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January 2011

Nintendo 3DS Preorders Begin


Now that Nintendo has solidified plans to launch the 3DS in March, retailers are starting to open up their preorder processes.  Two colors will be available in North America at launch — Cosmo Black and Aqua Blue— for a "mere" $249.99.  Games sold separately, natch.  Amazon has its preorder slots open as of this writing and you'd better believe that I locked in my order before the masses found out.  I went for the classy Cosmo Black to match my other current handheld gadgets.  On a related topic, now that my 3DS preorder is taken care of, I can write this article alerting the masses that Amazon has opened up 3DS preorders.  Also, I've been waiting months to use this image of Futurama's Fry demanding to purchase something new and amazing.  Once again, everything has worked out for the best.

Nintendo 3DS Arrives March 27 In North America

Nintendo 3DSWho's ready for portable 3D fun?  Nintendo has announced its plans for the North American release of its new 3DS handheld game system that we've all been watching carefully since E3 last year.  Set aside $249.99 for a March 27, 2011 release date plus enough money to spend on up to thirty games aimed to release during the launch window that runs up to E3 2011 in mid-June.  Kotaku has all of the details.

Games coming to the 3DS includes Pilotwings Resort, Nintendogs + Cats, submariner Steel Diver, Ocarina of Time 3D, Kid Icarus: Uprising, Dead or Alive Dimensions, Madden, Super Street Fighter IV 3D, Asphalt 3D, Combat of Giants Dinosaurs 3D, Lego Star Wars III The Clone Wars, Ridge Racer 3D, Resident Evil The Mercenaries 3D.

The 3DS will also have some built-in software including a pedometer that will track your physical movement and log it. Mii Maker will allow gamers to create personal avatars that look a bit like the ones found in the Wii. Face Raiders, another built-in game, is a shooting gallery sort of title that puts your face into the game. The 3DS will also come with software for manipulating sound and browsing the Internet.

The system will also allow gamers to log into Nintendo's e-shop, which will include a "steady progression of Game Boy and Game Boy Color" hits along with new games. The store will also include demos and trailers for new games.

While $250 is a little more than I'm comfortable paying, I know I'll end up getting a 3DS just for Kid Icarus, Ocarina of Time, and the inevitable Star Fox.  Oh, and one would hope for a real Super Mario title before too long.  Nintendo has had me right where it wants me for years (even after the casual boom of the last five years).  How does the price work for you?  What do you all out there think of this news?

Valve Goes The Extra Mile With PS3 Version Of Portal 2

Portal 2Traditionally when a cross-platform game is released we must choose one version over the others to purchase.  If you decide that you want both the PC and Microsoft Xbox 360 versions of, say, Assassin's Creed II, then you must buy the game twice.  When it comes to Valve's big entrance on the Sony PlayStation 3 with Portal 2, however, the company is really going above and beyond to give players an incentive to buy the PS3 version of the game.  As it turns out, every purchase of Portal 2 for the PS3 entitles the buyer to a free PC and/or Mac download of the game.  Kotaku has the details.

All players have to do once they get the game is link their PlayStation Network and Steam accounts. Once that's done, they'll have a Steam Play (so, PC and/or Mac) version of the game ready to download in their library list.

This cross-platform play even extends to giving PS3 users the ability to chat to PC gamers, and vice-versa. Oh, and PS3 users can even save their game in the Steam Cloud, meaning Valve has them tucked away in their servers in case something ever goes horribly wrong with your PS3.

Thank you, Valve, for solving a problem with which I've been grappling.  I prefer to play games on my PS3 so I can take advantage of my nice HDTV and superior performance of the console compared to trying to coax modern games to run on my aging PC, but I've been concered as to how I'll play this game with a controller as opposed to a keyboard and mouse (which I used to complete the original Portal on my PC in a rare subversion of the process).  Now this is no longer an issue.  I can get the PS3 version and bounce back and forth between platforms as I please.  Other developers and publishers would do well to follow this example where applicable.

Don't Trust That eBay EarthBound

EarthBoundIt's time for a reality check, my friends: that rare Earth Bound prototype for the Nintendo Entertainment System you found on eBay is not real.  Nor is the PAL region version of the Super NES sequel.  You see, it's really not possible to buy an authentic item in mass quantities that is either rare or outright nonexistent.  We've been over how easy* it is to create unofficial working reproductions of unreleased games, so it should come as no surprise that some unscrupulous people are selling homemade EarthBound-related cartridges on eBay while passing them off as official Nintendo creations.  EarthBound Central has the warning.

Probably 95% of the [Earth Bound prototype] carts on eBay are reproductions, not the actual prototypes. Only a handful of prototypes are known to exist, and I’ve tried to document their whereabouts in this article, though admittedly it’s not 100% up-to-date.  Also, the prototype carts actually look like prototypes. If you come across an EarthBound zero cart with any sort of label or label art, it’s definitely not one of the prototypes. Reproduction makers tend to use a bunch of the same fake labels for their EB0 carts.  Basically, if a cart has a label, looks like an actually-released game, and isn’t mentioned on any of the big EarthBound sites, it’s almost definitely just a reproduction. If you read the item descriptions carefully, sometimes they’ll even say so. Sometimes they don’t, and pretend that it’s one of the actual prototype carts. Don’t fall for it!

Everybody should play Nintendo's EarthBound at some point, but don't overpay for cartridges that aren't what they claim to be.  Be careful not to fall for fraudulent claims and pay extra for something that someone slapped together at a stupendous markup instead of a real piece of gaming history. 

* for variable values of "easy" 

Another Big Video Game Sale At Today Only

Buy somethin' will ya!Surely by now you've finished with any video games that you were given as holiday gifts.  This industry moves at a breakneck pace and we have to move with it, right?  If you're looking for a new challenge for cheap then you should see what is offering today as part of its recurring Gold Box gaming deal daysDisney Epic Mickey for Nintendo Wii is on sale all day for $29.99, while other major titles such as Red Dead Redemption: Undead Nightmare, Star Wars: The Force Unleashed II, the complete Grand Theft Auto IV (including episodic downloadable expansions), and much more are discounted for limited windows all day today.  Why not get yourself a little gaming pick-me-up?  A portion of each sale goes to help support Press The Buttons, too, so we all win.

Here's Another Chance To Buy Mega Man

Rockman Complete Works Oh, original Nintendo Entertainment System version of Mega Man.  How many ways do I own thee?  Let me count the ways.  There's the classic cartridge, of course.  The Mega Man Anniversary Collection for GameCube is a favorite compilation.  Then there's... hmm... wait... do I really only own Mega Man twice?  I need to do something about this as soon as possible.  If only there were another semi-unique version of the game that I could buy!  Where am I going to find such a thing on short notice?  Capcom, please, you gotta do something!

In Japan, Mega Man 1-6 were released on PlayStation 1 as part of the Rockman Complete Works series. Each game got its own disc release with an original port of the game, as well as an additional navi mode that helped players navigate through the stages of each game. There were also a few other changes, such as HUD enhancements.  At any rate, we are happy to announce that the Japanese port of Rockman Complete Works: Mega Man is out this week on the PlayStation Network for $5.99!

Whew, that's better!  Granted, this edition is entirely in Japanese, but it's not like Mega Man sports endless dialog sequences.  $6 is a good deal for this if you don't already own the game in some format, but what I'm really looking forward to are the hopefully inevitable releases of the final three installments of the Complete Works set that sport remixed music.  I'm a sucker for remixed music inserted into a beloved classic video game.

Mini-Review: Disney Epic Mickey

Mickey Mouse Confession time: I'm not much of a fan of the classic Disney characters.  I watched Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck cartoons as a kid and did the whole Magic Kingdom / Walt Disney World thing, but it's been a long time since I felt the need to catch up with any of it.  The Disney brand caters largely to children, after all, and as a adult the whole Wonderful World of Disney thing just doesn't appeal to me.  Long-time PTB readers know that I do love my share of fictional  characters, of course, but those are characters that are aimed at fans of all ages.  Mickey Mouse and friends are pitched at the kiddies (outside of nostalgia collector markets).  That's not a criticism.  Just a fact.  That's why I was so surprised to see that Disney was handing the keys to the Magic Kingdom over to designer Warren Spector in a partnership that eventually gave rise to a Nintendo Wii game starring Mickey Mouse that's meant for players of all ages.  Kids can play and enjoy seeing Mickey bound around, while adults are in for a delightful nostalgia ride (and history lesson) without being insulted with overtly childish material.  Disney Epic Mickey is a step back in the right direction for a famous character despite its few flaws and shortcomings.

Continue reading "Mini-Review: Disney Epic Mickey" »

Forbidden Fan-Created Chrono Trigger: Crimson Echoes Leaked

Chrono Trigger: Crimson EchoesOnce upon a time there was a masterful Super NES RPG developed by Square (now Square-Enix) called Chrono Trigger in which the protagonists traveled back and forth through time in order to stop the end of the world from occurring in 1999.  Aside from a sequel (Chrono Cross), an obscure semi-sequel (Radical Dreamers), and the occasional re-release on other consoles (Sony PlayStation and Nintendo DS), the property has pretty much been retired.  Despite the limited further development, many fans still praise the original as the best game in the series and long for a new installment done in a similar style.  Back in 2004 a group of Chrono Trigger fans decided to create their own sequel.  Five years later the result was an unofficial creation subtitled Crimson Echoes.  Their stab at Trigger was just days away from release when Square-Enix's legal team swooped in and issued a cease-and-desist order, blocking the game's free distribution under penalty of all kinds of costly legal proceedings.  And that was the last we ever heard of Chrono Trigger: Crimson Ech

NEVER BEFORE LEAKED: Chrono Trigger: Crimson Echoes *Final* Release

Well, how about that?  I haven't tried Crimson Echoes, but any fan project that sees actual completion without the team behind it falling apart due to squabbles and disinterest surely deserves a little attention (even if it does defy the will of the lawyers).  It sounds like an interesting unofficial expansion of the Chrono Trigger world.  This is also more evidence in favor of my theory that sooner or later everything in gaming comes back around.

Weekly Poll: Mass Effectiveness

Weekly Poll for 1-10-2011An overwhelming majority of you own the bulk of you gaming collection in a cartridge or disc format.  That was to be considered since physical storage formats have a massive head start on digital distribution, but I thought it was a question worth asking.  With the rise of Steam and other such services, it seems that more and more people are foresaking a trip to GameStop or time with  I certainly know that I have more physical games that downloaded titles, although my Steam game list has become quite populated over the last few years.  We can thank the annual holiday sale for that.

Moving on, Bioware's Mass Effect 2 is finally making the leap from the Microsoft Xbox 360 and PC realms to the Sony PlayStation 3 this week.  Downloadable expansion content originally released for the Xbox 360 and PC are also included.  Are you planning on playing it on the PS3?  Is it your first time through the game ora replay?  Have you already played it on another format (and once was enough)?  Or are you just completely disinterested?  Let's hear your plans.

Twenty-Two Years Of THQ

THQVideo game publisher THQ has announced that it's ditching its current logo in favor of something a bit more avant-garde.  Gone are the speedy-looking letters that have marked every game the company has released over the past decade and in its place is this swoopy, curvy creation.  It's meeting with resistance around the Internet because change is frowned upon, but in the end I suppose it doesn't really matter.  It's a logo on a box.  The company has gone through several logos over the years, and has a chronicle of them all.  However, having said the aforementioned about logos just being images on a box, I have to admit that these images can create associations that last for many years.  Today's modern THQ is a publishing powerhouse with quality franchises such as Red Faction, Saints Row, Darksiders, and the upcoming Homefront.  The THQ label should be a beacon of hope (when not dealing with licensed games meant for children, of course).  Instead I find myself continuing to associate the brand with the THQ of my youth that put out substandard games such as these:

Home Alone

Ren and Stimpy: Space Cadet Adventures

Ren and Stimpy: Veediots

Yes, there once was a time when THQ games were to be avoided.  THQ has improved remarkably since releasing these titles and others like them, of course, but I just find it impossible to break the the mental association between the company and clunky games.  When I first heard about Homefront, asked "Who's behind that one?", and was told THQ, my silent gut response was That can't be right.  I don't know if this new logo can help erase those old lingering memories, but it certainly can't hurt.

(Box art via Game Boy Database)