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September 2012

Let's Visit A Secret Arcade Featuring F-Zero AX

The Game Station

While the Nintendo/Sega co-production of F-Zero GX for the Nintendo GameCube is well known and beloved for its intense difficulty and flashy sense of speed, few fans of Captain Falcon's last racing adventure have played the game's arcade counterpart, F-Zero AX, and experienced its unique tracks and cars.  Most intriguingly, AX machines feature a slot for GameCube memory cards that can write AX data for use with the home GX version.  Given enough time, skill, and money, it's possible to unlock the entire set of AX elements for play in GX.  Here's how the official F-Zero AX website describes the functionality:

 By inserting your Nintendo GameCube Memory Card into the appropriate slot in the F-Zero AX arcade unit, you can take any of the F-Zero GX machines stored in your garage (including your custom machines, complete with emblems) for a spin on the AX courses.  
With your Memory Card in the
F-Zero AX arcade unit, you'll receive 20 tickets (to use in F-Zero GX) every time you play. The AX vehicle that you're using will also be downloadable automatically to your Memory Card so you can use it in your GX game. If you're racing a custom machine built with an F-Zero License Card, theparts that make up the machine will be downloaded to your Memory Card instead.

It's understandable why I've been searching for F-Zero AX for so long: there's another F-Zero game locked up inside my copy of GX and I have to set it free!  For the past nine years I've chased the ghost of F-Zero AX around my home state of Florida in a desperate attempt to locate one of the few working AX machines in North America (online apocrypha pegs the exact number at somewhere between twenty and six depending on the age of the source).  Rumors and aged forum postings led me to the alleged homes of arcades that featured AX, but I was always too late.  Running down AX rumors has led me to the site of a new highway that was built atop a former arcade, to a vacant building full of dust and debris, and to, seriously, an actual crater crammed with the remains of a demolished building.  Just when it seemed that playing F-Zero AX was one of those gaming goals I'd never achieve, I learned about a small arcade tucked away where I'd never expected.  Last week I decided to investigate and see if the stories were true, so I hit the highway and made the drive down the long stretches of expressways, local roads, and finally little unmarked service drives.  Friends, I'm happy to say that I finally found F-Zero AX.

Continue reading "Let's Visit A Secret Arcade Featuring F-Zero AX" »

Power Button Presents Kombo Breaker - Episode 35: Peggle Is Like Weapons-Grade Heroin... For Your THUMBS!

Power Button Presents Kombo BreakerThis classic episode of Kombo Breaker finds Brad Hilderbrand, Joey Davidson, and I welcoming Garth Chouteau of PopCap Games to discuss the origin and process behind the famed Peggle, Zuma, and Plants vs Zombies games which were PC titles at the time of this episode's air date (July 10, 2009), but of course today they're on just about every modern gaming platform out there.  Spend forty minute with us as we talk about the then-future of the company's products, which consoles are next in line for ports of their PC hits, and even the whole core/casual dichotomy.  Oh, and don't miss the bit where Garth remarks that he wouldn't expect to see PopCap games on smartphones.  My, how the times have changed!  However, the industry still has a long way to go.  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 35: Peggle Is Like Weapons-Grade Heroin... For Your THUMBS!

It's Time For A Groovy Funk Break

I hate to be the one to tell you this, but your day is not yet funky enough.  You need to groove to the video game cover band The One-Ups as they perform a funkadelic rendition of the familiar theme from Sega's classic Genesis title, ToeJam and Earl.  This cut off the band's new album, Intergalactic Continuum, is in good company alongside performances of tunes from games such as Battletoads, Double Dragon, Final Fantasy VII, Angry Birds, God of War II, The Legend of Zelda, and beyond.  Check it out and don't be afraid to sway if the mood strikes you.

Assassin's Creed And Mass Effect Compilations Coming Soon

Assassin’s Creed Ezio TrilogyIf you've dragged your feet on any of the Mass Effect or Assassin's Creed games from the past few years and are looking to catch up, then Electronic Arts and Ubisoft have deals for you.  EA and Bioware have announced the release of the Mass Effect Trilogy for the PC and Microsoft Xbox 360 which bundles all three titles in the series together in one package for $59.99.  The set is due out on November 7, but more interesting is the additional announcement that the Trilogy is also coming to the Sony PlayStation 3 at a future date to be announced.  This release marks the first PS3 release of the original Mass Effect (the two sequels have been around for PS3 for a while now).

Not to be outdone, Ubisoft and Sony have teamed up to produce the Assassin’s Creed Ezio Trilogy consisting of Assassin's Creed II (including the Bonfire of the Vanities and Battle of Forli expansions), Assassin's Creed Brotherhood, and Assassin's Creed Revelations.  Releasing exclusively for the PS3 on November 13 for $39.99, this set marks an excellent opportunity to catch up on the exploits of protagonist Ezio Audiore.  There's so much content in this set that by the time you finish it, the upcoming Assassin's Creed III will probably be available in a discounted Game of the Year edition.

As I've said previously, as this generation of consoles starts to come to a close, it's prime time for publishers to bundle their biggest titles at a discount for one more lap around the track before the next generations of Xbox and PlayStation launch and suddenly turn all of these solid titles into yesterday's news.  Mass Effect isn't my thing, but I definitely recommend the Assassin's Creed titles (especially at a discounted price!). 

Mini-Review: The Simpsons Game (Wii)

The Simpsons Game

This article was originally published at on November 14, 2007.

When the instruction manual for The Simpsons Game lands at Bart Simpson's feet he discovers that his entire world is actually a video game. Using his new amazing video game powers, Bart runs amok through Springfield and eventually shares the manual with his family. Just a everything seems to be winding down, aliens Kang and Kodos invade the planet. It's up to the Simpsons to use their awesome new powers to save the world, and in the process they'll meet famous gaming heroes, explore other video games, and even encounter creator Matt Groening himself.

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Nintendo Wii U Launch Titles Announced

New Super Mario Bros. UWith the launch of the Nintnedo Wii U less than two months away, people with plans to buy the new console in town are starting to get excited.  New toys are coming!  Even if you're not taking the Wii U plunge right away, it's difficult to not be swept up in the excitement.  Today Nintendo is fanning those excitement flames with its official list of titles that will launch alongside the Wii U on November 18 in North America.  Here's what the first wave of Wii U owners will be able to pick up come launch day:

  • Assassin's Creed III
  • Batman: Arkham City Armored Edition
  • Call of Duty Black Ops 2
  • Darksiders 2
  • Disney Epic Mickey 2: The Power of Two
  • EA Sports FIFA Soccer 13
  • ESPN Sports Connection
  • Game Party Champions
  • Just Dance 4
  • New Super Mario Bros. U
  • Ninja Gaiden 3: Razor's Edge
  • Nintendo Land
  • Rabbids Land
  • Scribblenauts Unlimited
  • Skylanders Giants
  • Sing Party
  • Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed
  • Tekken Tag Tournament 2 Wii U Edition
  • Transformers Prime
  • Warriors Orochi 3 Hyper
  • Wipeout 3
  • Your Shape: Fitness Evolved 2013
  • ZombiU

There's something for everyone in there with plenty of core and casual titles to keep players busy.  Titles that you may expect to see such as Mass Effect 3 and Rayman Legends are part of the nebulous launch window that extends through the end of March 2013, so don't fret if you don't see your most wanted Wii U game on the list.  Twenty-three launch titles for a Nintendo console just blows my mind.  I remember a time when the Super NES launched in North America with just five games available.  The Nintendo 64 hit stores with just two titles in tow!  It was months before we were able to play something besides Super Mario 64 and Pilotwings 64.  Look down at the likes of Sing Party and Your Shape: Fitness Evolved 2013 if you want, but at least there's plenty of support for the Wii U.

It's Gaming Gold Box And Lightning Deal Day At Amazon

Buy somethin' will ya!OK, so, the last few all-gaming big Gold Box and Lightning Deal sale days were rather lackluster, but today's selection of sale items from the world of video games promises to pick up the pace and make you part with a little money in the name of entertainment.  The online retailer has Madden NFL 13 for the Microsoft Xbox 360 and Sony PlayStation 3 on sale all day long for just $39.99, while other offers coming and going throughout the day include Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon: Future Soldier, Sleeping Dogs, LEGO Batman 2: DC Superheroes, and an assortment of accessories including controllers and headsets.  Now that's how to hold a sale!  Any purchase made via the green link above goes to help support PTB which, as always, is extremely appreciated.

Sony Pledges PlayStation 3 Support Through 2015

Sony PlayStation 3While the company has yet to make any actual announcements, we all know that Sony's next PlayStation home console is in the works.  Surely the PlayStation 3's days are numbered with the coming of the next big thing, right?  Not necessarily.  Over at GameSpot, PlayStation Vice President of Hardware Marketing John Koller explains that the company plans to keep PS3 support coming through at least 2015 and is looking to turn the current flagship PlayStation into next generation's PlayStation 2.

We're going to continue supporting the PS3 for the next few years. Absolutely. And we're going to continue supporting it not only that long, but as long as there is a development spigot that's running hot. And I can tell you right now, the development spigot for PS3 is very hot. A lot of great games coming. Same thing with PS2…it's kind of stuck around as that old warrior, many years after its launch. But there's still games launching for it.

While I'm happy to see the PS3 stick around for as long as possible, there is a key difference between the PS2's afterlife and the PS3's eventual retirement.  Sony could walk away from the PS2 right now and little would change, but if Sony ever turns off PlayStation Network support for the PS3, so many key services and functions would become inoperable.  PlayStation Store downloads, online multiplayer modes, content streaming services, and so much more would cease to be on the PS3 platform.  While the connected age greatly expands the scope of what consoles can do and we're all better off with options like Netflix integration, turning off that connectivity as part of a planned obsolescence plan severely hampers what one can do.  It's going to be a sad day when I turn on my PS3 and am greeted with a permanent error message that the console cannot find the PlayStation Network.

Mario Is Not A Real Doctor And Other Revelations

KoopalingsDon't waste Nintendo's famed producer Shigeru Miyamoto's time with pointless questions about the future of the Wii U and where the Nintendo 3DS will go in 2013.  He's not going to reveal corporate secrets and strategies.  However, the sky is the limit for asking fun character questions that don't really matter.  I guess that's why Game Informer sat down with him and developer Takashi Tezuka to ask about topics such as Mario's full name, the paternity of the Koopalings, why the football-oriented Chargin' Chuck throws baseballs, and whether or not Dr. Mario is really a true doctor.

GI: In Super Mario Bros. 3, the Koopalings were supposed to be Bowser's children. But there's also Bowser Jr. Are they all his kids, and are they all from different mothers? Is Bowser Jr. a Koopaling?

SM: Our current story is that the seven Koopalings are not Bowser's children. Bowser's only child is Bowser Jr., and we do not know who the mother is.

Whoa, hold on; wait a moment!  The Koopalings aren't actually Bowser's children?  I have official instruction manuals from the 1990s that state otherwise!  Rather that fall down the rabbit hole that ponders who the kids' father is (let alone the long-questioned mother), I think we'll find the explanation for this change in another question asked during the course of the interview.

GI: Time and again, Bowser kidnaps Peach. Why do Mario and Peach still race go-karts and play tennis with him?

SM: If you're familiar with things like Popeye and some of the old comic characters, you would oftentimes see this cast of characters that takes on different roles depending on the comic or cartoon. They might be businessman in one [cartoon] or a pirate in another. Depending on the story that was being told, they would change roles. So, to a certain degree, I look at our characters in a similar way and feel that they can take on different roles in different games. It's more like they're one big family, or maybe a troupe of actors.

If we look at things from the perspective that the beloved Mario characters are all actors suited to filling whatever role is required, then specific character relationships don't matter.  The characters can be whomever or whatever Miyamoto and his teams need them to be.  This may also explain why Birdo's gender has changed over the years, why Donkey Kong is both a friend and a foe depending on the storyline, why characters lose certain capabilities across appearances, and basically any other unexplained oddity of the Mario world: it's all up for grabs, none of it is written in stone, and we should just go with whatever a game establishes until a later game rewrites it.  Essentially, Miyamoto told Game Informer, "Wait, you guys are all taking this stuff seriously?"  Kind of, yes.  It's fun for fans to overthink these sorts of topics from time to time (and that goes for any franchise across genres and mediums).

Weekly Poll: The Grind

Weekly Poll for 9-17-2012A small majority of you out there are not buying (or not trying to buy) a Nintendo Wii U this year.  As I've said elsewhere, I'm holding off as well.  I'm not going to rehash my previous comments (listen to Episode 86 of Power Button to hear it all), but I will say that I do still want to eventually get a Wii U, but it will have to wait until there's more than just one game available that I want to play.  I know those games are coming and the console will still be there when they do.

Moving on, I've been playing a lot of classic Ratchet & Clank games lately as part of the Ratchet & Clank Collection for the Sony PlayStation 3, and in each game I eventually run into the same progress-halting wall: I need more bolts.  Bolts are the universal Ratchet currency, and despite my best efforts at shooting and smashing every enemy and bolt-awarding item I encounter, as the game starts to wind down I come across one more weapon or item that I need to properly finish that costs more bolts that I've managed to collect throughout the entire adventure.  That leads me to backtrack and replay completed levels just to earn more bolts.  Eventually it becomes a chore.  This sort of level grinding can be a chore in some games, but a joy in others.  I ask you: in general, how do you feel about level grinding?  Let's hear your thoughts.