Previous month:
February 2007
Next month:
April 2007

March 2007

Triforce Of Healing

Triforce pump It's always interesting with a symbol from a video game appears in an unrelated place in the real world.  Kotaku.com has been having some fun recently with everyone's favorite golden power, the Triforce from The Legend of Zelda, appearing in other places such as a logo for a debt collection company or near a shrine.  Yesterday evening I was connecting myself to my nightly bag of liquid nutrition (long story) when I noticed the logo on the pump that keeps the fluid flowing into my veins.  Look familiar?  There must be something about that arrangement of triangles that is visually appealing.  Why else would it pop up in all kinds of different places?


Be Like Koji Kondo

Mario PaintMost anyone with an affinity for video game music reveres the work of Nintendo's Koji Kondo, the man responsible for creating memorable themes from Super Mario Bros., The Legend of Zelda, and just about every other classic Nintendo franchise.  Kondo recently sat down at the piano at a concert in San Francisco and tapped out his most famous melody for the small crowd that had gathered around.  Just like any other famous composer, Kondo has a large following of fans who want to play his works on their own instruments, and once again a large archive of downloadable Nintendo music scores comes to our rescue.  NinSheetMusic.com is an ever-growing archive of sheet music for all of us out there who want to play music from Nintendo games.  Most all the greats are here.  In addition to the obvious Mario and Zelda archives there's also selections from the worlds of Metroid, Donkey Kong, Pokemon, and even some popular non-Nintendo fare such as Mega Man and Castlevania.  We can't all play piano like Koji Kondo, but at least now we can come one step closer to trying.

(via 4 Color Rebellion)


Nintendo Seeks Diddy Kong Racing Feedback

Diddy Kong Racing DS The Nintendo survery department is at it again, this time in search of reactions and thoughts regarding last month's Diddy Kong Racing DS (and it's by invitation only, apparently, so I can't share the link).  Considering that I enjoyed the original Diddy Kong Racing for the Nintendo 64 (even if it was a little rough around the edges) I snapped this one up as soon as it hit stores.  Unfortunately, as I just finished telling Nintendo in their little survey, I came away disappointed.  Here's a snippet of my comments:

DKR DS feels unpolished and rough around the edges.  The game has changed the original design by shoehorning touchscreen gimmicks into the game that don't quite work such as having to blow into the microphone to get a boost or blow out torches.  In fact, I frequently get lightheaded from all the puffing, so I just don't bother to boost the hovercraft anymore.  The Taj mission where I had to blow out the torches before time elapsed almost made me pass out.

But there's more.  While I appreciate the new levels, why weren't they part of the main game world?  The new balloon popping challenge is an exercise in frustration, as it's difficult for the DS to distinguish between trying to move the camera and trying to pop a balloon.  The custom level editor (Dream Race) is a good idea, but the track is transparent against a cloud/sky background.  I can't see where I'm driving most of the time.  Finally, I don't like Taj's new voice.  Take away his stereotypical Arabian accent and he loses his personality.

I really expected so much more from DKR DS.  The Nintendo magic just isn't in this game.

Keep this kind of thing in mind if you're planning to hop aboard the Diddy Kong Racing bandwagon but have yet to do so.  I completed the game, sure, but it just wasn't as much fun as I'd hoped.  There is no one outstanding problem with the game, but instead it's all those little annoyances that add up to frustrating results.


Zelda Franchise Nearly Came To An End

MidnaI've read a lot of shocking video game news over the years, but nothing has had me more flummoxed than learning that The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess was very nearly the final Legend of Zelda game.  Speaking at the Game Developers Conference this week Zelda director Eiji Aonuma had this to say:

"We had to make a game that met expectations of fans in North America. If it didn't, it could mean the end of the franchise."

Considering how Twilight Princess has become a landslide hit I think it's safe to say that the series will continue (after all, the first DS game in the franchise, Phantom Hourglass, is due later this year).  Just for a moment though I actually found myself considering a world without new Legend of Zelda adventures.  I've been playing Zelda games for nearly twenty years now and I have to admit that I've never even thought that one day the adventures of Link could come to an end.  To be honest, it's also something that I never want to think about ever again.


A PlayStation Home Where The Idiots Roam

PlayStation Home When I first heard about the newly announced PlayStation Home concept I immediately imagined a combination of Microsoft's Xbox Live community with Nintendo's Animal Crossing virtual world (with just a dash of Wii Miis). After all, we're talking about a 3D virtual world in which Sony PlayStation 3 owners can play in common and private spaces while talking, sharing photos or videos or music, and just generally having fun.  Sounds promising, right?  While there is much more going on here than one would find in those two elements, I'm curious just how much the PS3 community will support it.

On the surface the service looks promising and enticing: achievement trophies! Streaming audio and video! Customizable avatars! Casual gaming! Chat! Then I remember that I'm very cynical and that so many people become complete (for lack of a better word) assholes when connected to a virtual world and I see no end to advertisements presented as legitimate entertainment, offensive hardcore porn plastered all over virtual apartments, players who log off when about to lose a game (casual game or actual big budget title), some players insulting others with crude and racist language, other players attempting to seduce the younger avatars, and the eventual "hack" that allows players to create anatomically correct naked avatars for the sake of harassing others. Yeah, sure, sign me up for that! So while I see great potential for good things in PlayStation Home and I'd love to be wrong about my beliefs on the issue, we can always count on general immaturity to put a damper on the fun.


Nice Touch!

Super Metroid Sometimes we're in such a hurry to slay the dragon or collect the seven crystal bananas that we forget to take a look around and appreciate the little things in life.  The gang at the NeoGAF forums are discussing some of those nice little touches in video games, covering everything from idle animations (Chrono Trigger characters wave to get your attention) to the unexplained dead astronaut found in Super Metroid.  Forum member Sapiens ruminates on the poor soul's fate:

I was just going through Super Metroid again and happened upon the dead astronaut in Kraid's lair.  Even though the story of this poor soul is never divulged, I like to think as him/her as a survivor of the abandoned space ship you encounter later in the game. He or she must have ventured out into the depths of the interesting planet Zebes before succumbing to fatigue, illness, or injury before passing on.  What is also interesting is how parasites are attached to the corpse and scurry away as Samus approaches. Does this suggest a recent death? Or was the suit keeping the body "fresh" for years before corroding away, allowing for the consumption of the innards.

I love the little touches like these.  One of my more recent favorites is how Link will sometimes swing his sword triumphantly before putting it away in The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess, but I also love Mario's sleepy mumblings in Super Mario 64, Dixie Kong sipping from a juice box in Donkey Kong Country 3 as an idle animation, and how Banjo-Tooie allows players to revisit some areas of Banjo-Kazooie that were destroyed or otherwise impacted in the previous adventure (Spiral Mountain and the entry of Gruntilda's realm come to mind).


Sonic and the Secret Rings Review At AMN

Sonic and the Secret RingsSega made a decent Sonic the Hedgehog game?  What is this, 1994?  My review of Sonic and the Secret Rings for the Nintendo Wii is now available over at AMN, so if you've been on the fence about this new type of Sonic game I suggest you get to reading it right away.

The ultimate question behind Sonic and the Secret Rings is obvious: is it any fun? While the game does start out slow, the action really picks up as Sonic earns new abilities and unlocks new levels. Levels become longer and more challenging as time goes on, and before too long the game goes from being based on memorizing paths and pure luck to intense tilting action as Sonic moves with graceful fluidity.

Here's hoping that Sega can work out the game's few kinks for the inevitable sequel without compromising the game's bright spots.


Weekly Poll: Wii Vote

Weekly Poll for 2-23-2007You all are my kind of people.  I too took the leap with Sonic and the Secret Rings (rather than wait for a review copy from Sega I bought the game myself and was later reimbursed) and have to say that I wasn't disappointed.  My full review of the game should be up on AMN any moment now, but here's a little preview: it's fun.

Speaking of fun, Nintendo believes that as far as their new Everybody Votes Wii Channel is concerned, everybody should have fun voting.  When the polling channel was announced I immediately pictured questions involving future products and games, but instead found puff polls asking whether I prefer cats or dogs.  What's the deal?  The Everybody Votes Channel has so much potential, but I can't see myself bothering with it if it's not going to ask relevant questions.  How about you?  What do you think of the new channel?  Cast your vote in this non-fluff poll and leave some comments.


Nintendo Knows About Fan-Based Earthbound Translation

Mother 3When it became evident that Nintendo had no interest in translating the sequel to Earthbound, Mother 3, for the North American market, a group of rabid fans took it upon themselves to create an English translation of the game's script.  The project is making good progress as this teaser video clip shows, but what I really find interesting is that Nintendo of America president Reginald Fils-Aime knows about the project and yet hasn't smashed it to bits with Nintendo's mighty legal might.

From the most hyped games to the somewhat more obscure, Fils-Aime will discuss any possible title for Nintendo systems. So what of "Mother 3," a 2006 Game Boy Advance game released to cult acclaim in Japan but never so much as whispered for a U.S. release? The game has such a strong online following that a group of committed fans have vowed to produce their own translated version of the game if Nintendo won't. Fils-Aime has never played the game, but he knows about the translation project. He said the "Mother" series (known as "Earthbound" when "Mother 2" was released in the U.S.) is important to Satoru Iwata, Nintendo's president, who worked on the series years ago as a developer. "It certainly is a franchise near and dear to his heart, and it's something I'm trying to get smart on to understand whether or not there is an opportunity here. But certainly I've seen the success in Japan. That hasn't gone unnoticed. And it's certainly something we're looking at.

Could Nintendo really be willing to allow a fan-based translation to exist without penalty?  The company has always been extremely protective of its trademarks and properties, so I really never believed that Nintendo would allow the project to carry on once top management learned of it.  Of all of the new Nintendo news that has come out recently it's this blurb that I find the most interesting.  I'd love to know why Nintendo hasn't slammed the lawsuit hammer down on the translation team.

(via NeoGAF)


Bang Those Bricks!

Lose your rings If someone told you they were going to bang the bricks what would you take that to mean?  Any thoughts?  Apparently the slang phrase means "to get money from an ATM" because in Super Mario Bros. Mario acquires coins by banging on brick blocks.  Is that a tenuous link or what?  I'm as big a gamer fan as they come and even I think that's an expression that's never going to catch on.  However, the idea does get my mind working overtime on other equally vague video game slang.  We must all integrate the following into our everyday speech as soon as possible:

  • Lose your rings: to be bumped into by a careless person, causing you to drop whatever you're carrying [Sonic the Hedgehog]
  • Chill the metroid: to place groceries in the freezer [Metroid]
  • Blue shelled: to be unavoidably injured [Mario Kart]
  • Make a fantastic journey to the cave of monsters: to go to the mall [Bubble Bobble]
  • Turning blue: to become vulnerable [Pac-Man]
  • Kirby your food: to eat quickly with few bites [Kirby's Dream Land]

Feel free to spread these phrases around your circle of friends and coworkers.  I eagerly await the day that I overhear a random person using one of my new slang phrases.  Do you think you can do better?  Come up with your own poorly advised slang phrase that's based on video game conventions and practices and share it below.  Just don't lose your rings.

(via Kottke)