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September 2006

Plastic Yes, Cardboard No!

Cardboard boxIt seems that Nintendo of Europe is dealing with a little plastic shortage right now, and as such will be shipping certain new Nintendo DS games in cardboard boxes instead of the standard plastic case.  It's only temporary and in December the company will give free plastic cases to everyone who wound up with a cardboard temp box.  That's acceptable for a short-term problem, but Joystiq has the audacity - the audacity, I tell you! - to suggest that Nintendo ditch plastic cases overall and regress to the cardboard packaging of yesteryear permanently.

We admit, those are some high quality plastic cases, but c'mon. The DS cartridge is tiny and holds just 128 megabytes of content. Does it really need to ship with plastic that weighs many times more than the product (3.5 grams)? It's environmentally irresponsible. We understand that large game cases help titles fight for attention on a retail shelf, but there's no reason that they can't do that fighting using more responsible materials.

I'll be the first to admit that I'm a box packrat.  I still have all of my original NES, Super NES, Nintendo 64, and Game Boy boxes from the old days (and a handful of Virtual Boy boxes for games bought used).  They're boxed up and stored safely for the ages.  The box is an important part of the gaming experience (not a major part, admittedly, but an important one) and as cardboard has taught me over the years, cheaply made boxes do not last for years and years (hence the careful storage).  This generation's plastic Nintendo cases, however, are perfect for my collecting/hoarding ways.  I can stack them, sort them, alphabetize them, and generally arrange them for my own compulsive enjoyment.  Unlike cardboard boxes, they won't deteriorate every time I open them or move them around.  So keep the plastic coming.  My need to organize and maintain my collection depends on it.

"I Won't Break 'Cause I'm A Street Fighter!": The Street Fighter 2 Rap

Street Fighter 2 rap albumSome things in this life just should not exist.  Consider this album based on Capcom's popular Street Fighter 2 line of fighting games.  In 1995 Capcom teamed up with Sony Records to produce this CD of SF2 rap songs.  Yes, you read that right.  It's an album of Street Fighter 2 rap.  Released only in Japan, this disc includes six songs, all of which are basically the same song but with differing lengths and instrumental background beats (there's a radio mix, a club mix, and so on).

The main song variation on which this is all based not only includes a vocal track about the world of street fighting ("I won't break 'cause I'm a street fighter!"), but also features a number of voice sound effects from the actual game.  Right in the middle of a verse you'll hear "Sonic Boom!" and "Tiger Uppercut!" mixed into the background.  It's truly a bizarre by-product of the Street Fighter marketing machine, as something this terrible can only be amusingly entertaining.  Did Capcom (or Sony Records, for that matter) ever expect the "radio edit" to get actual radio play?  Did people burn up the dance floor with the "club edit" at one point in time?  If you believe you can handle the horrors of the Street Fighter 2 rap then check out the CD's first track, "Psycho Crusher".  You'll have that catchy beat stuck in your head all day long afterwards, but that's okay.  You won't break 'cause you're a street fighter.

Castlevania Minor Chord Mayhem

And now for something completely different.  I've been playing piano since childhood, having started with organ lessons at age four and moving up to piano at the age of thirteen.  I just play for my own amusement now, typically music from the Billy Joel catalog, but sometimes I get hold of something a little different.  After noodling around with some Castlevania piano sheet music I've been encouraged to share my rendition of the classic theme "Vampire Killer" with the world.  So here it is, played on my digital piano with the combined sounds of an organ and a string section.  Not bad for a hour's practice, eh? 

Banjo And Kazooie Headed For Xbox 360

Banjo and Kazooie Microsoft has announced that the famous bear and bird duo, Banjo and Kazooie, are going to return in a new adventure for the Xbox 360.  The revelation came at the company's big X06 media event in the form of a brief teaser clip depecting the two heroes.  The announcement has surprised some fans who have cited that they weren't expecting a new Banjo-Kazooie title until after Nintendo had released Super Mario Galaxy, as developer Rare would need to "steal" new gameplay ideas from Nintendo in order to create a successful platformer adventure.  That's a load of nonsense not the kind of talk that the gaming community should spread.  Rare is certainly able to come up with their own original ideas even if their best days may be behind them.

Early reports indicate that the new Banjo adventure involves the heroes vacationing on Whale Island where they must work together to clean the island of filth.  Kazooie, hiding in her backpack on Banjo's back as always, can take in a mouthful of water and spray it out like a water gun while Banjo walks and jumps to aim.  Shaman Mumbo Jumbo returns with new transformations for Kazooie that allow her to shoot water like a rocket engine and become a powerful water jet to zoom Banjo across large open waters at turbo speeds. No game in history has included these amazing gameplay gimmicks, so we're surely in for a treat when the finished product hits stores.

I really hope that you realize I'm kidding about the water gun gimmick.

Nintendo 64 Celebrates Tenth Birthday

Nintendo 64 Has it really been ten years since dinosaurs flew and "The Fun Machine" came into our homes?  The Nintendo 64 turns ten years old this month, and just like every other major game console or franchise that has celebrated a milestone this year, it's time for to take a look back at the beloved little machine that could, but never really quite did.  It's a story of big promises and disappointments, but also of the occasional moments of genius.

Ten years later, the system is remembered fondly for the sublime perfection of its best software. It's also reviled for what some gamers see as choices that compromised gameplay for the sake of ill-conceived hardware experimentation. Both stances are based in plenty of evidence. The greatest games of the console are after all some of the best games of all time. And the machine did falter, both in ways that seems logical and in ways that defy conventional wisdom. But the real story behind N64 is a tale of what could have been. Vast resources were poured into games and innovations that never came to fruition. New technologies that seemed to have tremendous potential ironically became limitations. The console that stole so many childhood hours overreached and underperformed, a mere specter of what could have been.

My Nintendo 64 was a holiday gift in 1996.  My parents had slightly encouraged that perhaps with the Super NES days coming to an end it might be a good time to move away from video games and into something else.  As it turns out, that "something else" wound up being a severe attack of my chronic digestive illness, and after spending nearly two weeks in the hospital in early October, I was basically confined to my bed (and sofa) and unable to eat solid food for three months.  Hours upon hours were spent with my Super NES, helping me escape from the stomach pains and fatigue that kept me out of high school for the immediate future.  Imagine my surprise when Super Mario 64 turned up one December morning, courtesy of my parents.  After all I'd been through it must have become rather obvious: for me, video games were here to stay.

Continue reading "Nintendo 64 Celebrates Tenth Birthday" »

Bruce Takes On The Rumors

BruceIt's no secret that I despise baseless video game rumors.  It can be quite a challenge to separate the glimmers of truth from the pile of junk that tends to circulate among the video game rumor mill.  Now someone's doing a little something about it.  AMN has just launched its latest division,  We've turned rumor debunking duties over to Bruce, a former New York police officer who has left the force and now guards the warehouse of a major video game publisher.  Or maybe he's just a fictional composite used to give a single face to the site.  Either way, Bruce is tackling the rumors and stamping out the untruths.

So far this week Bruce has tackled rumblings of a North America price drop for the Sony PlayStation 3, famed developer Treasure's supposed project for Nintendo's Wii, and talk of Wal-Mart's supposed blunder at not ordering Wii demo units in time for the holiday rush.  The video game community can only benefit as long as Bruce is on the job (or the group of AMN staffers who portray him; whatever).

The Obscure World Of Super Famicom

Ganbare Daiku No Gensan Think you've played your share of Super NES games?  Even the really rare and unusual ones?  Pull up a chair and take a look at the games you most likely haven't played over at AssemblerGames where a forum denizen by the name of Steve is posting comprehensive looks at intriguing Super Famicom games that never made it into North America and beyond; games such as Godzilla Monster Super Battle, a sequel to Hammerin' Harry, Battle Cross, Super Bomberman 3, 4, & 5, and even a second adventure for Milon of Milon's Secret Castle fame.

I love learning about quality obscure games that I missed out on back in the day.  There was a time when these little titles may get a small paragraph or two in the likes of Electronic Gaming Monthly and then that would be all we'd ever know about games that never left Japan.  Now thanks to the Internet all of the old secrets are open for perusal and exploration.  Say what you will about the online revolution, but sometimes being able to read up on old mysteries is what makes the Internet such a valuable tool.  Forget e-mail and instant messaging.  Learning about Rendering Ranger: R2 is where it's at.

Super Monkey Ball Adventure Review At AMN

Super Monkey Ball Adventure With the days of new Nintendo GameCube releases drawing to a close it looks like Sega's Super Monkey Ball Adventure will be the last GameCube title I review for AMN.  That's a shame, partly because the GameCube is the first console for which I've reviewed professionally (so I have a soft spot for it) and because Super Monkey Ball Adventure is such a dismal title.  Seriously.  I cannot disrecommend this game enough.  Read my review to find out why it's so horrible and learn how it manages to offend on so many levels.

Weekly Poll: Calm Before The Storm

Weekly Poll for 9-14-2006It looks like an overwhelming number of you out there are pleased with the launch details for Nintendo's new Wii console.  November is coming up fast, and in some respects it can't get here fast enough.  This summer has been very slow for me in the game journalism department.  Nobody's releasing notable GameCube games anymore, meaning there's not much to review.  I'm eager to get back into the swing of things with some Wii reviews.

And speaking of November, there's just about a month or so until the Wii and Sony PlayStation 3 finally arrive in stores (and then our living rooms and bedrooms).  How are you passing the time until then?  Replaying your old games?  Content with television and the Internet?  Or will you be waiting a lot longer than just a month for some next generation excitement (Europe, I'm looking at you)?  Vote in the poll and leave your comments.  Together we will make it to November before you know it.

The World Of Nintendo: Second Strike

Super Mario 64 Original Soundtrack During the era of the Nintendo Entertainment System you couldn't swing a Master Sword without hitting some kind of non-game Nintendo gear: t-shirts, trash cans, fruit snacks... Mario and his many friends were everywhere.  As the company's original young fans began to grow older, however, a lot of the more blatant kiddie-oriented goodies were dropped (think about it - when is the last time you saw a Super Mario ice cream sandwich?).  By 1996 Nintendo's "other" products were limited to all kinds of happening, with-it, cool shirts, hats, and storage cases. takes us back in time to the launch of the Nintendo 64 and the little poster/catalog that came with it in the box.

There’s so much to digest on this poster that I’ll leave the commentary up to you, aside from one thing: denim shirts and caps must have been way more popular in the mid-1990s than I ever realized at the time. Oh, and also that I want the B. Orchid poster. As you know, nothing says “N64″ quite like absurdly perky polygonal breasts. And Killer Instinct.

Times certainly had changed for me by this point in history.  The Super Mario bed sheets were long gone and new secondary Nintendo gear wasn't coming into my room as it once had.  Looking back at this poster I see where the only thing offered that I owned (and still do have) is the Super Mario 64 soundtrack on CD and the game's Player's Guide.  No T-shirts, no hats, no storage cases.  We all have to grow up sometime, it seems.

And honestly, of all of the women in Nintendo's catalog to put on a pin-up poster, they chose B. Orchid?  No wonder Nintendo lost the lead in the game market around this time.