Posts from January, February, and March of 2011.

March 30, 2011... Advance Intel(livision)

A new review?  And it's not for the iPhone?  I know, I can hardly believe it myself.  I figured it was time to try something different... after all, man cannot live on cell phone games alone!

So... I hate to be the bearer of bad news (since when?), but some 3DS owners have reported that their launch units have loose hinges and buggy firmware prone to crashing certain games.  Nintendo has promised that a future update will fix the latter problem, but isn't too eager to own up to the former, claiming that it's only happening to a small minority of units.  However, if the 3DS is anything like past systems in the DS line, that minority is likely to grow pretty quickly in the near future.


March 28, 2011... Super Duper Street Fighter IV

Rumor has it that Capcom's got another upgrade planned for Street Fighter IV.  Sorry guys, but I'm not biting this time, especially one DAY after the launch of Super Street Fighter IV for the 3DS.  I was onboard for the previous game (and with all the new features, who wouldn't be?) but I'm not paying another forty dollars just so I can play as Evil Ryu and those dopey twins from Street Fighter III.

By the waaaay, the 3DS was just released yesterday.  People seem pretty happy with the device so far, but there are already complaints about the screen size (from EGM alum Chris Johnston) and abbreviated battery life.  Remember when you could count on a Nintendo handheld to give you at least eight solid hours of gaming on a fresh set of batteries?  Ah, those were the days!  Then again, none of those other handhelds packed the punch of a portable Wii, either...

Before I go, I'd like to thank reader Gogogoldberg for his generous donation.  I've made arrangements with the landlord to stay at the apartment for another couple of weeks, but this will cover various other pressing expenses.  Speaking of that, I've still got plenty of games to sell, so if you're interested, make me some offers!

EDIT: The latest Katamari Damacy game may be called "Katamari Amore Rolling Whopper."  Does that mean we can expect a cameo appearance from the Burger King of all Cosmos?


March 26, 2011... Well, That Ain't Good

I'm in big trouble, folks.  Possibly "homeless in a week" trouble, because rent is due soon and I don't have the money to pay it.  I've removed the silly New Vids Fund link and replaced it with the good old fashioned PayPal button.  Any money you care to put in my account would be greatly appreciated, and keep me from panhandling on a street somewhere.  Yes, it's that serious.

I'm also selling the following titles from my collection, as I don't find myself playing any of them much and have much more pressing issues at the moment.  Here's what I've got currently... I have a lot more in my parents' old tool shed, which I'll retrieve and offer for sale as soon as possible.

XBOX 360

Culdcept Saga (in NBA Live 08 box, but with proper instructions)
Lost Odyssey (multi-language)
BlazBlue: Calamity Trigger (with how to play DVD)
Ninja Gaiden II
Sonic's Ultimate Genesis Collection
Burnout Revenge
Rock Band 2
Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare
Fable II
The Beatles: Rock Band
Blue Dragon
Mirror's Edge (rental copy)
Mass Effect
Dark Sector (clear box, no instructions)
Rock Revolution
The King of Fighters XII (Japanese copy)
Red Faction Guerrilla
WWE Smackdown vs. RAW 2007
Street Fighter IV
Rock Band
AC-DC Live Rock Band Track Pack


Tiger Woods PGA Tour 08
WWE Smackdown vs. RAW 2008
Cross Edge
Sonic the Hedgehog (yes, that one)
Dead Space
Valkyria Chronicles
Uncharted: Drake's Fortune


Halo 2 (sealed copy! Do not sell before 11/09/04!)
Otogi 2: Immortal Warriors (original Xbox required)


Legacy of Kain: Defiance


NiGHTS into Dreams

Also, if you know of any job opportunities in your neck of the woods (especially if those woods aren't in Michigan), by all means send me an E-mail and let me know!  Freelance work just isn't panning out for me... I'd love to be on someone's payroll, even if it's the kind of occupation normally reserved for an episode of Dirty Jobs.


March 24, 2011... It Prints Money, and Right Away

Nintendo's never been down with dumping... their philosphy has always been to turn a profit on both the razor and the blades, and they've worked their magic yet again with the 3DS.  Joystiq claims that the cost of components in Nintendo's latest handheld is just over $100, which is frankly a lot less than I expected given the system's high performance and 3D display technology.  The DSi cost less to manufacture, but at $85, it wasn't much less.

It's a thin update, I know.  I've got new reviews planned, but I wanted to get in this morsel of news before the clock strikes midnight.  You'll be hearing from me again, and shortly.


March 23, 2011... LC-Deelicious!

Loved those old LCD handhelds from the 1980s?  Me too!  Too lazy to download the simulations on MADrigal's web site?  Me too!  Luckily, there's a solution.  You'll find over a dozen of these gadgets on Pica Pic, and playing them is as simple as clicking the icons on the bottom of the screen.  Now that's convenience!  Thanks to GamePro's Twitter feed for the tip.


March 21, 2011... On The Phone

Been feeling lousy the last couple of days, hence the lack of updates.  Hopefully these new iPhone reviews will make up for it.

So, the word from Shoryuken is that Arc System Works is going to be putting the Guilty Gear series in cold storage for a while.  Apparently its creators think it's become too hardcore for its own good and would rather put their weight behind the more user-friendly BlazBlue.  Personally, I think they should just split the difference and make a crossover between the two series.  Hey, it works for Capcom!


March 18, 2011... Fils-A-Meathead

So, Reginald Fils-Aime has been comparing homebrew game developers to American Idol contestants, implying that they're vapid wannabees not worthy of the industry's attention.  Funny he should mention that, because Reggie reminds me of a guy I saw on television once too!

I've never gotten any traction with the Dick York meme, but I'll beat that drum 'till my dying day, I swear it!

Seriously though, Reggie's attitude is fifty thousand kinds of wrong.  I know, I promised that I was going to put on a happy face, accentuate the positive, and blow smoke up your asses just like you wanted, but your asses are going to have to get by with a nicotine patch today.  This deserves a response, and I'm not going to sugarcoat it. 

Fils-A-Moron is trying to spin his snub of homebrewers as a quality control issue, but when you see the kind of garbage that passes for games on both WiiWare and DSiWare, you know that's not Nintendo's primary (or secondary, or tertiary) concern.  The company is quite happy with publishers pumping sludge onto their formats as long as they get their extortionate licensing fees first.  Independent developers can't afford them, so Nintendo throws them under the bus... then backs over them for good measure.

This dashes all hope I had of the 3DS having a vibrant online marketplace.  Granted, the fact that 3DSWare won't even be available until May should have been enough proof that Nintendo wasn't going to take its online store seriously.  However, the company's decision to go public with its contempt for homebrewers removes all doubt.

Come on, Nintendo.  You've publicly acknowledged that Apple is both a legitimate competitor and a serious threat.  The support from thousands of developers, both great and small, is a major reason why.  All the fresh new ideas in the video game industry are coming to the iPhone first, because the people responsible for them can afford to publish games on that format.  If you don't open your doors to these underground developers now, they'll turn their backs on you when they become famous later.  Do I have to draw a map for you, or lead you by the hand to this very obvious point?

Anyway, there are three new iPhone reviews.  Good night and good luck.


March 16, 2011... Bully Basher Alpha 2

Yeah, I had to do this.  Sometimes I get the itch to do videos, even if they're silly, insubstantial ones like this.

Bully Basher Alpha 2 from Jess Ragan on Vimeo.

There's another Casey video similar to this one, but even better... you'll find it here.

So hey, I was hanging out at Best Buy, and had a chance to try the Nintendo 3DS for a couple of minutes.  I'm not sold on the 3D effect... the depth is there, but it's hard to find the sweet spot with the slider on the side of the unit.  Furthermore, it's hard to get excited about that "window to another world" when it's the size of a couple of saltine crackers.  However, the system does deliver on its promise of offering a Wii-quality experience on the go, and that's all I really wanted.  I'm also excited about Pilotwings, for the first time ever.  The Super NES game was a flat tech demo and its Nintendo 64 sequel suffered from touchy control, but the 3DS version could be the one that makes me a fan of the series.


March 15, 2011... You Have Awakened The Sleeping Giant

So, there's this video floating around the internet with a large Australian kid being antagonized by some spindly little jerk.  The twerp is just begging for a fight, taunting the gentle giant and even sinking a fist into his jaw.  His friends find it all very amusing, until this happened.

Kubiak here grabs the punk as he tries to slap him, picks him up over his head, and slams him onto the pavement, executing a sloppy but brutally effective power bomb.  The little bastard picks himself off the floor and hobbles around in a daze, before escaping the watchful eye of the camera (presumably to cry in a corner somewhere).  One of his friends attempt to resume the bullying, but after a brief confrontation, the super-sized sixth grader leaves him behind and lumbers off into the sunset.

Why the heck am I mentioning this here?  Well, the internet has nicknamed him Little Zangief, which is cute, but also wrong.  Given his country of origin and preferred signature move, calling him Little Big Bear (or Less Rubenesque Raiden, if you prefer) would be a lot closer to the mark.  Whatever you call him, his opponent will forever be known as "pwned."

Four thousand miles away, Japan is still reeling from the one-two punch of an earthquake and a tsunami, with a nuclear meltdown possible in the near future.  If you'd like to help in the relief effort and score some great games in the process, check out the iPhone sales currently being held by Sega and Capcom.  The impossibly good iOS conversion of Street Fighter IV is just ninety-nine cents, and a handful of Sonic titles are being sold at reduced prices, with all of the proceeds going to the Red Cross.

One other thing!  Abasm from the GameSpite forums wrote about his first experience with the Nintendo 3DS, which I strongly recommend you read if you're curious about the system but don't yet have the cash for one.  If you can't afford it, well, you're in good company.


March 14, 2011... Hot Dog!

I was playing Dungeon Hunter II on my iPhone earlier this evening, and the hours just vanished.  I can't blame Daylight Savings Time on that one!  If you grabbed this action RPG during the brief ninety-nine cent sale, you've made a very wise choice indeed.

Here's a heads-up for those Nintendo DS owners out there who aren't ready to upgrade to the new system... after a year of underground buzz, Okamiden will finally be released in the United States tomorrow.  It's already been beaten into your head by the press, but I'll take the opportunity to re-remind you that this is the pint-sized sequel to Okami, Capcom's action-adventure title with a distinctive Japanese look. 

If you can believe it, Okami made its premiere on the Playstation 2 nearly five years ago!  It's a span of time that seemed almost incomprehendible to me when I was a child.  I remember when I first rented The Legend of Zelda, and looked at the sticker on the back of the cartridge.  "This Game Pak uses battery back-up for saved games.  The battery has a lifespan of roughly five years," it cautioned.  I thought to myself, "Who will even be playing this in five years?"  Oh, fourteen year old Jess, if only you knew!


March 13, 2011... Absurd Ascendant

Here's a treat for the retro fans!  Someone's working on an Astrocade conversion of the Nichibutsu arcade game Crazy Climber.  He's done a nice job of compensating for the system's lack of colors... normally, it can only display four at once, but he's used hardware tricks to squeeze eight out of the machine.  The game also runs more smoothly than its wonky Atari 2600 counterpart, and offers dual joystick support for a more arcade-like experience.  Here's a picture of the nearly finished beta... just click on it to see the game in action.

Hey, I wonder if anyone's ever thought of making a crossover between Crazy Climber and Crazy Taxi?  You know, you'd drive up the sides of skyscrapers, dodging potted plants as you take your fares to the rooftop.  After a couple of stages, you find King Kong and run him over.  Crazy!

Why yes, I did forget my meds today!  How nice of you to notice!  Anyway, there are two new iPhone reviews on the site for those interested.  I'm not sure why I'm writing reviews of games that only cost ninety-nine cents, but hey, it's something to do!


March 11, 2011... Seeing is Believing

If this doesn't convince Microsoft to drop its phony currency and start using ordinary money for in-game purchases, nothing will!  Recently, an online exploit shook over a million dollars in Microsoft Points from the company's pockets.  Microsoft has promised swift retribution against those responsible, although they're not going into specifics.  Just know that if you were one of the accomplices in the Great Microsoft Points Caper of 2011, you might find yourself without an Xbox Live account in the very near future.  Crime doesn't pay, folks... not even in Itchy and Scratchy money.

Okay, with the news out of the way, I'd like to share a couple of snapshots I've taken over the last few days.  I couldn't help but notice something odd about Tuesday's episode of Jeopardy!...

Harley... Quinn?  Somehow I have a hard time believing that was a coincidence, especially with the winner from the day before and that other contestant positioned right next to each together.  Doesn't the champ usually stand at the left podium?

By the way, last night's Wheel of Fortune?  Spectacular!  There was a contestant named Philip who was one tightly wound ball of puzzle-solving energy.  He made the episode one for the highlight reel from the moment the game began... after someone rang in with the wrong answer for the first toss-up puzzle, Philip hammered his buzzer with enough speed to make even Master Higgins jealous.  After three seconds of the buzzer failing to respond, he lifted it toward the camera, still jabbing the button furiously, while frantically pointing at it with the other hand! 

After winning the game, he solved the prize puzzle with just four revealed letters, then proceeded to go into nuclear meltdown on camera.  They don't invite returning contestants on Wheel anymore, but they might want to consider making an exception for this guy.  The ratings would be worth it.

All right, here's the other snapshot.  While shopping a couple of weeks ago, I found a cereal called Super C Crunch.  It's pretty good, but I've never been able to finish a bowl without help.


March 9, 2011... Ubi Seriously Creepy

This has been bothering me for a while now, but I've only just worked up the nerve to mention it here.  Isn't the Ubisoft logo kind of weird?  Like, tentacle monster having its way with a submarine weird.

Yeah, once you see it, you can't unsee it.

Anyway!  There are new iPhone reviews in the usual place.  If you like what you see, tell your friends!  If you don't like it, at least you're not in that submarine.

So, does anyone want the Xperia, Sony's new phoney, gamey thing?  You can get yourself one before its official launch, if you've got nine hundred dollars to spare and nothing better to do with it.  I'm itching to get my hands on an Android phone, but I'm not that itchy!


March 8, 2011... Ready or Not, Here We Come!

Microsoft is scouring the internet for engineers to develop the next Xbox, and rumors abound that Nintendo is hard at work on a sequel to its successful Wii.

Uh oh.

Now I realize that all three of the current consoles have reached the end of their five year lifespans, with the Xbox 360 showing remarkable endurance at nearly six years.  Nevertheless, I'm just not ready for replacements.  It's not just my pinched pocketbook talking, either... I look at all the current crop of consoles can do and wonder, "Where does the industry go from here?"  Unless there's a monumental paradigm shift, like the switch from sprites to polygons in 1995, it's hard to imagine a practical use for the new hardware.

Let me qualify that statement a bit.  I don't see a practical use for a new Xbox or Playstation.  The Wii, on the other hand, was long in the tooth from the moment it was released and is long overdue for retirement.  Word on the street (the intersection between T Street and 3rd Avenue, specifically) is that the next machine in the Nintendo lineage will include a quad-core processor and a Blu-Ray drive, both welcome enhancements that would bring the machine up to speed with its competitors. 

(There were also rumors of other, more fanciful features that won't ever be implemented in a million years and barely warrant discussion.  Come on, a projector?  Clearly you've got this thing mistaken for the R2-Wii2.)

"Help, Miyamoto! You're our only hope!"

Back to the other two consoles.  They don't need successors right now, and probably won't for years to come.  Any improvements they bring to the table will be largely inconsequential... sure, a more powerful Xbox would likely sharpen up reaction times in Kinect titles and make 1080p the standard resolution for video games, rather than the rare exception, but none of this will revolutionize the gaming experience.  These features would be so trivial that they would hardly justify the added expense of a new console, along with the considerable annoyance of abandoning the previous machine and its massive library of titles.

The five year life cycle for game systems has become a rule of thumb for the video game industry, and manufacturers like Sega who have tried to tighten the gap between generations have been harshly punished for their impatience.  However, at this point in the evolution of video game hardware, even five years isn't long enough.  Barring a truly game-changing innovation, these systems are as powerful as they need to be.  Perhaps it's time for console manufacturers to follow the lead of popular home video formats like VHS and DVD, and stretch the lives of their products from years to decades.


March 7, 2011... 3DS By the Numbers

As expected, the Nintendo 3DS had a hugely successful first week in Japan, selling over 375,000 units.  That's nearly as many systems as the PSP had sold so far this year, which is all the more impressive when you consider the enduring popularity of the PSP's killer app Monster Hunter.  The best-selling game for the 3DS was Professor Layton and the Mask of Miracle at nearly 120,000 units, with Nintendogs and Cats on its tail at just over 64,000 units.  Curiously, Street Fighter IV lags behind them both at 44,000 copies sold, barely edging out the latest Ridge Racer rehash and the 3DS debut of Konami's Winning Eleven series. 

I'm surprised that Street Fighter IV wasn't a stronger performer... it's my most anticipated 3DS game by a wide margin, and I expected the new social features to make it a smash hit in the land of the rising sun.  Perhaps the Japanese have had their fill of the game on consoles.  Maybe it just wasn't the kind of experience they wanted on a portable.  It's anyone's guess, but the fact that it was outsold by a Dynasty Warriors spin-off hurts.

I thought it would be fun to compare sales of the 3DS to previous Nintendo handhelds, but as it turns out, those figures are tough to find!  After about an hour of searching, I wound up at the forum of the PVC Museum, which claims that 468,000 units of the first Nintendo DS were sold in Japan during its opening week.  The DS Lite sold 68,000 units in its first week, while the DSi moved over 171,000 systems. 

It's a hard trend to follow, but from what I can gather, the sales seem to rise with substantial improvements to the hardware.  The original Nintendo DS offered genuinely new features and a huge performance boost over the GameBoy Advance, and the launch sales reflect that.  The DS Lite, on the other hand, made the system "sexier" while not actually making it better, and Japanese gamers just weren't biting.  The trend seems to hold for Nintendo's American audience too... according to the Edge web site, DSi sales nearly doubled that of the DS Lite at 435,000 units sold.

You have to wonder what this means for the future.  Will Nintendo follow Apple's lead and release a new DS upgrade every year, with improvements that go well beyond the usual tweaks to the form factor?  Only time will tell.  Sony is releasing two handheld systems in the span of a year (the Xperia phone recently, and the NGP planned for the holiday season), so it's not that far-fetched a scenario.


March 6, 2011... Disqus Fever

Let's try something REALLY different!  We've got a forum here on the Blitz, and that's all well and good, but commenting on individual posts has never been an option.  However, Disqus may change all that.  I've been a member of the service for about a year now- I think I signed up for it so I could post on Tiny Cartridge- and I'm going to try applying its handy features to this site.  This is going to be rocky at first, because I honestly have no idea what I'm doing, but I'm willing to give it a shot.

Speaking of Tiny Cartridge, you might want to swing by to check out the title banner I drew for the site.  Pretty spiffy, huh?


March 6, 2011... And Now For Something Completely Different

Okay, we're going to try something new.  Make that several somethings.  First, the "Mneko" twitter feed has been taken off the sidebar.  That's going to be my crabby personal account from this point forward.  Replacing it is the appropriately titled GameroomBlitz, which will be used for gaming news and general promotion of the site.

Second, you'll note that the big purple bar on the bottom of the front page is gone, replaced with a site map which should make navigation more convenient.  If the research I've done on SEO is accurate, it should also make it easier for the site to be found by Google and other search engines.

Third, I'm going to slap on the happy helmet and give this site a more upbeat tone.  I'm a naturally cynical guy, so this will be a tough transition for me to make.  However, people don't read moping.  They've got enough hardship in their lives... they don't need outside contributions.  That's not to say that I won't lay the smackdown on games that deserve it, but hating everything kind of clashes with the site's slogan.

Fourth, I've been informed that the site's design is retro in the worst possible way and needs to be modernized.  Funny, I thought the 2009 design was the best one yet, but  I'm always open to suggestions!

More news as it happens.

March 4, 2011... It Wasn't A Rock! It Was A... Rock Tumblr!

The one thing I think this site has been missing for the last fifteen years, aside from an editor with good personal hygeine, is promotion.  There are still people out there who have no idea that The Gameroom Blitz even exists... including some of the folks watching me on Twitter.  (Ouch.)  So I've decided to start an account on another mini-blogging site that starts with T to help spread the word.  No, not about my appalling hygeine!  The Gameroom Blitz Tumblr was created to celebrate the history of the site, and to ensure that when people hear its name, they don't respond with blank faces and inquiries about the song from Wayne's World.

Now if you'll excuse me, I've built up quite a funk over the last few days and I need to scrub myself clean with abrasive sponges and Clorox.

March 2, 2011... Let's Make A Deal

People have asked what it would take for me to start making video reviews again.  Previously, my answer had been "the apocalypse," but now my conditions are a bit more reasonable.  Lately, I've been doing the bulk of my gaming- well, all of it, really- on my iPod Touch.  It's a great system and I love it to bits, but my first generation model is growing long in the tooth and is overdue for a replacement.  Some games don't run well on the unit, while others, like Chair's killer app Infinity Blade, are just too advanced to function at all.  If I had the latest system and a way to capture video from it, that would give me both the means and the incentive to make videos again.

An iPod Touch 4 for new videos, folks... those are the terms.  I just can't do this stuff for free anymore, regardless of what the internet expects.  I'm not in my twenties anymore!  I can't afford to be a slacker!  I've got to monetize this content, not only because I feel it's worth the price, but because I've got expenses just like anyone else.  In short, I've got the skillz, but I need to pay the billz... and I need the hardware to make it all possible.

Speaking of all things Apple, there's a new review on iFull, along with another issue of the fanzine.  This time, the theme is bosses, and there's a feature with contributions by several high-profile writers, including Chris Kohler of WIRED fame and online comics kingpin Josh Lesnick.  I'm really proud of this issue overall... it's more readable and relevant than the previous one, which was an indulgent experiment with mixed results.  Some highlights include the letter from Deep Space Nine: Crossroads of Time producer Maurice Molyneaux, a pre-launch analysis of the Sega Dreamcast, and a lengthy interview with Chris Bieniek, editor of Tips and Tricks.  Go ahead, give it a look.  The link should actually work this time!

February 25, 2011... He Smelled Real Bad and He Said His Name Was Bernie

First things first, since this has really been getting under my skin as of late.  If you're making an iPhone game, and it doesn't need the extra clock speed and RAM of the new models, DON'T MAKE PEOPLE BUY A LATER MODEL TO PLAY IT!!!  Do you have any idea, even an inkling, of how obnoxious this is?  I'm not going to dump my iPod Touch in a landfill and replace it with a new model every year because you chumps are too lazy to offer truly universal support in your apps.  That crap doesn't fly on the DS and PSP, and it shouldn't be okay here.  Before you even open your filthy mouths, I'm quite aware of what the legacy models are capable of running, and they shouldn't have any trouble with a Pac-Man spin-off that isn't anywhere near as impressive as Pac-Man Championship Edition.  So knock it off, you dills.

I promised to talk about the fourth issue of The Gameroom Blitz last week, so let's do that.  This is colloquially (and alliteratively!) known as the "Super Spectacular Sega Sucks Special," because it was filled with rants about the horrible mismanagement at Sega that killed the Saturn and planted the seeds for the Dreamcast's future failure.  We've since come to understand that it was Bernie Stolar, the Satan of Saturn, who was responsible for nearly all of this.  However, back in 1998, I didn't know my Stolar from my Madoff, and just thought this was a pattern of behavior from the company that offered us a pointless new system upgrade for every day of the week.

Like the iPhone developers of the present, Sega didn't understand the importance of the five year console cycle, or of going the extra mile to keep the customer satisfied.  The customer isn't always right, but if they're going to throw down a kingly sum of money for your product, you'd better make damned sure they're happy with their purchase.  If you burn them once, they're not likely to make that same mistake again. 

Sega lost sight of this almost immediately, with an approach to hardware support that could only be described as frivolous and cavalier.  While other manufacturers like Atari and Nintendo were getting as much mileage out of their old machines as possible, and reaping the rewards of a loyal fanbase in the process, Sega was either supplementing or obsoleting their own systems every two years.  It seemed like Sega fans couldn't open a copy of EGM without discovering that their latest purchase had become a doorstop. 

This is a cardinal sin in an industry where costs run high and loyalties shift like the tides.  A game system isn't an inconsequential purchase, like a stick of gum or a toaster.  When a player pays two hundred, three hundred, even four hundred dollars for one, they expect that to be a long-term investment.  They'll be playing games on that machine for years to come, and if the games dry up before the next generation of systems arrives, they feel like they've been swindled.  They've been left with an instant antique; a gadget that can no longer be used for its intended purpose.

Sega hadn't subjected their customers to this once... it became an ugly habit for them, culminating in the premature cancelation of a game system that was not only massively expensive at four hundred dollars, but massively popular in Asian territories.  The Sega Saturn had no chance of catching up to the Playstation in Japan, but it routinely outperformed the Nintendo 64 at retail thanks to its CD-ROM format and a software library that was quintessentially Japanese.  When Bernie Stolar called the Saturn a "stillbirth" and ended support for the system just two years after its US debut, sales of the Saturn and its games fell off a cliff, and Japan's loyalty to Sega went with it.  For all the damage he did, Bernie may as well have fed the Saturn's Japanese fans to Kesagake.

What's most baffling about the decision to retire the Saturn was that Sega didn't have another system to replace it; at least not right away.  There were still two years before the architecture of the Dreamcast was finalized and the system was ready for launch in the United States.  That was two years of nothing for Sega's disillusioned fans.  Gamers just don't stop playing for two years because their favorite company (if Sega was anyone's favorite at this point) stopped making games... they move on, to the industry-leading Playstation or Nintendo's less popular but still actively supported Nintendo 64.

Bernie Stolar didn't just sabotage the Sega Saturn with his stunningly stupid handling of the system; he laid the groundwork for Sega's departure from the console manufacturing business.  He led customers by the hand to Sony's doorstep, and raised serious doubts that Sega could ever support a game console for more than a couple of years.  Those doubts were ultimately justified when Peter Moore announced the cancelation of the Sega Dreamcast two years after its own American launch.  This raised the ire of Sega's few remaining fans, but it wasn't really Moore's fault... he was just forced to play the hand he was dealt by his predecessor.

I didn't really talk about the issue, did I?  Oh well, maybe next time.

February 21, 2011... Man, Even The Games I Like Are Old Now...

Happy birthday, Link!  Hope you like retrospectives!

There's more to come, folks.  I'm just finishing up an iPhone review which should be finished in under an hour.

EDIT: Sorry for the delay!  The three new iPhone reviews are ready and in the usual place.  Right now, I'm gauging the reaction to the Zelda article, and it seems to be pretty popular!  After reading it, one Twitter user stated, "I don't think you'll ever need any other article about Zelda after this one."  Is that a compliment?  I think that's a compliment.  I'm taking it as a compliment.

February 16, 2011... Beginning of the End

Those fools at IBM have doomed us all!  First, their machines will beat our Jeopardy! contestants, then they'll crush all of humanity under their iron-alloy heels!  Worst of all, we'll have to sit through an awful sequel with the star of the first two movies awkwardly grafted into the action with sketchy computer rendering!  There's no hope for any of us!

Anyway!  There's a new (to you) issue of The Gameroom Blitz available in the sidebar.  This time, it's the Super Spectacular Sega Sucks Special, featuring over a dozen Saturn game reviews and a whooooole lot of bitching about Sega.  Hey man, you'd gripe too if the console you just bought was obsoleted by the president of the company a month later.

I'll talk more about the issue later, along with my own issues with Bernie Stolar, the Satan of Saturn.  Right now, I'd rather discuss the aftermath of all those Valentine's Day iPhone sales.  Over the holiday weekend, games were offered by five different industry heavyweights (and tiny Korean outfit GamEvil) at a small fraction of their already low prices.

I'm going to say this right now... if you're a gamer and don't own an iSomething, you're stark raving mad.  The software in the App Store is often as good as anything you'll find on a dedicated gaming handheld, and almost always sold for a pittance.  Right now I'm plugging away at Spider-Man: Total Mayhem and Wild Frontier.  The former is a near-Playstation 2 quality beat 'em up that piles on the love for both the character and the player.  The latter is a quirky Korean action-RPG that looks like Secret of Mana and plays like Monster Hunter, but without all the aggravation of a third-person perspective.  Both cost less than a dollar each.  The last game I downloaded for the DSi cost twice that much, and I only bought it because it punched a hole in the system's security.  It sure as hell wasn't for the gameplay!

Now there's news that a download store won't be available for the latest DS until two months after its release.  Come on, Nintendo... you're slipping here.  You have a reputation for being behind the curve on industry trends- you wouldn't even touch the internet until 2006!- but you can't afford to drag your feet on digital distribution.  It's the future of gaming, and if you don't hop aboard the clue train in a hurry, you're going to be left in the past.  Even Sony, the company that gave us such out of touch catchphrases as "giant enemy crabs" and "Riiiiiidge Racer!," understands the importance of downloadable content, embracing it with both the Xperia Play and their own next generation portable.  What's your excuse?

February 12, 2011... The Season of Love

Well, for your iPhone, mostly.  All kinds of games for the device and its cousins have dropped to a dollar, including the exceptional port of Street Fighter IV, which... uh, I paid seven dollars for last year.  Blast my impulsiveness!

Just as April flowers bring May showers, sweeping iPhone app sales bring new reviews to the iPhone section of the site.  Head on over to get the scoop on Star Trigon, Caster, and... Pin-O-Ball?  Wow, you guys in the iPhone reviewing department are really scraping the bottom of the barrel this week.  What happened to the reviews of Cut the Rope and Spider-Man: Total Mayhem?  They're not finished?  What do you mean you can't get past Rhino?!  Have you tried playing it on easy?  You started on easy.  Oh crap.  Look, we'll talk about this later.

In not-really-relevant-to-the-subject-of-games-but-still-pretty-big news, Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak has finally surrendered his post after eighteen days of heated (yet surprisingly civil!) protests.  Unfortunately, that other callously indifferent tyrant, Bobby Kotick, still rules Activision with an iron fist.  He's not only brought the Guitar Hero series to an ignominious* end, he's twisted poor Spyro the Dragon into this abomination.

Great horny toads!  Wait, that's not the right picture.  Let's try this again...

OH GOD!  Take it away... I can't bear to look at it!  It looks like the hellspawn of Peter Lorre, or Lars Ulrich from those old Metallica flash cartoons!

"Insomniac GOOOOOD, Activision BAAAAAAD!"

Anyway, it's rumored that the game is being developed by Toys for Bob, so you can rest assured that this new version of Spyro will have been raised by a kind herd of wild cows.  There's also talk of an interactive toy line, with action figures that actually enhance the experience.  In the respect that you can turn off the game and just play with the toys, no doubt.

* The term "ignominious" is a trademark of Jeremy Parish.  All rights reserved.

February 8, 2011... Double Double Toil and Trouble

It's that time again, folks!  No, not time for me to huddle in the corner and cry through another loveless Valentine's Day.  I mean the other thing... the second issue of the fanzine.  This time, it's the retro-themed issue, and released in 1997, well before retro was cool!  I'm a jetsetter like that. 

You're probably wondering what the hell is going on with the cover, so allow me to explain.  Way back in the early 1980s, when even I was a kid, there was a television show called Starcade, with kids playing arcade games for prizes.  The series was hosted by the dorky beyond belief Geoff Edwards, who's shown here taking abuse from several old-school video game characters.  Fun fact: the host of the Starcade pilot was Alex Trebek, but he left to take a risk on a remake of Art Fleming's Jeopardy... and the rest is history.  ("And where's Geoff," you ask?  Well, you'd be the first.)

Oh yeah, in case you were wondering, that's Josh Lesnick as a contestant.  We were pretty tight in the fanzine days, before the internet came and he got all semi-famous on me.

I don't know why I used the Mary Tyler Moore font for the introduction.  I had a bit of a typeset addiction back then... keep in mind that I only recently upgraded from Timeworks Publisher to Microsoft Publisher and was punch drunk on its advanced features.  WordArt gets a strenuous workout for the same reason.  Ooh, stretchy titles!

Next is the feature article, with reviews of ten different video game emulators that were actively supported in 1997.  Nearly all of them were put into retirement by the 21st century, with the notable exception of MAME.  I marveled in this issue that the arcade emulator could support nearly 120 games... fourteen years later, it's blossomed to over eight thousand.  Don't you just love progress?

On the next page are a silly story I think I wrote for a creative writing class, a hybrid of the Blitz mascot Byron with somebody else's character, and an eye-opening discovery in a Game Gear title, in that order.  Most of it's self-explanatory, but for those who may have missed it, Mish-Mash comics was a parody/rip-off of the Marvel and DC collaboration Amalgam Comics.  Sure, they can come together to make comics, but Capcom still can't convince the two companies to lock horns in a fighting game.  What a shame!

The mailbox features letters from a wide assortment of fanzine editors, including the always entertaining Josh Lesnick and Chris Kohler of WIRED fame.  There's also a little back and forth with Chris Bieniek, the editor of Tips and Tricks and an all-around swell guy.  Have you checked out Video Game Ephemera, his online museum of gaming memorabilia?  You should.

Next comes Zina: Warrior Newsletters (boy, those Dominion guys were serious douchebags...) and one of the issue's highlights, Josh and Zoe's Now Playing.  There's a rant for every topic under the sun in here, as long as the topics are fighting games, Phil Collins, and Japanese pop culture.

All the games reviewed are classic remakes, although at the time the concept was relatively new and not many companies were making them.  Sometimes I had to fall back on sequels like Castlevania: Bloodlines and Q*Bert 3, although Super Mario 64 was such a radical overhaul that I think it counts as a modernized update.  In the Frogger Game Gear review, you'll notice that Michael Palisano hoodwinked me with a phony report of a Frogger movie.  Let's be fair, though... there actually has been talk of a Pac-Man film, and that sounds at least as ridiculous.

Nothing dates the issue quite like Half-Ass, the Suspiciously Familiar Column of Miscellaneous Crap!  In it, I discuss such timely topics as Gex and the, Tiger's beyond doomed handheld.  I pretty much called it when I said "I get the funny feeling that Tiger Electronics is way out of its league here."  Of course, I dropped the ball a sentence later when I said, "I'm not even sure if there's a market for portable game systems anymore..."

Hey, there's another chapter of the Top 100 Games of All Time!  And look what's on it... Ridge Racer?!  Jess from 1997, Imma smack you.  Oh well, at least Gunstar Heroes, Street Fighter Alpha 2, and the Super NES conversion of Smash TV are right where they belong.

Chris Kohler supplies the book reviews in this issue, while I offer my thoughts on 3D fighting games in the article that follows.  The game I'm describing sounds a lot like every beat 'em up Dream Factory ever released, doesn't it?  Oh, and ignore the Arnie Katz comic.  I had a pissing match with the guy for nearly ten years, but now it all seems so... petty.  Most of those old squabbles seem that way in hindsight.

"Before I go, I thought I'd mention that Sega is going out of business."  Man, I didn't know how right I was!  Even I couldn't have guessed how far down the tubes they'd go in fourteen years.

Man, these summaries get insanely long, don't they?  I need to do a better job of, uh, summarizing these old issues.  At least it's got me writing again!

February 4, 2011... The Arcade is Closed

First, I'm switching up the links in the sidebar.  Gone are Waxing Erratic, which hasn't been updated in months and shows no signs of being revived; and Penny Arcade, which no longer has the vice-like hold it had on me in years past.  The Dickwolves fiasco is only part of the story... in fact, it's my opinion that the unflattering things it revealed about the authors of the strip should have been obvious to everyone from the start.  After all, Gabe and Tycho were flaunting their editorial irresponsibility ten years ago in a battle with the editor of Arcade @ Home that quickly escalated to libelous insinuations.  (Granted, he was kind of a schmuck too, but I digress...) 

The main reason I'm dropping the link is because the comic has become foreign territory to me, featuring games I don't play and characters with whom I can't identify.  Worse yet, it's just not bringing the funny the way it once did.  The shtick is way past its expiration date, while it feels like other comics still have a few good years left in them.  The Flash series Homestar Runner is nearly as old as Penny Arcade, yet it still hits the funny bone hard enough to put your arm in a cast!

I was willing to give Penny Arcade the benefit of the doubt at first, and even defended the comic against its most strident critics during the Dickwolves mess.  However, after nearly losing two friends in the process, I had to ask myself if it was worth the trouble.  I'm willing to fight, and fight ferociously, for free expression, but do I really want to stick my neck out for what has become a creaking monument to mediocrity?  Not really.  Sorry guys, but you're on your own.

Taking the place of the two scuttled links are VG Cats, a more vibrant and enthusiastic comic about the video game industry, and Video Game Ephemera, a promising new site by Tips and Tricks' Chris Bieniek.  Rather than covering games, the venerable journalist focuses on the swag used to promote them, while offering detailed backgrounds on their origins.  There are only twenty-six exhibits in this online museum so far, but since Chris has been a member of the gaming press for nearly a quarter of a century, you can be sure the site will grow by leaps and bounds in a very short time.

I promised to talk about the fanzine, didn't I?  In that case, let's dig right in!  The Gameroom Blitz was intended as a reinvention of myself as both a writer and a fandom personality.  My previous newsletter, Project: Ignition, could charitably be described as "colorful," but Zy Nicholsen of Super Play described it better when he recommended that readers of P:I open their mailboxes carefully to keep the issue from leaping out and clamping onto their jugulars. 

Project: Ignition was a snarling, rabid badger of a fanzine, and I was looking to make The Gameroom Blitz more of a housecat; something with style and grace, but also a sense of stubborn independence.  After taking a creative writing class at a community college to sharpen my jagged skills, I went to work... first on this web site, then on the fanzine.  I decided to give each issue of GRB a central theme, something that would unify the content and keep my scattered thoughts focused.

The theme chosen for the premiere issue was science-fiction, not only because this was a traditional setting in video games, but also because I was a Trekker who was absolutely obsessed with Deep Space Nine.  I decided that the two pillars of the issue would be a feature covering all four Star Trek television series (Enterprise hadn't come along yet... thank god), and reviews of the early Sega release Star Trek: Strategic Operations Simulation.  I also drew a cover illustration featuring the editorial staff as crew members of DS9... along with Avery Brooks, for reasons I can't quite fathom.  It must have seemed like a good idea at the time!

I was still talking to other fanzine editors, so I had plenty of letters to print even for the premiere issue.  The big score, however, was an E-mail from Jeff Minter, the developer of Gridrunner, Tempest 2000, and (in another ten years!) the Xbox 360's trippy music visualizer.  I also printed a fragmented letter from Russ Perry Jr., one of fandom's most beloved and respected figures.

The games featured in "The Re-View Mirror," the fanzine's review page, included Duke Nukem 3D, WipeOut, Blaster Master, and the original Mega Man.  I praised Mega Man for having a harder edge than the sequels, which is strange in hindsight as it's one of the things I disliked most about the Mega Man X series.  The Genesis game Deep Space Nine: Crossroads of Time would also get a drubbing for being a lousy adaptation of my favorite Star Trek series.  (In a later issue, Maurice "Don't Call Me Peter" Molyneaux would describe in great detail why the game was a disaster, along with everything he was forced to take out of the final release.)

Finally, there's El Libro, a nifty column about video game strategy books published before the crash of 1984, and Windows 95: The Clouds Don't Have Silver Linings, which punched a lot of holes in Microsoft products released in the mid 1990s.  Did an article like that belong in a video game fanzine?  Probably not, but I was a computer technician at the time, and it gave me a golden opportunity to vent my frustrations about the school's transition from Windows 3.11 to its buggy, resource-hungry successor.

It's worth noting that of the seven issues of The Gameroom Blitz, the premiere was the shortest, weighing in at a svelte 14 pages.  The double issue, at 22 pages, came next, followed by the last four issues which tipped the scales at 24 pages each.  I even printed articles in 8 and 9 point sizes to squeeze even more text into the later issues!  The readers got their two dollars' worth, but they probably had to spend another eighty for an eye exam later.

February 2, 2011... A Step Back in Time

Remember that new direction I mentioned earlier?  After some brainstorming with a friend, I think I've finally found it.  Twenty years ago, I was a member of a community called video game fandom.  Before the world wide web, the game-obsessed nerds of the early 1990s shared their opinions about the industry in self-published newsletters called "fanzines."  Fandoms for other hobbies, particularly science-fiction, had existed decades earlier, but video game fandom was an entirely different animal, driven by youthful enthusiasm and heavily influenced by the professional gaming press.  Generally speaking, video game fanzines were designed to be the kind of magazines that their editors wanted to read, without the suspiciously high ratings and transparent promotion common in Die Hard Game Fan and EGM prior to its acquisition by Ziff-Davis. 

Fanzine editors didn't have the resources or the industry connections to get news on upcoming games, but they could offer the kind of insightful editorials that were absent from the intellectually void gaming press.  These days, we take writers like Nadia Oxford and Jeremy Parish for granted, but outside of a few short-lived exceptions, gaming magazines in the 1990s were utterly starved of meaningful content.  After Video Games & Computer Entertainment surrendered to a mainstream audience, there was no other place to get hard-hitting journalism than in a fanzine.

There's much the video game fandom of the 1990s had in common with the online gaming communities of today.  Egos were quickly inflated and easily bruised, and drama between warring factions spread like wildfire throughout the fandom, with many editors getting caught in the flames.  However, there's just as much that separates the old mode of communication from the new.  There wasn't much room for deliberate trolling in fandom, because the hobby was not only expensive, but didn't afford much anonymity to the griefers.  If you sent a harassing letter to a fanzine editor, postmarking made it a lot easier for your victim to find the source of his irritation.

This also resulted in a higher signal to noise ratio... when it costs forty-four cents for a stamp and a dollar and a half for copies, you make damn sure that your opinion counts.  A few fanzines were stinkers (usually because the editors' enthusiasm for the hobby far exceeded their mastery of the English language), but the high overhead of fanzine publishing nevertheless kept the lines of communication relatively free of clutter.  That's in sharp contrast to the internet, which has become the landfill where billions of stupid comments are left to rot.

All this has me thinking that maybe it's time to leave the new media behind and return to the old one.  All of my online ventures have been failures, from this web site with its four active readers to the games that have sold dozens of copies to the video reviews that received more attention from YouTube's notoriously picky copyright bots than actual people.  I'm a little fish in an impossibly vast ocean, and frankly, I was a lot more comfortable in my bowl.

I'm not going to abandon the internet entirely, of course.  What I'd like to do is merge the old media with the new, since print publishing has only gotten more expensive in the twenty years since I first got involved with video game fandom.  Besides, paper is so last century... these days, it's all about tablets and e-readers.  My best bet is to publish a fanzine in the PDF format, which is compatible with these devices, but lets luddites print out hard copies for a more traditional experience.

I should probably warn you that this is all very preliminary.  It's been over a decade since I've published a fanzine, and I have no idea what direction I'll take this one.  While I'm figuring this out, I'll upload an issue of my previous newsletter to this site every week for the next two months.  If I can find hard copies of the final issues of Project: Ignition and Concept, those will be added as well.  The "compact" version of each issue will be available free of charge, while the crisper high quality version can be purchased for two dollars, sent to my PayPal address.  That's the current pricing model planned for Third Life, but with everything still early that's subject to change.

That's all for now.  Come back tomorrow when I'll have a description of the first issue of The Gameroom Blitz.

January 28, 2011... A Tale of Wicked Excess

After months of speculation by the gaming press, the PSP2- er, NGP has officially been announced by Sony.  Planned for release by the end of the year, this uberhandheld has two cameras, touch surfaces on both the front and back of the unit, twin analog joysticks, a four core processor, a high resolution OLED display, a fold out spork, and a partridge in a pear tree.

Good lord, I'm exhausted just thinking about it.  Anyone else get the feeling that Sony is overcompensating just a little with this system?  It's like they took a look at everything Nintendo offered with the 3DS, and decided to put two of everything in its own portable just to spite them.  A touchpad on the back?  Really?

I'll be honest with you... bleeding edge technology is exactly what I don't want from a handheld, because it always brings with it the kind of bloated, overproduced games I've grown to hate.  Portable gaming is supposed to be about ease of use and instant gratification, yet we're already hearing reports that the NGP will offer the exact opposite, including straight ports of top-heavy PS3 titles like Metal Gear Solid 4. Do you want your handheld experience to include twenty minute cut scenes and monotonous inventory management?  I sure as hell don't.

The only company that hasn't lost sight of what makes handheld gaming work, as embarrassed as I am to admit this, is Apple.  Yes, that Apple, the company whose past involvement in the video game industry could be charitably described as hapless.  That's all changed, though... today, Apple is the only handheld manufacturer with a vibrant online marketplace, the only one that embraces small developers, and the only one with software prices just about anyone can afford.  It's also likely to be the company that wins my loyalty when the handheld wars begin this December.  Sorry, Nintendo and Sony... bigger isn't always better, especially when "bigger" is reflected in the price.

January 19, 2011... Here Is the News

It's likely that Baby Doc Duvalier will be charged for the horrible crimes he committed during his reign of terror as Haiti's dictator.  Score one for karma!

Now here is the news you actually wanted.  The Nintendo 3DS will be released in the United States on March 27th, at the kingly sum of $250.  It's not as bad as it could have been (I was hearing rumors last week that it would retail for three hundred dollars) but still, that ain't good.  I bought the PSP at launch for that price, but back then, I had money!

Here are the finer points of Nintendo's early morning presentation, as reported by Ars Technica.  First, this new system is being marketed to everyone, not just garden-variety gaming nerds.  This suggests that Nintendo is finally ready to compete directly with Apple's iPod Touch, but the company will have to drastically improve the anemic selection of software on its online store (and make a deal with Amazon to sell music for the 3DS, a deal that has yet to materialize) before they can put so much as a droplet of sweat on Steve Jobs' forehead.

The 3DS has a data broadcast feature called Street Pass, allowing it to communicate with nearby systems even when it's not in use.  The utility of this feature beyond trading Miis and other knick-knacks with strangers is unclear, but on the plus side, it ought to give American kids on the plus size some incentive to get out there and exercise.  It's an intriguing inversion of modern gaming's tendency to turn players into hermits, and it will be fun to see how developers take advantage of Street Pass in future releases.

Oh yes, releases!  The 3DS will have not one, but two major fighting games available for it at launch, something which will no doubt thrill the Shoryuken set.  It's not the first Nintendo handheld to actively court that audience (the GameBoy Advance had everything from Tekken to Street Fighter to Guilty Gear in its library), but it's likely the first one that audience will take seriously thanks to its robust hardware, online features, and the fighting-friendly cycloid dial perched above the D-pad.

Other games squeezed into the launch window include Pilotwings Resort, Nintendogs (and cats!), Madden NFL, Pro Evolution Soccer (hey, the rest of the world needs its football too!), Resident Evil: Mercenaries, and Ridge Racer, astutely described by Tiny Cartridge as an "eternal launch title."  (Seriously Namco, could you give it a rest with this crusty old franchise already?  People cared about it in 1995, but we have Burnout and Gran Tourismo now.)  Attack of the Fanboy reports that the 3DS will have thirty titles available by June, although there's no word yet if the resurrection of the Kid Icarus series will be among them.

That's the long and short of this morning's announcement, folks.  Before I go, I should probably mention that there are new iPhone game reviews in the usual place, as well as a revamping of a classic (read: old) GRB banner.  Hey, even Tom Fulp of Newgrounds fame gave me props for that logo, so it had to be worth bringing back!

January 13, 2011... You've Got the (iPod) Touch

I should probably take down the Christmas decorations, but I've been busy attending to other matters.  I refer of course to the new iPhone section of the web site.  There are nine game reviews there right now, with more to come.  Stay tuned!

January 2, 2011... The Birthday? Post

This is the first time in a long, long time that I've missed a post on my birthday... so I'll remedy that situation by temporarily switching to HAWAIIAN TIME!  Thank you, King Kamehameha!

Anyhoo... I still don't know what I'm going to do with this site.  I thought about shuttering it completely yester- uh, today, but decided against it, since the 15th anniversary is just around the corner and it would be a shame to miss that milestone.  I'm just not sure how to fill the time until May 23rd arrives.  With On-File long gone, I ought to post PDFs of all the old print issues of The Gameroom Blitz... I suspect they'd be of special interest to my long-time readers and would be a fun time capsule for the newbies to crack open.  I really should start reviewing iPhone games as well, as heaven knows I have enough of them.  Damn Steve Jobs and his habit of giving away software that would cost twenty dollars or more on other systems!  (Wait, maybe I shouldn't discourage him.)

Before I go, remember GORF?  Took a few months to make, went unrecognized by the retro gaming public, nearly ruined a friendship?  Yeah, that GORF.  Well, I don't know what happened to the cartridge release.  Beyond a handful that were sold at last year's Classic Gaming Expo, I'm going to go ahead and presume that it never happened.  I stand by the quality of the actual game, but the marketing and distribution was a train wreck from start to finish, and I'm eager to wash my hands of the whole affair.

Wait wait, let's end this on a happy note.  The Playstation 3 release of Mass Effect 2 is running on the engine that will be used for Mass Effect 3, which means... I don't know what that means!  Smoother gameplay, more spontaneous gun battles, less of that planet scanning nonsense?  I guess we'll find out at the end of the month.  Well, someone will, but since I sold my Playstation 3 for rent money, it's not likely to be me.

(Damn, that was supposed to be a happy note!)