Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Game Boy Interface Revisited

A few years ago, I discussed a piece of homebrew software called Game Boy Interface (GBI).  GBI was written and is maintained by a GameCube enthusiast who goes by the handle Extrems.  Extrems intended to replace the official Game Boy Player (GBP) Start-Up disc for the GameCube which, when combined with the attachment that is fitted underneath your GameCube, allows you to play Game Boy, Game Boy Color and Game Boy Advance cartridges using genuine GBA hardware.  Before GBI, if you did not have the official disc, your GBP attachment was useless.  GBI quickly made the official disc essentially obsolete, but the software has been radically revised since I first profiled it.  Let's return and see what's changed and I will give my own personal take on how I like to use the software.  This will not be a fully comprehensive guide because there are features geared toward hardware I do not own and uses I do not put GBI, but if you are new to GBI you may find something here instructive.

Monday, October 28, 2019

Nintendo's 8-bit Obsession with Golf

Golf is popular in most parts of the world with any concentration of wealth.  It is rather popular in Japan, at least for those who can afford to play it.  Green fees and club memberships are extremely pricey in Japan, so it may not be any surprise that many people who enjoy the game may have to turn to less expensive alternatives to get 18 holes in.  Most video game systems have a golf game, or something intended to resemble golf, released for them.  When Nintendo was releasing early titles for its Famicom, a golf game was a natural addition to its sports library.  But Nintendo kept revisiting the sport with its 8-bit systems, so let's explore how its implementation of golf evolved throughout the 8-bit lifespan.

Friday, September 20, 2019

The Intellivision Amico - Can a "Family Friendly" Console Succeed?

The Intellivision Amico in Metallic Pearl, courtesy of Intellivision Entertainment
Who remembers the Intellivision today?  Some readers with a sense of history will remember the console as the first console to seriously compete with Atari 2600 before the video game crash of 1983-84.  A few may even have had one when they were younger, have one in their collection or played one at some point in their lives.  To the general public, also-ran pre-crash consoles like the Intellivision barely register in its memory.  Intellivision is posed to make a comeback with the Amico console, a console built with the laudable goal of getting families to play video games together.  But it is a very different market that Intellivision is trying to make a splash compared to ten years ago, never mind forty.  Can the Amico become a success when it is scheduled to launch next year?  Let's explore its prospects in this article.

Saturday, August 10, 2019

Planet X3 - Review of a New Real Time Strategy Game for the IBM PC

Title Screen VGA
Retro video game homebrew is an ever maturing market.  Talented coders spend a ton of hours getting their games into a playable state and bugfixed, small teams combine their talents to handle differing workloads (graphics, sound, programming) and the result is hopefully a video game that will sell enough copies to make it worth all the effort.  Homebrew software has become popular with console platforms like the NES, Atari 2600, ColecoVision, Intellivision and Sega Genesis.  Homebrew software for personal computers has not quite taken off as the more popular consoles.  Nonetheless there are talented individuals making homebrew software for the IBM PC compatible  MS-DOS platform.  Today I am going to review the latest homebrew game for the IBM PC and compatibles, 8-bit Guy's Planet X3, identify its strengths and weaknesses, determine how well it met its design goals and postulate on its role in the evolution of PC homebrew.

Sunday, July 21, 2019

Of Bytes and Borders

There is more to the screen than those pixels or tiles which a graphics programmer had the ability to manipulate into graphical images.  In many vintage consoles and home computers, their display hardware could sometimes display color outside the active display area.  In this blog post we will review some of these devices, try to identify the size of the borders and any special purposes to which they may have been put.

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Screen Persistence and the GBA - LCD Abuse

The Game Boy Advance has a TFT LCD screen, and in its last variants, the screen was backlit.  TFT screens offer faster pixel response times over earlier passive matrix technology.  The GBA TFT LCD screen was improved over the earlier screens used for the Game Boy Color, but developers took advantage of the response time of these screens on occasion to make for interesting effects.  Let's take a look.

Sunday, May 19, 2019

Quatermass and the Pit Blu-ray Review

The serial format, breaking down a story over multiple, distinct parts, has a very long history.  Silent film serials were followed by sound film serials, and up and until the 1950s the genre had fulfilled a need for audiences to be entertained in a weekly format.  Television's introduction led to the downfall of serials from Republic Films and other studios that specialized in narratives punctuated by cliffhangers.  The format did not generally translate well to television, where people expected a program to begin and end in one viewing.  In the 1950s there was no real ability for an average TV viewer to record programming to watch at a later time, you either saw the program or you hoped for a repeat.  This suited television broadcasters, who wanted viewers to experience a new story every week.

That was the evolution in the U.S., but the U.K. was not yet ready to abandon the classic serial format.  The British Broadcasting Corporation, a publicly-funded TV network, had to fill the same number of hours in a day but with fewer resources that its American commercial televison network counterparts.  The serial format had its advantages in cost, sets, costumes, production personnel and actors could be reused for several weeks at a cost significantly less than having to mount brand-new productions every week.  Serials were broadcast alongside series not only by the BBC but also the ITV affiliates for a solid three-decade period.  Here I am going to offer my thoughts on one of the best of the serials ever produced from this period, Quatermass and the Pit as presented in its November 2018 Blu-ray release. 

Monday, April 15, 2019

Three High-Quality 1080p Game Boy "Consolizing" Solutions Compared

For some reasons, probably strange, many people like to play Game Boy or Game Boy Color games outside their portable confines.  One reason is that the games are good but the original screens for these devices are terrible to look at by modern standards.  Nintendo has on certain occasions tried to satisfy the need to play portable games as though they were home console games, but those solutions are old.  Pure software emulation can easily take the GB to 1080p and beyond, but software is wholly divorced from original hardware.  There are software emulators with dumping cartridge slots like the RetroN 5 and Retro Freak, but they are only 720p solutions.  A promising new mod called the GBA Consolizer is an FPGA-based upscaling solution for the Game Boy Advance but is limited to 720p output.  There was a mod called the HDMYBoy a few years ago but it never got beyond a few prototype units.  For this blog article, I will focus on hardware-based solutions which I have some ability to experience personally and can deliver a 1080p experience.