Video games are often held up for their action sequences, set pieces, and visuals, but how often do you hear someone remark about hilarious writing? On this week's episode of Power Button, Blake Grundman and I spend an hour and a half discussing our favorite funny games. From Portal 2 to Saints Row IV to Maniac Mansion and beyond, we have some hilarious moments to share. Before that happens, however, Blake takes us on a sidequest with Pokémon. 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 has never revealed much about why Wario and Waluigi feel the need to copy Mario and Luigi, but there are plenty of signs that the duo are pretenders to the throne of great plumbing. Their unkept mustaches and parodic physical appearances are one clear indicator that the two are not to be taken seriously, but did you know that this philosophy extends to their clothing as well? And not just the inverse colors. Thanks to high resolution character artwork for Mario Party: Star Rush, observant folks at Tumblr have noticed key differences in the fabric used to make Mario's hat versus Wario's hat. It's some very interesting attention to detail.
The Mario Bros. and Wario Bros. hats are made out of completely different materials. While the Mario and Luigi have the embroidered emblems with sewn on borders, Wario and Waluigi have these felt-like patches, and it appears to be glued on instead as there is no stitches and the fabric is slightly raised. The even stranger detail is that their hats are a different texture to the Mario Bros. With their caps being a fuzzy material, while the original hats are made out of a more a cotton twill. Overall the Wario Bros. hats feel cheap and newer, which is very suiting.
You'd think that with all of the gold that Wario has greeded away over the years, he could afford to have a decent hat made for him. Nintendo's attention to detail is so important because it shows us smaller elements that contribute to the personalities and backstories of their characters. It would be easy to just apply the appropriate colors to the hats and call it a day, but not only did Nintendo's artists add textures that many people will never notice when they look at the artwork, they used the opportunity to choose appropriate textures for a minute detail like hat fabric and stitching. Or, as my professional tailor/seamstress girlfriend says, "Costume detail: gotta love it!"
I know that hindsight is 20/20 and all, but when I see the gradual mental decline of Mega Man villain Dr. Albert Wily laid out in image after image, I think we should all have realized early on that the erratic scientist was not to be trusted and was very likely become a larger threat to us all. Just because a man can create Robot Masters does not mean that he's well-balanced. Take a look at this series of official Capcom character artwork that spans the classic Mega Man series from Mega Man (1987) through Mega Man 8 (1996) and you'll see his physical behavior and manner of dress start to show signs of the troubled soul within. We really should have found help for him sooner beyond sending Mega Man in to clean up the mess again and again.
Playing a video game on Nintendo's NES Classic Edition console doesn't just get you the nostalgic experience of exploring the 8-bit worlds of the 1980s. It also entitles you to a trip in the wayback machine via high quality scans of the original instruction manuals of the era. The company has dipped into its archives to bring the manuals for each and every game on the console back for your reading pleasure (and you don't even need the console to access them; they're on the web at Nintendo's site at https://www.nintendo.co.jp/clv/manuals/en/index.html). The instructions aren't 100% authentic though, as Nintendo took the opportunity to clean up little typos and mistakes here and there. Consider, for instance, Super Mario Bros. 2's manual which lists each of Subcon's enemies such as Shy Guys and Pidgets. The original 1988 manual accidentally swapped the names of Birdo and Ostro. It's an understandable error; you could look at the two foes and think "Oh, the bird thing must be named Birdo" instead of "Oh, the ostrich thing must be named Ostro". Now that the manuals are back in action for the modern age, Nintendo swapped the names back to their correct places. It's this attention to detail that keeps Nintendo fans coming back for more (even if it's been thirty years since their last helping).
Nintendo is almost ready to release its first true 100% in-house game for iOS following social networking app Miitomo and a partnership with Niantic for Pokémon Go. Super Mario Run launches on iPhone and iPad on December 15, 2016 in 151 countries as a free-to-start game. After playing the free content and getting a taste of the endless platformer action, players can pay the $9.99 fee to unlock the full game for unlimited, unrestricted access. Here's some of the press release which reminds us all of what Super Mario Run is all about:
Super Mario Run is the first Super Mario Bros. game developed specifically for mobile devices. In the game, Mario runs forward on his own, but relies on the tap of a single finger to jump over obstacles, avoid enemies, pull off stylish moves, collect coins and reach the flagpole to complete courses.
Browsing around the online gaming community already shows some sticker shock for the $10 price tag, but so long as the game is fun on its own merits and isn't bogged down by in-app purchases for consumable tokens and items ($1 for a 5-pack of Super Mushrooms, $5 for a bundle of 560 coins - best value!), I have no problem paying actual game prices for an actual game. I still trust Nintendo to get this right and I will definitely start with and evaluate the free content before I put any money down, but I'm open to paying for the game if I enjoy it and intend to keep playing it. I've paid for other iOS games before (mostly Sega's stellar Sonic the Hedgehog ports) and would rather pay a single price one time for a game rather than bother with coin packs and item bundles.
Sega's Sonic the Hedgehog has suffered through some rough times for most of his existence. While enjoying success on the Sega Genesis and Game Gear, the franchise began a downward slide during the Dreamcast era after rushing to meet deadlines and staff attrition caught up with the company behind it. Game Informer's Brian Shea chronicles all the ways that Sonic went wrong from the canceled Saturn-exclusive Sonic X-Treme to Sonic Adventure 2 being developed by a staff of just eleven people to unrelenting holiday shopping dates to get 2006's disappointing Sonic the Hedgehog for the Sony PlayStation 3 and Microsoft Xbox 360 out the door on time.
Despite this fragmentation and turnover, Iizuka asserts that the real problem with Sonic 2006 was the deadlines. "We missed out on that really important time to polish and tune and manipulate the map and make sure that the world really felt good and the gameplay felt good," he says. "Because it didn't have that, it didn't turn out as good as the development team wanted."
The lack of polish is evident. Sonic 2006 is full of visual and audio glitches, environmental clipping, and imprecise gameplay. The title has become synonymous with the struggles the Sonic the Hedgehog franchise had faced in recent years. Sonic 2006 was meant to be a return to the series' roots, but it ended up damning the franchise in the eyes of many. The series had taken obvious turns away from what made it great in the first place.
It sounds like Sega may have finally learned a lesson after years of middling sequels. The company delayed its latest Sonic Boom title for a year to allow the developers time to turn it into a polished product, and the upcoming Sonic Mania finally reaches back to the Genesis-era design that made the franchise popular in the first place. Instead of hearing "oh, we'll fix it next time" from a Sonic Team spokesperson and then nothing happens to follow up on that halfhearted enthusiasm, we're actually seeing some behavioral changes behind the scenes with the delays and design decisions and even choice of staffing. Let's hope that Sega finally has this whole Sonic the Hedgehog thing figured out.
Over the past few months, several of you out there asked if there was any way for generous folks to kick a few dollars into a tip jar to help keep Press The Buttons running. I'd always said no because I didn't want to charge you for content or lock any of it away behind a paywall. Ultimately, PTB is my fun hobby job that I pursue in my spare time. For years I ran banner advertisements on PTB to help pay the bills around here, but as the online advertising market turned more and more towards annoyance and malware, I dropped the banners, depriving the site of its key source of income. I figure if the ads are so irritating that even I want to block them on my own site, there's no way I could or would expect any of you out there to deal with them either. People keep asking about the tip jar though, so who am I to keep turning down the idea? I've set up a PTB tip jar through PayPal at https://paypal.me/pressthebuttons where, if you like, you can send me a few dollars to help cover my efforts here. Thank you all so much for your continued support of Press The Buttons through reading, commenting, sharing links, and now the tip jar. I have the best audience on the Internet and it's because of all of you that doing this work is so much fun and fulfilling.
Nintendo revealed that its secretive NX project will be known as the Nintendo Switch when it hits the market in March 2017, but the Internet isn't waiting five months to start the speculation fires. A short concept trailer has revealed the basic idea behind the Switch and now that our theme shows for Halloween and Election Day are done, we have time to focus on the Switch and discuss what is yet to come for the company's new console. 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.
Ever notice how merchandise that features Nintendo's beloved Super Mario all uses about the same design of the famous plumber? The days of off-model interpretations are long gone as the company has tightened up its licensing guidelines to ensure that each and every Mario product is faithful to the approved and intended design of the character. We've already seen how Nintendo handled its 1990s character manual that specified exact details for 2D illustations, but here in the twenty-first century we have 3D models to guide licensees. Here's a photo of a Mario maquette used as a master reference for toys, collectibles, and other merchandise on display as the Nintendo World Store in New York City as shared by @VGArtandTidbits on Twitter. This specific pose is used to get the character as close to perfect as possible. And yes, I know what you're thinking, but I'm 99% sure that this reference object is not also a giant amiibo. This can't be the only maquette that Nintendo has produced for its licensing needs and now I really want to see the rest of the set: Luigi, Yoshi, Kirby, Link, and the other stars from the world of Nintendo. Better yet, I want to own one of these. It looks better than any actual Mario statue I've ever seen for sale as a mass-produced item.
Super Mario reference statue pic.twitter.com/Do9HT6Dtwr— VideoGameArt&Tidbits (@VGArtAndTidbits) November 12, 2016
Nintendo launched its NES Classic Edition retro console today in stores across North America, but the only way you'd know that was by the "out of stock" notices and unhappy customers waiting in line for nothing. As usual with Nintendo, the company only manufactured, like, twelve consoles for this first release. OK that's an exaggeration, but considering that most retailers only received around three to five units to sell per location, it's understandable why people are a little ticked at Nintendo today (and that's before mentioning how many of those consoles went to eBay scalpers who are charging hundreds of dollars for a $59.99 product). Mike Williams at USgamer explains.
We've been here before with Nintendo. With the launches of the Wii, the Wii U, and Amiibo, the company is known for playing it safe with hardware shipments. Nintendo would rather not have loads of stock sitting on the shelves, as opposed to the more traditional US stocking methods of companies like Microsoft and Sony: ship as many as you have, and if some are on store shelves, that's good because it encourages impulse buying.
Nintendo isn't flying high financially and misjudging a hardware launch can be an expensive proposition. It absolutely makes sense to slowly roll out stock of the NES Classic Edition. Especially during the holiday season, where lower stock can drive consumer interest.
The problem is that lower stock can also drive consumer resentment and disengagement. There are a number of people who waited in line, only to find out they were consumer #6 for a store that only had five units. There are those looking to purchase the system as gifts, not profit-making auctions. Nintendo is advertising the system, but for an average consumer, heading to retail will only end in a clerk letting them know the system is out-of-stock. And there's a likelihood that's where their interest will stop.
I was ecstatic about the NES Classic when it was first announced months ago, but being unable to preorder left me with time to think it over and since I already own about 80% of the thirty games included as either Virtual Console releases for Wii/Wii U/3DS or as original game paks for my actual still-working Nintendo Entertainment System, I wasn't interested in waiting in line for something that would be out of stock immediately or constantly refreshing a website like Amazon for the three-second window that the product would be available before either selling out or the website crashing due to spiked demand. I'm reminded of poor Homer Simpson waiting in line to buy tickets to the big football game.
I don't expect Nintendo to change this behavior. I've often criticized companies for trying to take in All Money instead of just Some Money by overpricing items beyond reason (have you seen the complete edition Watch Dogs 2 from Ubisoft? It costs $100 for the game plus a season pass plus exclusive extra DLC), and by keeping demand outweighing supply, Nintendo is only making Some Money here on the actual product (stock price seems to be doing alright thanks to the PR value of the whole NES Classic campaign), so I have to give credit for that even though it feels like I wished on a monkey's paw to make it happen. Meanwhile, there aren't enough consoles to go around, the company promises an eventual restock, scalpers gonna scalp, and sold-out stores are already tired of having to tell people they don't have any consoles left. Merry Christmas! We'll see you back here in March for the Nintendo Switch launch. I hope the company ships more than a dozen units on launch day.