Frogger 25th Anniversary from Konami on Xbox Live Arcade - Impressions

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An Achievement Symbol from Frogger 25th Anniversary on Xbox Live ArcadeAn Achievement Symbol from Frogger 25th Anniversary on Xbox Live ArcadeWell, as part of Xbox Live Wednesday's, which will see interesting new releases on that weekday for the near future, Microsoft and Konami have released "Frogger 25th Anniversary" to Xbox Live Arcade for the Xbox 360 yesterday. I was looking forward to the enhanced visuals and the new modes, but was ultimately left a bit dissapointed.

As with other arcade emulations for Xbox Live Arcade, you're given the original emulated game in all its original glory. To adjust for widescreen hi-definition displays, borders are often added to make up for the differences in dimensions. In this case, Frogger was a vertical game, so there are significant borders on the left and right of the screen. No major deal, but it does leave little real estate for the game itself. A necessary evil, but a bit annoying nonetheless. As with several other games of this type on Xbox Live Arcade, there is a mode that keeps the same proportions and gameplay, but updates the visuals and sounds. This update, while interesting and certainly more nice sounding than nice looking, doesn't work quite as well as the updates for games like Joust, for instance. In any case, it's there if you want it, though to me, the screen proportions would make me tend to favor playing it the original way most of the time.

My biggest beef, besides the screen proportions (you CAN stretch the play area if you want, but it's not proportional) are the controls. Frogger is a game meant for a 4-way joystick. After playing it on my home arcade machine with 4-way joystick via MAME, I find the Xbox 360 wireless controller's d-pad and analog stick unsuitable replacements. Obviously because it's digital, the d-pad is the preferred method, but I still found myself with a few too many mishits for my taste. Of course, this is a universal problem with controlling games like this on anything it wasn't specifically designed around, so it's not really the fault of the controller. In fact, I actually greatly enjoy playing dual joystick games like Robotron and Smash TV on the Xbox 360 because the analog sticks do a superb job of simulating the arcade experience, if not surpassing it.

Since Frogger was just the downloadable demo, I was unable to try the competitive modes online, of which there seems to be plenty. I imagine the fun factor would be upped considerably playing against buddies online in the various modes. I believe this game costs about $10 US or less if you translate the appropriate Microsoft points required to purchase it, so it's certainly worth it if you would find yourself playing it that way. As for me, it just doesn't make sense. While a fan of Frogger, it IS a bit of a repetitive game after all...

Interestingly, Xbox Live Arcade came through in other ways though after playtesting Frogger last night. I accepted friend invites from fellow AA staffer Mark Vergeer and AA member Mr. Custard. Since we're all on the same friend's list now I was able to compare their accomplishments and records on the various games we all co-own to my own. That motivated me to try and beat their high scores and/or achievments on games like the amazing Geometry Wars, Crystal Quest and Mutant Storm Reloaded (though in reality, I think I'm the only one with the latter). While I'm not a particularly talented player, having that motivation to beat your buddy's scores and achievments is HUGE in regards to giving these fun arcade games even more bite. That's just the hook that keeps you coming back for more and wanting to do better. In fact, I was so motivated, I FINALLY got the "Pacifist" achievement in Geometry Wars, which you get if you can survive without firing a shot for at least 60 seconds. I lasted 61 seconds after the 14th or so attempt of the night. Great stuff!

While I don't consider Frogger a great success, I absolutely look forward to future Wednesdays and will report back each time.

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Matt Barton
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Crystal Quest

Ah, Crystal Quest. I haven't thought about that game in awhile. My friends and I played it to death at a summer camp back in 92 (or maybe 91?) We were at McNeese State U, which "featured" a great Macintosh lab.

Something I'll never forget from that summer: I had brought my Commodore 64 from home and was setting it up in my dorm room. I suddenly (and much to my chagrin) realized that I didn't have the required (weirdo) monitor cable. I thought all was lost, and mentioned it to the lab tech at the Mac lab. He said, "Follow me," and I went with him to this gigantic storage room. There must have been a hundred Commodore 64s in there, with all the related hardware and no telling how much software. I even saw some older machines in there than that! He gave me the cable and just said to forget it.

I had to ask: What was going on? Apparently, the university had a policy that said that anything it purchased with some big grant couldn't be sold. So, they had all this equipment in excellent condition that they couldn't sell and had to pay to store. With PCs or Macs, they tend to shuffle them around to faculty (recycled hand-me-downs), but I guess when a machine gets too old, it ends up in cold storage.

Of course, I wonder how often pieces come up missing from those unwanted collections...! They're collector's dreams come true.

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Bill Loguidice
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Crystal Quest - Original Version

It actually contains the original Mac version as an option for play. It's pretty dreadful though in comparison simply because the update supports full dual analog control for both movement and shooting, which makes a huge difference in that type of game versus the original control scheme. Of the dual stick games on Xbox Live Arcade, of which there seem to be a bazillion, from Robotron to Geometry Wars and beyond, Crystal Quest is probably amongst the least interesting of the group, but it's still a lot of fun. It's just than in comparison to some of the great dual stick games of classic and recent vintage, the field is ultra competitive.

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Bill Loguidice, Managing Director
Armchair Arcade, Inc.
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Matt Barton
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Microsoft "Going Retro"

I just saw this post on Tech News World and thought I'd share. Apparently these older games are doing very well on the service:

Greg Canessa, a group manager for Xbox Live Arcade, said the downloadable games service has been surprisingly successful for the company.

About 5 million free trial games have been downloaded by Xbox 360 owners, he said, and 21.7 percent of those have been "converted," meaning a person decided to pay for the permanent version.

Hmmm!

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Bill Loguidice
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Response to "Microsoft 'Going Retro'"

I saw a foolish comment in a mainstream article in USA Today about how surprising the success of Xbox Live Arcade is, since it's appealing to "hardcore gamers" as well as the expected "casual gamers". The very idea that just because a game is old means that it won't even be looked at by a modern gamer infatuated with FPS games, for instance, is absurd. A gamer is a gamer. While there are certainly limits to what some people will play (the more juvenile for instance, the less likely someone might be to give it a chance, or the more overtly sexist; whatever), the idea that games at their heart designed around gameplay would somehow not be appealing is a bizarre conclusion. Obviously a HUGE factor in all this is convenience. As much as having a boxed product is nice, there's something tantalizing about being able to try a demo of a game then purchasing if you're so moved, all in the space of a few minutes from the comforts of your chair, wirelessly. The easier you make things, the more stuff like this will be a GENERAL success, not just a niche success. Simple business. It's why Nintendo is doing what they're doing with the Wii and the virtual console and the PS3 will have a service like Xbox Live too. As much as people like to think these companies do things for altruistic reasons or "for the gamer" (*cough* Nintendo), they ALL do what they do to make money. If they didn't think it had a chance to make lots of money, they wouldn't do it. Don't think for a second Microsoft thought that Xbox Live Arcade would be limited to "casual gamers"...

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Bill Loguidice, Managing Director
Armchair Arcade, Inc.
[ My collection ]
[ http://www.MythCore.com ]

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Matt Barton
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Are "Casual Gamers" Casual?

This gets me to wondering: Are these people really "casual?" I know plenty of folks who take these "casual games" to "hardcore," working out strategies and even spending hours discussing them. One of them is my mother-in-law with a spelling/scrabble type tile game, and my father-in-law is the same way with a gemstone-type game.

Sure, anybody can "casually" pick up Frogger and start playing, but let's face it--they won't get far at all until they actually start putting some thought into the game and working out strategies. Like you mentioned earlier, competition will really egg on the desire to master the game. That seems pretty "hardcore" to me; much more "hardcore" than some 10 year old chump who only plays only the latest FPS because the graphics are "awesome."

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Bill Loguidice
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I Agree - Casual and Hardcore Probably Need to be Redefined

I think others are slowly coming to this conclusion too. It's becoming pretty clear that the "casual gamers" are just as hardcore - if not moreso - than the so-called "hardcore gamers". They're all gamers, though they may play different things. It's time for terms that perhaps better reflect what is actually happening - there are people that game because it's fun and then there are people that game only because it's the latest things. It would be an interesting exercise.

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Bill Loguidice, Managing Director
Armchair Arcade, Inc.
[ My collection ]
[ http://www.MythCore.com ]

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Bill Loguidice
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Frogger 25th Anniversary is only $5

My points translation was wrong, it's only $5. That actually seems about worth it, though I only have around $2.50 worth of points in my account. In any case, here's a good review of the game, which screenshots showing what I was talking about in regards to screen real estate: http://xbox360.ign.com/articles/718/718313p1.html

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Bill Loguidice, Managing Director
Armchair Arcade, Inc.
[ My collection ]
[ http://www.MythCore.com ]

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forcefield58
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Comment regarding hardcore vs casual gamer...

That comment came from the Microsoft Xbox Live Arcade website, per below:

Xbox Live Arcade

Xbox Live® Arcade is the central destination for Xbox 360™ gamers to find, download, try, and buy smaller games on the Xbox 360 console. The Xbox Live Arcade offers a large catalog of fun, broad-appeal games that can be downloaded via Xbox Live.

Arcade is perfect for the hardcore gamer who's looking for bite-sized entertainment, or for a casual player looking to get into the game. The games offered in the Xbox Live Arcade come from a wide variety of genres, including puzzle games, retro arcade favorites, action games, card & board titles, and more. New games are released frequently on the Xbox Live Arcade, creating an ever-growing portfolio of titles for players to choose from each month.

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