Monday
Oct252010

Remembering Splatterhouse by Sean B.

There's a special time each year when you want to just celebrate, showing how much you appreciate family, friends and - candy? Okay, so I'm not referring to any major holiday revolving around care and love, or magical bunny rabbits. I'm talking about Halloween, where everyone becomes obsessed with imaginative oddities, the walking dead and eating more candy.
Aside from our favorite horror flicks, we've also experienced the essence of Halloween through other mediums, including popular (yet annoying) songs like Monster Mash, and specially themed episodes from our favorite television shows (I'm ghoulishly looking at you, Simpsons). Of course, what would the celebration of Halloween in our modern culture be without a few video game titles to go along with everything?

One prime example is Splatterhouse, probably one of the most memorable titles that truly targets the scary spirit, with obvious references from western horror favorites. Flashing back to the original arcade version from 1988, you have a parapsychology student by the name of Rick, who wakes up in a bloody mess with a lost girlfriend and an evil "terror" mask attached to his head. All of this occurs inside a mansion dubbed the "Splatterhouse", where you'll brutally hack and slash your way through practically every ghost, demon and monster known to man - how could any gamer not love this?

The controversial but successful Arcade hit migrated to the PC, Turbografx 16 and FM Towns Marty. Multiple sequels were also released, including Splatterhouse 2 and 3, along with a Virtual Console release on the Wii. Namco would later announce their plans for a modern presentation [1] of the slasher classic. Unfortunately the game would be delayed for another couple of years, a cruel series of events for fans who've long awaited a three dimensional adaptation. The good news in all of this is that the wait is coming to an end, as the successor of the slash smash hit is set to hit select stores next Tuesday, October 26.

The newest addition to this iconic series of gruesome bloodbaths and monstrous horrors promises to be an excellent tribute to the cult classic, but like most modern titles we really won't know until we try it out. A few minor changes have also taken place, including a story shift positioning Rick and Jennifer as students under Dr. West, instead of simply wandering into the (assumed to be) deserted mansion as strangers. The looks of the terror mask have also changed from a Jason Voorhees clone to something a tad more unique. Though seemingly unoriginal, the retro hockey mask might have been a better choice in maintaining a more familiar essence that Splatterhouse fans have come to recognize and appreciate. Hopefully this modernized Splatterhouse won't be too over the top for its own good, or too dull and boring for any sort of audience to love. From what we've witnessed so far, the remake looks promising and creative - unfortunately we've been fooled before. We'll see how it goes next week

 

Thursday
Oct212010

PPR 30

Press Pause Radio returns not only with a new and improved website, but a new episode as well. Episode 30 is all about "RPG elements". We are sure that all our listeners have heard that phrase numerous times in the last few years, but what does it really mean? The crew will discuss the numerous titles in this generation that borrow heavily for traditional role playing games, and why it seems to be so well received. Staying in line with our featured topic, George also will be reviewing Popful Mail for the Sega CD, along with revealing some of our plans for the website and show. Reviews on iTunes and Zune are very helpful to us, and also can net you some great prizes in our current giveaway going on right now.  So get out there and give us some stars and reviews, you may be our lucky winner!

PPR Episode 30

Tuesday
Oct192010

25 years of the NES by GBAXE

So 25 years ago today, The United States of America was able to see the limited release of the Nintendo Entertainment System by a company we have never heard of from a land far away in the east. This same land was already able to enjoy this machine two years prior under the title of the Famicom & The West was just recovering the follies & mismanagement that the video game market dug into through poor distribution & saturation in the early eighties that nearly painted a foreboding premonition on the success of the new stalwart NES, it was the surprise that not only became the gateway for the market to thrive again, but the exposure of many of us today into one of our favorite past times including myself.

Personally it's very hard for me to call the NES the best system of all time & I believe that I may not be the only one, I will say that it is definitely the most significant console however. The NES had been given the advantage of knowing the market it was coming to & researching from a market that it already established in it's origin of the east. The first thing I wanted to point were the cosmetic changes of the console itself, though it doesn't sound like prevalent point to make right away but it ties into the overall scheme of things that I hold strongly to this retrospective. where the Famicom mostly represented the soon-to-be standard top loading cartridge format which was even done in a NES revision in the later end of the consoles life cycle, however the NES was designed to load cartridges in the front with cover-door that opened & closed to protect the cartridge slot. Why do you completely redesign the look & feel of the console? Nintendo applied the same practice & pitch that it does with the Wii & that is  the concept of welcoming approach & accessibility. The first step in trying to re-ignite & generate a market again was presentation, the look will be the first thing that will lead to the appeal of the console & the NES was purposely designed to resemble the most popular American home entertainment machine being the VCR. The second major feature in my opinion which has become a standard that is still used even to this day is the directional pad, an evolution of the Intelivision discus from it's respective controller, the D-pad along with the effective control lay-out of the "B" & "A" button allowed for precision unlike any other console or even arcade game before it being one of the most pivotal point of success the system had with software that properly took ad=vantage of it & even applied innovative interfaces to take advantage of the simple yet effective controller lay-out. The is the second theme that I want to point out towards the success & legacy the NES obtained, it was a system that became more then just something that came from another country, it was tailored for us, made for a culture far different from whence it came & was managed in the same independent fashion.

Granted Nintendo treated it's licensing & distribution right with Third-party companies fervently to the point where it might as well have been a monopoly, but with coming from a product crash in the same market earlier within the same decade which was mostly caused by the saturation of released software leads to me to begrudgingly credit Nintendo on this as well. Given that the Nintendo had a fine hold on what it was doing with the NES this then gave the opportunity for quality software be released, Nintendo also had the experience of developing first party properties like Donkey Kong & Mario Bros. for the arcades which were ported over to different consoles it now had a home platform of it's own to work with & strong one at that though not the strongest launch at all, the NES came out with seventeen games including the classics of Mach Ride, Wild Gun, & Duck Hunt. The hit Application which also happens to be sharing the same 25th anniversary of the NES, Super Mario Bros. helped generate mass market appeal in a move that also showed the care & difference within the Nintendo (for more on the 25th anniversary of Super Mario Bros. click here for an awesome piece that was already done by Sean). Nintendo was confident in Super Mario Bros. from the reception that it had received in Japan & bundled it in with NES consoles it started selling it the action set along with it's other hit app Duck Hunt through the Nintendo Zapper accessory which also came bundled in with it, Nintendo had it's audience, Kids & even young adults were interested in what it had to offer, but just like winning over the girl of your dreams, you're going to have to follow up on your new relationship & Nintendo did just that.

Franchises that we still play even to this day can all find their roots as early their initial release on the Nintendo Entertainment system, my favorite Third-Party company Capcom already had it start in the arcade market but it didn't hit it's stride until it became a home entertainment giant with hits like Megaman 2 & Bionic Commando which innovated on formulas that were established by previous games for Nintendo mainly Super Mario Bros. & Metroid, the games that followed suit for the most part were games that tried to innovate upon what was known to work within it's life span & created life changing experiences on the console that can never be topped or forgotten looking back & with a console had first time risks & misses that can be considered unforgivable even to this day, this console was innovated upon on & on again. The advantage all goes to really being the first gaming console that had the exposure & potential to do so, it also played to it's strengths, a console that was released during the popular era of arcade play outside of the home, developers learned to cater to it's home audience with experiences that couldn't even be emulated by a far more superior arcade system & became personable, to everyone along with it's open market to licenses for famous film & media (despite the actual quality behind said software) the Nintendo only worked to gain more of it's audience & work to cater to it's fanbase that it cemented, so much so that we the gamers ourselves became the viral marketing that even Nintendo couldn't anticipate, the discussion of exchanged strategies on how to win against Soda Popinski in Punch-out by the Swing Set or rumors of a Secret item in Castlevania 2 during the spelling test, these are personal experiences of my own, couple with the millions of other moments that transcended this media known of video games back into the social level where it wasn't obscure, the NES did this.

The Last thing that I want to say is reference back to my point that I had personally made earlier within this article, how I felt the NES was the most significant system in my life, not for the root of exposure for my favorite past time but for the fact that when it comes right down to it, The NES was a stepping stone for the many great games & consoles that came after it, though it didn't start the market & it wasn't the first, it was the platform that made the right decision & provided many different models both technically & business wise to be improved upon, Service Games AKA Sega may never have even considered first party development had it not been for the success of the NES which leads into Sony & so forth jumping on board, a market that had transformed into a billion dollar industry that motivated developers & publishers to provide experiences that could only be expunged by the cruelty of elderly senility, a catalyst that ignited everything we enjoy today & appreciate to be apart of.

So let us continue to be grateful for the NES & continue to pay our respects to the system as it wasn't just considered by many to be their first system, it was more than that...

Tuesday
Oct192010

PPR's Zom-Blowout Contest!

So with our new episode on the Horizon for our ZOMBIECast this weekend, we're feeling really generous, it might be looming Halloween holiday that makes us feel great or for the fact that we were really stoked on this upcoming episode! we're giving away to ONE lucky winner a Zombie game bundle including the following games Resident Evil: Dead Aim, Resident Evil 0, Resident Evil 2, Resident Evil 3, Resident Evil 4, Resident Evil 5, Zombie's Revenge, Onechanbara Bikini Zombie Slayers, Onechanbara Bikini Samurai Squad, Stubbs The Zombie, Left 4 Dead, Left 4 Dead 2, Dead Rising, Dead Rising 2, Dead Rising:Chop Till You Drop & the Zombie Survival Guide written by Max Brooks! so fifteen awesome games & an incredible book, how do you get in on this offer you ask? well here's how!

All you have to do is listen to the show & give us some reviews on iTunes or Zune! we'll check our reviews & at the end of the show we'll announce the winner based on how awesome or creative their review was! click on the links or go do so! we'll be running the contest for a while & we'll keep you all updated at the site & on the show! check the Twitter feed on the show as well & again, just submit a written review on iTunes or Zune & you're considered entered into the show!

P.S. for all of those awesome listeners who have already written a review, we'll be nice & automatically enter you guys! enjoy the contest yo!

Monday
Oct182010

SEGA through the ages by Sean B.

In the past few weeks, the gaming community has honored the 25th anniversary of the NES, Nintendo's first console to hit the home gaming market. This system also helped us out of a depressing video game market crash, where multiple developers and publishing companies went belly up. We know, Mario is awesome, the NES was a fabulous gem in the library of gaming history, but what's become of their biggest rival during that same era? Whatever happened to certain things doing, dare I say - what "Nintendon't"?

Well, aside from the unfortunate resignation from the standalone console market, SEGA has made quite the comeback as of late. For starters, Dreamcast classics are being digitally restored on XBLA and PSN, including last months re-release of Sonic Adventure and Crazy Taxi coming this November. Hell, we even have Sonic the Hedgehog 4, the sequel we've waited over a decade to see after a series of not-so-successful releases during the 3D graphics craze. It's safe to say the SEGA we knew and loved is finally returning, ready to impress after a prolonged period of darkness involving three-dimensional regurgitation and "werehogs".

Before this retro Sonic Dreamcast revival (or whatever the hell you want to call it), the best SEGA product to hit the shelves since Sonic Adventure was probably Sonic's Ultimate Genesis Collection in 2008. Over 40 Genesis titles including the Sonic trilogy, Golden Axe, Streets of Rage and Altered Beast, remastered and available for both the Xbox 360 and Playstation 3. How on Earth could you go wrong with a compilation like this, with a price tag of $19.99? Yeah, twenty bucks to experience some childhood or teen gaming memories all over again, without having to track down every single cartridge (which I think is fun either way, but whatever).

We even saw some decent SEGA releases on the Wii, including MadWorld, Conduit and my personal favorite, House of the Dead: Overkill, regardless of its overusing the "fuck-bomb" (yes, it's possible to overuse this word). Sure, none of these games can be compared to the unstoppable classics we saw on the Genesis, but it was still an improvement, a sign that SEGA had some of that amazing spunk left to be shared with the fans.

Let's hope we see much more from SEGA in the many years of gaming to come. Who knows, maybe we'll see the rebirth of the great SEGA console. There's definitely room for them, especially in an industry where we'd see new and different consoles practically every year. It'd be nice to see another home console contender in a world that seems so currently obsessed with portable "use-as-you-go" electronics. We still love you SEGA, and even though it's technically Nintendo's time to shine in their continuing glory (which we've also celebrated), we salute you for getting back to your glorious roots in order to do what you do best - straight forward, classic gaming.

Friday
Oct082010

Panasonic is coming back to games with a new portable console by Sean B.

 

Panasonic recently announced the advent of yet another game console entering the already heated portable arena. The system has been dubbed the Jungle, coining such phrases as "we ARE online gaming". So what type of online games will dominate the system?  Primarily MMO's, including the already teased Battlestar Galactica as a launch title. That's right, this device will allow you to grind as you go -- if you decide to anyways.

So how's it looking? According to engadget, the Jungle will operate under a custom Linux system, which is hopefully good news to those seeking a user friendly experience. The actual device will also feature a high-resolution display and full QWERTY keyboard paired with a d-pad and button arrangement. Mini HDMI and micro USB ports can also be found on the end, as well as a 3.5mm headphone jack.

Facts aside, let's just get to that damned elephant in the room. Do we really need another one of these things on the market? Sure, it has a fresh new approach, claiming to have a mastery of online portable gaming, but so did Nokia's N-Gage and Tiger's easily forgotten Game.Com (pronounced "Game Com") from the late 90s. We already have a market saturated with portable phones and other devices excluding the obvious contenders like the Nintendo DS, PSP and Apple iPhone. This all seems like another obvious ploy to cash in on the whole "hardcore" or "true" gamer mentality we've witnessed this past decade. Many companies have slapped key terms and phrases (like their description of Online Underground being a "Kick-a$$ new show") on to multiple game related projects in order to make themselves seem more appealing to gamers. I know, marketing is marketing, but either way, enough is enough.

Panasonic has already created a simplistic marketing site for their seemingly clunky toy, featuring teaser videos for the Jungle's mission, BSG Online and a web show titled "Online Underground". The first video doesn't really say (or show) much besides everything I've already mentioned. It's portable and it specializes in online gaming. As for BSG Online, the first thing that comes to my mind is yet another obvious tie-in product to keep an already satisfying but aging product line interesting, which could be dangerous. And finally, we have Online Underground. Yeah, a profit funded web show sponsored by a company to be shown exclusively on their new device, how underground is that? Best reason to probably avoid these terms.

Overall, We're looking at a system that doesn't really offer anything new. Hopefully we see some impressive ideas emerge from the Jungle, but the track record of other portable systems, promising or not, has remained one-sided for years. The Game.Com introduced the idea of online portability, but nobody cared. The Game Gear and Lynx gave players an opportunity to play games in stunning full-color presentation, but folks weren't impressed; we can probably blame that on short battery life. Panasonic, I personally salute you for your confidence and determination, but I'm honestly a little pessimistic about this whole concept. We'll all just have to keep posted and see what happens.

Wednesday
Oct062010

Metroid becomes Japanese again...that's good right? By Iodine

Other M marks the return of the console based Metroid games to Japanese developers. Instead of building upon the groundwork laid out by US developer Retro Studios, Team Ninja under the guidance of Yoshio Sakamoto (one half of the original creators) decided to take their baby in a different direction.


Back in the early 2D games Story was handled with a quick introductory paragraph. In the modern portable games, static cut-scenes filled with text attempted to birth a character for Samus. With the first person perspective Metroids story was treated as an aside with logs and data mining. Other M takes its overblown plot and stands it center stage.


Right from the title Metroid: Other M – or MOM for short – the game hits you over the head with its paternal theme. There’s a daddy issue with Samus and her former team leader, Adam Malkovich. Then there’s the android modeled after Mother Brain , MB. She feels like the daughter of her creator, Madeline Bergman. Notice the running gag with the initials. And finally the Galactic Federations brilliant plan on controlling the Metroids with MB via “the first thing a baby sees equals mother” method. We can all thank Samus for teaching us that one at the end of Metroid II.

All of this is contrasted by long time villain, Ridley. Spoilers ahead! When you complete the game we learn how - a Ridley - grows. He starts off as a white fur ball that molts into a geeky salamander and ultimately transforms into the winged, fire breathing demon he is. I assume he’s either cloned himself or has asexual reproduction. Either way Ridley is a parentless monster unlike his cohorts.


By the way, the Galactic Federation ship with onboard zoo and nasty science experiments was already done in Metroid Fusion. Why are we retreading plot here?

Samus has always been the silent, but strong type. She also happens to have tits that aren’t perched up in front of the camera lens. That’s a rare sight in any medium. In Other M, Samus sort of retains those aspects, but she has this inane internal dialog. She glosses over her past and repeats key plot points through a voice actress that’s terribly dull. Worst yet she freezes up in the face of an adversary she’s conquered numerous times. It makes you wonder how she’s survived so long. I understand Sakamoto’s intention of making Samus more human, but this wasn’t the way to do it. This kind of past meddling is a cheap way of building an imperfect version of a character without affecting her modern day status. Why not follow thru with the suit mutation gimmick and the Galactic Federation manhunt at the end of Metroid Fusion?


The franchise staples such as suit upgrades, missile/energy tank hording, and map plotting are all present. Except it all unfolds in a polygonal world from a third person perspective. The sideways controller works surprisingly well for this setup. Even though the directional pad lacks the technical finesse of an analog stick, the game compensates with auto aiming and simple floor layouts. The dodge tactic and enemy finishers spice things up considerably. The player can enter a first person mode by pointing the controller at the screen. The transition is pretty smooth thanks to a slight slowdown that allows you to orient and aim.

For as refreshing as the changes are, the game feels shallow. In previous Metroids there were hundreds of missiles to collect. With Other M there’s eighty total. On top of that the player can regenerate their payload at any moment. That just defeats the whole purpose of hording them for combat. Through a convenient plot device, suit upgrades are authorized by the team leader. There’s one moment in particular where Samus enters a flesh melting hot zone without her protective Gravity Suit. Adam chimes in with an okay to wear it about half way through the level. What the fuck game? The map layout is also very linear with most items being tucked behind background elements thanks to tricky camera angles.


Atmosphere has been completely abandoned. The soundtrack in the Prime games really put an eerie edge on the discs. The music in Other M lacks memorable hooks and is far too minimal. Quite often there was nothing but silence. For instance there’s an “investigation” scene where the camera pans behind her shoulder.  You creep along completely expecting a good jump scare, but nothing happens. No spooky ambiance, sudden noise, or action otherwise. I don’t know if the section was cut, incomplete, or just badly executed. But it does serve as a reminder of how important sound design is to creating tension.


Other M is a rough start for this new type of Metroid. The plot sequences are long winded and the disc is light on content. However the groundwork holds some promise if the developers shift focus back onto creating enticing game play. All I ask for is a perilous new world full goodies to excavate. Leave the space drama for film and animation please. 

Sunday
Oct032010

Nintendo 3DS impressions By Sean B.

We've all been eager to hear updates regarding Nintendo's newest piece of hot, sexy awesomeness - the 3DS. Yeah we know, you're still depressed about that whopping $300 price tag, an amount you might as well use on an Xbox 360 or Playstation 3 if you haven't picked one up already. Let's just set this injustice aside for a minute and discuss something more juicy (and we aren't talking about a retro Starbusts commercial).

Remember Before Crisis: Final Fantasy VII, the exclusive mobile prequel in Japan? Though not officially announced, there's a chance we may experience it on the 3DS. According to claims on Andriasang, Square Enix Producer Hajime Tabata recently stated (via Twitter) "If I were to make something for the 3DS, I suppose it would be a remake of Before Crisis Final Fantasy VII. I'd redo the scenario structure and game design for the 3DS. I think I'd like to make an action RPG BCFF7 where a large number of Turks players play simultaneously."

Tetsuya Nomura and Yoshinori Kitase have also expressed interest in working on a remake, making it more of a potential reality to come. Tabata also claims that outside of his current endeavors, including The 3rd Birthday (PSP) and Final Fantasy Agito XIII (PS3), his next project will probably be a High Definition title, meaning a 3DS Before Crisis would still be pretty far off. Regardless of how many months or years we'd have to wait, it's still pretty nice to imagine a legion of ShinRa Turks charging into an epic battle on a portable Nintendo console - in 3D.