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Tag: frustration (page 1 of 3)

Pokemon HeartGold/SoulSilver American Save File Problem?

Yesterday, I headed down to summon/fight/capture Lugia in my copy of Pokémon SoulSilver Version for the Nintendo DS. I had originally started the game on my “DS Phat”, but for the last several days, I had moved over to playing on the wife’s DS Lite. Never once did I go online with the game in either system, though I had locally traded between it and Pearl. I had been leveling up my Farfetch’d (since I planned on using False Swipe to reduce Lugia’s HP to 1). I had also captured a wild Farfetch’d and stole its stick for my own. I had taken “Shuckie” from the dude in Cianwood City to the daycare center with a Ditto to breed my own Shuckle. Once I had the egg and it was hatched, I tossed my new Shuckle into a PC box and returned the borrowed one to the maniac in Cianwood City. I loaded up on Poké Balls and surfed on over to the Whirl Islands. Right outside the cave entrance, I saved yet again (having done so many times along the way, of course).

My battle against Lugia did not go as planned — I carelessly did not bring enough Poké Balls.  I reset the system and loaded things back up to try again with a better plan.

I was outside Cianwood City. Farfetch’d was five levels back. He did not have his stick. All of my Poké Balls were back in my inventory. Interestingly, I no longer had my own hatched Shuckle, but I did have its egg, and “Shuckie” was back at the daycare center.

… WTF?

It was not just that the save was rolled back to a prior one… it was both that and a weird corruption of prior events. Is that even possible…?!

I was idling in the Daizenshuu EX chat at the time, and immediately vented my frustration. It sounded like others may have had a similar situation occur, but there was some uncertainty about whether the game had actually been saved in the meantime. I next went to Twitter, where I almost immediately received a response back from someone that had a very similar thing happen to them… around the Lugia event, as well. Many folks told me about the Dutch release of the games, which had an issue with save files, themselves.

My game seems to be fine (having saved a bazillion times, turning off the system, and restarting to confirm I still am where I think I am), though now I am retracing my steps. I have captured a dozen wild Farfetch’d again, and none of them have my precious stick…!

I am going to have a lot more to say about this game in the near future, but this was certainly not something I expected to be writing about. In the near-200 hours I have logged on both FireRed and Pearl, never once did I ever encounter any errors that hindered my progress or rolled me back. Had this error been even the slightest more severe, it could have potentially made me drop playing the game all-together. Those that know me know how much I rail against back-tracking and replaying segments of games. I am extremely hesitant to turn off the system now in fear of losing progress — and not only progress, but legit legendaries in my PC boxes and on my team, carried over from the aforementioned FireRed and Pearl.

I am not deeply ingrained enough in any Pokémon communities to know where to discuss this, so if any of you happen to be the VegettoEX of Pokémon… by all means, please share my story and offer any advice you may have.

Lesson of the Day: “Brick” is NOT an Insult

Daizenshuu EX has been around in some capacity (whether it was named that or not!) since January 1998. Yeah, in internet years, we’ve been around for eons. Once it began to receive any kind of traffic and notoriety, you can reasonably assume that we started to receive the kind of both loyalist- and oppositional-styled comments that anything with any type of popularity receives. And we did. I actually very vividly remember someone back in 1998 claiming that we “stole” all of their DragonBall GT: Final Bout sound samples for our site. There was no basis for that accusation, of course, but it was a telling sign of things to come.

Fast forward to 2009. The site is eleven years old, and even the podcast is coming up on its fourth anniversary. The types of and volume of comments we have received over the years remains astonishing to me. No matter how much I see, though, I am continuously flabbergasted by some of the complaints people seemingly pull out of thin air.

One particular commenter on an outside forum took issue with our reference to FUNimation’s DragonBall Z season box sets released from February 2007 to May 2009 (you know, the faux-“remastered” box sets) as “orange bricks”.

Thankfully, our buddy Jacob put in his two-cents on the matter, but… seriously?

It was another clear example of someone wrongfully assuming something about us based on their own, personal, complete misunderstanding. Who knows? Maybe they purchased all of the season sets and somehow feel wronged by the upcoming Dragon Box sets. Maybe our reiterations, with each subsequent release, of the boxsets’ problems somehow made them feel “stupid” for falling into the trap. Perhaps they take issue with our dislike and overall-non-discussion of FUNimation’s English dub, and decided to aim their frustration at another topic. For whatever reason, this individual decided that we were using “orange brick” pejoratively, it was “asinine”, and it was an “insult”.

News flash, internet: that style of DVD packaging is referred to as a “brick”. Also, the sets happen to be orange. “Orange Bricks”. Genius, isn’t it?

orange_brick_open

See how the inside packaging stacks the discs on top of each other? See how the packaging folds over top itself for easy storage? When you stack things over top of each other and place them all next to each other, you can pretty easily see where the “brick” description came from. We don’t call “steelbooks” as such because they are super strong and read great literature to us; we call them that because they open up (like a book) and are metal-styled containers (like steel). Welcome to the world of various styles of DVD packaging.

orange_bricks_shelved
(image courtesy of Metalwario64)

It’s cases like this where I wonder what the actual issue is. The person decided to harp on us for something, and rather than a legitimate reason, they made one up. Sure, it may have been legitimate in their own head for a short period of time, but I can’t imagine hearing the phrase “orange brick” is what first made them run furiously to their keyboard to type up a mean post about the poopie-head website they disliked.

Funny how no-one has a problem with the phrase “blue brick” in reference to the new DragonBall TV series “season” sets. If anything, it proves that FUNimation once again made a fanbase-fracturing decision to go with that format (cropped, DVNRed to death, etc.) for Z, and even legitimate descriptions of their products cause undue shenanigans across the internet.

bricks

We can’t please everyone. We know that. That’s the real issue that I’m writing about, I guess… if you have a problem, say what it is. Don’t hide behind some newly-made-up argument. Come out and say what’s on your mind, back it up, and be a man (or woman!) about it.

Preferably, above all else, actually know what you’re talking about before you criticize someone.

I almost make it out to be that there are thousands of people running around the internet shit-talking Daizenshuu EX, which I hardly doubt is the case. All the nice little e-mails and comments we get are fantastic, but they just don’t give me anything to write about! 😀

And yes, I just wrote a blog entry legitimately using the phrase “poopie-head”.

More DBZ Fan Entitlement Issues

I just threw out a quick tweet about this, but I wanted to share a little more detail about the situation.

Since about July 12th, we have known that the upcoming PS3/360 game DragonBall: Raging Blast will have a new vocal theme song performed by Hironobu Kageyama called “Progression“. Listings for a CD single of the song only began appearing online on September 27th. The game is not due out until November 10th (North America) / November 12th (Japan). The CD single is not due out until November 25th.

Here is just a taste of some of the most recent search engine referrals over on Daizenshuu EX:

  • raging blast theme mp3
  • dragon ball raging blast progression
  • dragon ball raging blast op song download
  • hironobu kageyama progression download
  • progression raging blast
  • progression kageyama hironobu mp3

To be fair, not all of the above-listed searches were specifically for an illegal download of the song. Also to be fair, the song has been featured in a limited capacity in trailers for the game; in fact, I was able to sample out a very short version of it to use as the closing for a recent podcast episode.

But seriously? We are months out from the game’s release and the song’s physical release. These people really think they are going to find a download of it? And with those kinds of terrible search queries…?!

Shocking Realization About DBZ Questions We Get Asked

I feel incredibly stupid. It just dawned on me.

We get tons of questions from people asking something along the lines of, “What was said in the Japanese version where/when [insert event here]…?” Sometimes they will phrase it just like that, but other times it will be preceded by, “I was watching my orange bricks…” or “I was watching my DVDs…“. I joked about it on the podcast recently, but the person could have saved themselves a week’s worth of time by simply switching over to the Japanese audio track on their DVD and finding out for themselves. I mean, it’s right there. It’s subtitled. It’s accurate.

That’s when I realized something.

These people are lying to us. They don’t own the DVDs. They’re watching the episodes online. They say they’re watching the “orange bricks” or “DVDs”, but what they really mean is that they’re watching someone’s encodes of those episodes online (usually on YouTube), and they’re dub-only, of course.

I like to think that we’re past the point of fans not even realizing that the Japanese track is on the discs, so this is my only logical conclusion.

Do I Actually Like Zelda II?

The first two Zelda games on NES were natural Virtual Console purchases for me. I play through the first game, usually over the course of one or two days, every couple years (on the NES itself, the Gamecube “Collector’s Edition” disc, and sometimes emulated, but now mostly on Virtual Console). The second game was one I never actually beat as a kid (I managed to get to Thunderbird and always died), but it was a game that I would “re-start” again and again since my youth and its original release. I typically never make it beyond the second palace before either getting bored, frustrated, or just moving along to something else as I tend to do with my Gaming A.D.D.™.

I’ve had a save file on my Virtual Console version set right after a completion of the first palace probably since first downloading the game when it came out back in June 2007. Maybe a month or so ago I was showing Andrew the NES setup down in our basement (along with Sesame Street ABC/123, one of the creepiest games of all time, which I will write about at some point when I come out from under the covers), and played through the first palace in Zelda II, yet again, this time on the ol’ cartridge. I was shocked to see that the save file of my childhood friend (“MIKE C.”), was still there on the game, complete with the little Triforce next to the icon to show he had beaten the game. That excitement reminded me of the Virtual Console version upstairs, so I decided to pick the game up again one day and see how far I would get before the same trend of boredom and/or frustration and/or Gaming A.D.D.™ took place.

cart_save_files

Right now I am in the middle of the third palace (got the raft but have not gone to the boss), and have also ventured over to the eastern continent to save the child, learn two new magic spells, and learn the upward-thrust sword technique. As expected, the most difficult part so far was getting the hammer; if you make it past that point in the game, you are typically going to keep playing for at least a little while longer. With the hammer in tow (and not yet bored), I decided that I would keep playing the game until it frustrated me to the point that it was no longer fun. I especially wanted to get myself over to that eastern continent, something I probably hadn’t seen since I was a kid playing through the game for the first time.

Now that I am there, I find myself asking strange questions… like, do I actually… ya’ know… like this game…?

zelda2_title_screen

While I had played the first Legend of Zelda rather extensively through trades with friends and rentals, I actually owned my own personal copy of the second game before I owned the first. I was only six years old when it first came out in 1988, and while I do not remember exactly when I got the game, it couldn’t have been all that long after that (maybe within a year?). At that point in a child’s life, they can’t exactly “save up” allowance money to purchase new games or convince their parents to get the latest game, so it was an instance where you (“you” being “I”) got a game and played the ever living Hell out of it, since it was all I had (beyond what I received with the system, which was a collection of Super Mario Bros. / Duck Hunt, Super Mario Bros. 2, and Sesame Street ABC/123, which was more for my sister than me… but, hey…).

But here I am, nearly twenty years after first playing the game. I have barely touched it since then, and yet still remember where everything is located (like jumping down the chimney in Darunia to learn the upward-thrust technique from the swordsman). If I can barely manage to play more than a single palace each time I try to play, do I actually like the game?

Let’s break it down almost review-style —

GAMEPLAY:

One of the criticisms people like to toss at Zelda II is that it plays so differently from the other games. I have seen the following response before, but I think it makes a whole lot of sense — there had only been one game so far, so how on Earth do you compare it to “all” the “other” games? Of course, this is a perspective being taken years later looking back on the game, but for the time, it seemed like a natural extension of the gameplay seen in the first game. You are still Link with a sword and shield; you are still wandering around a massive world free to go anywhere you want with the items available to you so far; you unlock new areas to explore with new items; you can venture in and out of levels/palaces without finishing them if you really want to; etc. Of course, the concepts of experience points, magic, and especially “lives” were incredibly different from the first game, but again… for the time, it seemed like a logical expansion on the original. Another point I have seen many times before is that the side-scrolling sections in Link’s Awakening appear to be nods to Zelda II, even with their Mario-enemy cameos; they feel like single-screen Zelda II palaces with elevators, jumps, and especially the “Skull” enemy (itself reminiscent of the “Bubble” foes from the first game’s dungeons).

zelda2_elevator la_sidescrolling
(Link’s Awakening shot from gamespite.net)

This is still all hindsight, though. How about the controls, as in how Link actually moves and responds to you…? Back then and today I still feel that Link moves realistically and reacts appropriately for who he is. Quite frankly, once you obtain the downward-thrust sword technique, pro players can make Link look almost graceful in the way he hops and bounces off of foes, acting like a skipping-stone through caves and palace corridors.

link_graceful_movement

Link’s jumping ability in Ocarina of Time seems to be an exact copy of his Zelda II technique, albeit no longer manually-controlled. Unlike Mario, Link does not and cannot jump three or four times his own height. There is a certain “weight” to him that grounds him in reality, no matter how unrealistic and fantastic the scenario is. It still feels a little “stiff” like many of the early NES games, but was a clear mid-way point between the first generation of games and the masterpieces of technological wonder that were the system’s swan songs.

GRAPHICS:

While the first game by no means features an overly-saturated, lush landscape… the second game does feel like it has a more subdued, muted color palette. With the exception of the green forests and grass on the overworld, this section of Hyrule seems to be a rather dull place.

zelda2_overworld_1

Palaces are entirely single-color, caves are either dark or lit up in orange… heck, the most colorful things in the game are probably the enemies! This may have been a conscious decision to set them apart from their backgrounds, now that I step back to look at it more closely. Even Link’s outfit is a somewhat-desaturated version of what we (now) traditionally think of as his green tunic when placed upon the various backgrounds. Sure, it was partially a limitation of the console and the number of colors it can display, but it all comes together to form “Link” in a very special way.

link_sprite_cutout

The game absolutely has its own aesthetic, one that was later used as “inspiration” for plenty of other games. The overworld was sparse and its enemy icons looked ridiculous, and as mentioned the colors were somewhat dull… but at the time, nothing else looked like it. Even today, it retains its own individual look, and one that seems to have been referenced and expanded upon in style by games like Ocarina of Time.

MUSIC:

Despite the score being composed by Akito Nakatsuka (rather than veteran Koji Kondo), few people will claim that Zelda II has “bad” music. While the first game’s main melody is only briefly hinted at with the beginning of the overworld theme, this approach would return with Ocarina of Time… and it seemed to work out pretty OK there, too. The true testament to Zelda II‘s score is the inclusion of the palace music in Super Smash Bros. Melee, and a medley of the normal and final palace songs in Brawl. This one haunting piece seems to have survived the test of time more so than any other element from the game, and for good reason. Folks tend to overlook the rest of the game’s score, however; the town music laid the groundwork for later songs like the Kakariko Village theme in its simplicity and tone, while the cave music got you on the edge of your seat in anticipation of whether or not another Daria was going to come swinging with some flying axes.

Needless to say, the score is phenomenal, and near-universally enjoyed. It contributes quite a bit to the overall enjoyment of the game.

DIFFICULTY:

This is not an easy game. Even as an NES-generation child, I could not defeat Thunderbird in the final palace. Perhaps the first clue you get about the game’s difficulty is when you wander into the northern desert cave before getting the candle; if you somehow manage to jump past the bats and fire pits, that Goriya is nailing you with his boomerang.

northern_cave

As I mentioned earlier, the true test of might is simply obtaining the hammer sometime after beating the first palace. If you can make your way past that one, final, red Daria… chances are you have the chops to continue. Even after that, though, the game does not hold back. The Ironknuckles are particularly difficult to deal with if you do not play defensively (something you rarely had to do in the first game), and choosing the wrong path in the third palace without first confronting that blue Ironknuckle trapped inside the blocks means you’re going to be battling a red one in front of you while the blue one throws knives at you from behind. Hitting a little, floating bubble while jumping across a pit invariably means you are falling to your death. Not grinding up a little magic-meter extension means you probably will not have enough magic points to cast that “Life” or even “Shield” spell when confronting the palace boss.

thunderbird

The game is unforgiving, but mostly fair. Some of the enemies move rather unpredictably, and the Mace Thrower can be difficult to get some inside-range on, but perseverance means you will ultimately learn the general gameplay patterns and move forward.

LEVEL DESIGN:

I have recently been playing through Retro Game Challenge on the DS. The final game, Robot Ninja Haggle Man 3, is a game in the vein of something like Metroid mashed up with some later Castlevania and a little old-school Ninja Gaiden or Shinobi; you are free to explore the world in the standard side-scrolling, action-game view with your sword, shuriken, jumps, etc. You can upgrade your abilities by purchasing “gears”, which grant you higher jumps, floating, powered-up shuriken blasts, and more. I have only barely played a couple minutes into the first Metroid game, and I have only played Castlevania games pre-Symphony of the Night. I have relatively little experience in the open-world “Metroidvania” style of games, and yet I find myself absolutely in love. There is no doubt in my mind that my PS3 & PSP will soon have a copy of Symphony of the Night on them, and I am even more excited to play Super Metroid.

How does this all relate to Zelda II, though?

You could make a somewhat-solid argument that Zelda II falls in line with this style of game. In fact, Jeremy Parish has done so. The palaces in Zelda II have some degree of “open-world” to them, albeit on a much smaller scale. The “standard” (again, only the second game here…) Zelda tropes of keys to open locked doors remain in your path, but upgraded magic spells like “Jump” and the glove which allows you to break blocks are what lead you to new areas in these palaces. Again, you are free to wander in and out of palaces as you choose; if all you want to do is grab that palace’s special item and move on without defeating the boss, feel free (similar to how you can play the first game). You will eventually have to come back to defeat him to place the crystal at the end of the level if you want to open up the final palace, but it is all left up to you to decide how and in what kind of order.

palace_2_map
(palace map from nesmaps.com)

In this respect, Zelda II almost seems like a “Metroidvania LITE” gameplay experience. Perhaps it acting as the basis for any familiarity I have with that type of gameplay and level design is what now has me interested in going back and checking out some of these major hits that I somehow missed over the years.

HILARITY:

Who can forget “I AM ERROR.“…? Even when accurate to the original Japanese script (as Error was), the half-translated nature of the game combined with the lack of character space to get across the necessary information certainly led to an unparalleled experience. Between Link actually “speaking” aloud for what may be the only time in the franchise’s history (“I FOUND A MIRROR UNDER THE TABLE.“), the in-retrospect pondering about what exactly goes on inside that lady’s house when Link’s health is restored, and the oft-seen “GAME OVER RETURN OF GANON” (brought about by sprinkling your blood on the big boss’ remains, mind you)… few games come close to the written-text experience of Zelda II.

i_am_error game_over

SO DO I LIKE THE DARN THING?!

That’s a tough call. It is incredibly difficult to look back on your own personal history and familiarity with something and try to understand if you genuinely like it, or only think you like it due to that familiarity. Then again, if I am able to look back on things like He-Man and wonder how on Earth I ever liked it, I suppose I could do the same with video games and take a slightly-more objective look.

With that in mind, I think I do like Zelda II. I like it more than just a historical snapshot in a series that contains two of my favorite games of all-time (the original and Link’s Awakening), but I also appreciate it on that level of timely-significance. I like it more than just a piece of my childhood gaming adventures. I appreciate many of the artistic choices made in its development. The level design continues to intrigue me. The enemies become more and more frightening as the game progresses, certainly keeping me on the edge of my seat. The game is difficult, but not impossible (Hello, there, other game from my youth called Battletoads), which provides an incredible sense of accomplishment.

It is constantly called the “black sheep” of the franchise (typically with Majora’s Mask not far behind), but this should not be taken pejoratively. Many of its elements have stood the test of time to resurface in other games (the temple music, Dark Link), proving their historical significance and underlying genius. The fact that the game itself has been re-released an appropriate, but not overwhelming, number of times (GBA, Gamecube “Collector’s Edition” disc, Virtual Console) also speaks volumes.

Zelda II is a good game… it might even be great. I think I like it.

New Super Mario Bros. Wii: Save Concerns

I never finished either New Super Mario Bros. (DS) or Super Mario Galaxy (Wii). Both came with extreme excitement and anticipation on my end, but something about them just didn’t click with me. I may not be able to put my finger on it with Galaxy, but the DS game? I can tell you exactly what it was and why that caused me to never finish the game, despite starting it up twice:

The save system.

For those who don’t know, you cannot save whenever you want in New Super Mario Bros. You can save when you clear a castle (mid-stage or end-boss), just like you were able to in Super Mario World. If you want to save at any other point in the game, you had to spend special coins that you collected throughout regular gameplay; three of these coins were hidden away in each stage. Despite this actually being an expansion on the save system from World, this was a major deterrent to completion (and even overall enjoyment) for me. From my perspective, if I am playing a portable game, I do not necessarily know how long I have to play before I need to do something else. The whole point is that the game is portable and can conform to my busy schedule. If I have to schedule my saving around the game rather than myself, I should just be at home playing a console game. It did not even matter that I always had plenty of coins to spare, and was probably coming up on a castle, anyway… it was the principle of the matter, to me.

This is what concerns and intrigues me about New Super Mario Bros. Wii. If you take a look at the E3 trailer, you can clearly see Mario collecting what appears to be large coins, and a special slot on the left that fills up as you collect these three coins:

nsmbwii_coins

My question to myself is this: if it was so much of a problem on DS, will the (apparent, but not confirmed) same save system in the new console version provide the same frustration? Or, like the older versions, will the fact that it is on a console with (presumably) more time to dedicate to it end up with it not even mattering?

How about you all? Did the DS version’s save system drive you away, or did it not even matter? Any concerns or thoughts about the new one?

Xbox 360 License Transfer Issues

Hey. In the new house. Let’s blog, again.

So as you may have read on the site and heard on the podcast, I received a replacement Xbox 360 last September. I did not have a single problem since then (knock on wood). I went through all of their directions and re-downloaded items from my “Download History” if I needed them. All set to go.

Well, I just moved. The internet connection is up in the loft. To get on Xbox LIVE right now, I have to run a bazillion-foot ethernet cable down over the railing, across the living room, and into the 360 in the TV stand. I could buy a $100 wireless adapter, but that would be ridiculous (though I probably will do so using bonus points from my credit card so I don’t feel like I’m wasting real money). Needless to say, I don’t keep that cable running to-and-fro all the time.

The other day Jeff came over to help set up the new ION drum kit. Yes, it’s fantastic. We then attempted to play some Rock Band 2, and of course dived into some recent DLC. No problems there. Then we tried some older DLC… stuff I downloaded before I received my replacement console. Here’s what we got:

rock_band_song_unavailable

If you can’t read that (and for the sake of search-engine optimization), it reads:

The song data you were accessing has become unavailable, and the game cannot proceed without it. Your game session has restarted.

Since I’m moderately intelligent, I knew it was a license issue. A little Googling around brings up similar experiences, confirming that even deleting and re-downloading the individual song content does not re-license it to the new system hardware. What does this mean?

A call to Xbox customer support (800-4-MY-XBOX) was in order.

I ended up speaking with two very nice ladies (with very thick accents, and the second sounded like she was taking the call in a sports stadium full of people). Since I was able to explain the issue clearly and describe to them what the resolution should be, it went very smoothly. I will apparently receive a call back within 48 hours to update me on the resolution, as well as receive an e-mail when it is complete. All I had to do was provide my replacement console’s serial number and system ID a couple times, my gamertag, and e-mail address.

I’ll update again when it’s resolved. Hopefully this is an easy fix…!

Post Office Frustration

On March 20th, I received an e-mail from Meritline.com that the pair of digital audio cables I had ordered from them were on their way to me in the mail.

On March 23rd, I came home to see the standard orange/pink-ish slip the post office leaves when they have a package that will not fit in the mailbox that they attempted to deliver (but would not just leave on the porch for whatever reason). I could take this slip to the post office to pick up the package.

On March 27th, I placed an order on Amazon for a new microphone, XLR cable, and windscreen.

On March 28th, Amazon e-mailed me to tell me that the XLR cable and windscreen had been shipped (the microphone would come separately).

On March 30th, I finally had a chance to go down to the post office with my slip to pick up the package with my digital audio cables. I went there directly after work without first stopping off at home. I handed the slip to the nice lady behind the counter, she gave me a box, and I went back out to the car. As I walked to the car, I remembered that the slip had said “oversize envelope” as a description. I was holding a box. I opened the box to find the windscreen and XLR cable. I walked back into the post office and explained to the lady that I was pretty sure I had another package there waiting for me. It was impossible for the slip that I had just brought in (received on March 23rd) to be for an item that had not yet even been ordered at the time (March 27th). The now-sassy lady dismissed me away saying I would have another slip if I had another package, and she walked away without checking for me.

There was another slip in my mailbox upon returning home, this one (obviously) being for the XLR cable and windscreen, which I had just picked up.

I really hope when I go back to the post office that there is a different person working there. I suppose as long as I have a slip with my name and address, they will just give me whatever package matches that name and address.

But seriously. Logic, people. C’mon.

PSP Post of Peril (Total Hardware Failure)

You may have heard a little bit about this on the podcast, but now that the entire situation has been resolved and I have all necessary images (and video!) to go along with the story, it is time to share my experience. First up, however, you will need a little bit of back-history with my hardware failures over the years, if only to place the PSP in context.

The first thing to go was my SNES. It was a very gradual death, and was specific to only certain games at first (leading me to believe it was the games and not the system); for example, Super Mario All-Stars would play perfectly fine, but entire blocks of terrain would be missing in Super Mario World, creating impossible jumps and therefore halting any further progress in the game. DragonBall Z: Super Butôden 3 had character sprites that would show up normally at the very beginning of a fight, but then get stuck in their standing animation and slowly begin to hover up and off-screen. Trust me, I know… it almost sounds like a possessed system. I eventually realized it was the system, and a lovely new SNES from the wife a couple years later resolved all of those issues.

Around the same time, my own Nintendo 64 died for no particular reason. It would not power up, so there was no possible testing I could do. The wife stole hers from the parents’ place, and so that situation was easily resolved.

Followers of this site will remember well my experiences with my Xbox 360 and the non-RROD errors with the video/GPU/something frying itself alive (Parts: 1 / 2 / 3 / 4 & 5), which I ultimately had to pay $99 out-of-pocket to have replaced.

Needless to say, I have not had the best luck in the world with hardware failures, but I certainly never expected my PSP to spontaneously brick itself beyond the point of even being able to hack it back to life.

The last time I remember using my PSP was on the plane ride back from our honeymoon in November 2008. It was not until the next month that I would try using the system again. Castlevania Chronicles had just come out as a downloadable PS1 game on PSN, and while I was busy converting over wedding footage to work on a video, I figured it would be fun to download the game to my PSP and play for a bit during batch conversions. Since it had been a month, the system did not turn on, and I assumed that the battery simply needed to be charged. I left the system plugged in overnight, and returned to it the next day to once again try to get it all hooked up to the PS3. Strangely, it still would not fully turn on.

Shortly before I sent the PSP back (more details to come on that), I took the following video detailing exactly what would happen when I tried to use the system. It did not matter if I had the battery in or not; it did not matter if the battery was fully charged or not; it did not matter if I was using the power adapter or not; it did not matter if the WLAN switch was on or not; it did not matter if a UMD was in or not; it did not matter if a memory stick was in or not.

I contacted my buddy Corey, who I knew had modded his own PSP. I was well aware that various hacks and mods could bring a PSP “back to life” if it had been bricked, and since I had not even attempted to mod my PSP, I figured it may be an easy fix. Corey mailed me his Pandora Battery, and I picked up a 4 GB memory stick. For those who do not know me, I suppose I should say that I was genuinely not interested in pirating games. If I was going to have to format a memory stick to do the mod, I might as well get a large-capacity one and be able to fit some of those PSN downloads on it. I know, I know… it sounds like a standard, lame, typical justification… but it is the truth.

I sat down on AIM with Corey later on and went through the process of formatting the memory stick, trying to get to the debug menu… trying to do anything. No matter what process we went through, the PSP still did the exact same thing as before. Over the next couple days, Corey would pop up with a new idea or twist on the process to try, but it made no difference. We ultimately concluded that the system did indeed spontaneously “brick” itself, but not in the traditional sense of “bricking”… it was a genuine hardware failure that even modding was not able to undo. I took very good care of the system, and even in my international travels it never really left my side or otherwise took any abuse.

By this time we are into January 2009. I had purchased my system back in March 2008 (to go along with the release of Crisis Core). While Sony offered a standard one-year warranty on new hardware purchases, I no longer had my original receipt… which Sony required in order to be covered under the warranty. Seriously? Who still has an original store receipt, never mind one that is still legible with the crappy paper and ink they use in those printers, up to a full year later…?

I opened up a ticket with Sony customer support on 03 January 2009. I explained my scenario and how I would like my system repaired and it should be covered under the one-year warranty:

I have a PSP 2000 series system which I purchased in March 2008. For absolutely zero apparent reason, it has “bricked”. I have no custom firmware, and have played a grand total of four games, downloaded two demos, and have tried Remote Play with my PS3. With or without the battery (and connected to power), the green light turns on for a couple seconds, the screen tries to light up, but nothing happens and it turns itself off. It is a completely legit system and setup, and yet as far as I can tell, I would need to provide a physical, itemized store receipt in order to obtain my appropriate warranty coverage. Being that this was nine months ago, that is impossible. Please provide information on how Sony will be either fixing or replacing my system under its warranty/coverage. Thank you.

I received the following response back (pasted below, typos and all):

Hello Michael ,

Thank you for writing us. Unfortunaetly with out the proof of purchase you are out of warranty. And there will be a fee of $89.

Ugh. Back to the drawing board for me. My next step was to stop down at Target (where I purchased the system), to see if they would be able to print out a receipt copy for me. While it was close to a year ago, I knew the exact date and price point for the system (along with other items purchased at the same time, namely Crisis Core and Patapon). I knew what their answer would be, but I was still upset to hear that I would have to get a copy from my credit card company. That meant another round of communication and waiting around, all while approaching that one-year cut-off.

I opened up a ticket with my credit card company, and shortly there-after received a letter in the (snail) mail saying it had been sent over to the appropriate investigative department and I would receive a follow-up within a couple weeks. While I once again sighed in frustration at the amount of time the process was getting delayed, I figured it would be worth it to go along with it and see what they would come back to me with. Honestly, waiting around and maybe getting a free replacement was better than being rash and paying $89 out-of-pocket.

I received another letter from my credit card company stamped 10 February 2009 with an attached “Sales Audit Copy”. This document showcased the exact date of the purchase, location, item name, and price. Fantastic! With documentation in hand, I attempted to open up a new repair ticket with Sony on 18 February 2009 (forgetting for a week that I needed to take care of it). I once again hit a brick wall when I tried to enter in my home address and the website would not take a single variation I tried (with the apartment, without, with the building number, without, abbreviating things differently, etc.). I noticed that their customer service phone line was still open for another hour, so I called them up and explained the situation. While the lady was very nice and I understand why she had to do so, I had to go through a process of testing the system with her (plug it in, take out the battery, etc.). Needless to say, I did not do a single thing she asked, and just replied, “It’s doing the same thing…” about three seconds after she asked me to perform another task. After a couple minutes of this pointless (but understanding) banter, she let me know that it sounded like what I said it was (no kidding…?!), and that if I had that “Sales Audit Copy”, they would send me out a box to ship the system back in and I would be covered under the original warranty.

Huzzah!

Here is what I received for a box in the mail. The plastic wrap perfectly covered up the box with one address label (TO me) fully covering the one on the box itself (FROM me):

psp_image_01

After going through a send-back/repair process with the 360, I was pretty familiar with what I found inside the PSP box:

psp_image_02

The system fit very snug in between the flat layers of foam and the surrounding buffer. The one-page print-out gave rather simple instructions on how to package the system inside (and not to include any games, UMDs, memory sticks, batteries, etc.). All I had to do was toss it in and bring it to a UPS store!

Of course, since I was in no real rush to play anything, it took me yet another week to remember to stick it in the mail to Sony. Heh. Cutting it close, Mike…!

On 16 March 2009, I received an e-mail from Sony letting me know that they had sent back a “PSP – DAXTER PACK” to me, and gave me a tracking number to follow along with the shipment. Two days later, and all the way from Texas, my shiny replacement PSP had arrived. The box was exactly the same size as the original one they had sent me, and clearly labeled that it was a PSP-2000 (which is what I had sent them):

psp_image_03

The contents of this box were slightly more interesting than that original box, though:

psp_image_04

I fully expected to just see a PSP sitting in there, so I was surprised to see a nice little soft slipcase for the system.

psp_image_05

In addition to the slipcase, there was also a white strap and a cleaning cloth. I really had no use for those other two, but I was still pretty happy about the slipcase. I had purchased a hard plastic container to keep the system in for traveling and general protection, but this soft cover was pretty nice. The PSP itself was somewhat of a hoot:

psp_image_06

Yep, that’s a PSP in a zip-lock bag, just hanging out. There was a new screen protector over top the system, but the bag was just a riot to me for some reason. After taking the system out to examine it, I could tell it was a complete replacement rather than just a repair. I had a slight knick on the center/right of my screen which was not on this system, so that right there pretty much sealed it. It seemed like a brand-new system, with the only hint otherwise being the giant sticker across the back:

psp_image_07

So there you have it. I would say it was an exciting process, but considering how many times I forgot to send something out, I think that speaks volumes about how much I truly cared. Please do not misunderstand; the PSP is a fantastic little system with a gorgeous screen and plenty of perfectly fine games to play on it, and I really wanted to get it back so I could continue toying around with the PS3 connectivity (and one day do a “New Game +” on Crisis Core).

Had this happened to my DS, though? I would have been at the store five minutes later buying a replacement.

More Activision Insanity

At the risk of beating a dead horse, I just wanted to post up another bit of absolute insanity regarding Activision and their asinine decisions with the Guitar Hero games and DLC.

According to this preview of Guitar Hero: Metallica by Destructoid, the game does not support any DLC, including the Death Magnetic album that was offered pre-World Tour. You know… the Metallica album DLC. That you would assume could be played in… oh, I dunno…  their own game featuring Metallica. Nope, instead you get a mere three of the album’s songs included in the new game on-disc.

For DLC that was actually for Guitar Hero III and forwards-compatible with World Tour, this is perhaps the most ridiculous decision yet I have seen out of them.

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