Tag Archive | "games"

Nintendo DS: Gaming Device or Office Desk Novelty?

The obvious answer is, of course, gaming device. But putting aside that logic and just looking at the interesting other features that the DS (and the DSi) actually deliver, one might actually think that they are tinkering around with some random gadget that is right at home at your office desk. So, have tried checking out what you can do with the DS aside from playing games?

First off is the clock mode. Okay, for those wondering: it is a dedicated function or mode of the NDS and is readily available from the touch screen menu after you turn on the device (it is on the screen right after the initial warning advisory page). In this mode, the only thing that the device does is show you the time. Not really all that useful since you will be wasting batteries and there are plenty of other time-telling device that use energy in a much more eco-friendly manner. But yes, you can if you want to, and there is even an alarm function for users who simply feel like leaving the device plugged into the charger the whole night.

Pictochat is a much more useful function –though its practicality still borders on sheer novelty and entertainment. This is basically a scribbling program that you can use to interact with other DS devices. The picture chat content makes full use of the touch screen for users to share their creations with each other. Sadly, there is no way to save the images you create so enjoy them while they are still there on your screen. Both Pictochat and the clock mode will require you to switch the DS off and back on in order to access another function (or the game cartridge).

In late 2008, Nintendo launched the DSi, an upgraded version of the dual screen handheld. This new model sported several new side features that provided users with further functionality.

Among the most noticeable is the addition of two VGA cameras, one inside and another on the outside. This allowed users to take photos of the people and things around them or if they wanted to, their own selves. The images could then be stored on the new SD card slot or uploaded to a Wii console. Speaking of the SD card slot, the DSi also allowed for the playback of several media file formats, such as MP4 and 3GP recordings (but it still lacks MP3 playback capabilities)

And making full use of the DSi’s internal WiFi capabilities, support for access of the official Nintendo WiFi service has been added to the device. This allows players to link up online for multiplayer games or for downloading DSiWare software. These can either be small games or useful applications for the device.

Overall, we are pretty happy with how the DS functions even without the game. While a little bit more of functionality in terms of file format compatibility or the option to store game saves on the SD card would have been nice, there’s already a lot being offered by the DS system on its own. All you need to do is tinker around and see for yourself.

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Live, Play and Get Connected on PSN

Sony’s Playstation Network has been running for quite some time now and if you are a Playstation 3 or Playstation Portable owner who has yet to sign up –now is the time to do so. The Playstation Network, or PSN, hosts a wide array of features and services that many gamers should not be without. Of course, a decent internet connection will be needed. Seeing as the PS3 supports both LAN and WiFi connectivity (the PSP makes use of WiFi exclusively), this should not be much of an issue for a typical household. Aside from being accessible, it is also completely free.

The first big feature of PSN is the Trophies. While many gamers may not admit it, there is a great and guilty pleasure about achieving your first trophy; then later, your first platinum; much later, competing with all of your friends for getting the highest trophy score in the group. So compulsively addicting is the hunt for more trophies that players are encouraged to go out of their comfort zone in genres to try out new ones –just to earn more trophies. It is a win-win situation: developers make more sales, and players learn to play new games.

While we did mention the trophies first, simply summing the use of PSN simply for that would be misleading. PSN is the complete and comprehensive online service for any Playstation owner. First off, the site offers the latest news and information hosted on the official Sony Playstation Blog. Since PSN allows users to create accounts for each local network (US, UK, Japan and Asia), players are able to access unique content to each region.

Downloadable content (also known as DLC) is another major reason why players should access the PS Network. Simple content for the console such as themes, wallpapers, and music are readily available. Game add-ons on the other hand provide an expansion for many existing games. Some will provide users with a new character costume or an additional weapon or in-game item. Other DLC will completely enrich the game to a whole new level –some by literally adding a new level or stage and others by adding so much content that it is practically a game in itself. Not all DLC however, is free. Some of this content will require players to make an online purchase. While the additional cost may be a bother, most of the content offered is well worth the investment.

Of course, social networking is a key feature for PSN users. Players can get connected to other PSN users through a friends list which allows them to send and receive messages to other players. This also helps facilitate online multiplayer game sessions among users. Once added to the friends list, a player may also check and compare their current trophies and latest games played.

For those who have already started using the Playstation Network, this is one extra feature that Sony has recently enabled: the PSN Plus. This is a subscription based service that allows users to get more content from PSN. Paid users will be able to access exclusive PSN+ content and also, discounted rates for all paid DLC –some of the downloadable content are given out for free for Plus subscribers as well.

Our recommendation to any PS3 owner is to make full use of PSN’s services. Even without subscribing to Plus, you will get plenty of important features and additional content. Also, connecting online is the only way to back up those hard earned trophies (choose the sync to server option). The recently opened cloud storage on the other hand is the only way to back up locked save games. With service access already built into the console, there really is no excuse to not sign up.

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Nintendo Wii: Facing the Next Generation Wave

At the upcoming Electronic Entertainment Expo, Japanese video game developer and console manufacturer Nintendo has confirmed that they will be unleashing a brand new home console system that will rival the power and capabilities of the Xbox 360 and the Playstation 3. While it sounds impressive, it is also a signature of Nintendo: hardware is not everything. Sure, the new system will be powerful –compared to the 360 and the PS3 which were released several years ago.

The famous Nintendo motion gaming system, the Wii also faced a similar situation many years ago when it was first launched. The system came out ahead of its competitors at Microsoft and Sony and enjoyed plenty of sales. When the 360 and the PS3 came out months later, critics stated that the Wii’s lower spec graphics would be the downfall of the system. Now, many years later, the Wii is still performing strongly in the market.

There is no doubt that the hardcore market has long moved on from the Wii -with the system often playing second fiddle to owners of the PS3 or the 360. But it is this market position that makes the system so strong. Among casual gamers, the Wii is the number one system of choice. For hardcore gamers, the low price point and entertainment value of the Wii makes it an ideal secondary system to own. This meant that most PS3 owners had a Wii as a secondary console and the same applied to 360 owners. There were fewer gamers who bought an Xbox and a PS3 –let alone those who have all three systems.

Sales and distribution are not the only things important to a game console. A system’s game library is always among the most important factors to consider for any person choosing to purchase a system.

Right off the bat, it is pretty obvious that the Wii has a significantly younger target market. If you are planning to purchase a system for a preschooler or a grade-schooler, then the Wii should be the first choice on your list (and you might consider getting a DS as well). With plenty of games that focus on light tasks, bright colored visuals and simple storylines, the Wii makes for a perfect children’s console.

For slightly older audiences, the Wii has some pretty good titles that should not be passed up. Dead Space, Mad World and No More Heroes are just a few of the hardcore titles in the Wii’s library. There are also some interesting ports of old games such as Obscure, Resident Evil 4 and Okami that have been brought to new life with the motion controls. It may not be a first choice for the discerning, hardcore players, but if you are looking for a secondary system, it is hard to go wrong with the Wii.

In the end, the Wii has plenty to catch up on in terms of capabilities mostly due to its lower spec hardware as compared to later generation systems. But the Wii was never meant to take up the niche currently occupied by the PS3 (or the 360); instead, the Wii was developed to bring the joy of video games to a much broader audience –something that other systems would find difficult to achieve.

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A Last Look at Gaming on the Nintendo DS

It will not be long before Japanese game giant Nintendo announces that the production of the NDS handheld game console will finally cease. Initial estimates are saying this could happen sometime around 2012, though some insist that the device will still be in production until 2013. Regardless, the Nintendo DS has taken hold of the handheld gaming industry ever since it first came out last 2004 and has never let go since.

Naturally, a game system’s true strength lies in its games and the NDS’ game library caters to the whole palette of gamers from super casual to the almost deeply hardcore. Titles range from the as-expected Nintendo lineup of favorites such as Metroid, Super Mario and Star Fox, and a few new additions such as Animal Crossing. From third party developers, there are plenty of point and click adventures such as Trace Memory, Phoenix Wright, Professor Layton and several others. A new innovation is the touch-reliant gaming genre, which introduced titles such as The World Ends with You, Knights in the Nightmare and Rub Rabbits –titles whole gameplay factor relied heavily on the touch screen controls. Of course, the user input method was also encouraging for the development of many strategy games such as Advance Wars, FF Tactics Advance DS and many more. Between all these titles are a deluge of music games like Rock Band and Ouendan. As well as plenty of innovative and off-beat titles such as Brain Age, Love Plus, Hotel Dusk and so much more. Nintendo knew that with its unique dual-screen approach, they would start a new trend in the gaming industry –and they did.

The choice to be innovative with the system came with the development of better resistive touch screen technology. Back in 2003 to 2004 (the development period for the DS), capacitive touch screens were pretty much unheard of, let alone multi touch capabilities. For its time, the DS’ stylus based gaming opened up plenty of doors for game makers. For some, it was Nintendo’s courage to double up the screen which made the DS truly shine. Aside from the touch screen between the cursor pad and the buttons, the flip lid has a regular screen –allowing games to display two completely different visuals at the same time. Some games used this feature minimally –using the secondary screen as a map or inventory window. Others use it as an integral part of the game, where players control aspects of the two screens at the same time.

On its own the DS also served a few other purposes. The device can be used as a desk clock complete with its own alarm –not quite the best use for it, but you can if you want to. And the built in Pictochat feature allows you to communicate with drawn images with other DS users. It sounds silly, but you could lose a good couple of hours just having fun with it. Our personal favorite however, is the GBA backwards compatibility feature. You can simply plug in a GBA cart in the bottom of the device and the main system menu of the DS will offer you a choice of choosing which game to boot.

The new 3DS is offering just as much as the NDS (except the backwards compatibility bit) and offers many new features. But with the NDS’ already established gaming library, and the fact that it is already in the hands of over 50 million gamers worldwide, means that it will be a long time before this Nintendo handheld legend fades away.

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Rare Finds: A Look at Limited Edition Games for the PS3

There are games, and there are ‘the’ games. While most video game fans would be more than happy to get a regular copy of their favorite titles, die-hard collectors will certainly want to get their hands on some of the more impressive and proportionally pricier limited editions.

These special versions are named in a wide variety: limited editions, collector’s edition, director’s cut, gold edition, game of the year edition. Each release has its own extras and freebies –uniquely chosen by the publisher and developer of the game. To get a better understanding of what these freebies are and what the terms mean, here’s a quick reference guide that will get you started.

Game of the Year: now this is a label that you will see pretty often. These are not limited versions of the game. Instead, they are special re-release versions of an existing game that often includes plenty of valuable extras. DLC such as expansions, in-game items, extra characters, are often packed into the GotY versions of a game. But be wary, some versions are better than others. By default, games with the extra content included within the Blu-Ray disc (such as the Fallout 3 GotY) are more valuable than a GotY edition that comes with a special voucher for downloads (such as the Borderlands GotY edition). Do note that not all games use the GotY tag, some games use their own unique names; such as Dragon Age which uses the term Ultimate Edition.

Collector’s Edition, Limited Edition, Special Edition – now these are all used by various publishers, but they usually mean only one thing: it comes with plenty of extras. These specials usually include a bonus disc which contains an in-game soundtrack or additional media (such as a behind-the-scenes or developer interviews), an art book, posters, cards, and in many instances, very special items. These items can range from vinyl discs (Bioshock 2), to digital Pip-Boy clocks (Fallout 3: Special Edition Amazon bonus), to spiffy looking USB flash drives (Force Unleashed 2).

Speaking of which, there are “DLCs” and “Pre-Order Bonuses”. Now these are not always made part of special editions, but they do add some collectible extras for real fans. As in the example mentioned, ordering from Amazon (and many other stores, such as Gamestop) will often net players some exclusive freebies –and yes, there are some gamers who would order from various stores just to get the exclusive extras. Some require more than just ordering from a specific store, some extras will need you to pre-order (to sign up and pay for a game before it is launched).

The most common form of store-exclusive extras would be DLC or downloadable content. These are software add-ons to games that provide players with additional in-game content as opposed to something you can display on your shelf. For the most part, store exclusives that are physical objects are given more value since some DLC content are only timed exclusives (they may become available for everyone, at a price, much later on), and there is a very active online community for the sale and trading of pre-order bonus PSN redemption codes.

Steelbook editions are games that come in special cases. These metallic cases are manufactured by the Steelbook Company (which also creates special editions for movies, and other disc based media). These cases have a very solid feel and look quite impressive on a display shelf. However, PS3 owners should be aware that the inside clip that holds the manual on some games may be a little brittle, and Steelbook’s two-disc holder makes it hard for people to take the Blu-Ray discs out of the tray (so be wary when a special edition has multiple discs like Capcom’s Dead Rising 2: Zombrex Edition). Still, it is hard to deny that Steelbook editions of games are visually superior to regular releases.

As one might expect, these editions are often priced higher than regular versions of the game, after all, you are going to be paying for so much extra content. The real question is: do you want it? The answer to this question differs a lot from person to person. Some extras are quite practical while some are simply eye-candy for hard core fans. Getting them also means having to line up early in a store or making sure to get a pre-order slot. A good rule of thumb for an average gamer would be to stick only to special versions of your own favorite games, this makes all the effort, time and resources spent acquiring the game will be well spent.

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3 Common Wii Issues Solved

It is easy to love the Nintendo Wii, it has plenty of great games, has a fun control system and it is a gaming experience that you can easily share with friends and family. This is why when something starts bugging up on the system, people will get worried. To help ease things out, here are a few useful tips to try out before hurriedly bringing your system to the nearest repair center.

Non-Responding WiiMotes

Now here is a common issue. After all, a WiiMote is how you control the console. Without it, playing a game is practically impossible. So what do when things start going south?

First, check the batteries. These controllers use two AA batteries to run, so click on the home button to see if how many of the four lights on the controller light up (more lights mean higher charge). If the controller is not responding, you might want to replace the batteries.

So let us say you have all four lights indicating a full charge but the game is still not responding to your commands. This may be a synchronization issue. Remember that your controller is wireless and that the Wii has to detect it before the two can work together. Simply press the red sync button near the SD card slot on your console to help your system find the controller.

Inaccurate Aiming

More often than not, games will require you to make use of the infrared sensor to aim at the screen and navigate menus, shoot guns and simply move things around. There are occasions when this starts acting abnormally.

One of the first things you should do is to confirm the set up of the sensor bar. From you Wii’s system menu, you can set the configuration of the sensor to assume that it is located on top or the bottom of your TV screen.

Another factor to consider is if there are lights in front of the TV and lights behind you. The sensor bar may accidentally pick up IR feedback from lights and other devices behind you. Be sure to look around your playing area to see if there might be items that are interfering with your system’s performance.

Lastly, check the overall lighting. In some cases, the light in the room may be too strong and is interrupting the feed between the controller and the sensor. You may choose to turn off the lights or diffuse it a little to allow for a better level of communication between the WiiMote and the sensor bar.

Unable to Back Up Save Files

This is not really a hardware issue, but more of an incompatibility problem. According to Nintendo, the Wii supports only certain SD cards. This can be a little annoying if the SD card you currently have is incompatible with the console, but sadly, the only way to remedy this issue is to purchase a brand new card. Nintendo lists SanDisk and BD&A as officially compatible, but users are also recommended to update to version 4.00 or higher of the system firmware to further improve compatibility.

So there you have it, three of the simplest quick-fixes for three of the main issues that Wii owners tend to run into. However, if your Wii console is still suffering from issues, it is advisable that you take it to the nearest authorized Nintendo service center for a quick check.

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