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November 2005

Xbox 360 Shortage? Not For The Stars

Xbox 360 bundleDid you ever stop to think that maybe the reason there's about to be a serious shortage of Microsoft Xbox 360s is because Microsoft is giving away the consoles for free to wealthy celebrities?  Giving celebrities and empty-headed socialites thousands of dollars in free goodies is nothing new in the world of marketing.  The idea is that if us common folk see the rich and the "beautiful" playing the Xbox or drinking Pepsi or wearing a trendy t-shirt, then we'll rush out and gleefully hand over our money for the chance to emulate the stars.  Now there's word that even though there aren't enough Xbox 360s to go to the paying customers, Microsoft is handing out the consoles to socialites such as Paris Hilton.

Here's my problem with this issue.  There already aren't enough Xbox 360 consoles to go around.  Xbox fans have been preordering for months and will soon be lining up in the streets for the chance to buy one.  How many more consoles would be available for purchase if Microsoft weren't handing them out like candy to people who couldn't care less?  I don't think it would even bother me so much if the people the company was giving them to were video game fans.  What tweaks me the most is that most stars will most likely take the free Xbox and put it in a closet or just toss it out.  I don't anticipate hearing Paris Hilton spread the gospel of Halo any time soon.  If Microsoft is going to give away free consoles then they should at least target stars that play video games and know something about them.  That way the company gets more bang for their marketing buck and the Xbox goes to someone who will actually appreciate and use it.

R.O.B. Is Real 2041

R.O.B. Kart #1Following up on last week's revelation that R.O.B. is a hidden character in Mario Kart DS, here are a few photos I took myself of R.O.B. in his many karts as proof that he's an actual character and not just a selectable kart.  Our little robo buddy has two unique karts to his name: one that is reminiscent of his real-world stand with the colored plastic disks and another that gives him a set of wheeled legs.

He's actually a good character to race with, as he has a high Speed rating and a great Item rating.  His two-legged form is a bit rough on handling, but I bet that whomever can master his quirks will become one of the best Mario Kart racers on the Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection.  Surprisingly, I haven't seen R.O.B. out "in the wild" yet.  In fact, the only unlockable character I've seen during online play as been Dry Bones.  More photos of R.O.B. behind the wheel can be found below.

Continue reading "R.O.B. Is Real 2041" »

Nintendo Plans Zelda Movie, Sequel To Super Mario

Super Mario Bros.: The MovieUPDATE: Not so fast!  Don't miss the rest of the story.

Cross your fingers, toes, and any other body parts you have that are crossable, as Nintendo is planning three movies based on some of their most popular video game franchises.  The company's own PR maven, Reginald Fils-Aime, has revealed that there are currently plans in the works to make movies based on The Legend of Zelda, Metroid, and even a sequel to the 1993 box office bomb, Super Mario Bros. (although hopefully it'll be a reboot rather than a direct sequel, and if you've seen the original movie then you understand why I say that).

There are so many ways that this could all go horribly wrong, but like most gamers I really want these films to work.  I want them to be fantastic movies, amazing well-written productions that build off of the best elements these games have to offer and expose a new audience to some of gaming's best characters.  I want talented directors at the helm and a cast that have actually played the games and know who these beloved icons are all about.  I don't want anything to be "reinterpreted", i.e. "In my vision I see this Zelda fellow as a swashbuckling prince who robs from the rich," or "Let's ask ourselves: does this Miss Metroid person have to be a woman?"   How anybody could ever hope to top Dennis Hopper's portrayal of King Koopa remains to be seen, of course. 

Capcom Classics Recreate Arcade Multiplayer Experience

PSPCapcom is working on bringing some of their popular arcade games from the 1980s and 1990s to the Sony PlayStation Portable.  You know the routine: Strider, Street Fighter, Captain Commando, 1941, and so on.  What catches my interest in this report from Next Generation is that the collection seeks to recreate the old arcade multiplayer experience of allowing Player 2 to jump in and out of the game on a whim.

[A]d-hoc networking is said to allow players to jump into or out of multiplayer titles just like putting quarters into an old arcade game would. Various screen options that take advantage of the PSP's wide format will also be available.

There's something you don't see everyday.  Many arcade ports include multiplayer options, but I can't recall such a collection using network play to allow other players to dip in and out of games at a moment's notice.  It's an intriguing idea and I'm interested in how Capcom implements the plan.  The arcade games themselves have been around the block time and time again, but this networking feature has me curious about this one.

Florida Town Seems Eerily Familiar

Resident Evil 4Browsing my way across the web this afternoon I came across a news article about a secret little town near Starke, FL that is primarily a massive correctional facility (i.e. prison).  The article makes the area sound like a little southern Area 51 where the people keep to themselves, convicts mow the lawns of the prison staff, and nobody talks about the place with outsiders.

When we asked [a resident] how long she had lived in the mobile home she declined to answer. When asked why she wouldn't answer she said, "I'd rather not because I don't want to lose my house." When asked why she would lose her house, she said, "For doing something against the rules." We asked if she was doing something against the rules and she said, "By talking to you."

The article makes the place out to be strange enough, but as someone who drove through this town last year during a hurricane evacuation that led me off the main highways and on to the backroads, I can confirm that it's a very private, very quiet, very unsettling community.  The more I thought back on the drive, the more the truth started to sink in.  In a case of art imitating life, the prison town seems to be a real-world version of Resident Evil 4's small simple town where the people keep to themselves and distrust outsiders with a violent and paranoid passion.  Starke has less parasitic monsters, however.  At least, as far as I know.

(via Fark)

Take My Money, Please!

Buy somethin' will ya!Earlier this week I caught the Mario Kart DS fever and decided to hunt down a copy of the game for sale early in the week.  On Monday afternoon I made some phone calls to area stores that sell games and asked when they expected to have the game for sale on the shelf.  The answer was the same at all the places I called: Tuesday morning.  Fair enough.  I would go on Tuesday afternoon and buy the game.  Since I'm telling you this story here then you can guess that it didn't go smoothly, and once again the problem lies with the fallacy of accurate release dates.

Continue reading "Take My Money, Please!" »

AMN Launches Xbox 360 Channel

AMN logoWith the launch of the Microsoft Xbox 360 growing closer every day the time has come for AMN to launch its latest channel.  AMN's Xbox 360 division launched just a few minutes ago, covering all of the latest news about the console and reviews of hardware and launch titles.  Tonight the Xbox 360 channel features a launch buyer's guide, a preview of Condemned: Criminal Origins, and much more.   Stay tuned for more great stuff from AMN in the future.

Nintendo Frowns On Sharing Friend Codes

Nintendo DSI'm trying to wrap my brain around this one and I just can't figure it out.  Maybe you can explain the rationale behind this to me.  Basically, what we have here is that Nintendo DS titles that can connect to the Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection allow for people to race against people they know through the use of Friend Codes.  These are unique twelve digit codes generated by the system.  In order for friends to race against friends, both friends must enter the Friend Code of the other player into their Nintendo DS.  Simply plugging someone's Friend Code into your Nintendo DS is pointless if the other person does not plug in your own Friend Code into their DS.

Now then, over on the official Nintendo forums it's been decided that forum members are not to post or swap Friend Codes in any way on the forum.  Isn't the whole idea behind the Friend Code to give out that magic number?  Keeping your own Friend Code a secret just guarantees that nobody will ever race against you in Friends mode.  Why the secrecy?  Why would Nintendo want people to keep these codes to themselves on the forums?  Keep in mind that it's not possible to communicate with other players during a game.  There's no danger of being able to seduce young children to the park with promises of candy and funny stories through the network.  Friend Codes only allow people who know one another to race together; no more, no less.  So, I ask again: what's the harm in sharing the codes?

Microsoft's Big Gamble

Joanna DarkI'll say this for Microsoft: they're optimistically cocky.  Next Generation has word that Microsoft and Rareware decided to go ahead and print up 700,000 copies of Perfect Dark Zero before the game had completed certification.  If the companies had waited for the game to be declared 100% working and complete then they would have missed the launch date for the Microsoft Xbox 360.

Having ordered replication of the disks, Microsoft and Rare had to cross their fingers for a positive certification. If Microsoft's notoriously strict procedure - which we understand was not eased for PDZ in any way - had failed, the disks would have been trashed and the game would have been late.

Can you imagine the anticipatory stress that the Dark team must have experienced during the window between sending the game to manufacturing and the completion of certification?  How many bottles of Pepto-Bismol and Xanax did those guys and gals down during that week?  I can understand why Microsoft decided to take such a chance.  After all the hype and hoopla of acquiring Rareware nearly five years ago, the company has to finally release something that equals or exceeds the Nintendo 64 glory days of Banjo-Kazooie and Goldeneye 007.  As Next Generation says, missing the launch date in this case would have been a sales and publicity disaster.  Microsoft has invested a lot of money in the company and they have to start bringing in profit and prestige before too much longer, I'd think.  Otherwise... well, maybe Sony would be interested in acquiring a twice-sold developer.

The Best Games Make No Sense

BlueskyIf you've been reading some of the various game sites around the Internet you've probably heard of the Blue Sky In Games campaign.  The campaign calls for a return to tradition fantasy worlds in video games instead of gangster ghetto adventures.  A sample of the campaign's wise words:

Games need BLUE SKIES! Games need BRIGHT YELLOW SUNS! Games need RED AND BLUE THINGS in them! We want to play in a HAPPY PRETEND LAND, not a shit version of an American slum full of mixed-race gangsters wearing licensed sportswear!  We want to COLLECT BANANAS FROM MAGIC CASTLES not earn respect from fictional gang leaders! We want to stun enemies with BOUNCE ATTACKS, not shoot them in unrealistic and shoddy drive-bys!

You know what?  They're right.  The best video games of all time make no sense.  A spiked fire-breathing turtle kidnaps a mushroom princess and only a plumber from Brooklyn that can grow a raccoon tail can rescue her.  The fastest hedgehog on Earth must race to collect seven magic emeralds in order to defeat the plans of a crazed genius mechanical developer.  A cosmic prince has to roll up a giant adhesive ball of garbage.  A dinosaur with a long tongue and a bottomless stomach must reunite a baby that fell from the sky with the stork so that he can be born while avoiding the turtle sorcerer who seeks to kidnap the child.  We encounter giant apes that throw barrels, yellow rats with a mean electric bite, and little blue robots that steal weapons from other robots in a specific order.  The best video games of all time make no fucking sense, and you know what?  I like it that way.