The PSP: An Oldie, But Goodie

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Handheld gaming has been one of my favorite pastimes, but has dropped off in recent years. You can blame it on mobile games, but there are a few good games on Nintendo 3DS & PlayStation Vita.

Recently, I’ve been on a bit of a nostalgia binge and replaying some classic games. While there have been some amazing games this current generation, I still like to go back and replay ones that I’m really fond off.

Two of my all-time favorite handheld consoles have been the GameBoy Advance and PSP. It’s really hard to pick a winner, but the PSP is up there.

Games

While the GBA and DS had a larger library of games, the PSP has plenty to keep you occupied. It is something I cannot say about the PlayStation Vita.

Some of my favorite games have appeared exclusively on the platform. Two that come to mind are Kingdom Hearts: Birth By Sleep & Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker (also playable on PS3 in their respective HD collections).

Both of those titles were among the best in their franchises and included gameplay that would latter migrate to latter games like Kingdom Hearts 3 and MGS: The Phantom Pain. Some of the stories are also fleshed out as well.

Other notables were Dissidia Final Fantasy, Tactics Ogre, God of War, Grand Theft Auto Liberty City & Vice City Stories, and Final Fantasy Tactics. Also, the handheld was compatible with minis and PS1 Classics which allowed you to bring Final Fantasy VII and others on-the-go.

Multimedia Features

Nowadays, we all use our cell phones to consume media and play games. However in 2005, the only device that was truly capable of doing all these things was the PSP.

It’s a bit archaic in 2016, but it was a very advanced piece of tech. Aside from playing games, the PSP connected to the internet.

To watch movies, you can buy UMD versions or get a digital copy through the PSN (which shut down the PSP store last year).

As for music, you could transfer files similar to an MP3 player and listen to your tunes. Although it didn’t have the portability of an iPod so I imagined most PSP owners didn’t use this feature often.

For podcast and internet radio lovers, the PSP was one of few devices to do it. It’s rough to try that today with services like TuneIn Radio and PocketCasts,but it was able to stream and download your favorite radio shows.

There were RSS Channels and an Internet radio app that randomly tuned to Shoutcast and Icecast streams. I used to listen to the BBC World Service and watch “Ask A Ninja” on it before the iPod Touch came to the scene.

Lastly, another neat feature the PSP had was making Skype calls. You could use the official headset or use the built in mic on 2000 & 3000 models.

Connect To TV

People are talking about the Nintendo NX being a hybrid console. Supposedly it will be a device that blurs the lines between handheld & home console.

While the PSP did not had the controls and graphical power to bridge this gap, it was the only handheld gaming device that could connect to a television. If you bought a component or composite cable, then you could display the PSP’s screen on a larger one.

There were certain caveats to this feature. Only the PSP 2000, 3000, and GO models were able to do it. The 1000 model lacked the external connections .

Also, the display would cover a small part of the screen while playing a PSP game. However, the XMB menus, videos, and PS1 games will fill the entire screen.

A way to fix that would to connect it to a HDTV and switch to a Zoom mode.

Overall Impressions

In my college years, I owned a PSP and loved it. It was something that I would carry with me everywhere.

I ultimately gave mine away years ago and over the past few years…kind of regretted it. When I went to my trip to New York City, I lamented about not having one to help past the time on my flights or layover at the airport.

Recently, I found a green PSP (similar to the one I used to own) that was originally bundled with MGS: Peace Walker on eBay.  Being a sucker for my favorite color, I bought one and I appreciate how well Sony made this thing.

Thankfully my library of PSP games and PS1 Classics are still accessible and don’t need to repurchase them. I also realize Sony did a much better job supporting the PSP than they have done with the Vita.

It was truly a product that came out at the right time and plenty of first-party & third-party support that made people want one.  It’s funny to suggest that I would recommend a PSP over a Vita.

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The Many Releases of Final Fantasy

In recent years, portable gaming has been greatly expanded. In addition to Nintendo’s & Sony’s handheld consoles, mobile games have flooded the smartphone & tablet landscape.

It can be argued that Apple iOS & Android could replace dedicated gaming devices or vise versa. In any case, major third-party developers are bringing hardcore experiences to mobile devices. Square-Enix is one of these companies that is supporting these platforms.

In the past three years, the famous JRPG (Japanese Role-Playing Game) maker has brought well-known franchises such as Chrono Trigger to iOS and Android. It has also release new software such as Chaos Rings. Notably, Final Fantasy games are available on both operating systems.

FF4 is out for iOS but should be available on Google Play this Spring. This version of the game is from the DS remake.

Currently, the first four installments are on iPhone, iPod Touch, and iPad alongside Final Fantasy Tactics and Dimensions. Android has only FF I-III and Dimensions (FF IV and Tactics have yet to be released). Final Fantasy V (based on the GameBoy Advance version) is coming soon to smart devices with some graphical tweaks.

This flood of Final Fantasy remakes has some fans criticizing “Squeenix” about their strategy. The most common complaint is that there are too many re-releases, especially Final Fantasy IV. After all, the game is playable on Super Nintendo, PlayStation 1 & 3, PlayStation Portable & Vita, Nintendo DS & Wii, GameBoy Advance, iOS, and coming to Android this Spring.

Rather than seeing dozens of classic 2D-era games, some fans want more recent titles remade such as the ever-popular Final Fantasy VII.

Would it be awesome to play this gem on your smartphone or tablet? Unless you have an PS1 emulator, FF7 fans will have to wait for this classic to be released on iOS and Android. Until then, you can play it legally on PSN or Steam.

Although there is some merit to S-E’s many releases, I believe what they are is doing is not a totally bad idea. By expanding their library into the App Store & Google Play, more people will experience the series. This is especially great for those who either missed the series or too young to get to enjoy it.

My only criticism against Square-Enix is its app pricing. On both Google Play and the App Store, the cost of each game far exceeds any program. Compared to other developers, S-E charges a hefty price for newer content. As opposed to the budget $1 apps, most games are roughly $15-$20.

Check out Final Fantasy III for example. As of this writing, the game is $16 on Android and $9 on iOS (although it released at the cost of $16). Furthermore pricing isn’t consistent between platforms, especially comparing with PlayStation Network and Nintendo’s eShop where games are significantly cheaper (by about $5-$10).

However, I must admit the premium price tag holds value in S-E’s offerings. It is still much cheaper than console titles (which costs $60). In comparison to handhelds, they retail normally $40.

After all, Final Fantasy III (remade originally for the DS) costed $39.99 when it released in 2006. Once ported over to smartphones and tablets, it was about half the original price.

Plus, Square-Enix usually offers discounts and sales on their games on the digital marketplace. Final Fantasy I and II have been sold as low as a dollar on some occasions. Final Fantasy III was marked down by half  a year after its release on the App Store. This is just food for thought.

All this aside, I am excited for the Final Fantasy IV & V re-release on Android this year. The only thing I wish for is being able to use Bluetooth joypads. The virtual touchscreen controls are good, but using a controller with physical buttons would be swell.

Vita Games Available in Stores and PSN

Waiting to get your hands on the PlayStation Vita? You may be interested to know that games are NOW available to purchase just days before its official launch on Feb. 22nd. The unofficial release is Feb. 15th for those getting the First Edition Bundle. While most of the launch titles will not be out until this upcoming Wednesday (and shortly afterwards), there are a few titles currently available…should you get them before the system comes out.

A few of the games currently in stock are Uncharted: Golden Abyss and ModNation Racers: Road Trip. You can either purchase them in stores for a physical copy, or buy it digitally on the PlayStation Store.

I actually received a call from GameStop 2 days ago confirming that Uncharted: Golden Abyss is available to pick up.  Today, I went to pick up the game in addition to getting ModNation Racers. As the photos show, these games are incredibly small…perhaps smaller than a Nintendo 3DS (or DS) game cart and much thinner. The cases are also smaller than the PSP cases, but wider. Don’t except to find manuals in the cases as they are available on the cart and online.

Aside from that, I decided to cancel my 32 GB Vita memory card and transfer my Vita Wi-Fi reserve to get the First Edition Bundle due next week. In addition to getting it a week early, the bundle includes many goodies such as a protective case, free 30 days of 3G coverage by AT&T, free PSN game voucher, augmented reality cards, Little Deviants game, and a 4 GB memory card. Instead of waiting until the official launch, I will be able to review the system in-depth in just 5 days.

While I got hands-on experience at GameStop with the Vita today, I will be able to have a better time with one of my own in the coming days. I am so excited for this system…and I hope you are too.

Dingoo A320: A Review of a Device with Every Classic Game Console Built-In

The Dingoo A320 is a portable device that can emulate classic gaming systems including the Game Boy Advance. In the picture, it is running a port of the Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past.

Many devices are available on the internet that can provide emulation of various classic games. These said gadgets can fully or somewhat fully run older consoles, providing an “on-the-go” option for those who travel or pass free time..for roughly $100 US.

One of these gizmos hails from China…the Dingoo A320. Out of the box, it can run many classic game systems including: Nintendo, Super Nintendo, Sega Genesis, Game Boy Advance, classic arcade, and Neo Geo.

With a little know-how, it is possible to install other emulators from other consoles like the Game Boy, MSX computer, and even PlayStation. The A320 also supports many homebrew games.

While the Dingoo is intended for gaming, it does have other features that make it a multimedia device. It has the ability to play video, audio, FM radio (in which you don’t even need to use headphones as an antenna for great reception), photos, flash animation, and text reader.

You will also be glad to know that the gadget have 4 GB of flash memory with the option to expand it with a MiniSD card, if you can find one these days.

Just plug in the USB port to your PC and device, put your unzipped ROMs into the storage, and then you have classic portable gaming in your hands.

The controls are similar to a PSP (minus the analog knob). There are shoulder buttons, ABXY face buttons, directional pad, and Start & Select.

Should the 2.8 inch screen (slightly smaller than the Game Boy Advance) be too small for your eyes, Dingoo included an RCA video cable that can display the system on to any TV. That’s right, you can play classic games on a TV with the A320.

In terms of performance, the device handles most games very well. Nintendo, most GBA, and arcade games run perfectly. However, there are some issues with a few GBA and most SNES & Genesis games. Either the framerate is slow or sound playback is choppy.

For Super Nintendo and Genesis, the games do run well enough to play, but you may want to turn the sound off should you be annoyed by its incomplete emulation. Some GBA games like Golden Sun, Final Fantasy VI, or Super Mario Advance 4: Super Mario 3 run slow or do not even work, but nearly all of them work just fine.

All in all, this is a system worth picking up should you want to do classic game on-the-go. Especially in my case, I am waiting for the North America release of the PlayStation Vita. Currently I don’t have any portable systems aside the A320. For now, this will tide me over until the Vita’s launch on February 22nd…which I will be posting more info about in the coming days.

The following is a YouTube video made by “Ashens” from the UK. I actually had a video review of the Dingoo A320 produced but my phone was not able to transfer the video to YouTube and it was deleted. I figured to write out a review instead.

Changes To My Radio Shows

As some of you may be aware, I am no longer serving as an on-air announcer for both The Look 24/7 (Wednesday from 3 – 7 p.m. Central) and WUMR (Monday from 7 – 9 p.m. Central). I am still working at U92 FM as sports producer and ESPN Radio 92.9 FM as assistant producer to The Gary Parrish Show with Geoff Calkins on occasion. You may wonder why I am not working as a DJ. Well, that is because I will be interning at a local TV station here in Memphis, FOX 13 WHBQ. Staring on January 23rd, I will be working with the journalists an will get my feet wet as I work on my way as a professional journalist. Because of this internship, classes, and work, I will not have the time to volunteer as an on-air announcer for any station right now. I plan on returning to these stations sometime in May, but that will depend on how my future employment holds up. Until I return to the airwaves, just continue to enjoy these stations with all of their great programming.

Speaking of programs, Dan Hensley from Shortwave America (and contributor to Media Network Plus) is having his radio show on The Look 24/7. If you are interested in shortwave radio and international broadcasting, then you can hear that program LIVE on Fridays and Saturdays from 0400UTC to 0900UTC (or 10 p.m. – 3 a.m. Central time). In addition, downloadable episodes can be found on the website.

Also, I hope to keep maintaining this blog to keep it fresh with new material. Keep it bookmarked for more exciting stuff, including details of the upcoming PlayStation Vita, the next gaming gadget that I will not resist buying.

Dissidia Final Fantasy 012 – Laguna vs. Kefka

Today (March 22, 2011), I picked up my copy of DDFF 012 at GameStop. Immediately, I wanted to play as one of my favorite FF characters, Laguna. I went against one of the most annoying villains of the franchise, Kefka.