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January 2009

Friendly Faces On Brown Bags

Lunch Bag ArtThe brown bag lunch is a time honored ritual of elementary school.  How else can a kid keep track of a plastic-wrapped sandwich, little bag of pretzel sticks, and a Twinkee between the long slog from the attendance check to the lunch bell?  Cool parents slip happy notes in with the meal for a midday pick-me-up, but how many take the time to draw and color detailed video game, movie, or cartoon character artwork on a brown bag each and every day?  Enter Lunch Bag Art in which an artistic father shares his brown bag creations with us before sending his kids off to school with them.  Check out these examples of his game-related artwork.  

My mother's artistic talents went on to my notebooks instead of my lunch back in the day.  My Slimer notebook (of The Real Ghostbusters fame) lasted me for several years and I still have the cute little talking matzo ball from a Garfield comic strip that I asked her to draw for me all those years ago.  Kids today ask for Chimchar and Piplup, but I'll choose that matzo ball each and every time.

(via Metafilter)

Press The Broken Buttons

Sony PlayStation PortableMy poor Sony PlayStation Portable is having issues.  For some reason the control pad buttons and control stick are behaving as if they've been pressed and maneuvered when they are not.  This is making playing a game or watching a video frustrating and best and impossible at worst.  Mega Man takes off by himself, awesome combos in Street Fighter are disrupted, and videos rewind and fast forward as if the system is haunted.  I'm on the verge of breaking down and buying a replacement PSP, but before I do, I figured I'd ask if anyone else out there has experienced this problem and, if so, can give some advice on how to fix it.  Any ideas?  Any explanations?  Any hope?

Ivo Shandor's Revenge

Ghostbusters: The Video Game New screenshots of the upcoming Ghostbusters: The Video Game are making the rounds online, one of which gives us what I believe is our first look at the Gozer exhibit at the museum which supposedly kicks off the game's storyline.  There's some neat things to see in these images, but what caught my attention are the big SHANDOR banners.  Recognize that name?  I love the little bits of obscure Ghostbusters continuity that I've seen in some of the screenshots so far, and I really get the feeling that the developers are big fans of the source material.  June 16th has never seemed so far away. 

OutRun Remake Is Xbox Exclusive In North America

OutrunSega is putting the finishing touches on a modern remake of the classic arcade racer OutRunfor the Microsoft Xbox Live Arcade and Sony PlayStation Network, but OutRun Online Arcadeis the latest game to become tangled up in an exclusivity agreement.  While European PS3 and X360 owners will be enjoying the game soon, those of us in North America who want to play the game will have to go with the Xbox 360.  CVG has the story.

OutRun Online Arcadewill not be released on the PlayStation Network in North America, Sega has confirmed to CVG.  Instead the colourful update will opt for Xbox Live Arcade exclusivity in the US, while the Europe will receive both PSN and XBLA versions as planned.

I've always found it strange for downloadable remakes to be exclusive to a single console.  Do people really make choices about which console to buy based on a downloadable remake of an older game?  I would have bought OutRun Online Arcadefor PSN, but I'm not buying a Xbox 360 just to play a single downloadable game.  Somehow I think that I'm not alone in that belief. 

(via Kombo)

Tetris Still Hates You

Bastard TetrisNearly four years ago I told you about Bastard Tetris, a unique interpretation of everybody's favorite falling block puzzle game.  This variation on the game uses a special algorithm to decide just which tetrad piece you need the least and then gives it to you.  Basically, if having to deal with a L-block is the worst possible thing to happen at a particular moment, then Bastard Tetris will give you that L-block.  The original game was only for Linux, but now someone out there has put together a version of the game for play in Flash-enabled web browsers.  Give it a try and see just how sadistic a puzzle game can be.  Even after all this time, Bastard Tetris is still actively working against you.


Awesome Radical Old School Advertising To The Max!

Power Glove The last two decades of the twentieth century brought us many great video games, but it also provided a wealth of bizarre, radical, dripping-with-attitude advertisements.  Who can possibly forget full page spreads in the gaming magazines of the day that promised to make us totally awesome with coolness if only we'd buy a Power Glove or a Sega Game Gear?  My Kombo co-worker and fellow podcast panel member Joey Davidson has taken a loving look back at some old school gaming advertisements.

My favorite part about being a product of the 80's and early 90's is having the ability to look back and smile. I'm sure a lot of the Kombo readers grew up in the same era, and I'm sure plenty of you would enjoy a trip down memory lane. I intend to gather a slew of ads, from the picture medium, that center around gaming in my younger years. These were the ads that made me sit up and take notice while flipping through Boy's Life (yeah, I had that crap, wanna fight about it?), these are the ads that made me stop reading X-men and stare down for dozens of minutes. These are ads from around the time when I was a kid. I hope you can relate, and I hope you'll smile as much as I did.

I have fond memories of tearing into a fresh issue of Electronic Gaming Monthly each month and reading it cover to cover, ads and all.  Sometimes those advertisements were just as entertaining as the articles, providing kooky fun and laughable text courtesy of marketers who were out of touch with their target demographic.

The Wonderful 8-Bit World Of Disney

Darkwing DuckVideo games based on a licensed property have been more miss than hit over the years, but back in the Nintendo Entertainment System era the task of creating games based on popular Disney cartoons fell to Capcom.  While a lesser developer/publisher would have cranked out poor quality games, Capcom went the extra mile to actually come up with material that was not only fun to play, but also respected the source material.  A new article from Hardcore Gaming 101 explores the wonderful 8-bit world of Disney with special emphasis on DuckTales, Rescue Rangers, and Darkwing Duck along with other titles featuring Mickey Mouse, Baloo from TaleSpin, and Ariel of Little Mermaid fame.

Capcom's NES rendition of Darkwing Duck is pretty straightforward - it's basically Mega Man with some new graphics and some gameplay tweaks. You'll find similarities in the level design and even some enemies, like caped ducks who act almost exactly like Sniper Joe from the Mega Man games, hiding behind a shield and only lowering it to attack. You can even choose the order to tackle the levels, although there's only six versus the usual eight. You need to beat the first set of three before moving onto the second. The final level is also only a single stage. Many of the levels have hooks you can jump on, which also act as switches for certain platforms. You can also press Up to block certain projectiles, and, unlike Mega Man, Darkwing can actually duck! The end level bad guys, including Quackerjack, Megavolt, Bushroot, Moliarty, Liquidator, Wolfduck, and Steelbeak, are also a bit more involving than the usual Mega Man boss fights, usually mixing some platforming elements.

There are some annoying quirks though. For some reason, Darkwing can't move while firiing, resulting in situations where you're pinned down by multiple enemies, when you should just be able to blast through them. You can't fire when you use your cape, leading to many situations where you try to shoot but won't, usually when you're jumping. The controls just don't feel as precise as they should. Cheap enemy placement is also an issue. Many enemies will suddenly appear off screen after completing a tough jump and plow into you. Your life meter is also pretty limited, as you can only take four hits, but at least life power-ups are common.

The Capcom/Disney alliance was one of the brighter third-party highlights of the 8-bit era.  As a kid I eagerly snatched up new games based on my favorite Disney Afternoon cartoons: DuckTales, Chip 'n Dale: Rescue Rangers, and, of course, Darkwing Duck.  I even rented the lackluster Adventures in the Magic Kingdom a time or two just to take another run through the Haunted Mansion and Pirates of the Caribbean levels.  It wasn't until years later that I played the DuckTales and Rescue Rangers sequels which, while technically improved from the original games, seemed to be lacking personality, while the less said about the dismally disappointing Darkwing Duck for the TurboGrafx-16, the better.

Strider Denied

StriderIf you've been hoping that Capcom would give the Bionic Commando: Rearmed or Ultimate Ghosts 'n Goblins treatment to the arcade classic Strider, then you are in for some disappointment.  While there is interest in such a project, Capcom isn't ready to move forward with it.  Part of the problem seems to involve issues with turning the iconic Strider moments from 2D to modern 3D.  Capcom Senior Community Manager Seth Killian explains.

Here's a question for you guys though: Could a Strider in 3D recapture that same magic?  Would it have to invent new magic?  I'd love to see the giant mechanical Ape, or the politburo that turns into a giant robotic centipede w/sickle in 3d, but a lot of the best mechanics of the fights were very 2d-centric.  I can already think of cool ways you could recreate that in 3d, but what do you think as Strider fans? 

Who says a new Strider has to be in full 3D?  Just give the original game the Rearmed treatment and keep it in 2D, but with 3D models and objects.  Release it as a downloadable title for $10 and watch the accolades and revenue pour in.  As a franchise, Strider just can't catch a break.

(via Kombo)

Weekly Poll: Who Needs Retail?

Weekly Poll for 1-12-09Street Fighter II has a decade of nostalgia and good times shielding it from newcomer Street Fighter IV.  I believe that the new sequel will win plenty of hearts and minds this year, but somehow I think that all of the attention that IV brings to the table will send people back to II, particularly the HD RemixStreet Fighter II is familiar, somewhat predictable, and, thanks to multiplayer mode, is basically a new gaming experience each time a pair of friends sit down to play it.  I'm curious to see how this all unfolds as time goes on.  After all, when is the last time anyone heard about Street Fighter III?

Speaking of HD Remix, this generation of gaming has brought a new way to buy and play games: downloadable content, and I'm not talking about paying $4.99 for a new level pack for your favorite shooter.  Entire games are available exclusively through download services, meaning that anyone looking for Ratchet and Clank Future: Quest for Booty, Bionic Commando: Rearmed, or World of Goo will have to get their fix without visiting a retail store (well, Quest for Booty is available on a disc in some regions, but you see where I'm going with this).  New games are released just about every week, so let me ask you: on average, how often do you buy downloadable games?  Let's hear your thoughts.

Circuit City Circles The Drain, Begins Liquidation

Liquidator After quite a while of screaming and thrashing around like a wounded animal, it would appear that Circuit City is finally nearing the end of its journey.  The chain has gone into liquidation, attempting to sell off as much merchandise as possible before turning off the lights and locking the doors.  You might think there are some choice prime deals to be struck as desperation sets in, but that's not quite the case.  The Consumerist has a handy guide to what the liquidation means to you.

Are liquidation sales good places to find bargains?
No. Most of the time the liquidator raises all the prices back to their original number and starts marking down from there, with the markdowns getting steeper week by week. He's still allowed to make big signs that scream 50% OFF!!!! even though that price at the time might be the same or even higher than the price before the liquidation. By the time prices actually get below what they were pre-liquidation, most of the inventory has been picked pretty clean. Except for the most dedicated bargain sleuths, liquidation sales are a ripoff.

I haven't shopped at a Circuit City since I found a lone dusty copy of Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga there in 2005.  I don't know about other places, but the two locations near me never seemed to have full shelves and most of what was for sale in the DVD and gaming departments tended to be older material still priced at the full original retail price after competitors had long since lowered their own prices.  In a way, Circuit City reminds me of a Cold War Soviet knock-off version of Best Buy, with Circuit City offering older products from bizarre brands and little in the way of new merchandise or knowledgeable staff.  It's a shame to see another company go down in this sour economy and take so many jobs with it, but as far as the franchise itself, well, I don't see myself shedding any tears over it any time soon.