Valve Sells Software, So What’s With All The Hardware?

Steam branding is strong. Valve Corporation has turned their third-party marketplace into the first place millions choose to buy their PC games. The service has seen record-breaking numbers earlier this year with over 25 million concurrent users, so whatever they are doing is clearly working. Yet with all those software sales, last month Valve announced a new piece of hardware they call the Steam Deck.

Use the colloquialism you’d like, “not resting on your laurels” or “Mamba Mentality”, it’s not as if competitors in the handheld PC space are boasting ludicrous sales numbers. At their core, Valve is in the business of selling computer games. So why venture into making hardware? Continue reading “Valve Sells Software, So What’s With All The Hardware?”

Mega Man 4 Free of Charge ROM Hack Pexels Anete Lusina

Mega Man Hack Drops Charge Shot, Adds Classic Style

When it comes to the six original Mega Man games there is a clear dividing line between the first three and the last. Mega Man 4 introduced the charging shot mechanic that allowed players to hold down the fire button in order to power-up a single blast from Mega Man’s arm cannon. The aptly named, “Mega Man 4: Free of Charge” ROM hack by [Peter] seeks to bring cohesion with the first trilogy of Mega Man games by removing the charge shot mechanic completely. To compensate for the change, enemy health bars were also adjusted so that enemies aren’t as bullet-spongy.

The Mega Man 4: Free of Charge download comes as an IPS patch file. There are free utilities out there like Floating IPS that can apply the patch file to a clean dump of a NES cartridge. This ROM hack is playable on original Nintendo Entertainment System hardware via a flashcart device, or it can be played by any common NES emulator like FCEUX or Nestopia.

One of the most annoying parts of Mega Man 4 (minus the difficulty) was the constant whir of the charge shot drowning out the brilliant soundtrack. With a patch like [Peter]’s this is no longer a going concern, and players are able to give their thumbs a bit of a break by not needing to continually hold down fire throughout a run. All welcomed changes aside, it still won’t change the fact that the Japanese TV commercial for the game is cooler than the print ads in the US.

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Retro League GX Homebrew on CRT

Rocket League Inspired Homebrew Reverses Onto Nintendo GameCube

Would it have been too obvious to call a game about soccer playing RC cars, Soc-Car? Well [Martin] thought so and opted to call his Nintendo GameCube homebrew game, Retro League GX. The game clearly takes inspiration from Rocket League developed by Psyonix, as it pits teams of cars on a pitch plus comes complete with boosts to boot. There are some impressive physics on display here, and according to Krista over at GBATemp everything is playable on original hardware. Though those without a GameCube can certainly get a match in via the Dolphin emulator.

There are a number of ways to boot homebrew on a Nintendo GameCube, however, the most essential piece of software would be Swiss. Swiss is a homebrew utility that interfaces with all the myriad of ways to load code onto a GameCube these days. Common ways loading homebrew include saving files onto an SD card then using a SDGecko device that plugs into the memory card ports, or a SD2SP2 device that plugs into one of the GameCube’s expansion ports located on the bottom of the console. Those who prefer ditching the disc drive entirely can load homebrew via a optical disc emulator device like the GC Loader.

Still on the roadmap Retro League GX are ports for 3DS, PSP, Wii, and Linux. LAN and Online multiplayer are in the works as well. So at least that way GameCube broadband adapter owners may get to branch out beyond Phantasy Star Online for once. Best of all, [Martin] stated that the code for Retro League GX will be open sourced sometime next year.

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Super Mario Sunburn Mod on TV Pexels Ricardo Ortiz

Super Mario Sunburn Mod Shines Up A GameCube Favorite

Super Mario Sunshine always felt a little under-baked when it came to 3D Mario games. Whether it was wonky camera controls, aggravating coin quotas, or the inclusion of a sentient super-soaker the game didn’t quite fulfill fan expectations. Seeking to wash-away that reputation [Wade] created a mod to revitalize the oft disparaged GameCube game. Over two years in the making, Super Mario Sunburn breaks Super Mario Sunshine wide open with new levels, more coins, and the freedom of a modern open-world game. Collecting in-game shine collectibles no longer automatically warps Mario back to the island hub, but rather allows Mario to keep filling those pockets.

In order to apply the Sunburn mod patch, a clean rip of Super Mario Sunshine for Nintendo GameCube is needed. The easiest method of ripping GameCube discs is actually with a Nintendo Wii — provided it can run CleapRip via the Homebrew Channel. With a clean game image, the Sunburn patch can be applied on Windows by running Delta Patcher. From there a Sunburn-patched image can be enjoyed via emulator with the optional HD Texture pack, or even real Nintendo hardware. A comprehensive mod like this is surely deserving of some WaveBird time.

The arrival of [Wade]’s mod comes at a crucial time for many Mario fans. Late last year Nintendo released an underwhelming compilation of 3D Mario games called Super Mario 3D All-Stars. The release brought with it the lightest of touches and failed to provide a suitable modernization of Super Mario Sunshine. The company didn’t even allow players to play in 16:9 widescreen (unlike Sunburn). At the end of March Nintendo will cram Super Mario 3D All-Stars into “Bowser’s Vault” thereby removing it from store shelves. All the more reason to give Super Mario Sunburn a try. Continue reading “Super Mario Sunburn Mod Shines Up A GameCube Favorite”

PlayStation 3 Controller Dualshock 3

Digital PlayStation 3 Purchases May Only Live As Long As Your PRAM Battery Without Sony Servers

Word of Sony shutting down PlayStation storefront servers for PS3 this summer spread like wildfire on the internet Monday. The discourse in comment sections were filled with anti-DRM rhetoric and renewed pledges of physical-only game collections, because without content servers to connect to, your digital PS3 purchases will eventually become unplayable. Even if legitimate purchases are installed to the console’s hard drive before Sony “flips the switch”, they may only live on as long as the internal clock stays in sync. Which is why this guide to replace a PS3 PRAM battery written by [Andrew] has renewed importance. After a battery replacement the internal clock needs to be reset and this requires validation from the PlayStation network (you know, the one that’s soon to be shut down).

Game preservationist group [Does it play?] drove home the impact of such a business decision by Sony on Twitter. The thread is quick to point out that even if users are quick to re-download all of their purchases to a PS3 system before the purported July 2nd deadline, those games will eventually become unplayable if the system clock becomes desynchronized. Replacing the PRAM battery and reconnecting to the PlayStation Network prior to Sony shuttering their servers should buy the user some more playtime. However, without any further changes to Sony’s licensing policy little else can be done physically to ensure those digital PS3 games will work in perpetuity.

Sony isn’t the only one to have drawn the ire of digital rights advocates in regards to terminating their online services. Nintendo shuttered the DSI-Shop in 2017 and Microsoft turned off access to the original Xbox LIVE servers in 2010. The big three console makers have all let their consumers down by removing the ability to reacquire purchases in some way, but the fact that so many PS3 exclusives were only ever available digitally just further exacerbates issues with digital rights. Dropping in a fresh coin-cell may not be the permanent solution everyone is looking for at the moment, but it couldn’t hurt to re-familiarize yourself with the Cell processor.

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Clone Console Cribs Ben Heck’s Classic SNES Caché

“I don’t get mad when people rip me off. I actually think its kinda cool, because imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.” — Ben Heckendorn

For some “hacking things together” can mean heavily borrowing from other’s work in order to make a new, derivative work. Though longtime hardware hacker, Ben Heckendorn, didn’t expect one of his early SNES handheld projects to become the inspiration for a Famicom-style clone console. There have been a number of clone consoles available online for years, and all have been made to varying levels of build quality. The subject clone console in question is called the Easegmer 12-bit Retro Console, so [Ben] decided to record his teardown of the handheld borrowing from his original design. (Video, embedded below.)

The Easegmer handheld has a “surprising” list of features according to its packaging including: sports games, logic games, memoyr games, USB charger management, double power supply option, and dirunal double backlight option. All big (and slightly misspelled) promises though the most egregious claim has to be that, “No violent games, your child’s body and mind get full exercise.”. The statement may have a modicum of truth to it, except for the fact that game 84 of 220 is literally named “Violent”. Dunking aside, the handheld does feature a standard size rechargeable battery in addition to the option of powering the device with three AAA batteries. There’s even a “fun size” screwdriver and a few replacement screws included which is more than you can say for most modern electronics.

It has been almost twenty years after [Ben] originally published his SNES portable project on his website. So as a long awaited follow-up, [Ben] plans to make a “meta-portable”. This meta portable will start with the Adobe Illustrator files he kept from that SNES portable in 2001 and incorporate pieces of the Easegmer clone console. Thus spawning a new clone of the clone of his clone…or whatever that project ends up being its sure to be worth repeating.

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Zelda II Redux CRT Header Image

Zelda II Redux ROM Hack Plays How You Remember The Original

Going back to classic games can be a difficult experience. The forward passage of time leaves technology to stagnate, while the memories attached to those old games can morph in mysterious ways. Therein lies the problem with how you remember a game playing versus the reality of how it actually does. Developer [Jorge] saw that situation arising around Zelda II: The Adventure of Link, and it inspired him to create the Zelda II Redux ROM hack.

Years in the making, Zelda II Redux takes a relatively light-handed approach to revising the original NES game. Graphical enhancements include: a reworked HUD complete with the series’ tradition of hearts, animated enemy icons in the over world, a new title screen, and giving Link the shield from the Famicom Disk System release’s box art. Text speed has been increased and a revised translation of the Japanese script has been incorporated. Under the hood, all sorts of boss battles have been re-balanced while casting magic spells doesn’t require multiple return trips to the pause menu. Though Zelda II Redux’s most important feature may be the inclusion of manual saving via “Up + A” on the pause menu. There are also a whole host of other changes Zelda II Redux incorporates in order to bring Link’s second adventure more inline with the rest of the Legend of Zelda series that can be found on the project’s change log.

To play Zelda II Redux requies an IPS patching program, like LunarIPS, along with a clean dumped image of Zelda II: The Adventure of Link. Dumping NES cartridges is easier than ever these days due to many cartridge dumper devices being plug-and-play over USB. A successfully patched ROM file can be played in an emulator or on actual NES hardware through a flash cart. A video of a tool-assisted speedrun has been included below, so there may be some new strategies to employ.
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