Friday, February 23, 2007

Squeenix games coming to VC (finally!)

Ever since Nintendo announced which companies would be contributing games to the Wii's Virtual Console, I've hoped and prayed Square-Enix would give us the original Final Fantasy. I have the PSone and GBA remake, and like both fairly well, but as an old-school curmudgeon I just prefer the ancient, blocky graphics of the version that appeared on the NES.

Well, today revealed Squeenix will finally be dropping one of its many classics onto the VC, though unfortunately it isn't my beloved Final Fantasy. The game that will be coming to Japanese Wii owners in March (and hopefully the U.S. as well) is quite a catch, though: Actraiser!

Japan's getting quite the lineup next month, in fact. Excitebike and Yoshi will be coming from Ninty's old NES console, the SNES is unloading Legend of the Mystical Ninja and Actraiser, Genesis lovers will see Alex Kidd and Alien Storm and those old PC Engine fans should be happy to see Shubibinman (Shockman in the U.S.).

Take hold of the conductor's baton on the PS2

Unless you've been living under a rock, you've seen the early build of what is sure to end up as a portion of the upcoming Wii Music game--the one where the player conducts for an orchestra playing the Zelda theme song.

Well, music-loving PS2 owners need not be jealous any longer. According to a story that just went up on, Banpresto will be bringing out a game based on the manga license, Nodame Cantabile, quite soon.

Apparently, players watch for the glowing light and use it as a cue to press the right button. I'm guessing the chances of this coming to the States are between slim and none, but it's probably a worthwhile import purchase for orchestra buffs or fans of the anime.

Super Paper Mario continues to unfold

EGM's Shane Bettenhausen is one of those lucky schmucks who received a preview copy of Wii's upcoming multi-faceted platformer, Super Paper Mario. He's a nice guy, though, and has been sharing what he can about the slick-looking game on his blog.

Here's one exchange that particularly piqued my interest:

Underfooter: Is this the next big thing for Wii owners after Zelda, would you say? Or is it just a mild distraction until Super Mario Galaxy?"

Shane: Compared to most of the Wii stuff out there, this is a really meaty game. It's also more accessible than the past PM games, given its traditional Mario gameplay. The complex 2D/3D mechanic might scare off little kids, but I think that older gamers will want to spend some quality time with this.

Add a console (or two) to your VC wish lists

Take a look at the pick to the right. Notice anything new among the systems supported by Nintendo's Virtual Console (in Japan)? You got it--there's a NEO-GEO on there!

According to a blurb on GoNintendo, NEO-GEO games will start appearing on the Japanese VC this summer, soon after MSX games first show up.

Will we be getting them here in the U.S.? I would imagine so, though there's no confirmation as of yet.

Also, notice that little empty space next to the NEO-GEO? I wonder what that means. Maybe another system yet to be announced? I'd kind of like it to be the GameBoy, though I'll bet it's something else...

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Are your favorite game characters (gulp) gay?

Don't by shy. You know you do it. And there's nothing wrong with that. Really.

I'm talking, of course, about the riotous gaymer past time of trying to suss out which game characters have yet to bust out of the closet.

Well, it appears certain straight gamers do the same thing. Though, after reading a recent article at Games Radar, I'm pretty sure the two camps (gay gamers and straight ones) go about it in different ways.

In his article (imaginatively titled, "Are They Gay?") writer Matt Cundy contemplates the sexual orientation of five of gaming's leading men. Although Cundy deserves kudos for his witty selections (including Kratos from God of War and Dead Rising's Frank West), I can't quite say the same for his reasoning.

Kratos is gay because he killed his wife and daughter? And Gears of War's Marcus Fenix plays on our team because he's been in prison and wears a bandana? Gosh, if that's the case, there are a lot more gay people out there than the scientists have led me to believe!

Of course, you get the sense that Cundy meant the article to be taken with a grain of salt. If that's the case, good for him (and for Games Radar) for being able to make light of a subject that in many other venues tends to spiral into homophobia.

Sega plates up a few Genesis goodies for VC

Another day, another slew of announcements for the Wii VC.

I don't know about you, but I think Nintendo's retro-tastic download service is starting to look pretty good! By now, fans of the NES, SNES, Genesis and TurboGrafx-16 should be able to find at least a few offerings that please them. Now we just need a few more tasty morsels for the N64 (The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, Paper Mario, F-Zero X and Mario Tennis would be great places to start, Nintendo!).

Anyway, Sega has just announced four more games that will be coming to a VC near you sometime soon. They include Beyond Oasis, Sonic Spinball, Sword of Vermilion and Vectorman. The first and last options look best to me, though I think I'll hold out until some of the Shining games are announced (Shining in the Darkness and Shining Force 1 and 2).

Hopefully Hudson's recently announced TurboGrafx-16 games (Bonk's Revenge, Bonk 3 and Chew Man Fu) will materialize soon as well.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Introducing: The Gay Gamer (SH)IT List

I decided today that my blog/site/whatever-you-want-to-call-it needs a little kick in the pants. Something that lets me show my true colors--or at least yammer on about what I see as the industry's current "its" or, um, "(sh)its."

Not sure how often it will show up here. Probably as often as the fancy strikes me. Hopefully it gets you to think or chuckle or vomit or whatever you need to do to feel excited about your favorite past time.

IT: Dragon Quest Swords shapes up for the Wii--I'm pretty sure I yawned when I first saw this game. An on-rails, hack-and-slash game featuring characters from the Dragon Quest universe? I think I'll pass. What a difference a few screen shots make. Every image and video released for this game looks better than the last, and it has quickly jumped to the top (or near the top) of my "must buy" list. I'd still like to see a "real" Dragon Quest show up on Wii, but this should be lots of beautifully mindless fun regardless.

(SH)IT: More Nintendo delays--Sorry to be so Nintendo-centric lately. I just have the big N on the brain, I guess. Anyway, there's no denying the truly sucky news of the week comes straight from Camp Redmond. Although news broke today about some interesting/exciting new games for the DS and Wii, Nintendo also dropped a few bombs: Zelda: Phantom Hourglass won't be coming out anytime soon, nor will Wii Metroid or Mario. At least Super Paper Mario is still coming out in April. Right? Right??

Italian artist shows his 'Face of Doom'

I'm fascinated with many subjects related to gaming--one of them being artists who are influenced or inspired by products and/or culture of this industry., a site completely dedicated to such endeavors, recently updated with a mention of Italian artist Damiano Colacito's "Face of Doom" exhibit. The avant-garde work consists of Doom's heads-up display projected for all to see on the side of a war-torn hotel in Sarajevo.

I've been following this subject (artists influenced by games) for a while now and hope to have an article about it published shortly. Stay tuned for more!

A lesson in 'PR speak,' courtesy of Nintendo

The folks at GameDaily BIZ probably thought they scored a bit of a coup when Nintendo VP Perrin Kaplan agreed to sit down for a chat about the company's past, present and future. Those feelings likely faded when the PR whiz opened her pretty mouth, though.

Although the interview with Kaplan spans four pages, almost no new information was revealed in the tête-à-tête.

For example, when the astute reporter queried Kaplan about the big N's "anemic" Q1 lineup, she replied: "Well, first of all, you're a hardcore gamer, and we're selling to the masses as well... There are millions of people who have yet to even experience Wii Sports."

(My follow-up questions would have gone something like this: Yes, I understand that, but what about the millions of people who have had their Wiis since November? Are you saying they need to sit tight until everyone else in the U.S. gets their system before buying a new game?)

When GameDaily's writer asked when the Metroid and Mario updates planned for the Wii would finally materialize, Kaplan answered, "I wish I could tell you. You will learn soon."

Later, when pressed about Nintendo's (some would call) stubborn use of awkward "friend codes," Kaplan said, "Some of that friend code stuff is really built for the mass consumer, not just the gaming world.

"At the time online comes [to the Wii] I think people will be pleased with it," she added later in the interview. "But for people who are hardcore gamers nothing can ever come fast enough."

None of this is meant to portray Kaplan in a negative light--she's doing her job, and she does it very well. I just wish Nintendo would open up a bit more, not hold their cards so close to their chests. Really, the only newsworthy information in the extensive interview, in my opinion, were Kaplan's comments about possible Wii revisions (a la the DS Lite) and the DVD-enabled Wii (which, to my knowledge, has previously been discussed as a Japan-only release).

Still, it's an interesting read if you're up for such things.

Nintendo unleashes new DS and Wii games

Nintendo of Japan was kind enough to update their release schedule for the DS and Wii yesterday, with quite a bit of exciting news for those owning either of the Japanese giant's current systems.

For starters, the popular Osu! Tatakae! Ouendan (which came out on this side of the pond as Elite Beat Agents) will be getting a sequel this year with the name Moero! Nekketsu Rhythm Tamashii Osu! Tatakae! Ouendan 2. ( kindly shared that the first part of the title translates to "Burn! Hot Blooded Rhythm Soul!")

Ninty also announced the release of Eigo ga Nigate na Otona no DS Training Motto Eigo Zuke. Doesn't ring a bell? That's probably because it wasn't released in the U.S. (and deservedly so--it helps Japanese folk learn English.Why can't we get a Japanese trainer here in America? I'd snap that up in a second!).

Panel de Pon DS popped up as well--an updated version of a wildly popular puzzle game first released on the SNES/Super Famicom (it made its way to the U.S. as Tetris Attack). The first screens appearing on show a much more elegant interface than the original, which was full of cute girls and pastels.

Nintendo's update didn't include just good news--a bit of bad news snuck in, too. The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass has been bumped from "TBD in 2007" to "unknown release date." At least we know Nintendo hasn't lost it's touch for delaying Zelda games (ouch!).

The list of upcoming Wii games (for our Japanese friends, at least) is even more impressive. Promised in the next few months are:

Fire Emblem: Goddess of Dawn
EyeShield 21
Super Paper Mario
Yawasaka Ataka Juku (a.k.a. Big Brain Academy)

Games set to be unleashed on the Wii-obsessed public at some point in 2007 include:

Wii Music
Wii Fitness
Disaster Day of Crisis
Mario Party 8
Project H.A.M.M.E.R
Super Mario Galaxy
Super Smash Brothers Brawl
Battalion Wars 2
DK Bongo Blast
Forever Blue
Mario Strikers Charged
Metroid Prime 3: Corruption

The highly-anticipated Wii versions of Animal Crossing and Kirby were officially unveiled as well, though with undetermined release dates.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Konami coughs up a few classics for Wii VC

The ESRB website has updated once again, and a few surprises are in store for Konami fans. Two of them originally were released on the NES (Castlevania and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles) and two came out for the SNES (Gradius III and Zombies Ate My Neighbors).

No idea when these will be out, but hopefully it's soon. All four are wonderful examples of their particular genres. I'll probably be passing on all but Castlevania at the start, though I distinctly remember having a blast with Zombies Ate My Neighbors back in the day, so who knows?

By the way, Nintendo, I'm still waiting on Duck Hunt, Excitebike, Metroid and Punch Out!! (among many others)--just in case you're listening.

I'll have a box of the white chocolate Wii-motes to go, please just posted this great pic--of a Wii-mote and nunchuck attachment made out of white chocolate and sponge cake.

Apparently the chocolatier converted the plastic packaging that came with the controllers as his candy molds.

Being the game-playing foodie that I am, I can't help but exclaim, "c'est magnifique!"

This is why I love Nippon Ichi...

Nippon Ichi games are known for a great many things, chief among them being ridiculously catastrophic combos. The folks at Siliconera recently came across a video depicting just that in the developer's upcoming PS2 release, Soul Cradle.

Some would say 86 hits and 1,399,945 points of damage are a bit extreme. I, on the other hand, say "bring it on!"

Okami creators (some of them, at least) now working on the Wii

In more news from the ever-wonderful Gamasutra, a recent interview with Charles Bellfield, Capcom's VP/marketing, has provided some intriguing information on the whereabouts of the staff of now-defunct Clover Studios (makers of the fabulously overlooked Okami).

"Some of the team that worked on Clover titles are now helping Takeuchi-san on Resident Evil 5, helping Inafune-san on a new title for the Wii," Bellfield told writer Kyle Orland. "So I think it's very much the skill set still stays in the company when those individuals stay and, unfortunately, three individuals chose to leave."

(Those three individuals--Shinji Mikami, Atsushi Inaba and Hideki Kamiya--have since formed their own studio, Seeds.)

Wonder what the former Clover folks are working on for their new bosses? Could it be the Wii-enabled Okami that has been rumored for a while? Bellfield did say they were working on a "new" game, but that doesn't always mean "brand new." Guess we'll see!

Indie developers still waiting for Wii

Well, the past few weeks have been a bit of the 'ol "one step forward, two steps back" for the big guys (and gals) at Nintendo. I can't remember where the positive news came from (probably the release of another study saying people can lose weight using the Wii), but I don't have to think too hard about the negative news.

For starters, I thought Reggie's recent interview with MTV did more harm than good. Not only did Nintendo's main man share some head-scratching information about Metroid Prime 3 (no idea when it's coming out, and maybe not online enabled), but he kind of side-stepped the issue of the Wii's current "game drought" altogether. (Not to be nasty, but I thought those days (game droughts) were over for the big N?)

Anyhoo, today's finger-wagging moment comes from the fine folks at Gamasutra, who have posted an article in which serious games designer Ian Bogost (head of Persuasive Games) let it be known that the much-anticipated Wii independent developer program is on hold at least until the end of the month.

According to the article, Bogost said he "received an update from Nintendo of America indicating that those without a publisher contract will have to wait longer than previously thought for development hardware."

In a post made on his WaterCoolerGames site, Bogost added that an unnamed contact told him “the Wii publishers are taking all of the available inventory [of development kits], and more.”

I guess we can put those rumors to rest, then, that Nintendo's indie download channel won't be announced at the upcoming GDC. Drat.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Past-Due Review: Trauma Center: Second Opinion (Wii)

Most Nintendo fanboys who stood in line to grab a Wii on launch day probably also got their dirty mitts on a copy of The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess. Not me.

While everyone in front of me in line ran froth-mouthed for the pile of Zeldas, I quietly made a bee-line for the lonely stack of Trauma Centers.

Why did I bypass Zelda in favor of Atlus’ 2006 update of the old board game, Operation? Well, because I have fond memories of playing that Milton Bradley classic—even though I completely sucked at it.

I suck at Trauma Center, too, but at least there’s plenty here to distract and entertain me while I work on my suckiness. For starters, there’s an actual story to follow—you’re an up-and-coming surgeon attempting to heal the world one patient at a time (yadda yadda yadda). You get the picture, right?

Where things really pick up is when you walk through the doors of the OR. With your Wii-mote in tow, you’re called on to juggle insistent nurses, pounding sound effects and music (some of which comes through the controller) and graphic displays of all your wrongdoings.

Those of you still breast-feeding need not reach for your binky. Although the game’s 3-D visuals are slick and nicely detailed, they fit squarely within the big N’s “fit for the whole family” mantra.

You shouldn’t be picking up Trauma Center for realistic visuals anyway. Truly, the coolest about this launch offering is the way it controls. Although it uses both the Wii-mote and the nunchuck attachment, it takes but a minute to grasp which accessory controls what actions (cheat sheet: the Wii-mote does the dirty work of cutting and sewing and everything in between and you use the nunchuck to choose your tools—which include everything from antibiotic gel and a needle and thread to forceps and a defibrillator).

Those last two tools are the main reasons Trauma Center is so darn fun. To use the forceps you point at the screen and virtually “pinch” them together by pressing the Wii-mote’s A and B buttons in unison. To use the defibrillator, you push the Wii-mote and nunchuck toward the screen to literally shock the person on the screen.

Does anything about Trauma Center stick out like the splintered bones of a compound fracture? Not really, though there are a few niggling details that could have been addressed before the game was released. One is the lack of spoken dialogue. There's quite a bit of text to read through while you're operating, and it would have been nice if audio would have replaced some of it (and it would have ramped up the level of tension as well). The other: would have been nice to see some 16:9 support for those of us with widescreen TVs. Oh well.

So, you’re one of those aforementioned Nintendo fanboys—the ones who dressed up like Link on launch day and picked up every game available. Should you have added Trauma Center to your stash? Yes, I’d say that’s the right diagnosis. It isn’t as deep as Zelda, but there’s plenty here to impress and entertain for quite some time.

As for noobs, well, you can add this to your “Wish Lists,” too. This is one of the best games to help you come to grips with the Wii controllers. The fact that you can also use it to show off the abilities of your shiny new Wii is just icing on the cake.

1up cuts to the chase about Super Paper Mario

According to one of my favorite gaming sites (GoNintendo), a recent podcast from the folks at another great site (1up) features new information about the game I'm most looking forward to in the next few months: Super Paper Mario.

I'm too lazy to listen to the podcast myself, so here's a GoNintendo reader's assessment of what was divulged:
  • The game begins like the rest of the series (i.e., in a town with an inn, shop, roaming characters...).
  • Stages are numbered just like old-school Mario games.
  • You cannot run or throw turtle shells at the beginning of the game. Apparently you learn these moves as you advance through the story.
  • Classic characters appear, some in "remixed" form.
  • The game opens with video footage.
Hmmm, not sure what to think about some of that. The combination of RPG and platforming elements sounds a bit bizarre. I'm going to give Intelligent Systems the benefit of the doubt, though, since the previous Paper Mario games turned out so beautifully.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Lights, camera, action! (Or, new FF XII: Revenant Wings movies)

A few new trailers for Final Fantasy XII: Revenant Wings have popped up at Both show battle scenes from the highly anticipated DS release (coming to Japan in late April), which make Square's latest portable outing look a lot like Sega's Dragon Force series on the Saturn.

Still not sure what I think about that (I keep looking at the game and hoping it will control like FF Tactics--which I know is an impossibility), but I can't deny it's a beautiful looking and sounding game.

Check out the trailers here: