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December 2007

November 2007

Secret Origins: Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell: Pandora Tomorrow

Tom Clancy's Splniter Cell: Pandora Tomorrow I haven't always been a popular game journalist.  Yes, it's true.  Once upon a time I was just a regular gaming guy who grew up with dreams of working in the video game industry, but getting my foot in the door seemed impossible.  Pursuing the idea was always one of those things that I'd put off for "later", but then one day it looked as if there would not be a "later" for me.  After a long illness and a brush with death I threw myself into working towards my goal of becoming a video game reviewer, and if you've been a long-time PTB reader then you already know how the story ends.  What you probably don't know is how the whole thing began, and ultimately it's the tale of how I acquired Tom Clancy's Splniter Cell: Pandora Tomorrow for the Nintendo GameCube.

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In This Thread They Post Prototypes/Pre-Production Or Rare Consoles And Peripherals

Sega Neptune Our favorite consoles don't simply spring into existence as we know them today.  No, they began life as all kinds of crazy shapes and in all sorts of wacky colors.  Over at NeoGAF the forumites are posting up photos of prototypes of gaming consoles of all kinds, all the way from Nintendo's Advanced Video System to the Sega Neptune to Sony's Play Station (notice that's two words there) to the first publicly revealed Nintendo DS and beyond.  Of course, most of the photos are blurry low-resolution scans from magazines a decade or two old and are watermarked up the wazoo, but nobody ever said that studying history was easy.  And I still want to know what the hell that Nintendo Wii star controller was supposed to do.

Koopaling Comeback Cancelled

Koopalings Despite being unceremoniously kicked to the curb years ago, Bowser's original seven children still have their fans.  The Koopalings - Larry, Morton, Wendy, Iggy, Roy, Lemmy, and Ludwig - were some of Mario's most dangerous foes, causing trouble in Super Mario Bros. 3, Super Mario World, Mario Is Missing, Hotel Mario, Yoshi's Safari, and (in more of a cameo role than a proper appearance) Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga.  But where are they now?  Aren't they about due for a comeback?  Maybe so, and such a comeback almost happened about a year or two ago.  The kids were apparently supposed to return to make mischief in Super Princess Peach, but for some reason they were removed from the final version of the game.  That hasn't stopped hackers, those archaeologists of the game world, from digging into Peach's data and pulling out graphical Koopaling goodness.

Inside the game are seven unused bosses. Not just regular old unused bosses, but these are the Koopa Kids! Last seen in Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga! With full animation and proper colours and everything! Note that everything I say her about the attacks and stuff is just guessing, so grains of salt for everyone.

Iggy Koopa, judging by the file I found his graphics in, was the original boss of World 1, Ladida Plains. He apparently could breathe fire, use his hair as a horn and charge at you, and one of his animations looks like he's balancing on a ball, despite the fact it was Lemmy who used that tactic in Super Mario Bros. 3. He also has an animation where he grabs his buttocks in pain and collapses on the ground. Erm.

So close to a return and yet so far away.  The Koopalings have more personality than most Super Mario mini-bosses and it'd be great to see them finally come back into the spotlight.  They certainly have more going for them than Bowser's current favorite son, Bowser Jr.

One Wiiear Later

Nintendo Wii The Nintendo Wii has been in our hearts and in our homes for one year now and is still going strong.  I wanted to take a moment to outline some of the ways I feel the Wii has succeeded in its first year among us and emphasize a few things that need improvement for the future.


  • Fantastic Games.  It's all about the games, right?  Nintendo is still catering to us hardcore gamers despite the flood of casual gaming projects.  The past year has brought us The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess, Super Paper Mario, Metroid Prime 3: Corruption, and Super Mario Galaxy.  Even the third party publishers are getting the hang of it with titles like Konami's Elebits, EA's The Godfather: Blackhand Edition, and Capcom's third run at Resident Evil 4.
  • Not All About The Games.  Nintendo wants us to use the Wii every day for all kinds of things besides games, and while the News and Forecast Channels are neat enough, I find myself using the Internet Channel quite a lot to browse the web on my large television.  It's perfect for watching YouTube, too, as my father can assert.  While visiting me recently he spent a staggering six hours in a row with the Internet Channel and YouTube.  The Wii must be doing something right when that happens.

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Weekly Poll: Finished Complete 100%

Weekly Poll for 11-12-2007I'm surprised to see the Miis are as popular as they are.  They're kinda neat, yeah, but I really don't do much with mine.  The new Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games includes Mii support so that players can compete with a Mii instead of the familiar roster of Mario and Sonic characters.  I played a few events as my Mii and I have to admit that it didn't do much for me.  I play video games because I want to step into the role of a super plumber or a speedy hedgehog.  I can "play" as myself any time I want in the real world. 

I finished the story portion of Super Mario Galaxy over the weekend, but the game still goes on.  Players need only collect sixty of the game's one hundred and twenty stars to wrap up the plot.  The other sixty stars can be collected just for kicks.  I couldn't help wonder, however, how many people would consider the game "finished" after the story was complete.  When do you consider a game finished?  When the story ends?  When every last collectible item has been collected?  When the game's progress counter reaches 100%?  101% (Donkey Kong Country, I'm looking at you)?  Let's hear your thoughts.

History Repeats Itself With Super Mario Galaxy

Super Mario Galaxy Bros. 3 I'm sixty-five stars into Nintendo's glorious new Super Mario Galaxy and as I've made my way through the universe, I've noticed a number of familiar elements.  While that is to be expected (and certainly enjoyed), it seems that most of these elements are from the classic 1990 Nintendo Entertainment System adventure that is Super Mario Bros. 3.  Some of these things are obvious (such as familiar overworld music turning up after fifteen years of absence) while other things are more subtle and would appeal only to the long-time Super Mario fan.  Consider these specific elements that both Super Mario Galaxy and Super Mario Bros. 3 share (be warned, for here come the spoilers):

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PTB Loves Mario

MarioIt's finally time for Super Mario Galaxy here in North America, so that means that game journalism law requires I write a feature all about everyone's favorite plumber.  However, in all the time I've been writing here I've sung Mario's praises quite a few times, so I think this time around I'll just point you to some of my favorite Super Mario-related PTB entries so I can go play Galaxy instead.  Ready?  Let's-a go!

Brain Ache

Too many brain games How old is your brain?  How deep are your pockets?  Nintendo seems to have created a new genre of gaming with the Brain Age series of mental exercise trainers, and as we all know the surest sign of success is flattery.  Or, in this case, copying what the competition does.  If you think that Dr. Kawashima is the only brain training adviser out there then you have a lot to learn.  UK Resistance has taken a brief look at the myriad of Brain Age wannabes out there for the Nintendo DS.

It's really very shameless to copy the Brain Age concept so directly, but it's not like this kind of thing hasn't happened before.  Super Mario Bros. defined the 2D platforming template just as Super Mario 64 showed the industry how to do 3D platformers.  Super Mario Kart spawned a whole slew of mascot-based kart racers.  Nintendogs unleashed the virtual pet and baby and pet baby simulators.  In this case, however, the whole thing just seems so blatantly transparent. 

We Still Want Nice Things!

Club Nintendo is about to offer a Wii-compatible Super Famicom controllerI've gone on about how Japan gets all the best Nintendo goodies, but this time our friends across the sea are really getting something that tickles my nostalgia bone.  Japan's Club Nintendo is about to offer a Wii-compatible Super Famicom controller.  Did you get that?  It's a real honest to goodness 16-bit controller with its familiar shape and friendly weight; a controller that, when held, whisks players back to the heyday of Super Mario World and Donkey Kong Country 2 and Earthbound.  I have a Classic Controller and my two original Super NES controllers and yet I still want this*.

Fer cryin' out loud, Nintendo of America, you have to offer this here in the United States.  We've been registering our Nintendo titles for years now with your My Nintendo system and what have we to show for itA pink stylus?  Yeah, the free Legend of Zelda: Collector's Edition disc offer was great, but that was four years and a whole console generation ago.  It's time to throw us loyal customers a bone, and I know the perfect bone-shaped controller with which to do it.

*for free

Lose Your Marbles With Pac-Man

Pac-Man: The Board Game Remember back when video games were a mysterious new kind of entertainment and how corporations accustomed to certain mediums went out of their way to adapt the popular games of the day into non-electronic revenue generators?  Some may argue we're still in that time period now, but in this case I'm directing your attention to 1982.  Break out the marbles, kids, 'cause we're gonna play Pac-Man: The Board Game!

There's the plastic player pieces and the two enemy 'Ghost' figures. You get to pick from four different Pac-Man figures in various colors. Obviously, most would likely go for the classic pale yellow, but let's not discount the red one as a more raging, angry, first-finishing Pac-piece. The blue and green ones were crap - those were there in case your mother made you play with the snot-handed retards down the block.

The playing board was a thing of beauty, masterfully recreating the famous Pac-maze from the arcade game. If you'll notice, 72 white marbles line the board, each representing a pellet and each fitted into precut holes. There's four more marbles on the board, too - yellow ones, representing the 'power pellets' Pac-Man swallows whenever he's in the mood to eat something supernatural.

Once upon a time my grandmother perused garage sales in search of new used toys for us grandkids.  At some point in the mid-to-late 1980s she picked up the Pac-Man game for us to play.  Of course, being a garage sale item meant that it was missing most of the parts and was therefore unplayable as Milton Bradley intended.  I remember playing with the ghost figurines and the marble-scarfing Pac-Man playing pieces more than I do trying to play the game itself.  At least one part of the Pac experience carried over to the board game, however: Granny paid a twenty-five cents for the game.