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March 2014

Pixels Versus Reality

PicardIn the old days of video game development it was common for licensed titles to attempt to visually recreate iconic scenes from the source material.  We've seen monochromatic Mad Max, 8-bit Batman, and a 256 color Terminator drawn out a piece at a time over the years, and over at John "Brother Brain" McGregor's Tumblr site you can see a few comparisons of those timeless images set against their inspirations.  Consider this image of Patrick Stewart as Captain Jean-Luc Picard, for instance, as it shifts between a publicity photo from Star Trek: The Next Generation and the same basic photo adapted for Absolute's 1993 Nintendo Entertainment System adventure based on the television series.  It's really quite hypnotic.

(via Reddit)

Nintendo Using Famous Characters To Promote Wii U

Wii UIt seems like such a natural, common sense move for Nintendo to use its famous stable of characters to promote the struggling Wii U, but the company has only now started to use Mario, Luigi, Yoshi and others to show off what the console can do.  New original artwork showing the characters using the Wii U's unique features has been uncovered by Kotaku and NeoGAF via Nintendo's Japanese website and for those of us who like new Nintendo art done in the old 2D style, these images are a total treasure.  Check these out!

Yoshi sings

I had no idea Yoshi was so musical, although I'd imagine that only being able to say "Yoshi" would limit his karaoke skills.  Mario is using the GamePad to choose the next song on the playlist while his dinosaur pal mangles some greatest overplayed hit, no doubt.

Continue reading "Nintendo Using Famous Characters To Promote Wii U" »

The Dawn Of Video Game Magazines Explored

Electronic GamesThe 1990s were a heyday of video game magazines with familiar publications like Electronic Gaming Monthly, Nintendo Power, Sega Visions, and GamePro taking up spaces in mailboxes and newsstands everywhere.  Today the real action has moved into the online space, but there once was a time when the printed page commanded power and profits.  Everything starts somewhere and Platypus Comix has a fun look back at the first issue of what purports to be the very first magazine devoted entirely to video games.  Let's step back in time to 1981 and read Electronic Games, Issue #1.

It's primitive, it's black-and-white, it's priceless. There are also long-retired words inside you'll find baffling without my help. One terminology you're going to have to learn: "programmable" as a noun, as in "ET is now out for Atari's programmable!" This mag was printed at a time in which you had to distinguish a machine that could run different games from a machine that could play just one game. It was the Jurassic.

This issue comes from an era prior to my immersion in the medium, so I can't say that I have any particular nostalgic draw to it or the games it discusses.  I'm sure these games were amazing in their time, but I just don't see the attraction.  I wonder if that's how today's teenagers feel when they see a Nintendo Entertainment System title or a Sega Master System game held up on high by those of us who spent dozens of hours trying to save the princess or collect emeralds. 

On another note, my special thanks to Peter Paltridge at Platypus Comix for his special shout out to me and my recent health issues that opens this article.  I would've linked to this piece even without his kind praise, but it certainly doesn't hurt and I really do appreciate it.

Street Fighter Meets The Thai Sex Trade

Street FighterThere's been a lot written over the years about 1994's Street Fighter film and its tie-in video game, Street Fighter: The Movie: The Game, but Chris Plante's recently published retrospective at Polygon takes examining just what went wrong with the movie to new levels.  While the story of how Capcom and Hollywood produced such a strange, toyetic take on the Street Fighter property is well known, this article is the first I've read that chronicles the optimism and gleeful naivete of director Stephen de Souza, the affair between stars Jean-Claude "Guile" Van Damme and Kylie "Cammy" Minogue, and the cocaine-fueled sex benders that some of the cast indulged in while filming in Thailand.  Here's an excerpt:

Furthermore, the men in the cast — young, physically fit and flush with American cash in Thailand — had taken an interest in the local massage parlors. Hunger, rapid weight loss, heat exhaustion: none were a match for the enflamed libidos of twentysomething action stars.

"I come from poverty," says Chapa, "and here I was making more money than I ever made in my whole life, plus the place was so cheap you could get a massage for $10. We became massage addicts, getting a massage every hour. We were working hard and our bodies were pushed to the extreme."

"Let's just put it this way," says Mann, "there were a lot of hormonal guys on this film running amok in Thailand and Australia, so you do the math. We were like cavemen. We were like Vikings. We went there and conquered."

As, er, "satisfied" as the actors were on set, one would think the movie would be better!  On the other hand, while the film is lacking, at least the performances are top notch.  Raul Julia gleefully chews the scenery, Van Damme lumbers through the part with enthusiasm (powered by the cocaine, probably), and Ming Na brings a subdued energy to her role as Chun-Li.  What really surprised me about this article is that the producers believed the production (which had gone overbudget and was behind schedule) could be saved in editing, but then did not allow for enough time to edit the film properly in order to add the visual effects needed to faithfully reproduce the iconic Street Fighter II special attacks in full detail.  Hollywood really does follow its own twisted logic.  

Donkey Kong Racing Concept Art Revealed

Donkey Kong RacingFollowing on from our recent look back at Diddy Kong Racing for the Nintendo 64, the Super Mario Broth group has acquired some concept art for the canceled GameCube sequel, Donkey Kong Racing.  Featuring the Kong clan as of Donkey Kong 64 and Donkey Kong Country 3, the simple sketches and render showcase Donkey Kong, Diddy, Lanky, Tiny, Kiddy, Cranky, and Taj the magical elephant genie.  Concept art never quite matches up with a game's eventual art style, and these sketches are more stylized than I'd have expected from a finished release, but it's still interesting to see and wonder what might have been under different business circumstances.

(via Poison Mushroom)

Let's Groove With Bionic Commando

Bionic Commando ReMixed: OK, We'll GrooveOverClocked Remix released a truly rocking Bionic Commando album last year entitled OK, We'll Groove, but the community is still celebrating the release all these months later.  If you're joining the party late, enjoy this "Enemy Underworld" track by Nutritious off the album which combines the Nintendo Entertainment System title's main theme with the Area 5 "Heat Wave" theme with the ambiance and style of a God of War music track.  Swing on over to OCR to check out the free download and the album itself which is also freely available.  You won't regret it (and I'm not just saying that as one of the last Bionic Commando fans in existence).

Here's The Overlooked Back To The Future Game

BttfrideThe classic Back to the Future film trilogy has spawned several video game adaptations over the years.  Some are fantastic and keep to the spirit of the films (such as Telltale's Back To The Future: The Game episodic adventure) while most are just compellingly terrible (such as LJN's Back To The Future II And III for the Nintendo Entertainment System).  There's one game in the series that often goes overlooked: Universal Studios Theme Park Adventure.  This Nintendo GameCube title from 2002 puts players into the world of the Universal Studios theme park and challenges them to complete a series of small games based on the many rides in the park.  Jurassic Park, Dragonheart, Backdraft, Waterworld, and other films are represented in what Hardcore Gaming 101 notes is an absolutely terrible game:

The friendliest face you come across at the entrance is Woody Woodpecker who, in a terribly creepy and off-putting voice, informs you of one of the most exciting things a kid can hear - there's a stamp collection contest going on! The goal is to visit all of the rides in the park and master them, so you can get stamps to fill up your card. There are also additional quests, including finding tiny letters to complete the Universal Studios logo and shaking hands with randomly generated patrons dressed as famous Universal movie monsters. The other major subquest involves picking up garbage. The points gained from these dreadful tasks can be used to purchase hats.

Back To The Future is represented as a semi-faithful recreation of the since-demolished Back To The Future: The Ride attraction in which 1955 Biff Tannen steals Doc Brown's DeLorean and goes on a joyride through time.  It's up to players to take another DeLorean, chase Biff down, and bump his car in order to send him back to Doc's Institute of Future Technology.  If you've never experienced the ride, here it is via YouTube including the preshow reels that set up the story.  Christopher Lloyd and Thomas F. Wilson reprise their roles as Doc Brown and Biff Tannen!

How does the game treat this attraction?  The guys over at Cinemassacre decided to find out by playing through both it and the Jurassic Park segments in a Let's Play-type video.  This may be the best way to experience this terrible game without actually having to endure it personally.

So, to sum it all up: the ride was awesome and is still deeply missed (there's still one operating in Japan), but the game based on the ride was garbage and best left to history.