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July 2008

New Samus Aran Statue Lights Up

Phazon SamusFirst 4 Figures is at it again with their latest Samus Aran statue.  This time around the suit variation on display is the Phazon Suit from Metroid Prime 3: Corruption, although with a new twist compared to the previously released statues based on the Gravity and Zero suits.  The Phazon Suit statue lights up.  Take that, non-illuminated Samus statues.

We completely reengineered the original Varia suit model to make the Phazon suit by casting it entirely in transparent resin, adding over 25 LED lights through the suit and finished it off by adding a mirror base which really shows off the lights. When the lights are turned off, an internal IC chip allows for the lights to fade out slowly. The statue is hand finished and hand painted with metallic paints to give an authentic representation of the suits. Comes packed in a foam interior full colored box with a card of authenticity.

As neat as this looks, the $225 price seems a bit steep.  For that price I would expect this Samus statue to actually protect me from Metroids.  Maybe I'm just souring on the whole First 4 Figures experience.  After all, I'm still waiting for that Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time Link statue that I preordered in 2006 to turn up on my doorstep.  How long can it possibly take to get a design approved and manufactured?

Nintendo's New Character Is... Captain Rainbow?

BirdoI try not to make snap judgments based on knee-jerk reactions, but when I see that Nintendo's new character property may be a flowery fellow by the name of Captain Rainbow, I find myself wondering how Nintendo of America could ever launch this character domestically without reworking a few things.

Captain Rainbow is the yo-yo wielding alter-ego of Nick, a geek who likes loud, flower-themed clothing. However, for some reason (it's a mystery to everyone), he's just not as popular with the kiddy set, and his TV show's ratings are in the crapper. So, perhaps to remedy this, he sets out for Mimin Island, a place where tales say that one's wishes come true...

...and, those legends are true. Sort of.

See, as it turns out, it's Captain Rainbow who has to fulfill the wishes of the island residents. Pretty sneaky, huh? So from there, while specifics aren't yet revealed, you and the Captain make it happen by trekking around the island and engaging in Viewtiful Joe-ish 2.5D fighting segments while trying to help the islanders.

Ah, yes, the islanders... remember the Island of Misfit Toys in that old Christmas special? Well, welcome to the Island of Misfit Video Game Characters: Obscure folk from past Nintendo games take up residence here, such as the more humanized Mario (apparently retconned) from the original NES
Golf, to Birdo, who's been tossed in jail-- make your own jokes as to why.

Maybe this could work in North America, but it'd be a tough sell based on what little we've seen of the game.  Tingle has run into the same sort of discrimination in the past.  Then again, Birdo is in the game, and she doesn't choose her roles lightly.  The whole "island of misfit game characters" is very intriguing.  Maybe all Nintendo has to do it give Captain Rainbow angry eyes for the box art.  Ah, there.  Problem solved!

Activision Shovelware To Feature Warning Label

Wee 1st It's awfully considerate of game publisher Activision to slap a big warning label on their new games meant for the casual gamer, i.e. quickie cash-in shovelware that the hardcore audience does not dare touch, lest our pristine fingers become tainted.  Of course, Activision will tell you that the new "Wee 1st" branding isn't so much of a warning for the core audience as it is a helpful guide to the casuals, but I just call 'em like I see 'em.

Any games that involve TV tie-ins, quick cash-ins, and generic sports rip-offs will luckily carry the "Wee 1st" logo to make sure we all know Activision only kind of cares about the Wii.  The first to come in this brand will be Little League® World Series 2008, Rapala® Fishing Frenzy and Dancing with the Stars: Get Your Dance On.

Thanks for the heads-up, Activision!  Ah, to dream of the day that all publishers mark their lesser games in such a manner…

Chrono Trigger DS Just A Lazy Port?

Chrono Trigger Maybe I'm in the minority here, but I would think that news of a Chrono Trigger re-release and slight upgrade would send fans of the original Super NES game into a fervent frenzy of celebration.  Instead there's grumbling that this Nintendo DS release is just the latest in a long line of lazy ports of past glories from Square-Enix.  Kombo's Nathan Grayson takes the publisher to task over what he perceives to be a quick cash-in project.

So, Chrono Trigger is great right? I bet you can't wait to jump back into the fray with Frog, Robo, and co. Great fun. But "back" is the operative term here. Haven't you already played and beaten the game – scouring its brightly colored, Dragonball Z character-populated world until no stone was left unturned, no ending left un-unlocked? Remember when Square worked gamers the world over into a frothy-mouthed fervor by trademarking "Chrono Break"? What ever happened to that? Sure, Chrono Cross was a great game, but it wasn't the Chrono Trigger sequel fans wanted. How about a real sequel, Square Enix?

I've said before how I'm not a fan of the Square-Enix stable of properties outside of Chrono Trigger, so I really don't mind that this new Trigger release is just a spit-shined version of the original game.  I find that I'm seeing this issue from the other perspective.  I don't buy Square-Enix games on even a semi-regular basis because the majority of them just don't appeal to me.  Final Fantasy and its kin just aren't on my radar, but when a Square-Enix game I like comes back around, I don't have a problem with picking it up because I don't feel that the company is moving in the "wrong" direction by focusing on re-releases and ports.  I see Chrono Trigger DS not as just another port taking away time and resources from a new property, but as one of the very few Square-Enix games that I enjoyed the first time around and am willing to purchase for play in portable form.  If this DS version of the game is the last we see of the Chrono franchise, then I think I could let it go.  I'd rather revisit a classic adventure I enjoyed than pass on something new that does not appeal to me. 

Weekly Poll: E3 Expectations

Weekly Poll for 6-29-2008It warms my pixelated heart to see that even after all these years, sometimes eight bits are all we need.  That classic 8-bit Mega Man sprite is one of the most timeless pixel art creations to come out of the Nintendo Entertainment System era, and I'm very glad to see it live on.

The 2008 E3 Media and Business Summit is just days away.  Are you excited yet?  I am.  There are a lot of intriguing and interesting games due to be revealed and examined.  Which of the big three console producers do you think will have the best showing?  Who do you think will "win" E3?  Let's hear your thoughts.

Wario Land: Shake It! Continues To Impress

Wario Those of us in North America must wait until the end of September to play Wario Land: Shake It! for the Nintendo Wii, but considering that Japan gets the game at the end of this month, Nintendo has gone ahead and opened the game's promotional website and offered up some new video clips of both the gameplay and the animated scenes that drive the story along.  Now, you could muddle through the interface and hope to stumble upon the videos, or you could just leave it to fans to plaster the clips on YouTube complete with translations for the Japanese subtitles.  So, what is Captain Syrup planning this time, and how does the Shay King (groan) figure into things?  And moreover, why is Wario sleeping in his car?

The animated story clip is intriguing (was that a Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time musical snippet I heard when the damsel in distress was revealed?), but it's the gameplay clip that impresses most of all.  It looks like there's a lot of personality in this game, what with the smooth character animations and unmistakable Wario grumbling.  I'm eager to find out if the hype matches up with the final result.

(via NeoGAF forums)

Are We Excited Yet?

E3 Media and Business SummitNow that the calendar has rolled into July, I'm starting to get ramped up for E3 Media and Business Summit.  I'll be attending the show again this year as part of the Kombo team, and while assignments and appointments are still being hammered out, I have my own list of games with which I'm hoping to get a few minutes of hands-on time.  Oddly enough, at the moment I'm more excited about some of the various third-party projects than I am about Nintendo's own rumored titles. 

I have very high hopes for Ghostbusters (which, as I've said in the past, I need to be good), and while I'm more interested in the Sony PlayStation 3 version, I'd also like to see how the Nintendo Wii version is coming along.  Sonic Unleashed has a lot of positive buzz going for it, and the idea that Sega and Sonic Team have finally figured out how to make Sonic work in today's modern 3D gaming environment leaves me hopeful.  Then there's a pair of surprising projects from Capcom and Konami.  I'm most curious about Mega Man 9 which I really hope takes me back to 1990 with its retro flair.  There's just something about that original 8-bit Mega Man design that is so timeless and familiar.  Castlevania Judgment, on the other hand, is going to be fantastically amazing or pitifully awful.  I just don't see that game landing on neutral ground.  The same could be said for Street Fighter IV, but I'm more optimistic about that one.  Speaking of Castlevania, hopefully Order of Ecclesia for the Nintendo DS will be there in some form.  Both the new 3D Bionic Commando adventure and the remixed Bionic Commando Rearmed must put in appearances.  I want a few minutes with Chrono Trigger DS, but Square-Enix can be unpredictable with exactly what is available for a demo.  I can't forget about Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts and Bolts for the Microsoft Xbox 360, but that's not as high on my list as I'd expected.

Wario Land: Shake It! Of course, then there's Nintendo.  I don't want to let slip anything I'm not supposed to talk about yet, so let's just stick with things that have been officially announced.  The Nintendo project about which I'm most excited is Wario Land: Shake It!, although I'm concerned that it may be relegated to a background slot in the grand E3 scheme of things.  It's not the most visually impressive or casual-friendly game compared to some of the company's other offerings.  Kirby Super Star Ultra for the DS intrigues me, and of course I'll have to spend a little time with the new Wii baseball title, Mario Super Sluggers.  I'm sure there will be a new casual-oriented title that I'll have to try, but I'm hoping that a certain game geared to the hardcore faithful will provide a fantastic counterbalance to the inevitable second wave of Wii Balance Board games. 

Here Comes Chrono Trigger DS

CronoIt's been a few years since I pondered on the subject of a port of the beloved Super NES RPG Chrono Trigger for the Nintendo DS, but I say better late than never.  Square-Enix has announced that the game is on the way at long last.

With artwork by famed manga artist Akira Toriyama and an unprecedented and inspiring musical score created by Yasunori Mitsuda, CHRONO TRIGGER represents the best-in-class of the video game world. This newly revamped edition maintains all of the game's original elements and spirit while introducing the portability, dual-screen presentation and Touch-Screen functionality of Nintendo DS. Players will soon be able to rediscover the exhilarating RPG experience, breathtaking storyline and innovative gameplay in the palm of their hands.

I was just thinking a few days ago that it's about time for my annual replay of the game.  I guess I can hold out for a few months and play this new version instead.  Now, let us shift from announcement joy to concern that somehow Square-Enix will screw this up.  Aw, who am I kidding?  I'm not ready to be cynical about this game just yet.

Hut, hut, Sir Magus!

More Mega Man Madness

Bubble Man I really didn't intend for this week to be devoted to Mega Man, but sometimes that's just the way things work.  "The Last Days of Dr. Wily" sketch has made its way to discussion site Metafilter which has led to some interesting and amusing responses that I believe are worth sharing. 

"Why doesn't Dr. Wily, a man presumably well-versed in the tenets of science, better track his data and learn from his mistakes? It makes sense for a brilliant and creative inventor to check out whether, for some reason, a robot-surgeon-looking-thing who lives underwater might present more of a threat to Mega Man than a Giant Zippo Lighter in a fortress of fire - fire could melt Mega Man, for instance, but Water might short him out completely. These are things worth knowing. But once you've seen the dripping internist get so soundly trounced, with or without the use of metal blades, why assume that the problem was that he couldn't split in two, and didn't look oddly bird-like enough, and give up on the whole water thing entirely?" - Navelgazer

"I saw a surprisingly charming drawing on a site somewhere a few days ago (and it was on-model enough to suggest it was Official Capcom tm) of a happy Dr. Wily building one of the many grunt robot enemies from one of the levels. It got me to thinking about just why, WHY Wily goes through all the rigmarole each time.  The only answer I could come up with, one I think is supported by the drawing, is that he likes the process. Destroying Mega Man is the ultimate objective, but he enjoys building the levels and the robots. Mega Man destroying them all time after time isn't so much a setback, it's just clearing the boards for the next set of levels and robots.  It's his hobby, and might I add, a damn awesome one. When do we get to play as Dr. Wily?" - JHarris

I know I'd play the Dr. Wily game if Capcom were to ever make it.  It seems perfect for the Nintendo DS somehow.

The Robots Are Indeed Revolting

Mega Man 3 If you've been away from the Mega Man series for a while you may feel compelled to pick up some of the later titles in the original series that you missed in order to catch up in time for the upcoming Mega Man 9.  That's a good idea, but let me give you some free advice.  Stay away from Mega Man 3.  Avoid it at all costs.  It is not worth your time or your money.  The game's archaic visuals and unbalanced gameplay tarnish the mighty Mega Man legacy.  So, yes, skip the pitiful Mega Man 3.  Before the pitchfork army rallies outside my home, I should probably clarify: I'm talking about the shameful DOS version, Mega Man 3: The Robots are Revolting, produced under license from Capcom by Hi-Tech Expressions in which our EGA-ized hero takes on Dr. Wily's latest creations which - for budgetary reasons, I bet - look a heck of a lot like his previous creations.

Starting from the upper-left slot and moving clockwise, we have Torch Man (a de-magnetized Magnet Man), Bit Man (Hard Man with a coat of yellow paint), Shark Man (a gray Snake Man with an added fin), Wave Man (Air Man without the fan (and not to be confused with the much better Wave Man from the much better Mega Man 5)), Oil Man (Flash Man tinted red (and, again, not to be confused with Oil Man from Mega Man: Powered Up)), and Blade Man (Metal Man gone purple and pointy).

Mega Man 3

How disappointing!  If Hi-Tech Expressions was going to create a pale comparison to a better game, they should at least have gone all the way and made an original pale comparison.