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First Look At "CD Sonic" Was Impressive

CD SonicBack before the Internet turned video game news into a daily content-generating operation, fans had to get the latest information once a month through the magazines of the day.  In the early 1990s I was a subscriber to three of the big publications: Nintendo Power for my Nintendo needs, GamePro for strategy tips, and Electronic Gaming Monthly for glimpses of what was going on overseas.  EGM was very much a fan of Sega's 1991 Genesis release Sonic the Hedgehog, so much so that it felt as if every little Sonic tidbit that leaked out of Japan was worth at least one page of information.  All sorts of Sonic projects that never saw the light of day were mentioned in the magazine, but one that did make it out the door was Sonic CD for the Sega CD add-on.  The March 1993 issue of EGM showcased a first look at the game (known as CD Sonic at the time) with early screenshots and preliminary buzz about what to expect.  The Sonic the Hedgeblog Twitter account recently dug up that article and, let me tell you, it brought back a blast of memories. 

Seeing this coverage at the age of twelve made me feel for the first time that I might be missing out on something by owning only Nintendo consoles.  While I've never owned the Sega CD version of Sonic CD, I spent years trying to play the game on other platforms to mixed results.  I bought the Windows PC version of the game in 1996, but it was finicky and often crashed.  Emulating the Sega CD version on my PC all came down to the capability of the emulator and the horsepower of my computer.  The Nintendo GameCube version included in Sonic Gems Collection played decently enough, but it wasn't until the 2011 reworking of the game for iOS and the Sony PlayStation 3 that I finally felt like I could dig into the game the way it was meant to be played... and that wasn't even the original version of the game that the developers meant for us to play!  The online Sonic fan community has long since parsed through articles like these to discover the original source of the screenshots from early demo versions of the game. It's like getting closure on the rest of the story all these years later.


Power Button - Episode 302: Guilty Displeasures

Power ButtonHave you ever seen lots of people talking about a video game series that they absolutely love but you just can't see the appeal?  On this week's podcast we're discussing games that everyone else adores but just aren't for us.  From Animal Crossing to LittleBigPlanet to Borderlands to Persona, nothing is safe.  Remember that we're not overly negative or angry people, so we fully understand that these games just aren't for us, and we're alright with that.   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. 


Go Under Metal Sonic's Hood

Sonic CDSega's Sonic CD is remembered today for many things including its divisive soundtracks and the time travel mechanic that turned every stage into three stages, but I would say that the most memorable addition to Sonic's world is the creation of Metal Sonic.  Sonic's robotic rival gave him someone he could evenly spar against with speed versus speed.  The character is designed to look menacing and just plain painful to touch with his sharp edges and glowing red eyes.  What went into designing Metal Sonic?  Over at Shmuplations there are translated interviews with Metal Sonic's creator.  No, not Dr. Robotnik, but Designer Kazuyuki Hoshino as originally presented in the liner notes to the game's soundtrack album.

When I first heard the words “Sonic’s Arch-rival” and “Sonic’s Doppelganger” in the design notes, an image for that character’s design immediately came to me, in almost complete form. Metal naturally fit into our key visual concept for Sonic CD as well, and from the first moment that I imagined his red iris set against the darkness of his black eyes, I knew he would become a character with real, lasting appeal.

This was something I thought about later when I designed Shadow the Hedgehog, too, but seeing as Metal Sonic was a rival character to Sonic, I knew the best way to show that off would be with an in-game scene where Sonic and Metal Sonic directly compete with each other—and I designed Metal Sonic with that scene in mind.

The race through Stardust Speedway Zone 3's bad future area is the most memorable moment in Sonic CD, so much so that it's recurs several more times over the course of the franchise including in games like Sonic Generations, Sonic the Hedgehog 4: Episode II, and Sonic Mania.  Metal Sonic is my favorite of the Sonic villains because he's singular in purpose, doesn't care to perform long angsty monologues, and is driven to exceed his limitations while simultaneously holding himself to Sonic's example.  He wants to match Sonic, but also surpass him.  It's an interesting duality. 


Power Button - Episode 301: Remain Indoors

Power ButtonAs the world takes a lockdown pause to deal with COVID-19, this week on the podcast we're talking about self-isolating and spending that extra time on playing video games such as Mega Man Zero/ZX Legacy Collection and Shantae: Half-Genie Hero.  This week has been such a long month.   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. 


Video Games React To COVID-19

Street Fighter IIOut here in the real world people across the planet are dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic as the coronavirus has us all practicing social distancing, self-isolation, quarantine, and/or working from home depending on your circumstances.  Traditionally packed highways are nearly empty, people are starting to lose their jobs as business close for an indefinite shutdown, and we're all left to stay at home and avoid public spaces and gatherings so as not to contract the illness.  These are uncertain and perilous times.  You'd think you could escape into a video game for a while and leave it all behind, but our favorite gaming properties are dealing with the virus just as we are.  The World Warrior tournament has been postponed, the shopkeeping moblin has to limit the sales of toilet paper, and Slippy Toad can't believe how empty the roads are now.  I've had some fun on Twitter lately posting these mock-ups of characters reacting to the virus.  It's a little bit of levity in this serious atmosphere and, for me, joking about aspects of our current reality helps me keep the anxiety and fear under control.  Try making your own.  It's fun!

 

The Legend of Zelda
It's dangerous to come any closer! (The Legend of Zelda)

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E3 2020 Cancelled Due To Coronavirus

E32020The coronavirus has been spreading around the world and inciting fear and anxiety in everyone who keeps up with the news of the pandemic, so while it's understandable that many video game players were looking forward to some escapism with the annual Electronic Entertainment Expo, this year's E3 has been called on account of COVID-19.  Yes, the latest major gathering of people to be cancelled because of the coronavirus is E3.  Jason Schreier at Kotaku has the story.

“After careful consultation with our member companies regarding the health and safety of everyone in our industry—our fans, our employees, our exhibitors and our longtime E3 partners—we have made the difficult decision to cancel E3 2020, scheduled for June 9-11 in Los Angeles,” the Entertainment Software Association, the video game lobbyist group that runs the trade show, said in a statement to press this morning.

The ESA added that it will be looking “to coordinate an online experience to showcase industry announcements and news in June 2020.” Traditionally, E3 has two parts. During the first few days of the show, from Saturday through Monday, major video game publishers like Microsoft and Ubisoft hold press conferences to showcase trailers announce their latest games, while from Tuesday through Thursday, the show floor opens for business deals and video game demos. The first part will be far easier to replicate than the second. Microsoft has already announced an Xbox digital event for this year, as has Ubisoft.

While E3 will be missed, there is honestly just too much money tied up in the business around video games to expect that everyone will just quietly go home and sit in the dark (although, seriously, during this pandemic you really should just go home!  Avoid large gatherings!  Wash your hands!).  Most of the action will shift into the online space where a number of game publishers have been thriving for years.  Nintendo hasn't done a traditional live press conference in a while, for instance; expect the other big industry names to follow that example now.  As for the show floor and the meeting opportunities that come with it, some of that can be replicated with telecommuting, but so much of the action at E3 happens through serendipity and random chance.  How many stories have we heard over the years about a game that comes about because Famous Developer A bumps into Major Talent B on the show floor, get to talking, and decide to work on a project together?  That won't be happening this year.  So while I mourn the lost opportunities for creative people to mix and mingle, I'd rather that they all stay healthy so they can come up with the next great idea next time around.


Mega Man 8 For Game Boy Is Not Meant To Be

Rockman 8Capcom adapted their popular Mega Man games for the Nintendo Entertainment System into Game Boy counterparts that mashed up elements of the first four games in the series in unexpected ways allowing for, say, Cut Man and Heat Man to exist in the same game.  Want to shoot Fire Man's weapon at Quick Man?  Go for it!  Mega Man V, however, was an entirely new adventure with original elements, and after that the handheld series went on hiatus.  No Mega Man VI.  Certainly not a Mega Man VII.  And definitely not a Mega Man VIII... unless you count this bootleg knock-off version cobbled together from bits of Mega Man III for Game Boy and the real Mega Man 8 for the Sony PlayStation and Sega Saturn.  Check out this video of Rockman 8 for the Game Boy from Makon Soft and watch for oddities that imply the creators were either confused about Mega Man or just plain didn't care.  For instance, because Mega Man's portrait is traditionally in the center of the stage select screen, the creators assumed that he's an enemy Robot Master with a stage all to himself, so selecting that portrait brings up a Rock Man stage.  Here's the Bootleg Games wiki to fill us in:

The engine contains many glitches throughout. One serious glitch is that sometimes, after killing so many enemies all of the remaining enemies and moving platforms disappear, making the level impossible to complete. Another major glitch is found when battling the boss on Clown Man's stage, where the game will sometimes reset itself without warning. Rockman's health bar is bigger than normal and he can't collect any weapons in this game, nor does he have any extra weapons at the start. As a result, he only has the Mega Buster and the pause screen is blank, aside from showing his health bar. Charging up the Mega Buster is completely useless, as a charged shot does no damage. As there's no weapon energy, all of the items refill Rockman's health. The graphics are taken from the Rockman games and simplified. The music is poorly remade from Rockman 3 and 4. There is no ending, with the game going back to the robot master select screen after beating all of the bosses.

It's fun to point and laugh at pitiful attempts to con the audience like this, but just think what Capcom could have really accomplished with a Game Boy (Color, by that point in time) version of Mega Man 8.  I bet they could have created a game that maintained the spirit of the original game meshed with the classic NES/GB style.  We'll never know, but there is a fan-made demake of the PS1 game for PC that converts it into the traditional 8-bit style and structure that comes what I have to imagine is pretty close.


Power Button - Episode 299: Loose Ends

Power ButtonAs we close in on our landmark 300th episode, this week Blake Grundman and I take an hour to tie up some loose ends still lingering from the holidays.  My girlfriend and I bought classic Nintendo Entertainment System controllers for the Switch and put them through their paces on a variety of NES games, and we're getting into Star Trek: Bridge Crew for the Sony PlayStation 4.  She's getting into Destiny 2, too.  I also have a lot to say about the surprisingly decent Sonic Forces and my amiibo obsession continues.  Finally, we turn our attention to Zen Studios and their work on the Williams pinball tables in Pinball FX3.  Fish Tales, Theater of Magic, Attack From Mars... what else could we want?   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. 


Power Button - Episode 298: What I Played On My Holiday Vacation

Power ButtonWith the holiday season of 2019 becoming a hazy memory, Blake Grundman and I catch up on our December doings with a look at all of the games we played during our time off.  New games, backlog games, and everything in between is up for grabs in this seventy-five minutes of discussion of games such as Shovel Knight: King of Cards (and the new amiibo!), Assassin's Creed Odyssey, Borderlands 3: Moxxi's Heist of the Handsome Jackpot, Kirby's Extra Epic Yarn, and much more.  We also take a sidequest diversion into a fun little retro game shop that I discovered while traveling over Christmas where I surprised my girlfriend with an in-box copy of her favorite NES game and Blake's new obsession with smart technology.  If you want to check out the amiibo mini-shelves I mentioned in this episode, check out this Amazon link.   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. 


Annual Christmas Special Encore! Power Button - Episode 158: Christmas In Videoland

Power ButtonSpecial Christmas encore of our popular holiday episode! It's the holiday season which means that it's the perfect time for us to dedicate an episode of Power Button discussing video games that include Christmas elements such as music remixes, holiday weapons, festive missions, and appearances from Santa Claus himself.  There's some deep cuts mixed in here with the mainstream titles; we cover everything from Christmas trees in Sonic Adventure's Station Square to the special Christmas cheat code in Donkey Kong Country 3: Dixie's Double Trouble to Banjo-Kazooie's Freezeezy Peak to the special holiday demo of Jazz Jackrabbit to Sega's limited edition Christmas NiGHTS to the hard-to-find Daze Before Christmas from Sunsoft.  Settle in with some egg nog and spend eighty minutes with us this holiday season.  We also sidequest off into NES Remix, adorable amiibo, and much more.  Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night!    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. We also have a tip jar if you'd like to kick a dollar or two of support our way.