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February 2007

Captain N DVD Reaches Stores

Captain N: The Game MasterTake heart, 8-bit warriors!  The best Saturday morning cartoon of the 1989-90 season is at last upon us on DVD.  Captain N: The Game Master follows the adventure of average teenager Kevin Keene after he's transported into Videoland to battle the forces of Mother Brain with the assistance of familiar heroes from the era of the Nintendo Entertainment System such as Mega Man, Simon Belmont, and, um, Bayou Billy for some reason.  The fan favorite hits stores today and DVD Verdict has a decent review of the collection.

The plotlines are the typical sugar-coated ADHD variety of Saturday morning sensory overload, just set in video game worlds and peppered with sound effects from Super Mario Brothers. Again, not a big departure from shows of its ilk back in the day, and Captain N executes the game-plan in fine fashion. Episodes move crisply and manage to be highly energetic without Koopa-leaping into excruciating territory. A few of my favorites: "Quest for the Potion of Power," introduces Zelda and Link into the series, though Link is quickly emasculated by Captain N; I don't know how they wrote a coherent episode about Tetris of all games, but they did with "The Trouble with Tetris"; "Germ Wars," the series finale, has the whole N Tram miniaturized and transported inside Kevin to battle off an infection—weird, but satisfying.

As I said once before, I used to watch Captain N religiously back in the day along with The Super Mario Bros. Super Show, but having caught a rerun here or there over the years I have to admit that it hasn't aged all that well.  Many characters aren't true to their now-established personalities and sticklers for authenticity such as myself might have a problem with the various continuity errors and outright mistakes (The hero from Kid Icarus is named "Pit", not "Kid Icarus"; Mega Man doesn't come from "Megaland", nor does Mother Brain live on "Metroid", etc.).  Still, it's good to see the series land on DVD for new audiences to discover.

Konami Caught In Subliminal Message Scandal

Mr. Subliminal Noted game publisher Konami is in a bit of a bind today as some of the company's video slot machines apparently contain what the Ontario provincial gambling operator considers to be subliminal messages.  The machines in question have been pulled from Ontario's casinos and other such venues while the issue is under investigation.  The subliminal message involves a flashing JACKPOT message during each spin.

[P]layers who stick to a machine are seeing a winning image every two seconds, the time it takes for one spin, and that concerns Roger Horbay, an electronic gaming specialist who has treated hundreds of problem gamblers.

"I think it's part of them trying to make their games more attractive to the players to keep them at the game longer so their machines are more profitable," he said.  However, Konami, the company behind the games, said the jackpot symbols are a technical problem that it is fixing.

Better be careful.  Until those machines are replaced gamblers will have to go elsewhere for their slot machine needs.  You never know how many customers can be lost in that kind of situation.  Kick the messages to the curb and explain just why the machines were acting this way.  Otherwise the company will have all kinds of bad publicity to deal with.  Next thing you know we'll have to start monitoring other media for these kinds of things And that's something anybody wants to do.  Major problems, that.  I certainly don't like having my brain meddled with, thank you very much.

(via BoingBoing)

Did you find the subliminal message in this blog entry?

Super Sonic Sorrys

Sonic and the Secret Rings It's not often that someone offers me a public apology, but in the case of Sonic and the Secret Rings that is exactly what has happened.  I'm handling the review of the game for AMN, but my editor at the network rented the game to check it out for himself.  According to his blog he's not a fan of the finished product.

So, I rented a copy of Sonic and the Secret Rings because I am not the one reviewing it. Our Wii editor, Matthew Green, is in charge of that affair, and all of a sudden, I feel very sorry for him. Matt, if you’re reading this, I’m sorry. I didn’t know.

Why the tone? Sonic and the Secret Rings is flat-out disappointing. I won’t get too into it, as we’ll go into more detail in our review, but it’s so slow. I’m not talking about frame rate, either. The gameplay is slow. Sonic moves at the speed of molasses – if that. This feels like the slowest Sonic I’ve ever played, but perhaps my memory of other Sonics is just inaccurate.

No apology necessary.  I requested the Sonic assignment because I still have that glimmer of hope that someday Sega will release a fun 3D Sonic game worth playing.  When that happens I want to be the one to shout about it from the mountaintops.  That means I've had to muddle through titles such as Sonic Riders and Shadow the Hedgehog, but in the end that just makes the inevitable reward so much sweeter.  Stay tuned for my review of Secret Rings later this week.

Bubble Trouble Results In Free Game

Bubble Bobble Revolution I have to hand it to Codemasters for going the extra mile to keep customers happy.  You may recall how last year the company unleashed the broken Bubble Bobble Revolution for the Nintendo DS in which the boss of Level 30 was mysteriously absent, meaning that the remaining seventy levels were inaccessible.  A few weeks ago the company announced it was finally ready to send out fixed versions of the game to all those who bought the broken product, but now AMN has word that not only is the defective version being replaced, but Codemasters is sending a free copy of Rainbow Island to everyone blighted with the broken Bubble Bobble (unfortunately there is still no word on when Codemasters will apologize for the game's horrible box art).

The company sent out a letter along with a corrected copy of the game recently, stating: "We would like to apologize for the problems you have had with this game and hope that the need to swap the cartridges did not inconvenience you too much. We have enclosed a free copy of Rainbow Island, also for the Nintendo DS, as consideration for the length of time that you had to wait for the new cartridges to be manufactured."

The original error should never have made it into the marketplace, but it's great to see Codemasters doing the right thing here (even if it has taken several months for the company to do so).  Other game publishers should look on this example and learn a little something about not only taking responsibility for releasing broken games, but also about doing what it takes to make amends for mistakes.

Weekly Poll: Risky Hedgehog

Weekly Poll for 2-05-2007C'mon, if three fantastic Castlevania games in one package doesn't sway you to pick up a Sony PlayStation Portable, what would?  That's oversimplifying the issue, of course, but I'm really surprised at how much I now want a PSP just because The Dracula X Chronicles is coming to the system.  Then there's that new Ratchet and Clank adventure plus those Mega Man games I've wanted to explore.  Gaming sure can be an expensive hobby.

Speaking of being swayed, over the last decade we've watched poor Sonic the Hedgehog go from gaming powerhouse to lackluster disappointment.  Recent games in the series just haven't lived up to the character's potential nor the legacy of the original Sega Genesis adventures.  Last year's next generation Sonic the Hedgehog seems to be a new low for Sega's blue boy.  However, Sonic and the Secret Rings for the Nintendo Wii has some good buzz around it in that it might actually be, well, fun.  I don't know about the rest of you, but I desperately need a new solid Sonic title to reaffirm my faith in Sega and Sonic Team.  Are you prepared to risk a dud purchase in the hopes that Secret Rings may actually be good?  Or have you been burned too many times by this fading franchise?  Let's hear your thoughts on this one.  I know I'm curious.  I've already started reviewing the game for AMN, so rest assured that you'll be hearing my thoughts on this one soon.

Down And Out In Room 310

Mario hurt As I mentioned earlier I've just finished a stint in the hospital, and while this isn't the kind of thing I'd normally discuss here at PTB, so many of you out there have expressed concern for me and asked just what happened to pull me away from the Internet for over a week.  The gory (and I do mean gory) details are below.  There's not much to say related to gaming this time, so those of you who'd rather hear my thoughts on Sonic and the Secret Rings or the recent release of Kid Icarus for the Wii's Virtual Console ought to check back later. 

Continue reading "Down And Out In Room 310" »

Teleplay Modem Madness

Teleplay modemsSega wasn't the only company interested in producing a modem for use with a game console back in the early 16-bit era.  Vintage Computing has dug up an old advertisement for the never-released Baton Teleplay game console modem, a little gizmo that would have allowed specific games for the Nintendo Entertainment System, Super NES, and Sega Genesis to connect across telephone lines and play together in harmony.  Lost Levels has the story

With all of the technological development it needed, the only real pitfall Baton had to face, other than financial difficulties, was that of obtaining an official license from Nintendo and/or Sega. Licensing was, and still is, practically mandatory for a video game developer on console and handheld gaming systems. Most major retailers refused to carry “unlicensed” video games, such as those developed by Color Dreams and American Video Entertainment for the NES, due to unwavering pressure from Nintendo of America.  Knowing that working without a license was practically suicide, Keith approached the industry giants with an impressive demonstration of a fully-functioning modem and early prototypes of Baton’s three compatible games.

Game console modems seemed like such mysterious technology back in the old days.  While the coming of the Internet eventually quashed the need for such antiquated technology, the story behind the Teleplay modem is an interesting tale of worried investors and licensing headaches.  I can't help but wonder how gaming history could have unfolded had the Teleplay modem made it to stores and built up a small following.

More Awesome NES Box Art

Dragon Warrior 2 They just don't make artwork like the classic Nintendo Entertainment System box art anymore.  I've gone on and on in the past about my favorite and least favorite examples of classic box art, but the topic has come up yet again over at the NeoGAF forums where everyone is gushing over the Dragon Warrior box as well as boxes for Castlevania, Ultima, and many more.

I have to admit that while character renders are neat, sometimes I miss the expressive and eye-catching boxes of yesteryear.  These days it seems that most box art is simply anime-style renderings or interchangeable images of thugs with guns.  I don't buy games based on the quality of box art anymore, but I do like the games I buy to have expressive or memorable covers. 

Please Stand By

Dr. MarioThings have been very quiet here at PTB for the last two weeks, but soon things will be getting back up to speed.  I just finished a nine day hospital stay and have some new challenges to face in the days and weeks ahead, but I fully intend to get my life and routine back to normal just as soon as possible.  I'll share the whole story on just what happened soon, but for now just know that I'm back at the computer and starting to feel better.  Thanks to everyone who e-mailed and posted comments of concern.  I wish I could have answered everyone before now, but the hospital didn't offer a decent Internet connection.  I've been out of the loop for over a week.  I have so much on which to catch up!

Mini-Review: Kirby: Squeak Squad

Kirby: Squeak SquadIt's just another day for Kirby, everyone's favorite bottomless stomach.  He's just about to enjoy an afternoon snack of strawberry shortcake when the confection is suddenly stolen right out from under our hero!  Before long Kirby learns the theft is the work of a group of thieving mice known as the Squeaks, and as it turns out the Squeaks are attempting to snatch up all kinds of treasure that has been scattered around the land.  Eager to recover his missing cake, Kirby sets off to face the Squeaks in Kirby: Squeak Squad for the Nintendo DS.

Continue reading "Mini-Review: Kirby: Squeak Squad" »