Tag Archives: history

That Time Nintendo Took the Game Boy (and Pokémon) Online

Total RecallTotal Recall is a look back at the history of video games through their characters, franchises, developers and trends.  

When it comes to online play and digital distribution, Nintendo always seem two steps behind its competitors. But things weren’t always like this, at least in Japan.

Back in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s Nintendo actually brought both the Famicom and Super Famicom (known as the NES and SNES elsewhere) online via powerful console peripherals like the Famicom Modem and the Satellaview. Users could download games, trade stocks, read digital magazines, and more with these bulky add-ons. In fact, every single Nintendo home console released in Japan, from the Famicom to the Switch, has featured some form of online connection.

As the late ‘90s gave way to the new millennium, Nintendo decided it was high time its long-standing Game Boy handheld made the jump to an online space of its own. This move was likely inspired by the record-setting sales of Pokémon, a series introduced in 1996 that had almost single-handedly revitalized the Game Boy brand. The Pokémon series’ focus on battling and trading with others via the Game Boy link cable made the idea of producing an online component for the Game Boy an obvious next step.

With this goal in mind, Nintendo partnered with fellow gaming giant Konami to form a new development company known as Mobile21. A 50/50 joint venture, Mobile21 was created solely to bring the Game Boy online and produce games compatible with its new mobile network. Thus the Mobile Adapter GB was born — a device that allowed Japanese players to plug their Game Boy Color (and later Game Boy Advance) into a cellular phone to access a host of online services. Unsurprisingly, this service, dubbed Mobile System GB, wouldn’t be free. Players who wanted to use their Mobile Adapter GB for its intended purpose would be charged by their phone company for their data usage while connected to the Game Boy’s online service.

Though the Mobile Adapter GB was planned to launch alongside the greatly anticipated Pokémon Crystal in December of 2000, Mobile21 decided it was necessary to delay the accessory to late January of the following year. Sold for ¥5800 (nearly $55), the Mobile Adapter GB came bundled with a special Game Boy Color cartridge that allowed users to download Game Boy-related news and send emails, as well as check their Mobile System GB registration details and balance. Upon launch Nintendo’s fancy new peripheral only worked with a single game. Luckily, it just so happened to be one of the most popular games in Japan at the time.

A promo poster for Pokémon Crystal. Notice the Mobile System GB logo in the upper right corner.

Pokémon Crystal, sporting legendary dog Suicune on its cover, offered die-hard fans a few choice improvements over its wildly successful predecessors, Pokémon Gold and Silver. Players could now choose a female character, Pokémon sprites were animated during battle, and a new Battle Tower challenge was introduced. Though not drastically different from Gold and Silver, Pokémon Crystal was certainly the most polished game of Pokemon’s second generation. The game’s biggest addition by far, one that would never make it to the West, was its online capabilities via the Mobile Adapter GB.

Once players had officially connected their copy of Pokémon Crystal to the Mobile System GB network, an array of features became immediately available. As a welcoming gesture, every online player was gifted a digital “Egg Ticket,” which they could trade in-game for a coveted “Odd Egg.” This was one of the few free online transactions, with players forking over ¥10 (roughly 10 cents) a pop to trade or battle with random strangers and ¥100 (roughly one dollar) a month for access to Pokémon news and quizzes via the in-game Pokémon Communication Center. There was even a ¥20 option to record one’s mobile battles and upload them to Pokémon Stadium 2 via the Nintendo 64 Transfer Pak. Online interaction with friends, initialed by simply ringing them from a connected phone, cost the two parties involved their normal mobile calling fees.

The aforementioned Battle Tower, a concept that would see iterations in nearly all Pokémon games moving forward, was designed by Game Freak with the Mobile Adapter GB in mind. Forever closed to offline players in Japan, the Battle Tower was the site of the game’s ¥10 battles with unknown trainers. With enough victories online a trainer could earn the title of Room Leader, an honor recorded in an constantly-updating Hall of Fame that could be stripped away by losing to a talented new challenger.

A very blurry commercial for the Mobile Adapter GB

Of course, when Pokémon Crystal made its way overseas months later all functionality with the Mobile System GB network had been scrapped. Gone were the online options and Pokémon Stadium compatibility. All that remained was the Battle Tower, which had been tweaked to allow all players inside, providing a series of increasingly powerful CPU trainers in lieu of online opponents.

While Pokémon Crystal did fairly well in Japan, moving over 1.5 million copies, it still stands as one of the lowest selling main series Pokémon games to date. The Mobile Adapter GB fared much worse, selling less than 100,000 units in its short two-year lifespan. Even with more than twenty compatible games on the market, it was clear Japanese residents just didn’t have much of an interest in connecting online via the Game Boy. Though, to be fair, many die-hard players may have simply been too young to afford such a luxury. Years later, many have speculated that the failure of Nintendo’s online service was likely due to the fact that its main draw, Pokémon Crystal, was a game targeted at children, a demographic rarely associated with cutting edge technology or large sums of expendable money.

Regardless of its unfortunate failure and relative obscurity outside of Japan, the Mobile Adapter GB was certainly a huge step in the right direction for both Nintendo and Pokémon. It would be five years later, with the release of Pokémon Diamond and Pearl, that trading and battling online would return. By harnessing the built-in WiFi capabilities of its wildly popular DS handheld, Nintendo had finally reached the goal it had set out to achieve with Pokémon Crystal — an online system that could connect mobile players the world over.

Source: Kotaku.com

Here’s What The Unreleased Terminator NES Game Looked Like

In 1989, Japanese developer/publisher Sunsoft revealed The Terminator, an NES game based on the hit 1984 Arnold Schwarzenegger film. One year later, after Sunsoft lost the movie rights, the game was modified and released as generic sci-fi platformer Journey to Silius. Video game history and preservation site Gaming Alexandria has unearthed Sunsoft’s 30-year-old promo reel featuring the only surviving footage of the originally planned game.

Back in 1989, when The Terminator made its debut at the Winter Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, there were no USB sticks to fill with screenshots and trailers. Members of the press couldn’t log into a website to download information, as there were no websites. Many publishers made VHS tapes of their promo videos, which I imagine were really fun to lug home after trade shows.

Gaming Alexandria writer Stefan Gancer was sent a tape containing Sunsoft’s promos from WCES 1989, with The Terminator front and center. It’s a mixture of footage from the then five-year-old film and what looks like cutscenes from the game. The announcer calls it “the very first home video game to feature movie footage and interactive graphics technology” and “the most amazingly lifelike home video game you’ve ever seen.” By today’s standards it might not look like much, but 30 years ago what little of the game is shown is pretty impressive.

According to Creative Licensing Corporation founder Rand Marlis, speaking to Gaming Alexandria about The Terminator, the game didn’t lose its license for quality reasons, but because it didn’t follow the plot of the film. Instead of taking place in the “modern day” and showcasing Kyle Reese and Sarah Connor’s fight against a mechanical assassin sent from the future, the game was set in the future, with artificial intelligence Skynet having taken over the world with its army of robots.

Stuck with a nearly finished video game for a movie it had no license for, Sunsoft retooled The Terminator into a generic sci-fi platformer. Journey to Silus, known as Rough World in Japan, is a basic run-and-gun platformer with an outstanding soundtrack from Japanese composer Naoki Kodaka.

Via World of Longplays

The Terminator eventually got an NES game, a forgettable 1992 platformer developed by Radical Entertainment. It has punishingly bad controls, horrible music, and confusing level design. But hey, it did follow the plot of the film, if loosely.

Hit up Gaming Alexandria for more background and promotional material on the NES Terminator game that should have been, including one of the greatest video game concept sketches I have ever seen.

Source: Kotaku.com

Here’s What People Thought of Amazon When It First Launched in the Mid-1990s

Jeff Bezos holds a cordless power drill and reciprocating saw at a New York press conference on November 9, 1999.
Photo: AP

Amazon was founded on July 5, 1994, and launched its online store in 1995, letting people buy books from the comfort of their homes. Twenty-five years after its inception, Amazon now sells everything from taco holders shaped like dinosaurs to tongue brushes that humans can use to lick their cats. And you’d have to be living under a rock to not know about Amazon.

But what did people think of Amazon in its early days—the days before the tongue brushes? Today we’ve got a sample from the mid-90s before founder Jeff Bezos was a billionaire.

In November of 1995, Knight-Ridder distributed an article that was published in newspapers around the country explaining that you can find almost any book at this “Internet store” called Amazon.

There’s a big, new bookstore in town, and there’s a catch—you won’t find it on any Seattle street map. So if you want to wander down its aisles and peruse the selection, you’ll have to hook up to the Internet.

Of course, hooking up to the internet was a much more novel experience in 1995. But if you had a connection, and millions of Americans were getting online in the mid-90s, you had access to over 1 million titles.

The Knight-Ridder article noted a few things that might be weird to people in the year 2019. First, you could pay by credit card or you could call a toll-free number and give your credit card number over the phone. You could even fax the credit card info if that was your thing. Secondly, shipping was $3 per order plus $0.95 per book. Today, Amazon has free shipping for all orders over $25 and for anyone who subscribes to the company’s Prime membership.

But what did people think of this new service on the so-called Information Superhighway? The first thing almost everyone mentioned was the impressively wide selection of books.

From the October 22, 1995 issue of the Tallahassee Democrat newspaper:

In a test of the company’s abilities, a search was made for a little-known John Steinbeck book, “The Sea of Cortez.” Within seconds, the Amazon.com search capabilities popped up the title as available.

It may seem ridiculously mundane these days, but being able to find a rare book took quite a bit more effort in the era before Amazon’s arrival. The best you could do was ask your local bookstore to order it for you, but if it was out of print, you might be out of luck. One of the truly revolutionary things about Amazon, at least from this nerd’s perspective, was the ability to find used books on the site.

The Wall Street Journal published an article about Amazon on May 16, 1996, describing “Jeffrey Bezos” as a “whiz-kid programmer on Wall Street” before opening up the online retailer. The people quoted in the article described the convenience of being able to order from anywhere and customers were incredibly loyal.

From the WSJ:

Mr. Bezos says 60% of his orders come from repeat customers. “It’s not in my nature to be hip, but Amazon is the finest bookstore I’ve ever been to,” says Don K. Pierstorff, a 60-year-old college professor in Costa Mesa, Calif., who says he has placed 12 orders during the past several months.

In the early days of Amazon Bezos was also constantly noting that he wasn’t going to put traditional brick-and-mortar bookstores out of business.

“We are not really competing with physical bookstores,” Bezos told the Christian Science Monitor in September of 1996. “The key is that people like to get out of their houses. I still go to physical bookstores, and I’m not going to stop. I even buy books there. I like the tactile experience.”

People like to get out of their homes? Speak for yourself, Jeff. Sorry, speak for yourself Jeffrey.

By 1997, there were plenty of skeptics who thought that Amazon wouldn’t be able to stick around. The company went public on May 15, 1997, and the naysayers were quick to point out any perceived weakness in the company. George Colony from Forrester Research referred to the company as “Amazon.toast.” The Wall Street Journal ran with the headline “Amazon.bomb” in 1999 after the company’s stock tanked.

And Slate went with the headline “Amazon.Con” for an article on January 5, 1997 that was meant to ridicule how difficult Amazon was compared with your neighborhood bookstore. The byline for that Slate piece was shared by two writers, Jonathan Chait and Stephen Glass. Yes, the same Jonathan Chait who supported the “liberal case” for invading Iraq, and Stephen Glass, one of the most famous journalist hoaxers of all time—so famous, in fact, they even made a movie about him in 2003 called Shattered Glass.

What did these two great minds produce? Some zingers that would be considered lame by even elementary schoolyard standards:

In fact, Amazon’s “megawarehouse” in downtown Seattle contains just 200 or so titles. Any other book must be obtained from a wholesale distributor or the publisher. This is exactly what any traditional bookstore does when it doesn’t have a book in stock. The difference is that traditional bookstores start out with a lot more than 200 titles in stock. “Earth’s Biggest Bookstore”? More like “Earth’s Smallest.”


Another complaint from Chait and Glass was that ordering a book from Amazon took way too many steps:

After clicking your purchases into a “shopping cart,” you are directed to a “secure Netscape server” that will encrypt your credit-card information. After this is done, you are told: “Finalizing Your Order Is Easy.” Nothing could be further from the truth. Lower down in the verbiage, Amazon concedes, “Though we have tried hard to make this form easy to use, we know that it can be quite confusing the first time.” Amazon users have to page through screen after screen of details about shipping charges, refund rules, and disclaimers about availability and pricing. Then you are told to allow between three and seven days for delivery after your book leaves Amazon’s warehouse. “Upgrading to Next Day Air does NOT [their emphasis] mean you’ll get your order the next day.”

Total online time from when we accessed Amazon’s home page to when we completed the book order: 37 minutes and 12 seconds. It would be shorter once you got the hang of it.

You can’t please everyone, I suppose.

But Bezos has had the last laugh, it would seem. Not only is Bezos the wealthiest person in the world at over $155 billion, Amazon currently controls 42 percent of the dead-tree book market, 88.9 percent of the ebook market, and half of all online sales in the U.S. Amazon controls 7.7 percent of all retail, online and off, in the U.S. according to the latest numbers. And with its purchase of Whole Foods in 2017, it’s now the fifth largest seller of groceries in the country. And, as of last year, Amazon Web Services controlled 40 percent of the cloud market.

Amazon isn’t just for books anymore, to say the least. And whether you need an organic eggplant or, yes, a taco holder shaped like a dinosaur, Amazon has it.

Source: Kotaku.com

The Mystery of Star Wars Legend Willrow Hood Has Finally Been Revealed

That’s no ice cream maker…
Photo: Lucasfilm

He only appeared for one second in The Empire Strikes Back, but Willrow Hood became a Star Wars icon. Not for any reason in particular, however. Just because he looked kind of funny running across Cloud City with what Star Wars fans have long since settled on is an “ice cream maker.”

Well, io9 can exclusively reveal that’s no ice cream maker. In fact, it’s a safe.

A camtono, actually. The word briefly made it out into the world at Star Wars Celebration earlier this year when, in an extended clip from The Mandalorian that never made it online, Werner Herzog’s character shows the titular bounty hunter a piece of beskar—an ancient, valuable, Mandalorian alloy—and tells him he’ll give him a camtono of it when he completes the mission.

We don’t know what the mission is yet and we don’t know the name of Herzog’s character. What we do know, thanks to a source close to the production, is that a camtono is like a safe or a lock box, Herzog’s character has one full of beskar, and it’s the same item Willrow Hood is running around with in The Empire Strikes Back.

You may remember, Mandalorian executive producer Jon Favreau even teased the connection late last year.

A Star Wars safe makes so much more sense than an ice cream maker, doesn’t it? Ice cream is great. But if you’re trying to escape your home from an imminent Imperial take over, what do you grab? The thing that makes ice cream, or the secure container that holds your valuables? [Editor’s Note: io9 writer’s opinions on this vary. -Jill P.]

How, or if, The Mandalorian makes this connection between Hood’s camtono and Herzog’s camtono, we do not know. Are they the same one? Doubtful. But we do know they’re the same general thing, so you can now cross that long-running Star Wars mystery off your list. We’ve reached out to Lucasfilm for comment and will update if we hear back.

The Mandalorian will debut on Disney+ November 12.

Correction: A previous version of this story stated the item was a “kamtono.” In fact, “camtono” is the correct spelling. We regret the error.

For more, make sure you’re following us on our new Instagram @io9dotcom.

Source: Kotaku.com

The History Of Lightsabers In Video Games

The lightsaber is the main weapon of the Jedi and Sith and is seen often in the main Star Wars films and TV shows. It emits a powerful beam of focused energy and also makes a really fun noise when you move it around. You know the one. You’ve made it at least once in your life while holding a broom or stick.

These fun weapons have been around since the very start of Star Wars and as a result, they’ve popped up in many different Star Wars video games throughout the past 30+ years. These awesome space swords are also a great way to show how video games have improved and advanced over the last few decades. So grab your lightsaber, turn it on and wave it around.

Star Wars: Jedi Arena
Released: July 1983
Platforms: Atari 2600

As far as I can tell, this is the first video game that allowed players to control a lightsaber. Star Wars: Jedi Arena was released for the Atari 2600, a console that wasn’t capable of producing the most advanced visuals. As a result, the lightsabers found here are very primitive looking, but they do almost sound like their movie counterparts. This isn’t a great digital lightsaber, but we have to start somewhere.

Also, while it is called Jedi Arena, one of the Jedi is using a red lightsaber. But I guess this was early enough in Star Wars history that there wasn’t really any canon or lore to break

Star Wars
Released: Nov. 1991
Platforms: NES, Master System

A few years later, we got the next big step forward in lightsaber action. In this game, an action platformer, players control Luke Skywalker himself and fight enemies using a blaster and a lightsaber. This is one of the first, or maybe the first, game to let players use their lightsaber in combat against enemies.

Granted, the combat is stiff and looks bad, but still a step forward. Oddly, the lightsaber is orange, which is actually a step back after the blue and red sabers seen in Jedi Arena on the Atari 2600.

Super Star Wars: Empire Strikes Back
Released: Nov. 1992
Platforms: Super NES

The big advancement made in this game for the SNES is the overall look, sound, and feel of the lightsaber. Yes, in the first Super Star Wars you could get a lightsaber, but here the weapon has a bigger role in the game and Luke is able to use it more effectively. This is also the best-looking saber we’ve gotten up until this point.

Star Wars Jedi Knight: Dark Forces II
Released: Sep. 1997
Platforms: PC

The lightsaber appears in 3D for the first time in this classic game, Star Wars Jedi Knight. This is a big jump in lightsaber tech. Players can now block lasers shot at them and the combat is better than in previous games. The lightsaber blade also looks very good now, fully 3D and with the proper colors. Also, the saber sounds are fantastic and feel ripped right out of the film.

Star Wars: Obi-Wan
Released: Dec 2001
Platforms: Xbox

There were a lot of games launched around the release of Episode 1 in theaters, but maybe the most impressive was this often forgotten game for the original Xbox. The combat is clunky in this mediocre action game from 2001, but the lightsaber here looks good.

It also emits colored light on to the ground around Obi-Wan, which is a nice improvement over previous games. This is something the movies rarely did too, until the sequel trilogy. The most famous moment of colored lighting created by lightsabers is probably the Dooku fight from Attack Of The Clones.

Star Wars: Jedi Knight II – Jedi Outcast
Released: March 2002
Platforms: PC, Xbox, Gamecube

The Jedi Knight games, including the later Jedi Academy sequel, are regularly considered by many to be some of the best Star Wars games ever made. A lot of this is because of the lightsaber combat found in these games. Jedi Outcast really improves the combat over the action found in Dark Forces II, adding more moves and smoother combat. But even more impressive, this is the first game where players can use the lightsaber to actually cut limbs off enemies. To activate this you need to enter in a cheat code or mess around with the game’s files. But once you do this, you can cut dudes clean in half.

Also, a nice touch is the way the lightsaber actually leaves marks on the walls and floors as it makes contact with them. A huge step forward in lightsaber tech.

Star Wars: Jedi Academy
Released: Sep. 2003
Platforms: PC, Xbox

Most of the great stuff found in Jedi Knight II is found in Academy, released a year later. But the coolest new addition is the ability for players to create their own lightsaber. You can choose different colors and even different variants of sabers, including the awesome ability to dual wield. This seems to be one of the very first games to allow players to dual wield lightsabers. Knights Of The Old Republic also allowed players to do this and was released a few months before.

LEGO Star Wars: The Video Game
Released: April 2005
Platforms: PC, Xbox, PS2, Gamecube

The first time a lightsaber has appeared in LEGO form in a video game. While this isn’t the most important moment in lightsaber history, it’s still a cool thing to see. Plus this was the first time fans could play as Kit Fisto in a video game, which is a nice bonus.

Soul Calibur IV
Released: July 2008
Platforms: Xbox 360, PS3

This is technically the first appearance of a lightsaber in the HD era/Xbox 360 and PS3 era of video games. It was released just a few months before Star Wars: Force Unleashed. The lightsabers in this game look good, but sadly they don’t really cut people up or mark the ground like in Jedi Outcast. 

Kinect Star Wars
Released: April 2012
Platforms: Xbox 360 Kinect

This isn’t a great game, but it did improve the visual quality of lightsabers and (kind of) let players swing around a saber with their body. This was a dark time for Star Wars. This was the era without new movies and filled with crap like this and Angry Birds Star Wars.

Disney Infinity 3.0
Released: Aug 2015
Platforms: Xbox One, Xbox 360, PS4, PS3, WiiU and more

Similar to how Soul Calibur predates Force Unleashed on PS3/Xbox 360, Infinity 3.0 and its Star Wars characters predate Battlefront 1 from EA, making this the first time you could see lightsabers on PS4 and Xbox One. While primarily a game for kids, Infinity 3.0 actually had some solid lightsaber combat and looked wonderful. What a shame this series died.

Star Wars Battlefront II (2017)
Released: Nov 2017
Platforms: PS4, Xbox One, PC

Sure Battlefront II had some annoying loot boxes and microtransactions, but its lightsabers looked soooo good. This really is the next generation of lightsabers. They now look, feel and sound like they fell right out of the films.

35 years after Star Wars Jedi Arena on the Atari 2600, lightsabers in video games have improved greatly. Players can now do basically everything we’ve seen Jedi and Sith do in the films. With VR lightsabers becoming a thing, like the ones seen in Beat Saber, it seems lightsabers in video games are only going to get better and more advanced.

I’m excited to play Jedi Fallen Order, releasing later this year. Might we see another big jump forward for virtual lightsabers? Plus, new consoles aren’t far away. What will the next generation of lightsabers look and feel like?

Hopefully, the future will include the ability for me to slice off Stormtroopers’ arms. I do miss doing that.

Source: Kotaku.com

Real Life Museums Make Great Levels in The Division 2

The Division 2 is set in Washington, D.C. and that city is famous for all of its wonderful museums. Because Ubisoft is focused on making their game worlds feel real The Division 2 is also filled with many of these museums. These places make up some of the best levels found in the game and they are impressively authentic to the real locations they are inspired by.

In The Division 2, there are a handful of missions that lead players into some of the various museums dotted around D.C. Usually, these museums are overrun with deadly enemies, which does make it hard to explore them. But after all the bad folks were killed, I was able to snap some photos of these incredibly detailed museums.

One of my favorite museums is The American History Museum. This location is based on the National Museum of American History, located in D.C. You can find different elements of the real world location recreated in the virtual version of the museum. Like this cool looking train!

When you first arrive at this place it isn’t exactly tourist friendly. The militaristic True Sons have taken over the site and are using it as a prison for their enemies. Your objective is to get in, kill them and get some intel.

Exploring The American History Museum, I loved how varied the environments were. As I moved through the building I encountered old statues, exhibits about the Thirteen Colonies, the Western Expansion and eventually I reached a large jungle-filled-section of the museum all about Vietnam.

This area really surprised me. Suddenly I was no longer in the urban streets of D.C. but instead, I was creeping around the jungles of Vietnam. Of course, if I focused on the walls or other details I could tell I wasn’t actually in the jungle, but the change of scenery was still a great way to transform the entire feel of the mission.

The Vietnam section of the museum is based on a similar area in the real world counterpart of The American History Museum. Ubisoft even included the helicopter that is found in that exhibit.

The jungle section of the mission culminates in a battle using a giant turret against waves of True Son soldiers. It almost feels like an entirely different game during this climactic fight.

This is the brilliance of these museum levels. They change up the look and feel of the game. I also love how these museums feel like real places, largely because of Ubisoft’s attention to detail.

Another favorite museum level of mine found in The Division 2 is the Air & Space Museum. Here, you can find old planes and drones…

…but keep exploring this museum and you will also find space capsules, a shuttle that has seen better days and rockets.

Easily my favorite section of the museum is when I rounded a corner and abruptly I found myself on Mars. I wasn’t expecting this at all and it caught me totally off guard. I ended up dying in this area the first time I entered because I forgot that I was in the middle of a deadly combat mission involving heavily armed soldiers. Whoops!

The Mars section of the museum, similar to the Vietnam area in the other museum, almost looks like a different game. At least briefly. Then a bunch of shotgun-wielding soldiers rushed me. I don’t think shotguns are on Mars. At least not yet.

Another great moment in the Air & Space Museum is when players enter a large planetarium. This section, like most of the areas in the museums, is actually based on the real-life planetarium found at the actual National Air & Space Museum in D.C.

This area is almost overwhelming to fight in as planets and stars whiz by, as well as bullets. Getting to fight in a giant planetarium is another reason I love the museums in The Division 2. It helps make these missions more memorable and interesting.

These aren’t the only museums in the game. In my time with The Division 2, I’ve encountered others including a museum focused on indigenous peoples and another location focused on media and news history, based on the real world Newseum. All of these museums are filled with an incredible amount of detail and care. They make the world of The Division 2 feel more believable and immersive.

An example of how much detail Ubisoft put into these museums is how many of the exhibits actually have placards with writing about the various topics. So while you play The Division 2 you can learn a few things too!

Some may think The Division 2 is just a boring military shooter, but the museums are a great example of how colorful and fun the game can get. Maybe some of the themes and story elements are heavy-handed and gross, but this is also game where I got to explore museums and fight bad guys in planetariums.

These moments show how the game isn’t always grim and really help make these missions stand out from the others.

Source: Kotaku.com

Mario Games Have Amazing First Levels

Ceave Gaming has done some amazing things in Mario games, like beating New Super Luigi. U without collecting or touching a single gold coin. But in his latest video, Ceave dives into the overall history of Mario. He looks back at the first levels in every 2D Mario game to figure out what makes this series so special and loved by fans decades after its first game.

The original Mario level, World 1-1, is well known for being an amazing level that teaches the player how to play the game. Though it is really more impressive than that.

As Ceave points out, the 2D Mario platformers haven’t really changed all that much, meaning that the first level of that classic game essentially teaches you everything you need to know to play most Mario games. From Goombas, to Stars to invisible blocks, that first level efficiently teaches the player the core elements of the entire Mario franchise.

Other Mario games would continue having great first levels. Super Mario Bros 3, for example, includes more enemies and many new features. You can find a Super Leaf and then explore a totally optional part of the level located in the skies above the stage.

Looking at each first stage is also a wonderful way to see the evolution of the franchise, though it never changed too much. Just a new enemy or a new theme, maybe a new move or two. But these simple changes helped make each entry feel unique and memorable.

The entire video is worth watching as Ceave goes into more detail about each game, including the portable 2D games and talks about the different physics, rules and more.

Source: Kotaku.com

HBO’s Lovecraft Country Could Be Everything Green Book Wasn’t

Mahershala Ali as Don Shirley, with the cover of Lovecraft Country.
Image: Universal, HarperCollins

There are as many valid criticisms of Peter Farrelly’s Best Picture Oscar-winner Green Book as there are listings in Victor Hugo Green’s The Negro Motorist Green Book. But an upcoming adaptation has a lot more potential to tell the real story, even if there are Lovecraftian monsters involved.

The Negro Motorist Green Book (published from 1936 to 1966) was a guide to the places black people driving across the Jim Crow-era U.S. could stop to rest and replenish themselves without fear of being denied service by businesses, driven out of town by racists, or murdered. With the growth of interstate highways came the promise that Americans could more easily travel long distances and experience more of the country. But that same promise was not afforded to black and other non-white drivers who faced the risk of being caught in sundown towns, places where white members of the local community—including law enforcement officials, in some cases—would not hesitate to kill them should they be seen within city limits.

Though the specters of Jim Crow and segregations are things most often associated with the South, sundown towns proliferated throughout the U.S., meaning that black drivers had no choice but to be strategic in their travels so as never to be caught after dark in a place where their lives might be very much in danger. Green’s book was an invaluable asset for black travelers at all points along their journeys. Each trip planned with the help of The Negro Motorist Green Book is a story about black Americans collaborating in order to persevere and thrive in a land that did not love us, and because that continues to be true of the country, it’s easy to understand why the book is an important part of our history and why folks would want to create stories around it.

The problem with the recent Peter Farrelly-directed Green Book film is that it ignores the cultural significance of Green’s book and doesn’t even center it as the heart of its story.

In Farrelly’s take—written by Nick Vallelonga and Brian Hayes Currie—Don Shirley (Mahershala Ali) is a gifted black musician who hires Tony Vallelonga (Viggo Mortensen), an Italian bouncer, to work as his driver during an upcoming tour throughout the U.S. that’ll take them from the Midwest into the Deep South. Through the power of road tripping, the unlikely pair become friends as substantive interrogations about race or the men’s inner lives are passed over in favor of scenes about how everybody likes fried chicken and good music.

Green Book is, put simply, another story about racism that’s much more concerned with making white people feel good about sitting through a movie about racism, in which a white person resists the urge to be egregiously racist because their one black friend told them to. Even setting aside all the issues of Green Book’s historical accuracy and alleged disrespect to Shirley’s family, the film’s utter lack of regard for The Negro Motorist Green Book makes it difficult to see it as a story that truly understands the cultural factors in play that made its existence possible.

The Negro Motorist Green Book deserves a telling of its tales that both respects what the book meant and can speak to the large audience that can and should know more about its importance. Where Green Book failed, HBO’s upcoming adaptation of Matt Ruff’s novel Lovecraft Country can and should succeed in ways that are readily apparent the moment you begin reading the book.

Atticus Turner, one of Lovecraft Country’s central heroes, is a young, science fiction-loving black veteran recently back from time in the Korean War. He soon realizes that his service to his country doesn’t actually mean all that much back home because of the color of his skin. While Atticus’ family and friends love him dearly, the racist micro and macro-aggressions he faces on a daily basis are a constant reminder of what it means to be black in America. Racism is a demon all of Lovecraft Country’s characters must face, but they there are also actual demons out there in the world they cross paths with, and its when these literal and metaphorical evils intersect that Lovecraft Country begins to really shine.

Lovecraft Country’s cover.
Image: HarperCollins

When Atticus’ father Montrose goes missing, leaving only instructions for Atticus to come looking for him in the fictional (and very Lovecraftian) town of Ardam, Massachusetts, he sets out to find him with the help of his uncle George, who runs the Safe Negro Travel Company, and his friend Letitia Dandridge, a devout Christian. Together, the trio uses George’s knowledge of safe zones to make their way from Chicago to Massachusetts, and as they journey they encounter all manner of supernatural beings—both very literal monsters and embodiments of the horrors that The Negro Motorist Green Book was designed to help people avoid. Here’s an excerpt:

George had begun publishing The Safe Negro Travel Guide as a means of advertising his travel agency’s services, and though the Guide had ultimately become profitable in its own right, the agency—now expanded to three locations—remained his primary business and source of income. The agency would book trips and tickets for anyone, but specialized in helping middle-class Negroes negotiate with a travel industry that was at best reluctant to accept their patronage.

Through his network of contacts and scouts, George kept up-to-date files not only on which hotels allowed Negro guests, but which air and cruise lines were most likely to honor their reservations. For those wishing to vacation abroad, the agency could recommend destinations that were relatively free of local race prejudice and, just as important, not overrun by white American tourists—for nothing was more frustrating than traveling thousands of miles only to encounter the same bigots you dealt with every day at home.

The power that the Ku Klux Klan’s grand wizards have lies in the reach of their organization’s networks and their ability to enforce their hateful ideology through coordinated violence. Lovecraft Country imagines a world in which that’s still very true, but the wizards also happen to be actual wizards of a sort, something that Atticus and company can barely wrap their minds around as the story unfolds.

Lovecraft Country shifts between focusing on its allegorical monsters and its human ones with a deftness that’s just shy of letting you assume it’s a work of pure magical realism. It wants you to understand that the racist ghost and the shady realtor who purposefully sold the house it haunts to black owners are both real problems the book’s characters have to face. Like a carefully crafted highway system, Lovecraft Country’s larger plot is made up of a handful of intersecting stories that all feed back into one another, reminding you of what’s keeping its heroes safe: their togetherness, their adaptiveness, and the knowledge afforded to them by their guide book and the wisdom it holds.

With Jordan Peele and J.J. Abrams producing, and Underground’s Misha Green attached as showrunner, there are any number of directions HBO’s adaptation of Lovecraft Country could take. So long as it honors the source material, and bears in mind the larger cultural significance of the stories it’s telling, it’s likely to do The Negro Motorist Green Book’s legacy justice in a way Green Book never could.

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Source: Kotaku.com

A History Of Bowling In Video Games

How many bowling games do you think have been made? I looked around and via the Giant Bomb wiki it seems like there have been almost 100 bowling games or games that include bowling mini games. Which seems like a lot. How many different versions of bowling games does the world need?

It seems like the first bowling video game released was simply called Bowling. It was released in 1977 and was a built in-game playable on the RCA Studio II. The visuals could be described as simple.

Bowling on the RCA Studio II
GIF: Old Games Database (Youtube)

The 80s saw an explosion of bowling video games. Maybe this is because video games didn’t exist and suddenly they did exist and big companies wanted games. Bowling probably seemed easy to make. I can see a older CEO who doesn’t know much about video games, probably smoking a big cigar, yelling out to some developers to make bowling games. “They only got some pins, some balls and one person. I want it made by tomorrow.”

PBA Bowling in 1982 wasn’t for amateurs. This was professional bowling. This was one of the first bowling games to use the PBA, Professional Bowlers Association, license. This is like the Madden of bowling games.

3-D Bowling isn’t really 3D at all. Instead this bowling game uses similar visuals to PBA Bowling, but now players can see both the pins and the player at the same time. This doesn’t seem like a big deal today and I imagine it wasn’t a big deal back then. 3-D Bowling was released on the Emerson Arcadia 2001 which was a console that only lasted 18 months and only had 35 games released for it.

3-D Bowling
Screenshot: FunCade 64 (Youtube)

The 80s was filled with a lot of boring looking bowling games. The 90s changed this trend and we started getting some more exciting bowling games. Like League Bowling from SNK, which was released in 1991. This bowling game allowed two players to bowl at the same time and featured colorful and fun visuals.

Here’s something odd: There were two bowling games released for Nintendo’s failed handheld Virtual Boy console. In total the Virtual Boy only had 22 games ever released for it, which means bowling games make up 9% of the entire library. On an unrelated note, the Virtual Boy was a massive failure and was quickly discontinued. That probably wasn’t because 9% of games released for it were bowling related. Probably.

One of the earliest attempts at making a truly polygonal 3D bowling game was released in 1998. AMF Pro Bowl 3D doesn’t seem to have been a popular game. On all of YouTube I can only find one gameplay video of the game, recorded off a screen. It doesn’t look very good, the game I mean. The video is fine and honestly I’m thankful that at least one person on Earth decided to record some footage of AMF Pro Bowl 3D. Thanks, Oshy.

Released the same year as AMF Pro Bowl 3D, Milo’s Astro Lanes was an N64 game that took bowling into the 22nd century. Finally, bowling in space. The game featured aliens, exotic planets and let you bowl near a volcano. Though bowling purists might not like the power-ups placed on the lane. Or the fact that you don’t seem to be using a regulation ball, but instead a sphere of electrical energy. The future is weird.

Milo’s Astro Lanes
GIF: Emulation64 (Youtube)

The early 2000s was a great time for fans of licensed bowling games. The Animanics got a bowling game. The Simpsons got a bowling game. There was a Monster’s Inc bowling game. Even The Flintstones got in on the action, releasing The Flintstones: Bedrock Bowling in July 2000, over 30 years after the series was released.

The 2000’s also saw the rise of a bowling juggernaut. A franchise that spans 8 games. The Elf Bowling franchise started in 1998, though its many sequels would mostly be released between 1999 and 2006. The list of the entire franchise:

  • Elf Bowling
  • Elf Bowling 2
  • Elf Bowling 3 
  • Super Elf Bowling (Elf Bowling 4)
  • Elf Bowling – Bocce Style (Elf Bowling 5)
  • Elf Bowling 6: Air Biscuits
  • Elf Bowling 7: The Last Insult 
  • Elf Bowling Hawaiian Vacation 

Elf Bowling would jump from games to big screen in 2007 with the release of a movie based on the bowling series. Elf Bowling The Movie: The Great North Pole Elf Strike was not very successful.

Of course the Wii saw a lot of bowling games released on the console. After how successful Wii Sports was, many tried to bring bowling to the motion controlled console. It makes sense, bowling is like the perfect sport for the Wii.

Screenshot: Nintendo (Wii Sports)

I remember my grandparents bought a Wii just so they could play Wii Sports and the game they played the most was easily bowling. You don’t really have to teach people how to play it. Can your throw a bowling ball? Congratulations. You already know everything you need to know to play bowling in Wii Sports.

The last few years has seen a bunch of games include bowling as a mini-game, like GTA IV’s infamous bowling mini-game. Yakuza 0 also has bowling in it, though their bowling alley will award you a chicken if you do well enough, which is honestly a great innovation in bowling game history.

Screenshot: 2wicked4cricket (Reddit)

Sadly, while bowling has appeared in newer games we haven’t received many dedicated bowling games for PS4 or Xbox One. These days, bowling games are popular on mobile devices and maybe that is where all the bowling games will live for now on.

Bowling and golf games occupy similar parts of my brain. I don’t really enjoy playing either in real life, but I’m always down for some digital pins and balls.

Source: Kotaku.com