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April 2010

New 2D Co-Op Multiplayer Castlevania Waiting In The Wings?

Castlevania: Harmony of Despair The Internet is buzzing this afternoon with rumors of a new high definition Castlevania adventure for home consoles that's not only presented in old fashioned 2D, but also sports co-operative multiplayer.  Screenshots of the alleged Castlevania: Harmony of Despair (notice that? Harmony of Despair, pulling the same trick as Dawn of Sorrow for the Nintendo DS) appeared at a now-redacted article at Never Know Tech and have been archived via NeoGAF, and from the look of things, this new title for the Microsoft Xbox 360 allows up to six players to assume the role of their favorite hero or heroine from the last handful of 2D Castlevania titles for handhelds and storm the castle with friends.  Here's some of the since-removed article:

From what little we've seen of Castlevania HD, it's difficult to describe exactly what kind of Castlevania game this is most akin to. As you can tell from the screenshots, it's a 2D game using sprites instead of 3D polygons and looks very similar to the post-Symphony of the Night style Metroidvania GBA\DS games. You load into a game and can play with up to 6 friends on a single map, all at the same time. You're given a boss target that you must reach and destroy, helping your friends along the way to the same goal. Known playable characters at this point are Soma Cruz, Alucard, Jonathan Morris, Shanoa and Charlotte Aulin. We've only seen Soma, but we imagine each character will have it's own special abilities (think classes, like Team Fortress 2).

It drops you in with a wide camera angle where you're able to see most of the target area. It's not huge, so there wasn't much of an exploration factor. Clicking the right stick will change the viewing angle to the entire map (where you will see a teeny little Soma in the bottom left), or to the standard, close angle that we're all used to.

It's an intriguing idea, but would Konami really rely on upconverted DS sprites for the HD future?  Those may well be placeholders, but I get the feeling that existing material is being recycled on the cheap.  Longtime PTB readers know how much I adore proper spritework, but in the HD world I need something a little less blocky and jaggy.  Still, it's all rumor and speculation short of an official announcement, so let's not dig too deeply into this until then.  However, if this is a real project, I really hope that the Sony PlayStation 3 won't be left out of the fun.

Even More Mayhem In Panau With Just Cause 2

Just Cause 2 The Panuan military doesn't rest and neither do I.  Despite having to move on after reviewing the Square-Enix and Avalanche Studios adventure Just Cause 2 for the Sony PlayStation 3, Microsoft Xbox 360, and PC, I continue to work my way back for more island-hopping when I have the time.  There are more pipelines to bring down, more water towers to blast, more colonels to assassinate, and more helicopters to hijack, after all.  Feast your eyes on my latest exploits in these video clips.

There are oil pipelines running all across Panau, but they're bulletproof. To blow them up, one must access the main control panel and set it to overload with a quick button pressing sequence.

A quick stopover at the island's casino turns into an exercise in statue demolition and leaping off a cliff. When my helicopter wrecking ball stunt goes wrong, I'm forced to flee by base jumping.

That little lightweight helicopter makes for a terrible wrecking ball vehicle. I need something stronger like this military helicopter. What could possibly go wrong?

President Panay's propaganda needs a fresh coat of paint.

I'm now forty hours into the game with only 36% completed, but I have cleared 100 settlements, so I have that going for me. Next time: a thrilling jetboat chase, blasting a space rocket out of the sky, and a Panauan soldier gets what's coming to him.

Just Cause 2 Video Mayhem

The Best Games Are Static

The Best GameWho's in the mood for some silly humor?  Here's a little something from the Buttersafe webcomic archive in which our protagonist enjoys a rousing game of, er, static.  Is this what happens after hours upon hours of playing video games?  Does the human brain just snap one day?  Or is there more going on here than we think?  These four panels are just the setup, of course.  Head on over to Buttersafe to finish the story and see if there's actually a method to this poor soul's madness.

Leave Final Fantasy VII Alone!

Final Fantasy VII Video game remakes are rapidly becoming a genre unto themselves for as much as developers and publishers like to go back to the past for ideas on what to produce in the future.  When a game like Super Mario Bros. or The Legend of Zelda is remade with modern technology, is something from the original game lost?  Our most recent episode of the Power Button podcast ("The Great Art Debate") started the wheels turning in the head of friend of the show Keri Honea, and she's making the case that Final Fantasy VII — a game that many fans have been begging Square-Enix to remake — is best left alone.

If [Final Fantasy VII] was remade, it would lose some of its original appeal and timelessness. When the game's trailers first appeared in the late 90s, everyone was blown away by the graphics. Then when they actually played the game, they were blown away by the story. Despite its obviously outdated graphics, it's still considered one of the most beloved Final Fantasy games of all time. It's also still one of the top PSN downloads even though it's been out for nearly a year. That timeless nostalgia clearly still resonates with several people.

Would we still have that feeling if the game was redone with current-gen graphics? Imagine if Nintendo decided to remake the original
Super Mario Bros. with Super Mario Galaxy graphics? What about the original Legend of Zelda recoded with Twilight Princess graphics? Aside from what die-hard fans would think, wouldn't it take away a chunk of the nostalgia of the original game? Would we still look back at that game with all of the fond memories of our childhoods and think about how that game helped revolutionize console gaming?

Personally, I disagree.  I'd love to see Super Mario Bros. remade with Super Mario Galaxy's visual style.  The great thing about remakes is that they don't destroy the original version of the game.  No matter if I believe a remake is horrible or downright fantastic, I'm free to ignore it and continue to enjoy the original classic.  For instance, Sega's remake of Sonic the Hedgehog for the Game Boy Advance was absolutely terrible.  It didn't become the only version of Sonic out there though, and the company didn't go on a scorched earth campaign to rid the world of the Genesis original.  If Square-Enix were to rework Final Fantasy VII, then the primary Sony PlayStation version would still exist for future generations who'd prefer to play the twentieth century edition of the adventure.

Keri and I went around and around on this issue while she was writing the article and we never could find common ground.  I do want to thank her for the Power Button plug though.  Even when we disagree, something good still comes out of it.

Bizarre Bungie / Activision Deal Leaves Many Fans Baffled

Bungie After the Infinity Ward debacle, one would think that major development talent with an eye on keeping their creations their own property would be wary of teaming with Activision, and yet famed Halo-creator Bungie has chosen to sign a ten-year publishing deal with the Call of Duty publisher.  With all of the creative differences going on at Activision right now over property ownership issues, why would Bungie - a studio that left its Microsoft ownership behind in order to retain its ownership rights to its next non-Halo project - team up with a publisher that is known to treat its major creative powerhouses with disrespect?  Kombo's Joey Davidson believes that it's all about the money.

Most not surprising is that this move is one that will bring Bungie towards the world of multiplatform. Activision is, after all, one of the big companies completely capable of pushing out a massive, multiplatform release with the Bungie name. They did it just fine with Modern Warfare 2. From the release:

"10-Year Alliance Expands Global Reach for Leading Game Developer Across Multiple Platforms"

Can't get much more point blank than that.

Folks that read Kombo have been adamant about how they view the recent Activision debacle. Like most hardcore gamers supporting the developer over the publisher, Kombo's readers have always stood against Activision. But what now? Bungie, one of the most beloved developers in the gaming world, moves towards the object of a lot of internet rage. How will that affect the company and their future products?

This is just a guess, but probably not at all. Slap a "from the makers of
Halo" label on the boxart of "Step 7" (as they're calling it at Bungie), and the thing will sell like gangbusters. Even better: "From the people that brought you Call of Duty and the minds behind Halo comes..."

Joey's probably right.  These things always come down to money in the end, and both Bungie and Activision stand to earn a lot of it by teaming up.  Besides, now that Infinity Ward is a shell of its former self, Activision needs a new major name with a massive monetary track record behind it.  There's a lot of apprehension out there in the gaming community right now about this deal, and rightfully so.  However, keep in mind that while the situation with Infinity Ward went horribly wrong, Activision has successfully published plenty of games without alienating and litigating creative talent in the process.  Hopefully Bungie will end up on the list of successes rather than failures.

Virtual Boy TV Is On The Air!

Virtual Boy TV If you enjoy playing choice selections from Nintendo's Virtual Boy library but don't care for the inevitable eye strain that comes with marathon sessions of Virtual Boy Wario Land or Teleroboxer, then you may want to invest $50,000 or so in an ultra-rare device.  Remember all of those Virtual Boy screenshots in gaming magazines back in 1995?  They didn't come from pointing a tiny camera at the VB's little screens.  They came from Virtual Boy TV, a gizmo that connects to a television and allows for playing games and capturing images without the need to burn your retinas or resort to voodoo.  Here's some commentary from Tiny Cartridge:

This Wide Boy-like device, designed by beloved Nintendo second party Intelligent Systems, allowed developers to test games on a television. The regular Virtual Boy is uncomfortable enough for me — I’d rather not have to strap one of these and a television to my face.

It would be an interesting acquisition, but I hardly ever play my actual Virtual Boy.  I can't see myself spending tens of thousands of dollars for a system I'd probably use even less, plus it only works on PAL TVs.  But hey, free shipping!

Mystery Of The Nintendo Star Controller Solved

Nintendo Star ControllerBack in 2006 Nintendo revealed a few prototypes of the controller for its Wii console.  Mixed in with concepts that would become the Wii remote was a bizarre orange circular object with a large Starman button on top.  There was no clue offered as to just what this controller did or how it worked.  We've been baffled for three and a half years, but now the answer has finally come forth thanks to Osamu Inoue's new book Nintendo Magic: Winning The Video Game Wars in which the story of the development of the Wii and Nintendo DS's unusual designs led Nintendo to shoot back to the top of the video game industry is told.  Here's the explanation for the mysterious star controller:

Development on the new [Wii] controller was in full swing by the middle of 2004.  With Iwata focusing on the DS, Miyamoto acted in his place on the project.  Takeda's engineering team searched for sensors that would enable intuitive game control, which Miyamoto's people used to implement the actual controller.

At first, they started just as Iwata had suggested - by aiming for a simple, TV remote-like controller.  But as they did the work of testing the controller prototypes that included new sensors, the form factors began to take an unexpected direction.

"No one liked that one," recalls Miyamoto with a rueful grin, of a large, disc-shaped example.  It had a large star-shaped button in the center, surrounded by three smaller buttons, and used internal accelerometers that let the player control by tilting it forward, backwards, left, or tight.  The prototype was orange, and its bizarre appearance earned it the nickname "cheddar cheese" from the development team.

It was admittedly simple and easy to understand, but was also far too garish.  Miyamoto's team met with around 40 game developers within Nintendo bimonthly to hear their opinions.  This iteration of the controller was met with opposition — they complained it was totally unsuited to traditional games like Mario and Zelda.

Mystery solved!  Thank goodness common sense reigned within Nintendo on this one.  While I'm sure the company could have come up with some interesting ways to play with that star controller, I can't believe we'd have seen Super Mario Galaxy or Metroid Prime 3: Corruption if that device were the standard over the Wii remote.

What The BEEP Is That? #6 At Kombo

What The BEEP Is That? Are you ready for another installment of "What The BEEP Is That?" over at Kombo?  This week's feature focuses on the sound of pausing a game.  Bringing events to a momentary halt is usually heralded with a little sound cue of some sort, and if you can guess some or all of the eight mystery effects then you have a crack at winning Tecmo Bowl Throwback for the Microsoft Xbox 360.  Some of this week's effects are a little too easy in my opinion (and it was a pain writing clues that didn't give away the answer outright), but the final challenge is a bit of a trick question.  See, it's not from one specific game.  A certain publisher made a habit of using the same pause sound effect across many of its games during the 16-bit era.  There's no extra credit for naming them all, but we'll be suitably impressed if you manage to do it.

Behind The Scenes Of Doctor Who: City Of The Daleks

Doctor Who: City of the Daleks The first episode of the recently announced Doctor Who: The Adventure Games, "City of the Daleks", is due for launch on June 5 as a free download from the BBC for PC and Mac, and as the release date approaches, the BBC is starting to crank up the publicity machine.  Wedged into the middle of last week's behind-the-scenes documentary program Doctor Who Confidential was a short segment devoted to the image capture and dialog recording process through which the Doctor and his companion Amy Pond are brought to digital life.  As a certain mysterious professor would warn, "Spoilers!"

Considering that the developers at Sumo Digital seem to be working from photographs of the actors instead of doing motion capture work with them, I'm not exactly expecting Uncharted 2 levels of realism here, but the end result is free. We get what we pay for. Here's hoping what we eventually get is as much fun as an episode of the television series. There's top-level creative talent from the show involved with these games, after all.

Big Xbox 360 Sale At Today Only

Buy somethin' will ya! has opened up the daily Gold Box deals selection to Microsoft Xbox 360 products again with ongoing sales on new games all day long.  BioShock 2 is offered for $40 today (Sony PlayStation 3 version, too) along with titles such as Battlefield: Bad Company 2, Mass Effect 2, a Rock Band installment, and more.  This is a great opportunity to clear out all of those titles you've wanted to play before E3 brings a whole new wave of games for which you yearn. You know the deal by now: anything you buy via that green link above helps support Press The Buttons, so your impulse buying is greatly appreciated.  I feel like I'm running a PBS telethon here.  Well, now back to your regularly scheduled imported British television programming.