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March 2015

John Oliver Targets NCAA With Fake EA Sports Game

John Oliver has been exposing the seedy underbelly of large organizations for a while now on HBO's Last Week Tonight, and now this week just in time for March Madness basketball he's turned his attention to the NCAA's exploitive treatment of college athletes.  What especially caught my attention was the show's coverage of NCAA Basketball 09, the college basketball game from Electronic Arts that led to a lawsuit several years ago over the inclusion of players' likenesses without compensation.  All of that is the lead-in to the reason I mention this here today: Oliver drives home his points about the NCAA with a trailer for a fake video game in the EA Sports style.  Entitled March Sadness 2015, the game purportedly allows players to take on the roles of unpaid athletes, abusive coaches, and wealthy administrators.  It's the sort of biting social satire I've come to expect and appreciate from Last Week Tonight.

Three Guys Who Publish Anything Publish Everything

Maniac MansionThe classic LucasArts adventure game Maniac Mansion arrived on the Nintendo Entertainment System in 1987 courtesy of Jaleco and quickly became a memorable experience for many NES fans.  One of the memorable elements of Maniac Mansion involves the publishing house Three Guys Who Publish Anything who, true to their in-game television commercial, do indeed publish anything; that is, they publish all forms of media.  The characters can send Mark Eteer of Three Guys any form of available media such as a manuscript or a cassette tape and, if it's worthy, they will offer a publishing contract.  These contracts can be used to successfully complete the game.  On the other hand, there are some things in Maniac Mansion that players can send to Three Guys that are not worthy of mass exposure.  Sending a recording of a broken record, a badly formatted set of memoirs, or the horrible tentacle mating song will only confuse or anger Eteer, cutting off a potential avenue of winning the game.  So just how many different things, right or wrong, can players send the publishing house and what happens when they do?  In this YouTube video from Felix Neptune we see all possible outcomes of sending items to Three Guys.  It's an amusing ride that encourages experimentation and exploration.

Add Culture To Your Day With The Orchestral Game Music Concert

Orchestral Game Music ConcertVideo game music has come a long way from its beepy origins, and while those original tunes are classic, sometimes I wonder what a game like, say, Chrono Trigger, was released today for the first time with an orchestral soundtrack.  Symphonies and orchestras have performed arrangements of famous video game songs for years now, but one of the finest performances you'll ever hear comes to us from the Orchestral Game Music Concert.  Between 1991 and 1996, Japanese orchestras performed famous and beloved songs from SimCity, Super Mario World, The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, Final Fantasy IV, EarthBound, StarFox, Donkey Kong Country, and so many more.  CDs of these concerts were released years ago, but the $200 asking price for each volume on the used market is a bit steep for those of us eager to take in the culture and refinement of the "Athletic" theme from Yoshi's IslandYouTube to the rescue!  Here are a few of my favorite selections from the series.

If you want more than just a taste, here's the entire playlist:

Uncharted 4 Rescheduled For 2016

Uncharted 4Originally primed to be the big PlayStation 4 release for the upcoming holiday season, today Sony and Naughty Dog announced that Uncharted 4: A Thief's End will instead arrive next year.  Rescheduled for Spring 2016, the extra time gives the time to meet its ambitious goals.  Here's some of the statement from the game's directors, Bruce Straley and Neil Druckmann, at the PlayStation Blog:

After spending so many years with Nathan Drake, he means a lot to the team, and telling the climactic chapter of his adventures is a task we don’t take lightly — this game deserves every bit of the attention to detail, precise pacing, and nuanced storytelling Naughty Dog is known for. So we’ve made the difficult choice of pushing the game’s release date. Giving us a few extra months will make certain that Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End not only meets the team’s high standards, but the high standards that gamers have come to expect from a Naughty Dog title.

While I know there's bound to be a lot of disappointment trailing this announcement (I've seen plenty of whining online today about it), you all should know me well enough by now to know that I'm not concerned about the delay and feel that if the development team needs more time to nail Uncharted 4, then they should take that time and produce a better product.  We talk a lot about publishers sending games out to the marketplace in a half-finished, broken state with half-hearted plans to fix them later with software patches, so in a period where so many so-called finished games are anything but, it's always refreshing to hear that when a game needs more time in the oven, it's allowed to fully cook.  There'll be other games to play this holiday season instead, I'm sure.

Amazon Offers 50% Off PC Gaming Products Today

Buy somethin' will ya!Are you in the market for a new headset for your PC?  How about a game controller?  A dedicated gaming mouse?  If so, Amazon has you covered today with its Gold Box deal on a variety of Logitech's famed PC gaming products.  A bunch of accessories are 50% off today ranging in price from $10.99 to $69.99.  Surely there's something in there that you want.  Why not pick it up?  A portion of each purchase you make through the green link above (any purchase, not just the Logitech products) goes to help support Press The Buttons which now that I've removed the increasingly annoying banner ads from the site is more important than ever.

Power Button - Episode 169: Short Order: 1886

Power ButtonHow many hours does it take to get to the center of The Order: 1886 for the Sony PlayStation 4?  Word around the Internet is that it's not many.  On this week's episode of the Power Button podcast, we tackle both the perception and the reality of video games that don't provide a lot of time bang for your paid dollars.  How much game should one expect for $60?  For $40?  For $15?  Is that even the sort of thing one should try to measure?  And can the idea that a game is too short for its own good sink it before it even reaches store shelves?  Join us for this discussion as well as sidequests into Family Guy: Back to the Multiverse and Super Mario 64 in this ninety minute show.  Now that's a lot of value for your money!  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.

Battletoads Coming To Shovel Knight

BattletoadsSpeaking of the Battletoads, today Yacht Club Games announced that not only is it bringing last year's indie smash Shovel Knight to the Microsoft Xbox One, but a few special guest characters are along for the ride.  While the Sony PlayStation family of Shovel Knight ports will feature God of War's Kratos, the Xbox One version reintroduces Rash, Zitz, and Pimple for their first gaming appearance since 1994.

The Battletoads, who debuted on the NES in 1991, are going to be returning in the Xbox One version of Shovel Knight! It has been so much fun to bring the radical attitude and gameplay of the NES classic to the Shovel Knight world. If you have ever played Battletoads– we’re pretty sure their extreme adventures left an impression!

I have to admit that I'm a bit jealous of this; I'd rather see the Battletoads than Kratos, but since I don't play in the Xbox realm, I'll have to watch from a distance.  There's a brief teaser trailer of the 'toads in action as they drop into action (Pimple is even riding one of the infamous speeder bikes from the Turbo Tunnel level).  This all seems to be leading up to a future announcement of a proper new Battletoads game.  I'm especially curious to see where all of this eventually goes.  For more on Shovel Knight, be sure to listen to Episode 138 of the Power Button podcast.

Meet The Battletoads

BattletoadsThe runaway of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles franchise in the late 1980s and early 1990s spawned numerous imitators all scraping for a piece of the large talking radical heroic manimal market, but the one to make the biggest splash in the world of video games has to be Rare's infamous Battletoads.  Starring three tubular toad dudes named oh-so-gnarly names like Rash, Pimple, and Zitz, the 'toads appeared in a series of games for the Nintendo, Sega, arcade, and PC platforms of the day between 1991 and 1994 before vanishing just as quickly as they first appeared.  Today the original Battletoads game is largely remembered for its infuriating Turbo Tunnel level and a modern day prank phone call meme, but there's more to this abandoned franchise than unfair challenges and childish jokes.  Hardcore Gaming 101 explores all of the games in the series.  I bet there are some here you didn't know about.

The TMNT parallels are numerous and obvious: the Battletoads have a wise old mentor in Professor T. Bird, a wise-cracking, perpetual nemesis in the Dark Queen, a formidable-looking but ultimately ineffective rogues gallery of the Dark Queen's right-hand men to serve as bosses, a massive army of regular mooks to bash in the Queen's rodent army, and the occasional damsel-in-distress to save. Key differences include the Toads special ability to transform their limbs into a variety of comical weapons (sledgehammers, wrecking balls, giant sneakers, etc.) and the fact that none of the Battletoads games really bother to set up any kind of backstory to the games' events. While the Turtles' origin story is intrinsically tied to their characterization (and was already well-known by the time the games were released), the player is thrown right into the Battletoads' mythos with knowledge only of the impending peril at hand, without any sort of explanation of where the Toads come from, why they've been given such repulsive names, why they're always battling with the Dark Queen, or how she managed to recruit a near-infinite army of rodents, axe-wielding pigs, and bio-technological weirdos.

The article even covers the one-shot Nintendo Power comic and the Saturday morning cartoon pilot episode.  Speaking of Nintendo Power, the magazine made the original Nintendo Entertainment System title look fantastic back in the old days, and I eagerly counted out the coins in my spare change jar to come up with the fifty dollars needed to buy it.  It was plenty of fun at first, but then the iconic third level taught me that I'd probably never see the end of the game, nor any other part of it after the Turbo Tunnel racing segment.  Eventually I learned the timing necessary to finish the level and moved on to later stages, but I was never able to complete the Intruder Excluder level without using a Game Genie.  I've dabbled in the other ports and sequels, but still felt burnt after that initial introduction and, in a way, have never quite forgiven it for taking my fifty dollars. 

BattletoadsThere have been rumblings of a Battletoads revival in recent years (Microsoft owns the franchise now), but somehow I bet if it did return, it would include a modernized Turbo Tunnel meant to drive a new generation of players to the brink of madness and lots of other nods to the outrageous difficulty level of the original game.  There'd probably be a tongue-in-cheek reference to the prank phone call gag, too.  An unreleased, unfinished Battletoads sequel/reboot for the Game Boy Advance leaked a few years ago and shows an attempt to seize on the radical aspects of the characters more than anything else; it's all generic style and no actual substance.  I'm sure someone could do the Battletoads idea justice, but playing any new installment as a parody of itself seems so lazy to me now.  Several years ago I even suggested that a new game in the series should run to the limit with self-references, but so many games have done that sort of thing in recent memory that following that trend now feels stale and played out.  If the franchise were to return, I'd like to see it played totally straight.  Not as a dark and gritty reboot, mind you, but as a fun beat 'em up that takes its absurdities seriously without an overabundance of winks and nods to the audience.  Better yet, perhaps Microsoft should just bring the 1994 arcade game to Xbox Live and call it a day.  It's the best possible example of what Battletoads strives to be, so why improve on perfection?

Metroid Fusion Dissected

Samus AranJeremy Parish is at it again with his The Anatomy Of Games series, this time turning the microscope to 2002's Metroid Fusion for the Game Boy Advance.  After tackling the previous three games in the series, Parish is ready to dig into Samus Aran's last traditional 2D adventure and isn't afraid to offer up criticism where criticism is deserved.  Right off the bat he lays out how Fusion differs in tone from its beloved predecessor, Super Metroid:

Metroid Fusion came into a world that had little patience for its predecessor’s style. Super Metroid expected observation and patience and mental synthesis of its players; it offered copious clues, and its design nudged players in the proper direction, but it was rarely explicit about directions or even expectations. Masterful as Super Metroid‘s design was, its subtlety was no match for a new generation of gamers who preferred telling to showing, explanation to experimentation. Fusion had to be different — and, as Sakamoto has explained, the team wanted it to be different. Nintendo R&D1 was always about playing around with new ideas, and they’d already made the best possible Super Metroid imaginable with Super Metroid. The sequel needed to be something separate.

So even before the game begins, it throws you off guard by nearly killing Samus Aran.

I missed out on Fusion when it was first released, choosing Metroid Prime for my GameCube as I didn't have a GBA at the time.  Prime eventually wore me down and I wished I could've gone for the more traditionally structured title instead.  It wasn't until years later when I bought a used GBA SP that I finally experienced Fusion and while it has its flaws and isn't the same kind of Metroid game that fans were accustomed to exploring, it has its charms and is worth playing.  Oddly enough, it's also the last game in the Metroid timeline as of this moment; the Metroid Prime games and Other M are interquels staggered around Super Metroid's place in the story.  We still have no idea what happens to Samus now that she's part metroid and on the run from the Galactic Federation.  No wonder fans demand a sequel — we have to know what happens next!

Power Button - Episode 168: Blue Bomber Bonanza With Mega Man's Ian Flynn, Matt Moylan, And David Oxford

Power ButtonREADY!  We've finally assembled three of Mega Man's comic book and resource material scribes together in the same virtual room to discuss all things blue bomber.  Welcome back to the show Ian Flynn (the writer behind Archie's Mega Man comics), Matt Moylan (Managing Editor of UDON Entertainment, publisher of blue bomber art books), and David Oxford (author of The Robot Master Field Guide).  You've heard them all separately on past shows, but this is the main mega event!  We have nearly two hours of discussion for you and we answer all of your audience-submitted questions.  Learn about the upcoming Mega Man / Sonic the Hedgehog crossover event, Worlds Unite, hear what UDON Entertainment is working on next, find out what it'll take to get a dedicated Mega Man X comic running, discover what's in store for the Mega Man 4 comic book story arc, and so very much more.  At five people, it's our largest podcast panel ever.  Get equipped!  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. Next Time: Is The Order: 1886 as short as people say? And what does that mean for the future of short $60 games in general? We'll hash out the issues in record time.