The staying power of Nintendo’s Game Boy is nothing short of amazing. In the almost 15 years since its release, many able competitors have tried to wedge their way into the portable gaming market with colorful systems more powerful and more colorful, only to fall hopelessly flat in the face of Nintendo’s slow-to-change juggernaut.

Yet despite the unequal success of the system in all its numerous iterations, one problem has remained: The Game Boy’s screen has remained incredibly hard to see. People have tried to fix this problem with everything from ridiculous looking light attachments to personally installed internal lighting systems. Happily, the days of fumbling with unwieldy lights and messing with modification kits are over.

After 15 long years, Nintendo’s new Game Boy Advance SP (GBASP) has a built-in, front-lit screen.

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Since Nintendo made futuristic racers popular with 1991’s F-Zero for Super Nintendo, game after game has featured hovering cars racing on wildly twisting tracks. The best of these games (most notably WipeOut and Extreme G) have seen sequel after sequel that offer more tracks, more cars and more of the same predictable hover racing.

In light of all these repetitive sequels, the question inevitably arises: "How many futuristic racing games does one person need?" In the case of Majesco’s Hypersonic Xtreme for the PlayStation 2, the answer is "one fewer."

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For better or worse, the runaway success of the Grand Theft Auto series has revolutionized the gaming industry. Sony’s The Getaway for PS2 is a good example of some of the better, with a little bit of the worse hampering some of the execution.

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Fighting games as a genre have been rather stagnant recently. A new fighting game might add flashy graphics, big weapons, or new characters to the mix, but the basic premise usually offers little to no innovation over classics like Virtua Fighter (or Street Fighter 2, for that matter). It’s high time that someone came along and made a fighting game that gives the whole idea of fighting games a swift kick in the behind.

Luckily, Sony’s War of the Monsters for the Playstation 2 has done just that.

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Maybe you were skiing in the Rockies. Maybe you were sunning yourself in Cancun. Maybe you were too busy with Metroid Prime and 007: Nightfire to play anything else. Whatever the reason, there were probably a good number of games that flew under your radar during the busy holiday season of 2002. Here’s a quick breakdown on some of the games you may have missed.

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When I was first introduced to Insomniac’s Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater series back in high school, I passed it off as just another fad sports game. I lumped it together with other "extreme" sports crazes like NBA Jam and NFL Blitz that have little to no depth but are worth consideration just because they’re so different. So I picked the first THPS up, expecting an entertaining little distraction that would hold me over until a more worthy waste of time came along.

Now the fourth game in the Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater series is here for PS2, Xbox and GameCube, and I’m still kickflipping. I’m still doing indy grabs. I’m still doing 360 benihanas and reverting into a nose manual to an invert fakie. And I’m still loving it. What I once thought would be an amusing diversion has become a three-year-long addiction to a beautifully done series of games.

How does a game series manage to keep my interest for so long? It’s a simple three-step process.

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FairPlay Campaign Protests High Video Game Costs With a Boycott

Do you think video game prices are too high? If your answer is yes, a group in England agrees with you – and is planning to do something about it. These British gamers make up the FairPlay Campaign and are organizing a general boycott of video game retailers for the first week in December. According to the campaign’s website (http://www.fairplay-campaign.co.uk), "Don’t Buy a Video Game Week" will send video game developers the message that "video games are a rip- off," and that "there isn’t a single reason that games couldn’t be sold at £20 [approximately $31]." Currently, prices for new video games typically range from $40 to $60.

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New Video Game Accessories Can Do Everything Short of Making Dinner

Of all the ways in which video games have changed over the years, possibly none is more dramatic than the progress of controller design. Where a dial used to suffice for the simple action of Pong, now there are controllers with multiple analog joysticks, molded plastic grips and dozens of buttons.

Not only are today’s controllers more complicated, but they’re also more gimmicky. In the past, controller makers have added features such as auto-fire, programmable buttons, and force feedback to their products with varying results. Following this pattern, Nintendo and Nyko have both released gimmicky controllers and accessories for the latest generation of systems, again with varying results. Here’s my opinion on some of their latest.

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When Namco released the original Tekken in arcades in 1994 it was a welcome change from the derivative 2-dimensional fighters of its day. While Street Fighter 2 and its countless copycats were stagnating with sequels that offered little more than better graphics and flashier combos and super moves, Tekken’s deep fighting system and well-balanced gameplay made it one of best fighting games of the time.

Eight years later, with the release of Tekken 4 for the Playstation 2, the series is beginning to show the same signs of the stagnation that it once stood in contrast to.

Tekken 4 can best be thought of as a refinement of last year’s Tekken Tag Tournament, which itself was mainly a refinement of Tekken 3 before it. All three games share the same basic fighting engine, which rewards careful timing and memorization of long strings of button combinations. Each subsequent release has taken this highly competent base and basically thrown on the graphical touches and redesigned special moves that die-hard fans seem to love.

Yet while Tekken Tag Tournament at least boasted an impressive cast of characters (including all 30+ characters from the first 3 Tekken games) and the innovative tag-team mechanic that its name implies, Tekken 4 offers neither.

Instead, the character list in Tekken 4 is basically a slimmed down version of the Tekken 3 character roster with a few wholly uninteresting new characters seemingly thrown in at the last minute.

The return of 13 of the 19 characters from Tekken 3 guarantees that all the standard fighting styles (boxing, karate, wrestling, etc.) remain well represented, as do all the standard character archetypes (the big slow guy, the small quick girl, the all-around balanced fighter, etc.), with absolutely nothing new or different to make any potential buyers uncomfortable.

The four new characters that round out the roster don’t break any new ground either, each being a stripped down copy of one of the other 16 returning characters in one way or another.

In the place of Tag Tournament’s tag-team mechanic, Tekken 4’s main "innovation" is the addition of walls and background objects that you can push your opponent into and/or through during a fight, a feature that other fighting game series’ like Dead or Alive have had for years.

The constraints imposed by these new enclosed fighting arenas far outweigh the benefits. It is much too easy to push your opponent into a corner of the room and continually push them into a wall, leaving them with no room to retreat or escape to the sides.

Where matches in the Tekken were once all about dancing around your opponent and waiting for a good opening to strike, they’ve now been reduced to a question of who can force their opponent into the wall more aggressively. Camera problems mar the implementation of this new system too, with walls and objects often coming between the camera and your character.

The weird thing is, despite the total lack of any redeeming new features in Tekken 4, I still didn’t have a horrible time playing it for a while. After all, Tekken 3 was a great game that kept me busy for hours on end, and any game that basically copies from that is going to have some value to it.

After reliving the past for a few hours, however, I found myself tiring of playing as the same basic characters and performing the same repetitive button combinations over and over again. Maybe I’d just been jaded by playing way too much Tekken in the past, but if Namco had done it right, Tekken 4 could have recaptured the magic of the previous Tekken games while still being fresh enough to remain interesting past the nostalgia period.

And that’s really what it comes down to when a series gets up to its fifth installment (including Tag Tournament). If you rest on your laurels and simply polish the most recent game in the series, you’ll manage to attract both fans of the old game and newer players who may have missed out in the past. But if nothing significantly new is added to the package, then both groups are going to eventually tire of a game that could easily be replaced by any other in the genre.

Tekken 4 is one of those easily replaceable games, made good by the virtue of copying of one of the best. Buy it only if feel you simply can’t get enough Tekken. Otherwise, go dig Tekken 3 out of your collection or your local gaming store’s bargain bin and save your money for a more original game.

It’s 2 a.m. Monday and your brain is fried. For the past few hours you’ve been staring at the blank screen that is the history paper you have due tomorrow, racking your brain for something that will stretch it to five pages. You decide you need a break and search the web for a game to play.

But what kind of game do you want? You’re much too tired for an adrenaline-pumping, first-person shooter, and you don’t have the brain power to process a complex puzzle game. You need something that is relaxing and simple enough that you don’t have to think about what you’re doing while you play.

If you find yourself in this situation, let me be the first to recommend the highly addictive time-wasters at www.Orisinal.com.

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