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January 2013

Amazon Brings The Gaming Lightning Deals Again

Buy somethin' will ya!Can we just consider Amazon's habit of running special gaming-only deals through its a Gold Box and Lightning Deals offerings a monthly event yet?  The company seems to get a lot of mileage out of marking down new video games and accessories for limited windows.  Today's big sale is on Far Cry 3 for the Sony PlayStation 3, Microsoft Xbox 360, and PC for just $34.99 which is a great deal on a recently released game that's mostly flying under the radar for now.  Other games on sale today include Need For Speed: Most Wanted, Halo 4, NBA Baller Beats, something from the world of Hitman, a hockey title, and much more.  A portion of every purchase at Amazon that you make via the green link above goes to help support Press The Buttons which is always important (and appreciated!).

Major PS3 Titles On Sale For Nearly Nothing

LittleBigPlanet KartingSony seems to have seriously embraced the Valve Steam sale model of digital distribution pricing, as the company has been offering some great deals on gamed via the PlayStation Store over the past few months.  Now things are taking a step up as the PSN 13 For '13 kicks off on Tuesday in North America in which recent releases and past classics will be available for (in some cases) less than you'd pay for a bottle of soda and a packet of crackers from a vending machine.  Check out these deals via the PlayStation Blog:

  • LittleBigPlanet Karting – Regular $39.99, Sale $19.99, PS Plus $10.00
  • The Unfinished Swan – Regular $14.99, Sale $7.49, PS Plus $3.75
  • Ratchet & Clank – Regular $14.99, Sale $7.49, PS Plus $3.75
  • Jak and Daxter: The Precursor Legacy – Regular $7.99, Sale $3.99, PS Plus $2.00
  • Hot Shots Golf: Out of Bounds Complete Collection – Regular $24.99, Sale $12.49, PS Plus $6.25
  • Warp – Regular $9.99, Sale $4.99, PS Plus $2.50
  • Shank 2 – Regular $9.99, Sale $4.99, PS Plus $2.50
  • NiGHTS into dreams… – Regular $9.99, Sale $4.99, PS Plus $2.50
  • Jet Set Radio – Regular $9.99, Sale $4.99, PS Plus $2.50
  • The House of the Dead: OVERKILL Extended Cut – Regular $19.99, Sale $9.99, PS Plus $5.00
  • Psychonauts – Regular $9.99, Sale $4.99, PS Plus $2.50
  • Tiger Woods PGA TOUR 13 – Regular $39.99, Sale $19.99, PS Plus $10.00
  • Machinarium – Regular $9.99, Sale $4.99, PS Plus $2.50

Here are my suggestions: pick up Ratchet & Clank, Shank 2, Psychonauts, Jak and Daxter, and perhaps even LittleBigPlanet Karting at these prices if you're a PlayStation Plus subscriber.  At regular sale prices, consider Ratchet, Jak, and Psychonauts.  I've never seen these kinds of major titles on sale at these prices, and aside from the wondrous savings, I'm very glad to see Sony embracing the notion that important games on sale for very cheap can benefit us all.

Canceled Virtual Boy Game Bound High Bounces Back

Bound High

Nintendo had several additional projects in the works when its Virtual Boy system crashed in the marketplace, so while the likes of Mario's Tennis, Red Alarm, and Teleroboxer have become name-checked mainstays in Virtual Boy conversations, unreleased titles like Dragon Hopper and Zero Racers have been doomed to slip into obscurity.  However, thanks to the efforts of Vince Clemente and Richard Hutchinson, one of those forgotten games has returned from the darkness.  Nintendo's canceled Bound High has been resurrected and given a proper unofficial released nearly two decades after its demise complete with physical cartridges created by sacrificing other Virtual Boy games, boxes, and other familiar trappings.  Chris Kohler at Wired has the story.

The Bound High cartridges are made up of some new parts and some salvaged from existing Virtual Boy games. Another collector acquires old games, cleans them, and sends them to Hutchinson.

“There is no other way to make Virtual Boy carts,” Hutchinson said in an e-mail. While the plastic shells could be easily manufactured, the part inside that connects the circuit boards to the game console cannot. So the only feasible way of creating a new game is to use an old cartridge, euphemistically and morbidly referred to as a “donor.” Between Flashboy and other Virtual Boy projects, Hutchinson says he’s sacrificed a thousand Virtual Boy games, mostly the most common one Mario’s Tennis.

“The hardest part of the whole process is removing the connectors from the ‘donor carts’,” Hutchinson says. “It’s time consuming, as it has to be done slowly to avoid damaging them.”

Transforming common video games into rare releases has been going on for a while (there's a whole gray market business centered around changing Super Mario Bros. 3 into the unreleased North American localization of Mother, for instance), but seeing the practice applied to Virtual Boy games is much more unusual because the target market is much smaller.  There are far more old Nintendo Entertainment Systems floating around out there than Virtual Boys, plus the cost of a new copy of Bound High runs much more than a Frankensteined NES game.  Still, it's great that people are carrying on the Virtual Boy legacy and launching these lost games into the community (copyright laws aside, I just admire the cowboy development spirit of it all).

Liberate Your Valuable Vintage Save Data

Game Boy Transferer 2If you have any video game cartridges in your possession that save progress to the cartridge, then you'll have to face the sad fact that sooner or later (probably sooner), your beloved save data will shuffle off to the big memory card in the sky as the little batteries that power the memory that retains your progress die.  While changing out that decaying battery with a fresh one is something that has become more common in recent years, what do you do about the save data being kept on life support by a dying battery?  Sure, you can change the battery, but your progress will be lost in the process.  Is it possible to keep it alive and well during cartridge surgery?  Platypus Comix explains how with some effort, your prized Pokémon or masterful EarthBound accomplishments can survive a battery swap.

The good news is, someone came up with a solution to preserve Game Boy saves. The bad news is, that was a LONG time ago, back when that kind of cartridge was still being used. If you hunt around, you may be able to find the Game Boy Transferer 2, but you may have a harder time finding a port on your PC for the gigantic plug the device takes.

Over half the people searching for a way to rescue Game Boy saves have Pokemon in mind -- that may be what brought YOU to this page. Those old cartridges hold dozens of irreplaceable creatures from your childhood, and the batteries keeping them in existence aren't getting any younger.

I have yet to find a dead battery in my collection, although admittedly it's been years since I powered up some of the cartridges in my personal library.  I may have a cemetery of progress on my shelf and not even know it.  Still, while it would sting to lose my adventures in EarthBound or The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, the fun of video games is replaying them all over again, so I suppose that... no, who am I kidding?  I worked hard for that Sword Of Kings and, damn it, I want to keep it around as long as possible.

Wii U Version Of Need For Speed: Most Wanted Features Extra Functionality

Need For Speed: Most WantedI've been enjoying Need for Speed: Most Wanted on my Sony PlayStation 3 for over a month now (and have had a lot of fun with it, as it's one of my top picks for 2012), but it turns out that if you really want to see everything that Electronic Arts's racing challenge has to offer, you'll have to play the Wii U version of the game that's due out in March.  Branded the Enhanced Version, IGN brings word of new co-op multiplayer features that take advantage of the Wii U GamePad.

There's a local co-op feature called Co-Driver, which lets one player drive by using a Wiimote or the Wii U Pro Controller while another person uses the Wii U GamePad to provide navigation assistance on an interactive map.

What does that actually mean?

EA provided the following example: "Using just their fingertips, a partner can distract pursuing cops, switch from night to day or activate enhanced performance for any car and even control the amount of traffic on the road.

"This is the ultimate advantage for gamers who like to stir up trouble for the cops, their friends or just for fun."

The touchscreen can also be used in more subtle ways, like switching the mods on your vehicle or change your car entirely. You can also play the game on the GamePad's screen.

The Enhanced Version also includes the Ultimate Speed Pack add-on with its extra cars and new races that is available as paid downloadable content on other platforms.  I don't see myself double-dipping for this version of the game when I eventually do buy a Wii U, but I would like to point out to EA and developer Criterion (and I'm sure they already know this) that the co-op touchscreen functions could also work on the PS3 version with the aid of a PlayStation Vita as a Cross-Controller add-on similar to what last month's update to LittleBigPlanet 2 brought to the table for that title.  Just a suggestion...

Power Button - Episode 91: The Best That 2012 Had To Offer

Power ButtonWith another year behind us, it's time for Brad Hilderbrand, Joey Davidson, and I to look back with fondness at our favorite video games from the last twelve months.  Each of us has a personal list of top four games that shined brightly in 2012 (along with a few honorable mentions), and this is your chance to hear all about them.  Does Mario land a coveted spot on the list?  Is a return to Pandora recommended?  How many assassins does it take to travel faster than light?  Would you rather journey with zombies or llamacats?  Join us for answers to these questions and more as we close out the year gone by.  Download this week's episode directly from PTB, listen with the player below, or subscribe via iTunes, toss this RSS feed into your podcast aggregation software of choice, 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 91: The Best That 2012 Had To Offer

Stephen Colbert Is Right About SimCity

Perhaps you've seen this clip of Comedy Central's Stephen Colbert discussing potential gun control legislation and how/if video games can influence human behavior on The Colbert Report.  It's been making the rounds online through the gaming community in the past day (the gaming material is near the end of the clip).  At one point, Colbert points out that games do influence children by pointing out how many children played SimCity years ago and have since gone on to become urban planners.  I had a good laugh at that notion until I realized that I'm a perfect example of Colbert's theory.  I played a lot of SimCity as a kid.  I had the Super NES version of the game and spent many, many days off from school laying out the familiar residential, commercial, and industrial zones.  I placed power plants around the landform like there was no tomorrow.  Airports?  Seaports?  No problem.  Over the years I shifted my SimCity habits to PC and picked up SimCity 2000, SimCity 3000, and SimCity 4 along with all of the expansion packs (and I still play them; over the holiday break last month I created another thriving city in SimCity 4).  Do you know what I do for work when I'm not writing about video games?  I work in urban planning.  For nearly fourteen years now I've designed construction concepts in a large community of over 50,000 people to maximize building relationships and encourage efficient design.  I am the culmination of Stephen Colbert's gaming nightmare.  Somehow, I think I can cope with that.

Miiverse Headed To Nintendo 3DS

Miiverse helpNot content to let its new Miiverse social experience network remain purely on the Wii U, Nintendo is planning to expand the service to encompass the 3DS and beyond.  According to the company's president, Satoru Iwata, it won't be long before new 3DS games include Miiverse functionality.  Here's Siliconera with the highlights of an interview with Nikkei:

[E]xpanding the audience lies within the Miiverse, Nintendo’s new social network  community that’s available on the Wii U and is headed to the Nintendo 3DS in the  future as well. Miiverse allows Wii U owners to share messages, screenshots,  drawings, tips and more with each other. Wii U games each have their own  communities for this purpose.

“This is something I’ve talked about for many years with Mr. Miyamoto,” says  Iwata. “Miyamoto loves making games that allow players to create and share  experiences. We believe that it’s one of the main reasons behind the Mario series and Animal Crossing’s success. It was having those thoughts and feelings which  eventually led to the creation of the Miiverse. Rather than social networking,  we consider it an ‘experience sharing network’.”

In order to fully expand Miiverse to a wider audience, Nintendo will also be  bringing the network to the Nintendo 3DS and eventually to PCs and smartphones as well, so you can check it anywhere you are.

While Miiverse support for 3DS games will help the service grow, I have to admit that I believe it will take the availability of Miiverse smartphone apps before people really use it as much as Facebook or Twitter.  I don't always have my 3DS on me these days thanks to limited pocket space (and believe me, I'd carry it if I could; before I couldn't fit it in my pockets anymore, I carried my original Nintendo DS with me everywhere for over five years), but I do carry my iPhone with me wherever I go.  Let me access the Miiverse as easily as I can hop on Twitter for a quick moment and I guarantee that I'd use it as heavily as Nintendo seems to want.  However, supporting alternative hardware isn't necessarily something that Nintendo has been eager to do in the past, so I'm not counting on a Miiverse app to be as full-featured as the level of access available on actual Nintendo hardware.

EvilCast Recap - Episode 160

EvilCastI'm sitting in for an absent panelist once again on the EvilCast over at Games Are Evil this week, so be sure to head over there and listen to Episode 160 in which I join Blake Grundman, Ross Polly, and Chris Nitz to discuss Valve's upcoming Steam Box product and how it could Change Everything™ in the living room media box wars, Sony's PlayStation Vita sales woes in its first year on the market, THQ's uncertain future as it prepares to go on the auction block for competitors to swallow up its most famous franchises (and I cite historical precedent with a similar tale of corporate acquisition), Need for Speed: Most Wanted progress (and those that lack it), and so very much more.  Set aside two and a half hours for this one as we discuss some issues and have some laughs.  Once we start talking, it's very difficult for us to stop.

Wii Mini Will Make You Sad

Wii MiniNintendo's new, smaller version of its popular Wii console, the Wii Mini, has been out in the Canadian wilds for about a month now, but Joystiq has only just now had the chance to see what the refreshed hardware can and cannot do compared to a standard Wii.  As it turns out, the Wii Mini offers a seriously diminished experience.  Don't expect any extra capabilities when dealing with one. 

In a common price-reducing measure dating back to Sega CD, the slot-loading disc drive has been replaced by a top-loading drive with a mechanical eject button to pop the door open. That means the disc drive no longer lights up and blinks when you get a message.

No message will ever come in to a Wii Mini anyway, because the Wii Mini lacks Internet connectivity. And without Internet, the Wii Menu is strangely empty: no Weather Channel, no Everybody Votes Channel, no Wii Shop Channel, and, in fact, no way to add any more channels for the life of the system. You get the Disc Channel, Mii Maker, and Wii Manual, and a screen full of empty boxes, forever. The menu can never fulfill its purpose. For just $99, a lifetime of existential despair.

Who would have thought that removing the device's Internet connection would take so many features and options away?  Perhaps the Wii had more going for it in the online space than we thought.  The Wii Mini also cannot play (or recognize) GameCube games, nor does it support component output or offer a SD card slot.  Chalet market or not, I really don't see why this version of the Wii exists when for a few dollars more, one could buy an Internet-capable Wii that sports the SD card slot and can output 480p visuals with the right cable.  The previous Wii model is still available new at retail in Canada, right?  As of this writing, a quick search of the Canadian websites for Amazon, Best Buy, and Walmart shows that all of those stores only offer new Wii Minis with the other Wii models apparently discontinued.  Nintendo didn't phase out the older, better Wii in favor of this cost-effective model, did it?