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Archive For September, 2006

COMIC: 'Our Blazing Destiny' - Pokemon Mystery Dungeon & NEW Sonic the Hedgehog

September 30, 2006 6:24 PM |

[Our Blazing Destiny is a weekly comic by Jonathan "Persona" Kim about our society, cultural postdialectic theory, and video games. And about mocking classic literature and about new games that spit on my childhood hero and make me cry.]

Here's Persona double-dealing the goods: "Sorry guys, school work is piling up already on me! It's only like the third week of classes and already we're animating things for homework like Thumper from Bambi saying, 'I triple dog dare ya!'. Anyway, to make up for the comic I didn't put up last week, I made two for this entry!

"The first comic deals with Pokemon Mystery Dungeon, a Chun Soft mysterious dungeon game where you, a human, has been transformed into a Pokemon and recruit other Pokemon to help you traverse the various randomly generated dungeons. The story and illustrations are pretty cute and I like how the game asks you random questions about your morality that determines your Pokemon persona. They should implement that feature into the actual Pokemon games to determine your starter!"

My name is Gregor.

"This second comic is about the new Sonic the Hedgehog game entitled Sonic the Hedgehog for PS3 and Xbox360. I really like Sonic but the way Sonic Team has been handling his games as of late makes me cry. The slipshod glitches of the new game is harkening back to Adventure 1 falling-through-hoops-and-going-straight-through-the-ground-like mess-ups. Not only that, shouldn't the levels be designed better by now? The on-rails, hopping on to random animals/objects to travel around, running and getting sucker-hit by an enemy you can't see style design still doesn't capture any sense of speed and doesn't even live up to the amazing level design of the original Genesis games. And worst of all: why are the Chao gone? Having a small Tamagotchi-like animal that I could raise on the VMU and plug back into the game was the only reason why I kept going back and playing the games on the Dreamcast!

Anyway, in the recently released Tokyo Game Show trailers for the game, there are snips of FMV segments where Sonic seduces a young princess and carries her off in his arms. This wouldn't be that bad except Sonic positively looks like a guy in an animal mascot suit as he grabs the princess by the hand. It's really creepy. In the trailer they also milk the Sonic 2 ending song, 'Sweet Sweet Sweet' by Dreams Come True, in a 'come on guys, this is SO totally a Sonic game' nod. So basically, the team working on the game is so insecure about this Sonic title that they need to name it after the original game AND use the original song just to get a reaction out of people. It's totally Sonical!"

Fancy having a go at it, Princess?

[Jonathan "Persona" Kim is sometimes a character animation student at the California Institute of the Arts, other times a ninja illustrator, but in his heart, a true comic artist looking for his destiny in the sea of stars. His path on the torrid road of comics include a quarterly manga on The Gamer's Quarter (which just came out with a new issue a week ago!) and his website on the awesome collective Mecha Fetus. A new website design is going to be put up pretty soon! And check out the forum; they're having a "Make your own dating sim" contest complete with help on how to use programs to make them!]

A Mystery: Who Made Maniac Moons?

September 30, 2006 12:12 PM | Simon Carless

http://www.gamesetwatch.com/manmoon.jpg We've been asked by the folks at The PlayStation Museum to help solve a little mystery for them - which of course, we'll be able to do, right? It concerns the developer of the mysterious PlayStation 1 prototype 'Maniac Moons'.

The page explains: "Maniac Moons is a shooter game complete with 20 levels. The graphics are sharp and colorful. The animation is very smooth with very little draw-in. Your craft has access to various weapons including a bomb which when it explodes causes a jaw-dropping wave-ripple effect on the terrain. There are two different crafts to choose from. The game even features a playable two player dogfight. There is absolutely no programmer, developer, nor publisher information on the disc or in the code. The source of the prototype claims that it was obtained from an Acclaim bankruptcy auction."

If you know who made it, then contact the PlayStation Museum curator, of course. Also, elsewhere on the completely interesting but naturally borderline obsessive PSMuseum website, there are also lots of interesting videos of prototypes/unreleased titles on the website's YouTube page, including a video from the cancelled Titan AE for PlayStation 1 - hey, it's got colored lighting, at least!

Playing Catch-Up Plays Giger-Up

September 30, 2006 6:03 AM | Simon Carless

http://www.gamesetwatch.com/darks.jpg Over at sister site Gamasutra, the 'Playing Catch-Up' column, formerly staffed by Frank Cifaldi to excellent effect, is back under the auspices of Alistair Wallis, and the first speaks to Mike Dawson, lead designer on classic PC H.R. Giger-licensed adventure game Darkseed.

Some fun/scary stuff in here: “The president of Cyberdreams made a shrewd move,” says Dawson. “In order to differentiate the small company from more established developers, he attached a high profile artist to each title – not only to use their art, but to leverage their celebrity. He also paid Giger cash. Lots of cash.”

“By the way,” he adds. “Giger is truly a dark artist. I visited him in Zurich and the stuff you see in the movie Alien is toned down from his original work. What else? He had a shrunken head just sitting on his desk. And, when he gave us a tour of his place, he casually referred to one room as the place where his ex-lover had killed herself.” Oh kaaay.

COLUMN: 'The Gentleman Nerd' - Why I Don't Remember ... Runebound

September 30, 2006 12:12 AM |

[The Gentleman Nerd is a weekly column written by Jason McMaster and is dedicated to the more discerning tastes of the refined dork. Due to Jason's extreme nature, most of his columns will be subtitled 'Why I Love...' or 'Why I Hate...' - in case you were wondering.]

RuneboundThe only kind of problems that you need to worry about are the ones you didn’t create. There’s a world full of hapless bastards that will fall into your traps, if you set them correctly, and provide you with hours of free entertainment. Hell, you don’t even have to know that you caused the problem to enjoy it. That brings me to Runebound.

I had wanted a new game to kick around, so we headed down to mall to look at their game shop. I regretted it immediately because malls, other than being a beacon for the insipid and dull, are full of things that are just begging to be smashed. It takes all of my willpower to not take a baseball bat to the limitless kiosks that have popped up selling cell phones and coffee mugs featuring dog pictures. The only way to get through it is to keep your head down and focus on your goal. My wife refers to my walking style as “soldiering.” I never liked that description.

Once I reach the game store, I was pretty pleased to discover that they have a very nice selection. What’s less nice is discovering that they’ve marked everything up to twenty percent more than any other store. The copy of HeroScape they had in the store was priced at sixty dollars, when you could go down to the Wal-Mart two miles away and buy it for forty. However, after braving the mall, I wasn’t going to go home empty-handed, even if it meant that I had to take an upswing to the jewels for it. Though notoriously generous, I have problems spending money. I’ve stood in a store for hours staring at something, deciding if it was worth it.

RuneboundYou know, there are certain types of people that wear their lifestyle. I’m not one of them, thankfully, but you can easily spot the ones who are. There are certain types, of course, but the easiest to spot is the geek. The geek is not only comfortable in his or her habitat, but is absolutely not self-conscious in the outer world as well. That’s why so many chubby people have ponytails. When I looked back to the counter of the game store, I saw the geek to end all geeks. Chubby, shoulders and glasses covered in dandruff, wearing the most impressive mullet/ponytail combo that the world has ever seen.

You could smell his distaste for us as we entered the store. It was fifteen minutes ‘til closing time and this man was ready for the booster draft. I had to think quick. The least ludicrous priced game was Runebound; it was actually marked at the MSRP. I’d been hearing good things about it, so I decided to go ahead and buy it. We quickly headed home. I had some serious drinking to do.

There’s something inherently wrong with letting the guy who’s drinking the moonshine read the directions. I’m quite capable of reading game instructions and teaching others how to play, but I’m usually sober when I do that part. After chugging down a few mason jars of magic, I wasn’t in any position to tell people what rule does what, but I was nominated so what the hell could I do? I’ll tell you what I could do, I could belligerently shout out orders to those who didn’t have the fortitude to take control of a situation. That’s what led to the incident.

You see, Runebound comes with two ten sided dice. I didn’t think much about it, so I threw one back in the box. “It’s a friggin’ back up dice”, I slurred to myself, “who the hell needs a back up D10?” I had seen nothing in the rules that said it needed two, so I just set it aside. After Brian had taken care of his usual game stopping habits, we began to play.

RuneboundThe idea behind Runebound is that you’re out to kill this Dragon Lord guy… or something. There are expansions that add more cards and quests, but I don’t have those. So, you go around the board, getting encounter cards and collecting experience to level up. Eventually you kill that rat bastard and its all money, baby. You see, you have to kill a monster to get the experience counter to trade in for stat upgrades. That’s where the incident comes in.

We were all starting out, stomping around the board and attacking the easy monsters. Well, this would have been great had the monsters been actually easy. We had been playing for about an hour and a half when we noticed that we had sure been dying a lot. Everyone had been dying a lot. On occasion, Voge would ask if we were supposed to use that other die. Hell no, I said, that would make the game way too easy. Eventually he grabbed the book away from me and read the bottom of page two. That’s the page that says you‘re supposed to use both dice. Everyone stared at me.

That’s why you should never let the drunk guy read the instructions.

[Jason McMaster is a freelance writer who has written for Gamasutra, GameSpy and several other publications. He’s currently working on a few small projects and updating his blog, Lamethrower, as often as he can.]

Early '80s Arcade Music Spinoffs Explored

September 29, 2006 6:02 PM | Simon Carless

http://www.gamesetwatch.com/craz3.jpg Via WaxyLinks, a fun WFMU entry profiling a bunch of early '80s video game craze cash-in soundtracks, many of them rather crazed.

The blogger notes: "I enjoy the background music/video game combination so much that I decided to rename all of my cheesy Euro-disco and New Wave and Glam and Classic Rock. It is now, according to my iTunes, "Atari Music". Of course, I wasn't the first to think of this. Why, during the early 80s there was already such a genre...and it all revolved around quickie albums released to cash in on the booming video game craze."

Among the highlights: "Curtis Hoard, an "Atari champion finalist" (whatever that means), recorded Conquer the Video Craze, a spoken word album describing how to play the hot arcade games in detail. The excellent Dinosaur Gardens blog did a good job digging up a bit of information about this album, and also posted the whole thing for download."

MMOG Nation: 'When is a Game Not A Game?'

September 29, 2006 12:12 PM |

['MMOG Nation' is a regular bi-weekly column by Michael Zenke about current events in the world of Massively Multiplayer Games. This week's column is about the "world vs. game" debate in Massive design, and how that applies to Star Wars Galaxies.]

Trials of Obi-Wan CombatA rose by any other name may not smell as sweet, but most Massively Multiplayer titles available right now are games, whether they like it or not. Spaces like Second Life aside, there are very few 'virtual worlds' out there that can legitimately claim the title. In my mind, that's a good thing; we refer to them as Massively Multiplayer Online Games, MMOGs, or MMORPGs, for a reason. The example I point to most often when discussing this topic is Sony Online's Star Wars Galaxies (SWG). I'm harsh on the game for many reasons, but at the root of the problem is the fundamental question of identity. Galaxies launched trying to be a world, when what all the people logging in were looking for was a game. Today I'm going to talk about how SWG launched differing from more game-oriented and successful MMOGs, how the recent changes to the game illustrate the need for 'gamey-ness' in a Massive space, and why the concept of a 'virtual world' is inherently flawed in the first place.

[Click through for more...]

10th Anniversary, Super-Smooth Mario 64 Speed Run!

September 29, 2006 6:13 AM | Simon Carless

http://www.gamesetwatch.com/m64an.jpg Our friends over at the Speed Demos Archive have released a special new speed run, as they explain: "Peter 'Dragorn' Branam-Lefkove has been working for many months on an improved Single-segment 100% run of Super Mario 64."

They continue: "By complete coincidence, the run is now ready to post during the same week as the 10-year anniversary of the release of Mario 64 and the Nintendo 64 itself in North America. So, celebrate one of Mario's birthdays by watching Peter's very impressive 2:09:40 run, available in six different flavors."

There are some notes on the Mario 64 page itself (scroll down!): "You'll notice early on that I seldom collect stars in the order in which the level presents them; this might seem random, but there's usually a method to the madness. Sometimes, it's necessary for strategic purposes; for example, in Snowman's Land, it's necessary to complete "Inside the Igloo" before "Snowman's Big Head" because I activate the cannon in the former star. Barring those restrictions, I also usually like to mix up easy stars and more difficult ones; that is, I like to use the easy stars as recovery periods between more difficult ones."

BYTE Cover Artist Gets Quizzed

September 29, 2006 12:05 AM | Simon Carless

http://www.gamesetwatch.com/rtinney.jpg Those VintageComputing.com chaps are at it again, and have posted an excellent interview with BYTE Magazine cover artists Robert Tinney, which OK, isn't _completely_ game-related, but is absolutely awesome anyhow.

As is noted: "As cover artist for over eighty issues of BYTE magazine — microcomputing’s first and finest major publication — and as one of the first men to illustrate topics related to the fledgling field of personal computers, he near single-handedly shaped the popular visual idiom of what computers were, could be, and would be for the for a whole generation of microcomputer enthusiasts."

As Tinney himself comments: "Magritte and Escher are two of my favorite artists, and fans have noticed their influence in many of the BYTE designs." I'd certainly love to own some originals of these.

Game Ads A-Go-Go: Fighting Game Teaser Ads

September 28, 2006 6:16 PM |

vcg_logo_gsw.jpg['Game Ads A-Go-Go' was a bi-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 game magazine collection.]

This column was started back in March as a noble experiment into seeing whether I could say dumb things about video game advertisements with any sort of regularity. I'm sorry to say that I have failed miserably, as my commentary was almost always thoughtful, enlightened, and filled with rare insight, while typically leading toward the factual-analytical end of the bullshit continuum. However, this time -- in my last Game Ads A-Go-Go Column -- I promise that I will not fail you.

Why no more Game Ads A-Go-Go? Because this is my 16th entry in this series and I feel that it's time to move on to something fresh. It's been tons of fun, and I've really enjoyed writing for you, so don't be surprised if you see another RedWolf column on GSW soon about something actually serious, like analyzing structural motifs in Shigeru Miyamoto's fibrous navel lint (scientists have recently found that there's a surprising amount of stuff in that weird Japanese hole). Or, perhaps, I was thinking of doing a Jason Scott fan column. But in the mean time -- if you miss me -- you can always find me over at Vintage Computing and Gaming.

For now, however, we'll be looking at fighting game teaser ads! Prepare Yourself.

Not Actually Evil, Just Bad

The moral of this ad is simple: you can't tease someone with something that no one wants. So don't be pretentious enough to try it with Double Dragon V -- quite possibly one of the worst games of all time.

I would write more, but Shredder here has got them evil googly eyes that always make me nervous, even if in a facetious space-filler-writing kind of way. Besides, the people at TradeWest could have learned a lot from the following company...


A Little Bit Better

Now this is a game that many, many people wanted to play, even if it was the 15th minimally-changed version of a title released only three years earlier. Not since the likes of Mega Man have we seen such a case of sequel diarrhea. Coming Next Year: Super Street Fighter II Turbo Hyper Fighting Byzantine Champion Edition 2 Mini Puzzle Pals III.

Despite Capcom's "Adam, Prince of Eternia"-like attempt to act tough here, this ad still pales in comparison to our next contender...


Kome Kloser to the Kloset

Prepare Yourself to Kave into Kravings for Kombat (or for Kellogg's Krusty Killer Kobs of Korn). Ahem...I mean, only one out of the six ads above was not kreated by Midway, the master of all Teaser ads. But they all have to do with one thing: Qombat. Mortal Qombat, that is, the greatest fighting game series of part-time.

So let's see...we've got Mortal Qombat, Mortal Qombat Trading Qards, Mortal Qombat CD, Mortal Qombat II, a Mortal Qombat II (and Super Sleet Fighter II) rip-off controller, and another Mortal Qombat II. It took me forever to scan these ads because they were literally about 8 feet long by 11 feet wide, and I had to enlist the help of an entire Gnome brigade to carry the scanner across the pages.

This just in: after some careful checking, it seems that my measurements in the last page-size estimate might have been slightly inaccurate, but nonetheless, scanning the ads was still quite a chore since I am only four inches tall. It took me about three days to finish the task, and in the middle of day two, the elves (gnomes...whatever) went on strike over low wages. After that, it was up to me and my well-trained miniature oxen team (dragging a plough-like makeshift scanning device constructed of bits of scrap aluminum) to finish the job. But thank God we did, or else this kolumn would not be possible.

So by now, you've probably guessed that I don't actually have much to say about these ads, except for the fact that three out of six of them involve an electrostatic atmospheric disturbance known as lightning. Four out of six involve a circular dragon logo that some have rumored to not actually be an ancient Chinese fertility symbol. But I definitely don't believe them, because I've had seven immaculately-conceived butt-kids since 1992 thanks to repeatedly playing this game series. And three out of six ads involve the declaration "Prepare Yourself," but I have always been confused about this, as two of the six clearly state that "Nothing, NOTHING, Can Prepare You." So to find the true meaning behind this apparent set of mixed messages, we have to combine the two into "Nothing, NOTHING, Can Prepare You Yourself," which -- I think -- was the slogan for Mortal Qombat 3. That's probably why it didn't sell as well as the first two.

So until we meet again, live long and prosper, my friends. Thanks for reading, and have a great day.


[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 13 years. Have you ever chewed so much bubble gum that it makes your whole jaw and neck hurt? Well, he just did.]

A Delighted Welcome For RRRRPG?

September 28, 2006 12:04 PM | Simon Carless

http://www.gamesetwatch.com/rrrrrpg.gifVia the ever wonderful TIGSource comes news of a couple of new projects from Alan Gordon; the man behind Zi. Vertical is currently unfinished, but is still oddly mesmerising – so far, the only aim is to climb as high as possible in a tower using a grappling hook.

More interesting, and making more of an splash, is RRRRRPG, which is, for all intents and purposes, like Final Fantasy but without the flashy graphics, music, plot, or characterisation.

As TIGSource note, it’s like “the purest distillation of the JRPG” - all that remains is the fighting and levelling, though you do get to choose between three classes of triangles to make up your party, and there is the ability to upgrade your equipment. Gordon summarises the game’s aim as simply to “kill some shapes, then defeat the Circle God. That's it.” At under 500K, it’s pretty much begging to be ported to mobile phones.

“Frankly,” Gordon writes on his blog. “I have no idea how this manages to be fun, but it does!” Just watch out for those spinning grey pentagons.

[edited by alistairw]

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