Retro/Classic Feed

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.


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?


Power Button - Episode 243: Betrayal Most Foul

Power ButtonRipped from the headlines!  On this week's episode of Power Button we shine a light on the selfish, shameless, or otherwise misguided behavior of some of video gaming's most reprehensible traitors and colluders.  Join us for an hour of shocking betrayals, plus we're also giving away a free eShop code for the Nintendo Switch version of The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild Expansion Pass DLC.  Listen to this episode and the send the answer to the contest question to  before the end of the day Monday, July 24, 2017.   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.


Lost Super NES Rayman Prototype Revealed

RaymanWhen it comes to the glory days of the 16-bit console mascots, it's easy to rattle off a list of characters that are not Super Mario or Sonic the Hedgehog.  Invariably I always want to list Rayman in the company of Bubsy and Plok, but then I remember that Rayman never appeared on the Super NES or Sega Genesis.  Instead he was born on the Sony PlayStation, Sega Saturn, and Atari Jaguar.  He just feels like he should have come from the 16-bit era though, and it's probably a lingering half-memory of early Rayman magazine coverage that's responsible for this instinct.  Now thanks to a recently released prototype, we can see Rayman's original Super NES incarnation in action.  I knew I wasn't crazy!  Ethan Gach at Kotaku explains Rayman's unfinished origins:

Information about a long, lost SNES Rayman game first re-surfaced last fall when designer Michel Ancel, the series creator, shared pictures of a ROM for an old prototype build of the game that had been re-discovered by a friend. The first Rayman game ended up metamorphosing and coming to the Atari Jaguar, Sega Saturn, and PS1 instead, with the original SNES vision lost to time. But After 24 years the ROM still worked, and now, thanks to Cornut, what exists of it is even playable.

It’s extremely limited in its scope, including a small environment, the ability to jump, and a few other character animations. “That prototype it is a very early build,” said Cornut. “So the stuff like two-player mode that have been shown in screenshots are not really in this build. Perhaps the ROM contains secrets in which case homebrew hackers will hopefully unearth them soon. “

Seeing Rayman move around in this prototype reminds me of the forgotten SNES/Genesis action platformer B.O.B. in which a space robot traverses dark, tech-inspired levels.  Rayman's design is essentially intact here compared to his final form, although he's not as detailed as he would appear on 32-bit consoles.  Looking at this now, I think of how larger than life arcade characters from games like Street Fighter II were scaled down to fit on lesser hardware such as the Game Boy.  Sure, this is Rayman, but he's smaller and less alive than we're used to seeing him.  From a historical perspective I'm glad that we can experience this prototype, but I think the character benefited more from his actual debut on stronger hardware.


Power Button - Episode 241: Super NES Classic Brings The Super Joy

Power ButtonNintendo is back to raise and dash our hopes with the new Super Nintendo Entertainment System Classic Edition console featuring twenty-one built-in Super NES games including the previously unreleased Star Fox 2.  On this week's episode of the podcast, Blake Grundman and I dig into the included games to discuss the best of the bunch and then outline the history of Star Fox 2 and why it's so exciting that fans will finally be able to play it. Crank up the volume and PLAY IT LOUD!   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.


The Unfinished Story Of Star Fox 2

Star Fox 2Nintendo's resurrected Star Fox 2 has become the subject of newfound attention this week thanks to the announcement that the lost game will be included in the Super NES Classic Edition later this year, bringing it out of the vault more than twenty years after development ended.  Fans have been able to sample it for years thanks to a leaked unfinished version of the game that appeared online during the height of excitement for emulating Super NES games in the wild west era of the Internet, but aside from generally knowing that this early version is out there, it's unlikely that most of Star Fox 2's new fans are aware of the long path that the game traveled from Nintendo's vault to the open Internet.  Nobody just shoved a cartridge into a modem and called it a day.  SNES Central takes a look back at how that rogue copy of Star Fox 2 escaped into the wild.

The real blockbuster, which served as the pinnacle of the SNES emulation scene, in my opinion, was the release of the final beta of Star Fox 2 in August 2002 (well documented by d4s in this FAQ, who also had a big hand in the discovery of the ROM image). The first screenshots appeared on the now defunct website, sportkompaktwoche.de. The ROM itself needed several fixes (made by The Dumper) before it could play in emulators, though there were accusations that it was a fake before that happened. The unfixed ROM was leaked by "skyhawk" of the German fan translation site, Alemanic Translations. Apparently skyhawk claimed to have found this game on a prototype cart and dumped it himself, probably leading to the widespread belief this game was found off a prototype cart.

In reality, Star Fox 2 was leaked as a pure assembled binary from a former developer who wanted the game emulated, and the ROM was not in a proper SNES ROM format initially. There was no source code leaked, nor was there ever a prototype or production cart of it. Soon after the leak of Star Fox 2, emulator authors incorporated proper Super FX emulation, allowing the general community to play the game in all its glory.

Before fans could play this version of Star Fox 2, it had to be patched and manipulated to make it playable in the emulators of the day.  Fan translation groups reworked the script into English.  Even the lingering debug tools had to be disabled to make the game as much like the presumed finished release as possible.  Even this version isn't truly the final game though, as Retronauts reports that Star Fox 2 designer Dylan Cuthbert has noted that the true mastered version has never leaked.

According to programmer and designer Dylan Cuthbert, a completed build that's never been leaked (and will presumably be the version included with the Super NES Classic Edition) received an extra coat of polish and incorporated a greater deal of randomization to add even more replay value to the experience. The planned multiplayer mode is also hopefully in working order, and maybe they even assigned some greater purpose to the giant coins bearing General Pepper's likeness which you can find hidden around the game.

Officially releasing Star Fox 2 isn't the end of the legend, it's just the next chapter.  The Super NES Classic Edition releases in September 2017.


Street Fighter II Ride Gets You Into The Game

Street Fighter II RideSure, we've all played our share of Street Fighter II, but how often have you actually gone inside of the game itself?  Let's journey back to the end of the twentieth century and join Ryu, Ken, Guile, and your other favorite World Warriors as you climb aboard the Street Fighter II Ride created by Shadix Media and Showscan as licensed by Capcom.  Depicting the cast of Super Street Fighter II as 3D Virtua Fighter-type models rather than 2D sprites, riders are thrust into the game to take on M. Bison and his Shadowlaw gang before they can escape into the real world.  It's charmingly dated and appropriately cheesy.  Here's what IGN's Douglass Perry had to say about the experience back in July 1999:

For $5 a pop, any joe on the street can take a ride on Street Fighter the Ride. A sit-down simulation style "ride," Street Fighter the Ride was hands-down the worst ride of my life. Abysmal is putting it nice. The whole idea of a Street Fighter ride is, well, ludicrous. Think about it. How are you going to make a ride with fighting characters? It's a flawed idea from the get-go. Lucky for Capcom, it didn't do a thing, except agree to let these other companies make the ride, so most folks can look the other way when it comes to blame.

The ride itself takes place in a futuristic hovercraft that zooms in and out of several dark, nefarious environments, that happen to have floating platforms with Street Fighter characters on them. The ride is all CG rendered, so everything appears in complete 3D.

You'll probably have a difficult time finding one of these motion simulator rides still functioning in good condition, but at least we have a YouTube video of the experience with which to vicariously experience it.  It looks a lot like the kinds of motion rides such as The Simpsons Ride and Transformers that you'll find at Universal Studios theme parks.  Much of the tone seems to be channeling the 1994 Street Fighter film starring Raul Julia and Jean-Claude Van Damme, particularly the bit where Ryu threatens to rip out Bison's heart to which the dictator replies that he doesn't have one.  How Tuesday of him.


Spark Man Remix Rocks Your Sockets

Spark ManCapcom's Mega Man series gets a lot of OverClocked ReMix love, and delightfully it's not all Air Man and Dr. Wily stage remixes.  Today I'd like to bring your attention to a funky jazz remix of Mega Man 3's Spark Man stage by Nostalvania/Markus who brings the funky bass, violin, and organ to the mix along with a variety of fittingly electric instruments with "Rock My Socket".  Come for the bass pounding out the introductory measures of the theme, stay for the organ solo, and linger afterward for the rejected titles for this track including "I'm Live And Alive" and "Ohm My God".