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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!"

Continue reading "Secret Origins: Castlevania II: Belmont's Revenge" »


Power Button - Episode 221: My Pet Monster

Power ButtonVideo games and monsters go hand in hand, so on this Halloween episode of the Power Button podcast, Blake Grundman and I spend an our discussing some of our favorite video game monsters.  From Gergoth to gremlins and beyond, we're going to scare the hell out of you.   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.


Nintendo NX Revealed To Be Nintendo Switch

Nintendo Switch

After months of teasing silence, Nintendo revealed its mysterious NX project this morning as its next home console / handheld hybrid system, the Nintendo Switch.  Shown off with a lifestyle video and paired with an informative press release, the Switch is shown to have modular components and is designed to be played at home attached to a television or on the go with controller pieces that snap off of the base unit and connect to a single hub to form a traditional game controller or can be played with one in each hand or can be shared with friends for multiplayer gaming or, or, or... yes, there are many variations of possible ways to play here.  Let's dive into the press release.

At home, Nintendo Switch rests in the Nintendo Switch Dock that connects the system to the TV and lets you play with family and friends in the comfort of your living room. By simply lifting Nintendo Switch from the dock, the system will instantly transition to portable mode, and the same great gaming experience that was being enjoyed at home now travels with you. The portability of Nintendo Switch is enhanced by its bright high-definition display. It brings the full home gaming system experience with you to the park, on an airplane, in a car, or to a friend’s apartment.

Gaming springs into action by removing detachable Joy-Con controllers from either side of Nintendo Switch. One player can use a Joy-Con controller in each hand; two players can each take one; or multiple Joy-Con can be employed by numerous people for a variety of gameplay options. They can easily click back into place or be slipped into a Joy-Con Grip accessory, mirroring a more traditional controller. Or, if preferred, the gamer can select an optional Nintendo Switch Pro Controller to use instead of the Joy-Con controllers. Furthermore, it is possible for numerous people to bring their Nintendo Switch systems together to enjoy local multiplayer face-to-face competition.

We've heard that the new hardware would include this kind of functionality as Nintendo brings its home and handheld hardware into a single unit, and sure enough this convergence fulfills the prophecy.  No actual games have been announced beyond The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild which was said to be coming to the Switch along with the Wii U earlier this year, but the lifestyle video shows us teased of Super Mario, Skyrim, Splatoon, and Mario Kart gameplay.  Actual games in development or basic concept showcases?  You be the judge.  Moreover, Nintendo is happy to boast that a wide selection of developers and publishers are on board with the Switch including Activision, Electronic Arts, Capcom, Sega, Square-Enix, and Ubisoft, so the heavy hitters are definitely interested at the moment.  More information on pricing and launch specifics will be announced later, but the Switch is still on track for a March 2017 release.

Nintendo Switch partnersI'm excited about the Switch and the way that it merges handheld and home console gaming.  Nintendo seems to have come up with multiple ways to play Switch games, so there's plenty of control options to suit all kinds of needs.  I'll show up anywhere for a new Super Mario game, of course, but I'm poised to buy a Switch and look forward to being able to take games around with me around the house like a 3DS but also be able to play them on my nice television.  Best of both worlds!  I don't expect any main Wii U or 3DS backward compatibility with the Switch, but it would be the best thing ever to reward Virtual Console owners with the ability to transfer those purchases over to the Switch.  There are still lots of unknowns here, but my first impression is impressed with a side order of anticipation.

Just as a side note anecdote, I wonder how often I'll take my Switch out of the house.  I have a mental block on carrying around handheld gaming systems that I perceive to be expensive and/or vulnerable.  I paid $300 for a Nintendo 3DS at launch in 2011 and had no issue tossing it into my pocket when I went outside because the compact size and clamshell design make it feel like a robust system, but on the other hand, I paid $180 for a Sony PlayStation Vita in November 2012 and have only taken it outside once because its exposed screen makes it feel especially fragile.  The Switch has an exposed screen when it's a handheld device.  Will I be comfortable taking it out?  I suppose I'll find out. 


New Donkey Kong Development Tales Revealed

Donkey KongYou'd think we'd know all there is to know about Nintendo's smash hit Donkey Kong by now, but the stories keep coming thanks to developer Shigeru Miyamoto and the re-release of the pared-down Nintendo Entertainment System version of the game via the NES Classic MiniChris Kohler at Wired has the translated details of an interview in Japanese from Nintendo's website in which Miyamoto discusses his nude creative process, his devotion to the early days of NES development, and that the arcade version of Donkey Kong was supposed to include voice clips.

“The lady stolen away by Donkey Kong was supposed to yell out, ‘Help, Help!’ And when Mario jumped over a barrel, she was supposed to yell, ‘Nice!,’ complimenting him. But some people within the company said, ‘Doesn’t the pronunciation sound a little weird?’ So we tested it on a native English speaker, a professor. They said it sounded like she was talking about seaweed: ‘Kelp, Kelp!'”

“At that point in development, we couldn’t fix it,” Miyamoto said. “So we took out all of the voices. “Help!” was replaced with Donkey Kong’s growl, and “Nice!” was replaced with the pi-ro-po-pon-pon! sound. It’s really good that we went with pi-ro-po-pon-pon. When you walk past an arcade and hear that sound, it’s really catchy. So even though we took out the voices, it still had great results. From this experience, I learned the importance of having good sound effects.”

I can't say that I miss the voice clips (you can hear them for yourself at The Cutting Room Floor), although my primary exposure to Donkey Kong was the 1994 Game Boy version which built upon the original arcade game.  The Super Game Boy version of that game includes voice clips, but in my mind I always hear the Game Boy version's take on Pauline's screams for help as a tinny soprano warble.  I suppose it all depends on which version you knew first.  On a related note, I am glad that Miyamoto is still telling these kinds of development stories about his earliest creations.  If he's held back new Donkey Kong tales, what are we still missing regarding Super Mario Bros. 3 or Zelda II: The Adventure Of Link?   


Power Button - Episode 219: An Appointment With Disappointment

Power ButtonNot every video game can be a solid, fun experience that lives up to the pre-release hype.  On this week's episode of Power Button, Blake Grundman and I discuss some of our most glaring gaming disappointments from over the years spanning Mario Is Missing, SimCity (2013), Ren & Stimpy games such as Space Cadet Adventures and Fire Dogs, Destiny, and many 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.


The Incompatible Gallery

Donkey Kong CountryChances are that if you're purchasing a game for a particular console, you won't try to jam it into a different console with the expectation that it'll work.  Sometimes backwards compatibility comes into play though, and on occassion you can take a game from an older generation and play it in a newer generation machine.  It doesn't work the other way around.  Nothing good will come of slipping a Wii U disc into a Wii, for instance, nor does playing a PC Engine Super CD game with the wrong system card inserted.  The lines used to be a little blurrier though.  Consider the Game Boy Color, a handheld system that played both classic Game Boy games, fancy Game Boy Color games, and games designed for both pieces of hardware.  It could be confusing to remember which kinds of games worked in which versions of the hardware, so games that only worked on the Color model could be inserted into the original Game Boy despite the fact that those games would not play.  What's a developer to do?  Include an error screen that tells the player to try the game again on a Game Boy Color.  Now there's a full visual catalog of these error screens over at VGMuseum in which you can experience the thrill of incompatibility for yourself for the Game Boy, Neo Geo Pocket, and WonderSwan.  Most of the images are plain text, some include the stylish game logo, and a few go above and beyond with comical little scenes.


Pickin' Colors With Mario Paint

Mario PaintSpend enough time with Mario Paint for the Super NES and the game's title theme song will become lodged in your brain.  It happens so easily since the song is happy, catchy, and toe-tappingly perky.  Video game music site OverClocked Remix strikes again with "Pickin' Colors": Steve Snider's live performance of the Mario Paint theme done in a bluegrass style with actual mandolins, banjo, guitar, and bass.  Here's OCR's David Lloyd commenting on the performance:

The source lends itself surprisingly well to the rhythm & feel of such "old time" music, and while the arrangement repeats itself a bit & judges had some minor recording gripes, the unanimous feeling was that this revised version represents a creative, expressive, and most of all FUN take on the theme.