Harvestella Review – So Much For So Little

Reviewed on:
Switch

Platform:
Switch, PC

Publisher:
Square Enix

Developer:
Square Enix

Release:
November 4, 2022

Rating:
Teen

Harvestella wants to be a jack of two trades, but winds up a master of none. Part action-RPG, part farming/life simulation, this combination can sometimes be enjoyable, but the two styles clash more often than not. The result is a sluggish grind more likely to repel fans of each genre than bring them together.

As an amnesiac warrior, you awaken on the outskirts of a quaint village, unaware of your origin and purpose. Four powerful, monolithic crystals called Seaslight govern the environmental stability of the picturesque continent, namely its seasons. However, a deadly fifth season called Quietus occurs between each of the four normal seasons, wiping out crops and endangering humans. This strange normalcy becomes unstable when the Seaslight begin behaving irregularly, seemingly triggered by the mysterious arrival of Aria, a young scientist from the distant future. Like you, Aria is clueless about how she got here, so you partner up to discover your respective origins while also combating a global crisis. Oh, and building a nice farm too. 

To its credit, the plot is engaging in its absurdity. In typical JRPG fashion, the mystery gradually becomes more grandiose and unhinged as it unfolds. While much of it is silly, I found little of it boring. One revelation made me laugh out loud at how bizarre it is, and I can’t help but respect Harvestella’s willingness to take some wild turns while sprinkling a few poignant moments. A large band of likable party members, such as a smooth-talking inventor, an A.I.-powered robot, and a talking unicorn, joins the primary duo, but you largely spend time with them one-on-one. As such, you don’t often see everyone hang out together, and when they do, the lack of group chemistry is noticeable and disappointing. It’s like inviting a bunch of good friends to hang out who know you, but not each other. 

Harvestella promotes two styles of play but feels like an action-RPG first and a farming game second. Gameplay involves running through bland dungeons and hacking apart foes, collecting crafting materials and ingredients along the way. A robust job system offers a good variety of playstyles, but I only gravitated toward a few of them. My favorites include the nimble, combo-centric Shadow Walker and the dancing floating blades of the Pilgrim class. Other jobs, like the Mechanic and singing-focused Woglinde, simply aren’t fun to use, and the game rarely encouraged me to experiment once I settled on my favorites. Even with classes and attacks I enjoyed, the combat is middling, and bosses are either pushovers or infuriatingly cheap. 

Farming fans won’t find much unique about Harvestella. You plant crops on tilled land that can be expanded in size several times, process food using machines, but you only rear two animal species. The farm changes with the seasons, which shift every 30 days, and certain food can only grow during specific times of the year. Quietus, which only lasts a day, eradicates crops, but I found it easy to plan around, making it less threatening than likely intended. 

Like combat, farming only feels passable, but is crucial to success. Selling crops serves as one of the few ways to earn money. You also need a full pantry to whip up a variety of dishes. Eating keeps your belly full, which in turn fuels your stamina bar. This meter governs actions such as farming, sprinting, and even executing special attacks. Eating also replenishes health, often in large amounts depending on the dish. However, you can’t eat if you’re full, which becomes a maddening hindrance during tough battles. Since traditional health potions don’t exist, you’ll be making all of your recovery items. Doing so takes time which feeds into Harvestella’s biggest nuisance: the clock.

Harvestella operates on an in-game day/night cycle that advances in 10-minute increments faster than you expect. Night begins at 6 p.m., and your character becomes sleepy at 10, slowing their stamina recovery. Thus, returning home to crash in your bed – and only your bed as, annoyingly, you can’t sleep at the game’s several inns – is vital. Staying out past midnight causes your hero to collapse from exhaustion, warping them back home. Falling to exhaustion or death comes at the oppressively steep price of paying an increasingly exorbitant doctor’s fee while clicking through the same unskippable cutscene. It’s a loathsome penalty that’s too strict for its own good. 

Since you have to drop everything to return home each night, progress becomes a massively slow grind. Dungeon crawling consists of inching forward before you have to stop and resume the next day. Simply reaching a location on the world map burns precious minutes until faster means of travel open up. Even after finding shortcuts and fast-travel checkpoints, you still rerun sections of a dungeon repeatedly until you reach uncharted territory. Doing so inevitably drains your food supply, so you have to set aside time to cook beforehand. Making dishes eats a substantial chunk of the day, limiting the time to adventure. Running out of cooking ingredients means growing more of them, as only a handful of staples can be purchased. That means spending at least a few days waiting for crops to replenish, then creating enough food to venture back into a dungeon, and repeating the cycle all over again.

This framework effectively makes it impossible to progress the story for very long. There’s often so much work that has to be done beforehand that I was often lucky to have enough daylight to pursue the missions I wanted. This frustrated me most when the plot hit an interesting turn, and I wanted to see what came next. It’s an awful form of gating, as progress is bottlenecked no matter how powerful or well-equipped I was. In some cases, it can take days of work and prep to complete a single dungeon floor. 

 

When I didn’t have enough time in the day to complete a story mission, Harvestella admirably provides plenty to do outside of the main narrative and farming. A ton of multi-chapter sidequests await, though most of them involve reading lengthy conversations, completing a basic combat encounter, or running tedious errands. Despite a few interesting stories, these missions aren’t great, but the game makes completing them worthwhile, for better or worse. Side missions offer tons of cash, vital recipes, blueprints, and seeds. To my chagrin, completing as many as possible became a necessary evil. I preferred the party bonding missions, in which I learned about my teammates’ troubles by helping them through unique storylines. These quests were at least more interesting and rewarded me with enhanced physical perks, such as greater strength, defense, etc., practically making them required playing. 

Though it runs well, Harvestella also suffers from graphical glitches that make it feel unstable at times. Specifically, a strange bug where half of the screen occasionally flickered a solid color, whether docked or in handheld mode. The game also doesn’t look great on the big screen due to its low-resolution textures and models.

Harvestella’s systems feed together in a way that forces you to engage with nearly everything it offers, whether you want to or not. But those slice-of-life activities are mundane and get in the way of letting you enjoy the RPG elements on your own terms. Maximizing a day’s schedule is sometimes rewarding, but the sluggish pacing makes it tough to stay engaged for the long haul. Harvestella forces you to do a whole lot to complete comparatively little. At 70-80 hours, it’s one of the biggest chores I’ve played in some time. That’s unfortunate because the combat, story, and characters are decent enough that, in a more traditional RPG framework, they’d shine brighter. As it stands, squeezing this fruit isn’t always worth its small amount of juice.

Score:
6.75

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Final Fantasy 16 Producer To Appear At The Game Awards As Release Date Speculation Ramps Up

Final Fantasy XVI has received a few trailers throughout the year, and it’s set to hit PlayStation 5 and PC sometime next summer. But an exact release date is still unknown. However, in recent weeks, speculation about a release date reveal has begun to ramp up, with many predicting a FFXVI appearance at The Game Awards next month. 

Today, the official TGA Twitter account added fuel to that fire by revealing that FFXVI producer Naoki Yoshida, who we interviewed about the game earlier this summer, will be a presenter at the show this year. Plus, he’s being welcomed to give “a very special live presentation.” What that means remains unknown, but all signs point to something to do with FFXVI. Perhaps he’ll be playing the game live, or maybe The Game Awards orchestra will do an arrangement from the title. Regardless, many are speculating that it’s during The Game Awards, specifically Yoshida’s segment, that we’ll finally receive the FFXVI release date. 

Next Thursday, #TheGameAwards is humbled to welcome Naoki Yoshida, producer of @finalfantasyxvi to the show for a very special live presentation!

Watch the free global livestream at https://t.co/Cp7TpQ7uC3 starting at 7:30p ET/4:30p PT. pic.twitter.com/Tb4gp2ZWts

— The Game Awards (@thegameawards) November 30, 2022

What’s more, though, is that FFXVI was recently rated in Brazil, as reported by Video Games Chronicle. As expected, considering the game is set to be rated Mature here, the Sistema de Classificação Indicativa Brasileiro determined that FFXVI is “not recommended for children under 16” as a result of the game’s “sexual content, sensitive issues, and violence,” according to VGC. This rating doesn’t technically officially mean anything, but ratings typically point to a sooner-than-later release. However, Square Enix says FFXVI is coming in the summer of 2023, so soon might be relative here. Perhaps it will be released right at the start of summer, but it could release later, like in August even. Only time will tell. 

Nonetheless, Yoshida said back in April that FFXVI is nearing the end of development, so it seems The Game Awards might be kicking off the game’s ramp-up to release. In the meantime, watch the latest “Ambition” FFXVI trailer and then check out our interview with Yoshida about Eikons, boss fights, and when we’ll see more

Are you excited for Final Fantasy XVI? Let us know in the comments below!

Sonic Frontiers 2023 Roadmap Includes Free Updates That Add Modes, Skins, And Playable Characters

When Sonic Frontiers came out at the start of November, it received one of the better receptions from fans and critics of any 3D Sonic the Hedgehog title. In my review, I praised many elements of Sonic Team’s first “open-zone” attempt, but my main takeaway was, “I can’t wait to see how Sonic Team iterates on this formula in future entries.” While those future entries are likely years away, the developer today gave us a glimpse into how it plans to expand Sonic Frontiers throughout 2023 through a content roadmap.

The Sonic Frontiers 2023 content shows off a series of future content updates to the game. The three updates will roll out to players of Sonic Frontiers over the course of 2023 at no additional cost. While no timeline is given, it’s probably safe to assume that Update 2 will hit sometime around June 2023, given that June is the anniversary of the franchise and one of the key parts of that update is simply listed as “Sonic’s Birthday,” though there’s no indication of what that means.

However, before that all kicks off, players can expect a free Holiday Cheer Suit DLC (pictured above) for Sonic to sport as he runs through the Starfall Islands. That free DLC arrives on December 21.

You can see the full 2023 roadmap below.

Update 1

Juke Box
Photo Mode
New Challenge Modes

Update 2

Sonic’s Birthday
Open Zone Challenge
New Koco

Update 3

Playable Characters
New Story

Update 3 appears as though it will be most substantial as it not only promises new story elements, but also additional playable characters. While it’s not confirmed, the image sure seems to hint that those playable characters will be Tails, Knuckles, and Amy, though those character images could certainly be more closely tied to the story aspect of that update. However, I’m also excited to see the new Challenge Mode in Update 1, and the Open Zone Challenge and new Koco of Update 2.

Sonic Frontiers arrived on PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X/S, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Switch, and PC on November 8. You can read our review here, or check out the game in action on both Xbox Series X and Switch through an episode of New Gameplay Today.

Goodbye Volcano High Gets New Trailer And Now Arrives Next Summer

Narrative dinosaur adventure Goodbye Volcano High has awakened from dormancy with a new gameplay trailer and a 2023 release window. The title, unveiled in June 2020 as one of the first PlayStation 5 titles, will now arrive sometime next summer.

Goodbye Volcano High is a choice-driven teenage coming-of-age story starring Fang, a high school student, aspiring musician, and if you didn’t notice, a pterosaur. Alongside their bandmate Trish and other friends, the dino teens are faced with making the most of their final days together. Developer KO-OP describes the narrative as a tale of “personal growth, acceptance, and the power of community.” A new teaser trailer provides the first look at gameplay, showing off the dialogue interface and rhythm mechanics. 

KO-OP initially planned to release Goodbye Volcano High in 2021. However, last August, the small team pushed the launch into 2022 due to COVID-related development challenges and the decision to reboot the game’s narrative. The game still didn’t make a peep throughout 2022, and KO-OP says this latest delay stems from continued challenges related to the pandemic and the game’s large scope relative to the team’s size. For example, KO-OP states that over 6,000 voice lines have been recorded on top of completing a significant amount of “bespoke” animations. 

Goodbye Volcano High is slated to launch on PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, and PC via Steam.

Latest Super Mario Bros. Movie Trailer Showcases Peach And Donkey Kong

Nintendo and animation studio Illumination shared the latest trailer for The Super Mario Bros. Movie today. Mario creator Shigeru Miyamoto was on hand to introduce the new trailer; Anya Taylor-Joy (who is playing Princess Peach) and Seth Rogan (who voices Donkey Kong) also shared selfie videos of themselves sharing their contractually obligated excitement about participating in the film.

The trailer showed more of the Mushroom Kingdom and primarily focused on Donkey Kong and Princess Peach. We also heard more from Chris Pratt’s Mario, Charlie Day’s Luigi, and Jack Black’s Bowser (who explicitly refers to Mario as being a human). The trailer shows Mario training, fighting Donkey Kong, driving a kart on a rainbow road, traveling with Peach, and there was also one quick moment where we saw the human world.

The Super Mario Bros. Movie arrives in theatres on April 7, 2023.

Overwatch 2 Season 2: New Map, Battle Pass, Holiday Events, And More Revealed

Season 2 of Overwatch 2 will begin next week on December 6 and the season update brings a new hero to the game alongside a new map, battle pass, holiday cosmetics, and much more. 

This news comes by way of a new Overwatch 2 Season 2 trailer released today, which you can view below, alongside a new blog post from Blizzard. In the trailer, we get a look at the new tank hero joining the roster, Ramattra, as well as the new Shambali escort map going into the game’s regular rotation alongside returning favorites. Plus, we see Junker Queen’s new Mythic skin available in the new battle pass as well as a look at some of the holiday skins from upcoming holiday events. 

Check out the Season 2 trailer for yourself below: 

“With a new season comes a new map pool,” Blizzard’s blog post reads. “Along with our newest map, Shambali Monastery, players can anticipate the return of a fan-favorite, Rialto, and the most epic place on earth, Blizzard World. We’ll be visiting Oasis and Nepal at different times of the day and rotating out Hollywood and Watchpoint: Gibraltar. As a reminder, all off-rotation maps will continue to be available in custom games.” 

 

Blizzard says the theme of Season 2 is Greek mythology, which explains why the Mythic skin in the battle pass is Zeus Junker Queen. This skin will include new customizations, weapon models, voice lines, and special effects. A Legendary Poseidon Ramattra skin and a Legendary Hades Pharah skin can be earned in the battle pass as well. 

“These heroes and several others will be imbued with awesome god-like powers in our new Battle for Olympus game mode,” Blizzard’s blog post reads. “This new limited-time event will start on January 5 and last until January 19.”

Blizzard is also bringing back two holiday events: Winter Wonderland and Lunar New Year. Each event this season, including Battle for Olympus, will have a skin as a reward you can earn by playing and completing challenges, including the Epic Ice Queen Brigitte, Legendary Winged Victory Mercy, and Legendary Kkachi Echo skins. You can also earn Season 2 “goodies” by watching Overwatch 2 streamers on Twitch. There’s even a Legendary Ramattra skin up for grabs this season through Twitch viewing, Blizzard says. 

 

Season 2 also brings a few balance changes to Overwatch 2. Blizzard says it is focusing on the lethality of Sojourn’s Rail Gun at distance for Season 2 in an effort to encourage players to “make use of Sojourn’s high mobility to close the distance for the more devastating right-clicks.” Doomfist is receiving “significant changes that better support his role as the team’s front line while still maintaining the playstyle core to his Hero identity.” Overall, Blizzard says you can expect adjustments for Ana, Bastion, Junker Queen, Kiriko, Mercy, and Symmetra when the Season 2 update is released on December 6. 

For additional information about Season 2, such as new “catch up hero challenges,” be sure to read Blizzard’s full blog post. For more, read Game Informer’s Overwatch 2 review. 

Are you hopping into Season 2 of Overwatch 2? Let us know in the comments below!

Gotham Knights Update Adds 4-Player Heroic Assault And 2-Player Showdown Modes Today

Before the release of Gotham Knights, Warner Bros. Games Montreal revealed that following the game’s launch, four-player co-op, a heavily requested feature by fans, would be added in the form of a new mode called Heroic Assault. That mode, as well as a new two-player mode called Showdown, are both live now in Gotham Knights thanks to a new update. 

The base campaign of Gotham Knights allows for two-player co-op play, but getting all four of the knights together wasn’t possible. That’s still the case while playing through the game’s story, but the new online cooperative Heroic Assault mode, which tasks players with defeating enemies and completing challenges across 30 floors, supports four-player play. 

You can get a look at what to expect in the new trailer below: 

As you can see, Starro, who will look familiar to those that watched last year’s The Suicide Squad, is the main villain at play here in Heroic Assault. But this alien is not alone – Man-Bat is under their control, so players will need to take down this villain as well. 

Today’s update also includes a new mode called Showdown, which will give up to two players the chance to face off against enemies from the base game in a new way. 

“Showdown is a two-player online co-op mode where players can confront supercharged versions of the game’s main DC villains, including Mr. Freeze, Harley Quinn, Clayface, and Talia al Ghul,” a press release reads. “Defeating these bosses in Showdown will earn players legendary gear blueprints and unique suit and Batcycle colorways for every enemy overcome.” 

Today’s update is free, giving all players access to both Heroic Assault and Showdown. However, in order to access Heroic Assault, you’ll need to reach Case File 05 in the base game. For Showdown, each villain will be available in this mode after you defeat them in the game’s campaign. 

While the update is downloading, read our thoughts on the game in Game Informer’s Gotham Knights review and then check out this story about how DC Studios co-CEO James Gunn wants to connect the DC cinematic universe across movies, TV shows, and games

Are you jumping back into Gotham Knights to check out Heroic Assault and Showdown? Let us know in the comments below!

The Witcher 1 Remake Will Be Open-World, CDPR Says

Cyberpunk 2077 developer CD Projekt Red has revealed that its upcoming remake of The Witcher will be open-world. 

This news comes by way of a quarterly financial call held yesterday by the company in which CDPR briefly touched on this remake being handled by developer Fool’s Theory, as reported by VG247.  While not much was revealed, CDPR did reveal in the slide pictured below that Codename: Canis Majoris, which we now know to be The Witcher Remake, will be a “story-driven, single player open-world RPG” and a “modern reimagining of 2007’s The Witcher.”

This might come as a surprise because that 2007 game wasn’t open-world and instead took players through small hub-like levels in the city of Vizima. 

Unfortunatley, this slide is essentially all that was revealed in regards to The Witcher Remake. It might be a while before we learn more about this remake, too, considering that CDPR told fans to “please be patient” because “it’s gonna be a while until we can share more details” when the company announced this game last month

The Witcher Remake is just one of multiple projects in the works at CDPR. Last month, the company revealed it was developing a brand new Cyberpunk game, multiple new Witcher games (including this remake), and even a new IP under the codename “Hadar.” 

[Source: VG247]

Are you excited that The Witcher Remake will be open-world or do you wish it was more like the original? Let us know in the comments below!

Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII Reunion | New Gameplay Today

15 years after its release on PSP, Crisis Core is being remastered for the current generation of consoles. Join Kyle Hilliard and Charles Harte as they took a look at the new, retooled version of the game and reflect on this new era of Final Fantasy VII.

Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII Reunion releases December 13 on PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X/S, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Switch, and PC.

For more previews of some of the biggest games of 2022 and beyond, be sure to head over to our YouTube page for NGTs about Save RoomPokemon ScarletResident Evil Village: Shadows of RosePersona 5 Royal on SwitchScornLEGO BricktalesGod of War RagnarokMario + Rabbids Sparks of HopeSaturnaliaBetrayal at Club Low, and more.

Starship Troopers: Extermination Is A 12-Player Co-Op FPS Coming Next Year

Developer Offworld Industries, the studio behind Squad, has revealed Starship Troopers: Extermination, a new 12-player cooperative FPS coming to Steam Early Access next year. 

Offworld is making Extermination in collaboration with Sony Pictures Consumer Products and in the game, players will engage in squad-based FPS combat to exterminate the arachnid threat fans of the 1997 film will know really well. Those squads will need to work together in order to complete objectives, acquire resources necessary to continue the fight, build and defend a base of operations, and ultimately, escape to the one extraction point as a team. 

Check out the Starship Troopers: Extermination reveal trailer for yourself below

“Starship Troopers: Extermination puts players on the far-off front lines in an all-out assault against the Arachnid menace,” a press release for the announcement reads. “Squad up as a Trooper in the Deep Space Vanguard, an elite Special Forces group within the Mobile Infantry. And get ready to stomp some Bug because no Trooper will ever stand alone as they line up sholder-to-shoulder with their fellow Vanguards – trusty Morita Assault Rifles in hand – to battle against hordes of bloodthirsty insectoid aliens on the hostile surface of the planet Valaka.” 

Check out these Starship Troopers: Extermination screenshots for a look at what to expect on Valaka

 

Here are some Starship Troopers: Extermination key features straight from Offworld: 

Cooperative Gameplay – 12 players can team up in squads of four to defend their base, complete objectives, gather resources, and try to kill every Bug in sight. 

Three Playable Classes – Choose from Assault, Support, and Defense classes to best suit your playstyle and support the rest of your squad. 

Build Defenses – Construct walls, towers, ammo stations, and more using resources acquired from planetside refineries. 

Class Progression System – Unlock new weapons, equipment, and perks for each class to become an elite warfighter among the Deep Space Vanguard. 

5 Unique Bug Types – At Early Access launch, encounter Drone, Warrior, Gunner, Plasma Grenadier, and Tiger Elite enemy Bugs during planetside missions. 

Escalating Infestation Levels – Increasing Bug threat levels during missions bring bigger and more dangerous enemies to the fight. 

Large-scale Battles – A massive map with five unique zones, and swarm-based combat with hundreds of enemy Bugs on screen delivers the sense of an overwhelming planetary war. 

Ground War – Retake bases and refineries, destroy hives, and complete a variety of side objectives to wrest control of the map away from the Bug menace. 

Ping system – Communication is key! The ‘Ping’ system gives players a quick and easy way to call out points of interest, objectives, incoming enemies, and more to teammates. 

Extermination joins a growing list of games based on this film, like this year’s Starship Troopers – Terran Command on PC. While waiting for Extermination to hit Steam Early Access next year, check out Game Informer’s list of the top 10 shooters to play right now

Are you going to check out Starship Troopers: Extermination next year? Let us know in the comments below!

New Sonic Frontiers Patch Brings Bug Fixes And Additional Optimization To The Game

Sega released Sonic Frontiers earlier this month and while fans have been finding plenty of fun in this new open world-ish take on the blue blur, they’ve also been running into some bugs. Fortunately, Sega is releasing a new Sonic Frontiers patch on all platforms to address some of these bugs and bring additional optimization to the game. 

This news comes by way of a new tweet from the official Japanese Sonic the Hedgehog Twitter account that reveals update 1.10 “fixes an issue where the boss would sometimes disappear when retrying the boss battle on Chronos Island,” as reported by Video Games Chronicle. This update is already live on PlayStation 5 and PlayStation 4 and is expected to begin rolling out to other platforms very soon. 

Other fixes in the 1.10 patch include fixing the Chaos Island map to display properly after clearing the island, fixing crashing bugs and audio issues, adding UI improvements, optimizing stability and performance, and more, according to Update Crazy, as noted by VGC

While waiting for the patch to download, read Game Informer’s Sonic Frontiers review and then check out our top 10 tips to help you build momentum in the game. 

[Source: Video Games Chronicle]

Have you been playing Sonic Frontiers? Let us know what you think of it in the comments below!

DC Studios CEO James Gunn Wants DCU To Connect Across Film, TV, And Games

Warner Bros. Discovery revealed last month that it had hired Peter Safran and Marvel Studios alum and director James Gunn (Guardians of the Galaxy, The Suicide Squad, Peacemaker) to lead as co-CEOs of DC Studios, as reported by Variety. Since then, Gunn has been fielding questions about DC Studios, the DCU’s future, and what his plans are as a new lead within DC’s entertainment output. 

When asked on Twitter yesterday if he and Safran are “planning to give more DC characters TV shows that’ll add to the story for the DCEU,” Gunn responded, “Yes, most definitely, the DCU will be connected across film and TV (and animation).” In a follow-up tweet, another user asked is there are plans to connect games to this larger DCU canon as well, to which Gunn simply responded, “Yes.” 

Yes.

— James Gunn (@JamesGunn) November 27, 2022

It’s an interesting response and idea, especially given that it seems clear Warner Bros. Discovery wants its DCU to become something more akin to Marvel Studios’ MCU. However, MCU plans don’t include video games because Marvel’s video game efforts through partners such as Insomniac Games (Marvel’s Spider-Man), Crystal Dynamics (Marvel’s Avengers), and others do not connect in any way.

In fact, Marvel Games vice president and creative director Bill Roseman said back in September that it’s important that each studios’ Marvel game is not connected to the rest as it allows for narrative freedom said studio might not get otherwise.

This is one area DC could differ greatly from Marvel and who knows, perhaps it’s the creative edge DC needs to catch up to the MCU. Only time will tell. 

In the meantime, check out our thoughts on the latest DC game in Game Informer’s Gotham Knights review. Read our list of the top 10 superhero games of all time after that. 

Do you like the idea of games connecting to the DCU or do you prefer Marvel’s approach to video games? Let us know in the comments below!

Evil West Is A Rootin’ Tootin’ Nostalgic Romp That Makes Me Feel Like A Kid Again

I’ve been excited about developer Flying Wild Hog’s Evil West since its reveal at The Game Awards in 2020. So much about it immediately captured my attention. Despite Red Dead Redemption’s best efforts, I’ve always felt there’s a shortage of wild wests in video games, although some games use a western’s formula to tell a story set elsewhere. Evil West’s premise also feels reminiscent of something you’d see in the PlayStation 2 era: cowboys who protect mere mortals from the secret horrors of the world, such as vampires and other creatures. My mind can’t help but see Darkwatch, a game I played repeatedly as a child, when I see Evil West. 

Even more generally, that era was great for third-person action westerns – Gun, Red Dead Revolver, the aforementioned Darkwatch, and Call of Juarez (although Techland released this during the next generation, its 2006 release year is close enough to the PS2 that it feels at home here). All of this is to say that playing Evil West makes me feel like a child again in the best way.

Beyond its setting, which had me waxing nostalgic even before its release, almost every aspect of Evil West presents itself how I remember PS2 games doing when I was ten or so years old in the early 2000s. It begins with a cinematic that sets up Jesse Rentier, the son of the leader of the Rentier Institute, an arm of the government that works specifically against the forces of evil hidden in plain sight. Jesse is a gunslinger with an electricity-imbued weapon on one arm, wolverine claws on the other, and three guns in tow, like his father before and his grandfather, too. He has a working partner – what good cowboy goes it alone in the wild west? – and over-the-top garb that matches his caricature-like physique, and of course, the persona every leading cowboy in basically any western game has, too. 

In Evil West the Sanguines, an underground council of vampires, are seemingly being split apart by a young, anger-filled daughter who, like her father, believes it’s time for her kind to stop hiding in the shadows, and it’s up to Jesse to stop her. The story is fine so far. I’d be content if that’s all the story the game gave me. It gets the job done, and it, perhaps accidentally so, harkens back to the Darkwatches of the world. Sometimes a simple reason to kill countless vampires and enemy creatures is all I need. I certainly don’t need every game to feature a story that raises the hairs on my arms or moves me to tears. And in Evil West’s case, I’m okay to follow Jesse to the farthest reaches of this strange frontier to stop evil. 

The gameplay speaks directly to my PS2 nostalgia, as well, although I’d be remiss not to mention that this is one of the first games I’ve played that wears its God of War (2018) inspiration fully on its sleeve. Combat plays out nearly the same from the close-up, over-the-shoulder, third-person camera keeping the action in your face, to the finishers that unlock when the enemy is glowing orange, to the over-the-top guts and gore that splatter with each enemy kill. Even traversing this wild west feels like a walk through one of God of War’s nine realms. You use a rope mechanic to reach new places, destroy chests by punching through their top, and stumble upon combat arena after combat arena in between more explorative sections.

In those combat arenas is where the game reminds me most of my PS2 days. Remember how, likely due to hardware limitations, levels were a linear mix of “explore to find a chest or two while you get some additional story” and “time to fight waves of enemies until an indeterminable, seemingly random amount of time has passed?” I do, and while writing it out doesn’t sound so flattering, it’s somewhat refreshing –  although that could just be my nostalgia talking. Evil West wants you to focus exclusively on combat when it’s time to kill and when it’s not, it wants you to go find that random chest with gold in it. 

Even the presentation of Evil West feels nostalgic, from its 2000s-esque fonts to how it showcases collectible lore bits and more. And the visual style wraps all of this up with a nice bow on top. 

I suppose comparing Evil West to the PS2 games of my childhood could be perceived negatively, but I am thoroughly enjoying my time with it thus far. It knows what it is and is reveling in that by putting its bombastic combat up front, its story behind that, and its lovingly tropey characters somewhere in the middle. Evil West is, like countless PS2-era games I still look back on fondly, a game I will mostly forget about shortly after I roll through its credits. But perhaps every now and then, 5, 10, 15 years from now, I’ll think about it and the fun I had for a short few days. Not every game needs to stick with me long after I finish it, and sometimes it’s okay for games to feel like those of yesteryear. It’s not every day a game makes me feel like a kid again, after all.

Are you playing Evil West? Let us know in the comments below!

The Holiday 2022 Nintendo Gift Guide | All Things Nintendo

This week’s episode of All Things Nintendo is all about getting into the giving mood. That’s right: With this episode of the show landing on Black Friday, Brian invites Game Informer production director Margaret Andrews to give a ton of ideas for crossing off the Nintendo fan on your holiday shopping list.

If you’d like to follow the people from this episode on Twitter, hit the following links: Brian Shea (@brianpshea)Margaret Andrews (@sopheava) 

The All Things Nintendo podcast is a weekly show where we can celebrate, discuss, and break down all the latest games, news, and announcements from the industry’s most recognizable name. Each week, Brian is joined by different guests to talk about what’s happening in the world of Nintendo. Along the way, they’ll share personal stories, uncover hidden gems in the eShop, and even look back on the classics we all grew up with. A new episode hits every Friday!

Be sure to subscribe to All Things Nintendo on your favorite podcast platform. The show is available on Apple PodcastsSpotify, and Google Podcasts.

00:00:00 – Introduction
00:01:33 – Buying a Nintendo Switch
00:04:52 – Switch Games
00:36:49 – Nintendo Merchandise
00:55:07 – Non-Nintendo Recommendations

If you’d like to get in touch with the All Things Nintendo podcast, you can email AllThingsNintendo@GameInformer.com, tweet to Brian (@BrianPShea), or join the official Game Informer Discord server. You can do that by linking your Discord account to your Twitch account and subscribing to the Game Informer Twitch channel. From there, find the All Things Nintendo channel under “Community Spaces.”

For Game Informer’s other podcast, be sure to check out The Game Informer Show with host Alex Van Aken, which covers the weekly happenings of the video game industry!

Watch These High-Skill Street Fighter 6 Developer Matches

As part of our exclusive Street Fighter 6 cover story, we’re showing off high-level developer matches captured by Capcom’s Fighting Team. These matches feature some of the company’s best players competing in head-to-head battles with Ken, Ryu, Luke, and Jamie. Are you taking notes yet? I am.

If you enjoy this video, be sure to watch the rest of our exclusive Street Fighter 6 videos. Subscribe to the Game Informer YouTube channel if you’re new here.

God Of War Ragnarök’s Director Fought To Keep Its Most Unexpected And Cartoonish Character

​God of War Ragnarök is a world full of scowling gods and monsters butting heads as they each work toward their best interests. The nine realms are dark and dangerous, but through all of that shines a beam of unexpected light, and I am not talking about Brok, the dwarf who seems incapable of finishing a sentence without including some kind of vulgarity before meeting the period at the end. I am talking about Ratatoskr, the eyepatch-wearing squirrel who watches over Yggdrasil, the world tree that holds the realms in place.

Ratatoskr technically appeared in God of War (2018), but he was less of a character and more of an ability. Atreus could summon the translucent blue squirrel to bring health items and sometimes hacksilver. In God of War Ragnarök, Ratatoskr is a physical, non-translucent character with dialogue, requests, and an introductory cutscene. He is also, arguably, the most unexpected character in the game.

Ratatoskr introduces himself to Kratos and Atreus like a cute, animated Disney sidekick. He climbs on top of Kratos, who might as well be a tree, rifles through his belongings like Yoda in Return of the Jedi, and leaps to Atreus where he stands perched on his arm to explain who he is. He’s weird as hell and aesthetically out of place. There are plenty of animals in God of War Ragnarök, good and evil, but Ratatoskr is the only one who wears clothes and speaks in perfect English (or whatever language you’re playing in). He has plenty of jokes, but is not quite comic relief. Ratatoskr is odd and unexpected, and that’s exactly how Ragnarök director Eric Williams wanted him to be.

“I wanted this character in the game,” Williams told us during a recent interview. “I wanted him to do these things and everyone was like, ‘We have to cut this. We have too many characters.’ And I was like, ‘No! He’s staying in the game.’” Ratatoskr is among the many reasons Ragnarök is considered the funniest entry in the God of War franchise. Williams wanted the game to have moments of levity to help offset the otherwise dark tone and it’s why he put his foot down to make sure Ratatoskr stayed.

“That scene where he shows up? That was the one everybody was like, ‘Okay, are we going too far?’” Williams says. “Even the music director was like, ‘I don’t even know what to do with the music here. This is so far away from God of War. We don’t even have music written that will help this along!’ They had to go back and piece some stuff together for it because it was so foreign to what God of War is.” Williams wanted to make sure the person portraying Ratatoskr would be able to deliver a comedic performance, and he knew exactly who he wanted early on.

SungWon Cho is a talented voice actor who has appeared in dozens of games and animated TV shows, but he may be best known on the internet for his short-form sketches poking fun at very specific elements of nerd culture. “I wanted SungWon to voice him,” Williams says. “One of our writers, Anthony Burch, said, ‘I know SungWon,’ and I was like, ‘Dude – call him.’” Cho came in and learned about the character and Williams asked him if he was interested in writing for Ratatoskr as well, to which Cho agreed.

Speaking with Cho over e-mail about the role, he said he was brought in before the game was announced and wasn’t even sure what he was potentially signing up for. “I walked into the meeting room not knowing what to expect, and Eric went, ‘So I think you can guess what game we want you for,’” Cho writes. “I responded, ‘I have no idea,” and he sorta nodded his head toward the projector in the room with a big God of War background, and I just went, ‘……Oh.’”

Unlike most players, he wasn’t too surprised by the look and plan for Ratatoskr. “Conceptually, I wasn’t too thrown off in the beginning, but maybe that’s because I’ve voiced a lot of talking animals in my career,” Cho writes.

In terms of writing the character, Cho worked on Ratatoskr from the very beginning. “I was given full reign to come up with the real Ratatoskr’s personality and voice,” Cho writes. “Before I joined the writing team, Ratatoskr’s personality was actually much more like Bitter’s in the first game, rude and sassy, but I thought it’d be more fun to have the real Ratatoskr be more of an eager-to-please, not entirely trustworthy type who literally ejects aspects of his personality he finds bothersome. I remember pitching him as almost like a car salesman who wants you to like him so he can sell you more cars.”

Cho proposed Ratatoskr’s additional personalities and was given a framework for what information needed to be delivered to the player, but from there he had free reign to develop and write for the character as he pleased. “Ratatoskr’s introduction scene was entirely unchanged from how I wrote it, and I think it was pretty key in establishing the character’s personality/tone,” Cho writes. “After I left the writing team and months later went in to record lines, I did notice that some of my dialogue was still in, some had been changed, and there were also new lines, but I was impressed at how it all fit very well into the personality I had established for the character.”

Cho also provided motion capture for Ratatoskr, which was functionally much different from the rest of the cast who who play characters that radically vary in height, but are otherwise all human beings. “It was a fascinating experience. A lot of people think I literally climbed up on Christopher Judge’s shoulders or something, which would be absurd on its own, but I feel like the actual process was even more bewildering,” Cho writes. “Basically, I was provided a set of bars in front of me and a big platform I could sit on behind me. I then watched the actors in real-time as a puppeteer moved a plush Ratatoskr around Chris’s body, performed the lines live, and had to do the climbing motions while standing. If I sat on a character’s shoulder, I would take a seat on the platform behind me. If I had to climb up something, I could use the bars in front of me to ‘pull’ myself up.” Cho basically watched the puppet version of his character and performed the scenes from the perspective of the puppet. “Definitely one of the strangest but most entertaining acting experiences I’ve had,” Cho writes.

and now that God of War: Ragnarok’s out, here’s the obligatory goofy motion-capture photos of me suited up to perform Ratatoskr, it’s a very attractive look, i know, thank you @SonySantaMonica pic.twitter.com/cgBT2rcnYc

— SungWon Cho (@ProZD) November 9, 2022

“[SungWon is] super deadpan. The whole time I didn’t know if he was happy or mad or sad or whatever,” Williams says. “He finally tells us, ‘I’m just like this all the time. Inside my head, I’m doing backflips.’”

Ratatoskr did have lines of dialogue and a voice in the first game, provided by Troy Baker (Joel from The Last of Us and dozens of other games), but for the sequel they wanted to change up the character. In the context of the game, Ratatoskr has separated and broken his personalities out of his body, which explains why he could exist in the first game as a spectral entity with a different voice.

“I had already had this idea that we would make it like Inside Out where he’s got all the personalities – but we’ll keep Troy [Baker] so that he’s got this one that he’s like, ‘He’s not even part of me,’” Williams says. “Troy found out and he’s like, ‘Oh, this is great. I can’t wait to do this again.’ So the two of them became the five squirrels.”

Originally, Williams and the team toyed with having different voice actors for every squirrel, but ended up leaning on Cho to mix up the performances. “From what I was told, I was chosen because they thought I could pull off vastly different personalities, and because they wanted someone with a comedic background not only for performance but also for writing the dialogue,” Cho writes.

As is to be expected with just about any creative endeavor, not everything planned for Ratatoskr made it into the final game. “They asked me to write a ‘rap battle’ in the style of the Norse activity of flyting, which is essentially a contest of throwing insults at each other,” Cho writes, in regards to Ratatoskr content that didn’t make the final cut. “It was between Ratatoskr and Brok, and I was pretty happy with how it turned out, but a lot of things have to get cut for time (or maybe silliness).”

The ultimate verdict is still out on Ratatoskr. Time will tell if he’s a beloved addition to God of War’s large cast, but early feedback has been welcoming and positive. It helps that players have learned if you ring his bell enough, the typically stoic squirrel will lash out and be the only character to showcase more anger than old Kratos. “If you’re going to bring in a giant talking squirrel and have him talk to Kratos, I think he’s going to feel cartoony no matter what you do,” Cho writes. “While I wanted him to be a very fun, almost larger than life character, I still wanted to make sure his personality and motivations had real earnestness to them. As far as writing him went, I wanted him to feel real and not just a silly little throwaway character.”

Ask Us Anything: Submit Your Questions For Our Next Issue

In each issue, Game Informer prints questions that are submitted by readers via email and standard mail. We’d like to give our website readers the chance to make the magazine as well.

You’ll need to log in to your GI account and click “okay to print” for your letter or question to go through. We’d also love it if you included your location (city, state, or country will do). We’ll look through the questions and pick a few to include in our next issue, which releases on December 20.

For each issue, we ask our community a question for our SoundOff section. This time around, we want to know…

“What’s the best gaming-related gift you’ve ever received?”

You can answer this question and/or include any other feedback you want. Thank you again for your support throughout the years, and we hope many of you get the chance to have your letter printed in an upcoming issue!

Submit Your Question or Letter

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How A Neon White Level Is Made

As of writing, the fastest runthrough of Neon White’s “Smackdown” level is 9.56 seconds, earned by player “earlobe” on September 6, 2022.

Standing in contrast is the work that went into it. According to designer and creative director Ben Esposito, the earliest iteration was in March 2019, more than three years before its release in June 2022. In that time, there were more than 50 different iterations. Sometimes changes were small. Other times they fundamentally altered the level. Every designer who worked on the game has touched Smackdown in some form. Nevertheless, load into it now; chances are all that labor is invisible to you. Before sitting down to write, I beat it in just 11 seconds.

Neon White is a game built around speedrunning. Levels are short. If you’re playing as intended, you hardly notice your surroundings before moving on. But the only way that works effectively is if levels are meticulously designed to facilitate that movement; they have to be made so that it feels natural for the player to fly through them. Making a level you barely think twice about takes a lot of effort. Read more…

The Top 10 Games On Switch

The Nintendo Switch has an incredibly strong library of games, with many worth recommending. For our 10 absolute favorite games, however, you can check out the list below. It’s a list we will be updating as often as games worthy of inclusion release. We will kick games off and add new ones as the Switch’s library grows.

Please note that while the list below contains 10 entries, we aren’t actually ranking them – if a game has made it this far (and managed to stay here), it’s a must-play, period. As such, we’ll be listing entries in reverse chronological order. Also, you’ll find a rundown of previous entries at the bottom of the list. While those titles have gotten bumped for bigger and better experiences, they are still all great games in their own right and worth exploring if you’re already caught up on the latest hits.

Here are Game Informer’s picks for the top 10 games on the Switch.

Neon White

Release: June 16, 2022

Engrossing, exciting, and dripping with style, Neon White is a treat for fans of platforming and early 2000s anime. As White, a slain assassin forced to eradicate demons in Heaven, you’ll sprint through dozens of brilliantly designed stages that emphasize speedrunning. Card-based gun abilities challenge you to strategically obliterate foes while using their traversal skills, such as double-jumping or a grappling hook, to bound through levels – in seconds flat if you really hit your stride. An intriguing narrative and relationship-building quests flesh out the wacky cast, and the soundtrack nails its early Toonami-inspired vibe. Neon White may be at its best on PC, but the game runs like a dream on Switch, and it’s tough to deny the joy of conquering leaderboard scores anywhere you go. | Our Review

Kirby and the Forgotten Land

Release: March 25, 2022

Kirby may have been late to the 3D platformer party, but his arrival proved both fashionable and a ton of fun. His traditional copy abilities are joined by the new Mouthful Mode, allowing him to absorb larger objects, such as cars, and assume their physical form to solve clever environmental puzzles. It’s the most adorable form of body horror we’ve ever seen. The vibrant and striking post-apocalyptic playground is a blast to explore, and the story takes some surprisingly wild turns. Kirby has no shortage of games, but The Forgotten Land stands as his biggest standout since Epic Yarn. | Our Review

Pokémon Legends: Arceus

Release: January 28, 2022

Pokémon Legends: Arceus stands as the biggest change of pace for the long-running franchise. Set in an ancient version of Sinnoh, you’re tasked with exploring a large world to fill out the first Pokédex. Though not a true open world, the sense of freedom still feels liberating as does the less restrictive battle system where players can freely sneak up, challenge, and even evade Pokémon. We loved capturing never-before-seen versions of our favorite pocket monsters and a bevy of side quests, plus an engaging main narrative, kept us glued to our Switch screens. Pokémon Legends: Arceus has its faults, but it represents a strong first step towards what we hope is the start of a new series. | Our Review

Metroid Dread

Release: October 8, 2021

Metroid fans have been begging Nintendo for a brand new 2D Metroid adventure for nearly two decades. Thankfully, when Nintendo finally delivered, it didn’t disappoint. As the name implies, Dread is a tense experience, full of challenging boss fights and deadly robots who doggedly chase Samus across the various biomes of Planet ZDR. Metroid’s classic exploration-based platforming remains intact, and we eagerly hunted down new upgrades like the Phantom Cloak and the Spider Magnet. The race to 100 percent was over all too quickly, but we can’t wait to see what Dread’s big story reveals mean for the series’ future. | Our Review

 

Animal Crossing: New Horizons

Release: March 20, 2020

The tranquil, low-stress Animal Crossing: New Horizons hit at the exact right time in the world. With the news cycle becoming more tumultuous since 2020, Animal Crossing: New Horizons offers refuge in the form of a virtual tropical island. Building and customizing your house and island the way you see fit is immensely rewarding as New Horizons delivers a fun daily loop full of goals and rewards. | Our Review

Fire Emblem: Three Houses

Release: July 26, 2019

The Fire Emblem series has built a cult following through handheld platforms in recent years, but with Three Houses, the turn-based strategy series explodes back onto TVs in the best way possible. Featuring outstanding strategic gameplay, a fun story to interact with and influence, and multiple paths to take through the narrative, Fire Emblem: Three Houses is one of the best strategy games available today. | Our Review

Super Smash Bros. Ultimate

Release: December 7, 2018

A crossover event two decades in the making, Super Smash Bros. Ultimate represents the series in its most realized form. Containing superb fighting mechanics, a terrific suite of modes to play, and a roster of fighters that features every character in series history and then some, Super Smash Bros. Ultimate is all but an essential title for the Switch. | Our Review

Super Mario Odyssey

Release: October 27, 2017

Every Nintendo console has to have at least one fantastic Mario platformer, and the Switch is no exception. Mario Odyssey released a few months after the launch of the console and it hits all the Mario checkboxes necessary to be considered a classic, plus a few surprising new ones. It’s whimsical, has perfect controls, tons to discover, and features a city level where all the humans have normal proportions while Mario runs around as his short, cartoony self. It’s a strange adventure and a must-have for Switch owners. | Our Review

 

Mario Kart 8 Deluxe

Release: April 28, 2017

Far more than a simple port of the excellent Mario Kart 8 for Wii U, Deluxe includes all the game’s DLC (extra tracks, racers, and cars), and Battle Mode, which was curiously absent from the original release. Playing split-screen Mario Kart is always a hit, and having a version of the game with two controllers you can take anywhere makes it the perfect showcase for the Switch. | Our Review

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild

Release: March 3, 2017

We’re not exaggerating when we say The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is one of the best games ever made. We gave it the rare 10/10 in our review and gave it our 2017 Game of the Year award as it sets a new high standard for open-world video games. Being able to go anywhere you can see on the map has never been more true than it is in Breath of the Wild and it is also filled with the kind of excellent puzzle design you expect from a Zelda experience. It’s a journey you won’t soon forget and the optional DLC packs add additional challenges and new items worth pursuing to the overworld. | Our Review

The games considered for this list that didn’t make the cut, or have been cut since we originally published this article: Super Mario 3D World + Bowser’s Fury, Stardew ValleyPokémon Sword & ShieldHollow Knight, Fortnite, Celeste, Golf Story, Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle, Splatoon 2Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze, Doom, The Elder Scrolls V: SkyrimWolfenstein II: The New Colossus, Sonic Mania, Luigi’s Mansion 3, Dragon Quest XI S: Echoes of an Elusive Age – Definitive Edition, and recent classics that have been ported, Shovel Knight: Treasure Trove, Inside, and Axiom Verge. They’re all still great games, so give them a try, too!

Follow these links to read comparable lists for the PlayStation 5, Xbox Series XPlayStation 4, and Xbox One!

The Behind-The-Scenes Story Of How Sonic 2 Became Sega’s Ace In The Hole

Despite an avalanche of entries since its original release in 1991, many still consider Sonic the Hedgehog 2 the pinnacle of the series. Sonic the Hedgehog 2 was showered with praise upon release in 1992 and surprisingly, that sterling reputation hasn’t faded decades later. We asked the people behind the game’s success to share how Sonic’s second outing became one of Sega’s driving forces in its fight against Nintendo.

Coming off of the massive success of the Japan-developed Sonic the Hedgehog, Sega relocated development efforts for the sequel to the newly founded Sega Technical Institute in the U.S. Sega tapped Mark Cerny to lead the STI, who has since gone on to help create other mascots like Crash Bandicoot and Spyro the Dragon. Key members of the original development team, such as series creator Yuji Naka, moved stateside to work on the sequel to Genesis’ flagship title.

“The development team moved to San Francisco when developing Sonic the Hedgehog 2, and we were able to recognize the great [power] of our title in the U.S. and hear opinions from children,” Naka says. “I think it was good influence for the development team.”

Al Nilsen, former director of marketing at Sega of America, says that the team decided to go all out to ensure it could follow up its mascot’s debut with another smash hit. “The thing about sequels – whether it’s a book, a movie, or video game – is that sequels don’t always deliver and in a lot of cases they suck,” he says. The development team knew it had to up the ante for the anticipated sequel, and Naka’s team had plenty of ideas. However, one major defining trait had to remain. “What stayed the same was Sonic’s pursuit to speed,” Naka says. “In Sonic The Hedgehog 2, we lifted up the limit of speed from the previous title. I think this proved our passion for speed. This game also had a 2P mode that we tried to install in Sonic The Hedgehog at the later phase of development. I’m very glad that we continued this and achieved it in the sequel.”

Former Sega of America CEO Tom Kalinske, who worked closely with the development team alongside Nilsen and former product manager Madeline Schroeder, says that the constant communication between the product team and the development team helped the process in those days. Nilsen says that feedback loop helped the team refine Sonic 2 down to the lauded game we have today. “The game probably could have been three times the size if we left in everything that was there,” he says. “Naka and team really did a phenomenal job of editing what was going to be in the game, and weren’t afraid to say, ‘I’ve been working on this for four months, it’s not working. Let’s take it out.’ [In] a lot of games, that isn’t going to happen. It was just a great management of the project.”

Nilsen claims that Sonic 2 looked like a big success earlier than almost any other game the company had seen. Because of this confidence, the marketing team began drafting elaborate promotions like “Sonic 2sday” and a teaser poster with the slogan “Are You Up 2 It?” Sega bet big that it had a massive hit on its hands and wanted to this be as much a celebration as it was a product launch.

With Sonic 2, the stakes were so high for Sega that the game was polished up until the last possible moment then flown to Japan for production by two people on two separate planes – just in case something went wrong with one plane. The code arrived in Japan without issue, but despite Sega’s confidence, the question of whether or not it would live up to the hype in the eyes of the public remained.

When posed with the question of what it would have meant for Sega if Sonic 2 failed, Nilsen pauses for a long time before saying that it’s hard to imagine. “I think that it would have meant a shifting of focus for us,” he says. “We could have pulled the plug on Sonic 2sday going up to May of ’92, so we felt pretty good about what we had seen in Sonic 2 to know that it wasn’t just going to be an ordinary sequel, it was going to be a much better sequel. […]But if it hadn’t [been good], we would have figured something else out. We’re Sega! I just don’t know what it is, and I don’t want to have to think about that, but we would have done something else.”

Thankfully for Nilsen, Sega didn’t need to worry about coming up with a plan B. The game ended up being considered one of the best 2D platforming games of the ’90s by both fans and critics. It boosted sales of Genesis hardware to the point that it was nearly Nintendo’s equal in terms of market share. The polished, challenging, and inventive stages gave players a greater playground to speed through. The inclusion of Sonic’s mainstay spin dash move added substantially to players’ gameplay options, and the game serves as the introduction of Tails, the series’ most popular companion to this day. “They delivered not just a good game, but a phenomenal game with new elements making it bigger and better,” Nilsen says.

Current head of Sonic Team Takashi Iizuka didn’t work on the game, but he acknowledges how special Sonic 2 is. “As someone who worked on Sonic 3, it kind of hurts me to say it, but I do feel that Sonic 2 really is the best of the classic Sonic series,” he says. “The level design is just really, really solid. There are a lot of reasons why I think a lot of people still gravitate toward Sonic 2. Sonic 2 happened in America with the perfect mixture of U.S. development staff along with Japanese development staff and everyone talking, discussing, and working together where all of the staff would say it was a great game for Japanese tastes but also a great game for American tastes. Sonic 2 really captured that global sense of game design and level design.”

Sonic 2’s legacy lives on today, as it appears on a multitude of platforms and serves as the gold standard for all 2D Sonic games. One of those titles is the recently released Sonic Mania, which pays homage to the classic games in the franchise at every turn. Sonic Mania ensures the legacy lives on, as it not only reviewed well, but performed well for Sega, ranking highly in digital storefronts like Nintendo’s eShop for months following its release. Sonic the Hedgehog 2 is an undeniably special title that solidified Sega’s blue blur as a true contender to Mario, and to this day, fans, critics, and its creators look back at the speedy hedgehog’s sophomore effort with great affection.

For more on the Sonic the Hedgehog franchise, check out other stories:

Where Sonic Went Wrong
How Sonic 3 Became Two Separate Games
How Sonic Made the Leap to Nintendo
Sonic the Hedgehog Burning Questions Finally Answered
More Burning Questions About The Sonic The Hedgehog Franchise Answered

Hidden Treasure

The propellers spin down, and I step off the puddle-jumper plane onto the tarmac of the tiniest airport I’ve ever visited. Instantly, I’m overcome by the scent of greenery – lush and humid, with a hint of maybe mint. Jungle surrounds this strip of paved runway in every direction. And I’m here, of all things, to see a video game.

But first, I must explore a place on the other side of the world I hadn’t even heard of a month earlier – a narrow island called Lifou, part of a French territory known as New Caledonia, which sits some 750 miles east of Australia. I’m meeting a small team of game developers who have chosen to find inspiration for their new game in this remote locale. The team is toying with a big idea: Craft a game that’s rewarding in its own right but simultaneously introduces players of the world to a place most of them have never seen. Read more…

Outer Terror Is Like Vampire Survivors Meets Pulp Action Horror | New Gameplay Today

In today’s New Gameplay Today, your hosts Wesley LeBlanc and Kyle Hilliard jump into Outer Terror, an upcoming pulp action-horror game coming to PC sometime soon. 

The two discuss the game’s visual style, how it plays, its similarities to Vampire Survivors, and everything else going on in this exclusive preview. This demo build features a small snippet of one of the game’s five volumes and our gameplay showcases how the on-screen action works, the horrors from beyond, and how quests work in Outer Terror. 

Check out Outer Terror for yourself below in this installment of New Gameplay Today

INSERT VIDEO HERE

As you can see, Outer Terror is shaping up to be a great time, perfect for those moments where you’ve got 10 or 15 minutes to blitz through hordes of the undead, monsters from beyond, and more. For more about Outer Terror and what to expect from the game, check out our coverage of the game from last month

Outer Terror hits PC via Steam and the VoxPop Games Store (with exclusive content on that storefront, too), but a release date has not yet been revealed. 

For more previews of some of the biggest games of 2022 and beyond, be sure to head over to our YouTube page for NGTs about Save RoomPokemon ScarletResident Evil Village: Shadows of RosePersona 5 Royal on SwitchScornLEGO BricktalesGod of War RagnarokMario + Rabbids Sparks of HopeSaturnaliaBetrayal at Club Low, and more.

What’s Next For Ryu Ga Gotoku Studio

It’s September 13, and Ryu Ga Gotoku Studio is just over 24 hours away from revealing its big plans for the future.

It’ll be a night of celebrities, game announcements, and an infamous afterparty full of alcohol, confetti, and blaring music. It’ll take over Twitter, and leave more than a few people nursing headaches the following day.

But today, instead of focusing on his big night, studio head Masayoshi Yokoyama is sitting in a conference room talking about why he loves Neon Genesis EvangelionRead more…

Pokémon Scarlet And Violet Achieve Best Launch Weekend Sales In Nintendo History

Pokémon Scarlet and Violet sold more than 10 million combined units over its launch weekend, claiming the top spot for most three-day launch weekend software sales in Nintendo’s history. The number, which includes physical and downloadable copies as reported by Nintendo, already places Pokémon Scarlet and Violet in the top 15 best-selling Nintendo Switch titles of all time. In this three-day number, Pokémon Scarlet and Violet have already outpaced lifetime sales of games such as Splatoon 3, Kirby and the Forgotten Land, Nintendo Switch Sports, and Super Mario 3D World + Bowser’s Fury.

The current overall best-selling Nintendo Switch title is Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, which has sold just over 48 million units as of the end of September. As of this writing, the Pokémon franchise occupies 3 of the top 10 slots of lifetime Nintendo Switch software sales, with Let’s Go, Pikachu and Eevee at number 10, Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl at number 8, and Sword and Shield at number 5. Pokémon Scarlet and Violet need to sell just under 5 million more combined copies to crack into the top 10. To date, the Nintendo Switch has sold over 114 million units.

Pokémon Scarlet and Violet represent the first time players are able to explore a fully open-world environment in a mainline Pokémon RPG. While critics praised various aspects of the newest games in the series, the technical performance has been universally panned. However, despite those concerns, Game Freak, The Pokémon Company, and Nintendo clearly have another massive hit on their hands. You can read our full review of Pokémon Scarlet and Violet here.

Somerville Is The Best Alien Invasion Game Since Half-Life 2

Fighting aliens in video games have been an important part of the medium since its inception. The very first video game, Space War, was about a war in space. Space Invaders was an early cultural phenomenon that was rumored to have inhaled so many coins that it created supply issues for the currency in Japan. Halo, one of the biggest video game franchises ever created, is about an ongoing war with aliens. We enjoy fighting aliens in video games because it’s easy to make creatures from another planet the enemy and they can look like anything.

The smaller, more personal alien invasion story, however, is a specific sub-genre of extra-terrestrial narrative we don’t often see in video games. When we fight aliens, it’s usually a power trip meant to offer a playground of action possibilities, but Somerville tells the story of a family just trying to figure out how to survive in the face of an unknown menace. You’re not trying to find the best weapon to hit the aliens’ weak point. You’re not even taking the time to get a good look at the aliens. You’re just trying to get to the next point of safety.

Somerville is thrilling for this reason, and in its best moments, it reminded me of the last time I experienced a truly great alien invasion in a video game: Half-Life 2.

Now, there is a semantic argument to be made that Half-Life and specifically its sequel is not an alien invasion story. Half-Life’s enemies, the Combine, are from a different dimension as opposed to an alien world, but the core Spielburg-ian idea is the same – there are new strange beings on the planet, we don’t know what they are, and we don’t know how to deal with them.

Unlike Somerville, which never really puts you in a position of power (even though you do have some special abilities), Half-Life 2 does become a power fantasy pretty quickly. The Gravity Gun is capable of some truly incredible feats especially late in the game, but it never abandons the awe and confusion of a world reckoning with an invasion.

In Half-Life 2, you are dropped into a world that has been dealing with the Combine for years. Humanity is scared and confused – but they are alive. And during the opening hours of the game, you get a chance to walk around and take it all in. If Half-Life 2 is about how humanity tries to respond to an invasion, Somerville is about the day it happened.

The two are remarkably different games in completely different genres (even if the protagonists have the same facial hair), but I couldn’t help thinking of taking my first steps into City 17, Breen’s voice booming over the loudspeaker welcoming to me to my new reality, while my dog and I tried to outrun the gigantic purple light breaking through the trees. If you liked the general tone of Half-Life 2, I suggest you check out Somerville. And if you like Somerville, but have never played Half-Life 2, now is as good a time as any to visit City 17.

Top 10 Action Games To Play Right Now

Over the years, what defines a game as the “action” category has gotten more ambiguous than ever, as many games now include aspects of multiple core genres. However, one thing remains certain – games in this category give the player a polished, exciting experience. So, what is this list all about? This isn’t a Top 10 Action Games of All Time list or a Top 10 Action Games of a Generation list. Instead, we’re tackling this one from the angle of what’s important, what’s incredible, and what’s fantastic right now. As in today. This week. This month. So when you don’t see a Dark Souls game on this list, that’s why even though I’d recommend a fresh playthrough of Dark Souls 3 every day. This ever-shifting list aims to capture the highlights of the now and what we think you’d love to be playing this very moment. Presented in no particular order, this list keeps it fresh. Let’s dive in!

Bayonetta 3

Switch

From a pure combat standpoint, Bayonetta’s third outing proves to be her strongest. The witch’s new Demon Masquerade and Demon Slave mechanics improve an already fantastic combat system with a slew of wildly entertaining weapons and abilities. Whether you’re slinging a giant yo-yo, conjuring a demonic train, or annihilating foes apart with a dragon-infused cannon, we couldn’t get enough of the game’s offensive variety. It also feels great summoning giant demons to end long combo strings with a powerful exclamation point. The Viola and Jeanne sections may be weaker, but when the spotlight shines on Bayonetta, she proves once again that few series can outshine her on the battlefield. | Our Review

Elden Ring

PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X/S, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC

What can we say about From Software’s latest that hasn’t already been said? A seemingly perfect evolution of the Soulsborne formula, Elden Ring instills its punishing combat with a newfound and unparalleled level of freedom. Shield parries, blade slashes, swooping arrows, and magical shockwaves erupt in wondrous flurries of multicolored sparks while spirit summons, weapon arts, and multiplayer companions amplify the chaos. Horseback battles also up the ante; well-timed double jumps make avoiding ax swings or incoming infernos feel appropriately cinematic. And we’d be remiss not to mention the various entities that call The Lands Between home. From the elderly but swift-footed, Margit, the Fell Omen to crimson-haired Malenia, Blade of Miquella, Elden Ring has no shortage of unforgettable encounters. | Our Review

Ghost of Tsushima Director’s Cut

PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4

Ghost of Tsushima impressed on many levels during its initial 2020 release, letting players explore breathtaking scenery while participating in riveting combat. Little touches like the Kurosawa mode that transforms the game into a black-and-white vision that one might remember from films like Seven Samurai make all the difference here, as you can tell that a deft and practiced hand went into the creation of every element that makes up the whole of Ghost.

The director’s cut is easily the best way to play Ghost today and comes with the new Iki island expansion that gives players plenty of more content to engage with. A director’s commentary is adds significant depth for players that want to learn more about the game’s creation, the real-life events that inspired it, the setting, and so much more. Since its release, Ghost has also received other major updates, including a massive multiplayer experience that you can take on with friends. | Our Review

God of War Ragnarök

PlayStation 5

Kratos and Atreus’ second outing may not be markedly different from their last when it comes to action, but that doesn’t make it any less of a fun adrenaline romp. Fine tweaks and new tricks (especially for Atreus) add fun wrinkles to the brutal action. Toppling the deadliest creatures and deities Norse mythology has to offer remains a thrill, and that barrage of bloodshed is wrapped around an engaging narrative brought to life by powerful performances. From its hot start to its epic conclusion, God of War Ragnarök is the total package. Our Review

Hades

PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X/S, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Switch, PC

Roguelikes find plenty of appreciation these days, but Hades may be the one that gets everyone chasing their next run and rockets the genre to the spotlight in the coming years. The “just one more run” cycle has never been more apparent, and Hades throwing in some story to unravel and fantastic characters to meet adds a bit of zest to the equation that’s tough to beat. 

Hades has style, it’s got permanent progression to keep things rolling along, weapons to master, and all kinds of secret unlocks to find. So why on earth are we talking about Hades now? You probably already knew this game rocks. However, it just came out for major consoles. Previously, you’d have to play on Switch or PC, but now you can take the trip through hell on PlayStation and Xbox. It’s absolutely a journey worth taking. | Our Review

Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales

PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4

For Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales, if you can play it on the PlayStation 5, you should. Suppose PS5’s power isn’t obtainable due to the various factors from how COVID-19 or scalpers have impacted console availability. In that case, you could always go back and play Marvel’s Spider-Man, but if you have the means, Miles Morales on PS5 is the choice of the moment.

While it’s significantly shorter than the original game, it’s packed with epic moments and battles. Miles’ abilities change up the gameplay quite a bit, and zipping around the city is an incredible feeling. In addition to playing exceptionally well, Miles Morales on PlayStation 5 is one of few games available right now that takes advantage of current-gen hardware to show off what video games can do right now. | Our Review

Ori and the Will of the Wisps

Xbox Series X/S, Xbox One, Switch, PC

Ori and the Will of the Wisps is action-packed and challenging, but it’s also an absolute work of art. Featuring stunning visuals to go along with the razor’s edge gameplay, few games ascend to this level of prowess within the neo-Metroidvania genre. Ori might just melt your heart as you maneuver through its best-in-class platforming and combat combo. 

The story and setpieces arc you through wonderful whimsy and fleeting moments of terror, so be ready for an immersive, enchanting adventure that loves showing off and keeping the player completely enthralled. While Ori and the Will of the Wisps can be brutal, progression mechanics help keep things going even when the journey can be tough. | Our Review

Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart

PlayStation 5

This early into the console cycle, we’re looking for those big games to pave the way and show off the power of the new systems. Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart does this, and how. While there’s nothing new about jumping around and blasting enemies, does it ever look good here as you flip through rifts with absolutely zero load time, something that’s sure to wow even the most hardened game connoisseur. 

Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart feels great to play, and more importantly, all of the action feels like it was crafted with fun as the focus. The cartoony world is a cohesive joy to explore, and everything from the DualSense haptics to the impressive graphics makes this a boisterous, festive ride. | Our Review

Returnal

PlayStation 5

Terrifying, exhilarating, and epic, Housemarque successfully translates fast-paced arcade action into a mysterious alien shooter. Returnal is one of the best games of the year and brilliantly seams various genres and features together to create something special. From piecing together the mysteries of the alien planet to taking on unforgettable bosses in an atmosphere drenched with dread, Returnal serves up tension with unyielding action. 

The only place you can play Returnal right now is on PlayStation 5, but perhaps we can hold out some hope that it may come to PC in the future. | Our Review

Rogue Legacy 2

Xbox Series X/S, Xbox One, Switch, PC

One one hand, Rogue Legacy 2 simply offers more of what its beloved predecessor offered. On the other, that makes it just as hard to put down, if not more so. It’s almost frightening how quickly time melts away when taking generations of warriors for run after entertaining run through gauntlets of enemies, traps, and bosses. Expanded classes, new items, and game-altering house rules keeps every run fresh while adding strategic depth. In the roguelite genre, Rogue Legacy 2 stands near the top of its class. | Our Review

Street Fighter 6 Art Director Breaks Down Each Revealed Character Design

Each time a new Street Fighter entry rolls around, we get introduced to a new cast of characters and reintroduced to some of our favorite series mainstays. Street Fighter 6 is no different in this regard. Amid the new additions like Kimberly, Jamie, and Luke, longtime players can find comfort in the presence of fighters like Ryu, Chun-Li, Guile, and Ken appearing as well. However, even those returning fighters have some changes to their looks, outfits, and personalities for this sixth mainline entry.

During our trip to Osaka, Japan, where we visited Capcom’s headquarters, we sat down with Street Fighter 6 art director Kaname Fujioka to learn more about his time at Capcom. “The biggest inspiration for me wanting to join Capcom and work on fighting games was Street Fighter II,” he says. “I was eventually able to do character design work for other non-Street Fighter main-series fighting games, whether it be Red Earth, Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure, and also Capcom vs. SNK, but I never really had the chance to work on a mainline Street Fighter game.”

“I eventually became the director of the Monster Hunter series and that was my main project and series for a while, but I really wanted to work on the Street Fighter series,” he continues. “I just never really had the opportunity for almost 20 years. Finally, I became friendly with [Street Fighter 6 director Takayuki] Nakayama-san and explained that I really wanted the chance to work on Street Fighter. Nakayama-san finally made that dream into a reality with Street Fighter 6. It took a little while, but it’s finally coming true!”

Now that Fujioka is finally working on his dream franchise, he has worked with the rest of the team to create a joint vision for the iconic and all-new characters of the series. We went character by character in the Street Fighter 6 roster to learn more about the looks each revealed character sports in the highly anticipated 2023 fighting game. See what Fujioka has to say about each design that we’ve seen so far below.

Ryu

“Ryu has always been the main character or iconic character of the Street Fighter series,” Fujioka says. “We wanted to go for an ‘aged master’ look that shows all the training that he’s done. There are some obvious elements of Ryu’s design that show his age, whether it be the beard or the sash that’s kind of reminiscent of Gouken.”

Ken

“My impression of Ken is he’s always been a fiery and explosive – literally fiery, explosive – character,” Fujioka says. “He also has a stronger sense of fashion compared to a character like Ryu, for example. I wanted to emphasize that, but at the same time, Ken was kind of seen as a playful character in past titles, but his setting being on the run, he has to kind of hide himself.”

For more on Ken’s design with the Street Fighter 6 team, head to our dedicated article here.

Luke

“Luke, being the main character, we felt that we really wanted him to be a straightforward and easy-to-relate-with type character without a lot of curveballs in comparison to Ryu, who’s always been the main character or iconic character of the Street Fighter series,” Fujioka says. “We wanted to make Luke a little bit different and have some contrast between [Ryu’s disciplined, aged] look and Luke. We want to make Luke the protagonist figure, but differentiate him from Ryu in his appearance and story. We wanted to make him be more of a colorful, refreshing type of character with colors that are easy to understand with an emphasis on blue and orange.”

Guile

“[Similar to other classic characters], we wanted to show those elements of aging with Guile as well,” Fujioka says. “We wanted to emphasize the fact that he’s a soldier at heart. I feel that no matter how much he ages, Guile is going to be Guile for the most part. There are certain things that have changed, whether it’s his muscle mass or the fact that he now has a goatee that show his age, but beyond that, we wanted to add some more personal touches to him. We gave him a watch because he’s very careful in terms of time and he’s a precision character. He pays attention to how much time he takes to fight, and that’s reflective of not just his personality, but his fighting style.”

Chun-Li

“She was probably one of the hardest characters to design with this title, especially since one of the original creators of Chun-Li is one of my mentors,” Fujioka says. “I definitely want to respect that and make a version of Chun-Li that is appropriate for Street Fighter 6. Chun-Li is loved by many different eras of players, and it’s almost as if everyone has their own version or interpretation of Chun-Li. So, ‘How do I make a Chun-Li that satisfies everyone’s expectations while making something new for Street Fighter 6?’ That was a huge challenge for me. In terms of the themes of Chun-Li, we wanted to emphasize the fact that she was able to take out Shadaloo, and she’s a little bit older now, similar to Ryu. She’s aged elegantly and is more of a master-type figure where she’s teaching those who are under her and are a little bit younger than her.”

Dhalsim

“Dhalsim is a character who’s very hard to convey as someone who’s superhuman and who has movements and works in ways that are not like a lot of other characters,” Fujioka says. “That’s definitely a challenge for me. He’s always been almost a hermit-type, older character, so we put a lot of effort and thought into certain expressions, whether it be the wrinkles on his face or his beard. We spent a lot of time trying to figure out what an aged character like Dhalsim would look like with even more age.”

Blanka

“For this title, we wanted to emphasize the more realistic textures for the characters while maintaining the uniqueness of these characters that are kind of different from humanistic figures, whether it be like Honda or Blanka,” Fujioka says.

Kimberly

“She’s like the last piece of the trio of Luke, Jamie, and Kimberly that is almost related to how Ryu, Ken, and Chun-Li were in the older generation of Street Fighter,” Fujioka says. “We wanted to kind of recreate that relationship with new characters, so Kimberly’s the last piece of that puzzle, essentially. Not only that, but we wanted to make that trio a diverse group, with Kimberly being an African American woman who is enamored by ninja culture. She wants to be like Guy, so she practices bushin-ryu style, but simultaneously, she’s a very athletic character. Very bouncy. Someone who can excel at things like cheerleading and gymnastics types of physical activities. But at the same time, she’s not a very stern character. She’s someone who’s very colorful and cheerful and poppy. Like in real life in America, how you have people who are really into Japanese culture. Bushin-ryu isn’t technically a ninja style, but her interpretation is kind of incorrect. She’s assuming that it is, and even though it technically isn’t, she’s enamored by it.”

E. Honda

“Honda is starting to show his age,” Fujioka says. “If you look carefully, he has some white hairs now on the side of his head. But we really wanted to keep that sumo essence but also show more of a new style for him.”

Jamie

“When it comes to Jamie, this was somebody that Nakayama-san wanted from an early point,” Fujioka says. “He always wanted him to be a rival figure to Luke. Unlike Luke, who uses more of a modern MMA style of fighting, Jamie utilizes more of an ancient drunken boxing kind of kung-fu style. We felt that just having that is not enough, so we incorporated more modern elements of movement, like breakdancing and stuff that is probably more relevant to a younger generation of people. We wanted to emphasize that hybrid fighting style of this older drunken boxing mixed with breakdancing movements.”

Juri

“Juri was a new character who was introduced in the Street Fighter IV series, and she has always been kind of a psychopath character with a very dark side – someone who maybe has a low sense of morality or would take on any job that is offered to her, even like assassination-type stuff,” Fujioka says. “This time around, I had the thought of, ‘What is her personality when she’s not taking on these odd jobs? And what does she do during her spare time?’ It led to this person who maybe doesn’t live the most healthy lifestyle, who’s just always on her smartphone, and she takes pictures of enemies she defeats and shares that on social media. Eating a lot of junk food and candy, and probably not the most sociable person. We thought that maybe she would have created a bunch of bad habits where she just uses her foot whichever way she wants and picks up stuff. She’s not the most elegant type of character, but it seems like the people really pay attention to that and notice some of those behavioral antics from her. I’m really happy that people took notice of that.”

Street Fighter 6 arrives on PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X/S, PlayStation 4, and PC in 2023. For more exclusive coverage of the highly anticipated fighting game, head to our hub by clicking on the banner below.

Fire Emblem Trailer Explains Engage Rings, Then Summons Byleth and Corrin

A new Fire Emblem Engage trailer has detailed how players can summon “Emblems,” characters from past Fire Emblem games. Units will be able to equip Engage Rings to gain the ability to gain the power of a hero, like Marth or Byleth. When units equip the rings, they become synced with the Emblems, boosting their stats and giving them access to new, Emblem-specific skills. Based on the demonstration in the trailer, this will make a massive difference in a unit’s power level.

Units can also “Engage” with the Emblems, fusing into a new form even more powerful than a synced form. In addition to gaining access to special weapons, the player can use Engage Skills: unique abilities that harken back to the Emblems’ original games. For example, since Byleth was a teacher in Fire Emblem: Three Houses, one of his abilities allows him to teach nearby units, boosting their stats. Meanwhile, Corrin can use an ability called Dragon Vein, which alters the terrain in the same way she was able to in Fire Emblem Fates.

In total, the trailer showed off six Emblems: Marth (Fire Emblem: Shadow Dragon), Sigurd (Fire Emblem: Genealogy of the Holy War), Celica (Fire Emblem Gaiden/Fire Emblem Echoes: Shadows of Valentia), Lyn (Fire Emblem: The Blazing Blade), Corrin (Fire Emblem Fates), and Byleth (Fire Emblem: Three Houses). Additionally, a trailer from last week features glimpses of Ike and Lucina, and then mentions 12 rings, implying that Engage will feature more Emblems at launch.

Fire Emblem Engage was announced at a Nintendo Direct back in September. The initial trailer revealed that Alear, the game’s protagonist, is the Divine Dragon, a descendant of a royal family of Dragons that defeated the Fell Dragon many years ago. We’ll know the full story and more when the game launches on January 20, 2023.

The Best Couch Co-op Games to Play With Your Family

As the holiday season approaches, millions of us will inevitably be stuck inside with our family members looking for the right games to play. Multiplayer is a must, but something competitive might not be the way to go – there are only so many games of Mario Party and Monopoly a group of people can play together before they want to rip each others’ heads off.

In this case, co-op is the way to go: specifically, something everyone can play in the same room on the same TV. But with so many games out there, how do you separate a perfect holiday gift from a dastardly holiday grift? Fret not! We’ve compiled a list of some of the best games to turn that seasonal boredom into wintertime wonderment. Here’s a collection of couch co-op games that’ll get you crowned as the coolest cousin of the year.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shredder’s Revenge

1-6 Players – PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Switch, PC

A true fusion of modern and retro mechanics, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shredder’s Revenge is nostalgia in the making. It’s a side-scrolling beat-em-up that harkens back to classic TMNT arcade games of the 80s and 90s. Not only can you play as all four turtles (each of which is voiced by their classic actors from the ’87 TV series), but you can also play as April O’Neil, Casey Jones, and Master Splinter. It’s sure to be a crowd-pleaser based on its cross-generational appeal, and with a whopping 6-player local co-op, nobody’s getting left out of the fun. | Our Review

It Takes Two

2 Players – PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X/S, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Switch, PC

The latest co-op adventure from Hazelight Studios is one of the most creative platformers in years. When Cody and May are turned into tiny doll-like versions of themselves, they have to work together to traverse a miniature magical land to return to their daughter and save their marriage. The best part about It Takes Two is the variety between worlds – a snow globe has you ice skating and wielding giant magnets, while the inside of a tree equips players with explosive sap guns. With a rating of T for Teen, this game isn’t the best pick for younger kids, but it’s a wonderful time nonetheless. | Our Review

Kirby and the Forgotten Land

1-2 Players – Switch

Kirby’s latest adventure is one of his greatest, and it allows a second player to hop along for the ride. Kirby and the Forgotten Land is one of the Switch’s most charming and gorgeous games to date, which is an impressive feat, considering Kirby has never starred in a 3D game like this before. The biggest downside to the co-op experience is that player two has to be a Waddle Dee, who can’t take advantage of Kirby’s colorful lineup of copy abilities. Still, Waddle Dee is a good choice for a young kid that just wants to press buttons, or for a parent that doesn’t mind letting their kid take the lead. Whether it’s solo or co-op, Kirby and the Forgotten Land is a fantastic platformer that we won’t be forgetting anytime soon. | Our Review

Untitled Goose Game

1-2 Players – PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Switch, PC, Mac

It’s a lovely morning in the village, and you are a pair of terrible geese. In Untitled Goose Game, the indie smash hit from House House, you play as a goose dead-set on ruining someone’s day. Steal from shops, scare kids, and smash pots in this stealth/puzzle game to become the ultimate terrible goose. On top of that, they added two-player co-op in September 2020, allowing two people to cause goose-based havoc together. The levels are the same, just with two geese, making it an easier and goofier experience. On top of that, it’s consistently funny enough that it’s enjoyable to watch even if you aren’t playing, so it’s a great game to boot up if you’ve got an audience. | Our Review

Minecraft

1-4 Players (when local) – PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Switch, Wii U, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, PlayStation Vita, 3DS, PC, iOS, Android

What is there to say about Minecraft that hasn’t already been said? One of the most popular games of all time, Minecraft is an iconic blocky survival game where players explore a procedurally generated world to gather resources, craft tools, and build houses. It’s not only a great game but a great first game, if you wanted to introduce someone younger in your life to the world of video games. Whether you’re playing for an hour, a week, or a month, booting up a Minecraft world with a familiar group of people is a great way to pass the time. If it’s been a while since one or more of you last played, it’s constantly getting updated, so it can feel like a fresh experience even if you played hundreds of hours several years ago. | Our Review

Overcooked 2

1-4 Players – PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X/S, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Switch, Luna, PC, Mac, Linux

This chaotic cooperative cooking simulator is already a staple in many homes, but if you haven’t sampled Overcooked 2 yet, you’re missing out. Up to four chefs work chopping, frying, and plating together to prepare enough dishes before the timer runs out. Your kitchen could be on a pirate ship, a wizard’s tower, or a haunted graveyard, but the real obstacle is coordinating with your teammates without succumbing to the stress of the timer. A great pick for all ages, Overcooked 2 will have you laughing, crying, and going back for seconds. | Our Review

Super Mario 3D World Deluxe + Bowser’s Fury

1-4 Players – Switch

Originally a Wii U-exclusive, Nintendo brought Super Mario 3D world to the Switch in February 2021, and the console has been better ever since. Play as Mario, Toad, Luigi, Peach, and Rosalina to explore eight worlds of goombas, mushrooms, and super bells. While it can be played solo, it’s a much better experience with friends and family you can accidentally (or purposely – you do you) bump off the stage to their dooms. It’s surprising the Mario series went decades without multiplayer because it feels so natural here. The Switch version of this game also added Bowser’s Fury – a semi-open world spin-off adventure – but this mode only allows two players instead of four. Still, it’s a fun, quick experience to run through if you finish the rest of the game and are itching for more. | Our Review

Lovers in a Dangerous Spacetime

1-4 Players – PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Switch, PC

While it’s not quite as well-known as Mario or Minecraft, don’t be fooled; Lovers in a Dangerous Spacetime is one of the best co-op experiences there is. up to four players are tasked with piloting a spaceship, and each of you can only man one of the terminals. As a result, one player controls the shield, one controls the boosters, and the rest control weapons. I have great memories of playing this game with my brother and cousin, yelling out at each other to switch to a different terminal or rotate the ship, or activate the Yamato cannon, a powerful, limited-use weapon. It’s available on last-gen consoles (and new-gen, thanks to backwards compatibility), but if you’ve been an Xbox Live subscriber for a while you might already have it, since it was a Games with Gold title in 2017. | Our Review

Snipperclips

2-4 Players – Switch

While its since been overshadowed by other great titles, Snipperclips was one of the best games on the Switch at launch. Two to four players work together to solve puzzles by cutting their teammates into different shapes. A round cut can allow someone to carry a ball, while a hook shape might be used to pull a lever. The funniest part of this game is the collection of ridiculous things you’ll find yourself yelling to the other people on the couch, like “cut off my bottom!” or “if you’re not under me, I can’t slice you in half.” If you breeze through the main game, there’s also an expansion that adds 30 more levels. | Our Review

Castle Crashers Remastered

1-4 Players – PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Switch, PC

Castle Crashers has been a classic since it first released on Xbox Live Arcade in 2008, and the remastered version continues that legacy to the modern day. It’s a 2D beat-em-up where you play as knights on a magical, violent adventure. Over time, you unlock new weapons, upgrade your spells, and even equip tiny pets that give you bonuses or items. Its T-rated humor is a little crude for some (an early level has a lot of poop jokes) but helps it stand out as one of the most memorable co-op experiences out there.

What do you think of our list? Surprised some games made the cut? Think we left off something important? Let us know in the comments.

Vampire Survivors Review – Single-Stick Masterpiece

Reviewed on:
PC, Xbox Series X/S

Platform:
Xbox Series X/S, Xbox One, PC

Publisher:
Poncle

Developer:
Poncle

Release:
October 20, 2022
(PC), November 10, 2022
(Xbox Series X/S,
Xbox One)

Rating:
Teen

Ever since it hit Early Access on Steam last December, the cult of Vampire Survivors has grown and spread its gospel far and wide. Over the past year, the seemingly simple game has expanded with a steady stream of free updates adding astonishing amounts of depth and content. The fantastic gameplay and compelling progression system combined with a ridiculously low price point made Vampire Survivors extremely recommendable. That tradition continues in the full game release making over 50 hours of pure gaming bliss accessible to a larger audience.

Vampire Survivors starts out simple enough. You only use the left analog stick to move around, and your attacks automatically happen at regular intervals. Monsters approach non-stop from all directions as you dodge through the gaps and make sure they’re in your attack radius. The Castlevania influence is clear as you start with a whip and take on creepy creatures from classic gaming horror in addition to imaginative original creations. If you can last 30 minutes, Death will swoop in for an instant kill, but you can consider that “beating” the level.

Every attempt starts you at a base level with only your character’s starting weapon. While they may seem insufficient at first, almost all offensive options can be built to feel amazing. Blast a firehose of knives in front of you to clear a path. Melt a colony of bats as you wade through them with garlic’s circular field. Take shelter in a cloud of fighting cats. Every weapon type I could imagine and several things I would never have dreamed of were all at my fingertips.

 

You’re constantly making decisions, weighing the pros and cons of every randomized item presented during the leveling process. At maximum, you can have six weapons all firing at once in addition to six accessories that modify weapons and gameplay, like increasing the size of projectiles, reducing cooldown time, or increasing the rate of experience gained. On top of that, certain weapon and accessory combos provide ultra-powerful evolutions that can turn the tide at your darkest hour. It’s difficult to convey the supreme satisfaction you feel when your incomprehensible barrage of attacks makes it impossible for enemies to hurt you, no matter how hard you try to kick the hornets’ nest. I rarely take screenshots or videos of games I’m playing, but Vampire Survivors puts on such a glorious show based on your smart choices that I couldn’t help but share it.

Developer Poncle has expertly balanced the rollout of unlocks so you’re never overwhelmed by the mix of weapons and powers, but you never tire of them either. There’s always a new character, weapon, accessory, or mechanic to look forward to all the way to the very end. The initially daunting list of objectives provides a sense of direction and gets you to experiment outside of your comfort zone. In one run, I’d blow it or get a bad shake on level-up options and die without checking off any objectives, but the next, I’d have a perfect run and accomplish a dozen tasks. The unlocks/achievements rain down in a gratifying flurry of dopamine hits. Even when you fail, you learn something and gain more gold to unlock permanent upgrades at the in-game shop. 

Almost every rule you come to know (including many mechanics described above) gets completely upended or twisted as you progress deeper into the game. Vampire Survivors loves setting your expectations and completely subverting them. At several points, I exclaimed, “What the hell is happening? Wait, so I can do this now?” Everything is built to make it impossible to resist that next run. “Well, I have to see how this crazy-looking new character plays.” “What’s this unsettling new stage?” “This other strategy has to work. This can’t wait until tomorrow.”

My only hesitation in recommending it to Xbox players is the unwelcome presence of launch bugs that impede stage and achievement unlocks for some and other strange odds and ends. Patching has helped so far, and I hope it gets to be as relatively issue-free as the PC versions soon. 

Despite these early console setbacks, Vampire Survivors has quickly become one of my favorite games of all time. Consider this me grabbing the sides of your head and shouting, “Play Vampire Survivors, you fool!”

Score:
9.75

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Here’s How To Play Fortnite’s Chapter 3 Finale ‘Fracture’ Event

Epic Games recently announced that Fornite’s Chapter 3 would come to a close in December and now, with under two weeks to go until its end, the studio has released new details about how to participate in the Fracture finale. Plus, the team has a few more goodies for players to earn in the final days of Chapter 3. 

Whether you squad up with up to three more players or play solo, the fate of the battle island is in your hands, according to Epic. While it’s still unclear exactly what we’ll be doing December 3, we do know how to actually participate now. 

Joining The Fortnite Fracture Event

Epic Games says Fracture is a one-time only, in-game event that begins on Saturday, December 3 at 1 p.m. PT/4 p.m. ET. Thirty minutes prior to the event’s start, a new “Fracture” playlist will go live and you can join this at that time until 1:40 p.m./4:40 p.m. ET – after that, the playlist will be closed. 

The Fracture event supports parties of up to four players. If you’re not queing into the event with some friends but would like to squad up with someone, you can emote with players during the event to form one. The last thing to note is that replays of the event will not be available so take whatever measures you need to save your gameplay if you’re looking to do that. 

Epic Games has also announced the Toasty Roast Emote, its ode to Chapter 3. 

“To commemorate the beginning of the end, everyone who logs into Fortnite from December 2, 6 a.m. PT/9 a.m. ET, to December 4 at 11:45 p.m. PT/2:45 a.m. ET, will receive the Toasty Roast Emote. “

Chapter 3’s not quite over yet – Avian Ambush Week is now live and runs through November 29. Loot-holding chickens will be multiplied, taking over the surrounding wildlife, according to Epic. You can complete chicken-themed quests for XP as well as bonus goals that will give you level up tokens. 

“After Avian Ambush Week, Bargain Bin Week will begin,” a blog post reads. “From 9 a.m. ET on November 29 to 3 p.m. on December 3, character goods and services will be deeply discounted, giving you more for your bars. As with Avian Ambush Week, complete special quests for XP, plus bonus goals for Level Up Tokens.” 

In the leadup to Chapter 3’s finale, be sure to wrap up any loose ends you might have including open quests, the Season 4 battle pass, and more.

Are you jumping into the Fortnite Chapter 3 Fracture finale event? Let us know in the comments below!

Pokémon Scarlet And Violet Review – The Struggles Of Evolution

Reviewed on:
Switch

Platform:
Switch

Publisher:
Nintendo, The Pokémon Company

Developer:
Game Freak

Release:
November 18, 2022

Rating:
Everyone

Each new generation of Pokémon promises changes and iterations to the long-standing franchise formula. Pokémon Scarlet and Violet kick off the ninth generation of Pokémon games, offering some of the biggest changes to date. An open world, four-player co-op, and other additions effectively push the series forward in meaningful ways, but the technical shortcomings often break immersion and temper an otherwise strong Pokémon game.

The Pokémon formula remains mostly intact through Scarlet and Violet. Your main goals still involve catching, training, and battling the Pokémon that inhabit the world. But this time, you do so in the series’ first true open world, expanding the formula in unprecedented ways. The Paldea region is ripe for exploration, with diverse biomes and various nooks and crannies in which to hunt. Thanks to a wide swath of Pokémon, new and old species alike, I always felt rewarded for journeying off the beaten path. When I did discover an all-new monster, I often appreciated the design, making this batch one of my favorite new generations in a long time.

Thanks to this open-world approach, most battles are now optional. Trainers occupy the world, but you must initiate the battle with them to start. I like this approach, as it let me skip fights I wouldn’t otherwise want to be in, though the money, experience, and rewards often make them worthwhile. The same could be said of wild Pokémon encounters, which only happen if you run into them; random encounters are completely gone this time around. You can also use the new Let’s Go mechanic, where you send your lead Pokémon out to auto-battle, if you’re just looking for quick experience and crafting materials.

Unfortunately, the larger world comes at a cost, as Pokémon Scarlet and Violet suffer from poor performance across the board. Characters pop in and out of existence before your eyes, textures appear in extremely low resolution, and the frame rate stutters around every turn. Game Freak shot for the stars with its first open world, but it’s clear it still has a ways to go when it comes to making it work on Switch. 

Once you’re in battle, longtime Pokémon players will feel right at home, as it reverts to the traditional turn-based format where type strengths and weaknesses create compelling rock-paper-scissors-style matchups. The new Terastallization mechanic, where an in-battle Pokémon takes on a gem-like appearance and boosts moves of its specific Tera Type, accentuates the type match-up system; some Pokémon even change type when they’re Terastallized. While the moves of the Pokémon’s Tera Type are boosted, they’re hardly overpowered, and since Terastallizing is limited to once per Pokémon Center visit, it adds an extra layer of strategy. The Terastallized forms look uniformly goofy, but Terastallization is my favorite generational battle gimmick in series history.

Players can explore this new, open Paldea region together thanks to four-player cooperative play. Once players join the host’s instance, they can freely explore, catch new Pokémon, battle in Tera Raids, and even trade with each other. I’m sad there aren’t more interactions between players in these sessions (you can’t even watch battles unfold), but the freedom offered by co-op outweighs the shortcomings.

The open-world design also enables you to choose the order in which you approach the three main questlines. Victory Road offers the series’ traditional eight-gym conquest with the goal of taking down the Elite Four, while Starfall Street lets you attack bases held by Team Star, the rival group of this entry. Gym challenges preceding each leader battle diversify the lead up, but they’re either mundane or revert to the traditional trainer-gauntlet style. Team Star base assaults are easy affairs, where you need to use the Let’s Go mechanic to defeat 30 Pokémon in 10 minutes before an often-challenging boss battle. Path of Legends, a third questline, grants engaging battles against huge Titan Pokémon, provides the best rewards, and serves up a touching story. I enjoyed each individual questline, and while they’re disparate in nature, they converge in the meaningful end and post-game content.

 

Of course, the persistent mission of filling out your Pokédex exists alongside those three story quests. This mission becomes more satisfying than ever, thanks to a terrific redesign that depicts your Pokédex as a shelf of encyclopedias. I loved watching the shelf fill with each new encounter, but I’m disappointed Pokémon Legends: Arceus’ goals, which required you to study Pokémon before their entry was complete, have vanished.

Despite technical shortcomings and some filler content, Pokémon Scarlet and Violet are chock-full of meaningful additions to one of gaming’s most popular franchises. At worst, these games are steps towards the Pokémon games for which players have clamored, but more often, they serve as effective thesis statements for where the series goes from here. Either way, I can’t wait to see where Game Freak evolves the experience from this point.

Score:
8.25

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Mario Kart 8 Deluxe’s Third Wave Of DLC Adds Merry Mountain And Peach Gardens Next Month

Update, 11/21/22:

Nintendo announced in September that Wave 3 of Mario Kart 8 Deluxe’s Booster Course DLC was coming this holiday season and now, the company has revealed we’ll be getting eight tracks on December 7. Check out the Wave 3 trailer in the tweet below: 

Start your engines! Wave 3 of the #MarioKart 8 Deluxe – Booster Course Pass arrives 12/7! Available for Nintendo Switch Online + Expansion Pack members at no additional cost, or on its own as paid DLC. pic.twitter.com/lbhHsbpf7L

— Nintendo of America (@NintendoAmerica) November 21, 2022

As you can see, Wave 3 features some returning classics from prior Mario Kart releases as well as a few from Mario Kart Tour, Nintendo’s mobile take on the series. Here’s what to expect in this new wave next month: 

Rock Cup

Tour London Loop – Gobsmack your rivals as you drift around familiar landmarks and into first place in this England-inspired course originating from the mobile game Mario Kart Tour.
GBA Boo Lake – Get your feet wet on this spooky, Boo filled track set on a haunted lake in this course that originated in Mario Kart: Super Circuit!
3DS Rock Rock Mountain – Careful, sharp turns and bouncing boulders abound on this high-altitude course. Here’s a mountaineering tip: Ramp over a warp pipe to put some wind in your sails!
Wii Maple Treeway – Leap through the fall foliage and race across massive trees on this course from Mario Kart Wii – just don’t disturb the Wigglers enjoying an autumnal stroll!

Moon Cup

Tour Berlin Byways – Watch out for falling Whomps and Thwomps as you make your way around the stunning sights in this course that originated in Mario Kart Tour.
DS Peach Gardens – Chirping birds, bopping Chain Chomps and fields of flowers flourish on this course set in the vast gardens of Peach’s castle from Mario Kart DS! Can you spot all the familiar topiaries?
Merry Mountain – Hit the halfpipe and bank up the snowy hills on this charmingly festive course from Mario Kart Tour that features massive candy canes and wrapped gifts galore. And … is that a flying sleigh train?
3DS Rainbow Road – Look up in the sky – it’s … Mario! Rainbow Road winds and twists around multiple planetoids on this celestial course that originated in Mario Kart 7 on Nintendo 3DS.

When Wave 3 launches December 7, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe will feature 24 additional tracks, with another 24 still to come. Each wave consists of eight tracks and Nintendo is set to release six waves of DLC courses in total, with the final wave hitting the game before the end of 2023. 

The original story continues below…

Original story, 9/13/22:

We’re rapidly approaching the midway point for Mario Kart 8 Deluxe’s Booster Course Pass content. With two of the six promised waves of new courses already out, Nintendo has begun teasing what players can expect with the third wave, which is due out this holiday season. During today’s Nintendo Direct, we learned the first two courses coming in the third eight-course wave of new tracks.

Fittingly, the first course we learned about for Wave 3 of the Booster Course Pass is Merry Mountain. This holiday-themed track first made its debut in Mario Kart Tour in 2020 as part of the Winter Tour. Meanwhile, for those looking for something not holiday-themed, Nintendo is also bringing Peach Gardens, a track that first appeared in Mario Kart DS in 2005.

Wave 1 brought fan favorites like Coconut Mall (Wii), Choco Mountain (N64), and Sky Garden (GBA), while Wave 2 gave us access to tracks like Kalimari Desert (N64), Mario Circuit 3 (SNES), and Mushroom Gorge (Wii). Each wave has also given us two tracks from Mario Kart Tour, with Wave 2 also including an all-new course in Sky-High Sundae. 

Mario Kart 8 Deluxe – Booster Course Pass Wave 3 is scheduled to arrive this holiday season.