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Russ Pitts woke me this afternoon with a phone call. He told me that they needed someone to fill in for a columnist that wasn’t double-checking all his facts. I’m not sure what they were drinking when they made that decision, but Russ seems to think it’s a good idea. Perhaps it was the small matter of the money I still owe him from that time we went to Vegas… Let’s just say he they don’t call him Russ “The Don” Pittsinelli for nothing. That means that until they find my body in a landfill somewhere, I will be filling in for the last Reliable Source writer who reportedly moved to Omaha in the middle of the night.

This week, we have gossip from the Tokyo Game Show, an insider’s perspective on what really happened with Halo Recon, and much more.

Was there a secret canceled Halo 3 project? No, I am not talking about the canceled Halo 3 MMO. Sources at Bungie would neither confirm nor deny that Halo 3: Recon and Halo 3: ODST were actually two separate projects and not a just a re-branding as Bungie originally claimed. One rumor has it that Halo: Recon was actually developed by another company (Not saying who, but it rhymes with Pykroloft Moodios) and was canceled after developers discovered that elements of the game were incongruous. Reportedly Recon featured Halo 3 story elements but used Splinter Cell-esque stealth gameplay mechanics. Our source also alluded that Bungie had to step in at the last moment and salvage what they could of the project to make the September deadline. This might explain the length of the game, as well as Microsoft’s ardent defense of the game’s price.

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Remember Nintendo’s handheld before the Gameboy? No? Remember asking someone for the time just so you could watch him pull out a bitchin’ flip-screen LED Donkey Kong game and give you the time punctuated with the word “dude?” No? Me either, but that’s not stopping Nintendo from resurrecting their Game & Watch handhelds. The games rumored to be getting their very own Game & Watch’s are Wii Winter Sports, Assassin’s Creed II and Guitar Hero. I can’t think of anything that brings more joy to children than monochrome games and telling time. We’ve included leaked pictures of Assassin’s Creed II for Game & Watch. We promise we’ll do our best to get you more screens as this story unfolds.

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Good news if you are unemployed and planning to stay that way after the holiday season. Games pushed back until spring may be further delayed to make way for what analysts are calling “residual Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 sales.” Experts are suggesting that publishers are worried the Activision juggernaut is simply too popular to release another game within the same six-month timeframe of Modern Warfare 2’s release. I promised my source that I wouldn’t give any specifics about which games would be further delayed, but you shouldn’t be expecting to slay any dragons with Marilyn Manson until Q4 2010.

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Keiji Inafune is disappointed with the Tokyo Game Show. Late last week, he threw a fit on the showroom floor in front of Destructoid reporters and said that the Japanese game industry was finished. Perhaps a sentiment shared by some who noticed that most of the show was dedicated to Xbox, EA and Activision. Western developers were quick to point out, however, that this sudden outburst may have been anger over having his baby,Dead Rising, ripped from his arms and given to an American 3rd party developer, Blue Castle Games, which is only known for its baseball games.

I am not sure I blame Mr. Inafune for being a little depressed over what was once primarily a showcase for Japanese products. A lot of the smaller Japanese developers didn’t show up this year and the only way you could tell TGS apart from the myriad of game conventions this year was the nationality of the people handing out convention maps at the door.

Instead, all the big players made appearances to cash in on the last PR opportunity before the Christmas shopping blitzkrieg. Worse than that, there was barely any buzz about anything that could be considered wholly Japanese. In comparison, the 2007 TGS featured MGS 4, Umbrella Chronicles, No More Heroes, Time Crisis 4 and whatever this is. This year’s big stories were Crackdown, Alan Wake, Assassins Creed, Natal and a freakin’ Zelda game produced by EA to capture more of the Japanese market. Even Japanese developers announced a partnership with evil casual game masterminds at PopCap in the shape of Gyromancer, a title which could easily be about a wizard and his delicious Greek sandwiches.

Remember when E3 closed its floor to the public? Maybe they had it right. A trade show is supposed to be about sharing fresh ideas between companies. How is that going to happen when you have PR teams whoring out games to consumers instead companies networking and sharing tips on how to overuse film grain and bloom effects?

I’d like to take a moment before I go to comfort Japanese developers. Keiji Ianfune may be right about the current state of Japanese games, but I doubt that the Japanese game’s industry will ever become completely irrelevant. After all, there will always be a market for creepy porn games.

Have a rumor worth sharing or just want my up to the minute coverage of baby animal pictures? https://twitter.com/RS_MarionCox

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