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.

Nintendo News roundup: Week ending 20th July 2012

There are quite a few Street Pass events dotted around the country and seeing as I don’t live in London I’ve not been to one. It is for that reason that my Puzzle swap pieces are abysmal but just to rub it in some more Nintendo have now released a new puzzle: Kirby 20th anniversary. It has 40 pieces and is available via Spot Pass now.

To keep with the modern age in social media Nintendo have released a Youtube channel for Nintendo Direct, exciting times surely? No, it’s currently just a Japanese channel and seeing as I don’t speak the language I have no idea what is going on.

Speaking of Japan the sales for June were announced and Pokémon Black & White 2 wiped the floor with the competition. Between then they resulted in 35% of all video games sold in Japan for June, that is despite only being released two days before the sales cut off point.

The Nintendo 3DS XL is one week away in Europe and will not include a second circle pad. This is despite HMV advertising in one of its stores that this happened, the best thing about this though was HMV’s flippant attempt at an apology. “If it’s caused anyone any issues then we’re sorry, but I’d say it doesn’t take much to work out this doesn’t represent the company’s retail offer for this release.” They told Eurogamer.net.

Speaking of talking a load of rubbish infamous analyst Michael Pacther told Edge that Activision had requested Nintendo make the pro-controller. He then rather quickly backtracked saying that it was an educated guess.

Whilst we’re looking at outlandish things an anonymous tipster has told zeldainformer.com that Nintendo are trying to buy back Rare so they can get back the rights to Banjo Kazooie. Whilst I’d like to see Nintendo get Rare back, this is one outlandish rumour added by the fact that it’s from an anonymous source.

Mind your Mummy Mommy, Mario

It’s time for Episode 3 of The Adventures of Super Mario Bros. 3, I’ll try to get an episode ‘review’ up every week. This episode is called Mind your Mummy Mommy, Mario. As ever Toadstool will be called Peach, Bowser/Koopa will be used interchangeably and I will use the Koopalings game names (in this case Lemmy and Iggy rather than Hip and Hop).

We start with Lemmy and Iggy in the Pyramid from world 2 of SM3. Their voices are incredibly annoying as they sound like 5-year-old kids. Anyhow they are looking for a Mummy case but are spooked by Dry Bones and they smash a pot. This causes another Mummy case to make Mario jumping noises and they get scared even more. They quickly grab the case which looks like Mario and run off. The other case opens and a Mummy comes to life to chase them.

We cut to Mario sleeping and he has a duvet that has mushrooms, a raccoon leaf and blocks on it. Oh he’s also sleeping holding a spanner and a plunger (because you know he’s a plumber). Just to top it off his moustache is brown rather than the normal black and the M has vanished from his hat (why is he sleeping with his hat on?).

Sheer bliss!

He’s rudely awaken by a Mushroom boy who tells them that a Mummy is attacking Desert Land. We cut to the Mummy chasing two Mushroom’s and she’s asking “Where is my son?”. Yup you’ve guessed what’s coming I bet she’ll think Mario is her son.

Lemmy and Iggy run off with the Mario look-alike mummy but the original Mummy is kicking right off throwing stuff all over the shop. The Mario brothers, Toad and Peach turn up and through a process of elimination Peach decides that Mario should handle the Mummy and they should go stop the Koopalings.

Within about 5 seconds the Mummy sees Mario and as expected thinks Mario is her son. Mario runs off but with no effort at all is caught by the Mummy who promptly gives him a kiss. As Luigi and co. are chasing the Koopalings but the airship comes and saves the day. Thanks Bowser for that who tries to rub salt in the wound by noting that they were the youngest Koopalings and could still succeed. Next up is Toad showing why I hate him in the cartoons “I dare you to come back and say that to my face”, he’s almost like Scrappy Doo.

Lemme at em! Lemme at em!

Luigi’s a bit upset at Mario being kidnapped and for some reason they need a map to know where the pyramid is despite being there earlier in the episode. Toad notes he has a cousin who sells maps and we see the cousin who seems to be a wheeler-dealer. Mario is the Mushroom Kingdoms hero and this map is needed to save them but Toad’s cousin still charges Princess Peach for the map. He even calls her your highness, it would be like the Queen asking me for a map so she could save James Bond and me charging her.

Back in the pyramid and Mario is told he’s cranky and needs to have a 10,000 year nap and is wrapped up in bandages. He hops away but the Mummy stops him. What I don’t get is why the Mummy is treating Mario like a kid, I get that he looks like her son but he has a moustache. Unless her son is a hipster then he would be an adult, surely.

We cut to Luigi who is in raccoon mood and pulling a ‘steam cloud balloon’ which has never appeared in a game. It’s basically a hot air balloon disguised as a cloud and doesn’t really make any sense. A tweester comes and breaks the balloon. Luigi is quite upset by this.

Really, really upset.

Ever the optimist Peach offers some reassurance “At least Koopa’s guards haven’t spotted us” which is a good point. It’s not like you have anyone in the party who will look over the top of the cast and shout “Until now” causing Paragoombas to fly off telling Bowser. Oh wait you do, he’s called Toad. Good going.

Somehow they just walk off and find the original Mario style mummy case and Luigi wonders what would Mario do? I bet WWMD bracelets would sell well unless someone pointed out the similarities to Weapons of Mass Destruction, I think I’ll nix that idea. So what would Mario do? Apparently he would make the Mummy case into a sled (in desert land!) using the balloon thing. The Paragoombas are shown talking to Bowser who then calls out Peach but the gang use the Sled to escape as we enter song mode for a minute or so.

We then cut to the Mummy as Mario has noticed she’s asleep and escapes with a high jump, and sees the gang. Luigi gives Mario a hug which somehow makes the bandages fall off his face and Peach unties something at the back which makes him spin and the rest fall off. She then asks where the Mummy is and Mario says “I left her in the tomb, there’s no way she can get to us”. Before he’s even finished saying the word tomb she’s smashed through the wall of the pyramid. She’s a bit annoyed about this but Peach points out the error that Mario’s not her son. She says Mario looks nothing like her son but Luigi looks like her husband and the gang run off to end the episode.

No real reason, I just love this picture.

Nintendo News roundup: Week ending 13th July 2012

According to Nintendo of America the 3DS console passed the 5 million mark in June. In addition to that Ocarina of Time 3D has passed  1 million sales in the region joining Super Mario 3D land and Mario Kart 7. Next month sees New Super Mario Bros. 2 (both previous versions have sold 26 million world-wide) and this month sees the release of the 3DSXL so expect sales to jump once again.

Speaking of New Super Mario Bros. 2 a new trailer was released this week and I’m getting quite excited for this game. There’s nothing too innovative about it but sometimes that’s not a bad thing.

NSMB2 is released on the 17th August 2012 in the European regions, Australia get it on the 18th whilst the North American regions get it on the 19th. Yes, I can hear your outrage NA on getting the games two days after us but it’s fine because you’ll be finishing off The Last Story. That’s right, The Last Story has a NA release date and it is the 14th August 2012.

This week Angry Birds Trilogy was announced this week (Angry Birds, Rio and seasons) and will be released in cartridge format. It will have 3D and StreetPass and will retail for $29.99.

Project Sora, the development team behind Kid Icarus Rising, has disbanded. Not much else is known for this but the timing is strange as it was a couple of months after the release of the game but too soon to really oversee the online aspect.

Speaking of Kid Icarus, the AR cards went on sale this week in the UK. You can pick up and album and three packets for £5.99 whilst the packets of six are for sale at £1.50. They’re supposedly being sold in WH Smith, Spar, HMV and many other local retailers.

This week Nintendo President Satoru Iwata gave a great interview with The Independent which includes a look at the 3DSXL, WiiU, Nintendo’s first operating loss for over 20 years and of course he laughs. It’s definitely worth a read.

Club Nintendo (Europe) offers Mario Kart trophies

After hoarding my Club Nintendo stars in the hope that the gold Legend of Zelda Epona statue would make a triumphant return I decided it was time to give up. What would my options be? I currently have just over 10,000 stars which could get me the likes of Game & Watch Ball, a cool Mario statue, a SNES controller to play Wii games on or some groovy foam wall Nintendo characters.

All that has changed as Nintendo of Europe have now unveiled three new items on their site, Mario Kart 7 trophies.

These are pretty darn sweet.

Shell trophy: Wherever you decide to put it, everyone will be dazzled by the large, shiny Green Shell resting on top. It’s around 12 x 9cm in size and slim enough to be displayed anywhere.

Leaf Trophy: This sturdy brown trophy will blow away all your friends! With a large golden Super Leaf in the centre, it’s fetching as can be, and measuring around 12 x 10cm, it’s the perfect size for any shelf!

Special Trophy: It’s glitzy, golden design, with red detail and large crown resting on top, will make you feel as smiley as the face that adorns it. Measuring approx. 12 x 10cm.

All are available from Nintendo of Europe with a cost of 5,000 stars each which is the equivalent of 20 registered 3DS games (250 stars each). The trophies are a miniature version of any full-sized trophies offered in various national Nintendo Mario Kart 7 competitions running across Europe.

I opted for the Shell and Special trophies and I have 4,395 stars to go. It’s a good job the WiiU is released this year.

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.

RPG Coin Collection: Check your inbox

Back in April I reported that (for Europe at least) once you registered Pandora’s Tower, Xen0blade Chronicles and The Last Story you would get a rather snazzy coin collection.

After more than two months of waiting Nintendo have finally sent out the e-mails saying the following:

We previously confirmed that you would be able to receive your Club Nintendo RPG Commemorative Coin Collection. Now we’d like to ask you to confirm where you would like us to deliver this Club Nintendo reward.

Please click the link below to be taken to the page where you can enter your delivery address details. We will keep these address details only for the purpose of delivering your Club Nintendo reward. Please note that we will begin deliveries of the Club Nintendo RPG Commemorative Coin Collection from the end of October.

We thank you for your patience and for being a Club Nintendo member. We hope you’ll enjoy your exclusive reward!

Your Nintendo Team

The time frame given can be “up to 8 weeks” which contradicts the Octobr time line and the best thing about it? You don’t need to use your star points to purchase the item. The e-mails were sent at 4pm BST today so check your e-mails and spam folders.

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.

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