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March 2007

Wing Island Sucks

Wing Island Well, that may be a little harsh there, using a headline like "Wing Island Sucks", but after reading my pal Phil's review of the new Nintendo Wii game over at AMN I think the label is justified.  If you're joining us late, Wing Island is a flight adventure game that many first  assumed was a revival of Super NES and Nintendo 64 fan favorite Pilotwings (mostly because both games feature a similar l'il red biplane).  Then we found out that the game is actually a Hudson production and that Konami would handle publishing the game in North America.  Okay, so it's not Pilotwings, but it could still be fun, right?  Guess not.

Wing Island comes off as bare bones and rushed – a product that only children could enjoy, and we’re not even convinced about that statement. There just isn’t much to the game. It’s flying around in circles – in some pretty boring levels. Over and over and over. We want to like the game. It’s innocent, in a way, and we certainly can’t “hate” it.

Usually, we don’t take a game’s price into consideration in the process of reviewing software. However, with titles like this one, we can’t help but wonder what the hell is going on at the game’s publisher, Konami. The title’s priced at $39.99, 10 dollars under the traditional price of Wii software, but it’s still horribly overpriced. Maybe we would be able to say “this is a fun game and might be worth playing around with” if it was 10 bucks, but at its current price, we simply can’t recommend anything but to not bother with it.

So much for that then.  I don't think I've we've ever scored a game this low at AMN.  I could be wrong about that (I don't read everything), but I believe this is the first time I've seen our uncoveted "glass totally empty" graphic in place of a gold, silver, or bronze medal.  I've even seen my share of the "rental only" graphic, but never a "glass totally empty".  Indeed, to win that "award" a game must truly contain a special level of suck.

The Ups And Downs Of Updated Consoles

Microsoft Xbox 360 Elite It's become fashionable to upgrade and revamp existing gaming hardware before the rush over the original version of the console starts to cool.   Nintendo DS Lite!  Microsoft Xbox 360 Elite!  Nintendo Game Boy Advance SP!  Even Sony may be climbing on board with rumors of a third PlayStation 3 variation and there's that ongoing rumor about a PlayStation Portable redesign.  Even Nintendo is supposedly hard at work on a second Wii that offers DVD playback.  Is all of this console update business of any benefit to us, the loyal gamers who are expected to buy this stuff over and over again?  Over at AMN a bunch of us sat down and shared our thoughts on the matter in this latest roundtable discussion.  Here's a sample of my thoughts on the matter.

It's been hard enough to developers to design games with different system variations in mind, but now there's a third type of Xbox 360 hitting the market. Players who bought a Core system may feel disappointed in the product believing that developers will now target the Elite model for development (optional hard drive upgrade for the other models aside). Meanwhile, Elite owners may feel that developers aren't squeezing all the power of the console since they must develop games that fit with the Core's limitations. That's an awfully black and white way to look at the situation, but in the end my concern is that everyone would look down on the Xbox 360 line because it is perceived that games are being developed with one of the other models in mind.

Will I ever buy a DS Lite?  Provided the price dropped low enough to make it an impulse buy I might take the plunge, but most likely I'll hold out until either my original DS goes to that big hidden temple in the sky or some manner of highly superior third DS variation appears (DS Micro?).  Of course, then I'd just be setting myself up to get burned by the inevitable Super DS Lite 64.

The Hidden Secrets Of Grand Theft Auto IV

Gta4city After Grand Theft Auto developer Rockstar and publisher Take Two released the first trailer for the upcoming Grand Theft Auto IV for the Microsoft Xbox 360 and Sony PlayStation 3, fans immediately began to sift through the video clip frame by frame in search of hidden secrets. did some digging and found ten things we may have missed while oohing and ahhing at the footage.

Keen-eyed viewers with seriously-ninja Photoshop skills will notice an interesting in-game ad five seconds into the trailer. On the top left of the shot just above the wall is a sign that says "Visit Vice City - $300", leading many internet forums to explode with messages of "OMG!!11 MULTIPLE CITIEZ IN GTAIV!1"

So yeah, we might be getting a tiny bit ahead of ourselves taking this tiniest of glimpses as evidence that GTA IV will contain multiple, country-wide locals, but what would be more next-gen than a trip to all three cities that we've explored so vigorously on PS2? Having said that, would Vice City even look like Vice City in a modern day setting?

I wouldn't call myself much of a Grand Theft Auto fan (I bought both Grand Theft Auto III and GTA: Liberty City Stories for the PS2 to see what the fuss was all about, but haven't progressed very far in either of them) but I had to admit that I'm interested in seeing more of this next installment.  The city detail looks amazing compared to the cities we've seen in the previous entries in the series.  As long as players can still go anywhere and do just about anything in between missions, I think we're in for a treat.  And Rockstar, please, for the sake of avoiding further attempts at legislative gaming censorship, no sex mini-games this time, alright?

(via Slashdot)

Castlevania Movie Loses Writer/Director

CastlevaniaUPDATE: Or maybe not.

Depending on how you feel about film writer/director Paul W. S. Anderson (of Resident Evil and Alien vs. Predator fame/infamy) the following news may elate or depress you.  Dread Central has word that he has left the Castlevania film project, sending the movie deeper into development hell.

The film, based on the long-running video game franchise from Konami, has been in development hell since it was first announced, but Anderson’s always been on as director and writer. Apparently either he didn’t like where the project was going or didn’t feel like waiting anymore, because now he’s off all together.

While Anderson wasn't my first choice to helm Castlevania, I am kind of sorry to see him go.  Under his leadership the film may at least have been made (even if the current script deviated from the Castlevania central timeline).  If the project is handed to a lesser director then there's no telling how horrible the movie may be.  I'm trying to stay optimistic and hope that a better creative force will join the production team, but a part of me can't help but think that the Castlevania movie has just been slain.

(via Dark Horizons via NeoGAF)

DS Wishlist Yearns For Days Gone By

Super Metroid for Nintendo DS There's still a lot of life left in the Nintendo DS, but even as we see all kinds of new games for the system some people are more interested in yesterday's greatest games making a reappearance.  People such as Racketboy, for instance.  He's put together a Nintendo DS wishlist of classic games that should come to the DS (including my ideas for a Wario Land compilation and New Super Mario Bros. 2).

MattG at Press The Buttons also had a really great idea for an original DS game that would serve as a follow-up to the very popular New Super Mario Bros. But instead of continuing with the traditional Mario gameplay, Nintendo would go back to the Super Mario Bros. 2 (Doki Doki Panic) action, complete with turnip-throwing goodness.

Would it be quite as successful? Possibly not. But I think Nintendo is currently in the position to take some fun risks with some trademark franchises that could give the gaming community something new to talk about.

I love his idea of Metroid II: The Return of Samus and Super Metroid getting revivals, but something I know I'd buy (yet again) would be a Sonic Mega Collection type of port for the DS.  I'd be perfectly happy with authentic and accurate versions of the first three Sonic the Hedgehog games from the Sega Genesis days plus Sonic & Knuckles.  Those four games are Sonic's finest adventures, so being able to play them on the go would be sublime.  I can do without portable ports of his Master System or Game Gear travesties.  Price it at $20 and it'd sell like mad.  Of course, I said the same thing about Sonic the Hedgehog Genesis for the Game Boy Advance and we all know how that one turned out

Nintendo And Sega Announce Mario & Sonic Game

Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games My mind is blown, people.  Blown!  Sega has unveiled a teaser website and Nintendo has the press release for the first (authorized) video game that stars both Mario and Sonic the Hedgehog.  Can you believe it?  The Mushroom Kingdom and Mobius will collide in Beijing, China for Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games.

In Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games, players will compete in events that take place in environments based on the official venues of the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games. Using a supporting cast of characters from the amazing worlds of both Mario and Sonic, gamers will be able to compete as or against a range of lovable personalities including Mario, Sonic, Luigi, Knuckles, Yoshi, Tails and more. Innovative usage of the Wii and DS control systems to maneuver a favorite character will allow players to race the likes of Mario and Sonic down the 100m track, engage in exhilarating rallies in table tennis and churn water in a swimming heat, all while competing for the much sought after gold medal.

Assuming this isn't some kind of early April Fool joke (and I really hate those), I'm having a hard time wrapping my brain around this announcement.  I mean, sure, this is the legendary meeting that so many gamers have hypothesized about for years, but to actually see it happening... I just can't make it compute.  It's like some kind of logical paradox.  This game shouldn't exist... and yet it looks like it does!  I think I need to go lay down and process this information for a while.  We may be just a step away from cats and dogs living together and mass hysteria.

Weekly Poll: Elite Treat

Weekly Poll for 3-20-2007 My new PC has arrived and so far I've been very happy with it.  I decided on a Dell Dimension running Windows Vista with a Intel Core Duo 2 processor, 2 GB of RAM, 250 GB hard drive, and I even splurged on a remote control so I can control DVDs and music from bed.  And best of all, it doesn't crash relentlessly and randomly like my old Gateway PC!  Finally, I can get back to work.  Um... maybe after I finish this game.  *cough*

Speaking of new purchases, with the seemingly imminent official announcement from Microsoft about the Xbox 360 Elite (codename: Zephyr) just moments/days away, I have to wonder how many of you out there are frothing at the mouth to buy one.  The larger hard drive is a great step forward, but of course it'll also be available separately for existing Xbox owners.  HDMI is nice, but if you already have an Xbox then you're most likely already getting good visuals.  Where's the upgrade incentive?  Is it the limited edition black case and accessories?  If I had an HDTV I might be tempted, but as it stands I'm going to continue to hold off on getting a second current generation console (I learned last generation that a Sony PlayStation 2 could live in harmony with my Nintendo GameCube (provided I keep them separated on the shelf)).  So what about you?  Are you planning to take the Xbox 360 Elite plunge?  Cast your vote and leave some comments.

What Have They Done To You, Wario?

Wario as The Purple Wind If you're like me (and I know I am) then you first met anti-hero Wario at the end of Super Mario Land 2: Six Golden Coins back in 1992.  Presented as the "evil Mario", he had taken advantage of Mario's absence from Mario Land and taken up residence in the island's grand castle and served as the final boss.  There was something attractively twisted about seeing Wario for the first time.  All of Mario's familiar traits had been warped and exaggerated to create Wario: larger nose, craggy mustache, a few extra pounds that had become a large overweight gut, and of course let's not forget the parodied color scheme of his plumber's overalls (somewhat depicted in the Game Boy's monochromatic luster).  After Wario aped Mario's familiar power-ups he went down in defeat, becoming a shrimpy cowardly wimp.

After fleeing Mario Land Nintendo decided to add some additional personality to the little troll and spring-boarded him to stardom in Super Mario Land 3: Wario Land.  Over the next few games in the Wario Land series our anti-hero's characterization was established.  He's certainly greedy, yes, and he'll steal from anyone to get what he wants, but he's not necessarily a bad guy.  He's just overwhelmingly selfish.  He'll assist the "good guys" if there's something in it for him just as easily as he'll side with a villain if it'll get him what he wants.  Unfortunately, as time has gone on these traits have begun to change.

Continue reading "What Have They Done To You, Wario?" »

From Doki To Mario

Super Mario Bros. 2 prototype The fact that the version of Super Mario Bros. 2 released outside of Japan actually has roots as a different game called Doki Doki Panic is one of those non-secrets that (for some reason) everyone seems to think is shockingly secret insider information.  It's one of the Internet's worst kept secrets in that everyone who knows that Nintendo rejiggered Doki into Mario for the western world seems to think that nobody else knows this bit of information.  "Hey, did you know that Super Mario Bros. 2 isn't a real Mario game?"  Yes, we know by now that the original plot revolved around an Arabian family that was pulled into a storybook.  No, that doesn't make the end result some kind of "false" Super Mario game.  Shy Guys are real!  Let's not rehash that again.  Instead let's take a look at the game in transition in this Super Mario Bros. 2 prototype that isn't quite Doki Doki Panic or Super Mario Bros. 2.  Instead it's its own unique hybrid of the two.  Marvel as familiar Super Mario characters interact with objects that were removed from the final version of the game.  Thrill at the previously unheard musical remixes of familiar Super Mario Bros. themes!  Gasp at odd debugging glitches!  Take note of the general unfinished nature of the game at this stage of development! 

Wii Web Browser Developers Speak

Internet Channel As the release of the full version of the Nintendo Wii's Internet Channel draws closer the development team working on the project has shared some of their thoughts about the development process over at  It's an interesting read (even if the formatting is horrible; Miis and caption bubbles?  Whatever.) that explains some of the rationale behind why the web browser works the way that it does and how Nintendo and browser designer Opera took user comments into account when improving the trial version.  Here's one particular snippet that caught my attention:

Recently, the amount of video content has dramatically increased on the Internet. Videos and TVs match extremely well, so I really would like people to see this video content using the Internet Channel. If a lot of people started to watch Internet videos on their TVs, I think it could become a tremendous turning point in the history of the Internet.

The main thing I've used the Internet Channel for so far is to watch Youtube and DailyMotion videos on my TV instead of in a blurry little box on my PC.  I'm glad that the developers recognize that people do use the Internet Channel for that purpose, although I'm curious what (if anything) could be added to a future release that makes the whole "Internet videos on TV" process even better.