Power Time Podcast: Nintendo Q&A with Matthew Green – Summer of Streaming

Power Time PodcastI'm making a guest appearance on Tom Tate's Power Time Podcast this week to talk about Nintendo memories and writing articles for Press The Buttons.

In this interview with Matthew Green we talk about an incredible NES origin story, writing about video games, early impressions on the Switch, a deep-dive on an unassuming Acro-Bat, and much more.

The episode runs thirty-three minutes and was a lot of fun to record.  I love talking about Nintendo and I love talking about myself, so what's not to enjoy?  Thanks to Tom for inviting me on the show.


Power Button - Episode 243: Betrayal Most Foul

Power ButtonRipped from the headlines!  On this week's episode of Power Button we shine a light on the selfish, shameless, or otherwise misguided behavior of some of video gaming's most reprehensible traitors and colluders.  Join us for an hour of shocking betrayals, plus we're also giving away a free eShop code for the Nintendo Switch version of The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild Expansion Pass DLC.  Listen to this episode and the send the answer to the contest question to  before the end of the day Monday, July 24, 2017.   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 242: Mastering The Zelda: Breath Of The Wild Master Trials

Power ButtonOur journey through Hyrule in The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is not over yet because Nintendo has released the first major piece of its Expansion Pass DLC.  The Master Trials adds a variety of legacy items, new modes, and interesting extras to a game that already felt packed full of content.  On this episode of Power Button, Blake Grundman and I spend an hour digging into the new material and discussing whether or not it's a worthwhile buy.   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.


Netflix's Castlevania Beats Expectations

Castlevania

I went into the new Castlevania series on Netflix with my doubts, but I came away from the first season impressed and hungry for more.  Warren Ellis and his team have found the right balance between the video game's lore, violence, and tone to produce a series faithful to the games that also manages to humanize Dracula (no pun intended; it's a metaphorical humanization and not literal) and cast some insight on just why Dracula and the Belmonts are locked in an eternal stalemate.  Spoilers ahead!

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Astrophotography The Game Boy Camera Way

Game Boy CameraThe limited photographic capabilities offered by Nintendo's 1998 Game Boy Camera accessory have long since been surpassed by even the most basic digital camera, but there is still a hobbyist community out there exploring new ways to use the monochromatic camera for interesting things.  Consider this astrophotography project from Alexander Pietrow, an astronomy and instrumentation student of Leiden University in the Netherlands.  He recently used a Game Boy Camera combined with a telescope to capture images of the Moon and infinities beyond.

I wondered if it would be possible to do astrophotography with this camera. Searching the internet I was surprised that nobody had tried this before and decided to give it a go. Using the 1838 6'' Fraunhofer telescope in the Old Observatory of Leiden in combination with a 'Gosky Universal Cell Phone Adapter', it was relatively easy to properly align the camera with the telescope eyepiece. The biggest issue was a typical Dutch one: waiting for a cloudless night.

A few weeks later the clouds finally broke up and the Moon was high in the sky together with Jupiter. Not wanting to pass up on this opportunity, I rushed to the observatory and clicked away. The Moon was observed trough the viewfinder for a more zoomed out image and the main telescope for detailed shots. The viewfinder images are not very impressive, although the phase of the moon is clearly visible, especially when compared with a Stellarium image of that night. (Note that telscopes flip the image.) The second moon series was much better, especially when looking at the border between the light and dark sides. We can clearly see craters on the Moon.

He has actual photos of celestial objects that you absolutely must see.  I love a good "because I could" vintage technology project and this has to be one of the most "because I could" projects I've ever seen.  I don't know what possible use this telescope application has beyond being an interesting lark, but my compliments to Pietrow for his ingenuity.  I hope that word of this reaches the Game Boy Camera's original development staff.  I bet they would be pleased to learn that their own "because I could" project has been used to photograph other planets.

(Link via Reddit, photo via Alexander Pietrow)


Lost Super NES Rayman Prototype Revealed

RaymanWhen it comes to the glory days of the 16-bit console mascots, it's easy to rattle off a list of characters that are not Super Mario or Sonic the Hedgehog.  Invariably I always want to list Rayman in the company of Bubsy and Plok, but then I remember that Rayman never appeared on the Super NES or Sega Genesis.  Instead he was born on the Sony PlayStation, Sega Saturn, and Atari Jaguar.  He just feels like he should have come from the 16-bit era though, and it's probably a lingering half-memory of early Rayman magazine coverage that's responsible for this instinct.  Now thanks to a recently released prototype, we can see Rayman's original Super NES incarnation in action.  I knew I wasn't crazy!  Ethan Gach at Kotaku explains Rayman's unfinished origins:

Information about a long, lost SNES Rayman game first re-surfaced last fall when designer Michel Ancel, the series creator, shared pictures of a ROM for an old prototype build of the game that had been re-discovered by a friend. The first Rayman game ended up metamorphosing and coming to the Atari Jaguar, Sega Saturn, and PS1 instead, with the original SNES vision lost to time. But After 24 years the ROM still worked, and now, thanks to Cornut, what exists of it is even playable.

It’s extremely limited in its scope, including a small environment, the ability to jump, and a few other character animations. “That prototype it is a very early build,” said Cornut. “So the stuff like two-player mode that have been shown in screenshots are not really in this build. Perhaps the ROM contains secrets in which case homebrew hackers will hopefully unearth them soon. “

Seeing Rayman move around in this prototype reminds me of the forgotten SNES/Genesis action platformer B.O.B. in which a space robot traverses dark, tech-inspired levels.  Rayman's design is essentially intact here compared to his final form, although he's not as detailed as he would appear on 32-bit consoles.  Looking at this now, I think of how larger than life arcade characters from games like Street Fighter II were scaled down to fit on lesser hardware such as the Game Boy.  Sure, this is Rayman, but he's smaller and less alive than we're used to seeing him.  From a historical perspective I'm glad that we can experience this prototype, but I think the character benefited more from his actual debut on stronger hardware.


Power Button - Episode 241: Super NES Classic Brings The Super Joy

Power ButtonNintendo is back to raise and dash our hopes with the new Super Nintendo Entertainment System Classic Edition console featuring twenty-one built-in Super NES games including the previously unreleased Star Fox 2.  On this week's episode of the podcast, Blake Grundman and I dig into the included games to discuss the best of the bunch and then outline the history of Star Fox 2 and why it's so exciting that fans will finally be able to play it. Crank up the volume and PLAY IT LOUD!   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.


The Unfinished Story Of Star Fox 2

Star Fox 2Nintendo's resurrected Star Fox 2 has become the subject of newfound attention this week thanks to the announcement that the lost game will be included in the Super NES Classic Edition later this year, bringing it out of the vault more than twenty years after development ended.  Fans have been able to sample it for years thanks to a leaked unfinished version of the game that appeared online during the height of excitement for emulating Super NES games in the wild west era of the Internet, but aside from generally knowing that this early version is out there, it's unlikely that most of Star Fox 2's new fans are aware of the long path that the game traveled from Nintendo's vault to the open Internet.  Nobody just shoved a cartridge into a modem and called it a day.  SNES Central takes a look back at how that rogue copy of Star Fox 2 escaped into the wild.

The real blockbuster, which served as the pinnacle of the SNES emulation scene, in my opinion, was the release of the final beta of Star Fox 2 in August 2002 (well documented by d4s in this FAQ, who also had a big hand in the discovery of the ROM image). The first screenshots appeared on the now defunct website, sportkompaktwoche.de. The ROM itself needed several fixes (made by The Dumper) before it could play in emulators, though there were accusations that it was a fake before that happened. The unfixed ROM was leaked by "skyhawk" of the German fan translation site, Alemanic Translations. Apparently skyhawk claimed to have found this game on a prototype cart and dumped it himself, probably leading to the widespread belief this game was found off a prototype cart.

In reality, Star Fox 2 was leaked as a pure assembled binary from a former developer who wanted the game emulated, and the ROM was not in a proper SNES ROM format initially. There was no source code leaked, nor was there ever a prototype or production cart of it. Soon after the leak of Star Fox 2, emulator authors incorporated proper Super FX emulation, allowing the general community to play the game in all its glory.

Before fans could play this version of Star Fox 2, it had to be patched and manipulated to make it playable in the emulators of the day.  Fan translation groups reworked the script into English.  Even the lingering debug tools had to be disabled to make the game as much like the presumed finished release as possible.  Even this version isn't truly the final game though, as Retronauts reports that Star Fox 2 designer Dylan Cuthbert has noted that the true mastered version has never leaked.

According to programmer and designer Dylan Cuthbert, a completed build that's never been leaked (and will presumably be the version included with the Super NES Classic Edition) received an extra coat of polish and incorporated a greater deal of randomization to add even more replay value to the experience. The planned multiplayer mode is also hopefully in working order, and maybe they even assigned some greater purpose to the giant coins bearing General Pepper's likeness which you can find hidden around the game.

Officially releasing Star Fox 2 isn't the end of the legend, it's just the next chapter.  The Super NES Classic Edition releases in September 2017.


Street Fighter II Ride Gets You Into The Game

Street Fighter II RideSure, we've all played our share of Street Fighter II, but how often have you actually gone inside of the game itself?  Let's journey back to the end of the twentieth century and join Ryu, Ken, Guile, and your other favorite World Warriors as you climb aboard the Street Fighter II Ride created by Shadix Media and Showscan as licensed by Capcom.  Depicting the cast of Super Street Fighter II as 3D Virtua Fighter-type models rather than 2D sprites, riders are thrust into the game to take on M. Bison and his Shadowlaw gang before they can escape into the real world.  It's charmingly dated and appropriately cheesy.  Here's what IGN's Douglass Perry had to say about the experience back in July 1999:

For $5 a pop, any joe on the street can take a ride on Street Fighter the Ride. A sit-down simulation style "ride," Street Fighter the Ride was hands-down the worst ride of my life. Abysmal is putting it nice. The whole idea of a Street Fighter ride is, well, ludicrous. Think about it. How are you going to make a ride with fighting characters? It's a flawed idea from the get-go. Lucky for Capcom, it didn't do a thing, except agree to let these other companies make the ride, so most folks can look the other way when it comes to blame.

The ride itself takes place in a futuristic hovercraft that zooms in and out of several dark, nefarious environments, that happen to have floating platforms with Street Fighter characters on them. The ride is all CG rendered, so everything appears in complete 3D.

You'll probably have a difficult time finding one of these motion simulator rides still functioning in good condition, but at least we have a YouTube video of the experience with which to vicariously experience it.  It looks a lot like the kinds of motion rides such as The Simpsons Ride and Transformers that you'll find at Universal Studios theme parks.  Much of the tone seems to be channeling the 1994 Street Fighter film starring Raul Julia and Jean-Claude Van Damme, particularly the bit where Ryu threatens to rip out Bison's heart to which the dictator replies that he doesn't have one.  How Tuesday of him.


Spark Man Remix Rocks Your Sockets

Spark ManCapcom's Mega Man series gets a lot of OverClocked ReMix love, and delightfully it's not all Air Man and Dr. Wily stage remixes.  Today I'd like to bring your attention to a funky jazz remix of Mega Man 3's Spark Man stage by Nostalvania/Markus who brings the funky bass, violin, and organ to the mix along with a variety of fittingly electric instruments with "Rock My Socket".  Come for the bass pounding out the introductory measures of the theme, stay for the organ solo, and linger afterward for the rejected titles for this track including "I'm Live And Alive" and "Ohm My God".