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Get Funky with Sega Swirl’s Soundtrack

Thanks to Giant Bomb’s Dan Ryckert and the Demo Derby series, I was once again reminded of something I’d forgotten about; how great the music is in Sega Swirl! It’s also one of those great oddities of gaming, having only been distributed on demo discs or bundled on the Dreamcast Web Browser discs. I remember really enjoying it back in 2000 and getting much more use from it than the Dreamcast web experience.

It also had a great funky soundtrack that I quickly recorded. Though it’s lost to time now I remember emailing with Tremor Entertainment (or possibly Richard Jacques who is credited on the game) about the soundtrack. He mentioned that the music was interactive, changing with the player’s speed and performance. I swear I’ve never heard it change because the rounds are over so quickly. Regardless, it’s got a handful of great tunes and you can listen and watch along in my latest videOST playlist.

Other videOST offerings include Beetle Adventure Racing, Crash ‘n Burn, San Francisco Rush 2049, Extreme-G 2, and X-Men on the Genesis.

Everybody SPLUNKAAAH!

I haven’t had much time for writing or working on Promo Man posts but I did manage to record some time with my current game of choice: Minna de Spelunker Z. It’s a Japanese exclusive, free-to-play update of a 2009 remake of the venerable NES original… so of course I’m into it!

This was my first attempt at streaming from our new PlayStation 4 so the quality isn’t nearly as high as I’d like but hopefully it’s watchable and entertaining. I think I cover all the basics so treat this as a guide if you’re interested in trying it yourself and let me know so we can play multiplayer!

Promo Man: ‘Bonk for President’, the Bonk RPG and more

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A super-deformed, chibi caveman is exactly the kind of thing I’d expect to fall out of Japan in the 90’s. Starring in one of the more vibrant and enjoyable games for the PC-Engine, Bonk was quickly turned into a mascot for NEC and the TurboGrafx-16. But I don’t think the marketing team thought much beyond having a face to go head-to-head (pardon) with Sonic and Mario.

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Now Playing: Tori Watch (iOS, Android)

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Do you like birds, but don’t want the mess and noise of having one as a pet?  Do you like birds, but don’t like sitting outside too often  to watch for them?  Well this Japanese app (game?) has solved these problems!  The app is still mostly in Japanese, but is available here. It’s called Tori Watch by ククリス・ゲームズ (Cuculis Games) and you can find it on the Google Play store and iTunes.

Even without reading Japanese many of the menus are easy to figure out.  You can upgrade the food items you feed them with to attract new types of birds.  There are info cards to tell you about them, but those are in Japanese.  Hopefully it will get translated to English someday, but until then here are some info cards I made myself.

Shawn’s Thoughts
First off, Katy’s images are fantastic! The in-game models are cute but I didn’t realize how spot on they were to the real birds until Katy put them side by side. Questioning if this is a game at all is also spot on but as the adorably translated description proclaims, “you can play it without any complicate action”. They know the score. Truthfully, the most challenging thing I’ve done is to keep my screen from timing out when new birds arrive.

Despite the simple nature of this “bird watching game to observe leisurely small birds”, it definitely follows modern mobile game design. Don’t worry, none of it involves microtransactions or hot sales on ‘Energy’, it’s supported by simple ad banners. Birds fly in, you get points. Like Katy said, you spend those points to upgrade your feed options or expand your park to accommodate more birds. There’s a journal with goals to shoot for (again, all in Japanese so I’m guessing stuff like “get a male and female on-screen at once”) but that’s about all you have to do.

It’s been a cute little diversion over the last few days and fun to poke around the Japanese menus to figure out how the game works.

Promo Man: I mustache you a question

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I always appreciated the simple iconography of Mario and Luigi’s mustaches on this postcard. It wasn’t a standalone ad for Mario & Luigi Superstar Saga, rather a cheeky little postcard that came tucked into a few issues of Nintendo Power leading up to the game’s 2003 release.

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I made a new videOST for Extreme-G 2 (N64)

The transition from 2D to 3D in the 90’s wasn’t a pretty one. At least the PlayStation and Saturn had the benefit of CD quality sound but Nintendo held onto the cartridge format for the N64. This meant musicians needed to code their own music into the game which resulted in a lot (a LOT) of forgettable, sub-par soundscapes of squeaking, squirting ear noise.

Nintendo’s first-party soundtracks obviously benefited from their expert understanding of the hardware but there were plenty of other memorable and enjoyable scores. One of those shining gems is Extreme-G 2, co-composed by Simon Robertson and Steve Root. For a game where TRON-inspired bikes routinely shatter the sound barrier (a cool effect in its own that strips away the music), the music is surprisingly chill. I’d always thought of it back then as drum ‘n bass but nowadays I’d call it more lounge, maybe? Chill, for sure.

However you classify it, it’s good. So I spent part of the weekend recording each of the game’s twelve courses (some races went better than others) and setting them to their matching songs. There’s also an intro track and menu music. Oh yeah, it’s a new videOST.

Promo Man: Some Sports Things

~ Are you ready for some sports… thiiiiiings!? ~ That’s how the tune goes right? I’m not a big sports game guy but over the years I picked up a few different merchandising tchotchkes. First was the Monday Night Football plastic cup from Data East that I got at CES 1992. For the longest time it held all my other tchotchkes from CES.

In 1995 I was working a high school job at Meijer and would look forward to visits from our Nintendo rep. She’d drop off posters and water bottles and keychains like this one (bottom) for Ken Griffey Jr.’s Winning Run on SNES. It was especially well balanced so if you had your pointer finger through the key ring you could swing the bat and ball back and forth in a satisfying twitch.

Four years later in 1999 Nintendo was promoting Ken Griffey Jr.’s Slugfest on N64 with this baseball glove keychain (top) at E3 and other events. It didn’t feel good at all but held the oversized baseball from the other keychain almost perfectly.

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Check out 31 mostly new Indie games coming to Xbox One

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If you’re tired of all this virtual reality news coming out of GDC and just want to check out some new games, the Xbox YouTube channel has posted 31 new trailers of upcoming indie titles. These games are all part of Microsoft’s indie publishing program, ID@Xbox, which has some booth space at GDC to show off the games.

Many of these are games I looked at in the IGF this year and it’s good to see them updated and getting console releases (Submerged, The Sun and the Moon, ClusterPuck 99). There are also a lot of titles I hadn’t heard of making their “console debut” on Xbox One. Of particular note is The Flame in the Flood which looks like a fantastically artsy rogue-lite set amongst a flood in a “forgotten post-societal America”. You can check out most of the games on the Xbox channel but I’ve included their bullet point listing after the break if you want to read some more.

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Microsoft has more than one Xbox 360 update planned for 2015

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Xbox Preview Program updates are nothing new if you follow Xbox’s Major Nelson or if you keep an eye on the Xbox press site. So I was about to scroll on by this latest Preview Program Enrollment headline when I realized it was for the Xbox 360. By this point I figured Microsoft was happy to leave their last-gen console to retire like a distinguished 55 year old; still around and doing well but not the topic of water cooler gossip like it used to be.

I’m happily mistaken — especially as Katy and I are using our 360s more than ever to play EDF — and happy to report that at least two new updates will be coming to the console through 2015. The first, which doesn’t have a solid release date yet, won’t bring glamorous new features but it may ease the pains of network troubleshooting for some users. Improved troubleshooting options will be added as well as a download/upload speed test utility.

The next update(s) are only promised by Major Nelson as “coming later this year”. While owners could sign up for the preview program in years past, this time around it’s more like a lottery. Major Nelson’s post details the new process.