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June 2005

May 2005

Squashed: It's Plagiartastic!

SquashedGame developers all hope to create the next big thing.  Of course, not all development teams are capable of coming up with their own original ideas.  For some companies it's just as easy to steal "borrow" ideas that have proven themselves successful in the marketplace.  Here is an example of that line of thinking.

Lost Levels has a look at the unreleased Squashed from Jaleco, a Nintendo Entertainment System platformer game that directly incorporates gameplay concepts and character clones from better games such as Super Mario Bros. 3, Mega Man 3, Ducktales, Ninja Gaiden, Mickey Mouse: Castle of Illusion, and Strider, among others.

Squashed seems to take further liberties from Super Mario Bros. 3 with Maru's ability to duck and enter some pipes on the ground, and to jump and enter pipes in the ceiling. Also, enemies emerge from pipes in many of Squashed's worlds. Furthermore, there's an auto-scrolling pirate-ship level in this game, which could only have come from one place. Finally, the six different kings being kidnapped and thanking Maru at the end of every stage is all too familiar.

I know that gamers tend to rag developers for being unoriginal these days, but Squashed deserves a prize for not having an original bone in its body.  I have no clue how Jaleco thought they could slip this game by the lawyers at Nintendo, Capcom, etc.

Revolution Launch Schedule In The Works

Iwata Mark your calendars, gang.  Spong has an article this morning outlining Nintendo's proposed plans to launch the Nintendo Revolution console in the three major markets - Japan, North America, and Europe - in the years to come.  According to the article, North America would receive the console first (mirroring the Nintendo DS launch schedule) in November 2006.  Japan would get their first crack at the machine sometime in December and poor Europe would have to wait until March 2007.

I'm of two minds on this proposed schedule.  On the one hand, I want the Revolution and I want it now.  On the other hand, I know how Nintendo likes to tinker with and improve their products right up until the last possible moment, so if a few extra months can make the next Nintendo generation even better then I'm willing to wait.  Casual gamers may not, however.  If the Revolution isn't coming until 2007 and the Xbox 360 is here now, why should people wait?  With up to a year and a half between the two (proposed) releases, why not buy a 360 this year and then pick up a Revolution in twelve or eighteen months?

I'm not one to encourage rushing, but Nintendo had better step up soon if they want to try and blow the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 out of the spotlight.  Keep a secret for too long and some people stop caring and just move on to the next thing in line.  Nintendo deserves better than that.

Richard Dean Anderson At E3 2005

StargateSome of the folks over at the TrekBBS asked that I post the pictures I took of Stargate SG-1's Richard Dean Anderson promoting the upcoming SG-1 game The Alliance at E3, so here they are.  Oh, and for those who may be wondering, the giant Stargate in the pictures is not a real prop from the television show.  JoWood Productions (the game's developer) created it themselves just for this E3 appearance.  And for the really detail-oriented fan out there, I didn't notice the Earth point of origin symbol on this gate.

Continue reading "Richard Dean Anderson At E3 2005" »

Xbox 360 Undergoes Rigorous Testing

Xbox360Microsoft has hired electronics testing firm Cimtek to put the early prototypes of the Xbox 360 through its paces.  As Globe and Mail reports, Microsoft wants to be sure that everything is A-OK with the 360 before it begins mass production of the console in September so it can meet a November launch date.

The machine was whisked into a secure zone of the building, where Cimtek employees had signed non-disclosure agreements and passed criminal background checks.

Microsoft spent years of research and development and billions of dollars on the Xbox 360, and it hired Cimtek to make sure nothing "comes up to bite them," as one executive at the electronics testing company puts it.

Everyone likes to toss around specs and capabilities, but it's not often that we on the outside of the various game companies hear very much about product testing.  Microsoft spent a lot of time and money making sure that the original Xbox performed to expectations and wouldn't melt in the heat or spontaneously combust.

While the article doesn't go into details on just how the 360 is being tested, I like to imagine a massive proving ground facility where 360s are bashed, burnt, frozen, flipped, dropped, and disemboweled.  The more punishment they put the prototypes through, the more likely Cimtek and Microsoft will detect any problems and hopefully fix them before the consoles reach us later this year.

PS3 Launch Price Speculation

PS3 ControllerThere's an article over at GamerLounge discussing speculation on the launch price of the upcoming Sony PlayStation 3 and how it may or may not compare to that of the PS2's original price.  Also of note is that Sony has supposedly set a cap among its business partners of no more than ¥40,000 for the launch price of the PS3 in Japan.  That's about $370 at today's exchange rates.

Personally, I'm preparing myself for an increase in costs in order to join the next generation of gaming.  Many publishers have been stating for months now that they plan to charge up to $10 more per title in the next generation and I wouldn't be surprised if the new consoles picked up an additional $50 or more price tag above what we have traditionally paid in the past.  When you're saving your pennies for the PS3's launch (or Xbox 360 or Revolution launches) you'd better toss in some dimes from time to time as well.  You just may need them.

Nintendo Talks Revolution Download Service

Nintendo logoDuring an interview with GameDaily one of Nintendo's PR directors, Beth Llewelyn, discussed Nintendo's plans for the Revolution's backwards compatibility with the Nintendo GameCube as well as the download service for playing classic Nintendo Entertainment System, Super NES, and Nintendo 64 titles.

BIZ: I thought the idea of giving Revolution owners downloadable access to Nintendo's catalogue of titles over the last 20 years was a brilliant idea, but one thing that wasn't addressed was pricing for these older titles. These aren't going to be free, right? There will be a fee per download?

BL: Probably, but we haven't gone into what these details will be and as we get closer to launch we'll describe what the program is, what the costs will be, what games will be available, etc. But we just wanted to get the news out there that this is something that we will be doing and it's something very unique to Nintendo.

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Illinois Legislator Claims Video Games Are Not Art

Deanna Demuzio Last week while the gaming industry was living it up in California at E3 the Illinois State Senate passed a bill regulating restrictions on the sale of video games to minors.  Illinois State Senator Deanna Demuzio is the Senator responsible for sponsoring this bill, and while Illinois is not the first state to consider such measures, what is particularly galling... what is particularly insulting... is Demuzio's statement to the press regarding video games.

"Video games are not art or media," she said. "They are simulations, not all that different from the simulations used by the U.S. military in preparation for war."

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EB Offers Free Paper Mario

Mario and his hammerNow this is a deal!  Playgressive has word that Electronics Boutique has last year's best RPG, Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door, on sale for $20.  While you're at EB pick up the May catalog to find a $20 mail-in rebate.  Presto!  Free Paper Mario. The rebate is for $20 off a future purchase.

If you've been holding off on Paper Mario then now is the time to act.  It was one of the best games of 2004 and one of the few that I kept coming back to long after I'd moved on to other games that needed reviewing.  Metroid Prime 2: Echoes sat unopened on the shelf for a month because of Paper Mario.  Honestly, it's that good.

Thanks to Mike for posting a comment below that details his experience picking up the game for cheap and inquiring about the rebate process.

Now, go forth!  Rogueport needs you!

Revolution's Revolution Is Covered By A Flap

RevolutionSpong claims to have had a chance to paw the Nintendo Revolution prototype box.  Items of interest from this fondling session include the discovery of one flap that conceals four Nintendo GameCube controller ports and another sealed flap that apparently hides the revolutionary aspect of the Revolution.

Another flap, the important and ominous-looking one on the front, would not open."There's a clue there," we were told by senior Nintendo staff today as we pawed the hardware, which we could power on and off and fully examine. "That's the Revolution, right there."

Incidentally, the bitterness is strong over at Spong these days.  One article describing Sega's next-gen plans began by labeling everyone at E3 as "dorks" and then this article looks down upon those attending the pre-E3 Nintendo press conference as "16-year-old "CEOs"".  You're not going to win any fans with those kinds of remarks, Spong.  When one is among a massive trade show of video games nobody should be looking down on anybody else.  Some gamers get enough teasing in their daily lives.  That attitude shouldn't spill over into E3.