Monday, May 29, 2006

Shamefully Bad Game Boxart Of the Moment (#4)

Coming up with a decent looking cover of the arcade classic ‘Pac-Man’ should prove to be easy enough. Just draw up the simple-looking Pac-Man in all his 6-Bit glory, compose some mazes with furious ghosts coming after you and then you should be on your way to designing an adequate cover that depicts Pac-Man accurately. However, whoever designed this cover went the complicated route, resulting in a perplexing cover that represents Pac-Man as a buck-toothed, fat-cheeked cookie eating odd-ball who gets chased by horny (look at the expression on the red one’s face…) ghosts throughout castle settings. Actually, come to think of it, I think the cover star on this one is, in fact, an imposter. Why else would he be wearing a shirt that displays Pac-Man in his true manner? Maybe the asterisk by the title informs us in a hidden spot on the box that this is indeed not really the Pac-Man we all know and love… hmmm….

Past Offenders:
(#1) Phalanx

(#2) Hardcore Pinball

(#3) Trouballs

Happy Memorial Day!

Today is Memorial Day, a very significant American holiday where we honor the fallen heroes of our past and enjoy our everyday freedom. Also, I’ve got the day off to boot. Happy Memorial Day everyone!

Monday, May 22, 2006

Can the Playstation 3 Sell on Brand Name Alone?

Can a console brand name sell millions of units alone, even without quality software to back it up? David Reese, CEO of Sony Computer Entertainment Europe, certainly thinks so.

"We have built up a certain brand equity over time since the launch of PlayStation in 1995 and PS2 in 2000 that the first five million are going to buy it, whatever it is, even it didn't have games."

This type of cocky attitude isn’t going to sell systems, and even if the launch is successful due to the Playstation brand name alone (and not because of the actual games available for it), then that definitely doesn’t mean that it’ll still be the top-selling console in the future. Also, even though the Playstation 2 was the dominant market leader of this generation, Nintendo was also top dog of the gaming industry one generation (32-bit, SNES) and then was dethroned from first place, sales wise the next (64 bit, N64).

If Sony really wants to sell truck loads of consoles after the initial launch and rein supreme once again for yet another generation then they’re going to have to make sure that they have quality software to back their system up. Otherwise, gamers, whether they are of the mainstream or hardcore variety, may start looking elsewhere for their gaming thrills.

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Saturday, May 20, 2006

At long last, no more GBA rehashes

After four rehashes of the Game Boy Advance (only one of them really necessary), and millions of units sold later, Nintendo President Satoru Iwata has finally revealed that the worldwide portable phenomenon will not see any more updates.

"The Japanese game market is now evolving around DS. We don't need to do something that will pour cold water on the situation." said Iwata in an interview

Well, so it looks like the Micro will be the last unnecessary GBA update. But that doesn’t mean Nintendo wont milk a whole new generation of cows – I’d expect a few DS rehashes by the end of the system’s life span.

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A look at all four iterations of the Gameboy Advance:

Gameboy Advance (released 2001) - Although the Gameboy Color sold like hotcakes, it was a pretty disappointing portable when it was all said and done. The Gameboy Advance blew the Gameboy Color away with stunning graphics (for its time on a portable system), a great line-up of game titles, backward compatibility, and a solid sound design. However, the system’s overall design was quite unattractive looking, and the dark screen was a huge nuisance.

Gameboy Advance SP (released 2003) - Fixing the problems of the original version of the GBA, the SP featured a nice-looking backlit screen, a rechargeable battery pack, and a new, fresh, pleasing design. Gamers quickly sold off their troublesome originals and upgraded to the awesome new SP by the millions.

Gameboy Advance SP2 (released 2005) – Few people complained about the original SP’s screen, but Nintendo decided to repackage the Gameboy Advance and upgrade it once again with a new, brighter screen.

Gameboy Micro (released 2005) – While the Gameboy Micro was smaller and sported a great new screen akin to that of the Gameboy Advance SP2, it sacrificed the ability to play classic Gameboy and Gameboy Color titles in doing so.

Also released in 2003 was the Gameboy Player. This let you play Gameboy, Gameboy Color and Gameboy Advance titles in the comfort of your living room on a normal sized television. It required a Nintendo Gamecube to use as it connected to the bottom of it. The Gameboy Player retailed for $49.99.

Review: Tennis 2K2 (Dreamcast)

Platform: Dreamcast
Publisher: Sega
Developer: Sega
Release: October 2001
Genre: Sports (Tennis)
Also Known As: Virtua Tennis 2 (Europe and in North American arcades)
Tennis 2K2 is arguably the best-playing tennis of all time and definitely the greatest sports title to ever hit the Dreamcast.

Before the original Virtua Tennis hit the arcade scene years ago, tennis fans were stuck between a rock and a hard place when it came to choosing games based on their favorite sport. Abysmal, low-budget tennis titles that were seemingly thrown together on a few weekends dominated the majority of the genre while every once in awhile a mediocre tennis game would be released. Finally, Sega’s top-notch sports classic Virtua Tennis changed all that, resulting in a game that would appeal to the average gamer as much as hardcore fans of the sport. Now, Tennis 2K2 improves on its predecessor in many key ways, resulting in yet another sublime tennis experience.

Unless you’ve been living under a rock your whole life, you most likely know the basic procedures of tennis. You hit the ball back and fourth until someone scores. Simple enough, right? On paper, this may sound extremely boring and limited, sort of like… Pong, right? Well, not quite! The speed and power of the racket hitting the ball is phenomenal in Tennis 2K2. Hitting the ball just feels right, and different ways to serve up and hit the yellow ball add up to an enjoyable game play experience.

However, even though the game play is great, just like any sports title, it’s going to need more than that to stand on its two legs. Fortunately, the three game play modes found in this game add serious replay value to Tennis 2K2. The meat of the game, ‘World Tour Mode’, finds you leveling up two different custom characters (male and female, respectively), role-playing style. Instead of boring, repetitive battles, however, you up your stats through intriguing and fun mini-games. Although it would have been nice to see a few more mini-games added to the mix, the ones included excel in sheer variety. Whether you’re knocking over bowling pins using a tennis racket and a ball or fighting a tank with your same two “weapons”, it all works out wonderfully.

The other standard two modes, ‘Exhibition’ and ‘Tournament’ are simpler in design and won’t hold your interest nearly as long as the excellent ‘World Tour Mode’, unless you’re playing with another human. In that case, you’ll spend hours playing heated match ups with your friend (or rival), which may result in a case of you wanting to whack the person next to you with a tennis racket in real life as they trash talk.

Graphically, Tennis 2K2 wouldn’t look out of place on the Playstation 2. The character models and faces are well done, and there is even some impressive lighting to be found. The real world courses are well-designed, too.

This sequel also hosts some key-improvements over the original, such as improved A.I.(the computer players are now sharper and somewhat more difficult to before, resulting in better matches), the ‘World Tour Mode’ (as mentioned earlier in this review), and a solid amount of new tennis stars. Tennis 2K2’s roster also includes players of the female variety this time around too, including Williams sisters, who (thankfully!) aren’t as difficult to play in this game as they would be in real life.

The sound effects are also great. Never before has the sound of a ball hitting the racket sounded so good, and the music found in Tennis 2K2 is decent and fitting for this type of game.

It isn’t very often that a tennis game captivates average gamers this well, and Tennis 2K2 sits right up there in the ranks with titles like Mario Tennis (N64) that will appeal to normal gamers as much as hardcore tennis fans. Tennis 2K2 is arguably the best-playing tennis of all time and definitely the greatest sports title to ever hit the Dreamcast.

Rating: 9.2 (out of 10)

Sunday, May 14, 2006

E3 2006 - The Games!

Well, you’ve probably noticed that despite the fact that I’m running a gaming blog, I haven’t done any real coverage of this year’s E3. And no, I’m not going to do anything in-depth…. You’ve probably read all you needed from another source Add to the fact that I’m not anywhere near Los Angeles at the moment (or during E3 the past few days) and I’m not considering taking a plane there any time soon (if ever in my life), you’re definitely going to have late coverage after everyone else has already said all that’s needed to be said. However, that doesn’t mean I’ve completely cut back on the most important gaming event of the year. Here is an overview of some of the most interesting, important, or (cough) lame games that have been announced at this year’s E3:

Nintendo DS:

Dragon Quest Heroes – An oddball offshoot of Japan’s most popular role-playing series, Dragon Quest.

Yoshi’s Island 2: - Yep, a sequel to the SNES classic is coming straight to the Nintendo DS. Nintendo’s really going to have to put tons of effort and heart into this one to satisfy fans sky-high expectations. The graphical-style is looking as unique and fresh as the original did. Let’s hope the game play will match it as well.

Mario Hoops: 3 on 3 – The title is really self-explanatory – you’ve got Mario and pals playing three-on-three basketball. The game will make heavy use of the unique touch-screen abilities, as virtually anything in the game can be done by using the bottom portion of the DS. It’s really just unfortunate they didn’t call it ‘Mario Hoopz 3 on 3’ – then it’d be hardcore! Oh, wait, Midway’s forgotten arcade-basketball atrocity NBA Hoopz did that five years ago…. *shudder*

Tony Hawk’s Downhill Jam – Don’t expect mission-based game play here as in previous Tony Hawk games – this is racing on skateboards. Straying from the original formula may actually help this series as the past few Hawk games (not counting 2003’s incredible ‘Underground’) have really been sliding ‘downhill’ (pun intended).

Mega Man ZX – Another day, another Mega Man title. Who’s surprised by the announcement of this?

Phoenix Wright: Justice For All – Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney is currently my favorite DS game available. The game is unique and incredibly enjoyable to play, and we rarely see games like this released on our shores. Fortunately, Capcom’s giving the lawyer game another go as they’re going to be releasing the follow up to Ace Attorney. Titled ‘Justice For All’, I cant wait to see how wacky the story line will be this time. Hopefully
the characters and story will be just as great as they were in the superb original.

Playstation 2:

Disgaea 2: Cursed Memories – The follow up to 2003 cult favorite ‘Disgaea: Hour of Darkness’ is coming our way, courtesy of Atlus.

Yakuza – If a name means anything, then this game has something to do with ‘Japanese gangsters’ (which is what Yakuza means). The info I’ve picked up on this game has to do with the title’s definition as well. What a strange world we live in.

Dirge of Cerberus: Final Fantasy VII - Dirge Of Cerberus is most definitely not your typical Final Fantasy game. Guns (gasp!) and pure-action will replace boring turn-based battles and anything to do with role-playing in general.

Jackass: The Game – Yes, a game based on the crazy antics of Johnny Knoxville and co.

God of War 2 – Greek Mythology and action games collide one again in the follow up to 2005’s highly acclaimed action title.


Nothing really worth noting … The original Xbox might as well be considered dead. Fortunately there arelots of quality, older release to play, but Microsoft has definitely moved on to larger things as the future is devoid of any big-title releases.


Tomb Raider Legend – After years of me-too, uninspired Tomb Raider rehashes showing up every few months they finally got it right with Legend. After selling like hot cakes on Playstation 2 and Xbox, Eidos decided they’re going to bring this mega-hit to the Gamecube as well.

Xbox 360:

Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell: Double Agent – It’s another Splinter Cell… ‘nuff said.

Shadowrun – When I think of Shadowrun, Hideo Kojima’s (supposedly) amazing but underplayed RPG* comes to mind for me. However, this Xbox 360 game of the same name has little (if anything) to actually do with the “prequel”. It’s a first person shooter with a sci-fi theme. Xbox 360 and PC players with get to battle each other online through the same server and see which system’s players reign supreme above all.

*As noted by Psyclerk, I was actually thinking of Snatcher... Thanks for the correction, Psyclerk.

Dead or Alive Xtreme Beach Volleyball 2 – Also known as: “Watch Hot Chicks In High-Res Graphics Simulator 2”.

Bioshock – I doubt many of you reading this actually played System Shock’s 1 and 2 for the PC (I haven’t either). Well, now we can catch up on the series and see what all the fuss is about when this spooky, open-ended, monster of a game hits the Xbox 360 this year.

Saint’s Row – Saint’s Row features guns and gangsters in an urban setting… again.

Too Human – Too Human is by far the best looking Xbox 360 game of this year’s E3. This one’s definitely captured my attention.

Indiana Jones 2 – Too many people overlooked 2003’s excellent Indiana Jones: The Emperor’s Tome (Xbox, PC, PS2) and went for the over hyped mess that was Tomb Raider: The Angel of Darkness instead. Hopefully this game will capture the adventure and intensity of Indiana Jones just as well as the original game (and the films) did.

Playstation 3:

Tekken 6 – I lost interest in the Tekken series years ago as each sequel took mere baby steps forward instead of truly raising the bar. However, visually (if the screens are actual game play footage) Tekken 6 looks outstanding.

The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion – Well, don’t get too excited yet. Oblivion hasn’t been officially confirmed for Playstation 3, but there is a massive rumor going around that it’ll show up for Sony’s third console sooner or later….

Sega Rally – No screens or much info have been released to the public yet, but Tomlecee (a frequent reader of Pro-Gamer and hardcore Sega fan) is probably incredibly excited nonetheless.


Wario Ware – I haven’t been disappointed with any of the wacky and enjoyable Wario Ware titles on GBA and DS yet, so its safe to say that I’m very excited about Wario Ware on the Wii.

Metroid Prime 3 – After two huge hits on the Gamecube a third follow up was only bound to happen.

Super Smash Bros. Brawl – Nintendo fanboys and those who just love a terrific multiplayer game, rejoice!

One Piece: Unlimited Adventure – Although I enjoyed the One Piece manga books very much, the television show failed to truly capture my attention. Maybe this interesting-looking adventure game will help regain it...

The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess – A version of this title (which looks utterly amazing, by the way) is also coming to Nintendo’s Wii.

Trauma Center: Second Opinion – Similar to nothing on this entire list.

Sunday, May 07, 2006


What does S.M.S. stand for, you ask? Super Mario… Sunshine? Strikers? No, Super Mario Sunday, of course… ‘New Super Mario Bros.’ for the DS will be hitting U.S. shores in a little over a week and I figured it’d be a prime time to post about this awesome looking game.

‘New Super Mario Bros.’ (which I always thought would just be a quick codename title for the previews and not actually be released being called something so un-thought out. I mean c’mon – a random bum on the street who knows nothing about the Mario games could have thought up something better) will be taking Mario back to his 2D roots and will have 2D game play masked in 3D graphics ala Namco’s Klonoa 2 (PS2,2001).

As of today this game has one review. IGN has reviewed it and gave it the incredibly great score of 9.5 out of 10 (one of the IGN editors even went so far as to say it’s the “Greatest thing ever” in the review). I think it’ll be interesting to see what the other sources give it (such as Gamespot, who I think is more credible than most review-sites and usually seems to put more time in reviewing new game releases).

‘New Super Mario Bros.’ will hit American game stores May 15th . Damn, a huge new release and a new version of the DS next month… Nintendo’s really going to be raking in the cash!

Also, check out this special edition Mario Kart-themed DS stylus. Pretty cool looking, eh?

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Want Oblivion? Better have your I.D. Ready

We’re all well-knowing of last year’s infamous hot-coffee Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas scandal that resulted in a rating change for the product. Now it looks like Take Two Software has another problem on its hands as the ESRB has found more objectionable content in a game after the initial rating was received. The “offender” this time is the The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion for Xbox 360 and PC, and just like last time, the “mature” content is gameplay that was not meant to be accessed in the actual product itself.

Apparently there is a “nude skin” accessible in the PC version of the popular title, but that is only if you mod the game to allow it. In other words, it’s not meant to be in the product and is a result of the modding community. Bethesda and Take-Two software did NOT mean for this content to be included in the game. However, the ESRB will be warning of nudity in the product on future editions on the game’s box, anyway, at least "until it can be re-mastered and released with the topless skin removed.".

Also, beyond the hacked-in skin, the ESRB has also claimed that the game contains “excessive blood and gore those goes beyond a Teen (T) rating and are acting like Bethesda was attempting to “hide” this information and content from the ESRB during the rating process. Here is Bethesda’s’ response to this controversy:

“With regard to violence, Bethesda advised the ESRB during the ratings process that violence and blood effects were "frequent" in the game - checking the box on the form that is the maximum warning. We further advised that the game contained occasional torture, vulgar acts, and gore. We gave accurate answers and descriptions about the type and frequency of violence that appears in the game. We submitted a 60-page document listing the explicit language, acts, and scenes in the game. Oblivion packaging already contains warnings for "Violence" and "Blood and Gore."

A reworked version of the title is not planned, and the rating will be shot up a rating of “Mature” (M) by the ESRB for both systems’ the game is on.

All I can hear is Jack Thompson laughing like a maniac from here…

Pro-Gamer - #1 on MSN!

What is the first site that comes up when you search for “Pro-Gamer” on MSN Search? That’s right – this blog. Yep, we’re the first search result on MSN, which sure isn’t too shabby as MSN Search is the third most visited site on the internet.

Also, on another celebration-worthy note, this is my fiftieth post since Pro-Gamer's humble beginning on January 3rd, 2006. I hope to keep this site running for many moons to come, and I may even consider using a real-domain name in the future…

Anyway, thanks for reading, and let’s keep Pro-Gamer going strong for many more months!

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