Encore Extra Stage #16

Today is Friday! Unless you forgot to read this on Friday and logged onto the site late Saturday night. In that case, today is Saturday! I’m Alex Williams, and this is my weekly space where video games and logic come together to stick it to the idiot fanboys.

Either that, or I ramble on for pages and pages about DDR. Either or.

In any case, I’ve been strongly considering finally investing in a new Bemani franchise. Well, new to me anyway. I haven’t been as fortunate as some when it comes to Bemani placement in the arcades. The only machines even close to my house are DDR machines. While this isn’t a BAD thing, I do wish there were others around to play on more frequently.

So, I’ve decided to invest either in beatmania IIDX or Pop’n Music. For those who don’t know, IIDX is a DJ simulation game that revolves around making music with a turntable and seven note keys. Pressing a key will result in a note being played, so you are actually putting the music together as you go along. Pop’n Music roughly revolves around the same concept, except instead of note keys, you have nine gigantic bubbles to hit in time to the music. I’ve never played Pop’n before, but I have seen movies of experienced players doing freestyle routines on it. It gets CRAZY as the difficulty goes up.

So while I’m deciding on which non-DDR Bemani game to finally try, lets get straight into some DDR-themed commentary! (Like you’d expect anything LESS from me on a weekly basis…)


FINDING THINGS WE AREN’T SUPPOSED TO

As I said in last week’s intro, there was supposed to be some new downloadable content available for DDR Ultramix 2 at the start of the new year. It is now officially February 11th, and we have yet to even get a concrete release date for it. (Thanks a bunch, Microsoft!) In any case, last weekend, the folks at DDRFreak stumbled across something really interesting in regards to the official Ultramix 2 website.

But first, a little background. If you click the link to the site, and head over to the page that lists the songs in the game, you’ll notice each song has a banner displayed next to it. The HTML link to each banner separately looks like this:

http://www.konamihwi.com/ddr_ultramix2/songs/aaaa_th.jpg

This particular link, if copied and pasted successfully to your browser, will point you specifically to the song “A”. This is due to the four-letter code near the end of the link, right before the “_th” segment. Simply altering the code will point you to different banners. For example, “tars” will point you to “321Stars”, “volf” will link you to “Vol. 4”, and “dead” will show you the “Dead End” banner. All you need to do is know the four-letter code to show you only the song banner.

Well, this subject was the hot topic of conversation all weekend. Why? By changing the code, we were able to find banners to songs that were NOT IN THE GAME.

It all began when one of the forum moderators posted that by typing in “crzy”, a song banner would display for “Crazy Right Now” by Beyonce. This took us forum posters by complete surprise. It was a licensed song that was nowhere to be found in our games. It wasn’t playable, it wasn’t an unlockable song, it wasn’t…anything! This, of course, begged the question of why the banner was there in the first place. The moderator was determined to find out.

So he started a “Perl script”, which would essentially hack into the site and return all working links that pointed to a song banner. (It’s done by going through all the combinations a-z and 0-9 would make.) [NOTE: I am NOT endorsing that you, the reader, do the same thing right now. This is simply recounting what already took place. DON’T RUN PERL SCRIPTS THERE!]

Anyway, the script lasted from A to J before it stopped prematurely. And it managed to uncover four more new songs in the process! Two of them were licensed songs: In My Dreams by Noemi and Boom Boom Dollar (K.O.G. G3 Mix) by King Kong and the D. Jungle Girls. The other two were Konami Original songs: Hold On Me by Tiger Yamato and g.m.d. by DJ Mazinger featuring Muhammad.

The appearance of the Boom Boom Dollar (K.O.G. G3 Mix) banner really threw people off. It was a song from WAY back from the 3rd Mix era, and definitely a fan favorite. Why it showed up here on the site and not in a specific game is anyone’s guess. The addition of two Konami original songs also puzzled people. Now we couldn’t simply dismiss the appearance of the new songs as “cut licensed songs”. Now there was the possibility that these could show up on future song packs!

Now when I say “possibility”, I mean an incredibly SMALL one at that. Licensed songs have never been part of any downloadable song pack thus far, and given current trends, it looks to stay that way. Now there WAS a lot questions back during the Ultramix 1 days when somebody leaked a banner featuring the DDRMAX licensed song Take It To The Morning Light with a song pack icon slapped in the middle. Apparently this didn’t mean a thing, as it might have been the original plan include it, but forces outside of KCEH’s control forced them not to.

Then again, Take It To The Morning Light DID appear in the fourth song pack for the UK’s Dancing Stage Unleashed (the European version of Ultramix). How this happened, I have no clue. Their song packs also differ a tiny bit from ours; having certain songs we got in earlier song packs appear in their later ones. They also seemed to have gotten Cutie Chaser in their fifth song pack. Very interesting, if you ask me.

Anyway, late Sunday night when Orange Lounge Radio came on, I decided to do a little sleuthing on my own. I don’t know how to hack into websites, obviously, but if all I needed to do was alter the four letters in a banner link, I’d be able to find stuff rather easily. (And by “easily”, I mean trial and error through hundreds of combinations.)

So I simply started by typing in random four-letter words. (Does “week” work? Nope. How about “read”? Nope again. “Beef”? Crap, nothing.) This went on for about 20-30 attempts before I decided to type in “scan”. And wouldn’t you know it, I actually FOUND something! A song banner for Scandalous by Mis-Teeq appeared right before my very eyes. So I reported it to the Orange Lounge chat room, and continued on my merry way.

After about another 20-or-so attempts (Punk, meet, seat, and keep? Nope, nada, you lose, try the home game.), I type in “part”. This pulled up ANOTHER song: Get The Party Started by Pink. I was floored. I managed to find two more licensed songs no one else had found. I tried several more times to see if I could find anything else, but didn’t. I did, however, figure out that all the banners from the Ultramix 1 song packs were also on the server. It didn’t do me a bit of good, as we could already PLAY them, but it was interesting to find nonetheless.

Of course KCEH put a quiet stop to our fun the following morning. For about 20 minutes, the entire site blanked out on us. When it came back online, all the cute little song banners we found had been removed, along with probably anything else that was hidden that we didn’t find yet. So we had to put an end to our investigation…for now.

So the results from DDRFreak and yours truly managed to find seven songs all together that are not in the game. Five of them are licensed tracks, and two of them are Konami Originals. It still begs the question as to WHY these banners were on the Ultramix 2 website at all. Allow me to offer three possible explanations, since all we can do is guess at this point:

(1) All of these songs were part of the original Ultramix 2 song list, but had to be cut during the development process for certain reasons. This can easily explain the licensed songs, but not so much the Konami Originals. Which leads to #2:

(2) The songs are going to be used in future song packs. I can see both Hold On Me and g.m.d. being included, but the licensed songs present a problem to this hypothesis. Unless KCEH is planning a HUGE song pack with the five licensed tracks in question, this probably isn’t the case. Which leaves the last hypothesis…

(3) The next game in the Ultramix series is in development, and all these songs are going to be used for it. This kind of ties in with the first hypothesis, as cut songs from one game have been known to make future versions. As an example, the song Freak Like Me was originally supposed to appear on Dancing Stage Megamix for the UK PS2, but was cut. It later appeared on Dancing Stage Fusion 18 months later. So there’s still a glimmer of hope here for all you BBD KOGG3 fans!

Of course, these are only educated guesses. There’s nothing else we can do now, except for a Konami representative to come out and explain our interesting finds. (Please? I’ll give you a cookie! Again!)


AN OPEN LETTER TO ELECTRONIC ARTS

Dear Heathen Devil Spawn of the Gaming Industry Electronic Arts,

It has recently come to my attention that you have come to an agreement with the Marvel Corporation to produce a video game with their intellectual properties. It has also come to my attention that you plan to create your own intellectual properties in the form of “heroes” to fight against or alongside them, thereby creating a “Marvel VS EA” type of motif.

Now I won’t go into the fact that you will probably single-handedly produce a game that will be incredibly bad that will not only shame both parties involved, but destroy any credibility Marvel has to its name, and instead go straight to the point of the matter.

Given that the game will be a “Marvel VS EA” type of scenario, I propose a deal with you. I will promise to severely lessen my hatred and animosity towards you and your entire pathetic organization if you make one of your playable “superheroes” John Madden.

For you see, it has long since been a dream of mine since the days of Madden ’95 on the Sega Genesis to beat the ever-loving tar out of John Madden. I always thought his commentary was horrible, and made any game his voice was present in a hell of a lot less fun to play. Whenever he would belt out a monotone statement about a play I’d run (usually something that I already know, like “Field goals are worth three points!”), I wished against hope that I could wring his tiny neck. However, now you have an opportunity to make my wish come true.

By creating a playable John Madden in your upcoming game, you will give many gaming fans, as well as myself, the dream of a lifetime. We could simply go into the game’s “training mode”, pick Madden as our training dummy, and proceed to wail on him for hours upon end. It would be the ultimate way to relieve frustration by killing perhaps the most annoying personality in sports gaming today, paying him back for all the happiness lost playing his asinine NFL titles, as well as for him taking precious minutes of my life by viewing his Tinactin and Ace Hardware commercials. I would appreciate this immensely, and rate the game a perfect 10 no matter how bad it is, as well as buying 18 copies for my friends.

If you choose not to grant this favor, I will continue my role in our movement to make sure the world knows how evil, sick, and demented your business practices are.

I await your decision on the matter.

Sincerely yours,

Alex Williams
www.insidepulse.com


I GOT SOME E-MAILS IN MY POCKET

Keep writing in, guys. Show off your awesome…um…writing to me powers!

Scotty J writes in to me this week, and he agrees with me on certain things!

Hey there.

I have been reading EES ever since #10, and its probably one of my favorite articles to read on IP. Im not big on DDR (because I cant play it because of health issues), its pretty cool to see you know so much about it. Ever think of applying at Konami for a DDR job? ;)

(1) Thanks for the complement. Of course I wouldn’t be here without you readers, so its a wonderful trade off.

(2) I’m sorry to hear about the health issues. Luckily, there are several more Bemani franchise games out there you can try your hand at. If you ever get a hold of a Japanese PS2, I’d strongly recommend trying games like beatmania IIDX or Pop’n Music. And if you can still find them, there are home versions of Keyboardmania, and Guitar Freaks / Drummania as well.

(3) Believe me, nothing would give me greater joy than becoming a beta tester for console games, especially for Konami and their Bemani series’. Unfortunately, I have to live in either (a) Japan, or (b) California in order to qualify. And I’m stuck here on the East Coast. (Sigh) I guess this is why I was given the ability to dream…

Anyways, I totally agree with you about your assesment of SMBA4. I bought this game, relishing in my childhood memories of SMB3 goodness, and what I got was nothing in return. I beat it in a day, much like yourself and I havent picked it up since.

anyways

keep up the article

Ah, so I’m NOT crazy for not going apeshit over SMA4. YOU SEE WIDRO??? SEE??? PEOPLE ACTUALLY SHARE MY POINT OF VIEW!!!

(Of course, that’s what I WOULD be saying if I was a bitter, vindictive person who loves to piss off his boss. But I’m not, so I won’t say it.

After I finished the initial review for SMA4, the e-Reader cards came out a couple of weeks later. Considering I did in fact have an e-Reader and the materials necessary to scan things in, I bit the bullet and bought the card packs. To their credit, the new levels are pretty fun. Having the SMW feather was also interesting. The P-switches that changed the gameplay weren’t all that impressive, though.

Still, I don’t think I should have had to pay extra for them. Add to the fact that I didn’t get my package from Wal-Mart, which included 5 exclusive cards I’ll never see. Not only that, but Nintendo stopped releasing cards after the first two packs, leaving me with an incomplete e-World to boot. More salt in my wounds, I guess.

Speaking of which, Tom Pandich checks in again (at the buzzer, no less) with his own thoughts on the matter:

Hm, not really a lot to address last column it seems considering it consisted of a whole lot of bitching and moaning. It was almost justified, but I laughed my ass off at the last Hot Seat too hard to really take a stance besides Widro can be a pretty funny guy. Sure, you got screwed, but come on, it is Super Mario Brothers 3 (no matter what the box says).

Believe me, it was Widro who is chiefly bitching and moaning to ME about this particular issue every couple of months. Most of the blind hatred that’s presented in public is really in jest, so I suggest you don’t take it too seriously. And no matter WHAT the box says, my opinions on the content INSIDE the box are still valid. Moving on…

So the whole PSP price point is the big story of the week. Personally, I don’t mind bundling even in the initial run of the system, I just wish that Sony was giving gamers more of an option with the game that’s coming with it. From a buisness standpoint, Sony picked the right game to bundle with the system seeing that Spider Man 2 isn’t a system mover but on the same token it isn’t a game that really anyone will object to. On the other hand though, I feel like if I’m dropping 250 bucks for a system, do I really want a port as my bundled game. Sony would have gained some credibility in my eyes if they released the PSP with multiple launch bundles (maybe one with Wipeout or MGS: Acid, a sports game, and the Spider Man 2 bundle). The lack of options at the launch is just another missed opportunity in my opinion.

The PSP bundling is a smart move on Sony’s part, as if we had to buy an extra piece of hardware to SAVE OUR GAMES ON A HANDHELD SYSTEM, there would have been a lot of wailing and gnashing of teeth. It’s too bad that it’s the only choice we have at the moment, but hey, as long as Sony’s making money off of us…

Giving away 1,000,000 free copies of Spiderman 2 also makes sense, as its one of those titles that probably won’t sell too much in comparison to others. Given the fact that (a) it’s a port of a PS2 game, and (b) it’s close to a year old are two things working against it in terms of sales. Besides, most people aren’t interested in what the game IS, it’s just the fact that it’s free. Most probably wouldn’t object to an average game if they got it for free. Would you?

The other news item that caught my eye was that Nintendo would be tossing in a fully playable version of Super Punch Out with EA’s Fight Night: Round 2. It’s funny how Nintendo won’t sell a collectors pack of their classic games, but they’re willing to give out games and characters to a third party developer to ensure that if the option presents itself between picking up the GC or X-Box version of a game, the gamer says to himself, who wouldn’t want to play as Little Mac? Hopefully Nintendo will realize that they can cut out the middleman in these cases and put together a decent 10-15 game pack of some of their first party NES, SNES, and GB games (not even the huge franchise titles either) and make a killing.

That’s the way it always seems in Nintendo-land. They are beloved by a large segment of our gaming population, so they think they can get away with murder by skipping classic collections and doing weird things with old games in their franchises. Lending out characters and old games to EA is one of those odd maneuvers that don’t make any sense. The same can be said for re-releasing old NES games for $20 a piece. Sure they may be fun again, but not when I can get a modern game for the same price, or even less!

Playing devil’s advocate, however, notice how it’s always the fans who think that if they could take over a company like Nintendo for one day, they could “turn it around” and “make it even better”? We hear on thing we don’t like, and all of the sudden, all the people in the company are idiots and have no idea what they are doing? We say things like “If only they’d listen to ME! I’ve been playing video games for ten years! I know what’s good and what’s not! If Nintendo stops focusing on young people and start focusing on ME, than they’ll be making money again!!!”, even though such logic is flawed? Simply having an idea you THINK will work doesn’t mean it actually WILL work.

At this point in time, Nintendo really doesn’t have to worry much about going under. In a previous report, I noted that they are still making a profit. And if the day comes where they stop making a profit every year and start operating at a loss, they will STILL be around. It usually takes a few years of operating at continuous losses before a company truly goes under, like Sega did.

So yeah, Nintendo is capable of its fair share of bonehead decisions. But they still are capable of putting out excellent games as well. It’s a weird sort of balance, but it’s currently working for them.


PLUGS & SHILLS THAT PAY THE BILLS

We are awesome. And it SHOWS!

Bryan Berg weighs in with his thoughts on the PSP launch. He goes into WAY more detail than I’ll ever care to take with mine.

Alex Lucard delves into the vampire lore involving stakes and hearts, and connects them, killing a vampire goth. He laughed about it. Hard.

Eric S. will one day write something that plugs me. He never has, and quite frankly never will, unless I write my column on Mondays. Aw well…

William Quinn tears into Playboy: The Mansion like a dog with an eight-year-old’s homework assignment.

Adam Whisnat describes a game that involves what I feel like doing sometimes.

Orange Lounge Radio didn’t write a DAMN THING for this website. They just sound funny every Sunday and Thursday night. The good kind of funny!


PARTING THOUGHTS

Friday once again comes to a close, and I once again leave you with words of wisdom before we part ways. (This week: Don’t run over bananas with a lawnmower.) Well, you can TAKE it as wisdom, or you can take it as complete garbage. It doesn’t matter. Just remember that when the giant robot overlords enslave the planet in a few weeks, you’ll be SORRY you didn’t heed my words of wisdom! I’ll be in my escape pod, laughing all the merry way at you jerks who chose to ignore me! HAH!

No, I’m not high. Why do you ask???

See you next week.


Alex Williams, The Norwegian Athlete