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September 2011

Secret Origins: Super Mario 64

Super Mario 64On the occasion of the fifteenth anniversary of the release of the Nintendo 64 and the groundbreaking Super Mario 64, it's time to share the story of how I wound up with the oft-misunderstood console and smash hit game.  I was fifteen years old when the system debuted in 1996 and, like everyone else in my generation, was extremely curious as to what Nintendo had planned for Mario in his latest adventure.  I'd been following the Nintendo Power coverage for months ahead of release (even if the coverage was vague and cryptic as the magazine was famous for at the time) and finally found a demo unit showcasing both the system and the flagship title at the local Blockbuster Video one September afternoon.  While my parents picked out a video to rent, I held the trident controller and realized that all of the previews hadn't prepared me to play Super Mario 64.  Not that I was blown away by what I saw or overwhelmed by the moment, mind you (though I was), but I honestly had no idea how to hold the controller.  I ended up trying to maneuver my way through the Bowser In The Underground level by pinching the control stick with my thumb and pointer finger as if it were an old fashioned joystick.  That didn't work so well, and by the time I figured out how to actually play the game it was time to leave, so I had to walk away unsatisfied.  I wanted more!  I knew I had to have a Nintendo 64 and Super Mario 64 of my own.

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Power Button - Episode 64: Where Will Today's Hits Be Tomorrow?

Power ButtonPlenty of video game franchises are celebrating notable anniversaries this year.  The Legend of Zelda, Metroid, Kid Icarus, Bubble Bobble, Adventure Island, and Castlevania are all twenty-five years old, for instance.  Who would have thought back in 1986 that we'd still talk about and enjoy these titles in the far-off future of 2011?  This week on Power Button, Brad Hilderbrand, Joey Davidson, and I wonder which of today's popular modern franchises will still be popular in the even further-off future of 2036.  Will Red Dead Redemption still be fondly remembered?  What will Katamari Damacy look like by then?  Will there be twenty-five new Call of Duty titles by then?  What does it take for a game to last long beyond its expected life span?  Put on your smocks and hold up your flashlights as we look into the future.  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 - Episode 64: Where Will Today's Hits Be Tomorrow?

Please Don't Pirate Donkey Kong Country 3

Donkey Kong Country 3Two years ago we had a look at how Nintendo's EarthBound handles illegal copying and other such modifications.  As you'll recall, the game makes things increasingly difficult and frustrating in an effort to throw software pirates into agonizing situations.  Most video games aren't that inventive or devious.  Consider Donkey Kong Country 3: Dixie Kong's Double Trouble also for the Super NES that occasionally checks to ensure that the proper amount of SRAM is available to the game.  If it doesn't like what it finds (say, too much or too little which would indicate the presence of a copying device used to backup and pirate games or some other modifier), then the action comes to a halt and this ominous screen appears that combines the Game Over image with the boss battle theme and some brief explanatory text.

Donkey Kong Country 2 pulls a similar trick, but without the background music.  Most Nintendo games of the era displayed similar errors and warnings when the integrity of the system was compromised, but few of them went to this level of detail.  Titles such as Super Mario All-Stars, Super Metroid, and Super Punch-Out!! merely display a black screen with simple text citing copyright statute, for instance.  EarthBound still wins the prize for most inventive copy protection, but DKC3 has to score a few points for the basic effort and creepiness factor alone.

Mortal Kombat Creator Wants Gears Of War Star As DLC

Marcus FenixMortal Kombat for the Sony PlayStation 3 and Microsoft Xbox 360 sported a variety of additional characters provided as paid post-release downloadable content, but despite the large roster of kombatants, Xbox 360 players felt a little cheated.  Thanks to some licensing magic, God of War's brutal Kratos appears in the PS3 version of the game, but there was no Microsoft-exclusive character offered for the Xbox version.  That may change, as Erik Norris at Crave Online reports that there's interest on both sides of the equation regarding a certain Gears of War star's late inclusion.

The idea of Marcus Fenix chainsawing the holy hell out of Scorpion started yesterday when NetherRealm’s Ed Boon responded to a fan question through twitter saying that he would have loved to see Marcus as a bonus character for the Xbox 360 version of Mortal Kombat, much like how the PS3 version got God of War’s Kratos.

“What would've been the Microsoft exclusive if you had a choice? Noobde: I wudda wanted Marcus Fenix from Gears,” responded Boon.

It didn’t take long for Epic Games’ design director, Cliff Bleszinski, to respond to the tweet, asking Boon to “Hit him up about that!”

Here's hoping that some sort of deal can be made and Marcus can appear alongside Sub-Zero and Freddy Kreuger.  We're all used to console-specific features by now, but it still stings with one platform gets a feature that another does not.  Kratos was a great addition to Mortal Kombat, and Xbox owners deserve their own unique bonus.  Besides, there's a certain pleasant coincidental symmetry to featuring a character from a franchise with the acronym "GoW" in each version of the game.

Street Fighter II: Rainbow Edition Breaks All The Rules

Street Fighter II: Rainbow Edition Capcom has taken plenty of time and effort over the years to make sure that its Street Fighter line of video games is as balanced as possible.  Tiny little tweaks are made across successive releases to offensive attacks, defensive strategies, and other variables to ensure maximum fun and fairness.  Take a moment to be glad that Capcom cares because as GameSetWatch points out, the alternative is downright insane.  Consider a hacked version of the arcade mainstay Street Fighter II: Champion Edition dating back to 1992 dubbed the Rainbow Edition in which all of the rules go out the window and most anything is possible.  Want to change characters in the middle of a match?  Go for it.  What about multiple homing projectiles?  Done.  Mid-air special moves?  Granted.  Check out this video (one of many floating around out there) of the Rainbow Edition in action and I think you'll see why properly balancing Street Fighter and games like it is an essential part of the development process.  The alternative is a flurry of frustration inflicted one credit at a time.

Fun fact: the existence of unlicensed hacks like the Rainbow Edition helped kick Capcom into releasing more actual official upgrades for Street Fighter II that added some of the tricks and glitches (such as Chun-Li's Kikoken and Dhalsim's Yoga Teleport ability) that started as hacks and mistakes.  Some even cite the speed tweaks in Rainbow Edition as inspiration for the turbo addition in Street Fighter II Turbo.  It seems that in an indirect way, we have the Rainbow Edition hacks to thank/blame for endless revisions to the Street Fighter line.

Where Is The American Dad Video Game?

Stan Smith plays Beet ManI can't wait to watch new episodes of Family Guy and The Cleveland Show has grown on me, but I still say that the best part of FOX's Sunday evening animation block is American Dad.  The quick pace, clever writing, and hilarious performances from the cast make for one of the best animated programs since The Simpsons at its prime.  Considering how much money merchandising can bring in for a long-running property, I've wondered for a while if there's been any consideration to developing an American Dad video game.  Last week at the Paley Center for Media, the cast and showrunners sat down to discuss the creative process when it comes to producing new episodes and, right at the end of the hour, the team talked a little about whether or not they'd like to see Stan Smith make the leap to the world of video games.  Thanks to Hulu, we can peek in and hear the answer for ourselves.

I believe that the American Dad writers could come up with an amazing video game concept.  They're already proven that they know plenty of gaming source material.  Just consider the gags on the show in which characters have dressed and acted as famous characters such as Donkey Kong, Pac-Man, and Chun-Li.  We've seen parodies of bizarre Japanese video games and a hodgepodge of genres crammed into a single fictional game.  These people get it.  There's a fantastic interactive adventure starring Stan and his family just waiting to happen.  Let's hope we don't have to wait too long to see it come to fruition.

Weekly Poll: Civil War

Weekly Poll for 9-20-2011Current generation video games are the overwhelming favorite amongst the majority of you out there, but retrogaming has a healthy following as well.  Lately my gaming time has been split between the two.  I've been playing Super Street Fighter IV: Arcade Edition and whatever downloadable titles the PlayStation Network throws my way (including BloodRayne: Betrayal and the monthly assortment of free PlayStation Plus goodies) in addition to Star Fox 64 3D, but I've also been wrapping up Wario Land 3 for the Game Boy Color and recently completed a run of The Legend of Zelda: Four Swords for the Game Boy Advance with my girlfriend.  Yesterday we spent part of the afternoon playing Super Mario Bros. 3.  It's important to get a mix of old and new when it comes to gaming.  The true classics never become obsolete (particularly when re-experiencing them with someone you love).

This week's question should be easy to answer and it's inspired by last week's look at the webcomic starring a sad-sack interpretation of ol' Green Stache.  It's time to turn brother against brother.  Which of Nintendo's famous Mario brothers is your favorite?  Are you a Mario booster?  A Luigi lover?  Or are Wario and Waluigi the real all-star standouts?  Let's hear your thoughts.

It Ain't Easy Being Luigi

It Sucks To Be Weegie!

It can't be fun to live in Mario's shadow.  If you were the brother of Nintendo's most famous hero, how would you manage?  What would you do?  It can't be easy to be Luigi.  Check out Interrobang Studios for the web comic series "It Sucks To Be Weegie!" in which everyone's second favorite plumber tries to make the best of the situation with the help of his friends Princess Daisy and Link.  Plenty of other Nintendo characters make cameos including Rosalina, Waluigi, Pauline, and even Fox McCloud, while Mario himself never actually appears.  Follow Luigi's milquetoast adventures as he commiserates with a Goomba, tries to pick up Donkey Kong's girlfriend in a bar, attends Captain Falcon's party, fails to be taken seriously by Bowser's troops, and is threatened by Baby Peach.  The artwork by Kevin Bolk gives the characters a fun level of personality and the gaming in-jokes will keep you smiling beyond each comic's punchline.

Mini-Review: BloodRayne: Betrayal

BloodRayne: Betrayal 

After enduring a rough few years, the BloodRayne franchise has returned under the guiding hands of Majesco and WayForward Technologies as a downloadable title for the Sony PlayStation 3 and Microsoft Xbox 360.  Featuring the gorgeously impressive hand-drawn animation for which WayForward has become known and a striking musical score, BloodRayne: Betrayal sends the half-vampire heroine through a series of side-scrolling 2D levels to create an intriguing title that feels like a combination of Konami's Castlevania (although I understand that the development team hates that comparison) and Electronic Arts's Shank.  Unfortunately, presentation isn't everything and the game is missing a key ingredient: fun.

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No Enslaved 2 Any Time Soon

EnslavedNinja Theory and Namco Bandai partnered last year to produce Enslaved: Odyssey To The West for the Sony PlayStation 3 and Microsoft Xbox 360.  The game has its fans, but on the whole the title didn't meet performance expectations, floundered in the market, and failed to reach the mighty heights that some projected for it.  Anyone waiting for the sequel will be waiting for a while, as there are no plans for Enslaved 2 any time soon.  Game Informer has the details.

Enslaved received some generally favorable reviews, but the game didn’t sell as well as Namco or Ninja Theory had hoped. "Enslaved should have done better," Ninja Theory co-founder Tameem Antoniades recently told Edge Magazine. "Right now we should have been doing a sequel and perfecting that sequel and doing what franchises do, which is get better over time. [But] because that didn't happen we've not expanded to two teams like we intended to. So we've remained a smaller shop."

Something about Enslaved bugged me from the start.  I played it at E3 last year and came away unimpressed.  The demo seemed pieced together by committee and guided by market research dictating what a stereotypical modern video game should be.  I just didn't get any personality off of it, and the continued insistence that Enslaved would become a force with which to be reckoned and was completely original (even though it wasn't) really came to irritate me.  Video games don't become a success just because the developers deem it so, and being cocky without the solid game to back it up won't get anyone anywhere.  I hate to see a developer stumble, but Enslaved was never going to be the smash hit that Ninja Theory believed it would be, and I think we're better off that this attempt at a franchise has been put aside.