Zen Studios continues its fruitful partnership with Marvel with another pinball table for Zen Pinball 2 and Pinball FX2 based on a film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Ant-Man is the latest movie to cross over to the world of pinball, bringing a set of flippers and bumpers featuring elements and set pieces from the Paul Rudd / Michael Douglas action-comedy. See the table in action as I run through it for the first time. I always like to go into new Zen tables blind without reading the table guide first, so I have no idea what I'm supposed to do on the Ant-Man table in this video, but I think I start to find some of the sweet spots pretty quickly. Next time I'll try and trigger a mission or two, perhaps.
Thanks to developer Zen Studios providing me with early access, I've spent the weekend exploring the company's newest pinball table based on Valve's popular Portal series. Watch as I set a new high score by completing missions while GLaDOS takes shots at me, Wheatley interferes, and Ratman lurks in the shadows. It's another winning table for Zen Pinball 2 and Pinball FX2 with plenty of fun little touches from the series. The Portal table is available across the Zen product line starting this week.
The busy people at Zen Studios must never sleep because they keep cranking out new pinball tables at an increasingly amazing pace. Just weeks after sending tables based on Avengers: Age of Ultron and Star Wars: Rebels out into the world, the company has announced this morning that it's teamed with Valve to create a new table based on Portal. It's due out the week of May 25, 2015 across the Zen line. Here's what to expect via the Zen Studios blog:
Guide Chell and Wheatley through test chambers by navigating portals, using aerial faith plates, defeating turrets and facing other obstacles, and battling against GLaDOS as you attempt to escape the facility and reach the surface. Team up with ATLAS and P-Body for their Cooperative Testing Initiative Multiball and wreak havok on the Turret Factory by discovering Ratman’s hidden mini playfield.
I'm calling it right now: combining pinball and thinking with portals will make this one of the most challenging Zen tables ever made. It's hard enough to follow the ball sometimes as it is, but once we add folding space to toss the ball all over the table, I know I'm going to need some serious practice to keep up with this one. The description certainly sounds like they're making good use of the Portal license though, so I look forward to finding out how true they stay to the source material.
Things get heated on this week's episode of the Power Button podcast as we discuss Nintendo's recent announcement that it's partnering with mobile publisher DeNA to come to the smartphone and tablet app store near you. Nintendo is also working on its next traditional video game console, codenamed NX, and we spend some time hashing that revelation out and how it relates to the mobile news, too. Round 1! FIGHT! 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.
Nintendo announced a partnership with Japanese mobile platform DeNA this morning, signaling an intent to bring its popular franchises and talents into the smartphone/tablet space. Here's Mike Futter at Game Informer to explain:
The games that DeNA will be working on are completely new, rather than ports of existing titles. Nintendo's entire slate of intellectual property is open to the mobile company to tap for its creations. Nintendo continues to hope that its mobile presence will drive interest in its dedicated video game console devices, something the company has stated as a goal for entering the smartphone and tablet space.
In addition, DeNA will be developing a membership service for Nintendo that will be accessible on PC, 3DS, and Wii U. The as yet unnamed service is targeted for launch later this year, however it was not specified if this will be a regional rollout or if the duo will attempt worldwide release.
As if that's not enough of a business bombshell, it was also announced that Nintendo's next dedicated gaming console, codenamed NX, is in the works. We'll hear more about that and how it fits into the DeNA deal in 2016. Here's Stephen Totilo at Kotaku to explain what we know about the NX:
Seeking to put off questions that Nintendo's future would be entirely mobile, Iwata says that Nintendo is still very much in the "dedicated video game system market", and that their next piece of gaming hardware is code-named the "NX"."Nintendo has decided to deploy its video game business on smart devices, but it is not because we have lost our passion or vision for the business of dedicated video game systems", he said.
"On the contrary, because now we have decided on how we will make use of smart devices, we have come to hold an even stronger passion and vision for the dedicated video game system business than before."
"Now that we're less devoted to the dedicated video game system business, we're more devoted than ever before!" Talk about your double-talk. Iwata should run for office."As proof that Nintendo maintains strong enthusiasm for the dedicated game system business", Iwata adds, "let me confirm that Nintendo is currently developing a dedicated game platform with a brand new concept under the development codename 'NX'."
I'd been pushing my iPhone 4S long past its expiration date. Purchased in June 2012 after my iPhone 4 did a spinning flip off of a countertop and smashed screen-first into a cabinet handle, my trusty 4S had been showing signs of wear and tear for a while. No cracks, scratches, or cosmetic damage, thankfully, but instead I'd noticed little things like ongoing decreased battery life, apps frequently crashing, apps forgetting data, settings not staying set, and the ballooning of "Other" data that iTunes was unable to recognize, delete, or handle that had filled up the gadget's meager 16 GB of storage. The phone even refused to be wiped for a fresh install from a backup. I keep my technology around until I've clearly worn it out, so the 4S's time had clearly come. It was time to upgrade. Like all technology transitions though, nothing is ever as easy as it sounds.
Gaze into the future with this week's episode of Power Button in which our in-house seer, The Great Prognosticus, speculates on what the year 2015 holds for trends in the video game industry. Marvel at potential price drops! Wonder at the bottom falling out of the crowdfunding movement! Look onward to where Destiny will go! Fear the coming glut of microtransactions! Tomorrow's just your future yesterday. 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. Next Time: Preorder early and often if you want to get your hands on our discussion of limited collector edition releases. Ryan Olsen of MonkeyPaw Games is your exclusive pack-in for this spirited discussion.
Over the past few years we've been treated to completely revised and improved versions of Sonic CD, Sonic the Hedgehog, and Sonic the Hedgehog 2 for iOS and Android, but the best of the original Sega Genesis era, Sonic the Hedgehog 3 locked on with Sonic & Knuckles, has yet to arrive on mobile platforms. The developers behind the previous releases have come up with a proof of concept vertical slice of the beloved game running on iOS and now hope to convince Sega to fund actual development. Here's a video of the demo in action showcasing Angel Island Zone and a lengthy blog post detailing the technical challenges in bringing Sonic 3 up to modern expectations.
Aside from the tricks used to make each level more interesting visually, the levels themselves were also filled with various gimmicks and events with a wide range in degree of complexity. For a legitimate remake project, all of these things would have to be duplicated in exact detail. This is something with which we took great care in re-creating Sonic 1 and Sonic 2, and so, we’d expect no less from ourselves in the case of Sonic 3 (& Knuckles). However, in some ways, this makes the job of re-creating the game somewhat more difficult than when the game was first created from scratch, because instead of being the ones who make the decisions, design the methods, and plant Easter Eggs and other subtleties on a whim, we instead have to fully understand and accurately reproduce what was already done in a way that is virtually indistinguishable from the original.
This is actually where our different methods come into play. By preference, Taxman has acted mostly on the basis of observation, carefully observing what happens at run-time and then reproducing it with his own methods. When I was brought into these projects, one of the reasons was that my understanding of Sonic the Hedgehog came from an understanding of the original assembly code itself, and experience with reading and manipulating it. This meant that I was able to take specific methods from the original code and apply them to whatever else I was doing, which in this case, was re-creating the games using the RSDK. It was especially handy when observation couldn’t readily, or at all, explain what was happening. Observation also has its merits, though, as it’s a great time-saver in straight-forward cases, and there are advantages to writing your own code without bias, such as the potential for more-easily creating cleaner and more versatile code, and guaranteeing a from-the-ground-up understanding of the method. That’s not to mention how repeated observation can expose strange exceptions. The code, too, could easily expose an obscure behavior in some cases, or at the very least, be used to easily obtain exact values. I tend to move between the two as it feels appropriate, and between the two of us, we seem to catch pretty much everything.
While I'm not much of a fan of touchscreen gaming when it comes to platformers (I prefer a control pad and actual buttons for precise control), I eagerly bought all three Sonic re-releases for iOS as they were released. They play very well for iOS games largely because of the loving care that went into development and the simple fact that Sonic only needs one action button to play rather than separate buttons for jumping, shooting, item use, etc. as more complex games require. I'd really like to see Sega get involved with this pitch and greenlight proper development. More mobile releases would be nice, but this version would really fly on modern consoles and PC. One assumes Sega has crunched the numbers on this sort of thing and come to the conclusion that it's not financially viable, but I can't believe that one of the best hits from the Genesis era could be unprofitable in today's market. Sonic isn't what he used to be, but his original adventures still stand the test of time.
Square's Chrono Trigger stands out as one of the best RPGs from the Super NES era of gaming and would later go on to spawn a semi-sequel in Radical Dreamers, an actual sequel for the Sony PlayStation, and enhanced remakes for both the PS1 and the Nintendo DS as well as mobile platforms. The story of how a band of unlikely heroes band together via time travel to destroy an ancient space parasite eager to devour the planet is one of gaming's most detailed, most surprising tales, and while the game offers plenty to do and many sidequests to explore, one subplot was dropped from the game during development because it was deemed too depressing. In a game where time and fate regularly screw with the protagonists, how depressing did a story element have to be in order to be scrapped?
Before answering that, let's recap. Late in Chrono Trigger, the main protagonist, Crono, is blasted into atoms by the aforementioned space parasite, Lavos. The other heroes escape the carnage, but Crono is truly dead and it's possible to finish the game without him. Thanks to time travel, however, it's also possible to go back to the moment of his death and swap him out for a lifeless Crono clone. The clone is obliterated instead, Crono goes back to the future with his friends, and everyone can resume fighting the good fight as if the whole thing never happened. As the game's story planner Masato Katō revealed in an interview translated by The Chrono Compendium, the original plan for this plot was far darker and provided an even greater example of time acting as a judgmental force.
There was also a time during a meeting when the idea of the main character dying came up, and the whole room suddenly burst into laughter. I seemed to be the only one who thought “That was a serious suggestion, what’s so funny?” and sat looking blank. (laughs) Although at that point Mr Horī did say “Hey, that might be pretty interesting.” Incidentally, the idea that I had at that time was for Crono to really die, and the others would have to go back in time and enlist a version of Crono from the night before the Fair. Then after the final battle they would have to return him to that point in time and bid him farewell. But that idea was rejected (laughs). They said it had to be a happy ending, so we eventually settled on the story with the clone as it is today.
The protagonists would have access to a spare Crono through time travel, but would have to return him to the moment he left his relative present in order to avoid corrupting the timeline. It's a very Back to the Future idea reminiscent of the film's subplot involving Marty McFly struggling to tell Doc Brown that furious terrorists would gun him down in the future. How would the party have explained to the Crono from the past that they needed his help without divulging information about his own future? While I'd hate to have seen Crono die permanently, it would have been interesting to explore this subplot as an optional quest. The choice would be yours: do you fight to save Crono by replacing him with a clone at the moment of his death or do you take the easy way out and recruit a younger Crono knowing that he'll still die later once you're done with him? Perhaps the gaming world wasn't ready for that kind of thing in 1995, but as games have grown deeper and grittier, I think today's audiences could handle the choice and its consequences. For death to matter in fiction, it has to stick. Just ask Aeris.
It's become a popular and profitable practice for publishers to re-release their video games from previous generations of hardware for current consoles and handhelds. Games such as God of War, Halo, Sonic the Hedgehog, The Last of Us, Tomb Raider, and many more have returned under the guise of remastered editions. Last generation's high definition remake lives on under new terminology. On this episode of Power Button, Blake Grundman and I discuss whether or not all of his rehashed content is ultimately worthwhile for the industry, compare notes on what it takes for each of us to buy a game all over again, and take a sidequest into the world of SimCity and SimTower. It's a delightful ninety minutes of conversation. Hurry and listen before we re-release this episode as a remastered edition! 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.