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August 2006

Nintendo Promo Videos Revealed

Dkcvideo No longer content merely to advertise in print and on television, Nintendo made a habit of sending out VHS tapes loaded with preview content for upcoming Super NES and Nintendo 64 games in the latter half of the 1990s.  Donkey Kong Country, Star Fox 64, Diddy Kong Racing, Banjo-Kazooie, and other such major games all received the video tape promotional treatment, and these tapes were sent to all Nintendo Power subscribers via mail.  There's an interesting retrospective about these tapes over at Platypus Comix packed with images from the videos.  Prepare to be whisked back in time to the magical era of monkeys gone wild!

The host of this video, some teenager with long crimp hair and a hat, is the least annoying of any host in any Nintendo video, depending on how you feel about Jon Lovitz. He doesn't overact or overhost, and knows when to shut up and let the other guys talk. The first guy he interviews is Ken Lobb, who now works for Microsoft along with probably half the other people in this video. We're shown the Nintendo offices, and several of the workers who had involvement in the game. Then we're taken to the game testing area, and shown...THE [DONKEY KONG COUNTRY] BETA CART! We're being treated like kings here. The guy in the "Play it Loud" shirt explains that each chip in there is 4 megabits large, leading to a total of 32. For 1994, that was a shock... the biggest that had ever been was Super Metroid with 20.

All of these tapes crossed my mailbox over the years, and after watching each one once they'd wind up on the shelf next to all the other VHS tapes I never watched anymore.  The production values weren't all that great on the tapes, and while they did get me excited about the game in question, I could have done without the lame "This is cool!" attitude each video tried to establish.  I'd have been happy with just ten minutes of game clips.  About two years ago I unloaded the whole collection on eBay in an attempt to clear out some closet space, picking up $25 for the set.  See?  I don't obsessively hang on to everything related to Nintendo. 

Super NES CD-ROM, We Hardly Knew Ye

Super NES CD-ROM Travel back in time to the days when CD-ROM technology was going to revolutionize gaming, a time when Night Trap and The 7th Guest were cutting edge entertainment, a time when Sewer Shark for the Sega CD was just the beginning of the digital revolution!  We all know the saga of Nintendo and Sony briefly partnering to work on a CD add-on for the Super NES, but one thing that's been lost to time are the technical schematics and diagrams of how the peripheral would have functioned.  The crew at AssemblerGames have gone digging and come up with several scans from the magazines of the era that describe how the future belonged to the compact disc.

While in the end it's probably for the best that the Super NES CD-ROM project never materialized, I sometimes wonder what Nintendo could have come up with in the way of original games.  I don't think anyone would have bought the add-on just to play The 7th Guest.  People buy Nintendo consoles to get to those sweet Nintendo franchises.  What would The Legend of Zelda CD have been like?  Could Star Fox CD have brought real character voices to Fox McCloud and friends a generation before the Nintendo 64's Star Fox 64?  How large of a world would Mario have had to explore in Super Mario CD?  Or would the whole software line have been doomed to follow in Sega's Make My Video footsteps?  Some questions just don't have answers.

Was Rare A Waste Of Microsoft Money?

Conker loves a good dealSeveral years after then-gaming upstart Microsoft swooped in and bought Nintendo's golden second party developer Rare for $377 million, the gang over at the rllmukforum are intelligently discussing whether or not the company was a smart buy.  Considering that Rare's output since the purchase hasn't been exactly stellar, lots of folks come down on the side that the company turned out to be a bad buy.  Others say that at the time it was a smart decision, but Microsoft overpaid.  The debate rages on.

Nintendo and the Stampers must have thought it was their birthday. You had a developer descending into absolute crisis, and everyone with a stake in the company looking to sell up before it all went tits up. It was obvious to anyone with half a brain that if Nintendo are selling what appears to be one of their biggest assets so easily, something must be seriously wrong somewhere.  Microsoft were clearly blinded by the opportunity to make it look like they fucked Nintendo over in the eyes of the public and they paid an almighty price for it.

At the time I was crushed by the sale like many Nintendo fans were, as we'd just come off of a generation packed with great titles like Goldeneye 007, Banjo-Kazooie, and Blast CorpsStar Fox Adventures was seen as a sort of farewell from the company.  Then the Rare magic just kind of went away, and with the exception of a little sparkle here and there it hasn't really been back.  All these years later, however, I hold out hope for a new installment of Blast Corps.

Call Of Duty 3 Spawns TV Reality Show

Call Of Duty 3 Did you ever think you'd see the day when a television reality show was based on a video game franchise?  The upcoming Call Of Duty 3 from Activision is the center of the new Spike TV show Game Head: Call Of Duty 3: Challenge (note to Spike TV: title needs more colons).  The whole production is loaded with product placement galore, as Best Buy and GameSpot are providing prizes and hosting contestant applications respectively.  So what's the show about?  Sixteen chosen contestants will battle it out in Call Of Duty 3 for a national audience.  Yup, you're expected to watch someone else play a game.

Will folks tune in? You never know. If you ask someone stuck in the 1990s if they could fathom poker playing on television as a major draw today, that person would probably laugh in your face. As we have grown to learn in way too many hit reality shows, it's often the caliber of the contestant personalities that defines success over the actual gameplay. Besides, the creators of the show are saddling video game bouts with physical boot camp challenges so it will likely prove entertaining, with or without military crew cuts on the way in.

I'm no fan of the reality TV genre, so I won't be tuning in for this.  I can't even imagine how it could be entertaining.  The whole point of modern video games is to play them, not watch someone else play.  When is the last time you played a multiplayer game that relied on alternating turns between players?  We don't like to just watch games anymore.  We want to be immersed in them.  And don't get me started on the boot camp segments.  This whole production sounds like a pile of product placement opportunities in search of a justifiable TV show.

(via TVTattle)

Secret Origins: Bubble Bobble

Bubble Bobble game pak It seems only right that the first story I share as part of the Secret Origins series be the tale of the purchase of my very first video game.  After becoming enamored with a loaner Nintendo Entertainment System in 1986 at the age of five, I knew I had to have a console of my own.  My parents had set a policy that if I wanted a NES, I'd have to pay for it with my own money, and by the following summer I'd managed to save enough allowance money and wrapped pennies to afford a NES of my very own plus one game.  Every month my mother and I would go shopping in the nearby city of Orlando, and while these trips involved mainly just tagging along through department stores and occasionally trying on clothes, one particular shopping day ended at Toys 'R' Us.

Continue reading "Secret Origins: Bubble Bobble" »

Secret Origins

It's a secret to everybody.All the talk about the future of video games and digital distribution got me to thinking about all of the game cartridges and discs I've purchased or been given over the years.  A lot of those cartridges have a little origin story behind them involving a memorable day, a special event, good friends, romantic infatuation, or some other such special moment.  They're personal stories, stories that I keep and remember, and stories that I want to share.  "Secret Origins" is a new ongoing feature here at Press The Buttons in which I'll share the stories behind the acquisition of some of my favorite video games, all the way from the first game I ever purchased up to the present day.  You'd be surprised how much game cartridges have to say if we'd only just listen.

Weekly Poll: Couple Days Off

Weekly Poll for 8-21-2006Ah, so the Wiis have it then.  A good chunk of you out there are prepared to leap into the unknown control scheme, which given that most of us are ready to go all-out for the Wii itself shouldn't be too surprising.  I'm even hoping to take a day or two off from my day job once Twilight Princess launches so that I can just fully immerse myself in the Hyrule experience for a while.  It's like a vacation, and best of all I don't need to pack anything for the journey.

I can't be the only one planning such a trip to a fictional world.  How many among you out there are planning a few days off from work or school to bond with the Nintendo Wii or the Sony PlayStation 3 at launch?  The trick is coming up with a convincing excuse.  "I want to stay home and play a video game for a few days" won't get you many approvals for time off, but "I have to save a mythic land from certain destruction" may win you some points.  After all, employers tend to not want delusional people around.

Recovered Wii Memo It Ain't

Reginald Fils-AimeI see that my work has not been in vain.  I've spent the last year or so smashing down the baseless gaming rumors that pop up online, and when I saw this supposed memo/speech supposedly written by Nintendo's Reggie Fils-Aime for a supposed Nintendo press event next month, I was all ready to go into debunk mode.  Then I saw I didn't have to.  Plenty of people have seen the memo for the fraud it is, both by pointing out the consistent use of the same set of creases in the pages produced by a Photoshop filter and the outright bizarre nature of the content of those pages, such as a release of that on-again/off-again/may-not-exist Metroid Dread title and a revival of that Wii helmet-mounted display gimmick that some fan dreamed up last year.

May I put one last bullet in this whimpering memo?  If you've ever heard Fils-Aime speak then you have to have picked up on the man's confident tone.  This memo, however, waffles in places, and I believe Fils-Aime would never waver in such a manner during a public event.  Plus, the speech refers to the Wii itself as the "Nintendo Wii", a designation that Nintendo has shied away from, preferring instead to call the console simply "Wii".  Listen to the Nintendo press conference from E3 2006.  Fils-Aime never refers to the console as anything but "Wii".  The secrets of the Wii are certainly forthcoming, but they aren't found in this fraud of a memo.  Carry on.

3-2-1 Contact

Contact A couple of vocal folks are all atwitter over the upcoming RPG for the Nintendo DS from Atlus called Contact.  Apparently it's quirky and fun and we should all go buy it, end of story.  The problem is that for all the praising previews I've read, none of them have actually pointed out just why the game is supposed to be so great.  Just telling me that Contact is a quirky adventure isn't enough.  I need examples of quirkiness.  It's hard to build a buzz without evidence of awesomeness.  Fortunately, the folks at N-Sider have put together a preview of the game that actually gives some gameplay examples of why Contact could become the next Earthbound (you know, a quirky and fun RPG that goes ignored by the general gaming community).

The game plays a little differently from traditional turn-based RPGs or even real-time-combat-based RPGs like the Mana series. The game does progress in real time but does not give you direct control over Terry's attacks. Instead, you can toggle Terry between normal movement and an attack stance. In the stance, he will automatically attack any creature within range, cycling through targets either as he defeats them or if you manually cycle his target cursor. "Any creature" is not limited to those you're supposed to defeat to progress, either: Terry can attack any creature or NPC in the game, friendly or no. It's not wise to go around picking fights, though: other characters in the game look down on beating up on the innocent and will treat Terry accordingly.

It looks like Contact is the latest game to go on my DS shopping list.  Even if the game can live up to its reputation and draw major interest, it may still have a problem competing in the marketplace this holiday season.  After all, it'll be up against powerhouse titles such as Yoshi's Island 2, Final Fantasy III, and other big budget franchises.  Contact hits stores in late September.

Fairy Tales For The Next Generation

LinkA while back I had an idle thought about how many gamers out there who were raised on the imaginative stories of games like The Legend of Zelda and Super Mario Bros. now have children of their own and are telling those tales to today's kids as classic bedtime stories.  Is "Once upon a time in the land of Hyrule..." really so far-fetched?  Maybe not, as one of the NeoGAF forum posters who goes by the name of GhostlyJoe explains.


"Shhhhh." I cradled her in the crook of my arm and gently pushed her head against my shoulder. She'll go right back to sleep, I thought.

"Daddy, what is this?"

"It's Zelda," I said. "It's a story about a little boy named link and a princess named Zelda, and they go on a long adventure."

So I started reading the storybook opening to her in soft voice, stopping on occasion to explain about the lost kingdom of Hyrule and the hero Link and the evil Gannondorf. I could see right away she was fascinated. As a veteran of Disney films, she was quite familiar with the archetypes at work in the Wind Waker, and, as I had suspected, she took right to the story.

There are so many grand stories in video gaming that go unread and unknown by the non-gaming public, and that's a shame because while many people have no interest in picking up a controller, they do love a good story.  As Taishi of NeoGAF says, "Passing on a lifetime of games that we grew up with is our duty to the world."  If everybody knew about the Mushroom Kingdom, then maybe the world would be a better place.  Or, at the very least, more kids would go to sleep with a smile.