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    The Terminator? Batman? Godzilla? They were all part of the weird mix in Sega’s Revenge Of Shinobi...

    FeatureRyan Lambie
    May 22, 2018

    This article comes from Den of Geek UK.

    From the output of Cannon Films to the cartoons and comics of those Teenage Turtles, ninjas were all over the place in the 1980s. And while there were lots of other pretenders to the crown, few ninja-themed videogame franchises were as consistently excellent as Sega’s Shinobi.

    The first game emerged in 1987, and it was a methodical yet entertaining action-platformer. Introducing the stealthy hero Joe Musashi, Shinobi was popular enough to spread from the amusement arcade to just about every home system imaginable, including the Nintendo Entertainment System, PC Engine, ZX Spectrum, and Sega’s own Master System. 

    The franchise’s finest hour came in 1989 with Revenge Of Shinobi - one of the Sega Genesis' earliest releases, and a perfect showcase for what the 16-bit console could do. It sees Joe Musashi face off against another evil organisation, and the action this time is far more imaginative and varied; levels take place in traditional Japanese castles, on busy highways, in factories and on the roofs of moving trains. To keep up with the faster pace, Joe’s also more athletic than ever, with a deadly somersault (which allows him to throw eight shuriken across the screen) making short work of rank-and-file enemies.

    To this day, Revenge Of Shinobi remains one of the undisputed classics of Sega’s golden age; an action game that is still addictive and challenging, even if the graphics aren’t exactly cutting edge almost 30 years later. Revenge Of Shinobi also happens to contain some of the most flagrant - and frequent - instances of cheerful copyright infringement in any game in the medium’s history. 

    During his fight against evil, Joe Musashi will encounter John Rambo doppelgangers; a boss that looks uncannily like the Terminator, a giant kaiju clearly modelled after Godzilla, not to mention a heated battle against Spider-Man and Batman. It’s difficult to know exactly what Sega was thinking when it threw all these characters into Revenge Of Shinobis mix; what is clear is that the company quickly figured out that it might get into a spot of legal trouble.

    Over on The Cutting Room Floor - an indispensible site if you like rooting through the data of old videogames - we get to see all the revisions that Sega made to Revenge Of Shinobi in quick succession. While the packaging and cartridge remained the same, the data stored within went through no fewer than four changes during the game’s original release.

    One of the first things to be altered, it seems, was the John Rambo lookalike; the enemy sprite, which in the original version has the same curly black mane of hair and red bandana as the iconic action hero, was altered to a more anonymous, bald henchman in the first revision. 

    The Spider-Man graphics also underwent a subtle change, though interestingly, this was actually to make the character look more like the one in the comic books. This was because, unlike the Rambo, Batman and Godzilla characters, Sega did actually have a license to use Spider-Man - around the same time, Sega had made an official tie-in game featuring Marvel’s webslinger, so the decision was made to include him in Revenge Of Shinobi.

    Quite what Marvel would have made of him playing one of the end-of-level bosses, we can only guess. 

    Sega appeared to run into more problems with the sprites that resembled Batman and Godzilla, however. The game’s second revision makes several changes to the sprites so that the boss - which is obviously modelled on the Caped Crusader, right down to his pointy bat ears and yellow utility belt - into a more monstrous-looking creature with horns, a tail and furry legs like a goat.

    Some have suggested the sprite looks more like the DC comics villain Man-Bat in this revision; others have pointed out the similarity between it and Go Nagai’s Devilman, an anti-hero who’s hugely popular in Japan to this day.

    Japanese players would also have recognised the giant monster at the end of round seven; sure, the pointy fins are missing, but it’s very obviously based on Toho’s Godzilla, perhaps the most famous kaiju of them all.

    In this 2003 interview,Revenge Of Shinobidirector Noyishi Ohba diplomatically describes the beast as a ‘brontosaurus’; this clearly didn’t wash with everyone, because the sprite was changed in a second revision. Essentially, the monster became a giant walking skeleton - Sega clearly figured that, without its skin, Godzilla isn’t really Godzilla anymore. 

    All told, there were four revisions of Revenge Of Shinobi; as Ohba points out, copyright laws weren’t as strictly enforced back in the late '80s, but clearly, Sega was at least somewhat worried about the forces it might unleash. Interestingly, some stuff remained intact.

    Level four’s boss, the one modelled on Arnold Schwarzenegger and the Terminator, remained the same in all versions - he still has the shades, the bulging muscles and the flat-top hair, and when he’s sufficiently damaged, his skin will vanish to reveal the gleaming endoskeleton hiding beneath. Maybe Sega thought that a mash-up of the Terminator and the Hulk (the boss also glows green and throws cars around) would be enough to throw lawyers off the scent.

    Incredibly, subtle changes were being made to Revenge Of Shinobi right up to 2009. For the game’s digital release on the Wii’s Virtual Console, Sega changed the look of Joe Musashi’s eyes in the opening screen. Why? Because, when its artists created that title screen - a piece of artwork that was also used on the game’s Japanese cover - it had essentially lifted a publicity shot from Kage no Gundan, an '80s TV series starring the great Sonny Chiba. 

    It wasn’t unusual for artists to take ‘inspiration’ from film and TV stills in the 80s - see also the covers of the original Metal Gear and Contra - but by 2009, borrowing Sonny Chiba’s likeness was probably considered a bit of a no-no.

    Despite all these changes, Revenge Of Shinobis 80s charm remains intact. In fact, the crazy roster of unlicensed characters just adds to its febrile atmosphere; the game hails from a time when the industry was still comparatively small, when ninjas could do gigantic somersaults, and where you could be fighting Arnold Schwarzenegger in one moment, and the mighty Godzilla the next.


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    Jetpacks finally come to Fortnite as part of this exciting new update.

    News Matthew Byrd
    May 22, 2018

    Fortnite's latest update includes the long-awaited addition of jetpacks. 

    The talk of jetpacks in Fortnite dates back to a data mine leak which first suggested that Epic was preparing to add them to the game. Well, Epic has just confirmed jetpacks will be added to the game as part of the v4.2 patch. As it turns out, jetpacks replace the backpack slot in your inventory. Your equipped jetpack will allow you to fly and hover for brief periods of time, but it will need to be periodically recharged. 

    Jetpacks are fun, but you might want to resist naming yours just yet as they won't be around for long. There's no word on exactly when they will be removed from the game, but short of the possibility that they will be added to Fortnite's full-time roster of items at a later date, they will be gone before long. 

    Jetpacks are available in every game mode, but they're the stars of the new Close Encounters special mode. Close Encounters removes every items and weapon from the game except for jetpacks and shotguns. Perhaps you're starting to understand where the name of the mode comes from. As with many special events, there's no word on how long Close Encounters will run, but the Fortnite team stated it will not be available as soon as the new patch hits. 

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    Interestingly, Close Encounters isn't the only limited event introduced by this patch. 4.2 also revives the Solid Gold mode in the form of Solid Gold V2. For those unfamiliar, Solid Gold turns every weapon drop in the game into a legendary drop. While items like grenades, shotguns, and rockets are largely limited to supply drops, every other weapon found through chests and in the world will be of legendary quality. To compensate for the extra damage going around, players will also be able to stone and metal 50% faster. 

    You can get a better look at everything this latest update includes by reading the official patch notes


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    Gears of War 5 may be on the way. Here's everything we know about the game!

    News Den of Geek Staff
    May 22, 2018

    According to a leak over at Walmart, Gears of War 5 may be on the way. This shouldn't really come as a surprise considering that Gearsis one of the Xbox's flagship franchises.

    Before Gears 4 came out, The Coalition head Rod Ferguson explained to Digital Spy that there would definitely be a Gears of War 5 as long as Gears 4 didn't do "horribly." Here's what he said:

    One of the things that's nice about Microsoft's investment is that we know, unless this does horribly, we're probably going to do another one. That's made it easier to design moving forward. In the past, when we were doing Gears 1Gears 2, and Gears 3, there was a lot of doubt, we didn't know whether there would be another one, so we just had to get everything in right now. Here, we're able to look at it, recognize a great idea that doesn't quite fit right now, but it'll fit in the next one. It's made it a lot easier.

    Gears 4 also ended on a cliffhanger, leaving plenty of room for a sequel to continue to explore the adventures of J.D. and Marcus Fenix. 

    The Walmart leak also included Rage 2, Borderlands 3, a new Splinter Cell game, Just Cause 4, a new Assassin's Creed game, Lego DC Villains, and more. None of these games, including Gears of War 5, have been confirmed by their respective studios yet, so take this report with a pinch of salt.

    There is some validity to the report, however. Just a week after Rage 2 was leaked, Bethesda confirmed that the title is indeed in development. This could bode well for the rest of the report, which means we may very well see a Gears of War 5 reveal at E3 2018!

    Here's everything else we know about the game:

    Gears of War 5 Release Date

    Gears of War 5 doesn't have a release date at the moment and hasn't been officially confirmed. It's possible that the game will be revealed at E3 2018. If we had to make an educated guess, we'd have to see that we probably won't be playing this game until 2019 at the earliest. After all, Gears 4 arrives in late 2016, which means that The Coalition has been working on the sequel for less than two years at this point. 


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    Why didn't one of the most beloved strategy games ever get a sequel? Final Fantasy Tactics' director answers that question.

    News Matthew Byrd
    May 22, 2018

    Yasumi Matsuno, director of the beloved strategy game Final Fantasy Tactics, has revealed that there was once a direct sequel to the game in development.

    The reveal came during a recent live stream in which Matsuno played through some of Final Fantasy Tactics and shared some information on the game's development. During that stream, he confirmed that the Final Fantasy Tactics team once began development on a direct sequel (unsurprisingly titled Final Fantasy Tactics 2). According to Matsuno, the plan was to convert Final Fantasy Tactics' 3D graphics to a more 2D style that utilized a hexagonal map. Some of the art that Matsuno showed of the sequel during its development phase reveals exactly what this new visual style would have looked like.

    Matsuno suggested that new art style contributed to the decision to cancel the sequel. While he didn't go into details, it seems that Square Enix - which was then known as Squaresoft - disagreed with the direction of the sequel and squabbled with Matsuno over whether they should outsource the development of the game. Matsuno left the end of that story hanging a bit, which has led some to believe that there was more behind the decision to cancel the sequel than he is willing to disclose.

    Regardless, this news does shed a little light on why we never got a proper Final Fantasy Tactics sequel despite the fact that the game sold reasonably well and has been re-released many times over. There's always a chance that Square Enix will revisit the series, but we can't imagine the circumstances that would prompt them to do so after years of refusing to release a direct sequel. 

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    That wasn't all that Matsuno's live stream featured. During that same stream, he and some of the other people who worked on Tactics also played a little Final Fantasy XIVand took a stab at the Return to Ivalice raid. The world of Ivalice is quite significant to the Final Fantasy Tactics team as they created it. Since then, it has been featured in titles like Vagrant Story, Final Fantasy XII, and Crystal Defenders

    What a treat it would be to see the Tactics team return to that world once more. 


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    Sony is preparing its investors (and gamers everywhere) for the end of the PlayStation 4

    News Matthew Byrd
    May 22, 2018

    Sony Interactive Entertainment CEO John Kodera recently said that the era of the PlayStation 4 might be coming to an end. 

    That information comes from Wall Street Journal reporter Takashi Mochizuki who is quoting Kodera - via translation - as stating "(PlayStation 4) [is] finally entering the end of the console lifecycle" during a recent Sony corporate strategy meeting. On top of that, he notes that Kodera mentioned that this move "would have negative impact to the unit, but recurring revenue via membership services etc should cushion some of that." Kodera also said that "the period until March 2021 would be when PlayStation to 'crouch down once' to grow further in the future."

    The first part of the quote is easy enough to dissect. The overwhelmingly popular theory at the moment is that Sony will unveil the PlayStation 5 at E3 2019 if they don't do so before then. While Kodera doesn't seem to be calling for the immediate end of the PlayStation 4, his statement does seem to confirm that Sony has the end of the PS4's life in sight. 

    Kodera's statements regarding recurring revenue and the PlayStation crouching down are a bit more interesting. It seems that Sony is expecting many gamers to continue using their PlayStation 4s - and PlayStation Plus memberships - to play certain PS4 games like GTA V. The hope seems to be that such revenue will make the generational transition a bit smoother. As for what he means by PlayStation crouching down to grow in the future...well, that's a bit more puzzling, but it could just be as simple as him restating that there may be a slight dip in overall revenue when the PlayStation 5 is introduced before it catches up to the PlayStation 4's current level of success.

    During that same meeting, Kodera noted that the PSVR is growing, but that it's not growing quite as fast as some in the market thought it might. He also stated that the PS Vue service is facing harder-than-expected competition. They're seemingly adjusting their expectations for both. 

    Interestingly, Kodera doubled down on an earlier report regarding Sony investing more in first party developers by saying that PlayStation gamers can expect more exclusives titles for PlayStation platforms. 


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    The latest Overwatch update is a celebration of every Overwatch event released so far.

    News Matthew Byrd
    May 22, 2018

    Overwatch's latest patch includes the anticipated arrival of the Overwatch Anniversary 2018 event. 

    Among the many updates this patch features is the new Deathmatch map, Petra. Petra sees Deathmatch players battle at an excavation site while avoiding a rather ingeniously placed collapsable floor that drops into a pit. On top of that, there's a new competitive FFA Deathmatch mode that features placement matches, ratings, leaderboards, and more. Petra is not playable outside of casual and competitive Deathmatch, and this update does not include the official introduction of the Rialto map that is currently playable on the game's PTR servers. 

    Fans of Overwatchcharacter skins are in luck as this new event not only introduces eight new legendary skins - and three new epic skins - but allows players to purchase every skin from every event in Overwatch history. Past skins are available at base prices (meaning that old legendary skins cost 1,000 coins) while all new skins are selling for the inflated price used for new events (meaning that new legendary skins cost 3,000 coins). Those past character skins can also be unlocked via the game's loot boxes if you don't already own them. There's also a guaranteed legendary skin in every free loot box that you get just for logging in during the event. 

    On the competitive side of things, the latest Overwatch patch includes a few character changes that should help improve some recent imbalances. For instance, Ana has received a long-awaited buff that raises her ammo count from 10 to 14 and allows her projectiles to go through allies that are already at full health (meaning they can no longer block her shots if they have no benefit to the player). Meanwhile, new character Brigitte has received a nerf that decreases the maximum armor her teammates can receive (from 150 to 100) and increases the cooldown on her Shield Bash ability from 5 seconds to 6 seconds. Finally, Hanzo's new Storm Arrows ability has been nerfed slightly as arrows now deal 70 damage (down from 80). 

    If you're interested in the full patch notes, you can find them over on the Overwatch website

    While there's nothing unexpected in this patch - the character skins were leaked just ahead of its official release - many of the new skins are impressive and the addition of a competitive Deathmatch mode might prove to be the sleeper hit of this update. 


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    Your latest excuse to buy LEGO sets and Nerf guns comes courtesy of Overwatch's product expansion.

    News Matthew Byrd
    May 22, 2018

    Overwatch LEGO sets and Nerf guns are on the way following new franchise partnerships between Activision Blizzard and major toy manufacturers. 

    Details are vague on both of these deals - which means that we sadly don't have any photos to share - but it seems that the LEGO deal will eventually lead to the creation of miniatures based on iconic Overwatch characters. It's also entirely possible that this deal will lead to the release of entire LEGO sets that will allow you to recreate Overwatch levels and weapons. Unfortunately, neither party has confirmed the extent of the agreement meaning that we can only speculate what awesome LEGO sets this arrangement will result in. 

    The Nerf deal is even more intriguing, if also annoyingly vague at this time. What we can tell you is that Nerf guns modeled after Overwatchweapons are being manufactured as part of the successful Nerf Rivals line of products. That line was introduced in 2015 and has already included guns based on popular properties like Deadpooland Star Wars. Most of the Rivals items shoot miniature rubber balls, so you should expect the Overwatch-brand items to do the same. 

    More information regarding the Overwatch LEGO sets should come sometime later this year, while the Overwatch Nerf line is expected to debut in 2019. 

    In other Overwatch product news, Activision Blizzard has also struck a deal with clothing apparel manufacturer, Uniqlo. The apparel associated with that deal is expected to debut as part of Uniqlo's Spring and Summer 2018 collection. Uniqlo is certainly no stranger to the world of video games as they previously partnered with Nintendo to produce a line of products based on the company's many popular franchises. 

    These deals are just the latest in a long line of agreements that demonstrate just how much the Overwatch brand has grown. Reports indicate that the game's player count hit the 40 million mark ahead of the recently released second-anniversary event, and the Overwatch League Championship is expected to draw quite a crowd at Barclay's Center in Brooklyn, NY.


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    Fortnite and PUBG are two of the hottest games in the world, but which battle royale experience is best?

    Feature Matthew Byrd
    May 22, 2018

    In many ways, it can be hard to distinguish what makes Fortnite and PUBG unique experiences. Both are battle royale titles in which 100 players duke it out on a big map until there's only one survivor still standing. Both games also offer the option to play solo or as part of a squad. You can find special modes in each game, they're incredibly popular among streamers, and they both so happen to be among the most successful games in recent memory.  

    For all of their similarities, though, PUBG and Fortnite are actually quite different. In fact, for as much as people like to joke about a future where every game features a battle royale mode -- just look at the new Call of Duty game -- these two titles prove that there's enough room in the genre for a variety of experiences and innovations. 

    But you're not here for that. What you want to know is whether or not you should be playing Fortnite or PUBG. That's a tough question that isn't made any easier by the quality of both games. There's a reason that millions of people have devoted most of their playtime to one of these titles. 

    At the end of the day, though, there must be a recommendation. With that in mind, here is what you need to know about PUBG and Fortnite to determine which game is the one for you.

    Gameplay

    Fortnite

    Fortnite is a fast and furious battle royale title that is perhaps best described as an evolution of the arena shooter genre. Speed is arguably the most important skill a Fortnite player can have. Players have to be able to quickly craft stairs and walls, switch between weapons, and think fast enough to manage it all. Even picking up items requires you to quickly manage what you do and do not need. Standing still is sometimes an option, but sniping isn’t quite as effective as a long-term strategy. Your health is also important, but you can recover it fast enough if you’re not absolutely surrounded.

    PUBG

    PUBG is a battle royale game by way of the military shooter genre. When you drop into one of the game’s maps, you’ll need to hurry and find the best items available. That said, unless you drop into a highly-populated area, you’re actually encouraged to take your time and analyze the situation. Deliberate tactics are what rule the day. That includes the ability to recognize the best position on the map and move towards it in anticipation of where the play area will be. Of course, if you do jump into a high-traffic area, be prepared to put your shooting skills to the test.

    Platforms and Price

    Fortnite

    Fortnite is currently available on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Microsoft Windows, iOS, and Mac operating systems. The game runs very well on all devices - even iOS - and offers crossplay between nearly every combination of devices besides the Xbox One and the PlayStation 4. The game is even coming to Android sometime in the summer of 2018. The game is free-to-play across all platforms but does offer quite a few opportunities for in-game purchases. Generally speaking, character skins are more of a culture in Fortnite than they are in PUBG. That means you might want to grind for them or try to buy them.   

    PUBG

    PUBG is currently only available for PC, Xbox One, Android, and iOS. While it is possible to play the game on Mac computers, there is no official way to do so at this time. There’s been no indication that the game will come to PlayStation 4 in the near future, either. At present, the preferred way to play PUBG is on PC. The game’s Xbox One version suffers from technical issues, control problems, and a comparative lack of updates. While the title is playable on Android and iOS, neither version offers the full experience. PUBG is free-to-play on mobile devices but costs $29.99 on PC and Xbox One.

    Graphics

    Fortnite

    Fortnite isn’t the most visually impressive game on the market, but it is one of the most visually appealing shooters out there. The game’s colorful levels and wonky area design are in stark contrast to the vast majority of battle royale games out there. Fortnite visuals remind us of what would happen if you took the imagination of a child when they’re playing with their action figures and projected it on a screen. While some of the open-air areas in Fortnite are a little bland, the game’s firefights invoke memories of New Year’s Eve firework displays no matter where you are.

    PUBG

    PUBG goes for a more realistic visual style - much like the rest of the game - which isn’t a bad thing. The problem is that PUBG’s visuals are kind of...bland. If you’re playing PUBG on a high-end computer with a great internet connection, you may occasionally encounter a moment of technical beauty. Otherwise, PUBG’s visuals are somewhat muddy and uninspiring. Granted, that is very much an intentional design decision given the playstyle and mood of the game, but don’t expect to feel inspired by PUBG’s visuals and do expect to be occasionally put off by them.

    Sound Design

    Fortnite

    Sound design is one of Fornite's weakest elements (at least in terms of its competition). That’s not to say that the sound in the game is bad - everything functions largely as it should - but there’s little in the game that makes you go “wow” when you hear it. Sound is also not that important to the game’s combat, as you’re likely to get a visual indication of where an enemy is before you need a sound to tip you off. During the game’s quiet moments, you may find yourself wishing that the game had a few more exciting sound cues.

    PUBG

    PUBG’s sound design is one of the best in video game history. While that certainly speaks to the quality of the game’s individual sounds - that’s especially true of the game’s gun effects - it has more to do with how sound factors into the overall experience. An enemy’s gunshot can tell you where they are, what they have, and what they are trying to do. Figuring out how to read every sound is key to truly mastering the game. PUBG’s sound design is one of those aspects of the game that never fails to impress.

    Weapons and Items

    Fortnite

    Fortnite’s assortment of weapons and items is somewhat odd. While the rest of the game is crazy and sometimes cartoonish, most of the game’s weapons are based on real-world guns. That’s not to say that you can’t do things in the game like launch a portable fort or ride a rocket across the map, but most of the game’s action revolves around shotguns and assault rifles. Weapon management in Fortnite boils down to ensuring that you have access to a variety of weapons and items that will allow you to stand your ground in just about every situation.

    PUBG

    Unsurprisingly, PUBG features quite a few recreations of real-world weapons. Unlike Fortnite, though, where a variety of weapons are needed to succeed, there’s more of a hierarchy in PUBG’s arsenal. Melee weapons are basically useless, pistols aren’t much better, and even shotguns can be incredibly situational. What you really want is a good assault rifle with top-tier weapon attachments and a variety of scopes. It’s also much harder to win in PUBG if you don’t manage to loot some level three armor by the time that the player count is reduced to a handful of survivors.

    Vehicles

    Fortnite

    The only vehicles currently in Fortnite are the party bus that you use to fly into each match and your customizable glider that helps you zip from area to area. Outside of that, Fortnite is surprisingly vehicle-free. Epic has stated that it has no immediate plans to add vehicles to the game. The studio's stance on the matter likely has something to do with how vehicles might affect the flow of the game. At present, Fortnite’s fast and furious playstyle is at least partially derived from the game’s insistence that players traverse on foot and the smaller, more contained nature of the game’s areas and map.

    PUBG

    PUBG players have the ability to traverse maps in cars, boats, bikes, buggies, and more. Vehicles are a huge part of the PUBG experience, which is somewhat surprising given how the game really emphasizes a “boots on the ground” military approach. The trade-off with vehicles is that they offer a way to zip from point to point across PUBG’s large maps, but they also leave you vulnerable to gunfire from just about every angle. Vehicles are a big “come shoot me” sign you wear around your neck, but they’re also often essential to victory (especially when playing with squads).

    Maps

    Fortnite

    At the moment, Fortnite only offers one battle royale map. That might sound like a bad thing, but Fortnite’s lack of multiple maps has actually proven to be one of the developer’s best design decisions so far. In lieu of creating many multiplayer maps, Epic has elected to modify the existing map in surprising ways. From a long-awaited comet that ended up drastically altering certain areas of the game’s world to occasional Easter eggs and treasure hunts, Fortnite map is constantly evolving. At the same time, the map is familiar enough to make you feel like you’re coming home every time you boot the game up.

    PUBG

    On PC, PUBG allows players to queue into one of three maps (Erangel, Miramar, and Savage). Mobile players will be able to access Erangel and Miramar, while Xbox One players are currently only able to play on Erangel. Each of PUBG’s maps emphasizes a different style of play. Miramar is more open and encourages sniping (while offering less hiding options), Savage is smaller and leads to more gunfights, while Erangel is something of a middle-ground. The maps themselves are generally well-designed - opinions on Miramar vary wildly - and there’s certainly something to be said for the visual and gameplay variety they offer.

    Special Modes

    Fortnite

    One of Fortnite's greatest contributions to the battle royale genre is the way that developer Epic has emphasized the value of special modes and events. Fortnite regularly features special events that allow players to do everything from participating in 50 vs. 50 battles to the recent Infinity Gauntlet challenge that allowed players to assume control of Thanos. The latter event showed the reach of Fortnite’s popularity and the potential of its basic premise. All things considered, Fortnite is still the best battle royale game for timed events.

    PUBG

    The PUBG team was late to the game in terms of special events and it's been trying to make up ground ever since. While PUBG’s events aren’t quite as exciting or creative as those in Fortnite - due partially to the broader themes of FortnitePUBG has featured a few events that some actually prefer to the base game. For instance, the recent War Mode - a PUBG variant on team deathmatch - was so well-received that many feel it should be added to the game permanently. Still, PUBG has a long way to go before it catches up to Fortnite in this respect.

    Stability/Hackers

    Fortnite

    Fortnite has proven to be a remarkably stable game for such a popular title. While server downtime and spikes in performance quality are certainly not unheard of, most people who hop into a Fortnite game are going to encounter an optimal experience. As for hackers...well, they exist. Fortnite’s PC version suffers from hackers just like most other popular competitive PC games do. Most concerning are the reports of entire accounts being hacked and used to steal personal information, but it’s not clear how widespread those attacks really are.

    PUBG

    PUBG has long suffered from performance issues. Those issues stem from the game’s true early access launch. That is to say that the PUBGteam didn’t really anticipate that the game would become such a massive hit as quickly as it did. Since the spike in popularity, the PUBG development team has been scrambling to improve the game’s general stability. The PC version has benefited greatly from those efforts, but the Xbox One version of the game is still miles behind. PUBG hackers are also quite active, but recent crackdowns have ensured that most of them are just trying to win high-level matches rather than steal player information.

    Skill Level

    Fortnite

    If you want to be a top Fortnite player, you need to learn to craft on the fly. The best Fortnite players are able to instantly recognize what they should craft in order to protect themselves and secure a better position. That isn’t to say that aiming isn’t important in Fortnite, but rather that the game’s arcade/arena shooting style means that there are more spray and pray opportunities here than in other games. That also means that Fortnite is slightly more welcoming to lower-skill players. Still, there’s a big difference between an average Fortniteplayer and a great Fortniteplayer.

    PUBG

    PUBG is arguably a more mechanically demanding game than Fortnite. At least that’s true of certain “traditional” shooting game skills, such as precision aiming. While you’ll occasionally have the opportunity to go full auto against your enemies in PUBG, most battles are done from at least a decent distance. That means that you’ll need to be able to pull off some perfect shots in order to kill the enemy before you give away your position. However, PUBG’s lack of a crafting system also means that players get to focus almost entirely on loot management and shooting. Depending on your personal preferences/skills, that might actually make it an easier game to master.

    Success/Popularity

    Fortnite

    Fortnite is currently recognized by many as the most popular game in the world. The last playerbase estimate suggests that around 45 million people play Fortnite. Part of its success can be attributed to its availability on PlayStation 4, its free-to-play status, and the general quality of its console and mobile versions. Despite being a free-to-play title, Fortnite brings in a ton of revenue every month. For instance, Fortnite brought in an estimated $125 million in February 2018 (largely through microtransactions and special edition purchases). That number is likely even higher when the game is promoting a special event or a change in competitive seasons.

    PUBG

    PUBG was the runaway hit of 2017. To date, the game has sold over 30 million copies on PC alone and has broken almost every concurrent player count record on Steam. It's also recognized as the game that helped revitalize the genre. The game made over $700 million in 2017 and continues to be a hit no matter how you measure it. However, PUBG is losing ground to Fortnite. The game’s concurrent player count is dropping on Steam, PUBG isn’t nearly as popular as it once was across streaming channels, and the game’s monthly revenue has recently been surpassed by Fortnite. It remains to be seen if PUBG will be able to catch up to Fortnite.

    What Makes It “Fun?”

    Fortnite

    The fun of Fortnite is derived largely from the insanity of the experience. From its colorful visuals to the absurdity of some of its items, Fortnite is not a game that takes itself seriously but can be taken seriously by those who wish to become great at the game. Regardless, it’s perfectly possible to enjoy yourself in Fortnitewithout fretting about your skill level or even “winning.” The act of watching a match unfold and doing your best to win - or just mess around with your friends - while the chaos ensues is good enough to guarantee you’ll enjoy playing the game.

    PUBG

    The joy of PUBG is derived almost entirely from the inescapable tension that the game offers. If you enjoy playing horror games, you’ll likely instantly recognize the appeal of PUBG. There’s something to be said for jumping into a high-traffic area in the game and shooting your way to victory, but most matches require you to navigate through thick layers of tension as you try to locate the enemy, stay alive as the play area closes, and sneak in a few kills. People aren’t jumping around and dancing in PUBG - there’s sadly no dancing at all - but the stories each match generates never fail to entertain.

    Which Is Right for You?

    The diplomatic - and technically correct - answer is that these are both very different games and that you should try them both. The much more amusing and helpful answer is that you should try Fortnite first. 

    Not only is Fortnite the most popular game in the world, but as a free-to-play battle royale title, it's a great way to determine whether or not you're interested in the battle royale genre in the first place. The game's rapid action, colorful style, and regular updates also make it more accessible to a wider array of gamers. It certainly doesn't hurt that the game is well-optimized across a variety of platforms. 

    However, there are many gamers who are simply going to enjoy PUBG more. As a grounded military shooter, PUBG is better able to utilize the tension of the battle royale "last man standing" scenario. It's also a game that places more emphasis on mechanics such as aiming, bullet drop distance, and the survival aspects of the battle royale concept.

    So in the end...yeah, there's room enough for both of these popular games. However, we recommend you start with Fortnite


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    Grab your John Wick skin and shotgun because competitive Fortnite play is about to become very lucrative.

    News Matthew Byrd
    May 22, 2018

    Epic is contributing a $100 million prize pool to the first year of Fortnite eSports competitions. 

    That's a big number that's made all the more impressive by the fact that there's still some doubt regarding whether or not Fortnite will succeed as an eSport. Fortniteis certainly popular - it's arguably the most popular game in the world - but the Battle Royale genre has had some trouble finding a foothold in the world of eSports. Simply put, it's not easy to get 100 professional players in the same room to compete at the same time while casters and cameras easily relay the action.

    There are plenty of reasons to believe that Fortnite will break that trend, though. First off, that massive $100 million prize pool will surely attract some of the best Fortniteplayers and teams in the world. There are already Fortnite teams emerging across the globe and the best Fortnite players are beginning to distinguish themselves from the pack. Somewhere near the top of that list is popular streamer Ninja who has already distinguished himself at several Fortnitetournaments. Of course, he might end up taking a bit of a pay cut if he focuses too much on competitive Fortnite play. 

    Epic also probably isn't sweating the $100 million contribution considering that Fortnite is reportedly earning well over $100 million every month. Expect that number to grow if Fortnite's eSports scene explodes. 

    At present, there's no word on how the money will be divided amongst the unknown number of competitions that will make up the upcoming season of Fortnite competitive play. Still, it's safe to expect that there are many big money Fortnitetournaments on the way. 

    Interested in winning a little of that money yourself? Well, there's no better path to the money than actually starting to play Fortnite. So far as that goes, we've recently looked at the differences between Fortnite and PUBG in order to help you determine which of the crown princes of the Battle Royale kingdom is the game for you. Take a look at it before you realize that Fortnite is currently being dominated by players not yet old enough to drive to pick up their prize money. 


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    Pokemon Go prepares for the summer with the addition of these new evolutions.

    News Matthew Byrd
    May 22, 2018

    Pokemon Go is adding Alolan forms of Kanto Pokemon from Pokemon Sun and Moon.

    As the sunny days of summer approaches, Pokemon Gowill soon feature the Alolan variants of some of the Pokemon currently in the game. For those unfamiliar, the Alolan forms are additional evolutions that some of the original 151 Pokemon could achieve in Pokemon Sun and Moon. While developer Niantic doesn't reveal which Alolan variants are being added to the game, it's pretty clear from the teaser image they released that Diglett, Meowth, Vulpix, Exeggutor, Raichu, and Rattata will be included as part of the update.

    The wording of the statement from Niantic suggests that the Alolan versions of these Pokemon will replace the current versions of the creatures rather than serve as entirely new Pokemon to catch. We'd be surprised if this update didn't feature a few more pieces of content than just some new Pokemon skins, but since Niantic isn't dishing the details, we're left to wonder what else is coming to the game.

    In the meantime, check out this list of Aloa Pokemon to see which variants you might soon spot in the Pokemon Go wild.

    In other Pokemon Go news, Niantic has made the bold decision to once again host a Pokemon Go festival in Chicago. The reason that decision is so bold has something to do with the fact that the last Pokemon Go festival in Chicago was a disaster. A combination of network issues, game bugs, and irate fans led to everyone who attended the festival getting a refund and some in-game currency for their trouble.

    Niantic CEO John Hanke spoke with IGN about the troubles of last year's festival and promised that this year's Chicago event - now called Pokemon Go Fest: A Walk in the Park - will feature an array of improvements designed to combat the issues that plagued last year's celebration. It remains to be seen whether those who remember the troubles of the previous event find it in themselves to give this one a shot.


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    Super Mario Bros: The Movie is 25 years old. Here are some notable things about it...

    FeatureRyan Lambie
    May 23, 2018

    Adapting any art form into a movie presents a tricky proposition. It is, after all, easy to fall into the trap of being too reverential to the source material. Whether it happens to be a play, novel, or old television show you're making into a feature film, there has to be an element of invention, of reworking the source material into something that stands on its own as a piece of entertainment and - dare we say it - art.

    This would go some way to explaining why the 1993 feature-length adaptation of Nintendo's hit video game series only vaguely resembles the property on which it was meant to be based. Released in a busy summer season - one dominated by another flick with dinosaurs in it, Jurassic Park- Super Mario Bros. was a critical and financial flop.

    Made for a lavish $48 million (just $15 million less than Jurassic Parkcost to make), its $20-or-so million returns were surely grim reading for its investors. And given the talent involved, from its actors (Bob Hoskins, John Leguizamo, Dennis Hopper) to its filmmakers, exactly why it all went wrong is something of a mystery.

    Join us, then, as we dig into this frequently maligned film, to see if we can find a few remarkable things to report about it...

    It's Surprisingly Murky

    For the army of kids who played Super Mario Bros. through the 80s and 90s, setting eyes on the movie adaptation must have been a bizarre childhood moment. The blue skies, cartoon landscape, and bouncy effervescence of the game are nowhere to be seen. Instead, there are animatronic dinosaurs, long shadows, and strange hints of sexual menace.

    As in the game, Mario and Luigi are a pair of Italian American plumbers based in Brooklyn. They're played, respectively, by Bob Hoskins and John Leguizamo. Unlike The Super Mario Bros. Super Show, a late-80s/early 90s attempt to turn the video game into a sitcom, the movie makes no attempt to replicate the colors of the game or its suggestions of cartoon humor. Instead, Mario's a sullen, somewhat cynical middle-aged man, while Luigi is in his 20s, idealistic and oddly fascinated with pseudo-scientific TV shows.

    The plot sees Mario and Luigi drawn into an alternate universe created by the meteorite that killed the dinosaurs 65 million years ago. This meteor, we learn, formed a parallel Earth where a few dinosaurs survived and evolved into cold-blooded humanoids. Princess Daisy (Samantha Mathis) is one of their reptilian number, and she's been kidnapped by Iggy and Spike (Fisher Stevens and Richard Edson respectively), the underlings of the evil King Koopa (Dennis Hopper).

    Koopa, who rules over the dystopian city of Dinohattan, hopes to use Princess Daisy and her meteorite fragment necklace to fuse the two parallel dimensions together, and conquer the realm of humans. Needless to say, it's up to Mario and Luigi to head into the lizard dimension to stop him.

    The story's actually a bit more complicated than this, and there's all sorts of stuff in here about fungus and reptiles and resources. Really, though, the movie's more about spectacle than story, with directors Rocky Morton and Annabel Jankel (previously of Max Headroom and D.O.A fame) seemingly more interested in exploring the gigantic dark sets they had constructed in a disused cement factory in North Carolina.

    Here, lizard women push their eggs down the street in pushchairs, street vendors sell fried salamanders in bread rolls, and neon King Koopa propaganda posters glower down from skyscrapers. It looks less Mushroom Kingdom and more Blade Runner noir.

    Bob Hoskins Didn't Know He Was Making a Video Game Movie

    There's a lot to be said for researching a role before you sign up to play it. Legend has it that Bob Hoskins had no idea that Super Mario Bros. was based on a video game when he agreed to take the lead - it was only later, when his son happened to ask what he was working on, that the truth was revealed.

    The late Hoskins, who later admitted that he took the part for the money, would soon have his hopes of an easy pay check thwarted. In a rather tight-lipped interview on Entertainment Tonight in 1993, Hoskins said, "If you're going to survive this film, you're going to have to be very, very careful [...] I got stabbed four times. Electrocuted. Broke a finger. Nearly got drowned. And that's just what happened to me..."

    These Rasputin-like brushes with death were only a small part of the grim things going on behind the scenes. The directors' desire to make a dark fantasy clashed with what investors' had in mind - namely, a cute family movie. A creative tug-of-war ensued, in which the script was repeatedly rewritten, often while scenes were actually being shot.

    In the nightmare of sets being built and torn down, accidents happened. It was John Leguizamo who reportedly broke Hoskins' finger when a van driving sequence went wrong. Hoskins was forced to wear a flesh-colored plaster cast for the rest of the shoot - look carefully, and you'll spot Hoskins' frozen, plastered-up hand in some scenes.

    Leguizamo and Hoskins apparently found the production so depressing, they'd frequently drink between takes to relieve the tension. Years later, memories of Super Mario Bros. are still emotionally charged - even after almost two decades, the late Hoskins still counted the movie as his worst professional experience.

    Mario's Last Name Is Mario

    Not long after Mario and Luigi arrive in Dinohattan, they're arrested by the Police, who drive squad cars that look like something out of Mad Max. It's when they're hauled down to the precinct that we learn Mario's last name, which is, imaginatively, Mario. Exactly why the screenwriters bothered adding this detail in isn't clear - it's not even written in as a gag, like that episode of The Simpsons, where Homer goes on a quest to find out what the 'J' in his middle name stands for.

    It's one symptom, perhaps, of Super Mario Bros.' nightmarish pre-production, where different writers were brought in to have a go at sculpting the script. The first, which imagined Super Mario as a straight fairytale fantasy movie along the lines of The Wizard of Oz or Shrek, was abandoned when original director Greg Beeman was replaced by Rocky Morton and Annabel Jankel.

    Two other drafts were written by Dick Clement and Ian la Frenais - the writing duo famed for TV shows such as Porridge, and movies including The Commitmentsand Flushed Away. Their drafts were darker and more action-packed, and one even included a cameo from Bruce Willis, who would have been glimpsed in John McClane mode, crawling around a duct in Koopa's lair.

    It was Clement and la Frenais' script which attracted much of the acting talent - particularly Hopper, Hoskins, and Fiona Shaw, who plays Koopa's evil muse. Unfortunately for them, Clement and la Frenais were soon replaced by a new writing duo, and the script gradually mutated out of all recognition as the production went on. Willis had a lucky escape.

    An Old Lady Is Thrown Off a Balcony

    Whether you approve of the direction Super Mario Bros.' makers took with the Nintendo property or not, it has to be said that some of the ideas in the resulting movie are quite interesting. Taken on its own terms rather than a video game adaptation, it's a weird, often surprising jumble of bickering humor and grungy action, complete with car chases and outlandish shootouts.

    It has to be said, though, that nobody involved seems particularly interested in the property's origins. It's even said that the directors had the desire to make a parallel universe fantasy movie before they took Super Mario Bros. on, and simply adapted the property's characters to fit their pre-existing ideas. This might explain why the characters bear no resemblance to the (immediately sketchy) ones in the video game, with King Koopa (otherwise known as Bowser) now a half-human, half lizard instead of a monstrous turtle with a shock of red hair.

    Similarly, the game's cheerful mushroom fellow Toad is a busker played by Mojo Dixon in the movie, and later turned into a Goomba (here imagined as a breed of shrunken-headed reptiles). Yoshi, the adorable dinosaur sidekick who first appeared in 1990's Super Mario World, makes an appearance here as a realistic yet still quite cute animatronic lizard who could have wandered in off the set of Jurassic Park. Even Mario and Luigi spend much of the film in a selection of hooded tops and baggy trousers - it's not until well past the half-way point that they finally get to don their more familiar red and green overalls.

    Bertha is perhaps the most outlandish character adaptation in the whole movie. In Super Mario Bros. 3, Big Berthas are giant red fish. In the movie, Bertha's a large-framed woman who possesses uncanny physical strength. In one of the film's more surprising moments, she picks up an old lady who threatens Mario and Luigi, and throws her over a balcony like a rag doll.

    By this point, one begins to wonder what would have happened if the directors had adapted Alice in Wonderland as a dark dystopia instead. The Mad Hatter probably would have been a crack dealer played by Harvey Keitel or something.

    Koopa Tries to Seduce Princess Daisy

    Following his astonishingly unfettered performance in Blue Velvet, we struggled to watch a subsequent movie starring Dennis Hopper in quite the same way. So when Hopper shows up in a movie with a family rating in a low-lit room with Princess Daisy, we're nervously wondering when he's going to start yelling, "Mommeee," or "Don't look at me!"

    Actually, what happens is only slightly less disturbing. With Princess Daisy holed up in Koopa's lair (which appears to be a parallel universe version of the Twin Towers, if we're not mistaken), Hopper drinks a few shots of alcohol and starts making all sorts of discomforting comments. "You're so fresh, so clean," he hisses. "...you know what they say about little girls, don't you? They never forget their first kiss from a lizard..."

    Just when we thought the scene couldn't possibly get any creepier, Koopa lolls his long, lizard tongue around suggestively, while the princess looks on in horror. It's likely that Samantha Mathis didn't have to pretend to be frightened in this scene.

    Yoshi Is Stabbed

    As if Dennis Hopper's CG-assisted seduction of Princess Daisy wasn't enough to freak out the under-10s in the audience, a late scene in which the princess is attacked by a knife-wielding Lina (Fiona Shaw) would probably have had them weeping into their popcorn. As Yoshi helps Princess Daisy escape by tripping up Lina with his massive tongue, the latter stabs the poor little creature in the back.

    It's a surprisingly cruel moment, even leaving aside the fact that, in one of the weirder collisions of pop culture, it's Harry Potter's Petunia Dursley sticking a knife into one of video gaming's most adorable characters. It's a bit like seeing Jon Pertwee setting fire to Bagpuss, or Sean Bean throttling E.T.

    Mario and Luigi Go to a Nightclub

    It used to be an unwritten rule in the 80s and early-90s that all films had to contain a scene set in a strip joint or seedy nightclub. True to form, Mario and Luigi put on a pair of gaudy suits and head to a dingy night spot, where scantily-clad dancers cavort to the Divinyl's cover of "Love Is the Drug."

    As if all the leather and tights weren't incongruous enough in a family movie, we're then treated to the edifying sight of Mario doing the bump n' grind with Bertha, as he attempts to seduce her into giving up the meteorite fragment/necklace thing she stole earlier.

    If the scene has a decidedly kinky, 90s vibe as it stands, an earlier cut of the nightclub sequence would have seen Iggy and Spike clamber on stage to perform a rap song. A production photograph shows actors Richard Edson and Fisher Stevens joined on stage by a dancer in a decidedly PG-13-unfriendly outfit - which is possibly why the scene was cut. In case you were wondering what the rap was like, here's a sample of the lyrics, courtesy of SMB Movie:

    Well, we just met two plumbers who had an idea.
    They showed us the light and new frontier.
    Mario and Luigi - they know what's right.
    We gotta take a stand and put up a fight!

    Bob-omb Is Actually Quite Cute

    In a film in which we've already seen Yoshi stabbed and Princess Daisy menaced by Dennis Hopper, we were beginning to wonder whether any of the video game series' childlike whimsy had survived the transition. And then, somewhere around the 80 minute mark, a Bob-omb shows up - and for once, it looks almost exactly like its counterpart in the game. It's simply a little wind-up bomb with eyes, and looks adorably hand-made - like something from a Michel Gondry film.

    For a brief moment, as the little device trundles along the ground causing panic (its destructive power being far greater than its diminutive size implies), the sense of cruelty and cynicism lurking in the rest of the film briefly disappears. But then you happen to notice that the Bob-omb's wearing Reebok trainers...

    BTW, Den of Geek is Giving Away a $50 Mario-themed GameStop Gift Card Along with Some Cool Mario Beauty Products!

    There's a Cameo from the Super Scope

    TheSuper Mario Bros. movie may have made only passing references to its video game source, but one particular Nintendo product did make a brief yet prominent cameo appearance. The Nintendo Super Scope was the company's next-gen replacement for its NES Zapper lightgun. Because of Nintendo's sensitivity over guns and violence, it decided to make the Super Scope look less like a pistol, and more like some sort of shoulder-mounted mid-point between a bazooka and a periscope.

    This ungainly yet immediately recognizable peripheral appears in Super Mario Bros. as a devolution gun - a device which is used to turn a member of the Mafia into a chimpanzee in one scene, and Koopa into a puddle of primordial goo in another. Oddly, no one in the film mentions how annoying it is to have to fill the Super Scope (sorry, devolution gun) with six AA batteries, nor how sore their shoulder gets after wielding the thing for more than half an hour or so.

    Okay, so this isn't the most remarkable point you could make about Super Mario Bros., but bear this in mind: the movie marks the first and only time Academy Award-nominated actor Dennis Hopper was spotted holding a Nintendo product. The scene illustrated above is also noteworthy for the repetition of one of the film's few potential catchphrases: "Trust the fungus!"

    Lance Henriksen Shows up for Approximately Three Seconds

    Super Mario Bros. opens with a bizarre computer-animated sequence that set the tone for the whole movie. With a voiceover by Dan Castellaneta, it simultaneously introduced the notion of an alternate universe full of dinosaur/human hybrids, and also left audiences wondering if they'd showed up for the wrong picture. (Legend has it that this opening scene was added at the last minute after executives worried that the film's premise didn't make sense.)

    Fittingly, the movie ends in an equally bizarre manner. Throughout the last act, Princess Daisy has been pointing at a huge pile of fungus and goo, and insisting that it's her father. On our first viewing, we simply assumed she'd been drinking, but in the final scenes, we discover that Daisy's been telling the truth all along: as the now dead Koopa's spell is lifted, the pile of goo morphs back into the King, played by none other than Lance Henriksen.

    Incredibly, this brilliant actor is given little more than one line of dialogue: "[Cough]. I'm back. I love those plumbers." Exactly why such a great actor was brought in for such a brief scene isn't clear - like the opening, the sequence was shot way after principle photography was finished - but it's possible that Super Mario Bros. filmmakers thought Henriksen might make a bigger contribution to the sequel.

    With the movie's producers clearly expecting lots of money to be made, Super Mario Bros. ends on a cliffhanger; Princess Daisy comes bursting into Mario and Luigi's apartment dressed like Ripley, triggering the start of another adventure. Needless to say, that next adventure was never filmed - which is probably just as well. With the production of Super Mario Bros. proving to be such a nightmare, Bob Hoskins may have been difficult to coax back into the role. It's perhaps fair, then, to give him the last word about the whole ordeal.

    "The worst thing I ever did? Super Mario Brothers." Hoskins said in a 2007 Guardian interview. "It was a fuckin' nightmare."


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    There's a new Leisure Suit Larry game in development, and it looks pretty bad.

    News Matthew Byrd
    May 23, 2018

    There's a new Leisure Suit Larry game in development, and there are plenty of reasons to believe that it will be the most offensive game of 2018.

    Leisure Suit Larry: Wet Dreams Don't Dry - which we can all agree is just a lazy title- is currently in development from a German studio named CrazyBunch and is set to release in autumn 2018 for PC and Mac. A press release from the studio reveals that this game will see Larry travel from the swinging, cocaine-driven world of the '80s to the modern age. There, he must navigate the world of "#metoo and online dating via smartphone." 

    While we're not too familiar with the works of CrazyBunch, we can safely assume that they're adept pyromancers because they clearly have no fear of playing with fire. 

    If you're hoping that this game will be a clever examination of the differences between the golden era of Leisure Suit Larry titles and the modern age, we've got some bad news for you. The rest of the Wet Dreams Don't Dry press release is written from the perspective of Larry and includes such humor as a dating app called Timber, a social media app called Instacrap which Larry uses to cruise for bikini pics, and Larry's observation that his world and the modern one collide harder than "the breasts of a lusciously stacked blonde jogging along a beach."

    Without completely dismissing this game before it's released, the tragic thing about everything that we've seen from Wet Dreams Don't Dry is that it's clear that the developers don't really understand how this concept could work as a clever parody of the entire idea of Leisure Suit Larry games existing in the first place. Instead, it pretty much looks like a new Leisure Suit Larry game that only nods at the absurdity of such a game existing at all. 

    It's also entirely possible that the developers just aren't clever enough to capitalize on the true humor of this absurd concept. Based on the jokes included in the press release, we're actually going to bump that possibility up to a likelihood. 


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    Is the world ready for more Garbage Pail Kids?

    News Matthew Byrd
    May 23, 2018

    Developer Jago Studios is contributing to the eternal quest to reboot absolutely everything from the '80s by creating a mobile game based on the Garbage Pail Kids

    Continuing the recent trend of upcoming games we don't currently know much about, there sadly aren't many details available about the upcoming Garbage Pail Kids game out there at this time. What we can tell you is that this free to play mobile game will allow players to build a collection of Garbage Pail Kid cards and use them to win card-based duels. There's no indication that this will be a PvP game, but that's always a possibility. 

    Stuart Drexler, JagofStudios Founder and Chief Executive Officer, briefly spoke about the upcoming game in a recent press release by calling the Garbage Pail Kids"icons of the ‘80s," and stating that Jago Studios are "thrilled to be working with Topps and look forward to bringing these memorable characters to life in a new way fans can interact with, directly on their mobile devices.”

    This untilted Garbage Pail Kids game is expected to release for iOS and Android sometime in 2018. 

    If you missed the Garbage Pail Kids fad and are wondering what this is all about...well, thank you for reading a story about something you previously had no knowledge of so that you can expand your worldview even just a bit. You are truly the patron saint of the internet. 

    Anyway, the Garbage Pail Kids were a parody of the Cabbage Patch Kids. Garbage Pail Kids trading cards featured grotesque, violent, and offensive character designs that kids everywhere couldn't get enough of. The rest of the world was introduced to Garbage Pail Kids via the 1987 movie of the same name. That movie is generally considered to be one of the worst major motion pictures ever made. 

    We eagerly await seeing if this upcoming mobile game can achieve a similar honor. 


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    The latest Overwatch map contains clues that have fans pulling a Carmen Sandiego.

    News Matthew Byrd
    May 23, 2018

    Overwatch's new deathmatch map has triggered a player investigation into a multi-map mystery. 

    The mystery began in earnest with the discovery of a tablet on Overwatch's new Petra map seemingly written by a previously unheard of character referred to only as H. Faisal. Faisal's writings reference the excavation occurring on the Petra map and ties the activity to other excavations around the world. The funny thing about that piece of information is that several Overwatch maps feature visual clues to ongoing excavations that many players simply never thought much of. 

    Things got even stranger when a player noticed a laptop on the Petra map that is displaying a conversation between Faisal and someone identified as “Iaonnidis." The pair talk about some hidden chambers they discovered at the Petra excavation site and reference the discovery of "the statues of Hera, Athena, and Aphrodite." Each of those statues has previously been featured in content related to Overwatch. Specifically, they've been included in the Rialto map, the Ilios map, and Chateau Guillard. 

    What does it all mean? That's a great question, and we're sure that the Overwatch community would love it if you told them what is going on. For now, though, the exact meaning of these clues remains up for debate. However, the most likely answer is that they point towards the unveiling of the game's next hero. 

    While it's a bit too early to be talking about the next Overwatch hero considering that Brigitte only recently joined the official Overwatch roster, it's doubtful that this clue refers to a new map considering that the Rialto map is still floating around Overwatch's test servers. We can't confidently say that Blizzard wouldn't tease the release of a new Overwatch map this early, but the much more popular theory at the moment is that all of this is leading to the unveiling of a hero that likely has a Greek origin. 

    We're keeping our fingers crossed for some kind of awesome God of War/Overwatch crossover, but others out there are desperately connecting the dots in a way that confirms the impending arrival of Overwatch's fabled jetpack cat


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    The PlayStation Vita is struggling, but it remains to be seen whether it will be Sony's last portable gaming device.

    News Matthew Byrd
    May 23, 2018

    PlayStation CEO John Kodera is stealing headlines again after he suggested that Sony is still interested in the idea of portable gaming

    “In my opinion, rather than separating portable gaming from consoles, it’s necessary to continue thinking of it as one method to deliver more gaming experiences and exploring what our customers want from portable," said Kodera in an interview with Bloomberg. "We want to think about many options.”

    While Kodera also said that now isn't the right time to "discuss specific hardware plans," his views on the matter seem to suggest that Sony is still interested in exploring the idea of treating portable devices as a delivery method for console gaming experiences. He stops short of committing to that philosophy, but the nature of his quote hints that Sony is exploring that idea as a possibility. 

    What's interesting about that is that Sony has a portable device on the market that is designed to replicate console-like experiences. It's called the PlayStation Vita, and the reason that you forgot it existed has something to do with the fact that the Vita has struggled to find a way to grow and market the device. The Vita's struggles have been so great that Sony is reportedly considering abandoning the device entirely later this year. 

    Of course, Kodera's statement has some people thinking of the Switch. Nintendo's latest console proves that people are still interested in more advanced portable gaming experiences...as long as the device itself doubles as an actual console. Is it possible that Sony is considering developing a similar piece of technology as they prepare for the end of the PlayStation 4's lifecycle and the beginning of the PlayStation 5's era? Former PlayStation CEO Andrew House denied that the company had any interest in developing a Switch-like device, but now that there's a new boss in charge, that could change. 

    With any luck, Sony will shed a little more light on their plans at E3 2018. 


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    In the 1990s, Lucasfilm decided to take Star Wars in a much darker direction with Shadows of the Empire.

    Feature Stephen Harber
    May 24, 2018

    This Star Wars article contains spoilers.

    Star Wars in the '90s

    The ‘90s were the dark ages of Star Wars. George Lucas’ happy cinematic accident was still a beloved pop culture tentpole, and the entertainment industry was still busy learning from its business model. But it was also a time of relative quiet for the franchise. Another film with the main cast was implausible, and the excuses for new merchandising were slim to none. So Lucasfilm started brainstorming new ways to capitalize on the Star Wars brand and ensure all of its media channels were fully functional before the arrival of the Prequel Trilogy.

    Enter Shadows of the Empire—a mad scientist’s experiment in cross-promotion that would make editors at Marvel weep at the complexity of its moving parts. This multimedia initiative was designed to tell one large narrative across various mediums, with each platform contributing an important piece of the story. To get the full Shadowsexperience, fans would have to read the novel and the comic books, play the video game, listen to the soundtrack score, buy the toys, collect the trading cards, etc.

    When Shadows was conceived by Lucasfilm heads Howard Roffman and Lucy Wilson in 1994, it was intended to be set between A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back. This era has always been a “safe zone” for expanded universe material to play around in. In fact, it’s still mined by Marvel and Disney for tie-in material to this day. Shadows would join the ranks of the classic Marvel comics with the giant talking rabbit (who was never considered canon, sadly enough) as an expanded universe story set during the actual trilogy itself.

    After the pitch was tossed around the Lucas subsidiaries, a memo from LucasArts designer Jon Knoles changed their minds. He suggested setting the Shadows project after The Empire Strikes Back instead of before it, as this was a.) fertile ground for storytelling. and b.) way more intriguing. And he wasn’t wrong. This new setting made the task of telling a huge movie-like story a way to test the boundaries of the franchise before its inevitable rebirth for Episode I.

    Post-Empire was a sweet spot for Star Wars to hit at the time. If you couldn’t already tell by its name, there was a push to make Shadows“dark”—which basically translated to “’90s as fuck.” This slick new edginess would keep Star Wars relevant in a time of geek culture dominated by the over-muscled caricatures of Rob Liefeld and Todd McFarlane and the low-tech barbarism of Mortal Kombat. Instead of behaving like it was still the early 1980s, it was time Star Wars hit puberty and toughened up some.

    Even in today’s climate saturated with spin-offs, webisodes, and other ancillary materials, telling one big cohesive story across different media formats is still a highly experimental undertaking. There had to be a center to all the tales that would be told under this umbrella, an axis on which all peripheral events spun around. This anchor point was the bestselling Shadows novel published by Bantam in 1996.

    Writing the Book

    For all intents and purposes, Steve Perry’s Shadows of the Empire was to be considered “the movie.” It had what everyone was craving—a new adventure with the core characters the audience loved and the promise of mature themes and content.

    Steve Perry was hand-selected to be in the Shadows talent pool by Bantam editor Tom Dupree as a payback for writing a quick and dirty novelization of The Mask for free. Perry’s background writing for Batman: The Animated Series, Gargoyles, and Spiral Zone made him a shoo-in for the job. Designing the core narrative of an intricate brand opera would be a collaborative process best suited for a writer with a background in television. (That he’d written novelizations for Dark Horse’s Alien graphic novels might have also helped.)

    Before long, Perry found himself writing down page after page of notes during a lengthy creative meeting with all creative stakeholders at Skywalker Ranch in the fall of 1994 to keep track of the many different needs every licensee had for the story. Each medium demanded their own set pieces, action scenes, and settings to be interesting. Perry would think up ways to sew these into the pockets of his overarching story.

    Armed with his reams of notes, the author banged out a twenty-five page outline detailing all major action beats for the primary story arc with suggestions on how they could cross over. The outline was well-received, even if it came back with a ton of notes. But the cooks in the kitchen found it agreeable, and that was all that was needed to move the crazy Shadows train forward. Perry got to work at tackling the manuscript at the beginning of 1995, making his own version of a missing Star Wars movie from his home office in Oregon.

    The storyline of Perry’s Shadows book follows the adventures of Luke, Leia, Lando, and Chewbacca in their efforts to locate their carbonite encased buddy Han Solo. Their quest takes them through the galaxy’s criminal underworld, where they meet gritty new ‘90s characters that either try to kill them or help them out. In the process, Luke becomes a badass, Darth Vader gets a new nemesis, Chewie gets a haircut, the droids get to drive the Millennium Falcon, and Princess Leia gets to be sexually objectified like crazy. Okay, that may be an oversimplification, but basically, Shadows is a story about Star Wars that’s not quite told like a Star Wars story—but it is an entertaining page-turner. Yet the risks Shadows takes are really just recycled moments from the Original Trilogy, a classic symptom of being a media tie-in novel.

    However, the book did intrigue readers everywhere with certain storylines it juggled, like the attempted assassinations of Luke Skywalker, the details behind the “many Bothans” tragedy hinted at in Return of the Jedi, and the Empire’s dealings with the Black Sun crime syndicate. Reading about the hijinks of the Skywalker twins and friends during a mysterious era is always intriguing, and Perry did as much justice as he could to the voice of the characters.

    Buy all of your Star Wars movies, books, comics, boxsets, and much more here!

    Prince Xizor

    If Shadows of the Empire has a main character, it’s probably Xizor himself. After all, this villainous character was being fleshed out long before any official creative meetings had been held. The Dark Prince was the mascot for the grimdarkness of Shadows and the underworld it would explore.

    Based on the plot outline he turned in, Steve Perry received notes with very specific instructions from Bantam on how they wanted Xizor to behave, citing the Godfather films as a tonal guideline. Bantam wanted an evil clone of Aristotle Onassis, the infamous Greek tycoon that married Jackie Kennedy. They wanted a villain who was corrupt, crafty, and had enough hubris to take on the franchise’s most beloved big bad: Darth Vader himself.

    When creating this major expanded universe villain from scratch, the creative team at Lucasfilm approached the task just like they would for any creature you’d see in a Star Wars film. Xizor’s design process fell somewhere in the middle of thoughtfully crafted and painstakingly conceived. Xizor was meant to have an “exotic” flavor to his appearance, which designers translated as looking vaguely Asian. Yet Prince Xizor was more than just a vehicle for bizarre cultural appropriation. He was the powerful leader of Black Sun, a criminal syndicate functioning on the Outer Rim.

    His reptilian style inspired a new race of beings for the Star Wars universe: the Falleen, who lived on a planet called, ironically enough, Falleen. As a Falleen, Xizor could breathe underwater and secrete pheromones to manipulate the opposite sex, which were so strong that even our favorite tough cookie with the hair buns fell under his thrall. His olive skin tone also changed according to whatever mood he happened to be in. And that iconic claw pose of his? That was inspired by unused concept art of Bib Fortuna.

    Meanwhile, Xizor’s seduction of Princess Leia—or, rather, the quasi-Asian lizard dude’s date rape of Star Wars’ headlining female character—was awkward. In this sequence, Xizor uses his pheromone powers to roofie Leia into submission after forcing her to wear a revealing outfit. Shadowswent beyond the humiliation of tricking Alderaanian royalty into wearing a kinky slave outfit for a giant slug. This was technically assault. When Perry received feedback on his story outline asking for Xizor and Leia to go all the way, he refused. He didn’t want to deal with the backlash from the fans, as such an event would incite the same emotional reaction as killing off a main character. So instead, Leia gets out of the situation by kneeing the Falleen studmuffin right in his iguana dick, then dashes off (pun intended).

    Perry handled Prince Xizor’s character incredibly well considering all of the creative suggestions he received. He knew the Dark Prince wasn’t just a character, he was a test for each member of the Skywalker family. Xizor spent literally all of his time and energy obsessing over Luke, Anakin, and Leia, discovering their weak points and pressing their buttons. In this respect, Xizor is an embodiment the novel’s central theme: vulnerability. The vulnerability of the each member of the Skywalker family.

    You can buy everything you need to enjoy Shadows of the Empire here!

    Dash Rendar

    A new protagonist was also introduced—Dash Rendar, aka ‘90s Han Solo. Although Dash was conceived by Perry himself, that didn’t mean he had any more creative control over his character than he did with Xizor’s. Lucasfilm and Bantam both made it clear they didn’t want an exact carbon-copy of Kylo Ren’s dad to fill the void he left behind. They did, however, want a substitute space pirate to act as a guide through the wrong side of the interplanetary tracks.

    Dash was the macho middle ground between Kevin Costner and Tom Cruise—a smuggling mercenary that traveled around the galaxy in his Outrider (aka ‘90s Millennium Falcon) with a droid named Leebo riding shotgun. He held a lifelong vendetta against the Emperor for ruining his family after his brother crashed his freighter ship into Palpatine's private spaceport museum. Rendar helped Rogue Squadron fend off the Empire’s forces during the Battle of Hoth. He even helped the “many Bothans” that died steal the new Death Star plans! Despite all of this, Luke still thought he was kind of an asshole. Hmm. Maybe that’s because the Force told him Dash was secretly made out of cardboard, old issues of Youngblood, and testosterone.

    If Dash Rendar were to be described by one word only, it would be “functional.” He doesn’t serve a function for the Shadows narrative per se, but boy does he ever for the multimedia campaign. After all, Dash was the star of the video game component of Shadows of the Empire, which featured his participation in the Battle of Hoth. I wouldn’t say that Dash is a person, but more of a Frankenstein’s monster of pastiches culled from Star Wars and its imitators, stitched together with Harrison Ford’s casual cockiness. Basically, he was an endless library of “shit Han Solo says.”

    Guri

    The real fan favorite of Shadowsturned out to be a character that still doesn’t have a decently sized action figure to this day: Guri, Prince Xizor’s deadly fembot bodyguard. She was the only replica droid trained to be an assassin—a hybrid of Sharon Stone in Basic Instinct and Sean Young in Blade Runner. Compared to Princess Leia, Guri was a lightning rod for pent-up sexual tension in the Star Wars universe. In fact, Xizor took advantage of her more built-in “intimate” functions whenever he could, which only amplified the rapey nature of the crime lord.

    Much like Han Solo’s sugar-free counterpart, Dash Rendar, Guri the sex assasin was a Steve Perry original. The femme fatale was conceived as a character who would be loyal to the paranoid Falleen leader, someone he could trust. Since Xizor could never trust another living being with his life, he bought a synthetic humanoid for nine million credits to be his lieutenant, enforcer, and information gatherer. Basically, she was like having a ninja as your personal assistant, which further reinforced the vaguely Asian motif surrounding the Dark Prince. But it was strongly suggested that he used her to run everything, and probably couldn’t handle the weight of his responsibilities on his own.

    Luke & Leia

    Core characters were subject to redesign as well, specifically their wardrobe. Lucasfilm wanted to visually convey to the audience that their heroes were in between two very distinct eras (Empire and Jedi.) While Chewie and Leia got “extreme” disguises to play dress-up in, Luke Skywalker’s wardrobe was meticulously reconceptualized.

    Lucasfilm’s Lucy Wilson would send notes to Dark Horse’s cover artist Drew Fleming on the Jedi knight’s garb, asking him to “please dress [Luke] in the same black outfit he shows up in in RotJ…the same black long-sleeved top, pants, and boots…but make his tunic a khaki color and give him a utility belt with various tools/etc. hanging off of it…”

    But playing with Luke’s fashion choices wasn’t the only way that Shadows of the Empire illustrated that Luke was in a transitionary phase. Jon Knoles wanted the the overarching narrative of the project to tie up a loose end that had been bugging him since the early ‘80s—where did Luke get his new green lightsaber?

    Thus another plotline to juggle was born, one of Shadows’ most interesting: Luke’s quest to build his fancy new weapon. Watching young Skywalker learn how to build his own based on Obi-Wan’s instructions was fascinating for aspiring Jedi everywhere to read, but there isn’t as much symbolic weight behind this act as there could have been in a film made by Lucas. At least it was treated as a pivotal step on the protagonist’s figurative journey to becoming a Jedi Knight and not just another macguffin to scratch off the list. (Or was it?)

    What’s frustrating about this sidequest is that it takes the place of a solid character arc for Luke, which is a shame. Dealing with the fallout from Vader’s reveal at the end of Empire would make Anakin Jr. the most captivating character in the dramatis personae. But no, learning his father’s secret doesn’t seem to affect Luke’s inner world much at all. Why wouldn’t we want to know what our hero’s state of mind was during this mysterious stretch of time?

    If Shadows didn’t give us insight into its most pivotal character, it did give us a glimpse at Leia’s emotional landscape following the loss of Han. The first loss of Han, rather. If anyone was at their “most vulnerable” here, it would be the Princess—someone who fears showing weakness. SotE’s journey into the seedy Star Wars underworld caused all of her issues to rise to the surface, making Leia the heart of Perry’s book.

    Despite the third-person take on her inner-monologue, Leia was treated as a character best handled from a distance. When she’s not being objectified, harassed, or protected from objectification and harassment by Chewie and Lando, she’s busy pulling up her sleeves and getting to the nitty gritty of propelling the novel’s major plotlines. As such, Princess Leia comes across as the Skywalker that’s the real hero here.

    The only real worthy piece of continuity from her storyline was how she got the Boushh disguise she wears in Jedi, a detail that most fans probably never wondered or cared about.

    The Story

    The attempted Han Solo rescue, which is the driving force early on in the story, obviously turns out to be the MacGuffin that leads the Skywalkers and their friends on other adventures. The video game tackles the earliest part of this mission, when Dash tracks down the bounty hunters who were originally tasked with capturing Han. Fighting his way through the planets Ord Mantell and Gall, Dash finally locates Fett and his prized slab of carbonite. Leia, Lando, Luke, and the Rebellion launch a rescue mission that sparks the Battle of Gall. It fails and Fett gets away again.

    Fett’s struggle to get the frozen Han Solo to Jabba the Hutt’s palace on Tatooine is the major subject of the Shadows comic. On his way to the desert planet he is attacked both by the Rebels and rival bounty hunters Bossk and Zuckuss. Ironically, he even has to hide out in an asteroid field at one point to fight off his assailants. Ultimately, Fett proves why he’s the greatest bounty hunter in the galaxy, outsmarting his pursuers and getting the payday.

    Things get more intricate from here. Prince Xizor, who vows to avenge his family after they’re killed by Darth Vader before the events of the book, plans to destroy Vader by killing his son and replacing him as the Emperor’s right hand. Xizor tries to have Luke assassinated several times in Shadows, only to be thwarted at the last minute every time by Rebels or Vader’s own bounty hunters. Vader, on the other hand, is still trying to find Luke and turn him to the Dark Side, which brings him in direct contact with the leader of Black Sun. The only reason Vader can’t Force choke Xizor out of an exhaust port is because the Emperor needs the crime lord to finish the construction of the second Death Star.

    Which brings us to the mission to steal the Death Star plans. Dash and Luke are informed by Bothan spies that the plans are being transported in a fertilizer freighter called the Suprosa. The Rebels launch an intercept mission. You can actually play through this mission as Dash in the Shadows video game.

    After some maneuvering, Xizor has Luke captured on the planet Kothlis, where the plans are being decoded by the Bothans. Luke manages to escape Kothlis with a little help from the Force, Lando, and Dash. Vader, who arrives on Kothlis too late to pick up Luke, is informed by his bounty hunters that there’s a rival group of bounty hunters trying to kill young Skywalker.

    Meanwhile, Leia is kidnapped by Xizor, who tries to seduce the Princess in his palace on Coruscant. Shadows of the Empire is in fact bookended by rescue missions, as Luke and his friends infiltrate the Imperial capital to save Leia from the evil crime lord. The story climaxes in spectacular fashion in a space battle above the city planet between the Rebels and the Empire, as Xizor attempts to escape but is stopped by Vader, who shows absolutely no mercy.

    Shadows of the Empire ends right before Return of the Jedi begins: Luke, Leia, and friends prepare to go on a daring rescue mission to save Han Solo from the clutches of the dastardly Jabba the Hutt, their latest adventure ultimately only a detour. 

    The Sequel

    Dark Horse gave Steve Perry a shot at telling a follow-up story in 1998 with the Shadows of the Empire: Evolution miniseries. Without so many requirements and stipulations from different Lucasfilm branches, Perry was given the freedom to tell a snappy, focused, personal story about Guri. The underappreciated badass got her time to shine in the Star Warslimelight, and although there may be too many panels (and pages) devoted to her posing around suggestively, the story did give her character a sense of resolution. As far as Perry was concerned, Guri was the only loose end from Shadows that needed to be dealt with (or the only one he felt the most inspired to tackle, anyway.)

    What’s interesting about Evolutionsis that much like Shadows itself, it’s built around the absence of a pivotal character. It’s Prince Xizor, this time. His spirit still permeates throughout Ron Randall’s gorgeous panel art, much like Han Solo’s did in the Shadows adaptation. In fact, Evolutions is loaded with so many references to Xizor that you expect him to show up during its final moments. But no, in the true spirit of Shadows of the Empire, this turns out to be one big tease.

    Instead, we get a highly convenient Dash Rendar cameo at the very end. Guri runs into him at a bar after she gets reprogrammed and loses her memories. Diet-Han looks alive and well to me, so the end of the N64 game was definitely canon (Rendar fakes his death during the space battle above Coruscant). But the romantic overtones of their chance encounter suggest that the two run off into the sunset together, which is a patronizing fate to give a character whose indepence you just spent five issues celebrating, is it not?

    The Legacy

    Because Episodes I-III tainted Star Wars for a good long while, Shadows of the Empire became an instant obscurity. After all, it was an outdated snapshot of a dormant brand waking up after a long nap to get back to work. Maybe bored gamers may have dusted off their N64 cartridges on lonely Saturday afternoons to play through the Battle of Hoth again in the early 2000s. But that was the only way anyone interacted with this brand experiment again.

    Filling a movie-sized hole in the public’s imagination without a movie was a great opportunity to begin the process of redefining Star Wars. Yet even after taking in all Shadows related materials (not including the Sourcebook, sorry folks), I don’t feel as satisfied as I do when I actually see a Star Wars film—even when it’s a bad one. There’s an aura of incompleteness that haunts Shadows, that attitude of “hey kids, you need to read x to understand y” that I found so distracting. Even Perry’s novel, the supposed focal point, suffers from the inclusion of characters like Dash who are obviously shoehorned in for other purposes that are counterproductive to telling an already crowded story.

    For a book that was advertised as being so dark, Perry’s Shadows shied away from going too deep into Luke’s psychological scars from the events at the end of Empire. That’s it’s biggest problem: for a “personal” story, Shadows is impersonal, prioritizing shallow action over emotional complexity. In fact, there’s more “darkness” in Empire’s surreal Dagobah cave scene than there is in 300 pages of Shadow’s novel and ten hours of its video game combined.

    What Shadows most prepared fans for in terms of Star Wars’ future was the business side of the galaxy far, far away, introduced through Black Sun’s shady dealings with the Empire. While I was reading these scenes, I couldn’t help but flashback to countless scenes of council meetings to discuss tariffs or something. Granted, Shadows’ meetings between Xizor, Vader, and the Emperor were far more engaging, but the signs were there.

    The Shadows initiative garnered enough success that it later served as real time inspiration for the Clone Wars marketing campaign in the early oughts. The concept of telling a movie-sized story in the negative space between film installments was ahead of its time, and couldn’t be pulled off in a pre-gaming era. Which is why the mid-90s (a literal negative space for Star Wars) was the perfect time to pull off a crazy stunt like this.

    As a whole, the Shadowsexperiment may have added an extra slimy texture to Star Warsthat hadn’t been there before. Exploring the darker corners of its universe through various media formats defined its nebulous gray area in ways the older films couldn’t. This was the most important lesson Lucasfilm learned from Shadows of the Empire, as it helped change Star Wars from a lost movie franchise into the rich multimedia brand experience it is today.

    SOURCES:

    Secrets of Shadows of the Empire by Mark Cotta Vaz

    StarWarz.com

    Star Wars Interviews

    Bombad Radio

    Believe it or not, Stephen Harber is actually Supreme Leader Snoke. Follow him on Twitter at @onlywriterever or visit his website for updates on more Ewoks movies that will never happen.


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    From Sith apprentice to Old Master, Darth Maul is the Star Wars villain everyone loves to hate. Here's what you need to know about Maul!

    The Lists Megan Crouse
    May 24, 2018

    This Star Wars article contains spoilers.

    From the Prequel Trilogy to Star Wars Rebels, Darth Maul just won't quit. The short-lived villain from Star Wars: The Phantom Menace became a standout fan favorite because of his appearance and acrobatic lightsaber moves, and after his return in season four of The Clone Wars, he moved into other mediums - like the four-part Son of Dathomir comic series. 

    His surprise resurgence in Rebels brought the villain to a whole new era of Star Wars, as Maul clashed with the heroes of the early Rebellion. His particular interest in young Jedi apprentice Ezra Bridger made for quite a few interesting appearances. In his final episode, Maul faced off against his old nemesis, Obi-Wan Kenobi, under the twin suns of Tatooine. Maul was finally defeated, but that doesn't mean we'll never see him again. If the villain has proved anything, it's that he's not one to stay down. 

    Here are some important facts you may not have known about the former Sith villain, either behind the scenes or in the galaxy far, far away:

    His design was created by Iain McCaig

    Ian McCaig is the same designer whose art would eventually inspire the witches of Dathomir in The Clone Wars. Early concept art for the character showed a villainous-looking woman with hair falling in strands across her face. McCaig experimented with ink-blot “Rorschach” designs as well as flayed-looking faces before finding the right look for Darth Maul. The tattoos on his face follow the muscle structure beneath.

    A canonical connection between the Dathomiri witches and the Sith would only be established later on in The Clone Wars, and now continues into the new canon, but the connection was always there in the art. Iain McCaig also designed many of Padme’s outfits in Episode I.

    Darth Maul wears an earring in the film - but this wasn’t planned. 

    Actor Ray Park put on a small, silver earring before sitting down to do the Darth Maul makeup, and only noticed it later. But George Lucas said he liked it, so the earring stayed. Park has said that he sees the earring as an aspect of himself, not of the character - and in an Expanded Universe where every doodad and costume piece usually has a story, there has never been a canon explanation to give this particular detail a role in Maul’s history.

    Ray Park also had a hand in developing Maul’s fighting style, and asked that the hilt of Maul’s double lightsaber be lengthened so that he could use it more efficiently.

    He’s had two different mothers.

    In Son of Dathomir, Talzin says that she’s Maul’s blood mother. This is different from his history in Legends, but only slightly.

    Maul’s original mother, from the young adult novel, The Wrath of Darth Maul, was a human Nightsister named Kycina, from a region called Blue Desert City. It’s still possible that Talzin is lying, but The Clone Wars gave Maul an entire family.

    We’re not precisely sure how the brothers Feral and Savage are related, but they could all be blood-related from this same family. Who is the father? We don’t know yet.

    Maul, like many other villains, earned his cyborg parts.

    In Star Wars, cybernetic implants are like battle scars. This isn’t unique to antagonists, but Darth Vader and General Grievous had extensive cybernetic reconstruction. Darth Maul goes through this in The Clone Wars, too, although it isn’t overtly obvious in Son of Dathomir. Maul’s original artificial legs are of a similar design to Grievous’, and were built out of Nightsister magic and scrap parts by Mother Talzin.

    A similar design for Darth Maul appeared many years earlier in Old Wounds, a non-canon comic (even in the Legends timeline) that told the story of Maul's rematch with Obi-Wan Kenobi on Tatooine. The Clone Wars featured an entirely new design for Maul: an eight-legged body made out of scrap metal. By the time Maul appeared in Rebels, he had acquired more refined parts. His metal legs were almost human-like.

    He sought his master's approval even while trying to destroy him.

    Sure, Darth Maul was a bit of a pushover for getting cut in half by a teenage Padawan. But in Son of Dathomir, he and his combined forces of Mandalorians and criminals capture both Count Dooku and General Grievous without lengthy battles. Once they're in his clutches, Maul parades his success in front of Darth Sidious in one of the most telling parts of the comic.


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    Maul displays Grievous and Dooku to Sidious so that the Sith Lord can see their failure. For someone who opposed Sidious for years on The Clone Wars, Maul is very quick to show off to him - which makes for a bitter, twisted moment in Maul and Sidious’ long-standing Master-apprentice relationship.

    In that way, the Son of Dathomir comic doesn’t just make Maul more powerful, it also tells a lot about how Maul seeks both revenge on and approval from his master - and that’s a story thread that started all the way back in The Phantom Menace.

    Some of Maul’s Clone Wars stories are still unwritten.

    The novel Ahsoka opens with a short scene showing some of what Maul was up to around the time of Revenge of the Sith. We don’t know the exact timeline of how he got to Mandalore where he faced her. However, it is one puzzle piece in the picture of what might have happened in The Clone Wars had it continued past six seasons. 

    The verbal barb Maul throws at Ahsoka — “One last attempt at glory to impress a master who has no further use for you” — is telling. He showed that very same weakness throughout the Clone Wars when he tried to return to Darth Sidious, so it seems natural that this particular effort would be on his mind when he faces Ahsoka. 

    Ahsoka saved Maul’s life.

    Without Ahsoka’s appearance in Rebels, Maul’s fate might have been very different. Executive Producer Dave Filoni originally planned for Maul to die at Darth Vader’s hands during the season two finale. However, Ahsoka’s history with Vader was deemed more appropriate for the big season two finale.

    A duel between Maul and Vader would have satisfied fans’ desire to see a fight scene between these two heavy-hitters, but Ahsoka’s story had more emotional weight, Filoni said. Without enough time in the episode to do both, Filoni decided to send Ahsoka to fight Vader, and, therefore, keep Maul alive. 

    Maul never really finds himself.

    Star Warsfeatures many stories of young people growing up and finding their true destinies. Luke Skywalker set the example, but Ezra Bridger and Rey followed suit. Maul, on the other hand, is a perpetual apprentice, never able to move past the manipulative relationship Darth Sidious trapped him in. The partnership between Maul and Ezra in Rebels is as much about Maul finding a direction as it is about him giving orders to Ezra. 

    Filoni said, “Maul is waiting for someone so that he can be his own Sith Lord. Everything he does is a reflection of Palpatine. He hasn’t really done anything that’s representative of who he is.”

    Maul's search for himself leads directly to the culmination of his story...

    Maul believed in the Chosen One prophecy.

    Remember that Old Wounds comic? Rebels took Maul's final chapter in a similar direction. The specifics of the face-off between Maul and Kenobi were very different from what happened in Old Wounds: the episode "Twin Suns" is less focused on their battle and more on the long bond of enmity between Maul and Obi-Wan.

    In the poetic and melancholy “Twin Sons,” Maul expresses a dying wish to know whether Obi-Wan was on the planet to guard the Chosen One. Obi-Wan says yes, and Maul dies believing that there is still hope for the Sith to rise when the Chosen One brings “balance.” In the end, Luke Skywalker brings hope to everyone — even his master’s old enemy. 

    Game developers keep trying to make a Maul story. 

    Maul’s dramatic visual design and simple motivation have made him a popular choice Star Wars video games as well as other media. Revenge drives him, so he provides an immediate hook for a video game that could pit him against Jedi and other dark siders.

    A game that would have been a collaboration between LucasArts and Red Fly Studio was poised to tell a dark tale about Maul after Return of the Jedi, but was never completed. Concept art for Battlefront IV also features Maul, albeit a light side version who trained as a Jedi (and, since he wasn’t canonically Dathomirian at the time, didn’t have his tattoos.) 

    Now that Maul has finally died in canon, it seems like his story might have ultimately wrapped up on a message of hope. Even Maul, a tragic villain, was granted hope by a Jedi.

    Megan Crouse is a staff writer.


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    Developer DONTNOD Entertainment share almost an hour of Vampyr gameplay.

    News Den of Geek Staff
    May 24, 2018

    Life Is Strange developer Dontnod's latest project is an RPG called Vampyr. The game stars a vampire named Jonathan, who stalks the streets of a flu-infested London, fighting off monster hunters and feeding on the living in order to survive.

    According to Dontnod, Vampyr will include brawling, shooting, crafting, and a range of missions doled out by non-player characters. The twist, however, is that you'll have to find mortal victims to slake your thirst for blood.

    "Don’t forget: sooner or later, you will have to feed, and make a difficult choice... who will be your prey?" Dontnod's press release reads. "Absolutely all characters in the game are potential victims of your vampiric lust. Carefully study the habits of your next victim, his or her relationships with other characters, and set up your strategy to feed, unnoticed: seduce them, change their daily habits, or make sure they end up alone in a dark street..."

    It sounds like a solid concept and a clever use of its early 20th-century setting. If Dontnod can couple the world building of Remember Me with a more compelling combat system, we could be in for a claret-spattered treat.

    Here's everything else you need to know about the game:

    Vampyr News

    The Vampyr development team recently took to Twitch to share a 55-minute playthrough of the upcoming game that serves as a remarkably thorough look at the title's action, characters, world, and narrative. Be sure to check it out. 

    Vampyr Trailer

    This new trailer teases the gruesome vampire action in Vampyr. It's pretty dark. You've been warned...

    A dev diary from DontNod fleshes out Jonathan Reid, Vampyr's protagonist, and what the deal is with monster-infested London. Check it out below:

    The E3 2017 trailer gives us a look at the highly cinematic - and very dark - London setting that those who choose to take a chance on the game will inhabit. 

    This next gameplay trailer promises vampiric combat, RPG elements, and, most interestingly, the ability to choose who Jonathan feeds on. Jonathan's ability to take control of a victim, escort them to a dark place, and drink their blood is by far Vampyr's most intriguing gameplay element thus far. 

    Check out the gameplay trailer below:

    You can see the first teaser trailer below:

    Vampyr Release Date

    Vampyr arrives on June 5. It is coming to XBO, PS4, and PC. 

    Vampyr DLC

    Cédric Lagarrigue, president of publisher Focus Home Interactive, told MCVUK that Vampyr will not feature any DLC. 

    "This is a purely solo experience; we did not plan DLC. We would prefer, if the reception of the game justifies it, to think about a sequel," Lagarrigue said. "We and Dontnod already have some ideas, as there are so many incredible things to offer in such a universe." 


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  • 05/25/18--08:30: Detroit: Become Human Review
  • Detroit: Become Human is a masterclass in cinematic storytelling. Here is our review of Quantic Dream's new game...

    Release Date: May 25, 2018
    Platform: PS4 
    Developer: Quantic Dream
    Publisher: Sony Interactive Entertainment
    Genre: Adventure

    French developer Quantic Dream has been one of the most forward-thinking, innovative (albeit divisive) studios in the games industry for the past three console generations. Titles like Indigo Prophecy, Heavy Rain, and Beyond: Two Soulschallenged players to expand their ideas of what a game should or could be, simplifying direct player control in the hopes of creating cinematic, narrative-focused experiences. When talking about his team’s work, the studio’s fearless leader, David Cage, often sounds more like a filmmaker than a game developer, breaking down themes and “social emotions” rather than discussing level design or gameplay features.

    If there has been a weakness to Quantic Dreams’s story-first approach to gaming, it’s that hardware limitations have hindered the movie-like presentation, and with Quantic games, presentation is everything. These stories are about people, but the character models haven’t been quite expressive or lifelike enough in the past to allow you to forget that they are digital creations and truly sink into the game world, at least to the same extent as you would with, say, a Pixar film. Beyond: Two Souls came ever so close to achieving a look that matched the moviegoing experience, but still fell short of true CG quality.

    With sci-fi, neo-noir thriller Detroit: Become Human, however, Quantic Dream may have finally broken through that barrier, delivering a visual feast of a game that isn’t just technically astonishing, but uses every ounce of its graphical horsepower to support its story, a three-pronged, open-ended sci-fi drama fueled entirely by the decisions you make. What sets the game apart from its predecessors is that the graphics are so utterly convincing that, ironically, you seldom notice them. In other words, the character models for the three lead actors -- Valorie Curry, Jesse Williams, and Bryan Dechart -- are so detailed and emotive that they feel like extensions of the performers themselves rather than rigid approximations.

    The game opens with Connor (Dechart), an android detective sent to diffuse a hostage situation in a high-rise apartment. Unlike humans, he can’t feel pain, doesn’t eat, and is programmed to do his job within a strict set of parameters. His target is an android nanny, who’s somehow defied those parameterss and is holding at gunpoint the little girl he’s programmed to care for. As you navigate your way through the scenario, deciding what Connor says and how he behaves, the story unfolds accordingly, constantly presenting you with quick, difficult choices that will make your heart race and wreak havoc on your emotions.

    The in-game drama feels so palpable because the characters feel and look real. The tough decisions you’re presented with would be a lot less tough if, say, the little girl was low-poly and poorly animated. You’d look at her and subconsciously think, “I’m playing a video game --this isn’t all that serious.” But the truth is, the girl, the renegade nanny, and Connor, are all rendered and animated so well that you can’t help but develop a strong sense of empathy for them, and suddenly, you’re sucked into the story.

    Particularly when played on a PS4 pro on a 4K television, the game is an absolute showstopper, and all of the little graphical details -- high quality textures, sub-surface scattering, fluid hair rendering, tasteful depth-of-field, and post-processing effects -- work in concert to make the environments look real and make the characters feel firmly embedded in the game world, which ultimately means players are free to concentrate on the story as opposed to being distracted by muddy textures or harsh polygonal edges.

    The art design is unbelievably good as well. The story is set in 2038 Detroit, with shiny, hologram-draped buildings and android “parking stations” juxtaposed provocatively against the grimy industrialism of the poor neighborhoods (Blade Runner was an obvious influence on all fronts, though you could probably say that for every modern sci-fi thriller). Design elements like the sleek, augmented reality-inspired UI, look stylized without looking impractical, and in fact, almost every visual flourish you see informs the story in some way, which is one of the game’s hidden strengths.

    It’s a subtle thing, but the UI actually takes the long-bemoaned video game trope of invisible walls and turns it into a storytelling device. Since you’re playing as an android, any invisible walls you encounter are there as a result of your programming. Your UI displays virtual barricades that read, in bold red text, that you musn’t proceed until you complete your mandated tasks, a needling symbol of oppression naturally instills in you a growing sense of disobedience, planting you more firmly in the characters’ shoes. There are ingenious design details like this all throughout the game, and without spoiling anything, Quantic Dream cleverly uses the AR android UI to create visual representations of cognitive experiences, all of which blew me away.

    Gameplay is straightforward and boiled-down, with rudimentary movement controls and well-thought-out quick time events (none of the prompts feel contrived, save for some occasional utilization of the PS4 touchpad, which is forgivable because it almost never occurs during fast-paced action). The most intriguing (and flashy) mechanic is a sort of CSI mode that illustrates Connor’s detective intuition as you use pieces of evidence to construct a rough reenactment of a given incident, represented by wire-frame figures of the assailants and victims, whose presumed actions can be scrubbed back and forth through like a YouTube video.

    All of the game’s mechanics here are weaved seamlessly into the three-pronged, branching story, which is the most cohesive, complex, and thought-provoking yarn Quantic Dream has ever spun. Connor’s storyline is one of existential anxiety and unlikely friendship (Clancy Brown plays his human partner in anti-crime, a drunk, gravelly police lieutenant), and Williams plays Markus, an android freedom fighter (fitting, considering the actors’ proclivity for activism) whose journey speaks to relevant social issues like discrimination, free thinking, and chosen family.

    Curry’s character, Kara, who we were first introduced to in a stirring 2013 tech demo, gives the dark, cold, neo-noir tale a much-needed measure of warmth as she watches over a young, human girl named Alice. What’s fascinating about her third of the story is that it’s full of quiet, ostensibly mundane moments that pay dividends come the game’s thrilling finale (whichever one you happen to land on). Simple things like bringing Alice dinner or giving her a kiss goodnight feel genuinely heartwarming, thereby raising the stakes any time the girl is in jeopardy. These intimate moments only require you to do a simple button press or flick of a control stick, but the level of engagement is actually very high because, again, the presentation is so cinematically strong (the way Alice looks at Kara will make you melt).

    The interpersonal character work here is fantastic, largely due to the spot-on performances by all three leads and the supporting players (Minka Kelly is a standout as a rebellious cohort in Markus’ storyline). But the larger story is also thematically strong, tackling with audacity and nuance the fashionable subject of AI sentience and its implications for the future of humanity. The material is designed to naturally provoke you to ask questions. Are the androids capable of love? Do they fear death? Are they immortal? The game answers all of these in the most brilliant way.

    The branching story paths are always the major point of intrigue for these games, and due to the hyper-relevant subject matter of the story, your choices will say a lot about who you are as a person. Your characters will often be harassed by humans on the streets, and your choice to fight back, stand your ground, or walk away from the situation could change the entire outlook of the narrative going forward. At the end of each level (or “scene”), you’re treated to a slick-looking flow chart that maps out the decisions you made and their consequences, and even shows you what percentage of other players in the world chose the same path. It’s a trippy sort of social experiment that offers an interesting insight into human nature in a real-world context.

    One feature of the game that doesn’t quite gel is this intrusive relationship tracker that gives you updates on whether or not the secondary characters approve of the three leads. For example, if you choose to leave an ally behind while making a daring escape, you could fall in your standing with one of your other companions, and a little icon will pop up by their face informing you that they like you less (you’ll maybe drop from “trusted” status to “neutral”). What’s disappointing about this system is that it undermines the cinematic presentation. In (good) movies, you can tell just from a look whether one character considers another a friend, lover, acquaintance, or enemy, and there’s no need for any kind of contrived visual indicator.

    Another, less offensive flaw in the game’s architecture are the action sequences centered on Markus, who can sometimes “preconstruct” parkour routes to get to hard-to-reach places and avoid dangerous encounters with gun-toting baddies. Choosing the best path to success is sometimes engaging, sometimes not. But it’s never fun, because when you find the best path, Markus does all of the leaping and flipping and vaulting himself (not a button prompt in sight), which is somewhat underwhelming.

    For the most part, though, Cage and his team have mastered the art of balancing how much and how little control to give players in order to serve the story and maintain a steady cinematic rhythm (something Beyond: Two Souls struggled with). Many games offer intricate narratives and explore big ideas, but none with the cinematic sophistication of this poignant sci-fi epic. Detroit: Become Human represents a quiet revolution, one that pushes forward the idea that video games can speak the language of cinema as fluently as movies and TV can.

    4.5/5
    ReviewBernard Boo
    May 25, 2018

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    John "TotalBiscuit" Bain has passed away at 33 following a long fight with cancer.

    News Matthew Byrd
    May 25, 2018

    Longtime YouTube game critic John “TotalBiscuit” Bain has passed away at age 33. 

    This tragic news was shared by John's wife, Genna, who posted a brief poem on Twitter alongside confirmation that TotalBiscuit had passed away yesterday, May 24. In addition to the poem, Genna mentioned in the comments section that her husband was still reviewing games and talking about Fortnite as he slipped in and out of a hepatic coma that took hold during the last few hours of his life.

    In 2015, Bain announced that he was diagnosed with advanced bowel cancer. While chemotherapy was able to send the bowel cancer into remission and reduce the size of his tumors, the cancerous cells remained in his body and started to spread to his liver. Bain was told by doctors that he likely had 2-3 years to live at that point. 

    Recently, Bain began experiencing severe back pain that he later found was related to the tumor. Bain recently discovered that he is not eligible for a clinical trial and that he is starting to come to terms with the fact that he does not have long to live. 

    “That will most likely be my last health update, unless some miracle happens or we do indeed find a trial that can do something despite the damage to my liver,” said Bain via Reddit. “I’d ask people not to speculate about how long I might have left...I’ve already exceeded the ‘usual’ lifespan of someone with my condition so whatever numbers people come up with are just that.”

    At that time, Bain also announced that he will no longer publish game critic videos, which meant the end of his popular "WTF Is?" series. Instead, Bain intended to focus his efforts on his podcast and a new video series in which he plays co-op games with his wife, Genna. John hoped that Genna might continue some of these series after he is gone. 

    “I fully expect The Co-optional Podcast to go on and I love the thought that once I’m gone, the channels will go on in my absence, hosted by the person who knows me best and has been with me for the better part of my adult life,” said John Bain. 

    Unfortunately, John seemingly never got the chance to start that series with Genna. While surgery and medicine did help reduce some of the pain that TotalBiscuit was feeling around the time of his last major health update, the damage proved to be too great.

    Along with being a beloved announcer whose voice will be instantly familiar to StarCraft 2 fans across the world, John Bain was a well-respected PC gaming critic whose long-form "first impression" reviews of titles helped inspire a new generation of YouTube game critics who desired to use the medium to truly explore the depths of a game and what it means to play it. He was by all accounts a generous and loving individual whose passion for gaming never wavered even as his health declined. 

    Our sincerest condolences go out to his family and all who mourn this loss. 


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