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November 2009

Weekly Poll: Kremling Krusher

Weekly Poll for 11-23-2009There's overwhelming approval for New Super Mario Bros. Wii proving that most of you out there have good taste.  It met my expectations as well (and exceeded them in plenty of places), but considering that this game has a heck of a long shelf life ahead of it, I doubt we'll see a sequel this generation.  Why make a new installment when the previous one sells consistently for years and years?  Thank goodness there's enough material to explore and enjoy for quite some time to come.

Speaking of great Nintendo games, Donkey Kong Country turned fifteen years old this month.  Of the three original games in the trilogy; which is your favorite?  Feel free to consider the original Super NES versions, the lone Game Boy Color adaptation of the first game in the series, or the Game Boy Advance re-releases when you cast your vote.  Now, let's hear your thoughts on the matter.

Maniac Mansion Television Show Lacked Maniacs, Mansions

Maniac Mansion Maniac Mansion from Lucasfilm Games (now Lucasarts) was a revelation back in the day with its adventure gaming setup, quirky humor, memorable characters, and enjoyably frustrating puzzles.  Released during the era when traditional media first began to try and adapt video games for other forms of entertainment, a series of business deals and licensing agreements eventually brought us the Maniac Mansion television series on the now-defunct Family Channel.  Imagine the possibilities of Dave, Razor, Michael, and the other teenagers attempting to break into the Edison mansion week after week to rescue Sandy the cheerleader before her pretty brains are sucked out by Dr. Fred.  Sounds like a sci-fi / comedy riot, right?  Too bad the production wasn't faithful to the source material.  Hardcore Gaming 101 looks back at this travesty of a television show.

Maniac Mansion is only very, very loosely based on the Lucasarts game. It ditches the whole bit with the teenagers and just focuses on the Edisons, except the Edisons are nothing like they are in the game. Sure, the head of the household is named Fred, he's a mad scientist, and there's a meteor in his basement (which isn't sentient like the games), but that's about all they have in common. The rest of the family is completely different, albeit with some quirks due to his experiments - his 4 four old son was turned into a hulking, halfway mentally handicapped giant with an annoying falsetto voice, and his brother-in-law was turned into a fly. The quote on the cover of the VHS tape I have says that New York Post claims it's "The '90s equivalent of the Addams Family". It isn't. It has none of the same horror-fueled charm as the Addams, nor even the schlocky atmosphere of the game. The house isn't even so much a mansion as just a large house, and the family certainly isn't crazy enough to be considered maniacs.

The Canadian-produced sitcom ran for sixty-six episodes and had some of the creative force of SCTV at the helm, so it must have been something of a success, but I was never a fan.  The characters are grating, but its biggest sin is that it's just not a funny program.  There was so much potential here for a fun little thirty-minute slice of mad science and talking tentacles, but instead we're stuck with, well, this.  I think it's the abandonment of the original game's premise that stings the most.  This version of Maniac Mansion is right up there with a hypothetical Street Fighter series that features Ryu, Ken, and Chun-Li traveling the countryside in a van while solving mysteries.  The point is completely missed.

New Super Mario Bros. Wii Looks Great In High Definition

Mario and friends in HD Don't let 480p hold you back just because Nintendo's Wii doesn't output high definition visuals.  Using the Dolphin emulator for PC, Mac, and Linux that runs GameCube, Triforce arcade, and Wii games, folks over at the NeoGAF forums are cranking out high definition screenshots of New Super Mario Bros. Wii via Dolphin that look absolutely stunning in an upscaled sort of way.  Check these out (and click on 'em to see them in full resolution).

New Super Mario Bros. Wii HD

New Super Mario Bros. Wii HD

New Super Mario Bros. Wii HD

New Super Mario Bros. Wii HD

New Super Mario Bros. Wii HD

New Super Mario Bros. Wii HD

I love the look of this game turned up to HD, but as some at NeoGAF have noted, New Super Mario Bros. Wii upscales a little too nicely, almost as if it were designed to be backwards compatible with a future Nintendo console that can play legacy Wii games in high definition without turning the experience into a fuzzy mess.  I can see the sense in that, but if this is the case and the company is playing a long game, then I have to give Nintendo credit for spending the extra time and resources to design HD-friendly character models for a console that cannot display them to their full potential.

3D Mega Man Is Doomed

Mega Man Capcom has tried to take Mega Man into the third dimension for years, but never has managed to quite capture in 3D what made the 2D games so much fun.  Now an unofficial add-on for the original Doom via Skulltag is in the works by a dedicated fan that aims to turn the original Mega Man for the Nintendo Entertainment System into a 3D deathmatch battle royale. 

Mega Man 8-bit Deathmatch will play as if Mega Man suddenly turned 3D. Everything will play as if it was being played back in 1987. Levels will use purely 8-bit textures and sprites. Mega Man will jump high and take damage recoil. Weapons will behave exactly as they did back then, only from a 3d perspective. The plan is to eventually have all the levels and weapons from Mega Man 1-6 (and maybe 9). Obviously some weapons will have minor changes because there are a lot of clones throughout the series.

The game can be played in pretty much any game mode in Skulltag (except map specific modes like CTF obviously), but will be designed for Deathmatch. Obviously there will be no Robot Masters to steal weapons from, so you will have to find them and pick them up. The catch is you can only use one at a time, but they can be discarded for the Mega Buster at any time. The Mega Buster has infinite ammo, but weapons will use a global weapon energy found around the level. Along with the weapons are special inventory items which can be used at any time, such as the Rush Coil and E-Tank.

There's a public alpha version of the add-on available for sampling, but you'll have to be patient if you want a full, finished version.  The creator anticipates finishing the project sometime late next year, but in the meantime there's Cut Man's level and Guts Man's level to explore.  It's an interesting idea and makes for a heck of a graphical tease (tell me you didn't become intrigued when you saw the screenshot up there), but I'm curious if the final gameplay will hold up.  Let's check back in late 2010.

(via Protodude's Rockman Corner)

Boy, Blob Dodge Bullet

A Boy and His Blob DS You've seen the art style behind the recently released A Boy and His Blob for Nintendo's Wii, right?  It's absolutely adorable and fits the tone of the characters and adventure perfectly.  However, it doesn't represent publisher Majesco's first try at reviving the old franchise.  Back in 2005 there were plans for a Nintendo DS relaunch of A Boy and His Blob, albeit one that featured, well, the characters seen here.  Both Boy and Blob are depicted as streetwise smartasses who don't take nothin' from nobody.  Sacrilege!  I think that everyone involved — developer, publisher, audience, and even the fictional characters themselves — dodged a bullet when this version of the game was put out of its misery.

PTB 2009 Holiday Gift Guide

Donkey Kong plays Santa ClausIt's the holiday shopping season once again, and thanks to the poor economy there are plenty of great games out there to be had for cheap.  Allow me to help you wade through the sea of options with my annual holiday gift guide.  As in past years, I've put together a collection of fantastic titles suitable for giving to friends, family, and even yourself spanning all three major game consoles and two handheld systems.  I've also included some game-related DVDs, books, and random stuff from the grab bag.  There's even a few titles and accessories left from last generation at a fair price in case you're trailing a little behind.  Every purchase you make from through this guide helps support PTB, too, making these purchases the gift that keeps on giving.  Happy Holidays!

Fifteen Years Of Donkey Kong Country

Donkey Kong and Diddy Kong In another bid to make me feel old beyond my years, the original Donkey Kong Country for the Super NES turns fifteen years old this month.  Kombo's David Oxford has taken a look back at the franchise and how it's fallen into disarray since Nintendo's former golden developer Rareware moved over to Microsoft and Xbox development.

The original trilogy was touched up and ported to the Game Boy Advance a few years ago, but otherwise, the world of Donkey Kong that was created by Rare has been relegated to cameos and other games, such as the racer Donkey Kong: Barrel Blast and DK King of Swing.

Donkey did return to action platforming in the phenomenal but underrated
Donkey Kong Jungle Beat, which was even remade and re-released this past year for the Wii, and while it did bear numerous earmarks of the DKC games, it just wasn't quite the same.

The original DKC game was *the* gaming event in my world back in 1994, but while the sequel improved on the formula, I don't remember the excitement level being quite as high for it.  Of course, both Diddy's Kong Quest and Yoshi's Island debuted in 1995, so it's understandable where my attention was focused.  Then came the third adventure, Dixie Kong's Double Trouble, which came out in 1996 at the same time as Super Mario 64, so while I did receive both games as holiday gifts that year, I was well entranced with the Nintendo 64 for about a week before I cracked the seal on DKC3.  It was all downhill after that, and other Donkey Kong games in the style of the Country titles just never quite hit the highs of the original trilogy.

Kombo Breaker - Episode 52: NSMB Wii and CheapyD (Yeah It Rhymes)

Kombo BreakerIt's time for the big Thanksgiving / Black Friday episode of the Kombo Breaker podcast, so for our fifty-second installment we invited CheapyD of Cheap Ass Gamer to join us and clue everyone in about where to find the best gaming shopping deals for today, tomorrow, and through the holiday shopping season.  We recommend games you must not miss and advise you on which games you'd best skip if you don't want to turn a friend into an enemy.  Before all that happens, however, Joey Davidson and I sit down to discuss Nintendo's recently released New Super Mario Bros. Wii and basically go on and on about what a fantastic game it is.  Naysayers can relax though, as we also go over some of the little things that could have been improved.  Download this week's show from Kombo or subscribe via iTunes.  Happy Thanksgiving!

New Super Mario Bros. Wii Review At Kombo

Koopalings I believe that my review of New Super Mario Bros. Wii over at Kombo marks the first time that I've rated a game as an overall 10.  Honestly, I was that impressed and entertained with it.  Find out why by reading the aforementioned review.  Here's a taste:

Nostalgia aside, strip away the "Hey! It's _________!" moments from the game and one will find that there's still a solid adventure underneath. While the worst part of a Super Mario Bros. game is that it has to end eventually, here we have an example of a game that lasts just long enough to provide a solid challenge without wearing out its welcome. Moreover, the difficulty level really ramps up near the end of the game, giving us the most challenging Super Mario game in years. Perhaps it's the overabundance of extra lives and the new Super Guide system that aids struggling players in getting to the goal with real-time guidance gave Nintendo's creative time license to pull out all the stops. Even after the game seemingly ends, new challenges are unlocked, so while kicking the Koopas can be done in just a few days, there's enough to do in the post-endgame experience that'll keep seasoned players busy (and frustrated in a good way) for a while.

I'm still holding out hope for an eventual New game that follows on in the style of the original Super Mario Bros. 2, but in the meantime I am perfectly happy with this Super Mario Bros. 3 / Super Mario World homage.  Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm off to gather more elusive Star Coins.  World 9 isn't going to unlock itself.

Kombo Breaker - Episode 51: Garnett Lee Talks Modern Warfare With Us

Kombo BreakerSomewhere along the way I forgot to mention Episode 51 of the Kombo Breaker podcast in which we talk with GameFly Media's Garnett Lee about the new Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 for the Sony PlayStation 3, Microsoft Xbox 360, and PC.  In hindsight, I kinda wish I'd played it before we recorded this episode so I could have had something insightful to say, but the timing just wasn't right.  Nevertheless, the other guys — Dan Johnson, Brad Hilderbrand, and Joey Davidson — had more familiarity with it than I do, so at least someone had something to talk about.  Download this episode from Kombo or subscribe via iTunes.  Up next for later this week: Joey and I discuss New Super Mario Bros. Wii and CheapyD of Cheap Ass Gamer tells us where to find fantastic Black Friday deals in Episode 52.  Stay tuned.