Hello! Welcome to yet another gaming roundup of the latest news and releases.
This week, it’s Google gaming, Castlevania rising from the grave, and all the awards being thrown around the industry right now.
GOOGLE ANNOUNCE NEW STREAMING PLATFORM
At GDC this week, Google delivered their much-hyped announcement of a new gaming platform. Stadia is a streaming platform that Google claim will allow users to play games on any device with access to the Internet and a Google Chrome browser. They’re also claiming full 4k/60fps quality and are pointing out their vast infrastructure to argue they’ll be better than the likes of OnLive.
However, beyond that, details are a little sparse. Aside from Assassin’s Creed Odyssey and the upcoming Doom Eternal, Google provided no details on games that would be available through the service. There’s also no word on how this will be monetised, or indeed how much it’ll be.
They’ve also been cagey on questions regarding latency, which is concerning when they’re promising such high resolutions and framerates over an Internet connection. Some preliminary tests suggest the tech is pretty good, although there have been some blips. Those blips have also raised questions about how well it can run outside the controlled GDC environment, particularly in more rural locations.
Stadia is certainly an interesting concept, but there are too many questions surrounding the tech and how Google will handle the service for reasonable commentators to call this the “future of gaming” just yet. Will be interesting to see this develop.
Nintendo held another of their “Nindies” showcases this week, where they show which popular indie games are getting ports to the Switch. Amongst the many games making the switch (heh), two brand new titles were announced and they’re looking very interesting indeed.
First of all, Double Fine announced Rad, a roguelike set in an apocalyptic wasteland. You play as a boy with radioactive mutant powers seemingly restoring the natural environment. It’s been spearheaded by the creator of Stacking, bringing together the developer’s signature irreverent humour and a neon 80s vibe. It’s out in summer, and despite the announcement with a Switch presentation, it will also be coming to Steam, PS4 and Xbox.
But even more interestingly, Brace Yourself Games announced a surprise. Their critically-acclaimed title, Crypt of the Necrodancer, is getting an expansion called Cadence of Hyrule. Yes, that Hyrule. The Zelda one. It’s got all the rhythm RPG gameplay of Necrodancer but is set in the Hyrule of A Link to the Past and features Link and Zelda as playable characters.
This marks the first time that Nintendo have handed their IP to an indie developer to make a full game. We’ve seen collaborations with Capcom, Sega and Ubisoft in the past but this is the first time they’ve let a smaller developer play with their properties to such an extent. Would this potentially open the door to future collaborations?
KONAMI COLLECTIONS ON THE WAY
Around Halloween, with the release of Castlevania Season 2 on Netflix, alongside the announcement of Simon and Richter Belmont in Super Smash Bros Ultimate, I felt there was no better time for Konami to throw together a bunch of old Castlevania games into a collection and cash in.
Well it’s March now and it’s better late than never, because there’s a Castlevania collection coming in summer. It’ll contain eight games, four of which have been announced. Confirmed so far are the original NES title, its SNES reimagining Super Castlevania IV, and Netflix inspiration Dracula’s Curse. It also, oddly, has the Game Boy version of Castlevania II. The other four games are still a miserable little pile of secrets, but I’d be very surprised if Symphony of the Night wasn’t one of them.
But that’s not all! Konami have also announced two other collections, tied to the publisher’s 50th anniversary. Yes. Fifty years. One of them is Arcade Classics, which will contain Haunted Castle, A-Jax, Gradius 1 & 2, Salamander, Thunder Cross, Scramble and TwinBee. That’s out on 18th April. The final collection is the Contra Collection, which will contain Contra, Super Contra, Super C and Contra 3: The Alien Wars. Just like Castlevania, there are also four more games in there yet to be confirmed.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ll be over here waiting impatiently for those old vampire-killing games.
AWARDS SEASON IS HERE
Forget the Oscars, what really matters are video game awards, and there are plenty of them to go around right now.
First up, the SXSW Gaming Awards. Red Dead Redemption 2 was a big winner, taking Excellence in SFX, Technical Achievement and Trending Game of the Year. Overall Game of the Year went to Dad of Boy, I mean, God of War, which also won Excellence in Visual Achievement and Excellence in Design.
Spider-Man and Beat Saber won two awards each. Sony’s Marvel-ous open world game won Excellence in Animation and Excellence in Convergence (translated: Best Licensed Game), while the VR rhythm title got VR Game of the Year and Most Promising New IP. The unstoppable juggernaut of Fortnite also got two awards, snapping up Excellence in Multiplayer and Most Promising New E-Sports Game, surprising no one.
Octopath Traveller won Excellence in Art and Super Smash Bros Ultimate won Excellence in Gameplay, both well-deserved awards. Detroit: Become Human got Excellence in Narrative which…is a questionable choice. Tetris Effect got Excellence in Musical Score, largely because it’s a game built around its score. Goofy hole simulator Donut County got Mobile Game of the Year, No Man’s Sky got Most Evolved Game, and Celeste snapped up the Matthew Crump Cultural Innovation Award.
Finally (it’s a long list!), feline-based territory-building board game Root got Tabletop Game of the Year, and 16-bit retro RPG CrossCode got Most Fulfilling Community Funded Game. Phew.
But we’re not done! Because as we mentioned, this past week has been the Game Developers’ Conference, and they had their own awards. Thankfully, their list isn’t as long.
God of War also won Game of the Year here, while RDR2 got Best Technology. Beat Saber also had extra success here, getting both Best VR/AR Game and the Audience Award.
Elsewhere, indies dominated. Celeste got Best Audio, Into the Breach got Best Design, Return of the Obra Dinn got Best Narrative and GRIS got Best Visual Art. It’s hard to argue with any of those. Finally, Nintendo snapped up an Innovation Award for bringing cardboard into video games with their Labo kits.
Finally, two industry figures were honoured with awards, both of whom are women. Rieko Kodama, trailblazing Sega graphic designer, was handed the Pioneer Award, while former Uncharted director Amy Hennig gained a Lifetime Achievement Award for her long directing career.
The BAFTA Awards also announced their games shortlists recently, but I will do a separate post on this, offering my thoughts on the nominations prior to the announcement of the winners. Stay tuned for that!
Now, onto the fun bit. New releases! The past couple of weeks have seen a few notable games released. Last week saw the release of The Division 2, which is getting a mixed reaction. PC players are having a great time, while console versions seem to be plagued with glitches that badly affect the experience. One to look into first if you’re considering it.
Elsewhere, Bandai Namco released One Piece: World Seeker for PC, PS4 and Xbox One. It’s a big open world game set in the world of the One Piece anime, so if you’re a fan, give it a look. Also out is The Sinking City, another new Lovecraftian horror game from Frogwares, the developers who brought you the Sherlock Holmes adventure games.
But, the Game of the Week this week has to be the new title from Dark Souls creators From Software, Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice. It still has the Soulsborne DNA, but with some added stealth mechanics and a feudal Japan setting that all evoke classic PS1 ninja title Tenchu. Reviews coming in are on par with the Resident Evil 2 remake, so it looks like we have a future classic on our hands here.
And that’s it for this week! I will see you next week with more news and releases!