Sony Joins The Classic Mini Console Craze

PlayStation ClassicWe truly live in the age of the classic mini retro console as Sony has joined the club with its new PlayStation Classic.  Seemingly following in the footsteps of Nintendo's NES Classic and Super NES Classic, the PlayStation Classic is a small PS1 console with twenty built-in games, HDMI output, and two non-DualShock controllers selling for a MSRP of $99.99 with a release date of December 3, 2018.  The PlayStation Blog has the news.

Today, we are excited to announce that we are bringing back the original PlayStation experience in a new miniaturized version – PlayStation Classic! The console will come pre-loaded with 20 classic titles, including fan-favorites such as Final Fantasy VII, Jumping Flash, Ridge Racer Type 4, Tekken 3, and Wild Arms.

The mini console is approximately 45% smaller than the original PlayStation, and it emulates the original’s look and feel by featuring similar controllers and packaging. Long-time fans will appreciate the nostalgia that comes with rediscovering the games they know and love, while gamers who might be new to the platform can enjoy the groundbreaking PlayStation console experience that started it all. All of the pre-loaded games will be playable in their original format.

I'm curious how this will do in the marketplace.  While the pixel graphics of the NES and Super NES have aged well due to their iconic visual style, early 3D games from the era of the PS1 and the Nintendo 64 have not fared as well.  Nobody fondly remembers low resolution textures and a limited draw distance.  Nostalgia is a powerful draw though, as I've seen comments online today about people yearning to revisit the PS1 as it was their first console or the console they spent a lot of two-player nights with in college.  I didn't grow up with a PS1 and didn't play a PS1 game until well into my years owning a PlayStation 3 after college, so I'm not in the market for one of these, but I say play whatever makes you happy no matter how well or poorly its aged. 


Power Button - Episode 271: Big Williams/Zen Pinball News Plus The Last Round Of Updated Re-Releases

Power ButtonWe're wrapping up our mini-series episodes of video games that changed when they were re-released with discussions on games such as Donkey Kong Country 3, Half-Life, and the Xbox Duke controller, but before we dig into that we have a dive into the big news that Zen Studios has acquired the licenses for the Williams and Bally pinball tables.  Spend an hour with us for some fun.   Download this week's episode directly from PTB, listen with the player below, find us on Stitcher, subscribe via iTunes and Google Play, 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. We also have a tip jar if you'd like to kick a dollar or two of support our way.


Williams Pinball Tables Coming To Pinball FX3

Williams on Pinball FX3

Back in June the warning went out from Farsight Studios that their digital pinball platform, Pinball Arcade, would lose all classic pinball tables under the Williams and Bally family at the end of that month, so anyone looking to buy beloved tables such as Theater of Magic, Twilight Zone, Taxi, or any of the others today on the Pinball Arcade platform are out of luck.  On the other hand, things are looking up on the Pinball FX3 platform from Zen Studios as it's been announced that Zen has acquired the license for the Williams and Bally tables.

Marking Zen's first foray into offering tables based on real physical titles rather than original digital creations, the company plans to launch table packs for the Sony PlayStation 4, Microsoft Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, PC, and Mac soon and has already made four tables available on Steam as part of a free beta test.  Fish Tales, Junk Yard, Medieval Madness, and The Getaway: High Speed II are up first with four more tables to follow before the end of the year.  Zen has prepared a full FAQ regarding then new tables.  Here's a piece of it:

Has there been any change to the physics for the Williams tables, or are they in line with Zen’s current physics offerings?

We have invested a lot of time and energy adjusting the physics simulation for the Williams tables, so they play true to form – it feels like real pinball. Early feedback suggests physics are spot on; however, we certainly welcome your own feedback as well. We think the ball moves and handles extremely accurately to the real thing, including accurate ball spin and “tricks” as well.

Will this game be very simulation heavy, or will there be options to have something like in Zen, where you can have score numbers popping up, etc.?

All Williams tables can be played with or without normal Pinball FX3 extras, such as score pops and in-game notification, allowing the table to be played in its purest form.

This is a huge deal and I'm extremely excited to see what Zen can do with these tables.  I own all of the tables currently available on the PS4 versions of Pinball FX3 and Pinball Arcade, and while the latter offers a lot of value, the former has the better overall experience.  Bringing great tables like Fish Tales and, hopefully, some personal licensed favorites like Star Trek: The Next Generation and The Addams Family into the FX3 experience with tournaments, bonus modes, and replay-enhancing challenges is a wonderful match.  We'll have more on this news in the upcoming Episode 271 of the Power Button podcast.


Borderlands' Handsome Jack Says Ain't No Rest For The Washer

Handsome JackAs I mentioned on a recent podcast episode, my girlfriend and I have rented a house and moved in together.  We're still unpacking and finding the best ways to make use of the space, and something we hit on right away was the need for one of those magnets that can be flipped around to indicate whether the dishwasher is clean or dirty.  We're decorating the house in gaming art and memorabilia, so we wanted something along that theme in a dishwasher magnet.  We looked online and found lots of options that are cookie-cutter merchandise; magnets like stock art of Yoda saying "Dirty, these dishes are" or an old promotional photo of Captain Picard ordering "Make it clean".  We're not talking about inspired ideas here.

We wanted something better, something that spoke more to us.  Early in our relationship we bonded over Borderlands and we have some Vault Hunter art hung around the house, so right away I hit on the idea of a Borderlands dishwasher magnet.  Gearbox Software and 2K Games haven't created such a thing yet, so one idea led to another and before I knew it, she had created a Handsome Jack magnet for the dishwasher with his handsome mask side up for clean dishes and his scarred face for dirty.  It's just one of the personal touches we're adding around here that makes us smile.

Handsome Jack magnet


Power Button - Episode 270: Another Round Of Updated Re-Releases

Power ButtonPicking up from where we left off last time, Blake Grundman and I resume our discussion of video games that are enhanced or otherwise altered when they are re-released.  We discuss more of Mega Man X Legacy Collection and its X Challenge mode plus dip into older titles such as Ratchet & Clank Collection, Donkey Kong Land 3, GoldenEye 007 Reloaded, The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening DX, and more.  Also, we briefly discuss my new house and the story of the clothes dryer.  It'll all make sense in the end.   Download this week's episode directly from PTB, listen with the player below, find us on Stitcher, subscribe via iTunes and Google Play, 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. We also have a tip jar if you'd like to kick a dollar or two of support our way.


Who Needs Copyright?

The Revenge of ShinobiMany video game developers work their entire careers to have the opportunity to make a game involving popular icons such as Batman, Spider-Man, or Godzilla, but if those opportunities can't be earned, why not just take Batman and make him your own?  Hardcore Gaming 101 has put together a fun list of games that, ahem, "borrow" famous characters that, legally speaking, really should not be there.  The king of this kind of thing has to be Sega's The Revenge of Shinobi which runs wild with unauthorized cameos and, as a result, has been revised many times over the years.

The Revenge of Shinobi is probably the most famous game for these type of changes, with numerous revisions. REV00 was only released in Japan and has enemies that resemble Rambo, Spider-Man, Batman and Godzilla. REV01 changes the Rambo enemy (by removing his bandana and making him bald), and Batman (by making him resemble the manga character Devilman). However, the Spider-Man enemy originally only looked kind of like the comic book character, but here he was redrawn to look exactly like him. The REV02 version included a copyright notice for Marvel, indicating that his appearance was official. This was done because Sega had the license for Spider-Man arcade and console games, so they decided to go for a bit of cross promotion. REV03, which appeared on compilations, changed the Godzilla boss by turning it into a dinosaur skeleton. The final revision, released on the Wii Virtual Console, changed the Spider-Man enemy’s color to pink, and changed the ninja on the title screen to less resemble Sonny Chiba.

There's a major difference between an indie hobbyist thinking he's going to make the next Metroid game without Nintendo noticing and a professional outfit like Sega deciding to just co-opt Batman and Godzilla for the hell of it.  In a strange way you have to admire the chutzpah of it all. 


Xbox All Access Offers All-Inclusive Gaming For Monthly Fee

Microsoft Xbox One XMicrosoft fired the latest shot in the console wars today with the launch of its Xbox All Access program that bundles together a Xbox One S or Xbox One X console along with Xbox Live and Xbox Game Pass payable by a monthly fee if one signs up for a two-year contract and opens a line of credit through Microsoft's financing partner.  Kyle Orland at ArsTechnica sums up the deal:

[S]ubscribers commit to spending $22 a month for an Xbox One S or $35 for a 1TB Xbox One X console over two years. That subscription provides immediate access to the hardware, which subscribers can keep after the subscription ends, as well as Xbox Live Gold and Xbox Games Pass, which normally cost about $15/month combined on their own.

Subscribers will have to sign up for a Dell Preferred Account at a physical Microsoft Store location to take advantage of the offer, which is listed as "for a limited time only."  Subscribers who cancel before the two year period is up will have to pay the remainder of their balance.

This could be a good deal for prospective Xbox One owners who can't handle the large upfront cost of buying a console outright, but can handle the monthly fee.  It even seems that taking the Xbox One S deal ends up costing about 20% less for everything through this service plan.  Read the fine print though; any unpaid balance left on your account after the two years are up is subject to interest rates of up to nearly 30%.  Like most credit opportunities, this is only a worthwhile deal if you can pay it off on time and then walk away clear.  The two year term also lines up with the expected release date for the next generation of Xbox, so this is a great way for the company to expand its current generation market and prime those customers for the next big console.  I expect Microsoft will do decent business with this option.


Metal Sonic Gets An Upgrade

Sonic Mania PlusI absolutely loved Sonic Mania when it released last year and played as much of it as I possibly could, so when the Plus add-on released last month, I eagerly bought it and dived back in for more fun.  The two new playable characters and Encore Mode are great, but so far my favorite upgraded part of the game has to be the Stardust Speedway Act 2 boss fight against Metal Sonic which has been made easier while also becoming much more awesome.  Where the original boss battle ended in a one-on-one fight with plain Metal Sonic, the new update gives him the Phantom Ruby to become a massive, foreboding battle robot.  My compliments to everyone involved with overhauling this part of the game.  Consider me impressed and delighted!


Assassin's Holiday

Assassin's Creed Odyssey

Ubisoft's Assassin's Creed stumbled into becoming an annual franchise after it found great success in the Ezio years and kept up that yearly release momentum until it became clear that by rushing the games to meet holiday shopping season deadlines, each game was becoming worse than the last.  Rather than kill their golden goose with great greed, the company backed off of the accelerator and allowed the series to release whenever the next entry has successfully baked in the oven long enough.  That's a lot of mixing of metaphors to say that Assassin's Creed is finding its footing again and can take a year off when needed.  Over at USgamer, Mike Williams looks through Ubisoft's development portfolio and speculates which teams are working on the next Assassin's Creed games and when we may possibly see them.

Assassin's Creed games tend to get three-and-a-half to four years in development. In my mental picture, I actually expected Assassin's Creed Odyssey to be released in 2019, not this year. Odyssey's development is led by Ubisoft Quebec, with some of the same leads as 2015's Assassin's Creed Syndicate. Scott Phillips is the director and Thierry Dansereau is the art director on both games. There have been some shifts in the team: Syndicate world director Jonathan Dumont is now the creative director of Odyssey, Syndicate creative director Marc-Alexis Côté is now the senior producer on Odyssey, Syndicate assistant narrative design director Mel MacCoubrey is now narrative design director for Odyssey.

I am perfectly happy to let Assassin's Creed rest from time to time.  Have you played one of these games lately?  They're huge!  And getting bigger all the time!  And they're better than they have been in years now that they have more time to complete development.  After ho-humming my way through most of Assassin's Creed III and Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag, and then ending up frustrated by the broken nature of Assassin's Creed Unity, I was unexpectedly surprised by how much fun I had playing Assassin's Creed Syndicate.  I finished every objective on that game's map plus the DLC, and you know how packed the maps of Assassin's Creed can be.  I wondered if that was a strange on-off occurrence but then turned around and completed as much as I possibly could do in Assassin's Creed Origins over a six-month span.  I'm still working on the DLC for that one, so much so that I don't really need a new game in the series right now.  I would have been fine if the upcoming Assassin's Creed Odyssey had held out until 2019, and I probably won't get around to picking it up until next year anyways (I came into both Syndicate and Origins months after they released as well).  It's great to have Assassin's Creed back in top form.  It's truly become worth the wait.


Reload Your N64 Controller In Goldeneye 007 And Other Stories

Goldeneye 007Rare's Goldeneye 007 for the Nintendo 64 is one of the all-time great games for the console, so it's only fitting on its twenty-first anniversary that there should be an oral history about the making the game compiled and published.  Quinn Myers does the honors for MEL Magazine and captures comments and stories from the game's developers in which they discuss ideas that didn't make the final version, features that the lawyers made them remove, the last-minute addition of the famous multiplayer mode, and much more.  What especially made me smile was this cut feature:

[David] Doak: Another idea we had that was never really serious: What happened was that all the N64 controllers had that slot in them, and everyone’s always wanting there to be some reason for some arbitrary piece of hardware. So it was like, “Can you use this in GoldenEye?” All of our reference for guns was watching [movies], so someone said, “Well, what if you slam in the thing to reload,” because it could detect when it was plugged in. But when we trialed the reload, it was rubbish, so we didn’t do it, and it actually became a big joke.

I never owned a Goldeneye 007 of my own, but I rented it from Blockbuster by default when there wasn't another game I wanted to play, so I spent a lot of weekends playing the game with friends or just on my own.  Since the game supported the Rumble Pak, it became a gag to snap the pak into the controller slot like loading a gun before starting the game.  I'm pleased to see that the developers had the same idea!  It's better that they didn't implement it though.  It's fun to do once before the game starts, but having to do it over and over again during the action would become tedious and annoying almost immediately.

For the record, we played almost exclusively in the Facility with motion sensor explosives.