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July 2013

Sega Bringing 3D Classics To North America, Europe

3D Sonic The HedgehogSega has steadily released a series of its classic arcade and Genesis titles for the Nintendo 3DS reworked to take advantage of the handheld's 3D capabilities, but the collection has been confined to Japan.  However, the company has announced that it's ready to bring its 3D Classics Series (not to be confused with Nintendo's own line of 3D Classics) to North America and Europe.  Release dates and pricing are to be announced.  Here's the list of games coming to the eShop:

  • 3D Altered Beast
  • 3D Ecco the Dolphin
  • 3D Galaxy Force II
  • 3D Shinobi III
  • 3D Sonic The Hedgehog
  • 3D Space Harrier
  • 3D Streets of Rage
  • 3D Super Hang-On

It's a solid list of Sega hits, although some games have aged better than others.  Streets of Rage, Sonic the Hedgehog, and Ecco the Dolphin are probably the best, although I have a soft spot for Shinobi III.  It'll be great to see these games back in 3D (even if it means I have to buy Sonic the Hedgehog again, and I probably eventually will).  Sega is leaning on its arcade roots for these games, but I'd love to see more Genesis titles converted into 3D.  Imagine a 3D ToeJam & Earl, for instance, or a 3D Kid Chameleon.  There's lots of potential in the Genesis catalog.  I hope it doesn't go to waste.

Many Mega Man Game Boy Games Coming To 3DS

Mega Man VCapcom released quite the library of Mega Man and Mega Man X games for the Nintendo Game Boy and Game Boy Color during the 1990s, and while the first game in the handheld series made it to the Nintendo 3DS's Virtual Console service some time ago, blue bomber fans have wondered for too long whether or not the rest of the series would enjoy the same treatment.  Sure, Mega Man: Dr. Wily's Revenge is nice and all, but later games really nailed the Mega Man formula and can stand alongside the Nintendo Entertainment System titles as quality games.  What would it take to bring classics like the rare Mega Man V to the 3DS eShop?  Whatever was holding things up seems to be gone now as Capcom has announced these overlooked gems are on the way.

Quite a while ago, the first Game Boy Mega Man title (Dr Wily's Revenge) landed on the 3DS VC. That naturally led most of us to wonder, "are the rest of the GB games coming to 3DS?" Welp, after a year of wondering that myself, I'm happy to say Mega Man II, III, IV and V are ALL coming soon.

Mega Man Xtreme 1 and 2 are ALSO coming to 3DS! Like the aforementioned GB titles, these two remix aspects of the SNES games (plus some X4 stuff in Xtreme 2) to create something new. Xtreme 2 is particularly interesting, with its playable Zero and DNA souls / parts system.

This is the first time that these games have been back since the classic series entries almost returned for the Game Boy Advance as the compilation title Mega Man Mania.  There are no dates or prices for these games yet, but you should look into these once they're available.  Mega Man V is the real treasure of the series thanks to its completely new stages and Robot Masters (pardon, Stardroids), but Mega Man IV and Mega Man III are worth your time as well.  The two Mega Man Xtreme games are rough around the edges and suffer from spotty localization, but have their own unique charm.  Save up your spare change and clear some space on your 3DS.  There's good stuff coming!

EarthBound Arrives On Wii U Virtual Console

EarthBoundAfter years of being passed over for re-release outside of Japan, Nintendo has made good on its recent commitment to bring the cult classic Super NES RPG EarthBound back for audiences to enjoy.  Quietly released today for the Wii U Virtual Console, EarthBound follows the adventures of Ness and his friends Paula, Jeff, and Poo as they travel the world to defeat evil and banish the alien invader Giygas before a predicted dark future engulfs civilization.  The whole adventure is packed with quirky humor, a friendly offbeat style, a modern setting taking cues from twentieth century America, and more personality that you'll find in some of today's modern games.  It's one of my favorite games of all time, the best RPG I've ever had the pleasure of experiencing, and I highly recommend it.  Moreover, I insist that you play it now that it's easily available.  Nintendo is charging $9.99 for this one which is a slight increased compared to the usual Super NES Virtual Console release, and while it's easy to believe that the company is charging extra just because they can, this is one of the few games that is worth the small premium.  Buy.  Play.  Enjoy.

Sony's Indie Embrace Rooted In Net Yaroze

Net YarozeSony has earned praise from the gaming community for its steady backing of indie developers working on projects for the PlayStation 3, PS Vita, and upcoming PlayStation 4, but the company's interest in independent designers goes back further than the current generation.  USGamer has taken a look back at the indie development platform for the original PlayStation which offered a launching platform for aspiring designers.

Over 15 years ago the seeds were sown by a strange and brilliant enterprise on the original PlayStation with Net Yaroze. The offbeat, rough-around-the-edges and weirdly compelling games that resulted represented the first time Sony fostered a community of emerging talent and helped launch a generation of game development careers. 

Sony launched the Net Yaroze project in 1997. It made available to hobbyist coders a basic version of the PlayStation dev kit housed in an attractive black casing for the princely sum of £550 (about $836 at today's exchange rate), though this was later cut in half. Around a thousand units were sold in Europe, which effectively created a ready-made community of budding developers working independently on the PlayStation platform. 

Sony has a love/hate relationship with letting people tinker with its hardware.  Products like Net Yaroze show a dedication to the craft and customers are welcome to poke around within the established walled garden, but as soon as there's a security risk to the full power of the platform... well, I'm sure you remember how the PS3 once included a built-in method to run low-power Linux development tools.  Once hackers found a way to use the OtherOS capability to break into the core PS3 functions, the feature was removed via a firmware update.  Sony knows there's value in supporting the indie community, but offering that support as a built-in part of every console sold isn't necessarily the best idea.  Net Yaroze was on to something since users had to buy a special PS1 in order to develop software.  Perhaps the best way to encourage indie development is to keep development tools away from stock consoles.  It stifles widespread development, but I bet that there's more of an interest out there in piracy and cheating than there is in legitimate indie development amongst console owners.  Then again, I'm a cold-hearted cynic when it comes to trusting people to behave properly. 

Martian Manhunter And John Stewart Coming To Injustice

Martian ManhunterNew downloadable content for Injustice: Gods Among Us for the Sony PlayStation 3, Microsoft Xbox 360, and Nintendo Wii U is on the way.  Four characters have been added to the game post-release along with what feels like a dozen costume packs, but now a fifth character is due: J'onn J'onzz, the Martian Manhunter.  I primarily know this DC Comics hero from his appearance in the 2000s Justice League animated series, so I'm glad to hear that his original voice actor, Carl Lumbly, is reprising the role for Injustice.  Just to round out the reunion, a new skin for the existing Green Lantern character will be made available for free as part of the game's next update: John Stewart, the Green Lantern of the same animated Justice League production and once again voiced by Phil LaMarr.  Watch this trailer of the two characters lashing out at one another.  I can resist the overpriced costumes, but add-on characters are my own DLC Kryptonite in that I am powerless against them.  I may not be a seasoned pro with any one character, but I enjoy trying them all.  I'm going to have to pick up the Martian Manhunter when he's released.  That's just how it works. In hindsight, I'm starting to wish that I'd held out for the eventual "Game of the Year" edition of Injustice that packs all of the DLC in on the disc without all of the additional charges, but I made my choice to buy early and I will make the best of it.

The Highs And Lows Of Being Mega Man

Prodigal RobotCapcom's popular Mega Man has endured for decades, but if you really think about it, you'll find that his career has been in a downhill slide for much of his existence.  After peaking in terms of community and market consciousness with Mega Man 2 and Mega Man 3, the character never again hit the mainstream highs he enjoyed while battling foes like Quick Man and Needle Man.  Like all good heroes, the blue bomber will rise again.  To celebrate its five hundredth comic, Brawl in the Family has put together a special animated clip showing the highs and lows of Mega Man's life as a variety of game characters come together over the years to celebrate each new game in the franchise.  The guest list becomes rather lean as time goes on, but there's always a chance at redemption and resurrection.  Congratulations to BitF on achieving its latest milestone and kudos to Mega Man for remaining a beloved icon in the world of video games.  Both have earned it.

Capcom Readies Ultra Street Fighter IV

Ultra Street Fighter IVCapcom is giving its flagship Street Fighter IV title another update, bringing new characters and stages as well as some rebalanced mechanics to the game.  Due out in early 2014, Ultra Street Fighter IV adds five new fighters to the mix.  They're familiar names, as four of the five previously appeared in Street Fighter X Tekken: Elena, Rolento, Poison, and Hugo.  The fifth character is a secret for now, but has been promised to be someone who has never appeared in a Street Fighter game (some people suspect it's Haggar from Final Fight and Ultimate Marvel vs Capcom 3, but I'm hoping for something more ambitious).  The new stages also originate from SFxT.  While this appears to be a quick cash grab to import existing assets into Street Fighter IV, Capcom assures that new moves and animations will be part of the package.  It's headed to the Sony PlayStation 3, Microsoft Xbox 360, and PC as either a $14.99 downloadable upgrade to Super Street Fighter IV or Super Street Fighter IV: Arcade Edition or as a $39.99 standalone release.  The new disc also includes all previously released downloadable costumes and five new costumes for the new characters as a preorder bonus.  Here's the trailer.

Capcom has taken a lot of heat for their DLC upgrade practices this generation, but I'm alright with this Ultra update.  It's been two years since Street Fighter IV was updated with a similar $14.99 addition.  I feel I've played my money's worth of the last version released.  This isn't like the DLC debacles of Marvel vs Capcom 3 where an Ultimate revision was released within a year of the original game's debut or the Street Fighter X Tekken add-on that locked characters already on the disc behind a paywall.  I do wish Ultra were headed to next generation consoles, as I'd gladly rebuy the entire game at full price to bring the power of the PlayStation 4's built-in streaming abilities and other hardware enhancements to the title.  I suppose that sort of thing is being saved for the eventual Street Fighter V.  Still, I'll probably spring for the PS3 update.  I keep buying these updates and new versions for Capcom's fighting titles, so why stop now?  If I'm feeling especially into the zone, I may even buy the disc so I can finally get all of the costumes after all these years.  I won't be nickel-and-dimed for costumes, but I can probably talk myself into buying a complete game package with the extras included if I'm in the right mood and have a little extra money to burn.  No promises, Capcom!

2013 Club Nintendo Platinum And Gold Prizes Announced

Majora's Mask soundtrackAs happens every year around this time, the North American arm of the Club Nintendo loyalty program has announced its Platinum and Gold level prizes for elite members.  It's the Year of Luigi this year in the world of Nintendo to commemorate the thirtieth anniversary of the introduction of everyone's favorite younger brother, so the company is giving out items based around The Legend of Zelda to celebrate.

  • Platinum Level (choose one):
    • The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask Soundtrack
    • Set of three posters featuring The Legend of Zelda, Luigi, and Pikmin 3
  • Gold Level (choose one):
    • 2014 Nintendo Calendar
    • Super Smash Bros for Wii
    • Wario Ware DIY Showcase for Wii
    • The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening DX for 3DS
    • Super Mario Land for 3DS
    • Sakura Samurai for 3DS

I really hate to complain about freebies (Nintendo doesn't have to offer this at all), but a Zelda soundtrack is pretty weak tea.  The best Club Nintendo item continues to be the Mario statue that was given away back in 2010.  The other years have always felt as if Nintendo is raiding the back of the company closet to see what's left in a forgotten box.  However, it's strange that it's a Majora's Mask soundtrack that's up for offer this year when that game is very old news these days, so perhaps this points to an inevitable 3DS version of the underplayed Nintendo 64 title?  Even though I'm underwhelmed, I do want to thank Nintendo for continuing the Club Nintendo program.  I just wish the big rewards were a little bit bigger.

DuckTales Remastered Release Date Announced, Behind The Scenes "Duckumentary" Released

Scrooge McDuckIt's almost time to revisit one of Scrooge McDuck's greatest adventures!  Capcom and WayForward have announced that the updated DuckTales Remastered will arrive on the Sony PlayStation 3, Nintendo Wii U, and PC on August 13 with the Microsoft Xbox 360 launch coming on September 11.  $14.99 is the going rate for this downloadable release, but there will be a special boxed retail release available in the United States on August 20 for the PS3 priced at $19.99 which includes a download code and a collector's pin.  All in all, not a bad deal either way.  To help get the marketing machine into gear, a behind the scenes documentary has been released chronicling the effort that has gone into reworking one of the best titles from the Nintendo Entertainment System era.  Watch WayForward's Austin Ivansmith explain how the game comes from the authentic DuckTales pedigree with graphic design work created by former staff from the original cartoon.  Best of all, you can hear some of the remixed soundtrack playing under the dialog.  For as much as I want to play the game, I want to hear the music most of all.  From what I've been able to hear of it, the soundtrack hits that nostalgic sweet spot that few games in this style manage to achieve.

Captain Olimar And The Pikmin Join New Smash Bros.

OlimarJust in time to use the announcement as a cross-promotion for the company's own Pikmin 3 for the Wii U, Nintendo has announced that franchise star Captain Olimar and his precious Pikmin are joining the next Super Smash Bros. title for the Wii U and 3DS.  Returning from Super Smash Bros. Brawl, Olimar and his tiny team are poised to bring attacks old and new to the fight.  The official Smash website has the first screenshots of the characters in action.  With Pikmin 3 waiting in the wings after such a long development period, there was little doubt that Olimar would return.  The franchise has a devoted fan community and Nintendo has bet large on the next sequel, so Olimar's inclusion is vital to pushing his new adventure.  By the time the next Smash releases, Pikmin 3 will be old news, but could inspire new players unfamiliar with the series to look back and pick it up.  Say what you will about Nintendo, but they have this whole evergreen sales strategy down to a science (once they persuade people to buy their hardware, anyway).