Retro/Classic Feed

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.

Continue reading "Secret Origins: Super Mario Bros. 3" »

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.

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.

Sony PlayStation Celebrates 25th Anniversary

Sony PlayStationLandmark anniversaries can really sneak up on you in the video game industry, particularly when you forget sometimes that consoles once often launched a year or more earlier in other regions than the one you call home.  Consider Sony's original PlayStation which landed in North America in 1995, but released in Japan on this day in 1994, so it's time to celebrate the console's twenty-fifth anniversary (and I'm sure we'll do it all again next year for the American date).  Game Informer has a massive cover story by Jeff Cork chronicling the life and times of the PS1 and beyond as remembered by the people who were there at the time.  It's an absolute must-read for fans of the industry itself, not just Sony products.

KEN KUTARAGI [Former Honorary Chairman, Sony Computer Entertainment]: There was a fair amount of resistance within Sony for devoting precious resources toward the creation of “children’s playthings.” However, we were convinced that the technological and business prowess required to position ourselves at the apex of a new entertainment age existed within our walls. Hence, I went straight to Mr. Ohga, the president of Sony at that time, who possessed the necessary knowledge and experience in both the software and hardware fields. I believe his dream at the time was to build Sony’s next big business domain from the ground up. At the executive meeting slated to decide the future of the PlayStation project, I voiced my passion to Mr. Ohga directly, to which he responded, “If you believe you can do it, then do it!” Those decisive words still echo in my mind like it was yesterday.

As a teenager, I skipped out on the entire PS1 era.  I was a Nintendo guy, so while Sony's initial console was launching stateside in 1995, I was eagerly anticipating Donkey Kong Country 2 for my Super NES, and then a year later Super Mario 64 and the Nintendo 64 arrived, so for many years I never looked back.  I did look from side to side sometimes though as my favorite franchises such as Mega Man and Castlevania skipped out on traditional side-scrolling adventures on the N64 in favor of Mega Man 8 and Castlevania: Symphony of the Night for the PS1.  I continued on solely with Nintendo consoles until the summer before the Wii era arrived, and with Nintendo's GameCube wrapping up and development moved on to the next still-unreleased thing, the company and its partners weren't publishing enough games to meet my needs.  I ended up with a free copy of Street Fighter Alpha Collection to review for the PlayStation 2 in 2006 and figured, hey, why not?  I bought a new PS2 from Best Buy, picked up a few of the most popular games including Ratchet & Clank and Grand Theft Auto III, and indulged.  I continued buying Nintendo consoles and handhelds as the years have gone on, but that PS2 led two years later to buying a PlayStation 3, and then a used PlayStation Portable off of eBay, and then a new PlayStation Vita, and then a new PlayStation 4, and then a PSVR unit, and next year most likely a PlayStation 5.  Who could've guessed that Street Fighter would be a gateway drug?

As for the PS1, I never really did circle back around to buy one.  Thanks to the PS2 and PS3 supporting classic PS1 discs, I picked up used disc copies of Mega Man 8 and Mega Man X5 to play prior to those games re-releasing digitally on the PlayStation Store where I bought them again, and of course today both are available in various collections that I also own.  I bought a few choice PS1 digital titles such as Crash Bandicoot and Spyro the Dragon to experience those for the first time on my PS3.  Earlier this year I caved and bought the lackluster PS1 Classic at its get-it-out-0f-here price of $30 and have yet to open the box.  Who has time when there are so many new games to play?

I've logged a lot of hours with PlayStation products in the past decade and change, and while I'll forever be a Super Mario man at heart, there's always something special happening on PlayStation consoles.

Of Course It was Mortal Kombat That Sparked The Creation Of The Video Games Rating System

Mortal KombatWhile it's fun to talk about video games that have major anniversaries this month (both Donkey Kong Country and the Sega 32X turn twenty-five years old), it's seemingly less fun to reminisce about the anniversary of the creation of a regulatory body, but thanks to author of Console Wars: Sega, Nintendo, and the Battle that Defined a Generation and friend of the Power Button podcast Blake J. Harris, we're going to have a good time exploring the genesis of the Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB) on the occasion of its twenty-fifth anniversary.  Harris has written a seven-part oral history article that chronicles the ESRB's rise to ratings prominence, and each week the ESRB blog will publish an installment.  Everything kicks off this week with the first part in which the United States Congress learns about a horrifying new video game called Mortal Kombat and then uses it to score political points with family-friendly constituents.

On October 20, 1993—mere weeks after the release of Mortal Kombat—California’s Attorney General, Dan Lungren, spoke to a group of police investigators at an event in Los Angeles:

“We’ve got impressionable young people dealing with interactive games that are very realistic and I wonder if that is what we should be teaching our kids. The message is: destroy your opponent. I would ask you if that is very different from some of the messages in gang culture.”

The following month, Lungren upped the ante asking game manufacturers to stop selling games that teach youngsters to “demean and destroy.”

It's easy to point the finger at Mortal Kombat with the benefit of hindsight, but if it hadn't been Scorpion and Sub-Zero raising government hackles, it would have been another game (most likely Night Trap which was also in the hot seat around the same time).  Video games were becoming a major business, and whenever something becomes popular and successful, people take notice and put it under the microscope.  The same kind of exaggerated political rhetoric we hear today in government over pet causes was used in 1994 to demonize video games.  Was it all worth it?  Well, Congress eventually left the gaming industry alone to regulate its own content, and while there was a renewed burst of censorship and "are games art?" discussions in the 2000s as Grand Theft Auto sparked the same reactions as Mortal Kombat did a decade earlier, we've largely come out on the other side with fantastic gaming experiences presented as their creators generally intend them.  Just nobody show Congress the new Fatalities in Mortal Kombat 11.  I don't think they could handle that.

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)