August 2010 Archives

Recommended Soundtracks: Castlevania: The Adventure Rebirth

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recommendedsoundtracksbanner.jpgOh look, I'm breaking my "don't discuss newer soundtracks" clause, and I almost feel bad about it!

But that's mainly because this isn't the usual Recommended Soundtracks entry. Castlevania: The Adventure Rebirth has some quality tunes, all of which use older technology that sounds like it's coming from a Genesis cartridge (though it admittedly sounds slightly better than that). It's a great way to pay homage to older games, especially if games in that genre aren't being made anymore. In that way, I'm recommending the soundtrack; and it's pretty easy to digest since it's a small soundtrack.

cvrebirthost_083110.jpgIt's packaged together with Contra Rebirth's soundtrack.

I also want to discuss the game's soundtrack because it does something many Castlevania games don't do: remix lesser known tracks. The developers behind the upcoming Castlevania: Lords of Shadow have expressed interest in providing orchestral remixes of older tracks that fans are particularly fond of.  That sounds fine on the surface, until you realize it probably means remixing "Vampire Killer," "Bloody Tears," and "Beginning" for the 10th time (a figurative guesstimate, but I wouldn't be surprised if that was literally accurate). They're all perfectly quality tracks, but does anyone really need another remix of these?

(And yes, I know this game also has a remix of "Vampire Killer." I guess it's a prerequisite.)

The fine folks responsible for Rebirth's soundtrack apparently realized this and decided to remix some tracks that weren't fan favorites, with the main job of remixing them being left to Manabu Namiki. They're redone versions of tracks that were (and are, really) woefully underappreciated but every bit as good as those aforementioned classics, and clearly someone thought they deserved another look.

Of course, the preferable alternative would be to have compositions of new music that's every bit as good as the older material. Nothing wrong with throwing in a few remixes, though.

"Reincarnated Soul" plays during the game's first stage, and originally comes from Castlevania: Bloodlines for Genesis, where it was also used for the first stage.  It's almost remarkable to see how similar they sound, but that's not surprising. There's no problem with that either. Usually the best tracks from older console games are the first to be remixed, so who knows why this one hasn't been remixed yet. I would have loved to hear it in Portrait of Ruin, given that it's a sequel to Bloodlines. That's not a complaint, though, since PoR is chock full of fine tunes:

"New Messiah" is used for the third stage, and is originally pulled from Castlevania II: Belmont's Revenge for Game Boy, the only good Castlevania game on that system. The Adventure Rebirth is a reimagining of the original Game Boy game Castlevania: The Adventure, so it's fitting that it should include a track from another older portable title. Rebirth wasn't any good, so it desperately needed a remake. Both older Game Boy games have some excellent-though-woefully unappreciated tracks, so don't be surprised to see them pop up in a future entry:

"Aquarius" is used for the game's fifth stage, the final full stage, and originally hails from Castlevania III: Dracula's Curse for NES. This is one of my favorite Castlevania tracks ever, and I'm glad to see it get remixed. Again. It was also featured in Castlevania: Circle of the Moon for GBA. That version is noticeably mellower, and I prefer the version with more of a beat:

For how brief the game is, it sure has a nice variety of remixed tracks. The irony here is that's also precisely the main problem with the soundtrack. Castlevania: The Adventure still has a bunch of tracks clamoring for a remix, and this game would have been the perfect opportunity to showcase them. Hoping the LoS team considered some unappreciated tracks as viable candidates for remixing is admittedly a pipe dream, so I hope they decide to use them if there are more "Rebirth" games.

First of all I want to apologize in advance. I won't actually be mentioning anything about Scott Pilgrim vs. The World in these first few paragraphs. At the very least I will mention some Scott Pilgrim news so the picture above isn't a complete bait and switch.

In a bit of local flavor an article printed in Philadelphia Citypaper on August 18th got quite a bit of traction. The story centered around how two Philadelphia bloggers reported the meager advertising revenue their blogs brought in when they filed their income taxes and were promptly sent a letter by the city. The city considered their blogs to be a business operating within Philadelphia and demanded they pony up either $50 per year for a business privilege license or $300 for a lifetime license. Philadelphia, among other cities requires anyone running a business (including freelance work) to apply for a business privilege license in order to do business within the city and to pay taxes on income earned. Somehow the story was misinterpreted as a brand new tax on all blogs even ones that don't earn income and the story went national. Many people likened it to an attempt by the government to stifle freedom of speech via taxation.

The following week Citypaper ended up printing a clarification covering some of the original article's misconstrued facts and even a Philadelphia-based contributor worked to dispel a few myths. In short, only bloggers who actually earn income on their blogs and report it on their taxes would need to pay for a business license for technically running a business. If the said blogger doesn't bring in revenue from a blog then there is no need to ever pay the fee. (Or the blogger could simply not report earnings at tax time especially if it is a paltry amount of money.) Is a $50 dollar per year or $300 dollar lifetime fee high for a blogger who brings in a tiny amount of revenue-- perhaps just a dozen dollars a year, unfair? Yes, and regressively so. For example, a media giant such as The Philadelphia Inquirer would have to pay the same license fee as the small-time blogger despite the huge differences in profits. If the fee was progressive the small-time blogger (and other very small businesses) would either pay a much smaller fee or the fee would be waived. In the end the story seems to be less about unprofitable blogs having to pay for a business privilege license  and more about outdated city laws that aren't keeping pace with reality. (Damage Control doesn't run advertising and I do not claim the blog as a business on my tax returns.)

If you're a frequent Gmail user you probably noticed Google Voice, the newest feature to be added to the e-mail service. The service allows Gmail users in North America to make free calls anywhere in the United States and Canada and international calls are fairly cheap. Many people naturally made the assumption Google was going after Skype. Google's real target may actually be Facebook. In the meantime Facebook is happy to sue anyone who uses the "book" ending on their social networking sites. Gotta protect that brand recognition! And one more recognizable brand may be headed for bankruptcy. Blockbuster has made plans to file for bankruptcy. As expected the company's downfall lies in popular services such as Netflix, Redbox, iTunes, and various internet video sites. While brick and mortar video rental services continue to falter the movie industry itself is still chugging along. Although the quality of movies over the years have become questionable the occasional gem comes along. Scott Pilgrim vs. The World is one such gem and the BBC highlighted some of the comic book to film adaptations. Amusingly enough, the film has been covered more by the British media than the U.S. media. Perhaps because Edgar Wright directed this film? Anyway, Scott Pilgrim is destined to become more of a geek cult classic. Also, if you haven't seen the film I do recommend it as a strange but fantastic video game movie.

If you frequently buy Xbox Live Arcade codes from you might be in for a surprise. The practice has come to an end and the reason is unclear, yet Amazon still sells MS points cards, Wiiware game codes, and PSN game codes. To further add to the confusion GameStop is now beginning to sell XBLA game codes in its stores. In less confusing Microsoft news anyone who illegally downloaded a leaked copy of Halo: Reach and played it while connected to Xbox Live now faces a permanent ban. If you can't stop gamers from pirating a game you can at least inconvenience them with a ban. In Sony news, the company wants to focus the PSP brand on a younger audience. Such a move is mildly amusing given the PSP's original target audience. Going for a younger demographic works for Nintendo and it could work for Sony, though Nintendo has always had a lock on younger gamers. If this is Sony's way of proving the PSP isn't dead yet (which is isn't) I'm all for it, besides JRPG fans can only do so much for sales. And who says Life-sized Gundams could never do anything for charity?

Image shamelessly stolen from the BBC website.

Late to the Nanomachine Tomfoolery -- Metal Gear Solid 4

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mgs4banner.jpgIf someone were to ask me what my succinct opinion was after playing Metal Gear Solid 4, I wouldn't be able to give them a straight answer. It's not that I can't put together precisely what I thought of the game, but it's impossible to answer that question as quick as someone would like.

That hesitation arises because MGS4 is a very uneven game. It has plenty of good parts; heck, some of it is actually pretty damned brilliant, with some of the best sequences I've ever seen in a game -- interactive or not. The problem, then, is that it falls flat on its face just as often, with the game itself taking a backseat to the excess narrative and exposition. Basically, it doesn't play to its inherent strengths as often as it should.

mgs4revpic1_082910.jpgThe battlefield is something we've never had in an MGS game. It's a welcome and fun edition.

MGS4 features a much older Solid Snake in appearance despite taking place in 2014, a mere five years after Metal Gear Solid 2. Snake has been aging rapidly due to a seemingly unknown genetic defect, and he doesn't have much longer to live. Despite that, he's still undertaking a mission he received from Colonel Campbell: kill Liquid Ocelot. Liquid's taken residence in the Middle East, and Snake will have to wade through the opposition and rebels to make it to him. Good thing you can make it easier by siding with the rebels.

And siding with them is pretty fun too. It not only makes progressing through areas easier, but gives a new dynamic to a Metal Gear game. The controls have been overhauled to make the game feel more like a shooter as well. You can tell that series creator and director Hideo Kojima, along with Kojima Productions, paid attention to specific criticisms from the previous games, and it shows with the controls. The main problem before was that it was impossible to jump out and firefight someone in the older games if you were spotted; this is now possible. It's not as easy as it would be in your average third-person shooter (you have to hold L1 to shoot), but it's fine for a game and franchise that encourages stealth.

mgs4revpic4_082910.jpgIt's still possible to play stealthy, though. It's just going to be a little harder.

The camouflage system is back from Metal Gear Solid 3, and its fine tuning is further proof of Kojima paying attention to criticism. The introduction of the camo system added a new sense of veracity then, but it became tiresome going into the menu to keep changing it by the end of the game. Now, it's streamlined with Old Snake outfitted with an Octocamo suit that changes automatically to blend with the environment to keep your camo index up. It sure wouldn't have had a place during the Cold War (when MGS3 takes place), but it does in the near future.

MGS4 also finally deals with the problem of enemies having ID locked weapons that you couldn't take when you either K.O'd or killed them, something you couldn't deal with in the first two MGS games. Now you can! For a price. There's a guy named Drebin (one of many, but this one has a thing for you) who can remove the IDs for you by paying him Drebin Points (DP). He'll also sell you weapons and ammo, though the former can be very expensive. You accrue DP by collecting weapons you already have, though you empty out the ammo first. It's true that it makes the game a little too firefight friendly, but it's a blessing when you're fighting alone. I loved it when I was in need of some tranquilizer ammo.

The instruction booklet also spends pages describing how to survive in the battlefield. A shame that setting is dropped one-third of the way in. The biggest problem with MGS4 is the glaringly obvious cut scene to gameplay ratio. Anyone who's played a Metal Gear Solid title before knows they can be unbelievably talky and preachy, but the cut scenes mostly weren't too unnecessarily long. MGS3 has the best of the aforementioned ratios -- among one of the reasons why that game is hailed as the best game in the series. This is one strength MGS4 does not play to in the least.

mgs4revpic3_082910.jpgI was thrilled to see the briefings come back from MGS1. I wasn't thrilled to see that a couple of them are excessively lengthy.

MGS4 has plenty of cut scenes that are unnecessarily long. In what was Kojima's way of making the game more cinematic and movie-like, the character models have excessive gesticulations during many of its scenes, most of which only serve to lengthen them. It gave me flashbacks to Star Ocean: Till the End of Time, which had the same problem - though it's honestly not as bad as that game's. This is the answer to people who complained about too many Codec scenes before, and if you did I hope you're feeling sorry for yourself. I kind of dinged the comic book-style cut scenes that popped up in some of the PSP titles in lieu of CG ones before, and that's something I need to apologize for. After playing this game, I welcome them wholeheartedly.

The dialogue could also be a problem. No, not because it's full of cheesy moments, which is a series staple at this point. The truth behind some of the plot holes induced by MGS2, especially in the crazy last two hours, are unveiled in this game. Quite a few of them are confounding, with explanations that are either mind-boggling or, worse, retcon events from the last three games. Those explanations make the actions of some characters in the older games completely bizarre.

mgs4revpic2_082910.jpgThere are quite a few familiar faces here. But there are a lot of new ones too.

But wait, there's more! Another sticking problem is in how frequent cut scenes are, especially in the last three Acts. It's heartbreaking to see only Acts 1 and 2 follow in the footsteps of what MGS3 (and MGS1 before that) established, because the rest of the game doesn't have as much, well, game. You'll be watching more than playing, witnessing the bulk of the game's nine hours of cut scenes. Yes, NINE hours. To put that in perspective, that's more than Xenosaga: Episode I, which had seven-and-a-half. Most of the scenes and story revelations near the end are enough to make anyone who bashed MGS2's zany finale feel bad.

And man does Kojima know how to play to his fanbase. This game was supposed to be the series grand finale, the all-encompassing Metal Gear Solid title. As such, it's pack to the brim with homages and fan service. Quite a bit of it is lovely, and many of them are very clever for a video game. And all of the boss battles are homages to the first MGS game, down to having similar names. Some of it can become a little overbearing and fall flat a few times.

mgs4revpic5_082910.jpgThe robots aren't quite as fun to fight as humans, but they would be if you were playing this guy.

You can't deny how top-notch the presentation is, however. It may be a two-year-old game, and a game may have come to knock it off its throne as the best-looking PS3 exclusive since then, but it still looks fantastic. The voice acting is also as good as you'd expect from an MGS title. Everyone from the older games returns to reprise their role, and this is definitely David Hayter's best performance of Snake in the series. The music is also good, but I was disappointed to see that Norihiko Hibino didn't compose a single track. He only served as the soundtrack's director. I like Harry Gregson-Williams' material just fine, but I usually like Hibino's contributions the most. On the whole, the OST isn't quite as memorable as the last few games in the series. And you can tell there are many points where the Metal Gear theme would have played, but couldn't thanks to copyright issues.

When you think about it, Kojima tends to pump out his best work when he doesn't pay attention to his fan base. MGS4 is a game whose mere existence is living proof of how there is such a thing as too much fanservice, in a non-sexual way (though if you like the sexual kind, there's plenty of that too). There's an utterly brilliant game in here, but it's drowned deeply into the recesses of a river rife with excess pandering. That's precisely what's so upsetting about the end result of this game, and it's a crying shame that it's from a person...well, people capable of putting out much better work.

Puzzle Quest 2 - Yet More Bejeweled Battles

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Puzzle Quest 2 Banner.jpg
Note: this is a review of the PC version that was released on Steam earlier this month

Lo and behold, as soon as the world was starting to get sick of Konami's Puzzle Chronicles, Namco has released Puzzle Quest 2 onto Xbox 360, DS, and now Steam.  It seems the world has fallen in love with games where you match three icons together to tell a story.

This entry in the genre is probably the first that I've seen that qualifies as a sequel, and yet it's more a sequel in the Final Fantasy way than in the God of War way, especially if you consider it's actually the third Puzzle Quest game and not the second.

First of all, Puzzle Quest 2 navigates very differently than the first one.  In the first Puzzle Quest, characters wandered around a world map that resembled a Final Fantasy Tactics map: there were set paths around the world that your character had to follow, and they occasionally ran into monsters that they had to kill by swapping gems around and matching them.  In Puzzle Quest 2, the original system was thrown out in favour of a Torchlight-style isometric view of the world.  There is only one city in Puzzle Quest 2, as opposed to the number of cities in the first game, and instead of selecting options from a menu (which seems to be a staple in games these days), your character can actually navigate around the city manually.  Thanks to this system, the world feels more open and explorable than in the first game.

As for the battle system, thy couldn't call it Puzzle Quest and change the battle system, could they?  So in Puzzle Quest 2, the battle system returns.  Players match three coloured gems to build their mana pool up, and when they have enough power saved up, they can then unleash a spell to attack their opponent or increase their own defense, etc.  The board also contains skulls, which inflict damage upon the opponent when matched, and new action gems which build up action points just like coloured gems build up mana points and can be used to inflict physical damage when enough of them are saved up.  The big difference between physical damage and magical damage is that it's possible for physical damage to become critical if you're lucky enough for the game's random number generator to roll in your favour.  If four gems are matched, the player is granted an extra turn and if five are matched, an extra turn is awarded and a wild gem is added to the board.  If the player is lucky and enough of a chain reaction is triggered, it becomes a Heroic Effort, which grants bonus experience and an extra turn, and places a wild gem on the board.


But speaking of the random number generator, it seems like some of the enemies curry favour with it.  It's like supernatural luck is a racial bonus for the Imp, for example.  How I hated them with a passion.  Sometimes, they seemed to know exactly what they had to do to set a Heroic Effort in motion, and they would do it each time.  But: while other reviewers seem to think that the computer is a cheating bastard (they claim it knows what gems are coming next and can plan ahead), I think that the AI programmed into the game is supernaturally lucky and at the same time dumb as a sack of doorknobs.  I cannot count how many times the AI was able to pull an awesome move out of its ass and find a way to dominate the board far longer than it should've, only for it to ignore some of the more obvious moves and do something stupid and futile in the very next turn.  Certain enemies had healing abilities that required pieces drawn from the board, and I actually saw them try to use it when none of the gems it needed were present to be taken.  Quite obviously, they healed themselves for 0 HP.

Also, I found that I couldn't always trust the helpful hint that the game automatically provides.  Oh, I could trust it when it was pointing out where I could match four or five gems, but when it was suggesting a regular three gem match, I found that more often than not, it was suggesting a move that would set the enemy up for something nice.  It's as if the game only hinted the four and five gem matches because it was obligated to, not because it wanted to, and got revenge by hindering me whenever possible.  At one point, I tried setting the hint to wait a while before showing up, just because I felt the game was too easy with it, but short of turning it off completely, it seems to show up whenever it wants to, no matter if you asked it to show up right away or after some time has passed.

I don't know what the appeal is in PC RPGs to completely randomize what equipment shows up in shops and in treasure chests.  I didn't even visit the weapon and armour shops in this game, and didn't try shopping at the blacksmith's, either.  If I happened to pick up a piece of equipment that was better than what I previously had, then I equipped it and sold the old piece.  That's about it.  The only money I spent was when I went to improve my equipment at the aforementioned blacksmith's.

The first game made you play mini-games to do everything.  And I mean everything.  If I wanted to use the blacksmith's, I had to play a match-three mini-game.  If I wanted to learn a spell from a captured enemy, I had to play a pre-set match-three mini-game.  Etc.  This time around, the blacksmith does his thing automatically.  I still learn spells in a pre-set match-three mini-game, but the puzzles seem easier this time around.  Or maybe I was just more patient when I solved them all.  I don't know.  New match-three mini-games involve picking locks, bashing down doors, magically unlocking doors, and searching the room for hidden traps, gold, or ambushes.  It's like the developers realized that the original mini-games were too much of a hassle to play and came up with some better ones instead.  Not only that, but they're more forgiving this time around.  Winning or losing a mini-game is now determined by whether or not you run out of turns before your objective is met.  In the first game, if you reached a position on the board where you could no longer make a move, you lost the mini-game.  The one exception is the treasure mini-game.  If you run out of moves, then you've taken all the treasure you can get, and the mini-game is declared over.


Most of the 50-60 hours it takes to finish the game will be taken up with gem matching, and that's quite a long time to spend in any one battle system, especially when it takes about five to ten minutes to kill enemies late in the game.  If the music gets boring, and it's bound to get boring, it's probably a good idea to turn it off and listen to something else for a while.  The boss music is kinda epic, but more like LARPer epic rather than Sephiroth epic, so you're not missing much if you do decide you'd much rather match gems with Guns & Roses playing in the background.  I'm just happy that the game isn't ugly, too, even if the story is a basic bad guys doing bad things story.  Music, you can turn off.  Graphics... not so much.

I won't spend much time on the multiplayer aspects, but will mention that there are some.  Unfortunately, and I really should address this one of these days, I can be quite the antisocial gamer.  I rarely play so-called "party" games, I've Wii Bowled a grand total of three times, and my last foray into MMORPGland lasted one day.  I stopped going to Yahoo! Games years ago, same with Pogo after they got rid of my favourite game there, and I've recently turned down an invitation to download and play Left 4 Dead 2 with some of my very best friends.  If you're wondering whether the multiplayer mode in Puzzle Quest 2 is any good, I would advise you to try it yourself.

Would I recommend this game?  Maybe.  If you're a die-hard fan of the match three genre and love playing through games with stories attached to them, then this game will keep you happy until the next company puts out their own version.  But if you've grown sick and tired of the genre and just wish it would roll over and die already, the new Kingdom Hearts prequel drops in about a week and a half, and I can guarantee, you won't be matching gems to power the keyblade.

Gaming Harmony

For the last couple of months I've been collecting video games. Some games are in the form of collector's editions and others are Xbox Live Arcade games. Finding the time to actually play the games has been something of an issue lately. Fortunately I did make time to try out one new game and found it interesting enough to share my first impressions.


To be completely honest if Geoff still had an Xbox 360 he would have either wrote about his first impressions of Castlevania: Harmony of Despair or had a review up by now. After all, he's a pretty big Castlevania fan. I've only played Symphony of the Night (which Geoff introduced me to) and a small amount of Castlevania: The Adventure ReBirth. Despite my lack of serious experience I found Harmony of Despair too intriguing to pass up, so I downloaded the game and played it for a few hours. I started out with Soma Cruz and familiarized myself with the controls. (Given my previous experience with SotN Alucard might have been a smarter choice.) I found the game to play pretty similar to SotN instead of ReBirth which I'm thankful for-- as ReBirth's controls are a constant struggle for me. Soma started out with an unwieldy axe and the ability to toss skeleton bones. Honestly, I found the ability to gather enemy skills and summons more useful than Soma's default weapon. After making it to the boss and losing I tried again the following night.

It was at this point a friend of mine logged on to Live and sent me a game invite. We struggled to get a co-op session going at first but found success in setting up a private two player game. He played as Shanoa and I kept Soma. I knew he'd played the game several times before over the past few nights but the difference in our abilities and character levels became clear very quickly. As my Soma awkwardly slashed at enemies with a recently acquired sword, his Shanoa easily blasted them with magic and the rest were efficiently put down with melee attacks. He then began to use mounts in the wall to propel himself up while I was stuck platforming. Finally I asked him "How the hell are you doing that?!" and he replied, "She has magnets." With a mental sigh and feeling terribly underpowered I continued on. We eventually made it the boss where I was killed but he was able to beat it. At the very least I was able to hit the boss with bones in skeleton form until I was revived. After the fight I took a moment to equip the items I'd found before we played the first chapter again. As we played he explained some of the more obscure controls to me. Eventually we made our way to the boss again and on our second go I was able to help slay it without dying.

First and foremost playing at least one 2D Castlevania game is a prerequisite before even attempting to play Harmony of Despair. If I had not played a single Castlevania game before playing HD I would have found this already difficult game even harder to play. Secondly, playing with a friend or several friends is a much more rewarding experience than going at it alone. Actually, this game focuses so heavily on co-op that attempting to finish it alone may be nearly impossible. While some many find the 30 minute time limit to be a drag I found it to be more than enough to time to reach the boss, although I can't say the same for later levels. I do like the fact that even though death is annoying (in the single player experience anyway) all of your items and power-ups don't go away. This is definitely a game geared toward collecting items and power-ups instead of exploration. I can also understand why fans of traditional Castlevania games might be turned off by the experience. Any one up for a challenge with friends, or one hell of a challenge in single player mode will probably get some enjoyment from Harmony of Despair. However, I can't see anyone being satisfied with the lack of proper game instructions, only being able to equip items at certain check points, and the complete inability to pause the game. On a final note, having online-only co-op sounds like a crazy idea until you realize all the money Konami can potentially make by having friends persuade other friends to buy the game in order to play together.


The premium edition of Ys Seven is another game that I recently got my hands on. Unlike Castlevania HD this game quickly went into my pile of unfinished PSP JRPGs. I've never actually played an Ys game but being a sucker for collector's editions (especially from niche publishers) I couldn't pass this one up. I found the game trailers and examples of gameplay to be heartening and the first reviews are fairly positive. It's also nice to know Ys Seven can be experienced without having knowledge of prior Ys games. I might bump this one up in the queue after Persona 3: Portable and Lunar Silver Star Harmony. As for the actual premium addition I was surprised to discover how large the box itself was. The map is surprisingly nice-- nicer than the collector's map that came with Lunar Silver Star Story Complete. I have yet to listen to the soundtrack, and the art book is simply gorgeous. I just hope I find the game to be just as interesting as the collector's edition, unlike Record of Agarest War which I find to be too slow-paced at the moment. Fortunately Ys Seven looks a lot more promising.

Metroid: Other M TV Commercial

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Nintendo is bringing out the big guns in publishing Metroid: Other M in America. It's not surprising either, it's a game whose content is easy to advertise outside of Japan. Metroid has never been very popular in its home country, but has been much more well received in America. It's funny, because the original Metroid for NES sold a little over a million in Japan, but no other Metroid has come close to that. If Other M sells over 100,000 copies in Japan, it will be the third best-selling Metroid game ever -- though keep in mind that no record of Metroid II or Super Metroid's sales in Japan exist. Nintendo of America definitely knows who to advertise it to here.

But they seriously outdid themselves:

This is the Other M commercial making the rounds on various television networks, and yeah, it's pretty great. It's the best video game commercial I've seen in a very long time.

Nintendo's finally begun advertising games that are aimed squarely at gamers again. There was also a pretty good Sin & Punishment 2 spot aired a while back (though it didn't prevent it from being a sales bomb, sadly), which marked the first time Nintendo advertised a core-aimed game since Advance Wars: Days of Ruin back in January '08:

Speaking of that franchise, Advance Wars is also another series that's had a better time in America than Japan, despite being Japanese. In fact, Days of Ruin never saw the light of day in Japan. 

Both of these are pretty cool, so I guess I can forgive them for not publishing Last Window here and apparently passing on releasing Golden Sun: Dark Dawn by the end of the year. It is on track to release in Japan by the end of the year, however, according to its official website. You know what? Golden Sun is another franchise Japanese franchise of Nintendo's that has been more popular in America, though to a lesser extent than the aforementioned two. We seem to have quite a few of those, and they all make for interesting examples.

Metroid: Other M releases for Wii in every major territory next week. 

That Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm 2 Demo...

| No Comments the shortest, most content-lite demo I've ever played. Seriously, I'm in awe.

narutoshippudenuns2pic_082510.jpgPerhaps it's something I should have realized upon seeing that the file size was a mere 240MB, but it still felt threadbare after playing through it. The hypothesis that compression could have been the cause of the small file may have been adequate prior to playing it, but nope. My immediate reaction afterward was wondering whether I missed something, but again, nope. And part of that file size is reserved to having the choice of both English and Japanese languages.

Otherwise, it was a fun five minutes. It consists of merely the first boss battle, which pits Naruto (with Sakura as an assist character) against Kakashi. Prior to the battle, instructions about how to control your character -- well, characters if you want to throw Sakura into the mix, but you only summon here with L1 or R1 -- are plastered all over the screen. The description makes it seem awfully daunting, but upon beginning the battle you'll see how easy it is to play. The battle overall is pretty easy as well, allowing you to easily grok the controls. Please keep in mind that I'm someone who didn't play the first game, so the game's style reminded me mostly of Power Stone.

The presentation is utterly fantastic, with some cel-shaded HD graphics the anime wished it looked like. There are also a few beautiful piano renditions of some of the music from the game. I'm sure Naruto fans are already sold on this game. I haven't been too much of a fan since the original series' descent into the void of fillerville, but I enjoyed the demo. If you're not a fan, I don't know if I can recommend it. If only the demo had more content.

narutotomygames_082510.jpgIn recent news, looks like Atlus is publishing some Naruto games, namely Naruto Shippuden: Naruto vs. Sasuke for DS and Naruto Shippuden: Dragon Blade Chronicles for Wii. Atlus fans' reaction? Utter rage, and I'd expect nothing less from the internet. Of course, it's all silly since they're merely publishing the Naruto games being localized by Tomy. I'm all for it if this helps Atlus make some money. Besides, they've published much worse. Any company that took a chance on a game like Shiren the Wanderer, which sadly tanked so badly that it probably killed the chances of any other game getting localized in the franchise for a good while, has definitely not sold out. Heck, their name isn't even on the covers.

Cover Art Chronicles: Metal Gear Solid's Cover History, Part I

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coverartchroniclesbanner.jpgMetal Gear Solid -- and that's strictly speaking about "Solid," not any of the other games in the franchise or the spin-offs -- have had an interesting cover history. It's mostly been rather positive, standing in stark contrast to many other franchises. But in the last few years, they've taken a different turn and adopted an alternate overall style. Not for the better, unfortunately.

Many fans of the franchise, me included, love Yoji Shinkawa's art style that always accompanies the games in the direct franchise, and some of the spin-offs. His art used to be featured prominently on the covers of Metal Gear games worldwide, but for some strange reason, it's something we're not seeing much anymore. That's a shame too, because using art on the cover helps it stand out amongst the legions of generic titles that use CG (sometimes pretty badly) on their cover. The marketing execs of numerous companies seem to believe that consumers, especially in America, prefer to have their covers CG, based on the data they've supposedly obtained. Whether that data is empirical or anecdotal is unknown.

This is exactly what led to the Castlevania: Lords of Shadow cover situation. The standard edition, which most people will buy, has CG artwork for the cover. The LE, aimed at dedicated fans who are usually willing to spend more than most. An argument could be made for the LE not being worth an extra $20 (because it isn't), but that's another post (that I probably won't make). Both covers have received changes since that post, but they're only minor.

mgsuscover_082410.jpgRumor has it that Metal Gear Solid's cover wasn't originally going to be this, but the team working with the game internally fought to have this cover. Glad they did, too, because here we have something that's beautiful in its simplicity. The Japanese cover is the same. The European cover does use Shinkawa's art, but it doesn't come off as well. There's a lesson here: making a nice cover doesn't merely entail using art, but using it efficiently.

mgs2covers_082410.jpgAll of the covers for Metal Gear Solid 2 use Shinkawa's art, though Japan's is different from what America and Europe received. This cover comparison is actually quite hilarious for anyone who played MGS2 back in the day. The big surprise for MGS2 was that you'd actually be playing a new character named Raiden for most of the game, rather than Solid Snake; the complete opposite of what the hype and American and European cover art would imply. The Japanese cover ruins this surprise, but that's probably not a bad thing considering the negative reaction fans had to being robbed of controlling Snake.

mgs3covers_082410.jpgMetal Gear Solid 3 is one of the rare cases of each territory having a different cover. Both Japan and Europe got Shinkawa's art, with the European one being a not-as-good variant of what's present on the Japanese cover. Comparing the two, the Japanese cover immediately wins for including one of the best female characters in video games, The Boss, on the cover. Meanwhile, the American cover takes a different approach, with Shinkawa art being at the top and CG used for the remaining aspects. It's awfully busy, and certainly the least appealing cover, though the CG use isn't quite as bad as some other covers.

mgs4covers_082410.jpgLike this one! Apparently someone thought Old Snake's face was incredibly appealing for Metal Gear Solid 4's cover; so appealing that they wanted to show everyone through the cover. It's not, and it's not supposed to be either, which makes for an unappealing cover. A shame Japan's cover suffered the same fate. Surprisingly, though Europe's cover also has a close-up of Snake, it does it using Shinkawa art. It's by far the best of the covers.

In fact, MGS4 has the same situation as the aforementioned Lords of Shadow. I'm saving the LE cover for one of the next entries, though.

This is only the first entry in this series, which should be wrapped up in the next entry. Unless I find something else to talk about.

Last week Wired Magazine journalists Chris Anderson and Michael Wolff boldly proclaimed "the web is dead." Anderson and Wolff quickly pointed out the internet is very much alive, but the web (i.e. traditional web browsers) are quickly falling out of use. The duo highlighted the rise of devices that utilize apps in order to access the internet such as smart phones, tablets, and current generation video game consoles. The pair also noted that internet access via apps means larger companies ultimately control more content and the internet is slowly becoming a closed platform. If you're rolling your eyes at the notion of the web being dead Evan Hansen, another Wired Magazine journalist is inclined agree. In a "not so fast!" rebuttal Hansen argued how the web is very much alive.

If you own a smartphone bandwidth caps may or may not be a daily part of life depending on your provider. Thanks to the success of the iPhone and its various data-consuming apps AT&T has imposed bandwidth limits on its users. Recently the Android has become quite successful and is even outselling the iPhone. Android users also consume more data than iPhone users. With that said it should come as no surprise to learn that cellphone carriers (the ones selling the Android anyway) will soon impose bandwidth limits on their users.

With the rise of the internet and devices that allow people to do multiple things at once multi-tasking is all the rage. Many people consider themselves to be great multi-taskers as they juggle a variety of similar tasks at the same time. A recent UK study suggest what many people who don't multi-task knew all along, it's not really possible for most people to do two very similar things at once and to do them well. Changing gears, internet slang is nothing new. Yet many places like courtrooms are unfamiliar with popular internet slang, which makes for interesting witness questioning among older lawyers and judges.

While we're on the subject of courts, if the group behind the PSJailbreak hack releases a USB dongle powered with software that allows gamers to hack their PS3s is successful they could face the legal wrath of Sony. Unlike other current gen consoles and handhelds the PS3 has not been hacked. If PSJailbreak has their way all of that could change, if the unreleased hack is indeed real-- and it probably is. At a price of $150 dollars the hack maybe limited in popularity, or it may simply be pirated shortly after it hits the market. Now that would be ironic.

In other PlayStation news, if you ever wanted to know what happened to games downloaded for free through PlayStation Plus after a subscription expires the answer is pretty simple. Users are either offered the choice to renew their PS Plus subscription, buy the full version of the game, while some PS1 games simply continue to work despite being expired. In more interesting news Mass Effect 2 is arriving on the PS3 in January. The PS3 version promises to be loaded with hours of extra content, most likely in the form of included DLC. The only downside would be the inability for PS3 users to import their original Mass Effect save data into ME2, which effectively means a player has to start from scratch. The original game was published in part by Microsoft Game Studios (making it a 360 exclusive) while the sequel was published by EA. At least PS3 owners can probably look forward to Mass Effect 3 on the PS3 and the ability to import save files.

Switching back to the issue of piracy, a few manga creators expressed their opinions about those who illegally upload their work. Much of it may be a joke but the frustration is definitely there.

Recommended Soundtracks: Shin Megami Tensei: Nocturne

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recommendedsoundtracksbanner.jpgJust as Shin Megami Tensei: Nocturne isn't your average Japanese RPG, its soundtrack is also very different from what you'd hear in other RPGs.

Nocturne's soundtrack represents some of the best work from mainstay Megaten music composer Shoji Meguro. Your opinion of "best" will depend on which of his music styles you prefer. The Persona titles are certainly more, but not completely, lighthearted than your average Megaten game, and have music that accompanies that thematic choice. Not to say they don't get a little dreary at times, but it's nothing as harrowing as what's represented in a game like Nocturne.

(And on the other side of the spectrum, you have the detective TV show-esque theme of the PS2 Devil Summoner titles.)

smtnocturneost_082210.jpgThe cover to the soundtrack released with the game's first pressing in America.

In fact, "harrowing" is a good word to describe the entire soundtrack. Your usual JRPG would have a serene, calming theme to be used for towns, but that's unnecessary in a game where humans are nearly non-existent. Anyone who's played Nocturne can tell you that the game isn't harrowing only for its derelict world, haunting music, or Kazuma Kaneko's beautifully creepy-looking demons; the game is maddeningly difficult. But it's hard in a way that it rewards a brilliantly-crafted strategy through understanding the game's core features, and not in a way that it's needlessly esoteric (*cough*Unlimited Saga*cough*).

Perhaps the most interesting aspect of Nocturne's music is that it's far creepier than it initially lets on. Some of the game's music themes contain vocals that could easily be mistaken for the ominous chanting, the kind you hear in a lot of JRPGs post "One Winged Angel." But no, a good portion of these music themes actually have English lyrics buried within them, though they're tough to hear. It's something you probably won't recognize in the actual game, as you'll be too occupied with figuring out how to survive each battle. Upon booting up the soundtrack and listening very, very closely to the battle themes, you'll discover the meaning behind the music. Unsurprisingly, it's mostly pretty disturbing.

Please note that these lyrics are open to some interpretation, since Atlus didn't release a sheet with official lyrics. These were obtained with help from Atlus' USA forums.

Take the main boss battle theme for instance. In the game, you'll be busy hoping you have the right demons and spells to take the bosses down, and hope they don't unleash any attacks that could leave your party reeling for HP. But there are some...interesting lyrics here:

We sacrificed the son of god!
Man's greatest glimpse of fire red!
Haven't they lost their stable prayers from our greatest god?
Answer our prayers! Help us!

God! Almighty God! Can you hear me?
God! Almighty God! Can you hear me?

Yikes. But it means quite a bit in the context of the game:

"Normal Battle (Large Map)," the battle theme that plays on the overworld map, also has a few lyrics far into it:

Maybe you have ought to suffer
You have doomed creation and fate
You lead them all to death
You little demons are caught in our web

Those lyrics could refer to you and the demons that have sided with you. It makes a lot of sense when you meet the forces behind this entire ordeal:

This one doesn't have any lyrics, but it's one, of my personal favorite battle themes in the game: "Battle - Amala Network." It's also played the least compared to the others. That's probably because it's a remixed theme from Super Famicom title Shin Megami Tensei: If... and was thrown in as a little Easter egg. Still, it's a great theme:

One of my personal pet peeves with certain JRPGs is that many of them use the same battle theme ad infinitum. It's admittedly not as bad when the main battle theme is incredibly good, but even then it can still get a little annoying - though that's dependent on how long the game is. Many fans who had become a little bored of JRPGs and its all-too-common tropes referred to Nocturne as a breath of fresh air. Some wondered whether future games in the genre would take inspiration from this game. Spoiler: they didn't.

Marvel vs. Capcom 3 Becomes Red Hot

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mvc3pic1_082010.jpgIt looks like Capcom did have something to show for Gamescom this week after all, despite announcing they would skip it entirely. And they brought some Marvel vs. Capcom 3 reveals with them to boot! They're two you knew were coming if you'd been following the media released so far, though. Viewtiful Joe, of the game of the same name, and Dormammu of Dr. Strange (among others) were officially revealed this week. We'd received silhouettes of Viewtiful Joe in the earlier trailers, and Dormammu was shown in the animated E3 trailer. Certainly not the most surprising inclusions for the game, especially since the former appeared in Tatsunoko vs. Capcom.

The surprise here is that, contrary to what some fans previously thought, Dormammu doesn't look like he'll be the final boss of this game. If the previous games are any indication, it'll probably have a massive mammoth of a boss like Apocalypse, Onslaught, or Orochi from the previous Vs. titles. I'd like to see a Capcom villain make the cut, personally.

Joe looks, unsurprisingly, pretty similar to his TvC iteration, much like Ryu and Chun-Li are. He really didn't need to change too much to fit in here. The lack of a black outline doesn't make his character model stand out as much as it did in the VJ games last generation, but he looks fine. The unfortunate part about him is that he still has the same voice he had in TvC, and Capcom currently isn't using Dee Bradley Baker, who voiced him in his own games. Baker mentioned he hadn't been contacted on his Twitter. This game won't release for a while, but they'll probably not going to change this. Hopefully I'm wrong.

mvc3pic2_082010.jpgMeanwhile, Dormammu looks as great as you'd expect, and has a fittingly menacing voice. His music is, well, not as menacing. But it's possible the trailer version is using a different mix, so we'll see how it sounds in game soon enough. I hope it sounds more frightening.

Most companies don't take Gamescom as seriously as E3 (though they're increasingly beginning to), so I'm glad Capcom came with some goods. We have two more characters we've seen in silhouettes that have yet to be revealed: Frank West and Spider-Man. Don't be surprised if Frank plays similarly to his TvC counterpart (in fact, his TvC inclusion may have been in preparation to this), and Spider-Man should be similar to how he was in the earlier Marvel games. Hopefully he still says "Hey!" and "Do Your Job!" as well. Expect them, and hopefully others, to be unveiled at the Tokyo Game Show next month. Meanwhile, check out some new gameplay videos for Viewtiful Joe, Dormammu, and the other characters revealed thus far.


Who's Catherine? Why, she's the new girl in town. The beautiful blond they say has it all.

catherinepic1_081910.jpgYeah, you'd be intrigued too.

Actually, Catherine's the name of a new game from Atlus for Playstation 3 and Xbox 360. It's being developed by the team that brought you Persona 3 and 4, and will be Atlus' first foray into HD gaming. Atlus, according to this week's Famitsu and their respective website (the latter of which I pilfered the screens you see here from), is claiming this will be a hybrid of action, adventure, and horror. Oh, and eroticism. I don't think anyone knows how this will turn out right now, but that is one hell of a formula.

catherinepic2_081910.jpgSpot the Easter egg in this pic!

There are a couple of familiar names tied to this project. Katsura Hashino is serving as the producer and director, assuming the same roles he had in the aforementioned Persona games.  Shigenori Soejima, also of those Persona games and Stella Deus: The Gate of Eternity, is providing the character designs. Shoji Meguro, of many Shin Megami Tensei games, is providing the music. All of them say this game will be more adult-oriented than their previous games, and will be something no one would expect from this team. Who knows what they mean about that right now, or in what context.

Catherine is  about a 32-year-old man named Vincent, a single salaryman with no ambitions in life. He receives an unexpected surprise when he meets 22-year-old woman named Catherine, and his life begins to turn upside down in ways both good and bad. It's not that Catherine isn't his type, because her figure makes him fall for her immediately, but he also starts having bizarre nightmares he wasn't having before. This dream has him climbing a seemingly unending set of stairs, a dream he'll never wake up from unless he makes it to the top. It sounds like something from one of Haruki Murakami's supernatural novels, but that's precisely what makes it so intriguing.

catherinepic3_081910.jpgDon't you wish you had dreams like this?

Some of you folks who are well versed in anime might notice Vincent's similarity to Spike Spiegel of Cowboy Bebop. Funniest thing, Vincent, like Spike, is voiced by Koichi Yamadera. Catherine's voice is provided by Miyuki Sawashiro, by the way. Atlus' Trauma Team, released on Wii a few months ago, also has a character that looks similar to Spike (though not voiced by Yamadera). Some of you also might have noticed that Vincent had a cameo in Persona 3 Portable.

Atlus is keeping mum on all the gameplay features this will have at the moment, but they don't have a lot of time to keep this a secret. They'll probably show more of the game at the Tokyo Game Show in a month, if they attend this year. This game is planned for a Japanese release in Winter 2010, and a release outside of Japan is unknown at the moment. This game won't be too risque, as the ad included in this week's Famitsu, complete with a tantalizing picture of how Charlotte eats pizza, indicates that CERO (Japan's rating system) has given it a C rating. CERO refuses to rate games with explicit nudity, so it shouldn't have any more sexual content than a game like Heavy Rain (which this game may have something in common with) or God of War 3. Also, I highly doubt they'd be bothering with a 360 release if it wasn't getting localized.

It's worth nothing that this game is very likely an indicator of where Persona 5 will end up, and what graphics system it will use. I certainly wouldn't mind if it looked like this. Graphically, of course. Atlus is a big fan of starting on a new generation of consoles with a game in a genre its fans wouldn't expect from them; similar to Maken X, a first-person hack 'n slasher for Dreamcast. Take a look at more of the screen shots and the first trailer on, though I wouldn't recommend viewing them at work. The official Japanese website opens Monday.

Information courtesy of AndriaSang.

Cognition Dissemination: The Potential Problem With the 3DS

cognitiondisseminationbanner.jpgYou've undoubtedly been hearing quite a bit about the 3DS all around the internet, this blog included. You really can't blame anyone for bringing it up, because a number of things about it look great. And hopefully it will get the media, and most gamers in general, to take portable gaming seriously. They did for a time around the PSP's launch, but that quickly dissipated when Sony fumbled about with how to market the system. The 3DS is already looking to be home to some great games, but there's a potential problem.

nintend3dspic_081810.jpgThe thing about the 3DS is that only the top screen, a 3.5 inch widescreen display, is capable of showing 3D, with the touch screen being the same 3 inch one you see now on your DS or DS Lites (albeit with better horsepower behind it). Instead of allowing developers to have a focus on any screen given they had an even aspect ratio with the original model, all attention looks like it will be primarily fixed on the top screen this time around. This could hinder the development of games that primarily rely on using the touch screen.

The technology currently exists to make a touch screen capable of reverting between 2D and 3D, but it's possible Nintendo incorporated a non-3D one to keep the cost of the hardware down -- for them and you. That, or they fell having two different screens capable of 3D would cause illnesses or blow the minds of players. Or that the touch screen wasn't efficient enough to be used for gaming. The worrying aspect is we may not get games on the scale of Kirby's Canvas Curse or The World Ends With You; that is, game's that used the system's touch screen in an innovative manner and couldn't be done on other systems.

It's gonna be a little harder to get that TWEWY sequel. It's going to be much harder to get that Kirby Canvas Curse sequel.

This could also mean something to people who play comparatively smaller games like Solitaire and Bejeweled. Those aren't games that could use 3D for any serious function, but a little added eye candy wouldn't hurt. Anyone who owns those games would have no incentive to purchase a new version of the aforementioned games. You Bejeweled fans can just sit around and ponder how good a Puzzle Quest game could look with the pieces popping out at you. You won't get that here.

That is...unless developers can find a viable workaround. It may be possible to replicate what's on the touch screen on the top screen to present it in 3D. It's something that would require the player to look constantly at the top and bottom constantly. That would work well for a puzzle game, and would be OK for a TWEWY-esque game (because it requires that anyway), but would be impossible for a game like Canvas Curse. And here people thought the 3DS would be less challenging to approach than the DS for developers.

None of this is doubting that the 3DS won't have the ability to have some great games. In fact, its initial lineup already looks incredibly promising, and it will have enough support at this point that any competitor wouldn't stand much of a chance at this point. The question will be how developers can deal with a new obstacle. Whichever way it turns out, it's going to be an incredibly fun ride, to watch and experience.

Atlus' Radiance

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Japanese RPG fans with a DS may want to keep their eye on Radiant Historia, a game announced by Atlus in Famitsu a few weeks back.

radianthistorabox_081710.pngFor a game this late in the system's life, it...well, it's certainly not a looker. We're seeing games now that really take advantage of the system's 3D hardware like Dragon Quest IX and Okamiden, sure, but that's missing the point in terms of this game. Atlus usually isn't put out games that push a console to its limits as far as technology is concerned, but anyone who's played a lot of their games knows that they have the ability of taking something low budget and making it shine. Both Persona 3 and Persona 4 are examples of this; it's the substance that counts most, after all.

Initial (and logical) speculation suggested that this game was a spiritual sequel to Tri-Ace's Radiata Stories. The concept is by the same person, and a little of the staff responsible for that game are on board for this one, including one of the character designers in Hiroshi Konishi. The only initial difference in staff involved was the music composer, with Noriyuki Iwadare being replaced by the eerily omnipresent Yoko Shimomura. But it was later revealed that most of the staff consists of members who took part in the development of the aforementioned Persona games and Shin Megami Tensei: Strange Journey.

radianthistoriapic_081710.jpgRadiant Historia takes place in the land of Vancool, and the main character, Stok (no, really) lives in the country of Alicetel. Alicetel is, unfortunately, not in a good state, with the country being in the heat of war and on the verge of becoming a desert wasteland. Stok eventually stumbles upon the power to travel through time, and is told that he and his power will be important for the fate of the world. It sounds generic on the surface, but how the story will be told will be the most important factor. You'll be able to see enemies on the field, and it uses a turn-based battle system.

Also, the plot has nothing at all to do with Radiata Stories. Don't rule out the possible appearance of a few nods scattered around the game, though. In fact, I'd be shocked if there weren't any.

Radiant Historia hits Japan on November 3rd. It hasn't been confirmed for America, but Atlus has a good track record with releasing games for systems after most of the competition has abandoned them for a shinier, newer gadget, so there's a good chance for localization. Be sure to take a look at the official Japanese website, especially to hear a sample of Shimomura compositions.

Information courtesy of AndriaSang.

This week's Geek News Roundup will actually be on time for once! Now that can be considered an amazing feat given the last few weeks.

Last Monday Google announced it would partner with Verizon to form an unholy alliance. Actually, let me rephrase that less dramatically. Google and Verizon announced a plan that would allow ISPs to pay for the privilege of providing content faster to their users on a separate network. Think of it as a paid fast lane where the largest companies can offer quick access to their content while independent content providers are stuck in the slow lanes. Amusingly, Google condemned such a practice several years ago, then it turned its back on the concept of net neutrality in favor of a partnership with Verizon. Another blow to the idea of net neutrality came when talks between the FCC, Google and Verizon broke down. The FCC had been pushing for an open internet for years now via regulation of ISPs but recently lost a court challenge to Comcast. Yet supporters of net neutrality decided to take matters into their own hands by calling Google out on its about-face and by staging protests at the internet giant's California headquarters. Many people have expressed concern over Google's change in attitude while others saw it coming for years now. Googlezon*, anyone? Okay, maybe not. More like Google shaping the rules in its favor in preparation for the Android phone to eventually overtake Apple's iPhone. Just beware of possible virus attacks if you currently are or plan to become a Droid user.

Last week Nintendo revealed it sold 30 million Wii units within the United States and 70 million worldwide. If that's not a high saturation of Wii units I don't know what is. Still, the PS2 holds the record for the highest number of total sales at 140 million units sold worldwide. Only the DS comes close to that number with just under 130 million units sold worldwide. Sure, sales of the Wii could go up but with Kinect and Move on the horizon Nintendo is probably more interested in the 3DS. On a random note if Tetsuya Nomura ever got his way he'd really want to create a sequel to The World Ends With You. Such a game (if it ever came to fruition which I doubt at this point), would probably be on the 3DS.

If you're a big fan of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 and you just happen to have various SNK demos downloaded to your 360's hard drive you may have stumbled upon one hell of a glitch. While running Modern Warfare 2 gamers who accessed demos of certain SNK titles from within MW2 activated a glitch that temporarily unlocked five games. For those curious the games were Garou: Mark of the Wolves, The King of Fighters '98 Ultimate Match, Metal Slug 3, Metal Slug XX, and Samurai Shodown II. As of this writing the glitch probably has been patched as I can't imagine Microsoft, Activision, and SNK not doing anything about the problem.

For those more interested in seeing Spider-Man on Broadway (rather than the Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions video game) the musical is finally getting a December release date. At a budget of $50 million to produce the on-stage sets better be really impressive. For those of you unable to watch Dragon Ball Z Kai on Nicktoons you will finally be able to see the series on network TV, via Toonzai (formally TheCW4Kids). Just make sure you don't stick around for Yu-Gi-Oh! 5D's and Sonic X.

*Give or take a few concepts, I wonder how far off that Googlezon warning will be in ten year's time, sans the -zon part. Or perhaps by the time we'll have all submitted to the will of Facebook, Apple, or some other power-drunken firm. And Geoff, you can stop laughing now.

Recommended Soundtracks: Street Fighter EX

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recommendedsoundtracksbanner.jpgYou know you're out of ideas when you're recycling old ones and try to pass them off as something new.

Which could be something the, oh, three of you who've had ample experience with both Street Fighter EX and Street Fighter EX 3 might be thinking. Everyone else is just wondering what the heck I'm talking about. This entry will be about Street Fighter EX's soundtrack, but most of the tracks from this game made their way into the third game in the form of character themes. So to speak, they kind of share the same soundtrack. EX 3 does have a soundtrack of its own, however, which contained themes for characters introduced in this spin-off that didn't have themes in the previous game, along with individual stage themes. This means I kind of regret using "Precious Heart" in that entry, but it's not like there aren't plenty of other perfectly recommendable tracks.

The Street Fighter EX games, developed by Arika, were the franchise's first foray into 3D, something the results of which would have been interesting regardless of whether it turned out messy. You'll find a plethora of different opinions on the games around the internet, but they're actually pretty competent fighting games. It wasn't a perfect transition from 2D to 3D because of how loose the controls felt; something many of us wouldn't have realized if Rival Schools hadn't shown us how to perfectly adapt 2D fighting game controls into 3D.  A pity no one noticed that game.

Also, by "competent," I'm referring to the first two games. The figuratively phoned in third game is best left not discussed, unless you're talking about the soundtrack.

sfexost_081510.jpgThe jump to 3D meant venturing into the unknown for Street Fighter, so a soundtrack was composed that could also be relegated to comparatively unfamiliar territory. Capcom and Arika hired Shinji Hosoe, Ayako Saso, and Takayuki Aihara for the job. The results? Three of the best soundtracks in the franchise's history. It's also criminally underrated, but that's precisely what makes it a good candidate for an entry like this.

This is "Spinning Bird," Chun-Li's theme for the series, something I hope you guessed if you're a fan of the franchise. You may notice that while some of the character themes may be inspired by their Street Fighter II themes, they're given a different approach. I like this theme more than her SFII theme; a shame Capcom apparently refuses to use it again, assuming they own the rights:

Here we have "Garnet Sky," used for new characters Cracker Jack and Blair Dame. If you think it sounds like something inspired by numerous western themes, you'd be right, as that's also the kind of stage they fight in. You could probably accurately picture the stage. If there's one aspect you could knock the EX games for legitimately, it's the bland backgrounds:

"Arabesque" is the theme for the semi-popular wealthy Arabian Pullum Purna. This theme fits both the character and the stage perfectly, but that doesn't mean it's not nice to hear outside of the game. I see this song played over quite a few Youtube videos of Street Fighter IV matches, and some fans have admitted to using this song while using the custom soundtrack feature:

This entry was awfully tough to write, as I have plenty of recommendations for this soundtrack. I needed to fit in "Strange Sunset" for how delightfully smooth and jazzy it sounds, and it's the exact antithesis of "Precious Heart," which uses a fast-paced tempo and is heavy on the saxophone. All three EX games have some of the best music in the franchise, but it's one of the least praised.

The second financial quarter was not kind to Nintendo. From April 1st to June 30th Nintendo saw net sales, net income, and operating income decline compared to this time last year. In comparison net sales were at $2.9 billion last year versus $2.19 billion this year, while net income fell to $264 million down from $460 million, and operating income fell to $264 million versus last year's $483 million. The company blamed a lower DS price point and the strengthening of the yen. I'd argue that Nintendo's sales of the DS and the Wii have reached a saturation point with so many units sold worldwide. It appears as if the timing of the upcoming 3DS couldn't be better as hardware sales slump. For those eager to shell out cash for Nintendo's newest handheld a launch date and price point for the 3DS will be announced for Japan on September 29th.

The news for Japanese gaming companies wasn't all dreadful as a few companies did experience profitable second quarters. Konami saw profits jump as income rose from $4.2 million to $14.2 million dollars. The news wasn't all rosy as revenue was down from $651 million to $618.4 million. Still, 2010 has been a much better year for Konami as big titles such as Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker helped with sales. Square Enix also had a good second quarter as the company raked in $20 million in profits. The company stated that strong sales of Final Fantasy XIII in the West and increased globalization helped greatly with profit.

The bad news continues for the anime distribution giant, FUNimation Entertainment. FUNimation's profits for the second quarter were only $895,000 compared to $3.3 million at this time last year. The company blames a lack of steady Dragon Ball Z releases for the 2011 fiscal year. To make matters worse Navarre (FUNimation's parent company) will decide if it wants to sell the company in two quarters. Right now the company has been listed as "discontinued operations" clearing the way for a separation from Navarre. Considering FUNimation's profits this year it is clear Dragon Ball Z continues to be the company's primary cash cow despite the variety show it licenses in North America.

On the international front proprietary chargers for cellphones will soon be a thing of the past in Europe. In 2011 Europe will implement a one charger size fits most cellphones law, eliminating the vast variety of cellphone charger shapes and sizes. It is unclear when (or if) such a rule will be implemented in North America. It will also be interesting to see how well the rules work in Europe come 2011. Personally, I'm rooting for USB Mini as it conveniently charges both my cellphone and my PSP ,and it's nice to carry around one wire when traveling. But given the rise of smart phones I doubt USB Mini will be the choice of universal chargers in the United States in the future. One can dream.

Now, here's to hoping the next Geek News Roundup won't end up being so horribly late.

Following The 3rd Birthday

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Well, I sure haven't been following it! At least not in a way that's in-fitting with the current definition of "following."

3rdbirthdaytwitpic1_081410.jpgThe developers behind The 3rd Birthday, the next game in the Parasite Eve franchise that you might remember, launched a Twitter account where they are posting information about the development process, answering questions from fans, and sharing pictures. This might seem ostensibly rudimentary, but it's an interesting step to take for a Japanese company. The Japanese video game development process usually places the team under a strict vow of silence, with information being trickled out to magazines like Famitsu or Dengeki weekly. This is a step towards breaking that vow, regardless of how minimal it is.

But the important question here is what they're talking about. It's not just being used to tell you when the official website has updated; they're actually revealing some interesting information on it, most of which is courtesy of director Hajime Tabata and character designer and producer Tetsuya Nomura. They're, of course, Twittering in Japanese; how fortunate and privileged we are to have multiple sites, the best being AndriaSang, translate some of these conversations for us. I'm not going to post all of the information here, because their feed has given a plethora of info. If you wanted to know whether this installment had a shower scene, look no further.

3rdbirthdaytwitpic2_081410.jpgThe shots you're seeing here are also from their Twitter account. You might have been able to tell that they're taken off a monitor. This game looks like it upscales awfully well. The developers mentioned that the development team they're collaborating with at Hexa Drive had originally planned to make this game for HD consoles (go down to "The 3rd Birthday development structure"). They also mentioned that a sequel will be made for HD consoles, if they have a chance to make a sequel.

Meanwhile, the official website updated this week with some incredibly short gameplay videos in the system section -- both videos are on Youtube if you can't watch them on the site.. Fans looking forward to it have been referring to the game as a third-person shooter, but I think the auto-targeting helps insinuate that it really is an action/RPG like they've claimed. They sure haven't shown any of the RPG aspects of it, but they may just be keeping that under wraps lest they spoil some info. Aya carries a pistol that has unlimited ammo, but has the choice of using three other weapons that are stronger but require ammo acquirement. Looks like they're balancing it well, since a few hands-off observations from E3 claimed it looked a little difficult.

The 3rd Birthday looks like it's coming along well, especially after its transfer to PSP was announced precisely two weeks ago. It's going to be present at Gamescom in Germany this week, though in a hands-off demo. It will be playable for show-goers at Tokyo Game Show in September. There's also supposed to be a trailer coming sometime this month -- news that also came from their Twitter account. Maybe that's what they plan on showing this week! Look forward to it; the game should release sometime during the vague time frame of either late this year or early next year.

Cover Art Chronicles: Konami's Classic Covers, Part IV

coverartchroniclesbanner.jpgIn a way, it may not be fair to many other companies that were localizing Japanese games to single out how much better Konami's covers were. As mentioned before, many of Konami's older games took inspiration from western entertainment (unless they were based on the actual licensed property), and an homage would be provided on the covers. This made for some covers the marketing arbiters could easily allow, while others had to change theirs lest customers be repelled by the apparently repugnant anime-style look that might appear on the cover. Some of them made for results that were still pretty good, like the Dragon Quest/Dragon Warrior titles, whose covers and localizations took inspiration from fantasy novels like Dragonlance; most results were messy. The current day situation is proof of how misguided the aforementioned fear was.

The Super Nintendo era displayed Konami's best line of redone western covers, from an era where Konami had a stream of quality titles. These covers are so good that I'd like you to see them in their entirety, so I'm only posting a picture of the American cover. I'm only including three examples, since others either kept the same cover, just haven't aged well, or represent the aforementioned fear. Sorry Goemon, your existence outside of Japan was seemingly never meant to be.

supercv4cover_081210.jpgCastlevania's debut on SNES began with a remake of the first game in the series in Super Castlevania IV, and it's still one of the most beloved games in the franchise. And they gave it an excellent cover for its American (and European) release. It's a heck of a lot better than the awkward-looking Japanese version, which isn't bad on its own aside from the weird posture Simon has. Dracula's reaction is priceless, though. This was the best cover for a Castlevania game around before Ayami Kojima's arrival. It feels like it wouldn't be out of place on the cover of a B movie, and that's what makes it perfect for what it's going for.

contra3cover_081210.jpgContra III: The Alien Wars was also a stunning example of the franchise and the genre during the 16-bit era. It was one of the earliest examples of cheesy 80s action movies being represented in video game form. Some of said movies had video game adaptations, but you're more likely to see retrospectives of them on lists describing the worst licensed games ever. Most earlier Contra games represented that trope better than many older games could ever do. A shame about the pit the franchise would fall into after that generation ended.

The Japanese cover has main characters Jimbo and Sully (the latter of which was probably killed last) with poses that are practically lifted from posters or scenes from American movies. It's easier to get away with this in Japan, but Konami didn't want to test the waters outside of that country.

tmnt4cover_081210.jpgTeenage Mutant Ninja Tutles IV: Turtles in Time managed to be one of the best examples of having an arcade game (which was released without the "IV") at home early in the SNES' heyday, and that's among many other examples.  The Japanese version has a cover that wouldn't look out of place on an old VHS that contained three episodes of the '89 cartoon series, but some beautiful comic-style artwork accompanies the cover of the western versions.

With this being part four, this officially wraps up this series of classic Konami covers. Or does it? Don't be surprised if I decide to provide another entry in the next few weeks about Konami. But nothing tops this earlier era of covers. They have a few later covers that stick out, but their quality output really dwindled after these early halcyon days. They were still on the surface after this era, but now they've really sunk. Sad.

This month's Treasure Hunter is a little late. I'll have to blame too much work and the sheer exhaustion that results from not enough sleep. But less about me and more about this month's pre-order and limited edition bonuses. Video game swag is once again lacking this month so I've expended yet again to include special collector's edition DVD box sets. Hopefully the theme of movie and TV show related DVD box sets will be a permanent part of Treasure Hunter in the future.


Fans of the Ys series won't be disappointed by the Ys Seven Limited Collector's Edition. Reminiscent of the old Lunar Silver Star Story Complete collector's edition this limited edition is packaged with a 12.5" by 34" cloth map, an OST CD with 20 songs, and a 60-page art book. Come to think of it, this Limited Collector's Edition is actually more impressive than the recent Lunar Silver Star Harmony LCE XSeed released in February. The collection retails for $50 which is only twenty more dollars than the PSP game itself. Ys Seven will be released on August 17th. If you've never tried an Ys game but you enjoy JRPGs bundled with video game swag this collection could be worth a look.


The screen shot above is from the upcoming PC title Elemental: War of Magic. The game is developed by Stardock and is a fantasy RTS. Unfortunately there wasn't a single picture to be found of the limited edition version of Elemental. The lack of any pictures for the limited edition is truly a shame as the game will be bundled with a poster, a large cloth map, an OST CD, a pewter elemental dragon, and a Hiergamenon (a special game-related encyclopedia). The Elemental: War of Magic Limited Edition arrives in stores on August 24th and will cost $70. If you're a big fan of PC RTS games and not currently playing Starcraft II: Wings of Liberty this limited edition could be worth the $70.


The original Mafia was released on August 28th on PC to critical acclaim. Two years later an arguably inferior version was ported to the Xbox and PS2 consoles. After a long eight year wait for PC gamers and a six year wait for console gamers Mafia II will finally be released on August 24th for PC, PS3, and 360. Fans who opt for the collector's edition will receive a steelbook game case, in-game download packs, a 100-page hardcover art book, a symphonic CD composed by the Prague FILMHarmonic Orchestra, and a "tear-resistant" paper map. (Maps seem to be extremely popular this month.) The collection will cost $80 but the included bonuses are worth the price for fans able to afford it.


Last month I stated if Harvest Moon: Grand Bazaar was pushed back to August I'd mention it again. Natsume did indeed push the release date back from July 27th to August 24. If you were actually looking to buy Harvest Moon on the DS last month instead of oh say, Dragon Quest IX, then you already know the game was pushed back. Fortunately, the pre-order bonus at GameStop is still available. Hopefully, Grand Bazaar's release date won't be delayed again.


If you're a big movie buff and you enjoy collector's editions the recently released 300 Limited Collector's Edition might be appealing. (If 300 is actually to your liking, that is.) This collection ships with three discs, a 52-page art book, a Lucite (a name brand acrylic resin) display with an image from the movie, and six photo cards from the theatrical poster campaign. The limited collector's edition of 300 was released on August 3rd and retails for $50. Although bargain hunters can find it for as little as $23 on's marketplace.


If you are a big fan of I Am Legend and you're looking to upgrade your movie to Blu-ray in a spectacular way the I Am Legend Ultimate Collector's Edition is an impressive choice. The Ultimate Collector's Edition was released on August 3rd and includes a 44-page sketchbook, 10 concept illustrations, six art cards, a lenticular, a letter from the director, and much more contained on a total of three discs. The I Am Legend collection retails for $44 but like 300, savvy shoppers can find it for less on's marketplace. The only downside to this collection is the fact that it is only available on Blu-ray, fans without a Blu-ray player are out of luck.


Finally we have Lost: The Complete Collection. This Lost collection can be found on August 24th and will retail for a pricey $230. Fortunately, Amazon lists this collection for $149 which isn't a bad deal if you consider the fact that this collection contains all six seasons. In addition to the 38 discs, fans will also receive a Lost island replica, an ankh, a black light, and lots of on disc content including an extra 30 hours worth of bonus material. If you simply love Lost you'll get a chance to own this series in serious style if you can afford it all. A Blu-ray edition of the complete collection is available for $194, $85 off the original price of $279. I can think of better ways to spend $279 dollars but then again I've yet to watch a single episode of Lost.

There are a lot of upcoming video game collector's editions and pre-order bonuses for September, provided nothing is delayed. On the anime side Persona: Trinity Soul and Toradora! have been pushed back to September, meaning next month's column will be packed with content.

Cover Art Chronicles: The Lords of Shadow

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coverartchroniclesbanner.jpgCastlevania has always had a mostly great history with cover art from a variety of artists. You could come up with a few dubious examples, but I'm pretty sure its reputation has been better than most franchises you could come up with. Castlevania: Lords of Shadow, the game being touted as a reimagining of the Castlevania franchise to help elevate it from its niche status, had its official cover art released today. Here we go!

cvlosle_081010.jpgActually, that's pretty nice; definitely better than the temporary art released about a month back. It also looks like there will be a limited edition. Konami hasn't officially confirmed it yet, but looks legitimate, so it should be announced any day now. Looks like we have another great Castlevania cover on our hands.

cvloscovers_081010.jpgWell, if only that was the cover for every version. The standard cover is a little different, and for all the wrong reasons. For a game that has some pretty good concept art, the fact that they'd put together a cover with a huge lack of creativity is pretty insulting. There's still time that they could change it, but the chances of that happening are, as always, quite minimal.

But I guess none of us should be surprised to see this kind of cover situation. Covers like this arise due to the marketing divisions of corporations concluding, through anecdotal data, that westerners happen to resonate with CG art while their eyes are glancing at multiple covers in a store aisle, hence the generic, uninspired drek we have above. It's mainly dedicated gamers that are willing to shell out extra cash for a limited edition full of material they may or (mostly) may not need on a practical scale. Said dedicated audience will also be rewarded with a far better cover.

To its credit, though, it's still a damn sight better than the repelling anime-style stuff that plagued the cover arts for Dawn of Sorrow and Portrait of Ruin.

There happen to be quite a few fans around the internet who are a tad miffed at the lack of Ayami Kojima art on the cover, and I can relate to a degree. When Lords of Shadow was announced last year, I felt there was something missing, an element that makes Castlevania look like Castlevania. It wasn't until now that I realized how much I find Kojima's art synonymous with the franchise, and it's looking at this cover that hammers that point home. Fortunately, we have Harmony of Despair to see some of her new contributions.

Not that I expected her artwork to accompany it at all, of course. This game is the very essence of "reimagination" from a video game standpoint, meaning no one from the previous games is involved in this game's development. The developers don't want to show anything that associates it with IGA's creations. It's a foregone conclusion to say that Lords of Shadow is going to be an interesting game, whether it's good or not. We'll see what side it resides on come October, just in time for Halloween.

As promised here is that late Geek News Roundup that should have been posted a week ago. You can expect part 2 either tomorrow or on Wednesday, depending on how much time I have between my two jobs to make a Treasure Hunter post.

Since iPhone's inception tech savvy users have been jailbreaking their phones. The practice allows users to run virtually any application on their phone including apps not authorized by Apple. Users can also unlock their phones thus allowing the iPhone to run on another carrier's network. Apple declared the process of jailbreaking a phone to be unlawful, although it was never clear if the process was actually illegal. Jailbreaking does however void the warranty and Apple also claimed the practice of jailbreaking violated copyright law. On July 26th federal regulators disagreed and declared the practice legal under fair use laws. Despite the ruling jailbreaking an iPhone still voids the warranty and users could be on their own if unauthorized software damages the phone, or compromises the phone's security. Additionally, Apple may not be able to legally go after users who jailbreak their phones but the company could still disable the phones with a software update.

Changing gears slightly it should come as no surprise to an internet savvy user that Asia has some the highest broadband speeds around. The BBC has compiled a list of countries and cities with some of the fastest broadband speeds on average, South Korea led the way. Also not surprising is the fact that the US isn't among the top 20 countries. Ouch.

Seventeen years after acquiring Miramax Films, Disney sold the film studio to private equity investors for $660 million dollars. Miramax was best known for making Pulp Fiction, The Queen, and Good Will Hunting, yet the studio was never a perfect match for Disney's family-friendly image. Even with new owners various Miramax projects are still in production and the film studio's newest movie, The Switch is expected to arrive in theaters on August 20th. Readers of this blog may actually be more interested in Universal Picture's upcoming movie, Scott Pilgrim vs The World. Comic Con attendees were actually treated to an early premier of the film.

It took several years but Sony is finally gaining serious momentum as sales have increased in the past year. The company is still operating at a loss but the bleeding of cash has significantly slowed. Compared to a net income loss of $426 million and an operating loss $422 million, a net income gain of $295 million and an operating loss of $43 million is a vast improvement. Not all Japanese video game companies can say the same, especially Capcom as the company's net income decreased by 90 percent and operating income fell by 72 percent. Geoff mentioned Capcom's woes a little while ago and it should be interesting to see if the company learns from its mistakes.

Expect this week's news roundup to be posted soon!

Recommended Soundtracks: Sound Story of Shining and the Darkness

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recommendedsoundtracksbanner.jpgMy original intention for this week's entry was to feature the soundtrack for classic Genesis dungeon crawler Shining in the Darkness, the first game in Sega's Shining franchise; and also the only older Shining game solely not handled by current Golden Sun developer Camelot (aka Sonic! Software Planning before they disbanded from Sega); they collaborated with Landstalker developer Climax Entertainment for this project. The reason I'm featuring it this week is, no, not as a reaction to how I clenched my teeth in anger at Shining Hearts' announcement, but to talk about how much I like the soundtrack, unlike Angela. But I have to thank her though, because before that I had no idea what I wanted to do for an entry today.

After searching for some tracks, it wasn't too long until I realized the horrifying truth: it doesn't have an original soundtrack. In fact, none of the older Shining games do. Both Shining Force III and Shining the Holy Ark, released for Sega Saturn, have music CD's with the title "Original Soundtrack," but they're really remixed soundtracks. They just wanted to confuse you.

soundstoryofsitd_080810.jpgBut I'm featuring it anyway. One of the reasons why this feature is called "Recommended Soundtracks," is because I'd like to do more than just original soundtracks. Releases of remixes still fit under that definition, so I'll be able to feature Sound Story of Shining and the Darkness, the actual title of SitD's remixed soundtrack, without a "the." It was called "Shining and the Darkness" in Japan, which was probably changed for western audiences because "in" rolls of the tongue better than "and" when used for that title, and using "and" there gives the title a more abstract meaning; or, depending on your interpretation of the name, because it was borderline nonsensical.

When you listen to the soundtracks of many dungeon crawlers, they usually have mostly mellow and harrowing tracks. Dungeon crawlers put more focus on immersion and atmosphere than many other genres, and the music is used to assist with that. Shining in the Darkness does not do this, and instead eschews that for a theme more upbeat and lighthearted. That theme is also represented in the soundtrack. My choices here are going to be awfully rudimentary, so bear with me.

I personally adore the first track to this soundtrack, "The World of Shining and the Darkness," because it fully lives up to its name. Contained within its tempo is a representation of every theme the game touches upon: the feeling of adventure, danger, and overcoming the darkness of the dungeon (by grinding). It's a lengthy overture of what you're in for when you begin the game:

"The Ancient Temple" is the first dungeon theme, one you'll be hearing a lot early on. Especially in the earlier hours, where you'll have to grind and constantly go back to the inn and heal up to stand a chance as you advance into the dungeon. Well, at least until you find your buddies. It's more happy-go-lucky than you'd expect a dungeon theme in the genre to be, but it's composed well:

This last one here is the battle theme, which, seeing as how this is an RPG, you'll be hearing pretty often throughout the game. It's rife with suspense, which you can really tell about a minute into it. The beginning of the remixed version is a little slower than the actual theme, but it later sticks very close to the original:

In fact, the majority of the soundtrack sticks very close to the original, but it makes for more listenable music material because of the instruments it uses. The Genesis wasn't the most capable machine in terms of sound, and didn't have the benefit of having a Sony-powered chip like its competitor in the Super Nintendo. That doesn't mean it was incapable of producing some quality tunes, however. Good music shines through core composition, not technology, which is something quite a few video game music composers of the late 80s and early 90s understood incredibly well.

A Lack of Shining

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The Shining series is one of the many, many franchises where most fans are displeased with Sega's treatment of it in the last decade or so. If they're even using the franchise at all. Of all companies, Sega probably has the most classic franchises in they're arsenal where fans have expressed, at the very least, dislike for how they were handled recently, and the Shining franchise happens to be one of them.

After four Shining games last generation that couldn't be more different than their earlier counterparts -- Shining Force: Resurrection of the Dark Dragon for GBA excepted, though that's a remake of the first game. They may not have been the kind of games fans wanted, but I hear Shining Force Neo and Shining Force Exa are perfectly competent Diablo-esque hack 'n slashers. The less said about Shining Tears and Wind, the better. There's also their arcade entry, Shining Force Cross, which I still think resembles Kingdom Hearts a little too much. Not to mention the unlocalized DS SRPG Shining Force Feather, which is probably closest to what fans wanted. Shame about that "unlocalized" part.

shiningheartsart_080710jpg.jpgAnd here's a brand new Shining game from Sega. And true to form, it sure as hell isn't what you Shining fans wanted! It's Shining Hearts for PSP, announced within Famitsu's pages earlier this week. A mere glance at the game is almost enough to think it's a follow-up to the much-revolted Shining Tears and Wind, considering it shares a somewhat similar visual style with them, and has the same character designer in Tony Taka. It also has a Keyblade in the title for some reason, which might be an homage to Cross. This game is a traditional RPG instead of an action/RPG. Oh, and ex-Squaresoft composer Hiroki Kikuta is composing the soundtrack (whose work I like), and feel free to check out one of his tunes on the currently sparse official website; seems he isn't completely lost to eroge after all! This game releases in Japan this winter.

Fun trivia: This is the first time Kikuta and Tony are collaborating since Sora no Iro, Mizu no Iro, Kikuta's first eroge title. Isn't that just fantastic?

It's tough to be optimistic for this game, and I'd recommend keeping your expectations low since parts of it seem a little too similar to Tears and Wind. Maybe Sega will work with Camelot again one day and revive the Shining franchise, but then I remembered we're talking about Sega here. Hopefully they surprise us.

Cover Art Chronicles: Konami's Classic Covers, Part III

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coverartchroniclesbanner.jpgSo! Konami and Genesis. They actually had quite a bit of good Genesis support, despite not being on the best of terms with Sega.

Konami actually used to be a big fan of picking favorites, something rather surprising given the nearly even stance of the SNES and Genesis during their time in the market. The SNES received the greatest support right out of the gate (or close to it) with titles like Super Castlevania IV, Contra 3, and a superlative home port in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles IV: Turtles in Time. They did decide to support the Genesis a little later with some quality titles, but it was never with the same amount of support. And here are their covers.

tmnthyperstoneheistcovers_080510.jpgKonami decided to reuse the asses from the aforementioned Turtles in Time for Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Hyperstone Heist -- or Return of the Shredder. Sega fans were clamoring for something Turtles related while Nintendo's consoles had received four games in the franchise, so Konami felt that Genesis fans earned a title. And it was every bit as good as Turtles in Time was. Both the American and Japanese covers are quite nice, but I like the busy action that consumes the Japanese cover a little more. A shame about the comparatively blase European cover, though, which happens to be the same as the Japanese cover to Turtles in Time.

rkacovers_080510.jpgRocket Knight Adventures was the first title to prove that Konami was starting to get a little serious with Genesis support; as serious as Sparkster is on the American cover. It turns out the angry Kirby effect isn't exclusive to that series and Dragon Quest IX. The cover is mostly the same aside from that, but it was well worth pointing out since it predates the Angry Kirby phenomenon.

cvbloodlinescovers_080510.jpgYou can take that paragraph about Hyperstone Heist above and apply it to Castlevania as well. Four games, and Konami finally gets one on Genesis, and not starring a Belmont. Unfortunately, the results weren't as pretty in the actual game, though it was still better than Castlevania II. I'm kind of split on which cover is better here, and it's definitely one of the weaker covers in the franchise on both sides.

contrahardcorpscovers_080510.jpgI kind of talked about Contra: Hard Corps cover before with Hard Corps: Rising's announcement, but here's a completely comparison. The Japanese cover has a very late 80s/early 90s anime vibe, but since that was still considered a little abstract outside of Japan during its time of release, they made things more, uh, hardcore for the western audience. In more ways than one, since the American version was quite a bit harder than the Japanese version. I like the American cover a bit more, because it's more in fitting with the previous Contra titles.

Yeah, I think this was the weakest entry in the series, honestly. But I promise you that the next entry will be the best. I'm sure you can guess what it will be for.

Dragon Quest IX -- When Angels Lose Their Wings

dqixbanner.jpgOne of the more intriguing questions posed by fans upon the announcement of Dragon Quest IX: Sentinels of the Starry Skies for DS was how Yuji Horii and company -- with Level 5 handling the production -- would evolve the gameplay styles of its predecessors. It's a concern voiced by fans who were quite taken by Dragon Quest VIII's epic sense of exploration and vivacity, a feeling the PS2's graphical prowess assisted with. Not to say games with lower tech can't convey a similar effect -- something people who lamented the franchise going portable claimed, which is ridiculous -- but it would have to provide that from an alternate angle.

While DQIX may be different from the installments that have come before, it actually does manage to provide a wonderful sense of realism. It's living proof that graphics aren't necessary to make a game capable of being perfectly immersive on a lower-end system, and that portability isn't a hindrance. All it needed was a change in the way it delivered the sense of a living, breathing world, something it does amicably. In ways that surpass DQVIII's, even. It's tough to do, especially when you have an entire party full of mutes, but they pulled it off.

dqixpic1_080410.jpgThe story revolves around themes of death, and the job of your main character is to collect a benevolessence and offer it up to the world tree known as Yggdrasil. Benevolessence is made from the souls of the dead, and forms after you've given dead spirits wandering the earth respite. These lost souls still wander around because they left the world with regret, and you have to be the one to give them ease. Everything is going OK until the Observatory, the place from which the Celestrians observe human activity, is ruptured by a mysterious force. You suddenly find yourself in the town of Angel Falls, where you were a guardian, without your wings and halo. It's now up to you to find out precisely what happened.

Though your plans, and the plans of the Celestrians, have undergone a hindrance, your itinerary remains unchanged. While finding answers to the mysterious crisis, you'll find a plethora of lost souls that need your guidance. Considering about 70% of them left with regrets, you're going to be in for some pretty sad stories. Someone once made the argument that DQ games have a lot of heart, and it's through the smaller stories that you can see that's a completely accurate assessment. They're never a distraction either; all of said small stories have something to do with the larger plot at hand that will eventually unravel.

What really helps bring the story to life is the brilliant localization it's received. Despite being published by Nintendo, all NoA's Treehouse did was oversee how the translation was going. Square Enix, in association with Plus Alpha Translations (who were responsible for all the DQ localizations thus far, save for Joker), was responsible for the localization. It keeps a lot of the accents that made NPCs a joy to talk to a la Dragon Quest IV, but it's toned down heavily enough that it won't be overbearing for anyone. If there's anything here that might annoy some folks, it's the unending stream of puns.

dqixpic2_080410.jpgDQIX is a little different from most DQ games in that it allows you to make your own party of characters to venture around with. Having a party of four members of your choosing (including your main character) hasn't been seen since Dragon Quest III, but the difference here is that you can actually see your weapons and equipment visually as you customize their looks. The unfortunate effect of this is the desire to choose the best looking equipment for some characters rather than the most practical. You might be able to get away with that in the main quest, because it's mostly pretty easygoing, but don't expect to cruise through the sidequests and post-game content with your female characters equipped with a Playboy-esque bunny outfit. Of course, that depends on the quest.

The only main downside to having a silent party is that the game won't be heavily character driven. The story is fortunately told in a way that this doesn't feel like too much of a problem, but anyone accustomed to the style of some recent DQ games might miss using party talk to see what your accomplices think about specific events. Also, your fairy accomplice, Stella, does most of the talking for you if need be.

You'll also be giving all four of your characters classes, known as vocations in this game. You don't have too many to start with, but it's enough to get things done. Your main character begins as a Minstrel (this game's equivalent of a Red Mage), but you'll also have the Warrior, Mage, Priest, Fighter, and Thief vocations for the other three characters as you make them. You'll be able to unlock more as the game goes along. When you change vocations, your character goes right back to Level 1, but they'll keep their Skill Points. Besides, it doesn't take long to get your characters back to a reasonable level afterward.

Something else that helps give the game's world liveliness is how much NPC dialogue changes throughout the game. When you've managed to progress the story, NPCs from towns you've previously visited will catch word of it. Many events will also transpire within said towns, with all the NPCs giving their opinions on what's happened; and quite a few of them are comical.

dqixpic3_080410.jpgSome of them will also give you quests that you can complete for something special in return. They start off easy enough to ease you into how the quest system works, but they'll ramp up in difficulty by the time you reach the middle of the game. Some of them can get a little frustrating, especially when they entail something that's a pain and the reward is something of minimal importance. You can take on up to eight of them at once, and they're mostly pretty worthwhile.

The graphics also help with its vivacity. Plenty of people dislike 3D on DS solely because it reminds them of the bygone days of the PSOne's pixellated polygons, but DQIX looks exquisite. It's easily the best looking 3D game on the system, and the only upcoming game that will give it some competition is Okamiden. Its in-engine cutscenes look great, even if they don't compare to the anime introduction in terms of animation. The only problem that hampers the presentation is some slowdown when too many things are happening on-screen at once.

DQIX's battle system won't have too many real surprises if you've played quite a few DQ games (or RPGs, even) before, but that doesn't stop it from being enjoyable. Despite being 3D, battles are pretty fast-paced with actions happening quickly. They're certainly quicker than DQVIII's, whose battles were hampered by some awful loading times, but they're slower than the 2D games and remakes.

dqixpic4_080410.jpgThe alchemy system makes its return from DQVIII, and it's every bit as useful as it was there. You'll want to become accustomed to finding materials and using alchemic recipes to make items, because buying equipment gets a incredibly expensive, especially later in the game. You can often make better equipment via alchemy as well, and finding materials is a hell of a lot more enjoyable than constantly fighting enemies for gold, since many of them don't drop that much -- and if they do, they don't drop much EXP. The downside to using the alchemy pot in this game is having to Zoom to the same location to use it, but you no longer have to wait for it to produce your item.

Koichi Sugiyama's music here is unfortunately not his best work. One of the problems comes from hearing the best track in the game (the Observatory theme) very early in, and very little comes close to matching the quality of that theme. It's not a bad soundtrack, but it's thoroughly underwhelming and below the level of quality we've come to expect from Sugiyama in comparison to previous games.

If you have a DS and like RPGs, Dragon Quest IX is an essential purchase. It's easily one of, if not the, best game in the genre on the system. It's also fairly lengthy; after the 40-60 hour quest, treasure maps can be acquired and quests available for download -- actually "download," since they're just unlocked. What you'll find here is an adventure filled to the brim with heart and soul. The most memorable aspect of the game isn't the story itself, but the way it tells its story.
Header Toradora.jpgNow, word of mouth is oftentimes a good way to get a good idea of how good or bad something is, whether that may be a series, movie, game, or product.  Raves are showered upon pros, and boos or casual mentions are rained onto the cons.  When a series gets near universal praise, I oftentimes have curiosity set in, but sometimes curiosity brings in doubt and skepticism as houseguests.

Toradora! has been pretty widely regarded as excellent, a brilliant concoction of characters, romance, and humor, refreshing yet still full of room for interpretation.  However, upon looking at the premise of this romantic comedy, I had an uneasy feeling the series would be like the next Haruhi Suzumiya to me, a series where I would blanch at the excessive amounts of hype that surround it.  The plot is simple enough:  Takasu Ryuuji and Aisaka Taiga, two students whose personalities grind gears with each other in every single way possible, form an alliance to help each other obtain a significant other, their counterpart's best friend.  Throughout the series, another more unexpected romance starts to blossom.

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Ryuuji the dragon and Taiga the Palmtop Tiger don't exactly get along when they first meet.

Now, in a romance series, the characters and their chemistry with each other are the bread and butter to the series' enjoyability.  Unfortunately, below the surface of the characters' personalities, the complex nature that is necessary to build up the depth of the series is rather disappointing.  An attempt is made to portray Taiga as an unfortunate result of a happily negligent father, which does work to an extent.  Unfortunately, the emotional detachment that she displays towards her father lacks depth- it's not hatred, it's not anger (Taiga reserves that feeling towards her mother), but it's portrayed more of a supervisor-employee disconnect rather than a parent-child disconnect.  On a day-to-day basis, Taiga is oftentimes unbearably textbook tsundere.  One minute she can get into a tantrum that makes toddlers wince, the next minute she's huddled in the kitchen in anticipation of an F5 tornado.  The transition is extraordinarily quick, and both sides attempt to portray depth, but come off as lackluster due to the speed in which she transitions.  Finally, her attitude and voice towards any subject comes off more middle school than high school.

Ryuuji fares a bit better, complete with a good heart, good cooking and cleaning skills, and an attempt at trying to get past his looks, which say "I'm a gang member."  But don't expect a clone of Ichigo Kurosaki here.  Instead, his development, along with the development of many other secondary characters, is stagnated due to simplistic dialogue, as if the scriptwriters only had a middle-school vocabulary and sentence structure.  Even the family bird (a green parakeet named Inko-chan) has better vocabulary.  If only he didn't look like he was choking on something all the time.  Ryuuji's introverted nature, which makes him seem flat and dull, isn't doing him any favors, either, and attempts at coming out, while not all utter failures, merely amount to nothing higher than a C+, and this weakness is only slightly improved upon by the end of the series.

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The attempts at humor and secondary characters (Kitamura on left, Minorin center and right) are middling at best.

I attempted to try and find a liking in the secondary characters, specifically Kushieda Minorin (Ryuuji's crush and Taiga's best friend) and Kitamura Yuusaku (Taiga's crush and Ryuuji's best friend).  Unfortunately, I was disappointed yet again.  Minorin's eccentricities do provide some entertainment, such as working multiple jobs and a happy-go-lucky personality that can come off as air-headedness, but again, depth, dialogue, and a lack of complexities conspire against her.  The same applies for Kitamura, whose comes off as a cardboard cutout of an academic overachiever with socialization issues.  The characters become less likable as I branched out further from the two wishful relationships.  A later addition to the quartet is Kawashima Ami, a model with an absolutely rotten personality.  An individual who is afraid of expressing her true thoughts and feelings, she nonetheless manages to come across as a condescendingly rich snob with absolutely no backbone when she opens her mouth.  Another dislikeable character is Yasuko Ryuuji, Takasu's young mother, who oftentimes would rather be fed by her son, drunk, and asleep rather than helping her son succeed.  While this gives character kudos to Ryuuji for being self-sufficient, it really drives down the likeability of Yasuko.  Her constant whining makes her feel like Takasu's toddler sister or daughter, and her ditzy smiling makes her look like she's high on LSD.  She does display a caring side, but this side plays a secondary rather than primary role in Ryuuji's life, and does little to offset how she is the other 80% of the time.

Aside from the below-par character development, the plot and day-to-day events make the series have an episodic rather than linear feel, with the romance and attempted proposals occurring in the background.  While the development is there, the romance and interactions amongst characters is vague and you have to feel and search for it.  This weakens the theme and is disappointing considering that the romance should play a front-and-center role here.  The events that further each relationship stepping stone push it forward jerkily, leading to an expression of applause or disappointment when the event is reached, but the path towards it is lined with jagged conversations that drag and expressions of frustrations asking for events that are long overdue to occur.  The effects of the events also seem to be short -lived, and oftentimes the characters themselves are forced back to square one and the entire dreadful cycle starts over again.

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The emotion you get from the major events wears out rather quickly.  Most of the series the main question is "Who will he [Ryuuji] end up with?"

Thus, I found myself riding on a rollercoaster of emotions getting through this anime, from hatred to apathy to approval.  There were characters who deserve nothing less than a punch in the face, while others whom I would seriously recommend go and spend several hours at a therapist's office.  But none of the characters in Toradora rise above middle-of-the road for me, which is a disappointment since this is a romance anime first and foremost.  Not even the humor could sway me from the lackluster plot and character development.  I'll give the producers credit for trying, but the series is nothing to gush over.  It's not a complete bore, but its inconsistency in terms of thought put into the story lead to some high moments offset by plenty of mediocre and low points.  The boxset has just been released, but to me, the series is only worthy of consideration either borrowed from a friend, rented from Netflix, or at most bought secondhand.

Tales, Tales, Tales

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Do you remember Namco's much-vaunted Tales franchise? You probably don't, given the horrible treatment it's been given outside of Japan; the most recent victims being Tales of Vesperia for PS3 and Tales of Graces for Wii. There's also longtime victim Tales of Phantasia, whose sole domestic release was a deplorable GBA port despite being released four times (with the fifth coming later this week!).  So here's a post to remind you of the newest games that have been recently announced for Japan that you'll probably never get to play.

Also, these games were actually revealed in Japan's Shonen Jump last week, but the official unveil was yesterday.

togps3pic_080310.jpgAnd the first one is Tales of Graces again! This time being ported to PS3 in the form of Tales of Graces F, the "F" standing for "Future." It really shouldn't be a surprise to anyone to see this being rereleased, given that ToG sold below par for the franchise when it released on Wii last Christmas, and that Vesperia on PS3 sold more despite being an updated port of a 360 title. But it's not just a mere port; aside from some additions you could have guessed like upscaling and new techniques, ToGF adds a brand new scenario that takes place around half a year after the end of the game. There are also some new outfits, if you're in to that kind of thing.

To commemorate the announcement, they've also launched a website containing absolutely nothing worthwhile. Well, except for an exquisite piano theme. Sakuraba usually phones it in for Tales games, but that tune sounds like good Sakuraba material. I haven't heard the entire soundtrack, so I have no idea whether that one tune is an anomaly or not. The game releases in Japan in winter 2010, which is usually not-so-subtle code for "December" for Japanese companies.

Meanwhile, there's a fan translation underway for the Wii version, whose progress you can check at this site. That URL should show you how much of a crap Namco Bandai America ever gave about this game.

totwrm3pic_080310.jpgThe second game announced? Tales of the World: Radiant Mythology 3 for PSP, the sequel to the best selling Tales game this generation. Not letting the fact that the newest Tales game for PSP hasn't even released yet, Namco Bandai is ready to hype this game up with the inclusion of characters from the aforementioned Tales of Graces. You'll also have your choice of 76 characters to choose from. And that's "you" as in "you who will import," because there isn't a chance in hell of this getting localized. I know you were wondering, but yes, this game also has a site with nothing worthwhile. It's due out in Japan sometime in 2011.

topndxpic_080310.jpgAlso importers: don't forget that Tales of Phantasia: Narikiri Dungeon X (the "X" being pronounced "Cross") is releasing on Thursday. This game is a sequel to Tales of Phantasia, taking place 205 years after its beginning. It also contains Tales of Phantasia X, another remake of Tales of Phantasia -- which is being made for the same system. Okay.

nextalesofconcept_080310.jpgThe last game they had to announce...doesn't have a name yet. But hey, it sure has some nice concept artwork. This mystery game, coming to PS3, is being released to commemorate the franchise's 15th Anniversary.  If you like the concept art above, you can see more of it (albeit in small, non-clickable thumbnails) on the official teaser website. It's not due to update with more information until sometime in December.

So there you go. Hope you liked that post about four games you'll probably never play! Of course, there's a chance that one or more of them might get localized, but you can rule both PSP games out of that. Have fun, importers!

Due to sheer exhaustion I will not be posting a Geek News Roundup this week. I may do a double post for next week or simply skip the week of July 25th altogether. Additionally, Treasure Hunter will be posted either at the end of the week or the start of next week. I did however make it to Otakon 2010 in Baltimore over the weekend and had a blast. Unfortunately, due to said exhaustion I'm too tired to think of a meaningful post. So have a highlight post with lots of pictures instead.


Despite Otakon's size (this year's official count was 28,000 attendees) the pre-registration badge pickup was a breeze. Normally on Thursday night there would be a huge line snaking around the convention center and the wait time would be at least two hours. Our group must have spent a total of five minutes in line. Also, the city of Baltimore finally rolled out a proper welcome for us, and the Friday morning news touched briefly on Otakon.


Gurren Lagann poses for the cameras while Kamina looks on. Gurren Lagann was pretty popular this year at Otakon. The popularity of this show was only topped by Code Geass. Thanks to the large crowds I actually missed taking shots of many great Gurren Lagann and Code Geass cosplayers.


This Akuma is extremely flexible. I saw him earlier in the convention center but was unable to get a shot thanks to the crowds. Imagine my luck when I saw him on our way back to the hotel room. He and one of my friends stopped to chat about how hardcore the older Street Fighter games were in comparison to the newest Street Fighter titles. I was completely indifferent to the conversation due to my lack of skill when it comes to most fighting games.


My friends and I decided to cosplay BLEACH this year. I went as Mashiro (on the left of course), Hanataro is in the middle and Luppi is on the right. We actually had a few people stop to take our pictures and I received one random hug. Other than the punishing late July heat and the incident (more on that later), it was a fun day. After several hours on my feet and lots of walking around I was glad to remove the costume when we returned to the room.


And here is the incident I spoke of mere moments ago. On Saturday afternoon a malicious jerk decided it would be fun to pull the fire alarm. Over 28,000 people were forced to evacuate the convention center after the initial confusion cleared up. Our group pushed our way through the sea of people and came to a rest under a tree on the other side of the street. It took well over two hours before people were let back into the building and fortunately no one was hurt during the evacuation. The prankster who originally pulled the alarm was never caught.


A few hours after being let back into the building, our group arrived at the artist alley. While waiting on a sketch commission badge I made it a point to get the picture of every nearly ever interesting closplayer that walked by. (When the crowds would allow for it.) My friend just happened to spot these lovely ladies playing Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Summoner characters. It was also nice to see Megaten cosplay that didn't revolve around Persona 3 and 4 for a change (though our group did do Persona 4 cosplay last year, so yeah).


At one point during the convention I mentioned to my friend that "my weekend would be made if someone cosplayed 'The Bride' from Kill Bill." Sure enough, the same friend pointed her out to me when my back was turned. Needless to say my weekend was made.


When reached our hotel room we found ourselves too exhausted to do much of anything. I ended up sleeping after dinner (while watching Superjail!)  and awoke to play a few video games. After being owned in several post game missions in Final Fantasy XIII during the previous night, I decided to bring out Sonic's Ultimate Genesis Collection on the 360. After being unable to get past the third level in E-Swat we turned our attention to this game. Several points if you can guess the name of the game.* I also found the music to be so insufferable that I turned on the 360's music player and listened to Persona 4's soundtrack as I played the game, the experience was surreal.

Despite having a blast and taking well over 100 pictures Otakon 2010 had to be my most lethargic anime convention to date. I arrived at Otakon tired and I slept through a good portion of the convention. It didn't help that our hotel was roughly nine blocks away (the usual hotel sold out a few months earlier than usual) and the humidity was brutal. Every trip to the convention consisted of taking pictures of cosplayers and buying items in the dealer's room. I was too tired to attend panels and even the Home Made Kazoku concert. When I wasn't buying things or taking pictures I found myself in the hotel room mostly playing video games. As for the convention itself, at 28,000 attendees Otakon has become noticeably crowded and it only seems like a matter of time before the convention completely outgrows Baltimore. Although I barely experienced Otakon this year the convention was still a fantastic break from reality. If you want to see more high quality pictures from the convention (I make no apologies for the slightly blurry ones) be sure to check out my gallery.

*Kudos to you if you guessed Shining in the Darkness as the game I was playing.
recommendedsoundtracksbanner.jpgFirst off, this entry exists on false pretenses. I aim to discuss and recommend specific tracks for Tatsunoko vs. Capcom: Cross Generation of Heroes, but the lie here is precisely that: I'm only recommending specific tracks.

Cross Generation of Heroes, the original Japanese arcade and Wii release of Tatsunoko vs. Capcom - not to be confused with Ultimate All-Stars,  the retooled version released earlier this year worldwide - has a soundtrack comprised of remixes of old tunes for each character, depending on what game or Tatsunoko Pro series they're from. Unfortunately, the results aren't as good as the premise would suggest.

tvcpic_080110.jpgMost of the Capcom remixes (if they are remixes, unlike Soki's) are completely redone, though they still invoke nostalgia if you're familiar with the game these characters originated, but the Tatsunoko remixes are all very low quality midi synths that couldn't sound more dull. It's evident that the idea behind them was to keep their "classic" spirit alive, given that most of these characters are from franchises made in the 60s, 70s, and 80s. But said spirit can still be kept alive in good remixes, something well evinced by the Capcom tracks on the same soundtrack.

So it's because of that puzzling juxtaposition that I'll only be recommending remixes from the Capcom side here. Also, I don't like to talk about soundtracks that were recently released here anymore lest I may rob the producer of sales. This one is an exception since it doesn't have an official soundtrack. Another exception I'm making is featuring four tracks instead of three. Why? Got me!

Alex's Theme here is a more jazzy remix of his Street Fighter III: 3rd Strike theme, aptly called Jazzy NYC. All of 3rd Strike's theme had a hip-hop theme, so it's been mellowed out to fit in with TvC's much more lighthearted theme. It comes off pretty well too. It's similar to the themes of Makoto and Ibuki in Super Street Fighter IV in being comparatively mellower:

And for another theme from an old and sorely neglected Capcom franchise, we have Batsu's theme, a remix of "On the Rooftop of Sunshine High School" from Rival Schools. So now I've provided three remixes of themes from fighting games. But the interesting aspect is that they're all from fighting games fans thought Capcom forgot existed. Good thing this came along:

And speaking of characters we thought Capcom forgot existed, here's Mega Man Voluntt's theme from the game. It's an instrumental remix of a vocal theme from Mega Man Legends, "Another Sun," though it doesn't sound like it too much in parts. All of the remixes have an old-school late-90s style sound to them to invoke nostalgia. Capcom did well:

For TvC, it was decided that Morrigan's theme would be from the older Darkstalkers games, and by that, I mean the first two games in the series (and the better of her two themes). I wasn't making a reference to some newer game that you didn't know about, not while Capcom continues to neglect a property that could have a promising sequel. But yeah, Morrigan's theme is pretty good. I wonder which they'll use for Marvel vs. Capcom 3:

As for other tracks that didn't make it on here, I also recommend listening to Ryu and Chun-Li's remixed themes. I personally like them better than their Street Fighter IV remixes, because the TvC iterations are more faithful to the tempo of their original Street Fighter II themes. And while I may have no nostalgia for Saki or Quiz Nanairo Dreams, her theme is incredibly catchy. There's also Roll's if you enjoy some cheesy J-Pop and liked the iteration of "Kaze no Tsutaete" that appeared in Marvel vs. Capcom, that's here for you to enjoy as well. I may recommend Ultimate All-Stars' soundtrack in the future too, since that also doesn't have an official soundtrack.

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