Sunday, June 18, 2006

Bootleg DS Carts Hit the Market

It was bound to happen sooner or later: bootleg DS carts hitting the market. While it was previously safe to buy a DS game online or used in a store without checking to see if it’s official or not (as none were spotted until this point), you may want to take certain precautions when adding future games to your DS collection (and will probably want to skip buying games from a source that does not look totally reputable all together).

These cheap, Hong Kong-produced knock-offs have been plaguing the GBA market on auction sites such as eBay and for a long time now, and while the first wave of DS bootlegs look shoddily made (thus being easy to avoid), if past history is an indicator then these illegal fakes should get better to the point where you might not even know if you’re buying an official cart or not until the poorly made cart starts malfunctioning.

Which brings me to another point: while bootlegs may be cheaper to buy in the short-run, once they start losing their save data (official carts hold save data for what seems like forever while counterfeit carts use cheap batteries to hold saves) or stop working all together, you’ll probably end up having to buy a sturdy made, quality official cart anyway, so in the long run its worth looking out for whether your getting a bootleg or an official cart.

So while its going to be hard to dupe any reputable gamer into buying one of these awful looking carts, a clueless parent looking to buy a game for their kids probably wont even notice the difference at the time of purchase. Still, keep a close eye out for these counterfeit carts, because as time goes on the bootleggers will keep improving the looks of these games to eventually look nearly the same as official carts.

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Friday, June 16, 2006

Who Cares?

Has you ever played a terrific game and then salivated for a sequel, but as years passed lost hope of that ever happening (as it seemed like month after month went by and nothing was announced)? Well, there’s always the opposite – game companies releasing unwanted follow-ups to games no one really cared about in the first place. Two recent games – Winback 2: Project Poseidon and Urban Chaos: Riot Response – make me wonder why the developers even bothered putting the game’s data on pieces of plastic that no one is going to pay hard earned money for.

Winback 2: Project Poseidon

The original Winback was released for the Nintendo 64 and then later beefed up as an early Playstation 2 release. A blatant Metal Gear Solid rip-off, Winback’s (N64) main purpose was to keep stealth fans without any access to a Playstation console busy as they couldn’t play the superior stealth title. Decently received, the original Winback was also met with lukewarm sales, so Koei spent two years improving (hoping for it to a hit the second time around) it and then released it in 2001 as Winback: Covert Operations. Although, like the earlier N64 version, it received adequate reviews but totally bombed marketwise. Those who did buy it though mostly purchased it to kill some time until Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty was released later that year.

The sequel, Winback 2: Project Poseidon has recently been released for the Xbox and Playstation 2. However, I have to ask Koei one simple but effective question: “Why”? You tried releasing the first two versions of Winback at times where you might have sold copies of it, but even then the two games were sales disasters. Now, in 2006, no one really wants to play a third-rate Metal Gear Solid rip-off, especially on the Playstation 2 which has received two incredible installments Kojima’s popular series. Winback 2 has already dropped in price after only being available for a little over a month, signaling awful sales.

Urban Chaos: Riot Response

Ah, Urban Chaos. Riot Response. The original Urban Chaos was available on PC, Playstation and Dreamcast, and its release went by gamers completely unnoticed. It received lackluster reviews, and Gamespot went as far as to call it “…almost completely unplayable”.

I hate to tell you this, but an under-the-radar sequel to a game that sold probably about four copies (which the publisher probably purchased) isn’t going to be such a hot seller this late into the Playstation 2’s life. Hell, even if it did turn out to be a great game, it has not received an abundant amount of marketing, so the future looks dim for any potential future installments of Urban Chaos.

This is a note to game developers and publishers: when no one asked for a sequel to an atrocious or uninspired release, maybe there’s a reason for that. Well, if you’re going to make a follow up a game that flopped, here’s a hint: if you want it to sell, make it ENJOYABLE, and market it a bit. Hey, the game wont self itself...

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorny Gets a Well-Deserved Re-Print

Anyone who previously wanted to snatch up a copy of Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney, one of the most innovative, well-written DS titles available previously had to either check every game store in town (most often coming up short and without a copy than not) or be forced to pay a ridiculous price on an online auction site such as eBay or Amazon. This game, due to a short print run and high demand, was eventually testing the nerves of anyone who wanted to play a top-notch title for a decent price.

All of that has changed, however, as Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney has been reprinted and is available for the masses to enjoy before the highly anticipated sequel hits U.S. shores next year. I give Phoenix Wright my personal two thumbs up, and urge everyone to give this original, quirky game a try.

Other recently reprinted titles include:

Rez (PS2)
Gitaroo Man (PS2)
Persona 2: Eternal Punishment (PSX)
Rhapsody: A Musical Adventure (PSX)

Don’t be fooled into paying top-dollar for one of these games, as its now quite easy to obtain any of these releases.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Custom Street Fighter Alpha 3 Max Cover

For some preposterous reason, despite having what seems like an endless amount of top-notch Street Fighter Alpha 3 artwork, Capcom decided that they wanted to go with something completely spiritless and unflavored for the Street Fighter Alpha 3 Max PSP NTSC cover. But fear not Street Fighter fans, because I’ve created a custom cover that, if I do say so myself, puts the official one to shame. Enjoy.

The cover on the left is the spiffy custom art...

Thursday, June 08, 2006

3D or not to 3D?

Capcom Fighting All-Stars was supposed to be Capcom’s attempt of capturing all the glory of their years as being held as one of the highest regarded fighting game companies. However, this time they were entering the 3D realm of game play. Featuring many of Capcom’s legendary characters throughout the years (new combatants would also show up alongside the usual suspects like Ryu, Chun-Li, etc), it would initially be released for the arcades and then eventually make its way onto Sony’s enormously popular Playstation 2 console. Even better, it would be developed by Capcom themselves and not by the same folks that brought you the Street Fighter EX series (Akira did the honors for those titles). This made fans even more eager to finally get their grubby paws on this exciting-looking title.

However, things don’t always go as planned, and a few more months after Capcom unveiled All Stars to the public in early 2003, they stealthy cancelled it a few months later due to quality reasons. Instead of this title, fans would later receive the horrendous bore-fest Capcom Fighting Evolution, which was initially supposed to be a swan song for Capcom 2D fighters but in the end came in as a slap in the face to loyal 2D devotees. Like the old tried and true quote, “You’re damned if you do and you’re damned if you don’t”.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Xbox 360 BC "Not Important", According to Peter Moore

Dont expect to play MVC2 on 360 anytime soon.

So, you shelled out $400 for an Xbox 360. In doing so, you sold off your original Xbox. Hey, you’ll be able to play most if not all of your original Xbox titles on your shiny new 360 sometime down the line, right? Well, Peter Moore of Microsoft thinks that you don’t care about backward compatibility:

"Nobody is concerned anymore about backwards compatibility. We under promised and over delivered on that. It's a very complicated thing... very complex work. I'm just stunned that we have hundreds of games that are backwards compatible."

I don’t know what Moore is thinking, but the majority of people I’ve spoken too have held backward compatibility in high regard. Hell, even Microsoft did in the beginning, as here is an early quote about this subject:

"Backward-compatibility is not the reason people buy a new system," said David Hufford, Microsoft Xbox group product manager. "The perception is that it is significant. We've put all our energy into new titles, but since our consumers have asked for it...we've made it a goal to make all titles backward-compatible."

How can Microsoft say something like this, brining up everyone’s hopes and making us expect nearly every Xbox title to become backward compatible , and then basically say that its not important? Worse yet, Peter Moore went to as far as to say that the over-delivered. Um, compare the two quotes. It sounds like they under-delivered to me, originally saying that they would make it their goal to have every Xbox title backward compatible and now saying that its not significant. They should follow through on their claims, and this may come as a big blow to 360 owners who spent big cash on the system expecting to at least play most of the games from their Xbox collections after a certain amount of time. Hey, I wouldn’t want my old collection to go to waste.

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Review: Katamari Damacy

Platform: Playstation 2
Publisher: Namco
Developer: Namco
Release: September 2004

Katamari is definitely unlike anything you’ve ever seen before. However, after playing it, maybe that’s for a good reason.

In an industry cluttered with countless boring sequels, generic shooters and uninspired urban games, once in awhile have something that truly stands out from the pack. Katamari Damacy is definitely one of those rare titles that do this. A ‘roll objects up into a sticky ball’ simulator, Katamari is definitely unlike anything you’ve ever seen before. However, after playing it, maybe that’s for a good reason.

I admire that the creators of Katamari went off the beaten path when designing this title. Games don’t get much quirkier than this. The object of the game is incredibly straightforward and unsophisticated. You simply roll objects up into a sticky ball through colorful levels. Coated around all this is an unusual world and irregular Japanese music.

Unfortunately, while the creators definitely crafted something unique, it’s far from entertaining. Rolling up random objects into a ball to reach a certain goal within a time limit is all you really do, and its way too simple to be entertaining. While a non-gamer might be able to get into it with ease, there’s no real substance to the whole thing, and in the end you’re left with a boring piece of fluff.

Graphically, Katamari has an interesting “feel”. However, that’s not quite a “good” interesting, and the visuals are blocky, colorful, and unpleasant for the most part. The game doesn’t fare much better in the sound department, either. The kooky Japanese-flavored tunes are complete love it or hate affair. Either you’re going to find yourself humming along to the songs found in the game or you’ll be aggravated by how annoying they are. Blech.

Since the game is so repetitive and lackluster there is virtually no replay value to be found after your first day of playing. So even though the game was released at a bargain price ($19.99), it’s not worth the cost of admission, even for a mere twenty bones. Katamari is one of those games destined to end up on the back of your dusty game shelf rather than spinning inside of your Playstation 2.

Katamari is a fresh concept coupled with an offbeat world and unique game play. However, the game is way too simplistic to remain fun for a long session, and it fails to succeed in virtually any department whether it be graphically, sound-wise or mostly importantly, game play-wise. Katamari is not an uninspired effort, it’s just a merely poor one. Avoid at all costs.

Rating: 3.6 (out of 10)

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