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April 2007

Weekly Poll: Are Wii Still Playing?

Weekly Poll for 4-23-2007We have a tie between the Game Boy Color and the Sega Dreamcast as the most wanted Virtual Console addition.  Of course, most of the later generation hardware would require some kind of storage add-on in order to take up space on the Wii.  Personally I'd like to see the later Sega material show up on the service.  I have the older retro things pretty well covered, but just don't have the hardware needed to play Saturn and Dreamcast games (and I'm not eager to set up more consoles in my packed entertainment center).

Speaking of consoles, how's your Wii doing?  Still playing it?  Are you playing it as often as when you first got it?  There's been some talk of "Wii fatigue" in that the novelty of motion-sensing controls may be wearing off.  What do you think?  Does the Wii still hold your interest?  You know the voting drill by now.  Let's hear your thoughts on this one.

Gaming By The Numbers

Francis the Nerd I can be very obsessive about my video game collection.  It isn't enough to keep every game I ever acquired, but I must also organize them properly.  They must be sorted and shelved first by console and then in alphabetical order.  That is not enough, however.  I must also keep a computer database of my collection so that, at any time, I can look over the list and bask in my mighty collection of circuit boards and discs.  It's a sickness, yes, but it's also an interesting way to see how many other people own the same games I do.  I use GameSpot's database to keep my gaming index, and part of that database shows how many other people have my games in their own databases.  It's interesting to see that 19,943 people own Devil May Cry for the Sony PlayStation 2, but only 6,965 own Donkey Kong Country for the Super NES.

Using my own collection as a master list, I thought it'd be neat to see which of my games are the most popular and which are the most rare when it comes to other folks using the GameSpot database.  Remember, if I don't own the actual cartridge or disc then I won't be talking about it here.  Who's up for a little fun with numbers?

Continue reading "Gaming By The Numbers" »

EA Kicks It Old School

General C.H.A.O.S. Electronic Arts has picked up a reputation over the last few years of being a company that pumps out seemingly endless revisions of the same basic game over and over again.  However, I'm very glad to see that things may be changing at the company, as we've recently seen a few signs that the old EA spirit may be returning.  The latest indication is the new "Square, Circle, Triangle" column at EA's own forums that takes a look back at classic EA games from yesterday.  General Chaos for the Sega Genesis is featured in the first installment.

The first game that came to mind when I thought about doing this column was “General C.H.A.O.S.” This 1993 tongue-in- cheek, arcade style, pseudo military, action shooter was developed by Game Refuge and published by EA on the Genesis. I loved this game when I was younger, even pulled out the Genesis last Summer to match up with a few old friends. It's fun, it has explosions, its got hokey humor and some really great cartoony art that brings the whole thing together.

I'm looking forward to future editions of this feature.  Here's hoping they cover some of my old favorites, such as 16-bit platformer B.O.B., another one of those character mascot titles from the early 1990s that nobody remembers.

A Little Maintenance

Mario and his hammerI've been doing a little behind the scenes maintenance on PTB this evening, and although you shouldn't notice anything different as you read your way around the site, I'd appreciate it if you let me know if you find something that seems broken.  Of special note is that some people have had difficulty accessing the site via the "" URL, as it wasn't forwarding to "" for everyone.  This should be fixed now (or very soon, at least, as the changes I made propagate across the Internet).

Gaming Violence Debate At AMN

Mortal Kombat The Virginia Tech tragedy has brought the debate over whether or not video games cause people to raise a weapon in real life.  We've been discussing the issue over at AMN and now our thoughts have been posted as the latest in our series of roundtable discussion.  There are plenty of interesting points raised, but as for me I decided to abstain from rehashing the same argument that's been going on for years and instead share an insightful quote from noted film critic Roger Ebert.

"Events like this," I said, "if they are influenced by anything, are influenced by news programs like your own. When an unbalanced kid walks into a school and starts shooting, it becomes a major media event. Cable news drops ordinary programming and goes around the clock with it. The story is assigned a logo and a theme song; these two kids were packaged as the Trench Coat Mafia. The message is clear to other disturbed kids around the country: If I shoot up my school, I can be famous. The TV will talk about nothing else but me. Experts will try to figure out what I was thinking. The kids and teachers at school will see they shouldn't have messed with me. I'll go out in a blaze of glory."

Video games are just the latest scapegoat, joining the list of blamable forms of entertainment along with comic books, rock 'n' roll music, movies, and the waltz.  People need an easy target to blame in the aftermath of these kind of events, and whatever is generally new and unfamiliar to the elder generations in society usually fits the bill perfectly.  I'm sure in twenty years you'll see my generation protesting that ultraporn is corrupting our children.

Virtual Console Most Wanted

Wii Shop ChannelThe Virtual Console selection on the Wii Shop Channel keeps rolling along with new retro games week after week, but there are a few games that I want to see available on the service about which we have yet to hear a peep.  The world may be clamoring for Super Metroid or Super Mario RPG, but I have my own list of games from yesterday for which I'd gladly fork over a few hundred Wii points, and here they are presented in no particular order.

Mischief Makers Mischief Makers
Developed by Treasure
Nintendo 64 (1997)

One of the few 2D platforms produced for the Nintendo 64, Mischief Makers follows the adventures of a robotic maid by the name of Marina Liteyears.  While visiting Planet Clancer with her creator, the doddering old man is kidnapped by the local population.  Marina must traverse a variety of wacky levels in search of the villains behind the abduction.  The game's gimmick lies in Marina's attack style.  She doesn't jump on foes or throw objects at them, oh no.  Instead she grabs hold of them and gives them a mighty shake, causing them to drop gems or other valuable items before tossing her foe away.  Few people experiences the whimsical joy of Mischief Makers when it was originally released, and although I rented it a few times I never had the chance to fully complete the game.  I'd easily pay 1000 Wii points to correct that mistake.

Continue reading "Virtual Console Most Wanted" »

Drive's Race Could Continue

Drive FOX is at it again, canceling a promising new television show before it has a chance to find its audience.  I'm talking about Drive, a show about an illegal cross-country road race and the people compelled to compete under mysterious circumstances.  Sort of a "Lost on wheels", the plot followed the group of ordinary people as they decipher clues as to the next race checkpoint and, eventually, discover who is staging the event in the first place.  After just four episodes aired over two weeks FOX has pulled the plug, meaning that those of us who have been watching (such as myself) will most likely never find out just who was behind the race or any other the other solutions to the little mysteries and character flaws that had been introduced.  Unless, of course, Drive were to be reworked into a video game.

Imagine a massive game world set across as much of the United States as current storage limitations allow.  Players choose to play as one of the various racing teams (each with differing motivations), then must solve the riddles that reveal the next checkpoint.  Racing through cities and across interstates, players gradually learn the secrets of the race while defending against being eliminated by the competition.  There's also an opportunity for side quests, such as robbing a bank. While heavy on racing action and puzzle solving, the game would incorporate the rich story set up by the television show. Drive: The Game is a definite long shot, but not so improbable that I can't see it happening.

Kongo Bongo No Longo

KongasIt wasn't my idea to buy the DK Bongo Drums.  No, instead I wound up buying a set because I'd been assigned the review of Donkey Konga 2 for the Nintendo GameCube back in 2005 and, for whatever reason, I wasn't going to be supplied with a review set of bongos.  It was a plum assignment, however, so I plunked down the $60 for a bongo controller and Donkey Kong Jungle Beat figuring that if Konga 2 was a bust at least I'd get a chance to see what the fuss on Jungle Beat was all about.  I didn't have the highest of expectations, but then I proceeded to beat my bongo-bashing hands nearly numb with two weeks of Jungle Beat bongo blasting.  I eventually had to give the game up for a while to let my battered palms heal.  Then the drums fell silent for a year as I awaited another game that made use of the quirky drum controller.

Then, at E3 2006, Nintendo announced DK Bongo Blast for the Nintendo GameCube, a flight racing game starring Donkey Kong that requires the bongos.  Of course, now the game has been kicked up to the Wii and apparently had its bongo functionality stripped in favor of the more popular Wii remote.  I wish Nintendo would reconsider.  I have this great bongo controller just sitting here on display by my piano, waiting for a new game, and the ol' drums have been outshined by the new motion-sensing kid on the block.  I'm well aware that the bongos are more a novelty than anything else, but it's still a shame to see them finally kicked to the curb.  I was hoping for one last drum solo.

The Sega Scream Of Frustration

Sega's lackluster library The story of the rise and fall of Sega in the home video game market is an often-told tale, but how often do we hear the epilogue?  AMN's Lucas DeWoody has written one of the best Sega editorials in recent memory in which he recounts how the company has squandered its gamer goodwill over the last few years with shoddy retro ports, lackluster new games, baffling business decisions, and the tarnishing of what was one of gaming's most beloved characters.  Consider this your required reading for the day.

Sega continues to botch their classics up in compilation batch sets for last-gen consoles like the PS2 and GBA with sub-par presentation and overly high prices. The most notorious example might be last year’s Game Boy Advance port of Genesis classic Sonic the Hedgehog, the game that built Sega’s fortunes in the 90’s. The title was published under the Sonic Team name for the sake of brand recognition, and development was farmed out to a third party team who apparently didn't wish to be credited for the work. Ask anyone who has played it, and they will tell you it is completely broken with missing frames of animation, broken physics, botched music, and a frame rate that left the game running at half speed. The port was a mockery of the legend on which it was based.

Don't miss the other examples of Sega's poor decisions such as turning down a no-risk opportunity to publish a new Streets of Rage title, neglecting the Shenmue franchise at every possible turn, practically inviting a takeover by Sammy thanks to corporate arrogance, squandering the chance to revive Vectorman, and, of course, dragging the Sonic the Hedgehog down to where he is today.  How can a company that was once as creative and innovative as Sega make so many horrible mistakes in such a short span of time?

Bionicle Heroes Preview At AMN

Bionicleheroes When the assignment for a Bionicle Heroes preview hit my desk last week, I had no idea what to expect from the game.  I'd never heard of Lego's Bionicle franchise before; as far as I was concerned I had just been asked to write a preview about a really spiffy piece of eyewear.  After a little research I came to understand that the new Bionicle Heroes for the Nintendo Wii is actually another of those "Wiimakes" in which a game from last generation gets crammed full of motion controls and flung at a new audience.  Also, there's something about robots.  Check out the whole article at AMN.

In Bionicle Heroes, players are thrust into the island of Voya Nul where a battle for control is currently underway. Characters from Lego's Bionicle universe are searching for the Mask of Life that has been stolen by six evil Piraka. Six Toas are at the player's command as they quest to recover the mask and defeat the villainous tribe. Each Toa has unique abilities, such as the ability to walk over lava unscathed or the power to gather Lego bricks and build constractions (that is, the words "construction" and "action" melded together). The key to defeating the Piraka lies within the island's various jungle, desert, and mountain environments. A healthy dose of puzzles have been injected into the action, so players should expect to use their brains as well as their madly waving hands.

Now I understand the strange looks I get from people when I go on about Mushroom Kingdom politics or the the history of the Triforce.  I wrote the above paragraph, yes, but I really have no earthly idea just what the hell it all means.  Toas and Pirakas on Voya Nul?  Lorem ipsum indeed.