Nintendo’s Internal Data Shows That Smash Bros. Ultimate Is Pretty Balanced

We already suspected that Super Smash Bros. Ultimate’s roster was pretty evenly matched, and now we’ve got data from the game’s lead creator to prove it. r. In a new column for the Japanese gaming magazine Famitsu, Smash Bros. director Masahiro Sakurai shared some data on the wins and losses of many of the game’s 74 fighters.

Take King R. Rool, for example. The big lizard l is regarded by many as a “noob smasher,” a character who’s easy to exploit against less experienced players, but Nintendo data shared by Sakurai doesn’t show him as overly dominant. “His win rate is over all 51.9%,” Sakurai wrote. “In VIP matches it’s 48.9%.” VIP matches are what the game in North America refers to as Elite Smash, a ranked mode reserved for players who have reached a high enough GSP (Global Smash Power).

Sakurai spends much of the column touting what he sees as the overall parity between the game’s 74 fighters. “Firstly, one on one victory rates,” he writes. “No fighter is below 40%, and no fighter is above 60%.” He goes on:

“As for one on one matches among VIP players, the lowest win rate for any character is 43.7%. The highest win ratio is 56.8%. Looking at just this data we can see some variation within, though if we think of it in terms of the highest and the lowest of the 74 characters, we could say it’s a uniformly narrow margin.

If we integrate all the one on one data, all fighters fall within 40% and 54% win rates, and that those with a win rate of 45% or higher make up 90% of the total.”

Sakurai also revealed who players are currently favoring. “Moreover, there’s big variation in usage data,” he writes. “The highest is about 20x the lowest. The most-used character is Cloud. The most commonly used character in VIP matches is Ganondorf. However, in said VIP matches Ganondorf’s win rate is only 47.9%, which puts him low in the battle rankings.

On the whole though, the director seems extremely happy with where the game is at right now, and hesitant to make any big changes in the immediate future.

“If we look just at battle data, it seems like there’s no reason to tune the game at all,” he writes. “However, if we don’t tweak things just a little bit, there are probably some people out there who are going to feel stressed out. So for now I’m waiting for opinions of the team in charge of adjustments.”


Alita: Battle Angel is the first great live-action manga adaptation

By all accounts, adapting an anime or manga into a live-action blockbuster is a Sisyphean task, at least when it comes to Western media. Death Note, Ghost in the Shell, Dragonball Evolution — the list of flops goes on.

A part of that failure to launch could be attributed to the fact that there’s no way to smoothly translate the anime/manga aesthetic from page (or animation) to screen. The first footage from Alita: Battle Angel, Robert Rodriguez’s adaptation of Yukito Kishiro’s manga Battle Angel Alita, seemed to suggest that Rodriguez and writer-producer James Cameron tried to solve the problem by being as literal as possible. Actress Rosa Salazar’s eyes were enlarged to the size of dinner plates, looking a little more Gollum-like than presumably intended.

I’ll settle the big questions about Alita: Battle Angel first: Yes, the big eyes are not easy on the, er, eyes (in fact, they are now even bigger). No, they did not need to be that big. But yes, I still love them.

Absolutely everything about Alita: Battle Angel is unapologetically outsized — there is interplanetary war, there is a sport called “motorball” that’s basically jai alai with robots, there are slo-mo shots of objects of varying degrees of deadliness flying out of the screen — and it’s delightful.

Rosa Salazar stars as Alita in Alita: Battle Angel 20th Century Fox

The instant that the 20th Century Fox logo abruptly becomes a haggard “26th Century Fox” to signal the passage of time sets the tone for everything that comes next. Rodriguez is more focused on show than he is on story, as Alita: Battle Angel hits every required beat in an arc of self-discovery — including a slightly bizarre take on puberty as it applies to robots — with the kind of force (or lack thereof) that recalls a kid finishing their homework before being allowed to play video games.

In this instance, the video game equivalent is letting Alita (Salazar) cut loose. After being found on a scrap heap, cyborg Alita is reconstructed by Dr. Dyson Ido (Christoph Waltz), and wakes without any memory of her past life. Bit by bit, she acclimates to living in Iron City, a metropolis populated by scavengers and survivors (think Mos Eisley and multiply that by 100), learning that she’s not meant to eat orange peels and nursing a crush on the simultaneously appealing and eminently forgettable Hugo (Keean Johnson). Though it’s fun — Salazar gives the usual “baby robot” schtick her very all — it’s peanuts compared to the moment when Alita’s true purpose comes to light.

As implied by the title of the film (and to only slightly paraphrase an actual line), Alita’s built for battle, and watching Salazar hand a bunch of grown men their asses is a thrill. Rodriguez seems to be one of the only directors working who has figured out how to coherently stage a blockbuster action sequence; Alita: Battle Angel is a whirlpool of CGI, and yet every character and action is easy to track instead of disappearing into a mishmash of shapes and similar colors. It’d be easy to ascribe that to the fact that motorball, given its finite number of players and clean course, naturally lends itself to a more easily comprehensible shoot, but even when Alita bursts past the bounds of the motorball course, the film remains crisp.

Rosa Salazar (Alita) and Keean Johnson (Hugo) star in ALITA: BATTLE ANGEL 20th Century Fox

That the story isn’t particularly interesting is occasionally a drag, but, again, that’s not the point here. Sure, each character only gets one defining characteristic (Alita loves to fight, Ido loves to be a dad, Hugo loves Alita, etc.), but it’s enough. Alita: Battle Angel is pure visual spectacle; it’s not trying to be anything more than it is.

As should be expected from any project even remotely in the vicinity of Cameron, Alita looks incredible. Iron City — and Zalem, the aerial city and mecca that floats above it — is packed to the gills with life. The other characters, for being emotionally flat, are still colorful enough to make an impact: Waltz spends most of the film decked out in an L.L. Bean catalog and carrying a giant rocket hammer; Hugo is repeatedly referred to as “Meat Boy” (on account of being human); and Jackie Earle Haley crops up in the film’s rogues’ gallery in a rig that sizes up his frame to match his charisma, as does Jeff Fahey in a cameo that must in some way have been inspired by Dog the Bounty Hunter.

Alita: Battle Angel sheds (or ignores?) any need for coherence anywhere except in what’s projected up on the screen, and actually benefits from that commitment to action. As Alita’s circumstances grow more dire, so do the consequences, pushing the limits of the film’s PG-13 rating about as far as they’ll go. The sight of the gargantuan cities is juxtaposed with individual violence as limbs are ripped from bodies, and the faster the blood gets pumping, the more galvanizing are the heights to which Alita climbs.

Alita: Battle Angel hits theaters on Feb. 14.


Hearthstone Balance Changes Nerf Classic Mainstays

Blizzard has announced the next set of balance changes coming to Hearthstone, and they’ll have a big impact on the mainstays of multiple classes. This update is aimed almost entirely at the Basic and Classic sets–that is, the cards that never go out of Standard play rotation–and the company says it’s because they’ve just proven too persistent over multiple expansions.

“We’re changing these particular cards because each one has been highly prevalent, regardless of what strategies have been popular or what other cards have existed around them,” the note on the Hearthstone blog states. “When Basic and Classic cards become this ubiquitous, they take away some of the flexibility players have when building decks, ultimately stifling the diversity of decks we see when playing Hearthstone.”

These sweeping changes impact four class cards: the Rogue’s Cold Blood, Shaman’s Flametongue Totem, Paladin’s Equality, and the Hunter card Hunter’s Mark. Each one is having its mana cost raised by one, except for Equality, which is being raised by two. The actual card effects are going unchanged in each instance, but Blizzard hopes that by raising the mana cost they’ll be less “auto-include” cards and encourage more diversity in those decks.

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Finally, one more change was announced, this one hitting a non-Basic/Classic card. The Hunter’s Emerald Spellstone, from the Kobolds & Catacombs set, will go from five mana to six. The Spellstone cards change their effect throughout a match as certain conditions are met, and this one had a big reward for fulfilling relatively easy conditions. Blizzard says it’s raising the cost to make it more of a mid-to-late game threat rather than an aggressive early one.

Blizzard tends to announce changes like these, impacting Basic and Classic cards, in anticipation for a new Standard rotation. When the first expansion of 2019 comes out, the three released in 2017–Journey to Un’Goro, Knights of the Frozen Throne, and Kobolds and Catacombs–will all rotation out of Standard play. That also makes the change to Emerald Spellstone more forward-facing for Wild play, where it will still be playable after the changeover.


Michael B. Jordan reportedly returning for Black Panther 2

Michael B. Jordan’s turn as Erik Killmonger, abandoned heir to the Wakandan throne, in 2018’s Black Panther was hailed by fans and critics as one of the most compelling villains of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. It would be not surprise if filmmakers wanted to find a way to bring the actor and his character back for Black Panther 2.

Especially if you listen to Angela Bassett’s husband.

Bassett played the role of Dowager Queen Ramonda, mother of T’Challa, the eponymous Black Panther, in the film. She and her husband, Courtney B. Vance, were on the red carpet of the Screen Actors Guild Awards this weekend, where Black Panther was nominated for, and won, the award for Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture.

When an Entertainment Tonight reporter asked if the nominated cast would all be returning for the sequel, Bassett coyly responded “I would assume so.”

“Yes,” her husband added, “just go ahead and say it, yes. Everyone will be there.”

The two did a little teasing back and forth to hedge the edges of the statement, but then Vance simply said it: “Even Michael B.

Now, you’re probably thinking “But Killmonger died in Black Panther. He chose to die instead of living and going to prison, and he died on screen. It was a really good scene, even.”

But, my friends, this is comic books, and there are a myriad of ways for his character to appear again. Aside from cosmic and technological intervention, a la Thanos or Bucky Barnes, there’s also the fact that the royal line of Wakanda has their own afterlife, as seen in Black Panther itself. Erik might not return as a major villain, but he could still make a significant appearance — as his late father, Prince N’Jobu, appeared in Black Panther in one of the movie’s most moving scenes.

Polygon has reached out to Michael B. Jordan, Marvel and Disney for comment.


Xbox’s Super Bowl ad spotlights a heartwarming story

OK, I’ll stop being a grouch for once and smile at something trying to be nice, and not because one of the kids in this ad is named Owen. It’s pretty sweet. It’s Microsoft’s spot for the Super Bowl this weekend, highlighting the Xbox Adaptive Controller.

Joining Owen (no relation) are Sean, Ian, Taylor, and Grover, surefire candidates for a Goonies reboot if I’ve ever seen one. They open up matter-of-factly about their physical limitations, in which they don’t have the full use of limbs and digits that other players do to manipulate the Xbox One’s twin-analog gamepad.

“I never thought it was unfair — I just thought, hey, this is the way it is, and it’s not gonna change,” Ian says.

Of course, the Adaptive Controller, which launched back in May, is a change. A big one. Even in a two-minute advertisement, it’s hard to show all the ways in which the pad can be remapped, paired with other peripherals, mounted for an individual’s ergonomic needs, and just plain used so someone can enjoy a video game. It’s way more than just two large buttons and an oversized D-pad, because there’s no way you could approach this kind of need with a one-size-fits-all-design.

Yeah, it’s still an ad for a video game product ($99, but we found that reasonably priced given what it does) and for sure it’s great P.R. for Microsoft. You’ve probably seen the other ad for Microsoft’s adaptive controller, “Reindeer Games.” In it, the Owen in question is attempting some video gaming feat using the Xbox Adaptive Controller. Another kid runs shrieking through the neighborhood to summon an audience. Its heart is in the right place, but after seeing it once, the tone comes off a little contrived to me.

Far better to just let the girls and boys put it in their own words, on what this means to them — and, just as importantly, their parents. Being a Mom or a Dad means signing up for a nonstop parade of worries, even when everything is going well. And the biggest of those worries sometimes is just hoping your kid gets to enjoy all the things in life other kids get to enjoy, too. This controller, for many, allows that.

The Super Bowl is this Sunday, Feb. 3 at 6:30 p.m. on CBS.


Sunless Skies Is A Grim, Thrilling Adventure Through Victorian Space

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My first death in Sunless Skies was equal parts embarrassing and fitting. My crew was desperate, starved and half-mad from the horrors they’d witnessed. We’d just narrowly escaped what we initially thought to be a friendly vessel, until a bouquet of otherworldly tentacles burst from its bow.

There were no ports in sight. It wouldn’t be long before my ragtag gang turned to cannibalism—or worse. Then I accidentally plowed my ship into a piece of debris, my ship ruptured, and everyone froze in the pseudo-vacuum of space. A merciful end, all things considered.

Sunless Skies—which leaves early access today—is, in many ways, similar to its predecessor, fantastic story-driven rogue-ish-like Sunless Sea. It takes a great foundation and turns it into a game that, after ten hours with a near-final version, I think I might love even more than the first. You once again pilot an itsy-bitsy vessel through the clockwork guts of a vast and sinister frontier, except this time, instead of sailing the underground waters of the “Underzee,” you live (and die) among the stars. When you die, you pass some of your traits, wealth, and sometimes-unreliable map knowledge onto your next captain. Then you hope for the best—or at least a less horrifying end (I did this by creating a lineage of women who wore the same grotesque tentacle hat, all named Madam Squidhat I, II, III, etc).

Sunless Skies’ setting is arguably even more fascinating than Sunless Sea’s, set against the backdrop of a Victorian Empire that’s ascended to the stars, built an artificial clockwork sun, and filled a power vacuum left behind by living stars, now dying under mysterious circumstances. The Queen controls time, and workers toil to mine a physical embodiment of the stuff for her and her kingdom. Some workers dream of a retirement in which they’re bequeathed just a little more time to savor their golden years. Others dream of killing the Queen. You can ally with the loyalist “Stovepipes” or the rebellious “Tacketies.” Or neither. There are, it turns out, much more threatening things among the stars than political machinations.

Oh, and you pilot a SPACE TRAIN instead of a ship.

Along the way, you interact with characters and locations through quick, brilliantly written interactive-fiction-like vignettes. Story suffuses everything, even leveling up your character, which is done by selecting bits of their backstory. You can pursue a number of goals, from accumulating an unassailable fortune to penning the next great (very) British novel based on all the strangeness you’ve seen and heard about from others, as well as all the voices whispering in your head. But first you’ll have to survive, and that part is easier said than done.

The skies teem with dangers to both the body and mind. Marauder ships and unspeakable creatures damage your hull, while harrowing sights and experiences slowly fill your sanity-dictating “terror” meter, giving you nightmares and making your crew unruly. Combat is faster and more enjoyable than in Sunless Sea, with strafing mechanics and manual aim balanced with an overheating mechanic that keeps you from getting too trigger-happy. But it’s everything that happens around combat that makes Sunless Skies so fascinating—the personal narratives that feed into your successes and especially your failures, whether they stem from overzealousness, cowardice, or the greatest killer of all: curiosity.

Fortunately, survival is a more straightforward process than in Sunless Sea, which didn’t exactly illuminate a path to sustainability through its sickly green caverns. You still have to ensure that you’re picking up a steady supply of fuel and supplies from ports (or the husks of dead ships), but in Sunless Skies, you can pursue “prospects,” which are missions that see you ferry goods between ports to turn substantial profits. This mechanic does double duty: it earns you money for fuel, supplies, and ship upgrades, and it gives you a rough idea of where to find safe haven between long journeys across the game’s treacherous heavens.

This doesn’t make Sunless Skies easy by any means. When I say “rough idea,” I mean rough. You’ve still got to explore to fill in your map, and that inevitably means a lot of wrong turns. But it does mean that when you die—and you will—it feels more like it was at least partially your fault. More importantly, though, it makes the choice between pursuing sustainability and exploration (the game’s true joy), well, a choice than it sometimes was in Sunless Sea.

Death largely stems from disasters that occur when you plunge headlong into the grasping unknown, and, with four large regions to explore, you’ll be doing a lot of plunging. Each new discovery is tinged with dread; will you find an interesting new story or character, or some cosmic horror that infiltrates your nightmares, leading to a bitter end beyond your comprehension? Will you look back on that moment later and realize it was then and there that you doomed your crew of incognito princesses, repentant devils, and purple alcoholic monster men, each with their own upgrades and stories?

It hurts to kill your crew, especially since most characters in Sunless Skies just want to live their lives. For some, that means playing a cricket match that’s literally endless (whether that’s due to time-altering shenanigans or extreme Britishness, it’s hard to say). For others, it’s writing a fun book about people eating each other, or visiting a “hospital for the spirit” where staff become whoever people want to see so they can relive arguing with a dead relative over their will for the hundredth time. That might all sound strange, but it’s really just people taking advantage of the game world’s extraordinary circumstances to satisfy painfully ordinary desires and urges. The skies may drone on with a skull-rattling strangeness, but people will never stop being people.

Well, unless the madness takes them.


Search a Showtime Poster – Fortnite Guide

Along with Fortnite’s regular weekly challenges — which include some locations to dance at and balloons to pop in week 9 — this week also has a few special challenges that tie into the Marshmello based event that’s happening this weekend.

The first of these challenges requires players to “Search a Showtime Poster.” While the challenge only requires one poster, there are plenty spread out across the map.

In fact, here are all the locations we’ve been able to find posters at so far, but there are probably a few more scattered around just waiting to be found.

Fortnite Showtime Posters
Locations for the Showtime Posters challenge
Epic Games

Once you arrive at these locations, you can find the posters most often just slapped on a wall. Once you see them just walk up and press the search button and you’ll be given credit for the challenge, along with the reward that it comes with.

Showtime poster
Epic Games

There are going to be a few other challenges associated with this weekend’s in-game event, but those challenges won’t be released until sometime on Friday, Feb. 1, so check back then.


Persona Q2 Is Coming To The West, Special Edition Confirmed

Persona Q2: New Cinema Labyrinth has been confirmed for a western release, heading to the US and Europe on June 4, 2019. The 3DS exclusive will cost $40 at launch, and like its predecessor, it crosses over the casts of various Persona games.

Persona Q2 is a spin-off featuring the Phantom Thieves of Persona 5. The heroes have to battle their way out of dungeons, each themed after a movie genre with its own set of tropes. They’ll join up with both original characters and notable names from the Persona series along the way. Those will include characters from Persona 3, Persona 3 Portable, Persona 4, and Persona 5. Clever team-ups between characters will grant special rewards through a new “Unison” battle system. It will be Japanese-only with subtitles.

Atlus paired the announcement with word of a special “Showtime Premium Edition” for $70. That will include a Koromaru plush, art book, four buttons featuring the four protagonists, and a deck of playing cards with characters across the Persona series. Pre-orders also include the buttons set.

Persona Q2 was among our most anticipated games this year, as a follow-up to the well-received spin-off Persona Q: Shadow of the Labyrinth.

“It’s an ambitious crossover that unites my favorite games, characters, and soundtracks in one place,” wrote Michael Higham. “It’s as if I had different groups of dearly beloved friends somehow meet each other, get along, and band together in a stylish fight for what’s right. This might be the 3DS’s swan song, and it’d be a hell of way for the storied handheld to end its tenure when it comes to the West on June 4, 2019.”


Final Fantasy VII Coming To Switch “Soon”

Nintendo has indicated that we may not have long to wait before beloved RPG Final Fantasy VII is available on the Switch. In a new, rather short commercial, the game is shown on the handheld hybrid console, with the video’s description reading: “Final Fantasy VII coming soon!”

Final Fantasy developer and publisher Square Enix originally revealed its intention to bring the game to the Switch in September 2018, when it was announced for the platform alongside Final Fantasy IX, the X and X-2 remaster, and Final Fantasy XII: The Zodiac Age. However, they only gave a vague “2019” release window. While “coming soon” doesn’t exactly give us a specific release date, at least we know we won’t be waiting until the end of the year for it.

Square Enix previously confirmed that these versions of the Final Fantasy games will be based on recent ports either to other consoles or PC–obviously, this is not the in-development Final Fantasy VII remake. Final Fantasy VII was released for PC in 2013, with the game also available on the PlayStation Store digitally. Along with the Switch release, these games will also be making the jump to Xbox One, which is a first for a number of them.

Other Final Fantasy games on their way to Switch include the compilation game World of Final Fantasy and an updated version of GameCube title Crystal Chronicles.


Anthem Open Demo: Dates, Start Time, And What’s Included

This weekend, Anthem has its second and final demo before the game officially launches. Below, we’ve outlined every bit of information you need to know about the open demo, including how you can participate and what you’ll be able to do.

Anthem is an upcoming multiplayer-focused, third-person shooter RPG developed by BioWare. You take control of a Freelancer, one of the disgraced heroes who protect the inhabitants of Fort Tarsis, who ventures out into the world to fulfill contracts, explore uncharted territory, and handle threats for others. You do this with the help of Javelins, powerful exo-suits that grant their pilots superpowered strength, reflexes, and abilities and come equipped with flight jets and deadly weapons.

There are currently four Javelins in Anthem, each of which gives you a different range of abilities. Ranger exists primarily as a support Javelin, but its assortment of powerful grenade, rocket, and laser abilities provides it enough explosive firepower to stand on its own. Colossus is the slowest of the Javelins, but it also has the toughest armor and is the only one strong enough to carry heavy weaponry and a near-indestructible shield. Interceptor, on the other hand, trades defense for lightning-fast speed that gets it into an enemy’s face where it can deal massive melee damage before twirling out of harm’s way. Finally, Storm also has light armor, but its personal force field and powerful elemental attacks gives it plenty of long-range potential.

Anthem releases for Xbox One, PS4, and PC. The game has a staggered launch, but will be available for all come February 22. Both of its editions are available for pre-order.

When Is The Anthem Demo?

The Anthem demo starts February 1 at 9AM PT / 12PM ET / 5PM UK. It ends on February 3 at 6PM PT / 9PM ET, which is February 4 at 2AM in the UK.

How To Participate In The Demo

To participate in the open demo, you’ll need to download the client first. It’s 26 GB on consoles and 44 GB on PC, and you can pre-load the client right now if don’t want to spend time over the weekend downloading it.

When the demo is finished downloading, you’ll need to sign into your EA or Origin account to access the game. On Xbox One and PS4, you’ll need a Gold/PSN subscription, as Anthem, even when you play solo, is an always-online game. Microsoft is having a Free Play Days For All event this weekend, from January 31-February 1, so you’ll be able to play the first day of the Anthem demo on Xbox One without paying for a Gold subscription.

What Can You Do In The Demo?

The Anthem demo takes place just before the halfway point of the full game’s story, and you’ll be able to play through two story missions. You’ll also be able to explore a portion of Anthem’s full map in freeplay mode, and take on one of the game’s harder pieces of a content: a Stronghold.

With the exception of the Stronghold–which must be tackled with four players–every part of the demo can be done solo or as a group. However, you receive experience boosts when playing with others, so it’s worth your time to team-up. You’ll start at level 10 in the demo and be able to reach 15. Everyone starts with the Ranger Javelin, and at level 12 you’ll be able to unlock one of the three others: Colossus, Interceptor, or Storm. You’ll only be able to unlock one other Javelin the whole demo, so choose wisely.

If you played the Anthem VIP demo, your progress from that demo will carry over into this one. Your progress from either demo, however, will not carry over into the full game.