Lost "Puc-Man Fever" Variant Challenges Everything You Think You Know About "Pac-Man Fever"

Puc-Man FeverI know that you know all about Buckner & Garcia's famous "Pac-Man Fever" hit single from the 1981 album of the same name (seriously; it hit number nine on the Billboard Top 100 chart that year).  After all, you have the original vinyl album, the cassette release, and even the 2002 re-recorded CD version and 2015 remix inspired by the Adam Sandler film Pixels.  The poster is hanging on your wall right now, I bet.  What you, the "Pac-Man Fever" superfan, are missing is an exclusive Japanese variant of the song that was re-recorded as "Puc-Man Fever" to match the famed video game character's original Japanese name.  Lost Turntable has a look and a listen at this missing piece of gaming music history.

When the time came to release the song in Japan, Buckner & Garcia apparently went back into the studio to re-record the chorus of the song, changing every instance of “Pac” to “Puck.” If you ever wanted proof that record companies just had fucking millions to burn in the early 80s, there you go.

I highly doubt this version of the song ever got any other official release aside from the Japanese 7″ single. The album itself was never issued in Japan. Hell, the original version of “Pac-Man Fever” has never been re-issued on a proper Buckner & Garcia CD or digitally (any CD or iTunes version is a re-recorded take from the 90s). So I feel safe in assuming that this is a proper rarity.

Happy fortieth anniversary to you, Pac-Man, and thank you for everything you've done for the world of video games including, yes, "Pac-Man Fever".  Next time: the horrifying secret behind "Do The Donkey Kong".

The Rise And Fall Of Perfect Dark

Perfect DarkWhen you develop a first-person shooter for a console that isn't expected to sell many copies but then becomes a colossal hit and redefines how the genre is treated on consoles, what do you do for an encore?  That's the question asked of Rare's developers in the late 1990s after the company's GoldenEye 007 for the Nintendo 64 became one of the best games on the console and one that is still remembered and revered today for its multiplayer mode.  The easy answer is to follow it up with a direct sequel and make Tomorrow Never Dies, but the better answer is to drop the James Bond license to create something original, refine the ideas that came about too late in the process to benefit GoldenEye, and push the limits of the console so hard that a hardware upgrade is required to make the most of the experience.  Over at Nintendo Life, James Batchelor has the story behind Rare's Perfect Dark on the occasion of its twentieth anniversary.

The team didn’t want to abandon everything it had accomplished with GoldenEye 007, of course. For most of them, the James Bond shooter was the first game they had ever made. They had developed a brand new engine, so it made sense to build upon that and create a new title in the same vein, with similar gameplay and the same “weapon centricity,” as Hollis put it.

From the very beginning, Perfect Dark was planned as a spiritual successor to GoldenEye, with the aim to have the game finished within just one year. In theory, the main effort would go into building new levels that ran on the previous game’s tech. But the team’s ambition expanded throughout the course of the project, and many of GoldenEye’s systems were improved and overhauled.

Perfect Dark was like the semi-sequel to GoldenEye, and it’s always difficult making a sequel,” recalls Mark Edmonds, who led development by the end. “Can you make it better than the first one? That should be easy, but generally, it isn’t. So everyone was in the mindset of ‘What can we do to make this better than GoldenEye?’ There were a lot of ideas for new features and everyone had thoughts about what could have gone into that game but didn’t.”

There's lots to unpack here including the creation of the game's protagonist, Joanna Dark, and how she fits into the storyline that aimed to surprise players with AI briefcases and an alien invasion.  All of the action required the N64 Expansion Pak add-on to play anything besides the basic multiplayer mode.  N64 development kits were equipped with more memory than retail N64 console, so it was very easy for the development team to pack in too many things that worked fine on the development kit but wouldn't work on a home console.  The Expansion Pak solved that problem.

The issue, Edmonds says, was the N64 developer kits had more memory than the home models, which made it all too easy to add in more features. The challenge of bringing the game’s size down to something that would fit in a single cartridge and run on a standard console became impossible, so he was relieved to see both the Donkey Kong and Zelda teams using the expansion. “It happened to be around the same sort of time we found we didn’t have enough memory either,” he recalls. “So we were lucky because if they weren’t doing that, we would have been stuck.”

Chesluk adds: “We did a load of work trying to get it down, spent a few months on it, but the best we could manage was the version you got without the Expansion Pak, where it’s a bit of multiplayer but it’s more of a taster. There was talk of bundling with the Expansion Pak at one point, but Donkey Kong 64 had already done that – although I’m not sure how much demographic crossover there was between people buying both Donkey Kong and Perfect Dark.”

I was a GoldenEye fan, although I'd only rented it a few times throughout my high school years, and by 2000 I was in college and was drifting away from video games for a while.  I had Donkey Kong 64 which came packed with the Expansion Pak, so I had everything I needed to play the game, and although I rented it a time or two, I never felt the need to buy it.  GoldenEye felt revolutionary in 1997, but Perfect Dark in 2000 felt outdated even with that Expansion Pak boost.  I figured I'd pass on this first installment and try again with the inevitable GameCube sequel, and we all know how that went instead.  I should revisit Perfect Dark sometime and give it a fair shake on its own merits.  It's one of those games that I may not have liked, but I definitely respect.

Piano Pro-Am

R.C. Pro-AmTimes are tough lately and we can all use a pick-me-up.  Start your week out with some peppy energy thanks to musician Rob "88bit" Kovacs and his piano rendition of one of the Nintendo Entertainment System's best racers, R.C. Pro-Am.  Composed by Rare soundtrack master David Wise, these songs make some interesting use of the NES's limited sound channels.  Rob explains:

The opening title screen theme is one of the more unique NES themes in that it is saturated with triads, something you don’t hear too often due to the 3-voice limitation of the NES soundchip. Composer, David Wise, gets around this by using all three channels to perform the melody and the harmony and then squeezing the bass notes in between the melody notes. The result is a really thick and packed sound.

Rare's sound team always did amazing work when given limited tools, and Rob does a fantastic job of translating the Pro-Am soundtrack for piano.  Check it out and listen to his other recordings on his YouTube channel.

Power Button - Episode 306: Leak Sneaks

Power ButtonMajor gaming leaks in the past few weeks have shown us the past and the future as Nintendo suffered a system breach that resulted in all kinds of trade secrets and information from the late 1990s through the 2000s posted online and Naughty Dog and Sony had to deal with fallout from spoiler-laden videos from the upcoming The Last of Us Part II were posted online.  All of this talk of leaks and stolen data had us thinking of all of the most memorable gaming leaks that have happened over the years, so this week's podcast topic explores focuses on that discussion.  Blake Grundman and I revisit some old favorites from Half-Life 2, Sonic the Hedgehog 3, Destiny, Assassin's Creed Unity, Star Fox 2, EarthBound Beginnings, and plenty 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. 

Power Button - Episode 305: 100 Hours

Power ButtonThanks to the pandemic lockdown I've recently clocked one hundred hours spent in Assassin's Creed Odyssey and still have lots more to do, so that's a natural jumping point into this week's podcast topic in which we discuss games we're spent more than one hundred hours exploring and enjoying.  You'll find some expecting titles here such as Destiny, Borderlands, and Red Dead Redemption along with some unexpected entries including Crosswords Plus for Nintendo 3DS. 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 Pirates Of Smuggler's Cove: An Assassin's Creed Mystery

Assassin's Creed Odyssey

Thanks to the pandemic lockdown, I've had lots of extra free time to dump into a video game I've wanted to come back to playing for months, Assassin's Creed OdysseyACO is set during the era of Ancient Greece and sees the protagonist, Kassandra, wandering the Greek world doing all of the usual Assassin's Creed kinds of things.  This time around there is an evil Cult of Kosmos whose members are all hidden away across the land and their identities kept secret.  Over the course of the ninety hours I've spent so far in the game, I've managed to uncover most all of the cult members and eliminate them.  As the cult eradication sidequest starts to wrap up, I'm left to hunt cultists that aren't explicitly set in my path by the main story.  These last cultists are covertly hanging around Greece and I must uncover clues that will uncover their true identities so I can go finish them off.  Clues are acquired by slaying other cultists or, as I'm dealing with now, finding stray letters and memos hidden in unexpected places. 

I only need one more clue to uncover a specific villain and slay his portion of the cultist org chart, and the game helpfully tells me to search Smuggler's Cove in Achaia for the clue.  This should be easy enough.  For some reason, I expect pirates to be there.  I've been to enough places in Achaia that I've uncovered most all locations, but I don't remember seeing a Smuggler's Cove on the map.  That it's a cove is a giveaway that it's somewhere on a coastline, so I have Kassandra climb aboard her trusty fire horse of the damned (that's a long story) and I start riding my way around the Achaia coastline waiting to see which of the little inlets on the map is Smuggler's Cove.

Continue reading "The Pirates Of Smuggler's Cove: An Assassin's Creed Mystery" »

Train Your Amiibo Right With Figure Fight


Now you too can learn the secrets of the great amiibo fighting champions of the world and become a renowned figurine coach as you train your plastic buddies for ultimate domination in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate!  Or, at least, you'll learn what makes an amiibo fighter tick and discover the most efficient ways to turn them into little smashers.  Yes, I'm talking about John Harris's new book Figure Fight which is currently available as part of the latest Story Bundle.  You'll learn what amiibo are doing when they're training to fight and what happens to them when they go on a journey across the Internet to battle against other amiibo.  How do they learn?  Can you influence that learning?  How can you smooth over any bad habits they pick up along the way?  There's plenty to explore and learn here.

Buried in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate is a curious little subgame where you can take AIs housed in amiibo toys and bring them forth to great and violent life within its fighting game universe, with you put in the role of their trainer. What's more, you can take these uppity little trinkets online and pit them against the belligerent knickknacks of other players. The author has been obsessed with this bizarre yet entertaining mode for months. Smash Ultimate's amiibo support still holds many mysteries, but here he reveals to you what strategy and secrets he could suss out of this thoroughly ridiculous mode.

I had the privilege to read an advance copy of the book and was impressed with the attention to detail and Harris's persistence in tracing what amiibo are really doing behind Nintendo's glitzy presentation on screen.  There's such a tiny amount of writable data space in each amiibo that it's outrageous to me how it's used to contain so much information used for Smash Bros.  This book taught me things about how Smash uses amiibo under the hood that I had absolutely no idea was happening. If you want to raise a top tier amiibo, this must be your first read.  And yes, those are my amiibo on display on my gaming room wall in the photo above.

Power Button - Episode 304: Tribute To The 1988 Nintendo Buyer's Guide

Power ButtonI recently fell down the rabbit hole of Retromags.com, the Internet's premiere archive of video gaming magazines from days gone by.  I was inspired to look up the first gaming magazines I ever read, Game Player's August 1988 Nintendo Buyer's Guide and Game Player's August 1988 Nintendo Strategy Guide, which inspired this hour of discussion about what constituted a video game magazine over thirty years ago.  We're essentially ripping on a dated publication that I'm sure was doing the best that they could with the resources they had, but this magazine has not aged gracefully.  It's a time capsule of hype for Nintendo Entertainment System games like Amagon, Bubble Bobble, Zanac, Metal Gear, Flying Dragon, Ghostbusters, and many more.  Download these two issues and follow along with us as we have some laughs.   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. 

Continue reading "Power Button - Episode 304: Tribute To The 1988 Nintendo Buyer's Guide" »

Sony Wants You To Play At Home

Nathan DrakeHow are you holding up during the pandemic?  My fiancee and I are on Week 5 of isolation, only going out twice a month to the pharmacy to pick up prescriptions.  We get our groceries delivered and disinfect everything that comes into the house.  Being immunocompromised can be tough on a regular day, but we all know that days lately are far from regular, so we're doing our best to stay home for our own sakes and for the sake of anyone we would come into contact with if we were to contract the virus.  Times are tough, scary, and uncertain.  Sony is doing a little to try and help with the isolation madness by offering free downloads of Uncharted: The Nathan Drake Collection and Journey for the PlayStation 4 for a limited time as a little incentive to stay home.  The PlayStation Blog has the details on this limited time offer.

People all over the world are doing the right thing by staying home to help contain the spread of COVID–19. We are deeply grateful to everyone practicing physical distancing and take our responsibility as a home entertainment platform seriously, so we are asking our community to continue supporting the safe choice and the need to Play At Home.

As a thank you to all who are doing their part to lessen the impact of this pandemic, Sony Interactive Entertainment is pleased to announce the Play At Home initiative. 

To support Play At Home, PlayStation will try to make those occasionally dull moments more exciting by offering Uncharted: The Nathan Drake Collection and Journey available for free for a limited time through digital downloads from April 15 at 8pm PDT through May 5, 2020 at 8pm PDT Once you redeem the games, they are yours to keep.

The company is also earmarking ten million dollars for a fund to help independent developers stay afloat.  Anything that helps communities is greatly appreciated right now.  Everyone could use a little happiness, and a free download of Uncharted is a great way to facilitate that.   Stay home!  Play some games!  You'll be healthier for it.

First Look At "CD Sonic" Was Impressive

CD SonicBack before the Internet turned video game news into a daily content-generating operation, fans had to get the latest information once a month through the magazines of the day.  In the early 1990s I was a subscriber to three of the big publications: Nintendo Power for my Nintendo needs, GamePro for strategy tips, and Electronic Gaming Monthly for glimpses of what was going on overseas.  EGM was very much a fan of Sega's 1991 Genesis release Sonic the Hedgehog, so much so that it felt as if every little Sonic tidbit that leaked out of Japan was worth at least one page of information.  All sorts of Sonic projects that never saw the light of day were mentioned in the magazine, but one that did make it out the door was Sonic CD for the Sega CD add-on.  The March 1993 issue of EGM showcased a first look at the game (known as CD Sonic at the time) with early screenshots and preliminary buzz about what to expect.  The Sonic the Hedgeblog Twitter account recently dug up that article and, let me tell you, it brought back a blast of memories. 

Seeing this coverage at the age of twelve made me feel for the first time that I might be missing out on something by owning only Nintendo consoles.  While I've never owned the Sega CD version of Sonic CD, I spent years trying to play the game on other platforms to mixed results.  I bought the Windows PC version of the game in 1996, but it was finicky and often crashed.  Emulating the Sega CD version on my PC all came down to the capability of the emulator and the horsepower of my computer.  The Nintendo GameCube version included in Sonic Gems Collection played decently enough, but it wasn't until the 2011 reworking of the game for iOS and the Sony PlayStation 3 that I finally felt like I could dig into the game the way it was meant to be played... and that wasn't even the original version of the game that the developers meant for us to play!  The online Sonic fan community has long since parsed through articles like these to discover the original source of the screenshots from early demo versions of the game. It's like getting closure on the rest of the story all these years later.