Preserving the Vita – Upgrading My Vita TV

A little follow-up on backing up and preserving my game collection in light of the PS3, PSP, and Vita stores shutting down in a couple months:

Hack your Vita and/or PS TV.

Back in January, I made the move to finally buy a PS TV. I always said not being able to play Persona 4 Golden on my TV is why I never finished the game. Then my Persona-obsessed friend mentioned there was some sort of HD patch for P4G if you hacked your PS TV. I was interested in the process beforehand so I could whitelist games like Uncharted: Golden Abyss and utilize homebrew software like Sharpscale, thanks to a video from My Life in Gaming. The downside to this move was that I needed to use my one and only proprietary Vita memory card of 16GB for my PS TV, leaving my poor Vita without any storage, making it essentially unplayable.

Since the announcement of the Vita store’s closure, I’ve been researching how to expand my PS TV storage since Vita memory cards are still outrageously expensive. I came across two options; something called the SD2Vita and a USB mass storage route. The SD2Vita is an adapter that goes into the game card slot and uses an SD card. Hack the system and voilà, you have extra storage. I’m not a fan of this though since it takes up the game slot, not the memory card slot, thus taking my physical games out of play.

This left me with the USB mass storage route, which was both easier and more frustrating than I expected. It was more simple because I already had the tools in place and more frustrating because I did not understand the file structure of the PS TV and its games. Searching online will lead you toward plugins, but if you hack your PS TV, you ought to have VitaShell installed. VitaShell has the ability to mount USB storage as the Vita system’s main memory source (“ux0”)  built right in. Launch VitaShell, plug in the USB drive (formatted exFat with a Master Boot Record [MBR] partition), and press Triangle to open a menu to mount. This did leave me with the need to redownload all my Vita games, which took all day over a wireless connection. Maybe there was some workaround I could have down via FTP or copying files over from the memory card, but I could not find the answer.

Where I ran into trouble was reinstalling all my homebrew plugins—Sharpscale, PSVShell, a DualShock motion sensor, and Whitelist. Turns out installing these while the USB drive was mounted was causing the issue. So, I installed all my homebrew directly on the PS TV itself and then mounted the USB drive and everything worked out perfectly.

I share all this to call attention to the time and effort it will take to back these games up and get your console ready for the store’s final days. This is not something you want to wait until the last minute for. Enabling USB storage on my PS TV has given my Vita its memory card back, while allowing me to download more games on a Vita platform than I’ve ever had. It also let me back that USB drive up to my laptop and my backup service so I can keep redundant copies of my Vita data, should anything dire happen to the drive itself (or I upgrade it).

The Vita is a wonderful system with an incredible legacy. If you own one or a PS TV, I implore you to download your games and buy the ones you want in these next two months. And if you are comfortable with it, hack the console to unlock more features and capabilities. These next few months will be a crucial time to prepare the way for and preserve your Vita collection.

RetroN Sq Game Boy Review – MetalJesusRocks

RetroN Sq Game Boy Review – the Good & the Bad by MetalJesusRocks on YouTube

Surprised I didn’t follow up on this sooner. The RetroN Sq was one of the first things I wrote about here on Max Frequency in January 2020. It was originally called the RetroN Jr., but the product is one and the same. You can tell I wasn’t hot on the product then:

It is the next emulation box from Hyperkin in a similar vain of the RetroN 5. These plug ’n play boxes come off cheap like what you’d find in a drug store toy aisle. Back in 2014, before I dove into the RGB rabbit hole, did think the RetroN 5 looked dope. When I look at the RetroN Jr., I see a nostalgia fueled cash grab, but I see why this type of product keeps happening.

The Sq is not great based off reviews I’ve watched. The GBA support is in “beta” and has terrible performance. The Game Boy and Color games are forced into a 4:3 or 16:9 aspect ratio with some sloppy emulation. It does seem that Hyperkin has built their own engine this time, instead of violating licenses for other emulators. Props to them for going about it the legal way this time, but it does look like their emulator needs serious work.

Circling back to my original point back in January, this is a balance of costs and features for Hyperkin. The resources to make decent to incredibly accurate emulators is high and has clearly been a price Hyperkin does not want to pay. They are aiming for an accessible price point for nostalgic consumers. And lately, I’ve realized more and more how content average consumers are with lower quality video output and emulation just to play their games on modern televisions.

I recently was given some old duplicate consoles and games a friend had lying around. They had not touched their retro games in what appeared to be years. Digging all their stuff out, they decided to hooked up their NES to a small HDTV and they seemed incredibly giddy to just play Rampage over composite. Another friend of mine happily plays GBA games blown up on a big TV with a RetroN 5. Folks want to play their old games as conveniently as possible. Hyperkin is filling a hole in the market that Nintendo, Sega, and more are not actively filling. Does it bug me that the accuracy is out of whack or that there are truly better options out there for just a little more money (or a lot more)? Yes. But The average consumer is not me. That’s been humbling to realize again lately and has broadened my approach to sharing with friends how they can play their old games. Ultimately, it is up to the consumer how far down the rabbit hole they want to go. 

But please, for me, don’t buy this Sq system. It looks rough

Thoughts on the PSVR 2 Announcement

Sony’s next generation VR headset was officially announced/acknowledged at the end of February 2021. I’ve been meaning to write about the announcement since then, especially since it was a 2020 prediction of mine. Procrastination paid off in March when Sony revealed the new controller design for what most are just calling PSVR 2. If I wait any longer, the whole thing will be revealed and I don’t want to necessarily wait that long.

The initial announcement did more than confirm the new hardware was coming out some time after 2021: It actually gave insight to where the hardware is headed, especially for such an early tease.

…enhances everything from resolution and field of view to tracking and input. It will connect to PS5 with a single cord to simplify setup and improve ease-of-use, while enabling a high-fidelity visual experience.

The original PSVR had all right specs back in 2016, with some that are still leaders in the VR space. The headset supports a 90Hz-120Hz refresh rate, which matches the Valve Index and out-specs Oculus Rift S and Quest 2. PSVR 1 has a 100° field-of-view with a 1080p OLED display, while the Index has 130° field-of-view with 1440 x 1600 LCD screens.

The single cord reminds of the Rift S when I tried it at PAX East 2019. This tells me that the PS5 is going to be handling all of the processing, unlike the first iteration of PS VR where an additional processor box was required for powering the TV output and audio processing, something the PS5 should have no issue handling at all. I know plenty of people who were wishing for a wireless headset, but if Sony did go wireless, I doubt they could use the PS5’s power to its max potential. It would limit the new headset’s capabilities right out of the gate.

…which will incorporate some of the key features found in the DualSense wireless controller, along with a focus on great ergonomics. That’s just one of the examples of future-proof technology we’re developing to match our vision for a whole new generation of VR games and experiences.

Back in February, this was easy to imagine after using the DualSense with my own PS5. The technology inside that controller is just begging for VR implementations. Thankfully, it didn’t take long at all to see how Sony was going to morph the DualSense tech into a VR controller—a real, designed-for from the ground up VR controller.

Gone are glowing golf balls, replaced with a tracking ring monitored by the headset itself. This implies there will be no need for the official PS5 camera accessory to use PSVR 2. The marvelous haptics and the adaptive triggers are in place along with finger touch detection. This doesn’t sound quite like finger-tracking. The touch detection will be in place where your thumb, index, and middle fingers rest. Maybe finger-tracking can be added via a patch, if the headset does have outward tracking cameras. When you combine these elements with the PS5’s Tempest audio engine, PSVR 2 has incredible potential to really put users in a place. Hopefully the headset keeps a high refresh-rate OLED panel to further immerse users in color and reduce sickness. The real test will actually be to use the controllers and the headset, but I can’t see that happening until Fall 2022 at the earliest, especially with the controllers only going out to developers in the near future.

I have been a day-one adopter of PSVR and a firm believer in VR as a whole since I demoed an HTC Vive one day at UCF on a whim. VR truly offers new ways to engage with games, media, and each other. PSVR has reminded me a lot of Oculus’ cheaper initiatives with the goal of getting quality VR in the hands of everyday consumers.

There are plenty of ways Sony balanced cost with quality for the PSVR. The two key points would be the use of the PS4 itself as the power behind the headset and the use of the PS3 Move Controllers from 2010. PSVR itself launched in 2016. Repurposing older technology allowed them to not bet the proverbial farm on VR though. By using a console that was in tens of millions of homes (now over 125 million) with older accessories, Sony offered customers a competent, fully featured VR headset that helped prove VR was and is more than a fade. Combined with exclusive games deals and continuous development for new games, both internally and externally, Sony was able to offer enticing titles for the platform despite its limited specs. Some games even pushed the medium forward like Tetris Effect and Astro Bot Rescue Mission.

Now, with PSVR 2, they seem to be going all in on the right types of technology to create a powerful, comparable, and competitive headset. Combined with the relationships curated with developers and rock solid exclusives, PS VR 2 can push forward in the space well. It will (most likely) be cheaper than top-of-the-line PC headsets and likely have more power than mobile headsets like the Oculus Quest 2. It could find that sweet spot once again between cost and quality.

Also, Half-Life Alyx on PSVR 2 please?

Sony is Shutting Down the PS3, PSP, and Vita Stores

Me, nearly two months ago:

This all started when one day last month I had a concern: I became very worried that the PSN for PlayStation 3 and Vita would shut be shut down with very little notice. I had recently started rebuilding my PS3 collection. I have an 80GB “Phat” model and realized I couldn’t download all the games I had digitally acquired over the years.

Thankfully, Sony seems to have always made hard drive swapping in their consoles user friendly. I swapped in my original PS4 500GB hard drive and went download crazy. I also took out an old orange USB stick with all my old PS3 save data.

And here is Sony announcing the closure of the PS3, PSP, and PS Vita stores for later this summer:

We are closing PlayStation™Store on PlayStation®3 consoles on 2nd July 2021 and on PlayStation®Vita devices on 27th August 2021. Additionally, the remaining purchase functionality for PSP™ (PlayStation®Portable) will also retire on 2nd July 2021.

Thankfully, this is more notice than I had feared. Regardless, the end of these consoles official support is upon us. I am glad I decided to upgrade and download all I wanted back in February. All my physical games are patched and my digital collection installed. Now I just need to pick and choose which games I’d like to snag before the final day. I was looking on my PS3 this weekend and filled up cart to the max limit of 10 items and was just breaking $100. No time like the present to talk with my wife and come up with a budget.

I was looking at games I haven’t repurchased physically yet, like collections of PS2 games and the Ratchet and Clank PS3 games. Some are becoming more expensive, even before this announcement, but I am expecting prices for physical games to continue to climb. I had a few PS1 games in there as well, since this is the only way to play those games officially in 2021. I even bought Jak & Daxter: The Lost Frontier a few weeks ago, a PSP game I never played.

Thankfully, Sony has promised the ability to still download previous purchases, but some day that support will go away too. I may buy an external drive and back up all my games locally too. It is a shame to see the end of these store fronts and all the beloved games, both AAA and indie, that were released on those platforms. Sony needs to step up their access to older titles. There is a rich legacy under the PlayStation umbrella: One Sony loves to celebrate in its games, like Astro’s Playroom, but ignores in the real world when it comes to playing those beloved titles.

Analogue Pocket Delayed to October 2021

Pocket is delayed once more.

Pocket is delayed and shipping in October 2021.

The current global state of affairs continues to create supply chain challenges outside of our control.

There have been sudden and severe electrical component shortages as well as logistical issues leading to a domino effect of challenges for nearly everyone in the industry.

We’re working hard to get Pocket out as fast as possible and we appreciate your understanding and patience. An email is being sent to everyone who pre-ordered Pocket. If you have any questions about your pre-order or would like to cancel at anytime for a full refund, please contact Analogue Support at support.analogue.co or by email at support@analogue.co.

Unsurprising given the chip shortages around the world. It is such a shame this delay happened just one month before the previous target month of May 2021. I just talked about its impending launch with Cameron Hawkins on my new podcast, since we both snagged a pre-order.

I can’t possibly see the Analogue Duo hitting 2021 now either. Analogue has reassured that the Super NT will be restocked next month, with the DAC and Mega SG following afterward.

I am really glad I went ahead and assembled a MiSTer now too. Now we wait for October…