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Podcast Discussion / Radio Free Nintendo: Episode 130
« on: January 25, 2009, 10:14:00 PM »
For those podcasts about to die, we salute you.

 Never forget the sound of chinking ice.  

 Episode 130: They Were Ghost    

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RFN returns to extensive form with an episode that has everything you've come to expect from the crew, except for the silky tones of our new Site Director Jon Lindemann (who was actually being fitted for his crown at the time of recording, and so couldn't make it). Guest Jared Rosenberg makes his RFN debut, only to have his New Business concerning Wario Land Shake It! trampled over as we all queue up to profess our love for its underappreciated greatness. Elsewhere, Jonny enjoys an unexpected encounter with Dragon Quest Swords, and Greg takes an accidental look back at the all-too-brief career of Viewtiful Joe.    

After a gender-confused discussion of Castlevania III: Dracula's Curse takes us through DLC Mondays, we look once again at your questions in Listener Mail, including: thoughts on the prospects for Wii MotionPlus' adoption rate, and the apparent indifference of Japanese developers to the dominant console in their native land. Finally, the crew closes with a reflection on the end of an era with the sale of the 1UP Network and closure of EGM, paying respects in particular to the podcast pioneers of 1UP Yours.    

Next week, we'll be discussing our first RetroActive feature title, Dynamite Headdy. Join the discussion in our forums, and your feedback can make it into RFN 131!    


This podcast was edited by Greg Leahy and James Jones.    

Music for this episode of Radio Free Nintendo is used with permission from Jason Ricci & New Blood. You can purchase their new album, Rocket Number 9, directly from the record label, or download it from iTunes, or call your local record store and ask for it!

TalkBack / PODCAST: Radio Free Nintendo: Episode 127
« on: December 30, 2008, 03:17:38 PM »
Close out the year with a podcast recorded during two days at once.

 One world, one podcast, many developers.  

 Episode 127: Tri-Continental Time Zone Panic!    

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RFN goes global for the final episode of 2008, as guests spread across three continents unite to see the year out in style. Greg and James are joined by both NWR Japan Correspondent James Charlton and Radio Trivia: Podcast Edition host Michael "TYP" Cole from the Land of the Rising Sun to discuss what they've been playing while being so many time zones ahead, and to digest the implications of Square-Enix's announcement that Dragon Quest X is in development for Wii.    

After TYP offers us his impressions of Tales of Symphonia: Dawn of the New World in New Business, the far-scattered crew takes on recession gaming and 8-bit resurrections in Listener Mail before settling down to a feature on the outsourcing of game development for beloved franchises. Good, bad, and just plain puzzling examples are given to preface a debate on the causes behind these various triumphs and failures, and whether or not outsourcing as a whole is desirable.    

The whole RFN team hopes everyone had a great 2008, and looks forward to you joining us when Jonny, Jon, James, and Greg return in the New Year.    


This podcast was edited by Greg Leahy and James Jones.    

Music for this episode of Radio Free Nintendo is used with permission from Jason Ricci & New Blood. You can purchase their new album, Rocket Number 9, directly from the record label, or download it from iTunes, or call your local record store and ask for it!

TalkBack / REVIEWS: Pokémon Ranger: Shadows of Almia
« on: December 28, 2008, 07:23:01 AM »
Pokémaniacs, get ready for another go-round with this swirling spinoff series—just don't expect anything markedly different.

 Pokémon Ranger: Shadows of Almia continues the action-RPG branch of the Pokémon franchise begun by the original Pokémon Ranger for DS, reprising its essential premise and gameplay mechanics while making only a few significant alterations to that template. Hence, Ranger veterans will find little to distinguish their second experience with the series aside from the appearance of Pokémon made famous in Diamond and Pearl, while the gentle pacing and repetitive, reduced-form RPG structure may not endear it to many experienced gamers. However, the core concept remains a satisfying way of bringing the Pokémon world to vivid life, and underpinned by its accessible and amusing gameplay, Shadows of Almia offers a solid, if somewhat limited, experience for newcomers and Pokémon enthusiasts alike.    

Over the course of Shadows of Almia, players assume the role of an aspiring young student on a journey from lowly trainee to top-ranked Pokémon Ranger, a transition that the game strives to confer importance upon with both its storytelling and how it paces the introduction of its play mechanics. The opening section of the game spans over two hours, and its duration is not a product of having to explain complicated controls or a convoluted story. Instead, Shadows of Almia emphasises living the life of a Pokémon Ranger. This involves talking to people, going on patrol, and even grabbing a nap at the Ranger station. Such tasks dominate the opening of the game as an introduction to the Almia region and the characters within it, and while this earnest approach may help draw some people into the world of Pokémon Ranger more deeply (likely younger gamers and/or those unfamiliar with the 2006 original), for others it may prove to be simply tedious without more substantial gameplay development occurring in parallel—especially given the incessant need to cycle through text.    

Putting the same spin on the Pokémon concept as its predecessor, Pokémon Ranger: Shadows of Almia foregoes turn-based battling for stylus-driven captures; players rapidly encircle Pokémon on the touch screen to befriend them, which subsequently allows their abilities to be used (one-time only) for clearing obstacles and traversing the environment as you try to solve various Pokémon-related problems. Performing these actions is usually no more complicated than finding a Pokémon with the appropriate ability, capturing them with some rapid circular scribbling, and then drawing a line between that Pokémon and the relevant obstacle during exploration. This more visceral, involved approach to the business of capturing Pokémon is satisfying and fun, but it lacks the depth of strategy found in mainline Pokémon games. Its novelty becomes stretched severely by the game's repetitive nature, which is naturally an even greater concern for Ranger veterans.    

One important tweak has been made to the gameplay in that captures no longer require continuous circling around Pokémon to be completed. When players lift the stylus from the touch screen to avoid taking damage from attacks, this only causes the capture meter to fall gradually, and isn't much of an impediment to success in most cases. Also, given that opportunities to recharge health are abundant thanks to the many helpful Pikachu (and relatives) to be found, all but the most careless of Rangers will find there's little danger of losing your progress most of the time.    

All captures are graded, so skilful Rangers able to snag Pokémon with a single stylus flurry are rewarded with extra experience points, but careful manipulation is required only in the extended boss-type encounters. These powerful Pokémon frequently use deadly attacks that can spread across significant portions of the play area, so capturing them often involves waiting for the right moment, then suddenly drawing a burst of loops around the target—something easier said than done when that Pokémon can hop around at high speed, for instance. Pokémon in your company can help in these situations with assist moves based on their type, causing status effects such as reduced speed or temporary paralysis. Shadows of Almia includes a number of potential partner Pokémon to keep by your side, thus creating a minor strategic element in deciding which assist move will be most useful to have ready to use in various situations.    

Though the touch screen captures are unquestionably the heart of Pokémon Ranger's gameplay, much of the game's duration is spent exploring the various environments of the Almia region and speaking with NPCs. Both traditional D-pad and touch screen controls can be used to guide your Ranger, which is a sensible choice since the stylus is often convenient given the frequent need to capture Pokémon, while the greater precision of the D-pad is occasionally welcome in more hazardous locations.    

The exploration element of the game consists predominantly of leg work to find a sequence of Pokémon necessary to bypass the obstacles in your way, with the level layouts sometimes quite purposefully forcing heavy amounts of re-traversal in order to achieve this. Later in the game there are more interesting and involving areas, such as an aquatic maze filled with icebergs that must be navigated atop an Empoleon, but most of the designs feel uninspired or even cynical in their attempts to prolong the experience.    

Provided that players can tolerate the lack of variety and abundance of filler material that characterises the Shadows of Almia experience to a large extent, the story-advancing missions alone provide an extensive amount of playtime, and are complemented by a number of side quests. Undertaking these optional tasks accrues modest rewards such as improved defensive stats and occasionally a new partner Pokémon, but these are so clearly detached from the strictly linear main quest that many will be inclined to bypass them for the most part. For those with access to the Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection, there are also a couple of downloadable missions that yield Pokémon eggs (of Manaphy and Riolu) that can be transferred over to Diamond/Pearl.      

Viewed from a top-down perspective, the visuals are clean and colourful in 2D, with solid detailing and animation. The key difference in Pokémon Ranger's presentation from that of the series' mainline games is visible Pokémon, not only dotted around the environments but also constantly at your side, something sure to please Pokémon devotees. All the creatures also have their sound effects from Diamond and Pearl, providing a sense of those characters being brought to life, but this may still disappoint fans of the anime series' vocals. The soundtrack is tonally reminiscent of other Pokémon games, but comes up a little short thanks to less catchy compositions.    

With its gentle pace and repetitive gameplay, Shadows of Almia is significantly dependent on its story to maintain players' interest in the game. Though the script is quite slick and able to generate a few laughs (from the ineffectually villainous Team Dim Sun in particular), this is still lightweight stuff that will struggle to really engage anyone not already invested in the world of Pokemon, and so it is the charm of that world and its many creatures that must carry the load. In this sense it can be said that Shadows of Almia is effective in servicing its target audience, but demonstrates little ambition to excel beyond those boundaries.      

Overall, Pokémon Ranger: Shadows of Almia is a solidly produced title, but given its close resemblance to its predecessor and the lack of more substantial or dynamic gameplay and narrative elements, its appeal will be limited mostly to those Pokémon enthusiasts eager to see the creatures from Diamond and Pearl represented elsewhere. The boss encounters prove that there can be much more to the gameplay than indiscriminate scribbling, but these are a little few and far between to hold the interest of those not enthralled by Ranger's lively take on the Pokémon world, and that's after its inordinately slow start. Nevertheless, Shadows of Almia merits consideration for those amenable to the franchise's charms who have yet to try Ranger, as the core concept is still appealing and amusing, and it certainly can last for quite a while—it just spreads its content rather thin while doing so.


  • Still an appealing concept
  • Boss-type captures are challenging and fun
  • Brings the Pokémon world to life more fully than mainline games

  •        Cons:
  • Very slow and protracted introduction
  • Lack of variety and originality

  •                Graphics:  7.0
           The clear and colourful sprite work may not be especially impressive, but it fits the Pokémon world perfectly, and the different locales offer some welcome visual variety. The Pokémon themselves are animated well during capture sequences as they attack and bounce around the lower screen, but they are predictably less expressive during exploration.

                   Sound:  6.0
           All the Pokémon come replete with their familiar sound effects from the mainline series, still including many 8-bit-sounding ones from the Blue/Red days for total authenticity and continuity. The soundtrack is familiarly cheerful, and equally undistinguished.

                   Control:  8.0
           Touch screen recognition during the capture gameplay is very effective, allowing for some quite precise utilisation of the stylus when necessary in boss encounters. Using the stylus to guide your Ranger while exploring is convenient but not perfect, so the inclusion of D-pad controls is welcome even if switching between the two can be slightly awkward.

                          Gameplay:  7.0
           The core concept of capturing Pokémon using your stylus is a fun idea that Shadows of Almia executes well, for the most part. The extended encounters are uniquely tense and enjoyable as careful but rapid stylus strokes are required, and the advanced techniques that come into play (such as charging up energy and the use of Pokémon assist moves) spice up the otherwise simplistic gameplay. However, these are a disappointingly small proportion of the gameplay overall, which consists of routine captures and laborious exploration to a large extent.


           Lastability:  6.0
           Shadows of Almia will either last players a considerable length of time, or fall into disuse within its first few hours due to the protracted introduction that will surely test the patience of some gamers. Things become more interesting once the game gets going (though it never exceeds a fairly gentle pace), and with numerous side quests and a few downloadable missions to complement the lengthy main story, those who persevere will be rewarded with several hours of playtime. However, the linearity and overall simplicity of Shadows of Almia leave it with very limited replay value.


           Final:  6.0
           As a highly conservative follow-up to a two-years-old original, Pokémon Ranger: Shadows of Almia is hardly laudable as a work of creative expression, nor is it a breath of fresh air for those who enjoyed the first Ranger—a problem significantly exacerbated by the straightforward gameplay and plodding pace. However, it does make solid use of the Ranger template with some welcome tweaks and expanded utilisation of the franchise's vast Pokédex of characters, making it more than worth a try for Pokémon fans unfamiliar with the Ranger experience.      

    TalkBack / PODCAST: Radio Free Nintendo: Episode 126
    « on: December 23, 2008, 02:11:00 PM »
    Fires, and Tornados, and Bears (but no Jonny), oh my!

     The grass is always greener on the side that has Disaster: Day of Crisis.  

     Episode 126: Force of Nature    

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    In the absence of NWR's resident fried rice-reheating authority Jonathan Metts, Persona podcast superstar Nick DiMola once again joins the rest of the regular RFN team, bringing with him news from the distant shores of Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts. Also in New Business: everything old is new again for Greg, Jon relives his youth in Age of Empires, and James is predictably outraged by his latest review copy, Tomb Raider Underworld.    

    After a listener mail follow-up segment to our Ocarina of Time anniversary special (Jon audio now included!) ponders the complexities of time travel and gender roles in the Zelda universe, the crew indulges in a bit of release schedule envy with a look at some of the notable games of 2008 released in Japan but not in North America. Everything from handheld music games to arcade fighters is on the unsettlingly long list, but one in particular prompts James to take matters into his own hands in the struggle to bring an end to America's deprivation…        


    This podcast was edited by Greg Leahy and James Jones.    

    Music for this episode of Radio Free Nintendo is used with permission from Jason Ricci & New Blood. You can purchase their new album, Rocket Number 9, directly from the record label, or download it from iTunes, or call your local record store and ask for it!

    TalkBack / Nintendo Reveals European Release Schedule for Early 2009
    « on: December 16, 2008, 03:08:28 AM »
    GameCube remakes and highly anticipated third party titles headline comprehensive Wii and DS launch lists for the first quarter of next year.

     Nintendo of Europe has disclosed the early 2009 release schedules for Wii and Nintendo DS, including third party-published games in addition to Nintendo's own titles.    

    The comprehensive Wii software line-up reveals the launch dates for the first two in a range of GameCube games to be re-purposed for Wii: Pikmin will arrive on February 6, while Mario Power Tennis is on course for a March release. Both games bear the prefix "NEW PLAY CONTROL!" to emphasise the utilisation of the Wii Remote involved in these re-releases. Notable in its absence from the list of first party software is Fatal Frame 4, which has previously been reported to be due for a February release from Nintendo of Europe.    

    Several highly anticipated third party-published Wii games also appear on the list. THQ's Deadly Creatures is slated to release on February 13, Tenchu: Shadow Assassins will come courtesy of Ubisoft on March 5, while Little King's Story follows later in the month from Rising Star Games. Sega has a number of notable titles ready for release in the first quarter: House of the Dead: Overkill will arrive in February, with Sonic and the Black Knight and Platinum Games' Madworld both set for March releases.    

    On DS, the schedule includes a couple of Nintendo-published games in the form of Mystery Case Files: MillionHeir (February 6) and Walk with Me! (February 20). The latter title utilises an "Activity Meter" pedometer accessory to track stats on daily walking distances for up to four people on the same game card.    

    The full Q1 2009 release line-ups for Wii and DS can be seen below:    

    Wii Software 2009

     Chrysler Classic Racing (ZOO) 9 Jan 2009

     Jeep Thrills (formerly Let's Off Road) (ZOO) -9 Jan 2009

     Army Men: Soldiers of Misfortune (ZOO) - 16 Jan 2009

     Skate City Heroes (ZOO) - 16 Jan 2009

     Story Hour Adventures (ZOO) - 16 Jan 2009

     Story Hour Fairy Tales (ZOO) - 16 Jan 2009

     NeoPets Puzzle Adventure (Capcom) - 23 Jan 2009

     Twin Strike: Operation Thunder (ZOO) - Jan 2009

     Riding Stables (dtp young entertainment) - Jan 2009

     Music Party (dtp young entertainment) - Jan 2009

     Ultimate Band (Capcom)- 5 Feb 2009

     NEW PLAY CONTROL! Pikmin (Nintendo)- 6 Feb 2009

     Hotel For Dogs (505 Games)- 6 Feb 2009

     NARUTO Clash of Ninja Revolution 2 European Version (TOMY / Nintendo) - 13 Feb 2009

     Deadly Creatures (THQ)- 13 Feb 2009  CM 2 - World Kitchen (505 Games)- 20 Feb 2009

     The Destiny of Zorro (505 Games)- 27 Feb 2009

     House of the Dead: Overkill (SEGA)- Feb 2009

     Ben 10: Alien Force (D3Publisher)- Feb 2009

     Onechanbra-Bikini Zombi Slayers (D3Publisher)- Feb 2009

     Mushroom Men: The Spore Wars (SouthPeak Games)- Feb 2009

     Pirates versus Ninja (SouthPeak Games)- Feb 2009

     CID The Dummy (Oxygen Games)- Feb 2009

     Tenchu Shadow Assassins (Ubisoft)- 5 Mar 2009

     Yamaha Supercross (ZOO)- 6 Mar 2009

     Big Foot Collision Course (ZOO)- 6 Mar 2009

     Diva Girls: Princess on Ice (505 Games)- 6 Mar 2009

     Smiley World Island Challenge (ZOO)- 13 Mar 2009

     Jelly Belly Ballistic Beans (ZOO)- 13 Mar 2009

     Sim Animals (EA) - 23 Mar 2009

     Little Kings Story (Rising Star Games)- 28 Mar 2009

     NEW PLAY CONTROL! Mario Power Tennis (Nintendo)- Mar 2009

     Sonic and the Black Knight (SEGA)- Mar 2009

     MADWORLD (SEGA)- Mar 2009

     Diabolik: The Original Sin (Black Bean /Lago Srl)- Mar 2009

     Bob the Builder: Festival of Fun (Mastertronic)- Mar 2009

     AMF Bowling World Lanes (Bethsofteurope)- Q1 2009

     Runaway The Dream of the Turtle (Focus Home Interactive)- Q1 2009

     Job Island (Hudson Soft)- Q1 2009

     Kororinpa 2 (working title) (Hudson Soft)- Q1 2009

     King of Fighters Collection: The Orochi Saga. (Ignition)- Q1 2009

     Samurai Shodown Anthology (Ignition)- Q1 2009

     Jillian Michaels Fitness Ultimatum 2009 (Koch Media / Deep Silver)- Q1 2009

     Castlevania Judgment (Konami)- Q1 2009

     PES 2009 (Konami)- Q1 2009

     Cake Mania - In the Mix ! (Majesco/Codemasters)- Q1 2009

     Escape The Museum (Majesco/Codemasters)- Q1 2009

     Rock Revolution (Konami)- Q1 2009

     Hysteria Hospital: Emergeny Ward (Oxygen Games)- Q1 2009

     Roogoo (SouthPeak Games)- Q1 2009

     Brave: A Warrior's Tale (SouthPeak Games)- Q1 2009

     Line Rider 2: Unbound (InXile)- Q1 2009

     PurrPals II (InXile)- Q1 2009


     Nintendo DS Software 2009

     Chrysler Classic Racing (ZOO)- 9 Jan 2009

     My Chinese Coach (Ubisoft)- 15 Jan 2009

     Petz My Monkey Family (Ubisoft)- 15 Jan 2009

     Petz My Kitten Family (Ubisoft)- 15 Jan 2009

     Lord of the Rings:Conquest (EA)- 16 Jan 2009

     Army Men: Soldiers of Misfortune (ZOO)- 16 Jan 2009

     Tecktonic (Koch Media / Deep Silver)- 16 Jan 2009

     Sim Animals (EA)- 23 Jan 2009

     NeoPets Puzzle Adventure (Capcom)- 23 Jan 2009

     Word Master (ZOO)- 30 Jan 2009

     The Woodleys - Sports (dtp young entertainment) - Jan 2009

     Best Friend -My Horse (dtp young entertainment) - Jan 2009

     Ultimate Band (Disney Interactive Studios)- 4 Feb 2009

     Scrabble 2009 (Ubisoft)- 5 Feb 2009

     Imagine: Ballet Dancer (Ubisoft)- 5 Feb 2009

     Johnny Bravo (Mastertronic)- 6 Feb 2009

     Mystery Case Files: MillionHeir (Nintendo)- 6 Feb 2009

      Harvest Fishing (Rising Star)- 6 Feb 2009

     XG Blast ! (Rising Star)- 6 Feb 2009

     Hotel for Dogs (505 Games)- 6 Feb 2009

     Imagine: Movie Star (Ubisoft)- 12 Feb 2009

     My Pet Zoo Vet (505 Games)- 13 Feb 2009

     Buffy (505 Games)- 13 Feb 2009

     Rune Factory (Rising Star)- 13 Feb 2009

     Walk with me! Do you know your walking routine? bundled with two Activity Meters (Nintendo)- 20 Feb 2009

     Lux Pain (Rising Star)- 20 Feb 2009

     Pop Town (505 Games)- 27 Feb 2009

     Mahjong Quest (Astragon)- 27 Feb 2009

     The Chase: Felix meets Felicity (Atari)- Feb 2009

     Disney Fairies: Tinker Bell (Disney Interactive Studios)- Feb 2009

     Mushroom Men: Rise of The Fungi (SouthPeak Games)- Feb 2009

     Insecticide (SouthPeak Games)- Feb 2009

     Ben 10: Alien Force (D3Publisher)- Feb 2009

     Crazy Machines (dtp young entertainment)- Feb 2009

     My pet beauty salon (dtp young entertainment)- Feb 2009

     The Chase: Felix meets Felicity (Atari)- Feb 2009

     Diva Girls: Diva Dancers (505 Games)- 6 Mar 2009

     Yamaha Supercross (ZOO)- 6 Mar 2009

     Big Foot Collision Course (ZOO)- 6 Mar 2009

     Club Penguin (Disney Interactive Studios)- 13 Mar 2009

     Populous (Rising Star)- 13 Mar 2009

     Smile World Island Challenge (ZOO)- 13 Mar 2009

     Jelly Belly Ballistic Beans (ZOO)- 13 Mar 2009

     Emergency Room (505 Games)- 27 Mar 2009

     My Beauty Salon (505 Games)- 27 Mar 2009

     NARUTO NINJA DESTINY 2 European Versión (TOMY / Nintendo)- Mar 2009

     Bleach: Dark Souls (SEGA)- Mar 2009

     History Great Empires: Rome (Black Bean / Lago Srl)- Mar 2009

     Diabolik: The Original Sin (Black Bean / Lago Srl)- Mar 2009

     Puzzle Quest Galactrix (D3Publisher)- Mar 2009

     Challenge Me: Brain Puzzles (Oxygen Games)- Mar 2009

     Challenge Me: Maths Workout (Oxygen Games)- Mar 2009

     Ducati Moto (Bethsofteurope)- Q1 2009

     AMF Bowling Pinbusters! (Bethsofteurope)- Q1 2009

     Dungeon Raiders (Focus Home Entertainment)- Q1 2009

     Sherlock Holmes "Le mystere de la momie" (Focus Home Entertainment)- Q1 2009

     Blood Bowl (Focus Home Entertainment)- Q1 2009

     Let`s Play: Fire Fighter (Gamelife)- Q1 2009

     Bomberman 2 (working title) (Hudson Soft)- Q1 2009

     Enchanted Folk and the School of Wizardry (Konami)- Q1 2009

     Rock Revolution (Konami)- Q1 2009

     Cake Mania 2 (Majesco/Codemasters)- Q1 2009

     Maths Blaster (Majesco)- Q1 2009

     Powerbike (Majesco)- Q1 2009

     Left Brain Right Brain 2 (Majesco)- Q1 2009

     Wonderworld Amusement Park (Majesco)- Q1 2009

     Babysitting Mania (Majesco/Codemasters)- Q1 2009

     Our House (Majesco)- Q1 2009

     Big Bang Mini (SouthPeak Games)- Q1 2009

     Brave: Shaman's Challenge (SouthPeak Games)- Q1 2009

     Roogoo (SouthPeak Games)- Q1 2009

     De Blob (THQ)- Q1 2009

     Gauntlet (Eidos)- Spring 2009

     Winx Club Secret Diary 2009 (Konami)- early 2009  

     Nintendo DS Accessory

     Activity Meter (x 1 ) (Nintendo)- 20 Feb 2009

    TalkBack / Chrono Trigger European Launch Date Set for February 6
    « on: December 12, 2008, 07:12:35 AM »
    The legendary time-travelling Square Enix RPG is finally on course for its first PAL release.

     Square Enix has announced the date when Chrono Trigger will make its way to Europe for the first time ever, as the much-lauded Nintendo DS version of the time-travelling RPG opus is set to launch across PAL territories on February 6 of next year.    

    Widely remembered as one of the high points of the 16-bit era in other regions, Chrono Trigger originally came out for the Super NES in 1995, while the DS version has already arrived in Japan and North America during November of this year to a highly positive reception from critics.    

    For European gamers playing Chrono Trigger for the first time, the DS experience is mostly faithful to the Super NES original, but does make use of the handheld's features to offer touch screen menu control and wireless multiplayer modes. There is also some new content, including an additional dungeon, and even a new ending to join the many alternate conclusions to the original game.          


    London (11th December 2008) Square Enix Ltd., the publisher of Square Enix interactive entertainment products in Europe and other PAL territories, today announces that CHRONO TRIGGER will be released across PAL territories on 6th of February, 2009 exclusively on the Nintendo DS system.    

    They say that "time is money" but for our hero, Crono it is much more than that! Get ready to travel through time to avoid the destruction of the world as we know it. With CHRONO TRIGGER, your notion of time will be turned upside down as you race against it like you've never done before, while all the decisions you make along the way will affect past, present and future!    

    Originally released in 1995 for the Super NES CHRONO TRIGGER is regarded as a classic that was sadly never released in the PAL territories. We may not have a time machine to rectify the past, but thankfully CHRONO TRIGGER is about to change history. This all-new edition of CHRONO TRIGGER contains all the classic essence of the original while introducing the portability, dual screen presentation and Touch Screen functionality of the Nintendo DS.    

    John Yamamoto, president and chief executive officer of Square Enix Ltd. comments, "CHRONO TRIGGER is one of the most anticipated Square Enix titles of 2009 and we hope for all Nintendo DS owners to experience this charismatic time travelling adventure. And with CHRONO TRIGGER's multiple endings, there will be no end to the amount of times players can enjoy the classic story of Crono and his friends".    

      About CHRONO TRIGGER    


    When a newly developed teleportation device malfunctions at the Millennial Fair, young Crono must travel through time to rescue his misfortunate companion from an intricate web of past and present perils. The swashbuckling adventure that ensues soon unveils an evil force set to destroy the world, triggering Crono's race against time to change the course of history and bring about a brighter future.    


  • A masterpiece with an engaging and unparalleled storyline, leading to the discovery of multiple epic conclusions to a journey that transcends time.
  • An unprecedented and inspiring musical score created by Yasunori Mitsuda.
  • Intriguing battle system made possible by the unique combination of the Active Time Battle system and Tech skills.
  • Famed character designer Akira Toriyama lends his signature art style to create the vibrant world that has captivated gamers around the world.
  • Taking advantage of the Nintendo DS hardware, CHRONO TRIGGER makes its way onto the portable platform with all-new dual screen presentation and Touch Screen functionality.
  • A brand new dungeon and DS Wireless Communications add exciting new dimensions to this timeless classic.

  • 32
    TalkBack / FF CC: Echoes of Time on Course for Spring Release in Europe
    « on: December 08, 2008, 10:12:29 PM »
    Unique cross-platform online multiplayer will allow play between "almost any combination of the DS and Wii versions" of the new Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles title.

     In an email newsletter to its European fans, Square-Enix has stated that Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: Echoes of Time is set to launch across the region for both Wii and Nintendo DS in the Spring of 2009.    

    Echoes of Time will reprise both the local co-operative multiplayer modes and handheld-to-console connectivity of the original Crystal Chronicles title for GameCube, but will make use of unique cross-platform play—both locally and online—for Wii and DS. As Square-Enix puts it, this will mean that "you and three of your friends can play together, with almost any combination of the DS and Wii versions of the game."

    TalkBack / Nintendo UK Ventures into Book Publishing on DS
    « on: December 08, 2008, 11:00:44 AM »
    A deal with HarperCollins will bring scores of classic works of literature to the dual screens of Nintendo's boundary-breaking portable platform.

     According to The Times newspaper, Nintendo UK is set to announce a partnership with publishing giant HarperCollins that will allow a wide range of literary classics to be read using a Nintendo DS. The 100 Classic Book Collection will launch for the hugely popular portable platform on December 26 at a price of around £20, making it possible for British DS owners to flick through the pages of anything from Shakespeare to Dickens with the swipe of a finger on the touch screen.      

    Touting the convenience of being able to access so many pages' worth of famous literature via a single DS game card, Nintendo executive James Honeywell told The Times, "When you go on holiday, or if you're a commuter, lugging around a big paper book can be a bit of an inconvenience. Now you've got this whole library that you're taking with you. We hope to encourage people to try books that they wouldn't go out and purchase themselves."    

    With this announcement, Nintendo is following its gaming rival Sony into the books on screen business: Sony launched the Sony Reader in partnership with Waterstone's back in September. The Times states that this venture will be limited to the UK market initially, but Nintendo is looking to bring it to other territories, and may expand the number of titles available if The 100 Classic Book Collection proves to be a hit with the DS audience.

    TalkBack / Four More for WiiWare in Europe
    « on: December 05, 2008, 07:33:26 AM »
    This fortnightly update brings another quartet of original games to download from the PAL Wii Shop Channel, including the return of Strong Bad and Art Style.

     This week's update to the PAL Wii Shop Channel keeps up the pace set by the quartet of WiiWare titles that launched two weeks ago, providing another four new games to download:    

    ROTOHEX (600 Wii Points) is the next in the series of Nintendo's Art Style games to launch in PAL territories. Based on the (Japan only) bit Generations title Dialhex for GBA, ROTOHEX is a grid-based puzzler that requires players to rotate tiles in order to form hexes. In its WiiWare incarnation the game features Versus play and an all-new mode called Sprint that challenges players to clear six hexes as quickly as possible. Our review of the North American release can be found here.    

    Bang! (600 Wii Points) is another puzzler, but this one involves swinging the Wii Remote as a hammer to smash matching objects and includes forty levels along with a two player mode.    

    Next up is Strong Bad Episode 4: Dangeresque 3: The Criminal Projective (1000 Wii Points), the penultimate instalment in the episodic comedy adventure Strong Bad's Cool Game for Attractive People, based on the characters of Homestar Runner and developed by Telltale Games.    

    Finally we have Hudson's Pit Crew Panic! (500 Wii Points), a four player contest to see who can be the fastest at fixing up a whole host of odd objects and vehicles using the Wii Remote as their toolkit.

    TalkBack / Nintendo to Publish Fatal Frame IV in Europe
    « on: December 01, 2008, 05:48:22 PM »
    The Grasshopper-developed survival horror sequel will be released early next year in PAL territory, courtesy of NoE.

     The most recent issue of the UK's Official Nintendo Magazine has revealed that Nintendo of Europe will be publishing Fatal Frame 4 across Europe, projecting a release date sometime during February 2009.  A partial scan of the magazine confirming the information has been posted at GoNintendo and elsewhere.    

    The latest instalment in Tecmo's storied survival horror franchise, Fatal Frame 4 was developed by Grasshopper Manufacture and published by Nintendo Co. Ltd. exclusively for Wii upon its Japanese launch back in July of this year.  There is still no release date or confirmed publisher for North America.

    TalkBack / A WiiWare Foursome for PAL Gamers
    « on: November 24, 2008, 02:30:16 PM »
    Cubello, Cue Sports, Strong Bad Episode 3, and Yummy Yummy Cooking Jam make for an unusually substantial update to the PAL Wii Shop Channel.

     This week's update to the PAL Wii Shop Channel brings four new WiiWare games for gamers across Europe and Australia to download:    

    CUBELLO (600 Wii Points) is the first in the series of Art Style games to launch in PAL territories, with ROTOHEX and ORBIENT set to release over the next two weeks. This visually minimalist puzzler involves using the Wii Remote pointer to fire cubes at a spinning structure in order to match colours in a mix of skill and strategy.    

    CueSports – Snooker Vs Billiards (800 Wii Points) is a collection of table game simulations from Hudson, including Snooker, 9 Ball, 8 Ball, and Rotation. Multiplayer options allow for four player local competition as well as worldwide online play via the Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection.    

    Strong Bad 3: Baddest of the Bands (1000 Wii Points) is the third installment in the episodic comedy adventure Strong Bad's Cool Game for Attractive People from Telltale Games. Short on funds, Strong Bad arranges a battle of the bands to raise some quick cash, with predictably unintended consequences.    

    Yummy Yummy Cooking Jam (1000 Wii Points) puts you to work in a series of restaurants, using the Wii Remote to hand out menus, take orders, prepare the food itself, and even swat away some bothersome flies. Also, two players can indulge in bouts of competitive cooking to see who can earn the biggest tips from the patrons.

    TalkBack / PODCAST: Radio Free Nintendo: Ocarina of Time
    « on: November 24, 2008, 02:22:00 PM »
    Jonny, Greg, Evan, and the ghost of Jon Lindemann look back at one of the greatest and most beloved games of all time on its tenth birthday.

     We celebrate a decade of Zelda in the third dimension.  

     Special: Ocarina of Time 10th Anniversary    

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    November 23 was The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time's tenth birthday, and while Nintendo fans around the world blew out their golden cartridges to celebrate with a trip back (and forth) in time through Hyrule circa 1998 on Nintendo 64, the RFN crew decided that this was an occasion worthy of a special episode.    

    Host Jonathan Metts, token foreigner Greg Leahy, and lightning rod Jon Lindemann welcomed special guest Evan Burchfield back into the RFN fold to reminisce about the interminable wait for Zelda's first foray into 3D, share the joy of experiencing the incredible final product, and ponder its significance as one of the most remarkable and groundbreaking games of all time.    

    This being RFN though, there were technical problems, in this case meaning that Mr. Lindemann's audio was sealed away in the Sacred Realm to be used as a punching bag for a very angry Ganondorf to kill a few centuries with. Fortunately, much of the discussion was not compromised by this sad turn of events, so there's still a great deal of Ocarina retrospection to enjoy. As for what Jon made of it all, I guess that will have to wait for 2018….      


    This podcast was edited by James Jones.    

    Music for this episode of Radio Free Nintendo is used with permission from Jason Ricci & New Blood. You can purchase their new album, Rocket Number 9, directly from the record label, or download it from iTunes, or call your local record store and ask for it!    

    Additional music for this episode of Radio Free Nintendo is copyrighted to Nintendo, and is included under fair use protection.

    TalkBack / REVIEWS: The Legend of Spyro: Dawn of the Dragon
    « on: November 19, 2008, 11:48:36 PM »
    The voices of Frodo Baggins and Wednesday Addams team up with Commissioner Gordon to defeat the Joker, but it's not nearly as good as it sounds.

     The Legend of Spyro: Dawn of the Dragon brings the purple dragon back to side-scrolling fare for its DS incarnation in a mix of platforming and brawling action, with the occasional on-rails shooting sequence to boot. Solid controls and attractive 3D graphics offer some promise early on, but Dawn of the Dragon proves to be too sparse and too short to make for a satisfying gameplay experience. Its weak storytelling fails to capitalise on the accomplished voice cast, rendering its narrative impotent and leaving little to distinguish Spyro's latest handheld outing.    

    The final chapter in the Legend of Spyro trilogy, this year's entry sees the eponymous young dragon partnering with his former foe Cynder the dragoness in an effort to stop the evil Malefor from destroying the world. This DS incarnation boasts the same high-profile voice cast as the console versions, including such famous names as Elijah Wood, Christina Ricci, Gary Oldman, and Mark Hamill.    

    All of the script's dialogue is delivered well enough, but the cast members never feel like they’re playing off each other and the storytelling falls flat overall. The thin and derivative plot plays out in cut scenes consisting of a handful of poorly drawn stills with no accompanying sound effects or musical score, leaving it to the somewhat scratchy-sounding vocal track to convey the drama by itself. The outcome is rather like viewing a simple storyboard set to a recording of an initial script read-through, and ultimately ranks as nothing special for narrative in a handheld video game.    

    Gameplay-wise, Dawn of the Dragon is primarily a side-scrolling platform game with some brawler-style combat elements, letting players switch between Spyro and Cynder at almost any time using the L trigger. Fighting enemies typically involves rapidly hitting buttons while shifting directions on the D-pad in order to string together combos, the recognition of which is somewhat inconsistent. The only nuance associated with this combat is that enemies have variable vulnerabilities to the different elemental attacks possessed by the dragon duo, but apart from remembering to switch to a different attack type (and if necessary the correct dragon first), this doesn't do much to meaningfully alter the gameplay. Spyro and Cynder play almost identically, so switching between the two is more an exercise in managing health meters (if one dragon runs out of life, it's back to the last save point) than anything else.    

    Developer Tantalus has made some wise decisions in order to avoid the most obvious pitfall of a brawler-style design, in that you are actively encouraged to fight enemies (as opposed to taking the quicker option of bypassing them) due to the fact that they drop experience gems that can be accumulated to level up different attack types. Finishing off foes with combos leads to a bigger haul of these gems, so learning how best to fight is also engendered by the design. However, this does not make the actual process of fighting enemies any more fun, and later in the game - when battles become more frequent and many attributes will have already been maxed out - the temptation to flee rather than fight strengthens sharply.    

    Occasionally, the side-scrolling action is relieved by on-rails shooting action sequences. Here, Spyro and Cynder take flight: the D-pad handles their positioning, while the stylus is used to target enemies. Actively manoeuvring the dragons with one hand while tapping the screen to fire with the other is a little unwieldy, but the scheme remains adequate for the relatively low-intensity action involved in these sequences. The two dragons can once again be switched out, and here it is actually more vital to do so since Spyro and Cynder quickly run out of the "breath" that powers their attacks, and can recharge this more rapidly (along with regaining health) when resting as the other does battle. Making good use of this facility renders these sequences mostly harmless, and there really isn't enough going on to make them particularly entertaining either. There are too few enemies and hazards to get the adrenalin flowing during the main parts of levels, and while the bosses may look imposing (and score a few cheap hits due to questionable collision detection), they lack the necessary creativity in attack pattern design to feel like anything more than going through the motions.    

    Dawn of the Dragon employs 3D graphics in both its on-rails and side-scrolling sequences, and the results are quite effective. Most of the characters and environments look crisp thanks to some good texture work, and the dragons themselves manage to convey an appropriate level of personality through their animations. However, there seems to have been a rather significant price to pay for the enjoyment of this aesthetic sheen: there's never very much going on. Spyro seldom finds himself in combat with more than two foes at a time, and when this does occur, it spells doom for the game's framerate. The result is a brawler without a whole lot of brawling, giving the proceedings a pedestrian feel throughout.      

    Of course, there is also platforming to deal with during the side-scrolling stages, but here again we see that the visual presentation seems to have trumped gameplay in Tanatlus' development priorities. The view is simply too zoomed-in to allow for the levels to feasibly contain sophisticated platform layouts, and in fact proves less than adequate for the relatively simple designs that have been put in place. Using the D-pad to (slowly) shift the view up or down slightly is not a satisfactory solution to the problem, and leaps of faith and/or memorisation are occasionally required to traverse certain sections. These problems beg for a dynamic camera to solve them, but no such measure is implemented. The outcome is that, aside from a few nifty little wall-jumping challenges, there really isn't much in the way of platforming to engage and challenge the player, and what little is on offer is more likely to frustrate than satisfy.    

    The decision to focus on the superficialities of visuals and voice work rather than gameplay defines Dawn of the Dragon as a work of style over substance. Though the core concepts, controls, and incentive structures are all sound, well-presented, and quite fun to play around with, the game design fails to do anything particularly interesting with them. Furthermore, the sheer brevity of the game (completion should take no more than five hours—and significantly less than that for most players) cements this as an insubstantial experience that could have been much more successful given the time and inclination to flesh out the gameplay, but instead seems to have been chiefly concerned with simply putting something out on time that passes the eyeball test.


  • Crisp, attractive 3D visuals
  • Effective control schemes
  • Good use of incentives for combat

  •        Cons:
  • Too little action in both gameplay styles
  • Zoomed-in view not conducive to good platforming
  • Weak narrative elements

  •                Graphics:  8.0
           Dawn of the Dragon uses 3D graphics to maintain a consistent look between the different gameplay styles, and does so effectively. The visuals are clean, crisp, and nicely detailed, but do run into some trouble when the action (very occasionally) gets a little more congested.

                   Sound:  5.0
           Suitable sound effects along with the quantity of commendable voice work are nice plus points, but the music is absolutely pitiful due to substandard instrumentation, and conspicuous in its absence from the dramatic cut scenes that would have benefited a great deal from some appropriate musical scoring.

                   Control:  7.0
           The control schemes for both the on-rails and side-scrolling sequences work well for the most part, thanks to reliable recognition of more nuanced inputs such as double tapping the D-pad to execute dashing and dodging.

                          Gameplay:  5.0
           Dawn of the Dragon's gameplay is fundamentally sound thanks to the effective controls and shrewd encouragement of combat, but the focus on the game's visual presentation means that this potential is largely squandered. Fighting enemies one and two at a time is simply not intense enough to make combat an entertaining or rewarding experience, and the close-up perspective severely limits the fun to be had from platforming.


           Lastability:  3.0
           Completion will only take a few hours, and there are absolutely no inclusions to encourage players to replay the game.


           Final:  5.0
           With a nice look, a high profile voice cast, and decent controls, The Legend of Spyro: Dawn of the Dragon leaves a slick first impression, but ultimately fails to back it up due to a dearth of action and content. The brevity of the game is matched by its lack of depth, so what fun there is to be had is both subdued and short-lived. While fans of the Spyro universe may therefore be the only group with any hope of getting much out of playing Dawn of the Dragon, it must be said that the weak storytelling on show may mean they would be better served by following Spyro's adventures on another platform.      

    TalkBack / PODCAST: Radio Free Nintendo: Episode 122
    « on: November 15, 2008, 12:21:29 AM »
    Filling in and falling short.

     Fate did not want this episode to live.  

     Episode 122: Quandary of Solace    

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    With scheduling difficulties forcing both host Jonathan Metts and Jon "Warhammer of Judgment" Lindemann to sit on the sidelines, it was up to Greg and James to keep the good ship RFN afloat on its 122nd voyage with the help of Mr. and Mrs. Jack, aka Nick and Francesca DiMola.    

    Our esteemed guests save New Business from being entirely dominated by games that have either been previously discussed or placed under embargo by giving us their takes on Unsolved Crimes and Wii Music, then DLC Mondays veers into a bout of collective headshaking at the existence of Castlevania Judgment (naturally).    

    A worryingly short listener mail segment on busted game mechanics gives way to an unexpectedly brief rundown of the news in part two, as there was only time enough to ponder the ramifications of the DSi's Japanese launch before the perils of British internet access brought the show's recording to a sudden halt. Nevertheless, there's plenty to enjoy in this uncommonly (and unintentionally) trim episode, and look forward to next time when…    

    "RFN 123: The Man with the Golden Throat"  


    This podcast was edited by James Jones.    

    Music for this episode of Radio Free Nintendo is used with permission from Jason Ricci & New Blood. You can purchase their new album, Rocket Number 9, directly from the record label, or download it from iTunes, or call your local record store and ask for it!

    TalkBack / Art Style Games Coming to Europe in November
    « on: November 11, 2008, 12:07:00 PM »
    The first wave of retro-styled WiiWare titles will become available over three successive weeks beginning November 21.

     Nintendo UK has announced that the first games in the Art Style series, a range of concept-driven WiiWare titles with simple visuals, will begin releasing on the European Wii Shop Channel during November. Cubello, Rotohex, and Orbient will be made available to download over three week successive weeks, beginning with the launch of Cubello on November 21. Each game will cost 600 Wii Points.    

    Cubello is a puzzle game that tasks players with matching coloured cubes by firing them at a large rotating cluster, and is the only original game in the Art Style series to date. Both Rotohex and Orbient are based on titles in the Japan-only bit Generations line of GBA games: Dialhex, a grid-based puzzler, and Orbital, a game focused on the exploitation of gravity to navigate a star around a series of cosmic level layouts.    

    Nintendo UK has also launched a website for the Art Style series that includes an interview with Kensuke Tanabe of NCL and the heads of skip Ltd., the developers behind the Art Style/bit Generation games. Discussing the possibility of further titles in the Art Style line, Tanabe-san said: "We are prepared for that. The more requests we have for Art Style games, the sooner those games will become a reality."    


    10th November, 2008 – Starting 21st November 2008, a stylish new series of unique Wii games will begin launching exclusively via WiiWare. Nintendo’s Art Style series combines simple yet highly playable new game concepts with striking audio-visuals. And to celebrate the release of the upcoming series, a new online site has now been launched: providing game information as well as an exclusive interview with the creators, and much more!    

    The games – Cubello, Rotohex and Orbient – represent compelling new concepts that have been created to take advantage of the unique Wii controls. With only the Wii Remote, players can enjoy new challenges that go beyond traditional action or puzzle games. Each game will be available to download from the Wii Shop Channel for 600 Wii Points each.    

    The release of the Art Style series is another demonstration of WiiWare’s ability to provide a platform for new creative opportunities. Developers are seizing the opportunity offered by WiiWare to create experimental games, as well as test ideas and re-make and revive classic titles for Wii.    

    Two of the three Art Style titles – Rotohex and Orbient – have been redesigned for Wii with updated graphics and other improvements, after having first been released in Japan as part of the bit Generations series. Cubello is an entirely new addition for the Art Style series on Wii. All three games have been designed with the aim of delivering enormously satisfying gameplay, utilising the unique functionality of the Wii Remote.    

    While the games have been totally remodelled for the console, it is the design of the sound in the games that players will really notice – as the atmospheric soundtrack for each title adds depth and tension to the gameplay experience.    

    Laurent Fischer, Managing Director for European Marketing and PR for Nintendo of Europe said: "When creating the Art Style games, developers have taken their inspiration from a huge range of sources as they wanted to give the designers the chance to express themselves and the opportunity to experiment with these games. The result is a series that is fiendishly addictive and will keep players hooked as they challenge themselves and their friends to solve the puzzles the games create."    

    The three titles in the Art Style series will launch consecutively in the coming weeks, beginning with Cubello on 21st November 2008:    


    Cubello challenges players to eliminate cubes from a rotating "cluster" by launching matching coloured cubes, fired with the Wii Remote. Levels are completed as players clear all of the cubes without the cluster becoming too big.    

    Cubello calls on two skills often seen in games – shooting and puzzle-solving – but combines them in a whole new way that will test players' brains and trigger fingers in equal measure. In conjunction with the eyecatching visuals and ear-pleasing sounds, Cubello will put players in a spin!    


    Rotohex brings colourful multiplayer puzzle action to the Art Style series. As triangular panels fall into a grid, players must build coloured hexagons as fast as possible by rotating them into position, to clear them from the grid. Once six have been joined together, they disappear. If the player fails to match the colours quickly enough, the grid fills up - making for a frantic race against time that requires fast thinking and reactions.    

    In multiplayer mode, players compete across two grids simultaneously, to create hexes faster than their opponent. To make things even harder, "block panels" are created in an opponent's grid if their opponent successfully makes a hex, reducing the space available to play in.    


    In Orbient, take control of gravity itself and guide a rogue star through the galaxy, using the magnetic force of other stars and planets to reach your goal, while avoiding deadly obstacles like asteroids and black holes.    

    Using the Wii Remote, players control gravity and anti-gravity to pilot their small star towards blue stars; absorbing them will increase their own planet's size. After reaching a certain size, players can capture the sun within each level and move on to the next challenge.    

    With the WiiWare pipeline constantly being updated with exciting and refreshing games, make sure you keep checking and the Nintendo Channel for all the latest WiiWare news and releases.

    TalkBack / World of Goo Switches to WiiWare in Europe
    « on: November 11, 2008, 12:15:31 PM »
    2D Boy has scrapped the proposed retail PAL version of their hugely acclaimed puzzler in favour of a digitally distributed release identical to the one currently available in North America.

     World of Goo, the physics-based puzzle/construction game whose North American launch was met with glowing reviews last month, is now on course for a WiiWare release across Europe, according to developers 2D Boy. The two-man independent studio has renegotiated its agreement with publisher RTL Games in order to offer PAL gamers the same World of Goo experience as enjoyed by their counterparts across the Atlantic.    

    In Europe, World of Goo was originally slated for a Q3 2008 retail release that would have included additional content not found in the North American WiiWare version, until 2D Boy deemed this discrepancy between regions "unfair". Pre-empting further inquiries at the 2D Boy blog, World of Goo's creators state that, having now begun the submission process to Nintendo of Europe, they "hope to release it sometime in December," and that the price will be "most likely the same as in the Americas: 1500 points."

    TalkBack / Nintendo Announces Christmas Tours Around the UK and Ireland
    « on: November 01, 2008, 12:17:48 AM »
    Wii and DS software will be showcased at major retail locations up and down the British Isles, providing pre-release demos of Wii Music and Animal Crossing.

     Nintendo UK has announced that it is embarking on Christmas tours of major retail locations across Britain and Ireland to showcase upcoming titles for Wii and Nintendo DS, as well as already-popular ones. The two highly successful platforms will each have their own set of tour dates, starting from the end of October and finishing just a few days before Christmas.    

    The Wii events will have such bestsellers to try out as Mario Kart Wii, Wii Fit, and Super Smash Bros. Brawl, along with live demonstrations of Wii Music and Animal Crossing: Let's Go to the City at some locations. On the DS side, gamers can get a look at Professor Layton and the Curious Village (launching November 7), and download demos of (unspecified) games if they bring along their DS.    

    Both tours will also offer the opportunity to win a family holiday to Lapland, among other prizes. Details of the tour dates, locations, and the holiday competition can be found in the press release below, with more information available at    

    GET TOGETHER WITH NINTENDO THIS CHRISTMAS!  Beat the boredom of shopping and experience the magic of Nintendo with the Wii and Nintendo DS Christmas tours 08    

    31st October 2008 - This winter Nintendo UK will be transforming shopping centres nationwide as the Wii and Nintendo DS tours come to a town near you. The tours will offer families the chance to play a variety of Wii and Nintendo DS titles and discover some of Nintendo's newest and most anticipated Christmas releases.    

    Be puzzled by mind bending brain teasers as you aim to uncover the mystery of Professor Layton and the Curious Village at all Nintendo DS locations, see live demonstrations of the highly anticipated Wii Music and take a trip to the city in the all new Animal Crossing: Let's Go to the City, both at selected Wii locations.    

    In addition to checking out Nintendo's top titles for Christmas, you can get your hands on great titles such as Mario Kart Wii, Wii Fit, Wii Sports, and Super Smash Bros Brawl, and Nintendo DS titles such as Dr. Kawashima's Brain Training, More Brain Training from Dr. Kawashima, Big Brain Academy and Nintendogs – as well as many more Wii and DS releases.    

    Whether you're an existing Wii or Nintendo DS owner or you're completely new to Nintendo, there's something for everyone in the family to enjoy this Christmas. Bring your DS along to download game demos and see what other Nintendo titles are waiting for you to discover.    

    The Wii and Nintendo DS Christmas tours will also give you the chance to win a family holiday to Lapland. What better way to get into the festive spirit than enjoying a sleigh ride or a visit to a reindeer farm. Alternatively hit the slopes for a spot of skiing or simply relax in the hotel spa. Additionally you'll have the chance of winning one of 10 family passes to SNO!zone indoor 'real snow' slopes. And if that wasn't enough, keep your feet cosy all winter with 75 pairs of Totes Toasties to be won.

    The Wii Christmas Tour 2008:  

  • Westfields, Derby: 30.10 – 02.11
  • Toys For Big Boys, Dublin: 06.11 – 09.11
  • Lakeside, Thurrock: 13.11 – 16.11
  • Manchester, Arndale: 20.11 – 23.11
  • Braehead, Glasgow: 27.11 – 30.11
  • MetroCentre, Gateshead: 04.12 – 07.12
  • Highcross, Leicester: 11.12 – 14.12
  • Westquay, Southampton: 18.12 – 21.12

     The Nintendo DS Christmas Tour 2008    

  • Ilac, Dublin: 23.10 – 26.10
  • St. Davids, Cardiff: 30.10 – 02.11
  • Westfields, London: 06.11 – 09.11
  • Braehead, Glasgow: 13.11 – 16.11
  • MetroCentre, Gateshead: 20.11 – 23.11
  • Meadowhall, Sheffield: 27.11 – 30.11
  • Bluewater, Kent: 03.12 – 07.12
  • Churchill Square, Brighton: 11.12 – 14.12
  • Highcross, Leicester: 18.12 – 21.12

  • 43
    TalkBack / REVIEWS: Doodle Hex
    « on: October 29, 2008, 05:00:25 AM »
    Discover the game of competitive scribbling, ideally with a friend.

     Doodle Hex is a one-on-one battle game that demands a swift but steady hand to draw runes on the DS touch screen, each one performing a different spell for use against your opponent. This stylus-based combat successfully evokes both intricate turn-based battling and reflex-dependent fighting games, creating a unique brand of duelling without feeling gimmicky. However, thin single player content and an uninspired theme act as weak vehicles for Doodle Hex's well-executed core gameplay, failing to entice players to explore its arcane depths in the absence of the readily accessible multiplayer battles necessary to enjoy it to the fullest.    

    Leaving aside its superfluous, derivative magic school setting and the entirely unappealing characters that reside within, Doodle Hex is all about head-to-head battling as you try to drain your opponent's life away in a best of three rounds contest. The action takes place on the touch screen, with a central circle for drawing runes (symbols that activate spells) that serve as attacks or status effects, depending on the rune's type. When a rune is drawn, it creates an orb that begins travelling around the central circle from your character's icon towards your opponent's. A rune takes effect when the orb makes contact with its target, but this can be prevented by blocking, performed by holding the stylus on your own icon to create a shield.    

    On the surface, something with the same structure as a one-on-one fighting game based on rapidly drawing symbols with the stylus seems at risk of devolving into a scribble-fest equivalent to button mashing. Doodle Hex skilfully avoids this fate in two crucial ways. Firstly, the impeccable quality of the stylus input recognition means that there is never a need to keep redrawing symbols in order to get them to work, but appropriately accurate penmanship is required, so a measure of skill is involved. More importantly, the gameplay design is geared towards strategy and precise execution—spamming runes is not a viable route to victory.    

    Casting runes requires mana energy, with more powerful runes exacting a greater cost on your mana meter. This meter replenishes itself as long as you are not blocking incoming attacks, but does so at a rate that means continuous rune-casting is largely out of the question. The most effective way to clobber your opponent's health meter is by hitting them with combination attacks; for instance, a rune that temporarily disables shielding immediately followed by a focused barrage of direct attacks. Different types of runes travel around the circle at different speeds, thus the execution of combos depends on precise timing such that runes drawn at different times hit your opponent at roughly the same time, and in the right order. Successfully executing a tactical combo with a few precise, perfectly timed strokes of the stylus is uniquely satisfying, especially as this is much easier said than done in the heat of battle.    

    With literally hundreds of different runes to unlock and a number of variably capable characters to choose from, there is a tremendous breadth of battle techniques to discover and experiment with. But for all its sophistication, Doodle Hex comes up short in providing a structure within which players are compelled to plunder this potential. The single player game simply consists of wading through battles, either in a "tournament" structure (that incorporates an extraneous, irrelevant storyline) or in isolated challenges, where victory means the acquisition of a new rune. Though these battles can provide a reasonable challenge, the AI opponents predictably lack the creative flair to make them highly entertaining encounters, and with nothing else to burnish the single player experience, it functions best as an introduction to the game's principles rather than as a game unto itself.    

    Multiplayer battling holds the promise of maximising Doodle Hex's complex gameplay, but unfortunately this is simply quite unlikely to be realised in most cases. Given a pair of people who are sufficiently invested in the gameplay to enjoy its intricacies, the ability to use runes earned in single player modes for battling and trading with each other could yield considerable and lasting enjoyment. The competition would also provide some encouragement to plough through single player challenges that would otherwise remain entirely unappetising. However, the reality is that many gamers will find it difficult to pair up with someone due to the need for both people to have access to a copy of the game, and the somewhat convoluted nature of the gameplay only exacerbates this problem—a few quick battles using the game's basic single-card multiplayer option are unlikely to convince anyone of Doodle Hex's merits. It is therefore very regrettable that Doodle Hex does not include online functionality, as this could have significantly expanded the ability for players to get the most out of the game.    

    Missed opportunities aside, Doodle Hex is in most respects an admirably put-together game. In addition to its well-conceived and solidly implemented core gameplay, the presentation has its merits: the touch screen display strikes an appropriate balance between its visual and interface roles by avoiding becoming too cluttered or distracting, there are some attractive animated cut scenes found between battles in tournament play, and much of the music is suitable for the various opponents that you will face. There are some shortcomings in these areas though, especially the uninspired designs of the characters, and the irritating vocals they provide during battles.    

    On the whole, Doodle Hex is a fundamentally solid game that sadly fails to capitalise on its strengths in a number of crucial ways. The single player content does a respectable job of incrementally taking players through the various facets of the sophisticated gameplay, but a lack of variety along with weak character and story elements mean that it accomplishes little else, and hence falls significantly short of being an engrossing standalone experience. Multiplayer trading and battling could truly payoff the promise of the intricate battle mechanics, but like this reviewer, many gamers will never discover whether or not this is the case due to the inherent nature of the game and its platform, along with the lack of online functionality. The unique appeal of its battling alone makes Doodle Hex worth some consideration for a purchase, but if there is little to no possibility of developing a multiplayer doodling rivalry with a friend, the value on offer is fairly limited.


  • Very accurate touch screen recognition
  • Successful battling requires precision, good reflexes, and sound strategy
  • Attractive animated cut scenes

  •        Cons:
  • Little single player content beyond a series of battles to unlock runes
  • Lack of online play leaves limited scope to enjoy multiplayer
  • Unappealing character designs

  •                Graphics:  6.0
           The touch screen display simultaneously acts as the game's interface and depicts its carousel of symbols, and thus is predictably not very visually impressive, but gets the job done with due clarity. Animated cut scenes between single player battles bring some polish to the visuals, but are undermined by the rather generic art style of the character designs.

                   Sound:  6.0
           Thematically suitable music accompanies the battles with a largely stereotypical cast of characters, employing fair-quality instrumentation but not particularly memorable composition. The sound effects generally do not distinguish themselves, but the characters' cries as they are hit in battle may irritate on occasion.

                   Control:  8.0
           Highly reliable recognition of the rune-drawing on the touch screen means that the game controls very well, allowing for fluid gameplay that rewards skilful penmanship. The only drawback is that one touch screen icon is placed close to the drawing circle, and so can be activated unintentionally on occasion, but this is not a significant issue.

                          Gameplay:  7.0
           Doodle Hex's core game design takes the act of scribbling down symbols and turns it into a game of strategy and skill. The many runes of various effects create a grand set of opportunities for devising devastating combination attacks, but slick timing under pressure and being able to think on your feet are also valuable in battle. This unusually effective blend of play styles is held back by insubstantial single player modes that lack sufficient variety to maintain players' interest in the game, while its intricacy prevents it from being a pick-up-and-play multiplayer experience, perhaps leaving some to wonder whether Doodle Hex is too complicated for its own good.


           Lastability:  5.0
           Given its elaborate and engaging battle system, it's entirely possible that a pair of dedicated rune-scribers could happily sink many hours into Doodle Hex striving to best one another with a new approach after reaching a mutually beneficial trade. However, the thin single player content will not engage less fortunate Doodle Hex owners for very long, and the absence of online multiplayer means that many people would inevitably fall into this category.


           Final:  6.0
           Doodle Hex succeeds in taking a concept that sounds gimmicky and turning it into a functional and sophisticated gameplay foundation that can test multiple aspects of gamers skills'. Unfortunately, developers Tragnarion Studios have not been able to back up this good work with sufficient content and a satisfying game structure to compel players to discover and manipulate what is undeniably a somewhat arcane battle system. Multiplayer battles have a great deal of potential, but are unlikely to pick up the slack given the game's relative inaccessibility as a multiplayer venture, and so Doodle Hex must go down as a commendable effort that is also a missed opportunity.      

    TalkBack / IMPRESSIONS: Disaster: Day of Crisis
    « on: October 16, 2008, 12:31:47 AM »
    We've gone hands-on with the opening three hours of the finished European version of Monolith Soft's belated Wii debut project, and lived to tell the cataclysmic tale.

     At the end of last month, Disaster: Day of Crisis was finally released onto store shelves in Japan just over two years after it was first shown to the public as a potential Wii launch title at E3 2006. Our Site Director Steven Rodriguez has already logged his extensive impressions of Disaster's Japanese retail release, but Monolith's unique action thriller is set to make its Western debut in Europe on October 24, so I was given the opportunity to play the opening three hours of the final localised PAL version of the game as a taste of what's to come.    

    Disaster opens with extended cut scenes that establish the protagonist, named Raymond Bryce, as a brash rescue worker who's more than a little prone to being in the wrong place at the wrong time. The overblown style of the game's storytelling is strongly evident from the outset. With its improbable plot including a shadowy military menace and multiple catastrophes occurring on the same day, Disaster feels like it's trying to channel 24 on an Independence Day scale, but its execution more strongly evokes the Resident Evil games, along with any number of made-for-TV movies.    

    The combination of the game's script and voice acting is particularly reminiscent of Capcom's survival horror series, as the performances just barely manage to avoid seeming like the product of outright parody, but might elicit quite a few chuckles nonetheless. Also, the presence of profanity fails to make the dialogue seem any more authentically cinematic, as the single permissible four letter word is obtrusively overused. With all that said, the presence of spoken dialogue moves the story along much more smoothly than would have been the case in its absence, and lends some weight to the gesticulations of the character models.    

    Visually, Disaster proves to be something of a mixed bag in its early stages. Textures exhibit an impressive level of detail in interior locations, though they occasionally look a little rough elsewhere. The framerate is pretty solid if not especially fast, but the character animations leave a lot to be desired. Ray's movement appears stiff and discontinuous, and the overall lack of realism significantly undermines the effectiveness of the storytelling in the cut scenes.    

    Leaving the game's presentation aside, the prologue stage opens on an erupting volcano, introducing players to one of Disaster's multiple gameplay styles: third-person exploration. Movement is controlled with the analog stick on the Nunchuk, while A and B on the Wii Remote are used to jump and sprint respectively. Ray has a typical health meter, but there are also three other gauges of his physical well-being: stamina, heart, and lungs. Stress to the heart/lungs can run down Ray's stamina more quickly, and once stamina is exhausted, Ray's health will begin draining away. This multi-faceted approach to health and damage encourages players to take care in how they explore disaster areas with Ray; sprinting all over the place will tire him out rapidly, but getting through smoke-filled areas as quickly as possible is desirable to avoid becoming choked up.    

    After the prologue concludes and the narrative trudges through some extended exposition, the game reconvenes with the first stage proper: a hostage situation set inside a warehouse. Here, we are introduced to the on-rails shooting element of the game, which constitutes Disaster's combat system. The Wii Remote is used for aiming and firing as Wii owners would expect by now, while a simple shake of the Nunchuk reloads, and holding the Z trigger makes Ray take cover. With no time limits and infinite handgun ammo, you can take out targets at your leisure, and combined with a general lack of hostility on the part of the enemies, these early shoot-outs function mostly as a tutorial.    

    Frequently interrupted as they are by cut scenes, quick-time events, and on-screen explanations of the game's controls, Disaster's opening stages get the game off to an undeniably slow start. The gameplay feels disjointed, with ambling third-person segments sitting very awkwardly alongside simplistic shoot-outs. Added to a general lack of challenge, this staccato pace leaves you hungry for Disaster to truly get going. However, the game's intensity cranks up soon enough, and the eclectic gameplay begins to make more sense (if not come together completely) during the next few levels set in the midst of a fresh catastrophe affecting the distinctly San Franciscso-esque cityscape of Blue Ridge City.    

    The on-rails shooting becomes more complicated with the introduction of tougher enemies positioned at multiple depths in the playfield, bringing into play two new weapon types using consumable ammo: a shotgun and an assault rifle. Weapon-switching is made very accessible by their assignment to directions on the D-pad, and this comes in handy when trying to dispatch a bunch of different foes as efficiently as possible. Another key development comes from the deployment of explosive weaponry against you, meaning that Ray is no longer perpetually safe behind cover. This threat adds some much-needed tension to a few battles, making them more than just exercises in hiding until a glowing weak point appear.      

    As the gunplay begins to develop, the role of third-person exploration also becomes clearer. These sections serve to break up the on-rails shooting, usually forcing Ray along some circuitous route consisting of, for example, keys and locked doors or speaking with NPCs in a particular order. Other than scavenging for items to help keep all of Ray's health meters intact, what gameplay there is herein involves completing what are essentially mini-games. When you come across an injured person, pressing A will commence a rescue attempt of one sort or another. Some are very simple, such as dragging someone to a certain spot or handing over a healing item, while others involve various combinations of button-bashing and/or remote-gesturing to successfully save the person.    

    What these first aid vignettes all have in common is being entirely uninteresting, and as they are not typically necessary in order to progress to the next action sequence, it's awfully tempting to leave all those poor people to fate. However, the game offers counterbalancing encouragement by rewarding rescues with SP: points that can be exchanged to upgrade Ray's attributes (such as the rate at which he loses stamina, or the amount of items he can carry) in between levels. The net result is a choice between eliminating some of the tedium of the third-person sections on the one hand, and making future action sequences a bit easier on the other.    

    Either way you choose to manage this trade-off, the exploration sequences during the first few hours of the game simply fail to satisfy on any level. Given that their only connection with the action scenes is to affect how well-equipped you are, they seem like little more than filler material of very questionable validity. There is potential for the traversal of the environment to become more engaging in later stages if there's a greater array of hazards to test players' use of the fairly solid controls, but the rescues seem unlikely to become any less gimmicky, and the whole gameplay style feels aimless and secondary to the gunplay action.    

    If Disaster doesn't already sound muddled enough, there is actually a third type of gameplay: driving. These sequences are much more isolated and insubstantial than the main gameplay styles, simply requiring you to tilt the Wii Remote to steer according to on-screen turn prompts so you can get to the next location in time without totalling your vehicle. The inclusion of driving also typifies Monolith Soft's gratuitous use of just about every aspect of the Wii Remote. Sometimes the effects can be mildly amusing (the use of the speaker for emergency radio announcements), but more often they are irksome and detrimental to the game's playability (routine remote-waggling to break open crates or put out fires). Two years on from the system's launch, many Wii owners have likely become much less tolerant of such obtrusive reminders of the Wii Remote's functionality, and so a more streamlined approach to Disaster's gameplay would have been desirable for the finished product.        

    Overall, the opening hours of Disaster: Day of Crisis leave mixed impressions. Some aspects of the presentation are slick, but there is little to suggest that the storytelling will prove absorbing enough to enhance the experience. There is also a glaring disconnect between those parts of the game that aim to immerse the player in a sort of interactive movie and the distinctly arcadey shooting and driving sections with their flashing arrows and glowing purple targets. The gameplay is similarly unfocused: the driving feels superfluous and the third-person segments lack direction, leaving the on-rails shoot-outs to carry the load in only a fraction of the playtime. These show some promise after a slow start, but it remains to be seen whether they can encompass the requisite depth and intensity to overcome Disaster's peculiar incoherence. European Wii owners can brave the many perils of Disaster: Day of Crisis themselves when it goes on sale across the region on October 24.

    TalkBack / Fire Emblem: Shadow Dragon Set for EU Release on December 5
    « on: October 08, 2008, 07:04:47 AM »
    The DS remake of the first chapter in the Fire Emblem saga will make its Western debut in Europe just in time for Christmas.

     Just a few weeks after unveiling the release schedule for the remainder of 2008, Nintendo of Europe has now made a very notable addition to that line-up: Fire Emblem: Shadow Dragon will launch across the region on December 5, marking the game's debut on store shelves outside of Japan.    

    Fire Emblem: Shadow Dragon is the first instalment in Nintendo's strategy RPG franchise to be created for Nintendo DS. Though the game is based on the original NES Fire Emblem title (released only in Japan), it will make full use of the unique features of the DS. Optional touch screen controls are available for those who prefer to place their units using a stylus, and the Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection brings online play to this storied series for the first time. Players can trade and battle with one another online, and enjoy voice chatting with friends.    

    This enhanced remake tells the story of an exiled prince named Marth (famous in the West for his appearances in the Super Smash Bros. series) who seeks to save the kingdom of Altea, and includes new side story quests. Refinements have also been made to the strategic gameplay in accordance with the advancements that the Fire Emblem series has made since its inception in 1990.    

    Fire Emblem: Shadow Dragon comes to Nintendo DS this Christmas!  Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection action introduced to classic RPG for first time    

    8th October 2008 – Find a sacred sword and use it to save a kingdom as Fire Emblem: Shadow Dragon heads to Nintendo DS!  For the first time in the classic Fire Emblem RPG series, there is the option of multiplayer action over Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection, adding a whole new dimension of gameplay and strategic planning that can be shared with friends and fans of the series.    

    Using skill, tactical battle-planning and no small amount of magic, players must embark on a quest to destroy the resurrected dark dragon Medeus, who seeks to conquer the entire world.  Charging into battle in Europe on 5 December, 2008, the game is based on Fire Emblem: Shadow Dragon and the Blade of Light, which was created in 1990 for the NES console but never released in Europe, despite becoming the most popular in the series in Japan. Now the remake of this NES classic has the popular weapon triangle system integrated for strategic enhancement.    

    One hundred years since Medeus was slain and the Kingdom Altea founded on the continent of Akaneia, Medeus is back and it falls to exiled prince, Marth, to save the kingdom from ruination.  Success for Marth and his comrades rests on finding his father’s sacred sword, Falchion and the Fire Emblem.  Only when these are united in Marth’s hands will he be able to confront the dark pontifex Gharnef, avenge the murder of his father and kidnap of his sister, destroy Medeus once and for all and win back the kingdom of Altea.    

    Turn-based gameplay challenges the player’s strategic thinking, with the nature of the terrain, the strength of enemy forces and the positioning of your own units all needing careful consideration.  The Nintendo DS’s Touch Screen enables quick placement of units and the game boasts polished graphics that make the best use of the Nintendo DS system.    

    A wide range of characters, with unique powers and integrated storylines, adds depth to the game, which features a range of new side stories and several difficulty levels to suit newcomers and seasoned strategists.  Using the Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection, players can battle over the internet or against one another in the same room, using their own characters – with their own special skills and experience.  These battles can be enjoyed even more by using the Mic Chat feature during battle. Playing over Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection also offers access to a special armoury shop where players can buy special items that allow them to gain a new class of character and also sell weapons to make money.  Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection also enables players to loan their battle-seasoned units to other players in order to provide a boost to that player’s forces. Additional units can be uploaded to a server and also borrowed from the server or from a friend by exchanging friend codes.    

    Fire Emblem: Shadow Dragon makes its way to Europe on 5th December 2008

    TalkBack / PAL Virtual Console Update
    « on: October 08, 2008, 06:29:41 AM »
    Earthworm Jim and Shining Force II make up a notable pair of Mega Drive games now available to download in Europe and Australia.

     The Sega Mega Drive monopolised last Friday's fortnightly update to the PAL Virtual Console with a highly renowned pair of classic games: Earthworm Jim and Shining Force II.    

    Earthworm Jim is the beloved original adventure of an ordinary worm that became transformed into a hero by a much-sought-after super suit. This action platformer puts Jim on a quest to rescue Princess What's-Her-Name, with players using the suit's power and Jim's wormy stretchiness to jump, shoot, and swing through levels while taking on such oddball adversaries as Psy-Crow, Evil the Cat, and Bob the Killer Goldfish. This Mega Drive release includes a level that was absent from its Super NES counterpart.    

    Shining Force II is the sequel to the original Mega Drive strategy RPG, though the two storylines are not directly connected. In this case, the kingdom of Granseal is in danger, and a young swordsman named Bowie must lead the Shining Force in order to save it. As in the first game, players control the leader of the Shining Force when exploring the kingdom, and then take part in turn-based battles on a grid when in combat.    

    Both Earthworm Jim and Shining Force II are available to download now from the PAL Wii Shop Channel for 800 Wii Points.    

    Wii Shop Channel releases    

    The first of this week's Virtual Console offerings welcomes back classic '90s gaming hero Earthworm Jim™! Jim was an ordinary earthworm who did very earthworm-like things such as flee from crows and eat dirt. One day, during an outerspace fight, a suit drops to Earth, and falls around Jim. It mutates him into a large and intelligent (at least by earthworm standards) superhero.    

    Play as Jim in this SEGA MEGA DRIVE classic! When you learn of the evil plans of Psy-Crow and Queen Slug-for-a-Butt, you decide to rescue Princess What's-Her-Name. Run, gun, swing on hooks by your head and launch cows at the interesting characters you meet along the way, such as Major Mucus, Chuck and Fifi, Evil the Cat and Bob the Killer Goldfish. Earthworm Jim™ is available now for 800 Wii Points.    

    Next up this week is the acclaimed strategy role-playing game Shining Force™ II, also for SEGA MEGA DRIVE. It's a dark and stormy night in the kingdom of Granseal, when a thief steals two jewels from the Tower of the Ancients. He sets in motion strange events that lead to the resurrection of Zeon, the Devil King.    

    Granseal's king falls sick, the princess is kidnapped and a door to Arc Valley, the Devil King's home, is opened. The young swordsman, Bowie, realising the grave danger Granseal faces, must lead the Shining Force to find the Holy Sword, the stolen jewels, and protect Granseal against the invading armies of Zeon. Shining Force™ II is available now for 800 Wii Points.    

    Virtual Console offers users the ultimate retro gaming experience. This week's titles join the list of 252 classic titles already available for Virtual Console in Europe.

    TalkBack / European Wii Speak Channel Confirmed for December 5
    « on: October 07, 2008, 02:45:13 PM »
    The "socially inclusive" online communication utility will go live on the same day that Animal Crossing: Let's Go to the City launches across the region.

     Nintendo of Europe has announced that the Wii Speak Channel, a tool for Wii owners to communicate online with up to three other Wii consoles anywhere in the world, will be available to use on December 5—the same day that the Wii Speak accessory and Animal Crossing: Let's Go to the City go on sale (both together and separately) across the region.    

    Promising a unique "socially inclusive" kind of online interaction through the free-to-use Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection, the Wii Speak Channel uses the speaker phone-like properties of the Wii Speak accessory to allow everyone gathered around a console to be heard, so up to four roomfuls of people can chat with each other at the same time. Miis can be assigned to users to represent them on-screen, matching the audio received by Wii Speak to create virtual conversations between the avatars.    

    "Private Friend Codes" will need to be exchanged in order to connect to other Wii consoles through the Wii Speak Channel, so it would appear that the service will use unique codes and not simply Wii Numbers, which are currently used for the exchange of text and pictures via the Wii Message Board.    


    Wii Speak Channel and Wii Speak accessory will connect friends and family and herald the next evolution of social gaming    

    Socialising and communicating with friends and family has just got easier – and more fun – as the new Wii Speak accessory and Wii Speak Channel are launched for Wii across Europe on 5 December 2008.    

    Wii Speak enables people to connect to and communicate with friends using the free-to-use Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection* in a way that is very socially inclusive. Wii Speak can be connected directly to the console and pick up the conversations from an entire room of people, meaning friends and families can all get involved in conversations, sharing gaming and social experiences together. It’s just like using a phone to make a call and chat with other Wii-friends: but with Wii Speak, everyone in the room can get involved in the conversation.    

    The new Wii Speak Channel, accessed from the Wii’s main menu, allows up to four console users – who can be anywhere in the world – to connect together to chat, or to share pictures and text messages at no extra cost. Once connected, the Wii Speak Channel brings user’s Miis to life: as users’ Miis represent them on-screen during their conversations. When players are talking to each other, their Miis also ‘talk’ to match the sound that is being picked up by the Wii Speak accessory.    

    Users have to share their private Friend Codes to be able to communicate with each other, which makes the experience safe and fun.    

    As well as enabling people to connect together through the Wii Speak Channel, Wii Speak also opens up a new world of social gameplay. The first game to use the full capabilities of Wii Speak is Animal Crossing: Let’s Go to the City, in which players can create and share their personalised worlds.    

    For the first time, friends can chat in the game and, as the action happens in real time and creates a world in which players celebrate real festivals and events, sharing the gaming experience over the Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection on Christmas Day will be a uniquely magical experience, with characters and other players in the game all joining in the festive fun! Animal Crossing: Let’s Go to the City and the Wii Speak microphone will be offered as a bundle at launch, making a perfect gift for friends and family this Christmas.    

    In the future, Wii Speak will be incorporated into other Wii games, meaning that new opportunities can be created for social gameplay amongst the console’s fans.    

    Enjoy a whole new use for your Wii with Wii Speak and enjoy the chance to create – and talk about – the perfect world that you create in Animal Crossing: Let’s Go to the City on 5th December 2008, when they launch across Europe both as a bundle and sold separately.    

    • There are no fees or subscriptions to pay (Usual broadband line rental and Internet Service Provider costs apply when accessing the Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection at home)

    TalkBack / European DSi Launch Planned for "Spring 2009"
    « on: October 02, 2008, 08:06:53 AM »
    A spokesperson has confirmed plans to release the newly announced version of Nintendo DS in Europe early next year according to CVG.

     Just hours after the official unveiling of the DSi at Nintendo's autumn press conference in Japan, a spokesperson for Nintendo of Europe has confirmed plans to launch the newest model in the enormously successful Nintendo DS line across the region during the early part of next year.    

    Speaking to CVG, the representative stated "our plan is to launch DSi in Europe in Spring 2009." No other details, such as a price point, have been offered at this time.

    TalkBack / REVIEWS: Pirates: Duels on the High Seas
    « on: September 27, 2008, 03:57:17 AM »
    A pirate's life? Not for me.

     Pirates: Duels on the High Seas for Nintendo DS is a top-down action game that puts you at the helm of a pirate ship on a voyage for ancient treasure, blasting through fleets of enemies and sea monsters as you go. Built on strictly functional graphics and controls, Pirates' game design ultimately fails to deliver an experience dynamic or intense enough to maintain interest in its single-player story mode, while its technically-restricted multiplayer mode is a further let-down.    

    The meat of Pirates: Duels on the High Seas' content is its story mode, which tasks players with battling through (appropriately enough) seven different maritime locales in search of mystical keys. The rather thin plot is laid out between levels in a series of illustrations accompanied with generic pirate prose, but the artwork itself is of decent quality. During gameplay, 3D graphics are employed to present the action on the upper screen with quite effective results, though they lack appreciable textural and architectural variety across the various environments. The game usually runs at a reasonable speed, but the framerate drops noticeably in situations involving a relatively large number of enemy ships on-screen at once. On the touch screen there is a map/radar displaying the area around your ship, as well as a few touch-activated icons for the selection of enhancements to your ship's attributes.    

    The sound design is sparse to the point of desolation; without music to accompany the action during a level, there are just a few weapon fire effects and seagull noises left to carry the aural load. There is some music used in tandem with the brief story scenes between levels, and a quick fanfare for clearing an area, but otherwise there is no soundtrack to speak of. What little music is present is thematically suitable, if entirely uninspired and irritating to an extent limited only by how sparingly it is heard.    

    Your ship's controls are handled exclusively with buttons; the D-pad steers, while the shoulder buttons propel the ship either forwards or—curiously for a sailing vessel—backwards, while weapons are fired using the face buttons. With some practice, the controls prove adequate for manoeuvring your vessel in between obstacles and around enemies, if not with the highest degree of fluidity.    

    Though it may not afford your ship with great manoeuvrability, the deliberate nature of Pirates' control scheme comports with the dawdling pace of its gameplay design. Typically, you navigate through levels on a linear path, often at liberty to simply bypass enemies rather than face them down. Though sinking legions of hostile ships can be enjoyable in short bursts, combat is only necessary when a locked gate prevents you from progressing until, for example, you have destroyed all the ships in that particular area, which is usually a laborious task that quickly proves tiresome.    

    There are rewards for destroying enemy ships along your way, such as gold or new crew members that enhance your ship's abilities, but these appear with insufficient frequency to induce players to destroy a majority of the enemies that appear. Given what a joylessly repetitive task this would prove to be, this is perhaps for the best, but this fact does little to make those sections of the game spent simply cruising past enemies feel any less uninteresting.    

    When engaging in combat does become imperative, the intention of the game design is clearly for you to manoeuvre your vessel such that it can deliver devastating broadsides to your opponents while evading their fire. However, the enemy AI and balance of the game's statistics mean that such dexterity is seldom necessary to progress through the next gate. When dealing with smaller vessels, it is often quite safe to remain stationary, simply pumping out cannon fire until they sink. Also, the collectible sub-weapons can make quick work out of larger ships and cannon placements, but in their absence the process only becomes something of an exercise in tedium rather than tension.    

    Fighting the game's biggest enemies, such as a colossal battleship or a sea dragon, can require greater care and attention (though these battles are far from expertly choreographed). However, this is greatly diminished by the inclusion of an ability to continuously replenish your ship's health. The shipwright option costs only a relatively trivial amount of gold, which is fairly ubiquitous and can be stockpiled across levels. Combined with the fact that your ship is generally in little danger from the standard enemy boats, this low price for such a useful ability makes it all too easy to muddle through the bigger battles. It also renders the other selectable ability enhancements (such as greater range for your weaponry) practically irrelevant due to their comparatively meagre usefulness.    

    Simply put, the clumsy balancing of the game eliminates any potential for strategy or resource management to take on a meaningful role in gameplay, compounding the sluggish monotony that characterises Pirates overall. In particular, the level design sorely lacks creativity and diversity, boiling down to a simple series of rooms and corridors populated with the same recurring enemies over and over again. As a result, the fairly lengthy single-player campaign is unlikely to hold players' interest for a substantial portion of its duration.    

    Pirates: Duels on the High Seas does include another way to play: a battle mode for one to four players. Playing a one-player "Skirmish" is a lacklustre experience, as the deficient AI of the opponents renders these battles entirely uninteresting. While multiplayer therefore offers more promise, it fails to deliver. Firstly, the inclusion of single-card multiplayer on DS is always welcome, but its implementation here leaves much to be desired. Inordinate load times are a major drawback, and the absence of any extra AI opponents in the mix leaves the battles empty and uneventful (multi-card play may address these issues, but this could not be tested for the purposes of this review). More fundamentally, the deliberate nature of the gameplay is not conducive to the kind of immediate, intense experience that is ideal for battling with friends, and so the action ends up feeling rather pedestrian.    

    The flat multiplayer mode cements Pirates: Duels on the High Seas as a mostly respectable technical effort that simply lacks the requisite dynamism and ingenuity to satisfy as a game based entirely on action. Perhaps one could view the repetition and boredom involved here as a refreshingly unromantic take on the life of a pirate, but this does not make for a very fun game, leaving no compelling case to be made to add this one to your DS software library.


  • Solid 3D graphics engine
  • Functional controls
  • Blasting foes is fun in short bursts

  •        Cons:
  • Highly repetitive gameplay
  • Unbalanced ship abilities
  • Dull multiplayer battles

  •                Graphics:  6.0
           3D graphics provide a clean, solid look to the action, but the framerate is prone to slowing down on occasion, and the lack of variety amongst environments makes them feel like little more than palette swaps. The artwork used for telling the game's story between levels is attractive and atmospheric, but entirely divorced from the in-game proceedings.

                   Sound:  2.0
           There is quite simply very little to speak of in this category. A captivating soundtrack could have done much to make the repetitive gameplay more palatable, but instead there really isn't one present at all. The battle sound effects are passable, while the jingles and fanfares for collecting items and such are simply annoying.

                   Control:  6.0
           Pirates utilises a traditional D-pad-based scheme, and performs acceptably within these restrictions. Your ship will not be able to weave around tight spaces with the greatest of ease, but this is consistent with the deliberate pace of the gameplay.

                          Gameplay:  4.0
           While the basic act of blasting enemy ships can be briefly entertaining, Pirates' game design fails to parlay this into a sustained, compelling experience. The naturally slow pace of the game is simply drawn out over several levels with little in the way of variety or strategic imperative to prevent players from becoming disinterested, and some truly baffling balancing decisions undermine what care has been taken to craft tense battles.


           Lastability:  4.0
           In theory, Pirates comes replete with the kind of features (a lengthy single player quest, a multiplayer mode) that can keep a game card housed in your DS for quite some time. In reality, the repetitive nature of the story mode means that the enjoyment to be had is exhausted quite quickly, and the weak single-card multiplayer does little to salvage matters.


           Final:  4.0
           Pirates: Duels on the High Seas has some of the pieces in place to be a solid action title on DS, but fails to measure up due to the shortcomings of its game design. Cookie-cutter levels, uninspired enemies, and disastrously executed resource management elements leave the one-player game adrift, while the multiplayer mode does not provide the quick and easy thrills required to buoy this particular sinking ship.      

    TalkBack / Animal Crossing Ready for December Release in Europe
    « on: September 25, 2008, 03:15:00 PM »
    Nintendo of Europe gives the Wii version of the top-selling "communication game" a launch window, and also as a new subtitle: Let's Go to the City.

     Nintendo of Europe announced today that the Wii version of Animal Crossing is set to launch across Europe sometime during December under the new name of Animal Crossing: Let's Go to the City.    

    Described as a "communication game" since the series' inception on Nintendo 64, Animal Crossing will feature online vocal communication for the first time on Wii thanks to the speaker phone-like Wii Speak accessory. Nintendo of Europe has yet to specify whether Wii Speak will be sold bundled with Animal Crossing: Let's Go to the City in any capacity, or set a price point for the device as a standalone purchase.      


    Animal Crossing: Let’s Go to the City Launches on Wii & Introduces the new Wii Speak Accessory!

    25th September 2008 – Pack your bags and take a trip to the city as Animal Crossing comes to Wii! In a new instalment to the hugely popular series, Animal Crossing: Let’s Go to the City not only allows players to create their own perfect life in the country, but also introduces an exciting new city area to explore! With many new features such as the new Wii Speak accessory which enables you to chat to other players in the game, pack up your fishing rod and get ready to create your ideal Animal Crossing world as Animal Crossing: Lets Go to the City launches across Europe in December 2008.    

    Animal Crossing: Lets Go to the City is a fun and engaging life simulation, where you can take control and shape the world around you from decorating your house to creating constellations in the heavens. Start the game in your own quiet town and meet many enriching animal characters along the way as you collect new furniture, wallpaper and carpets to make your house a home. Alternatively, simply while away the hours with a spot of fishing or gardening - there are no pressures in the world of Animal Crossing, you can live the life you wish to lead.    

    The new city environment introduces a thrilling new area with exciting shops and entertainment opportunities to experience.  Simply jump on the bus from your town and take a trip to visit the theatre to watch a show or even visit Gracie Grace, the large and exclusive department store that sells special items and furniture to customise your home. You can even customise your own character at the hair salon with your favourite Mii from your Wii console and compete with other players selling and bidding for items at the auction house.    

    Adding to the fun, Animal Crossing: Let’s Go to the City operates in real time, which means if twenty-four hours has passed in the real world, the same amount of time will also have passed in your town. Allowing you to experience seasons and special days as they happen, celebrate events like Halloween, and national holidays as they happen in real life.    

    Animal Crossing: Let’s Go to the City is a title the whole family can enjoy together as it introduces a number of great ways for all to share their Animal Crossing lives with friends and family around the globe. Using the Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection, send friends letters and items from the post office located in each town. Why not even visit them yourself? Travel to a friend’s town to explore their unique Animal Crossing environment or invite them to visit you, regardless of where they live in the world!    

    For the first time on Wii, get ready to actually chat with friends as Animal Crossing: Let’s Go to the City introduces the new Wii Speak accessory, which allows players to communicate with each other directly in the game. This exciting new accessory sits above the Wii sensor bar on your television set and enables anyone in the room to speak with friends in another location. Use Wii Speak when visiting a friend’s town, or being visited, to explore, chat and enjoy Animal Crossing together via the Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection.    

    For players who have already enjoyed creating their own character in Animal Crossing: Wild World on the Nintendo DS, this new title will allow the transfer of some character data to Wii. The Nintendo DS can also be used as a ‘suitcase’ allowing players to take their character to and from a friend’s Wii console to explore their Animal Crossing world.    

    So get ready for a slice of country and city life as Animal Crossing: Let’s Go to the City launches across Europe on Wii in December 2008.

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