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May 2008

Lost Finale References Via Domus

Lost Lost: Via Domus may not be an official part of the Lost storyline, but the television show managed to find a way to reference the video game after all.  The season four finale, "There's No Place Like Home", features (and I'll be vague for the benefit of those who have yet to see the episode) a scene where certain characters wash up on a certain island.  The devoted fans at Lostpedia have taken note that this scene matches up to a camera angle and set dressing from a moment in the Via Domus game.  Does this mean anything in regards to the many mysteries of Lost?  Probably not.  Is it a neat reference for ardent fans to enjoy?  Absolutely. 

A Few Words With Ben Moy About Buku Sudoku

Buku Sudoku How much time does it take to design a full-featured Sudoku game for Microsoft's Xbox Live Arcade?  If you're lead designer Ben Moy, then the answer is about two and a half years.  Number puzzle fanatics are cheering this week with the release of the only Sudoku game to grace the service this generation: Merscom's Buku Sudoku, a does-what-it-says-on-the-metaphorical-box Sudoku experience that features a variety of challenges at various difficulty levels, local & online multiplayer, and even support for the Big Button Pad controller.  I recently had the opportunity to ask Ben a few questions about Buku Sudoku in which we covered topics ranging from the game itself to Microsoft's controversial plan to delist underperforming games from XBLA, and even a little about his future plans for XBLA and WiiWare.

Continue reading "A Few Words With Ben Moy About Buku Sudoku" »

The Lighter Side Of Piracy (Meowth's Heart Will Go On)

Senator VreenakBizarre pirated gaming knock-off products are always good for a laugh, so let's spend a few minutes snickering at British Gaming's collection of really strange hacked games, multicarts, and other baffling creations.  Did you know that Pokémon character Meowth performed Celine Dion power ballads in his spare time?  Neither did I. 

The [Pokémon] game’s most memorable scene crops up before you even begin moving the electric mouse around the dreamlike worlds. Meowth, Pokémon’s wise cracking moggy, sings a modified version of Celine Dion’s Titanic theme ("My Heart Will Go On"); replacing lyrics of love and adoration with fear and nightmares. Somehow, my ten year old, shouldn’t-be-playing-with-bootleg-ROMs, brain decided to block out Meowth’s psychopathic death-lullaby; quite the shock when I booted it up for a nostalgia trip.

Other highlights include a healthy helping of garbled Engrish ("Hey kids, who wants to play Mucky Mouse?"), clever tweaks that aren't fooling anybody (Power Snoopy, go!), and artwork that depicts the legendary battle between the Ghostbusters and busty Viking women riding atop flaming horses.  Then there's what has to be the best knock-off in the entire article: a WarioWare: Twisted! game pak that lacks the vital tilt sensor that's needed to play the game.  Oops! 

Wario Returns For New Wii Game

WarioJust when it seems like the week will go by without an exciting announcement comes word of a new Wario Land game for the Nintendo Wii.  There'll be time for doom and gloom and pessimism later.  Right now, let's celebrate!

July will bring forth much more goodness, and a little bit of badness as Wario makes his triumphant return (hopefully) to the platformer scene in Wario Land Shake for the Wii (why not Wario World Shake?) on July 24th.

OK, now let's get the pessimism out of the way.  1) This could be a typo and we're looking at a WarioWare game instead (those with Japanese skills say otherwise, but might as well mention it), and 2) This game could feature horrible Gross Wario instead of awesome Greedy Wario (but I've rambled on about that kind of thing before).  Alright, pessimism is over; back to the celebration!

Oh, and I understand there were other announcements for something about Rhythm Tengoku, Fire Emblem, Fatal Frame, and Band Brothers in case you happen to be into those things. 

Mysterious Nintendo Moon Mystery Demystified

MoonLast call for guesses about Nintendo Power's mysterious moon riddle, gang.  So, what's it going to be?  EarthboundThe Legend of Zelda: Majora's MaskHarvest MoonGolden Sun?  Nope, sorry, all wrong, the answer is Castlevania: Order of Ecclesia, but thanks for playing!

I don't have my new issue yet, sadly, but in the letters section, I can only assume it was Chris Slate who had written the following after realizing the Internet had gone into a frenzy, trying to solve the puzzle:

"Well, see, the moon itself was a clue about this month's
Castlevania cover game! Um…get it? (Gulp.) Okay, so we stretched things by hinting that clues could be found 'in' the moon - it was all Steve's fault…!"

So just how does an old stock image of the moon connect to Castlevania?  Some questions just don't have answers.

Weekly Poll: Expanded Audience

Weekly Poll for 5-19-2008 The early Atari years seem downright prehistoric by today's comparisons, but I feel that it's the Nintendo 64 era of gaming that has aged terribly over the years.  8-bit and 16-bit sprites and backgrounds have a timeless artistic element to them, but the jagged polygons and blurry textures from the birth of 3D gaming are just painful to see on today's modern televisions.  Throw in some clunky camera schemes and gameplay gimmicks rooted in the industry's growing pains and we're left with a whole stack of games that just aren't as majestic as those that came before and after.

Looking at the present generation now, I'm curious about how many non-gamers out there have been lured in by Nintendo's attempt to create a new demographic of casual gamer.  Do you have a non-gaming friend of family member that has given into Nintendo Wii madness?  Does your mother want Wii Fit?  Does your wife demand one more Wii Sports rematch?  Let's hear your stories.

Yahoo Takes Issue With WiiWare

Wii consoleYou'd better watch out, Nintendo.  The casuals may be getting restless.  The company is probably used to the deafening cries from hardcore gamers begging for more Wii internal storage space, but now this morning Yahoo has a scathing editorial on its front page advising that casual gamers not sample WiiWare because of the crowded storage space and tedious Wii Shop Channel interface.  The article even takes a page from the world of blogging by snagging several images of Nintendo characters appearing frustrated or weeping from the official art archive to illustrate the point.

Here's a hint: make it easy for us to give you money. The Wii Shop won't save credit card information, which probably makes it slightly more secure, but inputting all those numbers with a remote control is silly and tiresome. That's nothing next to the inconvenience of having to fill out the billing address every time, though, and the Wii makes you do that in minute, exhaustive detail. Hey, Nintendo: If my Wii gets stolen from my front room, it's a safe bet the culprits already know where I live.

OK, so you've juggled memory around to make space and filled out enough forms to give a mortgage broker nightmares. Surely things get better when you actually start downloading games, right? No, Nintendo has a treat in store for you there as well. Once you've purchased your chosen game, you'll be greeted with a cheery (and, for some reason, orange) Mario running repeatedly across the screen grabbing gold coins. What purpose this serves isn't immediately clear. Presumably it's some type of progress bar, but -- as far as we're aware -- there's no apparent relationship between fat Italian plumbers, orange or not, and download progress. Maybe Mario's interminable transit symbolizes Nintendo gobbling up the revenue from your purchase. Who knows.

Nintendo certainly seems to think that it knows what it's doing, and while some of the shopping experience needs a little refinement, I don't believe the problems are as massive as this article paints them to be.  I suppose the bigger issue here is that it is Yahoo emphasizing these points.  Kombo and GameSpot and IGN can complain nonstop about these issues and it just sounds like more gamer kvetching, but the mainstream press latching onto the issue could be a sign of trouble brewing.

Something else about this article that caught my attention was the author's unfamiliarity with the supposedly mysterious orange Mario.  My generation certainly knows the origin of that particular Mario sprite and it's place in Super Mario Bros.  Do today's newer generation of gamers know their history?  Do they know why Mario looks so gloriously 8-bit in the Wii Shop Channel interface?  Do they just not get the reference?  Moreover, does the older casual audience recognize the character?  Does it matter how Mario appears as long as the download completes successfully?   

Finally, as an aside, it amuses me that the headline "Yahoo Takes Issue With WiiWare" would make absolutely no sense whatsoever if it were printed, say, fifteen years ago.   

Topman Tournament Touted

Topman Nintendo is preparing another Mario Kart Wii tournament, and apparently one of the next challenges involves the wily Topman tribe from Super Mario Galaxy.  Here's the neat thing: you won't find a Topman running loose under normal Mario Kart Wii conditions.  Kombo has the details.

Beginning in early June, it appears the next tournament will spotlight one of the bosses from Super Mario Galaxy in Topmaniac (though only one of his Topman lackeys are shown), and will mark the first time (but hopefully not the last) in which users will see original content added to the game.

I doubt that Topman will be added to the game through a download, but instead the tribe is already secreted away on the actual game disc and just waiting for an activation signal from the Nintendo mothership.  So far each tournament has added something unusual to the racing experience.  First there were unleashed Chain Chomps, then a series of gates through which to drive.  Now comes Topman.  Does anyone else feel like the Mission Mode from Mario Kart DS has been cut up and served to us piecemeal in the form of these tournaments?   It would be nice to see a new proper Mission Mode option appear on the main menu after the final tournament so that these unique challenges are not lost to the ages.

The Lost Levels Of New Super Mario Bros.

New Super Mario Bros. lost levels Nintendo's line of Super Mario games include dozens and dozens of levels for us to explore, but in the end we're always left wanting more.  Fortunately for us, this is where the lost levels enter the picture.  For whatever reason, there are sometimes a few levels locked away in a game that are unaccessible through conventional means.  Now an attempt to hack together a level editor for New Super Mario Bros. has led to the (re)discovery of a few demo stages that have not been seen since E3 2005GameSetWatch has the details in an interview with teenage ROM hacker Treeki.  As for the lost levels themselves, check these out:

I never get tired of reading about lost levels.  Ask a developer about material cut from a game and you'll most likely get an answer back that involves a hazy half-memory of why that particular stage was cut from the final product, but the Internet will not settle for less than a complete documentation of excised material.  We love our games, but sometimes we love to dissect them even more.