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June 2011

The Song Remains The Same With Operation Rainfall

Operation Rainfall

If there's one thing that the Mother 3 debacle should have taught the video gaming community, it's that trying to convince Nintendo of America to localize exceptionally Japanese titles for a North American release doesn't end so well.  Now, five years after EarthBound fans felt the sting of disappointment, would-be fans of three Japanese Wii RPG titles — Xenoblade Chronicles, The Last Story, and Pandora's Tower — are trying to convince Nintendo's American arm into releasing those games here in the US of A.  The fans organized a letter-writing and pre-ordering campaign dubbed Operation Rainfall in an attempt to show Nintendo that the company is leaving money on the table by not offering these games to the American market.  Chris Kohler at Wired sums up the effort:

Nintendo continues to make grand overtures to the hard-core gaming fans in its home country. Most notably, over the past year it has released two role-playing games called Xenoblade and The Last Story, created by some of Japan’s most famous RPG designers. The games are exactly the sort of thing that Nintendo’s system lacks stateside: full-scale adventures with solid gameplay, high-quality graphics and music, interesting stories.

So it came as something of a shock when Nintendo did not take the opportunity at E3 to announce U.S. releases for these two games. Over the years, Nintendo of America has often declined to release many of its more hard-core Japanese games, but these two titles seem to have been the straw that broke the camel’s back for many fans. A group of them has started a social-media letter-writing campaign called Operation Rainfall with a stated mission “to make Nintendo localize notable games, such as Xenoblade, The Last Story and Pandora’s Tower.”

While it is still possible Nintendo plans to release these games in the United States and simply has not announced them yet, given the company’s track record there is good reason to be skeptical bordering on pessimistic. Nintendo, like every other publisher on the planet, has every right and duty to decline to release certain games. What makes Nintendo unique is that it refuses to let other publishers release the games, either. What good does it do anyone to sit on content — especially when there’s barely anything else on your platform?

If you guessed that Nintendo of America bowed to the will of the fans and announced intentions to release the three titles here, then you haven't been part of this industry for very long.  As my pal Pete Davison at GamePro reports, while the games are going to show up in other places around the world including Europe, America is downright out of luck.

Continue reading "The Song Remains The Same With Operation Rainfall" »

Capcom Explains Stance On Unrestartable Resident Evil: The Mercenaries 3D; GameStop Resumes Trade-Ins Of Game

Resident Evil: The Mercenaries 3DAfter yesterday's kerfuffle regarding Capcom's decision to prevent players from deleting save data progress on Resident Evil: The Mercenaries 3D for the Nintendo 3DS, the company has issued a statement explaining its position.  As it turns out, crushing the used game market isn't mentioned at all.  Giant Bomb has Capcom's stance on the issue:

"Secondhand game sales were not a factor in this development decision," said the company, "so we hope that all our consumers will be able to enjoy the entirety of the survival-action experiences that the game does offer."

If used games aren't the issue, what is? Is there a technical reason that's preventing them from including data reset? That part's not totally clear, but here's what Capcom said.

"In Resident Evil: The Mercenaries 3D, all mission progress is saved directly to the Nintendo 3DS cartridge, where it cannot be reset," said the company. "The nature of the game invites high levels of replayability in order to improve mission scores. In addition, this feature does not remove any content available for users."

I still do not see what would be lost if players were allowed to delete their save data (short of additional sales and revenue for Capcom, of course).  Playing a game like Mercenaries 3D is a personal experience, and if I choose to wipe the slate clean and start over, that should be my choice.  I can't believe that Capcom would come right out and admit that this decision is related to the used game market, hence the amazing sidestepping of the issue in the above statement.  Sure, content is not removed, but some of the experience is. 

Continue reading "Capcom Explains Stance On Unrestartable Resident Evil: The Mercenaries 3D; GameStop Resumes Trade-Ins Of Game" »

The Journey Of Duke Nukem Forever

Duke Nukem ForeverDespite netting some poor critical scores, Duke Nukem Forever for the Sony PlayStation 3, Microsoft Xbox 360, and PC from Gearbox Software and Take-Two Interactive has certainly sparked lots of discussion.  I'm still working my way through the adventure (currently I'm stuck on a part of the game involving a barrage of raging brutal pigs from outer space that slaughter me as soon as my saved progress reloads), but I can certainly look back at the game's fourteen years worth of development to see what changed over the years and what was struck from the title entirely.  1UP has an interesting video feature that chronicles the evolution of Duke Nukem Forever as it changed form across teasers and trailers. 

Obviously, the game conceived of in 1997 bears little resemblance to the DNF we got in 2011 -- or does it? We've combed through all of the game's available footage and found certain key sections and ideas that survived through the years. We boiled our findings down to the following video, and you can find large versions of the trailers we used along with our detailed observations below. A word of advice -- the video uses a picture-in-picture format so you might want to watch it in full-screen in HD if you can.

There's undoubtedly more material that came and went then we're seeing here, but this is a great look into the seemingly neverending development process.  You just know that there are so many stories about this game's history that have yet to be told by those who worked on it and watched closely from the sidelines.  Duke Nukem Forever's legacy is not to be an enjoyable game or a terrible game, but to be an example of what happens when development spirals out of control and insane amounts of time and money are squandered in the pursuit of the unattainable truly 100% perfect video game.

These Games Suck

NicoleMy girlfriend Nicole and I had our Saturday plans rained out this weekend, so our day trip turned into a series of mall trips.  One of the places that we ended up was an outlet mall with the usual kinds of clothing and kitchen stores, but one store sported posters on its windows that boasted DVDs, books, and video games.  How could we resist?  After browsing around inside, however, we found that we really should have kept walking.  I've seen junk titles at outlet shops before, but this place's selection scores a new low: all shovelware trash and lackluster PC titles along with a single, solitary Game Boy Advance game (some of which came from publishers that should have known better; consider Nicole posing here with Sega's Charlotte's Web collection of mini-games).  We snapped some photos of the game shelf so that you can gaze upon the likes of Tornado Jockey, Crazy Frog Racer, and Puppy Luv Adventures.  See for yourself how depressing a video game department can be.

These Games Suck

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Capcom's New Resident Evil Title Is Unrestartable

Resident Evil: The Mercenaries 3DCapcom has just released its latest Resident Evil title for the Nintendo 3DS, but like all games featuring zombies and other monsters, there's a nasty little surprise waiting inside it.  As it turns out, the company is trying another controversial digital rights management scheme (remember the always-on network connectivity requirement on the Sony PlayStation 3 versions of Bionic Commando Rearmed 2 and Final Fight: Double Impact?) by not allowing players to reset the save game data for Resident Evil: The Mercenaries 3D.  This means that you cannot wipe out saved progress in order to replay the game completely from scratch.  Capcom's goal here seems to be to make the game less attractive on the used game market.  After all, who'd want to buy a used copy of a game and be stuck with the previous owner's progress and unlockable rewards already unlocked and completed?  In fact, rumor has it that GameStop will not be buying this game back from customers or selling used copies thanks to this restriction.  DVICE sums it up for us:

It's been confirmed that Resident Evil: Mercenaries 3D for the Nintendo 3DS is a game that once finished, cannot be reset for complete replay. According to both the U.S. and U.K. game's instruction manual "saved data on this software cannot be reset."

Basically what Capcom has done is make Mercenaries 3D a one-time play affair. Once you've unlocked all the goodies and played the entire game, you will not be able to erase the game's save data and start fresh as if it were a new copy. Consider this: lending Mercenaries 3D to a friend, a little brother or sister will be worthless because they'll only be able to continue playing the game with your saved settings and create their own.

Think of the ramifications of applying this restriction to other Capcom properties.  Imagine a Mega Man game where defeated Robot Masters stay dead forever or a Street Fighter title where knocking out M. Bison keeps him defeated on the pavement for good.  These are extreme and absurd examples, but I'd have said the same thing about a Resident Evil title where progress is written in digital stone.  Now, Mercenaries 3D is a little different from the other games in the series in that it's more of a score attack title than a traditional story-based adventure, but the principle still stands.  People should have the right to delete game progress and restart from scratch if they please.  Remember, the ideal DRM scheme only impacts the pirates, not legitimate owners of a game.  As soon as paying customers are inconvenienced, the DRM has gone too far.

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U.S. Supreme Court Rules That Video Games Qualify For Protection Under The First Amendment

Phoenix WrightWe've been waiting for a ruling from the U.S. Supreme Court in the case against video games since November of last year, but this morning the court came through with an affirmation in favor of everyone's favorite digital interactive entertainment.  Video games qualify for protection under the first amendment, so no more chilling "selling video games to minors is illegal" attempts at lawmaking by the self-appointed moral guardians for this country!  GamePolitics sums it up like this:

The United States Supreme Court has ruled in favor of the video game industry and retailers in Brown v. Entertainment Merchants Association (formerly known as Schwarzenegger v. Entertainment Merchants Association). The full opinion can be found is here. According to Justice Scalia, who wrote the opinion: "the act forbidding sale or rental of violent games to minors does not comport with the 1st Amendment." Alito concurred with the judgment, joined by the Chief Justice. Justices Thomas and Breyer dissent, in an opinion by Thomas - according to SCOTUSBlog.

The court had to decide if a state law restricting the sale of violent video games to minors violated the First Amendment right to free speech. The Ninth Circuit Court ruled in favor of the EMA, saying that the law violated the First Amendment.

There's more coverage and analysis at places like GamasutraGame Informer, Kotaku, and Joystiq.  I'm overjoyed that the court ruled this way, particularly since I was extremely pessimistic over the impending verdict back in November.  Nosy moral guardians have a way of pestering people over popular forms of entertainment, and I'm especially tired of lobbying firms and vote-hungry politicians trying to clamp down on the things I enjoy at someone else's behest.  While laws preventing the sale of so-called objectionable games do not directly impact me, my fear was that developers would begin to self-censor themselves over risk of running into the law which would have an effect on the kinds of games that I enjoy.  There are some games that I consider tasteless and would lose no sleep over if they vanished tomorrow, but they have a right to exist in the marketplace and be enjoyed by those who like them.  I'd imagine that the Helen Lovejoys of the nation aren't finished being nosy about what other people buy, but after all of this legal wrangling, I think they've earned some time off.  Perhaps they can use their new free time to take up video games.

Weekly Poll: Generational

Weekly Poll for 6-20-2011Of those of you with a Nintendo 3DS, most of you have bought (or will buy) Nintendo's The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D.  I picked mine up at launch despite having plenty of games to fill my gaming time because I wanted the free soundtrack from Club Nintendo, and after some nonsense in which the offer expired a mere day after it began, I did eventually receive e-mail confirmation that my disc will be sent out sooner or later.  I'm glad Nintendo stepped up and made this right.  There were too many frustrated fans left in the cold over this one.  I haven't even had the chance to play the game yet, come to think of it.  If not for the freebie, I might have even held off for a bit.

Moving on to other old favorites brought back, Sega released a time-limited demo of Sonic Generations for the Microsoft Xbox 360 and Sony PlayStation 3 last week that still has another few weeks left on it.  If you had the opportunity to play it, what did you think of the experience?  Did it bring back those warm fuzzy Sega Genesis memories?  Are you actually excited about a Sonic title for the first time in a decade?  Or has Sega missed the mark with Sonic yet again?  Let's hear your thoughts.

Video Games Live Performs Sonic The Hedgehog

Following on from yesterday's twentieth anniversary of the launch of the original Sonic the Hedgehog for the Sega Genesis, why not speed into your weekend with this clip of Video Games Live performing the familiar soundtrack to the title that started it all?  The orchestra cruises through sections of the themes from Green Hill Zone, Labyrinth Zone, Marble Zone, Starlight Zone, Scrap Brain Zone, a boss battle with Dr. Robotnik, Spring Yard Zone, and the classic main theme.  Don't worry if you feel the need to play the game again after you listen to the medley.  That's perfectly normal and is to be encouraged.

Early GamePro Magazine Issues Were Not Very Good

GameProEvery magazine has to start somewhere, and for long-running GamePro that origin point hit in 1989 with an unnatural excitement regarding Nintendo Entertainment System games such as Taboo: The Sixth Sense and the newest releases from industry powerhouses such as Taito and HAL America.  The Power Glove was all the way from the distant future of 2001 and an ordinary man-child named Alex West embraced his calling as a superhero in the video dimension.  These are things that happened, and if you weren't around in 1989 to enjoy them unironically, then join Scott Sharkey at the modern-day GamePro website to explore the first two issues of the magazine and snark at them like there's no tomorrow.  Heed your calling!

When GamePro was first squeezed out into the world all those years ago, it was a very different magazine. It fairly dripped with the foul graphic design of the '80s, and its text scarcely ever strayed from a tone of wide-eyed excitement over some of the worst games and peripherals ever made. It got better over the course of the next few decades, but those early years possess a strange, naive beauty that must be shared. And by shared I mean relentlessly mocked, because really, this was a pretty execrable rag. Don't worry, we'll be nicer when we get to the issues that start being something resembling good. For now, though, we're still trapped in the sucking mire of 1989.

I've seen infinitely worse '80s magazine covers, but this one takes the taco for being both blandly nonspecific and incredibly excited about itself.  Every legend has a beginning, and GamePro's starts with these three spectacularly unremarkable gentlemen ripping their way through the front cover. Probably because they just realized that this is supposed to be a videogame magazine and they have more manly and important things to do. They were last seen chairing the How to Kill Men While Having a Mustache panel at Generically Manly Man Con '89.

There were no survivors.

I read GamePro for years as a kid and teenager starting with this issue right here that was given away free at Toys R Us during its debut quarter with purchase of a new video game.  As you can imagine, I wound up with three copies of this issue.  In hindsight, it wasn't a very good magazine, but to eight-year-old me, it was a revelation.  I'd just started to read Nintendo Power around this time, and now here was another magazine devoted to Nintendo-related products.  Perhaps there was something to this whole video game thing after all (even if Taboo and the Power Glove were touted as the next big things in that first issue).

Final Fantasy VII Almost Came To Steam

Final Fantasy VIIFans of Square-Enix's Final Fantasy VII for the Sony PlayStation have long held out hope for a modernized high definition remake, but in lieu of that, I bet that most would happily take a PC re-release of the game on Valve's Steam digital distribution platform in addition to the re-release currently available on the PlayStation Network for the PlayStation 3 and PlayStation Portable.  RPG Site has dug up some interesting technical evidence indicating that Square-Enix had once planned to sell both Final Fantasy VII and Final Fantasy VIII on Steam, but have apparently given up on the idea due to some technical shortcomings involved with porting the original PC versions of the games dating back to 1998 and 2000 to modern operating systems.

We were provided with proof that the files were from the Steam release and were shown some interesting differences between the files of the Steam version and the original discs. Specifically, the files appear to have been edited in 2010 by Square Enix to try to make the games run better on newer operating systems.

A thriving fan community was built around the PC ports of the Final Fantasy games, and fans continued to patch the games to work on newer operating systems long after Eidos abandoned them. Square Enix appear to have borrowed some of this work in trying to make the Steam release of Final Fantasy VIII work on modern machines.

The article goes on to detail how Square-Enix apparently used fan-made patches and launchers in their modernization work and attempted to integrate and improve upon what the fans had created and tweaked.  It's interesting stuff and goes to show once again how the fan community helps keep a PC game alive long after its traditional sell-by date.  Whatever caused the company to give up on the idea, it's a shame to see the Steam releases slip away.  There's a whole new generation of fans out there just waiting to be crushed by Aeris's death.  Perhaps the company will revisit the idea someday.

(via Reddit)