It’s a “Barbie World”, But not in Shanghai

By: Shawna O’Neal

shawna-oneal@mocs.utc.edu

SHANGHAI (AP) — Barbie is hitting the road as Mattel Inc. closes down its Shanghai flagship store dedicated to the iconic brand after just two years.

The six-story store, complete with spa, cafe, design studio, fashion stage and shelves and shelves of Barbies and Barbie products, closed Monday, the world’s biggest toy maker said in a statement explaining that it plans to use its experience in Shanghai to reach customers across China.

“I have gone on a tour of China!” a cartoon Barbie says on the store’s website, explaining the brand is on a “Barbie Pink Bus Tour.”

Mattel is not the only foreign retailer with an extravagant investment in this huge but challenging market to change strategy.

The closing of Barbie’s citadel of all things pink on Shanghai’s Huaihai Rd. shopping belt follows the closure last month of all of electronics retailer Best Buy’s brandname stores in Shanghai. Best Buy is instead focusing on expanding outlets with its locally acquired chain Jiangsu Five Star Appliance Co.

Mattel, based in El Segundo, California, inaugurated the store on the 50th birthday of the Barbie brand, bringing together 45 product lines, including trampolines, jewelry and stationery.

Though sales of Barbie and other Mattel dolls have recently shown strong growth back home, the store never took off as a popular destination for local girls.

Shanghai is a hub for China’s fashion industry, but local parents are far more likely to splash out on extra lessons than on expensive toys.

 

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press.

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Anime Comes to life in DC

Fans gathered in Washington DC to share their love for Anime!

By: Corey Honeycutt

evenstar1@bellsouth.net

CHATTANOOGA/Tenn.(UTC/LOOP)–  The Hyatt Regency in Crystal City Alrington, VA. played host to one of many Japanese animation conventions on the weekend of November 12-14th.

Hyatt Regency Crystal City

Hyatt Regency Crystal City, photographer unknown

Anime USA was started by fans in 1999 and became a non profit educational organization in 2004. It’s slogan “Of Otaku, By Otaku and For Otaku has held true throughout its years.

It started off as most conventions with a few hundred people. It now brings in around 5,000 fans a year to the Crystal City Hyatt Regency.

Fans ranging in all ages show up dressed as their favorite characters, from animes and games ranging from Pokemon and Final Fantasy to more obscure titles such as 07 Ghost.

This form of dressing up is called cosplay or “costume play.” It originated in Japan, but has been gaining more and more popularity here in the U.S.

Kuroshitsuji Photoshoot

Kuroshitsuji Photoshoot, photo by Corey Honeycutt

Fans can also put together skits and compete against each other for the title of Best in Show in the masquerade which is the highlight of most conventions and draws the biggest crowds.

Shanna Labriola potrayed the character Van from the series Escaflowne. Her costume consisted of hand made wings from chicken wire, felt and feathers. Overall her outfit took her 25 hours to make.

Van from Escaflowne, Photo by Refractor Productions

“My cousin took me to a convention and that’s how I got started into cosplaying.”

The convention played host to not only the fans to but to many guests who work in the industry such as voice actors, artists, directors and professional costumers.

This year’s guests were voice actors Brina Palencia, Cristina Vee, Mary Elizabeth McGlynn, Patrick Seitz and Christopher Sabat. Megan Murphy, Heidi Arnold and Monica Gallagher are a few of the artists guest and Clockwork Dolls, Promise Sisters and Echostream were the bands.

Brina Palencia recently landed the main role of Ciel Phantomhive in the anime Black Butler(Kuroshitsuji).  Black Butler is an anime gaining popularity over here in the US and already has a big fan base. She has voiced small and large roles in such popular animes as Fullmetal Alchemist, Nabari no Ou, Darker Than Black and XXXholic.

“My favorite role has to be Natsuki in Summer Wars, because she is raised by her grandmother and I was raised by my grandmother. It is probably the most genuine acting I’ve ever done.”

Even though she has voiced main characters in the past when asked how she felt about the part of Ciel she said she was terrified.

Brina Palencia, photo by Corey Honeycutt

“It’s really exciting, but I’m so terrified about it. I feel I worked very hard on the part and researched the accent. I’m proud of the work I did, I’m just hoping the fans like it. ”

Brina Palencia just finished a web series called Throwingstones on top of her other voice acting roles.

“It’s sort of a Breakfast Club meets horror movie.”

AUSA is just one of many conventions dedicated to anime, games and manga. There are enough conventions to go to one every weekend. They range from smaller ones with only to a few hundred people, to over 50,000 people.

So if you feel that Halloween is to short a time to dress up, or have a knack for creating costumes and are an anime or gaming fan, there are plenty of conventions to choose from.

Other conventions are listed below that can be attended throughout the year in many different states.

Otakon

Katsucon

Connooga

Chattacon

Anime Weekend Atlanta

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Archive of Lost Games: Vol 5: The Tridisaster

By Danny “Barnaby” Butler

E-mail: Danny-Butler@utc.edu

Chattanooga (UTC/The Loop)-Welcome to this edition of the Archive! Today, we have three games to review, Hammerin’ Hero for the PSP, N+ for the DS and Untold Legends: Dark Kingdom for the PS3, and, for the first time in the history of the Archive, we have some great summer gaming suggestions from Senior Archivist James Webb and Archivist Josh Fogleman. Hang on folks, cause this might get a bit crazy!

Hammerin’ Hero for the PSP follows the adventure of a young carpenter names Gen who must protect his city from a greedy crime boss ruining the simple life the town folk have know for so long. This charming 2-D platformer captures the spirit of retro platformers such as Ninja Gaiden, requiring precise skill and timing to advance through some stages, with a game mechanic similar to the Genesis platformer Kid Chameleon, where players could change the title character’s costume to access new abilities and powers.

 

Get down with Hammerin' Hero, N+ and Untold Legends: Dark Kingdom!

Get down with Hammerin' Hero (Above; PSP), N+ (DS) and Untold Legends: Dark Kingdom (PS3)!

Gen can take a wide variety of roles, from the DJ job, which allows him to swing around a giant boom box and throw vinyl records at his foes, to the Sushi Chef job (Gen gains the ability to unleash a giant wasabi-powered energy attach) and the baseball-inspired Slugger class. This adds a great deal of depth to gameplay, and encourages the player to try out several jobs per level.

For parts 2 and 3, along with all of the other video blogs form AoLG, click here!

Certain levels are inhabited by depressed or helpless citizens, which Gen can assist depending on his current job. These side quests unlock extra collectibles and trophies, adding even more charm to this addictive title.
The game cost about $17 to $20 at most used game stores, which only adds to the many reasons of why every PSP owner should play or own this game. This is one gem in a more or less desolate and lacking PSP library.

Next up is N+ for the DS. N+ spawned from a web-based flash game that attained a massive online following. You play a ninja who must use his climbing and jumping skills to activate switches for doors in each room. Your score in based on how long it takes you to beat a certain stage, and how many extra orbs the player grabs on his way to the exit.
The game is simple to control, yet hard to master, and it offers an insane number of stages. If that were not enough, players can make their own stages, and can share them with friends and family. Throw in a price tag of about $10 to $15, and how could you resist?

Finally, we have Untold Legends: Dark Kingdom for the PS3. This is a Sony exclusive series that has already made a good name for itself on the PSP. While I must admit I have not played the PSP titles, I have enjoyed everything UL: DK has to offer.

UL: DK play like the Champions of Norrath series for the PS2, and allows for up to two players to team up and defend the kingdom of Dureth from the rule of the corrupt king. Players can choose between three classes (mage, rogue or warrior) as they hack and slash their way to victory and glory.

While the story is a bit forgettable, the gameplay is fun and fast-paced, enabling characters to massacre dozens of enemies with ease. Players can buy or find gear, such a gems for weapons or armor, which can add combat abilities and can quickly swing the tide of battle in your favor. If you are looking for fun title to jump into with a buddy for under $20, check out Untold Legends: Dark Kingdom for the PS3.

Take down giant dragons and wild beast in Monster Hunter Tri, releasing April 20th for the Wii.

Take down giant dragons and wild beast in Monster Hunter Tri, releasing April 20th for the Wii.

Great cheap games are always great finds, but what about some of the solid new releases we have coming out in the next couple of months? Archivist Josh Fogleman said he was excited about Monster Hunter Tri, releasing April 20 for the Wii. This title brings the smash portable hit to the Wii for the first time in the US, and will include underwater combat and a host of new monsters to challenge. “ I loved the demo,” Fogleman said, “and I can’t wait for the full release soon.”

Another great title is Just Cause 2 for the PS3 and Xbox 360. James Webb just started playing the title, and said that it is even more insane that the first Just Cause. “ Now you have a grappling hook attached to your arm,” He said. It can even be used as a weapon!

Other great summer titles include:

  • Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker (PSP)
  • Fragile Dreams: Farewell Ruins of the Moon (Wii)
  • Lost Planet 2 (Xb360, PS3)
  • Infinite Space (DS)
  • Shin Megami Tensei: Strange Journey (DS)

So many games and so little time! I thank you for tuned into this edition of the Archive. Stay tuned for the next edition coming soon this summer.

Can’t get enough of the Archives? Check out these back issues! Vol. 1, 2, 3, 4

Images courtesy of IGN.com.

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When Mythology Comes to Life?

By: Desiree Garza

CHATTANOOGA(UTC/TheLoop) – Though it is a mouthful to say, Shin Megami Tensei: Imagine is a somewhat new and still fresh free MMO for teens and adults to play.

Jack Frost is not only a demon in Imagine but also the mascot of Atlus Co. "HeeHo"

Jack Frost is not only a demon in Imagine but also the mascot of Atlus Co. "HeeHo"

Shin Megami Tensei: Imagine is a Teen rated MMO (Massively Multiplayer Online) developed by Cave Co. and published by Aeria Games. The game is based off the the Japanese game series Shin Megami Tensei by Atlus Co.  The series may be regarded as a cult following, but has been growing over the years. It is a free to play MMO with an item mall. This means that the player may log on and play any time without a subscription. However, there are items available for you to purchase with real money to help with gameplay. Players are able to interact with hundreds of others within North America, depending on which version you are playing, as they run through dungeons and fend off new foes.

Story

The story is very long and in depth but is  told as the player first starts the game. It takes place between the first and second Shin Megami Tensei games in a post apocalyptic world. According to the story, in 1990, man began working on a way to make teleportation. However, the process began to create data made up of mythological and other fictional beings that would later be named “Demons.” Missiles were launched from all over the globe to try and destroy the creatures. However, this only caused the destruction of man kind.

Those that survived this war or “The Great Destruction” lived in small underground shelters called “Homes.” During the story of the first Shin Megami Tenssei, there was a group of young individuals that ventured out to the demon and human world to try and bring peace and new guidance to the world. Under the guidance of the seven wise men, man left the Homes and constructed a giant tower and city called Shinjuku Babel. Here a new era of law would be ordered.

Years of peace passed by before three large obelisks appeared around Tokyo with army of demons emerging from them. Each player is called a “Demon Buster” and it is their job to keep these demons under control, and bring back peace to this still barren but growing wasteland.

Demons?

Suzanne Black's image of her and another player's demons.

Suzanne Black's image of her and another player's demons.

The game revolves around befriending “demons” to help  the player in their travels. The demons do not all reflect what you may be typically used to when you see this word. Most of them come from different mythologies. The demons range from angels and fairies to wisps and devils. So there is a wide variety for you to choose from. One player, Suzanne Black, said, “Well I like how they are based on world mythology and there are various kinds, so it lets players stick to ones they like.” Several of these demons are not very child friendly and neither is this game. As Alessa Gregory put it, “It’s basically Pokemon for adults.”

Each demon falls into a category and alignment. The alignments are Law, Neutral, and Chaos. The alignment you begin to develop will reflect how much it cost to summon these demons to your side. Even if the demon does not match the alignment of they player,  they can still befriend it. Demons can be fused together in order to create a new one. Demons made through fusion also inherit abilities they would not normally have obtained in the wild.

Basic Controls

The movement in Imagine uses the point and click maneuver with your mouse. The player targets the ground to click where they need to go or click on the enemy they wish to attack. The player may also use the “A, W, S, and D” keys to move. However, you use the number keys to control your character’s attacks, and then the function keys to control you demon’s attacks as well as use the mouse. This may get in the way of movement, so it is important to choose which one the player will use for the mouse or the keys.  There are also shortcuts built in to help open up the different menus in the game.

It should be noted that the Demons will act on their own if you set their AI to do so. This will either help the player in a pinch or make matters worse. The AI tends to be a bit random and will not always pick the best possible answer for a situation.

The Tab key can but used to switch from movement and camera control of the demon and the player. However, when controlling the demon directly, the player will be unable to move the camera at all. It will not even follow the demon very far either. The emphasis of the game is to use the main character while the demon supports. Rarely will need arise to take direct control of the demon in order to fight several long battles. This control switch is more useful if the player dies yet the demon is still alive.

Need more information on the shortcut keys and controls? Click here to view the guide provided by the main site.

System Requirements (Basic)

It is recommended that better equipment and systems are used but these are the bare basics to simply play the game.

  • Operating System: Microsoft Windows XP/Vista (32-bit only)/possibly 32bit Windows 7
  • DirectX: DirectX 9.0c or above
  • Hard Drive Space: 1.78 GB
  • Mouse: Windows Compatible (Scroll Wheel recommended)
  • Sound Card: DirectX 8.1 compatible sound card
  • Memory: 512 MB RAM
  • CPU: 3.1 Ghz Intel P3 or equivalent
  • Network: Cable Modem/DSL
  • Graphic Cards: DirectX 9 compatible with 3D acceleration
    GeForce4, ATI RADEON 8500 or better

Gameplay

Demon Buster attacking demon with a basic attack.

Demon Buster attacking demon with a basic attack.

The game starts off with the basic storyline and some tutorials that not only introduce the basic gameplay, but has some interesting cinematic movies to develop the story further for the character. As the players progress,  they will find out the game does not have any set class to choose from. However, there is still considered a class or specialization according to the attributes and expertise the players choose.

Attributes are the ‘stats’ a character has. Every time you gain experience points for killing a monster and completing quest, the player may gain a level. When the player gains a level, they are given points to distribute to their attributes. The attributes are Strength, Magic, Vitality, Intelligence, Speed, and Luck. Each of these attributes help the player grow stronger in certain areas of combat. A Melee type character is one that uses close physical combat and weapons. They usually need Strength, Vitality or Luck. There are also, Mages, Gunners, Enhancers, Crafting classes, or any combination of these. It is up to the player but there are limits. A single player cannot max out each attribute. No single player can be the best of every single type of combat or crafting available.

Expertise are the second half of the character development system. In order to learn new skills or abilities to use in combat, players must choose which expertise to level up. Players select the one they desire to learn. I will use the expertise “Rush” as an example. If the expertise is selected, then every time that player uses “RUSH” he or she will gain experience points in the “Rush” expertise. After so many points are earned in one expertise, it will level up in class and eventually allow the player to learn new skills. There is a limit based on the level of the player as to how much expertise points can be used. This keeps players from being able to train and master every skill.

Once the player gets a feel for the game and what they want to become, he or she can start running dungeons and forming parties with other players. Dungeons are areas specifically designed to for a challenge and more than one member. They have several small rooms with dozens of high level monsters. The final floor will contain a boss and several minions. If defeated, every member in the party will gain special rewards that cannot be obtained any other way.

Final Thoughts

Shin Megami Tensei Imagine is probably not for the casual player. The game revolves around some pretty complex and sometimes not too user friendly systems. This does not, however, mean the game is bad in any sense. But it is defiantly definitely a challenge. Like the series it is based off of, knowing almost every weakness and resistance are usually the only way to beat your opponent. Simply trying to overpower yourself and just go crazy will not always work. Furthermore, the level up system takes a great deal of time compared to some of the more casual MMOs. It is still what gamers called a grinding game. That is a game where you simply fight monsters over and over again to level. There are some quests but it is not the main way to level.

The Demon system is by far the greatest aspect, and is fresh and new to MMO gaming. Being able to obtain and customize your own partner for fighting is nothing short of amazing. It is a great way to play on your own for small fights as well as a way to defend your weaknesses. Danny Butler said, “It reminds me a lot of Guild Wars. You don’t have to play with a lot of players. You can go off and do your own thing.” There are over 100 demons to choose from and each with their own unique abilities and fighting style. A player could spend months just raising and obtaining different demons to try out.

Demon Buster casting a spell

Demon Buster casting a spell

Another great aspect are the graphics. The game uses a slight anime art style while still trying to be realistic at the same time. It is not too bad to look at and the settings can be adjusted quite well according to your graphical needs.

The downside is that the controls will take a lot of getting used to. Sometimes it is required to adjust the camera mid battle and with the already very picky and very precise timing of attacks, this can lead to some unfortunate results. It will take some getting used to but it is possible. Secondly, the Hybrid aspect of the game is much harder to pull off than it may seem. Though it promotes the idea that you can make a character any way you like, it is almost still required that there is a very primary focus in order to maximize any skill. This can make playing by yourself very difficult. Some classes with have a far harder time than others. Enhancers are healers in the game but in order to every do much good, they usually have to go full enhancing and have no offensive skills besides their demon. The same goes for master crafter. It is almost mandatory for such players to have a party willing to let them travel with them. (The Enhancer should not have so much an issue with but the crafter will.)

As a closing comment, I will note that this is probably one of the cheapest free to play MMO’s on the net as of this time. Many “Free” MMOs tend to make it so that the game they play is very low end until they are willing to spend more money than they do with a subscription based MMO. This game does not do that. If your wallet is low on dough, you want a challenge, and something fresh, Shin Megami Tensei: Imagine is the game for you.

There is still a lot of information that was sadly not covered in this review. To find out more, visit the sites Wiki.

Want to share your experience with Imagine? Send me an e-mail at Desiree-Garza@utc.edu

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The Archive of Lost Games Vol. 4: Deadly Premonition (XB360)

By Danny “Barnaby” Butler

Chattanooga (UTC/The Loop)- Welcome one and all to another glorious edition of the Archive of Lost Games. This week, we are covering the Xbox 360 game, Deadly Premonition from Ignition Entertainment. I am your host and archive curator, Danny “Barnaby” Butler, and once again, I am joined by my esteemed colleague, senior archivist James Webb.

This week’s game is a bit a of a strange one. Fans of the blog will most likely know the name and reputation for Marvelous Studios, but for everyone else, Marvelous is know for localizing titles such as Muramasa; the Demon Blade, King of Fighters XII, Nostalgia and others.

Can you solve the mystery of the Raincoat Killer before it is too late?

Can you solve the mystery of the Raincoat Killer before it is too late?

One of the first things you will most likely notice is the low quality of the graphics. This was done out of necessity, since the game’s budget was quite small, but Deadlymakes up for poor quality visuals with stellar storytelling, unique characters and inspired gameplay. To sum up the game plot at a glance, you play as FBI agent Francis York Morgan tasked with solving a series of murders which have led you to the small town of Greenvale, near the Canadian border.

York, as he is called through most of the game, is kinda crazy, and he is often seen chatting with his long-time friend “Zach,” which may or may not be the player. He occasionally assigns Zach “homework” in the form of obscure movie trivia and regales him with tales about his past cases. These segments are quite enjoyable and great way of passing time in the game, which works at a near real time pace. While some might grow tired of the slow pacing, it gives the game an organic sense of realism which helps draw the player into the story.

Deadly Premonition for the Xbox 360

Deadly Premonition for the Xbox 360

The full world immersion doesn’t stop there. Driving is also done in real time, so if you have an appointment to make on the other side of town, you’re going to be driving for a good 10 minutes or so. On top of all of these features, the player must also change clothing frequently to avoid becoming a “stinky agent” (flies start buzzing around the character, and they can be quite distracting), shave their beard (Webb: “best beard mechanics ever!”) and eat periodically throughout the day. Forgetting to do this things can cause players to be too tired or hungry to complete missions.

The town of Greenvale is about 8 kilometers in diameter, and you feel every minute of that while trying the solve the mystery at hand. Nearly every car has a certain allotment of gas, and if York’s tank runs dry, it’s game over.

The plot of Deadly was supposedly inspired by Twin Peaks, a popular TV series which ran during the early ’90s. While it is not a requirement to have seen the series before paying Deadly Premonition, it definitely enhances the experience.

“Having seen all of Twin Peaks,” Webb said, “it gave me a bit insight into the plot, and the characters felt a bit familiar straight from the start.”

The town is also loaded with hidden references and easter eggs for those familiar with the series, Webb said.

Twin Peaks, a '90s crime drama, is considered the spiritual father to Deadly Premonition. The show was directed by David Lynch and featured the smoking hot Lara Flynn Boyle and the quirky Kyle MacLachlan.

Twin Peaks, a '90s crime drama, is considered the spiritual father to Deadly Premonition. The show was directed by David Lynch and featured the smoking hot Lara Flynn Boyle and the quirky Kyle MacLachlan.

Deadly‘s gameplay resembles older Silent Hillgames (they even have awkward camera angles from time to time that truely make you fear for your life) with portions of the game playing a bit more like the chases encountered in the Clock Towerseries. York is equipped with a special 9mm, and he can pick up or purchase ever other weapons ranging from katanas to machine guns.

If you are looking for a unique horror/mystery for you Xbox 360, look no further than Deadly Premonition. Sure, it is not the greatest looking game, but for $20 new, it contains a remarkable amount of content, a great story, unique gameplay and the coolest beard mechanics ever.

Tune in for the next Archive, were we will be reviewing Sonic’s Ultimate Genesis Collection for the PS3. Until then, this is Barnaby signing off. Ciao!

Screenshots courtesy of GameSpot.com

Can’t get enough of the Archives? Check out these back issues! Vol. 1, Vol. 2

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The Archive of Lost Games Vol. 3: Harvey Birdman (Wii)

By Danny “Barnaby” Butler

CHATTANOOGA (UTC/The Loop) –Welcome once again the to the infamous Archive of Lost Games! I am your host and archive curator Danny “Barnaby” Butler, and today we are talking about the Wii game Harvey Birdman: Attorney at Law.

My guests this week are James Campbell, and returning for a historic third appearance, it’s James Webb.

Webb was the first to take a whack at this detective/court room adventure game inspired by the popular Adult Swim cartoon. Birdman, a semi-popular cartoon hero from the ‘80s has finally decided to settle down, deciding to trade his superhero exploits for arson and copyright lawsuits.

Birdgirl, the over-ambitious, unwanted sidekick of Birdman, often provides the player with key pieces of evidence throughout the investigation.

Birdgirl, the over-ambitious, unwanted sidekick of Birdman, often provides the player with key pieces of evidence throughout the investigation.

The acting talent in the game impressed Webb, who said he was a fan of the series.

“They assembled almost everyone from the original cast, except [Steven] Colbert,” he said as he pondered the answer to the game’s first puzzle.

“The game is very true to the series,” Webb said, “so fans of the show will definitely enjoy it.”

Newcomers might get a little lost he thinks, but the story lines are crafted to help draw in newcomers. Webb compared the game to a cheaper version of Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney series for the Nintendo DS.

“Fans of that series should enjoy this,” he said, “but they will notice that some court room sequences are slightly more restrictive than they are in Phoenix Wright.”

Harvey Birdman, no longer a superhero, now works for the law firm Sieben & Sieben as a defense attorney.

Harvey Birdman, no longer a superhero, now works for the law firm Sieben & Sieben as a defense attorney.

Campbell, who had not played any of the Phoenix Wright series, though the game was humorous, fun and entertaining.

“I really liked it,” Campbell said right after trying his first case. “If I had a Wii, I would definitely want to pick this up.”

The game is priced at five dollars new, so it will fit in just about any budget. While reviewers’ did like how the game stuck to the show’s signature style and pace, most sites gave Harvey Birdman low reviews on account of its length (the game takes about 4 hours) and relatively shallow game play.

That’s all for this week’s edition. Tune in next week for Deadly Premonition on the Xbox 360, a game which explores the dark corners of the mind of a detective.

For previous archives, click here for Vol. 1 and here for Vol. 2.

All images courtesy of Gamespot.

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The Archive of Lost Games Vol. 1: The Dark Spire

By Danny Butler

CHATTANOOGA (UTC/The Loop) — Some of the greatest video games in existence sometimes end up falling through the cracks upon their release. Bad marketing, horrific box art or radical game play styles often doom these titles to a life of obscurity.

My mission is to find these titles and find out what made them fail. Most of these games can be found in bargain bins or in used games stores for $15 or less, and none of the titles ever eclipsed 10,000 units in sales. The first title I have found is a delightful game called The Dark Spire published by Atlus. Atlus, one of the kings of the obscure gaming market, consistently publishes extremely challenging and in-depth titles.

The Dark Spire does not disappoint on this front. Drawing heavily from titles such as Wizardry or Etrian Odyssey, The Dark Spire allows players to create their own team of adventurer to explore a massive, mysterious tower filled with thieves, witches and monsters.

The Dark Spire, published By Atlus

The Dark Spire, published By Atlus

The game, which sold around 30,000 units , has a high difficulty curve which turned some people away. Players pretty much have to save every couple of steps in order to secure their safety, but since the game is structured like on old school adventure game, much like you would see on the Atari 2600, this mechanic helps give the game its unique charm and challenge.

The adventure is very long and engaging with a ton of side-quest and a huge gamut of enemies. The game also comes with the soundtrack if you can find a new copy, which in most cases has dropped down to $10.

My special guest archivist this week is James Webb, a senior from Maryville, TN, who said he was very impressed by The Dark Spire.

“I thought the game was great,” he said. “The similarities between this and Wizardry really drew me in, plus the difficulty and length of the game play is sure to make The Dark Spire an instant hit with dungeon crawler fans.”

The game includes an option which allows for players to either play the game in two different styles: Modern and “retro.” Retro features almost no color and the environment is all in a “wire-frame” type design, while modern offers plays to explore the dungeon in “lush” 3-D graphics

Check out these great clips of gameplay footage

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The Archive of Lost Games Vol. 2: Just Cause (XB360)

By Danny Butler

E-mail to: danny-butler@utc.edu

CHATTANOOGA (UTC/The Loop) –This week on the Archive of Lost Games, we highlight Just Cause developed by Avalanche Studios.

Just Cause followed CIA black ops agent Rico Rodrigeuz in his quest to free the island of San Esperito from the oppressive dictator Salvador Mendoza. Mendoza, who might have weapons of mass destruction, is no match for players, who are able to use boats, helicopters, and a cool stockpile of weapons to help free the people of San Esperito.

The game is an open world experience, much like the newer editions of the GTA series, allowing gamers to explore the coolest aspect of the game: the island.

He's on a (jet)boat!

He's on a (jet) boat! While the boat is a ripoff of the Batboat, the lush environment and water effects seen really make this title.

The game features some of the most stunning environments I’ve seen in a next gen title, which is surprising given the game’s reported small budget. In fact, that is mainly what saved the title in many of its reviews.

Out of the big three gaming review publications (IGN, Game Informer, and Metacritic), the game’s highest review was a 73% (Metacritic) with game play mechanics and glitches being at the top of the list of complaints.

While the title does suffer from some glitches (every once and a while your in-game PDA freezes up or you can sometime end up molesting the environment), most of them are pretty amusing given the plot of the game.

For the last edition of The Archives, click here!

Archivist James Webb, a senior from Marietta, Ga., said Rico reminded him of the 1,000,00 peso-man sketch from a Robot Chicken episode.

“He’s like the Mexican Terminator!” he yelled right before grabbing and throwing a helicopter out of the sky.

Our new Archivist for the week is Reed Brock, an avid gamer who works at a local used game retailer. While he still has not a had a chance to play the title, he did said that he wasn’t excited about the release, mainly due to the price, but he is considering playing it now that both a sequel has been announced and the price has dropped dramatically.

Most retailers sell the game used from somewhere between $6-$10 dollars, but the game carries a mature rating which means you have to be at least 17 years old to purchase it from most dealers.

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Android phones have users ‘doing the robot’

In October 2008 a new phone operation system hit the mobile market and changed connectivity as the world knew it forever. It was called Android, personified by a friendly green robot avatar and seemingly endless opportunity. Experts lauded its coming, comparing its technological relevance to the groundbreaking Apple iPhone, and named it one of the top 10 greatest inventions of the 21st century so far.androiddroid

It all started in 2005 when Google acquired Android, Inc., a small start-up company based in Palo Alto, California.This began rumors that Google was planning to enter the mobile phone market, although it was unclear what function it might perform in that market. At Google, a team soon developed a mobile device platform powered by the Linux kernel operating system which they marketed to handset makers and mobile carriers on the premise of providing a flexible, upgradeable system.

“There is tremendous potential in developing smarter mobile devices that are more aware of its owner’s location and preferences,” Andy Rubin, director of mobile platforms at Google said. “If people are smart, that information starts getting aggregated into consumer products.”

Android phones all have a nice touch screen interface like the iPhone, but that’s only the beginning. There are a couple of features that distinguish the Android phones from other touch screens. One is that Google built Android as an open architecture. That means anyone can create and develop applications and enhancement for the phones, making them infinitely customizable. To date, there are over 10,000 applications in the Android Market.

“One of the reasons why I want to get an Android phone with my next phone update is because they’re very user-friendly and super customizable, so you really feel like its ‘your’ phone in every aspect, ” Siam Greco, a Verizon customer said.

Other touchscreen phones like the iPhone let you add apps, but users can’t really change the core interface. For example, if a user doesn’t really like the way his/her Android phone handles text messages, he or she can download a different text messaging application, which is free.

“If less money is being spent at the Android app store versus Itunes and others, developers must deal with price constraints due to competition. Users do not want to pay for things if they don’t have to, ” Walter Hooper, a Verizon Droid owner said. ” Android users are not forced to use a credit card on their account unlike the iPhone app store. iPhone users have to have a credit card on their account to even be able to use their phones.”

Google predicts there are now or will soon be Android phones on Verizon Wireless, AT&T, Sprint and T-Mobile. The phones themselves are manufactured by a variety of companies such as Samsung, Motorola and HTC. The phone units vary in size; some are pure touch screens and others have keyboards as well, but every Android phone will work in a similar way. So in the future, a user will be able to switch phones or carriers and never have to learn a new set of menus.

Android has seen a number of updates since its original release. These updates to the base Operating System typically fix bugs and add new features.
On 30 April 2009, the official 1.5 (Cupcake) update for Android was released.   There were several new features and updates included in version 1.5 including:

  • Ability to record and watch videos with the camcorder mode
  • Uploading videos to YouTube and pictures to Picasa directly from the phone
  • A new soft keyboard with an “Autocomplete” feature
  • Bluetooth A2DP support
  • Ability to automatically connect to a Bluetooth headset within a certain distance
  • New widgets and folders that can populate the desktop
  • Animations between screens
  • Expanded ability of Copy and Paste to include web pages

    A cupcake was placed beside Android at Googleplex to commemorate the 1.5 release of Android.

    A cupcake was placed beside Android at Googleplex to commemorate the 1.5 release of Android.

On 15 September 2009, the 1.6 (Donut) SDK was released. Included in this update:

  • An improved Android Market experience.
  • An integrated camera, camcorder, and gallery interface.
  • Gallery now enables users to select multiple photos for deletion.
  • Updated Voice Search, with faster response and deeper integration with native applications, including the ability to dial contacts.
  • Updated search experience to allow searching bookmarks, history, contacts, and the web from the home screen.
  • Updated Technology support for CDMA/EVDO, 802.1x VPN, Gestures, and a Text-to-speech engine
  • Speed improvements for searching, the camera.

On 26 October 2009 the 2.0 (Eclair)  was released. This is currently the most recent version of Android. Among the changes added were:

  • Optimized hardware speed
  • Support for more screen sizes and resolutions
  • Revamped UI
  • New browser UI and HTML5 support
  • New contact lists
  • Better white/black ratio for backgrounds
  • Improved Google Maps 3.1.2
  • Microsoft Exchange support
  • Built in flash support for Camera
  • Digital Zoom
  • Improved virtual keyboard
  • Bluetooth 2.1

 

The first US marketed Android phone, the G1 was released by T-Mobile

The first US marketed Android phone, the G1 was released by T-Mobile

Google has also participated in the Android Market by offering several applications for its services. These applications include Google Voice for the Google Voice service, Scoreboard for following sports, Sky Map for watching stars, Finance for their finance service, Maps Editor for user’s MyMaps service, Places Directory for their Local Search, Secrets for safely storing passwords and My Tracks, a jogging application.

Android phones that include the ‘Google Experience’ also have Google Search, Google Calendar, Google Maps and Gmail integrated.

With estimates to have several phones on all carriers by this time next year, Android projects to be the #2 phone operating system worldwide by 2010 second only to Nokia’s operating system.

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Big Kid Tech Toys for the Holidays

By: David Hutton

CHATTANOOGA (UTC/The Loop) – With Christmas just around the corner there’s no doubt college students around the country have their eyes set on the next popular big kid toy coming out for Santa, (a.k.a their parents) to bring them this Christmas season.   There’s a little bit of something for everyone from the techy gamer, to the intellectual hard working student, and everything in between this Holiday season.  So let’s take a look at a few of the new, cool, big kid tech toys for this season.

iPod Nano

The new iPod nano makes some great changes to past versions.

The new iPod nano makes some great changes to past versions.

The new iPod Nano is a must have this Christmas.  MP3 players are a thing of the past with new technology coming out on cell phones MP3 players can’t simply settle for being a source of music  and pictures any more.  Most anyone can get that on nearly every new phone that has come out this year.

So what have the people at Apple done to make the new iPod nano more appealing to the ever demanding public.  Well, they took their older version of the slim, sleek nano, stuffed in a new video camera, better “genius” mixer, and boatload of new features, wrapped it in your choice of seven eye catching colors and plopped a $140.00 price tag on it for all to have.

With all the new features that can be found on the new iPod nano, as well as it’s ample eight or 16GB of memory capable of holding over 2,000-4,000 songs, 7,000-14,000 digital photos, or eight to 16 hours of video, it’s clear that apple isn’t content with simply producing a music player.  They even went as far as to pair with their friends over at Nike to further develop their “Nike +” application by adding a pedometer feature to work with the fit kit (which is sold separately of course) to develop and supply running workouts that can later be synced to your computer to let you evaluate your workout.  The new iPod nano clearly is meant to appeal to more than music lovers with it’s updated platform.

Here is a list of features of the iPod nano:

Capacity

  • 8GB or 16GB flash drive2
  • Holds up to 2,000 or 4,000 songs in 128-Kbps AAC format3
  • Holds up to 7,000 or 14,000 iPod-viewable photos4
  • Holds up to 8 hours or 16 hours of video5
  • Stores data via USB flash drive

Accessibility

  • Spoken menus allow listeners to hear many of the names of menus, song titles, and artists without viewing the screen.
  • An alternative large font can make menus easier to read.
  • A high-resolution LCD display with adjustable contrast and backlight settings makes it easier to read in low light.
  • Captions in video are displayed when they are present using a legible, high-contrast white-on-black font.

Display

  • 2.2-inch (diagonal) TFT display
  • 240-by-376-pixel resolution at 204 pixels per inch

Features

  • Capable of storing MP3′s, Video’s, and Photo’s
  • New built in video camera (full color video with special effects options, and facebook/youtube compatability)
  • New “genius” mixer that searches entire library to find songs that sound great together to create up to 12 genius mixes(also features shake-and-shuffle mode and album cover mode)
  • F.M. Radio receiver+live pause and iPod tagging (allows you to pause and tag specific music on F.M. radio frequencies)
  • Voice over feature (tells you the song title and artist in up to 20 languages)
  • Fitness feature (can be paired with Nike+iPod sport kit)
  • 24 hour battery at full charge

Read a review for the nano here

Price:  $149.00 8GB/ $179.00 (16GB)

DJ Hero-Xbox 360/Playstation 3/Playstation 2/Wii

DJ Hero is sure to be a hit this Holiday season and is on shelves nation wide.

DJ Hero is sure to be a hit this Holiday season and is on shelves nation wide.

The much anticipated branching from the Guitar hero and Rock Band games comes in form of DJ Hero.   For those music loving gamers looking for a new, interactive venture in the gaming world, look no further.    Gamers are given a new turntable controller to spin and scratch their way through more than 100 exclusive songs that feature artists such as 50 cent, Black Eyed Peas, and the Beastie Boys.

If the basic game isn’t enough for you and your turntable spinning fingers, you may want to take a look at the DJ Hero Renegade Edition.  The DJ Hero Renegade Edition includes not only the DJ Hero game and turntable controller, but also includes a hardshell carrying case that converts into a performance ready DJ stand and JAY-Z and Eminem 2 disc CD set.  DJ hero is clearly making big steps in publicizing their product that they have even developed a Facebook page.

Without a doubt the minds behind Guitar Hero, Rock Band, and not DJ Hero have found a popular product that they are happy to keep producing entertaining products for.  Clearly DJ Hero is going to be the next of the successful products being produced for music loving gamers nation wide.  Here is a clip of what you can expect from the game:

Read GAMESPOTS review of DJ Hero here

Price:  $99.00 (PS2)- $199 (Renegade Edition)

Livescribe Pulse Smartpen

The pulse smartpen is a tech masterpiece indended for students.

The pulse smartpen is a tech masterpiece indended for students.

So saying that this gift is a must have, or if nothing else, really cool, is probably going to raise a few eyebrows as well as a few geek centered jokes in my direction.  In terms of tech toys though, the Livescribe Pulse smartpen is a must have for students in this information era.

The Pulse smartpen is a do all device from Livescribe that makes taking notes more than simply writing letters on a paper.  With one, two, and four GB options for storage the Pulse smartpen works as both an audio and not taking storage device as well as a pen.  Using the dot paper (with Dot Positioning System known as DPS) and the one of a kind infrared camera in the tip of the pen, this pen and paper combination stores all information that is written.  This information can either be directly connected to your computer an uploaded in digital form to your computer, or can be played back to you through the pens internal speaker by tapping the play button on the notepad or by double tapping the tip of the pen.

The Pulse smartpen also serves as a lecture companion in form of a voice recorder.  If you, like almost every other student I know (including myself) has a teacher that simply speaks too quickly, or doesn’t allow voice recordings in class, the Pulse smartpen may a great investment for this holiday season.  Student or not, it’s worth the time to take a look at Livescribe and the Pulse smartpen.  For anyone preparing for finals can attest to, sometimes not everything you need gets written down.  To make your life easier, and your finals a little less stressful, take a look at the Pulse smartpen.  It may be a worthwhile investment.

Laptop Magazines review of the Pulse Smartpen

Price:  $170.00-$250.00


Powermat- Wireless Home and Office Charging Mat

If your reading this article, more than likely you are slightly tech oriented, and power outlets just seem to fill up too quickly around the house.  Powermat is making strides in the universal charging world offering their wireless powermat

The Powermat is offering is offering a great product for nearly all ages just in time for the Holidays

The Powermat is offering is offering a great product for nearly all ages just in time for the Holidays

home and office charging mat.  By buying the mat you receive the company’s powercube which is compatible with devices using mini and micro USB connections.  Other tips are also available for the powercube.

For those of you who are apple users, Powermat has available cases for the iPhone 3G, iPod touch, and docs available for those also.  You simply lay the case or doc on the Powermat and charging begins.  Are you not an apple user?  Thats alright.  Powermat also offers packs for blackberries (Bold, Curve 8300 & 8900, and the Pearl), as well as for Nintendo DSi and DS lite . The Powermat is a very simple option for those looking for easier access to charging their electronics.

If you are wondering if there is an application for the Powermat that will suit your needs stop by their web page and take a look through their device guide.  There is a tip adapter for the Powermat for a lot of electronic equipment that people use on a regular basis so take a peak at their products.  This may work as a present not just for your self but an easy option for those family members where you just can’t think of what to get for them.  Theres nothing wrong with an easy out for Christmas gifts every once in a while, just make sure you take a look at available adapters before you go out buying this for grandma’s hearing aids.

Gadgetall’s review of the Powermat is here

Price: $100.00 (powerpat and one powercube)/ $30.00-$40.00 (individual power receivers)

With the holidays coming up and Christmas day just around the corner, these tech toys are a must for nearly anyone’s Christmas list.  With decent price points these big kid tech toys won’t break your parents, I mean, Santa’s bank so don’t miss out on this seasons new tech.  Whether naughty or nice, make sure these are on your big kid wish list and you’ll have a very happy Holiday ahead.

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