Posts from April, May, and June 2010.

June 30, 2010... Sin and Capital Punishment

DeathSmiles was released recently... and I couldn't care less.  Get yourself a copy of Sin and Punishment 2 instead, and put the money that's burning a hole in your pocket  to good use.

Hey, has anyone else noticed that video game deals have been on fire throughout the summer?  I've seen Wiis for $159, Xbox 360s for $129 (!!!), and a wide variety of releases from this year either dropped below thirty dollars or were sold with incentives to help grease the wheels of a purchase.  Gamers who bought Super Mario Galaxy 2 from Amazon were given twenty dollars off their next video game, and Blur, Activision's "mature" response to Super Mario Kart, could be had for as little as ten dollars with the right combination of coupons.  Best-sellers from earlier in the year can be had for less than thirty dollars without a black belt in coupon-fu, including Assassin's Creed II and Mass Effect 2.  I'm not sure what's prompting this sudden generosity from game companies... are they trying to offset a summer lull in sales, or are these low, low prices the result of a general industry slump?

Speaking of Super Mario Galaxy 2, why is the book "Sweet Farts: Rippin' It Old School" included among the recommendations for people who bought this game on Amazon?  Is this just a joke snuck in by a fan of one of the other systems, or was there a power-up in the game I'd missed? 

June 28, 2010... Now That's What I Call A Power Nap!

(yawn) All right, where was I?  Well, I've got tons 'o footage for the YouTube finale.  Not to give too much away, but I'll be reviewing Muramasa: The Demon Blade... it only makes sense, since my first review was its predecessor Odin Sphere.  Muramasa's a much better game, though, with the same gorgeous hand-painted graphics but a better combat system and less tedious inventory management.  Sure, you'll be poking around in the option menu from time to time to forge swords and cook the pheasants that were dive-bombing you ten minutes before, but it's more intuitive now that you don't have to select everything from a blasted ring floating over your head.  The Japanese setting is a better fit, too... I've always been fascinated by the country's mythology, and it's a thrill to see its wonderfully weird fauna spring to life.

June 25, 2010... Can't Stay, Gotta Split

After a month's delay, there's finally a new review on the Blitz.  Give it a look while I get some sleep.

June 23, 2010... Decrease the Grease

One of my readers took me to task for using the term "grease ball," claiming that it was a racial slur against Mexicans.  Well, he was almost right... I actually said "grease bomb," and a quick Google search reveals that "grease ball" is recognized as insulting to Italians.  I do understand his concern, though.  Although I don't like to censor myself, there's no need for me to sling mud at an entire ethnicity when I could save all the sludge for the one person who truly deserves it.  I pledge to be more specifically derogatory from this point forward.  I also apologize to everyone but the guy from Kotaku who took offense.

I don't want to waste any more time talking about you know who, though.  Instead, let's discuss the latest Castlevania game, which tries to reinvent Symphony of the Night as a fast-paced search and destroy action game.  Each player is set in the corner of a gigantic map, and they must race to the center where a horrifying monster awaits.  The player to land the most hits on the creature wins, or something... frankly, I'm not sure how this game is supposed to work.  Frankly, the mind boggles just looking at those ridiculously huge playfields.  I never realized just how large Metrovanias really were until Harmony of Despair put things into perspective...

In iPhone news, there are two new challengers available in the surprisingly strong iPhone conversion of Street Fighter IV.  Capcom had pledged earlier to give players Cammy, but they've upped the ante by including Zangief in this totally free, totally awesome update.  Special thanks to Destructoid for the scoop.

June 22, 2010... A Sea Monster... Ate... My... ICE CREEEEAM!

That's my own little way of announcing that the Disney Afternoon retrospective is back.  Relive those moments of hitting the skies with Baloo, hunting for treasure with Scrooge McDuck, and changing the channel when Bonkers comes on here!

Speaking of cartoons, there's a Pac-Man cartoon coming soon to an unfortunate cable television network near you.  They've somehow managed to give this extremely abstract game a science-fiction backstory that sounds like a cross between a Halo spin-off and that religion L. Ron Hubbard made on a bet.  Instead of the established cast of characters, they've introduced a bunch of annoying, predictable sidekicks like the nutty (and by "nutty," I mean "senile") professor and the precocious preteen brat.  Best of all (heh), the whole mess is brought to you in 3D, which is a really convenient way to give yourself a migraine headache should you find yourself in need of one.

Also, it's come to my attention that a certain craven grease bomb from a certain unreadable gaming blog erased the conversation I linked to earlier.  Fortunately, I took pictures!  I wish I had taken more of them, but this will give you an idea of how things are done at Kotaku.  Poorly.

For those wondering, Pheermee and Accordeon are both former Kotaku posters.  Gee, I can't imagine why!

EDIT: Annnd it's back.  Not sure what happened there, but I'll keep this picture around for the sake of permanence.

EDIT TO THE EDIT: Couldn't get a response from LeVar myself, but check out these tweets:

This ActiVision joint is bumpin'

Oh Hell Yeah Y'all...New Call of Duty is the straight up Fo' Real Shit!!

Does this sound like a man who was "not pleased" with E3?  Heck, it doesn't even sound like something Geordi LaForge would say, but they're straight from LeVar's verified Twitter account.  I assume he was being ironic by speaking in ebonics, but the underlying sentiment is legitimate.

EDIT EDIT EDIT ETC.: Okay, okay, I'll let it go now.

June 20, 2010... You Want a Dreamcast Revival?

Try this... take your Dreamcast out of the closet, blow off the dust, and pop in a copy of Crazy Taxi.  There, I just saved you ten dollars and a whole lot of disappointment.

Sega is re-re-releasing Crazy Taxi and Sonic Adventure in the hopes of riding a wave of nostalgia from fans of the short-lived and long-suffering Dreamcast.  There are just two problems with this.  The first is that former fans of Sega remember that it was Sega that killed the Dreamcast in the first place.  The second is that these "faithful remakes" won't be faithful at all.  Crazy Taxi in particular will look and sound much different than you remembered from the Dreamcast, or even on the GameCube where it received a wonky conversion courtesy of Acclaim's British subsidiary.  Remember how Acclaim Cheltenham took all the voices from the original and replaced them with sound-barely-alikes?  It only gets worse from there... the new version of Crazy Taxi soon to be released on Xbox Live and PSN will have a completely different soundtrack and most of its monuments to crass capitalism altered.  Don't be surprised if your first ride demands to be taken to the "Foot Storage Facility," or "State Awkwardly Squeezed Between The Midwest and Deep South Fried Chicken."

As for Sonic Adventure, well, it looks a lot shinier than I remembered.  If a blinding plastic sheen on all the characters is a selling point for you, by all means dive in.

June 18, 2010... Ban-tastic!

Today, I was banned from Kotaku by Brian Crecente.  I couldn't be happier, because it conclusively proves everything I've said about the double standards of video game blogs, who want all the benefits of legitimate journalists without any of the responsibilities.  The editors know this is true, and scramble to silence anyone who dares to point out this fact.

You don't have to take my word for it, though!  Just take a look at this thread from Kotaku, in response to a vapid, sensationalist post by Crecente about LeVar Burton.  Rather than discuss video games, as he is paid quite handsomely to do by Gawker Media, he shoved a camera in the face of the former Star Trek actor and observed that he was "grumpy" and "not pleased with E3."  Hmm, I jumped to a completely different conclusion myself.  The blank, slightly bewildered look on his face suggested to me that he just wasn't thrilled with random, greasy passersby blinding him with flash bulbs.

Whatever LeVar may have been thinking ("Sure am glad I don't have to wear that damn visor!"), Crecente's best TMZ impersonation shouldn't have been featured on a video game blog.  I told him as much, and so did a half-dozen other Kotaku readers.  However, the one person who came to defend the indefensible, one Indy_AKA_Rex, was quickly given special posting privileges as a reward for his buttkissery.  I don't know what happened to the rest of these guys, but when I pushed the issue, demanding something resembling journalistic credibility from what's fast becoming the video game equivalent of the Weekly World News, I was given the bum's rush out the door.

So Gawker, what's it going to be?  Are you going to claim that your writers are legitimate journalists (as Gizmodo did to keep its contributor Jason Chen out of prison during the iPhone heist of 2010) or will you hide behind the skirt of blogdom, claiming that everything is fair game, no matter how cheap, tawdry, and irrelevant?  I may not get an answer to that question, but one day, somebody will.  Probably somebody with a gavel, if the recent iPhone mess is any indication.

June 17, 2010... Good News, Everybodies!

First things first... I just signed a distribution deal with Good Deal Games, which will be selling my GORF homebrew on cartridge in the near future.  They'll be sending me a test cartridge and if I approve it, the game will be available on the site soon afterward.  It's funny... I looked all over the place for someone to put the game on a cartridge last year, and now, a distributor just falls into my lap.  It's not the greatest timing, but you can't beat the convenience!

Also, ECM of Waxing Erratic and possibly Die Hard Game Fan (I never figured out if he was the real Eric Mylonas or not!) just broke Cliff Bliszinski's thumbs in an editorial best described as ferocious.  He's not wrong about this, you know... the "hardcore" players who are so territorial about gaming wanted nothing to do with it fifteen years ago.  Why they persist on claiming exclusive rights to the hobby after hijacking it from the rest of us is anyone's guess. 

As for Cliffy B. himself, I'll grudgingly give him credit for pointing Mass Effect 2 in the right direction... the series was a massive bore until it adopted the cover shooter play mechanics first popularized (although not necessarily pioneered) in Gears of War.  Past that, he's a total cockgobbler and I wouldn't wipe my ass on him if I were out of toilet paper.  Nintendo needed to find a foothold in an industry dominated by Sony and its cultured and discriminating audience, you schmuck.  Why the hell should you care if the company found success in the demographics you completely ignored?  You should be on your knees thanking them for revitalizing an industry that had grown stagnant under your shortsighted leadership in the last decade.  Without Nintendo's "Blue Ocean" business strategy, those fair-weather friends you call "hardcore" gamers may have lost interest and gotten their kicks elsewhere, leaving you with nothing.

Enough about him, though... let's talk about what's planned for the launch of the Nintendo 3DS.  The system's got serious support from a variety of big developers, including Capcom, Konami, and... wow, they actually got AQ Interactive?!  Wait, that's no good!  Yeah, let's go with Namco instead. 

Some of the games announced for the 3DS include Super Street Fighter IV (I'm there already!), Resident Evil (less there), Professor Layton (my mom's there), and a game based on professional homemaker and model inmate Martha Stewart (so not there).  Not to be outdone by its licensees, Nintendo will release a half-dozen games based on their most popular franchises, along with a new title called Steel Diver (your guess is as good as mine) and a completely reimagined sequel to Kid Icarus.  This time, Pit soars through the skies in a rail shooter similar to Panzer Dragoon, so there shouldn't be any of this falling into a bottomless pit nonsense that was a constant worry in the original.

There are a lot of question marks in the list of upcoming games published on Nintendo's web site.  I don't have the slightest idea what "Cubic Ninja" is (although I would recommend you avoid the similarly named adult movie Pubic Ninja) and Harmonix's planned "music game" could be just about anything.  There is also a handful of shovelware in the list, including not only Martha Stewart's guide to making divine snack trays (it's so realistic you can almost taste the watercress!) but another Kung Fu Panda game (because they weren't giving the original away with an Xbox 360 purchase or anything) and Lovely Lisa 3D, which I assume is not going to be anywhere near as exciting as it sounds. 

Still, the starting line-up is looking pretty strong so far, probably on par with the top-shelf launch titles for the Gameboy Advance.  That makes sense, since there are so many parallels between the two systems.  They were both released at the start of the decade, both were a quantum leap ahead of their predecessors in performance, and both were crucial in helping Nintendo shake off a bad reputation for publishing anything with a cartoon license.  I don't think software quality is as much a concern for Nintendo as it was during the transition from the Gameboy Color to the Gameboy Advance, but with Sony and its (profoundly irritating) new mascot Marcus beating the "good kids playing bad games" drum, Nintendo still needs to keep the mesh of its quality control filter very tight.

June 15, 2010... Giant Enemy Crabs II

Here's what Nintendo had to offer handheld gaming fans in its E3 press conference:

Sony, your response?

Yikes.  You know what, just get off the stage.  You don't have a goddamned clue, and you've been proving it year after year after year by spouting off an endless stream of soulless marketing buzzwords.  When you say things like "merging consumer trends" in a conference intended to get gamers excited about your upcoming products, you bare to the world just how little you think of them, and how uninterested you are in gaming as a medium.  Nintendo shows the love for its fans, and the profits follow... you try to squeeze every last dime out of Playstation owners using superlative-laden propaganda and good old-fashioned hucksterism, and you wind up in dead last.  Shouldn't this be telling you something? 

Maybe you should drop the arrogant attitude, the transparent manipulation, and the cynical marketing and just make some attempt at giving the gamers what they want.  It's not that lame crossover game starring your increasingly irrelevant mascots, it's not a knock-off of what Nintendo had done with the Wii four years ago, and it sure as hell isn't Marcus, the sassy urban youth with the trapezoidal mouth.

June 13, 2010... Bits and Pieces, Pieces and Bits

First, allow me to thank Zack McConnell for the last fifty two bucks I needed for the Xbox donation drive.  My formerly broken Xbox 360 seems to be working pretty well now, so I'll keep the cash in the bank until it sputters out on me for good and I'm forced to buy a replacement.  There's news from Joystiq that the rumored slim-line Xbox is just around the corner, complete with internal Wi-fi (welcome to 2006, Microsoft!) and the Kinect peripheral.  Yeah, that's what they're calling Project Natal now.  Yeah, the new name's not really clicking with me, either.

Second, I've finished the video review; my first one in years.  You'd think I would have gotten rusty after all this time but it looks like I've still got it if the initial feedback is any indication.  You can watch it... right here, actually!

Third, there's a review of the Spectrum game Head over Heels on 1UP.com.  I can't embed that, so you'll have to click on this link to read it.  If you want the short, short version of the review, imagine Solstice on the NES, The Lost Vikings on the Super NES, and CatDog on Nickelodeon thrown into a blender set on whip.  After the screaming of Nordic warriors, ancient sorcerors, and mutant housepets subsides, you're left with an action-adventure game that's occasionally fun and mercilessly challenging.

Fourth, the recent Free Xbox Live Weekend reminded me why I don't play online games very often.  It's no fun at all to be humiliated by Split/Second players who've honed their skills to a razor's edge.  Yes Disney, I get it... I'm five seconds behind the seventh place driver.  You think you can cool it with the big red messages that tell me this every five seconds?  I guess I should be thankful that I didn't have Mickey Mouse waving his big red keister in my face too.

Fifth, I've been playing Mega Zone on the Xbox Game Room lately, and I'm starting to wonder if I could crack the leaderboards with a little training.  The game, essentially Xevious with eyeballs, is largely dependent on memorization, and the Game Room's rewind option would allow you to repeat trouble spots over and over again until you were able to play them blindfolded.  After a few hours of practice, you'd be able to master the game and get astronomically high scores in a ranked match.  On the downside, that would probably suck the fun out of a game I've been fascinated with since childhood.  I've always preferred the seat of the pants method of playing arcade games to memorizing patterns... it just feels more organic and spontaneous that way.

Sixth... there is no sixth.

June 11, 2010... Now That's What I Call A Music Game! 3

Sorry I've been absent for so long, folks.  I've been working on my latest video review, and there's just one minute left before it's complete!  At the rate things are going, that should take me about... uh, four hours to piece together the footage.  Man, I really need to find a more efficient way to do this.

So, like Christmas in July, E3 news has come early this year.  One of the most tantalizing bits of information is that the latest Rock Band will be tearing off the training wheels and going down the same road as the long-forgotten Miracle Piano System, with real instruments that play real music.  Better yet, the peripherals have MIDI ports, allowing you to connect them to your home computer and create your own incredibly tinny compositions!  (Has the MIDI standard improved since 2000?  I don't know, because every .MID file I've heard in the last ten years sounds like Genesis music to me.)

The new instruments are pretty intimidating, in both button count and price.  Anybody got $150 for another Rock Band guitar?  Yeah, me neither.  Fortunately for the tin-eared butterfingers out there, the "pro" mode is simply an option, so if you want to continue pretending to be a rock star, you can still do that.  You can also hold onto your money for other frivolous video game add-ons, like that hundred dollar steering wheel you'll use only three times.  Well, that was my experience anyway.

Okay!  Back to the video.  I hope to have it up in a day, maybe two at most.

June 9, 2010... Lost Time

First things first... the Xbox fund is ten dollars richer thanks to a GameSpite member known as Balrog.  The donation is much appreciated, my man!  I'll try to make it worth your while with new content.  Just how long has it been since I reviewed any games, anyway?

Right now, my first Xbox 360 is working tentatively.  Two nights ago, I logged serious time onto both Split/Second and Sega All-Stars Racing without a single hiccup, but today my system froze after my 3G card dropped me from the internet.  I'm keeping my fingers crossed and hoping that the fix will last just long enough to get me through the weekend... the free Gold weekend.  Man, I couldn't have timed this repair any better!  Now maybe I'll finally get in a few rounds of Super Street Fighter IV, or strum through a set of Beatles: Rock Band tunes with, ahem, a little help from my friends.  (Sorry, couldn't resist)

There's one thing I wanted to mention about Sega All-Stars Racing... does anyone get a slight bitter aftertaste of desperation from this release?  Sega's trying very hard to work a nostalgia angle with this game, but I have a funny feeling that any love that its target audience had for the company went right out the window after the death of the Dreamcast and the bazillion crummy Sonic games that came afterward.  The playfields are blindingly bright and the announcer sounds like he's been airlifted to Mount Olympus to witness the kart race of the gods themselves, but somehow, all that excitement feels forced.  I mean "getting starstruck by Big the Cat" forced.  It's like going to Disneyland, only to discover that all the characters have been replaced by scabs from Walter Lantz Studios.

I'll talk a bit about Split/Second later, but right now, I just finished downloading the latest Game Room packs and am desperate to try them.  Yes, that's how long it's been since I've used my Xbox.  MegaZone, here I come!

June 7, 2010... Reanimator

As it turns out, it took just a little bit of money and a whole lot of elbow grease to bring the Xbox 360 back to the land of the living.  Here it is, running Super Street Fighter IV in a system test that lasted nearly two hours.  It didn't crash, nor did it flash its reds, and all it took was a kit consisting of thirty-two washers (half plastic and half metal), eight heavy screws, and a tube of thermal paste the size of a restaurant salt packet.  It's the kind of cheap and dirty fix you'd expect to see in the climax of a MacGyver episode, which is why I'm going to continue the Xbox charity drive until I reach the two hundred dollar mark.  Sure, the system may be working now, but for how long... for how long?

Speaking of the donation drive, today's alms for the poor come from Kevin Lee, known as the "Yes-Man" on the forums.  He added a staggeringly generous seventy-five dollars to the fund, and his donation is greatly appreciated.  Stop by the forum and thank him if you get the chance!

So, the next model of the iPhone was unveiled today... I mean officially.  The device will include features like multi-tasking (welcome to 1985, Apple!  The Commodore Amiga says "hi!") and a gyroscope that will give players "an even better gaming experience."  You know what would really give us a better gaming experience, Steve?  An official joystick for this damned thing.  You don't even have to hardwire it into the unit... it's got a port on the bottom that's just begging for an external controller.  Oh wait, the begging was coming from me.  It's not like I'm the only one, though!

Oh yeah, I should probably mention before I go that I'm working on a new YouTube video, one of the last I'll post on the increasingly restrictive video sharing site.  After spending four hours piecing together a minute of footage, I'm starting to remember why I quit doing these!

June 5, 2010... I Got Nothin'

Rule of thumb... when you don't have anything to talk about, just post a mean parody of a webcomic!

By the way, the Xbox fund has bumped up a little bit, thanks to an old friend who may wish to remain nameless.  I'm makin' progress, folks!

June 4, 2010... You Know What? Go Fuck Yourself

Not you, loyal reader.  I'm directing this specifically at Rupert Murdoch and all the other bumbling captains of industry who think they have an inalieable right to stay in business, even if they have to squeeze taxpayers dry in the process.  I'm referring to the Federal Trade Commission's proposal to slap a 5% sales tax on consumer electronics to fund a bailout for the flagging newspaper industry.  That's right... if the FTC has its way, it will charge you ten extra dollars for the upcoming 3DS, fifteen dollars for a Playstation 3, and twenty dollars or more for your next smartphone to keep an outmoded communication model alive.  Do you read newspapers?  No.  Would you be the least bit concerned if they vanished completely?  No.  Will you be expected to pay for them anyway?  Hell yes!

Why does America insist on obstructing the future to keep the past alive, anyway?  Print media isn't going to get any more attractive as the years pass.  It's not going to get any more convenient, and it's sure as hell not going to get any more ecological.  Yet here we are, spending an ungodly amount of money trying to save this dinosaur, for no other reason than misplaced nostalgia.  The FTC is claiming that this is for the benefit of journalists, but if they can't adapt to the 21st century, fuck them too.  They've only had the better part of the 1990s and all of the previous decade to prepare for the information age.  Some writers, like Kotaku hippy-in-chief Brian Crecente, were smart enough to embrace online media after their local newspapers hit stormy waters.  If the rest want to go down with Rupert's sinking ship, let 'em drown.

Lately, there's been a lot of shrieking from the right about the infallibility of the free market, but they obviously don't believe their own hype if they're not willing to let big business live and die by the double-edged blade of capitalism.  The escalating failure of print media is trying to tell you something.  It's a dying, archaic industry that needs to be replaced with something better... something that already exists.  Don't interfere with evolution just for the sake of some crusty robber barons without the foresight to advance along with today's technology.

June 1, 2010... Cooked to a Golden Brown

Well, I did ultimately go through with the oven fix... it wasn't much of a fix, though.  Now I can coax the system to power on, but it won't stay on for more than a couple of minutes.  I'm not sure where I went wrong.  Maybe I didn't put enough thermal paste on the chips, maybe I should have thrown out the X-clamps and replaced them with screws and washers, or maybe I stuck my damned Xbox in an oven!

Anyway.  I'm trying to save up enough scratch to afford a replacement, because even if I can get this system to work again, it probably won't stay alive for very long.  Zach "Kitsunexes" McConnell was kind enough to donate fifty dollars to the cause, which is about a quarter of the way there.  If you'd like to add a little cash to the "I need another Xbox 360 and this one had better last for over a decade like all my other systems" fund, please click the gold "donate" button in the sidebar.  Your generous contribution will ensure that this site will be supplied with smartass game reviews for years to come!  Or as long as the Xbox 360 lasts, anyway.

There's not much news today, aside from the recent revelation that the next Harry Potter game will be a cover shooter, akin to Gears of War and Uncharted.  Okay...?  I guess I can't complain, though... the format did wonders for Mass Effect 2.  The streamlined combat went a long way toward changing my mind about the series.  I just hope they don't stick in some contrived stand-in for ammo clips, like Bertie Bott's Jelly Beans or animated chocolate frogs or, uh, heat sinks.

May 29, 2010... Nothin' Says Lovin' Like an Xbox in the Oven

Man, these red ring of death fixes are getting seriously hardcore.  Some online research revealed that frustrated Xbox owners are fixing their systems by sticking them in an oven preheated to 250 (not 360) degrees for ten minutes.  I'm desperate to get my console back on its feet, but sticking it in with last night's leftovers is a pretty tough sell.

Before I go, I should probably mention that actor Dennis Hopper passed away.  I remember him best from Speed, but there was also that ill-advised Super Mario Bros. film that turned Bowser into a prehistoric pimp with blond corn rows.  And people wonder why Nintendo no longer lets Hollywood make films based on its games...

May 28, 2010... RIP Gary Coleman (and my Xbox 360)

It's really depressing to see Gary Coleman get mocked, even after his death from a brain hemorrhage last night.  "Haw haw, he had a Diff'rent Stroke!"  "He's four feet under now, get it?!"  "Here's a good one... whatchoo talkin' 'bout, Saint Peter?"  That one's probably the worst, because Coleman absolutely hated that catchphrase.  You would too if it was a constant reminder of all you'd accomplished during the eight year run of a successful television series, only to have it all taken away by your thieving parents. 

Gary Coleman was no saint, but I can certainly understand the rage that led him to do some ugly things later in life.  Maybe you would too if you watched Baby Doll, an episode of the Batman animated series from the 1990s that served as a thinly veiled summary of his life.  If that's too maudlin for you, at least take a look at Dave Chappelle's re-enactment of Coleman's altercation with an obnoxious "fan" who refused to let the man have his dignity.  There are a lot of cheap short jokes in the sketch, but it's nevertheless clear that Chappelle sympathized with Coleman and shared his frustration with endlessly parroted sound bites.  After all, this was the guy who had to wear "I'm Rick James, bitch!" around his neck for years after his own show was cancelled...

So it looks like my Xbox 360 has taken a permanent vacation.  The E71 error is bad mojo, generally indicating a severe hardware failure.  The only things I can do with the console in its current state are either send it back to Microsoft, or attempt a repair myself using the penny trick on YouTube.  Since it was purchased used and registered by its previous owner, Microsoft may not even be willing to fix it... they certainly won't do it for free, anyway.  That just leaves me with one option.  Anyone got some spare change?

May 27, 2010... Los Links Piece of Craaaaaaap!

So much for my plan to play Sega Racing All-Stars tonight.  More news as it happens.

May 26, 2010... Tastes Like Burning

It's going to be like this all week?  What did I do to deserve this?!  Uh, don't answer that.

Anyway, I'm just posting to let you know that I've updated the Conan O'Brien page.  There's a review of the Legally Prohibited Tour, along with a half-dozen new pictures and some revisions to the earlier sections of the article.  Now if you'll excuse me, I think I'm going to take a nap in the refrigerator.  Yes, I know you can't open them from the inside.  It's going to be a long nap.

May 25, 2010... Oh What a World, What a World

I'm melting... melting!  Where did the rest of spring go?  The scorching heat is supposed to let up at the end of the week, but that's a long time to wait to get the weather we should have had all season.  Now that we've gotten my bitter complaining out of the way, let's get to the news!

Just when you thought Activision, the official home of franchise dilution and employee mistreatment, couldn't get more repugnant, along comes the ad blitz for Blur to prove that they haven't even begun to scrape the bottom of the barrel yet.  One commercial for the uninspired WipeOut clone sandbags Mario Kart and invites the viewer to "play with the big boys," while another turns the game's power ups into the wait staff at Hooters.  You know Bobby, there are more subtle, less desperate ways to tell us you have a small penis.  Like shouting it from a mountain peak with a megaphone pressed to your lips.

What else is going on?  Well, J. Allard is leaving Microsoft, the next Rock Band will have support for a piano peripheral, and Shaun White's Skateboarding, Ubisoft's entry in the already overcrowded skateboard genre, will feature dynamic topography.  That didn't work too well for the quickly forgotten Fracture, but maybe pulling rails and ramps out of the ground will be a better fit for an extreme sports game.  It certainly couldn't be any worse than chaining together cartoon injuries in Go! Go! Hypergrind.  Personally speaking, I'm more excited about the upcoming keyboard peripheral for Rock Band 3, not because of what it will bring to the game but what it could mean for struggling synth musicians in need of a cheap way to produce music on their computers.  Just plug it into the USB port of your computer, download some shareware, and blammo, you've got your own music studio on a shoestring budget!

I'll leave you with a link to my latest feature on 1UP, which examines the Dizzy series and its incredible edible star.  After you read it, you too will believe an egg can fly... and be killed by raindrops.

May 23, 2010... Goo-Gone

Did you all see the playable game of Pac-Man on Google last Friday?  Of course you did... it would have been hard to miss!  It was available for most of the weekend, but vanished early this morning.  Oh well, it was fun while it lasted!  Then kind of annoying.

The Conan performance was fantastic, by the way... I'll probably cover it in the "About Last Night..." section later in the week, after finishing up my weekly Spectrum feature for 1UP.  If you're a fan of Big Red, you really ought to go to one of these shows, but know this: if you go, go in cold.  Conan repeats a lot of segments from earlier performances, and watching them on YouTube will ruin the surprise.  Also, try to get a seat next to the stairs, because the ivory spider and his band will run up and down them for some quick high-fives.  You wouldn't want to miss out on a moment like this, would you?

May 20, 2010... Too Pooped to Pac

I thought I wasn't going to have anything to post on the site today... until I found this!  Namco revealed the iPhone game Pac-Man Reborn today, and answered the question we've all been asking for thirty years.  Yes, Pac-Man can poop.  Not only that, but he poops out other Pac-Men with disturbing growths on their heads, which must make them incredibly painful to push out.  Let's hope for his sake that those dots he's always eating are packed with fiber!

Anyway, there's a new review in the usual place.  This time it's Yakuza 3, the sequel to the sequel to the closest thing we ever got to a sequel to Shenmue 2.  I hope it'll hold you guys over until Saturday, because tomorrow belongs to Conan O'Brien.

May 19, 2010... Vindication

Three of the videos I posted to YouTube have qualified for ad revenue sharing.  I don't intend to subject my remaining viewers to commercials for air fresheners and disposable douche, but I nevertheless feel that this has vindicated me as a video reviewer.  When I posted that first review of Odin Sphere back in 2007, it was to offer an alternative to the YouTube status quo of pimply-faced screamers.  Years later, I've conclusively proven that there's room for more than just the loud, piercing voices of James Rolfe and his progeny.

Now that I've postponed my college classes, I'm giving serious thought to one final YouTube review for the sake of closure.  Since Odin Sphere was the subject of my first video, it's only fitting that its successor, Muramasa: The Demon Blade, would be the last.  If I'm happy with the finished product, maybe I'll start a new series on blip.tv, where video producers aren't in constant fear of having their work unraveled by frivolous copyright claims.  If not, I can at least take satisfaction in knowing that this chapter of my life has come to an end.

Anyway, how's about that 3DS?  A picture of the system's development kit has been leaked to the media, revealing not only the expected analog thumbstick but two screens with different sizes and resolutions.  While the touchscreen at the bottom of the unit is the same as it was in past DS models, the top screen is both sharper and wider, taking full advantage of the system's rumored "Wii-quality" graphics processor.  I'm a little disappointed that Nintendo is pinching pennies with the touchscreen, and that it's willing to make the same mistake Sony had in 2005 with a single thumbstick, but if this keeps the 3DS under that crucial $200 price point, I suppose I could learn to live with these sacrifices.

May 16, 2010... Out of Commission

Yeah, I haven't updated in a criminally long time.  This hasn't been a great week for me... my time has been evenly split between moving stuff out of a dead relative's apartment and sleeping through a stubborn bout of depression.  I'm barely functional; so much so that it's a supreme test of will just to play video games.  Life just isn't fun for me anymore.  I don't say that as an impotent suicide threat or a desperate plea for attention, mind you.  It's just a fact.  I don't have any drive, any great aspirations, or any hope for a brighter future.  I go on not because I wish to do so, but out of a sense of obligation to my family and my mounting debts.  So I'm here, and I'll probably remain here for a while, but I'm not happy about it.  After being reluctantly dragged through the dusty, seemingly endless back road of life for a few years, you start to resent the ride.

May 12, 2010... Sing a Song of Super Street Fighter IV

This must be a new record for the site!  I've reviewed a game just two weeks after its release.  You can check it out here, as usual.

This is going to be a short update that doesn't really update anything.  I've got a long day ahead of me thanks to family drama and the idiocy of a college that refuses to send out loans until weeks after classes begin.  Who the hell needs books, anyway?

May 11, 2010... Roast Pigs

Gamers are currently up in arms over Electronic Arts' decision to include vouchers for online gameplay in their latest sports games.  Like the Cerberus Network before them, these coupons unlock content for the original buyer, but must be purchased separately for about ten dollars if the game is bought used.  This offsets the piddling five dollar savings you'd get from picking up a used copy of a recent release from GameStop or one of its (few remaining) competitors.

Xbox 360 owners are rightfully concerned about the vouchers, because they already have to pay a hefty monthly fee for online access.  However, everyone else who's thrown a fit about the coupons needs to pull their heads out of the trough for a second and take a few deep breaths.  There's an unhealthy attitude of self-entitlement among today's gamers, leading them to believe that everything must appeal specifically to their tastes, that it must be of the absolute highest quality, and that it had better be damned cheap or damned free.  You see this in the non-stop hostility directed at the Wii, you see it in massively bloated games like Yakuza 3 that still fail to satisfy the unreasonable demands of customers, and you see it in the Humble Indie Bundle, a software package that was constantly pirated despite a price tag that was literally anything gamers wanted it to be.

Maybe you guys slept through your economics classes in high school, so I'll take this opportunity to explain how things work in the real world.  If somebody makes a product you like, you have to buy it.  That way, whoever made the product has enough capital to make more in the future.  You can't steal it, you can't pirate it, and you can't even buy it secondhand, because all the money you've spent jumps the manufacturer and is funneled straight into the pocket of a middle man.  This is what Electronic Arts is trying to discourage with these vouchers.

As a collector, I'm not against used game sales... it's the only way to build a software library for older consoles, and pick up games that have gone out of circulation.  However, I'm stunned that gamers are apoplectic about being nudged into paying five extra dollars for a new copy of a game.  Have we really become so self-obsessed that we'd be willing to start World War III over five dollars?

May 10, 2010... Around the World in 8000 RPM (also, To Catch a Pachter)

I'm playing Yakuza 3 right now, and I'm really impressed with the quality of the game, mahjong or no mahjong.  Walking around the crowded streets of Ryukyu and soaking up the local color also makes me think that there could be big business in the virtual travel industry in the very near future.  Games with a real-life setting have become so astonishingly likelife that you can watch a travel program on Italy and feel like you've already been to all the vacation hotspots, without ever having set foot in Europe.  I predict that ten years from now, we'll see interactive virtual tours, similar to Playstation HOME but with panoramic views of the Grand Canyon, Mount Fuji, and the European countryside replacing Sony's obnoxious advertisements.

Speaking of predictions, Michael Pachter is at it again, backpedaling from his previous assertion that there would be a high-definition Wii in the near future.  When confronted with the facts (which are like kryptonite to industry analysts), Pachter replied, "Wait, I didn't mean Nintendo would literally release an HD Wii!  That need's going to be filled by the upcoming Sony MOVE, just $99.99 at your favorite retail store!"  He then went on to ridicule fanboys, which is the ultimate in hilarious irony when you consider how often this guy (and all the other guys like him, frankly) has stumped for Sony in the past.  Hey Mikey, we're still waiting for the Playstation 3 to overtake its competitors in overall sales, just like you promised in 2006.  And 2007.  And 2008...

May 8, 2010... Little? Big? Whatever It Is, There's More of It

Hey, Yakuza 3 just arrived from GameFly, the enabler for my unhealthy gaming addiction!  I can't wait to play some shogi and win the hearts of some hostesses... what?  What do you MEAN they took all that out?  Fine, fine, I'll just beat up some guys.  Americans may not understand hanafuda, but a fist to the face is the universal language!

So, they're releasing a new Little Big Planet, with a number of improvements over the original game.  First, the crocheted and vaguely creepy Sackboys are getting a makeover, with tightly woven cloth covers that give the game a more advanced look and make the heroes look like bald Muppets.  Secondly, the level design engine will be overhauled, with support for any kind of game you can imagine.  Even the physics can be adjusted, resulting in less floaty jumps in the traditional side-scrolling platformers.  However, there's no confirmation of portability, so all the money you spent on custom Sackboys in the first game may be stuck there.  We'll know for sure when the game is released, which is... well, Media Molecule hasn't given us a solid date yet, but it's probably fair to assume that Little Big Planet will hit stores just in time for Christmas.

Between the Little Big Planet series and Nintendo's latest Wario Ware games, this is shaping up to be the era of do-it-yourself gaming.  Depending on your viewpoint, however, this could actually be a continuation of an era that started over thirty years ago.  It's a topic I'll be discussing in greater detail in a feature for 1UP in the near future.  First though, I'll need to thoroughly torture myself with Manic Miner for tomorrow's Spectrum column.  Who says game writers don't work hard for their money?

May 6, 2010... Extra Strength Street Fighter

Capcom, boobala, I love you and I love your latest installment of Street Fighter, but if you sell another one of these updates, I'll have to put the hurt on you.  The ten new and semi-new characters are fantastic (well, maybe not Makoto) and you've mercifully retired that idiotic Indestructible song, but let's make Super Street Fighter IV the grand finale and not tack on any more adjectives a year down the road.  I just don't have the money to re-rebuy this game, no matter how much you sweeten the deal in the immediate future.  Hell, at the rate things are going, I'm going to have to pawn an organ just to keep my subscription to GameFly!  You've got a good thing going here, guys, but don't press your luck.  Just keep your hundred thousand dollars and your fabulous car and step away from the big red button, less you incur the wrath of the Whammy.

Anyway!  ECM, the waxing one, informs me that there's an update to NitroGrafx, the TurboGrafx emulator for the Nintendo DS.  It still doesn't support the whopping seven games released for the SuperGrafx, but it does play redbook audio in the CD games now.  I suspect that'll make Rondell Sheridan of Blood a lot more enjoyable, even if the tunes spun straight from the disc still have a disconcertingly digital twang to them.

May 5, 2010... Sucko de Mayo

It may be a day of celebration for some, but today has been nothing but the pits for me.  Anyway, the Just Cause 2 review is finished.  Read it.

May 3, 2010... Total Destruction from Mountain to Shore

So, they've just announced a Smurfs movie, complete with leaked pictures of Hank Azaria as Gargamel and a preliminary cast list.  Wow, they even got Paul Reubens to play Chronic Masturbator Smurf!

Yeah, I'm really reaching for updates at this point.  There's a bright spot, though... I've finished the first in a series of articles for 1UP about the ZX Spectrum, a games-geared computer that's incredibly obscure in the States but as close as the nearest closet in Great Britain.  Who gives a damn what computers they used in England?  You should, since the machine served as the ground floor for industry leaders like Rare and Codemasters.  Anyway, you'll find the article here.  Dig that crazy and not-even-remotely-stolen-from-a-Futurama-sight-gag cartoon at the top of the page!

In other news, Microsoft is "rooting" for the increasingly dirty dozen who refuse to step away from Halo 2's online mode and take a damned shower.  Wait, Microsoft is applauding an open act of defiance against itself?  Is this the part where the NOMAD explodes?

(Heh, they're offering full episodes of Star Trek on YouTube now.  Neat!  Now that the videos are there anyway, maybe they'll stop being dicks about everyone else who posts clips.  All right, now I'm just deluding myself.)

May 1, 2010... Not Tonight Honey, I Have a Headache

I'm feeling pretty rough all over, actually.  I'll make this brief... I'm starting a new column for 1UP tomorrow, and I've got Super Street Fighter IV on order from Amazon thanks to a handy tip from ECM.  Hopefully I'll have the Just Cause 2 review ready in the immediate future.  That's about it, really.  Now let me sleep.

April 29, 2010... The Amazing Bungie Venture

Well, that was unexpected.  The moment Bungie cut its ties with Microsoft, it signed a ten year agreement with Bobby Kotick and the cartoonish supervillains at Activision.  That's not the first decision I would have made, or even the last, but hey, whatever floats your boat!

Sorry for the lack of updates.  I'm pretty much spent after a week of household drama and oppressive homework assignments.  I just finished a fourteen plus page essay for one class, and have to complete two (thankfully smaller) papers and an exam in another.  However, I should be back at full posting capacity starting next week.

April 27, 2010... Let This Be Our Final Battle

I had a press kit from Electronic Arts about the upcoming sequel to Dead Space, but I ated it.  I'll just say that I was very happy with Dead Space Extraction and would welcome a sequel (even if it's a sequel to the Xbox 360 survival horror game) with open arms.  Or tentacles, or claws, or whatever it is those Necromorph things have for appendages.

Oh, by the way, the Supreme Court is finally stepping in to break up the fight over video game ratings.  Leland "Robots Don't Say" Yee and Arnold Schwarzenegger (who thinks it's quite all right to blow up the universe as long as it's in a purely non-interactive movie) are pushing for enforcement of the ratings system, while the video game industry is pushing back, demanding the same freedom of expression afforded to other forms of media.  Who will win this grueling battle?  We'll find out by the end of the year.  Hopefully if things work in our favor, it will spell the end of politicians grandstanding and fearmongering for easy votes.  Well, on this issue, at least.

April 26, 2010... Bela Santosi's Dead

Look, I'm not asking for Oscar-quality voice acting in my video games, mostly because they're ineligible for the award but also because there are more important things to worry about.  There's a lot I'm willing to forgive, but I'm going to have to draw the line at Bela Santosi's absurd accent in Just Cause 2.  I get that the game takes place in an unidentified southeast Asian country (cough, North Korea, cough), but just what nation spawned this woman?  Half the time she sounds as much Jamaican as Laotian, and on some occasions, there's no logical explanation for her accent at all!  I challenge you to find a place anywhere that pronounces "comrade" as "comb-raid."  Not here in America, not in Thailand, not on Kremular-4 in the outer reaches of space, nowhere.

Annnnyway, I've got finals this week, so the review (yes, of this game) will be put on hold until all this test business is finished.

April 24, 2010... New Halo Reach!

It's 51% better at getting to those hard-to-frag areas!

Yeah, I got nothin' today.

April 22, 2010... Bobby Kotick Grows Massive Breasts, Juggles Severed Heads

There, that oughta get your attention!

When I redesigned the site early last year, I confided in a friend that I wanted to turn the banner on the front page into a video game, helping the site stand out from the rest of the pack.  I never got around to doing this, but a recent software package could turn that pie-in-the-sky fantasy into a cake-on-your-plate reality.  It's called Akihabara, named after the electronics district in Tokyo, and it lets you develop 16-bit quality games that play right from your web site, without the need for Flash or other external players.  The only downside is that it requires strong programming skills in Javascript, and programming languages based on C++ scare the ever-loving crap out of me.  Give me BASIC or give me death!

While I'm here, I should probably mention that there's a pretty keen DOS emulator available for the Nintendo DS right now.  You can grab yourself a copy of DSX86 from author Patrick Aalto's web site, and test it out with some of the freeware and abandonware games in the downloads section.  The emulator won't run everything, but Aalto is quickly making progress, adding support for Wolfenstein 3D and Master of Orion over the course of two weeks.  At the rate he's going, he'll turn the humble DS into a pocket-sized netbook by the end of the year!

One last order of business... Sega is slimming down, dismissing seventy-three employees and shifting its focus from big-budget retail games to considerably less expensive Xbox Live and PSN titles.  Mike Hayes, the president of Sega's Western division, proudly states that this is the second chapter of the company's life, after its decision to get out of the console manufacturing business ten years ago.  With all the cuts they've been making in both staff and ambition, chapter eleven can't be far behind.

April 21, 2010... A Momentous Occasion

I finally made good on my promise to change the banner!  This month (and for the next couple of months, most likely), it's a tribute to Bonk's Revenge, the best game in the Turbografx trilogy.  After the PC Engine ran out of gas, the normally mild-mannered but occasionally manic caveman migrated to the Super NES, where he shined like never before.  I've been playing Super Bonk for nearly an hour now, and the game is fantastic, if a little strange.  You can definitely see the roots of both Wario Land (the shape-shifting lead character) and Wario Ware (tons of mini-games) in this release.

So hey, what's this I'm hearing about Kotaku getting judgmental about Famitsu giving Metal Gear Peace Walker a perfect score?  Yeah, you guys don't have any room to get self-righteous about journalistic integrity, thanks to your misleading, sensationalist headlines and your habit of taking free swag from game publishers.  Oh wait... you're a BLOG!  You're not held to the standards of real journalists, but you're always first in line for benefits normally reserved for the pros.

April 20, 2010... That Shit Is Dope

It's an update on April 20th, you dirty hippies!  I'm meeting you halfway!

In honor of this occasion, 1UP revealed footage of the game Bio Force Ape... the real thing, not that homemade NES ROM that was offered on Digital Press last April.  The game is more bizarre than anyone could have imagined, with the titular (hee hee, "titular") hero leaping tall screens in a single bound and performing wrestling moves on a cast of rubber-suited monsters.  It's actually more out there than DP's April Fool's joke!

Also, Marvel vs. Capcom 3 and the sequel to Bionic Commando Rearmed were recently revealed.  The former game will be built from the ground up by Tatsunoko vs. Capcom producer Ryota Niitsuma; the latter will have jumping in addition to the usual gravity-defying swings from a grappling hook.  "Sacrilige," you say?  Perhaps, but I'm willing to give developers FatShark the benefit of the doubt.

Oh yeah, I should probably point out that the King of Fighters XII review I've been sitting on for two weeks is finally finished.  It was actually uploaded last night, but I needed to smooth out some of the kinks in the text before I made the public announcement.  Anyway, enjoy!

April 19, 2010... Back in the Saddle

Where does he get those wonderful scoops?  ECM reports on his site Waxing Erratic that former head of Atari Nolan Bushnell has become the current head of Atari under a reorganization effort.  I don't know what this means for Phil Harrison, who migrated to Atari after several unsuccessful years at Sony, but it's a guarantee that the company's most enduring (and obsessed) fans be walking with three legs for a couple of days.

Also worthy of note: Ubisoft will no longer be shipping its games with instruction manuals.  Instead, that information will be encoded on the discs and available to gamers with the touch of a button.  It's a bit surprising, but the industry has been tipping in that direction for years now.  I played Just Cause 2 last night and the first hour and a half of the game was an instruction manual.  Hell, Red Steel 2 spent three minutes just explaining how to connect the Motion Plus dongle on the bottom of the controller!

Instruction manuals have been a tradition in this industry for over thirty years, and I'll be sad to see them go.  However, with so many games already shipping with tutorials, it's doubtful that other gamers will even notice they're gone.

April 17, 2010... Two Thumbs Down

Oh Roger, you're not going on about this again, are you?  A couple of years after poking the hornet's nest with his observation that video games are not art, he tears it wide open by definitively stating that video games will never be art, and squirts bug spray into the hole by saying, "Why the hell does it even matter to you?"  Kind of cowardly to start the argument anew, only to close the door to dissent before it even arrives, don't you think?

Well Mr. Ebert, to answer your rhetorical, insultingly dismissive question, it does matter that video games are considered art.  That classification would legitimize gaming in the eyes of the public, which has viewed the hobby as the vapid sport of children and social outcasts for much too long.  It would help small developers get government grants and establish themselves in a fiercely competitive industry dominated by a handful of big players.  It would give game designers the freedom to fully express themselves, rather than worrying about smear campaigns launched by self-righteous lawyers.  Yes, it matters... just as it mattered in 1970, when A Clockwork Orange was struggling for recognition as a work of art in a society determined to brand it as crass pornography.

Can we stop giving undue credit to these blowhards?  Seriously, watching someone else play a couple minutes of Flower doesn't legitimize you as a critic of video games, any more than watching Spaceballs gives me street cred as a film reviewer. 

(Wait a minute, Ebert didn't even like Spaceballs!  Ooh, now he's just making this personal.)

April 16, 2010... Heads Will Roll

So the MPAA and RIAA want to install file-deleting software on everyone's computers and turn the government into its own thug squad for enforcing copyright law?  This is the kind of shit Bastille Day was made for.  Just hand the black hood to me when it's Sumner Redstone's turn to have a little taken off the top.

In "no shit" news, someone deep within Activision has admitted that Infinity Ward is falling apart faster than a five story building in Red Faction: Guerrilla with the corners hammered into dust.  The amusing part of the story is that the insider claims Activision didn't see this coming, demonstrating both appalling incompetence and an unfamiliarity with basic human emotions on the part of the management.  You treated the employees of your most successful division like slaves, fired the studio heads to crush their morale, withheld royalties from the other employees, and now you're surprised that they're leaving in droves?  How could you not expect this?!  It's simple cause and effect!  You put your hand on a hot stove and it gets burned.  You poke a tiger in the ass with a sharpened stick and it makes you its afternoon snack.  You eviscerate the team responsible for your best-selling series and turn life for the remaining employees into an endless, mind-numbing drudgery, and they leave to make money for somebody else.  Surely after what you people did to Harmonix, and what Atari did to its employees who started Activision in the first place, you would know this by now.

Corporate culture in the United States is so massively arrogant that Harvard-educated CEOs will blindly make mistakes that even the dumbest layman wouldn't consider.  Isn't it comforting to know that these self-made morons are running the country, and that you have no influence whatsoever in their decisions?

April 16, 2010... Hard Drivin'

Yeeeeeah, I might need to try this trick.  All the Wii games in your library (and someone else's library, if you're the nasty pirating sort) stored on an external hard drive is just too tempting to resist.  Why yes, I am too lazy to get my fat ass out of the chair and swap discs!

By the way, that smell you're noticing right now?  That was Nintendo president Satoru Iwata shitting his pants.

April 14, 2010... A Trip Down Memory Lane

Just a friendly reminder... this is the last chance you'll have to play original Xbox games on Xbox Live.  If you want to get in one last battle royale in Phantom Dust, now would be the time for it.

All the cool kids seem to be going to Waxing Erratic these days... what does he have that I don't?  A regular update schedule?  Up-to-the-minute gaming news?  The enthusiasm for life and this hobby that I've long since lost?  Oh wait, I remember now... pictures!  Each of his posts has at least one picture to help illustrate his points and keep his readers entertained.  So I'm going to make like Jay Leno and steal his idea, then make it my own.  I may even ship him off to a low-rent cable network while I'm at it.

So, I was poking around my parents' farm earlier, and here are a few things of mine that I found packed away:

That's a rusty Pac-Man lunchbox, manufactured by Aladdin.  Younger readers probably remember their school lunches as a ration of warmed over pizza and limp french fries, served by a disgruntled old woman with the frame of a linebacker.  However, back in my day, when parents were actually expected to get off their asses and feed their kids, lunch boxes like this one were commonplace.  This box, purchased from a peculiar barn sale packed to the rafters with 80s memorabilia, doesn't include the handle or a Thermos tainted with the aroma of thirty year old chocolate milk.

Here's a Power Lords board game, found by chance at a random garage sale.  This inspired the extremely obscure Odyssey2 video game of the same name, which Magnavox promoted with images of a massive cobra towering over a jagged rock face.  Alas, what you actually saw in the game was a hydrocephalic inchworm perched on some black squares.  Magnavox was the king of false advertising... I can still remember the incredibly optimistic commercials for K.C. Munchkin with a massive neon K.C. filling the screen.  Then when I finally added the game to my collection, I played it for hours, trying to find where those jaw-dropping visuals went.

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine is back, and it's in yo-yo form!  I don't know who the target audience was for this curiosity, aside from obsessed nerds like myself who weren't put off by DS9's decision to boldly go nowhere and let the aliens come to them.  The back of the box reveals an entire series of these old-school toys, adorned with the faces of Avery Brooks, Nana Visitor, and Armin Shimerman with bread loaves stuck to the top of his head.  Speaking of bizarre anatomy, I have no idea why I have four fingers in this picture.  Guess I should have worn my white cartoon gloves today...

That's two, count 'em, two copies of Galaga: Demons of Death for the NES.  It's a very good translation, but owning two boxed copies of the game is a little much.  At the time I purchased them, the greedy little collector in me thought that Galaga was extremely rare, but the rumors of its value are greatly exaggerated.  While on the subject, it's worth pointing out for irony's sake that Bandai, which distributed many of Namco's NES games in the United States, ultimately absorbed the company in 2005.  I don't know if that's just a coincidence or if the licensing agreement from the mid 1980s was the start of a love connection between the two companies.

"How to get great results with Nads."  First step- don't be me.

Now we've hit the motherlode!  These are two Game & Watch single screen games that have been in my collection for over twenty years.  It's hard to tell from the shabby shape it's in, but the first game is a shockingly faithful conversion of Super Mario Bros., where the portly plumber has to race through a gauntlet of increasingly nasty scrolling stages to rescue the princess.  There's swimming, warp pipes, and even blocks with 1UP mushrooms hidden inside.  My friend had the crystal model, with a transparent screen and Mario replaced with Mr. Game & Watch.  On the bottom is Mario's Cement Factory, a simple twitch action game which was recently released on DSi Ware.  Now that I've found the genuine article, I feel a little silly for spending two bucks on Nintendo's conversion!

Well that was fun.  I need to do that more often!

April 13, 2010... We Have You Surrounded

I'm honestly trying to finish that King of Fighters XII review... the problem is that I'm surrounded by far more entertaining games.  There's Dragon Age: Origins, Red Faction: Guerrilla, Sonic's Ultimate Genesis Collection, and of course, that copy of Red Steel 2 that just arrived from GameFly.  Then there are all the other games that I bought in a impulse-fueled frenzy back in January and February... the same frenzy that's left me flat broke months later.  When they said "a fool and his money are soon parted," the fool in question must have been one of my past lives.

Anyway!  About Red Faction: Guerrilla... I didn't like it much at first, but that's only because the difficulty settings are comically understated.  "Casual" is really "Normal," and "Normal" is "bend over while we drive a Sherman tank into your rectum."  I'm convinced that the "Hard" difficulty level blows up your Xbox 360 after you press the start button.  After I dropped the difficulty to casual and shamefully handed my hardcore gaming license to the nearest authorities, I had a lot of fun blowing up buildings and sending all-terrain vehicles flying with a few well-timed shots of a missile launcher.

There are just a couple of issues with the game, though.  First, driving to each mission is hugely time-consuming and dreadfully dull... maybe not as mindnumbing as all the sailing in Zelda: The Wind Waker, but not too far behind.  Second, even in the lowest difficulty setting, the Master Chief clones that dog your every step are much too tough and far too numerous.  It's maddening to send a missile their way, only to stare slack-jawed in disbelief as they return to their feet after being launched from the point of impact.  What the hell does it take to kill you and your five billion friends, anyway? 

Finally, I'm pretty sure they hired Michael "Voice of the Agency" McConnohie as your commanding officer.  With all due respect to the actor, I hate his character with the fury of a thousand Dell customers put on hold, and I wish that he would get herpes, scabies, and rabies in that order.  Video games are my vacation from reality, and I don't need the party ruined by some power-mad general barking orders at me.  Just shut your trap and let me concentrate on blowing the roof off this Martian mansion.

April 12, 2010... TBS: Very Conan?!

That's the word from the cable television network.  Rather than host a show on FOX, the redheaded stepchild of the late night circuit is joining forces with George Lopez on TBS.  I guess that's one way to reclaim the title "Superstation..."

So anyway, the former heads of Infinity Ward have banded together to start their own studio called Respawn Entertainment.  It's an online shooter joke, son... I say, doncha GET it?!  Anyway, after announcing that they'll be making games for Electronic Arts, Activision responded, "No shit... that's why we fired you in the first place!"

In news you absolutely don't care about, Will "Cyrus" Powers was the winner of Sony's ill-advised online reality show, The Tester.  As a prize, Cyrus was given a few thousand dollars and immediately shipped off to the salt mines to replay scenes from Tony Hawk RIDE 2 over and over and over...

April 11, 2010... Journey to the Stars

Since people absolutely insist that I update daily, even if I don't have anything to say, I'll meet you halfway and give you a link to my latest (possibly last?) 1UP article, a review of the tabletop version of Stargate by Entex Electronics.  It may not be as fun as the Williams coin-op of the same name, but boy is it ever as hard!

Now if you'll excuse me, I have to play some King of Fighters XII so I'll have a review ready for this site tomorrow.  If you're itching for something to read until then, might I suggest Waxing Erratic, the video game blog by longtime Blitz reader ECM?  I've been reading it for a few weeks now and I've grown fond of his unapologetically cynical view of the industry and its foibles.

(What's a foible?  I dunno, it just sounds like something smart people would say.)

April 10, 2010... RAAAAAID?! (explodes)

At the time of this writing, the Air Raid auction on eBay is up to a dumbfounding $13,877, with a couple of hours left to go before it ends.  It's entirely possible that the final sale price for this piece of crap video game memorabilia will be $15,000, which will likely make the seller of the game very happy but the rest of us bewildered and a little disgusted.  Really... fifteen thousand dollars for a game, and one that's not even very good?  If you're going to throw down that kind of scratch for a video game, at least have a little style and pick up one of these bad boys.  At least that way, you could use it as a backup for your dryer if it breaks.

Oh yes, I probably should mention before I go that if you've got original Xbox games, this will be the last week you'll be able to play them online before Microsoft switches off the servers that you've been paying good money to access.  This sucks the most for Capcom fans, who purchased the Xbox versions of Street Fighter Anniversary and Capcom vs. SNK 2 especially for the online competition.  Halo 2 players were compensated for the shut off with three free months of Xbox Live, but what do fighting game fans get?  Dick and bupkis, in that order.  For shame, Microsoft!

April 7, 2010... InDSecision

I've still got 800 DSi points, and at least three games I'd like to download.  I could grab Dark Void Zero right now, wait a little while for the do-it-yourself fighting game Photo Dojo, or wait quite a while for the upcoming Shantae: Risky's Revenge.  Shantae's clearly going to be the best of the three games, but it may not be released for months. As the song goes, the waaaaiting is the hardest part!

Speaking of the DS, I'm a little skeptical about the upcoming 3DS.  I've made my peace with its wacky 3D technology, but it's the price that's got me worried.  Come on, this thing is rumored to have Wii-quality graphics and twin 480p displays which can display images in three dimensions.  How the hell is Nintendo going to cram all that into a handheld and keep the price under two hundred dollars?  They barely cleared that bar with the DSi XL, and that's just five year old technology with two big-ass screens.  Maybe I'm underestimating Nintendo, but I expect them to cut a few corners before the handheld hits stores at the end of the year.

I promised I'd talk a little about Dead Space Extraction in a previous update, so here goes... the game kicks ass.  It's everything that Resident Evil: The Darkside Chronicles should have been, from the more stable camera to weapons that actually do reliable damage.  There's nothing better than cutting a crowd of bloodthirsty necromorphs down to size by lopping off their legs with the line gun!  I've also dabbled with Red Faction: Guerrilla, and although it doesn't offer the instant gratification of Dead Space Extraction, I'll admit that bringing down buildings and practically everything else with a few swats of a hammer really brings out my inner child.  You know, the nasty little brat who likes to burn ants with a magnifying glass and blow up action figures with firecrackers.

April 5, 2010... Let the Reviews Do the Talking

There are a handful of fresh reviews on the Atari 2600 page.  Pop on over and give them a look if you've got the inclination. 

April 3, 2010... I'm Here, I'm Here!

Sorry for getting sidetracked, folks.  I'm still here... I just don't have much to say at the moment.  I'm a little worried about a friend of mine, who left some odd messages on his Twitter account and has since vanished.  I swear, if he's done anything stupid, I'm going to flatline myself for a couple of minutes and kick his incorporeal ass.

(Ew, that film was by Joel Schumacher?  No wonder everyone in it was trying to kill themselves.)

Anyway, don't expect a hive of activity from the Blitz for a few days.  I desperately need to catch up on my schoolwork and gaming has to be shuffled to the back of my list of priorities.  I may review the 2600 game Air Raid in honor of the recent (ludicrously overpriced!) eBay auction, and perhaps talk a little about Dead Space Extraction, but that's it.

April 1, 2010... Grin and Bear It

It just never ends well for child stars, does it?  One day, they're annoying entertaining millions, and the next they're robbing liquor stores and mauling police officers.  Our thoughts are with you, Byron.  We'll send you a pack of smokes and put in a good word with the governor... or maybe the ASPCA.  Whatever keeps you from a lethal injection.