October 2003

Ninja Gaiden. Two simple words that summon up images of nostalgia, swordplay, and those horrible, horrible birds. This holiday season Tecmo will be returning to its roots with the long awaited release of Ninja Gaiden for the Xbox. Recently we had the unique opportunity to speak with Tomonobu Itagaki from Team Ninja regarding the game.eToychest: Firstly, thank you for taking the time to speak with us regarding Ninja Gaiden. This is quickly shaping up to be one of the biggest titles this Q4. One of the most interesting aspects of this game is that its story exists outside the existing Ninja Gaiden storyline. Without giving too much away, can you comment on how this game relates to the existing games, if it ties in at all?

Tomonobu Itagaki: Aside from saying, “they’re both the best action game of the time”, I can’t say that we’ve consciously created any similarity.

SBG: Why was it decided to keep this latest game to bear the Ninja Gaiden name so removed from the original trilogy?

TI: The story of the Trilogy was completed back then. I felt that I should not add anything to an already completed story.

SBG: Team Ninja has a tendency to work on whatever platform is the most powerful at the time, and to seldom work on ports to other system. Will this tendency hold true for Ninja Gaiden?

TI: The most important thing for us is the quality. For this reason, I don’t like porting to other systems. I feel this decreases the quality.

SBG: One of the most secretive, and yet most eagerly anticipated aspects of Ninja Gaiden has been its LIVE component. Would you care to share any tidbits about what players can expect from Ninja Gaiden’s online capabilities?

TI: We’ll be holding a worldwide event called “Master Ninja Tournament”. This tournament will determine the most powerful Ninja in the world.

SBG: Ayane from the Dead or Alive series has been seen in some of the screenshots that have been showcased for Ninja Gaiden. Should we be on the lookout for other Dead or Alive connections? Conversely, could any of the new characters in Ninja Gaiden make their way into future Dead or Alive titles?

TI: Given the fact that the same producers are working on both Ninja Gaiden and Dead or Alive series, there will be some similarity with the look and feel. It’s like the relationship between the two famous anime series by Reiji Matsumoto, “Space Pirate Captain Harlock” and “Galaxy Express 999”.

SBG: Is Ninja Gaiden still on track for a release this November? Do you see any possible roadblocks that could keep the game from missing this target date?

TI: What do you think? (laugh) First thing first, my main goal is to create and release a game that will fulfill the players’ highest expectation. Having said that, the game is scheduled to be released this Christmas season…

SBG: Can you comment on any of the other features Team Ninja is incorporating into Ninja Gaiden? Will it have HDTV support, customizable soundtrack, or downloadable content?

TI: Of course it’s going to be HDTV compatible. Customizing the sound track in this game is not appropriate to this title. I can’t comment on the possible download contents right now.

SBG: It was recently revealed that the original NES trilogy was an unlockable feature in Ninja Gaiden? Can you comment on how Team Ninja came to the decision to include these classic titles? Can you give some hint as to what gamers will have to accomplish to unlock these games?

TI: Overwhelming requests from the old fans of the game from 15 years ago helped us make the decision to include it. Do you realize that it’s no longer a hidden unlockable item since the public knows about it?(laugh)

I’m not giving you any hint but if my memory serves me well, if you do something in the game you can obtain the old game.(just kidding)

SBG: Much of the game’s design looks very original from what we have seen thus far. Can you comment on some of the inspiration behind this game?

TI: When you have worked on fighting games for so many years, you suddenly get the urge to make a single player action game. That’s how this project started.

SBG: Lastly, I want to thank you for talking to us regarding this exciting title. I know all of us and our readers are eagerly anticipating Ninja Gaiden’s release. Is there anything you would like to add before we leave you?

TI: We’re in the midst of the final development battle because we’re squeezing in all of our ideas into this game. You should be happy to know that our motto is to never compromise at the expense of lowering quality.


October 20, 2003

[floatleft]http://www.snackbar-games.com/images/reviews/halopc/cover.jpg[/floatleft]Ladies and Gentlemen, my name is Pretzel and I am proud to say that I am in love with Halo. I can remember my first experience playing Halo… it feels like it was just yesterday. Ah, staying up till wee hours of the morning with some Jack in the Box tacos and jumbo jacks sitting next to me. Yes, my life has never been the same since those times. The SB Crew was there in full effect that night, wasted and kicking major ass online. Of course, everything since then, is pretty much history. Needless to say, a few months after I got an Xbox with Halo I thought to myself “this is the game to end all games”. When I first heard that Microsoft was making Halo for the PC, I was in total shock. I was thinking to myself that they would destroy Halo’s thunder on the Xbox and the entire Halo experience. I read reviews, articles with the makers, and related columns about the upcoming Halo for PC. The anticipation to play Halo on my PC began to grow as the date neared. Without a doubt, this was a game I had to get. Let me just tell you straight up that getting Halo PC is one of the best purchases of all time.


Yes, playing Halo online is so freaking intense it’s not even funny. The level of intensity has risen like a mofo!! The six new maps are much bigger, but much more fun to maneuver during battle. CTF battles become more of a challenge, and spawn camping is very rare on these new maps and sniping whores are rarely encountered due to the massive carnage. You just don’t have time to snipe! Why you ask? Well first off, battles are always conducted in multiple places, and trust me there is more than one battle happening too. Secondly, the maps are way too big! What really rules about the new maps are the bases. The bases are much bigger and much more accessible. This means that standing guard can be a pain some times if you don’t have enough teammates. Now you’re probably thinking to yourself, “Huge maps are a pain to maneuver in”, not if your driving one of two new vehicles! Yes that’s right two new vehicles! A sports edition Warthog that is complete with a mounted rocket launcher. Let me just add, this Warthog is completely tricked out with sweet racing stripes and matching interior. Another method of causing mass destruction and getting around in style is flying in an all new Covenant Banshee. That’s right Master Chief has gone aerial on you freaking noobs!! If you noobs don’t know what a Banshee is then I suggest you get with the freaking program. Everyone has been waiting to get in these bad boys in multiplayer mode. Of course you can still find your classic machine gun mounted Warthog, Ghost and a Scorpion tank. Trust me these vehicles are still great to get in and cause chaos.


Two new weapons are added to your arsenal of mass destruction. The new weapons include the long rumored stylish flame thrower and the Covenant Fuel Rod Gun (AKA Alien Rocket Launcher). You are also given the option to install Covenant stationary gunner positions in the multiplayer maps. These come in handy if you encounter Banshee whores. These are great additions to an already kick butt arsenal of shotguns, rocket launchers, sniping pistols, machine guns, and tons of Covenant weapons. Take your pick of which weapon either way you are going to get OWNED!!

[floatright]http://www.snackbar-games.com/images/reviews/halopc/ss03_thumb.jpg[/floatright][heading]Rolling with the Punches[/heading]

It was a huge adjustment for me to go from a joystick to mouse and keyboard. The great thing is you can customize your command buttons o your preference. It took me quite some time to get use to the controls because they are pretty frustrating at times. Reaction times are little slower and battle tactics are much more rusty, but in time you adapt and grow much more quickly with the gameplay. I must say that playing a FPS on a PC has become much more appealing to me than it has on console. Moving on…

[heading]Scenic Route[/heading]

The graphics are very well detailed in this version of the game. Gearbox did a great job porting this game over to the PC. The colors and the scenery of the levels are very crisp and clean with great depth. There were a lot rough spots that have been smoothed out, such as boundaries that are hard to move over are now much easier to get over. Bullets hitting the ground pick up dirt along with the vehicles, and weapons draw smoke. Some parts of these new levels cause massive clipping when turning sharp corners in the Warthog and some pixilation is formed in the water when looked at from a distance. Hopefully, these are isolated occurrences and not typical of everyone’s experience. Vehicles are much more detailed and you can see the small imperfections and age of the vehicles. I love the look of these new Warthogs by the way. I just can’t get over how awesome the sport edition looks. Unlike the Warthog, the Covenant Banshee has its ups and downs. When operating a Covenant Banshee you can only go so high above ground. Mind you, you are pretty high up there, but it seems that you cannot go above a certain altitude which sucks. It does have a great way of attacking those on the ground, but it doesn’t make up for the reload times of its rockets. Same goes for the Scorpions’ and Warthogs’ reload times. They take so freaking long to reload its unbelievable.

[heading]Same ‘Ol Master Chief[/heading]

[floatleft]http://www.snackbar-games.com/images/reviews/halopc/ss06_thumb.jpg[/floatleft]Yes that’s right folks no major improvements or additions to the campaign mode of the game. Besides the graphics looking much better I have noticed a small improvement in the games AI. Enemies seem to be reacting much quicker. If you decide to fire upon a squad of grunts they will just run, find some cover, and start a base of fire in your direction. Other than spotting that small improvement, I really have not seen any major additions or improvements to Halo that would make want to play the campaign over the multiplayer.

Overall, I really enjoy Halo and the transfer they made to the PC. I have heard many negative comments and very little positive comments about the port. I, for one, give Halo PC two thumbs up for a job well done and staying true to the experience. If you love FPS on PC then I suggest getting Halo PC solely for its multiplayer. The campaign mode on Halo is no different from its Xbox version, so don’t bother, but the multiplayer mode is fantastic with all kinds of intense CTF and Death match action. I suggest all you freaking noobs out there to get online and try this one out.

Ratchet & Clank is one of the best 3d platform games I have ever played and I recently spent some time playing a demo of the upcoming sequel, Going Commando. One of the great things about RC is the diversity that the game brings to the genre. Insomniac successfully melded 3d platforming with racing mini games, stationary turret shooting challenges, and various other challenges such as the famed grind boots. Insomniac managed to deliver superb game play in every facet of the game. There have been quite a few key changes that have taken place for Going Commando and all of them are welcome additions to the new game.

The first thing you are likely to notice is that there was some tweaking done to the menus and especially the quick select menu. Overall there is a very different look and feel to them. It was necessary for the quick select menu to change for reasons that will become apparent to you in a moment.

The next major change in the game is the addition of the Gladiator Arena. In the Arena you face somewhere between 1 very large enemy to a plethora of typical enemies. You might ask yourself how this is any different than playing a level… It is similar to the battle arena you play as Mega Clank while on Planet Quartu from the original game. The major difference being that you are playing for a hefty prize in the form of a new weapon or a several thousand bolt cash prize. At this point, I am not sure if you are able to replay the battles for cash prizes in order to rack up an unholy amount of bolts or if these levels will be a one time thing. I have my fingers crossed though, as saving up for the R.Y.N.O. in the original got pretty old.

Before I get too excited and get way off track, let me touch on the most significant change. In my opinion, the reason the Quick Select menu had to change was because now weapons gain experience points (xp). Your weapons will do more damage based on the level of xp you currently have. That xp is dependant upon how heavily you use the weapon. I don’t know if this value goes down as the weapon is unused, but I will try to find out a little more before the game ships. At any rate, you can also gain “life” aka nanotech in the same manner and my initial report had listed that you will be able to reach upwards of 80 nanotech “bars” towards the end of the game. Obviously this is a big change from the first game and I will try to clarify exactly how this new XP system works.

The demo that I got my hands on also had a level called “Battle Sphere” where you have a task to complete but the difficulty is compounded by the fact that the level is in the form of a small planet. The curvature of the ground makes it very difficult to look around and figure out exactly where you are. I am not sure if these battle spheres will be implemented as whole levels or as mini-games much like the racing games.

On the racing front, Insomniac added at least one new vehicle in the form of a hoverbike. It handles much like the hoverboard and has similar missiles
and turbo functionality. I was impressed with the hoverboard in the first game and Insomniac didn’t let me down in the racing arena this time around either.

All in all, Insomniac seems to have put together a rock solid sequel with just the right mixture of platforming, rpg, and mini-games/challenges. I have a good feeling that in the future when you think of a good example of a perfect sequel that all signs will point to RC: Going Commando. You can rest assured that as soon as I get my grubby little hands on a copy of this game then I will let everyone know if the game lives up to my expectations.

It feels like it has been a good year since I did a Week in Review. I have been so busy working on Version 2 of the site and working that, quite frankly, I am just plain worn out. Alas, here I am, slaving away to make sure you people have something fresh to read on this wonderful Monday. Actually, it is still Sunday and for the first time ever, I am doing my article ahead of schedule. Ain’t that a novel idea?

Anyway, there was not a ton of news this past week that just made me jump for joy, so don’t expect this to have some shocking news you missed. I do have a story to lead off with that just annoyed the crud out of me. Apparently crime novelist Robert Crais is suing Activision over the release of the game True Crime. Crais alleges that the main character in True Crime too closely resembles a character that starred in 9 of his novels. Since when did this guy get the rights to the “disgruntled loner cop who takes pride in beating up thugs” personality? Whatever. I also like how he waited till the game went gold and was set to ship in 3 weeks before saying anything.

For you Halo fanatics, Joyride Studios is releasing a second wave of action figures. The new sets includes a blue Elite, the Ghost, and a pair of 3″ figure sets. You can see the upcoming toys at the Joyride website.

In other Halo news, many people complained of poor performance in regards to the release of Halo PC. Some very high end computers were having difficulty running the game while other lower end machines had no trouble. I am slightly disappointed as I know this caused lower sales than was originally expected. At any rate, Gearbox posted a Performance Tuning FAQ on the site this past week to help everyone get Halo running smoothly.

In more Gamecube canceling news this week, Gotham Games killed off Celebrity Death Match for GC citing “programming issues”. C’mon people, the GC is selling now, stop canceling games for it!

While the GC may be doing well in retail sales now, the N-Gage certainly is not. Nokia has been pushing the N-Gage hard since its launch just a few short weeks ago. Apparently in its first week in the UK, fewer than 500 were sold at game retail stores. Ouch. That can’t feel good. The newest handheld phone/console is now available in over 30,000 stores which probably means the average store has sold less than 1 or 2 units since launch. If someone wants to start making funeral arrangements for the N-Gage now, it might not be a bad idea, as I can’t see this thing lasting all that long before Nokia execs decide to pull the plug.

I have 2 final stories for this week. The first concerns a game I am very much eager to play, The Hobbit. The Hobbit has gone gold and should be on store shelves next month. The other tidbit of news is that a sequel for Ground Control is planned for Q2 of 2004. If you don’t know, Ground Control was an excellent RTS that was vastly overlooked by many gamers. I quite enjoyed the game as it had a level of control not nor
mally seen by RTS games. I don’t play many PC games anymore so my time with it was short but well spent. The sequel will be titled Ground Control II: Operation Exodus and more details are available at the official website.

That is all that I have for you this week. We have a lot of articles and reviews just waiting to go online this week so stay tuned.

Excuse me for one moment while I get this out of my system. AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!! Okay, I think I can go on to calmly and rationally write this piece. Well, at least I will try. You may be asking yourself at this point, what in the world could she possibly be so distraught over? Well, I will tell you. Super Mario Brothers, the movie.

I have seen this movie before, but I honestly don’t remember it being I this bad. Putting aside all of the normal reasons I would trash a movie, such as bad acting, poor editing, boom mikes hanging into a shot, etc. this movie hurts me in ways that most movies cannot. It butchers my beloved childhood friends and puts them into a plot so hideous that you can’t help but say “what in the hell were they thinking???”

The movie stars Bob Hoskins (of Who Framed Roger Rabbit? and Maid in Manhattan) as Mario and John Leguizamo (of Moulin Rouge! And The Pest) as Luigi. The movie also stars Samantha Mathis (American Psycho) as Princess Daisy (read Princess Toadstool in the game) and Dennis Hopper (EdTV) as Koopa (read Bowser). It came out in 1993 along with movies like Clint Eastwood’s Unforgiven and Scent of a Woman with Al Pacino; comedies like My Cousin Vinny and So I Married an Axe Murderer. So if you think about the time we were at in movie making history, there really is no excuse for the poor quality of this movie.

It starts out with Mario Mario and Luigi Mario, the Mario Bros. plumbing company in the Bronx minding their own business. Then they meet Daisy, a local university student who found evidence of a meteor where “corporate America” is trying to blast to build something. She is fighting to protect the dig site that she feels “strangely connected” to. She and Luigi (yeah, Luigi) promptly fall in love. She gets kidnapped by two of Koopa’s minions and they discover a warp in, where else, but the sewer pipes. To make a long story short, Koopa (who should have just been called Bowser, in my opinion) is the dictator of this industrial city that is running out of resources. He looks like a human with really funky hair…scary, huh? It is formed out of a parallel dimension caused by the meteor crash 65 billion years ago. The inhabitants of this city have evolved from dinosaurs, not mammals, like the people from the other dimension (where Mario and Luigi are from). If you aren’t confused enough as it is, Daisy is King Toadstool’s long lost daughter who was brought to the other “mammal” dimension by her mother when she was still an egg and she wears the missing piece of the meteor around her neck which does, guess what, merges the two dimensions! Oh wait, there’s more; Koopa has de-evolved the king into fungus which grows all over the city. He plans to de-evolve all of human kind into monkeys and take over their resources. Toad is a musician, a sort of hippie that sings anti-Koopa songs, that gets turned into a Goomba. Oh, and there is this rather large black woman who helps them out – and I have no idea who she is supposed to be. To make this little synopsis end quickly, they have to save Daisy and beat Koopa. Not to spoil the ending, but they do.

Now that your head is spinning from all that confusing information, you are probably scrolling up to make sure that the movie I was talking about was indeed called Super Mario Brothers. It is. I too was a tad baffled that someone could take Super Mario Brothers, the classic video game and make that out of it. Honestly, I don’t know. The worst part is that the ending actually leaves the door wide open for a sequel, which thank God, didn’
t get made. I could spend hours upon hours talking about what I would have done differently. The point is this – I can’t compare this movie to the video game. I mean, sure I could find the little things they put into the movie that I appreciated, like the presence of Yoshi as the enslaved royal family pet or the Ba-bomb that helps Mario kill Koopa. I think the lesson learned from our first endeavor into the video game-movie crossover is this: don’t try and make a “back story” to a video game. If you can’t make a movie out of what the game already gives you, then you shouldn’t make a movie out of the game.

To say the least, I was a bit disappointed in the outcome of the movie. Although, you will be happy to know that the writers and directors responsible for this abomination have yet to come out with another movie in their careers. Hrm, I wonder why? Hopefully, the next movie-game combo I am going to tackle will actually relate to each other so I can actually compare the two. We’ll just have to wait and see.

Next up: Mortal Kombat. My first time to see the movie AND to play a game on a Sega Genesis. Fun times ahead!