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February 2008

Lost Futurama Game Episode Reappears

Futurama Good news, everyone!  Remember that hard to find Futurama game for the Microsoft Xbox and Sony PlayStation 2?  The one that contained new story segments from the television show's writing staff and creative talent?  The one that basically featured a "lost" episode of the series?  When the next direct-to-DVD Futurama movie, The Beast With a Billion Backs, hits North American stores on June 24, 2008 one of the special features on the disc will be this lost episode.  Not only that, the lost episode will also sport an audio commentary of its own.  This just adds weight to my theory that anything worth watching or playing eventually comes back around for a second pass.

I Ain't Got Time To Learn To Bleed

Street Fighter III I consider myself to be on the cutting edge of new games which is why I finally got around to playing Street Fighter III for the first time a few days ago.  The first proper modern fighting game that I ever played was good ol' Street Fighter II for the Super NES, and of course I've moved up the ranks over the years through all of the Street Fighter II upgrades and then into the world of Street Fighter Alpha.  I have my favorite world warriors and I like to think I can kick some efficient digital butt with the likes of Ken and Blanka.  Imagine my surprise when I stepped into Street Fighter III and found that hardly any of the characters from the previous games made a return appearance.  My initial reaction was to be stereotypically outraged: how dare Capcom exclude the familiar fighters!  I don't have time to learn about all of these new characters.  I know how to dismantle Sagat and Zangief, but I haven't a clue what to do with newcomers Hugo or Alex.  Who wants to learn all of this new material just for the sake of knocking someone down?  Then I came to my senses and remembered that this is the reason why the gaming industry relies on sequels and spin-offs these days more than new original adventures and stories.  We certainly seem to want more of the familiar.  Now I see where the development team behind the upcoming Street Fighter IV has come to the same realization and is putting plenty of Street Fighter II into the new game

"Street Fighter III was kind of an exclusive club where if you didn't know what you were doing, there was no reason to even try and play it," says Ono (pictured right). "This time, we're trying to re-open the fighting genre to people who haven't played it in a while."

That's why SFIV will feature, first and foremost, the eight well-known fighters from SFII: Ryu, Ken, Chun-Li, Blanka, Dhalsim, E. Honda, Zangief, and Guile.

Ono didn't select these characters one by one, he says. "They all made the cut individually as one group. It's important, because this game is starting its life in the arcades, where you have a limited time to sit and play. You don't want people flushing their 100-yen coins down the toilet; you've got to give them some level of familiarity."

So despite my best efforts to the contrary, it looks like I'm a part of the problem after all.  I'll try to do better in the future, starting with learning the ins and outs of Street Fighter III.  Well, right after I finish Kirby 64: The Crystal Shards that just came out this week for the Virtual Console, of course. 

Lots Of Sega Prototypes Escape Into The Wild

DexstarGaming prototypes always make for interesting museum pieces, and while most early versions of beloved games trickle out into the wild a little at a time, sometimes the floodgate opens and deluges us with alpha and beta versions.  The gates are open today as a prototype collector known as "drx" has offered up a newly acquired collection of Sega development material.

Quick numbers: 155 Sega 32x prototypes, 300 Game Gear prototypes, 464 Mega Drive prototypes, 94 Pico prototypes, 6 Gamecube prototypes -- 1024 prototype overall (what a nice round number!), making this the biggest prototype release in history (and probably ever to come). Just multiply this by $100 (which is the average price of these things, and many of them are MUCH more valuable) and you'll see how lucky you are to get them free of charge.

There is lots of stuff here -- Sonic, Ristar, Tempo, and many other high-profile, hard-to-find game prototypes which many of us played years back and miss. Many with different features, levels, hidden data.

Questionable legality aside, it's interesting to peer through this kind of stuff and see how our favorite games grew and changed during development.  There's way too much here to even consider casually sifting it all just for mere curiosity, so I think I'll wait until the devoted prototype folks dig through it all and share the more interesting changes in a nice summary format with plenty of comparison images.  Unfinished levels are interesting, but corrected punctuation is not. 

Weekly Poll: EA Take 2 Billion

Weekly Poll for 2-18-2008I like your optimism, Wii Fit boosters.  Keep reaching for that rainbow!

That $2 billion bid that Electronic Arts made to absorb Take-Two Interactive sure came out of nowhere, eh?  Most people think that the company wants to get its hands on that sweet sweet Grand Theft Auto money, but there's also a strong theory that what EA really wants out of this is Take-Two's sports line of games that have been a competitive thorn in the Madden giant's side for quite some time.  Assuming that this takeover/buy-out goes through, who will be the ultimate winner in the end: EA, Take-Two, the competition, or the gamers?  Let's hear your thoughts before EA buys those too.

Guitar Halo 3 And Other Stories

Guitar Halo Near the end of the twentieth century I spent my senior year of high school working part time at a local hardware store.  My job was to stock shelves, mix paint, fill propane & chlorine tanks, make keys, cut glass, slice rope, and (unfortunately) interact with the hordes of clueless home improvement morons that would filter in each day in search of equipment they didn't need for projects they were incapable of completing.  The frustrated customer is a curious beast, for it is convinced that it is correct no matter how much evidence points to the contrary.  While reading stories of customer idiocy over at Not Always Right I was reminded of how much I do not miss dealing with that portion of the general public that is chronically confused.  Allow me to share some of my favorite game-related tales from that site, such as the story of the woman in search of a version of Halo 3 that is playable with a guitar controller.

Customer, flustered: “What’s the difference between Halo 3 and Guitar Hero 3, exactly?”

Me, stammering: “Uh… in Halo 3, you shoot aliens, and in Guitar Hero 3, you play rock music.”

Customer: “Oh, he’d want Halo 3, then.”

Me: “Okay, let me go and get that copy for you I left in the back.”

(After grabbing it…)

Customer: “Where’s the guitar?”

(At this point, to spare the readers, I went through the ENTIRE conversation again.)

Customer: “But someone on the phone told us you had the Halo 3 Special Edition.”

Me: “Yes, we do, that’s this in my ha–”

Customer: “So why aren’t you selling it to me? I want it with the guitar.”

Me, stifling laughter: “Ma’am, look, I can’t really say it any clearer. We have Halo 3. Halo 3 is not played with a guitar. We do NOT have Guitar Hero 3. Guitar Hero 3 is played with a guitar.”

Customer: “Oh for god’s sake. We drive all the way here and you people don’t even know what the **** you’re talking about. I’m going to Best Buy.”

Me: “You do that, ma’am.  Have a nice day!”

Please enjoy these other similar stories:

(Image via Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Soda)

Wii Online Multiplayer Will Soon Cost Money

Nintendo Wi-Fi ConnectionQuick, look up!  See that large boot-like object on its way down?  That would be the other shoe dropping.  Word comes from the Game Developers Conference that Nintendo is about to put up the pay walls on some of the Wii's online multiplayer offerings.

"Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection Pay And Play" will let users subscribe on a game-by-game basis to certain titles. Nintendo project leader Takashi Aoyama announced the service at GDC, but did not say what upcoming games would require payment for the service, or how much they would cost.

To avoid customer confusion, Pay-And-Play games will have a red icon on the game's box that reads Pay And Play, in place of the traditional blue Wi-Fi Connection icon, which will only be used for games that are free to play.

So much for all that cheery talk about online play needing to be free for the good of the world and stuff.  I can't say I'm happy about this announcement.  Nintendo's online gaming offerings have been mildly decent, but I cannot see paying money for the level of service I get from, say, Nitrobike.  Half-assed online play is only satisfactory when it's free.  I'm not going to pay a monthly fee for the privilege of being frustrated by snakers and disconnectors.

Attempted Rock Band GDC Theft Thwarted

PoppleI don't care how much alcohol you've had to drink, there's no excuse for sneaking on stage after the Rock Band concert at Valve's Game Developers Conference party and attempting to download a new unreleased song from the band's Microsoft Xbox 360 into your memory unit.  Yes, someone tried to snag the unreleased Rock Band version of Portal's "Still Alive".   This is why we can't have nice things!

I put my MU into the Xbox and power it up. I'm just at the point of selecting "copy" when another Harmonix guy sees what I'm doing and yanks the controller out of my hand. There's a tense moment where it seems like he's going to confiscate my MU permanently, and he doesn't give it back until he's had a chance to put it back in the console and check it for contraband. I leave the stage red-faced and red-handed. The party seems to have taken no notice of these events.

I can't believe this kind of thing needs to be said, but here it is anyway for those who need the reminder: do not steal prototype material from trade show events!

(via Waxy)

Big Wii Sale At Today Only

Buy somethin' will ya!UPDATE: And the sale is over.  I hope you made it there in time!

If you've been dragging your feet on picking up games for the Nintendo Wii then today might be your lucky day.  Today is spotlighting Wii titles in its daily deal department.  Super Paper Mario is on sale for $30, while four other games will be on sale as the day goes on.  The catch?  Amazon's not saying which games are on sale or what kind of discount they're offering before the sale starts.  Check in with Amazon at 9:00am, 1:00pm, 5:00pm, and 9:00pm ET for a different limited time deal, and of course remember that every purchase you make at Amazon through a link here helps to keep everything at PTB spinning in orbit.   See you in line at the virtual cash register!

Lost Game Not Canon

Lost Ubisoft is just about to put Lost: Via Domus for the PC, Sony PlayStation 3 and Microsoft Xbox 360 on store shelves, so it's only natural that the really hardcore Lost fans out there are preparing to lock themselves away for a day or three to unravel all of the new mysteries and learn all of the new information found in the game.  I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but the Lost game isn't really required for those who want to know the show's secrets.  Via Domus's storyline isn't actually an official part of the Lost canon.  The show's top creative brains have said so.  How do I know this?  I have a man on their boat.

So what's official and what's not? What's ''canon?''

CUSE: The mobisodes are in canon. The Orchid video is in canon. The video game is not in canon. It's unfair for the audience to go to ancillary sources in order to really understand the show. Even the things like the mobisodes, which are in canon, aren't essential to your understanding of the show. These things are just added bonuses.

LINDELOF: The only true canon is the show itself.

Thank goodness.  As much as I love to dig deep into the mythology behind some of my favorite fictional worlds, there are also times when I just want to watch the damn show and not feel as if I'm missing out on something important by not reading the spin-off tie-in novel that is only tangentially related to the source material.  So enjoy Lost: Via Domus, sure, but don't expect to learn anything groundbreakingly new about the Island.  At least, not anything that will stick.

(via TV Tattle)

Sakurai Talks DS Smash Bros.

Super Smash Bros. SkirmishSuper Smash Bros. Brawl for the Nintendo Wii isn't even really here yet and already folks are looking ahead to the sequel.  However, since some questions just must be asked, Smash director Masahiro Sakurai was queried about the possibility of a Smash game for the Nintendo DS.  Kombo has the summary.

The popularity of the Smash Bros. series has lead portable gamers to want to know if Nintendo might ever allow them to be able to Smash on the go. Sakurai's thoughts on such a project are "Seeing the success that Brawl has had with the Wii remote being playing sideways, I don't think that there are control limitations that keep it from being ported to the DS. But I personally have no plans to do this myself. If, in the future, such a thing was to be planned, it would be up to Nintendo to decide how and when and in what way they would like to create that sort of game."

The Smash games have always come off as larger than life affairs.  The Smash fights are big brawls between the biggest stars in gaming on big levels and accompanied by big musical scores.  Could the whole experience really be squeezed down into a worthwhile portable version?  Stranger things have happened, although if such a project does come to pass I'd like to suggest the title for the little Smash right now: Super Smash Bros. Skirmish.