Power Button - Episode 251: Jump Up For Super Mario Odyssey

Power ButtonNintendo's Super Mario Odyssey for the Switch has taken Blake Grundman and I by storm, consuming our gaming time with a vengeance as we collect as many Power Moons as humanly possible.  On this week's podcast episode we dive into Mario's globe-trotting adventure and discuss what we love so much about it.  Spoiler alert!  We discuss the end of the game and beyond.   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. Next Week: We're celebrating Thanksgiving by discussing what we're thankful for this year in gaming.


Star Trek Shooter Elite Force Endures

Star Trek: Elite ForceWhen it comes to video games based on the long-running Star Trek franchise, results mostly span from terrible to just mildly good, but there is one Star Trek game that has stood the test of time and manages to be not just a great Star Trek game, but a great game overall.  2000's Star Trek: Elite Force casts players as Ensign Munro (male or female version available) aboard the lost Starship Voyager during Star Trek: Voyager's sixth season.  Developed by Raven Software and published by Activision, this first-person shooter combines familiar shooter conventions of the day with plenty of Star Trek scenery and flavoring.  The cast of the TV show even reprise their roles.  Over at TrekNews, Kyle Hadyniak looks back on why Elite Force endures all these years (and Trek relaunches) later.

“We needed schematics and layouts for Voyager so we could accurately create our game levels,” said [game directory Brian] Pelletier. “On one of the trips to Paramount Studios, I met with legendary Star Trek visual designer Rick Sternbach, who had done many technical manual books showcasing layouts from many Starfleet ships. I was hoping to get some Voyager deck layouts from him but he didn’t have any. He said he designs areas of the ship for only what the show needs per the scripts. A great consolation for working with Rick was that he helped us develop Voyager deck layouts specifically for the game.”

For all intents and purposes, Pelletier and his team set out to create a virtual Voyager, and that’s indeed what they did. In between away missions, players have the ability to roam many areas the ship. Want to visit engineering and walk around the warp core? Just go to deck 11. Want to view the Delta Flyer in Voyager’s shuttle bay? Help yourself (although you might want to ask Tom Paris first). In fact, as an expansion for the game after its release, Raven Software released “Virtual Voyager,” a sub-game that takes place shortly before the game’s final mission. In this mode, players can access Voyager deck-by-deck, taking their time to explore the Intrepid-class starship. The attention to detail is outstanding, as you can see in this walkthrough video. Obviously, using both old and new set designs paid off, in that the two blend seamlessly together to create one huge explorable ship. Of course, not every room is available to tour, but this is still the most accurate representation of a ship in a Star Trek game, and a large part of why Elite Force is so immersive.

I was going through my college-era first-person shooter PC game phase when Elite Force was released, spending an evening or two a week playing Quake III Arena with coworkers over dial-up.  I was all-in for Elite Force when I saw it at an Electronics Boutique along with the expansion pack.  I spent a lot of time roaming Voyager and exploring the ship, treating it like it was all hub level without any actual missions.  The highlight of the game has to be the opening story arc in which Voyager invades a Borg ship.  After watching the Collective in action on television for years, I had a chance to face them myself without risking assimilation.

I can't imagine how the game would run on modern versions of Windows, but I'm tempted to install it on my PC and see what happens (there are also Mac and Sony PlayStation 2 ports out there).  For as much as I've enjoyed the recent Star Trek films and Star Trek: Discovery, the twenty-fourth century era of Star Trek is the Star Trek that I grew up with and it would be nice to revisit it.  Elite Force was followed by a sequel in 2003, Elite Force II, set following the events of Star Trek: Nemesis and set aboard the Starship Enterprise-E, but I never got around to that one.  Maybe I should look it up.


More Nintendo Hallmark Ornaments Revealed

Mario and Luigi ornaments

Hallmark is selling a line of Mario, Luigi, and Yoshi ornaments at their stores this year, but at $16 each and with supplies being limited , it may be too much of a challenge for fans to pick them all up.  Luckily, the company has produced two additional Mario and Luigi ornaments at a cheaper price point.  I found these at Target last weekend for $8 each and while the poses are different than the main Hallmark offerings, the paint and sculpt quality is slightly lesser than their $16 brothers.  Still, I bought them because they are Super Mario ornaments and I need to own these kinds of things.  There are also Princess Peach, Toad, Donkey Kong, and Link ornaments from this series out there as well, although I haven't seen them in stores yet.  ThinkGeek is selling them online though.

If you're thinking that the Mario pose if familiar it's because last year ThinkGeek sold a very similar Mario ornament.  The 2016 ThinkGeek model is slightly larger than this new Hallmark model, but they are clearly different ornaments.  Hallmark's design adds some additional details to Mario's overalls, changes the M on his hat, and puts his face more on-model with the modern character design.  See the comparison below.

A tale of two Marios

Obviously for 2018 we need to see Bowser, Wario, and Samus Aran ornaments.  Keep them all coming!  I've wanted more and more Nintendo ornaments for thirty years now so I say bring them all on! I'll figure out a way to afford them all somehow. Say, don't you think this would be a good time to toss a few dollars in the PTB tip jar? No reason...


Fester's Quest Explained Once Again

FqThe Nintendo Entertainment System era gave us plenty of licensed games, and while some made perfect sense (The Simpsons, The Flintstones, and DuckTales are just some of the properties that landed on the 8-bit console), others such as The Addams Family were very unusual picks.  Why would anyone want to publish a game based on a TV series from twenty years prior that, at the time, felt like ancient history?  We've covered some of this before over the years and know that Sunsoft answered the call with Fester's Quest, but now we know more of the story thanks to Stefan Gancer's exhaustive History of Sunsoft series.

Development of the game began at Sunsoft of America in 1989. Richard Robbins had a dream: He wanted to make a game he called Uncle Fester’s Playhouse, somewhat inspired by the contemporary television show Pee-wee’s Playhouse.

Fans have long speculated whether or not the game was an Addams Family game from the start at all. Maybe it was a new Blaster Master game with the license slapped on later. But as we now know, it was meant to be a game about Uncle Fester all along. The game’s short story was written by Robbins, who also co-designed the game. Blaster Master was partly in a diagonal top-down view just like Fester’s Quest. According to Robbins, the two games were developed partly by the same team in Japan. But since the game has no credits at the end, only parts of the team are known today.

Fester's Quest is an old favorite of mine from the 1980s even if its difficulty level is wildly off balance.  This article reiterates how the developers overlooked including a password feature which is why poor Fester returns to the very start of the game after being defeated.  Sunsoft's marketing group leaned into the unfair challenge by promoting the game as the most difficult NES game out there.  All of the Nintendo Power coverage and maps in the world can't make up for that one.


Teach A New Dinosaur Old Tricks In Super Mario Odyssey

Yoshi fallingOne of the advanced tricks a Super Mario World player learns early on is how to dismount from Yoshi in a crucial moment, propelling Mario to safety while the loyal dinosaur plummets to his death.  Now in Super Mario Odyssey, Mario has evolved to not just ride a dinosaur, but become one via his new hat pal Cappy.  To explains for the unfamiliar, Mario can now capture and control creatures he meets on his journey around the world from Goombas to frogs to even large realistically-styled dinosaurs by tossing his magic hat, Cappy, at the helpless target.  He then possesses the target and gains their abilities. 

Over the weekend I took a mighty tyrannosaurus rex for a joyride in the Cascade Kingdom when I landed a little too close to the edge of a cliff and started to fall to my doom.  Suddenly, as an automatic reflex, my old Super Mario World skills raced back to the front of my mind and I performed the 2017 version of the old dismount trick.  Sorry, Rexy.  See you around.

(image via Kenny Valez)


Power Button Presents Kombo Breaker - Episode 46: Tony Hawk: Ride!

Power Button Presents Kombo BreakerFlashing back to a classic episode of the old Kombo Breaker podcast from the now-defunct Kombo.com, this show focuses on the then-upcoming Tony Hawk: Ride for the Microsoft Xbox 360 and Sony PlayStation 3.  We were joined by the president of developer Robomodo, Josh Tsui, and we were able to convince him to spill the beans about some of the details regarding the game's new rideable skateboard controller, how the Tony Hawk formula needed to be updated to avoid growing stale, and how a Tyrannosaurus Rex can ride alongside less reptilian players (honestly).  The original airdate on this one was October 12, 2009.   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.


Nintendo GameCube Controller Now Works With Switch

Nintendo GameCube controller adapter for Wii U... and SwitchNintendo released a special adapter during its last console generation that allowed the company's favored GameCube controllers to work with the Wii U for Super Smash Bros. Melee and Brawl players who preferred that controller to continue using it in the latest Smash sequel (seriously, that's the only game the adapter worked with).  Now, unexpectedly and offered without official fanfare, we find out that the adapter works with the Nintendo Switch's latest firmware update and that it works for all games on the platform.  The console registers it as a wired USB controller.  Mike Williams at USgamer explains the caveats.

The Switch support for the GameCube controller extends to all games, you just have to make due without the ZL button. This means you'll be lacking features found in certain games, like Link's shield in The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. The fact that it works with every game actually makes it better than the original functionality on the Wii U, which only worked with certain titles.

I bought the adapter when it was released even though I didn't really need it.  I was happy using the Wii U GamePad to play Smash, but I had no idea if the adapter would be useful for other things later on and knowing how Nintendo underproduces items, I knew if I didn't buy at launch, I'd likely never have the opportunity again.  I have used the adapter more on my PC for emulation tinkering than I ever have in its official capacity.  Now that it works on the Switch, I suppose I'll play around with it just for the novelty factor unless there's a reason to use it over the stock Switch joy-cons.   If nothing else, it gives me a second controller for local multiplayer.

However, the bigger question here is why has Nintendo taken the time and effort to add this feature into the 4.0.0 firmware?  It's a quick jump to the conclusion that the functionality is there primarily for the assumed imminent announcement that Nintendo is giving Super Smash Bros. for Wii U a Switch deluxe edition release, and while I'd definitely buy that game all over again, if it turns out that it was added as a lark just to please a few customers, I'm fine with that too.


Happy Birthday Wario!

Wario’s Wacky WoriginsI can't believe that I didn't realize that seeing as how it's the twenty-fifth anniversary of the release of Super Mario Land 2: Six Golden Coins for the Nintendo Game Boy, it's also the twenty-fifth anniversary of Wario's first appearance.  Let us commemorate this special occasion with Greg Melo's fun comic looking back at Wario's origins over at the Laser Time Podcast.

Hard to believe it’s been 25 years since our eyes were opened to obey Wario (and that Mario is our enemy). To celebrate the 25th anniversary of Super Mario Land 2: Six Golden Coins and the debut of its villain Wario, the amazingly-talented Greg Melo has created a comic about Wario’s origins and how the cantankerous Mario clone (we know he’s not a clone, but bear with us for alliterative purposes) has evolved over the years.

It's been too long since Wario set out on his own solo adventure.  Whatever Wario's future holds, let's hope that it includes a new Wario Land adventure.  I'll never destroy Mario, but otherwise I'm always happy to obey Wario.


Power Button - Episode 250: A Dish Of Gaming Comfort Food

Power ButtonIn times of trouble and strife it's nice to be able to reach for that special video game that is always there for you to help cheer you up and take your mind off of your problems.  On this, our two hundred and fiftieth episode of the Power Button podcast, Blake Grundman and I discuss the games that have been there for us when we're down.  All of our favorites are here from The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening getting me through a prolonged winter storm power outage to Blake and his father competing at Zen Pinball.  We have over an hour of clicks n' bloops for the soul (is that pun too labored?).  Also, it's the final week to help support Blake in his Extra Life charity campaign, so you'd best get involved 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.


Power Button - Episode 249: Great Minds Think Alike

Power ButtonSometimes, through no fault of their own, rival video game developers independently stumble into the same idea.  On this week's episode of Power Button, we look back at games that competed based on similar concepts: Infamous versus Prototype, Split/Second versus Blur, and so on.   We also look at smash hit games like Street Fighter II and Super Mario Kart and inspired a glut of also-ran imitations.  It's an hour of great minds thinking alike or following the leader.  By the way, why not check out Blake's Extra Life charity goal and see if you can help him out?   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.