Since the dawn of the medium, children have gravitated towards video games. What began with kids grasping that first arcade joystick or Nintendo Entertainment System controller decades ago has led to today's children becoming enraptured with apps and motion controls. How should a responsible parent encourage a child's burgeoning gaming interests? On this week's podcast, parent of two Blake Grundman reflects on how he's introducing his kids to video games and outlines his plans to spread the hobby to the next generation. From Yo Noid! to Just Dance, we have you covered. 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.
Video Game consoles burst into this world with a collection of highly publicized launch titles, but nobody ever promotes their game as the last title out of the gate before production moves on to the next generation. Everyone remembers that the Nintendo GameCube debuted with Luigi's Mansion, but what was the final release for the system? How did the Super NES wrap things up? Who turned out the lights on the Sega 32X? On this week's episode of Power Button, Blake Grundman take a walk down the weedy, unkept side of Memory Lane to discuss the final releases for some of the industry's most beloved or infamous consoles. You know you want to find out how the Atari Jaguar folded. Join us for an hour and be sure to turn the lights out when you leave.! 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.
Nintendo's villain / anti-hero Wario has gone on to fame and fortune of his own, stepping out of Mario's shadow to star in the Wario Land and WarioWare franchises, and while we all know how he started out in 1992's Super Mario Land 2: Six Golden Coins when he stole control of Mario Land, debate has continued to rage regarding his true origins. I'm not talking about the fiction here; I'm directly asking: why was Wario created? A developer interview with SML2's creators originally featured in the game's official strategy guide has been translated and posted at Shmuplations, and it sheds some light on the issue.
—What was the idea behind Wario?
Kiyotake: We imagined Wario as the Bluto to Mario’s Popeye. The truth is, we kind of came up with the idea of the name first, and everything else came after. Since he was a “warui” (bad) guy, he should be Wario. And we had the idea to flip the M upside down. To our surprise, the idea was a big hit with everyone on the team.
—What was your process for creating the character of Wario?
Kiyotake: Whenever I had the idea for a character—not only Wario—the first thing I would do is talk it over with Hosokawa. If he thought it was cool, I’d present it to the rest of the staff. Then, once I thought the idea could work, I’d discuss the details of the sprite animation and movement with Harada. That’s the process I went through for Wario and all the other characters in SML2. Granted, there were a lot of direct rejects, or characters that no one took a liking to.
—Can you tell us about Wario’s past/origins?
Kiyotake: There’s been a rumor going around the Wario was childhood friends with Mario, but it’s just a rumor: I don’t know if it’s true or not. His favorite food is crepes. That much seems true…
There we have it, straight from the source! Heroes need villains, and while Mario already had Bowser to contend with at this point in history, creating a Bizarro-version of our favorite plumber allows the Super Mario games to play with conventions more directly than Bowser allows. Consider the end of SML2 when Mario and Wario finally meet face to face and the latter uses the same power-ups that the former has been using all game long against him. The game's internal logic not only suggests that Wario can use the Fire Flower and Carrot, it demands that we see it happen. The interview suggests that Mario is fighting for himself for the first time in SML2, but the plot goes deeper than that. He's not only fighting for himself, he's also fighting a reflection of himself. Now we jump through a mirror, darkly.
Successful media always spawns imitators, but sometimes the imitators go on to become highly successful entities of their own. Super Mario led to Sonic the Hedgehog. Grand Theft Auto inspired Saints Row. Street Fighter II spawned Mortal Kombat. And what did Mortal Kombat spawn in response? Mostly trash. Hardcore Gaming 101 has a listing of Kombat clones each more dismal than the last, most of which use words like Battle, Warrior, Ninja, or Blood in the title. Here's one that nails two of those words: Blood Warrior.
From Kaneko, the folks who brought you those Chester Cheetah games, Blood Warrior is another Japanese take at a Mortal Kombat style game, even though it's kind of a sequel to the 1992 game Shogun Warriors, which predated Mortal Kombat. When it comes to gameplay, it does all right, even if it's not exceptional. There's nothing particularly unique about its mechanics, although it at least plays well enough. The presentation, however, feels like a particularly low budget sentai show, with characters like a kappa and some kind of Buddhist statue as part of the cast. Despite its goofy look, it's also surprisingly bloody, with characters frequently exploding into piles of organs. The same developer would go on to make the Jackie Chan fighters, which were much better games all around.
The only game on the list with staying power is Killer Instinct. The rest are forgettable or, worse, doomed to only be remembered as laughingstock fodder for an hungry Internet. It's interesting to read through the list and be able to tell which games actually had some devoted, talented people behind them and which were just cranked out as quick, cheap cash-ins on the current hot property of the year. One of the games, Way of the Warrior, was created by Naughty Dog who would later go on to major fame with Crash Bandicoot and Uncharted. I suppose everyone has to start somewhere.
Metroid fans have been waiting a while for a proper follow-up to Metroid Fusion and Metroid: Zero Mission, but with the franchise's focus on the 3D Metroid Prime titles and the upcoming spin-off Federation Force, it seems that the lack of classic 2D-style Samus Aran adventures is going to go on for a while more. Not wanting to wait it out, several people have put together complete reworkings of 1994's Super Metroid for the Super NES to turn it into new games. NeoGAF member Boney has put together a list of the best new Metroid adventures and invites further discussion about them.
Unless you've been living under a rock for the past 20 years, you should know that the original Super Metroid is widely considered one of the best videogames of all time and for good reason. A masterfully created open ended map overhauled from it's predecesor, with an emphasis on exploration and acquisition of significant power ups. The strong design was accompanied by the creation of a believable ecosystem, gorgeous spritework, wonderful music and too many memorable moments to mention here. It's widely considered the best game in the franchise and every game since then has diverted itself mechanically or design wise to the beauty that is Super Metroid.
So to satisfy you guys before some of you lose it due to deprivation, I invite all of you to be part of GAF plays: Super Metroid Hacks, in which we can find solace in wonderfully designed games made by passionate and talented community that is the Super Metroid scene. These guys have been going strong for over a decade and they show no signs of stopping, making more and more progress and pushing what is thought to be possible to build when handed the keys of the game itself.
There's some interesting stuff happening here. Normally I'm not a fan of underskilled gamers proclaiming that they will make the true Metroid 5 or the real Sonic X-Treme or what have you, but in this case I think that the creators of these Metroid projects have something special happening. There's actual game design talent in action here. Super Metroid Redesign tampers with gravity and rebalances Samus's abilities. Metroid Super Zero Mission is built for sequence breaking. Metroid: Ice Metal focuses on a non-linear design and encourages exploration. Nintendo will eventually take Metroid back to its roots, but the fans can fill the void until then (and more power to them as they do).
Nintendo's beloved racer F-Zero attracted a lot of attention when it debuted with the Super NES in 1991, and over the years the various sequels for the Nintendo 64 to Game Boy Advance and beyond have turned heads thanks to the sense of immense speed and break-neck turns. Hardcore Gaming 101 explores the history of the series including several installments that never left Japan. For instance, there's a expansion kit for F-Zero X that includes additional racing cups, a track editor and a kickass remix of Mario Kart 64's famous Rainbow Road track. There's even some information on unofficial versions of the series for the Sega Genesis and PC. Here's a bit of the section on the Satellaview-exclusive semi-sequel, BS F-Zero Grand Prix.
The SNES game was simultaneously the first and the last Western players got to see of F-Zero for eight long years. In Japan, however, Nintendo revived the brand for their Satellaview program already in 1996 with the BS F-Zero Grand Prix. Each of the four broadcasts consists of one cup, but the game is structured a bit oddly. Before each race starts, there is a practice round and a demonstration of a specific tip for the course. The parts were played as timed SoundLink broadcasts with added commentary and arranged versions of the music (different from the jazz album).
The four iconic F-Zero cars were replaced with new alternatives that have a more fancy look and shuffle the stats around a bit, but fulfill the same basic roles within the game. Even though later entries in the series greatly expanded the roster of competitors, these four vehicles never returned. The tracks are mostly the same, but they're arranged a bit differently and there is one new course in each cup for a total of 19 (Mute City I is repeated once in the last broadcast). Some of the new courses mix up the familiar elements in unique and interesting ways, but there's nothing categorically new here.
I've always enjoyed the F-Zero series despite being basically terrible at it. I even tracked down the rare arcade release, F-Zero AX, in a secret arcade hidden away at Walt Disney World several years ago. Fans have begged for a proper new F-Zero since the earliest days of the Wii, but word on the street is that poor sales for the GameCube's F-Zero GX and a lack of consensus within Nintendo on where to take the series next have held back new installments. Still, if Star Fox (another Super NES title meant to show off new technology and a series thematically linked with F-Zero through fun character references) can see a sequel post-GameCube, I'm sure there's hope for F-Zero yet.
Developer Naughty Dog continues its video game creation winning streak with the recently released Uncharted 4: A Thief's End for the Sony PlayStation 4, but early on in Nathan Drake's latest adventure he crosses paths with a piece of the developer's history. Spoilers for Chapter 4 follow!
Aliens 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.
Before Duke Nukem became an everlasting punchline with the often delayed and eventually disappointing Duke Nukem Forever, he was a franchise favorite thanks to the popular Duke Nukem 3D. The sci-fi shooter turned heads on the PC and was ported to a variety of platforms of the day including the Sega Saturn and Sony PlayStation, so it was only natural that the Nintendo 64 should see its own version. The problem, of course, is that Nintendo's censorship and acceptable content policies of the day did not allow for much of Duke's crude humor, gory violence, and sexual content. If games like Doom and Quake could be safely adapted for the N64, surely Duke 3D could make the transition with its overall spirit intact, right? GamesTM chronicles how Duke Nukem 3D transformed into Duke Nukem 64.
The biggest alteration of all came with the approach the game made with its female characters, though. Known as “babes”, these young, good-looking women were victims of the game’s alien invasion and they appeared in various guises from breast-bearing strippers to those who were cocooned, trapped or festooned on posters. Controversially the babes trapped in the alien pods could be killed in Duke Nukem 3D but in the N64 version, they could be rescued instead and it became a fundamental part of the game.
“Just killing innocents like that was too much,” says Mills. “I may be wrong but I think it was my idea to have the rescues in and have it as a stat at the end of the game so there was something to search for in each level. It was another thing to do in the game and something for the completest. We’d hide the women in strange places so they were an extra thing to find.” At the same time, out went nudity along with bad language, drug references and anything religious (there was no chapel in the N64 version). It left a void, though, and while a lot of removed material was replaced with a pop culture reference, extra violence was used to bridge the gaps. “This wasn’t a conscious effort, it just happened,” explains Finney.
While I wasn't a fan of gore when I was a kid, I was amazed at what Duke Nukem 3D had accomplished and played through the shareware version many times on my PC. When I saw the game had made the leap to the N64, friends and I rented it time and again to play through the full campaign and enjoy some splitscreen multiplayer. Duke 3D would end up ported to many other platforms over the years spanning from the Sega Genesis to the iPhone, but it's the old Nintendo 64 version that I fondly remember when I recall my high school gaming days of first person shooters with friends. We didn't care that Duke 64 didn't include any background music due to cartridge storage limitations or that the strip club level had been replaced with a fast food restaurant called Duke Burger (as horny teens we missed the strip club, but as seasoned gamers we preferred the burger joint). We had fun! Really, what else can one ask for from a video game?
Capcom's famous Street Fighter II has been through a number of upgrades and spawned several sequels and spin-offs, and while the original arcade release has long been eclipsed by revisions containing words in the title like "Turbo" and "Super", the story behind that first iteration is exceptionally interesting. Shmuplations has a translated interview with director/designer Akira Nishitani from 1991 in which he lays out all kinds of information about ambitious material that the team had created, but was forced to cut from the final release. Here's a little of that, and I encourage you to read the entire interview to see it all:
There we were, one month to go before the final deadline. When you’ve come this far, time limits what you can do. With a calm and collected judgment (actually, it was really all my own selfishness) I had to decide what would be cut due to time constraints. Here is a list of some of the plans we had that got abandoned (man, I really wanted to do these!)
- Add weak points depending on whether you hit someone in the head, body, or leg. If you hit someone there, they’d take more damage.
- Add other special weak points outside of those listed above (you can see remnants of those in Blanka’s Rolling Attack, or Vega's Flying Barcelona)
- The computer would change its tactics depending on who it was fighting against (it does do this a little bit, but we wanted to do something more detailed, like the AI knowing how close to stand to each individual opponent, etc)
- Players would take more damage than normal when dizzied.
There's also mention of the original backstory for the game (though it doesn't compare to what the actual saga actually became), and what's especially amusing is that a typo crept into the game's subtitle and nobody noticed it until the very end of development. If Nishitani hadn't been able to work some last minute graphic layering magic, we'd all have been playing Street Fighter II: The World Warrier [sic]. While I like the later Street Fighter sequels, there's something about that original arcade release that feels most pure before all of the high-level combos, complicated super moves, and other such things that make the game popular with pros were added. I can do a Hadouken into a Shoryuken without fail, but some of the extended moves from Street Fighter V are way beyond me.