Wednesday, September 30, 2009

L'Histoire de Nintendo #2 - The birth of Yokoi's Micro Game legacy

Pix'N Love Editions is a French publisher specialized in creating and editing videogame books. Among dozens of issued works, concerning different companies and systems, L'Histoire de Nintendo is without a doubt their largest and most admirable endeavor. The two existing volumes of the series consist of the unmistakable result of a thorough and obsessive investigation, possible only on account of a great investment, as well as the unofficial participation of Nintendo personalities, interviewed during the course of the project. Whereas the first tome provided an absorbing account of the earliest roots of the Kyoto based company, #2, as hinted by its title 1980-1991 L'étonannte invention: les Game & Watch, explores the rise and expansion of Nintendo's first handheld system, envisioned by the late Gunpei Yokoi.

Codenamed Micro Game during its prototype phase, the Game & Watch system used a technology similar to that of dentaku (Japanese pocket calculators). Unlike its best-selling successor, the Game Boy, the G&W did not work with interchangeable cartridges and so the creation of each new game resulted in 59 unique systems released within a period of almost ten years. The Japanese phenomenon was later brought to different countries around the world, waging a battle against the predictable appearance of numerous replicas and clones – surprisingly featured in the book - that sought to cash in the portable LCD game vogue. In spite of the earlier efforts led by North-American companies such as Atari and Milton Bradley in the foundation of a handheld console market, it was Nintendo’s name that would become the universal epitome of portable gaming, a tradition that endured until this day.

With this second volume, author Fiorent Gorges and his aid in Japanese territories, Isao Yamazaki, have composed an overwhelming and wide-ranging document: not the smallest detail was disregarded in this compilation, including Yokoi's first experiments, unseen sketches of early models, detailed information of every Game & Watch series, advertising materials, official variations, byproducts and recent re-releases. Each of the 194 pages, printed in full color and extensively illustrated with the highest quality, is a heart-felt homage to one of the supreme geniuses of the industry whose tragic death resulted in the premature conclusion of a notable career. Written in an objective and passionate style, the latest volume of this succession is, to the lack of a better expression, the ultimate resource on the history of Nintendo and a paradigm of videogame publications.

More information on how to purchase this book can be found at the official website. For non-French users, please consult this brief tutorial on how to order.

Monday, September 28, 2009

It is a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma.

One week away from its release, FATALE remains a great mystery. While briefly described by its creators as an interactive vignette, no detailed information concerning its interactive system, scheme or genre was provided yet. Presented as a project of a similar scale to their previous avant-garde 2008 work, THE GRAVEYARD, FATALE has already summoned the attention of many a videogame enthusiast after Tale of Tales announced the official participation of Takayoshi Sato, of SILENT HILL fame, in the role of Character Designer.

All efforts have been made so far in order to conceal vital information regarding this upcoming title: the release of an audio trailer today is a clear statement that Tale of Tales wishes to preserve such secrecy until the fifth of October. As a follower of the official blog and an avid reader of all posts, it seems rather suitable that the promotion is being handled in this particularly awkward fashion, given the game designer's interest of late for sound novels and other alternative game designs. Already it is possible to verify the quality of the exotic soundtrack, aptly created by Gerry de Mol, of the vibrant sound effects, designed by Kris Force, as well as the sensuous voice acting and unique musical talent of Jarboe.

Based on Salome, the 1891 Oscar Wilde play depicting the events that lead to the beheading of John the Baptist at the request of the dancing temptress, FATALE should be regarded as one of most important indie events of this year for several plausible reasons: not only it is the first work after the release of the sensational THE PATH, selected as finalist in different game award festivals, as it is a rare gathering of specialists in different areas of digital content production. What is more, the selection of such an erudite theme - a direct consequence of Auriea Harvey and Michaël Samyn's desire to explore mature contents in the field of digital games - altogether with the exquisite artistic skills shown in the past by the studio, will surely to bring about a controversial and equally memorable experience.

More information can be found at the
official site.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Machinarium sneak preview @ ACG

Quite the masterpiece. As MACHINARIUM is nearing its completion, I've written a thorough preview article for Adventure Classic Gaming based on my personal experience with two different builds of the game. This should come as no surprise to anyone who is familiar with SAMOROST: Amanita Design, an exceptionally talented ensemble, has managed to create one of the single best adventure titles of all time in what is their first attempt at a full-sized production.

The regal aesthetic sensbility and exquisite visual design, undeniably
one of the Czech studio's staples, are merely the first of many accomplishments: its storytelling methods confront years of adventure game design canons; Thomas Dvořák, making justice to his own name, has composed a transcending, expressive and highly atmospheric soundtrack that succeeds in intensifying the unique experience; additionally, there is something of an unprecedented poetic beauty to the very act of puzzle solving.

Contrasting with the tedious and mind-numbing spiral of reiteration and recycling that defines the recent history of the adventure genre, Amanita Design led the project with unusual creative vigor and maturity. By carefully managing its own references and inspirations, MACHINARIUM achieves a rare state of equilibrium between an alternative legacy of videogames, eastern European animation, science fiction literature, silent cinema and twentieth century plastic art. All this will become available for download somewhere in the fall of this year.

Also be sure to take a look at the exclusive sketches and artworks gallery, authored by Jakub Dvorsky and Adolf Lachman, that I published in the parent blog Pixels at an Exhibition.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Trip like I do

DETUNED was released just moments ago in the PlayStation Store. Sold for a symbolic price, this is the best and only existing alternative to Q-Games' GAIA in the category of dynamic music visualizers. The main difference resides in the larger amount of interactive features, namely a series of modifications that can be made to the on-screen elements in real time.

Developed by .theprodukkt, a team related to the demoscene community, DETUNED's magnificent visual presentation is located halfway between a psychedelic delirium and an Aphex Twin videoclip. This small application, following Plastic's LINGER IN SHADOWS, may very well bring new impetus to the creation of similar demos depending on its reception: if nothing else, it has already brought me new and uncanny reasons for listening to music on the PS3.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Otocky @ HG101

Motivated by the impressive technology of the Disk System, young multimedia artist and visionary Toshio Iwai, later responsible for SimTunes and Electroplankton, was the first to envision a dynamic and reactive use of music as the central element of a genuine videogame. His project, designed along with SEDIC and published by ASCII Corporation, was given a strange albeit contagious presentation for that which is easily one of the most singular and innovative games of all time. Named after its congenial robot protagonist, this stroke of genius came to be known as Otocky. (read full article)

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Keeping it unreal

Fila C has posted the full series of the branded PlayStation 2 TV commercials directed by David Lynch, one of the most daring publicity initiatives of recent videogame history - well within the same line as Cunningham's ads for the original PlayStation. Seeing it in perspective does make one wonder about the exact circumstances in which one of the most influential film directors of our time got involved in a project of this nature: financial reasons have undoubtedly played a vital role, notwithstanding.

Altogether, these short clips provide a very definite notion of the mature audience that the Japanese company so wanted to captivate, in a rather refreshing deviation from the recurrent puerile advertising campaigns proposed by other companies in the same branch. As works of surreal marketing that originate from the depths of Lynch’s twisted sense of imagination, their viewing (or reviewing) is by all means indispensable.