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February 2014

Power Button Presents Kombo Breaker - Episode 50: We Celebrate Fifty Episodes With John Davison (Gamepro), Jeff And Dan (Totally Rad Show), And James Stevenson (Insomniac Games)

Power Button Presents Kombo BreakerFor this classic episode of Kombo Breaker we're celebrate our fiftieth episode which means that we pulled out all the stops.  First we checked in with John Davison to discuss how he planed to relaunch the now-defunct GamePro magazine and website brand (guess that didn't work out) and how gaming journalism as a whole is evolving to meet the needs of the community, plus ancient composite reviewer Scary Larry is invoked.  Then gaming meets film with Jeff Cannata and Dan Trachtenberg of the Totally Rad Show as we discuss why movies that become games and games that become movies both, as a whole, need work.  Finally, we talked with James Stevenson of Insomniac Games about Ratchet and Clank: A Crack in Time.  We covered the return of everyone's favorite Lombax, the amount of work that goes into writing and recording dialog for the twisted Dr. Nefarious, the origin of Clank's time-based puzzles, the greatness of the Insomniac Moon, and weapons that were left on the cutting room floor.  Set aside a few hours for this episode.  We ran into overtime here.  Download this week's episode directly from PTB, listen with the player below, find us on Stitcher, 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.

Power Button Presents Kombo Breaker - Episode 50: We Celebrate Fifty Episodes With John Davison (Gamepro), Jeff And Dan (Totally Rad Show), And James Stevenson (Insomniac Games)

Who Is The Bucket Mouse?

Grandpa UlriraExplore Koholint deeply enough in The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening and eventually you'll find a telephone that only calls one number... and it's a wrong number at that.  While every other phone on the island calls the old hint-giving Grandpa Ulrira, using the phone inside Ulrira's instead calls an unusual creature that calls itself the Bucket Mouse.  Who or what is the Bucket Mouse and what does it have to do with Link's quest?  It turns out that it's an incorrectly translated in-joke from the Japanese development team.  Glitterberri's Game Translations has an interview with the designers from years ago and one of them, Kazuaki Morita, spills the beans.

The "Yeeees!  This is Bucketmouth!!" you hear when you make a call from Ulrira's house is a real fishing shop, and the owner is actually the guy who runs the fishing pond in Ocarina of Time.

Translator’s Note: The contextless “Bucketmouth” was incorrectly romanized as “Bucket Mouse” in the English translation of Link’s Awakening. The line “Yeees! It’s Bucket Mouse!” should be “Yeees! You’ve reached Bucketmouth!” The actual shop in the Neyagawa district of Osaka, Japan allegedly closed its doors in October, 2010.

So that explains it!  Personally, I prefer the idea of a mouse that lives in a bucket hidden away somewhere on the island rather than a fishing shop proprietor.  You can't find Bucketmouth or the Bucket Mouse anywhere in the game, of course.  It's just a gag thrown in for the team's own amusement.  Still, it's great to put that mystery to rest after all these years.  It may well be Koholint's last lingering mystery.

The Highs And Lows Of Castlevania

Castlevania: BloodlinesKonami's Castlevania has been around for a very long time, but not every entry in the series has been a smash hit.  IGN has chronicled the history of the major releases in the Belmont versus Dracula war spanning the first Nintendo Entertainment System title up through the recently released Lords of Shadow 2.  Here's some of the blurb for 1994's Castlevania Bloodlines for the Sega Genesis:

Konami switched systems again for Castlevania’s 1994 outing. Premiering the series on the Sega Genesis, Bloodlines positioned itself as the most modern Castlevania yet, moving the stage to 1917. Dracula was once again revived just as he had been half a dozen times before in the series, though Bloodlines added a secondary villain with the vampire countess Elizabeth Bartley (presumably based on the bloodthirsty real-life Elizabeth Bathory). For the heroes, Bloodlines imitated Rondo of Blood’s pairing of a typical Simon-esque hunter and a less conventional sidekick—in this case, Eric Lecarde, whose spear gives him a range and jumping height beyond the whip-wielding John Morris.

While very extensive, the article leaves out a few releases.  There's no mention of the WiiWare exclusive Castlevania: The Adventure ReBirth, for instance, which stands as one of the last traditional 2D entries in the series.  The arcade release Haunted Castle is glossed over quickly.  There was potential for a larger look at the series here, but only the games 90% of the reading audience is mostly aware of already are listed.  It's a fun read, but not as comprehensive as it claims to be.

Donkey Kong '94 Is Still Fun After All These Years

Donkey KongI've long been a fan and perpetual booster of Nintendo's oft-overlooked Donkey Kong revival for the Game Boy released in 1994.  Before Rare reinvented Nintendo's first real original video game character for the 16-bit era with Donkey Kong Country, Shigeru Miyamoto took one more opportunity to place his stamp on the big gorilla and his feud with everyone's favorite plumber.  Over at USgamer, Jeremy Parish has looked back at Donkey Kong and marveled at why it endures as a true classic.

[T]he game itself initially appeared to be a decade out of date as well. By all appearances, it was nothing more than a greyscale rendition of the classic arcade game. Sure, it made up for its monochrome visuals by including the infamous cement factory (cut from the otherwise-faithful NES version due to storage limitations), but the idea that anyone was meant to care about that particular wrong being righted in the age of CD-ROMs and polygons seemed downright laughable.  

This perception of Donkey Kong '94 lasted for the approximately 10 minutes it took for most players to complete the arcade game's four classic levels. But something strange happened once Mario plucked the final bolt from the 100m girders: Rather than plummeting to defeat and letting players start a new, harder loop of the game, Kong ran off. Mario followed... and suddenly a massive new map consisting of multiple new stages opened up before him. And once that map was completed, another appeared -- and then another, and another. All told, this version of Donkey Kong consisted not of four stages, but of more than 100.

I spent plenty of time playing Donkey Kong in the backseat of my parents' car on the way to temple each Friday night when I was thirteen years old and always made it a point to revisit it annually up until my Game Boy's screen succumbed to old age and heavy use.  I gladly bought it (and finished it) again for the Nintendo 3DS when it hit the Virtual Console and then I happily tossed it into a used Super Game Boy I acquired not too long ago to finally see the game's colorized version.  While the game did eventually see a sequel for the Game Boy Advance in the form of Mario vs Donkey Kong, the addition of the marching minis changed the formula for the worse, and then the series changed focus to fixate on the little toys as the stars of the game in a series of Lemmings-like puzzle challenges that, for all my attempts, I just cannot get behind.  I miss the old Donkey Kong formula and would love to see another installment after all this time.  It's long past time to reignite the DK/Mario rivalry beyond simple toys.

(Image via USgamer)

The Real Story Behind Diddy Kong Racing

Diddy Kong Racing DSNintendo's Diddy Kong Racing developed by Rare in 1997 was a monster hit for the Nintendo 64 at a time when both companies needed a monster hit.  Releasing in time for the holiday shopping season with no other real blockbuster competition on a console needing some big hits more often, N64 owners flocked to the fun racer that aimed to advance the formula set down by the likes of Mario Kart 64.  What is the true story behind the game's quick development and amazing success?  Martin Watts explores the issue over at Nintendo Life.

Despite releasing shortly after Mario Kart 64, Diddy Kong Racing’s development wasn't influenced by the latter to any real degree. “I suppose the only thing — the struggle — was trying to make it run as fast as Mario Kart 64”, states Musgrave. The speed in Nintendo’s 64-bit kart racer was partly achieved through the use of sprites for the characters, whereas Diddy Kong Racing featured almost fully-3D models. “The wheels in Diddy Kong Racing are in fact sprites”, Musgrave admits, “Rob Harrison, one of our software engineers, created this tech which worked out where the camera would be looking in relation to sprite. It resulted in this really nice effect: 3D cars with sprite wheels that looked solid and real”.

What I found most interesting is that the game actually began as a spiritual sequel to the classic R.C. Pro-Am franchise under the name Pro-Am 64, but was eventually branded with Diddy Kong and other characters set to debut in future Rare titles such as Banjo and Conker in order to bring some star power to the experience.  Diddy Kong Racing has aged well (the Nintendo DS port released in 2007 has some issues, sadly) and is still fondly remembered today, but it really represented the idea of catching lightning in a bottle.  The unfinished sequel Donkey Kong Racing for the Nintendo GameCube fell apart once Microsoft purchased Rare, the Game Boy Advance sequel Diddy Kong Pilot was rebranded with Banjo-Kazooie characters to become Banjo Pilot, and Nintendo is satisfied with relying on the Mario Kart brand for its racing needs these days (even F-Zero has been put out to pasture).   

Weekly Poll: Into The Stack

Weekly Poll for 12-20-2013Oh yeah; weekly polls!  Let's get this topic going again after a long hiatus due to ongoing illness.  Last time around I asked how many of you were planning on getting a new console for the holiday season.  Most of you passed on a purchase, although buying a new generation console was slightly more popular than picking up something from the the familiar group of PS3/X360/Wii.  I've been very happy with my PlayStation 4 so far, although I still want to get a Wii U for all that Nintendo first-party goodness.  I need my Super Mario and Donkey Kong fixes!

Moving on, on Episode 121 of the Power Button podcast, Blake Grundman and I discussed the concept of the stack of shame: the pile of video games that you need to finish, but haven't.  I counter that there's no shame in owning a to-do list of games and would rather refer to them as a pile of pride.  How do you feel?  Which term is appropriate for you?  Let's hear your thoughts, vote in the poll itself on the right-hand sidebar, and be sure to listen to the episode if you haven't already.

Power Button - Episode 122: The Show Must Go On (To Become A Video Game)

Power ButtonTelevision shows and movies have been licensed for video game adaptations since the dawn of the interactive medium, but only the most popular productions are turned into games (and there's plenty more trash out there in that genre than treasure).  Worthy, entertaining shows and films are overlooked for the game treatment all the time.  Blake Grundman and I are tired of seeing our favorites overlooked in favor of yet another take on a kiddie cartoon or the latest blockbuster movie squeezed into a mobile freemium experience.  On this episode of the Power Button podcast, we discuss which TV shows and movies we wish would be adapted into stellar games.  The Twilight Zone, Stargate SG-1, American Dad, MacGyver, and many more are given our dream game treatment.  Join us for an hour of discussion.  No reruns here!  Download this week's episode directly from PTB, listen with the player below, find us on Stitcher, 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.

Another Pass At Street Fighter II: Rainbow Edition

Street Fighter II: Rainbow EditionI first called your attention to the bootleg Street Fighter II: Rainbow Edition variation of Capcom's classic fighting game back in 2011, but despite being two decades old at this point, people are still writing new material about this bizarre hacked and copyright-infringing creation that allows players to throw fireballs in mid-air and toss Guile's sonic booms without delay.  The latest person to take it on is USgamer's Joel Snape who has looked back at the game and approached the topic not so much from a technical perspective, but from the point of view of how the game impacted the fighting game community and Capcom itself.  Here's a sample:

"I played Rainbow Edition in the arcades a fair amount," says David Sirlin, lead designer on Super Street Fighter 2 Puzzle Fighter Remix and author of Playing To Win. "It's crazy and not serious, but pretty fun. You had walls of fireballs with Sagat, Dhalsim with insanely fast walk speed, rather than the slowest in the game, Blanka throwing" 

Then there are genuinely bizarre changes: land Blanka's neck-bite, for instance and the Brazilian monster morphs into Ryu doing a slow-motion Dragon Punch. Players can change into other characters, mid-match, narrowly beating Mortal Kombat 2's playable Shang Tsung to the punch.

For every wildly successful game there will always be gray market imitators.  In the 1990s it was Rainbow Edition and others like it.  Today it's the dozens of clones of mobile hits like Flappy Bird clogging up app stores.  Some things never really change, do they?  Here's another look at the insanity of Rainbow Edition in action as M. Bison and Chun-Li change into Balrog and a fireball-throwing Vega among other matches.

Power Button - Episode 110: Zen Studios And The Art Of Star Wars Pinball: Balance Of The Force Featuring Super League Football

Power ButtonBack in November 2013, Blake Grundman and I talked with Mel Kirk of Zen Studios about the company's latest batch of Star Wars Pinball tables on Episode 110 of the Power Button podcast.  What you didn't hear was our lengthy conversation about another of Zen's pinball tables.  We had the first interview with Mel about the new Super League Football expansion for Zen Pinball 2 and Pinball FX 2, but due to development delays we were forced to cut that segment from the show since it was due to air before the project was even publicly announced.  Now that the pinball table is available today for the Sony PlayStation 3, PS4, and PS Vita, the time has come to share this lost interview.  Join us for the special Director's Cut of Episode 110 to hear all about the new table and get a recap on the Balance of the Force expansion for Star Wars Pinball.  The lost segment begins around the 25:00 mark. If you haven't heard it, it's new to 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, @ThePowerButton.

Health Update: Surgery Edition

Dr. MarioIt's time for another update on my health.  You may remember how I've been dealing with a variety of serious health issues lately that has left me unable to eat solid food and dropping lots of weight very quickly (if I lose much more weight, I'll have to move to Castlevania and get a job throwing bones at Belmonts if you know what I mean).  It's all part of life during a Crohn's Disease flare-up  After several weeks of additional scans, x-rays, and other tests, my health issues are headed into the next phase.  All that's left to do to get me back on track is surgery.  Specifically, I need a piece of small intestine removed and another strip of it needs to be cut and resealed in such a way so as to decrease the swelling and inflammation that I've been dealing with for the past few months.  It's drastic, but must be done or else I'll never fully recover.  Surgery is scheduled for February 27 after which I'll spend a week or so in the hospital and then one month at home resting.  Family will be with me every step of the way and you may still see me pop up on Twitter now and then once I'm awake and aware.

I'll do my best to have some new PTB content in the bin scheduled to auto-post in my absence in order to "leave the lights on", as it were, including at least one new podcast episode and some other material I've wanted to share but have been unable to write up over the past few weeks while my pain levels were too severe for me to sit at the computer.  I really appreciate you all sticking with me and PTB during this difficult time.  I miss my regular creative output and hope to get back to it as soon as I'm healthy enough to do so.  In the meantime, if you'd like to help out, you can share your favorite PTB links with friends and forums.  Send an article you especially enjoyed to someone or link to a preferred episode of Power Button on social media.  Help spread the word!  This is my third surgery of this type and the prognosis is excellent, so aside from a lot of pain, weakness, and the hassles of the hospital experience, I expect to come back from this without too much overall trouble.  I hope you'll all be here waiting when I do.