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January 2007

Castlevania To Party Like It's 1999?

Julius Belmont There's word going around that the next installment of the Castlevania series is going to be something special.  Electronic Gaming Monthly claims to have a major scoop to reveal soon, and there's some heavy fan speculation that the creative team behind the series may finally be ready to tell the story of the mythical epic battle of 1999 in which Julius Belmont finally destroys Dracula seemingly once and for all, sealing away the dark castle in an eclipse where it remains for some thirty years or so until the events of Aria of Sorrow and Dawn of Sorrow.

It's all just speculation at this point, of course, but if Konami is finally ready to tell the story behind the events of 1999, then this particular Castlevania installment has to blow the top off of all the other games in the series.   While I've loved the recent titles on the Nintendo DS, a story as legendary as this one requires a proper massive 2D adventure on a home console.   Dracula's downfall demands depiction on a large TV screen with proper stereo sound and a few animated cut scenes thrown in for good measure at key moments.  C'mon, Konami!  Don't let us down!


Hiding The Old Within The New

Simon Belmont in Castlevania: Harmony of Dissonance After more than two decades of progress we have ourselves a sense of history in the video gaming world.  Old favorites have a habit of popping up in new adventures, blocky pixels of love and all.  Over at Ask Metafilter there's a discussion going on that seeks to chronicle old games hidden away inside new games, such as Nintendo Entertainment System favorites buried in Animal Crossing or Maniac Mansion's appearance in Day of the Tentacle.  It's interesting reading as game fans dig deep to come up with additions to the list.

One of my favorite recent old-in-new occurrences is from the new Nintendo DS adventure Castlevania: Portrait of Ruin.  One of the most powerful special attacks in the game summons the spirits of legendary Castlevania heroes, calling on Trevor, Simon, Richter, and Juste Belmont to briefly join the battle and inflict massive damage on the undead.  The characters appear on screen in their original visual formats, be it simple 8-bit pixels or more recent detailed color shading.  It's a fun reference to gaming history (and an excellent attack to use on large imposing monsters).


And Now, A Zelda: Twilight Princess Music Break

The Legend of Zelda: Twilight PrincessRayman Raving RabbidsNeed For Speed: CarbonElebits.  These are the things keeping me from continuing on in The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess.  I just haven't had the time to throw myself back into saving Hyrule from the dark forces!  Clearly, this is unacceptable.  So while I try and get back into the hero groove I thought I'd share my favorite musical selection from the game (at least, so far).  TheHylia.com has apparently put the entire soundtrack up to download (with spoilers for track names, ahhh!), but I braved the list and came back with this track from somewhat early in the game.  I won't go into detail on just what is happening during this flashback, but those of us who still have The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past in our blood will get chills hearing the opening bars of the song, and judging by how the instruments seemingly fall to bits by the end of the track you can probably figure out that this is the melody of the moment when everything comes apart (again) in Hyrule.  Enjoy!


Blockbuster Video To Cease Game Rentals

UPDATE: The MSNBC article is poorly written in that while it says Blockbuster is getting out of the game world, the company is apparently not really doing so.  It's selling off its gaming subsidiaries, but keeping the familiar in-store game rentals.  Boo to MSNBC for not being clearer on that.

Blockbuster Hard times have fallen on Blockbuster Video, the VHS DVD rental business that also did a fair bit of business in renting video games.  From the sound of things in this MSNBC story, the company is giving up on the game business by selling off its Rhino Video Games branch to GameStop, cutting back on Game Rush store-within-a-store operations, and (according to the headline but not in the actual article text) abandoning game rentals in general.

The impact of this could be huge to younger gamers out there with a Blockbuster account piggybacking on Mom and Dad's account.  As a teen I had my own Blockbuster rental card that was tied to my parents' registration, meaning that when I had $7 to burn I could rent a game for five days whenever I wanted.  However, these days I find it much more economical to just use a rent-by-mail service such as GameFly.  With NetFlix chomping at Blockbuster's movie rentals and GameFly and the like having chewed at the game rentals, I can't help but wonder what the future brings for the business.

(via NeoGAF)


Sony Wins Emmy For Some Reason

Sixaxis

UPDATE 2: Or maybe nobody won anything at all in relation to new technology.  So, how you doin'?

UPDATE:  Apparently Nintendo won the same award in the same category for the Wii's remote controller.  Now I wonder why Sony didn't mention that in their press release, hmmm?  At least the world makes a little more sense again.

I've been knocked down in bed with an unpleasant respiratory ick for the past few days, so when I picked myself up this morning and went back to work I had to wonder if maybe I was still a little loopy from the medication when I read that Sony has apparently won an honorary Emmy award for creating the PlayStation 3's SIXAXIS controller.  Say what?

Sony Computer Entertainment America (SCEA) today announced that it has been recognized by the National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences with a Technology and Engineering Emmy Award for the PLAYSTATION(R)3 (PS3(TM)) computer entertainment system's SIXAXIS(TM) wireless controller. SCEA will receive this distinguished honor at an awards presentation being held tonight at the International Consumer Electronics Show (CES) 2007 in Las Vegas.

Good for them, but like so many other gamers are saying this morning: WHY?!  What does the SIXAXIS do better than other controllers of this generation?  Nintendo's Wii can do more with motion detection than Sony's controller.  Microsoft seems to have nailed the Xbox 360 controller in terms of the old fashioned control stick and buttons.  Both Microsoft and Nintendo have rumble capabilities in their controllers whereas the SIXAXIS does not.  So what set Sony ahead of the pack?  Maybe it has something to do with the plentiful capital letters in the word "SIXAXIS", a feature that the competition currently lacks.


Find Lost Planet

Lost Planet Who wants to have some fun?  Capcom is holding a launch event to mark the release of the new Lost Planet for the Microsoft Xbox 360, and if you act fast enough you just might be able to attend.  If you're going to be in the San Francisco, CA area on January 11, 2007 you ought consider stopping by to check it out.  Here's the details:

Join Capcom in celebrating the release of our highly anticipated epic sci-fi adventure, Lost Planet: Extreme Condition – only for the Xbox 360!

Got the skills to compete in a multiplayer tournament? Winners receive fabulous prizes and then face off with the best of the best: the Lost Planet development team!

Get the chance to meet the Lost Planet development team and have them autograph your game or poster. Get there early - the first 50 gamers through the door get exclusive t-shirts. Watch Master LEGO® Builder Nathan Sawaya creating LEGO masterpieces on the fly. Create your own unique Lost Planet shirt at the T-Shirt Press. Play Lost Planet live against dozens of other party-going gamers. Good eats and beverages galore - and much more!

Space is limited. Invitation does not guarantee admittance. Tournament space is limited, come early and sign up!

Interested?  Head over to http://www.neovenusconstruction.com/frontierproject/party/ and sign up with a user name of Genesis and a password of 111.  Let me know if any of you go to this.  I won't be able to attend, but it'd be great to hear some first-person accounts of the fun.


Wii Editor's Top 10 At AMN

Jill and her drill dozerThe start of a new year means that we must deal with a few little details before we can go on to new business.  The four editors of AMN's Wii division (that is, me and three other guys) have chosen our top gaming picks from 2006.  These are our personal favorites for a variety of systems; the actual official AMN awards will follow shortly.  For now though be sure to check out my favorite games of last year


Weekly Poll: Channel Surfing

Weekly Poll for 12-26-2006Hopefully everyone walked away happy with whatever gifts were given this year.  I actually didn't get any games as gifts this year, although that's because I had to have a Nintendo Wii just as soon as it was available, so there wasn't anything left for anyone to get me once late December rolled around.  Do not pity me, however.  I did nicely in terms of DVDs.

Speaking of the Wii, by now hopefully all of you Wiiers out there have been playing with the various system channels in addition to the games.  There's the handy Forecast Channel for weather information, the Internet Channel for web browsing, the Wii Shop Channel for buying retro games, the Photo Channel for displaying your pictures on TV, and of course the Mii Channel for editing little avatars.  Which of the currently available channels is your favorite?  Do you even bother with them?  Cast your vote and leave some comments.  If you need me I'll be obsessively checking the weather on the Forecast Channel again.


Damn You, Marcus!

Used GamesI've come to a point in my life where I really don't want to buy used games from GameStop or Electronics Boutique ever again.  While the prices are alright, the condition of the used games being offered is typically, well, crap.  I demand ongoing well-kept quality from my possessions, so buying a game that's missing a case and has a torn manual just isn't something I'm happy about (especially if for $5 more I can get a new copy of the game).  While reading the NeoGAF forums I came across this anecdote from Z_Y about poor quality used games and just had to share it.

This sort of reminds me of the time when I stumbled upon a near mint copy of VF4 used for $6 at a Gamestop. This wasn't Evo either. Other than the ugly ass sticker...the box was in perfect shape and I decided to pick it up. I took it up to the register to buy it and the clerk reaches back in the drawer and pulls out this mangled VF4 box with the insert all ripped down one side and "MARCUS" written on the back in big black magic marker fat letters which appeared to be put on there by a 5-year old. I then watched in horror as the disc he pulled out also had "MARCUS" written across the disc. I asked the guy politely if I could possibly have the display box and the disc that belonged to it. He hesitated and then checked with his manager who then gave me this look as if to say "WTF is my problem?" Made me feel like an asshat but I did get the near mint copy.

Marcus.  Marcus!  Damn you, Marcus!  Don't you know that you're supposed to treasure video games and that you're not supposed to write on the cases or discs in black marker?  I have two similarly defiled games in my collection that I bought in a moment of weakness: Banjo-Tooie that has a big Blockbuster Video label on the back of the game pak and Ratchet and Clank: Going Commando that doesn't have a proper case (the GameStop clerk couldn't be bothered to find the case for the game and didn't understand why I had a problem with taking a blank generic one instead).  One of these days I'll print out the cover art from the Internet and slide it into the blank case, but until then it serves to remind me not to settle for crappy quality any longer.