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February 2009

Castlevania Arcade Game Looks Whippingly Awesome

CastlevaniaDespite Castlevania producer Koji Igarashi stating time and again that he has no interest in developing a new entry in the series for the Nintendo Wii in which players use the Wii remote to whip monsters, Konami has created a new Castlevania game for Japanese arcades in which players, well, use a special whip controller to beat enemies as if it were going out of style.  Have a look at the trailer and just try to tell me that it doesn't give you goosebumps.

So why is this type of gameplay fine for the arcades, but not for home use?  Well, my educated guess is that experiencing Castlevania: The Arcade only takes a few minutes, but a Wii version would have to contain enough content to last for hours and hours.  Which game do you think would tire your arm out first, hmm?

Calling All Street Fighters

Street Fighter IVStreet Fighter IV is here at last!  And I mean that literally.  UPS just dropped off a brand new Sony PlayStation 3 version collector edition of the game for me to review for Kombo, and I need your help for part of the review process.  While I'll be putting the single-player Arcade mode through the wringer, I think we all know that it's the game's online multiplayer mode that will make up the bulk of the replay value over time.  I need some online opponents to thrash, which is where all of you out there enter the picture.  If you're interested in playing a few rounds sometime over the next few days, then send me a message via the PlayStation Network (my PSN ID is MattG-PTB) and we'll schedule a time.  Of course, I'll still take on challengers after the review is written, but getting some online time done now through the weekend is critical.  Shall I dismember you to demonstrate your weakness?

Nester Fils-Aime Explains Nintendo's Casual Focus

Nester and Wiiner II: No More Heroes Ever what became of Nintendo Power's beloved comic hero, Nester?  After starring in his own Virtual Boy bowling game back in 1996, everyone's favorite Nintendo know-it-all apparently grew up to usurp both the job and name of Reginald Fils-Aime, President and Chief Operating Officer of Nintendo of America.  As it turns out, Nester is the one responsible for turning a blind eye to the core gaming audience in favor of titles that skew towards the casual players out there such as Wii Play and Wii Fit as part of a diabolical master plan involving greed and laziness.  The truth can now be told courtesy of Playpux Comix in this gripping tale of laughter, tears, tantrums, and the looming threat of history repeating itself.  We haven't seen truthful madness like this since the great Wii shopping stampede of 2007.  How many copies of Wii Music did you buy for your ski house?

Bonus Fact: Atari supposedly produced more Pac-Man cartridges than there were Atari 2600 systems. Why? Atari's management said that they believed that the game would be so popular that people would want to buy a second copy for their ski house.

Ghostbusters For Wii Still Exists, Sounds Promising

GhostbustersThe Sony PlayStation 3 and Microsoft Xbox 360 versions of Ghostbusters: The Video Game that seem to attract all of the attention, as the Nintendo Wii version of the game has largely gone off the radar in recent months.  The game is still in the works as 61 Frames Per Second at found out recently, and from the sound of things, Ghostbusters fans may need to give the Wii version a play just to get the full complete digital Dan Aykroyd experience.

As we've heard elsewhere, the Wii version of Ghostbusters features the same story as the PS3/360 version, with more puzzle elements. Most interestingly, while Terminal Reality is still keeping mum about multiplayer in their higher-resolution busting of ghosts, Red Fly has already confirmed both co-op in the main game's story as well as competitive multiplayer to be detailed later. The biggest draw for the Wii version, naturally, is the controls. "We tried to exploit the Wii as much as we could," Clarendon explained, stating that the team at Red Fly had learned a lot from their previous title, the technically impressive Mushroom Men: The Spore Wars. "We really put you into the jumpsuit and make you feel like a real Ghostbuster. The Wii remote becomes your Neutrona Wand, and you throw out a trap by performing a bowling motion with the nunchuck." Watching him capture ghosts look intuitive and natural, though James was noticeably upset when he realized that the demo build featured neither rumble nor speaker support in the Wii remote, a fact he'd clearly forgotten from time spent with a significantly newer build in his office.

Wait a minute; you mean that the Wii version of a powerhouse console game has actually been redesigned to play to the Wii's strengths rather than simply shoehorning a little of the total experience onto a disc and calling it a day?  I'm feeling better about the Wii version and may have to at least rent it to see if it lives up to the promise outlined here.  I've worked with better, but not many.

(Via Kombo)

EarthBound's Potential Legal Problems Mean It Should Remain Lost

EarthboundA few days ago it came to light that the reason why Nintendo has hesitated on re-releasing the classic Super NES RPG EarthBound on the Wii's Virtual Console involved lots of sampled and referenced materials laced all through the EarthBound adventure, turning the game into something of a legal minefield when it comes to bringing it back to the gaming masses.  The exceptional EarthBound Central has dug deep into the issue, listing all kinds of potential infringing material and explaining the matter in more detail.  It's a long article, but I suggest you read it all if you have any interest in the EarthBound / Mother franchise. 

To avoid crap lawsuits, Nintendo has a team of legal people who have to go through everything Nintendo plans to release and look for anything that can cause potential lawsuits. Then these things are fixed if necessary.  The point is: they’re trying to avoid lawsuits in the first place.It doesn’t matter if they could clearly successfully win lawsuits brought against them; they’d still lose money in the process. Having this team of legal people is cheaper than putting up with every lawsuit that every crazy money-hungry company hits them with.  This is an important point that I think many people don’t understand. The point is to stay out of court altogether. If the legal team feels uneasy with anything - even the tiniest thing - then they won’t give their approval.

I don’t play many Virtual Console games, but one easy example I do know about is StarTropics. The legal team didn’t allow it to get released until every instance of “Yo-Yo” was changed (it got changed to “Star”, incidentally). This seems ridiculous to us, but the legal folks obviously did their homework, because in Canada a company owns a trademark for that term.  Which reminds me, EarthBound has its share of yo-yos too. I bet they would’ve been changed, too. I bet a lot of little things like that would’ve been changed. I do know that Salvador Dali’s estate is extremely protective of how his name and works are used, so I wouldn’t be surprised if the Dali’s Clock enemy would’ve been changed in some way, name-wise and/or graphics-wise. I’m not a lawyer, but if I can find this stuff out, paid expert professionals can probably find 100x more.

Long story short: without major changes that Nintendo is unwilling to make, we'll never see EarthBound again.  I hate that it's come to this, but maybe it is the correct decision.  It is very difficult to accurately describe what makes EarthBound such an amazing experience.  It's more than just a game.  It's a very special experience that meshes story, character, music, and heart in a very unique way that, in my mind, has never been duplicated or recreated.  If Nintendo were to start pulling on a loose thread here or there to replace a music sample or change a name, they'd eventually unravel the tapestry that is EarthBound.  Maybe the result of these changes would be better in some regard, but it wouldn't be EarthBound anymore.  Perhaps it's best to just let it go and leave the game lost to time.  Old cartridges are out there.  The dark specter of emulation is always around.  Like tracking down an old, out-of-print book in some dusty used bookstore, the act of acquiring EarthBound could add to its mystique.  Playing the game gives you a story to enjoy, but finding the game in the first place gives you a story to tell.  I like that idea for some reason.  It seems like a very EarthBoundy thing to do. 

Dead Space For Wii Is A Prequel

I Called It!More information about Dead Space for the Nintendo Wii is starting to appear.  The big news is that the game is an on-rails shooter following in the mold of Resident Evil: Umbrella Chronicles or The House of the Dead.  The new game, Dead Space Extraction, is not a sequel to the original Dead Space for the Sony PlayStation 3, Microsoft Xbox 360, and PC, but is actually a prequel that introduces new characters and events to the franchise's lore.  Kombo has the details.

Built from the ground up and developed exclusively for the Wii(tm), Dead Space Extraction is a prequel that reveals the events leading up to Isaac Clarke's mission on the USG Ishimura in the original Dead Space game released in 2008.

Dead Space Extraction tells the story of a handful of space colonists desperately struggling to escape from a horrific infection on the Aegis VII mining colony deep in the furthest regions of space. The game introduces a new heroine to the fiction and as the crew fall victim to a mysterious contagion aboard the ship, it becomes clear that protecting her may be their only hope for survival. Dead Space Extraction introduces all new characters, weapons, enemies, puzzles and co-operative multiplayer gameplay.

A Dead Space prequel for Wii is something that I called months ago when I interviewed Dead Space's art director, Ian Milham, although my hypothetical prequel game was called Dead Space Origins.  Still, I'm marking this one down as another entry on the list of things I predicted correctly with uncanny accuracy.

Good Times Spent With Friends

Good times are spent with friendsI don't know the original source of these images, and I understand that they've been around for a while, but this is the first I'm seeing of them and they're too adorable not to share.  "Good times spent with friends" indeed.  I think I know how Nintendo, Sony, Microsoft, and even long-gones from the console market such as Sega and Atari could get us to buy their hardware all over again: introduce special edition consoles that are as smiley-cute as these.  I think I'd buy a Xbox 360 if in addition to playing games with it, I could keep it as a pet.  Anyway, enjoy the cartoons. I hope they make you smile and turn a bad day into something better as they did for me.

Console comics

Console comics 

Console comics 

Continue reading "Good Times Spent With Friends" »

Nintendo DSi Coming To North America In April

Nintendo DSi While Japan has been enjoying the Nintendo DSi for a few months now, those of us in North America have to wait until April 5 to get our hands on one.  Yes, the next DS iteration is on the way and it'll set you back $169.99 if you decide to pick one up.  Your color choices? Light blue or dark black.  Most everything else in Nintendo's press release is just fluff, but here's a piece of the informative part:

Some features that will be built into the system and ready to enjoy upon purchase include the Nintendo DSi Camera, Nintendo DSi Sound and Nintendo DSi Shop. The most noticeable feature of the slim Nintendo DSi system is its two cameras – one camera is on the external body, and the second one points at the user when the device is flipped open. As the first truly interactive digital camera in a video game system with 10 different interactive "lenses" that can manipulate your photos, the Nintendo DSi Camera offers an easy way to take and share your photos with family and friends. The cameras also present people with unprecedented ways to interact with their games while giving developers a new tool to devise creative games and experiences. If the touch screen gave Nintendo DS a sense of feel and the microphone allowed it to hear, the two cameras give Nintendo DSi the sense of sight.

Another enhanced feature is the Nintendo DSi Sound application, which serves as both an interactive voice recorder and music player that allows users to play with their music while they listen to it. Users can access different audio filters or control the pitch and speed of recorded voice or music files to alter voices or change the tempo of a song. The mic is located between the two screens when the device is flipped open, and there is also a stereo headphone output that lets users listen to music saved on an SD card, even with the screen shut.

So, are you ready?  I'll probably end up getting one sooner or later, but first I need to buy a new Sony PlayStation Portable to replace my existing unit which is suffering from a broken control pad.  It has a bad habit of pressing itself, meaning that characters and cars take off to the right at random moments without my approval.  My original launch Nintendo DS, on the other hand, is still working just fine nearly five years later.  Nintendo makes better hardware and their reward is that I don't need to buy a replacement for a broken unit.  Sony's product dies young and I wind up replacing it with another purchase.  Funny how that works.

Capcom Launches Prepaid Visa Card For Some Reason

Capcom prepaid Visa cards

UPDATE: Watch out for the many fees that come with this card.

If you've been browsing around the Internet lately you may have heard that video game publisher Capcom is launching its own brand of prepaid Visa cards.  The cards are branded with a variety of Capcom properties such as Street Fighter, Bionic Commando, and Resident Evil and offer a rewards program that eventually pays out Capcom-related merchandise.  I'm not sure why Capcom is headed down this road, but they must have a good reason.  There are more efficient ways to offer loyalty programs that don't involve dealing with prepaid cards.  I'm guessing this is aimed at younger Capcom fans who cannot have credit cards.  No, wait, that can't be right.  The cards are branded with properties that are rated T-for-Teen and M-for-Mature, so they can't be intended primarily for children.  Maybe this is aimed at older Capcom fans that, for whatever reason, cannot handle a credit card.  So, a loyalty program for financial slackers then?  In the current economy they might as well throw the idea to the wall and see if it sticks.  Here's a bit of the press release:

This is not a credit card, but an innovative user-funded prepaid card that works anywhere Visa debit cards are accepted, earning a precedent-setting series of cash back, points on Capcom’s community website, accelerated rewards from select retail and merchandise partners, discounts and exclusive access. Most importantly, Capcom’s enthusiastic fan base will be able to pay for dinner, get money from an ATM or buy games with a Visa card featuring some of the most recognizable video game characters on the planet, from games such as Street Fighter® IV and Resident Evil® 5.

The Capcom Unity Visa prepaid card represents a true fiscal alternative for Capcom fans, allowing them to pick from several Capcom-themed prepaid card designs – including initial designs featuring art and images from Resident Evil 5, Street Fighter IV and Bionic Commando®, with more designs to be offered regularly in the future – and control how much money is available on their prepaid card through easy and efficient online account access. Since this is not a credit card, almost everyone in North America over the age of 13 can qualify, with absolutely no impact to their credit history. Purchases are protected by Visa’s Zero Liability Policy , and funds deposited on the card are fully FDIC-insured. 

It's a shame that this isn't an actual credit card because I have a great idea on how Capcom could handle delinquent accounts.  It's actually very simple.  If you don't pay your bill on time, Ryu comes to your house and beats the crap out of you.  I have an idea for the loyalty program rewards, too.  If you do pay your bill on time, Chun-Li comes to your house and beats the crap out of you.

Talk Of Stolen Cars And Powerful Weapons Frightens Bystanders

Grand Theft Auto IV My latest little commentary over at Kombo involves how to frighten non-gaming people by talking about dirty digital deeds within earshot.  Yes, you'd be surprised at how easy it is to scare random passerby with tales of shooting thugs, buying weapons, and stealing cars.  It happens to all of us eventually. Just a few week ago I was bragging to a co-worker in the first-person about the many cars I'd stolen and the many people I'd shot dead in Grand Theft Auto IV when a police officer walked by us and, hearing my story, turned his head in our direction. I quickly tacked on the phrase "in the game" to the end of my sentence, and the officer turned his attention away and continued on his way. I don't think I'll brag about my Grand Theft Auto exploits in public again, but at least I'm still armed and digitally dangerous.