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September 2014

Artwork On Parade: New 3DS Promotional Character Art

Nintendo characters in garish costumes

Nintendo of Japan cranks out of a lot of character artwork specific to its home region.  Some of the more expressive, cultural images (such as Mario and Princess Peach in traditional kimonos) rarely make it out of the country to be used in advertising the Nintendo brands overseas.  With the company preparing to launch the New 3DS in Japan, television commercials are already running to show off the new customizable faceplate options.  As part of the campaign, Nintendo's artists have put together some images of the company's famous characters such as Mario, Pikachu, and Link sporting some very garish, loud costumes to show that you can personalize your New 3DS to be as obnoxiously clashing as you want.  At least, I think that's the intent.  Let's have a look at some of these images.

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Power Button - Episode 148: A Day In The Spotlight

Power ButtonKing Dedede.  Victor Sullivan.  Leonardo da Vinci.  Tooie.  These are all second-string sidekick characters from famous video games that deserve a chance to steal the spotlight and break out into lead protagonist stardom.  On this episode of Power Button, Blake Grundman and I discuss our favorite sidekicks, villains, and supporting characters that we'd like to see take center stage in adventures of their own.  Some sidekicks are lucky and are promoted up to central star, but for every Luigi or Zero there's a Dr. Wily or Captain Qwark waiting in the wings.  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.

Hyrule Warriors Has Style


Nintendo's Hyrule Warriors for the Wii U is out in North America today.  I'm only about two hours into the game so far, but I can already tell that it has style.  Check out this screenshot of Link posing on horseback from the victory scene in Adventure Mode, sword in hand.  This is a game that knows it's dealing with big damn heroes and treats them with the appropriate respect. I look forward to what more the game has to show me.

PlayStation Home To Close In 2015

PlayStation HomeSony is pulling the plug on its PlayStation Home virtual world for the PlayStation 3 next year, bringing an end to dancing in the public square and spending real money for virtual clothes for your avatar to wear.  Kotaku has the story.

PlayStation Home, Sony's long-running (though never exactly beloved) attempt at creating a PlayStation 3 social hub one part Xbox Live and one part Second Life, is finally being put out to pasture. There, on March 31st, 2015, it will presumably be shot, with maggots and vultures ultimately avoiding the body because they'd rather play Call of Duty.

The platform will cease publishing new content on November 12th of this year, and you'll only be able to download new things until December 3rd.

I can't say I ever found a point to PS Home.  I spent a little time with it when it launched back in 2008 and I checked in here and there over the years whenever some interesting event lured me back, but aside from buying in-game clothing or playing the simplistic games-within-the-game, there was nothing to do.  Strangers milled around everywhere, dancing and gesturing and acting like the usual idiots protected by anonymity.  I understand why Sony tried to make PS Home work; there was a time when virtual environments such as Home were poised to be the next big thing before Facebook simplified the whole mainstream idea down to status alerts.  Do any of you out there have fond PS Home memories?  Will you miss it once it's gone?  Or did you delete it from your PS3 ages ago and never looked back?

Power Button Archives Now More Accessible Than Ever

Power ButtonI highly encourage you to listen to the complete archive of Power Button podcast episodes.  There's nearly one hundred and fifty episodes now and you're missing out if you skip them.  Once an episode drops off of the front PTB page though, it disappears from podcast aggregators.  That's a problem.  Now, thanks to PTB reader and podcast listener Erik Olson, there's a solution.  Just load the following three RSS files into your podcast software of choice (iTunes, etc.) and you'll have access to dozens and dozens of episodes at the tap/click of a button.  It's the easiest way to experience the scintillating discussion, zany humor, fascinating interviews, and kickass music that make up the Power Button podcast.  Join us, won't you?

Japan's Club Nintendo Platinum Gifts Are Pitiful Too

Club Nintendo calendarRemember how much we all complained about Club Nintendo's North American Elite status gifts for the 2013-14 year?  I'm thinking now that we made out better than the program's Japanese counterpart which announced its Elite gifts today.  In previous years the loyalty program has handed out free exclusive controllers, shirts, and other awesome items, but this year Platinum members will receive a free Picross game featuring Nintendo's all-stars or a calendar, while Gold level members will receive a calendar.  Making things worse, this is apparently the last time that Club Nintendo Japan will give out Elite gifts (the membership agreement has even been updated to remove all mention of the Elite gifts and rankings).  The dream is over.

Suddenly that free Virtual Console download doesn't sound so bad.  No word on if other Club Nintendo regions will discontinue the annual Elite gift, but considering all the complaints the North American division received this year, I wouldn't be surprised if they decided the whole thing wasn't worth the trouble and ended it as well.  Truly we don't know what we have until it's gone.  Oops.

Sonic Takes You To School

Sonics's SchoolhouseThere was a time when it seemed like a smart idea to force gaming mascot powerhouses like Super Mario and Sonic the Hedgehog into edutainment titles for the kiddies.  It's almost as if Nintendo and Sega were trying to prove that their products could be a positive force in a child's life.  Nintendo licensed their famous plumber into Mario Is Missing! and Mario's Time Machine (among others), while Sega shoved their blue blur into learning experiences of his own.  Hardcore Gaming 101 walks us through the low quality shovelware that is 1996's Sonic's Schoolhouse for PC.

In Sonic's Schoolhouse, you don't play as the hedgehog himself, but instead a poorly-rendered cartoon animal that Sonic has presumably abducted to "play in his schoolhouse". Sonic, as far as we're all aware, has never had any formal education, making his sudden interest in schooling children more than a little sinister. Sonic's pretty much everywhere in the game, from the menus to having multiple copies of himself following you around at all times in the game itself. Every time he speaks, he'll attempt to explain things to you in a voice so nasal and high-pitched that it could make Jaleel White sound like James Earl Jones in sheer comparison.

The game itself takes place in a first-person view, rendered in an engine that's only barely above the Wolfenstein 3D engine by virtue of having floor textures. What you're supposed to do is look at the many blackboards across the walls, look at the question they asked, find the letter or number bouncing around, and then bring it to that blackboard. This is all you ever do regardless on if you've chosen Spelling, Reading, or Math. You probably won't notice much of a change in difficultly regardless of whether you're playing on Kindergarten or 4th Grade level, either. It's not even really that educational, either, so it fails there, too.

We don't see this sort of thing much anymore, thankfully.  Sly Cooper isn't teaching kids to read, nor are Ratchet and Clank instructing children in basic arithmetic.  While I'm sure it's possible to create a quality edutainment game featuring beloved characters that is as entertaining as it is educationally sound, publishers like Nintendo and Sega just didn't care enough to make it happen back then and it's sure not a priority now.  These kinds of learning programs were only ever meant to provide a passable defense for placating angry parents who felt that Mario and Sonic were rotting the minds of their children.  Now that yesterday's children are today's parents who grew up with video games and appreciate their innate positive influences, there's little need to try and pass Sonic off as a teacher.

Zen Pinball's Most Wanted

Zen Pinball 2Zen Studios has created something special with its Zen Pinball / Pinball FX platform, and thanks to our modern day system of buying downloadable expansions, the company can offer up new tables on a regular basis.  In addition to original tables like Paranormal and Sorcerer's Mansion, Zen has created some amazing pinball tables based on popular franchises such as Star Wars, The Walking Dead, Street Fighter II, and the many properties under the Marvel Comics banner.  That's all well and good, but I have a few suggestions for new table collections.  Allow me to share the top five pinball table sets on my personal wish list.

Mega Man

Mega Man

Zen already has an arrangement with Capcom to license Street Fighter II, so why not take the next step and produce a Mega Man table?  I envision a single table loaded up with encounters with Robot Masters rendered up in full 3D glory so they can move around the table as objectives change.  Complete missions to earn new "weapons" which are worth point multipliers.  Perhaps spelling out the letters B-A-S-S triggers a multiball mode.  It all builds up to a battle against Dr. Wily as the final challenge, and I'm counting on the whole experience to include remixed arrangements of the franchise's best music.

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Power Button - Episode 147: The Highest Of Definitions

Power ButtonIt's become a popular and profitable practice for publishers to re-release their video games from previous generations of hardware for current consoles and handhelds.  Games such as God of War, Halo, Sonic the Hedgehog, The Last of Us, Tomb Raider, and many more have returned under the guise of remastered editions.  Last generation's high definition remake lives on under new terminology.  On this episode of Power Button, Blake Grundman and I discuss whether or not all of his rehashed content is ultimately worthwhile for the industry, compare notes on what it takes for each of us to buy a game all over again, and take a sidequest into the world of SimCity and SimTower.  It's a delightful ninety minutes of conversation.  Hurry and listen before we re-release this episode as a remastered edition!  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.

A Farewell To Ice Climbers

Ice ClimbersThe Ice Climbers duo, Nana and Popo, have been a fixture of the Super Smash Bros. series since 2001's Super Smash Bros. Melee for the Nintendo GameCube. Plucked from obscurity out of the lackluster Nintendo Entertainment System title Ice Climber, the pair exist in Smash as a single entry on the roster, but fight as a team.  Now that teamwork has cost them a place in the new Super Smash Bros. games for the Nintendo Wii U and 3DS.  Nintendo has chosen to keep the character roster identical across both platforms, and that decision combined with technical challenges has led to the elimination of the Ice Climbers.  According to developer Masahiro Sakurai via Famitsu translated by Nintendo Everything, Nana and Popo did not take to the 3DS so easily.

[R]egarding the roster, Sakurai mentioned that even though many characters are included, there are some who worry about those who didn’t make the cut. He specifically addresses the absence of the Ice Climbers as well. It seems they were running in the Wii U version, but due to the required hardware power, the team couldn’t make them work in the 3DS game. There wasn’t as high a priority given to series that are unlikely to have another installment at this time.

That's a sad end for the duo, and I wonder if they'd have made the cut if they were more popular.  Would the development team have spent additional resources to get them working on the 3DS if they were all-star captains of the series?  If Ice Climber U was due out next year, would things have ended differently?  They can be a difficult challenge to use for those unfamiliar with how they perform, and they're not the only characters to go missing this time around; Kat Bailey at USgamer has put together a tribute to other absent friends such as Solid Snake, the Pokemon trainer, and Wolf O'Donnell.  None of the cut characters impact the way I play Smash, so I can't say I'm mourning their loss, but I sympathize with players who wonder which character to use primarily now.  If Mario or Link were somehow unfathomably removed from the game, I wouldn't know what to do.