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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 September, 2006

We'd Like To Say Hi To Mr. Dreamcast

September 28, 2006 6:15 AM | Simon Carless

http://www.gamesetwatch.com/mr_dreamcast_cover.jpgObsessive Dreamcast blog The Dreamcast Junkyard recently took a look back at the UK magazines that focused on the console. Amongst them, Dreamcast - The Official Dreamcast Magazine, Dreamcast Monthly, DC-UK, Dreamcast Magazine and, finally, the very oddly titled Mr. Dreamcast.

“I only ever saw this monstrosity once,” notes blogger Tomleecee. “And only bought it on that solitary occasion because I was facing a long and boring bus journey. It was clearly aimed at the younger end of the market as this particular issue came complete with a Fur Fighters water pistol and prose that wouldn't seem out of place in a Puddle Lane Ladybird book.”

A quick hunt around reveals that the mag was edited by former DC-UK editor Caspar Field, who had previously been deputy editor at EDGE, and later went on to produce Argonaut’s Xbox watercraft racer Carve.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem like it lasted very long – “A case of drowning a retarded puppy to put the little fucker out of its misery, methinks,” suggests Tomleecee.

Still, best magazine name ever, for sure. Mr. Wii, anyone?

[edited by alistairw]

NCSX Import Store Goes Blogtastic

September 28, 2006 12:11 AM | Simon Carless

http://www.gamesetwatch.com/chocobo_magic_book_plush.jpgImport store National Console Support , who’ve been at it since “spring or summer of 1989”, have just started a blog detailing their day to day sales and incoming stock, and it’s a pretty interesting read.

Aside from being a good way to get a hold of – and keep up with – import titles, there’s plenty of game related merchandise to spend your hard earned cash on. Of course, there’s the regulation very, very creepy DOA 3D breast mousepads, and even-creepier life size cushions and towels, but it’s evened out with some slightly less anti-social stuff too.

Still on cushions, there’s these Mario themed ones, or, even cooler, this Mario coin block that actually makes a noise when you hit it. Joy!

Personally, though, I’ve got my heart set on the pictured Chocobo plush, which ties in to the upcoming DS title Chocobo and the Magical Picturebook - which also has the most hypnotically entertaining website ever.

Just thinking about holding that toy while looking at the site makes my bitter black heart melt. Awwww.

[edited by alistairw]

Nintendo Love... By Fax

September 27, 2006 6:10 PM | Simon Carless

http://www.gamesetwatch.com/you_complete_me.jpgGaming related romance is nothing new these days – hell, half of you are probably thinking about how best to get that feisty level 46 Night Elf on WOW to give you her number even while reading this. VH1’s Raina Lee posts about her own heart-warming story of gaming love, from 15 years ago:

“The year was 1991. His name was Chris, he was 15. His most attractive quality was that he was some kind of Nintendo Tournament champ. Chris responded to my posting on whether or not it was possible to play US CD games on a Japanese PC engine console. He not only knew the answer (yes, they were interchangeable), but in his first email uttered these sexy words: “I think gameplay is more important than graphics!” At 14, I believed I had found my soulmate.”

Their relationship continued via fax, hitting all the important topics – “why Vanilla Ice sucked, Beverly Hills 90210” - but came to an unfortunate end at the hands of her parents: “They took away my letters and forbade me to ever contact him.”

But is there a happy ending still on its way? “I found the curly fax paper years later,” she concludes. “And I wonder if Chris is still out there playing import games.” Anyone know this mystery man?

[edited by alistairw, picture via 4 color rebellion]

The State Of The Japanese Game Biz Round-Up

September 27, 2006 12:12 PM | Simon Carless

http://www.gamesetwatch.com/cuthb.jpg OK, I'm seriously out of time and brainjuice, but over at Gamasutra, we've just posted the complete set of my Japan-related game articles that I wrote over the past 10 days - traveling back to the States now.

The final report is an interview with Q Games' Dylan Cuthbert (Star Fox DS), who "...discusses a number of fascinating topics, including his company's work with both Nintendo and Sony, defeating the 'salaryman' ethic, and how foreign developers operate in Japan."

Particularly interesting: "Q Games was working with Sony in its early years "developing technology for an online MMO", including much use of generative landscapes and fractal-style constructed worlds... Cuthbert and compatriots immediately responded to a technology comparison with Will Wright's Spore, noting: "We developed a lot of that same technology." However, after Sony decided they wanted the tech to make a platform shift to PlayStation 2, Cuthbert decided to decline the offer and halt the project."

The Mythical 40-Hour Gamer

September 27, 2006 6:04 AM | Simon Carless

tomb_raider_legend.jpgThere’s an intriguing piece up on Wired News at the moment by Collision Detection blogger Clive Thompson, who asks: “Who the heck actually finishes a story-based game in 40 hours? Who are these mythical 40-hour gamers?”

Interesting question – Clive’s frustration comes from the fact that he picked up a copy of Eidos’ Tomb Raider: Legend under the impression that he was about to play a 40 hour game. Not so, he says.

“I plugged away at the game whenever I could squeeze an hour away from my day job and my family. All told, I spent far more than 40 hours -- but still only got two-thirds through. At some point, I sadly realized I just couldn't afford any more time. I've got a life to lead: Books to read, a day job, my infant son to hang out with, other games beckoning. That's why I've collected a shockingly large mausoleum of unfinished games over the years.”

Clive also asks whether the only solution is going to be a split in the way games are developed, in order to please those hard-core types who whinge about recent releases being too short, and “soft-core” gamers who just want a couple of hours of fun here and there.

I can’t help but sympathise – as much as Final Fantasy XII’s impending release excites me, I’m not sure that another 83 hour slog is what I really need to be doing with my life. Aside from arguably having better things to do, the guilt after spending that long on the previous one was pretty damned tangible.

[edited by alistairw]

Trippy, Trippy, Game, Game

September 27, 2006 12:12 AM | Simon Carless

http://www.gamesetwatch.com/galap.jpg Over at VintageComputing.com, they have a fun feature on 'Trippy Computer Games', checking out some of the odder oddities out there, from the CD-ROM era and before.

One I was rather unaware of was Midway/Time Warner's Endorfun, of which the creator explains: "The music in Endorfun contains subliminal messages designed to help you feel good about yourself and the world around you, to help you enhance your state of well-being and personal abilities. In addition, after every time you play, a positive message appears on the screen to reinforce these thoughts…" I feel better already!

Also mentioned, and something I remember, was Galapagos, which "...starts off with the intriguing supposition that the main character (Mendel, a four-legged spider-like robot) cannot be directly controlled by the player. Rather, the player can only interact with the environment, and allow Mendel to form its own conclusions about cause and effect." Needless to say, hilarity ensued!

COLUMN: 'Parallax Memories' – Popful Mail

September 26, 2006 6:10 PM |

SuperFami Box['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 Falcom's Popful Mail]

Funny story. Once I associated the company name Working Designs completely with Japanese Style RPGs. The first time I heard about Popful Mail it was introduced to me as that “new game from Working Designs,” and my brain instantly came up with an RPG about a mail delivery service. Warning: This game involves no delivering or receiving of any mail. I was so wrong it hurts. Popful Mail is the main character’s name. It is obviously just some kind of mammary joke, and this time it wasn’t Vic Ireland making it.

popful-tg16.pngReady for Delivery

While there were many version of Popful on many systems the only version of the game to get released in the US was for the Sega CD. The game was originally developed by Falcom, who is most well known for their Ys series of games. The first version of the game was released for the PC-8801, a Japanese home computer. That version's style of the game was ported over to the PCE Duo. They were released in '91 and '94 respectively. These versions of the game play most like Wanderer’s From Ys and the Xanadu series of games (which weren’t released in the US, but Faxanadu, which was loosely related to it, was).

The next version of the game was for the Sega CD and released in 1994 as well. This version was programmed by Sega instead of Falcom and the game takes a major turn in the gameplay department. This is also the version that Working Designs brought over to the US. No longer playing like “bumper-car Zelda 2” the game is much more like a traditional platformer. The story is mostly the same as the original games, and the structure and levels are very similar, but because of the new play method you have much more control over your actions and thus the entire game feels quite different.

popful-segacd.pngLater in 1994, Falcom tried their hand at a similar task to what Sega accomplished by turning Popful Mail into a more traditional platformer for the Super Famicom. This version, unfortunately, is the weakest of the lot. The controls aren’t quite right, the response of the enemies is a little off, and overall the game has been reorganized. While the story remains mostly the same it doesn’t have the impact of the Duo and SCD versions. Perhaps I’m getting a little ahead of myself though, so let’s digress back to some basic explanations.

Nut's a Crackin'

The game is a light-hearted tale of a bounty hunter getting into many misadventures. The story follows a pretty clichéd and silly plot that sees the hero team up with a couple of outcast characters while chasing enemies like Nuts Cracker and Muttonhead. All versions of the game have full motion cutscenes, but as you could guess the CD format of the Duo and SCD opens those up to voice acting. Also, considering that the cutscenes were all done using in engine sprites and sounds, it is a very impressive technical feat when seen it in motion. While the SCD cutscenes can’t produce as many colors it still does an excellent job in the delivery.

popful-snes.pngAll the games are good in their own right, but I prefer the Sega CD version. The US version is even a slightly different version than the MegaCD version in Japan. While Vic and company are up to their normal tricks of loose localization within the story, the Working Designs team also decided that the game was too easy in its original form. Now only three hits will kill you and the amount of invincibility you have after receiving a blow is quite short. While they may have made it a little more difficult than necessary it is a nice compromise from the fairly easy difficulty of the Japanese version.

Popful Mail was a very successful series in Japan. The game went on to spawn a large amount of followers with quite a few doujinshi being released for the series. Popful also received a five part series of radio dramas titled “Paradise.” These went as far as to write in an alternate realm where there is an evil/dark version of all the characters in the original game, and many other silly clichéd fantasy story elements. If you haven’t played any of the Popful Mail games I recommend that you track them down. I promise that you won’t be delivering mail or navigating menus.

[Matthew Williamson is the creator of The Gamer’s Quarter (which just had a new issue released!), 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.]

GameTunnel Looks Into Indie September

September 26, 2006 1:11 PM | Simon Carless

http://www.gamesetwatch.com/gumboy.jpgDelighted to note that GameTunnel has its September 2006 Independent Games monthly round-up online, and yet again, it's a pretty darn smart one.

It's explained: "This month's article looks at twelve indie titles including Styrateg, a game that blends both Strategy and RPG, the retro-styled beat-em-up Beats of Rage II, and Gumboy Crazy Adventures, a game that reminds one of amazing Gish in both its quality and extremely unique gameplay."

Overall 'game of month' winner is the aforementioned Gumboy Crazy Adventures, though it does so on the basis of some seriously split marks - a 6, a 10, and a 'can't get working'! The generally reliable Russell Carroll raves, though: "Though somewhat similar to Gish (in the way that LocoRoco is similar to Gish) this game has a bounty of inventive innovation from its visually impressive and original theme to its 'keep you on your toes' and constantly changing gameplay (just remember to bring a joystick)."

GameSetTokyo: Article Round-Up, TGS Pics Part 3

September 26, 2006 8:30 AM | Simon Carless

OK, last set of pics from Tokyo Game Show, since it finished about 2 days ago (hey, I'm going as fast as I can, here!) But before I do, I just wanted to point at my two recent Gamasutra write-ups on the Japanese game market, since I'm fast approaching the end of my time in Japan.

Just posted is 'Special: 8-4's Ricciardi On The State Of Japanese Gaming', in which I go through the Japanese game biz situation with smart guy and ex-EGM editor. Probably a notable section would be:

"Sony's big hope LocoRoco, which even had an associated hardware bundle, "didn't sell nearly as well as I think it should have" in Japan, Ricciardi notes - a sentiment many observers agree with. He continues: "That shows there's a problem with the PSP... [LocoRoco] is clearly an A caliber game, but because there's so much stuff that people aren't interested in, it got lost in a cloud of crummy games. I don't know how they're going to get around that."

Also posted yesterday, a chat with Microsoft's XBLA supremo Greg Canessa in which he "explained the future of the Xbox 360 digital download service, including the concept of an 'Imports' area on XBLA to highlight the best foreign-territory titles." As you guys may recall, I'm a little of an XBLA fanboy at times, so it was nice to quiz Greg on how the service could be improved, since we already know what it's doing right.

Oh, so those straggling pics, or at least the highlights:

As i note in the Flickr caption: 'The less appropriate the product for Japan, the less clothes on the models' - this is for Turbine's 'Dungeons & Dragons Online'.

Sakaguchi's 'Blue Dragon' itself, resplendent in sculpted form at the Microsoft TGS booth.

At the Tecmo merchandise booth, the models were, uh, modeling special hug pillows which I presume were Dead Or Alive-themed. I remember there being controversy about similar merchandise before - and it's still creeeepy.

To end up, where would we be without some genuine TGS Final Fantasy cosplayers? These guys are decent, too - and check out the reflected zombie photographer hordes in the window behind them. Over and out.

When Will The Eno 3DO Insanity Stop?

September 26, 2006 3:08 AM | Simon Carless

http://www.gamesetwatch.com/mh2.jpg We've covered the insane and obscure Japanese 3DO games by Kenji Eno's Warp a bunch of times before, thanks to 3DOKid unearthing them - now he's discovered 'Old Man Hunter: Mahjong', which is similarly crazed.

3DOKid explains: "How about today's conceptual mental circus, where even having played it, I can't quite see what any member of the Warp team was thinking. Well perhaps other than: "Hee Hee, I wonder if we can get away with this?"... A Super Hero, who is called Old Man Hunter, flies about saving young short-skirted traditional Anime styled Japanese school girls from dirty old men by playing and hopefully beating them at Mahjong."

Of course, the game's morals are pretty ambiguous: "Was Warp showing its disgust and perhaps showing its solidarity with the girls? Was Warp trying to attract the female Japanese gamer? Or just perhaps drawing attention to the problem? What were they thinking and why do it like this? Yet the girls depicted in the game could well be accused by some as being the root of the actual problem. The skirts. The flashes of knickers. The long legs. Like I said, curved ball." Weirdness abounds.

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