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About GameSetWatch

GameSetWatch.com is the alt.video game weblog and sister site of Gamasutra.com. It is dedicated to collecting curious links and media for offbeat and oft-ignored games from consoles old and new, as well as from the digital download, iOS, and indie spaces.

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Archive For March, 2006

COLUMN: 'Bastards of 32-Bit' - Pokémon Snap

March 24, 2006 7:44 AM | Danny Cowan

pokesnap01.jpg['Bastards of 32-Bit' is a weekly column by Danny Cowan that focuses on overlooked, underrated, and inexplicable titles from the era of the PlayStation, Saturn, and Nintendo 64.]

Because "Bastards of 32-Bit (And Also 64-Bit Sometimes)" wasn't as catchy.

Photography has largely existed in videogames as a supplemental element of gameplay. Titles in the Metal Gear Solid and Grand Theft Auto series, for example, give the player the ability to frame and shoot photographs, but the act seldom results in meaningful consequence. Rarer still are games that feature photography as a dominant gameplay mechanic. There's Gekisha Boy, and...well, that's pretty much it.

Amidst its RPG predecessors and a number of spinoffs into safe, marketable genres, Pokémon Snap stands out as an oddity. Rather than milk the Pokémon franchise with yet another puzzle or card battle game as the company is wont to do, Nintendo instead decided to try something new for the series's Nintendo 64 debut: a game based around photography. The reaction from fans was mixed, to say the least, and the game was generally ignored in favor of more conventional Pokémon releases.

pokesnap02.jpgOh! Wonderful!

The object of Pokémon Snap is to take the best possible pictures of various fictional creatures, as found in their natural habitats. There are optional items one can use to lure the Pokémon closer and to make them strike poses, but otherwise, gameplay centers around simple point-and-shoot photography. Points are awarded for picture clarity and subject matter, with dynamic action shots being the most desirable.

Players cruise along a predetermined path through an environment, and scripted events involving the Pokémon will occur at certain points during the trip. It's up to the player whether he or she wants to photograph these scenes at face value, or interfere with the goings-on in the interest of a better photo opportunity. For the most part, players will get the best results by screwing with nature as much as possible. A picture of Pikachu smiling at the camera will only get you so many points, but a shot taken after you bonk him on the head with an apple and knock him out cold will result in Professor Oak giving you bonus points and calling your cruelty "Very funny!"

magmar in the housePokémon without the Pokémon.

The game's leisurely pace offers a serene experience, free from the pressures and anxiety found in more action-oriented titles. The events that occur are generally out of your control, but there's just enough interactivity present to encourage replay, in the interest of getting better shots. Pokémon Snap also makes for a great two-player game, as players can take turns to try and capture the best picture of the elusive Psyduck, or alternately try and rack up the highest Charmander bodycount in the volcano level by Pester Balling the poor creatures into submission.

Pokémon Snap's unconventional gameplay may have been a turnoff to fans, but more tragic was the fact that this unique, original title went overlooked by many simply because of its possession of the Pokémon license. It doesn't take any sort of familiarity with the Pokémon franchise to find the simple fun in photography, and if you approach this one with an open mind, you might end up enjoying a Pokémon game more than you ever thought you would.

[Danny Cowan is a freelance writer hailing from Austin, Texas. He has contributed feature articles to Lost Levels Online and 1up.com , and his writing appears monthly in Hardcore Gamer Magazine.]

GDC 2006 Lectures: Cerny, Outsourcing, One-Button

March 23, 2006 8:20 PM | Simon Carless

gg_08.gif OK, so here's some alleged highlights so far of the actual lectures from GDC, as covered by us at Gamasutra - and let's be clear, here, this isn't the much loved 'GDC Tidbits' column, it's a whole new, amazing thing, since there's a hell of a lot of good lectures to cover this week:

- The What's Next? panel had some great moments, like Mark Cerny's intriguing perspective on sequels: "Cerny explained with a touch of hyperbole that, the way things are now, whenever you introduce a big new game you can pretty much expect to end up in the hole in the short term. It's not until the "third sequel" that you begin to see a return of investment. "You're in it for the long haul," Cerny said."

- There was an interesting lecture about Microsoft outsourcing game content creation for Forza Motorsport, which was pretty honest about how the increasingly common practice was done: "Eighteen complete track environments and 230 cars, complete with LOD, damage textures, and extensive customization needed to be completed over a year-long production schedule." That's a lot, guys.

- The Gamevil guys, who make some kickass Korean one-button mobile games, did a rather fun lecture on casual mobile titles, including (pictured above) Nom, "in which you play as a runner, jumping over obstacles, catching girls to kiss, and, apparently, making dogs follow you around. The gameplay is varied enough as it is, but the game also requires you to rotate the screen as you play on occasion." Definitely our kind of game!

Game Ads A-Go-Go: Guys Freakin' Out

March 23, 2006 2:50 PM |

vcg_logo_gsw.jpg['Game Ads A-Go-Go' is a weekly column by Vintage Computing and Gaming's RedWolf that showcases good, bad, strange, funny, and interesting classic video game-related advertisements, most of which are taken from his massive vintage game magazine collection.]

Welcome back! This week I present to you the official GameSetWatch guide to guys freakin' out. The commentary this time should be thinner than usual, as I'm currently studying hard for my Official Snarky Commentator Certification (OSCC) exam (officiated by Seanbaby of EGM). That, and I just got a new cat that insists on eating my magazines. But have no fear; the guys freakin' out should mostly speak (or scream) for themselves. And at least you have the pretty pictures to look at.

Konami Hates You

gsw_handygear_small.jpg

This particular guy is obviously just now returning to Earth after a long stint of freakin' out in deep space, but he ran into trouble on the way down. I would be freakin' out too if I were shot down viciously by Konami and in the process of burning up on re-entry to the Konami Homeworld (natch). As if I really wanted to invade their dumb giant video-planet anyway. Flames and smoke aside, the human-sized Konami game boxes alone are enough to drive a man insane with a stray glance (especially the "A...JAX!" logo).

The primary message of this ad is clear: "Don't #%@& with Konami, or we'll kill you."

AHHHHHHHHHHHHHhh!

freakout_2_large.jpg

This deal is just absolutely insane. There's nothing more to say -- I'm speechless.

Our Free Cleaning Kit WILL MAKE YOU FREAK OUT

freakout_3_large.jpg

This ad is actually a two-page ad, but the other page is nearly useless, aside from the fact that it conveniently explains the terrible illustrated visual pun on the left side of the page. The heading reads "Summer Screamers." I agree wholeheartedly; SNES Street Fighter II Turbo for $79.99 is definitely cause for some serious freakin' out. Ha! And they say PlayStation 3 games will be expensive. Try time-travelling back to 1995 and buying SFII Turbo, you pansies! Adjusted for today's inflation rates, that price comes out to actually being somewhere around $1307.50.

Bonus Guys Freakin' Out

freakout_bonus_large.jpg

It's so easy to make fun of people and status-quo-breaking behavior when you have the benefit of time, distance, and the absolute destruction of context -- so it's not really fair. Therefore, I will just let you look at these pictures and think about exactly what humanity means to you.

[RedWolf is the founder and Editor-in-Chief of Vintage Computing and Gaming, a regularly updated "blogazine" that covers collecting, playing, and hacking vintage computing and gaming devices. He has been collecting vintage computers and game systems for over 12 years. Check out the new VC&G Forum!]

GDC Tidbits: Volume 2 Of A Short Series

March 23, 2006 7:24 AM | Simon Carless

gdc06.jpg We're still at Game Developers Conference 2006 in San Jose, Calif, and still updating the Gamasutra show coverage like crazy people, so here's your latest tidbits:

- Apparently, legendary Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak turned up yesterday to check out the show, and was extremely gracious, signing autographs for all the CAs (conference associates) and generally hanging out. Since he actually has a road named after him (Woz Way) within spitting distance of the conference center, he's kinda royalty in San Jose.

- Both the Independent Games Festival awards and the Game Developers Choice awards went off without a hitch last night - some of the highlights included the Darwinia guys pelting the audience with little foam Darwinia men after winning the Seumas McNally Grand Prize, and then one of them getting the very same back in the face, and the Shadow Of the Colossus guys (who cleaned up!) specifically thanking the Mega64 crew after Mega64's new Ico spoof played as a humorous interlude during the awards. Yay!

- The post-show Sony party, held in the same Parkside Hall that California Extreme takes place in, was a) loud, b) busy, and c) fun. There were geodesic domes, and weird dancers, and loud electronica of some description. Also, we spotted Will Wright and managed not to fanboy swarm him. And the parting party gift, shortly to be commanding inflated amounts on eBay, was a Swisstech keyring multi-tool branded with the PlayStation triangle, circle, cross, square logos. Although I guess it's not got PS3 on it, so the resell value probably sucks.

More soon!

COLUMN: ‘Cherish The Chips’ - DS Gets Up To Get Down

March 22, 2006 8:41 PM |

fds.jpg ['Cherish The Chips' is a bi-weekly column by Jeremiah 'Nullsleep' Johnson, discussing the latest and greatest goings-on in the world of the 'chiptune', and covering the best classic or modern music created using those pesky video game machines.]

DS On The Fast Track

The big news this week is the completely out-of-nowhere release of NitroTracker for the Nintendo DS. The top-secret, spare-time project of RWTH Aachen University student, Tobias Weyand, is based on FastTracker II and it shows. The familiar tracker layout gives the program a friendly face and a good feature set is already present in this first release. NitroTracker looks to be an excellent addition to the current batch of tools used for writing music on Nintendo hardware.

lsdj.jpgDamn Sensible Design Solutions

Of course you get the basics: partial support for the XM file format that many PC trackers use, the ability to load your own WAV samples, and a whopping 16 channels (about 12 more than I'd have any idea what to do with). But one of the things that NitroTracker does best is capitalize on the unique strengths of the DS. Commenting on the practicality of tracking music on a handheld, Tobias has this to say on the official website, "because of the touchscreen and stylus of the DS, it's quite easy. You can compose your melodies using an on-screen keyboard, directly edit your patterns by making selections, copying and pasting - all with the stylus." Indeed, this sounds totally hot to us! Tobias then goes on to say, "that's not where it ends: If you don't have any samples at hand, make your own with the DS's microphone." Add an option for drawing waveforms with the stylus and we'll be in heaven.

nru_logo.jpg Turntables and Touchscreens

While that isn't yet on the list of planned features, there are some other interesting items to note. Some of the most important being expansion of XM support to include effects and support for other formats such as MOD, IT and S3M. Other improvements, like the mention of supporting 32 or more channels and sample postprocessing, indicate that this is certainly intended as more than just a tracker for chiptunes. So while it may not appeal to people who write chiptunes out of a love for limitations, it is definitely attractive as a more general electronic music production studio on the go. Has the time come for Nintendo to take note and start embracing this culture? The world better be prepared for a whole new generation of DS DJs.

[Jeremiah Johnson is co-founder of chipmusic and computer-art collective, 8bitpeoples.com based out of New York City. Working with Game Boys and NES consoles to create music, he has been featured in various publications ranging from Wired to Vogue.]

GDC Tidbits - Volume 1 Of A Short Series

March 22, 2006 12:40 PM | Simon Carless

gdc06.jpg Well, it's still Game Developers Conference 2006 in San Jose, Calif this week, and we're still rushed off our feet, but in lieu of lots of GSW articles, we'll present a couple of interesting facts from the show:

- We ran into the founder of Inis (Gitarooman and Ouendan creators!) last night, and he mentioned they would be showing a new game at E3. So... new Inis game at E3! Yay! Maybe it's the X360 (?) thing they have weird screenshots for on their website.

- Sony is showing some PlayStation 3 material on the show floor, which opens today. All we spotted thus far as we ran past yesterday while it was still being constructed was there were some ducks in a bathtub (a previously shown tech demo!) But more ducks and a bigger bathtub than the PlayStation 2 duck bathtub demo! It's that kinda console, folks!

- You may find all kinds of interesting articles on the Gamasutra GDC 2006 coverage page - so far, we liked both Serious Games Keynotes, and that Emotion Boot Camp was pretty wacky, fun stuff. Today, we have been reliably informed, there are some big keynotes from people like Sonee. More soon!

Las Vegas, Pinball, Best Friends Again

March 22, 2006 6:02 AM | Simon Carless

cover4.jpg The ever-excellent RetroBlast! has managed to spot that the Las Vegas City Life has an entire cover story about Tim Arnold's new Pinball Hall of Fame.

As RetroBlast! puts it: "Not only does the article discuss the hall of fame, it looks into what makes pinball worth preserving, and why Tim Arnold has devoted a major chunk of his life to this endeavor. As Tim himself put it, "This is a labor of love. Or insanity."

And heck, any article that starts: "On a recent Thursday afternoon, Tim Arnold deftly works the flippers of a Centigrade 37 machine as he explains the pinball concept of mindf*ck. Guiding the ball by shaking and rattling the game like it owes him money, he talks about how a fairly simple electromechanical device like this can carry you to the brink of glory -- only to dump you in the pit of defeat" is good with us!

COLUMN: ‘Parallax Memories’ - Metal Slug: Super Vehicle SV-001

March 21, 2006 9:45 PM |

MS1.jpg['Parallax Memories' is a regular weekly column by Matthew Williamson, profiling classic '16-bit' games from the Sega Genesis, Super Nintendo, and other seminal '90s systems. This week's column profiles SNK and Nazca Corporation’s run-and-gun action platformer: Metal Slug]

Marco Rossi, Reporting for Duty

In a pizza parlor somewhere outside Appleton, WI there is a Neo-Geo machine with a monitor in heavy need of repair. One of the available four games was Metal Slug. Although just there to pick up a pizza pie for carry-out, I decided to play one credit. 20 minutes later I returned to the car with a cold pizza and a smile.

Aside from the Contra series, I mainly return to one other place for my gun toting action: Metal Slug. This slap-stick action game was developed by Nazca; which is comprised of ex-Irem employees (look to Gunforce and In The Hunt for influences on the series). What they created is a perfect blend of action and humor inside one of the most detailed and rich games for the arcade scene, and because of that the team was absorbed by SNK.

MS2.jpgRegular Army Recruit

You start by picking either Marco or Tarma of the Regular Army Peregrine Falcon special-forces unit. The Regular Armie's tanks have been seized by the Rebels and the Peregrine Falcon special-forces unit uses their back up plan: the Super Vehicle-001 “Metal Slug.” Thrown into midst of a fight against the Rebels army, you must shoot, slice, and bomb your way through them.

Initially all you have is a trusty pistol or knife, but throughout your mission you can pick up a selection of different weapons from enemies and recaptured prisoners of war. As a member of the special-forces you’re also trained in the operation of the Metal Slug, which the Regular Army has placed in strategic locations. With a huge cannon on the front and a Vulcan cannon you can take out most anything in this tank. If not you can always launch the tank at the enemy as a last ditch effort.

MS3.JPGDown With The General

Your main goal is to defeat and capture General Morden, the leader of the Rebel Army. On your path to victory there are six levels, all of varying location. Each boss is unique and challenging to fight. Levels contain many humorous and deadly surprises such as; old bearded POWs, man-eating fish, and rocket-launching scuba divers. All the levels are masterfully detailed with good upbeat music to keep pace.

After getting a Neo Geo this was one of the first games I tracked down. Everything in this game is balanced and well executed leading to many repeat plays through. While I could only get to General Morden—never beat him—with one credit, I’ve seen it done. My last attempt, after not playing the game in over a year, was in that pizza parlor: I was glad to know I still had a little bit of skill.

[Matthew Williamson is the creator of The Gamer's Quarter, an independent videogame magazine focusing on first person writing. His work has been featured on MTV.com, 1up.com, Chatterbox Radio, and the Fatpixels Radio Podcast.]

Two Bears Visit A Shmup Competition...

March 21, 2006 3:19 PM | Simon Carless

csa.jpg The excellent The2Bears.com weblog has been doing a multitude of mini-reviews from the new Shmup-dev.com PC game competition in which, quite simply: "...[the] game must be a horizontal shooter... it must have at least one level and a boss at the end of it." Easy enough, huh?

One of the highlights of the competition thus far is the mini-reviewed Prototype, of which it's commented: "I’m a big fan of R-Type and Pulstar so it’s no wonder I like Prototype. You’ve got various shot-types, missiles, a beam that you charge and a “force” type object. In an interesting twist you can control which direction the force faces, rotating it around your ship."

Also well received was Cyberspace Assault, which "has an abstract graphics style reminiscent of Kenta Cho’s games and other Japanese shmups. Some nice thought has gone into the gameplay: you have two types of shots, a straight beam and one that bends somewhat under your control." Great to see the renaissance of the shooter continuing.

You Cannot Resist Chiptune Domination!?

March 21, 2006 9:02 AM | Simon Carless

fds.jpg You guys may recall chipmusician Jeremiah 'Nullsleep' Johnson from his regular 'Cherish The Chips' column for GSW, but he's also planning The International Chiptune Resistance World Tour 2006, an awesome multi-country tour with fellow chiptune god Bit Shifter.

As is explained: "Equipped solely with Nintendo Game Boys and NES consoles, this two-man cell operates as a highly dangerous mobile chiptune assault unit. Deployment date: May 2006; mission objective: total chiptune conquest; and a mission trajectory encircling the entire world, with more than 20 strike points throughout Europe, Asia, and North America." Possible dates include New York, London, Amsterdam, Tokyo, and beyond.

However, the team need a little cash to make the resistance occur, as they explain: "This around-the-world endeavor is entirely self-financed, and at the same time, among the most expensive undertakings we have attempted. For anyone in a position to help the cause, we are gratefully accepting donations. We have set our final goal at $3000. By donating, you will be helping us strike a victory not only for 8-bit music, but for independent music in general. The time is now." $357 contributed so far!

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