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March 2008

February 2008

New Mario Kart To Provide Post-Brawl Anticipation

Mario Kart Wii We can all relax now, gang.  Here I was worried that after Super Smash Bros. Brawl releases in North America next month we'd have a problem finding the next big Nintendo Wii game with which to be enamored.  As I'm sure you're aware, we were in danger of experiencing a Wii excitement lull in terms of games for the hardcore fan.  Launch title Zelda: Twilight Princess led into Super Paper Mario which held us until Metroid Prime 3: Corruption kept us busy until Super Mario Galaxy which sustains us until the coming of Brawl, but what was to be next?  Wii Fit?  Yeah, I don't think so.  Thankfully Nintendo has taken the wrapper off some new Mario Kart Wii screenshots, and this fresh look at Mario and friends racing through exotic Mushroom Kingdom locales has fueled up my anticipation tank once more.  Crisis averted!

But what comes after Mario Kart Wii?

Trading For Dollars

Nintendo consoles I have a problem.  You see, working as a game reviewer has left me in a position I never thought I'd have to face.  I have too many video games.  Blasphemy!  To be more accurate, I have too many crappy video games.  I have a handful of Nintendo GameCube games that I will never play again.  They're taking up space on my shelf and it's doubtful that these games will become highly expensive rare titles down the line.  I need to clear them out and make room for the new crappy games I'll be reviewing this generation.  But how can I get the most bang for my trade-in buck?  GameStop buys used games, but can I possibly hope to get a good deal with them considering the company's well-known business practices?  Now I can find out without lugging my sack of junk around town with Cheap Ass Gamer's wiki of GameStop/Electronics Boutique trade-in values for current and last generation gaming products.  So, let's see what kind of windfall I'm due.  Hmm... $3 plus $3 plus $14... carry the one... add $2.50... well, that's not very much at all.  Maybe I'll hang on to these games for another generation or two after all and wait for their nostalgia value to go up (because goodness knows the gameplay value isn't going anywhere worthwhile).

The Remembered

Bionic Commando Rearmed I've been reminding you of beloved forgotten game franchises for nearly four years now, so it seems like a good time to pause and see just which publishers have taken my advice and revived some classic titles from past generations.

Rejoicingly Remembered

Continue reading "The Remembered" »

HD Format War Over; Toshiba Throws In HD-DVD Towel

Microsoft Xbox 360 HD-DVD player The best thing about the HD-DVD versus Blu-ray high definition disc format war is that the war seems to finally be over.  HD-DVD's primary backer, Toshiba, has decided to pull out of the HD-DVD format and shut the whole thing down in the face of Blu-ray's increasingly steady popularity amongst fans of high definition video.  Expect to see new HD-DVD players and media disappear from the shelves soon either through really cheap discounts or outright disposal.  Say, do you suppose there's any dumping space left at the legendary E.T. landfill?   Here's a snippet of Toshiba's press release:

Toshiba Corporation today announced that it has undertaken a thorough review of its overall strategy for HD DVD and has decided it will no longer develop, manufacture and market HD DVD players and recorders. This decision has been made following recent major changes in the market. Toshiba will continue, however, to provide full product support and after-sales service for all owners of Toshiba HD DVD products.

Toshiba will begin to reduce shipments of HD DVD players and recorders to retail channels, aiming for cessation of these businesses by the end of March 2008. Toshiba also plans to end volume production of HD DVD disk drives for such applications as PCs and games in the same timeframe, yet will continue to make efforts to meet customer requirements. The company will continue to assess the position of notebook PCs with integrated HD DVD drives within the overall PC business relative to future market demand.

I hadn't chosen a side in the HD format wars because I didn't want to wind up flushing away a lot of money down the "wrong" technology.  I'm also not in a rush to rebuy my DVD collection in a new format.  I can definitely see myself upgrading to Blu-ray versions of some of my absolute most favorite films once I acquire a Sony PlayStation 3 (Back to the Future, Ghostbusters, and a few choice others should they arrive on Blu-ray format), but on the whole I think that regular old fashioned DVD will continue to be my format of choice for the moment considering how much shelf space I already devote to those wonderful shiny discs.

FoxTrot's Chamber Music Hero

Chamber Music Hero Once upon a time there was a daily newspaper comic strip called FoxTrot that included a lot of gaming and geek humor.  Then the Dark Times came and the strip's creator scaled back his work to a single comic per week.  Now published only on Sundays, there's a lot less space for gaming-related in-jokes, so when such humor does occur it can be a little dated.  Consider this week's two panel jab at the music games genre with Chamber Music Hero.  The whole [Insert Uncool Instrument Here] Hero gag is overplayed and stale by this point, but it's the reactions of characters Jason Fox and Marcus Jones that sell the joke.

In Search Of... F-Zero AX In Japan

F-Zero AX It's time once again to harness the awesome power of PTB's readers.  I recently received an e-mail from Christopher who is in need of some information.  Chris will be spending some time in Japan in March and he wants to squeeze some arcade action into his schedule.  Specifically, he wants to play F-Zero AX.  The problem is that these arcade machines can be difficult to find.  A while back I linked to a listing of known AX machines in North America, Europe, and Australia, but finding information on Japanese locations doesn't seem to be so easy.  Then again, I may have stumbled upon such a list several times while searching and didn't know it because I can't read Japanese text.  So, with that said, do you know where to find a F-Zero AX machine in Japan?  Help Chris by pointing him in the right direction.

Weekly Poll: A Smashingly Fit Prediction

Weekly Poll for 2-11-2008It honestly surprises me that there aren't more of you out there frothing to get your hands on Super Smash Bros. Brawl.  No game has a 100% attract rate, of course, but somehow I expected more unfettered anticipation.  So I learned something today.  Who says polling isn't useful?  As for me, I'm planning to just pick it up off the shelf on release day.  I have some accumulated gift cards that are burning a hole in my pocket, so why not use them for something wonderful?

That brings us to another Smash-related question for this week, and I'm especially interested in this topic now that I see that Smash isn't a total lock for sales and excitement.  Some people believe that when the smoke clears at the end of the year Nintendo's upcoming Wii Fit will have outsold Brawl.  Which one do you think will outsell the other?  My theory is that Brawl will sell massively upon release and taper off gradually as more and more hardcore gamers eventually pick up a Wii, but Wii Fit will start strong for a casual game and sell steadily as word spreads among the retirement homes and senior centers.  What's your prediction?

Presenting Another Wacky Underused N64 Thingee

Mario no Photopi Nintendo sure did take a "throw it against the wall and see if it sticks" point of view when it came to one-off peripherals for the Nintendo 64.  It seems that for every familiar add-on like the Rumble Pak or Memory Pak there's some obscure gadget that only works with one or two games.  For example, consider the SmartMedia cards that were used to import one's own digital photos into special Japan-only N64 cartridges.  Thanks to this technology we can gawk at the obscure not-a-game Mario no Photopi.

Mario no Photopi is a creativity game released for the Nintendo 64 in 1998 only in Japan. The game's cartridge had two SmartMedia card slots in the top to import digital photos and other graphics. Pictures created in the game could be saved to the memory card, would work with any digital printing display located in many malls and large scale stores, and the cards could even be sent away like any other film processing.

It was released only in Japan — and even there it is widely unheard of, making it a very popular game amongst collectors. Collectors like it even more, as it is the only game to use the Smart Media-ready cartridge. The unique cartridge has a Model Number of NUS-023. To date it is known to have had three Smart Media cards that were specially made for it, in connection with video game themes; Sylvanian Families characters from the toy line, Bomberman, and Yoshi.

The only way this particular add-on could have been more cumbersome to use is if it required voice input through the N64 microphone and pulled data from Game Boy Color games via the Transfer Pak which it then saves to the 64DD drive.   Still, this whole Mario no Photopi thing could be considered a distant relative of the modern Wii Photo Channel, and for that I suppose we should thank it for something.

(via Lost Levels)

Couch Kart

Mario Kart Wii Have you seen the recently revealed box art for Mario Kart Wii?  It's a rather stark cover.  The usual heavy motor activity usually seen in the racing genre has been replaced with a simple image of Mario and Luigi playing with the new Wii wheel.  The shadows underneath them seem to suggest that they are controlling karts, but I have to admit that it took me a moment to figure that out.  I see two people in a seated position with game controllers in their hands and I assume that they're seated on a comfortable couch.  Imagining two of Nintendo's finest playing their own game shatters all kinds of fourth walls.  You and I are supposed to be the ones on the couch, not Mario and Luigi.  Of course, there's probably some truth in advertising to the couch image.  After all, what better way to demonstrate the actual physical activity required to play Mario Kart Wii could there be than to show the stars of the game actually playing it?

Couch Kart

Show Some 2D Platformer Love

Mega Man 2 Super Mario Bros. 3, Mega Man 2, Plok, Kirby Super Star, Aero the Acro-bat, Bubsy, Commander Keen, Sonic the Hedgehog 2, Jazz Jackrabbit, and a bunch of other 2D platforming classics are the discussion topic of the day over at the NeoGAF forums.  Yes, it's time once again to shower love and praise on the best that the genre has to offer, and while I know you'll recognize (and most likely adore) just about everything on display, there are bound to be a few games showcased that are new to you.  Actually, the whole thing is just an excuse to gawk at pretty screenshots of colorful heroes in action, but it's not like you have anything better to do on a lazy day like today.  Feel free to take notes and make a list of platformers that still need your attention all these years later.  Fantastic games such as Puggsy and Daffy Duck: The Marvin Missions aren't going to play themselves.