Category Archives: Tech and Gaming

This category is about computer and console gaming, along with tech-related topics such a hardware, software, troubleshooting, and the like.

Cave Story – Review

Originally Posted by Onegai:

Genre(s): Action, 2D platformer, RPG components, non-linear plot

Alternative Name(s): Doukutsu Monogatari

Author: Daisuke “Pixel” Amaya

Platform(s): Windows

Year of Release: 2004

Licence: Free (original version)

Ports: WiiWare, DSiWare, Nintendo 3DS, Linux, Mac OS

Spinoffs: Cave Story+, Cave Story 3D


Background:
Cave story was created entirely by “Pixel” over a period of about five years. During this time he created all the graphics, music and code needed to bring his vision to life.

Gameplay:
Cave Story’s gameplay is primarily somewhere between Commander Keen and Rockman. That’s jumping, shooting and using the right weapon — for the right enemy those who don’t know what I mean. But above this primary layer exists another, thinner layer of sophistication that one would find in RPGs and adventure game; the old find-that-item-talk-to-that-person routine. This is a good combination as it help break the monotony, integrates the story and gameplay nicely and helps separate the games into more distinctive segments. Though there are some other RPG elements, for the most part, the player must rely almost solely on his/her own dexterity to progress. For this reason, the game boasts some of the most fluid and intuitive controls I’ve come across. Still, for all the good there is some, albeit very little, bad. The game’s flaw lies predominantly in its inconsistent difficulty. While the first part feels a little tough, one soon finds oneself breezing through the game after gaining a rudimentary understanding of the mechanics. Then quite suddenly one reaches the final areas and finds oneself bombarded with handicaps and difficulties that include gauntlets of terrible battles with no save points in between. While this difficulty is actually a positive thing since most games today require nothing more than smashing random buttons to finish, the immense inconsistency almost detracts from the game.  All in all, Cave Story still gets a gold star for being fun enough to play through several times. All in all, I’m giving the gameplay 9/10

Graphics:
Judging 2D graphics is difficult by today’s standards because of all the advantages that come with modern technology. Larger capacity allows a greater number of tiles, more colours and higher resolution graphics. Modern graphics editors, even basic ones, higher productivity rates with quick copy-pasting, flipping, colour adjusting and filters. Still, despite all the available technology, Cave Story keeps it fairly leans and simple, maintaining the retro look. But despite this lean approach, Cave story manages to produce rich and vivid environments with beautifully smooth parallax scrolling. Furthermore, the chibi-style of many of the characters captures their essence perfectly and  is reminiscent of the old Famicom days. At the end of the game, the player is treated to an impressive slide-show of truly amazing pixel art (or is it Pixel-art). My only criticism would be that occasionally, in certain areas, it becomes hard to make out enemies clearly due the complexity of the the background, foreground and characters all working together but against one another. All in all, the graphics deserve an impressive 8/10.

Audio:
The style of the music and SFX in Cave Story is truly a journey back in time to my childhood. Filled with nostalgia and packing some awesome beats and great synth, Cave Story has one of the most excellent sound tracks I’ve heard in a long time. While the music occasionally not suit the environment, it does for the most part and helps create an intense atmosphere. The compositions themselves are great and pack such a powerful punch that it’s easy to get immersed in the rythm of combat and great tunes well into the early hours of the morning. For this and for originality, for sticking to the style and for fitting the rythm of the gameplay, the game’s soundtrack gets a solid 9/10.

Story:
The story itself is by far the most intense, complex and immersive I’ve ever encountered in a one-man indie game. The characters are all rish in subtle detail and exceedingly well-developed. The plot and setting are quite unusual as are the Mimiga race that play such a vital role in the story. This makes the game special and unique to anybody who’s creatively inclined. On top of all the story has to offer is the fact that it is not one but several endings derived from three primary plot-forks the player can follow. While multiple endings can often be seen as as sort of gaming fad, in Cave Story they are as much an essential component to the game as the gameplay itself. Cave Story’s story is in the same league as any AAA game title — better than most in fact — and earns a full thumbs-up rating of 9/10.

Conclusion:Cave Story passes with flying colours at an average of 92% which earns it the A rank it deserves. There’s no wonder that this humble indie title has been ported to so many platforms and and received two commercial remakes. One of the few games that could silence even the most vocal of critics, this game is a must-play.

Download:
You can download this game along with the translation here.



Software: RPG Toolkit

Originally Posted by Onegai:

Software Name: RPG Toolkit (aka “Toolkit”, aka “Tk”)

Software Type: Game (RPG mainly) Software Development Kit

License: Open Source

Features: Engine & Scripting language, Entity/Map Editors

Scripting Language: RPGCode (C-Based syntax)

Graphics Support: 2D only.

Last Stable Release: 3.1

More Features…

This is a little-known project I’ve been keeping an eye on for a while now because I believe it has potential. Although initially quite unwieldy the project was apparently recoded in C++ in the more recently releases and the scripting language, RPGCode as they call it, has been updated too. Sadly, work on this project seems to have been halted a while back and I haven’t seen many real games being developed using it. This could probably be attributed to Toolkit’s unstable engine/compiler and its terrible battle-menu plugin (Even the new one has major trouble detecting keypresses correctly).

Can I make my silly little dweeby RPG with this? Yes, but you’ll need to to be able to write your own dlls to give Toolkit the functionality it needs unless you’re making something with exceedingly generic mechanics. At the very least you’ll need to be able to program something. It’s not completely drag and drop.

Looking at the features. They’re good. No actually they’re great. You can use the map editor to draw 2D vector lines over a still image to create boundaries as well as creating layers from a single image. You can create event tiles or draw event areas that will trigger pieces of code. Variables are handled mostly by the engine so you don’t have to track flags, you simply use the editor to enter whether the trigger must only happen once or each time the collision takes place.

So all in all. RPG Toolkit is a great software and a great project, but it’s loaded with just too many bugs, flaws and imperfections for anything beyond personal amusement. It’s not even fit for freeware. To worsen things, most of the games being created using it are ugly, clunky things that include a mixture of bad artwork, ripped graphics, plagiarized audio (well one title at least) and generally unstable scripts. It’s a pity because I’ve seen Toolkit in the right hands and the project had/has so much potential. If a team got together and rebuilt this project, I think it could be an asset to beginner indie-developers.

You can download it here or on almost any page on the site.

…I’ve been wanting to do this article for a while. but never got around to it until now.

Biohazard(Resident Evil) 4 – Screen Size Problem

Originally Posted by Onegai:

RE4 LogoSo there seems to be this problem with the PC version of Biohazard 4 (aka Resident Evil 4) on the PC. I didn’t actually even pick up on it until a friend brought it to my attention. He moaned that when he tried to play it on his laptop (don’t ask me why), it wouldn’t go 16:9 so he ended up with horizontal and vertical black lines down the screen. So I closed my porn, got off my lazy butt, dug up RE4, installed it and started it up. Seemed my friend was right. The setup program didn’t allow me to switch aspect ratios or set the resolution nearly high enough. But this problem is easily solvable with these steps:
1. Open [wherever you installed it]\Capcom\Biohazard 4\SetupTool.ini with notepad (Yes, I usually resort to editing the setup file first! Much easier than stuffing about on the net for an hour, heh.)
2. The first lines look like this:

;===== Used by Game =====
[SCREEN]
;Mode : 0=FullScreen ,1=Window ,Other=Window
;Type : 0=Wide ,1=Normal ,Other=Normal
;Size
; Normal : 800×600 ,1024×768 ,1280×1024 ,1600×1200
; Wide : 1280×800 ,1440×900 ,1680×1050 ,1920×1200
Mode=0
Type=1
SizeX=800
SizeY=600

Change the following values to what is written below:

Mode=0
Type=1
SizeX=[Your desktop’s width. 1366 is compatible with most laptops and widescreens]
SizeY=[Your desktop’s height.]

3. Save and exit.
4. Play the game.

NOTE: Each time you change and save the settings with the game’s setup utility, this will be undone so get your settings right first. Also, don’t use modes that aren’t compatible with your hardware (If you’ve a 16:9 screen then 1366×768 will more than likely work). Don’t modify anything you’re unsure of. Don’t try to set it to widescreen (Type=0) because it prolly won’t work even if your screen is a widescreen (it crashed on me). If the game crashes, launch the setup and set it back to default.

Feel free to post a question regarding this fix. I’ll answer it as soon as I can.

UPDATE:

It seems there are still many questions regarding Biohard/Resident Evil 4. So I’ve decided to add a step-by-step guide here:

1. First locate the “SetupTool.ini” file:

Click to enlarge

2. Edit the file by adding your custom resolutions (and save it):

Click to enlarge

3. Now make sure to run the Game.exe file and NOT the Launcher.exe file as I think the launcher is prolly responsible for it reverting.

Click to enlarge

4. If you are using a shortcut, right-click the shortcut and select “Properties”. Then change the target to “game.exe”and press Ok.

Click to enlarge

If you are having trouble still, you need to disable all permissions when editing the SetupTool.ini file otherwise saving will fail. I’ll add a post about permissions at some point.
Also note that you need to set the resolution to match YOUR display, not mine. So if you have a native resolution of 1280×720, thebn setting it to 1366×768 will crash it or cause it to revert.

Final Fantasy VII Remake Does Exist

Originally Posted by Onegai:

It’s just nothing like you were expecting. First of all, it’s not for PS3, Xbox360 or PC. Second of all, it will not feature new HD field and battle graphics nor re-rendered FMVs in the style of Advent Children. Thirdly, this remake has been done without Square-Enix’s consent. Ladies and gentlemen, may I present to you:

Title screen

…on the Famicom/NES! Here is the supposed cartridge and it’s a whopping 2MB in size which is fsucking gigantic for a single NES game considering Final Fantasy was around 260kb and Final Fantasy III was around 520kb.

Final Fantasy VII (Advent Children??)

I personally couldn’t actually believe it so I grabbed myself a rom dump and played it (Btw if you do intend on playing it there is an Engrish version but I just grabbed the first one I could. Secondly, if you wanna play it, you’ll need an emulator that supports mapper 163 like Nestopia). To my shock/horror.amazement my scepticism was blown out the window leaving me trembling in front of my PC and uttering “My God, it’s true…” repeatedly.

The game starts off sort off like its Playstation counterpart in that there’s a scene in the beginning where cloud and Barret get off a train on their way to destroy the reactor.

Opening Scene: Bombing Mission...

Cloud must then make his way inside the reactor. On his way there, he is attacked by some soldiers barring his path…

Cloud battling it out fiercely with a guard

… Etc, etc, etc. I haven’t played the game much further than after blowing up the reactor (nor do I intend on doing so any time soon) but I’m pretty sure that it’s probably going to stay fairly accurate with the basics of FFVII except for all the FAIL and don’t worry, I WILL be addressing that now.

Now if you’re a seasoned Final Fantasy gamer like myself, you will probably have already recognised many of the graphics in this game from Final Fantasy I – III on the NES. If you’re not, well now you know. The creators have ripped most of the graphics from the series’ first three releases (and prolly some other games too). As for the rest, they’ve cooked them using the ripped graphics as stencils.

Cloud and Barret fight to break through two giant worms during the Bombing Mission? Not quite FFVII

I think they did make the head and face of the Barret battle sprite themselves, after all, it does stink of fail. Yes, that pumpkin-headed thing with fish-like cheeks is supposed to be our much-loved and foul-mouthed, pissed-off friend, Barret (Or rather it’s supposed to be). Here is a snap from FFII on the NES:

A snap from the original Final Fantasy II on NES.

Compare this with the one taken from the faux FFVII. As you can see, Cloud is the top character with nothing more than a colour change. Barret is the body of the bottom character with the boots of the character just above him and a hideous head.

A snap from Final Fantasy III on NES. Notice the evironment.

Now let’s talk environments. Above is a snap from FFIII on NES. Take a look a set of snaps from the FFVII NES game below.

This is SUPPOSED to be the first conversation between Biggs, Wedge, Cloud and Jessie.

You’ve got to be kidding if you tell me that those tiles aren’t ripped. Oh sure they re-coloured them but ripping tiles is ripping tiles and it’s goddamn copyright infringement (Or it should be but we’ll get to that).

This is an FFVII NES version of the inside of a Makou Reactor

The music isn’t much better either. So far I’ve heard a very horrific rendition of the FFVII title music (actually there’s a few that used this back in the day) along with a terrible remix of the FFII town music. The battle music is a sort of remix of FFII’s and, to make things worse, the fanfare is even crappy and the post-fanfare music (what you hear when it tells you how much experience points you gained) is a failed attempt at recreating FFVII’s (although if you listen to it carefully, it bears a vague resemblance to FFVIII’s – imagine that).

So what made this all possible? It’s the same thing that made the release of so many “pirate cartridges” (cartridges that contained loads of games, many of them graphic hacks of their originals usually bearing alternative names) possible back in the days of NES supremecy. China has what one could deem “liberal copyright laws” and any games produced in China fell/fall under the protection of these “liberal copyright laws”. So whenever Japan produced a hit seller, a group of copyright thieves would get together and create a re-release of said game that was often placed on one of those “1000 in 1” cartridges that contained about ten different hacks of the same game.

Yes, that's Cloud's status window. Although that's not a bad avatar considering the limitations of the NES.

That said, you’ve got to admire the creators of this game nonetheless. I mean apart from sheer fsucking audacity, it must have taken one hell of a lot of work (except for the graphics since most of them are ripped). Apparently the game sticks to the plotline of the original FFVII almost perfectly (or so I’m told – maybe I should play through it lol) and the game was pretty long and rather large for its time. That couldn’t have been easy to put together on a NES. Not to mention all that coding. FFVII is a very complicated game and although a lot has been simplified (like the materia system), it’s still not a task I’d want to take on.

Whether you want to see this as outright heresy and copyright infringement or simply an homage to the Playstation predecessor is up to you. I mean in a really geeky kind of way it is sort of cool. Personally though, as a hardcore FFVII fan, I have but one thing to say about this remake: NO.



Bahamut Lagoon

Originally Posted by Onegai:

BahamutLagoon

Official Title(s): Bahamut Lagoon

Copyright: © 1996

Company: Squaresoft

Original Platform: SNES

Genre(s): Fantasy, RPG, Strategy

Synopsis:

After the kingdom of Kahna is attacked and defeated by the Granbelos Empire and princess Yoyo is taken prisoner, the world of Oreles is left very bleak. Now Byuu, former captain of the Kahna Dragon Squad along with Matelite of the Kahna Royal guard decide to form a rebel force to overthrow the Granbelos Empire. And thus begins our adventure.

Review:

Storyline: 4/5 – The storyline is maybe a little clichéd as far as basic elements and plot devices go. This does not stop Bahamut Lagoon from being quite an immersing little epic that does have a few very welcome twists and turns as well as a rather original setting.

Characters: 5/5 – I’ve never played a game from this generation that has so many uniquely defined playable characters (Beat ‘em Ups aside). The best part is that they managed to flesh all these characters out to the extent that the player gets to know them all intimately as the game progresses.

Gameplay: 4/5 – The gameplay is brilliant combination of RPG and Turn-based Strategy combining the typical J-RPG turn-based combat sequences with turn-based Strategy fields. It sounds strange but it works. That’s just the combat aspect though. There’s a whole other side to this game which involves the careful feeding of a squad of dragons you must raise. How you feed them determines their growth and evolution which affects their stats and abilities. This can ultimately determine your success or failure in combat. It’s perhaps daunting to the amateur gamers out there but to the fans of the Strategy and RPG genre it’s a dream come true. The game’s downside is that it’s extremely linear and in essence could be described as “A bunch of cut-scenes with gameplay in-between” since it offers no real exploration. Whilst I don’t have a problem with this at all, many gamers out there would.

Graphics: 4/5 – The graphics are overall very pleasing. Although the characters’ field sprites lack the Final Fantasy definition, they are smoother and better proportioned. (FF used the chibi-look from 1 through 6). The battle sprites on the other hand are very nice and the battle animations are really impressive. As for the cut-scene graphics, some of them are nothing short of stunning.

Soundtrack: 3.5/5 – The soundtrack is really great. There’s not a single annoying piece on the game’s play list and the music fits perfectly into every scene. But there is one tiny shortcoming and that’s the lack of variety. There simply aren’t that many discernibly different compositions on the soundtrack. I do say “quality over quantity” but within reason.

Replayability: 3/5 – The game has only one element of replayability to it and that’s the dragons. Because they grow and evolve differently based on what you feed them, you may get curious, like I did, and replay once or twice for experimentation’s sake. Apart from this, you’ll likely not have a strong compulsion to replay because it’s, as I mentioned earlier, a rather daunting game to wade through.

Overall Enjoyment: 5/5 – This is one of the hardest games to critique accurately. In spite of its linear nature, lengthy cut-scenes and lack of replayability, Bahamut Lagoon is in a league of its own. It was one of my favourite gaming experiences because of its sheer uniqueness in all areas. If you enjoy the RPG or Strategy genre, this game is definitely a must play, even if it is just once.

Key: 5.Excellent   4.Good   3.So-so   2.Poor   1.Awful   0. Terrifyingly bad

Extra Titbits:

Bahamut Lagoon was never officially released outside Japan (Like so many other good titles). The best hope of playing it is to download a translated ROM and use an emulator to play it (Unless you can read Japanese).

 

Making Opera Mini 5 Work On Phones That Are “Incompatible”

Originally Posted by Onegai:

operamini_logo

Opera Mini is probably the greatest thing that ever came from Java enabled phones. It’s brought the mobile internet to a whole new level. Opera Mini 4 was awesome enough, but Opera Mini 5 makes 4 look like a kiddie toy. The difference between 4 and 5 is like the difference between Windows 98 and Vista (Without the fail). But alas, Opera Mini 5 is “incompatible” with many phones including the LG KS360. However, there’s a way around this flaw.

Firstly, you must download Opera Mini 5 which means ignoring the Opera site’s recommendation to download 4 instead. The easiest way to do this while avoiding all the messy navigation is Google Opera Mini 5 on your phone and then click on the direct download link.

Once you’ve downloaded and installed the app, you’ll be faced with an amazing new GUI like nothing you’ve ever seen before. I’m not going to go through all the functions; you can read my review for that. The first thing you’ll notice if you’re using a KS360 or similar QWERTY phone is that when using a text-box; you can’t use the “Fn” (Or equivalent) key to input things like periods, @ symbols, quotation marks, etc. Remember Rule One, “Don’t Panic” here. Try using the “Sym” (Or equivalent) key as you would the “Fn” key. It should work. If not, keep reading.

Okay so if the “Sym” key is now the “Fn” then is the “Fn” key now the “Sym” key? You know in a perfect world that might have worked. But this is not a perfect world. Press the “Sym” key and hold down “1”. A tiny black box should appear with a selection of characters in it. That’s cool but you can’t select any of them except the 1st symbol if you click quickly and the last if you hold the key down too long. Rule One, “Don’t Panic” applies here too. With a little lateral thinking, we can make it work. All you do is press “Sym” then “1” and when the little box pops up, you press “Sym” then “1” quickly before the box closes. You’ll notice the selection moves 1 symbol across.  It’s a little tedious (Especially if you’re after the second to last character!) but it works and you’ll get used to it quickly. You can do this with any such selection box. The caps key should still work but if it doesn’t, there should be a way to make it.

Now I’m going to break down why this error occurs and how to deal with it as you should be able to work around it with most QWERTY phones. Firstly, you’ll notice that Opera Mini 5 does not use your phone’s text editing box (Neither did 4 when entering an address). Because it uses its own box, it reads the keys you input directly. Now each key on your phone has a code. (If you’re a programmer, you’ll understand where I’m going). Unfortunately, phones may vary greatly in these codes – though the a-z and 0-9 keys do seem the same on all phones: Arigatou Kami-sama! Anyway, on phone XYZ, the “Sym” key could have the code 27 whereas that same key on phone ABC may have the code of 13.

Now that you have the knowledge, here’s how to use it. Investigate your keypad’s response when using the Opera Mini 5 text editing box. Try using different combinations to achieve the results I’ve just described but be sensible about it. Don’t go thinking “Maybe a + b will give me a question mark,” because that’s just fsucking stupid. Maybe the shift key may work as the insert symbol key on other phones. What I do know is that if you have an LG KS360 and you follow my instructions, there’s no reason why you can’t enjoy the fabulous new Opera Mini 5.

*Note: I’m referring to the beta version of Opera Mini 5. They may make some updates and changes to the final release. Also, if it won’t run at all, there’s nothing much you can do then, duh.

Opera Mini 5 – A Must Have

Originally Posted by Onegai:

OperaMini5beta

Screen shots from the new Opera Mini 5

In case you’ve never heard of Opera Mini, it’s a java-based web browser whose features have grown over the years to include grabbing pictures (Some phones’ browsers don’t or don’t grab all pictures), speed dial bookmarks, web page compression (Saves data fees) and the ability to view web pages as they would appear on a PC without resizing them, just to name a few.

I downloaded the beta version of Opera Mini 5 recently and overwhelming is an understatement. I’ve been a fan of the Opera Mini mobile browser for roughly three years now. I started off with version 3 because I was told by a (Stupid) friend it was all my phone could handle. I ended up getting 4 a little while later and discovered it ran perfectly. I was very impressed with all the improvements in Mini Opera 4 and it felt really advanced. But using 5 has now totally blown my mind. The best way I could describe the transition between them is Opera Mini 3 to Opera Mini 4 is like changing OS from Windows 95 to Windows 98 SE. Changing from Opera Mini 4 to Opera Mini 5 is like changing from Windows 98 SE to Vista (Without all the fail).

Firstly, let’s start off with overall appearance. Opera Mini 5 has an almost futuristic look to it. The GUI is actually what I’d call “beautiful”. The speed dial shows thumbnails of all the websites stored on it. The menu’s appearance is sleek and smart. Everything is animated too.

On the functionality front, Opera Mini 5 scores full marks. The GUI isn’t just pretty to look at though; it’s also highly functional and well put together. Everything is logically placed and navigating the menu system is a charm. Though I was new to Opera Mini 5, I was immediately able to access anything I wanted on this highly user-friendly menu system. Opera Mini 5 also supports tabbed browsing which makes your mobile internet experience that much more enjoyable. And just make your day Opera Mini 5 also includes a myriad of shortcut keys for even easier navigation.

If you haven’t ever used Opera Mini, then do yourself a favour and go to the Opera Mini site and download Opera Mini 3. Use it for a while. Then download 4 and use that for a while. Then download Opera Mini 5. Only then will you truly appreciate the feeling of awe that Opera Mini users around the world felt when they first used 5.

Personally, I think Opera Mini 5 is the finest piece of mobile software I have ever seen. It is definitely superior to any firmware mobile browser I’ve seen and I’ve seen many. The best part about this product is that despite all the work put into it and the level of its quality; it’s still free and will hopefully continue to be.