Category Archives: Opposable Thumbs

Valkyria Revolution trades in cult-classic status for wasted promise

Enlarge / Every so often, you get a flash of what the game was going for—and it could have been interesting!

Valkyria Revolution, despite its name and approximately similar art style, isn’t really a sequel to 2008’s incredible Valkyria Chronicles (or its slightly less incredible PSP sequels). In tone and gameplay, the differences between the two series are night and day, and Revolution looks considerably poorer for the comparison.

The new game, like its predecessors, takes place on the continent of "Europa"—shaped just like real-world Europe, but divided into fictional fantasy countries like Jutland and the Ruzi Empire. If you don’t recognize those two nations from Chronicles, that’s because Revolution takes place in an entirely new continuity.

That the sister series just happens to have nearly identical settings—as well as reuse terms like Valkyria and “ragnite”—is confusing and poorly justified. Taking control for the first time and meeting the game’s gang of barely introduced misfits didn’t do much to clear up why Valkyria Revolution needs to share so much DNA with its “predecessor.” My best, most cynical guess is that Valkyria Revolution was made to siphon off some of Chronicles’ cult status—not to mention the attention of fans still fiending for a true follow-up.

Read 21 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Fears of limited SNES Classic supply lead to 150% online resale markup

The SNES Classic Edition may officially sell for $80, but that's much less than some are willing to pay to secure a pre-order. (credit: eBay)

It has been less than 24 hours since the Super NES Classic Edition was announced, and we're still more than three months away from the plug-and-play system shipping to retailers. But that hasn't stopped resellers from profiting off "guaranteed" pre-orders for the system at significant markups over retail price.

A quick search on eBay already shows 23 "sold" listings for the Super NES Classic Edition (including its international counterparts) at a median price of $199, or a 150-percent markup from the $80 MSRP Nintendo is asking for. On Ebay UK, you can find 22 more units than have sold for a median of £180 (about $230), up significantly above the £70 to £80 retail price. One seller managed to get $389.99 for his pre-order, earning more than $300 in profit for being able to click quickly on the "buy" button.

Major US retailers seemingly haven't opened up official pre-orders for the Super NES Classic Edition yet, though some have set up landing pages to sign up for future stock alerts). Online pre-orders at British retailers including Amazon, Game, Smyths, and ShopTo sold out incredibly quickly after going up yesterday. Nintendo's official UK store also sold out within minutes after offering the system online today.

Read 3 remaining paragraphs | Comments

The original iPhone games: Favorites from the 2008 Ars staff

Enlarge / Anyone else spend an inordinate amount of time on this? (credit: Aurora Feint)

This week, we're looking back at the original iPhone and examining its impact on the 10-year anniversary of the device's release. Earlier today, we explored how the iPhone impacting gaming during its first decade, and as such we thought this round-up of our favorite titles from the first batch of iPhone games deserved another look. This resurfaced piece first ran on August 5, 2008.

The App Store has introduced a bevy of third-party apps in every category imaginable. Admittedly, some are of questionable quality, but others, we have discovered, are made of pure win with a sprinkle of crack cocaine. At the Ars Orbiting HQ, we find ourselves frequently chatting about which apps we can't live without, and games are naturally at the top of everyone's lists. Because we love our readers, we thought we might share with you a list of our favorite iPhone games that you should check out. Here we go, in no particular order.

Dizzy Bee

Price: $2.99, free version available (Free in 2017)
Developer: Igloo Games

Read 18 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Nintendo New 2DS XL mini-review: The best version of the 3DS hardware yet

Enlarge (credit: Mark Walton)

While the Nintendo Switch is quickly becoming the handheld of choice—thanks in part to the likes of The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild and Super Mario Odyssey—the 3DS still has some life left in it yet. Kirby's Blowout Blast, Hey! PIKMIN, Metroid: Samus Returns, Fire Emblem Warriors, Layton's Mystery Journey, and Dragon Quest XI are all due for release in 2017 alongside updated (and cheaper) hardware in the form of the £130 New 2DS XL, which goes on sale July 28 (pre-order here).

For those keeping track, the New 2DS XL (the "New" is important) is the sixth revision of the 3DS hardware, which started with the original (and smallest) 3DS. That was followed by the 3DS XL, which sported a 90 percent larger screen along with improved battery life. Following developer demand for a second analogue stick—a problem Nintendo initially solved with the bulky Circle Pad Pro add-on—Nintendo released the New 3DS and New 3DS XL, which not only integrated a second analogue stick, but also incorporated more powerful hardware.

This lead to the a confusing state of affairs where games like Xenoblade Chronicles requires the New 3DS XL hardware, and won't play on an original 3DS or 3DS XL. Then came the 2DS, a stripped back version of the console aimed at a younger audience. It ditched the clamshell design, second analogue stick, and more powerful hardware, instead only playing games compatible with the original 3DS. The 2DS doesn't feature the glasses-free 3D screen of the 3DS either, although given the feature ended up being more of a novelty than a necessity, it was hardly missed.

Read 11 remaining paragraphs | Comments

iPhone at 10: How Apple changed gaming for the better and the worse

Enlarge (credit: Mark Walton)

Ten years ago this week—on June 29, 2007—many waited (in line or online) for the first iPhone's formal release. Steve Jobs revealed what he promised would be a game-changing device months earlier, providing plenty of time for the lofty dreams, predictions, and excitement to build. The decade since has largely justified the hype. Apple's now-signature product has made a lasting mark not only on our communications, but on many unexpected walks of life. So this week as the iPhone celebrates its 10th anniversary, we'll be examining its impact and revisiting the device that changed it all.

In the heart of Stockholm, Sweden, mobile games developer King has built its own forest. Alongside Earth-toned carpeting and plywood trees are walls coated in Norwegian lichen. Instead of the harsh glow of a fluorescent strip, there are ambient lights that change hue with the seasons. Instead of chairs there are ceiling-hung wicker baskets and long maple desks with multicoloured stools. Along the floor is an artificial stream that scans the footsteps of employees, allowing them to interact with virtual fish and insects. In the winter, the stream freezes over, lending an audible crunch to each footstep.

Such extravagance is hardly extraordinary for the startups and venture capitalists that have spread across California's so-called Silicon Valley (Airbnb has its own makeshift forest, complete with taxidermied raccoon). But for the companies that build their fortunes on the fickle market of mobile games, success is far from guaranteed. King is one of the lucky ones. It has, in its finer moments, raked in profits of half a billion dollars in a single year. So compelling were its profits that publishing giant Activision Blizzard swallowed it up for $5.9 billion in 2015.

Read 20 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Report: Valve’s former augmented reality system is no more

CastAR's first prototype. Subsequent revisions brought the glasses' size down and fidelity up, so that its mounted projectors would better convey the feeling that virtual objects appeared on a mat (also known as "augmented reality" or "mixed reality"). However, the project's future is now in doubt. (credit: CastAR)

The future of CastAR, an ambitious augmented reality system that began life in Valve's hardware labs five years ago, is now in serious doubt. A bleak Monday Tweet from a former CastAR staffer was followed by Polygon's Brian Crecente reporting a full company shutdown.

Citing unnamed "former employees," Polygon reported that the hardware maker's primary finance group pulled all funding last week. This was allegedly followed by a full staff layoff and an announcement that the company's remaining assets would be liquidated.

As of press time, neither CastAR nor its affiliated developer, Eat Sleep Play, have posted any confirmation of shut downs or liquidation. Ars Technica has reached out to CastAR co-founders Jeri Ellsworth and Rick Johnson. We will update this report with any response.

Read 3 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Plug-and-play SNES Classic coming Sept. 29 for $80 with two controllers

Enlarge

Following on the recently discontinued NES Classic Edition, Nintendo has officially announced a long-rumored SNES Classic Edition follow-up will be available on September 29 in a $80 package that includes two wired controllers. The plug-and-play HDMI system will include the following games:

  • Contra III: The Alien Wars
  • Donkey Kong Country
  • EarthBound
  • Final Fantasy III
  • F-ZERO
  • Kirby Super Star
  • Kirby’s Dream Course
  • The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past
  • Mega Man X
  • Secret of Mana
  • Star Fox
  • Star Fox 2 (previously unreleased!)
  • Street Fighter II Turbo: Hyper Fighting
  • Super Castlevania IV
  • Super Ghouls ’n Ghosts
  • Super Mario Kart
  • Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars
  • Super Mario World
  • Super Metroid
  • Super Punch-Out!!
  • Yoshi’s Island

This story is developing and we will continue to update this post with more news and analysis as information becomes available. 

Read on Ars Technica | Comments

Monster Hunter: World promises “deep, meaty experience on console”

Enlarge

Monster Hunter's trick—and it's a persuasive one—is to deliver us back to a time when giant lizards trod the Earth, while keeping our current enviable status as masters of the food chain intact. In Jurassic Park, when the dinosaurs escaped their pens, humans became frail prey, cowering in toilets, whispering prayers under trucks. Monster Hunter's vision of the Jurassic-flung human is wildly different. In its reality, we are fearless predators, able to fell a T. rex with little more than a pair of leather sandals, a sword, and a satchel full of health-restoring berries.

For most of its history, the Monster Hunter series has played out this vision on handheld devices, allowing clutches of strangers—Japanese, mostly—to gather in public places and team up to make quick work of the megafauna that roam its bucolic scenes. The series' evergreen popularity in Japan, where handhelds are ubiquitous and where playing video games with strangers on the train, in shopping centres, and at the school canteen is more socially acceptable, has been closely tied to the technology.

The move to consoles (and, at some point, Windows PC) with Monster Hunter: World is a daring one, then. Yet what is lost in portability is obviously made up for in spectacle. In its new, roomy home on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC Monster Hunter has space to flex and sprawl.

Read 14 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Botched Sega Forever launch blighted by poor emulation

Enlarge (credit: Sega)

The concept behind Sega Forever is a good one: bring a selection of classic Sega games to iOS and Android, and let people play them for free. Unfortunately, the execution has left something to be desired. Following the launch of Sega Forever last week, players have taken to the App Store and Google Play to complain about choppy frame rates, out-of-sync audio, and input lag, even on high-end devices like the Samsung Galaxy S8 and Google Pixel. Ars' own testing yielded similarly poor results, with none of the games reaching the required 60FPS of the original Megadrive (Genesis) hardware.

Sega's performance issues stem from the use of a new emulator based in Unity. Older mobile versions of retro Sega games were either direct ports—as in the case of Sonic the Hedgehog and Sonic CD—or used a native emulator, instead of one passed through Unity. Players that already paid for one of the launch games—Sonic the HedgehogPhantasy Star IIComix ZoneKid Chameleon, and Altered Beastalso suffered from issues, including the inability to remove advertisements from the game.

Speaking to Eurogamer, Sega Networks' chief marketing officer Mike Evans blamed "fragmentation" for the wobbly launch, and defended its use of Unity instead of an alternative emulation method.

Read 8 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Single-player modding returns to GTA V after publisher takedown

Enlarge / This image represents Take-Two saying "Well, I guess, there's nothing illegal here after all. Never mind that legal threat." (credit: Take-Two Interactive)

When popular Grand Theft Auto V modding tool OpenIV was taken down by a cease-and-desist request from publisher Take-Two earlier this month, the fan reaction was fast and blistering. Players bombarded Grand Theft Auto V with thousands of negative reviews on Steam, and over 77,000 people signed an online petition demanding the tool be restored.

Apparently, those gamers' cries have been heard loud and clear. As of yesterday evening, OpenIV is once again being updated and distributed by its creators.

While publisher Take-Two has been going after cheating tools in GTA Online of late, developer Rockstar long ago said it wouldn't go after Grand Theft Auto V players for using single-player mods. That's why Take-Two's sudden legal threat against the single-player-focused OpenIV earlier this month was a bit surprising, to say the least.

Read 3 remaining paragraphs | Comments