Hello! Welcome to the latest Geeky Brummie Gaming Roundup!
This week, Nintendo leaks, Zelda in literature, movie adaptations and more! Plus, all the latest releases!
Sorry for the short one last week. I was busy and distracted, so was only able to get out the releases for you. But I did have some links saved, so this week will cover the news from the past two weeks!
Last week, Nintendo experienced a massive data leak. If you’re looking for a leaked launch schedule in lieu of a major Nintendo Direct, you’re out of luck, but if you like video game history and archival, the leak is a huge deal. The source code for much of the publisher’s 1990s history has made its way online, with many SNES, N64 and Gamecube titles being laid bare for the first time. For a company as notoriously secretive as Nintendo, this is big news.
And there are some neat things hidden away in all this code. For instance, two prototypes for Super Mario World 2, one of which resembles a primitive version of the Yoshi’s Island we know and love, and an alternative version called “Super Donkey” which featured a character who resembled Stanley from Donkey Kong 3. An early prototype of Super Mario Kart has no drifting. Early sprites for Super Mario World, including a Bowser with legs and a skinny Yoshi, have also surfaced.
Details about Super Mario 64 included a document that revealed the game’s development time: 622 days from September 1994 to July 1996. But most excitingly, Luigi was found for the first time. Enterprising dataminers dug through the code and were able to piece together his model, which is pretty much just a modified version of Mario’s model. The code was all scrubbed from the final release (due to “memory issues” according to Shigeru Miyamoto) but this source code leak showed Luigi off in all his glory. Coincidentally, the discovery of Luigi came 24 years and 1 day after the game’s original Japanese release, giving that weird “L is Real 2401” message in the game a strange prophetic meaning.
Zelda had plenty of its own secrets to reveal, including sprites that suggest Zelda II may have one day had a direct sequel planned. But the biggest reveals have been with Ocarina of Time and Majora’s Mask, such as finding Majora’s Spider Houses buried in the Ocarina code, suggesting they were designed for that game, scrapped, and then brought back in the sequel. Majora itself had an archery game in Great Bay at one point, and some files have surfaced proving the game was originally meant to have a seven-day cycle instead of the three in the final game.
Star Fox 2, which notably wasn’t officially released in full until 2017 on the SNES Mini, had a lot of information to give up in this leak. Unused character portraits, bespoke development software, and characters who never made the final game. Most shockingly of all, one of these characters was a human woman, which would have been quite a shock in a game where every other character in an anthropomorphic animal.
Speaking of humans in animal-focused games, early Animal Crossing code suggests that not every NPC was originally intended to be an animal. When the game was still Doubutsu no Mori (Animal Forest) on the N64, some of the NPCs were intended to be humans, like the player character. One of these appears to be an early turnip seller, before the design was scrapped in favour of a sow named Joan. The other resembled a Queen’s Guard, with an outfit was clearly reused later for Copper and Booker the guard dogs.
There are still sleuths out there combing through the piles of data in this leak as we speak. But these discoveries aren’t the biggest news here. What this leak shows is just how committed to archival of its work it’s always been. When we hear stories of games like Final Fantasy VIII and Silent Hill 2 losing their source code, knowing a treasure trove such as this exists shows how seriously Nintendo take their games. It’ll be interesting to see what else gets found.
The Games Industry Is Still Terrible
Another Ubisoft executive has departed the company, with Yves Guillemot confirming the departure of Tommy Francois. As vice president of editorial and creative services, Francois oversaw the development of much of Ubisoft’s catalogue, when he wasn’t allegedly busy masturbating on business trips and making degrading comments about female colleagues. It’s unclear if he was pushed or if he jumped, but he will be allowed to retain his stock in the company, because of course he will.
But let’s leave Ubisoft alone for now, because Activision Blizzard are also terrible, in different ways. A pay enquiry into the company reveals many staff struggling to make ends meet on meagre wages, while CEO Bobby Kotick pockets a salary 300 times greater than the average staff member’s wage. It also comes at a time when they proudly announce “record results” in Q2 2020, and if Activision’s track record is anything to go by, some of those staff can look forward to losing their jobs soon.
John Boyne Reprints a Zelda Recipe
Moving away from the doom and gloom for a moment, author John Boyne found himself looking a little foolish this week. Boyne is best known for The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas, and his latest work, A Traveller at the Gates of Wisdom, is a historical work spanning two millennia and features an attempt on Atilla the Hun’s life.
During this section, the narrator describes a recipe for red dye which includes ingredients such as a keese wing, an octorok eyeball, a red lizalfos tail and four Hylian shrooms. Which has raised questions of the historical accuracy of the recipe, and it brings me to why I’m talking about this on a video game roundup.
If you’ve ever played a Zelda game, some of those terms will seem familiar to you. Keese, octoroks and lizalfos are all enemies from the games, and a Hylian is, well, Link and Zelda, to name two. Turns out the dye recipe Boyne used came from Breath of the Wild. Turns out, it was the first result when he did a Google search for red dye, and he somehow failed to notice every reference to Nintendo, Zelda or the Switch in the process.
Interestingly, the first result I got when I searched “red dye recipe” was from the Minecraft wiki, and he may have gotten away with that one. But no, here we have octoroks in a historical, non-fantasy novel. Clearly no one at his publisher plays Nintendo games.
Here’s what’s happening the world of video game adaptations!
The sequel to the Sonic movie has a release date – 8th April 2022. Thanks, Jean-Ralphio!
Ubisoft and Netflix are working together on two adaptations in hopes you’ll forget Ubisoft protected alleged sexual abusers for years. Splinter Cell is set to get a 16-episode anime adaptation, with John Wick creator Derek Kolstad on board as executive producer. And Beyond Good & Evil will be getting a movie adaptation, with Detective Pikachu director Rob Letterman on board. Surprised Netflix were willing to buy this one, to be honest, since women don’t sell and all that.
In PS5 news, Sony have hinted at a new feature which will theoretically allow you to jump into any portion of the game you wish, straight from the PS5 menu. If done well, this would be a really useful feature for someone like me who needs to record game clips frequently, if it truly allowed you to dip in where you felt like it. However, it’s more likely that this will be like the pre-install feature on PS4, where you could certainly load up a game before it had fully downloaded, only to be greeted by an installation screen once you got off the main menu. Will be interesting to see this in action.
However, in less positive features, Sony are insistent that all new PS5 games must use the DualSense controller, and will not accept the DualShock 4 for anything other than backwards compatible PS4 games. Which is a shame, because it seems like everything else just works.
And now, over to the esports with Mat!
Esports Bars and Belong Gets Sold
Our big stories this week is the refreshing and reopening of one of London’s most popular esports bars and GAME selling its Belong Gaming Arenas brand.
Platform is an independent gaming and esports bar/restaurant based in East London popular amongst locals and tourists alike. Initially opened in 2019 by Swiss co-founders Tomaso and Nicolò Portunato, Platform is considered one of few pioneering the “esports bar” concept in the UK.
Like all other food and drink venues, Platform had to close when the UK went into lockdown back in March. However, the brothers used the downtime to launch an esports league and overhaul the venue ready for reopening.
Platform then reopened with flair on 1st August, showcasing a new brand identity, new venue design and new menu. Like most places, Platform has implemented several precautionary measures to make the venue “COVID secure”, this includes reduced opening hours (they’re now open Wednesday through Sunday), PVC separators to divide gaming stations, and staff will meticulously clean peripherals and other points of contact in between sessions to limit the transmission of the virus. Although walk-ins are welcome, they’re also limited, so the bar actively encourages guests to book a slot online.
The brothers reported to Esports Insider that business over the first weekend had been positive bringing the venue optimism for the future.
This is good news, as esports bars are a fantastic concept which help nurture the grass roots and enthusiasm for esports in the UK. Similarly, it provides a base for fans and future pros alike to meet and build a community more alike to mainstream sports. Like most things currently, its success will largely be dependent on the state of the coronavirus for the foreseeable future. However, esports bars are typically easier to manage than their standard counterparts mainly due to the focus being on social gaming rather than social drinking so we’ll keep our fingers crossed! If you’re visiting London, be sure to check out this amazing venue and show them some support!
Next up, on 29th July, Vindex, the esports venture set-up by MLG co-founders last year, announced that it has acquired the Belong Gaming Arenas brand from UK retailer GAME.
GAME launched Belong in late 2016 to build a network of local gaming communities and esports teams that play in and represent their region in gaming centres around the UK (such as the Stratford Spartans at GAME’s Stratford store).
Vindex now plans to invest $300m over the next five years with more than 500 Belong locations in the US and an additional 1,000 locations globally through licenced partnerships, including GAME; who will continue to own and operate all gaming arenas in the UK and Spain, with an exclusive license agreement of the Belong Brand with Vindex in those territories.
Additionally, Vindex plan to partner Belong Gaming with another of its subsidiaries, Esports Engine, to roll out amateur esports league design, operation and tournament – effectively creating a global network of esports tournaments under the Belong brand.
Overall, it’s a smart move by GAME who have been plagued for more than a decade with various challenges including the rise of online shopping, digital downloads and, of course, coronavirus. Belong is a fantastic concept which has been helping to nurture the UK esports scene for several years and it’s good to see that GAME retain the operation and management in both the UK and Spain.
Love or hate GAME, they are a staple of the UK gaming scene and hopefully this sale will give them the financial stability to save jobs and diversify their brand further in the UK. While Vindex, a company with vastly more money and resources, can take the brand global to increase support and popularity for esports.
Thanks, Mat! Now, here’s some more quick news stories.
The League of Legends European Championship organisers have come under fire for a sponsorship deal with Saudi Arabia city-building project Neom. Due to Saudi LGBT rights being…not the best, many players and broadcast team members criticising the deal. They have since rescinded the deal. (Source)
Spider-Man will be coming to Square Enix’s Avengers game later in the year…but only for PS4. Similar to the Sony-exclusive Spider-Man games from Insomniac, the reasons may be related to the complex web (heh) of rights issues around Spider-Man in movies. It sort of makes sense that Sony’s movie rights exclusivity for Spidey might extend to their games, but that didn’t stop Crystal Dynamics’ studio co-head from uttering a garbled mess of nonsense PR to try and explain the decision. It’s worth reading for the comedy value alone.
Pikmin 3 is coming to the Switch as Pikmin 3 Deluxe. Released in October, the game will feature all of the Wii U original’s DLC, plus some new co-op options. It’s one more reason to own a Wii U scratched off the list. Speaking of Nintendo, Animal Crossing is getting fireworks and dreams this month, while Super Smash Bros got a stealth update that added…a new version of Battlefield with one less platform? Okay, sure, why not. You can also now play all music on the Smash Bros universe stages, which is neat.
Two ports came out in the last couple of weeks that are worth mentioning. First up, last week Cuphead got a surprise release on PS4, meaning you can now play it on everything. Next, first-party Sony title Horizon Zero Dawn is now on Steam, so you can now hunt robo-dinos on PC. Both of these are excellent games (well…what little bit of Cuphead I’ve played seemed great!), so if you’ll be playing for the first time, I hope you enjoy them both.
A couple of games I missed last week that launched in Early Access on Steam. Bartlow’s Dread Machine is a dual stick shooter centred around a steampunk mechanical puppet show, and honestly, this is such a unique take on the genre I can’t help but love it. Cardaclysm is an action-RPG card battler and for me is on the opposite end of the uniqueness scale, but if you like card battlers, here’s another one.
In smaller releases this week, Relicta is a first-person puzzle game about manipulating gravity and magnetism, for PC, PS4, Xbox and Stadia. Skully is a 3D platformer where you play as a rolling skull, for PC, PS4, Switch and Xbox.
The big release this week is Fast & Furious: Crossroads for PC, Xbox and PS4, based on the never-ending car-based Fast & Furious franchise. I’m largely mentioning this out of obligation because it’s a big release, because oof, it doesn’t look great. Plus it’s always a good sign when you look at the game’s official Twitter a day before release and it’s deathly quiet. I’m sure it’s fine.
Game of the Week
Game of the Week is Fall Guys, a multiplayer battle royale and no wait come back this one’s different I promise.
Remember Takeshi’s Castle, the hilariously unfair Japanese game show where contestants were thrown around by nightmarish obstacle courses designed to cause as much humiliation as possible? Fall Guys is that in video game form, but with floppier physics than real life.
It’s a 60-person game show battle royale where the objective is to survive a range of courses full of spinning poles, quick-changing barriers, harsh drops and other wacky obstacles. It’s intensely frustrating and unfair due to the physics engine, and it’s far too easy to find yourself eliminated and yet…I want to keep playing it. It’s compelling and stupid fun, and sometimes that’s all you need.
It’s out for Steam, but if you have a PS Plus subscription, you can grab it on PS4 for free this month.
And that’s it for this week! See you again soon with more gaming news and releases!