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July 2009

Lost Virtua Hamster Races Back

Virtua Hamster When the Sega 32X went down in flames in 1995, one of the games that burned with it was Virtua Hamster, a primitive 3D racing game starring hamster and other similar critters zooming through Habitrail tubes with rocket-powered skateboards.  A playable prototype was known to exist, but now it seems that a group of Sega fans have purchased it and are preparing to release it to the Internet.  GameSetWatch has the story.

According to pre-production design documents posted by former Sega game designer Eric Quakenbush, Virtua Hamster was meant to have "the look and fast paced action of Virtua Racing and Virtua Fighter combined with an amusing puzzle strategy game and an unlikely group of heroes and enemies."

Spanish Sega community Sega Saturno, however, procured a Virtua Hamster prototype for around $250 recently, and plans to post the ROM for public download this Wednesday. The site even has a countdown timer for the ROM's release.  In the meantime, you can watch this choppy footage from the dumped prototype, which really doesn't look as exciting as the game's cover suggests. I'm not writing Virtua Hamster off just yet, though, as the pre-production notes mention a veteran hamster with a steam-powered rocket backpack, an idea so wonderful that I wouldn't mind seeing an entire movie based on the concept -- it couldn't be much worse than G-Force.

In a previous online life I wrote a brief writeup about this canceled game.  Here's a snippet about the various rodent characters.

Was the world clamoring for a racing game starring a goggle-wearing hamster, rats, gerbil, armadillo, and mole? Doomed to an existence of legend and myth, the six playable racers were...

  • "Chip": This heroic hamster races through the tubes on his jet-powered skateboard.
  • "Thorn": As a badass rat, Thorn speeds along on his boss motorcycle.
  • "Sherman": Who says armadillos are slow? This one, aided with a jet engine strapped to his back, glides through the habitat on a sled.
  • Unnamed Kangaroo Rat: This little rat has outfitted his skateboard with a steering wheel and engine.
  • "Stockpile": Living up to his name, this pack rat has built a racing vehicle out of discarded items. Powered by a battery-powered fan, his makeshift skateboard has storage space for whatever trash he should find in the tunnels.
  • "Max": At the controls of his big wheel motorbike, this mole counts on his powerful engine to blast him into the lead and his powerful size to slam into other racers.

I've always wanted to try Virtua Hamster, so even though it's probably in a primitive and barely playable state, I'm curious to see how this prototype performs.  Take a look at the concept art and tell me how this game can't possibly win you over.  This is a game that was poised to star "a Pack-Rat who will grab any object he comes across and stuff into one of his many pockets".  Primitive 3D polygons or not, that's just adorable. 

Mini-Review: Able Planet PS500MM Headset

Able Planet PS500MM headsetThe current generation of video gaming dragged me kicking and screaming into the world of headsets with their fancy microphones and loud little speakers, and up until recently I've been moderately pleased with my wireless headset for the Sony PlayStation 3.  I don't do all that much speaking while playing online, but I do a lot of speaking and listening on my PC thanks to the Kombo Breaker podcast.  This is where Sony's wireless Bluetooth headset failed me, as for whatever reason, my voice sounded like I was broadcasting from the early days of AM radio (listen to our first episode of Kombo Breaker for an example).  When the offer to try Able Planet's PS500MM headset came my way, I jumped on it if, for nothing else, to improve my Kombo Breaker experience.  After two weeks of using the PS500MM for both Burnout Paradise and Kombo Breaker, I've come away pleased with the performance, but also have a few criticisms.

Continue reading "Mini-Review: Able Planet PS500MM Headset" »

Mini-Review: The King of Fighters XII

Terry BogardAfter taking a few years to regroup, The King of Fighters franchise is back for a new entry for the Sony PlayStation 3 and Microsoft Xbox 360 from SNK Playmore and Ignition Entertainment.  As a complete newcomer to the King franchise, I went into The King of Fighters XII with low expectations not because I expected the game to disappoint, but because I really did not know what to expect and had nothing riding on the experience.  When I say that I'm a newcomer, I mean it.  Up until tackling XII, I had never played anything from the SNK family of fighters.  No Fatal Fury.  No Art of Fighting.  So, consider this mini-review from the perspective of someone stepping into XII with a completely clean slate and no preconditions on what to expect.  It's Tabula Rasa for the high definition age of fighting.

Continue reading "Mini-Review: The King of Fighters XII" »

Ghostbusters Open Franchise In Liberty City

Ecto-1The various locales of the Grand Theft Auto series have plenty of personality, but they could always use a little more.  In the spirit of adding Back to the Future's DeLorean to Vice City, the iconic Ecto-1 from Ghostbusters has been inserted into the PC version of Grand Theft Auto IV's Liberty City.  Check out this video of the car in action (complete with cinematic camera angles).

Ghostbusters makes any game even better.  Everybody knows that.  After all, it worked for Burnout Paradise and, to a lesser degree, LittleBigPlanet

(via Kotaku via Bitmob via Ghostbusters News)

Weekly Poll: Good Times With Friends

Weekly Poll for 7-20-2009Most of you would choose the Mario hat from Club Nintendo's platinum bonus giveaway?  Really?  Is it meant to be a display piece or a fashion accessory?  I decided to go with the special Punch-Out!! reward after all.  If I'm going to have one more thing taking up space in my home, I'd rather it didn't actually take up any physical space.   

We have a simple question for this week: which type of multiplayer is better?  Would you rather sit in the same room with your opponent or is long-distance online action the best way to go?  Let's hear your thoughts.

Gumpei Yokoi Deserved Better

Gumpei Yokoi Gather 'round, my friends, and hear the tale of engineering dynamo Gumpei Yokoi.  One of Nintendo's brilliant innovators, Yokoi's creations did for the company's hardware what producer Shigeru Miyamoto did for its software, but one brutal misstep cost him his career.  The man who brought us the Game & Watch, the modern control pad, and the Game Boy juggernaut was done in by what was poised to be his greatest creation.  Crashing down in the marketplace in late 1995, Yokoi's Virtual Boy dealt Nintendo its only true game console failure to date.  Jeremy Parish at GameSpite recalls the sad tale.

By all rights, Yokoi should have finished out his career at Nintendo, steadily climbing through the ranks and guiding new generations of game and hardware designers. Unfortunately, Yokoi's sterling record ended with a terrible blemish that ended his career at Nintendo: Virtual Boy. The name, the red-and-black color shell, and the literally in-your-face design all cry out "1990s" as loudly as the Sega Scream ever did. It remains the single biggest failure of Nintendo's videogame years, and it stands as Yokoi's only notable creative misstep. Worse, it was a mistake made at just the wrong time, during a period of transition and instability for Nintendo and the industry as a whole.

The company needed a savior, and one assumes it was at this point that Yokoi stepped forward with what he hoped would be a solution: a portable system capable of true 3D graphics. Not just perspective-corrected polygons projected against a flat screen, but genuine three-dimensional visuals involving mirrors and stereo optics and an actual sense of spatial depth. True 3D in a compact, portable, inexpensive format. It was revolutionary. It was brilliant. It was, to be frank, absolutely amazing.

It was also a flop: a system that no one wanted.

After the red-and-black system failed to light the world on fire, Yokoi was subjected to the traditional corporate shaming.  Assigned to personally demonstrate his failed creation at trade shows and treated as an outcast at the company that once adored him, he resigned from Nintendo one year after the system's launch and went on to found his own company, Koto Laboratory, and later created a competitor to the Game Boy product line, the WonderSwan.  Unfortunately, Yokoi did not live to see what would become his final creation reach stores.  Sideswiped by a passing car, Yokoi passed away in October 1997 at the age of fifty-six.  As Parish says in his article, it shouldn't have happened like this.

Kombo Breaker - Episode 37: "The PS3 Will Still Win This Gen"

Kombo BreakerWith two men down this week, I take the lead for this week's episode of Kombo Breaker.  Our guest is CVGames's editor and publisher, Kaleb Rutherford.  Kombo's own editorialist Eric Frederikson joined us as well to hash out whether or not the Sony PlayStation 3 can win this generation of console wars.  Seeing as how the topic is about the PS3, we naturally spent the first half of the show talking about the Nintendo Wii.  Funny how that happens sometimes.  We're also giving away a free game this week in the first of what will be a series of contests, so be sure to listen to find out how to enter for a chance to win.  Download this week's show directly from Kombo or subscribe via iTunes.

(Did you notice the reference to the Nickelodeon classic series You Can't Do That On Television at the start of the show?  We'll all miss you, Les Lye.)

Dante's Inferno Comic-Con Contest Is Wrong On Several Levels

Dante's Inferno UPDATE: EA allegedly responds.

Electronic Arts is hard at work on the upcoming Dante's Inferno for the Sony PlayStation 3 and Microsoft Xbox 360, and while the game won't be with us for a while, the marketing department is already drumming up some attention for the game.  Comic-Con is happening this week in California, and since the event is populated by the target demographic, EA is taking advantage of the situation with a contest to bring awareness to Dante's quest.  What's the prize?  Why, a date with a Comic-Con booth babe.  Yes, now you can win an evening with women paid to wine and dine with you.  Ah, romance.  But wait!  There's more!

Winners will receive a dinner with our Go to Hell girls, limo service, paparazzi, and a chest full of booty.

Wow, a contest giving away a woman's chest and booty!  How do I enter to win such a laudable prize?

All they have to do to enter is commit acts of lust with a booth babe and tell us about it. Every entry counts, so long as it makes it to us by the end of Friday, so make sure to get your entries in as soon as possible!

You heard EA, folks.  Go and be lusty with a booth babe.  They love it when random guys do that, and every entry counts, so be sure to commit multiple acts of inappropriate behavior.  I'm surprised that EA hasn't thought this through.  Encouraging this kind of behavior isn't going to end well for anyone.  Between this promotion and the fake protest against Dante's Inferno that EA staged back at E3, I'd say that the marketing department group tasked with sparking Dante awareness is aiming for a spot on the list of dumb moments in gaming promotional history.  It's a shame that Dante's introduction to the general public is unfolding like this.  From what I saw at E3, Inferno is shaping up to be a hell of a game (no pun intended), and it really does not need to be dragged down by these ill-conceived publicity stunts.

Win A Nintendo DSi From Kombo

Nintendo DSiHeads up for another contest opportunity.  Kombo and GameLoft are giving away ten prize packs consisting of a Nintendo DSi and two undisclosed games.  Enter the contest by August 16, 2009 for a shot at the prize (United States residents only, I'm sorry to say.  Don't look at me like that; I don't make the rules).  Not much more to say other than that.  Good luck!

Undead Castlevania Film Rises From Grave

DraculaThat big Hollywood blockbuster movie based on Konami's famed Castlevania franchise has, like Dracula himself, died and risen again to terrorize a new group of creative talent.  The on-again/off-again film that was initially announced back in 2005 is now back on again, it seems, as horror enthusiast outlet Bloody-Disgusting has news of the writing and directing duties falling to the co-creator of the Saw film franchise, James Wan.  Here's a quote:

"I'm very fresh on this project, so its early stages and I'm still trying to work things out, but the producers love my vision for it," James Wan tells Bloody-Disgusting in an exclusive chat. "I'll be working on the script with a writer to give it a new spin, different to the previous versions. This will have my stamp on it which Konami is very excited about.

"The thing I love about what Konami did with
Castlevania, was taking the iconic Dracula mythology and Eastern-European setting, and retelling it with a Japanese pop-cultural sensibility," he continues. "That’s the East-meets-West tone I want to visually expand on for the film. I’m thrilled by the opportunity to make a highly stylized, fantasy, action film that focuses on the gothic storyline and the cool, anime-like characters. For once, the human hero is as sexy and dangerous as the vampire villain, and his weapon of choice was what attracted me to the project in the first place – The Vampire Killer Whip.”

Well, Wan wants the whip, so at least he's off on the right foot with this project.  Paul W. S. Anderson is still part of the project, now filling only the producer role.  Will he press Wan to follow on with his "Dracula Begins" storyline?  Hopefully not.  Knowing the Saw franchise's tone, I'm expecting a bloodier take on Castlevania lore, but let's not go to gory on this one, Mr. Wan.  Castlevania is loaded with classic horror imagery and spooky themes, but we don't need to see the Belmont hero of the film forced to gnaw his own arm off and replace it with some kind of gothic organic whip.  And no, you can't use that plot point.  It's mine and I'm keeping the rights to it, but only because I never want to see it done.  Ever.

(via Kombo)