Who Needs Copyright?

The Revenge of ShinobiMany video game developers work their entire careers to have the opportunity to make a game involving popular icons such as Batman, Spider-Man, or Godzilla, but if those opportunities can't be earned, why not just take Batman and make him your own?  Hardcore Gaming 101 has put together a fun list of games that, ahem, "borrow" famous characters that, legally speaking, really should not be there.  The king of this kind of thing has to be Sega's The Revenge of Shinobi which runs wild with unauthorized cameos and, as a result, has been revised many times over the years.

The Revenge of Shinobi is probably the most famous game for these type of changes, with numerous revisions. REV00 was only released in Japan and has enemies that resemble Rambo, Spider-Man, Batman and Godzilla. REV01 changes the Rambo enemy (by removing his bandana and making him bald), and Batman (by making him resemble the manga character Devilman). However, the Spider-Man enemy originally only looked kind of like the comic book character, but here he was redrawn to look exactly like him. The REV02 version included a copyright notice for Marvel, indicating that his appearance was official. This was done because Sega had the license for Spider-Man arcade and console games, so they decided to go for a bit of cross promotion. REV03, which appeared on compilations, changed the Godzilla boss by turning it into a dinosaur skeleton. The final revision, released on the Wii Virtual Console, changed the Spider-Man enemy’s color to pink, and changed the ninja on the title screen to less resemble Sonny Chiba.

There's a major difference between an indie hobbyist thinking he's going to make the next Metroid game without Nintendo noticing and a professional outfit like Sega deciding to just co-opt Batman and Godzilla for the hell of it.  In a strange way you have to admire the chutzpah of it all. 


Xbox All Access Offers All-Inclusive Gaming For Monthly Fee

Microsoft Xbox One XMicrosoft fired the latest shot in the console wars today with the launch of its Xbox All Access program that bundles together a Xbox One S or Xbox One X console along with Xbox Live and Xbox Game Pass payable by a monthly fee if one signs up for a two-year contract and opens a line of credit through Microsoft's financing partner.  Kyle Orland at ArsTechnica sums up the deal:

[S]ubscribers commit to spending $22 a month for an Xbox One S or $35 for a 1TB Xbox One X console over two years. That subscription provides immediate access to the hardware, which subscribers can keep after the subscription ends, as well as Xbox Live Gold and Xbox Games Pass, which normally cost about $15/month combined on their own.

Subscribers will have to sign up for a Dell Preferred Account at a physical Microsoft Store location to take advantage of the offer, which is listed as "for a limited time only."  Subscribers who cancel before the two year period is up will have to pay the remainder of their balance.

This could be a good deal for prospective Xbox One owners who can't handle the large upfront cost of buying a console outright, but can handle the monthly fee.  It even seems that taking the Xbox One S deal ends up costing about 20% less for everything through this service plan.  Read the fine print though; any unpaid balance left on your account after the two years are up is subject to interest rates of up to nearly 30%.  Like most credit opportunities, this is only a worthwhile deal if you can pay it off on time and then walk away clear.  The two year term also lines up with the expected release date for the next generation of Xbox, so this is a great way for the company to expand its current generation market and prime those customers for the next big console.  I expect Microsoft will do decent business with this option.


Metal Sonic Gets An Upgrade

Sonic Mania PlusI absolutely loved Sonic Mania when it released last year and played as much of it as I possibly could, so when the Plus add-on released last month, I eagerly bought it and dived back in for more fun.  The two new playable characters and Encore Mode are great, but so far my favorite upgraded part of the game has to be the Stardust Speedway Act 2 boss fight against Metal Sonic which has been made easier while also becoming much more awesome.  Where the original boss battle ended in a one-on-one fight with plain Metal Sonic, the new update gives him the Phantom Ruby to become a massive, foreboding battle robot.  My compliments to everyone involved with overhauling this part of the game.  Consider me impressed and delighted!


Assassin's Holiday

Assassin's Creed Odyssey

Ubisoft's Assassin's Creed stumbled into becoming an annual franchise after it found great success in the Ezio years and kept up that yearly release momentum until it became clear that by rushing the games to meet holiday shopping season deadlines, each game was becoming worse than the last.  Rather than kill their golden goose with great greed, the company backed off of the accelerator and allowed the series to release whenever the next entry has successfully baked in the oven long enough.  That's a lot of mixing of metaphors to say that Assassin's Creed is finding its footing again and can take a year off when needed.  Over at USgamer, Mike Williams looks through Ubisoft's development portfolio and speculates which teams are working on the next Assassin's Creed games and when we may possibly see them.

Assassin's Creed games tend to get three-and-a-half to four years in development. In my mental picture, I actually expected Assassin's Creed Odyssey to be released in 2019, not this year. Odyssey's development is led by Ubisoft Quebec, with some of the same leads as 2015's Assassin's Creed Syndicate. Scott Phillips is the director and Thierry Dansereau is the art director on both games. There have been some shifts in the team: Syndicate world director Jonathan Dumont is now the creative director of Odyssey, Syndicate creative director Marc-Alexis Côté is now the senior producer on Odyssey, Syndicate assistant narrative design director Mel MacCoubrey is now narrative design director for Odyssey.

I am perfectly happy to let Assassin's Creed rest from time to time.  Have you played one of these games lately?  They're huge!  And getting bigger all the time!  And they're better than they have been in years now that they have more time to complete development.  After ho-humming my way through most of Assassin's Creed III and Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag, and then ending up frustrated by the broken nature of Assassin's Creed Unity, I was unexpectedly surprised by how much fun I had playing Assassin's Creed Syndicate.  I finished every objective on that game's map plus the DLC, and you know how packed the maps of Assassin's Creed can be.  I wondered if that was a strange on-off occurrence but then turned around and completed as much as I possibly could do in Assassin's Creed Origins over a six-month span.  I'm still working on the DLC for that one, so much so that I don't really need a new game in the series right now.  I would have been fine if the upcoming Assassin's Creed Odyssey had held out until 2019, and I probably won't get around to picking it up until next year anyways (I came into both Syndicate and Origins months after they released as well).  It's great to have Assassin's Creed back in top form.  It's truly become worth the wait.


Reload Your N64 Controller In Goldeneye 007 And Other Stories

Goldeneye 007Rare's Goldeneye 007 for the Nintendo 64 is one of the all-time great games for the console, so it's only fitting on its twenty-first anniversary that there should be an oral history about the making the game compiled and published.  Quinn Myers does the honors for MEL Magazine and captures comments and stories from the game's developers in which they discuss ideas that didn't make the final version, features that the lawyers made them remove, the last-minute addition of the famous multiplayer mode, and much more.  What especially made me smile was this cut feature:

[David] Doak: Another idea we had that was never really serious: What happened was that all the N64 controllers had that slot in them, and everyone’s always wanting there to be some reason for some arbitrary piece of hardware. So it was like, “Can you use this in GoldenEye?” All of our reference for guns was watching [movies], so someone said, “Well, what if you slam in the thing to reload,” because it could detect when it was plugged in. But when we trialed the reload, it was rubbish, so we didn’t do it, and it actually became a big joke.

I never owned a Goldeneye 007 of my own, but I rented it from Blockbuster by default when there wasn't another game I wanted to play, so I spent a lot of weekends playing the game with friends or just on my own.  Since the game supported the Rumble Pak, it became a gag to snap the pak into the controller slot like loading a gun before starting the game.  I'm pleased to see that the developers had the same idea!  It's better that they didn't implement it though.  It's fun to do once before the game starts, but having to do it over and over again during the action would become tedious and annoying almost immediately.

For the record, we played almost exclusively in the Facility with motion sensor explosives.


Power Button - Episode 269: Remonikered Mavericks And Other Updated Re-releases

Power ButtonCapcom has taken a bold step in its re-release of Mega Man X5 as part of the Mega Man X Legacy Collection by relocalizing the game to change the names of the Mavericks from the out-of-place monikers such as Duff McWhalen and The Skiver to the more proper Tidal Whale and Spiral Pegasus.  It's certainly not the first time a beloved game has been tinkered with for a re-release, and on this episode of Power Button we spend an hour discussing other games that have changed over the years across iterations.  Donkey Kong, Halo Anniversary Collection, Super Mario 64 DS,,Tomb Raider Anniversary, The Secret of Monkey Island, and more round out the conversation.   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.


Power Button - Episode 268: Surfing Channels

Power ButtonLicensed video games based on childrens' television properties have been with us for decades, but sometimes a game publisher reaches deeper into a media catalog and comes up with a game based on a primetime sitcom or syndicated drama.  On this episode of Power Button, Blake Grundman and I spend an hour discussing games based on TV shows such as ALF, Happy Days, Home Improvement, Time Trax, Stargate SG-1, Dallas, Dark Angel, and many more.  Take off your sneakers and stick around for awhile.  We've got it all on Power Button.   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.


Let's Go Talk About Pokémon With Rob Alsbrook

Let's Go PokemonProving that we really do live in a small world, a few weeks ago I was eating lunch at my favorite local pizza joint when who should walk up and say hello but Robert Alsbrook.  Long-time PTB readers may remember back in late 2010 when, in conjunction with a now-defunct local Internet television operation that predated homemade YouTube shows and Twitch livestreaming, Rob and I launched the tragically short-lived and ahead-of-its-time The Press The Buttons Show where for thirty minutes each week we would offer up gaming news, commentary, and reviews.  We produced eight episodes (six of which aired), after which the owner of the network ended the operation and moved out of state on to new opportunities.  Rob and I lost touch soon after, but now here we were in the same pizza place, so we got to talking and ended up having a conversation about Nintendo's upcoming Let's Go! Pokémon pair of titles based around Pikachu and Eevee.

Matthew Green: How long have you played Pokémon?  I can't say I ever really got into it.  I pretty much missed the boat in the beginning; Red and Blue were just coming out when I was first driving in high school, so I wasn't sitting in the backseat with my Game Boy like I had done for years on family road trips.  I didn't really get to know Pikachu until Super Smash Bros. Melee, and then the other Pokémon that were in that game as well.  I can recognize a Squirtle from a Charmander, but any of the newer or more obscure Pokémon?  Not a chance.  My first actual Pokémon game that I played was Pokémon XD for the GameCube when I was assigned to review it for Kombo years ago, and not knowing much about the world, I was totally lost.

Robert Alsbrook: I did most of my Game Boying outside before I got a Game Boy Pocket (that poor contrast in early Game Boy screens!).  I couldn't play for too long in a car before I got car sick.  I started playing Pokémon shortly after Red and Blue came to the USA.  At the time I was in high school and I baby-sat these two boys who loved to play video games (an easy job).  They were both very much into Pokémon and they eagerly showed me the game.  I watched them play and I thought to myself, "This isn't a bad game at all!"  The rest is history!  Short answer: 20 years.

Continue reading "Let's Go Talk About Pokémon With Rob Alsbrook" »


Power Button - Episode 267: Living In A Box

Power ButtonAs my girlfriend and I prepare to move in together, we've been packing up our video games into boxes and plastic totes, so I've been thinking a lot of about packaging lately.  Over the years we've seen boxes with instruction manuals and occasional bonus freebies such as posters and stickers give way to plastic cases which eventually dumped the manuals as a cost-cutting measure, and then we lost packaging altogether as digital distribution has become a modern reality.  On this week's episode of the Power Button podcast, we're talking about video game packaging past, present, and future.  Pull up a box and let's talk.   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. Apologies for my mic's audio quality this week. I had a hardware issue that wasn't discovered until after we finished recording, although I guess it's thematically appropriate that it sounds like I'm recording from inside a box.


Power Button - Episode 266: E3 2018 Wrap-Up

Power ButtonAs we do each E3 we have brought in our special E3 correspondent Ross Polly live from the loading dock of the Los Angeles Convention Center for an exclusive discussion about the happenings and events of the week that was in big gaming news and press conferences.  Join us for a super-sized two hour episode of the Power Button podcast in which we run down the highs and lows of the Electronic Arts, Microsoft, Ubisoft, Bethesda, Square-Enix, Sony, and Nintendo press conferences and digital showcases for conversation about games such as Anthem, Halo Infinite, Assassin's Creed Odyssey, Fallout 76, Just Cause 4, The Last of Us Part II, and Super Smash Bros. Ultimate plus so much more.   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.