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August 2017

Go Back In Time With Sonic CD For Nintendo DS

Sonic-cd-usaSega has made a good practice of bringing its classic Sonic the Hedgehog titles for the Genesis to as many platforms as possible over the past decade, and while you can play the prime Sonic trilogy (& Knuckles) on the Nintendo DS, there's a piece of key Sonic history missing from that platform.  The premiere Sega CD title Sonic CD could've ended up on the DS as part of a project from Simon Thomley, and if that name sounds familiar it's because he went on to bigger things with the recently released Sonic Mania.  Back in 2009, Thomley was contracted to work on a pitch to Sega regarding Sonic CD for DS, and though the project never materialized in any official capacity, the DS proof of concept is out there and freely downloadable from Thomley's company, Headcannon.  Want to play a piece of the Sonic port that never was?  Thomley explains:

Primarily, I was to dissect and explain the Palmtree Panic Zone boss, which is pretty complex in design by comparison to how effortlessly it can be beaten, so that he could reproduce it flawlessly. During this time, I personally reconstructed the boss myself using my existing port of Sonic 1 to GBA/DS to make certain that I was understanding it correctly. At the same time, I also had a personal interest in Sonic CD's Special Stage, which I had also been dissecting, and continued my work with it in order to both provide assistence (though not direct) with Christian's Sonic CD build, and to attempt my own with the DS.

As both projects continued, I saw merit in the idea of pitching the concurrent development of a DS version of the game, which would require such a low-level remake as mine due to the fact that the DS wasn't powerful enough to support a scripting-based game engine like Retro Engine. Given that, I set out to make a complete POC, which was taken pretty much to completion.

Unfortunately, once Christian's version was formally accepted and he was under contract, I would no longer be able to associate with the project and was therefore without a means to get the concept off the ground. I had no other contacts, and with this being Christian's first project with the company, he understandably couldn't take the sort of risk that would have been involved in attempting to take care of it himself.

You can run this software on a real Nintendo DS using a flash cart or in a DS emulator.  Be sure to read and follow the instructions.  Sonic, Tails, and Knuckles are all playable in Palmtree Panic Zone Acts 1-3 (in all three time periods) which is especially interesting since Knuckles did not make the playable cut in the eventual conversion of Sonic CD that was released in 2011 for other platforms.  I love to see developers release their cutting room floor scraps for fans to explore and wish more would do it, although I understand why they don't.  This is just one of several similar projects that Thomley has released and I encourage you to check them all out.

Nintendo To Discontinue Miiverse

Brawl in the FamilyWe all knew this day was coming once the Nintendo Switch launched like a rocket and left the Wii U behind, but Nintendo has announced that it is discontinuing the Miiverse social network linked up with the Wii U and 3DS.  The company has prepared a list of questions and answers to address the pending shutdown which takes effect November 7, 2017.  The short version of this is that any game that uses Miiverse will error out when attempting to access the service, and while you may think that only impacts posting messages, it also means that games that use the service for content purposes such as Mario Kart 8 and Super Smash Bros. will lose secondary features.  I advise you to read the entire announcement, but here's the part about specific games:

Many games use Miiverse as a major game-play feature, including Super Mario Maker for Wii U. What happens to those games when Miiverse shuts down?
- Super Mario Maker (Wii U): Users will still be able to share levels, but will no longer be able to comment on them.
- Mario vs. Donkey Kong: Tipping Stars (Wii U, Nintendo 3DS): While users will still be able to play Mario vs. Donkey Kong: Tipping Stars and complete all 88 levels in the main game, the Community feature will be discontinued, preventing players from sharing levels and receiving additional Stars. As there will be a limit to the number of Stars that can be obtained, not all objects may be unlocked from the Workshop.
- Splatoon (Wii U): Miiverse posts will no longer display in Inkopolis Plaza or the game's stage maps.
- Super Smash Bros. for Wii U and Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS (Wii U, Nintendo 3DS): The Miiverse stage will still be playable, but Miiverse user posts will not display in the background. Players will also be unable to post replays to YouTube/Miiverse, share stages or create tournaments.
- Mario Kart 8 (Wii U): Players will not be able to upload game-play videos to YouTube since they also post to Miiverse at the same time. The tournament function will also not be available.
- Super Mario 3D World (Wii U): In Super Mario 3D World, the Miiverse posts that appear on the course select screen and when selecting courses will disappear. Players will still be able to collect in-game stamps, but not post them to Miiverse.
- Xenoblade Chronicles X (Wii U): In Xenoblade Chronicles X, the BLADE report feature will no longer be available.

Miiverse buttons will still appear on the Wii U and 3DS.  Games will still tout Miiverse services ("Would you like to post this accomplishment to Miiverse?") and will still attempt to connect to the shuttered service after November 7, but the consoles will return error codes and give up.  While I'm not surprised that Nintendo is ending Miiverse (it never really caught on like the company expected), I'm disappointed that the developers didn't anticipate that the service would one day end and prepare games to fail gracefully.  It's a shame that those soon-to-be-useless Miiverse buttons cannot be removed.  I'd also rather that games did not continue to bug me to post to a dead service.  As for disabling features like Mario Kart 8 tournaments or Tipping Stars unlocks(!), I suppose Nintendo feels it has sold all the copies of those games it is going to sell and has no problems moving on.  I will miss Miiverse primarily because I don't know of any other way to capture screenshots directly from Wii U or 3DS hardware without it.

Game publishers have had issues with this kind of thing for the past few years as services are gradually disabled, leaving dead prompts and useless options on menus.  Remember when Uncharted 3 could post to Facebook?  Going forward, developers and publishers really need to think ahead to a time when their latest and greatest is ready to sunset so that tomorrow's retro gamers are not saddled with broken prompts.

(image via Brawl In The Family)

Power Button - Episode 246: Jump, Jump, Slide, Slide Into Mega Man Legacy Collection 2

Power ButtonCapcom recently sent Mega Man Legacy Collection 2 out into the world for Sony PlayStation 4, Microsoft Xbox One, and PC, so with the combined efforts of Mega Man 7, Mega Man 8, Mega Man 9, and Mega Man 10 back on our radar, it's the perfect time to discuss how these games have aged and what we learned while revisiting them.  All of that nostalgia leads us into our secondary topic for the week in which we discuss franchises that have earned the right to come back in similar legacy collections.  From Castlevania to Contra and beyond, we're ready to look forward to the past.   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.

Knuckles Blasts Through Chemical Plant Zone In Sonic Mania

Sonic ManiaSonic Mania has taken over my gaming time lately.  It's the traditional Sonic title I have wanted for years and yet I didn't anticipate how much I would want to replay it.  When I'm not trying to pick up the last of the Chaos Emeralds in Mania Mode, I'm zipping through Time Attack mode to explore levels and improve my skills.  Check out this run through Chemical Plant Zone Act 2 with Knuckles that I'm especially pleased with.  It's not the fastest performance and it's not the most efficient route, but it's so much fun to play that I don't care.  I'm having fun and that's the most important thing.  NEW RECORD!

Gasping For Air In Sonic Mania

Sonic ManiaFans of Sega's Sonic the Hedgehog games know all too well what happens when Sonic is underwater for too long.  The happy, upbeat music of the zone quickly gives way to a pulse-pounding, heart-stopping tune of danger.  The beats quicken, the tempo picks up, and if poor Sonic can't find air before it's over (a mere five-count), there's a momentary beat of silence and then... GLUGGGGGG our hero drowns.  There's a whole generation of gamers out there who feel their anxiety involuntarily spike when they hear that warning song. 

A few days ago I was playing the new Sonic Mania and revisiting the joys of Chemical Plant Zone when I faltered and had to race to the top of the flooded chamber before Sonic's air ran out.  The video below is what happened.  My heart is still racing.

Power Button - Episode 245: Off The Ramp With Mel Kirk And Pinball FX3

Power ButtonWe're very excited here at Power Button about the upcoming Pinball FX3 from Zen Studios.  The latest (and possibly final) pinball platform for modern hardware, the new title carries over many of our favorite tables from the Zen Pinball 2 / Pinball FX2 era and will launch with new licensed tables from the Universal vault of beloved properties.  New original tables from Zen are also due out before the end of the year.  It's an exciting time for pinball fans, so it's also a perfect time for us to invite Zen's VP of Publishing, Mel Kirk, back on the show to discuss the new features in FX3, what we can expect from the new tables, when we will get to play FX3 for ourselves, and how the last generation platform of ZP2/FX2 has been sunsetted.  Join us for an hour of conversation that will answer all of your burning pinball questions (seriously; we collected questions from the Twitter crowd and answered all of them).  Want to know about Nintendo Switch availability?  Game of Thrones tables?  Support for PSVR?  We cover it all.   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.

Catch The Mania With A Sonic Medley

Sonic the HedgehogThe new Sonic Mania is stirring up lots of nostalgia for the original Sonic the Hedgehog games from the Sega Genesis era, and what better way to celebrate those timeless classics than with a Video Game Live performance off the group's Level 2 album of the credits theme from the original Sonic the Hedgehog?  The credits theme is a medley of songs from each zone of the game, turning this track into a tour through Green Hill Zone, Star Light Zone, Marble Zone, and beyond.  Looks like Video Games Live got them all.

Tales From Tales From The Borderlands

Tales From The BorderlandsTelltale's Tales From The Borderlands is a unique mixture of Borderlands, Guardians of the Galaxy, and a dash of Sam & Max.  It shouldn't work, but it does.  After reading this new oral history of Tales compiled by Duncan Fyfe, I realize that it really shouldn't have worked at all.  Two years in development with lots of last-minute changes and a destinationless journey ahead of the team led to a critically acclaimed but poorly selling series that is unlikely will see a continuation anytime soon.  Consider how the team nearly killed off the beloved Loader Bot in the first episode:

[What] I remember being a huge problem was [on] Episode One, like literally three days before we weren’t allowed to touch the project anymore, Pierre comes to me — I think Guardians of the Galaxy had just come out. There’s a moment in the first episode where your friend Loader Bot can explode, and it’s based on a player choice. Pierre comes to me and says, “I don’t think we should let Loader Bot die.” I’m just like, “Well, okay. We’re 36, 48 hours away from this thing going live, what are you talking about? That choice is there.” And he said, “I think we might be blowing up our Groot.”

Tales From The Borderlands will always be special to me because my girlfriend and I basically built the ground floor of our relationship upon it.  Not long after we met we realized we both were fond of Gearbox's looter shooter, and I offhandedly mentioned that I had this new Borderlands game sitting on my Sony PlayStation 4 that wasn't a shooter, but something different.  She was intrigued and it wasn't long before we were sitting up evenings working our way through each episode one after the next together, passing the controller back and forth and choosing paths as a team.  Telltale may consider it a failure, but my girlfriend and I think it's their greatest success yet.

Power Button - Episode 244: Underrated All-Stars

Power ButtonFor every Call of Duty or Super Mario powerhouse that fills up best-of lists and tops sales charts, there are dozens of other games that have plenty of potential to be all-time greats, but you never hear about them.  They fall into the memory hole or are used as target practice by aspiring Internet idiots picking at low fruit based on reputation alone.  We say it's not fair that fun games are passed over, so on this week's podcast we're dusting off some of our favorite underrated games of the past thirty years.  From Spec-Ops: The Line to Yo Noid! to The Godfather to, yes, my beloved Aero the Acro-bat, we have a list of titles you need to explore.   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.

Back To The Future Coming to Pinball FX3

Back To The Future

Zen Studios has announced a new pack of pinball tables due to launch with the upcoming Pinball FX3 and I'm happy to see that the company continues to take my pinball advice as alongside tables based on films Jaws and E.T. comes my beloved Back To The Future.

The Universal Classics Pinball pack will release as a part of the launch of the highly anticipated Pinball FX3 platform on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Steam and Windows 10. The themed tables will also release as individual in-app purchases for Zen Pinball on the App Store and Google Play.

Players can get behind the wheel of the DeLorean time machine and travel through different eras of Hill Valley to fix the space-time continuum on the Back to the Future table, take on the terrifying great white shark on the Jaws table, and go on an adventure with Elliot as he helps E.T. contact his spaceship and return to the stars on the E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial table!

Keep 'em coming, Zen!  Let's go with Ghostbusters or Mega Man next.  I will have much more on the Back To The Future table as its released because, honestly, how could I not talk more about it?  I hope there are bonus points for knocking Biff Tannen into a manure truck.