Four more for Euro VC

Four more for Euro VC

This week sees the release of Streets of Rage for the Nintendo Wii’s download centre.Last week, Europeans got access to The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time on the Wii’s Virtual Console. This week four more titles have been released, including Sega’s Streets of Rage, for European Wii owners.

Streets of Rage was originally released in 1991 for the Sega Mega Drive, and was the first game in the trilogy. The street fighting game for one or two players has gamers playing ex-cops who have taken the law into their own hands.

Also released today is role-playing game Sword of Vermilion, originally released on the Sega Mega Drive, where players battle to save the world of Vermilion, and 2D side-scrolling shoot-’em-up Biohazard Battle, also a Sega Mega Drive game.

The final title on the list is Chew Man Fu for TurboGrafx, a one- to two-player game of 550 rounds in which players must battle to fight a curse to rob the world of tasty snacks.

All this week’s titles cost 800 Wii Points, except Chew Man Fu, which weighs in at 600 points.

Worms burrowing into XBL

Worms burrowing into XBL

Team 17’s wriggly critters infesting Xbox Live Arcade next Wednesday; strategy/action blend to cost $10.

It wasn’t a question of if, but rather, when. The Xbox Live Arcade version of Worms is finally squirming onto the Xbox 360 next Wednesday. The game was officially announced in late January, along with a slate of nine others.

The Worms franchise has been around for more than a decade and has appeared on several platforms in different genres. The Xbox 360 version will feature turn-based strategy as players attempt to eliminate their opponents’ worms with goofy weapons. The game will include a single-player campaign as well as multiplayer support for up to four players locally or over Xbox Live.

Worms is rated E10+ and will cost 800 Microsoft points ($10). The game will be available at 1 a.m. PST on March 7.

10tacle gets Ready 2 Rumble

10tacle gets Ready 2 Rumble

Multinational publisher picks up comical boxing license; fighting specialists AKI developing first R2R game for “various videogame platforms.”When the Sega Dreamcast launched in 1999, one of the must-have titles for the console was Ready 2 Rumble Boxing, a humorous look at the sport of boxing. The game later made its way to other consoles and spawned the 2000 sequel Ready 2 Rumble Boxing: Round 2, but little has been heard from the franchise since.

Now it appears Ready 2 Rumble is coming out of retirement thanks to a new manager. 10tacle Studios, publishers of the GTR series and Warfront: Turning Point, today announced that they are resurrecting the license.

10tacle did not make any formal game announcement today but did reveal that the new Ready 2 Rumble game, due for “various videogame platforms,” will be developed by AKI Corporation. The developer has plenty of brawling experience under its belt with games such as Def Jam: Fight for NY, Ultimate Muscle: Legends vs. New Generations, and several WCW titles.

Anaconda goes, like, So Blonde

Anaconda goes, like, So Blonde

German company announces new adventure written by Broken Sword author Steve Ince.

Dtp Entertaiment will be releasing a new title called So Blonde through its Anaconda label. The PC adventure game is being developed by French team Wizarbox, with the story written by Steve Ince. The focus of So Blonde is a spoiled rich girl called Sunny, who, while travelling on a luxury cruise, finds herself shipwrecked on a desert island–and she’s somehow gone back in time by several centuries to the pirate era.Steve Ince has previously worked on a number of games, including the first two Broken Sword titles, In Cold Blood and Beneath a Steel Sky, as well as writing Broken Sword: The Sleeping Dragon. This new game will feature adventure, puzzles, riddle elements, cartoon-style graphics, and “gameplay surprises.”

Dtp entertainment is a Hamburg, Germany-based publisher, and some of its other titles include The Moment of Silence, Still Life, Black Mirror, and the upcoming Jane Jensen adventure, Gray Matter.

So Blonde is planned for a worldwide release, with the first version going to German-language-speaking territories in November 2007.

GDC 07: Games need to get serious

GDC 07: Games need to get serious

Developing serious games is crucial to the survival of the industry, believes Square Enix exec Ichiro Otobe.

SAN FRANCISCO–Serious games will be instrumental in expanding the audience and profile of the games industry and allowing the new media to gain widespread acceptance, Square Enix chief strategist Ichiro Otobe believes.Otobe told attendees of his Serious Games Summit keynote address this morning that he believes the industry is at a crossroads and the releases of the next few years will be crucial in deciding the market penetration of the industry.

“Not all new media become mainstream,” Otobe told the packed room. “We’ve got the market size, but if we can’t expand the scope of our content beyond the current core gaming market we could just become a niche media content type.”

Square Enix has partnered with Gakken, an educational publisher founded in Tokyo in 1946. Otobe commented, “In Japan, comic books have been elevated to the mainstream. The Himitsu or Secret series [educational comics which explained the ‘secrets’ of various topics] by Gakken have sold over 20 million copies, and through these kind of activities, comic books have become mainstream media.”

Square Enix will be using a similar approach by partnering with Gakken to produce serious games, Otobe stated. He hopes that what helped convince people that comic books weren’t just a niche media will also work in the same way for games. The company is currently working with “many” corporate clients, including a fashion magazine, to create targeted content for each.

While Otobe didn’t reveal specifics, he did confirm that Square Enix currently has two serious games projects under way: SG Labs, which it is working on in partnership with Gakken, and Project GB (Game Brain), an in-house serious game project, which is developing a Nintendo DS game to teach game development skills to users.

Project GB was initiated in February, and the as-yet-unnamed game will be finished in approximately six months, although the company is not sure whether or not it will be releasing the finished product to the public.

Lego goes MMO

Lego goes MMO

NetDevil, toy company team up to build massively multiplayer online “gaming experience”; details yet to be announced.


Lego my MMO!

One of the simplest toys of all time has found a profitable home in one of the most technologically advanced areas of entertainment. Lego building blocks have parlayed their appeal into video games, with the brand taking the spotlight in a pair of Star Wars-branded games from developer Traveller’s Tales, as well as several other games over the past decade.

Now, the interlocking toys will venture into another hot avenue of gaming–the massively multiplayer online space. Lego Group today announced that it is partnering with Colorado-based NetDevil to create a “massively multiplayer online gaming experience.”

Lego has not yet announced any specifics on the game, leaving the window open for speculation on what the game will entail. NetDevil previously created the vehicular MMOG Auto Assault. However, the emphasis on attracting a younger audience means the Lego MMOG is likely to go the way of Ubisoft’s Puzzle Pirates, which has a very Lego-influenced visual style.

NetDevil’s Web site says that the Lego MMOG is due out sometime in 2008.

Tecmo Bowl snaps on Wii VC

Tecmo Bowl snaps on Wii VC

Old-school gridiron game leads Sonic Spinball and Double Dungeons onto Nintendo’s downloadable game service.

While the new wave of downloadable game services has already brought dozens of classic action and arcade titles back into the spotlight, the sports genre has been generally ignored in the trend. That might change as Nintendo today announced that a fondly remembered football game is headlining a slate of three new Virtual Console releases today.

Where you at, Bos?

Tecmo’s humbly named Tecmo Bowl didn’t carry an NFL license, but that didn’t stop it from creating a game with thinly veiled stand-ins for the league’s biggest teams. The NES game originally had an NFL Players Association license that let gamers storm the field with legends like Walter Payton, Bo Jackson, and Lawrence Taylor. However, all the players’ names have been stripped from the Virtual Console edition and replaced with their jersey numbers.

Tecmo Bowl features a dozen teams, each with a lean offensive playbook of four plays and a defensive scheme that consists of choosing which play the offense planned to run. The game is playable alone or with a friend and sells for 500 Wii points ($5).

Joining Tecmo Bowl on the Virtual Console is Sega’s mascot twist on another, less contact-intensive form of recreation, Sonic Spinball. Players take control of Sonic as he is launched into a series of pinball levels. But unlike an ordinary pinball game, Sonic Spinball features sprawling playfields laden with enemies, chaos emeralds to collect, and boss battles. Originally released on the Sega Genesis, Sonic Spinball is available for 800 Wii points ($8) and features support for up to four players.

The last Virtual Console release of the week is the TurboGrafx-16 first-person role-playing game Double Dungeons. Sporting two-player simultaneous play, Double Dungeons includes 22 scenarios for players to tackle and is available for 600 Wii points ($6).

Microsoft goes bigger in Arcade, memory units

Microsoft goes bigger in Arcade, memory units

XBLA Jetpac Refuelled, 512MB memory unit preloaded with Geometry Wars announced; size of Xbox Live Arcade games officially bumped up to 150MB.

Microsoft is a titan in the software industry–there’s no denying that. In keeping with its gargantuan reputation, the company has announced that it is supersizing two of its products.

Enhanced graphics, indeed.

Xbox 360 owners will be able to carry more with a single memory unit, as a new 512MB version was revealed today. Previously, memory units were sized at 64MB. The new half-gig units will come preloaded with the Xbox Live Arcade title Geometry Wars: Retro Evolved (for a limited time) and retail for $49.99 when they arrive in stores on April 3. At that time, the price of the 64MB units will drop from $39.99 to $29.99.

The announcement comes in conjunction with the revelation that Microsoft has increased the size limit of Xbox Live Arcade titles from 50MB to 150MB, a move the company says will give developers “greater flexibility in game design and [expand] the opportunity to add advanced game features while still keeping games compact.” Today’s news is the official confirmation of the increase, which was previously given the thumbs up for the upcoming Castlevania: Symphony of Night.

Microsoft also formally confirmed the Xbox Live Arcade game Jetpac Refuelled from Rare Ltd. The game is a remake of the 1983 shooter Jetpac released on the UK ZX Spectrum computer. The XBLA version will feature enhanced graphics and more than 100 levels. Jetpac Refuelled will be shown off this week at GDC, along with the previously announced Pinball FX, Boom Boom Rocket, 3D Ultra Minigolf Adventures, and Eets: Chowdown.

Sony goes back to school

Sony goes back to school

UK managing director explains Sony’s involvement in a project using PSPs in schools; Relentless demonstrates Buzz! The Schools Quiz.

Teachers have traditionally not been keen on students bringing handhelds or games into the classroom, but a new initiative supported by Sony aims to change that. At a “PSP in Education National Launch” event held today at its 3Rooms brand space in London, Sony Computer Entertainment UK’s managing director, Ray Maguire, introduced a project organised by ConnectED that sees the PlayStation Portable being used in schools as a learning tool.Maguire explained that Sony has been linked with education for some time–in 2003, there was a trial of using the PlayStation 2 and EyeToy as a communication method between students in different schools. However, the development of “connected” devices such as the PSP, and the increase in the availability of wireless broadband, has really opened up the opportunities for a link with education, Maguire said. While he commented that Sony was not aiming to be a leader in the education space, he pointed out that there were lots of opportunities for content providers to make use of the portable, connected nature of the PSP as a way to provide data and programs.

Richard Owen, from Maplesden Noakes school, which tested the use of PSPs in several different classes, said the experiment had been very positive. Owen said that teachers found that students benefited from being able to work at their own pace–for example, being able to rewind an audio file and listen again to ensure they didn’t miss anything, or to view a video several times. Another trial is set to start shortly in Newcastle, involving 10 schools.

Continuing the “PlayStation in education” theme, Relentless Software also used the event to demonstrate its latest iteration of the Buzz! quiz series–a version of the game designed specifically for schools. The questions are all designed to cover the Key Stage 2 elements of the National Curriculum, and Jeff Gamon, executive producer at Relentless, said that classroom trials of the game had proved extremely successful.

C&C3 blasts down factory

C&C3 blasts down factory

PC version of Tiberium Wars finishes development, invades stores March 26; demo downloaded more than 1 million times since release.

One of gaming’s biggest franchises is one step closer to making its return to the limelight this month. The PC version of Electronic Arts’ Command & Conquer 3 Tiberium Wars has gone gold and is expected to be in stores on March 26.

“Everyone fights, no one quits!”

Tiberium Wars is the first game in the series since 2003’s Command & Conquer: Generals Zero Hour and brings back one of the trademarks of the early games in the franchise–live-action video. Full-motion video cutscenes return with a bang, sporting the acting talent of sci-fi vets Josh Holloway (Lost), Billy Dee Williams (The Empire Strikes Back), Tricia Helfer (Battlestar Galactica), and Joe Kucan, who reprises his role as the archvillain Kane. Also appearing is Michael Ironside (pictured), the voice of Sam Fisher in the Splinter Cell games and star of sci-fi classics such as Starship Troopers and Total Recall.

EA also announced that several PC gamers have already done a few tours of Tiberium Wars–the demo for the game was downloaded more than 1 million times in its first week. The demo, which includes a tutorial and two single-player missions, is currently available from GameSpot Downloads.

Command & Conquer 3 Tiberium Wars is rated T for Teen and will retail for $49.99. An Xbox 360 version is also in the works and will be released later this year. For more information, read GameSpot’s previous coverage.