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October 2014

Power Button - Episode 152: The Sound Of Fear

Power ButtonIt's the Halloween season again which means it's the perfect opportunity to take an episode of Power Button and spend it discussing our favorite frightening moments from the world of video games.  We're not into the whole Resident Evil / Dead Rising / Dead Space thing though, so we'll take you through the fear found in games like BioShock, Super Metroid, Batman: Arkham Asylum, Pokémon Red, Heavy Rain, and The Legend of Zelda.  Turn off the lights, close your eyes, and let the sound of fear take you away.  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.

Annual Castlevania Halloween Moment Goes To The Arcade

Castlevania: The ArcadeEvery Halloween here at Press The Buttons we take a moment to enjoy some Castlevania lore.  This year's experience comes from an obscure 2009 Castlevania arcade game released only in Japan.  Structured as a first-person rail shooter, Castlevania: The Arcade uses a special remote-style controller to enable up to two players to whip-shoot onscreen enemies.  The best thing about the game has to be the amazing soundtrack which is comprised of remixed arrangements of classic songs from the original Castlevania as well as Castlevania II: Simon's Quest, Castlevania III: Dracula's Curse, and the famed Castlevania: Rondo of Blood for the PC Engine.  Most of the songs have been uploaded to YouTube in extended forms, so sit back, turn out the lights, and enjoy some of the best music that the Castlevania franchise has to offer. I'm starting you off with "Dance of Illusions", but click on the Playlist button in the embedded player to get to other familiar tracks such as "Vampire Killer", "Beginning", "Wicked Child", "Bloody Tears", and "Poison Mind".

Stephen Colbert Tackles GamerGate

The Colbert ReportI haven't written about the horrific GamerGate movement that has roots in harassment and threats towards women in the gaming industry ("actually it's about ethics in game journalism," GamerGate's supporters say, but no, it's not) because to do so turns oneself into a metaphorical lightning rod, but now that Comedy Central's Stephen Colbert has tackled the ongoing toxic cesspool that is the movement and torn it apart with his usual deft comedic style, I just have to share this video from last night's episode of The Colbert Report in which he explains just what has been going on lately in the gaming community and invites media critic (and frequent harassment target) Anita Sarkeesian to offer her commentary on the matter.

Continue reading "Stephen Colbert Tackles GamerGate" »

Excitebike Is Coming To Mario Kart 8

One of the new tracks included with the upcoming downloadable expansion for Mario Kart 8 is based off of the classic Nintendo Entertainment System racing title Excitebike.  All of the little touches are there based off of a new trailer that showcases Mario and friends racing on the familiar ramps, slogging through mud pits, and zipping along to a remix of the familiar theme music.  What's especially interesting to me is that this new track is essentially a modernized update of an obscure Super Famicom racing game that mixed Mario with the classic Excitebike formula.  I wonder if this new Mario Kart track will dive deep into Nintendo history with a specific reference to Excitebike: Bun Bun Mario Battle Stadium and, if so, how many players will catch it?  We'll find out when this DLC pack launches in November.

Sunsoft Versus The Gremlins

Gremlins 2Different developers have taken a stab at the Gremlins license of the years and there are titles based on the two 1980s films spanning from the Atari 2600 all the way to the Nintendo Wii, but it's the two games based on 1989's Gremlins 2: The New Batch developed by Sunsoft that have largely stood the test of time.  Released for the Nintendo Entertainment System and the Game Boy, the two different adventures follow the plot of the film closely while also exploring their own unique angles.  Hardcore Gaming 101 takes us through the Clamp Centre for a final showdown with Mohawk and points out the faithfulness to the films.  For instance, consider the weapons available in the Game Boy version:

Some effort has been made to keep the game faithful to its source material, like its NES counterpart, although here it all feels much more contrived. The radio weapon is clearly based on the Gizmo dance scene near the beginning of the film and the toolbox is much like the one Billy hides Gizmo in. To use such objects from the film as weapons makes little sense compared to the choices in the NES game, almost as if they willingly avoided using the same ones just to be different. The levels appear to be loosely based on scenes from the movie such as the television studios and the lab, however they all end up looking and playing almost exactly the same. You have to give them credit for including some Gremlin characters who were missing from the NES version though, namely the Female Gremlin and the Brain Gremlin (who only appears on the game over screen). The bonus rounds where you tap buttons to make Gizmo hit a punching bag, much like when he's toughening himself up to stand up to the Gremlins in the movie, is a nice touch too.

I rented the NES version a few times back in the old days, but it's the Game Boy version that I eagerly bought at a young age and vowed to complete.  I never actually did thanks to its brutal difficulty level and unfair level designs.  The game only covers four stages, but I typically ended up stuck at the boss of the second level.  Ah, that horrible Bat Gremlin and his undodgeable attacks.  Where's a cement mixer and Murray Futterman when you need him?  I'm still waiting for the amazing Gremlins game that I know someone out there is capable of producing.  I'd love to see Telltale Games take a crack at the license with a proper adventure game.  I bet Zen Studios could create a great pinball table based on the films.  How about if BioWare took a shot at it with an RPG?  Just imagine the possibilities.

Microsoft Cuts Xbox One Price For The Holidays

Xbox OneEager to get a leg up on Sony's PlayStation 4 and, arguably, Nintendo's Wii U this holiday shopping season, Microsoft has announced that it is cutting $50 off of the Xbox One's price tag for a limited time starting November 2, 2014.  This includes the seasonal bundles that pack in new games such as Assassin's Creed: Unity or Sunset Overdrive.  Here's some of the press release:

This holiday, fans have more options to choose from with several exclusive bundles available at $50 off including:

  • Available on Nov. 2 in the U.S., the Xbox One Assassin’s Creed Bundle for $349 ERP and Xbox One Assassin’s Creed Bundle with Kinect for $449 ERP features Assassin’s Creed: Unity as well as Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag on Xbox One. The Xbox One Assassin’s Creed Bundle with Kinect also includes Dance Central Spotlight.
  • The Xbox One Special Edition Sunset Overdrive Bundle, available in limited quantities now, features a sleek white console and wireless controller, a digital copy of Sunset Overdrive, and special Day One edition in-game items – available for $349 ERP.
  • The Xbox One Limited Edition Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare Bundle for $449 ERP available starting Nov. 3, features a 1TB hard drive, custom console, custom controller and Limited Edition exoskeleton, plus a digital copy of the Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare Day Zero Edition.

This special promotion will be available nationwide at most major national retailers in the U.S., including Amazon, Best Buy, GameStop, Microsoft Stores, Target, Toys ‘R Us, and Walmart.

There's plenty of options there if you're looking to get in on the world of Xbox One.  Personally, I think the Assassin's Creed bundle is the best deal considering that it comes with two games (three if you spring for the Kinect version).  $50 isn't a lot of money, but it does give Microsoft bragging rights that it sells its new console for less than the cost of a PS4 (which, as you'll recall, still costs $400 without a game included).  This is a sharp move on Microsoft part to drum up sales from parents who want to buy their kids a new console this holiday, don't really care which one it is, and go to the store to see their options are a $350+ Xbox One with games packed in or a $400+ PlayStation 4 bundle (specific games yet to be announced).  Of course, there's always Nintendo's Wii U as an option at $300 (sometimes with a game bundled, sometimes without depending on the deal you can find), but given Nintendo's marketing problems these days, most parents would pass it over with the justification "We got the kids a Wii years ago."

Power Button - Episode 151: Concluding Destiny

Power ButtonWe tackled the opening of Bungie's Destiny for the Sony PlayStation 4 and Microsoft Xbox One back in Episode 146, and now we're back to finish the job as we discuss the remainder of the massively confusing space shooter.  Join Blake Grundman and I as we try and decipher the cryptic story, wonder about Bungie's ten year plan for future expansion, recast Peter Dinklege's role, and much more.  Eventually the conversation turns from Destiny to Spaceballs, so this episode has something for everyone.  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.

Yoshi Circuit From Mario Kart: Double Dash!! Returns For Mario Kart 8 DLC

Yoshi CircuitThe first round of paid downloadable content for Nintendo's Mario Kart 8 for the Wii U is just weeks away, and after teasing the audience with new characters and vehicles in the recent past, the company is finally showing off a new track.  Or, rather, a new old track.  Returning from the GameCube's Mario Kart: Double Dash!! is everyone's favorite course shaped like a dinosaur, Yoshi Circuit.  Check out its high definition makeover in this new trailer which also showcases new characters Tanooki Mario and Cat Peach.

Yoshi Circuit was one of my favorite Double Dash!! tracks and I'm glad to see it reborn here so I can finally play it without the two characters per kart mechanic that never really appealed to me.  With a healthy mix of retro tracks and new creations in store for this new DLC, I believe we're in good hands.  Nintendo could continue to create new packs like this for years to come and I'd probably buy them all.  They'll keep Mario Kart 8 expanding and feeling fresh long past its traditional expiration date.

Another Peek At The Official 1993 Nintendo Character Guide

Blake J. Harris, author of Console Wars: Sega, Nintendo, and the Battle that Defined a Generation, has shared another page of the 1993 Nintendo Character Guide that had us all so captivated back in August.  This time he's given us a look at some vintage artwork of Toad who is also known as "Little Toadie".  According to this completely true backstory of which there can be no doubt or deviation, Toad was visiting family in the Fungus Federation with the Koopa War broke out just prior to the original Super Mario Bros. adventure for the Nintendo Entertainment System.  I don't know who exactly at Nintendo of America wrote these character blurbs, but I can say with confidence that he or she had the job I dreamed of doing when I was a kid.  Come to think of it, I still kind of want that job!

Weekly Poll: Here Come The Amiibos

Weekly Poll for 7-03-2014Remember when we used to have a new poll every week here?  Let's try and get back to that now that I'm feeling better.  Last time we had a poll, I asked about your thoughts on streaming gameplay through sites like Twitch and UStream.  As it turns out, the majority of you don't want anything to do with watching someone else play a game or broadcasting your own gameplay.  I've tinkered with Twitch over the past few months, but can't seem to attract much of an audience.  It's disheartening to stream for an hour or two and nobody stops by to see it.  This is one of the few times I've jumped on the "hey, this is popular now!" social bandwagon and it just doesn't seem to be worth it.  I was streaming my playthrough of Guacamelee until Twitch unceremoniously ate my whole archive of broadcasts without warning (and this was before their controversial policies regarding archiving were announced), and that really soured me on the whole idea.  I'm sure I'll continue to play around with the medium from time to time, but I don't expect much from it at the rate things are going.  With the ease of streaming that today's new consoles provide, there's such a glut of content out there that everyone who isn't a major powerhouse is drowned out.  Come to think of it, that sounds like every other form of user-generated online entertainment.  The more things change, right?

Moving on, Nintendo is about a month away from releasing their new Amiibo figurines of famed characters like Mario, Link, and Pikachu.  Are you planning on buying any of them?  Do you plan to link them up into your Wii U and Nintendo 3DS games or are they just decorative?  Let's hear your thoughts.