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October 2016

Secret Origins: Castlevania II: Belmont's Revenge

BelmontHere on Halloween, you get a story about Hanukkah.  By the time 1991 rolled around, I was ten years old and deeply entrenched into the world of Nintendo.  I'd owned a Nintendo Entertainment System for several years, happily played Game Boy, and was dreaming of a Super NES for the holidays.  I was a young man of Mario.  My parents were happy to encourage this, giving me games and Nintendo-related books and media for holiday gifts and allowing me to spend my allowance and other savings on more games.  My father's side of the family, however, was not so understanding.  Ever since I had been bitten by the gaming bug a few years prior, they went out of their way to discourage my gaming interests.  They refused to give me games as gifts and even tried to forbid me from ducking away to a corner chair to play Game Boy when my family would visit them.  The terrible thing was, my grandparents never wanted much to do with me and, from my point of view, did not understand me.  From a very young age, they never wanted to talk to me or were curious about my interests.  Any attempt I made to connect with them was rebuffed.   My grandfather spoke sharply about me or over me, mostly barking to my father why I always had my face in "that damn game".  I did my best to ignore them and go back to Super Mario Land.  "It's a waste of his time!  It'll never get him anywhere!"

Continue reading "Secret Origins: Castlevania II: Belmont's Revenge" »

Power Button - Episode 221: My Pet Monster

Power ButtonVideo games and monsters go hand in hand, so on this Halloween episode of the Power Button podcast, Blake Grundman and I spend an our discussing some of our favorite video game monsters.  From Gergoth to gremlins and beyond, we're going to scare the hell out of you.   Download this week's episode directly from PTB, listen with the player below, find us on Stitcher, subscribe via iTunes and Google Play, 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.

Power Button - Episode 220: Blake Bought A PlayStation VR

Power ButtonFollowing on from Blake Grundman sampling the PlayStation VR unit a few weeks ago back on Episode 217, he's gone and bought a virtual reality headset of his very own and taken it on a tour to share the joys of VR with his family.  Listen as he describes playing the launch batch of PSVR games, why his mother was afraid he'd been assimilated by the machine, how his father broke a controller, how his non-gaming wife was entranced by the experience, and where we think the hardware is going to go in the future.  Plus, Blake is standing by to take your PSVR questions here in the comments section below, on Twitter, and on the podcast voicemail hotline at (720) 722-2781, so hit him up with anything you want to know about his experiences with virtual reality.  We aim to please here on Power Button both in this reality and the next.   Download this week's episode directly from PTB, listen with the player below, find us on Stitcher, subscribe via iTunes and Google Play, 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.

Nintendo NX Revealed To Be Nintendo Switch

Nintendo Switch

After months of teasing silence, Nintendo revealed its mysterious NX project this morning as its next home console / handheld hybrid system, the Nintendo Switch.  Shown off with a lifestyle video and paired with an informative press release, the Switch is shown to have modular components and is designed to be played at home attached to a television or on the go with controller pieces that snap off of the base unit and connect to a single hub to form a traditional game controller or can be played with one in each hand or can be shared with friends for multiplayer gaming or, or, or... yes, there are many variations of possible ways to play here.  Let's dive into the press release.

At home, Nintendo Switch rests in the Nintendo Switch Dock that connects the system to the TV and lets you play with family and friends in the comfort of your living room. By simply lifting Nintendo Switch from the dock, the system will instantly transition to portable mode, and the same great gaming experience that was being enjoyed at home now travels with you. The portability of Nintendo Switch is enhanced by its bright high-definition display. It brings the full home gaming system experience with you to the park, on an airplane, in a car, or to a friend’s apartment.

Gaming springs into action by removing detachable Joy-Con controllers from either side of Nintendo Switch. One player can use a Joy-Con controller in each hand; two players can each take one; or multiple Joy-Con can be employed by numerous people for a variety of gameplay options. They can easily click back into place or be slipped into a Joy-Con Grip accessory, mirroring a more traditional controller. Or, if preferred, the gamer can select an optional Nintendo Switch Pro Controller to use instead of the Joy-Con controllers. Furthermore, it is possible for numerous people to bring their Nintendo Switch systems together to enjoy local multiplayer face-to-face competition.

We've heard that the new hardware would include this kind of functionality as Nintendo brings its home and handheld hardware into a single unit, and sure enough this convergence fulfills the prophecy.  No actual games have been announced beyond The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild which was said to be coming to the Switch along with the Wii U earlier this year, but the lifestyle video shows us teased of Super Mario, Skyrim, Splatoon, and Mario Kart gameplay.  Actual games in development or basic concept showcases?  You be the judge.  Moreover, Nintendo is happy to boast that a wide selection of developers and publishers are on board with the Switch including Activision, Electronic Arts, Capcom, Sega, Square-Enix, and Ubisoft, so the heavy hitters are definitely interested at the moment.  More information on pricing and launch specifics will be announced later, but the Switch is still on track for a March 2017 release.

Nintendo Switch partnersI'm excited about the Switch and the way that it merges handheld and home console gaming.  Nintendo seems to have come up with multiple ways to play Switch games, so there's plenty of control options to suit all kinds of needs.  I'll show up anywhere for a new Super Mario game, of course, but I'm poised to buy a Switch and look forward to being able to take games around with me around the house like a 3DS but also be able to play them on my nice television.  Best of both worlds!  I don't expect any main Wii U or 3DS backward compatibility with the Switch, but it would be the best thing ever to reward Virtual Console owners with the ability to transfer those purchases over to the Switch.  There are still lots of unknowns here, but my first impression is impressed with a side order of anticipation.

Just as a side note anecdote, I wonder how often I'll take my Switch out of the house.  I have a mental block on carrying around handheld gaming systems that I perceive to be expensive and/or vulnerable.  I paid $300 for a Nintendo 3DS at launch in 2011 and had no issue tossing it into my pocket when I went outside because the compact size and clamshell design make it feel like a robust system, but on the other hand, I paid $180 for a Sony PlayStation Vita in November 2012 and have only taken it outside once because its exposed screen makes it feel especially fragile.  The Switch has an exposed screen when it's a handheld device.  Will I be comfortable taking it out?  I suppose I'll find out. 

The Red Dead Redemption 2 Hype Train Is Leaving The Station

Red Dead Redemption 2Rockstar Games formally announced Red Dead Redemption 2 this morning coming in late 2017 for the Sony PlayStation 4 and Microsoft Xbox One, and while that's great news, it's not what I want to discuss today.  Instead I want to congratulate Rockstar's social media team on a masterful campaign designed to get the gaming community talking about the game all week long with a series of teases and piecemeal information releases that tell us nearly nothing at all about the game beyond the fact that it exists (cue every gaming website on the planet screaming their CONFIRMED!!! headlines followed by the empty "Developing...").

It all started this past Sunday when Rockstar released an image of their logo against a red background.  No title, no text, nothing more.  Just the logo.  The community kicked into overdrive with firm belief that a Red Dead Redemption sequel was imminent.  Proposed titles were kicked around.  Estimated release dates were pitched (with some guessing that the game would arrive as early as next month in a burst of armchair marketing and wishing really hard).  Timeline placements were considered; would it be a prequel or a sequel?  Alternate timeline?  Remastering of the previous game?  All of this from a red background and a logo. 

Continue reading "The Red Dead Redemption 2 Hype Train Is Leaving The Station" »

Street Fighter V Coming To Arcades

Street Fighter VDespite the fact that Capcom's Street Fighter series has made itself at home on consoles and, to a lesser extent, handhelds (the Nintendo 3DS version of Super Street Fighter IV is one of the best fighting games on the platform second only to Super Smash Bros.), the fighting phenomenon feels like it belongs in the arcades.  Born there with the original Street Fighter and of course taking the world by storm with Street Fighter II, the series was producing arcade versions as recently as Street Fighter IV in 2010 despite the arcade scene's demise in many regions.  Poor Street Fighter V — an excellent fighting game bogged down by DLC and microtransaction issues — is the first in the series not to land in the arcades.  At least, until now.  EventHubs reports that the game is finally coming to the arcades although not in a way that you'd expect.

An announcement was made at Toushinsai today, after the tournament festivities was over.  Toushinsai is an arcade-only event, and as such had tournaments in Ultra Street Fighter IV and King of Fighters XIII, which naturally felt a bit out of place since both series have just had new games released this year. Thankfully, both series' developers were at hand to announce that come next year, they can play the newest version, since both of the games are coming to arcades.

Street Fighter V won't quite be getting an arcade version in the traditional sense, but instead will have PC stations placed in arcades that allow arcade players to battle each other through the PC version of Street Fighter V.

It's better than nothing, sure, but I see a useful reason for Street Fighter V to cross over into the arcades besides simply maintaining a presence there.  If the arcade-tweaked PC version includes all DLC and microstransactional content unlocked and available for players to use, then this version could serve as a demo station of sorts for that material.  If I can sample an add-on character in the arcade, I might be more interested in paying to unlock that character at home.  It's an extremely roundabout way of providing a free taste of paid content, but I'd certainly be willing to give it a try.  Of course, assuming that I found a Street Fighter V arcade machine around here.  For now it sounds like these machines are destined only for Japan.

New Donkey Kong Development Tales Revealed

Donkey KongYou'd think we'd know all there is to know about Nintendo's smash hit Donkey Kong by now, but the stories keep coming thanks to developer Shigeru Miyamoto and the re-release of the pared-down Nintendo Entertainment System version of the game via the NES Classic MiniChris Kohler at Wired has the translated details of an interview in Japanese from Nintendo's website in which Miyamoto discusses his nude creative process, his devotion to the early days of NES development, and that the arcade version of Donkey Kong was supposed to include voice clips.

“The lady stolen away by Donkey Kong was supposed to yell out, ‘Help, Help!’ And when Mario jumped over a barrel, she was supposed to yell, ‘Nice!,’ complimenting him. But some people within the company said, ‘Doesn’t the pronunciation sound a little weird?’ So we tested it on a native English speaker, a professor. They said it sounded like she was talking about seaweed: ‘Kelp, Kelp!'”

“At that point in development, we couldn’t fix it,” Miyamoto said. “So we took out all of the voices. “Help!” was replaced with Donkey Kong’s growl, and “Nice!” was replaced with the pi-ro-po-pon-pon! sound. It’s really good that we went with pi-ro-po-pon-pon. When you walk past an arcade and hear that sound, it’s really catchy. So even though we took out the voices, it still had great results. From this experience, I learned the importance of having good sound effects.”

I can't say that I miss the voice clips (you can hear them for yourself at The Cutting Room Floor), although my primary exposure to Donkey Kong was the 1994 Game Boy version which built upon the original arcade game.  The Super Game Boy version of that game includes voice clips, but in my mind I always hear the Game Boy version's take on Pauline's screams for help as a tinny soprano warble.  I suppose it all depends on which version you knew first.  On a related note, I am glad that Miyamoto is still telling these kinds of development stories about his earliest creations.  If he's held back new Donkey Kong tales, what are we still missing regarding Super Mario Bros. 3 or Zelda II: The Adventure Of Link?   

Steam To Support DualShock 4 Controller

DualShock 4Dating all the way back to my old Gravis Gamepad for my Windows 3.1 PC in the 1990s, I've been searching for a PC gamepad that is as comfortable and reliable to use as the Sony brand of DualShock controllers.  I've bought all kinds of gamepads over the years from reliable brands like Logitech to sketchy off-brands that were cheap enough to justify a blind buy on the hope of finding something worthwhile.  Over the past decade, enthusiasts have cobbled together homemade utilities to connect a DualShock 3, a Nintendo GameCube controller, and even a Wii Remote to a PC is you want to jump through enough hoops, the planets are aligned properly, and you don't want to use all of the controller's functionality.  Microsoft's Xbox 360 controller became the defacto gamepad for Windows in recent years, but after I tossed my last overworked and broken down PC-exclusive controller in the closet, I vowed to just stick with what I already owned and to make it work through stubbornness and determination.  Now my patience has been rewarded as Valve is working to bring native DualShock 4 support to Steam.  Gamasutra has the details.

Co-presenter Lars Doucet, developer of Defender’s Quest, explained, “Believe it or not, when you use the PS4 Controller through the Steam API, it’s exactly the same as a Steam Controller. You make the exact same API calls, you only get actions, not inputs, and the Steam API takes care of everything.”

He said that Valve is supporting the PS4 controller first due to its overlapping functionality with the Steam Controller, thanks to the gyro and the touchpad. However, support for other controllers is planned.

Thanks, Valve!  While it's been "fun" to try to play Steam games with controllers never meant to interact with them, using a DS4 will be like a dream.  I've already used my DS4 for some non-Steam games (where it usually works since Windows treats it like a generic gamepad minus the fancy gyro support and touch panel interactivity), but giving the DS4 the authentic Steam green light will bring all of those underplayed games I've gathered through bundles and promotional codes back to life with new purpose.  Bring on the update and future expansion for other controllers!  Input options for all!

Power Button - Episode 219: An Appointment With Disappointment

Power ButtonNot every video game can be a solid, fun experience that lives up to the pre-release hype.  On this week's episode of Power Button, Blake Grundman and I discuss some of our most glaring gaming disappointments from over the years spanning Mario Is Missing, SimCity (2013), Ren & Stimpy games such as Space Cadet Adventures and Fire Dogs, Destiny, and many 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.

The Incompatible Gallery

Donkey Kong CountryChances are that if you're purchasing a game for a particular console, you won't try to jam it into a different console with the expectation that it'll work.  Sometimes backwards compatibility comes into play though, and on occassion you can take a game from an older generation and play it in a newer generation machine.  It doesn't work the other way around.  Nothing good will come of slipping a Wii U disc into a Wii, for instance, nor does playing a PC Engine Super CD game with the wrong system card inserted.  The lines used to be a little blurrier though.  Consider the Game Boy Color, a handheld system that played both classic Game Boy games, fancy Game Boy Color games, and games designed for both pieces of hardware.  It could be confusing to remember which kinds of games worked in which versions of the hardware, so games that only worked on the Color model could be inserted into the original Game Boy despite the fact that those games would not play.  What's a developer to do?  Include an error screen that tells the player to try the game again on a Game Boy Color.  Now there's a full visual catalog of these error screens over at VGMuseum in which you can experience the thrill of incompatibility for yourself for the Game Boy, Neo Geo Pocket, and WonderSwan.  Most of the images are plain text, some include the stylish game logo, and a few go above and beyond with comical little scenes.