Wednesday, August 08, 2007

GBA Twist Coming To Life?

In my blog on May 16th of this year, I wondered out loud if Nintendo should keep the GBA alive. And by keeping it alive, I meant adding a gyro sensor that is built-in to the system. This would certainly set it apart from the DS.

Recently, posted an article here about a patent Nintendo has applied for. It would add motion controls to a handheld system as well as connecting it to a console system.

Everyone seems to be assuming this means a new DS with motion controls. But maybe, just maybe, Nintendo has something else in store for us. It seems early in the DS lifespan for Nintendo to be tossing it aside for a brand new DS that will play games not capable of running on the original DS platform. But it would make sense to re-invent the "third pillar" (GBA) by adding some sort of motion control.

It would give Nintendo two unique handheld systems, each worthy of purchasing alongside the Wii.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

WORLD CYBER GAMES US Open Tournament Results Announced

Press release from World Cyber Games USA:

NEW YORK - June 5, 2007 - Last weekend, 68 of the United States’ top gamers faced off at the World Cyber Games (WCG) US Open video game tournament in New York City to decide the best of the best in American gaming. The two-day competition showcased some of the finest gaming action in the world, awarding top finishing players and teams with more than $20,000 in cash and Circuit City Gift Cards, along with the big prize - an automatic berth in the US National Finals this September. The 2007 WCG US Open champions are:

Half-Life®: Counter-Strike™ 1.6 (PC) - eMazing Gaming
Age of Empires® III: The WarChiefs (PC) - Milo "MrMilo" Phillips-Brown
Dead or Alive® 4 (Xbox 360) - Emmanuel "Master" Rodriguez
Project Gotham Racing® 3 (Xbox 360) - Wesley "Chompr" Cwiklo
Starcraft®: Brood WarTM (PC) - Tyler "Nony" Wasieleski
Command & Conquer 3 Tiberium WarsTM (PC) - Albert "GeNThO" Berriz
Need For Speed™ Carbon (PC) - Kamran "omegaelite" Siddiqui
FIFA Soccer 07 (PC) - Juan "H2k-Juanqui" Alvarado
Gears of War® (Xbox 360) - MoB Turtle Beach

Additionally, Tomas “Sup3rmario” Ornelas was the winner of Tony Hawk’s Project 8 Open Tournament, with a two-minute free skate run of 4.3+ million. Outscoring all competitors by more than 2 million points, the MoB Turtle Beach team member beat out over 60 other contestants, including spectators and local gamers, to take home the $1000 in cash and prizes, and an automatic berth in the National Final.

In addition to the over $20,000 in cash and prizes and automatic berths to the WCG USA National Finals, first place winners were also awarded roundtrip airfare and hotel accommodations to Cancun, Mexico to compete in the WCG Pan-American Championships. The Pan-American Championships, taking place June 22nd - 24th, are composed of professional gamers from 10 countries in North and South America who will compete in eight of the WCG official gaming titles.

With well over one million players from more than 70 countries, the World Cyber Games is the gaming world’s premier tournament. Featuring online and offline events held throughout the world, the year-long series attracted more than 1.3 million competitors world-wide in 2006. The WCG 2006 Grand Final in Monza, Italy broke new ground as more than 24 million people tuned in to watch the competition unfold in real-time, marking the first-ever global, live satellite broadcast for an e-Sports event. This year’s WCG 2007 Grand Final will be held in Seattle, Washington. For more information about the WCG US Open, or to find out how to register to play in the WCG USA tournament, visit:

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

PS3 Outsold by GBA in April, Yikes!

Here are the numbers for video game console and handheld sales from the NY-based NPD Group for the month of April 2007:

Nintendo DS: 471,000

Wii: 360,000

PlayStation 2: 194,000

PlayStation Portable: 183,000

Xbox 360: 174,000

Game Boy Advance: 84,000

Playstation 3: 82,000

I'm not sure what these numbers are saying more about. Are they saying more about Nintendo dominating in both handled and console sales? Or, are they saying more about the PS3 putting up pitiful numbers for April?

Hmmm, I guess they are saying a little of both. Sony really is caught between a rock and a hard spot. Sales are lagging, partially due to a poor selection of games and partially because of the $600 price tag. My guess is that the sticker shock has more to do with the PS3's sluggish sales than anything. $300 is still the magical price point. The Xbox 360 has sold reasonably well at $400, but it won't really take off until is gets down to $300. I'm sure Microsoft thought they would have a much bigger lead over both the PS3 and the Wii by now.

But Sony is really stuck. If the reports that they are losing $200+ on every PS3 sold are to be believed, then dropping their price won't help. Can you imagine cutting the price by $100 and then losing $300 per unit? They may sell a few more PS3s at $500, but they will be so far in the hole, they may never recover this generation.

Sony's best hope is to have enough compelling software that is unique to their system, that people will start to fork over the $600. But like I said earlier, at $600, they are from from the consumer friendly $300 price point.

I'm sure Sony is shocked that not everyone 'got a second job' to pay for their system. But now they are in an unfamiliar position. They are sitting third in a 3 system race. The next year is crucial for them. If sales don't improve, developers could move along to better selling systems. And who could blame them? Even the soon-to-be-dead GBA is selling more systems.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Gameboy Advance Twist?

Nope. This isn’t a breaking news story. It’s just a question.

From everything Nintendo has said in the past year or so regarding the Gameboy Advance’s future, the system seems doomed. But why? I know the DS is selling gangbusters, but Nintendo could reinvent the Gameboy brand. Gameboy is still a very powerful brand name in the video game industry. It sells well despite it’s obvious demise. So here is the of the very best games on the GBA was Wario Ware Twisted. The controls in this game were amazing. They were fun, easy and were dead-on every time.

So why not build an entirely new system with a gyro sensor built in, so every game could take advantage of this control scheme in one way or another? This type of built-in control could do for the GBA what the touch screen did for the DS. Think about it for a minute. One reason the GBA seams to be dying is that there is no reason for it anymore. The DS can do the same as the GBA and more. But if a new GBA had a built-in gyro sensor, then it could then produce unique games that could only be found on the new GBA. That type of uniqueness is what helped the DS stand out. The same thing could happen again to the GBA. Every gaming genre could get a boost being on the GBA Twist. Some games could be controlled strictly with the gyro sensor, but the majority could incorporate the control scheme into their game to complement the standard controls. The ways the gyro sensor could be used for new innovative game play is endless, much like the touch screen on the DS.

I know the odds are against the venerable Gameboy brand, but it can still put a new twist on games if Nintendo is up for it.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

TurboGrafx Ordyne Preview for Nintendo Wii Virtual Console

Hudson has announced 4 new games in May for Nintendo's Virtual Console on Wii. With one of them being Ordyne. Ordyne is a personal favorite of mine. This game was loads of fun, so I can't wait to play it again on the Wii.

I have included a pic of the cover and also some copy taken directly from the original manual. Please take a look, as I believe it gives a very good preview of the game for anyone who has never played it. So here it goes...

Page 1 Story

May Day! May Day! Is Anyone Out There?

Listen closely. There isn’t much time. My name is Felix. Felix Mockle. I am the assistant to the famous Dr. Tomari, inventor of “Ordyne”, the colossal Nuclear Reactor. Nobody knows this yet, but Dr. Tomari’s fiancee, Miss Kana, has just been kidnapped by an outer-space gang of bad guys. Led by a creep named “Kubota”, little do they know that hanging around Miss Kana’s neck is the key to Ordyne! If they find this out, believe me, the whole universe could be in big trouble! Dr. Tomari and I are going after Kubota. We intend to rescue Miss Kana and get that key back. Well, what do you say? Are you a man or a smouse (a small space rodent!)? If you’re a man (or a woman!) pick up that TurboPad controller now, jump into your ship, and blast off as myself or Dr. Tomari. Better yet, find a friend and we’ll take on Kubota together. First stop? A little air-to-air combat just to warm up for the really big stuff to follow!

Page 2 Object of the Game

As Dr. Tomari, or his faithful assistant, Felix, blast off in search of Miss Kana. Journey through seven separate stages of the game, using laser beams and bombs to defeat Kubota’s followers and evil Bosses. Pick up “crystals” along the way and turn them in for “power-up items” at the Space Inn. Take your chances in the “Space Lottery” and maybe win other power-up items. Finally, in “Kubota World”, face the evil Kubota himself. Play alone or with a friend. Score as many points as possible. When an enemy or enemy’s bomb touches you, or when you run into an obstacle (building, rock, iceberg, etc.), you lose one ship. The game is over when all of your ships are destroyed, or you manage to destroy Kubota.

Pages 3 and 4 Stages of the Game

Ordyne is divided into 7 separate stages. At the end of each stage you must defeat an enemy “Boss” before you move on to the next. Stages and bosses are as follows:

Stage 1: Air-to-Air Combat
You’ll get just a taste of enemy here.

Boss: Airship
This ship has regular guns as well as a super gun emitted from the exhaust port. Aim for the exhaust port to defeat this bad guy!

Stage 2: Magma Cave
Watch out for hot lava rushing out of the cave. You’ll face a fair number of enemy ruffians during this stage.

Boss: Giant Blue Turtle
This boss attacks in two ways! First, he uses forward missiles and heavy armor to wear you down. Next, he hides inside his shell and increases his laser fire! The Giant Turtle is vulnerable all over his body.

Stage 3: Water Castle
Get ready for underwater warfare! Enemy subs, mines and mechanical fish will attack. You move more slowly in the water, so be careful.

Boss: Hot Top
Watch out for this huge column that rises up and down, launching flaming particles from the top. Avoid these fireballs as they cascade down the screen and concentrate your shots on the spiraling power beads occupying the center of the column.

Stage 4: Overwater
You’re over the water again, but you can still take a dip if you want to. More airships appear in this round.

Boss: Hover Ship
This huge hover base bristles with forward gun turrets on the left side, and moves slowly up and down while an exhaust port fires an even more powerful weapon. Aim for this port to destroy the ship, but first shoot off the guns to keep the air free from alien bullets.

Stage 5: Crystal Caverns
Crystal forests appear everywhere. Shoot through some obstacles to reach valuable treasures. Face jumping robots, armored turtles with guns, bouncing rocks and other small and larger fighters.

Boss: Crystal Palace
A crystal ship waits for you at the end of level five! As it expands and contracts, small pods are released in all directions. Shoot the pods and aim for the crystal ship’s center!

Stage 6: Gallery
You must face some of the Bosses again, only this time they’re more powerful! Go against the Airship, a Blue Turtle, Hot Top (which now launches enemy ships), the Crystal Ship and a new Boss!

Boss: Mr. Roboto
A robot monster with a broken heart appears after the other bosses. Destroy the ring shield that circles the robot, and then concentrate on the machine itself. Watch out because it will change form and fire powerful lasers everywhere!

Stage 7: Kubota Palace
The lair of your arch-nemesis is near! First you must negotiate a path through spinning discs, blocks, and past all types of enemy ships. Can you make it?

Boss: Kubota
The final Boss appears in a specially built Mega-Jumper! As smaller jumpers are released, the machine will jump high into the air to defeat you! Shoot for the head - it’s the only way to win!

Page 12 Playing Tips
At the end of the Playing Tips page, it mentions a secret mode. Here is what it says:

There is a secret mode in Ordyne that lets you play Kana! To initiate the trick, press the “A” Button while holding the “Select” Button during the title screen and the word “Kana” will appear on top of the Ordyne title screen. Press “Run” and you will be treated to a new character as well as a new ending...if you’re good enough!

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Is Microsoft Controlling the Pricing on Xbox Live Marketplace?

According to an article in the April Game Informer, Microsoft is pricing publisher’s content. Content and pricing are submitted to Microsoft for approval. From there, Microsoft makes the final decision on what price to charge based on items of perceived similar value that are already on the Live Marketplace. However, Microsoft said that the publishers themselves are the ones making the final decision on pricing.

According to Game Informer’s sources, not only do the publishers not control the pricing, but Microsoft is refusing to let them release free content. Apparently, Microsoft wants their customers to get used to the idea of paying money for Marketplace content. Microsoft denies refusing to let publishers release content for free.

Who are we to believe? I’m betting on the publishers on this one. There isn’t much incentive to lie about such a matter. Again, check out Game Informer’s full article in the April 2007 issue.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Dreamcast Developer Interview: Shuichi Ishikawa from Caramelpot

In a previous post ( Lost Golem Review) I reviewed the Lost Golem for the Sega Dreamcast. And since then, I had the pleasure to conduct an email interview with the game's creator, Shuichi Ishikawa. Ishikawa san was gracious enough to answer all of my questions despite our language differences. So I would like to thank him again for taking out time from his busy schedule to help me out. The following interview is word-for-word from our emails.

Begin interview:

Q) Can you tell me a little bit about Caramelpot?

A) Caramelpot was established in 1997, when I was college student of Kyushu University, formerly Kyushu Institute of Design. All our staff was student of the college. So we have different specialty each, such as designing, modeling, programming and composing. But we have no experiences of making game.

Please reference

Q) Is Caramelpot still actively making video games?

A) No. We broke up after the release of Golem no Maigo.
Now we are working at different company and refine each skill.

Q) What other games has Caramelpot created? And for what systems?
A) Nothing.

Q) How long have you been in the video game industry?
A) It's my first work. I was just a student.
Now I'm in Neuromagic it's a web company, and work as executive director.

Q) What other games have you worked on?
A) I developed a text-based baseball game for mobile phone. It's running with real score of professional baseball in Japan.

Q) What is your current project?
A) I'm developing a few small games for mobile phone. It's plan to ship for asia.

Q) I noticed your name is listed quite a bit in the credits. Besides Director, what all did you work on for Golem no Maigo?
A) I was scenario writer, programmer, stage designer, publicity writer, sales rep, chef, office cleaner and so on.

Q) Who did the music and sound effects?
A) Most music composed by Yasunori Murakita. He was in master's course, department of acoustic design. He work in KORG now. (
Some music composed by Masakazu Shin-ya. He was also working as stage designer.
All sound effects by Manabu Kawamura.

[From above; Shuichi Ishikawa : Direction, Game design, Scenario writing, Programming, Stage design, Sales, Chef
Daisuke Nakamura : Main programming
Kyoko Murakami : Character design in chief
Kayo Arita : Character design
Yasunori Murakita : Music
Masakazu Shin-ya : Music, Stage design
Manabu Kawamura : Sound effects
Kentaro Tsutsumi : Design(Web page, face of GD-ROM, Manual, Leaflet)
Mika Kurahashi : Scenario, Script, Subtitle
Ryotaro Itoh : Graphics of picture-story, Stage design
Fukiko Kodaka : Illustration of manual ]

Q) Who is responsible for the art style of the game?
A) Ryotaro Itoh. He have nice sensibility.

Q) Was Golem no Maigo based on any previous game or work or was it a completely new idea?
A) It's completely my new idea.

Q) Could you give us a brief synopsis of the story in Golem no Maigo?
A) Sorry, I can't describe a synopsis in my english ability.
The Golem devotes his life to helping the citizens.

Q) What is the connection of the poem at the end of the manual with the actual game?
A) It's a spirit of Wabi-sabi.(See

Q) Are you satisfied with how Golem no Maigo's turned out?
A) No. We were so crude. It was very amateurish product.

Q) Has there ever been any thought to a Golem no Maigo sequel?
A) I want to make Golem no Maigo again. Etherealized one.

Q) How well did the game sell?
A) Too bad. I had to employ a efficient sales staff.

Q) What are your thoughts on the 3 current consoles and 2 handheld systems?
A) Nintendo Wii)
It's visceral console. It make playing possible with a light heart.

Play Station 3)
I think it's not how the machine provide better performance, but how the idea have original expressions.

Xbox 360)
It's too large for Japanese generic house.

Nintendo DS Lite)
I really like this handheld system. It have easy-to-connect Wi-Fi connection system.
It's groundbreaking because we can make a game with a light heart and estimated cost.
I believe that we can make a better game in restricted envionment, not in newfangled envionment.

It's too large and too heavy for japanese.

Q) I noticed on the internet a game called Trip Trap by Caramelpot for Dreamcast. Was it released?
A) No. It was no more than a concept.

Q) Finally, what are your personal favorite game systems and games?
A) Animal Crossing, I'm playing every day with my friends.
ICO, I am really impressed it's ending.
L.O.L., There is no display of level or life. Also there is no script.
Pikmin, It avoid the need to read the manual. It have wonderful introductory part.

Additional Information:
Please try to insert the Disc of Golem no Maigo to your CD-ROM drive of PC.
You can see the secret graphics.

End Interview.

I hope you enjoyed this brief interview. As a Lost Golem fan, it was definitely a thrill to hear from the game's creator. I would like to do more interviews with Japanese developers, especially those that are unknown to most people outside of Japan. If you have any ideas on who I should interview next, please leave a comment and let me know.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Wii Internet Channel Update

Nintendo updated their Internet Channel for the Wii tonight. Using the subtitle, "Now even more convenient to use!", Nintendo listed several new features:

- Faster start-up time!
- Search button added!
- Text is clear, even when enlarged
- You can now hide the tool bar to see even more of the screen

You will need to perform a system update first, and then go to the Wii Shop Channel and download the update. The system update also added a new splash page for the Shop Channel. When you get to the upload page, it says the Internet Channel is for 1 - 4 players. I wonder what that means?

Also noted was that the Internet Channel will remain free until the end of June 2007.

After some brief usage, the new zoom feature (not even mentioned that it was added) is much improved. Instead of zooming just once, you can now zoom several times. More times than you would most likely ever need. You can even zoom out and make a website even smaller than it originally loads. Not sure when you would need it, but it is there if you do.

With the ability to hide the toolbar, you can now view YouTube videos at full screen on your TV. That alone should be enough for people to want to upgrade.

Other noticeable features include the ability to view 12 of your favorites on 1 screen and the addition of an arrow that appears when scrolling. The arrow points in the direction in which you are trying to scroll. In the settings area, you can choose between Google and Yahoo for your search engines.

All of these features make the Internet channel even more useful than before.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Video Games: Murder Simulators, Racist Cop Outs or Just Plain Fun?

A recent article in the winter 2007 edition of Contexts magazine, brings up some fascinating points regarding video games. The article, written by Karen Sternheimer is subtitled, "When white, middle-class teens kill, the media and politicians are quick to blame video games. Are they right?".

Some points from the article:

* Do video games cause people to become more violent and even kill? The author notes that since the release of Doom, homicide rates are down 77% among juveniles.

* Since 1997, 199 newspaper articles have been written about video games role in school shootings. Yet, only seven articles used sociologists as experts.

*It's likely that aggressive people seek out violent entertainment.

*A study found that some adults use their disdain for video games as a way to separate themselves and make them feel superior to those who enjoy them.

*The video game excuse makes white children who kill seem influenced by video games, while African-American children are made to look dangerous.

The Contexts magazine article makes some compelling points and is a must read for everyone. The racial aspect is especially interesting and deserves to be looked into more deeply. It's a shame how people jump at a solution with little or no research just because they don't fully understand what is going on.

Click here for the Contexts article.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Everybody Votes Channel

Yesterday (Feb. 14th), Nintendo released the Everybody Votes Channel. Their description of the channel didn't make it sound very compelling; vote on random topics. Yippee. However, once you get into the channel and see what exactly Nintendo is doing, it becomes more interesting.

Every Monday, Wednesday and Friday, Nintendo sends out regional questions to vote on. Twice a month, global questions are added. The fun part is that up to 6 people can participate. Each person uses their Mii to cast their votes. Once you vote, you are then asked to guess what most people voted for. As time goes by, all your answers are tracked and you can see how your voting compares to others in your region or around the world. There is also a competition between each family member. You get to see who guessed correctly on what most people guessed for each question in your particular region and even worldwide.

While this new channel isn't going to wow many people, Nintendo's purpose is clear. They are trying to get the entire family together while using the Wii. And I think they have succeeded with this channel.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Terrific BBC Tetris Documentary

In 2004, BBC Four released a documentary about the grand-daddy of all puzzle games, Tetris. It is an hour long show directed by Magnus Temple. The show focuses on how Tetris was licensed. Without a doubt, it is one of the most fascinating stories in video game history. All the major players are included in this special. The following list is taken directly from BBC Four's website:

Alexey Pajitnov
Invents Tetris in 1985 while working at the Moscow Academy of Science's Computer Centre. Alexey moved to the USA to work for Microsoft after the success of Tetris.
Evgeni Nikolaevich Belikov
Head of Elorg, the Russian ministry for import and export of software and hardware. Belikov is the man with whom all negotiations about Tetris had to be done.
Robert Stein
President of British software house Andromeda. Sells Tetris rights to Robert Maxwell’s Mirrorsoft UK and US affiliate Spectrum Holobyte before he’s negotiated anything concrete with the Russians.
Kevin Maxwell
Son of Robert Maxwell and head of Mirrorsoft UK. Buys all Tetris rights (except arcade and hand-held) from Stein not knowing that Stein has no formal contract with the Russians.
Henk Rogers
American entrepreneur and video games enthusiast. Nintendo employs Rogers to get the hand-held Tetris rights to support the launch of Game Boy.

The candor of eveyone interviewed is what makes this film so special. No video game fan should miss it.

BBC Tetris Video

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

2007 Dreamcast Lineup

While it has been almost 6 years since Sega pulled the plug on the Dreamcast, games are STILL being released for it. So far in 2007, at least 3 games have been announced: Karous, Trigger Heart Exelica and Last Hope.

To no one's surprise, all 3 are top-down shooters. Last Hope is out now, Trigger Heart Exelica comes out in February and Karous is due in March. Here's hoping the Dreamcast can survive yet another year!

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Dreamcast's Best and Rarest Puzzler

The Lost Golem
(released Feb. 2000)

Looking for another Tetris clone? Well, look elsewhere. This game is anything but a clone of the granddaddy of all puzzlers. The Lost Golem (Golem No Maigo) is an obscure (the last count I saw was under 500 sold) Japanese-only game for the Dreamcast.

There are 2 main characters in this game: A Golem (a huge stone creature) and a King. The object of the game, like all good puzzle games, is very simple. Playing as the Golem, you must guide the king to safety.

The game is broken down into dozens of stages. In each stage, you are in the room of a castle. The object is to get the king to walk out of the door in each room. Sounds simple doesn’t it?

But the king isn’t the brightest torch in the castle. He can only walk in a straight path. When he hits a wall he turns left. If he can’t go left he will turn right. If both left and right paths are blocked, he will turn around and go back in the direction he just came.

As the Golem, your only way to guide the king to safety is to move walls in front of the King to change his path. Walls are connected to 1 of 2 different types of pillars. The type of pillar determines how the walls will turn/move when it is pushed. When you push a wall on a turning pillar, the wall will swivel 90 degrees. If the pillar is an ordinary pillar, the wall will just move forward in the direction it was pushed.

Besides getting the king out the door, there is one other requirement per stage. On each stage you must connect the required number of walls before the king can go out the door. This adds an extra element of fun to each puzzle. Not only do you have to figure out the correct path for the king, but at the same time you are trying to move and connect as many walls as needed.

Besides the 1-player mode, there is an exciting 2-player mode. The game play is the same as the 1-player mode except now it’s a race to see who can rescue the king first.

The last mode of play is the design-a-stage mode. It has an extensive list of commands. Everything you could possibly want to do is here.

The Lost Golem is a highly-recommended puzzler.

And even though it is an extremely rare game, this gem can be had on ebay for under $30. So, there is no reason not to pick this baby up.