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July 2005

June 2005

Summer Means Gaming Bargains

GreedEveryone loves a discount on video games and the gang over at Cheap Ass Gamer have come up with a slew of sales.  Circuit City is supposedly having a major sale this coming July 4th weekend where many Xbox, PlayStation 2, Game Boy Advance, GameCube, and Nintendo DS titles are marked down to $9.99.  The catch, of course, is that the sale is only valid while supplies last, so don't expect any rainchecks.

Target is in the middle of their summer clearance sale where some Classic NES titles for the Game Boy Advance are marked down to a little less than $5 each.  Again, while supplies last.  Not all stores are offering these low prices, so be sure to investigate things before slamming a wad of cash down on the counter and laughing greedily.

Finally, Amazon is offering up Enter the Matrix for PlayStation 2 and Xbox for only $5.29 and $9.99 respectively.  The shipping cost on these items individually isn't such a good deal, but if you need a $5 item to push you up to the free shipping requirement of a $25 order, this could be the way to go.

The Philosophy Of Super Mario Sunshine

Mario and has an interview with Shigeru Miyamoto, Takashi Tezuka, and Yoshiaki Koizumi in which they discuss the evolution of Super Mario Sunshine for the Nintendo GameCube.  The interview (conducted when the game was released in Japan in 2002) covers how the development team decided to arm Mario with a water pistol, then a backpack device, and then finally the FLUDD waterpack.  The clean-up aspect of the game sprang from answering the question "What is Mario doing with a water pistol?".

It's an interesting three page piece, contains little technical jargon, explains just why the game has cinema scenes, and provides a good example of the process behind creating Mario's ongoing adventures  There's also a little lightheartedness thrown in for good measure, such as this:

Q: Is Isle Delfino a part of Mushroom Kingdom? It looks like Princess Peach could not exert her royal influence in the island.

YK: They are on vacation and visiting a foreign island, just like Japanese tourists traveling to Hawaii for pleasure. The faces and appearance of the island residents are completely different from those of the characters living in the familiar world of the
Mario series.

It Came From Across The Sea!

BandbrosNext Generation has a little guide to importing video games from other regions.  The article also suggests a few titles for bringing across the sea, such as Daigasso! Band Brothers and Namco X Capcom.  Importing video games can be an interesting experience; it gives you a neat conversation piece among your gaming friends and provides a little peek at what kinds of games are popular overseas.

At E3 this year one of the AMN crew had Daigasso! Band Brothers and while waiting for the Nintendo press conference to open we all pulled out our Nintendo DSs and played a few multiplayer rounds of do-it-yourself musical composition.  Other non-American DS games floating around at the show included the Japanese versions of Nintendogs (coming to America in August) and Mr. Driller: Drill Spirits (which, unlike its American counterpart, allows for single-game-card multiplayer).

A Look At Gaming's Afterlife

Sega Smash Pack1-UP has a feature that covers some of the history of emulating classic game consoles on modern PCs.  The article covers emulation's gray/black sheep status, all the way from unauthorized software to Yuji Naka's Nintendo Entertainment System emulator for the Sega Genesis to commercial offerings and beyond.  Some companies are even beginning to embrace emulation of old titles, such as Sega's Sega Smash Pack compilations for PC, Dreamcast, and Game Boy Advance.  Even Nintendo has emulation plans for the next generation of consoles.  Disappointingly, I saw no mention of the Classic NES series or the various other official emulated offers currently on store shelves.  Enjoy those old games and remember to always emulate legally.

Sega Plans For The Next Generation; Denies Sonic MMOG

Sonic the HedgehogSega has a new ally in its plans for launching games for the next generation of game consoles: the west.  In an interview with Next Generation, Sega of America's president, Simon Jeffery, outlines Sega's goal to assign their licenses and characters to North American development teams instead of their traditional Japanese development arm.  Sonic the Hedgehog and friends will be back, as will Virtua Fighter, Afterburner, and House of the Dead.  The catch?  Don't expect any of this for the launch of the Microsoft Xbox 360.  Sega isn't planning to dive into the new consoles until the end of 2006.

It's about time that Sega remembered that it owns characters and properties beyond a speedy blue hedgehog.  Remember, this is the company that passed on a proposed Streets of Rage 4 for the Sega Dreamcast because they forgot that they owned the property.  I'd like to see the return of Ecco the Dolphin, Ristar, and maybe even Comix Zone and The Ooze if they can be done right.

Finally, remember that online Sonic RPG that Panovation was supposedly working on with Sega?  Jeffery denies that Sega has any part in the project.

He said that online would be a "focal part of our business" but scotched recent rumors of a Sonic MMOG. "Some fan somewhere has way too much time on their hands," he said. "We are investing in the online space but Sonic is a brand that skews to the young and traditionally younger gamers are not part of the MMOG experience. I’d be amazed if we did that. It’s nothing that Sega has planned."

Nintendo Revolution Revealed In Patent Application?

Nintendo Revolution

UPDATE: Someone jumped the gun.  More below.

GamesRadar claims to have seen the patent that covers the revolutionary aspect of the upcoming Nintendo Revolution.  Has Nintendo blown their own secret by applying for a necessary patent?

The controller for Nintendo's upcoming Revolution console will feature gyroscopic, tilt-sensitive technology, an LCD touch screen, and a greatly reduced number of face buttons, according to documentation on the US patent website.

Searching the patent database for upcoming technology is an old trick in this day and age of accessible government documents.  Unfortunately for GamesRadar, their report fails to link to any such patent to back up their claims.  These claims also contain mention of an LCD touchscreen, something that Nintendo president Satoru Iwata has denied.

Continue reading "Nintendo Revolution Revealed In Patent Application?" »

Under The Hood Of The Xbox 360

Xbox 360Console-producing companies love to toss hardware specs around - 800 MHz this and 512 MB that - but it's not often that someone from the company sits down and actually explains what it all means in plain English.  TeamXbox has an interview with Microsoft's Todd Holmdahl in which he explains just what the Xbox 360 has in the way of inputs and outputs as well as a look at the technical capabilities of some of the hardware itself and some of the peripherals.  It's all filtered through marketing-speak, but reach beyond the buzzwords and there's actually some useful information in there.

Out of the box (North America), we will support component video (480i, 480p, 720p, 1080i) and composite video (all worldwide variations). Aftermarket AV cables will add support for S-video, enhanced SCART RGB, and VGA.

Jamdat Poised To Lead Mobile Phone Gaming

Jamdat Bowling, Bejeweled, and TetrisChances are that the little bowling or puzzle game that you play on your cell phone was released by Jamdat, one of the many companies that focuses on games for mobile phone and PDA platforms.  Business 2.0 has an intriguing piece about the company in this month's issue (although you have to be a magazine subscriber to read the article).  For those without access, here are some interesting tidbits from the article:

  • Jamdat holds 25% of the domestic phone gaming market.
  • Jamdat revenue is forecasted to reach $80 million this year.
  • The $7.50 per download Jamdat Bowling has been downloaded six million times since its release.
  • Jamdat recently paid $137 million dollars for the license to sell the official Tetris for mobile phones for the next fifteen years.

I've never been a fan of cell phone games, but I know people who can't get enough of them.  I prefer to carry my Nintendo DS with me if I think I'll have time for a game on the go, but casual gamers who just want to bowl or organize falling blocks would probably be happier with Jamdat's offerings over those of Nintendo.

Growing Up Zelda

LinkThe gang over at the rllmukforum is having a bit of a love-in for The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker, discussing some of the game's finer points and sharing their experiences on playing the game.  It's an enjoyable read and reminded me of a lot of little character and scene moments that I'd forgotten, and that in turn led me to thinking about my own experiences with the Zelda franchise.  The Super Mario games have always been my first gaming love, but there's something about The Legend of Zelda that demands respect.  This is probably because in recent years the Zelda franchise has helped me through a difficult time in my life.

Continue reading "Growing Up Zelda" »

CNN's 25 To Life Feeding Frenzy

25 To LifeGame Politics has a transcript of CNN's Nancy Grace talking with anti-game lawyer Jack Thompson and a variety of other lawyers and a psychotherapist about the upcoming video game 25 To Life.  As you'll recall, this is the "cops and gangs" game that Senator Chuck Schumer of New York wants banned right this moment before the game is even finished.  The comments from these talking heads are typical of the kind of rhetoric that comes from not knowing the complete story behind this week's scapegoat.  For people so rabid about the subject matter, they don't seem to know proper terminology.  Grace refers to 25 as a "video machine" at one point, for example.  Game Politics offers some interesting and informative line-by-line rebuttals, calling out false facts in the transcript.

As you read this transcript, pay attention to how Grace and her guests frame their sentences.  Although this plays out like an off-the-cuff debate, each and every spoken word is primed to invoke outrage.  There are plenty of loaded words and phrases in there: "murder simulators", "rewire the brain", an attack on Bill Gates for personally allowing this game to exist (as if he himself is out there coding it), and so forth.  The program also showed photos of real police officers who were killed in the line of duty at the same time the game's preview trailer was on screen.

I throw my arms up in disgust and frustration at this point; how can pro-game proponents possible hope to open such closed minds?  The panel did not include a single person who defends video games, ESRB or otherwise.  Nancy Grace is obviously going for the shock factor here, to incite and outrage her audience without presenting both sides of the story.  There seems to be a line in the sand when it comes to government and general media perspectives regarding video games: a game is either Winnie the Pooh's Happy Smile Time Adventure or Cop Killer 4: Blood Vengeance Rage.  Some of video gaming's biggest opponents have probably never picked up a controller.  Perhaps they should explore what they vehemently hate so much before making snap judgments and tossing around half-truths and loaded words.