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November 2008
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December 2008

Chrono Trigger (DS) Review At Kombo

Crono and Marle When it comes to the Super NES classic Chrono Trigger, I was a little too late to jump on the bandwagon.  I rented the game again and again from the local Movie Gallery in mid-1996 until someone failed to return it for others to enjoy one empty day, so with store shelves Trigger-less and other rental shops confused by my search, my friends and I turned to the dark side with the earliest Super NES emulators for MS-DOS.  The best games come back around again, however, so a decade later I finally own my own legitimate copy of the of the game for the Nintendo DS which I have lovingly reviewed over at Kombo.

The new DS version of Chrono Trigger retains the look and feel of the original Super NES edition of the game. There are no 3D revamps or updates here, but there are a few changes that enhance the experience. Hero Crono and friends now run by default instead of slowly walking from place to place. The short animated clips from the Sony PlayStation re-release of the game are included here and the script has been reworked slightly. The original censorship from the 16-bit era is gone, meaning that North American players finally get to see villainous magician Flea as a transsexual, the Mystics are now known as the Fiends, and the main characters no longer get drunk on "soda", among other things.

It took nearly one week to find and download the Chrono Trigger ROM from a shady website on the other side of the planet over my 14.4K dial-up connection back in the day, but eventually we got it up and running, ready for adventure... only to find that the PCs of the day were woefully underpowered and the emulators far too primitive to actually play the game in real-time.  After twenty minutes of watching the game's title screen fade into view one pitiful frame at a time, we came to the darkening realization that this whole emulation thing just wasn't going to work out.  We had access to the adventure, but had we taken up the quest under those constraints, we'd probably still be there waiting for yet another battle to finish loading.  Less haste, more speed.

Hut, hut, Sir Magus!

Club Nintendo Launches, Asks What Have We Done For It Lately

Club NintendoUPDATE: Coin-earning opportunities for older registrations are starting to activate, hooray!

Nintendo of America has finally taken the protective covering off of the Club Nintendo loyalty program, opening up a website for North American Nintendo customers to complete surveys and register certain products for a chance to earn points (dubbed "coins") which can be spent on exclusive Nintendo-related products and games not available in stores.  Sounds great!  Unless, of course, you happen to be a loyal core gamer (such as myself) who has been registering Nintendo products under the previous loyalty program, My Nintendo, which allowed customers to register certain products in exchange for the occasional promotional novelty stylus and the promise of better reward items in the future.  At the moment it seems that those older registrations do not carry over for coins to the new Club Nintendo.

Now, I don't expect my older Nintendo GameCube era registrations to be worth anything today in Club Nintendo.  However, I have plenty of eligible Wii and DS products registered under the old program that, as of this morning, do not carry over to the new program.  Apparently, if you were to go out today as a Nintendo newbie and purchase Super Smash Bros. Brawl, Wario Land: Shake It!, and Super Mario Galaxy, you could register those games for coins.  I, on the other hand, woke up this morning to find that my registered purchases of those same games spread out over the past year are worth no coins at all.  Where's the loyalty there, Nintendo?  I've been registering my purchases for My Nintendo for years as instructed by the company only to learn that those otherwise eligible registrations are now old news for Club Nintendo.  Angry Nintendo fans with a history of registrations have been hammering at the company this morning and the anecdotal answers that come back are all over the map, some promising that most older eligible registrations will eventually be worth coins and others stating that those old registrations are void, dead, and worthless.  What's the point of a loyalty program that doesn't reward loyalty?  I have a feeling that Nintendo is going to hear the full force of the core gamer rage over this issue if there isn't a satisfactory resolution soon.  We're finally so close to having nice things.

EA Puts Brakes On Need For Speed Franchise?

Need For Speed: CarbonThere's a rumor going around that Electronic Arts has decided to cancel all upcoming Need for Speed projects.  While I wouldn't be surprised if the teams involved with the franchise were to be trimmed in the ongoing layoffs that have been going on over at EA lately, it is a bit shocking to see the entire series tossed aside (even if the more recent Need for Speed games have been underwhelming).  How often do we see a publisher completely suspend development on a long-running franchise?  I think that's the bigger news here.  Maybe Need for Speed has run its course, but when has that ever stopped a company from running a franchise completely into the ground again and again with numerous lackluster installments?  If this turns out to be true then I bet we'll see Need for Speed again when it's reinvented and reworked into something supposedly bigger and better by a different development team.

Weekly Poll: Going Home

Weekly Poll for 12-8-2008After exploring a few Blu-ray discs I, like many of you who have seen a Blu-ray movie, have come to the conclusion that they're overpriced, but my goodness they are good eye candy.  The Dark Knight is one of the most visually impressive films I've seen at home in a long, long time.  Maybe in a year or three when/if the format becomes more popular we'll see prices start to come down.  I think I may end up preferring Blu-ray for television show box sets over movies because television show sets tend to include more commentaries and mini-documentaries.  I started on the season one set of Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles last night and am already impressed with the special features presented in high definition. 

And while we're talking about PlayStation-related things, I might as well ask if you've tried the new PlayStation Home service.  I finally got in over the weekend and found myself wondering about the value of wandering around a virtual world of idiots all cursing at one another or trying to hit on the lone single female avatar that would pass through the Central Plaza hub.  What do you think of Home so far?  Let's hear your thoughts. 

There's No Place Like PlayStation Home (Or So They Tell Me)

Home Sony flipped the switch on PlayStation Home yesterday, inviting PlayStation 3 owners around the world the chance to step into the online interactive environment populated by crass idiots other PS3 owners.  I kid Home, but I'm actually interested in trying it.  I not using the past tense there because while I did see the Home option magically appear on my PS3's XMB menu yesterday, I also downloaded the Home software, set aside the bit of hard drive space required to use the service, and agreed to the heavy Terms of Service, but that was as far as I was able to get.  Home just wouldn't log in properly, spitting back a variety of errors that basically translate to "too busy; try again later".  Eventually I gave up and went back to saving the universe in Ratchet and Clank Future, but if you were able to get through the server slam and actually access the service, you may be a little unsure about what to do next.  Kombo has you covered, thankfully, with a basic Home survival guide.

The part about Home that some people just won't understand is that this is a social networking place. With that, you'll need to remember this to get the most out of Home: you'll get out what you put in. Playing games and participating in silly dance competitions may sound worthless (maybe it is to you) but is vital to understanding on how to make use out of the service.

It is a way to meet new gamers and find friends to play game with similar online personalities. If you are the kind of person that likes to goof around, you'll meet others like you. If you are the kind of person that likes to think how lame those people goofing around look, you'll find people just like you as well. The trick will be knowing the right places to look. Stay in tune with your surroundings, and you'll be chatting it up in no time. It will help if you join clubs focused on things you are interested in. You can join the Home version of Foxhound if you want. Who doesn't want a good neighbor that's part of a military organization?

I don't see myself spending a lot of time in Home once I check out the basics.  Why would I want to hang around a virtual mall with my friends when we could be playing Super Street Fighter II Turbo HD Remix instead?

Mastering The System

Sega Master System While I've played my fair share of Sega Master System games over the years, very few have managed to impress or intrigue me.  The actual Master System hardware, on the other hand, is a different story.  Sega seems to have thrown plenty of hardware variations and accessories at the market to see which ones would stick (Card slots?  Built-in games?  3D glasses?  Wireless RF?), so leave it to Retrogaming With Racketboy to take a walk down memory lane and look at some of the different Master System products released over the years.

The Master System 2 was a cosmetic update that included some cost-saving technical changes as well.  Cartridges are inserted under the black plastic lid that slid back to expose the cartridge port. (Unfortunately, after repeated use, the lid over the cartridge slot loses it’s elasticity and just hangs half over)  The Master System II did not have an expansion port (which was never used anyway), card reader or reset button. All the cartridge games functioned properly on the SMS II, but because of the lack of a card port, the Sega Card games and the 3D Sega Scope Glasses were not usable on the SMS II. The Master System II also included Alex Kidd in Miracle World as the built-in game (1991 saw Sonic 1 built into some consoles).

The Master System is still alive and kicking in South America of all places, and it's interesting to see how the base hardware has been repeatedly reconfigured and streamlined to become more and more cost effective.  Modern Master Systems sport dozens of built-in games (usually real games, not pirated half-assed junk), essentially summing up Sega's entire 8-bit era in a single small $100 handheld box.  Overpriced?  You bet.  Impossible to kill?  Definitely.

Street Fighter IV Collector Box Is Tempting

Street Fighter IVI don't usually go in for overpriced Collector's Editions of video games, but Capcom is seriously tempting me with the package set up for the upcoming Street Fighter IV for the Sony PlayStation 3 and Microsoft Xbox 360.  Maybe I'm just getting caught up in the Super Street Fighter II Turbo HD Remix enjoyment factor, but the $80 box has a lot of neat stuff inside it compared to the usual collector things.  There's the game itself, of course, along with an hour-long animated movie that sets up the game's storyline, a comic/hint book, the soundtrack on CD, some downloadable extras, and a little World Warrior figurine (Ryu for the PS3 version and new challenger Crimson Viper with the X360 edition).  Is anyone else going for this?  I know that gaming is already expensive enough this generation, but I've come this far, so... 

The Sunsoft Also Rises

Aero the AcrobatPlenty of people have fond memories of the games released by Sunsoft during the 8-bit and 16-bit eras.  This is the company that brought us games such as Blaster Master and Aero the Acrobat, and it's finally coming out of hibernation to develop some original WiiWare material.

Sunsoft basically dropped off the radar after the SNES days, hardly releasing anything of note in the last two hardware cycles. But Sunsoft is back in the game now, largely on the back of virtual console titles for Wii. Now the company is releasing original-ish games on the Wii as well, such as Minna de Taisen Puzzle. Granted there's nothing really interesting happening yet, but it's nice to see that familiar logo resurface a bit. One can only hope for a Jaleco-style revival, though we'll see how long that lasts.

The company will probably unleash wave after wave of generic watered-down quickly developed puzzle games that fail to make use of their memorable properties, but I'm hoping that we'll finally get to see an actual quality Aero the Acrobat 3 done in the Super NES style.  The trilogy must be completed!  And spin-off game Zero the Kamikaze Squirrel doesn't count.

(via Kombo)

Hard Qore

Qore Now that I have a Sony PlayStation 3 it's been suggested that I subscribe to Qore, Sony's online video magazine that features interviews and gaming news delivered each month via PlayStation Network for $24.99 per year.  I've been on the fence about purchasing a subscription because I have issues with paying for information that tends to appear on the Internet at large for free.  December's issue of Qore is available without charge, so I figured I'd check it out and use my impressions of it to decide whether or not to buy.  I came away from the experience mildly intrigued (the video interview about the new Bionic Commando fell into the "How awesome is your game?" / "So awesome!" trap, but the concept art on display was neat), but it seems that the bulk of the Qore experience involves the free unavailable-on-PSN demos and beta test invitations that are offered to annual subscribers.  So, let me get some of your input about this.  Is a Qore subscription worth the money?  Are the demos and beta content really that exciting and enjoyable?  Or is this $24.99 tossed down the "So awesome!" drain?

Weekly Poll: Blu Material

Weekly Poll for 12-1-2008 I'm glad that I'm not the only one with a large game collection.  I may ask this question again in the future but with a larger upper bound as a poll option since I seem to have underestimated how many games most people have.  Anyone out there have more than 150 games?  200?  500?  Do you sit upon a throne made of game cartridges in a castle made from GameCube game cases and cement?  And more importantly, of those hundreds of games, how many do you play on a regular basis?  So many questions...

Let's move on to a new topic.  Last night I used my new Sony PlayStation 3 to watch a Blu-ray movie for the first time (Iron Man teamed with the Rifftrax commentary, if you must know) and came away from the experience impressed.  What do you think of the format?  Has a Blu-ray movie knocked your metaphorical socks off?  Let's hear your thoughts on the matter.