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November 2016

MST3K Meets PlayStation

MST3K on PlayStation UndergroundIn a match made in cross-promotion synergy heaven, the minds behind Mystery Science Theater 3000 and the creative folks at video magazine PlayStation Underground once teamed up to create an exclusive segment featuring Mike Nelson, Tom Servo, and Crow T. Robot riffing on old Sony PlayStation commercials and outtakes.  Released in February 1998 just before MST3K's ninth season season (its second on the Sci-Fi Channel) on PlayStation Underground, Issue 2.1, this clip has been floating around the Internet for years and I somehow never got around to sharing it here.  Allow me to remedy that.  You could use a laugh and, depending on your age, a little nostalgia.

Nintendo Outlines Vision For Universal Studios Attractions

Mario and friendsNintendo and Universal Studios announced a partnership a while ago to bring the former's beloved characters to the latter's theme parks and resorts.  Today the two companies released a teaser video in which Nintendo's Shigeru Miyamoto and Universal Creative's Mark Woodbury outline what they expect to accomplish at the Universal Studios parks in Osaka, Orlando, and Hollywood.  It looks like a Super Mario attraction is up first!

The creative visionaries behind Nintendo’s legendary worlds and characters are working together with the creative teams behind Universal’s blockbuster theme park attractions. Their goal: to bring the characters, action and adventure of Nintendo video games to life within Universal theme parks. And to do so in new and innovative ways that capture what makes them so special. All of the adventure, fun and whimsy you experience through a screen will now be all around you – in breathtakingly authentic ways.

It's easy to get carried away with dreams about an F-Zero rollercoaster and an interactive Kid Icarus quest, but let's be honest: the big guns will be out first.  Mario, Donkey Kong, The Legend of Zelda, and Pokémon have to be on the shortlist of Nintendo properties to develop.  As much as I want an EarthBound ride or a Chibi-Robo adventure, the company has enough trouble selling games based on those properties that I doubt they're willing to sink millions into a flashy theme park debut for them right up front.  I would expect to see them represented elsewhere in the experience though much the way that the Walt Disney parks hide instances of Mickey Mouse in rides and attractions.  Either way, I can't wait to visit the Nintendo area of Universal Studios and see what the teams create.

Original Mega Man Cover Paintings Revealed

Mega Man Soccer

While the online gaming community talks a lot about preserving original game code and assets, we don't often hear much about the boxes the old cartridges came inside unless we're talking about how having one boosts the value of the game in question.  All of that fancy art on the cover had to come from somewhere, and today's modern case covers usually spring from the minds of artists directly into Photoshop.  Back in the old days of the 1980s and 1990s, however. publishers commonly had to commission artists to paint actual canvas paintings for the cover.  Protodude's Rockman Corner has a nice exhibit of several of those paintings that were used for the covers of games such as Mega Man 3, Mega Man 6 , and Mega Man X.  Of the paintings on display, my favorite is Mega Man V (for Game Boy) because the character design style is what I always imagine for Mega Man when I think of the series, but I admit I'd love to have the Mega Man Soccer painting on my wall in a nice frame for the sheer "what the hell?" factor.

Power Button - Episode 224: Hilarity Ensues

Power ButtonVideo games are often held up for their action sequences, set pieces, and visuals, but how often do you hear someone remark about hilarious writing?  On this week's episode of Power Button, Blake Grundman and I spend an hour and a half discussing our favorite funny games.  From Portal 2 to Saints Row IV to Maniac Mansion and beyond, we have some hilarious moments to share.  Before that happens, however, Blake takes us on a sidequest with Pokémon.   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. We also have a tip jar if you'd like to kick a dollar or two of support our way.

More Proof That Wario And Waluigi Are Knock-Off Mario Brothers

Mario and Wario hats

Nintendo has never revealed much about why Wario and Waluigi feel the need to copy Mario and Luigi, but there are plenty of signs that the duo are pretenders to the throne of great plumbing.  Their unkept mustaches and parodic physical appearances are one clear indicator that the two are not to be taken seriously, but did you know that this philosophy extends to their clothing as well?  And not just the inverse colors.  Thanks to high resolution character artwork for Mario Party: Star Rush, observant folks at Tumblr have noticed key differences in the fabric used to make Mario's hat versus Wario's hat.  It's some very interesting attention to detail.

The Mario Bros. and Wario Bros. hats are made out of completely different materials. While the Mario and Luigi have the embroidered emblems with sewn on borders, Wario and Waluigi have these felt-like patches, and it appears to be glued on instead as there is no stitches and the fabric is slightly raised.  The even stranger detail is that their hats are a different texture to the Mario Bros. With their caps being a fuzzy material, while the original hats are made out of a more a cotton twill. Overall the Wario Bros. hats feel cheap and newer, which is very suiting.

You'd think that with all of the gold that Wario has greeded away over the years, he could afford to have a decent hat made for him.  Nintendo's attention to detail is so important because it shows us smaller elements that contribute to the personalities and backstories of their characters. It would be easy to just apply the appropriate colors to the hats and call it a day, but not only did Nintendo's artists add textures that many people will never notice when they look at the artwork, they used the opportunity to choose appropriate textures for a minute detail like hat fabric and stitching.  Or, as my professional tailor/seamstress girlfriend says, "Costume detail: gotta love it!"

Dr. Wily: Portrait Of A Madman

Dr. WilyI know that hindsight is 20/20 and all, but when I see the gradual mental decline of Mega Man villain Dr. Albert Wily laid out in image after image, I think we should all have realized early on that the erratic scientist was not to be trusted and was very likely become a larger threat to us all.  Just because a man can create Robot Masters does not mean that he's well-balanced.  Take a look at this series of official Capcom character artwork that spans the classic Mega Man series from Mega Man (1987) through Mega Man 8 (1996) and you'll see his physical behavior and manner of dress start to show signs of the troubled soul within.  We really should have found help for him sooner beyond sending Mega Man in to clean up the mess again and again.

Continue reading "Dr. Wily: Portrait Of A Madman" »

NES Classic Manuals Correct Ancient Injustice

Super Mario Bros. 2Playing a video game on Nintendo's NES Classic Edition console doesn't just get you the nostalgic experience of exploring the 8-bit worlds of the 1980s.  It also entitles you to a trip in the wayback machine via high quality scans of the original instruction manuals of the era.  The company has dipped into its archives to bring the manuals for each and every game on the console back for your reading pleasure (and you don't even need the console to access them; they're on the web at Nintendo's site at  The instructions aren't 100% authentic though, as Nintendo took the opportunity to clean up little typos and mistakes here and there.  Consider, for instance, Super Mario Bros. 2's manual which lists each of Subcon's enemies such as Shy Guys and Pidgets.  The original 1988 manual accidentally swapped the names of Birdo and Ostro.  It's an understandable error; you could look at the two foes and think "Oh, the bird thing must be named Birdo" instead of "Oh, the ostrich thing must be named Ostro".  Now that the manuals are back in action for the modern age, Nintendo swapped the names back to their correct places.  It's this attention to detail that keeps Nintendo fans coming back for more (even if it's been thirty years since their last helping).

Super Mario Bros. 2 manuals

Super Mario Run Launches On iOS In December

Super Mario Run

Nintendo is almost ready to release its first true 100% in-house game for iOS following social networking app Miitomo and a partnership with Niantic for Pokémon GoSuper Mario Run launches on iPhone and iPad on December 15, 2016 in 151 countries as a free-to-start game.  After playing the free content and getting a taste of the endless platformer action, players can pay the $9.99 fee to unlock the full game for unlimited, unrestricted access.  Here's some of the press release which reminds us all of what Super Mario Run is all about:

Super Mario Run is the first Super Mario Bros. game developed specifically for mobile devices. In the game, Mario runs forward on his own, but relies on the tap of a single finger to jump over obstacles, avoid enemies, pull off stylish moves, collect coins and reach the flagpole to complete courses.

Browsing around the online gaming community already shows some sticker shock for the $10 price tag, but so long as the game is fun on its own merits and isn't bogged down by in-app purchases for consumable tokens and items ($1 for a 5-pack of Super Mushrooms, $5 for a bundle of 560 coins - best value!), I have no problem paying actual game prices for an actual game.  I still trust Nintendo to get this right and I will definitely start with and evaluate the free content before I put any money down, but I'm open to paying for the game if I enjoy it and intend to keep playing it.  I've paid for other iOS games before (mostly Sega's stellar Sonic the Hedgehog ports) and would rather pay a single price one time for a game rather than bother with coin packs and item bundles. 

Super Mario Run - November 15 screenshots

The Fall And Rise Of Sonic The Hedgehog

Sonic the HedgehogSega's Sonic the Hedgehog has suffered through some rough times for most of his existence.  While enjoying success on the Sega Genesis and Game Gear, the franchise began a downward slide during the Dreamcast era after rushing to meet deadlines and staff attrition caught up with the company behind it.  Game Informer's Brian Shea chronicles all the ways that Sonic went wrong from the canceled Saturn-exclusive Sonic X-Treme to Sonic Adventure 2 being developed by a staff of just eleven people to unrelenting holiday shopping dates to get 2006's disappointing Sonic the Hedgehog for the Sony PlayStation 3 and Microsoft Xbox 360 out the door on time.

Despite this fragmentation and turnover, Iizuka asserts that the real problem with Sonic 2006 was the deadlines. "We missed out on that really important time to polish and tune and manipulate the map and make sure that the world really felt good and the gameplay felt good," he says. "Because it didn't have that, it didn't turn out as good as the development team wanted."

The lack of polish is evident. Sonic 2006 is full of visual and audio glitches, environmental clipping, and imprecise gameplay. The title has become synonymous with the struggles the Sonic the Hedgehog franchise had faced in recent years. Sonic 2006 was meant to be a return to the series' roots, but it ended up damning the franchise in the eyes of many. The series had taken obvious turns away from what made it great in the first place.

It sounds like Sega may have finally learned a lesson after years of middling sequels.  The company delayed its latest Sonic Boom title for a year to allow the developers time to turn it into a polished product, and the upcoming Sonic Mania finally reaches back to the Genesis-era design that made the franchise popular in the first place.  Instead of hearing "oh, we'll fix it next time" from a Sonic Team spokesperson and then nothing happens to follow up on that halfhearted enthusiasm, we're actually seeing some behavioral changes behind the scenes with the delays and design decisions and even choice of staffing.  Let's hope that Sega finally has this whole Sonic the Hedgehog thing figured out.

PTB Tip Jar Now Available

LuigiOver the past few months, several of you out there asked if there was any way for generous folks to kick a few dollars into a tip jar to help keep Press The Buttons running.  I'd always said no because I didn't want to charge you for content or lock any of it away behind a paywall.  Ultimately, PTB is my fun hobby job that I pursue in my spare time.  For years I ran banner advertisements on PTB to help pay the bills around here, but as the online advertising market turned more and more towards annoyance and malware, I dropped the banners, depriving the site of its key source of income.  I figure if the ads are so irritating that even I want to block them on my own site, there's no way I could or would expect any of you out there to deal with them either.  People keep asking about the tip jar though, so who am I to keep turning down the idea?  I've set up a PTB tip jar through PayPal at where, if you like, you can send me a few dollars to help cover my efforts here.  Thank you all so much for your continued support of Press The Buttons through reading, commenting, sharing links, and now the tip jar.  I have the best audience on the Internet and it's because of all of you that doing this work is so much fun and fulfilling.