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February 2008

January 2008

Portal Still Alive Thanks To Commodore 64

Portal If you haven't played Valve's Portal yet (and really, why haven't you?) then you may not comprehend the sheer fantasticalness of this video clip created by 256byteram of Commodore 64 sound hardware performing the game's closing theme, "Still Alive"

Bah. I liked the terminal theme from Portal so I made it real!

Everything on the terminals and sound is controlled by an Intel 8080 Microprocessor at 2MHz. The sound chip is a MOS SID (From a Commodore 64).

Original MP4, a preliminary MP3 and the assembler source code is at

As someone who had a Commodore 64 as a child, this composition really hits the sweet spot for me.  Why would someone go to the trouble of coaxing ancient hardware to output the theme from a modern video game?  As they say at Aperture Science, we do what we must because we can.

(via Waxy)

Prepare To Get Lost

LostNot Penny's boat, you say?  Interesting.  Oh, hi; didn't hear you come in there.  Don't mind me.  I'm just getting caught up on my Lost lore before the abbreviated fourth season begins later this month in North America.  In an incredible coincidence of synergistic planning it looks like that long-promised Lost video game is about to hit stores for the PC, Microsoft Xbox 360, and Sony PlayStation 3 just in time to enjoy the Lost media blitz.  MTV's Stephen Totilo recently met with Ubisoft's Kevin Shortt to explore Lost: Via Domus and came away with plenty of details.

The game is set up in seven “episodes,” each set primarily on the island but interspersed with playable flash-back scenes (hopefully none of them involving Jack’s tattoos). The Lost logo and music kick in a few minutes into the beginning of each episode. And a re-cap starts all episodes after the first. The opening level Shortt showed me began on the plane just before the crash. The player’s character sees show regular Charlie run by to the bathroom. And then from a perspective show watchers haven’t seen before, the plane breaks apart. You see it from the point of view of your guy looking forward from the middle of the plane, witnessing the front section break away. Then your guy is waking up in the jungle, seeing visions, and soon enough Kate is there saying she just saw a dog run by.

The gameplay I was shown involved dialogue trees, running around and doing mini-games, basically a lot of puzzle-style interaction. The Kate encounter, for example, required specific dialogue choices, which led to a flashback, which put me in a photo-taking first-person sequence back on the Flight 815 before the plane took off. The game is rendered in the “
Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter 2” graphics engine, but the gameplay looked like it was toned to an audience less hardcore than the “GRAW” market. Said Shortt: “We wanted this to be an action-adventure game that’s geared for the casual market.” The actors for the characters Tom, Ben, Julie, Sun, Desmond, and Claire all did voice work for the game. The rest of the major characters are voiced by stand-ins.

Well, my interest is piqued, but I do have some concerns.  The use of soundalikes for some of the major cast troubles me.  I still cringe when I hear Jeri Ryan's stand-in providing the voice for Seven of Nine in the Star Trek: Voyager shooter Elite Force (an expansion fact corrected that eventually, but some scars never heal).  Will the Lost experience hold up if Jack isn't really Jack or Locke doesn't sound quite Lockey enough?  Then there's the idea that the game is geared for the casual player and is projected to only have about ten hours of gameplay in it.  Is it wise to aim a game about a hardcore show for hardcore consoles to the casual market?  Perhaps it would have been smarter to develop a full-on Dharma-to-the-wall adventure for this particular audience.  At the moment it sounds like Lost: Via Domus might be better off as a rental.  We'll find out for sure next month.

Master D Strikes Back In Bionic Commando Rearmed

Bionic Commando Rearmed Capcom still have retro love pouring through its veins.  Even those we saw dreams of additional iterations of Mega Man: Powered Up and Maverick Hunter X crumble, the company isn't content to let go of the whole notion of updating classic games to take advantage of modern gaming hardware.  A new 3D Bionic Commando game is in the works, yes, but have you seen the new trailer for the remake of the original Nintendo Entertainment System game for Microsoft's Xbox Live Arcade and Sony's PlayStation Network?  Consider me impressed.  IGN has more information on this new game, Bionic Commando Rearmed.

Capcom's original Bionic Commando team has moved on, but [producer Ben] Judd reassures that, "We have taken special steps to get feedback and opinions from some of the staff that were working at Capcom at the same time on other titles in order to maintain the 'classic style' of gaming that we feel Bionic Commando Rearmed needed."

But with such a solid backbone, were Bionic Commando Rearmed producers tempted to tamper? Judd acknowledges the strength of the original game, but can see room for improvement: "We felt the original could be improved without straying from the basic concept. In the original NES game, apart from hooking onto platforms and swinging or climbing up on them, you could also punch enemies with the bionic arm, deflect projectiles with it, pick up items and pull yourself along the ground towards fixed objects. We have expanded upon this array of moves and given the player the ability to lift up non-fixed objects – such as enemies and barrels – and throw them, as well as connect and pull on handles in the surroundings to trigger door mechanics or unscrew bolts that keep obstacles in place."

Rearmed has plenty of potential and I can't wait to get my non-bionic hands on it.  It looks like the development team understands the allure of the original game, and while the new stuff intrigues me I find myself hoping that some of the more unusual (read: outright wacko) elements of the original stick around.  If the "Pi...pi...pi...we have found an intruder. We are going to attack" line of dialog is omitted then I'll be very disappointed.  Oh, and a WiiWare version would be greatly welcomed, too... 

Bruce Kelly's Unfortunate Demise

BruceIt is with a heavy heart that I inform you of the death of AMN / Rumor Reporter's Bruce Kelly.  Sadly, the composite character we used at AMN to serve as a single voice for reporting rumors has passed away due to complications from heart disease and the reinvention of the AMN Games empire into Kombo.  But seriously, what this all means is that from now on Kombo will be covering the rumor reports along with the other integrated content as opposed to the external Rumor Reporter site.  Alas, it seems that there's just no room in this crazy world for a fictional hard-boiled film noir private investigator who specializes in gaming gossip.  Our condolences go out to everyone who thought that Bruce was an actual real guy.

Spend A Saturday With Game Makers

Game Makers Once upon a time there was a little television show called Icons that aired on cable's G4.  This thirty minute program explored the history of some of gaming's most popular developers, characters, hardware, and franchises.  Then the show was smothered and canceled just as last generation's console libraries were becoming interesting.  The reruns were renamed Game Makers and appeared sporadically to help fill stray holes in the G4 schedule.  Then, by some miracle, the reruns returned in large blocks on certain seemingly random mornings.  Coming up this Saturday, January 19, G4 will run another block of Game Makers from 9:00 A.M. until 3:00 P.M. ET.  If you've ever wanted to see a crash course in the history of Dead or Alive, Donkey Kong, Tetris, the Apple II, the Sega Dreamcast, Super Mario, and a bunch of other topics while killing an otherwise unremarkable Saturday, well, here's your chance.  The stories revealed in Game Makers have this nasty habit of running out of steam around 2003, but the series is still the best Biography-like game history program that I know.

Investing In The Nintendo 64 Library

Nintendo 64It's never too early to start planning for retirement.  While most people will seek out 401(k) plans and savings accounts, the savvy investor knows that guaranteed wealth comes from hording rare video games.  For example, I fully expect to retire to my own private island thanks to a sealed copy of Kwirk that I have in my possession.  Then I'll use my Jack Bros. Virtual Boy game to build a mansion on that island.  Don't even ask what I have planned for Vegas Dream.  When it comes to building a diverse portfolio, however, it may be tempting to stock up on valuable Nintendo 64 games.  After all, those game paks were expensive even when they were new, so logically some of them must be worth even more by now.  But which games will pay for adding a new wing onto your home?  Racketboy crunches the numbers to find out.

Bomberman 64 The Second Attack: $30 - $87
A rare sequel to a game that didn’t sell very well to start with. Second Attack came out near the end of the Nintendo 64’s life cycle which didn’t help the sequel sell any better. Normally, even a boxed version of Second Attack could be scored for under $50, but a sealed copy recently sold on eBay for $87.

Alas, I own none of the really valuable games on the list.  I do have a few things from the list of honorable mentions, so maybe if I pool Mario Kart 64, Banjo-Tooie, and Super Mario 64 together I can afford that crystal chandelier for the upstairs dining room after all.

(via Poison Mushroom)

The Great Goldeneye 007 Debacle Of 2008

Goldeneye 007 They said it would never happen, and now it seems that they may have been correct.  By now you've probably heard that the Nintendo 64 classic Goldeneye 007 developed by Rare and published by Nintendo was almost made available for both Nintendo's Wii Virtual Console in its original form and for Microsoft's Xbox Live Arcade with new additions such as leaderboards, online multiplayer, and updated visuals.  You've probably also heard that the whole deal has come slamming to a halt after Nintendo put the kibosh on the project.  There's all kinds of rumors as to why Nintendo applied the brakes.  I've heard that the two sides couldn't agree on just how much money Nintendo was to receive from Microsoft for allowing the updated version, but I've also heard that the disagreement came down to whether Nintendo would receive a one-time payment upfront or ongoing royalties.  There's also talk that Nintendo president Satoru Iwata personally stepped in and ended negotiations because, in his mind, a beloved Nintendo game should remain on a Nintendo console.  So, in the end, we won't be seeing this new Goldeneye 007 anytime soon. 

Continue reading "The Great Goldeneye 007 Debacle Of 2008" »

Kombo Is Coming...

Kombo There are some big changes ahead over at the Advanced Media Network.  What kind of big changes?  Well...

We are proud to announce; Advanced Media Network's North American portal, destination and representation of the video game industry. AMN Games is being rebranded to, while Advanced Media Network is set to act solely as the parent brand and umbrella company of this magnificent and always-growing network. is finished and set to launch this upcoming Friday. So what else does 01.18.2008 bring? Besides providing a fresh new brand and voice, will feature a new design and layout, enhanced navigation, and exclusive content partnerships with Advanced Media Network managed properties and partners. The URL will forward to for the first several months before ultimately becoming the corporate business site of Advanced Media Network.

There are some other new additions and surprises in store, but from what I understand it all starts here. 

Brawl Delayed Yet Again

Kirby slipsAnd so it came to pass that the upcoming Super Smash Bros. Brawl for the Nintendo Wii continues to be "upcoming" in that it's been delayed again in North America.  Mark your calendars again, this time for March 9, 2008.  That's nearly two months after the Japanese release.  That's two months that Japanese gamers and those who export the game out of that region will have to spoil the hidden characters and secrets for the rest of us.  If only there were a way to keep that from happening that didn't involve some kind of self-imposed exile from the Internet.  Oh well.  Here's Brawl director Masahiro Sakurai's announcement:

Due to delays in the completion of Super Smash Bros. Brawl, we’ve had to change the release date of the game to Sunday, March 9th.  I deeply apologize to the people who have looked forward to playing the game for so long and ask that you hold on just a little longer. Thank you for your patience.

So, March then.  I can't help but wonder if this delay is to add a last minute idea or character.  I'd be pleased if this delay came about because Capcom and Nintendo suddenly decided to add Mega Man to the roster.  That reminds me, the last time the game was delayed the sting was dulled by the revelation that Sonic the Hedgehog had been added to the game.  Where's the similar cushion of an announcement this time?  Throw us a bone, Sakurai!  Soften the blow!


Commander KeenPortal made me do it.  That's the short answer as to why I finally decided to get involved with game developer Valve's Steam distribution platform.  I'm not much of a PC gamer when it comes to actually buying commercial software.  I mostly stick to little freeware things because I have a hard time accepting that software I buy may not work on my PC for some weird obscure reason, leaving me with nothing but an error message and a fifty dollar hole in my wallet for my trouble.  However, I've really wanted to try Portal (last seen here as Narbacular Drop), so when I saw that Valve offers a free demo of the game for NVIDIA video card owners, I decided to give it a go.  Then I learned I had to install the Steam platform just to play the free demo, so after a day or two of consideration, I made the leap and fired it up.  While the Portal demo was downloading I browsed through the back catalog of games for sale through the Steam platform and my eyes lit up with I found the Commander Keen collection.  Commander Keen!  The first PC game I ever experienced that looked, sounded, and played better than my old library of Commodore 64 games.  1993 came roaring back and I knew I had to get the collection.

I paid the $5 price and gleefully prepared to play the game.  The first five original episodes were promised in the package (Episode 6, "Aliens Ate My Babysitter" was excluded for some reason, while Episode 3.5, "Keen Dreams", had been disavowed by the developer a long time ago).  It'd been a long time since I'd played any of them.  Back in the day I couldn't get enough of Episode 4 as shareware, and when I finally found Episodes 4 and 5 for sale in a retail store more than a decade ago, I had to buy them.  A friend at the time owned Episodes 1, 2, and 3.  Now I could play them all without having to coax modern Windows into cooperating with the old DOS files.  Watching Steam pop up with a "Ready" message had me ready for a VGA graphics homecoming.  Glorious Steam!  Steam is wonderful!  Steam is... crashing... why is it crashing?

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