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This Week in Gaming News: Skippy McE3 vs. Big Daddy No Discs

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Autumn is a weird season, isn’t it? It’s a devious little bastard that, thanks to global warming, presents itself as such a polar opposite to summer that it frequently gets away with crimes that are almost automatically attributed to winter. Firstly, as soon as the clocks go back – you know, they FALL back – and it gets dark early, people start chiming in about how, “Winter is definitely here,” despite the fact it’s still only October at the time. The weather this year (yes, I’m British so I’m talking about weather) has turned especially cold especially quickly, and yet again people start blaming winter. Lastly, and the basis for this entire digression from video games, people are getting sick and blaming poor, old winter.

This week, I have been a veritable zombie – downed by the scientifically real man flu – and thus I’ve not really had much time to react to gaming news by myself. I’ve picked up on things I find interesting and included them here, and you’re going to get pretty much my hot take (and not just because I have a fever) on it all. Worse still than the sickness, I finally bought a 4K TV in a Black Friday sale, but its feet are too wide for my current setup, meaning I can’t test it out before I move to my new house at the end of the month. Seriously, autumn is an underrated prick.

E3 2019 Will Be Sony-Free

Earlier on in the year, when Sony announced there would be no PSX event, we all assumed that they were biding their time to build up some more significant announcements for next year’s E3 event. How wrong we were, as it turns out the company can’t be bothered with that either.

Sony’s official statement (from BBC) reads:

We are exploring new and familiar ways to engage our community in 2019 and can’t wait to share our plans. As a result, we have decided not to participate in E3 in 2019.”

It’s obvious that Sony aren’t going to have no announcements whatsoever next year, so there are several schools of thought coming out of this news. Firstly, that Sony will hold its own event, or multiple events, next year and may even hold an event down the road during E3 week itself. The second prediction is that PlayStation 5 will, indeed, arrive in 2020 and Sony will blow the world’s socks off in 19 months rather than 7.

Honestly, I can’t conceivably have a problem with this. Some people are saying it’ll be a blow to the E3 event itself, and my question is: who cares? Through pretty much every logical viewpoint, E3 is total shit. Journalists seemingly hate going to it because there’s tons of queueing, they have to go to LA, and it’s hot and sweaty and long. I’ve been to games events before and they are not a fun time. You spend hours and hours queueing for a 15-minute go on a game you’ll not be playing again for ages; all the while your backlog of full games you actually own sits waiting for you in your comfortable house away from smelly, sweaty people.

Be honest, you know this was shit

Even if you don’t go to E3, you likely still don’t enjoy it either. What benefit to video game fans does the event even serve any more? You watch the press conferences and they’re unquestionably horrible, and there is no scenario that doesn’t end in someone being disappointed.

May I present the evidence to the court:

  • If developers talk too much, it’s boring.
  • If a company instead just shows a bunch of videos then it’s not a proper conference and people complain that it could have happened anywhere other than E3.
  • If a company puts on an actual show for the crowd it’s usually misguided, cheesy and boring for those at home who just want to see games.
  • If games aren’t announced that people want, then hate spills forth and surrounds the event in negativity.
  • Even if companies say or show things that are impressive, there’s nothing tangible for you to experience now, and when the games come out they are oppressively scrutinized if they aren’t exactly like the trailer we saw at E3.
Gaming News Sony E3

There has to be a better way than this

Sony aren’t stupid, and there’s no question they can probably feel the growing discontent for the whole thing. Their E3 presentation last year was confusing, barebones and more than a little bit mental. The only thing E3 really has going for it any more is that it still captures the attention of gamers for a week, and there’s a guaranteed audience. Even then, that audience will likely have seen several leaks weeks before, and will spend the days afterwards compiling ‘OMG Top 10 E3 Cringe Moments LMFAO’ videos anyway.

E3 is a bastion of the grandiose self-importance that games companies place on themselves because they know that their target market are an obsessive and loyal bunch. It’s boring, it’s always disappointing and it’s almost totally pointless. Here’s hoping Sony will find something better next year and save us all from E3 apathy.

Microsoft Ain’t Got No Disc

Strong rumors surfaced this week via tech website Thurrott that Microsoft is looking to finally go ahead with a disc-free Xbox One. Cast your minds way back to the pre-release talk around the Xbox One and a digital-only Xbox is very much old news to Microsoft, and through sheer bloody-mindedness, they’re going to make it happen.

According to the site, Microsoft will even be offering a “discs to digital” scheme, where existing Xbox One users can take [their] disc to a participating retailer (like the Microsoft store) and trade in [their] disc for a digital download.” To be fair, that actually sounds pretty awesome, provided it’s free – and that feels like a rather significant caveat we’re yet to glean.

Gaming News Xbox Discs

Put your disc away, dude!

Thurrott went on to explain that “The goal with the new console is to lower the price point for the hardware… the new console price point is expected to be $200 or less.” I actually deleted a rant I was about to run headlong into about the fact that digital games are still inexplicably overpriced compared to physical ones, and therefore the overall price point would not be lowered, but then I remembered that Xbox Game Pass is a thing.

While Sony are scrambling to keep up – and are therefore still charging £60 for a game I can physically own, play and then sell on for £40 up front – Microsoft’s service potentially sets this new console up as being a cheap streaming machine that basically offers all new exclusive releases for a much lower fee. So, a revised, rant-free attitude from me, and here’s hoping this whole rumor is true.

‘Cause I’ve Got a Golden Joystick

The annual Golden Joystick Awards happened this week, and with them came some recognition for 2018’s gaming elite, some new trailers (more on that later), and yet more praise for bloody Fortnite. Probably the biggest news coming out of the event was the Lifetime Achievement Award for the legend that is FromSoftware’s Hidetaka Miyazaki – an even more impressive feat considering the dude is only in his early 40s.

God of War (remember that?) was the biggest winner this year, as it picked up four awards – Best Storytelling, Best Visual Design, Best Audio and PlayStation Game of the Year – and a fifth for developer SIE Santa Monica, who won Best Studio.

God of Award

Forza Horizon 4 won the Xbox Game of the Year, Dead Cells won Indie Game of the Year and, perhaps only because Smash Ultimate isn’t out yet, the still-lovely Octopath Traveller won Nintendo Game of the Year. The other awards of note were the Most Wanted, which went to CD Projekt’s Cyberpunk 2077 and a Critics’ Choice win for Red Dead Redemption 2.

If You Need Me, I’ll be in My Trailer

I promised, and now I deliver. The Golden Joystick Awards showcased a couple of new trailers for upcoming games, and I present them thusly to you. First up is a new release trailer from Devolver Digital for the absolutely stunning platformer Gris, coming to Nintendo Switch and PC next month. It has a massive Journey vibe to it for me, which is one of my all-time favorite games, so you can color me very excited.

According to Devolver’s site, “Gris is a hopeful young girl lost in her own world, dealing with a painful experience in her life. Her journey through sorrow is manifested in her dress, which grants new abilities to better navigate her faded reality.” Sounds pretentious as hell, right? But then, anything that can truly be considered art pretty much has to be. Hopefully there’s enough clever puzzles and platforming challenge to make the game more than style over substance.

The second trailer shown at the GJAs was for Ace Combat 7: Skies Unknown. You might remember in the Gamescom episode of Goombastomp’s Not Red E Podcast (returning this week, we promise), we weren’t that bowled over by the gameplay of Namco’s latest, and this trailer only features a smattering of in-game footage, but it certainly does its best to make everything look exhilarating.

Project Judge Will be The Greatest Game Ever

Son of a gun, this game looks magnificent and I bloody well want it now. Damn you, Father Time, just hurry up already! DualShockers unveiled a sizeable dump of new screenshots they were sent by SEGA this week, and they show off an array of glory that soothed my aching joints and cleared my bunged-up sinuses. I will never make any apologies for being a big Yakuza series fan, and as an adaptation of the formula, Project Judge looks phenomenal.

I think the first word is Battlemouse, but it’s still nonsense to me

A lot of the screenshots shown on the site are of people’s faces looking intense, but pictures of the mini and arcade games are what really get my juices flowing. There’s “Kamuro of the Dead,” which is basically House of the Dead, Puyo Puyo and even a playable version of Virtua Fighter 5 Final Showdown that can all be played when you’re wasting time in the game world.

Gaming News Project Judge

Maybe the Dualshock 4’s gyro controls could work in this?

There’s pinball, there’s batting practice, there’s Mahjong, there’s Blackjack and Poker. Additionally, we’ve got drone racing and some batshit giant cuboid cat…thing. It all looks as ridiculous as I’d want, and that’s disregarding what we’ve already seen of the game’s combat and how it will feature a lot of new detective mechanics into the inevitably brilliant writing and story pacing that Ry? ga Gotoku Studio is known for. Most shocking of all is that a demo is coming to the Japanese PSN store this month, with the game coming out in December. We’ve got to wait until 2019 for a western release, so maybe I’ll ramp up the frequency of my Japanese lessons if the wait gets too much.

Right, my palms have sweated long enough. I’m going for a nap. See you in seven when I’m hopefully feeling better. Please pity me.

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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