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March 2010

Handheld GameCube Inspires Wanting, Yearning

Handheld GameCubeI like the Nintendo DS and Sony PlayStation Portable, but my dream portable gaming unit is a handheld Nintendo GameCube.  With Nintendo distancing itself from expensive, traditional uses of gaming technology it is extremely unlikely that we'll ever see an official version of such a thing, but there's always hope for the unofficial.  Consider this portable GameCube created by hardware hacker Techknott, for example.  GamerCrave has the story.

All the original GameCube controls and guts are built into an acrylic base with a backlit LCD screen. There are also backlit Gamecube logos on the front and back, which gives the mod a more professional feel. A memory card is built in, and the panel with the screen pops up to reveal the disc tray. Techknott says this mod took a few weeks to build. “The case didn’t come out quite as id hoped it would,” he writes. “Mainly because I used a torch for polishing it (not experienced enough) and because the acrylic kept sticking when I was cutting it.” Don’t be so hard on yourself, man.

Without battery support it's completely impractical, but I still want it.  I can't imagine when I'd have time to play it or how I'd carry it with me out into the world, but being able to enjoy Super Smash Bros. Melee, The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker, and Super Mario Sunshine at just about any time would inspire me to come up with some sort of solution.

Power Button - Episode 3: Broken PlayStations And Broken Promises

Power ButtonThe video game industry was dominated by two major news stories recently, so we felt it our patriotic duty to discuss both issues on the latest episode of Power Button.  First up, Brad Hilderbrand, Joey Davidson, and I discuss the fallout from the ApocalyPS3: whose Sony PlayStation 3 had a date-related freak attack (poor Brad), how Sony can fix the resulting PR problem (if there is one), why the issue even happened in the first place, and more.  Then we change gears to talk about the big shakeup at Infinity Ward and how the firing of Jason West and Vince Zampella is either the beginning of the end for the Modern Warfare brand or the smartest thing Activision has ever done.  We think you'll be surprised at the consensus. Pardon the lateness of this episode (originally recorded March 4), as Joey skipped town for a family vacation in sunny Orlando for a week rather than finish editing the final mix of the show. Now those are mixed-up priorities!   Download this week's episode directly from PTB, listen with the player below, or subscribe via iTunes, and be sure to catch up on past episodes if you're joining us late. Remember that you can reach all three of us via . You can even follow on Twitter at @PressTheButtons or for just podcast updates, @ThePowerButton. We're Power Button. Turn us on!

Power Button - Episode 3: Broken PlayStations and Broken Promises

Michael Jackson Version Of Guitar Hero Or Rock Band Inevitable

Moonwalker Those of you wishing that the musical catalog of the late Michael Jackson would work its way into a special edition Guitar Hero or Rock Band title have your dreams a little closer to coming true today as Sony has purchased the rights to Jackson's library of music.  The company intends to license the tracks anywhere and everywhere as long as the price is right.  Let the bidding war begin!  The New York Times has the news.

“It’s not just a record deal,” said Rob Stringer, chairman of the Columbia/Epic Label Group, a Sony division. “We’re not just basing this on how many CDs we sell or how many downloads. There are also audio rights for theater, movies, computer games. I don’t know how an audio soundtrack will be used in 2017, but you’ve got to bet on Michael Jackson in any new platform.”

How much do you want to bet that both Electronic Arts and Activision are making frantic yet charming phone calls to Sony's music division just to casually say hello?  A Michael Jackson music game isn't a matter of if, but when.  There's too much potential money to be made by creating one.  Whether or not it comes under the Rock Band or Guitar Hero name will probably end up being a matter of winning a bidding war.  Either way, the game will come with a promotional frenzy ushering it into stores, sales will be incredible, and we'll look back on the whole thing somewhere down the line as the last great successful music game prior to the reinvention of the genre.  After all, with a Beatles Rock Band title already done and a Michael Jackson edition inevitable, which artist or group is left that could top either?

OverClocked Remix Engages In Serious Monkey Business

Serious Monkey Business Clear your afternoon schedule for some music time, as video game music remix community OverClocked Remix has released its latest album, Serious Monkey Business.  The source this time around is Nintendo's 1995 Super NES release Donkey Kong Country 2: Diddy's Kong Quest, and the OCRemix artists have turned the memorable soundtrack upside-down across a variety of musical genres including new age, trance, rock ballad, and orchestral.  The album is freely available in both MP3 and FLAC formats complete with cover art.  Here's a little sample of the goodness within in the form of the first track, "Sturm and Kong" as crafted by David "djpretzel" Lloyd.

I've been listening to Serious Monkey Business all morning and it's one of OCRemix's best efforts to date.  Then again, I loved the original Donkey Kong Country 2 soundtrack in my teenage years so much that I actually bought the soundtrack CD from Nintendo Power and kept it in regular rotation in my car's CD player, so I may be a bit biased.  For more on the Serious Monkey Business album project, be sure to listen to the OverClocked Remix episode of Power Button featuring OCRemix's Larry Oji and David Lloyd.

Air Man For Piano

Air ManHere's a little homemade musical moment to start your day.  Mega Man fan Rob Kovacs has created a little YouTube video of himself performing the self-transcribed Air Man stage theme from the Nintendo Entertainment System classic, Capcom's Mega Man 2.  I know that the Internet is flooded with videos of people playing video game theme music on piano (and I'm certainly guilty of it as well), but the difference is that this one is actually pretty good.  Play on, Rob.  Play on. Incidentally, Rob's offering the transcribed sheet music to anyone who asks him for it.  and tell him that Press The Buttons sent you.

Sonic Classic Collection Review At Kombo

Sonic Classic Collection Retro compilation releases have practically become a genre unto themselves, so it's not surprising that Sega has jammed all of Sonic the Hedgehog's best-remembered Sega Genesis adventures into a single Nintendo DS game card.  Featuring the original Sonic the Hedgehog, Sonic the Hedgehog 2, Sonic the Hedgehog 3, and Sonic & Knuckles, Sonic Classic Collection brings the blue blur's classic adventures to a new generation of fans.  My review of the game is now available over at Kombo, and like my recent Dante's Inferno review, this one abandons the lackluster "What's Hot / What's Not" template in favor of a more in-depth exploration of the game in question.  Sonic Classic Collection gets a technical workover.  Here's a snippet:

Assuming that most Kombo readers have played a classic Sonic game before, there's no need to recap Dr. Robotnik's scheme to gather the Chaos Emeralds to power his Death Egg, nor should the concepts of spin dashes and collecting rings need additional explanation. Instead, the technical side of the Collection needs a closer look. Worth noting right up front is the fact that the games found in the Collection are not ports of the original Genesis titles, but are actually emulated using a properly licensed, legitimate, and slightly updated version of the JenesisDS emulator that homebrew afficiandos have been using for a while now. Emulating the games avoids the embarrassing results of half-assed ports like the Game Boy Advance title Sonic the Hedgehog Genesis, but introduces a few new quirks and changes that long-time Sonic fans will notice right away, while those who have never played the original games will likely remain unaware of any tinkering. Overall, this compilation presents a mostly faithful handheld version of the original classics perfect for new players and returning speedsters alike.

There are some minor technical issues mucking things up slightly, but the firm majority of this compilation lives up to its Genesis-era counterparts.  Considering how far Sonic has fallen over the years and how much Sega itself has changed since the glory days, it's a miracle that the Collection exists in a fun playable format at all.

Pikachu Cameos On The Simpsons

The Simpsons With a new Pokémon game debuting these week in North America it's only natural that Nintendo would spring for a little product placement, but who would have guessed that it would happen on The Simpsons?  I'm sure the timing is just a coincidence, but this week's new episode, "Postcards From The Wedge", features Bart Simpson half-heartedly trying to do his homework while Pikachu's animated television antics distract him.  Eventually his father catches him watching the cartoon, causing him to take sharp(ie) action.  Here's a clip via Hulu:

While we're watching gaming-related Simpsons clips, here's a bit of Homer being nostalgic for dial-up modem sounds to round out your day:

Modern Warfare In The Mushroom Kingdom

Super Mario Warfare by agentscarlet

When noted scientist Peach is kidnapped, it's up to veteran commando Mario to rescue her in this charming stylistic mash-up of Nintendo's Super Mario Bros. and Infinity Ward / Activision's Modern Warfare as created by the DeviantArtist known as AgentScarlet.  I'm intrigued by this gaming idea, but I'm not so sure I want the Koopa Troopas that I defeat to bleed.  Turtles are for stompin', not shootin'.

(via Reddit)

Weekly Poll: Movement Detected

Weekly Poll for 3-08-2010 I don't think we've ever had a weekly poll topic where one of the options brought in zero support, but Activision manages to take low honors when it comes to the gaming community backing them up in the big Modern Warfare lawsuit.  Take that, monolithic entity!  The ousted Infinity Ward duo have plenty of boosters, but there's some of us who believe that whoever wins in this fight, we'll all lose in the end.  The Modern Warfare brand will go on, but it will never be the same again.  Lawsuits and legal fights have a knack for souring business relations, morale, and creative spirit.

Looking ahead, Sony finally formally revealed and branded their take on a motion controller.  The PlayStation Move looks to tread where Nintendo's Wii remote has already been, yet some are saying that it's actually a different experience.  What do you think?  Are you interested in games for the Move?  Are you counting the days until the release of Move Party and Sports Champions?  Or are you just hoping they keep the Move away from future titles such as Uncharted 3?  Let's hear your thoughts. 

Dante's Inferno Review At Kombo

Dantes Inferno It's a brand new day over at Kombo as we've changed our review format at long last.  The short "What's Hot / What's Not" template has been retired in favor of long-form reviews that analyze a game's theme, structure, mechanics, and other deeper topics beyond the traditional "The controls are nice and the music is sweet" sort of review.  I can't express how thrilled I am with the change, as I finally get the chance to go on and on about a game's real strengths like we used to do in the old days.  My first review under this new way of life is for Dante's Inferno for the Sony PlayStation 3 (and Microsoft Xbox 360) in which I explore how the game draws players into the various circles of Hell.  Check it out at Kombo.

What is especially interesting and what makes the game a deeper experience than one would expect is that each circle's theme reflects back on the player, drawing one into the particular circle in question and creating a secondary challenge that the player, not Dante, must overcome. Consider the following examples. There's Limbo; a nice, generic, non-threatening-yet-damned place that serves as something of a basic guide for what one can expect in the underworld. It is here that Dante collects his first stat-altering artifact and learns the basic flow of Hell. Then there's Lust. The last half of that level is spent as Dante scales the inside of a large phallic-shaped tower while the circle's boss, a giant Cleopatra, climbs the outside. Cleopatra is topless, and the camera has a knack of focusing on her bare breasts as they jiggle into the foreground when it should be aimed at the enemies Dante is attempting to slay. If the player is distracted by Cleopatra and is tempted by lust, then there's a risk of failing the challenge.

I was really impressed with how deep Dante's Inferno went into breaking the fourth wall in a subtle way.  I was excited about this game back at E3 last year and I was mocked soundly by friends and Kombo co-workers for my enthusiasm for "a mere God of War knock-off", but considering that the game is actually an immersive adventure packed with symbolism, who's laughing now, eh?  Eh?