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Ten Nintendo 2016 Predictions

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With so many recent developments happening over at Nintendo headquarters, I believe there is reason to be optimistic about Nintendo in 2016. It’s always hard to guess what Nintendo will announce, since the company has always been so unpredictable, but I have high hopes for what we could get over the next twelve months. So what surprises are in store this year? Here are my crazy 2016 predictions:

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1. Mother 3 gets a release stateside

18 years after debuting on the Super NES, EarthBound was once again released on the Virtual Console in North America and in Europe to everyone’s surprise. Given the tremendous exposure surrounding the launch of the game, you maybe expected Nintendo would want to consider the possibility of releasing other titles in the Mother series. Well, they did with EarthBound Beginnings last year during E3. But while Beginnings is a good game, it is the weakest in the series, and fans are still impatiently waiting for the Game Boy Advance sequel Mother 3, which remains the most notable Nintendo game to never see release outside of Japan. For the unfamiliar, there are some significant hurdles that impact the prospects of Mother 3 ever being localized, namely a substantial amount of animal cruelty, a notable scene of physical violence, repeated drug and alcohol references, and more importantly, potential copyright issues with certain musical numbers. But there is still hope: firstly, Earthbound has its fair share of animal abuse, drug and alcohol references, prostitutes, drug dealers and musical copyrights as well, and Nintendo never had a problem releasing it 21 years ago on the Super NES, and later on the Wii U. Secondly, a batch of Gameboy Advanced games began popping up on the Wii U Virtual console in 2015, and obviously Mother3 is on the GBA. Considering the addition of Lucas in Super Smash along with his very own amiibo, and the fact that Earthbound was in the top 10 on the Wii U eShop for a very long time, I see no reason why they shouldn’t localize the game. Oh, and did I mention that the 20 year anniversary of Mother 3 is later this year?

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2. Metroid Prime: Federation Force is delayed and retitled 

Next Level Games have made a name for themselves over the past decade after working closely with Nintendo on numerous critically acclaimed and commercially successful titles. The independent video game developer based in Vancouver, British Columbia is best known for its work with Nintendo, having wowed us with Punch-Out!! for the Wii and Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon for the 3DS. Dark Moon proved that Mario’s younger brother was far from irrelevant, while Punch Out brought back the biggest names in boxing after a 15-year hiatus. Last year I predicted that the developers would announce a Metroid title and I was right. Unfortunately, that game ended up being Metroid Prime: Federation Force, which was met with a massive backlash that eventually led to a petition to cancel the release of the upcoming 3DS title. I didn’t share the Internet’s knee-jerk rejection of the game, but I have to admit that I’m not at all interested in playing this game, much less buying it. And clearly I am not alone. I predict that while Federation Force is set for release in 2016, it will be delayed and eventually have the word “Metroid” removed from its title.

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3. Amiibo to work on mobile phones

Companies like Activision and Disney have enjoyed massive success with their respective toys-to-life offerings, Skylanders and Disney Infinity. Activision noted that their franchise had crossed $2 billion in worldwide sales – an impressive feat for an independent publisher. The first edition of Disney Infinity alone, has generated over $500 million, and that was before the release of their future editions, which reportedly outsold the inaugural set. There were some questions of whether the market would be too crowded for Nintendo to make an impact when it launched Amiibo alongside Super Smash Bros., but those concerns were crushed when Nintendo released the numbers for the third-quarter of its fiscal year and revealed that the company sold 5.7 million amiibo worldwide. Since then the line of Amiibo figures have generated 204.1 billion yen (about $1.7 billion in USD), with 71% of the sales generated outside of Japan, accounting for about 1.2 billion dollars. Needless to say, Nintendo isn’t slowing down in producing more amiibo. However, the company has yet to release a game outside of Smash and Super Mario Maker that takes advantage of the majority of these pricey interactive figures. My guess is that Nintendo is going to release a mobile game that somehow incorporates amiibo. Since the figures use a common technology protocol, NFC (near field communication) — the same technology that is already built into most modern iPhones, Androids, and Windows Phones — it is more than possible for Nintendo to do this. And if we know anything about Nintendo, they are always thinking far ahead. Chances are they already had the idea to bring amiibo to mobile games even before they announced their partnership with DeNA. Amiibo could be a major selling point for Nintendo games on your iPhone or Android, especially if they could be used to transfer data between Nintendo’s proprietary systems and your phone, and unlock bonus material and maybe even free games.

Miitomo

4. The next three DENA mobile games

With their recently announced partnership with DeNA, Nintendo has made it clear that their first two smartphone and tablet games are due out before the end of the year. I don’t expect Nintendo to focus too much attention on this new partnership, but I do anticipate the announcement of their next three titles by March. The question is which games or franchises might be headed to smart devices. Miitomo didn’t exactly impress anyone. I mean seriously, who wants a social networking game, but for Miis? And while it might not matter much what fans think, the reaction among investors has been extremely negative. Clearly Nintendo has a strategy though, and they will somehow tie Miimoto and Nintendo consoles together, and so I can’t help but think they are saving the best for last. Don’t expect to see a Super Mario endless runner or a side-scrolling platformer much like Super Kitty. If I had to place a bet on which franchises they choose, I would put my money on a mobile version of Wario Ware (without the Wario Ware branding) and a new sequel to Brain Age — all games that would easily work on a mobile device without the need of a controller.

metroid wii u

5. Retro Studios / Metroid

There were rumors flying about in 2015 that Retro Studios were working on Diddy Kong Racing 2 with Monster Games, but those same rumours also promised it would be shown at last year’s E3 as well, and it never was. Discussion of a Wii U Metroid game started with tweets stating that the developer is working on “a Wii U game with a new engine,” and job postings on the developer’s website last year indicated that they are indeed working on something. Since Retro Studios was responsible for the popular first-person shooter iterations of the sci-fi epic, it wouldn’t be at all surprising for the Big N to hand the reigns back over to the Texas-based studio. We know a Metroid game is eventually coming, but I think the bigger question is what sort of Metroid game will we get? Metroid: Other M failed to reach the critical and commercial success of the Prime trilogy, so going back to what didn’t work with the franchise doesn’t make much sense. When Samus does indeed return, I think she will return in a first-person shooter exclusive to the NX. And seeing as Metroid is also celebrating its 30 year anniversary this year on August 31st, I have a feeling we will see the first footage of the game during E3. However, it won’t be released until late 2017.

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6. Additional Star Fox amiibo

Star Fox Zero was originally scheduled for release on the Wii U in November 2015 but was eventually delayed to April 2016 to allow for more development time. I believe there are two reasons for the delay of the sixth installment in the Star Fox series. First, I’m pretty sure Shigeru Miyamoto wanted to do some additional work on the controls, which many people complained about when testing out the game at various conventions last year. But I also believe that the delay gives time for Nintendo to develop a new line of additional amiibo, designed specifically for the game in mind. Expect an amiibo for both Peppy and Slippy to launch alongside Star Fox Zero in April. That said, don’t expect much from these amiibo. Miyamoto has already gone on record to say that he is against blocking off content for gamers who may not own, nor want to buy any of the figures. “In terms of being able to unlock content,” Miyomoto said, “I don’t really want to go down that path. For this game, I think of it more as, for people who have the Amiibo, they’re going to get a little something extra and that’s how I’m planning on it with this game. So rather than actual abilities or things like that changing in the game, it would be like getting a different skin for the Arwing or something like that.”

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7. Legend Of Zelda is the Wii U’s swan song but Nintendo won’t admit it.

Zelda U will finally be released in November for WiiU and for the NX later in 2017 but Nintendo won’t mention that they will release in on the NX anytime in 2016. Even though the NX is the future of the company, they don’t want owners of the Wii U to feel like they were robbed and bought a console that Nintendo basically gave up on. Nintendo is also proud of the Wii U, and they should be, and so I doubt they’ll want to turn their back on it so soon. I believe 2016 is all about the Wii U and Nintendo is going to end on a high note before rolling out a new system.

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8. More and more Pokémon accessories and games on the way.

2016 will be the year of Pokémon, which makes sense since the billion dollar franchise is also celebrating a big anniversary this year. Not only is Nintendo releasing Pokkén Tournament, an arcade fighting game developed by Bandai Namco that combines gameplay elements from Bandai Namco’s Tekken series with characters from the Pokémon franchise, but they are also releasing Pokémon GO, a mobile game for iOS and Android that allows players to interact with virtual Pokémon in the physical world around them. The concept of the Pokémon GO is to play the game wherever and whenever the player wants. There will even be a supporting accessory that the player should have when playing the game called the Pokémon Go Plus that acts as a wristwatch-like device and runs via Bluetooth signal to detect Pokémon around. Even the original base set of Pokémon trading cards are supposedly getting re-released later in the year. I believe we will get even more Pokémon-related products before the year is over including amiibo, trading cards to be used with a new Pokémon game (perhaps Pokémon Z), and amiibo figures for Pokkén Tournament, much like those released for Super Smash Wii U.

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9. We will see a glimpse of the NX but Nintendo won’t release too much info to the general public 

The Wii U is selling much better now than its first couple years on the market, and while it isn’t reaching the heights of the Wii, Nintendo has at least made a profit from it. Still, Nintendo needs a change, and they need to make that change sooner than later. Despite what many people are saying, I believe Nintendo will give us a brief tease of what the NX is at E3, but I don’t think we will have detailed information until late 2016, after Zelda Wii U is released. As I mentioned above, 2016 is all about the Wii U, and while I would love to own the NX as soon as possible, that doesn’t seem likely. Nintendo will share whatever info it needs to share with third-party developers and investors, but they won’t let the fans in on too many secrets until they are sure it is ready to launch. I do, however, think they will officially announce the name of the next console, and the NX will be a thing of history. The decision to dub the Wii’s successor as the Wii U confused many customers who assumed Nintendo’s new hardware was the same machine, only with tablet added on. This time around, Nintendo will choose wisely and pick a name that most people will not only like, but recognize.

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10. More Wii U games not yet confirmed for release will be released in 2016

I know many people believe that Nintendo will save all of their big future game releases for the NX, even if the games are finished and ready to be shipped out. I, however, am not in agreement with this. Nintendo is a company that takes pride in what they do, and they are proud of the Wii U, regardless of sales. Nintendo realizes that in terms of sales and marketing, the Wii U has pretty much been a disaster, but they worked hard on both the hardware and software for the system, so I don’t see them holding back or delaying any games that were meant for it. I also believe the that the NX will somehow be backwards compatible. In fact, I think the NX is going to somehow connect both the Wii U and the 3DS and have a virtual library that contains all of Nintendo’s hits from the past. All that to say that Project Guard and Pikmin 4 will be released before the year is over.

  • Ricky D

Some people take my heart, others take my shoes, and some take me home. I write, I blog, I podcast, I edit, and I design websites. Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Goomba Stomp and the NXpress Nintendo Podcast. Former Editor-In-Chief of Sound On Sight, and host of several podcasts including the Game of Thrones and Walking Dead podcasts, as well as the Sound On Sight and Sordid Cinema shows. There is nothing I like more than basketball, travelling, and animals. You can find me online writing about anime, TV, movies, games and so much more.

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Game Reviews

‘Woven’ Review: Comfortably Soft and Lumpy

Despite those blurry visuals and stilted gameplay, there’s something endearing about this innocent elephant’s adventure.

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With a sincere warmth and fuzziness that conjures up dreamy recollections of 3D games gone by, Alterego Games’Woven mostly overcomes its blurry visuals and technical jankery to somehow create a pleasant, old-fashioned experience. Those excited by modern gaming probably won’t give this lovable hand-me-down a second look, and perhaps they shouldn’t; extremely simple actions and soothing narration support a fairy tale quality that’s probably best suited to younger players. However, anyone willing to look past the well-worn exterior in search of a relaxing break from stressful button pushing may squeeze more fun out of this familiar stuffed toy than they might originally expect.

Woven tasks players with taking control of a meandering patchwork elephant named Stuffy, and guiding him through a sparsely populated knitted world that seems to have met an untimely demise. Because Stuffy has cotton for brains, he is assisted on this journey by a much smarter metal firefly named Glitch (a reference to his role in this story?), who floats alongside the curious-but-clumsy plush toy and provides hints as to how he can use his various abilities. Together, this odd couple will traverse open plains blanketed with colorful yarn grass, maneuver around impassable felt trees and plants, and hopefully discover the secret of where Stuffy’s clueless kin have all gone.

Along the way, the duo will walk great distances (often without much event), solve the occasional environmental puzzle, and generally just keep on keepin’ on.Woven is mostly straightforward in its campaign, merely about getting from point A to B by whatever means the path requires. Most often this involves finding new blueprints that allow players to change Stuffy’s design from an elephant into a wide variety of other animal shapes, each with a set of abilities that come with a new set of arms, legs, and a head. For instance, while the stocky (and adorable) bear can push plush boulders and perform a mighty stomp, the goat and frog can both use their legs to hop, while the kitty cat is able to push buttons on rusted consoles that activate dormant machinery.

However, these abilities are usually only able to activate when context-sensitive prompts from Glitch appear, so don’t expect some sort of platforming freedom. Woven handles a bit clumsily in that regard and others; strolling is definitely the order of the day, as long as Stuffy doesn’t get hung up on the geometry.

But these actions do help provide variety; a tropical bird of some sort (toucan, maybe?) can sing certain notes, while a pelican-thing can fly (sort of) over land and shallow water with great speed. And so, it often becomes necessary in Woven to alter Stuffy’s look with a total reweave. These designs can be applied at various sewing machine-like stations scattered about, which go a step further than just swapping Stuffy the deer for Stuffy the ape. Each blueprint is comprised of five parts, allowing for players to create a Frankenstein Stuffy made up of all the best abilities the player has on hand (or cushioned paw). By mixing certain sets, Stuffy will soon be able to scale mountainside crags, cross piranha-filled rivers, and pick up industrial cogs without the need to make a pit stop and bust out new needle and thread.

Some truly hilarious (or horrifying, depending on your sensibilities) aberrations can be created; seeing Stuffy hobble on hooves as he flaps a wing on one side and swings a muscular gorilla arm on the other, all with the head of a squirrel, is freakishly entertaining. In addition, for those who like to wander off the beaten path, there are a plethora of knitting patterns to discover, tucked away in both obvious and devious locations (and denizens). These cosmetic enhancements can also be applied at the sewing stations, essentially giving players seemingly endless amounts of customization. And these aesthetic changes even get in on the puzzle act every once in a while, especially when a pesky cobra shows up.

But outside the odd ‘connect the power line’ or ‘raise and lower platforms’ objectives, Woven doesn’t throw much at players that even young children shouldn’t be able to handle — and that seems to be the aim. Stuffy’s adventure lives or dies on its wholesome and serene vibe, which players either buy into or they don’t. There’s no combat here, very little to actually do outside hunting down those patterns, illuminating some painted caves, and activating some of Glitch’s ‘memories’ contained by machines hidden in the soft folds. Ongoing narration is pleasant to the ears, often conveying old-fashioned morals and cutesy jokes, but there’s no more story than in a classic fable.

And make no mistake — though the world is certainly bright and cheerful, it’s also quite fuzzy around the edges. The tactile nature of the cloth textures is lessened greatly by the low definition (at least on the Switch version), eliciting memories of the Wii-era. An increased crispness would have really made the world of Woven pop off the screen, perhaps luring in a larger audience who have become accustomed to such. There is still plenty of charm, but it feels like a missed chance at that true magical feeling the game seems to be shooting for.

Other stumbles come when certain worlds try to open up a bit more, which might lead a younger audience to get frustrated by the lack of direction (especially when they keep getting hung up on that geometry!); Woven definitely works better when it’s casually guiding players along, letting gamers of all ages envelop themselves in the easygoing atmosphere instead of requiring tedious backtracking. There’s just something nice about sitting back and relaxing to hummable music, watching the roly-poly amble of a stuffed kangaroo.

Woven will not be for everyone; those who play for challenge or eye candy won’t find either here. And yet, despite those blurry visuals and stilted gameplay, there’s something endearing about this innocent elephant’s adventure. Woven certainly has its share of lumpiness, but somehow remains cozy regardless.

‘Woven’ is available on PC, Xbox One, PS4, and Switch (Reviewed on Switch).

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Game Reviews

‘Destiny 2: Shadowkeep’ Review: Moon’s Haunted but Still Shines

‘Destiny 2: Shadowkeep’ returns to a familiar destination but Bungie is reworking Destiny with each expansion and Shadowkeep is no exception.

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Destiny 2 Shadowkeep Review

Destiny 2: Shadowkeep may be a return to a familiar destination, the Moon, but Bungie continues the trend of reworking Destiny with each new expansion, and Shadowkeep is no exception. Replete with a reworked season pass system, progression systems, customization options, sandbox re-tuning and quest interface, Shadowkeep is both a welcome iteration and extension of the existing Destiny 2 experience offering more RPG-esque player agency than Destiny has ever seen before. While the game is still haunted by some overly familiar issues, Shadowkeep is a welcome expansion and a promising start to the third year of Destiny 2.

Old Haunting Grounds

The Moon isn’t the only familiar face in Shadowkeep. Keeping with tradition, Eris Morn has returned from a long absence for another dark, lunar expansion (the first being D1′s The Dark Below when the character was first introduced) as she investigates a disturbance deep within the Moon. Quite literally haunted by the past, Eris has called upon the Guardians to assist her in finding the source of the phantoms plaguing the Moon and vanquishing “Nightmare” versions of familiar visages from the past.

All is not entirely as old players might remember. An immense hive structure, the Scarlet Keep, now overshadows previously unexplored territory on the Lunar surface. New Lost Sectors hide in the depths of the Moon, and new secrets a la the Dreadnaught or the Dreaming City lie waiting to be discovered by inquisitive players. And at the very center of the expansion an ancient, unknown threat lies in wait, an ominous foreshadowing of the trials ahead.

While the expansion does a decent job ensuring the familiar haunts don’t feel overly recycled, it’s hard to say Shadowkeep makes the most of the Moon. The campaign opens on such a high note as players storm the moon in an unexpectedly matchmade sequence before individual Fireteams independently uncover an unanticipated twist that absolutely shatters expectation. Unfortunately, the narrative quickly devolves into uninteresting fetch quests that fail to live up to the intrigue of the initial mission nor live up to the narrative heights of some of the most memorable missions the Moon previously housed including fan favorites The Sword of Crota and Lost to Light to name a few. That’s tough company to keep, and Shadowkeep fails to measure up.

Similarly, a bit of that intrigue is reintroduced in Shadowkeep‘s final mission, but, like the campaign as a whole, it’s over before the player knows it and fails to live up to the precedent set by previous, lengthier campaign conclusions. More mileage is gotten out of the narrative and destination in the post-game in the way of a new weapon farming system, a new activity known as Nightmare hunts that play like mini Strikes, and a Strike proper, but that does little to alleviate the disappointment of an overly terse campaign that reads like a teaser for what’s to come over a distinct, fleshed-out story.

A New Era, a New Season

Part of that is presumably courtesy of a shift in Bungie’s approach to content releases. While the previous expansion, Forsaken, similarly opted for procedurally released content over the course of the season, Bungie has doubled down on that strategy with Shadowkeep ensuring there’s something new to be experienced each week that players sign in. While certain activities have alway arrived post-launch including raids, dungeons, and exotic weapon pursuits, Shadowkeep and its “Season of the Undying” has seen new PvE and PvP activities launched after the expansion’s initial drop, adding to an already lengthy list of Destiny to-dos.

Central to the season is the new PvE, matchmade activity, the Vex Offensive, which pits six players against waves of Vex combatants paired and features some minor puzzle elements, all for the sake of earning a series of weapons exclusive to the mode. While the Black Garden locale of the mode is certainly eye-catching, the Offensive, with its recycled mechanics and familiar enemies, doesn’t leave much of an impression beyond that. It might pale in comparison to activities introduced in past seasons (like Warmind‘s Escalation Protocol, or last season’s Menagerie), but is intentionally terse, intended to match this new seasonal philosophy, and will be removed from the game after Season of the Undying (though the exclusive arsenal will still be available in the loot pool obtainable through undisclosed means). Like the Vex themselves, the Vex Offensive might not seem like much independently, but collectively is a piece of a greater whole challenging and rewarding players for participating within the specific season.

Bungie is further defining each season with the inclusion of a seasonal artifact and a season pass system. The artifact, again only available for the season, offers players an avenue for additional, limitless Power gains while also offering unlockable gameplay mods encouraging players to utilize specific classes and builds. The Oppressive Darkness mod, for example, debuffs enemies hit by void grenades, encouraging players to construct discipline-oriented, void builds. Another mod, Thunder Coil, increases the power of arc melee attacks by fifty percent, giving all new life to the Hunter’s Arcstrider subclass. Meanwhile, the season pass operates similar to that of Fortnite or any number of games and replaces the previous cosmetic only level up system of Destiny 2‘s past. From the season’s outset, any and all experience goes toward unlocking rewards from the pass including new armor, armor ornaments, exclusive weapons and exotics, and engrams. The experience requirement for each level is static, meaning progress is fair and steady throughout and never feels throttled. Both seasonal systems are fantastic new additions that reward players for playing the game while making experience gains more purposeful than any other time in Destiny‘s endgame.

New Duds to Boot

Shadowkeep also marks the debut of Armor 2.0, a new system that allows players more agency in character customization than ever before. Whereas armor previously rolled with random perks and a roll of only three stats (Mobility, Recovery, and Resilience), Armor 2.0 comes with no perks and six stats as Destiny 1‘s Intellect, Discipline, and Strength (determining the charge rates of player’s super, grenade, and melee abilities) make their triumphant return. Instead, Armor 2.0 has slots for modifiers so players can pick and choose whatever perks they want just as long as they’ve unlocked those mods. Mods are acquired from most activities, while enhanced mods (better versions of certain traditional mods) are exclusive to some of the game’s more challenging content. While the grind for mods seems excessive in the face of the rest of the game’s grind, it’s a one-time affair, some of the best mods are unlocked via the seasonal artifact, and the payoff is astounding, providing customization like never before.

Convoluting the process, unfortunately, is a messy elemental affinity system where certain mods can only be slotted into armor of a matching elemental type. Mods relating to pulse rifles, for example, are exclusive to Arc armor, so a piece perfectly rolled to a pulse-rifle-inclined player’s preference with a solar affinity won’t do them any good if they were hoping for pulse rifle perks. It was undoubtedly an intentional design decision to generate an arbitrary grind since players won’t need to chase armor with perfect perks any longer but is ultimately a mar on the face of an otherwise pretty great new system.

Convoluting the process, unfortunately, is a messy elemental affinity system where certain mods can only be slotted into armor of a matching elemental type. Mods relating to pulse rifles, for example, are exclusive to Arc armor, so a piece perfectly rolled to a pulse-rifle-inclined player’s preference with a solar affinity won’t do them any good if they were hoping for pulse rifle perks. It was undoubtedly an intentional design decision to generate an arbitrary grind since players won’t need to chase armor with perfect perks any longer but is ultimately a mar on the face of an otherwise pretty great new system.

Axe to Grind

Speaking to the grind, Destiny has often struggled and failed to find the perfect balance of meaningful power climb and tedious grinds recycling the same old activities. Luckily, at the outset of the climb towards max power, Shadowkeep strikes a much better balance centered on beloved ritual and new and or seasonal activities. Power drops now operate on a clearly labeled, tiered system, incentivizing players to prioritize new or challenging activities for maximum gains. Ritual activities (Strikes, Crucible, and Gambit), though tier one, retain their relevance by offering multiple weekly powerful drops for match completions, vendor bounties completed, and rank progression. Previous, otherwise irrelevant avenues towards power have been retired, but this is a welcome reduction and there is no shortage of powerful drops in the climb to max power. That isn’t to say that the grind couldn’t be shorter ensuring more players can participate in endgame activities when they first arrive, but progression generally feels smoother than any time in Destiny‘s past.

Conversely, content flow might overwhelm casual and even dedicated players as there’s simply too much to do and grind for players tight on time. Bungie now considers Destiny and MMO with proper RPG mechanics, and, in terms of time commitment, that really shows with Shadowkeep. On a certain week, a player might have an accomplished week in-game after sinking only three to five hours into the game. Other weeks the game seems to demand closer to the ten to twenty-hour range. One week, for example, saw the release of the new dungeon, a new Crucible game mode, an exotic quest, a new public event, and the start of the Festival of the Lost, a limited time, Halloween event. That’s simply too much, feels like poor pacing, and favors streamers, Destiny content creators, and hardcore players for whom Destiny is their exclusive hobby, a burgeoning theme with Season of the Undying. While it’s certainly exciting that there’s always something to do in D2, it doesn’t seem true to the game’s roots as a hybrid, a shooter with MMO elements, that could be taken at a more casual pace but still offered an engaging endgame for the dedicated audience. Now, there’s only an endgame with no end in sight.

A Better Destiny Awaits

That’s not necessarily a bad thing for players who want to pay a minimal price for seemingly unending content, and in that regard, Shadowkeep is a steal. A sensational new raid (minus some finicky new mechanics), a foreboding dungeon, an immense new arsenal to grind for, and a better tuned PvP and PvE sandbox in which to enjoy them mean Shadowkeep will keep Guardians’ attention the whole season long and is an excellent proof of concept for the seasonal structure going forward. If Bungie can keep this pace up, year three of Destiny 2 could easily be the best year in franchise history. As a general caution though, Destiny 2 now clearly caters to the hardcore, requires MMO levels of commitment, and is best enjoyed with a regular group; casual, time-restricted, and solo players beware. It might not be the best single expansion release in franchise history (that’s still a toss-up between The Taken King and Forsaken), but, beginning with Destiny 2: Shadowkeep, the third year of D2 is the closest the tumultuous title has ever come to Bungie’s ambitious vision for the shared-world shooter and the game fans have been waiting for these past five years.

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What Are Some of the Switch’s Best Indie Devs Making?

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The Nintendo Switch has quickly become the preferred platform for some of the most talented indie studios in the industry. Its pick-up-and-play form factor and Nintendo’s concerted effort to court smaller developers this generation (complete with indie-specific Directs) has resulted in a library that’s positively flourished.

Despite the eShop falling victim to some of the discoverability and shovelware issues that long plagued Steam, there have been some real standouts over the years. Since video games take quite a while to produce, there’s often speculation as to what some of the premier developers have been working on. Let’s take a look at four of the most recognized indie studios on the platform and have some fun trying to figure out what they might be up to.


Sidebar Games

It’s hard to believe that 2017’s Golf Story was Sidebar Games’ first project as a studio. The two-man team from down under balanced a delightful dose of Australian-tinged humor with clear callbacks to the Mario sports games of old to deliver one of the best Switch exclusives in 2017, bar none.

Unlike the other studios on this list, Sidebar has been extremely silent on development progress; we can only glean bits and pieces from the few interviews they’ve done. We know the game has been in development for roughly two years and that Sidebar was still in active development as of March 2019 when they put out the call for a pixel artist for their next project. There’s also a fair chance that the new game will either be Switch-exclusive or target Switch first, seeing as how Golf Story is still one of the Switch’s top 10 best-selling indie games to date as of Spring 2019. If exclusivity worked so well the first time, why not try it again?

What Can We Expect?

Whatever Sidebar is working on, it’s almost guaranteed to be single-player and story-focused. One half of the dev team, Andrew, has gone on record multiple times saying that he’s “very partial to story modes.” This also players into one of their strengths; though there was a great time to be had with Golf Story’s golf, it was all elevated by the game’s ridiculous-yet-lovable characters and wacky situational humor.

Since the team has already deconfirmed a sequel as their next project, there’s really not much to go on. While I’d personally love them to tackle something Mario Tennis-inspired next, there’s a good chance they’ll avoid sports altogether. As long as the wit found in Golf Story is alive and well, though, their core audience is sure to be interested.


Fabraz

Despite being incredibly simple from a visual standpoint, the deceivingly charming Slime-San is still one of the best platformers to come out in recent memory. The game’s striking three-color art style isn’t just unique, but it’s also ingrained into the platforming mechanics in inventive ways. Beyond having a look all its own and a stiff challenge for players who wanted it, however, Fabraz went the extra mile to build a fun cast of characters and even a hub world to explore outside of the main game. It was a pleasant surprise from a relatively unknown developer at the time.

Fabraz has been anything but complacent since Slime-san’s launch. The studio released two free content expansions, ported the game to other consoles, and even got into the publishing business. No matter their other ventures, however, the team has made sure to tease their next project every so often since the start of 2019.

What Can We Expect?

Fabraz speculated that their new game was already roughly 60% complete at the start of October. Since it only began production in December of 2018, it’s safe to assume that the next game will be relatively small in scope. It’s also likely that Fabraz’s next outing won’t be “Slime-san 2,” since the original game received such heavy content additions months after release (including an expansion literally titled “Sheeple’s Sequel.” The team certainly knows how to make magic from very limited resources, so it’ll be interesting to see what they can do with a bit more of a budget, a new art style, and tons more experience.


Game Atelier/FDG Entertainment

It feels like Monster Boy and the Cursed Kingdom came out of nowhere. The team at FDG Entertainment had published indie darling Blossom Tales: The Sleeping King just the year prior and the console port of Oceanhorn before that, but there wasn’t much talk about FDG’s capabilities as a developer. As it turns out, however, Game Atelier’s choice to bring them on as a co-developer was the best thing that could’ve possibly happened to Monster Boy. Five long years of development later and fans were treated to one of the best platformers in recent memory.

Though it launched on all consoles, Monster Boy famously sold eight times more on Switch than PS4 and Xbox One combined, reminiscent of the sales of Blossom Tales on Switch. Needless to say, FDG’s next title will be targeted squarely as the Nintendo community. But what could that next project be?

What Can We Expect?

A Monster Boy sequel. FDG recently celebrated their collaboration with Game Atelier on Twitter and announced that they’re collaborating once more. The commercial and critical success of Monster Boy can only lead one to believe they’re hard at work on a follow-up together. Thankfully, with such a solid base to work off of now, this one shouldn’t take nearly as long to release.


Chucklefish

Chucklefish has garnered a great deal of respect in the indie community as both a developer (Starbound, WarGroove) and frequent publisher (Stardew Valley, Timespinner, the upcoming Eastward, and others). Their eagerness to bring so many of their top-notch titles to Switch has made them one of–if not the–most lauded indie studios on the platform. If it’s coming from Chucklefish, there’s a good chance it’ll be of the highest quality.

What Can We Expect?

Witchbrook! Chucklefish announced the game way back in 2017 and instantly had both Harry Potter and Little Witch Academia fans foaming at the mouth. It’s a magical school simulation/RPG where players will attend class, learn spells, make friends, date, and work towards graduation. The company’s CEO and lead designer, Finn, has been incredibly open about the game’s development from the beginning. In fact, he made the ever-changing Witchbrook design document public in August of 2019 to give some insight into the game design and planning process.

Since there’s already so much we know about where the game’s going, this is going to be used as more of a “Hopes for Witchbrook” section. To keep it short, let’s focus on two of the game’s most make-or-break elements: dating and world-building.

Dating

One of the things many RPGs struggle with is making dating feel meaningful after the relationship starts. People love romancing in Stardew Valley, but the experience itself is really rather shallow; bring characters their favorite items, talk to them daily, experience a few touching cutscenes and voila! All that’s left is to put a ring on it and have a baby.

My hope is that in Witchbrook, the real fun starts after the relationship begins. Being able to have lunch together, go to festivals, celebrate anniversaries, plan outings, and even introduce them to the player’s in-game friends would go a long way in making the relationship feel more than a ribbon to be crossed.

World-Building

When someone asks the seminal question “What fictional world would you love to live in?” the world of Harry Potter almost always tops to list (right next to Pokémon, that is). It isn’t just because of magic itself or the emotional ties people have to the cast, but more so because of the immense amounts of personality and lore J.K. Rowling infused into the world. From the dark history of Hogwarts to the vast array of magical beasts to the establishment of Quidditch, there is a whole movie and video game series that has been created based on mere slices of the Harry Potter universe.

Naturally, it’d be silly to expect Chucklefish to achieve as much depth in an indie project as one of the most successful authors of all time did over the course of seven books, but there’s still plenty of potential. Since the game will primarily take place at the school, exploring why the school was created and how it’s changed over the years could be quite interesting. Then there’s how different populations of the world at large feel about magic, how various magical species play a part, the favorite magic-imbued pastimes of students in the world of Witchbrook, and so on. The key will be to infuse magic into every element of the world (and gameplay) as naturally as possible. And after reading through the extensive design doc, I’ve no doubt Chucklefish will be able to pull it off.


The indie scene on the Switch is thriving more than ever. New talented developers are making the platform their home every day, and those who’ve already proved themselves are hard at work on their next premium experience. The next wave of releases from these studios can’t come soon enough.

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