I’m one of those weird people that actually enjoys the liminal spaces of travel—hotels, train stations, and yes, airports—but even I have my limits. I might be having a chill time reading a book in a food court that only smells a little like a one-thousand-year-old Panda Express, but if I hear that my flight’s been delayed, all bets are off.
Brownie Cove Cancelled(via Rock Paper Shotgun) is a free PC game that attempts to capture the bleak hopelessness of that situation—when your flight gets delayed by multiple hours, and suddenly, all the color drains from your day. The game’s airport is an over-saturated dreamscape, one that aptly simulates the languid, draining pace of airport life as travelers slowly cook under sickly fluorescent lights.
Mundane airport tasks like milling about near stores and food courts and staring at art nobody really cares about intermingle with more pointed strangeness, like floating fish that look like they’re constantly phasing between dimensions, a hall of mirrors that gives way to a room of whispering shadows, and a graveyard that might be a little too on the nose.
All the while, other stranded travelers wander aimlessly, reciting what I’m pretty sure are negative reviews of airport experiences. Your character, meanwhile, moves with the urgency of someone who’s fallen into quicksand and, after struggling for a minute or two, accepted their grim fate. After all, where is there to go? There are also quite a few toilets just out in the open, for some reason.
It is, in some ways (see: the aforementioned whispering shadow room), more interesting than an actual airport, but like an actual airport, it gets old very quickly. That’s the point, I’m pretty sure. But I always enjoy games that reinterpret spaces we’ve all existed in and, in some cases, suffered through—especially when they’re locations most people consider boring or obligatory. It’s a cool way to learn exactly how those things feel for other people, to view them through a lens that’s familiar but also alien.
I’m still not sure about the whole toilet thing, though.
The Unofficial Persona 5 Phan-Game (UP5P) is a short game, taking around 30 minutes to complete. It’s pretty small in scale; you can play solo or co-op with a friend, and it’s only played using a few decks of cards and some tokens.
Don’t expect lavish miniatures or a huge, vibrant board to play on, because this is a fan-made effort that you can print-and-play at home, not a major publisher’s flagship title. But what little UP5P is built on looks amazing, using official art and graphic design where possible and taking advantage of wonderfully-illustrated fan tributes elsewhere to fill in the gaps.
Rather than try to replicate the flow of the entire video game, UP5P smartly breaks its focus down to an assault on a single palace, giving players one calendar month to defeat one of a choice of bosses including Kamoshida, Okumura and Madarame.
You get to choose one Phantom Thief to play as (even Akechi makes the roster), and then in very Persona fashion you have to make some hard choices, because each turn—represented by a day of the month—you can only do one thing. Players can go recruit confidants (like Shinya, Miishima and Iwai) to gain perks, go to school to increase social stats, explore locations around them or make a run on the palace, defeating shadows in combat and trying to reach the boss.
This recreates the exact same stresses as Atlus’ game. How do you best invest the time given to you? If you spend too long getting ready you might not clear the palace in time, but if you rush the palace unprepared you might screw things up.
Most things that need settling are handled via dice, which you roll to both recruit confidants and defeat shadows. And boy, the shadows, they’re so good. A ton of the game’s enemies have been recreated here, each with their own strengths and weaknesses.
The way you tackle them again closely mirrors the video game’s approach. Your daily activities can bolster the amount of HP, SP and ammo that you take into the palace, and fighting shadows depletes your stock of each, so you can’t just spam combat and breeze through the game.
The thematic and mechanical tributes even extend to the bosses, who use existing shadow cards and combat modifiers to copy the weaknesses and attack patterns of their video game likenesses.
I don’t know if there’s much to recommend here to anyone not familiar with Persona 5, because that’s…kinda the point here? From the theme to your strategies to the contrasting emotions of never-ending stress and pleasure, UP5P does a tremendous job of making its tabletop experience feel a lot like the digital one. In isolation those rules and mechanics are still a lot of fun, but the real joy here is in seeing how they apply in relation to what you already know and love from Persona 5.
If you want to try it out yourself, here’s the best news: being an unofficial fan project it’s obviously free to play, irrespective of how good it is and how professional it looks. You’ll find links here to either download a print-and-play version for yourself (or even build a copy from a professional site) or, if you’d prefer to play digitally, it’s also available on Tabletop Simulator.
I’m beginning to suspect that Dead or Alive 6’s alleged wokeness is not all it seems to be. Since the game was unveiled back in June, publisher Koei Tecmo’s marketing message has insisted that the 3D fighter won’t be as raunchy as in years gone by. But judging from a preview event held last week, I’d say it’s pretty much business as usual.
Dead or Alive’s big new character is a scientist called NiCO. She wears an extremely short lab coat and cute-button hot pants. Marie is a returning character who wears her hair in pigtails. She also wears an S&M choker and a frilly maid’s uniform. Nyotengu is all bust and thighs in her revealing, flappy cape. The women are all fantastically pretty.
Still, designer Yohei Shimbori says he’s moved on from the fleshy, jiggly physics of yesteryear to something more appropriate for a game with mainstream esports aspirations — one that does not wish to fall afoul of the media, platform holders, and other powerful groups.
“There have been a lot of changes in the world in recent years, and I decided that we should reflect those changes by resetting our approach to sexual imagery, after Dead or Alive 5,” Shimbori told me. “It’s given us an opportunity to focus on other aspects of the characters’ design, which helps us to think clearly about what we want to do to attract new players, while keeping our fans happy.”
I ask him how developer Team Ninja decided to tone down the excesses of previous Dead or Alive games.
“We had a lot of meetings to talk about these changes,” Shimbori said. “Sexual imagery has been a part of the series’ image and its marketing, but things change. That kind of imagery is less acceptable than it was, and can even mean that some media outlets don’t want to show those images. So we changed.”
Does he expect blowback from fans who enjoy the game’s old-fashioned objectification of its women characters? “I know some fans will not be happy, but I think most people will be fine, and I think it will be better for new fans,” he said. “I’m not personally unhappy about making these changes. It’s important to be able to react to changes in the world.”
He says that rival franchises might have to change too. We spoke about the extreme comedic violence of last week’s Mortal Kombat 11reveal. “If that sort of imagery became unfashionable, they would change too,” he says.
As far as esports goes, he has no delusions about the task ahead. “It will be very difficult to become a top esports fighting game,” Shimbori said. “But the first step is to appeal to lots of new players. There are elements of the game that have been designed with esports in mind, and we have held some competitions for Dead or Alive, which have been great successes. We also plan to release a free-to-play version later, as we did with Dead or Alive 5. This will help us to broaden the game’s appeal.”
Dead or Alive 6 will be released for PlayStation 4, Windows PC, and Xbox One on March 1.
Total RecallTotal Recall is a look back at the history of video games through their characters, franchises, developers and trends.
I’ve always had a weird thing for collections of video game hardware. Rare colourways, odd promotional designs, Japanese-only releases with crazy hardware features, I live for it. So I’ve just spent the last 24 hours clicking through this website, whose goal is to catalogue every console variant there is and ever has been, from fancy PS2s to obscure Gamecubes.
I clicked on the Gamecube section first, expecting to see all the greatest hits, then ran into consoles I’d never laid eyes on in my life. Like this baseball tie-in:
And moving on, this absolutely gorgeous PS2:
There’s also this one-of-a-kind PS1, minted in honour of 10,000,000 PlayStations sold:
And this incredible Game Boy Advance SP, made as a tie-in for the film Battle Royale:
And it just goes on and on and on, even down to bonkers little promotional consoles made for local competitions.
The list isn’t complete, of course, as there’s always something out there—like the lost golden Wii!—but it’s always being added to, and a pending site upgrade will hopefully make that task a lot easier/prettier.
Dragon Ball Super: Broly, released in theaters last week, perfects the modern Dragon Ball formula in almost every way. I couldn’t take my eyes off it at any point during its 101-minute run time, even though everything that flashed on screen during that time was incredibly dumb and nothing I hadn’t seen before.
Who will summon the giant wish-granting dragon Shenron, and what will they ask for? How many beloved characters will get their shit kicked in before Goku decides to step in and save the day? What color will his hair be when he finally does? These are the correct types of questions with which to go into a Dragon Ball movie. Broly asks and answers all of them.
Broly is the 22nd feature-length film since Dragon Ball first jumped from the page to the screen via an anime adaptation that began in 1986. This new film stars Broly, who is like Dragon Ball’s version of the Hulk. He’s a powerful Saiyan fighter who grows incredibly strong but loses complete control when he fights. He’s become a fan favorite since he was first introduced back in 1993 movie: The Legendary Super Saiyan. Though this movie effectively retcons that other one, the general premise of it is the same.
There’s an alien race called Saiyans who once lived on planet vegeta and served as mercenaries for a more powerful alien named Frieza. One Saiyan, Broly, gets exiled to a far-off planet as a baby because the King of the Saiyans fears Broly’s latent power will grow to surpass that of the king’s son, Prince Vegeta. Eventually, long after Frieza destroys planet Vegeta, he discovers Broly and engineers for him to be reunited with Goku and Vegeta so the three can fight. And they do. For about an hour. At one point, they punch each so hard that another dimension opens up, and then they fight over there for a bit.
Broly has a threadbare plot, lots of random gags, and all of the grunt-inducing power-up transformations its core frenemy duo, Goku and Vegeta, can muster. These are the hallmarks of any Dragon Ball experience, deployed here with exacting precision and playfulness. One moment Goku is getting his head bashed in, the next he’s cracking jokes about forgetting his senzu beans, which are legumes with instant healing properties.
The comedy arises not just from the juxtaposition of brutal violence with light-hearted anime dad jokes, but also from the fourth-wall breaking nods to all of the increasingly absurd plot devices and arbitrary rules that the Dragon Ball universe has adopted over the decades. At one point during the movie, while Goku’s explaining the effects of senzu beans to the uninitiated, he notes that the beans can heal battle wounds but not cure diseases. That’s a reference to an arc from long ago when author Akira Toriyama had to explain why a heart virus contracted by Goku required a very specific kind of antidote that only existed in the future. This is the kind of joke that signals that if you’re the kind of person who wonders why Goku doesn’t instant transmission himself back to the senzu bean garden during a fight, Dragon Ball probably isn’t for you.
There are other similar questions that the series does not seem equipped to handle, but which I have a hard time ignoring as the series slips into pure Three Stooges territory. I also keep wondering whether or not Goku is actually a good dude. Fans of the series have long since had to come to terms with the fact that Goku is a terrible dad. He’s mostly absentee and, when he is around, he’s always getting his children into fights. Goku is a terrible husband as well, seeming more an overgrown kid than a supportive partner to his wife Chi-Chi. Over time, Goku has also revealed himself to be a terrible hero.
Broly doubles down on an aspect of Goku’s character that has become especially pronounced in the movies since Toei Animation started producing them again in 2008, which is that his chief concern in life is not saving the helpless or protecting Earth, though he frequently happens to do both. His actual goal is to become a stronger fighter. Historically, Vegeta has been the selfish one, but increasingly that’s become Goku’s driving characteristic as well, just with a friendlier smile attached to it. Even teenage Pokemon trainer Ash Ketchum quickly realized that being the best meant fostering loving relationships with his Pokemon rather than simply chasing after the most powerful ones. But Goku’s arc has always been about furthering his personal power. The more transformations he masters—Super Saiyan, Super Saiyan God, Super Saiyan God Super Saiyan—the more twisted his pursuit becomes.
Towards the end of this movie, Goku once again spares Frieza’s life, despite the encyclopedia of atrocities Frieza continues to commit, mostly because Goku knows he can always kick Frieza’s ass again if needed. But that doesn’t stop the latter from spending his last moment on screen in the movie planning his revenge. During that final scene, Frieza’s forces commit genocide on another planet so his interstellar empire can continue to expand. In the previous scene, Goku had just shoved Frieza’s finger ray away from aiming at a fleeing spaceship of henchmen who had betrayed him. It suggests Goku knows Frieza is still a monster, but can’t be bothered to do anything about it. The gym calls. There are still plenty of colors his hair hasn’t turned.
Broly may have ended up making Goku seem even more egomaniacal, but it’s also succeeded in redeeming Broly and turning him into one of the series’ most tragic and endearing characters since Android 16. A weapon of mass destruction grappling with how to disarm himself, he provides the movie with a much-needed moral center, elevating the character beyond its Super Saiyan hulk origins. After all, if most of a Dragon Ball movie is just watching people punch each other in ever new and creative ways, it helps to know who to root for.
The most recent expansion pack, Shrouded Spoils, is largely to thank for the recent surge of interest in the game. Rare increased the frequency of PvE events in the world, including krakens, megalodons, and skeleton ships, with Shrouded Spoils. The recent Reaper’s Mark flag also helps, allowing players to mark themselves on the map as ready to rumble, and increasing your chances of PvP.
Despite these changes, the core gameplay of Sea of Thieves has always been a blast to watch. The goofy, colorful pirate antics are fun, clear to follow, and give any player a chance to claim victory. There’s a very easy set of parameters to follow. Is there another ship? Do they have treasure on that ship? Do you want that treasure? Well, then you have everything you need for a fight.
Sea of Thieves has consistently hit the top three of titles streaming on Twitch lately, going toe to toe with games like Fortnite and League of Legends.
Summit1G, one of the biggest streamers to pick up the game recently, gave a wonderful showcase of the game’s best moments by nabbing a selection of extremely valuable end-game loot, including multiple Athena’s chests, amid ship combat and swashbuckling.
In the wake of Summit adopting Sea of Thieves, other major streamers have adopted the game as well, including Dr Disrespect and Ninja. The upcoming expansion, The Arena, will likely prove even more fruitful for these streamers, as the point of the game mode is to provide fast-paced combat and competition in shorter game sessions.
The existing community of Sea of Thieves has mixed feelings on these streamers. For many fans, seeing the game get attention and acclaim after a rocky launch in 2018 is a vindication for the game they love. Other players are concerned that a flood of new fans may disrupt the existing culture that Rare has cultivated among their player base. An influx of new players can be challenging for many games, but my own in-game experiences have made me confident that Rare and Sea of Thieves players can handle them just fine.
In the market for a reasonably priced, but still reasonably powerful gaming monitor? Online electronics retailer Monoprice is slashing prices on two excellent monitors by more than $100. Both a curved and a flat-screen model are discounted, bringing each monitor down to $290.
I asked Cameron Faulkner, my colleague from The Verge who knows more about hardware than I do, to provide more details about the tech powering these monitors.
At $290, Monoprice’s 32-inch gaming monitor (available flat or curved) hit a sweet spot in terms of specs and value. Beyond its minimal bezels, it boasts features that usually cost hundreds more — namely its 1440p resolution, and its fast 144Hz refresh rate that allows for super smooth gameplay by way of AMD FreeSync. If you have an Nvidia 10- or 20-series GPU, the latest graphics driver will let you take G-Sync adaptive sync for a spin, too.
Along with impressive specs, both of Monoprice’s 32-inch monitors come with an adjustable swivel base. They’re also VESA-compatible if you prefer to mount your monitor. One reviewer warns that the speakers on the back of the monitor should be facing a wall so that sound bounces back at you. Otherwise “the sound just gets lost.” That shouldn’t be an issue, though, if you plan on using a headset.
Monoprice is known for its direct-to-consumer model, offering generic electronics at a low price by cutting out the middleman, i.e., big box stores. A comparable monitor from LG, for example, is going for almost $400 at Amazon.
Both monitors are available now for $290 at Monoprice. The curved monitor usually goes for $449.99, while the flat-screen is typically $399.99.
This week’s episodes of Young Justice: Outsidersadded more characters to their already impressive roster and had the villains make big steps in their scheming plans. While the first two episodes set up what was to come and explained pertinent information for both the villains and the heroes, the third episode this week not only brought together the Big Bad council of villains for the first time this season — it also tapped into some next generation of DC heroes.
[Ed. note: This post contains spoilers for episodes 7-9 of Young Justice: Outsiders.]
Episode 7 gave an in-depth look at Vandal Savage’s ties to Darkseid juxtaposed with a fun training sequence for Halo, Geo-Force, and Forager. Episode 8 revealed that Batman, Nightwing, Aquaman (Kaldur) and Robin (Tim Drake) are operating separate teams to carry out corresponding missions. The kicker is that the teams themselves aren’t aware that they’re working as part of a grand plan. Though the end result paid off, Wonder Woman is appalled that they would lie to their teams.
“Home Fires,” the ninth episode, begins with villainous group the Light, currently made up of Vandal Savage, Lex Luthor, Queen Bee, Klarion, Deathstroke and Ultra-Humanite. It’s the first time this season that the Light has come together, though we’ve seen some of the individual members putting their plans into place. The Light discusses two concurrent and delicate missions. The first is bounty hunter Lobo, sent to kill Forager during another training session. The second, however, is more discreet and involves a mysterious figure waiting for a gathering of utmost importance.
Namely, the big Justice League playdate.
Yup — all the current (known) children of League heroes, brought either by their super-powered parent or their civilian one, congregate at Iris West-Allen’s place. That means 18 Justice League-adjacent people under one roof.
Let’s count all of them off:
Iris West-Allen, star reporter and wife of the Flash, hosts the gathering at her place, juggling the eventual Tornado Twins Don and Dawn with the help of grandson from the future, Bart Allen, a.k.a. Kid Flash.
First to arrive is the queen of Atlantis herself, Mera, with young Arthur Curry.
Will Harper shows up with daughter Lian (whose mother the assassin Cheshire appeared in the previous episode) and talks briefly to Lynn Stewart, ex-wife of Black Lightning and sister of Green Lantern, there with daughters Anissa and Jennifer Pierce.
The doorbell rings and Iris is busy corralling the children, so Rocket (Raquel Erwin) and her son, Amistad, answer to greet a pregnant Bumblebee (Karen Beecher).
Red Tornado — in his John Smith alter ego — and his adopted daughter Traya Sutton, a Bialyan refuge, also arrive and Red Tornado delights the excited children with his powers.
Last to the gathering is the one and only Lois Lane, carrying her son Jonathan (who is clad in a wee little Superman hoodie), who thanks Iris for hosting. It’s nice to be with the only other people who understand the life and their numbers are only growing. Counting Damian Wayne from the show’s sixth episode, that makes ten superhero kiddos, with Karen Beecher’s baby on the way.
With the house full, the mysterious figure across the street readies to take action. The identity of the would-be assassin is revealed to be Orm (it’s a big year for Orm), who wants to wipe out the most important people to the Justice League in one fell swoop. Before he can, Lady Shiva confronts him, saying that this line of action has been previously considered by the Big Bads, but they’ve dubbed it the “nuclear option” — if they chose to enact it, they must be prepared for an equal or greater retaliation. Orm doesn’t care, so Lady Shiva cleanly slices off his head.
Turns out, it wasn’t Orm, but Lady Shiva being tested by the Light. She fulfilled the mission and can now join the Light’s ranks as their new enforcer.
The other mission — bounty hunter Lobo sent to kill Forager — technically failed; though Lobo assumes he succeeded, he’s unaware that Forager faked his own death. But the Light reveals that Forager’s death was not the point of that particular mission: they wanted confirmation that Nightwing assembled a covert ops team.
Two villain missions completed, but the biggest reveal is that Granny Goodness is the newest member of the Light. The founder of the Goode Googles, shown talking about her charitable efforts on television earlier this episode, is actually a super-villain working with Darkseid. While the heroes are pretty on top of the inner workings of the meta-human trafficking ring, considering Nightwing bought Oracle a pair of googles just for funsies in an earlier episode, they might not know the full extent of the Light’s plans.
New episodes — along with the midseason finale — of Young Justice: Outsiders air on DC Universe on Jan. 25.
World of Warcraft: Battle for Azeroth had a rough 2018 — one that Blizzard is intent on fixing this year with new content. 2019’s first batch of World of Warcraft content offers a new raid, and some powerful Mythic Keystone changes as well. Both additions that should elongate Battle for Azeroth’s current endgame.
The Battle for Dazar’alor raid has opened in World of Warcraft, and looks to be one of the most unique raids in the game’s long history. Unlike most raid experiences, each faction has their own distinct route through the raid, the Alliance trying to attack the Horde-controlled city, and the Horde trying to defend it.
In order to fully complete the raid, both sides will end up fighting every boss in a “how the other side saw it” kind of flashback. The normal and heroic versions of the raid are available now, with Mythic and the first wing of Looking For Raid becoming available next week.
With all the raid excitement, it’s tempting to look past the Mythic Keystone dungeons. However, in what Blizzard is calling “Season 2,” they’ve added a brand-new affix to the rotation. When a key reaches high levels, it can now come with the Reaping affix. While Reaping is active, all slain enemies will linger in the shadows for a while longer. Occasionally, they’ll all come back to life and swarm players as they try to progress.
Reaping promises to be a real nightmare for players trying to run through dungeons as quickly as they possibly can. However, it’s not as bad as it sounds. The raised enemies only have 50 percent of the health they used to and they spawn at specific times so players can prepare for it — 20, 40, 60, 80, and 100 percent of the progress bar.
The second season of Battle for Azeroth’s player-versus-player offering also arrived today. For the PvP-inclined, there are new rewards — both cosmetic and stat-based — that can be earned through Battlegrounds and War Mode.
Of course none of these activities would be worth a damn without increased rewards. The new raid drops relevant loot, and Mythic Keystone dungeons have had their loot drops increased significantly — with baseline Mythic dropping 370 item level gear. The end-of-week Mythic Keystone chest — rewarded depending on the highest tier of Mythic Keystone you did last week — can now scale all the way up to 410. However, nothing can drop above level 385 until the Mythic raid race starts next week.
All of these changes — including a fifth ring addition to some Azerite armor — comes ahead of the 8.2 patch later this year. What Blizzard detailed at BlizzCon 2018 looked promising, especially after Battle for Azeroth’s initially shaky positioning.