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April 2012

The Condensed Super Mario Bros.

A Super Mario Summary

Nintendo's Super Mario Bros. wowed everyone with its long, sprawling levels of side-scrolling wonder back in the early days of the Nintendo Entertainment System, but what if those long stretches of horizontology were condensed down into a single screen each?  Johan Peitz has crafted a little puzzle platformer challenge in which all thirty-two original Mushroom Kingdom stages into bite-size challenges that task players with collecting all of the coins and hitting the flagpole in order to achieve the highest possible score.  Give A Super Mario Summary a try for yourself and see how far you get. I made it to World 3-4 before having my fill of the fun.

Power Button Presents Kombo Breaker - Episode 28: Bogus Reviews

Power Button Presents Kombo BreakerLet's travel back in time to May 18, 2009 when J.J. Abram's Star Trek had just opened in theaters, Popcap's Peggle was taking the gaming world by storm alongside Plants vs Zombies, and games based on Marvel properties such as Wolverine and The Incredible Hulk had our attention.  This classic episode of Kombo Breaker finds Dan Johnson's band performing at a festival, Brad Hilderbrand reading a book, me enduring glitchy games, and Joey Davidson telling the legendary scrapple story that would become a semi-recurring running gag on future installments of both Kombo Breaker and Power Button.  Yes, it's Episode 28 in which the first segment is a relaxed, friendly chat about the games and media of the day and the second segment revolves around the then-recent scandal at Eurogamer in which a reviewer wrote a scathing review of the MMORPG Darkfall without spending any time with the game.  We delve into review ethics and best practices.  Join us for a little over an hour of discussion.  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 Presents Kombo Breaker - Episode 28: Bogus Reviews

Kirby Anthology Coming For Wii

Kirby 20thNintendo has been on an anniversary streak lately as the company has marked milestones for Super Mario Bros. and The Legend of Zelda with special releases and events.  Now it's Kirby's turn as Kirby's Dream Land celebrates twenty years of inhaling and devouring enemies.  Twenty years!  Wow, our favorite amorphous puffball has grown up so quickly.  To commemorate the occasion, Nintendo is releasing a compilation of some of Kirby's greatest hits for the Wii.  Exact titles were not disclosed at this time, but chances are that we're looking at a few of Kirby's more popular console titles slapped on a Wii disc in much the same way that the old Super Mario All-Stars made a Wii appearance in 2010 in its original 16-bit form.

Even if all this Kirby Anthology turns out to be is a selection of Virtual Console-type games, there are plenty of great titles that could be included (particularly from the Super NES era).  Kirby Super Star is a must-have, I'd think.  Despite appearing on the Nintendo DS in an upgraded and expanded format several years ago, there's still value in including the original home console version of the game in the compilation (plus it includes a remake of the original Kirby's Dream Land for the Game Boy as "Spring Breeze").  Kirby's Dream Land 3 is long overdue for a reappearance, and its unique visual style is still a head-turner after all these years.  I've always had a soft spot for the golf-inspired Kirby's Dream Course and would love to see a new generation of Kirby's fans introduced to it.  Kirby's Adventure is already available on both the Virtual Console service and the Nintendo 3DS as a 3D Classic, but any Kirby collection would be incomplete without it.  Kirby 64: The Crystal Shards would probably round things out, I'd imagine.  These are only a small bite of Kirby's enormous menu, of course.  Which Kirby titles would you like to see in the anthology?

Weekly Poll: The Blame Game

Weekly Poll for 4-16-2012Most of you have no idea what Qore is/was, and those of you who do won't miss it now that Sony has discontinued the monthly video magazine series.  I can't say that I'm sorry to see it go.  I was only a part of it for the downloadable free games and beta access, and only PlayStation Plus took over those roles, I lost interest.  Qore's interviews rarely revealed completely new information that wasn't already available elsewhere and were so heavily soaked in marketing objectives that they were usually more of a sales pitch than actual interesting content.  I believe that Qore was worth trying for Sony, but I agree that the time has come for it to end.

Changing subjects, last week Wired brought us an excerpt from the new Generation Xbox: How Video Games Invaded Hollywood in which the story behind the near-rise and total fall of Microsoft's planned Halo movie is detailed.  Depending on how you interpret the tale, either Microsoft or Hollywood come out as the villain when it comes to which side ultimately torpedoed the project over cost concerns.  Which side do you think is to blame?  Was Microsoft greedy with its demands?  Did Hollywood want more than its fair share?  Let's hear your thoughts.

Nintendo Announces New Super Mario Bros. 2

New Super Mario Bros. 2

Nintendo promised a new traditional 2D Super Mario title for the Nintendo 3DS later this year, and now that promise has paid off with an announcement of the upcoming New Super Mario Bros. 2.  Due out in August, the new title looks to bring back another classic power-up from days gone by: the Super Leaf that gifts Mario with a raccoon tail, matching ears, and the power of flight.  Those of us with fond memories of Super Mario Bros. 3 (which, hopefully, is everyone) have to feel a bit excited at seeing Mario strike his first famous flight pose once again in a new format after more than twenty years.  I know I certainly am.  While I'm not getting the exact sequel that I wanted in a game called New Super Mario Bros. 2, I'm still very pleased with this announcement.  Whenever Mario shows up for more fun, you know I'll be there.

Tale Of Failed Halo Movie Spotlights Amazing Greed

Halo: Combat EvolvedIf video games such as Tomb Raider, Mortal Kombat, and Resident Evil can become big budget semi-blockbuster Hollywood movies, then why not Microsoft's Halo?  It would seem that a Halo film backed by the biggest studios in the business would be a foregone conclusion, and while a movie based on the series was in the works several years ago with some major names attached to it, the project eventually imploded and everyone involved moved on.  What could cause a guaranteed moneymaker like Halo: The Movie to go unproduced?  Wired's Game|Life has a chapter from the new Generation Xbox: How Video Games Invaded Hollywood by Jamie Russell that explains how it all went wrong.  In one word: greed.  In two words: Microsoft's greed.

According to the New York Times, Microsoft were demanding creative approval over director and cast, plus 60 first-class plane tickets for Microsoft personnel and their guests to attend the premiere. It wouldn’t be putting any money into the production itself beyond the fee paid to Garland, nor was it willing to sign over the merchandising rights. To add insult to injury, Microsoft wanted the winning studio to pay to fly one of its representatives from Seattle to LA. They would watch every cut of the movie during post-production. Clearly, Microsoft was entering into negotiations brandishing a very big stick.

Microsoft believed that it had the Hollywood studios backed into a corner.  So used to getting its way, the company had the mistaken impression that it could walk into the movie world and start dictating outrageous terms. It's a shame to see how the project fell apart, but here's hoping that Microsoft learned a valuable lesson and that if it tries to launch a Halo film again in the future, it will do so with a bit more humility and a willingness to share.  I once knew a scriptwriter who told me that the movie-making process is an invitation to collaborate.  Creative people have to be able to leave their own small mark on the production.  Moreover, if Hollywood isn't paid its due to actually make and distribute the movie, then what is its motivation?  Art alone doesn't pay the bills, nor does creating art based on someone else's vision. 

God of War: Ascension Coming For PS3

God of War: AscensionIt's been a few years since the last non-compilation release for the God of War franchise, so we're due for a new title.  Sony has been teasing a Kratos-related reveal for a short while now, and while most expected to see news of God of War IV (possibly for the PlayStation Vita), instead today's announcement is for a new PlayStation 3 entry in the series entitled God of War: Ascension in which we journey with Kratos prior to his deal with Ares and servitude to the gods that fueled the majority of the franchise so far.  Here's the announcement trailer that features plenty of narration to set the stage and some stylized animation of Kratos enduring the usual pain and suffering:

The teaser trailer features narration indicating that this is yet another prequel in the series.  By my count that makes three prequels and three primary adventures.  Whenever I hear that a prequel to anything is in the works, I find myself wondering why if this story is so worth telling, why didn't it kick off the overall plot?  I tend to worry when a franchise goes to the prequel well too often, as it usually indicates that the storytellers behind it are running out of ideas.  Worse, we already know how the prequel story ends in that the ending of the prequel has to line up with the start of the franchise.  Sometimes prequels work better than they have any right.  Consider what J.J. Abrams and his team accomplished with 2009's Star Trek movie, for instance.  Despite taking the Star Trek universe back to a period before James Kirk was the captain of the Enterprise (and therefore interesting), the story was engaging and kept audiences guessing about what would happen next.  Then think about how poorly Star Trek: Enterprise wound up when it attempted to pencil in a revised history of the Federation with boring characters in a galaxy that apparently lacked wonder or interest.  Here's hoping that this early chapter of Kratos's story is actually worth telling and not just the result of Santa Monica Studios writing itself into a corner with the scorched earth ending of God of War III.  In short, Santa Monica: more J.J. Abrams, less Scott Bakula.

Not to pick on Scott Bakula, of course.  He did the best he could with the material he was given in Enterprise and was often the best part of that show.

Know Your Robot Masters With New Mega Man Field Guide

Mega Man Robot Master Field GuideDo you have difficulty telling a Wave Man and a Bubble Man apart?  What about an Air Man and a Wind Man?  How about an Elec Man and a Plug Man?  If you need to brush up on your Robot Master identification skills, then it's worth your while to look into the new Mega Man Robot Master Field Guide that offers artwork and brief biographies of all of Dr. Wily's killer creations (and then some) spanning the original Mega Man adventure through Mega Man 10 and everything in between.  The book hits stores today in most places in North America courtesy of UDON Entertainment (the same publisher that brought us other Mega Man artistic companion books including the fantastic Mega Man: Official Complete Works and Mega Man X: Official Complete Works).  There are a few sample pages at the UDON website for your perusal.  Capcom doesn't make renegade robots like these anymore.  No, seriously.  They don't.

Jordan Mechner Saves The Prince

Prince of PersiaIf you ever want to know why it's so important that video game history be preserved, ask Jordan Mechner.  The creator of the Prince of Persia series recently used up all of his remaining luck when he discovered the lost source code to the original Prince of Persia dating back to the 1980s on Apple II disks.   Now Mechner has told the complete story of how he rescued that obsolete data from the memory hole in a fascinating tale of archival drama.

I didn’t need the source code for anything; and it wasn’t as if POP had been lost to history — vintage Apple II POP copies (and their disk images) were widely available — but still, it bothered me to think that something I’d spent years working on was just gone. I felt dumb for not having kept a copy.

This was eight years ago. I gave up the search and forgot about it.

Until two weeks ago, when my Dad shipped me a carton of my stuff he’d found cleaning out the closets of his New York apartment. Inside was the source code archive I’d mislaid in 1990.

It's great news to hear that the original Prince of Persia source code has been preserved.  Other famous franchises aren't so lucky.  For instance, rumors persist that Capcom lost the source code to its Mega Man titles for the original Nintendo Game Boy.  Konami is missing lots of 1980s and early 1990s Castlevania artwork and related material thanks to earthquake damage.  Everyone involved with creating video games needs to make the extra effort to preserve valuable information.  Not everyone will be as lucky as Mechner down the line.

(Photo: Jordan Mechner)

Just Because You Can Port A Game Doesn't Mean You Should

Street Fighter IIVideo game developers have done some wonderful things when it comes to porting a popular title to less powerful hardware.  The Super NES version of Street Fighter II, for instance, is a remarkable take on the arcade original that manages to retain the core soul of the game despite the minor changes that were made for the sake of the home console's technical limitations.  Not all games are so lucky though.  Street Fighter II also wound up on the considerably less capable ZX Spectrum for some reason.  It's just one of a collection of games spotlighted by as the craziest attempts at porting popular titles.

The ZX Spectrum, the UK's favorite 8-bit microcomputer, somehow managed to stay alive for more than 10 years, regularly getting new published games into the early '90s. That includes one of the early '90s biggest hits, Street Fighter II. Compared to the prequel for DOS, SFII on Spectrum actually tries to look as close to the arcade game as usual despite being displayed in upwards of two colors and moving like a zoetrope animation. Surely no one bought and played this earnestly. Right? Even the Game Boy port was smoother.

Money was obviously a prime motivator in these projects, of course. Street Fighter II was huge when it was fresh and new, so if people would buy a ZX Specturm version of the game, why not sell it to them regardless of the actual quality?  Other titles on the list include Super Mario Bros. for the PC-8801, Double Dragon for the Atari 2600, Resident Evil 2 for the, and a Sega Genesis version of Duke Nukem 3D.  I'm surprised that the original handheld versions of Mortal Kombat from 1993 didn't make the cut.  I suppose that Pac-Man for the Atari 2600 has taken enough of a beating over the years.  There's also the Game Boy take on Earthworm Jim and the mess that was the Super NES version of the Aerosmith arcade game Revolution X to consider.  The list of curious decisions goes on and on.