When the HD version of Super Monkey Ball: Banana Blitzhits PC, Switch, PS4, and Xbox One on October 29, Sonic the Hedgehog is coming with, transforming bananas into golden rings on every stage he plays.
Sonic brings his signature speed and signature bling to the upcoming monkey business as an unlockable hidden character. Selecting Sonic turns the collectible bananas on every stage into rings, complete with classic ring-grabbing sound effects. He pretty much turns Super Monkey Ball into a glorified Sonic mini-game. The nerve of this guy.
Not to be undone, AiAi and his friends get new unlockable costumes in the HD remaster, with outfits for every monkey on staff. Good for them.
Released for the Wii in 2006, Super Monkey Ball: Banana Blitz got a lot of flack for its unwieldy motion controls. Super Monkey Ball: Banana Blitz HD, due out October 29 for the PC, PlayStation 4, Switch, and Xbox One, has no motion controls, and it’s much better for it.
Who doesn’t love steering monkeys encased in transparent spheres through a series of increasingly complex roller-coaster style levels? People using Wii remotes, that’s who. As cool as it was to have 100 new game levels and a whopping 50 motion-controlled mini-games in the Wii release, the frustration of trying to control AiAi and friends by using the Wiimote to tilt the game world negated a lot of the game’s charm.
Mind the low voice volume, new mic.
Stripped of its clumsy motion controls (even in the Switch version), Super Monkey Ball: Banana Blitz HD is a much better way to enjoy one of the more unique entries in Sega’s primate sphere series. Features like jumping and boss battles were new to the series in Banana Blitz, and now a lot more fans will get a chance to check them out.
From what I’ve played of the Switch version so far, the game is a joy. AiAi, MeMe, Baby, and crew look ridiculously happy to be rolling about and collecting bananas, and their enthusiasm is infectious. The music, which is mostly new due to licensing issues with the original, is bubblegum goodness, mixing island instruments with a little ska sensibility. And while the HD version only has 10 mini-games, most of the 50 in the original were geared towards Wii remote controls and not all that entertaining.
Sega hasn’t done much with Super Monkey Ball since the Wii. Some monkey cameos in other games, a couple of handheld titles, and a bunch of mobile stuff, but nothing substantial on a dedicated gaming console. Maybe if Super Monkey Ball: Banana Blitz HD goes over well, that will change. I can think of worse fates than having too many Monkey Ball games to play.
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The Sega Genesis Mini is small, but these capsule versions are even smaller. Sure, they don’t play games, but they’re tiny and cute.
Over the years, numerous game consoles have been miniaturized for capsule toys. As IT Media points out, what makes this latest line so interesting is how extensive the peripherals and add-on versions are.
The physical copies of this year’s Football Manager game are made almost entirely from recyclable materials, from the case to the shrink-wrap to the ink that’s printed on it. You could even eat the cardboard, if that was something you ever felt the need to do.
As GI.biz reports, this year’s game—and every version going forward—“will come in a cardboard sleeve made from 100% recycled cardboard that will be shrink-wrapped in fully recyclable low-density polyethylene.”
The game’s box and paper manual are printed on water and vegetable-based ink, and the manual itself will be “made from 100% recycled paper.” Miles Jacobson, head of developers Sports Interactive, says this even qualifies the packaging as vegan, and that if you wanted to eat the packaging, you could. Aside from the disc, that is, which is the only thing inside the box that isn’t easy to dispose of correctly, though included in each copy will be instructions on how to mail the DVD into a specialized recycling facility.
You might be wondering why all the fuss over a physical copy of a PC game in 2019, but Football Manager is a series whose success lies in mainstream circles where disc drives are still very much present; last year’s game, for example, sold over 300,000 boxed retail copies.
Jacobson mentions in the video that Sega’s European staff helped out a lot on the project, meaning future games released by the publisher can take advantage of the same prices.
In terms of cost, these are more expensive to produce, at around 20c a copy more than standard packaging, but Jacobson estimates this “will be partly offset by cheaper distribution costs and partly offset by cheaper destruction costs.”
Sega was always more loved than it was successful. At no point was the maker of the Genesis and Dreamcast the worldwide leader in video games. When it succeeded in America, it fell short in Japan, and vice versa. The Genesis Mini is an encapsulation of that moment when it came closest to victory—a reminder of what the Genesis was, but also what it could have been.
To be released on September 19, the $80 Sega Genesis Mini includes 42 classic games from the 16-bit system’s lifespan. That’s a hefty amount, exactly double that of Nintendo’s SNES Classic. It also includes two of the classic three-button Genesis controllers, an HDMI cable, and a USB cable with AC adapter—in other words, everything you need to play right out of the box.
The hardware is a thing of beauty, a perfect little recreation of the 1989 launch model Genesis. The Genesis Mini goes a step further than other classic mini-hardware with interactive elements. The volume control slides up and down, the spring-loaded dust-cover flaps covering the cartridge slot open and close, and you can even remove the cover for the port that would connect the real Genesis to a Sega CD.
None of these things actually function, of course. You can’t play Genesis cartridges on this machine, nor is there a proportionally-sized Sega CD attachment that will let you play Sewer Shark (although surely we can all agree that we would immediately buy such a product). But they make the Genesis Mini itself into a fun little toy even before you turn it on.
The included controllers feel like exact replicas of the original, massive, croissant-shaped pads that shipped with the first model of the Genesis. This is where you may feel that Sega has made a misstep with the Mini, since it includes these 3-button pads and not the 6-button controllers that were produced later. In Japan, the 6-button pads are included; here, they are an extra $20 purchase. Most of the games only use three buttons anyway, but for the ones that offer 6-button support (most notably Street Fighter II Special Champion Edition), you’ll have to pay up.
Even though the controllers use USB, you can’t just plug in any old USB controller and have it work on the Mini—you’ll need an officially licensed controller from Retro-Bit. Sega sent samples of the 6-button controllers, which were excellent. They were helpful even for games that don’t need six buttons, since you can press the “Mode” button to open the system menu. To get to the menu with a 3-button pad, you have to hold down the Start button for three seconds, which is annoying.
So was it a mistake to include 3-button pads? I’m leaning toward “no.” The appeal of a mini-console like this isn’t just the gameplay; it’s also having that little replica of the thing itself. Most people who played the Genesis back in the day used these controllers. It completes the nostalgic circle to boot up Sonic the Hedgehog again and feel one of these big chonky bois in your hands just like you remember.
Like Nintendo’s classic systems, the Genesis Mini has original menu-screen music composed in classic chiptune style. Unlike Nintendo’s systems, the tune here is composed by the king of 16-bit music himself, Yuzo Koshiro (Streets of Rage and Actraiser among others). The new music is what the kids today call a “bop.” I enjoy just letting it run and listening to it. They even timed the boot sequence of the Mini to the music. That’s attention to detail!
The Mini is low on software features. It’s got the obvious stuff: You can choose to either view the games in their proper 4:3 aspect ratio or be weird and stretch them out like a wacky carnival mirror across your whole TV. You can turn a “CRT filter” on and off for fake scanlines, and you can apply one of two different wallpapers to the blank space around the 4:3 image. There’s a “save anywhere” feature with four slots per game. And that’s about it. I would have really liked to see a Rewind feature like the SNES Classic’s.
But all this would be meaningless without some games to play, and at 42 titles, Genesis has the most of the major minis. When you think about your childhood playing the Genesis, what game do you immediately flash back to? NBA Jam? Joe Montana Football? Aladdin? Mortal Kombat?
Oh. Well, um, none of those are on this.
There’s an obstacle for the Genesis Mini that the SNES Classic doesn’t really have to deal with. If you look at the best-selling games for the SNES, most of the games in the top 20 are on the SNES Classic. But look at the best-selling games for Genesis and you can see the problem: sports licenses, movie licenses, and fighting games that would earn this box a “Mature” rating.
Going hard after hot licenses and pumping out games branded with big-name movies, pro athletes, and sports franchises was all part of Sega’s game plan in the 1990s. And it worked! But it also left modern-day Sega with a library of software that’s practically unreleasable today. This means that if, like many American Sega fans, you did a lot of sports gaming on your Genesis, you won’t find that experience here.
Sega definitely made an attempt to get some games made for Western audiences onto the Mini, like Earthworm Jim, Vectorman, and Road Rash II. But by and large, we’re looking at a lineup of stylish Japanese action games, JRPGs, and shmups. It’s almost like the sort of Genesis collection you’d find in the home of someone who prefers the Super Nintendo. It’s a Genesis collection for me, in other words, so I’m not complaining.
Here’s the full list of games. I have played each of these games, some of them for hours (Shining Force), some of them for a couple minutes (Earthworm Jim). I will hereby arbitrarily and irrevocably arrange them into four tiers: A Tier, B Tier, C Tier, and Virtua Fighter 2 For The Genesis Tier.
Contra: Hard Corps
Phantasy Star 4: The End of the Millennium
Wonder Boy in Monster World
Monster World 4
Sonic The Hedgehog
Ecco The Dolphin
Dr. Robotnik’s Mean Bean Machine
Castle of Illusion Starring Mickey Mouse
World of Illusion Starring Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck
Thunder Force 3
Streets of Rage 2
Sonic The Hedgehog 2
Street Fighter 2: Special Champion Edition
Ghouls ’n Ghosts
Super Fantasy Zone
Space Harrier 2
ToeJam & Earl
Mega Man: The Wily Wars
Alex Kidd in the Enchanted Castle
Sonic the Hedgehog Spinball
Road Rash 2
Virtua Fighter 2 For The Genesis Tier
Virtua Fighter 2
As you can see, no matter where you’d personally rank these games, the Genesis Mini has a deep bench. To give the console a wider variety, Sega decided to follow a one-game-per-series rule, with limited exception. While I appreciate the effort at diversity, I don’t think they should have been so strict about it. I would have preferred to play the original Streets of Rage, or Shining Force II, instead of—let me just pull one out of a hat here—the Genesis version of Virtua Fighter 2, a game that probably shouldn’t have ever even existed and really didn’t need to be resurfaced here.
But in general, the lineup is strong. Previous small Genesis consoles didn’t truly represent the best of the best that the platform had to offer. Here, finally, we have top-tier action games like Gunstar Heroes and Castlevania: Bloodlines. We skip to the end of the Wonder Boy in Monster World series to get to the two that are basically side-scrolling JRPGs, underappreciated in their own time but still sharp today.
SNES Classic featured an unreleased game from the 1990s, Star Fox 2, so of course the Genesis Mini had to double that count as well, adding the unreleased Genesis version of Tetris and a hardcore fan’s ported version of the arcade game Darius. Since we’re throwing back to the 1990s here, I’m going to reach back into my turn-of-the-century video game enthusiast magazine vocabulary and pronounce these a “mixed bag.” Darius is lots of fun but this port of Tetris is fairly anemic. SNES Classic wins the “unreleased game” wars, but that’s probably because only Nintendo would have ever shitcanned a perfectly good game in the first place.
There’s one other important bonus feature that exemplifies how the Genesis Mini feels like more of a passionate fan project than a bland marketing tool. You can set the menu to display in many different languages, which changes the entire menu design. The menu’s look will match that region’s Genesis logo and design, switching to the “Mega Drive” name for Europe and Japan. And if applicable, the games themselves will play in that language, using alternate ROM files. Beyond Oasis actually had, for example, a French-language version.
Some games differed in more than just their languages. If you switch the language to Japanese, Dr. Robotnik’s Mean Bean Machine will revert back to its original Japanese version, Puyo Puyo. Other differences are more subtle but still significant, like how the Japanese version of Contra: Hard Corps gives the player a three-bar life meter instead of one-hit kills. Or you could just play the Japanese version of Street Fighter II because you want “M. Bison” to be named “Vega.” I’m not here to judge. This extra-mile approach makes Genesis Mini a much more thorough exploration of the era than competing tiny boxes.
One wonders, on the eve of this very cool device’s release, if Sega has missed the window on the mini-console craze. The market was positively flooded with copycat devices in the wake of the NES Classic’s huge success, and the bad taste of the ill-done PlayStation Classic still hasn’t fully washed out of our collective mouths. Will people line up to buy another tiny console this holiday and reward Sega for its Herculean, if belated, efforts here? Those who do add another Mini to the pile will, at least, not be at all disappointed with this one.
Since 2005, Sega has been churning out Yakuza games. They’ve pretty much all followed the same formula: beat-’em-up action, mini-games, some silliness, and riveting drama. Yakuza 7 is different, trading button mashing for role-playing-game-style commands.
Gameplay-wise, this is a significant departure for the series. It stars new series protagonist Ichiban Kasuga. This is not his first appearance, as he previously starred in the free-to-play Yakuza Online. A collectible card game, Yakuza Online was also a departure from the gameplay of the mainline series. So it makes sense that Sega wanted to shake things up with Ichiban Kasuga.
The demo opens with Kouichi Adachi, a former detective, drinking a cup of sake on the street. He crushes the cup in his hand and enters the apartment where Ichiban and a drifter named Nanba are sleeping. Adachi has an ax to grind and teams up with Ichiban. The mission in the demo has players leave the flophouse where they are staying and go to Hello Work, a job-hunting company.
Hitting the streets of Yokohama’s Isezaki, it looks like past Yakuza games with urban Japan obsessively recreated. But you know you’re in for something different when the loading icons are retro-style pixel versions of Yakuza 7’s heroes.
After setting out, the group comes across a golden baseball bat stick in the ground. Thinking they can sell it, both Adachi and Nanba try to pull the bat out of the ground but fail. Ichiban gives it a go, successfully pulling out the bat and raising it over his head. A ray of light shines down from the heavens. It’s like the sword and the stone—something that isn’t lost on the characters and something that they mention.
Adachi tells Ichiban that he’s the “hero.” Ichiban, who’s a huge Dragon Quest fan, knows exactly what this means in the context of JRPGs and makes comparisons to the popular role-playing games. Like in Dragon Quest, Yakuza 7 has a “Hero” (勇者 or yuusha in Japanese). The characters are class-based; for example, while Ichiban is the Hero, Adachi is the Fighter. Characters wield weapons such as a nightstick or an umbrella, and if they’re near objects, like a bicycle, they automatically use them to kick ass.
The fantasy setting has been swapped for the real world. But there’s still a good deal of fantasy in Yakuza 7. The on-screen icons and prompts, as well as the healing animations, are straight out of your typical JRPG. Walking the streets led to encounters with enemies, triggering the turn-based combat. When combat begins, the appearance of the enemy characters changes.
For example, the first group’s appearance changed from casual clothing to street fashion influenced by Fist of the North Star. Another group of older men in tracksuits changed into bandana-wearing thugs. The contrast between fantasy and contemporary Japan makes the experience feel novel and fresh.
This tongue-in-cheek earnestness immediately won me over. Prior to playing the demo, I was bemoaning the loss of action-based combat. “It’s not a Yakuza game unless there is Yakuza action,” I said. After playing the demo, any reservations I had about Sega ditching the punching for turn-based combat in this specific game were gone.
In the demo, I had only three encounters before I arrived at Hello Work. There are mini-games, such as pachinko and go-cart riding, but I didn’t experience that element. (I imagine the mini-games are similar to previous entries.) The constant button-pressing required for traditional Yakuza games can feel exhausting. Yakuza 7’s pace feels more leisurely, with turned-based command-action battles that allow players to enjoy the story and soak up the underground world of organized crime. This is probably why Sega is calling Yakuza 7 a “dramatic RPG.”
Part of the charm, though, is that Yakuza 7 shakes up the traditional formula. It’s familiar yet odd and different. This is long overdue, but I’m not sure all the Yakuza games need to be cheeky JRPGs. The charm would wear off. The change is a much-needed fresh take for Yakuza 7, but long-term, I’m not convinced it’s a way forward. For this game at least, it is.
Yakuza 7 will be released in Japan on January 16, 2020, on the PlayStation 4. An international release date has not yet been announced.
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.
Today is the first press day for this year’s Tokyo Game Show (the four-day expo won’t be open to the public until Saturday). Let’s have a look inside.
Neither Nintendo nor Microsoft attends the show. Traditionally, Sony has dominated, but this year, Sega (and Atlus), Konami, and Square Enix all have booths of roughly equal size—or even, a smidge larger.
Interestingly, while Cyberpunk 2077 isn’t playable, it does have an enormous booth, with people lining up to watch a promotional clip.
Death Stranding is not playable, either, but while its presence is large, it doesn’t have the massive floor space that Cyberpunk 2077 does. No other single game does in the entire show.
As expected, the Square Enix booth is dominated by Final Fantasy VII Remake. Lines are long already on the press day. Expect them to be even longer—and the booth to be even more crowded—on the public ones.
Today is the 20th anniversary of the U.S. release of the Dreamcast, so we thought it was appropriate to reshare this piece on the console’s legacy that originally ran September 9th, 2016.
The Sega Dreamcast was released 17 years ago today in the United States. A console defined by experimental games and features far ahead of the curve, it’s fair to say that the Dreamcast changed my life forever. It made me see what games could be. It lived up to the name; it was everything I dreamed of and more.
Originally released on November 27th, 1998 in Japan, the Dreamcast was a shot at redemption after Sega’s last console, the Saturn, had a less than stellar time competing with the Playstation and Nintendo 64. Something had to change in order for Sega to keep a horse in the console race. The Dreamcast had it all: incredibly powerful graphics, online capability through dial up, and a playful take on media. Hell, the memory card, also known as the Visual Memory Unit (or VMU) had a screen built into it. Sega was here to play and they did it wonderfully.
If there is one thing I believe the Dreamcast managed better than any other console, it was offering bright and living worlds. The Dreamcast had an energy, a pulsing heart that I’ve found nowhere else. Yu Suzuki’s ambitious Shenmue dutifully recreated the streets of 1986’s Yokosuka, giving NPCs schedules and habits. The bright anti-establishment frenzy of Jet Set Radio popularized cel-shaded graphics, sweeping players away in a jazz fusion lighting bolt of colors and sounds. Sonic the Hedgehog came to life in Sonic Adventure, shooting through loops and bouncing on springs in proper 3-D.
I played it all and learned to love the act of playing. I found myself in those games. I will never forget sailing into the unknown in Skies of Arcadia. By all standards, Skies is an average role playing game. For me, it was a revelation. I watched as cheerful heroes stood against villains because that’s what heroes do. I learned that impossible was a word that people used so they could feel better when they quit. I was told to always be audacious. I have tried every day since then to live up to the heroes I found in that game. It is the reason I believe that games are worth the attention we give them. I would not be here if not for that game and the wonderful console that made it possible.
When I finished Skies of Arcadia for the first time, I ran to find my mother. I was eleven years old and was crying tears of joy. I held her close and she held me back; I remember her smile. A bemused grin that told me it was okay to care. That it was beautiful to dream. The Dreamcast encouraged my passion and called on me to share it with those around me. My father was obsessed with Shenmue; we would play it together every Christmas after it came out. He, too, could not get enough of those virtual worlds and eagerly awaits Shenmue 3.
The Dreamcast didn’t last long. It arrived too soon and floundered as the Playstation 2 and Microsoft’s Xbox entered the market with astounding fanfare. By 2001, Sega discontinued the console and lowered the price in a desperate attempt to offload inventory and exit the world of consoles for good.
Skies of Arcadia ends with a message. I think of it often. It comes to mind now as I think of the Dreamcast:
As long as there are dreamers who have the courage to pursue their dreams, the world will have heroes. And as long as there is a thirst to discover the unknown, there will be new stories to tell…and new adventures to be had.
That is what the Dreamcast was. A joyous and celebratory reminder to play and dream. The Dreamcast may be dead but there are still dreamers out there. Like me. Like you. As long as we keep dreaming? I think things will be alright. For games and beyond.
Debuting in 2017 with a Mario-themed set, Monopoly Gamer combines Hasbro’s classic real estate board game with iconic video game characters and unique game mechanics. Now it’s Sonic’s turn to race around the board, collecting rings, fighting for chaos emeralds, and investing in property, just like he does in his video games.
Monopoly Gamer: Sonic the Hedgehog Edition’s currency is rings. Its properties are stages from Sonic games like Speed Highway and Chemical Plant. Instead of utilities and railroads, there are ramps that propel players’ pieces across the board and spots for collecting rings. The tokens are Sonic, Amy, Knuckles, and Tails, each with their own special Super Boost ability, activated by rolling a special Boost die. Sonic’s Super Boost doubles his normal dice roll and causes every player he passes to drop rings on the game board. One can also imagine that sort of scenario playing out in a video game.
Instead of collecting money, landing on or passing Go initiates a boss battle. A boss card is flipped and players must beat the number value on the card by rolling a die. Should the player win the boss battle they earn the boss card and its chaos emerald. The boss card is worth points at the end of the game when scores are tallied. The emeralds allow players to reroll during boss fights.
It’s still a Monopoly game. The goal is to make it to the end with the most points. It’s just this one’s got Sonic all over it.