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Game News

Switch’s Mario Tennis Aces Gets New Mode And More In Big Update

Nintendo and Camelot continue to roll out updates for Switch’s first Mario sports game, Mario Tennis Aces. The title’s 3.0 update is now live, and it’s a fairly significant one, introducing a new mode, kicking off a new Co-Op Challenge, and making another round of balance adjustments to a handful of characters.

First, Ring Shot has been added to the game’s main menu. The mode supports up to four players locally on one Switch console and comes in three varieties: Singles, Doubles, and Yoshi’s Ring Shot. The object of each is to rally the ball back and forth through rings that appear on the court, racking up as high of a score as you can within the time limit.

Yoshi’s Ring Shot also returns as the game’s latest online Co-Op Challenge. The event runs until June 1 and will give players the chance to unlock three more alternate Yoshi colors: pink, orange, and light blue. The rules are the same as standard Ring Shot, but this time, you’ll rack up more points if you shoot the ball through a ring that’s the same color as your Yoshi.

In addition to those modes, Camelot has added a new opening cinematic for Adventure Mode. If you’ve already have an Adventure save file in progress, you’ll be able to watch the movie from the Bonus option in the Adventure Mode menu. A new rank, Ace, has also been added to the online Tournament mode, and several characters have received small buffs. You can read the full patch notes here on Nintendo’s website.

Following the addition of Pauline last month, the newest character to join the Mario Tennis Aces roster is Magikoopa. Everyone who competes in one online Tournament match in April will unlock the character immediately, while all other players will get him after May 1. Another classic Mario villain, Dry Bones, will be added as a playable character next month.


Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order Director On The Game’s Era And Purge Trooper Creation

At Star Wars Celebration, Respawn revealed a look at its upcoming game Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order. The game launches on November 15 on PS4, Xbox One, and PC and follows protagonist named Cal Kestis, a padawan who survived Palpatine’s Order 66 in Revenge of the Sith. Years later, the force-sensitive hero finds himself in the crosshairs of the rising Empire.

While the panel for the reveal was a bit tight-lipped on specifics on the game, since we’re still seven months from release, GameSpot spoke to Stig Asmussen, the game director at Respawn Entertainment on Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order, and Steve Blank, the director of franchise content and strategy in the Lucasfilm’s story group, about the upcoming game.

GameSpot: We live very much in a realm of multiplayer online-only gaming. Why the decision to go single-player with this?

Stig Asmussen: A lot of it just happened because of my joining Respawn. I joined, and Vince and I talked about, “Hey, what kind of game do we want to build?” Like, start a new team with. And my experience was all single-player action-adventure, and that’s the kind of game that [Respawn co-founder Vince Zampella] wanted to make because he had been making multiplayer games for so long. So, it was a really good fit there. And then quickly afterwards, we started recruiting people; some people that I’ve worked with before, some people from other places where that was all their experience and their passion, and it never was a discussion to make anything more than that.

When creating this game, did you feel it was very constrictive to work within the Star Wars universe or was there a lot of wiggle room?

Asmussen: I didn’t think it was constrictive at all. We came in very early, and I think the first time that we had a meeting between Respawn and EA, it’s like, “This is the kind of game that we think we could make that’s really good.” But it was in terms of from a gaming standpoint and our kind of much more shallow knowledge of Star Wars than the Lucasfilm guys, and that just started the conversation.

Steve Blank: As Stig was saying, they came in and after having their conversations and knowing and having a strong point of view for the type of game that they wanted to make, the mechanics that they wanted to lean into, the style of gameplay, the single-player story-driven game, action-adventure style, they came to us and said, “Hey, given everything you guys have going on, where do we set this? What does this become? How do we shape this and craft this together?” And, of course, yes, there are other things in development. There are other projects going on to be aware of. There are guardrails when it comes to that, but once we find that slot, once we select what the core of this story is going to be and where it’s going to be set, we also put up guardrails for this game with other content. And so, once we knew where this was going to be set, then they could really craft what this specific story was. So there is freedom once we set those markers in the ground to develop within those markers.

And this taking place after Revenge of the Sith but before A New Hope, kind of that Rebels era. Pre-Rebels?

Blank: It’s in that range.

What about this time period within the Star Wars universe appeals to you?

Blank: The Dark Times [era] is a place where there are very few Jedi, so somebody needs to be in hiding or constantly on the run, and that adds a whole other feeling to whatever content it is that you’re creating because when you think of prequel-era Jedi, right, they’re heroic, they’re part of the Republic, they’re out there as these peacekeepers, and they’re known. When you move into the Dark Times, the ones who have remained, have to be something completely different. And it is that air of something a little bit darker, a little bit more mysterious, a little bit more threatening that was interesting to develop against for this type of game.

Asmussen: They’re enemies of the state, and we need things to fight against. [laughs] So it’s basically looked at as being knights in shining armor or something like that. We had to put ourselves in a situation or a time period where the hero had to fight back, and because you can’t just have a Force user going out there willy-nilly cutting through people because then they become a murderer. But if they’re constantly under pressure, if they’re constantly being attacked, it gives a really good reason to fight back.

Is this developed on the Frostbite engine?

Asmussen: No, we’re doing it on Unreal 4.

Are there any plans for Fallen Order to come to Nintendo Switch?

Asmussen: Right now, we’re just sticking with PS4, Xbox, and PC, but I love the Nintendo Switch and the game makes a lot of sense on there but we don’t have any plans for that

How did your time working on God of War help shape the Jedi Fallen Order?

Asmussen: First of all, let me just say it’s not just my time. There are a lot of people from the God of War team that have come over and joined us as well as other teams as well from other great games. I think what I learned there is it really takes the team to be involved to make something that’s great and not to [bite] off more than you can really pull off. In terms of just mechanically, we have a really good sense of making a character that just feels good, and that’s just based off of experience of working on God of War and some of the other action-adventure games members of our team have worked on, like Batman, Uncharted. Those types of games. So it’s always a conversation. It’s not ever mandating anything but all of us will point out where things don’t feel right, and then we try to hone them in. And that’s something we did since God of War.

Have you always been a Star Wars fan growing up?

Asmussen: Of course. I wouldn’t call myself like Steve, like a super nerd. You can quiz me right now, I’d probably flunk. It was one of the most influential series of my life, and it really comes up in conversations making games all the time, moments from Star Wars. In God of War III, we had the Tauntaun moment, which is when you split open the centaur’s guts, and that was totally inspired by Star Wars, and I don’t know if it’s a good thing or a bad thing, but it was awesome in God of War.

You debuted the new Stormtrooper [Purge Trooper] that will appear in Fallen Order this morning. You brought him out in full costume. How did this character come together?

Asmussen: It kind of came in two different places at once. We didn’t know this, but the story team was working with Marvel on coming up with a new Stormtrooper class that filled a gap in the comic book, I guess. And at the same time, we had, and I don’t know if this inspired you guys at all, but remember we had that dagger–what we called the Dagger Trooper in the game for a while which was essentially gen one of what would eventually become the Purge Trooper. But it was just a much more skilled Stormtrooper that had tools to fight back against a Jedi. I think you guys were pretty uncomfortable with that, but it’s really because we didn’t take it through the process and we didn’t know the process was already happening a little bit at Marvel but at some point you guys must’ve been like, “Hey, Respawn’s trying to fill the gap where they needed a more challenging Trooper.”

Blank: Once we understood the core of what they were trying to solve from a gameplay perspective and why there had been that character design, right, like what the need was there, we could take that back and iterate on that and say, “Okay, within the Star Wars Universe, what can we craft? What can we develop? What already exists? What pieces can we marry together to create a version that is appropriate for this game?

As Stig was alluding to, we were having conversations with Marvel and one of their writers, Charles Soule, who was interested. He was working on [the Darth Vader comic series] telling some stories about the Inquisitors and interested in doing something similar to having the support for the Inquisitors with these Troopers. And so we combined those two ideas, we talked to everybody about that, and Respawn was like, “We’ll take the lead on designing this. This is going to be a major element in our game” and we’re like, “That sounds awesome.” Their team designed the actual Trooper, and built it out, went through that iteration, put it on ahead of their earlier schedule to help support Marvel’s timeline first of that of what would appear in the comic. Ultimately, that final design was shared and had appeared in some comics and will appear in HD in the game as a credible threat to Cal. And then, like you said, we saw it in person today which was pretty awesome.

Asmussen: Just for us as partners, it was a galvanizing moment because it was the first time we actually got something… Everything we make has to get approved by Lucasfilm and were trying to navigate those waters and how we worked together on that and that actually gave us a timeline. It’s like, “Look, this is going to be in the comic book by a certain date” and it makes us all be honest at that point. We kind of held our feet to the fire. We worked through the iterations pretty quickly and got it done. It was the first thing we got approved. From then, we just had a better relationship.


Pokemon Go: Shiny Latios Now Available For A Limited Time

Pokemon Go players who missed their first chance to catch Latios now have another opportunity to add the Legendary monster to their collection. The Eon Pokemon has returned to Raid Battles around the world as part of a special week-long Raid event, and this time around, you may even find its Shiny form.

Latios will appear in Gyms as a Raid Boss from now until 1 PM PT / 4 PM ET on April 22. Just as before, you’ll first need to team up with other players in-person and battle the Legendary Pokemon before you can earn a chance to capture it. Like its twin Latias, Latios is a dual Dragon/Psychic Pokemon, making it weak to Ghost- and Dark-types like Gengar and Tyranitar, as well as other Dragon Pokemon like Giratina and Salamence.

No Caption Provided

The Latios Raid isn’t the only event Niantic is holding in Pokemon Go this week; the developer is also bringing back the annual Egg-themed Eggstravaganza event from April 16-23. During that week, you’ll be able to hatch baby Pokemon like Pichu, Smoochum, and Magby from 2 km Eggs. Additionally, Incubators will be twice as effective as normal during the event, and you’ll receive two times the usual amount of Candy for every Egg you hatch.

On top of those bonuses, Niantic will be distributing special Field Research tasks revolving around Eggs during the Eggstravaganza. The bunny Pokemon Buneary will also appear in the wild more frequently than usual throughout the event, and you’ll have your first opportunity to catch a Shiny Buneary. More details about the event can be found on the Pokemon Go website.

Beyond those events, you still have some time to catch Origin Forme Giratina in Pokemon Go. The Legendary Renegade Pokemon will appear in Raid Battles until April 29. Niantic also recently rolled out a new Lucky Friends feature. Each day, you’ll a chance to become Lucky Friends with a player you’re Best Friends with, guaranteeing you both receive a Lucky Pokemon in one trade.


Apex Legends Players Are Launching Themselves All Over The Map With A New Bug

Screenshot: Apex Legends (Respawn Entertainment)

A new Apex Legends bug has players soaring into the stratosphere, and players are using it to prank their friends and also play themselves.

Apex Legends is all about fluid movement. The key to not getting shot is strafing effectively, always staying just out of your enemy’s crosshairs. Players have figured out a bunch of tricks to do this using the game’s established systems, especially the ability to slide down hills while crouching. Yesterday, a fan discovered a new way to propel themselves across a map: If you punch the lid of an open supply bin, it’ll store the knockback power and hurtle you into the air if you then jump on it.

Some players are using this bug for a quick escape route to places across the map, or landing on top of rare loot by accident. Other players are eating shit.

Still others are using the bug to prank their friends, like this player, who convinced his teammate to hurl himself into the sea.

Some players compare the effect to Octane’s launch pads. Octane is a new character that was introduced with the battle pass. His ultimate ability allows him to drop a launch pad on the ground for himself and his teammates—but who needs that now that there’s this weirdo glitch with the supply bins?

The launching effect is so funny to players that it’s begun to turn into meme material. This funny post from BottlecapXbox has him launching from Apex Legends into another game entirely.

I can’t wait to try this out for myself, though knowing my luck, I’m more likely to fling myself into an enemy team than anything else.


Octopath Traveler is coming to PC in June

Square Enix is bringing its “HD-2D” role-playing game, Octopath Traveler, to Windows PC on June 7, the company announced on Monday. The game will be released digitally through Steam.

It’s not clear yet what will differentiate the PC version of Octopath Traveler from the Nintendo Switch version released in 2018. Square Enix hasn’t specified what features or improvements players should expect on PC.

Octopath Traveler features eight main characters, each with their own distinct stories and adventures. Players explore the perilous continent of Orsterra, and eventually the octet of heroes see their lives intertwine. In our review of Octopath Traveler, we said the game “comes together brilliantly to create a refreshing take on the genre. While it channels the spirit of old favorites, it never feels derivative. It genuinely does feel like a 16-bit RPG that has evolved into something new rather than being mere nostalgia-bait.”

Square Enix recently announced it was developing a prequel to the game, Octopath Traveler: Champion of the Continent, for mobile devices.


Dragon’s Dogma Is Getting The Fresh Chance It Deserves On Switch

I missed out on Capcom’s Dragon’s Dogma when it first released in 2012. The reception was positive, if somewhat mixed. The Kotaku review noted that it was a game with potential that fell short. Since then, it’s developed a cult following thanks to intense monster slaying and a large open world. The upcoming Switch port for its enhanced version, Dragon’s Dogma: Dark Arisen, is fantastic, and after pouring nearly 20 hours into it this weekend, I’ve yet to get bored.

In Dragon’s Dogma, you’re a dumb schmuck fisherman whose heart is ripped out by a dragon. You survive as the Arisen, a chosen hero destined to slay the beast. What follows is an ambling adventure through a hostile open world packed with chimera, ogres, and other massive creatures. Each new battle is a chance to test your mettle and experiment with an intricate job system that offers numerous ways to tackle challenges. It’s a bit janky, but God if it isn’t fantastic fun.

Whether you’re using holy magic spells to zap a necromancer or smashing a golem’s gems to methodically down it, every single encounter in Dragon’s Dogma is amazing. Combat splits the difference between Dark Souls and Monster Hunter. Striking a large enemy’s weak point yields dramatic results: The best way to fight a griffin is to climb on its back and shred the wings to ground it. You can stop a chimera from casting magic if you kills its goat head first. For every moment you spend exploring the world, there’s a boss monster lurking in the woods or ready to swoop out of the sky. Skyrim’s dragon attacks were neat, but I could kill those with a few well- placed arrow shots. Dragon’s Dogma’s monster fights are hard, consistently intense work.

The moment Dragon’s Dogma “clicked” for me was when I was playing as a Mystic Knight, one of the game’s advanced jobs. They can imbue their swords and shields with magical energy. I had been imbuing mine with fire magic so that anyone striking it would take damage. When a bandit rushed me, I raised my shield for a perfect parry. The bandit flew into the air and was burned to a crisp by a fireball that blasted from my shield. The world of Dragon’s Dogma is generic fantasy, no more unique than Skryrim, but combat keeps things fresh with a variety of jobs that have unique skills and strengths. A broadsword-using warrior can uppercut enemies into the air; a powerful enough sorcerer can summon a massive dark-energy tornado that lifts goblins into the air and drops them to the ground with a splat.

You’re also able to summon AI companions called Pawns. These assistants, the majority of which are player creations, learn from their experiences. After fighting undead, for instance, they’ll be wise to the fact that zombies are weak to fire magic. If I have a Mage Pawn, they’ll buff my party with holy magic when facing necromancers or dark beasts, allowing my Ranger pal to let loose with blessed arrows. They’re prone to some mindless risk taking from time to time, but it beats going it alone. Even better, your created Pawn earns rewards when summoned by other players. I’m playing before launch, so that only happens from time to time, but it’s still helped in many cases. It feels good to know that you’ve helped someone else, even indirectly.

The port functions well, too. Whether handheld or docked, it runs well and is easy to control. Unlike Dark Souls Remastered, which is a good port that is hard to play handheld, I’ve always felt like a capable player with Dragon’s Dogma, regardless of the mode I’m in. The graphics aren’t perfect—everything’s a bit brighter for some reason—but it runs well. This is the Dark Arisen version, which adds all of the preexisting expansion and downloadable content, including a difficult multilayered dungeon that feels plucked straight out of Dark Souls. It’s as complete a Dragon’s Dogma package as you’ll find.

I was aware of the cult following Dragon’s Dogma had amassed, but I’d never poured much time into it myself. That was a huge mistake. This is a deep RPG where your job class matters and where each new trip through the world results in epic battles. There are aspects that can feel repetitive, and the main story isn’t anything to write home about, but I’m hard-pressed to think of the last time I got this excited about exploring an open world. Fans looking for an excuse to replay Dragon’s Dogma should be pleased, and if you’re a newbie like me, you’ll find an RPG to sink countless hours into it when it releases on April 23.


What Palpatine Left Behind

The Emperor has been playing a long game—one that persists beyond even death.
Image: Lucasfilm

A cackle in the dark. That was all it took for Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker to deliver its biggest shock—a shock that not even a title, a Death Star, or a host of other reveals in its first trailer could compare to. Sheev Palpatine, Darth Sidious, Emperor Palpatine, call him what you want: He’s back. And it’s a moment that’s been planned for.

The resurrection of Emperor Palpatine after his trip down a reactor shaft—a shaft that was then promptly blown to bits—in Return of the Jedi might, at first, seem to come out of nowhere. On the surface, it might even seem like Star Wars is returning to its easiest impulses, the cyclical rhyming poetry in which the present constantly echoes the past that came before, a nostalgia the franchise forever struggles to move on from. But the idea of a revived Palpatine been around for decades, in the context of the old Expanded Universe and in Lucasfilm’s plans for this sequel trilogy, stretching back to The Force Awakens’ development, something Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy acknowledged to press in the wake of The Rise of Skywalker’s reveal this past Friday. And the Star Wars universe we have right now has been slowly but quietly laying the groundwork for the return of a villain that has stalked the Skywalker Saga from the very beginning.

This is what Emperor Palpatine left behind—not just his plans and his hopes, but a Star Wars galaxy far more mystical and magical than we might have thought. One where the tragedy of Darth Plagueis the Wise might be less of a legend, and more of a reality.

The ruins of the Death Star II, as seen in The Rise of Skywalker.
Image: Lucasfilm

The Second Death Star

The Second Death Star’s destruction was certainly explosive, but it wasn’t total—the Rebellion’s decisive attack on its core split the battle station into oceans of scrap, parts flinging around into the space above Endor and, judging by The Rise of Skywalker’s trailer, smacking right into other worlds around and beyond it.

Originally planned to appear in early forms of The Force Awakens, the ruins of the Death Star II—also partially sunk under oceans, as they appear to be in The Rise of Skywalker—would’ve been home to the sunken remnants of the Emperor’s tower, and within it the mystical map to Luke Skywalker that both the Resistance and First Order were chasing. It won’t be now, of course, but it establishes that Palpatine’s bases of operation were hiding artifacts and keys to places strong in the Force—an idea we’ll see has been picked up elsewhere in tie-in fiction.

Palpatine posthumously delivers orders to activate Operation Cinder via Sentinel Droid in Battlefront II.
Image: EA/DICE

Project Cinder

First introduced in the Marvel Comics miniseries Shattered Empire and then expounded upon in the story campaign for Battlefront II, if Palpatine’s other machinations were about rebirth, Project Cinder was very much about destruction. Implemented as what initially seemed like a posthumous “screw you” to the Rebellion that upended him, Project Cinder was a plan delivered to high ranking Imperial admirals to activate satellites above key worlds in the Empire that would agitate the environments of those worlds to such an extreme degree that all life on them would be wiped out, Imperial and Rebel alike.

It was, at least to the surviving Imperials, the ultimate display of the Tarkin doctrine, a fear so profound that Imperial worlds that escaped its calamities would never dare to join the fledgling New Republic, and a reminder to would-be rebels of the Empire’s might, even without its ruler. But in actuality, Cinder was meant to help wipe the slate of the Imperial remnant off the map entirely—and hasten a destruction that Palpatine had planned for prior to his own death, one that would allow select survivors to flee and reforge a new and better Empire elsewhere.

Luke Skywalker and Del Meeko explore the Pillio Observatory in Battlefront II.
Image: EA/DICE

The Observatories

Another idea expounded upon in Battlefront II, having appeared elsewhere in tie-ins like the Aftermath trilogy of novels, is that Palpatine housed dozens of collections of relics strong in the Force in mysterious Observatories across the galaxy far, far away. They were connected to his research into the true source of the Dark Side’s power out in the beyond, and we know primarily of two already. Battlefront II introduced us to the Pillio Observatory, where Luke Skywalker found the compass that guided him to the first Jedi Temple on Ahch-To—and a reminder that Palpatine was interested in the Force across all of its spectrums, light and dark.

The second, covered in Aftermath: Life Debt and Aftermath: Empire’s End, was on none other than Jakku, and housed enough Force relics that Palpatine (or someone on his orders) could dump them into the planets core and tear the world apart, a contingency plan he demanded of Gallius Rax in an attempt to wipe out the Imperial Remnant and New Republic in one explosive swoop.

The Executor, the Eclipse’s sister ship, was famously destroyed over Endor.
Image: Lucasfilm

The Eclipse

In the years following the Emperor’s death, the Empire’s number of capital ships dwindled rapidly—the remnant went down from 13 Super Star Destroyers at the Empire’s height to just a single, the Ravager. But the most important of all, the Eclipse, wasn’t actually destroyed as had been assumed by what was left of the Empire. How does a Super Star Destroyer go missing though? By not really going missing. Because the Eclipse, Palpatine’s flagship, was deliberately given a mission that would outlast its master.

In Life Dept and Empire’s End, we learn Palpatine had spent years calculating coordinates that ultimately lead out into the Unknown Regions—tasking the Eclipse with traveling out there to uncover whatever Palpatine saw as this nexus of Force power. The Eclipse made it out there, but Palpatine didn’t, and it served as the base of origins for remaining elements of the Empire after the Battle of Jakku to re-establish themselves as the First Order. Given his propensity to do so elsewhere, it’s safe to assume that the Eclipse didn’t just hold military might to traffic into the Unknown Regions, but more artifacts of Force power, intended for Palpatine and his new Empire to capitalize on once it reached its destination.

Palpatine attempts to reach out into the World Between Worlds.
Image: Lucasfilm

The World Between Worlds

Everything we’ve covered so far has been, despite being awash with the mystique of the Force, material—objects, artifacts, raw material, manpower, all the elements to rebuild an Empire. But how can that help rebuild a single man? We don’t know the extent of the power of the relics in Palpatine’s vast collection of Force-sensitive items, but the Star Wars Rebels TV series introduced us to a wild concept that could perhaps more directly connect to Palpatine’s resurrection, or rather technically, his return: Force-assisted time travel.

Uncovered by the Empire on Palpatine’s behalf in the depths of the Jedi Temple on Lothal during Rebels’ final season, the World Between Worlds exists out of time and space in the galaxy far, far away, a nexus point of all moments that can’t just be witnessed, but accessed—and with enough strength in the Force, manipulated to save people from seemingly certain fate. Rebels also expounded the idea that in order to access the World Between Worlds, users had to be pure in how they wielded the Force—Palpatine tried, but couldn’t reach out in the way Ezra ultimately did to navigate it. Which is why he attempted to work through Ezra to access it, and why Ezra ultimately chooses to destroy the portal on Lothal.

But we’ve learned since that not only are there multiple ways to access the World Between Worlds (or something similar to it), it’s also not something that is indeed as strictly tied to the Light side as Rebels presented it to us.

Momin resurrects himself on Mustafar in Darth Vader #23.
Image: Giuseppe Camuncoli, Daniele Orlandini, David Curiel, Dono Sánchez-Almara, and Joe Caramagna (Marvel Comics)

The final arc of Charles Soule and Giuseppe Camuncoli’s Darth Vader comic series delved into the creation of Darth Vader’s infamous castle, first glimpsed in Rogue One (but with a history that reaches far further back than that). Built on a focal point of Dark Side energy on Mustafar by Vader with the help of the Force spirit of an ancient Sith named Momin—who had died untold years before the events of the Star Wars movies—the castle was designed in such a manner to specifically channel all that power into finding a way to resurrect Padmé Amidala.

Vader didn’t succeed in that regard at least, but most importantly here, the forces he and Momin tapped into worked. Momin betrayed Vader and managed to pull himself out from a time before his death centuries beforehand and into the present, even if Vader almost immediately killed the “revived” Sith and attempted to access whatever plane they had opened himself. But it confirms at least one thing: the World Between Worlds, or something like it, exists in a way that acolytes of the Dark Side can access it, and exists in more than one place in the galaxy. If Palpatine ultimately found a place to do so—or perhaps even the source of power he sent the Eclipse to track was another way to access the World Between Worlds—and use time itself to dance around his death, it might be the answer to his return.

Supreme Leader Snoke lead the First Order, but more so out of opportunity than some grand design.
Image: Lucasfilm

A Fear of the Unknown (Regions)

But what was all this meticulous planning for, and how might it play into The Rise of Skywalker? Palpatine was scared, and intrigued by, some mysterious Dark Side power out in the galaxy beyond the one Star Wars inhabits—the Unknown Regions that the Chiss come from (like Thrawn, who was also aware of some existential threat coming that his own people were not prepared for), the place where much of the First Order as we know it was forged.

All these artifacts, all this tweaking, even the hastened self-immolation of his own Empire’s remnants, were all designed to push the birth of a new order out in those regions, built around the search for the power to control or confront whatever was hidden out there. Even with Palpatine’s death, those plans marched on—now, the groundwork it’s laid just needs a figurehead.

The last time the Star Wars universe revived Palpatine in Dark Empire, it did so through science—specifically, cloning, something that would become oddly prescient to the movie saga. But from what little we can figure of this latest attempt already (if it does indeed involve bringing Palpatine back as physical, returned person rather than merely the kind of Force spirit we’ve only seen manifested by light-side practitioners in the movies so far), Star Wars is perhaps laying the ground for a return much more mystical and magical. One with an understanding of the Force as an entity more powerful—and much weirder—than we could have possibly imagined it being, in the hands of Jedi and Sith alike.

We’ll no doubt find out more as we get closer to December 20, when Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker hits theaters to bring this nine-movie journey to a close.

For more, make sure you’re following us on our new Instagram @io9dotcom. 


Ian McDiarmid says the Emperor is definitely ‘dead’ before Episode IX

Ian McDiarmid, the man who played Emperor Palpatine, wants you to know that the powerful Sith master is absolutely, positively “dead” heading into Episode IX. Whether or not you believe the man who played one of the most devious traitors in movie history is up to you.

McDiarmid made an amazing cameo last week when he dropped into Star Wars Celebration in Chicago as the lights came up on the first screening of the trailer for Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker.

“Roll it again,” he croaked, illuminated by a spotlight at one corner of the stage.

And so they did, while thousands of fans in the audience watched it with new eyes. McDiarmid’s signature cackle come in at the end of the spot, leaving many to believe that he’ll reprise his role as Palpatine in the conclusion to the now 40-plus-year-old franchise.

But, during a panel on the 20th anniversary of Star Wars: The Phantom Menace, McDiarmid was exceptionally coy.

“After seeing your surprise appearance here at Celebration here on Friday,” asked the panel’s host, actor Warwick Davis (Return of the Jedi, Willow), “I do have to ask: Do you have anything to tell us?”

After the crowd finished roaring, McDiarmid demurred.

“I just happened to be in the area,” he said, rolling his eyes extravagantly, “so I thought I should just drop in for a laugh.”

But McDiarmid didn’t leave it at that. Multiple times during the panel he returned to conversations he had had with George Lucas over the years about the fate of Palpatine.

“‘Is he…?’ And before I could even finish the sentence,” McDiarmid recalled, imitating Lucas. “‘Dead, yes.’ ‘Well, couldn’t he perhaps…’ ‘No. He’s dead.’ ‘Well, wouldn’t it be interesting if…?’ ‘Forget it.’”

It’s likely that Palpatine’s return was part of Lucas’ plan all along. In the prequels, fans will recall that the senator’s big pitch on behalf of the Dark Side, made to Anakin Skywalker, was that it could help someone cheat death. Later, in Star Wars Rebels cartoons, Lucasfilm doubled down on that idea; a major part of its plotline included Palpatine’s quest for ancient artifacts that could grant him unusual powers.

“You know it is possible to change fate,” says Palpatine, voiced by none other than McDiarmid himself. “There are infinite paths and infinite possibilities. […] So few have the choice to live the life they want. Why deny yourself?”

Sadly, the stage was crowded with stars and members of the production team behind The Phantom Menace, each of which deserved their time at the mic. So Davis was unable to prompt McDiarmid for any more hints as to the Emperor’s ultimate fate.

However, fans in attendance were treated to an opportunity to shamelessly celebrate Episode I, one of the most derided entries in the Star Wars catalog. Chicago’s Wintrust Arena, which seats more than 10,000 people, was full to bursting with nearly as many fans as showed up for last week’s Episode IX reveal.

The space was also filled with love, especially for actor Ahmed Best, the man who played Jar Jar Binks. Last year the actor revealed that he has struggled with depression following the fallout from his fateful role as the goofy gungan. This year, fans gifted him with a standing ovation.

The Rise of Skywalker, the final chapter in the Star Wars Skywalker saga, arrives in theaters on Dec. 20, 2019.


Black-ish star Marcus Scribner settles Goku vs. Naruto in a game of Jump Force

Marcus Scribner is extremely good at Jump Force. I thought I might get the upper hand, because I’d been practicing for a week in anticipation of playing him, but he handed my entire ass back to me with easy charm.

Scribner plays Andre, Jr. on the ABC sitcom Black-ish, and voices Bow on Netflix’s She-Ra adaptation.

“Old Bow was a super swole, middle-aged white man, and it’s such a contrast to how new Bow is,” he told me. He watched a couple episodes of the original cartoon and then quickly decided it would be best to put his own spin on the character. She-Ra goes to lengths to represent different skin colors and body types in its reboot.

“It’s very important for people to be able to see characters who look like them, who talk like them, who act like them,” Scribner says. Similarly, Scribner’s break-out role as the good-hearted and incredibly geeky Junior on Black-ish has been celebrated by black nerds everywhere.

I wanted to play Jump Force with him because he’s a huge fan of anime. Also, our review made me think the game might be easy for me. Scribner somehow found time to watch all of Naruto, including the filler (which is, in his opinion, a must — if you’re going to do something, do it right).

We decided to use Jump Force to answer the most important question of our age. Who would win — Goku or Naruto?

Check out the video to find out how it all went down. Don’t forget to subscribe to Polygon on YouTube for more.


In a month of superhero stories, the overstuffed but well-acted Fast Color goes its own way

Photo: Codeblack Films

“I know the back of her head better than the front,” Bo (Lorraine Toussaint) says of her daughter. It’s stated wryly but with undeniable warmth, over brief flashes of a lovely memory: a child running headlong through a swaying field of grass, her great joy conveyed in a glimpse over her shoulder. Of the several stories we’re about to be told, it’s the one that begins in that field—the story of a girl whose delighted gallop eventually transforms into a years-long, fearful sprint of escape—that’s the most compelling.

Directed by Julia Hart (Miss Stevens), from a script she cowrote with husband Jordan Horowitz, Fast Color doesn’t lack for ambition: It’s part superhero origin story, part multigenerational family drama, part near-future dystopian fable. Nor does the film feel the need to skywrite its themes, content instead to let its audience dwell on moments like that dash through the field and draw from them what resonance they will. Hart’s aims exceed her reach a little, yes. But trying to tackle too many themes and ideas isn’t the worst flaw.

While the story may be flimsy in places, the performances are anything but. In one of the strongest turns in a promising career, Gugu Mbatha-Raw stars as Ruth, a woman in recovery who used narcotics to treat her frequent seizures—dangerous for her, but also for the Earth, as they spur earthquakes even in the plains. It’s a phenomenon that’s caught the attention of the United States government, which believes Ruth may be the key to saving a planet that now exists without rain. But Ruth isn’t just running from these scientists and operatives. She’s also attempting to outpace the guilt, fear, and self-loathing she’s carried since one of those seizures endangered the life of her daughter, Lila (Saniyya Sidney, from TV’s The Passage). When the feds finally catch her scent, Ruth is left with nowhere to turn but her childhood home, where her mother (Toussaint) is teaching Lila to use her own abilities—and to cherish the fact that she, unlike Ruth, can “see the colors.”

Photo: Codeblack Films

That last piece is key to Fast Color’s success. Hart and Horowitz wind up tangling several of the threads of this multi-layered story, but the one tied to the family’s supernatural abilities remains taut throughout. That’s due in no small part to Hart’s ability to convincingly tell her tale much more economically than some of the other superhero pictures opening this month. She saves her small effects budget for crucial moments, like Bo taking a drag off a cigarette, breaking it down into dust, and then breathing it back together; or Lila doing the same to a bowl and a broken window. Both tell Ruth that afterward, they can “see the colors,” and the film’s climax arrives precisely when the audience can too. It’s an enrapturing sequence, and a great example of a filmmaker saving her big spectacle for the exact right moment.

Had that judicious restraint been applied elsewhere, Fast Color’s storytelling might be equal to its filmmaking. There are a lot of moving pieces here, from Ruth’s trauma to her complicated relationship with her mother and her abilities to the rules that govern both the family’s supernatural powers and a world in crisis. And the movie digs into the thematic underpinnings of a story about a woman whose gifts nearly destroy the thing most precious to her, and about the ways in which fear, anger, resentment, and strength can be inherited. It’s a lot. And while it never neglects its various individual elements, Hart and Horowitz’s screenplay hasn’t the room to really explore many of them, either.

Like many superhero origin stories, Fast Color spends a lot of time checking boxes: dystopian landscape, family history, reason to fight, development of powers, etc. But as the film goes on, that to-do list grows ever longer. In its eagerness to tell all of Ruth’s story, it underserves most of it. But Mbatha-Raw’s spare, vulnerable performance ensures that the character’s personal journey captivatingly comes together. By the end, she’s passed along to the viewer the same sensation Ruth might feel in her final, climactic run: the thrill and unforgettable beauty of inestimable potential, plus the sheer, giddy enjoyment of what’s to come.