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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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Gamasutra Weekly Round-Up, Nov. 12th

November 11, 2006 11:07 AM |

- As with last week, we're going to try to round-up the best features and columns from big sister site Gamasutra , if we can, because we realize that, with 80+ news, columns, and features debuting on that site every week, you may be missing a few. Here's the GSW-worthiness from this week:

- We got Mathew Kumar and Bonnie Ruberg to cover the Montreal International Games Summit, and they came back with a bunch of neat session reports - particularly interesting for GSW-ers might be Mizuguchi's keynote where he talks about his love of A-Ha's 'Take On Me' video and how it segued into his 'Heavenly Star' music clip for Lumines II. Mm, synaesthesia.

- There's some neat info in Shang Koo's 'The China Angle' column on virtual currency issues in Japan: "According to some local media reports, QQ coin circulation [from the IM/casual game company Tencent] has become significant enough to be affecting the Chinese real life money market, and China's version of the Federal Reserve Bank is already investigating the QQ issue." Virtual currency FTW!

- A chat with the Media Molecule folks also went up, with Alex 'Statix' Evan and Mark Healey happily claiming: "Don’t let the very indie Rag Doll Kung Fu fool you – our next game is going to be a full on triple ‘A’ monster." Oh also, on U.S. retail for Rag Doll Kung Fu: "The status is not brilliant. There have been some issues regarding the age rating, which caused the publisher to pull out." Interesting!

- We posted a couple of new Independent Games Festival interviews this week, too - discussing New Star Soccer 3, in which "players can also choose to pick up drug and alcohol habits, enter into relationships with money-hungry women, and alienate their family and fans", and talking about Armadillo Run, the rather smart “physics-based puzzle game which requires you to build structures to transport an armadillo across a series of levels”. Sounds sane to me.

- This week's Playing Catch-Up talks to Traveller's Tales' Jon Burton, who reveals: "Sonic R was actually [originally] a Formula One game for the Sega Saturn", and also some odd evangelical elements to the company's game design: "For the eagle eyed Christian game players, Puggsy had a room with a bible verse in huge letters and Sonic R had the Christian Ichthus - fish symbol, like on the back of cars - above the houses on the first track."

- Also added: a readable summary of the recent chat hosted by independent game portal Manifesto Games, in which MIT’s Henry Jenkins, video game theory professor Jesper Juul, game designer Santiago Siri and gameLab’s Eric Zimmerman were invited to tackle the difficult question of whether games can truly qualify as art. Much erudition here!

- Oh yeah, and budget publisher DSI has partnered with National Geographic to make a 'March Of The Penguins' DS/GBA game, which "will follow the film’s survival story while presenting the player with various challenges and obstacles". Here's a cut-scene.

Wow, and that lot isn't even including the main Gamasutra features, which include a chat with Sony PR boss Dave Karraker, an open letter to game researchers from a Microsoft researcher on making their work relevant to practical game development, a multiplayer level design feature from the Splinter Cell: Double Agent lead map designer, and... you get the idea.

Grasshopper Hops Around Under Microscope

November 3, 2006 2:01 PM |

- Listen, I've subscribed to the 1UP.com features RSS so this doesn't happen again, but there's another great feature I missed - Ray Barnholt's in-depth appreciation of Grasshopper Manufacture, named 'Formula 51'.

It's especially good on Suda51's earlier work, which is less well-known in the West, including PS1 'detective adventure' The Silver: "Along with the enigmatic story, The Silver's visual style gave a preview of Grasshopper's future work. Words dance around the screen at all times, seemingly random yet logical within the story's context. The settings are often dark, always fitting for a brooding character. Even the font, large and bold, is memorable. These gimmicks made up a style GHM called "Film Window," which referred to the practice of arranging text and graphic windows in a handcrafted manner."

Barnholt is also smart to spot that Sega's Shining Soul for GBA is a Grasshopper game 'in disguise', noting: "Soul [which was pitched as a "communication RPG"] seemed to be a launching point of sorts in the future development of Contact. This title has much of the same staff, including director Akira Ueda, who also did the bulk of the background graphics." In any case, great to see this kind of expansive, levelheaded writing out there.

Metal Gear Solid Fan? Please To Be Drooling!

October 30, 2006 5:03 PM |

- Another of those periodic trawls around eBay has revealed that seller 'pyhod000' is auctioning off probably the largest Metal Gear Solid-related collection we've ever seen, including all kinds of insane rarities.

On the high end, for example, there's Metal Gear Solid wine for $499 ("A promotional item from Japan... It was handed to Konami's business partners only") and even a complete set of regular MGS trading cards from back in 1998 - which are semi-transparent and smart-looking, btw.

There's lots more promo or rare MGS stuff, so much so that we acn't really list it all. How about the MGS2 promo poster starring Gackt eh? Our favorite collectible of all of these is probably the Ape Escape 3 promo poster which spoofs Metal Gear, complete with simian-lile '...Uki?' and apes with villainous moustaches. Yay!

Star Trek Encounters Gets Vulcan Mind Probed

October 26, 2006 7:30 PM |

tjtj.jpg RoushiMSX's LiveJournal has cooked up a fun little mini-review of Star Trek: Encounters for PS2, which he describes as "a nice bargain bin surprise" - just out, and only $15 in some places, apparently.

He explains: "It's a pretty straightforward outer space top down 360 degree shooter (Armada, Subspace, Solar Winds, Zone 66, etc) with multisegmented but straightforward missions (fly to this point, defeat these enemies, escort this ship back, destory this minefield, etc) taking place in each of the Star Trek universes, allowing you to play as the major Starfleet ships and crews in each era. Also neat is how each series in the campaign is set up in chronological order, starting with the NX-01 and moving on through the different series."

Even for a vague Star Trek geek like myself, it sounds fun: "I'm midway through Star Trek The Original Series right now and I'm really enjoying blowing the sh*t out of the Klingons. :) I've heard some horror stories of the first Voyager mission though...so...we'll see."

However, Gamerankings reveals some poor reviews from the few who've managed to get hold of it - so maybe it's good if you can see through the murk of oddness? [Via Jiji.]

Okami As A 'Tribute To Excess'

October 26, 2006 2:18 AM |

tjtj.jpg Clover may be gone, but people are still talking intelligently about the company's games - people such as G.Turner at The New Gamer, who contributes a wonderful essay called 'Okami: Gorging on Excess'.

It starts simply: "Okami is a game of excess. From its sumptuous hand-painted look to its litany of collectibles, every aspect of this adventure has been worked over and added to until it's bursting at the seems with originality and enthusiastic energy, but sadly also includes some redundancy and trivialities."

There is plenty more sumptuous, wonderfully considered prose here: "Every single weapon in the game has its own unique non-combat animations: one sword has a simple array of thorns that rotate up and down the blade, while a disc-weapon stunningly & perpetually breaks apart in a dozen pieces and then reforms itself. Okami is loaded, almost bloated, with these sort of extravagances and often is better for it, weaving in character nuances and making the world feel more fleshed out and alive."

He ends: "But when the excess doesn't add to the characters, when it doesn't showcase the story or the world design, when it just causes me to mindlessly increase quantities of items I'll never need, then I can't help but remark that not all of Okami is as rich as it could have been." Deep thinking++, eh?

S'Not Video Game Darts Without Sid Waddell

October 14, 2006 3:01 AM |

darts.jpg It's worth monitoring the GamesPress feed on GI.biz for some of the choicest, often UK-centric obscuro press releases, and one of these would be Oxygen Interactive's announcement of voiceover talent for its PS2 darts game.

Here's the official website for the PDC World Championship Darts game (probably not to get a U.S. release!), and it's explained: "Scheduled for release at Christmas, Oxygen Interactive is pleased to announce, that the 'Voices of Darts', Sid Waddell and scorer, Russ Bray will provide the game's commentary."

Sid Waddell in particular is the, uhh, Madden of the darts world, if you will, and has an official website which includes some of his famous/witty sayings: " Steve Beaton. He’s not A-donis, he’s THE Donis". Or: "That was like throwing three pickled onions into a thimble." Or, indeed: "He looks about as happy as a penguin in a microwave." Now I want to move back to England and watch darts, darnit!

Parappa Visits McDonalds, Yum!

October 10, 2006 9:01 AM |

mcpar.jpg Another completely random find on eBay - GSW has noticed a Hong Kong seller who is trying to flog 'Parappa the Rapper 2 McDonald Special Edition' for PS2 - which is actually a special fast-food themed demo disc!

There's a bit more info in an old GameSpot article: "Sony and McDonald's have teamed up to release the Happy Disc, a PlayStation 2 demo that contains one-level versions of Ape Escape 2001 and PaRappa the Rapper 2. Ape Escape is already on Japanese shelves, but PaRappa 2 isn't scheduled for release until August 30, so this is the first time we've seen the game in action."

What's more: "The demo level takes place in a McDonald's, with PaRappa and a burger-flipping ghost trading rhymes about cutting lettuce, toasting buns, and the wonderful world of condiments, among other things." The first level in the final Parappa 2 is set in 'Beard Burgers', not in Ronald's wonderful emporium, so I wonder - does this demo have McDonald's logos inserted? Is there anything else different, if so? Perhaps someone could buy it and find out. [UPDATE: A couple of people we know, including the inevitable Kohler, own this, and reckon it's just got McDonald's logos in the first stage of the game with no other lyric or other changes.]

(BONUS: A scary McDonald's Japan commercial on GoogleTube from the same era which advertises Happy Meal-style game toys, including Parappa.)

Seaman 2 Digs Out Peking Man

September 25, 2006 5:12 PM |

http://www.gamesetwatch.com/seamantwo.jpg I know we already mentioned Seaman 2 briefly, but it's been pointed out that 1UP has some more information on the PS2 game, including screenshots of the awesome faux-documentary introducing it.

It's explained: "The premise in Seaman 2 remains largely the same -- you're still supposed to interact with a virtual pet -- except that this time around your creature is basically a mini neanderthal man. As the story goes, a species of these prehistoric mini-men were found to have lived in Peking China. A company in Moscow took their bones and created a factory to clone them and mass produce them as pets. 3,000 of them have been created so far. You're one of the lucky first to have one of them."

What's more: "The game was introduced in the form of an infomercial from the Russian company selling these men. A salesmen pitches you on buying one of these pets and shows how it could enrich your life." Completely awesome - and let's not forget that this marketing style actually helped make the first Seaman into a significant success in Japan - can it work again?

Suda's Samurai Champloo, Prodded And Poked

September 15, 2006 1:04 PM |

http://www.gamesetwatch.com/sidetracked.jpg Following my recent critique of Suda51's Samurai Champloo: Sidetracked, it's good to see someone else probing the game from alternate perspectives - The New Gamer has a mini-article musing on the title with some aplomb.

G. Turner makes some film comparisons, suggesting the game "...has a strong director, the increasingly notorious Suda 51 (whom is most recognizable from last year's stylish & divisive Killer7), who wildly compensates for an unremarkable hack-'n-slash adaptation involving two samurais, plucked from the titular anime, whom find themselves embroiled in a land-war and end up fighting for their lives. How does he do this? By painting over the game with abrasive aural and visual elements; essentially scribbling all over the standards that come with an adaptation."

His conclusion? Though the game isn't THAT great: "Samurai Champloo: Sidetracked represents a rarity in current video games: a brash-but-cohesive audio/visual that's the director's vision. " Agreed!

[Oh, and while we're here, a Drunksaling garage sale update has also been posted at The New Gamer, containing a few gems, as per usual: "Ahh Chessmaster. Although I remember Chessmaster 2000, not his hyperactive brother Chessmaster 4000 Turbo."]

GameSetVids: Rule Of Tetris

September 11, 2006 12:01 AM |

http://www.gamesetwatch.com/ror.jpg A duo of random video-related links for a Sunday night, completely unrelated, but each rather interesting. Firstly, friend and Gamasutra colleague Jason Dobson has made a video guide to Atlus' Rule Of Rose, and it's... neeto.

He comments of it: "With Atlus' upcoming survival horror/action game Rule of Rose for the PlayStation 2 scheduled to ship next week, I figured a preview of this somewhat disturbing game would be in order. Atlus sent over the review build several weeks ago, and I can honestly say that while the game is not without its share of flaws, it is one of the most atmospheric games to come along in a good while. It's unapologetically psychotic, and is also a refreshing throw back to earlier days of PC adventure gaming." It's good to see footage with commentary like this.

Secondly, the fun Aeropause has a neat Tetris-referencing German car ad, of which it comments: "Is it just me or does it seem like there was way too much crap packed into that little car? It would probably take the average person an hour to pack a car like that." Never mind the bollocks, here's the TETRIS, man!