Power Button - Episode 208: E3 2016 Wrap-Up

Power_buttonAs another Electronic Entertainment Expo fades away into the sunset, it's time for our annual recap of memorable E3 moments.  Blake Grundman and I are joined by our old E3 pal Ross Polly to discuss Microsoft's Project Scorpio, Levar Burton's excitement for Star Trek: Bridge Crew, Crash Bandicoot's return as a Skylander, Norman Reedus and his Norman fetus in Hideo Kojima's Death Stranding, the Stargate connection in the new God of War, Nintendo's unveiling of The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, and oh so very much more.  We have an absolutely supersized episode for you this week clocking in at over two hours long.  Grab a drink, settle in, and enjoy.   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.


New PS4 Spider-Man Game Coming From Ratchet And Clank Folks

Spider-Man

For far too long we've watched helplessly as our favorite mainstream superheroes such as Iron Man and the X-Men have been farmed out to publishers eager to crank out a quick cash-in game with little regard for the source material.  Since the rise of mobile app games, the licensed superhero shovelware market has dried up immensely on consoles which means that anyone who partners with an expensive, big name superhero franchise wants to actually do right by it.  Warner Bros and Rocksteady showed us how it's done with the Batman: Arkham games and now famed Ratchet & Clank developer Insomniac Games is taking Spider-Man for a spin on the Sony PlayStation 4.  I want quotes!  Quotes from the developers about Spider-Man!

From our first meeting, Marvel, Spider-Man and Insomniac have felt like a match made in heaven. So much so that for the first time in Insomniac’s 22-year history, we’re working on an IP that didn’t originate in-house. We love building big games, with incredible gameplay, deep stories, and beautiful graphics. Spider-Man is one of the most iconic and well-known characters in the world, and we’re thrilled to be given the responsibility to create a brand-new, authentic Spider-Man story. Nope, this isn’t the same Spider-Man you’ve met before, nor is our game based on the upcoming movie. This is a more seasoned Peter Parker who’s more masterful at fighting big crime in New York City. At the same time, he’s struggling to balance his absurdly chaotic personal life and career. All while nine million New Yorkers depend on him for their safety… no pressure indeed.

Activision has published a number of Spider-Man games for consoles dating back to the days of the Tobey Maguire Spider-Man films, sadly resulting in diminishing returns over time.  I'm hoping that Insomniac can bring their skills at what they do best for action platformers to Spider-Man and bring us something truly special.  I'm not especially demanding on this one.  Perhaps all those years of subpar Spidey games have lowered my expectations, but the character deserves a gaming comeback and I want this to be it.

OK, I have one demand: J.K. Simmons reprising his role from the films as J. Jonah Jameson. 



The Legend Of Zelda: Breath Of The Wild Changes All The Rules

The Legend Of Zelda: Breath Of The Wild

Nintendo's campaign of extreme secrecy has whipped up fan fervor again as by the time the curtain went up on today's E3 announcement for The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, everyone was ready to finally see what the creative team had cooked up this time.  Showcasing a ruined Hyrule where technology had made progress against magic, a slumbering Link awakened in a mysterious chamber and was sent out into the untamed wilds of the E3 demo.  Check out this trailer to see what everyone is talking about:

I'm intrigued by the new additions to the Zelda formula.  Link's weapons and clothing have RPG-style statistics attached to them, he can only regain health by finding and eating food, basically everything in the environment is interactive in some way (burnable grass, choppable trees, etc.).  The traditional eight or so dungeons have been scaled down to a mere four with dozens of smaller puzzle shrines filling the gap.  They added a dedicated jump button!  There's so much potential here for something new and engaging.  Maybe I'm just not in the E3 zone this year because while I like what I see here and am looking forward to playing the game when it releases next year for Wii U and NX, I can't say that it rocked my world or that "2017 seems so far away!" or any of the other usual E3 game preview boilerplate we writers use to pad out word lengths when running on a deadline with little sleep.   I'm not interested in getting caught up in the online debates about whether or not Link should be female this time or if the E3 demo region is too empty or if the changes to the formula will Ruin Everything Forever.  I don't want to analyze every single frame of the trailer and gameplay videos.  All I can say is that I like what I see, Hyrule looks like a fun place in which to get lost, and I will happily show up to play the game whenever it's finished.


Star Trek: Bridge Crew Blasts Into VR

Star Trek: Bridge Crew

Virtual reality headsets are front and center at E3 2016 and while the technology still has much to prove, developers and publishers are very excited to show what they've created.  Ubisoft has snagged the Star Trek license and has built a VR starship bridge simulation adventure for four players, each of which takes on a traditional bridge station aboard a Federation starship.  Star Trek: Bridge Crew looks to be quite the sci-fi adventure, and by "sci-fi" I mean that it's wonderful fiction that Ubisoft expects four people each with their own expensive VR headset to be in the same room at the same time on a large enough scale to make this game profitable.  As a Star Trek fan though, I must admit that if there was ever a game to entice me into VR, this is it.  Don't just take my word for it though.  Let's hear from TV's Levar Burton along with Jeri Ryan and Karl Urban (all Trek alumni) as they play the game in this debut trailer.

How much would I have to pay to be able to play the game with Geordi LaForge himself running Engineering?  Burton still has those old Trek chops, calling out to other players about the warp core, or the phase inducers, or some other damn thing.  Forget playing with friends; I hope there's a single-player mode where the player takes the captain's role and other beloved Trek characters are controlled by the game.  That may be asking too much, but since Ubisoft is asking a lot of the audience in VR startup costs, I'm comfortable making demands of my own.  Star Trek: Bridge Crew is due out later this year for PC and the Sony PlayStation 4 on the compatible VR headset of your choice.


Power Button - Episode 207: Donkey Kong For Juniors

Power_buttonSince the dawn of the medium, children have gravitated towards video games.  What began with kids grasping that first arcade joystick or Nintendo Entertainment System controller decades ago has led to today's children becoming enraptured with apps and motion controls.  How should a responsible parent encourage a child's burgeoning gaming interests?  On this week's podcast, parent of two Blake Grundman reflects on how he's introducing his kids to video games and outlines his plans to spread the hobby to the next generation.  From Yo Noid! to Just Dance, we have you covered.   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.


Injustice 2 Announced For 2017

Injustice 2I am such a big fan of 2013's Injustice: Gods Among Us from the Mortal Kombat folks at NetherRealm Studios that I own the game four times over: the original Sony PlayStation 3 release (plus season pass) and the Ultimate Edition for the PlayStation 4 (bought on a disc as a launch bundle freebie and then later as a PS+ digital freebie) and PS Vita (bought during a PlayStation Store super sale).  Knowing that, you can imagine how excited I am that publisher Warner Bros. has announced a sequel due in 2017 for the PS4 and Microsoft Xbox One.  Batman and Superman are back for Injustice 2, but there are some new additions that sound like they will change the flow of the game.  The PlayStation Blog has the details.

The Gear System uses RPG-like mechanics to reward you with loot drops every time you play the game. With each loot drop, you will earn character-specific gear to outfit and power up your roster – changing not only the look of each character, but your fight strategy and your personal approach to every match. As you gear up your characters, you’re building a roster of DC Super Heroes and Super-Villains that reflects your choices, and your preferences, which can be vastly different than your opponents. A few play sessions in, you can expect your Aquaman to look and play different than anyone else’s Aquaman you may come across.

I need to see how this upgradable character mechanic works before I judge it either way.  I do enjoy leveling up characters in game that are not really RPGs.  I feel like I'm making progress in games like Assassin's Creed when I see strength and speed meters increase as I clear objectives.  Nintendo's Super Smash Bros. for Wii U and 3DS allow players to customize players with add-on gear and it works pretty well. On the other hand, Capcom's Street Fighter X Tekken used a power-up gimmick with its upgradable gems that was baffling to comprehend and confusing to implement.  I trust NetherRealm, although I also fear the power-ups will fall into microtransaction hell right away.

Continue reading "Injustice 2 Announced For 2017" »


Power Button - Episode 206: Turn The Lights Out When You Leave

Power_buttonVideo Game consoles burst into this world with a collection of highly publicized launch titles, but nobody ever promotes their game as the last title out of the gate before production moves on to the next generation.  Everyone remembers that the Nintendo GameCube debuted with Luigi's Mansion, but what was the final release for the system?  How did the Super NES wrap things up?  Who turned out the lights on the Sega 32X?  On this week's episode of Power Button, Blake Grundman take a walk down the weedy, unkept side of Memory Lane to discuss the final releases for some of the industry's most beloved or infamous consoles.  You know you want to find out how the Atari Jaguar folded.  Join us for an hour and be sure to turn the lights out when you leave.!  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.


Wario's Creators Explain His Purpose

WarioNintendo's villain / anti-hero Wario has gone on to fame and fortune of his own, stepping out of Mario's shadow to star in the Wario Land and WarioWare franchises, and while we all know how he started out in 1992's Super Mario Land 2: Six Golden Coins when he stole control of Mario Land, debate has continued to rage regarding his true origins.  I'm not talking about the fiction here; I'm directly asking: why was Wario created?  A developer interview with SML2's creators originally featured in the game's official strategy guide has been translated and posted at Shmuplations, and it sheds some light on the issue.

—What was the idea behind Wario?

Kiyotake: We imagined Wario as the Bluto to Mario’s Popeye. The truth is, we kind of came up with the idea of the name first, and everything else came after. Since he was a “warui” (bad) guy, he should be Wario. And we had the idea to flip the M upside down. To our surprise, the idea was a big hit with everyone on the team.

—What was your process for creating the character of Wario?

Kiyotake: Whenever I had the idea for a character—not only Wario—the first thing I would do is talk it over with Hosokawa. If he thought it was cool, I’d present it to the rest of the staff. Then, once I thought the idea could work, I’d discuss the details of the sprite animation and movement with Harada. That’s the process I went through for Wario and all the other characters in SML2. Granted, there were a lot of direct rejects, or characters that no one took a liking to.

—Can you tell us about Wario’s past/origins?

Kiyotake: There’s been a rumor going around the Wario was childhood friends with Mario, but it’s just a rumor: I don’t know if it’s true or not. His favorite food is crepes. That much seems true…

There we have it, straight from the source!  Heroes need villains, and while Mario already had Bowser to contend with at this point in history, creating a Bizarro-version of our favorite plumber allows the Super Mario games to play with conventions more directly than Bowser allows.  Consider the end of SML2 when Mario and Wario finally meet face to face and the latter uses the same power-ups that the former has been using all game long against him.  The game's internal logic not only suggests that Wario can use the Fire Flower and Carrot, it demands that we see it happen.  The interview suggests that Mario is fighting for himself for the first time in SML2, but the plot goes deeper than that.  He's not only fighting for himself, he's also fighting a reflection of himself.  Now we jump through a mirror, darkly.

Crepes?


Power Button - Episode 205: Favorite Fresh Features

Power_buttonThe current generation of consoles have introduced multiple new features and refined capabilities introduced last generation, so it's only right that this week on Power Button we discuss our favorite of those features.  Share buttons, live streaming, YouTube sharing, screenshot capturing, off-TV play, backward compatibility, Remote Play, and much more!  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.


Mortal Kombat Imitators Are Sincerest Form Of Battery

Blood WarriorSuccessful media always spawns imitators, but sometimes the imitators go on to become highly successful entities of their own.  Super Mario led to Sonic the Hedgehog.  Grand Theft Auto inspired Saints RowStreet Fighter II spawned Mortal Kombat.  And what did Mortal Kombat spawn in response?  Mostly trash.  Hardcore Gaming 101 has a listing of Kombat clones each more dismal than the last, most of which use words like Battle, Warrior, Ninja, or Blood in the title.  Here's one that nails two of those words: Blood Warrior.

From Kaneko, the folks who brought you those Chester Cheetah games, Blood Warrior is another Japanese take at a Mortal Kombat style game, even though it's kind of a sequel to the 1992 game Shogun Warriors, which predated Mortal Kombat. When it comes to gameplay, it does all right, even if it's not exceptional. There's nothing particularly unique about its mechanics, although it at least plays well enough. The presentation, however, feels like a particularly low budget sentai show, with characters like a kappa and some kind of Buddhist statue as part of the cast. Despite its goofy look, it's also surprisingly bloody, with characters frequently exploding into piles of organs. The same developer would go on to make the Jackie Chan fighters, which were much better games all around.

The only game on the list with staying power is Killer Instinct.  The rest are forgettable or, worse, doomed to only be remembered as laughingstock fodder for an hungry Internet.  It's interesting to read through the list and be able to tell which games actually had some devoted, talented people behind them and which were just cranked out as quick, cheap cash-ins on the current hot property of the year.  One of the games, Way of the Warrior, was created by Naughty Dog who would later go on to major fame with Crash Bandicoot and Uncharted.  I suppose everyone has to start somewhere.