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July 2010

Video Games Live Concert Airs On PBS This Weekend

Video Games Live At last, a good reason to support public broadcasting!  This weekend marks the premiere of the televised Video Games Live concert airing on your local PBS station in North America.  Most stations are airing the show on Saturday, July 31, but as the old saying goes, check your local listings.  This edition of Video Games Live included the song stylings of old favorites like Super Mario Bros., The Legend of Zelda, Sonic the Hedgehog, Final Fantasy, and Castlevania as well as new classics such as God of War, Halo, World of Warcraft, StarCraft II, and plenty more.  Speaking as someone who has seen VGL live in person twice, I can't recommend this concert enough.  Want an early taste?  Here's a rocking Castlevania cut off of the Video Games Live album to get you in the mood.

Grand Theft Auto / Futurama Mash-Up Begging To Be Made

Grand Theft Auto: New New York

Have you ever known that you absolutely had to have something the moment you first heard about it?  That was my reaction to this fake box art for a hypothetical Grand Theft Auto game based around the Futurama universe.  Created by LordDavid04 and presented by as part of a feature on Futurama artwork, this artwork for Grand Theft Auto: New New York spotlights moments from episodes of the FOX-turned-Comedy Central animated series to highlight everything you need in a quality GTA adventure: sex, shooting, shady characters, organized crime, and Richard Nixon.

Disco Zombie Doesn't Advertise

Disco Zombie Following on from the news that Michael Jackson's estate has demanded that PopCap Games remove the Dancing Zombie character from Plants vs Zombies, an image of the character's replacement, Disco Zombie, has turned up over at PC Gamer.  In grand Dancing Zombie tradition, this new character seems to infringe on another pop culture character.  Is it just me, or does Disco Zombie look a heck of a lot like Disco Stu from The Simpsons?  He's even wearing Stu's dead goldfish platform shoes from the "The Twisted World of Marge Simpson" episode.

Popcap had this to say:

‘I can confirm that there is in fact a new ‘disco zombie’ (see image attached) and I would really appreciate if you could ‘be nice to the new guy’…the disco zombie is starting to feel like a second class zombie citizen, which is really unfair considering the length of time he spent doing his hair! I actually managed to catch up with him earlier today and, while he’s a little adverse to public speaking, he gave me the following (badly) written statement:

“Dear Alive Peeples, I am pleazed too join the big brainz at PopCap and can’t wait to meat you all. And yes, I du my own heir.”’

Hello, PopCap? Matt Groening and FOX attorneys on line one for you...  Although I think it would be rather hypocritical of the long-running animated show to sic the lawyers on PopCap for this one.  The Simpsons has run on parodic elements for two decades now.  Surely if they can dish it out, they can take it.

An Hour With Metroid: Other M

Metroid: Other M Nintendo's upcoming Team Ninja collaboration for the Wii, Metroid: Other M, won't be in stores for another month, but that didn't stop Kombo (and Power Button) personality Joey Davidson from hopping a train to New York City to spend an hour playing a near-final version of the game at Nintendo's swanky media day.  Joey has actively avoided just about all Other M information so as not to be spoiled, so he was a bit blown away by some of what he saw that the rest of us have taken for granted by now, but that just gives his hands-on preview over at Kombo even more enthusiasm.  Hey, you wanna know what the enigmatic "Other M" title is all about?

We chatted with JC Rodrigo of Nintendo of America about the plot line of the title. He wouldn't dive too deep into the story, but he did point towards the title of the game itself as a fantastic source for inference. Metroid: Other M. Flip "Other and M" around and read "Mother." Enjoy that bomb of knowledge.

Mother?  As in, Mother Brain?  Or heroine Samus Aran's mother?  Or someone else's mother?  Maybe it's a metaphorical mother of some sort.  Ooh, now I want to know the true meaning more than ever.  I'm slated to review the game for Kombo in a few weeks, so when I find out, I'll be sure to send for the rest of you.

3DS Street Fighter To "Make Kids Grow"

Super Street Fighter IV 3D Don't worry about the upcoming version of Super Street Fighter IV for the Nintendo 3DS being dumbed-down or otherwise censored in order to protect the poor little children.  Producer Yoshinori Ono spoke to Japanese gaming magazine Famitsu recently to discuss just how much of the Sony PlayStation 3 and Microsoft Xbox 360 game would make the transition to handheld 3D, why the development team chose the 3DS for the game's handheld console debut, and just how the system's 3D capabilities will be put to non-gratuitous use.  Of special interest, however, is this quote regarding how the game will not be changed to appeal to a young demographic or satisfy that demographic's picky parents:

Ono also took a firm stance on one additional point: they won't be tailoring the game for kids. This was said in response to Famitsu's question on the possibility of child-oriented elements being added to the game in light of it being on Nintendo hardware. "Rather than that," said Ono," we'd like to make it into a title that makes kids grow."

In this era of overprotective parenting and the thought that media should be gutted and hidden away under the "won't somebody please think of the children!" banner, it's such a relief to see a producer taking the stand that a game such as Street Fighter can help a child positively develop.  Kids have to learn about Hadoukens and Turkish oil wrestling sooner or later.  Why not encourage it in an environment with quality production values and reflex-enhancing fun?  Stick to your guns, Mr. Ono.  The industry and the audience will be better for it.

(via Capcom Unity)

In Which Donkey Kong Racing Became An Animal Cruelty Simulator

Sabreman's Revenge Nine years ago when Nintendo debuted the GameCube at E3, one of the games previewed in a very early form was a sequel to 1997's big Nintendo 64 release, Diddy Kong Racing.  This sequel featured more characters from the world of Donkey Kong and swapped out go-karts, hovercrafts, and airplanes in favor of rideable animals such as Rambi the Rhino and Enguarde the Swordfish from the Donkey Kong Country titles.  Known as Donkey Kong Racing, the game fell through the cracks when developer Rare was bought by Microsoft (for obvious reasons), but it didn't die completely right away.  For the next six years it wouldn't continue to evolve and mutate into something much different with a different license tacked on to it and a new format shoehorned into it.  Dredging up the old Sabreman character from Rare's distant past, Donkey Kong Racing turned into an open sandbox-style adventure title called Sabreman StampedeMundoRare has the complete story of how the game developed, stalled, lost its way, and was eventually canceled.  Part of the problem is that it picked up a horrifying gameplay mechanic:

When it moved to the Xbox, it went more into the adventure genre. In this game, we find out that Sabreman had a wife named Flo. They would crash land on the island in a hot-air balloon/blimp (the artwork seen seems to imply that they settled on a plane crash). Sabreman would talk and befriend the villagers, perform tasks for them, and learn how to ride the animals, which could get him to his destinations quickly, and allow access to new areas. These changes happened late in the game's lifecycle; according to our source, it was "somewhere in 2004/2005 that it took on more of a sandbox adventure style."

The concept of the game was "basically Grand Theft Auto with animals. You have a huge open landscape and you can catch animals, and ride them around." As you can see in the video(s), you grab onto an animal, which begins a minigame where the animal drags you as if you were in a rodeo. If you can hold on for a period of time, you can ride said animal. Catching animals was a controversial topic among the team, because the core gameplay "involved catching animals that didn't want to be caught - essentially it's a cruelty-to-animals simulator." There was concern about some specifics in that regard, such as "harpooning animals, and a gun that held a rabbit flopping about on the end which you'd then shoot at a lion to tame." At the same time, this was a late feature in the game and was still being discussed about up to its cancellation.

Due to the game's Donkey Kong roots, I have the terrible mental image of Sabreman hunting down Rambi, Enguarde, and the other Donkey Kong Country animal buddies and harpooning them in gory ways.  Despite all of the effort and resources that went into Sabreman Stampede, perhaps it's better that it withered on the vine.  I can't imagine that the majority of the audience would have been pleased with the end result.

(via GameSetWatch)

Stephen Colbert Credits BP Oil Spill Fix To Super Mario

MarioOne of those great rules in life is that in most cases, the simplest explanation behind a question is also the correct one.  Consider the recent attempt to cap the BP Gulf of Mexico oil spill that was suggested by an anonymous plumber, for instance.  Who is this mysterious figure?  How can we possibly identify him or her? Leave it to Stephen Colbert, as he knows the answer.  Check out this clip from last night's episode of The Colbert Report in which everyone's favorite 11:30pm Comedy Central pundit puts the pieces together to call out the brains behind the containment cap.  I think you'll find that it's quite a familiar mustachioed face, and oddly enough it all makes sense in the end. I mean, really, who else could it possibly be? You get three guesses and the first two don't count.

Of course! It could only be Mario behind the fix! After all, he had just as much to lose in the spill as anyone else. Also, we know for a fact that he has experience cleaning up spilled gunk. Just ask the residents of Isle Delfino.

Power Button - Episode 16: Born To Be OnLive

Power ButtonThe team over at OnLive was gracious enough to provide press accounts to the three of us at Power Button, so on this week's episode we dig deep into the PC/Mac streaming games-on-demand service to determine if the technology driving the experience is sound and whether or not we believe there's a future in this whole cloud gaming business model.  That discussion moved along quicker than we'd expected, so we round out the forty-nine minutes with Joey Davidson's saga of trying to get the latest Alan Wake episodic downloadable content installed and working properly. 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  and you can even follow on Twitter at @PressTheButtons or for just podcast updates, @ThePowerButton. Be sure to join us next week when our old pal Robert Welkner of COIN-OP TV will be here to discuss all of the action from the San Diego Comic-Con. Don't miss it!

Power Button - Episode 16: Born To Be OnLive

The Plants Vs Zombies Dancing Zombie Is Indeed Retroactively Inappropriate

Dancing ZombieA little over a year ago when Michael Jackson passed away, I mused that PopCap Games may have to update its popular Plants vs Zombies title to remove or otherwise alter the Dancing Zombie character that bears a striking resemblance to the late King of Pop.  Of course, when Zombies was originally released, Jackson was very much alive, making the "Thriller"-inspired enemy character a fun homage.  One death later and it's suddenly retroactively inappropriate.  It took a while, but Jackson's estate has finally heard about the Dancing Zombie character, leading its legal team to lash out at PopCap.  Now the Dancing Zombie is no more.  Russ Frushtick at MTV Multiplayer has the news.

I reached out to a PopCap Games representative about the change, who confirmed that it was brought on by lawyers representing the King of Pop:

"The Estate of Michael Jackson objected to our use of the 'dancing zombie' in PLANTS vs. ZOMBIES based on its view that the zombie too closely resembled Michael Jackson. After receiving this objection, PopCap made a business decision to retire the original 'dancing zombie' and replace it with a different 'dancing zombie' character for future builds of PLANTS vs.ZOMBIES on all platforms. The phase-out and replacement process is underway."

Legally the Dancing Zombie would've probably fallen safely into the realm of parody, but I can understand why PopCap wouldn't want to risk any trouble for a small gag in tremendously successful game.

As someone who has recently started playing Plants vs Zombies, I'm sorry to see the Dancing Zombie replaced by the new Disco Zombie.  Defending the front lawn just won't be the same without the character's trademark "Thriller" sound-alike entrance.  Once again, lawyers have ruined our harmless, good-natured fun.