The Pokemon Retrospective - Part 1: The Blue Period

By Mike on 9:00 am

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When it comes to video games, nobody can match Nintendo's level of innovation. While Sony and Microsoft have always boasted the superior hardware, their systems and games have always followed convention and rarely stray outside the lines. Big N revolutionized the gaming industry as we know it in the post crash era; inventing the platformer we know and love today and setting the standard for adventure titles. One of their biggest gambles took on the conventions of the console role playing game, something considered sacred with Japanese gamers.

During his youth, Satoshi Tajiri would spend his days catching and collecting bugs in the forests near Machida, a suburb of Tokyo. Like many Asian countries, Japan is dominated by massive cities. In the 1970s, a rapidly growing urban population demanded more living space. Tajiri's forests where paved over as the city expanded. To make a long story short, he eventually got into gaming, starting the magazine Game Freak, which eventually evolved into a full fledged game developer. In 1991, Tajiri was introduced to the Game Boy and immediately saw the system's potential as a social gaming platform. By simply connecting the two systems together via a cable, gamers could interact with each other anywhere at anytime. According to Bulbapedia, it was said that he imagined his beloved insects crawling along the cable. The idea eventually evolved into a bug catching game that allowed players to trade their creatures. By the 90s, Japan had fostered a whole generation of children who had never left the cities and never saw the countryside. Tajiri wanted to recreate the rural bug catching experience for those who were no longer able to enjoy it the way he did. The concept originally received mixed opinions took some time before it was greenlighted by Nintendo. Nobody was sure if a bug catching game would catch on, no pun intended. Eventually, legendary game designer Shigeru Miyamoto teamed up with Tajiri on the creature catching project. The game was developed over the course of five years, considered long for a game at the time, particularly one for an 8-bit system. In 1996, Pokemon Green and Red were finally released in Japan for the Gameboy.

Pokemon Green and Red were role playing games but were unlike other titles in the genre. In most JRPGs, the playable character formed a team, usually of three including themselves, and the player's character was the one that did the actual fighting. Pokemon rather set the player as a trainer for the monsters they had caught; allowing the monsters to battle each other. Your trainer would travel the fictional world of Kanto trying to defeat rival trainers, win the eight gym badges, defeat the Elite Four, and become a Pokemon Master. Pokemon did not really have any solid storyline to it, unlike other RPGs at the time. Rather it was a mix of side quests such as defeating the evil Team Rocket, a group of Pokemon poachers, or descovering the whereabouts of the legendary Mewtwo.

At the beginning of the game, Professor Oak would give the player one of three Pokemon, which was chosen by the player. The choice would determine the difficulty of the first part of the game. From there, the player needed to catch additional Pokemon to build their team using special Poke Balls, capsules that contained their monsters. Pokemon could be encountered in the wild in grassy patches, the sea, in buildings, and in caves. Once weakened enough, you could try and catch them. A team of six could be held at a time while the rest were stored in Bill's PC. There were 151 monsters to catch and battle, each with their own specific skills, stats, and move sets. As you trained them, they would gain experience and grow stronger. Pokemon could learn new, better moves as they gained experience points and levelled up, and most could evolve into stronger forms. The starter Bulbasaur for example had two evolutions: first evolving to Ivysaur and then to Venusaur.
Pokemon and their individual moves were further broken down by elements in a sort of rock/paper/scissors on steroids approach to battling. Originally, there were 15 element types, each with different strengths and weaknesses. A grass Pokemon for example was strong against water types, but was weak against fire. Flying types were immune to ground types while ground was immune to electric. Pokemon still retained elements from more traditional RPGs though. Combat was turn-bases and featured levelling up based on gaining experience points. Different items were available to enhance and heal Pokemon, or even teach them new move sets. With the Gameboy Link Cable, gamers could trade their Pokemon and battle their friends. Multiplayer to this degree was something that had been unprecedented on the Gameboy and rarely seen in RPGs in general. Pokemon was split into two different versions; neither containing all 151 monsters. Gamers were encouraged and indeed needed to hook up with their friends if they wanted to "catch 'em all". That is unless of course you had a Gameshark.

Despite having an overall deceptive kiddie appearance with its kawaii characters, Pokemon involved a great deal of depth and strategy making it appealing to young and old gamers alike. The game was a huge hit for Nintendo and Tajiri. Pokemon rapidly became the top selling Gameboy title in history, moving over 10 million copies in Japan alone. Most games were lucky to reach that figure for global sales, let alone on a portable supposedly nearing the end of its life. Pokemon eventually spawned a massive multimedia franchise that even gave venerable characters like Hello Kitty a run for their money. In late 1996, a slightly updated Blue version was released which tweaked some of the issues in the original Red and Green titles. In 1998, Blue version finally made its way to North America, just in time for the Christmas season. The titles were once again split into two as Red and Blue versions. The games sold out quickly and topped the North American Gameboy charts, proving that the game had iron clad international appeal. Tajiri noted in an interview with Time that he thought North Americans better understood the whole cooperative concept of the game; that it was not just about the Pokemon but also about the human element. He noted the strong North American fandom for both Ash and Pikachu from the anime rather than most Japanese fans who focused only on Pikachu.

Speaking of which, in 1997, the franchise was further expanded with an anime cartoon series that followed Ash Katchem and his Pikachu travelling through Kanto as Ash tried to become a Pokemon master. Originally, Nintendo had not decided on which Pokemon should be the mascot for the entire franchise and left it to fans to decide. Their instant attraction with the electric mouse in the anime launched Pikachu to superstardom. He was hardly the most powerful Pokemon in the game but people loved his cuteness and determination. In fact, he was so popular that he even got his own game in 1999, titled Pokemon Yellow. Yellow version was similar to Red, Blue and Green but featured Pikachu as the player's only starter Pokemon. Their rival received an Eevee rather than one of the original starters. Anime characters would make cameos. Jesse, James, and Meowth replace the Team Rocket Grunts in several parts of the game. The player's Pikachu would follow them in the overworld outside of their Pokeball, just as Ash's did in the anime. The game also introduced a rudimentary happiness system. Player's could talk to their Pikachu and see its mood. As you trained him and spent more time with him, he would grow to like you more but if he fained too much in battle or was stored in Bill's PC, he would grow angry. Pikachu was even voiced in Yellow by Ikue Ohtani, who voiced Ash's in the anime. The voice was resampled to be able to play on the Gameboy's hardware. Additionally, it was the only game where Pikachu could be taught the water type HM03 move Surf without cheating. Teaching him Surf unlocked the Pikachu's Beach minigame on Route 19, a side scrolling surfing game where Pikachu would do tricks on his surfboard by jumping off waves. The biggest improvement in Yellow though was the graphics. One of the biggest complaints with the originals was the poor art quality of the Pokemon sprites. Gamers felt they looked nothing like they did in the anime and promotional artwork. The art for the Pokemon received a complete overhaul to reflect how they were originally supposed to look. Human character sprites in the game were also redesigned to look more like they did in the anime. Furthermore, it was the first of the series to be in colour, provided the player owned a Gameboy Color, while retaining backwards compatibility with the older black & white Gameboys. Multiplayer was also expanded to include several different battle modes which limited the Pokemon that could be used depending on which Cup was selected.

My introduction to the series began with Red Version, which I got for Christmas in 1998. I fell in love with the anime and eventually picked up Yellow version. Since then, I have played every single game in the main series. In as little as three years, Nintendo had developed a multi-billion dollar franchise out of Tajiri's vision, something they had thought would never catch on. Of course you know they could just stop there. In Part 2, we'll look at the second generation of Pokemon as it sparked controversy, developed into spin-offs, launched trading cards, and gamers went for the Gold,

The Best of the Worst of Shovelware: Week 5

By Mike on 8:30 am

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I really wanted to do Ghetto Golf for this one but no trailer has been released for it yet. Of course, there is no shortage of other bad games to cover.

Leisure Suit Larry: Box Office Bust (Xbox 360, PS3, PS2, PC)

There are some things games should not include and sex is one of them. Oh we all love the big jugs in games like Heavenly Sword and Soul Calibre, or that bikini fighting game. However, sex, or even implied sex in games is usually always laughable, uncomfortable, and cringe worthy. Remember the Atari Porn games? Box Office Bust has you playing as Larry's nephew given that the original's womanizing days are over. I guess his insurance plan doesn't cover Cialis. The new Larry gives off such strong douch chills, a parka is a requirement for playing. He works as a gofer at a movie studio where you basically go around fetching things for other characters. That's pretty much it. Of course their is the occasional womanizing scene complete with bad acting. The entire game just has a slapped together feel to it. It uses an art style similar to Telltale's Sam & Max series; or more accurately it's deformed bastard child. The sandbox missions are confusing and repetitive, and the dialogue is laughingly bad. This game is the vary definition of shovelware. What's worse? It's a full retail box version. $60 for this piece of garbage?

Let's Tap (Wii)
Boy, that Wiimote is so hard to use. Wouldn't it be great if I could just tap my fingers on a cardboard box to play the game? That would be so much easier. A lot of people on Gametrailers wondered if this game was even real. Yeah, it is. I think one of the Wii's biggest weaknesses is the lack of games that truly take advantage of the hardware, and Let's Tap demonstrates that perfectly. The Wii has gotten to the point vary gimmicky within it's short life and games like this are to blame. Some argue it's always been like that but I find it's gotten worse in the last year or so. In all fairness though, the concept is nothing new. In 1986, Bandai released a NES accessory called the PowerPad, which had similar tap style gameplay except you used your feet instead of your fingers. The games themselves were also similar to Let's Tap, including a hurdles title as is shown in the trailer. The idea didn't work then and doesn't work now. Leave the tapping to the iPhone and DS. Another big complaint for this title: it's ALSO a retail box version! Why can't this be Wiiware? Honestly.

What a Pitty Mr Bond

By Mike on 8:50 pm

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Sometimes in my blind web surfing, you come across things that are so bizarre, you cannot help but laugh. No, I'm not talking about that video of the guy with the bottle that's making the rounds. This one has to do with iTunes, the software itself not the store. Sometimes it pays to read the EULA.

more fail, owned and pwned pics and videos

Curses, foiled again. I was hoping to put my favourite tracks on shuffle while I enrich weapons grade plutonium. Yes, the iTunes EULA actually says that the program cannot be used for the creation of weapons of mass destruction. Yet the Store sells Britney Spears' & Metalica's music! How ironic. In all likelihood, Apple uses the same basic legal form for everything they sell. It means you cannot use Apple computers for these purposes. However, something tells me Amadinajad and Kim Jong Il aren't big Mac fanboys. It's just so hilarious that this little remnant of the OS X EULA would end up in something so harmless as a music player.

Swap your HD-DVDs for $5: Cheap

By Mike on 10:01 am

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Warner Bros. is currently offering a trade in program for supporters of big red who saw their HD optical disc format go belly up last year. Ship back any Warner HD-DVD movie plus $5 and they'll ship you a Blu-ray copy of the same movie. Customers are limited to 25 swaps though, but it's unlikely most HD-DVD owners have more than 25 films from the same studio considering how short lived the format was. Currently, this deal is only available in the United States.

Is this worth it? I would say no. If you have HD-DVDs, you probably already have an HD-DVD player. Even though no new HD-DVD movies are coming out, you can still watch and enjoy them. No sense paying twice for the same thing, even if the second copy is only $5. If you've already dumped the player though for a shiny new BD machine yet still have a pile of HD-DVD discs, then by all means. You'd be hard pressed to find any blu-ray movie for $5.

Source: The Register

Best of the Worst of Shovelware: Week 4

By Mike on 10:55 pm

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Early entry this week because I found something that's NOT shovelware and actually looks like a pretty sweet game. Don't worry though, they'll be plenty more bad shovelware coming. I've got Ghetto Golf lined up for next week.

Super Robot Taisen OG Saga: Endless Frontier (Nintendo DS)
This is... the most awesome thing I have ever seen. In Japanese anime, female characters are typically drawn with vary, vary large breasts. Odd for a people not exactly known for their big jubblies unless you count the lovely Aki Hoshino or "Death by Motorboat" Fuko. (I personally don't like them huge anyway. A or B, that's perfect for me. Somebody has to like them.) As far as I can tell, it's a fighting RPG along the lines of Sonic Battle and similar games. The best part is, when your female character powers up, she expose some nice cleavage. Oh, there's male PCs too but who cares. If you think this is sexist, you're probably right, but a woman kicking some butt, that's girl power.

Major Minor's Majestic March (Wii)
Oh god I really hate picking on the poor Wii but here's another ludicrous game. What's worse than shovelware on Wiiware for $10? Shovelware in a retail box that costs $50. This game, developed by Square Enix, has you leading a marching bad. You pump your Wiimote up and down in the air to keep the beat and recruit bandmates. The gameplay seems vary basic and likely has little to no replay value. Plus the graphics look just awful. At least the music is pretty decent, which is the bare minimum requirement for any rhythm game. No matter how you slice it though, marching bands just aren't considered cool anymore. Then again, were they ever? This made me laugh because my mom used to do the baton twirling stuff back in the 60s. She might enjoy this but I can't see anybody else flocking to buy it. A Wiiware title maybe but a retail box? Really? Come on. Oh, and I don't know anybody who actually liked, or even played Prappa the Rapper.

Best of the Worst of Shovelware: Week 3

By Mike on 12:31 pm

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WarioWare Myself (Nintendo DS)
I think I just Wii-ed myself watching this one. This one was actually developed by Nintendo as a Wiiware title. The Warioware games, staring the beloved anti-Mario, have been quite popular on several Nintendo platforms. Basically, they're just a collection of minigames. I think they're really starting to run out of ideas though. Super Wario has a mission in this one! Unlock the bathroom door so desperate people can answer the call of nature. It involves solving vary simple puzzles. More targeted at kids I guess but this game just, well, it doesn't exactly carry the same quality as most inhouse Nintendo games.

Party Fun Pirate (Wii)
Speaking of running out of ideas, it looks like game developer TOMY has decided to rip off Pop-up Pirate. Remember that game when you were a kid when you would stick plastic swords into a barrel and if the pirate popped out you lost? This game goes on there because of it's lack of originality and the fact that it's pretty much a blatant ripoff of the original toy. Kids will probably love this though... meaning it might keep them amused and out of your hair for five minutes at least.

MS Extends 360 Warranty to Cover E74 Errors

By Mike on 8:29 pm

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The saga of Xbox 360 hardware failures never seems to end. Those buying Jasper models thought they were out of the woods in regards to system crippling hardware errors got an unwelcome surprise. Last month, it was discovered that Xbox 360s purchased in the last year or so seemed to be suffering an unusually high number of E74 errors. This particular error is similar to the red ring of death but is not related to the CPU or GPU. The chip that controls display scaling can become unseated, causing image atrefacts and noise to appear on the screen. It eventually results in total failure when the system displays the E74 message screen and a single red light appears. Originally, Microsoft had only covered this issue under the normal one year Xbox warranty. They have now extended it to fall under the RRoD three year warranty. This is retroactive meaning that customers who already paid for their system to be repaired will get a full rebate.

For what it's worth, I think it's important to point out that the Xbox 360's motherboard is assembled by Taiwanese firm Foxconn. It's not a well known company outside of the tech world but it is a primary subcontractor for many major consumer electronics companies. Aside from the 360, Foxconn also assembles the motherboards for the Wii, PS3, iPod Nano, MacBook Air, Macbook Pro, iPhone, various cell phones, and the Amazon Kindle. Since most of these products are considered to be some of the most reliable in the industry, we can chock up the 360's issues to design flaws rather than manufacturing oversights. While the 360 has been a widely successful product for Microsoft, the console has generated a lot of negative press in regards to its extremely poor reliability; which is far below industry standards by a significant margin.

Source: The Register

Zune's Swan Song

By Mike on 10:50 am

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A good or bad first impression can make or break you. Microsoft has learned this the hard way through Vista and its "iPod killer" Zune. It appears their MP3 player may be ready to play it's final swan song. A study by marketing research firm Piper Jaffray surveyed 600 teenagers in high schools across the US found that 86% already own an iPod while only 4% own a Microsoft player. 19% of those surveyed planned to buy a new player in 2009 with 100% of them saying it would be an iPod. That has to sting for Microsoft who has been pushing the Zune as an iPod alternative. In all fairness, Sony is worse off with only 2% but I wonder if this includes the PSP or just stand alone MP3 players. Piper Jaffray clearly shows that the iPod is rapidly reaching market saturation despite the recession.

The Zune has been more of an embarrassment for Microsoft than an iPod killer. It stumbled out of the gate in 2006 when it's strict DRM scheme prevented even Microsoft's PlaysforSure certified WMA tracks wouldn't play on it. Of course the vast majority of WMA music being sold was PlaysforSure protected. This soured a lot of people off buying it. While being an overall decent player, complete with handy features such as wifi streaming, it just lacked the appeal that iPod had. Poor marketing campaigns didn't help. Zune ads are rarely if ever seen and I personally don't know anybody who owns one. World wide sales are pegged at 3 million according to Wikipedia, contrasted with the 150 million iPods that have been sold. In other words, the iPod has sold at a rate of eighteen times faster over its lifetime. The Zune only made it to Canada less than a year ago and is still not available in Europe, with no plans to introduce it to that continent in the near future. Furthermore, the software does not support non-romanized text meaning it cannot break into the vital Asian markets as an import. Microsoft is planning to upgrade the Zune's hardware but many tech pundits are predicting that this may be the last Zune to hit stores. The Register is reporting that Microsoft has disbanded the Zune unit and will instead focus on providing online media services for PC, TV, and and cell phones. The hardware unit has been absorbed under the Windows Mobile division. It is possible that the much rumored Zune Phone could be part of this move but it's more likely Micorosft is trying to incorporate Zune features into smart phones running Windows Mobile and will discontinue it as a stand-alone player.

This all begs the perennial question that has been cropping up once again. Should Microsoft even be in the hardware market? They are a software company and other than simple peripherals such as keyboards and mice, their consumer electronics division was only created recently. Recent controversies regarding hardware and software issues the Xbox 360 and Zune haven't helped their cause. It would be best for MS to drop their consumer electronics lines and begin focusing soley on software once again. They have no business in the hardware market.

Source: Apple Insider, The Register

Best of the Worst of Shovelware: April 10th, 2009

By Mike on 9:00 am

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Squeeballs (Wii, Xbox 360, PS3)
They say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. Even better if you can take a popular game and throw in plenty of bloody animal abuse into it. That pretty much sums up Squeeballs, a combination of Wii Sports and Mario Party. Count 'em, 100 minigames where all you do is kill and maim the poor squeeballs. Beat them with a bat, mash them in a meat grinder, electrocute them. What good, clean family fun! Even grandma can tap into her inner serial killer. I mentioned this game before when In2Games announced their Wiimote-like motion controller for the PS3 and Xbox 360. Squeeballs was develped in house by them and so far seems to be the only title that supports their peripheral. This game just looks far too bizarre and crule to have any real value, plus it looks like crap too. As a PSN, XBL, or Wiiware game, this might make sense, or not. Hopefully they won't ask full retail price for it. If they do, I think Squeeballs is a shoo in for the Shovelware of the Year award.

Gold's Gym: Cardio Workout (Wii)
I really hate picking on the poor Wii but it does have the highest amount of shovelware than any other current generation console. Working on today's theme of sports game ripoffs, we have another Wii Fit clone. Gold's Gym is working out with your Wii. I suppose this isn't a terrible game but it just looks like such a blatant ripoff, it's not funny. Even the game's characters look like the Miis from Wii Sports, not to mention that the graphics are just awful, which serves as salt in your black eye. Now who would develop such a crappy knockoff game. Certainly not a major company like Ubisoft. Oh wait, it was published by Ubisoft. No surprises there.

Assassin's Creed 2 Teaser Sheds Light on Plot - Curse You Dan Brown!

By Mike on 5:49 pm

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Sometimes you just look at a game and wonder, "oh please god, I hope they never make a sequel". Obviously, I'm not in the lord's good books since Ubisoft is making another Assassin's Creed. Yes, you probably already knew that but today the first teaser trailer is released, shedding light on the second game. Looks like it's going to be another Da Vinci Code knockoff. Curse you Dan Brown for starting the never ending trend of movies, books, and games based on hidden Templar codes Leonardo supposedly put in his art work. It's gotten to the point of being a cliched, throw away plot these days. The original was pretty bad as it was, being boring and having sloppy controls. I guess if you're a sucker for punishment, this might be worth taking a look at, or maybe not. Well, without further ado, check out the trailer.

Qore Episode 11 - Mini Review

By Mike on 12:36 pm

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Right, so another free episode of Qore, and this one might actually be worse than the December issue I looked at in the past. I think this pretty much confirms that Qore isn't selling. We've seen two free episodes released in the last three months. Obviously the first one wasn't enough to encourage people to plop down $2.99. So what's Episode 11 like. Well, there's far less content then there was back in December. There are four features: The Music of Infamous, Indie Games on PSN, Fat Princess, and Red Faction Guerrilla. Like before, these are just trailers and developer interviews. The upcoming titles on PS3 and BD are also still there. There's also a couple "arcade" games. I'm not really quite sure how I got into them, it seems like a hidden feature since they weren't on the menu. One is a lame Missile Command knockoff that has you shooting down flying squares. The other is some rhythm game that looks like Simon Says. For downloads, we have the Factions demo and free High Velocity Bowling, but as usual, these are only available to annual subscribers. The only free download is a Fat Princess theme. Missing are the real world features that appeared in their last free issue.

Once again, there's really nothing being offered here that cannot be obtained for free elsewhere on the Internet. It's getting really hard to defend Sony Computer Entertainment lately. Qore really should be free. In fact, the same basic content is already available in their free PULSE podcast. Sony is still really pushing the annual subscription but it's just not worth the money. Qore is vary well put together, I'll give it that, but it's just paid advertising. It would be like if your cable company began offering a 24-hour infomercial channel and made you pay $2.99 a month for it. Of course you're not going to subscribe even if it is relatively cheap because who wants to watch commercials all day long. The fact that there's less content this time aroung garners it a lower rating than the December issue. This is shovelware, plain and simple.

Score: 4.5 out of 10

Best of the Worst of Shovelware: April 3rd, 2009

By Mike on 7:14 pm

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I'm really tired of all the shovelware that's appearing on pretty much every single system these days. You know what kind of games these are. The ones that are bargain basement cheap, short, of low quality, nonsensical, and leave you with a bad taste in your mouth. So, I thought I'd start a semi-regular feature on some of the more bizarre shovelware titles I come across. Each week or two, I'll look at a couple trailers for shovelware titles and disect them.

Let's Hitchhike (Wii)
What do you do when dinosaurs and UFOs take over the city? Why you hitchhike your way out of there of course! You hop a ride on whatever you come across, be it a sports car, a tractor, a cow, or a tree... wait, a tree? Apparently there are Ents living in the Let's Hitchhike world as you can actually flag down passing... trees. The goal is to do a dance that will attract the driver's attention. Shake your booty in your track suit and you might just be able to hitch a safe ride away from those dinos, or possibly get gang raped by bikers at a truck stop. This game was developed in Japan. No surprises there. Somebody once told me that defeated peoples develop a collective neuroticism combined with repressed aggression. Thus they seek strange outlets for these feelings. The Germans have schizer videos, the Japanese, well, they also have bizarre porn, and even stranger video games. Sometimes they combine the two; but not in this case... fortunately or unfortunately depending on your point of view. Hey! Who's driving the bus? Ooh, una momento por favor.

Noby Noby Boy (PS3)
Noby Noby Boy is a bit like a bad acid trip. After sifting through a dozen trailers for it, I still don't know what this game is about. That's never a good sign. I guess I could best describe it as Kirby breading with a rejected Pokemon character, who's offspring is sucked into a Slavador Dali painting. You eat stuff, and you grow longer to make your Girl happy. I'll spare readers from the obvious sexual innuendos here. I don't really have any snappy commentary for this title because I think the video speaks for itself. I admit I almost bought this one out of sheer curiosity. I made a more sensible purchase by going with Flower instead.

Current Generation Portable Round Up

By Mike on 1:20 pm

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Following up on round up of consoles, let's take a look at the portables.

Gaming Laptop
-See Gaming PC

Sony Playstation Portable

-Best graphics our of all current portables, equivalent to early PS2 games.
-Large library of games that are geared toward intermediate and hardcore gamers
-Excellent personal media player capabilities, boxed movies available
-Playstation Store for downloadable games and DLC expansion packs
-Conventional control scheme
-Cheapest current generation portable at $169 for Core system with $199 bundle packs that offer excellent value
-Backwards compatible with original Playstation games
-Skype service on PSP-2000 and up
-802.11b wireless internet for ad-hoc or network play, Internet browser and RSS 2.0 reader
-Connectivity with PS3 allows media streaming
-Unlimited number of saves on flash cards

-Mediocre battery life
-Few new games being produced for system
-UMD drive slow
-Proprietary Memory Stick Pro Duo memory cards are expensive. Core model does not ship with memory card.
-Analogue stick can be awkward to use. No second analogue stick means players can sometimes encounter game camera control issues.

Nintendo DSi

-Large library of family and non-gamer friendly titles including those from Nintendo's hit series.
-Innovative touch screen control combined with conventional control layout
-Excellent battery life
-Flash based game cards virtually eliminate load times, makes games more portable
-Built-in VGA camera for taking pictures
-Ad Hoc wireless play
-DSiware store provides downloadable games
-SD Card slot allows games to be stored, as well as provides MP3 playback.
-Graphics on par with Nintendo 64

-Poor value. Costs $199.99 in Canada for just the system itself, while PSP bundles provide the system, two games, and a movie for same price.
-Limited number of games that appeal to intermediate and hardcore gamers
-Music playback vary limited, no video playback
-Built in wireless uses legacy 802.11 speeds. Too slow for internet access.
-No longer backwards compatible with Gameboy Advance games. Not compatible with Guitar Hero World Tour and other DS peripherals that use the GBA expansion slot.
-Lowest screen resolution of all portables. 256x192 compared to 480x272 on the PSP and 480x320 on the iPhone
-Some may dislike use of dual screens, stylus, and microphone in gameplay.
-Game saves directly on game cards. Vary limited number of saves.
-Does not come with SD card

Apple iPhone / iPod Touch

-Highest resolution screen of all portables
-All games downloadable for instant play
-Excellent media and web functions, iPhone is also a phone and GPS unit. Full featured video iPod.
-Wide variety of non-gaming apps available, can be used as a MID or PDA.
-Games appeal to non-gamers
-Fast built in 802.11g wifi. iPhone has 3G networking for fast mobile connectivity.
-Innovative motion controls

-Most expensive of all current generation handhelds. $199 for iPhone but requires mandatory 3yr contract with cell company. Touch costs $229.
-Worst graphics of the current generation
-Most games are primitive, highest amount of shovelware than any other system. Limited support from major game publishers. Limited appeal to most gamers.
-Lack of expandable storage limits how many games can be stored on the device at one time
-Mediocre battery life when gaming
-No online play
-Touch screen controls vary limited and often awkward to use
-Games can only be downloaded over Wifi connection or through iTunes; not 3G.

iBoy One Year Later: A Serious Game Platform?

By Mike on 8:00 am

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About a year ago, Apple announced it would be bringing gaming to it's iPhone and iPod Touch lines. At the time it was just a proof of concept and gaming wasn't officially introduced until the iPhone 3G was in June. According to Apple, the iPhone has made it's mark as a viable gaming platform over the past year. However, there's one problem with that. What defines a viable gaming platform? I would define it as a device that sells at least 10 million units in which gaming is a primary attraction to the device. The iPhone is not a game console, but neither is a PC. However, many people use their PCs primarily for gaming so therefore it would be a viable platform. While the iPhone passes the sales test, I do not believe gaming is the primary reason people buy the device.

In terms of the games themselves, the iPhone has become a platform for a large amount of shovelware. In computer jargon, this refers to software that is produced in mass quantity, usually sold at a vary low cost, and has vary limited usefulness and is of low quality. I would estimate that 95% of iPhone games fit into this category. The vast majority sell for as low as $0.99, making them quick, mindless impulse purchases. For these titles, gameplay is usually vary limited, consisting of what you'd expect from online Flash games. Take iBowl for example, a free bowling game. You basically just swing the iPhone like a ball and you hit the pins. A lot of the pay games are like this too. Vary primitive that only offer a slight distraction of a minute or too. This appeals to some; non-gamers in particular who are looking to kill a minute waiting for the bus. However, this hardly makes it a gaming platform as just about any mobile device offers something similar. The iPhone also offers some titles from larger developers such as Sega and EA. Sim City for example has proven popular but once again it's a more primitive version of what is available on other portable systems. The iPhone lacks exclusive, high quality titles from major developers so it's not going to attract more gaming oriented people to the platform. As a platform for indie games, it mostly attracts people looking to make vary basic games for a quick buch rather than serious developers.

Aside from the general low quality of the games, the iPhone is also not an ideal platform for playing games to begin with. It uses the same basic motion sensing features Sony's Dualshock 3 controller has, along with the touch screen. Controls feel more complex than they need to be due to these limiting factors. A DS style stylus would have made things easier and the fact that it is limited to essentially a direction stick and one button really hampers what developers can do with it. This is a stark contrast to the DS and PSP which have kept conventional control systems. Apple's promise of turning the iPhone into a viable third handheld has not happened, and will likely never happen. It is not practical for gaming and poses no threat at all to the PSP or DS.