The Yakuza 0 Diaries

Yakuza 0I've never played a Yakuza game, but several people have told me over the years that I really should try one, so when Sega offered me an advance copy of the new Yakuza 0 for the Sony PlayStation 4, I figured I'd expand my horizons and give it a shot.  I'd always assumed that Yakuza was a "Grand Theft Auto in Japan" sort of game, perhaps a cousin to Sleeping Dogs on the dark side of the law, but as I play the game I find that it's really more of an interactive movie with action scenes which gives it a unique flair.  It's certainly different from what I was expecting.  It has a twisted sense of dark humor about itself, throwing innocuous objectives up on the screen with a crash as if they were the most important mission in the history of the world ("FIND A PAY PHONE").  When I gained the ability to pick up objects scattered around and use them in fights, I went looking for trash cans to lob at enemies and instead wound up using salt as a finishing move.  I can tell that Yakuza 0 is going to be a game that subverts my expectations, and since I have no history with the series, I thought it would be fun to share my observations and insights about the game with you as I play through it.  No single long review this time.  We're going back to basics with this one with recurring check-ins over the next few weeks.

Continue reading "The Yakuza 0 Diaries" »

Power Button - Episode 228: Nintendo Switch Finally Revealed

Power ButtonNintendo finally showed the world what its upcoming Switch console has to offer in a full hardware and game announcement showcase last week, so naturally Blake Grundman and I are here to talk all about it.  Spend an hour with us as we discuss the hardware, its launch price, launch window games like The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, games coming later such as Super Mario Odyssey and Ultra Street Fighter II: The Final Challengers, the paid online service, and much more.  Do you have your preorder in yet?   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 Outlines Differences Between Wii U And Switch Versions Of Zelda: Breath Of The Wild

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the WildPlenty of people who skipped out on owning a Nintendo Wii U but want to play the upcoming The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild  are ordering the new Nintendo Switch in order to play the game which, as previously promised by the company, will launch on both platforms in March.  However, if you own a Wii U and are wondering if you're better off playing Link's latest adventure on hardware that you already own, IGN has a list of the differences between the Wii U and Switch versions of the game.  Unlike the last time a Zelda game launched on two generations of hardware back in the days of the GameCube to Wii transition with Twilight Princess, it looks like Breath of the Wild is essentially the same game regardless of platform with just a few minor enhancements for Switch owners.

In a statement provided to IGN, Nintendo explained the following “key facts” about each version:

  • Both launch on the same day, March 3.
  • Both have a frame rate of 30fps.
  • Both versions of the game offer the same content.
  • On a TV, the Nintendo Switch version of the game renders in 900p while the Wii U version renders in 720p.
  • The Nintendo Switch version has higher-quality environmental sounds. As a result, the sound of steps, water, grass, etc. are more realistic and enhance the game’s Open-Air feel.
  • The physical copy of the Wii U version will require 3GB of available memory on the Wii U system or an external drive.
  • Some icons, such as onscreen buttons, differ between the two versions.
  • A Special Edition and Master Edition of the Wii U version are not available.

I own a Wii U and have ordered a Switch, so while I could go either way with my Zelda choice, I opted for the Switch version.  I have no plans to retire my Wii U any time soon (I still need to play Paper Mario: Color Splash, for one), but I would like to take advantage of the Switch's portability to be able to play the game around the house or on my back deck.  The Wii U GamePad just doesn't have the range to reach the furthest corners of my house.  For instance, if I sit in my bedroom, I can play Super Mario 3D World just fine, but the moment I lay back on the bed, I back ever so slightly out of range of the Wii U console and the GamePad loses the signal.  Yes, I'm paying $360 to be able to play Zelda lying down.  Nobody ever said that comfort came cheap.

Switch Over To The Nintendo Special Big Band Concert

MarioIt's time to add some jazz performances of classic music from Donkey Kong Country, Fire Emblem, The Legend of Zelda, Kirby, Pokémon, and Super Mario Bros. to your day.  The Nintendo Special Big Band performed at the company's Nintendo Switch presentation in Japan a few days ago and the one-hour concert has now become available for your listening and viewing pleasure over at YouTube.  Spend an hour grooving to Nintendo's greatest hits.  Don't miss the Mario medley that begins in classic Nintendo Entertainment System territory, crosses over into Mario Kart 64, and finishes with Super Mario 3D World.  Nintendo periodically produces these kinds of concerts in Japan and it's a shame that they're never made commercially available on a wide scale.  I'd happily part with some money or even a few of those increasingly worthless MyNintendo points for properly mastered and labeled MP3 downloads of these tracks from this show and others like it.

(via Polygon)

Streets Of Rage 2 Starring Bubsy The Bobcat

Bubsy in Streets of Rage 2

Time for a quick history lesson!  Sega launched the sequel to its signature side-scrolling beat-'em-up title Streets of Rage in 1992 which went on to become a major seller and a mainstay in many Genesis owners' libraries.  A year later in 1993, publisher Accolade tried to break into the side-scrolling platformer mascot genre with Bubsy in Claws Encounters of the Furred Kind which was a fun enough romp that inspired a few sequels, but was largely buried in the mascot glut of the early 1990s.  You'd never expect these two franchises to cross paths, but now here in our amazing future where former franchise rivals become best of friends, a ROM hacker named Metal64 has signed Bubsy up for a guest appearance in Streets of Rage 2 where he now appears as a fully playable fighter.  I hope this is just the beginning of this sort of thing.  So many out-of-work mascots could find new jobs in brawler games.  Plok in Final Fight!  Aero the Acro-bat in Splatterhouse!  The Battletoads in Double Dragon!  Well, OK, maybe that last one has already been done, but it's still a fun idea.

(via Tiny Cartridge)

Power Button - Episode 227: Watch Dogs 2 And Other Open World Favorites

Power ButtonWhile recovering from my recent surgery I've spent a lot of my rest time exploring the world of Watch Dogs 2.  It's a fantastic open world adventure, so on this episode of Power Button I talk a lot about the game and some of its best moments.  That leads into a discussion with Blake Grundman about our favorite open world games of all time.  Join us for a conversation about Watch Dogs 2, Crackdown, Destiny, Sleeping Dogs, Grand Theft Auto V, Red Dead Redemption, Assassins Creed SyndicateFar Cry Primal, Fallout 4, The Witcher 3, and many more.   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.

Get Screwed With Drill Dozer

Drill Dozer

You'd think that when a video game has "from the makers of Pokémon" as an attribute, it would garner lots of attention, but Nintendo / Game Freak's 2006 Game Boy Advance release Drill Dozer failed to attract as large an audience as Pikachu and company.  Featuring a built-in rumble pak motor in the game cartridge, Drill Dozer follows the adventures of benevolent thief Jill Dozer and big drill mech on her journey to rescue her father from a rival gang of thieves.  Along the way she'll use her drills to tighten and loosen screws in a platformer puzzle adventure that really should have caught on more than it did.  Hardcore Gaming 101 reviews Drill Dozer's case.

The eponymous Drill Dozer is exactly as it sounds: a walking tank with arms that form a huge screw bit. While far from a stealthy vehicle, the simple straightforwardness of its design and mechanics finds a plethora of uses. Sure, it serves as your sole means of offense as well as a great way to reek destruction of walls, but the heavy drill proves its versatility as a means to deflect projectiles, turn cranks, bore through tunnels, and even twist the tumblers in safe locks. The drill arms can spin clockwise or counter-clockwise with the press of the L or R buttons, with many puzzles based on the "righty tighty, lefty loosey" mnemonic; they're even color-coded with blue/red for L/R respectively. This leaves the game rather unique as the B button is placed as a secondary passive role like entering doors or answering messages from your crew. Those shoulder triggers will get quite the workout as every obstacle Jill faces is solved with either jumping, drilling, or the combination of both.

I love a solid platformer so I eagerly bought Drill Dozer when it was released and played it on my Nintendo DS.  It builds a wonderful framework for future titles that never came to be.  There's so much world-building happening in this game that it's impressive that it doesn't derail the actual game experience.  This is a game packed with levels and challenges.  Establishing all of the characters and their motivations complements the entire experience and I was eagerly awaiting a Wii sequel that never came.  Drill Dozer is available now on the Wii U's Virtual Console, so if you overlooked it over a decade ago, I recommend you try it now.  You won't be disappointed.

Microsoft Throws Scalebound Down The Memory Hole

Scalebound CafeRumors kicked up recently that the Microsoft / PlatinumGames partnership behind the Xbox One exclusive title Scalebound was in trouble, and yesterday the news broke that Microsoft has indeed pulled out of the deal and canceled the game.  Plenty of Xbox One owners are disappointed at this (social media is filled with people who apparently bought the console with Scalebound in mind), but what's even more surprising is the speed at which Microsoft is erasing preview information about the game from sites such as YouTube.  If you go to watch previously released Scalebound videos on Microsoft's YouTube channel, you'll find this:

There ain't no Scalebound and there never was!  It's not entirely surprising; Microsoft doesn't want you to focus on the games it's not producing and would instead rather you salivate over games that are still in the pipeline.  For instance, the company's cancellation statement spends more time talking about other games coming out in 2017 rather than explaining why Scalebound is no more.  They don't have anything to gain by explaining it.  Here's the statement to the press that reminds us all that when you're in marketing, you should always be selling:

After careful deliberation, Microsoft Studios has come to the decision to end production for “Scalebound.” We’re working hard to deliver an amazing lineup of games to our fans this year, including “Halo Wars 2,” “Crackdown 3,” “State of Decay 2,” “Sea of Thieves” and other great experiences.

Scalebound has been mired in development hell for quite some time; it was originally announced in 2014.  Perhaps Microsoft grew tired of waiting and decided to cut its losses rather than throw more money at it.    I can't help but wonder if the game will find a new home with another major publisher.  Microsoft obviously wouldn't want to promote its competition, hence the rapid deletion of videos and quick deflection to other Xbox One games.  PlatinumGames has too much riding on Scalebound to dump it completely.  I doubt we've seen the last of it.

(special thanks to Matt Moylan for the image)

Mega Man Stumbles To Mobile Platforms

Mega Man 3

Capcom's classic Mega Man titles for the Nintendo Entertainment System have certainly been around through most of the past twenty years in different formats (and were just re-released last year as the superb Mega Man Legacy Collection for modern consoles), so it makes sense in a "tick off the checkboxes" sort of way that the company would want to bring the games to mobile app stores for iOS and Android.  The problem with this idea is that Mega Man titles demand pixel-perfect precision and controls that a touch screen interface just cannot provide.  A number of critics have weighed in on the mobile ports and the verdict is seemingly in: avoid, avoid, avoid (or maybe tolerate).  Here's Shaun Musgrave at TouchArcade being savage:

Do not buy these. Just don't. Not even for a laugh. Not even because they're only a couple bucks a pop and what harm could it do? I am sitting here trying to imagine how these ports of the 8-bit Mega Man games could have been worse, and I'm coming up dry. Nothing is right about them. Nothing. It's like someone was given the graphic and audio assets of the games and were told to re-create everything else on their own. The gravity is off. Enemy behavior is off. Hit detection is weird, and even the recoil from getting hit doesn't work properly. The games are crash-prone. The framerate is awful. The default speed is absurdly slow and choppy, and while the faster speed setting makes things a little better, it's too fast, still choppy, and messes with the games' fundamental workings even more.

I'm sure there's a way to bring the Mega Man franchise to mobile, but porting these old games (beloved as they may be) is certainly not it.  I'll stick with the Legacy Collection on my Nintendo 3DS when I need a blue bomber fix when on the go.  Some games just require a control pad and actual buttons, and no two dollar quickie touch-based port can provide that.  Capcom should take a page from Nintendo and develop a new game based around touch controls, not try and cram an unsuitable game into the touchscreen mold.  I'd be up for a hypothetical Mega Man Run over these sloppy ports.

(image via The Mega Man Network)

Health Update

MarioI've been away for a few weeks, but I wasn't on a relaxing holiday vacation.  Long-time PTB readers are familiar with my ongoing difficulties with Crohn's Disease and my multiple surgeries over the years, and while I'm happy to say that my Crohn's is in remission, unfortunately I do have other organs that can fail.  For instance, this time around it was my gallbladder which was kicking out gallstones into my pancreas, causing an excruciatingly painful infection.  What was supposed to be a simple outpatient laparoscopic surgery to remove my gallbladder turned into what my surgeon called the most challenging surgery of his year as he discovered that all of the organs on the right side of my abdomen — gallbladder, liver, etc. — were fused together into a single mass along with the major blood vessels that serve those organs. 

My surgeon spent several hours carefully separating everything and then removing my gallbladder which, as it turns out, was  difficult to identify because it was lost in the organ mass.  He eventually found it and removed it leaving me with a twelve inch-long horizontal incision wound and four small puncture wounds.  Five days in the hospital over Christmas later and I was back at home where I've been resting ever since.  Naturally, you can understand why everything here at PTB came to a halt.  I'm back up and moving around the house now though, my surgical staples have been removed, and I'm able to sit at the PC for a while, so I intend to get back to writing and podcasting.  Thanks for your patience as I recover from my fifth surgery.  There can't be many more of these in my future; I'm running out of removable parts!