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This Week in Gaming News: Some Developers Know, Some Developers Ask

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Perhaps it’s the post-Gamescom fatigue I’m suffering, but this week was the first one since I started this column in which I hadn’t made a single note leading up to writing. Usually I’ve got an inbox full of emails sent to myself whenever something piques my interest during the week, and I’ll pick the most interesting of the bunch come the weekend, but this week I genuinely didn’t see anything overly major. Perhaps that’s because this week was more about game releases than news, I’m not sure. I have, of course, performed some last-minute research and found plenty of tasty morsels for your delectation, so slap on your bibs and quit banging the table with your spoon; dinner is ready.

Give Us Back Our Puddles!

Un-fucking-believable, am I right? Those absolute bastards at Insomniac STOLE puddles from us this week. Either that or they showed FAKE puddles in an E3 demo of Spider-Man a couple of years ago that are no longer in the full release of the game. This absolute disgrace of treachery and outright skulduggery was explained by the developer in response to the completely rational outcry from the ever-understanding gaming public that the graphics had definitely been downgraded to mug us all off.

Ah shit. I think my sarcasm machine just broke. I’ll try and get it fixed for the next story, just hang in there for now while I do some snark-free journalism for a few paragraphs.

Gaming News Spider-Man

Precipitation is a bitch, yo.

Insomniac Games’ official Twitter provided probably the most succinct response possible with a tweet that, out of context, looks absolutely ridiculous. The tweet simply said “It’s just a change in puddle size, there’s no downgrade at all.” Mystery solved. Next story.

Oh wait, there’s more – Insomniac community manager James Stevenson, speaking to Gamesradar, also quelled any worries about further puddles by saying their removal “Definitely wasn’t [because of] performance, as we have spots with tons of puddles in the game with no performance issue.” You know, it’s moments like this where one truly feels vindicated for being a games writer. Spider-Man has bits with tons of puddles, just loads of ‘em, and it runs fine. The puddles will be there, Spidey will be swinging around without any performance issues and we can all just enjoy playing a video game. Oh, turns out my sarcasm machine wasn’t broken after all.

I also can’t finish this story without first giving kudos to Reddit user NINJAM7, whose comment on the above picture put everything into geographical perspective, when he said, “Clearly the water dried before release. Games take time to make.” Touché, you magnificent bastard, touché.

CD Projekt Red Hear You, but They’re Not Listening

Polish developers CD Projekt Red finally released their Cyberpunk 2077 gameplay to the public this week, and my word was it tantalizing. I don’t think I’ve been this excited for a game in years. It seems, however, that some people aren’t quite as excited as I am, as there’s been some backlash over the game’s first-person view. Personally, I think the immersion in the game’s incredible world would be hugely hampered without the first person view, and it’s pretty obvious that the game and its mechanics are heavily designed around seeing everything through the protagonist’s eyes. I’m not everybody though, so the developer had to respond to the negativity in an interview with dualshockers.

“We are firm in that decision. However, we’re very aware that a lot of people don’t like first-person, and there is a small number of people who can’t play first-person for a variety of reasons.”

According to the interview, the team are looking at ways to make the game more palatable for those who will struggle with the viewpoint – offering “difficulty and sensibility options” to make things less intense for the few that will struggle to adapt and enjoy the game fully as is. Obviously, this wouldn’t be the games industry if the customer didn’t decide en masse via social media that it knows best, but kudos to CDPR for telling them all to stick it in their inhaler and…inhale it. The developer has earned their stripes in showing they know how to build an open world and get the best out of it, and Cyberpunk 2077, for me, looks like it’ll only enhance that reputation. It can’t come soon enough.

SEGA is Asking the Easy Questions

Rather than telling the consumer what their decision is, SEGA has gone the opposite route this week, and has asked gamers, via a Yakuza Kiwami 2 feedback survey, if they want to see more of the series. The answer, unless you’re some kind of miserable, buzz-killing bastard, is “YES, NEVER STOP GIVING ME THE YAKUZA GOODNESS.” Obviously.

See, I may bring you the news to wash away (or sometimes enhance) the blues, but I didn’t actually realize that the PS4 remakes of Yakuza 3, 4 and 5 aren’t currently planned for outside of Japan. Now, I do actually own those three on PS3 but, you know…graphics and that. I want them all on the one machine, all in shiny full HD – surely we all do. And I want Yakuza 7, even though I’ve not even played 6 yet.

Gaming News Yakuza

Nothing says cool like a fist bump while holding darts. Nothing.

Perhaps it’s this kind of confliction that has seen SEGA understandably cautious about when and if they release the titles for the west, and the survey touches on that – asking how long players need in between releases. Which, personally, I find adorable. “Are you ready for the next one yet?” They would definitely be wise to stagger the releases a little more than they have with Yakuza 0, 6, Kiwami and Kiwami 2, as it’s becoming a little overwhelming to try and fit all these massive games around everything else in the games world, but they’re definitely in demand in the west.

The survey is still available here, so if you’re a fan of this brilliant series, then you need to go and make sure SEGA knows you are. Tell them you want more remakes, more new releases and more spinoffs. Just tell them you love the series (it’s one of the options). Do it for me. Do it for Kiryu.

EA Finally do a Good Thing Because of a Really Bad Thing

Ok, I’ll preface this by letting y’all know that I’m going to try and keep this a politics-free as possible. It probably won’t surprise any American readers that the British view of US gun laws is decidedly negative, and I find it overwhelmingly unfathomable just why this kind of thing keeps happening. The most recent example of some waste of semen destroying the lives of innocent people happened last week during a Madden tournament in Jacksonville.

It sent shockwaves around the entire world, but particularly that of the gaming sphere, as there really hadn’t been any incidents of this in regards to our beloved medium. This instance was actually just the world’s worst case of being a sore loser, as some despicable shit stain threw his toys of out the proverbial pram in horrific, murderous fashion. In the wake of this tragedy, EA have done more than send thoughts and prayers and are donating $1 million to the victims of the shooting.

Gaming News Madden Shooting

We shouldn’t need this, but well done EA for their response

Of course, money can never return the victims to their loved ones, but it’s a great gesture by the publisher once voted worst company in the world. The donation was made through a GoFundMe page that anyone can donate to right here. The company has also scheduled a Jacksonville Tribute Livestream for September 6th. EA CEO Andrew Wilson also released a statement to show support, condemn the horrific event and pay tribute to the competitors who lost their lives.

EA may suck massively as a games publisher but, as unfortunate as it is, tragedy seems to unite people more than almost anything else, so credit where it’s due – EA has done everything right here. Hopefully more can be done in future to make games events safer than they clearly were up to this point.

Street of Rage 4 is a Real Thing

Turns out if you really want something old to be redone again, get DotEmu involved with it. The company, probably most famous for their remaster of classic arcade sports title Windjammers, is now putting its publishing hand into the Streets of Rage honeypot, with this week’s announcement of a fourth entry in the series. It’s the first SoR title to be released in over two decades, and has left many people slightly unsure of what exactly we can expect.

The side-scrolling brawler genre is not one that has stood the test of time all that well. In fact, the best brawler released in the last decade, Scott Pilgrim gsdh dfghdfa, isn’t even available to purchase anymore. If there is one title sure to set nostalgia glands dripping, it’s Streets of Rage. Or Final Fight, but in this case it’s definitely Streets of Rage.

A trailer was released this week very much in the current style of how DotEmu does things, full of bright colours, hand-drawn cartoon art and decidedly not full of much in the way of gameplay footage. The small amount seen appears to be pretty much as you expect – a smooth and modernized cartoon-version of a classic title. SEGA, the original publishers of the franchise, are noticeably not involved at all – in case you hadn’t noticed the fact that they stopped caring about Streets of Rage decades ago – so it’ll be very interesting to see how this game feels.

DotEmu are already showing that they know how to reverse-engineer classic titles with Windjammers 2, and that game feels exactly right in terms of its relation to the original, so I have no doubt that Streets of Rage 4 will play well. Perhaps the deal-break is really whether a title like that has enough substance, and doesn’t look and sound too different to what veterans would want, to be relevant in 2018.

Right, that’ll do for this week. I’m off to keep preparing my Pro Evolution Soccer 2019 review and play retro games for this week’s Not Red E Podcast. Sorry for the delay in this week’s article, and I’ll see you in seve…six.

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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