Pixel FX Announced along with N64Digital

Pixel FX

The dream team of @citrus3000psi, @chriz2600, and @woozle64 have come together and formed Pixel FX. Alongside the announcement of their company together, the team has along announced a new N64 HDMI mod that will launch in April 2021. The N64Digital seems to be a direct competitor to the extremely difficult to acquire Ultra HDMI 64. With the track record behind these three, I imagine the N64Digital will have better stock over time.

The initial results look incredible.

Citrus3000psi and Chriz2600 have worked together on the PS1Digital, which looks slick. I have been following Woozle’s work for years now with the GBA Consolizer and the DS Consolizer. Pixel FX sounds like a killer company to keep an eye on. I know I am excited for what these three will bring to retro hardware together.

Walmart Ghosts Polymega

IMPORTANT UPDATE FOR NA WALMART CUSTOMERS – Polymega

Backstory — walmart.com seemed to have gone through a personnel change sometime in Q3-Q4 of last year, and since then they have stopped responding to our emails and phone calls, despite repeated attempts to contact them regarding fulfillment of the North American pre-orders. We gave our contacts at Walmart.com and their distributor Solutions2Go ample time to respond and rectify the situation, but they’ve left us with no response, despite even threats of legal action due to the significant issues this has caused us all.

For those unfamiliar, the Polymega is a modular, emulation-based game console that uses your physical game discs and cartridges. Last year, Polymega went up for pre-orders, both on their own site and through Walmart here in North America. It know appears that Walmart has ghosted Polymega’s company Playmaji.

Playmaji is requesting that all Walmart customers that pre-ordered from them cancel said orders. To help soften the blow, Playmaji is offering $50 off to, what appears to be, anyone not just Walmart customers by using the code “WALMART50” at checkout. Their post doesn’t say you need to prove you ordered from Walmart to use the code. Combined with the deluxe bundle (the base unit and all four modules), you can save $166. It basically turns the deluxe bundle into a buy two modules, get the other two free.

I’ve had my eyes on Polymega for a couple years due to their approach with emulators for software rather than the FPGA emulation for hardware that most folks seem to have gone toward when playing old games. I know some press has the Polymega, but I haven’t heard too much about it getting in the hands of consumers since pre-orders opened up publicly last year. This was maybe 5-ish months ago. I never ordered a console myself due to the steep price tag of $400 to start out. And that is solely for the base unit which handles the CD-based consoles. I don’t have a massive retro CD game collection and each additional module is $79. It gets expensive fast. If you go all in, it is more expensive than a PS5 by $100.

I’d love to see one in action, but the pre-order plot getting thicker and messier makes me less inclined to go for one. Hopefully this and their supply gets panned out and Playmaji can deliver a rock solid retro gaming experience.

Tweetbot 6 Arrives for iOS

Tweetbot for iOS

Tweetbot 6 is here. There is no other app or subsequent company that I give my money to instantly. Tapbots makes my favorite Twitter client, which I’ve been using since I signed up for Twitter in 2012. I’ve bought/upgraded to every version since Tweetbot 2 (4 turned into 5 for free).

For Tweetbot 6, Tapbots has switched to a subscription model, with pricing at $0.99 a month or $5.99 a year. Easiest $6 I have ever spent.

MacStories details the latest features in their write up.

Aside from the new pricing model, Tweetbot 6 has only implemented a handful of new features, including a few changes to the timeline view and some design changes. In the main timeline, you’ll notice more image thumbnails than before. Polls and cards are also visible thanks to the implementation of Twitter’s latest third-party APIs, and there are new dedicated ‘@’ and ‘#’ buttons in the app’s tweet composition sheet.

While light on newer features, Tapbots is calling this release “early access.” Users may scroll their timeline for free, but not tweet themselves without subscribing.

This early access version for iOS uses the new Twitter API. We are calling it early access because there are many new features on our roadmap to be built as well as new API’s to adopt as Twitter makes them available.

This seems promising if Twitter’s new third-party API can continue to return to a more open set of tools. I would love for the return of a stats page like there was in Tweetbot 4. Right off the bat, I can immediately tell the app is snappier. There has clearly been a huge focus on speed on the backend. Finally being able to see polls in Tweetbot is extremely welcome. Subscribing allows me to regularly support some of my favorite app develops for my most used app. I am happy to do it and am looking forward to the future of Tweetbot.

Cyber Shadow Review

I remember when I first saw Cyber Shadow. It was the day of my flight to Boston for PAX East 2019, which was my first major game convention. Yacht Club Games has announced they were publishing Aarne “MekaSkull” Hunziker’s cybernetic ninja action game. I was writing for DualShockers at the time and was the writer assigned to meet with and cover Yacht Club Games’ final pair of Shovel Knight games and on March 27, 2019, Cyber Shadow was thrown into that mix as well. I am a die-hard fan of Yacht Club Games and was completely thrilled.

I was immediately hooked and became laser-focused on any and all Cyber Shadow announcements and updates. What attracted me toward Cyber Shadow the most wasn’t its retro-aesthetic, ninjas, or even Yacht Club Games themselves. It was the fact it was completely developed completely by Hunziker. There is something inspiring and fascinating about one-person development. You just have to look at the trailer and then you’ll think “one person did all of this?!” Granted, the music was done by Enrique Martin; Yacht Club Games came onboard as the publisher; there were QA testers and translators, but on the whole Cyber Shadow is Hunziker’s game. And after roughly seven years in developmentCyber Shadow is finally here.

Cyber Shadow is without a doubt the next big indie game. It is an expertly crafted action-platformer that stands with the best. The world of Mekacity and Shadow’s journey through it are woven together wonderfully where each element of the game comes together to elevate each other. Cyber Shadow is more than the sum of its parts and all of those parts alone add up to be quite a bit.

Continue reading “Cyber Shadow Review”

Entering a 3D World – Thoughts on the PlayStation 3D Display

I have have been on a collecting kick lately. I have suddenly been fretting over the PS3 and Vita stores suddenly shutting down. I’ve been slowly rebuilding my physical PS3 collection. I even snagged a copy of Metal Gear Solid for the PS1 finally. Frankly, this collecting kick has been a PlayStation one.

As I bought PS3 games, I noticed the 3D game logo on the box of Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception, Arkham City, and Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time. It’s a small-ish icon that indicates the game can be played in 3D on a compatible TV. Then I remembered that my friend bought one of those PlayStation 3D Displays and ended up giving it to his younger brother. I reached out and one trade later, I became the proud owner of a 3D TV.

After a snafu with which glasses to buy off eBay, I finally ended up with Sony TDG-BR100 Active 3D Glasses. They use 2032 batteries instead of an internal, rechargeable one. Turns out that decade old batteries that haven’t been recharged regularly aren’t a good fit for a sustainable accessory. The rest of the tech in built into the display itself.

Before diving into the 3D effect itself, I want to talk about a few other details with the display. It is a 24’’ screen and has two HDMI 1.4a ports and one component input. It has a whitewash sort of look from the edges of the display, especially on a black image. I probably need to spend some time properly calibrating it, but the white light is slightly off-putting. Thankfully, this disappears when 3D is actually in use and I usually end up ignoring it once I am actually in a game.

The 3D itself can be auto-detected stereoscopic 3D, side-by-side, or top-and-bottom. You can toggle this with a 3D button on the rear of the display. This is incredibly useful when it comes to 3D gaming outside of the built in support in the PS3 or Xbox 360.

Now for the star of the show, the actual 3D effect. I know I am nearly a decade late, but what a cool, additive effect. This isn’t VR nor is it the iconic red and blue anaglyph 3D of yore. The closest comparison I can think of is the 3DS actually. While some 3DS games were actually designed with and for 3D, the small set of PS3 games I have tried have made it an bonus effect, enhancing the games by giving them depth and a sense of space.

Uncharted 3 (unsurprisingly) wowed me the most. Most reports from the time touted Uncharted 3 as the “killer game” for 3D gaming and it’s easy to see after a few minutes between the games I tried. The next time I play any of these games, I do plan on giving them a run on my PS3 in 3D.

What makes this display more than just some PS3 accessory, is the simple fact that it accepts any 3D signal over HDMI. So I can finally do things like play GameCube games in 3D like Nintendo originally experimented with . If 3DS emulation gets better, it could easily be a 3D display for playing those games on the “big” screen.

I am extremely happy to have this technology in my collection now, giving me a new way to play old games. It is a super small subset of titles within a smaller subset of video output, but it is still a part of gaming’s history. Plus, Naughty Dog made a game with it. So I had to own it.

Learning the Lay of the Land – Silent Hill 2 by Mike Drucker and Boss Fight Books

I’ve known about Silent Hill’s existence for a solid chunk of my life, but I’ve never really given the series the time of day. It’s lived sort of on the periphery of my gaming awareness. I know about the Pyramid Head and the Bubble Head Nurse enemies because they were slapped on tee shirts. I also remember seeing ads with a frozen girl on a swing in Nintendo Power for Silent Hill: Shattered Memories.

I even completely forgot that Playable Teaser, aka PT, on the PS4 was actually a demo/concept for Silent Hills until Mike Drucker mentioned it near the end of his book calling PT “the second-best game in the entire series.” I guess I’ve played one of the best (and hardest to acquire) Silent Hill games then!

When Boss Fight Books put out a call for review copy requests , I decided to reach out. I’ve never played a full-blown Silent Hill game. I’ve also never reviewed a book before. So I decided to take out 1 1/2 birds with 1 stone (or is it two birds with half a stone?) and review Silent Hill 2 by Mike Drucker.

I was drawn specifically toward this book because of the contrast between the subject matter and the author himself. Mike Drucker is a writer and comedian and the idea of him writing about a horror video game is naturally enticing. I imagine that juxtaposition was a solid hook in the pitch: It certainly sunk its hook me in.

Small side tangent, my first memory of Mike Drucker was this tweet. It made me chuckle so much that I decided to make it the first quote in a note on my phone where I’d store favorite, well, quotes. I liked the tweet so much that I didn’t double check his name. Sorry Mike.

I was expecting a lighter jaunt through Silent Hill 2, where jokes and japes would guide me through a game and series I really knew nothing about. Maybe I should have retained what the back cover said,

“With an in-depth and highly personal study of its tragic cast of characters, and a critical examination of developer Konami’s world design and uneven marketing strategy, Drucker examines how Silent Hill 2 forces its players to grapple with the fact that very real-world terrors of trauma, abuse, shame, and guilt are far more threatening than any pyramid-headed monster could ever be.”

Drucker’s exploration of Silent Hill 2 is poignant. More than just cutting through the layers of fog that surround the game design, its characters, and reception, Drucker shares with us his own life experiences, giving Silent Hill 2 a tangible nature I never would have had from a YouTube breakdown or some forum post. It’s Drucker’s personal story and connection to the game that elevates my understanding of Silent Hill 2.

Konami’s team clearly had a bold vision of putting the story “on the stick,” an element of game design I am clearly fond of. What Silent Hill 2 did nearly 20 years ago is still talked about; not just in the context of the game itself and its apparently abysmal “remaster,” but also when games today strive to be more than reaching a flag or being the last character flossing on the map.

It sounds like the team used the new power of the PS2 not to make mind-blowing realistic graphics or a sweet, huge open haunted house, but used the computational power to restrain the player and rob the main character, James, of any sort of power.

“…Sacrificing gameplay for the sake of atmosphere During the opening of Silent Hill 2, you do… well, nothing. The ’survival’ part of ‘survival horror’ doesn’t start until later in the game than you’d expect.”

Silent Hill 2, however, takes its time. To Tsuboyama, creating a sense of place within the town of Silent Hill was far more important than emphasizing the dangers inherent in it. Not to mention that walking a long path through fog until you find yourself in a graveyard is a pretty strong symbol for death.”

I can’t help but compare what Silent Hill 2 goes for emotionally through the controller to what Naughty Dog attempted with The Last of Us Part II. These games sound like they weren’t inherently designed around being “fun” to play. They use gameplay to elevate engagement to serve the story.

“If we’re going to tell this story, we have to go there. We have to make you feel uncomfortable,” he explains. “We don’t use the word ‘fun’ but it needs to be engaging. If you care about this character, and there are stakes, you are engaged. I don’t want you to willy-nilly commit these acts. I want you to feel these moments.” Neil Druckmann in an interview with Variety, June 13, 2018

I’m not here to say gameplay first vs story immersion first is fight worth even having. They serve two entirely different purposes and audiences. A game like Resogun or Forza Horizon 3 have little to no plot, but they are some of my absolute favorite gameplay focused games. I love the way Nakey Jakey describes it in his video on Naughty Dog’s “outdated” game design: Goopy Goblin Gamer Brain. For some, gameplay is the king. For others, gameplay is the medium for the message. Drucker’s exploration of the world and characters of Silent Hill 2 guided me through a town I had only heard of in passing as if I grew up in it all along.

Drucker also showed restraint throughout the book. There is a tight focus on the Silent Hill 2 from its development to its reception and legacy. He analyzes the game and character design and how it makes the audience tick all these years later. I learned not just about what drew James, Maria, Eddie, and Angela to the demented town, but what has kept fans returning to for nearly two decades.

Silent Hill 2 (the book) is engaging and fascinating. Whether you have played Silent Hill 2 or any Silent Hill game, Drucker makes you feel like you know each layer that makes up the little American town. His writing has peaked my interests into the world of Silent Hill more than some frozen little girl advert or even Hideo Kojima himself ever has. Now when I go into my retro game stores, I am keeping my eyes peeled for Silent Hill 2 and not that HD collection. Why did Drucker have to write about such an expensive game?

Meet the one-man studio behind Cyber Shadow – PlayStation.Blog

Meet the one-man studio behind Cyber Shadow by Aarne “MekaSkull” Hunziker for the PlayStation Blog

I used photos of myself as a reference for drawings and animations, but I couldn’t (allegedly) run like a real ninja, so the animation ended up looking pretty stiff. My training project wasn’t just for training anymore. It was shaping into a game with slashing in addition to jumping.

This brief origin story for Cyber Shadow totally reminds me of The Making of Prince of Persia Journals 1985-1993 by Jordan Mechner. Early on in the book (and the game’s development) Mechner bought a camera to record his brother and other actors on film that he could then breakdown frame-by-frame and hand animate characters in Prince of Persia.

October 15, 1986

Bought a camera at Whole Earth. It was more expensive than I’d anticipated — $250 with the lens —but it’s a good camera, and I imagine I’ll find some use for it even after the game’s done.

I shot my first roll of film (David turning around) and had it developed at the local one-hour photo shop; I think this will work. The real problem, obviosuly, will be going from a sheaf og snapshots to the 280 x 192 Apple screen, and the loss of accuracy entailed therein. It almost makes me want to do it in double hi-res. – Page 40

October 25, 1986

Yesterday I implemented the running animation. Next I’ll do the jumping…then the stopping…then the “jumping from a stopped position”…oh boy, this is great! – Page 44

It is wonderful to see that nearly 35 years later, video game developers are still using the same techniques to capture the authenticity of real, human movement.

My other favorite tidbit from this blog post was that the game will run at 120fps on PS5 (and presumably on Xbox Series consoles). How cool is it that a game inspired by the 8-bit consoles of yore can run at 120fps?! Merging the new with the old can really be quite exciting.

Stuck in Cairo: A Story From The Development Of Rockstar’s Agent – Game Informer

Stuck in Cairo: A Story From The Development Of Rockstar’s Agent by Blake Hester for Game Informer

During the development of Rockstar’s now long-missing spy game Agent, Rockstar San Diego project leader Luis Gigliotti had to do something far outside his typical job description: Call the United States Embassy in Cairo, Egypt. He needed help. A small team of artists – his fellow coworkers at Rockstar – were being held under house arrest in Cairo. Not only that, but the Egyptian authorities were also trying to pin the group with false charges of shooting pornography – a crime in the country. He needed assistance in getting them home safe.

“And I’ll never forget, whoever it was on the call from the Embassy just literally said, ‘Are you guys stupid?'” Gigliotti tells me in a recent interview. “‘Whatever possessed you to think this was a good idea?'”

While Agent has become a consistent joke and reference between my friends and myself, I am fascinated whenever a story about its development comes to light. Last year, Hester wrote a brilliant look inside the mysterious game’s rocky, early development for Polygon. Now at Game Informer, Hester has written up a smaller, but equally unique story about a one-off trip to Egypt to gather reference data for the dev team. Rock solid reporting all around that I find far too rare in the video game industry.

Always fun to think that somewhere out there, Rockstar has a build of this game for the PS3.

Super Mario 3D World + Bowser’s Fury Looks Oh So Good

A Bigger Badder Bowser – Super Mario 3D World + Bowser’s Fury Trailer

Super Mario 3D World is another one of those wonderful Wii U games that not enough people played, for obvious reasons. It was a game I poured tons of hours into trying to complete it to 100% (stupid Champion’s Road). When it was announced as the next Wii U game to be ported to the Switch, I was already sold, additional content or not.

Then Nintendo pulled back the curtain on Bowser’s Fury.

Holy smokes! It’s a wacky 3D World, Sunshine, Odyssey fusion. It seems like Bowser waking up from his black, inky slumber is even a bit reminiscent of the blood moon in Breath of the Wild. This expansion seems more meaty than I originally expected, but I can’t imagine it being too substantial. Maybe a few hours of gameplay instead of a handful of levels that I originally expected. It is interesting to see Nintendo taking the gameplay, assets, and design of 3D World and actually making an open 3D environment to explore.

Once this releases next month, the only 3D Mario games missing on the Switch will be Super Mario Galaxy 2 and Super Mario 3D Land. I am eager to dig back into one of my favorite Wii U games.

The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time by CLG ZFG in 41:40 – Awesome Games Done Quick 2021 Online

The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time by CLG ZFG in 41:40 – Awesome Games Done Quick 2021 Online

The classic speed run game Ocarina of Time closed out AGDQ 2021 with none other than ZFG behind the controller. This particular run was “All Dungeons” and utilizes new techniques discovered a couple years ago. ZFG is manipulating the game’s code in real time and it is astounding to watch. I highly recommend checking it out.

Max Frequency Year One in Review

And just like that, year one of Max Frequency is in the bag. I liked working on it so much I decided to reup for year two.

Max Frequency has proven to be just the kind of outlet I needed and continue to need in the video game news space. What I wrote in my introduction post still stands true:

Max Frequency is a website for my ideas to find a home. 280 characters is not always enough. Writing for other sites provides pressures to output articles at an expected, often accelerated pace. Max Frequency solves both those problems for me.

I like what I came up with—Max Frequency. It communicates the identity of the blog quite well, I think. It’s me at my frequency. No pressures for deadlines, no list of required news. Only articles that I want to write or share. It also opens up the possibility for audio content if I ever get behind the mic again. Plus, it is a pun.

Not trying to make video game coverage my full time job and just expressing it through my passion for writing has been liberating to say the least. I found drive and creativity I hadn’t had for some time. And that feeling comes and goes, but I know I’ll have my own tiny slice of the internet to share my work.

Before listing off the articles I’m most proud of, let’s break down Max Frequency by the numbers.

Total Site Views – 2,619

Most viewed articles:

Number per top countries:

  • USA – 1558
  • UK – 191
  • China – 144

Most downloaded item:

Total Articles published – 260

And here is a list of the articles I am most proud of working on in my first year of Max Frequency. Thank you all for reading my work and supporting me in 2020. I have some ideas for 2021. Maybe they will pan out, maybe not, but I do know that I have immensely enjoyed writing this site and can’t see it going away. Thank you and enjoy!

Chasing the Stick: The History of Naughty Dog during the PS4 Era (duh)

This is (obviously) the post I am most proud of in 2020. I never planned to write the definitive history of Naughty Dog’s PS4 years when I made Max Frequency. This was the highlight of Max Frequency in 2020. At least 655 people read or listened to the story, hopefully all of it. There is more I’d love to go back and fill in surround the final months of The Last of Us Part II’s development since I was avoiding spoilers like mad. Maybe next time…

Cutting the Hair: The History of Neil Druckmann’s Hair during the PS4 Era (double duh)

What started out as a lunch break joke turned into the blog’s third most popular article of the year. It surpassed the day one numbers of Chasing the Stick. I attribute that entirely to co-writer Halley Gross replying to it on Twitter. The foil to my serious history of Naughty Dog is definitely a favorite. Now that Neil has cut his hair, it is only a matter of time until his hair is long again and their next game is released.

The Last of Us Part II Review

To round out my year of Naughty Dog coverage, I’m proud of my review of the game that kicked it all off. Spoilers ahead for those that have not finished The Last of Us Part II.

King of Custom – PS5 Specs Revealed

2020 was certainly the year of hype with two brand new console family launches. The silence surrounding the reveal and launch of the PS5 was particularly annoying, especially with Microsoft being more transparent (and leak-prone). I enjoyed digging into the potential of the PS5 and seeing what developers thought of the newly revealed hardware and what it could actually mean for game development.

280 Characters is Not Enough

This is part of why I made a blog. Social media and hot takes are killing thoughtful discourse. It’s truly a shame and I hope more people lean into having real conversations.

Returning to Death Stranding Six Months Later

Death Stranding would have been my favorite game I played last year if The Last of Us Part II had not come out. Connecting the United States of America through packages sounds so tacky and Kojima, but it actually works. The final stretch where you cross all of America to get to the end boss is oddly profound and satisfactory.

Returning to Shadow Moses: My Journey Back Through Metal Gear Solid

I didn’t technically play these games in 2020, but I did compile all my tweets from 2019 into a cohesive post. I am excited to have this record to look back on in the years to come when I eventually play all* of the Metal Gear Solid games again. (*I didn’t play Peace Walker or MGSV, but maybe next time).

First Impressions of New Consoles

New consoles are dope. I shared my impressions with the Xbox Series X, PlayStation 5, and (surprisingly) Google Stadia. Curious to say how both these posts and the consoles themselves will age.

Analogue Pocket Preview

I knew how excited I was and continue to be for the Pocket. I figured this would be a fun topic to research and provide the most comprehensive article of information on the Pocket. I did math for this one. 

Analogue Consoles Entirely Out of Stock

Analogue Store

I had a feeling that this was going to happen soon. I kept look at the Mega SG consoles, noticing that the stock was limited to the USA and JPN variant. The Super NT has been out of stock throughout 2020. The Analogue Pocket famously sold out in 10 minutes. The Analogue DAC is also out of stock, ending the second run of the niche digital-to-analog converter.

Those fortunate enough with an Analogue Pocket pre-order should expect the console in May 2021. Analogue is also launching a PC-Engine/Turbografx console dubbed the Analogue Duo this year. I imagine pre-orders will sell out immediately.

In fact, as of this writing, the only Analogue product in stock is a triple pack of Mega SG cartridge adapters for $49.99, plus $20~ in shipping. Hopefully Analogue can resupply all of their non-exclusive variant consoles and make some new ones (like an affordable NES console). They do rock solid work and I love my Super NT and DAC. I cannot wait for my Pocket to arrive to test and play it to no end. I just wish Analogue’s products were more widely available for folks.

Awesome Games Done Quick 2021 Has Begun!

Games Done Quick website

One of my all time favorite events of the year officially kicked off yesterday. Awesome Games Done Quick 2021 is raising money for the Prevent Cancer Foundation. Speedrunners are playing a plethora of games 24/7 this week all for the foundation. You can watch the stream and donate at the link above. Here is the schedule if you want to find games that interest you.

Abby and I watched the 100% Diddy Kong Racing run last night. She had a blast watching one of her favorite childhood games be played at one of the highest levels possible. You definitely should tune in this week.