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September 2016

Rockin' Kats Rocks The House

Rockin' KatsWhenever I hear that Atlus has a new video game to announce, I hold out hopes and light a candle for a revival of the company's 1991 Nintendo Entertainment System classic platformer Rockin' Kats, but instead it's all Persona and Shin Megami Tensei all the time.  No matter; I am a patient man.  As for you, if you're unfamiliar with the fun wonder that is Rockin' Kats, then lucky for you that Hardcore Gaming 101 is here to educate you in the ways of kitty protagonist Willy, his girlfriend Jill, and bulldog bully Mugsy.  Part DuckTales and part Bionic Commando, Rockin' Kats truly does rock.  Here's Dylan Cornelius at HG101 describing the mechanics of Willy's signature weapon: the punch gun.

The Punch Gun is the heart of Rockin' Kats. The Punch itself is a large fist that emerges from Willy's gun, and is one part weapon, one part swinging mechanism and one part pogo stick. If you've ever bounced on Scrooge McDuck's cane in Capcom's DuckTales, the pogo stick will seem familiar. Punching little gangster dogs in the face shouldn't be much trouble for anyone that's played a platformer with a weapon. Using the Gun to swing, however, doesn't come as naturally. When you shoot the gun at a platform, the fist attaches itself to the platform. From here, you swing with the 'B' button and press the 'B' button again to detach when ready. It's easy enough to launch Willy forward across chasms or bodies of water, but there are sections where you'll need to swing him backwards to reach an out-of-the-way platform or combine the swing with the pogo ability to move upwards. The more complex maneuevers never feel natural, and often result in trial-and-error deaths if you misjudge the momentum or timing of your swing.

I rented Rockin' Kats many times at the Movie Gallery in 1991 and I was determined to reach the end.  I was pleasantly surprised to find that the end wasn't so easy to reach.  Complete the game's four main levels and a fifth level unlocks featuring a boss rush of all of the previously featured enemies and a showdown with Mugsy himself.  Even that was not the end; after all of that, Mugsy challenges Willy to one last lengthy level designed around more intense challenges and remixed encounters.  Moreover, in this final stage, all of Willy's hard-earned weapons and items are disabled.  It takes skill to make it to the true end of Rockin' Kats, but it's well worth the journey.  The soundtrack offers the kind of peppy, energetic charm that was the hallmark of the best NES games.  Willy and friends are nowhere to be found today, sadly, and this game is perfect for a Virtual Console revival on Nintendo platforms.  I really hope that Atlus brings it back.  It's a purrfect perfect game to pick up and play without a major commitment.

How Did Zelda: Link's Awakening Do That?

The Legend of Zelda: Link's AwakeningNintendo's Game Boy is remembered a simplistic handheld gaming system, but its real legacy is that it could accomplish so many amazing technical feats despite being so simple.  The platform came a long way from the basics of 1989's Super Mario Land.  Even by 1993, for instance, the hardware was running games far more complex than even Nintendo itself imagined.  While a traditional-for-the-time Legend of Zelda adventure was at one time considered off the table, eventually the developers were able to coax such an experience from the Game Boy which led to The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening.  The game would be updated for the Game Boy Color in 1998 which is where we join this interesting technical analysis behind the game's special effects.  How did the developers squeeze so much out of so little?

The original Game Boy was first released in 1989, and has quite basic capabilities. The graphic primitives are based on tiles, background and sprites. Tiles are 8x8 bitmaps, arranged into the grid of a large scrollable background.  This grid is very rigid: that’s 8x8 for you, and nothing else. Fortunately, sprites are objects that can move with smaller increments, positioned over the background.  Note that there is no “direct drawing” mode of some sort: you can’t draw individual pixels on the Game Boy screen, it has to be part of a 8x8 tile.  This severely limits the drawing possibilities. Any advanced effects will have to use complex workarounds.  To understand, let’s have a look at the introduction sea sequence. We’re going to strip it of all special effects, and only use background scrolling, tiles and sprites.

It's always fascinating to get a look "under the hood" of a video game, especially one as beloved as Link's Awakening.  What we took for granted as fluidly moving a character around a screen or watching a ship crash against stormy waves at sea actually has a lot of work behind it to make it function properly.  There will be more installments in this series at the KZONE website and I encourage you to continue reading along as more are published.  I know I will.

Power Button - Episode 214: Big Changes From Nintendo, Apple, And Sony

Power ButtonThis week's new product announcements from Nintendo, Apple, and Sony certainly turned heads and sparked anger.  Ranging from Nintendo's Super Mario Run for iPhone to the new iPhone 7 ditching the reliable headphone jack to Sony introducing the 4K-capable PlayStation 4 Pro that doesn't quite play 4K things as you'd expect, there's a lot of news for Blake Grundman to rant and rave about.  If you like Blake on the soapbox, then you'll love this week's episode of Power Button.   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.

Mini-Review: New Super Mario Bros. Wii

New Super Mario Bros. Wii

This article was originally published at on November 24, 2009.

When Bowser Jr. and the Koopalings spring a booby-trapped birthday cake on Princess Peach, Mario, Luigi, and two mushroom retainer Toads chase their escaping airship across the Mushroom Kingdom through a healthy dose of traditional side-scrolling platforming action for up to four players in New Super Mario Bros. Wii for the Nintendo Wii. Expect to make full use of Mario's signature power-ups such as the Super Mushroom and Fire Flower along with new aids like the Ice Flower that freezes enemies in throwable ice blocks, the Penguin Suit that combines the power of the Ice Flower with enhanced mobility in the water and on frozen ground, and the Propeller Suit that allows for a quick on-demand flight through an adventure suited for mushroom power pros and cautious casual gamers alike.

Continue reading "Mini-Review: New Super Mario Bros. Wii" »

PlayStation 4 Pro Is Coming Soon

Sony PlayStation 4 Pro

Sony officially announced its Neo upgrade for its flagship PlayStation 4 console today as an actual product you can soon buy rather than a mysterious project currently in development.  Now known as the PlayStation 4 Pro, the upgraded console boasts a faster CPU, expanded hard drive space, an upgraded GPU, 4K and HDR capabilities, and a $399 price tag.  This is exciting news for people with a 4K television and some expendable income to spend this holiday season as the console is due out in November 2016USgamer explains what this all means for you and includes a list of upcoming PS4 games that will look better on a Pro console.

Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare and Mass Effect Andromeda were among the games shown for the console, with Andromeda showing an intriguing - but ultimately lightweight - gameplay sequence.

Here are the rest of the games that support the PlayStation 4 Pro:

  • Spider-Man
  • For Honor
  • Deus Ex: Mankind Divided
  • Rise of the Tomb Raider
  • Days Gone
  • Watch Dogs 2
  • Farpoint
  • Horizon Zero Dawn
  • Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare Remastered
  • Call of Duty: Black Ops III
  • FIFA 17
  • Battlefield 1
  • Dishonored 2
  • Final Fantasy XV

Netflix and YouTube apps that support 4K visuals will also be available.  This looks like a solid list and if you're hungry for 4K gaming and are already invested in the PlayStation ecosystem, the upgrade may not be such a bad idea.  On the other hand, people like me who are still holding fast to "only" a regular high definition television that tops out at 1080p will see an even steeper price tag to make this upgrade totally worthwhile.  Sony boasts that on the Pro, "all games will run in 1080p resolution, and some will even run in a higher or more stable framerate" which, to me, sounds like the kind of promises we first heard about the original model of PS4 back in 2013 when it was preparing to launch.

I'd imagine that if and when I get a 4K television, I would be interested in maximizing what it can do and could surely talk myself into a PS4 Pro.  However, as I said this morning about buying a New Nintendo 3DS, I'm not one to toss out a working console so long as there's life left in it.  My PS4 would have to die a horrible death before I'd eagerly replace it when it is already meeting my current needs to my satisfaction.  I know there's a market out there for the Pro, I'm very curious to see just how large it actually is, and I hope that everyone who wants a Pro is able to get one, but I also see more popularity for the also-announced PS4 Slim console that takes everything people already enjoy about the existing PS4 hardware and redesigns it to fit a smaller price at $299.  Sure, an extra one hundred dollars isn't that much of a leap if you're already buying or have bought a 4K television, but if you don't have 4K in your home and don't expect to any time soon, what's the incentive to spend money on extra features you'll primarily never use? The short version of all of this: wait for the reviews before you buy.

So I Bought A New Nintendo 3DS

New Nintendo 3DSAfter several months of debating whether or not to replace my dying Nintendo 3DS battery with a new one or just retire the system and replace it with a New Nintendo 3DS, I finally talked myself into the latter option.  It wasn't too hard of a choice once Nintendo and Target teamed up to sell a non-XL version of the system with Super Mario Maker cover plates and Super Mario 3D Land preinstalled.  That's a bundle I could go for!  I bought it a week ago and have been exploring what the n3DS offers over the original model, and so far I'm impressed.  Any buyer's remorse or lingering hesitation I may have experienced on my way out of the store last week is long gone by now.

Continue reading "So I Bought A New Nintendo 3DS" »

The Ins And Outs (But Mostly Ins) Of Game Boy Cartridges

TetrisThere's something special about holding a Nintendo Game Boy game pak in your hand.  What felt like large square coasters in my childhood hand now feel like small crackers in my adult hand, but they have and still feel like the sensation of fun about to happen.  What's really inside those cartridges?  What does the fun look like in its purest physical form?  Fyrius is engaged in a photography project that catalogs the interior of popular Game Boy cartridges split open for all to see.  Marvel and gawk at the chips, batteries, and circuit boards that combine to bring us beloved favorites like Tetris, Super Mario Land, and Bionic Commando!  It's portable power in the palm of your hand.

Gameboy cartridges

(via Reddit)