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December 2009

Clever Capcom Unveils Supposedly Lost Dark Void Zero

Dark Void Zero Capcom has been one of the more clever third-party publishers this generation and has rarely failed to disappoint (honestly, for the last time, Bionic Commando was really good), and one would think that releasing titles such as Super Street Fighter II Turbo HD Remix, Bionic Commando: Rearmed, and Mega Man 9 would fill the company's quota for old-style gaming in the current generation.  Apparently growing tired of reviving older games, Capcom is now conjuring up new old games to revive.  Consider the latest pairing of new game to old game with Dark Void (for Sony PlayStation 3, Microsoft Xbox 360, and PC) and Dark Void ZeroCapcom's announcement press release tells us the legend of the supposedly lost Dark Rift adventure:

As the ‘80s were drawing to a close, the developers at Capcom began work on a top secret project that aimed to set new standards for the platformer genre.  That game was called “Dark Rift”, and it blended the intense shooting action of Section Z™ with the latest innovations in platform jumping from Mega Man.  In order to properly fulfill the producer’s vision for Dark Rift (later renamed Dark Void), the hardware engineering team at Capcom was enlisted to design and produce an all-new chipset that would be included in every cartridge, enabling huge numbers of sprites and never-before-seen special effects to be displayed on the aging NES® platform and the PlayChoice-10 NES arcade cabinet.
Alas, time waits for no man and game developers are no exception. The dawn of the Super Nintendo Entertainment System® made the additional hardware requirements for
Dark Void redundant. Capcom suspended development on Dark Void as it began to evaluate the SNES. Before long, the game was shelved and drifted into the annals of gaming history. Even the internal tape-based archives were lost due to an unfortunate magnet incident which even today is best left un-discussed. Dark Void became a legendary “lost project” at Capcom…until now. 
Nearly twenty years later the next gen version of the game,
Dark Void, is back on the Xbox 360, PS3, and PC!  But to commemorate the game’s humble origins, Capcom has commissioned this recreation of the original 8-bit classic, now re-titled “Dark Void Zero,” on the DSi platform.  You play Rusty, the first human born in the Void, who must take on the Watchers in a quest to stop their domination of Earth. With the aid of Nikola Tesla, and his state-of-the-art rocket pack, Rusty must take down the Watchers and their minions across three intense levels of action and intrigue.

Of course, there was no Dark Rift game back in the old days to be lost, but let's not spoil Capcom's fun.  I love the idea of creating a retro-style adventure to compliment the new big budget title, but I think it's odd for the tie-in to appear as a Nintendo DSi exclusive.  Is there much crossover ownership between the DSi and Dark Void's platforms?  Is this Capcom's attempt to throw a bone at the Nintendo-exclusive audience who would otherwise miss out on the Void franchise?  I hesitate to pick apart the logic too much, as the whole concept behind this little game is almost too clever for its own good.  To totally capture the old NES experience, for instance, players must blow the "dust" off of the virtual game pak by huffing and puffing into the DSi's microphone before playing.  How can you not find that charming?

The Neverending Development Of Duke Nukem Forever

Duke Nukem ForeverAfter a mindboggling twelve years in so-called development, the mythical PC shooter Duke Nukem Forever went down in flames earlier this year when the studio behind it, 3D Realms, finally went out of business after years of hemorrhaging money without actually releasing a product.  How could this have happened?  Who let Duke spiral so far out of control that more than a decade passed without anything marketable to show for it?  Wired reviews the long saga of the game notoriously set to be released "when it's done" and lays the blame at the feet of a single man: 3D Realms co-owner George Broussard.

Broussard simply couldn’t tolerate the idea of Duke Nukem Forever coming out with anything other than the latest and greatest technology and awe-inspiring gameplay. He didn’t just want it to be good. It had to surpass every other game that had ever existed, the same way the original Duke Nukem 3D had.

But because the technology kept getting better, Broussard was on a treadmill. He’d see a new game with a flashy graphics technique and demand the effect be incorporated into Duke Nukem Forever. “One day George started pushing for snow levels,” recalls a developer who worked on Duke Nukem Forever for several years starting in 2000. Why? “He had seen The Thing” — a new game based on the horror movie of the same name, set in the snowbound Antarctic — “and he wanted it.” The staff developed a running joke: If a new title comes out, don’t let George see it. When the influential shoot-’em-up Half-Life debuted in 1998, it opened with a famously interactive narrative sequence in which the player begins his workday in a laboratory, overhearing a coworker’s conversation that slowly sets a mood of dread. The day after Broussard played it, an employee told me, the cofounder walked into the office saying, “Oh my God, we have to have that in Duke Nukem Forever.”

I've worked with people like Broussard before, and the apparent inability to lock down a project in order to continue chasing rainbows is just as maddening and frustrating as you can imagine.  After reading this article I am no longer surprised that Duke Nukem Forever never became a completed product, and it's a shame that this Sisyphean game took so many people down with it after years of wasted talent, time, and money.  I'm honestly shocked that the game's would-be publisher, Take-Two Interactive, left the money drain open for so long.   

There Is No Such Thing As PSP-4000 (Yet)

Insert your own revised PSP concept image hereRumors about yet another iteration of the classic Sony PlayStation Portable hardware are stirring again, this time because an advertisement for a PSP accessory bundle is marked as being compatible with the PSP-1000 (the original model), PSP-2000 (the slim revision), PSP-3000 (the current UMD-equipped iteration), PSP-N1000 (known in the marketplace as the PSPgo), and — here's the shock — PSP-4000 (which technically doesn't exist).  Naturally, this has caused a little excitement that Sony has an imminent update to the PSP-3000, but don't try to preorder it just yet.  Negative Gamer contacted the company behind the advertisement to find out what's up:

A4G’s licence manager Angela Jones told Negative Gamer, after looking up the advert online, that it was a “mistake on our part” and that she wasn’t sure what had happened. She added that Sony weren’t, as far as she knew, releasing a new console.

Did someone jump the gun or is this a legitimate mistake?  I have a difficult time believing that this ad made it all the way through design, approval, and publication without anyone at the source catching the error, and considering how badly Sony wants the PSP to take off into massive success, I can imagine the company continuing to rework the system again and again until one of the units thrown at the wall finally sticks in a big way.  Sony isn't about to announce a new PSP in the closing days of the holiday shopping season when they're hopeful that the PSPgo and PSP-3000 are popular gift ideas, so if there is a PSP-4000 coming, I'd expect to hear about it just prior to or at E3 2010.  Just a guess on my part.

(via Joystiq)

Weekly Poll: Big Plans

Weekly Poll for 12-14-2009 There's plenty of enthusiasm for a sequel to Batman: Arkham Asylum despite so little time passing between the release of the first game and the announcement of the sequel.  As long as the game meets (or, better yet, surpasses) the high standard set by the original adventure, then the timing doesn't matter to me.  Whether it's next week, next month, or next year, as long as the game lives up to its predecessor, it can come along at any time and I'll eagerly snap it up.  You've played the first game by now, right?

Maybe you're saving it for the imminent holiday break.  Plenty of us out there will have some free time to enjoy over the next two weeks (my office is giving us the last week of the year off, for instance), so I'm wondering just how you plan to spend the gaming part of that time.  Will you explore new games given as gifts or picked up for yourself?  Or will you finally clear away some of the backlog of titles that have been building on your shelf all year long?  Will you even have time to play?  Let's hear about your plans.

Mario's Many Options

Mario's Closet

Check out this fun image of Mario's many wardrobe options created by Glen Brogan which is apparently destined to be a t-shirt graphic.  How many of everyone's favorite plumber's costumes and suits can you identify?  And before you note that several power-up results are missing, consider the criteria that Glen used in choosing which costumes made the cut and which did not:

I sort of feel like I'm throwing myself to the wolves with this one. The reason being that I had to come up with rules for what I should and shouldn't include as part of Mario's wardrobe. I wanted to include as many of his power-ups as possible, but the main rule I had to follow was that I couldn't include things that actually transform Mario himself rather that just changing his wardrobe, like the Boo mushroom from Mario Galaxy that turns him into a ghost. So I've mentally prepared myself for the barage of "OMG WHY DIDNT U INCLUDE THIS 1 ON THERE U R DUM." I don't mind constructive critisicm, but sometimes it feels like people complain just to do it. If only they knew how much thought I actually put into these!

There could be an entire series of video game character closets like this one.  Imagine Samus Aran wondering whether to wear the Power Suit, Varia Suit, Gravity Suit, or Phazon Suit; Link choosing between his green jerkin, red jerkin, or blue jerkin; Mega Man picking from Cut Man's weapon, Quick Man's weapon, or Shadow Man's weapon... hmm, maybe that wouldn't work after all.

Because they're all palette swap costumes, you see.

The Lost DLC Of Burnout Paradise

Burnout on the moon!!! Racing through the streets of Paradise City in Burnout Paradise for the Sony PlayStation 3, Microsoft Xbox 360, and PC is plenty of fun, but the experience was supposed to be much grander.  Developer Criterion Games has taken the dusty sheet off of the scrapped plans for game-extending downloadable content that includes traveling through the city by air, venturing deep into the Paradise underground, blasting off in a rocket from Big Surf Island to the moon, and even opening portals to go back in time.  Who says that developers don't think big?

We did have ambitious plans for a series of Islands. One was going to be purely off-road based. Hence we created the 'Dust Storm' dune buggy in anticipation for that. Our original dreams for Paradise were to create a series of Islands, all connected to Paradise City and each would focus on a different style of racing game. One Island was going to be completely circuit based - and be all marked up like a modern Formula One circuit!

During this period, Criterion evolved from being a traditional game developer that released a game disc every couple of years to being a live network enabled developer. Not only were were connecting to our players, we were actively responding to and adding to the game in ways that had never been tried before. As we were breaking new ground, it made sense to explore this as much as possible.

It's a shame to hear that this material will never come to fruition.  Criterion is seemingly off on their next non-Paradise project, so it would seem that new construction in the city is over.  The next time you take a look at the Paradise City map, take note of the empty areas that are just screaming out for the downloadable content that will never come. 

Kombo Breaker - Episode 55: Microsoft: Year in Review/Looking Ahead With TeamXbox's Brent Soboleski

Kombo BreakerWe're right in the middle of our 2009 year in review shows over at the Kombo Breaker podcast, and this week the topic is the Microsoft Xbox 360.  We're joined by TeamXbox's Brent Soboleski to discuss what worked this year, what didn't, and where we believe the company should and could go from here.  Now, I'm not much of an Xbox enthusiast (who has the time to take on yet another console this generation?), so I don't have too much to say in this episode, but I chime in here and there with a stray thought or two.  Download this week's episode directly from Kombo or subscribe via iTunes.  We're also on Twitter at @KomboBreaker if you're into such things.  Next week: Sony favorites PlayStation 3 and PlayStation Portable.  For real, this time.  Honestly.

Abolishing The Hyrule Royal Family Tradition

The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks It's taken me a little longer than I'd hoped, but I'm finally on my way through Nintendo's new The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks for the Nintendo DS.  I'm still somewhat early into the adventure, but I already like where the story is headed.  After being summoned to Hyrule Castle, Link is told by Princess Zelda that there is danger afoot and asks for his help in setting things right, but before much else can happen, one of the antagonists attacks the duo and kills the princess.  The villains take her body away for their own evil purposes, leaving Zelda's spirit behind as a ghost that only special people like Link can see.  Eventually Link and the spectral princess meet the wise sage that tells them what must be done to banish evil and reunite Zelda's spirit with her shell, and here's where things get amusing.

Continue reading "Abolishing The Hyrule Royal Family Tradition" »

New Club Nintendo Rewards Disappoint

Club Nintendo folders It seems distasteful to complain about free loyalty reward prizes, but... Nintendo of America has announced a few new additions to the Club Nintendo catalog of rewards for being a loyal customer to celebrate the first anniversary of the program, and those of us looking to the Japanese version of Club Nintendo for a hint of what to expect (custom controllers, soundtrack CDs, etc.) will be sorely disappointed with the new bookmarks, folders, and greeting cards featuring artwork of Mario, Bowser, Yoshi, Princess Peach, and the Nintendogs (some of the Mario-related artwork does look new to me though, so I'll give 'em points for that).  I'll continue to hoard my prize coins for a rainy day, but I have the sinking feeling that Club Nintendo has gone just as casual-oriented as most of the the publisher's contemporary titles.

Mega Man 10 In Motion

Mega Man 10 Why settle for grainy scans of low resolution screenshots of Capcom's upcoming Mega Man 10 for Nintendo WiiWare, Sony PlayStation Network, and Microsoft Xbox Live Arcade when you can take in over thirty minutes of direct feed video of the game in action?  The Mega Man Network has a collection of footage from the character's "birthday party" hosted by his creator, Keiji Inafune.  Head on over to the Network to see playthroughs of Sheep Man's stage (which turns out to be the stage based around computer technology, such as mouse cursors that attack by clicking and dragging), Commando Man's stage, the desert-based stage, and more.  Meanwhile, here's the game's official Japanese promotional trailer (Kotaku has the English version):

Just as with Mega Man 9's trailer, the unannounced Robot Masters can be seen in silhouette. I imagine we're in for a long period of teasing as the remaining six bosses are slowly unveiled. Unless, of course, some magazine or website spills the beans all at once.  As for the 10 trailer itself, does anyone else notice that the tall tower shown in the beginning of the video is the same tall tower from the opening sequence of Mega Man 2?