Takenobu Mitsuyoshi’s Rendition of ‘Jingle Bells’ Gives Christmas a Rolling Start

Takenobu Mitsuyoshi, the composer notable for his work on a number of SEGA’s most iconic soundtracks, including Virtua Fighter 2 and Daytona USA – for which he provided some truly breathtaking vocals – has performed ‘Jingle Bells’ for the arcade rhythm game maimai.

I think the title of ‘Best Christmas Song’ has well and truly been claimed.

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Nintendo’s Never-Ending Barbecue – ‘Grill-Off with Ultra Hand!’ and What It Can Teach Us

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As many of you may know, this month marked 10 years since the launch of Nintendo’s revolutionary Wii console. Regardless of how old it made many of us feel, it was great to see the discussion sparked from this anniversary about the system’s diverse library of quality titles, including some of its greatest undiscovered games. The discussion quickly turned to WiiWare, the Wii’s original downloadable selection of titles introduced in 2008, two years after the console’s launch. It too played host to a wide selection of impressive games, many of which were even more criminally overlooked than their retail counterparts, that to this day have not received the recognition they deserve.

One noteworthy title that came up on several occasions was Grill-Off with Ultra Hand!, a unique cooking game released exclusively to members of the late Club Nintendo in Japan and North America. Themed around the Ultra Hand, a toy created by Nintendo in the late 60s, the game saw players use the titular grabbing mechanism to manage a seemingly endless supply of grilled meat at a virtual barbecue. The gameplay itself was simple, as expected of a free game, in fact comparable to a meatier version of the Game & Watch game Chef – pun possibly intended.

Whilst Grill-Off with Ultra Hand! can hardly be considered the gold standard for WiiWare games, it’s easy to appreciate it simply for the fact that it exists – a bizarre and unpredictable title that simultaneously parodies suburban Americana whilst paying homage to Nintendo’s pre-gaming past, as well as one that has sadly become unavailable to today’s players, at least through legitimate means. The promotional video linked above is similarly eccentric, capturing the game’s quirky spirit in a manner that, to some extent, could be considered unnecessary – much like Grill-Off itself, it’s almost impressive that this advert was ever made.

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A look into the world of ‘8-Bit Shugei’ – Culture Collection #15

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Be it through artwork, music or even food, for years people have expressed their love for gaming with fan works of all forms. The rise of the internet and social media has made it as easy as ever for creators to share their work, no longer limited to expressing their wild artistic visions through magazines and other specific channels. It’s through social media that a specific community of creators has arisen, the focus of this instalment of Culture Collection – ‘8-Bit Shugei’ – literally ‘8-bit Handicraft’.

Showcasing handmade items across a wide spectrum of mediums, the Japanese 8-bit Shugei tag on the likes of Twitter, Instagram and Tumblr plays host to a plethora of brilliant fan creations paying tribute to gaming icons and imagery, both world-renowned and as niche as they come. Today we’ll be showing you just a small sample of the talented individuals and charming culture that have arisen from the 8-bit Shugei tags. We recommend you also have a browse for yourself to get the full extent of the great things people are creating.

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Birosama1217‘s work has been featured in previous instalments of Culture Collection and as a frequent user of the 8-bit Shugei tag, it’s only fitting that we show some more off today. They’re clearly handy with a needle and thread and some of their simpler designs are very appealing, such as these Dragon Quest-inspired pixel art pins.

They’re also clearly a fan of EarthBound, as evidenced by wide a selection of unique handmade pieces that pay tribute to the series. The map of Onett that uses pins to chart out character locations is particularly clever.

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Dragon Quest‘s Slimes are a popular choice when it comes to all kinds of creations, such as these sweet treats made by Nancy_UUU

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…or Rurue111‘s practical and stylish spray bottles.

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Minus World Reading List – November 2016

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Nintendo offered us some engaging conversation last month in an interview with long-time developer Yoshio Sakamoto, translated as part of a short interview series celebrating release of the Nintendo Classic Mini: Nintendo Entertainment System. This particular instalment, which focuses on Balloon Fight, features humorous anecdotes such as Satoru Iwata‘s first encounter with veteran Nintendo designer Gunpei Yokoi and a fascinating closer look at the challenges and experimentation involved in the game’s development. One noteworthy aspect of this piece is the way in which writer Akinori Sao opens his foreword, with the expression “FamiConnichiwa”. Let’s hope this catches on as a greeting soon.

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Also released last month was the free Welcome Amiibo expansion for 2013’s Animal Crossing: New Leaf, introducing significant amount of new content to give Nintendo’s staple life sim a surprisingly appealing new lease of life. Producers Katsuya Eguchi and Hisashi Nogami sat down to give their opinion on a number of vital questions about the series. Topics include their favourite furniture sets, preference for catching bugs or fish and naturally, the toughest debate of all – who has the best singing voice, Kapp’n or K.K.? This one is not to be missed.

Fan-made 2D fighters from virtually unknown creators make up some of the genre’s undiscovered finest. With this in mind, I was ecstatic to see Attract Mode feature Arm Joe, the doujin fighting game based on Victor Hugo’s Les Misérables that was developed entirely by one guy who blamed his lack of friends for the massive undertaking. I’d truly love to know what Victor Hugo would make of ‘RoboJean’, should he still be alive today.

Our friends over at Source Gaming had the chance to sit down with Jeff Manning, the voice actor known for his role as the announcer in the original Super Smash Bros., amongst other noteworthy credits in both English and Japanese. With this, the Source Gaming team have interviewed every announcer from the Smash Bros. series to date (Melee‘s Dean HarringtonBrawl‘s Pat Cashman and for Wii U/Nintendo 3DS‘s Xander Mobus) and it’s particularly interesting to hear the story behind how each actor acquired the role, as well as the direction they underwent during the development process.

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The Minus World 2016 Christmas Gift Guide

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Regardless of who you believe delivers your Christmas presents every year, it seems to be a universally accepted fact that they’re a pretty busy guy/gal. The likelihood is they’re not going to have it easy when it comes to accommodating your niche taste in quality gaming goods, but don’t worry, we’ve got you well and truly covered in our new and improved gift guide for the holiday season.

Whether you’ll be the one doing the gift-giving, or if you’re looking to offer up a festive nudge to the people who care enough to spend their hard earned income on you, this guide offers a delectable selection of must-have games and items that are sure to succeed in spreading some end-of-year cheer – you might even come out after something you didn’t even know you wanted.

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Pokémon – It means more than Pocket Monsters

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Pokémon recently celebrated its 20th anniversary, so perhaps this is an ideal time to go over what the series might represent. Even with some of the darker content alluded to in the games, it’s an overall upbeat experience. Wholesome, you might say. Pretty much every person who has experienced it has an opinion about it, and with twenty years of content to work from, there’s a broad range of stuff we could discuss here. That said, there are some things that remain consistent across the games. You are a young boy or girl, leaving home for the first time, with the aim of becoming the Pokémon league champion. On the side, you are tasked with filling out an encyclopaedia of Pokémon who are native to the region. You invariably cross paths with a rival of some kind, good or bad in nature, depending on the game, and also have to deal with a nefarious team of miscreants who wish to misuse Pokémon in some form or another.

With some differences dotted throughout the series, that is the formula that the series has stuck to for twenty years now. Whether you started on the first generation and remained involved for the following six, dipped in every so often, or are a newcomer, the description above is likely something you can relate to. That said, with a twenty year history, it goes without saying that people will have different experiences, and undoubtedly have different favourite Pokémon.

There is, of course, more to the series than what I have mentioned above. The original tagline, which has presumably been dropped due to the sheer number of Pokémon in the most recent games, was “Gotta Catch ‘em All!”. With a little over 700 to catch and more on the way, it’s perhaps just as well that this is no longer the imperative; it was enough of an achievement in the original generation with a mere 150 available to catch. Now, with multiple games required and with exclusive Pokémon in each version of the game, it is more akin to an investment.

It is interesting to note that while that particular tagline (and in turn, the lofty goal it tasks you with) has taken a backseat in recent times, the series has hardly shied away from introducing new things to sink your time into. Behind the scenes, there is an almost overwhelmingly complex system that determines how your Pokémon will develop, which sequentially can have an effect on their offspring, should you choose to start breeding them. Should this more mathematical aspect of the games fail to interest you, you can explore the Pokémon world’s more creative side, enter your Pokémon into beauty pageants, or even play a variety of games together to tighten your bond. If that’s not enough, in some of the games you have the option of building and designing your own base, or travelling around to different boutiques and changing the look of your own character. This is only scraping the surface, and I can hold my hands up and say that there is still a lot I have yet to personally experience. Yet, it seems important that so many of those things are not necessary to complete the game, they are simply additions that help you develop an attachment to the in-game world and of course, your Pokémon. Indeed, in an interview in 1999 with Time magazine, series creator Satoshi Tajiri stated that to him, what is important in the series is the human aspect. With this in mind, what does Pokémon mean to you?

For me, Pokémon is a game where the real charm comes from living in the moment. Yes, the aim of the game is to become the champion, but what about everything that leads to that point? There are endless quotes to be found about how you should enjoy the journey and not just focus on your destination – in some ways, Pokémon is the embodiment of that concept. With certain challenges to deal with, you will most likely have to put your progress on hold at one point or another to strengthen your chosen team. Each time I reached a roadblock of sorts, usually through having too weak a team to progress along the game’s main path, it inspired me to return to areas I had already visited and explore in greater detail, occasionally encountering new Pokémon who ended up playing an important role in allowing me to move forward. The idea that taking your time and approaching a challenge in many different ways is always a good one – an idea contained in the very ethos of Pokémon – is certainly a style of progress that can be applied to many aspects of life.

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Resting Warriors, HuCard Economics and Family Computers Great & Small – Culture Collection #14

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You might have noticed Minus World has been pretty quiet recently. Apologies for the radio silence, things have been crazily busy, but you’ll be pleased to know that the world of games culture never sleeps – here’s your latest look at a handful of its most creative and interesting offerings over the last month and a bit.

To start with something topically relevant, the Famicom Mini just released! As a matter of fact, at the time of writing it’s apparently sold out in Japan, and Instagram and Twitter alike are filled with pics of users re-living the good old days in miniature form. This shot by Mio9744 in particular caught my eye because it just looks plain nice, adding some ribbons into the equation.

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This reminds me that you’ve only got a few days (two, as of the time of writing) to get your hands on this limited run MOUNTAIN GRAPHICS x Attract Mode shirt, which opts to turn the Famicom into a giant robot as opposed to making it smaller. Not much more to add really, it’s cool and you should buy one!

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The instance I spotted this giant Famicom being assembled by Kaj2nd, I knew that whatever it turned out to be, it was going to end up on Culture Collection…

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… but little did I know, however, that it was actually part of a genius three-man (or in this case, one man and two sons) Halloween costume. Nor did I know that the rest of the internet were going to beat me to sharing it! No matter, I’m sharing it with you now because it’s fully deserving of your attention, even if the season has passed.

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Twitter user _RKNK_‘s box full of Famicom carts was posted quite a bit earlier in October, but looking back on it, it gives me the idea of handing out old games rather than sweets on Halloween. It’s definitely better for your teeth, but I’m not sure how well the idea would go down in a natively Famicom-less part of the world.

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Alternatively, as kotobuki_man demonstrates here, you could use your Famicom carts as some kind of offering to Hudson mascot Takahashi Meijin (AKA Adventure Island‘s Master Higgins). This striking yellow sofubi vinyl figure of Meijin was released earlier this year, an essential collectors piece for die-hard fans of the late Hudson’s brilliant Famicom output. They’re not easy to get your hands on, but probably not as hard as beating Adventure Island.

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Programmable Series – This Is Just A Tribute

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If you have even a passing knowledge of video games, there’s no doubt you are familiar with more than a few iconic characters, whether they be a speedy blue hedgehog or a pair of moustachioed plumbers. Maybe you’ve thought about producing your own game with those iconic characters in a different genre, or perhaps even a crossover game with multitude of characters from different fictional universes. You wouldn’t be the only one who has thought about doing this, and a quick web search may even queue up what you’re looking for. However, if you’ve been keeping up with gaming news you’ll notice that many fan games are being pulled down- particularly, games that use Nintendo’s intellectual properties have been on the chopping block more frequently than ever. We’re going to dive into some of the legality of making fan games as well as what you can do to make your fan game its own unique idea.

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Copyright and trademark laws vary based on where you are in the world, as do the related penalties for breaking these laws. Copyright laws are very strict in North America and most of Europe, but much less severe in countries like China. In addition to that, the owners of any copyrights or trademarks may have different approaches to the way they allow others to use their properties. In the United States, Nintendo representatives filed a take-down request with Game Jolt, a website that hosts a wide variety of indie and fan games, under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). This resulted in the removal of 562 games from the website, many of which directly used Nintendo characters, music or other protected resources. Meanwhile, the site still hosts over 9,000 fan games based on the popular PC horror series Five Nights At Freddy’s. This year, Nintendo also had their hand in the removal of two high-profile games long in development – Another Metroid 2 Remake and Pokemon Uranium. There are many ways to view these situations, and Nintendo is well within their right to defend their properties, but it casts a negative image of the company amongst many of the fans. This is especially true when compared to how other large companies handle fan games.

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Life & Death, Diskun Love and Piles of Stuff – Culture Collection #13

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Let’s open this new-style Culture Collection with some great fan-made stuff – although admittedly, Itumo Sobani‘s MOTHER-themed works could easily pass for official merchandise. A whole host of design items and accessories have been created by the self-described coterie, which you can admire for yourself on their online store, but today I want to draw attention to these particularly photogenic Mr. Saturn badges, which come in an assortment cute styles. The MOTHER fanbase have proved continually that, if anything, they are a very creative bunch.

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Shoot-’em-up fans will be particularly impressed by KazutoSakairi‘s ongoing project to immortalise all 101 of R-Type Final‘s playable ships in Lego. Something about these well-designed builds reminds me of the sought-after Shooting Game Historica collection of capsule toys. Perhaps if you can’t get hold of something, building your own is the solution.

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Some neat key-rings and accessories designed by Chihiro Tanaka for his store [den]. The most recent additions are the ‘After Image’ or ‘Zanzou’ designs, which feature that afterimage effect you get in fighting games. I’ve admired Tanaka’s work for a while now, although regrettably know little about the origins of the [den] store. I am still a little sour that there’s no international shipping though, because there’s some nice apparel on offer.

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Birthday celebrations with syrup_frog. 2D Mario serves for a pretty solid way to celebrate another year, and having a cool Super Famicom setup to play it on makes things all the sweeter. Digging that three-eyed Dragon Quest Slime hiding in the back there.

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The last picture proved that the Super Famicom is clearly ideal for celebrating, but all good things must come to an end, apparently. I sure hope there’s a good explanation for this picture, shared by applesorce, because it’s making me feel weak at the knees…

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Not all game-filled piles are bad though, like this one shared by redretr0. That D-Direct exclusive camouflage print Dreamcast controller is particularly enviable.

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Dreamcast controllers of any type seem to look good under a mysterious blue light, as discovered by kageryu. Maybe it’s just the neon colours, but I can’t help but find there’s something a little Blade Runner-like about this one.

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More than 30 years late to the party, an untouched Famicom gets its chance to shine

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Our second treasure trove of the day, and this time one that’s been doing the rounds, is courtesy of Nintendo themselves (and spotted over on Attract Mode). A recent series on Nintendo’s Japanese website celebrating the 30th anniversary of The Legend of Zelda has led to the showing-off brand new Famicom and Famicom Disk System consoles that appear to have been tucked away at the back of a company warehouse for over 30 years. Even better, they work!

On the one hand, you could say that this find is a complete-in-box collector’s dream come true – original untouched hardware straight from the source. The fact that Nintendo themselves were quick to tear away the plastic wrapping, pull out a fittingly dated CRT and hook the thing up likely wouldn’t sit so well, but these games were made for playing; just because these Famicom units showed up to the party over 30 years too late, doesn’t mean they don’t deserve their day in the sun, and what better a game to break them in than the Famicom Disk System version of Zelda. Nintendo even produced a swanky video showing them turning the console on to prove it works.

Die-hard Famicom nuts will likely be excited to know that a Famicom Disk Writer kiosk, which we’ve gone on about a few times in the past, was also discovered amongst the collection. I can’t help but wonder what will happen to these items now that they’ve been unveiled to the public – perhaps they’ll simply be tucked away again, ready to be rediscovered in another 30 years time…

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