Previous month:
August 2009
Next month:
October 2009

September 2009

Chiptuned Rockman Receives Rave Review

Mega Man

Capcom recently announced a new album of Mega Man remix music made from what sounds like the original Nintendo Entertainment System source material's digital beeps and bleeps.  A short sample was provided, and although too brief to be terribly useful, it did land the project on my radar.  The CD was released for sale exclusively at last week's Tokyo Game Show and now some reviews of the final product are starting to pop up online.  One such review comes from 1UP's Jeremy Parish, and the short version is that he loves it.  Don't miss his thoughts over at 1UP's Retro Gaming Blog.
Stylistically, the arrangements vary from a fairly straightforward reworking of Gravityman (the oddly-named Aftermath Sleaze Edit) and Brightman (the Portable Mix -- essentially, what Brightman's theme would sound like on Game Boy) to wildly ambitious reinventions like Shadowman Stage (Big Boot Mix) which uses the basic beat and melody of the original track to create something almost completely new, combining a deep electronic bass sound and NES game effects to flesh out the beat. There's a beautiful sort of authenticity about it all; when the power meter refill effect kicks in during the Big Boot mix of Shadowman Stage, it clips out the rest of the sound -- just like it does in the games. The Tenguman Stage (Back to 2A03 Mix) is a great rendition of one of Mega Man 8's few worthwhile tracks in the classic NES style. There are playful hints of classic Mega Man songs and sounds scattered throughout all the pieces, making the album a bit of a trainspotter's paradise.

I would love to get my hands on this album for a fair price, so here's hoping that Capcom eventually offers this up for sale to the general public worldwide.  Meanwhile, there are a bunch of classic games from the NES era that I'd love to see get a musical refresh in this style.  Imagine the beepy soundtracks from, say, Super Mario Bros. 2, Zelda II: The Adventure of Link, Ducktales, or Castlevania remixed in this manner.  In the right hands, the result would be auditory dynamite.

"Gameboys" Not Your Average Game Music Rock Band

Mario at the keyboardIn addition to clips of cats doing crazy things and poorly edited clips of Family Guy gags, YouTube has brought us a glut of videos of amateur rock bands cranking out video game soundtrack greatest hits.  Most of these bands jam to the overworld themes of Super Mario Bros. and The Legend of Zelda while a guy in a game-related costumes performs wacky antics and jazz-hands in time with the music and then call it a day, but one band I found during my web travels go beyond the usual repertoire.  Yes, they do Super Mario Bros., but they also perform medleys from classic games such as Sonic the Hedgehog, Chrono Trigger, Mario Kart 64, Toejam & Earl, Donkey Kong Country 2: Diddy's Kong Quest, and more.  From Brazil, it's Gameboys

Continue reading ""Gameboys" Not Your Average Game Music Rock Band" »

Uncharted 2 Agrees To Shut The Hell Up

Uncharted 2: Among Thieves

Uncharted 2: Among Thieves for the Sony PlayStation 3 has been drawing a lot of praise for pushing the technological envelope, but one of its advances has garnered some criticism for being annoying.  Early copies of the game sent out for review have the ability to link to one's Twitter account in order to announce whenever players complete a chapter or accomplish other objectives.  Finally, a game that allows your online friends and followers to virtually sit beside you and wonder when they get to play.  "Just one more guy!" you say, but you know you're never giving up that controller.  Anyway, apparently the game was a bit too tweety for its own good, as the Twitterverse was filled with progress announcements.  Can you imagine the Twitter carnage that was poised to be unleashed once the game released?  Well, the danger is over, as developer Naughty Dog has rethought the feature and disabled it in the final version of the game.

So we’ve seen some concern about the frequency of updates for those choosing to use Uncharted 2: Among Thieves‘ Twitter support. Some reviewers have had early access to the game and selected the option to update their Twitter accounts as they completed each chapter of the game. This has resulted in some Twitter feeds being updated multiple times an hour. We obviously want to provide the best experience for everybody, so for the time being we’ve disabled Twitter updates on chapter completions. The option will still exist in the menus when the game ships on 10/13, but if activated, it will do nothing. Some time after the game has shipped, we’ll release a patch to reactivate the feature, but with a limit on the frequency of updates.

This whole Twitter announcement seems like a solution in search of a problem.  Do you really care how I'm progressing in Uncharted 2 so much that you want ongoing multiple Twitter updates?  I'll be the one playing the game and even I won't care about constant updates of my progress.  This feature just generates unnecessary marketing noise, and if Uncharted 2's auto-tweets are already too much, imagine when dozens of games inevitably offer the ability in the future in an attempt at building and re-enforcing an online community.  Still, thanks to Naughty Dog for realizing how annoying this feature was becoming and for pulling back on it.  When the Twitter integration is reactivated later, let's settle on a fair compromise.  Perhaps it could just auto-tweet whenever an impressive Trophy is earned?  Those don't happen very often.  I think we can all live with that.

History Repeats With Super Street Fighter IV

Street Fighter II

Do you remember the 16-bit glory days of video gaming when Capcom brought the arcade smash Street Fighter II to the Super NES?  And do you remember how the company then turned around and brought Street Fighter II: Special Champion Edition to the Sega Genesis and Street Fighter II Turbo to the Super NES in which the four boss characters were available as playable characters, meaning that the original Super NES version suddenly became obsolete?  And then do you remember how Super Street Fighter II for the Super NES and Genesis with its additional four new playable characters followed not too long after that, turning the previous releases into yesterday's unwanted scrap?  Capcom got a lot of miles out of yearly Street Fighter II revisions, as rabid fans of the franchise bought each and every upgrade for $50+ each.  Thankfully we've come a long way since then, so now that Capcom has announced Super Street Fighter IV as an upgrade to Street Fighter IV for the Sony PlayStation 3 and Microsoft Xbox 360, I'm sure that all of us who bought the original title earlier this year will be able to update our games through the modern miracle of downloadable content.  They wouldn't really expect us to have to buy another new disc, right?

Let's get the bad news out of the way first - as feared, Super Street Fighter IV is in fact a full on-disc game, and its new contents will not be made available as downloadable content for existing versions. This is because the original game was not set up to receive downloadable character additions, and as such, Capcom was forced to make SSFIV available on disc only.

We're really doing this all over again, Capcom?  Really?  On the plus side, Super Street Fighter IV will not cost the full price of a new game and there will be an unannounced bonus for those who own both the original Street Fighter IV and the new Super update, but I am very conflicted over this at the moment.  On the one hand, I really do want to play this new version of the game, but on the other, I remember the expensive horrors of the Street Fighter II update cycle and am not about to get sucked into the modern day version of it.  The advent of DLC was supposed to fix problems like this.  I'm going to need more time to sort all of this out before I decide how to proceed.

Xbox 360 Need For Speed Wants To Access PlayStation Store

Need For Speed Shift

Sony's PlayStation Store offers all kinds of neat add-ons and content for various PlayStation 3 and PlayStation Portable games, but apparently one Microsoft Xbox 360 game is envious of the experience, as the Xbox 360 version of Need For Speed Shift released in the PAL territories has the latent desire to connect to Sony's online marketplace.  It's a nasty glitch in a game that is starting to become known for such things.  FreakBits has the details and a few screenshots of the secret needs of the game in action. There's nothing in the images that I can see that indicate this is the Xbox 360 version of the game on display rather than the PS3 version, but it's more fun to believe that this story is on the level.

When navigating menus today while connected to Xbox Live the game suddenly crashed again. When my rage had subsided and I got a better look at the screen, I was pretty shocked at what I saw.  Was my Xbox 360 version of Need for Speed Shift really trying to access the Playstation Store? Microsoft are not going to be happy about this.

That's a hell of a thing to go wrong.  While I haven't played Shift for myself yet, one of my co-worker friends has gone on and on about the many glitches, errors, and bugs that he's encountered (my "favorite" so far is that sometimes the game does not render wheels, while he gets a laugh out of the ability to upgrade the pistons in a traditionally piston-less engine), although he hasn't said anything about his PS3 version of the game attempting to reach out to Xbox Live.  Meanwhile, while we point and laugh at this logo placeholder error, someone at the Electronic Arts quality assurance department probably has some explaining to do.  This also apparently isn't the first EA cross-platform title to feature such bizarre behavior.  Just how much was Shift rushed to meet its release date?

(via Kombo)

Weekly Poll: Pocket Entertainment

Weekly Poll for 9-21-2009 Most of us already own Nintendo's Wii, so dropping the price now does little to sway us into buying another one.  However, a few of you out there will be striking at the new cost.  My prediction is that we'll really see Wii sales numbers spike as we get closer to the holiday season once parents start buying them as gifts for the kids.  The November release of New Super Mario Bros. Wii will probably help out in that regard as well.  To be honest, I'm still surprised that Nintendo dropped the price.  I was expecting that they'd keep the price at $249.99, but would make the box a better value by adding Wii Sports Resort and a Wii MotionPlus unit alongside the original Wii Sports pack-in.  However, now that I think about it, dropping the price instead of adding an additional pack-in game means that every sale of Wii Sports Resort that happens with the sale of a new Wii counts as a separate sale of the game and not as a pack-in title.  It's all about sales numbers and bragging rights, I guess.

Moving on, playing through Mario & Luigi: Bowser's Inside Story last week has me carrying my Nintendo DS in pocket again, as I never know when I'll have the opportunity to play it.  How often do you carry a portable game system with you?  Constantly?  Only when you think you'll have time to kill?  Never?  Let's hear about it.

Mega Man X Added To Super Smash Bros. Brawl

Central Highway

When the announcements that Sonic the Hedgehog and Solid Snake were going to be a part of Nintendo's Wii fighting adventure Super Smash Bros. Brawl, plenty of Capcom fans were hoping that Mega Man would appear alongside them as an honored guest star.  It didn't happen in the end, but hackers are known for not abiding by developer design choices.  Now someone who goes by the name "worldsgreatestactor" has added Mega Man X material to the game.  The Central Highway stage from X's first Super NES adventure (complete with theme music) is the setting for a battle royale between a retextured Samus Aran standing in as Mega Man X and a retextured Link doubling for X's Maverick hunter partner, Zero.  3... 2... 1... GO!

Impressive stuff, but hopefully the real Mega Man (or X; I'm not too picky) will appear in the next Super Smash Bros. title.  Make it happen, Capcom and Nintendo.  Hackers can't fill the gap forever.

(via Protodude's Rockman Corner)

Boy And Blob Get Sketchy (Plus: Licensed Jellybeans!)

A Boy and His Blob

The modernized take on A Boy and His Blob is just weeks away from releasing in North America, so it's time for the Majesco / WayForward Technologies hype machine to gear up in order to promote the game.  This Wii title looks to be one of the most adorable games for Nintendo's console, as it features so many cute character moments for the boy and his outer space companion.  There's even a dedicated "hug" button fer cryin' out loud!  4 Color Rebellion has some of the original concept sketches on display that showcase the art style for A Boy and His Blob.  Yes, the sketches are as darling as you'd expect.

Were you aware that Majesco has declared this Blob month? It’s a Fact!

Aside from hyping the approaching release of A Boy and His Blob, this announcement also rewarded us with concept art for the Wii title - the most delicious plum, and something that ALL STUDIOS SHOULD DO!

I really hope that this game lives up to its premise.  From what I played of it back at E3, it's a nice mix of platforming and puzzles, but the character design is the real outstanding element.  I promise that you will melt into a contented puddle when the boy hugs the blob to calm him down from a panic attack.

Additionally, remember about a month ago when I suggested that the preorder incentive for A Boy and His Blob needed improvement?  One of the suggestions I pitched involved licensed jellybeans modeled after the candies found in the game.  Great minds think alike because Majesco has put together limited edition jellybeans to hand out at a promotional event in Las Vegas.  I bet they're tasty.

Mario & Luigi: Bowser's Inside Story Review At Kombo

Mario & Luigi: Bowser's Inside Story

Mario and Luigi have been getting under nemesis Bowser's skin for nearly twenty-five years now, but in the plumbers' latest adventure, Mario & Luigi: Bowser's Inside Story, the duo actually get inside Bowser's skin, stomach, brain, muscles, and various other parts of the Koopa king's anatomy.  Swallowed by the self-proclaimed king of awesome during a raid on Princess Peach's castle, the brothers find themselves trapped inside Bowser's body.  Meanwhile, Bowser must contend with the villainous sidekick from the original Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga, Fawful, who has returned to conquer the Mushroom Kingdom for himself.  This premise may sound absurd even for a Super Mario game, but it's actually great fun.  Read my review of the game over at Kombo to find out why.

Bowser's Inside Story has a lot going for it, and while the engaging gameplay and animated characters are highlights of the experience, ultimately it is the dialog that makes this latest installment in the Mario & Luigi series so much fun. Mario and Luigi remain silent protagonists aside from the occasional "Let's-a go!", but Bowser becomes a more sympathetic character throughout the course of the game. His massive ego pushes him towards heroism, as he's not about to let anyone else kidnap Peach and conquer the Mushroom Kingdom. Fawful still speaks in bizarre Engrish, shouting about how he has fury and chortles. The back-and-forth verbal sparring between characters are a bright spot, and ultimately Bowser's antics overshadow the other protagonists.

This latest RPG adventure features plenty of references and callbacks to other games in the Super Mario franchise.  The beans from Superstar Saga are back as status boosters, while the alien Shroobs from Partners In Time turn up in a fightable cameo.  Then there's my absolute favorite reference as, late in the game, Mario and Luigi fight a clan of hopping green shoes, one of which is named Kuribo.  Stick around past the ending of the credits for one last little cinematic that ties up a loose end in what has to be the sweetest, most "Awww!"-inducing moment in any Super Mario title. 

Joss Whedon Fans React To Dollhouse Game Idea


Back in May I outlined some ideas for a potential video game based on Joss Whedon's Dollhouse, and it wasn't long until fans of Dollhouse and Whedon's general work found the article and reacted to it, offering mixed opinions spanning a wide range of thoughts.  Some were intrigued by the idea of a game based on protagonist Echo's adventures, others were horrified about turning human trafficking into a game, and a few didn't see the potential appeal at all.  Here are a few of my favorite comments from the discussion at Whedonesque.

Asking the player to make hard, questionable, and/or weird choices is nothing new in gaming. Where it might make some people uncomfortable (and where Joss may not be all that cool with it) is in how players could influence the course of the Dollhouse characters and story to the point where it undermines what the show is trying to say. In which case, I guess you could just ignore the game if it bothers you in that respect. But as a gamer, I've often explored all the possibilities/paths just to see what would happen. And in gaming, sometimes it's fun to be evil. It's not real, you're just trying on a role, same as actors playing villains. — Kris

However, I think it's too soon for the game. I think they should get started on it right now, because I want the game to start HERE. But as they're working on this, the game changes in Season 2... so I want one whole big game called DOLLHOUSE (not Dollhouse Game Season 1 & Dollhouse Game Season 2). Harry Potter movies can attest to the "we should wait and see how it ends before we *mess* up potential story-lines" (they fixed it of course, but if they were patient, they wouldn't have needed to fix it to begin with). — korkster

Being able to switch between different characters leave the possibilities in the game wide open. Imagine a level where you have to steal a diamond from a vault and you choose which persona you're going to take on. You could be a ninja and butt-kick your way to the vault, you could be a thief and sneak and lock-pick your way to the vault, you could be an explosives expert and blow your way to the vault, etc. Or perhaps they could make it that you can change your imprint while on the run (a la "three flowers in a vase") and use a combination of all of them. — blueymcphluey

Dollhouse has the potential to be a great video game - create your own character, upload skills, do missions, learn more about your background and the Dollhouse and end up trying to escape. I wouldn't have Echo as the main character - the game should be a new experience, not just a rehash of the show. I think I agree that it's a better premise for a game than a TV show.  However, it would be difficult for a developer to get right. The tone is pretty tricky, but the gameplay would probably be the main problem. I'd reckon you'd need a wide range of mission types to fit the idea of the show and to just give variety and a decent length to the game. That means doing adventure, shooting, driving, stealth, etc. Trying to do lots of different game types in one game tends to work out badly. But even as not the greatest fan of the show, I'd still love to play a game of it. — NotaViking

Following the events of Dollhouse's first season finale (not to mention the events from the unaired "Epitaph One" episode), my original hopes for a Dollhouse game are a bit stale now, as the show is moving past its initial premise and starting to dig into deeper issues.  I'm still interested in seeing a Dollhouse video game happen if it can be done properly.  Until that happens, at least we still have the television show to enjoy.  Season 2 begins in North America tonight on FOX.