Friday, September 11, 2009

Remembering The Dreamcast, 10 Years Later

On September 9th ten years ago, Sega released a console here in North America that despite it's two year lifespan, would forever be cemented in gamers hearts as one of the best videogame consoles ever made. The successor of the Sega Saturn, it went by many code names at first, later to be branded as the Dreamcast. Certainly a name that was mocked at first mention by the enthusiast press at the time, but now has become gospel text in the literature of the gaming world.


It was a bumpy beginning, as the Dreamcast's original release date in Japan eight months before, had gone by with a resounding thud. Japan had held on to it's Sega Saturns with firm love unlike their counterparts in the United States. This ultimately pushed Sega to focus on the North American market.

With months to go, Sega was able to put together a strong line-up of launch games, and a launch date of 9-9-99 that provided people with the first taste of viral marketing. With campaign adds with mytersious and intense names such as Apocalipse or It's Thinking.

Intense indeed, but what really helped cynical gamers get on board was Sega's move to show off the Dreamcast's capabilities by displaying an impressive line-up of launch games in stores nationwide. Who could forget games like Soul Calibur, Sonic Adventure, NFL 2K, and Ready2Rumble; all instant classics that gamers had to have a Dreamcast in order to play.

At first it seemed the Dreamcast had beaten all the odds, in it's first two weeks Sega sold 500,000 units in the United States and looked like they could compete with juggernaut that was the Sony PlayStation 2. Yet this storybook would not have a happy ending, as Sega stopped production on the Dreamcast after 2 years on the market, beaten to a pulp by the mighty power of the aforementioned PlayStation 2 and a withering of third-party support from major developers.

But let's not ruin this day with memories of regret and sadness, let's remember what made the Dreamcast so great in the eyes of gamers. It was a console that pushed the realms of what could be done at the time, it was machine not tied down by the fears of taking risks. We wouldn't have the likes of Seaman or that crazy fishing rod controller; that we sometimes joked using for other things besides Sega Bass Fishing.

Of course I would be dumbfounded not to mention SegaNet, a feature to the Dreamcast that introduced on-line play to the console sphere, years before any of Microsoft's attempts with Xbox Live. Quake III Arena was a PC favorite that was now available for console gamers, something that was made even more assessable with the keyboard and mouse accessory that was released at that same time.

Truly the Sega Dreamcast was the first console to usher in the "next generation" of gaming. Graphics by that point where barely at the cusp of where they are now, but with the Dreamcast it gave an impressive starting point for what was to come, and what could be done.

So let us celebrate tonight. Pull out you Dreamcast. Go over to a friend who has one. Or buy one from the numerous retailers online that still sell them brand new. Let us all raise a controller to honor a great friend that is lost, but certainly will never be forgotten. Long live the Sega Dreamcast.

OH! While I still have your attention, check out the Official Sega Blog for more thoughts on the Sega Dreamcast from industry vets and fans alike.

Happy 10th Anniversary, Dreamcast! – [SEGA America Blog]

Thursday, September 3, 2009

The Beatles Rock Band: The Next "Revolution?"

Released on Wednesday, along side the compact disc stereo remastering of their impressive back catalog, was a videogame tribute to that legendary band from Liverpool, which by numerous accounts still has a firm grip on the collective pop culture universe. Of course I'm talking about The Beatles: Rock Band.

The Beatles: Rock Band is an interactive music game from Harmonix and MTV Games that uses pretty much the same formula in the two previous Rock Band games. But this time around the team has put it on themselves to create an all-mighty homage to the Fab Four; which takes gamers on a virtual musical experience through many of The Beatles' hits. There is so much that can go wrong when making such a transition from one media to the next, especially when it comes to videogames. Thankfully the game succeeds in every aspect.

But this should come to no surprise to anyone, considering The Beatles foothold on pop culture. Their music is still as ever relevant, even in age where making the best music single and milking the benefits of which, are more a priority than making the perfect album or crafting one's musical skill.

Playing though the game's story mode, all the poignant pop culture touchstones of The Beatles' ten year career are masterfully recreated and presented in an unique art style that does nothing but compliment the band's legacy. Scenes like their American debut on The Ed Sullivan Show or their performance on top of the roof of their Apple Records HQ, all have been digitally detailed so finely that they perfectly represent their real life counterparts.

Remarkably The Beatles: Rock Band also immerses players into the game by sending them through eye capturing sceneries and out-of-this-world visual elements of the songs included in the game's track list. Helter Skelter, one of The Beatles rock classics from The White Album, blinds players with radical array of camera angles and lighting effects that gives off an attitude to match George Harrison's aggressive guitar chords. There probably is no song that won't make you get off your seat, tap your toes, or possibly even sing along.

Admiring the total package from a distance, it can be pretty evident the amount of passion and honest respect the Harmonix/MTV Games development team had for the original source material. Even the replica plastic guitars made for the game have an added appreciation and quality to them. Nothing is left cheap. Though many would argue the 45 track list could be longer.

Beyond the scope of the game itself, is The Beatles: Rock Band presence at every advertising avenue in the past few weeks. From television ads, music videos on VH1, game trailers, and web page banners from Kotaku to MSNBC. Though this should come to no surprise to anyone, considering The Beatles foothold on pop culture.

Yet will that foothold lend itself to the video game market? Already some in the industry have speculated the success of The Beatles: Rock Band, even predicting that it might have a bigger impact on the gaming mainstream than Nintendo's successful cash cow of game, Wii Sports. Sounds like a lofty praise to give a game; especially a game in a genre - the music gaming one, that has seen a sharp decline in sales recently.

Figuring in the over $50 million in royalties that where payed to use The Beatles catalog of music, one might wonder though if it really does need to make such sales in order make a profit back for the publisher involved, Electronic Arts. But then again, with Beatlemania once again raging around the country, making appearances from QVC to The New York Times... Tomorrow Never Knows...


Tuesday, August 4, 2009

PS3 Manufacturing Rises, Along With PS3 Slim Speculations

Even before the Electronic Entertainment Expo in June, numerous rumors have flooded the Internet about the unconfirmed "PlayStation 3 Slim" model, and to when it will see the light of day anytime soon. And to people's credit; from NeoGaf forum users to savvy gaming journalists, the well of buzz hasn't dried up at all. Now the latest information to be added to the already staggering amassed pile of speculations, is from a Taiwanese manufacturing source with close ties to Sony.

The manufacturer in question, has revealed that production for the PlayStation 3 might be on the rise. As production orders already placed for PlayStation 3 components, double the amount from that of last year around the same time. Is Sony amping up for a new console release, such as the aforementioned "PlayStation 3 Slim"? Or is it simple anticipation for strong demand for the fall and holiday season? As usual, this being a rumor and all, to use a tired cliche - only time will tell.

If you all want a backtrack of what's been discussed so far, IGN has a full length article about the PS3 Slim on their website. It's a pretty good read. -

Saturday, August 1, 2009

From the people who brought you dumb crap comes...

...Snuggies for dogs. What is a snuggie and why would a dog want one? Well a snuggie is the ridiculous hybrid between a blanket and a... something else. Well hells bells, I don't know! Just watch why your dog needs one so much.

As a pet owner myself, I feel terribly sorry for those dogs.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Conan And Andy Go To Bang Zoom

I won't try to water down my love for Conan O'Brien or any of his zany antics, especially when he features (or in this case, makes fun of) one of my nerdy interests.

This time Conan, along with his partner in crime Andy, made a little Tonight Show visit to Bang Zoom! Entertainment, a production studio in Los Angeles, California that does voice dubbing work for much of the anime that comes stateside. As expected with any Conan O'Brien outing on his show, the usual hilarity and hi jinks come along as well.

The Tonight Show with Conan O'Brien - Conan & Andy Do Manga

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Read this and be ever terrified of moving to Japan

Ever wish to visit the land of the rising sun? See the homeland of Otaku; birth place of crazy cartoons with robots, giant rubber monsters destroying cities, and Moe (pronounced "mo-eh") girls dressed in maid outfits around every corner.

Well you might to simmer down your optimism about thinking that the process is all Ramen noodles and Pocky sticks, cause it's not. Go ahead - IF YOU DARE - and read the blog of James Mielke, former EGM/1Up Editor-In-Chief, as he detailed his crazy adventure of trying to move to Japan. Facing the red tape madness which the Japanese have constructed not only for visitors, but also for themselves. Thankfully if you read through both parts there is a happy ending. (Yay happy endings!) I have to also agree with the blog author. It probably is, and in the end, worth it.

James Mielke's Blog On Moving To Japan: A Newbie's Guide (Director's Cut)

Friday, July 17, 2009

Interested In a Interactive View of Gundam Statue?

So as I've mentioned before a few posts back - there's this giant Gundam statue in Japan. I mean giant. Almost Jolly Green Giant - I'm talking here.

About 60 feet of metal make up the statue presently standing in Tokyo's Odaiba Island Park, and by look of these photos(thanks to the website Pink Tentacle), you can feel the massive height of these things. So awe inspiring and perhaps spooky...

Right now you can also check out this 360 interactive view of the Gundam statue in the following link.

Impressive indeed.