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    After months of rumors, Activision has finally confirmed that there's a Spyro remastered trilogy on the way.

    News Matthew Byrd
    Apr 5, 2018

    After a ton of speculation, Activision somewhat uncermoniously finally confirmed there is a remaster of the Spyro the Dragon trilogy on the way.

    The remaster, titled Spyro Reignited Trilogy, will be released on September 21st for PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. Surprisingly, there has been no word regarding a possible Switch or PC version of the game at this time. The remake is being made by Toys for Bob and will feature the first three Spyro PlayStation games.

    Based on the information revealed thus far, it seems that this might actually be closer to a remake than a more traditional remaster. Activision noted that Toys for Bob is going to rebuild the games from the ground up, but we imagine that they will remake the games in the same style as the Crash Bandicoottrilogy. That is to say that the visuals will be noticeably better, but not remade to resemble a modern AAA title.

    Speaking of Crash Bandicoot, owners of the N. Sane Trilogy on PS4 will be able to enter a special code from Monday on that will allow them to watch the Spyro trilogy trailer. To view it, simply go to Crash Bandicoot 3's title screen and enter up, up, down, down, left, right, left, right, square).

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    It's hardly a surprise that this remaster is happening. The success of the N. Sane Trilogyalmost made it an inevitable project for Activision who had stated they were interested in remastering and remaking older games from their massive library.

    In any case, Spyro fans can finally breathe a sigh of relief as we know that the remaster is being released and that it will be available relatively soon.


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    The 1989 Legend of Zelda animated series is definitely not what you were expecting. Here's the weird history of its existence.

    Feature Michael S. Mammano
    Apr 6, 2018

    It's quite amazing that Link, our favorite little Nintendo adventurer, has been a staple of the video game world for thirty years. Since the very first Legend of Zelda game in 1986, we've followed the stories of Hyrule, Princess Zelda, and the evil Ganondorf, as if it were the video game world's very own Biblical epic. And this is a fight between good and evil that will hopefully continue to amaze and inspire us for many more decades, especially now that The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild has finally been released. 

    A couple of years ago, some buzz about a possible Legend of Zeldaseries for Netflix tantalized us all for a few short weeks before getting kind of debunked (though not exactly). But in any event, it got people talking. What would make for a successful Legend of Zelda series and what would not?

    It’s practically impossible to even attempt that conversation without harkening back to the last time Link, Ganon, and Zelda herself graced the small screen (or any screen, for that matter) for any longer than a 30-second TV spot for the latest game. That’s right, we’re talking about the agony and the ecstasy that was the 1989 Legend of Zelda cartoon.

    The show was developed by DIC Entertainment, which is also responsible for other famous cartoons such as Inspector Gadget, Captain Planet and the Planeteers, Sonic the Hedgehog, and Sabrina: The Animated Series. The writers included Bob Forward, Phil Harnage, and Eve Forward. You may remember them from things like G.I. Joe, Sailor Moon, and X-Men: Evolution

    Now, rose admittedly tints my memories of this short-lived series, despite the fact that I marathoned all thirteen episodes plus the horrid Captain N crossover episodes to prep for this article and, in the process, was confronted by how objectively bad much of the show is. Still, as far as a Zelda animated series goes, it’s the only basis of comparison we’ve got, so we’ll be taking a look back at this infamous cult treasure -- the good, the bad, and the cringeworthy. Let us now marvel together at a show that somehow manages to be both better and worse than we remember it.

    THE CHARACTERS

    To the writers’ credit, they kept this simple. We really only had four main characters, five in the episodes where Zelda’s father, King Harkinian, appeared. Most of the time, though, it was down to Link, Zelda, Ganon, and Spryte. One thing this show did very well was to imbue video game ciphers with actual personalities, their greatest success being the titular character.

    What a fantastic heroine we were given! At the time of the series’ production and release, only two games had dropped, The Legend of Zelda and Zelda II: The Adventure of Link. Up to that point in the games, Zelda’s character amounted to nothing more than a standard damsel in distress. The cartoon gave her an interesting, fun personality. Animated Zelda was smart, resourceful, proactive in nearly every episode, and took zero crap from anyone, especially the hero. While she did get captured from time to time, she didn’t always have to rely on Link to save her. Half the time, she saved herself, and there were even a few occasions when she saved Link. That’s right. The girl saved the boy, and the boy was pretty much cool with it. You didn’t see a lot of that in animation back then. Zelda, as a character, was very ahead of her time and women in animation of comparable strength would be few and far between for several years to come.

    Then, of course, there is the characterization of Link, which is a rather mixed bag. To their credit, the writers were successful in imbuing Link with a distinct, memorable character. Unfortunately, that character was appalling. I’m sure the writers were going for some kind of “lovable scamp” vibe with him, but he really just came off as a whiny, obnoxious, barely competent creep with a catchphrase I can only imagine was written into his character bio in the series bible, because it is used at least once per episode. At least. However, despite the fact that this irritating catchphrase that no one ever thought was charming or funny has become an indelible part of this franchise, it is not the worst thing about the cartoon’s Link. I, for one, am far more bothered by all the sexual harassment.

    And there is a lot of it. A LOT. Link is a straight up sexist creeper. He makes lewd comments at Zelda about her cleavage, harasses her for a kiss, treating her affection like some kind of commodity that he’s owed for his service (to be fair, she’s equally horrible by referring to it as a reward at the end of one episode), asks her to kiss him twice after she initially refuses, and even goes so far as to coerce her by physically preventing her from getting away from him until she gives him what he wants. And that’s just in the first episode.

    I mean, you can dismiss it as swashbuckling or roguish or whatever, but it’s still harassment and it’s gross, and it’s double-gross on a kids’ show, especially since it’s not being portrayed in a negative light beyond being a mild annoyance to the target. Look, I’m loathe to put the responsibility of educating kids on their entertainment, but these were some pretty bad messages to send to the boys and girls watching this show: a girl’s affection is a commodity that can be earned, and if you feel you’ve earned it, harassment is totally acceptable. Please kill me now.

    To be fair, this skeeziness is equal opportunity. Spryte the faerie (who, in a touch of intertextual coincidence, foreshadowed Navi from Ocarina of Time) does hound Link for some affection that I don’t even want to theorize about the mechanics of, and even offers to help him in the bath. How the hell did this stuff get past the parent watchdog groups? Oh, right. They were too busy fixating on the violence and completely neutered Link as a swordsman.

    Yup, he never once stabbed or slashed an enemy, not even non-humanoid monsters… not even the Stalfos, which are skeletons. Bonus points to the writers for referencing the game’s full-heart sword zap in the show, but it was the only viable attack. Link might as well have been packing ye olde glock for all the actual swordplay he engaged in.

    There were other aspects of Link that didn’t have to do directly with his characterization. There was grave overuse of the whole Spider-Man-esque, wisecracking hero. Sometimes banter slows you down, and trust me, if I’m yelling, “Shut up and zap that guy!” your characters are talking too much.

    Lastly, we have what is arguably the worst depiction of Ganon anywhere in this franchise. He’s just an anthropomorphic boar with a stupid-looking cap. His robes aren’t even all that impressive and wizardly. He’s just wearing a frock. I mean, really? Not only that, he was pretty damn incompetent.

    True, this was fairly standard for 80’s animation for a few reasons. One, to avoid scarring the younger kiddies with a weekly dose of nightmare fuel and thus calling down the wrath of legions of pissed off parents. Two, he can’t be too effective, can he? Because if he is, well, show’s over. Granted, he possessed the Triforce of Power and not Wisdom, but come on now. His plans rarely made sense, were unnecessarily complicated and thus thwartable at various points, and he relied way too heavily on minions who had proven themselves inept time and again. That doesn’t make for a great villain. Neither did his constant teleporting, which, while a nod to the game, did seem kind of excessive and ridiculous. However, Ganon needing to be hit three times to put him out of commission is a nice nod to the game, so points on that count.

    THE WRITING

    I think it’s only fair to divide the writing into two categories here, adaptation and execution, because the series excels at the former and generally sucks at the latter.

    In adapting any work from one medium to another, in this case from a video game to a television series, there’s always a risk of losing something in the translation. Certain innate aspects of one medium simply may not work in another, and with video game adaptation in particular, especially those born of a time before story was much of an element, it’s a challenge to say the least. Taking that into account, the cartoon did a rather impressive job.

    First off, Nintendo knew their audience. They weren’t trying to go off in a bold direction or make The Legend of Zelda anything other than that was it was, at least at that time. When the series was conceived, the franchise was only two games in, and that was all the mythology we had. There was no Master Sword, no Gorons or Gerudo, no Kakariko Village. It was pretty basic, and the writers would have really needed to go out of their way to fuck it up. Thankfully, they didn’t bother. This is not, however, to say they were lazy or lacked wit, because as watching just one episode will make evident, they packed each script with as many references to the games as possible.

    We already had a full bestiary of monsters, so those were the monsters that were used in the scripts. They even referenced them by name when possible. The same can be said for the weapons and special items. One episode actually featured the flute, its now iconic melody, and the ensuing whirlwind which carried Link to safety. Items worked the way they worked in the games, as did the monsters. When Link is being rushed by a dodongo, how does he defeat it? A bomb right down its gullet! And, of course, when enemies are destroyed, they leave behind goodies. This show gifted us with an embarrassment of riches in the Easter egg department before Easter eggs were even a thing.

    The use of the Underworld was also very clever. Instead of being a number of separate dungeons, as in the games, the cartoon’s Underworld was actually a massive labyrinth that ran underneath most of Hyrule, accessible by different entrances which resembled the Underworld entrances from the games. The dried up spring is a personal favorite. And it wasn’t just a network of caverns. There was actual architecture: staircases, bridges, doors. We’re talking some real Mines of Moria action that gave it a hint of texture. Even if the only denizens of this place are Ganon and his minions, it’s kind of cool that monsters actually have a place to hang their bloody swords at the end of the day.

    As for the execution… sadly, it was not up to par. Outside of a few good one-liners, the actual writing of the show was not very strong in its execution. In fact, to be blunt, it was pretty awful. There are good episodes, and there’s usually at least one good scene even in the bad ones, but the plots seldom had anything to do with the Zelda mythology with which we’d been presented, surprising with the aforementioned fidelity given to the items and enemies.

    To be clear, a few of these plots were actually pretty good, notable examples being “The Missing Link,” “That Sinking Feeling,” and “Underworld Connections,” my personal favorite, which pays homage to the original game’s conceit of collecting and merging fragments of the Triforce of Wisdom. The trouble is that these episodes generally had very little to do with the games beyond the tug of war for the Triforce, and Gilligan’s Island syndrome pretty much guaranteed that no matter how close either side was to winning, something monumentally stupid and/or contrived would maintain the status quo, dashing any hopes of the story ever actually going anywhere.

    You don’t need a Ph.D. in Literature to see how that could be frustrating as a viewer. Hell, even as a kid, I started to get fed-up with the chronic case of narrative blueballs after a while.

    PRESENTATION

    The animation was pretty bad. Mouths didn’t always sync up with dialogue and sometimes didn’t even move at all. Colors and even character designs varied within the same scene, sometimes from cel to cel, and the title fonts varied in color and size. Special effects, like magical energy and lightning, didn’t always go where they were supposed to go. Simply put, it was a mess visually.

    However, everything in the realm of audio was excellent. While the cast wasn’t given the best scripts to work with, they did their best with what they had and managed some very engaging performances. Say what you will about the creepiness of the Link/Zelda dynamic, and you can say a lot, the chemistry between Jonathan Potts and Cynthia Preston made for some great exchanges, and Tabitha St. Germain’s witty delivery of Spryte’s dialogue elevated a character who defaulted on annoying to occasionally funny and even charming.

    The sound design yielded even more of that glorious Easter egg action, not only incorporating sound effects from the games themselves, but doing so correctly, assigning the right sound to the right weapon or action. Link’s sword zaps sounded like his sword zaps! The flute actually whistled out those six iconic notes before summoning a whirlwind to speed our heroes to safety! Dropping a bomb sounded like dropping a bomb. It was such a gift. Cheesy? Maybe a little. But we loved it!

    And then, of course, the music. The score for this show, rather than going the same route as the sound design (which would not have been a good idea), was comprised of several orchestrated variations on the first game’s Overworld and Underworld themes. Howard Shore or Ramin Djawadi the composer was not, but he adapted Nintendo’s music well enough to provide a backdrop to the action with some dimension and flavor.

    All in all The Legend of Zelda: The Animated Series falls squarely into the category of guilty pleasure. Even the most forgiving critical analysis can’t deny that on an artistic level it’s not very good, but that doesn’t stop it from being eminently enjoyable. It’s quality nostalgia and, at a total running time of just over three hours, not a bad way to kill an afternoon. And if you disagree, well then excu--

    Kidding.


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    The scariest story of them all is Tales from the Crypt's disappearing legacy.

    News Matthew Byrd
    Apr 6, 2018

    YouTube channel CryptTube has uncovered information on a Tales from the Cryptvideo game that never was. The channel got hold of some CGI concept shots and artwork from Tales artist Mike Vosburg, who claimed to have done quite a bit of early work for the project back in the '90s. That concept art includes a mix of familiar HBO Tales from the Crypt settings and some art that suggests the game would have utilized original stories and perhaps even stories from the original comics.

    The channel's host even reached out to Cryptkeeper actor John Kassir to ask him if he remembers doing any voice work for the game. Kassir confirmed - in a very punny way - that he did record some lines for the game and that he was sad that it never got released.

    Unfortunately, neither Kassir or Vosburg shared any information about what kind of game the adaptation would have been. We see some heavy '90s CGI that suggests it might have been a point-and-click adventure game divided into some traditional Tales from the Crypt anthology stories. However, that is all speculation.

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    What is a little more certain is what ultimately happened to the game. Vosburg doesn't remember the company he initially worked with, but he does remember that they were bought out by a larger company who ultimately decided to cancel the game before it was completed. Vosburg suggested the title was quite far along in development, but it's unclear just how playable the title was before it was canceled.

    Oh well. Toss this on the "Tales from the Crypt can't catch a break" pile next to the failed reboot and the fact that the show still isn't available through HBO's streaming services. 


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    Valve's Steam Machine line of gaming PCs has sold rather poorly, according to a statement from the company.

    NewsJohn Saavedra
    Apr 6, 2018

    Valve might be preparing to kill off its line of Steam Machine gaming PCs. After the company quietly removed the Steam Machine category from Steam's homepage - an indication that Valve isn't really interested in promoting or selling the consoles anymore - users began to wonder if this meant the end of the line for the fledgling pre-built gaming PCs.

    While Valve hasn't confirmed that this is the case, the company did admit in a statement that Steam Machines have sold well below expectations. In fact, the reason why Valve took the category off the front page of Steam is because of a lack of user interest. Simply put, not many people are all that curious about what these machines have to offer and aren't visiting the store page. It should be noted that you can still access the Steam Machine page, though.

    Steam Machine's decline isn't all that surprising. In 2016, just over six months after the first wave of Steam Machines had launched, Ars Technica calculated Valve had sold less than 500,000 machines since release. That's an especially miserable sales number if you consider that both Xbox One and PlayStation 4 sold more than 1 million consoles each at launch.

    The truth is that these Steam Machines may have been doomed from the start. Despite the fact that Valve's initial announcement that it was joining the console race was met with excitement from the gaming world, the Steam Machine's momentum was quickly stifled when it was revealed to be a bit of a redundant and expensive gaming option. The line originally ranged from $500 to $5,000 - a shocking price tag considering a gamer could build a pretty high-end gaming PC for much cheaper.

    You also have to wonder who Valve was trying to sell these machines to. It's likely that hardcore PC gamers already have customizable gaming rigs of their own that can easily run SteamOS (my kinda shitty gaming laptop still runs the operating system just fine) and play games on higher graphics settings; more casual gamers (or PC newbies) likely saw the price tags on these Steam Machines and decided to stick to the more financially accessible Sony and Microsoft consoles. The reality is that Steam Machines always felt more like curiosities than actual alternatives to the home gaming experience.

    Despite the fact that Steam Machines might be going the way of the dinosaurs, Valve reaffirmed its commitment to improving SteamOS, the Linux-based operating system it launched in 2013 as an expansion of its Steam digital platform. 

    "While it's true Steam Machines aren't exactly flying off the shelves, our reasons for striving towards a competitive and open gaming platform haven't significantly changed," said Valve. "We're still working hard on making Linux operating systems a great place for gaming and applications. We think it will ultimately result in a better experience for developers and customers alike, including those not on Steam."

    Valve also hinted that it's working on other Linux projects: "We also have other Linux initiatives in the pipe that we're not quite ready to talk about yet; SteamOS will continue to be our medium to deliver these improvements to our customers, and we think they will ultimately benefit the Linux ecosystem at large."

    It's sounding more and more like Valve is ready to turn a new page. The company also recently announced that it was getting back to old-fashioned game development, something the beloved gaming giant hasn't done much of in the last decade. Valve's latest offering is a card game called Artifact. May it fare better than the Steam Machine. 


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    The Walking Dead wants to capitalize on the Pokemon Go trend with a new mobile augmented reality game.

    News Matthew Byrd
    Apr 6, 2018

    There's a new Walking Dead mobile game in the works that sure looks a lot like a zombie apocalypse version of Pokemon GO

    The Walking Dead: Our World is an AR mobile game that allows you to wander the streets of our world and pretend that you're in the middle of a zombie apocalypse. From what we can gather, it seems that the gameplay largely consists of locating supply drops and other such beneficial items while avoiding the zombie hordes. Should you encounter one of the hordes, you'll transition into an AR viewpoint that will allow you and your teammates - who all seem to be popular Walking Dead characters - to do battle with the undead. 

    So yes, Our World does sound a lot like Pokemon Go with zombies. There are some differences - it seems there will be some kind of loot system that allows you to locate weapons of various quality - but the concepts appear to be relatively similar. 

    The Our Worlddevelopers at Next Game have stated that the game's information will be taken from Google Maps, meaning that the app should be able to keep up with changes to your location roughly as they occur. They're hoping that will help enhance the game's sense of "immersion." We'll see whether or not the team is able to recreate the theoretical thrills of a zombie apocalypse via this design style when Our World launches for iOS and Android sometime in the second quarter of 2018. 

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    Of course, this isn't the only Pokemon GO-style mobile game in the works. There's also a Jurassic Park AR title in the works as well as a Harry Potter AR title that we still don't know that much about. 

    It's hardly surprising to see so many mobile games recreate the Pokemon GO gameplay design given that GO is one of the most successful mobile titles ever. What is surprising is how long its taken for these studios to jump on that particular bandwagon. It remains to be seen whether or not these games can inspire people to wander the streets and engage in an AR communal experience once more. 


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    A new photo of what Nintendo's headquarters looked like in 1889 shows the fascinating origin of the Big N.

    News John Saavedra
    Apr 6, 2018

    An ongoing historical project (via Kotaku) has unearthed a picture of Nintendo's first headquarters in Kyoto, Japan. The picture is from 1889, the year the company was founded.

    Below you can see the photo of Kyoto's Marufuku Nintendo Card Company HQ:

    Those Nintendo fans looking to visit the original HQ will unfortunately be unable to. The structure was demolished and replaced with a parking lot in 2004.

    Nintendo was founded by Fusajiro Yamauchi, who originally ran a cement company called Haiko. Interestingly enough, Nintendo stayed a family business until 2002 when Yamauchi's great-grandson, Hiroshi, retired from the company. In case you're interested, you can still get Haiko cement today.

    Before the Big N entered the video game business, it explored several other ventures. In its earliest incarnation, the company was a manufacturer of Hanafuda playing cards, which are used for many different Japanese card games. Later ventures included a taxi company, a chain of love hotels (exactly what you think they are), a TV network, and selling instant rice. 

    In 1966, Nintendo entered the toy business with the Ultra Hand, an extendable arm type thing. Just 11 years later, Nintendo would release its very first home console, the Color TV-Game. This was also around the time legendary developer Shigeru Miyamoto was hired by the company.

    The company released the Game & Watch handheld in 1979 and the Famicom in 1983. The rest, as they say, is history.


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    A much-loved film in the 1980s, The Last Starfighter never received an arcade spinoff. It did come close, though...

    Feature Ryan Lambie
    Apr 9, 2018

    This story originally appeared on Den of Geek UK.

    It sounded like a recipe for sure-fire success: a space opera in the vein of Star Wars, but for the '80s video game generation. The Last Starfighter told the story of an ordinary teenager whose shooting game prowess saw him whisked away by aliens to fight an interstellar war on the other side of the galaxy.

    With some of its effects sequences using the latest in cutting edge computer graphics, The Last Starfighter was positioned as the big summer movie of 1984. Except things didn’t quite work out that way; while The Last Starfighter made money, it wasn’t quite the George Lucas-level blockbuster its producers had expected. As a result, the arcade game promised in the film’s end credits failed to emerge - even though Atari had almost finished it by the time of The Last Starfighters release. So what happened?

    In the early part of the '80s, Atari dominated just about every facet of the videogame scene. Its Atari 2600 console had been a phenomenon for years, its range of 8-bit computers were selling relatively well, and thanks to the innovative ideas flowing out of Atari’s arcade division, games such as Asteroids, Missile Commandand Centipede were also a familiar sight in bars and arcades.

    From both a technical and commercial standpoint, Atari’s most effective games were its 3D vector machines, which included Battlezone, Star Wars, and its sequel, The Empire Strikes Back. At the time, they offered a sense of speed and immersion that was unparalleled; Battlezone placed the player at the helm of a tank, with a first-person view of the battlefield. Star Wars went one further and placed a generation of young arcade-goers in the cockpit of an X-wing. The action may have been depicted with little more than a few lines,but thanks to their innovative cabinet designs and booming speakers, they really made you feel as though you were in the midst of an exciting pitched battle. 

    Atari’s Last Starfighter game was envisioned as a successor to the 3D shooting experiences of the company’s earlier Star Wars and Empire Strikes Back cabinets. Like those games, The Last Star Fighter was a shooting game where the player moved an aiming reticule around and shot alien craft out of a star-filled void. The difference this time, however, was that the enemy ships were built out of solid, shaded polygons, giving them a solid presence Atari’s earlier games could only hint at.

    The shooting action was made a little more strategic, too, with the player’s controller armed with two laser buttons. Firing both at the same time unleashed a third, even deadlier bolt of energy; the disadvantage of this being that the guns would soon overheat. The best tactic, therefore, was to alternate between light blasts of each laser gun, and only firing both at the same time for larger, better-armoured enemy craft.

    Although relatively little footage of Atari’s The Last Starfighter game exists today, what little that remains hints at an unusually fast and smooth piece of programming. It’s certainly much smoother than I, Robot, Atari’s groundbreaking (but little played) arcade game released in 1984, though that had far more polygons to handle on screen at any one time.

    To bring all these graphics to life, The Last Starfighter used a Motorola 68000 processor - a piece of hardware that would become ubiquitous later in the decade (it powered such machines as the Commodore Amiga and the Sega Mega Drive), but was still expensive nearer the start of the '80s. According to arcade-history.com, it was the expense, as well as The Last Starfighter movie’s faltering box-office, that ultimately led to the game’s downfall. With the price of the completed cabinet estimated at $10,000, an unusually high figure for the time, Atari’s higher-ups deemed it too expensive for most arcade owners of the era to stomach.

    And so it was that, with The Last Starfighterarcade game around 75 percent finished, the plug was abruptly pulled. Interestingly, the arcade machine wasn’t the only videogame tie-in affected by the movie’s sub-par performance. Atari’s 8-bit home computer was originally set to get a Last Starfighter game, but it was reworked and released as Star Raiders II in 1986.

    While The Last Starfighter movie wasn’t a huge hit at the time, its cult success has continued to grow since its release in the summer of 1984, and it’s now regarded as a cult classic. At one point, there was even talk of a TV spin-off, The Starfighter Chronicles.

    Nor has Atari’s ill-fated arcade machine quite gone away. While the original never emerged, a studio called Rogue Synapse has created a faithful remake of The Last Starfighter’s laser-blazing action - and best of all, you can download it for free. Unfortunately, you’ll have to build your own futuristic-looking arcade cabinet.


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    Embrace your inner Running Man in Radical Heights, the new battle royale game from the brains behind LawBreakers.

    NewsMatthew Byrd
    Apr 9, 2018

    LawBreakersdeveloper Boss Key Productions are developing a new battle royale game called Radical Heights.

    Radical Heights is perhaps best described as a more "Running Man" take on the battle royale genre. It embraces the always popular '80s aesthetic by turning battle royale matches into a kind of game show. You play as one of the participants on this game show who must not only kill the competition but try to score a little cash along the way.

    "Only in Radical Heights does in-game cash you find carry over into future matches,” reads a statement from Boss Key games. "Play matches, collect cash, kill contestants, interact with game show elements and more to buy cosmetics from your personal prize room, or put some of that sweet cash in your bank to help buy a weapon next match quicker than your opponents. The choice is yours.”

    It seems that Radical Heights will pursue the more Fortnite style of battle royale gameplay, which means that you can expect to be able to purchase and find a lot of wacky items such as trampolines and inflatable decoys. The first screenshots also showcase battles in an arcade room which suggest it will go far beyond the usual forest settings.

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    All in all, though, we know very little about the actual gameplay at this point. We're assuming this will be a very arcade-style game, but we'll know for sure when Radical Heights goes free-to-play on early access on April 10th. Early backers will also have the opportunity to purchase a Founder's Pack for $14.99 which comes with special in-game items. There's no word on the game's other available transactions. 

    Does this game have a chance of upsetting the current genre kings? Maybe. Its visuals and more relaxed style might help separate it from the pack a bit. In any case, it's getting in early on the trend as it was apparently developed in about five months. 


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    Never played a Dragon Quest game? Dragon Quest XI wants to change that.

    Preview Matthew Byrd
    Apr 9, 2018

    Dragon Quest games have always been ludicrously popular in Japan, but their popularity elsewhere has been inconsistent at best. Western gamers have heard Japanese gamers, media, and developers praise the series, but all but a select few Dragon Questtitles have been met with indifference by Western gamers at large. The series legacy has long been as a Japanese gaming phenomenon.

    If that is your perception of the Dragon Questseries, it’s best to not think of Dragon Quest XIas Dragon Quest XI at all. Instead, let’s just refer to it as Dragon Quest for the time being. Why? Well, that’s because the game represents Square Enix’s most sincere effort yet to reimagine the series for global audiences.

    Dragon Quest XIbegins with the coming of age ceremony of a young boy in a tiny village. Due to events not fully disclosed in the brief hands-off demo of the game’s Western release displayed at PAX East, that young boy soon learns that he is the resurrection of an ancient hero of destiny who will one day be responsible for saving the world. So, he sets off to meet the king and begin his destiny.

    Yes, yes...you’ve heard that spiel before. Small village, hero of destiny, blah, blah, blah. We’re tired of it, you’re tired of it, and, apparently, Dragon Quest’s developers are tired of it as well.

    See, not long after you learn of your destiny, you are granted an audience with the king. After what seems to be a celebration of your arrival, you quickly realize that the king has no intentions of letting you leave. It seems that the kingdom is tired of heroes of destiny because heroes of destiny always attract great evils. This time, the kingdom wants to try a different approach.

    That shocking introduction is just one of many ways that Dragon Quest blends the old and the new. Indeed, Dragon Quest XI’s entire goal in life seems to be to play with the expectations of those most determined to remain indifferent to it.

    For instance, there’s the game’s combat system. It’s a turn-based affair that will be instantly familiar to the Dragon Quest fateful, but it’s livened up a bit by elements like a free-flowing camera option that lets you remove the static view of previous turn-based battles. You’re also now able to initiate combat in the open world by attacking monsters you can physically see along the way rather than by randomly encountering them out of nowhere. You can even just run them down with your horse and avoid combat entirely.

    It’s not a dramatic reimagining of Dragon Quest’s combat, but it doesn’t necessarily need to be. After all, traditional JRPG combat still holds a special place in the hearts of many. It’s not broken, but it could benefit from minor changes such as the one this game introduces.

    The game’s quest system enjoys a similar reimagining. Different NPCs in the world have different dialogue bubbles above their head. Some are marked as basic NPCs (white bubbles), some are able to point you in the right direction of the main story (pink bubbles), and some are able to provide side quests (purple bubbles). This makes it so that every NPC has a role in the world, but those who wish to take a more streamlined approach through the game will be able to do so without having to talk to everyone.

    Then you have the skill grid. Skills are now unlocked by spending points on a grid full of visible and hidden abilities. Every ability you unlock allows you to purchase an adjacent ability with subsequent skill points. It’s reminiscent of Final Fantasy X’s sphere system, but isn’t quite as punishing to those who wish to try different options.

    Dragon Quest XI’s most telling feature, though, is its localization alterations. The Western version of Dragon Quest XI will feature full voice acting whereas the Japanese version of the game featured none. It also allows for quicker movements and features even more difficult challenge modes. In other words, this is a game that Square Enix wants the Western market to not only buy into, but love.

    It remains to be seen whether the title will accomplish that lofty goal, but there’s no doubt that Square Enix has positioned Dragon Quest XI to be more than a footnote amongst those fascinated by the love that the series' most adamant fans shower upon it.


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    It's not the return we were hoping for, but this Ghost Recon update looks worthy of Fisher's skills.

    News Matthew Byrd
    Apr 9, 2018

    Sam Fisher returns...as part of the next DLC release for Ghost Recon: Wildlands.

    Ubisoft has confirmed that the first major update of Wildlands' second year of DLC content will feature a very special mission starring none other than Splinter Cell hero Sam Fisher. The operation sees Fisher arriving in Bolivia to track down a mysterious individual who has apparently taken something valuable from the CIA. While Fisher usually works alone, this time he turns to the Ghosts for help. 

    The mission itself allows for four-player co-op, but you can also take it on as a solo soldier. As you might expect, it's a nighttime stealth mission that will require you to use every stealth skill you've learned throughout Wildlands. Indeed, the mission is described as one of the "most difficult missions the Ghosts have ever faced." If you manage to complete it, you'll snag a few Splinter Cell-related items that include Sam Fisher's night vision goggles, a special night vision filter, and other undisclosed unlockables. Those rewards will only be available to those who complete the mission before May 16th. Otherwise, you may have to settle for the Splinter Cell Gear Pack that Ubisoft is releasing separately. 

    What's especially exciting about this new content is that original Sam Fisher voice actor Michael Ironside is returning to the role he made famous. Ironside didn't voice Fisher in 2013's Splinter Cell: Blacklist, which led some to speculate that he had walked away from the role for good. However, it seems he has at least made a temporary return. 

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    We'd be lying if we said that this is our preferred way for Sam Fisher to return to the world of gaming, but it sounds like the Ghost Recon team are doing everything they can to make sure that the Splinter Cell operative feels right at home in Wildlands. Besides, there are always those rumors that a new Splinter Cell game will be announced before the end of the year. 

    Until then, you can grab the Ghost Recon's Splinter Cell DLC - which includes new PvP mode, Sabotage, and the Echelon assault class - when it releases on April 10th. 


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    Released in 1992, Atomic Runner put its arcade predecessor, Chelnov, in the shade - and it's still a classic game today...

    FeatureRyan Lambie
    Apr 10, 2018

    In 1988, Japanese developer Data East found itself in a bit of trouble. Its latest game, an arcade shooter called Chelnov, looked like standard stuff at first glance: a little character ran from left to right, blasting at enemies as they assailed the screen from all sides.

    The problem lay in the plot and that strange title. Chelnov was the name of the central character - a Russian coal miner who, according to Data East's original plot, survived an explosion at a nearby nuclear power plant and emerged from the rubble as a fast-running, laser-firing superhero.

    It sounded like something from a classic American comic book, and might have glided by without comment had the Chernobyl disaster not occurred less than two years earlier: news of the nuclear power plant's meltdown in northern Russia was all over the news in 1986, and the 19-mile exclusion zone remains in place to this day.

    With Chelnov's title sounding remarkably like Chernobyl (particularly when rendered into its Japanese text), Data East were accused of appropriating a recent tragedy by the nation's media. Still, the game proved to be at least a modest success in Japan, since Data East ported Chelnov to the Sega Genesis in 1992.

    Perhaps stung by that earlier blast of controversy, however, the company opted to remove all traces of the original game's Russian theme, with the hammer and sickle removed from the title screen and the backstory altered almost beyond recognition. For the console version, Chelnov's job description was shifted from a coal miner to a scientist; the explosion occurs at his house rather than a nuclear power plant, and there's no mention of nuclear fallout giving Chelnov special powers. Instead, his father (who's mortally wounded in the explosion) furnishes Chelnov with a high-tech suit that allows him to run at superhuman speeds and so on. 

    While the game was still called Chelnov in Japan, Data East changed the title to Atomic Runner in the US and Europe. What's more noteworthy than the changes to the title and story, though, is how much effort the studio lavished on the game itself. Rather than simply port across the arcade version, they completely overhauled the graphics and sound; the fast-moving action remains broadly the same, but the Genesis version is a far more slick, handsome-looking game than its predecessor. We'd go even further, and argue that it's the best arcade conversion Sega's console ever saw.

    At first glance, Atomic Runner might look like a cut-down version of a run-and-gunner like Konami's Contra. The vital difference here is that the game's tiny protagonist can't stop running; like a typical 2D space ship shooter of the period, Atomic Runner auto-scrolls, meaning the player has no choice but to keep up with the rolling action as enemies and platforms hurtle in from the right-hand side of the screen. It's only when Chelnov reaches an area boss that the screen stops moving for a moment - and that's only to give the gigantic bosses the time to throw salvos of bullets around the screen.

    Atomic Runner is, therefore, your typical silver-age arcade game in a number of ways: it's simple and fast-paced, and its action is designed to relieve your pockets of their coins within a few cosy minutes. What lifts Atomic Runner from the run-of-the-mill is its range of movement; Chelnov may be a fidgety hero, but he's also athletic. He can perform huge jumps that can reach the top of the screen with a power-up or two; he can in almost any direction, bounce on enemies and use them as platforms, while his firepower can also be upgraded with a range of alternate projectile weapons. 

    Atomic Runner on the Genesis takes all this and polishes it to a mirrored shine. Where the arcade version's graphics were flat and somewhat austere, the home edition gives every element more detail and personality. The game starts in a typical industrial setting, but the level designs soon diverge from the arcade version completely; there are backgrounds full of Egyptian pyramids and Maoi heads from Easter Island. Enemies range from the mechanical to the biological to the downright weird: level two takes place in a kind of fantasy monster's nest that's full of robotic rabbits, spiders and owls. A later stage takes place in a parched desert, before moving into an ancient tomb where the player's attacked by a living demon statue. It's all deliriously, wonderfully bonkers.

    The music also adds to Atomic Runner's batty urgency. The arcade version's catchy melodies are spruced up and given added body here, with additional channels of flutes, weird voice samples (including what we can only describe as tribal grunts and screams) plus a generous helping of drums and splashy snare hits. All of this goes to create a game that's both immediate and hugely replayable. Atomic Runner is a tough game, certainly, but not unfair; when you're inevitably hit by an enemy charging onto the screen, it's because you've made a mistake, not because the game's trying to cheat you out of a life.

    There's a pleasing flexibility to Atomic Runner, too. The game's control system asks you to use one button to shoot left, another to shoot right, and a third to jump; the option menu allows you to tailor the button layout to your liking, as well as choose from a range of difficult levels - the latter is a particularly thoughtful addition, since Atomic Runner is surely one of the Genesis' trickier titles, even when played on Easy mode. 

    Whichever difficulty level or button layout you choose, Atomic Runner remains an imaginative and deceptively well-programmed experience. Everything from the animation of Chelnov's smooth run cycle to way you can somersault backwards, hit an enemy with one shot and take out another by jumping on it just feels right somehow. It's often said that Nintendo know how to design their controls and levels so that everything feels perfectly of a piece, and Data East achieved a similar thing here. It's essentially an infinite runner title before that genre even had a name, and it's fascinating to note how much variety and strategy the designers manage to wring out of such a simple premise.

    It's arguable, too, that Atomic Runner benefits from dropping its cod-Russian theme. Where the arcade version repetitive, with its visuals taking in broadly the same industrial and metropolitan settings from beginning to end, the Genesis throws all sense of logic out of the window. One minute you're fighting a giant robot outside the Gaudi cathedral in Barcelona, the next, you're shooting at flying monsters in an Inca temple. Given that, in the late '80s and early '90s, most players expected a visual downgrade from their arcade conversions, the level of detail and thought that's gone into Atomic Runner becomes even more remarkable.

    Had Atomic Runner remained as an arcade exclusive, it would have likely faded from memory by now - a fun if not essential footnote in videogaming history, better remembered for its insensitivity than its action.

    The Sega Genesis version, on the other hand, is arguably a classic of its kind: a sharp, intense adrenaline rush that made the most of the console's much-vaunted processing abilities. Sonic The Hedgehog may have been Sega's zippy mascot, but Atomic Runner is its darker, crazier cousin.


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    Everything you need to know about Final Fantasy XV DLC, including latest news, release date, trailers, and much more!

    News Matthew Byrd
    Apr 10, 2018

    Almost two years after Square Enix's highly anticipated Final Fantasy XV hit stores, the game is still getting new DLC and story expansions. In fact, the publisher plans to release four more DLC packs through 2019, joining the game's already impressive list of story expansions released up to this point. 

    The first of the remaining expansions is Episode Ardyn. Below you can find more details on that DLC. Square Enix has also released quite a bit more info about the subsequent story DLCs that will be released throughout 2018 and 2019. We've included descriptions for all of those upcoming story episodes in the order in which Square Enix has said they will be released. Unfortunately, there are no release dates available for any of these story episodes. 

    Here's what we know about the upcoming expansions:

    Final Fantasy XV: Episode Ardyn Details 

    Square Enix has announced that they plan on releasing at least three DLC episode add-ons for Final Fantasy XV in 2018. These episodes will each focus on different characters or specific aspects of the game's world just as previous major expansions for the game have done. 

    While Square Enix is choosing to remain quiet about most of the episodes until closer to their release, they did confirm that one of them will focus on Final Fantasy XVvillain, Ardyn. It seems that Square Enix plans on using this DLC as a chance to expand upon Ardyn as a character and really explore his motivations. The designers have also indicated that they'd like to focus on fellow villain Luna, but did not confirm if that story will be a separate DLC release. 

    There is no specific release date available for Episode Ardyn at this time.

    Final Fantasy XV: Aranea - "The Beginning of the End"

    This episode follows Aranea as she experiences what may just be the worst day of her life. This story covers the Starscourge from the perspective of the Niflheim. The empire's dying days features some tragic moments that players must guide Aranea through. 

    Final Fantasy XV: Lunafreya - "The Choice of Freedom

    It seems that death will not free Luna from the destiny she has been assigned. In this episode, players must fight save Luna's love while dealing with a twisting narrative that might just end up altering the fate of others. 

    Final Fantasy XV: Noctis - "The Final Strike"

    Noctis final battle see him leave the Astrals and engage in a mysterious final battle that he hopes will save his people from a terrible fate. 


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    Everything we know about Quake Champions, including latest news, release date, trailers, and much more!

    News Den of Geek Staff
    Apr 10, 2018

    Quake Champions is the latest installment in the classic FPS series. This title appears to be a follow-up to the infamous Quake III: Arena as it attempts to revive the arena shooter genre that classic game helped to popularize. Bethesda is promising a pure Arena-style shooter experience with a special emphasis on interesting characters and creating an equal playing field for all levels of fraggers. 

    From the trailers released thus far, it is clear that this new Quake is focused on providing the same brand of lightning-fueled rapid chaos that made Arena one of the most popular games of its generation. While Bethesda's presentation suggests that the team will be taking cues from the open, character-driven style of Overwatch, gameplay footage showcases an arena battleground that is unmistakably worthy of the Quake name. 

    Here's everything else we know:

    Quake Champions News

    Strogg, the main bad guy from Quake II and IV, is making his way to Quake Champions in an upcoming April update. Accompanying him will be his sentient drone, Peeker. You can check out the story intro for this dynamic duo by checking out the video below:

    Quake Champions Release Date

    Quake Champions doesn't have a release date as of yet.

    Speaking with GameSpot, studio director Tim Willits revealed that id hasn't ruled out a console release for Quake Champions, which is currently only slated for PC. Said Willits, "It's a PC game. No excuses. No limitations. We're going to focus on one platform," but he added that he "love[s] [his] console fans. "We're not totally shutting the door on consoles." 

    Willits teased the game won't officially launch until after it's gone through a long beta period. Willits clarified, "It's going to come out after a really, really long closed beta. I'm telling people now, it's going to be a long beta."

    Quake Champions Trailer

    Bethesda revealed at E3 2017 that Wolfenstein protagonist B.J. Blazkowicz will join the Quake Champions' roster. The studio also announced that they plan to host a $1 million Quake World Championship tournament at QuakeCon starting on August 26th. 

    You can check out all the new footage from Quake Champions - including previews of some of the game's new maps - via the game's latest trailer:

    Just in case you weren't convinced that Quake Champions will provide the same essential Quake multiplayer experience you know and love, Bethesda has released what they call a raw gameplay trailer which simply shows player footage from a match in progress. The speed is intoxicating.

    Here's the first gameplay trailer:

    Bethesda uploaded a video to their YouTube page in which Studio Director Tim Willits breaks down the design process of Quake Champions and explains how the game is both a classic Quake shooter and an attempt to modernize some of the title's trademark elements by incorporating some recent advancements in the genre. Of particular note are the heroes and skills he reveals that give us a better idea of how Quake Champions' characters will differ from one another. 

    Take a look: 

    Check out the game's first trailer below:

    Quake Champions Details

    Quake Champions will be a free-to-play game. 

    Well...kind of.

    "At its core, it’s a free-to-play game,” says Willits, "with the option to buy the Champion Pack and just get in and play with all the Champions. There are a number of Quake players that just want to play their Quake, right? And they are familiar with the business model of our previous games, and they are totally fine. ‘I want to buy the game. I want to start playing. I want to have access to all the Champions.’"

    What that means is that players who purchase the game will gain access to all of Quake Champions' characters while those free-to-play players will be able to use in-game currency to gain access to new Champions for a limited period of time. It's not clear how long you will be able to access purchased Champions via the latter method, but Willits did say that he doesn't want to use the word "rent" in regards to the nature of the transaction.

    Players on both sides will have the chance to use in-game currency on other unlockables such as rune challenges and skins. Additionally, free-to-play and paid players will compete in the same brackets on the same maps using the same weapons. At this time, it appears the only potentially meaningful gameplay concept that requires currency are the characters themselves. 


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    What you need to know about the System Shock remake, including latest news, release date, trailers, and much more!

    News Den of Geek Staff
    Apr 10, 2018

    When System Shock first released in 1994, it was something of a revelation for the first-person shooter genre. While many gamers and developers were still trying to wrap their heads around the innovations of Doom, developer Looking Glass delivered an atmospheric sci-fi masterpiece that was in many ways a precursor to titles like Half-Life and Deus Ex. What's arguably most impressive about the game, however, is just how well it's concept has aged all these years later. 

    The fact was not lost on Nightdive Studios, the developer in charge of remaking this sci-fi horror classic for a new generation. If you've never heard of Nightdive, don't feel too bad. The developer's first major move in the game industry was recovering the rights to the System Shock franchise and using them to put the series back into digital distribution stores. In fact, despite a wealth of veteran development talent on staff, they've primarily focused on reviving classic PC experiences since their formation in 2012. 

    You wouldn't know that this is a relatively unproven development studio, however, by looking at how well this remake is coming together. Even the words on the Kickstarter page convey their deep love and understanding of what makes this game so special. This is clearly a company that understands why System Shock has remained so popular over the years and wish to upgrade the game just enough for a new generation of gamers to be able to easily enjoy it. 

    Fortunately, you don't just have to take their word on the matter of restoring System Shock to glory as Nightdive has also seen fit to release a short demo of the upcoming remake available on SteamGOG and the Humble Store. It is, in a word, incredible. Although System Shock has been the beneficiary of a great number of mods over the years designed to improve its mechanics and visuals, even a full suite of the best mods couldn't possibly match what Nightdive has done in terms of modernizing this title without sacrificing the core gameplay. 

    Here's everything else we know about the System Shock remake:

    System Shock Remake News

    Nightdive Studios is promising to return to their original vision for the System Shock remake following the massive delays the game recently suffered. Nightdive CEO Stephen Kick recently stated on Kickstarter that the team plans on trying to focus on creating a pure remake of the original System Shock rather than the incredibly ambitious re-imagining they were previously focusing on. 

    "The vast majority of you agree that we are doing the right thing and that what you want is a high-quality game that adheres closely to the vision of the original System Shock rather than the reinterpretation that we were previously working toward," reads the update. 

    Unfortunately, these changes mean that the studio has had to release some of the staff that was working on the previous build of the game. Fortunately, they assure fans that the remaining team won't have to start from scratch as much of the work they've done so far is still applicable to their present vision for the game. 

    Furthermore, the studio believes that they will be able to deliver a mostly full version of the game to their highest backers by September. That version of the game will be missing some visual assets, but they say it will be playable from start to finish. Additionally, the studio has promised to remain more "transparent" regarding the development process via a series of Twitch streams and consistent updates. 

    System Shock Remake Release Date

    System Shock was originally set to come out in 2017, but a series of delays has pushed it back all the way to 2020. The game is coming to XBO, PS4, and PC.

    System Shock Remake Trailer

    This video goes over some of the areas in the game as well as the dismemberment mechanics in the remake. The game is still very much a work in progress, so none of the footage below is finalized:

    Here's a first look at the Pre-Alpha version of the game running on PS4:

    Here's the first promo for the game:


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    Getting ready for E3 2018? Here's a rundown of everything you need to know about the gaming convention!

    News Den of Geek Staff
    Apr 10, 2018

    E3 2018 is almost here. The Electronic Entertainment Expo may have started as an industry trade show, but it is has ballooned into a full-on spectacle. Gaming companies from across the world converge on Los Angeles in June for a week full of exclusive announcements, incredible updates, and celebrations regarding the gaming industry in general. There's nothing else like it in the video game world, and this year's event figures to be one of the best yet. 

    This year's conferences will begin on Sunday, June 10 and run through Tuesday, June 12. The expo floor will be open from Tuesday, June 12, and will run until Thursday, June 14. As always, the event will be held at the Los Angeles Convention Center and the immediate surrounding area. Some studios, like Sony, have also elected to hold their conferences away from the show's main stage.

    Between Microsoft making aggressive moves to get back into the console race, Sony loading up on exclusive titles, and Nintendo continuing to shock the world with its success and innovations, this year's major game studios will likely roll into E3 - or, in the case of Nintendo, an E3-themed Direct video - looking to steal the show. Competing with them are a host of major publishers - Bethesda, Ubisoft, and Electronics - that have recently been stealing the show from E3's biggest presenters. 

    You can expect more and more information about E3 2018 to be leaked out in the days and weeks to come, but for now, here's everything we know about the biggest gaming show of the year:

    E3 2018 Conference Dates and Times

    *All times listed are ET

    Bethesda: Sunday, June 10 - 9:30 p.m

    Microsoft: Sunday, June 10 - 4:00 p.m (moved to the Microsoft Theater)

    EA: Saturday, June 9 - 2:00 p.m 

    More dates and times as they are confirmed...

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    E3 2018 Games

    These are the games that have been confirmed for the convention. Click on the titles to read more about them:

    The Last of Us Part II

    Anthem

    Battlefield 2018

    The Division 2

    Fortnite

    E3 2018: How to Watch

    While E3 2018 will be open to the public, it appears that tickets to the show have once again sold out rather quickly. Unless you qualify for a media pass - which you can double check here - you'll have to settle for watching the show from home. 

    So far as that goes, you can expect that there will be plenty of ways to keep up with all the action. Every major conference from E3 should be streamed via Twitch and other popular streaming platforms. As for Nintendo, they will be publishing a special E3 Nintendo Direct video as they have done in recent years. 

    We'll be sure to provide you with all the links you need to watch E3 2018's biggest conferences as more information about them becomes available.


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    Sabotage Studio's The Messenger is a nostalgia trip, but it will also take you to places you haven't seen before.

    Feature Matthew Byrd
    Apr 10, 2018

    It’s a sad fact that the '90s developers who pursued the 3D gold rush left the glory days of the 2D action title in their wake. While major studios and indie devs occasionally revisit that genre with great success - Mega Man 9 and Shovel Knight are two notable examples of that trend - we’re still left wanting more of those 2D action titles that gave no quarter to those with pockets of quarters.

    In the ways that matter most, The Messenger by Sabotage Studio is the nostalgic experience that takes us back to that golden age. However, it also happens to be much, much more. 

    The Messenger tells the story of a young ninja whose village and clan are destroyed by ancient demons looking for revenge. During the attack, our ninja protagonist is overwhelmed by his foes and eventually gets rescued by a mythical “hero from the West.” The hero gives the ninja a scroll and requests that he deliver it to a mysterious tribe who live in the mountains in order to warn them of the demonic invasion. That’s where your quest as the messenger begins.

    Sabotage Studio made no attempts to hide The Messenger’s nostalgic heart. It beats with the game's rhythmic chiptune soundtrack and with every screen transition across the many scrolling levels. The Messenger’s visuals and audio are a pure throwback to the genre’s glory days, but don’t take that to mean that the game is resting on your fond memories. Developer Sabotage clearly understands the appeal of these aesthetics and delivers designs that trigger strong memories while forging new ones.

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    Granted, that does mean that certain elements of the game are intentionally simplified. That’s especially true of the enemies, which all utilize a simple series of attack patterns that will be instantly familiar to old-school Castlevania fans. The one boss I fought during my time with the game was a bit more intense - he utilized several types of attacks - but this is certainly the type of game where enemies exist to create a kind of death zone that you must navigate through.

    That’s quite alright, though, because the combat and movement systems are as airtight as you’d hope they would be in a game of this type. Sword strikes land without fuss from reasonable distances, bouncing between walls is fluid, and avoiding death traps requires just a knowledge of the obstacles that lie ahead rather than leaps of faith that require pixel perfect movements. The Messenger isn't trying to cheat you, but it's definitely a challenging game.

    The game even manages to gradually incorporate additional skills in a way that feels friendly for less experienced gamers. An early example of that design saw me encounter a gap that couldn't be crossed with regular jumps. Fortunately, there is a shopkeep at the bottom of the gap who is more than happy to sell you a kind of squirrel suit with a glide ability. By allowing you to fail before acquiring a new ability, The Messenger is better able to relay the purpose and significance of every new mechanic. 

    The Messenger is also a bit of a parody of the '90s action era. Not every dialogue sequence is played for laughs, but most exchanges feature some kind of jab at the classic titles that inspired so much of The Messenger’s design. For instance, our hero will chastise a shopkeep for taking up too much of the text box with a long-winded conversation. A merchant will sell you a rope arrow and remark that he’s pretty sure gamers are just going to call it a grappling hook anyway. Things like that keep the game feeling fun no matter how hard the level may be.

    This is a game that will first appeal to old-school gamers who long for the days when good triumphed over evil by virtue of the player’s reflex. However, it turns out that The Messenger’s familiarities are just a lure designed to instantly appeal to those who will soon be dragged into the game’s shocking depth.

    There comes a point in The Messenger when your 8-bit adventure is seemingly at an end. Without going into specifics, certain events occur which soon transport you to a 16-bit world. Now, an entirely new action game has begun that pays homage to that style of side-scrolling adventure. This section of the game feels like an era-appropriate sequel to the “original” 8-bit title.

    But that’s not all. Manage to complete your 16-bit quest and the game changes again. This time, you must navigate a Metroidvania world with multiple paths and navigation options. Alongside the navigation skills you’ve learned throughout the game, you must use a series of portals that transport you between 8 and 16-bit versions of each level in order to fully explore every area. It was at that point that I began to understand that The Messenger’s developers aren’t just interested in paying tribute but also showing off their knowledge of why those games worked as well as they did.

    Sabotage blends the 8-bit and 16-bit styles in such a way that ensures the word “gimmick” rarely crosses your mind. The transition effect between the various visuals is seamless and technologically brilliant - music even changes between 8 and 16-bit on the spot - and the levels are all designed in such a way as to accommodate for the eventual portals without making you feel the base areas were designed specifically for that purpose.

    What remains to be seen is whether or not The Messenger is able to sustain the appeal of the baseline retro gameplay that drives the game's more intriguing elements. While the action remained frantic and fun during my brief time with the game - which consisted of about a half-hour of play and a half-hour of developer walkthrough - the mileage you get from this adventure may still end up being heavily dependant on your desire to play a throwback experience.


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    Legendary skins, nerfs, buffs, and more highlight the latest, massive Overwatch update.

    News Matthew Byrd
    Apr 10, 2018

    Overwatch's latest patch is an absolutely massive update - 13 to 20 GB - that adds quite a bit of content to the game. 

    The highlight of this latest update is the new co-op mission, Retribution. Much like the previous Overwatch co-op mission, Retribution will require players to work together across a PvE mission that will be instantly familiar to the Left 4 Dead fans out there. Unlike the previous mission, this one sees four players take control of Reaper, Mcree, Moira, and Genji as they try to capture an underworld bfaddie while Overwatch's hands are tied. Something goes wrong in the process, and the Blackwatch team soon find themselves battling against some imposing odds. 

    Along with the usual grunts, this new mode will force you to do battle against a variety of special enemy types. Included among those specialty foes is an assassin, a sniper, and a dual-machine gun weilding heavy. Taking them down will require exceptional teamwork (especially on the mode's most punishing difficulties). 

    This update also adds the Uprising co-op mode from last year's event back into the game's arcade mode. Just like the Retribution mission, you'll be able to access it from now until April 30. Completing either of these modes will reward you with a loot box and good times with friends. 

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    But hey, we get it. You just care about the loot boxes. Well, the Retribution event no only adds some of the old Uprising legendary skins back to the game but features 100 new cosmetic items. The highlight of those cosmetics is undoubtedly the new collection of legendary hero skins. This time, Hanzo, Reaper, Moira, Lucio, Winston, Mei, Doomfist, and Sombra all receive new legendary skins. As usual, these new skins cost more than other legendary items - 3,000 coins rather than 1,000 - and will no longer be available for purchase after the event expires. 

    While you may want to wait before purchasing any legendary skins thanks to Overwatch's no duplicate legendary drops rule, we highly recommend checking out Lucio, Sombra, Doomfist, and Hanzo's new skin. You might also want to grab Genji's skin from last year's event if you didn't have the chance to do so before. 

    This update also includes a series of gameplay tweaks. Among them is a nerf to D.Va's micro missiles - they now do 4 damage instead of 6 - and a nerf to D.Va's booster damage (down from 25 to 10). The speed of Zenyatta's secondary fire projectiles has also been reduced by 15%. That particular change is popularity attributed to the skills of professional Overwatch player, JjoNak

    Elsewhere, Mei and Reaper received minor buffs. Mei's blaster can now go through enemies and Reaper is able to move 25% faster in Wraith form. He's also able to cancel his Wraith ability midway through, and his ult now reloads his weapons automatically.  You can read the full list of character changes here

    Furthermore, players will now be able to request to avoid a teammate for up to a week so they are no longer matched with them. This can be done with up to two teammates a game. Also, the poor teamwork option has been removed from reporting while the "Griefing" report option has been replaced by "Gameplay Sabotage."

    As for the massive size of the patch, Blizzard states that it's occasionally necessary to replace some in-game assets in order to make future patches smaller and easier to implement. All things considered, though, you'll want to set aside some time and bandwidth to ensure that this update goes through smoothly. 


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    Super Meat Boy Forever is an impressive follow-up to the classic indie original. Here are our hands-on impressions...

    Preview Matthew Byrd
    Apr 10, 2018

    During my hands-on demo of Super Meat Boy Forever at PAX East 2018, co-creator Tommy Refenes casually reminded me that the original Super Meat Boy was released in 2010. That caught me off-guard.

    It certainly doesn’t feel like it’s been eight years since the game took the indie scene by storm. Maybe that has something to do with the fact it’s been ported to almost every gaming platform in the years since its release, but it probably has more to do with the game’s surprising longevity. It’s just as fun to jump into Super Meat Boy as it ever was.

    That longevity does raise a bit of an issue, though. How do you develop a sequel to a game that has, until this point, proven to be timeless? Super Meat Boy Forever’s answer to that problem is elegant and effective. It turns Super Meat Boy into an auto-runner.

    Refenes mentioned that part of his desire to turn Super Meat Boy into an auto-runner was based on the fact that many players usually never stopped running. As such, it just seemed natural to allow players to constantly move without requiring them to hold down a joystick or button.

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    However, the change was also based on his desire to make Super Meat Boy a more accessible experience. I was initially concerned about the use of the word “accessible.” After all, much of the fun of Super Meat Boy was based on the game’s extreme difficulty.

    It turns out, though, that accessibility doesn’t translate to “easy” in the case of Forever. Instead, Refenes uses that word to describe the appeal and design inspiration behind Forever’s two-button control scheme. Yes, Forever only asks that you jump, punch, and dive your way through each level, but it turns out that Super Meat Boy doesn’t require much more than that.

    In fact, Forever feels remarkably similar to the original Super Meat Boy in just about every way that matters. Levels are still brutally challenging and beating them requires quite a bit of trial and error alongside some amazing reflexes. Unlike Super Mario Run, which diluted Mario to the point of distilling the heart of a 2D Mario game, Forever’s auto-run system retains almost everything that makes Super Meat Boy one of the quintessential platformers of the modern era.

    What’s really impressive is what the shift to autorunning adds to the Super Meat Boy experience. Whereas the most challenging Super Meat Boy levels of the past sometimes felt like elaborate puzzles, the challenges of Forever never really stray far from pattern recognition and quick reflex requirements. In that sense, it almost feels like a blend of the rhythm genre and the classic platformer.

    The potential downside of this arrangement is that it leads to even more trial and error than we’ve seen in the past. Finding the ideal way through each level's traps can take a few tries. Furthermore, death feels even more punishing than it previously was simply because dying can get you out of your rhythm. You have to imagine that problem will be even more pronounced on the game’s highest difficulty levels (of course, those who play on Cruel mode should know what they’re getting into).

    Yes, Forever has multiple difficulty levels. The difficulty seems to mostly relate to how challenging the randomly generated levels are rather than any kind of altered mechanics or punishment system. There’s also a mode that will assemble levels tailored to you based on which sections of the game you struggled with. Refenes noted it leads to the creation of your personal hell. (I said that I’d be disappointed if "Personal Hell" isn't the final name for the mode and he said that he thinks that's exactly what he'll name it.)

    Unfortunately, there doesn't seem to be a competitive multiplayer mode planned for the game at this time. It's easy to imagine how this title might translate to a SpeedRunners kind of competitive experience, but for the time being, the focus is on the game's other modes. 

    Regardless of which mode you choose to play, Forever feels like a rare kind of sequel. It’s a game that somehow manages to provide what you’re looking for when you see the Super Meat Boy name while also freshening things up just enough so that you don’t feel like you’re playing the same game you’ve been playing for the last eight years.

    We’ll know for sure whether Super Meat Boy Forever can live up to that promise when it releases for consoles, PC, and mobile devices later this year.


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    As Marvel gets closer to Avengers: Infinity War, here are some different takes on Thanos' epic story, from video games to alternate history.

    Feature Gavin Jasper
    Apr 11, 2018

    In just over a month, the Marvel Cinematic Universe will be hitting us with Avengers: Infinity War, where they’re going to tangle with Thanos the Mad Titan. Since showing up at the end of the first Avengersmovie, it’s been pretty apparent that Thanos would be scouring the cosmos for the Infinity Gems/Stones so as to do an adaptation of the hit early 90s miniseries Infinity Gauntlet.

    The comic has become rather iconic in Marvel history and it makes sense that they’d spend the better part of a decade building towards it. Although, don't expect it to resemble the original comic too closely. Not only are there plenty of liberties to be had, but it also seems to take a lot from the more recent comic event Infinity. Not that that's a bad thing. Infinity Gauntlet is a storyline that’s been retold, adapted, and twisted in all sorts of ways since first appearing 27 years ago.

    Here are all the different variations of Thanos and Adam's Excellent Adventure.

    INFINITY GAUNTLET (1991)

    We’re going full spoiler on this.

    As a follow-up to the two-part story Thanos Quest, the Mad Titan Thanos has control of all six Infinity Gems and is essentially God. Mephisto hangs around to feed his ego, while naturally plotting to overthrow him. Thanos also has his granddaughter Nebula hanging around, stuck in a catatonic zombie state because Thanos is a jerk. Since Thanos wants to win the love of Death herself, he uses the Gauntlet to wipe out half of the universe. 50% of all living things simply vanish, including a big chunk of the superheroes. Adam Warlock is reborn and goes to the remaining heroes, coming up with this awesome plan of going to Thanos’ space home and punching him in his stupid scrotum face. This is really a swerve because he plans to have them all killed off as a distraction so Silver Surfer can sneak by and steal the Gauntlet off Thanos’ hand.

    Meanwhile, Thanos’ whims have caused Earth to drift away from the sun, making it colder and colder by the hour. Odin and all the other heavyweight god types on Earth are blocked off from interfering. As a way of making Death jealous, Thanos uses the Gauntlet to create a mate in Terraxia.

    Mephisto suggests that Thanos hold back against the heroes to impress Death, so he scales it back a lot, which gives the heroes a 1% chance. As hard as they try, they still lose horribly and are killed one-by-one by Thanos and Terraxia. After Captain America goes full-on badass and stares down Thanos despite everything, Silver Surfer flies in and misses his mark completely. About then, all the galactic heavy hitters – the tapestry of the universe itself – show up. Thanos goes back to full power and makes mincemeat of them all. He transforms himself into a form that’s one with the universe, which leaves his physical Gauntlet out in the open. Nebula takes it and steals the power, reverting everything to how it once was...except for the part where she still has all the power.

    Thanos teams up with Warlock and a couple of the more powerful heroes, ultimately defeating Nebula when Warlock takes control of the Soul Gem and shorts it out a bit, causing Nebula to drop the Gauntlet. A fight breaks out and Warlock comes out wielding the Infinity Gauntlet, swearing to use it wisely. Thanos fakes his own death, but is later seen living a quiet life as a farmer.

    So that’s Infinity Gauntlet Prime. Let’s see how other writers and mediums have messed around with the formula.

    Read Infinity Gauntlet on Amazon

    WHAT IF THANOS CHANGED GALACTUS INTO A HUMAN BEING? (1992)

    What If #34 was a humor-based issue of the series and while most of it is painfully unfunny, the opening seven-page short story is humorous and even a little bit uplifting in its own weird way. No joke, this is actually my all-time favorite comic book story.

    As Thanos fights the cosmic entities, he decides to get creative when dispatching Galactus. He transforms him into a human being and sends him down to Earth. Galactus awakens naked in a trailer park, forgetting who he is while being a 100% facsimile of Elvis Presley! A single mother named Gertrude takes him in and thinks he’s the real deal with amnesia. She explains everything about Elvis to him and while he still has no memory, he trusts her and decides that he is indeed the King. He swears to do good with this second chance by not getting involved with the pitfalls of fame, such as drugs.

    Also, the comic features the million dollar line, “Ma’am, the hunger gnaws.”

    Galactus gets back into music, trying to stay on the down low, but soon people take notice and we’re about to get the second coming of Elvismania. Right as he’s about to see to the public, Galactus is confronted by Adam Warlock, now in possession of the Infinity Gauntlet. He wills Galactus his memory, but the Eater of Worlds doesn’t want to return. He’s found a better identity as the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll and chooses to stay with Gertrude and her son, giving both Galactus and Elvis Presley’s legacy a second chance.

    WHAT THE--?! #24 (1992)

    Marvel’s lesser-known humor book from the early 90s once featured a Mad Magazine-style spoof of Infinity Gauntlet called “The Infinity Mitten.” Thermos and his advisor McFisto go on a double-date with Death and Taxes, but Thermos is disappointed that Death has no interest in him. Using the Mitten, he removes half of life in the universe...except on the first try he accidentally just removes everyone’s lower half. Earth’s heroes go after him, but brute force isn’t enough. After talking over various ideas to remove the Infinity Mitten, they go with challenging Thermos to strip poker. They all lose and die of embarrassment.

    The cosmic beings show up to throwdown, but Thermos points out that he’s an atheist and they all vanish. Silver Surfer (or whatever his parody name is) starts whining about all the death he’s seen, causing Adam Warlox to finally snap at him for being such a downer. Warlox shoots him with a revolver, which Thermos steals and uses on Warlox and McFisto.

    Thinking that killing off an entire universe of heroes and villains is enough, Thermos is shocked to see that Death is now dating Nintendo's Mario. Death explains that her new boyfriend is killing off the entire comics industry by himself!

    WHAT IF THE SILVER SURFER POSSESSED THE INFINITY GAUNTLET? (1993)

    I absolutely love this issue and would have liked a variation of this as the actual ending of Infinity Gauntletinstead of what we got. Surfer succeeds in snatching the Gauntlet from Thanos’ hands. First thing he does is set everything back to normal. Then he sends everyone back home except Warlock and Thanos, who he keeps as advisors...but really as witnesses as he makes the universe a better place. He starts off with the well-meaning moves you’d expect. He eliminates disease, hunger, soothes hatred (a Kree and a Skrull are shown greeting each other happily), and even makes Death into a more alluring figure instead of something to be feared. Then he goes to Hell to see if Mephisto would be cool being remade into something a bit more pleasant, but Mephisto instead starts a fight. Surfer vaporizes him and goes back to his home to think about stuff.

    Warlock and Thanos go to Dr. Strange because, boy howdy, Surfer’s going nuts with all that power. Strange figures the best way about this is to summon Surfer’s old flame Shalla-Bal to talk some sense into him, especially since Surfer’s thinking of removing randomness completely and giving the universe complete order. Arguments and fighting happen, but seeing Shalla-Bal so hurt brings Surfer back to sanity. He uses the Infinity Gauntlet’s power to destroy itself – and seemingly he and Shalla-Bal with it – but we discover that the two of them are secretly alone on a paradise planet of their creation to live the rest of their lives in secret.

    As everything returns to normal, Thanos stands alone, holding up the scrapped remains of the Gauntlet. With a smirk, he says, “So close. Oh, yes... So very close.”

    MARVEL SUPER HEROES (1995)

    In a follow-up to X-Men: Children of the Atom, Capcom released a one-on-one fighting game called Marvel Super Heroes, which is loosely based on Infinity Gauntlet. In it, you control a hero or villain as you gather the Infinity Gems from your opponents, working your way to fighting Dr. Doom and then Thanos. Upon meeting him, Thanos will steal your Gems and complete the Infinity Gauntlet before the final battle. While there isn’t much story in the game, it definitely stays loyal to the comic in ways. For instance, Thanos’ battleground is his base from Infinity Gauntlet, where you can see the likes of Thor, Nova, Drax, Scarlet Witch, and She-Hulk frozen in stone as Mephisto and Death idle in the background.

    The game is kicking rad if you haven’t played it, letting you unleash the power of the various Gems in battle, each giving you a different ability. The console version includes playable versions of the bosses, as well as Anita, the emotionless little girl from Capcom’s Darkstalkersseries.

    Here are the various endings based on the different characters defeating Thanos:

    Anita: Simply uses the Gems to free the heroes from their statue forms. Nothing else.

    Blackheart: Is asked to hand it over from his father Mephisto, but Blackheart turns on him and chooses to rule reality.

    Captain America: Reverts the heroes to normal. Then pals around with Thor and throws the Infinity Gems into a black hole so nobody can use them.

    Dr. Doom: Bitches out Thanos and rules the Earth with the Infinity Gauntlet. Yeah, they don’t get very fancy with this one.

    Hulk: Reverts the heroes to normal. Thanos wants to die, but Hulk leaves him begging. Hulk goes on a second honeymoon to Vegas with Betty, but he chooses to get there by leaping with Betty holding on for dear life.

    Iron Man: Reverts the heroes to normal. Considers using the Gauntlet, but then refuses. Later, he’s bummed to discover that his nervous system problems are gone. He selfishly used the power after all. Cap tells him not to worry about it.

    Juggernaut: Is ready to grab the Infinity Gauntlet and get his vengeance on Xavier. Suddenly, Adam Warlock pops in to take it away, thanking Juggernaut for saving reality and then sending him back to Earth. I hate Adam Warlock.

    Magneto: Creates a second moon around Earth and makes it a permanent home for mutants, finally separating himself from the humans. He is the eternal ruler of New Avalon.

    Psylocke: Reverts the heroes to normal. She returns to the mansion, thinking about how she has experienced being molded to the will of others before and would never, ever do that to another person.

    Shuma-Gorath: Absorbs the power of the Infinity Gems and grows in size, allowing it to feast upon reality itself.

    Spider-Man: Reverts the heroes to normal. Goes home to Mary Jane to find out that he’s going to be a father. This is a lot less uplifting when you remember that this game was released during Clone Saga. Ugh.

    Thanos: Has two separate endings. Either he chooses to become one with the cosmos as the true ruler of the universe, or he gives up the power and lives on as a farmer.

    Wolverine: Reverts the heroes to normal. He realizes that he could use the power to find out about his past, but refuses. Instead, he leaves the X-Men to find the answers himself.

    Thanos would return in Marvel vs. Capcom 2, still with the Infinity Gauntlet, but the game lacks anything resembling a coherent storyline. Then in Marvel vs. Capcom: Infinite, the Gauntlet is treated as a red herring as Thanos is more interested in fashioning Ryu's dark energies into a Satsui No Hado Gauntlet so he can kill (or at least hurt) Death.

    MARVEL SUPER HEROES: WAR OF THE GEMS (1996)

    You would think that this would just be a lesser incarnation of the one-on-one fighter I just talked about, but no. This Capcom release is more of a sequel to the side-scroller beat ‘em up X-Men: Mutant Apocalypse. In it, you play through with your choice of Hulk, Captain America, Spider-Man, Wolverine, and Iron Man. Coincidentally, Iron Man’s select portrait is just a picture of his sprite from the arcade game. Go figure.

    The game is one big mishmash of both Infinity Gauntlet and Infinity War, which makes sense, considering Infinity Gauntlet wasn’t really filled to the brim with villains to fight. Here, you get to fight evil doppelganger clones of various heroes, like Hawkeye, Vision, Sasquatch, Iron Man, etc. At first you search for the various Infinity Gems, trying to stop the likes of Magus and Dr. Doom from getting their hands on them, but Thanos gets the last one. After going through Nebula, you face Thanos and...well, it doesn’t really have the same dire sense of danger when he isn’t at full godhood. At least in the arcade game, he’s got all six Gems. Here, he has one against your five. That’s hardly impressive.

    I guess Thanos has the Reality Gem because literally all he does is cause fire to burst from the ground and summon a closing stone wall. That’s it. He’s slow as molasses and his death throes feel like they take an hour.

    Afterwards, Adam Warlock takes all the Gems for himself and sends everyone home. Feeling the need to give this epilogue some filler, they ask if Earth will ever truly be safe. When all your enemies move like snails, Earth isn't in that much danger, I suppose.

    WHAT IF THE IMPOSSIBLE MAN OBTAINED THE INFINITY GAUNTLET? (1998)

    So you know that part where Silver Surfer tries to swipe Thanos’ Gauntlet? It almost works in the sense that he removes the glove, but he fumbles and drops it. It’s then grabbed by none other than the annoying shape-shifter of the cosmos, the Impossible Man! Although Thanos is no threat to him, he does basically pee himself once all the cosmic beings show up. He escapes with Surfer and points out that he’s totally capable of handling the burden of wielding the Infinity Gauntlet. To prove his point, he brings Surfer to Zenn-La, his lost home planet. He’s reunited with Shalla-Bal and all should be good, but Surfer can’t help but feel that things aren’t quite right.

    He’s summoned by Galactus because although Impossible Man’s claimed to be about using the Gauntlet justly, he’s in the middle of exacting revenge on Galactus for eating his home world of Poppup way back when. Surfer fights him and loses, but convinces him to do the right thing by pointing out that he can just rebuild Poppup and return all its people. Galactus agrees to help, but due to plot device BS, Poppup can only be created at the expense of the fake Zenn-La. Surfer ultimately goes along with it because while he can never accept his fake world as real, Impossible Man is too oblivious and simple-minded to really question his.

    Poppup is reborn, the Poppupian race is reborn, and Impossible Man gives up his power to the Elders of the Universe. Everything seems fine, but then Surfer realizes that the Poppupians are all purple and green versions of heroes and villains, fighting it out like a bunch of goofs. He looks on in horror while a purple and green Forbush Man waves at the reader from behind his back.

    WHAT IF: NEWER FANTASTIC FOUR (2009)

    A little backstory on this one. Jeff Parker and Mike Wieringo were working on a What If issue about the New Fantastic Four (Spider-Man, Hulk, Wolverine, and Ghost Rider) remaining as a team. Unfortunately, Wieringo passed away during the making of it, so they had various artists finish the book in his place as a tribute. Even if it wasn’t such a heartwarming sentiment, What If This was the Fantastic Four? is an excellent comic to read.

    This is the sequel, which asks what would happen if Infinity Gauntlet happened in a timeline with the New Fantastic Four, except that Ghost Rider is wiped out of existence from Thanos’ power and is replaced by Iron Man. Their first meeting with Thanos doesn’t go so well, since Hulk’s attempt to intimidate him with how strong he is in relation to his anger causes Thanos to wipe out a chunk of the Milky Way and state, “And I’m not even angry.” The omnipotent Thanos also separates Hulk and Banner out of curiosity and his desire to show off. During all of this, Wolverine notices how Mephisto is able to steer Thanos around with his words.

    Like in regular continuity, Adam Warlock brings up his awesome plan of, “Do what I say and don’t ask questions so you don't know that I’m using your horrible deaths as a diversion,” but this time it doesn’t fly. As Stark puts it, “I don’t [know what I’m doing], but I don’t think he does either.” When they go at Thanos, Wolverine is the only one with a plan. He chooses not to fight Thanos and instead badmouths his partners while talking Thanos into thinking that Mephisto is trying to horn in on Death. Thanos buys this lie and vaporizes Mephisto. Wolverine worms his way into position as Thanos’ new right-hand man and explains to the other Fantastic Four members that he hopes that Thanos will reward his loyalty by forcing Jean Grey to love him.

    Thanos continues to effortlessly defeat all challengers, even when Iron Man creates a suit of armor out of a fallen Celestial. Wolverine talks up how Thanos hasn’t even physically touched Death and that love is all about contact. Thanos gets all flustered because it isn’t proper, but Wolverine eggs him on to just touch her face. As the nervous Thanos reaches out to do so, Wolverine chops his arm off with a smiling, “Sucker!” and has successfully cut off his source of power.

    Hulk punches Thanos out, Spider-Man uses the Gauntlet to put everything back the way it was, the Gauntlet is given to the Watchers to guard, and Bruce Banner becomes an honorary Watcher. Free from being one with the Hulk, he lives in the Watchers' citadel for the rest of his life, practically bathing in the vast knowledge available to him.

    Too bad they didn’t keep going with What If: New Fantastic Four stories. They were only two issues, but they were a lot of fun.

    WHAT IF: SECRET WARS (2009)

    This one only sort of counts. Thanos only gets one mention, but the story is more of an alternate history companion piece that makes a couple parallel references to the original story. In Secret Wars, Dr. Doom was able to siphon off the powers of Galactus and the Beyonder, making him nigh-omnipotent. In this reality, he keeps the power and fully defeats the heroes. He easily conquers Earth, all while leaving all the heroes alive and using his power to make sure Sue Storm’s pregnancy (which resulted in a miscarriage in regular continuity) is a healthy one. He leaves the world a utopia and flies into space. The thing to take away from this story is that at his heart, Dr. Doom is not a ruler, but a conqueror. That’s why he’s ruled the world no less than three times in regular continuity and always left it behind for the sake of struggle.

    His attempt to take over various alien empires is met with resistance, so he wipes out all who oppose him. Then he seeks out even more power by slaying the Elders of the Universe and stealing the Infinity Gems. With the Soul Gem, he enters Hell, frees his mother, and kills Mephisto (which he says would only be temporary, since he’s the Devil and all). Next on the agenda is taking out the only beings higher than him on the food chain: the Celestials. The fight lasts 407 years (!) and in the end, Doom is supreme, albeit with the Infinity Gems destroyed.

    During the battle, a shockwave knocked Earth out of orbit, much like in Infinity Gauntlet. Doom sees that life will eventually come to an end. Without a second thought, he uses the remainder of his cosmic power to set the Earth back in place and save the planet. The final scene shows, fittingly enough, that he’s become a farmer, freely appearing with no faceplate. He no longer feels ashamed of his scars and plans to rebuild his rule from the ground up, fully understanding the true potential of mankind.

    Personally one of my favorite Dr. Doom stories.

    SUPER HERO SQUAD SHOW SEASON 2 (2010)

    The wacky cartoon series based on the toys with the creepy smiles is a fun enough diversion. The second season of the show is all about the Infinity Gauntlet with the first half of it being based on Thanos’ quest to get all the Gems. Thanos is voiced by Jim Cummings, meaning he sounds like pretty much every Jim Cummings voice you’ve ever heard. Interesting thing here is that Thanos has Nebula captive and he refers to her as his sister. So if you’re keeping score, she’s his granddaughter in the comics, daughter in the movies, and sister in the cartoon.

    The whole Death concept is forgotten about here and Thanos is purely out for galactic power for the sake of being an evil overlord with galactic power. In the episode “Fate of Destiny,” he gets the full set of Gems and the Super Hero Squad goes on the attack. They are soundly defeated (mostly thanks to Thanos’ reality-warping catchphrase, “DO OVER!”), as are Dr. Doom and his underlings. Thanos is then challenged by the Silver Surfer, who is wielding the Infinity Sword, the ultimate weapon of the first season’s finale. Thanos challenges him to a winner-take-all fight, which Surfer accepts. When they shake on it, Surfer pulls off Thanos’ glove.

    Unfortunately, the Infinity Sword has been slowly corrupting Surfer over time, so having the Infinity Sword AND the Infinity Gauntlet drives him over the edge. He sends his former teammates spiraling through the multiverse, giving us children’s cartoon adaptations of 1602and Planet Hulk. Also, he knocks Earth out of orbit, making it increasingly cold. For the remainder of the series, he’s the main villain.

    In the finale, “The Final Battle! (‘Nuff Said!)” The Dark Surfer is challenged by the team of Iron Man, Scarlet Witch, Hulk, Wolverine, Falcon, and Thor. Surfer chooses to split himself into six beings for his own amusement. Each Surfer is powered by a separate Gem, but the heroes have figured that each one is capable of countering a specific Surfer based on their own abilities/personalities. For instance, the Mind Gem has little effect on Hulk and Wolverine’s surliness is able to overpower the Soul Gem. With the help of Ronan the Accuser, they defeat Silver Surfer and get all the Gems together.

    It’s not over until they find where he hid the Infinity Sword, leading to a final battle between Iron Man and Dr. Doom, where they accidentally destroy both the Sword and the Gems. The resulting explosion fixes the universe, including Earth, and all is well. Surfer’s back to his senses and willingly accepts his Kree imprisonment. No longer able to get his revenge on the Surfer, Thanos decides to go hang out at a chicken farm instead. Cute.

    SUPER HERO SQUAD: INFINITY GAUNTLET (2010)

    Around the time of the second season’s debut, they released a video game tie-in where you go around fighting enemies with two heroes at a time. In the story, Iron Man and Hulk are picking up some new boots for Thor’s birthday. The boots get mixed up with Thanos’ Infinity Gauntlet and wackiness ensues. Eventually, Thanos gets all the Gems. The duo of Iron Man and Scarlet Witch are able to defeat him, but then Silver Surfer swoops in to steal the Infinity Gauntlet. Corrupted by its power immediately, he does away with Galactus and, like in the cartoon, splits into six versions of himself. While Spider-Man sits this one out, the other twelve heroes pair up and fight the various Surfers one-by-one.

    Once defeated, Surfer comes to his senses. He and Iron Man throw the Infinity Gems and Infinity Sword into a rift in reality, taking care of that problem. Meanwhile, all the villains are busy fighting each other. Iron Man figures to just let that sort itself out. The heroes celebrate Thor’s birthday, but it turns out his boots have been enchanted by Loki to make Thor dance for an eternity. Iron Man and Hulk search for the receipt so they can return it.

    AVENGERS AND THE INFINITY GAUNTLET (2010)

    This out-of-continuity story is a reimagining of Infinity Gauntlet as an all-ages comedy book. With the ultimate power of the Gauntlet, Thanos wipes out half of life in the universe for the sake of seeing chaos reign and the survivors destroy each other. The remaining heroes only know the where of the threat’s source and not the who or what. Sue Storm puts together a team of Ms. Marvel, Hulk, Wolverine, and Spider-Man. Dr. Doom bursts into the room and after a fight where he takes down everyone on his own, Doom offers to join the team. Their transport is US-Ace, the star of the forgotten 80s comic US-1.

    The real treasure of this miniseries is watching Dr. Doom interact with the uncouth US-Ace. Especially when they visit the space trucker’s parents, who run a space diner. Ace’s mother bullies Doom into making everyone sandwiches, which is amazing.

    Once they come across Thanos near the end of the third issue, they all get thrashed. He’s only stopped thanks to US-Ace driving his space truck into him thanks to his truckopathic link (Doom grumbles, “Oh Lord, he has a name for it...”). The act knocks off the Gauntlet and while Doom eventually gets his hands on it, it doesn’t work. Turns out he’s a perfect Doombot created by Doom to be released into the world if he were to ever go missing for whatever reason, such as, say, half of the universe's population magically vanishing into thin air. Spider-Man stops Thanos from getting the Gauntlet back on his hand and then uses its power to wish for a universe where Thanos never had the Gems in the first place.

    Spider-Man ends up back on Earth where he’s the only one who remembers the entire adventure. He isn’t too broken up about it, but he wishes someone else out there would remember what he did. Elsewhere, Thanos plots his eventual revenge by sketching Spider-Man’s head into the ground, then adding an X over it.

    I’m just bummed that despite having a million characters in Avengers: Infinity War, we won’t get to hear Dr. Doom sarcastically respond to US-Ace with, “What a colorful turn of phrase. Perhaps you will regale us with more of them over a ‘mess of biscuits’ later.”

    Read Avengers and the Infinity Gauntlet on Amazon

    AVENGERS ASSEMBLE: SEASON TWO (2015)

    Ugh. So, once upon a time, there was this badass Avengers cartoon that people really liked. Then they canceled it and replaced it with Avengers Assemble, which I guess is still a thing. Anyway, much like Super Hero Squad Show, the second season is about Thanos and his quest to acquire the Infinity Gauntlet. By the halfway point, he has it and he loses in an incredibly embarrassing way.

    Iron Man has Arsenal, a robot built by his father that can absorb energies and is programmed to protect Tony at all costs. After Thanos imprisons the Avengers with magic rock hands from the ground, Arsenal just walks towards him. Thanos -- with control over time and space and so on -- shoots lasers at him. Iron Man explains that Arsenal is able to absorb such a thing. Knowing this, Thanos' strategy is to SHOOT LASERS HARDER because holy shit. Arsenal yoinks the Gauntlet off Thanos' hand, freeing up the Avengers to beat Thanos into mush.

    Then Arsenal becomes Ultron because reasons.

    Oh yeah, there was a digital pinball game based on Infinity Gauntlet too, but I have no idea how to even write that up. I watched footage of people playing it and couldn’t make heads or tails of what the hell is even going on.

    Gavin Jasper will never not love that Impossible Man/Roddy Piper panel. Follow him on Twitter!


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    World of Warcraft's new Island Expeditions may be Battle for Azeroth's greatest draw.

    Preview Matthew Byrd
    Apr 11, 2018

    I haven't played much World of Warcraft since George W. Bush was president, so I went into a hands-on demo at PAX East curious to see how much had changed in Blizzard's MMORPG. What I discovered is that the game's new expansion, Battle for Azeroth, is a great re-entry point for those players who left the game long ago. 

    The first thing I was asked to do when jumping into Battle for Azeroth was to join the Horde or Alliance and prepare for an Island Expedition, the expansion's new three-player cooperative mission mode, which can be played in PvE and 3v3. I, along with two other players, sided with the Horde to face off against three Alliance opponents.

    After quickly customizing our high-ranked characters, we picked a quest and were sent off to one of the game’s new island areas. The exact place we spawned in on that island was randomly determined when we activated the quest. More on that later.

    For now, what you need to know is that Battle for Azeroth’s Island Expeditions require you and two others to mine an island for the new resource, Azerite. This resource is vital to the war effort and can be acquired in a few different ways. The most obvious method is to utilize the on-map “hot spots” and target areas of highly concentrated Azerite supplies, but the resource can be acquired by combating enemies across the map as well.

    Our goal was to acquire 6000 Azerite before the Alliance players we were competing against did the same. How we went about defeating our opponents and the island's monsters was very much up to us.

    That’s where Island Expeditions get very interesting. Expeditions are designed in a way that allows teams to get very creative with how they approach their tasks. You can go after some of the Azerite hot spots, but you might not be prepared for the surprisingly challenging monsters that often guard them. You can hang in the perimeter and challenge lesser beings, but it's a race against the clock, so you might not be able to collectively acquire 6000 Azerite before your potentially bolder opponents manage to do so.

    The WoW team has explained that the build of your party doesn’t have to be perfect - just your strategy and teamwork. In other words, you can approach each island with a balanced party of character types, but it’s entirely possible that three tanks or three healers will devise a way to approach the island’s challenges in a way that takes advantage of their skills. Actually, one of the major themes of Battle for Azeroth is the idea that your hero is more than just another adventurer, both in a gameplay sense and in terms of the game's narrative. 

    "You're a representative in many ways," said World of Warcraft producer Daniel Stahl during our interview. "You are the hero that is being sent to these new continents to deal with the problems that exist for those people in a sense to represent your faction and to represent here's what the Alliance can do for you. Here's what the Horde can do for you. You are that Ambassador in many ways that's going to help the local people in these continents, but you're also gonna strike out and create a foothold on the other continent, and you get to play that role."

    I learned the value of appreciating everyone's role in this world the hard way during my demo. Since I was a little...err...rusty at WoW, and since I was trying to learn a freshly built high-level character, my play was not exactly up to par. That’s a problem because Island Expeditions may accommodate various strategies, but they offer little tolerance for mistakes. Happen upon some elite targets or other high-level monsters without a plan of attack in mind, and you will be wiped before you're able to even glimpse the precious Azerite resources the most powerful creatures guard.

    On top of this, you have the aspects of the expeditions you can't entirely prepare for. I mentioned earlier that your spawn point on whatever island you choose is randomized. I learned that from some members of the Battle for Azeroth design team, who also explained that each Expedition could potentially feature special events or enemy spawns that we might not have seen on our particular playthrough. 

    "The dynamic nature of these islands is that we've created sort of this enemy, these advanced NPC groups," said Stahl. "These are all different places with different creatures, different pitfalls, different traps, there are all kinds of different things there. But the consistency is that you'll understand what you need to do."

    What that means is that it’s going to be quite difficult for even seasoned World of Warcraft players (such as my two demo companions) to form the perfect strategy for every Expedition. There are many variables in play that will require you to think on your feet and, at times, make the best of a bad situation. As Stahl explained, the presence of another team on each island leads to a lot of circumstances where you must react dynamically in order to win. 

    In that sense, Island Expeditions really do feel like the best possible pieces of endgame content that World of Warcraft has to offer. While it's true that WoW has never been short on compelling endgame content, the dynamic nature of these challenges - combined with the various available difficulty levels and PvP specific options - suggests that these islands are going to be very popular among players whose greatest thrill in the game comes from besting the world’s toughest challenges through immaculate teamwork and personal performance.

    Most importantly, Island Expeditions don’t feel quite like any other piece of content in the game. This mode borrows ideas from dungeons, raids, and other quests, but the combination of mechanics, challenges, and rewards offered makes it feel like a refreshing take on the things that make WoWso great in the first place. There's some worry that the basic act of gathering Azerite could become repetitive, but these new adventures are really about finding ways to persevere in difficult and unpredictable situations. The Azerite component feels more like the tie that binds (though collecting the resource could help you in the greater war at play) all of these ideas together.

    "Think of Island Expeditions as that personal scouting method into the conflict," said Stahl "You're going to have skirmishes with the other side and start to get an idea of this conflict is worldwide, right? Every island you go to is representing a different place in that Southsea, so you're showing that this conflict exists everywhere."

    Blizzard has also previously stated that Battle for Azeroth is meant to tap into the Horde vs. Alliance battle that is the heart of the Warcraft series. The expansion will accomplish that through large-scale assaults, a more involved narrative that takes a look at both sides of the battle, and events that will have serious repercussions on the never-ending war. Yet, when we’re talking about returning to the heart of WoW, it is the Island Expeditions that just might remind long-time and returning players of the kind of content that drew them into the game’s persistent online world in the first place. 


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