Sunday, December 23, 2007

DiS Expansion

In celebration of the holidays I have looked to try to expand the content on my little blog as it continues its trek to internet infamy. As I close out the year I'm pleased to make the following announcements:

New Writer. Le gasp you say! "Isn't this supposed to be your blog?" To that I say "Yes, dummy. It is." Now that I'm done alienating my last 2 readers I'll get back to being serious. It is very hard to find someone who can understand your vision on projects and when you find one you should run with it. I'm pleased to announce that Luna will be joining DiS as a writer, sharing her unique insights and commentary on the state of the gaming industry. I've had the privilege of writing with Luna in the past during my professional writing days and believe she will bring even more insightful commentary to DiS. 

Luna brings a vast heritage of Sega fangirl-ness to DiS, as well as passion rarely seen these days in the industry. She is also a big fan of J-Pop artist Ayumi Hamasaki and maintains a site dedicated to the artist. Her significant other is her Dreamcast, with whom she loves regularly. Luna says she looks forward to being abused for producing an actual regular content stream for the blog. Look forward to a piece from her soon.

Content. Much to my disappointment I have not managed to update DiS as much as I intended. Thanks to Luna's assistance I've been able to nail down an intended update schedule that should kick in during 2008. It is my goal to produce a new piece of content on a weekly basis and one major analytical feature per month. Now that I've said this I will also say I'm still going to update when I want, but I do have a goal to work towards. Industry content sometimes runs low, you know.

Housekeeping and Reminders. The official abbreviation for this blog is DiS. The "i" is there so I'm not competing with the DS. Now you know.

This blog is not going to transform into IGN. There are plenty of news sites out there for video games. What you can expect going forward are even better analytical pieces on the game industry's trends and decisions and the occasional review of a game from a unique angle. You can also expect in-depth pieces on aspects of the industry that may be overlooked or unseen. There will be some overlap with news and reviews, but they will come from a unique angle you may not have seen.

I like comments and discussion! I just ask it happen on DiS itself instead of an RSS syndicator. Note you can use your OpenID to comment as well (LiveJournal users - you have one).

That's it! Happy Holidays! 

Friday, December 7, 2007

Cruis'n with the Fast and the Furious

And now I shoot my blog's credibility in the foot.

Every gamer has their guilty pleasure - some game that somehow is considered terrible but they love and are a sucker for. Mine? Besides Space Channel 5...I love the Cruis'n franchise. USA was good, World was the best, Exotica sucked. Now comes Cruis'n for Wii.

Cruis'n for Wii is not a great game. The production values are extremely low. The game is a quick Wii port of The Fast and the Furious from the arcade with a Cruis'n label slapped on. It's $29.99 at retail. Don't expect great things.

Is it fun? Oh hell yes. It's classic the Cruis'n cheese that I love. Random objects in the way that explode without reason, mad car tricks, nitros, girls with fake boobs handing you trophies, and the screams of "watch out!" are all here. Even better - the cars are all licensed! Your Firebird is now going to be doing barrell rolls. Sometimes "crappy" is fun, too.

So should you get it? That depends - set your expectations low. This game is like playing a great B-rated movie (any game that has a course called "China Town X" has it going for them). If you're a fan of the series or just enjoy EXTREMELY whacked out arcade physics in your racing games, Cruis'n is your best best.

Feel free to share your thoughts below. (I also now can take OpenID commenters, too.)

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Hot Game: Super Mario Galaxy

The point of DiS is NOT to replicate IGN or Gamespot. No sir, the main point is to share opinion and commentary on the industry. That being said, I still maintain a soft spot for exceptionally high profile games or games that aren't normally available in the rest of the world except Japan. 

Today I would like to alert you to the exceptionally high profile Super Mario Galaxy. I didn't follow much about this game after the exceptionally poor Super Mario Sunshine, presuming that Nintendo would take a crappy formula and do it again. Mario is known for JUMPING, not playing with some piece of shit jetpack. Yeah, I said it - FLUDD sucked. I digress - Galaxy is NOT Sunshine. It is as far from Sunshine as you can get. 

I played the game a few weeks ago as a one-off demo trial at GameStop and within 5 minutes knew it was going to be the new Mario 64. I did not get that impression at all from SMS. Now that I have the full retail version of SMG I can confirm that Galaxy is definitely the new Mario 64 and is worth every penny. It lives up to the hype. Go get it. Now.

Monday, October 29, 2007

The Personal Brawl

Perhaps Nintendo's big secret with Super Smash Bros. Brawl is the sheer customization. First stickers, then trophies, and as of today - a stage builder! To sum up the details posted to the official blog you can create a stage of your own and, via WFC, you can also receive one random stage per day to enjoy. If the current plan holds that stage sticks around for one day and then is replaced by another. 

Beyond the "Dunn dunn dunn!" of the game's very Japanese director there is something a bit deeper below the surface. Nintendo has experimented with stage building and online sharing in Mario vs. Donkey Kong 2: March of the Minis. The level editor there was fun, and I even got to sharing with the editor of Push The Buttons (the awesome blog that inspired this one). The problem with MvDK2 is that the level editor was limited. Despite this I found sharing levels I made with my friends fun, and conquering their levels to be EXTREMELY addicting! It appears that Nintendo has thought it over and wants another go. If the quality of Brawl is as good as they say then this should bring the personal level concept to a whole new level of finish. And the virus I experienced before....will be BACK!

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Prediction Confirmed!

One of the first things I did with Digital Stardust was predict that Sonic would be in Super Smash Bros. Brawl. As of today this has been confirmed. Sonic boasts a fantastic array of moves that include the spin dash and a Super Sonic final smash. Follow the link to check out a video of him in action. 

Prediction Score
Correct: 1
Incorrect: 0

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Is Wii the new Dreamcast?

Sega traditionally has always been considered the more artistic video game company, particularly during the era of the Dreamcast. Some amazingly unique games came out for the system (Space Channel 5, anyone?) that are fondly remembered by gamers today. Unfortunately for Sega, their timing was just wrong and no one was receptive to the creativity that seems to be making a comeback today.

Sega has quietly announced that the cult hit, Samba De Amigo, is making a proud return on Wii. No dates have been announced, but I'm glad that for once Sega is taking a leaf out of my book and doing what the console was intended for. What's of note here is that SdA is joining another revived cult hit, Nights into Dreams, on the little console.  Rumors are also circulating that a new Space Channel 5 is also in development as well.  This begs the question - is Wii going to be the new, successful Dreamcast? Are Sega's creative juices going to flow again thanks to wide acceptance and a control scheme as unique as a pair of maracas? Only time will tell but I bet that some seriously unique games are going to be breaking TV screens from rogue Wiimotes.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Kingdom Hearts 3....Projects.

The intent of Digital Stardust isn't to become another IGN or Gamespot, however games that catch my eye will receive the occasional mention on here between all the other things I post.

How many of you don't have a PSP? A PS3? Unfortunately the jig is up if you're a fan of the Kingdom Hearts franchise. has unearthed some information from various magazines regarding the future of the series. Kingdom Hearts Zero is rumored for the PSP, featuring the story of Terra, one of the characters from the KH2 Final Mix Bonus trailer as well as one of the KH2 Final Mix bonus bosses. Kingdom Hearts Chain of Memories 2 is rumored for the DS, no information on what's included there. Lastly we have the mysterious Kingdom Hearts (Unnamed Title) rumored for the PS3.

Details are sketchy regarding these titles but if you hop over to that link up there you'll find magazine scans with new screenshots including several with Terra, Roxas and Axel, Sora and King Mickey, and Organization XIII.

Keep in mind that these titles have not been formally announced, and it wouldn't surprise me in the least if the systems beneath the titles decide to switch around as it wouldn't be a wise idea to place a main title on a handheld when the console install base is a lot larger. A formal announcement is expected at Tokyo Game Show 2007, currently in progress.

I don't know about you, but I'm going to need to get a PSP again...and a PS3 of my own. Maybe.

Saturday, September 8, 2007

Hot game: Worms Open Warfare 2

I've always been very skeptical of the Worms games on consoles and portables. It just seems like they don't transfer well and given the critical failure of last year's Worms Open Warfare it seems like the series was doomed for portables. I'm happy to say the Open Warfare 2 is definitely a step up and initial impressions lead me to believe this could be among the most cherished of all titles in the series! Between a good single player campaign and an extensive online mode the game can please everyone - even with single cartridge play! 

IGN has posted a good review as has GameSpot. So if you're looking to kick some ass using the classic bazooka or if you prefer the more exotic Buffalo of Lies check out Worms Open Warfare 2 for the Nintendo DS and PSP.

Friday, August 31, 2007

Still Going...

A quick note to my zero readers - Digital Stardust is not dead. Due to some personal life occurring I haven't been updating. This trend will end shortly.

Thank you.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Square Enix vs. North America: Final Mix

It's not unheard of in Japan to have a game come out and then be re-released later in some form of director's cut. Who hasn't heard of Resident Evil and it's many incarnations spanning nearly all platforms from the PSOne to the N64 to the Game Boy? Capcom has not been one to shy away from this practice and neither are other companies.

The Japanese market, while not as big as the North American market, has very different buying habits. Besides the government request that all games be released on Sunday to minimize the impact on national productivity, many games are repackaged with a little extra content and released at full price a bit after the original game. Square-Enix has capitalized on this with the director's cuts of many games such as Final Fantasy X-2, Final Fantasy XII, Kingdom Hearts, and Kingdom Hearts II. The North American market has seen very few of these re-releases and when they do, it's generally a console port with added content so that the purchase is justified in the buyer's eyes.

The sad downside of this is many rough edges in Squeenix's releases are never really fully realized with a second publish for North America. Yuna's story in FF X-2 did Final Fantasy X-2 International + Final Mission. Sora was already having encounters with the blokes in hoods before Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories but you would only know that if you'd played Kingdom Hearts: Final Mix. Need some optional bosses, desire to fight all of Organization XIII at will, or see the fantasy of a 3D Chain of Memories? All that content is easily accessible in Kingdom Hearts II: Final Mix +. Never heard of these games? They're Japanese only releases. 

The logic behind a lack of a NA release is maddening. Square has said they won't re-release a game citing a variety of reasons, yet Namco can release new editions of Pac-Man all day and they will still sell. The same runs with Resident Evil, Super Mario 64, any Madden game, Prince of Persia, Devil May Cry, Metal Gear Solid, and many more. All of these new releases are essentially the same game but they boast some new content and sell rather well, despite the fact that the best-seller $19.99 edition is sitting on the shelf right next to the new edition.

Square, take a leaf out of the sales book of North America and give us KH II: Final Mix + and all the other goodness you're still holding back. It shouldn't take 12 years to get a re-release in all cases.

Saturday, July 7, 2007

How much do you pay to save your face? A cool billion.

Microsoft has been in a bit of a quandary as of late - what do you do with a 33% defective rate on a key product? And what do you do when the industry's acceptable failure rate is a single digit percentage? It wouldn't surprise me one bit if the famed red rings of death for the Xbox 360 has been the hot topic at the weekly meetings for the last few months over at the Microsoft Gaming Division in Redmond, WA.

Microsoft was placed in a difficult position with the Xbox 360 failure rate. The gaming division has yet to post a profit and in order to emerge they need to sell more software...but you can't sell software to a person with a broken console. First experiment - extend the warranty from three months to a full year. A good majority of broken 360 owners are pleased and quickly get back on the gaming highway. Quarterly results show an initial drop but then an upward trend.

A few months later the year warranty begins expiring on consoles that have now decided to stop working at no fault of the owner. At first it's a few and then a few more but the voices slowly start to get louder and Microsoft's new media center firmly establishes itself as a gamble when you buy it. The numbers are down again. Enter experiment two - create a special warranty to cover all units for 3 years that suffer from the red rings of death.

The timing of the second experiment is not a mere coincidence. The Wii is outselling the 360 as much as 6 to 1, the rumored Playstation 3 price drop is becoming less of a rumor, and E3 2007 is starting in a matter of hours. The last thing Microsoft needs is to lose ground in the current console race by either reputation or being slapped in the face with a potential class-action lawsuit. (Anyone remember the PS2 lawsuit for defective drives?) To avoid all this Microsoft has agreed to spending over a billion dollars. 

The sad conclusion that has to be drawn is while Peter Moore, head of MS gaming, states that there has been "negligence" on the company's part and generally makes you feel good what is more likely going on is a battle for numbers. Microsoft has shown they really only will support what makes money when it comes to the 360 (Lumines Live! anyone?) and having a good reputation does just that. If the market wasn't where it is right now all you happy people (myself included) would not be very thrilled with MS right now.

But who cares? Free Xbox 360 repair!

Friday, July 6, 2007

Prediction: Mario & Sonic at Super Smash Bros. Brawl

A while back the world was taken by storm when it was announced that long time rivals Sonic and Mario would be meeting for the first time in Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games. This announcement was not made by chance or because someone thought it up.

In August 2006 Shigeru Miyamoto went on record stating that Nintendo had conducted a poll regarding which characters should be in the hotly anticipated Super Smash Bros. Brawl with Sonic coming out on top as the most sought after character along with this buddy, Tails and that Nintendo had even gone as far as to ask Sega if the duo could be used. Nothing was ever heard since - even the blog on has been slow to announce any new characters beyond previous characters from the Smash Bros. franchise. 

Between Nintendo's sudden silence and their request suddenly Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games is announced, with Sega as the developer. While it's not unheard of for once rivals to suddenly become friends it makes perfect sense that Sega would allow Nintendo rights to their mascots if they got something of equal value in return. The outcome? Sega gets to develop a historical game and  Nintendo gets rights to Sonic and Tails for what will be one of the bestselling games of 2007. Sega gets the profits from Olympic Games and Nintendo get the profits from Brawl. It makes perfect sense.

Mark my words, Sonic and Tails will be in Super Smash Bros. Brawl.
Hello and welcome to Digital Stardust, a blog intending to cover industry trends and provide insight into possible moves being made by those involved with the fun you enjoy in your living room. It is my hope that you will enjoy the commentary posted here and that a discussion or two will occur.

Some things to know - I am not involved in the industry directly, although I once was. I am a hardcore video gamer who watches the news carefully and believe I have something to say. While most gamers are intelligent I rarely find that they look at the industry as a whole and track interesting moves. That's what I'm here for. I will make some predictions that may seem outrageous and I will make some less so. I will even publish the occasional review from the perspective of the casual gamer. I have written professional reviews for the now defunct and feel I have enough experience to blend in that a casual gamer review is possible.

Oh, and in case you were wondering - I own a Wii and Xbox 360 but have access to all other consoles. 

I ask your patience as the flavor of this blog is fleshed out and hey, you may learn something about a guy you don't even know.

Enjoy reading.