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Let's Watch Batman: The Telltale Series - Episode 1: Realm of Shadows

BatmanTelltale Games is taking a different approach to its new Batman game by casting players more as Bruce Wayne than as Batman.  I wrote last month about how much I was looking forward to this idea and now that the first episode of the game, "Realm of Shadows", has been released, you can watch me guide Bruce through his first adventures as he throws a fundraising party for Harvey Dent's mayoral campaign and works with Selina Kyle to solve the mystery behind mobster Carmine Falcone's criminal empire.  I'll have more on Batman this week including a review of this installment of the game and a Power Button podcast episode in which Blake Grundman and I talk in-depth about this new Batman adventure.


It Looks Like Sega Has Finally Rediscovered Sonic The Hedgehog

Sonic ManiaSega's Sonic the Hedgehog has taken plenty of knocks in his post-Genesis career.  His transition into 3D was bumpy and it seems that the further away we get from those Sega Genesis glory days, the less that Sonic Team and its partners seem to know how to handle the franchise.  Sonic Generations was the best thing to star Sonic in a very long time and long-time fans practically cried out to Sega that it was the Classic Sonic elements that made that game work so well.  Sega followed up that title with the poorly received and rapidly developed Sonic Boom series, so it seemed that hope was lost for the company to learn the right lessons from Generations.  Thankfully it now looks like good things come to those who wait as Sega had announced two new Sonic games that look like they know what they're doing.  For me, the one to be most excited about is Sonic Mania coming in 2017 from Sega, Christian Whitehead, Headcannon, and PagodaWest Games for the Sony PlayStation 4, Microsoft Xbox One, and PC which follows on from those excellent conversions of Sonic the Hedgehog for iPhone and Android as a 2D (actually 2D, with sprites!) side-scrolling title feature new zones and reimagined classic levels.  Just look at this trailer and try not to smile.  I don't think you can resist.

Remember a few years ago when Sonic fans said that Sonic Team should go back to the Genesis roots with a side-scroller for consoles and Sega responded with Sonic the Hedgehog 4 and everyone kinda felt like we'd made our wish on a monkey's paw?  I'm just judging by the trailer here, but it looks like Sonic Mania is the game we all thought we would be getting during that interval between hearing that Sonic was going back to pure side-scrolling and actually seeing how Sonic 4 ended up.  Sonic, Tails, and Knuckles are the only playable characters just like nature intended.  I know I'm risking being caught up in the Sonic Cycle again, but I really want this game to be solid and the title that fans have wanted for such a very long time.

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Telltale's Batman Trailer Shows The Burden Of Being Bruce Wayne

BatmanFor as long as I can remember, the primary focus of the Batman franchise has been, well, Batman (with a side order of Joker), but lately there's been a renewed push on exploring the man under the mask.  Batman comics took a jaunt into showing us Bruce Wayne unburdened by the Bat legacy, TV's Gotham has given mixed results showing us Gotham City in a pre-Batman world, and now Telltale Games has a new episodic Batman game coming August 2 for many platforms including the Sony PlayStation 4, PS3, Microsoft Xbox One, Xbox 360, PC, Mac, and mobile that, judging by today's new trailer, gives us plenty of Bruce Wayne action as well. 

I've been a Batman fan since I was first exposed to Batman: The Animated Series in 1993 as a preteen, and it wasn't until later that I backtracked to the Tim Burton films for a larger picture of what the character was all about outside of the comics.  His iconic rogues gallery always steals the spotlight and Batman himself is always good for some daring action scenes, but Bruce Wayne is often the more interesting character.  I think that's because (as has been so often cited) Batman is the man and Bruce Wayne is actually the mask.  Consider how Kevin Conroy portrays Batman's voice in The Animated Series, for instance.  His Batman voice is deeper and more intense (not as far as Christian Bale's guttural growl from The Dark Knight trilogy) befitting a costumed vigilante and his Bruce Wayne voice is casual, friendly, and general lighter.  When Conroy's Bruce is with people in his inner Bat circle, he speaks in his Batman voice.  They know who he is.  There's no need to hide it.  Batman is who he really is. 

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Mini-Review: Ghostbusters: The Video Game

Ghostbusters

This review was originally published at Kombo.com on June 23, 2009.  Many of the technical issues described below were later fixed with a software update.

Two years after the Ghostbusters dealt with Vigo the Carpathian in Ghostbusters II, a new exhibit on Sumerian god Gozer the Gozerian is about to open in New York City's history museum. When a sudden increase in paranormal activity leads to the reappearance of the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man rampaging through downtown, the Ghostbusters become involved in a renewed attempt to summon Gozer to destroy the world. The boys in gray (along with you, the player cast a the fifth member of the team charged with testing the latest in experimental ghostbusting equipment) have to solve the mystery of who is trying to summon Gozer and how they can save the world one more time. Meanwhile, nemesis Walter Peck, who was last seen working for the Environmental Protection Agency, is back to cause trouble for the team, and just who is the alluring woman that seems to constantly be in the wrong place at the wrong time?   

It's taken twenty-five years, but this is the Ghostbusters video game for which fans of the franchise have been waiting. With a story written by Dan Aykroyd & Harold Ramis and voice acting by Aykroyd, Ramis, Bill Murray, Ernie Hudson, William Atherton back as Walter Peck, Alyssa Milano joining the team as new character Ilyssa Selwyn, and Brian Doyle-Murray as Jock Mulligan the mayor of New York City, this game provides a detailed story that ties up loose ends from the two films and answers lingering questions you most likely didn't know that you had. Fan service abounds as players are sent to search the hallways of the Sedgewick Hotel in pursuit of the escaped Slimer, run through Times Square as a revived Stay Puft Marshmallow Man attempts to stomp the heroes into paste, consult with Vigo the Carpathian's painting on important matters, learn the backstory of the ghostly librarian that scared the Ghostbusters away at the start of the first film, fight a giant sloar, discover the source of the psychoreactive mood slime from the second film, and — it has to be said — slide down the firehouse's iconic pole.

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Be Ready To Believe The Inside Story Of Ghostbusters: The Video Game

Ghostbusters

Long-time readers of my work may remember I once wrote for a now-defunct video game news and reviews outlet called Kombo, and when I learned that developer Terminal Reality was working on a new Ghostbusters game featuring most all of the cast of the original films, I pushed hard to convince the staff that we needed to cover this game with all the resources we could muster.  That led to a great working relationship with Terminal Reality's Environmental Lead / Senior FX Artist Glenn Gamble who became a good friend of the Kombo Breaker podcast, who over the course of several episodes told us lots of inside dirt and fascinating secrets and stories about the development process.  It broke my heart that we weren't able to get the Internet at large to care about the coverage, and while I've read retrospectives about the game over the years, I've never seen anyone reproduce the stories we had on Kombo all those years ago.  Now with a resurgence in Ghostbusters interest thanks to the new Paul Feig-helmed film due out soon, people are starting to wonder about the 2009 game and how it all came to be.  Matt Paprocki has written a brilliantly detailed look at the game's history from initial idea to finished product that corroborates much of what I was told both on and off the record back in 2009.  This is excellent work and digs deep.  For instance, here's a bit on the difficulty of working with actor Bill Murray who reprised the role of Peter Venkman for the game:

There was a problem: for reasons known only to Bill Murray himself, Murray had planned only to do some of his lines to get started, and to return later to do the rest. “He thought he would give us lines to get started,” said Melchior—but development time was short at this point. “Well, the game ships in June [2009], so, no.”

Melchior recalled the stressful days that followed. “We went through as many lines as we could on Saturday, took a lot of breaks. We kept him engaged because he likes baseball, I like baseball. Every time there was a dead period where it looked like it was going south, I just started talking about baseball. He recorded [a] few lines but delivered them well then said we were going to do the rest tomorrow because we had two days. There was a sleepless night between me and the associate producer Ben Borth in New York because there was a chance he was not going to show up for day two. True to his word, he showed up.”

The problem was Murray never finished. How many lines Murray completed is unclear—Melchior claims it was half of his scripted 750-800 lines, while Haworth hesitated to give a number. Regardless, Murray’s work was done. He wasn’t coming back. “I’m not going to judge the way he works because it’s how he probably works on everything,” said Melchior.

If you're hungry for more Ghostbusters game stories, then you'll be happy to know that I've republished most of my old Kombo coverage here on PTB over the years along with some new material that was exclusive to this site because, well, to be honest I think I made my Kombo co-workers sick of the topic and they were tired of indulging my interest.  There was just so much to tell!  Settle in and consume as much as you like.  Covering the development of this game was the absolute highlight of my years with Kombo. 

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Here's All Three Hours Of Street Fighter V's Story Mode

It's all the rage these days for gaming websites to offer up complete video streams of new content the day it's released before most people can experience it for themselves, so in that spirit I give you the complete three hours of Street Fighter V's new cinematic story mode.  Thrill as characters trail off in mid-sentence and pose before battle.  I'm still undecided on how satisfied I am with the overall plot, but I'm glad that Capcom went ahead with creating it.  It really adds some meat to the game's basic bones.


Power Button - Episode 208: E3 2016 Wrap-Up

Power_buttonAs another Electronic Entertainment Expo fades away into the sunset, it's time for our annual recap of memorable E3 moments.  Blake Grundman and I are joined by our old E3 pal Ross Polly to discuss Microsoft's Project Scorpio, Levar Burton's excitement for Star Trek: Bridge Crew, Crash Bandicoot's return as a Skylander, Norman Reedus and his Norman fetus in Hideo Kojima's Death Stranding, the Stargate connection in the new God of War, Nintendo's unveiling of The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, and oh so very much more.  We have an absolutely supersized episode for you this week clocking in at over two hours long.  Grab a drink, settle in, and enjoy.   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.


Star Trek: Bridge Crew Blasts Into VR

Star Trek: Bridge Crew

Virtual reality headsets are front and center at E3 2016 and while the technology still has much to prove, developers and publishers are very excited to show what they've created.  Ubisoft has snagged the Star Trek license and has built a VR starship bridge simulation adventure for four players, each of which takes on a traditional bridge station aboard a Federation starship.  Star Trek: Bridge Crew looks to be quite the sci-fi adventure, and by "sci-fi" I mean that it's wonderful fiction that Ubisoft expects four people each with their own expensive VR headset to be in the same room at the same time on a large enough scale to make this game profitable.  As a Star Trek fan though, I must admit that if there was ever a game to entice me into VR, this is it.  Don't just take my word for it though.  Let's hear from TV's Levar Burton along with Jeri Ryan and Karl Urban (all Trek alumni) as they play the game in this debut trailer.

How much would I have to pay to be able to play the game with Geordi LaForge himself running Engineering?  Burton still has those old Trek chops, calling out to other players about the warp core, or the phase inducers, or some other damn thing.  Forget playing with friends; I hope there's a single-player mode where the player takes the captain's role and other beloved Trek characters are controlled by the game.  That may be asking too much, but since Ubisoft is asking a lot of the audience in VR startup costs, I'm comfortable making demands of my own.  Star Trek: Bridge Crew is due out later this year for PC and the Sony PlayStation 4 on the compatible VR headset of your choice.


Power Button - Episode 204: Disney In-finish-ity

Power_buttonBlake Grundman has a problem.  He's invested a lot of time and money into collecting Disney Infinity figurines and video games and now Disney has canceled the entire product line.  He needs some time to air his grievances and openly weep, so on this week's episode of Power Button we hold a farewell for the biggest Toys To Life product that somehow didn't make enough money.  Also, knowing that Disney is going back to licensing its properties to other publishers again, we pitch some ideas for Disney-owned properties we'd like to see become new games.  A dream is a wish your heart makes (unless you fail to turn a profit).  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.


Power Button - Episode 203: Aliens Vs Podcast

Power ButtonAliens are among us!  Specifically, aliens in video games.  On this episode of Power Button, Blake Grundman and I take you through Zen Studio's Aliens vs Pinball pack which leads into a discussion of our favorite video game aliens.  From the denizens of SR388 to Lavos to Halo's Flood and beyond, we're going past the stars and beyond the moon.  You cannot comprehend the true form of this show, but try it out anyway.  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.