Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Metroid Prime 3 Video Review

Metroid Prime 3 Video Review

Courtesy of Gametrailers. The scores and praise are predictably high, which is always something you expect from most big-time game sites and prozines. Still, this should be a good viewing, and the Wii finally gets a big-name title for the serious gamers. Hopefully, more first-person shooters will follow suit (am I wrong to ask for Doom or Quake 3?). I still don't have a system, so you'll have to tell me how the game finally plays.

Oh, and did I mention that the downtown Minneapolis Target received a number of Wii consoles on Monday? Strangely, it's remained a secret - they didn't immediately fly off the shelf as lore would have it. Still, the stock of nine should be gone by Wednesday. Again, I'm really impressed with Nintendo's new mastery of consumer seduction. They just know how much to tease, and how much to hold back. I'm curious to know how long they intend to keep this little game going. Certainly through the Christmas season - that's a given for anyone who remembers the Cabbage Patch Doll scam back in the early '80s.

Super Mario Galaxy - Famitsu Scans

Super Mario Galaxy - Famitsu Scans

That most venerated of Japanese game magazines, Famitsu, has published an amazing article on the upcoming Super Mario Galaxy. Every time I see more of this game, the more excited I get. As I wrote about in an earlier post, Mario Sunshine on Gamecube never really seemed to appeal to me. It remains a disappointment among the faithful fans. Well, fears that the series had finally run out of steam are unfounded. It appears that Mario has never been better.

I remember Next Generation's infamous Super Mario 64 article, with the bold headline, "The Greatest Videogame of All Time." I'm one of those who thought that was a fair call, especially in 1996. Now I'm wondering out loud where or when similar hype will be heaped upon Mario Galaxy. This game looks to be a certified videogame classic, pushing forward with bold new ideas, while paying tribute to Mario's platforming roots. Does anyone even make these kind of games anymore? It's all down to overblown movie pitches, and the same tired rotation of gangster game, gun game, racing game and sports game.

Doesn't Mario Galaxy look like one of those brilliant, "why didn't somebody come up with this sooner" sort of things? Super Mario 64 heralded a new era for videogames, but it seems few, if any, really took Shigeru Miyamoto's ideas and pushed them to the next level. That game remained a promise unfilled. Mario Galaxy promises to finally deliver on that decade-old promise. At least that's what I'm thinking right now.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

The Computer is Back!

My computer is up and running again! Thankfully, it was the main power source that failed, after all. I was really worried when I heard that loud POP sound. I was afraid it was the motherboard or the main processor. But a brand-new power box solved everything, which is great for me. I can't afford a new computer just yet.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

My Computer Went "POP" - Now It's Dead

It's a good thing I published those posts last night. Heh heh.

At sometime late in the evening, while i was burning a CD for my ongoing needle-drop project, the power on the computer cut out. Then I heard a distinctive POP sound. I think the poor machine died.

It's been a problem computer for some time. My last few machines were pieced together from a Twin Cities computer shop called Tran Micro, and every computer I've bought from them suffered the same fate - within a year, the main fan would give out. This thing has been running without a proper fan for at least a couple years. Ouch.

I tried to alleviate things by keeping the right side panel completely open, but even then, the machine was touchy. I think this is the last computer I'm buying from Tran Micro.

Right now, my only real concern is that hard drive. Everything I have is stored on it. I'm pretty sure it'll be safe, but that all depends on just what that POP was. Was there a power surge? Was anything important fried? Who knows? In any case, this sucks, and I really can't afford the expense right now.

Still, the apartment complex where I live has a small computer room - which explains this post, obviously. Strangely, I find myself a more productive writer when the computer or internet is down. We'll see. With luck I'll be able to piece together a new computer within a couple weeks.

Hmm....maybe I shouldn't have bought that electric guitar and all those records this weekend....

Monday, August 20, 2007

Nintendo Continues to String You Along

From the Digitimes Systems website:

Due to the tight supply of components such as IC chips and PCBs, Nintendo's plans to expand production of its Wii games console, originally set for June, have been delayed, according to Taiwan-based component makers.

With the delay of its plans, any easing of the Wii shortages in the worldwide market is unlikely to be seen in the second half of 2007, said the component makers.

Since Nintendo launched Wii in November 2006, the company has only introduced the games console in select regions such as the US, Japan, Europe and Australia. Worldwide accumulated shipments of Wii totaled 9.27 million units by June 2007, according to sources.

Just so there's an understanding between everyone here.

It's really amazing how the power of seduction works. If you're one of those socially-awkward boys who are trying to get girls, take some notes from Nintendo. It took them a long time, but they finally mastered the art of seduction. Or, more honestly, the art of manipulating and stringing people along. Is that really the same thing? I sure hope not. I'm still enough of a stubborn romantic, so I'll insist there's a difference.

It's a hard lesson of life. Throw yourself at someone, and most of the time, they'll walk away bored. But give 'em a little bit and then withdraw, and they come begging for more. Nintendo has been performing this masterful little bit of seduction with the public ever since the Wii console launched. And there's no reason - obviously - to change the game plan when it's working so damned well. Nintendo's the playa now, baby.

Huh. We're all in agreement on this, right? We all know the chronic Wii shortages that have followed the system since the beginning are all fake, right? It's been more than long enough. Nintendo could have flooded the shelves by now if it wanted. But then you wouldn't feel so desperate to get in on the action. Admit it. The fact that every store carries a "sold out" sign just makes you want it more. You don't even know why.

Heck, how many Wii owners have expressed their disappointment, after the initial thrill has passed? This is a common theme on all the game blogs and websites. Wii Sports can't be this damned good. And what's left after that? What kind of future will we have together?

It seems, like most serial seducers, Nintendo Wii isn't good for much more beyond a one-night stand. You'll still tell yourself that a long-term relationship is possible, like those other nice consoles. But as long as Nintendo can string you along, it'll continue to laugh all the way to the bank, laughing its way back to the top of the heap. Meanwhile, Microsoft and Sony are relegated to "nice guy" status. Ho hum. You can find them anywhere.

It's a common trait among children to suddenly desire something the minute it's out of your reach. It's a problem with our childish, spoiled culture. But, eh, whatever. I'm just an old crank. A stubborn romantic. I've seen all this before, and I know where this ends.

Are we even talking about games anymore? Eh, maybe, maybe not. The same lessons of life apply. You can learn the easy way, or the hard way. Your choice, my dear.

I'm Guessing You Guys Didn't Get Many Dates

Gee, and you wonder why videogames continue to have an image problem? People in this industry - folks with degrees from legitimate schools - spend large amounts of money studying the mystery of why women generally avoid games. Sometimes I wonder if they just spent too much time in front of the textbooks.

I remember when Bloom County was retired years ago, which finished by having the regular cast members find jobs in other comic strips. Steve ends up working for a comic book, where opaque, pimply nerds have their pencils sharpened by buxom pinup girls. "I'm guessing you guys didn't get many dates in high school," Steve cracks. Yeah, that's what I'm thinking.

Seriously, if the games business wants to break out of its teenage male nerd stereotype, and actually sell to those mysterious creatures...you know, females? Stop the videogame porn. Seriously. It's getting downright creepy. Blow-up doll creepy.

Oh, and btw, if you're wondering, these art assets (ahem) are from Namco's upcoming Soul Calibur 4, which should be hitting Sony and Microsoft's horribly overpriced toy machines. It was a classic on the Dreamcast, still is. I honestly don't know why these sequels exist. I don't think Namco does, either - apart from the royalty checks.

Super Mario Galaxy Looking Pretty Damned Good

If I do say so myself. I try not to get caught up in hype, because it seems that, for much of the time, that's all the videogame industry is. Hype. Like greedy children who pester Santa for more presents, more presents, more presents - all the while ignoring the closet full of crap you've already got. I don't think our grandparents' generation, the one that survived the Great Depression and World War II, should feel any sympathy with us spoiled little suckers.


In any case, I wanted to post along the latest batch of screens from Super Mario Galaxy for the Nintendo Wii, which is still scheduled for a late 2007 release. As with all things Miyamoto, don't be surprised if there are delays, but for now, all expectations are that Mario will appear in time for Christmas.

These are some terrific screenshots. The Wii gets kicked around for its horsepower woes, in comparison to XBox 360 and Playstation 3, like such a silly, childish argument ever holds any water anymore. We're far from the old days of Atari and Intellivision graphics. That said, the Wii needs some top-quality games that really demonstrate its punch, that really show something new and vibrant, above what was seen on GameCube. Mario Galaxy certainly achieves that. This is a terrific example of color saturation and detail, adding just the right amount of sugar to the standard Nintendo landscape.

I find myself really looking forward to this game. Super Mario Sunshine, for whatever reasons, is seen as a mild disappointment in the eyes of fans, particularly after what was billed as The Greatest Videogame Of All Time - Super Mario 64. Unfair, perhaps? Sure. But, still, I've never really found myself feeling that compulsion to give that game a try. I've never really identified why, but it lacked that immediate hook that all the great Mario games have. I'd still be happy trolling around with Mario 64 any day. Sunshine? Eh.

But Galaxy has the hook. Oh, boy, does it ever. This is something I'm eager to try out. It looks fun and inventive and colorful and mysterious, the way that all those old NES games were back in my childhood. And, for once, somebody actually got the graphics right. I don't know about anyone else, but I'm sick to death at what passes for videogame graphics today. It's all plastic dolls and cheap wallpaper sets, and everything looks depressingly the same. Mario Galaxy looks different, vibrant and alive. And, needless to say, it promises to hurl the whole notion of the 3D game on its head.

I don't know if it will prove popular with the newly-found casual gamer, the way that Wii Sports and Nintendogs and Brain Age have done. But I think this could be the Wii's killer ap with the traditional, hardcore gamer. The ones who have played through all the Super Mario games backwards and forewords.

Enjoy the screenshots, courtesy of JeuxFrance.

Deca Sports - The Next Wii Sports

We all know it's coming. If anything, the Wii library is practically screaming for it. What's that? More interactive games like Wii Sports (and, to a lesser extent, Wii Play). By all rights, the console should be flooded with these kind of games. The fact that this hasn't happened suggests that the hit game struck even Nintendo by surprise.

Fortunately, Hudson is set to deliver with its sports-themed Wii title, called Deca Sports. This game is scheduled for release in Japan before the end of this year, hopefully with a worldwide release around the same time. The game promises 10 events, including archery, go cart racing (!), supercross, volleyball, soccer, basketball, and badmitton. Sounds like a pretty impressive lineup to me; very inventive and thought-out, and Hudson deserves credit for thinking this one through. I suspect this won't be a cheap piggyback ride.

The magazine scans show the Wiimote motions for the different events, and this promises to be a real physical workout. Those of you expecting the next great workout regimen after Wii Sports should be pretty happy here. I'm impressed that such a full range of motions are employed; you are expected to perform the same body motions as you would in real life. The sporting events, especially, look very promising. Count me hooked. I'm looking forward to Deca Sports.

Thanks, as always, to the steadfast crew at 4 Color Rebellion for the scoop. Magazine scans courtesy of JeuxFrance. Enjoy.

Deca Sports Scans

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Orson Welles' The Stranger DVD

I'm a great fan of Orson Welles. I always have been ever since I heard the infamous 1938 War of the Worlds broadcast as a child, then years later when I discovered Citizen Kane. Heck, I was even a fan of all those television ads he was forced to do in his later years.

A local DVD rental store in Minneapolis has stocked all of Welles' movies currently on DVD, although many of them are cheap imports. It's the only was I was able to discover The Magnificent Ambersons, The Trial, and this little 1946 film called The Stranger. Imagine my surprise, then, so see The Stranger reissued under MGM's Film Noir label.

This is generally regarded as one of Welles' lesser movies, since it was essentially a studio picture for hire. Poor Orson, already in exile from the Hollywood system, despite making the greatest movie of all time (Kane) and the first of many mutilated masterpieces (Ambersons), trying to prove that he can work within the rules of the system. Prove that he can be a good "team player." He remarked years later that he could have had a very steady, successful career had he followed this route. Fortunately, his genius could not be controlled nor contained. We are all the better for it.

I think The Stranger is a terrific movie, a masterful piece of noir. It's always a thrill to see the young Orson Welles on the big screen. We have so few opportunities to see that young face from Citizen Kane, before age kicks in, and the weight comes on, and the portly, bearded Orson Welles takes over.

You could say this is a more formulaic sort of picture, a story of a Nazi in hiding in small-town America, being hotly pursued by the great Edward G. Robinson, but I think that says more about Welles' greater achievements than anything. His pictures were so unpredictable, so random, so completely unexpected, and so dark. He was film noir before noir existed. So perhaps that skews our expectations here. I would suggest that we put that aside.

There's one thing in The Stranger that really stands out for me, and it's the final chase sequence at the end, located in a church bell tower. Movie fans will draw the obvious, menacing parallels to Alfred Hitchcock's Vertigo, and Tim Burton's first Batman (am I still wrong to like that one?). It all, of course, goes back to Fritz Lang's Metropolis, but I think Welles take is the definitive one, the darkest, the most exciting. I'm amazed at how quickly he absorbed Gregg Toland's groundbreaking cinematic style. It's in evidence here, and points to the purely visual style that would mark Welles' European period.

And, in the end, what you have is a really entertaining picture. Loaded with suspense, intrigue, a little bit of humor here and there, and some excellent performances. I don't think this movie's obscurity will last with a prominent DVD release such as this. It deserves to be admired and enjoyed by audiences today, and should belong in your movie collection.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

EDGE Magazine Steals My Screenshot

Yes, ladies and gentlemen, this is now officially the most important videogame screenshot in the history of the internet. It's been lifted for numerous websites and MySpace spam pages, and now it appears in print, courtesy of EDGE.

This shot appears in EDGE's new 100 Greatest Games issue, which hit shelves a few weeks ago across the pond. Copies finally appeared at Barnes & Nobles here at the Megamall, so I found myself thumbing through it. Imagine my surprise, then, when this screenshot appears on the Nights page.

I took the above picture, and a few others, which appear on the Nights page at DanielThomas.org, using the Giri-Giri Saturn emulator a few years ago. As I occasionally brag and boast, these pictures are all my own doing. I spent several hours taking dozens of shots, trying to capture that right moment, and with this one I felt I really nailed it. It's just a terrific picture that illustrates all those different elements that make up the Nights universe, and it just flows. I'm really quite proud of this one, as I'm proud of all of them.

Taking great screenshots from games is a skill I take great pride in. I always remember the quick-and-easy way EGM created their own art assets in their earlier, poorer days. Most prozines, then and especially now, would stick to the official shots from the media packets. But more often than not, those shots are boring. Hardly anybody knows how to properly capture action in a screenshot. You have to demonstrate action and motion, show off some color and detail. And, most of all, you have to make the game itself look good. Not always an easy thing, but the classics always have enough moments for such magic to appear.

I'm really not happy that EDGE stole my Nights shot without asking. Hello, people! I write about videogames! I have experience as a published writer! My website is over four years old! Somebody hire me already! Did I mention I'm working a horrible day job - an office job - to pay the bills? Offer me a helping hand, already.

C'mon, EDGE. Give me a writing assignment. Somebody give me a writing assignment. Please? You already like my photo skills - how can you not like the writing? Have I mentioned that I really, really hate my day job? Extra income could save my sanity right about now.

Namco Museum DS

It's official now - I have to get another Nintendo DS.

Namco revealed the inevitable DS version of its ever-popular Museum series at E3. Probably not too much to get worked up about, considering that they've done little beyond repackage the same titles over and over again. Well....they're still doing that. But they're doing some great things with the DS version. In fact, I'd say this is the best Namco Museum since the Playstation originals.

Reason one...drum roll, please.....

Pac-Man Vs.! Online!

One of the great "lost" triumphs from the last console generation, Pac-Man Vs. was Shigeru Miyamoto's own unique take on Pac. This game is, essentially, Pac-Man deathmatch. Players either take Pac or one of the ghosts and start chasing each other around. This was a GameCube title that also used the Gameboy Advance for the Pac player, who alone could view the entire map. The ghosts can only see their immediate area in splitscreen.

The DS is a perfect fit for a game like this. It was one of those beautiful little Nintendo experiments that takes on a life of its own, kinda like the DS itself. And did I mention it's playable online? The only addition I imagine anyone asking after all this would be more mazes, but I suppose there could be a Ms. Pac-Man Vs. for that.

Anyway, back to Namco Museum. Eight games are included, which is a good sum, considering the short shrift previous portable versions have been. It's great to see Xevious included, which, as everyone knows, is one of my faves. Also featured are Pac-Man (duh), Galaga, Dig Dug 2, Galaxian, Mappy, and Tower of Druaga. You can download any single game to another DS to share. The library mode from the Playstation days finally makes its reappearance, which includes trivia and artwork. And you can manage the arcade dip-switches with the stylus.

All in all, an excellent little cart. The game choices are interesting, and sure to tick off a few here and there, but at least the door's open for a Namco Museum 2 on the DS. Heck, given the handheld's booming popularity, I'd expect it - Rally X, Pole Position, Ms. Pac-Man, Super Pac-Man, Rolling Thunder, yadda yadda. Yeah, definitely scoop this one up when it appears on the shelves.

Thanks to IGN for these wonderful screenshots, which I, ahem, borrowed. See? I'm giving credit where credit is due! Are we taking notes, people?

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

We're Alright

Just wanted to post along, since I left my cell phone at work - of all the damned times to forget these things! In any case, the public has been advised not to use cell phones in the Twin Cities, and leave the airwaves open for those who need them.

This is a sudden and shocking event, and I know that all the television footage looks horrific. But casualties, so far, are very low, and many people caught on that bridge managed to walk away or receive immediate medical attention. It really is miraculous. Our hopes and prayers go to all those affected here in the Twin Cities.