Tech

Review: “Dragon Quest” for iOS

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Dragon Quest box

In 1975, Japanese businessman Yasuhiro Fukushima founded a company called Eidansha Boshu Service Center. It published tabloid magazines that advertised real estate. However, after failing to establish its own chain of stores, Fukushima refashioned the company to focus on gaming software and renamed it Enix. This was in 1982. To find talent for his company, Fukushima created a competition called the “Enix Game Hobby Program Contest.” The contest, modeled after manga competitions, was advertised in computer and manga magazines and offered a prize of one million Yen to the winner. The top winner was an editor for the manga magazine Shonen Jump, Yuji Horii, whose tennis game Love Match Tennis became Enix’s first release.

During the development of another game called The Portopia Serial Murder Case, Horii and his colleague Koichi Nakamura came across a RPG called Wizardry at a Macworld Conference & Expo. Horii became a fan of the game. After finishing Portopia, he decided that he wanted to create a similar game to Wizardry, with the goal of bringing the Western RPG to Japan. A second major inspiration was another RPG called Ultima. While Horii and Nakamura enjoyed the dungeon crawling and statistical nature of RPGs, they realized most gamers would not. He wanted a game that didn’t require being a hardcore gamer; specifically, he wanted to a make a game that the player could play without knowledge of the Dungeons & Dragons tabletop RPG, which had been used for years in Japan as a template for homegrown games. He decided the NES was the ideal platform for the game, so that, unlike arcade games, players wouldn’t have to worry about spending money if they died. He simplified the mechanics so the game could be played with a simple NES controller, with a greater emphasis on storytelling and emotional involvement. Manga artist Akira Toriyama, famed for his series Dragon Ball, produced the game’s artwork and well-known television composer Koichi Sugiyama composed the music. The result was Dragon Quest, released in 1986.

At this point, you may be wondering , “Why spend so much time on the background of a game almost thirty years old?” Because, put simply, Dragon Quest is one of the most important games in history. Bits and pieces of it had been seen in video games before, but never woven together so expertly. Its random battles and top-down perspective became the norm for console RPGS for years. Obtaining better equipment, major quests intertwining with minor subquests, an incremental spell system, use of hit points and experience points, and a medieval setting are elements that can be found in countless subsequent RPGs. In short, Dragon Quest set the template for almost every console RPG that followed – including a game published two years later by a failing company called Square, with a title that reflected its staff’s belief that it would be the last game the company would ever make: Final Fantasy.

Of course, both Dragon Quest and Final Fantasy were great successes, at least in Japan. Dragon Quest, rebranded as Dragon Warrior in the United States, sold poorly and its sequels even worse; Enix was eventually forced to shut down its U.S. offices. Final Fantasy and its sequels, however, sold spectacularly outside Japan. Square merged with Enix in 2003, forming Square Enix, ensuring the continued longevity of both series. Since then, both series have seen their early entries remade many times for many different systems, so it was inevitable that both have also worked their way onto iOS. With such a legendary game finally available to a wide audience for the first time in decades, how does it play?

Pretty damn well, actually, though many are sure to gripe. It must be said that they would not be unreasonable to do so. There is nothing remotely new about any of this game. The game’s mechanics are, in this day and age, downright archaic. The “save the princess, save the world” storyline is beyond bland, though Horii is careful to throw in a nice mid-game twist. Unsurprisingly, it’s very short and can be completed in under ten hours. It also retains the unfortunate portrait mode-only layout of the iOS releases of Dragon Quest IV and VIII. Honestly, however, these disadvantages are curbed by this being an iOS release. The simple gameplay and storyline are fine – ideal, even – if you’re only playing the game for fifteen minutes at time waiting for the bus.

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The game has some distinct advantages even beyond that. Firstly, its gameplay, while simple, is rock solid. The menu-based combat is easily navigated even by beginners. There might not be much to the “grind and level up” system, but it works. Secondly, Akira Toriyama’s monster designs remain charming even now. It’s a delight to encounter the first incarnations of such classic enemies as the Slime (by this point the mascot of Dragon Quest) and the Dracky. Thirdly, Koichi Sugiyama’s music is perfect. In the days of Dragon Quest‘s original release, video game music was extremely simple; the NES only had three tracks for melody and accompaniment. Therefore, a soundtrack that featured memorable melodies was essential, and Sugiyama delivered. The Dragon Quest theme is an unofficial national anthem of sorts in Japan, and live concerts of its music have performed almost yearly.

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The game’s controls are fine. The virtual stick moves only in four directions like the original NES controller; its size can be adjusted in the menu. There is a quicksave option if you don’t have time to reach a save point. The game has been extremely simplified from the original Japanese release in lots of little ways – for example, you no longer have to select which direction you’re facing, or select “Talk” when you want to talk to a character. The monsters drop more gold and EXP than the original, lessening the need to grind. The game retains the Elizabethan English dialogue of the original release, but in a more effective translation (some of the original character names remain changed, however – for example, the legendary hero Loto is still named Erdrick in this release). Luckily for today’s gamers, the graphics and music of this version of the game have been updated (this is a port of the Japanese phone version of the game, itself a remake of the Game Boy Color port of the SNES remake). The graphics look far better than the original NES release, though they aren’t quite up to snuff with the best games of the SNES eras.

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Dragon Quest still a very involving game and I enjoyed every minute of it. Square Enix seems to have realized the limitations of the game and has released it for a modest $2.99. Given how addictive the game remains, it’s money very much well spent. Here’s hoping SE continues to release these classic games for modern audiences to enjoy.

Tech Review – MoblNRG Lithium Ion Battery

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Tech Review – MoblNRG Lithium Ion Battery

While we certainly enjoyed covering SDCC this year, we’re always battling one thing: our battery life on our smartphones and electronics. This year was no different. Between doing social networking, recording videos and taking pictures it was a chore to keep the smartphones charged.

What’s worse is when you discover you have less then 50% battery and it’s not even the middle of the day.

Luckily for us, a certain booth caught our eyes and came to the rescue, promising  a mobile solution to charging your devices. MoblNRG stepped up and took the SDCC challenge. So how did the MoblNRG lithium ion battery hold up? Did it give us the extra charge we needed to get through SDCC?

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Xbox One Announces Unlimited Gaming For $5 A Month

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Access

Following the model set byNetflix and PlayStation Now (debuting for PS4 users tomorrow, July 31), EA and Microsoft are teaming up to offer Xbox players a new subscription service. It’s called the EA Pass. For $5 a month, or $30 a year, the subscription gives players unlimited access to the “Vault,” an enormous selection of games.

Currently the service is only in beta, so the list is limited: Battlefield 4, FIFA 14, Madden NFL 25 and Peggle 2 are among those available and more have been promised soon. The service also offers a 10% discount on EA games, DLC and in-game currency. It provides early access trials to this year’s editions of EA sports games (Madden, FIFA, NHL and the like) and Dragon Age: Inquisition, allowing players to access them five days before their official release date and carry over their progress to the retail version.

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Tech Review – Kinivo BTC450 – Bluetooth Car Kit

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Tech Review – Kinivo BTC450 – Bluetooth Car Kit

There are plenty of downsides to owning an older car, usually involving the outdated car stereo. There have been plenty of solutions, my favorite being the Cassette adapter. I feel quite lucky that I have at least an Aux port, but I’ve been in too many cars that have those lovely bluetooth stereos. I’ve contemplated replacing the built in stereo, but those that support Apple Car Play are expensive. There is always that avenue of saving up for a new car, perhaps the affordable Tesla car? What? Don’t take my dreams away.

I’m not the only person that experiences Bluetooth Stereo Envy, and Kinivo has just the solution with the Kinivo BTC450, a Bluetooth Car Kit that plugs in using the Aux Port. I’ve had the chance to drive around using the device, so how does it rank? Is this the ultimate Bluetooth solution?

 

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Tech Review – Wacom Intous Pro

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Tech Review – Wacom Intous Pro

by Caleb Cleveland

Along with Wacom‘s rebranding of the Intuos line of digitizing tablets for enthusiasts or hobbyists (replacing their Bamboo line), they created the more up-market Intuos Pro line, intended for professional use. Judging from the mid-size tablet I’m reviewing, the Pros are all sturdy and sleek with a black matte finish, and can be set up for right or left-handed use. The active area of the tablet can be used either as a writing surface with the included stylus, or as a touchpad.

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Tech Review: ShoulderPod

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Tech Review: ShoulderPod

At each convention we attend I watch as the video recording devices get smaller and smaller, as more and more people realize that mobile video is here to stay. Well it just makes sense. There is just one problem, though, that the avid iPhone film maker faces; holding one’s iPhone sideways can lead to a little bit of a shaky shot, and there have been countless cases and add-ons that promise a sturdier shot. They generally lack what is the best part about shooting with an iPhone: being mobile.

While searching for a solution for this very problem I came across the ShoulderPod, and in all the pictures and descriptions it seemed someone had finally achieved the trifecta for the mobile film maker: mobility, sturdiness, and compatibility.

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Vintage E.T. Game Cartridges Found In New Mexico Landfill

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Vintage E.T. Game Cartridges Found In New Mexico Landfill

For a long time there was a urban legend swirling around the gaming community. This urban legend related to a game long forgotten by most, for the Atari 2600. Somewhere, it seemed, there was a stockpile of thousands of copies of one of the worst games ever made buried underground.

The game? E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, based on the Steven Spielberg film of the same name.

It seems the urban legend was based in fact. A Microsoft-backed documentary team has discovered a number of copies of the game buried in a landfill in Alamogordo, New Mexico. Just how many copies – certainly not thousands – is still unclear.

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PlayStation Now Beta for PlayStation 4 Starts Tomorrow

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PlayStation Now Beta for PlayStation 4 Starts Tomorrow

 

Earlier this afternoon, Sony announced that their long-awaited streaming service, PlayStation Now will be launching for the PlayStation 4 entertainment system tomorrow, May 20th. Emails with codes to access the PlayStation 4 version of the service will be going out  shortly.

 

The PlayStation 3 Beta has been extant for a short while, but this is the first time that the service will be available for PlayStation 4 users. There is no relevant information available for PS Vita users at this time.

 

If you have yet to register for the PlayStation Now Beta, you may do so here. Stay Tuned to Pixelated Geek for hands-on impressions with Sony’s brand new streaming service in the coming days!

Twitch.TV Reportedly to be acquired by YouTube in $1 Billion Deal (UPDATED)

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Twitch.TV Reportedly to be acquired by YouTube in $1 Billion Deal (UPDATED)

 

Earlier this evening, several sources, including Forbes and Variety, have reported that Google’s YouTube division will shortly be announcing a $1 Billion Dollar deal to acquire the gaming-centric streaming giant Twitch.TV.  The move, if confirmed, would come as something of a surprise to the public, as Google has to date displayed only the vaguest of interests in the mainstream gaming market – and even more so for Twitch.TV, having just landed the exclusive streaming rights to the ESA’s Electronic Entertainment Expo as well as the contract to stream the Interactive Entertainment events at the x-Games.

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Facebook acquires Oculus VR for $2 billion

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Facebook acquires Oculus VR for $2 billion

Only a week after displaying its newest tech on the GDC expo floor, Oculus VR has reached a “definitive” agreement with Facebook. The social giant will acquire the VR manufacturer for apprximately $2 billion in combined cash and Facebook stocks.

Both Facebook and Oculus VR have commented on the deal, Facebook in their official press release and Oculus VR founder Palmer Luckey on Reddit. Luckey was optimistic in his post, reassuring fans:

In the end, I kept coming back to a question we always ask ourselves every day at Oculus: what’s best for the future of virtual reality? Partnering with Mark and the Facebook team is a unique and powerful opportunity. The partnership accelerates our vision, allows us to execute on some of our most creative ideas and take risks that were otherwise impossible. Most importantly, it means a better Oculus Rift with fewer compromises even faster than we anticipated.

Very little changes day-to-day at Oculus, although we’ll have substantially more resources to build the right team. If you want to come work on these hard problems in computer vision, graphics, input, and audio, please apply!

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