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January 2006

Nintendo Announces New DS

Nintendo DS Lite Well, that's the last time I trust the word of Nintendo's David Yarnton.  Less than a day after the Nintendo executive stated that there would be no new Nintendo DS redesign for quite some time, Nintendo announces a new DS redesign.  What the hell, Nintendo?  I understand that not everyone in the company is allowed to know everything, but at least make sure the quotes your people are giving to the press and the general public are correct!  Anyways, here comes the Nintendo DS Lite.  The major differences include adjustable screen brightness levels, a smaller overall unit size, and a change in button layout.  I'm not sure where I stand on the unit, as I'd have to try one and see just how much smaller it is before deciding to buy one or not.  I actually kind of like the original DS's heftiness.  The price for the new unit is... you know, hold on, wait a minute.

Keeping quiet about a new product is one thing, but misinforming fans is far worse.  I've become trained to filter out wild rumors from fansites and message boards and to accept the word of Nintendo's own people as truth.  When I can't trust Nintendo's representatives anymore, we've got a problem. Granted that, in hindsight, Yarnton probably didn't know this news was coming, but now I and everyone else who believed him and published a story about the lack of a new DS design looks completely foolish.  I mean, on PTB it's the next flippin' story on the front page right now.  This kind of thing reflects badly on me and everyone else who went along with it.  Dishonesty doesn't help anyone, as it hurts credibility.  I won't be taking Nintendo's word so easily anymore, at least not for a while.  I hope you all out there, in turn, won't look down upon me too harshly for believing and publishing a statement from Nintendo's own people.

What really gets me is that not too long ago I called for an end to "we do not comment on rumors" as an answer from publishers when the media called up with a question.  I said that it'd be nice for companies to actually provide an answer once in a while.  I should have been more specific.  I want companies to provide the correct answers to questions.  So, what have we learned from this incident?  We've learned that Nintendo can still surprise us.  We've learned that Nintendo will not always tell the truth.  We've learned that even wild rumors can be true sometimes.  We've also learned not to trust David Yarnton when it comes to rumor control.

DS Redesign Still Months Away

Nintendo DSUPDATE: David Yarnton deceived us all.

Do you already have some spare change set aside to buy a redesigned Nintendo DS?  Hang on to it for a while, because Nintendo's David Yarnton has said that the company has no plans to reveal a redesigned unit at or before this year's E3.  The rumors have been flying for weeks that Nintendo was days/hours away from revealing a new DS at a surprise press conference, but as these supposed deadlines come and go there is nothing to see.  Hopefully Yarnton's comments will put this rumor to rest for a while.

As for an eventual DS redesign, I'd probably be open to buying another iteration of DS hardware provided the new design was improved in some manner.  I say this not because I feel the need to buy the same game device over again, but because my DS has seen a lot of play since I took it out of the box in November 2004, and since it's always in my pocket when I go out it's started to gather scuffs and general wear.  It still plays wonderfully, it's just looking a little weathered.  Who knew that shuffling a DS in and out of my pocket day after day would cause little bits of cosmetic damage?

My concern is that as time goes by additional wear and tear will lead to actual damage or malfunctions.  Nintendo makes great hardware so it's not like I'm babying my DS in fear, but I also remember the fate of my original 1989 Game Boy that sadly passed away not too long ago after suffering from a dying screen for many years.  The DS is different technology of course, but my worry is that the principle remains the same.

What Nintendo Won't Do, Fans Will

EarthboundJust a word of warning and some free advice to Nintendo of America: now that Mother 3 (the sequel to Earthbound, the best Super NES RPG ever) is set for Japanese release in April, you'd better get the gang at the Treehouse to start localizing it for the North American market.  You see, Earthbound fans have been waiting over a decade for a new adventure, and the non-Japanese fans are going to get it even if it's not released internationally.  Rabid fans have a history for taking non-English releases of highly desired games and translating them into English unofficially so that others can download the translation patch and the game's ROM file to enjoy.  Remember Final Fantasy V?  Or Rockman and Forte?  Gamers around the world were playing them in emulators long before the official English versions were offered for sale.

There's a whole bunch of potential revenue to be had from an actual official Mother 3 release outside of Japan.  One way or another, English-speaking Earthbound fans will get their fix.  Wouldn't it be nice if you, Nintendo, earned a healthy profit from that?  This could also be a great time to finally translate and release that Mother 1+2 compilation game pak, too.  This is not a threat, just a guarantee.  The fans are going to get the game from someone somehow, and it'd be better for us all if that someone was you.

ESA Clarifies E3 Booth Babe Policy

Nintendo dress codeIt would seem that most E3 fans like the booth babes, as the ESA (the group officially behind E3) has spoken up regarding the slew of stories running around the Internet discussing how the E3 dress code policy changed to eliminate nearly-naked women parading around the show floor.  Apparently the dress code itself is to remain unchanged and it is the enforcement policy that is changing.  Basically, show too much skin and get fined.  So rest easy, booth babe fans.  They'll be at the show after all.

May I just suggest that companies should aim to make their models dress like the women Nintendo had in their booth last year?  No low-cut tops, no short skirts, no excess boobage, and no overly insulting anyone's intelligence with the "sex sells" train of thought.  Just casual shirts and long pants.  Bonus points should go to companies that actually hire women who know about the products they're flaunting.  Last year I found that the women at the Nintendo booth knew what they were talking about when it came to the games on display, while the women dressed as scantily-clad Jaffa at the Stargate SG-1: The Alliance booth didn't even know what a stargate was (never mind that there was a massive stargate right in the booth itself).

Photograph courtesy Advanced Media Network

Sega TV Games Speeding To Stores

Sonic TV game

Retro gaming is still big, and now Sega is jumping into the TV games arena with plug 'n play joysticks featuring vintage Sega titles.  Sounds good, right?  There's even a Sonic the Hedgehog joystick that apparently includes five Sonic games.  However, a word of warning to anyone expecting Sonic and Knuckles: the tiny little screenshots on the advertising images indicate that we're dealing with Sega Master System properties, not Sega Genesis games.  That means you can expect to see the Master System (or Game Gear, possibly) versions of Sonic the Hedgehog, Sonic the Hedgehog 2, Sonic Spinball, and so on.  Furthermore, if this were a Genesis-based TV game, wouldn't you expect to find a C button on the joystick along with the A and B buttons?  Recall that the Master System and the Game Gear only have two buttons, while the Genesis has three (and later six, but most folks are familiar with the three-button configuration).

As you'll recall, the Sonic Gems Collection compilation showed us that those games just aren't that great compared to their 16-bit brothers in this day and age.  Also, the fifth screenshot on the Sonic ad appears to be a tennis game of some sort.  From the looks of things, you'll be getting the 8-bit titles Sonic Chaos, Sonic the Hedgehog, Sonic the Hedgehog 2, Sonic Spinball, and a tennis game.  I'm not aware that Sonic ever dipped into tennis.  The point is, always read the box before buying a TV game.  The money you save just may be your own. 

Sonic Chaos, Sonic the Hedgehog, Sonic the Hedgehog 2, Sonic Spinball, and a tennis game

Weekly Poll: It's A Fake!

Weekly Poll for 1-15-2005There's not a lot of love for retailer GameStop apparently, as there's plenty of browsers but not many dedicated customers.  I tend to make my gaming purchases from either Best Buy (for when I have to have a game right then and there) or (if I can wait a day or two for shipping).  But GameStop?  Not so much.

Last week's talk of counterfeit game paks got me thinking about just how many pirated copies of games are floating around out there.  Have you ever bought one?  Have you been taken in by a "direct from the factory" Super Manio Bros.?  Or Metriod Fusion?  Did you buy it from a shady character on 52nd Street or from the assumed safety of eBay?  Inquiring minds want to know.  Cast your vote and leave comments below.  Share your stories and help warn others of the heartbreak of Muga Man

E3 Puts On Some Pants

Nude Mona Sax

UPDATE: Actually, it's just the enforcement policy that is changing.

Our little trade show is growing up and adapting new rules to better show what a mature, well-behaved event it can be.  The annual Electronic Entertainment Expo will be a little different this year.  The first two hours of the first day of the show is only for authorized media (meaning no more paid-by-the-hour GameStop clerks roaming the floor just for fun and taking up a journalist's valuable time in line for the next big thing) and, as Portico points out, there's now a more dignified dress code in place for the "booth babes".

"Material, including live models, conduct that is sexually explicit and/or sexually provocative, including but not limited to nudity, partial nudity and bathing suit bottoms, are prohibited on the Show floor, all common areas, and at any access points to the Show. ESA, in its sole discretion, will determine whether material is acceptable."

Let me just say this: I love to see a beautiful woman in flimsy clothing as much as the next guy, but the use of and attention paid to the models at E3 is just downright disrespectful to everyone involved.  The idea is for the companies displaying material at E3 to hire models to strut and vamp around the products, thereby attracting the attention of the stereotypically undersexed geeks roaming the floor who will in turn pay extra attention to the games on display.  However, the models overshadow the reason we're all supposed to be at E3 in the first place: the games.  How many websites and magazines feature a photolog of "the babes of E3" each year?  AMN does it, for one.  We shouldn't be there to critique the women.  We should be there to critique the games.  And don't even get me started on what the use of booth babes in the first place says about the industry's views of women in general...

Stargate SG-1: The Alliance Experiences Unscheduled Offworld Cancellation

Chevron sevenAfter months of legal wrangling it's about to be announced that Stargate SG-1: The Alliance for the Sony PlayStation 2, Microsoft Xbox, and PC has been canceled, relegated to the sad vault of games nearly complete but shelved.  MGM, owner of the Stargate franchise, is expected to make a formal announcement next week regarding details of the cancellation (although I wouldn't expect much out of that), but for now the news has come from the game's official message forum.  It's sad to see The Alliance go into that dark night, as the Stargate universe is ripe with gaming potential.  The writing has been on the wall for The Alliance for a while now, however, as the television show has undergone a change in cast and premise from what the video game was set to present, plus two of the three target platforms are being eclipsed by new game consoles.

The Alliance had its rough spots when I played it back at E3 last year, but it had great potential.  All of the original cast and creative staff from the television show had been involved with its production, from Richard Dean Anderson providing the voice of Jack O'Neill to David Palffy returning as Anubis.  The game's story had been crafted by the show's writers and was to be set during SG-1's seventh season (the show is currently in the middle of its ninth season).  All that talent and time gone to waste... such a shame.  The Alliance also has the minor distinction of being the first game I talked about here on Press The Buttons.  Farewell, The Alliance.  Here's hoping we meet again someday.

Greetings From Green Hill Zone

Greetings from Green Hill Zone It's time for more game-related Photoshop tomfoolery, this time courtesy of Something Awful's Photoshop Phriday.  This week's theme is "Postcards From The Video Game World".

It is a rather sad fact that the first level of Super Mario Bros. has been visited more times than Mt. Rushmore. Video games offer the most exotic locations imaginable, and yet they somehow lack any sort of tourism industry whatsoever. This week the Something Awful Forum Goons set out to change that by taking the first step in starting a successful tourism industry: creating postcards.

There's some brilliant works featured.  My favorite is this creation from someone going by the name of "fork banger" that is inspired by Sonic the Hedgehog, but there are other great works drawn from familiar games such as Super Mario Bros., Earthbound, Chrono Trigger, Katamari Damacy, Tetris, Metroid Prime, and many more.  What a fun way to end the long week.  Wish you were here!

Gaming Goes To Heck

NESp sits next to a Game Boy Color Game software hackers draw a lot of interest in the online gaming community, but let's not forget about the game hardware hackers.  Retrogaming has an interesting interview with Benjamin Heckendorn, the man who is probably best known for converting familiar home consoles such as the Nintendo Entertainment System and the Sony PlayStation into handheld portable equivalents.  In the interview Heckendorn speaks of his love of hardware hacking and his favorite projects, plus he plugs his new book.

Racket: What system would you most like to get slimmed down, but just seems too challenging?

BenHeck: Well, the Dreamcast was a target for a while. But, like the Gamecube, it's kind of square shaped, so the components are on top of each other (rather than beside), so it's hard making it thin. Another system with this quirk is the Gamecube, which I might be taking a look at soon. I've seen this mock-up drawing of a portable Gamecube on the Net, it'd be interesting to see how close I could get to the person's pipe dream.

Some of Heckendorn's creations are particularly intriguing and serve as a reminder that over time today's home console can easily become tomorrow's pocket-size portable.  Er, by "pocket" I mean "takes two hands to carry", as some of his units are particularly bulky.  And by "easily" I mean "after some impressive investigation", as there's plenty of stray wires hanging around Ben's workbench.  The overall principle remains the same though for the most part.