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August 2009

Pirates And Ninjas In Fat Princess, Oh My!

Fat Princess Pirates and Ninjas Titan Studios's Fat Princess for the Sony PlayStation 3 has a cast of colorful character classes, but it appears that the development team is hard at work on adding two more to the mix.  Teaser images of pirates and ninjas have appeared at Titan's blog with no additional explanation, but I'd like to believe that stealth and thievery are coming to the game at some point in the future.  More importantly, Titan is aware of the bug in the game that causes the princess to vanish.  That's kind of a problem in a game that's all about rescuing the princess.  She can't be rescued if she's not there!  Titan needs your help to fix the glitch though.

We need your help!  We’re unable to actively reproduce the disappearing princess bug.  If we can’t reproduce it, we can’t fix it.  Yes, we’ve all experienced it, and we think it usually involves the catapult or destructible walls, and it may not happen unless the host has migrated.  Unfortunately, this is one of those things that requires a wicked cocktail of factors in order to manifest, and (usually) fortunately, in the safe, protected confines of the Titan Studios world HQ, said wicked cocktail does not exist.

Senseless rhetoric aside, we would like to appeal to you, the community to help us track her down.  If you are in a game, and the princess disappears, we would greatly appreciate it if you could take a photo or screen grab of the mini-map, the score board, and the location on the map where she is supposed to be, including the UI, describe the circumstances under which it happened, and send it all to:

Please write a Fat Princess is Missing subject line.  Feel free to be clever.  Anyway – the person or people that give us the info that help us track her down will get special mention.  Maybe something more.

I've enjoyed Fat Princess, but that disappearance bug seems to strike just about every multiplayer session I join.  I've had to put the game aside because it was just becoming too frustrating to handle.  I'm glad the team is on top of things, but I was hoping this would be a quick fix.  Oh well, I'm patient.  Plus, there'll be pirates and ninjas mixed in, too.

Jazzy Super Mario World Improvisation Will Melt Your Brain

Super Mario World I've heard a lot of video game music remixes and tributes, but what I'm bringing you today stands out in a class by itself.  Shnabubula of the 8bitcollective has created a jazzy improvisation around the music of Super Mario World using the original sound and music samples from said game.  It's difficult to describe, so head on over to 8BC and give it a listen.  Be sure to stick around until the end when the wheels come off and everything is kicked up a notch with... well, that would spoil the surprise if I explained further.  Let's just say that there are Reploids in the Mushroom Kingdom and leave it at that.

(via Waxy)

Wise Fwom Your Gwave!

Altered Beast Ah, Altered Beast.  One of the more bizarre Sega Genesis games, it's difficult to forget the tale of a warrior recalled from death by the gods to rescue Zeus's daughter from Neff the evil wizard by kicking demon dogs to death and climbing the muscular ranks to finally become a mighty fireball-hurling werewolf or an electric dragon.  It's even more difficult to forget the Genesis's spoken word limitations that warped the vocal command "Rise from your grave!" into "Wise fwom your gwave!"  Nadia Oxford of 1UP's Retro Gaming Blog recalls the strange adventure that was Altered Beast.

As the first pack-in title for the Genesis, Altered Beast was one of gaming history's most notable gateways to the 16-bit era. How did gamers weaned on Super Mario react to their first experience with doubled-up bits? Let's just say there's a reason Sonic was embraced as the Genesis' mascot.

Altered Beast isn't a game that anyone remembers for much beyond camp value. The auto-scrolling beat-em-up action only stands out for the character transformations and Neff cackling, “Welcome to your doom!” with the voice of an elderly female smoker. Regardless, it claims an important spot in gaming history: before we had the means to run with the hedgehog, we had to walk the dogs.

Personally, I always found Altered Beast to be frustratingly unplayable.  The Genesis version plants its arcade roots a little too close to the surface, as it's clearly designed to devour quarters with angering difficulty levels over anything else.  As the Altered Beast franchise retrospective at Hardcore Gaming 101 says:

Altered Beast is one of the few games that has been deemed a "classic" while at the same time being completely terrible. How does that work, exactly?

It's not a total loss though.  Sega is sitting on a gold mine here.  They should get in touch with someone over at the newly rebranded Sci-Fi Channel, Syfy, and begin discussions on bringing the saga of Altered Beast to a Syfy Original Film.  It would fit right in with Mansquito, Sasquatch Mountain, and Sharktopus.

Research Indicates That People Buy A PS3 To Play PS3 Games

PS3 SlimWhen you're part of a massive business operation such as Sony's PlayStation division, you tend to run a lot of marketing studies and research.  You need to know why people buy or do not buy your product, and only expensive studies can bring you that information.  Sony Computer Entertainment America's John Koller understands that and has been telling Kotaku all kinds of interesting things learned from such research.  For example, did you know that most people buy a PlayStation 3 in order to play PlayStation 3 games?  Oh, it's true! 

"Now that we're at a point where we're three years into the lifecycle of the PS3," he told us earlier today, "there are so many PS3 disc-based games that are available that we think — and noticed this from our research — that most consumers that are purchasing the PS3 cite PS3 games as a primary [reason]".

"And it's not just like 50 or 60 percent. It's well into the 80 or 90 percentile range who are purchasing it for PS3 [games]. We do know that there are next gen consumers wanting to come over the the PS3. Most of those are consumers who have not utilized their PS2 for a little while and they're ready to jump into the PlayStation 3."

Long story short, this is the official marketing reason that PS2 backwards compatibility remains off the table.  If people buy a PS3 to play PS3 games, why trouble and confuse them with PS2 options?  Still, this seems like a flawed argument to me.  Movie and music playback are other functions offered by the PS3 that are not PS3-gaming-related.  Should we remove those from the console as well?  What about the console's web browser?  Or its PS1 backwards compatibility?  Let's see some honesty, Sony.  PS2 capabilities had to go as a cost cutting maneuver.  It's an understandable decision.  Not popular, mind you, but understandable.  Attempting to sugar-coat that decision with shiny marketing talk doesn't help or influence anybody.

Prehistoric Nintendo Toys

Round GameMost of us in North America (heck, probably even around the world) first became aware of Nintendo in the 1980s, but the company has a history dating back a century prior.  The story of how a little operation that manufactured playing cards in 1889 grew to become the world's largest video game powerhouse is an often-told tale anymore, but we often gloss over the specifics.  For instance, Nintendo produced toys in the 1960s and 1970s (among other things), but do you know which toys Nintendo created?  Platypus Comix is here to school you with a look back at Nintendo's less-than-digital output.  There's no Super Mario here.

The only English words on this peculiar package say, "ROUND GAME." It certainly is round, but not much else is known about it. The box shows a space station, a dinosaur, an old-timey airplane, a Spanish galleon ship and a rocket, as well as a little kid in some kind of cockpit going "Ooooooh." The Round Game came with an instruction manual depicting an Apatosaurus being shot at by lasers on the Moon. If it proves anything, it's that Nintendo's ideas were weird long before Miyamoto hit the scene.

Nobody clamors for Super Round Game or The Legend of Round Game, so maybe it's for the best that these seemingly ancient toys have been forgotten.  Still, some of them live on in spirit.  You'll find cameos from Ultra Hand in the WarioWare franchise, while the Game Boy Camera featured an appearance from the light gun lion.  Personally, I think Challenge Ball is due for a comeback any day now.

Marvel Promises Better Movie-based Games In The Future

Wolverine Video games that exist only to be tie-ins to concurrently released movies have a bad habit of being quickly produced and poorly made.  Marvel — home of Iron Man, Wolverine, Spider-Man, and plenty of other popular and profitable characters — is looking to change that, as the company's Executive Vice President of Global Digital Media Group, Ira Rubenstein, has promised that future games based on Marvel films will be better.  Joystiq has the quote.

The executive told us that the company wants to still have games tied to the release of movies, but that the characters should still be in their own worlds. He used the recent X-Men Origins: Wolverine game as an example of what the company is looking to do. The M-rated Wolverine game was clearly not based around the PG-13 escapade in theaters.

"We are not doing movie-based games anymore," Rubenstein said following yesterday's announcement of Digital Comics for PSN at Sony's GamesCom press conference. "Actually, wait ... we are not doing crappy movie-based games anymore. You can quote me on that."

Coincidental timing on this announcement for me, as I just started playing the Wolverine game of which Rubenstein speaks this week (not to review; just for fun) and it's much better than I'd expected so far.  It actually breaks from the movie's tone, providing the very visceral experience that one would expect of the Wolverine character.  If Marvel's future output can hold to the Wolverine example, we may all be in for good times ahead. 

PS3 Slim Drops Minor Standard PS3 Features

Tux The new slimmer Sony PlayStation 3 doesn't just shed some weight and size compared to its larger counterpart.  Word has it that the slim PS3 lacks a few little things that the original PS3 can do (and we're not talking PS2 backwards compatibility).  Kotaku details that the new PS3 drops the big power switch on the back on the console and the Install Other OS option that allows adventurous gamers to install Linux on the console.

The final change is the removal of the Install Other OS feature, meaning no LINUX installs on the smaller unit. The release states that "The new PS3 system will focus on delivering games and other entertainment content, and users will not be able to install other Operating Systems to the new PS3 system."

While installing Linux on the PS3 is definitely a lesser-used option among the gaming populace, it's always been one of those options that's nice to have (even if I never actually get around to exploring it).  While removing this function won't result in the online outcry that removing other features have sparked over the years, I'm sure there's a group of Linux fans feeling pain over this one. 

The Past And Present Of Sonic The Hedgehog

Sonic the Hedgehog Sega's Sonic the Hedgehog has had a wild ride in his eighteen years of badnik-bashing action.  From his start as the company's best hope for mindshare against Nintendo's Mario, he grew into a blast processing powerhouse before flailing in the mid-1990s with poorly planned releases and imploding management.  He rallied back for the Sega Dreamcast era, but eventually went multi-platform in a series of games that have drawn critical diminishing returns.  Julian Hazeldine over at Noise To Signal has crafted an extensive ten part series of articles that trace Sonic's path through the gaming industry and pop culture itself.

Over the years of following Sonic’s exploits, I’ve built up a reasonable level of knowledge of the character, and I occasionally inflict a variety of bits & bobs of trivia about him on those that know me. This habit has lead to a bit of gentle persuasion from NTS’s editorial team, and so over the next few weeks, the site will be presenting the complete history of Sonic The Hedgehog in TOO MUCH DETAIL. My aim is to cover all aspects of the character’s evolution, including the games, the creative direction adopted by Sega, and the licensed products produced, including TV shows, comics, novels- the works. All the opinions that follow are my own. This may sound a rather odd disclaimer, but basically if I don’t pass comment on something I mention, then I haven’t played/watched/eaten it. I have first hand knowledge of most of the character’s history, but there are occasional gaps.

This is one of the better Sonic retrospectives I've read over the years that covers the character's evolution rather than just the technical nuances behind the games.  You'll learn about Sonic's rise to stardom, Sega's poor management of the character on a global scale, the baffling animated productions based on the games, why the Sonic brand took multiple hits in the 32-bit era, how much was riding on his rebirth for Sonic Adventures, why Sonic Heroes favored a teamwork mechanic, and much more.  Clear an hour and speed through all ten installments.

PS3 Slim Officially Announced, Existing PS3s Get A Price Cut

PS3 Slim The gaming world's worst kept secret of 2009 is finally out of the bag as Sony has announced a new model of PlayStation 3.  The new slightly smaller PS3 Slim reaches stores in early September around the world with all of the same functionality as its big brother, albeit in a 33% smaller and 36% lighter unit that consumes 34% less power .  A 120 GB hard drive is part of the deal, too.  The price?  $299, €299, and ¥29,980.  Oh, and the existing model of 80 GB PS3?  It also gets a price cut, dropping to the same prices as of tomorrow.  The 160 GB HD model drops to $399.  The PS3 has been long overdue for a price cut, so hopefully this will kickstart sales and renew interest in the platform.

PTB Redesign Complete

Wario's buttonI've been tinkering with a new look for PTB for a while now, and as you can probably tell at this point, I pressed the button to make the switch from the old style to the new.  Everything from PTB's previous incarnation is still here, but I have added a few new things:

  • People have been telling me for a while that I need to get on Twitter, so I've bowed to the masses and created an account there.  I'll be using it to announce new PTB articles and share links to neat gaming-related sites that I won't feature on the blog itself.

  • I've created a "Best of PTB" page that features a collection of my favorite articles from the past few years.

  • See that ShareThis link at the top of the sidebar?  It'll add your favorite PTB articles to Digg, Reddit, N4G, and all kinds of other social networking and linking sites.  Don't be afraid to use it.

  • My portfolio and list of online multiplayer games have been updated.

  • Weekly Polls are now handled through a new provider, Vizu.

That should cover just about everything.  Let me know if you find anything that doesn't look as it should. — MattG