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Podcast: It’s-a Me!

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This week we have special guest Eli “Sodoom” (@sodoom) from Knuckleballer Radio on to celebrate Nintendo’s world famous plumber.  Instead of discussions about the actual games we’ve all played, we delve into the snags in development, cultural significance, and multiple games that never saw the light of day.  Mario has a clean release record but plenty of care and scrapping of ideas went into his games.


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Written by Fred Rojas

April 17, 2013 at 11:00 am

The Hobbit Review

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hobbit_boxConsole: Xbox
Released: October 24, 2003
Developer: Inevitable Entertainment
Publisher: Vivendi Universal
Instruction Manual: Not Necessary
Difficulty: Easy
Played it as a child? Yes
Value: $4-$10 (used), $10.49 (new) (pricecharting.com
Other Releases: Yes – PS2, Gamecube, and PC and a modified version for the Gameboy Advance
Digital Release? No

No, sorry, this is not the ZX Spectrum game from 1983, but rather the more widespread console release from twenty years later, although I’ve never played the original so perhaps it’s garbage and this is the better choice.  Back when the Lord of the Rings film trilogy was nearing its end, a slew of video games hoping to cash in on the wild success of Peter Jackson’s movies released.  After sapping all of the film properties, the books themselves became source material for spin-offs and one of the first was based on Tolkien’s prequel book The Hobbit.  As a mild fan of the series I always felt that The Hobbit was the better book and overall story, which explains the tale of how Bilbo Baggins became the first hobbit to embark on an adventure with 12 dwarves and wizard Gandolf the Grey.  Not only that, but it introduces the ring, odd creature Gollum, and probably one of the only dragons in that universe, the unrivaled greedy dragon Smaug.  Despite the semi-decent cartoon version of the book that I had seen in my youth, I was immediately drawn to the playful cartoon re-imagining of Tolkien’s book and despite some major snags in the gameplay department, I was pleasantly surprised.

hobbit_bilboshire

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Podcast: Project Revolution?

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The Secret Technology to the Wii’s Insides

Fred and Rob “Trees” from EZ Mode Unlocked get together to help Nintendo bury the Wii.  A console that soared above the clouds in sales and destroyed the hearts and souls of most core gamers, it has become the official punching bag of this generation.  As usual, we discuss the myriad of titles the console had to offer in probably our largest list of titles and longest podcast yet on the site.


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Written by Fred Rojas

November 14, 2012 at 1:14 pm

Day 3

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On the 3rd day of Christmas my memories gave to me…

Three New Consoles

          

When you look up the Playstation 2 in either gaming history books or Wikipedia, you’ll notice a late 2000 release date that seems to suggest the PS2 had a year head start on the Gamecube and Xbox.  What they won’t tell you was that those who experienced its release in person knew better than to even suggest the PS2 was on store shelves in 2000.  In fact, it took until about holiday season 2001 for PS2s to reappear at retail and have a few decent games.  This resulted in the first time all consoles of a specific generation were initially available together, despite release dates.  Christmas 2001 was a wild cluster and there we were wrapped up in it and trying to presume which console would be the best.

Ironically this generation would end up with all three consoles having similar libraries save for the Gamecube versions of games being mildly stripped.  Given the scant launch selection, it really came down to what you thought the console could offer in the future.  Nintendo and Sony touted the strength of their first party titles while Microsoft had only one ace in the hole: Halo.  Debates among my friends waged for days, fanboys coming out of the woodwork and fighting with everyone because they didn’t agree on which console was worth it.  The only reason everyone cared what their friends were buying was because the college atmosphere thrived on borrowing your friends’ games and for the first time there was a lot of variety. 

In the end the Gamecube remained the outlier with its cheaper price tag, lack of a DVD player and no true Mario game in sight.  Of course I decided to ask my parents for it because it fit within the budget of a Christmas present and it was going to be the home of a Resident Evil remake and future series titles.  Although the PS2 clearly won the overall generation by a landslide, it was a pretty split world on college campuses.  Sure, you could play your old Playstation library and watch DVDs, but the Xbox allowed for Halo LAN parties.  In true hindsight, Halo aside, there was very little difference between each console.  With simultaneous launch windows being the ideal situation for competition, all that resulted was overall conformity within each console.  Funny, isn’t it?

<- Go back to the second day                                             Go on to the fourth day ->

Written by Fred Rojas

December 16, 2011 at 1:01 pm

Generation Gap Pt 5: “Last” Gen

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This installment will conclude our Generation Gap coverage.  Please note that upcoming coverage on handhelds, arcades and microcomputers will follow.  A lot happened just over a decade ago – the gaming market changed and one strong competitor bowed out as another took to the plate.

Fifth Generation – 1999 – Present (technically)

Sega Dreamcast – Launch Price: $199.99 – Released: 1999
Launch dates are getting more technical by this time, so from a Japanese standpoint the Dreamcast was a 1998 launch but we didn’t get it here until much later in September 1999.  Although it is a 128-bit system, consoles had stopped toting the strength of “bits” and instead focused on a sleek design – most likely because Sony did it with Playstation and it worked.  Dreamcast was Sega’s final nail before bowing out of hardware manufacturing and has been argued to also be its best offering.  Regardless, the Dreamcast was definitely ahead of its time.  It featured things that no console would dare launch without today and basically had the same features that Microsoft would include in its console just a few years later.  A few years, that’s the difference between success and failure.

Until the Dreamcast most video game consoles were specified hardware that was far behind PCs.  By all accounts the Dreamcast was a simplified PC, even running Windows CE, a modified version of the operating system that would be put to greater use on later pocket PCs.  The Dreamcast had a built-in modem on all consoles, which supported the earliest form of online console gaming and provided a web browser service to those fortunate or rich enough to afford the high cost of long phone calls.  Furthermore a keyboard attachment allowed players to truly use their console as an Internet device and even gave way to early MMOs on the console.  Memory cards included LCD dot matrix screens and were called “visual memory units” or VMUs that not only held data but gave the player on-the-go mini games and Gigapet-style games.  Aside from that Dreamcast boasted higher storage with the proprietary GD-rom format (1.2 GB of storage space), impressive graphics, and a slew of solid titles.

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Written by Fred Rojas

December 5, 2011 at 9:21 am

Now & Then: Resident Evil 3 Nemesis

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Now & Then is different from both a retrospective and a review.  It tackles games you probably already know and is a place for gamers to discuss these games.  Below is an overview of a game’s presence in the market then and now.  Authors of these articles share their personal experience, so we encourage all of you to do the same in the comments.

Resident Evil 3: Nemesis (RE3) gets the worst treatment within the series because it was released on the tail end of the Playstation cycle and as the third release in as many years (most people remember RE‘s re-release, the Director’s Cut, more than the initial release), there really wasn’t that much new brought to the table.  Having said that, it was the most polished title on the Playstation and finally made the concept attempted in RE2 a reality.  With a few slight tweaks, like the ability to flip a quick 180 and a much more agile Jill Valentine, RE3 felt a lot more like games of the time.  Unfortunately with the diluting of the franchise via frequent releases and the fact that the game looked identical to the first two on the box, it just didn’t hold players’ interest.

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Written by Fred Rojas

October 26, 2011 at 12:19 pm

Now & Then: Resident Evil 2

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Now & Then is different from both a retrospective and a review.  It tackles games you probably already know and is a place for gamers to discuss these games.  Below is an overview of a game’s presence in the market then and now.  Authors of these articles share their personal experience, so we encourage all of you to do the same in the comments.

Resident Evil 2 (RE2) hit the market with a steep price; like other series favorite RE4, this title was scrapped and redone after it was more than 60 percent complete.  In order to keep hype and demand strong for the series after the extremely popular original, the sequel began production one month after the release of Resident Evil.  This first version, dubbed Resident Evil 1.5 by Capcom when production stills and videos released, featured a similar plot without crisscrossing paths.  Leon was still the male protagonist and Elza, a motorcyclist college student, as an early version of what would eventually become Claire Redfield.  Graphically the game was much uglier, looking the same (or worse) than the original, but only so that more zombies could appear on-screen.  In 1.5 Umbrella had already closed down, the outbreak still occurred, and the police station looked a lot more modern.  Players could equip different clothing, which changed their appearance (as did combat damage).  There were also many more survivors for players to encounter along the way, some of which played new roles in the final version of RE2.  Producer Shinji Mikami scrapped the project when it was near beta (60-80 percent completion) because he found gameplay and locations to be “dull and boring”¹.  Originally the series was supposed to end with the sequel, but supervisor Yoshiki Okamoto wanted a more open-ended series.  As a result Elza became Claire Redfield to connect to the first game and the plot was made more big budget movie style to get Capcom to the 2 million copy sales goal.  Graphics were updated, adding more polygons to each character, and items were made much more scarce to increase tension and fear.  Since it would miss the planned early 1997 release date, the Resident Evil: Director’s Cut and Complete Edition were released instead and included a demo of RE2.

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Written by Fred Rojas

October 25, 2011 at 10:12 am

Now & Then: Resident Evil

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Now & Then is different from both a retrospective and a review.  It tackles games you probably already know and is a place for gamers to discuss these games.  Below is an overview of a game’s presence in the market then and now.  Authors of these articles share their personal experience, so we encourage all of you to do the same in the comments.

“You have once again entered the world of survival horror…”

Those famous words set up a genre that has undergone more definitions than probably any other in video games.  Depending on your personal taste in titles, survival horror can mean different things but it was used first and defined by Resident Evil¹.  This game was basically a haunted house brought to life and has spawned a series that many gamers, myself included, follow endlessly.  Despite the direction of the series not holding well with fans of the originals and a slew of poorly made films, Resident Evil lingers on, if only in our nostalgic minds.

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Written by Fred Rojas

October 24, 2011 at 11:14 am