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January 2006

Controller Evolution From Atari To Revolution

NES controllerThe guys at AMN have done it again, this time putting together a look at each major gaming controller released over the years.  Beginning with the simple Atari 2600 joystick with a single button and moving up through history past the Sega Genesis pad and beyond the Nintendo 64 control stick, the article caps things with a look at the Nintendo Revolution controller and how it relates to its ancestors.  It's an interesting history lesson and a fun walk down memory lane.

As for me, I have an affinity for the Super NES controller.  It expanded on the original Nintendo Entertainment System controller by adding those useful extra buttons and rounded corners.  I find now that when I go back to play my old NES that the controllers just aren't as comfortable to hold as they once were.  Of course, my hands are larger now than they were in 1988, but the harsh angle corners aren't much fun.  The Genesis controller was fun to hold back in the day even if it was a little too large.  The Nintendo 64 controller just took some time and patience to master, and all too many times I saw people playing a demo unit and trying to use the control stick on the controller as one would use the old Atari joystick: pinching it and wiggling it around and around.  Unfortunately the article leaves out the Virtual Boy controller with its dual control pads.  That just never felt quite right.

Previously on Press The Buttons: Console controller family tree

Super Mario Soundboard Appears

The sounds of Super Mario Soundboards have become an Internet tradition. Typically they consist of dialog snippets from movies and television and serve as an aid in making prank phone calls (as in using Arnold Schwarzenegger's voice from Kindergarten Cop to ask "Who is your Daddy and what does he do?" and other such questions from the film).  Now Octrock over at 4 Color Rebellion has put together a soundboard of music and sound effects from Super Mario Bros.  Just point and click the various icons to recreate your own Mushroom Kingdom audio experience (available in downloadable Windows format or online Shockwave format).  It's a fun little time waster, and while it won't help much for prank calls, it will stimulate the nostalgia center of your brain.  I bet you can tap out the sound sequence of World 1-1 without even really thinking about it.  I know I could.

Chilled Tomatoes Make Great Gifts

KwirkWay back in 1987 or so I was in elementary school, and being the young child that I was I enjoyed a good twenty minute romp on the school's playground.  However, I rarely had the chance to romp as there was a particular girl who insisted on chasing me, preventing me from playing kickball with the guys or just climbing on the playground equipment.  Although she still denies it to this day, she had a major crush on me and was fond of telling the teachers, my parents, and anyone else within earshot that she planned to marry me one day.

Time passes (as it often does) and while the chasing and marriage demands stopped after elementary school, we remained friends in high school.  After graduation we both went our separate ways, and now I only see her maybe once a year whenever our paths briefly cross.  She's been reading my work in the interim, however.  I know this because last week while passing through town she left a late holiday gift at my door while I was at work.  Imagine my surprise when I opened the gift bag and found a copy of the 1989 Game Boy game Kwirk still wrapped in the original plastic and packaging.  PTB readers may recall that I once inquired about buying the rights to Kwirk when publisher Acclaim auctioned off their old properties.

I have no idea where she found a 17-year-old copy of an obscure little Game Boy game in completely mint condition.  I'm amazed that she was able to find it considering how many old games have been tossed away or mistreated over the years.  I'm not opening my new copy of Kwirk.  I'm keeping it sealed as my own personal collector's item, a reminder of childhood games and childhood friends.

Weekly Poll: The Best Medicine

Weekly Poll for 1-23-2006 The counterfeiters aren't winning the war just yet, as from the looks of things few of you have actually seen fake games for sale in the wild.  A few of you have bought the shady goods though, so always remember to check those game paks and discs before handing over money.

Moving on, how do you feel about video games as a pain reliever?  I commented on a study linking games to pain relief, but I'm curious how the rest of you think about such things.  Have you played video games while in serious pain in order to try and take the edge off?  If not, would you consider trying it?  Once again I'll highly recommend it.  Form a special bond with a game or two in times of poor health and you'll have a digital friend for life.  I guarantee it.

Hoaxes and Fakes and Mock-Ups, Oh My!

It's a controller, really! It seems that everyone has an idea what the Nintendo Revolution system interface should look like.  Joystiq has been posting pictures and clips of the alleged interface for a while now, never really sure if the user-submitted images are real or fake.  Now this morning they've posted one that is clearly fake, in fact one so fake that Joystiq even debunks it in the same posting as the image itself.  This brings me to ask you all something I've wondered for a while.  What's the fascination with creating your own crappy mock-up of an interface or a gadget and passing it off as the real deal?

I suppose my main gripe with the posting of these mock-ups is that the creators claim they are the real honest-to-god images of the interface or the gadget.  "This is the real one, I swear it!  My uncle's best friend's Canadian cousin works for Nintendo!"  Granted that there are some neat creative images out there that clearly took some talent to create, but most appear to be made by kids with too much free time and a cracked version of Photoshop or After Effects.  Post a mock-up on a blog or a fan forum and the folks just eat it up like it's Mach Pizza.  "Oh my god!  That's gotta be real!"  Sure, kid, if you say so.  At least the Joystiqers aren't falling for it this time around.

Dr. Mario Was On To Something After All

Dr. MarioHave you seen the Gamasutra report that discusses the results of a study regarding video games and physical pain?  The idea is that playing games help distract players from feeling pain.  Let me state for the record that I completely 100% believe this.  As I've mentioned before, I live with the chronic illness Crohn's Disease which causes nearly nonstop intestinal pains of varying degrees.  Most days it's just a dull ache, but too often I feel as if I've been stabbed in the gut and every time I move someone is twisting the knife.  When the disease is at its worst I cannot eat, cannot walk very far, and mainly just have to take medication and sleep until the flare-up passes.  Video games have kept me going during these terrible times.

Specifically, there have been three very low points in my life related to my illness, and each time there's been a special game around to help me through it: in 1996 it was Earthbound and Super Mario 64, while in 2003 it was The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker.  These games are very special to me, and it's not just because they're all amazing games.  When I'm in serious pain and I play a video game, it gives me something else to focus on beyond how much I hurt and how much I want to stop hurting.  If I'm tasked with saving the world or rescuing the princess from the comfort of my bed, I spend more time working on the challenge at hand and less time thinking about the pain.  There's a reason hospitals keep video games around for children with serious medical issues.  Take it from me that these benefits can also help adults.

Capcom's PC Past Haunts Resident Evil 4

Leon S. KennedyThe buzz today is that Capcom is preparing a port of the Nintendo GameCube and Sony PlayStation 2 masterpiece Resident Evil 4 for the PC platform.  Apparently a Capcom employee has confirmed the game's development on the official Capcom Europe forum.  Before everyone gets all excited over this, let me be a stick in the mud and suggest that the PC version will never see the light of day in North America.  I say this because Capcom has a history of cranking out PC ports exclusively for the international market.

As I've said previously, I don't own a Sony PlayStation or PlayStation 2.  That means that when Capcom's Mega Man X series left the Nintendo world, I was unable to follow.  I missed out on Mega Man X4, X5, X6, X7, and X8.  However, not too long ago I found out that Capcom had created PC versions of these games.  I went searching for them at stores, online, and even eBay, but eventually found that only the X5 port was released in North America (and even then in very small quantities, although I did manage to snag one).  The rest of the PC ports were created exclusively for the Korean, Chinese, and Japanese markets.  You just can't buy them in North America through the usual channels, and even if you could you'd find they're not in English for the most part.  My concern is that Resident Evil 4 could well follow the same path, ending up in Asia but not the rest of the world.  Obviously we don't know the whole story regarding Capcom's intentions, but at this point knowing how Capcom treats PC releases of console games, I would tread lightly until knowing more.

Mega Man GBA Collection Is Still Dead

Chevy Chase They can take it off release lists, they can stop talking about it at press events, and they can pull it from the company website, but the last sign that a video game currently in development is indeed dead and gone is when refunds are issued for preorders.  Such is the fate of Capcom's Mega Man Anniversary Collection for the Nintendo Game Boy Advance.  The game is nearly two years late at this point and now Capcom is refunding money to hopeful fans who preordered directly from the company.

Enclosed please find a refund check for your order of Mega Man Anniversary Collection for the Game Boy Advance through our CAPCOM online store. This game has been placed on indefinite hold. We appreciate your continued support of CAPCOM products and appreciate your business.

Those of us out there who were keeping a little shred of hope alive for this game must finally face the truth: when a publisher gives money back willingly, they have no intention of ever shipping the product.  The compilation has had a terrible development cycle and since it isn't exactly a high profile title anymore (if it ever was) Capcom may have decided to cut bait and focus resources elsewhere.  It's not a good week to be a fan of a delayed game, that's for sure

Sonic X-Treme Revealed At Last

Sonic X-TremeSometimes information thought lost to the ages shows up when you least expect it.  In this case it's the long-unknown character and gameplay designs for the Sega Saturn's Sonic X-Treme, the 32-bit Sonic the Hedgehog game that after three years of development never saw the light of day.  Limited details about the game have been kicked around online for years, but now one of the game's ex-developers has come forward to share graphics and sample gameplay animations with fans.  Christian Senn (known as kurisu on his website's forums and also known as the man who nearly worked himself to death while developing the game) is offering up character designs, storyboards, sample gameplay segments, and much more from the aborted Sonic X-Treme.

I've received so many emails asking for information, pictures, playable versions, etc. that I just couldn't keep up. This is my way of trying to give back to the community.  A summary for anyone who doesn't know: I spent 3 years pouring my heart, soul, blood, sweat and tears into the game. I started as an artist and worked my way to designing, leading the design and coordinating part of the team. Many problems occurred on the project. I was young, very ambitious and a perfectionist. I was a part of a large team that started small and grew to 30+ people.

After ten years fans finally get to see then-new character Tiara Boobowski, her professor/king father Gazebo, plans for a playable Knuckles, and much more.  However, as GameSetWatch says, watch out for plenty of comments from aspiring young game developers seeking to "finish" and release the defunct game (nevermind that there's nowhere near enough information revealed here to do so and, from what has been learned about the game over the years, there was never enough of the game actually finished to determine just what the final product would have become).  Based on some of the sample gameplay test animations it looks like Sonic X-Treme could have been a fun little game.  It wouldn't have been anywhere near Super Mario 64 in scope, but still fun in an early-3D-era sort of way. 

AMN Launches Revolution Channel

AMN logoWith news about the Nintendo Revolution about to seriously pick up we at AMN have decided it's time to launch Revolution Advanced, a new channel on our network devoted exclusively to the Nintendo Revolution.  I'll be carrying on with my Senior Editor duties there and at GameCube Advanced, meaning you can still expect to find my GameCube game reviews and previews there as new games pop up on the GameCube's way to retirement (I'm about to start work on my next review, for instance).  As for Revolution Advanced, we have some great feature articles coming up over the next few weeks including something special that I'm working on that I think you'll all enjoy.  Today's special feature is Meet The Editors in which you'll get to know the folks running the show at the new channel.  The best is yet to come though, so stay with us at the Advanced Media Network for all kinds of great new things.