City-building simulators and their ilk are all the rage on this week's podcast episode. Join us as we reminisce over classic titles including SimCity, SimCity 2000, SimCity 3000... well, you get the idea there, plus SimCopter, SimFarm, Rollercoaster Tycoon, SimTower, and all the way to our current obsession, Cities: Skylines. Download this week's episode directly from PTB, listen with the player below, find us on Stitcher, subscribe via iTunes, Amazon Music Podcasts, 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.
I have a terrible confession to make, friends, and I hope you can forgive me. You see, Nintendo announced yesterday evening that three more Super NES games will be coming to the Nintendo Switch Online's Super NES collection next week, one of which is 1995's Donkey Kong Country 2: Diddy's Kong Quest. I regret to say that it's my fault that the game is only just now coming to the service instead of arriving weeks ago. Earlier in the summer when the first game in the series, Donkey Kong Country, was added to the service, I took my sweet time getting around to replaying it, and even then only playing a level or three in the evenings before turning it off and going to sleep. It's taken a while to finish, but yesterday afternoon I finally took down King K. Rool and the credits rolled. Then, mere hours later, Nintendo announced DKC2. Obviously they were just waiting for me to finish the game before bringing on the next installment. I apologize for dragging my feet on this one and promise to slam my way through DKC2 as quickly as possible so that we can get to Donkey Kong Country 3: Dixie Kong's Double Trouble! immediately if not sooner.
More classic games are headed to #NES & #SNES – #NintendoSwitchOnline on 9/23!— Nintendo of America (@NintendoAmerica) September 16, 2020
Super NES – Nintendo Switch Online
• #DonkeyKong Country 2: Diddy's Kong Quest
• Mario’s Super Picross
• The Peace Keepers
NES – Nintendo Switch Online
• S.C.A.T.: Special Cybernetic Attack Team pic.twitter.com/69qbUtg3L4
The long-gestating documentary based on friend-of-the-podcast Blake J. Harris' Console Wars is finally ready for its premiere. Set to debut on the CBS All Access streaming service on September 23, 2020, a trailer for the film was released yesterday that looks to keep the heart and soul of the book intact thanks to interviews with key figures from the Nintendo versus Sega battles of the 1990s including Howard Phillips, Peter Main, and Howard Lincoln on the Nintendo side and and Tom Kalinske, Shinobu Toyoda, Al Nilsen, Ellen Beth Van Buskirk, Paul Rioux, and Bill White from Team Sega. I absolutely loved the book. I've even given copies of it as gifts. Obviously I'm excited for the documentary. If you're a fan of gaming in the 1990s, you should be too. I'm certain we will discuss the film on the Power Button podcast shortly after its premiere.
Some people collect video games, but other people collect video game controllers. Consider the collection of Nintendo GameCube controllers on display at The Controller Library as maintained by Carl Synnett, for instance. You're probably thinking that if you've seen one GameCube controller, then you've seen them all. How many can there be? I mean, there's your basic wired model, and then the wireless WaveBird, and then maybe a few different color variations, and you're done, right? You've got some nerve, mister. There's a lot to see from prototypes cobbled together from spare parts to Club Nintendo-exclusive variants to specialized models used in hotels to some downright strange creations that integrate extra functions in surprising ways. There's even room in the collection for the more recent version of the controller produced during the Wii U and Switch eras for Super Smash Bros. Spend some time browsing and prepare to be intrigued.
Nintendo released a trio of F-Zero titles for the Game Boy Advance to diminishing returns internationally. The second of the three, 2004's F-Zero: GP Legend, was based on the anime of the same name and included support for the e-Reader accessory exclusively in the Japanese version of the game. These e-Reader cards were distributed through a combination of retail and Cardass card vending machines and added new tracks, racers, and course ghosts into the game. You can probably guess what happened next; the cards were hard to find, then they improperly preserved in the online community, and it wasn't long until the add-on tracks and other scannables fell into obscurity. Thankfully, F-Zero modder Guy Perfect has spent the past few years working on adding these e-Reader add-ons into all regions of the game (even those that did not originally support it such as the North American release) without the need for the e-Reader or the cards and eliminates the limit on how many courses can be saved to the game at once. The mod is finally complete and ready for the green light. Here's the breakdown of what's going on here from the mod's documentation:
This hack is a mod for all three versions of F-Zero: GP Legend (Japanese, North American, PAL) that incorporates all of the e-Reader content directly into the game. The modifications are as follows:
• Time Attack and Training are now permanently unlocked
• Card e+ is now permanently added to Time Attack and Training
• All 20 e-Reader courses are available in the Card e+ cup
• Challenge ghosts are available on select courses
• Existing save files will automatically be migrated on first boot
• e-Reader exclusive machines are now available if they were still locked
• The e-Reader+ option has been removed from the Link menu
• The Card e+ cup menu has been localized for each language
The courses are available in the "Card e" cup for time trials and training modes and, having played them, I can say there are some bizarre layouts here that I've never seen in a typical F-Zero game. There are courses shaped like a hand, a foot, and a bird. Want to race through a lightbulb? Here's your chance. Take a look at these layouts. The developers were having fun with these.
I love to see the fan community working to preserve this sort of content that would otherwise be lost to time. I asked Guy to explain a little more about the work that went into the project.
One of the best parts of the Internet gaming community involves watching fans of a beloved franchise dig into games and discover remnants from the development process. For whatever reason, Sega's 1990s archives of development materials is wide open to the right people and a bunch of unfinished versions of Sonic the Hedgehog titles have escaped to the Internet over the years. Over at Kotaku, Heidi Kemps showcases seven such prototypes that each show us something interesting about the finished product by virtue of not being in it.
One wonders if Sega in the 1990s was just an exceptionally leaky company, because there are quite a few classic Sonic prototypes floating about. Many of them are simply incremental builds of the same game, each one featuring a little tweak to a stage design, maybe a handful of edits to the sprites. But several of the early builds that have been found are far more interesting: featuring cut stages, discarded gameplay elements, placeholder graphics, and wildly different soundtracks. Taken together, they paint a vivid picture of how these games were made: what the developers prioritized, what didn’t work, what needed to get the axe, what could have been.
Some of these prototypes are kind of well-known in certain circles such as the Sonic Crackers demo that would go on to become Knuckles Chaotix for the Sega 32X and the in-progress version of Sonic the Hedgehog 2 that still includes the Hidden Palace Zone in a playable state. Others are a little more esoteric such as a Sonic CD version dated from December 1992 (which predates the version I mentioned in April that was sent out to magazines). It's an interesting article about what could have been, what eventually happened, and what was never meant to be.
Hallmark has done it again with its recently released Keepsake ornament of a classic Nintendo Entertainment System. I ordered mine last week when it became available and happily received it yesterday. Sculpted by Rodney Gentry, the little NES is incredibly detailed and includes tiny little video and audio ports plus antenna connector, channel switch, and power input. The control deck door even flips open to reveal a Super Mario Bros. game pak inside. Underneath the ornament is a small compartment for batteries (representing the infamous unused expansion port on the real console). Press the Power button and the red LED lights up and the ornament plays the overworld theme from Super Mario complete with flagpole tune and end-of-level fireworks. It's a must-own ornament for all NES fans. I'm not even saving it for a Christmas tree. It's taking a place of honor on my game room shelf. Check out the embedded video below to see and hear it in action.
This NES Hallmark ornament is fantastic. I love the attention to detail. pic.twitter.com/CHgCbHRLBn— Matthew Green (@PressTheButtons) July 15, 2020
Capcom's Street Fighter II and its various upgrades tend to get most of the attention in the gaming world, but when telling the story of the game that revived the arcade market in the early 1990s, it's important to go back to the very beginning. While the original Street Fighter hasn't aged well and doesn't have much replay value today, at the time it was the start of something big. Polygon is on a mission to chronicle all of the Street Fighter history over the next several months starting with the first game in the series that was greatly overshadowed by its successors. Here's a piece of the detailed oral history that describes the game's original control method that involved pneumatic sensors that players would physically pound with fists instead of the traditional buttons.
Takashi Nishiyama (Street Fighter director, Capcom Japan): The problem was, during location tests, we realized that it was very tiring to hit the sensor over and over. It was basically like exercising. The whole point of monetizing this business was to get people to become repeat customers, where they would put in 100 yen coins over and over again so we could make money. And when you're getting tired from playing the game, that's not going to happen.
Todd Cravens (son of Bill Cravens, Street Fighter vice president of sales and marketing, Capcom USA): You had to beat the hell out of it. I remember playing it for the first time and being absolutely exhausted. Everyone was kind of like, "Oh my goodness. It's gonna be hard to get the second and third quarter on this." [...] They were doing a big unveiling of this at a gym in Philadelphia for the U.S. distributors, and they had boxers there who [played the game], and even those guys were tired afterwards.
Street Fighter was ported to the TurboGrafx-CD and a handful of computer platforms of the time, but an easily accessible console version was never produced (the game was apparently slotted for the Nintendo Entertainment System once upon a time, but was never released). The easiest way to play Street Fighter today is the Street Fighter 30th Anniversary Collection which includes it and all of its sequels through the II, Alpha, and III branches. I played through it once for the experience but see no need to go back to it. Unlike the depth of II or the dazzle of the Alpha games, there's just not much going for it. Animation frames are limited and the playable characters (Ryu and Ken) are identical, but there's definitely the seed of an idea in there. It's important to play from a historical perspective of understanding how the series began. Such importance, but don't forget there are many games like these all over the world!
Nintendo'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.
Those 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.