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October 2006

Back To BASICs

Commodore 64Ho ho, you young whippersnappers!  Back in our day we didn't have no fancy Windows XP or OSX or even Linux!  We had Commodore 64 at home and Apple IIe at school, and we liked it that way!  Because at the time we didn't know anything better was out there!  We were seven years old at the time!  What do you expect from us?!  We didn't download fancy executable files from the Internet!  If we wanted to play a fancy new game, we had to code it into the computer by hand!  We had a lot of time to kill back then!  Today all we have a lot of are exclamation points!

The "Retro Scan of the Week" over at Vintage Computing takes me back to the days when I spent many a rainy afternoon typing complex statements in BASIC into my trusty Commodore 64 in the hopes that when I was finished with the madness, I'd have a really great new game to play.  The computer book section at my elementary school library was meager pickings (most books just explained that a computer is a nifty box that runs on magic), but one book was chock full of BASIC code that promised to become a radical spy adventure if I typed each and every line of code into my computer.  This ninety-page paperback book required about three months of typing time and I had to check the book out over and over again, saving my work to a floppy disk as I went.

Finally, the day came where I typed in the very last command, saved my progress, and entered the mythical RUN statement.  In hindsight I wish the librarian had told me the book was riddled with typos when I first checked it out.  Needless to say, my brief love affair with typing BASIC from books came to a swift end.

Sony To Replace Dead Controllers, But For How Long?

Sixaxis After yesterday's Gamer's Day event there's all kinds of new information about the Sony PlayStation 3 crossing the Internet.  One of the info nuggets involves the fact that the PS3 controllers (dubbed the Sixaxis, as you'll recall) contain Lithium Polymer batteries that are rechargable, but also irreplaceable.  Once those batteries finally die, the Sixaxis ceases to function as a wireless controller.  The fan backlash on the matter sprang up very quickly, as the concept of pitching dead controllers and buying new ones for $50 each really hit a sore spot in the gaming community.  Now today comes some clarification on the matter, as Sony has said that the batteries will last for "many years", and when those batteries do finally shuffle off this mortal coil, Sony will offer a replacement service.

Consider what happens someday far in the future when you want to play your old PS3.  Sony will stop offering replacement services eventually, meaning that the day will come when PS3 controllers will no longer be wireless due to dead batteries.  Such a move just seems like more poor planning on Sony's part for the next generation.  Granted that you'll probably be able to play your favorite old PS3 games on the PlayStation 9 with a fancy Sixaxis 3 controller by then, but still... It's always been my belief that if properly maintained, gaming hardware should work just as well as when it was purchased.  Knowing there's a ticking time bomb in the Sixaxis isn't filling me with much confidence for long-term PS3 ownership.

And if you vehemently disagree with me on this issue, you at least have to give me credit for not mentioning how given Sony's recent battery recall problems, the Sixaxis may well explode in your hand before it has a chance to become obsolete.

Synergistic PS3 Pack-In Includes Will Ferrell

Talladega Nights Just as the first Sony PlayStation Portable boxes included a UMD version of Spider-Man 2, so shall history repeat itself when the PlayStation 3 launches next month in North America with a Blu-Ray version of Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby included.  On the one hand, more stuff in the box for the same price is always good.  On the other hand, I gotta ask: why Talladega Nights?

I understand how Sony wants to whet the Blu-Ray appetite, but I'd think the company would have chosen a movie that includes vivid special effects that can show off the high definition abilities of the Blu-Ray format.  And this isn't just about Talladega.  It seems like subpar comedies are the dominant genre on the Blu-Ray market.  I've seen plenty of ads for Adam Sandler films on Blu-Ray, and now here comes Will Ferrell.  I have nothing against these movies, but where's the amazing sci-fi or action showpiece that'll wow viewers?

More Skin-peelingly Bad Box Art

Tommy LasordaRemember, my friends, that no matter how terrible of a day you have or how rotten your life seems at any given moment, take heart and remind yourself of this inspiring message: "At least I didn't draw the box art for Mega Man."  Yes, mocking horrible video game box art is old hat by now, but I can never get enough of artwork from the bottom of the barrel.  There's a great forum topic at NeoGAF packed full of good old fashioned nightmare fuel.  Best of all, most of them are new to me.  Prepare to cringe at the sights of Rival Turf, Final Zone II, Anticipation, and Street Warrior (or is it Joe Blade 2?).  And that's not even mentioning the bizarre Japanese games featuring men who sweat, men who cry, and sweaty crying men.  And did I mention White Van Racer?  Seriously, some of these must be seen to be believed.  Just keep in mind that once you see these pictures, you can't unsee them. 

The IRS Still Wants Your Rupees And Zennies

GreedWe heard the first stirrings that the United States government wanted to look into taxing virtual assets in games such as World of Warcraft and Second Life earlier this year, but now the idea is becoming a bit more formalized.  The House of Representatives has turned the matter over to... a committee!  And you know what that means.  Surely a bill or two is just a matter of time.  However, there may be a glimmer of sanity in the government after all.  Consider the words of committee chairman Jim Saxon:

"There is a concern that the IRS might step forward with regulations that start taxing transactions that occur within virtual economies. This, I believe, would be a mistake."

Imagine walking into the rustic village of some far off virtual fantasy world.  To your left you see Azkalan's Weapons Tent.  To the right is Kukalaka's Armor Hut.  And straight ahead?  Irving Rosenblatt's Accounting Emporium.  I stand by what I said back in January on this matter: 

Massive amounts of income should be taxed fairly just as the rest of us are taxed on our significant sources of income.  The government shouldn't worry about if I earn $30 selling fake items, but they should if I earn $30,000.  It will be some time before any of this comes to pass, as the government employees behind these policies don't quite understand what it all means.  However, as younger employees familiar with these ideas are promoted and rise to power, that could change.

(via BoingBoing)

New Mario Kart Revealed

Mario Kart Arcade GP 2 Remember that Mario Kart arcade game that saw limited release last year?  The one developed by Namco?  It must have turned a profit somehow, as now the sequel appears to be on the way.  Yup, it's Mario Kart Arcade GP 2This sales flyer for the new game is beginning to work its way around the Internet, and assuming that it's real it would seem that Waluigi is the new playable Nintendo character this time around, while Namco's contribution to the roster is a Tamagotchi.  At least, that's what the folks over at NeoGAF say, and since I can't read the Japanese text I'm going to go with their interpretation for now.

I'm really surprised to see a sequel to the original arcade game, particularly since arcades just aren't that profitable in North America anymore.  This has got to be a game intended for the Japanese market where arcades still roam free.  I'm still trying to track down the original Mario Kart Arcade GP so I can take it for a test drive.  Hell, I'm still searching for an F-Zero AX machine, too.  These arcade games are tantalizingly dangled in front of us and most of us won't get the chance to play them.  What a tease.

Mini-Review: Clubhouse Games

Clubhouse Games I feel that I must set something straight: I love Super Mario games, I'll go to Hyrule any day, and whenever the Lylat System is in danger I'll be there, but the new Nintendo DS release Clubhouse Games is the reason the DS was made.  It perfectly captures Nintendo's "Blue Ocean" strategy and provides plenty of fun for everyone: old and young, gamers and nongamers, and just about any other combination of opposites you can imagine.

So what is Clubhouse Games (known as 42 All-Time Classics in Europe) and what makes it a required purchase for DS owners?  To put it simply, it's a collection of forty-two familiar card games, board games, puzzle challenges, and games of chance.  The old standards such as Blackjack, Hearts, Spades, Solitaire, and Texas Hold 'Em are included, as are renamed knock-offs of Sorry!, Battleship, and Uno.  There's a simplistic game of 9-ball, a ten frame bowling challenge, and rounds of darts.  Want to play Checkers or Chess?  Have at it.  There's even a few games you've probably never played, such as the old Japanese Nintendo favorite Hanafunda, Koi-Koi, and Shogi.  Don't worry if some of those names don't ring a bell, as each game includes a full set of rules to help bring you up to speed.  Every game is played using the touchscreen and help is never further than a tap of the stylus away. 

Continue reading "Mini-Review: Clubhouse Games" »

Weekly Poll: Samus On Your Shelf

Weekly Poll for 10-9-2006 More of you out there should try creating your own custom game levels.  I found that for Mario vs. Donkey Kong 2: March of the Minis that the creation process is just as fun as the main game.  I just wish I had an outlet for swapping levels.  Using Friend Codes to restrict who can download which levels is one of Nintendo's more boneheaded decisions.  What good is a level repository if the levels are kept locked away from the general public?

Moving along, with news of the upcoming Skull Kid statue I find myself seriously considering buying the Samus Aran statue also offered by the figurine company.  I like to decorate my apartment with prints and objects that mean something to me, and one thing I do not have yet is anything classy related to video games.  I'm not going to hang up a cheesy promotional poster or display a Happy Meal wind-up toy.  The statues, on the other hand, look to be a good fit.  So how about you?  Would you buy a statue of a gaming character?  Or would you hold out for characters with which you have a special bond?  Cast your vote and leave some comments, and while you're doing that I'll be buying the last Samus Aran statue out from under you.

Skull Kid Comes Home

Skull Kid You know how much I love Nintendo memorabilia, so when I learned of the collectible statues being produced by First 4 Figures I was naturally interested in learning more about just which characters would be immortalized.  First up was Fierce Deity Link from The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask, and now today this photo of the next figure landed in my e-mailbox.  Ladies and gentlemen, meet Skull Kid.  From the press release:

The Skull Kid was a curious little fellow, often finding trouble in the most unexpected of places with his fairy friends Tatl and Tael. One day in the forest, the trio happened to come across the most peculiar of people, a traveling mask salesman. When the merchant was paying him no mind, the Skull Kid took a very precious mask. This was no ordinary mask; this was a special mask, a dark and cursed mask. This was Majora's Mask. Donning the strange artifact, the Skull Kid would harness a power far beyond his imagination. Little did he know, however, that he was to become a puppet, an unsuspecting pawn to the very mask itself. Possessed and corrupted, the once lighthearted and amusingly mischievous imp inadvertently unleashes a powerful and threatening force upon the peaceful inhabitants of Termina. Now time is running nigh, as the will of Majora swiftly mobilizes its servant into drawing an ominous moon from the heavens on a collision course towards the helpless people below…

For just $99.99 you can get your own Skull Kid early next year.  Here's my problem though.  If I'm going to put down $100 on a Nintendo statue, I want it to be a statue of a character with which I have a bond.  Give me classic Link holding the Master Sword and his Hylian shield, or even Ganondorf in his famous menacing pose.  I really don't have a connection with Skull Kid.  The craftsmanship on the model looks fantastic, don't get me wrong.  I'd just like to buy a statue of a character I know and love. 

Bobble's Bubble Bursts

Bubble BobbleWhat if they held a boss battle and nobody came?  That's the quandary facing Taito and Codemasters as their latest release, Bubble Bobble Revolution for the Nintendo DS, includes a game-halting bug.  Apparently the big boss battle in Level 30 isn't much of a battle at all because the boss never appears, meaning that the game just sits there on an empty level waiting for a boss who will never come.  The remaining seventy or so levels are unreachable.  Oops!  Go Nintendo has this quote from the publisher and a rather shaky video of the empty level:

"We have been looking very hard into this issue with Nintendo and have now determined that all of the cartridges that have been shipped in North America are faulty.  Needless to say we are extremely sorry that this situation has arisen and would like to apologise to you for this issue.

We have already started the process whereby a corrected version is to be manufactured and will ensure that all customers have their copies replaced. Unfortunately this will take 8-10 weeks (simply because of the time required to manufacture new carts). We will update you with what you will need to do to get a replacement game, as soon as this has been determined."

Hmm, well, good luck with that.  I'm curious how this kind of issue was missed during final testing.  Did nobody on the testing team play Level 30?  I'm assuming here of course that this is an issue in which the game fails to load the Level 30 boss stored on the game card.  I really hope there isn't some programmer out there waking up this morning and slapping his forehead as he realizes "Damn!  I forgot to create the boss for Level 30!"