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October 2005

Climb The Ladder

AMN logoI'd like to step away from mainstream gaming commentary and spend a moment focusing on something a little closer to home.  Today I was awarded a promotion at AMN to Senior Editor.  It's been an amazing ride so far as I've reviewed some stellar games, slogged through my share of woeful junk, survived the wild week that is E3, and have had the opportunity to write what I believe are some interesting articles and unique commentaries.  We have some big plans ahead at AMN and I have some new things I'm developing here at PTB, and I hope that all of you out there have come to enjoy my reviews and various ramblings.  I can't wait to see what happens next in this wild world we call the video game industry, and moreover I can't wait to be a part of it.

It's A Secret To Everybody

It's a secret to everybody.MCV has news that Nintendo is getting itself ready to launch the new Revolution console and that the company has a secret global launch plan to... hey, wait a minute.  If it's so secret, why is there an article about it?  Not much of a secret, is it?  Even the word "secret" is right there in the headline, fer cryin' out loud!  Hey Nintendo, here's some free advice: get yourselves a file cabinet with a lock on it.

The Power Of Pictures

World 1-11UP is celebrating the twentieth anniversary of the Nintendo Entertainment System this week with a retrospective of the console's highs and lows.  What caught my eye about the series, however, is the sidebar of today's installment.  It's screenshots and simple labels.  That's it.  Just screenshots.  No words on why these particular games are on display, no explanations of what makes these particular games worth showcasing.  That's the power of some of these seemingly simple games.  Super Mario Bros., Castlevania, Metroid, Mega Man, The Legend of Zelda, and their brethren are so iconic that they need no description or explanation.  Sometimes a simple screenshot just says it all.

Destroy All Humans! Briefly Comes To TV

Crypto 137The quirky and underrated Destroy All Humans! is headed to television.  FOX has picked up the license to the program and is currently working with Jim Dauterive of TV's King of the Hill on adapting the video game about an alien invasion on Earth into a weekly computer-animated series. 

Set in the 1950s, the third-person action game puts players into the bulbous gray head of Crypto 137, an alien who has landed on Earth and is intent on destroying it. The game takes a comic approach and spoofs '50s Hollywood B-movies.

I'm intrigued by this and will check the show out when it reaches the air, but I also remember that this is the FOX Network we're dealing with here, the network that gave the ax to Futurama, Family Guy, Wonderfalls, Firefly, The Lone Gunmen, and a handful of other shows with great potential and entertaining qualities.  If history holds true then if Destroy All Humans! turns out to be a work of genius we'll get to see four episodes on the air before the network cancels the show and drops the unaired nine episodes to DVD.  FOX has done it before and they'll do it again.

Nintendo Skips Retail, Sells Game Directly

ElectroplanktonRemember a little while back when I wondered what it would take to get game publishers and developers to skip retail and instead offer their games directly to the public?  It seems that Nintendo was listening to me.  The company has finally decided to unleash Electroplankton for the Nintendo DS and, for the first time, it will be available from Nintendo itself.

Electroplankton will be sold exclusively online and at the Nintendo World Store in New York. It will be carried by all major online retailers and at

This is a smart move for Nintendo.  Electroplankton isn't so much a game as a music creation program, and that's not the kind of thing that soars up the sales charts at Wal-Mart or Best Buy, but it could sell nicely in the online marketplace.  The gamers who truly crave Electroplankton have been following its progress and will surely snap it up when Nintendo offers it for sale.  It's also a great marketing point for them - "Own the game you can't buy in stores!".  I wonder if the North American version of the title will become "rare" later in life because of its limited availability.

There's no word on just how long Nintendo will offer the title, nor is there any indication of how many copies they're going to issue, so this may be something to snag sooner than later.  There's also no indication of a cost just yet, making me wonder if Nintendo will knock some of the retail markup off the price of the game to help move it a little more.  This is an interesting experiment and one that we should all watch as events unfold.

The Many Faces Of Puzzle League

Puzzle League's many facesNintendo loves Dr. Mario.  So far the popular puzzle game has appeared on the Nintendo Entertainment System, Game Boy, Super NES, Nintendo 64, Nintendo GameCube (in Japan only), and Game Boy Advance.  Now Nintendo is bringing it back for the GBA once again, this time pairing it with Puzzle League for a two-in-one game pak.  You remember Puzzle League, right?  Maybe you do and just don't know it.  In the past the game was known as Panel de Pon, Tetris Attack, and Pokémon Puzzle League.  Each version featured a different set of characters for the overall theme of the game.  The duo won't reach North America until December, but the Japanese version is already in stores and AMN imported a copy to check it out.

What's especially disappointing about this new compilation is that Nintendo has stripped all of the themes from Puzzle League.  As you'll recall, the original Japanese version of Panel de Pon featured Lip and her fairy friends, while Tetris Attack was loaded with characters from Super Mario World 2: Yoshi's Island and Pokémon Puzzle League was packed with Pokémon.  Now this new version offers no characters at all.  This would have been the perfect opportunity to include all three sets of characters to allow players to choose their favorite rendition of the game.  It's just a little touch, of course, and the important thing is that the puzzle game itself is intact.  Still, I can't help but feel that something has been lost in this port.  The soul has been ripped out of Puzzle League and this game deserves better.

Weekly Poll: Never Gonna Get It

Weekly Poll for 10-18-05The results are in and it appears that movies based on Metroid and The Legend of Zelda would be the most popular if done correctly.  I'm surprised that Castlevania didn't score higher.  It's the game I voted for, mainly because it wouldn't need much tinkering to make it a movie.  Unlike games where the hero or heroine is alone for most of the story, Castlevania comes with a supporting cast right out of the box.  Imagine an epic film version of Castlevania III: Dracula's Curse featuring main hero Trevor Belmont and his sidekicks Grant DaNasty, Sypha Belnades, and Alucard as they journey through the land to face Count Dracula.  I think it could be done very well with the right director and screenwriters.

Speaking of things we'll never get, this week's poll is a little different.  Over the years gamers have begged, screamed, and threatened companies for certain peripherals or options for various game consoles.  I've listed a few of these "But I want it!" ideas, but feel free to contribute your own in the comments below.  The field is wide open.  What feature or peripheral do you sorely want but know the game companies will never release?  Feel free to put "never" in quotation marks, as this is a wacky industry and one should never say never.  Still, let's agree that these items are improbable at best.

Exploring The Girlocity Of Super Princess Peach

Super Princess PeachThe apparently emotional Princess Peach's first starring role, Super Princess Peach, has been released in Japan and GameSpot has a first look at just how the game places.  As you'll recall, not too long ago gamers were skeptical of Peach's abilities that are tied to emotion, but now GameSpot paints a picture of a classic platformer with some puzzle elements.

Peach has four emotion-based powers that you can access by tapping the appropriate face icon on the lower screen. The four powers are happy, which replenishes your health over time; sad, which makes Peach cry a geyser of tears; angry, which surrounds you with a massive flame; and what appears to be something like content, which allows you to hover and fly for a short time. All these powers drain your emotion bar while it's in use, and you'll have to pick up enemies and then consume them to replenish it. You'll also find blue crystals scattered around each level that will give you back even more emotion power, and the game isn't stingy at all about letting you get your power back.

After reading this I have to admit that I'm more sold on the concept and hope to hear an announcement about a North American release.  Raccoon tails giving the gift of flight were unusual at one point as well, but now such events are just second nature.  The same destiny probably awaits the princess's powers of crying and anger.  Say, do you suppose there's a Midol power-up?  I swear, sometimes these snarks just write themselves.

Frogger: Ancient Shadow Review At AMN

Frogger: Ancient ShadowMy review of the multiconsole Frogger: Ancient Shadow has just gone live at AMN.  It's an odd game as it's a 3D platformer locked in a 2D camera angle that maintains the control scheme of the original Frogger arcade game.  That takes some patience to work through, as a few irritating design flaws really sour the experience.  Yet, despite that, I felt compelled to play on.  Since I kept coming back to the game that must make it good on some level, right?  The characters can be a little grating, but any game that breaks the fourth wall is alright by me.