Category Archives: Features

15 years on: RIP Gunpei Yokoi

The year 1997 was a year in which there were a number of high-profile deaths.  The world mourned as Diana Princess of Wales died on the 31st August, they bowed their head in respect as Mother Teresa died on the 5th September, the world of film lost the great James Stewart on the 2nd July whilst the world of music lost Jeff Buckley on the 29th May.  Yet it was the Video games industry who lost a true great on the 4th October 1997 as Gunpei Yokoi was struck by a car and died a few hours later aged 56.

Think of the great minds behind the modern-day industry and quicker than you can say “Miyamoto” someone will say “Yokoi” and I don’t blame them.  He was the genius behind Game and Watch as well as the Game Boy, he was also behind the wonderous robot known as ROB.  He also was one of the producers for some of the best games ever: Donkey Kong, Metroid, Mario Bros, Kid Icarus, Super Mario Land and Doctor Mario.  Oh and he pretty much came up with the D-pad which is not bad at all.  Sadly his tenure is marred by the Virtual Boy but I think this quote from Nintendo after his resignation covers it nicely:

“It is reality that Mr. Yokoi has indeed left, but it has absolutely nothing to do with the failure of the Virtual Boy. There’s no doubt that the Virtual Boy was a failure, but the head of the company himself has said that the blame for that rests on the decision to sell it to begin with. The D-pad and Game Boy that Mr. Yokoi developed are incredible. Such a man taking the blame for the 32-bit device and leaving the company is completely made up.”

It stands a testament today that Kid Icarus is returning, ROB has a cult following, Metroid goes from strength to strength and Nintendo is still at the forefront of handheld gaming.

RIP Gunpei Yokoi.

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Some questions about New Super Mario Bros 2

I suppose the best way to start after an extended break would be a follow-up on my first ever piece.  I thought it was fitting, due to the recent release of New Super Mario Bros. 2, to see what is going on in the Mushroom Kingdom.

A family feud?

 

Just calm it for the sake of your Dad!

Bowser, King of the Koopas has eight children. Seven are named after an array of music icons and are collectively known as the Koopalings whilst the eighth and youngest is named after himself. It’s no secret that in recent times Bowser has favoured his smallest child over the other lot but why? The Koopalings were the apple in Bowser’s eye during Super Mario Bros. 3 and World but as Sunshine came so did Bowser Jr. who shone during the Galaxy games and New Super Mario Bros. We saw them work together as a family during NSMB Wii, so why not again for 2? I guess it’s almost like the story of Joseph with the other brothers (and sister) jealous of the favourite son of their father. Maybe they should go on Jeremy Kyle.

Why kidnap Peach?

Che Bowser

I always assumed the reason for kidnapping Princess Peach was for money purposes and it makes sense; kidnap someone and collect the ransom. Yet it NSMB2 there is money everywhere so surely that would paint an ulterior motive behind the kidnappings. What is that?

There’s the running joke that Mario is just an obsessed person taking Peach from her husband (Bowser) who is actually the father to her children. The Koopalings and Bowser Jr. just want their mother back and is strangely backed up by Super Mario Sunshine.

Then there’s the theory that the humans have invaded the land and Bowser is the Che Guevera role who wants a rebellion. Peach is just a political prisoner in this fight.

Did they do it again?

During Super Mario Bros. 3 the Koopalings steal magic wands from seven rulers in the Mushroom Kingdom and after they are destroyed in their airships the Mario brothers take them back. The rulers are then transformed back to their rightful form and are never mentioned again. Yet in New Super Mario Bros. 2 and Wii the Koopalings have the wands back so does that mean that the Mushroom Kingdom rulers are also turned into things like Yoshi and Donkey Kong Jr?

Alchemy is almost achieved

In NSMB2 coins are everywhere and there are two things you can get that change everything into gold. There’s the gold flower and the gold ring which lasts longer than the P-block does. The P-block, which we first saw in SMB3, turns blocks into coins for a short period of time and in NSMB2 the flower and ring do it for longer. The technology is almost there to turn bricks into gold permanently. Though I better not mention that the original Super Mario Bros. Manual mentions that the bricks are people from the Mushroom Kingdom turned into blocks by Bowser as that will open a can of ethical worms.

Can music be heard?

The thing that annoys me more than the theme itself is that during the BAH B-BAH bit the enemies do a little dance. In order for them to do a dance they must hear the music which is obvious but mind-blowing at the same time. My theory is that the Mushroom Kingdom is littered with speakers which play this music as a mind control by Bowser over the Goomba and Koopas. Some may say it’s a silly theory as we’ve not seen speakers in Mario games. Hey wait a minute…

 

Paper Mario: Sticker Star gets a release date

Nintendo of America have confirmed via Twitter that Paper Mario Sticker star will be released on the 11th November 2012. There’s still not a release date for Japan or Europe but I imagine it would be around the same time.  The game is the fourth in the brilliant series and is the first handheld version of the game. The below trailer should hype you up for it.

Also please accept my apologies over a lack of updates last week, I had some technical difficulties but expect to see this week in gaming history, Nintendo news round-up and other features reappear.

This week in gaming history: 29th July – 4th August

The late Eighties and early Nineties in gaming was all about platforming or Action Adventure games, and added bonus was cute animals. With hedgehogs all the rage it seemed strange that Sega pulled a Dolphin out of nowhere, yet it worked.

The 29th July 1992 saw the release of Ecco the Dolphin who is quite fondly remembered by those who have played the game, and rightly so. It was followed by Ecco II: The Tides of Time, Ecco. Jr and Ecco the Dolphin: Defender of the future and we’ve not seen our favourite dolphin since the year 2000 but I hold on in hope.

I’m not sure if I should just write dolphin noises or make a pun and say I did that on porpoise.

What else happened?

31st July 1980: Nintendo release the game and watch title Fire.

1st August 1992: Mario Paint was released for the SNES in North America (Japan received it on the 14th July and Europe got it in December). I’m hoping for a WiiU sequel.

1st August 1993: For the first time in the Western world the original Super Mario Bros. 2 (AKA the Lost Levels) was released as North America had Super Mario Allstars unleashed on it. In addition to the Lost Levels was a remake of Super Mario 1, 2 and 3. It still looks great today and it was re-released for Wii in December of 2010.

3rd August 1984: Football manager is released for the Commodore 64 in Europe improving from the text only release of the original in 1982. Whilst not the same series as the current Football Manager games it did start the football management simulation games genre.

This week in gaming history: 21st – 27th July

What could possibly go wrong?

On the 21st July 1995 Nintendo released a console in Japan that they promised would “Totally immerse players into their own private universe.” The 3D monochrome experience just seemed to give a headache rather than immersion.

The now infamous Virtual Boy is one of the biggest flops in gaming history selling 770,000 units worldwide and didn’t even last a year. The console only had 22 games released (19 in JP and 14 in NA) and it never saw the light of day in Europe.

What else happened?

24th July 2001 Max Payne was released in NA whilst Europe got the game on the 27th. The series has since spawned another two games and a film released in 2008.

25th July 1961 Sir Clive Sinclair founded Sinclair Radionics which was the forerunner of the company that would lead to the ZX Spectrum.

26th July 1984 Monty Mole first made his appearance in Wanted: Monty Mole and resulted in another five games during the 80s. He shouldn’t be confused with Monty Mole from Mario, they share a name but the Nintendo one appeared some years later.

27th July 1990 Dr Mario was released in the NA region and has now caused me to sing the Chill music from the game.

The History of Nintendo v2: A mini review

The History of Nintendo Volume 1 offered a great backdrop to Nintendo’s dominance ranging from playing cards in 1889 all the way through an array of toys leading to the inevitable: They would be a video games company. Volume 2 takes a look at the Game & Watch games and just how important these were for technology as a whole.

You’re in this one Luigi.

Once again and written by Florent Gorges in collaboration with Isao Yamazaki and published by pix’n love publishing this is once again a must for any Nintendo fan. Starting with a very personal story on his fifth birthday, Gorges shows us how he first became aware of Game & Watch an therefore Nintendo leading onto a lifetime obsession.

Gunpei Yokoi is obviously the person to start with and getting the context of how he was first inspired by this idea in the late 70s by seeing a man playing with a calculator on the train. The importance of a LCD game is shown in this book with how such a knock on effect was made on a technology that was dying (LCD was on its way out at the time).

As was the case with the first volume the first half brings a lot of stories that just show sometimes you need to be in the right place at the right time but are balanced with stories of people working their socks off to get this done. The second part brings the more encyclopedic look at Game & Watch including looking at versions that I didn’t know existed (for example a colour table top version) which makes this a great reference point for Nintendo’s past.

The downside of this book is that it’s translated from French so sometimes things just seem a bit awkward to read. There are times in the book where it switches from past tense to present tense despite being the same story, in addition to that there are several points where punctuation just changes. For example if quoting a game name it would be ‘Donkey Kong’ in one part, <<Donkey Kong>> in another and in one section it even states ‘Donkey Kong>>. The book could have done with another proofread but don’t let that take away from the fact that this is once again a must have for all video game fans.

You can order the book at http://www.pixnlovepublishing.com/.

Why should casual games bother us?

It was one Christmas morning that I opened up a present from Santa and it was a Nintendo Entertainment System with Super Mario Bros. 3. The first gaming argument I can remember having was over who was better, Mario or Sonic. The kid I was arguing with would make a point and I’d destroy him and then he got annoyed with his last shot “Well Mario doesn’t spin, Sonic does!” without even a second thought I replied with “Yes he does, when he has the star in Super Mario Bros. 3 when you jump he spins”. Whilst I was clearly correct on the matter it would be a long road for my eight year old self and that was just one of many ‘discussions’ I’ve had over the years. I could make a list of what people say about Nintendo: It’s for kids, the graphics are rubbish, they just use Mario/Zelda/Pokémon, you get the point. Though there’s one term I despise and that is casual.

Casual gaming in itself is hard to describe though it refers to games with simple game play, games in short bursts or those played by people who have no real interest in gaming outside of this. The rival to the casual gamer is that of the ‘hardcore gamer’ who spends a lot of times on games and can cope with the more in-depth games such as Skyrim. The sad thing is that this has become a huge thing with this generations consoles and I ask a simple question….why?

Gaming is an entertainment medium, it’s purpose of existing is to entertain the masses and make its publisher some money. The problem is that the niche market of games don’t sell: For every Just Dance there’s a Little Kings Story, for every Rock Band there’s an A Shadow’s Tale, for every fitness game there’s a game published by Rising Star Games. That’s the reason casual games exist is because they sell but here’s a question, does it matter?

What would be a ‘hardcore’ TV show? I suppose Lost would be considered as one. In the UK Lost was shown on Sky1 which also showed the TV show ‘Dream Team’. For those who don’t know about Dream Team it was a soap that followed the trials and tribulations of a fictional football club called Harchester United. Two very different shows shown on the same TV station but did fans of Lost complain because there was a Dream Team or other trash on the same channel? Of course not.

What about a hardcore Movie? I think the perfect person to epitomise the balance is Jim Carrey who starred in three of my favourite movies of all time: The Truman Show, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and Man on the Moon. These were after he had done Ace Ventura, The Mask and Dumb and Dumber yet when he returned to do these sort of movies in Bruce Almighty and Fun with Dick and Jane there weren’t any complaints. “He used to cater to the hardcore market but now he’s targeting the casual market” I heard no one say. So why is it the same with games?

It shouldn’t matter that casual games exist, embrace the new casual gamers and allow them to realise there’s a lot more to gaming than Farmville. Remember when we started with Tetris and Pokémon yet we quickly were sucked into Dragon Quest, Final Fantasy and Quake? Exactly. As I said before gaming is an entertainment medium, it’s not a little secret geeky club. Lets enjoy it.

Development history

Don’t worry people I’ve not forgotten about you, I just have a lot on at the moment. Expect the site to be back into full swing within a week or so but in the meanwhile here’s a cool thing I noticed on the back of Nintendo game boxes.

The little codes on the back of games match up to one of the development names.  This includes:

  • The N64 (NUS) which was called Nintendo Ultra 64 and was also known as Project Reality.
  • Gamecube (DOL) which was named Project Dolphin.
  • The DS (NTR) which was called Nitro.
  • The Wii was known as Revolution hence the RVL.
  • The 3DS development kit was called the CTR.

Expect to see WiiU games with CAF (Project Cafe) on the back of the boxes. It could well be one of those glaringly obvious things I’ve never noticed before.

Three games shown at E3 that have a bit of a past.

History is something that is very important in video games: Where would Metal Gear Solid be without the NES games? Where would Mario be without Donkey Kong? Where would Tetris be without communism? Exactly. Here’s a brief look at three new IPs and the past they’re influenced by.

Project P-100 and Viewtiful Joe

Project P-100 will definitely be up there with Little King’s Story in being a hidden gem. I hope it ends doing better as this game has tons of potential. I will be doing a full preview of this game (as well as a couple of other ‘hidden gems’ but for the meanwhile here’s the trailer:

Well for the most part it involves bright colours, superheroes and quirky humour. What other game has that? Viewtiful Joe which had four games in the series ranging from 2003-2005 all published by Capcom. Just a coincidence? Well Viewtiful Joe was developed by Clover Studio (also of Okami fame) which closed in 2006. Most of Clover staff went over to Platinum games who are the developers of Project P-100. Just to prove for definite the influence: the directors of both games is Hideki Kamiya.

ZombiU is based on Dawn of the Dead.

It was Ubisoft who showed us this game which had me coloured intruiged from the second I saw it. I guess I just like the fact that it’s set in the UK. Here’s the trailer:

Aside from learning the second verse of the national anthem with that video the good people at NintendoLife (no relation) pointed out something about the past of Ubisoft. The first ever game they made was called Zombi which was released for the Amstrad CPC in 1986. That game was influenced by Dawn of the Dead the film by George A. Romero and the second film in the Living Dead Series. Sure it’s a nice link and all but it gets deeper, the film was released in Italy as Zombi and whilst it had an official sequel in Day of the Dead (1985) there was an unofficial sequel released called Zombi 2. This was followed by Zombi 3, Zombi 4 and Zombi 5 which would explain the weird spelling of the title.

Tank! Tank! Tank! is linked to Nintendo’s best Easter Egg.

This is another game that will be covered in my hidden gems feature but take a look at the trailer:

Tank! Tank! Tank! was actually originally released in arcades in 2009 by Namco Bandai in Japan and North America and gained a bit of a cult following in some circles. The game itself claimed to be a spiritual successor to the 1995 game Tokyo Wars (also by Namco) which in turn was a spiritaul successor to a 1979 Atari game called Tank! Obviously with the name and the exclamation mark there is a nice nod from Namco about this. However it doesn’t stop there, another spiritual sucessor to Tank! is the 1980 game Battlezone (and obviously the 1998 remake and1999 game Battlezone II). In 1992 a game called X was released by Nintendo for the Gameboy which was heavily influenced by Battlezone. Why is this so important? It marks the first known appearance of Totaka’s song.

There’s a lot of history in games when you dig around.

E3DS

Nintendo this year made the unprecedented move of having a hardware Nintendo Direct on Sunday, a major WiiU focus on Tuesday and today we get the 3DS software announcements, I guess you could call this E3DS. As is tradition with E3 announcements you will get a live discussion type run through with proper analysis over the next day or two.

  • We open with Reggie. He introduces Scott Moffitt.
  • He introduces Non-Specific Action figure. Reggie doesn’t like him.
  • The focus of this presentation is 3DS with some stuff we’ve not seen before. I’ll believe it when I see it.
  • Some sales are plugged. SM3DLand 2m, MK7 1.6m OOT 1m.
  • Moffitt plugs how well some third parties are doing.
  • The first game is Castlevania: Lords of Shadow – Mirror of Fate
  • Visually it looks impressive, a nice mid of 3D and 2D. It’s the same trailer we’ve already seen.
  • Dave Cox a producer at Konami comes to stage.
  • This is a 3DS exclusive.
  • Some gameplay is shown, it looks good with big combos and a more action adventure feel.
  • Do well you get better abilities.
  • You can charge up weapons for bigger attacks but you’re vulnerable whilst it’s doing this.
  • Of course the platforming element is still here with double jumps.
  • As a few people have pointed out the lighting on this is amazing.
  • There are four playable characters.
  • It will tell us more about the Belmont family.
  • Luigi’s Mansion Dark Moon is shown.
  • It’s the same trailer as yesterday with a couple of extra bits thrown in.
  • Shown is a beam with multi colour.
  • Visually it’s good but in a different way to Castlevania. Very colourful in style and substance.
  • The aim is to give him a bit more respect.
  • The trailer’s now on Eshop.
  • It’ll be released this holiday season physical and digital download.
  • Warren Spector and Peter Ong take Stage to talk about Epic Mickey: Power of Illusion.
  • Ong pays tribute to Castle of Illusion and how important it has been in his career. He says he played it once a day (and finished it).
  • Trailer showed including some Thwomp style things.
  • It has a damn fine artwork with levels based on Peter Pan, Beauty and the Beast and many more.
  • Out 18th November.
  • Paper Mario Sticker Star marks Paper Mario’s debut on handheld.
  • The stickers are shown off.
  • Colours look very sharp.
  • There is a cool battle shown where you actually see the corner of the world.
  • This returns back to 64 and Thousand Year Doors turn based battles.
  • There are 3D (like non paper characters) items that can be used.
  • The way the stickers are used seem cool as they’re used in battle and not. The example shown is planting flowers for Toad.
  • Look around, stickers are everywhere.
  • You can get Exp for exploring ala Xenoblade.
  • You can turn the above mentioned 3D items into stickers.
  • I love the Paper Mario games, I’m quite excited for this.
  • When you use the 3D sticker you can use it for powerful moves. They show using a fan which appears up the background where a 2001 space odyssey esque music and the fan moves the windmills sails.
  • Out this holiday season.
  • Trailer on Eshop.
  • Kingdom Hearts 3D: Dream Drop Distance
  • Nothing really new we’ve not seen already really.
  • Seems all the games tonight look visually pleasing yet all very different.
  • A demo is coming soon.
  • Scribblenauts Unlimited 3DS is shown, it’s a different trailer from yesterday.
  • Promises to unearth Maxwells story.
  • Lego Batman 2 is coming to 3DS.
  • As is Transformers Prime.
  • As well as Rabbids Rumble (deathly silence).
  • Heroes of Ruin (of course).
  • Pokémon Black and White 2 is mentioned.
  • Today is the one year Nintendo eShop.
  • The average user has 4.7 paid for games.
  • There have been 58million Swapnote messages exchanged worldwide.
  • They mention five eShop titles that have passed 1million downloads. All are free.
  • Some TV show is shown, it looks terrible it’s called Threediots. Good grief.
  • Pokémon eShop apps and demos are mentioned again.
  • You can get Batman Lego 2 demo in NA right now.
  • New Super Mario Bros 2 will be a download game as well.
  • As mentioned yesterday the focus is gold.
  • Always believe in your soul.
  • You’re indestructible.
  • There’s more to the game than gold of course.
  • You need to collect 1 million coins in the game.
  • Coin Rush is a new street pass mode. It’s a speed mode with one life.
  • Multiplayer is available in full game.
  • That’s co-op which is available via local play.
  • That’s one game, two 3DS.
  • Also Raccoon Mario is in full use here.
  • August 19th release date.
  • Nothing too exciting announced but seeing the games in play make me want to play it some more.
  • Animal Crossing still missing in action.
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