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August 2007

Games Sure Can Be Ridiculous

Raccoon Mario Ever notice how some of the most popular video games of all time have absurd plots?  I noted this back in November 2005, but has just reached the conclusion and to celebrate has created a list of twelve of the most ridiculous gaming stories of all time such as the tales behind Mega Man and Super Mario Bros

The Premise: An Italian plumber travels through a brightly-colored fantasy world collecting coins and mushrooms. He crushes turtles and goombas (essentially brown, waddling monstrosities) to death in order to rescue a princess from being raped by a dinosaur who pilots an airship.

What Made It Ridiculous: It was enough that mushrooms made you big and flowers made you shoot fireballs from your hands. By the time they added in a raccoon suit, a mechanical boot, and a dinosaur mount, it was pretty much anything goes. At that point, a mug power-up that gives you a rake that turns you invisible would have fit in fairly easily.

Why We Didn't Care: We were too busy cursing at the screen each time we found out the Princess was in a different goddamned castle.

A few of my favorite absurdities that didn't make the list include a bobcat clad in a white punctuation-bedecked t-shirt must stop invading aliens from stealing all of Earth's yarn;  an odd little fellow made of gloves, boots, a sweater, and a hat must defend his island from the invading fleas by recovering his missing flags; and a chimp travels to his tiger friend's island to help defeat the invading pig sorcerer via kart racing.  Recognize those?

Answers: Bubsy, Plok, and Diddy Kong Racing.

Freebie Overload

World of Warcraft cards It's almost inevitable anymore: go to a convention or trade show and you'll wind up with a sack full of freebies.  Not necessarily good freebies, either.  I can't tell you how many cheap be-logoed lanyards I accumulated at E3 2006.  I have a bunch of freebie giveaway stuff that's been collected and acquired over the years that I should pass on to a good home, but who would possibly want, say, Pikachu decals for a Nintendo GameCube or a demo of Conker: Live and Reloaded for the original Microsoft Xbox?  Maybe you'll like what Kat at Aeropause is offering from her freebie stash from GenCon.  She's holding little contests to award her collected stuff to good homes.  Want some World of Warcraft cards?  Here's your chance. 

DS Huff-n-Puff Redux

Kirby Back in April I lashed out at Nintendo DS games that require frantic huffing and puffing into the microphone in order to produce some required in-game maneuver.  I'm still not a fan of the technique (the last time I encountered it was in Wario: Master of Disguise in which blowing into the mic flaps Wario's wings) and I'm still not convinced that huffing gameplay can be done right.  MTV's Stephen Totilo might be on to something, however.  He is also tired of this gameplay gimmick and he's made it a personal mission to question developers who tout the air flow madness.

Pity the Electronic Arts Sims 2: Castaway developer who had been expecting me to cheer a feature in the DS version that requires the player to blow into the microphone to start a kindling fire. I scoffed. Ache for the Ubisoft pitchman who had done such a good job demo-ing the vocabulary-building My Word Coach on DS but then showed me a mode that didn’t just involve the Tetris-like descent of word-balloons but allowed me to huff, puff and blow those words back up to the top screen. I objected. I hear The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass has blowing controls, but, frankly, I’m afraid to investigate.

Fight the good fight, Stephen, and bring our message of anti-breathing to those who would have us bust a lung in the name of unlocking a door.  He does speak highly of Nervous Brickdown, a Breakout clone that allows players to blow into the microphone in order to keep the game ball in the air.  From the sound of things, this is an optional maneuver.  That doesn't sound so bad, mostly because it's not a required technique.  If I'm not in the mood to hyperventilate then I can skip blowing into the microphone.  I'm not ready to joyously accept huff 'n' puff gaming into my life, but if more games followed this path of optional blowing then I might be convinced to keep an open mind about the whole thing.

Metroid Prime 3 For Casual Gamers?

Metroid Prime 3: Corruption It's been a while, but a major all-star first-party Nintendo game for hardcore players has arrived in North America in the form of Metroid Prime 3: Corruption.  At last, a Nintendo game that doesn't stress training our brains or working on our faces or raising puppies or practicing yoga.  This one's for the die-hard Nintendo fans from the days of yore, and not a single mini-game or party mode is to be found within.  What say you about this, Nintendo?

Metroid Prime 3 has a revolutionary control style that makes it easy for anyone to immediately jump into the action," says George Harrison, Nintendo of America's senior vice president of marketing and corporate communications. "Now, an entirely new audience can experience this amazing first-person adventure.

Ah, so the company is pitching this one towards the inexperienced casual gaming crowd.  Stephen Munn at Aeropause has picked up on this as well, theorizing that since Metroid Prime and its sequel didn't do ultra-phenomenal sales on the GameCube, the company is trying to draw a larger audience for this latest iteration in the franchise.  Yep, I can see that.  On the other hand, no way would I expect Nintendo to shy away from hyping Metroid Prime 3 to the casuals.  Of course the company will try to draw as many people as it can to the game.  Moreover, this could be Nintendo's attempt at turning some of their newfound casual gaming fans into a more traditional customer.  The casual gamers took the bait by swinging at tennis balls, and now it's time to hook them with a little Samus Aran goodness.  Come for the party games, stay for the Space Pirates.

Act Fast For Game Controller Sale

Nyko Air Flow EXUPDATE: Too late!  All sold out now.  Better luck next time.

You'd better hurry if you want to snag a Nyko Air Flow EX controller for your Windows PC or Mac at an incredible discount. has a two-pack of the USB controllers for just $8.99 plus $5 for shipping (continental United States only, I'm sorry to say).  That's right, you get two controllers for that price.  But wait, there's more!  These controllers have fans in them that are supposed to cool your sweaty hands during play.  IGN seems to like them, too.  How can you resist?  I couldn't.  I bought a pack for myself.  If you can't resist either then you'd better hurry, as the deal is only good for today, August 28, or while supplies last. 

Sixaxis Controller Goes PC

SixaxisThose inquisative folks at Gamer's Block have word that it's possible to use the Sony PlayStation 3's Sixaxis controller for playing games on your Windows PC.  I have not tried this, nor do I know if it works as promised, but considering that I have linked a Nintendo Wii remote to a PC before, it certainly seems possible.  All you need is a special DLL file, an EXE file that acts as an installer (use at your own risk, of course), and a little spare time.

The PLAYSTATION®3 SIXAXIS controller can be used on a Windows-based PC (mainly on XP and Vista). You can play your PC games using the SIXAXIS controller as a PC game pad controller to optimize your gaming experience.

The Sixaxis controller is certainly light and comfortable to use, so I can see a definite advantage to using it for Windows gaming.  I have a Logitch Wingman for my PC gaming that, while it works, is also bulky, heavy, and over the years has developed calibration issues with the right control stick.  I'd just as rather use a Sixaxis on my PC than another weighty gamepad.  Besides, once Sony comes out with the rumored Sixaxis with rumble capability there will be a lot of used non-rumbling Sixaxis controllers sitting around.  Why not use 'em for PC gaming?

Weekly Poll: Console Cravings

Weekly Poll for 8-20-2007Super Metroid looks to be the favorite Samus Aran adventure, something with which I wholeheartedly agree.  Whenever friends would come over to play Nintendo way back in the day we'd always compete with Super Mario Kart and Kirby's Dream CourseSuper Metroid never made the cut.  Yes, it's a single-player adventure, but it wasn't uncommon for us to play single-player games as a team, e.g. one person at the controller and the other serving as "navigator" with a strategy guide.  No, Super Metroid was mine and mine alone; I didn't want any help conquering the secrets within. 

Now, between new iterations of hardware and price cuts on existing stock this seems to be a good time to jump aboard a new console or handheld unit.  Are you counting your pennies and planning a raid on Best Buy?  If so, which console or handheld will be your next purchase?  Let's hear of your magnificent plans.

Sega Genesis All-Star Classics Poll Of Awesome

Sega Genesis 3Put down your motion-controlled remotes and wireless controllers for a moment.  Unplug the fancy HDMI cords and scooch a little closer to the television.  It's Sega Genesis time!  "Sixfortyfive" of the NeoGAF forums is asking folks to vote for their favorite Sega Genesis games.  Just pick your favorites the massive list of games, order them by rank, and then wait a week for the results.  C'mon, what else do you have to do on a Monday morning?

What started out as a quest to list all of the Genesis / Mega Drive games I've wanted to play but haven't got around to yet culminated into a bigger internet project of sorts. Here's the deal: I want you to vote on your favorite games for the Gen/MD.

The script is fairly sophisticated; it allows you to pick as many games as you want and then assigns points to each game according to how you rank them. Your favorite game gets 21 points, 2nd favorite gets 20, and so on. All games you rank below 20th get 1 point each. Results will be displayed according to this point system along with standard first-past-the-post and instant runoff results and more. Polls in this format have been run at a few other forums I frequent and they usually yield very good results, so I wanted to try one myself. If nothing else, I suppose this could serve as a general Virtual Console recommendation thread for the games that apply.  There are mechanisms in place to prevent cheating. If you vote more than once, all of your votes will be deleted.

The usual major titles such as Sonic the Hedgehog 2 and Castlevania: Bloodlines made my list of nineteen games, but I also had to include both Aero the Acrobat games as well as the best Genesis game you never played (unless you live outside North America or never had access to the Sega Channel), Mega Man: The Wily Wars.  If there's any Genesis game that needs a Virtual Console release, it's Wily Wars.

Nintendo Tinkers With DS Lite Screens?

Nintendo DS Lite We all know that Nintendo loves to tinker with their hardware long after their consoles and handheld units hit the market, but if "The Mighty Schwein" of the NeoGAF forums is correct then Nintendo may have done some tinkering for the worse.  The allegation?  The new black and red DS Lite features inferior screens compared to older DS Lite models.  Behold, the supposed proof!

So after having seen 3 of the new red/black DS Lite systems (aka Brain Age 2 bundle) it has come to my attention that Nintendo has almost definitely changed the LCD screens in either some or all DS Lite systems. Apparently, I'm the only one noticing this (which is pretty odd..) and it's even possible that these new LCD screens have been making their way into DS Lite systems for many months now. If they are making their way in now then it should only be a matter of time before they all have this new screen.

Oh, did I mention the new screens aren't as good as the old ones? Whoops. So whats going on at the Big N? Cutting cost to maximize profit for the holiday season? Are the 3 I've seen simply from a bunk batch of DS Lites? Hard questions to answer.

The picture from the forum post is pretty damning if it's accurate.  Here's a wild theory from left field: seeing as how the black and red DS Lites are bundled with Brain Age 2 and considering that the target market for this bundle is mainly the casual gamer, perhaps Nintendo decided to dump these less-than-impressive screens from a particular manufacturer into units that will be played by people who may not know any better.  We follow the gaming industry and keep tabs on this sort of thing, but person who buys the bundle solely for "one of them brain training machines" may not be aware of the poor quality screens when compared to other DS Lites and, moreover, may not even care.

Nintendo Wallpapers Brighten Your Day

Wario For the past few years Nintendo has been offering desktop wallpapers for their more "important" games as part of various marketing campaigns.  Typically these images were offered up for free downloads on a game's promotional website or were offered as small prizes for completing a simple online challenge.  A few were even kept locked away with the key to access being a purchase of the respective game that was the source of the artwork.  The problem is that once these games have done their job in the marketplace, the promotional material just sort of fades away.  Do you honestly expect to easily find wallpapers from, say, Luigi's Mansion or Mario Party 4 after all this time?  Thankfully there's The Mushroom Kingdom and its relatively new archive of promotional wallpaper.  Most of your favorite Super Mario-related wallpapers are there in a variety of sizes to fit your monitor.  I'm partial to the Mario Kart DS images, but I'm sure you'll find something you like.