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Power Button - Episode 223: Nintendo Switches It Up

Power ButtonNintendo revealed that its secretive NX project will be known as the Nintendo Switch when it hits the market in March 2017, but the Internet isn't waiting five months to start the speculation fires.  A short concept trailer has revealed the basic idea behind the Switch and now that our theme shows for Halloween and Election Day are done, we have time to focus on the Switch and discuss what is yet to come for the company's new console.   Download this week's episode directly from PTB, listen with the player below, find us on Stitcher, subscribe via iTunes and Google Play, 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. We also have a tip jar if you'd like to kick a dollar or two of support our way.


Behold, The True Source Mario

MarioEver notice how merchandise that features Nintendo's beloved Super Mario all uses about the same design of the famous plumber?  The days of off-model interpretations are long gone as the company has tightened up its licensing guidelines to ensure that each and every Mario product is faithful to the approved and intended design of the character.  We've already seen how Nintendo handled its 1990s character manual that specified exact details for 2D illustations, but here in the twenty-first century we have 3D models to guide licensees.  Here's a photo of a Mario maquette used as a master reference for toys, collectibles, and other merchandise on display as the Nintendo World Store in New York City as shared by @VGArtandTidbits on Twitter.  This specific pose is used to get the character as close to perfect as possible.  And yes, I know what you're thinking, but I'm 99% sure that this reference object is not also a giant amiibo.  This can't be the only maquette that Nintendo has produced for its licensing needs and now I really want to see the rest of the set: Luigi, Yoshi, Kirby, Link, and the other stars from the world of Nintendo.  Better yet, I want to own one of these.  It looks better than any actual Mario statue I've ever seen for sale as a mass-produced item.


NES Classic Edition Launches, Sells Out Everywhere

NES ClassicNintendo launched its NES Classic Edition retro console today in stores across North America, but the only way you'd know that was by the "out of stock" notices and unhappy customers waiting in line for nothing.  As usual with Nintendo, the company only manufactured, like, twelve consoles for this first release.  OK that's an exaggeration, but considering that most retailers only received around three to five units to sell per location, it's understandable why people are a little ticked at Nintendo today (and that's before mentioning how many of those consoles went to eBay scalpers who are charging hundreds of dollars for a $59.99 product).  Mike Williams at USgamer explains.

We've been here before with Nintendo. With the launches of the Wii, the Wii U, and Amiibo, the company is known for playing it safe with hardware shipments. Nintendo would rather not have loads of stock sitting on the shelves, as opposed to the more traditional US stocking methods of companies like Microsoft and Sony: ship as many as you have, and if some are on store shelves, that's good because it encourages impulse buying.

Nintendo isn't flying high financially and misjudging a hardware launch can be an expensive proposition. It absolutely makes sense to slowly roll out stock of the NES Classic Edition. Especially during the holiday season, where lower stock can drive consumer interest. 

The problem is that lower stock can also drive consumer resentment and disengagement. There are a number of people who waited in line, only to find out they were consumer #6 for a store that only had five units. There are those looking to purchase the system as gifts, not profit-making auctions. Nintendo is advertising the system, but for an average consumer, heading to retail will only end in a clerk letting them know the system is out-of-stock. And there's a likelihood that's where their interest will stop.

I was ecstatic about the NES Classic when it was first announced months ago, but being unable to preorder left me with time to think it over and since I already own about 80% of the thirty games included as either Virtual Console releases for Wii/Wii U/3DS or as original game paks for my actual still-working Nintendo Entertainment System, I wasn't interested in waiting in line for something that would be out of stock immediately or constantly refreshing a website like Amazon for the three-second window that the product would be available before either selling out or the website crashing due to spiked demand.  I'm reminded of poor Homer Simpson waiting in line to buy tickets to the big football game.


I don't expect Nintendo to change this behavior.  I've often criticized companies for trying to take in All Money instead of just Some Money by overpricing items beyond reason (have you seen the complete edition Watch Dogs 2 from Ubisoft?  It costs $100 for the game plus a season pass plus exclusive extra DLC), and by keeping demand outweighing supply, Nintendo is only making Some Money here on the actual product (stock price seems to be doing alright thanks to the PR value of the whole NES Classic campaign), so I have to give credit for that even though it feels like I wished on a monkey's paw to make it happen.  Meanwhile, there aren't enough consoles to go around, the company promises an eventual restock, scalpers gonna scalp, and sold-out stores are already tired of having to tell people they don't have any consoles left.  Merry Christmas!  We'll see you back here in March for the Nintendo Switch launch.  I hope the company ships more than a dozen units on launch day.


New Blaster Master Coming To 3DS

Blaster Master ZeroSunsoft's Blaster Master franchise has been largely dormant for years.  Having first achieved prominence in the Nintendo Entertainment System era, the vehicular shooter with on-foot platformer segments also landed on the Sega Genesis, Nintendo Game Boy, and even the Sony PlayStation over the years in sequels and remakes.  It was last seen in 2010 as a WiiWare title, but now the series is coming back as Blaster Master Zero for the Nintendo 3DS.  Due out in March 2017, developer Inti Creates is taking the reins to create something new using what appears to be the best elements of something old.

Using the original Blaster Master game as a base, we are setting out to create a fully 8-bit experience in a way that both hearkens back to the golden age of the NES and uses the current generation hardware to optimize and power up the game for the players of today. This of course includes new areas and bosses, and new gameplay elements such as extra sub-weapons, improved gameplay when battling outside of your SOPHIA 3rd tank, a more robust scenario, refined and expanded exploration mechanics, and more.

I'm always happy to see a famed property from yesterday return, so I'm glad to see Blaster Master is coming back.  The first screenshots show us an artistic design similar to the old NES game which is fine by me.  The more polished looks of later games in the series never did quite sit right with me.  Some games just need to have that 8-bit style.  They work best in that format.  Inti Creates has a record of strong releases including work on recent Mega Man and Shantae games, so I trust them to get this right.  Bring on Blaster Master Zero!  And while we're waiting, how about bringing the original NES game to the Virtual Console so newcomers can see what all the fuss is about?


$99 New Nintendo 3DS To Be Latest Bundle You Can't Find

New Nintendo 3DSNintendo has a knack for being, oh, let's say... stingy... with its hardware allocations.  If you want to buy one of the New Nintendo 3DS (non-XL) bundles that the company has sporadically released over the past year, you had to hurry because they typically sold out quickly and were not restocked.  Those $150 bundles were popular, but now Nintendo has announced a $99 Black Friday New 3DS bundle that, if history is any lesson, will be available for about thirteen minutes at a handful of retailers, none of which are near you.  $99 is also a record low price for this hardware and it's a Black Friday bundle so, yes, I stand by my belief that while this is a great deal, you'll never find it.  It may as well not exist.  It's pretty though.  Here's some of the press release:

It’s a deal spelled out in black and white: For the first time ever, Nintendo’s popular hand-held New Nintendo 3DS video game system will be offered at a suggested retail price of $99.99. Two special-edition models – one black, one white, both featuring Mushroom Kingdom characters and imagery – will be available starting Nov. 25. This system, along with great software, will appeal to gift-givers and value shoppers alike.

If somehow you can find this bundle and you're in the market for a 3DS, I say snap it up and don't look back.  There's so many amazing 3DS games worth experiencing and the New 3DS makes for a great little Virtual Console machine with titles for the NES, Super NES, and classic Game Boy / Color line.  I'm playing mine so much more since I upgraded to a New model back in August.  If you go hunting for this bundle, I wish you great luck.  You're going to need it.


Nintendo Resurrects Power Line To Launch NES Classic Edition

Nintendo PowerlineNot to go flashback on you twice in one day, but once again I say that back before the Internet offered up all help for every game ever, stumped players turned to magazines or, if that failed, to phone services like Nintendo's Power Line that was staffed by game play counselors skilled in all things Nintendo.  Can't find Level 7 in The Legend of ZeldaCall the Power Line.  Looking for a warp whistle in Super Mario Bros. 3?  Call the Power Line.  Completely lost in MetroidCall the Power Line.  The service has been defunct for years now, but Nintendo is bringing it back for three days as part of the marketing push for the NES Classic Edition console.  It even has the nearly same phone number: (425) 885-7529 (the area code is different now).  The revived line won't connect you with a live human as in days gone by, but instead lets you listen to automated messages.  Here's some of the press release:

While playing one of the 30 great NES games included on the NES Classic Edition during the weekend following the Friday launch, you might find yourself puzzled by some of the more challenging games. (“How do I find the first Warp Whistle in Super Mario Bros. 3?” you might ask yourself.) If your memories of the original games fail you, no need to fret. You can just call the Power Line, which will return and run from Nov. 11 to Nov. 13, between the hours of 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. PT each day. The original Power Line was a beloved service in the ’80s that connected fans to Nintendo Game Play Counselors who offered helpful tips and tricks. In this fully automated version, you can use your real-life phone (bonus points if it has a cord!) to dial (425) 885-7529 to hear recorded tips for several games, plus behind-the-scenes stories from original Nintendo Game Play Counselors. You never know what you might learn!

Nintendo is banking hard on nostalgia to sell the NES Classic Edition.  Aside from the Power Line, the mini console comes with a classic NES-era poster and the company is not allowing pre-orders through (most) retailers, so you'll have to hit the streets and search for the console just like we had to do in the 1980s.  It's a unique idea and certainly points for effort to Nintendo for going all-in on this.  I just hope they're prepared to meet demand.  One thing we don't need the company to bring back from the 1980s is the frustrating "chip shortage" excuses that kept fans from diving into the latest games such as Zelda II: The Adventure of Link.


A First Look At Super Mario Bros. 3

Super Mario Bros. 3Long before the Internet brought us nonstop gaming news and livestreams of the next big thing, we relied on monthly magazines for our information.  We were hungry for information.  At the age of eight years old in 1989, I was starving for all I could get on the Super Mario series of games, so when I was given a free copy of the first issue of GamePro magazine in April 1989 at a Toys R Us, my little heart skipped a beat when, while browsing through the magazine, I came across a full three-page article on the first news on Super Mario Bros. 3.  Though the game was still a year away from launching in North America, those three pages were my bible for the next several months as I dissected as much as possible from them in advance of Nintendo Power starting to ramp up coverage later in the year.  Over on Twitter, VideoGameArt&Tidbits has posted that GamePro article for all to see so that everyone can experience the excitement of Super Mario Bros. 3.

Of course, now we know that GamePro didn't have a spy inside Nintendo.  They bought a copy of Super Mario Bros. 3 from Japan where it had gone on sale in October 1988, but as kids we didn't know anything about staggered release windows.  This article is so comprehensive because the writer played the complete, finished product.  On the first page of the article there's mention of "the Kuppa King" which, properly localized, is of course King Koopa.  Again, as a kid I didn't understand that translation and localization isn't an exact science, so I interpreted this Kuppa as a new character and couldn't understand how he related to Koopa.  I asked my loving grandfather about the difference and he explained that these characters were all fictional and that Nintendo could name them whatever they wanted because they were just making it up as they went along.  I knew that; I wasn't debating realism, but questioning the lore.  There has to be some consistency to the fiction!  Otherwise this nonsense is all for nothing, and who wants that?


Super Game Boy Borders Frame The Action

Wario Land 2Nintendo's Super Game Boy accessory for the Super NES allowed Game Boy games to play on a proper television screen instead of the native hardware's tiny little viewing window.  Games that supported the SGB featured special colorful borders that surrounded the game action to fill out what would otherwise be a dead zone lacking activity.  The VGMuseum (which recently gave us a gallery of incompatible warning screens for the Game Boy) offers up this collection of Super Game Boy borders spanning favorites like Donkey Kong, Wario Land 2, and Mega Man V to international releases and even secret hidden borders from games such as Tetris 2 and Bomberman Quest.  Gaze knowingly at all kinds of detailed, fun artwork that few have seen in the wild.  It's a shame that the Nintendo 3DS Virtual Console service doesn't include support for these borders and other SGB features.  There's some fun stuff locked away in these games.  


Nintendo Ending Wii U Production This Week So Get One While You Still Can

Nintendo Wii U

UPDATE 2: Nintendo has confirmed that it has ended Wii U production.

UPDATE: Nintendo denies the report, but the writing is on the wall for the Wii U either way.

With Nintendo priming to release its new Switch console next year the the 3DS still flying high, the time is coming to bid farewell to the Wii U as the company prepares to cease production of the console later this week.  Eurogamer reports on the end of an era:

Nintendo's Japanese production line will shut down for the last time this week after the final deadline for orders passed yesterday, Eurogamer understands. Only a small number of further orders were placed.

I have said this before, but I urge you one more time to pick up a Wii U while you still can.  No, it won't be your social gaming hub on which you play all of the biggest and best shooters and sports games, but it offers a variety of some of the best games Nintendo has developed including Super Mario 3D World, Super Mario Maker, Yoshi's Woolly World, Super Smash Bros., New Super Mario Bros. U, Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze, Mario Kart 8, high definition remasters of famed The Legend of Zelda titles from the GameCube era, Splatoon, and much more.  The Wii U will be dumped out of retail for cheap in the coming months.  Take a chance and pick one up amidst your Sony PlayStation 4 Pro or Scorpio upgrade for the Microsoft Xbox One.  The Wii U was unconventional, but it has been a lot of fun and I promise you that if you enjoy the types of games in which Nintendo excels, you will enjoy it too.  Don't wait ten years to try to track down a working Wii U in a used game store at an inflated price.  Act now.  Have fun.  Stay fresh.


Secret Origins: Castlevania II: Belmont's Revenge

BelmontHere on Halloween, you get a story about Hanukkah.  By the time 1991 rolled around, I was ten years old and deeply entrenched into the world of Nintendo.  I'd owned a Nintendo Entertainment System for several years, happily played Game Boy, and was dreaming of a Super NES for the holidays.  I was a young man of Mario.  My parents were happy to encourage this, giving me games and Nintendo-related books and media for holiday gifts and allowing me to spend my allowance and other savings on more games.  My father's side of the family, however, was not so understanding.  Ever since I had been bitten by the gaming bug a few years prior, they went out of their way to discourage my gaming interests.  They refused to give me games as gifts and even tried to forbid me from ducking away to a corner chair to play Game Boy when my family would visit them.  The terrible thing was, my grandparents never wanted much to do with me and, from my point of view, did not understand me.  From a very young age, they never wanted to talk to me or were curious about my interests.  Any attempt I made to connect with them was rebuffed.   My grandfather spoke sharply about me or over me, mostly barking to my father why I always had my face in "that damn game".  I did my best to ignore them and go back to Super Mario Land.  "It's a waste of his time!  It'll never get him anywhere!"

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