Posts from July, August, and September 2006.

  BOLL BEATS TROLL: There is no joy in Goonville, for the mighty Kyanka was knocked out. The Something Awful editor was clobbered by awful movie director Uwe Boll in a boxing match sponsored by online casino Golden Palace. After the assault, Rich Kyanka angrily accused Boll of deception, claiming he was promised a clean fight before being thoroughly tenderized by Boll's fists of film-challenged fury. · · · KONAMI WAITS TO WHIP IT OUT: Dracula's greatest fear is not garlic, wooden stakes, or even the vampire-hunting Belmonts, but Final Fantasy III. That's probably why the release date of Castlevania: Portal of Ruin has been moved from November 14th to the beginning of December, weeks after the Square-Enix RPG hits store shelves. Both games will debut at $39.99. · · · SCAN-A-RAMA: What do you get when you cross a Dreamcast with the express lane at your local supermarket? Why, Mattel's Hyper Scan game console, of course! The recently released system reads lets players select their characters by passing special cards over a barcode reader built into the unit. It's like the Nintendo e-card reader, but with even less software support! · · ·

September 25, 2006...  Your Recommended Daily Allowance of Fiber

Those daily DDR sessions have really paid off... I lost fifteen pounds since I started playing the game last month!  Now those are some serious results!

So, have you heard the news about fiberoptic microprocessors?  Well, here's the deal... engineers are working on a chip that uses light rather than electricity to transfer data.  What that means to you the gamer is that future system will not only get a jaw-dropping boost in speed, but will consume less energy and generate less heat.  Imagine a handheld that rivals the Xbox 360 in performance, which can last twenty hours on a single battery charge... or a notebook computer that you can set on your lap for hours on end without the risk of roasting your happy apples.

There's just one issue that needs to be addressed... compatibility.  When you dig through the layers of fancy graphic cards and high-capacity storage options, you'll find an Intel processor that's not much different from what we were using twenty years ago.  Sorry Mac fans, but that goes for you, too! 

Intel's habit of building new features on a foundation built in the early 1980's has been a double-edged sword, offering users unprecedented backward compatibility at the cost of technological advancement.  When fiberoptic chips hit the scene, processor manufacturers like Intel will be forced to start from scratch. 

Even if they can make the new processor mimic the behavior of the x86 chips of the past, they'll have a devil of a time getting it to play nice with legacy peripherals.  Either the computers of the future will have to be built with adapters to transfer data to that MP3 player or LCD monitor (resulting in a marked drop in performance), or all those old playthings will have to be carted away and replaced, at a huge cost to the consumer.

The transition's not going to be easy for anybody, whether you're Bill Gates or Bill Jones from across the street.  However, with fiberoptic PCs expected to be over a hundred times faster than today's technology, the payoff will be worth the pain.

September 22, 2006...  Clover All Over (or, early God Hand thoughts)

For those of you who thought that Viewtiful Joe was just a fluke, I've got news for 'ya! Clover Studios is going to own the hearts and minds of Playstation 2 owners this year.  It's not just because of Okami, either! I took the game home earlier this week, and after wading through the usual annoyances of unskippable opening sequences and training stages, found it to be worth the modest price. 

Gamers have frequently compared Okami to the later Zelda games; especially Wind Waker, which it most closely resembles.  However, I've noticed inspiration from an entirely different source.  Every time I play Okami, I can't help but think back to the golden days of Spyro the Dragon, when Insomniac was still calling the shots and each game was better than the last (rather than vice versa).  Maybe it's the four-legged hero, or the way you collect items by shoulder-checking clay pots.  I don't know, but the feel is definitely there.

Whatever vibe you get from Okami, you're sure to be glad that it's in your collection.  Make some space in that bookcase, though, because it won't be the ONLY must-have title that Clover Studios releases this year!  If this footage of God Hand is any indication, the game will not only make amends for Capcom's Final Fight: Streetwise, but all those other crummy 3D beat 'em ups released in the past couple of years. 

God Hand takes the musclebound machismo of the original Final Fight and Streets of Rage and cranks it up to hilarious levels.  Merely thrashing thugs with punches and kicks isn't enough... you've got to humiliate them by launching their battered bodies through walls ("Say hi to the Kool-Aid Man for me!") and taking them over your knee for a lightspeed spanking.  Now that's entertainment!

There's no guarantee that God Hand will be a keeper, but at the near-budget price of $29.99, and considering Clover's past track record (I won't mention Under the Skin if you don't!), I'd be willing to give it a shot.  Heck, the super-spankings alone are worth the cost of admission!

September 19, 2006...  Wii News: A Dish Best Served Lukewarm

Wow, when I said I'd be back in a week, I really meant it!  My cable television and internet went out unexpectedly, stranding all my files on my desktop computer... and just in time for the announcement of the Nintendo Wii's price and release date!  Oh joy! 

I'll have to copy my site editor over to my wireless-enabled laptop in anticipation of the next time this happens.  However, the first order of business is to catch up with the last week of news and offer my opinion of the impending Wii launch.

I'll be blunt... my reaction to the Wii's price tag and ever-dwindling list of features was a creamy blend of disappointment and aggravation.  Let's go down the list, shall we?

  • STICKER SHOCK:  Seriously, Nintendo... two hundred and fifty dollars?  I never expected the Wii to retail for under two hundred bucks, but at the same time, it's a little absurd to ask more than that for what amounts to a GameCube with a jalepeņo shoved up its tailpipe.  Yes, it comes with a nifty remote control.  Yes, it comes with a pack-in game.  However, you're not getting much for your money when you compare the Wii to the marginally more expensive Xbox 360 Core Unit.
  • BORN (DVD) FREE:  Wait, this thing was supposed to play DVDs, right?  Come on, Nintendo, you promised!  When the system was first announced, Nintendo told us that the Revolution could handle movies, no problem.  Then when the console became the Wii, you needed an optional dongle to watch your favorite films.  Now, it's got no DVD functionality at all!  Hey Nintendo, if you wanted to make your system more appealing to non-gamers, it's not such a hot idea to take away the features that would appeal most to them.
  • ONLY IN AMERICA:  Speaking of broken promises, let's talk for a while about the most recent one.  Clueless Nintendo spokeswoman Perrin Kaplan told us that the Wii would be region free, letting players experience a world of games for the system.  Only problem is, she was completely wrong.  After witnessing her mistake, Nintendo of Europe was forced to step in to clean up her mess, deflating everyone's expectations in the process.  This leads any sane and reasoning gamer to wonder... why the hell is this woman still getting paid?
  • THE PARTY'S OVER:  When is packing your game system with a freebie a bad idea?  When it pisses off your already disillusioned third party supporters.  Every time a Wii is sold with a free game, an angel loses its wings.  Wait... a kitten dies, right?  Oh, I remember now!  Developers like Capcom and Konami lose the chance to sell one of their own games, at least until Wii Sports loses its flavor.  That's great for us, but not good at all for the Wii's long-term prospects.

OPEN PALM, INSERT MADDEN: It's official... there's no escape from John Madden! Unsatisfied with his appearances on everything from the Apple II to the Zodiac, the touch actin' Tinactin spokesman now stars in a game for the Palm handheld organizer. Talk about a tight fit! · · · ONE HOT LAPTOP: Ben Heckendorn is at it again! The engineer and gaming enthusiast has put together the one portable game system to rule them all... an Xbox 360 laptop. The slimline system features its own keyboard and monitor, although with a cooling system to keep the action from getting a little TOO hot. · · · STOCK, DROP, AND ROLL: More bad news for Infogrames, the latest company to be stung by the Atari curse. The French corporation has frozen its stocks, meaning that nobody can buy shares of the company until they settle their debts to European investment firms. That is, if those debts can be settled at all. · · ·

September 12, 2006...  Pre-EEE Handheld Computers

Extra, extra... news feed on the top of the page finally gets updated after who knows how long!  Read all about it!  Then wait a week for the next update!

So, what's going on at GRB headquarters?  I've been dipping my toe into the high seas of pocket PCs, that's what!  I really like my new laptop computer, but it's just too heavy to lug around with me to all my classes.  The solution?  A more compact Compaq... a truly palm-sized portable that I can stuff into my backpack with ease. 

I bought a bunch of these systems on eBay, hoping to find just the right one.  I regret to say that I struck out with the HP 620LX.  It's an early color handheld that looks like the dumpy love child of a PSP and a Nintendo DS, with some extra genetic material donated by a graphing calculator. 

The HP 620LX is functional, but only barely... it's got a sluggish processor, a screen that blurs at the slightest movement, and a touchscreen that's more adequately described as a smashscreen... you've got to nearly drive the blasted stylus through the display in order for your taps to register.

I know I can do better than this... and fortunately, I'll be granted that opportunity.  Over the next two weeks, I'll be getting an iPAQ and two NEC MobilePros.  The MobilePros have faster processors and higher-quality keyboards than Hewlett-Packard's dismal effort, but I think that I'll ultimately be most happy with the iPAQ.  Whatever happens, you can be sure that I'll keep you informed.

September 6, 2006...  RIP Steve Irwin (also, game reviews)

The most frustrating thing about Steve Irwin's death (aside from the likelihood that his old time slot will be filled by yet another excruciating hour of The Planet's Funniest Animals) is that there are already rumors of a Australian backlash against stingrays.  If this is in fact true, those involved should be ashamed of themselves!  Nobody with half a brain could blame the fish for defending itself against what it thought was a predator.  The late Crocodile Hunter knew better than anyone else how a wild animal reacts to danger, and I can tell you with absolute certainty that he wouldn't have held such a childish grudge against the ray if he had survived the encounter.

I guess I just have trouble understanding the thought process that labels lions as monsters for defending their territory, bears as monsters for defending their cubs, and stingrays as monsters for defending themselves, but lets humans slaughter all of these creatures without even a hint of remorse.

All right, now on to the video games!  Here's what I've been playing in the past week...

BURNOUT REVENGE:  You know, I'm still not sure why I bought this for the Xbox 360.  I considered the Xbox version of the game a crushing disappointment, and expected Electronic Arts to half-ass this port to a next-generation system, as they had with nearly all of their sports titles.  Fortunately, Criterion understands what everyone else at EA doesn't... when you pay $400 for a cutting edge console with all the bells and whistles, you want those bells ringing and whistles blowing at maximum volume. 

Burnout Revenge fixes only a few of the critical flaws in the Xbox release... the visuals are still too dark and the developers have done nothing to achieve a proper balance between skill and reckless driving.  So essentially, you're getting the same game... yet it seems so much bigger and better than before thanks to the turbocharged audiovisuals.  Collisions fill the screen with photorealistic debris and the room with thunderous explosions, making you feel like you're really there!  Better bring along a helmet!

SHADOW OF THE COLOSSUS:  The best part of this award-winning action game is that it grants the player more freedom than its predecessor Ico.  You're not dragging around an autistic girl who's constantly pursued by demons, and you're not forced to navigate through the cramped remains of a crumbling castle... instead, you're granted total freedom as you hunt for monsters in a vast landscape dotted with hills, mountains, and towering monoliths.  Actually, those wide open spaces might be a little too wide and open for their own good.  You wouldn't think it would take a half hour to track down a beast that stands over fifty feet fall, but thanks to the seemingly endless environment, it often does.  At least you're rewarded for your effort with breathtaking boss battles!

ULTIMATE GHOULS 'N GHOSTS:  Ratings of this game on web sites and magazines have been relatively high, with 1UP's Jeremy Parish being the only reviewer to bring down Metacritic's average.  Jeremy may be the sole voice of dissent among professional game reviewers, but he's also the sole voice of reason.  The game looks fantastic, and the level design is surprisingly complex considering the series' arcade heritage.  There's a hidden surprise tucked inside every nook and cranny, but gathering all this treasure isn't as fun as you might think.  In fact, the enjoyment vanishes completely once you've finished the first stage.  Sorry Capcom, but sturdier armor doesn't make up for the game's aggravating combination of overactive enemy spawn points and instantly fatal traps.  What is this, Ultimate Tiger Road?

September 1, 2006...  The Dance Dance Workout Gets Results!

ONE STEP FORWARD, TWO STEPS BACK: Xbox 360 owners rejoice! Your favorite next gen system is now backward compatible with such Xbox classics as Aquaman, Catwoman, and Digimon Rumble Arena 2! Hey, wait a minute! Those aren't classics at all! Well, if it's any consolation, you can save yourself the cost of a few Xbox Live Arcade downloads by playing Namco Museum 50th Anniversary on your Xbox 360 instead. · · · WHAT YOU SEE IS WHAT YOU GET: Contrary to what you've heard on a number of gaming blogs and web sites, there will not be a redesign of the PSP hardware. That's the official word from a representative at Sony. However, when you consider that the system has just been hacked for what seems like the seventy-eighth time, Kutaragi and company might want to at least give a new design some thought. · · · DS D-STROYS THE COMPETITION: Well, in Japan, anyway. Since the release of the DS Lite, the handheld has consistently outsold every other console in the land of the rising sun. Now there's more good news for Nintendo... according to a chart compiled by Media Create Sales, all ten of Japan's best-selling games in the last week of August was released exclusively for the Nintendo DS! · · ·

I'm still playing Dance Dance Revolution on a daily basis... and after nearly three weeks of cutting the plastic rug, I'm starting to feel the benefits.  My leg muscles have become stronger and firmer, and my coordination has noticably improved.  I'm not quite skilled enough to advance to the Medium level yet, but I've finished many of the Light tracks, earning As and even AAs on several of them. 

Most importantly, I'm having fun.  Dance Dance Revolution Extreme is one of the smartest gaming purchases I've made this year... it's more user-friendly than DDRMAX, and it offers a sense of accomplishment that I just can't get from any of the other titles in my current gen collection.  That's saying a lot when I've got a combined total of over one hundred Playstation 2, Xbox, and GameCube games!

So, what else happened during my week-long absence?  Well, I dropped by the local Wal-Mart to pick up a quart of evil (they've always got it in stock!  Always!), and took a detour through the electronics department.  While checking out the prices in the television aisle, I was bitten by the high-def bug... hell, the damn thing clamped onto the back of my neck with its sharp, crystal-clear pincers and wouldn't let go! 

I've never felt that strongly about high-definition television before.  Then again, I've never found a high-def set that retailed for under three hundred dollars, either.  When you throw in the fact that my current television takes forever to warm up and is probably on the verge of death, the upgrade to high-def has never made more sense.

I thought long and hard about a purchase, but was rescued at the last minute by my common sense.  He apologized for being gone when I bought that laptop last week, then explained to me that if I was going to buy a high-def set, I should take my time and do it right.  Why spend a fistful of C-notes on a cheap Wal-Mart TV when a little more money and a few hours of research would net me a much better product?

The next television I buy will almost certainly be a high-def set.  It will not only prepare me for the FCC mandate in 2009, but will improve my gaming experience right away.  However, I've got plenty of time to decide which television is right for me.  It's not a purchase I need to make right this minute... well, unless the Sanyo finally dies on me, anyway.

August 27, 2006...  Taking It to the Extreme

After playing it for a couple of days, I can understand why my friends recommended Dance Dance Revolution Extreme to me.  It's an all-around better game than DDRMAX... the videos in the background are no longer restricted to simple animations, and the arrows better match up with the music, making the gameplay more user-friendly and immersive.

While I'm on the subject of the soundtrack, I noticed a lot more variety in the game's selection of songs.  You've got everything from the traditional fast-paced techno players have come to expect from the series to 80's pop, sometimes performed by the original artists!

This is where the game hits its first snag.  You'd think that you could do no wrong with music from such 80's icons as the Pet Shop Boys and Kim Wilde, but the sad fact is that the songs just aren't as fun to dance to as music especially designed for DDR.  Older songs modified for the series work pretty well too, like the infectious techno remix of The Neverending Story.  Yeah, that corny kids' film with all the stop-motion animation.  Never fear, though... there are no covers of songs from Mac 'n Me!

One of the reasons I purchased Dance Dance Revolution Extreme is because I was assured that it was easier to play than the punishing DDRMAX.  After spending a few hours with it, I'm convinced that this is only half true.  The game's more natural rhythm make your dance steps flow more freely than they had in DDRMAX, but at the same time, the arrows are more plentiful, forcing you to constantly stay on the move to keep your meter out of the red.  The end result is higher scores, but a more strenuous workout... which is why I suppose I started playing the game in the first place!

So hey, there's a new review on the site.  Believe it or not, they're still making light gun games... it's just a lot harder to get them started these days.  Hopefully that'll change once the Wii arrives, but in the meantime, here's Time Crisis 3!

August 25, 2006...  Dance Night at the Apollo

Whoo, that was more than a little embarassing.  The Konami Calorie Crunch was always skating on the thin ice of copyright infringement, but it took two weeks and a friendly nudge from a reader before I realized that the initials of my self-improvement project sounded a lot like a previously existing organization.  You might have heard of them... they're well-known as pioneers in the fields of inbreeding, arson, and wearing stupid-looking hats.

I've addressed the issue with a name change.  The new title has all the DDR-riffic alliteration of the original, without unpleasant similarities to the bitter residue left behind after Abe Lincoln scrubbed the country clean of the Confederacy.  I can offend my readers just fine without any help, thank you very much!

Just one more thing before I go.  Well, actually, it's two things... namely, Summon Night for the Game Boy Advance and a new Dance Dance Revolution title for the Playstation 2.  Summon Night is a Japanese action-RPG with way too much RPG and not nearly enough action.  Really, do we need all this exposition before the game actually begins?  Sure, the writing is pretty clever (an Atlus trademark!) but it's hard to sit through it when it's accompanied by a grating 8-bit quality soundtrack. 

I haven't had the chance to step up to Dance Dance Revolution Extreme, but I look forward to the opportunity.  I've been told by friends that the game shows more mercy to newbies than DDRMAX, and the addition of EyeToy enhancements might just give me an excuse to dig the crusty old camera out of the box of forgotten game peripherals.

NINTENDO SET TO REVEAL WII PRICE... FINALLY: Curious about the price of the Nintendo Wii? Well, all will be revealed this September. The company will hold a press event on September 14th, where the price and release date of the unique motion- sensitive game console is expected to be announced. About time, huh? · · · CATCH ME IF YOU CAM: In other mid-September news, the Xbox Live Vision camera will be officially released on September 19th. Some folks were able to get their hands on the camera early, but those of you who waited will have the option to buy a deluxe package with a year of Xbox Live, for just twenty dollars more! · · · SOCK IT TO 'EM!: Americans were left reeling from the news that Electronic Arts had gained exclusive rights to the NFL license... and now it's the rest of the world's turn to feel the pain. Microsoft now has exclusive publishing rights to both EA and Konami's FIFA-licensed soccer games. Talk about a foul ball! · · ·

August 23, 2006...  This Is My Lab!  And This Is My LABRUNIE!

Stephanie Labrunie has given me yet another reason to hate cell phone gaming.  In a recent interview, the representative from cell phone game developer I-play crowed that video games for cellular phones would outsell traditional console games this year.  That wouldn't be too hard, considering that your average (actually, well below average) cell phone title sells for a tenth of the price of a REAL video game. 

Steffie added salt to the wound by claiming that console gaming is just a niche market, and that cell phone games are intended for a more mainstream audience.  This could just be my bias talking, but since when is a multi-billion dollar industry a "niche" market?  Electronic Arts alone has grown so enormous that even Viacom, a major player in the entertainment industry and the owner of at least a dozen television networks, couldn't afford to buy it... and that was BEFORE EA's acquisition of JamDat!

Besides, even if cell phones are destined to become a mainstream market for video games, it's still not the ideal way to play them.  The cell phone market is frustratingly fragmented... even if you do find a game you like, there's a strong chance that you either won't be able to play it on your phone model, or that your service carrier won't offer it.  If you manage to clear all these hurdles, you'll still have to deal with a tiny screen, a cramped keypad, and hardware that's overshadowed by dedicated video game technology.

In my humble opinion, cell phone "games" are just bling.  They're only marginally more entertaining than wallpapers and ringtones, and not even as practical.  They're just there to show off to your friends... to remind them of how far technology has advanced since the days when they had to walk three miles to an arcade (in the snow, uphill both ways) to play Burgertime or The King of Fighters.  Even more advanced cell phone titles like Prince of Persia: The Two Thrones are short, simple, and ultimately unsatisfying... no match for similar releases on the DS or even the aging Game Boy Advance.

So hey, maybe Steffie is right.  Maybe you'll look more cool when you play primitive pseudo-games on your cell phone... if you can keep yourself from screaming at the screen when your microscopic hero falls off a cliff for the thirty-sixth time, anyway.  However, once you compare the experience to playing games on systems designed especially for them, you're sure to agree that it's hip to be square, as well as a lot more fun!

August 19, 2006...  Dance Dance Bullet Time

This version of Dance Dance Revolution may just work out for my workouts after all!  I just discovered the training mode (not to be confused with the tutorial mode), and it makes the game a lot more forgiving, as well as surprisingly customizable.  By slowing down the music, I was able to clean up on tracks that had once put me through the ringer. 

Sure, all the perky female singers transform into Cher and Grace Jones, but it's nevertheless worth shifting the game into second gear.  Before, the tracks were either too laid back or impossible to finish, but for the first time ever, I felt like I was getting an honest workout from Dance Dance Revolution.  I'm just as happy that I can finally enjoy more than a small handful of tracks.

Now onto the latest gaming news!

Uh, wait.  WHAT gaming news?  Nintendo still refuses to reveal the price of the Wii, the Playstation 3 controller still isn't finished, and PCs burst into flames if you even TRY to play video games on them.  That just leaves Microsoft's Xbox 360, and my attempts to build an suitable arcade controller for it.  The first time I took a crack at this, I made a joystick with leftover parts and a third-party pad.  That... didn't work out as well as I hoped. 

It'll only take a few spare microswitches to get the stick up to speed, but I'd be happier with a Sega Arcade Pad.  I started work on one earlier today, but found that this conversion demands a great deal more precision than the last one.  You've working with smaller components, and it's tough to set up the wires without them getting in the way of the contacts.  And oh yeah, you've got to remove the IC from the Sega Arcade Pad... fail to do so and you're likely to blow out a circuit on the host controller.  Believe me, I know!

I also know that this won't be easy, but in the end, I think it'll be worth the effort and expense.  Besides, have you seen the alternative?  I'll take a homemade pad over that thing any day!

WII FOR McGEE: American McGee, the developer of Scrapland and the creepy Alice in Wonderland, has made a bold claim... the only new console that truly takes gaming to the next level is the Nintendo Wii. The PS3 and Xbox 360, he says, are just "video card and processor upgrades." Strong words, but will American (that can't be his real name!) back them by developing games for the Wii? · · · PHANTOM EXORCISED: After years of insisting that their game system was on the brink of being released, the folks at Phantom Entertainment finally threw up their hands and admitted that the console never existed, and never will. Their new business plan is to offer games on demand, which would be a fine idea if GameFly and GameTap hadn't already beat them to it! · · · XNA F-N-AWESOME: Do you love video games? Sure, we all do! But wouldn't it be great if you could make video games in your very own home? Now you can, thanks to XNA. For just $99 a year, you can have development tools that will let you make your very own Xbox Live Arcade games! Just call this toll-free (and number-free!) number today, and tell them Sally Struthers sent you! · · ·

August 16, 2006...  Lord of the Dancemat

I haven't posted an update for a few days, but I haven't missed a step with Dance Dance Revolution!

I just wish the game wouldn't step all over me.  I could only complete around six of the game's forty-odd songs... even in the so-called "Light" mode, the rest of the tracks flood the screen with arrows, making it impossible for me to keep up with the frantic action. 

I complained about this to a friend who's spent countless hours with the Dance Dance Revolution series, and he explained to me that DDRMAX wasn't an ideal game for newcomers.  I can believe it... the damn game is ruthless!

I'll have to track down a less demanding version of the game; possibly 2nd Mix for the Dreamcast.  Sure, it doesn't look any better than the DDR games released for the original Playstation, but dude, it's on the DREAMCAST!  I just can't pass up an opportunity to get some use out of my favorite ill-fated game console, even if that means turning it into a yellowing, dust-covered Richard Simmons.

All right, now that the Dance Dance Revolution rambling out of the way, it's time for the good stuff.  Like poker?  Want to save yourself ten dollars?  Then I suggest that you log onto Xbox Live sometime today and download Texas Hold 'Em.  The game will be available to ALL Xbox Live subscribers for the unbeatable price of free-ninety-free.  I never hopped aboard the tournament poker craze, getting the itch for card games out of my system at an early age, but this is a deal even I can't pass up!

EA-LIENATION: Determined to draw the ire of every handheld gamer, Electronic Arts admitted that its support for the Nintendo DS was an afterthought, then took shots at its competitor, Sony's PSP. Between bites of the hands that feed him, EA executive David Gardner stated that Sony needs to reassess its priorities and that fun is more important than flashy hardware. Well, duh. · · · IT'S BACK TO CES FOR ME!: Organizers of the original gaming convention say that they're interested in picking up where E3 left off. After receiving hundreds of letters from game developers, the CES has considered opening its doors to the video game industry for the first time since 1994. Gaming would have to share floor space with other gadgets and gizmos, but it's better than nothin'! · · · OPM OF THE MASSES: The lead editor of Official Playstation Magazine has stated in the magazine that she will pass on the Playstation 3 at launch, buying an Xbox 360 instead. In other news, OPM is looking for a new lead editor after the mysterious disappearance of its last one. Call 1-555-BIG-EVIL to set up an interview. · · ·

August 13, 2006...  Trip the Lights Bombastic

It's the second day of the Konami Kalorie Krunch, and according to the workout mode, I burned a whopping twenty-two calories in today's session.  Wait, what?  That can't be right!  I played through four songs, and I only burned enough calories to take two Lifesavers off my waist?  But I thought it only took a hearty laugh to burn through three calories!  Family Matters told me so, and my favorite schmaltzy sitcom from the early 90's has never lied to me before!  Oh Steve Urkel, why have you forsaken me?!

Oh well, it wasn't a complete waste of time.  I'm finding more and more things to like about Dance Dance Revolution... at this rate, it'll probably be the first game since Tony Hawk's Pro Skater that will convince me to master a new, unfamiliar style of gameplay to squeeze the most enjoyment out of it.  That's why the Konami Kalorie Krunch will kontinue... even if I'm not actually losing any calories.

But of course, man cannot live on brightly colored dance mats alone.  What else have I been playing lately?  Well, between DDR sessions, my time has been evenly split between the frantic puzzle action of Bombastic and the demos recently released for the Xbox 360.  Bombastic is the sequel to the Playstation game Devil Dice, which started its life as a homebrew game created with the Yaroze development system.  Sony was so impressed with Devil Dice that they released it as an official Playstation title.

After spending some quality time with Bombastic, I can see why.  Actually, the game isn't all that appealing when you're playing it in the original Xi (Devil Dice) mode, where the dice simply melt into the ground after you've matched them.  No, it's only when the dice are packed with explosives that things really get exciting. 

As a chubby harlequin with horns, you've got to not only roll dice together to match the numbers on their faces, but steer clear of the matches you've already made.  In a tip of the hat to Bomberman, matched dice grow hot and explode, shooting flames in four directions.  Any like-numbered dice in the path of the explosion will also catch fire, opening the door to magnificent chain reactions!

It takes a while to get the hang of Bombastic, but there's little confusion in Xbox 360 games like Ninety-Nine Nights and Dead Rising.  Button-mashing genocide is the order of the day in both games, but Dead Rising comes out on top with a more open, varied, and interactive environment.   Why run through an endless stretch of hilly terrain when you can slaughter zombies in a vast mall, using such unlikely weapons as electric guitars and bowling balls?

August 12, 2006...  Dance, Sucker!

It's funny... in April, I was chomping at the bit to finish my classes, but now I'm just as eager to get out of the house and go back to college.  A summer of inactivity has left me soft, flabby, and in desperate need for a way to shape up.  With no interest in traditional sports, I only had one option to keep my waistline in check. 

If I wanted to stop myself from reaching the danger zone of morbid obesity-- the point where I couldn't look at myself in the bathroom mirror without protective eyewear-- I had to hit the dance floor.  Or more accurately, the dance pad that's seen even less action that I have in the past three months.

I've never been what you'd call a Dance Dance Revolution expert... heck, it was a struggle for me to get through the training mode when I first bought the game last summer!  However, I'm willing to learn the ropes if I can drop a few pounds in the process.  Over the next month, I vow to give my long neglected pad as well as myself a workout, playing thirty minutes of Dance Dance Revolution MAX each day.

Today, I went back to the training mode to give myself a refresher course in all things DDR.  I was astonished at just how deep the game's play mechanics really are... it's easy to convince yourself from watching other players that Dance Dance Revolution is just a bunch of random arrow stomping, but the tutorial makes it clear that it takes rythym, coordination, and even strategy to succeed.  Sure, you can just flatten the arrows as they hit the top of the screen, but if you don't want to trip over yourself, you'll have to set your feet on the mat in anticipation of the arrows on the bottom.

I started playing Dance Dance Revolution again out of necessity.  However, with some practice and persistence, I may stop looking at it as part of an important exercise regimen and start looking forward to the experience as a fun way to pass the time.


August 9, 2006...  Lieberman Lost The Battle, But Not The War

I've been waiting eighteen years for this news!  Looks like Lieber-dweeb just squeezed his last drop of Joe-mentum out of demonizing the video game industry.  He's vowed to run as an independent, but few politicians are ever successful without first pledging their alliegiance to either the Democrats (which Joseph Lieberman claims to be) or the Republicans (which Joe actually is). 

On top of that, former president Bill Clinton has vowed that he would throw his support behind Connecticut primary winner Ned Lamont if Lieberman runs as an independent.  Voters are getting awfully nostalgic for the days when gas prices were affordable and the country wasn't being run by a self-centered, war-crazed, poop-flinging monkey.  If Ned Lamont can strengthen his ties to Clinton, and if Lieberman can't shake his own association with the worst president of the 21st century, the only house Joe will be elected to is the Sterling Glen retirement home!

With that floppy-faced, moralizing, thoroughly incompetent dumbass out of office, and Jack Thompson thoroughly discredited, it looks like gamers will have a great year ahead of them... as long as Rockstar doesn't toe the line of good taste and flare the temper of some other desperate politician hunting for easy political prey.

Off that subject, I spent the better part of Monday on a project I found on the Gamers' Reports web site.  When you've just downloaded Street Fighter II: Hyper Edition for your Xbox 360 and you're in need of a joystick, you're willing to do just about anything... including tearing apart some of your old controllers.

What I've done is bring together the controls of a Pelican Real Arcade joystick and the circuit board of a cheap MadCatz gamepad.  After hours of careful soldering, I was able to transform them into a functional Xbox 360 joystick. 

The finished product isn't perfect... the guide button doesn't work, and I couldn't figure out a way to connect the analog triggers to the joystick's two remaining buttons.  Also, I cut a few corners while making the stick...I probably could have fed the microphone port into the slot you see on the right, originally intended for Xbox memory cards.  Instead, I just glued it down to hold the circuit board in place, figuring that I could use a headset on my wireless controller if I felt the need for it.

Despite all that, the Frankenstick works pretty well... it may be pieced together from spare parts, but when you set it on your lap and play a few games with it, it certainly doesn't FEEL that way.  The controller is acceptable for a couple of rounds of Street Fighter II, although a Sega Saturn pad and its superior diagonal response would be much better suited for this purpose (a converter is in the works, but it isn't yet available to the public). 

However, the custom-made joystick really earns its keep in older arcade games like Joust, Galaga, and Robotron: 2084.  It's actually got me thinking about purchasing the full version of Galaga from Xbox Live Marketplace, even though I can't count the number of times I've already bought that game for other systems!

If you already read about this mod and had your doubts about it, I can tell you from personal experience that it really does work.  If you've got an acute fear of soldering and enough money for the official Dead or Alive 4 stick, you're probably better off buying that instead.  However, if you're handy with an iron and have the time and discarded joysticks to spare, you really ought to give this a try.  It was almost as fun building the Frankenstick as it is to use it!

SAY IT AIN'T SO!: Remember the Electronic Entertainment Expo, that mecca of gaming goodness that takes place every May? Well, savor those memories, because the annual convention will lose a lot of its luster starting next year. Large companies from Electronic Arts to Nintendo are no longer willing to participate in the event, citing high costs and low returns. · · · STREET FINALLY 2: We've been waiting all summer for this! After a series of agonizing delays, Street Fighter II: Hyper Edition will finally be available in the Xbox Live Arcade this Wednesday. No news on whether or not Capcom finally ironed out the lag issues in online play, or all those vexing access times, but we're hoping for the best! · · · BLAME CANADA... AND VIDEO GAMES!: The Canton Repository reports that over ten percent of the female students at Ohio's Timken High School are pregnant. It's sobering news, but reporter Rick Senften's theories about the situation are downright infuriating. According to Senften, video games are somehow responsible. Oh Mario, you horny Italian bastard! · · ·

August 4, 2006...  So Much for the Talkcast!

I'm rethinking this whole talkcast business.  That's not to say that I won't offer some kind of audio commentary in the future, but a spoken transcript of the latest update doesn't seem to be much of a draw.  Someone on the forum suggested audio reviews instead, and it's an idea that's worth considering.

Speaking of reviews, there's a new one on the Blitz!  It's strictly old school, written in text rather than spoken out loud, but I have a feeling you'll enjoy it all the same.  I've also updated the recommended lists of both the Playstation 2 and its kid brother, the PSP.  If you're looking for something to rent for either system over the weekend, I'd suggest you give those sections of the Sony page a look.

SAY IT AIN'T SO!: Remember the Electronic Entertainment Expo, that mecca of gaming goodness that takes place every May? Well, savor those memories, because the annual convention will lose a lot of its luster starting next year. Large companies from Electronic Arts to Nintendo are no longer willing to participate in the event, citing high costs and low returns. · · · STREET FINALLY 2: We've been waiting all summer for this! After a series of agonizing delays, Street Fighter II: Hyper Edition will finally be available in the Xbox Live Arcade this Wednesday. No news on whether or not Capcom finally ironed out the lag issues in online play, or all those vexing access times, but we're hoping for the best! · · · BLAME CANADA... AND VIDEO GAMES!: The Canton Repository reports that over ten percent of the female students at Ohio's Timken High School are pregnant. It's sobering news, but reporter Rick Senften's theories about the situation are downright infuriating. According to Senften, video games are somehow responsible. Oh Mario, you horny Italian bastard! · · ·

July 31, 2006...  Virtual Console: Less Exciting Than Advertised

No talkcast today, folks.  Instead, I've got a bundle of new reviews in the Game Boy Advance section of the site.  About time, huh?

One more thing before I go... there was a great drawing published on the game news journal Kotaku, illustrating the many possibilities offered by the Wii's Virtual Console System.  It turns out that the picture in question wasn't actually created by Nintendo, but it's so magnificent that I've just got to provide a link to it.  See how many classic video game characters YOU can spot!

GAIJIN WORKS: And now, so does Victor Ireland! Six months after the demise of American game publisher Working Designs, Ireland has started a new game localization company called Gaijin Works. It's good news for everyone who's been missing the corny pop culture references and dumb surfer dude dialogue from their otherwise unremarkable turn-based RPGs. · · · MINI-MORROWIND: There are rumors that Bethesda Softworks' immensely popular (and resource-hungry!) action RPG The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion will be converted to the PSP. While the system is powerful for a handheld, it seems unlikely that it will have the hardware to do justice to a game that sometimes pushes the next-gen Xbox 360 past its limits. · · · TOUCHY, TOUCHY!: After a negative article about G4 in the web site Game Rag, reps from the flagging network lashed out against the author. Mike D'Alonzo mocked the quality of the content on Game Rag and claimed that the writer of the piece was desperately trying to make himself look cool to his audience. Yeah, because G4 has never, ever tried anything like THAT before! · · ·

July 27, 2006...  Uno! (plus a few other Xbox Live Arcade titles)

It's been a month since I've used the Xbox Live service, but a relaxing game of Uno earlier this evening has made me realize why I subscribed in the first place.  Uno's laid back atmosphere breeds the kind of friendly competition that you won't find in the vast majority of Xbox 360 titles, making it the most appealing online game I've ever played.  There's no screaming, no bragging, no obnoxious behavior... it's just a handful of guys huddled around a virtual table, each trying to get rid of a handful of cards.  It couldn't be more simple, and yet you couldn't ask for more.

While I was online, I took the opportunity to sample some of the latest demos on the Xbox Live Marketplace.  While its silly graphics and the Lost Vikings-inspired gameplay had originally left me with mixed feelings, I've got to admit that Cloning Clyde won me over after the first few minutes.  The level design is sprinkled with just a touch of genius... in addition to the usual switch flipping and button pushing, there are rockets that serve the dual purpose of blowing up stone barriers and carrying your dim-witted dopplegangers to new locations.  At ten dollars, it's a little more expensive than the usual Xbox Live Arcade release, but there's enough platforming goodness here to justify the markup.

Frogger and Galaga, on the other hand, have long since passed their respective expiration dates.  Konami has at least made an effort to update Frogger for the 21st century, hiring Digital Eclipse to touch up the dated visuals, but there's a trade-off... you lose a lot of the great background music from the original arcade game, and unlike the conversions of Frogger on Konami Arcade Classics for the Game Boy Advance, nobody bothered to replace them with anything else.

Then there's Galaga, a straight arrow conversion of the twenty five year old arcade game.  That should be comforting to the old codgers like myself whose idea of the perfect online experience is a few rounds of Uno, but what about everyone else?  I'll bet demons to diamonds that the average Xbox 360 owner was born AFTER this game was released.  Namco (shudder) Bandai should have set their sights a little higher for this one, even if it meant raising the price.  As it is now, it's barely worth the going rate for a song on iTunes.

The selection of software is far from airtight, but the opportunity to test drive games before you take them off the lot makes Xbox Live as important a part of the Xbox 360 as the wireless controller or that ginormous power supply you keep hidden behind your television set.  However, if they hope to compete with the Nintendo Wii and its own Virtual Console, Microsoft is going to have to step up its game, bringing more and better titles to the Xbox Live Arcade.  One game a week just isn't going to cut it, especially when they're barebones conversions of arthritic arcade titles like Galaga.

NAME THAT ZUNE: Microsoft has renamed its handheld MP3 player from the Argo to the Zune... and is concentrating primarily on knocking the iPod from its throne as the king of pocket music jukeboxes. Support for gaming has been put on the backburner, so don't expect to play Halo on the go unless you plan to lug around an Xbox in your backpack. · · · FROM MY RADIO TO NVIDIA: Apple is planning a redesign of its iPod hardware. Future iPod models will include an Nvidia graphics processor, which will enhance the music player's multimedia capabilities. It could also open the door to quality gaming on the iPod... a door that Apple has nailed shut since days of the Apple IIgs. · · · SMOKE ON THE WAAAATER: And fire in your Xbox 360! Rumor has it that Guitar Hero will be making its encore appearance on the Xbox 360, complete with a new selection of songs and (eeee!) wireless guitar controllers. Now that would totally rock! If only reliable wireless technology had been around when Samba De Amigo was released... · · ·

July 22, 2006...  Liberty and MAME For All

Before I begin, I'd like to share this clip with you.  It's the only Macintosh commercial you'll ever need.

All right, now down to business.  I haven't been keeping up with the latest console games (mostly because I haven't been able to afford them!), so I've been playing catch up with the underground scene... those homebrew and emulator releases that I've neglected for the past couple of months.

Perhaps the most surprising of these releases was MAME4ALL.  Past attempts to bring the all-purpose arcade emulator to game consoles were miserable failures... up to this point, there wasn't a single port of MAME on the Dreamcast or PSP that was worth more than five minutes of my time.  However, all that changed with MAME4ALL.  Even on the aging Dreamcast, it's very impressive.  The interface makes starting games painless (although it's a bit more complicated getting OUT of them), and the emulation of 8-bit classics like Donkey Kong and Pac-Man is nearly airtight. 

You only start to see the emulator's full potential when you play it on a more powerful system, like the Gizmondo.  Wait, did I just say that the GIZMONDO had more muscle than the Dreamcast?  I think I'm gonna be sick.  Before I grab that barf bag, let me just say that this version of MAME4ALL is easier to use, and runs even Capcom's visually intense coin-ops from the late 1980's at full speed.  There's only one thing missing... accurate sound emulation.  There is sound here, but the scratchiness and constant pauses make you think that Beavis and Butthead are hovering over your shoulder, beatboxing to the onscreen action.  It's a sensation that's every bit as uncomfortable as it sounds.

The poor sound quality, and the unlikelihood that this issue will ever be fixed on a system as esoteric as the Gizmondo, has got me desperate for one of two things.  I'm hoping that someone will either crack the PSP's latest firmware update, or that I'll be able to afford a GP2X in the near future.  I had a PSP reserved especially for homebrew gaming, but was forced to sell it to pay for my Xbox 360.  Oblivion, bless its delicious cream-filled heart, has made that a decision I do not regret. 

What I am a little embarassed about is updating my second PSP with the latest firmware.  If I'd kept the system at 2.60, I could have used the downgrader to bring it back down to a homebrew-friendly 1.50, but noooo, I had to head straight to 2.70 to get the Flash support... "support" that turns the average episode of Homestar Runner into a slideshow.

I could buy another PSP when I have the cash for it, but why?  I'd rather sink my teeth into that Korean handheld that's become the homebrew community's new darling.  The thought of buying Swap Meet Louie (and for two hundred dollars, no less!) makes me a little apprehensive, but reviews of the GP2X suggest that it's better suited to old-school gaming than the blur-riffic PSP, despite a lower clock speed.

I'd take a chance with the system, but my current financial situation (read: I'm broke) prevents me from doing that.  Say, would anyone out there be willing to trade their GP2X for my Neo-Geo?  It's barely used... and I mean that.

July 19, 2006...  The GRB Talkcast Didn't Last Long, Did It?

EDITOR'S NOTE:  I've given some consideration to starting a GRB podcast.  However, filling in for Chris Larson on the Stage Select news cast has made it clear that I get a serious case of the umms and ahhs when I'm not working from a script.  On top of that, I wanted to offer something different from all the other gaming sites out there.  So here it is... the GRB Talkcast!  It's a spoken transcript of the latest site update, which should add a touch of spice to the commentary and let sight impaired readers get the most out of the Blitz, without cranking up the font size.

One of the editors of Gameworld Network sees a grim future ahead for the PSP.  I don't share that vision... in fact, I stand by my opinion that the system's sales will only improve once the Playstation 3 hits the market with a resounding thud.  At nearly one third the price of Sony's latest console, the PSP will be the only way for most gamers to afford the latest installments of Ratchet & Clank, God of War, and Gran Tourismo.  Hey, I imagine it'll be released for the system someday!

However, I do agree that the immediate future will be rough for the PSP... and Sony's doing very little to alleviate the problem.  In response to the news that major retail chains will no longer carry UMD movies, Sony's done the most stupid thing imaginable by selling them on memory sticks instead.  Memory sticks are even more expensive than UMDs, and anyone with even a sliver of experience with computers can transfer their favorite DVDs to ordinary memory sticks, saving themselves a ton of money in the process.

It's like Sony is trying to sell gallons of milk to people who already have the cow at home.  The PSP was specifically designed so that you don't need to buy movies you already own... you can take your film collection with you, with just a little work and a reasonably sized memory stick.  They've got to realize this... hell, they MADE the damn thing in the first place!  Yet Sony insists on selling films over the counter for the PSP. 

However, Sony still has room to make a few mistakes.  After all, Sega was able to get away with the Sega CD before they pressed their luck with the 32X.  I doubt anyone's still upset over that dumb card reader Nintendo released for the Game Boy Advance, or SNK's failed attempt to step into the 21st century with the Hyper Neo-Geo 64.  With this in mind, it's clear that Sony has plenty of time to get its act together.  It all depends on how many slaps to the back of the head it will take before the company pulls the reigns on Ken Kutaragi and takes the Playstation brand name in the right direction.

July 17, 2006...  Guest Editorial: A DRM Come True

Today's editorial has been brought to you by John Roche, a long-time contributor to the site.  Feel free to contact him about at if you have any questions or comments.  John welcomes all feedback, but can't guarantee responses to every letter he receives.

Disclaimer: I am certainly no friend to Sony.  I have not (yet) done anything to put myself in their crosshairs, but I'm only 25.  Also, I apologize for any bizarre comic book references.
Apparently, there was a big brouhaha about Sony making a patent in 2000 regarding the "coupling" of a given copy of a game to a given system.  The purpose of the patent would be to cut off used game sales and rentals at the knees.  Rumors of this patent being implemented in the PS3 have been running rampant.  I don't think that this is going to happen for the following reasons:
1) Nintendo and Microsoft are not that lucky. 
(Hell, Bizarro-Atari and Earth-3 Sega would not be that lucky.)
Customers have become accustomed to a certain level of- for lack of a better term- convenience where gaming is concerned.  They have a reasonable expectation of being able to use the same game disc on multiple systems.  If Sony were to shatter this expectation, it would have a significant effect on their bottom line.  The GameFAQs community alone would probably charge the SCEA, SCEE, and SCEI offices for this offense.
2) Copy protection-related wounds are still raw.
Between the issues with Star Force's horrible copy protection scheme (in which the CD-ROM drive was forced to run in a barely-functional mode which could significantly shorten its life) and Sony's own rootkit issues with their music CD's, copy protection-related squabbles are not something Sony wants to have right now.
3) It's not something that could easily be done (if at all).
Unless each individual disc has a code that would only correspond to a particular serial number on a PS3, it would not likely be possible to implement this lockout.  I believe this may have been done with Phantasy Star Online for the Dreamcast.  However, a lot of users might not have their systems online, so this might not work quite as well.  Furthermore, even if every user were online, Sony would have a frustrating time trying to keep track of every single game in their database.
4) It would violate a precedent Sony actually had a hand in implementing.
Oddly enough, before the dark times, Sony had a role in securing the right of first sale, whereby the purchaser of a particular good can do as he will with it (as long as his desired action does not violate any laws).  While it would not surprise me that Sony would think of doing this, I don't quite believe that even they would be cynical enough to do this.
5) Sony Computer Entertainment Europe said it wouldn't be done.
As seen at The Guardian's Gamesblog, SCEE's PR manager said that they weren't planning on doing this.
So there you have it, I guess.  Until we hear otherwise, it's likely that this will not be done.  And once it is, the GameFAQs boards will run red with flamebait.

July 12, 2006...  Attack of the Radioactive Hedgehogs from a Planet Near Mars

Recently, I was reading a thread on another forum about Sega's unfortunate Shadow the Hedgehog.  It didn't take long for the topic to shift to a more broad discussion of Sonic the Hedgehog's steady decline over the past fifteen years.

For the last five of those years, I've been at least peripherally involved in the dreaded furry community (I regret nothing!  NOTHING!).  During that time, I've seen artwork of hundreds of hedgehog characters... they're almost never realistic depictions of the spiny rodent, but rather blatant clones of Sonic, with new colors and clothing being their sole distinguishing characteristics.

Each of these cheesy fan-made clones seems less original than the last, and by the time you've seen a hundred of them, you've seen enough.  The last thing you want is for these Sonic knockoffs to find their way into the actual series, yet that's exactly what seems to have happened in the past five years.  In fact, some of Sonic's official cousins make the bargain brand clones seem brilliant by comparison!

I do understand the motivation for all these new characters.  Sega wants its flagship series to adapt and evolve along with the industry, but they don't want Sonic to grow along with it, fearing that players will reject anything but a "pure" experience.  When they dream up a new ability for the Sonic games, they wrap a new character around it... usually a palatte-swap or hero who somehow manages to look like Sonic despite being a member of a completely different species.

As a result, the Sonic the Hedgehog roster has exploded into a cast of dozens, including characters so generic (Silver, Shadow) and unappealing (Rogue, Vector, Big) that they make the games they star in less enjoyable, even when you're not actually using them.  As Penny Arcade once observed, all these new heroes fracture the gameplay of the latest Sonic the Hedgehog games, leaving you with 20% classic Sonic action and 80% filler.

The decision to introduce new play mechanics with a Sonic stand-in is typical Sega behavior... cowardly and indecisive.  Rather than hiding behind a horde of homogenized hedgehogs, the developers should show enough confidence in their ideas to give them to Sonic himself, like what Nintendo has done in the past with Mario.  If Sega continues to cough up second-rate characters like Silver and Shadow, it will only take three more games before Sonic The Hedgehog starts to look like an episode of The Smurfs.

July 10, 2006...  Segagagagagagagagagagagagagagagagagagagagagagagaga...

I found this clip of the Japanese Dreamcast release Segaga over at Insert Credit.  In it, the hero battles a progression of increasingly powerful Sega game systems, from the lowly SG-1000 to the company's most popular Japanese console, the Saturn.  Now that's what I call must see TV!

In other news, it sounds like the rumored Microsoft Xboy is actually going to happen, except it's codenamed Argo and will offer games as a secondary feature (you know, just like the PSP!  Yes, I went there).  I wish I could say I had my doubts about this system, but if the Argo launches with Halo, you just know people are going to line up around the block for one.

July 5, 2006...  A Shitty Connection

Don't get me wrong, I really like Google.  However, I can't say I enjoyed their celebration of Independence Day.  The search engine's special 4th of July logo reminded me a little too much of that crappy NES game I made the mistake of renting fifteen years ago...


July 4, 2006...  The Worst Arcade Ports in History

IGN recently published a list of the all-time worst arcade translations, which has come under fire by some video game enthusiasts.  One of those enthusiasts just happens to be me.  I haven't seen a feature this critically flawed since, well, the LAST one IGN published! 

However, instead of just sitting here and bitching about it, I'm going to make things right by offering my own list of lousy coin-op conversions.  And awaaaay we go!


Some systems just aren't suited to reproducing the latest and greatest arcade titles.  The GameBoy scaled the very top of the mountain of wimpy consoles the minute it was released, but that didn't stop Capcom and Nintendo from making a GameBoy adaptation of Street Fighter II.  After all, the game was as popular in the early 1990's as it was resource hungry, and the two companies couldn't pass up a chance at milking the cash cow for a few extra bucks.  Since Nintendo and Capcom were more concerned with making money than making an advanced fighting game fit into the cramped confines of an underpowered handheld, Street Fighter II turned out the only way it could have on the GameBoy... poorly.  Frankly, those Hong Kong pirates with three dozen palette-swapped characters play a better game of Street Fighter than this.

Sega CD

People were so spellbound by the gorier warriors in Mortal Kombat that they didn't even notice the mediocrity under the thick coat of blood.  That goes double for the sad Genesis version of the game, and triple for its kid brother on the Sega CD.  In an interview with Electronic Games magazine, the incompetant dopes at Probe Software were quick to dispel rumors that the Sega CD version of Mortal Kombat would be a quantum leap ahead of its Genesis counterpart.  Once the game was released, it became obvious why.  Probe just took the Genesis version, complete with its supermodel-thin characters, limited color depth, and laughably anticlimactic fatalities, and threw in some redbook audio, a commercial, and oh yeah... game-killing bugs that put the Sega CD on ice in the middle of a match.  Wow, it's the first version of Mortal Kombat that actually performs a finishing move on your game system!

Super NES

Hey, Electrobrain!  Don't you mean Raiden TRASH?  Oh yes, I'm so very clever.  But seriously ladies and germs, this game brought to mind painful memories of the early days of the NES, when nearly every third-party title felt third-rate.  It's not a coincidence, because Raiden Trad was developed by Micronics, those numbskulls responsible for unspeakable 8-bit horrors like Super Pitfall, Winter Games, and Hydlide.  The 16-bit power of the Super NES broadened Micronics' horizons slightly, but all the cutting edge hardware in the world couldn't rescue them from their own stunted development as game designers.  With its dull color palette and choppy scrolling, Raiden Trad looks like the kind of game Micronics should have released on the NES in 1988.


It just goes to show how desperate Vectrex fans were for games when this atrocity is frequently listed as one of their favorite titles.  Berzerk isn't just a bad conversion of the influential Stern coin-op... it's barely passable as a game, falling to pieces ten minutes after you start it.  Once the score starts glitching, you know a crash is just around the corner.  "But what makes the game an awful arcade port," you ask?  What, having your game freeze up after twelve rounds isn't enough for you?  Well, how's this?  There's flicker galore, the gameplay slows to a crawl when there are a lot of onscreen enemies, and oh yeah... remember how cool Evil Otto's voice was in the arcade game?  Well, I hope you do, 'cuz you won't be hearing it here!


Like a pack of cigarettes (and just as toxic!), this game should have came with a Surgeon General's warning.  The label would read, "Any resemblence to the arcade version of Gorf is purely coincidential."  You'd be hard pressed to find any similarities between this mistranslated mess and the intense Midway shooter that flirted so daringly with copyright infringement.  Let's forget for a minute that the ColecoVision port of Gorf is missing the Galaxians stage and all that charmingly ridiculous voice synthesis... after all, most of the other versions didn't have those features, either.  What's really important here is that everything else has changed, and not for the better.  Every stage is pitch black, the new enemies come in one flavor (extra chunky), there's a bewilderingly cheerful new soundtrack, and it looks like the Gorfian empire stopped building the flagship days before it was actually finished.


Forget for a minute that the arcade game was already incredibly crappy.  When it comes to fighting game failures, it's the student that outsucks the master.  In fact, Time Killers on the Genesis gave arcade-goers a whole new appreciation for the time-hopping, limb-chopping, anything-but-chart-topping arcade title by Strata.  The Genesis game was developed by T*HQ, which at the time mistook the term "quality control" for "quality prevention."  Their low-to-the-floor standards were illustrated by Time Killers' garish color scheme, unreliable control (with or without a six button controller) and a cast of characters so tiny, you half expect to find a free magnifying glass in the box.  Time Killers was delayed for two years before it finally found its way to the Genesis.  It's a safe bet that gamers would have been happy waiting another twenty or thirty.


You wanna know what gave the Playstation such a terrible reputation as a 2D game console?  The answer is as close as the nearest copy of Samurai Shodown 3.  The game was already a pretty big letdown after the lofty peak of Samurai Shodown 2... the last thing it needed was for its animation to be sliced in half, yet that's exactly what happened when it was ported to the Playstation in 1996.  And oh yeah, we can't forget about those lovely access times!  They're more tolerable than what you'd find on the Neo-Geo CD, but SNK should have been aiming a whole lot higher than that!  Between Samurai Shodown 3, Darkstalkers, and X-Men vs. Street Fighter, it's no wonder it took years of atonement for the Playstation to redeem itself in the eyes of old-school fighting game fans.

Atari Lynx

Hard Drivin' is many things... groundbreaking, innovative, daring, and cutting edge.  One thing it isn't is easily ported to home game systems.  Over fifteen years after its arcade debut, developers still haven't brought Hard Drivin' to home consoles without crashing into technological limitations.  Regardless of the system, you could always count on Hard Drivin' having a low frame rate and the slowest driving action this side of Roseanne Barr on a Hoveround.  However, the Atari Lynx threw in a few more unwelcome surprises, including a convoluted control scheme and the system's chunky resolution.  Next to the sharply rendered polygons of the arcade game, the Lynx version of Hard Drivin' looks like it was pulled straight from the stone age.  Take Fred Flintstone's advice and yabba-dabba-don't.

Super NES

This isn't a game.  It's more like the framework of a game, ripped from the developers' hands and put on store shelves before they could advance to the beta stage of its design.  In the past, underground writers were afraid to express such opinions, worried that they might step on T*HQ's delicate toes and risk legal threats from Nintendo (yes, this actually did happen once).  Now that the Super NES is dead and buried and nobody takes Nintendo's seal of quality (or cease and desist letters) seriously anymore, I'm free to shout Pit Fighter's inadequacies from the mountaintops.  The game's got scrawny characters, jerky animation, missing cinema scenes, and you can't even continue after you die.  Not that you'd want to play it past the first nigh-unbeatable opponent or anything.

practically everything

It's a sad irony that the most successful arcade game of all time would also be the most consistently ruined arcade conversion.  Pac-Man has disappointed gamers from the day he arrived on the Atari 2600 to his debut on 21st century consoles like the Playstation 2 and GameCube.  Atari's game, with its seizure-inducing flicker and a fitting brown and yellow color scheme, is the best remembered and least enjoyed of the lot.  But what about the dark, drab NES version of Pac-Man by Tengen?  Or the Atari Lynx adaptation of Ms. Pac-Man, with characters that look like single-cell organisms?  Or the surprisingly inferior conversions included in Namco Museum for the Nintendo 64 and Dreamcast?  Yes, the Dreamcast.  If you can't make a picture-perfect port of Pac-Man on the Dreamcast, you're doing something seriously wrong.

See, Craig?  Now THAT'S the way you do it!