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Topics - Yoshidious

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TalkBack / Nintendo of Europe Releases Q2 Line-up: Brawl Out June 27
« on: April 25, 2008, 02:16:42 AM »
Q2 release schedule finally sets a date for the most anticipated game on Wii; WiiWare and Nintendo Channel launch at the end of May.

 Nintendo has announced its European release schedule for the rest of the second quarter of 2008, revealing that the hugely anticipated Super Smash Bros. Brawl will finally launch in PAL territory on June 27.    

Brawl is expected to be another big hit in Q2 for Nintendo in Europe, following the great success of Mario Kart Wii and preceding the forthcoming Wii Fit. The all-star multiplayer fighter has sold over 1.5 million copies since its February launch in Japan. It had the biggest single month of any Wii game yet upon its release in the US, selling 2.7 million units since its March 9 release.      

The release list, which can be seen in full below, also dates the European launch of WiiWare for May 20. The games-on-demand service will go live ten days before the Nintendo Channel, which will provide video features and user feedback for WiiWare games in addition to DS software demos and more.    


  • Alone In The Dark (ATARI) Q1 2008  
  • Godzilla: Unleashed (ATARI) Q1 2008  
  • Worms: A Space Oddity (THQ) Q1 2008  
  • Yamaha Supercross (ZOO Digital Publishing Ltd) Q1 2008  
  • Wii Fit (with Wii Balance Board accessory) (Nintendo) 25th April  
  • Radio Helicopter (505 Games) 25th April  
  • Legend of Sayuki (505 Games) 9th May  
  • Top Spin 3 (2K Sports) May 2008  
  • Monster Truck Jam (Activision) May 2008  
  • Boom Blox (EA) May 2008  
  • Speed Racer (Warner Bros Interactive Entertainment) May 2008  
  • DRAGON QUEST® SWORDS: The Masked Queen and the Tower of Mirrors® (SQUARE ENIX) End May 2008  
  • Hannah Montana – Music Jam (Disney Interactive Studios) Spring 2008  
  • Iron Man (SEGA) Spring 2008  
  • Ford Off Road Racing (Empire Interactive) 6th June  
  • Family Ski (Namco Bandai / Nintendo) 13th June  
  • Super Smash Bros. Brawl (Nintendo) 27th June  
  • Lego: Indiana Jones the Original Adventures (LucasArts / Activision) June 2008  
  • Monster Lab (Eidos) June 2008  
  • Wacky Races (Eidos) June 2008  
  • Mummy Tomb of the Emperor (Vivendi Games) July 2008  
  • Blast Works – Build, Trade, Destroy (Majesco / Eidos) Q2 2008  
  • de Blob (THQ) Q2 2008  
  • Sports Island (Hudson Soft / Konami) Q2 2008  
  • Chess Crusade (ZOO Digital Publishing Ltd) Q2 2008  
  • Garfield Gets Real (ZOO Digital Publishing Ltd) Q2 2008  
  • Garfield’s Fun Fest (ZOO digital Publishing Ltd) Q2 2008  
  • Jeep Let’s Off Road (ZOO Digital Publishing Ltd) Q2 2008  
  • Margots Word Brain (ZOO Digital Publishing Ltd) Q2 2008  
  • Star Wars: The Force Unleashed (LucasArts / Activision) Summer 2008  
  • We Love Golf (Capcom) Summer 2008  
  • The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian (Disney Interactive Studios) Summer 2008  
  • Pipemania (Empire Interactive) 14th September  
  • Brave:  A Warrior’s Tale (SouthPeak Games) Q3 2008  
  • Crash (tentative title) (Vivendi Games) October 2008  
  • Spyro (tentative title) (Vivendi Games) October 2008  
  • Bratz Kids (The Game Factory) Q4 2008  
  • Build-A-Bear Workshop (The Game Factory) Q4 2008  
  • RUBIKS (The Game Factory) Q4 2008  

Wii Channels  

  • WiiWare (Nintendo) 20th May 2008  
  • Nintendo Channel (Nintendo) 30th May 2008  

Nintendo DS  

  • Godzilla: Unleashed (ATARI) Q1 2008  
  • Fish Tycoon (Majesco / Eidos) Q1 2008  
  • Holly Hobbie (Majesco / Eidos) Q1 2008  
  • Nancy Drew (Majesco / Eidos) Q1 2008  
  • Crayola: Treasure Adventures (Ignition) Q1 2008  
  • GEORGE OF THE JUNGLE (Ignition) Q1 2008  
  • Teenage Zombies (Ignition) Q1 2008  
  • Mystery Mansion (505 Games) 4th April  
  • Draglade (505 Games) 11th April  
  • Mystery Detective II (505 Games) 18th April  
  • Starz (505 Games) 18th April  
  • King of Clubs (Oxygen Games) 18th April  
  • Dream Pinball 3D (SouthPeak Games) 18th April  
  • The World Ends With You (SQUARE ENIX) 18th April  
  • Ace Attorney: Apollo Justice (Capcom / Nintendo) 9th May  
  • Subbuteo (505 Games) 30th May  
  • Monster Truck Jam (Activision) May 2008  
  • Race Driver GRID (Codemasters) May 2008  
  • The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian (Disney Interactive Studios) May 2008  
  • City Life (Monte Cristo Multimedia) May 2008  
  • ArchimDS (Rising Star Games) May 2008  
  • Ecolis (Rising Star Games) May 2008  
  • Speed Racer (Warner Bros Interactive Entertainment) May 2008  
  • Hannah Montana – Music Jam (Disney Interactive Studios) Spring 2008  
  • Iron Man (SEGA) Spring 2008  
  • Etrian Odyssey (Atlus / Nintendo) 6th June  
  • Code Lyoko 2 (The Game Factory) 9th June  
  • Bratz Ponyz 2 (The Game Factory) 11th June  
  • Pipemania (Empire Interactive) 20th June  
  • Cooking Guide: Can’t Decide What to Eat? (Nintendo) June 2008  
  • Lego: Indiana Jones the Original Adventures (LucasArts / Activision) June 2008  
  • Looney Tunes (Eidos) June 2008  
  • Monster Lab (Eidos) June 2008  
  • Wacky Races (Eidos) June 2008  
  • Zoo Hospital (Majesco / Eidos) Q2 2008  
  • Hello Kitty: Big City Dreams (Empire Interactive) Q2 2008  
  • New International Track & Field (Konami) Q2 2008  
  • Nanostray 2 (Majesco) Q2 2008  
  • Chess Crusade (ZOO Digital Publishing Ltd) Q2 2008  
  • Margots Word Brain (ZOO Digital Publishing Ltd) Q2 2008  
  • Shining Star (ZOO Digital Publishing Ltd) Q2 2008  
  • Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: Explorers of Time (Nintendo) 4th July  
  • Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: Explorers of Darkness (Nintendo) 4th July  
  • Mummy Tomb of the Emperor (Vivendi Games) July 2008  
  • Star Wars: The Force Unleashed (LucasArts / Activision) Summer 2008  
  • Bratz Kidz (The Game Factory)     Q3 2008  
  • RUBIKS Classic (tentative title) (The Game Factory) Q3 2008  
  • Brave: Shaman’s Challenge (SouthPeak Games) Q3 2008  
  • Ninjatown (SouthPeak Games) October 2008  
  • Crash (tentative title) (Vivendi Games) October 2008  
  • Ghostbusters (Vivendi Games) October 2008  
  • Spyro (tentative title) (Vivendi Games) October 2008  
  • ELEMENTS (The Game Factory) Q4 2008  

TalkBack / REVIEWS: Mario Kart Wii
« on: April 21, 2008, 03:00:53 PM »
It's you vs. the world (and the blue shell), and this time it works.

 With five previous instalments spread over as many platforms, Mario Kart's arrival on Wii was only ever a matter of time. However, given Wii’s revolutionary features and runaway success, what form Mario Kart would assume this time was somewhat less assured. The introduction of motion controls and a packed-in peripheral may broaden its appeal still further, but – for better or worse - Nintendo has decided to remain largely faithful to the Mario Kart formula it has spent sixteen years tweaking and tuning.  Despite some significant detractions, the ability to stage twelve-person online races coupled with Nintendo's most functional online structure yet make Mario Kart Wii very effective in extracting multiplayer thrills from its chaotic racing template.  However, it also leaves the impression that more considered, comprehensive modifications to the series (if not outright reinvention) are now overdue.    

Excluding its lifeless title screen, Mario Kart Wii presents itself as cheerfully as fans have come to expect over the years. While not especially impressive or distinct from GameCube's Double Dash!!, its graphics engine handles the (still unsatisfactorily) gentle pace of the frequently anarchic proceedings very smoothly. Trackside environments appear a little rough, with some blocky landscapes covered by indistinct textures, but the use of lighting effects creates a unique ambiance in some cases.  The character models seem a tad crude when compared with many of Mario's other recent appearances, which doesn’t really matter during a race but is still noticeable. Appropriately enough, considering the characters are little more than avatars (vehicle performance is what matters), you can now race as your Mii. Though for such a casual-appeasing option, it’s a curiously tricky feature to unlock.    

On the audio side, Mario Kart Wii's soundtrack maintains the game's cheerful mood with mostly forgettable music, which could benefit from more extensively tapping into Mario's rich musical heritage. When using a good surround setup, the effect of the many drivers' exclamations as they jostle for position can be quite immersive (albeit sometimes annoying), while the Wii Remote speaker provides some low-fi immersion with audio cues for approaching items.        

Given the inclusion of the Wii Wheel with every copy of the game, it's natural to wonder just how integral this latest piece of white paraphernalia is to Mario Kart Wii. The short answer is "not very". Firstly, the controls have been configured so as to be compatible with the full range of potential Wii controller setups, and so those who would like to continue to steer using an analog stick can do so using the GameCube or Classic controllers in addition to the Wii Remote-Nunchuck combo. Secondly, the Wheel itself is only a shell, and therefore does not add functionality but rather eases the use of the Remote by providing a more comfortable grip and easier access to the B trigger (used for hopping to drift). In all fairness, the construction of the Wheel provides a nice feel and a sense of novelty, but there's no denying that it is truly a peripheral item in every sense.    

The motion controls are somewhat constrained by the desire to maintain compatibility with the traditional Mario Kart control scheme, but they function fairly well as an interpretation of that scheme. The tendency to oversteer is commonplace initially but, given time to acclimate, you can get a feel for what kind of movements are appropriate and when it is necessary to execute a drift to take a corner at speed. However, drifting presents the biggest challenge to the motion controls, as the absence of the neutral position found on an analog stick means that a sudden change of direction cannot be executed as unerringly as with traditional controls. This creates the potential for power-sliding in the opposite direction to what was intended, incurring predictably disastrous results.    

Despite the inevitable frustration (and likely desire to immediately revert back to more familiar controls) that such mistakes will provoke, using the Wheel can be fun and re-introduces something of a learning curve for even the most seasoned of Mario Kart vets. While it uses the Wheel as a means to convey accessibility, Nintendo also seems to acknowledge the challenges that it presents at the top end of competition by indicating whether someone is using the Remote-only scheme during online play and on Time Trial leaderboards.  Its use can be worn as a badge of honour.      

Mario Kart Wii introduces another motion-controlled element with its new trick system. This is fairly uncomplicated, involving a quick upwards flick of the Remote when your racer launches off a ramp or hill on the track. Doing so initiates a minor bout of airborne gymnastics on the part of your character, activating a significant speed boost for your vehicle when it reaches the ground. Experimentation yields a surprising number of opportunities to exploit this new mechanic on some tracks, and it makes the player more of an active participant in each race.  Yet it remains a double-edged sword, as it’s indicative of the continued de-emphasising of racing fundamentals that used to be more critical to achieving Mario Kart success.    

When using traditional controllers, the tricks are initiated by the use of the D-pad, which proves to be a little unwieldy when compared with the intuitive, highly accessible gesture method. This is where the merit of the Wii Remote-Nunchuk configuration is revealed, as it pairs the familiar precision of analog steering with the immediacy of motioning the Remote for a setup that's tough to beat for all-round functionality.    

The series' familiar gameplay – accessible, gently paced racing amidst fantastic hazards and chaotic item duelling – has transitioned to Wii mostly unchanged, with twelve competitors only embellishing the frenzy that is Mario Kart. However, drifting (or power-sliding) has been modified, with speed boosts no longer accumulated by rocking the steering back and forth during a drift. Instead, the boost builds automatically, first to the blue sparks level for a standard mini-boost, then eventually to a higher level boost when the sparks turn orange. This progression occurs more rapidly the more you steer into the direction of the drift, so attempting to straighten out your course during a drift by steering against it will incur a longer delay before being able to use the mini-boost.    

In this way, the controversial "snaking" technique - continuously power-sliding around the track - has been effectively eliminated. Drivers are now rewarded with quick boosts for cornering sharply rather than for the ability to rapidly wiggle the control stick/d-pad in perpetuity. Though some may bemoan the loss of that more skill-dependent element of Mario Kart, there is a considered design to the new system that goes beyond mere simplification for new and casual players.    

In terms of features and content, Mario Kart Wii is clearly based on its immediate portable predecessor, with thirty-two tracks (half new, half retro) and the omission of Double Dash!!’s character-specific items and tag-team drivers. Almost all of the items from Mario Kart DS return along with a few interesting additions, and the number of racers has increased to twelve; however, Mario Kart Wii’s most significant new feature is a new breed of vehicle: bikes.    

Upon taking control of the two-wheeled debutants, Kart veterans will immediately notice the bikes' much sharper cornering and propensity to get bumped off-course. The different handling is disorienting at first, but with time and practice the merits of the bikes emerge. Slender profiles and superb manoeuvrability can prove invaluable for weaving in between traffic and the ever-numerous track obstacles, and their ability to corner sharply with finesse makes driving the time-honoured karts seem awkward by comparison.    

Bike-specific capabilities mean that they are much more than just smaller, quicker versions of karts, injecting meaningful gameplay variety into the mix. Performing a wheelie (executed using the trick input) will grant your bike a speed boost when travelling at good speeds, with the trade-off being compromised steering and increased vulnerability to clashes with other vehicles or items.    

Initially, the use of this technique may remain confined to obvious coasting opportunities while out in front, but in time it can be frequently used when coming out of drift boosts or plotting narrow courses through your rivals. Above any competitive advantage that may accrue from its use, this active risk-reward mechanic (building on the new trick boost system available to all vehicles) makes for an involving racing experience that proves to be simply more fun than sticking with the old karts.    

One downside to the surprisingly entertaining and useful nature of the bikes is that they have not been truly balanced with their kart brethren. While they are more susceptible to physical attack than their four-wheeled counterparts, that weakness doesn’t apply in time trial mode, making them the de facto choice to get the best times (as proof, have a look at the online time trial rankings). However, even in the heat of a twelve-competitor race, the threat of being shunted or the lack of a larger drift boost ultimately offers scant counterbalance to the supreme dexterity afforded to skilled bikers.    

As a racing game, the lasting appeal of any Mario Kart title remains a function of the quality of its track designs. The sixteen new tracks begin very gently, but quickly venture into more dynamic, hazardous territory on a grander scale than we're used to seeing in the series. Some of this real estate is to accommodate the expanded number of racers, making the tracks generously spacious when competing in time trials or with just a few friends (the AI opponents can be turned off in VS. play). Over time, the designs reveal how they have incorporated the trick boost system for alternative routes, while also amusing by way of the sheer amount of danger through which the raceways sometimes wind.    

The retro selection features some undeniable classics as well as a few curious choices, but overall presents a nice variety as the flat, angular courses from the SNES and GBA editions complement the more open, undulating raceways from 64, Double Dash!!, and DS. Their reproductions on Wii are mostly faithful, but there are some extra ramps and jumps put in place, while the presence of bikes and the new trick system can significantly alter how best to approach tracks mastered long ago.      

Though the course designs are interesting and enjoyable on the whole, there is a lack of thematic variety vis-à-vis previous tracks in the series (which are themselves quite well-represented in this game), and frequently feel far from embedded in the Mario franchise. Alongside the rather generic music and some of the confounding choices made in assembling the character roster (four baby versions of other characters!), this contributes to the impression of the game paying lip service to its source material rather than thoughtfully mining it for content that fans of the series would really appreciate.    

Only half of the tracks are available to play initially, and so taking on the various Cup competitions is necessary to unlock the rest (along with more vehicles and characters) for each of the three speed classes. Playing through a Grand Prix in one-player is much the same proposition as ever; you'll quickly be proficient enough to get ahead without too much difficulty, but staying there proves to be a matter of being lucky enough to avoid the appearance of the dreaded leader-exploding blue shell. This is a tolerably infrequent occurrence on the lower classes, but prepare to become enraged on 150cc when a blue-hued calamity drops you so far back that a seemingly insurmountable lead is erased by your rival. The ability to retry a single race (even once) in order to correct a particularly egregious screwing-over would be most welcome, but is once again absent.    

While not quite as seemingly inexorable as in previous Mario Kart games, the blue shell's presence remains an extremely cheap and irritating way of impeding your path to victory. Its function is understandable (though not necessarily desirable) in the context of maintaining competitiveness amongst friends, but its position in one-player is simply untenable. Given that Nintendo continues to make unlocking much of the games' content contingent on playing through the GPs, it is long past time for a more thoughtfully crafted one-player Mario Kart experience, with unique item balancing and smarter AI opponents, that would feel like much less of a chore than it does here. The Mission mode of the DS version is also an unfortunate exclusion, though online "Competitions" should begin to fill this gap somewhat once the game launches worldwide.        

Nintendo has most assuredly upped its online game for Mario Kart Wii.  Races or battles against up to eleven opponents are nearly flawless, with no appreciable lag problems or framerate drops.  The interface is also excellent. Using the Mario Kart Channel, you can view time trial leaderboards, invite people from your Wii address book to add your friend code without inputting a single digit, and check the status of your registered friends – all without having to put the game disc in the console.    

With up to two players on the same console, you can challenge random opponents from around the world very quickly and easily. As the matchmaking takes place, you can see the Miis and location of your competitors, and then view their currently ongoing race before joining the next contest. The game still performs effectively online when running in splitscreen, and thus provides a welcome combination of the joys of playing with a friend in the same room while also seamlessly competing with a large field of human opponents from all regions of the globe.  Races between registered friends offer more customisation, but the inability to communicate in-game beyond simplistic pre-race messaging remains a disappointment.    

This effective online functionality is key due to the limitations of local multiplayer.  The dual-driver system of Double Dash!! is gone, along with its uniquely entertaining co-op play. There are also sweeping changes made to Battle mode, the entire design of which has apparently been modified to mesh with the twelve-player standard for online play. Battles now consist of score-based contests in enormous arenas between two teams of six (with AI making up the numbers offline), with no alternative to play in a traditional four-player elimination bout. Such an option would likely have necessitated the design of more appropriately confined arenas, but the choice to play a twelve player free-for-all should have been included at the very least. As even online battles prove to be less than riotous fun, the trade-off chosen by Nintendo in this case is disappointing.    

Mario Kart Wii is ultimately much the same game as Mario Kart DS, but this is forgivable due to its drastically improved online functionality along with some welcome gameplay additions and tweaks.  Indeed, the capacity for enduring entertainment from racing online, challenging time trial records, and entering worldwide competitions looks to be immense. However, Nintendo's nonchalant, one-size-fits-all approach to the game's design holds it back from attaining loftier status. The speed classes remain inadequately differentiated from one another (the main difference residing in the cheap aggressiveness of the AI), while the option to eliminate the most powerful items in VS. play is welcome but falls short of the much-needed item overhaul.    

By paying specific attention to crafting and balancing the one-player and local multiplayer modes as separate experiences, the series could have moved closer to becoming a truly great game for everyone. Instead, we simply have a very effective new way to plunder the age-old joys (and frustrations) of Mario Kart, so long-time fans of the series will have a blast if they are setup for online play. Newcomers are likely to love discovering its craziness for the first time.


  • Smooth, well-implemented online play
  • Bikes and tricks are fun additions
  • Full range of control setups

  •        Cons:
  • Item balancing has gone largely uncorrected
  • Battle mode has been drastically altered to its detriment
  • No Double Dash!!-style co-op play

  •                Graphics:  7.5
           Though the visuals will not particularly impress or sharply distinguish themselves from those in Double Dash!!, they get the job done. The scale of the environments and hazards displayed in some of the new tracks brings a new sense of spectacle to the proceedings.

                   Sound:  6.5
           Original compositions have been used as opposed to employing familiar franchise melodies outside of item jingles, a questionable decision given the largely uninteresting nature of the new songs. The sound effects are as authentically Mario as ever, while the character vocalisations may charm in some cases but irritate in others.

                   Control:  9.5
           With the full set of control options available, there's very little to complain about in this area. The motion controls are fairly well-executed and are sure to appeal to newcomers, while traditionalists can happily clutch their GameCube controllers.  The Wii Remote-Nunchuk setup combines the best aspects of the two for the most effective setup overall.

                          Gameplay:  8.5
           The mix of racing and duelling with Mario and friends remains fundamentally entertaining. New items, vehicles, and techniques make for a more involved experience than before, though power-sliding has been somewhat simplified. Item balancing issues are still irksome in one-player competitions, and the alterations to Battle mode are a step backwards.


           Lastability:  8.5
           Provided you have access to online play, Mario Kart Wii can generate years of fun with the opportunity to take on your friends and the world all at once without being dominated by snakers. Conversely, the failures of Battle mode and the absence of Double Dash!! co-op play (in addition to a general lack of novelty) may sorely limit how long you’ll be engaged offline.


           Final:  8.5
           Subtly refining the formula that worked so well on Nintendo DS, Mario Kart Wii expands its horizons by fully delivering on the promise of online play.  While single-player and local multiplayer fall a little short, online competition (in addition to the fun new tracks and bikes) is compelling enough reason for another go around the track for series vets, while motion control and ever-charitable gameplay make it a great starting point for new players.  However, with many of the franchise’s biggest frustrations left intact, those indifferent to the series may want to steer clear.      

    TalkBack / Mario Kart Wii Scorches Off the Grid in the UK
    « on: April 15, 2008, 10:10:21 PM »
    Mario's latest Wii release becomes Nintendo UK's fastest seller yet as it racks up the eighth biggest first week of all-time on any format.

     Mario Kart Wii's uncharacteristically early launch across Europe on Friday of last week has paid huge dividends for Nintendo UK, generating the eighth largest number of sales in a first week of all-time for the British market.    

    The blistering sales pace of Mario's latest trip to the racetrack ranks as the most successful game launch in Nintendo UK's history, dwarfing all of its previous software hits on Wii by a wide margin. In fact, Mario Kart Wii's colossal first week managed to exceed the combined launch totals of the five previously released Wii games bearing Mario's name. These include the highly acclaimed Super Mario Galaxy, as well as the enduringly successful Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games, which retained its place in the top three of last week's All Formats Chart.    

    The complete Chart Track All Formats software top ten for last week can be seen below:    

    Mario Kart Wii - Nintendo

    Gran Turismo 5: Prologue - Sony

    Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games - Sega

    Pro Evolution Soccer 2008 - Konami

    Rainbow Six: Vegas 2 - Ubisoft

    Condemned 2 - Sega

    Wii Play - Nintendo

    Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock - Activision

    Call Of Duty 4: Modern Warfare - Activision

    Carnival - Funfair Games - 2K Play

    TalkBack / IMPRESSIONS: Mario Kart Wii
    « on: April 14, 2008, 05:38:32 AM »
    It's out in Europe, and we've hit the track running with our retail copy. Check out our early impressions of the new controls, tracks, vehicles, and more.

     European gamers starved of multiplayer anarchy in the absence of Super Smash Bros. Brawl finally got their fix last week in the shape of Mario Kart Wii. Having sat down with the game over the weekend, I've toured all the game's tracks and modes and come away mostly pleased with the results of Nintendo's labours, though not without coming across a few notable drawbacks.    

    Upon start-up there are nine characters to choose from. The drivers of Mario Kart Wii break down into three weight categories (light, medium, and heavy), determining which set of karts/bikes they have access to. At first, each set of vehicles corresponding to the weight classes contains three karts and three bikes, but as you achieve certain goals, more machines will be unlocked to expand the sets.    

    Thus you can accumulate a good range of driving options for your favourite character, but in functional terms, the only real difference between any of the characters is in their weight class, as the character specific items of Double Dash!! are no longer present. Whether it be Yoshi, Luigi, or even your own Mii (an unlockable bonus, weight class determined by how big you made it originally) in the driver's seat of the Nostalgia kart, for example, it'll handle just the same.    

    After selecting a character and vehicle, you will be presented with an option that seems quite foreign to the Mario Kart series: "Automatic", or "Manual". However, this is nothing to do with shifting gears, but rather pertains to the new drifting mechanics that have been implemented. In the automatic case, players do not have to press a button to hop and initiate a power-slide in order to navigate sharp corners, rather the slide is initiated automatically as you steer heavily in one direction. This form of drifting keeps things simple for beginners, and lacks the reward of a mini-boost at the end, so Mario Kart vets shouldn't concern themselves with this, and instead proceed with the manual option from the get-go.    

    As you may have heard by now, the drifting in Mario Kart Wii has been modified from the system employed in the DS version. The rocking back and forth of the steering in order to build up a mini-boost found in the past several Mario Kart games has been taken out. Instead, how quickly you build up through the two levels of mini-boost (available for karts, as bikes only have one) is now dependent on how heavily you steer into the slide. This means that the straighter your course after initiating the slide, the longer it will take for the boost to accrue, rendering the oft-maligned snaking technique no longer viable as a way to get ahead.    

    This is to my satisfaction, as I did not find attempting to exploit the old drifting mechanics to be enjoyable per se, but some may lament the passing of snaking as a skill to be mastered. However, I would say that there is some depth to using powerslides in Mario Kart Wii, as it further encourages taking corners as sharply as possible, which is a nice risk-reward element.    

    Mario Kart Wii follows Brawl's lead in providing players with the full compliment of possible control schemes on Wii, and this is very much appreciated as there are significant pros and cons to the different setups. The much-publicised Wii Wheel doesn't add anything functionally to simply holding the Wii Remote on its side, but its construction is solid and provides some comfort and additional ease in steering and reaching for the B trigger to initiate a power-slide.    

    Using the wheel at first proved to be somewhat unexpectedly enjoyable and functional, but as soon as an over-steering mistake costs you a GP title, you too may find yourself longing for the feel of an analog stick against your thumb. The GameCube and Classic controllers can accommodate this need, providing tight, very familiar control that can be finessed much more easily than the turning of the wheel.    

    Where these methods fall down a bit though is in the activation of the new trick system. When using the Wii Remote, flicking upwards just as you take off from a ramp initiates a nifty piece of aerial acrobatics on the part of your driver, granting you a boost as soon as you touch the ground. The gesture recognition has been totally solid in my experience, and on the GCN and Classic controllers the d-pad is relied upon to execute this manoeuvre, which is a little bit awkward by comparison (though hardly representative of a major problem). However, the Wii Remote-Nunchuk combo controls really do represent the best of both worlds in this case, as they combine the precision and familiarity of control stick steering with the ability to flick the remote even more effortlessly than when holding it on its side.    

    The addition of bikes to the Mario Kart cavalcade of craziness (or should that be kavalcade of kraziness?) is not as superfluous as I had first thought, and injects a few new elements into the formula. The bikes are predictably much more manoeuvrable than the karts, making them good for weaving in between obstacles and traffic, but also vulnerable to battery by heavier machines. In some cases, the turning circle is so tight that only a brave man would power-slide more than occasionally, and with just a limited boost to be earned when on two wheels, drifting becomes a lesser part of the game.    

    More interestingly, bikes can travel at higher speeds when you perform a wheelie (once again by flicking the remote up/d-pad). The price to pay for this ability is that the bikes become even more vulnerable to attack while balancing on one wheel, and lose almost all capacity to change direction, so this must be used carefully. It proves most useful for maintaining high speeds following a boost when on a straight, and presents a risk-reward mechanic that is entirely unique to this new breed of Mario Kart racer.    

    Having now seen all of the 32 tracks (16 new, 16 retro, as in Mario Kart DS) on offer, the selection is pretty satisfying, although everyone will have their grievances regarding omissions from the retro list (no Waluigi Pinball or GCN Yoshi Circuit!), and a little more thematic variety would have been welcome. The new tracks start off pretty basic but progress into some of the wildest the series has seen yet, with solid track design augmented by some interesting use of the new trick mechanics by littering the track with exploitable ramps and bumps.    

    While the game's graphics may not immediately impress, the 12 racers on the tarmac (or sand, or flowing water even) combined with the madness created by some of the new courses create a greater sense of spectacle than was apparent in Double Dash!!. However, in accommodating the 12 competitors most of the tracks have been made very broad, which rather diminishes an already lacking sensation of speed. While Mario Kart has never styled itself as akin to F-Zero, on those occasions when you activate multiple turbos in quick succession you might wish that rush was felt rather more frequently, at least in the 150cc class.    

    Unlocking aside, multiplayer's the name of the Mario Kart game, and local four player races have an impressive set of options this time. In addition to being able to set up a competition over a number of courses of your choosing, the level of the AI opponents can be toggled through three difficulty settings, while the items can also be modified or turned off altogether. In addition to the "balanced" default setting, there is a choice to make the extreme items (such as the lightning bolt or Bullet Bill) more or less common.    

    In the latter case the items remain largely contained to the basics (such as green shells, mushrooms, and bananas), preserving combat between racers while eliminating the items that are least associated with skill or strategy. A comprehensive item switch might have been preferable, but this is a step in the right direction. Where Mario Kart Wii is most regrettably less customisable is in the case of Battle Mode, which must be played in two teams of six competing in a score-based match rather than an elimination format. This seems needlessly limiting and, so far, appears to be to the detriment of the fun to be had in Battle Mode.    

    Finally there's the online play, which is undoubtedly a step up from Nintendo's other ventures in this area. Joining a series of anonymous matches is very quick and easy, and is not limited to a set number of races or affected by dropouts, so the contests proceed smoothly for as long as you care to race in the quest to accumulate ranking points based on your performance (a system akin to your skill scores in Wii Sports). The game itself runs smoothly (seemingly in 100cc mode only) even with the full compliment of racers, and copes well if playing with a friend in splitscreen on the same Wii.    

    Currently I haven't been able to dabble in friend matches, but friends can now be invited to add your code using your Wii Message Board address book in the Mario Kart Channel (standalone installation requires 86 blocks, but the same functionality is available through the game disc as well). This channel also lets you see if any of your registered friends are online with Mario Kart Wii without having to insert the game disc.    

    Overall, my time with Mario Kart Wii so far has shown me that while it definitely does not "reinvent the wheel" (though it does provide us with one whether we want it or not), there are a significant amount of tweaks and new elements to offer something a little different to the Kart veteran, while staying true to the core formula that was so well received in Mario Kart DS. The superior online functionality (and indeed, the absence of snaking) could well mean that this one will last us even longer in spite of some annoyances, but anyone demanding that Mario Kart Wii transcend its forebears altogether is clearly not going to be satisfied.

    TalkBack / REVIEWS: Hurry Up Hedgehog!
    « on: April 13, 2008, 05:18:16 AM »
    Or: How hedgehogs can turn the term "board game" into a double entendre.

     What makes a good old-fashioned board game fun? Is it a clever game construction that mixes in strategy with luck, or simply the joy of gathering around with friends or family, collectively anticipating the next roll of the dice? Whatever it is, Hurry Up Hedgehog! fails to capture this fun factor on DS, and does little to utilise the platform in order to compensate for the game's considerable shortcomings as electronic entertainment.    

    Based on the board game Igel Ärgern, Hurry Up Hedgehog! can be played by up to six people (or AI opponents) on a 6x9 grid that has each person attempting to manoeuvre three of their four hedgehogs to the finishing column in order to claim victory. A lane (i.e. row on the grid) is selected at the beginning of each turn, along which one hedgehog (whether it belongs to the player or not) must be moved forward. In the same turn, players can also shift one of his or her own hedgehogs one space vertically from anywhere on the grid in order to place them on a more favourable path.    

    With pit squares (one blank space per lane that holds a hedgehog until all others have passed it) and an assortment of rule set variants, there is potential for strategic thinking along with a certain amount of gameplay variety, but in reality both are quite limited. On the whole, the original game design is solid but hardly presents anything we haven't seen before in the genre (the board game itself is nearly two decades old), and sorely lacks the dynamism of the games most DS users are accustomed to.    

    The publishers proclaim that employing all the different takes on the games' rules can yield thirty-two different ways to play the game, but few (if any) of these will feel especially different from one another. The most significant variation amongst these combinations is whether the lane selection is at the discretion of the player or is randomly selected (in place of rolling dice). Allowing players to have total control over which hedgehog to move forward may seem like it creates a more strategic game, but it removes the element of calculated risk present in the random selection mode, and some of the traditional board game fun that comes with it. There are also six boards available to choose from, but their differences in both layout and artwork are trivial.  In the absence of more varied modes or separate mini-games, any retail software containing only a single board game constitutes a very serious dearth of content.    

    Unsurprisingly, Hurry Up Hedgehog!'s presentation is sparse and uninteresting. The menus are somewhat unclear, relying on pictograms for navigation and option selection rather than the more direct instruction offered by the use of simple text. The game board graphics on the lower screen are very basic. On the upper screen, the scoreboard can be seen along with a few cartoon hedgehog animations corresponding to the status of the player currently taking their turn. These characters can't help but feel rather disconnected from the discs on the game board, and lack a charming personality of their own.    

    The sound design is perhaps the weakest element in Hurry Up Hedgehog!'s desolate presentation. There is almost no music present in the game at all, not even fanfare when someone emerges victorious. The sound effects of the hedgehogs fail to reconcile the inanimate game board discs with their cartoon counterparts, only succeeding in becoming mildly irritating when turns are taken in quick succession.    

    Moving the hedgehogs around on the game board is performed with the use of the stylus on the touch screen. Once you have decided which hedgehog to move, tapping it will show which squares it can be moved to, and then tapping one of those squares will move the hedgehog to the desired destination. This control scheme is functionally sound, and is certainly better suited to the board game format than a traditional D-Pad-and-buttons setup would have been.    

    Obviously, multiplayer is the focus of Hurry Up Hedgehog!. As a digital version of a board game, there's no need to have wireless communication between multiple DS units to facilitate multiplayer competition here (a single console can simply be passed around with each turn), but should anyone have a friend with another copy of the game, multi-card play is available. AI opponents can be added to fill out the roster of six competitors, but in this scenario much of your time is spent watching the AI take its turns. Also, higher numbers of players clutter the game board to the extent that there will be several turns during which no moves can be made at all, or there's only one choice to make, making the game a tedious procession for extended periods.    

    Having a few friends to play with is definitely the best case scenario, but even though you won't have to convince them to buy a DS or a copy of the game to join in, simply getting them to participate at all may well prove to be a hard sell. Aside from the convenience of modifying the rule set and avoiding the necessity of clearing space on a flat surface, Hurry Up Hedgehog!'s existence on DS does nothing to enhance the appeal of its source material. Indeed, the absence of physical dice rolling and being gathered around a game board with friends rather diminishes the fun to be had here. Ultimately, developers Ivolgamus have not made a persuasive case for this game’s translation to DS, and with many other more entertaining, interesting, or just plain pertinent alternative purchases, Hurry Up Hedgehog! simply isn’t worth your time.


  • Fair board game design
  • Functional controls

  •        Cons:
  • Severe lack of content for a retail game
  • Sparse and unappealing presentation

  •                Graphics:  3.0
           The game board artwork is uninteresting and sorely lacking in variety, while the cartoon hedgehogs fail to confer any character or charm onto the static proceedings on the touch screen.

                   Sound:  1.5
           There is very little content to discuss in this area, with virtually no music to embellish the in-game goings-on. The sound effects are thankfully few in number, given the annoyance created by those that are present.

                   Control:  6.0
           Board game-derived gameplay means that the controls have very little to do, but the touch screen implementation for moving the game pieces around is effective.

                          Gameplay:  3.5
           The core board game design is decent, but left nearly unadulterated on the DS, it proves simply too insubstantial and lacking in variety to be an engaging interactive experience.


           Lastability:  2.5
           Being dependent on the presence of willing friends and with very little in the way of appreciable variety to tap, there is little chance that this could occupy your DS game card slot for a prolonged period of time. If you are in possession of a decent number of other DS games (or disposable income), this probability approaches zero.


           Final:  3.0
           Hurry Up Hedgehog! is functional in its core game design and controls, but lacks any other features that make it rise beyond the level of a trivial diversion. The package on offer fails to justify the decision to translate this board game to the handheld video game format, and simply cannot compete with the now vast range of more creative, dynamic, and unique experiences to be had on DS.      

    TalkBack / Watch the BBC on Wii
    « on: April 09, 2008, 03:02:21 AM »
    British Wii owners will be able to access the BBC's iPlayer catch-up service via the Internet Channel.

     The BBC has announced that it is teaming up with Nintendo UK to make its iPlayer service available for use with the Wii Internet Channel for UK residents. This will allow British Wii owners to stream the same BBC programming that is currently offered online to PC users for viewing on their television sets instead.    

    A message will be sent through WiiConnect24 to inform people that the iPlayer service has gone live, at which time it will be accessible through the Internet Channel (if already installed from the Wii Shop Channel) at      

    BBC and Nintendo collaborate to offer BBC iPlayer on Wii    

    (Cannes, April 9)  Erik Huggers, the BBC’s Group Controller for Future Media and Technology, today unveiled a collaboration with Nintendo UK to offer BBC iPlayer via the Nintendo Wii.      

    In a keynote speech at the annual MipTV-Milia conference in Cannes, Huggers revealed that as of today Nintendo Wii users can stream their favourite BBC programmes direct to their TVs via the console.    

    Huggers said: "Working with Nintendo marks another exciting milestone for BBC iPlayer.  It underlines our commitment to reaching new audiences by making BBC iPlayer available on as many platforms as possible. The BBC’s catch-up TV service can now be accessed on an increasing number of different platforms – from the web and portable devices to gaming consoles.  It will shortly be available on TV."    

    David Yarnton, General Manager, Nintendo UK, added: "This exciting alliance with the BBC is yet another way in which Nintendo is looking to broaden the market for its products by offering compelling and relevant content to families. BBC iPlayer on Wii will offer Wii owners another reason to turn their console on everyday and adds to the already established non gaming content on Wii that includes news and weather channels and an internet browser."    

    Once the iPlayer service for Wii is live, a message will be sent to all Wii consoles in the UK currently connected to the internet to notify them of the availability of the iPlayer service. Existing Wii owners will then be able to access BBC iPlayer via the Internet Channel on the Wii main menu.  New users may be required to download the Wii Internet Channel. Once installed, users simply click through to, and search for the programme they want to watch.

    TalkBack / REVIEWS: Pinball Hall of Fame – The Williams Collection
    « on: April 05, 2008, 01:45:24 PM »
    Relive the '80s (whether you originally lived them or not) through the medium of flippers and metal balls.

     The rise of video games in the arcades of the 1980s might have done much to expedite the decline in profitability of pinball machines, but today, video gaming and pinball are frequently combined to resurrect the age old compulsion to have "just one more go" at setting a new high score by flipping, trapping, and nudging a metal ball for hours on end. Pinball Hall of Fame: The Williams Collection takes the nostalgia factor to a higher level than your average game of video pinball, faithfully recreating ten 80’s-era tables manufactured by Williams with top quality artwork and authentic sound effects. Its highly realistic ball physics and solid Wii controls deliver what is assuredly one of the best virtual pinball experiences yet created, and only a few missed opportunities to better exploit the video game medium prevents it from being a flawless package for pinball aficionados and gamers alike.    

    From its (quite puzzlingly low quality) intro movie onwards, it is obvious that Pinball Hall of Fame strives to fully recreate both the game itself as well as the experience of playing in an arcade during pinball’s golden age. Table selection involves exploring a virtual arcade, where appropriately '70s/'80s-sounding music can be heard with the occasional interruption by a faux news report. There are even a few machines on view that are not playable, which may feel like an irritating tease to some, but fills out the arcade presentation nicely.    

    The ten classic tables on offer from Williams' heyday do not include any machines that utilised licensed properties, so some pinball veterans may bemoan the absence of a personal favourite. However, those on offer are among some of the industry's most famous and innovative products (including Black Knight, Pinbot, and Whirlwind) whose recreations will surely delight anyone who gave over many coins to their physical counterparts in years gone by.    

    While the task of rendering these machines may seem meagre compared to harnessing the Wii's capabilities to fashion the land of Hyrule or chart Mario's celestial adventures, Pinball Hall of Fame does a very commendable job of meticulously recreating these legendary coin-guzzlers in exquisite, authentic detail.  Original artwork is used to create high-quality textures that hold up under the scrutiny of even the closest of selectable camera views, which make it possible to get a strong sense of being inside the machines if you desire. Add in the use of lighting and reflection effects (which can be turned off if they are felt to obstruct your view of the action in any way), and the end product is strikingly realistic.    

    This attention to detail extends to the game's audio components. All ten machines come with sound effects intact, while the noise of the ball bouncing between bumpers, pinging off drop-downs, or slowly rolling down the table is always spot-on. The virtual arcade's background music can be mixed in to your liking using the options menu, a useful feature since the audio for some tables becomes grating over time. The ability to mix the different audio elements and select which tracks remain on the arcade playlist is a welcome inclusion, but begs for the use of custom soundtracks via the SD card slot, which is regrettably not included.        

    The astute construction of the game's tables does not come at the price of gameplay fluidity, which remains at a consistently high level no matter what chaos may ensue when multi-ball play is achieved. Progressive scan display is supported (and indeed is optimal for conveying the vibrancy of the tables' colours), while a widescreen mode is omitted due to the vertical orientation of the pinball machines represented in the game.    

    Of course, any presentation of video pinball lives and dies according to the quality of its physics engine, and in this case anything less than near-absolute realism would not suffice. Happily, Pinball Hall of Fame fully delivers in this regard; it is, without question, the most realistic game of pinball I've ever played on a console.    

    For anyone who has played on physical pinball machines to a significant extent, the weight and momentum that the ball possesses here is extremely satisfying, and every ricochet and collision feels completely accurate. It is even possible for your ball to become stuck in the table just as it may have done in real life, resulting in the player having to select the "Call Attendant" option to reset the ball's position. Simply put, any way that you can manipulate a pinball with flippers on a real table can be executed here.    

    Pinball Hall of Fame's core controls are logically placed and generally well-implemented. Utilising the Wii Remote and Nunchuk setup, the large trigger buttons (B and Z respectively) on the underside of each half of the controller correspond to a flipper control, making for an intuitive and comfortable setup. The flipper controls are highly responsive, and give a very satisfying feel to the controls overall, but the absence of a Wii Remote-only or other more traditional control method is a minor drawback.    

    The Nunchuk’s analog stick serves as the perfect input mechanism for each table’s plunger (used to put the ball into play), while the essential ball-saving ability to nudge the table is handled by motion control. Moving the Nunchuk in your left hand will move the table to the left, while a shake of the Wii Remote nudges right. While this doesn't feel like the tightest form of control, in this context the imprecision is entirely appropriate, introducing a degree of nuance to the task of table manipulation. Shake too vigorously and the table's flippers will lock as the "TILT" message appears, while a subtle gesture can redirect a rapidly descending ball onto the tip of your flipper or save it from the outlanes. Wii’s motion controls all too often seem gratuitous and poorly executed, but in this case they are both fun and functional.    

    Finally, the 1 and 2 buttons control your camera view, with 1 selecting a fixed or smart camera style and 2 cycling through variants of each.  The range of perspectives is appreciated, as you’ll find some are more appropriate for certain tables than others (for example, the smart camera does a good job of granting a better view of the action when the ball is bouncing around at the top of a table).  An option to pre-determine the camera selection or change it from the pause menu would have been preferable to having to do so in-game, as it would have eliminated the possibility of inadvertent button-presses during gameplay.    

    Naturally, realistic physics and great controls mean that Pinball Hall of Fame's gameplay is essentially as appealing as the real thing. Unlike many pinball games available for Nintendo platforms, in this case there are no additional elements bolted on to the fundamentals of pinball such as bonus mini-games, boss stages or collection elements. This will please purists and may attract casual/lapsed gamers with its accessibility and nostalgia value, but those who have never understood pinball’s appeal will find little here to change their opinion.    

    With that said, the number of classic tables on offer means that Pinball Hall of Fame packs in many more challenges than your typical pinball game, and the selections offer significant variety within the classic experience. Some tables are quite basic (such as the pre-microchip-era Jive Time, which features one set of flippers and an open layout), while others reside at the other end of the spectrum (like Funhouse, a table littered with ramps, holes, and spinners that constitute a scoring system verging on the arcane). Players will inevitably find their favourites for continually upping their high scores, but each one has its own appeal.    

    Aside from making ten classic tables available at your fingertips, Pinball Hall of Fame only takes limited advantage of the video gaming medium. First and foremost, there are no online leaderboards, and the in-game score table is limited to only five spots, which is less than adequate if multiple people are playing on the same Wii. The default high scores are not complete pushovers to beat, but the inability to compare your best scores with other players is most regrettable. This option would have given valuable context to your achievements, as well as provide further incentive to compete and improve your scores (which, after all, is the very essence of pinball).    

    On the positive side, Pinball Hall of Fame includes exhaustive explanations (complete with visual aids) of the sometimes highly complex scoring systems, a very helpful tool when determining how to best approach each table. There are also sets of table-specific achievements based on reaching certain goals, such as maximising a bonus multiplier or activating multi-ball. These can be challenges unto themselves, and prove necessary in earning credits to pay for the use of unlockable tables and other bonuses. The Williams Challenge further tasks players with playing through the entire roster of machines.  All these aspects combine to create an incentive structure that deftly encourages players to learn the ins and outs of each table, developing their pinball skills in the process.    

    For those that appreciate somewhat more direct competition, Pinball Hall of Fame features multiplayer options for a single table or a tournament across multiple tables. Players take turns after each ball, thankfully limiting the amount of time players spend watching their opponents on each table. In tournament play points are awarded based on the quality of scores attained on a given table, meaning that even a seemingly insurmountable lead built up over several stages can be wiped out by one blistering performance at the end. These modes provide an additional competitive element to the game and can be good, tense fun, but pinball clearly remains a primarily solo experience.      

    In essence, the game of pinball is one of less than total control with a high potential for frustration, so this game is clearly not going to hold lasting appeal for everyone. Furthermore, Pinball Hall of Fame is unapologetically faithful to its source material, and doesn't offer any olive branches to those who have never found pinball compelling. Nevertheless, FarSight Studios has crafted a wonderfully authentic pinball experience with Pinball Hall of Fame: The Williams Collection, so those of you that have ever gotten a kick out of the real thing should strongly consider picking this up. Indeed, this is an impressive package for anyone who relishes a high score challenge.  Its greatness is denied by a few missed opportunities (most notably online leaderboards), but if you give it a chance you might find flipping a metal ball all over the place to be more fun than you had previously thought.


  • Very high quality graphics recreate the classic tables beautifully
  • Intuitive and well-implemented control scheme
  • Superb ball physics
  • Ten varied tables and achievements that present many challenges

  •        Cons:
  • No online leaderboards
  • No pause menu camera controls

  •                Graphics:  9.0
           Ten classic machines recreated in stunning detail, with crisp textures and effective lighting creating a high level of realism. The action never slows down.

                   Sound:  7.5
           The authentic sound effects are endearing and amusing for the most part, while the option to mix them in with music is also welcome. However, the music is mostly forgettable, so custom soundtracks would have been a great addition.

                   Control:  8.5
           The Wii Remote-Nunchuk setup proves to be a very comfortable and responsive way to control a pair of flippers, while motion-controlled nudging works well in addition to being fun. A Wii Remote-only alternative scheme might have proved convenient, but there's little to complain about the default setup.

                          Gameplay:  9.0
           The spot-on physics and effective controls make for a great core game of pinball, and the diverse range of classic tables and accompanying challenges ensure that you’ll put these qualities to good use. This is every bit as instantly accessible and timelessly playable as the game of pinball itself.


           Lastability:  8.0
           Bearing in mind that replayability is heavily dependent upon your affection for pinball and desire for high scores, the range of tables, challenges, and multiplayer options here mean that any pinball veteran or score junkie could spend an awfully long time with Williams' esteemed back catalogue. Online leaderboards could have added another layer to the ceaseless pursuit of a higher score, so their absence is a significant disappointment.


           Final:  8.5
           An extremely well-put together game, Pinball Hall of Fame takes rich source material and does almost everything right with it. The fundamental constraints of pinball remain of course, and the inability to compare your personal high scores with the best around the world is most regrettable. However, there is no denying that, if pinball is your sort of thing, there's a deep well of enjoyment to be tapped within this exquisitely presented package.      

    TalkBack / Byron Review Recommends Unified Ratings Scheme for the UK
    « on: March 28, 2008, 06:08:10 AM »
    Government-commissioned report proposes a hybrid classification system that will come into force in 2010, combining elements of the existing PEGI and BBFC schemes to improve the clarity of age ratings.

     The report of the Byron Review on Children and New Technology has recommended that the classification of video games in the UK be consolidated in order to make age ratings more clearly understandable by parents. Under the report's proposals, by 2010 all games will display an age rating consistent with the BBFC's film certificates on the front of their cases, while Pan European (PEGI) standards will be observed on the rear.    

    The most significant procedural change contained in the proposals is for the BBFC to have its remit extended into all releases with content appropriate only for people over 12 years of age. This will extend statutory classification to a significant degree, as the BBFC will have to adapt to rating around double the number of titles that it currently oversees (about 4% of software overall). Those caught selling games to underage children would be subject to fines and up to five years in prison.    

    The PEGI will be left to rate games appropriate for the 3+ and 7+ age brackets (though these games will now also carry a BBFC equivalent label), and will be responsible for the initial decision to refer games to the BBFC for rating when necessary.    

    The decision to use BBFC standards as the primary face of the hybrid system is said to be due to the greater popular recognition of what its age certificates signify, owing to their use over many years in the film industry. In the report, the co-existence of the BBFC and PEGI standards for video games is said to have contributed to confusion among parents, with some accounts of parents associating PEGI standards with "skill level" as opposed to content description.    

    Further to the purpose of empowering parents to make informed decisions about video game purchases more easily, Dr. Byron proposes that the industry should fund high profile campaigns that raise awareness regarding the ratings system. The report also calls for the industry to agree minimum standard parental controls that would apply to all formats.    

    Across the industry, reaction to the report's approach and specific proposals has been broadly positive, though there have been reservations expressed regarding the BBFC's capacity to absorb the extra workload of 12+ rated games, especially given the anticipated pace of expansion of digitally distributed titles. Richard Wilson, CEO of the trade association Tiga, has also voiced concerns that placing the burden of educating consumers about ratings solely on the industry will reduce the competitiveness of the UK games industry, and should be shared by the government.    

    The full report, Safer Children in a Digital World by Dr. Tanya Byron, can be found here.

    TalkBack / Driving Theory Training Coming to the UK
    « on: March 20, 2008, 03:55:16 PM »
    Learn the rules of the road on the go using your DS, courtesy of Atari.

     DRIVING THEORY TRAINING  Fasten your Seatbelt for Atari's On-the-Move Driving Theory Test and Highway Code Tutor for Nintendo DS™  Date : 20 March 2008    

    London, England - 20th March - Atari UK today announce the forthcoming release of a new title for the popular Nintendo DS™ handheld console, Driving Theory Training, giving players the unique opportunity to revise, practice and take virtual tests on driving theory and Highway Code whilst on the move.    

    This will be the first time that the Nintendo DS has been used as a new media device to help learners study and simulate the actual test. Driving Theory Training is aimed at provisional license holders who need that little extra help to be successful when the day of the real test comes around and offers valuable help to anyone who's learning to drive.    

    Available in Summer 08, Driving Theory Training will feature the full driving theory questions and answers officially licensed by the DSA (Driving Standards Agency). In addition to a full theory test based on the real life exam, learners can benefit from revision, graphs, mini games and questions and answers relating to vehicles. The application also features the full Highway-code, ways to learn and revise as well as fun games to entertain whilst stimulating the mind.    

    "Knowing the rules of the road and the highway-code is vital part of driving and passing your theory test. Atari UK have been striving to replicate the driving theory exam in an educational and informative application. We hope this title will help people learn everything they need to know to successfully pass their driving theory test", commented Jeremy Wigmore, Managing Director of Atari UK. Everything from speed limits to stopping distances is covered using the official question bank featured in the actual test. The application also includes the full Highway-code and fun driving related games. Wherever they are, players can take the test, revise the questions or simply play challenges.

    "Play Away the Calories" event at the Dana Centre will allow visitors to try out Wii Fit and see how a Wii workout compares with other forms of exercise.

     The Science Museum's Dana Centre will soon host "Play Away the Calories," an event sponsored by Nintendo examining the potential for physically interactive video games to improve health and fitness.    

    On March 26, attendees will have the chance to experience Wii Fit for themselves at the event, nearly a month before the game's April 25 European launch date. Exercise expert Tim Cable will measure how many calories are burned during play for comparison with a range of other activities, including treadmill running and traditional video game playing.    

    Gaming expert Margaret Hodge will also be on hand to discuss the heritage of video games promoting physical fitness, and the reasons for their limited impact on the industry to date. Together with epidemiologist Andy Jones from the University of East Anglia, the three experts will discuss whether gaming really can help promote healthier lifestyles.    

    Gaetan Lee, Dana Centre event organiser said, “the Dana Centre aims to explore the most exciting subjects of contemporary and controversial science and technology. 'Play Away the Calories' is no exception and promises adults an energetic night of game-playing and discussion.”    

    The event is open to over 18s only, and will take place from 7 pm to 10 pm on Wednesday 26 March. For more information, visit

    TalkBack / EA Steps Up Efforts to Acquire Take-Two
    « on: March 16, 2008, 11:14:04 AM »
    A tender offer of $26 per share will be made directly to shareholders following the rejection by Take Two's directors of last month's equally priced takeover bid.

     The Wall Street Journal has learned that Electronic Arts is continuing to pursue a takeover of Take-Two Interactive, following up last month's $26 per share offer that was rejected by Take-Two's board of directors with a tender offer to shareholders at the same price.    

    The move to circumvent Take-Two's board of directors and approach shareholders directly marks an appreciably hostile turn in EA attempts to complete their latest acquisition. The board has urged shareholders to take no action at this time pending its review of the offer.    

    Previously, it has maintained that the EA bid is of insufficient value to be accepted, and has decried its timing in relation to the April release of Grand Theft Auto IV as opportunistic.    

    The offer is said to expire at midnight April 11, a day after Take-Two's annual shareholders meeting. Analysts project that there will likely need to be an increased offer to complete a takeover in the near term, and also that EA may walk away in the hope of a less costly acquisition down the road if shareholders stand their ground looking for a higher price.    

    When EA initially made its advances public, the $2 billion valuation of Take-Two constituted a 50% premium over the closing price of the company's shares. Subsequently, shares have been trading for around (and briefly above) the $26 level, and are expected to spike upwards again with the release of GTA IV.    

    In publicly divulged correspondence with Take-Two, EA contends that the market currently reflects expectations of strong sales for GTA IV, hence its valuation is fair and the deal should be made prior to the April 29 launch date. Take-Two's directors have pledged to further discuss any offers only after that date, also noting that other suitors have approached them since EA's bid was made public.

    TalkBack / Manhunt 2 Receives Classification in the UK
    « on: March 14, 2008, 06:20:20 AM »
    Rockstar's controversial horror title has been given an '18' rating by the BBFC following the Video Appeals Committee's decision to uphold its ruling.

     Manhunt 2 has been granted certification in the UK after the Video Appeals Committee upheld its decision to accept Rockstar's appeal against the BBFC's refusal to classify the game. The BBFC has now rated Manhunt 2 '18', allowing it go on sale in the UK. A release date has yet to be confirmed by Rockstar.    

    When the VAC first ruled in favour of Rockstar last November, the BBFC sought a judicial review of that decision. The High Court subsequently concluded that the VAC had made a "clear error of law" in its conception of a permissibly low level of potential harm caused by the game's release, and ordered it to reconsider.    

    Re-examining the appeal under the High Court's legal direction, the VAC once again voted four-to-three in Rockstar's favour, and left the BBFC with little choice but to classify the game.    

    "As I have said previously, we never take rejection decisions lightly, and they always involve a complex balance of considerations," said David Cooke, BBFC director, in a statement.    

    "We twice rejected Manhunt 2, and then pursued a judicial review challenge, because we considered, after exceptionally thorough examination, that it posed a real potential harm risk.    

    "However, the Video Appeals Committee has again exercised its independent scrutiny. It is now clear, in the light of this decision, and our legal advice, that we have no alternative but to issue an '18' certificate to the game."    

    Rockstar has also released a statement in response to the decision: "We are pleased that the VAC has reaffirmed its decision recognising that Manhunt 2 is well within the bounds established by other 18+ rated entertainment.    

    "Rockstar Games is committed to making great interactive entertainment, while also marketing our products responsibly and supporting an effective rating system."

    TalkBack / An Import Duo for Virtual Console
    « on: March 10, 2008, 02:22:06 AM »
    The Super Famicom sequel to Milon's Secret Castle comes to the west for the first time alongside another version of Puyo Puyo, available for 900 points each.


    March 10, 2008    

    Got enough challenge in your daily routine? Chances are that basic everyday tasks - getting to work or school on time, walking the dog, taking out the trash - aren't enough to keep you firing on all cylinders. Luckily, Virtual Console™ is close at hand to help you test your mettle in fresh and unusual ways. Whether you're rescuing a kidnapped pal or mastering a set of mind-bending grid puzzles, this week's new arrivals, imported from Japan, offer a refreshing break from the late-winter blahs.    

    Nintendo adds new games to the Wii™ Shop Channel at 9 a.m. Pacific time every Monday. Wii owners with a high-speed Internet connection can redeem Wii Points™ to download the games. Wii Points can be purchased in the Wii Shop Channel or at retail outlets. This week's new games are:    

    DoReMi Fantasy: Milon's DokiDoki Adventure (Super NES®, 1 player, Rated E for Everyone – Alcohol Reference and Comic Mischief, 900 Wii Points): This is an action game where an energetic boy named Milon sets off on a great adventure in a cute fairy-tale world. Piccolo is a village in the country of Fantasia. One day, they hear from the fairy Alis that songs and music have disappeared from the forest. Suddenly, the wizard Amon appears, grabs Alis and vanishes with her. The brave Milon must now go on a journey to rescue his kidnapped friend, with his bubble shooter as his only weapon. Along the way, he'll need to retrieve five legendary instruments and stars by defeating Amon's minions. Get ready to enjoy the fun and comical action of this charming game.    

    Puyo Puyo 2: Tsuu (Sega Genesis, 1-2 players, Rated E for Everyone, 900 Wii Points): The object of this head-to-head puzzle game is to clear your grid of falling patterns called puyos by forming chains of four or more same-colored puyos in a straight line or one of several geometric patterns. What makes this a challenging two-player contest is the fact that when you clear a chain of puyos from your grid, it drops a random piece of filler onto your opponent's grid. The more puyos you clear, the more you fill your opponent's grid, and if you can clutter up his grid enough to fill it to the top, you've won the game. An intriguing backstory makes this an amusing experience for one or two players.    

    For more information about Wii, please visit

    TalkBack / Bleach: Dark Souls Coming to North America
    « on: March 10, 2008, 02:02:39 AM »
    The second Treasure-developed fighter based on Bleach will arrive in North America this summer, with a storyline set between seasons 1 and 2 of the TV show.

     Bleach: Dark Souls™    


     Launch Date: Summer 2008

     Developer: Treasure


    Bleach: Dark Souls™ on the Nintendo DS™ brings an exclusive storyline, expanded cast of playable characters and fast multi-plane fighting action for up to four players via Wi-Fi. Players will also build a power-packed Spirit Card Deck and collect power crystals to augment their spirit card powers on the lower screen and dish out moves that will directly affect their opponent’s gameplay. With a burgeoning cast of 44 characters including the ability to play as Hollows, players can spend hours experiencing furious fighting gameplay and unlocking personal character stories all based on the series’ story arc.    

    BLEACH™ is a popular animated series on Cartoon Network. The series follows the life of a 15-year-old boy, Ichigo Kurosaki, who crosses paths with a Soul Reaper and becomes one. The franchise has established itself as a major anime series in Japan, and is now creating a stir in North America. The first season of the show was featured on Cartoon Network’s program, Adult Swim, and received solid ratings in America this past year. The series is poised for a successful second season that began March 2008.    


  • Exclusive Single-player Storyline. Bleach: Dark Souls features an exclusive storyline that takes place in between seasons 1 and 2 of the animated series. Fans of the anime will have to play Bleach: Dark Souls to uncover story plot points that are sure to shed new insight on Ichigo’s quest to save Rukia.
  • Exciting Multiplayer fighting action. Up to four players will enjoy the fighting action via Wi-Fi connection. This game supports the Download Play feature where one player has a cartridge and transmits the game to another player’s Nintendo DS which allows them to play head-to-head.
  • Variety of multi-plane 2D fighting arenas. Players can switch between the foreground and the background battlelines to chase after or escape from opponents.
  • Large cast of popular characters. Players will select from 44 of their favorite characters who are all voiced by the actors from the anime series including the Hollows.
  • Special attacks to master. Players can inflict massive damage on opponents with special Combos and Super Power Attacks taken directly from the series.
  • Seven thrilling gameplay modes. Story, Arcade, Versus, Training and Challenge modes along with two unlockable modes which will provide hours of replayability and keep players coming back for more.
  • 30 New Power-up Cards and Power Crystals to Customize Spirit Card Deck. On the lower screen, players can customize and manage their deck of Power-up Cards for boosts to Health, Attack and Defense, and much more.
  • New Bleach Encyclopedia. Contains fun and interesting facts about the entire Bleach universe. Fans of the series are sure to use this as a reference for to expand their Bleach knowledge.

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    TalkBack / Mario Kart Wii to Feature Text Chat
    « on: February 27, 2008, 02:59:48 AM »
    Nintendo's official European site confirms the use of text-based chat rooms for online friends waiting to race. Updated: Chat will be limited to a choice of pre-determined phrases.

     Update: IGN has learned from Nintendo of America that the text chat feature will be limited to a selection of pre-determined phrases, and therefore will not be input via an on-screen or physical keyboard.    


    Following last week's announcement of an April 11th European release date for Mario Kart Wii, Nintendo has updated the game's hub page on its UK website with confirmation of the ability to text chat with registered friends outside of races.    

    "You’ll be able to race against up to 11 other players from around the world in massive online races or race against your friends. You can create rooms for friends to join and even text chat while you’re waiting for other racers."    

    Given that previous Wii firmware updates have made it possible to use USB keyboards in the Internet Channel and elsewhere, it would seem likely that Mario Kart Wii will support the use of keyboards in addition to the familiar Wii Remote text input method.      

    As well as chatting with each other prior to competing, friends will be able to jump into each other's races at any time, serving as spectators until joining in the action when the next circuit commences. Rounding off the game's online features, Mario Kart Wii will install its own Channel on the Wii Menu that will allow players to compare their top times with the best the world has to offer, download ghost data to compete against, and participate in special events organised by Nintendo.

    TalkBack / European Price Points Announced for Wii Fit
    « on: February 27, 2008, 01:27:11 AM »
    Exercise software and Wii Balance Board to be available for £69.99 in the UK, €89.99 throughout the rest of Europe.

     Nintendo has announced estimated retail prices for its forthcoming body awareness and exercise tool, Wii Fit, in European markets. Including the advanced Wii Balance Board peripheral for measuring weight and detecting physical action, the Wii Fit package will retail for £69.99 in the UK, while elsewhere in Europe the price will be €89.99.    

    Wii Fit launched in Japan last year for ¥8.800, approximately equivalent to £42, €55, or 83 US dollars. Nintendo of America has yet to set a price for Wii Fit, only commenting that it will be set lower than $100. With the European price points working out at around $140, this may be an indication that Wii Fit will hit US stores at closer to $100 than $80.

    TalkBack / D3Publisher to Bring Bangai-O Spirits to North America
    « on: February 25, 2008, 11:22:54 PM »
    Treasure's latest shooter will launch on DS in Q2 2008 featuring "revolutionary" Sound Load technology for the transfer of user-created data.

     D3Publisher of America and Renowned Japanese Developer TREASURE Bring Nintendo DS Game Bangai-O Spirits to North American Markets     New Sound Load Technology Allows Data Transfer Via Sound Files for the First Time Ever on Nintendo DS Handheld Systems    

      LOS ANGELES--(BUSINESS WIRE)--A jewel of a game will cross the Pacific and delight gamers as Bangai-O Spirits was confirmed today for the North American market by D3Publisher of America, Inc., a publisher and developer of interactive entertainment software. Bangai-O Spirits is a compelling blend of twitch-fest shooter and puzzler genres, seasoned with strategic and tactical elements. Developed in the eccentric, much-loved style of TREASURE Co., Ltd., it is a re-imagination of their ‘90s cult classic game Bangai-O, perfected for the Nintendo DS™ handheld system. Bangai-O Spirits will incorporate a powerful level editor tool, as well as revolutionary new technology known as Sound Load that allows gamers to transfer data among DS systems via sound files—a first for DS handheld systems. The game is scheduled for release in the second quarter of 2008.    

    “It is an honor to bring a ground-breaking game by a respected developer like TREASURE to North American game enthusiasts,” said Yoji Takenaka, chief operating officer, D3PA. “Bangai-O Spirits contains many key elements that define a truly enjoyable videogame—the innovation in both technology and gameplay make this a must-have title for everyone who owns a DS system.”    

    Bangai-O Spirits provides gamers with addictive shooter gameplay, punishing supermoves and a sensory overload of fireworks onscreen, with strategic and tactical elements and TREASURE’s quirky design style. The game also offers co-op, competitive multiplayer for 1-4 players via local wireless, a powerful level editor tool which allows players to edit in-game levels or create new ones from scratch, and the revolutionary new ability to transfer data among DS systems through sound data transfer technology known as Sound Load.    

    Never before utilized for DS systems, the Sound Load technology in Bangai-O Spirits allows players to transfer level data among DS handheld systems via the use of sound and the DS microphone. This technology works by taking the level data and turning it into a sound file which is output through the host DS speaker. This data is then interpreted through the microphone of the recipient DS, and the level transfer is complete!    

    It is also possible to upload and circulate sound files of level data from Bangai-O Spirits online via the Internet, or to save files to a recording device like a PC or jump drive for transport and distribution, allowing gamers to catalog, share and compare levels online easily with gamers all over the world! Widening the range of play and interaction even further, gamers can also deliver high score and gameplay footage as transferable sound files by using Sound Load. More details about this unique feature will be forthcoming soon.    

    Bangai-O Spirits for Nintendo DS is developed by TREASURE Co., Ltd. and is currently rated “RP” (Rating Pending) by the ESRB.

    TalkBack / New Releases on Virtual Console
    « on: February 25, 2008, 03:25:02 AM »
    Kirby 64 launches alongside Psychosis, another side-scrolling shooter for the TG16.

     Wii-kly Update: Two New Classic Games Added To Wii Shop Channel    

    Feb. 25, 2008

    This week's additions take players on a psychedelic trip down memory lane. Kirby® is back and armed with a bunch of new talents, including the option to combine abilities. Curious to find out what mixing the Burn and Cutter powers gives Kirby? We won't spoil that for you here. If the colorful landscapes in the pink sphere's world are too much for you and you're looking for straight firepower instead, then try plunging your soul into the mind of a twisted demon. We'll just see how you fare against wave after wave of bizarre enemy creatures in that kind of environment.    

    Nintendo adds new games to the Wii™ Shop Channel at 9 a.m. Pacific time every Monday. Wii owners with a high-speed Internet connection can redeem Wii Points™ to download the games. Wii Points can be purchased in the Wii Shop Channel or at retail outlets. This week's new games are:    

    Kirby 64™: The Crystal Shards: (Nintendo 64®, 1-4 players, Rated E for Everyone, 1,000 Wii Points): Kirby's first 3-D adventure is also his Nintendo 64 debut, and it finds the always-versatile hero battling a new enemy called Dark Matter. Dark Matter is after a distant land's powerful crystal, but a young fairy named Ribbon attempts to save it by escaping with the gem to Dream Land. Now the crystal has been broken, and it's scattered around the world. Take control of Kirby and help him journey across six worlds, battling a wide variety of enemies and challenging bosses, as he tries to collect all 100 pieces of the shattered crystal. Along the way, you'll use Kirby's trademark copying ability to use enemies' strengths against them. Not only that, but try combining any two abilities to create a brand-new one that is usually stronger than the original. Throw in three exciting multiplayer minigames, and you've got a package of which even King Dedede would be proud. Fans of Kirby and action games with bright, colorful graphics should vacuum this one up.    

    Psychosis: (TurboGrafx16, 1 player, Rated E for Everyone – Mild Fantasy Violence, 600 Wii Points): This is a side-scrolling shooter played in a world created from the mind of a twisted demon. Your soul has suddenly wandered into that evil world that exists in every person's heart. The only way out is to blast your way past the grotesque creatures that block your path in five "causes" (stages). You must face the dangers of this psychedelic world by making full use of three shot types and the satellite option. With power-ups, you can change your shots to a wide-coverage beam, a satellite-generated laser and more. Each shot type can be powered up to three levels. You can also block enemy fire by rotating the satellites to a desired position. How you use these features will be the key to successfully escaping this strange and surreal world.    

    For more information about Wii, please visit

    TalkBack / Virtual Console to House Commodore 64 Games in Europe
    « on: February 21, 2008, 12:22:29 AM »
    Among the first games are International Karate and Uridium.

     Nintendo has announced that the Commodore 64 will be added to the European Virtual Console's expanding roster of formats. Games for the classic home computer system will be available on the Wii Shop Channel for 500 Wii points (£3.50) each, equaling the price of NES games.    

    International Karate, a one-on-one fighting game, and Uridium, a horizontal scrolling shoot-'em-up, are expected to be among the initial line-up of C64 games released on the Virtual Console. For the moment, there has been no statement regarding the availability of C64 software on the Virtual Console in other regions.    

    Commodore 64 support marks the first occasion that a format created by a non-Japanese company has been represented on the Virtual Console, and is also the first non-console system to have its software made available for download. The C64 is the single best selling personal computer unit of all time and possesses a vast back catalogue of game cassettes released for the system.    

    The full press release can be found below.    

      Virtual Console On Wii Expands Into A Commodore 64 Gaming Universe    

    Commodore Gaming teams up with Nintendo of Europe to bring classic C64 games to the Wii!

    Already a firm favourite with Wii owners, Virtual Console is once again expanding its catalogue, this time with the addition of a whole new games format. Later this year, Wii owners will be able to enjoy classic titles from the best selling personal computer of all time, the Commodore 64. These titles join classic gems from the likes of Nintendo, SEGA, Turbografx and NEOGEO already available via the Wii Shop Channel.    

    The release of the Commodore 64 in 1982 was an historic moment for the computer and video games industry. According to the Guinness Book of World Records it remains the best selling single computer model of all time, with an estimated 22 million units sold. Its immense popularity saw an unrivalled collection of over 4,000 rich games titles released through its production lifetime (1982-1994), helping to establish the C64 as a ‘gamers favourite’. Now, some of the greatest Commodore 64 titles will be made available for Wii owners to download and play via the Virtual Console service.    

    Bala Keilman, CEO of Commodore Gaming, commented, “The massive impact the Commodore 64 had on video-gaming is still evident today with many gamers remembering the computer and its games with great fondness. By working with Nintendo of Europe, we are ensuring that future generations of gamers can play some of the best and most popular titles that kick-started the computer games revolution and so keep the C64 legacy in gamers hearts.”    

    Laurent Fischer, Managing Director of European Marketing & PR of Nintendo Europe adds, “We are extremely pleased to be working with Commodore Gaming to provide even more retro hits for Wii owners to choose from on Virtual Console. With over 184 classic titles now available to enjoy, Virtual Console on Wii is a great way for users to access a breadth of classic retro games. We hope that this great choice of games will bring nostalgia to our gaming fans, while an entirely new generation of video game players can experience a host of classic games for the very first time.”    

    Among the first titles from Commodore 64 which will be made available on Virtual Console are International Karate and Uridium. These great titles will be bolstered by regular updates to the line-up from the Commodore 64 back catalogue.    

    Virtual Console games from Commodore 64 will be available from the Wii Shop Channel soon and can be downloaded for 500 Wii Points each. Currently these titles will only be available on the European Wii Shop Channel.

    TalkBack / Wii Fit and Mario Kart Wii to Launch Across Europe in April
    « on: February 20, 2008, 11:07:21 AM »
    Two of Nintendo's biggest 2008 titles will launch within two weeks of each other for PAL gamers; the wait for Brawl goes on without a date.

     Nintendo has announced that Mario Kart Wii will be coming to Europe on April 11th, to be followed by the release of Wii Fit just two weeks later on April 25th.    

    Widely considered to be two of the most crucial first party Wii titles launching in Western territories during 2008, both games will ship with additional hardware. Mario Kart Wii, with its packed-in Wii Wheel, has been given an estimated retail price of £38/€50. Wii Fit has yet to be assigned a price point, but the package is expected to retail for significantly more than €50 due to the sophistication of the Wii Balance Board peripheral around which the game is based.    

    In the midst of these major announcements, reports of a June 6th release date for Super Smash Bros. Brawl have been refuted by Nintendo UK. Speaking to CVG, Nintendo dismissed that date as the product of "pure rumour and speculation", emphasising again that no announcement regarding a European launch for Brawl has been made.

    TalkBack / Two More for the Virtual Console
    « on: February 19, 2008, 01:04:28 AM »
    Phantasy Star II and Ninja Gaiden III make up another good week for the VC.

     Two New Classic Games Added To Wii Shop Channel    

    Feb. 18, 2008

    Some gamers get skeptical when Roman numerals populate the title of a game. But make no mistake - this week's offerings are no mere sequels. They are some of the most highly regarded classic games around. So stock up on some Wii Points™ to battle the Dark Force or complete an action-packed trilogy.    

    Nintendo adds new games to the Wii™ Shop Channel at 9 a.m. Pacific time every Monday. Wii owners with a high-speed Internet connection can redeem Wii Points to download the games. Wii Points can be purchased in the Wii Shop Channel or at retail outlets. This week's new games are:    

    Ninja Gaiden™ III: The Ancient Ship of Doom: (NES®, 1 player, Rated E for Everyone - Mild Violence, 500 Wii Points): Join master ninja Ryu Hayabusa, last member of the famous Dragon Clan, in the third and final chapter of the legendary Ninja Gaiden saga. Ryu is framed for FBI agent Irene Lew's murder, and it's up to him to clear his name. Defeating superior life-forms created out of "life energy" called BIO-NOIDs and avoiding enemy ambushes are among the many obstacles which Ryu faces in this unpredictable adventure of mystery, deceit and destruction. Noticeable changes to the game-play mechanics include Ryu's ability to grab on to horizontal surfaces, his reduced falling speed and altered jumping maneuvers, and visible power-ups. Help Ryu defeat the forces of evil once more and discover the real culprit behind Irene's death as one of the most loved trilogies in video-game history comes to a close.    

    Phantasy Star™ II: (Sega Genesis, 1 player, Rated E for Everyone - Mild Animated Violence, 800 Wii Points): Hailed as one of the greatest games of all time by fans and media alike, Phantasy Star II is an RPG that features an epic story line and turn-based battles. Play as Rolf, Nei, Rudo or several other characters as you navigate through the Algol star system battling the evil Dark Force. Build your characters, select the right weapons and armor, and take on the forces of evil through various missions as you find the right combination of characters to complete each objective. Experience the magic once again in this great sequel.    

    For more information about Wii, please visit

    TalkBack / Nintendo Calls for Aid in Fighting Global Piracy
    « on: February 17, 2008, 05:15:24 AM »
    NoA singles out national governments that need to take tougher action against hardware and software piracy, turns to U.S. Trade Representative for help.


    Nintendo Calls Out China, Korea, Brazil, Hong Kong, Paraguay, Mexico

    REDMOND, Wash., Feb. 14, 2008 - Nintendo of America Inc. has asked the U.S. Trade Representative to encourage specific governments around the world to take a more aggressive stance to combat piracy of Nintendo video games and systems. Nintendo filed its comments under a "Special 301" process, in which the U.S. Trade Representative solicits input from the public to underscore specific areas of concern.    

    While China remains the primary source of manufacturing pirated Nintendo DS™ and Wii™ games, Korea has emerged as the leader in distributing illegal game files via the Internet. Despite aggressive anti-piracy actions taken by Nintendo, Brazil and Mexico remain saturated with counterfeit Nintendo software. Meanwhile, Paraguay and Hong Kong continue to serve as major transshipment points for global distribution of illegal goods.    

    "The unprecedented momentum enjoyed by Nintendo DS and Wii makes Nintendo an attractive target for counterfeiters," said Jodi Daugherty, Nintendo of America's senior director of anti-piracy. "We estimate that in 2007, Nintendo, together with its publishers and developers, suffered nearly $975 million USD worldwide in lost sales as a result of piracy. Nintendo will continue to work with governments around the world to aggressively curtail this illegal activity."    

    Below is a summary of Nintendo's filing:    

    OVERALL: Nintendo recommends stronger laws in all countries against the circumvention of technological security measures. Video game pirates have developed DS game-copying devices and modification chips to target the security found in Nintendo's hardware systems and allow the play of counterfeit software or games illegally downloaded via the Internet.    

    CHINA: China must pursue criminal prosecutions against people involved in large-scale piracy operations. Nintendo works with Chinese authorities, who seized more than 1 million fake Nintendo products in China during the past year. But not one counterfeiter has been prosecuted.    

    KOREA: Nintendo supports the Korea-U.S. Free Trade Agreement, but suggests that it must be ratified immediately to address service providers who are profiting from the uploading and downloading of illegal Nintendo content. Korea is an important market for Nintendo, and Internet piracy is seriously affecting the growth of the video game industry in the country.    

    CENTRAL AND SOUTH AMERICA: Latin America remains a haven for piracy. Evidence supporting this claim includes escalated violence in Mexico against police conducting anti-piracy raids, extraordinarily high tariffs and taxes placed on the sale of authentic video games in Brazil and widespread corruption in Paraguay. During the past year, Nintendo assisted local authorities with more than 65 actions that resulted in the seizure of approximately 230,000 counterfeit Nintendo games in Brazil, Mexico and Paraguay alone. Despite Nintendo's efforts, the piracy levels continued to rise. Nintendo is calling for significant changes to laws and to the enforcement regimes in those countries.

    TalkBack / UK Government to Propose Legally Enforceable Ratings System
    « on: February 10, 2008, 02:21:54 AM »
    Ministers are preparing a new classification scheme that would make it illegal for retailers to sell games to underage consumers.

     The Guardian has learned that the British government will propose a new, legally enforceable system for the classification of video games. Retailers will be held responsible under the scheme, as the sale of games to consumers below the specified age group would become illegal.    

    Such a system would widen the scope of legal enforcement beyond just material considered appropriate for "adults only”, covering instead the full spectrum of content produced by the video game industry.    

    Currently, the vast majority of video games released in the UK are rated by the Pan-European Game Information (PEGI) body, which is part of a voluntary system that functions without provisions for legal sanctions. Only games that contain sexual content or "gross" violence against humans or animals are referred to the British Board of Film Classification, to be given a statutory rating consistent with those attached to works of cinema.    

    This suggested change to video game ratings comes ahead of next month’s Byron report on the risks posed to children by the internet and video games. The Byron review was commissioned to address concerns that children are unduly exposed to unsuitable content through new technology, and its report is said to include an examination of evidence collected from studies on the effect of video games on children.    

    It is expected that the report will prompt further recommendations by government ministers, including advice to keep consoles out of children's bedrooms as much as possible, in order to facilitate greater monitoring of content by parents and carers.

    TalkBack / REVIEWS: Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games
    « on: February 05, 2008, 08:54:41 PM »
    The long-running dispute finally ends the only way it ever could…with hostile canoeing.

     Uniting two once-warring stables of characters, Mario and Sonic at the Olympic Games is the product of a Nintendo-Sega collaboration that, years ago, would have seemed so infeasible that it could only be announced on April 1st.  In the reality of 2008 on Nintendo DS, Mario and Sonic's face-off evokes button-mashing athletics games of the past, with logical touch screen implementation injecting some much-needed variety to the format. However, limited multiplayer modes hold the game back from becoming anything more than a brief, mild entertainment.    

    Sixteen characters have been assembled for this meeting of the mascots (eight from each of the two franchises). These familiar faces are nicely conveyed by good character models and trademark voice work, though their repeated exclamations in some events will inevitably grate given time.  Characters are grouped into four attribute classes: Power, Speed, All-Around and Skill.    

    With twenty-four gradually unlocked events of various types from which to choose, the contestants are more naturally suited to some events than others. Consequently, only a particular subset of the roster is really viable for use in each Single Match competition. Where character selection becomes more than a no-brainer (or a popularity contest) is in Circuit mode. Here, four contestants (someone has to finish off the podium, right?) compete in a sequence of events that typically mixes up which skill sets are most valuable.    

    This balancing within a circuit brings the all-around characters into play, as reasonable finishes in each event can be enough to win the competition overall. On the other hand, the "Circuit chance"—an option to choose an event where the points you earn are doubled—can favour specialist characters that maximise points in their preferred event, and hold on to win by performing respectably elsewhere.    

    However, the early circuit competitions are so short and unchallenging that they render any such strategic thinking completely irrelevant. Sadly, playing through these is mandatory to unlock higher-difficulty content and new sports outside of the circuits. Furthermore, while the Advanced Class circuits feature tougher AI opponents and more events, it remains true that neither a great deal of thought, nor skill, is required to take the Gold.    

    Outside of the structured circuit play, Mission mode tries to induce players to try out all the different characters by giving each one specific challenges, some of which deliberately work against the character's skill set. Single matches are simply a chance to get acquainted with a particular event, or set records. While the game is balanced such that Olympic and World records can be broken without difficulty, those who can go online with Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection can upload their personal bests to worldwide leaderboards. This is a good inclusion - especially for the ultra-competitive players out there - but the obvious lack of depth in the game's challenges is unlikely to inspire many to perfect their sprinting or javelin-throwing abilities.    

    The core gameplay across the various modes is primarily a matter of timing, alongside frenzied touch screen rubbing/button mashing. Rubbing to run is the most prominent input amongst the many combinations of stylus and button use employed, and will surely place a severe strain on the arms (and the touch screens) of highly committed players. The most basic games, such as the 100m sprint, are purely a function of how rapidly you can rub after you burst off the starting line. Other events avoid merely rewarding uninterrupted rubbing to the finish, but rather elaborate on the simpler events by placing a greater emphasis on timing, adding stamina bars and obstacles, and are mostly more successful for it.    

    Aside from rubbing, the touch screen implementation is largely functional and quite intuitive. Tracing your stylus along the touch screen can direct a reticule on the top screen for archery and shooting; swipes dictate the angle of jumps or throws, and tapping in patterns performs feats of gymnastics. This functionality makes the events more varied, and indeed more satisfying, than if they were executed purely with buttons.  In spite of this, the inclusion of button-controlled games is probably for the best, both for expanding the game's variety somewhat, and for giving beleaguered touch screens a break every now and then.    

    The stylus-button combo control schemes featured in a few sports can be rather unwieldy, and seem to run counter to the rest of the game's uncomplicated control methods.  Fencing is a prime example. While swiping the touch screen might seem theoretically well-matched to side-on swordplay, the actual result is basic, clunky, and simply not much fun.    

    This is doubly unfortunate as fencing makes up two of the game’s twenty-four events, due to it being repeated as one of the "Dream" events that put a Mario spin on Olympic competition. These events owe much to the design of existing Mario-branded games, with Dream table tennis borrowing from Mario Power Tennis for the GameCube, and a quite bizarre canoeing event resembling Mario Kart’s battle mode.  Perhaps the most unsettling Dream event is boxing, which involves pummelling your opponent from a first-person perspective on the top screen. For some franchise fans, such up close and personal aggression against a character like Peach could evoke feelings of guilt, while knocking Shadow the Hedgehog senseless might prove cathartic for others.        

    Great depth or emphasis on skill cannot be realistically expected from this kind of game.  Rather, its merit can be judged on its functionality, and the ability to inject enough variety into the proceedings to make it a fun experience (especially with friends) that can endure beyond just a few hours. The line-up of events is fairly good in this regard, if a little repetitious and mixed in quality. The Dream events add a Mario sports veneer with limited success on the gameplay side, but certainly offer the most complicated gameplay available with their inclusion of power-ups and special moves.      

    Where Mario and Sonic really falls short is with its multiplayer component.  Firstly, though the game supports download play for single-card multiplayer, the options are so scant as to render this offering practically nonexistent. Only six of the game's events are available to play, and there is no opportunity to set up a circuit competition (which would likely be the only way for the game to hold your interest for any significant period of time). Playing a few one-shot games with friends is highly unlikely to convince them to purchase a copy of the game so that you can enjoy the full range of options available in multi-card multiplayer.    

    There are also major limitations as to how much fun can be had in multiplayer with all options available. All events are played simultaneously, even when they are completely solo games such as the hammer throw, the trampoline, or archery. While this might speed matches along, it also removes any tension from the proceedings, as you have no idea what marks your opponents have set, and therefore what you need to accomplish. The absence of pressure from multiplayer competitions really does rob them of much of their entertainment value; individually performing fairly mechanical tasks is only made fun by the anticipation of everyone watching and waiting to see whether you will deliver in the clutch or choke.    

    This problem could be regarded as an unhappy consequence of the handheld medium, or indeed the nature of the Olympic Games themselves to some extent. However, multiplayer modes could have at least been set up with the option to take turns, and thus players could watch their opponents' efforts on their own screens while they wait for their moment. Such an option would have gone a long way towards recreating the feeling of people gathering around the same TV set while playing on a console. What we have instead is a very disconnected experience for many of the events, and while the omission of online multiplayer is in itself a shame, under these circumstances the experience would have been so impersonal as to be almost completely redundant.    

    While Mario and Sonic at the Olympic Games' design takes some notable missteps, it does many things quite well. But the singular failure to execute multiplayer effectively means that the game's merits are not capitalised upon, and therefore it struggles to provide any lasting impact. Franchise fans may get a kick out of seeing some of their favourites out of their element (I for one have longed to see Yoshi cross swords with Dr.Eggman, honestly!), but in the end, that kind of amusement is only slightly more shallow than the game itself.


  • Good character models
  • Sensible stylus gestures
  • Acceptable event variety

  •        Cons:
  • Some sports poorly executed
  • Inadequate multiplayer
  • Unlocking content by winning easy circuits can be tedious

  •                Graphics:  7.5
           Good character models and animation bring the Mario and Sonic families to expressive life, and hold up reasonably well in close-up events such as Dream boxing. The recreations of Olympic venues are solid, but don’t add much overall.

                   Sound:  6.5
           Voice acting is present and accurate for the sixteen contestants. The Mario characters remain fascinated with the sound of their own names, and their commitment to letting everyone know how much they're exerting themselves can get irksome rather quickly. Music is largely forgettable, focusing more on (weakly) attempting to evoke the grandeur of the Olympics than franchise motifs.

                   Control:  6.5
           Running the gamut of the DS' input mechanisms, the various control schemes generate some variety in a series of fundamentally similar mini-games. While many of the stylus gestures are logical and functional, some of the stylus-button combo schemes are awkward.  The stylus rubbing also may not endear itself to those wishing to protect their touch screens.

                          Gameplay:  6.0
           The vast majority of events are heavily leveraged on good timing, but there is some diversity in gameplay across the twenty-four events available. Shooting and Vault emphasise the speed of your reactions, while Archery (one of the game's standouts) manages to bring some judgment into play. Ultimately, the game aspires to be highly accessible above all else, and as a result lacks any real depth. Where matters are complicated (such as in the Dream events), it is generally not beneficial.


           Lastability:  5.0
           The extent to which players are forced to trudge through very easy circuits to unlock the game's content feels excessive. While this may extend the life of the game, it does so with tedium. The inclusion of online leaderboards is wise, but the shortcomings of the multiplayer modes severely limit how much playtime there is to be enjoyed in the long run.


           Final:  6.0
           With a core design that does more right than it does wrong, Mario and Sonic at the Olympic Games could have been an entertaining experience to revisit from time to time with friends. However, its lack of well-implemented multiplayer modes exposes its shallowness, robbing it of any lasting appeal.      

    Nintendo will distribute a new entry in Tecmo's survival horror series co-directed by Suda 51.

     Tecmo have officially announced that Fatal Frame: Mark of the Lunar Eclipse, a new instalment in its renowned survival horror series, will be launching on Wii in 2008.    

    Marking the series' debut on a Nintendo platform, this instalment will be the product of a partnership between Tecmo, Nintendo, and Grasshopper Manufacture. The project will be co-directed by Grasshopper head Goichi Suda, the creator of Killer 7 and No More Heroes, alongside Tecmo's Makoto Shibata. Nintendo will also be involved in the game's development, in addition to serving as its distributor.    

    Given the widely held perception that its highly successful console suffers from a dearth of software targeting adult audiences, it is notable that Nintendo is taking an active role in bringing Fatal Frame to Wii. Nintendo's cooperation in development (alongside a studio with a track record of developing adult-oriented content for GameCube and Wii) appears to have convinced Tecmo of the viability of its IP on the booming platform.    

    Stating that the deal was struck with the global market in mind, it would appear that Tecmo will also be able to utilise Nintendo's considerable distribution resources in regions outside of Japan.

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