News: Mattel’s HyperScan

hyperscans.jpgYou might’ve seen a bit of news about this – Mattel is releasing a game console for “tweens,” which merges both game and card scanning phenomena into one package. Certainly on paper that sounds like something born of a marketing orgy, but I went that extra step and requested images and additional info. Very interestingly, the sytem is CD-based, and boasts a 32 bit architecture. They haven’t yet released the actual specs and chip manufacturers, but I’m promised that information once they’re ready to reveal it. If you look at the system to the left (click for largeness!), it’s got some curious design. It folds, but mostly for storage. You put the CD in the left, and cards are scanned over the red light on the righthand side. Two joypad ports come standard, but a second controller is extra, indicating that these games will actually feature AI, and not just be player vs player. It’s a bit complicated how these games work, but rather interesting as well. The game is loaded via the CD, and during play, players can pause and scan upgrades/attribute changes for their character. Once they achieve victory, they can ‘save’ this upgraded character to a rewritable Intellicard (more on that in just a bit). The system is said to combine their rewritable card technology with “the fast-paced, button-mashing action of video games.”

The first crop of games seems to include fighters, mostly. The console ships with X-Men, a controller (designed for tween-sized hands, but I’m sure we could manage), and 6 game cards, for $70. Additional controler is $20, additional game cards are 6 for $10 in randomized booster packs (aka, holy crap there’s our money, as each game has 100 corresponding cards!), and there’s also an Intellicard holder and console case available. I’m still a bit unclear about which cards are rewritable, all of them, or some of them? Interesting regardless.

wolverine-deathstrikes.jpgNow let’s take a look at a game shot (make click for large experience). Here you’ll find an image from the X-Men game, which is quite revealing. Backgrounds and sprites are obviously prerendered, and the image sent to me was very high res (I actually shrank the supplied image by 50%). Not sure if the console itself will boast such a mighty resolution, but check out Wolverine’s avatar on the left side. Pretty clean! Not sure what’s up with the one on the right though. You can see each pixel in the dithering of the shadows. It looks a lot like early prerendered work on the Saturn, which is pretty intriguing. Aside from X-Men, there will be a game based on Cartoon Network’s Ben 10, which I’d presume to be a side scroller, a game for Mattel’s own Interstellar Wrestling League, and Marvel Heroes will be released in November, 2006. The console itself is scheduled to launch in October.

So they plan to hit the tween market which has graduated from plug and play systems, but isn’t ready for dedicated consoles. I’m not entirely certain that such a demographic really exists, as a number of dedicated console games are aimed directly at the tween market, but that’s neither here nor there. Here’s the really odd thing though – this is Mattel – you might remember that they created the Intellivision, which sold over 3 million units in the early days of gaming (hey, I finally made good use of this!), which was an impressive number in those days, though the VCS did dominate the market. Nowhere in the press releases or literature are they hyping this fact, or their triumphant return to the games market. That’s curious enough on its own, but that they decided to name their card technology Intellicard, and then ignore their own roots, well…it’s unusual! They had a peripheral called the Intellivoice, after all. I suppose there could be licensing issues with the current Intellivision Lives company, but it’s also possible that nobody at Mattel remembers the time when they were on top of the game industry. There’s been very little press for this thing, they might’ve gotten a fair bit more if they’d leveraged that! At any rate, check out the official HyperScan site for more info. It’s not got any content as of yet, but it should have some shortly. I can envision some seriously interesting applications of this, though I doubt its potential will be fully explored, as this is primarily to be a license-driven machine. Great possibility there though. Mattel should be sending me one of these things for review come august, so keep an ear open.

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News: OneStation

onestation.jpgSomehow this hasn’t gotten around the internet yet, it seems. The OneStation is a new Game Boy Micro-sized cartridge-based system by Jungletac, who also makes the VG pocket (NES romhack handheld), among other odd things, such as Disney’s upcoming handhelds. It’s increasingly easy to make this sort of thing, what with dropping technology prices, and Jungletac seems to be a real innovator here. The OneStation has embedded games like most other handhelds of its type, but as mentioned above, also takes cartridges of the ’35-in-1′ variety. The cartridges look like GBA carts, most of which are NES 8-bit games. Others are in a 16 bit-level grouping. Even more interesting, the unit appears to house both 8 bit and 16 bit architectures in a very small package, and it even comes with TV-out, like other Jungletac product.

onitac.gifThe 16 bit games are all Jungletac hacks or ‘originals’, but there are adapters released that allow you to play megadrive games. Megadrive games come in 4-1n-1 packs. You can see some of their original games here – ‘New concepts& Mary More…’ it says! Mary had also watch that she doesn’t get sued by Capcom for that Onimusha image down there.

Looking at the official Jungletac site, it seems they’re planning to release a number of interesting functions for the OneStation, such as flash, JPEG viewer, MP3, and the very very exciting SD download cart. onepink.gifWith that last one, you could likely load NES or MD roms straight onto the thing, though for MD you might need that adapter (which presumably contains an extra chip). Jungletac’s systems have a nice and very interesting TFT screen, which Sweater Fish, who linked me to this in the first place, says is analog RGB, thus dots of red, green, and blue make up each pixel, as opposed to most systems which simply have a pixel represent a given color. This can be good or bad, depending on how you feel. The D-pad and buttons usually leave a bit to be desired on these systems, but I haven’t tried this one. All in all a very intriguing grey market product from the people at Jungletac. And it comes in four colors – make mine Rose Pink, please! Oh and there’s a hands on impressions feature in german, but my german’s a bit rusty!

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RIP: tomoharu saito

Game character designer tomoharu saito, known for his work in games such as Cave’s Ketsui , Segagaga for DC, and the Culdcept series, passed away on july 29, due to a malignant tumor which metastasized in the lungs, even after the amputation of his leg. According to the thoughtful obituary on his site, upon removal of his leg, he simply said ‘legs aren’t necessary in the illustration industry.’ During his cancer treatment, things seemed to be going well, and he was heard to say “I want to work.” Unfortunately, it didn’t work out that way, but he was able to complete work for two upcoming games, and indeed working on games was his true passion. Culdcept Saga and Sorcerian Online (currently in beta) will be the last games to feature his work. You can view his full portfolio of games here, which also includes Bare Knuckle 2, Treasure’s Astro Boy for GBA, and Shubibiman 2 (for which he also did some game design). He was 38 years old.

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News: Mobile Suits with exploding collars

According to an entry on 2ch, a new PSP Gundam game is in the works (scheduled for an October release). Apparently titled “Gundam Battle Royale” it will feature over 80 playable mobile suits from the Universal Century timeline.

It also appears to be based upon the Capcom arcade games and uses a similar system to that of Gundam SEED (arguably the best of the Capcom Gundam efforts, despite the anime being a bit shallow and derivative). Interestingly, it’s also rumored to support infrastructure versus (so you too can now have your ass handed to you by an 8 year old Japanese kid).

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News: Mushihime-sama to get a sequel

This has been rumored for a couple of months now, and is official since yesterday, if we scrutinize Espgaluda II’s just-released OST, which includes an announcement with brand-new Mushihime-sama-themed artwork. Thanks to Hamapika for letting us know. Not as certain, but Shikigami no Shiro III could be coming to PS2, according to Play-Asia shop, though we believe this could be some kind of error, since it’s listing the game for the very same date as the recently announced Windows port from Cyber Front. On top of that, it mentions ‘Alfa System’ as the publisher, when this developer never publishes its own games. Here it is, anyway.

Update: As we thought, Play-Asia was in error. The page linked for the supposed “PS2 Shikigami no Shiro III” has been changed for the Windows version. Or they just read IC, that is.

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News: The White Line

white.jpgHere’s an interesting one-off site that links three consoles that many view as ‘spiritual successors’, the PC Engine, the Saturn, and the Dreamcast – and they all happen to have white hardware variants (not so much a variant in the DC’s case). It’s got a nice, simple design, and some decent text to it, and also references the popular disc-based visual medium of the era, so give it a look-see. There’s a little diary that might continue to get updated, but who can say for sure. It’s kind of nice to think of it as a little series of connections that will remain static in the internet, much like the consoles themselves.

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News: The trouble with PC Engine emulators

sidearms.jpgSo I was checking out this homebrew game for the PC Engine – it’s basically a picross game, which isn’t my cup of tea, but it’s a homebrew PC Engine game, so that means I’m interested. Plus the guy has made lots of demos too. Anyway, I wound up being more interested in what was written below. Namely that the PC Engine was capable of displaying images at a rather high resolution – up to 512×240 – but apparently no emulators can match that. He’s got screen by screen comparisons of TV versus emulator shots, and it’s pretty striking – 8 pixels gone from the top and the bottom, 224 lines instead of 240! That’s trouble, that is. I’d never noticed it before, but then I don’t often play my PC Engine games on an emulator.

Oh, and that guy (he might want to be called chris covell) also bought the rare Devil Crash/Alien Crush arranged music CD, and you can check out some samples here. And while I’m talking about his stuff, check out his neat Sega hacking page. He’s got a page about hacking Game Gear games to run on the SMS – quite interesting, if you look at the Aleste comparison shots, you’ll see that bullets are still displayed outside the viewable area of the gamegear. Neat!

Update: Chris had this to say about the Aleste conversion: “When I hacked the game to run on the SMS, I extended the area that ships/bullets/enemies could be in, to fit the borders of the SMS screen. Otherwise, the bullets would disappear off the
sides of the GG screen, and the ship’s movement would have been more
constrained.” So there you go! Guess he had to do it himself.

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News: Summon Night: Craft Sword Story, also maragos

In our continued effort to let you know every time anyone at Flight Plan sneezes or sits down somewhere funny, I figured I’d let you know that Summon Night: Craft Sword Story is out. It’s a videogame made by Flight Plan, who made games you might remember not playing, such as Black Matrix, and uh…Summon Night (without the Craft Sword bits – oh and I see they’ve called it Swordcraft Story instead of Craft Sword. Whatever works!). Buy it at a retailer near you! Or kill yourself. So many options!

In other Atlus-related news (they published Summon Night: CSS, see), 4 Color Rebellion interviewed nich maragos, who works there now. He’s finally admitted he likes new game journalism. Take that, former hater, who’s now also our friend! Anyway, good interview, he’s in localization at Atlus, and we saw him at the Minibosses show the saturday before last. End of newspost.

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Play Asia: Super summer sale

So Play Asia is having another one of those huge sales where if you buy enough crap you get entered into a drawing for fabulous prizes that some guy in Taiwan wins even though you bought like $300 worth of stuff. Oh my, where did that come from? (note: that comment is meant to indicate that my luck sucks, not that the contest is rigged) You could win a PS3, a Wii, a GP2X, or an affirming slap on the derriere! So many possibilities. Anyway, here’s the full discount page, and I’ll give you a rundown of some of the better stuff, in my tiny brain.

For PS2, there’s Zombie vs. Ambulance for $9 (go!), Rez for $9, Gigawing Generations for $22, Capcom’s strange D-like adventure game Glass Rose for $7, Rule of Rose Chinese version with awesome cover (all dialogue is in english anyway) for $15, the ‘probably not great, but who knows I haven’t tried it’ 3D fighter Erementar Gerad for $13, Final Fight Streetwise for $20, and you can finally check out the totally crappy Nina Williams: Death by Degrees for a reasonable price if you’re curious, as it’s only $5.

For PSP there’s Kurukuru Chameleon (puzzle game from Starfish) for $9, and not a whole lot else.

For DS, there’s Legend of Starfi for $30, not bad. There’s also Children of Mana DS for $20, and Ys Strategy for $30 (though as I recently mentioned, this is getting a Euro release).

Toys: A lot of you folks have already been buying these Final Fantasy Arts figurines for $4, even though their Rikku figure didn’t get the full treatment, so you might want to go take a look and follow your brethren/sistren. There are also these Biohazard 4 figures for $2. That’s cheap. And don’t forget to buy the urban/streetlife classic Wuz up b? Produce: Street Dancer for the original wonderswan! Sure to amaze your friends (that you spent the money on it). So that’s that, go nuts.

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