Contra: Anniversary Collection available today on Nintendo eShop

Contra: Anniversary Collection, the 10-game collection of all the Contra games that Konami announced back in March, is available later today on the Nintendo eShop.

The anthology includes Contra in three forms — arcade, NES and Famicom — Super Contra, Super C, and Operation C; Contra 3: The Alien Wars and Contra: Hard Corps from the 16-bit era; and even Probotector and Super Probotector: Alien Rebels.

The Probotector games were released in Europe and Australia only. In them, heroes Lance Bean and Bill Rizer were swapped for the robotic soldiers RD-008 and RC-011. Probotector is based on Contra: Hard Corps, while Super Probotector: Alien Rebels is based on Contra 3: The Alien Wars.

Japanese versions of all these games will be released later via title update, IGN reported back in May. The series is also available for PlayStation 4, Windows PC, and Xbox One.

The Contra: Anniversary Collection also includes a digital book with interviews with developers, concept art and design documents from the series’ history.

The anthology joins Konami Anniversary Collection: Arcade Classics and Castlevania: Anniversary Collection as Konami plumbs its back catalog for products to release this year.


Konami brings back Contra with Contra Rogue Corps

Konami’s classic run-and-gun franchise Contra is back. During a Nintendo Direct E3 2019 presentation on Tuesday, Konami and Nintendo revealed Contra Rogue Corps, a new over-the-top entry in the series.

Contra Rogue Corps trades the traditional side-scrolling perspective for a top-down isometric view of the action, a la Super C and Contra 3: The Alien Wars. Players will shoot up Damned City, both as classic Contra characters like Kaiser, a mutated bug and … a panda bear? Contra Rogue Corps will feature single-player and multiplayer gameplay when it comes to Nintendo Switch on Sept. 24.

The original Contra, released in arcades, dates back to 1987. Konami ported Contra to the NES in 1988, where it found a wide audience thanks to its solid run-and-gun gameplay and memorable music, and the game helped a generation memorize the Konami Code. Konami has released a long list of sequels, and in recent years has attempted to reinvigorate the franchise with a variety of spinoffs.

Fans can revisit the classic Contra games in Konami’s upcoming Contra Anniversary Collection.


The abandoned X-Men movie of the 1980s isn’t missed by anyone involved

In 1979, no one wanted to make a Marvel movie.

Alice Donenfeld-Vernoux, a former vice president of business affairs at Marvel, had one mission during the late ’70s: Bring the comic company’s heroes to the big screen. The executive, who later helped Filmation launch He-Man and the Masters of the Universe, founded Alice Entertainment, and wrote a few novels (ranging from erotic romances to canine-themed mysteries), now lives an idyllic retired life down in Mexico, and can only laugh thinking about the pile of gold she tried to hand off.

“I’ve often wondered if any of the guys that I pitched to at the majors thought about the fact that they had turned down Spider-Man and the Incredible Hulk,” Donenfeld-Vernoux says. “I often wonder if they rue that day.”

Donenfeld-Vernoux’s chase for Marvel cinematic glory came four years after Jaws, two years after Star Wars, and a year after Richard Donner’s Superman, at that point one of the most expensive movies of all time. Despite the ’80s launching a handful of ripe-for-franchising blockbusters and the next comic book event film, 1989’s Batman, Marvel couldn’t sell Hollywood on its “niche” roster. In 1996, the company filed for bankruptcy.

Marvel’s last-ditch effort for cash was a character licensing bonanza, an effort that finally brought the characters to the silver screen (starting with 1998’s Blade). But the movie that changed show business’ perception of comic books, and kicked off a franchise that lasted until this month’s Dark Phoenix, was 2000’s X-Men — a movie Donenfeld-Vernoux wanted to make 20 years earlier.

Of all the Marvel rejections, X-Men was the concept that almost happened in the ’80s. But after speaking to those who wanted to bring the comic to life, and reading treatments and scripts for multiple adaptations generated at that time, an alternate timeline in which the movie actually happened is one fans might be happy was left out of canon.

Image: 20th Century Fox via Polygon

“Every one of them would say to me, ‘We’re not going to make a movie of any of your dumb superheroes. The theaters are going to be dark at night. We can’t play kids movies after 6 o’clock at night. It’s not worth the money,” Donenfeld-Vernoux recounts dryly. “I wish I had a buck for every time I got thrown out of one of the majors pitching a superhero movie.”

Fueled by an uptick in Marvel merchandise licensing, some headway in the animated cartoon world, and the success of Superman at the box office, Marvel was ready for its own box-office smash in 1979. The order came right from the top, with Stan Lee leading the charge, sending Donenfeld-Vernoux off to pitch anywhere and everywhere.

She introduced the characters and showcased the artwork. She touted the sales numbers and key demographics. She marched from boardroom to boardroom, from executive to executive, bouncing from Los Angeles to New York to the Cannes Film Festival in hopes of finding a buyer. But no matter what she and Lee tried, no studio wanted in.

In 1982, Donenfeld-Vernoux got a bite: Canadian animation studio Nelvana optioned the rights to the X-Men. Known for animated television, the studio was readying to release its first feature-length animated film, Rock & Rule, in 1983, and was interested in live action. Nelvana founder Michael Hirsh also understood Donenfeld-Vernoux’s vision; he found his way into animation after being a comic book die-hard.

“I had grown up with the Marvel Comics […] and one of my partners at Nelvana, Patrick Loubert, had read the comics as well,” Hirsh says. “As we built our company Nelvana, which was actually named after Nelvana of the Northern Lights from the Canadian comics, we always kept an interest in comic books.”

The deal came together quickly: Nelvana would make the movie, and Marvel would run point on merchandising and supplement promotion with the books (at that time, the publisher sold nearly 5.5 million comics a month). A letter from Donenfeld-Vernoux to Hirsh in 1982 emphasized just what a big deal this was for Marvel:

I am secure that the usual reluctance on the part of licensees to go with film properties can be overcome in this instance as these characters are well known to our readers and will continue to be supported by our regular publishing plans. This allays the usual licensee’s fears of the movie coming and going leaving product with no visible media support.

Michael, I cannot stress how eager everyone is to work on this project, we feel this is our first major film and the excitement level is high.

Soon after the deal was signed, Donenfeld-Vernoux left Marvel to join Filmation; she’d originally pitched the Marvel heroes to Filmation founder Lou Scheimer, who ended up pitching her right back, luring the executive onto He-Man and the Masters of the Universe. But the X-Men movie was in motion. Finally.

Image: 20th Century Fox via Polygon

Audiences had some idea of what Marvel looked like in live action. In 1944, Captain America made the jump to black-and-white serial film as part of a deal with Timely Comics. The 1970s saw CBS’ The Incredible Hulk series and a slew of hokey made-for-TV movies that boasted titles like Captain America II: Death Too Soon. That helped the merchandise licensing, Donenfeld-Vernoux said, but the studios remained skeptical of how that success would translate to a theatrical film.

Hirsh insisted that Nelvana intended to make a live-action blockbuster out of their Marvel deal, and that the X-Men were chosen for their popularity. By the early ’80s, X-Men was Marvel’s highest-selling title, with their powers befitting the cutting-edge visual effects of the era. To write the movie, Hirsh made an obvious hire: Chris Claremont, who revamped and quickly defined the modern X-Men. Hirsh flew him up to Toronto for a few — in his words — “get-to-know-you sessions.”

“These are the characters, this is the story, this is the world. Is this something that you guys are interested in playing with?” Claremont recounts to Polygon, describing the meetings.

Claremont, who would go on to be involved with many attempts to bring the X-Men to the big screen (including a ’90s incarnation with James Cameron and Kathryn Bigelow), recalls that there was discussion of the Nelvana project being animated ⁠— a litmus test of sorts to see if a live-action theatrical movie would even work out for Marvel. Whatever the case, the movie would push the material as far as technology would allow at the time.

The writer penned two outlines for the potential X-Men movie, both starring Cyclops, Phoenix, Storm, and Wolverine, and Professor Xavier. The first version, dated June 1982 and called Rite of Passage, specifically focuses on Kitty Pryde. Claremont enters the world of the X-Men through the life of Kitty, following her journey from new recruit to part of the X-family. The villain is the heroine’s father, who, after trying to kill Professor Xavier while being possessed by an evil mutant named Proteus, turns against his daughter and uses his senatorial power to turn the country against the mutants. Meanwhile, Professor X grows weak from the possession, prompting his pupils to rise up and save him from being trapped in the astral realm. At the end of the day, the gang saves Xavier, Senator Pryde’s love for his daughter wins out, and everyone is happy.

The second outline, from 1983, also features Kitty, but takes a more macro focus on a global conflict between the X-Men and the Brotherhood of Mutants, putting their feud against the backdrop of the Cold War. At one point, Magneto raises an island from beneath the ocean and destroys a Soviet submarine full of nuclear warheads with his hands. Later, he creates a volcano in a distant Russian city and sets it off to send a message. At the end, after almost killing Kitty, Magneto realizes that he’s gone to far and turns to Charles for forgiveness.

“It is too late to change, Charles,” reads the script’s only line of dialogue. “I am too old. I have lived too long with my pain and my hate. But … I will try.”

Claremont eventually stepped off the project to focus on writing novels and X-Men comics. (His book New Mutants launched in September 1982.) Nelvana, wanting to see the live-action project through, tapped comic writers Roy Thomas and Gerry Conway to take over treatment duties. Claremont wasn’t surprised by the handoff.

“[Roy and Gerry] were more senior in the hierarchy of Marvel, and had more experience in doing media work screenplays and more familiar with it,” he says.

Conway, though, says he never even knew Claremont was involved. In fact, the writer recalls the whole project with a particular distaste. From the get go, he says, the whole project felt off.

“We were approached by the producers, who asked us to write a screenplay for them without a treatment, which is unusual, and it was primarily because our quote was too high for them to include a treatment,” Conway says. “So we said, We’ll write one draft for you on this lower quote because we wanted to work on the project.’ We ended up actually writing like three drafts for treatment, two drafts of the script, but we were never, ever aware that Chris had been involved in an earlier stage.”

By the time Conway and Thomas were onboard, Nelvana had secured a deal for distribution with Orion Pictures, which had seen major success with films like Caddyshack, Excalibur, Arthur, First Blood, and later that year, The Terminator. Two producers (who Conway can’t remember the names of) joined the project, and had thoughts.

“Neither one of them had any real experience as producers,” he says, “but they — to our misfortune — had read a book on screenwriting, so they felt they were totally qualified.”

Image: 20th Century Fox via Polygon

Thomas and Conway’s first treatment, completed in January 1984, is similar to what Claremont imagined in his outlines. The focus is again on Kitty as she arrives at the mysterious academy for the first time. Proteus returns from Claremont’s first outline, though this time instead of mysteriously possessing bodies, he sucks the life out of bodies and has an alter-ego named Dr. Anton Lykos, who teams up with the Brotherhood (not the Brotherhood of Mutants … just the Brotherhood). In this version, Wolverine has his adamantium-soaked skeleton as the result of a car accident and at on point punches a man into a pinball machine.

“God, I love a good fight,” says a femme fatale right after Logan emerges victorious from his brawl. “It really gets the blood percolating.” As a subway gutter blows her skirt up, she gushes about Marilyn Monroe.

In the end, the X-Men team up to defeat Proteus and the enigmatic Brotherhood, and Kitty becomes part of the family.

The producers weren’t happy. The appeal, they felt, was too niche. So the duo wrote another treatment. Then another. And with each iteration, the X-Men movie deviated more and more from the X-Men comics, and Conway and Thomas grew more and more annoyed with the project. Born from growing frustration and producer meddling, the writing team eventually delivered a truly off-the-wall X-Men script.

In the film, Professor X and Cyclops travel the world to recruit superpowered humans in order to stop Proteus, who Conway and Thomas morphed from mere body possessor/life-sucker to an evil CEO who sucks life energy by night. He and a bunch of other world leaders want to take over the world. His evil plan: raise a continent from the depths of the Pacific Ocean.

There is no Xavier Academy. There is no seeded prejudice and struggle between the Mutants. Hell, there are no Mutants. The word is used once in the script, and even then it’s abbreviated, a blink-and-you’ll-miss it reference to “muties” from Logan. Also Professor X can walk.

“I guarantee you that almost every change that’s made of that script that moves it away from the traditional X-Men mythology was something that was instigated by the producers,” said Conway.

Cyclops, Storm, Wolverine, and Kitty are all back for the adventure, with Nightcrawler and Colossus also in the mix. But despite appearing in every iteration of the outlines and treatments, and being one of the most popular X-Men given after Claremont’s highly successful Dark Phoenix saga in 1980, Jean Grey does not make the cut.

In her place is a new character, Yoshi, a Japanese New Wave pop star with the power to transform materials. She likes all things cute, all things Godzilla, and all things Scott Summers. Yoshi is not as powerful as Jean Grey, but she does have a romance with Scott — and appeal to an international market. Conway says the producers asked for the character’s inclusion in order to pander to potential Japanese investors (though didn’t want to use the existing Japanese character, Sunfire).

Also joining the team is Kitty’s friend Bernie, who has no superpowers whatsoever, and is only let in on her secret because he followed Kitty to X-Men practice. Like in the treatments, Thomas and Conway’s script uses Kitty as the audience proxy, but producers insisted the viewpoint would turn off young boys. Enter: Bernie, who serves no purpose other than to poke his nose around and be a more age-appropriate love interest for 14-year-old Kitty than 19-year-old Colossus.

On the subject of distilling the core conflict of the X-Men — the struggle of acceptance in society and the different approaches and measures taken by Professor X and Magneto — Conway bristles.

“‘Mutants’ had a connotation that they thought would prejudice the studio against a project,” he told us. “A mutant was a monster if you were completely ignorant to comic book mythology, which one had to presume that a studio would be in the early 1980s.”

The X-Men’s final showdown happens on Easter Island, with the iconic statues playing a pivotal point. The villain and his daughter Carmilla, who earlier seduces Wolverine, are revealed to have a secret hideout in one of the heads.

“Easter Island statues are nowhere near as tall, obviously, as we have them in the script, but for the sake of having some fun, my favorite bit was just plunging out of the nose,” Conway says, referencing a moment where Carmilla and Logan fight and she plummets from a statue’s nostril. “By that point, I think we were pretty punch drunk, just trying to get through another draft.”

Image: 20th Century Fox via Polygon

Unfortunately (or perhaps fortunately, if you ask Conway), Nelvana’s X-Men movie never made it past the script stage. The reason wasn’t quality: after a few highs in the early ’80s, Orion hit a snag.

Orion Pictures had its worst financial year in 1985, with all but two of the company’s releases flaming out at the box office. A special-effects-driven blockbuster on a property everyone else in Hollywood had turned down no longer made financial sense. In 1991, Orion filed for bankruptcy, though it managed to stay steady for a few years more — sweeping the Academy Awards with The Silence of the Lambs helped — before merging with Metromedia International Group to become MGM. By then, Nelvana no longer held the rights to the characters.

“Orion decided it wasn’t in their bailiwick. We lost the option and it went to Fox,” explained Hirsh.

Though Conway walked away from the debacle miffed, Michael Hirsh has no hard feelings over what happened with Orion. Nelvana went on to become an animation stable, and still creates and distributes animated shows to this day, Clone High, The Adventures of Tintin, and The Fairly OddParents among them. The company was sold to the larger Corus Entertainment in 2000, the year that the first X-Men movie came out. Hirsh now serves as CEO for WOW! Unlimited Media.

The alternate timeline where the first X-Men movie came out in the 1980s, the one Marvel dreamed of living in, may have been a dark one. Though born from enthusiasm, the version that came closest to production — a far cry from the one Alice Donenfeld-Vernoux pushed for, the one Michael Hirsh took on, the one Chris Claremont formulated — was eventually covered in Hollywood fingerprints.

“It was a disheartening experience working with amateurs who probably are now very successful film producers. That’s the nature of the business,” quipped Conway.

How would the ’80s version of X-Men changed superhero movies as we know it? Claremont, for one, doesn’t like to dwell on all those what-ifs. With every failed attempt, Marvel got closer and closer to finally nailing it. As the rights passed from Nelvana to Fox, as interested directors made the moves and then passed on the project, what would finally become the first Marvel theatrical feature got closer and closer to happening.

“God, we got almost to the starting line, but not quite,” said Claremont. “[X-Men (2000)] changed the game, because up until then everybody had looked on superhero films as losers. Then, the X-Men rolled in with a nine figure opening weekend, which nobody saw coming. That in turn set up Spider-Man, which in turn set up Captain America. And 20 years later we are in the world of today with Black Panther pulling in three Oscars and Into the Spider-Verse getting Best Animated Film. It’s a matter of being in the right place at the right time with the right project and ultimately the right creative and commercial talent on the other side to bring that project to life. Those stars back in the early ’80s weren’t in alignment.”


Miller Lite has built a working video game controller in a beer can

Photo: Miller Lite

In the annals of modern engineering, mankind has achieved one stunning feat after the next. We’ve put humans on the moon, and more than the once. Self-driving motor vehicles are bound to become part of everyday life before too long. The average human lifespan continues to increase. But every so often an innovation comes along that pushes its entire medium forward, one which distinguishes itself as a pioneer of the form. Today, Miller Lite has turned a beer can into a video game controller.

It’s also not just a factory prototype, even if the odds of getting your hands on one are pretty slim. The Cantroller is part of a Miller tie-in campaign for the ongoing 2019 E3 (Electronic Entertainment Expo) in Los Angeles; as an epicenter of the gaming industry’s year, brands often look to get in on the fun. But with the Cantroller, which is indeed filled with a regular-ounce portion of Miller Lite, the macro-brew distinguishes itself from the pack. It’s a functioning digital controller, complete with micro-USB ports and a rechargeable battery, albeit one reportedly optimal for older games with less demanding control schemes.

If you want it, and you haven’t already signed up, the June 12th competition’s registration has already closed, alas. However, in-person registration will still be allowed on a limited basis for walk-ups, so if you’re in Los Angeles right now, and you want to play Street Fighter against Eric Andre in order to win one of these, your moment has come. Just don’t crush the Cantroller against your skull in a display of triumph when you’re done chugging. (Also, you’ll be able to watch this all play out on Twitch, because that’s where all the playful branding goes down these days.)


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.


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