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May 2016

Wario's Creators Explain His Purpose

WarioNintendo's villain / anti-hero Wario has gone on to fame and fortune of his own, stepping out of Mario's shadow to star in the Wario Land and WarioWare franchises, and while we all know how he started out in 1992's Super Mario Land 2: Six Golden Coins when he stole control of Mario Land, debate has continued to rage regarding his true origins.  I'm not talking about the fiction here; I'm directly asking: why was Wario created?  A developer interview with SML2's creators originally featured in the game's official strategy guide has been translated and posted at Shmuplations, and it sheds some light on the issue.

—What was the idea behind Wario?

Kiyotake: We imagined Wario as the Bluto to Mario’s Popeye. The truth is, we kind of came up with the idea of the name first, and everything else came after. Since he was a “warui” (bad) guy, he should be Wario. And we had the idea to flip the M upside down. To our surprise, the idea was a big hit with everyone on the team.

—What was your process for creating the character of Wario?

Kiyotake: Whenever I had the idea for a character—not only Wario—the first thing I would do is talk it over with Hosokawa. If he thought it was cool, I’d present it to the rest of the staff. Then, once I thought the idea could work, I’d discuss the details of the sprite animation and movement with Harada. That’s the process I went through for Wario and all the other characters in SML2. Granted, there were a lot of direct rejects, or characters that no one took a liking to.

—Can you tell us about Wario’s past/origins?

Kiyotake: There’s been a rumor going around the Wario was childhood friends with Mario, but it’s just a rumor: I don’t know if it’s true or not. His favorite food is crepes. That much seems true…

There we have it, straight from the source!  Heroes need villains, and while Mario already had Bowser to contend with at this point in history, creating a Bizarro-version of our favorite plumber allows the Super Mario games to play with conventions more directly than Bowser allows.  Consider the end of SML2 when Mario and Wario finally meet face to face and the latter uses the same power-ups that the former has been using all game long against him.  The game's internal logic not only suggests that Wario can use the Fire Flower and Carrot, it demands that we see it happen.  The interview suggests that Mario is fighting for himself for the first time in SML2, but the plot goes deeper than that.  He's not only fighting for himself, he's also fighting a reflection of himself.  Now we jump through a mirror, darkly.


Power Button - Episode 205: Favorite Fresh Features

Power_buttonThe current generation of consoles have introduced multiple new features and refined capabilities introduced last generation, so it's only right that this week on Power Button we discuss our favorite of those features.  Share buttons, live streaming, YouTube sharing, screenshot capturing, off-TV play, backward compatibility, Remote Play, and much more!  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.

Mortal Kombat Imitators Are Sincerest Form Of Battery

Blood WarriorSuccessful media always spawns imitators, but sometimes the imitators go on to become highly successful entities of their own.  Super Mario led to Sonic the Hedgehog.  Grand Theft Auto inspired Saints RowStreet Fighter II spawned Mortal Kombat.  And what did Mortal Kombat spawn in response?  Mostly trash.  Hardcore Gaming 101 has a listing of Kombat clones each more dismal than the last, most of which use words like Battle, Warrior, Ninja, or Blood in the title.  Here's one that nails two of those words: Blood Warrior.

From Kaneko, the folks who brought you those Chester Cheetah games, Blood Warrior is another Japanese take at a Mortal Kombat style game, even though it's kind of a sequel to the 1992 game Shogun Warriors, which predated Mortal Kombat. When it comes to gameplay, it does all right, even if it's not exceptional. There's nothing particularly unique about its mechanics, although it at least plays well enough. The presentation, however, feels like a particularly low budget sentai show, with characters like a kappa and some kind of Buddhist statue as part of the cast. Despite its goofy look, it's also surprisingly bloody, with characters frequently exploding into piles of organs. The same developer would go on to make the Jackie Chan fighters, which were much better games all around.

The only game on the list with staying power is Killer Instinct.  The rest are forgettable or, worse, doomed to only be remembered as laughingstock fodder for an hungry Internet.  It's interesting to read through the list and be able to tell which games actually had some devoted, talented people behind them and which were just cranked out as quick, cheap cash-ins on the current hot property of the year.  One of the games, Way of the Warrior, was created by Naughty Dog who would later go on to major fame with Crash Bandicoot and Uncharted.  I suppose everyone has to start somewhere.


Uncharted 4 Sells Many Copies Which Pleases Lots Of People

Uncharted 4

Sony and Naughty Dog are happily boasting that Uncharted 4: A Thief's End for the PlayStation 4 is the fastest selling exclusive title in the history of the console in the North American region with 2.7 million copies of the game sold worldwide (counting both discs and PlayStation Store purchases) in its first week on the market.  Its success isn't exactly a surprise; interested parties both inside the video game industry and out expected Uncharted 4 to sell well and we're talking about a franchise that just prior to A Thief's End's release has sold a combined twenty-eight million copies spanning the original Drake's Fortune through its two PS3 sequels and the PS Vita's oft-overlooked Golden Abyss and Fight for Fortune.

I bring this up to say that hopefully this success sends a message that there's still high demand for expertly crafted, AAA-level single-player linearly plotted video games.  We hear so often that these kinds of games are largely unsustainable from a development perspective, that people don't want them anymore in favor of evergreen mutliplayer-exclusive experiences, and that free-to-play mobile experiences packed with consumable microtransactions are where the entire market is headed overall.  I thoroughly enjoyed my time with Uncharted 4 and cannot recommend it enough.  Developer Naughty Dog has packed the game with so many beautiful details and fun moments that I felt negligent rushing through certain set pieces despite those sequences being built around escaping from danger as fast as I could.  I finished the game, but I know there are moments that I missed and eventually I'll need to replay the game to try and see everything.  I advise you to play the game and see what it has to offer.  Let yourself be captivated by the mystery and explore the story beats.  Don't rush through it, and avoid the endgame spoilers.  You need to experience this one for yourself.

Fans Fill Metroid Void With New Creations

Samus AranMetroid fans have been waiting a while for a proper follow-up to Metroid Fusion and Metroid: Zero Mission, but with the franchise's focus on the 3D Metroid Prime titles and the upcoming spin-off Federation Force, it seems that the lack of classic 2D-style Samus Aran adventures is going to go on for a while more.  Not wanting to wait it out, several people have put together complete reworkings of 1994's Super Metroid for the Super NES to turn it into new games.  NeoGAF member Boney has put together a list of the best new Metroid adventures and invites further discussion about them.

Unless you've been living under a rock for the past 20 years, you should know that the original Super Metroid is widely considered one of the best videogames of all time and for good reason. A masterfully created open ended map overhauled from it's predecesor, with an emphasis on exploration and acquisition of significant power ups. The strong design was accompanied by the creation of a believable ecosystem, gorgeous spritework, wonderful music and too many memorable moments to mention here. It's widely considered the best game in the franchise and every game since then has diverted itself mechanically or design wise to the beauty that is Super Metroid.

So to satisfy you guys before some of you lose it due to deprivation, I invite all of you to be part of GAF plays: Super Metroid Hacks, in which we can find solace in wonderfully designed games made by passionate and talented community that is the Super Metroid scene. These guys have been going strong for over a decade and they show no signs of stopping, making more and more progress and pushing what is thought to be possible to build when handed the keys of the game itself.

There's some interesting stuff happening here.  Normally I'm not a fan of underskilled gamers proclaiming that they will make the true Metroid 5 or the real Sonic X-Treme or what have you, but in this case I think that the creators of these Metroid projects have something special happening.  There's actual game design talent in action here.  Super Metroid Redesign tampers with gravity and rebalances Samus's abilities.  Metroid Super Zero Mission is built for sequence breaking.  Metroid: Ice Metal focuses on a non-linear design and encourages exploration.  Nintendo will eventually take Metroid back to its roots, but the fans can fill the void until then (and more power to them as they do).

Speed Through The History Of F-Zero

Nintendo's beloved racer F-Zero attracted a lot of attention when it debuted with the Super NES in 1991, and over the years the various sequels for the Nintendo 64 to Game Boy Advance and beyond have turned heads thanks to the sense of immense speed and break-neck turns.  Hardcore Gaming 101 explores the history of the series including several installments that never left Japan.  For instance, there's a expansion kit for F-Zero X that includes additional racing cups, a track editor and a kickass remix of Mario Kart 64's famous Rainbow Road track.  There's even some information on unofficial versions of the series for the Sega Genesis and PC.  Here's a bit of the section on the Satellaview-exclusive semi-sequel, BS F-Zero Grand Prix.

The SNES game was simultaneously the first and the last Western players got to see of F-Zero for eight long years. In Japan, however, Nintendo revived the brand for their Satellaview program already in 1996 with the BS F-Zero Grand Prix. Each of the four broadcasts consists of one cup, but the game is structured a bit oddly. Before each race starts, there is a practice round and a demonstration of a specific tip for the course. The parts were played as timed SoundLink broadcasts with added commentary and arranged versions of the music (different from the jazz album).

The four iconic F-Zero cars were replaced with new alternatives that have a more fancy look and shuffle the stats around a bit, but fulfill the same basic roles within the game. Even though later entries in the series greatly expanded the roster of competitors, these four vehicles never returned. The tracks are mostly the same, but they're arranged a bit differently and there is one new course in each cup for a total of 19 (Mute City I is repeated once in the last broadcast). Some of the new courses mix up the familiar elements in unique and interesting ways, but there's nothing categorically new here.

I've always enjoyed the F-Zero series despite being basically terrible at it.  I even tracked down the rare arcade release, F-Zero AX, in a secret arcade hidden away at Walt Disney World several years ago.  Fans have begged for a proper new F-Zero since the earliest days of the Wii, but word on the street is that poor sales for the GameCube's F-Zero GX and a lack of consensus within Nintendo on where to take the series next have held back new installments.  Still, if Star Fox (another Super NES title meant to show off new technology and a series thematically linked with F-Zero through fun character references) can see a sequel post-GameCube, I'm sure there's hope for F-Zero yet. 

Let's Enjoy Animated Video Gaming GIFs From The Simpsons

ThrillhouseThe Simpsons has given us so many classic video game jokes and gags over the years from the days of the humble 8-bit boxing game to the modern Funtendo Zii.  The Frinkiac search engine allows users to created animated GIFs from screengrabs of the first seventeen years of the series combined with text from the subtitle track, so I couldn't resist creating some short animations of my favorite gaming-related scenes.  Enjoy these clips of Sonic the Hedgehog encouraging shoplifting, Dash Dingo saving the Down Underverse, Donkey Kong scratching himself, and the mighty gore of Bonestorm.

Meet Donkey Kong


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Power Button - Episode 204: Disney In-finish-ity

Power_buttonBlake Grundman has a problem.  He's invested a lot of time and money into collecting Disney Infinity figurines and video games and now Disney has canceled the entire product line.  He needs some time to air his grievances and openly weep, so on this week's episode of Power Button we hold a farewell for the biggest Toys To Life product that somehow didn't make enough money.  Also, knowing that Disney is going back to licensing its properties to other publishers again, we pitch some ideas for Disney-owned properties we'd like to see become new games.  A dream is a wish your heart makes (unless you fail to turn a profit).  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.

Ratchet And Clank Wrap-Up

Ratchet and ClankNow that the latest Ratchet and Clank game for the Sony PlayStation 4 is complete and a best seller, it's time for the game's directors, Shaun McCabe and Chad Dezern, to talk about the lessons learned from the development process.  Gamasutra hosts the discussion as the two cover tying the game into the Ratchet and Clank film, using the film's development to boost their own processes, and organizing their old PS2 Ratchet assets. 

We simply don’t have access to our source files from the PS2 era. Back then, we had a numbers-only naming convention, with number-to-name directories scribbled in private notebooks. We used a home brewed asset management system that we can no longer access. And our directory structure was a free-for-all, with source files frequently hidden away on local directories. 

Luckily, the PlayStation 3 R&C Collection proved to be our saving grace. Idol Minds went through the painful process of extracting our assets from the PS2 master disc for the collection. We realized early on that we could use those libraries. So we enlisted support from technology consulting firm Tin Giant to extract data from the collection and convert it to our engine formats. Amusingly (to us, anyway) the assets retained metadata from the PS2, so we got to revisit our asset numbering system and remember our fledgling development practices.

I enjoyed both the new Ratchet game and the tie-in film, although the game is the better experience of the two.  I enjoyed it so much that I put in the extra work to earn the PS4 platinum trophy.  You have to admire the work that goes into the Ratchet games.  The team at Insomniac Games clearly loves the franchise and wants to give their all when they create a new one.  Even they don't know where the series goes from here, but I know we'll see a new installment before too long.  I have a feeling there are still too many solid ideas written down on brainstorming notebooks for the Solana Galaxy to know permanent peace.