The virtual reality revolution is on! At least, that's what the marketing departments at HTC, Samsung, Oculus, and Sony tell us. On this week's episode of the Power Button podcast, Blake Grundman and I discuss our journeys into the world of VR as I play around with a Samsung Gear VR and Blake travels to the world of VR to take a PlayStation VR unit for a test drive with early press access to third-party VR experiences. Pinball, space travel, haunted houses, and fighter jets: VR has it all! Download this week's episode directly from PTB, listen with the player below, find us on Stitcher, subscribe via iTunes, toss this RSS feed into your podcast aggregation software of choice, and be sure to catch up on past episodes if you're joining us late. Remember that you can reach us via , you can leave a message on the Power Button hotline by calling (720) 722-2781, and you can even follow us on Twitter at @PressTheButtons and @GrundyTheMan, or for just podcast updates, @ThePowerButton.
Zen Studios has another pair of Marvel Pinball tables for us to enjoy. Due out next week for all major Zen-supported platforms, the Marvel Women Of Power tables feature Black Widow and Madame Masque trapped in an alternate reality in the "A-Force" table while Ms. Marvel and her friends Spider-Gwen and Squirrel Girl team up on the "Chronicles" table. Zen was kind enough to supply me with early access to the two tables and I've been impressed yet again with their work. My Marvel knowledge basically extends through the cinematic universe and some simple familiarity with rising stars like Spider-Gwen, so I've learned about some fun characters that are new to me through these tables. Take a look at one of my early plays through the A-Force table for a taste of what the new release has to offer and be sure to check it out when it's released.
Before the Internet, before dedicated video game strategy guides, before even Nintendo Power there was Jeff Rovin's How To Win At Nintendo series of paperback strategy books. The best-selling series of the late 1980s packed page after page of tips and tricks for the emerging Nintendo Entertainment System game library such as timeless advice for Double Dragon: "Take out the foe on the left with three quick Jump Kicks, then turn to the crumb on the right. Indeed, for the first four foes-who come in groups of two-stick with the Jump Kick (the A and B buttons) unless your foes get in too close in the early going. If that happens, go with a Hair Pull Kick-push the pad in your foe's direction, then hit B. Pick up the Bat and use it to play a little T-ball against the two Lindas who attack next, from the doorway." It all reads like someone transcribing the progress of another player and, of course, it turns out that it is. One of author Jeff Rovin's sons, Sam Rovin, has written an autobiographical account of how the series was written with his father watching he and his brother Michael plowed through the NES games of the day just as quickly has humanly possible. How We Won at Nintendo: The True Story Behind the "How to Win at Nintendo" Series takes you behind the scenes on how the operation worked.
There’s really only one visualization that describes my father during those initial hours and weeks and months. He’d just sit there on the wood floor, legs fully extended and ankles crossed, slippers on and usually a grey sweatshirt and jeans or sweatpants, and he’d be hunched over an over-sized yellow legal pad with a felt tip pen in his right hand, scribbling notes, his thick, boxy glasses dangling right on the bridge of his nose, loosened from looking up and down at the TV. He rarely broke from that mold. Sometimes just to scurry off to his office to answer a phone call. Michael would refortify his gamer will and attempt any kind of major progress in the interim, and then we’d hear the swish of my dad’s slippers coming back through the hall and into the den again where Michael would be the same six feet from the TV, struggling at the same exact stalemate in Rush ‘N Attack.
As the series went on, the crank 'em out nature of the series became increasingly obvious, but with the books selling so well, it didn't seem to matter. The original volume went into additional printings with expanded entries for "the hottest games" and then branched out from the NES to volumes for the Game Boy (featuring a few pages on Atari Lynx games), Super NES, and Sega Genesis. By the time of the Genesis book the series was wrapping up as the Rovin brothers drifted away from assisting with their father's writing projects in favor of girls and gaming just for fun.
But the most telling throw-away about the writing of the Genesis book was revealed on the very first page; the page before the title page, before the copyright page, and the “Other St. Martin’s Titles by Jeff Rovin” page. The page that taunts the reader into buying the book in the first place by claiming “the answer is in your hands” and “your friends are already training.” In the middle of that page, written by my dad (as all synopsis’s and interior/ exterior cover details usually are) is a single line that truly lifted the mask on our process and summed it all up fairly well: “After weeks of eye-crossing tests and trials, Jeff Rovin has nailed down the hottest ways to win at today’s most awesome video games.” That entire book was indeed accomplished in only a couple -maybe a few -weeks and we’d finally admitted it. Book in and book out we always had to pretend we were some top notch game factory, like those working at Nintendo (or so we thought), like Men in Black in training, the best of the best, the elite, providing the best secrets like it was easy, when in reality we were always like monkeys at a typewriter with a really good editor to clean up the mess. “Eye-crossing” and “tests and trials” really does perfectly explain our concentrated gaming process. And for once, every single game included our guide (except the ones I played) was completely detailed in the book, from the start of each game to the finish. And I believe it was even the first Genesis book to make it into national bookstores, though without all the notable fanfare of the Nintendo series.
Official publications from the likes of Nintendo and Sega as well as third-party magazines such as Electronic Gaming Monthly and GamePro with their glossy, color covers and page after page of screenshots instead of just "go to the right and kick the guy" text took over and that was pretty much that for the series. A proposed edition focused on the Atari Jaguar never came to be and the advice in the books is fairly dry reading today just as it was then, but at the time these were passable guides. I eagerly bought the first and third editions plus the Game Boy volume and still have them around here somewhere even though the binding has come apart. Reading Sam Rovin's remembrances after all these years finally provides a little closure on my linger questions from twenty-five years ago about how this series was written and just how much work went into it.
With the next major expansion for Destiny, Rise of Iron, energizing players today, it's only appropriate for Blake Grundman and guest Chris Nitz to take a look back over the past year of Destiny's updates and expansions. Join us as they explain what they liked and did not like about the second year of Destiny content and look forward to what's coming up in Year 3. For more on Power Button's coverage of Destiny, check out Episodes 146, 151, and 181. Download this week's episode directly from PTB, listen with the player below, find us on Stitcher, subscribe via iTunes, toss this RSS feed into your podcast aggregation software of choice, and be sure to catch up on past episodes if you're joining us late. Remember that you can reach us via , you can leave a message on the Power Button hotline by calling (720) 722-2781, and you can even follow us on Twitter at @PressTheButtons and @GrundyTheMan, or for just podcast updates, @ThePowerButton.
Somewhere along the way when we were all going about our daily business, the number of StreetPass Mii Plaza games on the Nintendo 3DS swelled from two up to thirteen. I knew that Nintendo periodically added new games to the system, but I wasn't keeping an exact count. Thirteen! That's certainly an achievement. Considering that Nintendo charges actual money for the games beyond the base two which come with each 3DS, how is one to know which of those games is worth the time, money, and tags? The AV Club has taken a look at all thirteen games and ranked them.
Since the launch of the Nintendo 3DS over five years ago, one of its most unique and forward-thinking innovations has been its passive communication system, a feature Nintendo dubbed “StreetPass.” By constantly sending out discreet wireless signals, the handheld shares information with other nearby systems, even while in sleep mode, stuffed in a backpack, and generally ignored for most of the day. Unlike smartphones and the PlayStation Vita, which need to connect to the internet to download information from friends, this passive system is always searching for new data within your immediate vicinity. This means players can come home to find there are suddenly new model homes to explore in Animal Crossing, new guild cards in Monster Hunter, and new ghosts to race in Mario Kart, all from 3DS-carrying friends and strangers they may have walked past at some point.
More than just adding doodads to existing titles, Nintendo has put out an assortment of games over the years that have put StreetPass front and center, directly translating the people you come across into tangible benefits. These are collected in the 3DS’ built-in StreetPass Mii Plaza. Some of these games can be played idly while watching TV or talking on the phone. Others require more focus and attention. With the release of five brand new StreetPass games, I thought this would be a good time to revisit and review all 13 Mii Plaza games.
I was intrigued by the StreetPass games when they were new to me and walking around gaming trade shows and conventions with my 3DS in my pocket is a great way to rack up the tags. It's very unlikely that I encounter other 3DS owners out "in the wild" on my daily comings and goings, so it's rare that I pick up enough tags to be able to do anything worth while with them at a time. Find Mii isn't much fun with only one character available and it takes forever to fill in the holes in Puzzle Swap. I bought the first round of expansions several years ago when I was able to get multiple tags per day on a regular basis, but have held off on the second expansion for now. I'm glad that the AV Club has offered some commentary on all of the games because it's very easy to forget that they exist.
With my original Nintendo 3DS starting to fail from overuse, the time has come to replace it with a New Nintendo 3DS. On this week's new episode of Power Button, Blake Grundman and I discuss the merits of upgrading to a N3DS, transferring 3DS data from one system to another, Virtual Console necessities, and what's worth playing on the platform that cannot be played on the original 3DS. There's also some healthy sidequesting regarding which pocket is best for carrying the 3DS and how to cross a river carrying a fox, a chicken, and a bag of grain. Download this week's episode directly from PTB, listen with the player below, find us on Stitcher, subscribe via iTunes, toss this RSS feed into your podcast aggregation software of choice, and be sure to catch up on past episodes if you're joining us late. Remember that you can reach us via , you can leave a message on the Power Button hotline by calling (720) 722-2781, and you can even follow us on Twitter at @PressTheButtons and @GrundyTheMan, or for just podcast updates, @ThePowerButton.
Video Games Live has created dozens of memorable orchestral rock adaptations of favorite video game soundtracks from Sonic the Hedgehog to Chrono Trigger to Street Fighter II, and the group's latest album, Level 5, keeps the hits coming. Featuring music from games including Metroid, Ico, Phoenix Wright, and Okami, the album is required listening for game soundtrack fans. My favorite track from Level 5 has to be a medley of music from Nintendo's classic 1991 Super NES hit, Super Mario World. Take a musical journey through Dinosaur Land with this cut from Level 5 and then head over to check out the other tracks. I've had the good fortune to attend VGL's live shows several times in the past few years and they never cease to entertain, amaze, and poke the nostalgic sweet spot. Be sure to see about tickets if and when they tour in your area. I eagerly await Level 6!
Whenever I hear that Atlus has a new video game to announce, I hold out hopes and light a candle for a revival of the company's 1991 Nintendo Entertainment System classic platformer Rockin' Kats, but instead it's all Persona and Shin Megami Tensei all the time. No matter; I am a patient man. As for you, if you're unfamiliar with the fun wonder that is Rockin' Kats, then lucky for you that Hardcore Gaming 101 is here to educate you in the ways of kitty protagonist Willy, his girlfriend Jill, and bulldog bully Mugsy. Part DuckTales and part Bionic Commando, Rockin' Kats truly does rock. Here's Dylan Cornelius at HG101 describing the mechanics of Willy's signature weapon: the punch gun.
The Punch Gun is the heart of Rockin' Kats. The Punch itself is a large fist that emerges from Willy's gun, and is one part weapon, one part swinging mechanism and one part pogo stick. If you've ever bounced on Scrooge McDuck's cane in Capcom's DuckTales, the pogo stick will seem familiar. Punching little gangster dogs in the face shouldn't be much trouble for anyone that's played a platformer with a weapon. Using the Gun to swing, however, doesn't come as naturally. When you shoot the gun at a platform, the fist attaches itself to the platform. From here, you swing with the 'B' button and press the 'B' button again to detach when ready. It's easy enough to launch Willy forward across chasms or bodies of water, but there are sections where you'll need to swing him backwards to reach an out-of-the-way platform or combine the swing with the pogo ability to move upwards. The more complex maneuevers never feel natural, and often result in trial-and-error deaths if you misjudge the momentum or timing of your swing.
I rented Rockin' Kats many times at the Movie Gallery in 1991 and I was determined to reach the end. I was pleasantly surprised to find that the end wasn't so easy to reach. Complete the game's four main levels and a fifth level unlocks featuring a boss rush of all of the previously featured enemies and a showdown with Mugsy himself. Even that was not the end; after all of that, Mugsy challenges Willy to one last lengthy level designed around more intense challenges and remixed encounters. Moreover, in this final stage, all of Willy's hard-earned weapons and items are disabled. It takes skill to make it to the true end of Rockin' Kats, but it's well worth the journey. The soundtrack offers the kind of peppy, energetic charm that was the hallmark of the best NES games. Willy and friends are nowhere to be found today, sadly, and this game is perfect for a Virtual Console revival on Nintendo platforms. I really hope that Atlus brings it back. It's a purrfect perfect game to pick up and play without a major commitment.
Nintendo's Game Boy is remembered a simplistic handheld gaming system, but its real legacy is that it could accomplish so many amazing technical feats despite being so simple. The platform came a long way from the basics of 1989's Super Mario Land. Even by 1993, for instance, the hardware was running games far more complex than even Nintendo itself imagined. While a traditional-for-the-time Legend of Zelda adventure was at one time considered off the table, eventually the developers were able to coax such an experience from the Game Boy which led to The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening. The game would be updated for the Game Boy Color in 1998 which is where we join this interesting technical analysis behind the game's special effects. How did the developers squeeze so much out of so little?
The original Game Boy was first released in 1989, and has quite basic capabilities. The graphic primitives are based on tiles, background and sprites. Tiles are 8x8 bitmaps, arranged into the grid of a large scrollable background. This grid is very rigid: that’s 8x8 for you, and nothing else. Fortunately, sprites are objects that can move with smaller increments, positioned over the background. Note that there is no “direct drawing” mode of some sort: you can’t draw individual pixels on the Game Boy screen, it has to be part of a 8x8 tile. This severely limits the drawing possibilities. Any advanced effects will have to use complex workarounds. To understand, let’s have a look at the introduction sea sequence. We’re going to strip it of all special effects, and only use background scrolling, tiles and sprites.
It's always fascinating to get a look "under the hood" of a video game, especially one as beloved as Link's Awakening. What we took for granted as fluidly moving a character around a screen or watching a ship crash against stormy waves at sea actually has a lot of work behind it to make it function properly. There will be more installments in this series at the KZONE website and I encourage you to continue reading along as more are published. I know I will.
This week's new product announcements from Nintendo, Apple, and Sony certainly turned heads and sparked anger. Ranging from Nintendo's Super Mario Run for iPhone to the new iPhone 7 ditching the reliable headphone jack to Sony introducing the 4K-capable PlayStation 4 Pro that doesn't quite play 4K things as you'd expect, there's a lot of news for Blake Grundman to rant and rave about. If you like Blake on the soapbox, then you'll love this week's episode of Power Button. Download this week's episode directly from PTB, listen with the player below, find us on Stitcher, subscribe via iTunes, toss this RSS feed into your podcast aggregation software of choice, and be sure to catch up on past episodes if you're joining us late. Remember that you can reach us via , you can leave a message on the Power Button hotline by calling (720) 722-2781, and you can even follow us on Twitter at @PressTheButtons and @GrundyTheMan, or for just podcast updates, @ThePowerButton.