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October 2014

Sonic The Hedgehog 3 Pitched For iOS

Sonic 3 and KnucklesOver the past few years we've been treated to completely revised and improved versions of Sonic CD, Sonic the Hedgehog, and Sonic the Hedgehog 2 for iOS and Android, but the best of the original Sega Genesis era, Sonic the Hedgehog 3 locked on with Sonic & Knuckles, has yet to arrive on mobile platforms.  The developers behind the previous releases have come up with a proof of concept vertical slice of the beloved game running on iOS and now hope to convince Sega to fund actual development.  Here's a video of the demo in action showcasing Angel Island Zone and a lengthy blog post detailing the technical challenges in bringing Sonic 3 up to modern expectations.

Aside from the tricks used to make each level more interesting visually, the levels themselves were also filled with various gimmicks and events with a wide range in degree of complexity. For a legitimate remake project, all of these things would have to be duplicated in exact detail. This is something with which we took great care in re-creating Sonic 1 and Sonic 2, and so, we’d expect no less from ourselves in the case of Sonic 3 (& Knuckles). However, in some ways, this makes the job of re-creating the game somewhat more difficult than when the game was first created from scratch, because instead of being the ones who make the decisions, design the methods, and plant Easter Eggs and other subtleties on a whim, we instead have to fully understand and accurately reproduce what was already done in a way that is virtually indistinguishable from the original.

This is actually where our different methods come into play. By preference, Taxman has acted mostly on the basis of observation, carefully observing what happens at run-time and then reproducing it with his own methods. When I was brought into these projects, one of the reasons was that my understanding of Sonic the Hedgehog came from an understanding of the original assembly code itself, and experience with reading and manipulating it. This meant that I was able to take specific methods from the original code and apply them to whatever else I was doing, which in this case, was re-creating the games using the RSDK. It was especially handy when observation couldn’t readily, or at all, explain what was happening. Observation also has its merits, though, as it’s a great time-saver in straight-forward cases, and there are advantages to writing your own code without bias, such as the potential for more-easily creating cleaner and more versatile code, and guaranteeing a from-the-ground-up understanding of the method. That’s not to mention how repeated observation can expose strange exceptions. The code, too, could easily expose an obscure behavior in some cases, or at the very least, be used to easily obtain exact values. I tend to move between the two as it feels appropriate, and between the two of us, we seem to catch pretty much everything.

While I'm not much of a fan of touchscreen gaming when it comes to platformers (I prefer a control pad and actual buttons for precise control), I eagerly bought all three Sonic re-releases for iOS as they were released.  They play very well for iOS games largely because of the loving care that went into development and the simple fact that Sonic only needs one action button to play rather than separate buttons for jumping, shooting, item use, etc. as more complex games require.  I'd really like to see Sega get involved with this pitch and greenlight proper development.  More mobile releases would be nice, but this version would really fly on modern consoles and PC.  One assumes Sega has crunched the numbers on this sort of thing and come to the conclusion that it's not financially viable, but I can't believe that one of the best hits from the Genesis era could be unprofitable in today's market.  Sonic isn't what he used to be, but his original adventures still stand the test of time.

Power Button - Episode 150: Regrets (We've Had A Few)

Power ButtonIt's common to talk about all the great games we've all played over the years, but it's not often that we discuss the games we haven't played.  In this milestone episode of the Power Button podcast, Blake Grundman and I are joined by our old friend and Electronic Arts Communications Specialist PR mastermind Brad Hilderbrand to talk about the games we regret not playing.  I didn't get around to BioShock until long after the Internet had spoiled the big plot twist, Blake has a Steam list of unplayed games that would rival most game shops' physical inventories, and Brad has a blind spot when it comes to a certain sports game.  Join us for an hour and a half of clearing the air and putting lost moments behind us.  It's cathartic!  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.

Let's Hope This Is The Captain Toad Amiibo

Captain ToadNintendo is set to launch the first wave of its new Amiibo figuines in November with a second wave to follow soon after.  Super Smash Bros. is the marquee title to use the NFC-capable toys, although other Nintendo titles such as Mario Kart 8 (already released) and Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker (due out in December in North America) will also integrate them somehow in some unannounced fashion.  All of the currently announced Amiibo designs are based off of badass Smash poses which is great, but if there's going to be a Captain Toad Amiibo to match with his game, then we're going to need a Captain Toad figurine that matches the character's trademark optimism.

With that in mind, I really hope that this official Nintendo artwork seen here is the model for it.  It's adorable!  Have you ever seen a Toad looking so enthusiastic and ready for adventure?  I'm initially limiting myself to just a Mario figurine (because it's Mario) and the Kirby model (because I want him to sit on my desk), but if this Captain Toad design makes it to stores, I'll have to bend my rule and pick him up too to sit alongside Kirby.  He's just too exuberant not to bring home.

Secret Origins: Nintendo Wii U And Super Mario 3D World

Super Mario 3D WorldBeing a life-long Nintendo fan, I really wanted a Wii U when it launched in 2012.  The high price tag, lackluster Nintendo Land pack-in game, and impending new release drought put me off picking one up, and since I was about to become engaged to a woman I loved very much at the time, I knew my free gaming hours would be on the decline (plus I had a ring to buy around the same time as the console's release).  So I vowed to wait for a price cut, a new major 3D Super Mario game, or some other factor that would turn the console into a must-own item for me.  I'm nothing if not both patient and optimistic. 

If you've been reading PTB this year on a regular basis, then it's no surprise to you when I say that I've had a rough time.  When 2014 goes down in the history books for me, it'll record two major abdominal surgeries, complications from those surgeries, massive weight loss that reduced me to skeletal proportions for a while, and my engagement ending.  It's been hell.  Right in the middle of all of that, I decided to stop putting off that purchase.  Faced with spending several months at home recovering between surgeries and regaining weight to bring me back up to a normal healthy size, I stopped holding out and bought a Wii U along with Super Mario World 3D in late April.  With all that had happened and was still happening at the time, I needed an escape and, moreover, I needed to do something fun for myself.  After all that had happened already, what was I waiting for now?  Nothing.  So I ordered and Amazon brought it right to my door two days later.

Continue reading "Secret Origins: Nintendo Wii U And Super Mario 3D World" »

Destiny: What The Hell Was That About, Anyway?

DestinyI hadn't intended to play Activision/Bungie's recently released Destiny as am I traditionally terrible at first person shooters.  I have a few favorites, sure, but I never claimed to be any good at them.  I ended up with a Destiny beta code though, and much to my delight and surprise, I enjoyed it.  I felt I was actually up to the challenge.  I rented the Sony PlayStation 4 version of the game the week it released and eagerly set off on my space adventure.  Now, after several weeks of exploring the planets and decrypting engrams in the Tower, I'm ready to move on.  I've finished all of the story levels, patrolled the hell out of Venus, and blasted my way through the strike missions.  I've even braved the Crucible and had my warlock-class human character blown to kingdom come more times than I care to count. 

In the end though, I have to admit that after a strong beginning, I lost track of just what was going on in this post-apocalyptic hellscape we used to call Earth.  I understand that there are a glut of database entries I can read on the Bungie website, but I'm not eager to do homework on a game's lore like that.  I'm all for supplementary material, but I like for the game itself to give me a complete story before I run off to learn more in the expanded universe.  I decided to rely on what Destiny itself had to tell me through action and exposition.  After much consideration, here is what I've come to believe is Destiny's plot.  Please feel free to correct me when I wander off the correct path because I know some of this is not quite correct.  Spoilers ahead.  Or maybe not.  It depends on my comprehension.

Continue reading "Destiny: What The Hell Was That About, Anyway?" »

Power Button Presents Kombo Breaker - Episode 34: The Wide World of Nintendo with Craig Harris of IGN

Power Button Presents Kombo BreakerThis classic episode of the Kombo Breaker podcast comes to you from July 3, 2009 airing just prior to the holiday weekend in the United States that year.  Our guest is Craig Harris (then of IGN, now of EA/Origin) and we spend an hour pelting him with questions about the Nintendo DSi's future, where the Wii is going with MotionPlus, the future of Wii Sports Resort, and much more.  Download this week's episode directly from PTB, listen with the player below, or subscribe via iTunes, 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 all of us on Twitter at @PressTheButtons and @GrundyTheMan or for just podcast updates, @ThePowerButton.

Animated EarthBound Tribute Stirs The Soul

Spend a few minutes reliving the high points of Nintendo's classic RPG EarthBound in this lovingly animated tribute video created by fan Sagan Yee.  Four years in the making, the project is finally complete and chronicles Ness and his friends as they travel Eagleland to stop the evil Giygas.  Many of the game's key moments and characters are showcased including Buzz Buzz's arrival in Onett, the Runaway Five performing with Venus, Jeff leaving Winters in the Sky Runner, the Tendas reading Overcoming Shyness, Ness soaring through Magicant, and so much more.  It's a stirring production that demonstrates just why EarthBound is so wonderful and that you need to play it if you never have.

Lost Chrono Trigger Subplot Deemed Too Depressing

Chrono TriggerSquare's Chrono Trigger stands out as one of the best RPGs from the Super NES era of gaming and would later go on to spawn a semi-sequel in Radical Dreamers, an actual sequel for the Sony PlayStation, and enhanced remakes for both the PS1 and the Nintendo DS as well as mobile platforms.  The story of how a band of unlikely heroes band together via time travel to destroy an ancient space parasite eager to devour the planet is one of gaming's most detailed, most surprising tales, and while the game offers plenty to do and many sidequests to explore, one subplot was dropped from the game during development because it was deemed too depressing.  In a game where time and fate regularly screw with the protagonists, how depressing did a story element have to be in order to be scrapped?

Before answering that, let's recap.  Late in Chrono Trigger, the main protagonist, Crono, is blasted into atoms by the aforementioned space parasite, Lavos.  The other heroes escape the carnage, but Crono is truly dead and it's possible to finish the game without him.  Thanks to time travel, however, it's also possible to go back to the moment of his death and swap him out for a lifeless Crono clone.  The clone is obliterated instead, Crono goes back to the future with his friends, and everyone can resume fighting the good fight as if the whole thing never happened.  As the game's story planner Masato Katō revealed in an interview translated by The Chrono Compendium, the original plan for this plot was far darker and provided an even greater example of time acting as a judgmental force.

There was also a time during a meeting when the idea of the main character dying came up, and the whole room suddenly burst into laughter. I seemed to be the only one who thought “That was a serious suggestion, what’s so funny?” and sat looking blank. (laughs) Although at that point Mr Horī did say “Hey, that might be pretty interesting.” Incidentally, the idea that I had at that time was for Crono to really die, and the others would have to go back in time and enlist a version of Crono from the night before the Fair. Then after the final battle they would have to return him to that point in time and bid him farewell. But that idea was rejected (laughs). They said it had to be a happy ending, so we eventually settled on the story with the clone as it is today.

Chrono TriggerThe protagonists would have access to a spare Crono through time travel, but would have to return him to the moment he left his relative present in order to avoid corrupting the timeline.  It's a very Back to the Future idea reminiscent of the film's subplot involving Marty McFly struggling to tell Doc Brown that furious terrorists would gun him down in the future.  How would the party have explained to the Crono from the past that they needed his help without divulging information about his own future?  While I'd hate to have seen Crono die permanently, it would have been interesting to explore this subplot as an optional quest.  The choice would be yours: do you fight to save Crono by replacing him with a clone at the moment of his death or do you take the easy way out and recruit a younger Crono knowing that he'll still die later once you're done with him?  Perhaps the gaming world wasn't ready for that kind of thing in 1995, but as games have grown deeper and grittier, I think today's audiences could handle the choice and its consequences.  For death to matter in fiction, it has to stick.  Just ask Aeris.

Nintendo Backtracks On Wii U GameCube Adapter Claims

GameCube controller adapter for Wii UI mentioned a while ago that Nintendo has produced a special adapter for its Wii U console that allows the old GameCube controllers (and Wavebird wireless controllers) to be used with the upcoming Super Smash Bros. sequel.  Yesterday the product became much more interesting when the company announced that the adapter would bring GCN controller access to any game that accepts Classic Controller or Pro Controller input, but today the other shoe dropped and now Nintendo has backtracked on that news with a clarification that the only Wii U game that supports the adapter will be SmashEurogamer fills us in:

The Wii U GameCube controller adapter will only be compatible with Super Smash Bros., Nintendo has now said.

The company has changed the listing on the accessory's official product page and apologised for the mix-up.

"The GameCube Controller Adapter for Wii U is compatible with Wii U and Super Smash Bros. for Wii U specifically - it is not compatible with any other Wii U software," a Nintendo UK spokesperson has told Eurogamer.

"The adapter is also not compatible with Wii and we apologise for any confusion."

Initially, the adapter's listing stated that it would be compatible with all games that utilised the Wii Classic Controller and Classic Pro Controller, as well as the Wii U Pro Controller. Both of these statements have now been removed.

That's disappointing.  I was wondering if I needed to buy one of these adapters with future use beyond Smash in mind; for all I know, this adapter is one of those bizarre peripherals that Nintendo sells for about three months, then ends production and support forever.  If the adapter was usable on other games besides Smash, I'd consider it a must-have, but I'm happy playing the brawler on the GamePad and don't expect to do much local multiplayer with it.  Then again, just because the adapter isn't backward compatible doesn't necessarily mean it won't work with future releases created with it in mind.  And whatever happened to those GameCube games for the Virtual Console?  Certainly they'd support the adapter if they ever make it to the eShop.  So I appear to be right back where I started here: do I buy one for potential future use or let it go and risk it vanishing from the market after the first production run?  Nobody ever said being a Nintendo fan was easy.

Power Button - Episode 149: Crossover Madness

Power ButtonWe're accustomed to video game characters remaining in their own unique worlds, so when Mario meets Mega Man, Ratchet meets Sly Cooper, or Ryu meets Iron Man, it's cause for celebration.  On this episode of the Power Button podcast, Blake Grundman and I explore some of our favorite video game crossovers such as Super Smash Bros., Disney Infinity, Marvel vs Capcom, Battletoads & Double Dragon, PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale, SoulCalibur II, and so many more.  We also take a moment to dream about our dream crossover titles.  Can an Aero the Acro-Bat / Bubsy the Bobcat game really be that far off?  Yes, it can.  Still, a man can dream.  Thanks to Power Button listener Tony Nevel for suggesting this week's topic.  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.