Tuesday, November 28, 2006


Suppose there are two stores in a shopping centre selling the same kind of stuff. The first store, lets call it Store A, has a large inventory of items from an official distribution channel where as Store B, is smaller in size and has a lesser amount of items for sale and that they are obtained via parallel import.

Both stores carry items that are highly desirable in the same niche market but pricing wise, Store A commands higher prices as its goods come via official channels and it tends to carry a lot more "official" products. Store A also provides official support and warranty for items bought from the store.

The owner of Store B tends to offer discounts and is more than willing to take orders due to the smaller inventory size, but not before a customer passes through his initial sour-faced test. Also available at Store B are a variety of third-party products which can be as good or offer more versatile functionality compared to their "official" counterparts.

If a consumer were to purchase an item that is available in both stores, what would be the deciding factor in which the consumer will go for a particular store?

Case in point, Midvalley Megamall has the Nintendo counter (Store A, if this were to match the scenario above) and at the same time a small video games shop (Store B) tucked in the corner of the IT centre.

In my opinion, there is no point supporting an official distributor if the price is for a particular game is significantly higher than that of what is offered at a parallel import shop (or website for that matter). Price will always be a major point of contention and having said that, I most probably go to the Nintendo counter to check out game demos, but for purchases, I'll take my chances with the sour owner of the little shop tucked in the I.T centre.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Short Stuff

According to its Wikipedia article, a gashapon translates as a "trading toy". It's also commonly known as capsule toy due to the nature that they come in capsule dispensed from vending machines. Capsule toys have been around for as long as I've known and even when I was a kid, the neighbourhood sundry store used to have vending machines at the store front to entice kids to spent 20 to 50 cents a capsule.

Japanese capsule toys differ in a sense that the capsule toys are of higher quality and the price per capsule is certainly more expensive, ranging from RM 4 to RM 8 and more often than not, the contents are collectible items in a series. The vending machines can be found not in sundry shops, but in shopping centres, Japanese supermarket chains such as Jusco or toy stores such as Toys 'r' Us.

This little fella came along with my Electroplankton package and basically this is an example of how a gashapon looks like outside its capsule.

The reason for it being added to my package was that I needed to bring my order price to slightly above USD 50 (Electroplankton by itself was USD 48.90) in order to qualify for a USD 5 discount. This little fella cost USD 1.99.

This gashapon is part of a series featuring characters from the game Animal Crossing. All together they are 7 of them to collect.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Electrifying Plankton

Most reviewers of Electroplankton would stop short of calling it a game due to the strange nature of its design and gameplay. Basically, the game, for the lack of a better word, features various kinds of colourful plankton which you can manipulate via the touch screen of the Nintendo DS using a stylus to produce music!

As for me, the chance of becoming a conductor for a bunch of plankton, and not an orchestra no less, is pretty hard to pass. A recommended way to play Electroplankton is to hook up the Nintendo DS with a speaker system so that you can listen to your musical creations. If you want to replay your creations, it would be best if you have a sound system with recording facilities as one thing this game lacks is a save option.

The package containing the Japanese version of Electroplankton and an Animal Crossing gashapon arrived today intact from Play Asia. The packaging for the game is certainly beautiful and the larger than normal box contains a pair of headphones along with the typical plastic case that accompanies every Nintendo DS game.

This is the larger than average box:

This is the back of the larger than average box:

Among the contents of the box is the typical Nintedo DS cartridge box:

The contents in the Cartridge Box include a rather thick manual and the game itself:

Get your copy of Electroplankton at Play-Asia.com!

Monday, November 20, 2006


Sleek, Powerful and Sexy are just some of the adjectives used to describe Sony's handheld console, the Playstation Portable (PSP).

I had the opportunity to play around with one and even though it was less than 5 minutes, at least two out of three adjectives were found to be true. The unit had the sleek feel of a current generation iPod and the wide screen completes the sexy look.

However, this being my first time with the console, I had some trouble getting used to the controls. All this while I did not realize that there is a row of buttons underneath the wide screen and any of my attempts to work the unit like a Nintendo DS ended in failure.

The unit was loaded with a web browser and the wide screen did justice to viewing web pages on a handheld console but the same thing cannot be said about the text input. A handphone-style input screen was provided in place of a normal QWERTY-styled keyboard screen when I attempted to enter a web address. This isn't really intuitive if the same interface is used to type out an e-mail.

The PSP uses something called a Cross Media Bar for its default interface and at one glance at the options available, anyone would realize that this piece of hardware is really quite an amazing multimedia device. However, navigating the Cross Media Bar is something to get used to and in terms of usability, it is almost the same as the Nintendo DS' setup screen which I find to be irritating at times.

I managed to get an UMD game to load during my time with the console but it took too long and I thought I had broken the unit. As I started to walk away, the game loaded but I had no time to test it out.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

He Got Game

The latest issue of Time magazine (Asian ed.) lists Shigeru Miyamoto as one of the heroes in its "60 Years of Asian Heroes" list which coincides with the Asian edition's 60th anniversary. Among his peers include the Dalai Lama, Gandhi, Bruce Lee, Hayao Miyazaki (of the Spirited Away fame), Lee Kuan Yew (first Prime Minister of Singapore), Akio Morita & Masaru Ibuka (the Sony guys), Mother Teresa (the late "Saint of the Gutter"), Aung San Suu Kyi (Myanmar's pro-democracy leader, under house arrest) and Gong Li.

There are many other Asian heroes in the list, so grab a copy of Time Asia's Anniversary Issue.

According to the Wikipedia article, Shigeru Miyamoto is the creator of the Mario, Donkey Kong, Legend of Zelda, Star Fox and Pikmin franchises for Nintendo game systems. Without the Mario franchise, we certainly wouldn't have one of the best kart racing games around, Mario Kart DS.

In an episode of Icons (or was in an article in 1UP) featuring him, I remember him talking about the creation of Mario and on how the character design (mustache, jump suit) was actually used to overcome the hardware limitations at that time.

My own personal opinion, Shigeru Miyamoto stands equal with other great computer/video game creators such as John Carmack (id Software, Wolfenstein 3D, Doom, Quake), Will Wright (The Sims and the SimCity franchise; he wrote the write-up for Shigeru Miyamoto in the Time magazine Anniversary Issue), Sid Meier (Civilization), Tim Sweeney (Unreal) and Warren Spector (Deus Ex, Thief). Before I forget, it's the guy's birthday today, so, Happy Birthday!

On a side note, it is way cheaper to get a copy of Time Asia magazine in Malaysia compared to Thailand. I get my issues from a newsstand in KL for RM 8.50 a piece while a copy sells for RM 13.50 in Bangkok!

In Motion

There hasn't been many game reviews lately, but that predicament is going to be resolved soon with a new game coming in next week. It is more of a novelty rather than a game and I ordered it online a couple of days ago only after much thought; try guessing the title.

My purchasing habit is 1 new game a month or 2 second hand games a month, and it seems I'm pretty much on track.
This time, I got to use my Play-Asia discount voucher as well!

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Taking a Dip in the Dark Side

According to its documentation, the ZSNES is a Super Nintendo Entertainment System (console picture on the left courtesy of Wikipedia) emulator written entirely in assembly and C, and it's supposed to be pretty fast.

I got my hands on this curious piece of software today, courtesy of a friend, along with some ROMs to play around with. Having said that, I don't really encourage gamers to download ROMs but in this case I'm using the ROMs for the sake of experimentation and the fact that I've never actually played on this "ancient" console before.

The emulator itself seems to be pretty comprehensive, with lots of options from setting up input options, saves, cheats and to inputting key combinations. A person familiar to the SNES and emulators might make sense of these options/settings but for a layman like me, I'd rather jump right into the games.

I loaded Street Fighter Zero 2 for a spin but not before I checked the input settings, otherwise I wouldn't know what keys to press.

Having nothing to gauge with, I suppose that gameplay on the emulator is pretty fast. But I would feel much better playing a handheld console game on an actual handheld console having missed a real d-pad.

One real benefit though from using an emulator would be it enables really nice screenshots to be taken :)

Monday, November 13, 2006

Driving in a Kart with Friends

I got the chance to race on the WFC using the Friend Code system on Mario Kart DS earlier this evening and it was pretty ok, except for the later part where it got abit wonky with four or even three people trying to get a game going.

It was maybe a busy night for the service and this might happen to anyone attempting to play a game with friend(s) over the WFC, so patience is the keyword here.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Bangkok Nights

I didn't get to go around much in terms of shopping centers and I.T malls when I was in Bangkok except for the first and last days of my recent stay there.

The I.T Square at Laksi was the first one I visited and it was pretty much a disappointment. There was only one outlet selling original console games on one of the upper floors and a copy of Mario Hoops was going for 2400 baht which translates to RM240.

This newly opened multi-storey and rather colourful mall is mainly dedicated to computer hardware and good luck trying to find an original copy of Windows XP or any other application software for that matter. However, original computer games are easy to find and cheap in Thailand due to strong localization efforts; a copy of Company of Heroes at the I.T Planet outlet was selling for 699 baht (RM 69.90).

The mall is located just next to the Laksi Wat and a 5 minute drive from the old Don Muang airport as well as a 5 minute walk from the hotel I was staying at.

Mah Boon Krong Center, or MBK as it is known amoung the locals, is located at what taxi drivers usually say as "downtown" Bangkok. So just say yes to the question "Do you want to go downtown, shopping?" and you'll most likely end up in the area where the big shopping malls MBK, Siam Discovery, Siam Center and newly minted Siam Paragon are located at.

There are several shops selling console games in MBK and one of them located at the lower floors had a lot of Gameboy Advance titles. The same shop had a bargain bin of sorts for PSP games going for 999 baht (RM 99) each.

The shop situated at the arcade level had an Xbox 360 on display and there were quite a number of youths attracted to the game NFS:Carbon which was playing on screen. This shop had several DS titles but most of them were pretty dated and are in Japanese such as Famicom Wars which is also known in its English version as Advance Wars DS. There is also a shop located at the handphone floor that sells handheld consoles and accesories but no games.

I visited Siam Discovery, Siam Center and Paragon in a span of an hour so I didn't get a good look at the three malls. But if you want to get a better variety (and maybe a better bargain) in terms of console games, visit Pantip Plaza.

It's hard to gauge what handheld console gaming is like in capital in Thailand. On one hand, people hardly bat an eye when my colleagues were playing my Nintendo DS in the airport but on the other hand, I hardly see anyone playing a handheld console save for one female airport staff who was walking around playing her PSP.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Bangkok Nights

I'll be in Bangkok until this Saturday...

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Will Play, I Mean Review For Games...

If there's a lack of game reviews on this blog this couple of weeks, it is because the writer is busy playing games rather than buying games. Last month was pretty crazy with the purchase of Metroid Pinball and Worms: Open Warfare.

I'll stick to getting one game a month, or two (if they are secondhand) but if there are nice people out there willing to loan me some games to write about, much appreciated. Here are the previous game reviews on this blog:

1. Worms: Open Warfare

2. Metroid Prime Pinball
3. Brain Age
4. Animal Crossing: Wild World
5. Mario Kart DS

And of course, the hardware reviews:

1. WiFi Link
2. Rumble Pak
3. Playworks PS2000 Digital 2.1 Audio Speaker System
4. Gameboy
5. Nintendo DS

What's up next for this blog? A write-up of somewhere not located in Malaysia and how not to brick your WiFi router.

Monday, November 06, 2006

I've got a present for you...

What would the video games industry be without the rabid, obsessive pillar of support known as fan-boys (and to be politically correct, fan-girls)? Hop into any forum, you'll find that they'll be first to jump into the fray whenever someone decides to do a comparison on two consoles that are of different manufacturers with each side having their own set of fan-boys snapping at each other even though the discussion borderline on the hypothetical or the hyperbole.

Now, this blog is not fan-boy friendly but let bygones be bygones, I've got some presents for all you fan-boys out there. Go ahead and use them, at least I would know who am I talking to in the future.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Ratings Smatings.....

My previous post on ESRB ratings got me thinking on creating my own ratings notice based on the well-recognized template provided by the ESRB boards. So, if you blog or are a frequent forum contributor and at the same time a casual video games player, feel free to use this:

But of course, if you are a Nintendo DS user in addition to all that was mentioned earlier, you can use this instead:

I'll be adding more if I have the time.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Window Shopping

Nothing interests me more than going into a video game store and checking out what they have to offer. So far, the two best stores I've been to are not even located in Malaysia, they are located in Dubai.

The first one isn't really a store, but more of a very big electronics store with a big video games section in the Ibn Battuta Mall (http://www.ibnbattutamall.com). There were aisles of games for various consoles ranging from the NDS to the Xbox along stacks of hardware and accessories and even bargain bin offers! In addition to that, there was an area in the front display of the shop where customers can play Playstation 2 and Xbox games.

The second store is Geekay Games (http://geekaygames.com) located in the Mall of the Emirates, right in front of the Carrefour check-out counters. I'll always remember this store because this is where I bought my Nintendo DS. The store was full of games and hardware and along with the interior decoration, anything in Malaysia pales in comparison to it. The coolest part was that they had Xbox 360 units for customers to play with and the service was pretty good too.

Over here in Malaysia, I have not been to the game shops in Imbi nor have I frequented the shops in Sungai Wang. The best so far I've been to is Gamers Hideout at Cineleisure. The place comes with a good reputation and I've seen it featured in the newspaper. I like the logo and with Xbox 360 units to try out, I'll probably visit more often.

The Nintendo counter located in Jucso, anchor tenant of Midvalley Megamall carries a sizeable amount of NDS and GBA titles but the prices are quite high. If you are a Jusco card member, you'd probably earn alot of points (and rebate percentages) shopping at the counter which you'll later receive in the form of rebate vouchers

Besides the Nintendo counter, the other stores in Midvalley Mega Mall belong to the same template by which most video games stores in Malaysia subscribe to. You would find the glass display, a TV with some console hooked up to it and poor customer service.

Price wise, there is one particular stall located in the mall's IT centre that holds an edge over the Nintendo counter and one of the staff tends to remember if you have bought anything from them (which is good to ask for a better price).

I'll post more places to shop once I encounter them.