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October 2006

Poetic Justice For PS3 Profiteer

Nelson Muntz I'm not usually one to laugh at someone else's misfortune, but here's a hearty Nelson Muntz "Haw Haw!" to the seller of this eBay auction for a Sony PlayStation 3 preorder.  You know the routine: buy a PS3 for a lot of money, then sell the console on eBay for even more money.  This time, however, things didn't go quite according to plan.  A PS3 and two games cost the seller a little over $900 (Canadian), and the auction for those items closed at a paltry $728.14 (again, Canadian).  Oops!  Or, as we say in the business, Haw Haw!  Better luck next generation.

(via NeoGAF)

Guitar Hero Hack Reveals Hidden Songs

Guitar Hero 2 Are you chomping at the bit to get your sweaty hands on Harmonix's new Guitar Hero II for the Sony PlayStation 2?  Have you been practicing your technique on the game demo's ten songs?  Are you ready for more?  There's a nifty hack floating around the Internet that allows folks with enough time, patience, and hacking expertise to unlock nearly thirty additional songs locked away inside the Guitar Hero II demo.  And guess what?  One of them isn't in the actual final version of the game.  And if that isn't enough, PTB reader Ken e-mailed word of some free legally released tracks from Guitar Hero band Freezepop up for download.  I can't say I'm a fan of the series, but the basic concept behind the game interests me.  Hey, Harmonix, get to work on Piano Hero and then we'll talk!

(via NeoGAF)

Details, Details, Details

Princess Peach through the years When it comes to character detail, how much is too much?  Does Mario really need denim?  Do Sonic's gloves require a fabric texture?  How regal is too regal for Princess Peach?  There's an interesting editorial over at Poison Mushroom that asks these questions and more. 

Back when Mario redefined 3-D gaming in Super Mario 64, he appeared alongside the game in a new 3-D rendered form that was, for all intents and purposes, a perfect 3-D carryover from his 2-D imagery. And at the time, the consoles couldn’t handle much more than that; truth be told, they couldn’t even really handle that, as Mario’s hand seemingly morphed from a ball-like shape to sprout a pair of white prongs as he gave his signature victory pose upon clearing a level. If anything, the renderings left some wishing that the Nintendo 64 had just a bit more power so as to try and approach less-blocky graphics.

While I do miss the nostalgia of the older character designs, the modern look suits many characters.  The comparison I always seem to return to is that of Mario and his iconic hammer.  And on a semi-related note, has anyone else noticed that Princess Peach seems to have evolved into an empty-headed ditz over the years?  I swear, in another gaming generation or so there won't be a coherent thought in that pretty li'l head of hers.

Waiting In Line From The Comfort Of Home

Wii box Even though I'm a professional video game journalist, I'm still not necessarily guaranteed a Wii from either Nintendo or AMN at launch.  I'm not willing to risk being left out in the Wii-less cold next month, so I'm hedging my bets by preordering a Wii and the three launch games I want from  The catch is that even Amazon has a waiting list or sorts.  The company has been offering preorders for the console and certain games as they learn they'll be receiving fresh stock, so the exact moment that games are open for ordering fluctuates over time.  Amazon could open up orders at, say, 7:31 A.M and then close them when they sell out at 7:42 A.M., only to briefly reopen later in the day when more inventory is acquired.  Even though I'm not waiting on the cold pavement outside of a retail outlet, I'm still waiting in line in a sense.

So far I've been able to preorder two things from my Wii shopping list: the actual Wii itself and Red Steel (which I'm mainly buying because I played it at E3 and was intrigued).  I'm still waiting for my chance to snag The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess, Excite Truck, and the classic controller.  I've found that as launch day nears I grow more bristled about getting the games ordered, meaning that when I'm working at the computer I keep an Amazon web browser window open that I refresh from time to time.  I vowed not to stand in line for a Wii and yet here I am doing so anyway.  At least I'm waiting in the comfort of my own home.

Exploring The Creature Of Chaos

Castlevania map Halloween is quickly approaching which means that it's time for another journey into the lore of Castlevania.  Each game in the series includes a trek through Dracula's famous (and notorious) castle, and while the castle is supposed to be the same structure in each game, there are enough basic architectural and design changes to bring about new challenges from familiar areas.  The castle changes form each time it reappears.  Alucard himself once called it a "creature of chaos".  Now you can explore the many manifestations of the castle in this very detailed guide to Dracula's realm.

It seems true what the short description on the main page states: This Castlevania place never looks the same. "Why is that?" someone with a suspension of disbelief might ask his or herself. There are two opposing explanations--from both an external and in-game view--that I will use to make at least a modicum of sense: Externally, obviously, the castle has to be different or else Konami would simply be creating the exact same game again and again. But to give those changes made from game to game some semblance, there's the "Creature of Chaos" theory supplied by Alucard in Symphony that states that the castle may take many incarnations. Based on the preceding, I'll look at these many instances of change to see that the more things do change in this crazy Castlevania world, the more they're actually staying the same.

Some of the similarities are glaring obvious, such as the reappearance of the familiar red tattered curtains and gray stone columns that make up the castle entrance.  There are plenty of small subtle similarities that I bet most fans have missed included in this long pictorial, and if nothing else you'll come away from this feature with more respect for the Castlevania design staff.  The amount of detail that is reproduced in new ways is truly astounding.

Static Shock

Clubhouse GamesI'm still enjoying Nintendo's Clubhouse Games for the Nintendo DS.  However, I've discovered an odd quirk (bug?) in the game.  You see, the game supports the Rumble Pak.  Insert that vibrating game pak into the DS's second slot and Clubhouse will alert me when it's my turn to play by giving the DS a slight shake.  The problem comes when I close the DS and put it into sleep mode.  For some reason when the Rumble Pak is in use when Clubhouse goes to sleep the DS speakers start letting out static sound blasts.  Nintendo is known for its stellar customer service, so I e-mailed their crack tech support team with the following message:


I recently bought Clubhouse Games and have been enjoying it.  However, I've noticed an odd quirk while playing the game.

I'm using an original model Nintendo DS (purchased November 2004) and a Rumble Pak accessory to play Clubhouse Games.  When I close the DS and put the system into sleep mode the speakers begin to emit a static popping noise.  The static pops are synchronized to the DS's green flashing light.  Every time the light flashes, the static pops.  When I open the DS back up the noise stops.  This only happens when the Rumble Pak is inserted.  If a GBA game is in the secondary slot the static does not occur when putting the system into Sleep Mode.

My question is: why does this happen?  Is there a way to keep it from happening? 

Matthew Green

Five days later an automated response arrived apologizing for a lack of a solution and an invitation to call tech support for more information.  I'm not afraid to spend time on hold waiting for the next available operator, but I figured before I did so I'd turn this question over to all of you out there in Internetland.  Have you come across this Clubhouse Games quirk?  If so, were you able to solve it?  I've gone back to playing the game without rumble functionality (thereby eliminating the static), but it's a shame to have a Rumble Pak gathering dust on my desk when it could be in use.

Mini-Review: Family Guy

Family GuyIt seems today that all you see are violence in movies and sex on TV... ah, you know the rest.  Following in the licensable footsteps of The Simpsons and Futurama comes the first major Family Guy video game for the Sony PlayStation 2, PlayStation Portable, and Microsoft Xbox courtesy of 2K Games and High Voltage Software.  Set against the "PTV" episode of the television series, the game follows three seemingly separate plots: Stewie must track his half-brother Bertram and stop him from taking over the world, Brian must clear his name when he is accused of impregnating a prized racing dog named Seabreeze, and Peter takes on a mission to destroy TV's Mr. Belvedere once and for all.  It's all very random, but so is Family Guy itself.

Continue reading "Mini-Review: Family Guy" »

The Master Of Blasters

Blaster MasterRanking up there on the list of third-party favorites for the Nintendo Entertainment System is Sunsoft's Blaster Master, a 2D platformer/shooter adventure in which Jason Frudnick (our intrepid hero) travels both on foot and in a small battle vehicle named SOPHIA in search of his radioactive lost pet frog.  The story may not go down in history, but the gameplay certainly has.  The folks at Metafilter are sharing warm fuzzy Blaster Master memories and exchanging a whole slew of related links (including yet another entry in the Worlds of Power book series).

Props to arguably the finest NES game ever! I was a game counselor during the NES years, and this game never left my top 5 list the entire time. Fans loved it, kids loved it, all the R&D guys wanted to make another game like it - I never understood why there wasn't a sequel...  Interesting Note: I was one of the game counselors asked to confirm the exploding grenade / start button pause boss trick for the Nintendo Power magazine article.

Actually, there were sequelsBlaster Master 2 for the Sega Genesis followed up on the original adventure, as did Blaster Master Boy for the Game Boy, Blaster Master: Enemy Below for the Game Boy Color, and Blaster Master: Blasting Again for the Sony PlayStation; as expected though, the NES game has more charm than the sequels.  Somehow the original game fell through the cracks of my childhood, as I was aware of the game but had never played it.  In fact, I played the Genesis sequel long before I got my hands on the original.  Normally I'd say that the series is ripe for a renewal, but somehow I don't think a new modern 3D adventure could live up to the game's nostalgic legacy.  Blaster Master is fantastic fun, but perhaps we should let the franchise rest for now.

Lik-Sang Attacked For Massive Damage

Lik-Sang If you've been anywhere in the online gaming community in the past day you've surely heard by now that popular Hong Kong gaming importer/exporter Lik-Sang has closed up shop after the cost of defending against lawsuits brought by Sony has drained the company dry.  There's a long, sordid story going on here with lots of "he said / she said", and in the end it's hard to tell who is at fault here.  Lik-Sang claims that Sony used some legal trickery in a lawsuit against the company, while Sony claims somewhat otherwise.  There's plenty of weasel words in play, so it's hard to tell just who did what to whom.

I've never purchased anything from Lik-Sang, but I've browsed their catalog many times and would have bought a few things had they ever been in stock.  In the end it's sad to see the company go, as it offered gamers a chance to pick up gaming items from other regions with relative ease.  So much for globalization of the free market, eh?

Weekly Poll: Mario Kartcade

Weekly Poll for 10-16-2006I still want to get hold of a game character statue for a character for which I have an affinity, but it looks like I'll be waiting for either better models to come out or for prices to drop.  Skull Kid just doesn't excite me.  From the looks of things, he may not excite most of you either.

Something else I want to get my hands on is the Mario Kart arcade game.  Last week the first word of a sequel slipped out from Japan.  A sequel!  I can't even find the first one around here.  So my question for you all this week is whether or not you've played the mythical Mario Kart Arcade GP.  Cast your vote and leave some comments (especially if you're one of the lucky souls who have plunked down some money for arcade karting action).