Make your own budget Retro Handheld for $110


August 16th, 2016

As a retro game fan, we all enjoy taking time from our day to enjoy classics of yesteryear.  However, many of us also have families and full time jobs, and much of the time this means we are always on the go and don’t always have the convenience of using our original systems.  Open sourced handhelds usually run a couple hundred dollars and have older hardware inside.  Building your own such as Adafruits PiGrrl is a fun project, but not all of us have access to a 3-D printer or have the skills required to assemble a unit.  Even if you have both, the cost for all the parts involved are still more expensive than a pre-made open source handheld like the GCW Zero.  Thankfully, there is another option.

Cell Phone emulators in the Google Play market are getting better and better all the time.  As of right now, the free option is RetroArch, a capable front end system that uses multiple emulator cores in order to support multiple different systems.  Using this in conjunction with the Gamesome front end on Android creates the core operating environment for our handheld.

As far as the phone goes, the best budget choice is the Blu R1 HD.  It runs Android 6, with a guarenteed upgrade to 7 in the future.  Sporting a quad core CPU, Micro SD expansion for more storage, and 2 GB of RAM, this is a front runner since the cost is only $59.99 for Amazon Prime members.  Be sure to choose the 16 GB storage, 2 GB RAM version for 59.99, as there is a 8 GB storage, 1 GB RAM for 49.99 that is simply not worth it when for just ten dollars more you double your storage and RAM.

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A handheld is only as good as its controls.  For the controller we are running the 8BitDo NES30 Pro controller.  Visually it looks like an NES controller with thumbsticks, shoulder buttons, and extra face buttons added on, but its design is closer to the SNES controller or the Wii Classic controller.  The expanded thumbsticks and shoulder buttons allow us to play up to PS1 and N64 games on our unit with no problem whatsoever.  The controller can be purchased in a bundle with the “Xtander” phone clamp, which is recommended.  Of course, both can be purchased seperately, so if you already have an NES30 Pro, the Xtander will only set you back ten bucks.  The controller has a great classic feel, with solid construction.  Some may be tempted to go with a Moga Hero Power instead, but the Moga controller lacks the quality construction the 8BitDo offering contains.  Spend the extra money for a better gaming experience.

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Once you have all the parts, simply install Gamesome and RetroArch, and download the cores for Retroarch for the platforms you wish to play.  The Gamesome frontend will detect your game ROMS after you select the proper folder they are in on the phone, and will even download artwork for them.  If you wish to expand on this idea, you can purchase a 64 GB Micro SD card for storage, or the case for the R1 HD to give it some more protection.  The best part is that this setup is upgradeable.  In a few years, if there’s a more powerful phone you wish to add to the setup, it’s a quick swap-out.  If you have a current powerhouse of a phone, all you have to do is install Gamesome, Retroarch, and pick up an NES30 Pro with Xtander to get in on the action.

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As you can tell from the above screenshots, the frontend makes the setup look quite smooth.  The entire interface can be driven either by controller or touchscreen, so you can choose which suits your needs best.  Below is a video showing the setup in motion (albeit with a different phone).

While this setup is a tad clunkier than an open sourced handheld or Adafruits GameGrrl, it also is able to be made by someone with no soldering or construction skills, is upgradeable, has a lower price, and features a more powerful CPU/GPU combo allowing it to emulate more powerful systems at faster speeds.

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RoundUp 105 – Verticality


July 31st, 2016

TOPICS COVERED IN THE SHOW
Hardware Flashback – (00:00)
Dinosaur Pie – (28:15)
Guinness Gaming Records – (1:17:09)
Bobbi Iddod: kthnxbai – (1:19:44)
Shane Star (Barcade Owner) Interview – (1:23:48)
Top Ten Sequels Better Than The Original – (1:49:43)
Big Box Of Awesomeness- (4:15:42)
Gaming Trivia – (4:23:53)
Pixeliser – Shinobi – Master System – (4:25:34)
All Aboard The Ali Express – (4:26:56)
Live News And Listener Views – (4:46:03)
URLs And EMails – (6:39:00)

See the shownotes page and read the Live News chat log.

Vote in our Top Ten Poll and suggest a future Top Ten topic here.

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What does the NES Classic Mini mean for gamers?


July 19th, 2016

For those who don’t know, Nintendo has announced this fall that they are releasing the NES Mini, which contains thirty original NES games and is modeled after the original US model Nintendo Entertainment System.  It is built much as a plug-and-play unit with detachable controllers, and will retail for $59.99 USD.

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This release is a change for Nintendo, who usually only re-sells their retro titles via their e-shops on their consoles.  While priced significantly higher than your typical plug and play considering the lack of cartridge slot (the At-Games Sega Genesis console retailed for $49.99, and included a cart slot for Genesis titles), the system still holds considerably more value than purchasing the games separately on the e-shop.  Purchasing the e-shop versions will set you back over $100.  This is not only cheaper, but is also hardware based, and with more authentic controllers than what you would use if playing these retro titles on a new console.  Also, if you still have your old console and all the games in the list that this unit contains, it’s still worth a purchase considering the fact the NES Classic Mini has HDMI output, which will give the games sharper detail.

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However, there are also a few faults.  Being a typical plug and play style system, there is no way to add additional games to the console.  No cart slot means you can’t enjoy your original NES titles on this system.  The game selection is incredibly strong, but also has some gaping holes.  For example, Ninja Gaiden 2 and Mega Man 2 are included, but not the previous or later games in the respective series.  This leaves the door wide open for a second version of the system, but fans would enjoy being able to play the entirety of classic game series on the unit instead of only experiencing parts of it.  Also, no games that required accessories other than an NES controller are available.  The NES Zapper had a great life on the original system, and a follow-up to this unit that featured a Zapper and at least five or ten of the best Zapper supported games would likely be a system seller.  Being able to play those zapper games on your HDTV (something that can’t be done using your original Nintendo hardware) would be spectacular.

Overall, this is a unit that, even though there are flaws, is still worth purchasing.  It looks to be a quality release, and if it sells well enough, Nintendo may release a follow up with more features for the retro NES fan that clamors for new hardware.

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RoundUp 104 – Plucking The Moustache


July 1st, 2016

TOPICS COVERED IN THE SHOW
Hardware Flashback – (00:00)
Dinosaur Pie – (43:35)
Guinness Gaming Records – (1:27:23)
Electric Dragon: Silver Metal Lover – (1:29:56)
Jersey Jack Interview – (1:34:11)
All Aboard The Ali Express – (2:30:45)
Top Ten Bonus/Mini Games – (2:44:31)
Gaming Trivia – (4:30:15)
Mike Kennedy Is A Bad Friend – (4:32:23)
Lil Bub Interview – (4:33:41)
Live News And Listener Views – (4:57:41)
Francis Rages At Blizzard – (7:33:50)
URLs And EMails – (7:38:01)

See the shownotes page and read the Live News chat log.

Vote in our Top Ten Poll and suggest a future Top Ten topic here.

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Podcatch via the RSS Feeds.

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The Dangers of Crowdfunding part 2: Mighty No. 9


June 29th, 2016

Mighty No. 9 is mighty disappointing.

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I could end it right there, but then I wouldn’t be saying anything different from what you have already seen all over the internet, all over YouTube, and all over social media.  But that’s not the root of the problem.   Mighty No. 9 is an example of one of the dangers of Kickstarter, but also makes people forget about the success stories of Kickstarter as well.  Put together this makes a dangerous situation for anyone else wishing to kickstart a game.

Like everyone else, I was initially excited by the original crowdfunding campaign.  The idea of a next-generation Mega Man styled game, made by its creator and no longer shackled by higher ups at Capcom, was very exciting.  The original videos and artwork looked very nice as well, and the end result was four million dollars of support to see this title brought to life.  However, most of the gaming community missed the first warning sign:  why is a developer who already has funding asking for more money for the game?  Many overlooked this as Comcept had not released a game at this point, but just a little research would show they had already come up with the money to make a proper game studio.  The funds to make this game should have already been there.

The second problem arose after the Kickstarter.  They hired a Community Manager that was very vocal, highly controversial, and in the end did a lot of harm to the games image.  At a time where the focus should have been on Inafune and the development on the game, instead the focus was on a community manager and the waves she was making in the gaming studio.

Another issue arose when Comcept decided to “go back to the well”, and attempt to get even more from Kickstarter in attempts to fund other games (before they even released their first game), and to add more money for voice acting.  At this point, people began speaking up, as even after fees 2 million should have been a plenty large budget for Mighty No. 9.  Of course, when the game was delayed over and over, fans awaiting the game became worried.

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Finally, this summer the game was released.  Unfortunately, the game didn’t look anything like the proof of concept.  The game was actually a step down in graphic quality.  The leve design is uninspired.  The English voice acting (remember, this voice acting required a second Kickstarter) was atrocious.  Even the gameplay didn’t come to par with any game in the Mega Man series.  It became obvious that Capcom acted as a safety net for Inafune, and with that net removed, all we have is the shell of a good idea.  The part that hurts the most is that looking back in retrospective, the warning signs were all there.

Not all games released via Kickstarter have been bad.  A recent success story is Undertale, which is a fantastic RPG with a unique battle system and great story.  But Mighty No. 9 was the game that got the most media attention, and with the damage it has done, future games wishing to be crowdfunded now have an uphill battle.

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