Advertencia de fraudes con RetroPie

    Después del rotundo y controvertido éxito del mini NES de Nintendo, parece ser que surgió un mercado para pequeñas consolas retro. Esto realmente no es nada nuevo, los entusiastas de los juegos antiguos han usado emuladores por mucho años. A mi parecer, lo que logró el mini NES fue lograr captar la atención dos grupos:

  1. Gente que sabe de la existencia de los emuladores, pero quiere apoyar a Nintendo o sentir que está jugando sus juegos antiguos de una manera legal. Esto no tiene nada de malo, de hecho, creo que es bastante admirable.
  2. Gente que no tiene idea de que otras opciones existen desde hace años y que tienen muchas mejores características (por ejemplo, poder usar controles inalámbricos, sólo por mencionar una).

    Hasta este momento creí que estos dos grupos de alguna manera lograban cierto equilibrio. Ambas opciones tienen ventajas y desventajas. El segundo grupo tiene una ética dudosa, y el primero se está perdiendo de muchas ventajas tecnológicas de los últimos años.

    Sin embargo, parece ser que ha llegado un momento en que estos dos grupos se están empezando a unir, y creo que es de la peor manera posible. Han surgido personas que están tratando de vender la opción #2 como si fuera la opción #1. Y lo peor es que hay gente que está cayendo en la trampa.

    Más específicamente, estoy hablando de personas que han empezado a vender Raspberries con RetroPie a precios exorbitantes. Ya he escrito antes sobre las Raspberries, pero básicamente son mini-computadoras (aproximadamente del tamaño de una tarjeta de crédito). Por su tamaño y precio tan reducidos, las Raspberries se han vuelto muy famosas con gente que hace proyectos caseros que involucran tecnología.

 

    El precio al que estas personas están vendiendo su “consola” es de $3,000 por una Raspberry Pi, dos controles USB, una carcasa, un cargador y una tarjeta Micro SD de tamaño desconocido. Yo usé una de mis Raspberries para jugar juegos retro, es decir, me hice una de estas “consolas” que esta gente está vendiendo y me salió mucho más barato que $3,000 pesos.

    Vamos a hacer un desglose de lo que yo invertí en esto: Una Raspberry Pi 3 (la más nueva y poderosa a la fecha) cuesta sólo $35dll. El kit que yo usé trae muchas cosas extra y se vende en Amazon por $75 dólares ($1530 pesos mexicanos aproximadamente, con el dolar a los $20.36 actuales). Digamos que son $500 extra por envío, sólo por ser conservadores. Eso lleva al total a unos $2,000, es decir, sólo dos tercios de lo que esta gente está pidiendo. Los emuladores y el software son obviamente gratis así que no entran en la ecuación.

    En pocas palabras, hacer una de estas “consolas” que venden a $3,000 me costó únicamente $2,000, y podría llegar a costar sólo $35 dlls ($712 pesos mexicanos) si es que ya se cuenta con un cargador USB, una tarjeta micro SD y un cable HDMI, cosas que mucha gente ya tiene. La única parte esencial de el proyecto es la misma Raspberry Pi. Cosas como la carcasa, aunque si son útiles, no llegan a ser imprescindibles.

    El dilema aquí es, ¿qué tanto cobrar un precio tan alto es aceptable? Por una lado, los vendedores podrían argumentar que están vendiendo un producto ya listo para jugar y que el esfuerzo de instalar todo el software vale ese precio tan alto. Este es el peor argumento que podrían tener, pues por experiencia propia, sé que todo el proceso lleva, a lo mucho, unos 20 minutos. Hay muchos tutoriales en internet que muestran paso a paso cómo hacer todo esto.

    También podrían argumentar que las personas comunes no quieren, o no pueden, configurar una Raspberry Pi para usarla de esta manera. A pesar de que este es un argumento igual de ridículo, creo que es el único que podría tener algo de sentido. Por ejemplo, a pesar de que yo puedo cocinar, regularmente prefiero ahorrarme el problema, ir a un restaurante y que alguien más lo haga por mi. Sin embargo ¿que pasa cuando se me oculta el hecho de que esto es algo que yo mismo podría hacer?

    La razón de mi indignación es que estas personas no están siendo honestas. En ningún punto los vendedores dicen claramente lo que realmente están vendiendo: Una Raspberry Pi con accesorios y software pre-instalado. No, el producto se anuncia como una “Consola Retro”, y esto, muy sutilmente, esconde el fraude que se está cometiendo: La gente podría ir a comprar una Raspberry Pi y hacer esto ellos mismos muy fácilmente, pero están siendo engañados al no escuchar claramente lo que están comprando. Desgraciadamente mucha gente no conoce las Raspberries o RetroPie, y por lo tanto tiende a caer en el fraude sin sospecharlo.

    En pocas palabras, hay personas que se están aprovechando de la falta de conocimiento de otras personas, y sólo hay una palabra para eso: Fraude. La frase “gato por liebre” es perfecta para comunicar lo que está pasando aquí.

    El comentario que puse advirtiendo a la gente de la situación fue rápidamente eliminado y se me negó el acceso a seguir escribiendo nuevos comentarios. Esto demuestra que los vendedores reconocen que están haciendo algo incorrecto, y tratan de esconderlo. Que tristeza que este tipo de situaciones sean tan comunes en nuestro país. Aprovecharnos unos de los otros es lo último que necesitamos en la situación económica tan incierta que estamos viviendo estos días.

Share

Alan Verdugo / 2017/02/04 / Uncategorized / 0 Comments

WipEout HD / Fury

Title: WipEout HD / Fury.

Development: Sony Studio Liverpool.

Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment.

Launch year: 2008.

Genre: Racing.

System: PlayStation 3.

Number of players: 1-8.

 

    Like many people, I got this game totally free as an apology from Sony, after the PlayStation Network service was interrupted. As I had not played any WipEout game before, I choose WipEout HD Fury as one of my free downloads based only on the graphical aspect, and, to be honest, I am very happy to have chosen it.

    I am ashamed to admit that, before playing this game, I always thought that the WipEout franchise was only a cheap copy of F-Zero, and I was very happy to be proven wrong. I did not know that a racing game could offer so much, and to top it all, I got all this for free.

    WipEout HD offers several game modes: Race campaign, Single race, Tournament, Time trial, Speed lap, and Zone. In the Zone races, your ship accelerates by itself gradually and the goal is to survive as long as possible. It sounds simple, but it is very hard and, more importantly, very addictive. In a game with really good graphics, this mode is particularly gorgeous and shows off the talent of The Designer’s Republic. The normal aspect of the tracks changes to something very reminiscent of the Tron bike races and every time the player completes a set of laps, the colors change in a very flashy way. In my opinion, this is by far the most interesting mode in the game. It requires patience, lightning-quick reflexes, and endurance. Watching a good run in the last zones is something really spectacular. Feel free to skip to the last few minutes of the following video to understand what I am saying.

    The online mode deserves special recognition. I have ran many times in the online mode, including 8-player tournaments and I have never experienced any kind of lag, even on my third-world internet connection. All of my online races have been as smooth as the offline races. This is something notable due to the neck-breaking speed characteristic of the game. The online community is keeping strong and constant even to this date. I’ve never had a problem to find opponents in any time of the day or night, which is also notable for such an old game. It was even relatively easy to organize a “Bling Brigade” race (a race which requires 8 simultaneous players to use a special silver paint-job in their ships).

    The Fury expansion adds the following modes to the game: Eliminator, Zone battle and Detonator. As you can imagine, Fury focuses on combat and destruction rather than in a traditional race mode.

    WipEout has always had a very special relationship with music (for example, the disc of the first game could be inserted on a regular CD player in order to listen to the game’s soundtrack). In WipEout HD, the player can change the soundtrack for any songs in the PS3 hard drive. This is a very welcome bonus for those of us who are not fans of electronic music, which is so prevalent in the game.

    This game alone made me a fan of WipEout, The Designer’s Republic and Studio Liverpool (even thought Sony decided to terminate the studio). I really regret not having played the other games before, but I am thankful to whoever hacked the PlayStation Network, because otherwise I could have gone without playing it. WipEout HD, Fury and 2048 will be bundled and relaunched as the Omega Collection for PS4, and it is the first PS4 game that really made me want to buy a new console.

Share

Alan Verdugo / 2017/01/08 / Review / 0 Comments

Radiant historia

Radiant Historia

Publisher: Atlus.

Developer: Atlus.

Console: Nintendo DS.

Genre: RPG.

Number of players: 1.

Year of release: 2011.

    Radiant Historia is the story of Stocke, an intelligence agent in the nation of Alistel, one of several nations in a continent that is suffering desertification thanks to the unbalance of Mana. People are dying en masse, the world is basically becoming a desert in a very accelerated rate, and the forces of fate have chosen Stocke as the tool to fix the crisis. Stocke is also chosen as the wielder to the White Chronicle, a book that allows him to travel trough time and change his decisions as he sees fit. With such an amazing book, we would think that saving the world is an easy task, but it is not. Besides the desertification, Stocke will need to deal with the impeding war, rebellions, trials, the relationships with his allies and enemies, and a mysterious force that also seems to be affecting the flow of time.

    The protagonist is a experienced elite soldier, who is always smart, focused and interesting. This is better than the mute and forgettable protagonists of so many RPGs and much, much better than the uni-dimensional whiny adolescents “with a strong sense of justice, friendship” and a messiah-complex that are the protagonists of the rest of the RPGs. Other characters in the game are equally interesting and complex, and they make important decisions as the different timelines in the game progress. You never know if a cute and charming female character will be your love interest or one of your worst enemies. In the same way, you never know if your best friend will share the glory with you or if he will betray you if the need arises. Best of all, you do not know if one possibility will occur in a timeline and the opposite will occur in another one. All this makes the story unpredictable and engaging. I was surprised noticing that trough the game, I felt truly sad about some characters and really happy for others, while the villains really made me hate them. At the end of the game, I felt a sense of nostalgia just thinking that I would no longer spend some time getting to know the characters. Very few games can accomplish something like this, and it is the result of good writing, great character design and an amazing story.

    The battle system is based on a grid where the enemies are located. They can use offensive and defensive tactics and formations, and you can literally push the enemies around in order to group them and attack many of them at the same time to perform combos. More importantly, enemies closer to you will deal more damage, but will also receive more damage from your attacks. There are enemies who are larger and moving them will affect several other enemies at a time. There are other enemies who will not move around the grid. All this adds a very fun strategic element since you always try to look for the optimum way to use your turn and special attacks in your favor, and even try to thwart the enemies before they have a chance to act. While in the field, you can see the enemies and even attack them before the actual battle sequence begins, doing this repeatedly will cause the enemy to become dizzy and will grant you an advantage once the battle beings. However, if an enemy approaches you from behind, the advantage will be theirs, and will make the battle a little harder. This is an interesting way to expand the strategic elements in the game. When you are low on health, you will want to use the advantage as often as possible, but when you want more challenge you can just approach the enemies indiscriminately. I think this is a good way to balance the difficulty in the game, because you can make the game harder or easier as you need, without changing the difficulty of the whole game.

    The art is really good, specially the beautiful characters portraits and fluid battle animations. However, the 3D environments sometimes look basic and dull, but I think this is more related to the limited 3D capabilities of the Nintendo DS rather than to Atlus’ artists. That said, I would have preferred environments in 2D only.

    The music is simply amazing. I tend to deliberately lengthen some battles just to keep listening to the music composed by Yoko Shimomura, who also has composed basically all the songs in the Kingdom Hearts and Mario & Luigi series among many other successful games like Super Mario RPG, Legend of Mana, and Street Fighter II.

    There is a lot of dialogue in the game, and due to the frequent travels back in time, sometimes you have to repeat lengthy scenes several times. The good news are that the scenes are elegantly written and you can skip or fast-forward most of them.

The story is complex and interesting.

The story is complex and interesting.

    The game sometimes feels too big in terms of story and dialogue for one single small cartridge. Sometimes I got the feeling that such a rich story should have been better portrayed in a movie or a book, but the time travel mechanics would make this just too cumbersome or even impossible. The profound story is fantastic and very deep, it subtly includes important themes like control, conflict, love, free will, technological progress, environmentalism, religion, racism, segregation and trust. The ability to travel back in time and choose a different path makes the player think in how his or her life would be different with such a power. However, it quickly becomes clear that trying to have a perfect life is futile. There is no perfect path and trying to fix a problem often creates more difficulty. The game raises important philosophical questions to the player and often gives the player choices that will directly impact his own fate and ultimately the fate of the world.

    Each nation in the continent represents a flaw in the human condition that must be solved. Alistel is the most technologically advanced nation, it has a grim and dirty look and its people are controlled by the holy word of a religious prophet. You can speak with the children and they will tell you how much they love said prophet, even if they have never seen him. Alistel represents the delicate balance between science and religion, and shows how even when they are working together and in harmony, they can create disastrous results without the proper direction. Celestia is the nation of the “Beastkind” whom are very racist towards humans and don’t even allow them entrance to the city, and when you finally can enter, they will not trust you and will expect you to behave like a savage animal, since you only are a dirty human. Cygnus is a fragile nation that is full of people that entertain themselves with violence, fighting tournaments and brawls in bars. Ironically, this acts like an escape valve and they are mostly friendly. Granorg is the only nation that still has a monarchy, such control is often corrupted and then disputed. Rebellions and their retributions are brutal, sometimes even resulting in people dying in the streets without empathy from anybody. Forgia is the land of the Gutrals, who are also wary of humans, since they have been betrayed by them in the past. They are a proud warrior tribe who request many things from you for only a chance to speak with them. Their fighting nature also offers them the possibility of renouncing their reason and become mindless killing machines. All these situations need a solution and you can try to solve them, but it is up to you if you decide to cure the wound of each society.

    As much as I love Chrono Cross, Radiant Historia, while long and sometimes necessarily confusing, is so good that it could have been a worthy and acclaimed sequel of the beloved Chrono Trigger (and this could easily have been done by changing some characters and locations, due to the obvious plot similarities). Besides, it is the only game that, thanks to its game mechanics, offers a New Game+ mode from the very beginning. It is a shame that this game is not as widely known as it deserves to be. I haven’t had this much fun with an RPG since Golden Sun, so let’s hope that Atlus does not forget about Radiant Historia and we get a sequel or a remake in the future.

Share

Alan Verdugo / 2015/10/29 / Review / 0 Comments

Fallout 3: Game of the year edition

Developer: Bethesda Game StudiosFallout 3 Goty box art

Publisher: Bethesda Softworks.

Console: PlayStation 3.

Year of release: 2009.

Genre: RPG/FPS

    Welcome to the Wasteland, a very dark but hilarious world. When the worst has already happened, there is no other option but to laugh. Probably other people will not find this game so funny, but when you have such a sardonic and dry sense of humour, it is impossible not to laugh constantly while playing Fallout 3. The people in this Wasteland try to face their dilemma and live their lives in any way they can. Some of them long for the elusive peace, salvation, and order, some of them embrace their suffering completely and build their existence around it resorting to murder and cannibalism, and some of them are just completely insane. Civilization and the structure of society has crumbled completely and the different fractions try to rebuild everything, with mainly misinformed and dysfunctional results. The interaction with these characters is what makes Fallout 3 so good.

    Depending on the decisions you make trough the game, you can traverse the wasteland either as a mostly neutral person, as a beacon of hope to everybody or as the devil himself, bringing final doom to the already agonizing Earth. This affects your reputation. If you are considered evil, the NPCs will shoot you on sight, but if you bring justice and are acclaimed as a hero, they will offer you free items as a token of gratitude. Also, some companion characters will not join you if they disagree with your past actions, either good or bad. This obviously increases the replay value of the game since it is impossible to do everything in only one playtrough.

    The capital wasteland looks beautiful in its signature post-apocaliptic retro-futuristic dystopian style. It is also overwhelmingly vast and it is full of interesting places, from the faded elegance of the White House, the Jefferson Memorial and the Washington Monument to neglected underground tunnels, irradiated sewers, and several traumatizing Vaul-Tec Vaults. In the same way, the Wasteland is home to many interesting factions. There are AIs and robots that are perpetually trying to fulfill their objectives. For example, one home-assistant robot is still trying to feed the carcass of a pet, and reciting There will come soft rains” by Sara Teasdale to dead children as a bedtime poem, which comes as brilliant (and very dark humour) if the player has read Ray Bradbury’s short story of the same name. Other robots are “normal” and just try to kill everything that moves. There is also a town populated only by children, who exile any kid who grows up enough, which in turn goes to live with other outcasts, like some sort of twisted Peter Pan adaptation. There is also the Brotherhood of Steel, a group of futuristic knights using powered armours and laser weapons with a fanatical devotion to democracy and their own set of feudalistic rules. And then we have The Ghouls, who are basically intelligent zombie survivors who are forced to live underground to avoid racism and hatred from the “normal” people. Those are only some of the groups that you get to meet. There are also giant insects, mutated two-headed cattle, a talking tree, aliens, mutants, super-mutants, giant super-mutants, etc. You get the idea.

    The music is really good, and is a central part of the story, following the retro-futuristic theme. There are several radio stations that you can listen to and most of them play music from the 1950s, but some of them play indie radio shows, ultra-nationalistic political propaganda from an unknown self-proclaimed president, distress signals and mysterious Morse code transmissions which you could choose to investigate, triggering side-quests in the process. The voice acting also deserves a special mention, since there are hours of spoken dialogue perfectly performed by actors such as Liam Neeson.

    Fallout 3 is as long as the player wants it to be, there are thousands of things to do in the Capital Wasteland. All five DLC expansions are already included in this Game of the year edition, to add length to an already long game. The player can instantly transport from one location to another, but it is much more interesting and fun to just walk to your destination. There are so many things and locations to be found in the wasteland, that it makes fast-travelling feel like a waste. When I completed the game, I was already impatient for the credits to finish rolling in order to continue playing.

    This game awakened my inner hoarder. Across the Wasteland there are many objects which you can collect, from rusty spoons to alien weaponry, but all of them useful in one way or another. For example, you can fix your own attire using the material in clothes you find. The same goes for armours, accessories and weapons. Since everything wears out with use and damage, it eventually stops working. A weapon that has not been maintained and repaired regularly, will do less damage and jam constantly. You will find yourself collecting every single thing you can carry, because it could be useful. Thanks to the violently accelerated entropy in this irradiated world, the merchants pay top bottlecaps for any item in perfect conditions.

    In the back cover, there is a quote saying “Fallout 3 is the ultimate video game“, and this feels accurate. It is, at least, one of the best games of the generation, and it is worthy of the many awards it received. This Game of the year edition offers even more content and is an even better deal. I have played this game for more than 100 hours and I still find it incredibly enjoyable, and I know that I could easily spend another 100 hours with it and still have fun and find new interesting things to do. The PS3 version of the game suffers from constant bugs and crashes, but even so, this feels as a minor inconvenience for such a fun game. The PC version is preferable since it is more stable and the modding community has made some impressive work with it. This makes me wonder how impressive the future sequels will be if they fully take advantage of the newer consoles and high-end PCs.

Share

Alan Verdugo / 2015/03/27 / Review / 0 Comments

Contra 4

Contra 4's box art

Publisher: Konami.

Development: WayForward.

Console: Nintendo DS.

Genre: Action/Shooter.

Number of players: 1-2 local wireless.

Launch year: 2007.

    These days, good hardcore action games are few and far between. Contra 4 is one of those rare gems, taking all the good aspects from the past games (specially Contra III: The alien wars) and improving them. The DS library is full of fun games, but many of them are slow-paced, like RPGs and touch-based games. This is why it is so refreshing to still see old school 2D side-scrollers, like Contra 4, the Megaman Zero Collection and the New Super Mario Bros.

    In the same way, hardcore games like Contra and the Souls series are the exception rather than the norm in this era. New generations of gamers are not very used to difficult games and this has resulted in some misleading bad reviews due to a “ridiculous difficulty”. Do not be fooled by this, Contra is supposed to be this hard, it is part of its charm. Contra 4 includes an easy mode which is just that: easy. The normal mode can be considered to be hard to today’s standards and the hard mode is absolutely brutal, but that invites you to get a friend to help you in multiplayer and challenges you to hone your skills enough to finish it alone. At the end of the day, the satisfaction you get after achieving this will get you going until you master the game, and you will enjoy every second of it.

    There is no option to change the button mapping but, honestly, that is not needed. The controls for the Contra series achieved perfection a long time ago and thankfully not much has changed. The game uses both screens beautifully. With the X button, the player shoots an upward grappling hook to move to the upper screen rapidly. The use of both screens also allows more multiplayer strategies while dealing with bosses or parallel paths. However, this also means even bigger bosses and that enemies will approach from every angle and shoot at you from the other screen as well. As an heritage from the previous Contra games, the “3D” tunnel stages and bike-riding segments also make a glorious return.

    Once you finish the game the first time, you will unlock the Challenge mode, in which you will face different short challenges like killing a high number of enemies in a short period of time, surviving during parts of the main missions with a very limited amount of ammo or even without shooting at all. Completing challenges unlock extra content like digital comicbooks, extra characters and the old Contra and Super Contra games with perfect emulation (but no multiplayer, unfortunately). This alone makes the Challenge mode an incredibly satisfying and rewarding experience that other games should imitate.

    To summarize, new gamers will be grateful to be able to enjoy an almost forgotten sub-genre and old fans will be grateful to Konami for remaining true to its roots while enhancing the series. Contra 4 is easily one of the best games for the DS, bringing many hours of action and a hope of more Contra games in the future.

Share

Alan Verdugo / 2015/01/29 / Review / 0 Comments