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March 2013

Amazon Opens The Gaming Gold Box Again Today

Buy somethin' will ya!We're about due for another of's big all-gaming Gold Box and Lightning Deal days, so right on schedule comes today's big sale.  In-demand games and accessories will be going on sale all day long.  The new Tomb Raider for the Sony PlayStation 3 and Microsoft Xbox 360 is the big item of the day; it's on sale for $41.99.  Other deals occuring throughout the day include the Collector's Edition of Tomb Raider for $75, Call of Duty: Black Ops II for $34.99, a variety of Disney games, a selection of dance games, at least one Disney dance game, Kingdom Hearts, Need for Speed: Most Wanted, a travel kit of some sort for your console, Dolby headphones, and much more.  A portion of every item you buy via the green link above goes to help support Press The Buttons which, as always, is very important.

Scrooge McDuck: Then And Now

Scrooge McDuck
The talented developers on Capcom's original DuckTales team went out of their way to create 8-bit renditions of familiar and beloved characters such as Scrooge McDuck and Launchpad McQuack, but were limited by the technology of the day.  Simple sprites composed of a few basic colors were the upper bound of artistic expression, although the artists did a wonderful job with the tools available.  That was back in 1989.  Now, today in 2013, WayForward's art team has much more technological power with which to work when it comes to creating DuckTales Remastered which means that fans will be treated to much more accurate takes on McDuck and friends.  Over at NeoGAF, alr1ght has posted a few side by side comparisons of character sprites to show how the original DuckTales game for the Nintendo Entertainment System stacks up to DuckTales Remastered for the Sony PlayStation 3, Microsoft Xbox 360, and Nintendo Wii U.  Check out the impressive work.  There's a definite joy to these creations.

Continue reading "Scrooge McDuck: Then And Now" »

Now Scammers Are Calling Pirated Games "Refurbished"

Senator VreenakI'm strangely fascinated by counterfeit video game cartridges.  I've never bought one, nor do I desire to do so, but I am intrigued by the workmanship and generally cutting of corners that goes into producing a shabby, fake copy of a major video game.  Today's example of being taken for a ride comes to us from The Games Shed in which a writer identified only as Jamie describes the experience of buying what turned out to be a counterfeit copy of Pokémon Ruby for the Game Boy Advance from an eBay seller.

A couple of days later and our Pokémon GBA pack arrives all the way from the midlands.  I instantly knew something was off with these games.  They rattled. They shouldn’t rattle.  Them being the Pokémon collection they are all different colour translucent carts, which, for the record, we do already own.  The colours were all slightly wrong. Rather odd, but there could be any reason for that right? Sunlight exposure… err… hmm, possibly exposure to gamma rays?

The first warning sign that something was wrong with this eBay auction is that the seller was shipping from China.  For cryin' out loud, never ever purchase media from China no matter how good a deal you think you'll get.  With the rare exception that might as well be a margin of error calculation, the item in question is fake.  Count on it. [Note: I inadvertantly mixed Jamie's experience which involved a shipment from the Midlands in England with a comment posted to Jamie's article which described a similar experience which did ship from China.  I apologize for the confusion.  Still, my point stands.]  What really struck me with this story is that the scammer came sort of clean when called on the poor quality of the fake and claimed that the Pokémon game was merely refurbished.  I like that.  That takes some chutzpah, as if one could refurbish a hunk of plastic the same way that one could restuff a cushion or replace the power supply on a television.

Capcom Reviving DuckTales With Remastered Remake

DuckTalesCapcom achieved great things with the suite of licenses for the cartoons of the Disney Afternoon programming block in the late 1980s and early 1990s.  The most well-remembered product of that era has to be 1989's DuckTales which sent Scrooge McDuck on a worldwide treasure hunt through places such as the Amazon, Transylvania, the African Mines, and even the Moon.  It's a beloved game for many and presumed long lost due to all kinds of licensing issues, but today the company announced that it's bringing it back to the Sony PlayStation 3, Microsoft Xbox 360, and Nintendo Wii U as DuckTales Remastered.  Woo-ooh! Here's some of the press release:

DuckTales Remastered has seen the development team take the levels and layout from the original 1989 release as a foundation before expanding upon them to significantly enhance the gameplay experience but where this update truly impresses is its graphics and sound. All of the visuals from the 8-bit game have been beautifully re-created as hand-drawn and animated sprites, across a backdrop of luscious, re-envisioned level backgrounds. Furthermore, original Disney Character Voices talent, including some from the cartoon TV series, bring in-game characters to life with charm and wit, while the classic melodies of the original soundtrack are given a modern twist.

Further additions to the original include an all new tutorial level where players can get familiar with the iconic pogo jump and cane swing; while Scrooge McDuck’s Museum allows players to track all their stats and compare their progress with others via global leaderboards.

Short of Darkwing Duck, I can't think of any other Capcom production from the Nintendo Entertainment System years that I'd want to see revived in this format.  WayForward is handling the development with its usual hand-drawn animated flair.  This really is the best way to bring DuckTales back; suddenly a lack of a Virtual Console release doesn't seem so bad, eh?  The trailer is gorgeous and makes me feel like I'm just home from elementary school and eager to plop down in front of the television for another visit to Duckburg.  Nostalgia is a power force!  DuckTales Remastered is due out this summer and Capcom can have my money on day one for this.

Best Buy Cuts Wii U Price Temporarily; Advice Needed

Wii UEager to sell some Wii U consoles, Best Buy has temporarily cut the price of the basic 8 GB model of console to $249.99 through Saturday, March 23 down from the usual $299.99 price tag.  The basic model, as you'll recall, includes the Wii U console, a GamePad, and the cables required to hook it all up.  I've had my eye on a Wii U for a while, but have held off on buying one until the price came down or Nintendo began releasing the major first-party titles that we all know are in the works.  I've felt that when I do buy a console, it will be the 32 GB deluxe model that includes the extra storage space, charging cradle for the GamePad, and Nintendo Land packed in the box for $349.99 because I like extra value and the $50 price difference for all of that seems fair.  However, the limited time $100 difference between the two packages now has me leaning towards the basic model with the rationalizations that I've never been that interested in Nintendo Land and I was always planning to buy an external hard drive to beef up the Wii U's storage capacity.  So, here's my question to all of you out there who bought a Wii U: do you have any regrets regarding the package you chose?  Did you buy a basic model and now really miss that charging cradle?  Did you choose the deluxe model and feel that you wasted some of your money?  I want to hear about your experiences.  Help guide me here.  I need some advice.  I'm also open to buying nothing now and waiting for better price drops on other Wii U packages and bundles.

Rustle Up Red Dead Redemption: Monopoly Edition

Red Dead Redemption: Monopoly Edition

Hasbro has been cranking out custom editions of its popular Monopoly board game for decades now.  Pick most any popular media property, sports team, city, or other branded license and chances are that there's a Monopoly game for it: Family Guy, Futurama, Nintendo games, James Bond, American national parks, Iowa... the list goes on and on.  Missing from that list?  Rockstar's beloved western adventure for the Sony PlayStation 3 and Microsoft Xbox 360, Red Dead Redemption.  What Hasbro won't do officially a Norwegian student has created as an graphic design project for a media class.  Check out these photos of Red Dead Redemption: Monopoly Edition.

This was a 2-week project at school, so though I'm happy with the result - I wasn't able to completely finish the project and perfect it (The hotels/houses are the same and better player-bricks? are needed.(The requirements were only the box, the board game itself, Working playerbricks, 3 card examples... though I made them all)) Spent an approximately 8 hours designing and 4 hours printing, taping, glueing and cutting everything. The product contains all the property cards, chance-cards, luck-cards... and the board game, of course.

Playing this version of John Marston's tale takes players to some familiar locations; MacFarlane Ranch, Blackwater, Ridgewood Farm, Armadillo, and plenty of other places from the game are represented as buyable property.  The Chance and Community Chest cards have been given appropriate makeovers.  The cash even has pictures of the game's cast on it instead of American presidents.  It's extremely impressive work and is sure to be miles ahead of any kind of official Monopoly game based on the property.  This one has personality and a touch of admiration behind it.  The time and talent that went into creating it is evident.  We'll never see it on a store shelf, but at least we can appreciate it from afar.   

Weekly Poll: Tournament Time

Weekly Poll for 3-14-2013Most of you out there haven't played Castlevania - Lords of Shadow: Mirror of Fate yet.  I'd recommend passing on it.  I wasn't satisfied with it at all, and while I admittedly gave up on it early, I don't feel as if I'm missing anything.  Like the original Lords of Shadow, this branch of the Castlevania tree does not feel like a true Castlevania game to me.  It feels soulless, as if it knows the notes but not the music.  If you want to hear my entire explanation for why Fate let me down, listen to the second half of Episode 96 of Power Button.  The short version is that I miss the older, more whimsical Castlevania games and desperately want Konami to start making them again.  This God of War knock-off material has got to go.  No offense to developer MercurySteam, but the Lords of Shadow brand is just not what I want in a Castlevania adventure.

Moving on, I've spent the past week working on my high score in the Star Wars Pinball tournament and while I won't win any prizes for earning the billions of points (yes, billions) that others have achieved, I had fun trying.  How many of you have ever competed in a video game tournament?  It can be a live, in-person event or an online competition; I'm not picky.  Let's hear your stories.

Sonic Fans Port Unleashed Levels Into Generations

Sonic Unleashed Project2008's Sonic Unleashed took a lot of deserved flack from critics and general audiences for slowing down that sweet speedy gameplay with slow, plodding werehog brawling levels.  There are some great parts of the game, but they all take place during the daytime stages.  2011's Sonic Generations did right by the Sonic style, thankfully, and is made up exclusively of speed levels.  If only there were some way to take the good parts of Unleashed and drop them into the superior experience of Generations.  Thanks to talented fans, now you can.  All you need is a decent PC and a copy of Sonic Generations from Steam.

This unofficial project ports most of Sonic Unleashed's daytime levels from the Xbox 360 version into Sonic Generations on PC. It also includes any improvements that are deemed as necessary to accomodate to the better control scheme, higher resolution graphics, and much smoother framerate.

There are even some new features included such as an original soundtrack and a few other surprises.  I'm not one to rebuy games I already own across multiple formats (portable versions excluded), but I'm tempted to double dip on Generations in order to try this once I get a more powerful PC.  Unleashed's levels have never looked so vivid and bright.  The sense of speed on display is impressive and I applaud the modders for making this happen.  I can't imagine that it was easy.  No word on what Sega thinks of this, but if it sells more copies of Generations, perhaps they'll turn a blind eye to what could have been a fantastic downloadable expansion.  Not that Sega was really moved to create much DLC for Generations.  That was a missed opportunity.  I'm still waiting for the Casino Night Zone DLC to come to the PS3 version of the game and I have a feeling that I'll continue to wait for a long, long time.

Brad Hilderbrand Talks PR On The Press Row Podcast

Press Row PodcastBrad Hilderbrand of Electronic Arts and the Power Button podcast is back on the Press Row Podcast at Operation Sports this week to talk about marketing, public relations, gaming, and how all of those cross paths.  Here's the summary of Episode 15:

We talk to Brad about how he made the transition from industry outsider to studio insider, his perspective on the state of games PR these days, what his goals are, and how his relationship works with people in the Tiburon studio as well as the media types he supports. It’s a fascinating hour dedicated to peering inside an oft-misunderstood – and demonized – aspect of the games business.

Brad sums up the business and elaborates on how the PR sausage is made in a very interesting hour of discussion.  If you have any interest in how games are marketed (and how that is changing), you need to listen to this episode.  He also plugs Power Button along the way which is worth hearing as well, but you really need to tune in for the PR discussion.

Read "At Rest" In The Industry Magazine

At RestI had the privilege of working with a top team of dedicated writers back in my Kombo days, and now I'm fortunate enough to work with some of them again.  My old Kombo colleagues Sean O'Neill and Casey Ayers have launched a new digital magazine called The Industry that focuses not on video game news or reviews, but on in-depth features regarding industry trends, culture, and major events.  It's available for iPad, Kindle Fire, and the general Kindle e-reader platform (which means that the Kindle app for iPhone and Android can pick it up), and I definitely suggest that you pick up the latest issue because I have an article in this week's edition.  You don't want to miss "At Rest" in which I discuss the industry's push to release a new game in a hot franchise each year whether or not the franchise is creatively ready for a new sequel.  Here's a sample:

War. War never changes.

Video game publishers have learned that the easiest path to reliable success is to turn the company’s biggest cash cows into annual releases.  Stumble into the right success and a popular music game or first person shooter becomes a franchise, reemerging every holiday season, groundhog and/or zombie style, to produce six more months of steady revenue.

All too often, players must deal with the diminishing returns that come from overtaxing a franchise that just cannot take the weight of holding up a corner of the industry.  While the money may keep rolling in as devoted fans continue to buy up the latest iteration of a favorite game, creative fatigue is always nipping at developers’ heels.  Stockholder demands aside, perhaps it’s time to let some of these franchises take a year off to regroup.  It would be better if some of them were at rest for a while.

The article goes on to analyze franchises that need time off, franchises that justify their annual appearances, and companies that know when to put their top performers on the bench for a while.  Other articles in this issue include a look back at Nintendo Power, a breakdown of SimCity's disastrous launch, and a peek into the world of professional gaming.  If you enjoyed Kombo's long editorials and feature articles in the old days, then you need to read this twice-a-month magazine.  For more on The Industry, be sure to check out our upcoming Power Button interview with Sean and Casey.