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January 2008

Masahiro Sakurai, Why Have You Forsaken Me?

Sonic the Hedgehog has been announced as a playable character in Nintendo's upcoming Super Smash Bros. BrawlWe all knew this day would come.  The Super Smash Bros. Brawl development blog is shifting gears now that the game is finished and in stores in Japan.  As game director Masahiro Sakurai announced this morning, from here on out the blog will reveal the hidden goodies and surprises locked away in Brawl's most secret of places.

From here on out, the Dojo will begin to introduce the hidden characters, hidden stages, and additional features in Brawl that have gone unmentioned until now. I’d like to continue to add on to the Dojo so that players of Brawl can come back to this website following it’s completion and view Smash Dojo as a sort of guide for the game.

I plan on continuing updates for another two months, so please continue to enjoy the site.  Just remember, I’ll be posting information on hidden characters and other in-game secrets, so you should take caution when viewing the site if you want to save those surprises for later.

It's been easy to avoid the grainy spoilers on Youtube and poorly written sporadic reports found on random gaming forums, but how can I possibly keep away from words of wisdom from the director himself?  The next few weeks are going to be much more difficult than I thought.

Mario Toys Look Fantastic

Mario It's very rare that I feel I grew up in the wrong decades.  I love the entertainment goodies that the 1980s and 1990s brought us, from classic games like Mega Man 2 to Super Metroid, to television like Night Court and Perfect Strangers, all the way to movies like Ghostbusters and Back to the Future.  I spent my formative years with a Commodore 64.  Cable TV was an amazing new thing, although my father insisted on a satellite dish for many years (one of the big ones, not your package deal DirecTV).

Then there were the toys.  I had (and still have in storage) a massive case of Lego bricks.  I had (and, again, still have in storage) most of The Real Ghostbusters action figures.  Nintendo toys never quite lived up to my expectations though.  I had a few Mario-related items and most of them were horribly off-model and wrong.  As much as my seven-year-old self wanted Mario and Peter Venkman to team up in the great Action Figure Wars of 1988, it just wasn't possible.  I say all of that as preamble to these photos of new Super Mario toys action figures that are in the works from Corgi.

Sure, Corgi has your basic Mario, Luigi, Wario, Yoshi, and Donkey Kong figures, but they've gone the extra mile with Shy Guy, Bullet Bill, Koopa Troopa, Goomba, Paragoomba, Boo, Lakitu, Bob-omb, Toad, Princesses Peach and Daisy, Waluigi, Bowser, Diddy Kong, and Dixie Kong.  Best of all, they actually look like the characters they are meant to be.  Kids today may not appreciate the purity of 8-bit graphics and blast processing, but they sure get better toys than my generation.  Meanwhile, when gamers my age want to spend money on this kind of thing, we have to buy big and expensive like a responsible adult should. 

(via Poison Mushroom)

Revisiting The Heroic Mike Jones

Startropics Most Nintendo-created games followed a distinct development life cycle back in the old days (and in modern times, too, for that matter): make a game in Japan, then translate and release it in other regions.  It didn't always work that way, however, and Nintendo's Startropics is old fashioned proof for the Nintendo Entertainment System.  Developed for western audiences and never released in Japan, Startropics and its sequel Startropics 2: Zoda's Revenge follow the Zelda-like adventures of Mike Jones as he searches for his missing uncle and works to derail the plans of invading alien monsters.  Both games have languished in obscurity for many years now, but that hasn't stopped Hardcore Gaming 101 from excavating and examining the ruins of the discarded franchise.

The underworld requires you to move along an X-Y axis like in Zelda. You have a primary weapon - A Yo-Yo (kinda like Mikey Walsh in Goonies II), that later powers up into a Morning Star and a Super Nova, each with extended power and range. The power ups are dependent on locale in the game as well as the number of hearts you currently have (if you slip below the required number, your weapon down grades). You can also use other sundry weapons, ranging from bolas, room freezing snow men, baseballs, and even lasers- though each has a limited number of uses. Also needed are special crystals which reveal hidden enemies, and lamps to light up dark rooms. Medicine is found along the way, restoring five hearts. Your enemies drop hearts and stars (5 stars equals one heart).

While reading this article I found myself wondering why I never really got into Startropics.  I've played the first game, but I gave up within an hour of beginning the quest.  I just can't remember why I quit so early, as that's really not like me at all to walk away without giving a game an honest chance.

Unfortunately, the controls are a bit awkward, which is what tends to turn people off Startropics. The movement works on a grid system, so you can't just move a few pixels, you have to move over a whole square. Furthermore, in order to walk in a direction, you need to hold it down for a split second before you actually move. Unless you're next to water, you can only jump straight up. And the only way to move from tile to tile is to jump, which can take a long time if there are plenty of tiles in the room. Even compared to Zelda, the movement feels restrictive and can get frustrating when the rooms are filled with enemies.

Oh yeah.  Now I remember.  Maybe I should try again now that I'm older and have more patience.  Then again, sometimes dead franchises stay dead for a reason.

Iwata Asks About Brawl

Dragon King: The Fighting Game Nintendo president Satoru Iwata likes to talk.  Specifically, he likes to ask questions.  Fittingly enough, Nintendo has been running a series of interviews between Iwata and various Nintendo employees under the "Iwata Asks" banner in which they discuss the challenges of creating software for the Nintendo Wii.  The latest discussion is a seven part series with Super Smash Bros. Brawl director Masahiro Sakurai that makes for some fascinating and - dare I say it? - required reading.  Very little is given away with regard to spoilers (the elements of the game that are revealed are most likely things you already know if you've been following the game's development blog), too.  One of the more interesting parts of the interview touches on the development behind the very first Super Smash Bros. game.  Would you believe that the original prototype (known as Dragon King: The Fighting Game) didn't include a single Nintendo character?

Iwata: Even though all we had in our first prototype was four faceless characters on the screen, the game took off in a completely different direction with the addition of Nintendo characters. Can you remember how this change came about?

Sakurai: Of course. I asked to use Nintendo characters since it was so hard to accurately convey to the players the atmosphere of the gaming world where they play a fighting game on home console. You have to have some main characters in a fighting game, and when you line up character 1, character 2, character 3 and so on, the main characters end up blurring together. With a game for the arcade, it’s okay for character development to take a backseat since players are content with the fighting. With a fighting game for the home console, however, you have to set up the general image or the atmosphere of the gaming world right from the start or else the game suffers. That’s why I asked to use Nintendo characters.

Other topics the two hit include creating the massive amount of music for Brawl, the inclusion of Sonic the Hedgehog and Solid Snake, implementing Wi-Fi capabilities, and the rationale behind adding a custom stage creator to the game.  March 9th just cannot come soon enough for me.

Tattoo Assassins? Seriously?

Tattoo Assassins Chances are that if a mid-1990s arcade game wasn't trying to be the next Street Fighter II then it was trying to be the next Mortal Kombat.  Amid a large pile of imitators comes this unreleased dreck from Data East's pinball division: Tattoo Assassins!  The convoluted story has something to do with magic ink granting amazing killing powers to anyone tattooed with it.  The game had those trendy motion captured visuals, sure, but if a Kombat klone is going to stand out from the pack then it needs to offer something more than the competition.  Mortal Kombat had its legendary Fatalities, but the folks at Data East believed that it didn't include enough ways to eviscerate opponents.  Tattoo Assassins boasts 2,196 Fatalities.  That has to be an exaggeration, but goodness knows I'm not up to the task of exploring the game to find out for myself.  Thankfully the folks at I-Mockery were up to the challenge of working through this comically inept masterpiece.  Don't miss finishing moves that include killer DeLoreans, flying turkey dinners, fleeing hot dogs, a Burgertime tribute, and even those mythical Nudalities that strip losers bare. 

Here's the thing: all that I've told you up to this point is kind of funny, right? If it's not supposed to be, I'm sure some writer must've cried himself to slip every day for the rest of the 1990s. Anyway, as silly as the premise and character art are, the game itself is just plain terrible: the collision detection is awful, the background art would look bad even if you were playing this game on a Sega Genesis, and the sound effects are ridiculous. The soundbank for the game uses a lot of pre-recorded screams for big hits, and the designers didn't bother to separate the screams based on gender, so you've got buxom female fighters whose voices drop two octaves after they take a roundhouse kick. My favorite sound moment, however, came in the jungle stage, when the sounds of battle were temporarily sidelined to subject you to an unnecessarily loud monkey screech. Now that's how you create a tense atmosphere.

One of the characters is named Truck Davis.  Truck Davis fer cryin' out loud!  They might as well have named him Slab Bulkhead or Fist Rockbone.  And some people wonder why arcades are dead in North America.  While Tattoo Assassins didn't actually see an arcade release, it's games of this big-hype-little-substance caliber that dragged the arcade market to a slow demise.  As for Assassins itself, it escaped into the wild a while back and is playable on the MAME arcade emulator if you can track it down, but, honestly, aren't there better ways to spend your free time?

(via Fark)   

Anagrams Provide Cheap Laughs

Marsupial Axe Orgy On the surface it seems rather simple: take a game title, rearrange the letters to form silly new titles, and create a mock box art for the retitled game.  The gang at NeoGAF are playing the gaming anagram game again and as expected the results are genius.  Behold such instant classics as Sick Hobo (Bioshock), Wack Nazi Kid: Foursquare Breasts Aborter (Zack and Wiki: Quest for Barbaros' Treasure), Ass Plumber Throws Her Bras (Super Smash Bros. Brawl) and Hate Valve Combo (Halo: Combat Evolved).  The clever images really ratchet up the hilarity on this one, so why not click over to the forum and brighten your day with a cheap laugh?

(Marsupial Axe Orgy courtesy Captain Pants)

It's Dangerous To Go Alone (Take These)

It's Dangerous To Go Alone Step back in time about twenty years to the dawn of The Legend of Zelda for the Nintendo Entertainment System.  You tear the plastic wrap from the game box, open up your prize (you don't yet know that special music should be playing at this point), and dive right into Hyrule.  Then at some point you get lost in the overworld and find yourself searching the instruction manual for clues.  While scanning through the pages you come across this image which seems familiar, yet is teasingly different.  Is that the boomerang the old man is offering Link in addition to the wooden sword seen at the start of the game?  What trickery is this?  Such madness!  What does that Japanese text mean?  People with sleuthing skills and free time at the Digital Press forums have figured it all out.

Hmmm, I don't have my dictionaries with me, but looking around onlne while at work reveals that none of the definitions for suki make any sense besides "liking, fondness, love." Perhaps it is "Take the weapon you like," in proper English. But maybe "Take the weapon of liking," literally? Or to be really literal, "The weapon of liking, take it." Engrish, whatever. I have no idea if I'm right because my Japanese grammar blows.

Take a moment and read through the messages as the scribes piece it together one letter at a time.  One wonders if the boomerang had more power in this early version of the game.  As one of the forumites wonders, if Nintendo had favored the boomerang over the sword at this early point, would we have later seen such iconic weapons as the Master Boomerang or classic games like The Legend of Zelda: Four Boomerangs Adventures?  Someone needs to dial up an alternate universe and ask them about their Zelda games.

(via Lost Levels)

Weekly Poll: Classical Control

Weekly Poll for 1-21-2008Visuals are great, but I find that I'm torn between the music and the stories.  Classic gaming music stays with me for ages.  Themes from games such as Mega Man 2 are forever burned into my brain and I'll always gravitate towards Mario.  These aren't complaints, of course.  I like having this stuff swimming around in my mind.

This week's question is simple enough: do you own a Nintendo Wii Classic Controller?  If so, what compelled you to buy one?  If not, what's holding you back (non-ownership of a Wii understood, of course).  Let's hear your thoughts.

Sonic Says To Wait Until Marriage

Sonic Says To Wait Until Marriage The writing team behind The Simpsons likes to throw in a joke or two related to video games now and again, and another gaming-related gag appeared in last night's new episode of the series, "That '90s Show".  Told as a pre-marriage flashback set in the 1990s, the story centered around Marge attending Springfield University while Homer created grunge music.  At one point Homer encourages Marge to push their mattresses together for a snuggle, but is thwarted when she reveals that she's saving such activities for marriage.  Homer says he understands and that they should follow the example of a celebrity role model.  Cue this billboard of Sonic the Hedgehog proposing to Amy Rose with a gold ring.  Comedy gold!

Sega Applies The Mario Tennis Formula

Sega Superstars Tennis It took longer than I expected, but Sega has finally figured out that it has a bunch of beloved characters that can be crammed into a single sports game for the Nintendo Wii, Sony PlayStation 2, Microsoft Xbox 360, Nintendo DS, and PlayStation 2.  Yes, it's the same formula that Nintendo has down to a science, but instead of Mario and Yoshi lobbing serves back and forth we're treated to the antics of characters such as Sonic the Hedgehog, Aiai, NiGHTS, Ulala, Alex Kidd, and many other classic Sega creations.  Prepare yourself for Sega Superstars Tennis!

Exhibition mode offers the chance to challenge Sonic, or the character or your choice, to a match on one of many courts, including Sonic’s home court of Green Hill Zone, or Amigo’s Carnival Park court. Wherever you play there will be a host of Sega celebrities cheering you on from courtside and by partaking in crazy doubles matches with your choice of partner, you could end up playing against some pretty unusual couples! Prove your Sega hero is the shining star of Sega Superstars Tennis by collecting silverware in the Tournament Mode.

I have to admit that my interest is piqued.  Sega has so many memorable franchises that I'm really surprised that it's taken this long to get them all into the same game.  Check out this trailer to see some of the all-stars show off and mug for the camera.  The Mario Tennis vibe is strong with this one.