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August 2014

Free Mario Kart 8 Update Adds Features, Karts

Mario Kart 8Nintendo's Mario Kart 8 for the Wii U has done very well in both critical and sales terms, but the company isn't content to let the game rest in this era of patches and updates.  A new expansion for the game scheduled for free release on August 27 will add some requested changes and three new karts.  Crave Online summarizes the new additions:

  • Drivers will now have the option to display the course map on the TV screen during races.
  • The order of the menu after each race will be changed to “Next Race”, followed by “Watch Highlight Reel”.
  • The game will remember the most recent kart options that were selected, even if the Wii U system was powered down.
  • Users will be able to change options of other players’ Mario Kart TV downloaded highlight reels, such as changing the focus to different characters or actions.
  • A score screen will be added so players can see how many coins they’ve collected, the win-loss record of their online battles and their frequently used characters.
  • Improved the stability of the online connection to enhance user experience during online battles.

I think I'm most excited by the default option to move to the next race selection since I often inadvertently trigger the highlight reel by jamming the A button to continue.  It seems strange to be excited by a menu item, but this is the world in which we live now.  Let's say that in the grander scheme of things, we're seeing Nintendo react to suggestions from the community.  That sounds more important than a menu item.

As for for the free karts, three vehicles based on real life Mercedes cars will be a part of this update.  It's part of an advertising partnership between the automaker and Nintendo in Japan, but why hold back content from the rest of the world?  There's a trailer of the new karts in action, but I have to admit that something about seeing Nintendo's beloved characters pitching cars this way feels wrong.  There's no way for Nintendo to win this one; either they release the content internationally and people complain about the advertising element or they don't release it and people complain about the company withholding content.  Let's just all agree that if you like the Mercedes karts, you'll use them and if not, then you won't.

Explore Mega Man Prototypes At Your Leisure

X and ZeroIt's always interesting to get a look inside the video game development process by exploring leaked prototypes and beta versions.  Thanks to Protodude (of Prototude's Rockman Corner), there's now a single destination for your Mega Man prototype needs.  He's put together a Dropbox full of the currently available beta versions which includes multiple early takes on Mega Man 7, Mega Man 8, Mega Man: The Power Fighters, Mega Man Legends, Mega Man X4, and so many more.  Here's the current list:

  • Rockman 7 sample version
  • Rockman 8 prototype version 1 and version 2
  • Rockman Battle & Fighters demo version
  • Mega Man: The Power Battle - SAMPLE version
  • Rockman NEO (Biohazard 2 trial edition)
  • Rockman DASH "Capcom Friendly Club" trial
  • Rockman DASH Digest Edition
  • Rockman DASH 2 - Episode 1 - Save Roll!
  • Mega Man Legends 2 debug prototype
  • Misadventures of Tron Bonne debug prototype
  • Rockman X4 sample version
  • Rockman X5 preview version
  • Rockman X6 prototype
  • Rockman X7 demo version
  • Mega Man X Command Mission E3 2004 version

With the right emulation tools, you can play your way through these games and observe what's changed during the development process.  Short on time or interest?  The Cutting Room Floor has been doing the digital archeology work and outlining everything for your review as well.   It's a great time to be a curious Mega Man fan.

The Beginning And The End Of The TurboGrafx-16

TurboGrafx-16There's been a lot of talk lately in the video game community thanks to the Nintendo versus Sega novel Console Wars: Sega, Nintendo, and the Battle that Defined a Generation, but it's unfair to overlook the third runner in that 1990s console race, the TurboGrafx-16.  The TG-16 celebrates its twenty-fifth anniversary this year, so to mark the occasion you know you can count on Jeremy Parish at USGamer to recount the console's history, outline why it succeeded in some regions but failed in others, and remember the different variations of the base hardware.  It's an interesting read and a great overview of just what happened to keep the console from gaining traction in the United States.  Bonk just wasn't enough.

Yet this focus on blazing action and surreal quirkiness proved to be a sort of overspecialization when it came time for the PC Engine to launch in America as the TurboGrafx-16 in the summer of 1989, two years after the system's Japanese debut. American gamers tend to gravitate more toward realism, character-driven action, and sports: Areas that PC Engine developers had been slow to build in. Despite the console boasting a healthy library of releases in its home market, when it came time to focus on the West, NEC America found itself in desperate need of viable releases, and that showed from the very beginning.  

"The bundled game we got, Keith Courage in Alpha Zones, might be the worst pack-in game in history," says TG16 enthusiast Marshall Martin. "At least, it was the worst until that point. Much too 'Japanese' for a seven-year-old to appreciate. It seems like the best games weren't localized, too. NEC probably gave up on the U.S. after what I'm assuming was a really weak launch."

I never had a TG-16 when I was a kid, nor did I really want one aside from a curiosity about the side-scrolling platformer Bonk franchise which I really wanted to play in the same way that I wanted to play the Sonic the Hedgehog games for the Sega Genesis, but remained a Super Mario fan at heart.  The portable TurboExpress also interested me because it could play the exact same game cards as the home console, plus it sported a television tuner accessory.  To a cash-strapped kid with an affinity for TV, that was a masterstroke of design.  The prices were too steep for all of that gear though and there were not enough games on the console beyond Bonk to justify buying one when Nintendo continued to crank out so many golden titles that demanded my time, so I let the TG-16 go until the Bonk trilogy turned up on the Wii Virtual Console years later.  I grew up playing the TurboGrafx library vicariously through Electronic Gaming Monthly.  In the end, I made the right decision.

By the way... Keith Courage in Alpha Zones: shouldn't there be a "the" in there somewhere?  Keith Courage in the Alpha Zones?  That always bugged me.

American Club Nintendo Doubles Up On Digital Rewards

Club Nintendo - August 2014 Rewards

The American arm of Club Nintendo updated its reward catalog for the first time since last month's Elite prize disappointment and it appears that the loyalty program is headed down the road of emphasizing digital games over physical items.  Previously the program offered a choice of four downloads per month for the Wii U, Wii, 3DS, and DSi from the Virtual Console catalog or small, bite-size DSiware games.  Typically two of the offerings were duds, but you'd often find Paper Mario or Kirby's Dream Land in the other slots.  It wasn't a perfect offering, but it wasn't bad either.  Now, effective this month, the catalog offers a choice of eight downloads and the games up for grabs are actually good stuff.  This month you can get Super Mario Bros. 2 and Excitebike for the Wii U; Star Fox 64 and Vegas Stakes for the Wii U / Wii; and Mario Golf, Dr. Mario Express, Puzzle League Express, and Baseball for the 3DS for prices spanning 150-250 coins.

If an emphasis on digital games is where we're headed with Club Nintendo, then I'm alright with that so long as the company recognizes that some games are better than others.  I never want to see Ice Climber or Urban Champion held up as a mighty classic ever again.  We can do without shovelware, but I would like to see some of the stronger third-party titles such as Mega Man and Castlevania offered from time to time if those deals can be arranged.  I continue to hoard my coins for some hypothetical future amazing physical item, but I can see myself sinking coins into Virtual Console releases just as easily.  I slammed Club Nintendo last month over the lackluster Elite reward offerings, but I want to give credit when the program does right by me.  Adding more games worth playing to the standard reward catalog is a solid move and I'm glad to see it happening.

A Peek At The Official 1993 Nintendo Character Guide

MarioUPDATED: Now with Princess Toadstool, Yoshi, and Bowser!

Blake J. Harris's book Console Wars: Sega, Nintendo, and the Battle that Defined a Generation is the gift that keeps on giving to Nintendo and Sega fans, as the author's research turned up an official Nintendo Character Guide from 1993 that finally locked down the biographies and appearances of the company's stable of heroes and villains.  Harris was kind enough to post a few scans from the book to Twitter this morning in which we learn just what makes Mario tick (he's tolerant because he has seen too many things in his travels to be narrow-minded, for instance) and find out which PANTONE colors one must use when coloring the famous plumber.  For more on Console Wars and the Nintendo of the 1990s, don't miss our interview with Harris on Episode 134 of the Power Button podcast.

Continue reading "A Peek At The Official 1993 Nintendo Character Guide" »

The Generic Adventures Of Booker DeWitt

Booker DeWittDo you remember the protagonist of 2013's BioShock Infinite?  He's Booker DeWitt, and while you may remember his story of racism aboard a floating city in the sky, you might not remember what he looks like because he's just so darn generic.  He's the amalgamation of five-o'clock-shadowed, gun-toting tough guys who appear on book covers, movie posters, and video game box art.  To prove that Booker fits anywhere else just as easily as BioShock Infinite, enjoy this gallery of him seamlessly starring in other games such as Tomb Raider, L.A. Noire, Uncharted 3, and Max Payne 3.  

(via Reddit)

More Club Nintendo Disappointments

Super Mario AdventuresThe Internet gaming community let out a collective "Really?" a few weeks ago when Nintendo revealed that this year's Elite bonuses for Club Nintendo members were merely game downloads rather than exclusive tangible collector items.  I shared my dissatisfaction, downloaded my copy of EarthBound, and suggested better Club Nintendo exclusives, but I'm not the only one with ideas regarding how the loyalty program could be improved.  David Oxford over at Poison Mushroom has plenty to say on the topic as well along with some ideas for better giveaway incentives most of which tread on the retro side of things.  For instance, how about a published edition of Nintendo Power's old Super Mario comics?

A long, long time ago, Nintendo Power magazine would include monthly comics based on current games to run alongside their usual strategies, news, and other coverage. Upon completing their runs, Super Mario Adventures and The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past were gathered up and released in a trade paperback-styled format. However, the books aren’t especially common, and the main way to read them now is to try to dig up scans online. Reprinting these would provide fans with pristine copies they could keep on their bookshelves and read whenever they want.

Moreover, Super Mario Adventures was actually gathered up and printed before the series was complete– it contains the 12 regular Super Mario Adventures chapters, which were based on Super Mario World, and the first Mario vs. Wario story that was based on Super Mario Land 2: 6 Golden Coins, but not the second Mario vs. Wario story, wherein the two battle for Princess Peach’s affections on her birthday by trying to obtain a coveted Samus doll.

Those were fun comics, and thanks to the Virtual Console, the old games spotlighted in those stories are still relevant and available to newcomers who missed out (or weren't born yet) the first time around.  Oxford also would like to see DVDs of vintage Nintendo commercials, the ever-popular game soundtracks, and other reasonable items taken from the Nintendo vaults.  I think the gist here overall is that people want some kind of physical object rather than yet another chance to get Ice Climber.

Post-Surgery Health Update

Dr. MarioI wanted to take a moment to update you all on my current health now that my latest hospital stay has come and gone.  I've been out of the hospital for just under a week now following my latest digestive surgery.  I had another piece of intestine removed and had the remaining tissue reconnected.  It's been a rough year, to say the least.  I'm doing well now though.  I'm eating again, my pain is under control, and I have a medical vacuum attached to my abdomen to facilitate healing.  Basically, it's a small vacuum pump that attaches to surgical packing in my still-open surgical wound that sucks together the healing tissue and drains away fluids.  I have to lug the pump around with me and keep it plugged into the wall for several hours per day to recharge it.  Remember at the beginning of the first Iron Man movie when Tony Stark was hooked up to an electromagnet powered by a car battery that he had to carry around with him?  That's basically me right now minus the cave and box of scraps. 

So I'm resting for the rest of the month now so the wound can heal and I can finally get back to my old routine.  I won't be able to do any strenuous exercise for a long time, so I've already bought myself a Wii Fit U kit to be able to at least do some sort of physical activity while I heal.  I can't start on that until next month at the earliest, but I'm ready to go when the time comes.  For now I'm just passing the time with video games, television, and sleep until I've built up my strength again to go back to work.  Thanks to everyone who continued to follow along on PTB while I was away and the site was essentially on autopilot.  It continues to mean a lot to me that even in my absence, you all come to read the articles and listen to the podcast.

The Legend Of Zelda Monopoly Coming Soon With GameStop Exclusives

The Legend of Zelda MonopolyWe live in an era, my friends, where GameStop isn't content to merely offer special preorder incentives for video games, but now boasts exclusive add-ons to old fashioned board games.  Following on from previous gaming tie-in editions of Monopoly featuring Nintendo properties, USAopoly is about to release a version of the famed real estate board game with items and characters from The Legend of Zelda grafted to it.  Check out these images to see how the Zelda Monopoly differs from the traditional version of the game.  What really bothered me about this was the news that GameStop sells an exclusive version of the game with extra tokens and item power cards.  Where will it end?

The Legend of Zelda MONOPOLY takes players on a trip through time as they travel through the land of Hyrule and beyond. Memorable locations include Link's House, Temple of Time and the Lon Lon Ranch and are all up for grabs in this special collector's edition of one of the most revered video games of all time. In addition to collectible tokens, custom designed game board, Zelda themed money and custom Chance, Community Chest and deed cards, the Game Stop Exclusive edition includes the Ocarina of Time token, Hyrule Map Lithograph and 6 Item Cards for added game play.

At least there's only one exclusive version to buy (or not) instead of a Walmart version and a Target version, too.  I think what really bothers me about the exclusivity here is that these are tangible items that buyers will not get if they don't buy from GameStop.  I'm no fan of the company's exclusive DLC practices for video games, but at least in those cases that DLC usually ends up on the digital marketplace of your choice later.  I don't see there being an aftermarket upgrade kit with the extra token and cards that one can buy later on.  I feel like the next step here is a GameStop exclusive version of Scrabble with extra blank tiles included in the box.  Still, my complaints aside, the tokens seem to be very detailed and the game board is gorgeous.  Look past the slimy marketing and there looks to be a fun game here.

The Legend of Zelda Monopoly

Power Button - Episode 140: The Neo Retro Revolution

Power ButtonSometimes the best way to look forward is to look backward.  This week on the Power Button podcast, Blake Grundman and I discuss some of our favorite new games that take deliberate cues from the games of yesterday and analyze why some of those old games are so timeless.  Sonic the Hedgehog 4, DuckTales Remastered, Mega Man 9, Shovel Knight, and Bionic Commando Rearmed are all invoked as we reach back to their 8-bit and 16-bit ancestors to crack the code of great game design.  As an added treat, Blake guides us through time spent with his new RetroN 5 all-in-wonder retro console and answers my overly techie questions about whether beloved games with custom enhancement chips work on it or not. 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.