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February 2010

Darren Aronofsky's Pac-Man

Pac-Man We've been subjected to plenty of movies based on video games.  Consider the cinematic magic that sprang from titles such as Resident Evil, Doom, Mortal Kombat, Super Mario Bros., and Street Fighter, for instance.  One of gaming's all-time top earners has yet to have a turn on the silver screen, but sci-fi blog io9 has a way to turn this arcade quarter-muncher into a riveting paranormal noir piece with filmmaker Darren Aronofsky at the helm.  The game?  Pac-Man.

Guillaume Homme-Pac is a mentally-ill pensioner who lives in Sunset Park, Brooklyn. He is hermetic and only leaves the apartment to purchase anti-psychotic medication which he hoards using a number of forged prescriptions. He consumes near toxic amounts of these pills nightly, for every evening he is visited by four mysterious ghosts - Arnaud, Patrice, Benoît, and Clyde - who chase Monsieur Homme-Pac through the diseased labyrinths of his own mind. Although the medication keeps the apparitions at bay, it is eroding Homme-Pac's health and sanity.

Monsieur Homme-Pac's ex-wife Josette lives down the hallway from him. She still loves and cares for Guillaume, but his delusions placed an insurmountable strain on their marriage. Madame Homme-Pac is never seen without her trademark vermilion Givenchy beret. Josette supplies her husband with the prescriptions, but she hates herself for doing so. Unbeknownst to Guillaume, she too is haunted by four ghosts - Inès, Paulette, Babette, and Sue.

Of all the Pac-Man pitches I've heard over the years, this one is probably the most watchable.  It certainly beats coming up with the special effects or costume needed to depict an ever-hungry yellow sphere.  Still, I don't think there's a solid way to turn Pac-Man into a watchable film.  Some games just do not have any business being movies, Namco's long-standing power pellet-inclusive franchise being one of them.

Sixty Moments Of The Legend Of Zelda: The Wind Waker

The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker It's probably been a while since you played through Nintendo's 2003 GameCube adventure The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker (you have played it, right?), so it's time for a little refresher course.  DeviantArtist Peachifruit has created a "quilt" consisting of sixty adorable memorable moments from Link's pirate-themed adventure.  Take a sail down memory lane and revisit scenes with Aryll, Tetra, Medli, Makar, the King of Red Lions, and, of course, Ganondorf himself.  In the words of the artist:

This is the picture that's eaten up most of my drawing time for the past two months. I guess this is a "quilt"... each panel has a different scene from the game and there are 60 total. I never thought I would actually finish this.  It isn't perfect, but I gave it my best shot! Hopefully this picture has enough to make you go "Oh, hey, I remember that!"

It's been seven years since I explored the sunken remains of Hyrule, but this image brought it all rushing back.  I don't have the time to replay the game right now, but suddenly I really want to do it anyway.

(via Reddit)

The Method Behind Nintendo Of America's Localization Madness (Plus: Women Like Mario)

Fatal Frame 4 Do you ever wonder why certain titles for Nintendo's Wii never make it out of Japan?  Have you cried yourself to sleep at night because Nintendo of America passed on Fatal Frame 4 but gave Fossil Fighters plenty of time in the spotlight?  While you may find it hard to believe, Nintendo does not choose which games to take out of Japan at random.  The company's top people make quarterly pilgrimages to Japan to see what's new, what's coming, and what's right for international audiences.  Wired sat down with Nintendo of America's Cammie Dunaway to discuss why some games make the cut over others. Of course! Explain to me Nintendo’s philosophy on localizing games. Because it seems very clear to me that while most other videogame publishers make sure that most of the stuff that they publish comes out in other territories, sometimes even Nintendo games that come out in Europe don’t make it to America, like the Wii version of Trace Memory. It seems that Nintendo of America has a very restrictive approach and cherry-picks games.

Dunaway: The way it works is that Nintendo of America and Nintendo of Europe have teams who are responsible for going over to Japan three or four times a year, looking at what’s going on with the development teams, and making decisions about what makes sense to bring to the U.S. and when it makes sense to bring it here. I would argue that they are bringing a lot of great Japanese property here — I know you and I are great Professor Layton fans, and we finally got our Professor Layton 2, and hopefully we’ll get 3 sometime — I don’t know, but I’m hoping on it.

And bringing things like Fossil Fighters here, and certainly some of the lineup that we talked about today from things like Sin and Punishment, and also from a third party, bringing Dragon Quest IX, which we’re going to publish here in the U.S., Monster Hunter Tri, coming in a big partnership with Capcom to make sure that we really expose that content, which Japanese audiences love, to American audiences. So you’re right, we pick and choose, and we can’t bring everything. But I think that we’re working hard to try and bring a lot of those titles that did well in Japan to the U.S.

Well, that beats my theory involving an executive officer darts tournament.  But seriously, one of the great things about living in this modern era is that fans of unlocalized games have access to the knowledge and technology required to translate those games themselves, then release the translations for the rest of the world to enjoy.  Titles such as Fatal Frame 4 and Mother 3 are apparently unmarketable in North America, and yet they are available to play in English thanks to dedicated fans.

Continue reading "The Method Behind Nintendo Of America's Localization Madness (Plus: Women Like Mario)" »

Midday Mega Man Music Remix Moment

Yamato Man OverClocked Remix isn't the only group that can remix video game music.  Capcom does an excellent job of producing reworkings of some of their classic theme tunes, particularly in the Mega Man department.  Back when the company was celebrating the blue bomber's twentieth anniversary, a pair of remix albums were commissioned as part of the festivities: one featuring rock remixes, the other techno arrangements.  Check out this sample from the rock-oriented album headed up by Guilty Gear's Tohru Iwao in which Yamato Man's stage from 1994's Mega Man 6 has never sounded better.

People Seem To Like Battlefield: Bad Company 2

Battlefield: Bad Company 2 All kinds of people are talking about Battlefield: Bad Company 2 from Electronic Arts for the Sony PlayStation 3, Microsoft Xbox 360, and PC and how I need to play it.  It looks like the kind of game I'd enjoy in a single-player environment, but considering that it's multiplayer-intensive, I wouldn't stand a chance against the highly skilled and annoying people who populate online first-person shooters.  Instead I'll just watch the new "Quotes Trailer" and then get back to Dante's Inferno where I'm the one that dishes out the punishment instead of the other way around.  Are any of you eager to get your hands on this one?

Twenty-Five Years Of Castlevania's "Vampire Killer"

CastlevaniaIt's no secret that I love music from Konami's Castlevania series, so when I heard that Discoalucard at Hardcore Gaming 101 had made an epic medley featuring one segment from each game (minus one or two) in which the song "Vampire Killer" appears, I knew I had to give it a listen.  Presented as a walk through Castlevania musical history, the piece opens with the classic Nintendo Entertainment System version of the theme, advanced into Castlevania III: Dracula's Curse's take on the song (called "Deja Vu" on that soundtrack) and then blasts off through territory such as the Super NES's Super Castlevania IV, the Sega Genesis's Bloodlines, and beyond into the modern day's Game Boy Advance titles and other recent releases.

Will someone out there take up the task of creating similar works for long-time Castlevania tunes "Beginning" and "Bloody Tears"?  Consider the gauntlet thrown down.  The funny thing is that I'm not so sure this sort of thing could be done as effectively with other franchise music.  Mega Man themes don't recur that often.  The classic Super Mario Bros. overworld theme tends to appear as minor hints and tributes in unrelated songs.  The Legend of Zelda overworld theme could work if one didn't mind it being unsatisfyingly short.  Help me out here.  Which gaming franchise music lends itself to this style of presentation?

(via Retronauts)

Metroid: Other M Opens With Super Metroid Finale

Super Metroid Step back to 1994 and remember the thrilling climax of Nintendo's Super Metroid in which the baby parasite rescued by heroine Samus Aran saves her from a deadly end at the hands of Mother Brain.  It's one of absolute high points of the Metroid franchise and one of the most memorable moments in video gaming, so it's a pleasant surprise to find out that the upcoming Metroid: Other M for the Wii uses this moment as a launch pad to bigger adventures.  Phil Kollar lays it all out at Game Informer.

Since it takes place directly after the end of Super Metroid, Other M begins with an intense CG re-envisioning of the climactic scene from that 16-bit classic. Spoiler alert for those who haven't played it yet -- but seriously, what are you doing not playing Super Metroid if you haven't already? Samus's life is narrowly saved by a now-fully-grown Metroid who she she had rescued in its infant form. The deadly creature drains Mother Brain's energy and transfers it to Samus. 

Other M's plot, at least initially, seems to revolve around the mystery of how exactly the Metroid gave Samus that energy and how it has affected Samus. If these questions strike you as resting at a midichlorian-esque level of being unnecessary, you're not alone, but the high concept also serves the gameplay, leaving everyone's favorite lady bounty hunter more powerful than ever.

Ever since 2002's Metroid Fusion took Samus Aran in a strange, character-changing direction that'll be difficult to properly follow, Nintendo has taken the franchise back in time with prequels and interquels with the Metroid Prime trilogy, Metroid Prime Hunters, Metroid Prime Pinball, Metroid: Zero Mission, and other such projects.  All of these titles have taken place prior to Super Metroid, so for all of the backtracking we've done with her, we've yet to explore what happened to her after that adventure.  I'm glad to see that Other M fills in that gap.  If we're going to revisit key moments in Samus's past, let's go for the big ones.

Super Mario Galaxy 2 And Metroid: Other M Coming In May And June

Super Mario Galaxy 2Big news from the World of Nintendo today as North American release dates for the anticipated Wii titles Super Mario Galaxy 2 and Metroid: Other M have been announced.  Mark your calendars for May 23 for Mario's next adventure and June 27 for the return of Samus Aran.  I'm especially surprised that the Galaxy sequel will be "old news" by the time E3 comes up in June.  I'd expected it to be this year's major holiday Wii title, so Nintendo releasing it before mid-year makes me think that the company has something much more major up its sleeve for the end of 2010.  Most bets are on the next Legend of Zelda title, obviously, so I find myself wondering what Nintendo has left in the major franchise department in 2011 if it's giving us Mario, Metroid, and Zelda for Wii all in one year.  Could next year be the right time for the "B-Team" of Star Fox, F-Zero, and Kirby?

But I'm getting ahead of myself.  Here's the new Galaxy trailer:

I still love that Gusty Garden theme and I'm glad to see it turn up again in this trailer. Is it May 23 yet?

Wii're Ready To Believe You!

Ghostbusters Wii remote shell Last year's Ghostbusters: The Video Game for the Nintendo Wii came very close to letting players experience holding a neutrona wand to bust ghosts thanks to the Wii remote-centric gameplay, but it wasn't quite the same as wearing a proton pack.  Now a Ghostbusters fan by the name of Jack has bridged the gap by creating his own particle thrower Wii remote shell.  Back off, man.  He's a scientist.

Straight from Egon's lab, after months of Beta testing I bring to you the first ever fully fictional Wii-Proton Pack to be used in conjunction with the Nintentdo Wii version of the Ghostbusters Video game. The cyclotron features four blue LEDs allowing you to know which player is selected or active and the Blue Power Cell actually shows you how much power the pack has. The Thrower has been carefully designed in regards to ergonomics and function. The front of the wand has an area in which you can place the Wii-mote and the back handle is where the Nunchuck is placed. Since the Wii-mote has in internal speaker in it's ABS housing, when playing the game the pack makes all the iconic Ghostbusters SFX. And being that the Wii utilizes wireless technology, the wand is not tethered to the pack via a cord.

I usually look down on cheap cash-in remote shells, but this is a work of art.  Is it too late to mass produce these and offer them as part of a bundle package with the game?  I bet they'd sell very well regardless of cost.  Just about everyone in my generation would have to have one of these.  Doesn't that sound nice?

(via Kotaku)

Classic Gaming Kiosk Showcase

Nintendo KioskOne of the best ways for a video game retailer to attract attention at is to set up a flashy kiosk loaded with the latest and greatest titles.  Back in the 1980s and 1990s, kids came running at the sight of giant Game Boys, neon red Super NES stands, and jukebox-style Sega Genesis and Nintendo Entertainment System displays.  While not a common sight anymore, these old pieces of merchandising have their fans and a unique history.  Kombo's Lucas DeWoody has put together a little visual tour through some of the most memorable kiosks ever to grace your local Toys 'R' Us, Service Merchandise, Sears, and other such stores.

Here's a beauty that just reeks of 1980s design. Following Atari's lead, the NES used a push button setup to switch between game cartridges (ala PlayChoice-10). This one used standard corded controllers, and included a setting to limit play time (a feature that would be standard on kiosks until the age of demo discs). Most of these rare NES kiosks are extinct at this point, and the few surviving usually don't include their original monitor (even though the units themselves can hook up to any RCA AV jack). They were reserved for larger chain stores in major cities, and used a custom monitor and game switcher. Sega would use a similar setup with the Genesis in select Target and Toys 'R' Us displays.

These kinds of kiosks were a hallmark of growing up in the early Nintendo era.  It was always a treat to find one during a shopping trip to the big city, but unfortunately many of them were vandalized by an opposing console's overzealous fans.  If there's a circle of Hell just for gamers, then it's filled with broken control sticks, gouged buttons, and snipped wires.  Eventually the demo kiosks became a less common sight in favor of similar displays that simply showcased a loop of video.  I'll never forget the heartbreak of seeing Donkey Kong Country "in the wild" at a Target store for the first time in November 1994 only to discover that the action onscreen wasn't actually playable.