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Gaming Roundup – Microsoft’s Mario

Happy New Year! Welcome to the first Gaming Roundup of 2021!

And it’s a quiet one, unsurprisingly. This week, Nintendo, Net Yaroze and some games that mostly came out in December!

Nintendo Buy Next Level

Nintendo have announced a new studio acquisition – the Canadian developers Next Level Games. If you’re unfamiliar with the name, you may be familiar with Luigi’s Mansion 3. Or indeed, Luigi’s Mansion 2, which they also developed.

Unlike Microsoft and their purchases of vastly popular studios in order to lock games like Hellblade or Doom to their platform, Nintendo’s purchase makes a lot of sense. Next Level have produced many games for the platform holder, including the Wii version of Punch-Out, Super Mario Strikers on the Gamecube and…uh…Metroid Prime: Federation Force (two out of three isn’t bad I guess). Aside from that, they’re known for just a few poorly reviewed licensed titles.

So it’s a suitable arrangement then. Whether this means a new Luigi’s Mansion, more Super Strikers or Federation Force 2 (please god no), we don’t know.

Speaking of Nintendo and studio acquisitions, a recent Bloomberg article detailing the history of Xbox has revealed that Microsoft attempted to buy Nintendo in the early days of the Xbox 1, wait, the Xbox, you know, the first one.

Anyway, the meeting did not go well, according to all accounts. “They just laughed their asses off,” says Kevin Bachus, former director of third-party relations. Which perhaps isn’t surprising, as Pokémon had just come out around that time and had turned into a money-printing machine for Nintendo. Microsoft did get Rare though, although according to the article, execs at Xbox thought they now owned Donkey Kong somehow.

Would have been an interesting alternate timeline if that had gone ahead though. Imagine a world where a high-level Nintendo figure encouraged everyone to buy an Xbox. What a strange world that would be.

Net Yaroze Game Finally Released

Do you remember Net Yaroze? If not, it was a consumer-level dev kit for the original PlayStation that allowed people to make basic games of their own. If you ever played the classic demo discs, chances are you encountered these games here and there, as there was usually one a month.

It was a bit rubbish, as the games that could be produced with it were more technically limited than anything the pro kits were capable of. But it did create a fun little hobbyist scene, and many of the developers went on to work for some big studios, and it paved the way for the more accessible tools available today such as Unity.

This is important because recently one long-lost project saw a release, a good 20 years on from Sony ending support for the unit. Magic Castle is a rudimentary roguelike dungeon crawler and not super exciting from today’s perspective (go on Steam and you’ll fall over a million games in the same genre without even clicking anything), but it’s cool to see this little bit of history emerge.

New Releases

Got a few new releases this week, and by that I mean there is one new game and a re-release launching this week, and a bunch of games that snuck out in the last weeks of December that we missed on launch.

Launching this week, The King of Fighters XIV Ultimate Edition is an updated release of SNK’s critically acclaimed 2016 fighting game. It’s basically the original game with all the DLC bundled in, so if you’ve played the original this probably won’t be for you, but if you fancy checking out the latest King of Fighters, it might be worth a look!

This week’s sole new release is Iron Conflict, a real-time strategy title featuring a combination of modern and WWII-era tanks and machines releasing in Early Access. It’s been made by a group of military history nerds who love World of Tanks, so hopefully that gives you an idea of what to expect.

And now, here’s what we missed in December. First up, PixelJunk Eden 2, which apparently snuck out at the last minute without much fanfare. The latest in the formerly PlayStation exclusive series of arty indie titles is now exclusive to the Switch, the game features you swinging around surreal dreamscapes to a dynamic soundtrack much like the original.

Calico is a cat café game released in mid-December for Steam. A chill game designed as a low-stress experience, the game is all about gathering furniture, decorations, food and, of course, cats as you build up your café. Mixed reviews on this one though, so be warned.

Super Meat Boy Forever is an endless runner spin-off of the tricky platformer Super Meat Boy. Featuring procedural levels, it still looks as difficult as the original title, although with limited involvement of creator Edmund McMillen, it is getting some mixed reviews.

Alba: A Wildlife Adventure is the latest title from Monument Valley devs ustwo, which passed me by entirely back in December. It’s a game all about exploring a Mediterranean island, saving animals and saving the environment. It looks adorable, and even better, for the game’s environmental messages have spilled into the real world too. The developers have partnered with Ecologi in a pledge to plant a tree for every copy of the game sold. They’re aiming for a million, with 276k planted so far, so why not grab the game and help them reach their goal?

Game of the Week

It didn’t release this week, but it did release in a week without a standard roundup and there’s not much to choose from this week, so Airborne Kingdom is eligible to be Game of the Week as far as I’m concerned.

It’s a city builder, but as the name implies, it’s a city in the sky. Gathering resources for new buildings involves flying the whole city around a fantasy map and sending out workers in little planes, while your expansion also needs to factor in weight and balance so the city doesn’t fall out of the sky from being over encumbered.

It’s a really interesting take on city building, and one that looks beautiful to boot. Gotten some good reviews too, so worth checking out.

And that’s it for this week! See you again soon with more from the world of gaming!