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January 28, 2006

Smell The Onions At The FFXI Fan Fest

star-onions.jpg The forthcoming Final Fantasy XI Fan Festival, which is being held from March 9-11 at the Santa Monica Pier in Los Angeles, has announced a major (and fun!) addition to the schedule, in the form of the first U.S. concert by The Star Onions.

A review of The Star Onions' first album explains things well: "The Star Onions (a band originally formulated in order to perform in a concert celebrating the release of Final Fantasy XI Chains of Promathia, September 2004) are responsible for both the arrangement and performance of the pieces. The various [Square Enix employee] members, who include Naoshi Mizuta (Parasite Eve II, Rockman & Forte [and FFXI expansion pack music composer]) and Kumi Tanioka (Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles, Chocobo's Mysterious Dungeon 2), provide an eclectic approach to musical arrangement..."

Heck, there's even a lead guitarist (Tsuyoshi Sekito) and a guest drummer (Arata Hanyuda) for this U.S. concert who also moonlight in The Black Mages, Nobuo Uematsu's own Final Fantasy tribute band. So - even if you don't want the special Moogle Rod in-game item that you get for turning up, this alone may be reason to go hang out with fellow FFXI freaks?

Mapping Azeroth, Google-Style

mapWoW.jpgThe World of Warcraft stretches beyond the bounds designated by its maker, Blizzard Entertainment. Third-party services such as Thottbot and the Goblin Workshop have latched onto the massively-multiplayer game's vast quantity of data, offering players of the game an easier route to coveted level 60 status. Now, that route has literally been mapped with the entrance of MapWoW.com, a third-party service plugged in to the Google Maps system. This dynamic system allows one to zoom in and out of Azeroth (Warcraft's world), toggling on and off data points such as the location of specific herbs, ore, and treasure collected in the game--there are over 15,000 such items currently covering 69 resources. It's bound to be a useful resource for players, but will also give those pesky gold farmers an edge. My advice: Enjoy this new service while it lasts.

Game Tunneling Through The Best Indie Games

thes.jpg The nice folks over at indie site GameTunnel have added their PC indie game review round-up for December, including mini-reviews of a host of games by GT's Russ Carroll, Sykhronics' Mike Kasprzak, Robinson Technologies' Seth Robinson, and Hamumu's Mike Hommel.

One of the most notable games this month is 2D bike stunt title Motorama, of which Seth Robinson comments: "While we can find oodles of brick breaking games every month there aren't a whole lot of "2d side-view bike physics" games being served up, so it was a treat to play Motorama. It's good. It's punishing."

In fact, Motorama ties for game of the month (at a relatively slow time of year!) with isometric shooter Theseus: Return Of The Hero, regarding which Russ Carroll suggests: "Trying to follow in the footsteps of Alien Shooter, which in my mind is one of the best games of all time, is no easy task. Theseus plays a lot like a mod of the original game...a very good mod with original weapons and music in addition to expanding the game play." Mm, weekend indie goodness.

On Disturbing Game Box Parody Art

adventureisland.jpgOver at the Something Awful Forums, user "Handre" has posted the latest in his series of disturbing game box parody art, this time based on Kirby's Adventure.

On his inspiration for these pieces, of which this is the sixth, Handre explains:

"It just started with the realization that certain (usually Japanese) games in the 80's and early 90's that were meant to be light hearted and cute were often portrayed far more seriously and dramatic in the US box art than they should have been. Many times it was blatantly WRONG. The characters were also sometimes portrayed a lot older and muscular than they were meant to be. They looked like the old American super heroes. The reason I use the bulging crotches and hairyness is to show how masculine they are supposed to be... Actually that's mostly for cheap laughs. But that is also inspired by the silly and sometimes revealing outfits (like Robin in the old cartoons) that American super heroes tend to wear. Then I just started adding more and more grotesque elements."

Previous pieces in the series include, in chronological order: Mega Man, Bomberman, Capcom's Snow Bros., BurgerTime, and Hudson's Adventure Island (pictured). Handre is taking suggestions for future crotch-oriented pieces, our favorite suggestion being David Crane's A Boy and His Blob. Additionally, there are plans to make prints available for purchase through Something Awful itself. Collect them all; we will!

January 27, 2006

The Cenix GMP-M6 Lumbers Toward Release

gmp-m6.jpg So, following up with the portable Cenix GMP-M6 handheld which GSW posted about some time ago, there's now a full, devoted page. There's also one in our old friend English!

So it looks as though you purchase the console, and it comes with two games already loaded; shooting game Star Force and Strategy RPG Battle Armor (at the very least they're available for free).

All other games can be purchased for 2,000 won, which is just under $2 US. Not a bad price really, but I've still no idea how much the unit itself costs, or if there are functional buttons aside from the one that says 'play.' I can't even find a way to buy it from the online store - perhaps you can help. To paraphrazy Ryo in Shenmue - Do you know anyone who speaks the language of Korean?

Life Meter Takes Video Game Art, Makes It Sing

kdc.jpg The brand new art-related website Life Meter Comics, billed as "a collection of comics and cartoon art inspired by our love of videogames", has just set up, and it already has some awesome illustrations up.

Probably GSW's favorite so far is the awesome Katamari Damacy mini-comic from Quezzie (who has a larger version on her/his own site), and of which it's noted of the picture in the comments: "It's colored pencil and gouache on Canson illustration board." Wow, real drawing on paper, we remember that!

However, running a close second in the coolness stages are both a gorgeous Zelda: Wind Waker illustration from French artist Bannister, plus a stark black&white illo of Kid Icarus from Pishio artist Zack Giallongo, both of which are both voguish and not simply fanart, stylistically. [via Fort90.]

Payton On Rushing Kojima Productions

mgsub.jpg The folks from Game Informer Online were at the Konami Gamer's Day in San Francisco this week, and caught up with former game journalist and current Metal Gear Saga director Ryan Payton for information on the MGS 3: Subsistence pre-order DVD documentary, neatly explained by GameSpot, noting that the doc "...does the seemingly impossible by making sense of the five major games in the Metal Gear canon."

Payton is delightfully charismatic on his somewhat random induction into Kojima Productions, following a magazine interview with Hideo Kojima ("And so Mr. Kojima sort of walks by us at the time, because I didn’t really talk to him after the interview, and he overhears me say that I was living in Osaka... He was like,'“What do you do? Are you looking for a job?'").

He also has some great anecdotes on Metal Gear Solid packaging designer Ichiro Kutome ("He’s so crazy and hard to work with… in a good way. You know, he’s so demanding. He’s like, “We need more budget.” I’m like, “You know how much we’re giving you for this package? This is a lot of money.” He’s like, “I need more. I want silver foil embossed on the front. Otherwise this is not going to fly.”") Definitely a fun interview piece, even for non-MGS heads.

Beware The Animal Crossing Plaaague

acww.jpg A dark thrall has been cast across the beautiful towns of Nintendo's Animal Crossing: Wild World for DS, as 4 Color Rebellion reports on a 'red tulip plague' spreading throughout online users of the game, apparently due to a broken network-transmitted gift item.

According to 4CR: "From what people have been reporting, you’re receiving a letter from _blank_, marked as “From ” containg a gift named “Red Tulips”. The letter contains no content whatsoever and has no closing. The item shows up as a piece of furniture (green leaf) and this is where the fun begins... If you drop this piece of furniture in your house, it’ll be an “invisible” item that you can still walk over, but not put anything over it, nor push any other piece of furniture over it neither. You basically “lose” a space on your floor, not being able to pick the item back up."

The GameFAQs boards are going frantic with worried gamers over this, and there are already commenters in the 4CR story speculating: "Nintendo wouldn’t send out it. Someone must have sent it out themselves… well, hacking the system." So... tragic Nintendo mistake or evil globe-spanning Animal Crossing spoiler attempt? The world will soon know the answer, one way or another...

"Virtual Pinball" Coming to the U.S.

virtualpinball.jpgSouthern Music Ltd. Entertainment, the distributor founded in 1956 whose claim to fame is, according to their company bio, being "one of the first companies to introduce jukeboxes to the Calgary market," has signed a deal with TAB Austria to distribute its Virtual Pinball units throughout commercial locations in Canada, the United States, and Mexico.

Virtual Pinball (pictured) retains the basic structure of Regular Pinball, though in a slightly more compact form, and with a 42" plasma display instead of an actual game board. Its designer, TAB Austria, has previously released a number of MP3-based jukeboxes, and Silverball, which is one of those touch screen thingies you see on bar tops all the time. Silverball has 140 games available, though I've never looked beyond the one where you find minute differences between two naughty photographs. There's a naughty jigsaw puzzle game too, but I hate jigsaws.

There's unfortunately nothing naughty about Virtual Pinball's five built-in games, which are upgradable via an online connection. Only two of the five games could actually be considered pinball, and that's only if you're counting this monstrosity. We're not sure what's worse, the Bizarro World perspective, or that yellow couch that's sure to bounce the ball into the dead zone repeatedly.

SML Entertainment has plenty of pinball experience, and is a distributor of all those recent Stern machines you probably weren't aware existed, like Elvis, Nascar, Lord of the Rings and The Sopranos. So, we like them, and wish them well, even if we can't find any of their machines around here.

January 26, 2006

PSX Games Invade Nuon

invs2.jpg DragonShadow Industries (not to be confused with DSI Games) has released a Nuon port of two games originally for Sony's PlayStation-based development kit the Net Yaroze. The games are Katapila (original platformer) and Invs (french Space Invaders clone). All you need to do is burn it to a disc and put it in your Nuon! Assuming you have one.

For this ongoing project, DragonShadow's Scott Cartier uses libraries he created when porting his own Yaroze title, Decaying Orbit, over to the Nuon. He has plans to bring over a larger compilation of Net Yaroze games at some point, though it doesn't appear as though the process is simply plug and play. He's got a contest up for Invs as well, which I'll let him describe in his own words: "Think you can create better sound effects? Philippe (Invs creator) has given the go-ahead to do a total replacement of the in-game sounds. The winner will receive a signed NUON Games & Demos disc and have their sounds immortalized in a future version of the Yaroze Classics collection."

In other Nuon-related news, head over to Nuon Dome to check out a newly retitled (via a previous contest!) homebrew by the name of Sheshells Sea Adventures, an undersea shooting game.

Miz Gets Every Extended, Emotionally Attached

eee.jpg We recently covered Brazilian site FinalBoss' interview with Yuzo Koshiro, and now they've gone and interviewed Q? Entertainment's Tetsuya Mizuguchi as well, bless their cotton socks.

In particular, Mizuguchi reveals how his company's forthcoming PSP version of dojin title Every Extend came about: "Every Extend Extra was a very special case. It happened kinda by accident. On my staff, there was someone who played Every Extend -- the PC version -- one day, and then everybody saw it and started playing. "Oh, what is this?' “It's a free game.' Three days later, still playing it... 'That's still fun?', "Yeah, it's still fun.' (laughs). That staff member asked me if I wanted to talk with this guy who made the game. He sent an email to the creator of Every Extend, and he met him, so.."

Away from happy freeware frivolity, Mizuguchi muses about the future of games, particularly commenting of next-gen console power: "High-def has very positive possibilities, but also dangerous possibilities, because it can provide an experience that is too strong. Like... shooting people in a game in high-def can be too strong... We are going to the next step, and we'll have to think about the morality." In other words, with great power comes great responsibility to, as he suggests, provide "emotional content and attachment". And amen to that.

Nintendo's DS Variations In Otaku Major

elecplank.jpg The jolly good chaps over at the (new to us) British Gaming Blog have compiled a great pictorial selection of every single Nintendo DS variant, from the obvious (standard Titanium and Electric Blue colors in North America), all the way to the obscurest DSes of them all.

Some of our favorites? The "11 custom Electroplankton DS systems", of which: "One belongs to the game's creator [Toshio Iwai], and the other ten were won by visitors to the Electroplankton exhibition in Japan", are really smart-looking, and the Japanese 'Hot Summer' DS series are pretty darned attractive, as well. [Via SiliconEra.]

[Oh, and talking of limited-edition variants of handheld items, check out a blast from the not-so-ancient past Segagaga's Dreamcast VMU catalog page, with more Visual Memory Units than you can shake a stick at - the 'Dream Point Bank Ichigo' strawberry VMU is precious, my precious.]

The Art Of Gradius Averaging, Completed

gradius.gif GSW previously reported on The New Gamer's quest to test its concept of 'averaging gameplay' using multiple, layered-together videos of people playing Gradius. You remember that, right?

Well, the full results of the experiment are in, using 15 different submissions, and a remarkable amount of diversity in the final video (26.4mb .MOV) - for example: "The average time taken to kill the end level boss was 20.055 seconds, with the fastest player finishing him off in a mere 10.01 seconds."

R. LeFeuvre concludes of the test: "There's also a lot to find that just cannot be easily expressed in text. Watching how different players react to a spray of bullets; seeing how some go on the offensive and attack nearly all enemies while others fire less and dodge more; looking when certain people retreat to the back edge of the screen and when they charge forward; monitoring the enemies as they are destroyed, slowly peeling back the layers of color, possibly leaving a mostly transparent ghost to escape off the left side of the screen." Poetry in motion, eh?

Unreleased Sonic Saturn Developer Speaks

xtremeshot.jpgChris Senn, a former employee of the Sega Technical Institute, has opened up a specialized forum to discuss the creation of Sonic X-Treme, the Sonic the Hedgehog title for the Sega Saturn that was cancelled mid-development for various reasons. Senn served various roles in the development of the game, including music composer, art director and coordinator, and toward the end of the project, co-lead designer.

"I've received so many emails asking for information, pictures, playable versions, etc. that I just couldn't keep up. This is my way of trying to give back to the community," Senn said in an introductory forums post. "I spent 3 years pouring my heart, soul, blood, sweat and tears into the game. I started as an artist and worked my way to designing, leading the design and coordinating part of the team. Many problems occurred on the project. I was young, very ambitious and a perfectionist. I was a part of a large team that started small and grew to 30+ people... This game was canned almost 10 years ago, so I won't remember as much as I'd like."

Senn has been sporadically sharing some of the media he has saved, including very early concept animation, design sketches for a female hedgehog protagnoist named Tiara Boobowski (no, seriously), and even Senn's proposed cover art for the game. The total sum of his work will be released later, he says, in a massive online document called the "Sonic Xtreme Compendium," or SXC for short.

Anyone curious about the development of this lost Sonic chapter can join in the discussion on Senn's official forums, though reader beware: many of the threads contained therein are authored by a number of amateurs discussing their plans to "finish the game" via limited, open-source game creation software. Yeah, you do that, kids.

January 25, 2006

Cities, Heroes, And The Revenge Of The Geek Mafia

geekmaf.jpg Sister website Gamasutra has just posted an interview with former City Of Heroes creator Rick Dakan, who was displaced as lead designer before the game's launch. He's now written a book called Geek Mafia, which is "...the story of a rogue game designer who enlists the help of an underground group of con-men to enact revenge on the developer that fired him, and make a small profit on the process."

So the question immediately arises - how autobiographical? Dakan admits: "There's a ton of sort of big and small aspects of the book that are inspired by just my time at Cryptic and my time in the Bay Area in general", but insists: "None of the people in the book are supposed to be people in real life that had those same positions when I was there."

However, the intriguingly honest Dakan does end by noting: "There's strange art imitating life sort of stuff. Like, I had started that book and then while I was plotting it, and before I really started writing it, I ended up selling my stock out to Mike [Lewis]. But I already plotted out those early pages that had that sort of activity going. So it was a weird life imitating art sort of situation there." A strange whirl, indeed.

Brain Training - The New Deer Hunter?

brain.gif Rightly getting a lot of blogosphere linkage right now is Cabel Sasser's analysis of Nintendo's Brain Training for DS, as posted on his personal weblog by the Panic co-founder and Katamari Damacy T-shirt vendor.

Cabel comments: "So, the #1 game in Japan is a non-game. My (shocking) conclusion: there is a huge market for new styles of games and new game players, and the gap between "games" and "apps" is getting smaller." And he concludes: "At first it's hard to imagine something like Brain Training ever hitting the top of the USA video game charts. Virtually impossible, I'd wager... But, if you had told me that "Deer Hunter" would've become the top-selling computer game a few years ago, I would have pulled the car over and laughed you out of it — and yet, it happened, stunning a whole generation of developers who were working on "Brown Devil Alien Guns III"-style games."

So, what do people say - is Brain Training really going to set the West aflame, or is it much more of a Japanese thing than any of us, including Nintendo, have necessarily bargained for?

DS GBA button hack, GP32 Rumble, and GBC touching

gbctouch.jpgMy old pal Mash has redone his website, and has a brand new set of mods. Most notably, he has this chip for your DS which will allow you to remap your L and R buttons to X and Y when playing GBA games - on the fly. You toggle between the two by pressing L and R together, continuing the long tradition of hackers fixing things Nintendo should have done themselves.

Other nifty mods include an internal rumble pack for the GP32, and - perhaps most impressively, a touch screen for the Game Boy Color. It has three layers - LCD screen - front light - then touch screen. He's definitely got it working, though I'm not totally clear on how it's implemented in-game. The full writeup is coming soon, so watch for it!

Xbox Vanguard For Jellyfish Invasion Discovered

beachx.jpg Gadget weblog Gizmodo has been having lots of fun with a story on 'The Tale Of The Beached Xbox', referencing Beatrice Murch's finding of a washed-up Xbox near San Francisco last weekend. (Yes, yes, and by washed up, we mean from the sea, not all out of style, etc.)

Gizmodo wittily claims: "Every day millions—or one or two—XBoxes wash up onto our beaches where they die an excruciating and horrible death. They are lured to the sands by the lights of million-dollar condos and teenage jackanapes involving beer and bonfires", but as commenters vaguely spot, it's likely the recent floods in Marin County that dumped the Xbox from a home, down a local river and out to sea.

But we have a better explanation - the giant jellyfish invading Japan of late? We heard they're shock Microsoft-trained troops importing Xbox 360s, buried inside their poisonous bodies, to the East by sea, where they will disgorge the consoles onto beaches to breed and multiply, whether the Japanese buy them or not. This poor Xbox? It's just left over from the U.S. test program, but the caustic libertarian media atmosphere of San Francisco made its jellyfish host perish and decompose, as the chanting sounds of 'M$, M$, M$' filled the air. Honest.

Twinsen To Get Little Big Again For Raynal?

twinsen.jpg According to an email GSW got from Ahmad Ghourab, "the founder of TwinAdv, the largest Little Big Adventure news source on the web", there may actually be hope for Little Big Adventure 3, a second sequel to the cult adventure game series, actually making an appearance soon.

Ghourab comments: "In a recent e-mail I received from [LBA creator] Frederick Raynal, he makes mention of the fact he is now expanding his latest company, Ludoid... he has also announced that he is submitting several projects (ideas) to several publishers. Amongst these proposals is Little Big Adventure 3, subtitled "Genesis of the Stellar Entity", which is the sequel to the highly respected and successful series Little Big Adventure 1 & LBA 2 (AKA Relentless/Twinsen's Odyssey in the USA)."

TwinAdv has more information on the possible resurrection of the franchise, noting hopefully: "If publishers take interest in Little Big Adventure 3, then Frederick Raynal plans to commence work on it, while collaboration with former Adeline creative director Didier Chanfray, who along with David Chomard founded the studio Little Worlds." It'd certainly be nice to see such adorable original IP, but who's going to take that chance? Somebody, we hope dearly.

January 24, 2006

Life At Level 60, Spied And Deconstructed

wowdrag.jpg The folks over at GameSpy, who seem to be a little adrift since joining the IGN mothership, have made a powerful redemptive move with a gigantic guide to World Of Warcraft at Level 60, which is, quite frankly, fascinating for virtual voyeurs who don't even play the game, let alone high-level characters in Blizzard's insanely popular MMO.

The intro to Sal "Sluggo" Accardo's painstakingly compiled, well-illustrated piece points out: "For many players, reaching level 60 is actually the beginning of an all-new game within World of Warcraft. There's epic lewt to be won, bosses to be beaten, and raids to be, uh, raided. This content, however, can be an impenetrable maze of intersecting quests and raid instances. For someone who's just reached 60, simply figuring out where to start can be a daunting task."

Some of the fun stuff (and yes, this is a spoiler alert!), include pictures and info on some of the game's biggest bosses, including Lord Kazzak, who "occasionally appears in the Tainted Scar in the southwest Blasted Lands... [and] once defeated, he will not respawn for several days", as well as "the huge blue dragon Azuregos", who looks, well, huge and blue.

Fun Motion Gets Physical With Games

ragdoll.jpg FlashBang Studios' development director Matthew Wegner has kindly sent over news of his fascinating new game weblog, which is called Fun-Motion, and specifically deals with "physics based computer games".

Though it's only just launched, some of the highlights include a review and an interview regarding little-known, but apparently rather smart shareware 2D rag doll fighting game, Ragdoll Masters - in fact, Wegner comments of it: "While I appreciate the artistic care Mark Healy put into the production of [Rag Doll Kung Fu], I must admit that I had a lot more fun playing Ragdoll Masters."

In addition, there's a review of Ski Stunt Simulator, another obscure piece of goodness that "implements a realistic planar simulation of the physics involved in performing acrobatic ski stunts", and plenty more weblog updates are promised in the near future. Looking forward to it.

How The Amazing Race Gets Game

guido.jpg The niche text/graphical/strategy MMO firm Skotos Tech has been going for a few years now, and also publishes a range of articles on game development, many of which are pretty darn interesting.

The latest in Operations Director Shannon Appelcline's previously GSW-referenced series on 'Trials, Triumphs & Trivialities' discusses the game design behind reality TV show The Amazing Race in some fascinating detail. As the intro notes: "Unlike Survivor and Big Brother, The Amazing Race is not a voting game. Instead, it offers up the other gaming element that's very common in reality-based TV shows: straight-up competition."

In a particularly interesting section, Appelcline discusses the concept of teams 'yielding' other teams on the show, suggesting: "Sometimes no matter how strategic of elements that you offer in a game, players will instead make knee-jerk choices. I think this happens more in a real-time high-pressure game like The Amazing Race, but it can happen anywhere, and ultimately as designers you need to decide whether that's a good thing or not. Do you offer players the opportunity, accepting that they'll waste them?" Plenty of suckers out there, or so we heard.

Schticking It To The Plain Vanilla Shooter

tengoku.jpg Trust those japesters at 1UP to come up with 'Schtick 'Em Up: The Shooter Gets Weird', certainly one of the most eclectic features to appear from a mainstream game site in a while, since it deals with a "collection of outlandish, offbeat and sometimes just plain bizarre takes" on the shoot-em-up genre.

Naturally, some of the more obvious titles such as Parodius ("Hardcore Gradius fans may not like the idea of their favorite shooter getting the Mel Brooks treatment, but it's hard not to love Parodius once you look beyond the stinging satire") and the infamous Cho Aniki ("It really is raining men in the world of Cho Aniki, and the digitized downpour won't quit until you've either finished the game or run out of the room screaming.")

But there's some (even more) obscure goodness in there, particularly in the form of Game Tengoku for the Saturn, for which it's noted: "Some of Game Tengoku's other classic moments include battling a giant robot built entirely out of interconnected game systems (viva la 32X!) and an unexpected trip through the early days of gaming." Mm, game hardware conglomerations.

Magweasel, Ferreting Around In Classic Game Mags

gifmag.jpg We've previously mentioned Kevin Gifford's insane video game collecting habits here on GSW, so we're delighted to see that he's launched Magweasel.com, "a website that aims to chronicle the history of video game and (certain) computer magazines, as well as become a source of information for magazine collectors and nostalgists."

So far, as Kevin freely admits, there's largely just "a collection of unorganized cover scans and wiki pages" up now, with lots of awesome mag covers to randomly browse.

But some significant progress has been made already, including both the Game Buyer page, including detailed info on each issue, and a basic stab at the Video Games and Computer Entertainment page. Overall - sterling stuff, and we're looking forward to more well-informed updates soon.

January 23, 2006

Japanese, Korean Video Game Shows Showcased

kgame.jpg When the behemoth that is GameSpot does feature-like content, it tends to be pretty interesting, and so is the case with its news feature on South Korean and Japanese video game TV shows posted today.

The intro notes: "If you think you've seen the best of what TV can do in the area of game coverage, you need to take a trip to Korea. Two cable TV networks, known as Ongamenet and MBCgame, compete for viewers with their own 24-hour programming dedicated to PC and console gaming", before discussing some of the content - apparently, apart from the inevitable Starcraft popularity rush, "South Korean teen supermodel Kim Sae-Rom hosts Hello PS Market, where new Sony PS products are introduced to viewers in the program."

In addition, the piece discusses Japanese show GameCenter CX, which "...stars comedian Shinya Arino and has more of a retro-gaming focus. Arino sits down to play popular retro video games in a small room in front of a camera crew. Arino interviews famous video game designers in-between games and visits popular local game arcades." Sounds like fun - and, as the article says, we really would like to see these translated for the West - we presume TVK24 doesn't have English subtitles for its OnGameNet content?

Lula's Three Dimensional, Tragic Empire

lula.jpg Eurogamer's own Ellie Gibson provides one of the few mainstream reviews of German publisher CDV's decidedly seedy PC 'adventure' game Lula 3D. And, though the game is meant for "12 year old boys" worldwide, Gibson does a good job of explaining why it "looks and plays like it was developed by a 12 year old boy, on a 12 year old PC, at least 12 years ago."

For starters, a rundown of the franchise's awesome power is worth perusing: "Lula, for those who aren't familiar, first made her appearance back in 1998 in a game called Lula: The Sexy Empire. A sequel, brilliantly titled Wet Attack: The Empire Cums Back, was released a year later and a variety of spin-offs followed, including Lula Flipper (a pinball game that's nothing to do with dolphin sex, disappointingly)."

But overall, Gibson concludes: "The game's presentation is terrible, from the hideous music to the stupid cut-scenes to the way that Lula somehow manages to store every item she picks up - keys, beer bottles, porn mags, you name it - in her already rather full bra. The voice acting is worse than you'll have seen in most porn films, if you like that sort of thing, and the poorly translated dialogue just makes matters worse... Avoid like the clap." Will do!

Guinness Book Of Faux Video Game Records

bm2.jpg The Guinness World Records have a many and storied history as "an internationally recognized collection of world records, both human achievements and the extrema of the natural world."

But unfortunately, some of the video game-related 'records' on the book's website, lacking the bug eating or death defying of many of Guinness' most famous records, are a little on the, well, odd side. Some are pretty straightforward, such as the Game Boy reigning supreme as 'Most Popular Handheld Videogame System'. And, actually, Yu Suzuki's Shen Mue winning out as 'Most Expensive Computer Game Development' isn't completely insane, since it's quite possible nobody has admitted to a bigger budget than $20 million yet.

But... Black & White's creatures as 'Most Complex Character In A Computer Game'? That's a tad subjective, although apparently, 'The size of the creature's mind increases from 6–7 KB up to 500 KB.' So there. Most of all, how about Beatmania as 'Most Popular DJ-Simulation Video Game' with, uhm, 6,700 copies of the arcade game sold? Oh dear - possibly not completely wrong, just uber-random. Still, it would be fun the dig through the video game records in old editions - anyone want to volunteer? [Via Defective Yeti, who pointed out the Beatmania entry and got us searching.]

Robotfindskitten Makes It To PSP

rfk.jpg Thanks to a bit of poking from GameSetWatch staff, coder and Namako Team overlord Jiji has completed his PSP port of Robotfindskitten, the uber-surreal ASCII game which is handily described on the official RFK website as "Yet another portable zen simulation".

The game, which is available in an insane multitude of versions, including a Web browser Java applet version, is simply played as follows: "In this game, you are robot (#). Your job is to find kitten. This task is complicated by the existence of various things which are not kitten. Robot must touch items to determine if they are kitten or not. The game ends with robotfindskitten." It's absurd and delicious all at once. Especially if you like robots and kittens.

As a coda, there's really no reason not to be delighted that Leonard 'Crummy' Richardson, the alleged discoverer of Robotfindskitten all those many years ago, has also discovered Robotfindspanties, which are, yes, RFK-themed underwear for girls, as modeled by 'idealforbarbecue'. Remember, GSW readers, it's never an Internet fad without the tie-in undergarments.

January 22, 2006

The Saga Of The Brain Trained Older Gamer

touchg.jpg The UK Times has posted a news story discussing Nintendo's new 'Keep Evolving' ad campaign, which is due to debut in the UK next week, and reveals: "The company is gearing up for a £2 million [$3.6 million] marketing campaign, which will see it take ads in Saga magazine — a title for over 50s — because it has come to the conclusion that targeting young adults is no longer enough."

Those who heard Satoru Iwata's Tokyo Game Show speech last year and have checked out the spectacular performance of the DS in Japan over the holiday season will have no doubt that Nintendo's 'Touch! Generations' strategy is paying off bigtime in the East.

But can the same market broadening happen in the West? Dawn Paine, Nintendo UK's marketing director, is quoted in the article as noting: “The games industry is just going to have to expand the market. Although there has been good growth in terms of units and value over the last 20 years, the proportion of people actually owning games machines has plateaued at around 30 per cent.” In the casual market, companies such as PopCap are exploring the concept of pitching games as both entertaining and mentally beneficial, and it's going to be interesting, given Sudoku's recent world domination drive as a mind sharpening tool, to see whether Nintendo can score the same result for the Brain Training games. [Via Kotaku.]

Devils, Psychos, and Cthulhu, Pinball-ized

necro.jpg The somewhat mysterious Ancil 'Dessgeega' Anthropy writes for both The Gamer's Quarter and TIGSource, and on her personal site, there are a bunch of eclectic DivX game videos, from video of UPL's Return Of The Invaders to an ever-handy vid of Jeff Minter's Tempest 2000 for Jaguar.

But the latest addition, named 'A Mean Pinball', is a DivX collection of three of the best ever video game pinball titles, and starts by noting: "Video pinball is enticing not only in that it is much more affordable than pinball machine collecting, but also in that it allows the developer to liberate the game from the constraints of real physics while making those physics serve the game."

The titles include Naxat's classic Devil Crash for Turbografx/Genesis, Codemasters' Psycho Pinball for Genesis/Megadrive, and most notably, the revelation that "...the only idea better than pinball with the devil is pinball with Cthulhu, and this was the concept behind Kaze's Saturn video pin Necronomicon... the sound design is particularly notable, and includes a narrator intoning lines like 'far away a temple stands. far away in the dreamlands'."

Rule Of Rose Scares Us Half To Death

ror.jpg The good folks at import store NCSX have posted detailed impression of new import PlayStation 2 title Rule Of Rose, in which, "...set in 1930 England, players adopt the role of a 19 year old woman named Jennifer who is caught up in a surreal 3D adventure tinged with touches of madness and the preternatural."

The SCEJ-published PS2 game has an official Japanese site where you can learn more, and watch a seriously spooky trailer movie (click left-hand 'yes' link for age approval!), which shows the creators are going for an almost Silent Hill franchise level of extreme unease (talking of which, we're presuming you've seen the new 'Silent Hill' movie trailer from Christophe Gans, which appears to be double plus awesome.)

Of course, it may be that Rule Of Rose, with its young female protagonist and story-heavy attitude, may not be 'kickass' enough for the West, in the same way that the relatively passive Haunting Ground/Demento was received somewhat ambivalently. But, given the level of artistry shown by the trailers, we're hoping the title gets a Western release of some kind, so we can all work it out for ourselves.

Interesting People In Gaming? Show Me

babiesc.jpg Wandering over to the UK Guardian Gamesblog once more, Aleks Krotoski has scribbled down a list of the 10 'most interesting' people in gaming, following a similar GamerGod piece a few days back.

Krotoski's choices are effectively eclectic, with a particularly interesting choice being Takumi Yoshinaga ("...the creator of the marvellous and surreal grown-up version of WarioWare, Project Rub[/Feel The Magic]. His Where Do Babies Come From? (Rub Rabbits here in the Euro regions) will be out in February and is stylish and silly, and made by a team of mostly female programmers, designers and artists... and implements every gizmo on the innovative Nintendo DS, from the stylus to the microphone. It also does everything in its power to encourage people to play together."

Others standing out include Keita Takahashi, Will Wright, and David Cage, of which it's commented regarding the Omikron/Fahrenheit creator's output: "While both titles are flawed – arguably constricted by technology – they notably pushed the boundaries for gameplay mechanics. In this world of never-ending sequel series, this studio provides a light at the end of the tunnel."

If you enjoy reading GameSetWatch.com, you might also want to check out these UBM TechWeb Game Network sites:

Gamasutra (the 'art and business of games'.)

Game Career Guide (for student game developers.)

Indie Games (for independent game players/developers.)

Finger Gaming (news, reviews, and analysis on iPhone and iPod Touch games.)

GamerBytes (for the latest console digital download news.)

Worlds In Motion (discussing the business of online worlds.)

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