Review: Rev-O-Mate

When I purchased the Huion tablet for digital drawing and painting last year, an uncomfortable reality did set in; my large keyboard was more or less unusable due to the position of the tablet itself in front of it. Sure, I rearranged by table few times over to find new ways to access the keys, but ultimately the size of things simply didn’t allow much leeway, especially due to the screen size of the tablet itself. Hence, I had a need for something I could use as a helping device whenever I would draw, which I haven’t had much time for due to my dayjob. Learning something like this from scratch while having a lifetime of ways mixing with everything is hard to say the least.

Bit Trade One’s Rev-O-Mate’s Kickstarter thus came out at a good time. The device had the things I personally was looking for. Certainly a number of game keypads would’ve been an option, though everything about them seemed off. Extremely high price at points, unnecessary design elements everywhere, large size and lacking software at times, I was more than hesitant on purchasing one. Rev-O-Mate seemed to be all that I was looking for, a small device with complete freedom to customise its buttons to my heart’s content. All things considered, its simplicity should be enough to meet expectations. I ended up backing the base version with none of the bells or whistles added.

A small device that fits your palm, around 64mm in base diameter and 41mm height, or 2 33/64 inch w and 1 39/64 inch h. The weight is pretty spot on at 180g, when you take into consideration the extra 20-30g the cord pulls

First things first, the design and construction. It’s what you’d expect from a tightly constructed piece, with one exception; the wheel. While all the buttons feel extremely sturdy with their one-click nature, the large wheel on the top has designed looseness to it. It wobbles back and forth a bit. Most wheels of its nature have this wobble, but it does feel slightly cheap at first. When in proper use, its goes unnoticed, but its still there.

The wheel surface itself is machined, with the swirls on top and on the side. This gives it a nice texture, though the edges of the chamfer could have used ever so slight rounding, but this would have extended the machining cost unnecessarily. The base has a kind of spattered texture on it, giving it a distinct touch from the wheel. The base has a translucent bottom to allow lights shine on the sides, while having a cut spot for a good grip base. Just remember to take the plastic film off first. This surface will keep Rev-O-Mate decently positioned, unless the bottom is unclean or you exert further force on it.

The camera picks the light in a very different way from actuality

The cord gets a special mention for using being braided and being rather sturdy, it is something that companies usually save money in, but Rev-O-Mate’s cord is better than the standard.

There are ten buttons around the wheel, all which need to be customised before the device does anything. With three different sets of profiles, this brings the total number of buttons on the device to 33. The wheel itself is a button as well, which probably contributes to the whole wobbling bit. If we dedicate one button from profile change in each profile, that gives us thirty buttons for quick access, which is quite a lot. Each button have a damn fine tactile feeling to them, and the wheel’s button has a very satisfactory ‘thump’ to it.

The round nature of the device has a surprising benefit. It can essentially function in any position, the cord being the only obstacle. Whether or not by design or chance, its revolving nature allows the user to find the most suitable angle for the buttons for themselves, something game keypads don’t really allow. The buttons themselves are hard plastic, something that some may find slightly uncomfortable, especially with the two marked buttons. However, this is a better solution than rubber buttons on the long run, as they’re now sturdy and can take some beating.

I’ve dedicated the wheel button for profile change in each profile iteration

I always dread setting up these things, because I have no idea what I have need for, thus I end up setting buttons as I go along. These, however, are the initial buttons I set up from the very beginning. Each button, and the wheel itself, can be changed to whatever function.

As you can see, there are currently preset functions for the three most popular programs for illustrators and digital painters, or fuckups like me

This how the binding window currently looks like from presets. Bit Trade One is working on updating the software and firmware, and have rolled new versions already. Just make sure you’re using USB 2.0 or USB 1.1. Type A to connect, as it doesn’t seem to like USB 3.0 connection. Of course, creating a macro for your use has a separate selection.

As you can see, I currently lack any macros. If we were to make a macro of CTRL+Z, the recording would appear as such.

 

Seeing how the program records even the time span an input was held is unexpected but wholly welcome. This is as powerful macro creation tool as you’d expect and works with games as well.

The lights themselves can be customised from the top row with RGB values, giving them whatever colour you wish for. The teal I have there comes out as rather cold blue, as you can see. The lights change as they are being customised though, so you get an immediate response. You can also determine how long they’re lit up and at what point, or completely turn them off. There are three levels or brightness to choose from, and the images you see here are for the the medium, standard brightness.

 

The LEDs used run on unknown frequency, which you notice when you move the device around and observe the base. This frequency does not sync up with a camera at normal 23 to 30 FPS, making it look like the the base is on fire or trying to launch itself.

You can also have fun with an additional source of LED lights and cause further flicker

While I’m not very keen on unboxing, the box really came just with the device and few slips. Not even a preliminary version of the software on disc. Everything had to be downloaded from their website. While a solid cost cutting measure for sure, this does make the package overall feel a bit cheap. Maybe the retailer version will have an updated software bundled with it. The manual itself is very short, which is understandable as there isn’t much to talk about the device itself. The lack of different keyboard support is expected, though unfortunate. Most of the world will do just fine by having the US keyboard set up, though French AZERTY users probably will find it a nuisance.

The back of the box has some slight Engrish on it

All in all, Rev-O-Mate is what perfect in what its set up to be; a rotary device with macro buttons. I’ve also used it as a paddle controller with few Breakout clones, and it does its job in this part decently as well.

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Review of the Month: Retro Fighters’ Brawler 64 controller

The stock three-pronged Nintendo 64 controller is a peculiarity, to say the least. Whatever Nintendo’s approach was with it, be it designed solely to play Super Mario 64 or just try to separate itself from the rest of the controller crowd, it has ended up as rather infamous. To cut to the chase, it’s not very good as a general controller, and its shape doesn’t exactly fit the hand as intended.

Enter Retro Fighters’ Brawler 64 controller, which was Kickstarted a while back, to which I threw some money at just for this review. Intended to be competent, modern replacement for the stock N64 controller, the Brawl 64 opts for the now-standard pad design and placements, while also carrying the action button setup from the stock N64 controller. There is a follow-up campaign coming up with updated firmware and hardware for translucent shells

Probably needless to say that the controller was tested on real hardware

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Review of the Month; Pioneer LD-V4300D

A new Laserdisc player review nowadays is a bit of a rarity nowadays, but so are the people reading the reviews. For the interested, here’s a low-end user’s review of Pioneer’s LD-V4300D industrial Laserdisc player.

LD-V4300D, an industrial level Laserdisc player from UK working in the Nordics

Compared to the CLD-S315 I reviewed few years ago, this time I have a frame of reference of function and quality. Let’s start with the exterior, which is pretty much what you get here; a natural white box, weighing just below 13kg. There’s not much to see outside the front and the back. I don’t have a reason to open this one up at this point, but whenever I clean in from the inside sometime next year, I’ll be sure to grab some picture to update this post with.

But first, the LD-V4300D is an industrial player. It lacks the usual bells and whistles a consumer level players would have, like a front panel for information, CD-player function and such. However, the information from the panel can be accessed via the screen itself, to an extent, and everything with a disc drive can play CDs, this isn’t exactly a huge hurdle to get over. What its nature does affect is the design, which is hefty use of no nonsense decisions. It’s built like a steel house and made to last, its looks be damned. However, it does have its charm, and the control panel being slanted slightly upwards from the rest of the face does give it a feeling that everything was designed with a purpose over looks. It’s also rather large, hitting dimensions of 420 x 125 x 433mm, which means it has more depth that most players of its size.

For some of the important info bits out of the way; LD-V4300D plays both NTSC and PAL discs, and does not have a AC-3 output. However, if you can find yourself Pioneer DA-1 and connect it to the EFM port in the back, and you have yourself digital sound.The PAL and NTSC outputs are required to set from a separate selector as the player outputs pure signal rather than converting NTSC signal to PAL. The player also uses CX system, which is automated like always. Due to its nature as an industrial player, it plays both old LaserVision and newer LaserDisc discs.

Furthermore, the machine has a linear motor, meaning that unlike most models, this player is not belt driven. It does not flip sides, but that means there’s less parts to break. Whether or not this contributes to the player’s fast access speed to disc’s chapters, with CAV discs supposedly having one second search for any frame at 50 frame distance back or forth, and CLV maxing out at six seconds.

The buttons have a very satisfactory feeling, even after nearly thirty years of its production

The most important controls of the player are clustered to its one side. Open/Close, Play, the usual. Still/Step is frame perfect step back or forth with CAV discs, which Scan essentially being Chapter Skip. Display showcases info on the screen. PAL/NTSC button selects the region of the disc inside, which is indicated on the top with the lights, next to the remote sensor window. The Power button is a bit cumbersome to access, as it sits underneath the slant and needs to be pressed a bit deeper than you’d expect, but it does have a very, very satisfying physical switch feeling to it. Power indicator is on the other side of the player, seen in the larger front picture.

The Laser Barcode terminal just below the classy LaserDisc logo is a normal stereo mini jack, and could use either RU-103 remote or UC-V104BC barcode readers. The barcode readers could be used to skip directly to necessary bits on a disc during company presentation or education situation. In home use, it’s largely unnecessary dust hole that you can plug with a proper dust cover.

Heavy duty indeed

The back has the more interesting bits, to be honest. A hooded external power cord is required to power up this beast, and the player allows around 10% throw of current to either direction. The Voltage selector is a necessary thing, considering this piece was released for European market. Next to the power on the right we have C. Sync, with  75 ohm switch. This is useful if you need to use an external sync, but somehow I doubt most home users need that. It’s a V&H Lock anyway for CAV discs. Probably worthwhile in a studio environment, but no studio uses LD players anymore for anything.

But here’s we get video and sound. The V4300D offers three options to use; BNC, RC or D-SUB9 RGB. RC is the worst option of these, whereas BNC offers a high consumer level image similar to EuroSCART, with a better quality, from what I’ve seen. The RGB of course would yield the best possible quality, though I’ve been hard pressed to find a proper cable to test this out. Apparently, the RGB decoder this machine has is the same Sony V7021 that Commodore Amiga had, which gets an approval in my books. Currently, I’m running this on a BNC-to-SCART adapter cable, with two leads going to Left and Right audio at the other side of the machine.

The lack of AC-3 support is regrettable, but that’s what high-end consumer devices are for. However, as mentioned, the EFM socket there, with DIN connector, can output digital audio via aforementioned decoder. The sound quality is what you’d expect from stereo RC-jacks; they do their job. Could be better, but so could many other things in life.  The positive thing is that you can find anything that accepts these.

As for the RS-232C serial port, it’s best used with connecting to a computer terminal or if the player is used to play Laserdisc games like TimeGal or Dragon’s Lair. Apparently, with a proper ROM card like LaserAce you could switch the player into a dedicated game machine. Seeing Dragon’s Lair and its siblings have seen re-releases on PC, DVD players and God knows what else, there’s little reason to do this outside authenticity. I’d prefer TimeGal anyway. This is a considerable bonus, if you’re into LD games. The aforementioned RS232 interface, C. Sync and the EFM socket together could be used to make this player a proper LaserDisc game machine, but you’d need something like DA-V1000 LV-ROM adaptor in the middle.

A massive brick of a remote

The remote for the LD-V4300D isn’t the usual deal either. First, it didn’t come with the remote as a standard, you’ll need to buy it separate. Second, it feel very cheap and is lighter than it seems. The keys are membrane keys, but are clicky. Not the best feeling combination, or the most tactile, but it serves its purpose of keeping splatter and dust on the outside in industrial environment. The top has its usual IR window, but there’s another audio mini jack there, which you could connect to the player’s jack if you don’t have two AA batteries at hand. Some reports have mentioned that you can use other Pioneer LD remotes with the player, but CLD-S315 remote didn’t. The remote above isn’t the same as listed in the guides either, being model CU-113A, but appears to be the exact same as in the User’s Manual.

If you’re more interested in the technical aspects of the image quality, I’d recommend checking out Not On Blu-Ray’s more testific review. While it gives the player 3/5 result, for a general enthusiast who barely has access to LaserDiscs overall the LD-V4300D is a competent player. The lack of certain things, like a straight up SCART port, the image and sound quality are good. I’ve noticed that due to the better signal quality the image quality is better than with CLD-S135. The improvement isn’t world breaking, but notable.

This isn’t perhaps the best choice for anyone to pick up as a main LD player. However, it works great as a stopgag player if you can’t find a better one and simply need/want one. It’s more specialised ports and moddability (is that even a word?) does give it an edge to Dragon’s Lair and LD game enthusiasts overall. The player’s runs with a low noise as well. When starting to play, it has few good audible clicks, which all honesty are pretty satisfying. You don’t hear such things nowadays anymore.

In conclusion, a solid unit, but as a specialised player NTSC users may want to look for something better. As a PAL/NTSC combo, it’s probably one one of the better units out there with a relatively low price.

Review of the Month; original Xbox Controller

The original Xbox controller is infamous for being on the large side. It was originally named the Fatty or Fatso, it later got nicknamed more favourably as The Duke. I had my chance to test it when Xbox originally came out, but never after that. The Xbox Controller S, nicknamed as Akebono, was designed for the Japanese iteration of the console and later was adopted worldwide as the new standard, for few damn good reasons. That said, this review is written from standard sized hand perspective.

Well shit, there goes the center symbol

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Review of the Month; Mayflash GameCube controller adapter

Mayflash is a Chinese producer of console and PC gaming goods. For at least decade and a half they’ve been producing adapters and dance mats, as well as the odd dongle for your WiFi needs. They have offered alternatives to officially licensed product pretty much all of their existence, and it’s not rare for them to offer adapters that would otherwise be too obscure for any other company to produce. It would seem that their philosophy has always been It has to work and be cheap, design be damned. I can’t really fault this philosophy, even if a designer’s heart bleeds because of it.

If you want to cut the chase with the review, I can condense it in one sentence; it looks cheap, but the insides are good quality and it works. However, if you want something more, let’s look at what’s on the outside first.

The dimensions of the box itself is 128 x 71 x 23 mm, with a . It is, all things considered, surprisingly small. However, it is also very light and prone slide every which way. All this makes a very portable piece of equipment, but it does feel a bit cheap due to this. The plastic used is rather standard and its matte finish makes it feel a pretty standard piece of tech. Despite this, due to the text and lightness the adapter does feel rather cheap. The lack of any sort of striking design, or moving the text to the bottom and leaving the top completely vacant, does add to the cheapness factor.

The controller ports have been marked with with dots, like in GameCube itself. However, they’re a bit too small to see, and you can see my haphazard attempt at painting them in the middle of the night didn’t exactly product the results. It would’ve been preferable to have the slots marked with paint, or have concave dots made on the plastic that the user could have painted himself. I can’t really say they do their job well enough, they’re just there. Better than nothing, but again Mayflash’s idea of skimping on the surface raises its head.

As said, the adapter slides on surfaces, but I’ve added few rubber pads to make it sit in place. Surprisingly, this little addition makes it feel a bit more quality product, but in the end is a useless addition. The box itself is held together with Phillips head screws, which is great. Not only it probably cut some costs off, but also allows the consumer to open it up, fix if anything’s broken or otherwise has a need for modifications or such. I’m somewhat surprised that Mayflash didn’t opt to use their logo on the top of the adapter, as their logo would’ve made a nice looking splash. However, I recognize that having nearly brandless piece of tech opens much easier avenues of surface modifications, some of which I’ll probably take advantage at a later date. Case modding is fun, after all.

While the controller ports themselves are the same as in the original GameCube, the inside that does the job is what matters more. I must say, this isn’t what I expected. While some bits here and there seem like they could’ve seen just a tad better soldering, all the components are of good quality and the tracing is nothing to scoff at. Compared to what sort of botch-job 8bit Music Power offered, this looks nothing short of great. It may not be as sturdy as Hori’s Famicom Mini Commander, but having a modern electronic device build as sturdily as they were in the 80’s is rather rare. This is really where Mayflash’s competence has come through most often. While the cases are pretty terrible, and I’ve had few of them just come apart due to shoddy design, the PCBs and function of the devices have always been between decent and top-notch.

The use for the adapter is, of course, emulation. Very few player would prefer using a GameCube controller elsewhere. Dolphin, currently the choice for GameCube and Wii emulation, offer native support to GameCube adapters and Mayflash is one of the best, if not the best, alternative option to the official Nintendo adapter. Hell, I’ll go for broke and recommend it over the official adapter anyway just because Mayflash’s adapter’s price is half of Nintendo’s and readily available from your local Internet seller. It also does allow change between Wii U and PC mode, which helps quite a lot of you’re aiming to use GameCube controllers for other games. I wouldn’t blame you, the controller is still pretty comfortable all things considered.

Of course, it functions just fine with Wii U, there are no problems here.

Just to reiterate, the box itself, and its terrible packaging design, are nothing to look at. However, what’s inside the box and how it functions is terrific. Just remember to go to Mayflash’s own site and download the latest drives, as Mayflash is a manufacturer that aim to tweak their stuff from time to time.

Review of the Month: Dariusburst Chronicle Saviours Limited Edition/s

I was to review Huion GT-220 Ver.2 this month, but I realised that I’d need a lot more time with it before saying anything solid about it. Next month then. The second options was to review the tat that came with Dariusburst Chronicle Saviours Limited Edition package. I’m doing it a double though, reviewing both the Japanese Vita release and the PlayStation 4 Limited Run release. Let’s get on with the show then.

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The Japanese Vita release is a big box
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Limited Run’s box is essentially a carbon copy of the Japanese PS4 LE release

I have to start with the covers, because these things are pretty sweet. There are few iconic themes and illustrations with the Dariusburst sub-series, and both boxes do the game justice. Both portray the Legend and Next ship that defined the original Dariusburst with new takes on the classic bosses. It’s also nice to see some bigbox releases this day and age, even when it’s just for limited release products.

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Overall, the layout of the box is pretty good. Darius Odyssey, the book on the information of the whole series with an emphasize on the bosses, lays on top of the game case and music CD. While it would’ve been preferable to have the book behind the game and the disc so that you’d have a faster access to the game case, this is a doable solution.

Darius Odussey is a superb book. If you’re a fan of the franchise and have a preference for books of this nature, finding yourself one would something to consider about. Of course, there is a language barrier to consider about. Even if your linguistic skills aren’t up to the task, the pictures are nice.

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I had to edit my fingers out

The paper used is glossy, as per usual for these releases. This also means the page’s corners are easy to damage, and mine got a bit crunched from the sides during transit, meaning the base packaging itself is insufficient.

The music CD the Vita LE comes with is Original Arrange Soundtrack. It doesn’t contain any original tracks from the game itself, but contains music used for DLC stuff, meaning you’re missing a lot of good Zuntata music. While it can be understood, as the main soundtrack itself is sold separately and Zuntata really makes some decent dough on those, it would have been nice to have some Darius. I’ve got no qualms about having music from Space Harrier and Night Striker, which has a godly track titled Emergency Order, there is something amiss here. It’s nothing notable, but as far as included soundtracks goes, it misses the point a bit.

Overall, the Japanese Vita release was worth the money. Darius Odyssey was the money grabber in this one without a doubt. It makes an interesting conversation piece when your guests realise that all of the bosses have a seafood theme to them, and then you can proceed to wow them with your knowledge on mechanised sushi.

Limited Run’s PlayStation 4 release offers different contents, like the Japanese PS4 release.

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Uh, I’m not sure if they were arranged like this

You don’t see them, but bunch of Dariusburst CS capsule toys were stashed beneath both of these cases. The PS4 case may seem like something it would slide down in a moment, but they’ve managed to play the millimetre game well enough and it keeps the game’s case in place well enough.

There is no book this time around, but the Arrange Album is a new one. Again, we can DLC music from games like Death Smiles and Battle Garegga, of which Battle Garegga has an excellent remix of Into the Leaden Clouds. However, unlike with the Arrange Album in the Vita release, this sequel album has some songs from Darius games. They’ve been heavily arranged and carry individual composer’s tunes instead of relying on Zuntata’s own melodic trademarks. Both Arrange Albums are worth to listen to at least once and pick up your personal favourites from them, but I would recommend against purchasing either Limited Edition solely because of these music albums.

The game case is nothing special, but the main attraction of this piece is the two Silver Hawk capsule toys. Which is kinda backwards, because these two are just packed pieces of Shooting Game Historica toys and carry all the flaws a cheaply manufactured quick-pack toys have.

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The stand’s a huge upgrade from the original Silver Hawk figures from the first Shooting Game Historica

Limited Run’s Limited Edition came with Player 1 and 2 colours while the Japanese PS4 Limited Edition came with Player 3 and 4 colours. Whether or not they had a rerun or this release was provided from an excess stock is unknown, but ultimately this doesn’t matter. While I’m sure most people want the Red and Blue Silver Hawks, the P3 and P4 colours are now the rarer ones.

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Wings and cockpit were delivered in separate bags, as per capsule toys standards

The overall mould is good, but like with all toys like these, the tolerances are rather big. There are numerous spots where the pieces don’t align straight with each other without the use of glue, which I would recommend anyway.

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Because the tolerances are so high, the cockpit doesn’t sit in. You can see how it is turning to the right to the extent of the back right bit resting against the top. The turret on the left is also bending outwards due to cheap plastic used, though this is not a rare things with capsule toys. The cheapness also shows in the paintjob.

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Not the worst, not the best, but quality that doesn’t belong to a Limited Edition title

The cockpit is moulded in transparent blue plastic and then painted over with silver and red, or blue in the case of P2 colours. Due to the tolerances, the paint application is sloppy and the cockpit’s windscreen doesn’t come through as well as it should. It looks pretty terrible, and it would’ve been better if the windscreen was painted.

To be completely serious, the figures are a major letdown. Of course they wouldn’t make a new mould for this when you could cheap your ass out with this, but seeing the Japanese release did the same, it’s not exactly Limited Run’s fault. However, I would argue that Degica should’ve trumped the Japanese release and should have opted for the model kit of Silver Hawk. It might’ve had raised the price a bit, but it would’ve crowned the release. Now it’s just a drag.

Between the two releases, the Vita release gets a stamp of recommendation simply based on the book. However, it should be noted that PS4 version does have the book included as an extra on-disc that you can access in-game, but the most baffling part of this that the book’s completely untranslated. This is a significant miss on Degica’s part. The staff handling this project should have realised that they’d need to put the effort to translate it, though Degica and translations don’t really meet half-way through, it would seem.

However, if the book doesn’t look like your thing, then you’d better off with the standard release from Japan, or one of the digital options. It’ll be cheaper, and you won’t have a huge box taking your shelf space.

Or pick up Odin Sphere Leifthrasir ‘s limited edition for fifty quid on Amazon UK if you want a good limited release package.

Review of the Month; 8bit Music Power Final

This one has been in the making for some time, mostly thanks to Amazon Japan never shipping my piece. I had to resort to proxy services to get a new copy and the sound jack expansion elsewhere. Rather than keep bitching, let’s jump to the review right away and start with the usual stuff on what’s on the outside.

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World needs more pastel blues

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