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    Picross S Announced, Coming To Switch Next Week

    By GameInformer,


    Picross originally came to Nintendo platforms with Mario's Picross on Game Boy in 1995. Today, Jupiter announced the puzzle series will be making its way to Switch on Sept. 28.

    Fans of the series have some new features to look forward to with Picross S. Players will now be able to cooperate or compete with a friend while solving puzzles. A new tutorial will ensure players start out on the right foot before delving into the game’s 300 puzzles, which range from 5x5 to 20x15 in size.

    Picross requires players to fill in squares in a specific pattern using numbers next to each row and column. These numbers tell the player how many squares will be colored in (two twos, for example, means there are two sets of two colored boxes in that row, but there's a gap between the two sets). Correctly following the instructions will typically leave players with a pretty picture. For more on the series, read Kyle Hilliard's review of Picross 3D Round 2, which released last year on the 3DS.

    [Source: Nintendo Everything]

    Our Take
    If you’re looking for a puzzle game to hold you over until Super Mario Odyssey releases Oct. 27, for $7.99 Picross S may be worth checking out. 

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    RPG Grind Time – More Adventures In Japan And Pre-TGS Thoughts

    By GameInformer,


    It's that time of year again! Tokyo Game Show is upon us, which means I'm here in Japan to cover it and bring you the latest news and impressions. While I'm here, I always like to explore and take in the atmosphere and get a sense of the video game scene in Japan. You should have seen how big I smiled when I saw a group of students huddled together on the train playing the Switch. Japan's enthusiasm for all things video games, anime, and J-pop is unmatched. You can just feel the pride and excitement everywhere you go. As I've said in years past, TGS is struggling. It once was a show with big announcements and first-looks at tons of games, and I'd love to see it get back on track. I don't think this year is going to be the one that does that, but nevertheless, I'm still excited to see what's ahead. 


    You'll find out quickly that there's a store to celebrate just about everything. Here's a picture of the Jump Shop, featuring plenty of One Piece and Naruto memorabilia. 


    VR is catching on in Japan. Here's a pic of Mario Kart VR from VR Zone in Shinjuku. 


    I love stopping in arcades while I'm here, which are practically around every corner. I couldn't resist trying this Dragon Quest game. It uses actual cards to store data, so I walked away with a more powerful monster card in the end. 


    Figures, figures, everywhere! Here's a look at some cool Final Fantasy and Kingdom Hearts ones.


    As you walk through Akihabara, billboards are full of anime and games. I took this one because I'm currently watching the anime Gamers and I love it.


    I love how you can just walk into a shop and see a section devoted to Danganronpa. 


    Crane machines take a lot and patience and skill, but here's my proof that they can be beaten! Moogle flashlight, FTW!


    Here's a look at the popular games in Japan at the moment...


    This is in the middle of a regular electronics store. It had arcade machines and tons of gacha machines. 


    The Nintendo love is strong. 


    I was expecting a bigger Persona 5 presence, but it's been over a year since the game launched here. Still, I love that you can buy Ryuji's shirt. 


    Super Potato is still the place to go to pick up retro games.


    It's just a plushie world and we're living it. I own that Vivi, by the way.

    Turn to the next page to see pics from the Pokémon Center...

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    Minecraft's Better Together Update Available Now On Most Devices, With Switch Coming Later

    By GameInformer,


    Microsoft and Mojang have been hard at work on Minecraft's enormously huge "Better Together" update which, among other things, allows crossplay for Minecraft across multiple devices. The update dropped today for Xbox One, Windows 10, Mobile, and VR, with the Switch version coming soon.

    The new update also offers the ability to share invite links to Realms, areas that live without anyone being there, HUD opacity, and way more. Check out the full list and news post here.

    Owners of a disc version of the game on Xbox One will need to insert the disc and let the servers authorize it. If you have ever purchased DLC for the game, or played it for five hours in the last twelve months, the new updated version of the game should be free to download. Microsoft cautions that this request is being done manually, however, so it requires some degree of wait time.

    Switch owners will also have to wait a little while, as the update simply isn't ready for the system. The currently listed systems all ran betas for the update, while the Switch version had not, delaying its inclusion. According to Mojang, the Switch version should arrive by this winter.

    As of writing, the update will not be coming to the PlayStation 4 and Vita versions of the game due to Sony's decision to not allow crossplay between the PlayStation family of systems and other consoles. Microsoft has said that they are in ongoing talks with Sony on the issue, however.

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    NBA 2K18 Review – Making Another Run

    By GameInformer,


    Driven by fearless ambition and a willingness to push the boundaries of sports video games, Visual Concepts’ NBA 2K series has arguably been the most impressive sports franchise of the last two console generations. Its commitment to world-class visuals, sophisticated gameplay, and a breadth of compelling modes makes it a sales goliath year in and year out. NBA 2K18 follows in that grand tradition by further innovating on several fronts. 

    At first glance, not much has changed in the minute-to-minute basketball experience outside of another layer of sheen on the already gorgeous graphics, but the more time you spend chucking up threes and pounding the paint, the more the subtle gameplay changes rise to the surface. Chief among them is a reworked motion system that makes it easier to blow by defenders when you’re controlling an elite guard. Dribble moves still help open windows for drives to the basket, but speedy guards like Russell Westbrook can also take lesser defensemen right from the first dribble. Big men feel more powerful as well, easily backing down smaller defenders when screen switches create exploitable mismatches. 

    The new shot meter feedback system, which communicates how well you timed your release and how contested your shot was, is another welcome inclusion. I just wish it extended to lay-ups as well, because my slashing guard had an inexplicable amount of easy baskets clank off the rim. My timing must be off, but with no feedback system I have no way of correcting my release. 

    Other small tweaks improve play, like livelier loose balls and a new passing mechanism that lets you hold down the button to bypass a nearby teammate and target a shooter in the far corner. This five-star gameplay only has a few weaknesses. It’s still too easy to overcommit when guarding human players, and far too many clipping animations appear all over the court, from one-on-one situations above the key to slashing through defenders in the paint. 

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    Over the last several years, 2K has expanded off-court activities in its popular MyCareer mode to include hangouts with NBA stars, fictitious characters, gym workouts, and the like. This year, Visual Concepts takes this progression to its inevitable conclusion with the introduction of The Neighborhood. This GTA-style urban social hub serves as the centerpiece for the entire mode. From this small city block, you can head to your NBA training facility for practice, visit the fitness center to improve your stamina, enter an arena for a Pro-Am game, or get next on the street courts of The Playground. On your way to these various activities, you can stop to shop at a various apparel stores, get inked at the tattoo parlor, or even get your hair cut and shoot the breeze at the barbershop – all of which cost VC, the in-game currency you earn through performances on the court. 

    This hub is a strong concept, but its execution leaves much to be desired. With only a handful of NPCs on site, the people-watching is limited to other MyPlayers, most of who are standing around like zombies on their phones. The inactivity gives The Neighborhood an unintended 28 Days Later feel; if the streets aren’t disquietingly barren, they are mildly populated with people standing around. The mode could use an injection of interesting NPCs to liven up the streets and more shortcuts for users to load into specific locations, which could help trim the dead time between activities. 

    Most years, the MyCareer mode is driven by the NBA experience and accompanying story mode. This year, 2K loosens up the format to let you optimize your experience. The game still tells a coming-of-age story about an NBA longshot, complete with 2K’s now-trademark annoying secondary characters, social interactions with pro players, and endorsement deals. But if you prefer the spirit of competition in the 5v5 Pro-Am or street games, you can skip the NBA life altogether. The new player progression system allows you to grind for attribute gains and skill badges no matter where you hoop, wisely freeing players to concentrate on the modes they like best. 

    Player progression benefits greatly from the new archetype system, which allows you to choose two primary attributes that define your playing style. This affords much more customization than last year’s rigid system. More importantly, the subsequent leveling system returns to allowing users to upgrade the skills they want; no more pouring VC into predetermined skill buckets like the past few 2K games. You still earn the bonus-oriented badges by performing specific feats on the court, but Visual Concepts finally acquiesced and allowed users to track their progression to unlocking these valuable traits. Better yet, you can specify which badge you want to improve during practice and focus on drills that best benefit that goal.

    Unfortunately, developing a decent player still takes a considerable amount of time given your 60-overall starting rating. The progression feels natural during the NBA experience since you are an undrafted free agent, but given the amount of people who spend money for VC to upgrade their characters in online play, you are at a significant disadvantage in competitive situations for some time. This arbitrarily low rating also discourages experimentation in creating multiple characters. I would love to have a big man alternate to pair with my slashing wingman, but developing another low-rated player to respectability is too time consuming. I wish 2K had a respec system that allowed you to pour the attributes points you already purchased for one player class into another, unlocking overlapping badges you have already earned for your new character as well. This would go a long way to making the natural progression feel more valuable. 

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    The MyCareer story doesn’t deliver, but Visual Concepts integrated a narrative into the sim-focused MyGM mode for the first time ever. Dubbed “The Next Chapter,” the story puts you into the penny loafers of a former NBA star who blew out his knee and subsequently transitioned into management. As the new general manager of a team of your choice, you face Machiavellian behind-the-scenes scenarios that test your loyalties and force you to protect your turf as the primary shot-caller when it comes to roster creation. The story only lasts one season, and the crude cutscenes are tough to watch (not even politicians wave their hands that much during conversation), but I found the rollercoaster ride a compelling addition that puts you into the kind of sports drama you only hear about in rumor mills or on 30 for 30 episodes. 

    The rest of MyGM/MyLeague is still the most compelling franchise mode in sports, but it could use stronger team-building A.I. for the computer-controlled franchises. Imbalanced rosters, curious draft pick hoarding with no clear end game, and boneheaded A.I. trades were the order of the day for most of my seasons. The new CBA rules related to cap holds also appear to be broken at the moment, so I hope 2K addresses this in an upcoming patch.

    Fans of collectible card modes have a lot of new elements to explore this year with MyTeam. The new coach proficiency system governs the type of players who best fit your scheme, which is another critical element to consider when building your fantasy lineup. The new Super Max challenge, which uses salary cap restrictions for roster creation, creates an interesting new playing field for those sick of going up against all-world lineups. My biggest MyTeam gripe pertains to the ridiculously short contracts; with only three- and four-game contracts available to me, I constantly felt the need to invest in contracts rather than spending money on attaining new players. Compared to Ultimate Team modes in EA Sports games, the balance feels off. The mode could also use more diversity in the types of packs available for purchase.  

    Sick of playing against super teams like the Golden State Warriors in online games? NBA 2K18 adds All-Time franchise teams to the mix, dramatically increasing the number of teams available for those who want to compete with the best rosters. Some legends like Moses Malone and Reggie Miller are noticeably absent, but the teams are still a blast to play with. 

    Servers have never been 2K’s strong suit, and stability problems once again try to box out NBA 2K18. Most every Playground game I played was marred by lag, which compromises the fidelity of control the play demands. I heard bouncing basketballs in the streets and shots clanging off the hoops at the 2K Zone even though no one is visible, leading me to believe either the Neighborhood is haunted by the ghosts of hoopers past or the servers are awry. Other users have reported losing their MyPlayer characters and all the VC they purchased as well. I didn’t experience these server hiccups when playing Pro-Am, MyTeam, and Play Now games. 

    Not all the shots NBA 2K18 takes are swishes, but its shooting percentage is high enough to once again recommend you step on the hardcourt. The deep MyGM, MyCareer, and MyTeam modes offer hundreds of hours of compelling play, and the on-court action is once again stellar. Once the servers stabilize and Visual Concepts patches in some easily correctible fixes, NBA 2K18 should once again be in pole position for sports game of the year.

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    Monolith Shows Middle-earth: Shadow Of War's New Combat Moves

    By GameInformer,


    With our October cover story on Middle-earth: Shadow of War, we're diving in deep on everything new for Monolith's sequel to Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor. In this exclusive video, we sit down with design director Bob Roberts and principal animator Patrick Watje to talk about the process of bringing new moves for Talion to light. From the concept, to the mocap, to implementation in the game, learn about the most exciting combat moves to master in Middle-earth: Shadow of War.

    Watch the video below with Watje and Roberts to see the new moves in action and learn which martial art was surprisingly influential.

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    Does The Switch Contain A Secret Tribute To Former Nintendo President Satoru Iwata?

    By GameInformer,


    A few days ago, we reported on the curious case of Nintendo seemingly including a copy of Golf for the NES built into the Switch's firmware. At the time, it was thought to be a strange test for a NES emulator or some Nintendo designers simply fooling around, but newly emerging details indicate it might just be a tribute to former Nintendo president, the late Satoru Iwata.

    Golf, originally released in 1984 on the Famciom and functioning as a launch title for the NES in America the following year, has popped up in Nintendo's history here and there. Wii Sports, a game whose cultural impact is well known to people alive in the mid-2000s, had a golfing game that used 3D versions of the maps from the NES game as its courses. It is no surprise, considering that Golf was one of Iwata's first sole programming jobs when he started at Nintendo, and likely held a strong place in his heart.

    As ArsTechnica reports, in late July of this year, a poster on a console modding forum called GBATemp posted an oddity they discovered while messing around inside the Switch. The poster, who goes by the handle Setery, said they walked out of the room and returned to find Golf on the Switch's screen. Confused and apparently sleepy, they played it for a bit and walked away, not considering whether they should take video evidence of this anomaly. The post got quietly ignored until recently, when other modders discovered there may have been some truth, accidental or otherwise, to Setery's story.

    Before Setery's anecdote, modders had found the word "flog" in the Switch's code, which is now apparently known as the name of the emulator running Golf. This cast suspicion on Setery's story, as they simply might have pieced together "flog" as "Golf" and created a story from there. Recently, however, another Switch hacker named yellows8 found the emulator and the playable Golf through memory access, but was mostly unable to figure out how to do it otherwise, backing up Setery's original find.

    Thus began a Gold Rush-style search for the way to get to the Switch's hidden golf game. Dozens of GBATemp users were investigating the possible permutations Setery's Switch could have been in to come across this mystery emulator. Was it unplugged? Was there a game in there? Which game? Was it running? Where in the game were you?

    Eventually, someone hit what seemed to be the nail on the head: What were the systems date and time settings?


    Console hacker Pluto managed to discover this, stating that the system needed to be on the date July 11 and a 1.5 second motion (presumably a golf swing) with the joycon needed to be made to unlock the emulator. It was reasoned that July 11 was the anniversary of Satoru Iwata's death, but the golf swing was curious. The only problem is that this still wasn't working, it was just helping to turn the key a bit more.

    The theory was divisive, partly for its morbidity, and partly because it was not producing any results. Changing the system clock to July 11 accomplished very little, and the proposed golf swing motion wasn't really hitting like they expected. On Tuesday, however, yellows8 updated the hacking Scratchpad Wiki with what he believed to be the real issue, the Switch doesn't care with what you think the time is.

    The very first time Switch owners connect the console to the internet, the Switch basically meets and shakes hands with the internet time. Hidden fundamentally deep in the system, that knowledge of what time it is supposed to be becomes a core part of the console, meaning that it always knows what time it is and cannot be told differently, regardless of what the user-alterable settings say. In order to accomplish something on a certain date, say, July 11, it has to actually be July 11.

    The next thing yellows8 explained was that people had been perceiving the motion wrong all along. While a golf swing, which comes from a neutral position and swings forward toward your TV, made sense, the Switch was seemingly picking it up accidentally as the real motion: Satoru Iwata's "Directly to you" gesture. It was how Iwata communicated the style of the Nintendo Directs and bringing information straight to consumers through live streams and videos.


    Unfortunately, it does seem like the internet time issue has put a cap on this mystery until the next July 11, and even then it is hard to be sure if the information gleamed so far is accurate. It does provide a small, wistful feeling when you think about how Nintendo designers appreciated and missed Iwata so much that they dedicated a nearly impossible to find easter egg to him in the system's firmware. From a more abstract point of view, one of Iwata's most enduring legacies might be that he is in every Switch, watching over the system's success.

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