Anodyne 2: Return to Dust isn’t releasing until May, but it’s been quietly dominating my thoughts so far this year. Mixing Playstation-era visuals with Link’s Awakening-esque dungeons, it’s on track to be one of the most innovative and evocative games of 2019.
The original Anodyne released in 2013, offering a world of dreamy pixel art dungeons to explore. I had the chance to play a preview build of the sequel, and it’s a delightful merger of some of my favorite styles of gameplay. Developed by Sean Han Tani and Marina Kittaka, Anodyne 2 follows a “nano cleaner” named Nova. Picture a newborn fairy who can shrink to microscopic size and vacuum up dust. The world is suffering at the hands of evil dust fragments and dangerous miniature assassins, and it’s Nova’s job to dive down, hop inside of people, and clean all the bad stuff. It’s a whimsical concept, but what really makes it work is Anodyne 2’s visual style.
Whenever you’re wandering the world, it feels like you’re navigating your way through Playstation classics like Spyro the Dragon. It’s a hard style to get right, and with only a few recent indie titles really capturing the aesthetic. Jagged-edged polygonal structures and strange animal citizens dot the landscape, and you’re able to freely explore an overworld map to find folks affected by the dust. There’s a sun-drenched dream shore, hazy ruins, and bustling metropolises that feel lifted from the late 1990s. Worlds mix platforming and double-jumps with the ability to turn into a super-fast car that allows you to zoom around the world. The goal is to chat it up with folksy friends until you find someone who needs some cleaning. After that, you shrink down and get to work.
Changing size also changes the art style back to the same pixel art from Anodyne. Every person you need to clean acts as a sort of tiny Zelda dungeon complete with puzzle rooms and enemies. These areas—at least the early ones I’ve played—aren’t particularly difficult but still feature enough brainteasers to be satisfying. One room might challenge you to avoid enemies and leave them alive, while another could involve sucking them up Kirby style and then hurling them through fire so they burn up a gate blocking your path. It gives Anodyne 2 a unique pace: bouncing around the overworld and then slowing down for puzzles when you shrink. In some ways, it reminds me of Psychonauts. Each new dungeon reflects something about the person you are helping, and as you delve deeper you start to understand them a little more. This makes success feel particularly gratifying. You’re not just checking off a list of objectives; you’re helping people.
In the time since Anodyne, its creators have honed their skills with a variety of projects. Tani and Kittaka released Even the Ocean in 2016, a narrative platformer that pioneered accessibility options even before games like Celeste popularized them. Tani also released All Our Asias last year, a lo-fi, 3D game that dealt with cultural identity and boasted astounding visuals. Anodyne 2 feels like the product of several lessons coming home to roost, both in terms of how confidently it weaves together different gameplay styles and how much it nails old school Playstation visuals. There’s still some time before the game releases, but even the few moments I’ve spent with it have been inspiring. If you like good games or want to slide into a truly nostalgic and kind-hearted experience, keep your eyes on Anodyne 2.
Xbox One owners who want to spend a little more time with Claire Redfield, star of the recently remade Resident Evil 2, can do so in Resident Evil Code: Veronica X, which joins Microsoft’s list of backward compatible Xbox 360 games today.
Capcom released Resident Evil: Code Veronica X on Xbox 360 in 2011. The game is an updated version of the original Dreamcast release, which dates back to 2000. The Xbox 360 version is priced at $19.99 on the Xbox Games Store.
Three other Xbox 360 are also backward compatible starting today: Lost Planet: Extreme Condition, Lost Planet 2, and Lost Planet 3. Capcom’s third-person shooter series sends players to EDN 3, an alien planet experiencing an ice age that’s inhabited by hostile wildlife. The second game in the Lost Planet series featured a heavy emphasis on cooperative multiplayer gameplay. The third was co-developed by defunct studio Spark Unlimited.
Both the original Lost Planet: Extreme Condition and its expanded update, Lost Planet Colonies, are supported on Xbox One. Each Lost Planet game costs $19.99 through the Xbox Games Store.
According to Ubisoft, the purpose of this technical test is to “assess a certain amount of fixes [it has] implemented based on your feedback following the Private Beta.” Only players who have received an invitation via email will be eligible to participate in this test.
If you’re one of the players who’ve been selected, you’ll be able to try out all of the content that was available in Ubisoft’s previous Division 2 beta, with the exception of Conflict, Endgame, and Photo Mode. Participants also won’t be able to invite friends to join during this test. You can read more details on The Division 2 website.
Even if you don’t make it into this week’s test, everyone will soon have a chance to sample the upcoming shooter. Ubisoft is hosting an open beta for The Division 2 next week, from March 1-4. That test will be available to all players on PS4, Xbox One, and PC.
Players have discovered that by opening the game’s settings in Origin on PC, they can edit the advanced launch options. If the command, “+twitch_prime_linked 1” is added, Apex Legends will reward players with the five free Apex packs and the legendary Pathfinder skin the next time the game is opened.
This was first pointed out by Twitter user, Adam_THR and is likely an unintended interaction inside of Origin. Any player that hasn’t already linked their Origin account with a Twitch Prime account could do this, but there’s no way to know if EA will take action against accounts that do. Unlocking the rewards this way, rather than through Prime, would be taking the safety of your account into your own hands. You’ve been warned.
Yesterday, the developers of The Sims 4 announced a new expansion coming Feb. 26 called Strangerville, which includes a storyline that seems to be about alien possession. Simmers responded with a lot of questions, and the developers addressed them on Twitter—here’s a breakdown of what we know.
The Sims 4 has three different tiers of expansions. There’s stuff packs, which usually just have a handful of themed items, like Cool Kitchen Stuff, which gave you cool stuff for your kitchens. Game packs are larger and usually come with a new mechanic of some kind, like Jungle Adventure, which gave players a new world to vacation in and an archaeology skill. Then there are expansion packs, which fundamentally change gameplay systems and radically alter the world, like Seasons, which gave the game seasons.
Strangerville is a game pack, and the trailer mostly centers around the whole alien possession thing.
Although that storyline seems interesting, Simmers are interested in the nuts and bolts of Strangerville. Designer Aaron Houts and community manager Kate Olmstead have given more details about the pack on Twitter.
Strangerville isn’t going to be a vacation world like Selvadorada from Jungle Adventure, both Olmstead and Houts said. Your Sims can actually live there, and the new location will have a whopping 11 lots you can build on. Houts recommends you live in the town to get the full experience. “Don’t go crazy with what you imagine this might be, but there are some cool details that you’ll get if you actually live there,” he wrote.
The pack also comes with the new Military career, which Olmstead said is “fully playable,” like the Gardening career. There will also be a “secret lot,” which is less a lot that’s hard to find and more a lot with lots of secrets in it, according to Olmstead and Houts.
“If you never engage with the story, it has a very small presence in the world and I don’t think it’ll bother people,” he said. “If you move into Strangerville and just want to live a normal life, you can do that without us trying to force you into the story or remind you that it’s there.”
Fortnite reached a new high for current players, according to Epic Games.
Epic confirmed that the game reached 7.6 million concurrent players on Saturday, Feb. 16, a non-special-event record for Fortnite. The record comes one week after a Marshmello concert event in-game garnered over 10.7 million players — which doesn’t include Twitch viewers. The game has averaged around eight million players for past in-game special events.
The most surprising thing about Fortnite’s new record is when it happened. There was no big patch or surprise on the map to draw players. Nothing noteworthy was happening at the time in-game. It was a regular day.
This news comes at a contentious time in the battle royale landscape. Earlier this month, Respawn Entertainment released Apex Legendsout of nowhere. The game took everyone by surprise and soared to 10 million total players in just three days, a milestone that took Fortnite several weeks. Another metric that drew direct Fortnite comparisons were Twitch streaming numbers, which have had Apex Legends taking over Fortnite’s top spot for most of February.
It does seem that the battle royale space is more than big enough for both games. With Apex Legends’ remaining on top of Twitch, and Fortnite hitting new record highs in players, it’s possible the battle royale genre is popular enough for more than a few games. Just a week ago another series joined the genre when Nintendo announced, and released, Tetris 99. This, too, has climbed up the Twitch ranks.
Even with all of these battle royale games finding success at the same time, this new record is a reminder of how ubiquitous Fortnite has become in culture. While games like Apex Legends may be dominating on Twitch, Fortnite has gone from the popular game of the moment to something like Minecraft, that’s simply present everywhere you look.
Fortnite ison just about every device you can think of. With the smart phone version, people can play the same version they have at home, anywhere. Fortnite also continues to dominate on YouTube, where the demographics can skew toward younger fans (who might not engage with the game on Twitch). The game is featured on the physical boxes of consoles and there are entire sections in bookstores dedicated to Fortnite. Kids do the dances — both original and … less original — wandering around with their friends while professional athletes use them to celebrate touchdowns and goals.
As for the Marshmello concert that Epic held earlier this month, it’s hard to say how large the effects might be. Hosting an in-game concert is an achievement on its own, but hosting anything that draws over 10 million viewers at once is something entirely different and more impressive. Its success may herald a new age for Fortnite, where it evolves from being a battle royale shooter into a social gathering space (that also happens to have a battle royale shooter).
After 15 years, the man, myth, and infinitely meme-able legend Reggie Fils-Aime has finally kicked enough ass and taken enough names. He’s being succeeded as president of Nintendo of America by a man with the greatest name of all: Doug Bowser. Never before have the jokes so readily written themselves.
Within seconds of the announcement, the internet was ablaze with one hundred million variations on the exact same joke. This will continue indefinitely, probably until Doug Bowser retires, gives the position to a turtle who’s apparently not his kid, and goes back to harassing his local plumber. But you know what? It’s 2019 and the world is a nightmarish fun house mirror parody of itself. Let’s laugh about the high-powered executive with the cartoon dinosaur name.
The characters in Apex Legends are simple. Mirage is a cocky trickster. Bangalore is a dedicated soldier. You can describe them all with just a few words.
The cast is more like a collection of action figures than actual characters, and that strategy that could give Apex Legends legs. So many other developers load up characters with cliffhangers, mysteries and lore that rarely impact the game that Respawn’s decision to keep things light and barely defined is refreshing.
Apex Legends’ cinematic trailer even ends with the majority of the roster dead, including not one, but two Caustics. Compare this approach to how Blizzard handles lore: Can you imagine a new animated Overwatch short that ends with Winston dying?
Each character has a clever introduction animation, a few in-game voice lines and a brief biography. But everything else about these people, so far, has been left blank. What you think or feel about each character based on what little information you’re given may say more about you than it does the game, which makes the marketing materials almost like Rorschach tests.
For instance, what’s going on in this image? What do you feel about the character and what he’s doing? You may think he looks like an arrogant asshole, or he’s a charming guy who is cleaning up while also pouring drinks and trying to make a friend. He’s the life of his own party! Both takes are equally correct, especially since there is so little supplemental character material to prove anyone wrong.
Respawn’s decision to go light on the lore makes it a bit of an oddball compared to the current crop of ever-evolving games. Rainbow Six Siege has an elaborate web of relationships between its operators. Riot is collaborating with Marvel on a series of comics about League of Legends characters, selected from their cast of 143 characters. Blizzard releases CGI animations and stories about its Overwatch heroes.
This lore comes with baggage. Riot has continually retconned League of Legends’ universe, including a full reboot of the basic premise of the game. Characters exist in lore limbos, sometimes to the point that stories or champions become non-canon for months or even years. The look and backstory of these characters may be reworked completely.
Blizzard limits Overwatch lore to just a few releases a year as its enormous, complicated story inches forward. I have been waiting for years to find out how Gabriel Reyes became Reaper, and it’s hard to stay invested. Each new Overwatch lore dump also reveals things about the characters that contradict popular fan theories or characterizations, to the point where players’ relationships to their favorite players may be harmed. And this is all done in the service of a story that has barely moved forward since the game’s 2016 release.
Apex Legends has none of this, at least so far, and the game is richer for it. Respawn may be cribbing from Fortnite by making the map itself and the visual language of the game their own meta-characters, which means anyone can make up any story for anything, and they don’t have to worry about an upcoming short story or animated short canonically proving they’re wrong.
The Titanfall universe is more serious and established than Fortnite, but having events where players can trigger monsters emerging suggests we should focus on Kings’ Canyon itself over the cast. The characters look interesting, sure, and suggest varied pasts, but that’s just set dressing. The real story of the game may be in the setting. It’s an approach that gives the imagination of the players much more respect, and trusts them to enjoy the game while telling their own stories.
I focus on the fun of sliding and shooting. I’m less invested in Wraith than Overwatch’s Pharah, but I don’t need to know the secrets Wraith searches for in order to have fun sliding her down a hill to grab a speedy zipline.
You could create any kind of fan fiction or fan art with any combination of characters in any kind of relationship, and Respawn doesn’t seem to mind. There’s nothing wrong with lore, but there’s something freeing about the very idea being almost completely ignored.
After more than 15 years with the company, Nintendo of America president and COO Reggie Fils-Aime is retiring this April. Shortly after the news broke, the company shared a heartfelt farewell message from Fils-Aime himself on Twitter.
“I wanted to reach out directly to you, the Nintendo community, because there’s one thing I really want to say: thank you,” Fils-Aime said in the video below. “Thank you for your never-ending support, and for your passionate love of Nintendo. And personally, for giving me a Mushroom Kingdom full of incredible memories that I will never forget, ever.
“From the first time I saw the nickname ‘Regginator,’ I realized that Nintendo fans share a unique sense of community, a bond that goes beyond just a love of video games. For these past 15 years, I’ve been honored to be included as part of your family.”
Fils-Aime also shared a few words about his successor, NOA senior VP of sales and marketing Doug Bowser, who’ll be formally taking over his role on April 15. “Doug is a passionate and powerful leader, and a guy who in his youth probably spent too much time in front of a Donkey Kong arcade machine. Inside Nintendo, people already know him as a driving force, and you’ll come to see that too.”
Fils-Aime joined the company partway through the GameCube era and has been its face in North American territories ever since, delivering press conferences and appearing in Nintendo Direct broadcasts. He’ll perhaps best be remembered, however, for the countless memes he’s inspired, from the time he danced to promote Yo-Kai Watch to his unintentionally iconic catchphrase.
Following the news of Fils-Aime’s retirement, many other industry figures, such as Microsoft’s Phil Spencer, expressed their thanks and shared memories and anecdotes of the NOA president.
BioWare’s Anthem launched with a lot of problems, and even after today’s patch, the game’s still got issues. On this week’s episode of Kotaku Splitscreen, we discuss the unpolished, unfinished feel of Anthem, compare its rocky launch to Destiny’s early days, and wonder whether Anthem should have instead entered an official early access period for its first six months.
The full episode starts off with us discussing the games we’re playing, with Jason describing his new love affair with Bloodborne (3:23), then my speculation about which age group Kingdom Hearts 3 is actually for (17:30), and Kirk describing Far Cry New Dawn’s charming choice to re-introduce him to Far Cry 5’s settings and characters (22:30). After our Anthem segment (32:13), we end the show with Kirk’s music pick of the week (73:17), which in this case inspires us all to reminisce about the cult classic comedy Wayne’s World.
Kirk: The launch of a service game fascinates me. The way that we talk about it and the way that we consider it. The expectations game. Even the expectations game you’re talking about, the internal one, Jason, where they think, “Okay, we’ll get railed in reviews, we’ll do okay, and then we’ll make it better, and over time eventually it’ll be this big success story.” I think we’re really at a point where that’s—for reasons we’ve already talked about—not happening.
With Fallout 76, for example, it seems like maybe that’s just not going to happen with that game. With this game as well, there’s a feeling that maybe it won’t. I don’t know. It’s so different from the launch of a standard game, like Metro, actually, which launched also with a lot of technical problems and that’s also sort of frustrating, that at least fits into this familiar paradigm of, a video game comes out and people play it and review it and it’s just a single-player game.
This is almost like a software launch, or an operating system launch, right? I feel increasingly like each of these games comes out and — when Windows 11 comes out, or whatever, you don’t necessarily buy it on day one, because there are usually all these problems, and then you see all the reports on Gizmodo or wherever that are like, “Windows reveals your credit card information to everybody! Don’t buy it yet! And they’re gonna patch it, but don’t get it!” This is sort of that same feeling of, don’t play the game initially. Which is something that gets said a lot on this show. We give that advice for various reasons. This reason strikes me as an interesting one, is that it’s basically software in development. They almost always launch rough, maybe not always this rough, and then we assume that they’ll get better over time, and that’s a very strange place to be in, I think, because of how video games have been released for so long.
Jason: Yeah, and even more than software, games are so dependent on hearing what players think and what they want out of them that it’s almost impossible to get it right the first time you launch a game like this.
Kirk: I will say to BioWare’s credit, they are being very, very responsive to the community. No one’s saying they’re railing on Reddit and not getting heard. They’re all over the place responding. And those first patch notes are pretty impressive…
Jason: Those first patch notes signal to me that the game that they launched last week is a much earlier build, like from a few weeks ago maybe, and that they’ve been working on this day one patch for a long time.
Kirk: And even those demos also had problems.
Jason: I mean, yeah. Such a strategic blunder to not think of February 15th as your launch day, instead to think of the 22nd. And the reviews are just punishing them for it. But the point I was going to make earlier is that I think because it’s so difficult, if not impossible, for a game like this to get it right on the first try, I think that all of these publishers need to step back and if they’re launching a new service game, they need to say, “Hey, we’re not gonna do a traditional triple-A launch with this because it’s just going to blow up in our faces. We need to do an early access or a long beta.”
Imagine if Anthem had been like, “All right. We are going into beta in February. And for next five months, for the next six months, this game, you can buy it for $60, but we are warning you, it is gonna be broken. It is gonna be a work in progress. We are gonna work with you players to make this game what it can be for the official launch in September.” Imagine if they had approached it that way. And they still get their sales or whatever, but they make it clear to players that this is a game that is a work in progress and are just honest about that fact instead of being like, “Yeah, Anthem launch! We’re expecting high 70s Metacritic and then hopefully we fix it later.”
These traditional publishers are embracing this future technology and this idea that games are constantly changing, which is really cool and good, but they’re sticking with the old way of doing things, which is a single launch day and marketing all tied to that day.
Kirk: Selling a season pass. And it’s like, preview the season pass now!
Jason: Although Anthem doesn’t have a season pass.
Kirk: I guess that makes sense. That’s kind of EA’s thing, right? They do a lot of free updates now.
Jason: I think so. The whole point is that it’s cosmetic microtransactions and then free updates attached to the game. But yeah, imagine if they had just done that approach. It’s almost like No Man’s Sky when we talked about that back in the day and how that should have been an early access game.
Kirk: And Fallout 76. I think we’ve said this for multiple games.
Jason: Should’ve been an early access game. It’s like, some honesty and transparency and just being like, “Look. This is fucking hard. Making this game is hard. We have no idea—”
Kirk: “Look. This is hard.”
Maddy: “We have no idea how to make games!”
Kirk: “We have no idea what the fuck we’re doing! Anyways, bye!!”
Maddy: [laughs] I don’t know! Don’t you feel like the counter-argument to that would be that there are many players who don’t like that and find it irritating that they’re basically being asked to pay to be a QA tester for a game for six months or a year, and that that is now just a cultural thing we’ve accepted as being normal and fine?
Jason: Well, we’ll see if people accept it. They didn’t accept it with Fallout.
Maddy: I mean, a lot of other games, people have kinda done it. But yeah, Fallout is an example of players being like, “No, this isn’t what we wanted, and we are not going to play it.”
Jason: I can’t see people accepting this. The big question here—the elephant in the room is, is EA going to allow Anthem the time, and BioWare the time, to get Anthem right and give it the foundational fixes and big scale changes that it needs? Is Anthem even gonna have a chance to have its Taken King moment? I don’t know.
For much more, listen to the entire episode. As always, you can subscribe to us on Apple Podcasts and Google Play to get every episode as it happens. Leave us a review if you like what you hear, and reach us at firstname.lastname@example.org with any and all questions, requests, and suggestions.