Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Would You Trade Your Dog For A Nintendog?

I have more luck training my virtual dog in Nintendogs for the Nintendo DS, compared to my real 8 year old furball. Having said that, despite the torn up newspapers, stuck fur on cushion covers and the occasional visit to the vet, I find that nothing is comparable to owning the real thing. I do pity people who consider this game a substitute to owning a real dog, or a real pet for that matter.

So what's in this game? In the version I purchased (Nintendogs: Dachshund & Friends), players get to select and train/play with puppies from a host of breeds: the Miniature Dachshund, Golden Retriever, Beagle, Pug, Siberian Husky and Shih Tzu. Using the touch screen and built-in microphone (which is typical of a Touch Generations title), you'll have the puppy responding to both touch screen and voice commands in no time.

One word sums up this game, cute. Dog lovers will have a field day playing with different breeds of puppies and the way the game presents itself (graphically and controls) can do no wrong; but if you really want a dog, go to the nearest SPCA and bring one home today!

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Male Cheerleaders? Don't shudder yet..

Somehow the idea of having stern-faced male cheerleaders cheering people on doesn't sound very appealling to most people (it could be downright gross) but trust the Japanese, particularly the folks at iNiS and Nintendo, to come up with a Nintendo DS game based on this premise.

Osu! Tatakae! Ouendan is the name, cheerleading is the game. Basically a rhythm game, players tap circles, spin discs, and trace paths on the touch screen while accompanied by J-pop music. Speaking of which, I used to listen to a lot of J-pop/J-rock back in college and this soundtrack gets two-thumbs up from me.

The storyline is pretty quirky, as the cheerleaders get involved in hillarious/ridiculous scenarios such as cheering a student on in his studies or an office lady in her quest to snag her dream guy. The scenarios are played out in the form of manga panels (in the top screen of the DS) and the manga panels will change depending on the player's performance (tapping circles, etc, etc).

The rule of thumb is that the worse you perform, the worse the scenario will end up (but no less hillarious).

It's a shame though that the game's difficulty will have you concentrating on the touch screen. This game is hard, and I find myself re-playing the same level over and over again as my earlier attempts fail.

Despite the difficulty, this game is addictive and alot of fun; I'm pretty stoked playing it and having purchased it yesterday for RM 80 on the secondhand market, it's a steal! New copies can be purchased at Play-Asia (here)

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Kanji Sonomama Rakubiki Jiten Review

For more video game reviews, head over to the brand new

Ohayo! Getting an electronic standalone English to Japanese/Japanese to English language dictionary can be quite an expensive affair. But if you have a Nintendo DS, you can get Kanji Sonomama Rakubiki Jiten, an electronic dictionary software that runs on your DS and comes in the same cartridge as any other Nintendo DS game.

Kanji Sonomama Rakubiki Jiten (a.k.a Easy Kanji Dictionary) is part of Nintendo Japan's Touch Generation series. Utilizing three dictionaries, you can search for the definition of English words in Japanese (some of the English words have audio pronunciations) as well as definition of Japanese words in English.

Words can be entered by writting them on the touchscreen or by using the virtual keyboards (one for Japanese characters and another for English letters). As its title indicates, kanji is used for Japanese character entry and it is prerogrative that users know the strokes to the characters, as the software makes use of this for character recognition.

I received my copy of the software through the mail a couple of days ago, and becaue the interface is entirely in Japanese, I'm still learning the ropes on using this software. Obscure menus aside (not in terms of functionality I hope, but in terms of they are in Japanese and I don't know what they do), I'm pretty much comfortable entering English words and some kanji.

This should be a useful tool when I start attending Japanese classes next month.

On to even lighter things, this piece of software from Nintendo has it's fair share of Easter Eggs. Write Mario and you'll hear the familiar coin sound when you select the particular entry, the same goes for entries such as Game Boy, Game Boy Advance and Game&Watch!

For even cooler treats, select combine mode (instead of individual dictionaries) and write either Manhole or Judge and you get to play the old Game&Watch titles of the same names! Hopefully I won't be doing the same during class :)

If you are interested in getting Easy Kanji Dictionary for the Nintendo DS, you can get it at Play-Asia (here)

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Itching for a Good Starcraft Fight

I'm sure most gamers would love to watch a pitched battle, be it a Counterstrike match-up or an online Starcraft match. I was watching a National Geographic production, Showreal Asia Season 3: World Cyber Games, with great interest as it documented the life of a South Korean pro-gamer, Seo Ji Hoon, otherwise known as Xellos (WCG 2004's Starcraft Champion).

Computer gaming is really huge in South Korea. Gamers converge in cybercafes as this is pretty much a social thing unlike other countries where gamers tend to stay and play from the comfort of their own homes. Another reason why PC gaming flourishes in Korea is that console gaming has a poor following in Korea given the animosity Koreans have for Japan (due to their past history)... too bad for companies like Sony and Nintendo.

Most of the documentary was focused on Xellos' preparation for WCG 2005. It's pretty weird to see a World Champion having less sponsorship and living in rather dismal conditions compared to his nearest rival, Na Do Hyun (a.k.a Silent_Control), whose sponsors have his team placed in a spiffy house to live and train with all expenses paid. Both have fan clubs with members (mostly girls) numbering in the thousands.

The best part of this documentary was that some of Xellos' matches were shown (with commentary!), starting with the ones in the Korean preliminaries up to his last match in WCG 2005, which he lost to Silent_Control. Xellos' team mate, fOru won the 2005 WCG title instead.

So, have you watched any interesting documentaries lately?

Monday, February 19, 2007

DO YOU HALO? And by the way, Happy Chinese New Year!

In the course of making the image above dedicated to my current game of the month which is the PC version of Halo, I managed to dig up some interesting stuff on the area of "Combat Typography". To illustrate how does "Combat Typography" plays a role in reading, I give you the example of the warning label attached to every cigarette pack.

Ever wondered why are the letters are in a particular font (Sans Serif), in capitals and are placed rather closely at each other for every cigarette pack regardless of brand? According to this website, Washington Apple Pi (here), this is done by cigarette companies to

"make the warning all but unreadable...thwarting any attempt to read by shape"

According to the site, literate readers tend to read by shape. Serif fonts make letters more distinctive and the proper use of capitalisation helps further in shape recognition. You'll find the method used on
cigarette pack warnings is also used on fine print and "terms and conditions". Now, you are not alone in thinking that these stuff are annoyingly difficult to read as this method applies for everyone!

Anyways, I would like to wish everyone a Happy Chinese New Year, Gong Xi, Gong Xi! (If you noticed, this post is abit of a mixed bag, just like most Chinese movies shown during this festive season).

Sunday, February 18, 2007

A History of Electronic Arts

If you ever played video games on your PC or on a console (both previous and current generation ones), chances are you might have played games published by Electronic Arts. This behemoth of the video games industry is pretty hard to miss, delivering hits after hits on multiple platforms, but have you ever wondered about the history behind the company?

If you do, then I have nothing but good news for you. Gamasutra has an online article detailing the history of Electronic Arts and it makes for an interesting read covering areas such as its conception, the evolution of its games and the way EA does business. To read the article, click here.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Jump! The Postcard Book

When it comes to my postcard collection, nothing beats the latest addition that is the Jump! Ultimate Stars postcard book. Featuring various characters from the Weekly Shonen Jump manga that appear in the Nintendo DS game of the same title, this postcard book comes in form of a mangaka volume.

Inside, there are 41 postcards, featuring characters from 41 manga series. Among the notable ones are:
  • Black Cat
  • Bleach
  • Death Note
  • Dragon Ball
  • Hokuto no Ken (Fist of the North Star)
  • Hunter X Hunter
  • Naruto
  • One Piece
  • Rurouni Kenshin
  • Slamdunk
  • YuYu Hakusho
The overall quality of the postcard boook is impressive, but I wished that the producers released in binder form. The thickness of each individual postcard makes it a tad difficult to admire the postcards without damaging the spine.

The art quality is great as well, the two stand-outs being the Death Note postcard and my personal favourite, the Slam Dunk group potrait.

You know you want one :). But the sad part is this postcard book is sold out on Play-Asia. The next best thing? Go ahead and purchase the game, here.

This is the Re-mix?

If there's any game that should win an award for its box cover, it should be Atarimix: Happy 10 Games. The box art will not look out of place in a modern arts gallery. Take a look for yourself:
The box art features a line of arcade consoles in the foreground, followed by an interesting background of a rocket in the shape of the Atari logo launching with pink (and starry) smoke billowing. Pictures paint a thousand words, so I'll just stop at describing and please look at the picture instead.

The box-art of this Japanese language game certainly differs from that of the US release (and thank goodness for that) which is also known as Retro Atari Classics. The US box art certainly looks garish:

As the title suggests, Atarimix is a compilation of 10 retro games along with their "re-mixed" versions. This is the first time I purchased a game based on box-art alone, but there is some substance in the retro games offered by this compilation.

The games are:
  • Warlords
  • Asteroids
  • Break Out
  • Centipede
  • Gravitar
  • Lunar Lander
  • Missile Command
  • Pong
  • Sprint
  • Tempest
Some of you old school gamers might just recognize these games. Having not played the original games on the Atari, I can't say whether these are faithful ports or otherwise. The re-mixed versions bring nothing much to the table, and I had more fun playing the original version of Pong in this compilation.

The extensive use of the touch screen might be a turn of to some people but I guess the developers implemented the control scheme without much thought or the fact that they were coding for the DS.

"Oh, looky here..we are coding for the DS! Altogether now chaps.."Touchscreen control...Touchscreen control..."

Collectors and nostalgic gamers might do themselves a favour and get this compilation as compliations are probably the only opportunity for retro games to be released on this platform.

This compilation is available at (here)

Stand Magnet-ed

That word in the title would probably earn itself several disputes on the Scrabble board, but no matter as I'm reviewing a particular Nintendo DS accessory which I"ve grown fond of rather quickly. The Magnet Stand is a simple solution to my problem with trying to have the DS propped in a manner which doesn't require me to lean forward from my seat to observe what is going on in BOTH screens.

The Magnet Stand came with the rest of my stuff on Tuesday and it came in a simple white box. However, if you've seen the user manual for the Japanese Nintendo DS, you'll find that it's illustrated with cartoons. The same goes for the Magnet Stand as it is an official product; the cartoons depicting the proper use of the stand is located at the back of the box.

This is the bottom partion of the stand, known as the feet. The feet has two strips of pretty strong magnets (hence the name Magnet Stand). These magnets help the unit to remain fixed onto any metallic surfaces including white boards.

This is the top portion of the Magnet Stand. It has a Slot-2 interface which is used to secure the DS to the stand.

The stand opens up (ala Transformers), and the picture above is a rear shot of the stand. The slant of the stand can be adjusted to up to 4 different degrees. When not in use, the entire unit is collapsible, allowing for easy storage in my bag. The picture below is of my DS and the stand.

The only problem that I've faced is that the Slot-2 of the Nintendo DS has to be left empty as it is used to secure the DS with the Magnet Stand. This prevents the user from utilizing the Rumble Pak or playing GBA games.

However, I'm very satisfied with my purchase and the item is still on sale at Play-Asia for USD 7.90 (here)

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Mail Call

My packages arrived from Hong Kong today as a result from my shopping spree at an online video games retailer last week. It took a good 6 days via air-mail and this marks 8 out of 8 times that my packages have arrived in one piece. The air mail shipping did not incur any monetary charges on my part but I did pay for it in one way by waiting for 6 days.

"What did you get from this time?", you ask. A picture paints a thousand words, so here you go:

Reviews will be coming up soon on this blog. So stay tuned. In addition to this, the sale is still going on at the Play-Asia website, visit them here.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Nintendo DS. Last Bastion for Old School PC Gaming?

My reply in a forum regarding Lunar Knights, an action RPG for the Nintendo DS had me reminiscing about old school 2D isometric PC games such as Crusader: No Regret (and No Remorse) and Diablo. Does anyone in the PC games industry plan to release a game along the lines of such classics anymore? These games have gone the way of the dodo, just like what adventure games are facing now on the PC platform.

The Nintendo DS would make a happy home for 2D isometric games, given that its hardware doesn't churn out really great 3D graphics but still is pretty good for anything else. It doesn't hurt as well that the stylus/touch screen combination makes for an excellent replacement for a mouse.

Since such staples such as Simcity and Theme Park are coming to this platform (I love these games as well), I have hope for more old school PC titles to be ported over to the DS. What PC games would I like to see on the DS? Well, here are several that I can think of:
  • Crusader: No Regret/Crusader: No Remorse
  • Civilization
  • Diablo
On a side note, Sim City DS will be released on the 22nd of February for the Japanese-languaged version. Click here for purchase details.

Theme Park DS will be released on the 15th of March for the same region. Click here for purchase details.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Winning Eleven - When a Spade is not quite a Spade

Konami has released the English version of Winning Eleven DS in the form of Winning Eleven: Pro Evolution Soccer 2007 for the US market and Pro Evolution Soccer 6 for the European market. Essentially, all three are the same game, the only differences are superficial ones such as language, font size and header screens.

However, dig deeper and you'll find something utterly disappointing in the implementation of all three releases in terms of Nintendo WFC online play. If you bought Winning Eleven DS for cheap at Play-Asia with hopes of getting into matches with European gamers owning Pro Evolution Soccer 6, you can forget about it.

Owners of the European version of the game will not be to play with both Winning Eleven DS and PES 2007 owners despite the fact that these practically the same game. The three versions are WFC "region-locked" and in my opinion is a mistake on the part of the developers as there will be no such thing as "world-wide" WFC matches.

I guess that buying the European version of the game is the way to go. I wonder who wants to play with Americans with their US version of Winning Eleven, knowing that their idea of football is running around CARRYING a ball while wearing body armour. Body armour is for wimps, try playing rugby sometime.

Running Homebrew on a Nintendo DS and a R4

You just bought a R4 Revolution for the Nintendo DS and you look forward to running homebrew applications such as DSOrganize and homebrew games such as DSDoom and Tower Defense. However you find that you are unable to run the homebrew applications after copying them into the MicroSD card of the R4.

A common solution for this is to patch the particular application's .nds file (otherwise known as the ROM file) with a DLDI patch. Don't ask me what it does but I guess it fixes something to do with the file system.

Anyways, here are the steps to patching the file:
  1. Download the DLDI patch for the R4 here
  2. Download the DLDI patching software here
  3. Assuming that you have the ROM file in hand, unzip the DLDI patching software to somewhere that is conveniently accessible from the Command prompt.
  4. Place the DLDI patch and the ROM file in the same location as well.
  5. Using the command prompt, head over to the folder containing the files mentioned above.
  6. Key in the following at the command prompt: dlditool r4tf.dldi filename.nds, with filename being the name of the ROM file
  7. Press the enter key to begin the patching process
  8. Copy the ROM file over to the MicroSD card and you should be able to run the application/game.

Friday, February 09, 2007

Over Budget

One of my favourite online retailer for video games is having its annual Chinese New Year sale. I ended up going on a mini shopping spree despite being over my monthly budget for video games (and accesories). Having initally spent my allocated cash on two secondhand games, the shopping spree gleaned one new game, one accesory and one postcard book (I love postcards). All of which are now sold out!

There are plenty of discounted items available in's CNY sales (click here)and I thought it would be nice to mention this in my blog. After all, no one wants to miss a good bargain. The Nintendo DS section of the sale has been a happy hunting ground for me and despite the shrinking list (it stands at 13 pages of items compared to 18 when the sale started), there are some notable titles such as:
  • Winning Eleven DS (JAP) (USD 9.90), click here
  • Monster Bomber (USD 14.90), click here
  • Star Fox DS (JAP) (USD 14.90), click here
  • Cooking Mama (USD 19.90), click here
  • Gyakuten Saiban 2 (Best Price) / Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney Justice for All (JAP) (USD 24.90), click here
  • Scratch! Viewtiful Joe (JAP)(USD 24.90), click here
  • Chocobo to Mahou no Ehon (JAP) (USD 29.90), click here
  • Kaitou Wario the Seven / Wario: Master of Disguise (JAP) (USD29.90) , click here
Nintendo DS users who are looking forward to some Nintendo WFC lovin' but not having a wireless router or access point to go online, should get the WiFi Max USB WiFi Adapter which is selling at a discounted price of USD 22.90; click here for details.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Frag You!

When I was in secondary school, the frequency in which I upgraded my PC was determined by id Software's game releases. When Quake came out, I managed to get my hands on a second hand 486 DX4-100 MHz processor. The release of Quake II got me going the Pentium way, with a second hand Pentium 200 MHz processor.

Second hand stuff were considered pretty valuable back in the day, reason being that new parts were expensive and not easy to come by. By the time Quake III came out, I had a brand new AMD K6-2 rig overclocked to over 560MHz and a Permedia 3D OpenGL graphics card with 4 megabytes of video RAM.

This trend of upgrading my PC has continued until last year, culminating in a rig that could run Quake 4. Having gone through so much (games and CPUs), what does a through and through PC-based FPS-games player like me have to say about Metroid Prime Hunters, a first person shooter (FPS) for the Nintendo DS?

A phrase muttered by a friend when he watched me play this game basically sums it all: "It's a revolution!". Now, to elaborate. Metroid Prime Hunters is the first FPS I've played on my Nintendo DS. As an FPS player who loves nothing more than to "shoot anything that moves", this game works for me on so many levels.

The controls, which combine the use of the stylus, d-pad and the left trigger button, are so intuitive that they transplant the accuracy of the mouse/keyboard combination most often found in PC shooters. This is important as nothing breaks a game more than poor controls and MPH's control scheme avoids this pitfall by being intuitive and very easy to get into.

Graphics wise, this game is stunning for a Nintendo DS game. Unlike the newer Tony Hawk game, which was pretty with it's cell shaded look, MPH stuck to conventional textures but with a graphics engine capable of rendering eye-candy reminiscent of Quake III, just grainier.

I've just started playing the single player portion of the game and I'm already loving it. This game is also WFC enabled, for worldwide online play (more on that in another article) and has support for the Rumble Pak.

Since this is a pretty old title, you should have no difficulty finding this title in the secondhand market. Age doesn't affect this title as it is still the definitive first person shooter on the Nintendo DS.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Component Cables Are Your PS2's Best Friend...If You Have a LCD TV

If you have a PS2 and a LCD TV and you are still using composite cable, I highly recommend that you ditch that composite cable and get a component cable instead. My component cable arrived through the mail today. I ordered it from an online retailer for a pretty good price of RM 21.19, which is 10 ringgit lesser than the price given to me by a retailer in Damansara.

Installing the component cable was a pretty straightforward affair. I removed the composite cables connecting my PS2 to the splitter and directly connected the PS2 to the Samsung R7 LCD TV with the component cable. The TV end of the component cable had colour coded male connectors that correspond with the female connectors located at the back of the TV.

The first game that I tested with was SSX. This snowboarding game, having the sole distinction of being the only game I'd ever finished on the PS2, had only "okay" graphics with the composite cable. The output from the component cable was sharper, clearer, and I dare say more vivid. I can also see various shades of black, which was good, as I only got a flat output from the composite cable.

The second game was Burnout: Revenge. This game was one of the first games that I played with the R7, and it was probably the awe of playing it on a wide screen that got me raving. In any case, with the composite cable, the game was a virtual smash fest in 2 player mode, as both my brother and I cannot make out what was coming towards us on screen.

The game is still a virtual smash fest with the component cable. The graphics have become clearer, sharper and like SSX, more vivid; and we can finally see what we were ramming our cars into. Burnout never looked better on my LCD TV.

Not convinced? Go try it yourself, after all, the cables are priced just above RM20 and are available at (click here)

Monday, February 05, 2007

Going on a Downhill Jam

For more video game reviews, head over to the brand new

At long last, a game review. Vicarious Vision's latest skateboarding game for the Nintendo DS, Tony Hawk's Downhill Jam is nothing short of a marvel. As its name implies, it is a downhill racer, with an emphasis on tricks and speed. Gameplay wise, it is very fast, and the cell-shaded graphics accentuate the feeling of speeding downhill.

The first thing that grabs you about this game is the soundtrack! Developers somehow managed to fit in several songs into the DS' capacity-challenged cartridge and I'm not talking MIDI stuff here...more like MP3! The game starts off with the character creation process, which is pretty comprehensive. I modelled my character after a certain controversial Japanese fella.

The main single player game mode would be the World Tour. You'll be skating your character through challenges and competitions, which will unlock different locations in a world map. Be sure to go through the lessons first before embarking on the Tour, or any other single player modes, otherwise you'll be like a duck out of water.

The level of customization is astounding for a handheld game. Change your character's gear (shirts, pants, hair styles and skates and use the money earned through the game to purchase more stuff. Even with the usual suspects such as a logo editor and a special moves editor, the developers put in a sound editor for players to add in their own voice cues.

I've not tried out the Wireless play but this game is WFC enabled. This means that you can race with other gamers from all over the world via Nintendo's free WFC service.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Sun, Sea, Sand and Jelly Fish

When I was in Dubai, I had the opportunity of seeing how jelly fish infested water looked like. The river separating Bur Dubai and Deira was filled with those beautiful but painful (if you touch their tails) creatures of various sizes, and most of them being pink in colour. I took a boat ride across the river to get to the Gold Souk and I remember loathing the thoughts of the boat sinking or being thrown overboard because it would meant swimming in that water.

I had the good fortune of witnessing jelly fish infestation again, but this time in a local beach. Unlike Dubai, the jelly fish that I saw measured around 30 to 40 cm in diameter!. Some of these huge creatures were beached and some were floating near the shore. The bulbous dome kinda reminded me of a Metroid; probably the game developers were inspired by jelly fish. One interesting note, I've been to this beach so many times in my life but I've only seen small jelly fish until yesterday.

I don't subscribe to the stereotype that all video gamers tend to be cooped up in their rooms but I do know some of people are that way (hence fueling the stereotype); so may I suggest a trip to the beach? Beaches aren't just about coconuts, coral and sea shells (ala Animal Crossing), go get some sun, meet new people, get some REAL sand in between your toes and get fascinate (and not stung) by jelly fish. If you can afford it, go wind surfing or jet-skiing.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

The Next Best Thing

Supposedly Chinese New Year just ended and you have collected a nifty sum of around RM500, which you, having not owned a video game console before, intend on using to enter a whole new world filled with surreal sights and sounds. But lets face it, RM 500 is chump change for upgrading your PC and it only covers a fraction of the price tag for any of the current generation consoles: the PS3, Xbox 360 and the Wii.

So, what does an aspiring but broke (despite having RM 500) video gamer do? Well, for starters, do yourself a favour and get a PS2. Why a PS2 you ask? Here are the reasons:
  • It's a video games console just past its peak (not that outdated)
  • It has a huge library of games and plenty of AAA titles, some of which still look very pretty by today's standards. The PS2 is also the bastion of Final Fantasy games and if you are a fan, you should really be looking into getting this console.
  • Great 1st and 3rd party hardware support. Steering wheels, gamepads (wired or wireless, have your pick), dance mats, and the Eye toy are just some of the peripherals that you can connect with a PS2
  • Parts and expertise are easily found should the need arise.
  • Original games are selling for cheap, get them brand new at online retailers like Play-Asia or at your local brick and mortar store. You can also get them secondhand on eBay.
  • You can get a 2nd-hand PS2 for around RM 400 and you'll have spare change for games!