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Best Gifts for Gamers this 2018 Holiday Season

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The 2018 holiday season is upon us, and while a shiny, new piece of software under the tree surely will not disappoint, we here at Goomba Stomp have come up with a list of alternative gift ideas for the gamers in your life. From useful accessories to decadent figurines, here are some of the gaming-related products we sure wouldn’t mind finding in our stockings!

*Item names are linked to a suggested marketplace

Stubbins Holiday Sackboy Plush Toy

Though the franchise isn’t quite what it used to be back on the PS3, LittleBigPlanet was an insanely inventive and delightful platformer for its time (and one heck of a co-op experience to boot). Part of its endless charm is the series’ adorable mascot, Sackboy. This incredibly emotive sack doll doesn’t have the most extensive platforming moveset, but what he lacks in mechanical depth, he makes up for in customizability.

That’s why this Christmas-themed plush doesn’t seem out of place, as a toy patterns like this were surely available at some point in the series’ history. It isn’t just that it’s perfect for those with fond memories of LittleBigPlanet — it’s also attractive enough to stand on its own for anyone unfamiliar. As a bonus, pulling on this Sackboy’s iconic zipper reveals a tiny pouch with just enough room for a piece of candy or two. Well made and quite soft, gifting this little guy is a no-brainer. (Brent Middleton)

Retro Games Book by Marty Allen

Retro Games by Marty Allen

Short and sweet (bitterly so if you’re stuck in the past), this look back at some of the most fondly recalled video games of all time is the perfect gift for players of all ages, whether they are whippersnappers whose education in the classics is lacking, or old gaming fogies who cling to past pixelated glories like a former high school football star. Covering over 50 titles and consoles, from the NES era through the PS1 and N64 generation, Retro Games celebrates the creativity and influence that make its selections still stand the test of time.

Mario, Zelda, Sonic, and Cloud are all here, but the author also takes time to make the case for offbeat titles like ToeJam and Earl and Parappa the Rapper. While the descriptions never get too in-depth, the nostalgia is laid on thick, and an astute perspective that heavily considers the time and place each entry released takes readers back to a simpler time. Accessible and informative (though sadly without screenshots), this is ideal for those too young to remember, and those who may have forgotten. (Patrick Murphy)

GameCube Anthology Classic Edition

Not everyone is a fan of Nintendo’s amazing GameCube, but for those that are, there could scarcely be a better gift this holiday season than Mathieu Manent’s GameCube Anthology. Compiling the entire history of the GameCube, including a detailed list of each one of the 647 games released for the system, this 347 page volume will make for a great coffee table or bookshelf piece for any Nintendo collector, GameCube fan, or aspiring game historian. For $40, it’s hard to argue with the quality of the GameCube Anthology. Now, if only Santa can get me my copy this year… (Izsak Barnette)

Stardew Valley Guidebook from Fangamer

Any indie gamer has most likely picked up — or wants to pick up — Stardew Valley. On the surface, this calming game seems simple and easy to grasp, but the reality is that Stardew is incredibly dense, filled with secrets which will most likely never be discovered the first time around. Players may also want to be incredibly organized, planning every detail of every season, and this is where the Stardew Valley guidebook comes into play.

At some point, both rookie and veterans are going to want to know how to romance a villager, get the best ores out of the mines, or maximize their crops. This guidebook can be be immensely handy for anyone who is a first-time, casual, or veteran Stardew Valley player, and would make a beautiful gift for the patient and organized gamer in your life. (Katrina Lind)

8Bitdo Gbros. Wireless Adapter for Nintendo Switch

With the release of Super Smash Bros. Ultimate this year, there’s bound to be someone in your life that has nearly everything they need to play Smash. They’ve got the controllers, the adapter, the amiibo, and the awesome 75” TV that actually lets people in 8 player Smash see each other. What they don’t have, however, is a way to use their precious GameCube and Wii Classic controllers wirelessly with the Switch. Thanks to 8bitdo, there’s now a solution for gamers to do that. Turning any GameCube or Wii Classic controller wireless and stacked with a 30 hour battery life, these adapters will make the perfect stocking stuffer for the Smash fan in your life. Just make sure they don’t blame the non-existent lag when you PK Fire your way to victory with Ness AGAIN this year. (Izsak Barnette)

Silicon Joy-con Covers

It’s no secret that my hands are small, cold, and simultaneously sweaty all at the same time. How? I have no idea, but it does pose a problem when I’m playing my Switch in handheld mode. I ended up buying a pair of rubberized Joy-Con covers in the hope that it would help me in my very specific problem — and they totally worked! What I like about having silicone covers is that they help keep my hands from falling asleep, as well as prevent my Joy-Cons from slipping out while playing my favorite games for long periods of time.

There are many different models, colors, and prices to explore over the internet and they’re pretty cost effective as well (if you’d like to keep changing the color of your Joy-Cons without spending a fortune on another pair). These covers are compact, generally cheap, and gift givers have an assortment of colors and models to choose from. (Katrina Lind)

Pokémon Nanoblocks

Stuck on deciding on an objectively cute stocking filler? The phenomenal return of Pokémon to the forefront of pop-culture with the release of Pokemon: Let’s Go, Pikachu! and Pokemon: Let’s Go, Eevee! on the Nintendo Switch, as well as trainer updates to Niantic’s Pokémon GO, ensures that Pokémon merchandise is going to be flying out retail doors this holiday season. If you’re thinking about adopting a pocket monster these holidays, whether it be for a lucky recipient or yourself, there is no going past Japanese block-building toy company Nanoblock’s Pokémon series.

Currently focused on first- and second-generation Pokémon, and boasting fan favourites such as Pikachu, Vaporeon, Snorlax, and Gengar, Nanoblocks are a fantastic stocking-filler for any fan of the series — better yet if they’re partial to a bit of micro-toy construction supported by detailed instructions and stellar results. Be careful, though; once you purchase one, it’s difficult to fight the urge not to catch (and build) ‘em all. (Jordana Elliot)

Funko POP Vinyl Figures

When it comes to a cute and convenient video game-themed stocking fillers, Funko POP Vinyl figures are a great option for all ages. The figures have a very simplistic and appealing design, allowing them to easily blend into any bedroom or general display. Most are small enough to squeeze into whatever gaps are left on a desk, shelf, or even a console — such as my Spyro, who sits comfortably atop my PS4 with his tiny Sparx.

Their size makes them perfect collectibles. Although some POPs are bigger (known as the Super-Sized POP), they still aren’t too big or bulky. When kept in the box, they’re large enough to look substantial under the Christmas tree, yet also small enough to fit into a stocking, and some POPs even come with stands which allow them to look like they are hovering or flying, such as the Mercy POP from Overwatch or the Aku Aku POP from Crash Bandicoot — a nice little feature that adds some extra detail to the figure.

There are so many POP’s available from a wide variety of video games, including characters like Liberty Prime from Fallout 4, Reinhardt from Overwatch and Alduin the Dragon from Skyrim, and spanning across generations and consoles from Pikachu to Master Chief and Sonic the Hedgehog to Fortnite characters. Go and take a look and see if you can find your own favourite game character as a POP, or consider one as a present! There are a lot websites out there that have POP Vinyls available, and there are usually good deals on eBay, but here are a couple of other options: (UK) Forbidden Planet, (USA) Think Geek. (Antonia Haynes)

nintendo switch memory cardMicroSDXC UHS-I Nintendo Switch 64GB

With a huge variety of games available on the Switch, including a plethora of amazing indie games, a memory card is perhaps one of the most essential upgrades for your console. While they can be rather expensive, the space to open up a whole new world of gaming that a memory card can bring is priceless.

Fortunately, if you’re particularly savvy, you can find some good deals when browsing around online. These can then become a wonderful stocking filler that’s a reasonable price, and will still be in use the following year when you take advantage of those Christmas sales. (James Baker)

LinkLegend of Zelda Twilight Princess Link Figma DX Action Figure 

Over the past five years, the Figma has done an incredible job in making Legend of Zelda collectible figures. One of my favorites in their ever-growing library is the special edition of the Twilight Princess Link. It was released around the same time as the game’s HD remake for the Wii U, and sports three faceplates (including the Hawkeye faceplate) as well as two designated stand ports — one on Link’s back, and another added into one of his belt pouches, which allows you to pose Link with his many accessories any way you like. The package also comes with the Master Sword and Hylian Shield, as well as the Ordon Sword, Hero’s Bow and Arrow, Ball and Chain, Hawkeye, and the Clawshot, the latter of which comes with both an open and closed claw. An articulated Figma stand is also included, and more importantly, each accessory can easily be inserted and removed, allowing you to slot them into Link’s hands without worrying about causing any damage.

Of all the figures released so far, the Figma Link Twilight Princess Ver DX Edition is perhaps the perfect Link figure thanks to the clever sculpting, meticulous attention to detail, and gorgeous colour paint. It’s a bit on the pricey side, but well worth every penny. You can buy it over at Toynk.com (Ricky D)

Fangamer-Vinyl

Fangamer Vinyl Video Game Soundtracks

Anyone browsing this website is most likely familiar with Fangamer, a small video game merchandise company based in — and shipping from — Tucson, Arizona that sells some of the best products for our favorite titles. I recently ordered the Collector’s Edition of Undertale for the Nintendo Switch, and was blown away by the amount of stuff included in the package — such as the complete soundtrack, a sheet music booklet featuring six songs with annotations by Toby Fox, a 14k gold-plated brass music box locket, a sturdy matchbox-style collector’s box, and the standard physical copy of the game.

However, since this list isn’t supposed to include games as gift ideas, I will instead turn your attention to the library of vinyl soundtracks available to purchase on the Fangamer website. Among them is the soundtrack for Stardew Valley, which features all 77 tracks and brand-new art by Kari Fry, the artist behind the above-mentioned Stardew Valley guidebook. If you’re not a fan of that game, you can also find the official 2xLP Katamari Damacy soundtrack put out by Mondo, with beautiful artwork from We Buy Your Kids, as well as the soundtrack to the Super Famicom classic MOTHER 2 — a remastered double-album sold in two exclusive colorways: purple and green. There’s honestly so much to choose from that if you are a fan of indie games, you’ll most likely want to buy them all.

My favorite cover of all the soundtracks they sale would have to be the sleeve designed for Shovel Knight: Plague of Shadows, while the best record would be the translucent, fairway-green vinyl for Golf Story. This official Golf Story vinyl contains the complete soundtrack by Joel Steudler, wrapped in art from ExitMothership, and also comes with a free, immediate digital download in 320kbps MP3 format. Meanwhile, Brave Wave’s Shovel Knight: Plague of Shadows The Definitive Soundtrack brings all 14 tracks from Shovel Knight’s first expansion to both CD and vinyl for the first time!

Other vinyl releases available on the site include the soundtrack for Celeste, Ninja Gaiden, Undertale, Spelunky, and Thimbleweed Park. (Ricky D)

super smash bros. ultimate official collector's edition guide

Super Smash Bros. Ultimate: Official Guide

Super Smash Bros Ultimate is finally here, boasting a massive roster and over a hundred stages to battle in. The game is a heavy offering and can be overwhelming for newcomers. In addition, it plays slightly differently to the last entry, so even veteran players will need to get up to speed which is why I recommend the Super Smash Bros. Ultimate: Official Guide as a holiday gift this year. As advertised, everything you need to come out on top in the eagerly anticipated newest entry in the beloved Super Smash Bros. franchise is detailed here. The guide features full coverage of all fighters, comprehensive strategies, move sets, and the gorgeous, exclusive design makes this a must-have for any fan! With 464 pages, you can’t go wrong. (Ricky D)

Joy-Cons Gameboy

Custom-Made Joy-Cons

If you’re shopping for a gift for someone who owns a Nintendo Switch and you are searching for something unique, consider buying a custom-made made Joy-Con made to look like the original DMG Game Boy from Etsy. The shell is painted with high-quality paint and a protective coat and buttons are casted, not painted. And if you’re not down with a Gameboy version, you can find hundreds of other designs including one for the NES, Super Nintendo, GameCube, and more!

Earthbound Handbook 

Earthbound has since become one of the most sought-after games in the second-hand market, selling for upwards of $80 for the cartridge alone and $3000 if you have the game, box, and manual. The original SNES cartridge is hard to come by and not many gamers have that kind of money to spend on a game that is over 25 years old. Luckily for fans of Nintendo, Earthbound was reissued and given a worldwide release for the Wii U Virtual Console following many years of fan lobbying, and chances are, it will soon make an appearance on the Nintendo Switch.

It’s one of my favorite games of all time (maybe my favorite) and came packaged with one of the greatest game manuals ever made. Although the manual was uploaded to the internet by Nintendo so fans can download it for free whenever they want, I can’t end this article without recommending this unofficial EarthBound Handbook; a hardcover guide to the world of Shigesato Itoi’s classic game and presented as a travel guide made for tourists in the year 199X. It’s the product of two years of writing and design and features 270 full-color pages designed by Audrey Waner and written by Dan Moore. Each chapter is presented in its own unique style, and it even includes a special “Odoreality” card that allows you to see and smell all the sights along the way. (Ricky D)

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These are our picks, but if you have any more suggestions, leave them in the comments below!

Humans by birth. Gamers by choice. Goomba Stomp is a Canadian web publication that has been independently owned and operated since its inception in 2016.

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XO19: Top 10 Best Announcements of the Show

Xbox just had their best XO presentation ever, and it wasn’t even close. Here’s a rundown of the best announcements from XO19.

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xo19

Microsoft had a lot to prove going into its fifth annual XO showcase. Console launches are on the horizon, cloud competitor Google Stadia is about to ship to early adopters, and Game Pass subscribers are as hungry as ever for new additions to the lineup. Then there’s the fact that XO has always been looked down upon by the gaming community in general as a lackluster, padded presentation.

All of that changed with XO19. This was, by far, the best XO in the event’s history. In fact, it featured more shocking reveals and genuinely impressive announcements than a good deal of Microsoft’s recent E3 press conferences. From new IP reveals, to first-time looks at gameplay, to a couple “I never would’ve believed you a week ago” shockers, it’s clear that Xbox stepped up its game from years past. Here’s our list of the best announcements of the show.

10. Everwild Reveal

It’s not too often that we get to experience a new IP from Rare. Their last attempt, Sea of Thieves, was a fully multiplayer, always-online affair that gradually garnered a cult following thanks to some of the best community engagement and most consistent content updates in the industry.

We don’t know what type of game Everwild is yet, but it’s certainly oozing that same colorful, ambient charm that made players fall in love with Sea of Thieves all those years ago. Seeing as how we only got a cinematic teaser, though, it might be quite some time before we’re running around these gorgeous environments.


9. ID@Xbox Lineup

The ID@Xbox team has pulled it off again. Despite being stuck with an almost insultingly poor time slot in the presentation, several of the indies shown off in this short montage rivaled some of the show’s AAA spotlights. It had everything from high-profile indies like Streets of Rage 4, Touhou Luna Nights, and the Yacht Club Games-published Cyber Shadow, to more modest beauties like SkateBIRD, Haven, Cris Tales, and she dreams elsewhere.

The best part? All of these are launching on Game Pass day and date. The worst part? No actual dates were announced for anything shown. Regardless, it’s encouraging that so many high quality indies are continuing to come to Xbox (and that relationships with Devolver Digital and Yacht Club are rock-solid).


8. West of Dead Reveal/Open Beta

xo19

Raw Fury has one of the better eyes in the indie publishing scene. Gems like GoNNER, Dandara, and Bad North have all released under their watch, and West of Dead might be their best acquisition yet. It’s a heavily-stylized twin stick shooter that switches things up by making tactical cover a core part of the experience.

The trailer hinted at roguelike elements being present, and the ever-popular procedurally generated levels should significantly up replayability. How it plays, however, remains to be seen…unless you have an Xbox, in which case you can play the exclusive open beta now before the full game comes to all platforms next year.


7. Halo Reach Release Date

xo19

The Master Chief Collection has long been the one golden goose that endlessly eludes those outside of the Xbox ecosystem. Earlier this year, though, Microsoft made waves when it announced that it was bringing the entire collection over to PC. Reach is the first step in that process, and it’s finally making its way to both PC and Xbox One as part of the MCC on December 3rd.

It’s just a date, but the fact that so many new players get to experience one of Halo‘s most beloved outings at last easily made it one of the highlights of the night.


6. Grounded Reveal

xo19

Who woulda thought? Fresh off releasing one of the best RPGs in years with The Outer Worlds, Obsidian decided to show off a passion project from one of its smaller teams: Grounded. The premise? Honey, I Shrunk the Kids: Survival Edition.

Players take control of kids the size of ants as they fight off actual bugs, cook, craft armor and weapon upgrades, and build shelter to survive in the wilderness of someone’s backyard. As silly as it sounds and looks, and as unexpected a project it is for Obsidian to undertake, it genuinely looks rather promising. The cheerful color palette is a welcome contrast to the dark, brooding aesthetic so many other survival games have adopted. There are plenty of details left to be uncovered, but if early impressions are anything to go by, this is one to keep on your radar early next year.


5. Age of Empires IV Gameplay Reveal

xo19

Age of Empires is one of the most esteemed strategy franchises in history. Despite having this beloved IP in their back pocket, however, Microsoft hasn’t published a new mainline game in the series since 2005. Age of Empires IV was originally announced over two years ago, and after buttering everyone up with the release of Age of Empires II Definitive Edition that afternoon, the first glimpse of gameplay was finally shown at XO19.

Simply put, the game looks gorgeous. Every building is full of detail and the countryside looks surprisingly lush and picturesque. Witnessing hundreds of units charging down the valley towards the stronghold in the trailer was mind-blowing as an old-school fan. They didn’t show off any innovations or moment-to-moment gameplay, but it’s looking more and more like the future of the franchise is safe in Relic’s hands.


4. Final Fantasy Blowout

xo19

Xbox’s success in Japanese markets has become something of a running joke over the years. Though inroads were clearly made with Bandai Namco, many more Japanese publishers won’t go within a mile of the platform. Possibly through working with Square Enix’s western division to put the latest Tomb Raider and Just Cause entries on board, it looks like the main branch has finally decided to give Xbox players a chance.

Starting this holiday, Game Pass subscribers will gradually get every single-player Final Fantasy game since Final Fantasy VII. More shocking still, The Verge reported that the Xbox team is working to get the massively popular MMO Final Fantasy XIV over as well. The sheer value of having every post-Super Nintendo Final Fantasy game included in Game Pass (even XV) is ridiculous. It remains to be seen what the rollout cadence of these ten titles will look like, but considering how long each of these are, one per month wouldn’t shock or disappoint.


3. The Reign of Project xCloud

With Stadia launching just next week, Microsoft had been surprisingly quiet on their cloud gaming front up to this point. The service had gone into preview for those lucky enough to get in and, by most accounts, it had been fairly well-received. The real question came down to what Xbox was going to do to make itself stand out from its competition.

The bombs dropped here felt like the equivalent to the thrashing Sony gave to Microsoft back at E3 2013. Microsoft shadow dropped 40+ new games into Preview for players to test (for free) including Devil May Cry 5, Tekken 7, Bloodstained, and Ace Combat 7. Even better, xCloud will support third-party controllers including the DUALSHOCK 4 and will finally show up on Windows 10 PCs in 2020.

Perhaps the most damning announcement, however, is that xCloud will be integrated with Game Pass starting next year. Only having to pay for a Game Pass subscription to access 100+ games and play them in the cloud (including Halo, Forza, The Outer Worlds, and all those Final Fantasy titles) makes xCloud a far better value than Stadia right out of the gate. If this didn’t force Google to adjust its strategy, we might be looking at a very short cloud gaming war.


2. Square Sharing the Kingdom Hearts Love

Kingdom Hearts 3 releasing on Xbox One was somewhat bittersweet. On the one hand, players who had left the PlayStation ecosystem after playing the first games had a chance to see the arc’s conclusion. On the other hand, new players had no options for going back and experiencing the series’ roots.

Kingdom Hearts HD 1.5+2.5 Remix and Kingdom Hearts 2.8 Final Chapter Prologue finally coming to Xbox next year is a godsend for younger players and new players alike. More important, however, is the tearing down of those over 15+ years old exclusivity walls. Just like with many of the Final Fantasys, the main Kingdom Hearts games had been married to PlayStation systems for years. This shift at Square is an exciting one, and it bodes particularly well for the next generation of Xbox hardware.


1. Yakuza Finally Goes Multi-Console

It seems like Phil Spencer’s trips to Japan finally paid off. In what was arguably the most shocking announcement of XO19 (right next to Kingdom Hearts), it was revealed that SEGA is taking the Yakuza series multi-console at last. Not only are Yakuza 0 and Kiwami 1+2 coming to Xbox, but all three are going to Game Pass next year as well.

Does this mean support from Japanese studios will increase across the board? Of course not. But getting big names like Bandai Namco, Square Enix, and SEGA on board is nothing if not encouraging. Xbox is clearly pulling out all the stops to ensure a diverse suite of third-party support come Scarlett’s launch next year, and it’s the healthiest the platform has looked in a very long time.

Honorable Mentions:

Bleeding Edge Release Date

KartRider Drift Reveal/Closed Beta Announcement

Last Stop Reveal

Wasteland 3 Release Date

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‘Garden Story’ First Impressions: The Coziest of Adventures

Long-awaited Twitter darling Garden Story just released its first demo. Here’s what we learned after playing through it twice.

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garden story

Following the unfortunate (but understandable) delay of Animal Crossing: New Horizons, there’s been a distinct lack of chill, aesthetic games to fill the void. Garden Story’s charming environmental art and animation have earned it a dedicated social media following, but it wasn’t until Picogram released a demo just a couple days ago that anyone with a Steam account could actually experience the game for themselves. So, just how fun is this wholesome little RPG?

Setting the Scene

Garden Story’s demo centers around the newly-appointed village guardian Concord (a grape) and their first steps in rebuilding Autumn Town, a community ravaged by a sinister force known as “the Rot.” Chatting with villagers reveals a bit of insight into the situation at hand; it’s soon clear just how much the other townsfolk need the player’s support.

There are several clear parallels to old-school Legend of Zelda titles here, but Garden Story manages to set itself apart rather quickly. For one, this isn’t a solo adventure; the player sets out with Rana (a frog) and Fuji (a tomato) on a friendly quest to be as helpful to the surrounding community as possible. Seeing friends around and watching cute scripted cutscenes between the crew does a great job of instilling a sense of camaraderie and friendship.

In another pleasant twist, everything here is themed around building rather than destroying. Instead of traditional swords and bows, Concord repurposes his dowsing rod and scavenging pick into makeshift weapons. The combat itself calls to mind Stardew Valley; simple, minimal, and clearly not the main focus. There’s a pesky stamina bar that restricts the number of times Concord can attack and how far they can run, frequently forcing players to pause between barrages. In this way, encounters often come off as more of a necessary evil in Concord’s town rehabilitation journey than a main attraction.

Rebuilding a Community

So, how does one go about aiding the town? The method highlighted in the demo was by attending to a quest board with three different types of requests: Threat (combat), Repair (exploration), and Want (gathering). Each is accompanied by a task that plays an integral part in keeping Autumn Town safe and in good working order (e.g. clearing out Rot, finding sewer access so new resources can flow into town, and so on).

Aside from fulfilling requests, there are a few interesting hooks to incentivize hitting every shiny thing you come across regardless. The more different types of items are scavenged, and the more catalogues are filled by being updated with new materials, the more literature becomes available to give little bits of insight into Garden Story’s world and history. Then, in another parallel to Stardew Valley, any leftover resources can be sold in the pursuit of buying tool upgrades.

While the full game will feature four locations to explore and tend to, there was still plenty to do in Autumn Town itself by the end of the demo. Rana mentioned that villagers will post new requests daily, and the demo even featured a mini side quest (called “favors”) that led me to obtain a brand-new tool. Between daily requests, favor fulfillment, and dungeons spread across four different regions, it’s looking like there will be a good bit of content here for those who really want to hang around Garden Story’s world for as long as possible.

Ambient Appeal

Though it remains to be seen just how enticing its complete gameplay loop and accompanying systems are, Picogram’s latest is already delivering on its core appeal: being a cozy, relaxing experience. The color palette is soft, the lighting is moody, and the soundtrack is right up there with the Animal Crossing series as having some of the most mellow, loopable tunes around.

In fact, it’s the sound design in particular that gives Garden Story such an intimate feel. From the sound of a page turning when entering and exiting buildings to the gentle gurgles of a bubbling brook in the forest, it’s clear that composer Grahm Nesbitt poured a ton of love into making this one feel just right. Here’s hoping the full game more than delivers on all the potential shown here.

Garden Story is slated to release in Spring of 2020 and is available to wishlist on Steam.

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How Asynchronous Online in ‘Death Stranding’ Brings Players Together

Hideo Kojima’s latest game creates a sense of community by aiding other players on the same perilous journey.

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Death Stranding

Video games have always been fascinated with the idea of player interactivity as a means of crafting a power fantasy. The player typically goes on a hero’s journey, eventually culminating in them being the one and only savior of the world inside the game. Typically associated with single-player games, MMOs also crafted that same narrative but with the conceit that everyone is going on this journey. Often the acknowledgments of other players are in multiplayer-specific features such as PvP and Raids. Destiny is a great example of a series that takes players on the same journey and makes no promise that the story is different between players by even allowing them to engage in playing story missions together. It all feeds into the larger narrative of Guardians fighting together to save the Light. A game that handles this very similar and perhaps more successfully is Hideo Kojima’s Death Stranding.

While lacking any direct player-to-player interaction, Kojima’s latest game is drenched in the conceit that community is crucial to triumph over adversity. You can read many articles about the game’s ideas of community from fellow writers on the site. What hasn’t quite gotten the attention it deserves is how revolutionary Death Stranding feels in terms of utilizing asynchronous online to greatly affect the game itself. Games like Dark Souls and other FromSoftware titles have included the ability to leave notes (which Death Stranding also offers) that help (or trick) players as they venture throughout the world on their own. How those notes’ effects are manifested are often on a much smaller scale – helpful at times but often to warn players of an impending way they might die. They don’t have a large impact on the player, only a temporary means of cheating death. 

Where Death Stranding becomes something greater in scale is in what it lets other players do to other peoples’ single-player experiences. In the game, you play as Sam Porter Bridges who is tasked with reconnecting America from coast-to-coast. At first, the game thrusts Sam into its narrative, taking the reluctant, isolated character and forcing him to eventually realize the importance of hope and connections in dire times. As Sam starts bringing more and more people onto the Chiral network (which allows instantaneous communication and the transferring of 3D-printable goods), so too does the game open up and reveal its ultimate goal: to bring players together.

Death Stranding

This doesn’t mean players will ever talk to other players, and the game very much avoids any real negative actions that can be performed on players. In fact, someone could play the game without ever actively engaging with online features. Instead, the game will passively hand out “likes” to other players whose ladders are used or roads are driven. If one wanted to fight the game’s narrative and instead keep Sam isolated and away from the community that the Chiral network provides, they could definitely do that – no matter how antithetical it would be to do so. Death Stranding even offers an offline mode that would nullify all of that and keep the experience solely on the player’s impact on the world and no one else’s. 

Yet there’s a reason the online mode is the default mode. It was near the end of Episode 3 (which also happens to be when the game unloads almost all of its mechanics onto the player) when I finally realized the impact I was having on other people’s games. I had spent an entire day playing the game, but focusing largely on delivering premium deliveries – these are optional challenges that essentially boil down to carrying more cargo, damaging cargo less, or getting to your destination in a set amount of time. Death Stranding doesn’t ever tell you the best way to get somewhere. Instead, it places a wide array of tools in front of you and assuming the Chiral network is set up in an area, it can provide a rough guide on places to avoid or infrastructure already built. However, one of the key pieces of infrastructure missing for my playthrough was roads. My efforts immediately became focused on building a network of roads that made their way all throughout one of the larger areas in the game.

The game doesn’t ever make you build roads. It tells you the option is there but it doesn’t force your hand. Often tools will be introduced, like zip lines and floating carriers, but the game never demands that they’re used. Of course, engaging with those tools will make your life easier. There are easy ways to start building infrastructure in Death Stranding: ropes and ladders can help to scale mountains or plummet depths. Those will remain in the world for other players to use and will even appear on their maps as they hook up areas to the Chiral network. So, someone who plays the game earlier than someone else could lay down ropes and ladders, and depending on when the other person starts playing, they will find those once they have progressed to a point where they are traversing that area. Where the game becomes even grander in its sense of community is the realization that the more players commit to building roads or setting up zip lines, the more other players benefit.

Death Stranding

The reality is that ladders and ropes are temporary – they cannot be rebuilt, they can only be replaced. The game’s Timefall – a weather phenomenon that acts as rain but ages anything it comes into contact with – can reset an entire map after a while if there is nothing more substantial placed on the map. So in my game, I decided that whenever I could build a road, I committed to doing so. This could mean going to multiple waystations and collecting materials that have amassed over time from deliveries, or going out in the world and finding these materials like Chiral crystals. At a certain point, I would load up a truck with multiple deliveries that were on or near the roads I had built, as well as with as many metal and ceramic materials I could load into the truck before it reached capacity. As I delivered packages, I’d replace them with more deliveries and more materials from each waystation. Eventually, I’d find myself at a point where a road was not built yet and would then build that road.

Community stands as the strongest component of Death Stranding .

In contrast to a game like Dark Souls, actions in the world such as providing notes on the ground or helping another player with a boss battle is helping them cheat death. The community that is being built is not one that has any lasting effect on the world in the game. No Man’s Sky may let players interact with each other and further their knowledge of the universe within the game, but often that help is relegated to an isolated planet. It’s a more contained impact. Hideo Kojima created a game where players don’t just build infrastructures for themselves, they can intentionally or inadvertently assist other players throughout their games. This leads to players like myself creating strand contracts with other players who have built things I liked in the game. A strand contract is a powerful feature because it means more of that players’ roads or other items built for the world will show up more frequently in my game.

Every Action in Death Stranding Creates Hope

One of the perks of building so many roads is you also get a lot of likes, whether passively given because someone used the road or actively provided by a player because they not only used the road but were appreciative that someone built it. It’s hard not to feel important in someone else’s life when you’ve made their experience less cumbersome because they no longer have to drive over rocky terrain or through enemy territory but instead can take a highway to their destination. What’s better is that more substantial developments like bridges and roads can be repaired by other players and even upgraded. So while I laid the initial roads down, I actually haven’t spent any materials repairing them. Instead, notifications come in and tell me players have repaired roads I’ve built. There’s no real reason to do that unless the infrastructure built was necessary to their journey through the game – making it easier but also providing the same feeling of helping out a larger community. 

Community stands as the strongest component of Death Stranding – a game that doesn’t even try to be subtle in its intentions. Traversing Kojima’s version of post-apocalyptic America is harrowing on your own. With just your two feet and a package to deliver when the entire world itself is trying to stop you from doing so, America isn’t just divided – it’s hostile. Where Death Stranding shines brightest is when it offers a helping hand. Players aid one another to achieve the same unified goal: save the country. All of this is under the assumption that the country can be saved, but there is no denying that seeing someone else’s rope hanging off a steep cliff, or a Timefall shelter where it rains Timefall on a constant basis, is one of the most satisfying feelings. In Death Stranding, it isn’t enough to know that you’re making progress, but that everyone is willing to assist others to reach the same end goal. It’s a game where every action creates hope and is built upon the idea that we are at our best when we work together.

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