Archive for the ‘Blog Post’ Category

RaspiBoy vs Android + Bluetooth controller


Sunday, December 31st, 2017

A while back I posted an article on how to build your own handheld retro emulation setup, using a budget Android phone and an 8BitDo controller.  You have also seen my look at the RaspiBoy.  I would now like to compare and contrast the two so that you can look at strengths and weaknesses of each to determine which setup would best suit your needs.

 

Raspiboy offers an all-in-one setup powered by a Pi Zero.  It runs off the robust Emulation Station/Retro Pie software, which is tried and tested for reliability.  The front end is aesthetically pleasing, more so than most front ends available on Android.  That being said, RetroPie is really your only option for a decent looking front end.  You are also limited to games from the 16 bit era and below due to the Pi Zero being powered by a single core 600 MHZ chip.  Also, I have personally found reliability issues in the hardware of the Raspiboy, having to replace both the custom 8BCraft board due to an error in the first run board not allowing the unit to charge and play at the same time, and having to replace the LCD as well due to a screw going all the way through the plastic and shorting out a transistor.  However, the benefits of having an all-in-one unit that you can repair on your own cannot be ignored.

 

If you were to choose the Android phone/Bluetooth controller route, you have a choice of numerous front ends (RetroX, Gamesome, ARC Browser, and Nostalgia being the leading four).  However, none of these front ends are as robust as Emulation Station.  Both units use RetroArch as the primary emulation source, but the higher power from the phones means that you are able to emulate newer systems.  PS1 is almost guarenteed to work, along with PSP, some N64, DS, and even some Dreamcast games.  Also, my initial build had the Blu R1 HD paired with an NES30 Pro (with XTander clamp), which is still a great, functional setup.  I have since upgraded to the Blu Life X2 Mini for a faster CPU, more RAM, and more storage, and switched controllers to the SN30 Pro (with Xtander).  This setup is slightly more expensive at 150 dollars for everything, but offers an even more comfortable controller and much more storage.  64 gigs internal plus another 128 gigs in Micro SD gives you plenty of room for all the ROM based games you want, plus a decent selection of disc based titles.  However, the setup is still a little clunky, with two pieces being held together by a clamping system, and the front end not being as aesthetically pleasing.

 

If you are looking at primarily 16 bit and below gaming, I would recommend RaspiBoy for being an all in one unit that you can configure however you wish.  Those who wish to play some PS1 and newer games, or those that want the benefit of having access to some Android games plus emulators, are better off looking at the phone plus bluetooth controller solution.  I would push that using the phone gives you access to some great ports of older PC games that are out there as well.  Either way, both solutions make for a nice way of being able to game on the go.

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The Ultimate case for your Pi based emulation setup


Monday, October 23rd, 2017

The Raspberry Pi 3 has become incredibly popular among retro game enthusiasts for it’s low price and versatility in emulating many classic gaming systems using the RetroPie software.  Many companies have released different cases which all have different price points, features, and extras.  However, one of the cases that offers the best value for what you get has been the NesPi case manufactured by Retroflag.

 

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As pictured above, this case is identical to the classic NES case, however it is smaller than the NES Classic case.  The front features a fully functional power button (with red LED light beside it) along with a working reset button.  Your controller ports now house two USB ports, and under the cartridge flap you will find an additional 2 USB ports as well as an ethernet jack.  The rear features HDMI output, power input, and 3.5 headphone jack output, and your SD card is on the side.

 

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This setup is achieved by using a daughterboard in the front of the case.  The pi sits behind the daughterboard, and you plug a few short cables from the daughterboard to the Pi as pictured above.  There is also room on the top of the case for a cooling fan if you choose to install one.  At an MSRP of 25 dollars, this case is an absolute steal for all the extras it offers.  Also, the case is made of molded plastic instead of being 3D Printed, giving it a very solid feel.

 

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Pictured above is my corner table gaming setup.  Using the NesPi case as the centerpiece, I have added a 19 inch flatpanel monitor, an 8BitDo NES Cube speaker, and an 8BitDo NES30 Pro controller along with a 128 GB SD card running HyperPie for a huge emulation setup.  The underside of the case has a storage compartment for SD cards, and I use mine to hold a 4 GB SD card that copies the user interface of the NES Classic, yet has the complete NES Library.

 

For those of you that want to build your own retro gaming setup, or wish to have something like the NES Classic but with a much larger game selection, the NesPi case is one of the best choices you can make.  Keep in mind some assembly is required, so if you want to just plug and play, an NES Classic is still a better option.  But for a complete customizable experience, this case is a great start for constructing a tiny, yet powerful, retro gaming console.

 

The case can be ordered here.

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RasPiBoy preview


Wednesday, September 6th, 2017

Disclaimer:  Originally, I had planned to do a full review on the RasPiBoy by now, but the unit I received has a defect, which has delayed the full review.  Until then, here is a quick preview.

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The RasPiBoy is a kit created by 8BCraft, a small company working out of France.  The kit allows you to take a Raspberry Pi Zero and turn it into a portable handheld, as pictured above.  The controls are reminiscent of the SNES controller, including the shoulder triggers on the back.  You get both sets of buttons to either use the colors from the Super Famicom or Super Nintendo versions of the SNES (Japan or USA).  It also features a similar D-pad to that of the SNES.

The handheld0 takes the standard Pi Zero and uses an addon board to add full sized USB ports, a headphone jack, and a volume dial.  The onboard Pi provides TV Out using mini HDMI, and it gives audio out with a small mono speaker if you don’t wish to use the headphone jack.  Four blue LEDs below the screen act as a battery indicator, and screen contrast/brightness adjustments are on the back of the unit, as well as the main power switch.

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In my time using the unit, it is constructed very nicely, and the controls feel great in most games.  There are a few flaws in the design though, the most major one being the fact that the unit cannot be charged while it is turned on, and attempting to charge it while powered on will shut down the unit.  Also, after assembly, RetroPie requires some addition configuration to get the screen and audio working, in both a config.txt file as well as settings in the OS itself.  Some of these changes are not well documented, like increasing the gain in the audio section of RetroPie in order to get the maximum volume higher than a whisper.

On top of that, there are a few defective boards that have caused a black screen.  My board was one of the defective boards, and only functioned a few hours before the screen suffered this issue.  The dev is getting me a new board, so I am delaying the full review until I can do more comprehensive testing on it.

Once they iron out the black screen, it will be a solid device I would highly recommend for anyone wanting Pi based emulation on the go, with the only major issue being the inability to charge while being turned on.  I would assume this could be fixed with a PCB revision, and am waiting on the project creator to get back with me to see if there will be a board revision that will allow this.  Even if this doesn’t happen though, battery life is exceptional, and the battery is accessible for the user to change in the future if the battery does finally give out.  On my unit, I ordered a 6000 mah battery which lasts about 8 to 10 hours (while my screen is black, TV out still works).  For around 100 US dollars and the cost of a Pi Zero (around 10 to 15 shipped), you get a handheld that can easily handle anything from the 2600 to the 16 bit era, and some 32 bit stuff as well (32X and some PS1 games run great).  The jury is still out, but I am hoping a board revision squashes the charging bug, and I am hoping the black screen issue I ran into is only on a few select units.  I will update once the new board comes in.

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UK Mike’s Charity Trek


Monday, July 10th, 2017

You may have heard it mentioned in the show but I am doing a trek to Machu Picchu in November to raise money for the Children’s Adventure Farm Trust (a registered charity).

To go on the trek I need to raise £3,300 and you can help.

i will be running some email auctions for some cool prizes and you can donate to my Just Giving Page.

Information about the trek is here.

The charity auctions will go here.

My Just Giving page is here.

Thank you

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Retro Review: Robocop for the NES


Saturday, June 3rd, 2017

Robocop for the NES has received many scathing reviews over the years.  Most reviewers hate the slow moving main character, the game mechanics, the difficulty, and so on.  However, I am here to give a different look on this oft-criticized game.

Robocop on the NES gives the best representation of the first movie in game form.

In the game, you play as the hero Robocop as he roams the streets of Detroit City, stopping crime as he sees.  And the streets are full of criminals who attack the cyborg on sight, unloading their weapons on him, attempting to take him on fist to fist, or even sending attack dogs after him!  Robocop is armed with a pistol, but he will refuse to use it until an enemy attempts to use a weapon against him.  To me, this is fitting as a police officer.  A cop would not use lethal force unless it was used against him, and in game it makes a lot of sense.

Robocop has two forms of life meters to pay attention to.  The first is a time meter, which is how much time he has to clear a stage.  The second is a power meter, which signifies how much damage he can take before failing.  Again, this makes sense in game, as the time meter signifies how much battery power his system is using before he is required to recharge, and power also makes sense for damage taken.

The player can only move left or right, or ascend using stairs,  He has no jumping ability in the game.  Again, this makes sense, as Robocop isn’t exactly the most nimble character in the movies.  One would expect a human body encased in armor and cybernetic parts to not make jumps.  The game also gets criticized because certain players have trouble using stairs to ascend.  I honestly don’t have this issue, and have no problem figuring out the proper angle for Robocop to ascend a stairwell.

The game very loosely follows the events of the movie, with Robocop fighting crime in the streets, saving the mayor from being murdered, taking down a criminal ridden factory, raiding the OCP offices, and finally facing the criminal lords in what looks to be an abandoned construction area.  One of the shortcomings to the game is that it is quite short.  An experienced player will be able to go from the startup screen to final credits in around an hour to an hour and a half.  That being said, the game has a high degree of difficulty, with some stages having a very tight time limit.  This is helped by being to pick up more powerful weapons (but with limited ammunition) along with Time and Power extensions scattered through a level (some of which are required to beat said level).

The game is actually quite fun to play when keeping in mind the original movie and characters, and is only considered not as fun when taken on its own.  With the limitations that Robocop has in the film, this game does a great job of staying true to the core mechanics of the character.  While many critics claim Robocop on the NES was one of the worst things with the Robocop license, I disagree, and present the claim that the worst thing Robocop was ever in was professional wrestling.

 

Oh, don’t believe me?

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