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September 2010

There Goes The Cellular Neighborhood

iPhone 4 I've never been much of a cell phone guy.  I stuck with an ancient Ericsson phone that only handled phone calls until 2006, then switched to a snazzy little "Arc" flip phone with a tiny screen that could do text messaging and included a low resolution camera that the Nintendo DSi probably puts to shame today.  I held on to these pieces of antiquated technology because my cell phone needs were not that great, but lately my needs have changed, so on Saturday I stepped into the twenty-first century and made the leap to the Apple iPhone 4.  It's a brave new world for me to explore with access to the Internet in my pocket, iTunes madness (never had an iPod before), and the mountains and mountains of material in the App Store.  As I've done in the past whenever I've picked up some amazing new piece of technology, I'm asking all of you out there about the features and software that I absolutely need to try.  Recommend some apps, tell me about the little hidden capabilities of iOS 4, and give me some advice that you wish you'd been told when you first bought your iPhone.


Mario Money

Mario money

Defacing currency is a popular hobby for some as changing, say, George Washington's face on the $1 bill into that of Batman's puzzling nemesis The Riddler is just too attractive a proposition to resist.  Onzin.com has a small archive of artistic currency reworkings, one of which changes Abraham Lincoln into everybody's favorite red-and-blue-clad plumber, Mario.  The face isn't a bad likeness, but Honest Abe's suit needs work.  Don't slack off mid-scribble next time, Joe D.


Weekly Poll: So Many Platforms

Weekly Poll for 9-13-2010 There's not much love out there for Halo: Reach, it seems.  I know there's been some pushback on the ongoing pre-launch hype as plenty of people are just sick of hearing about it.  Being Xboxless, I'm not playing the game either.  For a few suggestions on other new titles you could play this week while Halo mania wraps up (time to move on to the next big thing, of course), check out Episode 24 of Power Button later this week.

Moving on, there are more ways than ever to play video games these days.  There's traditional home consoles such as the Nintendo Wii and Sony PlayStation 3, monstrous PCs with the latest technology, handheld systems such as the Nintendo DSi, and mobile platforms such as the Apple iPhone and various flavors of Android.  Which platform do you use the most to meet your gaming needs?  Let's hear your thoughts.


Metroid: Other M Review At Kombo

Samus Aran Samus Aran's latest adventure for Nintendo's Wii has split critics and fans right down the middle, but the fact that Metroid: Other M will go down in history as a major entry in the franchise is undeniable.  Not only has Nintendo surprisingly partnered with Team Ninja for this one, but the game's unique first-person/third-person split provides an interesting (if sometimes annoying) gameplay mechanic.  The Internet is full of opinions about the title, so why not read one more?  I go point by point down the list of the Internet's complaints about Other M and confirm or refute them in my review over at Kombo.  Here's a taste:

At heart, Other M is a Metroid game.  Players take control of Samus Aran and lead her on a mostly solitary journey through the Bottle Ship in search of answers to questions put forth by the opening cinematic.  While she does interact with soldiers from the Galactic Federation, much of these interactions occur during cinematics.  There are no escort missions (there is a rescue encounter, however) and the troops stay out of Samus’s way.  The one Federation solider that does interact with Samus on a regular basis by radio sends her on exploratory missions to different sectors of the Bottle Ship, many of which end in temporary dead ends or ambushes from out-of-control wildlife.  Players familiar with Metroid Fusion will feel right at home with this structure, as the Bottle Ship is not the wide open space of Zebes of Tallon IV.  This puts Other M on a more linear structure than one expects from a Metroid adventure, but this fits the claustrophobic nature of the Bottle Ship.  Spontaneous backtracking to collect power-ups and items is not allowed much until near the end of the game, however, and many pick-ups are teasingly visible at the start of the game, yet cannot be collected until much later.

While I enjoyed Other M (up until the final storyline boss, mind you; I hate Metroid swarms), I find that I don't really need to play another Metroid game presented in this style.  I loved the cinematics and character backstory, but the shift into first-person perspective to fire missiles shouldn't stick around.  There's nothing wrong with creating a purely third-person Metroid adventure.  In fact, I prefer it.  For more of my thoughts on Other M, be sure to check out Episode 23 of Power Button.


Life After The Mushroom Kingdom

A plumber and his princess

After traversing fantastical lands and rescuing princesses from tyrannical turtles, how can one ever expect to return to a mundane existence in Brooklyn?  Is it even possible to go back to the way things used to be?  Just ask Mario's brother Luigi (you knew Mario had a brother, right?) in this melancholy, stylized comic that wonders about what happens when the princess is saved and everybody can go home.  It goes to some dark places and doesn't provide a happy ending to everyone involved, but it's an intriguing slice of life about going on after the Mushroom Kingdom is old news.

(via Reddit)


Luigi Is Not Common Knowledge

Yahoo News

Yahoo is marking the twenty-fifth anniversary of the original Super Mario Bros. with a list of five Mario facts that it's guessing most people do not know.  Now, granted that this is a fluff piece meant for the non-gaming populace, but is the fact that Mario has a brother really that obscure as teased in the image seen here?  Is Luigi really that much of a mystery to outsiders?  The man in green really doesn't get much respect, does he?


Activision Wants To Sell Cutscenes Separately

Bobby Kotick Activision Blizzard's Bobby Kotick has had plenty of bizarre, short-sighted, or just plain greedy ideas as part of his tenure as CEO, but his latest plan to extract cutscenes from games such as StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty and sell them separately for $30 manages to go above and beyond his usual levels of craziness.  As IGN reports, Kotick wants to create a new secondary market based on the company's products and assumes that fans will line up and break box office records to see bits and pieces of games in a non-interactive format.  I especially like this mention that since Activision already has your credit card, they might as well be able to charge it more often:

Speaking today at the Bank of America Merrill Lynch Media, Communications & Entertainment Conference in California, Kotick said StarCraft II's in-game cinematics are so good that the publisher could edit them into one film and distribute it to fans digitally, a move, he said, is likely to happen sometime in the next five years.

"If we were to take that hour, or hour an a half, and take it out of the game and we were to go to our audiences, who we have their credit card information a direct relationship, and say to them 'Would you like to have the
StarCraft movie?'

Kotick continued to say he believes his business model is superior to that of current film studios, saying a
StarCraft movie distributed by the publisher would crush any opening weekend box office record ever.

"My guess is unlike film studios that are really stuck with a model that goes through theatrical distribution and takes a signification amount of the profit away, if we were to go to an audience and say 'We have this great hour and a half of linear video that we'd like to make available to you at a $20 or $30 price point,' you'd have the biggest opening weekend of any film ever," he said.

It's boastful statements such as these that make me wonder if Kotick lives on the same planet as the rest of us.  I know that he's become the gaming community's favorite punching bag, but sometimes I wonder just how out of touch he is with his customer base.  Nobody is going to buy a one-hour "movie" for $30.  People don't even like to pay $25 for a two-hour real film as it is.  Moreover, gaming cinematics are usually incomplete when taken by themselves.  One needs the footage of gameplay to narratively tie them together, and I sincerely doubt anyone would buy a "movie" comprised mostly of gameplay footage.  The only way this really works is if the game in question features more cinematics than gameplay time, and if that is the case, then it's already a movie and doesn't need to be sold separately.


Capcom Alienates PS3, PC Audiences With Dead Rising 2

Dead Rising 2 A funny thing happened on the way to the upcoming multiplatform Dead Rising 2: Capcom managed to alienate its Sony PlayStation 3 and PC-owning audiences.  Not only is the game's prologue, Case Zero, exclusive to the Microsoft Xbox 360, but now GamePro has the news that there's a 360-exclusive epilogue as well (entitled Case West).  Recall that the original Dead Rising remains exclusive to the Xbox 360, too.  That's a large chunk of Dead Rising content that those without Xbox 360s who may be otherwise interested will not be able to enjoy.  I'm starting to wonder why, as a PS3 owner, I should bother to get involved with this franchise knowing that I cannot experience the complete storyline.  I feel as though I'm being asked to read a book that is missing the first and last few chapters, and although the middle of a story can be very satisfying, I need the setup and conclusion to really appreciate the complete narrative.  Now, console-exclusive content is nothing new, but typically it's a spare playable character or extra weapon that is held back from one portion of the audience.  When entire sections of storyline go behind the wall, that's going too far.


Sony Investigating PS2 Peripheral For PS3?

PS2 busts outIn the latest twinkling that Sony PlayStation 2 backward compatibility is never truly off the table for the PlayStation 3, Siliconera has word that Sony has filed a patent that outlines an external peripheral of some sort that when connected to the PS3 allows it to play PS2 games.  Think of it as a "PS2 Player" to borrow some terminology from Nintendo's Game Boy Player add-on for the GameCube.  Here's a bit of the story:

Most PlayStation 3s are not backwards compatible, but Sony may be investigating an external adapter to act as a bridge. Japanese message boards are buzzing about a patent filed by Sony Computer Entertainment Japan for a new generation to previous generation console adapter. We checked the Japanese Patent database to verify and a patent indeed exists.  A schematic of the proposed adapter (200) shows the device has its own processor, a DVD decoder/emulator, sound processor, and graphic processor.

It seems to me that if I wanted another box hanging around in my home entertainment cabinet, I'd just stick with my PS2.  I don't know about you, but to me the appeal of PS2 backward compatibility is that it helps to unify my gaming library and removes the need to tie up valuable space with another box and more cables.  At this point, I say either build the PS2 capabilities directly into the PS3 case or let's just move on.


Power Button - Episode 23: Handling Metroids With "Ys"

Power ButtonWith Joey Davidson on vacation in Japan this week and next week, it's up to Brad Hilderbrand and I to carry the extra weight as we quiz one another on the respective game each of us has been enjoying over the past few days.  This week on Power Button I go on and on about Nintendo's new Metroid: Other M (the first eight hours of it, at least) and then we switch gears for Brad to talk about his experiences with XSEED's Ys Seven.  Did we enjoy our time with our chosen game?  Does the story in Other M hold up?  How exactly does one pronounce "Ys"?  All of your questions will be answered (except for the ones that aren't). 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.


Power Button - Episode 23: Handling Metroids With "Ys"