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February 2010

More EA Games Scheduled For Online Discontinuation

Burnout 3: Takedown Wired's GameLife sums it up perfectly:

It’s all part of this generation’s big message: In the online age, you only have your games at the whim of the gamemaker.

Electronic Arts is wielding its online multiplayer hatchet again, this time with plans to discontinue the Internet aspect of more of its titles.  This is in addition to the two dozen EA Sports games scheduled for virtual demolition.  Effective March 16 you can say goodbye to Def Jam: Icon (Sony PlayStation 3 and Microsoft Xbox 360), The Godfather (PS3 and X360), Lord of the Rings: Conquest (PC, PS3, and X360), Mercenaries 2: World in Flames (PC), Need for Speed: Carbon (PlayStation Portable), Need For Speed: ProStreet (PSP) and The Simpsons (PS3 and X360).  Then come April 15 on Xbox Classic Doomsday we bid farewell to Battlefield 2: Modern Combat (Xbox), Burnout 3: Takedown (Xbox and PS2), and Madden NFL 09 (Xbox) as well as the Asian version of Army of Two (PS3).

The last time the Kombo Breaker team and I kicked around potential podcast topics, I suggested discussing the recent trend of companies like EA and Microsoft planning to disconnect their older titles from the various multiplayer networks, but the consensus was that it wasn't worth debating since the games slated for digital death aren't all that popular.  I say that you only do not care about this sort of thing until a game you still enjoy is the one about to be put down.  Picture me pointing at you in an ominous manner as I warn: it'll happen to you!

What do you think the over/under is on the end of online feature support for Dante's Inferno at this rate?  I'm guessing the second half of 2012.

Nintendo DS Successor Development Kits Supposedly Circulating

WarioWare DIY It's generally agreed that the Nintendo DS's successor will be revealed sooner rather than later, and now 1UP reports on claims that development kits for the next generation of dual screen handheld system are in the hands of select third-party developers.  Supposedly the new system includes the much-predicted motion sensor.  Here's the relevant text:

The Nintendo DS continues to sell incredibly well month after month, but that doesn't mean Nintendo isn't thinking about the future. One particular plan involving a successor to the DS might be closer to a reality than some would think. A new rumor (via GoNintendo) regarding the DS2 claims that developers already have the system in their possession. Following up on that, CVG is now reporting that DS2 development kits are indeed in the hands of "select developers in Japan." Not only that, but the system includes a motion-sensing feature that one anonymous developer with access to the system described as "a 'tilt' function that's not dissimilar to iPhone," but added that it "does a lot more."  Among the third party companies that have access to the DS2 is The Pokemon Company, which the source said "are getting special attention with it."

Favored talk is that we'll see the DS2 (or whatever they actually call it) at E3 this year.  I guess I'm ready for a new generation of DS.  The current DS line seems to have done all it's going to do in terms of gameplay, and the rumored tilt aspect of its successor has me curious.  Some may be cranky that they just bought a DSi / DSi XL and are now expected to upgrade again, but I now feel vindicated since I never bothered to replace my first-generation 2004 original DS model.  Now we get to watch the original DS / DS Lite / DSi line fade away into Game Boy Advance end-of-life obscurity with a glut of licensed kiddie junk.  I call it the grand transition tradition.

Elevator Action Relaunch Pitch Had Promise

Kim Min Ji When most people think back on the classic arcade games of the early 1980s we hear a lot about Donkey Kong and Frogger, but few seem to mention Taito's Elevator Action, an action game that tasked players with descending through an armed skyscraper filled with armed guards and eponymous elevators.  The game led to a sequel here and a compilation re-release there, but the property has remained dormant for several years now.  There have been attempts to bring it back though.  Consider this tale over at Boing Boing in which a 2008 pitch for a Nintendo DS Elevator Action relaunch is discussed.  Take special note of the character artwork for the new Elevator protagonists as created by artist James Harvey (better known as Harvey James).

A quick getaway to Japan that was meant to be for pleasure only, Harvey explains, turned into "a pretty fruitful business trip" when a friend happened to have an upcoming meeting with a Taito representative: one in charge of the secret project to bring Elevator Action back to life for Nintendo's handheld.

The friend, says Harvey, "solicited some character designs as part of his proposal for the game... The brief he gave me was to redesign the main characters, three gung-ho anti-terrorists, but to 'keep one eye on the present and one eye on the past', which is one of the more exciting briefs I've ever had. At the time, the economic proliferation of China was making big headlines, so I looked to things like modern Chinese couture and street fashion to get inspiration for my designs, as well as North Korean military uniforms and hip-hop culture."

Quite obviously the clear charmer of the three, North Korean team member Kim Min Ji uses a (curiously familiar) laser pistol that Harvey explains "charges from a tea kettle full of battery acid, which she can also hit people with."

Taito passed on the pitch, so we'll never see these characters prowling through buildings and shooting at guards, but I have to admit that while the male characters seen in the article seem genre generic, I like the girl.  Maybe it's her Zapper weapon or maybe it's her big pink M. Bison-like hat, but something about her tells me that she has personality.  Losing her to the circular file of development hell is a shame, as I really think that she could have been fun to follow on an adventure.  So what if her acid weapon makes her an extremist psychopath?

Mad Catz Wii Fightstick Review At Kombo

Tatsunoko vs Capcom Mad Catz fightstick How do you make Tatsunoko vs Capcom: Ultimate All Stars for the Nintendo Wii more enjoyable?  Play it with an arcade fightstick.  Peripheral creator Mad Catz sent over their new Wii fightstick for me to review and my thoughts on the product have been published over at Kombo.  If you're in the market for a solid stick and buttons that your Wii will register as a Classic Controller, then this fightstick is the way to go.

Emblazened with Tatsunoko vs Capcom artwork created by Japanese artist Shinkiro, the Mad Catz fightstick plugs into the Wii remote's expansion port just like a Classic Controller or nunchuk. Any Wii game that supports the Classic will work with the fightstick, so it's not just meant for its signature game (so if you've ever wanted to experience or relive the Street Fighter II years of arcade dominance or the PlayChoice-10 days of Super Mario Bros. 3, here's your chance). The hardware itself feels sturdy, sets nicely in one's lap, has enough weight to it that it won't slide around during play, and can take a little rapid-combo abuse, bringing the L, R, Z1, and Z2 buttons into line with the A, B, X, and Y buttons for a 2 x 4 grid. There's only one stick, of course, but it's possible to send controls for both the control pad and right control stick through the use of a toggle switch on the fightstick's upper-left corner. Programmable turbo controls with LED indicator lights allow individual buttons to be configured for turbo use, and an additional switch toggles the Home and turbo buttons to prevent a stray button push in the middle of a round. Finally, the Wii remote's + and - buttons are found on the backside of the unit where they stay safely away from the action.

Incidentally, I want to thank Mad Catz for sending not just one fightstick, but also sending a replacement unit when the first one was apparently stolen from my doorstep before I could pick it up.  You got it for free, thief.  Are you proud of yourself?  Enjoy your ill-gotten gains and be sure to tell your friends that you stole it from Press The Buttons and Kombo.  If you're going to take my stuff, you should at least plug my projects. 

This PS3 Giveaway Seems Suspicious

Scamps3 Scammy banner ads promising to give away a free video game console in exchange for completing a costly survey or accepting costly "free" tial offers for overpriced services or outright junk are never on the level, but some people aren't aware of that (somebody has to keep the scammers in business, I guess).  Fortunately, sometimes a banner ad goes out of its way to alert its audience that it's a scam.  Consider this ad for a "free" Sony PlayStation 3 that has to be sourced from a quick image search by someone completely unfamiliar with the product they're claiming to give away.  That's a prototype silver PS3 with notorious boomerang controller from E3 2005 in the ad to the right, of course.  Perform a Google Image Search for "ps3" and you'll find plenty of silver prototype images mixed in with the real black consoles.  Whomever made the ad probably chose the model that looked "cooler" than the product that eventually came to market in 2006.  At least the ad matches the Spider-Man font for the "PS3" text.  Better luck next time, scammer, but thank you for holding up a big silver flag that you're up to no good.  Then again, given that somebody has to keep these scams in business, I bet that someone out there somewhere fell for this just the same and is eagerly awaiting their "free" silver prototype PS3 after dishing out $450 in fees.

(via Reddit)

Big Wii Sale At Today Only

Buy somethin' will ya! has opened up the Gold Box and Lightning Deals to video games again all day long with today's focus nailing the Nintendo Wii.  That's the good news.  The bad news is that it looks like everything on offer is casual-based shovelware like Walk It Out, Toy Story Mania!, and several fitness/exercise titles.  This must be a sale designed to empty the warehouse before new stock arrives.  Sorry to get your hopes up.  Normally this is where I'd tell you that any purchase you make via the green link above helps support Press The Buttons, but why bother?  You're not buying any of this stuff.  At least, I hope you're not.  Only you can help prevent poorly produced Wii shovelware.

Weekly Poll: Through The Middle

Weekly Poll for 2-08-2010 The majority of you do not believe that the shutdown of classic Xbox Live affects you, but I think it still does. This is the first time that a mainstream online multiplayer gaming service is being terminated, and while most gamers have upgraded to the Xbox 360 version of the service, there are still plenty of classic Xbox consoles out there, and a large company like Microsoft can't do something like this without attracting mainstream attention. This is a litmus test of sorts to see how the industry and its customers react when a heavily-used online gaming service goes away. We have an interesting couple of months ahead of us.

Moving on, over the past few days I've started playing BioShock 2 and Assassin's Creed II for the Sony PlayStation 3, and what's notable about this is that I never actually got around to playing the original BioShock or the original Assassin's Creed.  Nevertheless, I'm enjoying both games and bringing myself into their respective storylines.  Have you ever played a sequel before playing the original game in the series?  I'm not talking about playing Super Mario Bros. 3 before playing Super Mario Bros., but about games with flowing narrative structures that continue from one title on to the next.  Have you ever felt lost or tripped up by coming into the action at the midway point?  Let's hear your experiences.

American Dad Features Bizarre Japanese Video Game

American Dad It's time once again for what's becoming a twice-a-month recurring feature in which I call your attention to a video game reference on a FOX Sunday night animated comedy.  This week's gag comes from the "May The Best Stan Win" episode of American Dad in which Steve Smith and his friends play a nonsensical Japanese video game that leads them to finding a sex doll mannequin in a parent's closet.  Check out the clip via Hulu.

The pink rabbit leaping into the foreground of the game matched with a seemingly celebratory message has to be a nod at Super Mario Sunshine's "Shine Get!" moment, but that's not the only game convention getting a nod here.  Also, for the sake of completeness, The Cleveland Show featured Roberta and Cleveland Jr. playing a Wii-like game, but there wasn't a joke involving it.

Tatsunoko vs Capcom: Ultimate All Stars Review At Kombo

Tatsunoko vs Capcom: Ultimate All Stars I was looking forward to getting my hands on Capcom's new Tatsunoko vs Capcom: Ultimate All Stars for the Nintendo Wii, but I came away a little less than impressed.  There's a solid fighting game at its core, but the experience is held back by a lack of polish and a roster half-filled with unfamiliar characters that do little to stand out as engaging personalities.  My review of the game is now available over at Kombo with a review of the associated Mad Catz fightstick scheduled to run early next week in which I dig deeper into the gameplay elements.

Fighting games live or die based on their character rosters, and Tatsunoko vs Capcom has both a solid advantage working for it. Expected Capcom characters like Ryu, Chun-li, and Morrigan Aensland are back for another brawl, but the development team also chose to pack the roster with characters new to the Vs Capcom experience. Fan favorites like MegaMan Volnutt, Viewtiful Joe, and the Mega Man X incarnation of Zero join the fight this time around with new moves and techniques to master. Each character comes loaded with little references to their respective franchise, such as robot housekeeper Roll's special attack in which she summons an energy pellet from the Mega Man series to replenish her energy (a classic vertical Mega Man energy meter appears on the screen for just a moment while this happens; moreover, when she dies, she explodes into glowing circles instead of being knocked out like other characters). Frank West can summon a zombie in a mall shopping cart or slip into comical Mega Man armor to pull off a special attack known as The Real Mega Buster that basically does you'd expect. There's plenty of fun here for longtime fans of Capcom titles.

If I've learned one lesson from the process of reviewing this game, it's to never anger the hardcore Street Fighter and/or Tatsunoko fans.  Shortly after the review was published, the comments section at Kombo caught fire with all kinds of angry remarks directed at me and my opinions.  I like when my reviews inspire discussion, but this is never really what I have in mind. In the future when a review is basically split between a game and an associated peripheral, we'll run both articles on the same day so that readers aren't confused about the supposedly "missing" portions of the game review.

Capcom Valentine's Day Cards Are Cute

Mega Man valentineCapcom is having a little fun with Valentine's Day by showcasing free e-cards suitable for saving and sending to loved ones.  Street Fighter, Ace Attorney, and Mega Man are the franchises in the spotlight, and they're all cute little character images combined with appropriate messages (Toad Man's card proclaims "I'm toad-ally into you", for instance).  They're all rather sweet with the exception of what at first seems to be the most darling card of the set in which Mega Man X hero Zero and his sweetheart Iris walk off into the sunset together:

Zero and Iris

The whole thing falls apart when you realize that Zero sliced poor Iris into oblivion in 1997's Mega Man X4That's why I'm striking it from my personal canon.