Sega still has a u.s. arcade division, which I just recently rediscovered. Naturally a lot of it is UFO machines and whatnot nowadays, but they do have a relatively interesting archive of older content. Each game has screenshots, brochures, and flyers, even for odd stuff like Emergency Call Ambulance. And naturally, since Sammy owns Sega now, Sammy games (and distributed Atomiswave titles like KOF) are also represented. It’s a bit out of date, only having House of the Dead 1-3, for instance, eschewing 4 (which is a fine game, by the by). But it does include such obscurities as Magnet Fever, R 360, and Hot Rod. Worth a look.
If you’ve been reading the internet these past couple of weeks, you might have come across an acronym you don’t understand, and then immediately started using it in whole sentences as soon as you saw other people using it. It’s okay. This is something we do, with the internet. We sometimes use acronyms we don’t understand completely, or even understand at all. Acronyms are a part of our culture. I kid you not — I make acronyms out of everything I do, these days. “Gee Tee Tee Bee!” means “Goin’ To The Bathroom!” Enough about me, though.
The acronym we’re going to talk about today is “SKU”. If you read gaming’s most beloved tabloids or browse the scummiest videogame forumhives, you’ll see this acronym popping up a lot lately. People are using it in complete sentences! With punctuation marks, even! Many of them have a basic idea what it means, though few of them know what it stands for.
In short, it stands for freedom. In long, it stands for Stock Keeping Unit. According to the Wikipedia: “A SKU or Stock Keeping Unit (sometimes pronounced as a word, “skew,” or as individual letters, S K U) is an identifier that is used by merchants to permit the systematic tracking of products and services offered to customers.”
In other words, a “SKU” is a very strictly, labcoat-wearing-like, retail term. It approaches the idea of sales with tweezers and a microscope. When someone on a forum says, of the new black Xbox 360 Elite, that “multiple SKUs is going to create problems at the retail level”, they mean it’s going to confuse consumers who are not absolutely certain which box on a shelf contains what they want to buy.
For your reading pleasure, try this article at Kotaku. Use your browser’s search command on “SKU”; witness its use in the comments section. Ponder deeply how many of those usages might have been cut out or rewritten entirely to sound less like something a robot or a lecturer in the Chinet ballroom of a three-star hotel by the airport might have said during a seminar.
Also witness the amazing poise of mister Shane Kim, who convinced 75% of the internet that 1080p was “TOTALLY IMPOSSIBLE D00DZ” back in 2005, as he somewhat gracefully dodges the accusation that this “elite” Xbox 360 is just Microsoft playing catch-up with Sony. Also witness the rigid, stone-facery of the Sony PR man. (He’s the one who talks about SKUs.)
So why has this acronym suddenly popped into the videogame blogosphere? Because we like feeling elite? Maybe, maybe not. Keep in mind that a lot of the guys who get interviewed by videogame blogs are not actual game developers — they’re videogame PR guys, and unlike, say, movie PR guys, who more often than not have at least seen a couple dozen movies in their lives, videogame PR guys tend to come from strict retail backgrounds. Nintendo’s Reggie used to manage a Pizza Hut (or something), for God’s sake. Spewing “SKU” left and right is these guys’ revenge for you guys’ talking about mysterious things they don’t understand, like “graphics” or “gameplay”.
In closing, “SKU” is something you’d hear during your on-the-job training to be a stockroom monkey at a Target store at the start of that magic teenage summer that will indirectly make you a life-long smoker. It really doesn’t belong in human conversation, even on the internet. I say this as a man who shuddered and moaned when everyone started talking about “IP”s — Intellectual Properties — though maybe that was because I found it hard to believe any videogame had ever been “intellectual”. Really, though, you can keep “IP”. Use it all you want. Just promise not to say “SKU” anymore, people.
It seems that Microsoft have bent space and time around their stringent guidelines and allowed the 360 version of Armored Core 4 to support the Regulation system from the PS3. The Regulations are, basically, selectable patches that change the balancing of the parts and abilities within the game. The reason why they were selectable on the PS3 version was down to the conflicting (and highly subjective) whinge-o-thons by Armored Core players on the previous games. People, with a highly developed sense of self-denial, weren’t able to look into the abyss of their wussy gaming skill and subsequently blamed “unbalanced parts” as a cause of their multiplayer demise. The Regulations allowed various players to choose which type of parts balancing they preferred, thus deftly sidestepping their carefully layered psychoses.
The 360 version will receive all three of the current Regulations (1.10, 1.20 and 1.30) on the 3rd April at about 8pm (Japanese time). Whether these Regulations will get a Western release hasn’t been specified (though I am assuming it to be highly likely).
Just a couple of games I want to mention here – I know there’s a lot more out there. The first is a lovely game called Everlasting Love. The monochrome palate, the music/rhythm-based gameplay, it’s all quite a nice package. The aim is to finish the level using as few jumps as possible. According to my “sources,” or more accurately some guys I know, the monkey is from Yoshi’s Island, and the rest is from Super Mario Land 2. The song is Everlasting Love from We ♥ Katamari. Action is across both screens of course, but I’ve just included one for the sake of visual clarity.
The other game is called Touchdown: The Alien Attack, by sweater fish deluxe. Here’s a direct link to the zip, and in case his geocities site goes down, a mirror. But click the first link instead, and give him the satisfaction of having his site go down! It’s quite a simple game, where the aim is to tap the UFOs and destroy them before they abduct the people. It was done for the neoflash spring 07 coding competition originally. The Home versus Visitors score counter is a nice touch, I think.
Aksys, a publisher formed by ex Atlus employees which thus far has only brought out Eagle Eye Golf for PS2, has just announced Hoshigami Remix for DS. It’s a remake of the original Hoshigami for PS2, a tactics RPG from Max Five, itself formed by ex Tactics Ogre developers. Hoshigami Remix, not even out yet in japan, has three difficulty modes, as opposed to the punishing single mode of the original, a new character, new music, and character art. And naturally since it’s for the DS, it’ll have a new interface. gail salamanca from Aksys had this to say regarding the new difficulty levels, though it’s not finalized, so don’t take this as gospel.
“I believe on Easy characters are automatically resurrected after battle. Whereas on Normal you start off with a revive coinfeigm but death is permanent. And Hard is exactly as it was on the PS1. Also, I believe hit % / damage ratio / xp received is increased on easy and normal which means a little less grinding.” So there you have it. I need a good tactics game on the DS over here!
Gamasutra has an excellent interview with ralph baer (father of videogames) up now, conducted by benj edwards, who runs Vintage Computing. It’s one of the more fun interviews I’ve read in a while. baer is not planning on retiring anytime soon, maybe ever, and has lots of things to complain about.
He created the path for videogames to become what they are after all, no matter what “his highness” nolan bushnell says. The interview actually begins with details about baer’s background, leaving germany as a child and fixing televisions for cash. Let’s have some quotes!
GS: I read that you got a Marksman’s Medal in the Army…
RB: Yeah, well we all had to fire for record, you know. I started out in Combat Engineers, because I was five-foot six-and-a-half then, and all the other guys are six-footers. They’re all Tennesseans, and Georgians, and Alabamans. And here I am…little Jewish boy. But I managed to hit the target just as often as they did with an M1, so I got a Marksman’s Medal.
GS: Do you have a favorite video game even though you’re not a game player?
RB: I don’t play. Recently, one of my grandsons brought an Xbox with him, and we played a race game. Well, I couldn’t manage that damn thumb joystick. I was always hitting the walls. I couldn’t steer the car worth a damn. After about fifteen minutes, I said “Forget it , I’ve had enough.”
The interview is good all the way through, with actual serious bits in, such as his thought that games were always aimed at adults, the sneaky way he had to operate in the early years in order to even develop games while in a military organization, and the uselesness of the U.S. patent office. For an 85 year old man, he’s incredibly sharp – actually, for any man, he’s pretty sharp. Oh and the picture above was taken by me at the Gphoria awards show in…maybe 2005? That’s william shatner to his right.
Totally passed me by, but Falcom’s Gurumin is out in the u.s. now, and has been rated pretty well for a PSP game. I haven’t actually played it yet, myself, but I trust Falcom, more or less, given that this is the first game they ported to a console themselves since…maybe Ys IV? Ys V doesn’t count as it was a console original. I do know that the music is good, and the voice acting is better than most localized games.
Puzzle Quest is out too, for DS and PSP – the DS version has a few audio pops, but has the advantage of…being on the DS. The PSP one does look much nicer though, and the wide screen makes for a good playing field. And playing with the DS version on the train is hard, since it’s all stylus-based. That said, the game is Bejeweled with quests and special attacks and items. That’s a formula for success, I say. Note: the character here is the one I’m using. It doesn’t actually matter which character you use from a story standpoint, though they have different attributes. I tried to start the quest with several different classes and genders, but the scenario was always the same. “Go see your father Albion” (I think it’s Albion, that’s from memory). Each time, the same father, same name. That guy sure had a lot of kids!
Digital Press is a site for vintage game collectors, primarily. Many of the people on these forums would likely attend the Classic Gaming Expo and CAEX over E3, and good on them for doing so. Their forum is a hotbed of retro activity, with prototypes being unearthed, and ancient consoles discussed regularly. This forum also has an invite-only section of their forums ‘for adults,’ and a recent poll gets to the bottom of a very important question, which I know has been on everyone’s mind for some time. I was sent this screencap and information by a generous tipster.
The questions is: Will vintage videogame collectors have sex while their partner (or they themselves, as if girls are real) is having their period? Survey says: 57% will. That’s certainly the plurality! Nearly 33% think it’s gross, and 10% think “lara croft is a whore.” So there you have it, conclusive proof of a particular thing. Any videogame census takers out there who want to pay me lots of money for a more extensive study are free to do so.
Earth Defense Force 2017 is out in the u.s., or is supposed to ship today at least. It hasn’t been getting great reviews, but when you think about it, what does anybody really know about anything? I say, if you’re the kind of person that has $40 to spend on a videogame, and doesn’t mind that the game in question is not incredibly deep and mostly consists of shooting stuff and blowing up buildings so that you might get more weapons to better blow up buildings and shoot stuff…well, you might want to get this.
The secondary point of this post is to highlight a bit of something on the back of the box, which you see below (apologies for the poor shot – don’t buy a Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX01, turns out). Upon first look, I burst out laughing, after a few moments of not really realizing what I was seeing. My mind ever juvenile, I noticed that the EDF soldier is shooting that robot right in his robogenitals, and the robot in turn is beginning to double over in pain. It’s a pretty odd thing to have as the giant screenshot on the back of your box, but it’s funny, so hey! There was some internal debate as to whether that was a screenshot or a painting (in which case it would’ve been even more amazing), but D3P PR has confirmed that it is indeed a screenshot. frank can’t be convinced that it’s anything but a painting though, and thinks that they’re wrong about their own box. Anything’s possible! Somewhere across the pond, resident insert credit robophiliac ollie barder is wincing in pain…
Just a quick note – Tose/Nintendo’s Starfy 2 for GBA is currently the weekly special on Play Asia. It’s $10 – I recommend getting it.