2020 Nintendo Hallmark Ornaments Revealed

NesornamentNintendo and Hallmark have had a nice partnership going over the past few years in which the former licenses characters to the latter for its line of Keepsake Ornaments.  That partnership continues this year with the reveal of new ornaments featuring Mario, Donkey Kong, Pikachu, Yoshi and even tributes to game hardware with a Legend of Zelda game pak and the Nintendo Entertainment Console itself.  Open your wallets and purses because this holiday season isn't going to be cheap.

Recall hours spent sitting in your bean bag chair parked in front of the television, video game controller in hand. Nothing mattered except defeating Bowser and ultimately completing the entire "Super Mario Bros." game. Relive the care-free fun when you display this classic Nintendo Entertainment System console Christmas tree ornament that lights up and plays the familiar music and sounds of the iconic video game (battery-operated).  Magic Light and Sound Christmas tree ornament. Press the button on the ornament to see the power light illuminate and hear sounds from the "Super Mario Bros." game. Requires three (3) LR44 batteries, included.  Artist crafted by Rodney Gentry, this Keepsake Ornament comes pre-packaged in a box for easy gift giving, preservation and storage. Dated 2020 in copyright.  Plastic Christmas tree ornament is lead-free and measures 3.8" W x 1.8" H x 2.8" D.

Yoshi releases in July, while the others are coming in October.  My mother started me on collecting Keepsake Ornaments when I was a young teenager with our annual purchase of Star Trek ornaments.  Each holiday we would buy the new starship and the new character ornament.  That tradition has mushroomed into an annual purchase of all kind of ornaments as Hallmark licenses my favorite properties like Ghostbusters, Back to the Future, and Gremlins.  Now with so many Nintendo ornaments in the mix, I think I'm going to need more display space.  I love the look of the 8-bit characters and the go-karting Yoshi matches up with the go-karting Mario ornament previously released, but I think I'm most excited about the light-up Nintendo Entertainment System.  The sculpt on this ornament is so detailed that it includes the connection ports on the back of the console.  There aren't any photos of the underside, but I wonder if they went the extra mile and included the expansion port.

 

 


Power Button - Episode 303: The Many Games Of Nintendo Direct Mini

Power ButtonNintendo has come to save the day during lockdown with a surprise Nintendo Direct Mini which announced a variety of new games coming to the Switch.  Borderlands Legendary Collection, Burnout Paradise Remastered, a new fighter from ARMS for Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, and many more titles of interest were featured in the broadcast, and on this episode of the podcast we take an hour to discuss which announcements we are more interested in.  Plus there's also a rumor floating around that Nintendo is remaking/remastered a whole slew of 3D Super Mario titles, and we take that topic on as well to talk about our hopes for such a project if it turns out to be real.   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 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. 


Borderlands Coming To Nintendo Switch

BorderlandsThe Borderlands series has done very well for itself in the past decade, but surprisingly it hasn't come to a Nintendo platform until today's announcement of the Borderlands Legendary Collection which bundles the modern console remasters of Borderlands, Borderlands 2, and Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel with all included expansions (minus Commander Lilith and the Fight For Sanctuary) and new optional motion controls. The physical game card version of the set will require a hefty download, too.  It's coming in May 2020 for $49.99 along with a bunch of other Switch releases of existing 2K Games titles including BioShock and XCOM, but my fiancee and I are all about the Borderlands.

It's a shame that it took this long for the series to arrive on a Nintendo platform.  I can imagine under difference circumstances that there would have been a Borderlands spin-off game for the Nintendo 3DS that reworked the action into a 2D action sidescroller with 3D rendered visuals like just about every other platformer on that system.  The worlds would have been smaller, the storyline created as an "also this happened" tale that spins around the stories from the other games in the series (and in the end it may not even really be canon), and so forth.  Following on from the precedents set by these kinds of games, it practically designs itself.  Of course, on Switch the Borderlands franchise is free to be portable for the first time in a way that really matters.  We don't talk about Borderlands 2 for the PlayStation Vita, no...


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.


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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