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March 2008

Exploring The Great Earthbound Conspiracy

Earthbound2_2 Longtime PTB readers know of my devotion to Nintendo's Earthbound.  There's been lots of talk and speculation over the years as to why the last installment in the franchise has yet to make it out of Japan.  Then there's the curiosity regarding why the games that are already translated into English have not appeared on the Virtual Console service.  There seem to be plenty of questions about the future of the series, but the answers are not as forthcoming.  Leave it to the gang at NeoGAF to dig deep into the conspiracy and attempt to get to the bottom of the issue.  While discussing the matter just about everybody involved with the series is assigned some of the blame, from Nintendo's beloved Shigeru Miyamoto to Earthbound creator Shigesato Itoi to Nintendo of America's management and beyond.  Even The Beatles are cast an accusatory glare.  Ignored franchises like Startropics and Stafy are also examined in the hope of finding some shred of related evidence that could crack the case.

I haven't seen anyone mention this yet, but on the last (?) Retronauts [Jeremy] Parish was saying he thought a possible reason we haven't seen Earthbound is that the translation and/or scenario isn't owned by Nintendo, it's owned by Itoi (?). I remember hearing this way back when people were questioning why we weren't getting the GBA compilation, but hadn't heard about it for years until that podcast last week. If I recall correctly, the original release was already ESRB rated, so I don't think that fee would apply again. But ultimately the costs of having to re-translate the game and remove the two songs combined with the relatively small number of people who would buy the game probably make it low priority for them. And that's assuming it's NOT an issue with the scenario, in which case they'd have to pay Itoi whatever he wants as a fee, assuming he's not even interested. There HAS to be something to some of this, given it's already ESRB rated. If the only issue was the removal of those two songs I don't see why they wouldn't have already done it by now. Nintendo DOES like money people, I somehow don't think they're out to get all the Mother fans personally.

As time goes by I'm starting to see that Earthbound is a dead franchise in North America, but I still can't figure out why Nintendo seems to be trying to erase it from existence.  The "Masterpieces" demo of Earthbound has been removed from the localized version of Super Smash Bros. Brawl and, from the look of things, the game isn't included in the in-game chronicle of Nintendo's products [Nope, turns out it's just a late arrival].  The way things seem to be going I think we should be glad that Earthbound stars Ness and Lucas weren't removed from Brawl itself for some contrived reason.  At least the fans continue on with their own English translation of the sequel...   

Weekly Poll: Brawling Buttons

Weekly Poll for 3-10-2008Wait, hold on, so the most popular newcomers in Super Smash Bros. Melee are Mewtwo and Roy?  As in, the two characters I care the least about?  The same two characters I never use when I play?  Well, alright, if you're certain.  I'd have to pick Ganondorf as my choice thanks to his powerful punch and menacing taunt, although typically my Melee style leans towards my old favorites, Mario, Samus Aran, and sometimes Link.

Keeping in that Smash Bros. state of mind (sorry, Europe and Australia!), I've been enjoying the new Nintendo Wii installment, Super Smash Bros. Brawl.  I'll talk more about that enjoyment later, but for the moment I'd like your opinion on the game's control options.  Brawl features four different ways to play.  For simplicity there's the Wii remote or the remote paired with the nunchuk.  Complexity builds with the Classic controller and my personal favorite, the GameCube controller.  Which do you prefer?  Let's hear your thoughts.

More Gaming By The Numbers

Dr. Wright About a year ago I guided you through some of the most popular and least owned video games from my own collection by using GameSpot's collection database as a reference.  Now that time has passed I thought it would be interesting to revisit those results and see what, if anything, has changed.  Did Vegas Dream pick up any new fans in the past year?  Is Super Mario Bros. 3 still the most owned Nintendo Entertainment System game?  Let's have a look and find out.  First, however, let's recap.  Here are the most owned and least owned games in my collection from last year's list:

  • Nintendo Entertainment System
    • Super Mario Bros. 3 (11,525 owners)
    • Vegas Dream (92)
  • Game Boy
    • Super Mario Land (4,548)
    • Who Framed Roger Rabbit? (35)
  • Super NES
    • Super Mario World (13,308)
    • Aero the Acrobat 2 (65)
  • Virtual Boy
    • Mario's Tennis (668)
    • Jack Bros. (31)
  • PC
    • The Sims (17,345)
    • Mega Man X5 (228)
  • Nintendo 64
    • The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time (25,626)
    • Blast Corps (1,362)
  • GameCube
    • The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker (38,187)
    • Frogger: Ancient Shadow (15)
  • Nintendo DS
    • Super Mario 64 DS (17,195)
    • Pac 'n' Roll (196)
  • Game Boy Advance
    • Mario and Luigi: Superstar Saga (9,597)
    • Drill Dozer (373)
  • Sony PlayStation 2
    • Grand Theft Auto III (31,793)
    • Sega Genesis Collection (667)
  • Wii
    • The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess (12,874)
    • The Godfather: Blackhand Edition (242)

Now that we're up to date on things, let's have a look at what's changed in the past year.  Using my own collection as a master list, we'll look at which of my games are the most popular and which are the rarest when it comes to other folks using the GameSpot database.  Remember, if I don't own the actual cartridge or disc then I won't be talking about it here.  The exception to this rule is that this year I'll also include games that were purchased from an organized digital delivery system such as Steam or Nintendo's Virtual Console.

Continue reading "More Gaming By The Numbers" »

Everybody Was Super Smash Brawling

WarioUPDATE: It's a shame that I have to specify this, but if you're going to use ethnic or racial slurs as taunt comments during brawls, then you're not welcome on my friend list.

So, my North American friends, are you enjoying the new Super Smash Bros. Brawl for the Nintendo Wii?  Are you wild about Wario?  Have you mastered Mario's new moves?  What about unlocking [insert secret character name here]?  My copy of the game finally arrived yesterday afternoon and I eagerly tore into it.  So far I've run through the Classic mode a few times, dipped my feet into The Subspace Emissary, unlocked a second block of event matches, revealed a few hidden characters, and even admired my newly-earned trophies.  I can't play solo forever though, so why not challenge me to a brawl?  Here's my Brawl-specific friend code


E-mail or post your Brawl code here if you want to get in on the action.  Maybe we can even put together a little PTB tournament or brawling group if there's enough interest.  Think you can take me?  Go ahead on!

Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney Review At Kombo

Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney Capcom's Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney games had not appealed to me before, but after playing the fourth game in the series, Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney for the Nintendo DS, I can see some of the attraction.  The game is less of a traditional game and more of an animated graphic novel.  My review of the game has been published over at Kombo.

The best thing about Apollo Justice is its intriguing storyline. Set seven years after the previous game in the series, the story begins with Apollo's first day in court and the charges against Phoenix Wright. As the game unfolds players will learn about the new Justice character and figure out what happened to Wright between games that led him to fall from talented attorney to bar pianist. Other supporting characters come in and out of the plot to provide new clues or just general exposition.

A Kombo reader called into question whether or not I'd actually played the game based on my comments about heavy use of the DS's microphone to call out things like "Hold it!" to advance the gameplay in places.  Apparently it's possible to pull off the same commands with buttons instead of shouting.  This is the kind of thing I miss out on when I review games without an instruction manual.  The game prompted me to use the mic, so I ran with that.  I don't care much for the accusation ("Objection!"), but it's always good to seek out more information when something in an article doesn't seem to add up.  I wish now that I'd known about the button options when I was playing the game.  I'd have received fewer odd looks and reactions while defending my client.

Hi, Speed Port

Nintendo GameCube with Game Boy Player Nintendo consoles are notorious for featuring add-on ports that never have anything, well, added on outside of Japan.  The Nintendo Entertainment System had a port for an unreleased disk drive, the Super NES featured a similar slot that collected dust, and the Nintendo 64's EXT slot for the 64DD went unused in most places.  Even the Virtual Boy has an abandoned port meant for an unreleased two-player link cable.  Then there's the GameCube and its three add-on ports.  Do you remember the two serial ports that were meant for use with the limitedly supported broadband and modem adapters and the single parallel port that eventually found a purpose with the Game Boy Player?  Could that parallel port have been destined for greater uses?  Daniel Primed's Gamer Blog hypothesizes.

Back around the time the GameCube and it’s hardware specifications were first being shown off at E3 2001 Nintendo stated that the Hi-Speed port was basically a port for any console add-ons or peripherals down the track and that for the time being they weren’t sure what any of these expansions may be. I can’t remember exactly but I believe that the default assumption was that it would be similar to the Nintendo 64’s Memory Expansion port which later housed the Expansion Pak. That is, some sort of additional processing power for the console.

Eventually a year and a half later Nintendo released the Game Boy Player which was the only such peripheral to ever take advantage of this port. Which kinda makes me a little suspect as to what Nintendo were originally planning to use the port for. So I’ve thrown together some ideas of my own which I think would have been realistic of Nintendo and the hardware, feasible as well as useful for the consumer.

I've always wondered how these unused ports may have been better utilized, and while Daniel has some interesting ideas (miniature hard drive?  RAM upgrade?) I find myself wondering how feasible any of those ideas may have been.  I know there are some technically gifted readers out there, so let me put the question to you: what else could Nintendo have been planning for the hi-speed port?

Sonic's Super Soundtracks

Sonic the HedgehogConsidering the many many many Sonic the Hedgehog games pumped out by Sega over the years it shouldn't come as a surprise that the series includes quite a lot of solid music.  From his Sega Genesis debut through the dark days of the Sega Saturn onto a Sega Dreamcast rebirth and beyond into appearing on non-Sega consoles, Sonic and friends have racked up plenty of quality tunes.  NeoGAF forumite Sciz has spent a lot of time and effort to create "Cool, Sweet, & Catchy!", a Sonic the Hedgehog music appreciation thread that includes a little history for each game's soundtrack (yes, even the less-than-stellar games such as Sonic Drift and Sonic Shuffle) and links to samples of the best of the mighty music.

Between 1991 and 2008, Sonic the Hedgehog has managed to reach some of the highest heights in gaming as well as some of the lowest lows. His games simultaneously rank among the best and worst in platformer history. But in spite of the varying quality of the gameplay, the series has a single constant: fantastic music. Over the last seventeen years the series has hit J-pop, Europop, rock, metal, jazz, electronica, rap, funk, and many other genres, and pulled (almost) every one of them off superbly. This thread is in honor of the dozens of different men and women who have worked behind the scenes to make that possible.

While reading the article I was surprised at how much of the more recent Sonic songs I could not recall.  Music from the original Genesis games bounce around inside my brain all the time, but I couldn't tell you what the music from modern titles like Sonic Rush Adventure sounds like (and I've spent more time with the latter than the former lately).  A game or two appear to be missing from the list (regarding Sonic Labyrinth, Sciz says "Labyrinth is one of those that I couldn't find the music for, and I don't honestly care enough about it to spend too much time looking.") and one of my favorite Sonic songs, the theme from Bullet Station found in Sonic Heroes, has been excluded (blasphemy!), but on the whole you're bound to lose an hour or two exploring all of the great tunes.

Dilbert's Obsolete Horror

Dilbert - The Return We all know the familiar sting that comes with buying a new top-of-the-line computer.  There's always that risk that today's overpriced premium gizmo will be obsolete three weeks later when the next newer computer becomes available.  Dilbert knows this pain well as seen in the Dilbert animated series episode "The Return" in which our hero buys a new computer and is accidentally shipped outdated gear.  Unable to reach anyone useful through customer service, Dilbert, Alice, Wally, Loud Howard, and Asok journey to the vendor's home office to confront the management which turns out to be the all-powerful supercomputer known as Comp-U-Comp (voiced by Jerry Seinfeld).  Much like the NewsRadio "Arcade" segment featured here previously, has edited the episode down into a five minute minisode that includes only the Comp-U-Comp plot (well, most of it; a gag where Comp-U-Comp challenges the group to a series of games to determine their fates is missing).  Enjoy!

Delusions Of Grandeur-icus

Shortpacked! Super Smash Bros. Brawl has hit the comics again, this time in one of my favorite webcomics, Shortpacked!.  Poor Amber; gaming characters are always appearing to her when she least expects it.  The punchline in this comic is a play off of the old idea of overplaying a game so much that the characters and situations onscreen become burned into one's eyes, forever visible while trying to concentrate on other important non-gaming tasks.  Who among us hasn't played epic mental games of Tetris or Dr. Mario while trying to doze off at night?  I recall one particular long evening of Tetris Attack for the Super NES back in the day and the eventual extended game played in my dreams overnight (and yes, I won).  I feel your pain, Amber, although should a Smash character appear to me as a chatty delusion, I think that, all things considered, I'd rather be visited by Zero Suit Samus.

Too much information?

Weekly Poll: Playing Favorites II

Weekly Poll for 3-03-2008 I expected a pretty diverse split on whom the favorite Smasher would be, but I didn't expect to see so many votes considering the usual voter turnout.  Maybe I need to make future poll questions less abstract and more definitive.  Link is the winner here with Fox McCloud, Samus Aran, and Mario holding their own as well.  I tend to be a Mario man, but I also like to play as Link and Samus.  I find that I prefer the characters with whom I have a nostalgic bond.  I don't necessarily play Smash games to win, but to watch the chaos unfold with my favorite performers as the stars.

Continuing on with the same concept, this week's question is all about the newcomers to the Nintendo GameCube's Super Smash Bros. Melee.  Which of the roster additions is your favorite to play as?  Somewhere down the line when it's safe to discuss the hidden Super Smash Bros. Brawl characters without spoiling things for everyone I'm sure there'll be a poll about the new Brawl challengers, but for today let us remain rooted in 2001.  So who's it going to be?  Princess Peach?  Ice Climbers?  Marth?  You know the drill.