Official Mario Paint VHS Teaches Digital Artistry

Mario Paint VHSNintendo's 1992 release Mario Paint for the Super NES sought to turn the console's audience into artists and musicians with its suite of creative tools, and while the game came with an instructional manual, the learning curve could be steep if you didn't have a basic grasp on the concepts behind digital art and music.  Nintendo published an official player's guide packed with stamp templates and basic tips to get you started on your creative adventure, but in Japan you could also get an official Mario Paint instructional videotape.  Released by Ape Inc., this thirty-minute video explains how to use the tools in far more detail than any printed page could ever hope and shows off some of the creations developed by the video team.  James Eldred at Mostly Retro bought the VHS and ripped it into a YouTube video for posterity. He also has some of the promotional inserts for other guides that came packed in with it, so be sure to go to his site for the full story.

I really wish I would’ve had something like this when I was a kid and playing with Mario Paint. There are some really fantastic tips in here. Using stamps to make ultra-fine lines, for instance, I don’t know if I ever thought of that. I only used stamps to make pixel art.

I enjoyed messing around with Mario Paint as a kid, but never accomplished much beyond recreating sprites from my favorite games with the stamp tool (more pixel art!) and tinkering with the music editor.  Nintendo Power would occasionally run images from Mario Paint animation videos sent in by very talented artists that blew away anything I could ever hope to create.  It was intimidating stuff and helped drive me back over to Super Mario Kart when the inspiration ran out.

Nintendo Backs Off From Mobile Gaming

MaxresdefaultNintendo believed it was poised to become a billion dollar force in the mobile gaming app market a few years ago when it announced its first game developed exclusively for mobile hardware, Super Mario Run, but as Takashi Mochizuki at Bloomburg reports today, the company is retreating from that market following a series of lackluster returns and a question of whether its worth continuing to pursue that market now that the Switch is so successful.  As the article points out, Nintendo's mobile projects were announced during the Wii U era when the company needed profitable successes, and with that console never reaching the heights of its predecessor and the handheld Nintendo 3DS approaching its sunset years, the only other option was to strike out into the mobile market.

President Shuntaro Furukawa proclaimed two years ago that smartphone games would be a $1 billion business with growth potential, building on his predecessor’s promise that Nintendo would release two to three mobile titles each year. That spurred hopes among investors that the gaming powerhouse could carve out a substantial slice of the market. In May, however, the president adopted a markedly different tune, saying “We are not necessarily looking to continue releasing many new applications for the mobile market.”

Mobile games are expected to make $77.2 billion this year, which would account for half of the overall video game industry’s sales, according to research from Newzoo. But “since the release of Mario Kart Tour in fall 2019, Nintendo’s mobile pipeline is empty,” said Serkan Toto, a mobile games consultant in Tokyo. “In a sense, Nintendo’s enormous success on console reduced the need and the pressure to put resources into mobile.”

The central problem with Nintendo's mobile games is that to be a highly successful and profitable mobile gaming company, you pretty much have to be a greedy amoral jerk of a company.  The most successful mobile games are bottomless pits of endless microtransactions that are designed to entice players to spend more and more money without really thinking about it.  That way of doing business has never been Nintendo's style.  Super Mario Run required only a one-time ten dollar fee to unlock everything in the game, while other games in the company's mobile realm included microtransactions, they were never as predatory as the other big fish in that pond. 

I bought the full game unlock for Super Mario Run, but I haven't played the game in over a year.  I tried Dr. Mario World, but never paid any money for it and soon quit playing it.  I pay the five dollars a month that it costs for a Mario Kart Tour gold pass which earns me extra bonuses while playing the game, and I feel I get my money's worth out of it as I play multiple races every day.  Yes, there are more expensive packs for sale that offer exclusive drivers and vehicles that are priced for the so-called mobile gaming whales out there, but that little five dollar fee is enough for me.  It would seem that to be profitable enough to be worthwhile, it's not enough for Nintendo.  I'm OK with Nintendo letting mobile go.  Their best work has always been found on their own hardware.

Mini-Review: Evan's Remains

Evan's RemainsWhen a genius inventor named Evan Goldstein disappears, his last supposed location is on a mysterious island.  Years later, a letter arrives asking that a girl named Dysis go to the island and find him.  That's about where things are when we pick up the plot of Evan's Remains, a new indie game developed by Matías Schmied for the Sony PlayStation 4, Microsoft Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, and PC.  The publisher, Whitethorn Digital, offered me a free download of the game to check it out, and since I'm a fan of side-scrolling puzzle platformer adventures, I eagerly accepted.  What I got in the end wasn't what I expected at all and I'm left wondering if perhaps this is one of those games that just isn't for me.

Continue reading "Mini-Review: Evan's Remains" »

Power Button - Episode 308: Sony PlayStation 5 Revealed

Power ButtonAs the new next-generation video game consoles rev up for debuts later this year, it's Sony's turn to show off the PlayStation 5 and wow us with tales of things to come.  Join us as we discuss the ups and downs of Sony's online presentation and cover which games we're most excited to try, which hardware features are the most intriguing, and some educated guesses as to a release date and price.  Tell the affiliates that we're running long this week as we have nearly an hour and a half of conversation for 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. 

New Ratchet & Clank Shows Off PS5

Ratchet and Clank: Rift ApartInsomniac Games always likes to show off its technical wizard skills whenever possible and the company's developers are doing it again in the announcement trailer for the upcoming Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart for the Sony PlayStation 5.  The PS5's solid state hard drive will definitely cut back on the time needed to load new levels, so what better way to demonstrate that then with a game built around blasting into alternate dimensions during fast-paced action?  Every new console generation boasts more polygons, more objects on screen, better lighting, and other gee-whiz improvements, but to see how we're about to leave the clunky loading screen gimmicks like elevators loaded with enemies or a static screen with advice scrolling by behind is the best advertisement for buying a PS5 yet.  I can only hope that the finished game handles transitions between locations so elegantly.

Zelda 3 Lives On

Electronic Gaming MonthlyThose of us who grew up with gaming in the 1990s relied on magazines such as Nintendo Power and Electronic Gaming Monthly for our news on new titles, and often those titles were teased in print before they had official titles.  Everyone was talking about Zelda 3 before it was The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past and, and before we bought The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time we knew it as Zelda 64.  The thing is, these shorthand titles tend to stick.  Clyde Mandelin discusses the staying power of temporary titles over at Legends of Localization.

I’m not alone, actually – many other gamers my age still refer to A Link to the Past as “Zelda III” out of habit. A large part of it is that magazines at the time called it “Zelda III” even though it had a subtitle. This led everyone to call it that on playgrounds, in homes, at workplaces, etc. Basically, for a short period, “Zelda III” was what almost everyone called it, at least for short.

A similar thing happened with “Link’s Awakening” and “Zelda IV”. My recollection is that this numerated title didn’t stick around nearly as long, so it’s rarer to hear anyone refer it to as “Zelda IV” these days.

While this kind of thing isn't exclusive to the Zelda franchise (Super Mario World was colloquially called Super Mario Bros. 4 before its debut and the game even carries that subtitle in Japan), the wordy titles of the franchise tend to make the numerical shorthand something of a necessity.  Somehow I expect that if the third Sonic the Hedgehog game was entitled Sonic the Hedgehog and the Floating Island, we'd still refer to it in passing as Sonic 3.  There are too many Zelda games today to count them off in sequential order, but for a while there it was a handy tool. 

Power Button - Episode 307: Favored Endings

Power ButtonWe're looking at some of our favorite video game endings on this week's new podcast episode with a trip through our dreams with Super Mario Bros. 2 and The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening, a long game of endings spanning the Mega Man X series into the Mega Man Zero series, Halo Reach's unhappy ending, Mass Effect 2's suicidal ending, Portal 2 ending with a song, and much more.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. 

Nintendo's TV And Movie Ventures Recapped

The Super Mario Bros. Super ShowDepending on which generation's members you ask you would think that Nintendo's only forays into the world of movies and television shows were either 1993's Super Mario Bros.: The Movie which is notorious for being... let's just say something else, or of course the juggernaut that is Pokémon.  The company has licensed several other of its properties to film and animation studios over the years, and rather than let those slip through the cracks, Matt Paprocki writing for Polygon has put together a detailed recap of all of those productions spanning The Super Mario Bros. Super Show in 1989 up through 2019's Pokémon Detective Pikachu with stops at Donkey Kong Country, Kirby, and F-Zero along the way.  Here's a piece of the article detailing an early problem facing the Super Show producers:

Work on Super Show ran into an early problem. Nintendo was new to this, but DIC’s team sought to closely mirror the in-game content — things like the sounds of Mario grabbing a coin or sliding down a pipe — to capture the authentic Mushroom Kingdom aesthetic. The issue?

Super Show creators couldn’t use the game’s direct audio because Nintendo provided it in a digital form meant for the NES. “[The sound effects] were not compatible with any other format, so we couldn’t play them,” says John Grusd, a producer at DIC Entertainment.

The Super Show team went on to tape some sound effects while playing the games, and cleaned them up afterward. Others came from musical instruments or techniques such as foley, in an effort to best match the distinctive 8-bit tones; either way, it required more work for DIC.

Based on Nintendo's working relationship with the animation studio DIC as showcased in this article, it's a wonder the producers were able to accomplish anything considering how Nintendo wanted to be hands-off and yet exert some control.  I wonder how many questions and concerns were lost in translation along the way.  Today I'd imagine that the studio would be able to use digital files or, failing that, would call their counterparts at Nintendo to ask for the sounds in another format.  This history makes it sound like Nintendo sent a box to the studio filled with limited elements to use in making the show and then that was the last of the cooperation.  I'm glad that Nintendo has taken more of an interest in adapting their properties today and is more interested in what they and their partners can accomplish by working together.

Sega Announces Game Gear Micro

Game Gear MicroSega is prepping another mini console to follow up its successful Sega Genesis Mini, and while many fans have clamored for a Dreamcast Mini or Saturn Mini, the company is instead going even more niche with a tiny Game Gear.  Coming in October exclusively to Japan (as of this announcement) is Game Gear Micro, an impractically small version of the company's Game Boy competitor that measures only three inches wide with a one inch screen.  While that is adorably cute, it's much too small to play as anything more than a quick gimmick.  Four colors will be available, each color model will have four different games built into it, and each model costs ¥4980 (approximately $45 USD).  Luke Plunkett at Kotaku has more.

The handheld is only 80mm wide, while the screen is a tiny 1.15 inches across, though it’ll be a little easier to see if you preorder all four handhelds at once, as you’ll get a free replica of the original Game Gear’s “Big Window” magnifying accessory.

Now for some bullshit: each of the four different colours comes with four different games installed on it.

The black one comes with Sonic, Out Run, Royal Stone and Puyo Puyo Tsu. Blue comes with Sonic & Tails, Gunstar Heroes, Sylvan Tale and Baku Baku Animal. Red includes Game Gear Shinobi, Columns and the two Megami Tensei Gaiden games, while yellow has Shining Force, Shining Force II, Shining Force: Final Conflict and Nazo Puyo Aruru no Ru.

There's no way this would fly outside of Japan.  The Game Gear just doesn't have enough nostalgia cache in places like the United States, especially if the meager game library is split across four different hardware models that one can barely see to play.  An international version would only catch my interest if it were a larger device and had many more worthwhile games built it.  The problem with that is there aren't very many worthwhile Game Gear games to begin with that would appeal to an American audience.  You'd have to include all of the Sonic the Hedgehog games (some of which are downright dismal, such as Sonic Blast) and favorite fare like Streets of Rage, Ristar, and more Shinobi.  Hell, there was even a decent enough little Mega Man port for Game Gear, so throw that in too.  Come back with at least twenty fun games built into this thing, Sega, and we'll talk. 

Lost Samurai Shodown Sequel Shows Up

Samurai Shodown V PerfectSomewhere in the middle of the major Street Fighter versus Mortal Kombat fighting game wars of the 1990s was SNK with its fighting favorites such as Fatal Fury, King of Fighters, and Samurai Shodown.  Each of these title led to several sequels and revisions in the arcade and home console markets.  Samurai Shodown is set for a compilation re-release in June from the developers / archivists at Digital Eclipse, and in the process of working on the project they were able to snag a lost, unreleased version of Samurai Shodown V to include in the collection.  Ian Walker at Kotaku chronicles how this all came about and why the inclusion of Samurai Shodown V Perfect is such a lucky happening.

After being tapped by SNK to develop Samurai Shodown V and its Special follow-up in the early 2000s, development studio Yuki Enterprise and director Kouji Takaya soon set about working on a third and final update. Samurai Shodown V Perfect was meant to fix some of the gameplay issues still present in Special as well as introduce new stories for every character. The only problem was that no one told SNK, who only found out about the game when Yuki installed it in a single local arcade for testing. As work had already begun on Samurai Shodown VI, SNK quickly shut down the Perfect project, relegating its legacy to a handful of blurry photos from the test site.

Sheffield later told Kotaku via email that, despite it being generally “frowned upon” to hang onto company data, SNK was actually ecstatic to learn that Takaya still had a copy of Samurai Shodown V Perfect on hand. He credits SNK employee Adam Laatz with making sure the proper channels were notified and permissions were granted within the company to allow Perfect into the collection. Getting the game accepted took work, but thanks to a group effort, players will finally be able to experience this unreleased fighter.

I love when this kind of thing happens.  Absolutely love it.  Here we have a final revision of a game that was unceremoniously dumped by the publisher that, years later, is finally being released so the fans can experience and enjoy it.  What's to be gained by leaving it in a metaphorical vault to gather dust and be otherwise lost to time?  We've seen other publishers dig up their buried titles in the past few years.  Nintendo is starting to build a reputation for mining its vaults for finished-but-unreleased games such as EarthBound Beginnings (originally meant for the Nintendo Entertainment System in 1991, but held back for the Wii U's Virtual Console in 2015) and Star Fox 2 (planned for the Super NES in 1996, but missing in action until it was part of the Super NES Classic console in 2017).  What other finished-but-cancelled games would you like to see given another chance?