Tag Archive | Pixel perfect

Mini review: Scart to HDMI 1080p scaler.

I’ve got a pretty big loot post coming up, but before that I want to share my experiences with one of those scart to HDMI upscalers in a little mini review of sorts.
If you’re interested in reading more about scalers & gaming, here’s a great site to check out!

You see, the CRT TV I’ve been using for retro gaming & LD watching isn’t actually all that great. It’s a big, chunky 32” widescreen Sony WEGA CRT that 99% percent of the time only gets feed with 4:3 content. It’s got the wrong shape for the job, really. Also, when viewing a 4:3 image on it, it squishes the edges, ever so slightly. Once you notice it, you will see it every time though. It’s especially evident in horizontal scrolling games but also any time a movie or whatever pans horizontally.
One simple solution would be to get another CRT TV, and that is a solution I’ve been thinking of for a while but haven’t been able to go through with. There is two reasons for this:
1) People often don’t specificate what TV it is they’re selling. “Sony CRT” will be the most detailed description you will see. Also, almost never any pictures of the back or information about the inputs available. They will say if it has scart, because scart is important to people here, but s-video? Composite? Component? No. You simply won’t get that from 99,99% of all sellers looking to get rid of their old, fat TVs.

2) They’re big, heavy and generally cumbersome. I can’t lift one myself and in order to get to my room, you have to climb a set of stairs. Not fun with a TV.

So, I’m kind of looking to save space by getting rid of my current CRT and plug everything back into my LCD TV, the proper way this time. I used to just plug things in and it worked all right, didn’t notice much input lag, but with the PCE I got image problems with interlacing and artfacts in some games.
With a scaler, though, you let it take care of the image from your preferred video source and scaling it up to the native (or close to) resolution of your LCD TV.

Problem is a good scaler, like those home cinema ones, are disturbingly expensive. Though, brand name is part of what you pay for and there happen to be tons of Chinese no-name scalers listed on eBay. So, I tried my luck with one of these, a scart one because what isn’t directly connected to my TV goes into my scart boxes.

Behold, the scaler

This isn’t a proper review, to get that out of the way, I didn’t actually play much with it, as I was more focused on how things would look, would it work at all.
The unit itself feels very solid. It’s got a metal casing and certainly weighs a bit. Setting it up couldn’t be any more simple; Scart goes into the scart socket in the back, HDMI cable goes into the HDMI socket on the front. Add power and you’re done. But what’s the end result? Well, here are some pictures I took:

PS1 - RR 4 - PAL scart

PS1 - GitS - NTSC s-video

PCE - NTSC-J composite to scart

Let’s analyse these, shall we? First up was Ridge Racer 4 running on my PAL PS1 through scart. The result is a bit odd. The image has black borders and isn’t centered. Also slightly squished. Ghost in the Shell was running on my NTSC-J PS one through s-video through scart and as you can see, the scaler didn’t like s-video. No color, just black & white. Although in full screen. PCE then? No. Won’t work. Don’t know why. Technically, it’s a NTSC-J composite signal put through one of those Xbox 360 scart connectors, but running it directly into the composite inputs in my scart switches didn’t change the fact that I got no image.

The best result was achieved by my Laser Disc player, which outputs an NTSC composite signal that goes directly into one of the scart boxes. Still stretched to full screen, however.

This highlights the biggest problem, aside from getting a proper image, everything is mercilessly stretched to 16:9. And for some reason, I can’t change the aspect ratio to 4:3 on my TV. Actually none of the two TV sets I’ve tried this on allowed me to change the aspect ratio to 4:3 once the scaler was powered on.
And therefore, it is to me quite useless. Sadly.

As I stated earlier, there are many many many no-name scalers available on eBay (but also Amazon). It might be worth a shot, but don’t be surprised if you get a similar result. : /

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Game comparison: Yuna VS Yuna Remix

I was thinking of writing a few lines about the new anime season but I’m waiting for episode 2 of the shows I’m following, so that’ll have to wait. Instead, I’m going to do a little shoot-out here with two versions of the same game; 銀河お嬢様伝説ユナ (Ginga Ojou-sama Densetsu Yuna) or Galaxy Fraulein Yuna. I’m going to issue a 56k warning here 😀

I don’t have any proof, but quite I’m confident that a great many gamers and anime-fans haven’t heard of this particular title before. And I don’t blame them. With the third and last game released for the PS1 in 1998 and a series of OVAs released around the same time, Kagurazaka Yuna is indeed an icon of times past. There is a compilation of the first two games + sought after spin-off Ginga Fukei Densetsu Sapphire released for the PSP in Japan, 2008, but I’m not really counting that.

With artist Akitaka Mika at the helm, Galaxy Fraulein Yuna is a classic multimedia franchise, including everything you would expect; games, anime, CDs…the lot.
The plot revolves around the cute but somewhat ditzy 16-year old Kagurazaka Yuna, who just happened to win an intergalactic beauty contest (the Ginga Ojou-sama contest – hence the name) and with that suddenly became an idol, with all that entails. However, not only does she receive fame, but also the title of “Saviour of Light” and must do battle with evil forces – in this case, her rivals from said competition, who have had their hearts “stolen by darkness”.
And that’s the gist of it. Sounds corny to you? It is. But I think the game’s straightforwardness works in it’s favour.

The series started out on the PC Engine, with the first game released in 1992. It saw a re-relase (the one I have) with some additional content in 1995 and also a sequel. In 1996 the first game got a re-make on Saturn titled “Remix”. So, you’d imagine that the Saturn version is quite the upgrade from the, by then, 4 year old original version. After all, the Saturn is known as a 2D powerhouse and the large number of high quality adventure, visual novels & digital comics in it’s library certainly speaks in it’s favour.
But you’d be wrong. And in this comparison we will see why. Before we get to the screencaps, let’s compare the opening:

Now, I used Magic Engine (PCE) and SFF (Saturn) respectively in order to grab some screencaps, from the beginning to the first battle with jealous rival Kaede. I used emulation because I’ve got both systems hooked up to a CRT-screen at the moment and we all know how well that goes with photography. Right.

PC Engine-version (1992 – quite small so enlarge them in your browser or something)

Saturn-version (1996)

While the Saturn version features anime-cutscenes in the more modern style the series adapted as it series went on, everything is a mess. Let’s be honest here, the Saturn never had any luck with FMVs (I blame bad codecs) and when they replaced the pixel art cutscenes with the handrawn ones, we’re well on our way to artefact central. Speaking of artefacts, around all character portraits, there’s this almost halo-like pixelation, or what looks like the result of a poor job with the magic wand tool in Photoshop. Not to mention that many character portraits are re-used from the PCE-version, and thus doesn’t match with the newer character design. Other casualties includes the backgrounds, which now looks like they were made in MS Paint – and I’m not joking. The map-screen, which is displayed when you change location in the PCE-version, is absent and so is almost the whole GUI. We’re left with a very bare bones interface with only a semi-transparent blue bar for text and character portraits.

While I appreciate that the game now runs in full screen, it all looks so amateurish. The battle system also gets an “upgrade”. What used to be merely a rock-paper-scissors kind of thing now also has 3 quickly changing stats (attack, shield & evade) which needs to be timed correctly for maximum effect. The idea itself is good but the result is lacklustre. It makes my eyes spin. Also, the grainy FMVs make their comeback during the battle.
In fact, the only thing that can actually be seen as an improvement in the Remix-version is bigger character illustrations and the sound, and even then it’s not a very big difference. Voices sound maybe a little less compressed and the music is no longer chip-generated, but whether that’s a good or bad thing is debatable. This time, it’s a bad thing because no one seemed to care enough about the music to really make it any better. The PCE version actually sounds a bit more distinctive.

If you think I’m hard on Galaxy Fraulein Yuna Remix, it’s because an improved version of a game released on 32-bit system, should not be inferior in almost every single way to the original version, released 4 years prior on what essentially is an 8-bit system. If they just had actually sat down and harnessed the power of the Saturn, it could’ve turned out a great remake.

Now, I do enjoy this particular franchise, and some day I should really pick up the third game for the PS1 or Saturn…and maybe the PC-FX version, should I manage to get my hands on one of those.

Omake content! (Season backdrops from the Saturn version’s calendar mode.)

And that’s that. See you next post!