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December 2010

The Forbidden Fruit Of The Nintendo Entertainment System

Unlicensed NES gameEveryone who enjoyed video games in the late 1980s and early 1990s knew the big AAA+ first-party titles for the Nintendo Entertainment System: Super Mario Bros. 3, The Legend of Zelda, Kirby's Adventure, and so on.  We also knew of the AAA+ third-party titles from reliable publishers like Capcom and Konami (the many games of the Mega Man and Castlevania franchises come to mind).  Then we move down to the lesser titles from movie property shovelware publishers such as LJN and THQ such as Friday the 13th and Home Alone.  Venture far enough down to the bottom of the barrel, however, and you'll find the unlicensed third-party also-rans of the NES generation that broke through Nintendo's licensing protection hardware in order to publish whatever they damned well pleased.  GameSpite takes a look back at the NES's illicit thrills and dubious pleasures (warning: pixelated nudity).

Easily recognizable by their distinct lack of the NES “Seal of Quality” (to say nothing of their generally amateurish art and weirdly shaped and colored cartridges), these bootleg releases were produced by companies that for various reasons chose to work outside of Nintendo’s mandatory licensing, manufacturing, and distribution models. Some were simply fly-by-night operations who didn’t want to pony up the cash to go legit or whose work was too slipshod to clear Nintendo’s approvals process. Others were more respectable outlets who simply had political issues with the formal licensing process.

In any case, these unofficial publishers were a unique by-product of Nintendo’s overall business strategy. In the Atari VCS days, there were no licensees, and these games would have been released alongside blockbusters. Nintendo hoped to avoid another market implosion and employed its licensing rules in large part to ensure a certain minimum level of quality for the NES library. An admirable goal to be sure, though free-market advocates were less than enthusiastic about the means Nintendo used to enforce its rules: Merchants found selling unlicensed NES wares could have their distribution deals revoked. Given Nintendo’s popularity (and its near-monopoly on the console market), that would have been a disaster for a retailers’ bottom lines. Later, it would become clear that loyalty through punitive threats isn’t precisely the key to healthy business relationships... but for the NES’s heyday, it did the trick.

You'll hear all about Active Enterprises and its Cheetahman "crown jewel", AGCI's Death Race and Chiller gore fests, American Video Entertainment's ambitiously named Puzzle, the dismal output of Color Dreams both before and after it found Jesus, and, of course, the pornographic titles offered by Panesian (well, as pornographic as little pixels could be back in the day) among others.  While these unlicensed games are enjoyable to read about, you certainly wouldn't want to play them.  Moreover, you certainly wouldn't want to buy them.  Due to their notorious stature, they are ungodly expensive on the collector market just because they are rare and notorious.  Save your money and get your unlicensed kicks vicariously.

Super Mario 64 Completed In Five Minutes With Zero Stars

How quickly can you complete Nintendo's 1996 landmark release Super Mario 64?  How many stars do you commonly have when you finish the game?  Here's a speedrun that blows all of your personal scores and achievements out of the water.  It's a tool-assisted speedrun, natch, but here we see Mario's adventure completed in just a few seconds over five minutes with zero — count 'em (oh, wait, you can't) — stars collected.  This is impossible during normal gameplay, but the rules of time and space do not apply when tools lend a hand, glitches are exploited, and loopholes are abused.  TASVideos has the full explanation regarding just what is going on here if you'd rather not keep the mystery alive. 

(via GameSetWatch)

Play Them Birabuto Kingdom Ragtime Blues

Do you need a little music to finish out your 2010?  Sure you do.  Back for another appearance on Press The Buttons is ragtime pianist Tom Brier sightreading and improvising his way through the Birabuto Kingdom theme from the 1989 Game Boy hit Super Mario Land.  Brier really takes off just before the 0:30 mark in one of the most spirited takes on this tune that I've ever heard.

2010 Box Art Walk Of Shame

Gummy Bears MinigolfAnother year gone by means that we have a whole 'nother year of horrible, cringe-worthy video game box art to look back at for gawking and chuckling purposes.  GamesRadar has stepped up to the annual challenge once again to drag thirty or so terrible samples of artwork into the harsh light of day for our amusement.  We'll see drab backgrounds, off-model characters, just plain bad design, images to stalk your nightmares, and just plain deceptive imagery.  Step right up and check out predator & prey teaming up to attack the audience, North Korea's Kim Jong Il busting a move, a haircut simulator sporting plastic CGI tresses, a soulless bobblehead with a sinister smile that's ready to eat your soul, actor Jeffrey Tambor toplining a game show challenge (seriously, it's really him!) with Brad Garrett (it's really him, too!), a camp of Pixar rejects, a dancing ocarina girl, and, well, this:

What… I just… GOD. There’s lazy, and then there’s whatever the hell this is. Hewing to the old (and mostly true) belief that kids don’t generally care how ugly their entertainment is, the GBM box promises only the stiffest animation and most cutting-edge circa-1992 visuals that the money left over after licensing a candy property can buy. And to top everything off, that bear clearly didn’t warn that frog before attempting to play through. What a sociopathic dick.

If nothing else this year I think we can definitively declare that there are some really terrible box art images floating around in the marketplace.  Granted that you can't tell a book by its cover, but how could any self-respecting publisher send one of their games out into the world with some of the images you'll find in this year's shameful collection and expect it to generate any revenue?  Just how big is the clueless grandmother demographic?

Hackers Claim Possession Of PS3's Private Security Key

PS3 SlimIt looks like a storm is coming to the world of the Sony PlayStation 3, as hackers claim to have discovered the console's master key, meaning that given the right implementation, anybody could run any kind of unsigned code they wanted.  While lip service is being given to homebrew applications and the return of Linux capability and other useful, altruistic things, I'm sure we all know where this is going to lead immediately if not sooner: game piracy and cheating.  This is why we can't have nice things!  Engadget has the story:

So far, the team hasn't provided any proof that the deed's been done, but they have provided quite an extensive explanation of how they managed the feat: apparently, Sony didn't bother generating any random numbers to secure the blasted thing. (We don't really know how it works, but we have it on good authority that dead cryptography professors are rapidly spinning in their graves.) The group intends to generate a proof-of-concept video tomorrow, and release the tools sometime next month, which they claim should eventually enable the installation of Linux on every PS3 ever sold.

I'm really hoping that this is all just overconfident bluster and that things aren't really as bad as they seem here.  Now people will say that they have the right to do whatever they want with their consoles in regards to hacking and cracking, and I'm certainly not going to argue with that.  What I do take issue with are the actions of the software pirates dampening my enjoyment of the PS3 experience.  This security issue completely opens the door to cheating at online games at a widescale level as hacked games are patched with all sorts of tricks that darken the multiplayer experience.  Moreover, with the ability to play freely downloaded games poised to become simpler, I do not want developers and publishers to flee the PS3 platform because those who feel entitled to the latest and greatest titles for free make creating games for the console unprofitable (we've already seen that happen to the PlayStation Portable).  Do what you want with your own console in your own home, but the moment you have a negative impact on my gaming experience, I start getting angry.  I have a feeling that I'm not alone.

Power Button - Episode 34: The Best That 2010 Had To Offer

Power ButtonCan you believe that we've come to the end of another year already?  Why, it seems like just twelve months ago or so that we were all chomping at the bit to get our hands on games like Red Dead Redemption, Super Mario Galaxy 2, Heavy Rain, God of War III, and the rest.  Now those games are yesterday's news in terms of new releases.  The best of the best live on in our hearts though, so it seems only fitting to bid farewell to 2010 by recounting the best video games that the year had to offer.  We've consolidated our own personal "best of" lists and come up with eight games that deserve a few parting words along with a handful of honorable mentions.  While Joey Davidson, Brad Hilderbrand, and I could handle this task with one wireless controller tied behind our backs, we wanted to have a little backup for this topic and invited Robert Alsbrook from the Press The Buttons show to join us.  Join us for over ninety minutes of fond memories and discussions about when all is said and done for 2010.  Why not take us with you to your New Year's Eve party and play our show instead of some overplayed dance track?  Party music is so 2010; listening to podcasts at parties is totally the "in" thing for 2011.  Be a trendsetter!  Download this week's episode directly from PTB, listen with the player below, or subscribe via iTunes, and be sure to catch up on past episodes if you're joining us late. Remember that you can reach all three of us via  and you can even follow all of us on Twitter at @PressTheButtons,@aubradley84, and @JoeyDavidson or for just podcast updates, @ThePowerButton.

Power Button - Episode 34: The Best That 2010 Had To Offer

For completeness sake, read on to see all of our own personal top ten lists for 2010.

Continue reading "Power Button - Episode 34: The Best That 2010 Had To Offer" »

Much More Mayhem In Panau With Just Cause 2

Just Cause 2Holiday vacation downtime means more time to explore the island nation of Panau in Just Cause 2 for the Sony PlayStation 3 (also available on Microsoft Xbox 360 and PC) from Square-Enix and Avalanche Studios, and of course that means that it's time for more video clips of some of my chaotic exploits.  It continues to amaze me how much fun I've had playing this game and for how long I've played it.  Closing in on seventy hours of gameplay, I've only cleared 62% of the various objectives and goals.  Here are a few scenes of my recent progress for your enjoyment.  Today's theme?  Great moments in awesome stupidity.

Sometimes I think that the Panauan military forces aren't the best pilots.

Continue reading "Much More Mayhem In Panau With Just Cause 2" »

Weekly Poll: December Loot '10

Weekly Poll for 12-13-2010There's some excitement out there for Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception, and why shouldn't there be?  The last two Uncharted games have been enjoyable action masterpieces.  I'm sure that Sony will be releasing new information all year long in the run up to the release next November, so we have plenty more teasing and trailers to come.  But here we are at the end of 2010 and that's not really what we really want to talk about, right?  It's time for that annual PTB holiday tradition in which I ask you all if you received all of the games that you wanted for your respective gift-giving end-of-year event.  Did you get all that you wanted?  Some?  None?  Let's hear your results.  As for me, I had a small wish list this year and received all that I wanted: Need For Speed: Hot Pursuit and a Rock Band 3 keyboard.  I have enough of a gaming to-do stack I still need to clear out without the need for even more games!

Donkey Kong Visits The Mushroom Kingdom

Donkey Kong vs. Super Mario Bros

Mario and Donkey Kong have met in battle many times over the years, but the fight always takes place on Donkey Kong's terms and on Donkey Kong's turf.  What would happen if the big gorilla challenged Mario on the plumber's familiar ground?  Here we see the result of Donkey Kong stepping in for Bowser in Nintendo's classic Super Mario Bros. as brought to us by Game & Graphics.  It's just a mock-up of course (so don't go looking for the secret code or warp zone to make this awesome scene happen), but I kind of wish that it existed in some form.  I imagine it would be frustrating as hell, but oh so worth the experience.

(via The Bow On Birdo)

Christmas With The Kongs

Christmas with the KongsNintendo's Donkey Kong Country 3: Dixie Kong's Double Trouble never quite had a chance.  It was released in time for the 1996 holiday season alongside the Nintendo 64 and Super Mario 64, given a choice, which would you rather beg Santa Claus to bring you?  Not only that, but Kong fatigue was starting to set in after two annual releases of previous Donkey Kong Country games that, while great, all basically did the same thing with few expansions to the formula (new playable Kongs do not count).  Therefore, it's not too surprisingly that a lot of people missed out on the game's special secret Christmas mode.  By entering the proper secret code at the file select screen — MERRY, of course — some of the game's bonus area music and visuals would change to accommodate the holiday season.  In case you've somehow managed to miss it for the past fourteen years, here's a look at the holiday flavor of Donkey Kong Country 3 courtesy of Rodriguezjr on YouTube.  Merry Christmas!