Tag Archives: Nintendo

New Super Luigi U is Nintendo’s first true DLC

Nintendo has always been slightly behind the pack in terms of online offerings. While downloadable content (DLC) for existing games is something very familiar to users of Xboxes, PS3s and even iPhones, Nintendo’s forays into DLC have been cautious and, at times, rather shambolic.

Yes, there were new “coin rush” packs for New Super Mario Bros 2 on the 3DS last year, but these added very little to the game. Then came the Wii U implementation of Zen Pinball 2. This was endlessly delayed, and when it finally arrived the process for buying and downloading tables was unbelievably convoluted, resulting in justifiably critical review scores.

Now, in what Nintendo has coined “the year of Luigi,” arrives New Super Luigi U, Nintendo’s first substantial DLC offering. Essentially a “bolt on” for the New Super Mario Bros U launch title, the DLC consists of 80+ new levels, which are played as Luigi and “remixed” from the original game elements. The game, however, takes place on an identical world map.

New Super Luigi U
New Super Luigi U

Initial skepticism is justifiable here. If you’re playing on the same world map, then just how new is New Super Luigi U? Well, the good news is that all the levels are brand new. Yes, they reuse the music and graphical elements from the original game, but there’s no doubt you’re playing on completely new levels – but more of that later.

The Installation

Unfortunately, Nintendo still haven’t quite got the hang of making the installation of online content feel like anything other than a chore. Up until the Wii U, one of the benefits of choosing a Nintendo gaming platform was speed. Nintendo was always a case of cartridge / disk in – switch on – start playing.

Now, with HD graphics, correspondingly large data files and system updates, the Nintendo experience is all much more PS3-esque, and that’s not a good thing.

To get going with the New Super Luigi U DLC, the process was something like this:

Switched on, visited eShop, failed to find DLC, found a notification telling me to update New Super Mario Bros U, started the game, waited for the update to download, waited for download to install, restarted the game, tapped the icon to download the DLC, got sent back to the eStore, paid for the DLC, waited for the DLC to download, restarted game again, waited for DLC to install, finally found ourselves able to play.

Why, Nintendo, could I not have just visited the eStore, purchased the DLC, and been sent away to wait for half an hour while the console dealt with all the other stuff?

The Game

After a frustrating download experience, it was pleasing to find the game exceeded expectations. New Super Luigi U is a hardcore platforming experience; something akin to a long lost cousin of the fiendishly difficult “Lost Levels” from 1986.

Every level is short, and comes with a time limit. In addition, Luigi’s slower, floaty motion makes him harder to control. Note that this isn’t a criticism of the controls at all, it’s just that Luigi controls very differently to the Mario we are all so used to. As such, it’s essential to adapt one’s playing style to a character that can float and jump higher, but also seems badly in need of some brakes!

The end result is frantic and frustrating; you probably won’t expect to fall to your death within seconds of starting the first level, but you probably will! Yet, in that classic Nintendo way, you’ll never feel it’s unfair. This is exactly the kind of punishing platforming that veteran Nintendo fans have been looking for, but it’s fair to say that the level of challenge may be a little high for those relatively new to the 2D Mushroom Kingdom.

Conclusion

As Nintendo’s first foray into full-blown DLC, New Super Luigi U is a great effort. The level designs have clearly been crafted lovingly to create a serious challenge that frustrates but makes you smile at the same time. If you need something to tide you over until Nintendo catch up with their frustratingly slow Wii U release schedule, this is just what you need.

Just be aware of the need for patience while you download and install. While Nintendo still lead the way in level design and inimitable quirkiness, they still have serious catching up to do with their online ease-of-use. If you think it will annoy you too much, you may be best to wait until the green-packaged retail release of the game arrives later this year.

Why Nintendo must “up their game”

I’m a huge Nintendo fan, and have been since the 1980s. Nintendo gaming has given me an abundance of wonderful memories: from my first race on Super Mario Kart on the SNES, via Mario’s groundbreaking first 3D outing on the Nintendo 64, to the wow-factor of swinging a virtual tennis racket using the Wii Remote.

I’m remained fiercely loyal to Nintendo over the years, and despite occasional flirtations with other consoles, Nintendo’s uniquely quirky style of gaming has always been my preferred leisure companion.

Nintendo Wii U
Nintendo Wii U

So, it’s with regret that I feel compelled to have a bit of a whine about the current state of play in the world of Nintendo. I own both of Nintendo’s current consoles: the 3DS and Wii U, and I’ve enjoyed many hours with both. But certain things need to improve, or Nintendo’s in danger of being left behind in the next round of the console wars.

Here’s what I think Nintendo must do:

Invest in user interfaces

I said myself (above) that I love Nintendo’s quirky style, and it’s something that’s strongly in evidence within their console menus, right down to the cute download animations.

I don’t have a problem with this, but I do have a problem with the slow UI on the new Wii U. In a world where people are used to the instantaneous nature of their iPhones and tablets, long waits to access system features on a “next gen” console don’t look good at all. Nintendo-haters have, for a long time, referred to Nintendo consoles as “toys” and “kids games,” and slow cutesy menus are hardly going to change their minds.

Improved retro game support

Nintendo’s extensive library of retro games forms an impressive heritage, and is one of the strongest trump cards the company has to play.

Why, then, was there no Virtual Console service ready when the Wii U was launched? Why do people who’ve already downloaded retro games on their Wii have to go through a horribly unintuitive process to migrate them to their Wii U? Why is the Wii integration on the Wii U so clunky, and almost as much hassle as using an emulator?

Most importantly, where they are available, why are Nintendo’s retro games not priced in a way that reflects the fact that they are, in the main, decades old? Many people downloading them will have already purchased them at least once in another format – and the prices should reflect this.

Nintendo could make so much more of their back catalogue by making it easier and more economical for people to actually play the games.

Recommit to first-party game development

Some of the my most significant Wii U launch memories come from third-party games. That’s not good.

I would have been one of the first people to defend the choice of a 2D Mario launch game. Now that I’ve played actually played New Super Mario Bros U, though, not so much. This game should have been huge and varied, and not what is essentially a game of the same size and structure as all the other New Super Mario titles that have gone before, albeit one hidden behind an attractive world map.

Nintendo Land has been fun, but hardly shows off the new hardware and is, essentially, a mini game collection. What has truly impressed me? Sonic & All Stars Racing Transformed, a third-party game, and a short demo of Rayman Legends. The latter is truly inventive, in the way that New Super Mario Bros U really should have been.

I appreciate that it’s early days for the Wii U, and that more first-party content is imminent, but Nintendo need to work fast. This year’s E3 conference is only 5 months away, and will probably bring news of the PlayStation 4 and Xbox 720. If Nintendo haven’t brought many more people on board by then, they could have a difficult time in the coming years. As yet, they haven’t done quite enough to persuade this loyal fanboy to start persuading the haters.

My first month with the Nintendo Wii U

The launch day for the new Nintendo Wii U saw my wife and I rush out to buy one like excited children. As committed Nintendo fans we had waited eagerly for our chance, and we were lucky enough to find one in the first shop we visited. With time off work booked in advance, specifically for this moment, we drove quickly home to get started. This article discusses our first month with the new console.

First Impressions

My first observation when rooting through the box was that our shiny black premium console is a serious fingerprint-magnet. I was also quite surprised by the size of the new tablet-based gamepad. It’s far larger than I expected, but not to its detriment – the gamepad is well-built and very comfortable to hold.

I was already aware of the day-one software update. This multi-gigabyte download attracted criticism, but anyone who understands technology should be forgiving. The consoles were probably boxed up far in advance of the final firmware being ready, so I was patient through the download and installation, which took just over an hour.

The Wii U
The Wii U

The Wii U’s TV remote integration must be mentioned here. All it really does is allow you to use the Wii U Gamepad as a TV remote, to change inputs and volume, but it work seamlessly. You really have to own one to know how it changes things in your living room, but read on to the conclusion to find out more.

It’s Mario Time

New Super Mario Bros U, the latest 2D Mario platform game, took up all of our initial hours of gaming. We swooned at seeing Mario in HD for the first time and enjoyed and cursed the “old-school” difficulty level in equal measure. I must confess, however, that we felt some disappointment on completing the main game within about 20 hours of play.

I was quite disappointed by this. Many criticized the choice of a 2D Mario platformer for the launch of a “next gen” console.  While I had no objection, this game needed to be truly epic and, to be frank, it just wasn’t. Extra bolt-on modes do not make for an enormous game, and we were surprised and disappointed to find New Super Mario Bros U on our eBay pile long before Christmas day.

Nintendo Land

Christmas marked our first opportunity to put some serious hours into Nintendo Land, the Wii U’s closest equivalent to the “entire family can play” simplicity of Wii Sports.

Nintendo Land is tremendous fun, and despite the individual mini games being more complex than swinging a virtual racket, the whole family did get involved and enjoy the experience.

What surprised us was that the single player “attractions,” particularly Balloon Trip Breeze and Yoshi’s Fruit Cart, grabbed more of our family’s attention than the much-hyped asymmetric multiplayer options like Luigi’s Ghost Mansion. We passed several hours working away at each other’s high scores, rather than chasing each other around maze environments.

While it’s true to say that the Nintendo Land disk has spent little time inside our Wii U since the Christmas flurry of interest, we’re far from done with it just yet. I think the game may have more longevity than Wii Sports, in our house at least, so this is quite a triumph for Nintendo.

Sonic and All Stars Racing

Once we’d exhausted the delights of Nintendo’s first-party games, we still had Sonic and All Stars Racing Transformed lurking below the Christmas tree.

We didn’t expect miracles from this multi-format game, so we were surprised and delighted when it delivered, for us, the most impressive gaming experience so far on the Wii U.  The game’s fast action actually gave us a hint of what our “next gen” HD hardware could do. Nintendo really shouldn’t have left a third-party to show us the capabilities of its new hardware, but that’s for another time and another article.

We also spent some time with a couple of demos: Fifa 13 and Rayman Legends, the latter instantly becoming one of my most anticipated games of 2013 thanks to the variety shown in just three demo levels.

The Miiverse

Finally, the Miiverse needs a mention. This friendly and lighthearted social networking platform is truly unique. The ability to comment at certain points of the gaming experience is more engaging than you would expect, and it’s fascinating to interact with people cursing the same level as you are. I’ve only scratched the surface of the Miiverse so far, but am impressed with what I see.

The Bad Bits

It’s not all been fun and games. Transferring all of the retro Virtual Console games from my original Wii was slow, hateful and unnecessarily convoluted. It seemed like a slap in the face as reward for the serious sums I have spent on these downloads.

In addition, the lack of any real Wii integration with the new Wii U menus was a disappointment. Instead, you must effectively reboot into Wii mode if you want to use any old Wii games – it’s clunky and unappealing.

My final disappointment is the lack of any Wii U Virtual Console at this stage. Making 15-year-old games available for download should not be complicated and I actually think it inexcusable that Nintendo didn’t have this ready for release day.

Conclusion

There’s a lot we love about the Wii U, and bizarrely it’s the universal remote functionality that I mentioned above that deserves a special mention. The simple ability to switch on the TV and change the input to the Wii U without a remote means that all you have to do to begin gaming is grab the Wii U gamepad. This, somehow, ends up makes using the console more of a daily activity that it would have been otherwise. It’s an incredibly clever move from Nintendo.

Gaming wise, the Wii U has pleased me, but Nintendo desperately needs to keep the games coming. Right now, I’m playing a couple of indie games downloaded from the eShop (Nano Assault Neo is my current choice), but when they’re done, I’ve played everything I want to. I really don’t want to see a console I was so excited about lingering unused beneath my TV. If Nintendo had some retro games to tide me over (Gamecube titles please!) then this would be less of a concern.

So, I’m happy with the Wii U, but at the same time feel I need a little more convincing. Please don’t let me down, Nintendo.

Holiday Gift Guide 2012: What the Kids Want Edition

Sometimes, kids can be the worst people to buy for.  Because of their constant exposure to the media and marketing, their desires and wants change from one fad to another almost instantaneously and always at the most inopportune time.  Of course, one can always go the route of buying them clothes (they grow up so fast, don’t they?), but before one resorts to this consider these “kid tested Techerator approved” gift ideas first.

The Wii U (or a Nintendo 3DS)

Nintendo is always a good contender for kids and families alike during the holiday season and this year is no different.  This time around, they have the new Wii U gaming console (with oodles and oodles of new games) as well as their portable 3DS platform for kid gaming on the go.  For a good source of family fun this season, consider getting the Wii U and show your kids how a true Mario fan saves the princess.  For some peace and quiet on the drive back from the holiday celebrations with relatives, consider the Nintendo 3DS instead with its own kid-friendly game offerings.

Kindle Fire (or an iPad mini or a LeapFrog LeapPad)

It is not hard to see that the world is catching on to portable tablets like a moth to a LED-powered flame.  The younger generation is no different.  Granted, there are quite a few options out there to consider this holiday season (each one with their own pros and cons), but here are a few recommendations.

At the low-end of the pricing spectrum is the $99 LeapFrog LeapPad with a simple user interface and plenty of educational apps for the budding minds you are cultivating.  For a mid-range tablet with full access to books, movies, and games, consider the $199 Kindle Fire by Amazon.  And finally, there is always the $329 iPad mini by Apple (if you’re having trouble deciding which table to get for your child, check out our helpful guide.).

Regardless of which one that is bought, the purchase of a tablet this holiday season should provide hours of blissful entertainment and learning (and your kid will like it too).

A Kid-safe digital camera

They come in pink

No matter the age, kids love participating in photographs.  So for this holiday season consider switching places with your child and let them take the pictures instead.  A good camera to look into buying is the Vtech Kidizoom Spin and Smile Digital Camera at $39.99.  It comes with a 2 megapixel camera, 4x zoom, and a plethora of special effects that can be applied to the pictures it takes.

Furbie

Don’t look now, but the Furbie is back.  Yes, after 14 years the Furbie is being re-released via the folks at Hasbro.  So what has changed this time around?  Well, according to the synopsis on the Amazon product page, the newest version of Furbie “…has A MIND OF ITS OWN.”  You can talk to it, tickle it, pet it, shake it (but not too hard), and play music to it.   Furby responds to all these interactions at first in its own proprietary language, but as time wears on it will start to learn English and respond appropriately (hence the “mind of its own” part).  Currently a Furby is going for $59.99 on Amazon.

Legos (or anything else non-technical)

Legos and Minecraft: a perfect union

So far, this article has presented some technological options for kids.  But what if one wants to remove technology from the equation?  Thankfully, there are plenty of imagination-molding toys and games out there that can provide the same level of engagement that a tablet or gaming console can.  So do your kid a favor and get their creativity flowing by buying them some Legos (and yes, they make Lego sets for girls).   The author recommends the Millenium Falcon Lego set (at $139) due to the fact that he never had one as a kid.

Conclusion

From tablets to Legos, the only reason why you’d have to resort to buying socks and underwear this holiday season for the kids on your list is if they desperately need them.

Images courtesy: faseextra, ohnogc, Gareth Courage, Liz@rt, Apple, Amazon, LeapFrog, and Lego

What Nintendo must do to make the upcoming Wii U game console a success

Winter 2012 will see the global release of Nintendo’s brand new games console, the Wii U, just in time for the holiday season. As the first TV adverts have been careful to point out, the Wii U is a completely new console, and not just an upgrade to the Wii.

The Wii U comes with a brand new gamepad, which incorporates a large touchscreen display, allowing for a new kind of multiplayer gaming known as asymmetric play.

Asymmetric play allows one player to interact with a game world (thanks to the personal touchscreen) in a different way to the players who are using the TV screen. This provides plenty of potential for chase or hide and seek game scenarios, and gives developers a whole new range of options.

Asymmetric Gaming on the Wii U
Asymmetric Gaming on the Wii U

The success of the Wii U is not guaranteed. Hardcore gamers have already spent months arguing as to whether the Wii U represents the first of a new generation of consoles, or is simply Nintendo catching up with Sony and Microsoft. Here are six things that I, as a long-term Nintendo fan, think that Nintendo must do to increase their chances of success:

1. Remember the hardcore gamers

Nintendo took a lot of criticism for “abandoning” hardcore gamers during the life of the Wii. The Wii gained so much momentum as a casual console that hardcore games often complained that games had become too easy, and that they missed the serious challenges of the Zeldas and Metroids that had gone before.

Nintendo needs to remember the gamers who have supported the company since the 80s, as these are the potential early adopters who will tell the non-gamers how great the new console is.

However, at the same time, Nintendo should also….

2. Remember the casual gamers

OK, so the first two points may seem contradictory, but Nintendo must also make sure that they hang on to the same Wii Sports / Just Dance / Wii Fit market that they cornered so beautifully with the Wii.

If the casual market takes to the Wii U, it allows Nintendo to steal a march on Microsoft and Sony before they release the Xbox 720 and PlayStation 4 respectively.

3. Keep Advertising

TV advertising played a huge part in the success of the Wii, and will be even more important for the Wii U. Potential buyers need to understand that they are looking at a new system – something that won’t be helped by the fact that it looks a lot like the original Wii and supports the original Wii Remotes and “nun-chucks.” Nintendo will have to ignore the hardcore gamers’ inevitable complaints about “lame” adverts and stick to making sure the casual market understand the Wii U.

4. Keep the Marios, Zeldas and Metroids coming

Gamers are a fickle bunch. One minute they complain that they want more Mario, then Nintendo brings New Super Mario Bros U out within months of New Super Mario Bros 2 on the 3DS and they complain that they are seeing too much 2D Mario.

Nintendo should pay no attention – these characters sell consoles, as was demonstrated by the huge surge in 3DS sales when Super Mario 3D Land was released. Nintendo need to keep more of these titles flooding onto the market.

5. Be generous with retro

Nintendo has a rich and highly enviable back catalog. They need to make sure people download these games by publicizing them well and charging a fair and attractive price. Many Wii users have never been near the Virtual Console – they are perhaps unaware of all the classic games within, or put off by their arguably high price. Nintendo have already made vast sums from these games – it’s time to pile them high and sell them cheap.

6. Take online seriously

The Wii U is Nintendo’s last chance to get online right, and the signs are good that the console is going to make a far from half-hearted attempt. We need online modes in all the first-party games and attractive downloadable content. Mario Kart for the Wii U with downloadable track packs and extra cups would make Nintendo a fortune.

What do Nintendo need to do to make you buy a Wii U? Let me know in the comments.

Wii 2: A Speculative Look at Nintendo’s Newest Console

It's-a me! Mario! I believe-a you have-a my cup!

For those of you who don’t know, it has been confirmed that Ninendo’s next generation console will be announced at this year’s upcoming E3 expo.  The highly anticipated console being  revealed is the Wii 2.

Sources say that the Wii 2 (code named “Project Cafe”) will be HD and at least as powerful as the current Xbox 360 and PS3 consoles.

Other features that have been confirmed are a standard controller (dual analogue sticks, a D pad, triggers, etc.) that will function much like the Gamecube controller (basically a normal gaming controller). This controller will have a 6” touch screen embedded on it, with the ability to stream data (and even entire games) from the console.

For now, this is all that is really known about Nintendo’s new mystery machine. I have seen comment boards ablaze with praise and skepticism about what lies ahead for this project. To weigh in, here are some of my thoughts on it all:

Power

The first and biggest concern for most gamers seems to be the power of the new console. While I do think it is important to be able to pump out spectacular visuals, I think it is becoming less and less important as time and technology progress.

The Wii’s inability to output HD was definitely a big downfall. Simply put, 480p does not look good on a 42” TV.  HD is a MUST.

As far as how important it is for the new console to blow away the current consoles in the power spec, I would say it is pretty minimal. It’s starting to get to the point where graphics aren’t going to get a whole lot better. While there is always room for improvement, I feel like we are quickly approaching a point where processing power is becoming less important. If the claims of this console being at least as powerful as a PS3 are true, that is good enough for me.

The Touch Screen

From what I’ve seen, many people are skeptical about the touch screen being integrated with the controller. Many are concerned that is going to be gimmicky and a novelty. I think that a large screen on the controller may do a great service getting rid of menus in games. One game that comes to mind is Call of Duty: Black Ops.

First off, you would never have to have a menu blocking your view to see maps or see the current score. Second, when you’re using kill streaks such as the RC Car, you could use the on remote screen to drive it around while still being able to see what is happening to your guy on the main screen. That way, no one is sneaking up on you while you’re driving around your Bomb Car.

I can see similar uses in games that rely heavily on inventory screens, but what if you could navigate through these screens quickly on your controller without having to stop the action?

As far as how it would fit or where it would be on a controller, I’ve had two ideas: One would be having the screen flip up from the top of the controller, much like a 3DS. Another would be to have it at the bottom, much like where the add-on keyboard for the Xbox 360 sits.

An onboard screen gives a resolution to those Madden screen cheating problems, and also gives the promise of adding the realism of being able to text your friends while driving cars in any upcoming games.

Conclusion

Although it is incredibly hard to see where any of this is going before seeing the actual console announcement at E3, it’s always fun to speculate on what could be. I am personally excited to see Nintendo return to the hardcore gaming arena. Hopefully, they can really make a statement with this next console.

On the other hand, I hope there’s something more to it. I really felt like the Wii was a step in the right direction by not following the “more power, more graphics” principle and finding a different way to interact with games.

Nintendo has always been innovative; sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t and I respect them for taking risks and searching for new ways to experience games. I think the industry as a whole is better because of it.

How to make your favorite Nintendo characters with Perler beads

If you’re reading this article, it’s safe to assume that you’re either my editor, or a geek/nerd/dork or something in between. Whatever your case, you’re probably like me in that you spend a lot of time on your computer, playing video games, waxing philosophically over the merits of Linux vs. Windows, etc. Sometimes it’s nice to push away from the desk and return to your roots, and perhaps engage in something a bit more “hands-on”.

Perler beads are a surprisingly fun (if juvenile) way to reconnect with your past by creating nifty sprites of your favorite Nintendo characters. Cheap and easy, this is a good pastime for decorating your geek/nerd/dork dwelling, or if you have kids, set them on the road to eternal geek-cred and loneliness.

Let’s get started!

Getting Started

First, you’ll need a few things. A Perler bead pegboard is essential, and without it you will fail, so don’t even try. They cost about $2.50 at any hobby shop, so grab a few. Make sure they are the kind that can connect to other pegboards, just in case you decide to tackle larger (more geeky) projects.

Clear pegboard. Notice the connectors on the sides.

You’ll need Perler beads in individual color packs. Most Perler beads come in jumbo multi-color packs. Trust me, nothing is more irritating that searching for the correct shade of brown in a 20,000 bead pack.

Perler beads. 48 colors from which to choose.

An iron with a steamless setting will be needed to fuse the beads together once you have your character made. Be sure not to fill your iron with water beforehand. Additionally, a cardboard or heatproof surface will make things easier.

A few sheets of ironing paper will keep the Perler beads from melting and sticking to the iron. You can buy several sheets for less than $2 at any arts & crafts store. Or if $2 is too expensive (or you can’t find ironing paper), wax paper is also a good substitute.

Ironing paper. Essential and inexpensive.

The full setup may appear to you as shockingly childlike, and it would be wise to have some sort of alcoholic beverage nearby to reinforce that you are indeed an adult.

The complete setup. Purchasing all 48 colors is unnecessary and may lead to buyers' remorse. Pay no attention to the Xbox controller.

Making Your Figure

So, you’re ready to start crafting some sprites, but you’ll need a template first. There are a number of good websites that specialize in old school NES and SNES sprites, including (my favorite) the Shy Guy Kingdom. Wherever you choose to get your sprites, simply save the image file and zoom in for a pixel-by-pixel representation of your character. Now, it’s just a matter of selecting colors and counting.

Start with an outline. I have a tweezer nearby for detailing.

Make an outline! This is made much easier with a good template.

Add some color! You’ll soon recognize that this activity doesn’t require a ton of cognitive power, so now is a good time to finally finish Season 6 of LOST. See your sprite taking shape? Pretty cool!

Add some colors. With appropriate color-matching, you may get a little giddy at this point.

Okay, so you’ve finished adding all of your “pixels”, and your sprite is looking complete. It’s time to pre-heat your iron. Set your iron to “medium” and ensure that the setting is steamless. My iron doesn’t have a steamless setting, per-se. Instead, I just don’t fill it with water. This could destroy your iron. I really have no idea.

Complete with more colors. Can you feel the memories flooding back? Be careful not to knock your pegboard.

Cover your sprite with your ironing paper and wait for your iron to finish heating. Mine beeps when it is ready, but my iron may be more awesome than yours, so just wait 15 minutes and that should be sufficient.

Cover your creation with your ironing paper.

Slowly iron circles over your sprite while applying only slight pressure. Let the weight of the iron do most of the work as you heat the sprite for 20 seconds. Lift the iron without removing the ironing paper and have a look.

Most of the Perler beads should now be melted and appear wet under the ironing paper. If it looks like the image below, you’re nearly done. Let the sprite cool while leaving the ironing paper in place.

After ironing, the beads should be melted and appear wet under the ironing paper.

Hey, that looks pretty good! Last step — after it has cooled (allow 5 minutes or so) flip your sprite over and repeat the ironing on the back side to make sure the beads are properly fused.

Ironing complete. Let your super, duper hot figure cool for 10-15 minutes.

Because sprites tend to get lonely, it’s best to make a few more. You’ll be tempted to show all of your friends your creations, but choose wisely. This sort of hobby could be ammunition for your friends for years to come.

Create some friends for your figure. Next, defeat the Elemental Fiends and restore the balance of the world.

Conclusion

It’s fun, it’s cheap, and it kills a boring Saturday afternoon as effectively as Angry Birds and booze mixed together. These bad boys can be used as coasters, refrigerator magnets, or simple decorations to express your personality.

Have a good time, and rock on, geek.

Emulators on Android: The Future of Past Gaming

If you were born anytime after 1975, then you probably are familiar with console gaming.  And as a kid growing up in the decades following, it seemed that each new year gave us bigger and better gaming options:  NES became SNES, GameBoy turned into GameBoy Color and then GameBoy Advance, cartridges flattened into CDs, and Sega… well, Sega just kept adding Roman numerals to their newest systems (see: Master System I,II,III and Genesis I,II,III).

Pivotal games like Duck Hunt, Contra, Zelda, Mega Man, Mario Brothers, Pokémon, Paperboy, and Sonic captivated our minds and challenged our thumbs to new worlds and bigger boss battles.  Those truly were the days.

But wait, why do these memories have to be mentioned in the past tense?  Why can’t we relive these fond consoles (on a portable device) and their respective games that we cared to play?  Well, we can, thanks to console emulators and video game ROMs (for Android-based phones).

Okay, so as you may have noticed, those last two sentences became a bit conditional in meaning.  This is because Techerator already has a great article on vintage emulators and their operation, which I recommend reading.  With that in mind, it is the intention of this article to then compliment the other by showing the world that the classic games we know and love have branched off to another platform: the Android OS.

The Android Emulator Low-Down

Just type the word “emulator” into the search bar in the Android Market and it is easy to notice that there are quite a few options to choose from.  But before I delve any further into this realm, it is pertinent to talk about the meat of emulation: the ROM file.

On to Android emulator basics: No matter what emulator you choose, a few things come standard for all.  Most allow multiple save states for every game you load and run, and they are normally stored right on your SD card.  Another standard feature is the option to use a virtual keypad or a physical one, with the latter allowing the user to map out buttons to their desire.  Sound is also an option, but the quality appears to be a hit or miss depending on the ROM used.

When it comes to battery life, extended use (close to an hour or more) of an Android emulator is comparable to using your GPS module.  So be mindful that running one or both may reduce your phone’s lifespan by quite a bit.  Otherwise, short periods of emulator game play do not seem to have too much of an effect on the phone’s battery life.

Now that the air has been cleared on these issues, let’s examine a few Android emulators.

Emulators For Your Consideration

GameBoy

Give a nickname to the 10 hours you just lost

There are several Android applications that emulate the widely popular GameBoy series.  Yes, I said series.  GameBoy, GameBoy Color, GameBoy Advance; all three are available for emulation on your very own Android phone.  I recommend looking into Tiger GBC for all GameBoy and GameBoy Color ROMs, and GameBoid for all GameBoy Advance titles.

And no, it is not shameful to have all of the Pokémon games loaded on your GameBoy emulators… but I would recommend not trying to use that information to impress people.

NES and SNES

The wizard did WHAT to the other girls?!?

Ah, Nintendo Entertainment System.  A solar system of its own, filled with many classic games and the consoles that ran them.  A few notable emulators to investigate include NESoid and Tiger FC/NES  for the classic Nintendo Entertainment System and SNESoid and Tiger SNES for the Super NES.

Regardless of which ones you choose, you’ll be saving a princess or two in no time at all.  But I warn you, she may be in another castle.

Sega

Pick your poison: spikes or rabid dogs

Can anyone mention the Sega Genesis without engaging in a conversation about Sonic the Hedgehog?  I dare say not.  But don’t just assume that a spiny blue mammal with expedited motives is the only option for Genesis gaming.  Games like Earthworm Jim and Road Rash are great options as well.  GENSoid in the Android Market is a good place to start your ring collecting.

Drawing Conclusions

After perusing the Market for a while, it becomes apparent that two major contenders have come out on top as respected Android emulator developers.  In one corner we have Tiger King, a developer who supplies a range of major emulator titles and offers them for free, but has them subsidized by ads to pay for development and improvement.  In the other corner, we have Yongzh, a developer that releases both lite and full versions of console emulators (and enjoys adding “-oid” to the end of console names), and asks for two-to-five dollars to use the full version.  The full versions from Yongzh give features like cheats, save slots, and the ability to play others via Bluetooth and Wi-fi, while Tiger’s emulators allow for free downloading with the ability to save inside the emulator at any time.

Ultimately, the choice is up to you as to which ones to go with.  Heck, try them both and see what happens.  What harm is in that?

Whether you be a first-gen or a sixth-gen gamer, these emulators for Android should provide hours of viable, portable entertainment.  Angry Birds, eat your heart out.