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October 2013

Revisit Castlevania Origins

It's Halloween which means it's time for our annual peek into the lore of Konami's beloved Castlevania franchise.  This year I bring you a look at one of the downloadable expansion levels for Castlevania: Harmony of Despair for the Sony PlayStation 3 and Microsoft Xbox 360.  Chapter Ten, "Origins", is actually the entire Nintendo Entertainment System Castlevania title compressed down into a single level.  Watch as Berserker Kev zips through the entirety of the level in a little over twenty minutes facing memorable regions from the original NES game.  The rocking musical remix of the "Vampire Killer" theme certainly adds to the allure.  Happy Halloween and happy vampire slaying!

Sony Launches New Rewards Program

Sony RewardsA few years ago Sony tried to launch a loyalty program that offered interesting and unique bonuses to players who spent lots of time and money with PlayStation products.  It folded after a few months.  Now the company is ready to try again with a new loyalty program that requires spending even more money on a variety of Sony-related products and services.  Here's the PlayStation Blog with some of the announcement:

With Sony Rewards, there are a variety of ways to earn points. Members can earn points for every $1 spent when shopping at PlayStation Store, Sony Entertainment Network online store, and Sony Store. The Sony Rewards program also has great offers with a variety of online retailers. Members can earn points for PlayStation and Sony purchases at retailers such as,,, and when logged in to Sony Rewards, while shopping through Sony Rewards Points Plus.

It's a good deal if you already shop at these places (particularly the PlayStation Store itself; over time those purchases add up to become free store credit).  The larger reward items are overpriced ($100,000 worth of points for a camcorder?), but that's usually the case with these kinds of loyalty programs.  The trick with these programs is to never buy something just to get the points.  Instead you should just spend money as you normally would and let the points add up on their own over time.  Don't rely on the program to bring in free loot.  Use it for the occasional freebie.  I signed up and know it'll be a while before I earn enough to get anything worthwhile, but I'm patient.  Hopefully this program lasts longer than the last one.

Batman: Arkham Origins Has Issues

BatmanIt would seem that Batman's greatest foe in the recently released Batman: Arkham Origins for the Sony PlayStation 3, Microsoft Xbox 360, Nintendo Wii U, and PC is not the Joker, not Deathstroke, not Deadshot, and certainly not the Electrocutioner.  No, the worst villain in the game is the collection of bugs, glitches, and other general issues that are gumming up the Gotham works.  David Houghton at GamesRadar reports on the game-breaking problems that are wrecking the fun:

Batman: Arkham Origins, as it stands now, is potentially a wreck of a game. There’s no more accurate way to put it. It isn’t going wrong for everyone, but when it does, it really does. Every sub-species of glitch is there, making up the dubious passenger list for a throbbing Noah’s Ark of technical horrors. Failed start-ups. Failed boots. Crippling frame-rate drops. Missing mission triggers. AI shutdowns. Full system crashes. Dialogue glitches. Ineffective checkpoints. A world map that loses mission waypoints at random. Corrupted save files. Any of these alone would be the big stand-out errors in any release. I suffered all of them within roughly 10 hours, spread across a single weekend’s play. A single weekend’s play that, perhaps inevitably, ended with the last, most monstrous glitch on the above list, after my fourth crash of the day, and the second requiring a pulled plug as a result of my Xbox’s on-console power button becoming unresponsive.

I'm playing a rented copy on the PS3 and haven't run into anything quite so serious (yet; knock on wood), but I have noticed some parts that are rough around the edges.  The game ocassionally freezes for up to three seconds sometimes.  The waypoint GPS has pointed me in the wrong direction more than once.  Most frustratingly, sometimes executing a silent takedown isn't so silent.  Without spoiling much, there's a mission that takes Batman into the Gotham City Police Department where he must remain as undetected as possible.  After sneaking past nearly twenty armed SWAT team members without incident, I crept behind an officer who was giving all of his attention to a vending machine.  The game recommended a silent takedown which I executed as I always have in the Arkham series, but each time I did, the cop shouted "It's the bat!" as he went under, alerting the SWAT team who would then come and shoot Batman without hesitation.  After my fifth attempt at this, I decided to ignore the game's advice and just sneak past the hungry cop.  That worked, and I continued onward.

It would seem that Warner Bros. rushed Arkham Origins to capitalize on the holiday season and beat the rush of attention to the next-generation consoles debuting next month.  The company definitely needs to patch the game and fix these problems, but I'd also like to see the developers take a few months, iron out all of the rough spots, correct every glaring flaw, and release that inevitable Game of the Year edition of Origins with all of the downloadable content included for the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One in addition to the existing platforms.  I'd have no problems replaying the game in a more correct, complete form, but that also doesn't make it right to leave existing customers in a lurch with a semi-broken game.  Fix the current version, get the next version right, and hopefully everyone will be happy in the end. 

EvilCast Recap - Episode 198

EvilCastNow here's something we hope you'll really like!  I'm back as a guest on the EvilCast podcast at Games Are Evil this week.  I join Blake Grundman and Ross Polly for Episode 198 to discuss Ubisoft's upcoming release of Assassin's Creed: Liberation HD, the Ouya expanding into demo kiosks and a larger retail presence, the large day one patch for the Sony PlayStation 4 that'll add functions you'd expect the console to include natively, and Grand Theft Auto Online's ongoing issues.  We also talk about our experiences with Grand Theft Auto V, Mario and Luigi: Dream Team, Hotline Miami, Star Wars Pinball: Balance of the Force, Pokémon Y, Saints Row IV, and much more.  Download this episode and sit back for a little under two hours of discussion, humor, and general entertainment.

Conan O'Brien Explores PC Horror Games

Conan O'Brien is at it again in his ongoing Clueless Gamer segment in which he plays video games and offers humorous commentary on his impressions.  In honor of Halloween, this installment features Conan trying his hand at three PC horror games of some renown: Slender: The Eight Pages, Amnesia: The Dark Descent, and Outlast.  He doesn't think much of Slender despite the presence of the freaky Slender Man (he's coming to steal the childrens' chestnuts, you know) and decries Amnesia as forgettable, but Outlast horrifies in a most unexpected way.  Take nine minutes and laugh along as Conan faces his digital fears.

Watch Sonic Lost World For Charity

Img-nyteworks-sonic-promo-300x250Sega's Sonic Lost World is coming for the Nintendo Wii U, but if you can't wait for the release in North America next week, then you ought to check out my old Kombo pal David Oxford's First Play Charity Marathon this weekend with special guest Ian Flynn of Archie Comics.  They'll play through Lost World, offer commentary, give away prizes, and entertain you for twenty-four hours in the name of benefiting the Sick Kids Foundation.  Here are the details straight from the source:

With SEGA's latest upcoming release in the Sonic the Hedgehog franchise on the Wii U, Nyteworks is happy to present a special Sonic Lost World "First Play" livestreamed marathon to raise money for charity.

For this event, David Oxford (writer for Nintendo Force magazine, the Mega Man Robot Master Field Guide, and "Super Mario Bros. in Neo Bowser City") and Ian Flynn (writer for Archie Comics' Sonic the Hedgehog, Sonic Universe, and Mega Man titles) will team up to play through SEGA's Sonic Lost World for the first time ever (barring Ian's short time with the demo at San Diego Comic-Con, anyway) through to the end before the game is officially released in North America.

As we play through the game, we'll not only discuss our thoughts on it, but other topics such as the past, present, and future of Sonic as well. We'll even take questions (those that we can, anyway) from the livestream chat, allowing you to pick the brain of the man who handles the Blue Blur on a monthly basis.

Over the course of 24 hours, our plan is to play the game from start to finish, checking out its different features and modes as well. Upon the completion of the game, we'll round out the time playing other games, such as Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed. We might even take requests from the viewers. We'll just have to see!

They'll give out some Nintendo and Sonic-related prizes during the event including a Wii U, Sonic comic books, a subscription to Nintendo Force magazine, and more.  It's a good cause and promises a day of fun for Sonic fans. 

Power Button - Episode 109: Lateness Awaits

Power ButtonThe launches of the Sony PlayStation 4 and Microsoft Xbox One are rapidly approaching, but as we near the green flag on the next generation of console gaming, publishers are delaying major games into next year out of the launch window.  DriveClub and Watch Dogs are two of the big titles due out this year that have been kicked into 2014.  On this episode of Power Button, Blake Grundman and I discuss whether or not these delays impact interest in the new consoles and wonder how many preorders could be canceled as a result of the delays.  Download this week's episode directly from PTB, listen with the player below, 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 us via , you can leave a message on the Power Button hotline by calling (720) 722-2781, and you can even follow us on Twitter at @PressTheButtons and @GrundyTheMan, or for just podcast updates, @ThePowerButton.  Next week: Mel Kirk of Zen Studios joins us to talk about the recently released Balance of the Force pinball tables for Star Wars Pinball, gives us a preview of the upcoming Dr. Strange table for Zen Pinball 2 / Pinball FX 2, and shares details about a brand new table due to be announced very soon.  Hear the news first on Episode 110 of Power Button!

OverClocked ReMix Swings Into Bionic Commando Album

Bionic Commando ReMixed: OK, We'll GrooveSometimes I feel like the OverClocked ReMix community creates music just for me.  Gather around and check out the group's latest album which reworks the soundtrack of Capcom's 1988 Nintendo Entertainment System classic, Bionic Commando.  Featuring twelve tracks from artists such as Benjamin Briggs, Hylian Lemon, and WillRock, Bionic Commando ReMixed: OK, We'll Groove is packed with memorable beats, NES sound effects, and plenty of music that will stick to your brain.  The album is available now as a free download in both FLAC and MP3 formats, so there's no excuse for missing out on this one.  I know that I carry the banner for the Bionic Commando franchise these days, but I'm glad that the original game has enough of a following to justify a remix album.  Someone has to keep Nathan Spencer's memory alive until his next appearance.  Check out this video trailer for a sample of the audio awesomeness that awaits.

Wii U Bundle Adds Mario, Drops Nintendo Land

Wii UNintendo's Wii U launched with a bumpy start last year with a higher than comfortable price tag and a lackluster game in the box.  The company really wanted Nintendo Land to be the next Wii Sports in terms of drawing power and interest, but the mini-game collection was never going to bring people in the way that intuitive sports like tennis and golf did.  Now Nintendo has wised up and will give the people what they want: the Mario brothers.  Starting November 1, Nintendo Land is out and a special disc featuring both New Super Mario Bros. U and New Super Luigi U is in.  Here's Game Informer:

While Nintendo Land doesn't have the staying power of Wii Sports, my family and I spent many nights playing Mario Chase and Pikmin Adventure. Swapping in Mario and Luigi is a smart move, as the pair are icons, even to non-gamers.

In the words of Dirty Rotten Scoundrels's Freddy Benson, "This! This! I want this! This is what I want!".  I've been waiting all this time for Nintendo to offer a bundle that meets my gaming needs and this is exactly that.  Nintendo Land never really interested me beyond a novelty.  A co-worker pal asked me if I was going to swap my Sony PlayStation 4 plans (listen to Episode 109 of the Power Button podcast for more on that) for this new Wii U bundle and while I'm not letting go of that preorder, this definitely puts the Wii U back on my "must acquire" list.  Between this bundle and the upcoming Super Mario 3D World, it's a fantastic time to be a fan of the Mario brothers and the talented creators of their latest adventures.

Lost ToeJam And Earl For Dreamcast Discovered

Toejam and EarlToeJam and Earl fell into gaming history after their Sega glory days, but the alien duo from the planet Funkotron are not so easily forgotten.  Born in the funky 1990s, the pair's rapmaster jams were starting to drop out of the current trends by the time the third proper game in the series, Mission to Earth, was released for the Microsoft Xbox in 2001.  A Sega Dreamcast version of the game had been in the works prior to Sega's departure from the hardware market and now that lost prototype has resurfaced.  Siliconera has the news.

Yes, Sega made ToeJam and Earl III: Mission to Earth for Xbox, but there was another game starring Sega’s funky aliens for Dreamcast. Footage from an early build made its way online and the owner of the discs is planning on holding a fundraiser to release the code online.

I understand why Mission to Earth was sent to the Xbox over the Sony PlayStation 2 or the Nintendo GameCube considering the target demographic of the Xbox at the time and a sweetheart deal from Microsoft regarding free promotion, but history has shown that the franchise was a poor fit on that console.  We'll never know for sure, but I bet that the game would have performed better on the Dreamcast (had it lived) or PS2.  Sega fans embraced the characters in their Genesis glory days, while the PS2 hosted a variety of games similar to Mission to Earth that ultimately found varying levels of success.  As for this prototype, I'm curious if there's anything worthwhile hidden away in there.  I'm sure the Internet's gaming archeologists will let us know if they find anything.