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August 2008


Tiny Kong I've been enjoying the new Mario Super Sluggers for the Nintendo Wii this weekend and I've spent most of my time with the game plowing through the single-player Challenge mode in which I must meet with various Mushroom Kingdom residents and pass their baseball-related tests.  Passing a test means that the character that challenged me joins my team.  Now, in addition to the usual assortment of Goombas, Piantas, and Yoshis, the world of Donkey Kong is packed into the setting as well, meaning that familiar folks such as Diddy Kong, King K. Rool, and Kritter have joined my team.  Then I met up with Tiny Kong who, as you may recall, was given a disturbing age bump a few years ago from Dixie Kong's kid sister into underdressed teenage jailbait.  And it's not helping that when Tiny joined my team, the game described her like this:

Tiny Kong: a well-rounded player with a mean curve.

C'mon, Nintendo.  You've already confused some people out there with that sort of stuff, and this isn't making things any better.

To say nothing of Captain Rainbow...

Ghostbusters Slips Further Into The Afterlife

GhostbustersI'm going to tell you something that, at first, will seem very alarming and horrible, but if you'll stick with me and follow along I think you'll find in the end that there's a silver lining to be had.  Now then, I'm sure you remember how the upcoming Ghostbusters video game was dropped by Activision for publication when the company acquired the Vivendi catalog.  The developer insisted that someone would publish the game eventually, but now comes word that GameStop has been cancelling preorders for the game and refunding deposits to disappointed customersHistory has shown us that retailers only return money willingly and unprompted when a game is stone dead, so I certainly understand the initial panic.

So, end of the world, right?  Fire and brimstone coming down from the sky! Rivers and seas boiling!  Forty years of darkness! Earthquakes, volcanoes, the dead rising from the grave!  Human sacrifice, dogs and cats living together, mass hysteria!  Well, maybe not.  This actually sort of makes sense from a business perspective.  The Ghostbusters game that had been in GameStop's catalog was to be published under an arrangement that is no longer in effect.  If/when another company picks up the game they will surely make it available under a different agreement.  I'm sure the game will return for preordering once the new details are worked out.  Remember the inspiring words of Vigo the Carpathian: "Death is but a door, time is but a window; I'll be back!"

Hackers Add Shadow The Hedgehog, Others To Smash Bros. Brawl

Shadow the Hedgehog in Super Smash Bros. Brawl Not content to enjoy the Super Smash Bros. Brawl experience with a mere cast of available characters, a group of fans out there have hacked a bunch of the game's character textures to "add" new playable characters based on old favorites.  Thrill as Sonic the Hedgehog is replaced by his rival Shadow, Mario becomes the twisted Shadow Mario, and Samus Aran takes on the guise of her many Metroid Prime forms.

This project is all about paying homage to the video game characters that have inspired and enthralled us for generations. I’ll never forget the first time I transformed into Fierce Deity*, or unlocked the coveted Black Yoshi. We give our heart-filled thanks to the creative geniuses who thought up these characters and breathed life into them, as they changed our lives forever.

To honor these various characters, we have begun a project replacing two costumes of each character of smash with a new one. Sometimes it’s a creative color change, sometimes it’s a completely new character.

It's nice to see that even in today's modern era of vast amounts of system memory and comparatively large storage capacity that there is still a place in our hearts and our consoles for the time honored tradition of palette swaps.   

* That must have hurt!

(via Wii Fanboy)

Guitar Hero: The Movie?

Guitar Hero 2 Could the time be right to introduce a whole new generation of gamers and moviegoers to Video Armageddon?  Film director Brett Ratner wants to make Guitar Hero: The Movie.  How could that possibly work?  It doesn't take a wizard to figure it out.

Featured in various music videos he's directed, MTVM asked what else he has in store for the game.  And his answer?

I love 'Guitar Hero' and I think it's a part of pop culture. I would love to do a 'Guitar Hero' movie, if Activision would ever let me. I'm trying to convince them, but why would you have a movie screw up such a huge franchise? Not that I would make a bad movie. So that would be cool, to do a 'Guitar Hero' movie.

It could be about a kid from a small town who dreams of being a rock star and he wins the 'Guitar Hero' competition. One of these dreams-[come-true] kind of concepts. -- Brett Ratner, to MTV Multiplayer  It sounds like the new-millennium version of The Wizard, but without Super Mario Bros. 3 to be the golden carrot.

The funny thing is that Guitar Hero lends itself more to the plot of The Wizard than Super Mario Bros. 3 could ever hope.  As you'll recall, The Wizard comes to an exciting conclusion at a gaming tournament that revolves around competing in games that have no inherent competitive aspect.  Hero has a built-in multiplayer factor that works so much better for that kind of story (which means, of course, that Guitar Hero: The Movie will inevitably feature no head-to-head competition whatsoever).  Still, bring in Fred Savage for a quick cameo, embed a new overpriced Guitar Hero controller into the plot for product placement purposes as a nod to the infamous "so bad" Power Glove, and I think we got ourselves a movie. 

Xbox 360 Gets A Coin Slot

Arcade Station T2 Home console games have been pulling double duty in video arcades for years.  Nintendo Entertainment System titles had a second home in the PlayChoice-10 arcade cabinet, while Sega Genesis games thrived in special Mega-Tech units.  We just don't see this kind of thing anymore, but one company is bringing the concept back.  Quasimodo Interactive is working on an arcade cabinet known as Arcade Station T2 that houses a Microsoft Xbox 360.

It's outfitted in a traditional upright cabinet design, but features two Xbox 360 controllers and memory card slots. While it supports "system link gaming", it hasn't been revealed that whether that refers to LIVE support or not.

Players will buy time on the system, meaning that a handful of quarters would buy you a few minutes with the likes of Halo 3 or Devil May Cry 4 instead of three lives.  At first this kind of thing seems a little impractical and rather unneeded, but if you're one of the would-be Street Fighter IV owners out there fuming over the expense and difficulty associated with buying an arcade unit from Capcom, something like this could be the next best option once the home version of the game is released next year.

Spectacular ROM Hacks Propel Mario, Link, Sonic To New Places

The Second Reality Project Prepare to have your mind blown by impressive ROM hacks of beloved gaming classics.  I have a brief article over at Kombo which highlights some amazing gaming creations from dedicated fans.

The video game ROM hacking world has an abundance of Super Mario Bros. hacks in which Mario and friends have been replaced by [insert immature garbage here], but that kind of trash has a bad habit of overshadowing actual fantastical reimaginings of beloved gaming classics. Enter NeoGAF forumite Mama Robotnik and a list of spectacular ROM hacks that actually aspire to become something more than their source material. Here's a brief sample of the goodness on display.

There's some cross-pollination going on here as some of the hacks combine different aspects of competing games, such as Brutal Mario which brings elements from Donkey Kong Country 2, Kirby Super Star, and a Squaresoft RPG I can't quite place together into Super Mario World.  There's also a Sonic the Hedgehog expansion that actually outgrew its Sega Genesis roots and had to evolve into a Sega CD hack, a new side-scrolling adventure for Link, and a "second quest" for Super Metroid.  Hurry and try 'em all before the lawyers crack down.

Survivor: Gabon Contestant Is One Of Us

Survivor: Gabon I'm not a fan of reality television shows.  I believe that they take away precious time and resources from interesting television productions.  In fact, it's come to the point that every time I see a new reality show upstart knock a beloved comedy or drama out of production, I have to choke back the vomit.  However, if we have to have reality television in our lives, we should at least have a gamer mixing things up with the would-be actresses and club-hoppers trying to eke out a few minutes of prime time fame.  Consider Survivor: Gabon's Ken Hoang who is a professional gamer and a Super Smash Bros. Melee champion.

KEN SAYS: ''Gaming will help me because I do well under pressure. I always come through. I rarely choke. I'm the underdog, I think all the fans will root for me to win. I would root for myself if I was watching TV.''

JEFF PROBST SAYS: ''Ken the gamer is one of my favorite people who has been on the show in a long time. He is convinced his gaming expertise is absolutely in line with what it takes to win, that he knows this game backward and forward simply because he's a gamer. But Ken is a true nerd. I think when the show began he weighed less than [China's] Courtney did.''

Good luck, Ken!  Be sure to really milk the gamer aspect of your biography while you're on the show.  I expect to see you compare your island rivals to Ganon and Wario.  Be prepared with a memorable game-related catchphrases.  Work the phrase "It's-a me" into your initial introduction.  Make us proud and show the teeming masses that gamers can be worthwhile and intelligent people.  However, be aware that if you play up the racist, rude, idiot gamer stereotype that seems to proliferate in the general media, then I'm afraid we'll have to completely disown you.  Don't take it personally though.  That's just how we play the game.

(via TVTattle)

Big PS3 Sale At Today Only

Ratchet and Clank Future: Tools of Destruction Open up your wallets and purses, Sony PlayStation 3 fans, because is offering another of their all-day game sales on certain PS3 titles.  You know the drill by now.  Amazon will post a new deal every few hours for a limited time only and offers clues as to which games will be heavily discounted.  Checking the hints implies some nice sales on games such as Devil May Cry 4, Ratchet and Clank Future: Tools of Destruction, Uncharted: Drake's Fortune, Haze, Gran Turismo 5 Prologue, a Logitech steering wheel of some sort, and Blazing Angels 2: Secret Missions of WWII.  Good luck snagging a deal!

How Much For That Street Fighter IV Cabinet In The Window?

Street Fighter IV A few weeks ago a co-worker and I wandered up to the university's Student Union while on an errand, and while taking a break for an Icee, we found ourselves outside the Union's game room.  Inside were all manner of entertainment for the college crowd: air hockey, pool, Dance Dance Revolution, and more arcade games than I've seen in one place in a long, long time.  We wondered if the little restaurant that ran the room would consider buying a Street Fighter IV unit to set next to the many iterations of Capcom vs SNK and Virtua Fighter, and moreover, if the college did install SFIV, how we could barge to the head of the line to play without inciting a riot.  Unfortunately, after reading about the legwork that MTV's Stephen Totilo did to find out what one has to do to buy a SFIV machine, I don't think the university will be stocking up on Ryu's latest challenge anytime soon.

1) Spend A Lot Of Money: Capcom won’t divulge the price. All I could find out is that the 2,349,400 Yen cost I found on a website in March   is a re-seller’s price. Capcom is selling for less. But considering that re-seller price amounts to $21,802, I guess we’re talking about an actual price that is still greater than what I usually spend on a PS3, a year’s supply of socks or a honeymoon.

2) Buy In Bulk: Want a Street Fighter IV arcade cabinet? Too bad, you can’t get one. You have to get four of them. So be ready to write a really big check. Capcom won’t take orders for single units. The company requires a purchase of four units of “Street Fighter IV.” I wonder how many “Street Fighter V” units they’ll require when that game comes out? (Apparently Bungie Studios inquired about buying one — but do even they have money for four?)

I know that the arcade is basically dead in the United States, but sometimes I wonder if it's purchasing conditions such as these that helped kill the golden goose or if these prices and terms are necessary in order for game producers to turn what little profit there is to be had in what's left of the arcade industry.

Weekly Poll: Lazy Wii Days

Weekly Poll for 8-18-2008I know that 2D games can be a hard sell to some audiences these days, but those of you who haven't swung into Bionic Commando: Rearmed are really missing out.  Capcom and developer GRIN Entertainment have hit the sweet spot when it comes to merging classic gameplay with new visuals while tweaking some of the original concepts for modern expectations.  I don't care which platform you choose; just try it.  You won't regret it.

Now let's shift back into the world of the Nintendo Wii.  It's been a rather quiet summer when it comes to fantastic new titles.  Are you still playing the major releases from earlier this year or have you found other ways to spend your gaming time?  Are you still designing new stages for Super Smash Bros. Brawl?  What about dipping into the pile of older games you missed the first time around?  Have you drank from the Virtual Console or WiiWare wells?  Basically, what are all of you Wii owners out there doing until the next wave of major games arrives?  Let's hear your thoughts.