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October 2009

Glorious High Resolution Koopaling Artwork Revealed


They're back!  Nintendo made this new artwork of Bowser's kids available today as part of the promotional push for the upcoming New Super Mario Bros. Wii.  You may recall that the Japanese gaming magazine Famitsu teased us with a smaller, low resolution image last week.  It's great to see that the Koopalings haven't changed too much since their last appearance despite being given little improvements to help make each kid more distinctive from the others.  Feel free to click here to see it in glorious high resolution suitable for becoming desktop wallpaper.

Netflix Coming To PS3

Netflix It's been rumored for a while, but Sony and Netflix have officially announced a new partnership in which content on Netflix's streaming video service will be available to watch via the PlayStation 3.  Netflix customers can request a free disc that will make it all happen.  The PlayStation Blog has the details.

We’re excited to announce today that Netflix and Sony have partnered to bring you thousands of movies and TV episodes streamed instantly from Netflix to your TV via your PS3 system at no extra charge. When the application launches next month, you’ll be able to access and watch thousands of Netflix choices directly through the XMB. We think that the nearly nine million PS3 enthusiasts and 11.1 million Netflix members in the U.S. will make quite a match.

If you want to get a head start on your PS3 Netflix experience, you can sign up today at

I've been watching Netflix content on my PS3 for a while now through third-party software solution PlayOn, but I went ahead and signed up for a disc anyway.  I'm not really thrilled about the disc requirement considering that PlayOn's take on streaming content involves embedding itself into the PS3's XrossMediaBar where it draws data from my PC which acts as a bridge between Netflix and the PS3.  Flipping from game to movie and back has been a seamless operation, but if I use the official Sony/Netflix solution I'd have to — horrors! — get up from my chair and swap discs.  I had hoped this service would come to the PS3 through a firmware update, but beggars can't be choosers.

Weekly Poll: Dark Knight Versus Ghost Fight

Weekly Poll for 10-19-2009Online voice chat is the big thing this game console generation, and while plenty of you out there never speak to your fellow players, a decent chunk of you do.  Sometimes I'll use my headset when playing games with the unwashed masses that require teamwork and coordination, but I mostly just use it when playing with or against friends.  Have you ever met the random people out there?  There is more racist and profane garbage in their sentences than actual useful content.  Here's an example that manages to bury the needle on the jerkometer.  I was playing Uncharted 2: Among Thieves last week against random people in the standard deathmatch mode, and against my better judgment I decided to use my headset to listen to what my opponents were saying.  Out of the ten of us playing the game, only one person actually spoke, and even then he only spoke once.  I had taken cover to return fire when I was suddenly executed with a single shot to the head at close range from behind, and immediately afterward my executioner said — and remember, this is the only thing that anybody said during the entire match — "Fuck your goddamn shit to hell, you asshole bastard!"  Stay classy, random PlayStation Network guy.  Thank goodness Uncharted 2 has a mute button for when the idiots run wild.

Moving on to more pleasant things, last week I called your attention to an editorial that compared the overall experiences between Batman: Arkham Asylum and Ghostbusters: The Video Game.  The article held Batman up high on a mighty pedestal, while Ghostbusters was buried under a pile of complaints.  In your opinion, which game is the better one?  There' no "both" option here to let you weasel out, either.  It's one or the other.  Choose and perish!

New Fat Princess Content Is Free

Fat Princess When Fat Princess for the Sony PlayStation 3 was released a while back, I jumped into the game only to jump back out before too long thanks to a crippling bug in the game wherein the titular princess would disappear from the game, turning it into an unwinnable exercise in frustration.  Now comes word that the developers at Titan Studios have finally fixed this bug and patched it in the new 1.03 version along with a number of other broken aspects and issues.  Best of all, to thank all of us who gnashed teeth over paying for a broken experience, the new patch comes with a new level.  Seemingly planned as paid downloadable content, New Pork is instead being given away for free.  Thanks to Titan for making things right (even if it did take a while).  Nobody in my online social circle plays Fat Princess anymore because of the missing princess bug.  Maybe now it'll get a second chance in the spotlight.  Still no news on the pirates and ninjas, incidentally.

Beyond Beeps: Plok

Plok Once Sega's Sonic the Hedgehog made it big, video game developers and publishers everywhere seized on the idea of creating their own radical animal mascot character to star in colorful platforming games.  Software Creations and Tradewest were no different, but instead of coming up with an animal with attitude, they went with a collection of animated clothes with a somewhat mild outlook on life for the 1993 Super NES adventure entitled Plok.  Say hello to the eponymous Plok, the seemingly sole resident of Akrillic who spends his days relaxing at home and admiring his many flags.  When one of his flags is stolen from the nearby Cotton Island, Plok sets out to retrieve it only to be duped by his nemeses, the fleas, who steal every last flag while our hero is preoccupied.  Furious, Plok vows to hunt down and destroy all fleas in order to recover each and every flag.  Today's installment of Beyond Beeps explores the world of Plok and its soundtrack composed by Geoff and Tim Follin starting with the title screen jam.  Hit it!

Continue reading "Beyond Beeps: Plok" »

Kombo Breaker - Episode 48: NPD Day, Julien-K, and Uncharted 2 Soiree

Kombo BreakerWe really went all out for this week's episode of Kombo Breaker and invited three guests to come on for various discussions across three segments.  First up, Brad and I are joined by analyst Scott Steinberg to discuss the September NPD sales numbers, marvel at the Sony PlayStation 3's dynamite sales, and cheer over an impressive showing for Mario & Luigi: Bowser's Inside Story.  Then we shift gears to talk with Brandon Belsky of the band Julien-K about his experience composing the soundtrack for the dismal Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen video game.  Finally, we welcome Kombo's own Eric Frederiksen (also known as the guy who doesn't like Ghostbusters: The Video Game) to gush over the Sony PlayStation 3 smash Uncharted 2: Among Thieves and reminisce about our favorite parts of the game.  All of these topics boil down to a healthy installment that lasts just a little over one hour.  Download this week's show directly from Kombo or subscribe via iTunes.  Also, if you're a Halo 3: ODST fanatic, be sure to listen to the show to learn when you'll be able to challenge Brandon Belsky via Microsoft Xbox Live as part of Kombo's Gamer Night. 

New Ratchet and Clank: A Crack In Time Rewards Franchise Fans

Ratchet and Clank: A Crack In Time The many Ratchet and Clank games have a history of rewarding players who have played previous games in the series, and the new A Crack in Time for the Sony PlayStation 3 follows on in this tradition.  Just point the new game at your save data from Tools of Destruction and Quest for Booty to earn some nice bonuses and character customization options.  Stephen Totilo over at Kotaku has the details.

My Tools of Destruction save file classified me as a returning customer when I visited A Crack In Time's weapons-vending kiosks. I was given a discount. Thanks to the lower prices and my collection of new bolt money throughout the new game, I found myself lacking money to buy the next available item in the game only once.

My Quest For Booty save unlocked the pirate hat you see my Ratchet avatar wearing atop this post. The avatar appear in the game's community section, which displays a variety of player accomplishments and stats, shows leaderboards for many of those accomplishments. Players can customize their Ratchet avatar or look up the records and avatars of their friends. The avatar is essentially a visual shorthand for some of the things you've accomplished. For example, the pistol that Ratchet is holding in that shot looks as it does in the game, where I attached mods and selected its paint job.

I love when games offer these sorts of perks.  Uncharted 2: Among Thieves is the most recent game to cross my path as of this writing to offer extras to those who played the previous game in the series, and of course the PlayStation 2 Ratchet and Clank games offered them too, but they aren't the only ones.  Not by a long shot.  Check out this list at TV Tropes of the many games that offer rewards to loyal players in the form of the Old Save Bonus.  I was pleasantly surprised at just how many games feature this brand of special reward.

Batman Versus Venkman

Batman vs Venkman If you're a fan of costumed vigilantes and unlicensed nuclear accelerators, then 2009 was a very good year for you.  Both Batman: Arkham Asylum and Ghostbusters: The Video Game brought fans of both long-running franchises some fantastic adventures complete with solid gameplay, stellar voice acting, and fun stories.  Nevertheless, some people are not pleased.  People like Kombo's Eric Frederiksen, for example.  He's written an brief editorial explaining why Batman did so many things right while Ghostbusters did so many things wrong. 

Ghostbusters has the talent, but not the tools. The writing and voice acting are great. It's not quite as snappy as the original movie, but then how do you reproduce writing like that? The use of music, past characters and locations from the movie help with the ridiculous amounts of fanservice. However, the gameplay is rife with minor and major problems that remind you constantly that you're playing a video game. I booted up the game on normal difficulty as usual, and just a level or two in I was already swearing at the game. Every couple seconds another 'Buster was falling on his back requiring my help. I slogged through and things cooled off and became manageable. This rhythm continued throughout the game: sharp increases in difficulty that make putting the game down seem like a good option followed by more normal segments. Instead of reminding you why you love Ghostbusters, the game spends a lot of time reminding you of the things that irritate you in games. The fun ghosts zoom around too fast to see, and that "Mission Failed" screen followed by a thirty-second-plus loading screen comes up far more often than they should. And if I ever have to slam those cherubs into that grate again, I will hunt down the developers.

Ghostbusters has some problems, but I think that Eric is being too hard on it.  From a story and acting point of view, the game is as perfect as we're going to get.  As for the gameplay, I can't say that I ran into the same frustrations as Eric.  While my team members were knocked down quite a bit, I can't think of many instances where they were repeatedly disabled.  As for the cherub/grate mission that he mentions, yes, that was a complete pain, but it was over soon enough.  As for failing a mission and having to take another run at it, replaying segments of a level in order to try again has been with video games since the dawn of the action/adventure genre.  I expect to have to make additional attempts from time to time.  If I'm able to cruise through each and every supposed challenge without a misstep, then eventually the experience becomes boring and predictable.  If you want to curse at Ghostbusters, then curse at problems such as the failure to properly load saved data or the system freeze issues that occur during the Library level.  Those are legitimate complaints worth some venom.

Thank Your Friendly Neighborhood FAQ Writer

Diddy Kong and Dixie Kong Back in the old days* if I wanted to be sure that I found every last secret in a game such as Donkey Kong Country, Super Metroid, or EarthBound, I'd turn to a Nintendo Player's Guide for maps, guides, and information.  While chock full of valuable tips, the guides did not come cheap and tacked on an extra $15 or so (after sales tax) to an already costly game.  Then came the Internet where people with plenty of free time and generosity began to write their own gaming guides.  The largest online hub of these sorts of fan-created guides has to be GameFAQs where one can find information for just about any game you'll stumble across, be it retro, obscure, or modern.  Owen Good over at Kotaku has a look at a few of the many people who contribute their own guides to GameFAQs and profiles the special kind of talent needed to rise up the ranks. 

These are the peculiar markers of the GameFAQ author, whose pursuit and completion of a video game guide - dozens of hours of uncompensated labor - seems to walk the fine line between video game obsession and expertise. It's a world in which 20,000 words can be considered small for a full walkthrough, and committing to write one means at least a week, and more likely two or three, devoting all of your spare time to playing, pausing, and taking notes. And it's a labor that, with rare exceptions, provides zero material reward.

"I've gotten one bounty, for The Lost and the Damned," Robert Allen Rusk says, almost with pride. He's talking about the gift cards that GameFAQs offers for being the first to produce a complete guide to a new game. Rusk picked up a $60 gift card for his work on Lost & Damned, which weighed in at 58,216 words - roughly 200 pages if it were a paperback novel. His work on Grand Theft Auto III, Grand Theft Auto IV and Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas were each more than twice as long.

GameFAQs is an unusual beast.  On the one hand, it has a grand collection of valuable information freely available at a glance.  I typically stop by a few times a week to see what's new even if I'm not currently stumped on the latest RPG or action/adventure title.  On the other hand, many of the FAQs and guides are poorly written, packed with self-absorbed filler, and glaringly unfinished.  Like anything else, the trick is to learn to separate the gold from the gunk.

* 1994

Uncharted Film In Development, Uncharted 3 Inevitable

Uncharted 2: Among Thieves Hot off the heels of Uncharted 2: Among Thieves for the Sony PlayStation 3 comes the inevitable questions about the when-not-if sequel.  When will it be released?  Will it be a PS3 adventure or held over as a launch title for the PlayStation 4?  New York Magazine recently had a few words with Uncharted 2's creative director, Amy Hennig, that raises these questions and then dismisses them with a hand wave, but some interesting bits in which the topics of cinematic gaming, creating the moving train levels from Chapters 13 & 14 of Among Thieves, and making the upcoming Uncharted movie are explored.  Here's a taste:

Columbia Pictures is developing an Uncharted movie. Can you tell us anything about it?
It’s definitely in the works, I can tell people. We’ve got the best possible partners we could in Columbia Pictures. If anybody’s got any fears of them not understanding the material or not loving it as much as we do, they can wipe those fears away, because these guys really get it. I can say from the meetings I’ve had with them so far, their hearts and their heads are absolutely in the right place.

Will Uncharted 3 be a PS3 game, or will it be for Sony's next console?
I don’t think I’m able to talk about any of that right now. On a completely general level, the PS3 is an amazing piece of hardware that both us and other developers are only now tapping into its full potential. There’s a lot of life in that box. That’s really the best answer I can give you.

Personally, I'm expecting that we'll see some sort of stopgap Uncharted side-adventure (hopefully not something as lackluster as "The Young Nathan Drake Chronicles") for the Sony PlayStation Portable before we get to the actual Uncharted 3 in 2012 or so to tie-in with the Uncharted film as part of a last great hurrah for the PS3, but that's just my own unsubstantiated theory.