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Sony, You Can’t Protect Your Users

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Sony

Sony’s recent comments regarding cross-platform play and backwards compatibility are a slap in the face to PS4 owners. First, global sales chief Jim Ryan told Time that “[older games] looked ancient, like why would anybody play this?” when asked about backward compatibility for the console. Now, after the announcement that Minecraft and Rocket League will only have cross-play between PC, Xbox One, and Nintendo Switch, Ryan responded to public concern in a short interview with Eurogamer where he said, “Exposing what in many cases are children to external influences we have no ability to manage or look after, it’s something we have to think about very carefully.”

In short, Sony’s response to strict cross-play policies is that they have a duty to protect their users from the communities they are a part of—which is odd considering both Final Fantasy XIV and Phantasy Star Online 2 have cross-play between the PlayStation 4 and PC, not to mention PSO2 is also available on the Vita. To anyone slightly familiar with the video game community and the industry, this statement and the previous one regarding backward compatibility showcase Sony’s lack of touch with its own public.

For starters, I would like to address the controversy surrounding backward compatibility. It’s difficult to deny that retro games, as well as remakes of the same and retro-inspired indie games, are popular. Gamers, both young and old, want to learn video game history through classics or feel nostalgic by replaying the games they grew up with. That’s one of the reasons why Undertale was one of the most popular games of 2015, or why Yooka-Laylee was highly anticipated. Nintendo proved with the virtual console that consumers want to be able to play old games on modern consoles. Or better yet, that they are willing to spend money on a console re-release such as the NES Classic. And finally, to put that argument to rest once and for all, Microsoft has been working on bringing Xbox 360 games to the Xbox One through backward compatibility for a while now. On top of that, they have recently announced Xbox One owners will be able to play their original Xbox games (yes, the console from 2001) on the current generation hardware.

Rocket League

Now, to the matter at hand, Jim Ryan’s words to Eurogamer are ambiguous. While he says cross-play for Minecraft isn’t going to happen because “[Sony] have a contract with the people who go online with us, that we look after them and they are within the PlayStation curated universe,” his later answers seem to put the possibility of cross-platform multiplayer at the developers’ hands. When asked by Wesley Yin-Poole if this stance on cross-play was a “done deal,” Ryan said ” I don’t think anything is ever a done deal. […] That said, to my knowledge, there is no live conversation ongoing at the moment.”

Whether Sony is deliberately nitpicking cross-play because of what it thinks is best or if this feature is genuinely the developers’ responsibility, the fact that the PlayStation 4 isn’t included on the list for Minecraft and Rocket League is concerning to the community.

Cross-play is not a marketing ploy. It isn’t a business model bent on wringing money from players, a season pass, or a poorly priced cosmetic DLC. Cross-play is a fundamental feature thought out for the community that in turn benefits developers and publishers. It allows friends who don’t game on the same platforms to have fun together. It also unifies the overarching community, making people more prone to meet someone they connect with and giving them a reason to continue playing instead of returning their copy. Cross-play is one of the reasons why Final Fantasy XIV has been so successful, or why Final Fantasy XI has been alive for over a decade. Would either of those be as popular as they are today if their communities were divided by platform?

Released on May 31 to considerable success, Hover: Revolt of Gamers is a parkour sandbox heavily inspired by Jet Set Radio and Mirror’s Edge. It is currently only available on Steam, where it started as an Early Access title, but the developers have already confirmed that the game is coming to consoles including the Nintendo Switch. It is a fun game to play by yourself, but it’s even better when you’re connected to several other players also running missions and exploring the futuristic city together. Despite its connectivity problems and underdeveloped multiplayer features, Hover has a collection of quests that are better with other people.

Hover: Revolt of Gamers

Anyone currently playing Hover: Revolt of Gamers and hoping they will be able to play with their friends who don’t game on PC might be disappointed when the ports happen. On June 4 I noticed a thread on the game’s Steam discussions about the Nintendo Switch port. When I proposed cross-play, one of the developers answered: “[…] we don’t have the authorizations from Sony / Microsoft / Nintendo so we can’t make the multiplayer cross-platform even if our network technology [allows] it (but we are actively talking with them to try to make them accept).” It isn’t clear if the companies are complicating the feature or if Hover developers don’t fully understand how to proceed, but if Sony intentionally denies cross-play because it wants to protect its user base, then chances are Revolt of Gamers won’t be so popular on the PlayStation 4. As someone whose friends are mostly console gamers, I know they would rather purchase the Switch or Xbox One version instead of the limited PlayStation 4 one if it meant we could play together. This divide in the community is unnecessary and hurts developers and players alike.

The most absurd part of Jim Ryan’s statement is that Sony thinks it has a duty to protect its users—or that it can do that to any effect. Even Nintendo is conscious enough to notify buyers that online interactions are not its responsibility. Despite there being a system that actively punishes wrongdoers, no company is big enough to shield every user from external influences. That’s like a parent wanting to protect their child from the bad in the world. Spoiler alert: they can’t and shouldn’t. Kids have to understand that the world is a rough place and the most effective way to achieve that is by letting them live, meet people, and be disappointed.

Born and raised in Northeastern Brazil, Gabriel didn't grow up with video games as many of his colleagues did. However, his dedication and love for the industry make up for his late start in the gaming world.

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‘Coffee Talk’ Review: The Best Brew in Town

Coffee Talk is as quaint as your local coffee shop. It’s relatively short, wonderfully sweet, and absolutely committed to the art form of telling a story through a video game screen.

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It’s 9:00pm. The rain just started coming down softly a few minutes ago, and the street outside is reflecting the lights above it. Neon signs shine brightly in the distance, although it’s hard to make out the words. You unlock the doors to the coffee shop and wipe down the counters in order to get them clean for the customers. The rain makes a soft sound as it hits the glass and passerby speed up their walking pace to avoid it. The bells chime as a tall, green orc walks in and sits down at your table in silence. You wonder what their story is…

I wanted to set the tone for this review because of how important atmosphere and audio/visual design is in the world of Coffee Talk. While it’s easy to boil the game down as a visual novel-type experience, it’s honestly so much more than that. A unique cast of characters, incredible user interface, and a mysterious protagonist combine to form the most enjoyable experience I’ve had this year on Switch.

Coffee Talk
Some of the subject matter can be pretty serious in nature…

Coffee Talk is beautiful because of how simple it is. The entire game takes place within a single coffee shop. As the barista, you’re tasked with making drinks for the patrons of the shop as well as making conversations with them. The twist is that earth is populated with creatures like orcs, werewolves, and succubi. The relationship between the various races is handled very well throughout the story, and some interesting parallels are made to the real world.

Making drinks is as simple as putting together a combination of three ingredients and hitting the ‘Serve’ button. If a unique drink is made, it will be added to a recipe list that can be referenced on the barista’s cell phone. This is where the awesome user interface comes in, as the phone has a series of apps that can be accessed at any moment in the game. One app houses your recipe list, another acts as a facebook for the characters in the game, one allows you to switch between songs, and the other houses a series of short stories that one of the characters in the game writes as it progresses. It’s one of the coolest parts of the whole experience and helps it stand out from other games in the genre.

Coffee Talk is as quaint as your local coffee shop. It’s relatively short, wonderfully sweet, and absolutely committed to the art form of telling a story through a video game screen.

Coffee Talk cycles between talking with customers and making drinks for them. In the beginning, they will ask for basic beverages that can be brewed on the fly. Later on however, they may ask for a specific type of drink that has a unique title. These drinks often have certain descriptive features that hint at other possibilities in terms of unique dialogue. If the wrong drink is made, you’ll have five chances to trash it and make a new one. If the wrong drink is made, don’t expect the customer to be pleased about it.

The gameplay really is not the focus here though; it’s the characters and their stories that take center stage. An elf with relationship issues, a writer that can’t seem to pin down her next story, and an alien whose sole goal is to mate with an earthling are just a few of the examples of the characters you’ll meet during the story. There are tons of memorable moments throughout Coffee Talk, with every character bringing something unique to the table. The barista develops an interesting relationship with many of these characters as well.

Coffee Talk
Appearances can often be deceiving in this game.

Even though serving the wrong drinks can change some of the dialogue, don’t expect any sort of options or branching paths in terms of the story. It’s not that kind of experience; the story should simply be enjoyed for what it is. I found myself glued to the screen at the end of each of the in-game days, waiting to see what would happen in the morning. The first playthrough also doesn’t answer all of the game’s questions, as the second one is filled with all kinds of surprises that I won’t spoil here.


Coffee Talk is as quaint as your local coffee shop. It’s relatively short, wonderfully sweet, and absolutely committed to the art form of telling a story through a video game screen. It’s an easy recommendation for anyone who loves video games, not just visual novel fans. There are characters in the game that I’ll certainly be thinking about for a long time, especially when the setting brings out the best in them. Don’t pass this one up.

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The Magic of Nintendo: How Mario and Zelda Connect us to Our Inner Child

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Magic of Nintendo

Nintendo is special. Many excellent developers depend upon story or progression systems to entice engagement, but not Nintendo. Nintendo games captivate because of their immediate charm. There is no need for a payoff. The games, themselves, are enough: they elicit feelings, hard to find in adulthood. Through intrepid discovery, playful presentation, and unfiltered whimsy, the best of Nintendo connects gamers to their childlike selves.

The heart of any great Nintendo game is discovery and no encounter encapsulates this better than Breath of the Wild’s Eventide Island. First, finding the island requires genuine gumption. Found far from Hyrule’s shore, the island is only clearly visible from other islands, and even then, it’s only a speck in the distance. Reaching the island requires players to brave the open ocean and head towards something … that could be nothing. Then, upon arriving on the beach, a spirit takes all the player’s gear, including clothes and food. Link, literally, is left in his underwear. From there, players must make clever use of Link’s base skills in order to steal enemy weapons and make traps. The scenario creates a marvelous sense of self-sufficiency brought on by one’s own desire to discover. The player comes to the island purely of their own choosing, tackles the sea, and then overcomes obstacles without the aid of their strongest tools. The game turns players into plucky children who are discovering they can take care of themselves.

The intrepidity of Breath of the Wild and other Nintendo greats mirrors the feelings Shigeru Miyamoto, the father of many Nintendo franchises, experienced as a child. “I can still recall the kind of sensation I had when I was in a small river, and I was searching with my hands beneath a rock, and something hit my finger, and I noticed it was a fish,” Miyamoto told the New Yorker. “That’s something that I just can’t express in words. It’s such an unusual situation.” In sequences like Eventide Island, players don’t just understand what Miyamoto describes, they feel it: Apprehension gives way to exhilaration as the unknown becomes a place of play.

 Nintendo’s intrepid gameplay is often amplified by playful presentation with Super Mario World 2: Yoshi’s Island being the quintessential example. The game’s visuals, defined by pastel colors and simple hand-drawings, appear crayoned by a child while the celestial chimes that punctuate the jubilant soundtrack evoke shooting stars. The overall effect cannot be understated. It takes the surreal and turns it real, allowing players to interact, tangibly, with imagination.

Super Mario Odyssey Wooden Kingdom

Even if one removes the presentation and gameplay from Nintendo’s masterpieces, an unabashed creativity remains that bucks norm and convention. The arbiter is fun; reason and logic have no say. For instance, Super Mario Odyssey’s Wooded Kingdom, takes place in a post-apocalyptic setting akin to Nier Automata. Players explore the metal remnants of a civilization that has become a lush home to robotic beings. However, unlike Nier, the dark undertones of the past have no bearing on the game or those who inhabit its universe. The post-apocalyptic setting is just a fun backdrop. It’s as though a bunch of children got together, began playing with toys, and one of the kids brought along his sibling’s adult action figures. There is no attention paid to the context, only unfiltered imagination.

When they’re at their best the creators at Nintendo invite gamers to come and play, like a parent arranging a play date. Pulled along by joyful gameplay that expands in unforeseen ways, players desire to play for the sake of play. It’s a halcyon state of being: No messy thoughts or contradiction, just joy.

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Games

‘Kingdom Hearts III: Re:Mind’: An Utterly Shameless Cash Grab

Coming in at a $40 price point (!!!) Kingdom Hearts III: Re:Mind offers an 80% recycled campaign, a boss rush mode, and some other trash.

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Kingdom Hearts III: Re:Mind

In the 15 year long history of DLC, we have seen some really shameless displays. The notorious horse armor incident of 2006 and a notable day one DLC for the ending game of a trilogy notwithstanding, few companies have had the utter audacity to offer so little content for such a high price point. Enter Kingdom Hearts III: Re:Mind.

Coming in at a $40 price point (!!!) Kingdom Hearts III: Re:Mind offers an 80% recycled campaign, a boss rush mode, and some social media nonsense for people who really hate themselves. That’s really it, that’s what you get. Honestly, Square-Enix should be utterly embarrassed by this DLC.

It’s been one year: 365 days, 8760 hours, 525600 minutes, or 31556952 seconds, since the release of Kingdom Hearts III. Let that sink in as you begin the meat of Kingdom Hearts III: Re:Mind. Think of it as the extended version of a movie you really like… you know, the kind where they add 4 minutes to the 120 minute runtime.

Kingdom Hearts III: Re:Mind

Yes, Kingdom Hearts III: Re:Mind, really is that cynical. I’m not kidding when I tell you that the game literally starts with an exact cut scene from the base game, and a cut scene that happens to be available from the theater mode of the main game that you’ve already bought if you’re playing this DLC. Yes, the introduction to this new content is… content you’ve already seen.

In fact, that’s kind of the sticking point here: most of what you get for your hard-earned cash is footage you’ve already seen, and battles you’ve already fought, and story you’ve already experienced, just with slight alterations for context. Remember back in the 2000s, when we were super obsessed with prequels? This is like that, except even more egregious.

Generally I’m not so unforgiving as to call a company out for a forthright cash grab, but that’s absolutely what Kingdom Hearts III: Re:Mind is. There’s just no other way to put it. You might find someone in the marketing department for Square-Enix who would disagree, but being a company that has faced just these sort of allegations for their last two major releases, Square-Enix either doesn’t read the news, or doesn’t care what people think of their products.

Kingdom Hearts III: Re:Mind

Square-Enix was roundly accused of shipping unfinished products in the case of both Final Fantasy XV and Kingdom Hearts III — their two most high profile releases of the last decade. I personally gave mostly positive reviews of both games for this very website but if you want ammo to suggest that this company is deliberately trading on the nostalgia and passion of its fan base in order to make financial headway, there are few examples you could draw from that are as obvious as this DLC.

Look, maybe you’re a really big Kingdom Hearts fan. Maybe you just really wanted to know what the context was for that cliffhanger ending in Kingdom Hearts III. Maybe you just don’t do much research before you buy something. Or maybe… you just really trust this company for some reason.

Hey, I’m not judging… hell, I bought this DLC for $40 same as anyone else. I oughta be honest that I’m not reviewing Kingdom Hearts III: Re:Mind as some holier than thou critic, talking down to you from my position of privilege. No, I’m an angry consumer in this particular case. I’m a person who spent enough to replace a flat tire on my car, or buy my family dinner, on a game that is clearly playing off of my love for a franchise, and using it to bilk me out of money in a method that is so clear, and so concise, that those involved in the entire endeavor should be totally embarrassed for their part in the creation, marketing, pricing, and distribution of this expansion.

Kingdom Hearts III: Re:Mind

Yes, fans had their complaints about Kingdom Hearts III. “Where are the hardcore boss battles? Where are the Final Fantasy characters? Where are the secret areas? Where are the hidden plot developments?” Still, to address these particular complaints by hammering a few minutes or seconds here and there into already existing content is truly like spitting in the faces of the people who have built the house you’re living in.

I haven’t sat in the board rooms at Square-Enix and I haven’t been in email chains about the planning of projects at their company but what I can say is that there is something rotten in Denmark if this is what passes for a satisfying piece of content for the wildly devoted fans of a hugely popular franchise in 2020. Kingdom Hearts III: Re:Mind is literally, truthfully, and succinctly, the worst piece of DLC I’ve ever purchased.

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