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April 2012

Sega May Reboot Sonic The Hedgehog, Copy Skylanders

Classic SonicThere's a rumor going around courtesy of TSSZ which thrives on Sonic the Hedgehog rumors that usually pan out in one way or another, so I mention this rumor with the upfront disclaimer that I do not know if it's true, but considering what has been going on lately with Sega's decision to limit its publishing and development efforts and the company's urgent need to raise cash, it sounds feasible.  Word on the street is that Sega wants to reboot Sonic the Hedgehog and with the exception of speed, platforming, and the Sonic versus Dr. Eggman rivalry, every other element from the franchise is up for review and possible removal.  If this is an April Fool's joke, it's late.  The article is dated April 4.  Here's some of the article:

We’re told the core tenets of speed, platforming, and surreal environments will remain–as will Sonic and Dr. Eggman and the rivalry they share, though both characters may undergo a makeover. But as part of this possible reboot, anything and everything else is under review, says the source. That includes, at its core, the main supporting Sonic cast, even Tails, our source says. And while the idea of surreal environments would remain, a whole new universe for Sonic to do battle and new characters for him to befriend may be concocted, in effect destroying most canon that precedes the relaunch and wiping the slate nearly clean, according to our source. All the meanwhile, new gameplay methods and gimmicks are allegedly being fleshed out for Sonic to try.

Specifically, our source alleged the concept of “zones” may be revamped. In this possible reboot, zones would be massively expanded and become their own worlds, sort of speak. Within the zones, there would be individual levels masked as missions for Sonic to complete. The source most closely compared it to Electronic Arts’s Burnout Paradise, which is open-world and lacks a concrete, linear level structure.

There's also talk that Sega may want to emulate Activision's success with Skylanders; specifically, the Skylanders toys that eager children have pestered their parents into paying high prices to acquire.  The toys can then be "imported" into the Skylanders video game thanks to magical technology.  The hope seems to be that kids would want to own Skylandersesque toys for Sonic and friends (whichever friends survive the reboot), thereby creating a new revenue stream for the Sonic brand.  And, of course, if you don't commit to buying the toys, then you can't see everything that the associated Sonic game has to offer.

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The History Of Shaq Fu

Shaq FuThere is no greater example of pointless video game licensing from the 1990s than the decision to shoehorn NBA star Shaquille O'Neil into a Mortal Kombat-style title in which the title character wields the awesome martial arts style known simply as Shaqido and the mighty Shaq-urikin shuriken.  For the benefit of the younger audience out there, I am not making this up.  1994's Shaq Fu for the Sega Genesis, Super NES, Game Gear, Game Boy, and Amiga from developer Delphine Software and publisher Electronic Arts is one of those elements of gaming that has been dragged through the Internet mud for years, but is all of that scorn really worth it?  Hardcore Gaming 101 investigates and finds that it is.

The history behind Shaq Fu is a storied one. It all started when Shaquille O’Neil, one of the most famous and iconic figures in 1990s American Basketball, tried to market his image. Shaq Fu started as a rap album, featuring Shaq rapping. At some point someone had the idea to put Shaq in a video game, which seemed like a great idea at the time. In 1994, the video game industry had been seeing a huge amount of growth. Games like Mortal Kombat and Night Trap were putting video games in the public eye. One outcome of this was that 2D fighting games were selling. It was obvious that were Shaq to be in a video game, it had to be a 2D fighter.

There was one huge problem with this though: the mistaken assumption that simply copying Mortal Kombat would instantly make a classic. Mortal Kombat was not very good, relying more on attitude and, for the time, shocking content to sell. It was not until the sequels that the series actually got good. The designers at Delphine Software, who had never made a fighting game before, looked at Mortal Kombat’s floaty controls, odd physics, eccentric hit boxes, and strange timing, thinking that it was commonplace. As a result, Shaq Fu had horrendous controls.

The crazy thing about Shaq Fu is that it could have turned out to be an interesting project had the developers better understood the source material.  If the team had more experience with fighting games and had chosen to emulate the style of Capcom's dependable Street Fighter II over Midway's flashier Mortal Kombat, the finished product could have been much better.  There's a better game inside the Shaq Fu concept trying to break free (some of the characters are mildly intriguing in a '90s way and the game's Fury Meter mechanic that increases attack damage dealt by the player prior to a cool down period has potential as a unique gimmick), but in an era where licensed titles were intended to be quick cash-in titles, it just wasn't meant to be.


Club Nintendo Offering Polo Shirts In Japan

ShirtThe Japanese arm of Club Nintendo offers plenty of amazing stuff that we never have the chance to get in North America and beyond, and the latest example of Nintendo-branded items you most likely cannot easily acquire is the new line of polo shirts featuring famous franchise monograms.  Available in a variety of snappy colors for 550 coins each, the shirts feature little icons of Donkey Kong, the Triforce, a Fire Flower, Mr. Game And Watch, and more.  Kotaku sums it up:

You can select your size and even the color of the polo shirt. There are eight different colors and six different monograms available.  The offer lasts until this September, but honestly, this is something Nintendo should keep on doing. Official Nintendo polo shirts? I'm so there.

If Nintendo exports this offering aboard or does a second wave of shirts, there are a few icons that are conspicuously missing.  I'd like to suggest the addition of Mario's trademark red-and-white M, the Star Fox logo (the winged fox team logo, not the logo of any particular game), a Maxim Tomato from the world of Kirby, Samus Aran's signature stylized S insignia, and a Yoshi egg.  Variety is the spice of life!


Power Button - Episode 78: The Pits And Peaks Of Kid Icarus: Uprising and Journey

Power ButtonIf you like to hear Brad Hilderbrand, Joey Davidson, and I argue about whether or not a video game has value, then you're sure to love this week's episode of the Power Button podcast.  First up we cover Nintendo's new Kid Icarus: Uprising for the Nintendo 3DS which is largely an agreement fest, but then the topic turns to Thatgamecompany's Journey for the Sony PlayStation 3 and the battle lines are drawn with Brad and Joey on one side and me and a special surprise witness on the other.  Is Journey pure perfection or pretentious piffle?  And what the hell did it all mean, anyway?  We get to the bottom of things as the arguments, counterarguments, and occasional insults fly.  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 leave a message on the Power Button hotline by calling (720) 722-2781, and you can even follow all of us on Twitter at @PressTheButtons, @aubradley84, and @JoeyDavidson or for just podcast updates, @ThePowerButton.


Power Button - Episode 78: The Pits And Peaks Of Kid Icarus: Uprising and Journey


Swordigo Review At Gamezebo

SwordigoAnd now for something completely different.  I wrote a review for mobile gaming site Gamezebo, and my first piece out of the gate is a review of Touch Foo's action RPG platformer Swordigo for the Apple iPhone and iPad.  Check out my thoughts in which I explain why this charming little title channels great side-scrolling titles from days gone by such as Zelda II: The Adventure of Link and Castlevania: Symphony of the Night.  As I continue to play the game I find myself more impressed by the way it makes use of familiar tropes, and each time that I end up stuck at a dead end I find that the solution to the puzzle at hand is simpler than I'd expect.  I'm overthinking this stuff.  I suppose that's the kind of problem that I want to have instead of the opposite.