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March 2012

Mega Man Falls On Hard Times, Takes Second Job

Mega Man Metals

Capcom's famous Mega Man has had a rough year what with all of the recent games slated to star the character suffering from cancellation and the Bad Box Art Mega Man scandal of Street Fighter X Tekken.  Things are so bad that the blue bomber has had to take on a second job as a scrap metal recycler.  Consider this billboard spotted in central Florida for Mega Man Metals that features a mascot character that resembles Capcom's Mega Man in basic shape and helmet style mixed with design aspects of Air Man and Metal Man (and maybe just a dash of T-800 Terminator endoskeleton).  Hang in there, Mega Man.  You'll be back to fighting Dr. Wily's Robot Masters soon enough.  And, Capcom, I have a wonderful idea for the design of a new Robot Master called Scrap Metal Man...

Here Comes Another Attempt To Legislate Video Games

Phoenix WrightYou'd think that after all of the court cases that have found in favor of the video game industry when it comes to restricting the sale of games with a poorly written, slippery slope of a law that government officials looking to pander to voters would have moved on to a new target.  Nevertheless, today brings word that Congressmen Joe Baca and Frank Wolf have proposed the Violence in Video Games Labeling Act that would require all video games rated E-for-Everyone and up to carry a warning label.  Game Informer explains:

"The video game industry has a responsibility to parents, families and to consumers — to inform them of the potentially damaging content that is often found in their products," Baca said, as reported by The Hill. "They have repeatedly failed to live up to this responsibility."

"Just as we warn smokers of the health consequences of tobacco, we should warn parents — and children — about the growing scientific evidence demonstrating a relationship between violent video games and violent behavior," Wolf said. "As a parent and grandparent, I think it is important people know everything they can about the extremely violent nature of some of these games."

If the bill passes, it would require any game with an ESRB rating of E (Everybody) and above to carry a warning label regardless of whether or not it was actually considered "violent." The only games that would not have to carry a label are ones rated EC (Early Childhood). Previous attempts to pass the bill occurred in 2009 and 2011.

All of the usual poor logic and slimy weasel words are in Baca's and Wolf's statements.  There's blessed mentions of families, responsibilities, the comparison of video games to tobacco, identifying oneself as a parent and a grandparent, and the usual rhetoric about people having a right to know information.  I've grown very tired of legislators dragging games down into the mud just for the sake of attracting the votes of an ill-informed public.  Video games are protected free speech.  Leave 'em alone.

Mini-Review: Sonic Rivals 2

Sonic the HedgehogThis article was originally published at on December 10, 2007.

When Sonic and Tails find out that Dr. Eggman is up to no good again, the two set out to get to the bottom of his evil plans. They then bump into Knuckles and Rouge who have teamed up to track down the Chaos Emeralds and missing Master Emerald. Meanwhile, Eggman pursues Shadow with Metal Sonic and explains that Eggman Nega is actually the one behind the new threat. Say, just what is Silver doing with the missing Chao (and why is Espio following him)? The story unfolds through five zones of platformer racing fun in this sequel to last year's Sonic Rivals.

Sonic Rivals 2 preserves plenty of material from its predecessor. The familiar head-to-head racing aspect is firmly intact, providing the same levels of challenge and speed seen previously. There's nothing wrong with a little repetition when the result plays so well, however. The game does mix up the formula at times. Zones are broken up into four parts this time versus three parts as seen in the original Rivals. Acts 1 and 3 are the familiar races, and Act 4 is a boss act where players try to be the first to destroy Eggman's latest weapons, but Act 2 is a one-on-one battle that uses the same gameplay as found in the racing acts, and confines the action to a single closed room instead of a Point A to Point B path. Characters can use items and direct homing attacks on each other with ultimate victory going to whomever can pummel ringless opponents again and again. Other main gameplay tweaks include time attacks, hidden Chao collecting, acquiring a certain amount of rings, and other such things that attempt to keep the racing aspect fresh.

Continue reading "Mini-Review: Sonic Rivals 2" »

Johnny Gat Returns In Saints Row: The Third DLC

Tragically, the Third Street Saints lost one of their own in THQ's Saints Row: The Third for the Sony PlayStation 3, Microsoft Xbox 360, and PC.  Beloved sociopath Johnny Gat was brutally murdered by a rival criminal syndicate early in the story, but since his death occured offscreen, many characters (and fans) refuse to believe that Gat is truly gone.  Developer Volition has finished work on the next downloadable episodic installment of missions for The Third, and this new addition brings Gat back into the fold.  Check out this trailer for "The Trouble With Clones" in which a devoted Saints fan clones Johnny Gat, but in the tradition of horrifying sci-fi tropes, Gat comes back wrong and it's up to the leader of the Saints to take him down.  "The Trouble With Clones" is available today for $6.99 or is included in the game's Season Pass option.  Here's hoping that "Clones" offers something more substantial than the previous DLC, "Gangstas In Space", which was a fun romp but ultimately too short.  I've enjoyed all of the DLC, really, but since I completed the game before playing any of it, all of the new weapons and abilities that the expansions bring to the experience are wasted on me since I can't really use them for anything now that all of the objectives are complete.  I really wish that The Third offered a true New Game Plus option.  I'd love to tear through Steelport again from the start with all (or at least most) of my upgrades available.

Did Lackluster CDs Kill The Pack-In Star?

Sega CDDo you remember when new video game consoles came with a hot new game packed inside?  Buying the Super NES snagged you a copy of Super Mario World.  Picking up a Sega Genesis meant finding Altered Beast (or, later, Sonic the Hedgehog) in the box with it.  Tetris came with every Game Boy.  It was truly a glorious era.  So what happened?  Why don't new consoles include new major games anymore?  Defunct Games lays the blame on the Sega CD's attempt to dazzle would-be owners with an array of software that may have looked good as bullet points on the side of the box, but in reality were less than impressive.  Did the Sega CD kill the pack-in game?

I know what you're thinking: How could this have happened? Some will point to the rising cost of making both hardware and software. Others will tell you stories about how the economy isn't like it used to be. A few will sit you down and force you to play Altered Beast until you stop asking. But these people are all wrong. The real reason nobody offers pack-in games is because of the Sega CD.

In total, Sega packaged a whopping six discs in the Sega CD box. For three hundred dollars, gamers picked up five Genesis ports, a TurboGrafx-CD game, a CD sampler, a collection of CD+G songs and the introduction of Virtual VCR. With the possible exception of Nintendo's Ambassador Program, this is the most amount of "free" software ever given away with a brand new game console.

In fact, it's too big of a haul. By packing so much crummy content into one box, Sega effectively killed the importance of the pack-in game. This act of desperation was felt throughout the industry, leading to the PlayStation, Xbox, Dreamcast and GameCube all launching without a pack-in game.

I don't know if I buy the premise entirely, but the article does make a good case for the general patheticness of Sega CD's pack-in titles.  Personally, I think that it's not the crater left by Sega's pack-in glut that ended the practice of pack-in titles, but the rise of the original Sony PlayStation.  Sony blasted into the video game console market with an edgy attitude and a brash marketing ego that raised the stakes for everyone.  As competition heated up across all three of the console manufacturers of the era and profit margins became thinner, the need to give away the best game in the launch library withered away.  Pack-ins on the whole didn't stay dead forever, of course.  It's not uncommon to find the biggest game of a given season included with a PlayStation 3 or a Nintendo 3DS at key times of the year.  When new hardware hits stores, however, we're on our own.

Power Button - Episode 77: Megacritical Of Metacritic And On-Disc DLC

Power ButtonOnline review aggregator Metacritic has been in the gaming news again this week as word spread that developer Obsidian Entertainment missed out on a bonus for developing Fallout: New Vegas thanks to a slightly low Metacritic score.  Meanwhile, Capcom was caught with its seemingly completed Street Fighter X Tekken downloadable content on the finished retail game disc, while Electronic Arts and Bioware have been besieged by angry fans regarding day-one DLC for Mass Effect 3 that seems to have been ripped from the completed game in order to sell separately.  It's been a wild week for business decisions, so this week on Power Button, Joey Davidson, Brad Hilderbrand, and I spend an hour discussing the heavy influence of Metacritic scores on the video game industry and the rise of overpriced DLC that appears to have been purposefully excised from finished products.  Along the way are divergences into Call of Duty, Skylanders, Kid Icarus: Uprising, and much more.  Plus, Brad Hilderbrand has big news to share, and the Power Button team has a special offer for you!  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 leave a message on the Power Button hotline by calling (720) 722-2781, and you can even follow all of us on Twitter at @PressTheButtons, @aubradley84, and @JoeyDavidson or for just podcast updates, @ThePowerButton.

Power Button - Episode 77: Megacritical Of Metacritic And On-Disc DLC

Weekly Poll: Icarus Fights Medusa Angels

Weekly Poll for 3-12-2012A large majority of you do not create user generated content in games that offer community tools.  Honestly, neither do I.  While some games do inspire me to experiment with the creation tools, I just don't have the time or the long-term drive to create a massive level in LittleBigPlanet or a series of missions in inFamous 2.  If I had all the time in the world to play, I know I'd have more of an interest.  It's hard enough finding time to play games as it is.  I really don't have the opportunity to build aspects of them.  That's a shame, but it's the truth.

Looking ahead, Nintendo's Kid Icarus: Uprising launches for the 3DS later this week.  Fans have been clamoring for a new Kid Icarus title for twenty years, and with Kirby's Masahiro Sakurai at the helm, expectations are high.  Nintendo has poured plenty of resources into promoting and relaunching the brand (have you seen those augmented reality cards?).  Are you going to buy Uprising?  Did you preorder a copy?  Are you waiting to see the reviews?  Does Pit's new adventure not interest you at all?  Let's hear your thoughts.

Secret Origins: inFamous 2

inFamous 2Friday, June 10, 2011: I've spent the week in Los Angeles covering the 2011 Electronic Entertainment Expo, and for the first time I've covered it largely as a solo act.  It was my seventh time out to the big show and the first one I've covered without Kombo's brand name and clout backing me up.  It was not an easy job.  I checked out of the hotel room before dawn and made my way to the airport, then caught the long five-hour flight home.  Exhausted, I staggered off of the plane and into the jetway.  Last year I had to take a cab home, but this year I'd made better arrangements.

Continue reading "Secret Origins: inFamous 2" »

Ratchet And Clank Collection Officially Announced

Ratchet And ClankAfter making news a few weeks ago as a rumor, Sony and Insomniac Games today officially announced the upcoming release of the Ratchet and Clank Collection for the PlayStation 3.  The original PlayStation 2 title and sequels Going Commando and Up Your Arsenal are getting the high definition upgrade that similar titles have enjoyed in the past few years along with the addition of Trophies, 3D stereoscopic support, and the inclusion of the online multiplayer mode that hardly anyone had the ability to touch in Up Your Arsenal.  The collection releases in Europe in the spring, but North America will have to wait until fall (and, presumably, the lucrative holiday shopping season).  Insomniac promises to make the wait worth it though:

The collection will release this fall in North America. I know it’s a little bit later than the Spring European release, but it’s because we have something very special planned for our North American fans to celebrate the 10th anniversary, and we’ll share all the details very soon.

Do you think there's room for Ratchet: Deadlocked on that Blu-ray disc?  What about the PS2 ports of the two Ratchet PlayStation Portable games, Size Matters and Secret Agent Clank?  What could this "something very special" be?  Waiting until the fall to play the original trilogy again is a tall order, but I'm confident that Sony, Insomniac, and developer Idol Minds (the team actively behind this reworking) will make it worth the delay.

Sega Game Gear Experience Comes To 3DS Virtual Console

Sega Game GearWhile the Nintendo 3DS Virtual Console service has brought some great (and a few forgettable) Nintendo Entertainment System and Game Boy titles back for an encore, today marks the first time that a non-Nintendo system has debuted on the handheld retro gaming service.  Sega is launching three Game Gear titles today in North America — Sonic Triple Trouble, Shinobi, and Dragon Crystal — and has gone the extra mile to not just release the games, but to recreate the original Game Gear experience.  1UP's Retronauts blog details the many options available to players.

Want the original pixel resolution? Rather than having to hold down a button at start-up, Game Gear emulation allows you to swap between three different looks on the fly with the press of a button on the lower screen: Standard, a full-screen style that stretches graphics to fit the 3DS upper screen on both axes, and "dot by dot," the 1:1 pixel mode. Like the Game Boy emulation option, this gives you a tiny true resolution look surrounded by a simulated system -- but even here M2 takes it up a notch, offering three additional colors for the system frame beyond basic black.

The game graphics themselves can be forced to look as faithful to the original Game Gear screen as you like as well. M2 has added even greater fidelity with the ability to emulate both the blur of the Game Gear's screen and the slightly hollow look caused by the screen's backlighting. It's entirely possible to play an incredibly faithful rendition of Game Gear games on 3DS... though most people will likely elect to keep the blur and backlight effects off, because they're murder on the eyes. In fact, there's no reason not to play in the default view, since the quality of the graphical upscaling means that the default view doesn't feel like the compromise that it does with Game Boy and Game Boy Advance titles. But even if the bumper crop of options M2 has incorporated into the wrapper for these games is ultimately superfluous, it's a nice touch for fans of the classics -- a brief jolt of nostalgia to remind you how far handhelds have come in 20 years.

While I don't see myself using the blur or backlight simulation options regularly, I have to admit that I'm glad they're there.  While preserving classic games is in style these days, maintaining the actual experience of playing those games is not.  That's largely a good thing.  Would you want an option that causes the Gear Gear Virtual Console games to fade out and die after two hours of play due to a battery drain emulation option (3DS battery life jokes notwithstanding)?  Being able to play these older games on a bright, clear screen is one of the best parts of retro services like the Virtual Console.  Dipping a toe into the past for a moment to see how things used to be, however, is also appreciated and encouraged.  Nostalgia for some, history lesson for others.