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Gaming News

Smash Ultimate’s Piranha Plant Is Sluggish But Fun

Last night, Super Smash Bros. Ultimate got Mario’s Piranha Plant, the platform fighter’s first downloadable fighter, and it’s a doozy. Piranha Plant’s moveset is a radical departure from what we’ve seen in prior Smash games, but thankfully, unlike those games’ downloadable fighters, this one isn’t overpowered.

Smash Ultimate players can get Piranha Plant by following our instructions here. The character is not part of the game’s Fighters Pass, a subscription service for downloadable fighters, so Piranha Plant is free to download for anyone who unlocks it before this coming Friday.

Last night, I gave it a spin and Piranha Plant’s toolkit is totally weird and, somehow, works. The first thing to know is that it’s not a fast fighter and has low mobility (hell, it’s bouncing around in a clay pot). It’s got some heavy hits that are, unfortunately for it, easy to see coming and a little tricky to aim properly. Most important though, it’s a super fun fighter that adds something fresh and leafy to Smash Ultimate’s roster.

As a toothed head at the end of a long, potted stem, Piranha Plant has moves that are all foliage-themed and, often, are directed vertically by default. Pressing B, Piranha Plant spits up and suspends a spiky metal ball, which it can throw a little ways left or right. Its down special pulls Piranha Plant into its pot like a spring before it pops outward to bite an opponent—an attack that can also be directed up, right or left. Its side special charges a putrid cloud of poison breath, which does some pretty massive damage when an opponent is stuck in it for several seconds. (Like other charged attacks, Piranha Plant can store it for a long time before using it.) Its up special, or recovery ability, has Piranha Plant turn into a little leaf propeller, which flies around the sky and does damage to opponents stuck in it. The range on that is long and it lasts a significant amount of time.

Here’s his final Smash, Petey Piranha. Our friendly foliage friend becomes an enormous Little Shop of Horrors nightmare who traps opponents in his cages:

Piranha Plant’s toolkit is great for controlling space on a stage and defending against enemies in the air. Tossing spiked balls, littering poison clouds and preparing long-stemmed bites are all useful for keeping opponents at a distance. That’s all also excellent for edge-guarding opponents who are coming back on-stage.

That can work like so:

And like so:

Piranha Plant also has some pretty deft ways to defend itself when it’s off-stage:

What’s really exciting is how well Piranha Plant’s moves interlock to form combos. They’re not inescapable combos; in fact, for fighters faster than it, they won’t be too difficult to avoid. That said, they’re super fun when they work:

Some bad news for folks considering Piranha Plant as a main: It suffers from a lot of landing lag, making its aerial attacks risky to pull off. That makes off-the-ground combos a bit of a struggle.

Even if we may not see Piranha Plant scale the ranks of pro tournaments any time soon, the fighter is adding something a little more significant to the Smash tradition. Smash Ultimate offers a bevy of new fighters whose toolkits resemble no one else’s before them, like Inkling’s, Simon’s and King K. Rool’s. That Smash Ultimate is continuing this momentum with its first downloadable character just goes to show its developers are still innovating [and] keeping things weird.


Relive is a time-travel thriller that abandons logic for the right reasons

What would you do if you received a call from a dead niece’s phone? Would you work with the apparently-not-dead-yet version of her to prevent her murder a few days earlier? Probably not, because you’re neither a homicide detective nor can you shatter the confines of spacetime.

But that’s what happens to David Oyelowo’s character Jack Radcliffe in Relive, a sci-fi thriller from Blumhouse Productions that premiered at the genre-friendly midnight hour at this year’s Sundance Film Festival. Soon after the horrific murder of his niece, Ashley (A Wrinkle in Time’s Storm Reid), Los Angeles detective Jack gets a call from his victim relative — and she’s dialing in from the past. Logically, Jack decides to get her niece to look around for clues that may solve the murder before it happens. It’s basically a time-traveling whodunnit, without too much consideration over the whodunnit part.

A great thriller works on the audience’s senses through character experiences. Revelations are felt, not simply unloaded. Beads of sweat drip down the actors’ faces to convey what’s on the line. The eyes provide windows to the turning gears in a mystery-solver’s head. That’s where the film, by Jacob Aaron Estes (Mean Creek), excels; Oyelowo and Reid deliver grounded, ticking-clock performances, which helps give the story some weight as the sci-fi conceit breaks the rules. Jack is overwhelmed with grief and guilt over not being able to protect his family as he tries to maintain a clarity needed to do his job. He’s also terrified of having to explain how he knows so much of what is happening, or will happen, to Ashley — technically, he’s not playing by the rules.

Relive doesn’t waste much time explaining those rules. This means the time traveling is poorly defined, which actually winds up being a refreshing take on what is one of the most complicated subgenres. We don’t waste time trying to explain paradoxes, or what you can or can’t change in the past. Everything is game, even if it doesn’t immediately make sense.

Of course, Estes still has fun with the time travel. The director visualizes new timelines and the ripples of the Butterfly as a wave carrying the changed timeline that smacks Jack and expands to cover the screen (fans of Legends of Tomorrow will be familiar with the concept). Some changes are simple, like the painting of a red “X” on the garage door, while others, like calling the police, have bigger, deadlier, consequences for everyone.

Estes and his co-writer Drew Daywalt can’t help but indulge in police procedural tropes and a dangerously slow pace. Early on, Jack resists answering the phone calls from his dead niece, though once he does, he immediately buys the validity of the supernatural calls. He just rolls with it — and enjoying Relive takes the same leap of faith. There are also some very questionable actions; at one point, Jack takes a bullet to the gut, goes back to the police station, and walks around yelling nonsense while everyone just stands around watching him bleed to death like it’s a regular Monday afternoon.

Relive is more concerned with using the supernatural element as a tool to explore Jack’s grief and guilt than carving out a new section of fan-theory Reddit. Every role is cast to perfection, including Mykelti Williamson and Alfred Molina as Jack’s colleagues at the police force, or the always great Brian Tyree Henry as Ashley’s father, a man struggling to do the right thing when he also needs to provide for his family. As a murder mystery ready to solve, Relive leaves much to be desired, but as a pressure cooker for some strong performers, Relive is a thrilling and powerful film — even if you’d never pick that phone up in a million years.

Rafael Motamayor is a freelance TV/film critic and reporter living in Norway. You can find more of his workhere, or follow him on Twitter @GeekwithanAfro.


The Division 2’s PS4, Xbox One, PC Beta Detailed

The Division 2‘s release date of March 15 is fast approaching, but you’ll soon be able to play even before then. The game’s private beta starts soon on PS4, Xbox One, and PC–here are all the details.

The beta starts on February 7 at 1 AM PT / 4 AM ET / 9 AM GMT / 8 PM AET, and lasts for precisely four days. Luckily, you can preload the trial 24 hours before its scheduled start time.

As you’d expect, publisher Ubisoft says the beta will include a taste of what to expect in the final game. Two main missions are playable, along with five side missions and “additional activities in the open world.” Three new Dark Zones will show off The Division 2’s brand of PvPvE action, while you can sample the more organized PvP gameplay in a Conflict game mode named Skirmish.

Additionally, one slice of endgame content is included in the beta: an Invaded mission will unlock on February 8 at 1 AM PT / 4 AM ET / 9 AM GMT / 8 PM AET. The test period will otherwise cap players’ progress at level 30.

The Division 2 continues the story of a society-disrupting pandemic but moves from the first game’s setting in New York City to the US capital, Washington DC. The sequel brings back the realistic loot-driven RPG elements from the first game, with more focus on player choice to impact the world. The PvP aspect of the game, Dark Zones, have also changed.

The Division 2 on PC will be using the newly launched Epic Games Store for distribution rather than Steam, and Ubisoft recently revealed its system requirements. Check out our pre-order guide for more details.


Wargroove Is A Very Good Strategy Game

Kotaku Game DiaryDaily thoughts from a Kotaku staffer about a game we’re playing.  

There are two things you should know about the indie game Wargroove, which comes out for PC, Switch, and Xbox One on Friday. The first is that it’s a smart, challenging turn-based strategy game that’s essentially Advance Wars for the modern era. The second is that you get to play as a puppy who wears armor.

I’ve been playing early code of Wargroove for the past week, and I like it a lot so far. The basics are simple: In every mission, your army of colorful troops faces an opposing army of colorful troops, be they tree-summoning hippies or vicious skeletal warriors. You’re given some sort of objective—capture a base, assassinate an enemy commander—and a handful of units, then told to go off and fight. You move your units across a grid-based map, one turn at a time. Sometimes you might smash one of your units into an enemy’s unit, after which you’ll see a brief animation of the two going at it, and then one or both will take damage. Every unit has its own strengths and weaknesses: Pikemen, for example, are strong but slow. Alchemists are easy to kill but do devastating damage to flying units. And dogs are adorable.

A modern-minded gamer might think that sounds a lot like Fire Emblem, but actually, Wargroove emulates Advance Wars, a similar Nintendo series that has been dormant since 2008. In Fire Emblem, each of your units is a unique character, and you’ll start every mission with a finite number of them. In contrast, Advance Wars (and, subsequently, Wargroove) puts you in charge of a phalanx of faceless troops. You can use those troops to capture towns, which generate gold every turn, and you can use that gold to buy yourself more troops. The stronger the unit, the pricier they’ll be.

What that means is that you’re constantly making interesting decisions. Do you want to buy a cheap pikeman this turn or save up for that more expensive knight? Do you want to get a fast-moving wagon so you can transport your units closer to the fray, or hang back with archers and play defensively? And what about your commander, who’s far more powerful than a regular unit but will end the game if she dies? Should she really be on the front lines?

Wargroove is a game that requires your full attention. Whichever unit gets the first swing can change the tide of battle, so you’ll need to pay attention not only to where your enemies are, but how far they can move on the next turn. It’s a delightful, cerebral experience that can feel sluggish at times—pro tip: TURN OFF combat animations!—but is never boring.

For a sense of how Wargroove plays, you can watch Kotaku video producer Paul Tamayo playing a mission here:

There are a few fiddly things in Wargroove that have annoyed me. This is a challenging game, and if you’re not keeping track of where every enemy can potentially move next and which unit counters which other units, you’re not going to have a good time. In general I’m a big fan of the difficulty—failing missions multiple times has made it all the more satisfying when I finally got past them—but sometimes the game takes cheap shots. It’s not fun to lose a mission in Wargroove because the AI was allowed to spawn a bunch of random units out of nowhere.

You can’t save in battle, and there’s no undo button, which means that a single misclick can screw up your entire game. Wargroove’s missions are very long, so sometimes that can mean losing upwards of an hour of progress. Again, not fun.

Still, Wargroove is a very good game, full of smart missions and charming characters. (The story is rudimentary, mostly taking place during brief cut-scenes before and after every mission, but it’s enjoyable nonetheless.) Winning a tough battle always feels satisfying, because victory is always the result of your own good decisions. And the top-down view combined with the just-one-more-turn addictive nature make it the perfect game for Switch.

Also, you get to play as a puppy who wears armor.


Hitman Headlines February’s PlayStation Plus Lineup

If you never played 2016’s Hitman on its own or via the levels’ inclusion in Hitman 2, this month’s PS Plus lineup will help you rectify your grave error. As always, these games are only “free” if you have an active PlayStation Plus membership.

February’s PlayStation Plus games are:

PlayStation 4

  • Hitman
  • For Honor

PlayStation 3

  • Divekick (crossbuy with Vita)
  • Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots

PlayStation Vita (crossbuy with PS4)

  • Gunhouse
  • Rogue Aces

(This month’s PS3 and Vita games will be available for download until March 8, in anticipation of the platforms’ removal from PS Plus after that date.)


With PS Plus Dumping PS3 And Vita Games, Sony Boosts PS4 Members’ Cloud Storage

We’ve known for some time that the February 2019 lineup of PlayStation Plus games would mark the final month in which subscribers received freebies for PS3 and Vita. Going forward, each month will consist solely of free PS4 games. Seemingly to compensate users for this change, Sony is making some changes to another perk offered through PS Plus.

Starting in early February (an exact date was not specified), PS Plus members will have access to 100 GB of cloud storage of save games, a tenfold increase over the existing 10 GB limit. Unfortunately, there was no word on further changes to cloud saves, such as enabling auto-uploads and downloads on more than just your main console.

Sony did not say if this is the extent of its plans to make up for dropping PS3 and Vita games. Even for PS4 users without either of those systems, this change is a loss. It’s not uncommon for the monthly freebies to offer cross-buy support with PS4 versions of them, giving the current-gen system even more than the two free games that are explicitly intended for it. That’s the case in February; claiming both Vita games will get you access to their PS4 versions.

For the final month, the PS3/Vita lineup is going out strong, thanks largely to the inclusion of Metal Gear Solid 4. On the PS4 side, users can look forward to For Honor and the first season of Hitman. Those games will be available from February 5 until March 5, while the PS3/Vita games will stick around until March 8.

While free games are the highlight of PS Plus and receive much of the attention, cloud saves, access to online multiplayer on PS4, and exclusive game sales are among the other perks for subscribing. Still, the lost of two-thirds of the free game lineup is notable, though Sony has provided no indication it intends to lower the service’s price.


Free PlayStation Plus Games For February 2019 Announced (PS4, PS3, PS Vita)

January is dead, long live February. The shortest and sweetest month is set to bring an all new line-up of free PS4, PS3, and PS Vita games for PlayStation Plus members. Sony has announced the offerings, so check out what will be coming as of February 5.

The February offerings include the competitive melee action game For Honor and the full first season of Hitman. That latter game has an extra layer of value since the recently released Hitman 2 lets you play the older game’s maps inside the newer game, as long as you own it. February PS Plus also includes Divekick and Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots for PS3, along with Gunhouse and Rogue Aces for Vita. Divekick has cross-buy with Vita, and both Vita games have cross-buy with PS4. Sony also announced it is expanding the PS Plus Cloud storage from 10 GB to 100 GB starting in February.

Remember, you still have some time left to grab the PS Plus games for January. Those include the the extreme sports game Steep and Portal Knights on PS4, Zone of the Enders HD and Amplitude on PS3, Super Mutant Alien Assault on Vita, and Fallen Legion: Flames of the Rebellion on PS4/Vita.

And with that, the PlayStation 3 and Vita games are bowing out of the monthly rotation. Sony previously announced that it will no longer include PS3 and Vita as of March 8, which means February’s games on those platforms are the last we’ll see. Fare thee well, older platforms. This will probably mean the total games included in the monthly rotation will be reduced, though Sony could still surprise us with some change of plans. The PS4 games will be available through March 5.

PlayStation Plus Games For February 2019


  • For Honor
  • Hitman Season 1
  • Gunhouse (Cross-Buy)
  • Rogue Aces (Cross-Buy)


  • Divekick (Cross-Buy)
  • Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots

PS Vita

  • Gunhouse (Cross-Buy)
  • Rogue Aces (Cross-Buy)
  • Divekick (Cross-Buy)


Japan Is Getting Yet Another Hello Kitty Train 

Image: (C) 1976,2019 SANRIO CO.,LTD. 株式会社サンリオ/西日本旅客鉄道株式会社
Kotaku EastEast is your slice of Asian internet culture, bringing you the latest talking points from Japan, Korea, China and beyond. Tune in every morning from 4am to 8am.  

Last year, a Hello Kitty theme bullet train service began in Japan. This year, an airport express train does likewise.

As Japan Trends reports, the train is a Hello Kitty-covered Haruka Direct Express train that transports travelers from Kyoto to Kansai International Airport.

The outside is Hello Kitty themed and inside walls are tastefully decorated with the famous feline.

Image: (C) 1976,2019 SANRIO CO.,LTD. 株式会社サンリオ/西日本旅客鉄道株式会社

Service started this week, with trainspotters snapping pics and video.


Ariana Grande’s New Kanji Tattoo Is An Unfortunate Mistake 

Kotaku EastEast is your slice of Asian internet culture, bringing you the latest talking points from Japan, Korea, China and beyond. Tune in every morning from 4am to 8am.  

To celebrate her newest single “7 Rings,” pop star Ariana Grande got a kanji tattoo. Unfortunately, it’s wrong.

Grande posted a photo of her tattoo. In Japanese, it reads, 七輪 (shichirin). You can see the pic photo (via Grande’s official Japanese Twitter), which has since been deleted from her Instagram.

The kanji character 七 means “seven,” while 輪 means “hoop,” “circle,” “ring,” or “wheel.” However, when you put them together, the meaning is different! 七輪 (shichirin) is a “small charcoal grill” and not “seven rings,” which is written differently in Japanese.

Here is a shichirin:

There is even an English language Wiki page for shichirin.

A Google image search for 七輪 brings up these pics:

The most unfortunate thing of all is that Grande has people in Japan operating a Twitter account for her (next time ask them to check stuff!) and the video for “7 Rings” has the proper Japanese.

In the video, it’s correctly written as 七つの指輪 (nanantsu no yubiwa) or “seven rings.” It’s a shame she didn’t show that text to her tattooer.

How did this tattoo mistake happen? In a now deleted reply, Grande wrote, that she “left out ‘つの指’ which should have gone in between,” thus shortening the correct 七つの指輪 (seven rings) to 七輪 (small charcoal grill.” Whoops!

Continuing, she wrote that “it hurt like fuck” and “still looks tight,” adding that, she “wouldn’t have lasted one more symbol.” But those symbols have significance and unfortunately here, they totally changed the meaning of this tattoo.


Xbox “Going Big” At E3 This Year After Sony Drops Out

E3 2019 is going to be a big year for Xbox at E3, it seems. Head of Xbox Phil Spencer said on a recent podcast that Microsoft’s showing at E3 this year will be “as big” as it’s ever been for Xbox, and one reason why might be because Sony is dropping out of E3.

Speaking to Major Nelson, Spencer started off by saying, “This is going to be a fun E3 for us.” He recalled an internal Microsoft conversation about E3 after the “news” that dropped last year about E3, which is presumably a reference to Sony skipping the show.

“There was some news about E3 back in the fall. We had a discussion internally about, ‘Should we go big?’ ‘Should we save some money?’ ‘What does that mean?’ We decided, no [we’re not going to save money], we’re going to do our thing,” Spencer said. “We’re going to go and be as big at E3 as we’ve ever been. I love that opportunity.”

Right now, with about five months to go before E3 2019, Microsoft is in the midst of thinking about how and who the company can get to come on stage, Spencer said. The company is also talking about if the company wants to talk about titles and products coming in the short-term versus the long-term. Spencer said he personally likes to be transparent, but he’s also mindful of being careful not to announce something too early.

Spencer didn’t get into specifics, but he said the content lineup from Xbox for E3 2019 is already “great.” The company also plans to talk about the future of Xbox and more about what the Xbox brand means–beyond console. The Xbox is a console, but there are “millions” of people who spend time and money on Xbox outside of the console family through PC and mobile, Spencer pointed out. At E3, he wants to let people know that they don’t need to own an Xbox to be part of the Xbox community.

Also in the interview, Spencer talked about Xbox’s position in 2019, saying the groundwork that Microsoft put down in recent years will really begin to pay off this year. Quoting George W. Bush, Spencer said, “This is a year where it’s not strategery–we’re going to roll up our sleeves and we’re going to show. I love that. Now it’s go time.”

One of the new platforms Microsoft has in the works for gaming is Project xCloud, which is the working title for the company’s game-streaming service. It’s already up and running, and Spencer said he was using it during his travels at the end of 2018. It’ll probably be “years” before streaming becomes the primary way people play games, but the technology is coming together, Spencer said.

Additionally, Spencer discussed Microsoft’s recent spree of studio purchases. One of the reasons Microsoft bought and set up a total of seven studios in six months was to create a catalog of titles that “surprise and delight” fans, and release on a “regular cadence.” Microsoft has been criticised in recent years for not having enough compelling first-party content, and Spencer acknowledged that Microsoft’s first-party lineup is “so different” than what it’s been over the past five years. He also shared an anecdote from Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella, who apparently said he’s eager and happy about Microsoft investing so heavily in teams that will make exclusive content for Xbox going forward.

One of Microsoft’s announcements at E3 2019 could be a new console. Spencer has already confirmed that Microsoft is working on multiple new consoles. According to Brad Sams, one is a disc-free streaming box and another is a console more powerful than the Xbox One X.

E3 2019 takes place June 11-13, 2019 in Los Angeles. While Sony is backing away, the show is expected to be a very big one full of surprises and reveals of all kinds.