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January 2014

Power Button - Episode 120: Paging Dr. Mario

Power ButtonGaming is on the backburner for this week's episode of Power Button in which Blake Grundman and I discuss my recent health struggles and basically establish what's going on and how it'll impact the show going forward.  It's a short update and entirely personal.  We'll be back to the video game discussion next time when I'm able to sit up at the microphone for long enough to have a decent discussion, so thanks for your patience once again during my recovery.  Download this week's episode directly from PTB, listen with the player below, find us on Stitcher, subscribe via iTunes, 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.

Game Anatomy Is Great Comfort Reading

Castlevania II: Simon's QuestDuring my recovery from my recent health event I've been spending a lot of spare time laying in bed with my mobile browser tuned to where I've been reading (and, in some cases, rereading) Jeremy Parish's outstanding and generally interesting Anatomy Of A Game series in which is takes classic 8-bit and 16-bit video games and analyzes their designs on a level by level scale.  Castlevania, Super Mario Bros., Metroid, Kid Icarus, The Legend of Zelda, and more are included (as are some of their sequels) and I love some of the little design nuances he notices and openly questions.  For instance, in Castlevania II: Simon's Quest, the townspeople Simon Belmont meets are all lying scumbags:

The idea of unreliable in-game characters isn’t a bad one, but it doesn’t work out as well here as I think the designers intended. The problem? Castlevania II doesn’t offer enough detail and clarity to help you effectively sort out truth from fiction. While it’s all well and good for someone to tell you that you should hit your head against Deborah Cliff to make a hole to mislead you, that tip would be more obviously ridiculous if not for the fact that the real solution — kneeling in front of the cliff with a Red Crystal equipped for five seconds — is no less arcane or ridiculous. Simon’s Quest employs too much 8-bit logic to give deliberately misleading tips; rather than shake your head ruefully once you figure it out, you’re far more likely to shake your fist in annoyance because the real solution is equally dumb.

This all goes back to the mythical graveyard duck, of course.  Reading about my favorite old games in this manner has been terrific comfort reading during my recovery.  Due to my general lack of stamina and ongoing pain, I've been unable to climb the stairs to my game room on the top floor of PTB tower, so I've been left with my handheld systems to play from bed which means a lot of Virtual Console time on my Nintendo 3DS.  The more I read of the Anatomy series, the more I plunge back into old favorites all over again.  It's a vicious (and at $5 per game, expensive) cycle, but I've managed to acquire conservatively.  I just replayed Wario Land 3 last week to total completion and polished off the Game Boy version of Bionic Commando yesterday, but there's no way I'm dealing with Castlevania II again right now.  Not for all the ducks in the graveyard.

EvilCast Recap - 2013 Outtakes Special

EvilCastIt's an annual tradition over at the EvilCast podcast at Games Are Evil to wrap each year with a special episode that compiles outtakes and other oddities from the group's many recording sessions.  Since I guested on the show quite a bit in 2013, I'm scattered amongst this very special episode.  Hopefully I didn't say anything too scandalous or horrifying!  I haven't had the chance to listen to it yet, but the show's co-host Blake Grundman assures me that I'm present much more than he'd expected.  Listen in and let's hope I didn't make too big a fool of myself.  Parental discretion and/or headphones are recommended.  It gets a little blue at times in the land of bloopers and cut material.

Sony Announces Game Streaming Service PlayStation Now

PlayStation NowAll's been quiet on the Gaikai game streaming service front ever since Sony announced it was still working on the project to bring legacy PlayStation titles to other platforms, but now the curtain has been pulled back on the initiative and the company has announced some of its plans.  Dubbed PlayStation Now, the new service aims to be a Netflix of games with titles running on distant Sony servers through the famous technology cloud.  PlayStation Now has been front and center at CES this week with a selection of PlayStation 3 titles like The Last of Us and God of War: Ascension playable on platforms such as the PS Vita and plenty of outlets have remarked on the quality and enjoyability of the demos, but like any other streaming service, you're going to need a decent Internet connection that's not capped by your ISP to get the most of out it.  Here's some of the pitch from the PlayStation Blog:

Leveraging Gaikai’s advanced cloud-based technology, PlayStation Now will allow you to:

  • Play video games instantly across multiple devices, similar to the way you might stream TV, movies, and music.
  • Stream full games to all of your compatible PlayStation devices including PS4, PS3, and PlayStation Vita as well as non-PlayStation devices, beginning with 2014 BRAVIA TV models and expanding to numerous other Internet-connected devices.
  • Always play the most updated version of your game. With games hosted in the cloud, you can take your game with you – just log in with your Sony Entertainment Network account on a compatible device and your games and saved progress will be easily available.

We want to offer you choice when it comes to how you want to access content on PS Now, so you will be able to rent by title for specific games you are interested in. We’ll also offer a subscription that will enable you to explore a range of titles.

There's some great potential here if PlayStation Now is done right and offers the level of quality that players will expect and demand.  It's not true backwards compatibility in that there's more subscriptions happening here and you'll never own any of these games outright in this format, but it's better than no modern access at all to older titles.  I'd much rather own games (even in just a digital format if I can't have the disc) to lock in ownership and be able to play long after a license deal making a game available to me expires, but this is the way the industry wants to go, so I suppose we'll have to take what we can get.  For the right monthly fee and library size, PlayStation Now would be a great way to supplement one's collection, but I'd never count myself as truly owning anything available on the service.  Want to know more?  You can sign up for more information about PlayStation Now with Sony itself and USgamer has a wonderful summary of the announcement and some of the little news bites that have slipped through the cracks.

Health Update

Dr. LuigiMy ongoing struggles with Crohn's Disease are nothing new; I've mentioned them here plenty of times in passing as they relate to video games in various ways.  Today's update has nothing to do with games, sadly.  Unfortunately, another long-term bout with the illness recently pushed me to the lowest ends of health.  I started to suffer from blackouts related to dehydration and malnutrition, but after a few days in the hospital hooked up to IV fluids and strong medications, I'm starting to get back to normal.  You've noticed that things suddenly went silent here at PTB for a while; well, that's why.  Without going into all of the gritty details, I'm going to be alright in the end.  It just takes time to heal.  I'm eating solid food again after being unable to keep anything down for a week, my pain and nausea levels are way down to the point that I don't need medication to treat those some days, and aside from feeling tired due to the ordeal my body has been through, I'm managing well.  Thanks to everyone who followed along on my Twitter account while I was in the hospital who offered well-wishes and positive thoughts.  I really appreciate the support.  Now then, shall we get back to discussing video games?

Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag Strategy Guide Review At Strategy Guide Reviews

Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag strategy guideI'm working on a few reviews of strategy guides for my pal Keri Honea's informative and interesting Strategy Guide Reviews site, and the first of three of these articles in the pipeline has been published today.  It's a look at the Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag strategy guide; the publisher was kind enough to supply a hardcover Collector Edition of the guide for evaluation with bonus content (even books have "DLC" now!) and I was very impressed with the gorgeous artwork, overwhelming attention to detail, and full blowout of everything one would need to know about the game.  Part walkthrough and part manual, it's an excellent (yet still optional) companion to sailing around the Caribbean.  Head over to her site and check it out, won't you?