Review; Switch Joycons

Two reviews, in the same month? That’s what I call Lack of proper topics but mainly because the Joycons themselves are rather interesting piece of hardware once you get around how they’re spun around.

 

Why grey? Because I intend to change the shells on the controllers and the grey one cost me twenty eurobucks less

The JoyCons are essentially Wiimote 2.0. When attached to the main unit/screen, it becomes the second most unwieldiest portable console after the Lynx. It’s general shapes follows Sony’s handhelds and the Wii U pad quote closely, but at this points its more a necessity of ergonomics than lack of ideas. After all, pretty much all controllers follow the same core design nowadays rather than having widely different takes.

Of course, the main gimmick the JoyCons have is the ability to detached them and use them in tandem or individually. This is very neat, but at the same time these controllers are small by necessity. While slightly wider than the Hori Commander Mini I reviewed on the Famicom, everything else is in smaller scale. When used as single controller, you have access to the stick, four face buttons, two “shoulder” buttons L and LZ, and “top” buttons SL and SR. You can see these on the railing. Depending on the controller, you have Home or Capture button, and Plus and Minus (essentially glorified Start buttons.) The button that exist as shoulder buttons when JoyCons are attached to the main unit or grip rest awkwardly near your palm. The ergonomics are also lacking, but that comes with the size.

The most important part with the shoulder button there is that there is no sharp corners or danger for you finger to be pressed between the shell and the button. This is done by giving the button very short travel. Also, notice how the release button is tucked away into a corner

The sticks aren’t exactly the best, and it could use some some of the clickiness NeoGeo Pocket has. They lack any sort of tactile feel, despite the cutouts on the rubber. You simply don’t feel it. It has very short travel distance, which means control with tension becomes a must with certain games that require extensive stick control.

As the controllers have to work both as single entities and in tandem, the placement for the action buttons are sacrificed. They’re very much in the middle of the controller, which works when in tandem, but in single mode they’re just too far from the left edge, though larger hands could probably find this comfortable distance. This is also the reason why there’s no D-Pad on the Switch; everything has to do dual task, and these facebuttons, that use N64 controller’s C-Stick directions, work as D-Pad when used in tandem. It’s awkward and lacks the same smooth use as with normal D-Pad, and sadly its serviceable by a hair. Their dimensions and placement has been worked to its optimum. The buttons themselves are of better Nintendo standard, where the travel is pretty spot on, perfectly raised above the level and have nice tactile feedback.

It must be said that accessing the SL and SR buttons are surprisingly accessible, as index fingers seem to naturally hit their place. On themselves, they’re a bit too flat to use properly, but that’s why Nintendo gave us the wrist attachment people seem to put the wrong way constantly.

Plus and Minus are tucked away in the corner nicely so you don’t hit them, but whatever mode of control you use, they’re awkward to use. Think of Xbox’s Duke’s black and white buttons and you get somewhat similar idea.

 The wrist attachment slide the opposite way you slide the controller into the main unit, corner symbol meeting corner symbol. This adds some heft to a JoyCon and makes it somewhat nicer to hold in your hands, but its main use really is to make the SR and SL buttons more accessible with the larger pass-through buttons.

While you can use JoyCons in tandem separately like with the WiiMote and its nunchuck, Nintendo shipped the console with the grip attachment. It’s not exactly the best however. It’s like they wanted everything to stay straight and have the JoyCons sit like they sit on the main unit. This means whenever you use this, accessing the left face buttons for D-Pad use and the right stick requires either over-extending your thumb downwards or move the whole whole on the handles. Supposedly, the prototype was in an angle to give it more ergonomic shape, but for whatever reason this was dropped. There are many custom attachments on eBay that fix this and make this the most viable option to use the JoyCons in tandem. It would seem that the JoyCons will see rather large amount of optional accessories and attachments down the line. Here’s hoping Hori will do some good ones in the future, like the upcoming D-Padded JoyCon.

So, bottom line? The JoyCons are not the best controllers out there. The whole thing of them working as a single unit or in tandem forces just enough compromises to make all of them feel somewhat awkward. As usual, once you get used to them, muscle memory handles moving your hand up and down as needed. If there had been some concessions for functionality over visual design, these would have been winners as first hybrid console controllers. As they are now, JoyCons do their job, but the alternatives are probably better.

I must admit that the JoyCons have one thing over all other controllers; Switch has the most satisfying feel of clicks and clacks whenever you are attaching them to anything.

Review: Muv-Luv Kickstarter goods

The approach to this review will not be anything different from any other review I’ve done thus far. No special treatment, no kids gloves on; I will approach this as any product reviewed in this blog thus far. It’s only fair towards you, the readers, and the staff behind the Kickstarter. However, I won’t be reviewing all the KS goods. I’ll be concentrating on the main dish most people probably got through their backing; the Kickstarter physical package, the Codex and the Destroyer Class plush. This will strictly discuss the items themselves, not their translation or such.

Let’s start with the physical package.

This is also the image that was used on Alternative‘s original DVD release. It’s honestly the perfect choice for this

At first appearance, the package seems pretty on-par. Despite using thin cardboard, the appearance isn’t half bad. The decision to put the description and all copyright information to the bottom is an interesting take, as now its reversible to every other direction. This breaks how commercial boxes are designed, which some perfectionists might find jarring, as now the box doesn’t flow well with other software boxes.

However, visuals aren’t all. While the box still feel sturdy in hand, the contents inside are loose. The image above is just before I opened the box, and I could hear and feel the items inside rattling back and forth. This isn’t great to any extent. A box like this should have necessary support inside to keep items in their proper places during transit, as now no matter what sort of stuffing is used around it the items can be damaged. So, let’s open this one up and see what’s inside.

You could fit another booklet in there or something

This is exactly what I didn’t want to see; items rattling around in an oversized box. Because the box is made thinner cardboard, the same some DVDs have around them, it loses most of its structural integrity when opened. I can feel the CDs being lose inside their jewel case, let’s open that one up to see if they’re damaged. The case’s cover is nice choice though, but the back cover should have been revised. Maybe drop the song titles here completely and have them inside in an insert.

Oh. Ooooooohhh…

Luckily, only one of the CDs were loose, but the discs’ printing is not up to quality. While the chosen images are good in themselves, for whatever reason the images are lower resolution than the text, which itself is sharp. The typeface and font chosen for the CDs ends making these look like something printed at home. Furthermore, these discs should have been labelled as numbers, e.g. Muv-Luv Alternative Original Soundtrack Disc 1, not Volume 1. The fact that OST is used on the discs like this, and the fact that there is no kind of information who composed the songs, makes all this feel like a homebrew compilation.

As for the games themselves, the front covers are what you’d expect and look good. Nothing to say about these, but the back covers are another thing. There’s too much text on them. Even when these VNs are long, the descriptions should have been cut in half and with heavier emphasize on images. To use Sweet Home as an example, the flavour text is two whole sentences, being straight to the point. The word homebrew creeps back to my head with this, as things like Minimum Requirements should be on the box. Actually, they’re not seen anywhere on the packaging.

The discs however are rather standard, overall speaking. There’s nothing to mention about them, though I would’ve expected more legal text on all of these. Perhaps printing a monochrome image on the disc similar to âge’s Japanese releases should have been brought on to the table, as its much easier to make them look sharp rather than what might end up looking like a sticker on a disc.

I must mention that the disc I have for Muv-Luv seems to have been damaged somewhere along the way, as it has a strange arc on the underside. Despite this, the disc seems to be readable. There’s also a weird discoloration, as if something had spilled all over it inside. This might be a quality control issue, and I’ll be sure testing this disc further down the line.

The darker wavy line is easy to spot, the lighter arc near not so much., I have no idea what they are and I am slightly worried

The shikishi, a drawn image signed by the author, that came with the box is pretty great. Sumika doing a Drill Milky Punch is nice, even when it’s just a print and not a real thing in itself. The artbook uses similar typeface and font as the CDs, and doesn’t exactly look the greatest. Everything’s printed on a thin, glossy paper that in itself isn’t terrible, but the cover should have been heavier duty. The feeling the book gives is flimsy, plus it creases extremely easily. Corners will get damaged fast in normal use with this paper too. Because of the thinness, the pages are slightly transparent and the images on the other side bleed through. The images and character descriptions are on-point, though the complete lack of illustrator credits anywhere in the codex is a bit disheartening. Seeing the second and last to last pages under the covers are completely blank, these would have been great places to put them on.

Here’s how I solved the rattling the contents: I added two pieces of cardboard on both sides, and a support structure to keep the CD jewel case in place. To be completely honest, the outer box does feel like something you should throw away, as the package overall lacks any sort of premium feel to it. The added cardboard makes it feel more rigid and gives some extra heft. There shouldn’t be any reason for me to do this addition, but as things stand now, I had to. For comparison, here’s how Senran Kagura Burst Re:Newal laid its contents. Notice the use of sturdier cardboard, how the items are laid and fit perfectly, and the use of supportive thinner cardboard at the bottom of the PS4 case.

 

Well, let’s move unto the second big thing, the long-time Holy Grail of Muv-Luv Alternative source of information translated and recompiled with Lunatic Dawn content; The Codex.

Like some majestic predatory bird

The first impression of the book is nothing short of impressive. I didn’t expect hardcover version of the book, especially considering the number of pages, but first looks can be deceiving. When you stop and look at the cover, it’s not pretty.

On the right, you see the scanned cover of the Muv-Luv Alternative CODEX. On its left you have the same illustration, scanned from Muv-Luv Alternative Integral Works. I recommend opening them in Full View to fully see how badly the covers have been fucked up. Either someone forgot to pit High Resolution mode on in In-Design, or something seriously went awry during data process. Both covers have been printed in low resolution, while the cover text nice and crisp. While a book shouldn’t be judged by its covers, this piece can never be called high quality or premier product. A way to remedy this situation would be to create a dust jacket for the book with high resolution print on the cover.

However, the meat of the piece is on the pages. With some few hours looking through, there appears to be no real concern how accurately things have transferred during translation. There are also welcome changes, like changing Melee Halberds into Close Quarters Combat Melee Blade. While a mouthful, melee blade in itself is more than enough. Back in 2016 I wrote a post concerning the topic, which was comped with a review of TSF’s close combat weapons. I strongly recommend you to read them both if you haven’t. There is one fib that has leaked through, where BWS-8 Flugelberte is described to resemble a halberd, when in reality it resembles an axe. Or a bardiche.

The information itself is great stuff, but it shows that this is a book that’s glued together from multiple sources. The Lunatic Dawn content that’s in the latter part of the book is just bolted on, rather than taken and included into the book proper. The word on the street originally was that the book would need to be completely revised, but in the end it follows Integral Works‘ looks and design with the occasional change in order accommodate English.

Good ol’ Gekishit. Isn’t ‘Play Back’ one word though?

The paper used is similar glossy paper that’s in the artbook. It’s a level heavier, but creases still extremely easily. Despite being heavier and slightly thicker, it still isn’t near heavy matte paper in terms of preventing transparencies, as seen above. Fingerprints will be abound while reading this book. I’m rather surprised that this wasn’t a softcover book similar to Integral Works or Mega Man & Mega Man X Official Complete Works, to which I compared IW to back in the day as well. Codex‘s paper is nowhere as heavy and hefty as the two aforementioned, but the book is third thinner due to the new paper. It doesn’t allow the book to have any air to it either.

Because of the glossy surface and the sheer amount of text, people with poorer eyesight will have headaches while reading this. The typeface selected is just small enough to cause extra strain on the eye. As everything’s also packed very, very tightly in this small size, people who suffer from either vertical or horizontal dispersion in vision, meaning certain letters will lose lines, making reading a chore at best, extremely headache inducing at worst. This is easily alleviated with the use of different typeface or slightly larger font size.

The use of this sort of glossy paper can also be a double-edged sword. While Yakuza 6‘s artbook had the same paper, some copies were completely glued together, some were completely warped and some had ink smudges all over them. The feel of glossy paper works best for single leaflets and photos. When going for a book like this, its still best to consider heavy matter paper first and foremost, as it offers longer life and cuts down possible ink and paper problems down to mere percents.

All in all, the covers are just a damn travesty, sadly. Well, that and one of the pages, p. 353, get repeated on the following opening. While accidents like this sometimes happen, this does sting of lack of quality control.

Lastly, we have the Destroyer Class plushie, one of the things that was suggested very early on due to its role in the fandom. The plushie is based on a very certain background piece in Joshi Eishi Cryska EX.

While the plushie is clearly different from it CG original, this is due to difference in reality and fiction. The overall quality is damn nice, chosen materials feel sturdy enough to give this to a child to play with. Interestingly, the back end has a sack that’s filled with grains rather than fluff the plushie is filled with otherwise.

The grain section is about one-third from the back, starting from the tag on its arse

It’s just a joy to see and have, maybe even the best part of the package in terms of quality. This thing really should see mass production. Clearly, there is a market for BETA plushies.

I’m sure that at this point it’s rather clear what’s the end verdict is. The Kickstarter original products are largely a disappointment in terms of quality. I’m not going to mull over whys or hows, that doesn’t net anything. They are what they are, now’s too late to do anything about it. Other items, like the ones in Yuuko’s Gift bag, have higher quality. Stickers are hard to screw up as are postcards (though mine are rather warped, requiring me to straighten them down.) It must be also mentioned that Valkylies has been corrected into Valkyries with the patches.

Those patches were produced by Cospa, company that produces cosplay goods, including the jackets and shirts that were on the Kickstarter. The pilot jacket may be 100% polyester, but I can’t expect a cosplay clothes company to manufacture clothes like they were actual military wear. The Drill Milky Punch T-shirt is at 100% cotton and I’m wearing it while typing this review. This extends to the dakimakura, which is of standard Japanese productions for items like it, I expected no less.


The experience with the Kickstarter goods, delays and pretty much everything including the end results of the goods probably affected negatively both backers and staff. It would not be surprising if this was the first and last Kickstarter we see, and the rest are done away with less fanfare, which would also mean no physical products would be produced. However, in cases like this, I would always strongly recommend companies and people looking into Limited Run Games, a company that specialises in doing limited physical run on goods. At the time of Muv-Luv‘s Kickstarter, the company wasn’t relevant, but now it has managed to establish itself just fine. For example, they are delivering Shantae: ½ Genie Hero‘s Kickstarter goods. But all this is academic at best. I can only hope that lessons have been learned, but have not allowed to snuff the staff’s spirit.

I’ve got no good end for this review. Shit happens, we will probably never know what, but the end results are in our hands.

 

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.

Review of the Month; Yakuza 6 Whisky Glasses

Yakuza 6 is out and its After Hours Premium Edition came with whisky glasses. The Internet’s full of reviews of the box already and what’s inside, most of which is a disappointment, I tell you. The book was absolutely terrible in quality, bound too early, causing the papers to be wrinkled and even glued together due to wet ink. Not worth your time or money. Unless if you want whisky glasses, maybe.

This review will go through all three aspects of the set; the coasters, the rocks and the glasses.

The coasters are pretty terrible. They may have a cork bottom, but each layer that goes to the top has low-quality adhesive, which means they’ll peel off pretty soon if they’re in-use. It’d be almost better to allow them to peel off, then re-layer them back with some proper adhesive. You get what you see above, which is jack shit. With that done, let’s move unto the rocks.

The rocks are honestly the most interesting bit of this set, mostly because it allows me to go on a tangent a bit later on. Anyway, each facet is 20.25 mm in width and length (that’s 0.797 inches). These are, of course, quick measurements with a caliper, and you’d probably get slightly different results with your pieces due to tolerances.

The set comes with two pieces, one for each glass. The material is black soap stone, meaning the hardness is around Mohs 2  and up. Depending how soapstone is treated, it can go up to 6.5 at best, but without knowing what soapstone this is and from where, it’s impossible to say what’s the exact hardness. Nevertheless, these will scratch rather easy, so treat them right and with a careful touch. Hardness does not equal toughness, which is why we get laughable stuff like Mohs 15 shield in Destroyer Classes in Muv-Luv Alternative, which just means they’re really, really hard to scratch, but that does not mean they’re tough. Generally, the harder something is, the more fragile it is.

Before taking them into use, I’d recommend washing them with a neutral soap and rinsing them in as hot water as possible, then quickly wrap in a towel. Due to amount of talc and the structure of soapstone, the hot water will evaporate due to the stone’s hotness and its own heat, drying the soapstone in a second. Works with any soapstone item out there, give it a go.

Anyway, the stones don’t really work. They’re too small to actually make a proper difference. Soapstone is great at keeping temperature, which is why they generally make good heat or cold plates. They do keep chilled whisky chilled slightly longer than usual, but against room temperature whisky the stones do jack shit. Waste of stone. Even the sandblasting is just skin deep. Considering how large the glasses are, the stones should’ve been at least twice as large with twice as deep sandblasting. Surely the glasses will be the set saver, right?

Oh for fuck’s sake

The thing I expect from a box that says Premium on the label is premium. What I’m getting is two-dollar custom prints on a mid-grade glass with a printed surface instead of sandblasted.  Kiryu’s dragon should have been laser printed unto to the surface at least, but a print? That’s just lazy, and just like with the coasters, the print will wear off in use. In time for sure, but this is really a bad first impression.

Well, it doesn’t help that the two glasses are not of same quality. You’d expect these glasses to be relatively straight, but one of the two have slightly collapsed surface and has a slight wave-like pattern towards the bottom, meaning it’ll screw with the flow of spirit. Not much mind you, but at this point Sega’s quality control and whoever was in lead with this package has completely lost me. There’s nothing premium in this package. Deli, whatever company you are, you should’ve convinced Sega to put more effort in this.

That said, Yakuza 6‘s glasses can at least hold more spirit than the one I bought from Scotland years back, or the Monster Hunter one I got from the Netherlands. I’m not saying I’ve been drinking before writing this post, but I have before writing. Gotta test the glasses with more than one spirit, y’know. It’s pretty good size for a milk glass as well, and it’s not too fragile. Its still cheap glass, can’t get around that.

As you probably surmised, the whole After Hours edition of Yakuza 6 is not up to the usual premium standards. The game’s damn solid and worth your time, but going above the standard edition is not worth it.

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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Virtual-On Retrospective: MARZ

Previous: FORCE

In the early 2000’s, Sega’s plan was to deliver cheaper and more effective arcade hardware for the Japanese market, which of few would see worldwide releases. NAOMI 2 was given the emphasize over the Hikaru, which was phased out in 2002. NAOMI 2 would last to 2008, with Atomiswave, a Sammy developed NAOMI derivative, running by its side. Around the same time in 2001 Sega developed the Triforce with Nintendo and Namco, based on Nintendo’s GameCube. Two years later, Sega would release Chihiro to the arcades, based on Microsoft’s Xbox. All these arcade machines ran different games that Sega was directly involved and developed, like NAOMI 2’s Virtua Fighter 4 series, Triforce running AM2 developed F-Zero AX, Atomiswave running many fishing and fighting games Sega was part developer and publisher, and Chihiro most known for OutRun 2 and House of the Dead III due to their Xbox ports. Later in the 2000’s, Sega’s arcade hardware would be more or less completely home media derivative, based on normal PC architecture, making some of the modern games running on a modified Windows. However, there was no Virtual-On, on any of these systems.

With Virtual-On FORCE generally receiving lukewarm acceptance from the overall audience, regarding Oratorio Tangram the superior game, Hitmaker would develop a console-only sequel for the PlayStation 2; Virtual-On MARZ.

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Virtual-On Retrospective: Operation Moongate

This post is first in a series of five. You can access all posts in Robot Related Section linked above, or move between sequential post at their beginning and end

Virtual-On is one of Sega’s hallmark game franchises, developed by Sega’s AM3 department. It had everything the arcades required in 1996; 3D graphics that you wouldn’t see at home, unique controls, flashy graphics and fast paced gameplay. When most of the 3D mecha combat games on the market aimed for slow and emphasized on realistic simulation, like Shattered Metal or Mech Warrior 2, Virtual-On hit the arcades with sharp, colourful 3D models in fast paced third-person action with (relatively) easy controls. This is perhaps the best example of East VS. West mentality when it comes to giant robots. Even in arcades, among other blooming 3D games, Virtual-On stood apart with its excellent presentation and unrelenting game play.

 

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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; Huion GT-220 v2 pen display

When I was initially writing this review last month, I came to a point where all I could say If you’re looking into moving digital drawing and painting, Huion GT-220 v2 fills that want with third the price of Wacom’s similar sized product. That’s the whole review in a nutshell, and expanding on that is slightly difficult. The reason for this not because Huion is worse product than its competitor, no. The reason for this that a pen display is only one-third of the equation. The second third is the software/s you’ll be using with the pen display, which doesn’t only impact what sort of lines you’ll be using, but also the digital tools you have in your use but also what you are able to do. Using Adobe Photoshop is a different thing from Paint Shop Pro or SAI. The last third is experience. You have may skill, which is easy to transition to digital realm in an extent, but you will always lack experience with any new given tool. If you’ve accustomed to work in a certain way with specific set of tools, changing to new ones will screw you up for a time, if not completely in certain situations. This applies to pen tablets doubly, as brands have fine but significant differences to them. We can always argue which brand has the best functions and why, but that’s always up to opinion.

To continue setting up personal point of comparison between tablets, my first proper drawing tablet was a version of Cybertablet M14 from early 2000’s. Before that I had used random huge, almost toyetic, drawing tablets on and off whenever I had a chance at certain schools. During the last decade or so, I’ve had an on-and-off relationship with Wacom’s tablets and pen displays. None of these had been what I’d call productive, as I always found myself being extremely limited for not being able to see where I was drawing. The fact that my eye-hand coordination was extremely hard to break made me abandon digital drawing altogether and concentrating on ink. TL;DR, I couldn’t get handle of digital drawing because the tip of the pen didn’t produce the line, it was the pointer on the screen.

Due to all this, this review will be more personal take on the item than previous, more objectivity driven reviews I’ve done. May that be a bonus or a detractor to you.

That said, any pen display would solve my problem. The problem just was that picking up a 13″ display would be too small when you’ve accustomed working on A3 size, but Wacom’s 22″ pen displays cost far too much for someone who always has to question his income. Thus, alternatives would need further research.

You can read GT-220 V2’s parameters at Huion’s own site, so I’ll be concentrating on the user experience and overall design of the pen display itself.

It’s hard to take good photos when you have no proper light, indoors or outside. Autumn is such a drab

First things first, I have a screen protector on, hence some of the bubbles and very slight scratching from the usage appearing in the photo. The design is very conservative in many ways, with it being a simple screen with nothing else going on with it. That’s a strength to GT-220, as this means there’s less things to break down on the outside.

The rubber bottom that serves at the basis of the display is meant to prevent shocks and raise it higher for easier access of the buttons on the lower right, as well as keeping the cords from the back from bending straight. However, this allows the display to pivot left or right if one is to lean unto it when working. I’ve solved this problem momentarily with thick cardboard rolls. This is not a problem for those who work in off the paper with only the pen touching the screen. I’ve found that this almost painting-position causes less stress and strain. This, in effect, is the only objectively negative point in the design of the piece, the rest are more or less subjective.

The back has two vents on both sides and one long line running near the top, otherwise they’re just your normal everyday plastic with texture. However, it’s good to show all the three leads you’ll need to run this pen display; the USB, the power and the VGA/DVI/HDMI. Without the rubber bottom, these would have to experience unnecessary stress, though it has to be mentioned that the way the rubber bottom has been installed is clearly an afterthought. Huion is using the same housing as they did with GT-220, so taking that into consideration the solution is understandable, but not wholly satisfactory.

Software installation was easy and there was not problems when following the guide. The software Huion delivers is rather spartan in function, but is efficient and does what it needs to do.

Pen configuration, pressure sensitivity, monitor select, test, calibration, settings import and export options. You don’t really need anything more with this tablet. Everything is very to the point. I’ve seen some claiming that the program does not save settings, but all that really is dependent on your screen setup. The pen display is recognized as a screen as long as you have it plugged to your computer and/or to the wall, even when powered down.  My setup is so that I have three screens, one of which is not always powered and recognized at all. This is relevant to the settings, as when you Export your settings, those same settings are imported every time you boot up. If you don’t Export your specific settings, the program will load up the default one. Now, because the pen display is the third screen I have, and the mostl-of-the-time-unpowered one is second, this means I need to check out whether or not the program recognized the pen display as the second or third screen. This also means that I can use the GT-220 as a standard, non-display pen tablet whenever I’d like to and draw to any other two screens.

The pen itself has lots of levels of pressure, which are all good and dandy. The tablet may not recognize angle of the pen, but that’s largely unnecessary. It’s a nice bonus to have, but this is one of the things you can work without just fine. You don’t miss what you don’t have. The pen’s light, and while others regard this a bonus, I would like to have slightly more heft to it. It feels just as cheap as any other pen I’ve used, but then again I would like everything to be made of steel. The pen display came with two pens and a USB charge cable (and a glove!) all of which is nice. The base contains a tool to pry a used tip off, with space for spare tips. Buttons are nice and clicky, just as you’d want them. The battery inside seems to have power for about three weeks worth of juice in it, but as usual with modern batteries, I’d recommend charging it after each use. During charging, a red light can be seen through the buttons.

The pointer does float somewhat off the pen’s tips, but this is not as straightforward as people tend to make it. There are three factors that affect how far your pointer is from the pen; thickness of the glass, the angle you are at and the calibration. You can muck around in the calibration and set your pointer into widely different positions from the tip, or spend a day like me and optimise the distance, only to change your posture and see the tip veering off a bit. How much the pointer lags behind the tip is within standard deviation compared to other tablets, and partially based on your hardware setup. The GT-220 doesn’t have any computing in it, so everything has to be done in your PC.

Speaking of buttons, the pen display lacks any of them outside Menu and settings. No shortcut keys to you. Whether or not you want them is up to you, but the lack of them is a plus to yours truly. Never cared for those anyway. The way I solved the lack of Ctrl+Z in one key press was to use a separate keypad and configuring that to host wide variety of macros, though I still tend to rush back and forth in Paint Shop Pro and using its on-screen buttons. Because how I’ve learned to utilise the pen as a tool in general, I have no need for a touch screen or quick macros, though I should get a better keypad with in-built macro modifier, like in Logitech G13. The total price would still be lower to Wacom’s 22″ displays, and you can use that keypad for variety of games, and with different settings, for variety of programs to boot.

The way the display reads the pen is really what you’d expect. The best way to showcase some of it is through it’s own Pressure Test tool.

Scribbles, always with the scribbles…

While not a draw tool in itself (hence the angles rather than smooth lines), the Pressure Test shows that with the above settings, the pen can do wide variety of thicknesses from the get go. While some prefer a heavy handed  approach to achieve thickness, I’ve set it one notch below middle way, meaning all I need is a light touch. The lines the display gives is very good, very standard, nothing to scoff at. A better example might something very quick, like a Pikachu done in Microsoft Paint.

Well that’s a piece of shit

Paint is something everyone on Windows can start up and make a comparison to. Paint limits the way line thickness works, but the that’s slightly beside the point. Here you can see that it does not do angles, unless I decide to do so. Pretty much everybody use a stablisation program anyway, but I’ve had a hard time getting my head around getting used to any I’ve tried out, be it Lazy Nezumi or something else. If you want something more wholesome, roll into Twitter. I do scribbles from time to time. Now that I think of it, in the previous transforming mecha design post I already used this pen display to quickly draw the examples. Nothing terribly exciting or decent, but showcases things a bit more.

This might be a good spot to say that a pen display does not make you better. It certainly give you better tools, depending on the software, but it’s up you just take up the pen and draw all day long, every day. Practice makes perfect, and perfection can’t be achieved.

The screen itself is nice. It’s bright enough to blind the ever living shit out of me, and the colours are satisfactory enough, hard to say how off they are without external equipment. I didn’t see any colour popping too much on top of another.

Part of the experience is, of course, with the screen itself. Huion uses a glass display, which is very sleek and very friction-less. It’s not like drawing on paper, but drawing with a tablet never is. Wacom advertises itself with its surfaces that have slight paper-like grit to them. Whether or not you value this is up to you, and you can pick up screen protectors with different grit to them. Again, to what you’re used to plays a big part. Once you learn to paint on glass, moving up to this kind of pen display is easy.

Huion GT-220 v2 might lack some of the capabilities its three times more expensive Wacom equivalent costs, I really have to question how much there is need for a touch screen function, macro keys on the display itself and angle recognition. Again, it’s all about how you’re used to work and what’s most efficient way for you to work rather than what’s available to you. Sometimes too many options and tools hampers the progress, and the core tools and the mastery over them is often more than enough.

At the moment, Huion is selling these pen displays on Amazon for some 510€. At this price, the GT-220 v2 is extremely good for starting to draw with a pen display or tablet in general. All that it lacks is luxury after all that only add to the price. Wacom enthusiasts will scoff at it, but Huion as a Chinese manufacturer has been catching their missteps along the way, and GT-220 v2 is their best piece thus far.

While I don’t have enough time to properly practice, for the last three months I’ve done all my drawing wants and need on the pen display. I’ve been happy that it works as expected, and the only thing that keeps things from being better is me myself.