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November 2013

Sony Now Bundling PS4 And Vita Together

PS4 + PS Vita Ultimate EditionIf you're in the market for both a Sony PlayStation 4 and a PlayStation Vita as part of the same purchase and you live in Europe, then does Sony have the deal for you.  The company is experimenting with the idea of selling both devices in a single box for a single price as part of what it's calling the Ultimate Edition.  That's a lot of PlayStation for a lot of money: £499 (approximately US$815) for the pair.  Eurogamer has the story:

Sony UK has worked with retailers to encourage what it calls a "soft bundle" that includes both consoles. Some shops won't be able to offer the deal because of PS4 stock availability, but the expectation is most will from tonight alongside the launch of the PS4 in Europe.

"We're working with our retail partners to put across that proposition as well as we can," Sony UK boss Fergal Gara told Eurogamer.

"It'll come to market in a few different shapes and guises. You may walk in and get a great deal on 'buy a Vita when bought with' type deal. So if you buy a PS4 you can get a Vita for X. And others will say, well here's the Ultimate Bundle and you get all those bits in it.

"But as a base price point, in other words for the two consoles, we expect the gamer to be able to pick that up for under £500. It's not a hard bundle pack at this point in time. It's us working with the retailer to effectively deliver a soft bundle."

So, basically, Sony and it's retail partners think they're on to something here, but are still trying to figure out how to best price and market the bundle.  Eurogamer goes on to point out that buying the pair at once like this is really only about a £10 savings, so there's not much to be gained by buying the bundle instead of staggering the two purchases across whatever period of time is financially comfortable.  I can understand why Sony wants to make this happen considering how much it's designed the PS4 with Vita capabilities in mind (Remote Play, second screen material, cross-buy, etc.), but I'd think it'd take a bit more than this to inspire prospective owners to make this big of a leap at once.  As a so-called soft bundle, it shows that Sony and retailers are still playing with the format and the pricing.  Over time the price will come down a little or a game or two will be included in the box.  The deal will get better.  Everything has to start somewhere.

(Image via Kotaku)

Amazon Wants Your Black Friday Business

Buy somethin' will ya!What are you doing there sitting calmly, sipping a drink of some sort, when people are storming the streets in search of bargains and deals?  Don't you know there's a price war on?  Ah, but you have sense; you're stalking sales in your comfy chair instead of in the cold, unforgiving mall.  Let me help make things a little easier beyond that.  By now you've read my holiday gift guide and seen my picks for great gaming choices, but maybe you need something a little more.  Amazon has the Black Friday playbook and they're running it page by page with lots of deep discounts on gaming goods today.  Anything you buy from Amazon via the green links here (even non-gaming items) goes to help support Press The Buttons.  Here's a sample of some of the best they're offering:

  • Here's an exclusive Sony PlayStation Vita bundle which includes a 3G/Wi-Fi PS Vita, game voucher for download of PS Vita Walking Dead game, 4 GB memory card, charger and one digital code for download of Uncharted Golden Abyss, Retro City Rampage, and Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time.  It's on sale today for $174.99, a 33% savings.
  • Speaking of the Vita, here's Batman: Arkham Origins Blackgate for $24.99 today.  This one's on my own personal wish list so I can't say yay or nay to it, but knowing that it's basically Batman crossed with Super Metroid is all I need to hear.  The 3DS version sells for the same price.
  • One of this year's best Batman games (oversaturate much?), Batman: Arkham Origins, is $29.99 today for the PlayStation 3 or Xbox 360 version.  At that price, it's a sure thing and difficult to resist.  The Wii U version is $39.99 which is decent savings, but could be better.
  • While it was too intense for me, lots of people have been excited about The Last of Us for the PS3 this year.  It's on sale today for $34.99.  Amazon will even sell you the $19.99 season pass for downloadable content if you're so inclined, although that's not a discount.  It's just a convenience.
  • Saints Row IV would make a great game for the Grand Theft Auto fan on your list who is a bit burned out on GTA's seriousness, and what better way to show that this game is insane than with the Super Dangerous Wub Wub Edition which includes the game, some downloadable content, and a bunch of plastic stuff to display on a shelf?  It's marked down to $44.99 for the PS3 and X360 (down from $99.99) which actually makes it a better deal than just buying the game alone.  Still, you can pick up the game without the extras for $29.99 right now.
  • One of my picks from last year, PS3/Vita brawler PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale, is just $9.99 for the PS3 version.  That'll get you a free download of the Vita version, too.  I know everyone passed on this one last year, but it's more fun than you think it is and definitely worth the ten bucks. 
  • Speaking of the $9.99 price point, here's Gran Turismo 5 XL for the PS3 which includes a bunch of downloadable content to keep you or someone on your shopping list busy while waiting for Gran Turismo 6 to show up.  Again, it's an older game at this point, but full of content for those exploring it for the first time.
  • Lara Croft became relevant again in her latest Tomb Raider adventure, and right now it's on sale for $14.99 for the PS3, X360, and PC.  I didn't much care for it, but lots of people did.
  • On the other hand, I did really like BioShock Infinite, and it's on sale for $19.99 across all platforms: PS3, X360, PC, and Mac.  That's a great deal in any un... oops, I almost spoiled it...
  • For fans of PC shooters, here's the Game of the Year editions of both Borderlands and Borderlands 2 in on package for $11.99.  It's hard to argue with that!
  • How about Call Of Duty? Here's this year's iteration, Call of Duty: Ghosts, for $44.99.
  • You've read this far, so you're entitled to learn about the big deal today: Amazon is selling one year of PlayStation Plus membership for $29.99 (a $20 savings).  That's the cheapest it's even been, plus they're throwing in a $5 credit for the Amazon Instant Video service.  Membership stacks, so even if your term isn't up yet, you can toss this redemption code on top of it to add to your subscription.  If nothing else today, I highly recommend that you take advantage of this.

That should take care of getting something for everyone on your list (including yourself).  Now you can take the rest of the day off for gaming, leftovers, and family.  Preferably, in that order.

Sonic CD Latest Subject Of OverClocked ReMix Album

Temporal DualitySega's Sonic CD was one of those games that had a reputation for being fun, but hardly anyone played when it was first released thanks to the high entry cost of buying all of the hardware needed to play it: a Sega Genesis, Sega CD, and the game itself.  Since the game turned up again for modern hardware as a downloadable title in 2011, however, it's legacy has become well earned.  Lots of people have had the opportunity to enjoy Sonic CD, particularly its two unique soundtracks.  Now OverClocked ReMix has turned to Sonic the Hedgehog's journey to Little Planet for its latest album release.  Available as a free download, Temporal Duality offers four discs of musical action.  Here's the descriptive blurb:

Temporal Duality is the 45th album published by OverClocked ReMix and arranges music from Sonic CD, released in 1993 for the Sega CD. It features 38 tracks arranged by 39 artists that cover both the JP/EU and US soundtracks, originally composed by Masafumi Ogata, Naofumi Hataya, Spencer Nilsen, David Young, and Sterling Crew. Sonic CD was unique from other Sonic games of the era due to its time travel system that allowed players to experience 4 variations of each stage. The game featured different soundtracks for the JP/EU and the US releases, which were both ahead of its time for video games, being among the first to have Red Book CD Audio. Spanning 3 discs and numerous genres, Temporal Duality is the fourth OverClocked ReMix album to pay tribute to the 16-bit era of the Sonic The Hedgehog series!

I've spent the past few days listening to the album and I like what I hear.  There's plenty to like here, although my favorite track has to be the instrumental version of "Time Traveller's Delight" which is a remix of the Japanese version of the Stardust Speedway theme.  I've always liked the original theme, so of course I'm going to enjoy the remix, but I especially like the use of some of the cues from the Sonic Generations remix of the song.  There's layers upon layers here, people.  Deep stuff.

So How Is PocketStation Working On The PS Vita?

Sony PocketStationOnce upon a time it looked like it would become a trend to include small LCD video screens on video game console memory cards.  The Sega Dreamcast is remembered partly for its VMU units that let players access tiny minigames when away from a main game, but Sony took a crack at the idea years before with its PocketStation add-on.  Linking up with select PSOne games, the PocketStation, well, allowed players to access tiny minigames when away from the main game.  Existing pretty much as a Japanese novelty (despite international release plans, the device never left Japan), it's one of those parts of gaming history that most people aren't aware.  Now Sony has brought the PocketStation's spirit back with a free downloadable add-on for the PlayStation Vita that emulates the old PocketStation functions with compatible PSOne Classics.  The downside?  It's only available in Japan.  Some things never change.  Richard Eisenbeis at Kotaku has taken a look at how the PocketStation add-on works and whether or not international audiences are still missing out after all these years.

To test it out, I decided to see how it worked with PSone classics Hot Shots Golf 2, Holiday Aquanote 2, and Fire Pro Wrestling G (as they are currently free with PlayStation Plus). In Hot Shots Golf 2, the PocketStation mini game is a simple driving range based on the golf system in the game proper—in other words, it's a simple timing-based minigame. Holiday Aquanote 2’s PocketStation game is a memory-style game. Each button makes a different pitched beep. When a fish swims up, it gives a series of beeps; and it is your task to make the same series of beeps via your button presses in response. As for Fire Pro Wrestling G there were actually several minigames that centered around either tapping buttons as fast as possible or keeping time with a constantly changing beat.

I'd like to experiment with the PocketStation options for the few compatible PSOne games I own, but probably wouldn't do much beyond satisfy my curiosity.  The Rockman Complete Works titles (Mega Man here in the United States and beyond) include a few things one can do with the device that I'd always wanted to try just to say I've tried them.  Considering that bringing international players onboard with what's largely a Japanese-exclusive toy must be a localization nightmare; nobody is going to bother patching these old games with new language translations after all this time, so I can understand why the Vita app remains in Japan, but who wouldn't want the opportunity to at least muck about with it?

(image via Wikipedia)

PTB 2013 Video Gaming Holiday Gift Guide

Donkey Kong plays Santa ClausEach year it seems that there are more and more fantastic video games worth giving as holiday presents to friends, family, and loved ones.  2013 goes above and beyond that with more top titles than ever before across a variety of famous franchises and enjoyable genres.  This is a holiday season that brings us another new generation of assassins, plumbers in cat suits, superheroes slugging each other over matters of honor, ducks on pogo sticks, and a trio of bank robbers out to retire in comfort and style.  How can anyone possibly hope to separate the good from the better from the best (as usual, we won't waste our time on the terrible)?  Leave it to me to suggest a variety of titles suitable for gift-giving that will delight anyone on your list.  In order for a game to make the list, it must be something that I thoroughly enjoyed or have definite intentions of buying for myself as well as be available in a wrapping-friendly physical format.  It's a more personalized perspective that I hope you find useful as you make your list and check it twice. Before you head out to the mall or over to, take a look at what I'm recommending this year. 

Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag (PS3 / PS4 / X360 / X1 / Wii U / PC)

Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag

Moving beyond the saga of Desmond Miles that has occupied the Assassin's Creed series up through last year's sequel, this latest installment shifts the narrative to video game developer Abstergo Entertainment and its latest project: an interactive Animus adventure starring pirate Edward Kenway set in the sixteenth century Caribbean islands.  Players take on the role of Kenway to build fleets, explore cities such as Havana & Nassau, and take on the mysteries surrounding the area.  Oh, yes; there are also plenty of enemies to kill in the true assassin style.  With plenty to do and a multiplayer mode for those who enjoy that sort of thing, Black Flag brings the fire back to Assassin's Creed.  Pick it up on the PlayStation 4 or Xbox One for the best experience.

Continue reading "PTB 2013 Video Gaming Holiday Gift Guide" »

Power Button - Episode 114: Getting To Know The PlayStation 4

Power ButtonNow that Blake and I have welcomed the Sony PlayStation 4 into our homes and hearts, it's time to discuss the new console and several of its launch titles.  On this episode of Power Button we tear into the device and talk about our likes and dislikes in addition to neat tricks we've discovered.  Moving to the actual games, we have thoughts on Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag, Knack, Injustice: Gods Among Us - Ultimate Edition, FIFA 14,  Resogun, Killzone: Shadow Fall, and Contrast.  There's plenty there to keep us busy, and for the next hour we will keep you busy as well.  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.

Amazon Starts Black Friday Early With Lightning Deals

Buy somethin' will ya!The dreaded shopping frenzy we call Black Friday is still a week away, but that hasn't stopped Amazon from kicking off a series of sales and deals on a variety of video games.  Throughout the day today you can snag limited time deals on games for the Sony PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, Microsoft Xbox 360, and Xbox One.  How'd you like to pick up Injustice: Gods Among Us - Ultimate Edition for cheap?  Madden 25 for less?  Battlefield 4Need For Speed Rivals?  Move fast; these deals won't last.  Every purchase you make via the green link above goes to help Press The Buttons which, as always, I really appreciate.  The commissions earned from Amazon sales help keep PTB moving forward, so please think of using one of the site's Amazon links when doing your holiday gift shopping this season.

Power Button - Episode 113: Best Of Times, Worst Of Times (Part 2)

Power ButtonFollowing on from last week's first half of our discussion of the best and worst aspects of the outgoing console generation, Blake Grundman and I proudly present the conclusion.  Gather 'round as we talk about media streaming, Game of the Year edition re-releases, the influx of interface advertising, system updates, and so much more. Farewell, PS3/X360/Wii generation! We had fun and we'll always remember you.  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, @ThePowerButtonNext week: As the Sony PlayStation 4 cruises into town and sets up shop, we discuss our first days with the console and a selection of launch titles.

New Strider Contains Old Strider

StriderSay what you will about Capcom's revival of Bionic Commando last generation, but the company put its all into bringing back a classic 1980s action franchise.  Now the attention has turned to rebooting the equally memorable Strider series.  The remake will be available early next year for the Sony PlayStation 4, PlayStation 3, Microsoft Xbox 360, Microsoft Xbox One, and PC, but the new game crafted in the Metroid style isn't coming alone.  Polygon reports that both the retail and downloadable versions of the game will include the original PSOne Classics versions of Strider and Strider 2.

Capcom's Strider reboot will launch in Japan bundled with the PSOne Classics versions of the original Strider and Strider 2, according to the most recent issue of Famitsu.

According to Re: Gigen, Famitsu states Strider will be available in Japan on Feb. 22, 2014. The game will be available at retail and as a downloadable title on PlayStation 3 for 3,990 yen, and as a downloadable title on PlayStation 4 for 2,000 yen. The latter version will run at 60 frames per second in 1080p.

I love when reboots and revivals include a free copy of the original game that spawned the remake in the first place.  Bringing back the old Strider titles is a great way for long-time fans to revisit the classics and also introduces new audiences to the series.  Nostalgia and memories can only carry reboots so far; sometimes the best way to show off the new game is to bring the old game back for an encore.  Let's hope this bonus makes it way overseas when the game is released in North America and beyond.  Sorry, but there's still no sign of the SuperGrafx version of the game.

An Early Look At Zelda: A Link Between Worlds

Toon LinkThe Legend of Zelda games do not enter this world fully formed.  Like all games, each entry in the series goes through a variety of growing pains and evolutions to become a final finished product.  In the case of the latest entry in the series, The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds, Nintendo's developers took the concept of Link becoming a scrawled painting on a wall through different iterations until everyone was pleased with the result.  A new Iwata Asks interview with the design team outlines some of this process, and the most interesting part to me was the reveal that the game actually began in 3D with Toon Link from the previous handheld Zelda title, Spirit Tracks.

Iwata: When you made that prototype, was it a direct top-down view like in A Link to the Past?

Shikata: No. As in Spirit Tracks, the viewpoint was overhead from an angle.

Aonuma: At the time, we were thinking of it as an extension of the Nintendo DS games.

Shikata: I brought that prototype today. Iwata-san, would you try it out?

Iwata: Sure. (taking the Nintendo 3DS) Link looks like he's from Spirit Tracks.

Aonuma: Yeah. He was still Toon Link.

Shikata: And if you press the A button...

Iwata: Oh! I went into the wall! I don't think I've ever seen anything like it!

Aonuma: I saw this today for the first time in a while too, and it's surprisingly good! (laughs)

Iwata: (plays in silence) I see... You got riled up and made this in one night?

Mouri: Well, I didn't make this whole thing in one night. At that time, I only made the turning corners part.

Aonuma: With a prototype like this, you would usually go on to enter serious development based on it.

Iwata: Yeah.

Aonuma: But that wasn't to be.

Also of interest in this interview is how the developers cheat the top-down camera angle.  A pure plan view perspective would make most of the characters unrecognizable, so the objects in the world are slanted slightly to make them identifiable.  It's a fun look into the development of the latest Zelda game and a reminder that not every game just sails through the creation process.  The team worked hard for this one.  It looks like the payoff is worth it.