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January 2013

Sigma On Parade

Sigma Every hero has his or her arch-nemesis to battle again and again in a series of ultimate showdowns. While the original Mega Man squared off against Dr. Wily oh so many times, his successor Mega Man X was destined to take down the former leader of the Maverick Hunters following an encounter with Dr. Wily's legacy project that forever changed the future of humanity and robots alike.  Today's installment of Artwork on Parade follows the development of the villainous Sigma across his debut game and many sequels, but despite the fact that he returned for another face-off time and again in a variety of dangerous and deadly forms, in the end he was left shattered and damaged beyond repair or redemption.  On the other hand, he has a knack for rocking the stylish capes and bulky shoulder pads, so he can't be totally evil.  Not with that fashion sense. 

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Injustice: Gods Among Us Pits Superman Against Batman

InjusticeBatman and Superman have a complicated relationship in the DC universe, and it looks like the upcoming Injustice: Gods Among Us for the Sony PlayStation 3 and Microsoft Xbox 360 is just going to make things even more complicated.  Developer Netherrealm Studios has released a new trailer that shows some of the game's long story mode and explains a bit about why heroes are fighting against other heroes and while some of the villains are teaming up with those heroes.  Like I said: complicated! 

Most of the larger gaming outlets have big previews of the story mode.  Here's a bit of what GamesRadar's Lorenzo Veloria has to say:

The campaign is broken up into chapters, with each designated for a single character, with the full thing running through the whole roster and supposedly lasting upwards of ten hours. The first chapter follows Batman just before the events of Metropolis' destruction; Lex Luthor, Doomsday, and a host of super villains battle the likes of Green Lantern and Wonder Woman in an all-out melee in the skies of Metropolis and aboard the Justice League Satellite. Meanwhile, the Dark Knight heads over to Arkham Asylum to prevent the Joker from joining the mayhem, but is ambushed by the gun-wielding mercenary, Deathstroke, launching you into the first fight of the campaign.

Injustice was on my radar prior to the release of this trailer, but now that I've had the opportunity to play Netherrealm's previous release, Mortal Kombat, I understand how Injustice's story mode will work and I'm much more excited about this project.  I trust NetherRealm to get this one right and I'm looking forward to seeing the plot unfold.  The fighting?  Well, I'm sure that'll be fun too, but give me a good story and I'll plow through most any kind of gameplay.  Mortal Kombat's story mode kept me engaged far more than I'd expected.  I even came away from that game wondering if perhaps Capcom should add a similar story mode to the next Street Fighter title.  Seeing a bit more of what Injustice has to offer definitely has me considering picking it up when it releases in April.

Junction Point Studios Closes Shop

Mickey MouseThe development studio behind the Disney Epic Mickey franchise has closed its doors today.  As reported by Polygon, Junction's owner, Disney, is has shutdown the studio as part of a paradigm of realigning key momentums or some such business jargon.  The short version is that Disney Epic Mickey 2: The Power of Two failed to blow the roof off of the marketplace, so the company has been put out to pasture.  Epic Mickey's key mastermind, Warren Spector, has also moved on from his position with Disney.  Here's some of the story:

"It was with much sadness that we informed our teams today of changes to our Games organization, which include the closure of Junction Point Studios," a representative for the company told Polygon. "These changes are part of our ongoing effort to address the fast-evolving gaming platforms and marketplace and to align resources against our key priorities. We're extremely grateful to Warren Spector and the Junction Point team for their creative contributions to Disney with Disney Epic Mickey and Disney Epic Mickey 2."

Since the news was announced, employees from the company have been leaving Junction Point's North Austin headquarters with their personal effects. After remaining relatively quiet after rumors of the company's closure began to circulate yesterday afternoon, a few of those recently laid off have taken to Twitter to seek new employment.  Sources close to the studio tell Polygon most of the staff at Junction Point had been on paid leave since the developer completed work on Epic Mickey 2.

Junction Point's fate seemed obvious following Epic Mickey 2's poor sales, but I think what really led to the closure is the development of the recently announced Skylandersesque Disney Infinity platform and all of the family/casual audience potential that it brings.  With an ongoing sales machine like Infinity waiting in the wings with its dynamically different way of engaging players, big single-player console titles like Epic Mickey just don't fit into Disney's latest video gaming master plan.

It's a shame to see Junction go, but Disney is somewhat legendary for being a difficult corporate master to please and subsidiaries that produce products that don't sell in massive numbers aren't long for this world.  You'd think that a major video game starring Mickey Mouse would be a smash hit, but Mickey isn't such a pop culture force anymore and limiting the original game to Nintendo's Wii at a time when its peak years were clearly behind it (not to mention the game's camera issues).  The multiplatform sequel was too little, too late in a season packed with bigger, more popular properties.  Aside from the loss of 160 jobs at Junction Point, the worst part of the closure is that we'll never get to see Spector's DuckTales game project now.

Nintendo Disk System Rewrites History

648px-Nintendo-Famicom-Disk-SystemLet's take a moment to remember the Nintendo Disk System in which players could purchase new Nintendo Entertainment System games at a discount if they agreed to consume those games via a rewritable disk rather than a traditional cartridge.  Nathan White over at Retroware TV has taken a look back at the system, its legacy, and how it ultimately fell apart.

It is, unfortunately, this precise ease of rewriting the Disk Cards that ultimately contributed to the demise of the console. Certain types and brands of 3.5″ floppy disks, including Mitsumi’s own Quick Disk could be modified to work on the Disk System, and piracy predictably ran rampant. Piracy was such a problem, in fact, that plans for a North American version of the Disk System were ultimately scrapped. This directly lead to the development of the in-cart battery back-up save feature that debuted with the North American release of The Legend of Zelda. The Nintendo Entertainment System (as it was released in North America) was in fact originally designed to connect with this undeveloped NTSC version of the Disk System, as evidenced by the parallel port in the bottom of the console. This was meant to communicate the Disk System directly with the NES’s motherboard, eliminating the need for the RAM adapter connection in the cartridge slot that was necessary for the Famicom Disk System to function.

While the technology is certainly neat, I think we ended up with the better end of the deal in North America, Europe, and beyond with battery-backed memory for saving game progress.  Sure, those batteries are dying off now, but at the time it was really so much more convenient to not have to deal with rewritable disks for maintaining accomplishments and storing games.  While it would have been interesting to see the technology in play elsewhere, piracy would have certainly diminished its impact across the rest of the world.  It's a shame how the human factor can ruin a perfectly good product idea.

The Animated Adventures Of Sly Cooper

Sly Cooper: Thieves in TimeSony and developer Sanzaru Games have a new installment of Sly Cooper debuting next week for the PlayStation 3 and PlayStation Vita entitled Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time, and to make sure that you notice, the company has commissioned a short animated feature to [re]introduce master thief Sly, his gang, and the other major players in his world.  Short excerpts have popped up online in the past week, but the PlayStation Blog has the complete feature and some commentary on what went into creating it.

One of the bigger goals artistically was to make sure our art integrated with what Sanzaru was doing in 3D. We took a cue from their elaborate models, detailed environments, and wonderful concept art to guide our cinematic work. We wanted to bring the whole 2D experience to a higher level. It’s a rare opportunity to do 2D animation in console gaming, so we had to make sure we did a great job.

Many fans, including myself, believe that Sly Cooper and the gang would make a fantastic animated TV show or movie. With that mindset, Ghostbot presented to Sanzaru and PlayStation the idea of doing an animated short that would reintroduce Sly Cooper and the gang in a big way. The animated short we ultimately ended up creating shows a story from Sly’s past that the fans haven’t seen. It also gives first time viewers a sense of fun and adventure that awaits them in Sly’s world.

Nicole and I have been playing The Sly Collection compilation of the original three Sly PlayStation 2 titles remastered for the PS3 over the past few months to prepare for the imminent Thieves In Time sequel.  It's her first run through the trilogy, while it's my second.  I don't think we'll hit the February 5 release date deadline (we're still nearing the end of Sly 2: Band Of Thieves), but that's fine.  It's been eight years since Sly's last new adventure.  I think we can spare a few more weeks.

Secret Origins: Paper Mario: Sticker Star

Paper Mario: Sticker StarHow I wound up with Nintendo's Paper Mario: Sticker Star for the Nintendo 3DS is rather unremarkable.  My family asked me to put together an wish list for the 2012 holidays, I wanted Paper Mario, I put it on the aforementioned list, my parents bought it and sent it to me as a gift, the end.  The real story here is not so much how I acquired the game, but what I did with it once I had it and when I finally found the time to play it.  See, while I received the game in early December, I didn't have the chance to finally open the box and play the game until the middle of January.  I had been planning a long weekend getaway with my girlfriend Nicole after the holidays, and since every good vacation needs a game to go with it, I made it a point to finally start playing the game just prior to the trip.  Our destination?  Historic St. Augustine, Florida for four days of relaxation.  Paper Mario was along for the ride, but this trip was secretly about more than just getting away for a few days and certainly about more than saving the Mushroom Kingdom.

This was the weekend that I asked Nicole to marry me.

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Remastered Zelda: Wind Waker Coming To Wii U

Windfall Island

Nintendo's creative developers are hard at work on the next new installment of The Legend of Zelda for the Wii U, but it will be quite some time before the company is ready to show it off.  To make up for the gap in new Hyrule adventures, Wii U players will instead be treated to a remastered high definition version of one of the best Zelda titles that many people skipped.  The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker is headed to the Wii U this fall with updated visuals, game design enhancements, Miiverse functionality, and off-TV play on the Wii U GamePad.  Here's a clip from this morning's announcement that explains where Zelda goes from here:

If you missed out on Wind Waker the last time around when it was released in 2003 for the GameCube, then I highly recommend that you seek it out for the Wii U later this year.  It's definitely worth exploring, and while the original version wasn't perfect (there are some notable signs that development was rushed in places), it stands out ahead of games like Twilight Princess and Majora's Mask.  Who knows?  Perhaps part of the design tweaking process involves cleaning up those rushed elements.  I haven't played the game since it was first released (it's tied to too many painful memories to revisit), but I might have to make myself replay it if the Wii U update shines as brightly as I imagine it will.

New Yoshi Game Headed To Wii U


We haven't seen a new adventure for Yoshi on a Nintendo home console since 1998's Yoshi's Story for the Nintendo 64, but that's changing with the announcement of a Wii U game that currently has no announced title, but I promise you that the gaming community has already come to call it Yoshi's Epic Yarn considering that it's a string-based adventure for everyone's favorite hungry dinosaur from the Kirby's Epic Yarn team.  Retread?  Maybe.  Does that matter?  Not when the star character looks like adorable made up in yarn.  If there's any other franchise in the Nintendo catalog that can get away with going beyond cute besides Kirby, it's Yoshi.

Robotnik's Secret Weapon

Dr. Robotnik of Sonic the Hedgehog infamy has a knack for taking cute little forest critters such as birds, squirrels, and rabbits and using them to power his badnik robots which then, in turn, patrol quaint places like the Green Hill Zone as part of plans for world domination.  It's up to the heroic Sonic to smash the badniks and free the animals inside.  That's all well and good when small, harmless animals are the ones trapped inside the robots, but what happens when the doctor prepares a special surprise for Sonic and starts using nature's vicious predators to power his badniks?  Watch this Dorkly video and find out.  It's not pleasant, but it gets results.

Weekly Poll: Time Spanners In The Works

Weekly Poll for 1-14-2013An overwhelming number of you out there are not interested in the next pair of Nintendo's Pokémon sequels, although with only sixteen counted votes in this sample size, I'm not sure that's indicative of anything.  Tens of thousands of people read Press The Buttons each month and only sixteen of you out there voted?  For shame.  As for me, I can't say that I'm a Pokémon fan.  I'm glad that those who are will have more games to enjoy, but it's not my thing.

Moving on, this week I want to ask you about how much time you spend playing video games in a single stretch.  When you sit down to play a game, how long do you play before turning the game off?  Do you cram a few minutes in with your favorite mobile or handheld game when you can?  Do you set aside an hour or two of free time to devote to playing the latest release?  Can you spare entire sections of a day for leveling up your heroes?  Do you not even need sleep and can somehow play for entire days and nights?  Let's hear your thoughts.