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Power Button - Episode 300: 30 Years Of Super Mario Bros. 3

Power ButtonOn this landmark 300th episode of the Power Button podcast, Blake Grundman and I explore the impact of Super Mario Bros. 3 on its thirtieth anniversary launching in North America, and while that's all well and good, we start off with a sidequest into a long-awaited event that I'm excited to share with all 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. We also have a tip jar if you'd like to kick a dollar or two of support our way. 


Mini-Review: SEGA AGES Sonic the Hedgehog 2

Sonic the Hedgehog 2
Sega has taken an active hand in the past decade in keeping its popular Genesis titles available for increasingly modern platforms, both as part of multi-game disc collections and à la carte downloads.  The latest game to make a return appearance is 1992's Sonic the Hedgehog 2, one of the best titles in the franchise and in which Sonic joins with his new pal Tails to take down Dr. Robotnik's plans of world domination using his Death Egg weapon.  While originally meant to spur sales of its 16-bit console, now that Sega is platform agnostic, anyone with a game system can take a crack at it.  And I mean anyone!  Without even especially trying to do it, I already own Sonic 2 for the Nintendo GameCube, Sony PlayStation 2, PlayStation Portable, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, PC, Nintendo DS, Nintendo 3DS, iPhone, iPad, Amazon Fire TV, and Sega Genesis Mini.  That's a lot of Death Egg!  Chance are that, in some format, you already own it too.  Now that Sega has brought it back again for the Nintendo Switch as part of its Sega Ages revival series, it's simultaneously an easy impulse buy and seemingly unnecessary if you already own it in another format.  Yet, as I played through the game one more time and explored some of the new additions to the package, I found that this may be my favorite of the re-releases yet.

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Della Duck Rewrites NES DuckTales History

DuckTalesROM hacks of classic retro games have come a long way in the past two decades as fans have reworked old favorites into new creations.  Capcom's 1989 hit DuckTales for the Nintendo Entertainment System is one of the console's classics, and while it was given a modern upgrade in 2013 for DuckTales Remastered on then-modern platforms, it remains based on the original game which in turn is based on the 1987 animated series.  Now that the 2017 DuckTales reboot is solving its own mysteries, it's only fair that someone would rewrite Capcom history by replacing the game's protagonist, Scrooge McDuck, with the new show's lead female protagonist, Della Duck.  Thanks to Garrett Gilchrist, Della can take on the Moon stage's challenges in the original DuckTales game with a clever graphics replacement hack meant for use in the Mesen emulator.  Garrett says:

It wasn't that hard to redraw the graphics for use in Mesen, but I'd drawn Della in slightly different positions than Scrooge, mainly her head positions, which got me in trouble later. The NES programming reuses graphics tiles constantly, and any inconsistency was immediately obvious, requiring some tweaking. I would recommend that anyone redrawing NES graphics for Mesen keep their characters either identically positioned to the original sprite or changed consistently on every frame ... just in case!

Trapped on the moon for years, the series features her return to Earth as a running storyline.  The writers even found a clever way to integrate the Capcom game's Moon stage theme into the show's narrative as not just background music, but an in-story lullabye.  It's fun to see her here where she technically doesn't belong, zipping around the NES game decades before her inclusion in any televised DuckTales production.  She's using Scrooge's pogo cane since this is just a graphics update, but imagine a further iteration of this idea that includes Della in a new proper DuckTales video game as a playable character alongside Scrooge, Donald Duck, and the rest of the crew.  I'm certainly interested!

(via @KenPlume)


Secret Origins: Super Mario Bros. 3

Super Mario Bros. 3Today being the thirtieth anniversary of Nintendo's landmark Super Mario Bros. 3's release in North America, I cannot let the day pass without looking back on one of the defining games of the 8-bit era.  I first became enamored with the adventures of Mario and Luigi in 1986 and over the next several years, Nintendo became my childhood religion with the pair of plumbers at the top of the holy ladder.  I watched the Super Mario Bros. Super Show cartoon while eating Mario fruit snacks and wearing my Mario t-shirt, scribbling in my Mario notebook with a Mario pencil (with flag topper!) and checking the time on my Mario wristwatch.  In May 1989 I picked up a free first issue of GamePro at a Toys R Us while out shopping with my mother and flipping through the pages make my young heart skip a beat.  There was a Super Mario Bros. 3 coming and it looked fantastic.  The two-page preview spread of the Famicom title (already available in Japan) showcased the best visuals I'd seen for the Nintendo Entertainment System, and I scoured the piece for clues about what was ahead for Mario.  This time around, according to the preview article, Princess Peach (who?  Where's Princess Toadstool??) has been captured by the Kuppa King (any relation to the Koopa King?) and it's up to Mario and Luigi to defeat the Kuppa guardians (not kids?) and save the day.  I asked my grandfather about the odd names, comparing Kuppa to Koopa and being unaware of localization, and he told me that since these are made-up names, they can be whatever the creators want them to be.  I just wanted to understand the continuity between the different games.

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Mini-Review: NES Controllers For Nintendo Switch

NES controllersAsk any of us who grew up in the 1980s with a Nintendo Entertainment System controller in our hands and we'll all tell you the same thing: that controller is iconic.  Sure, it's been surpassed by the controllers that came after it (the Super NES controller made it immediately obsolete), but there's a certain special something about that solid rectangle with the red buttons that evokes all kinds of nostalgia.  Nintendo has sold its classic back catalog through download services on its modern consoles for fourteen years now dating back to the original Wii, but players have relied on the modern controllers that belong with those modern consoles to play those old NES games.  You can turn a Wii remote on its side to sort of approximate the NES controller and a 3DS has all of the necessary buttons to simulate the experience, but there's a magic ingredient in the authentic old NES controller that is somehow essential to the experience.  Now that Nintendo is releasing NES games for its Switch hardware, you might expect that the company would have you turn a Joy-con on its side and somehow play Super Mario Bros. 3 and The Legend of Zelda with a tiny little controller, but there's a far better option than that.  Nintendo sells real honest-to-goodness Nintendo Entertainment System controllers designed for the Switch, wireless communication and rechargeable battery included.  At $60 for a pair it seems steep, so when the package was on sale at half off over the holidays, I decided to take a chance and welcome nostalgia home.  I ordered a pack, charged 'em up, and my girlfriend and I set out to explore the two-player library of the Switch's NES library.

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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. 


Power Button - Episode 297: Celebrating Donkey Kong Country, Sega 32X, and Sony PlayStation Silver Anniversaries

Power ButtonWe've just come out of a series of major twenty-fifth anniversaries for some major video game releases, so for this week's podcast we're turning the calendar back to late 1994 to remember the launches that would CHANGE EVERYTHING in the gaming world: Nintendo's Donkey Kong Country for the Super NES with its rendered visuals that would hold back the side of advancing consoles for another year, Sega's 32X add-on for the Sega Genesis that landed with a thud and began the company's protracted downfall, and Sony's entry into the business with the first model of PlayStation.  The 90s had firmly arrived that things would never be the same.  Join us as we remember what it was like to live through these turbulent times and reflect on how these three releases shaped the industry for years to come.   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. 


At Demonhead, We Clash

Clash at DemonheadI rented my share of dud video games for the Nintendo Entertainment System when I was a kid, but sometimes I'd rent a game I couldn't quite crack, and my need to figure it out would drive me to rent it again and again.  Sometimes it's for compellingly bad reasons like with what happened with Back to the Future Part II and III, but sometimes it's for good reasons.  Consider 1989's Clash at Demonhead that was somewhat ahead of its time in terms of level progression, power-ups, and storyline.  This was a game that played out more like an episodic animated adventure with talkative supporting characters and a series of Mega Man Robot Master-type bosses with lots in the charisma department.  Over at Kotaku, Peter Tieryas reminds us all why Clash at Demonhead is one of the console's unsung greats.

Similar to some of my favorite games of the era like Zelda II, The Battle of Olympus, and Goonies II, Clash’s sidescrolling action has areas you can tackle in any order you’d like. The overworld map consists of 42 routes. The routes generally have you going from one end to the other, clearing out enemies, and procuring wads of cash. Some of the areas have multiple levels that take you up into the mountains, sink down into the ocean depths, and barely cross deadly lava pits.

The navigation can be a bit confusing on the overworld map since the actual routes only have their numbers show up if you’ve selected the area (I wish, similar to the way it is in Bionic Commando, destinations could have had numbers on top of them). In this case, a trusty paper-and-pen come in handy to chart the way. To alleviate some of the difficulties of backtracking, which you’ll have to do quite a bit, you gain special Force powers from a magical Hermit that allows teleportation to any route Bang has finished.

I think what really ensnared me was the massive for it's time collection of power-up suits that allowed the hero Bang to fly, jump higher, swim, survive in lava, and so much more.  Each suit offered a different key utility that was essential in some levels and useless in others, and the trick was to accumulate these suits and choose when to deploy them at the optimum time.  Talk about replay value!  Usually the progression in games like these was to constantly grow stronger in a one-way path.  Bigger guns, better shields, etc.  In Clash, the suits could be swapped out when needed to boost Bang's stats in one manner while potentially decreasing them in another.  For me at the time, it was a revelation.  The problem was that the game could be unrelentingly difficult if I wandered off the assumed path and it was easy to end up at a dead end where I needed an ability I hadn't unlocked yet and would have to backtrack across an area I'd only just barely survived the first time.  I really should revisit it as an adult armed with more patience and trusty save states.


Bart Simpson Just Wants To Play His Games

The SimpsonsHere's a fun blast from the past courtesy of @90sManiax on Twitter.  Acclaim published a series of poor-to-lackluster games based on The Simpsons in the early 1990s for the Nintendo Entertainment System, Game Boy, Super NES, Sega Master System, and Sega Genesis, and here we have an advertisement for several of the titles featuring original Simpsons animation as Bart tries to avoid his chore obligations in order to play.  The three games advertised here - Bart vs the Space Mutants, Bart vs the World, and Bart Simpson's Escape from Camp Deadly - were all semi-popular in their day based solely on the red-hot Simpsons license, but had little to recommend in terms of gameplay.  Even for NES games, these products were extremely basic with poor hit detection, grating sound, and unintuitive controls.  I rented both NES games at different times in that era based just on being a fan of the license and came away disappointed.  It wasn't until 1992's Bart's Nightmare for the Super NES that I finally found a Simpsons game worth owning, and even it isn't reaching its full potential.  It was in 2007's The Simpsons Game that the property finally succeeded in the gaming world, largely because publisher Electronic Arts brought in the writers and animators from the television show to work on it.  Now that's how you use a license!

(Image via Retromags)