FALL 2005

Posts from October, November, and December 2005.

December 31, 2005...  What Happened to Amp'd Mobile, Anyway?

Here it comes, folks... the new year!  Are you ready for a new batch of game consoles?  Well, you'd better be, because the Xbox 360 is already here, and the Playstation 3 and Nintendo's Revolution will both hit store shelves next fall (if not even sooner).

Then there's Amp'd Mobile, which is ready to carry the torch that first burned Nokia and its own entertainment-centric cell phone, the N-Gage.  The ads for the Amp'd line of phones are somehow even more obnoxious than the ones for the N-Gage, suggesting that the heir to Nokia's porcelain throne has learned nothing from the mistakes of its predecessor.

"So, what about the site," you ask?  Well, let's just say you asked anyway.  The Gameroom Blitz is fast approaching its tenth year online, and I should find some way to celebrate the anniversary.  Actually updating every once in a while would be a good start. MAME: Full Access, originally intended as a bi-monthly column, will be lucky to be a bi-yearly feature at this point, and there are plenty of other sections of the Blitz that could use new content.  Ah, there's so much to do, and so little motivation to do it!

If I start updating the site on a regular basis, the next step is to come up with a new layout to replace the current one.  I don't mind the way The Gameroom Blitz looks right now, but I'm sure that look could be improved with a little effort and imagination.  It gives me something to think about between classes at college and outside contributions to sites like GameTap and 1UP.

December 28, 2005...  On Target, Yet Off the Mark

So I was hanging around at the local Target the other day, when I came across this not-so-little number.  The manufacturers are trying to pass it off as a full-sized arcade machine for your living room, but after spending some time with the Midway Home Use Arcade Machine, it's more accurate to call it the world's largest and most expensive TV Games unit. 

It's almost the size of a real arcade cabinet, but the parts inside are anything but arcade quality, with el cheapo joysticks and a television monitor that turns vivid reds into hazy yellows.  The games, all translations of popular Midway arcade titles, seemed pretty close to the hits I remember from my childhood, but I can't help but think that the designers would have been better off just packing them all in a standard TV games unit.  That way, they could have saved both themselves and their customers a whole lot of money.

As it is, you're paying an Xbox 360 price for early 1980's technology, housed in a cabinet that's much worse than what you'd find in a real arcade or even the local laundromat.  Anyway you slice it, it's not a smart investment.

Anyway, I've done a little maintenence on the site, and finally added a PSP section to the Sony review page.  It's not hard to guess which of the system's games I reviewed first!

December 27, 2005...  Stocking Stuffers

It's the holiday season.  Christmas has come and gone with many gifts given and received.  I've finally got an arcade-quality joystick, although I had to buy a Tekken game along with it.  My PSP got its first real workout in ages, doing what it does best... impressing people who can't afford it.  After a long-overdue modification, the Sega Saturn's been taken out of retirement and set in front of the television where it belongs. Finally, the recently released Nintendo DS version of Bust-A-Move has set the series back on solid ground after years of artistically repellant sequels on the Playstation 2, GameCube, and Xbox.

Ah yes, life is good.  Now, if only I could do something about the incredible disappearing message board!

December 20, 2005...  Ebert vs. Q*Bert (or, the video games as art debate)

I was asked by reader William Campi if I had any opinion on the recent outburst by film critic Roger Ebert, who concluded that video games are not a legitimate form of art.  You'd better believe I have an opinion about this... in fact, I've got four of them!

1)  Art is highly subjective.  So are opinions.  Roger Ebert has arrogantly made the error of considering his personal opinion to be factual and authoritative.  The reality is that his point of view is only a fact in the eyes of a single man.

2)  By his own admission, Roger Ebert admits that he's not familiar with video games.  His declaration that they are "not art" is as valid as my saying "I've never seen the King Kong movie, but I'm confident in saying that it's terrible, since I've never been all that fond of gorillas."

3)  Video games contain paintings, music, sculpture (if you count polygonal rendering, and I do), cinema, animation, and prose.  Seperately, all of these things are considered art.  When put together as a cohesive whole, they're... not?  Does that make any sense at all?

4)  If a cross submerged in urine can be considered a work of art... if a man can haphazardly scatter paint and cigarette butts over a canvas and call it art... if a musician can sit at a piano for over four minutes without playing a single note and call this empty performance art... it is entirely reasonable to consider video games a form of artistic expression.

My final word on all this?  Roger Ebert is just a snobbish elitist; a man who feels threatened by the increasing popularity of a hobby which has overtaken theatre as the preferred form of entertainment for many Americans.  Ebert is entitled to his opinion, or would be, if he bothered to do any research, but in the end, his word is neither law nor fact.

Now if you'll excuse me, I think I'll blow the dust off my DVD collection and watch a film critic who I still admire and respect.  Namely, this one.

December 16, 2005...  Esther, You Ugly!

It's time once again to give the site its annual, minty-fresh Christmas makeover!  The candy cane-striped borders provide the thrills, while the freezing temperature and complete lack of new content provide the chills. 

Hopefully, I'll have something new on the site in time for all the usual winter holidays, like Festivus, and Pule, and, Redd Foxx's birthday, and... uh, someone turn off my television before my brain melts and spills out of my ear.

December 12, 2005...  Dreams Don't DIE!

Oh Sega, why must you taunt me so with your on-again, off-again support for the Dreamcast?  There are rumors that the system is going to be re-released alongside a new Milestone shooter called Radilgy.  It's good news if it's true, but personally, I would have been a lot happier if Sega had waited until now to discontinue the Dreamcast in the first place.

Speaking of science-fiction games for long-dead systems, Solar Plexus is now available for purchase from the Atari Age store.  If you're a fan of the Atari 2600, you really ought to get yourself a copy of the game... there's nothing else quite like it on the system.

Well, that's it for this update.  Back to studying... I've got finals this week, after all!

December 7, 2005...  Red Rings of Death

Complete Convergence has been updated one last time for the handful of people who are still running emulators on their PSPs.  The final installment of the series takes you step by step through the installation of the system's best Neo-Geo CD emulator, letting you play your favorite arcade titles from the 1990's on the go.

In other news, things are really heating up for the Xbox 360... and I don't mean that in a good way.  Many of the units shipped are prone to overheating, leaving their owners a little steamed as well.  Lawsuits have already been filed against Microsoft for fudging the first shipment of 360s, a surprising development when you consider how long it took gamers to take legal action when their Playstation 2s stopped reading discs. 

I'm not the world's biggest Microsoft fan, ranking somewhere between Steve Jobs and the Linux penguin.  However, I can't help but think these lawsuits were motivated as much by the hopes of digging through Bill Gates' deep pockets as they were the aggravation of taking home a faulty game system.  It's reasonable to expect a refund for malfunctioning merchandise, but lumping "unspecified damages" into this claim makes me think the people who filed it are hoping to get a lot more out of the deal than a replacement Xbox 360.

November 30, 2005...  M-80s: Not Just for Toilets Anymore

It's not your ordinary, average update to The Gameroom Blitz, ladies and gentlemen... it's the first update to the Dan Hibiki tribute page in months!  The man in mauve hasn't seen much action lately, but thanks to reader Onikage88, we've got a brief video of Dan training some new recruits... and getting schooled by an old rival!

For all you PC gamers out there, Sega and M-80 wanted me to let you know that there's a new mission pack for the critically acclaimed Rome: Total War.  It's called Barbarian Invasion, and you'll find more information about it here.  According to M-80's press release, Barbarian Invasion adds a new dimension to the gameplay of this military strategy title, allowing you to either defend the once proud Roman empire or trample it in the dust with an army of bloodthirsty berzerkers.

Strategy titles have never been to my personal taste, but if you're into games that require careful thought rather than quick reflexes, Rome: Total War and its recent expansion pack should keep your mind sharp through the lazy holiday season.

One final bit of news to report... the ghost of the corrupt Clinton presidency has returned to haunt gamers, with a proposed ratings system enforced by our "friends" at the freakin' FCC.  Dearest Hillary, whatever will you do when you've taken your favorite scapegoat and legislated it out of existence?  You might actually have to pass some meaningful laws for a change, rather than pandering to lobotomized parents who can't read a large bold M on the front of a game box.

It makes me glad that Hillary Clinton and her bone-headed husband are finally out of the White House.  I mean, really, who else could be so irresponsible and self-serving?  Who, I ask you, who?

Oh yeah, I forgot about him.

November 21, 2005...  Nintendo Wi-Fi First Impressions

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.  That's a fitting description for the Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection, which brings online functionality to your favorite Nintendo DS games... well, if those games happen to be Mario Kart DS and Tony Hawk's American Sk8teland, anyway.

I've only tried Mario Kart DS myself, but I've been alternately amazed and aggravated by the game's online features.  When the connection is stable, the gameplay is outstanding, but when it's not, you'll have immense difficulty just STARTING a race, let alone finishing one.

When I first tried to get Mario Kart DS online (at around 7:00PM Eastern time), breaks in the connection were so frequent that it was a desperate fight just to squeeze a single lap out of the game, much less a full four round circuit.  The best I was able to get, after thirty minutes of searching for opponents, was a two lap race cut short by the all-too familiar black screen of death™.

So I took a break to cool off.  After an hour of fooling around with my PSP, downloading a patch for my copy of WipeOut Pure and trying in vain to start a multiplayer battle in Twisted Metal Head-On, I came back to Mario Kart DS.  At this point my expectations were pretty low, so you can only imagine how surprised I was when the game's online experience, which was absolutely awful just an hour ago, suddenly turned into a work of art.

I was able to play through several circuits without being disconnected once, and without the more minor aggravation of characters that spastically dart around the screen.  The encouraging media coverage of Nintendo's Wi-Fi service, which seemed so very wrong at first, was starting to sound a lot more accurate.

Don't believe all the hype.  At present, there aren't many games that support Nintendo's online service, and unless you luck out and connect to the network when traffic is low, they're not always fun to play.  Still, there's definitely promise here.  I've seen what the Wi-Fi service can do... let's hope that in the future, this strong performance will become the rule rather than the exception.

November 14, 2005...  Save the Trauma for Your Mama

It's another exciting installment of "Overdue Updates Gone Wild!"  Watch as hot, sexy updates to The Gameroom Blitz bare it all after a week-long delay!  Order now and you'll get a review of Trauma Center: Under the Knife for free!  Why settle for seeing a little skin when you can find out what's underneath it?

So what's going on in the world of gaming?  There's a distressing new trend by media outlets to either downplay the Revolution or ignore it entirely in discussions about the next generation of consoles.  Take IGN and GameSpot (please).  On the top of each page, where the links to each system are placed, there are references to both the Xbox and Playstation 3, but no mention whatsoever of the Revolution.

Now I can understand why they'd include the Xbox 360, given the fact that it's set to be released in a couple of weeks, but why the Playstation 3 and not the Revolution?  Sure, we've all seen the video clips of games like Metal Gear Solid 4, but what we HAVEN'T seen are those games running on real hardware.  At the moment, there's little concrete information about either console... no final system specifications, no game demos running on real hardware, no nothin'.

One would tend to conclude that bias was the catalyst for the decision to leave the Revolution out of the headers of both sites.  Sure, Nintendo's not the "cool" hardware manufacturer at the moment, but it's still a major player in the industry, and it's unfair to stack the deck against the company with "objective" news coverage that removes the Revolution from the next generation system wars before it even has a chance to compete.

It's also worth noting that both IGN and GameSpot mention the Playstation Portable in their headers and side bars well before the Nintendo DS.  Uh, guys?  Who's been selling handheld consoles the longest?  Which system has sold the most units so far?  Which console's name should be listed first alphabetically? 

Sometimes I wonder just how far video game journalism has come since the dark days of Sendai-owned EGM (Sega Genesis?  What's that?) and Video Games, the magazine which did everything within its power to make its readers buy the original Playstation.

November 6, 2005...  Cross-Continental Karting

There's good news and bad news for Nintendo fans.  According to members of the press who were invited to Nintendo's Seattle office for a test drive of Mario Kart DS, the company's upcoming wi-fi service not only works, it works well enough to give players a chance to challenge DS owners the world over.  There are claims that American players can make connections across the ocean to countries as distant as Germany, although it's not yet clear if a connection could stretch as far as Japan, where the Nintendo DS is especially popular.  I doubt it, although it could be possible if you live in one of those oddball states that brush against the Asian border.

On the darker side of the news, it seems that the long-awaited Generation NEX from Messiah is a profound disappointment.  It can't handle all of the games in the NES library, and many of the others are hobbled with off-pitch sound effects and nasty colors.  The opinion among most gamers who bought a Generation NEX is that Messiah didn't deliver on its lofty promises, and that their new faux-NES is little more than a stylish paperweight.  I thought about stepping on the same landmine they did, but considering that it's been nearly a year since I've played my REAL NES, the Generation NEX would have been a waste of my money even if it had been properly designed.

Oh yeah, before I forget, there's a couple new reviews in Advance Theory.  If you wondered how the recent sequel to Gunstar Heroes turned out, and how it compares to last year's Metal Slug Advance, you'd be well advised to give it a look. Also, there's a new mini-review on the bottom of the index page, inspired by my love of an arcade favorite from the 1980's that has made a comeback, thanks to the recent release of  Taito Legends on the Xbox and Playstation 2.

November 1, 2005...  Brain Salad Surgery

It's almost four 'o clock, so I'll make this brief.  Frame by Frame has been updated, but this time, the freshly reviewed cartoons are all from your childhood.  Well, MY childhood, anyway.  They're longer and more descriptive than the usual cartoon reviews published on the site, so you'll probably enjoy them even if you're not familiar with the shows themselves.

Also, I've listened to popular demand and added contributor and close friend Shawn Struck to the profiles page.  Actually, he was the only one who made the demand, but he's popular, so I listened to it.

Past that, there's nothing more to say.  I'm still not interested in the XBox 360 (prettier polygons!  Whoopie!), Trauma Center is still frustrating, and the games on the recent Taito Legends collection are still entertaining... with the obvious exception of The Ninja Kids, of course.  And with that, I'm off to bed.

October 27, 2005...  Strange Days

These are strange days indeed for gamers.  There's a handheld console designed to deliver ads to its users... and stuff money into the pockets of the Swedish mafia.  The latest Metroid game is a futuristic pinball simulation... and a pretty good one, at that.  After twelve years of assurance from the media that it would never be made, we finally have a sequel to everyone's favorite Sega Genesis game, Gunstar Heroes.  And stressful careers have become fun diversions, as owners of the Nintendo DS perform invasive surgery and defend murder suspects in court.

Most unusual of all, there's new content on The Gameroom Blitz, courtesy of long-time contributor John Roche.  John's given us a review of the latest Mega Man Zero title for the Game Boy Advance, which in another surprising twist, isn't as murderously hard as the previous games in the series.

If all this isn't enough to put a shock to your system, just wait until you see this!  Yes, someone has actually decided to bring that most reviled of game controllers, the 3DO Control Pad, out of retirement.  Thanks to this ill-conceived PC adapter, you too can make even the best fighting games in your collection as sluggish and unresponsive as Way of the Warrior!

October 23, 2005...  King of Cartoons (also, the original Xbox gets the axe)

Whew, I am SO far behind on updates!  Where do I begin?  I suppose this is as good a place as any to start...

Saturday Supercade torrent

It's likely that you haven't seen this block of cartoons for over twenty years.  After you've watched it, you'll probably be content to wait another twenty before sitting through it again.  Like most animation from the 1980's, the show hasn't aged well... if the attempts by the writers to shoehorn your favorite early video game stars into unlikely situations doesn't get to you, the corny jokes and weak animation almost certainly will.

Nevertheless, it's still worth downloading the file, if only to see Dungeons and Dragons and all those nutty advertisements.  Funny thing... I never liked the D&D 'toon as a child, but twenty years later, it's starting to grow on me.  They still need to find a suitably nasty way to get rid of that stupid baby unicorn, though.  No saving throw for you, bitch!

What's most surprising is just how much I love the commercials!  The not-so-extreme water sports in Juicy Fruit STILL move me two decades later, and I can't help but chuckle at the Crest crusaders, defending their fortress of teeth with minty fresh lasers while a klaxon shouts "Crest gel!  Crest gel!" in its best Lily Tomlin phone operator voice.

Moving on to modern day news, there's word that the XBox 360 will not only be showing up in store kiosks over the next month, but that it will replace the previous model of the system at Wal-Mart.  It sounds like Microsoft is itching to put the original XBox into retirement... and I doubt it's going to be leaving with a gold watch. 

I wouldn't count on any first party support for the system by the end of the year... and I'm guessing that Bill Gates will be twisting arms to keep other companies from releasing games for the original XBox as well.

October 17, 2005...  Hit the Road, Jack

I think I've had just about enough of this guy... how about you?

If your answer to the question is "yes" or a more enthusiastic equivalent (including but not limited to "hell yeah!," "Yes, yes, a thousand times yes!," and "Ooooh yeeeah, brother!"), I've got a little assignment for you.  Take this complaint form, fill it out, and mail it to this address:

Rivergate Plaza
Suite M-100
444 Brickell Ave.
Miami FL 33131

For a passing grade, you'll need to do the following:

1.  Follow the instructions listed on the first page.
2.  Mention Jack Thompson's repeated abuse of his power of attorney (for instance,
sending harassing E-mails to gamers, then threatening a lawsuit when they respond).
3.  Also mention
Jack's hilarious satire, cleverly disguised as a death threat against Take-Two CEO Paul Eibel.
4.  Refrain from
namecalling and personal attacks (in other words, do what Jack DOESN'T do).
5.  Write legibly and intelligently.
6.  Express concern that Jack's increasing mental instability could potentially make him a threat to his clients.

After you're done, turn it in (to the address listed above).  If everyone passes, we'll throw a big pizza party in honor of any long overdue disciplinary actions taken against Jack Thompson for his irresponsible behavior.  Heck, I'll throw in breadsticks if he's disbarred!

October 16, 2005...  Misanthropy 101

This update brings with it a fresh review and some trimming of the increasingly old 'n crusty links page.  After years of holding it in, I'd unleashed all my frustration and resentment on someone whose site was listed on the page... someone whose behavior had become increasingly irksome to me.  Now that my feelings are all on the table, I figure that now would be a good time to remove his page from the list and just leave the whole sordid affair behind me.

The past week, along with the unfortunate events that came with it, has made me come to this realization... I don't like people.  That's not just one person, or a specific group of people, but the entire species known to scientists as Homo Sapiens.  There are exceptions to every rule, but in this case, that window of exception is especially small.  Chances are, I don't like you.  Hell, I don't even like me.  If I'm talking to you, it's likely that I'm either bored or you're paying me to do it.

It's not a furry thing... I don't have delusions of escaping the bonds of humanity and living the rest of my life as an entirely different creature.  I just have a low tolerance for the behavior of others, and don't particularly enjoy human contact.  If I could live in a log cabin high in the Appalachians, while somehow getting electricity for my game systems and Internet access for my computer, I would.

October 10, 2005...  Blah, Blah!  Bleech.

Here's a scary thought for all you Halloweenies out there... according to the surprisingly active forum of the defunct Higher Voltage web site, Capcom had considered licensing the cheesy Universal Studios monsters for use in its first Darkstalkers game.  No matter how hard you look, you're not likely to find anything that frightening this Halloween!

October 6, 2005...  Mighty Metaphors

"Personification" is the word of the day here at The Gameroom Blitz, as you can see from the new Capcom Classics Collection review.  I'm thinking of taking a similarly unorthodox approach to the upcoming review of Rengoku: Tower of Purgatory, using my love of pretentious 80's rock epics as an inspiration.  Here's a hint, in case you actually needed one... it won't be based on Pink Floyd's The Wall.

October 5, 2005...  Timeless Classics (Capcom Classics Collection review)

Don't worry... the site hasn't been taken over by IGN, although the graphics in the title banner might suggest otherwise.

So hey, I'm the proud owner of Capcom Classics Collection now.  It's the classic game pack I've been wanting from Capcom since 1997... but I have to admit, I would have been a lot happier if they hadn't taken eight years to release it.  The interface, using pencil sketches on a school notebook for that flippin' sweet Napoleon Dynamite look, is really clever, and the unlockable content for each game encourages the player to try them all and play them thoroughly, translating into added replay value.

It's not all POW symbols and zenny in this compilation of 80's arcade hits, however.  While some of the games are perfect copies of the arcade originals, others suffer from blurry graphics and grating, high-pitched sound effects.  These issues are generally reserved for the least entertaining titles in the collection, making them a minor annoyance at best.  Chances are, you're not going to play Son Son (the preferred form of torture for the Chinese when they're out of water) or Higemaru (the bastard child of Pengo and cornball episodes of One Piece) long enough to complain.

However, a big exception to this rule is the Street Fighter games, which suffer from the aforementioned smeared visuals along with the added irritation of load times after every match.  They're short, but measures could have been taken to better hide them, or eliminate them entirely.  The games themselves are still very much playable, but using the famous Guile hair index*, you can tell that what you're getting here isn't quite what you remember from Aladdin's Castle in 1992.

Capcom Classics Collection is still one of the better classic game packs on the recent generation of consoles.  That might be part of the problem, though... these collections haven't been truly impressive since the mid 1990's.  I have yet to find a release for the new systems that's as satisfying as Midway Arcade's Greatest Hits on the Saturn, or Konami Arcade Classics on the Playstation.

* The Guile hair index is perhaps the most reliable way to gauge the overall quality of a Street Fighter II translation.  The longer the courageous colonel's crest extends from his forehead, the more faithful the conversion.