Time For A Quick Daily Quiz?
Which of these is NOT an antagonist in The Legend of Zelda series?
The answer will be revealed at the end of this issue!
2021 marks the 30th anniversary of Sonic, and ‘it’ll be big’
Sonic Team’s Takashi Iizuka says the “next big year” for Sonic the Hedgehog is 2021 – which also happens to be the spiky blue hero’s 30th anniversary. SEGA launched Sonic Generations for his 20th anniversary in 2011, so are they planning something like that? “Maybe.”
This week’s Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night is a homage to the most popular Castlevania game
This week sees the long-awaited release of Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night from Artplay, long-time Castlevania-producer Koji Igarashi’s new studio. It was crowdfunded on Kickstarter waaaaay back in 2015 to the tune of $5.5 million.
So why did Bloodstained take off on Kickstarter, and why is it such an anticipated game? Apart from Igarashi’s involvement, it’s because Bloodstained is a homage (or full-on spiritual successor) to the most popular Castlevania game ever – Castlevania: Symphony of the Night from 1997, the game that created the term ‘Metroidvania’.
A miserable little pile of secrets
Prior to Symphony of the Night, the Castlevania games were strictly linear action games. Walk from left to right, hit things with your whip, jump a bit, and try not to die. Symphony of the Night, however, took inspiration from Nintendo’s Super Metroid – Dracula’s castle was one, big environment that opened up more and yielded its secrets as the player uncovered new skills and equipment.
Since Symphony of the Night offered its own take on the Metroid formula – and no-one else really tried – the genre got dubbed ‘Metroidvania’ in reference to both. Unfortunately, Symphony of the Night superficially appeared to be an old-fashioned 2D game just as 3D gaming was taking off on the PlayStation: The game was praised by critics, but didn’t exactly top the charts.
Since then, Symphony of the Night has grown just as legendary as Super Metroid, and now we’ve got a full homage on our hands in the form of Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night! Wonder if it’ll reference Symphony’s infamous line “what is a man? A miserable little pile of secrets!”
Under the Radar - CATAN (Nintendo Switch)
Stand aside, tabletops, the Nintendo Switch is coming for you!
Tabletop fans rejoice! Classic board game Catan released on the Nintendo Switch this week, featuring the full base game and the Seafarer Expansion. Launching at the discount price of $19.99 (less than half of the physical board game RRP), now is the perfect time to dive into this tabletop classic.
The game is set on an uninhabited island brimming with natural resources. Players must compete to control the land, building settlements and roads while trading resources with each other. Hardcore Catan fans who are familiar with Catan Universe will be pleased to know that the Nintendo Switch version of the game is made by the same developer, Exozet – though there has been no confirmation whether the port is based on Catan Universe.
Sadly, there is no local play, so if you’re hoping to play this with a bunch of friends or family members, you may want to hold off. To be fair, it would be difficult to make the game pass-and-play like Carcassonne since each player needs to hide their cards from other players but also actively trade between each other. Fortunately, there is an online multiplayer mode.
Catan offers a campaign mode, featuring three difficulty levels and a variety of scenarios you can play on your own. Players can also choose from a selection of board pieces, profiles and table designs to suit their taste. Competitive individuals can compete on the world leaderboards, so now’s your chance to prove you’re the best Catan player there ever was! Note that you’ll need a Nintendo Switch Online membership to access the online features.
The Cities & Knights Expansion, which is aimed at advanced players, is also now available for purchase separately for $5.99. In this expansion, “the wealth of the region has attracted barbarians, and the knights of Catan will be needed to repel the invaders. Players must unite and defend the island of Catan against a common enemy, while simultaneously competing for the control of cities and metropolises.”
Catan for Nintendo Switch is available on the eShop now.
Quote of the Week
Are Loot Boxes Ethical?
Loot boxes have been surrounded by heated controversy in the gaming community and and the UK parliament’s Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee held a hearing on the subject on June 19th.
Representatives from EA and Epic Games defended their stance on loot boxes, a business practice that has been accused of being unethical. When questioned by Scottish National Party MP Brendan O’Hara, EA’s VP of Legal and Government Affairs, Kerry Hopkins, had this to say: “First, we don’t call them loot boxes [interrupted by other speaker]… we look at it as ‘surprise mechanics’…”.
Hopkins later stated: “We do think the way that we have implemented these kinds of mechanics – and FIFA of course is our big one, our FIFA Ultimate Team and our packs – is actually quite ethical and quite fun, enjoyable to people. We agree with the UK Gambling Commission, the Australian Gambling Commission and many other gambling commissions that they aren’t gambling and we also disagree that there’s evidence that shows it leads to gambling. Instead, we think it’s like many other products that people enjoy in a very healthy way and like the element of surprise”. During the discussion, Hopkins also likened loot boxes, or ‘surprise mechanics’ as EA are now supposedly calling them, to toys like “Kinder Eggs, Hatchimals and LOL Surprise”.
EA’s justification for loot boxes in their video games essentially boils down to the idea that people like being surprised and have been purchasing physical versions of these ‘surprise mechanics’ for years, making their digital version acceptable.
EA is no stranger to lootbox pushback from the gaming community. Following the uproar against the model implemented in Battlefront II, the company was forced to change their loot box system entirely. They removed micro-transactions enabling players to pay to accelerate their progress, which ultimately gave them access to characters and abilities much faster than players who did not make additional purchases.
While EA adjusted their business model, the damage had already been done and the game missed its sales targets. As expected, social media is filling up with angry comments regarding EA’s stance. Many believe that EA’s claim that loot boxes are “fun”, “ethical”, and bears no resemblance to gambling has prompted the government intervention.
Adolescents are often mentioned as vulnerable parties in discussion about the ethics of loot boxes and many have called for loot boxes to be regulated by law. Following bans on loot boxes in Netherlands and Belgium, O’Hara enquired whether the following statement summarised EA’s response: “a government would have to make a ruling and legislate against something before you will take action”.
While Hopkins’ didn’t provide a solid answer, she did view this as a “broad mischaracterisation”, claiming that EA’s adjustments to the Dutch and Belgian versions of FIFA were for “business reasons” and that each country had different reasons for wanting loot boxes removed.
For now, it appears that EA are not changing their tune on loot boxes, and the debate will most likely continue. It’ll be interesting to see whether anything changes in its upcoming titles and whether any future legislation may affect their FIFA franchise.