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Thursday, May 8, 2008
While we've had clues thrown our way, we really don't know for sure which games will be part of WiiWare's launch on Monday. Here's what one writer is hoping for...

Well, here we are.  This is like lying in bed on the day before my birthday, or Father’s Day, or Christmas.  I have a vague idea of what could possibly be in that shiny, enticing giftwrap when I get up, I know what I’m wishing for, I know what I asked for, but I don’t know exactly what I’ll be opening when morning finally arrives.


Yes, Monday brings with it the launch of WiiWare, or Wii Live Arcade, or whatever you want to call it.  Is it an innovative idea?  Well, no, Microsoft and Sony have been offering original downloadable content for quite some time now, some of which defines the consoles it resides on (Everyday Shooter, flOw, Geometry Wars) as much as the big ticket items that get all of the publicity and the numbers.  That it took this long for Nintendo to get on board is both a testament to the power of the library of old games Nintendo had at its disposal via the Virtual Console and yet another aspect of the online experience that Nintendo is shamelessly behind on.


This is not the time to dwell on the Wii’s shortcomings, however; the stable of games that WiiWare has lined up looks immediately appealing and very, very creative.  Remember two years ago, when we were first hearing about the Wii and its nutty little control interface?  Remember the promise that it held, as we dreamed of virtual swordfights and endless tennis volleys that actually increased our heart rate?  Occasionally, that promise is fulfilled, but I don’t think anyone was suspecting the onslaught of minigames and PS2-with-waggle conversions that have ultimately come to define the system for those who would detract from it.  WiiWare, on the other hand, is like a new beginning.  Having independent developers create software for the Wii is like handing the reins to people like us, people who once saw the Wii as a system of infinite possibilities, now offered the chance to realize some of those possibilities.


Much like the Virtual Console, however, we really have no idea which of those possibilities we are going to get to experience come Monday afternoon.  With that in mind, after the jump are five WiiWare games that would look great inside Monday’s shiny wrapping paper…


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Wednesday, Apr 30, 2008
The Guitar Hero franchise is being diluted by the sheer number of uses of the Guitar Hero name.

A pile of the tracks that are going to be on the upcoming Guitar Hero: On Tour release for the Nintendo DS broke yesterday, and…well, look for yourself:


Do What You Want - OK Go
All The Small Things - Blink 182
Spiderwebs - No Doubt
Are You Gonna Be My Girl - Jet
We’re Not Gonna Take It - Twisted Sister
All Star - Smash Mouth
Breed - Nirvana
Jessie’s Girl - Rick Springfield
Hit Me With Your Best Shot - Pat Benatar
This Love - Maroon 5
Heaven - Los Lonely Boys
Helicopter - Bloc Party
China Grove - The Doobie Brothers
Rock and Roll All Nite - KISS (cover by Line 6)
What I Want - Daughtry


(Opinions and rants after the jump.)


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Tuesday, Apr 29, 2008
I sorta made a point of disparaging the idea of the Wii Wheel last week. Well, I was wrong.

One of the most misleading aspects of game journalism as a whole is the relentless air of positivity that goes into game and gear previews.  On one hand, it’s true that you don’t necessarily want to dismiss the potential of a game based on an early build or a demo; on the other, if something looks like it’s going to be lousy, even if it’s a hotly anticipated piece of software from a major publishing company, shouldn’t we go ahead and feel free to say so?


It is in this spirit that I ranted for a paragraph or so about just how awful an idea the Wii Wheel was, how its presence sullied the good name of Mario Kart and put it in the company of such peripheral bad ideas as the Wii Baseball Bat and the Wii Tennis Racket (I mean, really, just the Wiimote, all by itself, had been proven dangerous—did we have to find ways to make it bigger?).  I know that the Wii Wheel isn’t exactly an uncommon target for criticism, but between the Wii Zapper fiasco (so when’s the next “Wii Zapper Compatible” game coming out, anyway?) and this, Nintendo’s propensity to hop on the plastic-shell bandwagon seemed too troubling not to call out.


Given the quickness with which I jumped on the bandwagon of Wii Wheel rippers, then, it seems only fair that I should now admit that I was wrong.


There is no game out there right now, not a single one, that has brought my family together for game time more reliably and consistently than Mario Kart Wii.  Let me be clear: we are not a house of Mario Kart enthusiasts; I’ve had only a passing interest in the franchise for most of its life, apart from a brief time with the original when I was utterly obsessed.  The DS version is fun enough, but it didn’t exactly steal my life away, and I’m a little bit ashamed to admit that I’ve never even played Double Dash.  The kids have played a couple of previous iterations of the franchise as well, finding the most interest in the DS version, but even that struck them as not exactly worth giving up things like Dogz and Spider Man: Friend or Foe.


Mario Kart Wii, on the other hand, has a Wheel.


As suggested by my wife, a teacher, it seems to be a matter of context; in education, the use of appropriate contextual cues can not only make learning easier, but can also make the students want to learn.  It seems like such a simple concept, but I had never considered that a simple wheel, attached to nothing at all, could make playing a game so much more fun than holding the Wiimote and pretending that I was gripping the three-o’-clock and nine-o’-clock positions on a wheel.  In doing so, I obviously made a huge error in judgement, because not only does the wheel seem to drum up interest in the game, it gives the kids confidence.  The game then transcends the label of “daddy’s video games” and becomes, simply, a toy.  Turn the wheel left, car goes left.  Turn the wheel right, car goes right.  Hold down the ‘2’ button the whole time, and you’re driving.  Easy as pie.


My six-year-old has won a few 50cc races, which was a surprise to me given that she has never shown a propensity for games that require quick thinking and fast action.  These wins have been utter events in our household, things that can be attributed not only to her increasing-all-too-fast age, but also to the fact that turning a steering wheel probably seems like a pretty basic mechanic, even for her; combining the function of an analog stick and various buttons is still a bit abstract for her mind, while turning a wheel is entirely logical and mechanical, and the confidence of knowing exactly what that wheel is supposed to do was enough to convince her that she could win.  And so she did.


This all may seem like fairly minor stuff in the grand scheme, and it’s true that the Wheel is not going to win you any tournaments the way the more traditional Nunchuck/Wiimote combo will.  Still, for casual players, children, and anyone else that Nintendo is trying to “bridge” to more serious gaming via Mario Kart Wii, the wheel is absolutely useful, and borders on essential.


And no, I can’t believe I just said that.


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Thursday, Apr 24, 2008
A month in advance of Ubisoft's long awaited and hotly anticipated yellow-tinted shooter, Korn has released a song apparently "inspired by" the not-yet-out game.

What we have before us today is the official video for Korn’s “Haze”, which was apparently inspired by the upcoming Ubisoft/Free Radical first-person shooter.  This is what it looks like:


Alright, now, who’s benefiting here?  I know that the point is that both parties benefit, as Haze gets, oh, “hardcore cred” or something, and Korn gets gamer cred.  The thing is, the people out there who (still) like Korn happen to be pretty much the same audience that will be buying up Haze when it comes out.  This isn’t to speak of the quality of either piece of the equation; rather, I just don’t see the point of marrying the two, especially in what seems like an especially forced way.


Occasionally there’s a merger of game and licensed music that just seems as though it was meant to be.  Dragonforce’s “Through the Fire and Flames”, a two-year-old song, has taken on new life on the radio thanks to the infamy it has taken on as the most difficult track on Guitar Hero 3.  And I’ll never forget the rush of “Jerry was a Race Car Driver” showing up in Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater (though I realize I may be alone in that particular way). 


But Korn?  Haze?  If the above Korn vid makes you more excited for Haze, please leave a comment, because I want to know why.


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Tuesday, Apr 22, 2008
There is no better time than now for Cliff Johnson to release his long-awaited sequel to The Fool's Errand.

The time is right.  The time is now.


Please, Cliff Johnson, won’t you release A Fool and His Money?


Hell yeah Speedball was awesome.

Hell yeah Speedball was awesome.


Once upon a time, I bought an Amiga from a friend of mine for $300.  It seemed like an incredible deal at the time, given that he threw in something like 60 games for the thing, including some impressive technology show-off type games like Dragon’s Lair and Speedball.  Damn, I loved me some Speedball.  What I was coming to realize was that computers could do things that consoles at the time could only dream of, and the possibilities intrigued me.


Of course, finding out that I had to go to a specialty store to buy my Amiga games was kind of a buzzkill.


Regardless, one of the first games I ever came home with from that very store was The Fool’s Errand, which I mostly bought because its cover said it won some kind of award and my dad thought it looked good (and because it was one of the only new-ish games at the time that my Amiga, maxed out at a piddly 512K of RAM, could handle).  It turned out to be one of those games.


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