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June 2011

Sonic Generations Demo Available Now

Classic SonicIf you saw the videos and read the coverage of Sonic Generations from E3 this year, you may be eager to try the classic-style Green Hill Zone level to see if it compares with your memories and expectations.  If you have a Sony PlayStation 3 or Microsoft Xbox 360 then you won't have to wait much longer, as Sega is marking today's twentieth anniversary of the original Sonic the Hedgehog for the Sega Genesis with a special time-limited demo of the upcoming game. 

Available now through July 12 through the usual PS3 and X360 download channels, players can take Classic Sonic on a wild high definition 2D romp through Green Hill and make an early determination about whether or not the development team did Sonic right this time.  I played both the Classic and Modern Sonic Green Hill levels of the E3 Sonic Generations demo and came away extremely impressed, so I encourage you to try this demo for yourself and remember why Sonic was once a gaming force with which to be reckoned.  You'll forget all about the werehog in no time.  Don't hesitate though.  The demo will deactivate in a mere twenty days (even if you've already downloaded it), so get your Green Hill kicks while you can!

Weekly Poll: Revisiting The Legend

Weekly Poll for 6-13-2011

The majority of you feel that Nintendo won E3 2011, and they definitely had a dynamite showing.  Super Mario 3D, Star Fox 64 3D, The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, Mario Kart, and Luigi's Mansion 2 were all on display, the last few Wii titles such as The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword will help the console go out with a bang, and promises of the Wii U will keep us intrigued through the year.  Shockingly, however, I came away more impressed with Sony's plans.  The Wii U is still largely just an idea with technical demos at this point, and I really need to see a Super Mario game running on it to really jump on board.  This is a crucial turning point for Nintendo where it has to amaze right out of the gate with this one.  Sony has made plenty of mistakes, but at least it has an idea of where it's going and what it wants to be.  As for Microsoft and its Kinect-heavy lineup... the less said about that train wreck, the better.

Speaking of Ocarina of Time, now that the Nintendo 3DS remake of 1998's major Legend of Zelda title is out in stores, will you buy (or have you already bought) it?  Have you been waiting for an excuse to replay the game, or are you holding out for the new 3DS titles?  Do you not have a 3DS at all and this title isn't enough to make you want one?  Let's hear your thoughts.

Power Button At E3 2011 - Episode 5: Final Wrap-Up

Power ButtonThe show is over, but the discussion goes on.  On this final installment of Power Button At E3 2011, I reunite with my E3 roommates Blake Grundman and Ross Polly to share some final thoughts on this year's announcements now that all is said and done.  We also touch on some related news of the week including the Duke Nukem Forever controversy and squeeze in some time to discuss what we've all been playing since returning from Los Angeles (hint: inFamous 2).  Thanks to everyone at Games Are Evil and the Evilcast for letting me join them for this special series of crossover podcasts.  It's been a blast.  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 all of us on Twitter at @PressTheButtons,@aubradley84, and @JoeyDavidson or for just podcast updates, @ThePowerButton.

Power Button At E3 2011 - Episode 5: Final Wrap-Up

Microsoft Believes That Your Kinect Experience Needs More Advertisements; Would You Like To Know More?

Would You Like To Know More?Despite how much marketing departments would disagree, people hate advertisements.  Nobody likes for their entertainment experience to come to a grinding halt so that corporations can hawk soft drinks, snack foods, summer blockbusters, and the other kinds of products that are plastered all over movies, television, and video games these days.  Nevertheless, Microsoft is going ahead with a new advertising platform for the Xbox 360 and Kinect that promises to make the advertising experience more annoying with interactive ads.  Microsoft is prepping the NUads platform that will allow Kinect users to talk to ads in order to request more information about the product in question.  Summed up in that one preceding sentence, NUads may sound harmless enough.  Going into detail, however, paints a more prying picture.  Here's how Chris Pereira of 1UP summarizes it:

Four examples of what's possible with voice-controlled NUads were shared. When watching an ad you can say, "Xbox Tweet" to share something about the ad you're watching on Twitter. "Xbox More" sends more information or a coupon to your email. "Xbox Near Me" sends you a text message with details on nearby retailers. "Xbox Schedule" send you a notification about an upcoming show you want to remember to watch. The one motion control element mentioned was the ability to vote for something through a gesture; the example cited was a Green Lantern movie commercial that asks who your favorite villain is or if you plan on seeing the movie.

That sounds like a very objective, restrained explanation.  I think we need some more flavorful commentary on how the average Xbox owner will react to this new platform.  David Houghton of GamesRadar paints a more realistic picture of the NUads experience:

Continue reading "Microsoft Believes That Your Kinect Experience Needs More Advertisements; Would You Like To Know More?" »

Mega Man Games Hacked To Allow On-The-Go Weapon Changes

Leaf ShieldCapcom's original Mega Man games for the Nintendo Entertainment System are good in so many ways, but something that the franchise's later incarnations added to the mix involves the ability to switch Mega Man's weapons without dropping to the pause/weapon screen.  A press of the controller's shoulder buttons cycles through the available Robot Master weapons that the blue bomber has earned.  Re-releases of the original NES games (such as Rockman Complete Works and Mega Man Anniversary Collection) have added this ability through a Navi mode, but those original classics just don't offer this function in the 8-bit source material.  Unless, of course, someone were to hack those classic Mega Man games to add this much-needed feature.  Frequent PTB reader and occasional contributor Guy Perfect has done just that, turning the Start and Select buttons into weapon cycle buttons in Mega Man 2, 3, 4, and 5.  The technical explanation follows, but first let's see it in action in Wood Man's stage.

Continue reading "Mega Man Games Hacked To Allow On-The-Go Weapon Changes" »

Duke Nukem Will Return

Duke NukemIf you thought that the eternally developed Duke Nukem Forever (which finally made it out the door this month for the Sony PlayStation 3, Microsoft Xbox 360, and PC) as the last gasp for Duke Nukem himself, then you'd better think again.  Publisher Take-Two has big plans for the character now that he's back from development hell despite the critical panning Forever has taken.  Kotaku has the story.

Take-Two chairman Strauss Zelnick tells Forbes that "you will see future Duke IP coming from this company." Pretty clear cut, but Zelnick gets less clear when expounding upon the future of Duke (and other games).  "Part of it is the economic opportunities that interact with entertainment are so huge," Zelnick says. "Part of it is that we are very creative folks in control. Part of it is we don't want to ever be in the position of dumping something down just to make another buck. If we can take some of our intellectual property and bring it to another medium in an extraordinary high quality way, that delights consumers and represents an interesting commercial opportunity for us, we will. We have certainly considered doing that with BioShock and with other titles. So far we haven't brought anything to market, but stay tuned."

I'm not opposed to another Duke project.  Forever is such a unique beast in that it suffered from such a long, unfocused development period.  If developer Gearbox were to take their own stab at the property and get a sequel released within, say, a two year development window with an emphasis on actual quality instead of ego, then I bet they could produce something special.  Maybe tone down the toilet humor though.  Perhaps it's my hazy 1996 memories talking, but even though the original Duke 3D was risque in places, I never remember it crossing the line into outright gross-out humor very often.

Hackers Go Back In Time To Attack Sega In 1994

Sega hacked

Sega suffered from a hacker attack recently in which 1.3 million customer records were accessed.  It's just the latest in what's become a long line of video game industry-related hacks, but in an effort to provide a little much-needed amusement to a story that generally has none, check out how CBS News reported the attack.  Notice the stock image for Sega that the organization had in its files dates back to 1994 or so judging by the prominent CDX in the photo.  News outlets commonly have logos and imagery for major corporations on file for times when those corporations are in the news, but it's been a very long time since Sega has been relevant enough for outlets such as CBS to report about on-air.  Someone needs to update the stock image file for Sega, because unless the hackers went back in time to steal information, CBS's data is very much out of date (or maybe someone in the graphics department is having a little fun).

(via Reddit)

First Portal 2 DLC Costs $140, But There's A Reason

Sixense Portal 2 MotionPack How much are you willing to pay for more Portal 2 content?  If you have spare cash to burn and really want to conquer new Aperture Science test chambers, there's always the Razer Hydra motion controller that comes with Portal 2 and the Sixense Portal 2 MotionPack expansion that includes ten, count 'em, ten new levels for a mere $139.99.  Of interest is that the Sixense experience features a new gameplay mechanic in the form of stretchable blocks.

The Sixense Portal 2 MotionPack™ is custom-designed for use with the high-performance Razer Hydra motion tracking controllers. The MotionPack was designed from the ground up to provide the most advanced and immersive motion control experience ever seen. Reach, rotate and scale your way through both Portal 2 and the exclusive MotionPack test chambers. Intuitively interact with Portal Test Chambers using the Aperture Science Handheld Portal Device in full three dimensions; fire portals at precise angles and throw Weighted Companion Cubes with measured force.

I bet that Razer had a hand in commissioning these new levels to go with the Hydra, but it would be great to see these test chambers turn up on the Sony PlayStation 3 with PlayStation Move support.  That's a total pipe dream considering that the PS3 version of Portal 2 does not support the Move, but I'd imagine that more people own Moves than Hydras at this point.  The real Portal 2 downloadable content that's meant for the rest of us is still due out later this year.

(via Joystiq)

Nine Minutes Of Nintendo Censorship

Nintendo had a knack for censoring any instances of excessive gore, titillating nudity, holy religion, and offensive language from video games published on its hardware in the 1980s and early 1990s.  Mortal Kombat is the most famous title to be sacrificed on the censorship altar, but plenty of other titles were changed in ways that you may not have noticed.  Maniac Mansion lost a skeleton, Castlevania lost some crosses, EarthBound lost Ness's nude scene, and Bionic Commando lost its Nazis.  This video from Rinry Game Game explores the rules that Nintendo set down when it came to acceptable content and takes note of a few forbidden elements that somehow slipped through the cracks.  It's interesting stuff and includes plenty of rockin' chiptunes, too.

2K Games Fires PR Firm Over Unprofessional Tweet (Or: No More Duke Nukem For Redner)

Duke Nukem ForeverDuke Nukem Forever for the Sony PlayStation 3, Microsoft Xbox 360, and PC from Gearbox Software and 2K Games hasn't been scoring so well in early reviews, and a public relations firm tasked with promoting the game decided not to take the low scores and criticism quietly.  In an angry tweet last night, Jim Redner of PR firm The Redner Group lashed out at the Internet for not always betting on Duke.  Ars Technica sums up the now-deleted tweets.

[T]he Redner Group's official Twitter account posted something you almost never see: an open threat stating that outlets who reviewed Duke Nukem Forever poorly may not receive review copies of games in the future. Anyone who has done this job for any amount of time has suffered through a dry spell after giving a publisher a bad review, but this is the first time the threat of a blacklist has been made public.

"Too many went too far with their reviews...we are reviewing who gets games next time and who doesn't based on today's venom," the company tweeted. "Bad scores are fine. Venom filled reviews...that's completely different," another tweet read. Currently, Duke Nukem Forever has a Metacritic score of 49 on the Xbox 360, the format most commonly sent to the press. For a game with such a large marketing budget and name recognition, that's shockingly low.

And that's about where it would have stopped had the Internet not taken notice.  See, when one shouts bile out into the online world, it shouldn't be a surprise that someone will see it and react accordingly.  Redner's threat traveled far and wide around the gaming community this morning, and by the afternoon, 2K cut away from Redner completely.  Kotaku has that update.

2K games told Kotaku that they don't endorse the comments made by Redner and confirmed that "The Redner Group no longer represents our products."

"We have always maintained a mutually-respectful working relationship with the press and do not condone his actions in any way," a spokesman said.

It's unusual that inside baseball talk makes its way into the community at large, but it does shine a light on what is usually a backroom elephant: low review scores resulting in withheld information and limited access.  Everyone in the industry has had to deal with this problem in one way or another, and while it's a shame that Redner torched itself in this fashion, if there's any good to come out of this story (and, really, it's surprising to me that it's breaking so widely considering that it doesn't directly impact players in a way that most would care), it's that perhaps the publishers and developers who do engage in this kind of blacklisting behavior behind the scenes will remember that people will be watching for more examples of what Redner threatened as time goes on now that more are aware of the practice.

Full disclosure: I'm slated to receive a review copy of Duke Nukem Forever and another copy to give away as a contest prize, but not from The Redner Group.