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October 2011

Annual Castlevania Musical Moment Marks Halloween

DraculaIt just isn't Halloween here at Press The Buttons without an annual presentation of interesting lore from Konami's classic Castlevania franchise.  This year I've dug up a bizarre arrangement of the familiar "Vampire Killer" theme that's heavy on gothic organ and a snappy percussion beat, but what makes it stand out is the recurring narration from Count Dracula himself.  As the song plays out, Dracula welcomes "Mr. Vampire Killer" to his castle and explains why vampires feast upon humans while giving orders to his minions to "devour the flesh and suck the blood of humanity".  This cut arranged by Tsukasa Masuko comes from the Castlevania Tribute: Volume 1 album released by Konami earlier this year, and while there are plenty of other tracks on this release that do the franchise justice, none are stranger or contain more monologues than this one.  Good night out there whatever you are!

Dead Peripherals Tell Depressing Tales

Super Action ControllerPopular and famous video game peripherals such as the NES Advantage or the Wavebird for the Nintendo GameCube have devoted followings in the gaming community, but for every successful add-on, there are plenty of similar products that were overcomplicated, barely working, pointless, or obsolete when they were new.  Topless Robot explores some of these dead and buried peripherals with a keen eye towards the "huh?" perspective.  You'll become acquainted with the Steel Batallion mech controller, the Commodore 64 cassette reader, the Colecovision Super Action Controller, and more.

Bigger is not necessarily better (something Microsoft discovered after it released the first Xbox controller). When the Colecovision was released, it was not particularly lauded for its controllers; Colecovision's answer to this was to make the biggest fucking controller possible. 1982's Super Action Controller was about as large as Andre the Giant's fist and packed four rainbow-colored trigger buttons, a 12-button keypad, a "speed control" wheel, and a big red-balled control stick. It also featured variously-sized pistol grips to ensure that people of all sizes could use the plastic boxing glove of Doom. It even boasted the ability to control more than one player at a time in certain compatible games.  Why did it fail/suck? Look at it... just look at it. In an era where videogames were considered kid's stuff, this controller was designed specifically for the 6'10", 325-pound sumo wrestler. And to make things worse, they were generally sold in pairs, so you got double the suck.

While I grew up with a Commodore 64, I never had the cassette reader.  This is not a criticism.  My third grade classroom had a C64 equipped with cassette capabilities and it was a complete pain to use.  By the time the game (er, pardon, education application) had loaded in full, it was time to turn off the computer and go back to doing school work.  Still, there was nothing worse in the C64 days than forgetting to append ",8" to the LOAD command and seeing the dreadful PRESS PLAY ON TAPE command in return.  Say what you will about the Microsoft Xbox 360 red-ringing or your Nintendo Wii gathering dust, but at least neither of those devices have ever asked you to deal with cassettes.

Buy Two, Get One Free Gaming Sale At

Buy somethin' will ya!Amazon is offering another big sale on video games, and unlike the more recent series of Lightning Deals, this sale includes games that you'll want to play!  Titles such as Batman: Arkham City, Gears of War 3, Kirby's Return to Dreamland, The Ico / Shadow of the Colossus Collection, God of War: Origins Collection, Resistance 3, Star Fox 64 3D, Ratchet & Clank: All 4 One, and many, many more games for the Sony PlayStation 3, Microsoft Xbox 360, Nintendo Wii, Nintendo 3DS, Nintendo DS are available in a Buy Two, Get One Free deal.  It's the perfect opportunity to stock up for holiday gift giving or to get a little something for yourself.  A portion of each purchase you make via the green link goes to help support Press The Buttons, so it's like giving me a little gift as well (and I greatly appreciate it!).

Mini-Review: NBA 2K12

NBA 2K12I can tell you all about the chronology of Metroid or how Ratchet and Clank first met, but when it comes to sports games, I am woefully unprepared for conversation.  I've never been a sports guy outside of whimsical titles such as Mario Golf, so when a copy of NBA 2K12 for the Microsoft Xbox 360 (also available for the Sony PlayStation 3 and PC) from 2K Sports landed at my door, I knew I was terribly unprepared to review it with any level of expertise.  Fortunately, I knew who I could turn to for help: Brad Hilderbrand, my good friend and Power Button podcast co-host.  I leave you in his capable dribbling hands for this mini-review.  Brad?

Continue reading "Mini-Review: NBA 2K12" »

Americanized New Ghostbusters II Prototype Materializes

New Ghostbusters IIWhile Activision's loose interpretation of Ghostbusters II for the Nintendo Entertainment System is one of the more disappointing games of its generation, a better take on the film exists courtesy of HAL Laboratories.  Entitled New Ghostbusters II, this 1990 release for the NES is a more accurate, more enjoyable game to play with its cooperative multiplayer mode and multiple playable characters.  Any Ghostbusters game that features the Scoleri Brothers, Janosz Poha, and bus drivin' Slimer as bosses has to have something good going for it, right?  Not to mention Vigo the Carpathian himself!  Nintendo Player summarizes the experience for those who haven't had the pleasure:

Players get to pick two Ghostbusters (or Louis Tully). The first character acts as the blaster to stun ghosts with a proton stream (by pressing down the A button) and the second takes on the role as the trapper to activate the ghost trap (by pressing the B button). Using a Zelda overhead perspective, your ghost hunting tag team goes room-to-room zapping and sucking up all of the slimy spirits until an arrow appears instructing you to move on to the next hotbed of paranormal activity.

The ghost busting continues for five levels, beginning in the courtroom, then underground in an abandoned subway line, inside of Dana's apartment building, back underground into the River of Slime, and finally through the Manhattan Museum of Art where Vigo and Janosz plan their reign of destruction.

While a Game Boy version was released in North America as a single-player game with only three stages, the superior NES version only surfaced in Japan and Europe.  North America was left out of the mix, although a prototype of a localized version of the game for the United States and Canada was recently discovered.  There aren't many changes between editions, but the interesting fact here is that a North American release was planned at one time.  It's a shame that HAL never followed through on the idea.  You can experience the prototype for yourself though thanks to the Lost Levels or just watch the entire game in about seventeen minutes in this video from YouTube.

(via GameSetWatch)

Power Button - Episode 66: Arkham City Limits

Power ButtonEver dance with the devil in the pale moonlight?  We have at Power Button, as this week we discuss the recently released Batman: Arkham City for the Sony PlayStation 3 and Microsoft Xbox 360.  Bat-pro Joey Davidson leads Brad Hilderbrand and I through Batman's deep history as it relates to Arkham City as we analyze how this adventure compares to some of the other stories in the Batman canon.  We also hit on the decision to snip Catwoman's portion of the game into add-on downloadable content, the remarkable performances by the talented voice cast, the classic Batman/Joker relationship, whether or not comedian David Cross would make a good Riddler, where the Arkham franchise goes from here, and so much more.  We keep the discussion story-spoiler free beyond the first act of the game, so don't worry about learning too much if you haven't completed the main game yet.  We'll revisit Arkham City in a few weeks to totally blow the lid off of everything the game has to offer, so stay tuned to this Bat-channel!  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 66: Arkham City Limits

Nintendo Has Three Lost Kirby Games In Its Vault

Cancelled Kirby GamesNintendo's Kirby has predominantly become a hero of the handheld realm over the past decade with most of his adventures premiering for the Game Boy Advance and Nintendo 3DS, but there were plans to bring the pink puffball back for more GameCube titles beyond just Kirby's Air Ride.  As part of the Iwata Asks interview for the new Wii four-player platformer Kirby's Return To Dreamland, it's been revealed that Nintendo and HAL Laboratories collaborated on three — count 'em — three Kirby games over eleven years that were cancelled near the end of development.  That's right; Nintendo has three lost Kirby titles in its legendary vault of dead projects.  Here's some of the interview in which Dreamland producer Shigefumi Kawase explains what went wrong:

Actually, there are three lost Kirby games. The first one is the one that pictures were shown of at E3. It was a Kirby game based on the concept of four-person simultaneous gameplay. That was when I learned how difficult it is to make a game that is both multi-player and single-player.  The second one was an experiment with extremely challenging gameplay that placed Kirby in 3D space and allowed players to freely move around. But unfortunately, we weren't able to achieve the quality we hoped for and it never reached completion.  The third one involved an animated Kirby sort of like a pop-up book. We renewed the Copy Abilities, and tried to power it up. We spent 11 years… making and abandoning these three games.

All three of these games sound interesting, and the teasing screenshots show promise in their own way.  I'd like to see the second cancelled title set in a true 3D environment revived in some form, as outside of Kirby 64, Kirby hasn't done much in 3D space (and even Kirby 64 was locked into a single perspective most of the time).  As for the thrid canned title, its vivid colors bring to mind a similar animated style used for Wario Land: Shake It!!.  Notably, aspects of all three of these dead projects made it into the new Dreamland, so it isn't like all of that unseen work went to waste (this shouldn't be a surprise; Nintendo has never been a company that lets an interesting idea truly get away from it).  I always enjoy little peeks into the cancelled projects vault.  Sometimes what we don't get to play is just as interesting as what we do.

Weekly Poll: The Next Stolen Car

Weekly Poll for 10-11-2011A large majority of you believe that Apple will keep calm and carry on following the death of Steve Jobs.  We tend to deify influential people in this business, and while his passing is terrible news, it's not like he was the only creative person at the company.  Apple will press on with new things.  I don't think there's any need to worry about that.  I'm sure that new CEO Tim Cook has plenty of forward-thinking ideas in mind.  Have you heard about his plans for new printers?

Moving on, noted developer Rockstar Games is less than a week away from debuting its first trailer for Grand Theft Auto V.  Some of my friends remarked that they were pretty much done with the GTA franchise following the ridiculously large and detailed Grand Theft Auto IV.  Are you interested in the next installment?  Are you ready to steal cars and shoot people for fun?  Or have you moved on to other things?  Let's hear your thoughts.

Grand Theft Auto V Reveal Coming Next Week

Grand Theft Auto VHow does a company like Rockstar follow up on its big titles from the past two years, Red Dead Redemption and L.A. Noire?  Apparently by going back to the franchise that made it a household name among gaming enthusiasts and detractors alike.  The first trailer (indeed, our first look at all) at Grand Theft Auto V is slated to debut next week on November 2.  Kotaku points to rumors that a fictionalized version of Los Angeles will be the setting in this next installment of the series (under the guise of "Los Santos").  We'll know more next week.

As for me, I'd love to see GTA head out west.  Having spent time in Los Angeles for E3 Expos, I kind of know my way around the real city enough to be able to travel through a fake version efficiently.  Besides, I want to see Rockstar's parodical take on the Los Santos Convention Center with a mission that hits right at the heart of the E3 experience.  There's plenty of gold to mine in a GTA set in Los Angeles, and you'd better believe that despite the timeline differential, I really want Detective Cole Phelps from L.A. Noire make a quick cameo.

Another Pass At The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword

LinkNintendo is just weeks away from releasing The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword for the Wii, and strangely enough, I'm still feeling slightly meh towards it.  The last major game in the series, Twilight Princess, never quite came together for me and what I played of Skyward Sword at E3 this year didn't do very much to inspire my confidence.  My industry colleague David Oxford felt similarly at the time, but recently he had another chance to try this latest Zelda adventure and he's starting to change his mind.  Perhaps I should take another look, too.  Here's some of his updated impressions:

We spoke of what the E3 demo contained in our previous article, and this demo was very much the same. A lot of articles have come forth recently, speaking to the content of the game, but here, we would like to focus on the feel and experience we got to enjoy-- as well as some do's and don'ts for when you first play the game.

As it turns out, the booth lady who assisted us at E3 was not as knowledgable about the game as would have been helpful; fortunately, this event had some of the pros from Nintendo of America itself on hand to help properly guide us.

Perhaps the single biggest mistake we (and others, apparently) had made when we first tried to play The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Swordis to try to play it as we would other sword titles for the Wii, such as Red Steel 2, or how we would expect a game boasting 1:1 sword motion to play. That is, we attempted to act as though we were actually holding a sword, swinging the Wii Remote through the air in front of us.

Simply put: this is wrong, and will more than likely lead to frustration on your part as Link almost seems to be on the other end of a game of "Telephone" between himself and the Wii Remote.

This sounds more promising to me.  David also namechecked me at the end of his article with another take on the bird-riding portion of the game that put me off of the title back at E3, and as it turns out, there's more to it than I was told back in Los Angeles earlier this year:

Before we wrap this up, we also want to address our time with the bird-riding portion of the game. While we were unable to personally try this at E3, our colleague Matthew Green from Press the Buttons was less than impressed. And when we gave it a shot here, we were equally unimpressed as the stage seemed to carry on forever...

...that is, until another Nintendo of America representative came to help us out. She pointed out that this portion of the game needed you to not only steer the bird, but to flap its wings with a motion of the Wii Remote-- a fact a lot of people were not informed of at E3, according to her testimony. Once we began having our bird flap, things became much, much easier as we used it in tandem with our speed boosts. What once dragged on for many minutes became a snap.

Once again we see that failing to staff a solid demo with knowledgable people can break a game's early buzz.  Had I known about this aspect of the controls back at E3... well, I'd probably still have been a bit tweaked because I want to fight monsters in a Zelda game, not steer a bird, but I'd at least have been more open to the idea.