I prefer My Sims Racing to Mario Kart 7. All three games are good kart racing games in their own rights, but it seems, to me, the older and simpler wins.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Wii Wheel Review

I have a habit of doing reviews about obsolete things on this blog, and this time won't be any different. After collecting a handful of Wii racing wheels I figured I may as well explain and complain, where applicable. So, here we go.

First up is the wheel that came with a ton of other items in the Wii Fit Plus box I bought a few months ago. Made from a thick, and weirdly textured, plastic, this one is sturdy but still feels cheap. It holds the Wii remote quite well and allows easy access to the B button as well as accommodates the wrist band. Compared to the others I feel this would be best for larger hands. It's not the most uncomfortable, but not comfortable.

Next is a rather small, but sturdy, wheel made from a smooth black plastic with a golf ball style texture on the handles. Open design makes it smaller than necessary, but comfortable to hold. Holds the Wii controller well and offers the same round wrist strap hole as the official wheel with easy access to the B button. I would suggest this one for kid hands or small to medium adult hands.

Now we reach the third party wheel seemingly made from the same mold as the official. The plastic's texture is smooth, but if you own an official Nintendo wheel you will easily be able to feel the cheaper plastic. Other than the plastic quality everything is the exact same, with exception of the extremely cheap B button on the back, but still does it's job.

And finally we reach the genuine article. What else would we expect from Nintendo than an extremely sturdy and light weight plastic. Accommodates the Wii remote perfectly, as to be expected and this time the B button feels absolutely solid. The only drawback that I've found is that there seems to be only one comfortable way to hold it. That includes the black clone of this wheel too, it's simply just the design.

I would suggest staying clear of the large wheel, as it feels cheap and personally it just seems to get in the way, rather than making the experience better. The small steering wheel is good for kids or adults with small to medium hands, but isn't really all that much fun either. I would highly recommend the official wheel and maybe, if you're on a budget and find it cheaper, the third party clones. The official wheel design just seems to make you feel like you're actually racing and it helps make the experience that little bit more fun. At first you will notice the difference between the genuine and the knock off, but once you're focused in on the game you may not notice at all.

Saturday, April 9, 2016

The outlet store rides again!

After having a miserable time with a pair of purchases from an online site that's name may rhyme with cramathon, I decided the cure for extremely long shipping waits and one product coming in broken was to hit the outlet store. After four hours of bin diving, book tossing and cheerful banter with some fellow outlet shoppers I walked away $3 poorer, but richer for the experience. Although the outlet store is always hit or miss, it's nice to at least have new things to occupy my mind.

The items I found were, from the bottom right: three Nintendo DS games (My Word Coach, Flash Focus and MLB 2k12), as well as some weird little Megaman Battle Chip thing, Space Spartans for the Intellivision, an Atari 2600 power adapter, a small Sonic LCD game from a happy meal, a Playstation 2 DVD remote, a Nintendo Wii wheel, a Link AR card, 2 Nyko Rechargeable Wii battery packs, a PSOne style Playstation controller extension cable, two Nintendo DS Lite charging adapters, a TNT and Iron ore Minecraft blocks, a seemingly complete (minus the game) Pokemon Emerald box, two replacement Wii cases, Pokemon Blue manual, and finally the charger for the Nyko battery packs.

Everything seemed cheery until things started falling apart. I had my suspicions that the Wii wheel and the Pokemon Emerald box were both fakes, which I later confirms. The wheel feels ever so slightly cheaper than the official one, but looks almost dead on. The Pokemon Emerald box and manual just aren't up to the same standards as an official GBA game box, of which I have a handful to officially compare. What I found weirdest about the Pokemon box was that it was brand new, I mean it was literally brand new and never even folded up to hold the cartridge. Still a nice little conversation piece.

The two DS Lite chargers seemed to work fine when I tested them, so that's all well and good. The DS games are pretty lackluster, but it's always good to find DS games at the outlet store. After cleaning up everything I sat back and figured I may as well test the Wii rechargeable batteries. I pushed it into a controller, popped it on the recharging station and hoped for the best.

At first there was no response at all, none. After I jiggled the controller a little bit the blue light came on. Good, at least this thing is doing something! Suddenly the light turned to green. What!? It's charged already? No no no, let me test this. The Wii remote lit up with all four lights flashing blue. Then three. Then two. Then one. Within a matter of 30 seconds the Wii remote had sucked all the life out of the battery pack that the charging station just told me was full.

After checking with a multimeter one battery was still holding 2.7 volts, but the Wii remote was too power hungry and that wasn't enough. The other battery refused to give any sort of reading at all, even though it did the exact same as the previous one; blue light quickly turned to green. I cleaned the contacts on the batteries recharging ports, the battery contacts for the charging station as well as the ones that go inside the controller. After testing again I found that both batteries charge, slightly, but don't go above 2.8 volts, which clearly both of my (Officially mind you) Wii Remotes just won't accept.

It was only $3, and I had a great time digging through the bins. Sometimes it's not necessarily about the treasures at the end of the journey, it was the fun you had along said journey. Missing the outlet store as much as I had for the past few years has really made me appreciate the little things I find at the outlet store much more. They're not solid gold scores, but they're absolute brilliant finds to me.