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Day: February 5, 2019

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Two more bangers for the Switch’s NES selection: Kirby and Super Mario Bros 2

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Comments are closed Two more bangers for the Switch’s NES selection: Kirby and Super Mario Bros 2 Comments are closed

Nostalgia for the NES is high following the success of Nintendo’s classic mini consoles and the launch of its Switch Online service, which just got a couple more great additions to its selection of 8-bit games: Kirby’s Adventure and the immortally weird Super Mario Bros 2.

Kirby had just made his debut on the Game Boy, but the NES follow-up really improved things. Better controls, better graphics, still hard as hell.

Super Mario Bros 2 is remembered as a curiosity, but it deserves more than that. Sure, it’s just an asset swap for Doki Doki Panic, but that doesn’t matter. It’s a fantastic game and you should take this opportunity to play it all the way through.

As long as you’re here, I feel I should also plug the games added a couple weeks back that probably didn’t get the love they deserved, then or 30 years ago.

Blaster Master is one of my favorite games of all time and massively underplayed. It’s an early “Metroidvania,” as we call such things these days, with amazing controls both in the side-scrolling and top-down portions, and a huge, crazy world to explore. This is an absolute classic and anyone who loves the NES should play it — or, if you find the original a bit clumsy, try the recent remake, which was both faithful and added some serious upgrades.

Zelda 2 also got added two weeks ago, and while it definitely has its problems, it’s actually a really compelling game and worthy of the name. But cast aside your associations and just play it as if it’s an old gem — use a walkthrough or VGmaps to help, though, because this game is a real bastard.

So far the selections for NSO have been quite good, and they play well. The service is still extremely barebones even for its paltry asking price, but at least you can’t complain (too much anyway) about the selection of free NES titles. With a few more trickling in every month, the library will soon be quite formidable and I might even start using it instead of my hacked SNES Classic. Especially with the rumor (and near certainty) that SNES games are soon to join their 8-bit cousins.

Nintendo is definitely going through some growing pains with its online service, but I feel that in a year it’ll be up to snuff. They tend to approach everything by first establishing essentials, and then adding bit by bit. No doubt we’ll hear more at GDC and E3 later this year.

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Google Home can now translate conversations on-the-fly

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Just last month, Google showed off an “Interpreter mode” that would let Google Home devices act as an on-the-fly translator. One person speaks one language, the other person speaks another, and Google Assistant tries to be the middleman between the two.

They were only testing it in select locations (hotel front desks, mostly) at the time, but it looks like it’s gotten a much wider rollout now.

Though Google hasn’t officially announced it, AndroidPolice noticed that a support page for the feature just went public. We tested it on our own Google Home devices, and sure enough: interpreter mode fired right up.

To get started, you just say something like “Hey Google, be my Spanish interpreter,” or “Hey Google, help me speak Italian.”

Curiously, you currently have to say the initial command in English, French, German, Italian, Japanese or Spanish, but once it’s up and running you should be able to translate between the following languages:


• Czech
• Danish
• Dutch
• English
• Finnish
• French
• German
• Greek
• Hindi
• Hungarian
• Indonesian
• Italian
• Japanese
• Korean
• Mandarin
• Polish
• Portuguese
• Romanian
• Russian
• Slovak
• Spanish
• Swedish
• Thai
• Turkish
• Ukrainian
• Vietnamese

It works pretty well for basic conversations in our quick testing, but it has its quirks. Saying “Goodbye,” for example, ends the translation rather than translating it into the target language, which might be a little confusing if one half of the conversation didn’t realize the chat was nearing its end.

The new feature should work on any Google Home device — and if it’s one with a screen (like Google’s Home Hub), you’ll see the words as they’re translated.

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NASA cubecraft WALL-E and EVE sign off after historic Mars flyby

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A NASA mission that sent two tiny spacecraft farther out than any like them before appears to have come to an end: Cubesats MarCO-A and B (nicknamed WALL-E and EVE) are no longer communicating from their positions a million and two million miles from Earth respectively.

The briefcase-sized craft rode shotgun on the Insight Mars Lander launch in May, detaching shortly after leaving orbit. Before long they had gone farther than any previous cubesat-sized craft, and after about a million kilometers EVE took a great shot of the Earth receding in its wake (if wake in space were a thing).

They were near Mars when Insight made its descent onto the Red Planet, providing backup observation and connectivity, and having done that, their mission was pretty much over. In fact, the team felt that if they made it that far it would already be a major success.

“This mission was always about pushing the limits of miniaturized technology and seeing just how far it could take us,” said the mission’s chief engineer, JPL’s Andy Klesh, in a news release. “We’ve put a stake in the ground. Future CubeSats might go even farther.”

The two craft together cost less than $20 million to make, a tiny fraction of what traditionally sized orbiters and probes cost, and of course their size makes them much easier to launch as well.

However, in the end these were experimental platforms not designed to last years — or decades, like Voyager 1 and 2. The two craft have ceased communicating with mission control, and although this was expected, the cause is still undetermined:

The mission team has several theories for why they haven’t been able to contact the pair. WALL-E has a leaky thruster. Attitude-control issues could be causing them to wobble and lose the ability to send and receive commands. The brightness sensors that allow the CubeSats to stay pointed at the Sun and recharge their batteries could be another factor. The MarCOs are in orbit around the Sun and will only get farther away as February wears on. The farther they are, the more precisely they need to point their antennas to communicate with Earth.

There’s a slim chance that when WALL-E and EVE’s orbits bring them closer to the sun, they’ll power back on and send a bit more information, and the team will be watching this summer to see if that happens. But it would just be a cherry on top of a cherry at this point.

You can learn more about the MarCO project here, and all the images the craft were able to take and send back are collected here.

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