Retro/Classic Feed

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. 


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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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 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. 


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.