Saturday, February 10, 2007

Past-Due Review: Bonk's Adventure (Wii VC)

I'm fairly certain Bonk will forever be known as the character that ended up with the bronze medal in the great gaming mascot wars of the 90s.

Bonk had a lot going for him--he was cute, knew how to use his head (bad pun, I know) and never buckled under pressure (even when that pressure came from immense green dinosaurs)--but just couldn't overcome the one-two punch of Nintendo's Mario and Sega's Sonic.

So while Super Mario World and Sonic the Hedgehog helped sell millions upon millions of Super NES and Genesis systems during the 16-bit era, Bonk struggled a bit to hock NEC's doomed-from-the-start TurboGrafx-16 system.

That's too bad, because Bonk's Adventure was an enjoyable little platformer. It didn't offer the speed of Sonic or the depth of Mario, but it was a fun and fairly unique experience nonetheless.

Now that the game has been released for the Wii's Virtual Console, a new generation of gamers have been given the chance to experience Bonk and his cromagnon quest. Is it worth your hard-earned Wii points? If you're a fan of 2D action/platform games, I'd say the answer is a definite "yes." If your idea of fun is blasting through 3D environments and nothing else, well, you may want to pass this one by.

Bonk's Adventure goes by at a fairly leisurely pace. You basically move Bonk through various BC-inspired landscapes while taking out enemies (mostly dinosaurs and such) with your big noggin. In that regard, Bonk can headbutt his foes or jump into the air and dive bomb them. Another move at his disposal is to jump into the air and spin wildly--which effectively lets him fly or float for a bit to cross chasms and such.

That's really all there is to it. It's like Mario transported back a few millennia. And aside from the headbutting, that's where Bonk's charms lie: the landscapes are colorful, cute and fun--all of which aptly describe his friends and foes as well. The music and sound effects are a bit on the "blip" and "bloop" side of things, but even they fit the bill and are never grating or annoying.

If you have a few Wii points burning a hole in your virtual pocket--and are longing for a bit of old school platforming action--you could do much worse than download Bonk's Adventure. Keep an eye out, too, for the sequel, Bonk's Revenge, and the Bonk-themed shooter, Air Zonk. Both provide similarly unique thrills for those interested in the genre.

Friday, February 09, 2007

Is Nintendo less creative than it was during its heyday?

I can't tell you how many times I've read that Nintendo isn't as creative as it once was. I believe it started as far back as the 90s, after the Super NES was released. As soon as a few sequels (presumably with the word "super" in the title somewhere) popped up for the system, critics started bashing the big N for relying too much on its key properties (usually called "intellectual properties" or IPs) and not on new and original characters and concepts.

Having heard this year in and year out since then, I decided finally to do a bit of research (made a lot easier by the fantastic Nintendo Database) to see if the criticism has any teeth.

The job was a fairly straight-forward one: I simply looked back at the games Nintendo itself produced and published for each of its systems from the NES to the Wii. I only chose games released in the U.S., since I'm guessing if anyone ever reads this blog that's where they'll be coming from.

Anyway, based on that information, it's true that Nintendo released the most "unique" IPs on its first system, though I'm not sure that should be much of a surprise (of course the characters and concepts were original and unique on their first system). Has it released fewer games based on "new" IPs with every system since? Not really.

For comparison's sake, there were many, many original games released by Nintendo for the NES--too many for me to care to count, at least. Rest assured it was more than 13 (I'll list some of the most memorable below). The GameBoy, throughout its life cycle, has produced about nine "new" IPs thus far.

(A note of warning here: I only count original, unique characters and game styles as new IPs. For instance, the games produced around the Wario character (WarioLand and WarioWare) are unique IPs, in my opinion, while Super Mario Land on the GB is not a new IP to the system since it's really just another Mario platformer. None of the platforming Mario games on any other system count as a new IP for that system in my opinion either. Also, I'm only considering the U.S. market here. So, even though Fire Emblem and Earthbound/Mother began its life in Japan on the NES/Famicom, they were first introduced to the U.S. audience on the GameBoy and SNES, respectively.)

During the SNES era, Nintendo released eleven new IPs for the system. Moving on, six new IPs were released for the Nintendo 64 (many more if you consider Rare's contributions, to which Nintendo no longer owns the rights), and eleven were released for the fairly short-lived GameCube. Lest you should still think Ninty has, in fact, been shortchanging fans when it comes to new IPs for its more current systems, the still-young Nintendo DS has already seen the emergence of eight new IPs, and Nintendo has released two new IPs for the months-old Wii.

Although it seems clear Nintendo has released slightly less unique and original concepts/characters with every system released since the NES, I don't think it's as serious as some naysayers claim. The fact is, since so many new IPs are released for each successive Nintendo console, the company has many more games for which fans will be demanding sequels. Considering that fact, Nintendo has done a pretty good job of keeping sequel-happy fanboys in line while also attempting to attract gamers to other IPs.

With that said, what did I base my opinions on? Here are the lists of original IPs released by Nintendo for each of its consoles (the NES list is only representative and is not exhaustive):

NES: Balloon Fight, Dr. Mario, Duck Hunt, Excitebike, Ice Climber, Kid Icarus, Kirby, The Legend of Zelda, Metroid, Punch Out!!, Rad Racer, Star Tropics and Super Mario Bros.

GameBoy: Advance Wars, Fire Emblem, Golden Sun, Hamtaro, Mario vs. Donkey Kong, Pokemon (includes all later Pokemon titles as well), Tetris, WarioLand and WarioWare.

SNES: Donkey Kong Country, Earthbound, F-Zero, Mario Paint, Pilotwings, StarFox, Stunt Race FX, Super Mario Kart, Super Mario RPG (includes future Paper Mario games), Uniracers and Yoshi’s Island (includes later Yoshi platformers as well).

N64: 1080, Mario Golf, Mario Party, Mario Tennis, Super Smash Bros. and WaveRace.

GC: Animal Crossing, Battalion Wars, Chibi Robo, Custom Robo, Eternal Darkness, Geist, Luigi’s Mansion, Mario Superstar Baseball, Odama, Pikmin and Super Mario Strikers.

DS: Brain Age, Electroplankton, Elite Beat Agents, Hotel Dusk: Room 215, Mario Hoops, Nintendogs, Super Princess Peach and Trace Memory.

Wii: Excite Truck and Wii (fill-in-the-blank) series.

Another (probably) yawn-inducing note: I decided not to consider any of Nintendo's sports games outside of the Mario sports series as "new" IPs for any of the systems. As far as I can tell, few if any of them ever produced sequels or new versions for later, successive systems, so I personally lump them together as updated versions of games originally released on the NES (Tennis, Baseball, Soccer, etc.).

Have I missed any, or do you completely disagree with any of the games I've called new IPs? Let me know!

Introducing: The Gay Gamer's 'Past-Due Reviews'

Early on in this blog's life I mentioned that I tend to be a bit late for things--I mean, fashionably late for things. Fortunately or unfortunately, for me that trait extends into the world of video games as well. I barely have time to buy games these days, let alone buy them on launch day and write up a review before the first week is up.

I still like the idea of writing little reviews now and then--and I imagine there are plenty of people out there who, like me, don't buy every game the second it's released--so once in a blue moon I'll post a "Past-Due Review" for your reading pleasure.

Until then, enjoy this pic from Yggdra Union--a game I have, but have yet to "get into." Based on how sweet it looks, I imagine I'll be doing just that very soon.

New insights into FF XII: Revenant Wings

I finally got my DS lite yesterday (I know, I'm way behind the times--so sue me) and what better game to look forward to now that it's in my grubby little hands than Final Fantasy XII: Revenant Wings?

I've been drooling over screenshots of this little beauty for a few months, but until now I can't say I've fully understood how the darn thing will play. This new trailer, released today by Square, does the best job I've seen thus far. Looks like the game uses an active-battle system similar to its big brother, FF XII on the PS2.

Personally, I'd prefer it handle more like the old 8- or 16-bit Final Fantasies, but I'll take what I can get. Regardless, I'm in love with the game--especially knowing it features some old FF tunes re-invented for the DS and displays graphics that in more ways that one remind me of Final Fantasy Tactics (one of my favorite games of all time).

Now Square just needs to announce a release date for us U.S. gamers. And while they're at it, let us know when Heroes of Mana, Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: Rings of Fate and Final Fantasy Tactics A2 will be showing up on our shores...

Super Mario Bros. serenade

It's amazing how many artists in different genres and areas are inspired by the 8-bit gaming era. Painters and other graphic artists are the most commonly discussed, but musicians are right up there as well.

Joystiq just put up this video of Greg Patillo, a beatbox flutist playing the main theme from Super Mario Bros. All I can say is "encore! encore!!"

Oh, and here's his MySpace page. Check it out!

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Square must be wrapping up FFXII: Revenant Wings

Here, according to various gaming sites (including the great is the final box art for Square's Final Fantasy XII: Revenant Wings. The game is due out in Japan in April, with no release information available for the U.S. or anywhere else yet.

It looks fine and dandy to me. A bit plain, maybe, but it definitely fits with Square's more modern, sleek packages these days.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Hey Nintendo: I want Tingle's Balloon Fight!

OK, this is old, old news, but since I just broke the great news earlier today that Nintendo is (hopefully) releasing the Tingle RPG in the U.S. later this year, I think it's worthwhile to bring this up again.

In a few months (April, to be exact), Ninty will be making available to die-hard fans (through its Club Nintendo members) a little game called Tingle's Balloon Fight. All that has been released so far is the name, the release date and the box art. Savvy fanboys like myself, however, can pretty easily suss out that the game will be an update of the old NES classic, Balloon Fight (itself an update of the arcade hit, Joust).

Considering Nintendo's fan club is pretty much nonexistent (and that's being nice to Nintendo), and Tingle's lack of popularity on this side of the pond, I kind of doubt we'll be seeing the game at our local EB Games anytime soon.

Here's an idea for Nintendo to ponder, though: why couldn't Ninty offer the game as a free download (from their site, from their in-store kiosks or from the Wii) for those of us who plunk down our hard-earned cash on the Tingle RPG? I think that's a brilliant idea! If only the folks at Nintendo (or anyone else for that matter) actually read this blog...

Could Katamari clone take a chomp out of the DS?

I love Nintendo. I love the Wii. I love the DS.

There, just had to say that.

Oh, sure, I love plenty other systems and game companies, too, but none have ever reached the level of my beloved Ninty. There's just something about Nintendo-made games and systems that make me giggle (yes, giggle; I'm gay so I can admit that).

Anyhoo, with that out of the way, a game is coming to the DS soon that looks to make me giggle some more--though this one isn't coming from Miyamoto or anyone else at the house Mario built. It's coming from Koei, of all people (you know, the people responsible for the Romance of the Three Kingdoms and Dynasty Warriors games).

The Japanese title of this Katamari close was Gabu Gabu Planet, and the U.S. version will be titled Prey the Stars. Ooohhhkaaayyyy... I don't know about you, but I like the original name better.

What really matters is how it plays, though, and here's to hoping Koei comes through in that regard. It certainly has a lot going for it--you play a dog whose goal is to gobble up everything in sight. Like the great Katamari Damacy for the PS2, your doggie can only eat small bits at the beginning, though as you progress through the stage he/she can eat bigger and bigger items--even buildings!

The pics I've seen so far remind me of both Katamari and that old PS1 game, Jumping Flash. 'll thank my lucky stars if the game approaches the greatness of either of them.

"Giraffetastic" shooter may be coming soon to XBLA

Well, color me surprised--again!. I guess I haven't been paying as much attention to the Xbox 360 as I should have been. I didn't know Jeff Minter, he of Tempest and Tempest 2000 fame, was busy creating another trippy shooter.

For those of you in the same boat, Minter apparently has been locked up in his lair (or wherever he can create games while on acid) working on a Tempest follow-up (of sorts) for the Xbox Live Arcade called Space Giraffe. Of course, Microsoft is just getting an early build of the game now, so it's not a sure bet we'll be seeing this on XBLA soon, though after seeing footage of said shooter (, I can't imagine them turning down this wonderfully retro sucker.

Now I just have to get myself an Xbox 360. And a few games. Oh, my husband is going to be sooooo happy to hear that :)

You know you want to look through Tingle's freshly pickled, rose-colored glasses

I know Link's little sidekick, Tingle, has a bad rep here in the U.S. He was a bit on the annoying side in his video game debut (The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask on the N64), I'll admit--but that doesn't mean I've put him in the doghouse for good. No sir!

When I first read about Tingle's Freshly Picked Rose-Coloured Rupee Land (that's the Japanese name translated, folks), an RPG built around Tingle's backstory (oh behave!), my ears perked up immediately. I was even more interested when I saw the first screenshots of the game--it looked like a very surreal twist on an old SNES favorite, The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past.

Considering the unpopularity of the main character, and the absolutely bizarre structure and storyline of the game, I never really expected the game to be released in the States. Early last month, though, word came out that the game had been translated into English and would be released in Europe sometime this year. Woo hoo! At the very least I knew I could import the sucker if I had to.

Well, it seems that may not have to happen. The latest issue of EGM magazine apparently states that Tingle's anti-RPG will be making its way across the pond later this year. No idea when, or what the final U.S. name will be, but I'm sure that will be forthcoming if the folks at EGM are telling the truth.

Fingers crossed!

(BTW, if you've never heard of this game, check out's preview, and a small video clip, here:

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Ring, ring, ring... it's Mario calling...

I don't know why this surprised me, but I just read (on many other gaming sites) that at one time the mighty Nintendo thought about entering the phone business with a game-enabled cell.

According to engadget imobile, the patent was first filed in 2001 but only issued just last June. The patent supposedly describes an "electronic apparatus having game and telephone functions" and details how the device would pause a game for an incoming call and resume after the call was completed.

In the end it's not all that revolutionary (cell phones have included game-playing capabilities for some time), but the idea of playing Metroid 2 or Super Mario Bros. DX while waiting for a call still sounds pretty cool!

Monday, February 05, 2007

Possible Super Paper Mario box art

One of the slew of gaming sites I visit every day,, has just revealed what is likely to be the final box art for the Wii's Super Paper Mario. Sorry it's so small--this is the only version I've been able to find.

Looks good to me. Very much like the Paper Mario game for GameCube, which was a very good game indeed.

My Virtual Console wish list

More and more old-school games are being added to Nintendo's Virtual Console every week. And although the company that brought us Mario has provided us with plenty to be happy about so far, there's still quite a few games that I'd like to see show up on the VC eventually. Here's just a smattering of them (not in any particular order):

NES: Bionic Commando, Blaster Master, Crystalis, Duck Hunt, Excitebike, Kid Icarus, Little Nemo, Metroid, Punch Out!!, R.C. Pro-Am, , Super Mario Bros. 2, Super Mario Bros. 3, Tetris, Zelda II: The Adventures of Link

TG-16: Air Zonk, Bonk's Revenge, Parasol Stars, Splatterhouse, World Court Tennis

Genesis: Dynamite Headdy, Landstalker, Shining Force, Shining Force 2, Shining in the Darkness

SNES: Earthbound, Final Fantasy IV, Final Fantasy VI, Secret of Mana, StarFox, Stunt Race FX, Super Mario Kart, Super Mario RPG, Super Metroid, Super Tennis, Tetris Attack, Yoshi's Island

N64: F-Zero X, Mario Golf, Mario Tennis, Paper Mario, StarFox 64, Super Smash Bros., Yoshi's Story, Zelda: Ocarina of Time, Zelda: Majora's Mask

I'm sure I've forgotten quite a few, but I'm sure you get the point.

Oh, I only included games that were released in the U.S. There are about a million games that never made it here that I'd love to see released on the VC, but Ninty hardly seems open to that idea so I figured there wasn't a point to including them here.

No Kid Icarus today, but Mario will do...

I was hoping today was going to be the day Nintendo would finally release Kid Icarus on the Virtual Console. Of course I was wrong. They didn't release Chew Man Fu either, darnit. But, Super Mario World is nothing to sneeze at, and it was one game I definitely was looking forward to, so as soon as the clock strikes 11 a.m. here (that's when VC games are available in the Midwest), I'm going to download for myself a copy of SMW!

I know a lot of people are griping about Nintendo's VC releases so far, but I think they're doing a pretty good job (with the exception of a few lean weeks). There's usually one great game released every week, and that's what I'm looking for.

Oh, the two other releases today are Vigilante (a beat'em up originally released on the TG-16) and Gain Ground (a strategy-esque game released for the Genesis). I've never heard anything good about Vigilante (hell, it was a launch release here in the U.S.--and that means something) and Gain Ground just doesn't look interesting to me. So I'll stick with SMW this week.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

A really gay game coming soon to the Wii VC

If you're a gay gamer looking for some gay gaming goodness, you should be happy to hear Hudson's Chew Man Fu (originally released for the TurboGrafx-16 back in 1990) is expected to be released on the Wii Virtual Console sometime in February.

Although I completely passed up this cute puzzler (which features a pair of big-eyed, big-headed gals who push colored balls through maze-like arenas while avoiding monstrous porcupines and such) when it was first released, I've recently been taken in by its charms.

It's the perfect game for me these days--the kind you can pick up, play a few rounds and then turn it off again.

Apparently another of Hudson's great TG-16 games, New Adventure Island, also has been given the green light for a February release. Sounds good to me, though I'd prefer Bonk's Revenge or Air Zonk instead. Maybe soon, Hudson?