Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Mother Just Turned 20!

For all those not in the know, you probably just read that headline and thought, “Your mother just turned 20? What, are the writers at Blend Games like, three years old?” But for those who ARE in the know, those people will realize that they’re getting old and that, yes, Nintendo really DOES need to translate these games already since the only Mother that most of us have ever played was the second one, better known as EarthBound here in the States.

Mother has always been a strange series. I mean, even the title is strange. It comes from the name of the fictional town in the first game, called Mother’s Day. Are you still with me on this? The game was supposed to be released here in the US, but it kept getting pushed back over and over again until it just never saw the light of day. It came out in Japan on the Famicom, which is the Japanese NES, in 1989. You can find a ROM of it online under the title, EarthBound Zero.

A sequel to Earthbound was supposed to come out for the Nintendo Disc Drive (The Nintendo DD, remember that?) over in Japan, but it never did. Instead, Mother 3 was eventually released for the Game Boy Advance and AGAIN never saw the light of day over here in the states (And in case you’re wondering, neither did the Nintendo DD).

But why should you care? Because you like Ness and Lucas from the Smash Bros. series, and unlike the Ice Climbers, you’re actually interested in them because they don’t suck. Also, those little Mr. Saturn heads in Smash Bros., that’s from the Mother series, too. So yep, Mother is pretty awesome. I’d tell you to get Earthbound on your Virtual Console, but it’s not on there yet. But wait, that’s funny, none of the Mother games are out for the Virtual Console in Japan, either. Look: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Virtual_Console_games_(Japan)

I remember that when I was looking for Chrono Trigger on the Virtual Console, I found out it wasn’t coming out for it when consulting a GameStop employee because it was coming out for the DS soon and he was right. Could the same be happening to EarthBound? I mean, surely, with the Mother series turning 20 yesterday, and with it being such an IMMENSELY popular game over in Japan, you’d THINK it would be put on the Virtual Console in some way or another. But it’s not. Hmmm…I’m not saying I know that it’s going to be repackaged again over in Japan Like Mother 1 +2 were. And I’m ALSO not saying I know that all three are going to be repackaged in the States sometime soon, but it certainly does SEEM possible, doesn’t it? I mean, if we got Sin and Punishment for the VC, why not EarthBound which is arguably as popular, if not more so, than SaP? If anything happens, you heard the speculation here first at Blend Games.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

The 80s Are Back!

Alvin and the Chipmunks? Transformers? GI Joe? What is this, 1987 all over again? It certainly to seems that way, right, what with all the eighties cartoons making a cinematic comeback these days. But is this Reagan-era revival the best thing to ever happen Hollywood, or an indication that the business has finally run out of ideas? Or maybe a little of both?

“With Hollywood still enamored of the enormous summer blockbuster, they need to find material somewhere,” says legendary writer, Chuck Dixon, who’s probably most known for his work on Batman, but is currently working on the current G.I. Joe comic run on IDW publishing. “Franchises like Joe and Transformers are ready-made with a multi-generational fan base and billions of dollars in merchandising already in place. Kind of a no-brainer.”

No-brainer or not, whether less popular eighties shows should be given a Hollywood treatment is still up in the air as following G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra in August, there are already talks of a Thundercats, Masters of the Universe, and even a Fraggle Rock movie possibly looming in the shadows, maybe even as soon as next year.

“Honestly, I think [Hollywood is turning all of these eighties cartoons into movies] for the same reason why there are so many comic book adaptations being made,” says Entertainment Weekly Senior Editor and comic book writer of Genius and The Highwaymen, Marc Bernardin, “Because the people who have the power to greenlight these projects and now for our generation.

And what a generation it is, especially when it comes to buying tickets to said greenlit projects. People, mostly males, within the ages of 18-49, have been Hollywood;s key demographic for years now, with those long, snaking lines for the Transformers movie being an indication that people actually DO want to see cars that turn into robots, and then back into cars again.

Just check out the figures if you don’t believe the hype. The original Michael Bay Transformers movie in 2007 made over $700,000,000 dollars worldwide. That’s a whole lot of 18-49 year olds who want to see Optimus Prime turn into a Semi truck and fight a fighter jet named Megatron.

But it wasn’t just 18-49 year olds who wanted to see if though. Remember, a tentpole franchise like Transformers or G.I. Joe is built with EVERYBODY in mind, which is why many hardcore fans of the Transformers universe might have cried foul that Megatron was a fighter jet in the movie rather than a hand pistol. Meanwhile, the vast majority of the population couldn’t give a crap—User ratings on the popular website, Internet Movie Data Base (IMBD) are at a favorable 7.4 percent for the film.

In comparison, just look at the original Transformers and G.I. Joe animated features that came out in 1986 and 1987, respectively. Total, even with inflation prices tacked on, neither of those movies made ever a quarter of what Bay’s Transformers did.

“At the end of the day, pleasing the fans is only a concern AFTER you lease the license holder,” says Bernardin, “And the license holder wants to keep the franchise viable…to, in this case, sell toys.”

So, even though the fans might be a margin of who is equated into the overall picture, it’s that little boy who’s never even HEARD of Transformers before but is going to want an action figure after the movie that makes these franchises so viable today, as it’s been proven that the diehard fans just don’t come out in droves to these pictures. And that’s what makes this revival such a good idea in the first place—these films get both the Gen X’ers who remember the franchises, as well as their children into the theaters. It’s a brilliant idea, really, even if it DOES seem like a bit of a cheap trick from Hollywood.

But that’s beside the point, as everybody knows Hollywood’s primary goal in the summer is to make as much lucre as possible. And if Hollywood is going to do that by bringing back the oldies, then so be it. That makes the key question then not so much WHY Hollywood is doing this, but rather, whether the lesser known shows from the eighties are going to start popping up when Hollywood runs out of its G.I. Joe’s and its Transformers. Editor-in Chief, Josh Tyler of Cinemablend.com certainly thinks so.

“Everyone wants to have the next Transformers, though, maybe it all started with the success of those Scooby Doo movies,” Tyler says. “Both franchises have made a ridiculous amount of money so now Hollywood thinks that they can do the same with any eighties cartoon. So we’re stuck with Voltron and G.I. Joe and Thundercats and I’m sure it’s only a matter of time before someone does Gummi Bears. Most of them won’t work and eventually the eighties cartoon craze will cool off.”

Before we start cringing at the prospect of a modernized Gummi Bears movie where they shoot lazer beams and lightning bolts out of their eyes, though, keep in mind that while the head execs in Hollywood might be greedy, rapacious, and sometimes even dimwitted at times, Hollywood isn’t dumb. So even though it’s likely that they might make a Care Bears, a Fraggle Rock, or even a Smurfs movie, they wouldn’t tamper with them in a way that would totally be off the beaten path and would offend anybody old enough to really remember or care about them.

In other words, Transformers and G.I. Joe have ALWAYS had the potential to become huge summer blockbusters since they dealt with adult themes like war, dictatorships, and heroism. Inversely, some of the other more playful cartoons like The Smurfs or Alvin and the Chipmunks have their own place today, too; albeit one that grown-ups won’t necessarily WANT to see but probably will still see anyway because their children want to see them. Either way, it still means big bucks for Hollywood.

That said, that doesn’t mean that EVERYTHING that comes from the eighties should be made into a movie. But in the end though, it seems like people these days fall into three different camps when it comes to the matter—those who are for it, those who are against it, and those who are caught in between. “I’m much more dubious about board games being made into movies—yes, I’m looking at you, Candy Land,” says Mr. Bernardin, “At least with a cartoon there’s an extant story there, something to work from, something that, at one point or another, appealed to people on a dramatic level.”

Josh Tyler is a bit more cynical about it: “G.I. Joe seems like a bad idea. At the end of the day, it’s just a bunch of soldiers running around, and that’s been pretty well covered by movies before.” While Mr. Dixon falls somewhere in the middle: “Not every eighties cartoon is ripe for the big screen treatment. But Joe and the Transformers are time-tested and evergreen.

So, the lines have been drawn, and that leaves only one question left—What side do YOU happen to fall on?

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Rant: Why The Hell Does Everybody Still Like Battletoads So Much?

To see the actual site where the article was published, go here: http://cinemablend.com/games/Rant-Why-The-Hell-Does-Everybody-Still-Like-Battletoads-So-Much-18767.html

I recently wrote an article regarding the best beat ‘em ups of all time, and at number 7, I put Battletoads. Simple enough. It’s a bash ‘em, smash ‘em, wreckin’ ball crash ‘em game that was unique for its day and still provides some pretty cheap thrills today. But I have just one question for all those out there who still talk about the game like it just came out last week.

Why? Why the hell do you still love the game so much? Besides Final Fantasy VII, I can’t think of a single other game that’s so still widely regarded when it wasn’t nearly as great as everybody originally thought it to be. Now, don’t get me wrong—I LOVE Battletoads, but I love a lot of old-school games that people won’t even touch today. Like Altered Beast, for instance. Who still likes THAT game? Nobody, that’s who, and that’s just my point. Battletoads, for reasons unknown to me, has held the test of time to be probably one of the most beloved titles on the NES that people still talk about today. Don’t believe me? Then why (Besides it being an obvious prank) are people calling Gamestops requesting for the game?

I mean, from my recollection, I remember not even being able to get past the third level of the game when I was younger. After the speedbike section, I remember some kind of surfing level, but I didn’t get any further than that. That game was hard as all hell, and waaaay too hardcore for me at the time. But Battletoads and Double Dragon, now THAT was more my speed. It was much easier in my opinion, and definitely more fun, as the Lee brothers (“Ug-Lee! Ha ha ha!” You’d have to see the movie to understand) added another dynamic element to the Toads. But oh, no, no, no, no, talk about THAT game to the average fan of the original and they’ll usually say, “I don’t want to talk about it, that game sucked.” I mean, sure, the original game IS quite different from BTaDD, but not in a bad way. Battletoads was too hard back when it came out, and it’s too hard today. I can’t even GET past the second level when I play it with my 25 year old hands. What kind of fun factor is that? That game is impossible!

Well, anyway, what are your thoughts on it? Why do YOU love Battletoads so much? What’s the deal? I seriously want to know. What’s so great about it that you’re still talking about it today like some hopeless nostalgic junkie (Like myself)?

And just for Zits and giggles (I know, that was a bad one) I’ve included a speedrun clip of the first third of the game. Just because I know you never passed the third level, either.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

The Top Ten Best Beat-‘Em Ups Of All Time

Usually, if you’ve ever read some of my other articles on this site, then you know that I sometimes do a top ten list of certain topics: Top Ten Best Fighting Games Of All Time, Top Ten Best Mascots Of All Time, Top Ten Best Phrases To Ever Come Out Of A Video Game Character’s Mouth Of All Time. Top Ten, Top Ten, Top Ten.

But you know what? It’s kind of hard to come up with a top ten best beat ‘em up games of all time because so many people have a different perspective of what a beat ‘em up actually is. Does a beat ‘em up have to be in 2-D? Can it be in 3-D? Does it have to involve fighting sub-enemies and then getting to an ultimate boss? In that case, would Mega Man be considered a beat ‘em up? Of course not, that’s a platformer! But what about Michael Jackson: Moonwalker (which actually IS on this list)? In that game, he doesn’t throw a single punch, but instead, shoots magic out of his feet (Yes, you heard right). Wikipedia lists it as a beat ‘em up, but would you?

And while it might not seem like that big of a deal to you, some people take their beat ‘em up’s VERY seriously, even in this day and age when they’re not all the rage anymore. So below, I’ve singled it out like this—to be a beat ‘em up, it has to involve a stream of enemies that you have to defeat and also, the main weapon can’t be a gun. This knocks out quite a few titles, actually, such as the games in the Contra series that has a stream of enemies and an ultimate boss, but no actual brawling. Also, to be a beat ‘em up on this list, it doesn’t have to be 2-D, nor, does it have to have a screen that travels from left to right once you defeat all of the enemies, hence my choice for number 10.
Also, I’m sure some of you will get on my case for not including a couple of beat ‘em up minigames, such as the one in Tekken 4 or the one in Guilty Gear for PSP. But I’m talking about full-FLEDGED beat ‘em up’s here. And finally, since I only have ten picks, I couldn’t include the (in)famous Simpsons Arcade Game. Though, don’t get me wrong, I LOVE that game. But enough of my yammering. Below are my personal top ten fave beat ‘em ups of all time. And if I’ve forgotten any of your favorites, please mention them in the comment box below.

10. Pit Fighter

Okay, it looks like I’m already fudging my way through this list (As always). But it’s true, Pit Fighter IS a beat ‘em up, as it certainly isn’t a fighter. Pit Fighter is an interesting concept, really. If anything, the best way I can describe it is Smash TV without all of the enemies meets Mortal Kombat, and even that’s a pretty glib description of it. The plot of Pit Fighter is that you’re some oiled up, shirtless guy, who beats up anybody who steps into the pit, as it were. But instead of constantly moving across the screen to the right, you’re instead pretty much isolated in the middle of the screen where spectators on either side can either hurt or help you, depending on how close you get to them. And hey, there’s even a boss as at the end of each level in typical beat ‘em up fashion. It’s not the most sophisticated game in the world, and it gets hella repetitive after awhile (Like ALL beat ‘em ups), but this one’s still pretty enjoyable. I played it the other day, and it felt like 1991 all over again.

9. Michael Jackson: Moonwalker

No, I’m not just feeling sentimental for MJ, I actually really liked this title as a kid and I still like it today. The whole plot is that you walk around various locations and rescue little kids. Yes, I think it’s kind of a strange concept given his later court troubles, and no, I don’t think it’s too soon after his death to bring that up. What’s really fun about it though is that it’s TOTALLY MJ themed. You can even use up a bit of your life meter to make it so everybody in the room starts dancing along to one of his greatest hits. And at the end of the game, if you can actually make it that far, you can even turn into a robot and kick some serious bad guy ass. The only problem I have with this game though is that it gets SERIOUSLY hard near the end of it. But I guess that’s the price you have to pay if you want to be the legendary MJ. Check it out.

8. X-Men: The Arcade Game

Okay, this one is just SCREAMING to finally be brought to X-Box Live Arcade. What was awesome about this one was that this, depending on the arcade unit you were playing on, could hold six people at one time. The characters were some vintage X-Men shiznit: Cyclops, Nightcrawler, Storm, Colossus, Wolverine, and…gulp, Dazzler. Just pray you didn’t get Dazzler because she SUUUUCKED. Other than the X-Men theme, though, it was just your regular, old fashioned beat ‘em up. You hit smaller versions of sentinels, you get to the boss, you proceed to the next level , wash, rinse and repeat. It really wasn’t all that special except for the fact that you could hit enemies when they were down, which introduced a whole new level of play to the genre. That was pretty cool. Check it out below. See what you may have missed.

7. Battletoads

Okay, here’s where it gets a little tricky. Some people might even go the length to say that Battletoads isn’t a beat ‘em up at all, as a lot of the game (If you can even MAKE it past the speedbike section) is more like a platformer if anything. But for anybody who fondly remembers the ‘toads, besides the amazingly hard difficulty level, they’ll probably most remember that giant fist that comes out whenever Pimple or Wart slams it home. The enemies, when they come, are streaming, and ultimately, at the end of each level, there’s some kind of a boss fight. Sure, Battletoads and Double Dragon is probably a better representation of the beat ‘em up genre, but people don’t remember that game as fondly as I do, so I’m putting this one on the list instead. Take a look and decide for yourself, hombre.

6. The Splatterhouse Series

Splatterhouse has changed quite a bit from its humble beginnings. What started out as a straight up, walk from left to right, kill the baddies kind of game, has turned into a 3-D brawl-a-thon with this next one coming out. But, being the sympathetic, nostalgia junkie that I am, I want to talk about the middle two Splatterhouse games because that’s where I think the real money is. Walking up and down, and left and right around the screen, Splatterhouse actually DID become a house in the later titles where you actually travel from room to room, discovering shortcuts and secret entrances the more daring you were to stray off the direct course. Sure, the story was the epitome of lame (Something about an evil mask and a missing girlfriend). But throwing a cinder block at a creature’s face, knocking their head off, and then, seeing it erupt into a seizure is something that has to be seen to be believed. It took the beat ‘em up genre to a whole new level and slapped it in the head with a two by four. Not many other beat ‘em ups can live to that claim.

5. TMNT IV: Turtles In Time

Now we’re talking. All of the TMNT games before this one were okay, combining various signature things from the comics and cartoon to each game. But never had they coalesced like they did with this one right here. All of the characters are pretty much the same, really, and their only real difference lies is which one you personally prefer (I always had to be Raph, as he’s my fave). But the gameplay was pretty fast and fun. Foot soldiers could be slammed back and forth to rack up major points, or they could be flung right into the screen, with some of the bosses even being beaten that way. And speaking of the bosses, they were a true shout out to the fans as Baxter Stockman, The Rat King, and Krang, were all there. But this time, in different time periods. Sure, the game was WAY too easy, even on hard mode, but it’s a real winner in terms of gameplay and fun factor. I’ve DEFINITELY wasted more than a few hours on this classic. Check it out.

4. Final Fight

A Capcom classic, this beat ‘em up introduced us to almost a quarter of all the characters in Street Fighter Alpha 3. What I love most about this game though is how DIFFERENT the three characters are (Two characters, if you played an earlier version of this game). Haggar, the mayor of Metro City (How badass is that, by the way? A mayor who literally cleans up the streets of crime), is a, get in there, wrestling kind of fighter, while Cody is the middle of the road brawler. It’s Guy though who was always my favorite. Guy was the ninja of the gang, and he’d get in there, pow, pow, pow, and then flip out of there, just like that. Many people consider this to be the BEST beat ‘em up of all time, but they’re wrong. There are three better. But check out the clip below to see just why this is so beloved.

3. The Double Dragon series

What many consider to be the grand-daddy of them all (Though, Kung-Fu Master can technically be considered earlier), the DD series totally changed the concept of what a beat ‘em up could actually be, with simple but endearing levels, great bosses (I still love Abobo the most), and a fun-factor up to wazoo that only gets better when another character comes into the fray. The story-line from the first game is pretty simple but amazing. Billy and Jimmy Lee are brothers and one of their girlfriends apparently gets punched in the stomach and carried off, and that’s it. It’s a classic, and if you’ve ever owned an NES, then I’m SURE you’ve played it before. Take a look.

Bonus video!: Double Dragon in real life:

2. The Streets of Rage series

Okay, so this might upset you that this is not number one, and why wouldn’t it? It has awesome music (Possibly the best video game music EVER), great characters, and killer bosses. And it only got better the longer the series went on, with three DEFINITELY being the best in the trilogy. But enough love on three, as all of them are good. The regular enemies in each game are varied enough that they don’t get tiresome (X-Axis, Y-Axis, awesome names, by the way), and the stages are fun to navigate around, often with various obstacles to spice up the challenge, like throwing baddies off a moving elevator, or setting it up so they get hit by a train. MadWorld owes a lot to this title. And while I’ll admit that the stories were pretty ridiculous, for a beat ‘em up, they were actually pretty inspired, especially in the third one, which had some sort of a political spin to it if I can remember correctly. Anyway, SoR is a classic and the fans clamor for another one. Sega, let’s get working on that one, okay? The fans want a sequel, dammit!

1. Dynamite Cop

Known to many as the sequel to Die Hard Arcade, Dynamite Cop is far and away a better title than you could ever imagine possible. I mean, seriously, DHA merely touched the SURFACE of what DC has to offer. What makes Dynamite Cop SO special though is that literally everything in the game is a weapon. And I mean, EVERYTHING, even some fallen enemies can be picked up and flung into other characters. Everything from DHA is also here, the combos, the random, press JUMP, sequences, the blocky animations, etc. But having the ability to pick up pretty much anything just lying around the screen adds a whole new level to the genre that you’d be hard pressed not to call ambitious if nothing revolutionary. I’ve played this game on five different occasions, and on each time, I always find something new to love about it. You MUST play this game if you can find it. Seriously. I hope this clip below can whet your appetite enough for you to go out and find it. It certainly would for me.

Honorable mentions: Golden Axe, Altered Beast, MadWorld, and Castle Crashers

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

And Now The Mentor Becomes The Challenger In New Punch-Out!! Downloadable For The Wii

To see the article on the site it appeared on, click here: http://cinemablend.com/games/And-Now-The-Teacher-Becomes-The-Challenger-In-New-Punch-Out-Download-18655.html

Are you a gold or platinum member of Club Nintendo? Really? Well, if you are, then you can kick the crap out of Doc Louis in the new Punch-Out!! for the Wii in a downloadable game called, what else, Doc Louis’s Punch-Out!!.

To get this downloadable WiiWare title, it’ll be a part of Nintendo of America’s Platinum Rewards package, where you can use Nintendo “coins,” for items. And you get coins by registering products and answering surveys. Simple, no? Other than purchasing Doc Louis’s Punch-Out!!, though, you can also redeem points to get a Mario hat (Cool!) and a 2010 calendar (Not so cool!). But it should be noted that you can get the calendar for less points because you only have to be a gold member to receive it. To get the hat and Doc Louis’s Punch-Out!!, you have to be a platinum member, so rack up those points.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Oh Look, Games You Didn’t Want Before Are Now Cheap As Hell At GameStop. Whoo-Hoo!

Through July 8th (Today) to August 2nd, video game giant, GameStop, is having a massive sale where thousands of games are under $20. And guess what? Some of these games don’t suck!

On the list of games that totally don’t suck that are on sale are Chrono Trigger on the DS, Prince of Persia for the 360 and PS3, and The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion Game-of-the-Year Edition for the PS3, all three of which I HIGHLY recommend you give a whirl (Especially the first one, which is my favorite game of all time, yep yep). But for every Chrono Trigger and Prince of Persia, you also have your Sonic Unleashed, your Mario and Sonic: Olympic Games and your Star Wars: The Force Unleashed
. And those aren’t even the WORST of the batch, let me tell you. I wasn’t even bringing UP the just plain bad bad titles, like SingStar (withOUT the microphone, mind you), Hotel for Dogs, and Destiny of Zorro for the Nintendo Wii. I mean seriously, there wouldn’t be a sale at GameStop without absolute crap added on there as well.

What’s most depressing to find on their list of discounted games though is De Blob, which was a little-played Wii game that’s probably going to go the way of Eternal Darkness for the GameCube, as that was another great title that people just didn’t gravitate towards. Why do so many great games meet this fate on the Wii (MadWorld, I’m looking at you).

Some of the games for this sale are used, and some of them are new, so you’re going to have to go to GameStop yourself to find out which is which. Have a fun!

Team Of Tourist Attractors Offer Vacations Close to Home

Have you ever actually looked at Morris County?

I mean, REALLY looked at it.

If not, then Morristown resident and executive director of the Morris County Tourism Bureau, Leslie Bensley and her team of tourism attractors has the perfect tour for you.

“We think that Morris County is the great American getaway,” says Bensley, who started these tours about 11 years ago.

Bensley’s area of expertise is the Morristown area, as a large portion of her tours take place there. But that’s not to say that the Tourism Bureau isn’t thinking of expanding.

“We try to shake things up every year,” says Carol Barkin, who’s a docent (A tour guide) and a member of the Morris Township Historic Preservation Commission, “We have a Mendham tour [now].”

This summer, along with their Mendham tour, they also have a new tour called Secrets & Lore of Historic Morristown, where tourists are taken through Victorian houses around the town. There’s another one called Trial of the (19th) Century where retired Judge of the Superior Court of New Jersey, Judge Kenneth C. MacKenzie, takes tourists through an actual courtroom where he talks about the infamous Antoine LeBlanc murders. And finally, there’s another, brand new tour called Morristown’s Jewel: The Green, which takes tourists through the 300 year history of the illustrious Green of Morristown.

All of these tours and more are part of a whole series called Tours @ 10:00, which are walking tours that take place at 10:00 A.M. on Saturday.

“Having them early Saturday morning is good for two reasons,” Bensley says, “It allows the tourists to get on with their day, and it helps them escape the evening heat.”

Bensley has been in charge of tours in Morristown for the past 12 years now. She feels that as a tourism director, “you need to have a certain product to give to the people.”

But that’s not to say that walking tours didn’t exist in Morristown before Bensley came along. They just didn’t exist in the way that they do now.

“We already had walking tours in Morristown,” Bensley says, “But it was more of a self-guided tour.”

Bensley thinks that the secret of the Morris County Tourism Bureau’s success though is that people actually WANT to be guided through their tours.

“I think a lot of people are looking for things that are interactive,” Bensley says, “It’s like going to the museum. You can either zip right through it, or, [you can] put on the headphones and learn things that you never would have learned before.”

And to add to the experience, Bensley and the gang have added a new feature to their tours—flip cameras.

“A flip camera is very inexpensive and about the size of a phone,” Barkin says, “And you can get your video and edit it and take it out for the Secrets & Lore tour.”

You don’t have to be a Morris County denizen to take the tour though, as Barkin says that there are probably 80% people from Morris County, 15% outside of Morris County, and about 5% of people outside of the country, who take the tour.

“There are between 300-400 people who take the tour [every year],” Barkin says.

Bensley acknowledges that she and her group do a lot of work, but she thinks that it’s all worth it, because she loves Morris County and hopes that people who take this tour will love it, too.

“I think Morris County is a blend of being somewhat rural, but still somewhat a city,” Bensley says, “but you still don’t feel like you’re in a densely populated urban center. And I hope it stays that way.”

Tours are ten dollars and last about an hour and a half. To find out more about the Tours @ ten series, visit the bureau’s website at morristourism.org, or by calling them at 973-631-5151.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Jackson 5 Song Will Be In Lego Rock Band. And No, It’s Not Dancing Machine

To see the article on the website, go here: http://cinemablend.com/games/Jackson-5-Song-Will-Be-In-Lego-Rock-Band-And-No-It-s-Not-Dancing-Machine-18539.html

Well, it looks like the Michael Jackson love is started to rain down now that the King of Pop has officially been laid to rest. Gaming site, VG427, says that the Jackson 5’s number one hit song, “I Want You Back,” will be in Lego Rock Band. Um, couldn’t there have been a better pick? I mean, I’m all for the Jackson 5 being in the game and all, but couldn’t there have been a less pedestrian song? Like, say, “Dancing Machine,” or something else equally awesome and not so bubble gum flavored? I mean, yes, I know that people KNOW “I Want You Back,” and all, but it’s such an overplayed and over saturated song that it’s pretty much lost all pop to it.

Now, I’d hate to be a grouch and all (Actually, wait a minute, I LOVE being a grouch), but this is a problem that I’ve been having with both Guitar Hero AND Rock Band over the years--they tend to pick the most popular songs from a group or artist and put them in their games instead of the ones that are a little more obscure (And “Dancing Machine,” isn’t even OBSCURE, by the way, it was number TWO on the Billboard charts when it first came out). I mean, I loved it when I heard a song like “Beat It,” in Guitar Hero: World Tour, and it was great to play that awesome Van Halen solo, but…well, actually, that was pretty awesome, I’m not going to complain about that.

But THIS, I’ll complain about. "Dancing Machine" is SUCH a better song than “I Want You Back,” that it’s pathetic. Just check out this video below. Tell me, isn’t this a far superior choice when it comes to the Jackson 5 catalogue.


Sunday, July 5, 2009

Grub Street Interview: Matt Steinberg

Here's a recent interview I did. It's looooooong, like, wully mammoth long, so I'll just provide you with the link. Dig in.


Thursday, July 2, 2009

The Top Ten Best Video Game Mascots That You Probably Didn’t Even Know Were Meant To Be Mascots

If you want to see the article with all kinds of spiffy pictures, then go to the link here: http://cinemablend.com/games/The-Top-Ten-Best-Video-Game-Mascots-That-You-Probably-Didn-t-Even-Know-Were-Meant-To-Be-Mascots-18450.html

Mario? I think I’ve heard of him. Sonic? Yeah, he sounds familiar. Master Chief? Vaguely, I guess, yeah. All bad jokes aside though, there are certain mascots who you just KNOW are supposed to be a company’s pride and glory; whether you see them on commercials, cereal boxes, or in their own movies, certain characters just stand out. And then, certain other characters don’t. Here’s a list of the top ten mascots you probably didn’t even know were intended to be mascots at all.

10. Chuck the Plant—Mascot for LucasArts

Okay, I’m already cheating a bit here, but Chuck the Plant IS a mascot (of sorts) for LucasArts. First making his appearance in Maniac Mansion (Hey, the cursor says his name is Chuck!), he’s appeared in other LucasArts titles such as some Indiana Jones games, and also in some non-LucasArts titles as well, such as Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney (Look for a plant named “Charley” in Mia Fey’s office). Ah, Chuck the Plant. Besides you, all I think about when I think of LucasArts is Star Wars. But you kids probably never even HEARD of that movie before. It was a popular film in the 70s. You might be able to find it on Bing somewhere. Maybe.

9. Bubsy—Mascot for Accolade

Bubsy is annoying. Before every stage, he says something stupid like, “Whatever blows your hair back!” and crap like that. And he collects yarn balls instead of monetary things like rings or coins. Lame. Still, and I’m aware that this is a TOTAL contradiction to everything I just said, but I think Bubsy is awesome and I hope he lives on forever. Running, jumping, floating, and doing pretty much everything else you would expect a bobcat with an attitude to do, Bubsy was Accolade’s mascot for about a month before they moved on to other cool things, like Barkley Shut Up and Jam!. But that Bubsy sure was one hepcat while he lasted. Until you put him in 3-D. Oh, Lord, what were they THINKING?

8. Captain Commando—Mascot for Capcom

Wait, Ryu is Capcom’s mascot, right? No, wait, Mega Man is, right? Well, yes, they’re BOTH Capcom’s mascots, but for a very brief time in the early 80s, the captain, probably most known nowadays for being in the Marvel vs. Capcom series was Capcom’s favorite blue boy, appearing on the back of boxes and in other game’s instruction manuals. And this was all before he even had his own GAME, mind you! Talk about presumptuous. Captain Commando is about three shades of badass in a visor, so it’s no wonder why he was their public sponsor for a little while. It’s just a shame that the other blue bomber (Mega Man) pretty much took his place as the character who represented the company. I mean seriously, how many other characters besides Captain Commando have a ninja, a baby, and a mummy as companions? None, that’s how many!

7. Karnov—Mascot for Data East

Wherever GTA IV’s Niko Bellic came from, he has nothing on Karnov, the Slavic badass from Karnov’s Revenge and Bad Dudes vs. NinjaDragon. How badass is Karnov? So badass that he’s even a final boss at the end of the Street Fighter rip-off, Fighter’s History. I know, I know, that game sucked, but still! Karnov can blow fire out of his mouth. How many other mascots can do that? Besides Spiro, of course.

6. Bonk—Mascot for NEC

I wanted a TurboGrafx-16, even though the system sucked, just for Bonk. Bonk, if you can recall, is a caveman that slams his head into things and climbs up walls with his teeth. Fascinating. An interesting story about Bonk though is that he wasn’t even originally supposed to be a video game character at all. Instead, he was originally just a comic character named “PC Genjin,” that became so popular that a game was built around him. Also fascinating. In a nutshell, Bonk was a pretty cool replacement for the hedgehogs and plumbers of the world, and we loved him for it. He was a caveman with a giant head, what else could you possibly want?

5. Bomberman—Mascot for Hudson Soft

Bomberman is the cutest little terrorist you ever did see (And yes, I’m aware that I’m now probably on over 1000 government watchlists now). Bomberman was an interesting choice for a mascot for Hudson Soft, especially since they also had the amazingly awesome penguins from Binary Land as a choice to represent their company (Sarcasm? You bet!). What made Bomberman so viable as a mascot though was the fact that he truly represented the cartoony side that Hudson Soft was trying to display for their games. Plus, with his little blue torso and big white helmet, he’s pretty recognizable, so that’s always a plus.

4. Liu Kang—Mascot for Midway Games

I’m always pretty surprised by this one, even though he seems like the obvious choice. When Mortal Kombat originally came out, it was HUGE! I mean, just check out these people going nuts on “Mortal Monday” if you don’t believe me.

Anyway, even though Liu Kang was gnarly and all, I always thought that Sub-Zero would be a much better mascot for Mortal Kombat, being as how (Wait for it) COOL he was. But no, Liu Kang, which I guess was supposed to be the "Ryu” of Mortal Kombat was made the mascot of Midway, and I guess the world still rejoiced all the same. Still, any mascot that can grab a person by the throat and rip out their spinal cord would be a much more preferable mascot for me.

3. Samus Aran—Mascot for Nintendo

I don’t know if you knew this or not, but Samus Aran is actually the third heavy-weight mascot for Nintendo. She’s like Frankie, the bonus Jonas, of the Jonas Brothers, if you will; a third wheel in an already pretty cool rotation of Mario and Link. What I love most about this mascot though is what a contrast she is with the other two big ones for Nintendo, as her locales are dark and gritty, and she’s a bounty hunter, for crying out loud. That’s a far cry from elves and plumbers. Plus, she looks good in a bathing suit. Not many mascots (Besides the DOA girls) have that going for them.

2. Kratos—Mascot for Sony

We’ve come a LOOOONG way from the box bouncing bandicoot that was Sony’s original mascot, namely in the pasty white ghost of Sparta who enjoys three-somes with nymphos and ripping soldiers in half with his bare hands. What makes Kratos SUCH a good mascot though is that he makes all other mascots look like punks in comparison (Besides this next one, who I’m pretty sure could KILL Kratos with one judo chop to the face). Kratos has probably the most compelling story in gaming right now and is EXCLUSIVELY a Sony character. So if you want to scale Mount Olympus to tear Zeus a new one, you can only do it if you have a Sony system. Now THAT’S what I call a mascot—a character that makes you believe you NEED the system that they’re on. And Kratos certainly does that. I’m pretty hosed that I’m going to have to pick up a PS3 just to play his final outing, but I will do so since I have to. I just love Kratos that much.

1. Segata Sanshiro—Mascot for Sega Saturn

Let me just start off by singing Segata Sanshiro’s theme song (And yes, that’s how awesome Segata Sanshiro is, he has his own theme song). Ahem, “Segata, Sanshiro, Segata Sanshirooooo! Sega Sataaaaarn, shirooooooo!” And that’s it. The song (If you don’t know Nihongo) is basically just his name over and over again and the words Sega Saturn mixed in , but what else does it have to be? Segata Sanshiro was amazing. So amazing, in fact, that I kind of think he was TOO cool for the mediocre system he was on, as the Sega Saturn didn’t deserve a mascot who could literally pick up a human being, throw them, and then have them explode into a ball of flames. I kid you not, he actually did that. Just check out the clip below to see that I’m not joking. What I love MOST about this character though is that his commercials seriously don’t make any sense. I mean, they definitely connect to the game he’s advertising, but the first thing I think of when I think of winter sports isn’t a martial artist out racing a speed skater with his bare feet. I mean, honestly, that’s too spectacular to ever advertise anything other than thongs worn by Tom Brady’s super hot model wife. No wonder this mascot never made it over to these parts. Watch Segata Sanshiro in all his glory below.