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May 2005

Xbox 360 Games To Cost $60

Xbox 360We've been hearing for a while now that game publishers plan to raise the prices of new games in the next generation.  It seems now that those promises are starting to be set in stone.  Joystiq has word that the Xbox 360 will launch on November 2, 2005 along with games that have a MSRP of $59.99.  $59.99... it's the end of an era.

New video games have cost $49.99 for as long as I can remember.  Back in my younger days when all I needed was my Nintendo Entertainment System to be happy I looked forward to the days when I'd finally saved up $49.99 in spare change and allowance so I could buy a new game.  A one-gallon glass jug full of pennies and dimes paid for Battletoads.  Even today I can stop by Best Buy after work and pick up a GameCube game for $49.99 and not think anything of it.

A $10 price hike trips a barrier in my mind, however.  To me spending $50 or less for entertainment doesn't really impact how I think of my budget.  Anything over that amount and I start to internally debate whether or not the item in question is worth the price.  I'd hate to imagine how many video games I'd put back on the shelf because that extra $10 made me feel that the price tag was too high for something that will end up in the Greatest Hits bin in eight months or so.

Grand Theft Auto 3 Wears Mark Of Shame

Harmful! The United States isn't the only country where government officials worry about the effects of video games on minors.  BetaNews reports that over in Japan the government of the state of Kanagawa has banned the sale or rental of Grand Theft Auto 3 to anyone under the age of eighteen.  What's especially unusual (at least from my American point of view) is that the new law requires game shops to segregate GTA3 from the other games for sale and shops must place a big bright scarlet letter of a sticker labeled "Harmful" on each box.

I realize that the separation of this one game from other games is so that children won't be drawn to the box's candy-like colors, but I can't help but think that the reason for the quarantine is so that GTA3 won't infect safer games with its "harmful" gameplay.  "Dang, the hookers got into Super Mario Sunshine again!"

"Coolest Gadgets" List Includes Gaming Toys

Samus AranToday's installment of "Fun Reading for a Slow News Day" brings us to UGO's list of the coolest gadgets in the entertainment realm such as Batman's crime computer and James Bond's laser watch.  Included with other properties such as Austin Powers and Buffy the Vampire Slayer are four video game franchises: The Legend of Zelda, Metal Gear Solid, Metroid, and Super Mario Bros.

Samus' alien-hunting arsenal is stocked with a wide variety of gadgetry, some of it more mundane than others, such as the Missiles (which are just what they sound like) and Power Beam (a standard blaster-type weapon). However, things rapidly take a turn for the outlandish, with additions such as the Space Boots, which allow our heroine to jump in mid-air, and suggestively named Screw Attack, an item that generates a damaging field during any of Samus' jumps.

While it's always good to see video games included in fluff lists such as this, I have to question the inclusion of Zelda and Mario.  If we're talking about gadgets then it seems implied that we're discussing items that are technological in nature; things that have been designed and built from parts.  While Metroid and Metal Gear are a natural for this kind of list, I don't recall Link ever taking an engineering class and Mario's power-ups tend to grow out of the ground rather than from a lab (except for FLUDD from Super Mario Sunshine which is unfortunately not included here).  So why are they on this list?  Some questions just don't have answers.

Remembering The Nintendo Comics System

Nintendo Comics SystemBack when Mario Mania was reaching its peak in 1990 and 1991, Valiant Comics licensed various Nintendo characters and properties for use in comic books.   Five series of comics were published: Super Mario Bros., The Legend of Zelda, Captain N: The Game Master, Game Boy, and the compilation series Nintendo Comics System that consisted of reprints of stories from the other comics.  Sold in limited quantities in comic book shops and an occasional K-Mart, the Nintendo comics never took the world by storm and today are mostly forgotten.  When I was in the second grade my father would drive me to the local comic book shop each month so I could buy the latest issues.

Artwork styles and stories were heavily influenced by the Super Mario Bros. Super Show and Captain N: The Game Master cartoons that were running in syndication and on NBC's Saturday morning cartoons block around the same time.  Each comic series had a basic theme in an attempt to set one series apart from another. Take a stroll down Memory Lane and look at some of the oddest Nintendo merchandise ever published.  Be sure to click on the pages to get a better look at the corny dialog.

Continue reading "Remembering The Nintendo Comics System" »

Hey Europe! Nintendo Wants To Hear From You

Nintendo logoNintendo of Europe is currently running a little survey seeking input on how much people like the company's European online presence.  There's plenty of questions about what you like about Nintendo's website, what you don't like about it, and the usual few teasing questions along the line of "If Nintendo were to ________, would you buy it?"  Your reward for taking five minutes to fill this out?  Game Boy Micro and Revolution wallpapers.

It's nice to see Nintendo becoming serious about its European operation.  For years the region has typically been the last to get new titles, and sometimes the best games skip right past them (Super Mario RPG and Animal Crossing, just to name a few).  Nintendo has been trying to change this lately.  After all, both The Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap and DK: King of Swing released in Europe before North America and Japan.  Perhaps Nintendo is finally seeing how important Europe is in a business perspective.  Now, if they'd just export the Stars Catalogue to North America then everything would be fine.

The Life And Times Of The Cell Processor

PlayStation 3Business 2.0 magazine has a feature article this month about the Cell processor that will run the next generation of the Sony PlayStation.  The article discusses how the Cell came about, what it is capable of, the problems the design team discovered and solved during development, and just what the Cell means to you and how it could change your life.  It's very interesting stuff, although you have to be a subscriber of the magazine's print edition to read the entire piece online.

Kutaragi, known for the bold stroke and the grand vision, swung for the fences from the get-go. "We want to do something that has never been done before," he told Davari and a group of IBMers at their first meeting. "Let's work together to change the world." The movie The Matrix had just come out, and Kutaragi relished its premise of a world that is actually a giant computer simulation. "Think about creating a crude version of that world," he said, "where millions of people can play in a realistically rendered virtual Tokyo or New York City as if they are really living there." Creating that magical realm, Kutaragi told the team, would require a chip 1,000 times as powerful as the one in the PlayStation 2. The IBMers tried not to roll their eyes. They tended to like all that Matrix stuff, but when it came to 1,000-fold chip boosts, they thought Kutaragi was out of his mind.

Also of interest here is the news that while the PS3 will be the first consumer device to feature the Cell, plans are already in the works to release all kinds of products that use the chip including televisions, home media servers, and even music players.  The one place the Cell isn't planned to appear?  PCs and other hardware powered by Microsoft Windows.  It looks like the Battle for the Living Room is heating up.

Console Controller Family Tree

NES controllerNintendo claimed at this year's pre-E3 press conference that they were wary of revealing their Revolution controller because they feared that the competition would steal their ideas.  Maybe they have reason to hold back.  This video game console controller family tree traces the lineage from original Atari 2600 joystick to the classic Nintendo Entertainment System controller all the way up to the upcoming Microsoft Xbox 360 and Sony PlayStation 3 controllers.

Interestingly enough, the family tree shows how major every controller since 1985 has been based on the original NES design.  The only two controllers on the tree that don't descend from the NES controller are the controllers for the Intellivision and Coleco, both of which are from before the NES's time.  Also of note on the tree are some of the more unconventional controller features, such as the Sega Saturn's massive size, the NES Max's thumb stick, the Nintendo Virtual Boy's double control pads, and the Sega Dreamcast's VMU ability.  Don't fall for the Photoshopped Nintendo Revolution controller either - it's a mock-up that really doesn't have a place on this tree since nobody knows just how it will or will not compare to past controllers.


First Look At New A Boy And His Blob

BoyblobMajesco announced a new installment in the long-forgotten A Boy and His Blob series just before E3, but the game wasn't out in the open during the show.  The director of the project was talking to the media though and these screenshots of the game have made their way online.  Confirmed for the Nintendo DS and not the Sony PlayStation Portable (the initial press release was vague on which unit the game was headed towards), it appears that Majesco has gone for a cartoonish quality of visuals for this one.  The Blob is green now as opposed to his original white which gives him the unfortunate appearance of, well, snot.  There's really no other way to describe him.

But getting beyond that, the game certainly looks more animated than it did fifteen years ago.  Let's hope that it plays better as well.  If Majesco can pull this concept off successfully than I know I'll go for it.  I really wanted to like the original A Boy and His Blob, but it wasn't executed successfully.  I really want this DS revival to work.

TV's Lost As Infocom Text Adventure

LostCrossing over into the world of television blogging brings forth this humorous piece from TeeVee where the ABC television hit Lost is reimagined as a classic Infocom text adventure in the vein of Zork.  If you've been following Jack, Locke, Kate, Hurley, Michael, and the others from the island all year and you're familiar with these text adventure games then you'll get a kick out of this.

LOST> dig

What do you want to dig?

LOST> dig dirt

What do you want to dig the dirt with?

LOST> dig dirt with plane-scrap shovel

You dig in the dirt.  Several sweaty minutes later, you reveal a steel hatch.

LOST> open hatch

The hatch cannot be opened from this side.

LOST> use dynamite

There is no dynamite here.

On a related note, I'd love to see a Lost game, but I doubt that any developer could do the concept justice.  They'd most likely come up with a MMORPG that puts thousands of people on the island, completely missing the point of the show's isolation aspects.