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April 2007

Weekly Poll: Virtual Comeback

Weekly Poll for 4-16-2007I was surprised that there's such an even mix of retro and recent gaming going on out there.  I expected the numbers to be a little more skewed.  Instead they nearly all fall right into line together.  Fascinating.  As for me, I spend more time playing new games these days mostly because I have to spend a lot of my gaming hours reviewing the latest thing, but in my spare time I usually reach back to the Super NES generation of gaming.  Well, that and some of the TurboGrafx-16 games I missed out on back in the day.  Thank you, Nintendo, for the Virtual Console!

Speaking of the Virtual Console, word came down last week that NEC is poised to start releasing Neo-Geo games for the service.  With another classic console under its belt, the Virtual Console is growing stronger.  There are still a bunch of beloved older systems not featured on the service, however, which leads me to ask this question: which older console do you most want to see on the Virtual Console?  Cast your vote, leave some comments, and spread the retro gaming love.


Animated Shows Love Video Games

TV characters meet video games Television's animated shows have recently caught the gaming bug for some reason.  Shows have been referencing video games for years (Futurama's many masterful gaming in-jokes come to mind, as do Donkey Kong's cameos on The Simpsons over the years), but recently the amount of game-related material seems to be at an all-time high.  South Park seems to have started the latest trend with its episode devoted to World of Warcraft, "Make Love, Not Warcraft", and not long after American Dad took a shot at MMORPGs with a subplot in the episode "Dungeons and Wagons" in which Steve Smith takes up the online role of the mighty warrior Agathor in a Warcraft parody.  Most noteworthy is that the animation style used to depict actions within the game is vastly more detailed than the style used for the rest of the show.  Then The Simpsons jumped into the fray with "Marge Gamer" when Marge Simpson becomes entranced with Earthland Realms (another Warcraft parody) and finds that just about everyone in Springfield is playing the game as well.  Naturally, Bart is the most powerful and most feared adversary in the mythical realm.  Looking ahead, next week's King of the Hill episode, "Grand Theft Arlen", sees Hank Hill becoming addicted to a video game about propane.  I don't know where all of the gaming plots are coming from all of a sudden, but I have to say that I enjoy it.  It's always fun to see our hobby (and, on occasion, us) tweaked by a clever writing team. 


Upcoming Virtual Console List Is Full Of Gold

Kirby's Dream Course Every week Nintendo opens the gates a crack and releases a classic game or three into the Wii Shop Channel's Virtual Console store.  Exactly which games are coming when are usually shrouded in mystery, but Chris Kohler over at Game|Life has scoured the Internet to put together a list of upcoming releases.  There's some great stuff coming up in the future for a variety of platforms (as if that should be any surprise).  Check out the full list for the entire lineup, but here are a few items from that list that I highly recommend (in no particular order):

  • Zelda II: The Adventure of Link
  • Castlevania
  • Super Mario Bros. 2
  • Bonk 3: Bonk's Big Adventure
  • Toe Jam and Earl in Panic on Funkatron
  • Kid Chameleon
  • Vectorman
  • Pulseman
  • Gradius III
  • Legend of the Mystical Ninja
  • Kirby's Dream Course

Of course, if you somehow managed to miss out on most of those games back when they were new then I just can't understand how you've managed to waste your life on other pursuits.  Unfortunately, higher profile titles such as Super Metroid and Super Mario RPG are still missing in action.  Quit hogging the good stuff, Nintendo!


DS Headset Testing Complete

Nintendo DS headset The tireless crew over at AMN Labs (er, that is, whichever staff member was assigned the review) has completed the analysis of Nintendo's new headset for the Nintendo DS.  This peripheral allows DS gamers to join the legion of people who walk around with earpieces clipped to their head as if they are being controlled by the Cybermen.  Welcome to the twenty-first century!

When plugged into the audio jack on your DS, all sound is channeled through the headset instead of out of the DS’s speakers. The quality of the headset is decent, but not outstanding. The same can be said about the microphone quality itself. During our playtime with Pokemon, we noticed that the incoming voices of other players were partially compressed – as expected. Still, the volume is loud enough and audio clarity is not an issue.

Otherwise, the only other possible complaint users could have is that it’s wired and not wireless. Still, the cord is long enough, and unless you have abnormally long arms and hold your DS seven feet away from your face, then you won’t have a problem.

Maybe it's just me, but I can't see where I'd use the headset.  I don't play my DS in populated places with the sound on, and in the event that I did use the headset I see this accessory as one more thing I'd have to carry around with me.  Goodness knows I wouldn't leave it clipped to my ear when it wasn't in use.  With all the other stuff I carry around I just don't have room for another gadget in my pockets.  I imagine it'll find its audience though just like every other unusual Nintendo peripheral (and I'm proof of that, speaking as someone who owns both the bongos and the dance pad for the GameCube).


Totally Rad Is Totally Localized

Totally Rad By now you've probably seen the amazing article at 1up.com about the process of localizing video games for other markets.  For example, the well known saga of turning Osu! Tatakae! Ouendan! into Elite Beat Agents or the classic Adventure Island versus Wonder Boy story are both instances of changing an existing game into another in order to appeal to international audiences.  One game that slipped through 1up's cracks is Magic John, a Nintendo Famicom game that was ported across the sea as Totally Rad for the Nintendo Entertainment System.  The localization team at Jaleco had apparently caught the '80s surfer slang bug, turning an otherwise average little game into a bizarre California surfer lingo adventure (with magic!).  Now, all these years later, comes The Rad Project in which the two games are compared and the various differences between them are dissected and examined.

So I would venture to say that Totally Rad, while failing as a translation of Magic John, succeeds admirably on its own terms, and in fact comes out the superior work, if only because it has spirit the original sorely lacked. Let me put it this way: if Jaleco had released Magic John untouched, with a perfectly obedient translation, would its story be worth any breath right now? (Breath, electrons, whatever.) But here we are, twelve years later, and I've sunk a fair number of hours of my life into an analysis of this game's localization that hopefully amused you for 15 minutes or so. I'd say that's pretty rad.

I have no experience with Totally Rad other than to say that as a child I was able to go with my parents to an Ace Hardware vendor show where, for some reason, companies such as Capcom, Konami, and Jaleco were trying to convince Ace franchises to stock their video games next to the hammers, drill bits, and Plexiglas.  I collected a lot of promo and marketing flyers that day (the kind of stuff that years later I'd collect at E3) and remember seeing Totally Rad running as an unplayable demo (that is, there was no controller hooked up to the demo unit; this was all about marketing and selling to a non-gaming audience of hardware store franchise owners, after all).  I recall that I thought it looked quite average before I wandered off to see what Mega Man was up to in his next adventure.  Gnarly.

(via GameSetWatch)


Street Fighter's Ryu Looks Good In HD

Ryu in HD The revelation that Capcom is remastering Super Street Fighter II Turbo in high definition for release on Microsoft's Xbox Live and the Sony PlayStation 3 store stirred up a lot of fanboy joy, so I expect that now that the first image of Ryu in HD has been leaked the frenzy shall truly begin.  Retrogaming with Racketboy analyzes what little we've seen so far and speculates on the future of remastering classics games for HD.

When I laid my eyes on this new sprite, I really had to do a double take to make sure that I was reading it correctly. But indeed, the new character sprites for SSF2T HD are so big and detailed, they don’t look like sprites at all. It looks like one of my remake dreams that I thought would never come true is actually becoming a reality.

As good as this single sprite looks, the true test will be seeing it in action. The number of frames in the character animation can make a huge difference. If they could exceed the animation in Street Fighter 3, I suppose that would be excellent.

A co-worker of mine suggested that all 2D games should be gussied up for the HD future, and while I love what I've seen of Street Fighter's HD future, I can't imagine developers taking the time and resources to remaster too many classic games.  As much as I'd love to see Mega Man or Castlevania take this route, I just don't see it happening.  If I'm wrong about that, however, expect me to be the first in line to blast Elec Man to bits in all his high definition glory.


Sixaxis From The Parallel Universe

PS360 Controller Have you ever seen an object that just should not exist?  Console hardware hacker Ben Heckendorn is at it again, this time stuffing the guts of a Sony PlayStation 3 Sixaxis controller into a Microsoft Xbox 360 controller.  The result is enough to make one's brain hurt.  This controller should not be!

A better view of the main PCB in the Sixaxis. Amazingly, it’s exactly the same shape and size as a Dual Shock board. The actual “tilt” device is a little IC at the end of a cord, not much too look at. On the original Sixaxis / Dual Shock most of the trigger buttons are on a plastic sheet set against a separate plastic frame, much like a keyboard is inside. Again I say, why didn’t they update the controller this time? I mean, a REAL change? It’s getting pretty pathetic…

When investigating these kinds of things it's always important to remember that the simplest explanation is usually the correct one.  After looking at the photos I do not believe that Heckendorn built this controller.  His guide is all just technobabble.  PCB?  IC?  Those aren't even words!  Clearly he has managed to tear a hole in the multiverse through which he was able to pull a Microsoft PlayStation 3 controller into our reality.  It's the only plausible explanation.  Hopefully the next time he crosses the Einstein-Rosen-Podolsky bridge he'll bring back a Sony DS.

(via Game|Life)


Raiders Of The Lost Arcade

Donkey Kong Jungle Fever The once-popular video arcade is all but dead in America as home consoles and PC titles have taken over the gaming landscape.  This is not so in Japan, as across the sea companies continue to create new amazing arcade games for eager audiences.  Amongst the new machines are a few games created or licensed by Nintendo that feature familiar characters.  Coin Heaven has taken a look at some of the only-in-Japan arcade games that feature Mario, Donkey Kong, and your other favorite Mushroom Kingdom heroes.

A sort of sequel-remake-port to Donkey Kong Jungle Beat, Donkey Kong Jungle Fever offered parts of the GameCube title in arcades. I'd imagine the advantage here is that players who didn't want to drop money on the DK Bongo controller for Jungle Beat would get a chance to see why the game is worth it. Some elements of the gameplay were modified to include the collection of medals into the title, though I have no idea how or why.

It's a shame that there just isn't a market for these kinds of games anymore outside of Japan.  From the looks of things there are some really intriguing and downright crazy stuff hitting the arcades over there.  Meanwhile, we here in America are forced to scrounge around to find the one F-Zero AX or Mario Kart Arcade GP machine located somewhere in the immediate time zone.  Such a shame.


Sonic Rush Adventure Officially Announced

Sonic Rush Adventure Hot on the heels of last week's trademark registration revelation comes the official announcement from Sega of Sonic Rush Adventure for the Nintendo DS.  Apparently we're looking at a sequel to 2005's Sonic Rush that maintains the 2D element with 3D action reserved for boss battles.  The blue blur will face off against pirates this time around, leaving me to wonder if Sonic is trading his radical attitude for a nautical one.

  • Classic Sonic 2D Gameplay with improved action stages. With new action-packed gameplay, you will snowboard down an avalanche, springboard off giant mushrooms, hang glide across wide gaps, and much more.
  • A high-speed ocean adventures! Battle with wicked pirates both on land and at sea throughout 14 action stages on seven different islands.
  • Enhanced touch screen controls. Navigate the oceans and perform aerial tricks to avoid treacherous water mines and aim your cannons during ship-to-ship battles by using the stylus and touch screen on the Nintendo DS.
  • Compete with friends via Wireless DS Single-Card Download Play in two battle modes. Two players will face-off in intense dual screen races or collect the most items spread throughout the map in exciting mission battles.

Here's hoping Sega gets this one right.  I enjoyed Sonic Rush even if it was a bit on the short and uninspired side.  I'd like to see this sequel feature a little more longevity.  Here's some free advice for the development team: when in doubt, turn down the attitude and crank up the speed.


Weekly Poll: New Versus Old

Weekly Poll for 4-09-2007 Wow, most of you play more hours per week than I do.  I get in about an hour a day when I'm not reviewing anything (including portable gaming).  Like everyone else I wish I had more free time to indulge my gaming habits, but in the end I suppose the time crunch makes me more productive in the other areas of my life.  After all, one can't exactly include "saved the princess" on a resumé.  Well, not yet, anyways.

Speaking of gaming habits, here's a related question for you.  Which do you play more often: newer games from this generation and the dangling ends of last generation or classic retro titles from the glory days of the 8-bit and 16-bit processors?  Cast your vote and leave some comments.