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September 2009

PTB Twitter Tracker #1

Twitter I started Twittering about a month ago in order to announce new PTB articles and share short, non-article-length thoughts.  I've since been asked to recap some of those tweets for the benefit of those of you who aren't aboard the Twitter train, so here are some recent highlights from the @PressTheButtons Twitter feed taken out of context and presented here without additional commentary or explanation.  It's like some great Twitter simulator.

Respect Zant's Power With New Twilight Princess Statue

Zant Commemorative display statue manufacturer First 4 Figures is adding to its The Legend of Zelda line with a 21" tall display piece of Twilight Princess's evil villain, Zant.  Towering over the recently shipped Ocarina of Time Link statue, Zant is apparently crafted directly from Nintendo's source files and 3D character models.  It doesn't get more authentic than that.  Zant will set you back $330 and will be available in June 2010, or you can dish out $350 and get an alternate swappable unmasked Zant head in a special limited Exclusive Edition.  Here's a bit from the press release:

Zant was a servant of the Royal Family of the Twilight Realm who had devoted his life to serving them in the hopes of eventually succeeding them. However, he despised them for not taking any action to rid the Twili of their misery, and was eventually passed over due to his obvious greed and ambition. Rejected, disenfranchised and bitter Zant met Evil Ganondorf, who appeared to him as a god and promised to grant him untold power in exchange for his loyalty. Zant accepted and became so empowered, he became the self proclaimed “King of Twlight” at the expense of the Twili who were turned into shadow beasts. Only the bearer of the Triforce of Courage could be brave enough to face Zant, leading to a showdown of epic proportions!

Zant is wearing his distinctive helmet and armor. The helmet’s tongue is removable which reveals his mouth. He also comes with fully detailed clothing. The green line detail on the sleeves is luminous so it glows in the dark, creating an eerie effect. The white detail work on the base is also luminous.

I bought the Ocarina of Time Link statue from First 4 Figures and I can vouch that they do good work.  However, I'll be shocked if Zant is ready in June 2010.  As you'll recall, I preordered Link back in 2006 and he didn't ship until August 2009.  I don't have the attachment to Zant that I have to Link, so I don't see myself adding the villain to my collection, but he's a sharp-looking display piece perfect for anyone with spare cash and lots of patience.  Here are some images of Zant in action:

Continue reading "Respect Zant's Power With New Twilight Princess Statue" »

How Low Can You Go In Super Mario Bros.?

Mario jumps One of the more daunting elements of Nintendo's original Super Mario Bros. for the Nintendo Entertainment System involves starting a new game and seeing the familiar labels at the top of the screen that signify a fresh canvas just waiting for players to fill in the details.  WORLD 1-1 marks the beginning of a journey.  Coin x 00 denotes empty pockets.  Then there's the score counter, fresh off the line and ready to roll at 000000.  Just about everything in Super Mario Bros. contributes to the score, from 100 points for stomping a lowly Goomba to 1000 points for collecting a Super Mushroom to 5000 points for nailing the flagpole slide at the end of a level.  In a game built around collecting points, what is the bare minimum score one can earn by the end of the game?  Can you save the princess without stomping an enemy or collecting a coin?  Monkokio can, and you'll see how it's done in this tool-assisted video.

There's a bit of showing off that doesn't factor into the mere 700 points earned by the time Bowser sinks into the lava in World 8-4, and the graphical hack in use makes this all seem like more of a cheat than it really is, but it's still an interesting feat.  I've been replaying the Challenge Mode of 1999's Super Mario Bros. Deluxe lately in which the entire point is to earn as high a score as possible in each level, so seeing the game played with the opposite goal in mind is causing a bit of a headache at the moment.

(via Reddit)

Weekly Poll: Won't Get Fooled Again

Weekly Poll for 9-07-2009There's a close result this week in the poll results, but a slim majority of you out there go out of your way to earn Trophies and Achievements during your video game adventures.  I know I certainly do provided the goal is something I believe is possible.  That's my actual Trophy collection (as of last week) there in the image above the poll results, and while I've knocked off my share of accomplishments, I've yet to collect every Trophy in a game to earn a platinum reward.  There's always that one stupid little Trophy that is a major time sink that I'm just not willing to do.  The closest I've ever come to earning the platinum is in The Godfather II where all that's left is to complete each style of execution, but there's just so many of them that I cannot keep track of which ones remain unaccomplished, and in the heat of the moment I end up just shooting the target in a generic fashion.  Oh well.  Maybe someday.

Looking ahead, last week Sega announced yet another crack at bringing Sonic the Hedgehog back to his roots in what is tentatively known as "Project Needlemouse".  We've all heard the pitch by now: pure speed, 2D roots, yadda yadda yadda.  Are you taking the bait this time?  Do you expect "Project Needlemouse" to live up to expectations?  Or is this just the infamous Sonic cycle in action one more time?  Let's hear your thoughts.

Castlevania Coming To WiiWare

Castlevania: The Adventure Well, now here's an unexpected surprise.  Konami is apparently putting the finishing touches on a remake of the 1989 Game Boy title Castlevania: The Adventure (What?  Not The Castlevania Adventure?  Well, that finally settles that.) for Nintendo's WiiWare service.  The ESRB seems to have let this one slip, as it has a T-for-Teen rating listed for Castlevania: The Adventure ReBirth following in the footsteps of other retro revivals, Contra ReBirth and Gradius ReBirth.  In case you missed the original game all those years ago, here's the updated synopsis geared for concerned parents:

This is a side-scrolling action game in which players battle against monsters in Dracula's castle. Players use a chained whip to fight their way through halls and dungeons filled with zombies, skeletons, flying eyeballs, and bats. The enemy creatures frequently shoot projectiles and attack players in hand-to-hand combat. If players sustain too much damage, they keel over and emit a burst of red blood. Some rooms in the castle also have spikes or spears stained with red, blood-like splotches.

The original Castlevania: The Adventure wasn't... oh, how do I say this?... wasn't very good.  It was an early Game Boy effort from a development team that didn't quite understand how best to make a portable Castlevania perform properly, leading to an extremely sluggish hero trapped in a world of unfair enemy tactics and frustrating platformer environments.  Here's a taste of the game's first level courtesy of a YouTube video from Kafei2006:

It's not a bad game at heart though.  There's a great little game cowering under the weight of inexperience (and the music is fantastic), so if this new ReBirth can fix those issues, then we may be in for a great little tide-me-over Castlevania treat.  Here's hoping this one hits the WiiWare service in late October.  It'd only be seasonally appropriate, after all.

(via Kotaku)

Kombo Breaker - Episode 44: Muramasa and NPDs!

Kombo BreakerThe monthly game consoles and software sales numbers for August are running wild online, so this week on Kombo Breaker we spend a good thirty minutes or so kicking around the ramifications of massive Nintendo DS Lite / DSi sales matched against the Sony PlayStation 3's stunning 71% upswing in sales compared to the previous month.  It's math and graph madness!  If statistics and trends aren't your thing, then we spend the other half of the hour talking about the newly released Muramasa: The Demon Blade for the Nintendo Wii with our own Joey Davidson telling us all about why we need to add this game to our quickly overloading to-do lists.  Kaleb Rutherford from CVGames is our guest this week.  Join us, won't you?  Download this week's episode directly from Kombo or subscribe via iTunes.

They Don't Make 'Em Like They Used To (Thankfully)

Sega SaturnI have a great idea for a revolutionary new game console.  We're talking about some high-end hardware design here.  Let me break it down for you.  First, we're going to run the power supply through the proprietary RF switch.  Then we're going to lock down potential piracy with a flaky copy protection chip on every outdated cartridge that, as the console ages, will malfunction more often than not.  We'll use two CPUs that don't talk to each other as well as one would expect, squandering the extra processing power (this is a late addition to the design to have parity with the competition, admittedly).  Finally, we're going to pack the controller with unnecessary buttons in places that make them almost painful to press.  Sounds like this console is destined for success, right?  Don't be so dismissive.  Atari, Nintendo, and Sega have made these mistakes over the years along with other familiar names like Mattel and Microsoft.  Journey through the hall of "What they hell were they thinking?!" in this article at Technologizer about Fifteen Classic Game Console Design Mistakes.

The Sega Saturn contained two main CPUs, two graphics processors, and five other supporting microprocessors. This unconventionally large array of chips made the Saturn significantly complex to program for game developers (especially compared to the much simpler PlayStation) and more expensive to manufacture for Sega.

Chief among the hardware difficulties was the fact that the two main CPUs had trouble accessing the system memory at the same time. This situation often left one CPU waiting for the other to finish its task before beginning its own instructions, nullifying many advantages gained by having two processors in the first place.

Another complication of the Saturn’s design showed up later in the product’s life span. Throughout the commercial run of any game system, manufacturers typically find ways to reduce the complexity of their console’s hardware design, thus trimming production costs and allowing for lower retail prices. Unfortunately for Sega, the Saturn’s complex architecture made simplifying the hardware difficult, vastly reducing Sega’s ability to remain price competitive (and profitable) as the 32-bit generation rolled along.

All of your favorite baffling design decisions are here, from the 10NES lockout chip in the original Nintendo Entertainment System to the Atari 5200's painfully outdated sound chip to the Virtual Boy's reliance on the color red.  Plenty of consoles have their weaknesses, but these tend to be the more boneheaded choices that probably seemed like smart moves at the time.

(via Vintage Computing and Gaming)

Batman: Arkham Asylum Review At Kombo

Batman In case you haven't figured it out by now, I am completely enamored with the new Batman: Arkham Asylum for the Sony PlayStation 3, Microsoft Xbox 360, and PC.  I believe that it is the best Batman game ever made and just cannot shut up about it, so even though the game was not on my review assignment list from Kombo for the month, when the Kombo staffer slated to handle it mentioned not being able to turn in his text for another week or so, I eagerly volunteered to take the reins.  Now my glowing review has been published over at Kombo.

While the gameplay is divided into these two major parts, Arkham Asylum's storyline and voice acting deserves to stand in praise as well. Written by Paul Dini of the beloved Batman: The Animated Series, the plot centers on the eternal conflict between Batman and the Joker, but manages to integrate other figures from the popular rogues gallery in an appropriate way. None of the major characters that appear feel shoehorned into the storyline, and while the Joker's endgame becomes obvious a little too soon, it's still satisfying to see it play out. Part of that satisfaction comes from hearing Kevin Conroy as Batman verbally sparing with Mark Hamill's Joker, both reprising roles from the aforementioned animated series (along with a few other familiar voices). Joker constantly appears on Arkham's closed circuit TV and public address system to taunt Batman, give orders to his goons, and provide sarcastic commentary on events. While Heath Ledger's portrayal of Joker in The Dark Knight turned the character into a force of nature, Hamill's performance here reminds once and for all that he is the true voice behind the character. I could not get enough of his remarks, and while I could quote a few of my favorites here, I wouldn't want to spoil the experience of hearing them for yourself.

I really don't know how I can emphasize this more: Play.  This.  Game.  You will not be disappointed.

Legend of Zelda Techno Remix Covers Memorable Themes

Ocarina of time Today's selection of video game music is as old as the 3D hills, but it's been years since I've heard anyone mention it, so I figured I'd dust it off and trot it out for a little spotlight time.  The only thing that I know about this techno remix medley of music from The Legend of Zelda is that it covers some of the more distinctive songs from the original Nintendo Entertainment System adventure and the Nintendo 64 smash hit, Ocarina of Time.  I came across it nearly a decade ago when sending MP3s around the Internet on a massively scaled whim was a radically new idea.   I can't tell you who created it or from where it originated.  What I can tell you is that it's a fun take on some classic video game music.  It's dangerous to go alone.  Listen to this.

True Secret Behind Sonic's "Project Needlemouse" Revealed

Project Needlemouse

UPDATE: Talk amongst Sonic fans is that is not connected to Sega.

Yesterday's reveal of a new 2D high definition Sonic the Hedgehog game currently known as "Project Needlemouse" stirred up plenty of reaction online.  In addition to the teaser trailer, there's also a somewhat empty website — — that currently displays some concept art of a golden Green Hill Zone type of environment. There's more to the mystery than just a trailer and some concept art though.  Remember the silhouetted logo from the teaser that resembles the original Sonic the Hedgehog title screen?  Someone out there has seen through the shadows and filled in the darkness with the real image that Sega is not ready for you to see.  Are you ready to be astounded?

Continue reading "True Secret Behind Sonic's "Project Needlemouse" Revealed" »