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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Review of the Month; Hori Mini Commander for Famicom

Hori’s been a long time on the third-party controller market. Usually they are of pretty high quality, offering relatively cheap price for a solid, no-nonsense controller that serves just fine. I’ve covered quite a few Hori product on this blog, and I have to say that I do have a slight personal bias for their products due to my good experiences with them. Hell, I still use my Rockman.EXE GBA softcase that was designed for the Game Boy Advance, because it’s so well made. Currently it houses my European 3DS.

This time we’re going back to one of Hori’s earlier third-party controllers, the Famicom Mini Commander. It seems like Hori has been doing smaller alternatives since the start. This controller also seems to be relatively obscure, and is the miniature version of the more well-known Hori Famicom Commander. For a more comprehensive review, we’re also going to open the controller to see what it has eaten.

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I’m also using large file size with these photos, because I’m sick and tired of gnat-shit size pictures that are all around the net. Notice how neat Hori’s old logo is. More after the jump

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Review of the Month; Battle Mania Chinese reproduction

What is a man to do if you want physical copies of games, but games are incredibly, stupidly high in price? Find cheaper alternatives or better deals. One consists of digital copies and reproductions, whereas the other takes time and impeccable timing when it comes to auctions and spotting those deals. Sometimes, reproductions can be a way to go, especially for titles that have no physical release or homebrew. Or when you can get one for a laughable price compared to what the real deal goes for.

During one of mid-night browsing sessions on eBay I noticed that a Chinese seller had Battle Mania in “perfect” condition for some 20€. Fully knowing that it would be a Chinese reproduction I decided to give it a go. While we could raise a discussion whether or not reproduction carts of twenty years old games that are not available anywhere any more counts as piracy, I’ll just slide the question aside for now and mention I already got the US version of the game.

So, does the item do any justice to the real deal? The comparison point I’ll be using is any other Japanese release of Mega Drive games I’ve got, mainly the excellent Devil Crash MD and an interesting SF Golf RPG game Battle Golfer Yui. Let’s get on with the show!

Honestly, I love this cover. It’s a good example of how games used to have low-level work done on them, yet came out great. The use of genre markers on the lower left should’ve crossed the pond, so people would not have invented multiple bullshit genres

The first thing we see here is that the case doesn’t really follow the Japanese style box because it has the rack hanger on the top. Second is that the plastic used on the box is cheap, as expected, but it could be much worse. It’s shiny, sturdy, but also very prone to warping under slig

ht heat. My copy has bulked out a bit, probably during injection phase. While it locks close just fine, it does look a bit strange on the shelf. The wrap is also extremely glossy and lacks the texturing a real Mega Drive case would have. The glossiness throws glares a bit too much and does feel cheaper. However it’s not exactly terrible, just cheap.

The back shows the bulking much better

The cover slip is very thin, good quality paper. It’s a good substitute to the one used on actual Mega Drive games, but the print quality doesn’t stand up to the task. This is understandable, as in order to have these prints, the seller must’ve first scanned the original piece. The only place you can see scan generation deterioration is on the text. The text is slightly blurry and soft, mostly because necessarily sharpening was not applied, thou in cases like this I would’ve re-typed the text in order to ensure that it would come out in better quality. The first impressions on the case is overall good for a Chinese reproduction.

The cartridge, however, is pretty terrible.

The cartridge opens up extremely easily, and even the slightest tug cracked the casing. I didn’t really care about the review at this point, and switches the casing with Art Alive‘s

This sort of generic cheap plastic is common with cheap productions. I shouldn’t have been surprised to see it used, but here we are. The plastic itself has a slight hue of grey to it and the parts don’t fit exactly perfectly to each other. Again, this is due to the material being that much cheaper and living during and after injection moulding. The label on the back you see there had to be peeled off through heat treating and suffers from the same scan degradation as the slip. This is disappointing overall. The cartridge really should’ve been the place where the effort should’ve been put into.

The scan degradation is most apparent on the cover label. While it looks decent on the first sight, the label is tacky and of low quality. The paper used here is thick and glossy photopaper, which doesn’t want to bend right and has really low quality scan on it. The real Mega Drive cartridges have very thin matte label on them with very high print quality on them (most of the time) and this comes off as a terribly lazy way to waste this kind of paper. It doesn’t help that the label’s too damn long.

That’s no good

So, the label was so long that it went far over the usual region where Mega Drive labels reside. Seeing Mega Drive games mostly used a standardised cartridge, this is a weird fault I can’t fathom. I had to cut out the extension out, and you can see both of the labels slowly peeling off. The thing with Mega Drive carts is that they have screw under that back label, and to open a cart you either have to peel off the label or cut holes.

The show doesn’t stop here, a complete package should come with a manual.

Oh for fuck’s sake

This is pretty damn terrible. Both print and scan qualities are low and the paper used is the same glossy photopaper as the label. It doesn’t sit well in the case and the ink hasn’t set on the surface. You can see scuff marks on the bottom, where the case’s tabs took ink out. The manual is overall terrible and not worth the paper its printed on, so I won’t be taking it out for any sort of photos. The contents are there, just in a very low quality.

So, if you took the cartridge apart, what’s in the inside? Good question.

Guess which one is which

A reproduction on a chip and it runs about the same as the real thing. It looks very cost-effective build. It has no weight to it and while it looks cheap, it… it really is. However, this is what I discussed previously about reproductions. It’s much cheaper to put a ROM on a chip rather than replicate the original pieces. Saves time, money and space. Of course, in order for the contacts to have something to stand on, you need to have something to it. This Chinese reproduction opted for a very interesting but sturdy plastic to add area to the PCB. It doesn’t exactly fit into a proper Mega Drive cart, but with some creative knife use it fits in just fine. Interestingly, the chip is so low that it interfered with the real cartridge and a slot had to be cut for it. However, the game sits well in a real console, regardless the cartridge its in.

The reproduction plays Battle Mania just as you’d expect. Outside the casing the ROM sits in, during gameplay there’s nothing that would make it stand out from the real thing. While that’s great, the fact that the thing its wrapped in is bit of a letdown does make me question whether or not I wasted 20€ for a review. It does look decent when it’s sitting on the shelf, and after changing to a proper cartridge it doesn’t feel as cheap. In the end, that’s what you get. The price does seem on the point in the end. With a tenner more the quality could be upped considerably, both in print and plastic, but more work should be on the computer to ensure the scans and their prints would stand up to much more intricate tests.