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Power Button - Episode 217: Let's Go To Virtual Reality (Plus: Blake Meets PlayStation VR)

Power ButtonThe virtual reality revolution is on!  At least, that's what the marketing departments at HTC, Samsung, Oculus, and Sony tell us.  On this week's episode of the Power Button podcast, Blake Grundman and I discuss our journeys into the world of VR as I play around with a Samsung Gear VR and Blake travels to New York to take a PlayStation VR unit for a test drive with early press access to third-party VR experiences.  Pinball, space travel, haunted houses, and fighter jets: VR has it all!   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.


Akuma Challenges You To Read His Violent Backstory

AkumaCapcom's Street Fighter franchise boasts many larger than life characters each capable of crippling you at a moment's notice, but one of the most powerful, more dangerous, and most mysterious combatants is Akuma.  First appearing as a secret character in Super Street Fighter II Turbo where, under certain difficult circumstances, he interrupted the climactic final battle against M. Bison, he's gone on to become one of the faces of the Street Fighter brand.  Den of Geek chronicles his history across video games, movies, anime, comics, crossover appearances in other games, and much more.

Akuma is the younger brother of Gouken. Together, they studied Ansatsuken (“Assassin’s Fist”) under their master Goutetsu. Akuma, obsessed with becoming the strongest, believed that the dark side of the martial art style is where it’s at and let the killing intent consume him. He mastered the Raging Demon (also known as “Shun Goku Satsu”), a Penance Stare-like fatal attack that does more damage depending on the sins of the victim, and used it on both his teacher and brother. Now Akuma hides in the shadows, hoping to find the one worthy opponent that he can fight to the death. He’s powered by his own negative emotions, and it's physically transformed him into a demon.

I remember first reading about Akuma in an issue of Electronic Gaming Monthly right about the time that SSF2T was hitting arcades, but I knew I would never be able to face him there.  He remained a secret character locked away behind complex requirements for most of his early appearances, and it wasn't until the original release of Street Fighter IV that I finally was skilled enough to unlock him on a regular basis.  While other Street Fighter warriors have complex reasons for why they fight, Akuma's is refreshingly simple.  After all, anyone who is known for a special attack called Instant Hell Murder probably has his priorities straight.

Reading the Den of Geek article, I was surprised at just how many guest appearances Akuma has racked up over the years.  Making him appear as a technologically augmented Cyber Akuma in Marvel Super Heroes vs Street Fighter should feel like Capcom descending into self-parody, but it works.  I want to see him appear in Street Fighter V, but for now he's only slated to play a large part in the upcoming Tekken 7 where instead of being a guest character for the sake of just being a guest, trailers imply he's a major part of the storyline.  That's a pretty good character arc for a character originally created to keep up with Mortal Kombat which gained extra popularity and mystique during its rivalry with Street Fighter II thanks to the hidden ninja Reptile. 


The Rise And Fall Of Sega's Vectorman

Vectorman 2The one thing I always think of first when I recall the Nintendo versus Sega console wars of the 1990s is that whatever one company did first, the other would follow up with their own version soon after.  Nintendo Super Scope?  Sega Menacer.  Super FX chip in StarfoxSVP chip in Virtua Racing.  Pre-rendered graphical style for Donkey Kong Country?  Pre-rendered graphical style for Vectorman.  While Donkey Kong Country went on to spawn two direct sequels during the 16-bit era, a Game Boy side series, and so much more over the years up through Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze for the Wii U in 2014, Sega's answer to the gorilla in the room went on to star in a single sequel in the Genesis era and then a couple of aborted relaunches.  Hardcore Gaming 101 has the story of Vectorman's rise and fall.

What Vectorman lacks in consistent difficulty and compact level design, it more than makes up for in its presentation, which is where all of BlueSky Studios' offerings shine the brightest. Proclaiming that the SNES is graphically superior to the Genesis may be a tired cliché nowadays, but it's an undeniable fact that most titles of the time looked better on Nintendo's 16-bit console than they did on the competition and that Donkey Kong Country deserves praise for stuffing all of its then-high-tech graphics and timeless soundtrack in a single 32-meg cartridge with no special chips inside despite its bland gameplay (which the sequels greatly improved upon). In comparison, Sega's console had a much paltrier VDP/PPU and less access to large ROM sizes, but its lightning-fast and easy-to-program-for Motorola 68000 processor could easily trump Nintendo's choice of CPU (the unique, yet terribly slow Ricoh 5A22) in every aspect imaginable if in the hands of a talented programmer, and this is what makes Vectorman's unique graphical style look good up to this day.

By the way, do you know Vectorman's dirty little secret?  It doesn't use vector graphics at all.  That doesn't stop it from looking impressive on Sega's 16-bit hardware though.  It was the unique visuals that first drew me into wanting to play the game.  When I was in high school in the mid-to-late 1990s, a friend had the game and we spent too many weekend afternoons trying to clear the second level.  We were absolutely terrible at it; poor Vectorman may as well as been a magnet for incoming enemy fire.

Continue reading "The Rise And Fall Of Sega's Vectorman" »


Be Ready To Believe The Inside Story Of Ghostbusters: The Video Game

Ghostbusters

Long-time readers of my work may remember I once wrote for a now-defunct video game news and reviews outlet called Kombo, and when I learned that developer Terminal Reality was working on a new Ghostbusters game featuring most all of the cast of the original films, I pushed hard to convince the staff that we needed to cover this game with all the resources we could muster.  That led to a great working relationship with Terminal Reality's Environmental Lead / Senior FX Artist Glenn Gamble who became a good friend of the Kombo Breaker podcast, who over the course of several episodes told us lots of inside dirt and fascinating secrets and stories about the development process.  It broke my heart that we weren't able to get the Internet at large to care about the coverage, and while I've read retrospectives about the game over the years, I've never seen anyone reproduce the stories we had on Kombo all those years ago.  Now with a resurgence in Ghostbusters interest thanks to the new Paul Feig-helmed film due out soon, people are starting to wonder about the 2009 game and how it all came to be.  Matt Paprocki has written a brilliantly detailed look at the game's history from initial idea to finished product that corroborates much of what I was told both on and off the record back in 2009.  This is excellent work and digs deep.  For instance, here's a bit on the difficulty of working with actor Bill Murray who reprised the role of Peter Venkman for the game:

There was a problem: for reasons known only to Bill Murray himself, Murray had planned only to do some of his lines to get started, and to return later to do the rest. “He thought he would give us lines to get started,” said Melchior—but development time was short at this point. “Well, the game ships in June [2009], so, no.”

Melchior recalled the stressful days that followed. “We went through as many lines as we could on Saturday, took a lot of breaks. We kept him engaged because he likes baseball, I like baseball. Every time there was a dead period where it looked like it was going south, I just started talking about baseball. He recorded [a] few lines but delivered them well then said we were going to do the rest tomorrow because we had two days. There was a sleepless night between me and the associate producer Ben Borth in New York because there was a chance he was not going to show up for day two. True to his word, he showed up.”

The problem was Murray never finished. How many lines Murray completed is unclear—Melchior claims it was half of his scripted 750-800 lines, while Haworth hesitated to give a number. Regardless, Murray’s work was done. He wasn’t coming back. “I’m not going to judge the way he works because it’s how he probably works on everything,” said Melchior.

If you're hungry for more Ghostbusters game stories, then you'll be happy to know that I've republished most of my old Kombo coverage here on PTB over the years along with some new material that was exclusive to this site because, well, to be honest I think I made my Kombo co-workers sick of the topic and they were tired of indulging my interest.  There was just so much to tell!  Settle in and consume as much as you like.  Covering the development of this game was the absolute highlight of my years with Kombo. 

Continue reading "Be Ready To Believe The Inside Story Of Ghostbusters: The Video Game" »


Assassin's Creed Comes Home For The Holidays As A Hallmark Ornament

Assassin's Creed Hallmark ornamentWhen I was growing up and the holidays set in, my family would decorate our house with all kinds of creative decorations and ornaments, and I always looked forward to going to Hallmark with my mother to pick out our new ornament for the season.  The Star Trek collection caught my eye quickly in the 1990s when the company began making Next Generation ornaments such as the Enterprise-D and Captain Picard, but being a video game player, I wanted official ornaments of Mario, Mega Man, and Link.  Games were still "just a kids thing" at that time though, and it wasn't until just recently that game publishers realized they could license their IP on a decorative scale.  Last year GameStop offered a collection of officially licensed Super Mario Maker ornaments, for instance, and I've seen some Super Mario Galaxy and The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword ornaments as well, but they're standard spherical bulbs with existing stock character artwork on them.  That's a step in the right direction, but I know everyone involved can do better.  Ubisoft is taking that leap this year with most detailed video game character ornament yet.  Hallmark is poised to sell an Assassin's Creed ornament featuring everyone's favorite Renaissance assassin, Ezio Auditore.

You better watch your back with this ornament! Ezio Auditore da Firenze from the video game series Assassin's Creed will make a brave and mighty statement hanging on your tree.

Ezio will sell for $15.95 when he releases in November 2016.  Somewhere along the way I became a pop culture ornament collector, and Ezio will join my other ornaments based on Back to the Future, Ghostbusters, Gremlins, and, of course, a whole lot of Star Trek.  I hope that if Ezio sells well we will see many more video game ornaments in the years to come.  There are plenty of other Assassin's Creed characters to feature, of course, but let's see some Katamari Damacy ornaments with the Prince of All Cosmos, Ratchet and Clank characters to hang from the tree, and I'm going to need more shelf space and more disposable income if Capcom ever comes up with ornaments of the classic Robot Masters from the world of Mega Man.


The OneUps Bring You Part Seven

Metal ManSomewhere along the line when I wasn't paying attention, my favorite video game music cover band, The OneUps, released a new album.  Entitled Part Seven, this latest release includes songs from Final Fantasy VI, Double Dragon, F-Zero, Donkey Kong Country, EarthBound, and many more each performed in the band's unique jazzy funk style.  Check out this version of Metal Man's famous theme from Capcom's classic Mega Man 2, "Saw VIII", and prepare to be impressed.  You can download the entire album from many of the usual digital storefronts including Amazon. If this is your first exposure to the band, I highly recommend that you check out their complete discography. Fans of video game music from the medium's most beloved franchises will find so much to enjoy.


Power Button - Episode 208: E3 2016 Wrap-Up

Power_buttonAs another Electronic Entertainment Expo fades away into the sunset, it's time for our annual recap of memorable E3 moments.  Blake Grundman and I are joined by our old E3 pal Ross Polly to discuss Microsoft's Project Scorpio, Levar Burton's excitement for Star Trek: Bridge Crew, Crash Bandicoot's return as a Skylander, Norman Reedus and his Norman fetus in Hideo Kojima's Death Stranding, the Stargate connection in the new God of War, Nintendo's unveiling of The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, and oh so very much more.  We have an absolutely supersized episode for you this week clocking in at over two hours long.  Grab a drink, settle in, and enjoy.   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.


Power Button - Episode 207: Donkey Kong For Juniors

Power_buttonSince the dawn of the medium, children have gravitated towards video games.  What began with kids grasping that first arcade joystick or Nintendo Entertainment System controller decades ago has led to today's children becoming enraptured with apps and motion controls.  How should a responsible parent encourage a child's burgeoning gaming interests?  On this week's podcast, parent of two Blake Grundman reflects on how he's introducing his kids to video games and outlines his plans to spread the hobby to the next generation.  From Yo Noid! to Just Dance, we have you covered.   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.


Power Button - Episode 206: Turn The Lights Out When You Leave

Power_buttonVideo Game consoles burst into this world with a collection of highly publicized launch titles, but nobody ever promotes their game as the last title out of the gate before production moves on to the next generation.  Everyone remembers that the Nintendo GameCube debuted with Luigi's Mansion, but what was the final release for the system?  How did the Super NES wrap things up?  Who turned out the lights on the Sega 32X?  On this week's episode of Power Button, Blake Grundman take a walk down the weedy, unkept side of Memory Lane to discuss the final releases for some of the industry's most beloved or infamous consoles.  You know you want to find out how the Atari Jaguar folded.  Join us for an hour and be sure to turn the lights out when you leave.!  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.


Power Button - Episode 205: Favorite Fresh Features

Power_buttonThe current generation of consoles have introduced multiple new features and refined capabilities introduced last generation, so it's only right that this week on Power Button we discuss our favorite of those features.  Share buttons, live streaming, YouTube sharing, screenshot capturing, off-TV play, backward compatibility, Remote Play, and much more!  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.