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The Terminator's Greatest Hits

Terminator 2The Terminator just won't die - both the T-800 killing machine and the franchise that it spawned.  The sixth film in the series, Terminator: Dark Fate is in theaters now and it tosses aside the newly established continuity from the fifth film, Terminator: Genysis, which threw away the continuity from the fourth film, Terminator: Salvation, which dumped the continuity from Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines (not to mention the television continuity of Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles).  Thanks to the timey-wimey ball, all sorts of Terminator media has been disowned from its parent franchise.  These Skynet-style erasures from history do not impact the various Terminator video games because, like most tie-in media of their eras, nobody ever expected the games to officially tie into anything.  Luke McKinney at Den of Geek recaps the Terminator games spanning from the original film all the way up to Terminator: Salvation.  What I found strange was that the games based on the original 1984 film are not for Atari or contemporary hardware from its day, but hail from the early 1990s.  I had no idea there was a Terminator game for the Sega CD, for instance.

This isn't just the best original Terminator game, it's one of the best Terminator anythings. In 1993, this truly felt like future technology had been sent back in time to kick our human asses, and was so good at the job we enjoyed the process. It didn't waste then-revolutionary CD storage capacity on overlong FMV (Fuzzy Massive Video). It knew we were playing because we'd already seen a great movie and we wanted to kick ass. It filled all that extra space for explosions and rock music, and both blasted big holes in the timestream.

If this games' version of Kyle Reese had been in the movie, he'd have blown the Terminator apart, leapt over the pieces, slam-dunked grenades into Skynet's central processing unit, and carried Sarah Connor into a future where the only "road of bones" was their honeymoon. If John Connor had had this Kyle for a father in Terminator 2, the kid wouldn't have been such a wise ass.

Of the Terminator games I have played over the years, none of them captured both the essence of the films and a fun gaming experience.  I put more time than I should have into Terminator: Salvation for the Sony PlayStation 3 because I'm a fan of the franchise and the developer behind the game, the late lamented GRIN of Bionic Commando fame; plus the game awards nothing but gold trophies.  No bronze, no silver, just gold for completing each level.  Sadly, it's really not worth the effort.  The game is a grim bullet-sponge shooter with little to redeem it.  The strange thing is that I don't know why I own the game.  I don't remember buying it and it's not the kind of game I would purposefully acquire because of its poor reputation.  GRIN was already circling the drain by this point and purportedly rushed the game to shelves which explains its half-finished nature in places.  I didn't review it for Kombo according to my records.  It's just on my shelf without an explanation.  Clearly this is Skynet meddling with time again.  The futuristic AI has already erased one Terminator game from history.


Darkstalkers Are Not Dead! (Some Restrictions Apply)

DarkstalkersStreet Fighter may be Capcom's brawler bread and butter, but the company has other properties in its fighting game library.  Consider Darkstalkers, the game that sets unique character versions of classic horror movie monsters such as vampires, werewolves, and mummies against one another for our entertainment.  After making a minor splash in the arcades in the 1990s, the series has more or less been moribund outside of a compilation re-release for the Sony PlayStation 3 and Microsoft Xbox 360 and a daring promise from Capcom that "Darkstalkers are not dead!" except that, no, they totally are as the company has yet to follow up on a long-teased resurrection of the franchise.  If you're late to the monster party, Gavin Jasper at Den of Geek gives you the lowdown on the franchise and its anime and wester cartoon adaptations, while Hardcore Gaming 101 takes you step by step through each game in the series.  There are more Darkstalkers titles than you may think, but still not as many as they deserve.

At first, Capcom wanted to make a game based on the Universal Monsters, but the licensing fell through, so they just used more anime-style archetypes. Dracula became Demitri Maximoff, the Frankenstein Monster became Victor von Gerdenheim, the Creature from the Black Lagoon became Rikuo, and so on. Considering the play these characters would get as part of Capcom’s menagerie, it was definitely for the better.

Darkstalkers: The Night Warriors hit the arcades in 1994 and it kicked so much ass. On the surface, it was a Street Fighter clone, but it was different enough to stand on its own. It introduced air-blocking and EX attacks. The animation made Street Fighter II look stiff in comparison and everything was beaming with personality. Each character was distinct and popped with their mannerisms and unique animations.

Part of it came from the freakshow novelty of the early fighting games. Each game seemed to have a weirdo that stuck out and made you want to play them because of how different they appeared. Street Fighter had Blanka. Mortal Kombat had Baraka. Samurai Shodown had Gen-An. But Darkstalkers? Hell, almost the entire cast is made up of those kinds of characters. The most normal guys are a vampire and a succubus. And the succubus has literal batwings growing out of her back and head.

I fear that Darkstalkers true time to shine again was about ten years ago.  If the series returned today, it would follow in the modern Capcom fighting game mold of extensive paid expansions as seen in Street Fighter V and Marvel vs Capcom: Infinite.  No, a new Darkstalkers should have been the creative follow-up to Street Fighter IV.  With so many fighting games pushing to be premier events unto themselves that are either supported for years with additional paid characters to fill out the basic roster or do not sell enough to meet expectations and are dropped by the publisher almost immediately, I don't know where a modern Darkstalkers could fit into today's gaming environment.  That's a shame because the characters have so much personality and potential for storytelling.


Power Button - Episode 295: The Force Is Strong With Star Wars: Jedi Fallen Order

Power ButtonBlake Grundman had a unique opportunity last week to play a preview version of the upcoming Star Wars: Jedi Fallen Order at a press event in California, so of course we're going to spend an hour discussing this Unchartedesque / God of Warish / Assassin's Creedy kind of game.  Then marvel as Blake explores the recently opened Galaxy's Edge Star Wars section of Disneyland and then lingers around past closing to adventure his way through the empty park.   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. 


Pac-Man's Day Out

Pac-Man 2: The New AdventuresNamco and its partners hit it big with Pac-Man in 1980, but how do you take a maze craze and go larger for a new wave of success after the original experience starts to feel stale?  Hardcore Gaming 101 is chronicling all of Pac-Man's oddball sequels and spinoffs such as puzzler Pac-Attack and the educational Professor Pac-Man, but the game that you absolutely need to notice is 1994's Pac-Man 2: The New Adventures for the Super NES and Sega Genesis.  Dumping all of the maze stuff and focusing more on Pac-Man and his family as characters, Pac-Man 2 requires players to indirectly interact with Pac-Man and influence his behavior without directly controlling him.  It looks like a standard 2D platformer, but it's definitely not!

The actual gameplay would be best described as a point and click adventure, with one very important distinction. You don’t have direct control of Pac-Man himself, as he’ll wander around and interact with the world autonomously. You, the player, have control of a slingshot and a floating hand, which you’ll use to guide Pac-Man around the world. The hand is used to point left or right to get Pac-Man to move in that direction. The slingshot is used to get Pac-Man to notice specific objects, knock them over, or if you’re getting bored, to repeatedly pelt Pac-Man in the face with rocks. He doesn’t like that very much.

Indeed, Pac-Man’s mood and current opinion of you is a major gameplay mechanic, and determines how he’ll interact with the world around him. Various things around Pac-Man can occur to shift his mood, and he’ll often shift between several even without your input. Getting yelled at by the local farmer, for example, will sadden him, while having caterpillars fall on him will make him nervous of everything. There’s a variety of different emotions and degrees of which Pac-Man can feel, from ‘grouchy’, to ‘ear-steamingly, foot-stompingly enraged’, to ‘literally insane’, among many others.

Pac-Man lives in a well-defined world in this game and showcases a number of behaviors and animations far ahead of his time compared to other 2D characters of the era.  Sonic the Hedgehog gets a lot of attention for tapping his foot when he's bored, but Pac-Man spends this game swinging back and forth through a range of emotions from smooth confidence to optimistic joy to slightly miffed to downright pissed to shiveringly terrified.  Pac-Man isn't just a character on screen, he's your pixel pal, and working together the two of you are going to to share a grand adventure.  Treat him right (except when you need to make him mad to proceed) and you're in for a good time.


Power Button - Episode 291: Antiques Sideshow

Power ButtonEveryone wants to believe that a worn copy of Super Mario Bros. may be worth big money someday, but as Chris Kohler at Kotaku recently reported, there's actually some value in familiar games as collectors from other markets swoop into the video game world to pay thousands for games that most people would pass over as common.  On this week's podcast, Blake Grundman and I discuss this new influx of interest in retro games and whether or not it's good for the gaming community at large.  Then we see if either of us has any hidden gold in our collections as Blake digs into his bins of old game cartridges and we find out just how much that used copy of Iron Man X-O Manowar Heavy Metal for Game Boy and a sealed copy of WipeOut 64 are really worth.   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. 


A Family Guy Salute To GoldenEye 007

Family Guy - GoldenEye 007Family Guy has skewered pop culture for two decades and I always laugh the most when the production team sets their sights on a classic video game.  In Season 17's "Griffin Winter Games", Peter Griffin and his daughter Meg are captured while trespassing in North Korea and must stage a thrilling escape in the style of a nostalgic video game.  Peter suggests they use Rare's famed GoldenEye 007 for the Nintendo 64 as their inspiration, and what follows is a loving tribute to the console's most beloved shooters.  From the ammo count in the lower left corner of the screen to the targeting reticule that appears when Meg needs to target bolts to shoot open a grate to the little cinematic cut scenes, Family Guy knows the source material and has fun with it.  Peter even offers fun observations about the gameplay and environment while they make their escape.  It's an unexpected moment that will make GoldenEye fans smile.


Begging For Street Fighter II Bosses

Street Fighter II: The World WarriorI know it's hard to believe now in an age where Street Fighter fans have been able to play as M. Bison and Balrog for decades, but there was once a time when the four Shadaloo bosses were restricted to CPU control only.  They were fruits you must not taste in the original release of Street Fighter II: The World Warrior in the arcades and that limitation carried over to the Super NES home version.  Still, that didn't stop eager players from being absolutely sure that there had to be some hidden code that would unlock Vega, Sagat, and the rest as playable characters.  Electronic Gaming Monthly used its reader mail column back in 1993 to try and convince players that there was no secret boss code no matter how many kids in the schoolyard said otherwise.  They did find Game Genie codes that could brute force access to the bosses, but that's not quite the same thing, and the "Champion Edition" mirror match Down R Up L Y B code certainly didn't get the job done either.

Electronic Gaming Monthly

I remember playing Street Fighter II for the Super NES the summer it came out with a neighborhood friend and we spent too many afternoons just trying to get to the bosses at all, let alone trying to control them.  The challenge with the bosses was that unlike the regular World Warriors, we couldn't practice their moves to understand their strategies in a controlled two-player environment.  When Vega leaped up onto his fence and flipped down on us, we had no idea what was coming or what to do about it.  Sagat's endless "TIGER!  TIGER!  TIGER UPPERCUT!"?  Forget about it.  We were strangers in a strange land and no amount of jamming on the punch buttons to electrify Blanka could save us.

(via Reddit)


Power Button - Episode 286: Writing Future History With Blake J. Harris

Power ButtonFriend of the podcast Blake J. Harris is back on the show this week to discuss his recently released book The History of the Future: Oculus, Facebook, and the Revolution That Swept Virtual Reality and chronicle the work that went into writing it. Join us for an hour and a half of conversation about the genesis of the project, how he was able to get in-depth access to Oculus, what happened with Facebook cut off that access, and whether or not Palmer Luckey ever got his trophies back from the Facebook campus. Plus we have some virtual reality stories for you that weren't in the book, information on what is coming in the second edition, and when we may just see History of the Future: The Movie coming to screens near 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. We also have a tip jar if you'd like to kick a dollar or two of support our way. 


History Of The Future Author Blake J. Harris To Answer Your Questions On Upcoming Power Button Podcast

The History of the Future: Oculus, Facebook, and the Revolution That Swept Virtual Reality Our friend Blake J. Harris, author of The History of the Future: Oculus, Facebook, and the Revolution That Swept Virtual Reality, is coming back to the Power Button podcast soon to talk about the new book and answer all of our questions, and we want to give you the opportunity to have all of your questions about the book answered too.  Post your questions and comments for Blake below as a comment before 8:00pm ET on March 30, 2019 and we will discuss them during the recording of the show.  Then join us the following week to hear the complete interview and learn everything else there is to know about the re-rise of virtual reality, Facebook's role in Oculus, and Palmer Luckey.  If you want to catch up on Blake's past appearances on the Power Button podcast, dive into the archive and listen to Episode 134 and Episode 160.


Power Button - Episode 284: Activision Layoffs And Nintendo Direct

Power ButtonThis week on the Power Button podcast we're discussing bad news (layoffs at Activision following record earnings) and good news (a new Nintendo Direct brings us news on all kinds of upcoming Switch games).  Join us for an hour of conversation.   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.