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January 2006

When Xbox Modding Goes Horribly Wrong

The secret of the ooze Some gamers like to tweak their consoles with modchips in order to add some unauthorized enhancements and features.  The legality of such things is in a bit of a gray area depending on where one lives, but today we're not going to be discussing morality or legality or even how to add a modchip to a console.  No, today we're going to discuss how not to add a modchip to a console.  Step One would be to seemingly melt one of the chips on the console's motherboard.

Good grief! How is that even possible? I've been slightly careless with the soldering iron in the past end ended up clipping a chip leaving a slight melt mark, but I can't for the life of me work out what could have happened to it - it can't be the chip casing as there simply isn't enough material there. Even if it is still working, I think d0 is nicely covered there so you can kiss any chance of modding that thing without a new [motherboard] goodbye...

I've seen some strange things in my life, but I had no idea that a game console could bleed like that.  Consider this a friendly reminder that if you're going to have your console modded, have it modded by someone who can do the job without leaving a puddle of hardened ooze behind.

Capcom Wants Our Wallets And Purses

Cut Man, Fire Man, and Elec Man Leave it to Capcom to not only recycle another classic game, but also to get me to want it.  I commented on Mega Man: Powered Up! last year, but now that Capcom has updated the game's Japanese website with character art, gameplay footage, new levels, and other goodies, I actually find myself wanting the game, and that means by extension that I want a Sony PlayStation Portable on which to play it.  *shudder* I feel so dirty.

What's really drawing me in is the game's level construction mode and the addition of two new Robot Masters, Oil Man and Time Man.  Seeing as how Capcom is giving the Mega Man X series a remixed face-lift for the PSP as well, and also knowing that Capcom intends to give the other games in each series a little retro lovin', I think it's about to become an expensive time to be a Mega Man fan, especially considering that we're talking about the original Mega Man games that are actually fun to play.

25 To Life Worth All The Fuss?

25 To LifeLast year several figures in the anti-game community lashed out at 25 To Life, the street crime game where players can play as a police officer or a gang member for the Microsoft Xbox, Sony PlayStation 2, and Windows XP.  The criticism at the time towards the senators and lawyers who spoke out was that it is wrong to banish and judge a game before it's completed, let alone released.  Now that the game is headed to the store shelf, AMN takes a look at 25 To Life with some hands-on impressions to see just what all the fuss is about.

25 to Life is more than your garden variety thug simulation game. Other titles of a similar breadth tend to be more open ended and less focused on storyline.  25 to Life on the other hand focuses the player in on the story of not one, but three people from the streets. These characters are all tied together by a street gang known as the 22nd Street D-Boys, a typical street gang known for robbery, drugs, and murder.

To be honest, it sounds like just another cops 'n thugs game in terms of gameplay, but you all know my thoughts about these kinds of crime games.  While this game is not appropriate for children (and it is rated as such), I see nothing in this preview that warrants special legislative attention.

Weekly Poll: GameStopping

Weekly Poll for 01-08-2006 Last week's poll result speak for itself, as most people who like the Mega Man X series prefer the first game in the series.  That original Super NES title feels the most polished of all the games, and while the sequel was also enjoyable it seems that after that things began to slide downhill.  I found it interesting that Mega Man X5 and X6 didn't get any votes at all, but the compact Mega Man Xtreme and its sequel did.  Personally I believe the Mega Man universe has become too complex and fragmented.  I just want a new game from the original series that doesn't include forced-scrolling jetboard or speedbike sections, doesn't include poorly translated cinema scenes and dialog, and captures the magic that made the original 8-bit games so much fun to play.  C'mon, Capcom.  Don't let us all down.

As for this week, with news of retailer GameStop falling on hard financial times, I'm curious how many of you out there do business with the company.  How much time do you spend at your local GameStop?  Do you go there to browse frequently?  Do you already preorder new games to guarantee a launch day purchase?  Do you work there?  Or do you avoid the store at all costs?  Vote in the poll and leave your comments below, if any. 

Thinking Too Far Outside Of The Box

Nintendo DSIf there's one thing gaming fans love to do besides actually playing games, it's brainstorming how existing game consoles and portable units could be redesigned.  With rumors of Nintendo's upcoming Nintendo DS redesign flying at top speed, Joystiq's DS Fanboy site has posted a fan's remarks pushing for the elimination of the Game Boy Advance game pak slot.  Say what?!

"When pondering my potential wishlist for a DS's re-design, I started to think about the GBA slot. If there could be a significant reduction in the DS's overall size, would I be willing to sacrifice the GBA slot? To be honest, I like having the slot available, but ever since the DS has been blessed with quality games, I haven't fired up the cart I've got stuck in there."

Think, man, think!  The GBA slot is for more than just playing GBA games.  That slot is needed for DS Option Paks such as the Rumble Pak and game expansion packs.  Just because this one person doesn't see the need for the slot based on their current needs doesn't mean that Nintendo should remove the slot from the next DS hardware revision.  I've been playing Mario Tennis: Power Tour for a week and a half now on my DS and haven't touched a DS game during that time.  Hmm... by that logic maybe Nintendo should remove the DS slot instead.

GameStop's Money Mess

GameStop It would appear that game retailer GameStop is having some financial problems.  Specifically, the company can't afford to pay the high salaries paid to the company's executives.  The solution to this?  No, it's not about cutting those high salaries.  It's to cut back on the number of hours made available to hourly employees, while salaried managers have to work extra hours (for no additional pay) in order to pick up the slack.  Employees are also being instructed to increase the number of pre-orders and magazine subscriptions sold to customers.  Kotaku has the story.

I have heard rumors that they aren’t making enough to cover the large salaries in the upper management. This is the reason they have started selling bundled Xbox 360’s on for $1500 a piece even though the stores still haven’t even come close to satisfying all of the customers who reserved it over 6 months ago.

This is what happens to a company that puts more resources into selling pre-orders and magazines instead of actually selling games off the shelf.  I can't even go into a GameStop anymore without becoming frustrated because the franchises around here just don't order any copies of a game to sell off the shelf and instead only deal in pre-orders.  I'm also sick of the sales pitches to buy an expensive console bundle or a pointless magazine.  I can't be the only person who feels this way about the company.  If more and more of GameStop's targeted demographic are going to other stores where they won't be hassled by the starving help, then I'm not surprised in the least that the company is having problems.  Bring on the direct sale of games from the publisher to the customer!

"Lost" In The Mail

Waluigi Quick, guess how many Netflix DVDs are stolen out of mailboxes before the intended recipient can get them.  Give up?  The answer is at least 1,256, as that's how many a single postal worker (allegedly) stole.

A 24-year-old Loveland woman who worked as a postal carrier is accused of stealing more than 1,250 Netflix and Blockbuster DVDs from the mail in the Lyons area.

A federal grand jury in Denver indicted the woman, Karen Durante, late Wednesday. She is charged with four counts of stealing Netflix DVDs from the mail and one count of possessing 1,256 Netflix and Blockbuster DVDs which had been stolen from the mail.

Earlier this week when I picked up a GameFly envelope from the mail I wondered how often the distinctive orange envelopes full of game discs and cartridges are opened and emptied en route to customers' homes.  Out of curiosity, has this happened to anyone reading PTB?  Have you ever opened your mailbox and found a GameFly (or even Netflix or other media rental by-mail business) envelope opened and picked clean?  If so, did you have to pay a penalty for someone else's theft?

GameFly's policy is that they don't penalize customers for games that are lost (or "lost", in this case) in the mail which I think is surprisingly fair.  Lose (or "lose") a game belonging to your local Blockbuster Video and you can bet you'll pay a hefty penalty fee.  I once returned two games one day late to Blockbuster and was slapped with a $12 late fee.  I don't want to imagine the fee for never returning a game.

Why We Love

Mario and Princess PeachBusiness Week has an article questioning the extensive brand loyalty many people feel for Apple, but Joystiq has spun that around and wondered just how dangerous falling in love with a company can be, in this case Nintendo.  I've been on a Nintendo kick lately here at PTB (more than usual, that is) and before moving on to other things I thought this would be a good time to explain just why I love playing Nintendo products so much and whether or not brand love and loyalty is appropriate in the world of game journalism. 

Continue reading "Why We Love" »

Uwe Boll Offered Metal Gear Solid: The Movie

Uwe BollUPDATE: "Absolutely not."

It's truly a sad day in the world of video games when the owner of the Metal Gear franchise, Konami, in all its infinite wisdom and passion to create a movie based on the series, makes the horrible mistake of offering the job of director to Uwe Boll.  Yes, the Uwe Boll, the man behind the game-based film travesties such as Bloodrayne, House of the Dead, and Alone in the Dark that have all been converted in efficient German style to movie dreck.  1UP confirms that the director is currently reading the script.  Rather than just quote a paragraph, I'd like to correct some of the little factual errors that somehow crept into their take on the situation.  Watch for my corrections in the traditional red ink.

1UP confirmed with the director today that [Boll's] been reading a Metal Gear Solid script commissioned by Konami to an unnamed writer. Boll wasn't able to provide any details because he's too busy preparing to destroy more beloved game franchises with terrible films, so it's unconfirmed whether Konami's aiming for a straight adaptation of the game series or an original adventure, but he did confirm the film's only in the script stage, so there's still time for Konami to come to its senses.

As of this writing, Konami representatives couldn't be reached to confirm any details about a possible Metal Gear Solid film because they all fled in horror when they heard that Boll could become attached to the project, but it'd be incredibly bold for Boll to start spouting lies about a script, and we all know the man can't create well-done fiction.

Konami, please, for the love of Kojima, do not hire Uwe Boll to direct this movie.  The man has proven time and again that he cannot create an entertaining game-based movie.  Don't be dazzled by his list of credits that include a bunch of game-based movies.  Don't be tempted by his ability to finance the movie himself.  Please, go rent some of his films and watch them before making any decisions that we'll all regret. 

Measured In Bananas

Monkey likes bananasFollowing up on the Blue Sky In Games Campaign, UK Resistance takes a moment to praise the coming of Monkey Ball Mini Golf for mobile phones.  Sega's Super Monkey Ball has a cult following among its fans, and after reading UKR's thoughts on this latest entry in the series, I'm starting to understand just why that is so.

Each time you collect a thing, you get another of a different thing. This is how games are supposed to work! Only Sega understands this properly. Sega is the last survivor from the Golden Age. If Sega dies, this knowledge will die with it and games will only ever be about running drugs for the mafia and smoking crack in hotel rooms with prostitutes.

I'm tempted to pick up one of these Super Monkey Ball games just to see what all the fuss is about.  More importantly though, UKR has it right.  Video games are supposed to be fun and insane and whimsical.  Do we really need another Generic Gangster Drug-runner Shooter: Criminally Wasted Crackwhore Edition on the shelves?  Of course not.  We need more monkeys and more bananas.  That should just be common sense at this point.