Posts from April, May, and June 2009.

June 19, 2009... Roughing It In Style

First, I'd like to direct your attention to the new front page banner.  It was inspired by the Genesis game Ultimate Qix, which appeared on other consoles with the title Volfied.  If you're a fan of Qix, or just looking for something to break the monotony of marathon Fallout 3 sessions, I'd recommend you give it the old college try.

This is day nineteen of my exodus from civilization, and so far, I haven't withered away from broadband internet withdrawal or long-term exposure to sunlight.  In fact, I think I've lost a few pounds from getting outside and actually doing things!  I haven't completely stopped playing video games, however... I'm just getting in touch with my inner Luddite by playing random selections from the original GameBoy library. 

I never liked the old black and white GameBoy back in the day... it always seemed a little weak in the knees compared to more ambitious color handhelds like the Lynx (holy crap, scaling and rotation!), TurboExpress (holy crap, console games on the go!), and Game Gear (holy crap!  Uh, what was this good for again...?).  However, now that all of these systems have been left in the dust by today's even more potent portables, I can look back on the best titles in the GameBoy library with an unjaded eye and admire them for their brilliance. 

Many of these titles demonstrate a lost art in the video game industry; the ability to wring every last drop of power out of handicapped hardware, or make the limitations of a system seem inconsequential.  A really, really good GameBoy game can make you forget that you're playing it in black and white, even after a decade of being spoiled by 21st century technology.

Here's a handful of GameBoy games I've recently tried, using the Visual Boy Advance emulator.  Some live up to that noble game design ideal of doing more with less, while others were quirky novelties at best.  However, they were all a fun change of pace from the sensory overload all too common on today's game systems.  Sometimes, roughing it is a lot less rough than you'd expect.


Mole's in control! Mole's on a roll! Mole's gonna win the equivalent of the Super Bowl! Wait, I've used this joke already, didn't I? Anyway, this brilliant puzzle game pits you, a tiny bespectacled rodent, against a cranky farmer who's kidnapped your wife and children. The action takes place on two separate layers... above ground, it's like Sokoban and its GameBoy equivalent Boxxle, but with a more capable lead character. The mighty mole can not only push obstacles, but throw them into enemies and even flip them behind his back. Below ground, he'll find power ups as well as hidden paths to otherwise unreachable areas. It takes practice to get used to the gameplay, but once you've got the knack, you'll sink hours into this incredibly clever (and unappreciated... what the hell, people?) release.


Contra's never been my game... I've always been a Gunstar Heroes kind of guy myself.  However, even I have to admit that this is a damn fine entry in the Contra series, closely resembling the first two titles on the NES but with a reduced difficulty to compensate for the original Game Boy's blurry screen. The graphics are incredibly sharp on today's handhelds thanks to the magic of TFT, but the less challenging gameplay is still a blessing to gamers who've been chewed up and spit out by the other Contra games. However, more macho fans of the series will be relieved to hear that absolutely nothing else has been compromised, from the powerful soundtrack to subtle details like the shimmering water on the horizon in the first stage.


This is a pretty crummy game that quickly becomes an unhealthy compulsion, like picking at a scab or poking a cold sore with your tongue. You know you could find a better use for your time, and you know you're going to regret it the next day, but you just can't stop! Maybe I couldn't put Cyraid down because it reminded me of Mr. Do's Castle, one of my childhood favorites. Like in the Aruze classic, you crush enemies with blocks and kick ladders into place, but unlike the wily unicorns in Mr. Do's Castle, your foes in Cyraid are the size of microbes, with brains to match. Come to think of it, EVERYTHING is tiny in this game, making it tough to judge your onscreen position and collect the energy spheres that spring open the door to the next stage. Yet for all its flaws- the puny characters, the puzzling power-ups, and the mutated orange that regularly stomps across the screen like a citrus-flavored Godzilla- the game does have a certain perplexing appeal, a jene se what the hell is going on here, if you will.


I won't lie to you folks... I thought Super Mario Land was pretty pathetic. Sure, it was a Game Boy launch title, but it also was a huge step down from the NES games, including the very first Super Mario Bros. that was packaged with the system in 1985. After the majesty of Super Mario Bros. 3 four years later, the tiny, badly drawn characters and simple, derivative gameplay of Super Mario Land just didn't cut it. Nintendo remedied this years later with the sequels, starring Mario's evil twin Wario, but Taito also took a crack at righting Nintendo's wrongs with Adventures of Star Saver. Fundamentally, the game is very similar to Super Mario Bros., but instead of boosting your strength with mushrooms, you climb into the cockpit of a mech straight out of the film Robocop. Star Saver also features an effective science-fiction motif, with your ED-209 knock-off leaping onto detailed planets and gunning down robotic rabbits. A sequel called Max was released in Europe, and while the game had larger, less linear levels than the original, it also lacked much of its charm due to some very plain artwork.


Ooh, I actually own the cartridge for this one! This is one of Takara's remakes of a Neo-Geo fighting game, and while they had the right idea with the squishy superdeformed characters, the shaky execution makes me all the happier that I own a Neo-Geo Pocket. The control in this conversion of ADK's shameless Street Fighter II clone is appalling, forcing you to frantically wiggle the joypad and jab at buttons to pull off your favorite attacks from the arcade game.  You might be inclined to blame the GameBoy's stiff directional pad for this, but even on an emulator, and even with that Rolls Royce of fighting game controllers, the Sega Saturn joypad, the control still sucks.  This in turn means that the game sucks, in spite of the squeezably soft artwork and the full cast of characters from the arcade original.  Oh Takara, you were so close, and yet so far away...

June 13, 2009... Transition Impossible

I thought I was hot shit, hooking my parents up with a coupon for a digital converter a year before the transition to digital television actually happened.  Little did I know that they would also need a new antenna to compensate for the weaker digital signals, blocked by Michigan's overabundance of trees.  Hey Obama, any chance you're going to give us a coupon for one of those?  Better throw in an extra fifty bucks for installation while you're at it.

What's most confounding about this whole DTV nonsense is that the number of channels we receive has varied wildly over the past couple of days.  At first, we were able to catch a full complement of stations, minus the local Fox affiliate.  After turning the antenna, we still didn't get Fox, and lost most of the other channels in the process.  On the day of the transition, all of the channels vanished except two flavors of PBS (oh joy) and ABC, which I gladly would have sacrificed for any of the other three major networks.

It's 1:00AM right now, and I'm picking up everything except NBC and PBS, with My Network popping up as a booby prize.  I have to wonder about this schizophrenic reception... I have a sneaking suspicion that when I wake up tomorrow morning, I'll lose all the other channels but get Qubo and a radio broadcast off the coast of Fiji.

Anyway, speaking of television (and not video games, which I'm supposed to be covering here), I've just written a retrospective on Late Night with Conan O'Brien, in honor of Conan's well-deserved promotion to the host of The Tonight Show.  I urge you to give it a look; I'm really proud of how it turned out.

June 10, 2009... PSP Came and Went

The more things change, the more they stay the same, eh? Four years after the Playstation Portable was released for an offsetting $250, it's coming back with the UMD drive and much of its size stripped away... but the price left intact. And the world groans once again at Sony's stupidity.

I'm no fan of the Nintendo DSi and its own inflated price tag, either, but this is just ridiculous. For a Japanese company desperate enough for profit to hire a Welshman as its savior, Sony seems completely unwilling to learn from the mistakes that first led to its financial ruin. It's become the Will Farrell of multinational conglomerates... smug, self-assured to the point of irritation, and a constant victim of its own bumbling ineptitude. When gamers bitterly complain about the PSP's lack of a second analog thumbstick, Sony ignores them. When PSP owners plead for a more open system architecture, Sony responds by routinely blocking access to homebrew applications. Now, in a dismal economy that's emptied the wallets of gamers around the world, Sony has both substantially raised the price of the PSP and went with a digital distribution model that makes the system useless to anyone stranded in the broadband-free boonies (uh, me). It's not even much good as a paperweight now that it's smaller and lighter than before! When Sony's attitude for the past four years has been "my way of the highway," it's no wonder that traffic has been so congested on Nintendo's side of the street.

Speaking of Nintendo, I've been pretty irritated with the company for the past year thanks to their confusion over the term "quality control" (hint: it doesn't mean keeping quality from reaching your game system), but it looks like they're making a genuine effort to atone for their past mistakes and give gamers what they've been demanding since they finished Super Mario Galaxy in 2007. Not only is a sequel to that outstanding release planned for 2010, but Nintendo is hard at work on a side-scrolling Super Mario Bros. game, similar to the DS release New Super Mario Bros. but with improved graphics, new abilities (you've gotta love that penguin suit), and a chaotic four player mode featuring Mario, Luigi, and a small posse of Toads. I don't know how well the side-scrolling action of Super Mario Bros. is going to accommodate a multitude of gamers, each eager to go in a different direction, but I won't mind it too much as long as Nintendo puts the emphasis on the single player mode where it belongs.

June 5, 2009... Down on the Farm

The site's going to be largely inactive for the next couple of months, while I'm stuck at the farm with my folks.  Hopefully it'll be back in the fall, after I've moved to Arizona and received loans and grants for my next semester of college (man, this shit just never ends).  In the meantime, I've updated the ColecoVision page with six new reviews, because the old ones really sucked.  Seriously, you have no idea.

May 20, 2009... Have You Played Atari Today?

I have, and there's thirteen new reviews on the 26 Hunter as proof!  I've also taken the liberty of revising the page, adding screenshots and trimming away buggy HTML code.  That's great news for old fogeys like myself who spent most of their childhoods in front of the Atari 2600 and are always craving more information about its games.

So hey, if any of you folks are looking to add some old-school video games to your collection, I'd be happy to offer some of mine... for a reasonable price!  If you're not in the market for video games, I'm also accepting donations, because I'm shameless like that.  Also broke.  Very broke.

May 14, 2009... Snap into a Slim PS3?

It could happen, and a lot sooner than anyone expected.  A recent post on, well, pretty much every gaming and tech blog out there reveals a wafer thin console claimed to be the next model of the Playstation 3.  It's a little hard to believe that Sony's already got the technology shrunken down that much, especially when you consider that X-rayed image of the original PS3 that appeared on the same blogs about a month ago.  That case was packed with more gear than a Snickers bar has peanuts!  However, I'm not completely convinced that this is bogus.  After all, this is the video game industry... stranger things have happened, as anyone who remembers the Gizmondo debacle can attest.

May 11, 2009... Ruh Roh Retro

Things are tough all over for retro fans this week.  After years of difficulty in bringing its Intellivision collection to the Nintendo DS, Realtime Associates has hit a new roadblock, set by Nintendo itself... the individual games in the collection can't be released on DSiWare because they're running on an emulator.  Nintendo's been marketing to non-gamers for years now, but this is the first time they've taken a hardline stance against releasing actual video games.  After all, who needs those when you can have Animal Crossing-themed calculators?

Oh, but it gets better, folks!  Remember how frustrated gamers were with Sonic's Ultimate Collection, which offered Sonic 3 and Sonic and Knuckles but not the two games merged together?  The nerdier ones even posted the three lines of code Sega would have needed to take advantage of the latter game's Lock On technology.  Well, Sega finally acknowledged its mistake... by selling a fixed version of the game on Xbox Live Arcade!  Gee Sega, I really underestimated your ability to fleece your customers.  I thought that would come to a screeching halt after you got out of the hardware business, but you've been able to use digital distribution as your own personal 32X, masterfully fragmenting and infuriating what remains of your user base.  Bravo!  What you lack in common decency you more than make up for in crafty duplicitousness.

May 2, 2009... Crystal Dynamics, Part 2 (Nintendo)

I originally did these predictions in order from Sony to Microsoft to Nintendo, but I'm going to shuffle the arrangement now, because Nintendo's been on my mind lately thanks to an insightful article about the company recently published on Wired.  I'm going to save Microsoft for last, because I'd hate to lose my train of thought in a week, when I eventually finish this feature.  Anyway...

Last but not least (that honor goes to Sony!), we have Nintendo.  The company releases the Wii in November of 2006 for $229, and in a welcome return to the old days, includes a game with the package.  That game is Wii Sports.  It doesn't look pretty, but it does get players ready for the Wii experience.  A handful of first-party titles are introduced with the launch of the system, and all of them cost $39.99 each.  Yes, even The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess, which actually costs ten dollars MORE on the dying GameCube.

This is where I start blowing these predictions.  The Nintendo Wii was actually released for $249, which is probably twenty dollars more than its actual value considering that it is just a turbocharged GameCube with shaky motion controls.  The system did include Wii Sports in the package, but I can't take full credit for that prediction, as this was the subject of some speculation at some of the video game forums I used to visit.  Also, as we all know, first party games for the Wii retail at $49.99... ten dollars less than either of the competing systems, but ten dollars higher than I'd expected.  Finally, Nintendo didn't sell the GameCube version of Twilight Princess at a premium as I had initially expected.  I suppose the motion controls (as tacked on as they were) were enough of an incentive for gamers to purchase the Wii version instead.

The American public becomes curious about the Nintendo Wii... so curious, in fact, that it becomes the top-selling game system in Christmas of 2006.  Japanese gamers are just as fascinated by the Wii, resulting in a worldwide feeding frenzy.  The Wii is swept off store shelves in the blink of an eye, and the incredible demand becomes the subject of evening news reports, talk shows, and web sites.  Has Nintendo finally reclaimed its throne as the leader of the video game industry?

Nailed this one!  Hey babe, check this out... fire-powah!  Anyway, the Wii was indeed a hit on both hemispheres, although there was an initial eBay-fueled rush on the Playstation 3 when it first hit store shelves.  After interest in the PS3 evaporated (a high price and a limited software selection will do that), the Wii continued to sell at a record pace, blowing past both of its competitors and being routinely sold out at retail stores for two years.  I can personally attest to how difficult it was to buy a Wii back in its freshman year... a good friend at a GameStop held onto one for me under the condition that I purchased it the moment the store opened the next morning.  I felt like I was buying a vial of crack and an automatic firearm in a back alley.

Well, yes and no.  Nintendo can only maintain this popularity in Japan.  Riding on the success of the Nintendo DS, the Nintendo Wii outsells the overpriced Playstation 3 by a ratio of three to one.  The Japanese fall in love with the console's compact size, its irresistable price, and a library of games that cater specifically to their unique tastes.  Some gamers (and third party licensees) remain loyal to the Playstation 3 regardless of its price, but it becomes increasingly obvious as the years pass that this is a fight Sony can't win.

I blew this prediction, but who could have seen all the crazy shit that's happened in Japan coming?  Conventional wisdom has been turned on its head in the land of the rising sun, with handhelds greatly outselling homebound consoles.  At first, the Nintendo DS took the country by storm, but once it thoroughly saturated the market, the PSP replaced it as Japan's best-selling system.  The brick wall that Nintendo hit with the Nintendo DS is understandable, because one out of every five Japanese citizens owns the system.  The only way you could possibly improve that adoption rate is to give them away in ten packs of ramen or force the government to implant one in the back of every newborn child.

I was going somewhere with this, really.  The Nintendo Wii sold like gangbusters in Japan for about a couple years, but it hit its own brick wall... namely, a lack of any truly excellent games.  Once the novelty of the motion sensitive controllers wore off, the Japanese were eager to adopt a console with more consistent software quality, and the Playstation 3 was it.  They could have bought the less expensive Xbox 360 instead, but you know how the Japanese are about embracing American technology.  There was a survey in Enterbrain which listed the alleged reasons that the Japanese were hesitant to purchase Microsoft's system, but the truth is that the Xbox 360's failure in Japan boils down to a misplaced sense of national pride.  You know, lazy illiterate Americans and all that nonsense.

That's Japan.  In America, the Wii becomes a short-lived fad, much like the Nintendo 64 before it.  Americans quickly tire of the novelty of the Wii interface and demand more of the same, which both Sony and Microsoft offer in ample amounts.  Lousy third-party support, the Achille's Heel of the Nintendo DS, also factors into the decline of Wii sales in the United States.  However, Nintendo remains the leader of interactive family entertainment, despite Microsoft's best efforts with Viva Pinata.

I should have reversed these two predictions, because this has been the reality.  The Wii is still a hit in America despite a drought of high-quality software, while Wii sales have taken a nosedive in Japan.  Also, calling lousy third-party support the Achille's Heel of the Wii would be incredibly clairvoyant if it weren't also the understatement of the decade.  Square, EA, and Capcom, where the hell are you?  We've gotten one decent Wii game from each of these industry titans (Dragon Quest Swords, Boom Blox, and Zack and Wiki) and that's it.  That kind of indifference in the face of fifty million units sold makes you wonder just where the priorities of these three leading developers lie.

Meanwhile, on the handheld front, Nintendo is dismayed to discover that the PSP is slowly catching up to the Nintendo DS in US sales.  Sony still has its supporters, and at $149, the PSP is the only currently supported Playstation system they can afford.  Nintendo shifts its attention from the Wii to the Nintendo DS in America, hoping to maintain its leadership of the handheld market.  Wii sales continue to suffer, leaving it in the same unenviable position as its predecessor, the GameCube.

The PSP is pretty much sunk in America, and it's unlikely that the redesigned, market fragmenting PSP Go! will change this.  However, as was mentioned earlier, the PSP is a big hit in Japan thanks to a combination of market oversaturation for the Nintendo DS and the current Japanese obsession with Monster Hunter.  As was also mentioned previously, the Nintendo Wii is still America's best-selling game console.  So the Cliff Notes is that the entire paragraph is full of bogus predictions.

In 2010, the Wii has taken a gigantic portion of the Japanese market... around 70%, with the remainder going almost exclusively to Sony.  Nintendo once again becomes synonymous with video games, and the Japanese are already excited about the Wii's successor.  It's a different story overseas, but the news is still encouraging.  The Wii has taken almost 30% of the US market, edging out the Playstation 3 and demonstrating a marked improvement over the GameCube.  Things may never be the same for them in America, but on all fronts, Nintendo has a promising future ahead of it.

According to VG Chartz, the Wii holds about two-thirds of the Japanese market, but with the current trend toward the Playstation 3, that's likely to change in a hurry.  By the end of the year, the two systems could be neck and neck in overall sales, with the Playstation 3 threatening to pull ahead.  Here in the good old US of A, the Wii is the dominant game console at nearly 23 million units sold, but its lead is threatened by a different console, the paradoxically more powerful and less expensive Xbox 360.  If Nintendo insists on going down its doomed path of all crap and no games, the Xbox 360 is almost assured to overtake it in the next three years.

So I guess the lesson to be learned from all this is that Nintendo needs to get its shit together in a hurry if it wants to maintain its leadership of the market both here and abroad.  Recently, Nintendo president and former VIC-20 game designer Satoru Iwata apologized for the lack of compelling software on the Wii, but it's going to take a lot more than hollow sympathies and acknowledgements of the plainly obvious to turn things around.

April 29, 2009... Alive

You couldn't tell from reading this web site, and you probably couldn't even tell from looking at me, but yes, I really am alive.  I'm just suffering from a nasty flu (hopefully not swine-related) on top of my usual issues.  I'm sure I'll be able to power my way through it in a couple more days, though.

So, it sounds like it's full speed ahead for the latest PSP model, which replaces the slow and klunky UMD drive with digital downloads.  If they were going to make that drastic a change to the design, you'd think that Sony would include that extra analog thumbstick that gamers have been demanding since launch, but nope, Engadget reports that the button layout will remain exactly the same as it's been since the system debuted in 2005.  On the plus side, Gran Tourismo may finally make its PSP debut... and only four years after it was first announced!  It may have actually mattered back in 2005, but with God of War on these shores and the Monster Hunter series in Japan, I have a funny feeling that the PSP owners of the world have moved on.

What else?  Well, Capcom is finally releasing Marvel vs. Capcom 2 for the Xbox 360 and Playstation 3, with all the characters unlocked and an option to replace that heinous jazz music with tunes from your own collection.  Square-Enix recently purchased Eidos, and is hungry for more struggling developers with high-profile games.  Could Midway be next, or will Warner Bros. Interactive get to them first?  There's a new Ace Attorney game on the horizon with an elevated side-view perspective, and Nintendo's released shadowy pictures of a new fighter who will appear in the latest Punch-Out!! game.  With his blunted nose and cropped hair, he looks like Killer Instinct's T.J. Combo, but since Microsoft-owned Rare currently holds the rights to that series, that's probably just a coincidence.

That's it, folks.  Now back to my regularly scheduled coughing and wheezing, already in progress.

April 20, 2009... Will 2009 Be Like 1984?

"And our enemies will be forced to watch nonstop marathons of Bewitched and What's Happening!!"

It could be for Japan, which has seen steady sales drops for nearly every game console over the past few weeks.  Even the Nintendo DSi, which had a strong start when it launched last November, sold just over 40,000 units this week, down 10,000 units from the previous week.

This may not necessarily be cause for alarm, but dwindling console sales along with a weak economy and cynicism from developers (dating as far back as late 2007) could spell trouble for the future of the Japanese video game industry.  The United States had its own crash back in 1984, while gaming in the East thrived thanks to the popularity of the Famicom.  Perhaps now, it's Japan's turn to flounder while America flourishes.

April 18, 2009... Crystal Dynamics, Part 1 (Sony)

Back in 2006, I posted a series of predictions about the outcome of this generation of game consoles.  It's three years later and we're halfway through the lifespans of the Wii, Playstation 3, and Xbox 360, so I thought it would be fun to see how those predictions panned out.

We'll start with Sony, who was the undisputed leader of the video game industry back in the first half of the decade.  All right, here we go!

It's the end of an era as the Playstation brand name begins to lose its hold on consumers.  The first cracks in the armor began to show with the release of the PSP in 2005, but that armor begins to fall off piece by piece when the Playstation 3 is introduced at the tail end of the following year, just in time for Christmas.  The PS3 is delivered with the price tag that Sony had promised at E3, between five hundred and six hundred dollars.  That sticker shock alone is enough to drive most consumers away from the unit and straight to its competitors.  Parents who want to entertain their kids but have no need for a game console themselves will head straight for the Wii.  Older gamers who demand a more sophisticated experience will opt for an Xbox 360.

No dispute here.  Granted, my personal bias colored this analysis, but it is nevertheless right on the mark.  Sony did indeed sell the Playstation 3 for $499 and $599, and sales did shift into first gear after an initially promising holiday rush.  True to Nintendo tradition, the Wii was a big hit with kids, but the big surprise was how well it went over with the soccer mom and baby boomer crowd.  Really, who saw that coming?  Aside from Nintendo COO Reginald Fils-Aimes, who's been pushing that angle from the moment the system launched...

The Playstation 3 trickles out of stores, and it's given high praise by some media outlets for its high performance hardware and excellent Blu-Ray film playback.  The system's developers took special care to make the Blu-Ray support in the PS3 as good as it can possibly be.  As a result, the Playstation 3 is on par with dedicated Blu-Ray players selling for twice the price.  However, consumers aren't yet ready to abandon their DVD collections for a new format, and game developers, already strained by high software development costs, are reluctant to take advantage of the additional storage that the Blu-Ray format offers.

I had a funny feeling that the Playstation 3 was going to be an excellent Blu-Ray player, since that functionality was supposed to be the key to its success.  It certainly lived up to my expectations in that respect.  Last year, HDTV Magazine praised the console as a standalone Blu-Ray player, saying:  "The video looks absolutely stunning and the audio quality is amazing.  We haven't seen Blu-ray look or sound any better than on the PS3, nor have we seen it any worse, but that just means it is as good as any Blu-ray player out there.  You do not suffer any quality loss simply because it's intended to be a gaming console and not a dedicated player."

As for the success of the Blu-Ray format, that's subject to debate.  However, Cnet reported that Blu-Ray disc sales have nearly doubled from last year, to nine million units.  There are also an estimated ten million Blu-Ray players in the United States, with the likely majority of those being Playstation 3 consoles.  It's got a long way to go before it can match the lifetime sales of DVDs or the ancient VHS format, but Blu-Ray has already beaten the hell out of Capacitance Discs and "oh, no" Beta.  Plus, the recent actions taken by ISPs to reduce bandwidth on their networks (don't kid yourselves folks, Time-Warner isn't through fighting for bandwidth caps) could keep digital distribution one step behind Blu-Ray as the dominant high-definition video format.

Games that once put Playstation systems in millions of homes are starting to lose their hypnotic effect on fans.  Tekken, Ridge Racer, and Gran Tourismo are old news, and the high price of the Playstation 3, coupled with the lack of innovation in all of these titles, have convinced players to look elsewhere for their entertainment.  Ridge Racer 7 in particular is a crushing disappointment, lacking both new ideas and the extraordinary visuals that PS3 owners expect from the system that emptied their wallets.  After dire sales, Namco Bandai reconsiders making its flagship games exclusively for Sony's systems... but doesn't stop to think that those games are too old and busted to sell on ANY console.

I played Ridge Racer 7 six months after the system was launched, and it was so far behind the times that I kept wondering if I'd see Fred Flintstone's foot-powered car on the racetrack.  The only difference between it and the previous Ridge Racer games released for the Xbox 360 and PSP is... well, there aren't any differences.  Getting off the subject of the Playstation 3 for a minute, Namco has really been sucking ass since the merger, haven't they?  Everything they've released in the past three years has either been a hopeless rehash of previous games or awful enough to prompt reactions like this from gamers.  The only recent Namco title that has been worth the price of admission is Retro Game Challenge, and that was outsourced to another design team!

After a few years, some impressive exclusives (particularly Metal Gear Solid 4, which actually lives up to the hype), and a grudging price drop, the Playstation 3 begins to pick up momentum.  However, the real star of the Sony line-up becomes the Playstation Portable.  After a reduction in price to $149, the PSP becomes the console of choice for gamers who wish to stay loyal to the Playstation brand name, but can't afford Sony's latest system. 

That price drop did come in 2008, but at the cost of the system's backward compatibility.  Looking for ways to reduce manufacturing costs, Sony tore the Emotion Engine from the heart of the Playstation 3, replacing it with software emulation and eventually, no backward compatibility at all.  Early adopters may have paid big bucks for the PS3, but at least they received a more complete system out of the deal.

As for the Playstation Portable, that's still going strong... in Japan, at least.  After three years of Nintendo DS dominance, the system made a miraculous comeback thanks to the popularity of the Monster Hunter series.  It not only consistently outsells the market saturated DS, but every other game console available in Japan, including its big brother the Playstation 3.

I missed the mark on the price drop, but not by much.  The PSP is currently selling for $169 in the United States, about the same as the recently released Nintendo DSi.  That price is not likely to drop when the next, possibly UMD-free model of the PSP is released at the end of the year.

Gamers witness a mass migration of third party developers from the PS3 to the PSP, and the once unappreciated handheld becomes a serious threat to the Nintendo DS's market dominance.  However, this is only the case in the United States.  The Nintendo DS remains uncontested in Japan, with the PSP clinging to life on the backs of a few stubborn supporters.  A redesign of the system (including a reduction in size, improvements in battery life, and a screen with a higher refresh rate) does boost sales, but not by much.

Ha ha!  No.  If anything, developers have been stampeding away from the PSP, especially in the United States, where sales have been sluggish and piracy has glued even the best releases to store shelves.  I completely blew it with most of these predictions, although a slimline PSP with an (arguably) improved display was released in the United States late last year.

2010 arrives, and brings with it word of a new generation of systems.  Sony is left humbled and hurting after the high manufacturing costs and lackluster sales of the Playstation 3.  Nevertheless, the system becomes a cult hit among early adopters and Playstation loyalists.  Like the owners of the Sega Master System in the 1980's and fans of the Sega Saturn in the 1990's, Playstation 3 supporters stand by their console of choice, proclaiming it to be the best on the market.

2010 is still nine months away, but it's already pretty clear that the Playstation 3 will be dead last in this console war, at least in the United States.  I'm also confident that in ten years, there will be gamers who will insist that it was the best of the three systems, and that it didn't get a fair shake from customers enamored with the gimmicky Wii and economically priced but just as economically built Xbox 360.

A handful of games on the system do demonstrate its superiority over other consoles, but the fact remains that Sony only captured 20% of the US gaming market with the Playstation 3.  The system sold better in Japan, but only marginally, taking 25% of the market.  Sony obliges its small but devoted user base with the marginally improved Playstation 4, but focuses much of its attention on the PSP II, its next generation handheld.

It's not an authoritative source, and I'm sure I'll catch hell for treating it like one, but VG Chartz claims that the Playstation 3 has sold over eight million units in the United States, and nearly 22 million systems worldwide.  Here are the figures from April 18th, 2009:

The site claims that the Playstation 3 has taken 21.6% of the total gaming market across all territories, which is pretty close to my own estimates in 2006.  Before you gasp and swoon at my amazing clairvoyance, however, remember that we haven't yet looked at my predictions for the other two systems.  An Xbox 360 with a built-in HD-DVD player?  Oh, three years from the past Jess, you crack me up!

So, what did I miss?  Well, Eye of Judgment and Little Big Planet were both awesome games that were retail failures.  That's a shame, because Eye of Judgment made use of some really exciting technology, and Little Big Planet demonstrated what Sony could do when thinking outside the box they've been trapped in by hardcore gamers.  I had no idea that backward compatibility would be taken out of later models of the Playstation 3, or that there would be four different PSPs by 2010, including the rumored but highly probable model without the UMD drive.  Past that, I think I was pretty much on target with these predictions.  We'll see how well I did with Nintendo and Microsoft next week.

April 13, 2009... The Tower of Crippled Hours

The title doesn't have anything to do with this update... I was just reading Midnight's Children and thought the term "Tower of Crippled Hours" sounded really cool.  By the way, you might want to check out the book if you've got the attention span for it.  It's hard to describe, but imagine X-Men if it took place in India, and had a lot less action and a lot more philosophical musings.

Honestly, I'm at a loss for things to talk about right now.  The video game industry has slowed to a crawl, and the latest news has been anything but exciting.  When the announcement of a Judge Mathis game is the best the blogs have to offer, it makes you want to crawl into a hole and hibernate until the Electronic Entertainment Expo begins.

However, your visit to the site was not in vain!  I've uploaded not one, not two, but three Awesome NES pages, because I've been lagging well behind on updates and am itching to get this section of the site wrapped up by the end of May.  Wherever I'll be in two months, I probably won't have broadband internet access, so if I'm going to make any changes to the site, now would be the time for it.

April 6, 2009... Putting the "Anal" in Analyst

I'm a little 'neebed right now, so I'll make this brief before I make too big a fool of myself.  I was reading Joystiq earlier today and ran face first into the headline Analyst: Investing in Wii Development is Fool's Gold.  This led me to wonder... why do all the analysts sound like wind-up toys for Sony?  Seriously, every time an analyst releases one of these statements, it's always something like "Nintendo Wii Just a Fad," or "Playstation 3 Will Win Console War in 2014," or "Xbox 360 Makes Players Impotent," or "Kaz Hirai Expected to Be Playgirl Magazine's Stud of the Month."  God, it's like reading a press release from North Korea.  These analysts need to wipe all the dust off their crystal balls and finally come to the realization that Sony isn't the industry titan it was back in 2003.

Anyway, there's a new page on Awesome NES.  We're opening up a can of nerd on your ass with reviews of Star Trek and Star Wars, then following it up with a look at the two StarTropics games.  Yes, we've got all your star-related gaming needs covered this week.

April 1, 2009...  Party Pooper

No April Fool's joke this year, folks.  I figured that new reviews on this site- and of Sony products, no less!- would be unbelievable enough.  Special thanks go to John Roche for his reviews of Prinny: Can I Really Be The Hero? and the Playstation Home service, which you'll find right here.

All right, before I go, let's get in a quick rundown of the latest gaming news.  The Playstation 2 dropped to $99, prompting SCEA rep John Koller to crow that the former industry heavyweight could steal market share from the Nintendo Wii.  Not without new software it won't!  The Wii is supposed to get a conversion of the lesser known and even less liked light gun game Mad Dog McCree, because heaven knows there just isn't enough crap in the system's library.  The upgraded (but in all the wrong ways) DSi has already sold two million units in Japan, double the number of the Xbox 360s that Microsoft managed to move in that country over the last four years.  I think even Sega sold more than a million Dreamcasts in Japan, didn't they?  Koei unveiled a new logo in celebration of its merger with Tecmo, and it's hideous, making even Konami's tamponriffic identifier and Ubisoft's tentacle monster peering into an open manhole look charming by comparison.  Annnnd I think that about covers it!