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May 2012

Pikmin 2 For Wii Headed To North America At Last

Pikmin 2Considering that many Wii owners missed out on some impressive and fun titles from the previous generation, Nintendo decided to release a series of GameCube titles with the Wii's motion controls grafted on to them under the banner "New Play Control!" back in 2009 to fill a few holes in its release calendar. Classic games such as Mario Power Tennis, Pikmin, and Donkey Kong Jungle Beat were given Wii makeovers to expose them to a new audience. Unfortunately, some of the titles in the line went unreleased in North America. Now, three years later, Nintendo has decided to bring Captain Olimar back to the Wii. The neglected Pikmin 2 will arrive for Wii in North America this June according to a recent Nintendo Power article, and Polygon has an official confirmation of release along with price cut news for other Nintendo-published Wii titles. Wired's Game|Life has the cynical reasoning behind the timing of this release.

Cynics will say that Nintendo is just digging through the Wii library in order to have something, anything, on shelves for the Wii’s dying moments. It’s also building brand awareness in preparation for Pikmin 3‘s unveiling at E3 2012.

Any reason is better than none, I say. We always see Nintendo's top in-house developers shift focus to the next generation of hardware before the current generation is technically over, and considering that most everyone at the company is hard at work on Wii U titles now, there aren't any new Wii games in the pipeline that are worth pursuing. Dusting off a neglected release like Pikmin 2 at least keeps the lights on even if nobody's home. If Nintendo wants to keep the Wii train moving for these last few months, there are still a few more games that could see new life with minimal work. Chibi Robo is another of the New Play Control! titles that was not released in North America. Why not bring it out? Better yet, how about slapping the original Metroid and sequel Super Metroid into the discontinued Metroid Prime Trilogy and rebrand it as the Metroid Anniversary Collection to mark the twenty-fifth anniversary of the release of the original game in North America? I know that would make plenty of Samus Aran fans happy.

Ratchet: Deadlocked Coming To PS3 As Well

Ratchet: DeadlockedSony announced the upcoming arrival of the Ratchet and Clank Collection for its PlayStation 3 back in March in which three of the beloved lombax's adventures from the PlayStation 2 era will be given high definition makeovers in the spirit of similar upgrades to games like God of War and Sly CooperRatchet and Clank, Ratchet and Clank: Going Commando, and Ratchet and Clank: Up Your Arsenal are all on the way for the PS3 later this year, but what of the fourth PS2 Ratchet title, Ratchet: Deadlocked?  As it turns out, the unconventional sequel hasn't been forgotten.  Siliconera reports that Ratchet's solo outing is headed to the PS3 as well, but as a downloadable PlayStation Network exclusive.

Where’s Ratchet: Deadlocked, the fourth PS2 game? On PlayStation Network. Sony Computer Entertainment Japan announced the same package under the name Ratchet & Clank 1+2+3 The Strongest in the Galaxy Gorgeous Pack slated for summer and Ratchet: Deadlocked as a 1,000 yen ($13) PSN game.

When the Collection was announced, original Ratchet developer Insomniac Games promised something special in the box.  My guess/assumption/hope is that that bonus is a voucher / online pass component that is worth a free download of Deadlocked.  Here's hoping that the online multiplayer mode will be included in this upgraded release.  More value for one's money is always appreciated.

The Return Of Cave Johnson

Cave JohnsonValve's Portal 2 for the PC, Mac, Sony PlayStation 3, and Microsoft Xbox 360 had plenty of outstanding and memorable moments, but Aperture Science founder Cave Johnson's bizarre and insane ramblings were the highlight of the experience.  Cave's prerecorded presence was missing from the first Portal 2 downloadable expansion, but he's all over the latest PC DLC, the Perpetual Testing Initiative level editor package.  Here we have twenty-five minutes of new Cave Johnson announcements from the level editor expansion.  The twist?  Cave Johnson has hit the multiverse, providing us with a listen to a variety of Johnsons from parallel universes.  You'll hear from Cave Johnson the Hobo King, the Cave Johnson that invented the first half man / half robot police officer, the Cave Johnson that's fleeing an attack from the mantis men, a resurrected Cave Johnson who loves Ghostbusters, the Cave Johnson who is host to a tiny demon that lives in his mouth, the Cave Johnson who has bought rival Black Mesa, and many more.  Actor J.K. Simmons turns in another all-star performance that only proves that it's impossible to have too much Cave Johnson.

Don't Rent Max Payne 3 From Redbox For Xbox 360

Max Payne 3Redbox has made a splash in the video game rental pond by offering games for the Microsoft Xbox 360, Sony PlayStation 3, and Nintendo Wii in its ubiquitous red kiosks next to the DVDs and Blu-ray discs, but a recent discovery by The Consumerist casts a warning out to anyone planning on renting the Xbox 360 version of Rockstar's upcoming Max Payne 3.  As it turns out, the Xbox 360 version of the game is split across two discs, and Redbox has decided to only rent Disc One in its kiosks.  You won't be able to finish the single-player storyline if you rely on Redbox.  Here is an official statement from the company regarding the matter:

Redbox kiosks are only equipped to rent out one disc per rental fee. Since customer feedback has told us that many of our game customers like to test out titles before they buy them, we've decided to offer Disc 1 of Max Payne 3 for Xbox 360 so that renters can try it out for a low daily rate. Disc 1 contains the entire online multiplayer mode and the first half of the extremely substantial single-player game. We think that's a great deal for just a couple of dollars a day, and we're excited to offer it! We've added a message on the website and on kiosk screens to let renters know about the limited game-playing.

Note that the PS3 version of the game fits on a single Blu-ray disc, so Redbox kiosks will offer that.  Blockbuster is not renting the Xbox 360 version of the game at all.  Believe it or not, offering an incomplete game is actually a step up for Redbox.  The Consumerist notes that the service does not commonly rent multi-disc Xbox 360 games, yet has chosen to offer the first half of Max Payne 3.  As long as the fact that the service offers only half of the game is clearly marked at the kiosk and on the Redbox website (which it is), I don't see any harm in renting just the first disc.  If Redbox wants to pass on the potential rental revenue for this release, then that's their call.  Likewise, people are free to pass on the deal if it's not to their liking.  There are alternatives.  GameFly, for instance, rents both Max Payne 3 discs.  That's not a solution for everyone, but at least it shows that it's possible to rent multi-disc games.

Assassin's Creed III Is Looking Good

Ubisoft has unveiled a nifty new trailer for the upcoming Assassin's Creed III for the Sony PlayStation, Microsoft Xbox 360, and other platforms that shows plenty of the game in action.  Watch as Assassin protagonist Connor soliloquizes about the nature of being an outsider, thirsts for liberty, lashes out at the hated British, deals with a bear, runs through someone's house in what I'm choosing to believe is a fun nod to Ferris Bueller's Day Off, scampers across tree branches, and performs many more action-packed stunts.  The disclaimer at the start of the trailer warns that this is all pre-alpha footage (so we're supposed to make the assumption that for as awesome as this all is, the finished product will be orders of magnitude better), but I like what I see of this so far.  All that's missing is the scene where Connor returns to his home one evening to find Nick Fury waiting to tell him about the Avengers Initiative.  Assassin's Creed III is due out on October 30.

Nintendo Cuts Prices Of DSi, DSi XL

Nintendo DSiThose in the market for a new Nintendo handheld system have had a curious choice to make in recent months: pay $149.99 for a Nintendo DSi which can play DS games and DSiWare downloadable titles or pay twenty dollars more and get a Nintendo 3DS for $169.99 which plays the aforementioned games plus 3DS titles, Virtual Console games, eShop exclusives, and more.  Why not pay the extra money and keep up with current technology and releases?  The DSi has been primed for a price cut down to "kid's first handheld" range for a while now, and starting May 20, Nintendo is going to make it happen.  You'll be able to pick up a new DSi for $99.99.  The system's larger cousin, the DSi XL, drops to $129.99.  Here's some of Nintendo's press release:

Both the Nintendo DSi and Nintendo DSi XL systems come pre-loaded with a variety of fun software, including Flipnote Studio, Nintendo DSi Camera and Nintendo DSi Sound. Nintendo DSi XL comes with additional pre-installed games and applications, including Brain Age Express: Arts & Letters, Brain Age Express: Math and Photo Clock.

The new suggested retail prices provide an even greater incentive to pick up the systems, and provide an easy option for parents who want to introduce younger kids to their first portable games.

Suddenly the comparatively less capable DSi is sitting in the impulse buy range for those missing out on Nintendo handheld goodness.  Outgoing hardware always becomes budget priced as it begins its final lap around the retail track, and with the 3DS finding its feet at last, Nintendo seems ready to start to bid farewell to last generation's handheld juggernaut.  The original DS library has plenty of classics that a first-time owner should explore including Super Mario 64 DS, New Super Mario Bros., The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass, Kirby Canvas Curse, Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars, all three Castlevania titles, Mario Kart DS, Chrono Trigger, the two Mario & Luigi adventures, and so many more.  Stock up now on cheap evergreen titles before they go out of print for good.

Asura Finds A Worthy Opponent In Street Fighter Crossover

Capcom's Asura's Wrath for the Sony PlayStation 3 and Microsoft Xbox 360 faced some heavy criticism earlier this year when those who bought the game discovered that much of the storyline was held over for post-release paid downloadable content.  However, it looks like the company has come up with an intriguing hook to entice reluctant fans to spring for a little extra storyline.  The new Lost Episodes chronicle the events of Street Fighter's popular Ryu crossing over into Asura's domain for a friendly sparring match.  Of course, nothing about Asura is friendly, and it isn't long before the fight escalates and another famous Street Fighter character enters the fray as a tease for the next expansion.  Two dollars will get you all the Ryu you can handle in this fantastic tribute to Super Street Fighter IVShoryuken has recorded the first of the Lost Episodes for your viewing pleasure if, like me, all you want to do is watch and not necessarily play.

Weekly Poll: The Long-Term Xbox 360 Commitment

Weekly Poll for 4-30-2012An overwhelming majority of you out there would prefer to buy your Nintendo 3DS games as physical boxed releases rather than through digital distribution.  I, too, love a good shelf packed with plastic cases.  I'm also not comfortable with Nintendo's restriction that purchased downloads are only tied to the original 3DS unit that was used to buy the game in question and not to a master user account.  I go along with that policy when buying Virtual Console games and other small titles like Pushmo because there is no other way to acquire that content, but given the choice between a cartridge and a download, I'll take a cartridge every time. 

Speaking of changes to traditional sales models, Microsoft has launched a pilot program through its own retail stores that offers the Xbox 360 and a Kinect for a low price of $99 up front, but buying the bundle at this price locks the buyer into a two-year contract that costs $15 per month.  Assuming you were in the market for a new Xbox 360, would this offer appeal to you?  Are you comfortable with installment plans?  Or would you rather buy the package in full and own it outright from the start?  Let's hear your thoughts.  For more on this issue, be sure to listen to Episode 80 of Power Button in which Brad Hilderbrand and I discuss the matter and how it stands to impact the future of digital entertainment.

Power Button - Episode 80: $99 Xbox 360 Ushers In The Next Step In Living Room Domination (Plus: Brad On Tap At The NFL Draft)

Power ButtonWhen Microsoft fires the latest salvo in the War of the Living Room Entertainment Options, you know that the Power Button crew will be there to comment on the carnage.  On this week's episode of the podcast, Brad Hilderbrand and I discuss Microsoft's new plan to allow prospective Xbox 360 owners to pay for the console on an installment plan that comes tied to a two-year contract.  That conversation spins off into a deeper look at how our entertainment options are changing as Netflix, Hulu, HBO Go, and other streaming video services continue to evolve.  After a break, the video game podcast temporarily becomes a sports podcast as Brad fills us in on his recent trip to New York to attend the NFL draft and announcement of the cover athlete for Madden NFL 13.  Find out how David Letterman factors into his adventure (and hear the story that Electronic Arts doesn't want you to know!).  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 80: $99 Xbox 360 Ushers In The Next Step In Living Room Domination (Plus: Brad On Tap At The NFL Draft)

$99 Down, $15 A Month Gets You A New Xbox 360

Xbox 360 with KinectTaking a lead from the cellular phone market, Microsoft has brought its Xbox 360 console into the world of subsidized pricing.  Starting today for as long as the company wants to offer the deal, you can walk into your local Microsoft Store and buy a new Xbox 360 with a 4 GB hard drive and a Kinect with Xbox Live Gold and a two-year warranty for a mere $99 as long as you commit to paying $15 per month for the next two years.  Polygon crunches the numbers and warns of that lingering demon of the contract world: early termination fees.

Overall, this bundle will cost $458.76 over the course of two years (before taxes), as compared to a $299 bundle bought outright, plus two years at $59.99 per year for Xbox Live Gold, which can often be found at a discount — so while you'll save some money off the bat by signing that contract, you'll actually spend a little more over the course of the two years.

There's a few more details in the fine print: customers who pass the credit check will have 30 days to return their console for a full refund, though the first month's subscription fee is nonrefundable. That pesky early termination fee starts at $250 in months one through three, drops to $240 in month four, and drops by $12 every month following.

While this offer costs a little more more in the long run, those who are unable to afford a Xbox 360 at the full retail price but can handle a smaller upfront fee plus the monthly payment might find something of value here.  Microsoft wants to bring the Xbox into living rooms everywhere as an Apple TV or Roku competitor in addition to competing with the Sony PlayStation 3.  Bringing the barrier to entry down as low as financially feasible helps to bring the otherwise comparatively expensive hardware on par with similar entertainment offerings.  While it makes more sense to outright buy the Xbox and Gold service if one can afford it, there is value to the installment plan for a portion of the prospective Xbox audience.  Even if you're against installment plans, this Xbox offer makes much more sense than renting to own, say, a Xbox 360 from your local rental business and paying double or triple the worth of just the console itself in interest/installment fees by the time the agreement is up.  For more on buying a Xbox 360 on an installment plan, don't miss Episode 80 of the Power Button podcast in which Brad Hilderbrand and I discuss why this pricing model makes sense and how it could tip the scales in Microsoft's favor in the present and future media wars.