Power Button - Episode 273: PlayStation Classic Means Blake Has A Problem

Power ButtonSony is joining the retro console market with its upcoming PlayStation Classic featuring twenty built-in original PS1 games in the style of Nintendo's classic mini consoles.  This week on the Power Button podcast, Blake Grundman and I explore some of the games from the PS1 library that we believe have earned a place on the console.  Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, Tomb Raider 2, Parappa the Rappa, Spider-Man, Mega Man X4, and more all deserve a shot.   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.


Power Button - Episode 272: A Farewale To Telltale

Power ButtonAs we spent the week watching Telltale Games crumble into mismanaged dust, it's only right to take an hour to reminisce about the best of times and the worst of times regarding the beloved developer of adventure games.  Sam & Max, Back To The Future, The Walking Dead, Tales From The Borderlands, Game of Thrones, Puzzle Agent, Law & Order, and beyond fill the conversation as we sent the studio off in style.  Special thanks to all of the developers formerly of Telltale who worked so hard to bring us these memories.  You all deserve better than to be unceremoniously dismissed without warning and we know you'll land in better places soon.   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.


Castlevania Returns For PS4

Castlevania RequiemIt just wouldn't be the Halloween season without Castlevania, and considering that Konami has backed away from the video game publishing world over the past few years compared to its output from the 1980s-2000s, well, let's just say that it hasn't been the Halloween season for the past few years.  That's changing on October 26 as Konami has announced that it's bringing two Castlevania classics, Rondo of Blood originally for the PC Engine and Symphony of the Night from the PS1, to the PlayStation 4 with trophies, 4K/1080p upscaling, and more.  The PlayStation Blog fills us in on the new content.

Both games are the originals emulated for the PlayStation 4, with several updates that take advantage of the new hardware. This includes 4K/1080p upscaling, multiple high resolution backgrounds, different rendering options such as smoothing and full Trophy support. Word of warning though, that Platinum will be tough to get. Elsewhere, Requiem will make use of the DualShock 4’s vibration, analogue stick and speaker, with the latter meaning you’ll hear a cool little chime when you pick up an item.

It's $20 for the pair bundled together under the name Castlevania Requiem It appears from the screenshots that these are not the original PCE and PS1 games, but instead the versions of the games that were included as secret unlockables in the 2007 PlayStation Portable release of Castlevania: The Dracula X Chronicles.  That game featured a new side-scrolling 3D remake of Rondo as its spotlight title with the original Rondo and Symphony included as bonuses, although unlocking those bonuses was nearly impossible without a guide (and even with a guide, it's difficult).  Notably, the PSP version of Symphony includes, among other things, a relocalized script and a second playable character: Maria Renard*.  While Symphony purists hold the original PS1 version in high esteem, the PSP version is a different experience that puts a fresh spin on a classic.  It's the right call to include it here, and hopefully we'll see more classic Castlevania titles brought back in the future. 

* She's not the same playable Maria from the Sega Saturn version of the game, and my goodness you don't want to play that version.


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.