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June 2008

Microsoft Avatars Scream Out "Mii Too!"

Microsoft Xbox 360I can't say I've ever done anything interesting or fun with Nintendo's cartoony depictions of people that are the Miis, but they must be popular or else other major players in the industry wouldn't be hard at work trying to come up with their own spin on the idea.  Microsoft is supposedly close to unveiling Avatars, an Xbox 360 version of Nintendo's Miis.

The service will apparently supplant gamer pictures and looks to be coming down the tubes "this holiday for all Xbox Live connected members" and "this Spring for all new console owners."

Fear not, however, as your Avatar won't merely smile and wave from within the dreary prison that is your Gamertag; Avatars will also regularly stretch their legs in "various arcade and retail games" -- just like Miis. Additionally, they'll be privy to "hundreds of clothing options" -- just like... wait, clothing options? Maybe this won't be so bad after all.

I have the sinking feeling that the Avatars will be tied together with my nemesis the micropayment.  How much do you think it will cost to dress an Avatar for success?  Five decorative shirts for 100 Microsoft Points, maybe?  It's easy revenue for Microsoft, sure, but is there really a demand for this sort of thing among the Xbox 360 demographic?  As the current generation of game consoles continues to unfold I sometimes find myself wishing that the industry would stop fixating on the whole "lifestyle" experience side of things and just focus on creating stellar games. 

Trackmania Adventure DX

Trackmania There's been a lot of buzz lately about Nadeo's Trackmania Nations Forever, a free PC racing game that combines the fun of driving really fast on dangerous tracks with the ability to perform stunts and other such challenges.  I've been playing a lot of it this past week, working my way through the objectives with a custom Back to the Future Part II DeLorean as my vehicle of choice.  The tracks start with the basic turns and straightaways, but as the difficulty increases, the game adds ramps, loops, corkscrews, and other acrobatic requirements.  Winning a gold medal requires memorizing the course, remembering how to navigate past the obstacles, and keeping one's finger on the accelerator at all times.

This morning I woke up with the unusual urge to replay Sonic Adventure DX for the Nintendo GameCube.  That's unusual in that Adventure wasn't all that fantastic a game when it was new, and it's sensitive controls and clunky camera haven't helped it endure over the years.  Performing well in Sonic Adventure DX involves memorizing the level structure, speeding along without hitting the brakes, nailing each and every ramp jump and corkscrew loop, and navigating past the many obstacles that appear without warning.  Nevertheless, I had the Sonic itch, so I sat down to scratch it and then made the connection: Trackmania is just another implementation of the Sonic Adventure model of gameplay: move fast, catch some air, dodge the hazards. 

I may be the last person on Earth to make this correlation, but it honestly surprised me.  As a platform game, Sonic Adventure DX just isn't very good.  As a precision racing challenge, however, it shares some of the same merits that make Trackmania so enjoyable (of course, Trackmania manages to exceed in some areas, mostly in that it doesn't require fishing or searching for needles in haystacks fragments of the Master Emerald).

Mega Man 9 Finally On The Way

Mega ManOf all of Mega Man's many incarnations it is the original blue bomber that is my favorite.  It's been a while since Mega Man and I last saved the world from Dr. Wily's evil robots in an all-new adventure, but now it looks like Capcom is finally bringing the original character back for a proper Mega Man 9Kombo has the early details.

It looks like good news today for fans of the Blue Bomber, as Capcom's Australian branch has registered the name "Mega Man 9" for rating with the Office of Film and Literature Classification. The last numbered game in the "Classic" series, Mega Man 8, was originally released for the SEGA Saturn and Sony PlayStation over ten years ago, and has not been followed since but for a few spin-offs, side-stories, and remakes.

Never say never, right?  Between this revelation and the news that Captain Syrup is returning to the Wario Land franchise, this week has been filled with long-awaited announcements that are geared towards those of us who have been gaming for a decade or two.  Now, of course we don't know anything about Mega Man 9 yet, but just knowing that it's on the way is enough for today.  Here's hoping it lives up to Mega Man's iconic legacy.

Microsoft Planning Bold Gambit?

Viva PinataIt's time to play everybody's favorite game of conjecture, Read Between The Lines.  Today's first item of business involves speculation that Microsoft is concerned that the current line-up of games in the works for the end of the year will not be able to carry the Xbox brand for the fourth financial quarter.  There's a rumor that the company is planning something "interesting, partly spectacular and a bit desperate".

Their insider added "Let's put it this way: they're worried the current line-up can't carry Q4 for the entire Xbox brand in the core market. You'll laugh when you see what they're planning."

Next we have an interview with two Rare developers on the topic of the upcoming Nintendo DS title from Microsoft, Viva Piñata Pocket Paradise.  When asked about why Microsoft is allowing content from Rare to hit competing hardware, the two play coy.

Joe Humfrey: Microsoft doesn't see the DS as a conflicting platform at all.

Gary Richards: They've got no handheld platform, so it's not a competitor.

SPOnG: I assumed that… So, we'll never be seeing
Viva Piñata on the Wii then?

Gary Richards: (Grins). I'm not saying.

You don't suppose there's a Viva game in the works for the Nintendo Wii, do you?  Something that will bring in a little extra revenue to carry the company through the end of the year, perhaps?  Maybe even act as a bit of a Trojan Horse to bring some Xbox recognition to the Wii masses, hmm?  No, I am not jumping to conclusions.  I stand still and the conclusions jump to me.

Captain Syrup Returns In New Wario Land

Captain Syrup Correct me if I'm wrong, but doesn't this image of the upcoming Wario Land title for the Nintendo Wii feature a woman who looks a heck of a lot like Captain Syrup?  Surely you remember Captain Syrup, the leader of the Brown Sugar Pirates and, later, the Black Sugar Gang.  Wario looted her Kitchen Island stronghold in the original Wario Land.  She turned up again for revenge in Wario Land 2, but then she just disappeared.  Wario has faced a variety of foes in the years that followed, but never the captain.  It's a shame that her role was replaced by other villains, as I always thought that the greedy Syrup was a better foil for Wario than his other rivals.  Wario games have never been very deep in the story department, but I have to admit that I'm curious about Syrup's return.  How does she fit into Wario's latest adventure?  Where has she been for the past decade?  And how long until she turns up as a playable character in a Mario sports spin-off game as Baby Syrup? 

Meet Cave Johnson

Cave Johnson Portal 2 is in the works, and with a new game comes a new unseen technologically-based tormentor.  According to this news bit from Kombo, a new electronic overlord by the name of Cave Johnson will be the voice behind the curtain in the next romp through the Aperture Science testing facility. 

CAVE JOHNSON (ECCENTRIC DEAD BILLIONAIRE)] Cave Johnson is a character for a new game in the Portal series from Valve Software. Portal is a dark comedy; the role will require comic timing, with occasional dramatic moments. Age: early 60s. He is founder and CEO of a successful applied science company, a self-made billionaire who's learned to trust his gut and doesn't sweat the details—is a big picture thinker. He might not know how science works, but he knows how people work. Used to getting what he wants. Extroverted, enthusiastic and opinionated. High energy: life is an adventure he's happy to be on. A born salesman, a leader, an evangelist. People trust him, even when his plans are clearly dangerous. Speaks with a slight Southern/Western accent (natural, not too broad). He a uses warm, homespun delivery to put people at their ease. He doesn't accept the responsibility that comes with his power. Either he doesn't see or chooses not to see the ramifications of his actions. Goes from sidekick to principle antagonist. Starts to lose his grip on his humanity as the story progresses. As he isolates himself from the people around him, he loses touch with reality...

There's also some sample dialog available in which Cave ruminates on the idea of an afterlife and the existence of Latin Frankenstein.  As much as I was hoping to hear more from GLaDOS in the next Portal, it sounds like Cave could turn out to be an even more intriguing character.  I wonder what his thoughts are on the possibility of cake. 

Capcom Has Big Plans For PSN

Cut Man, Fire Man, and Elec ManNintendo's WiiWare and Microsoft's Xbox Live Arcade are gobbling up most of the digital distribution press lately, but Sony's PlayStation Network has yet to really kick into high gear.  There's some vintage PS1 games mixed in with new fare, but on the whole there hasn't been a lot to shout about from the mountaintops.  At least, until now.  It appears that Capcom is working to bring some of their underappreciated PlayStation Portable titles to PSN where they may finally find a sizable audience.  Kombo has the details.

In a Capcom*Unity post about PS1 games arriving on the PlayStation Network, Capcom Corporate Officer/Vice-President of Strategic Planning & Business Development Christian Svensson says "The first titles you see appearing from us will be some of our better PSP titles that are difficult to find at retail. We'll speak to Sony in more detail regarding PS1 titles we'll get to after we've gotten a few or our more recent PSP titles up and available."

If Mega Man: Powered Up appears on PSN, then you'd best buy it.  It's a fantastic adventure that too many of you have missed this generation.  Plus, get those sales numbers up and we may yet see a sequel to the best blue bomber game released this decade after all. 

Weekly Poll: Ride The Snake

Weekly Poll for 6-02-2008I haven't missed a Mario Kart Wii tournament yet, but now I realize why my in-game friend list is so short — most of you don't even have the game!  You're missing out.  Last week's Topman-related tournament (which required knocking four Topmen off of a floating platform) was the best one yet.

So, you may have passed on Mario Kart, what about Metal Gear Solid 4?  The Sony PlayStation 3 game releases internationally this week and the anticipation is running wild online.  Are you going for it?  Let's hear your thoughts. 

Game Burning Gets Everyone Fired Up

Rev. Lovejoy What's the most rational solution when it comes to dealing with what some people consider to be unhealthy forms of entertainment?  Logical discussion, perhaps?  Maybe a live-and-let-live approach?  No, sorry, the correct answer appears to involve a rally of angry parents lighting a bonfire to burn the evil video games into ash.  GamePolitics has the shameful story of a Virginia church that is considering a game burning.

We are considering having something similar to a rally where parents and children can bring CDs and video games that they consider are destructive to the mind set of our youth and have a burning, just like they had a gun buyback last year.

Yes, surely this will solve society's problems.  How about we start with the Left Behind game, hmm?  But seriously, here we have another case of someone seeking their fifteen minutes of fame by overreacting in a public setting.  Let the church have its rally if it makes the people there feel better about things.  The rest of us will be out enjoying life and culture in the twenty-first century.

New Bionic Commando Becomes Awesome

Bionic CommandoDespite news of the development of a modern 3D adventure version of Bionic Commando, I've been more excited about the 2D remake of the original game, Bionic Commando Rearmed.  Then came some new video of the 3D game in action, and suddenly I'm excited about them both.

My anticipation meter pegged to "awesome" once I heard the new version of one of the original game's themes fade up near the end of the clip.  Don't miss the other videos that show a boss battle and a vertical ascent in a greenhouse.