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October 2009

Game Over For Captain Lou "Mario" Albano

Do the Mario!Before Charles Martinet gave Nintendo's beloved hero a voice, it was Captain Lou Albano that provided Super Mario's gruff Italian dialog.  Starring in both the live-action and animated portions of the cheesily classic Super Mario Bros. Super Show, the captain brought his own unique spin to a character that, at the time, was mostly undeveloped beyond being a Koopa-stomping plumber.  The news that Albano has passed away at the age of 76 is starting to ripple across the Internet, and the resulting coverage is focusing on his pro wrestling career and appearance in Cyndi Lauper's "Girls Just Want To Have Fun" music video, but let's not forget about his work on Super Mario.  While the series hasn't aged well, those of us who grew up in the late 1980s and early 1990s will always have a soft spot for the man who taught us all to "do the Mario".  Now, please rise for the memorial dance.  Take one step and then again...


Uncharted 2 Conundrum Baffles Players

Uncharted 2: Among Thieves After eagerly tearing into the latest adventures of Nathan Drake in Uncharted 2: Among Thieves for the Sony PlayStation 3 yesterday, I came upon a confusing puzzle midway through the second chapter of the story.  Without giving anything major away, I was in the middle of a midnight museum heist when I found a steel portcullis blocking my path.  It would have been easy to just lift it up and crawl underneath, but there was an alarm hooked to it that would alert the guards to my presence, and the game expressly warned me not to touch the latticed gate until the alarm was turned off.  This wasn't the first alarm I'd seen in Uncharted 2, and it should have been easy to disarm it, but there was a problem.  I couldn't reach the alarm's control box.  Mounted high on a wall, I was expected to reach and disable it.  The issue was that I couldn't find a way to get to the box.  Seeing no way to climb up from there, I backtracked and attempted to get to a nearby roof and jump across, but that turned out to be a (literal) dead end.  So what was the solution?

Continue reading "Uncharted 2 Conundrum Baffles Players" »


Musical Mega Man Rocks Out With Robot Masters In Awesome Artwork

Rockman rocks out Despite Sony's touting of the downloadable future in the world of the Sony PlayStation Portable with the new PSP Go, UMDs still have a place in the world.  Specifically in Japan, as Capcom recently released Mega Man: Powered Up and Maverick Hunter X as budget-priced UMDs there along with selections from the soundtrack for both games on CD.  The CD comes in a package of its own, of course, along with some new awesome artwork of characters from both games rocking out.  The cutesy style of Powered Up is reflected in the kind of goofy joy one can only appreciate by seeing Time Man jamming on a keytar, Guts Man beating on the drums, and Roll tambourining her percussive best.  Then there's the Maverick Hunter X artwork in which Mega Man X and Zero have a dueling electric guitar act happening.  Protodude's Rockman Corner has high resolution scans of both images for your amusement.


Hilarity Ensues When Steve Smith Is Left "Home Adrone"

American Dad - Home AdroneI'm sure we all had days like this when we were children: you're left home alone for the weekend for the first time when your parents and sister and space alien take off for few days to visit colleges, and while exploring your newfound independence, you stumble upon your father's secret CIA weapons drone and mistake it for a flight simulator video game.  American Dad's Steve Smith went through this time-honored rite of passage in this week's new episode, "Home Adrone", in which he and his friends accidentally launch a remote-guided military weapons craft, use it to peep on a scantily-clad group of sorority girls, crash it while joyriding, and then lose it to China.  How will he put things right before his parents return?  Let's watch and find out.

Yes, it's all part of my ongoing mission to point out whenever a favorite television series dips into the gaming well for a plot point.  Sure, Steve's drone doesn't tread as deep into the territory as his father Stan's experiences with Beet Man, but they can't all be five-star winners.


Resistance 3 Preemptively Announced Via Product Placement

Resistance 3 It isn't uncommon for new games to be announced through advertising, but here's an unusual case of some advertising that's been revealed more than a year before it's supposed to be noticed.  Some product placement advertising for the as-yet revealed Resistance 3 for the Sony PlayStation 3 has apparently turned up on a movie set in Louisiana.  Kombo has the details from a number of sources online, but the general consensus is that the billboard is part of a film due out in 2011.  With Resistance developer Insomniac Games fresh off of the imminent Ratchet and Clank Future: A Crack in Time, the timing for a 2011 release of Resistance 3 seems to add up.

You can see the Statue of Liberty pretty clearly in the logo, so it's a safe bet that New York is going to provide the backdrop for the latest Chimeran invasion, much like Chicago did in Resistance 2. If you look closely, that black bar beneath the logo is probably where the release date is going to go.

The
NeoGAF member who took the photo explains that the billboard is located in an area of Shreveport currently being used to film Battle: Los Angeles, a sci-fi movie about - you guessed it - an alien invasion.

Although Resistance 3 hasn't been announced yet, now that these photos are out there I wonder if a Sony/Insomniac PR team is having a meeting today.  Are we not supposed to be talking about this game yet?  PR teams have a knack for wanting the media and the fans to only discuss games that are part of the current season's release schedule.  Moreover, if these sorts of leaks become common, will we see these kinds of ads inserted into a scene via CGI during post-production to combat curious eyes?  It's bad enough that games have to remain a secret until the time is right.  We could start to see the advertising associated with secret games become equally secret for related reasons. 


Kombo Breaker - Episode 46: Tony Hawk: Ride!

Kombo BreakerBetter late than never, it's time for this week's episode of Kombo Breaker.  Back after a two-week hiatus, this week we sit down with John Tsui, President of Robomodo, to discuss the company's upcoming skateboard action game for the Sony PlayStation 3 and Microsoft Xbox 360, Tony Hawk: Ride.  We were able to convince him to spill the beans about some of the details regarding the game's new rideable skateboard controller, how the Tony Hawk formula needed to be updated to avoid growing stale, and how a Tyrannosaurus Rex can ride alongside less reptilian players (honestly).  Listen to the show to find out what that's all about.  Download it directly from Kombo or subscribe via iTunes, then hit us with your comments at KomboBreaker@kombo.com.  We're in the process of evaluating how to make the show even better, so if you have anything you'd like to say, now is the time.


Weekly Poll: The Pride Of Guide

Weekly Poll for 10-05-2009The overwhelming majority of you out there like your games to feature a complete narrative from start to finish.  That's understandable, but I'm surprised how many of you voted that way.  Maybe it's because of the era in which I grew up when games did not have the technical capability to pack loads of spoken dialog or animated cutscenes into an adventure, but for as much as I love an involved RPG, I'm perfectly happy with a narrative framework that provides a kickstart to the action and a suitable closing scene when the game is over.  Is it any wonder that my favorite gaming franchises include Super Mario Bros., Mega Man, and Castlevania?  While those worlds have grown over the years and can now provide constant storytelling from start to finish, all I really need to know is that Princess Peach is in trouble or Dr. Wily has created eight new Robot Masters or that Dracula has been raised one more time. 

Speaking of having one's hand held from beginning to end, last week we finally learned more about Nintendo's new Super Guide assistance system that will appear for the first time in next month's New Super Mario Bros. Wii.  If you fail a level enough times, you'll have the option to let the Wii play through the trouble spot for you.  The idea behind this is to let less skilled players or even life-long Koopa stompers get a break when the going gets tough.  Do you expect to use Super Guide when the action becomes a little overwhelming?  Or is it a crutch that blurs the line between skilled pro and confused amateur?  Let's hear your thoughts.


Time To Leave, Dr. Doak

Goldeneye 007 I never did own Rare's first-person shooter masterpiece Goldeneye 007 for the Nintendo 64, but whenever I expected to have friends around for the weekend, we'd rent the game and spend hours shooting at one another as James Bond and his cast of villains.  Sometimes we'd even dip into the main single-player game in order to try and unlock some of the secret cheats that could only be accessed by completing certain levels in certain speedy times.  The invincibility cheat was our holy grail, meaning that we had to complete the Facility level in just a fraction over two minutes worth of shooting, exploding, and always with the running.  We never could pull it off, but gaming speedster Ross Miller over at Original Nintendo has, and here's his YouTube evidence to prove it in which he clocks 1:59 in the Facility level in the bafflingly frustrating "00 Agent" mode.

Half of everything is luck. ... and the other half? Speed, apparently.


Kamek, Koopa Kids Receive Proper Welcome In New Super Mario Bros. Wii

Wendy O. KoopaEverybody thought that the Koopa Kids had been kicked out of the Super Mario character roster once Bowser Jr. ascended to the throne, but as has been noted over the last few months, the kids are back in the upcoming New Super Mario Bros. Wii.  With the game approaching release, newer demo builds are popping up for the press to play, bringing more details on how the children fit into the mix.  Here's a snippet from the oft-linked 1UP Retro Gaming Blog explaining how the kids are alright.

At our group demo today, we faced off against a couple of the Koopa Kids, Iggy and Larry. If I remember correctly, Iggy was the boss of the World 3 castle, and we faced him as a full group of four. Larry was the boss of World 1, and I faced him while playing alongside Nintendo's Bill Trinen. (We lost, tragically -- that annoying little pause when another player dies has been reduced to a split-second, but it's still in the game, and it still throws off my timing.) And we saw Roy Koopa, too, but only from afar: As we wandered across the World 2 map, Roy was lurking atop the castle at the end of the world, daring us to face him down. (In levels where the boss had been beaten, that world's respective Koopa Kid wasn't visible on the map -- a nice little touch.)

That's not where the fanservice ended, though. Each boss battle we saw began with Kamek the Magikoopa whisking into the room on the his broomstick and ensorcelling the room. In Iggy's case, that meant transforming the platform into ice, which made dodging Iggy's bouncing ball and his spinning shell incredibly difficult. (Adding to the peril was a respawning power-up mushroom that would occasionally float onto the screen and make a beeline for the pits on the sides of the room, tempting imprudent players to chase after it instead of paying attention to the more immediate threat of the Koopa Kid.) Larry's room was equally dangerous, with portions of the floor constantly rising and falling as the villain leapt about, spinning in his shell and flinging magic spells from his scepter. 

Yes, I like where this is headed.  It's been said that Nintendo's top creative talent has not understood why the fans have been barking for Bowser's spawn to return instead of Bowser Jr., and if that is true then I find it disappointing that some of the most creative people in the business cannot see how a collection of seven distinctive characters with their own unique characteristics and personalities stand above a single character that is practically a carbon copy of his father.


Katamari Forever Review At Kombo

Katamari Forever Respect the katamari!  Bandai Namco has rolled up Katamari Forever for the Sony PlayStation 3 in which the King Of All Cosmos once again calls upon his son the Prince to gather objects in order to replace the stars in the sky.  It's more of the same with its recycled levels from Katamari games past, but it's still plenty of fun.  Any excuse to go rolling with Prince and company is fine with me.  My full review of the game is now available over at Kombo.

The classic Katamari formula remains intact in Katamari Forver as players must roll around the planet to gather up objects centered around certain themes or general sizes. The quirky soundtrack from previous Katamari games makes a reappearance in remixed form, while the visuals sport high definition clarity for the first time in Katamari history as well as some interesting visual filters that turn the Prince's world into that of, say, wood grain or a comic book. The katamari controls identically to past games in the franchise with the addition of a new move: the Prince Hop in which the clump of objects can leap variable distances with either a shake of the Dual-Shock 3 controller or a tap of the R2 button. Heart-shaped power-ups act as object magnets when rolled up, causing nearby objects smaller than the katamari to be automatically sucked in and collected. The unlockable Classic Katamari mode omits the Hop and power-ups to restore the traditional Katamari gameplay, while the returning Eternal mode eliminates the ever-present ticking clock. The energetic Katamari Drive mode gives the Prince a turbo boost, allowing him to roll up objects quickly. All in all, there's plenty of ways to roll and lots of levels to explore.

Katamari Forever is a mashup of levels from previous releases in the series, We ♥ Katamari for the PlayStation 2 and Beautiful Katamari for the Microsoft Xbox 360.  If you've already explored those games to your heart's content, then you may be disappointed by the familiar material that makes up the Forever experience.  However, I had no problem with this because those are the only two Katamari titles that I missed.  I now consider myself fully up to date on the rolling experience.  Next time around I'd like to see plenty of new material.