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June 2013

Wii News, Forecast, And Other Channels Discontinued

Wii News ChannelOne of the non-gaming features of the Nintendo Wii that was often crowed around years ago is the selection of channels available from the console's menu that would allow players to use the Wii remote to read news, check the weather, vote on poll questions, and interact with the community.  Now that Nintendo is focusing on the Wii U has its flagship console, the company has turned off the News, Forecast, Everybody Votes, Nintendo, and Check Mii Out Channels for the original Wii.  Attempting to access them now displays an error message stating that the service in question has ended and thanks users for their participation.  Circle of life and all that.  Coffee With Games has more information.

While we used the Forecast Channel, Everybody Votes Channel, Check Mii Out Channel, and News Channel, none of them were used anywhere near as much as the Nintendo Channel in our house, and some of them hadn't been used regularly in years. The Nintendo Channel was by far my favorite Wii Channel and not just because of the data, but also because Nintendo started things like Nintendo Week on it and it provided a good way to watch trailers of new games coming out as well.

These channels were the product of an odd era when Nintendo knew that people wanted more from their devices, but missed how new technology was about to change the ways that we consume information.  It's been years since I used any of the Wii channels now that news and weather data is more readily available via my iPhone.  Everybody Votes was a neat novelty that grew stale quickly and I've never been much of a fan of customizing multiple Miis.  The Nintendo Channel was worthwhile when it offered downloadable Nintendo DS demos, but those were few and far between even when the service was at its peak.  I can't say I'll miss the channels, but it's always sad when functionality is removed from a device. 

(via GoNintendo)

Phone Sex Secret In The Last Of Us To Be Removed

The Last Of UsNaughty Dog's new The Last of Us for the Sony PlayStation 3 featuring many harrowing moments and surprising twists, but one of the more unusual and unexpected elements turns out to be an advertisement for a pest control service that lists a phone number which, in reality, leads to a phone sex hotline.  Oops!  Kotaku reports that developers are aware of the background element and that a future patch will remove the naughty number.  Here's Kirk Hamilton explaining:

I asked the game's creative director Neil Druckmann about the phone numbers, and how they got into the game.

"That was an artist's mistake," he said. "What happened was, they put some phone numbers in the game and then they thought they could just change the area code to 555, then it's invalid because it's what they do in movies. But I guess that doesn't work when you have a 1-800 in front of it.

"We're now working to take it out," Druckmann said. "It was just an honest mistake."

Whenever fiction goes to the trouble of sharing a phone number in a clear manner, it's usually an invitation to call and see who answers.  Transmedia producers loves a good alternate reality promotional game these days and we've seen in-game phone numbers lead to related messages before.  The 555 phone number is a time-honored fictional tradition, but not every 555 phone number is fake.  Only 555-0100 through 555-0199 are reserved for fake numbers, but what really bit Naughty Dog here is that the only fictional 1-800 number these days is 800-555-0199.  It's either an amazing coincidence that Last's pest control flyer listed phone sex hotline numbers of one of the studio's artists decided to sneak something unauthorized into the set dressing.  Either way, the numbers are on their way out.  If the new flyer listed a phone number other than 1-800-555-0199, I really hope that the studio calls it before releasing the update to be sure that it leads to somewhere appropriate.  If they're smart, they'll set up a number that only plays Clicker noises when answered.

Sony Dropped PS4 Camera To Undercut Xbox One Price

PlayStation 4 camera

Sony stole the show at E3 by countering Microsoft's policies regarding the used game market and announcing a launch price for the PlayStation 4 that undercuts the Xbox One's debut cost by $100, but IGN reports that the victory came at great cost to the PS4's camera accessory.  The original plan at Sony involved bundling the camera with the PS4 as Microsoft has packed its new Kinect with the Xbox One, but in order to get the PS4's price down to $399, the camera had to go.  Here's Scott Lowe with the story:

Microsoft's decision to bundle a Kinect with each Xbox One and require it for use may be unpopular, but it guarantees that every user will have the option to try Kinect-enabled games and experiences. For developers, it means that Kinect integration is no longer a costly gamble on a small subsection of Xbox owners — motion-detecting and voice-sensing elements can be anything from a small optional game enhancement or the primary control method.

By relegating the camera to a $59.99 add-on, Sony has ensured the opposite — a climate of codependency wherein PlayStation 4 camera adoption will hinge upon compelling software, but compelling software will only arrive after PlayStation 4 camera adoption.

There's still a way to push the camera into homes if that's what Sony truly wants to do, and it involves a strategy that Nintendo tried years ago: bundle the camera with a truly amazing game.  Donkey Kong 64 was packed with the required Expansion Pak.  Mario Party 6 included a microphone.  Donkey Konga came with the DK bongo drumsAnimal Crossing: City Folk featured the Wii Speak peripheral.  The flip side to this strategy is that none of those accessories really caught on with the mass market and few of those games were really that amazing, sadly, but maybe Sony would have more luck with the idea if Uncharted 4 or the next God of War sequel required the camera in a way that was beneficial to the game and didn't completely irritate the audience with tacked-on camera functions.  The camera needs to be something that players see as indispensable.  Make that happen and sales will follow.

(via USgamer)

Mega Man's Smash Bros. Appearance Fully Analyzed

Mega ManIt's been a rough few years for Mega Man fans considering all of the disappointments with canceled games and general poor treatment of the franchise.  The best news for the character in years has to be his inclusion in Nintendo's upcoming pair of Super Smash Bros. sequels for the Wii U and 3DS.  So far we've only seen Mega Man appear in a trailer and screenshots, but that hasn't stopped David Oxford over at The Mega Man Network from analyzing what we know and looking into Mega Man's past to see how Masahiro Sakurai and his team are doing their best to be true to the character.

All said, I’m really enjoying this new design. I’ve seen some say that it throws out the years of evolution his design has had since the NES days, but I disagree. Rather, much like the modern Mega Man and Hitoshi Ariga’s take on the character, I see this as a third, separate evolution from the same basic source. Capcom’s official art elongated the limbs and made the design make a little more visible sense in how the parts all fit together, while Ariga’s kept the more ballooned limbs and added lots of details such as vents, panel lines, bolts, and rivets.

Both have served the character well in the past, but moving forward, one might argue a change might be needed, if only for the prolonged survival of the series/franchise/character outside of our relatively little (and possibly dwindling) niche. Mario, Link, Samus, Sonic, Snake, and even (rather abruptly, intentional though that was) Pit have all evolved and changed over time. Mega Man, in his Capcom form? Not so much.

David digs deep into Mega Man history with his analysis, bringing up points from familiar games like Mega Man 2 and more obscure titles such as Super Adventure Rockman.  It definitely looks like Nintendo and Capcom are creating the ultimate well-rounded incarnation of the character for Smash, distilling everything that makes him so much fun into a single form.  The way things are going, I can already tell you that Mega Man will be the first character I'll pick when I play the new Smash Bros. (assuming he's available from the start).  He has so much going for him in terms of design and nostalgia that he's such an easy choice here.  I have confidence that Mega Man will help make the next Smash game truly one for the ages (particularly for folks my age who grew up playing the Nintendo Entertainment System adventures).  Fond memories are a powerful draw.

Conan O'Brien Explores E3

TV's Conan O'Brien made the short journey to the Electronic Entertainment Expo a few weeks ago to see the big new Sony PlayStation 4 and Microsoft Xbox One titles firsthand.  Conan's not much of a gamer, but he's learning about the industry a bit at a time.  He's easily distracted though as this video bit from Conan demonstrates.  Stick around to the end to see Conan check out Mario Kart 8 at the Nintendo booth and meet the voice of Mario, Luigi, Wario, and other famous Nintendo characters, Charles Martinet.  Conan clearly cannot figure out what to make of Martinet as the actor rapid fires his way through his most famous characters.  There's some "ha ha, nerds" humor in there as Conan is bemused by the experience and of course he has booth babes on the brain, but it's nice to see him venture into the expo without knowing much about the new consoles and still seemingly enjoy himself and find the potential to entertain.

Continue reading "Conan O'Brien Explores E3" »

OUYA Openly Advertises Piracy Potential Of New Console

OuyaDo you remember hearing about the OUYA last year when it became a Kickstarter darling?  It's a $99 home console that plays games for the Android mobile OS.  On paper, it's not a bad idea.  In practice, it's getting some less than stellar reviews.  I'm not here today to bury the OUYA though.  I'm here to marvel at the new company's boldness in advertising the OUYA console using a screenshot of Nintendo's Super Mario Bros. as an example of one of the classic games the hardware can emulate given the right software.  Check out this tweet from the official OUYA account, @playouya (the linked image has since been deleted, but my pal Joey Davidson at TechnoBuffalo snagged it earlier):

OUYA isn't the first legitimate console to run emulators, but it may be the first to proudly wear its copyright infringement applications on its sleeve.  The company has maintained over the past few months that it's not responsible for what developers create and users run for OUYA, but I think it can be held responsible for advertising that Super Mario Bros. is playable on the console in this manner.  This reminds me of when I'd go to the mall in the late 1990s and early 2000s and see those little kiosks manned by slimy people hawking a game controller with a basic NES-on-a-chip inside preloaded with dozens of pirated or hacked versions of Super Mario Bros., Mega Man, Contra, Castlevania, Adventure Island, and other games that clearly were not properly licensed from the property owners.  I thought OUYA was supposed to be better than that.  I used to report those kiosk vendors to Nintendo's copyright enforcers with the hope that the company would bring the legal hammer down.  I find myself starting to wish the same thing on OUYA if the company is going to blatantly rip off competing properties for their own commercial uses, but if this was just an oversight that comes with retweeting content, then I hope they'll be more careful next time.

It's Time For Another Video Game Sale Today

Buy somethin' will ya! is running another of its Gold Box and Lightning Deal sales that focuses exclusively on video games.  All day long you'll find games for a variety of consoles going on and off sale and a portion of each purchase you make via the green link above goes to help support Press The Buttons.  The big item on offer today is a 320 GB Sony PlayStation 3 bundled with Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception and thirty days of PlayStation Plus for $250.  Games included in the Lightning Deals include 007 Legends for the Nintendo Wii U, Call of Duty: Black Ops II for the PS3, LEGO Batman 2, Dead Island: Riptide, Hakuoki: Warriors of the Shinsengumi, Ni No Kuni, Aliens: Colonial Marines, and much more.  It's a great time to stock up on those titles you may have missed over the past few months, so get yourself a little something to help pass the time.

Wii U Owners Call For End To Regional Lockouts

Region unlockIf you want to play a Nintendo Wii U game from a region other than your own, you'll have to buy a console from the same place.  A Japanese disc won't work in an American system.  It's an old practice in the entertainment industry called region locking and it's used to help control prices and consumer demand.  The practice is starting to fall out of favor as video game fans have been able to import unreleased games from other countries; Sony opened up the PlayStation 3 to international games, for instance, and the PlayStation 4 and Microsoft Xbox One will follow suit when released later this year.  Modern Nintendo machines, however, hold fast to the old ways.  Now a group of Wii U owners have appealed to Nintendo via Miiverse to put an end to the practice of region locking.  Kotaku has the story.

Nintendo fans are congregating on Twitter, the Wii U's Miiverse, and message boards like NeoGAF. Their goal: get the 3DS and Wii U region-free, so people can play Nintendo games from any country.

I was in a local used game store over the weekend and while browsing the GameCube section, I found a copy of Doshin the GiantDoshin was never released in North America; this was a European disc for sale.  Thanks to its rare nature in this country, the store was asking $80 for it.  I couldn't do anything with it if I'd bought it since I do not own a European GameCube, so I had to leave it behind.  Had Nintendo done away with region locking a decade ago, I could have bought the game and played it on my American console.  I wish the Miiverse petitioners good luck, but as long as Nintendo holds its iron-clad values when it comes to international release strategy, I wouldn't count on the company unlocking its hardware anytime soon.

Visit The Dungeons Of Hyrule On An Audio Adventure

The Legend of Zelda: Symphony of the GoddessesEveryone loves to remix and adapt the famous overworld theme from The Legend of Zelda, but the franchise has its share of memorable dungeon themes that deserve their own share of attention.  Nintendo has released a video from the traveling The Legend of Zelda: Symphony of the Goddesses concert series in which the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra at the Hammersmith Apollo, London performs a medley of beloved dungeon songs from across the franchise.  It's just what you need on this Friday.  Be sure to pick up the boss key on your way to the inner sanctum or else you'll just have to backtrack.

Prepare For Lift-off With Donkey Kong Musical Moment

Donkey Kong and Diddy KongThe soundtrack for 2010's Donkey Kong Country Returns for the Nintendo Wii (recently brought down to size for the Nintendo 3DS as Donkey Koung Country Returns 3D) is packed with nostalgic remixes and rearrangements of themes from the original Donkey Kong Country title, but it also contains its share of worthwhile new music.  While the game's flying jetpack barrel levels can be a major frustration, their anger factor is mitigated by the truly jamming theme that accompanies the flight.  Because your day needs some happiness, enjoy "Lift-Off Launch" and take note of some classic Donkey Kong leitmotifs that are strung throughout the piece.  It's a new song, but is made up of little bits of older ones almost as if those old Kong memories are ushering you onward to victory like an old friend stopping by to say hello during a difficult point in your life.  It's reassurance for the digital age.