MMN Tech's Top 10 PSP Games

By Mike on 10:30 pm

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I'm doing up some favourites lists since I'm far too busy to post anything serious. My PSP is sorely getting neglected so I thought I'd give it some love with today's top ten. Remember, these are games I have played so forgive me if I leave out popular ones such as Final Fantasy and Grand Theft Auto.

10. Ratchet & Clank: Size Matters
The Lombax and robot duo's first and so far only portable title, if you don't count spinoff "Secret Agent Clank." This game managed to shrink down everything that was great about the console versions into this pocket sized adventure. Great dialogue, colourful worlds, and of course tons of great weapons. You get to go inside Clank and fight a megalomaniac toddler. What more could you ask for? However, the bad camera in this game keeps it from being closer to the top of the list.

9. Jeanne d'Arc
The Japanese seem to have a fetish for the French. Obviously they don't share the disdain for the land of cheese, wine, and abruptness that the rest of the world does. Jeanne d'Arc takes a uniquely Japanese otaku twist on the story of Joan of Arc. An Oracle from above gives her an ammulet with the power to turn back the evil invading army and restore freedom to her people. Jeanne d'Arc is a classic turn based JRPG rivalled only by the Disgaea series on the PSP. This style of RPG isn't always accessible to everyone (as say Pokemon is), but these PSP titles are great even for us westerners to pickup and play.

8. WipEout Pulse
Fast, Furious, and Frustrating. Everything we love about the WipEout series. Probably one of the hardest racing tiles out there. Running at a glorious 60fps with colourful tracks and fast paced combat action, this and it's sister title Pure are probably one of the only racing games worth getting on the PSP. To top it off, it actually supports decent multiplayer.

7. Daxter
Out of all the Jak games I've played, this one is my favourite. The console versions can be frustrating at times. I still can't get past the time limited driving part in Jak II. (don't laugh, I'm not the only one) Daxter just pulls everything great about those games and gives it a unique twist. Taking place as a prequel to Jak II, the otsel has to get a job in order to spring his partner from prison. Daxter becomes a bug exterminator, killing powerful dark eco insects that are plaguing the city. It's a wacky premise that just fits so great with the character, plus it's still one of the best looking games on the platform.

6. Sega Genesis Collection
This compilation probably gets the most play out of my entire PSP collection. A ton of classic Sega Genesis games including Sonic the Hedgehogs 1 & 2. Not really much to say other than it's classic gaming at it's finest, without the bulky, battery hungry Nomad. Makes me wish Nintendo would release a Best of SNES/NES collection for the DS. Then I'd be set.

5. Ace Combat X: Skies of Deception
Probably the standard for console based modern air combat tiles, Ace Combat was beautifully moulded to the PSP. It stands as the platform's definitive flight simulation title. Perfect natural controls, thrilling combat, great music and cutscenes, plus it looks great too. If only Il-2 PSP had lived up to this.

4. Prinny: Can I Really Be the Hero?
An unforgiving 2D platformer. Really takes you back to the NES days doesn't it? The penguin like bumbling Prinny, all 1000 of them, have been charged with getting back the ingredients for overlord Etna's ultra dessert. Dood, this game is hard. Three hits and you explode. You'll need that entire army. Prinny really brings back what was long considered a dead genre. It's the kind of game that tiles like Ninja Gaiden and TMNT on the NES set the groundwork for. They were hard but they were always fun. Never frustrating like so many newer games. Prinny is a perfect revival. I left the other Disgaea games off the list namely because I haven't played them yet. I just picked up Dark Hero Days though.

3. LocoRoco
Speaking of 2D graphics, here's another masterpiece created by Sony's Japan Studio. Litte adorable gel balls trying to escape from the evil moja force. You play as the planet trying to bounce and tilt their way to safety. This puzzle-platformer is loads of fun and has great music. I would say it's even better than Patapon.

2. LittleBigPlanet
Not much to say about this title except that the charm of LBP and Sackboy has been perfectly ported to the PSP.

1. God of War: Chains of Olympus
Kratos, the God of War, stands as the killer app for the platform. Chains of Olympus is just as bloody and challenging as it's console brothers. It's topped off with probably the best graphics on the platform. This is probably as close to the console experience you can get on a portable. Sadly, the head ripping and beating your enemies to death with their own severed arms was left out of this game.

PS3 Firmware 3.10 Breaks Nyko Frontman Guitars

By Mike on 11:31 am

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Reports are coming out that the latest PS3 firmware breaks functionality with some third party guitar controllers. Namely the Nyko Wireless Frontman. The system fails to recognize the guitar if it is synced as controller one (red LED). Previously, the guitar would always automatically sync as controller two (blue LED), but will no longer do so. I have this controller and have confirmed this to be a real issue. The official PS3 forums has a lengthy thread on the issues including some complicated workarounds.

One fix, posted by "CashOD" suggests the following solution.

Start your wireless controller as C1.

Start a seond wireless controller as C2.

Enter Rockband.

Sync the Nyko with guitar. (should go to red).

Flip the switch from GH to RB and back To GH.

Allow the guitar to sync automatically (don't press the PS button)

It may take a couple of times to get the contoller on orange.

Sony has reportedly been less than helpful, suggesting that people send in their systems and pay them $149 to fix the issue if they're out of warranty. The Frontman controllers did work prior to the update, as mine did, so this is obviously a firmware issue. It's rather shameful for them to suggest you pay them to fix a software problem they caused.

No official announcement from Sony of Nyko has been made yet.

The Great Windows 7 Unboxing

By Mike on 12:57 pm

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Yesterday a Microsoft exec admitted that many of the ideas used in Windows 7 had been borrowed for Mac OS X. Looks like it's not only the look and feel of Apple's OS that they borrowed. I ordered Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit yesterday and I was quite amazed by how fast it arrived. Direct Canada certainly has fast service and I love how they don't charge PST to non-BC residents. Still, there was one problem with my order. If you read my Snow Leopard article, you know where this is going.

I was greeted by the courier with this. Another massive box with Blu-ray case for scale. Pre-opened by me of course. Did Direct Canada screw up my order? Apple didn't the last time so I wasn't holding my breath. So what's in the box?

A whole lotta paper. What a heart breaker; I guess the song remains the same. Ok, enough with the Led Zeppelin puns.

Taking the massive ball out, I discovered the Windows 7 DVD case at the bottom.

There you have it, the box and it's entire contents out on display. The DVD of course is currently in my computer.

I think I'd rate this as a point worse than the one Apple sent me. All fairness to them, Snow Leopard does come in a wimpy paper sleeve while this one comes in a durable hard plastic DVD case. Either way, a padded envelope would have sufficed. The post office does charge extra for oversized boxes. Surely sending this must be costing them a fortune in shipping. No wonder it was $10.

If you are buying a retail copy of Windows 7, it might be a good idea just to get the downloadable version and burn it to a DVD.

The State of HDTV Programming In Canada 2009

By Mike on 3:09 pm

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It's been over a year since I wrote about how to get free HDTV in the Toronto area using a digital antenna. This was before the Americans shut off all high power analogue stations last June. Canada is still poised to switch to ATSC in August 31st, 2011. So how is the HD switch progressing in Canada? We've seen a little movement in the past year but the process is still vary slow.

Perhaps the biggest announcement comes from the CBC. My inside sources tell me that the network will be switching to full HD in the next couple of months. Currently, most of its newer programming is already high def, but news and live studio programs (ie. The Hour, Steven & Chris) are not. The shows are currently broadcast in 16:9 SD video. The network is moving away from the tape based DVCPRO format to Sony's XDCAM, which use the blu-ray based Professional Disc. Broadcasts will be 100% server based instead of using tape. This makes editing less time consuming. The process has been slow due to the high cost of the equipment. A single portable XDCAM is upwards of $24,000.

With the CBC moving their news and studio shows to full HD within the next couple of months, this leaves Global as the sole network to broadcast in 4:3 SD video. CTV Toronto made a switch to full HD earlier this year, while CITY Toronto has been in full HD for some time now.

Canadian specialty stations have been particularly slow on joining the HD bandwagon. Movie networks remain the leaders. TMN and MPIX have been HD for some time now. Astral Media debuted HBO Canada in HD a few months back.

Showcase is currently the only Canadian non-sports specialty channel that broadcasts regularly in HD. Discovery HD still has a fairly limited programming repertoire. It airs the same nature shows it always did and really serves as more of a tech demo for high definition than anything else. Popular shows such as Mythbusters and Dirty Jobs are shot in high def in the US but are not aired on Discovery Canada's HD channel. Channels such as The Comedy Network have applied to the CRTC to begin broadcasting in HD. However, there has been no word on when, or if, these will be rolled out. American specialty networks such as A&E, TLC, HDNET, and National Geographic regularly broadcast in HD. Vary few Canadian specialty networks have shown interest in the switch.

Sports channels, being the primary draw to high definition, are leading the pack. The Golf Channel recently debuted it's HD version, which it airs regular HD content identical to the SD version.

Some signs are pointing to movement. Bell TV is currently in the process of reorganizing its high definition channels. Previously, they had a block of 100 available stations in the 800-900 range for high def content. They are currently moving this to the channel 1000+ with more than 500 spaces reserved. This suggests that Bell plans to start offering full time shifting in HD soon. Currently only Toronto and Vancouver stations are available. It also indicates that Bell expects the specialty networks to be making the switch in the near future. Bell still does not offer HD versions of Hamilton based CHCH, and Toronto based multicultural channels OMNI 1 & 2. These are available on OTA antenna and through some cable providers. Cable, however, has been much slower at rolling out HD content and still carries analogue broadcasts.

So, it looks like things haven't really changed in the HD world but signs are pointing to a shakeup. Stay tuned....