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May 2012

Bowser Gets Wise


One of the unwritten rules of the Super Mario Bros. titles (heck, of any decent video game, really) is that the environments in which the protagonist finds him or herself be passable according to the game's internal logic.  If Mario can jump a maximum distance of X, then the bottomless pits that separate him from Princess Peach cannot be larger than X unless the game provides an alternate way of moving beyond the pit.  Over at Brawl in the Family we see what happens when Bowser fights dirty and tries to hold Mario back with an extra wide hole in the ground.  Just how resourceful is everyone's favorite plumber?  To what lengths will he go to save the princess?  And just how bottomless are those supposedly endlessly deep gaps?

Nintendo Wii U Controller Is Evolving!

Wii U

Nintendo debuted the tablet controller for its upcoming Wii U console at E3 last year, but we haven't seen the new input device since Los Angeles.  Now, thanks to an apparently careless tweet by a TT Games employee, we have our first look at the latest revision of the device.  The 3DSesque sliding circle pads from the original design have been replaced with proper control sticks, there are a few extra buttons scattered around, and a few other alterations have been made.  Polygon summarizes for us:

We can see that the "select" and "start" buttons have been moved just below the X-Y-A-B button cluster, presumably to make them easier to reach during gameplay. The microphone has been moved to the left of the "home" button, which now appears to sport a translucent ring of plastic around it. And those analog sticks now sit closer to the left and right edges of the tablet controller. The device also bears a Wii U logo on its face.

There's still plenty of time before the Wii U launches and more opportunities for the controller to change again in minor ways, but this iteration looks better than what we saw when the Wii U was unveiled (as far as I can tell from a quick photograph, anyway).  The Wii U controller I held at E3 last year had a pleasant weight and size to it, but did look like an early stab at a product.  A little refinement was clearly necessary and we're seeing that happening here, but I wouldn't be surprised if little details changed again slightly before the controller ships.  I would hope that it's complete as far as basic features and capabilities go.  Developers that have to aim at ever-moving targets have added challenges to meet beyond creating a launch window title for new hardware.  The pressure is immense enough as it is without Nintendo swapping features in and out up until the metaphorical eleventh hour.

Metroid/Star Fox Crossover Title Might Be A Thing

Metroid and Star Fox

Nintendo needs a major tentpole title to kick off the Wii U's launch, and I have a feeling that it'll take something more than just Wii U Sports or infusing Miis into New Super Mario Bros. to draw in the core crowds.  It's easy to make the case why the company needs a new Metroid adventure and a new Star Fox shooter, but how would you pitch one game that brings in both franchises?  Rumor has it that Retro Studios (of Metroid Prime and Donkey Kong Country Returns fame) fame is or was working on a Metroid / Star Fox crossover title for the Wii U that brings Fox McCloud and Samus Aran together for a common cause.  Take this with massive piles of salt as it's unconfirmed, but the idea is so crazily wonderful that I had to share it.  Paul Gale Network has the story.

The story begins as you control Fox McCloud and the Star Fox team on deep space mission in your Arwing, flying through a Meteos-like stage. As you enter a light speed warp, there’s a collision with an orange ship (Samus’) and the game continues with you now plummeting to a planet as Samus in her craft. You’re in mild control of her ship, using the Wii U controller to look around and touch screen press the lit up buttons to prepare for impact (while the TV stays locked on what you see out of the cockpit). You’re now on land, as a “yet again” stripped down Samus Aran with the most basic of weapon abilities, in first person perspective, traversing through this unknown planet.

The game switches off between intense Arwing space and planetary battles as Fox makes his way to the planet that Samus crashed on and a Metroid Prime-like experience of gameplay as Samus on this planet, gradually uncovering its mysteries, leveling up, etc. The Star Fox stages represent what the series is best known for, including the chatter and coming to the aid of the rest of your team, all range mode battles, and on rails stages. The Metroid part of the game puts you alone, void of human or any talking character contact, and like the Prime series, sees you gaining upgrades, battling bosses, and in this case, repairing your ship.

PGN points out that this idea may not be in development and perhaps never left the pitch stage.  That's a convenient way to dodge backing up any of this with evidence, but Kotaku points out that PGN has nailed a few long-shot rumors that turned out to be real.  Even if this isn't a real game in the works, perhaps the Internet can make it happen through collective optimism.  As for the idea itself, mixing Nintendo's two space-based bounty hunting franchises seems like a no-brainer of an idea.  I trust Retro Studios to bring new ideas to the experience as it pays tribute to the solid underpinnings of each series and includes the appropriate nods to nostalgia.  Best of all, since the storyline involves Andross attempting to harness the power of the Metroids for his own evil uses, I want to see the moment where he loses control of the parasites and he's forced to come crawling to the Star Fox team for help.  There's plenty of potential in this crossover idea.  Let's see if any of it comes to fruition.

An Introduction To Doctor Who: The Eternity Clock

The Doctor and River Song are headed to the Sony PlayStation 3, PlayStation Vita, and PC very soon in Doctor Who: The Eternity Clock.  As the PS3 version is launching next week, developer Supermassive Games is releasing a series of developer diaries to promote the product and raise fan interest.  This first installment serves as an introduction to the game and shows a little of the action as our heroes are pursued by Daleks and wander around two different versions of England.  River's famous spoiler-filled diary is on display, as is The Doctor's hat collection.  The Eternity Clock looks like it turned out alright and I'm looking forward to playing the finished version next week.  After all, we have a while to wait before the Doctor Who television series returns to our screens, so this might be a nice tide-me-over during the long wait.

Musical Journey To White Park

Sega's recently released Sonic the Hedgehog 4: Episode IIfor the Sony PlayStation 3, Microsoft Xbox 360, PC, and mobile devices is turning some heads with its improved take on attempting to match the Sega Genesis highs of the original beloved Sonic titles, but not everything in this latest adventure copies from the early 1990s.  Consider the music from White Park, Act 2 that starts out with a mildly catchy original piece before delightfully transitioning into a snippet of the Pleasure Castle / Twinkle Park theme from 1999's Sonic Adventure.  Its inclusion is a fun surprise for those of us who logged plenty of hours on Sonic's first real 3D adventure, and the more that I play White Park, the more that I find myself waiting for the Twinkle Park piece to repeat.  "Ooh, here it comes again!"

Power Button Presents Kombo Breaker - Episode 54: Nintendo's 2009 In Review And Looking Ahead With Nintendo World Report's Jonathan Metts

Power Button Presents Kombo BreakerAs 2009 came to a close, we at Kombo Breaker devoted the last few weeks of the year to looking back on the year that was on a major hardware producer by major hardware producer basis. The first installment of this three-part series saw us turn our attention to Nintendo's popular Wii and DS systems to discuss the best and worst in news, announcements, and games. Jonathan Metts of Nintendo World Report joins us as we discuss the potential of Super Mario Galaxy 2 & Metroid: Other M, the baffling properties of the Wii Vitality Sensor, how much Lux-Pain hurt us all, and why the really great underrated third-party Wii games are being smothered by cheap shovelware.  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 54: Nintendo's 2009 In Review And Looking Ahead With Nintendo World Report's Jonathan Metts

Capcom Rethinking Its Unpopular On-Disc DLC Practices

Street Fighter X TekkenCapcom has not been a popular publisher lately.  Among other reasons, part of the community's dissatisfaction stems from the company's habit of fencing significant chunks of a game's content off as paid downloadable content, yet including that content on the game disc itself.  While Capcom has explained its reasons for locking content behind on-disc paywalls and has stubbornly stuck to its guns on the issue, new information suggests that management is rethinking the unpopular practice.  Here's the word straight from Capcom's Senior Vice Presdient, Christian Svensson:

We've been getting several questions, here and elsewhere about the future of on-disc DLC.  We would like to assure you that we have been listening to your comments and as such have begun the process of re-evaluating how such additional game content is delivered in the future. As this process has only just commenced in the past month or so, there will be some titles, where development began some time ago and that are scheduled for release in the coming months, for which we are unable to make changes to the way some of their post release content is delivered.

I'm glad to see that Capcom is actually listening to community feedback.  I don't necessarily mean the kind of feedback that is expressed via e-mail, Twitter, and message forums, of course.  I'm talking about monetary feedback: the recent Street Fighter X Tekken apparently didn't hit sales projections, and of course that game seems to be the worst offender in the world of paid on-disc DLC.  Capcom needs to rethink how it supports its products and should go back to providing whole experiences at launch.  Let the DLC compliment the product, not complete it.  Customers are tired of being burned by this sort of thing and I doubt that Capcom will see a turnaround until they stop cutting out 40% or so of the total experience to sell later for an additional charge.

Saints Row 4 Probably Coming Sooner Than We Expected

Professor GenkiConsidering that the Saints Row franchise is THQ's only profitable original property at this point, it's not a surprise that the financially imperiled publisher is eager to crank out as many profitable releases as it can.  Saints Row: The Third: Enter the Dominatrix is already confirmed for later this year as something of a Saints Row 3.5, and now Kotaku has word that one of the key artists for the franchise is already working on Saints Row 4 for the Sony PlayStation 3, Microsoft Xbox 360, and PC.

According to a Linkedin profile discovered by Superannuation, David "3DS Max" Payne has been doing art of the Saints Row series since the second game, including the recent smash hit Saints Row 3 and it's upcoming standalone expansion, Enter the Dominatrix. So whatever this Saints Row 4 he lists as a current project on his profile is, it's a new thing.

We all knew that Saints Row 4 was coming eventually, but I'm curious as to just when we'll see it.  Is THQ planning on following the Assassin's Creed model of annual release?  Is Dominatrix essentially Saints Row Brotherhood?  Will Saints Row 4 be an actual full sequel or more of a Saints Row Revelations?  Here's hoping that THQ stays in business long enough for us to find out.  I loved the action and crazy humor in the original Saints Row: The Third, so as long as the quality level stays consistent, I'm happy to buy yearly installments.  If the franchise falls into the trap of cranking out quickie cash-grab releases to punch up earnings reports, however, I'm out.

Box Art Wars

Box Art Wars

It's no secret that video game publishers redesign the artwork that graces the covers of their products depending on region.  For instance, while Kirby appears as a cute little puffball on Japanese box art, he becomes a furious force of pink nature in North America.  Artwork is changed to supposedly appease and appeal to the target market in question and it's open to interpretation which regions end up with the better artwork.  Over at Box vs Box, Diego and Ashley are chronicling box art variations from the past and present with comparisons of the covers of games such as Mass Effect, Super Smash Bros., Streets of Rage, Ico, Bubble Bobble, and many more.  You'll see some familiar faces and a few obscure titles in what proves to be an interesting but brief walk through box art history.  Just for fun, keep a count of how many angry eyebrows you find.

(Image via Reddit)

Weekly Poll: Games For Rent

Weekly Poll for 5-8-2012Most of you would pass on Microsoft's subsidized Xbox 360 offer with its two-year contract.  I'm the type of person that likes to outright own electronics whenever it's financially possible, and while there's no way I'd throw down $600 on a non-contract Apple iPhone, I would spend money on a game console just to pay for it once and then never have to pay for it again.  Part of that has to do with planned obsolescence and available upgrades.  Apple expects its customers to buy a new iPhone with every new annual iteration, but with a game console I know that I have five or more years ahead of me with the same set of hardware.  I'm also not a fan of adding more monthly bills to the list of things of which I have to keep track every month.  I'm glad that the $99 Xbox 360 is out there for those who need the option, but I'll stick with paying for gaming hardware in one lump sum.

Let's shift gears from buying games to renting them.  When it comes to video game rentals, how do you temporarily acquire your chosen titles?  Do you wait for new titles to arrive by mail?  Do you hit your local kiosk while running other errands?  Do you relish the twentieth century experience of going to a local store of some sort that specializes in media rentals?  Let's hear your thoughts.