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March 2010

Xbox 360 Gains Flash Drive Support

USB Memory Support for the Xbox 360Microsoft Xbox 360 owners with crowded hard drives can rejoice, as the company has announced that beginning April 6 it will be possible to plug a USB flash drive into the console and use it to store data like profiles, game saves, and demos.  Up to 16GB on up to two simultaneous USB drives will be open for use, and if you don't have any old drives sitting around, you'll be able to buy Xbox-branded SanDisk drives that include the online system update needed to make it all work.  Joystiq has the details.

In a conversation with Joystiq, Larry "Major Nelson" Hryb informed us that all data will be transferable to the USB device, except for installed games -- users will need to re-install those directly to the USB device once more. He assured us, however, that, "If you've got a 16GB and you only want to use 8, you can use the UI and throttle it back." Further, he reiterated to Joystiq that while this branded device is certainly one option, other Flash drives (including those larger than 16GB) will work in the same capacity.

Why has Microsoft held out on adding this capability until now?  Well, those expensive proprietary Xbox 360 hard drives weren't going to sell themselves.  It really seems that the company is trying to hang on to the hard drive market when with this flash drive update, as the use of the flash drives is restricted to just enough capacity to be useful, but not so much that one could sidestep buying a larger hard drive.  While not a perfect solution, it is a definite big step in the right direction when it comes to providing customers with multiple storage options from different vendors.  Kudos to Microsoft for making it happen.

Super Mario Galaxy 2 Box Is Joy Defined

Super Mario Galaxy 2

Nintendo has released the final box art for the upcoming Super Mario Galaxy 2, and if you have any doubts about the definition of happiness and joy, I believe you can find it in this image.  Look at how ecstatic Mario looks as he's reunited with Yoshi, for instance.  Nintendo of America has made some questionable localized box art choices in the recent past, but this is definitely not one of them.  I love blowing up terrorist factions and raiding ancient tombs as much as the next player, but I'm always glad that there are still ample sources of high-quality smiles and blue skies out there.

Obsessive Answers To Sonic The Hedgehog 4 Questions

Sonic The Hedgehog 4 There is still plenty that we do not know about Sega's upcoming Sonic the Hedeghog 4 for Sony PlayStation 3, Microsoft Xbox 360, Nintendo Wii, and Apple iPhone.  How many acts are in each zone?  How many zones are in each episode?  When exactly will the game be available?  Those are all sensible questions.  Dig deep into the realm of obsessed fans, however, and you'll likely to hear questions about how Sonic's jumping animation compares to Sonic the Hedgehog 2's take on leaping and whether or not Sonic's top speed surpasses the limits set by Sonic the Hedgehog 3GamesRadar splits the difference and provides answers to both kinds of questions in this extensive Q&A session.

Ghassan Abunura: I know that Sonic's the only playable character. But are there any familiar characters other than Sonic and Eggman?
Yes - but only in terms of the Badniks. Moto-bug is back, as are the jumping 'Chopper' fish, and Newtron makes a slightly revised appearance too, appearing from nowhere and then disappearing again like he always used to. The buzz-bombers are more like the hornet Badniks from
Sonic 2 - and they're in. There's also Bubbles, a fish-like robot first seen in Sonic 3.

Dean Milbanke: Will little animals pop out when you kill something?
Yes! Little blue rabbits and light blue Flickies! But I'm still keeping my fingers crossed for a squirrel.

The Flickies are back?  Nitpicking the jump animations be damned; this game has the right idea at heart.  There's plenty of new information buried between the stupid questions ("Is Jack Bauer in it?" has to be the dumbest inquiry of them all), so be sure to wade through to the end for every last useful answer.

Aperture Science Began WIth Shower Curtains

Shower curtain rings The mysterious Aperture Science from Valve's surprise hit Portal has a long history beyond creating portal technology, GLaDOS, and deadly neurotoxins.  The development team crafted an entire fictional history for the company while creating the game, and now that Portal 2 is on the way, Game Informer has acquired the Aperture timeline in which we see how its product line came to be.  Surprisingly, Aperture began not with computers or sophisticated science, but with shower curtains.

1953 – Aperture Science begins operations as a manufacturer of shower curtains. Early product line provides a very low-tech portal between the inside and outside of your shower. Very little science is actually involved. The name is chosen to make the curtains appear more hygienic.

1956 – Eisenhower administration awards Aperture a contract to provide shower curtains to all branches of the military except the Navy.

1957 - 1973 – Mostly shower curtains.

Then things go off the rails.  Or, since we're talking about shower curtains, off the rings.

1974 – Aperture Founder and CEO, Cave Johnson, is exposed to mercury while secretly developing a dangerous mercury-injected rubber sheeting from which he plans to manufacture seven deadly shower curtains to be given as gifts to each member of the House Naval Appropriations committee.

1976 – Both of Cave Johnson’s kidneys fail. Brain damaged, dying, and incapable of being convinced that time is not now flowing backwards, Johnson lays out a three-tier R&D program. The results, he says, will “guarantee the continued success of Aperture Science far into the fast-approaching distant past.”

  1. The Heimlich Counter-Maneuver – A reliable technique for interrupting the life-saving Heimlich Maneuver.
  2. The Take-A-Wish Foundation – A charitable organization that will purchase wishes from the parents of terminally ill children and redistribute them to wish-deprived but otherwise healthy adults.
  3. “Some kind of rip in the fabric of space…that would…well, it’d be like, I don’t know, something that would help with the shower curtains I guess. I haven’t worked this idea out as much as the wish-taking one.”

I love the creativity behind these downright evil initiatives.  What possible positive uses could there be for a counter to the Heimlich maneuver or an organization that deprives terminally ill children of their dreams?  Then again, we're known for a while that Aperture isn't quite operating on the level.  Some of the best GLaDOS dialog in the original Portal involves announcements regarding other Aperture programs and projects.  "Did you know you can donate one or all of your vital organs to the Aperture Science Self Esteem Fund for Girls? It's true!"  Of all the things I want from Portal 2, more incidental dialog of this amusingly nefarious nature is at the top of the list.

Secret Epilogue Hints At God Of War IV?

CronosEven though villain protagonist Kratos's story arc of revenge and vengeance has come to an end with the release of God of War III for the Sony PlayStation 3, the series itself is not over.  A new storyline may be set to unfold in the modern day as a secret epilogue video found at the end of the original God of War's super difficult Spartan difficulty mode is getting some fresh attention now that the revelations of the recently released adventure are fresh in the gaming community's collective mind despite the fact that it contradicts events in other games in the franchise.  Apocryphal or not, check out the alleged final fate of Cronos the Titan, a hulking beast cursed to carry Pandora's Temple on his back through the Desert of Lost Souls.

I can see it now: long after the original God of War saga, an archaeological expedition explores newly discovered ancient ruins. The leader of the intrepid team — one Steve "The Spartan" Kratos — discovers a pair of large blades attached to chains. "I don't know why, but these feel familiar," he says, holding them up to the light for a closer look...

(via n4g)

Power Button - Episode 4: Crystals, Prisms, And Nintendo 3DS Magic

Power ButtonNintendo's surprise announcement of the upcoming 3DS handheld gaming system sparked a lot of discussion online yesterday, and some of that discussion happens on this week's episode of Power Button.  Join Joey Davidson, Brad Hilderbrand, and I as we kick around the mysterious 3D visuals that the 3DS promises, how news of a new system impacts the imminent release of the Nintendo DSi XL, what sort of games we expect to see, how the competition could react to the news, which crystals and prisms are needed to produce the next generation graphics, how the Virtual Boy fits into all of this, and why Joey enjoys Pokémon so much.  It's an hour of conversation and debate bookended by music from Nintendo's last stab at a portable 3D system.  Download this week's episode directly from PTB, listen with the player below, or subscribe via iTunes, and be sure to catch up on past episodes if you're joining us late. Remember that you can reach all three of us via . You can even follow on Twitter at @PressTheButtons or for just podcast updates, @ThePowerButton. We're Power Button. Turn us on!

Power Button - Episode 4: Crystals, Prisms, And Nintendo 3DS Magic

Ratchet And Clank Musical Therapy Moment

Ratchet and Clank: A Crack In TimeI'm having a rotten afternoon, so it's time for a little musical therapy. Today's soundtrack pick-me-up comes from last year's Sony PlayStation 3 adventure Ratchet & Clank Future: A Crack in Time from the talented folks at Insomniac Games. The soundtrack is a work of audio art, but my favorite tunes come from the Pirate Radio rock music station heard when Ratchet is cruising the galaxy in his trusty spaceship in between main missions. Here's a cut from the Bernilius system for your enjoyment:

You know what? It's been a very rough day. I think I need one more track. Here's another from Bernilius:

Xbox Live Escort Service Denigrates Us All

GTA4 girlThe world's oldest profession has changed a lot over the centuries in order to keep up with new technology trends, so it really shouldn't come as a surprise that it's now possible to hire a woman (known as a "PlayDate" in this context) to join you in Microsoft's Xbox Live for six minutes of Halo 3 or Grand Theft Auto IV at $1.10 per minute via the GameCrush service.  My pal Joey Davidson breaks it all down over at Kombo. 

Gamers can head to GameCrush and browse profiles filled with softcore pictures of each of the PlayDates available for purchase. They'll then be able to choose from a few Flash games or, currently, four titles from the 360 library: Modern Warfare 2, Gears of War 2, Halo 3 and Grand Theft Auto IV (The site is looking to add PS3, Wii and PC games in the future). It's as filthy as it sounds.

Certainly the PlayDates (any attractive female can become one) might feel their worth fill their purses as GameCrush polishes off some sort of commission. But from the eyes of an outsider, those two parties are the only ones that truly "win" in this scenario. A gamer looking for companionship will subject themselves to a different form of phone sex in order to gain a fleeting conversation with an attractive peer. Appealing to some, downright disgusting to others.

The gaming community takes enough crap from the mainstream without muck like GameCrush hurting the image further.  This service is practically shouting out to be the subject of a quick two-minute blurb on CNN or Fox News in which the whole point is to look down on adult single men who enjoy video games.  As I work my way through the dating world, I find that my gaming interests have become a disadvantage (studies say that women are gaming now more than ever, but a real world sampling in my area isn't holding to that), and I really do not need this kind of trash dragging down perceptions of my hobby further.

What The BEEP Is That?

What The BEEP Is That?We have a new weekly feature starting today over at Kombo that I helped create along with Joey Davidson, Lucas DeWoody, and Eric Frederiksen.  It's a little sound effects and music challenge in which we present eight audio clips from video games past and present all based around a central theme.  If you can figure out the source for all eight clips, you stand a chance at winning the downloadable game of our choice.  This week, for instance, you can win Mega Man 9 for the Nintendo Wii, Sony PlayStation 3, or Microsoft Xbox 360 if you can tell us the source of all eight Stage Start jingles.  Watch for a new installment of "What The BEEP Is That?" every Tuesday.  Test your sound knowledge and you could win big.  Good luck!

Nintendo Announces DS Successor: Nintendo 3DS

Wario Nintendo has announced its next handheld gaming system intended to replace the current selection of DS Lite, DSi, and DSi XL hardware.  While the DS introduced the touchscreen to the Nintendo audience, the new system boasts glasses-free 3D gaming.  Prepare to say hello to the Nintendo 3DS.  How does it work?  What does it do?  What does it look like?  We'll have to wait until E3 in June to find out when the 3DS will be officially revealed, but the company plans to launch the system before March 2011 in Japan.

There's obviously a lot that we do not know about the 3DS and I think it's much too soon to form an opinion of what's to come, but like other new technology coming up such as Sony's PlayStation Move and Microsoft's Project Natal, I really need to get my hands (and, in this case, eyes) on the hardware to see just how it works and what sort of fun it offers.  Still, I wonder how well the 3D capabilities work on a small screen that is always moving just slightly in one's frantically gaming hands.  Let's just hope that the company plans to launch with a core game in addition to DS 3D Sports or whatever other casual sports title is surely in the works.