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Gaming News

Ni no Kuni is coming to Switch, getting remastered for PC, PS4

Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch, is coming to Nintendo Switch alongside a remastered version for Playstation 4 and Windows PC. Bandai Namco announced that 2013’s Ni no Kuni will be getting its time in the sun after the successful reception of Ni no Kuni 2: Revenant Kingdom in 2016.

While the PC and PS4 versions will be remastered, the original version of the game will be released on Nintendo Switch for Ni no Kuni on the go. Both versions of the title will release on Sept. 20.

The remastered version will run at 1080p resolution, 60 frames per second. The Switch version of the game will run at 720p resolution and 30 fps. The game retains the original mechanics and systems; the world is unchanged except for the graphical fidelity.

Ni no Kuni, originally released on PlayStation 3, and its sequel aren’t narratively part of the same story; it’s not necessary to play the first to understand Ni no Kuni 2. They’re each excellent JRPGs, so players will get a new chance to jump into the original 2013 title and experience it with better graphics or on the portable Switch system. It’s a great way to get some extra Studio Ghibli in your life, as the famous animation studio was part of the production of Ni no Kuni.


Spiritfarer is beautiful and touching, with a strong Animal Crossing vibe

When Spiritfarer briefly popped up during Sunday’s Xbox live event, I made a note to grab some gameplay time at E3. It’s coming to Xbox Game Pass upon its release next year, as well as Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4 and Windows PC.

I spent about 15 minutes playing early missions. It’s a painterly, whimsical game with some impressively deep themes. I play as a ferryman, transporting newly arrived souls onto the next world. These souls are humans, but they manifest as animals, revealing their inner personalities. They give me jobs to do as a kind of last wish. As the game progresses, its narrative opens out into a tale of acceptance, and finding comfort in existence.

At an early point in the game, it becomes clear that Spiritfarer is structured in much the same way as Nintendo’s Animal Crossing series, with lots of diversions, conversations and characters. But there are big differences; it’s in two-dimensions, it’s hand painted and it’s also influenced by platform games. There’s less of a focus on acquisition, and more on creating closer relationships.

I find myself undertaking various jobs, including fetch-quests, building, farming, fishing and playing mini-games, like collecting lightning bolts as they strike my boat. The game takes me to an island, where more characters and tasks await. By fulfilling the wishes of these characters, I ease their path to the next world.

The developers tell me that some of the “dead” characters are influenced by beloved friends and family members who have passed, but who left a great impression in their lifetimes. This alone makes me want to play the game. In any case, if you’re an Animal Crossing fan, or into indie games with a dash of feeling, this is definitely one to watch.


Marvel’s Avengers character designs look generic

Marvel’s Avengers was one of the most anticipated titles at this year’s E3, but I wasn’t exactly excited when Square Enix finally revealed footage of the co-op game. Instead, I was fixated on the way the cast looks. There’s something off about our favorite gang of superheroes. They look almost like knock-offs of the real thing.

The character designs definitely take after the depictions in Marvels’ cinematic universe, which makes comparisons inevitable, except these iterations are tweaked in bizarre ways. Some suits look bulkier than they need to, for no apparent reason. There’s not enough color for some of the suits, which makes characters look monotone and drab. In terms of faces, some of the men look like what you expect buff-and-gruff video game characters to look like, a design decision that strips away the rich character that many of these heroes normally carry. In some cases, like with Black Widow, the graphics seem to be an issue — her hair is too blocky, and that makes it hard to look at anything else.

I don’t dislike everything in the trailer. For instance, I’m a little more fond of what Stark looks like post-Avengers disbandment — the long hair gives him a softer look than I’m used to — but part of what’s influencing my negative reaction of the heroes also comes down to writing. This version of Tony Stark has little charm. When Stark stops to ask about Thor’s joke in the reveal trailer, it’s meant to be a lighthearted moment, but instead it falls flat. It’s especially glaring when the actual Marvel movies are really good at giving us quips between characters. I’m left feeling like this is a pale imitation of the real thing.

Square Enix

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t think that the video game version of The Avengers needs to take after the movies. Sure, after a decade of films in the cinematic universe, I have some attachment to the characters, but I also understand that the games can’t live in the shadows of a different iteration. To succeed, Marvel’s Avengers needs to establish its own identity. We’ve seen video games nail this careful balance before — PlayStation 4 exclusive Spider-Man manages to capture the essence of Spidey’s suit while also being its own thing. Compare this:

Spider-Man - standing in a kitchen
Insomniac Games/Sony Interactive Entertainment

… to anything in the Marvels Avengers trailer. The design is slick, and makes good use of color — that white adds a good pop to the suit. It’s nice to look at. Granted, Spider-Man’s masked design also helps hide the fact that Peter Parker looks also looks a little generic beneath it all:

Insomniac Games/Sony

Marvel’s Avengers, on the other hand, largely don’t have the benefit of hiding their faces. Iron-Man is the sole exception, but unfortunately, it’s close enough to the movie that he ends up looking uncanny.

All this said, I also read the occasional comic book, so I’m pretty used to seeing depictions of Marvel heroes that differ from the big screen. Sometimes, my version of The Hulk is a woman. Other times, Thor isn’t even a human. I’m not married to any particular idea or execution of The Avengers, really. I just need them to have character and texture.

In the aftermath of Endgame, which rewarded 10 years of investment with some amazing character arcs, expectations are high for Marvel’s Avengers. There’s a lot of pressure to get it right, and in some ways, the game will do exactly that — how rad is guaranteed free DLC? The character designs don’t quite match the legacy of the characters they’re based on, though.

Judging from reactions on social media, it seems that a number of people feel this way.

It’s not the end of the world, though. If the game plays well, who cares what the characters look like? We also know that Marvel’s Avengers will have plenty of outfits and customization options, so if the standard looks aren’t doing it, we may be able to improve them down the line. One can hope!


Respawn had to earn lightsabers and Jedi in Fallen Order

A few years ago at Respawn Entertainment, developer Stig Asmussen assembled a small team to make a third-person action game, which is pretty much exactly what you’d expect from someone who played an integral part in creating the God of War franchise.

We saw what that project became at EA Play 2019. Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order is more or less what any Star Wars fan might expect, too — adorable droids, telekinetic Force powers, gleaming lightsabers, slumping stormtroopers — with a camera hovering behind a Jedi’s back.

What we didn’t see was the multi-year collaboration, a sometimes uneasy relationship between Respawn and Lucasfilm, forged to create a game where the most basic elements click into a canonical story. Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order will be as truthful as, say, the events in The Force Awakens.

“From the very beginning,” Asmussen told Polygon, “we wanted [Fallen Order] to be canon because it’s a story-based, single-player game, and we felt like that we could make something that was really strong and that matters. That made the game more challenging to make because … it has to be scrutinized at an extra level to make sure that it fits with everything.”

star wars jedi: fallen order Respawn Entertainment/EA

Even for the big Star Wars fans at Respawn, development involved a lot of education and, occasionally, a little head-butting. The company couldn’t just come up with cool gameplay ideas and run with them. It had to justify and earn things as fundamental as lightsabers and Jedi.

“There really are rules to Star Wars,” he said. “And everybody kind of has their own perception of what it is, as a fan. But when you really get working at it, you need to do something that’s faithful, that doesn’t trample on other things. It’s definitely a learning process.”

According to Asmussen, Lucasfilm serves as something like an appraiser of ideas. The developers design, and then they have discussions with the protectors and keepers of Star Wars lore.

Respawn’s education goes back to the earliest stages of the project. Turns out you can’t just throw laser swords into a game, brand your hero a Jedi, and make cool stuff. You have to create everything in relationship to the entire Star Wars universe.

“In the beginning we were saying, ‘Yeah, we want to do all this stuff!’ They’re like, ‘No, you actually have to earn this.’ Not only did we need to earn the respect that we were going to make something that was faithful, but we had to earn concepts that we wanted or were ownable enough that they belonged in Star Wars.”

Owning those concepts was one of the first points of contention. Lucasfilm was initially interested in a game that wasn’t about the most iconic Star Wars weapons and character classes. But that was at odds with Asmussen’s vision — and his team’s abilities.

“The team that I built was all third-person action adventure,” Asmussen said. “That was kind of what they did. And when we signed the Star Wars deal, we’re like, ‘Yeah, we’re going to make a game with lightsabers!’ And the first meeting I had with Lucasfilm, they were more interested in us making a game with smugglers or something that wasn’t Jedi-focused. And it’s because Jedi are essentially the holy grail.”

If Respawn wanted to make a Jedi game, they had to convince Lucasfilm first. In those early days, Asmussen’s God of War pedigree cut both ways.

“They knew that I had a background and God of War, and several of the members of the team [also] did. I don’t know if they were afraid that we’re going to try to turn this into God of Star Wars or something like that. But we had to prove to them that we could make something that earned that honor.”

star wars jedi: fallen order Respawn Entertainment/EA

At first, Asmussen said, Lucasfilm had a different kind of game in mind, thinking it might be about “smugglers or bounty hunters or something like that.”

“I was like, ‘Look: That’s not my background. I don’t know how to make a third-person shooter. That’s what we’re talking about, right? I mean, my team’s not designed to do that. I think you guys would be a lot happier with the product that we make if it included lightsabers.’”

That became the template for the relationship between the two companies — a bit of back and forth that evolved into a collaboration.

“They don’t say yes or no,” he said of Lucasfilm. “It’s more kind of like, ‘Hey, how can we work together to make this work with Star Wars?’ And that’s a process that we developed together over time — just building a relationship, building respect with one another. And I’ll be honest with you: It hasn’t always been the easiest relationship, but it’s never been better than it is right now. Over the last year and a half, two years, we’ve really learned how to work together very well. They’re part of the team.”

In fact, Asmussen said, he’s felt as much like an employee of Lucasfilm as he has Respawn, since creating a canonical Star Wars game is all he’s been working on for the last three years.

From the game’s earliest days, Asmussen and his team knew the kind of Star Wars game they wanted to make. Lucasfilm had a different initial vision, but they worked together to make something new and keep it canonical.

“The conversation went further and it got to the point where they’re like, ‘OK, Force users, not Jedi. Let’s talk about a game with a force-user that has a lightsaber.’ And here we are, several years later, and the name of the game [has] Jedi.”

You’ll be able to play that collaboration on Nov. 15, 2019, when Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order arrives on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and Windows PC.


Nintendo Direct E3 2019: watch it here

Nintendo returns to E3 this year with a new Nintendo Direct presentation. The Nintendo Direct for E3 2019 will stream live on Tuesday, June 11 at 9 a.m. PT/12 p.m. ET. You can watch today’s Nintendo Direct above.

Nintendo Direct E3 2019 will focus “entirely on software, [and] will offer a look at games scheduled to launch in 2019,” Nintendo says. In other words: Nintendo won’t talk about a new model of the Switch at E3.

The company’s announced 2019 game lineup includes Super Mario Maker 2, Fire Emblem: Three Houses, Astral Chain, Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3: The Black Order, Dragon Quest 11 S: Echoes of an Elusive Age — Definitive Edition, Animal Crossing for Nintendo Switch, Daemon X Machina, Luigi’s Mansion 3, Pokémon Sword and Shield, and The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening.

Super Smash Bros. Ultimate director Masahiro Sakurai says we can also expect information on the next DLC character to join the fighting game’s roster. Of course, we anticipate a few surprises, and information on games coming in 2020 as well.

Nintendo will also hold its traditional Nintendo Treehouse: Live stream at E3 2019. That will kick off right after today’s Nintendo Direct, and run from June 11-13.


Frozen 2 trailer questions the strength of Elsa’s powers

Elsa and Anna are off to solve the mystery of Elsa’s powers in the latest trailer for Frozen 2.

The first teaser just hinted at the greater plot, but brought us a fearless Elsa using her ice powers to conquer waves and an autumn-swathed forest landscape that evoked themes of a powerful, yet long dormant fandom.

In this newest trailer, however, we see more of the sisters’ quest. What do these mysterious symbols on the snowflakes mean? What lies beyond the land of Arendelle? Are there others out there with Elsa’s powers or is she the only one? Will her powers be enough to save the day?

Leaked images from the art book revealed an icy horse creature called the Nokk. In the trailer, we see it in all its frosty equine glory— guess Elsa’s a horse girl now!

Idina Menzel and Kristen Bell return as Elsa and Anna respectively, with Jonathan Groff and Josh Gad voicing Kristoff and Olaf the snowman. Santino Fontana is also set to return as the villainous Hans. Joining the cast are Evan Rachel Wood and Sterling K. Brown in yet undisclosed roles.

Frozen 2 arrives to theaters on Nov. 22. If this next fix of Frozen isn’t enough to satisfy your frosty cravings, a docu-series about the making of the sequel will release on Disney Plus.


Watch every Square Enix trailer from E3 2019

Square Enix opened its E3 2019 press conference with a first look at Final Fantasy 7 Remake gameplay along with a new extended trailer, setting the tone for the rest of the night. Final Fantasy 14: Shadowbringers got a lengthy trailer to show off upcoming content while the Brave Exvius franchise announced a spinoff game. To close out the conference, a surprise announcement for Final Fantasy 8 Remastered and a look at Crystal Dynamics’ Marvel’s Avengers game.

We rounded up every big trailer you need to know about, scroll down to check them out.

Final Fantasy 7 Remake

Final Fantasy 14: Shadowbringers

Romancing SaGa 3, SaGa Scarlet Grace Ambitions



Final Fantasy 8 Remastered

Marvel’s Avengers


Minecraft Dungeons is simple, Diablo-inspired fun for the family

I played some Minecraft Dungeons earlier today and, without wishing to state the obvious, I think this game is going to be a big hit.

First announced at Minecon last year, it’s an overhead-view, Diablo-like game featuring characters and other stuff from the world of Minecraft. Given Minecraft’s reach, and this game’s attractive competence, it’s possible that Dungeons will introduce monster-crawling to a larger audience than all the previously games in this hallowed genre, combined.

I play as a solo adventurer, or as part of a team of up to four players, in online or couch co-op. I venture into an underworld, and am soon fighting familiar foes from Minecraft, such as Skeletons, Spiders and Husks.

I pick up emeralds to spend on upgrades, like weapons, potions and armor. It’s worth noting that the currency is all in-game; there are no loot boxes or micro-transactions. Loot drops also give me random goodies, including health boosts and other consumables.

The rooms are randomly generated, as are drops and enemies. My weapons are melee and range, and they’re all boosted heavily by random enchantments which I spend as and when I feel the need. The game’s upgrade path is all about increasing my ability to use these boosts, rather than statistically upgrading my character or its individual weapons.

I can also collect “artifacts” which are special weapons that cool-down after use. A big part of the fun is equipping stuff that’s appropriate to individual challenges, as well as working with teammates to maximize team effectiveness.

Basic lever-style puzzles break up the combat, as well as dangerous traps. During my play session, I found the game to be pretty forgiving and fun, though it’s worth noting that the last dungeon crawler I played was the intensely challenging Below.

Minecraft Dungeons looks like a family favorite, which kids will greatly enjoy. It’s due out for around $20 in spring 2020, for Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, Windows PC and Xbox One. Mobile versions have not yet been announced, but I wouldn’t bet against their appearance in due course.


Square Enix at E3: the biggest announcements, trailers, and games

RPG giant Square Enix just wrapped up its E3 2019 presser, and the showcase was full of announcements and trailers for new and upcoming games. Here are the biggest news items to come out today’s showcase.

Marvel’s Avengers

E3 2019 gave us our first look at the Crystal Dynamics/Marvel collaboration in motion. Marvel’s Avengers will take iconic moments from the film franchise and translate them into video game form — but Square Enix says the title will have a wholly original story. The title will work under the games-as-service model, with new Avengers coming as DLC in the future. You’ll be able to play in online co-op with up to three friends. You can read more here.

More Final Fantasy 7 Remake footage

Oh hey, this game actually has a release date now: March 3, 2020. The latest gameplay looks solid, although there do seem to be some changes that go beyond a combat overhaul. This footage also shows off Tifa, who we hadn’t seen before under this engine. Neat. Also: There’s enough content to fill two Blu-ray discs, Square Enix says. The first disc will take place entirely in Midgar.


People Can Fly — you might know them as the folks behind Bulletstorm — showed off its next first-person shooter, which is a sci-fi title where players must find out the truth about a mysterious signal. The developers are calling this co-op shooter their biggest game yet.

Final Fantasy 8 Remastered is real

It’s happening! The remastered version of this classic yet divisive RPG will have enhanced visuals. It’s out in 2019 on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, and Windows PC.

Final Fantasy 14: Shadowbringer

FF14’s big new expansion is right around the corner, and Square Enix detailed what players can expect during today’s E3 presentation with a launch trailer for the update. It’s out on July 2, unless you preordered — then it’s out on June 28.


Final Fantasy 14: Shadowbringers launch trailer reveals secrets of Hydaelyn

During Square Enix’s 2019 E3 press conference, Final Fantasy 14 producer and director Naoki Yoshida appeared on stage to talk briefly more about the upcoming expansion, Shadowbringers, showing off the launch trailer.

The trailer showed the Warrior of Light talking to some NPCs, noting that they haven’t seen a Dark Knight in a long time. The trailer showed the Scions of the Seventh Dawn reunited in The First, with a special appearance from the broody Dragoon, Estinien. Solus zos Galvus, one of the bad dudes we’ve been seen pulling the strings behind the Garlemand Empire, drops quite the bomb at the end of the trailer: Hydaelyn and Zodiark, the crystal entities we’ve been warring for and against, are primals, summon-able beings that Warriors of Light have to put down. Primals are bad news, as they suck up the aether and essentially ruin the environment.

With the expansion’s release so close on the horizon, Square Enix has already revealed a great deal of information. We already have a good idea of jobs changes, the two new races, and what we can expect from the new areas in terms of beast tribes, monsters, and aesthetic.

Shadowbringers releases on June 28 for players who preordered the expansion and July 2 for everyone else on Mac, PlayStation 4, and Windows PC.