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This Week in Gaming News: New ‘Castlevania’, Game Delays and the Battle Royale Bandwagon

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It’s occurred to me this week that, considering I typically write this on a Friday, I should probably take into account what happened last Saturday and Sunday… but I can’t remember that far back. If you remember what happened last weekend, hit me up in the comments and you’ll win the respect of your peers and can give yourself a pat on the back.

In bonus news: I’ve played about four or five hours of God of War and it’s fan-bloody-tastic. Could easily be a GOTY right there. But enough small talk though, let’s get news! (I’m working on a catchphrase for the start of the piece, but I don’t think ‘let’s get news’ is going to cut it. I’ll do better next time.)

 

There’s a New Castlevania! It’s on Mobile! Wait, it’s on Mobile?

You didn’t really expect Konami to do something for the love of the art, right? If there’s one thing the Japanese do in between Pachinko Parlour trips, it’s stare at their phones. Konami, savvy business buggers that they are, have clearly noticed this, and they know that mobile games means money in the Land of the Rising Sun. As such, Castlevania: Grimoire of Souls is to be a mobile game that is, according to Eurogamer, exclusive to Japan whilst simultaneously offering real-time co-op ‘around the world,’ so decipher that if you can.

Perhaps even more shocking than Konami is making a Castlevania game is that it does actually look like a proper Castlevania game. It’s, like, not a puzzle game or a card game or anything – it’s one of them real ones! It’s set in a future where Count Dracula has been completely destroyed, but he hasn’t really because some total sod is resurrecting him. Nice one. It’s up to protagonist Genya Arikado to re-destroy the sucker of necks until the next time Konami needs/wants money (which luckily, if the game is good, is always). You can also play as characters from older games, like Backwards draculA and Simon Belmont.

Gaming News

Ok, so this definitely isn’t a puzzle game, but how will it control?

There’s no word on a release date – or if there’s definitely not going to be a worldwide release to accommodate that ‘around the world’ co-op, as well as the 4 vs. 4 competitive mode – but it’s headed into closed beta state in mid-May, which you can sign up for right here. I’d like to say that if the game is successful it might trigger Konami to think about making a new console Castlevania, but the absolute best we can hope for is almost certainly another Yakuza-controlled gambling machine in a smoky hall in Shinjuku. It’s nice to have goals in life.

 

Overwatch Now Has a Competitive Season for 6 vs. 6 Lockout Elimination

Blizzard surprised us all this week by announcing that the popular 6 vs. 6 Lockout Elimination mode now has a short competitive season. Because if Overwatch competitive has taught us nothing in the past, it’s that personal glory outweighs team achievement all day long.

If you don’t know what the combination of words and numbers in the phrase ‘6 vs. 6 Lockout Elimination’ means, it’s basically a team deathmatch mode where two teams try to whittle each other down, eliminating killed opponents until the end of a round, at which point the winning team’s heroes cannot be used again in subsequent rounds.

Gaming News

Let the salt flow

I don’t even think there’s a joke to be made here. Blizzard chucked in a new competitive season for a popular game mode right in the middle of a PvE event just weeks after the introduction of a new character. Their continued support for Overwatch is incredibly commendable and doesn’t even look close to slowing down. ‘Games as a service’ might be marketing speak straight from Satan’s anus, but if any game is to personify it in a good way, it’s undeniably Overwatch.

 

The Dark Days of Switch Delays

Nintendo Switch owners, you poor bastards. The console was hit with two delays this week that made me very sad indeed. The first delay of the two was to Shovel Knight: King of Cards – the latest expansion to the absolutely brilliant platformer from Yacht Club Games – which has slipped from its targeted ‘early 2018’ date, as anyone who understands dates, and whether or not a game has been released, will already know. For those who don’t: it’s past early 2018, and the game has not been released. I’m glad we cleared that up.

Gaming News

Goodnight, sweet… King?

Yacht Club Games have now been quoted as saying:

“After assessing where we are, and where we want to be, we now expect King of Cards to be ready for a grand debut in the latter half of 2018. It’s a ways away, but Pridemoor Keep wasn’t built in a day!”

As if that delay didn’t hurt fans of hardcore gaming enough, perhaps even more upsetting for Switch owners was the announcement by From Software that the Nintendo console’s version of Dark Souls: Remastered is delayed until the summer, despite the Xbox One, Steam and PS4 versions all scheduled to make the May 25th release.

Publisher Bandai Namco’s explanation is as follows:

“The new release timing gives the development team the time needed to make sure Nintendo Switch players can fully appreciate the true ‘Dark Souls’ experience anytime and anywhere, thanks to the unique portable nature of the Nintendo Switch console”

Gaming News

Hope that bonfire doesn’t burn out before the game releases

Bandai Namco didn’t give any reason for the delay, but let’s be honest – we all know why, right? Fucking Blighttown. I bet you 20,000 souls that poisonous mosquito-ridden shit heap sent the frame rate back to the stone age, and Bandai Namco had to step in and delay the whole thing, lest we suffer through playing any more of that game on the equivalent of CCTV footage in 2018. Admittedly, this is fine if it means I can usher in the age of dark while on the toilet (not an intended euphemism, but it works) without getting a migraine for my trouble.

What isn’t fine is the inexplicable simultaneous delay of the Solaire of Astora Amiibo. What did he ever do to you, Bandai Namco?! Granted, his frame rate is an embarrassing 0fps, but we’re all fine with that. I am willing to accept having to wait a bit longer for portable Dark Souls that actually works, but I will not wait for plastic toys. Not now, not ever!

 

Single Player Campaigns Are For Losers – The Kids Want Battle Royale!

Mate, admit it. You don’t want single player Call of Duty any more. You want to be hip, you want to be cool, you want to be down with the kids, right? Then shut up and get on board with the battle royale hype!

As it turns out, Call of Duty fans will have no choice in the matter, because Black Ops 4 won’t have a single player campaign at all. According to Polygon, as the development of the game approached conclusion, “it became evident that development on the single-player campaign wouldn’t be completed.” Of course anyone, or more accurately everyone, who’s ignored the main campaign of Fortnite will probably attest to the notion that a battle royale mode is probably more important than a single-player campaign anyway, but CoD is the first established gaming franchise to have the mode shoehorned in.

Gaming News

Maybe I should have Photoshopped this guy jumping out of a plane

It’d probably be easy to dump all over Activision for this bandwagon-jumping, but CoD has arguably been stale for years, and in drastic need of something to freshen up the same copy/paste formula of the last several instalments. It may be shameless, it may be unoriginal, and it may be the latest fad, but the company that basically defined modern online multiplayer (on consoles at the very least) can surely produce a quality – if perhaps not ground breaking – spin on the formula.

And hey, if they can’t then maybe DICE can in the upcoming Battlefield V. A report by Venturebeat states that the mode will not arrive for the game’s release and will instead be patched in as a free update once the game is in the hands of players – if it happens at all. How the mighty are rushing to follow trends, eh?

 

Is a New Wave Race Coming to Switch?

Just like a local news broadcast, we’ll end this week with something a little more frivolous and light-hearted. Fandom had the chance to interview Wave Race producer Shinya Takahashi at this year’s video game BAFTAs and posed the question to him regarding a return of the arcade jet ski racer on Nintendo’s current hardware. His response was vague, yet promising:

“You may see that game again. We have been trying to make many games and that may be one of them – I personally love Wave Race!”

Gaming News

It’s been a while since Blue Storm on the GameCube

Personally, I’m done trying to predict Nintendo after all the madness of recent years (both good and bad), but you’d see no argument from me about a Wave Race resurgence, even if it’s just so Nintendo can stick it to Rare in the water effects department.

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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