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December 2005

Memories In A Box: The Best Video Game Compilations

Super Mario All-Stars After more than two decades of cranking out hit titles, the game industry has come to love compilation cartridges and discs.  Publishers can crank out collections for relatively nothing in terms of cost, and fans can pick up a slew of their old favorites in a single box for a low price.  However, as compilations have matured over the years some companies have become lazy about the process.  One can always tell which collections have been treated with love and which collections are seen as a quick cash-in during an otherwise slow sales period.  Today there are all kinds of retro compilations out there, but these five stand above the rest.  Seek them out the next time you venture to your favorite local game shop.

Continue reading "Memories In A Box: The Best Video Game Compilations" »

Piano Hill Zone

Sonic the Hedgehog Band!! The latest "guy plays classic video game music on his piano" video to float around is this fellow and his rendition of various songs from Sonic the Hedgehog.  It's quite impressive and just goes to show how much game publishers need to release their songs arranged for piano, guitar, and other instruments.  There's a smattering of officially licensed sheet music out there (mostly in Japan and mostly from Square-Enix), but where are the official sheet music books for Super Mario, Sonic, Mega Man, Donkey Kong, Legend of Zelda... heck, basically the entire gamut of classic game music from 1985 onward.  I don't expect every theme tune ever to be released as sheet music, but at least give us the good stuff.

Dedicated fans are able to work out some of the tunes for themselves (such as Gori Fater and his Sonic tunes), but let the record show once again that I want something official.  I'm not going to perform it for a profit and I'm not going to score my own homebrew game with it.  I just want to be able to bang out a little Green Hill Zone theme or the overworld theme from Yoshi's Island for my own amusement (and to impress the ladies, oh yes).  In the meantime don't miss Gori's website where he so kindly shares his arrangements from games such as Starfox, Donkey Kong Country, Sonic the Hedgehog (of course), and much much more.

(via 4 color rebellion)

Weekly Poll: Compulsory Compilations

Weekly Poll for 12-11-2005 Let the record show once and for all that video games do not cause violent behavior, and anyone who disagrees with that verdict should get kicked in the shins.

Moving on, let's talk about compilations and collections.  A lot of popular video game franchises have been immortalized in anniversary sets and so forth.  Mario, Sonic, and Mega Man have each appeared in such collections (and in some cases, two or three).  However, there are plenty of long-running game series that deserve the compilation treatment.  After all, The Powers That Be can only repackage Super Mario World and Sonic The Hedgehog 2 so many times.  It would be nice to see some older titles that haven't seen much love lately to return in a commemorative set.

Personally, I want to see a proper Metroid set that features a dressed-up Metroid II: The Return of Samus and Super Metroid in addition to the original game (with or without the Zero Mission enhancements) or a detailed Castlevania set for Game Boy Advance that includes the first three games in the series.  Which franchise do you want to see done up in such a fashion?  Cast your vote and leave some comments.

Playing Clayfighter Extreme In The Smokey Underground

Sonic X-Treme A lot of us out there like to think we collect rare games, such as the Aero the Acrobat 2 or a handful of Nintendo Virtual Boy titles.  Then there are those people out there who actually do collect rare games, but in this context "rare" refers to a prototype game that someone went halfway around the world to acquire, and  "acquire" refers to paying a lot of money to Indonesian sea pirates.  Welcome to the dark smokey underground of obscure game prototype collections.

In a smoke-filled room with low lighting, one regales me about the time he privately shipped a Harley Motorcycle to Japan in exchange for a one-of-a-kind piece of hardware stolen by Indonesian sea pirates. While another muses about the time he had to call Korea and explain that a mysterious MSX labeled package did not in fact contain MSX missile parts.

Video game developers and publishers are not too happy to see their unreleased property made available online, and so the legal battles and cease-and-desist orders are always in the way of these hardcore collectors.  Meanwhile the rest of us gossip about their activities.  Some of the prototypes locked away in various safes include Clayfighter Extreme for the Sony PlayStation, Shenmue for the Sega Saturn, Mother 3 for the Nintendo 64DD, and even the long lost Sonic X-Treme.  The prototypes are not always playable games, but that doesn't stop the collectors from spending a lot of money and taking a lot of risks to acquire them.  Somehow my little Virtual Boy copy of Jack Bros. doesn't seem so impressive anymore.

You're Not Spending Money Fast Enough!

GreedichuThe latest iteration of the film King Kong opened on Wednesday and some are already lamenting its box office failure.  For a film with a $300 million budget on which the industry has painted a giant "summer blockbuster" label, the movie "only" took in $16 million during its first two days of release and "only" placed twenty-first on the list of all-time Wednesday opening days.  Opening weekend isn't even half over at this point.  Some analysts and fans are decrying the movie as a bomb, a dud, and a junker based on this initial information. 

What's the mentality here?  That if a giant movie doesn't bring in umpty-billion dollars on its first day, it's a dud?  The movie-going public has lives to live and seeingthe 187 minute King Kong probably isn't at the top of everyone's to-do list right now.  It's not at the top of mine right now.  I have a free promotional ticket to go see it and I'm not even sure if I'll get out to the theater.  Money is usually tight in December thanks to the holiday shopping season, and with Hollywood's recent track record most people are probably planning to just catch the film on DVD later.  There's nothing wrong with that.  We, the public, are able to spend our money how we please.

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PTB Has Temporary Provider Issues

Mario and his hammerLast night during routine maintenance PTB's provider, Typepad, suffered a series of errors that knocked PTB and other Typepad sites offline for most of the morning.  When PTB came back online later in the day the last week of data had been temporarily lost, and although the text is back now, the images added in the last week are still missing.  I'm told they will be restored over the weekend along with any other missing data.  Thanks for your patience while things get back to normal.  Bumps in the road such as this happen from time to time, but everything will be repaired in due time.

Tomayto, Tomahto

Mario Teaches Typing Quick, pick the correct term: "video game" or "videogame"?  The question regarding which of the two terms is the correct way to describe electronic games displayed on a screen has come up again as some people are starting to push for one spelling over the other.  Why should there be a controversy?  In this big modern world of ours, who is to say which spelling is the right one?

I am.  I say that "video game" is the correct way to spell the term.  We say it as two words, so why not spell it that way?  Whenever I see "videogame" I parse the pronunciation in my head as "vih-day-oh-gah-may".  We don't play vihdayohgahmays.  We play video games.  Let's continue to spell it that way.

What Could Have Been: Gaming's Lost Opportunities

Diddy Kong PilotThere's a fascinating topic over at the rllmukforum in which people are discussing video games that never actually made it to the store shelf.  There's some long forgotten titles being tossed about and some interesting screenshots of early beta versions of games that would eventually end up dead and unfinished.  Marvel at Resident Evil for Game Boy Color, be unimpressed by Freak Boy for Nintendo 64, lament over the demise of Air NiGHTS for the Sega Saturn (with real 3D motion sensor technology), and wonder what Super Mario FX was like when it was considered for the Super NES before it became Super Mario 64.  There's also plenty of talk on games that became other games, such as Dinosaur Planet evolving into Star Fox Adventures, Wave Race 64 ditching its F-Zero connection and becoming a jet-ski game, and the spin-off sequel Diddy Kong Pilot undergoing a makeover after the Nintendo/Rare breakup to become the impressive motion sensorized Banjo-Kazoomie with its 3D voxel engine that was eventually stripped down to become Banjo Pilot.

It's always interesting to see how games evolve and change during development and how some games go through many revisions before reaching a final production version.  Remember the original Kirby's Air Ride for the N64 with its random levels?  Then there's the sad fate of games that are shaping up to be impressive but fall apart when a publisher goes under or an idea is declared unprofitable by the marketing department.  So many horrible games are released every year and yet intriguing titles like Donkey Kong Plus or Dead Phoenix land on the side of the road like yesterday's trash.

Sega Dreamcast Will Return (Sort Of)

Sega DreamcastRemember the rumors from earlier in the week that Sega was about to relaunch the Sega Dreamcast?  Well, it's true, but not the way that you think it is.  Basically the company has decided to take all those broken and returned Dreamcasts that have been sitting in a warehouse since the dawn of the millennium and fix 'em up in order to sell them directly to customers online for $90 or so (limit one Dreamcast per customer).  They aren't new consoles by any means, but are instead refurbished consoles, so don't be surprised if they have little scratches or dents on them.  The hardware is guaranteed to work, but the consoles will obviously have a few miles on them.

So in the end this is Sega clearing out a warehouse and making a little revenue on the side.  No new consoles will be produced, nor will these particular refurbished consoles be available in stores.  If you've wanted a Dreamcast and haven't been able to find one on the used game circuit, then this is probably your best chance to get one.  You're on your own for games though.  Sega doesn't have many refurbished Sonic Adventure 2 discs sitting around.

King Kong Is Perfectly Dark

King Kong in the dark Et tu, Ubisoft?  It seems that playing the new King Kong for the Microsoft Xbox 360 on a non-HD television doesn't work so well.  Specifically, standard televisions display the game as way too dark.  So dark, in fact, that it's not possible to see the action in the game.  The excuse offered up by the company is that nobody bothered to develop or test the game on a standard television.

The Ubisoft boss said the team who made the game used certain settings on high-definition TV screens.  It did not occur to them that there would be a problem with standard televisions, which are what most people use to play console games.

How could the developers not test King Kong on a standard television?  Many game development companies have bought into the high definition future, and that's all fine and good, but the breakdown happens when the developers lose sight that the majority of their audience isn't playing on a HDTV just yet.  Some would argue that anyone playing the Xbox 360 on a standard television is missing the point of the console anyways, but unless the game says something like "only playable on HDTV" on the box, this kind of snafu is just plain careless.  Ubisoft should do the right thing here and fix the problem with a patch on Xbox Live (which I'm not crazy about, but that's a soapbox for another day) and by replacing the defective game discs via mail or retail for gamers unable to get the patch online.  There are enough anti-customer publishers out there.  We don't need another one.