The Forgotten Releases
What a day to post an update. It's the time of the year when the world, and by world I mean The United States, is a half-functioning version of itself. We are in the middle of the lull when Christmas is finally over but New Year's isn't quite here yet, and everyone is sort of twiddling their thumbs waiting for the calendar to roll over.
It's like watching the end of a basketball game and one team is way ahead and the players are just looking at the clock waiting for it to hit 00:00 and Kobe is running up the scoreboard and half the crowd already left to beat the traffic. As Chick Hearn might say, 2006 is in the refrigerator, the door's closed, the light's out, the eggs are cooling, the butter's getting hard and the Jell-O’s jiggling.
This is an especially slow time of year for the video game industry as most developers blew their load on Christmas. If you can't get your game in stores by December you might as well not release it at all. The holiday shopping season is the best time to release games, especially horrible ones. It's the time of year when confused parents and grandparents who don't understand that all games are not created equal pick out licensed trash for their children.
Their thought process is simple. Their child may like cars so they pick up Ford Bold Moves Racing not knowing that it's a thinly veiled advertisement for Ford cars and a piss-poor racing game at that. It isn't rocket science. Their whole demographic is confused and frustrated gift givers who just want to get in the store, find something cheap, and get the hell out. I'm not saying it's a bad thing. It's a fantastic business model that works every year.
Unfortunately, not all games arrive in time for Christmas. These are the games that miss the holidays altogether and fall into the terrible abyss known as The Forgotten Releases. How did these post-holiday releases, destined to be purchased by droves of confused grandparents just weeks before, miss the holidays? Perhaps the development team was delusional and thought that their game would actually be good. Maybe they failed certification and were told by one of the big three to clean up their bargain bin masterpiece.
Whatever the reason, the game is released after Christmas anyway. It's like that rare person who bombs every test in class all semester but still shows up for the final, or somebody who reads to the end of this update. It's that desperate never give up attitude that I admire. That's why today we are paying tribute to these forgotten releases and giving them the spotlight they deserve. You never knew they existed and you sure as hell aren't going to rush out to pick them up. They are 2006's Forgotten Releases.
An American Hero Comes to the Nintendo DS
We begin our look at the forgotten releases with Rafa Nadal Tennis for the Nintendo DS. Originally titled Rafa Nadal Tennis: Who the Heck is Rafa Nadal, the game has been through a long and tumultuous development history. The development team has seen many programmers come and go including former lead programmer Todd Fellows, who left after an argument about how hard the tennis ball should bounce on clay courts erupted into a fistfight. As security escorted a fuming Fellows out of Codemasters headquarters he said, "To hell with Codemasters! You people have lost your way! Tennis balls just don't bounce that hard and I'll be damned if I'm going to be on a team that thinks so!"
Despite these setbacks the game is finally here! Scheduled to be in stores on December 28th, Rafa Nadal Tennis promises to be a revolutionary tennis title according to the developer's web site.
In the next days will be available the Virtual Toys' last release. Rafa Nadal Tennis will be available for the Nintendo portable console. The main difference between this game and other tennis titles will be the innovator control system, using the stylus and the touch screen, making use of all the console features. You can play with Rafa Nadal or develop your own player. With more of fifteen tennis courts and tournaments Rafa Nadal tennis will be this season's funniest tennis game.
It's refreshing that a developer is finally incorporating humor into a tennis game. Rafa Nadal is known for his hijinks on and off the court. He brings his trademark antics to the Nintendo DS as only Rafa Nadal can. I was saddened to discover that this would be the final release of such an extraordinary developer. With Rafa Nadal Tennis, however, they are going out with a bang.
Rafa takes advantage of all the unique features the DS has to offer. As seen in this screenshot, the dual screen allows the developer to use the bottom half for the main menu and the upper half for a picture of Rafa in what may be the most innovative use of system's dual screens yet.
Even more innovative is the "innovator control system" that allows players to use the stylus to draw lines on the touch screen which somehow makes tennis happen. Draw a short line to attempt a backhand shot, draw a circle to put some spin on the ball, draw an angry face to make Rafa throw his racket into the crowd after missing a tough shot. Anything is possible on a game system where it's impossible to create a straightforward tennis game because every game has to use that damn touchpad.
As you probably already know, Rafa Nadal is ranked as the number two tennis player in the world, which matters in every country but the one I live in. Codemasters is hoping that Nadal's popularity in the United States can propel this post-holiday title to the top of the sales charts. Look for it in your local game store today!
If You Love Horses You'll Love These Games
The end of year horse genre is always hotly contested and this year it's no different. Two titles are battling it out to be the number 1 horse-related game of the post-holiday season, Syntasoft's Post-Time and Caipirinha Games' Rider's World: I Want To Ride. Which horse game is going to stand in the winner's circle and which one will be made into glue?
According to Syntasoft's web site Post-Time features a "revolutionary TV camera system that looks like the real thing". Does anybody at Syntasoft even read what they write on these web sites? It looks like the real thing? The jockeys don't even have faces.
Post-Time was developed the same way images for Something Awful articles are chosen. When a sky texture is needed the developers type "sky" into Google Image Search and whatever comes up they use. Hey, I know that grass texture! I saw it on a Geocities fan site when I was writing an article on how to pick out the perfect Astroturf for your indoor putting green!
Included in the game are over 200 horses each with their own unique personality. Some are quick out the gate and others are long distance runners. Others show heart and determination while others simply don't have what it takes. These horses can be shot in an action-packed mini-game after each losing race. Also included is a mini-game that pits players against their self-respect as they go searching for winning tickets behind the bleachers at the track. Among the discarded beer cups and peanut shells, a winner is waiting for you.
Post-Time's competition is tough as nails. Veteran horse sim maker Caipirinha Games fires back with their long-awaited sequel to the surprise hit Rider's World: I Want to Jump. Rider's World: I Want to Ride, which was released just yesterday, starts where the first one left off. Rider is back to finish the fight and this time the battleground is Earth.
Every little girl wants their very own pony, but do they have what it takes to take care of one? I Want to Ride teaches little girls about the futility of life in a horse raising simulator filled to the brim with all of the hardships that come with horse ownership, including brushing, feeding and watering. Should the horse miss one single meal the animal will die and rot away right before the player's eyes. And then the game will uninstall itself and the disc will self-destruct, destroying the PC in the process, just like real horses.
I Want to Ride boasts over 20 realistic pony scenarios to choose from. In one scenario, entitled "Little Susie's Horse Adventure", Susie's little brother dies. In order to dull the pain her parents concentrate all of their love and attention on their remaining child. They buy her everything she ever wanted including a pony. What little Susie doesn't know is how expensive a pony can be for a lower-middle-class family.
As bills accumulate Susie's father hits the bottle hard and commits suicide by swerving into oncoming traffic, taking out a family of four in the process. Susie's mother tells her it was just an accident and that her father is up in heaven watching over Susie and her pony. Susie's mom is eventually evicted from her home and the horse is euthanized for non-payment. Little Susie eventually grows up, only to be working the corner at 5th and Main. As she sucks for that next hit she remembers the time when she was the little girl with a pony, and everything she could possibly want.
The game also boasts a number of environments in which to ride your horse including a small dirt track and near drywall. There are countless mini-games, including races, scavenger hunts, jumping competitions, and the all-new B-Spec mode. Included in the special collector's edition is a limited edition booklet featuring art from the game, a real piece of a horse, the official soundtrack and that episode of The Simpsons where Lisa gets a pony.
Analysts are betting that this year's horse sim battle will result in a photo finish that's too close to call. Will Post-Time come out on top or be left at the starting gate? Will Rider's World overtake first place or will it become the next mrhands.avi? Check back next week for all the latest news on horses!
Mario Kart Clone #48,092
With Shrek on the way these other games might as well be competing for second place. Shrek is the perfect example of a holiday release for confused parents. The games, which garner just above a 50% average on GameRankings, are released in late October or November just in time for the busy shopping season.
Shrek games are basically makeovers of popular Mario titles such as Super Smash Bros. or Mario Party except SHREK is on the cover! This time the green giant is plagiarizing Mario Kart in what could be his most action-packed outing yet, Shrek Smash and Crash Racing for the Nintendo Wii, coming December 31st!
How could this have happened? Activision knows better than to release a Shrek game after Christmas. They've pioneered the art of ripping off parents and Nintendo for years. To illustrate how similar to Mario Kart this game is I've taken a portion of the press release and replaced everything from Shrek with its Mario Kart equivalent.
In Super Mario Kart, gamers take on the role of Mario, Princess Peach, Donkey Kong, Yoshi or eight other Mario universe characters and race around on comical vehicles such as Mario's Red Fire, Waluigi's Waluigi Racer and Koopa Troopa's Koopa Dasher. With a wide variety of tracks featuring green pipes, piranha plants, dangerous lava, goombas and other gauntlets that test racing skills, players must use their melee accessories such as red shells and banana peels to battle opponents through 12 locations from Peach's Castle to Bowser's Lair to Ghost Houses. Gold coins and mushrooms will boost speed and strength, as well as thwart players' opponent's progress if gamers fall behind.
Good thing gameplay concepts can't be patented or else Activision wouldn't have a business model. How the game will utilize the Nintendo Wii's motion sensor controller is not known at this point. You'd think with the release just three days away they'd part with that information. But it's futile and Activision, a company that employs 50 press release writers and only two programmers, knows that.
Of course, none of this would have mattered if Activision had gotten the title into stores by Christmas. All they had to do was slap the game on a disc, make the cover art bright enough to be noticed, and watch the profits roll in. Imagine all of the children of parents who stood in line for hours to buy a Wii going without a Shrek themed Mario Kart clone this year. Can you live with that Activision? Can you?! Someone's getting fired for this one!
There are just four more days left in 2006. Make them count with Rafa Nadal Tennis, Post-Time, Rider's World, and Shrek Smash and Crash Racing. They are The Forgotten Releases. While the world may have forgotten them, I have not.