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June 2006

Mini-Review: Street Fighter Alpha Anthology

Street Fighter Alpha Anthology Capcom loves anthologies.  After coming up with collections featuring the company's greatest arcade hits, the beloved Mega Man titles, and even a chunk of Mega Man X's career, the time has come for a collection of one of the most beloved fighting game series of all time: Street Fighter Alpha.  In the Sony PlayStation 2 title Street Fighter Alpha Anthology fans of the series can finally bring all three Alpha games home on a single disc along with some nifty extras.  The collection includes Street Fighter Alpha, Street Fighter Alpha 2, the revised Street Fighter Alpha 2 Gold, Street Fighter Alpha 3, and Super Gem Fighters: Mini Mix as well as secret unlockable variations.  This anthology is everything you remember about the Alpha series plus a little more.

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Weep For Castlevania

Leon BelmontRemember that Castlevania movie that was announced a while ago?  Like Count Dracula himself it looks as though the movie will suck.  Writer/director Paul W.S. Anderson has talked a little about the plot of the upcoming film in an interview with Sci-Fi Wire and from the sound of things he plans to rewrite the story behind the birth of Dracula and the origin of the Belmont clan, a story that was featured prominently in Castlevania: Lament of Innocence for the Sony PlayStation 2.

"The take on Castlevania is: What Paul has done in writing it is to try and integrate a Dracula origin story into Castlevania, the story of the Belmonts," Bolt said. The game, which originally appeared in 1986, and its sequels focus on the vampire-hunting Belmont clan. "There is a fair amount of reference [to the game]," Bolt said of the proposed movie. "We always try to give the fans something that respects their love of the game, but also gives them something completely new. We've given a whole new spin on Castlevania."

Please, please, Mr. Anderson, don't break Castlevania.  There's so much potential for a solid action/horror movie in the franchise that it doesn't need a re-imagining.  Popular non-movie stories are often condensed for film (such as Spider-Man's exploits or Batman's motives), but let's not step all over the Castlevania canon.  New elements are fine, but not at the expense of dumping established characters and iconic events.  I have a bad feeling that the overall Castlevania plot will be chopped to bits.  Dracula should not turn out to be the long lost Belmont brother, nor should the Belmonts themselves be vampires in secret out to atone for generations of murder.  Oh, and the starring Belmont had better have a whip!

Weekly Poll: You Have Fists Of God!

Weekly Poll for 6-21-2006I'm glad that I'm not the only one who carries a gaming device around with me.  My Nintendo DS is commonly found in my pocket when I know I'll be somewhere where I'll have time to kill.  I've heard from some people that the Nintendo DS is too large to carry in a pocket, but I have to admit that it's not an issue for me.  Maybe I just have big pockets.

Moving on, Capcom recently released another collection of fantastic games.  This time it's the Street Fighter Alpha series that gets the anthology treatment in Street Fighter Alpha Anthology for the Sony PlayStation 2.  Up until I played this collection I hadn't been much for Street Fighter titles, but for some reason this set has made me a fan.  For some reason I prefer Street Fighter Alpha 2 over the other games on the disc.  How about you?  What do you believe is the best Street Fighter Alpha game of all time?  Lump the various variations of the games (Gold, Upper, etc.) into one version of the game if you please.  Cast your vote and leave some comments.  Hadouken!

Super Mario 64 2 Not Just A Pipe Dream

Super Mario 64Ten years later we are still waiting.  I'm referring to the vaporous sequel to the Nintendo 64 classic Super Mario 64 that was on-again/off-again for the entire lifespan of the N64 and then some.  Super Mario Sunshine was a sequel to that game, yes, but even Shigeru Miyamoto admitted at the time that it's more of an evolution on the previous game and not a proper amazing sequel that follows the original formula. Super Mario Galaxy tempts us to consider it a sequel to one of the best games of all time, but its Wiiness changes up the formula.  The closest we've come to a proper sequel is 2004's Nintendo DS launch title Super Mario 64 DS which included new levels, new objectives, and three new playable characters.

Beyond that little extension we're still waiting.  Now rumor has it that Nintendo's Takashi Tezuka would like to see a new proper 3D Super Mario adventure for the Nintendo DS.  He's not the only one, that's for sure.  While merely wanting to create a new adventure is far away from an actual announced product, consider my vote cast for such a project.  To be honest, I'd be happy with the same game engine from Super Mario 64 DS loaded up with all new levels instead of just an extension of the original game.  Serve up a dozen or so new worlds with new stars to gather and I'll be a happy plumber.

The Bad Kind Of Time Travel

Delorean Not too long ago my beloved home computer (the one I just bought last year) developed a frustrating quirk: after twenty minutes of operation it would freeze and refuse to reboot.  After doing everything I could for the ill PC I finally decided to take advantage of the warranty and send the computer back to the manufacturer's home office for repairs for a little maintenance (the official diagnosis is that it has been overheating).  I am a very technological individual in that I need Internet access.  I just do.  I find that I am lost without my e-mail, and my brain grows tired when I can't read all kinds of interesting articles brought home by that little yellow broadband cable.  With my PC out traveling, I called on the desperate solution: I hooked up an old computer.

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Tragic Trade-Ins

Homer Simpson Some folks can't trade-in their old games to GameStop fast enough, but one must always be careful not to toss away those old gaming treasures so quickly.  Sometimes while rapidly clearing out old Sony PlayStations people forget to remove beloved games from the console as this thread on the RLLMUK forum explores.

With my old 3000 series PS2 become too temperamental I thought I would finally upgrade and get a nice new slimline PS2, so after looking around I found had to best offer. When it arrived it I put the [Grand Theft Auto] disc in which my 3000 series struggled with and got ready to finally give the game some decent play time. Only the machine would not power on, at all. Good old Sony build quality I think you'll agree, so I arranged for it to be collected and packaged it up all up nice and neat. The replacement machine arrived today so I went to dig out GTA:SA again and on opening the game box I found it empty. So the game I bought the machine for I now can't play because the disk was left in the previous faulty machine when I sent it back. Gah!

There's some other amusing stories (amusing in a "we feel your pain" kind of way, of course) about a fellow who tried to sell an old Sega Master System and instead wound up PlayStationless, an impatient customer who ended up accidentally giving away a game for free, and the horrors of selling old games on eBay without wiping out the battery first (or, as one forum poster says, "On the flip side of this situation you can find some disturbing stuff left behind by previous owners on second hand copies of Mario Paint.").  I knew there was a reason I never trade away anything.

Square-Enix Issues Demands

Square-Enix logoI'm really starting to believe that Square-Enix thinks it can boss around the gaming media without reprisal.  I say this because of something pointed out on Kotaku about a press embargo on Valkyrie Profile 2: Silmeria.  Press embargoes aren't unusual in the industry.  I've had to abide by a few of them myself, but they usually just state a specific date for reviews to begin publication.  Game publishers want the media frenzy to hit just as the game releases to stores and not a minute before, otherwise any pent-up excitement from the fans goes untapped.  Square-Enix, on the other hand, has more specific demands.

The list includes spoilers, movies, music, and entire sections of the game until specific dates. For instance, we're not supposed to even mention, say, the Sukavia Gorge or Royal Underground Path until after July 21 and, under penalty of death we should never ever say anything about Bifrost, Yggdrasil or Hall of Valhalla until after Aug. 4.

For some reason I'm suddenly reminded of a little run-in a AMN co-worker and I had with one of Square-Enix's booth patrol back at E3.  We were filming a little ambiance video of the convention center showing just how the booths were packed together and how many people were walking around.  We weren't focusing on any one object or booth, but instead were just panning the camera around.  Just as the camera starts to point towards Square-Enix territory one of their booth security people rushes at us and slams his hand over the camera lens.  He then proceeds to rudely bark that we are not allowed to shoot any video or take any photos of Square-Enix's booth or games and that we must leave the area immediately and - get this - never return.

Now, Square-Enix's booth is their property, of course, so if they don't want us to shoot any video then they can ask us to move on.  I would have done it more diplomatically though, as the rude attitude was completely uncalled for.  It puzzles me how Square-Enix can set up shop in the middle of the massive media event that is E3 and then expect us not to pull out a camera.  So we left the Square-Enix perimeter to visit some friendlier companies.  If Square-Enix wants journalists to move along, that's fine.  It's their booth.  On the other hand, if the company kicks enough journalists around it might wake up one day to find that we don't want to cover their games in our magazines or on our websites.  After all, they're our publications.

DS Web Browser Is Looking Good

Nintendo DS web browser boxOpera's custom web browser for the Nintendo DS is shaping up to be a killer productivity app if this early hands-on look at the program is any guide.  I'm all for a DS web browser; in fact I feel that it should have been built into the DS at launch in the same manner as PictoChat.  Actually, it could have replaced PictoChat for all I care.

When I started it up I was browsing in dual screen mode. Basically the page was fit to the width of the screen and the height spanned both screens. With an easy touch of the stylus you can switch into a "zoom" mode where you are presented with a picture of the web page on the top screen and on the bottom screen you can drag a box around to see in actual size what you need to view. You can also simply swap the screens so that you can type in text as needed where fields or check boxes etc. are presented.

While I love the idea of quick and convenient web access in my pocket (squinting at my cell phone's tiny screen just isn't comfortable), I'm saddened by the fact that the browser takes up both the DS game slot and the GBA cartridge slot.  I understand that the browser has to "live" somewhere and that the hardware needs a little memory boost for the browser to work, but it means that on days that I want to have Opera in my pocket I can't have any games along for the ride.  One of the DS's strengths is that I can have two different games available for play at any time .  I'm not one to carry around a pocket full of game cards or cartridges when I take my DS out and about with me.  Now I'll be forced to choose between being productive and slacking off.  There are some decisions we should not be forced to make.

(via Digital Battle)

Dr. Robotnik Goes 3D

Dr. Robotnik Citizens of planet Mobius beware!  Dr. Robotnik has escaped into full 3D!  Someone with more free time than I'll ever have by the name of Kc has created a 3D model of Sonic the Hedgehog's nemesis using the virtual sketching and modeling program SketchUp.  The doctor is seated at the controls (and yes, the controls are in the model) of the wrecking ball vehicle used to bash Sonic at the end of Green Hill Zone Act 3 in the original Sonic the Hedgehog.

Although the model is most likely intended as just a novelty, I have the urge to hide Robotnik somewhere in the next model I create at the office.  Do you think anyone would notice if the doctor was seated in the stands of the stadium model we're building?  Or watching a performance at the proposed arts complex?

More shots of Dr. Robotnik in glorious 3D can be found below.  If that's not enough to satisfy your 3D hunger, check out Kc's other SketchUp creation: the Halo 2 energy sword.  Beyond that there's a whole slew of Nintendo hardware, too.

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Flint Is The New Smash King!

Flint Is The New Smash King It's not often that I share humorous images for the sake of merely sharing them, but this animated GIF of Flint the cowboy (from Mother 3) pounding the tar out of Nintendo's elite in Super Smash Bros. Brawl is too good not to share.  The pencil sketch style of animation allows for some fantastic character expressions, particularly in the case of Kirby and Pikachu.  Also watch for appearances by obscure (in North America, anyway) characters such as Stafy (of Legend of Stafy fame) and Lip (from Panel de Pon).  The creator of this piece (it's signed by PoD) should be proud of this stellar animation.

(via RLLMUK forum)