Hello! Welcome to the latest edition of the Geeky Brummie gaming roundup!
This week, we talk nostalgia, trouble with battle royales, and all the latest releases!
GAME BOY TURNS 30
The Internet has been celebrating a milestone this week. On April 21 1989, a little handheld system known as the Game Boy was released in Japan, which means this week marked its 30th anniversary. Cue a ton of reminiscing over the games of the system, including Tetris, Super Mario Land, Link’s Awakening and Pokémon Red and Blue.
My experience with the Game Boy is a fond one. I was fairly late to the party, as I picked it up with Pokémon Blue (the best version, because it has Meowth, no further questions), but I never played the classic Mario or Zelda titles that defined the system. I did play a Micro Machines game and the Game Boy Perfect Dark game, so there was that at least. I also had that weird camera gadget they made, which took grainy photos and traumatised children with freaky Easter eggs.
It’s a system worth celebrating though. It made games more portable, and started Nintendo’s unstoppable dominance of the handheld market. It’s just crazy that the system is 30 years old now. Share with us some of your best memories of the Game Boy!
MEGA DRIVE MINI AND CASTLEVANIA COLLECTION UPDATES
Speaking of old games, the Mega Drive Mini lineup is looking pretty good so far. Initially I wasn’t sure about this release because Sega have done so many compilations for various systems that this seemed pointless. Why buy a collection of 40 games for £60 when you can go on Steam and get 60 for £25?
The answer, it seems, is the game selection. While the previous compilations have largely focused on Sega’s own titles, the Mini seems determined to throw in some third-party titles to vary it a little bit. So while, yes, you will be buying Sonic the Hedgehog for the millionth time, you will also get classic Disney platformers Castle of Illusion and World of Illusion, alongside Castlevania: Bloodlines and, best of all in my opinion, Earthworm Jim. It’s still a bit too pricey for my liking, but at least they’re trying to differentiate it from the existing collections.
But if you really want to play Castlevania: Bloodlines and don’t want another miniature retro system taking up space under your TV, then perhaps the Castlevania Collection (which has already had a mention in this roundup!) is for you. The full line-up has been revealed, and it’s pretty decent. You have the classic numbered trilogy from the NES, Castlevania: The Adventure and Castlevania II for the Game Boy, Super Castlevania IV from the SNES, the aforementioned Bloodlines from the Mega Drive, and Rondo of Blood, previously seen in the recent PS4 double-bill release with Symphony of the Night.
There are concerns around this collection, however. This past week saw the release of Konami’s Arcade Collection, and there have been some complaints with Konami locking games to your region’s version, as well as some emulator issues. There are concerns that the Castlevania Collection may follow suit, but here’s hoping that won’t be the case.
APEX LEGENDS IN DECLINE WHILE FORTNITE UNDER FIRE
Back in February, Respawn made a surprise announcement, and immediately released a new game, a battle royale set in the Titanfall universe. Apex Legends was a surprise hit, with significant numbers of players jumping on the free-to-play title at launch and racking up huge viewership on Twitch. It looked like it was threatening to steal Fortnite’s crown, and EA seemed to be relieved that it was doing better than Anthem eventually was.
But there are signs that this may not last. Investors are showing concern for a reduced playerbase, and declining Twitch viewership. The game is currently generating value of around $1 billion, while investors expected that initial growth to translate into a value of around $7 billion were it to continue. On Twitch, meanwhile, the game has seen a loss of 30 million viewers since launch.
There is a significance to the Twitch figures here, as much of Apex Legends’ growth seemed to be based around influential streamers like Ninja. EA spent a lot of money putting the game in their hands at launch, but it seems that as the marketing money ran out, so too did the streamers’ interest. Many of these players are going back to Fortnite, and their fanbases are following.
The most-cited reason for this decline is the infrequency of updates received by Apex Legends. Fortnite is constantly updating, with new content almost daily and big events coming thick and fast. But another story this week reveals problems with this approach too.
An investigation by Polygon has uncovered some unsavoury practices, not unlike the recent story about Bioware’s working conditions. Epic Games have been working employees to the bone, with 70-hour weeks proving common. Due to the rapid growth of the game, employees are essentially doing the work of about five people, and the insistence on constant updates means there’s no rest from the non-stop crunch. In contrast, Respawn have stated their desire to move their staff away from perpetual crunch with less frequent updates and attempts to hire more staff to meet demand.
Between this and the stories about Anthem, it’s becoming clear that players are getting more concerned about the impact constant updates are having on developers. Sadly, this is unlikely to put a dent in Fortnite’s success and will keep EA’s investors worried about Apex, so it’s going to be interesting to see how the state of battle royale titles will unfold in coming months.
PERSONA 5 ROYAL
From battle royale to Persona Royal now, as the latest games in the Persona series have been announced. It was the Persona Super Live Concert in Tokyo this week, where fans have been anticipating news about Persona 5 Royal and the mysterious “P5S” which many assumed to be a Switch port of Persona 5 following Joker’s inclusion in Smash Bros.
Royal has been revealed as an updated version of the original Persona 5. It features a new female party member called Kasumi, a new confidant side quest and a third term to the game’s school year. It follows the pattern of past Persona games getting expanded editions a few years later, just like P3 Portable and P4 Golden. However, no Switch release was confirmed for this version yet.
P5S turned out to be Persona 5 Scramble, which is a Persona 5 musou game. Musou, for those who are unaware, is basically Dynasty Warriors and its spin-offs. Two Nintendo franchises have had the same treatment before, with Hyrule Warriors and Fire Emblem Warriors, so now Atlus has got in on the fun with Scramble. Not a lot is known about this one yet, but it is being released on PS4 and Switch soon. Not quite what people had in mind for Persona 5 on Switch, but there we go.
NEW GAME ANNOUNCEMENTS
There were a few other smaller titles announced this week too, and it might be worth taking a look at those too. The director of N64 snowboarding classic 1080 Snowboarding is currently working on a spiritual successor. It looks set to be an ambitious title, bringing in realistic snow physics, streaming and the possibility of 100 people flinging themselves off mountains at once. It’s still very much in development right now, so no news on a release just yet.
Speaking of N64 classics, some ex-Rare guys have revealed their new project. It’s not Playtonic, who made the fairly recent Yooka-Laylee, but a new company featuring the talents of Richard Vaucher, David Wise and Graeme Norgate. Their new title is Tamarin, a platformer featuring an adorable fluffy monkey protagonist who carries a gun. No, really, the trailer sees him handed an uzi out of nowhere to fight off some giant ants. It looks like standard 3D platformer fare, but with its pedigree and the fact that it has a cute monkey, it has the potential to be a lot of fun.
And finally, Wan Hazmer, lead designer for Final Fantasy XV has announced his new studio, Metronomik, which he hopes will put Malaysian game development on the map. Their first game will be No Straight Roads, a music-based action-adventure game. It tells the age-old story of the struggle between good old-fashioned rock n roll and the cold, unfeeling monster of EDM. You play as the members of a small indie band taking down an evil electronica empire. The story sounds very silly, but the game itself has a vibe somewhere between Jet Set Radio and the good bits of Brutal Legend, so I’m totally on board.
And now for the latest releases! First up, Dragon’s Dogma saw a release on Switch this week, so if you’ve not played Capcom’s action RPG yet, you can now play it on the bus! The Switch also saw the release of Boxboy + Boxgirl, the latest in the quirky puzzle series about, well, a box boy, that adds in co-op puzzles and a new mode featuring a longer rectangle man. Another smaller release was Dark Devotion, a dark 2D scroller that seems to draw inspiration from Dark Souls, as you fight for your faith in the darkness.
Two big games saw a release this week. First up was Days Gone, the latest PS4 exclusive. This is the latest from Bend Studio, who were previously known for PS1 stealth operative game Syphon Filter. Days Gone is a zombie apocalypse game where you play as Deacon St John, a biker caught up in the zombie apocalypse. I’ll admit my interest in this one is minimal, due to zombie fatigue, and there are some mixed reviews out there right now, but it looks like there might be something worthwhile here for zombie fans despite some issues.
But my Game of the Week this week is Mortal Kombat 11. While MK isn’t necessarily my fighting game of choice, it’s hard to deny the fun you can have with Fatalities and having Scorpion make others GET OVER HERE, so I’m happy to hand it the award this week. That said, while the game itself looks like it’s excellent to play, there are some serious issues with grind in the Tower mode, that may be designed to steer people towards the microtransactions. A few complaints have emerged about this since release, but Ed Boon, creative director at NetherRealm, has stated that they intend to re-balance this, and have offered up some free in-game currency to players who’ve felt disappointed with the experience so far. Hopefully that will improve the experience significantly.
And that’s it for this week! I’ll see you back here for more news and releases in a week, and if you’re looking for more gaming goodness, follow me on Twitter and YouTube, and give our two-part Insomnia coverage a listen this week and next week. See you soon!