Gasping For Air In Sonic Mania

Sonic ManiaFans of Sega's Sonic the Hedgehog games know all too well what happens when Sonic is underwater for too long.  The happy, upbeat music of the zone quickly gives way to a pulse-pounding, heart-stopping tune of danger.  The beats quicken, the tempo picks up, and if poor Sonic can't find air before it's over (a mere five-count), there's a momentary beat of silence and then... GLUGGGGGG our hero drowns.  There's a whole generation of gamers out there who feel their anxiety involuntarily spike when they hear that warning song. 

A few days ago I was playing the new Sonic Mania and revisiting the joys of Chemical Plant Zone when I faltered and had to race to the top of the flooded chamber before Sonic's air ran out.  The video below is what happened.  My heart is still racing.

Power Button - Episode 245: Off The Ramp With Mel Kirk And Pinball FX3

Power ButtonWe're very excited here at Power Button about the upcoming Pinball FX3 from Zen Studios.  The latest (and possibly final) pinball platform for modern hardware, the new title carries over many of our favorite tables from the Zen Pinball 2 / Pinball FX2 era and will launch with new licensed tables from the Universal vault of beloved properties.  New original tables from Zen are also due out before the end of the year.  It's an exciting time for pinball fans, so it's also a perfect time for us to invite Zen's VP of Publishing, Mel Kirk, back on the show to discuss the new features in FX3, what we can expect from the new tables, when we will get to play FX3 for ourselves, and how the last generation platform of ZP2/FX2 has been sunsetted.  Join us for an hour of conversation that will answer all of your burning pinball questions (seriously; we collected questions from the Twitter crowd and answered all of them).  Want to know about Nintendo Switch availability?  Game of Thrones tables?  Support for PSVR?  We cover it all.   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.

Catch The Mania With A Sonic Medley

Sonic the HedgehogThe new Sonic Mania is stirring up lots of nostalgia for the original Sonic the Hedgehog games from the Sega Genesis era, and what better way to celebrate those timeless classics than with a Video Game Live performance off the group's Level 2 album of the credits theme from the original Sonic the Hedgehog?  The credits theme is a medley of songs from each zone of the game, turning this track into a tour through Green Hill Zone, Star Light Zone, Marble Zone, and beyond.  Looks like Video Games Live got them all.

Tales From Tales From The Borderlands

Tales From The BorderlandsTelltale's Tales From The Borderlands is a unique mixture of Borderlands, Guardians of the Galaxy, and a dash of Sam & Max.  It shouldn't work, but it does.  After reading this new oral history of Tales compiled by Duncan Fyfe, I realize that it really shouldn't have worked at all.  Two years in development with lots of last-minute changes and a destinationless journey ahead of the team led to a critically acclaimed but poorly selling series that is unlikely will see a continuation anytime soon.  Consider how the team nearly killed off the beloved Loader Bot in the first episode:

[What] I remember being a huge problem was [on] Episode One, like literally three days before we weren’t allowed to touch the project anymore, Pierre comes to me — I think Guardians of the Galaxy had just come out. There’s a moment in the first episode where your friend Loader Bot can explode, and it’s based on a player choice. Pierre comes to me and says, “I don’t think we should let Loader Bot die.” I’m just like, “Well, okay. We’re 36, 48 hours away from this thing going live, what are you talking about? That choice is there.” And he said, “I think we might be blowing up our Groot.”

Tales From The Borderlands will always be special to me because my girlfriend and I basically built the ground floor of our relationship upon it.  Not long after we met we realized we both were fond of Gearbox's looter shooter, and I offhandedly mentioned that I had this new Borderlands game sitting on my Sony PlayStation 4 that wasn't a shooter, but something different.  She was intrigued and it wasn't long before we were sitting up evenings working our way through each episode one after the next together, passing the controller back and forth and choosing paths as a team.  Telltale may consider it a failure, but my girlfriend and I think it's their greatest success yet.

Power Button - Episode 244: Underrated All-Stars

Power ButtonFor every Call of Duty or Super Mario powerhouse that fills up best-of lists and tops sales charts, there are dozens of other games that have plenty of potential to be all-time greats, but you never hear about them.  They fall into the memory hole or are used as target practice by aspiring Internet idiots picking at low fruit based on reputation alone.  We say it's not fair that fun games are passed over, so on this week's podcast we're dusting off some of our favorite underrated games of the past thirty years.  From Spec-Ops: The Line to Yo Noid! to The Godfather to, yes, my beloved Aero the Acro-bat, we have a list of titles you need to explore.   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.

Back To The Future Coming to Pinball FX3

Back To The Future

Zen Studios has announced a new pack of pinball tables due to launch with the upcoming Pinball FX3 and I'm happy to see that the company continues to take my pinball advice as alongside tables based on films Jaws and E.T. comes my beloved Back To The Future.

The Universal Classics Pinball pack will release as a part of the launch of the highly anticipated Pinball FX3 platform on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Steam and Windows 10. The themed tables will also release as individual in-app purchases for Zen Pinball on the App Store and Google Play.

Players can get behind the wheel of the DeLorean time machine and travel through different eras of Hill Valley to fix the space-time continuum on the Back to the Future table, take on the terrifying great white shark on the Jaws table, and go on an adventure with Elliot as he helps E.T. contact his spaceship and return to the stars on the E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial table!

Keep 'em coming, Zen!  Let's go with Ghostbusters or Mega Man next.  I will have much more on the Back To The Future table as its released because, honestly, how could I not talk more about it?  I hope there are bonus points for knocking Biff Tannen into a manure truck.

Sonic X-Treme Radio Revealed

Sonic radioThe legendary lost status of Sonic X-Treme for the Sega Saturn is a well-tread item of Internet lore.  I'm sure you know the story: Sega's big 1996 holiday release for the Saturn is canceled after internal struggles between the development team and the publisher, leaving a high profile hole in the console's library.  While the game never released, some tie-in merchandise did.  We covered the retitled X-treme animated Christmas special, Sonic Christmas Blast (previously titled A Sonic X-Treme Christmas), once before on PTB, and now we have photos of an AM/FM radio branded with the X-treme name.  You see, kids, FM radio was... oh, never mind.  Take a look.

TIL Sega began producing promotional items for the canceled Saturn game Sonic X-Treme

I searched around for other merchandise meant to help promote Sonic X-Treme and wound up at an old Angelfire page that, in addition to the radio, lists a cassette player and ice cream.  How did this X-treme stuff make it out the door if the game never did?  What was the point of promoting a dead release?  Tgunter at Reddit sums it up:

The logo matches the one used in early promotion for the game, and the copyright date on the back says 1997, while Sonic X-treme was originally slated for Christmas 1996, but delayed multiple times before being canceled. So everything points to this being a tie-in.  Manufacturing takes time to line up. It makes perfect sense that merchandise got made for Sonic X-treme, considering it was supposed to be a big release.

Makes sense to me.  I'll allow it.  It's always interesting to see the range of products used to promote other products.  Did Sonic need a radio or a cassette player that had nothing in common with the game other than the logo on the box?  Of course not, but it helped keep the game in the collective consciousness of children and gave cheap radios and other such things a level of appeal.  I ate a lot of tasteless fruit snacks as a kid just because Mario was on the box.  Hell, we're talking about this radio right now because it says Sonic X-Treme on the package.  This licensing strategy must work.

The Wonderful World Of ROM Hacks

Somebody Set Us Up The ROMSince the heady days of the original NESticle emulator for DOS, video game fans have been hacking games such as Super Mario Bros. and Mega Man 2 to change level layouts and alter graphics.  What began as crude and tasteless shock value hacks (naked Mario, racist Mario, etc.) eventually grew into worthwhile creations that turn familiar classics into entirely new games.  John Harris has written a new e-book, Somebody Set Us Up The ROM, that chronicles some of the best hacks that the Internet has to offer.  Part One focuses mainly on games from the worlds of Super Mario and Metroid, while the upcoming Part Two aims at Sonic the Hedgehog and Mega Man.  It's available exclusively in the Summer Smash Game Bundle.  Here's a note from the curator, Simon Carless:

Some people think, with some justification, that romhacks are mostly about seeing how many dongs someone can fit into a single game. But the best ones are far from that. Sometimes they add major features to beloved games to make them playable for a new generation. Sometimes they greatly improve game graphics, or present new worlds to explore. Sometimes they correct terrible design decisions. And sometimes they translate game into other languages, allowing them to be read and appreciated by new audiences.

This book is a collection of good romhacks, small and large, simple and incredible. And without a single dong to be found.

I had the opportunity to read a pre-release copy of this book and I am impressed by the depth of exploration.  Harris dives into interesting ideas such as adding a day/night cycle to Super Mario Bros. 3, integrating an auto-mapping system into the original Metroid, changing the villagers in Castlevania II: Simon's Quest into truthful helpers instead of lying bastards, and so much more.  This is an interesting read that will give you plenty of new twists on old favorites to try.  I eagerly await Part Two.

So You Want To Play Super Mario Bros. 3

Super Mario Bros. 3So you've decided to play Nintendo's 1990 classic Super Mario Bros. 3.  Excellent choice!  It's not as easy as it seems though.  There are several versions of the game available and each one has its own quirks that can diminish the experience.  There's the original Nintendo Entertainment System release, of course, but perhaps you prefer the 1993 Super NES upgrade?  Even those versions have been iterated upon over the years thanks to the Virtual Console, but they have unique advantages and drawbacks of their own.  How can you possible hope to decide?  You'd have to be a wizard to figure it out.  Jeremy Parish at Retronauts lays it all out so you can pick the SMB3 version that's right for you.

Super Mario Bros. 3 originally showed up on NES in 1990, and that version has been reproduced most frequently in the years since. Currently Nintendo makes the game available on three different platforms, with one kind of outlier. This is the "true" version of the game, so it's the one purists will want, but unfortunately has made it difficult to buy a proper, satisfying conversion of the game.

The article goes on to discuss the Super NES, Game Boy Advance, Wii, Wii U, and 3DS versions of the game.  Some look better than others and a few look worse than you'd expect.  You may be surprised to learn what the best overall version of the game is these days.  I know I was, but it makes perfect sense.  What's better than the Super Mario Bros. 3 we all know and love with extra levels added to it?

Mini-Review: Infinite Minigolf

Infinite Minigolf

Well known for its digital pinball tables, Zen Studios is revisiting another of its key releases with the release of Infinite Minigolf for the Sony PlayStation 4, Microsoft Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, VR platforms, and PC.  Following on from 2010's PS3-exclusive Planet Minigolf, this updated take on the concept brings the course creation tools that helped make Planet stand out to a wider audience in a fun mix of the creativity tools of Sony's LittleBigPlanet and the trick shots found in Nintendo's Kirby's Dream Course

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