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Gaming History You Should Know [dot]HACK// Retrospective December 9, 2018

Posted by Maniac in Gaming History You Should Know, Uncategorized.
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Last year I became obsessed with the .HACK franchise. Created in an incredible partnership between Bandai and Cyberconnect 2, .HACK was one of the first franchises I had ever seen that was designed from the start to be transmedia. At the same time the .HACK games were being released on the PlayStation 2, there was also an animated TV series that tied into different events happening at the same time of the game. The entire franchise revolves around the lives of the players of a VR MMORPG named (literally) The World.

I remembered fondly watching the initial crucial reviews for the first games in this franchise back when G4TV was in its heyday, but as a PC-only gamer at the time who didn’t own a PS2, I could never afford to purchase the original games for myself. By the time I could, their prices had exploded in the second hand market, once again bringing them out of reach.

Last year, NamcoBandai did a great thing and re-released the second (and arguably most beloved) series in the .HACK franchise, .HACK//G.U., on the PS4 and PC. The original animated series like .HACK//Sign have been re-released as DVD boxed sets. I bought up as much of it as I could. However, the original four PS2 games from the franchise were not re-released, and I was disheartened to know I would be going into a game franchise with a big gap of information.

Enter YouTuber Model, who began work on an in-depth series of .HACK// retrospectives at around the same time I was getting to learn more about the franchise’s history. His videos were incredibly paced and exceptionally well edited, with great production values all around. They have been perfect at filling in the essential gaps left out by BandiNamco’s refusal to re-release many of these classic games. Today, Model released his fourth video retrospective on .HACK// Vol 4, completing his retrospective of the original PS2 .HACK// quadrilogy. You can watch each of them below, with each video covering one of the four games in their entirety. Be aware, there will be spoilers, but my guess is if you’re watching this it’s because you want this information.

I have to admit I am grateful for one thing, the fact that much of the .HACK// franchise has been re-released over the past few years. I’ve even seen soundtrack albums available for purchase at import stores. However, there are still several original games (and one film) that never was released outside of Japan, and these four older games from the first series fetch astronomical prices on the secondhand market. I would prefer to see NamcoBandai (or BandaiNamco) re-release these four fondly remembered games (as well as everything that was previously Japan-Only) on modern systems. They still own the franchise and Cyberconnect2 clearly still has a soft spot for the franchise they created, so there is literally no reason not to.

At some point I would like to take a closer look at the franchise but this is more than enough for now! Special thanks to Model for letting us feature his videos here on the site. You can also read his Twitter here. Great work buddy! Model promises to continue his retrospective series with a look at the .HACK//G.U. games, but he expects those to take a while.

.HACK// Episodes 1-4 are out now exclusively on the PlayStation 2.

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Rest In Peace, Stan Lee November 12, 2018

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It is my unfortunate duty to inform you all that the man known to the world as Stan “The Man” Lee, creator of some of the greatest comic book characters ever, has died at the age of 95. His life’s career is far too long to include in this brief posting, but I felt that something needed to be said about his passing and why he had such a tremendous impact on me as a person.

The Man joined Marvel Comics during its golden age and was inspired by greats such as Joe Simon (creator of Captain America) and Jack “King” Kirby. He would then go on to start what would become the Marvel Universe with the first issue of Fantastic Four. He didn’t stop there, he would go on to create and co-create more great heroes including Spider-Man, The Hulk, and Daredevil. These weren’t Gods, these were men and women with problems like you and me, characters with pathos. The Fantastic Four had to live their super hero and their private lives in the open. If a supervillian decided to attack their home, they would run the risk of getting sued by their neighbors who could have gotten caught up in the unfortunate crossfire. Spider-Man was a gifted scientist and photographer but always had problems making ends meet. The X-Men were constantly harassed and scapegoated due to the fact that they were born Mutants. The fact the X-Men used their mutant abilities to protect humans from the mutants who wished to do harm was always conveniently forgotten by the world press. Daredevil received his powers from the accident which permanently blinded him, making him one of the first disabled super-heroes in history.

Being the creator of some of the most enduring modern fiction over the past fifty years gave him plenty of opportunities to sit and chat with the public. He has made countless appearances at fan conventions and appears in tons of documentaries about the history of the comics industry. Over a decade ago, he sat for an extended interview with Warner Bros Pictures as they prepared a documentary on the history of their Batman films. Stan was actually good friends with the late Bob Kane (co-creator of Batman) and provided some insight on the comics industry at the time. Most people interviewed for the documentary were credited by their name and title or role when appearing on screen. For example Jack Nicholson was credited as The Joker, Tim Burton’s credit was Director/Producer. In that documentary Stan Lee’s credit was simply “The Man”, the most fitting title he has ever been given and that is how I’ve referred to him ever since.

Most people probably remember Stan’s first major film appearance as himself in the Kevin Smith film Mallrats. I think Hollywood considers him good luck, because he has appeared in personal cameos in countless Marvel films since then. Most recently he appeared as Peter Parker’s bus driver in Avengers: Infinity War. Sometimes he has even played himself, like in the film Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer, where he tried to attend the wedding of Mr Fantastic and Sue Storm but was rejected for not being on the guest list. I would like to think the issue was rectified and he was allowed to attend before the ceremony began. He made a surprise digital appearance in the recent Spider-Man game for the PS4. He is even in the preshow video for Guardians of the Galaxy: Mission Breakout ride at Disney’s California Adventure Park.

Rest In Peace. Long Live The Man.

Gaming History You Should Know – The Flash Animations of Ubergeek.tv November 4, 2018

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Welcome back to Gaming History You Should Know, where we highlight some of the best independently produced content from all over the web. Back in the annals of Internet history was a now-defunct website called Ubergeek.tv. It featured some unique flash content, ranging from videos to simple games. If there was an all-encompassing theme to his content, it was that it was revolving around Linux and Open Source software. It was some of the most humorous and eye-catching internet content of all time.

If the site is so good why haven’t I included a direct hyperlink to it, you ask? It would be pointless. Sadly, the site is no longer functional, and if you were to visit its url you would find nothing. What did this mean to the site’s content? Thankfully many of the best videos produced for it have been reposted on YouTube and we are going to take a look at some of them here. Let’s take a look at memory lane shall we?

Do many of you still remember the successful Switch to Mac ads of the 2000s? Honestly, I didn’t like them. While the actors who starred in them were decent with great chemistry, Apple would gloss over the information they provided about their computers in a way I felt was borderline unethical. This parody video on the other hand is just great. Here’s Ubergeek’s take on it, which I feel could only have been inspired if not from himself than from the words of a proud Mac owner.

Next up are some of his Linux related videos. Here’s a different parody of the Switch to Mac commercial only this time it’s about switching to Linux. If you were a supervillian wouldn’t you use Linux?

You like Linux? You like toast? Who wouldn’t like Intellitoast? I was seriously considering building a computer like this after seeing this video.

Next up is a short run of an animated flash game he produced called Penguin Blood Ninja Fiasco. In it you play a ninja penguin tasked to save open source software from evil lawyers. It was heavily inspired by the legal challenges to the GPL in the early 00s. The game itself is no longer playable but there is a full walkthrough video of the game online with its intro and outro included.

That’s just a look at some of the site’s content that has made its way back online, but not everything has been reposted. So far, his henchman soundboard and his final animation, Geeks in Love (which I have seen in its entirety and believe to be a masterpiece) has not been reposted but we will post a follow up with this article when it does. Special thanks to the original creator of the site who let me feature these videos on here. He told me he just enjoys making content and he’s happy for all the love he’s gotten for them!

Gaming History You Should Know – Virtua Fighter RPG August 26, 2018

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In the 90s, fighting games utterly dominated the arcade market. Street Fighter II and Mortal Kombat II were probably the two biggest games I can remember from my arcade-playing days. They were just great to play, had great graphics, decent realism, and didn’t shy away from showing blood. However, these games kept the fighting to a 2D perspective, which limited a player’s options. Then, out of nowhere, Sega released Virtua Fighter.

Directed by Game God Yu Sazuki, Virtua Fighter revolutionized arcades by being the first ever 3D fighting game. The transition to 3D added a whole new depth (pardon the pun) to the genre. Players could now strafe their opponents in a 3D environment. Character models could now be made in 3D, laying the groundwork for an entirely new updated art style. And of course, players would now run the risk of getting knocked out of their fighting space.

It’s Sunday, welcome back to Gaming History You Should Know, where we highlight some of the best independently produced documentaries on gaming history. Today, in honor of the release of Shenmue I & II earlier in the week, we are going to highlight the special project that would eventually serve as the basis for that franchise, the Virtua Fighter RPG. This was a project that Yu Sazuki began to work on in the final days of the Sega Saturn. His intention was to tell a story in eleven chapters, provide unlimited environment interactivity and keep the fighting system that defined Virtua Fighter completely intact. Sadly, it was not to be, the game was never released.

So what came of this game, and why do I bring it up on the week of the re-release of Shenmue I & II? I’ll let YouTuber YuriofWind take it from here with an episode of his series, Gaming Mysteries.

Special thanks to YuriofWind for letting me feature his video on the site. If you’d like to check out more of his Gaming Mysteries video, you can visit his YouTube Channel here. For those of you thought this sounded like a great idea and wished this game would have come out, worry no longer. Most of its content will likely find its way into the Shenmue franchise. If you’d like to see more of what this early game footage looked like, you can find early footage here.

Shenmue I & II are out now for the PC, Xbox One and PS4.

Gaming History You Should Know – Sega’s Absolutely Rose Street July 29, 2018

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Its Sunday and that means we’ve got an all-new look into Gaming History You Should Know, where we feature some of the best gaming history documentaries from across the web. Today, we’ll be talking about something so obscure and short-lived, even I hadn’t heard about it until I saw this documentary!

By the mid-90s, Sega was doing everything they could to extend the lifespan of their popular Genesis console until they could release a proper 32-bit game system. While the Genesis was well-received by gamers, it’s expansions, the Sega CD and the Sega 32x, were not as popular. In fact, while many people found several things to like about the Sega CD, there wasn’t much commercial interest in the 32X. Sega needed to do something drastic to change that.

Sega’s marketing department decided to make a 30 minute late-night infomercial to sell the 32x and they called it Absolutely Rose Street. This may sound a bit odd, since modern late-night infomercials typically sell home appliances, but infomercials can be made to sell anything as long as the price is right and this was not the first time Sega made an infomercial to sell something. I mean, who can forget the Sega Channel?

Wrestling with Gaming, who we featured previously on the site, put together another fantastic obscure gaming documentary on this 30-minute Sega produced 32x commercial. Give it a watch!

Gaming History You Should Know – The Gizmondo July 8, 2018

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Welcome back to Gaming History You Should Know, our regular Sunday series where we highlight some of the best content across the web that covers gaming history. One of our favorite channels on YouTube is LGR, short for Lazy Game Reviews. They’re typically the first channel that comes up whenever I look up review for classic PC games from my youth, or closer looks into classic computers like the old IBM PCs.

In 2005, for about a split second, the retailer GameStop devoted a section on their website for a new handheld product called the Gizmondo. I had heard nothing but bad things about it back in the day, and almost as suddenly it appeared, it disappeared. What was it, what could it do that other handhelds of the time couldn’t, and why did it fail? LGR knows, and you should watch his video to get all the answers you need.

For what it was, the Gizmondo was an interesting experiment, but it remains only that. Thanks to LGR for this amazing video and if you want to see more, you can check out all of their great content here!

Gears of War 5 Announced June 10, 2018

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Rod Ferguson took the stage at Microsoft’s E3 2018 Press Event to announce three Gears is War games are in development. The first is a mobile title inspired by the POP Figures made by Funko, the second is a tactical game that looks like it is coming to PC and Xbox One…and the last, well, take a look for yourselves.

Gears of War 5 is coming 2019 to Xbox One and Windows 10.

Gaming History You Should Know – Pokemon Event Cartridges May 14, 2018

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Welcome back to another episode of Gaming History You Should Know, where we feature some of the best fan created content focused on the history of gaming.

Since the first Pokémon games were released, The Pokémon Company has always included exclusive mythical Pokémon that players wouldn’t be able to capture through normal means.  In the first Pokémon games, Mew became the most sought after trade, and the only place to get one was at a Toys ‘R Us Store during a limited-time event. It was a huge success. In fact, Pokémon creator Satoshi Tajeri would say Mew was probably the reason the Pokémon franchise took off.

In the years before the wider adoption of internet access, keeping up with when and if your local store would host such an event came down to pure luck. When the second generation of Pokémon games were released on the Game Boy Color, the mythical Pokémon Celebi players who weren’t lucky enough to live in Japan with a cell phone sought out Celebi by going to a similar limited distribution event, but it has been difficult for me to recover information about its US distribution.

Over the years, there have been plenty more ways for The Pokémon Company to release special Mythical Pokémon. As technology improved, new methods were developed to get them in the hand of players. YouTube Channel Pikasprey Yellow produced a fantastic video where he showed how these Pokémon were distributed over the years. Give it a watch!

I want to give another shout out to Pikasprey Yellow, his series Lost Content was an incredible resource in my research into Pokémon’s past.

God of War – Designing an Effective Companion March 23, 2018

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Every PS4 owner on the planet has been paying close attention to the upcoming exclusive God of War. Series icon Kratos is alive and has been paired up with his son as they explore a whole new mythology.

If you’re an old-school PC gamer like I am, you still have nightmares about any game when you’d need to keep an AI controlled assistant alive. God of War will keep Kratos’s son with him throughout the entire game. How do the developers plan keep the player from getting frustrated? Watch this behind the scenes video to find out.

God of War is coming April 20th, 2018 exclusively on the PS4.

Gaming History You Should Know – The Pokewalker March 4, 2018

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Welcome to Gaming History You Should Know, where we typically highlight some of the best gaming history videos from across the internet. Nintendo has frequently been known as the ultimate gaming innovator. They take risks on gaming technology with the hopes of bringing in new players. A lot of times, this is a huge success for them.

Before going all-in on a new risk, Nintendo has been known to experiment with new kinds of gaming peripherals, particularly with their handheld platforms. Pokémon were the highest selling games on each Game Boy platform, so Nintendo experimented with wireless multiplayer by including a wireless multiplayer adapter with the Generation 1 remakes, enabling players to battle and trade with each other without a wired link cable. This must have been a successful test because when the Nintendo DS was released, local wireless multiplayer was a built-in feature.

One of the highest-risk Nintendo experiments Pokémon fans will remember would be the exclusive peripheral Nintendo included with every new copy of the Generation 2 remakes Pokémon HeartGold and Pokémon SoulSilver, the Pokewalker. Here’s the trailer:

On paper, the Pokewalker was a great idea. It used similar technology to what was found in the Tamogachi toy which was popular in the mid-90s, but it did more with the technology that made the Tamogachi great. They were small and featured technology that wasn’t as fast or graphically capable as larger systems, but that made them cheap to mass produce and super portable.

The YouTube Channel YellowSuperNintendo focuses on game consoles and anime style games. Recently, they produced what I consider to be the best video currently on the entire internet about the Pokewalker. If you’ve ever wondered what the Pokewalker was and what it could do, I’ll let his video explain it to you.

However, while the Pokewalker had a lot of good, there were a few issues with it. On top of the issues YellowSuperNintendo mentioned, it wasn’t water resistant. Absent minded trainers could easily forget they had it in their pocket or clipped to their shirt. It certainly wouldn’t survive a run through a washing machine.

Sadly, the Pokewalker appears to have been just an experiment, as Nintendo would go on to release future generations of Pokémon games with no further support of the Pokewalker. Slowly, Pokémon Trainers stopped taking them everywhere they went, choosing instead to take their full-sized Nintendo DS out on the go. By the time Pokémon Black and Pokémon White were released, the Pokewalker became obsolete.

While newer Pokémon games do not support the Pokewalker, its legacy continues to live on. The Nintendo 3DS has the ability to wirelessly communicate with other 3DS units while in standby mode. This enables players to exchange Mii data for use in StreetPass games. The 3DS also has an internal step counter, and also like the Pokewalker, owners can play minigames on their 3DS system using the steps they took each day as in-game currency.

While the Pokewalker is now only a memory, there’s an all-new accessory designed for a new generation of Pokémon Trainers. Pokémon Go Plus is a Bluetooth accessory designed to interact with Smartphones playing Pokémon Go. While it lacks a screen and the ability to communicate with other owners of the accessory, it enhances the functionality of Pokémon Go and adds a new level of fun to the game.

What do you all think of the Pokewalker? Do you think it was an unnecessary gimmick, an essential stepping stone in gaming history, or just a fun bonus? If you have one, do you still use yours? Post a comment below with your thoughts! Special thanks to YellowSuperNintendo for making such great content and for giving us permission to feature him on the site. You can check out his videos here.

Pokémon HeartGold and Pokémon SoulSilver are exclusive to the Nintendo DS. Pokémon Go is out now for Android and iOS Smartphones.