Ubisoft Toronto Charts New Course for Toys-to-Life with Starlink: Battle for Atlas

At the 2017 Electronic Entertainment Expo, Ubisoft Toronto presented their latest creation: A Toys-to-life title called Starlink: Battle for Atlas, which garnered some positive attention.

At E3 2018, they presented it once again, and this time, it was a showstopper.

Starlink: Battle for Atlas is an open-world game, but one that differs from most in that it’s a space saga in which you traverse different worlds through use of starships. In fact, it seems to be inviting several comparisons to another such game, No Man’s Sky, albeit far more positive ones. Whereas that game’s regions were generated in a procedural fashion, Starlink: Battle for Atlas does things the old-fashioned way, making them by hand in the game’s Snowdrop engine.

Players will be able to travel across the star system and venture down to the surface of seven different planets seamlessly, according to Ubisoft’s press release. There, they’ll find alien worlds “teeming with life” and “unique challenges” to overcome. “Players’ actions and choices will impact their journey and no two player experiences will be alike,” they promise, as enemies are said to react and fight back intelligently

But “No Man’s Sky, but better” isn’t the main hook for Starlink: Battle for Atlas. Rather, its primary draw is the one which immediately snapped me to attention when the game was first shown off last year, and that’s the aforementioned Toys-to-life aspect.

I’m admittedly a big fan of Toys-to-life in general, even if there are some specific executions of the concept I don’t care for as much. I’ve got Skylanders, Disney Infinity, LEGO Dimensions, and amiibo for days, and not nearly enough time to play with them all.

Unfortunately, the Toys-to-life bubble has seemingly burst. Disney Infinity is dead, and LEGO Dimensions is no better off. Skylanders seems to continue as a franchise with its Netflix cartoon series, Skylanders Academy, but the actual game portion of that is MIA as its star, Spyro the Dragon, seems to be returning to his roots. As for amiibo? Nintendo is still producing them with each new game, but their in-game functionality seems to largely be an afterthought at this point, as they never got that one key game they needed for a breakthrough. (But at least they still look cool.)

So with that in mind, what hope does Starlink: Battle for Atlas have in a genre that’s all but completely evaporated? An ambitious one, it turns out, as Creative Director Laurent Malville and his team believe that “innovation can really bring life back into this market.” As he tells GamesIndustry.biz:

We think that toys-to-life brought a lot of younger players into video games, and that was great. But we think as they grew up, the expectation grew with it. So for us, we didn’t want to do just another one like those games. It was important for us to innovate in this category. We didn’t want to innovate on just the toy itself – and we think we did do that – but also to innovate with the huge open world. We’re not talking down to the players. This is a big open world that you can spend time in.

Where Starlink: Battle for Atlas differs from other Toys-to-life games is by putting control of the toys right in your hands — literally. Each version of the game comes with a special Starlink controller mount (or a Joy-Con grip, in the case of the Switch version) upon which the Starship of your choice is placed. During gameplay (in real-time or while paused), you’ll be able to swap out different modular parts, from the wings to various parts that attach to them, and even the pilot, each granting you different weapons and capabilities.

What’s more, there’s no singularly specific way to attach parts. Maybe you think those wings would look better swept forward? Or perhaps you’re tired of bogeys coming up on your six and taking you by surprise, so you want a rear-facing gun instead? It’s all possible, and even a bit more, as Producer Matthew Rose tells CNET, “We never want to tell kids they’re being creative wrong.”

However, some people who would enjoy these Toys-to-life games just don’t care for the “toy” aspect so much. But Ubisoft has good news for you: You don’t actually need the toys to enjoy the game. While purchasing various toys will unlock digital equivalents within the game, as Rose tells Nintendo UK:

It was very important for us to be extremely player friendly in what we’re offering. We want people to buy the collectibles because they think the collectibles are amazing. The modular play gives you all these cool creative things to do and build. But we don’t want to force you into buying them. You can complete the entire game just with the starter pass. Even if you are a minimalist, you don’t want more stuff on your shelves, you can even get digital versions of all the parts. You can play the entire game digitally, which is something we’re really proud of.

So, that all sounds great on its own, right? But what exactly would make it a showstopper at E3 this year that wasn’t there last year?

See for yourself:

“We are excited to give players a deeper look at Starlink: Battle for Atlas, the first all-new property from Ubisoft Toronto,” Malville stated in a press release. “Starlink is a project born from the passion of our collective team, and the opportunity to work directly with Nintendo to bring Star Fox to our universe is a dream come true. We believe the Atlas open star system is a perfect playground for Fox to explore and hope players will too.”

“The team at Ubisoft Toronto collaborated closely with Virtuos on the Nintendo Switch version of Starlink: Battle for Atlas,” the press release explains. “The partnership allowed Ubisoft to push the Nintendo Switch version to new heights, and fully support handheld, tabletop and docked play.”

I’ll admit to a little bias here, as I’ve been waiting 25 years for a toy Arwing I could call my own, and now someone has finally answered the call. (Makes me wonder if I should press my luck for a Great Fox, but one thing at a time here.) This pushes me from “completely sold” on the game to “why can’t I play this now?”

But “now” is sadly not in the cards, as the game doesn’t come out until October 16th, 2018, when the game will be available for the Xbox One, the PlayStation 4, and of course the Nintendo Switch in a Starter Edition priced at $99.99. Included in all versions of the Starter Edition are the game, the Starlink controller mount for your console of choice, and a poster.

In addition, the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 versions will also come with the following:

  • Zenith Starship – includes modular hull and two Armor wings
  • Mason Rana Pilot
  • Shredder Weapon
  • Flamethrower Weapon
  • Frost Barrage Weapon

As for the Nintendo Switch version? Hoo-boy, what an added value. You’ll get:

  • Arwing Starship – includes modular hull and two Arwing wings, with laser cannon weapons and charge shot built in
  • Fox McCloud Pilot
  • Mason Rana Pilot
  • Flamethrower Weapon
  • Frost Barrage Weapon
  • Digital versions of Zenith Starship and Shredder weapon
  • Exclusive Star Fox mission content

That’s right — you’ll not only get everything that the other Starter Editions come with (albeit digitally in some cases, but still), but also the Arwing Starship, Fox McCloud Pilot figure, and exclusive Star Fox mission content.

Beyond the Starter Edition, there are additional sets of ships, weapons, and pilots available to purchase. Here’s how it all breaks down:

  • Starship Pack (including one starship with modular hull and two wings, one pilot and one weapon): $39.99
  • Weapon Pack (including two weapons): $14.99
  • Pilot Pack (including one pilot): $12.99

It should be noted that all pieces are compatible, with a few small but expected exceptions: The Star Fox pieces will only work with the Nintendo Switch version of the game. So everything is compatible with it, and it’s compatible with everything else, but only so long as you’re playing it on Nintendo’s console.

And that’s pretty much it. October never looked so far away, but like any respectable Starship captain, I am ready for launch.

In the meantime, here are some renders, concept art, and screenshots for you to enjoy.

Following up on their free weekends for For Honor and Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six Siege, Ubisoft has announced a different kind of free weekend to close out the month.

From 8am UTC on Thursday, May 31st until 8am UTC on Monday, June 4th, selected players on the Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and PC will have the opportunity to partake in a closed beta for The Crew 2. (Those selected will be able to pre-load the game beginning May 29th.)

During the closed beta, players will experience the first level of the progression system as they compete in races across all first four disciplines – Street Race, Rally Raid, Powerboat and Aerobatics – against the backdrop of a fully redesigned USA, via land, water and air. To create more adrenaline-fueled experiences, players can use the Fast-Fav feature and instantly switch their vehicle type depending on the type of terrain they will encounter: an airplane flying underneath San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge can turn into a boat with the touch of a button. Fueled by original series, exclusive events, top personalities and leading experts, Motor Trend is the #1 destination for automotive super fans via the Motor Trend app on iOS/Apple TV, Google Play, Roku, Xbox, Chromecast and Amazon platforms or via MotorTrend.com.

Sound good? If you’re interested, then head on over to thecrewgame.com/beta to sign up for a chance to take part.

Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment, The LEGO Group, and TT Games have announced several new updates for LEGO Worlds that will treat you to some new tricks.

The first arrives just in time for All Hallows’ Eve, as Monsters invade the Worlds of LEGO!

This trip down to Monster Town will cost you $3.99, allowing you to partake in scary quests, face (and perhaps flee from) creatures most terrifying, and speed past haunted houses in ghoulish vehicles. Just watch out for delinquent zombies, who are only to happy to treat themselves to your plastic yellow flesh! You’ll have to be extra-tricky to scare them off so you can repair their damage as only a Master Builder can.

And of course, while Halloween may come only once a year, you can enjoy this Monster Pack year-round.

Incidentally, if you decide to go in on the Nintendo Switch version at retail for $39.99, you’ll receive the Monster Pack as well as the previously-released Classic Space Pack, whereas the digital version found for $29.99 in the Nintendo eShop has it available separately, and it’s available for purchase on the Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and Steam versions.

Next up is a free update which allows you to create and film your videos with the new Camera Car:

One or two players can make use of the vehicle, creating original action scenes or remaking favorite film moments in LEGO style.

Other new features added are covered in this video:

Among the highlights detailed in the press release are The Planner, which allows players to use various materials and pre-built wall types to build their LEGO structures faster and easier than before, while other tools have been upgraded “significantly” so that players’ enjoyment will be maximized. Revised search functionality should help make the Discovery Menu easier to navigate, and new shapes in the Landscape Tool should help improve how players edit their worlds.

If you’re interested in more about the game itself, at least as it initially launched, be sure to check out my review here.

David Oxford is a freelance writer of many varied interests. If you’re interested in hiring him, please drop him a line at david.oxford (at) nyteworks.net.

nyteworkspatreonbutton

In an effort to help further build up the fighting game community in Canada, Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment has joined forces with EB Games, Cineplex, and World Gaming to present the Injustice 2 Battlegrounds Series, a program which will allow amateurs and pros alike the opportunity to compete across programs in different regions for a chance to claim a portion of the $10,000 prize pool. (Oh, and audience prizes will be awarded at each in-theatre regional competition, too.)

The format for the tournament begins in your own home, as you compete online to qualify before moving on the in-theatre portion of the event. “The online events will accommodate up to 64 players per tournament and feature a points-based circuit format — there will be three single-elimination online tournaments per region, where players accumulate points based on their placement,” says the press release. “The top 16 players from each region qualify for Stage Two.”

From there, select Cineplex theatres will play host to regional finals in Montreal, QC; Ottawa, ON; Toronto, ON; Winnipeg, MB; Chinook, AB; Edmonton, AB; and Langley, BC. The 16 per theatre who qualify will engage each other in a double-elimination tournament with the winner taking home $600, 2nd place getting $300, and 3rd $100.

Oh, and unfortunately, it’s all happening on the PlayStation 4.

For more information, or to sign up, visit the official World Gaming website. Regional online qualifiers run until July 9th, and the finals will take place on July 15th.

David Oxford is a freelance writer of many varied interests. If you’re interested in hiring him, please drop him a line at david.oxford (at) nyteworks.net.

nyteworkspatreonbutton

On the night of Wednesday, May 10th, 2017, Warner Bros. Interactive held a special Canadian launch party for the release of Injustice 2, which arrives in stores digital and physical alike next week. To my sheer delight, I was invited to partake in the event, and as such, you can now see what I got to see.


injusticelaunch000

Photograph by Evan Bergstra

The event took place at The Gallery at 99 Sudbury Street, and if that seems familiar to you, you’ve got a sharp mind — that’s the same location where Nintendo of Canada held their Yo-Kai Watch 2 preview event last September. Be sure to take an extra candy from the dish if you managed to make it out to both.


injusticelaunch00

Upon entering the building, guests were greeted by three enormous banners displaying rivals Superman and Batman, as well as a newcomer to the series in Supergirl.


injusticelaunch01

And just to your left was one of the main attractions: Four demo stations set up to run the PlayStation 4 version of Injustice 2. I managed to be one of the first ones to land a spot to try the game out, and that wound up being just a little more eventful than I realized, but more on that later.

I’ll save full thoughts on the game for when I get to review it, but I will say that as a newcomer to the series, I was expecting something a little more akin to Mortal Kombat, given that Injustice is a product of MK developer NetherRealm Studios. That turned out not to be the case, however, as it felt a bit different to not only that, but the likes of Street Fighter and Killer Instinct as well. Even though I was caught off-guard, I’m happy to say that I found it rather easy to adapt to.


injusticelaunch10

On the back wall behind the banners, there was a demo station for the mobile version of the game, which is a free-to-play app for iOS and Android that is available starting today. It expands upon the swipe and card-based gameplay of the original Injustice: Gods Among Us app, and once again allows you to unlock bonuses in the console versions of the game.


injusticelaunch02

To the left of the mobile game station, a trailer for the game ran via projection. Given you can see Batman himself looking at a series of holographic projections, it added an almost meta feeling to watching it. Nice touch.


injusticelaunch03 injusticelaunch04

Further to the left on that same wall, the large “Shattered Alliances Mural” was prominently displayed, and would provide the backdrop for several pictures and interviews taken throughout the evening.


injusticelaunch07injusticelaunch09injusticelaunch06injusticelaunch08injusticelaunch05

Rounding the corner to the left wall, one would see that two local DC Comics artists from the Royal Academy of Illustration and Design, Marcus To and Francis Manapul, were in attendance. While they did not work on the game itself, they nonetheless brought with them a number of pieces which were inspired by the Injustice universe.


Photographs by Evan Bergstra

As it turns out, the event was well-catered with a number of unique dishes and an open bar. While I happily partook of the latter (albeit only for a can of Coca-Cola), I didn’t know food would be provided, or else I’d have gladly skipped lunch in favor of this.

That said, I at least made a point to try out the Food Dudes Mac & Cheese dish (seen in the two bottom-center pics), which was made on the spot and quite good. It tasted pretty much how you might expect from reading the ingredients: the mac and cheese had a relatively mild flavor, with the smoked tomato ketchup providing a contrasting balance and a bit of pop and the panko providing a bit of a satisfying crunchy texture.

Unfortunately, it’s a difficult dish to recommend; not on account of quality, but availability. I can’t seem to find it on any of their food truck or restaurant menus, only catering. So with that said, if you’re at or hosting an event catered by this company, I say it’s definitely worth a shot.

Oh, right, I’m supposed to be talking about the game.

Besides the opportunity to try the game out ahead of launch (though there has also been beta playtesting), the highlight of the night was none other than the legendary video game designer, co-creator of Mortal Kombat, and director of Injustice 2 himself, NetherRealm Studios’ Ed Boon.

In addition to talking to and taking pictures/selfies with the fans in attendance, Boon took part in a Q&A session on stage, hosted by Ajay Fry from Space:

First, apologies for the slight swaying of the camera, my arms weren’t holding up well for steadiness by this point in the evening.

I have to admit, I had no idea he worked on the likes of Defender, Missile Command, or Asteroids — and at age 16, no less. Maybe his Wikipedia page just needs updating? That, or I’m terrible at reading jokes, either is entirely possible.

At 4:35, I couldn’t help but wonder if Ajay was referencing a certain former creative for a comic book starring another world-famous video game character. Naaaah (but maybe?).

Moving to 7:56, remember how I said earlier that when I was playing, I’d have an unknowing impact on the evening? Yeah, this is it right here: I’m pretty sure I was that Flash, because I definitely beat a Swamp Thing at the start of the night. I’m not even joking. It would have been a real nervous collar-tugging moment for me, had I not been using both hands to try to steady the camera (actually, I think I might have done that anyway).

There was a brief opportunity to ask some questions with the special microphone-cube they had there, but I ended up passing — partly for the integrity of the video (watching other guys fumble to catch it was kind of fun, though; maybe I should have recorded that), but also because I have enough questions I could ask Ed Boon to fill out an entire feature-length article, so narrowing it down to just one was nigh-impossible in that time frame.

Incidentally, it’s worth noting that I did get to talk to Mr. Boon earlier in the evening, and even got my picture taken with him!


WithEdBoon

Photograph by Evan Bergstra. There are some pics on my camera, too, but this one just looks better.

I did get to briefly ask him if he’d be interested in participating in a project I’m only just laying the groundwork for, and he seemed interested. However, that’s a way into the future, if it ever happens, but it’s a good step!

It also sounds like I might have had the biggest smile of the evening for one of these pictures, or so I was told. I guess I was more excited to meet Mr. Boon than I realized, but I am a pretty big fan of Midway, so I shouldn’t be too surprised.

As for Injustice 2, I’ll wrap things up here with this recent trailer which — as the title says — basically tells you everything you need to know about the game in just under five and a half minutes:




Injustice 2 will be available for PlayStation 4 and Xbox One on Tuesday, May 16th, 2017. And as noted above, the mobile version is available today on iOS and Android devices, and is free-to-play.

Finally, a big thanks to Warner Bros. Interactive for having me out to the event; it was a great time!

All photos by David Oxford unless otherwise noted.

David Oxford is a freelance writer of many varied interests. If you’re interested in hiring him, please drop him a line at david.oxford (at) nyteworks.net.

nyteworkspatreonbutton

As mentioned in my review of LEGO Worlds, one of the keys to Minecraft‘s longevity that they will have to contend with is the ongoing support the latter has received over the last several years following its launch in 2011. That trend continues this week with no less than three updates to the console* versions of the game.

First up is the addition of a new mini-game simply known as “Glide,” which allows players to use their Elytras to do as the name suggests over a track filled with shortcuts and secrets (and maybe even some secret shortcuts). Different modes include Score Attack, which has you flying through rings for points; Time Attack, in which you’ll need to master the use of speed boosters and employ thermal drafts to shave off precious seconds; and a race against up to 15 competitors in Glide Multiplayer.

For more details about Glide, check out this post on the official blog.

minigamemastersminecraft

If you want to look the part when you’re at your Gliding best, then you might want to look into picking up the Mini Game Masters Skin Pack, where you can deck your character out in the garb of Team Guardian, Team Creeper, or Team Zombie. You can get a better look at each available skin here.

Suit up with your team of choice for just $1.99 for the pack.

powerrangersminecraft

Finally, it’s Morphin’ Time!

With Saban’s Power Rangers kicking butt in theatres, Mojang is going old school with a new Minecraft Skin Pack based on the original Mighty Morphin Power Rangers TV show. In addition to the six costumed teenagers with attitude, screens also show Alpha 5, the original Megazord, Ninjor, Rita Repulsa, Lord Zedd, Goldar, Scorpina, and Rito Revolto. You can check those out here. Hm, think they managed to include Dragonzord and the Thunderzords as well?

The Mighty Morphin Power Rangers Skin Pack is available for $2.99.

* From what’s stated in the blogs and press materials, it sounds like the Glide mini-game and Mini Game Masters Skin Pack are available only for the Xbox One and PlayStation 4, but not Wii U. The Mighty Morphin Power Rangers Skin Pack is for “Minecraft: Console Edition, Minecraft: Windows 10 Edition, and Minecraft: Pocket Edition, which I think may leave the Wii U version out again. I’ll update this if I hear otherwise.

David Oxford is a freelance writer of many varied interests. If you’re interested in hiring him, please drop him a line at david.oxford (at) nyteworks.net.

nyteworkspatreonbutton

Update: Added Dead Rising 4 and LEGO Dimensions expansion packs.

With apologies to Maffew, as well as everyone else for not getting this up a little sooner as I’d have liked.

Following is a quick list of titles and things good for grabbing as gifts for the gamer in your life this holiday season. Mind, these come as my own personal recommendations, and don’t account for everything, including some “obvious” picks (such as Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare, Final Fantasy XV, and Pokemon Sun and Pokemon Moon). Everything here has been released in some form or fashion since Christmas 2015.

Xbox One

killerinstinctdefeditionXbox One S – Your mileage may vary on this one; if you or the intended recipient don’t own an Xbox One already, then this is the way to go. If you/they are planning on getting a 4K TV in the next year, however, then you might want to wait for Microsoft’s Project Scorpio — or at least more details about it — to emerge.

Killer Instinct: Definitive Edition Originally introduced in 2013, the revival of Killer Instinct has finally reached completion after three “seasons” of releases. While I only reviewed the first season, much more content has been made available since then, including new guest stars from Halo, Gears of War, and Battletoads! What’s more, you can now get everything in one complete package at retail with the Definitive Edition, which also includes a soundtrack CD and code for a gold Gargos skin. Now that’s what I call an Ultra Combo! (Also available on Windows 10 via Play Anywhere with Xbox One)

Forza Horizon 3 This open-world driving game is great for relaxing, but also provides plenty of excitement as you partake in various races, challenges, and even hunts for classic vehicles. Sync up your own custom soundtrack (or use one of the stations in the game) and hit the road — as well as the plains, beaches, and anywhere else you can think to drive! (Also available on Windows 10 via Play Anywhere with Xbox One)

oriblindforestdefeditionboxOri and the Blind Forest: Definitive Edition (Review Pending) – Alongside Killer Instinct, this was one of the games which made me want an Xbox One in the first place, and I haven’t been disappointed. This Metroidvania-styled platformer has a beautifully eerie presence a surprising degree of emotion as well. I was saving this to say in my already long-overdue review, but to me, Ori feels like the perfect mascot for the Xbox One, and deserves to be adopted as one. Plus, for the price, how can you afford not to try it? (Also available for Windows via Steam)

ReCore (Review Pending) – From some of the creative minds who brought you Mega Man and Metroid Prime comes this mysterious tale from another world. As Joule Adams, you’re tasked with exploring the planet of Far Eden and finding out what happened to those who were supposed to colonize it for mankind’s survival. But while you seem to be the only human around, you’re not alone — a group of Corebots use the special abilities granted by their customizable frames (such as the “dog,” Mack) to assist you throughout this third-person adventure that feels in some ways like a mix of Mega Man Legends and Metroid Prime, coupled with its own unique elements as well. (Also available on Windows 10 via Play Anywhere with Xbox One)

Quantum Break (Review Pending) – Yeah, I know — I’m juggling a lot of balls in the air here (and yes, it’s driving me nuts). This is an extremely story-oriented third-person shooter with some interesting characters and some content that’s set up like an actual television serial interspersed with the game’s chapters. If you’re cool with a game you watch as or more often than you play, then this one’s definitely worth a look. (Also available on Windows 10)

Xbox Design Lab – The Xbox One Wireless Controller is one of my favorite controllers to come around in some time, with a comfortable feel and a Dpad that’s not only finally worth a damn, but pretty dang good in its own right! So what could make it better? How about your own choice of color scheme, and maybe a laser-engraved message as well? This holiday season, you can give a custom Xbox Design Lab controller as a gift by purchasing a code which the recipient can then redeem to make the controller of their dreams (and 14-day shipping is free!).

Dead Rising 4 – This late arrival to stores and this list alike is a must-own this holiday season for its Yuletide setting alone, but for fans of beat ’em up-styled gameplay, the latest adventure of Frank West really hits home.

Wii U

papermariocolorsplashboxPaper Mario: Color Splash After Paper Mario: Sticker Star, I thought that the magic of the series I loved might never return. Imagine my surprise when Nintendo took such great strides towards a return to form just one installment later! While still not quite on the level of the masterpiece that is Paper Mario: The Thousand Year Door, this lite-RPG adventure is a great choice for all ages.

The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess HD Nintendo’s next console, the Switch, isn’t destined to join us until March of next year, and the Zelda title designed to bridge it and the Wii U, Breath of the Wild, may take even longer still. In the meantime, they’ve updated the game which bridged the GameCube and the Wii with improved visuals and other features, including amiibo support! Get the game with the Wolf Link w/Midna amiibo, and you can begin prepping it to join you in the next Zelda adventure, whenever it may come!

Nintendo 3DS

kirbyplanetrobobotboxKirby: Planet Robobot Simply put, this is a must-have for any Nintendo 3DS owner. To say anything more would simply diminish it; if you or someone you know hasn’t played it, then rectify that immediately (or at least come the holidays).

Azure Striker Gunvolt: Striker Pack This spiritual successor to games such as Mega Man Zero really brings the thunder — or the lightning, at least! And with the recent release of Azure Striker Gunvolt 2 in the Nintendo eShop, you can now get both chapters together on a single game card at retail!

Mario & Luigi: Paper Jam It’s a crossover no one knew they wanted — or was even possible! Establishing the Paper Mario series as a separate entity (well, even more so), Nintendo’s two long-running Mario role playing game series collide as denizens of the Paper world are released into the regular Mario world, and chaos ensues! This one is definitely a “cut” above!

Sonic Boom: Fire & Ice While the original Sonic Boom games did little to endear the world to this iteration of the franchise, Fire & Ice is a much better second go. With humorous writing and voice acting that’s in keeping with the Sonic Boom cartoon and the addition of Amy Rose to the playable character roster, Fire & Ice doesn’t excel, but it is comfort gaming at its finest.

Project X Zone 2 Let’s get crazy! This turn-based strategy game brings together characters from several of SEGA, Capcom, Bandai Namco, and Nintendo’s top titles for a fan service smorgasbord! Even if you don’t know all the characters involved (and the odds are pretty good that you won’t know everyone), don’t worry — you’ll probably find yourself wanting to check out some new games by the end of it. Heck, I never had any interest in SEGA’s Yakuza before, but now I can’t wait for Yakuza 0 to arrive on PlayStation 4 early next year!

PlayStation 4

dragonquestbuildersboxPlayStation 4 Pro – Speaking of PlayStation 4, if you’re interested in 4K gaming or virtual reality with PlayStation VR, then this is the model to look into. Just know that while it can stream 4K video, it won’t play Ultra HD Blu-ray discs.

Dragon Quest Builders Part of Minecraft‘s strength is its go anywhere, do anything you want freedom. However, if you’re interested in a game which captures the building and resource mechanics while providing you with a bit more of a purpose, then this alternate timeline sequel to the original Dragon Quest ought to be right up your alley.

Ratchet & Clank This latest release in the long-running PlayStation-exclusive franchise combines what made the original game great with a bit of added flair from the motion picture release, turns it on its head, sprinkles in some elements from other installments, and provides an experience great for longtime fans of the series and newcomers alike. And given that the film (which is based on the original game, with this being based on that) didn’t quite set hearts aflutter while the game was a number-one bestseller, it’s probably safe to say that if you have to choose between the two, going with the game is probably the best choice.

Multiplatform

deusexmankindboxartDeus Ex: Mankind Divided (Review Pending) – The Canadian Video Game Awards 2016 winner for Best Console Game, Best Game Design, Best Narrative, Best Performance, and oh yeah, Game of the Year. As Adam Jensen, you’re a cybernetically-enhanced human (though you didn’t ask for this) who is putting his myriad tools to good use as you make the decisions you think will best see you through to victory. Lethal or non-lethal weapons? Employ stealth, or go in guns blazing? These choices and many more are yours.

Rise of the Tomb Raider 20 Year Celebration (Review Pending) – For as iconic a figure as Lara Croft has been for the industry over the years, this installment follows in the footsteps of its predecessor by being decidedly not for children — or the faint of heart. It’s definitely an intense game that will keep you on the edge of your seat, and some parts can be pretty gruesome as well. That said, the original version came to Xbox One last year, but 20 Year Celebration throws in all the extra content that has been released since then, including some additional skins (such as a Retro Lara for a nostalgic kick), a co-op mode, and an Extreme Difficulty mode. On PlayStation 4, it’s also one of the first games to take advantage of the HDR features and 4K resolution provided by the Pro version, as well as a chapter playable in PlayStation VR.

WWE 2K17 The latest installment in 2K Games’ long-running sports entertainment adaptation is opting for a little more of a sim flavor this year. Create your own Superstars and events, alter others, and have the full run of Raw, Smackdown, and the rest of the shows WWE brings to a worldwide audience every week.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutants in Manhattan On the half-shell, they’re the heroes four; in this day and age, who could ask for more? This IDW Comics-styled game is all about teamwork, whether you’re working with friends or strangers in online multiplayer, or managing all four green teens yourself.

skylandersimaginatorsboxSkylanders Imaginators Continuing the ever-growing theme of player-created content, this year’s Skylanders title allows you to create your very own Skylander called an Imaginator. They come in all different types, and become more powerful when one of the new Senseis shows them their moves. Plus, if you get the PlayStation 4 version (though it should come to the others next year), you can also get Skylanders of Spyro’s old pal, Crash Bandicoot and his rival Dr. Neo Cortex.

LEGO Star Wars: The Force Awakens “Chewie… we’re home.” These words from Han Solo reflect the feeling of this LEGO title as the series gets back to its roots, but with some new tricks as well. And it just feels so right.

Mega Man Legacy Collection Released as a digital download for Steam, Xbox One, and PlayStation 4 late last year, this collection of the Blue Bomber’s six Nintendo Entertainment System adventures (and all the gobs of additional related content included) not only arrived on the Nintendo 3DS earlier this year, but at retail for Xbox One and PlayStation 4 as well. Plus, if you go for the physical Nintendo 3DS version, you can also add an exclusive gold Mega Man amiibo figure to your collection!

Mighty No. 9 This spiritual successor to Mega Man comes with a pretty severe caveat, as the game has been very divisive: If you or someone you know wants a challenge, then this one may deliver. That said, it’s best to look around and see if you can find a good bargain on it to keep your bets safe. Think of this one as “stocking stuffer” material, or consider trying the free demo first. Oh, and be careful about getting the Wii U version — that one apparently suffered from some pretty nasty hardware crashing issues, and I’m not sure if they ever got all those fixed.

LEGO Dimensions Sonic the Hedgehog Level Pack – The toys alone are cool enough, but getting to use them in a game which does a pretty good job of marrying the LEGO and Sonic styles of gameplay is even better.

LEGO Dimensions Gremlins Team Pack – Based on one of my favorite holiday movies, exploring the town of Kingston Falls during the snowy holiday season makes this a perfect holiday gift for anyone who owns (or will soon own) LEGO Dimensions.

Other

supermarioadventuresSuper Mario Run Though this game is available now, you won’t be able to buy it in stores. However, as it commands a $13.99 price tag, an iTunes gift card or two for the intended recipient may not be the worst idea. Just remember that it launches as an iOS exclusive, while the Android version comes sometime later.

Super Mario Adventures This recently republished collection of the comic which originally ran in Nintendo Power magazine 25 years ago is, for many, one of the definitive pieces of Mario fiction (outside of the games, that is). A loose adaptation of Super Mario World, this also includes an additional chapter which loosely adapts Super Mario Land 2: 6 Golden Coins and gives us the origin of Wario. Sadly, the 14th and final installment was not included; thankfully, it was a standalone story, so the rest of the book holds up quite well on its own otherwise.

NES Classic Edition and NES Controllers – Good luck finding either of these! Even if you’re not interested in this plug ‘n play collection of 30 classic games for yourself, you’re almost guaranteed to know someone who is, so if you see one in the wild — grab it! And if you happen to come across the even rarer controller, a replica of the original NES input device, consider that it also works with some games (pretty much anything a sideways Wii Remote would) on the Wii and Wii U!

David Oxford is a freelance writer of many varied interests. If you’re interested in hiring him, please drop him a line at david.oxford (at) nyteworks.net.

nyteworkspatreonbutton

These days, the super heroes of Marvel Comics are everywhere you look. There are the comic books which serve as the foundation for everything else to follow, of course, as well as the hugely successful Marvel Cinematic Universe. Then there are the cartoons and television shows, action figures, clothing — even Avengers slots. Am I forgetting anything?

Oh yeah, video games.

Here’s the thing: For the longest time, video games based on licensed properties have typically had more of a tie to the source material — typically as “adaptations” — than being distinct entities in their own right. One can see and readily identify a version of a character as being “the comic version” or “the movie version” or “the cartoon version,” but you seldom — if ever — see a readily identifiable “video game version” of such a character, largely due to the fact that if there is a video game based on said character, it’s usually tying in with one of the aforementioned, rather than standing as its own entity.

Not too long ago, however, Rocksteady Studios defied convention. Rather than adapt Warner Bros. The Dark Knight theatrical version of DC’s iconic Batman, they instead created a version of the character with his own distinct look in his own distinct universe. Only the most passive fans might possibly confuse the Arkham version of the Caped Crusader for one of his other incarnations. As such, they created an iconic version of the character that can readily stand shoulder-to-shoulder with other interpretations, rather than merely recreating another to forever live in the shadows.

Unfortunately, at the moment, it seems that neither Rocksteady nor Warner Bros. are interested in fanning the flames they’ve sparked. That said, it seems that Disney’s Marvel is ready to follow their lead with none other than Spider-Man.

spidermanps4a

Announced recently at Sony’s 2016 Electronic Entertainment Expo press conference, an all-new video game starring the web-slinger is headed to the PlayStation 4 courtesy of Insomniac Games. Little is known about the title thus far, not even the proper title or release date, but PlayStation.Blog does reveal some telling information just the same:

…we’re thrilled to be given the responsibility to create a brand-new, authentic Spider-Man story. Nope, this isn’t the same Spider-Man you’ve met before, nor is our game based on the upcoming movie. This is a more seasoned Peter Parker who’s more masterful at fighting big crime in New York City. At the same time, he’s struggling to balance his absurdly chaotic personal life and career. All while nine million New Yorkers depend on him for their safety… no pressure indeed.

By the sound of things, they may very well be taking a similar approach as their contemporaries in creating a Spider-Man that can distinctly be referred to as “the video game version” of the character. Heck, just look at the all-new and unique costume they’ve created for their take on the alter-ego of Peter Parker:

spidermanps4b

Should this take off, then the big question becomes “what’s next?” Marvel is already heavily involved in the development of this title, and if they maintain that level of involvement, perhaps they could find other studios to bring us distinct video game versions of other mainstays, such as Iron Man, Captain America, Thor, the Hulk, and others.

And if you think back, it wasn’t that long ago that each of these heroes was being drip fed to us in all-new cinematic offerings that led to them coming together in The Avengers, thus solidifying the concept of a full “Marvel Cinematic Universe” that every other executive in Hollywood has been trying to chase and create their own version of, from DC to Universal Monsters to Hasbro and, beggaring belief, even Transformers (yes, just Transformers, separate from the rest of the Hasbro universe).

But since Marvel has already staked its claim and has movie releases plotted out through the end of 2020, why not try making lightning strike twice in the video game world?

Incidentally, it’s worth noting that even if Insomniac Games’ Spider-Man should fail to create the spark needed for such a venture, there may still be a Plan B. Telltale Games has been quiet since the announcement of their own mysterious video game partnership with Marvel; perhaps their own developments could provide a separate foundation, or even weave some characters less suited for a more action-oriented game into the grand scheme of things?

Only time will tell, but hopefully Spider-Man will mark the beginning of bigger and better things for Marvel video game fans.

David Oxford is a freelance writer of many varied interests. If you’re interested in hiring him, please drop him a line at david.oxford (at) nyteworks.net.

nyteworkspatreonbutton

A long time ago, on a generation of gaming platforms far, far away, Traveller’s Tales developed a new type of LEGO video game which took the six Star Wars movies and reimagined them in a more satirical format. The games appealed to fans of Star Wars young and old, and were met with great success, spawning an ongoing line of similarly-styled LEGO video games for years to come.

Another LEGO Star Wars game would come in 2011, based on The Clone Wars. Following that, however, it was as if millions of fans’ voices suddenly cried out for more and were suddenly silenced.

Until now.

LEGO Star Wars: The Force Awakens launches on Tuesday, June 28th, 2016 for just about every current platform under the sun: Wii U, Xbox One, PlayStation 4, Nintendo 3DS, Steam for PC, Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and even the PlayStation Vita will soon feel the power of the Force.

As the title implies, the game is based on the recent seventh episode in the popular film series, the first to come under the stewardship of the franchise’s new masters at Disney. More than just the film’s events will be covered, as untold tales building up to what you saw on the big screen will play out as well. What’s more, key members of the film’s cast such as John Boyega (Finn), Adam Driver (Kylo Ren), Harrison Ford (Han Solo), Daisy Ridley (Rey), Oscar Isaac (Poe Dameron), and more have lent their talents to the game, providing new and original dialogue to enjoy.

Oh, and you can also play as BB-8:

A demo is available to download now as well.

To help build anticipation for the launch, publisher Warner Bros. Interactive invited members of the press out to the Rogers Centre in Toronto, where demos of the closely-guarded game could be played on regular televisions as well as the enormous Rogers Centre video board — a feature which Toronto Blue Jays pitcher and Star Wars fan R.A. Dickey took advantage of as he played alongside Emile Burbidge, the newest Chief Play Officer for Toys “R” Us Canada.

Their appearance at the event made sense; Burbidge for the obvious reasons, while Dickey helped represent the marketing push that Warner Bros. Interactive would be making at the stadium with signage around the field, including behind the home plate. The company stated that this was going to be one of their biggest releases of the year, and are quite intent on making sure people are fully aware of it.

David Oxford is a freelance writer of many varied interests. If you’re interested in hiring him, please drop him a line at david.oxford (at) nyteworks.net.

nyteworkspatreonbutton

Batman: Arkham Asylum and Batman: Arkham City were two of the biggest titles released during the last generation of video game consoles, and certainly two of the most successful superhero games ever — Batman or otherwise. In June 2015, Rocksteady Studios completed their trilogy with Batman: Arkham Knight; unfortunately, its arrival on the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 kind of broke up the set — the latter doesn’t play games from previous generations, while the former’s ever-growing list of backwards compatible games does not include the Dark Knight’s exploits.

Fortunately for fans, Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment has hired Virtuos to help solve the problem with Batman: Return to Arkham for the Xbox One and PlayStation 4.

This two-in-one set will contain both Batman: Arkham Asylum and Batman: Arkham City, rebuilt from the ground up in Unreal Engine 4 to feature better graphics with upgraded models, environments, lighting, effects, and shaders. Plus, all of the Game of the Year Edition bonus and downloadable content will be included, forming a complete package when it’s released on July 26th for $64.99.

Unfortunately, it appears that the side-story known as Batman: Arkham Origins, developed by Warner Bros. Games Montréal, isn’t in the cards, thus still leaving a small gap in one’s collection. Maybe they’ll include a remake with a special edition of Batman: Arkham Knight somewhere down the line? Then again, given that game’s relatively lukewarm reception, maybe WB has just decided to focus on the core trilogy.

David Oxford is a freelance writer of many varied interests. If you’re interested in hiring him, please drop him a line at david.oxford (at) nyteworks.net.

nyteworkspatreonbutton

Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End is out, and people are loving it.

Would you like to celebrate the game’s launch? Yeah, the game’s already been released (as of May 10th), so I guess this is sort of a postmortem celebration? Posthumous? I mean, if A Thief’s End really is the last in the series, I guess that technically means it’s dead, so it could be posthumous, right?

Whatever; the point is, the game is out, but the launch party is this Saturday, May 14th at the EBGames located at 267 Yonge Street in Toronto, Ontario from either 12am to 4am or 12pm to 4pm (the announcement has both. Maybe call ahead to be sure, but I’m more confident in the latter times). While you’re there, you can play the game if you haven’t already (or if you have, your call) and potentially win some “sweet” prizes of no further description.

If you’re not going to be in Toronto this weekend, fret not, for there are other events happening all across the country at the following locations:

  • Les Galeries de la Capitale, Quebec
  • Devonshire Mall, Windsor
  • Guildford Town Centre, Surrey
  • Southcentre Mall, Calgary
  • Coquitlam Centre, Port Coquitlam
  • Les Galeries d’Anjou, Anjou
  • Kingsway Garden, Edmonton
  • Centre Fairview Pointe-Claire, Pointe-Claire
  • Market Mall, Calgary
  • Victoria Place, London
  • Laval West, Laval
  • First Pro Stavanger, St. John’s
  • Quartiers DIX30, Brossard
  • West Edmonton Mall, Edmonton

If none of those work for you? Okay, now you can fret. Or you can keep an eye on the event page on Facebook to see if any other locations get added, or for further details on the ones we know about above.

David Oxford is a freelance writer of many varied interests. If you’re interested in hiring him, please drop him a line at david.oxford (at) nyteworks.net.

nyteworkspatreonbutton

playstationvrincludesAt the Game Developers Conference, Sony Computer Entertainment has at long last announced pricing and the time of release for their much-anticipated virtual reality interface, the PlayStation VR.

Arriving in October 2016, the suggested retail price will be $549, a bit of a jump from the $399 those in the States will be paying. For this, you’ll receive… er, everything pictured at right, including the PlayStation VR headset, headphones, some other cables, and some square things sporting PlayStation logos on them.

In case you hadn’t guessed, their PlayStation.Blog post isn’t very descriptive or enlightening on the matter.

They do reveal, however, that they have more than 230 developers on board to create new experiences for the device, and are looking at having some 50 titles released between its October launch and the end of the year, covering a wide range of creators from smaller independent studios to triple-A publishers. Personally, I would not be surprised to see a new Call of Duty that takes advantage of the new hardware, but nothing seems to have been announced yet on that front.

Right out of the box, though, all new PlayStation VR owners will be able to download The Playroom VR for free. Fresh from Sony’s own Japan Studio, The Playroom VR seems to be a tech demo consisting of six games playable with friends and family, “demonstrating why we believe VR can also be an impactful experience when it’s shared.”

Now that you know the time and the price, are you interested in becoming one of Sony’s own VR troopers?

David Oxford is a freelance writer of many varied interests. If you’re interested in hiring him, please drop him a line at david.oxford (at) nyteworks.net.

nyteworkspatreonbutton

You may know a Hadoken from a Shoryuken, but do you think you’ve got what it takes to stand toe-to-toe with the best Street Fighter (player)s in Canada?

If so, then you’ll want to pre-register before March 23rd for the Cineplex World Gaming Canadian Championships 2016, where the new Street Fighter V is the game of choice and there are over $25,000 in prizes to be won. “We’re giving players of all skill levels the chance to take part in our free online qualifiers and to earn a spot playing on the big screen at one of 24 Cineplex locations across Canada,” according to the website.

Online qualifiers begin on March 24th and run through April 17th, with the regional finals taking place on May 1st and the Canadian Championship being held at the Scotiabank Theatre in Toronto on May 29th. There, the finalists will compete for all the glory in a best of three, double-elimination format to take home the gold (or whatever they award the champion as a sign of their victory).

Registration is free, so if you think you’ve got what it takes, then show ’em what you’ve got!

Source: Capcom Unity

David Oxford is a freelance writer of many varied interests. If you’re interested in hiring him, please drop him a line at david.oxford (at) nyteworks.net.

nyteworkspatreonbutton

SEGA has announced that they are bringing their award-winning PlayStation 3 tactical role playing game, Valkyria Chronicles, to the PlayStation 4 this spring as Valkyria Chronicles Remastered.

In the world of Valkyria Chronicles, the year is 1935 E.C., and the continent of Europa has been plunged into the Second Europan War between the Autocratic East Europan Imperial Alliance — also known as The Empire — and the Atlantic Federation over the precious resource Ragnite. The Empire is sweeping through the continent like an unchecked wildfire and has its eyes set on the rich Ragnite deposits of the Principality of Gallia. Although peaceful Gallia remains neutral in the conflict, its citizens will need to defend home and country against the inevitable invasion. Players follow Lieutenant Welkin Gunther and the vaunted Squad 7 of the Gallian Militia as they take on the seemingly insurmountable forces of the Empire.

For $44.99 CAD, you’ll get to enjoy the World War II-inspired story at 1080p/60fps high definition quality and all of the previously-released downloadable content, including Hard EX Mode, Edy’s Mission, Selvaria’s Mission, and Challenge of the Edy Detachment. This also includes both a physical and a digital version of the game, and pre-orders and a limited number of retail release copies will come in a “collectible Squad 7 Armored Case” which (of course) sports Valkyria Chronicles artwork.

To see more images and get further details, check out the official website.

David Oxford is a freelance writer of many varied interests. If you’re interested in hiring him, please drop him a line at david.oxford (at) nyteworks.net.

nyteworkspatreonbutton

Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment, along with TT Games, The LEGO Group, and Marvel Entertainment, have all announced that the latest in their series of LEGO-based video games — LEGO Marvel’s Avengers — is now available for the Wii U, Xbox One, PlayStation 4, Nintendo 3DS, PlayStation Vita, Xbox 360, and Windows PC. There may also be a version running on Iron Man’s latest armor, but that remains unconfirmed.

Encompassing the storylines of Marvel’s namesake movie release The Avengers and its sequel, Avengers: Age of Ultron, LEGO Marvel’s Avengers also features content from other Marvel Cinematic Universe releases such as Captain America: The First Avenger, Iron Man 3, Thor: The Dark World, and Captain America: The Winter Soldier, each one now presented with a more humorous take befitting a younger audience and the LEGO brand, as seen in the video above. Throughout the adventures, you’ll take control of over 200 characters (many of which will need to be unlocked, mind), more than 100 of which are new to the LEGO video game world. Plus, the core Avenger team line-up of Black Widow, Captain America, Hawkeye, Hulk, Thor, and Iron Man will have a variety of special team moves that they can pull off in tandem.

Rated “E10+” for everyone age 10 and older, you can get it now for the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 for a $69.99 suggested retail price, while the PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, and Wii U versions go for $59.99, with the Nintendo 3DS and PlayStation Vita versions priced at $34.99. For whatever reason, Windows PC wasn’t included in the pricing list.

The home console versions also have a “Season Pass” that includes content packs including Black Panther, Captain Marvel, Doctor Strange, Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., and The Masters of Evil. You can get these and the main game for the same price on Xbox One, PlayStation 3, and PlayStation 4, or on any of the home console/PC versions for $9.99. Another downloadable content pack is available free for a limited time to PlayStation 3 and PlayStation 4 owners, featuring content based on Ant Man (this Spring) and the upcoming Captain America: Civil War (available now).

David Oxford is a freelance writer of many varied interests. If you’re interested in hiring him, please drop him a line at david.oxford (at) nyteworks.net.

nyteworkspatreonbutton