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August 2011

Let's Visit A Sad Arcade

Fantasy ArcadeThey say that the American arcade is dead, but I don't want to believe them.  Spending a few tokens at the Barrel Of Fun arcade at my old hometown mall was a staple of my childhood, and sometimes I like to attempt to recapture that old feeling.  Several weekends ago I decided to make the grand pilgrimage to a brand new Dave & Buster's that opened up in Orlando, FL, but didn't consider that the place is located right in the middle of the largest tourist stretch in the region.  The parking lot was packed to capacity and I wasn't able to go inside.  But that's fine, for earlier in the day I had the privilege of visiting the other arcade in the area: Fantasy Arcade in Festival Bay Mall.  Festival Bay is dying a slow, protracted death (an overwhelming majority of the retail spaces were empty), and while the arcade still lingers on, it's a pitiful sight to see and reflects the state of the average modern independently run video game business.  C'mon, everybody, let's visit a sad arcade!

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GameStop Removing Free OnLive Coupons From New PC Copies Of Deus Ex: Human Revolution

Deus Ex: Human RevolutionVideo game publisher Square-Enix and online gaming service OnLive recently announced an agreement regarding the new Deus Ex: Human Revolution.  Inside all new PC copies of the game, one will find a coupon good for free access to the game via OnLive (similar to Valve and Sony teaming up to offer free Steam copies of Portal 2 with each new PlayStation 3 copy of that game).  Unfortunately, GameStop chose not to participate in the promotion and has taken it upon itself to open up new, sealed copies of the game and remove the OnLive coupon.  The resealed games are then sold as new.  GameSpy has the details behind this outrageous action:

[GameStop public relations representative Beth] Sharum said she needed to further research the issue before providing a detailed response. However, she did confirm GameStop intentionally removed the OnLive coupons.  "Square Enix packed the competitor's coupon with our DXHR product without our prior knowledge and we did pull and discard these coupons," Sharum said.

Why doesn't GameStop want to participate in this promotion?  It could have something to do with the fact that the company is working on its on OnLive-type streaming game service.  Obviously, it doesn't want its customers checking out the competition with a free coupon.  I hope that anyone who bought Deus Ex from GameStop and is missing a coupon will raise hell as far up the company's corporate ladder as possible and that everyone else in the market for this game will take their business elsewhere.  This kind of product tampering must not be tolerated.  Even if you don't intend to use the coupon, it's a matter of principle.

Portal: No Escape Amazes

Some video game fan films are easier to make than others.  The Legend of Zelda?  Grab a sword and a tunic, then go for a walk in the forest.  Street Fighter?  All you need are a few gis and a little martial arts training.  Uncharted?  Grab your pistol and hang from a crashed train dangling over a cliff.  Alright, so that last one isn't so easy, but one video game property that is impossible to accurately recreate as live action without using amazing special effects is Valve's Portal, yet someone has managed to take a fantastic run at it.  Dan Trachtenberg and his team have come up with Portal: No Escape in which we see a captive woman attempt to survive the Aperture Science experience.  It gets off to a slow start, but once the familiar portal gun appears... well, I won't spoil it.  What I will say is that this is an impressive production that gives you almost everything you'd want to see in a Portal short film (sadly missing?  GLaDOS). 

Nintendo 3DS Successor Already In The Works, Says Wild Internet Rumor

Nintendo 3DSYou're going to hear this rumor from plenty of places, so I felt I'd best mention it here.  Take this with a very large grain of salt, but rumor has it that Nintendo is working on something of a Plan B when it comes to the struggling Nintendo 3DS.  Game Informer reports that the company is already hard at work on the next member of the DS line that seeks to wash away the 3DS's general negative perception and a piece of add-on hardware for the current 3DS model.

According to French site 01Net, Nintendo realized all too late that a second analog pad is necessary for contemporary gaming. The site's sources say that Nintendo is scrambling to come up with a peripheral that would add the pad to the 3DS, which could sell for around $10. That could be a stopgap solution, if the more interesting rumor has any weight. The site says that Nintendo is working on a 3DS successor, which would have a new design, scale back the 3D effect, and possibly even have a new name.

Ordinarily, we'd treat something like this with extreme skepticism, but 01Net has a decent track record. The site accurately revealed early details about the PS Vita and Wii U hardware specs before they were announced.

What, so we're moving on to the next DS already?  That can't be right.  I just can't imagine Nintendo cutting bait like that so soon.  The 3DS needs some stellar games, yes, but it's not an unsalvageable piece of hardware at all.  The company needs to get Super Mario 3D Land and Mario Kart 7 out there to show what it can really do with the system in terms of original, non-remake content (sadly, the same thing could have been said for the Virtual Boy back in the day; just swap out Virtual Boy Mario Land and G-Zero as the showcase games of choice).  Is the 3DS brand irredeemably poisoned in the marketplace?  And, more importantly, if there really is a new DS coming up already, how many free games will Nintendo have to give current 3DS owners to make the pain go away?

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Weekly Poll: Cheap Seats

Weekly Poll for 8-16-2011There's a lot of love out there for Metroid when it comes to bestowing additional anniversary praise, but I have to side with Donkey Kong. As I've said previously, Donkey Kong was Nintendo's first big arcade hit, so it seems only right to mark the occasion. If it were up to me, we'd see a new game in the style of Donkey Kong '94 to celebrate the anniversary in style (and no marching minis!). Not to take anything away from Metroid, mind you, but in my mind there's really no contest. Part of that may be due to my increasing frustration with Samus Aran's franchise the further it moves from its 2D side-scrolling roots. My impatience with the Metroid Prime games has been well covered here by now, and while Metroid: Other M had some interesting ideas, it just can't compare to the likes of Super Metroid and Metroid Fusion as what, to me, Metroid should be. As for the other titles, Kid Icarus needs to be reestablished properly with the upcoming Kid Icarus: Uprising before we can really celebrate, while I've never really been one for Pikmin or Animal Crossing. Nester's Funky Bowling, on the other hand, needs to be on the 3DS's Virtual Console immediately if not sooner. The world needs to be reminded of everyone's favorite cocky magazine mascot circa 1990.

Moving on, it's price cut season as Nintendo has recently lowered the price of the 3DS while Sony has discounted its PlayStation 3. Now that getting involved with these systems costs a little less, will you jump aboard? Has the financial sweet spot come at last? Or will it take more than a price cut to get you to take the leap? Let's hear your thoughts.

Pitiful Gaming Sale At Today Only

Buy somethin' will ya!Amazon is holding another of their one-day-only Gold Box and Lightning Deals sales that offers only video games, so while I feel obligated to tell you about it and remind you that every purchase you make through the green link here goes to help support Press The Buttons, I'm not really certain that you'll actually want any of the games on sale.  I think we're looking at Amazon's semi-annual event designed to empty warehouses of underperforming titles before the big holiday rush of highly anticipated games kicks off.  Today's deals include Just Dance Summer Party for the Nintendo Wii, a Sony PlayStation Move bundle that includes Tiger Woods PGA Tour 12: The Masters Edition (given a proper price, that might be a good deal if you're in the market for a Move), a recent Yoostar sequel, and other titles for the PS3, Microsoft Xbox 360, and PlayStation Portable.  There's nothing huge on offer today, but maybe you'll find something just the same. 

Dead Gremlins Game Exposed To Sunlight

GremlinsIt would seem that it's very difficult to get those whole Gremlins thing right, as video games based on the two films from decades ago never quite hit the mark.  Sunsoft came the closest to meeting the franchise's potential on the Nintendo Entertainment System and Game Boy, while various other attempts have ended with lackluster results.  For instance, back at E3 this year I saw a Gremlins game from an unnoted developer that involved making mogwai dance to modern popular music.  That is not the way to do Gremlins justice.  On the other hand, neither is a squad-based shooter, yet that's exactly what Neko Entertainment attempted to do with its cancelled Sony PlayStation 2 title based on the license.  Siliconera has the story and a few screenshots.

The genre is a bit surprising, their Gremlins title was a squad style third person shooter. Players could switch between Gizmo and various green monster Gremlins with the should buttons. Why do the Gremlins have guns instead of paper-clip bow and matchstick arrows? Who knows.

Still, I suppose it could have been worse.  Somewhere out there are proposals for a Gremlins go-kart title, a first-person shooter based on Gizmo's Rambo persona from Gremlins 2: The New Batch, a business simulator centered around Daniel Clamp, and Mrs. Deagle's Chair Launch.  I honestly believe that it's possible for some talented studio to create the perfect Gremlins game, and at this point I think that the only team up to the task are the folks over at Telltale Games.  The Gremlins films are based more around reaction than taking an offensive stance (at least, up until the final act), so setting the whole thing up as an adventure game makes more sense than shooters or dance titles. 

(via Joystiq)

Cross-Game Voice Chat Is Never Coming To PS3

PS3 SlimSony PlayStation 3 owners have been holding out hope for the addition of cross-game voice chat to the console's capabilities for years, but a recent Eurogamer report suggests that the feature is never coming despite frequent semi-official rumors and teases.  The reason?  A lack of available memory.

Cross-game voice chat is not possible on the PlayStation 3 because of memory restrictions, Sony has revealed.  The PS3's RAM is gobbled up by the games it runs, which prevents the much-desired feature from being implemented, Sony Worldwide Studios president Shuhei Yoshida told Eurogamer.  "Once a game gets RAM we never give it back," he said. "It's not possible to retrofit something like that after the fact."

So much for that.  While it's disappointing to hear this, I believe that Sony's engineers did everything they could to hack together a working implementation.  As 1UP mentions, we heard a lot about cross-game chat for quite a while from a variety of people in the know.

Several years ago, it looked like it was going to be implemented. Naughty Dog suggested it was coming in an upcoming firmware update. Prior to the announcement of PlayStation Plus, there were reports that it would be a premium feature, and it was even reportedly listed on an official Plus website at one point.

While cross-game chat would have been nice to have, it doesn't seem all that important to me.  If I'm working a case in L.A. Noire and trying to piece together clues, I don't want you yelling in my ear during a triumphant Super Street Fighter IV session.  If we're talking during a game, it's because we're both playing the same game and need to communicate in order to complete the objective.  We'll need to talk about portal placement in Portal 2, item locations in LittleBigPlanet, or rendezvous spots in Burnout Paradise.  Gaming has become a much more social medium this generation and I've enjoyed many aspects of the increased connectivity, but there are limits to where I want people popping in to say hello.

Count Dracula's Castlevania Minions Evolve

Castlevania Count Dracula cannot slay the Belmont clan by himself.  More than a dozen Castlevania titles have proven as much.  The dark lord of the chaotic castle calls upon all kinds of classic monsters and mythological creatures to serve as soldiers and defenders of the realm.  From basic bats to fishmen to hunchbacks to werewolves and beyond, every incarnation of Castlevania is loaded with beasts that the protagonist must destroy on the way to the Count.  Dracula has been building up his bestiary over the years, and Game Informer has an intriguing look at how the basic bosses of the land have grown with new entries in the franchise.  Starting with the original bosses from the first Nintendo Entertainment System title in the series, Tim Turi explores how famous monsters such as Giant Bat, Medusa, Frankenstein's Creature, and the rest have changed across sequels.

Frankenstein's Creature

If the original Castlevania is full of difficult speed bumps, the game's first brick wall is comes in the form of a lumbering reincarnated abomination. The twisted spawn of Victor Frankenstein shambles onto the screen at the end of act four, accompanied by a tiny man. Though the miniscule monster looks identical to the garden variety Flea Man enemy, Konami asks us to believe this one is Igor, Dr. Frankenstein's infamous hunchbacked assistant. The tiny pest leaps around the stage launching fireballs as Frankenstein's Creature trudges towards Simon. The famous monster fits in perfectly with Castlevania's classic movie monster vibe, and thus Frankie's fate was sealed for the rest of the series.

The ill-fated Dr. Frankenstein must have been busy, as his monster returns again and again, often with the same limited mobility and intimidating stature. In Castlevania III, the demented science project stomps the earth in a rage, causing boulders to rain down. Simon Belmont encounters the demon shambling around an abandoned laboratory in Super Castlevania IV. In the SNES game, Frankenstein's Creature tosses countless vials filled with noxious chemicals. Several games tap even deeper into the film version of Frankenstein, allowing the beast to wield the force of lightning from which it was given life. While Frankenstein's Creature doesn't harness electricity in Symphony of the Night, it is gargantuan and wields a hammer. Castlevania fans who owned a N64 were treated to the most terrifying iteration of the monster. Players encounter a perplexing hedge maze in Castlevania 64 made even more challenging by the invulnerable, chainsaw-wielding flesh golem stalking within. The most dramatic departure for this foe's appearance is in Castlevania: Lords of Shadow. Instead of reassembling pieces of human corpses, Dr. Frankenstein implants a human brain into a giant mechanical electrical scorpion.

Of all the bosses in Castlevania lore, I always cringe when I come across an incarnation of Frankenstein's Creature.  As a child, defeating the creature was an impossibility when I played the original Castlevania.  I became stuck on trying to kill him for years and years, and it wasn't until I was a teenager that I finally was able to finish him and his little hunchback cohort.  Typically it seems that the arrival of the creature is a sign that the given game is about to take things up a few notches and really start to mean business.  Practice and training are over when Frankenstein's Creature appears.  Not to take anything away from the other bosses such as the twin mummies and Death himself, but that damned creature is my most feared and despised of Dracula's underlings.

The Trials Of Sir Arthur

Super Ghouls 'n GhostsFighting game fans have been getting acquainted with Capcom's Sir Arthur in Marvel vs Capcom 3, but the character has much more than an appearance in one game to his credit.  We're talking about the valiant knight who has saved Princess Prin-Prin from the worst demons known to man or beast several times (sometimes clad only in his boxer shorts).  Starring in the various Ghosts 'n Goblins and Ghouls 'n Ghosts titles, Sir Arthur has traversed some of the most difficult gameplay in the history of the platformer genre.  In case you're just getting to know Arthur, Hardcore Gaming 101 has taken an exhaustive look at the many games featuring him as well as the two spin-off series that have been sparked by his adventures.  How difficult are these games?  Well...

Ghosts 'n Goblins begins with our hero, Arthur, having a picnic with his girlfriend, Princess Prin-Prin, in a graveyard in the middle of the night in nothing but his boxers (bad idea). I guess nobody told them to stay out of video game graveyards, because they all have monsters and zombies and crap, and this graveyard isn't an exception. So a big winged demon named Goblin King (dubbed "Satan" originally) appears out of nowhere, kidnaps Princess Prin-Prin, and teleports away to wherever. Arthur, of course, is not going to put up with this crap, so he dons his suit of armor (why in the hell wasn't he wearing this to begin with!?) and goes after her, Mario-style.

I doubt that Arthur could have ever guessed that his attempt to save her would land him in the most difficult platformer game ever made. If you haven't played GnG before, I assure you that's not an exaggeration. The first level is reallydifficult, especially for a beginner. In later levels, the difficulty becomes so extreme as to make it, for all intents as purposes, nearly impossible. Excluding any of you video game playing robots who can beat Battletoads in your sleep, nobody should expect to make any real progress in GnG, because it is NOT going to happen. Ever. Ghosts 'n Goblins is widely considered to be among the most difficult games ever made in any genre, and it has gained an even higher level of infamy due to the game forcing you to replay the entire game at a higher difficulty setting after you beat the game (you're informed that the final room is a "a trap devised by Satan".) Then you need to kill the final boss - a demon named Astaroth - with the weakest weapon (in the Japanese version, this is a was changed to a shield in all other versions.) Needless to say, Princess Prin-Prin is screwed. As if it wasn't challenging enough, having to beat it twice is extremely frustrating, and couldn't possibly have been intended to do anything other than make an already impossible game even more comedically difficult.

I've played most of the games in the series because apparently I'm a glutton for punishment.  For instance, I rented the Super NES installment, Super Ghouls 'n Ghosts, several times when I was younger and never managed to pass the second level.  There are fantastic gaming moments in this series, but it's just a shame that most of us will never see them thanks to the crushing difficulty levels and frequent frustrations. The arcade games were meant to be quarter-munchers, yes, but perhaps the home versions needed to even out some. We're weren't jamming coins into the Super NES back in the old days, after all.  The Sony PlayStation Portable sequel, Ultimate Ghosts 'n Goblins, is much more manageable thanks to the addition of an honest-to-goodness life meter, the ability to continue a lost game, and plenty of powerful weapons.  If you're only going to play one game in the series, then consider it recommended (and it's available from the PlayStation Network, too).