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This Week in Gaming News: ‘Spider-Man’ Gets More Exciting, ‘No Man’s Sky’ Gets Less Terrible

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Here’s a thing: my girlfriend has the best WiFi speed I’ve ever experienced. She’s not a gamer, she doesn’t have a PC and she doesn’t even watch stupid shit on her mobile phone. Sometimes, my friends, there is just no sense to this world – but at least when I write this article in her flat, I get to do it using absolutely gorgeous broadband speeds, and she sometimes even makes me a latte while I’m doing it. If speedy WiFi and effort-free caffeine aren’t reasons to be in a relationship, then maybe I’m missing the point of relationships.

Spidey’s Not the Only One Tingling

Well thrust out your hand and cover me in sticky web, am I excited for this one! Remember all that Batman Arkham fatigue we all had when its tanky latest entry stumbled onto PS4 (and fell flat onto PC) a few years ago? Well, turns out all you need to do to remove that is basically make the same game and stick Spider-Man in it. Facetiousness aside, I’ve actually upgraded to first class seats on the hype train for this one.

Sony released a brilliant story trailer for Marvel’s Spider-Man this week. It had everything a story trailer should: tension and suspense, brief looks at all the characters, Easter eggs (possible shot of Kingpin in there methinks), humour, and a reserved attempt to avoid spoilers. In short, it’s brilliant and I have extremely high hopes for this one. That’s coming from someone who’s more of a fan of Spider-Man 2 on the GameCube than I am of actual Spider-Man, as I don’t even know who Silver Sable is. Don’t even care.

On top of the new trailer, Sony also unveiled one of the best and slickest console special editions I’ve ever seen, with its red Spider-Man PS4 Pro that will launch alongside the game. Hey, maybe they’ll even go back to using that Spider-Man font they lazily nicked for the original PS3 – there’s no better time to bring that out of the wilderness, right?

No Men’s Sky?

Loneliness and isolation are a pretty well-travelled staple in video games. Sci-fi games like the Metroid series practically hang their visor on that sense of hopelessness. The thing is, that loneliness and isolation, in real life, are actually pretty shit, so if you build a game that operates on that feeling for its entirety without ever giving the player a chance to overcome it and regain control then, well, you’ve basically made No Man’s Sky – a boring and pointless waste of everyone’s time.

Now that all the lying and overhyped marketing is in the past (hopefully), Hello Games have started reeling back the shit-eating grin of Sean Murray and are going about their business in a much more respectable way – slowly dragging the game towards what it probably should have been all along. A new trailer this week introduces No Man’s Sky NEXT – a multiplayer-centric update that will release on Tuesday.

Hello Games have boasted that the new mode will allow players to team up in a small group and engage in activities like planetary exploration, building, space combat, racing, and more. Random players will now also show up in your game world for you to interact with. By interact with I mean murder, obviously. One thing that became very apparent to me – as a non-player of the vanilla game – is that it looks decidedly less ugly than it did at launch. I mean, it actually looks quite pretty now, and that’s apparently thanks to a new terrain generation system which, according to Eurogamer, significantly improves rock and ground textures, water, clouds, foliage and lighting.

No Man’s Sky NEXT also sees the game finally release on Xbox One, meaning that it will likely end up with one of the biggest platform disparities Metacritic has ever seen. It begs the question, obviously, of why Hello Games felt it better to release the game in the state it did in 2016 to a reaction so negative that it questioned whether everything that had been promised about the game had been a lie all along. Had the game come out as it appears now, we could have been talking about one of the generation’s highlights. Publishers – stop rushing games to market, yeah?

Overwatch Actually Creates Uncynical DLC

Well fuck cancer with a rusty pole, Overwatch has actually gone and released some completely philanthropic and greed-free DLC. Dudes and dudettes, I think this might be the end of video games.

Back in May, Evil Corporate Overlords Blizzard released a “Pink Mercy” skin that was available as a direct $14.99 purchase, with 100% of proceeds going to the Breast Cancer Research Foundation. This week, they announced that the special skin had raised $12.7 million – the largest donation by a corporate partner in the 25-year history of the Breast Cancer Research Foundation. Take a ruddy bow, folks.

Gamesradar reports that in addition to money raised via sales of the “Pink Mercy” skin and “Pink Mercy” t-shirts, the Overwatch community donated an additional $103,000 across 14 Overwatch charity Twitch streams. It’s doubtless that video games can provide an escape and solitude for those suffering from illness – both mental and physical – and if engaging in those games can actually go towards helping to cure future illnesses at the same time, then this needs to happen on a much more regular scale. 

Microsoft Breaks Record (and hearts) for Underwhelming Announcements

Talk about giving with one hand and taking with…well, the same hand. Microsoft gave upcoming Gamescom attendees – myself included – a raging semi this week when they announced they would be bringing “All-new Xbox hardware” to the event, only to completely backtrack on that after everyone got way too excited. Nothing like putting out your own fire with piss, am I right?

Microsoft changed their wording from an exciting “all-new Xbox hardware and accessories” to a disappointing “new Xbox bundles and accessories” in less than 24 hours. Eurogamer speculates that the most likely outcome of this is the debut of the new Xbox Elite 2 controller that, well, isn’t really that exciting at all.

Gaming News Gamescom

“Oh man, I can’t wait to see that new Xbox controller. I’m so excited to feel that new D-pad, I think I’m gonna die!”

Still, Gamescom should have more news on upcoming Xbox titles like Ori and the Will of Wisps, Crackdown 3 (unless that game is completely dead at this point) and maybe even Gears of War 5, so make sure you check out Goomba Stomp’s (aka my) coverage of the event when it starts in Cologne, Germany on August 21st.

Nathan Fillion Really IS Drake 

I’m sure you’ve all seen this already, but if you haven’t then you need to take 15 minutes out of your day and watch Nathan Fillion absolutely nail the character we all thought was based on him in the first place. Director Allan Ungar unveiled a fantastic live-action Uncharted fan film this week with Fillion heading up the role of his namesake Nathan Drake – and he hits it out of the effin’ park.

The film is pure Uncharted – full of quips, cigars in Sully’s mouth, convoluted revelations of what stuff on old paper means, and even a shootout that apes the third-person camera of the game itself. It’s an unadulterated homage in its purest and most joyous form. It surely puts quite a bit of pressure on the upcoming official Uncharted movie which is set to star current Spider-Man Tom Holland in the role as a young Nathan Drake. I’m sure that won’t be shit – Uncharted is basically a movie turned into a video game anyway – so it must be very difficult to mess up, especially if they manage to make good on the rumour of Bryan Cranston playing Sully.

There’s little else to say about this fan film. Just watch and enjoy, and I’ll see you in seven.

Crotchety Englishman who spends hundreds of pounds on video game tattoos and Amiibo in equally wallet-crippling measure. Likes grammar a lot, but not as much as he likes ranting about the latest gaming news in his weekly column.

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Let’s Discuss the Revamped Sonic the Hedgehog Design

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The internet has breathed a collective sigh of relief following the release of a new trailer for the upcoming Sonic The Hedgehog movie. Some leaks a few weeks back that turned out to be correct showed the design that we see but the trailer shows a lot more of the new redesign of the world renowned video game character. The movie has been the subject of much attention-mostly negative- after the initial trailer was released six months ago. The first trailer (which initially announced a release date of November 2019) was incredibly poorly received due to the odd design choice for the titular character. With small eyes, a tiny snout and human teeth, the original design was weirdly realistic and resembled an odd humanoid rather than the blue cartoon hedgehog that we all know and love.

The first design for Sonic looked a bit like a child in a Sonic the Hedgehog suit. Creepy to say the least.

The new trailer shows off a brand new look for Sonic which is far more in sync with what we already know for the character. He is definitely an animated character, with the exaggerated features that he has always had in every other iteration. The movie itself still looks cheesy as hell but it looks like a tolerable, even kind of enjoyable sort of cheesy.  The controversy surrounding the terribly received first Sonic design has been so prolific that some even argued that the whole thing has been a marketing ploy and that the character was never meant to look as bad as he originally did. Whatever the case may be in terms of what went down behind the scenes of the Sonic the Hedgehog movie, it is clear that even if the film is terrible it will attract a substantial audience of people just curious as to how the whole thing is going to turn out. As a fan of Sonic since the 90’s when I was little, I’m probably going to be one of those people.

Sonic is now appropriately cute, fluffy and more in line with his usual style.

I’m still kind of hoping it can break the curse of the video game movie-like Detective Pikachu did- but alongside the aforementioned cheesiness, it looks like a pretty generic movie aimed at kids rather than diehard fans of the Sonic franchise. Flop or not, at least Sonic is looking far more adorable and less like he might murder you in your sleep. It also shows how the filmmakers were willing to listen to their audience and implement changes following feedback. Incredibly vocal feedback at that.

The comparison between the two designs shows just how much the animators have worked to create a brand new Sonic. Their hard work has certainly paid off.

Sonic the Hedgehog is due for theatrical release on February 14th, 2020.

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Anamanaguchi – [USA] (Album Review)

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Few acts boast such renown amongst uber-nerdy video game enthusiasts as Anamanaguchi. Unveiling their debut EP ‘Power Supply’ in 2009, the Chiptune pioneers have pushed their unique brand of 8-bit powered Rock and Pop across various releases, including 2010’s Scott Pilgrim vs. the World: The Game soundtrack, and 2013’s Kickstarter funded 22 track LP ‘Endless Fantasy’. And with ‘Endless Fantasy’ being their last LP (excluding their stuffed to the brim ‘Capsule Silence XXIV’ compilations), to say fans have anticipated ‘[USA]’ is an almighty understatement.

Six years is a while, so has Anamanaguchi’s latest batch of tracks been worth the wait? Seasoned fans Harry and Kyle are on the scene to offer their takes, from how ‘[USA]’ stacks up against the band’s other offerings, to its effectiveness as an artistic whole.

Background With Anamanaguchi

I first heard Anamanaguchi around 2010. At the time I was neck deep in my Slipknot phase (a phase I’ve yet to grow out of judging by how much I replayed ‘We Are Not Your Kind’ this year), so their goofy electronic schtick didn’t tick my boxes. But as time passed I developed a stronger fondness of them, so much so that I enthusiastically backed their 2013 LP ‘Endless Fantasy’ on Kickstarter. Now I’ve seen them live twice, followed their progress over the years, and can proudly proclaim my superfan status. – Harry

The late 2000s saw a shift in pop culture: suddenly, geek chic was all the rage. G4 was at the height of its popularity, pixel art infested countless pieces of media, and video games were undeniably cool. Few other pieces of media encapsulate this cultural zeitgeist more than Scott Pilgrim vs. the World: The Game. Based on the popular comic by Bryan Lee O’Malley, the Scott Pilgrim game featured Anamanaguchi’s crunchy pixelated Rock sound, which melded perfectly with the colorful 16-bit beat-em’-up gameplay. Older Anamanaguchi albums are more than just music: they’re a trip back in time to a brighter, more innocent era of pop culture and gaming. – Kyle

Introducing [USA]

I was excited for ‘[USA]’, but that’s stating the obvious based on my prior words. The LP kicks off with its titular track, introducing affairs with an amalgamation of predictably glitchy bleeps ‘n’ bloops. It’s straight up Anamanaguchi, their Chiptune flair intact. This is good, as Anamanaguchi sans Chiptune is like spaghetti sans sauce (still awesome, but lacking a key ingredient). “USA” is chanted as instrumentation morphs stylistically, crescendoing in dynamics and tempo, and setting the stage for the lead single.

“Lorem Ipsum (Arctic Anthem)” is an LP highlight. Stepping out the gate with Vocaloid-y singing, an aesthetic of grandiose gorgeousness is speedily cemented. This later juxtaposes with the rapid-fire rhythms of Luke’s drumming and manic synthesizer arpeggios that run around like an 8-bit-ified (Sega Master System) Sonic the Hedgehog. This mental meld of melody, Drum and bass, and all manner of other musical magic finally sinks into a sea of atmospheric spookiness, concluding in an out of left field (yet utterly engaging) way. “Lorem Ipsum (Arctic Anthem)” avoids predictability through each and every beat of its journey, but nails catchy accessibility to a tee. A masterclass in creative songwriting, it sets ‘[USA]’s’ bar sky high. – Harry

The weeks to ‘[USA]’ releasing were positive ones, marked by enticing singles like “Lorem Ipsum (Arctic Anthem)” and “Air On Line”. Anamanaguchi’s distinct Rock-flavored Chiptune style had undergone a stylistic shift in the band’s 2013 release ‘Endless Fantasy’, where the band shed off some of its punk flair in favor of dreamier synth tones. In the six years between LP releases, Anamanaguchi experimented with singles and EPs featuring sonic palettes characteristic of modern J-Pop (“Pop It”, “Miku”). While the band stretched its legs with poppier beats, it did mark a further departure from the traditional Rock-oriented sound that had defined much of their earlier work.

‘[USA]’ in many respects displays a return to Anamanaguchi’s roots. Tracks like “On My Own (feat. HANA)” and “Air On Line” boast driving guitar riffs, thumping drums, and fluidly complex intricacies. Yet, it’s more than clear that Anamanaguchi has evolved beyond their geeky beginnings to cultivate an airy soundscape of bright pastel colors and crystal clear tones. It doesn’t always hit the mark, but the highs that ‘[USA]’ can reach prove that the guys have still got it. – Kyle

Negative Bits

Unfortunately, said sky high bar is scarcely met again throughout the rest of ‘[USA]’. Plenty of tracks, like “The C R T Woods” and “Overwriting Incorporate”, are serviceable, but fall short of the laser focused compositional direction and melodic magnificence that Anamanaguchi are so super slick at. ‘[USA]’ suffers from banality, with tracks like “Tear” and “We Die” meandering noisily without focus, and big chunks (particularly the interlude-like tracks “Speak To You [Memory Messengers]” and “Apophenia Light [Name Eaters]”) feeling akin to ‘Capsule Silence XXIV’ cuts (i.e. decent demos, but not kickass LP standouts). – Harry

Much like Harry, I found a large chunk of the album rather dull to get through. Admittedly, Anamanaguchi has an undeniable talent for their synth instrumentation. However, what pushes their work beyond generic electronic music is their ability to anchor that instrumentation to a melodic through line built on catchy hooks and unexpected turns. “Lorem Ipsum (Arctic Anthem)” is one of the few tracks that manages to pull off this floaty, ethereal sound because it moves forward with purpose and constantly engages your curiosity. The same can’t be said for several of the other synth-heavy tracks, too lost in their own sound to offer anything truly engaging. – Kyle

Positive Bits

Nevertheless, there are flashes of brilliance here. “Sunset By Plane (feat. Caroline Lufkin)” is Anamanaguchi firing on all cylinders, delivering energetic poppy bombast in spades. Porter Robinson’s co production is evident in “Air On Line”, resulting in a smooth stomper of happy hooks. “B S X (feat. Hatsune Miku)” incorporates choppily glitched-out singing from the iconic Vocaloid, serving as a pseudo-sequel to the 2016 single “Miku”. “On My Own (feat. HANA)” sees Anamanaguchi’s Chiptune/Pop/Rock melting pot bubbling away again. And speaking of Chiptune, it’s wonderful to hear mountains of 8-bit eccentricity throughout ‘[USA]’, proving even as their sound matures, Anamanaguchi still celebrate where they came from with beaming pixelated smiles. – Harry

As a whole, ‘[USA]’ still deserves a place worthy of praise in Anamanaguchi’s discography. Porter Robinson only collaborated with the band for “Air On Line”, but his style bleeds wonderfully into tracks like “Up to You (feat. meesh)” and “Sunset By Plane (feat. Caroline Lufkin)”. The kawaii-infused J-Pop rhythms and hooks are infectiously catchy, but don’t let that fool you: Anamanaguchi haven’t lost their edge. “B S X (feat. Hatsune Miku)” and “On My Own (feat. HANA)” show that the band can reach back into their deep musical pockets and bring out their signature hard Chiptune Rock to surprise you with something intimately familiar. – Kyle

Final Thoughts

In typical Anamanaguchi fashion, ‘[USA]’ is ambitious from start to finish. ‘Endless Fantasy’ is bloated, but stylistically spot on, whereas ‘[USA]’ trims the fat, but gets a little lost in its journey. Glistening gold sits alongside stale pies, and that description is a fitting metaphor for elements of ‘[USA]’: it’s odd, and doesn’t make much sense (and perhaps that in itself is a metaphor for the real life USA?).

Still, when Anamanaguchi’s latest is good, it’s really good, and there’s bundles of genius in the 8-bit boys yet!

Check out, stream, buy or consume ‘[USA]’ in your preferred capacity by clicking HERE!

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Star Wars Fan Films Embrace the Essence of A Galaxy Far, Far Away

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There is no doubt that dedicated fans are capable of creating brilliant, fan-made content, but the Star Wars fan base has a habit of going above and beyond in making incredible works of art that often surpass official entries in the franchise. Two relatively recent short fan films — one released last week, the other released in March of this year — are great examples of this.

The first is a 1970s/80s-style cartoon from YouTuber Wilkins Animation called Dark Empire Episode One: The Destiny of a Jedi. This animated short is incredibly reminiscent of classic cartoons — so much so that it is difficult not to feel a pang of nostalgia upon watching it. The style gives off a He-Man vibe due to the quirky animation, stellar voice work, and vibrant colour scheme. The story is set after The Return of The Jedi as Han, Leia, Chewbacca, R2-D2, and C-3PO embark on a mission to save Luke and Lando, who are stranded on war-torn Coruscant. I won’t spoil anything in case you want to check it out for yourself, but the story is engaging, and I couldn’t help but feel that I wanted to see more when it came to an end.

Have a watch below if you want to see more, and to check out Wilkins Animation’s Patreon to support their work, click here.

The second fan made film is a slightly older (from March 2019) one called Battle of the Dreadnoughts, by YouTuber EckhartsLadder. The film is significantly shorter than the 12-minute Dark Empire cartoon, clocking in at about three and a half minutes. It depicts a space battle between the New Republic’s Viscount Class Star Defender and the Empire’s most dangerous of all its weapons, the Eclipse Super Star Destroyer. Battle of the Dreadnoughts may be short, but it is astounding in quality. Upon my first viewing, I was certain I had accidentally clicked on a scene from the movies rather than a fan-made project. The accuracy, attention to detail, and sheer scale blew my mind and — as with the Dark Empire animation — left me wanting more from the content creators involved.

Check out EckhartsLadder’s Patreon here and their Twitch account here.

There is no doubting the talent of the Star Wars fan base, but these two films in particular are incredible works of art both in their own right and as Star Wars fan projects.

For more Star Wars, have a read of our Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker trailer breakdown.

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