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August 2008

When 480p Is Not Enough

Bionic Commando Rearmed (technically) There's some interesting discussion going on around the Internet (first time for everything, right?) about how some of this generation's video games are leaving players with "only" a non-HDTV in the dust when it comes to being able to pick out the little details and tiny text.  MTV's Stephen Totilo spoke out about working in the game journalism industry armed with only a SDTV, while my Kombo cohort David Oxford picked up the ball and ran with it with his own tale of being trapped with 480i in a 1080p world.  Stephen says:

But my standard TV set is beginning to fail me. I’ve found its weakness. What it can’t display very well, I’ve learned, are the best-looking high-definition 2D games, particularly some of the work on the PlayStation 3’s downloadable service. The lower-color-contrast boards of PixelJunk Eden look blurry on my TV. The edges of the plants I need to leap my character to display with a fuzziness that impacts my ability to accurately jump. Last night, I discovered that the aerial maps used for levels in The Last Guy, a game I had no problem playing a couple of weeks ago on a high-def set, appear hazy on my TV. I had trouble spotting my character and the tiny people I needed to collect while playing in standard resolution.

While David declares:

Of course, in my case, the failing of SDTV in 2D games became most apparent when I tried to play Bionic Commando Rearmed, with ledges that were difficult to distinguish from the background, spikes that didn't look very spikey from afar, and the too-small text. Just out of curiosity, how many of you have made the jump to HDTV? Who still plays on SD? What was the impetus for your switch? Was it games? Movies? Both? Or just being on the cutting edge?

Continue reading "When 480p Is Not Enough" »

Pokémon Trading Card Game World Championships Draws Fans, Giggles

PikachuThe world has watched with great anticipation as athletes from thirty nations from six continents assembled at the global event anticipated by ardent fans.  That's right, it's time for the 2008 Pokémon Trading Card Game (TCG) World Championships and Pokémon Video Game Showdown!  As the press release says, "more than 400 players ages 6 to 62 competed for the chance to be crowned the best Pokémon players in the world [last] weekend in Orlando, Florida."  Rather than parrot more of the press release I will instead point you at A Guide To All Things Tacky Fabulous In Orlando which offers this:

The Pokémon Trading Card World Championships are finally here. Thank God, because I've been waiting all year. Trust me, this event is synonymous with hedonism. Expect a huge, unruly crowd do descend on Orlando. Their tailgating parties are legendary. "The best Pokémon Trainers from the US and Japan" are set to compete. What do you mean, "How do you train a trading card?" If you have to ask, you just don't get it... amateurs.

I'll probably swing by there at some point since I did pretty well this season - ranking 15,357 in regionals, practically earning a premier rating along the way. You should have seen the look on Tsunekaz Ishihara's face when I attempted the Triple Lindy of trading - putting a Sandshrew, Magikarp, and Kingdra Ex in a fight against a Raichu (Picachu's annoying brother) . Ishihara was floored. It's never before been attempted, much less, perfectly executed - Thank you very much! Take that, team Slovenia. They are absolute cowards in the world of card training, and everyone knows they cheat.

It's easy to laugh at the world of organized Pokémon battling, but the event did award over $100,000 in scholarships to children, so let's not snicker too loud or point derisively too much. 

Learn To Read With Moblin's Magic Spear

Moblinsmagicspear Growing up in the 1980s at the dawn of the Nintendo age meant that I was an easy sell for any kind of subpar merchandise that featured a smiling Mario or a brave Link.  I was especially swayed by Nintendo-related books.  I've gone on about the Valiant/Nintendo comic books and the Worlds of Power series, but today's focus is on something a little more basic.  Younger children could get in on the Nintendo merchandising fun with Moblin's Magic Spear, an easy-to-read storybook based upon The Legend of ZeldaNintendo Player has a scan of the book and it's just packed with early character art of Link, Ganon, a Moblin, and the elderly shopkeeper who lives inside a hole.

For a long, long time Link journeyed through Hyrule.  He battled many strange monsters and bought many magic items to help him in his quest.  As he crossed a small lake on a tiny wooden raft, Link counted the objects he carried.  "I have my sword, a bag of rubies," he thought, "and one small bottle of fresh water.  I think I'll need more magic in order to rescue the princess."

It's not the most engrossing tale to come out of the Nintendo universe, but the young children of 1989 were probably enamored with it.  The story tries to make sense of the some of the events that happen in the original Legend of Zelda game (such as why Moblins always have more spears to throw and why those spears vanish when they strike something), but even as a kid I came to the conclusion that the author was really overthinking things.  Moblins always have more spears to throw.  That's just the way things work in Hyrule.

Sci-Fi Channel Sinks Stargate Atlantis; Why Not Resurface As A Video Game?

Stargate Atlantis The Sci-Fi Channel and I have this whole love/hate relationship going on.  I love many of the channel's shows, but then I hate when those shows are canceled to make way for more low-budget films from Estonia and out-of-place wrestling.  Joining the likes of Mystery Science Theater 3000 and Stargate SG-1 in the programming cemetery is Stargate Atlantis which will end its five season run in January 2009.  The series will then follow in SG-1's footsteps and go on to direct-to-DVD movies.  Movies are good, but why not take advantage of the opportunity produced by the cancellation and produce an Atlantis video game?  The Stargate Worlds MMORPG is coming soon, sure, but I'm still waiting for an actual honest-to-goodness single-player Stargate action/adventure game.  Let me take on the Wraith, resist the Replicators, pilot a puddle jumper, and engage in a new Atlantis storyline.  It'll help take some of the sting out of the end of the television series and provide some closure.

Revised Xbox 360 Controller Remains International Exclusive

Microsoft Xbox 360 controller Talk to some Microsoft Xbox 360 owners about design issues with the console's controller and you may well hear that the control pad is lacking in some regard.  Considering how often console markers like to double dip, you would think that it would be a no-brainer to release a revised model of controller and sell units to eager gamers worldwide all over again.  Funny how that doesn't quite work out.  It seems that Microsoft has come up with a controller that sports a revised control pad that allows for eight-way control over the existing model's four-way, but we won't be seeing it in North America anytime soon.  For whatever reason, the new controller is only destined for Europe, Asia, and Latin America.  C'mon, Microsoft.  Share the love!  I would think that this new controller would be an easy sell to ardent Xbox fans who dream of something more from the existing control pad.   

Sony Announces New PS3 And PSP Models

Sony PlayStation 3The game console reconfiguration train rolls on as Sony has announced additional reworkings of current generation hardware.  The company just can't stop tinkering with system specifications.  The new iterations include (among other things) a hard drive storage space increase for the PlayStation 3 and a built-in microphone for the PlayStation Portable.

Slated for release this November, the $500 bundle will also include a copy of the game Uncharted: Drake's Fortune and a voucher to download the game Pain. The bundle is described as a "limited-edition" offer, so who knows if the 160 GB model will stick around after that. Probably, considering it's $100 more than the now-standard 80 GB version, which Sony said today is shipping out to stores.  Sony also announced a new version of PSP this morning with a few minor upgrades -- a better LCD screen with a "wider color gamut" and "anti-reflective technology," and a built-in microphone.

I was just about to bite on the currently available 80 GB PS3 model with Metal Gear Solid 4 as a pack-in bonus, but I think I can wait until November for the increased drive space and inclusion of a game I'm actually interested in playing.  As for the PSP, my first generation version lives on quite nicely, thank you. 

Plenty Of Other Games Could Be Rearmed And Powered Up

Nathan Spencer I really have to give credit to Capcom, as they've been hitting retro remakes out of the park this generation.  Bionic Commando: Rearmed is both refreshingly new and belovedly old, and of course I've gone on about Mega Man: Powered Up plenty of times before.  Something that strikes me, however, is how the company seems to have a knack for coming up with cute, punny subtitles to signify a favorite game in new clothing.  "Rearmed" is, of course, a play on hero Nathan Spencer's bionic arm, while "Powered Up" takes a cue from Mega Man's ability to increase his arsenal.  Why aren't more publishers having this kind of title fun?  Nintendo is about to unleash a Nintendo DS revamp of the Super NES classic, Kirby Super Star, with the unimaginative subtitle Ultra.  Why not something like Kirby Super Star: Second Helping or Kirby Super Star: Redigested?  Imagine the possibilities conjured up by these prospective titles:

  • Sonic the Hedgehog Accelerated
  • Castlevania Resurrected
  • F-Zero Refueled
  • Blaster Master Irradiated
  • SimCity Rezoned
  • Vectorman Anti-aliased
  • Strider: Hooked Up
  • Little Nemo Reawakened

The use of the re- prefix would grow old quickly, but I think the market could grin and bear it for two or three more solid uses.  After all, we made it through the dark days of DS-based acronyms, "64" suffixes, and a whole other glut of modifiers.  Let's have some fun with a naming gimmick for once.

Banjo-Kazooie Stop N' Swop Revived?

Banjo-Kazooie So, bear and bird team Banjo and Kazooie are on their way back to the video game stage with Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts and Bolts for the Microsoft Xbox 360.  As if that's not enough, Rare and Microsoft are bringing the original Nintendo 64 Banjo-Kazooie adventure to the Xbox Live Arcade, and now it's been announced that preordering the new game will grant a special code to unlock the N64 original two weeks before it goes on sale to the Live Arcade masses.  Of course, after all these years of playing and replaying Banjo-Kazooie I really doubt that there's anything new for us to see in this—

The XBLA title will include something called Stop N' Swop, which rewards players' accomplishments in the new game with extra content and features in the Live arcade game.

Stop N' Swop?  Now?  After all these years of teasing?  Well, better late than never! 

Weekly Poll: OK, We'll Move

Weekly Poll for 8-11-2008Like most of you out there, my current generation console of choice is the Nintendo Wii, although I'm still planning on picking up a Sony PlayStation 3 later in the year.  There are now enough games on that platform that I want to play that I feel justified purchasing one.  In the meantime, however, the Wii is pulling its weight just fine.  With the slow summer release period in full swing now I've been exploring some of the older Wii games that I missed the first time around.  I can't say enough nice things about Tomb Raider Anniversary.  The stellar controls really nailed the experience for me, and even though Tomb Raider games tend to look better on powerful hardware, I find myself wanting to stick with the Wii's motion controls for the next game in the series. 

Speaking of fantastic gaming experiences, Capcom's Bionic Commando: Rearmed is upon us at last.  Did you buy it?  If so, for which format?  There are three of them, you know: Microsoft Xbox 360, Sony PlayStation 3, and PC.  Knowing now that so many of you out there are Wii owners, I'm curious to see how these numbers compare.  So, the twenty of you out there who own Xbox 360s and/or PS3s, did you buy Rearmed?

See The Secret Sega Stash

Secret Sega Stash Have you seen the photos of the secret stash of Sega hardware and games that the company keeps as part of its vast historical archive?  Apparently there's a room at Sega headquarters loaded with every game, every peripheral, every console, and basically every Sega thing that the company ever produced.  I'd love to spend an hour or five exploring the goodies in that room, but moreover, I find myself wondering if there are any rare or one-off items propped up next to yet another Sonic the Hedgehog 2 cartridge.  Specifically, I'd really like to know if this is the legendary secret vault that contains the one single known working Sega Neptune prototype.  Apparently the company plans to catalog everything in this room and make it available for Sega staffers to enjoy, so if it is in there, I'd imagine someone will find it (and when/if someone does, I hope he or she shares the photos with the rest of us). 

(via Kombo