President of Blizzard, J. Allen Brack Stepping Down as Company Faces Controversy and Employee Lawsuit

Today Blizzard, the makes of World of Warcraft and Diablo, announced that president J. Allen Brack will be leaving the company. This comes as Activision Blizzard Inc. is embroiled in an online firestorm stemming from a lawsuit being filed by employees alleging that the company had culture that was overly sexual where many male employees would made inappropriate sexual advances towards female employees.

The Activision Blizzard’s stock price has dropped since the news of this lawsuit, and the company has faced continuous harassment from online communities on social media. Thousands of gamers have boycotted WoW and Overwatch in protest. This is at a time when World of Warcraft is struggling to maintain a user base as competing MMOs like Final Fantasy XIV A Realm Reborn.

While most of the allegations took place before Brack became president in to18, and he is not facing any direct allegations of misconduct, Brack’s leadership of the company has been called into question for this culture existing under his watch. This was recently intensified when old footage from 2010 surfaced of a panel discussion in which Brack jokingly replies to an audience question that claims the designs of female characters in World of Warcraft are overly sexualized.

Stepping in to Replace Brack will be Jen Oneal, and Mike Ybarra as “co-leaders” at this time it is unknown if this arrangement is permanent. The new leadership will have their work cut out for them rebuilding Blizzard’s image among the gaming community.

Free DLC Coming to New Pokémon Snap

Today Nintendo announced that a free content content update is coming to New Pokémon Snap. The update will add new areas to the game for players to explore and take photos of new Pokémon.

The trailer for the DLC shows that players will gain the ability to shrink in the NEO-ONE and take new photos of Pokémon from a new perspective that makes them appear massive. The trailer also shows brand new areas filled with new Pokémon in interesting setting and poses to capture.

The DLC will be available August 3rd, and will be free to download.

Special Version of Pokémon GO’s Nighttime Theme plays In-Game to Commemorate the end of This Year’s GO Fest

Many players were surprised to hear a new lyrical version of the nighttime theme playing in Pokémon GO tonight. This new version of the theme is playing to commemorate the end of this year’s Pokémon GO Fest which ran over the weekend.

Here are what appear to be the lyrics:


We can share the beauty of the world tonight
Stars up in the sky will light the way
Every place we wander
Wonders will amaze us
See the mountains shimmer in the moonlit sky
Maybe they will show us where to go
Rhythms of the ocean waves
Tell me that dream is real
You and I tonight will see the worlds alight
The stars alight
And with their light to guide me I know I will find you
So…
We can go and make a brighter world
We can go and make a brighter world

At this time it is unknown who the singers are, or if this version of the theme will be accessible after tonight.

Retro Review: Pokémon Blue Version

Pokémon Red and Green initially released in Japan on February 27th 1996 for the Nintendo Game Boy with the English Red and Blue Versions releasing two years later in 1998 in the United States, and in 1999 in Europe. The games would go on to spawn a cultural phenomenon the dominated the late 90s and early 2000s. After recently completing a replay of Pokémon Blue Version, here is a retro review for the games that started it all.

Pokémon Blue Version is a JRPG (Japanese Role-Playing Game) where the player lives in a world inhabited by fantastical creatures called Pokémon. Wild Pokémon can be captured by humans and trained to become stronger and even evolve into new stronger forms. The people that team up with Pokémon and engage in battles against others using Pokémon are known as Pokémon Trainers. However, there are bad trainers that exploit Pokémon and use them for nefarious ends, the notorious Team Rocket criminal organization terrorizes the region making life miserable for people and Pokémon alike.

In the game the player takes on the role of a brand-new Pokémon Trainer that chooses their starting Pokémon from among three offered by a Pokémon Professor. This trainer is tasked with a mission to record data on every known Pokémon in the Pokédex, an electronic encyclopedia on Pokémon. Alongside this task the player pursues their personal dream to travel the region and battle the 8 Gym Leaders and earn their badges as proof of skill, and to ascend the ranks to eventually challenge the Pokémon League. The Pokémon League is home of the Elite Four, the four strongest trainers in the whole region, and anyone that can beat these four trainers gains the title of Pokémon League Champion. On their quest the player will have to try to put a stop to Team Rocket’s plans, explore the region to find as many Pokémon as possible, and discover the mysteries behind the legendary Pokémon that rarely appear before humans.

The game play in Pokémon Blue is very typical fare for a JRPG on the Game Boy, using the directional pad the player can navigate the top-down world map. There are various environments that have puzzles and obstacles that the player will have to overcome by activating their Pokémon’s abilities on the world map to do things like licking up dark areas, moving large boulders and surfing over the water. When the player enters a Pokémon battle the perspective shifts to a 2D side-perspective battle screen. The battles are turn-based and via menus the player decides on which attacks to use, they can also decide whether to swap out Pokémon, or use items, or flee in the case of wild Pokémon.

The controls are simple to learn, and this simplicity belies the deeper strategic elements of the game. Pokémon and their moves are all aligned to various elemental types and in a rock-paper-scissors style chain each type has advantages and disadvantages against others. For example Fire-type is against Grass-type, and Grass-type is strong against Water-type, and Water-type is strong against Fire-type. When at attack is strong it does increased damage (known as super-effective) and if a Pokémon is hit with an attack it is weak against it will take increased damage. In the first generation Pokémon there are 15 types in the game, and individual Pokémon species can have up to two types like a Fire/Flying-type or a Grass/Poison-type. Pokémon can also learn moves that might cover for their weaknesses and let them do super-effective damage to opponents that they normally wouldn’t be able to, for example in some cases you can teach a Grass-type attack to a Fire-type Pokémon so they can damage Water-types.

The graphical presentation is excellent for a late-era Game Boy title. The sprite work is vivid and brings the humans and Pokémon to life. The over world sprites suffer a bit being somewhat generic, this is likely due to storage limitations on the console, and doesn’t hurt the overall experience much thanks to the amazing sprite work in the battle portaits. Pokémon are well-rendered in expressive sprite art that oozes personality and really drives home the nature of each monster. There are many clever details that become iconic signatures like items that are on the map appearing as Poké Balls (the item used to capture Pokémon) rather than the more traditional treasure chests. This is even cleverly exploited with a Pokémon that resembles a Poké Ball that acts as a mimic enemy in some areas. The animations for the Pokémon attacks are another feat with unique effects showing the element and power of each attack and creating a real sense of impact with each move.

The sound design in the game is another of the shining points. Clever and creative use of the Game Boy sound system creates a bevy of memorable earworms that enhance the environments where they play. From the battle themes which carry a heart-pounding sense of action and excitement that suits the contest of skill between opponents, to the town themes which range from bustling and busy to serene and whimsical, to spooky and unsettling. The sound designer also achieved the amazing feat of creating cries for the 151 monsters within the game, the cries themselves have become as iconic as the music. Again, due to sound limitations a few of the Pokémon species ended up sharing the same cry.

There are some weaknesses in the game, the largest of which might be the replayability, once the main story is completed there is only one post-game dungeon. Once the trainers and gym leaders are defeated they can never be battled again leaving the only replayable trainer battles being the Elite Four battles at the endgame. This limitation might not be as important to players that get into the multiplayer and trade and battle Pokémon with others.

Speaking of battles, another of the weaknesses in the game is in the battle system. The type chart is unbalanced and this results Psychic-type and Dragon-type Pokémon are somewhat broken. Another issue is a lack of variety in some Pokémon types. The Ghost-Type and Dragon-type only have one evolutionary line each making the options essentially one Pokémon each for players wishing to use these types. There are several glitches in the game that if encountered can mess with the game data even causing erasure or corruption of the save file. Thankfully, these glitches are not easy to come by in natural play. There is one glitch that is much more impactful to the game, in this glitch the Speed stat of a Pokémon affects the odds of landing a critical hit, this makes it so that faster Pokémon land critical hits much more frequently.

Final Verdict

This game is an instant classic that pushes the Game Boy hardware to the limit. The story and gameplay draw the player into the world of Pokémon and the selection of monsters and abilities let players customize their Pokémon teams to suit their playstyles and come up with a variety of strategies. The multiplayer options are fun and making engaging with other players one of the best experiences in the game. Minor limitations in the game might be frustrating for some, but overall this game is something that is a must-play for fans of the Game Boy and JRPGs. It is also some thing that newer fans that joined the franchise after should go back and experience if they get the chance.

Valve Reveals Nintendo Switch Clone Steam Deck Handheld PC Hardware

Today Valve Corporation announced the Steam Deck handheld PC hardware. The form factor and function of this device are taken heavily from the Nintendo Switch hardware.

The according to Valve the Stream Deck is a fully-functioning PC hardware that will come with SteamOS installed and allow users to log into their steam accounts and download and play the games in their library as well as use all the other fictions of Steam. A Steam account is mandatory to use the Steam Deck, though Valve says that third party software can be installed on the hardware as it is a fully-functioning PC.

The hardware is 4.6inches by 11.7 inches, and weighs 23.6 ounces. The console runs on the Zen 2 processor, and RDNA 2 GPU, similar to what is used in the PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X.

The Steam Deck sports a 4-by-6 inch touchcreen, two thumbsticks positioned towards the top of the face of the device, similar to the thumbstick position on the Left Joy-con on a Switch.

The face buttons are ABXY buttons in the layout used by Microsoft’s Xbox consoles, and a D-Pad. The hardware also features two trackpads positioned below the thumbsticks. Valve claims that these trackpads have 55% less latency than the trackpads on the older Steam Machines.

Valve will make a dock available that allows users to connect their Steam Deck to the dock via USB-C and to conncect the dock to a TV or Monitor so games can be played on a big screen. The dock is sold separately from the Steam Deck.

Reservations for the Steam Deck begin on Friday July 16, with the hardware scheduled to start shipping in December.

  • The price for the base Steam Deck, which features, 64GB internal storage, is $399.
  • At $529 a 256GB storage model is available that uses SSD internal storage.
  • At $649 a 512GB model is available that has anti-glare glass in the screen and an exclusive virtual keyboard theme.

Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl Coming This Fall

This week Nickelodeon revealed that they are releasing Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl on consoles this year. The game is a Smash Bros. clone featuring a variety of characters from Nickelodeon cartoons both old and new. There will be several stages based on the shows that these cartoon characters come from. Fair Play Labs and Ludosity are the developers, and GameMill Entertainment will be publishing the game.

The roster of characters shown so far includes:

  • SpongeBob Squarepants
  • Patrick Star
  • Sandy Cheeks
  • Lincoln Loud
  • Lucy Loud
  • Oblina
  • Invader Zim
  • Powdered Toast Man
  • Nigel Thornberry
  • Helga G. Pataki
  • Michelangelo
  • Leonardo
  • Danny Phantom
  • Reptar

At this point is is unknown if there will be more characters in the game.

Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl is scheduled to release in the fall of 2021 for Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4|5, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X\S

Review: Umineko When They Cry

Umineko no Naku Koro ni (Umineko When they Cry) is a visual sound novel by Ryukishi07. It is the third game and second story in his “When they Cry” series following the wildly successful Higurashi which released in 2002.

The story is about the wealthy Ushiromiya family who have come to their family-owned island of Rokkenjima for their yearly family conference. The patriarch of the Ushiromiya family, Kinzo is of failing health and has not much time left, and the question of the inheritance of his empire is the topic that his children will be arguing over during this weekend. There is also a legend on the island that Kinzo has a second fortune’s worth in gold bars hidden somewhere on the island. This gold was given to Kinzo by a witch that haunts Rokkenjima as its hidden true ruler, and anyone that can find this gold will inherit the gold and become the new Ushiromiya family head. During the conference a typhoon strikes the island cutting it off from the world, a series of gruesome murders occur, and a person claiming to be the golden witch appears. It is up to the player to parse out what is real versus what is fantasy and solve the mysteries of Kinzo’s hidden fortune, the legend of the golden witch, and who is the mastermind behind these murders.

Being a visual sound novel, the game mechanics are limited to pressing a button the advance the text, and navigating menus to read character profiles and clues. There are a few scenes where the player will have to make choices using the controls. Don’t let the lack of interactivity fool you, the true game play comes from the challenge that is issued to the player to solve the murder mystery by pouring over the information and hints that the game provides throughout its narrative and constructing logical theories that explain how the murders were carried out and for what reason. The player is helped along through providing rules and frameworks for the player to work within when approaching a mystery. The enthralling story and well-written characters make the challenge of attempting to solve the mysteries a fun experience.

The graphics in Umineko are relatively simple with many of the backgrounds made from photos that Ryukishi took of various locations and modified to fit them within the spooky setting of story. The characters are depicted in a signature style that is hand-drawn by Ryukishi. Since Ryukishi is not an artist by trade, or training, this art is simplistic but full of character and charm, through some may find the unrefined and non-professional artwork off-putting. Players are able to choose between the original art and updated art styles that display the characters in a more traditional professional visual novel art-style. The visuals in the game do an excellent job at setting the scene within the story, the character sprites are expressive and fun and bring the characters to life as their vivid emotions play throughout the story. The gore in the game is subtle and combined with the amazing writing and sound design create a perfect sense of dread and intrigue.

The sound design in stellar in this game. The ambient noises enhance the feeling of being isolated on this island full of nature where no humans are supposed to exist outside of the Ushiromiya family in their mansion. There are several memorable musical pieces used throughout the game that highlight the emotional natures of the scenes in which they occur. Use of winding organs highlight the refinement and dignity of the Ushiromiya family, they are also used to reflect the darkness that lurks within the family and the ominous and deadly legend of the golden witch that permeates the island. The sound effects are unsettling from creepy laughs to shattering glass, gunshots, and the unsettlingly distinct death sound that will stick with you well after you stop playing this game.

The writing and story-telling in this game are top-notch. The characters are vibrant and realistic, each one is fully realized and three-dimensional. This helps to make the player interested in learning more about these characters and uncovering their secrets as the story unfolds. Throughout the story the player will encounter dark themes and deep moral and philosophical questions that inspire thought beyond solving the mysteries at hand. Because there is so little game play through interaction, the game does an excellent job of making up for it through the writing. During the story the player will encounter several riddles and logic puzzles, each of them contributing to the larger mystery of the murders taking place on the island. There are plenty of humorous and memorable moments that ensure that no player will leave the experience empty-handed.

Final Verdict

Rating: 8.5/10

Overall this game is a great experience. This will be especially enjoyable for lovers of the murder mysteries from the golden are of detective fiction, as well as those that are fans of the modern mystery genre. If you enjoy visual novels that tell a compelling story with a cast of fully-realized characters this will be right up your alley. This game is monstrous task with a full play-through of all 8 chapters lasting around 60-70+ hours. There may be some areas where the action of the story may seem to slow down or reiterate known points but thankfully these moments are few and far between and the majority of your time exploring this story will be on the edge of your seat as you try to untangle this winding mystery. This game is highly recommended for fans of visual novels, mystery stories, and fans of good writing in general.

Nintendo Switch OLED Model Announced

Today Nintendo announced the Nintendo Switch (OLED model). This new model features a 7-inch OLED screen compared to the 6.5-inch LCD screen of the original Nintendo Switch. The console also boasts 64 GB of internal storage, enhanced audio, a wider adjustable kickstand, and built in LAN port for wired internet connection.

The OLED screen will provide clearer and crisper picture, and enhanced audio when playing Nintendo Switch games in handheld mode. The console will run on the same customized NVIDA Tegra architecture that the current Switch models run on.

The Nintendo Switch (OLED model) will be compatible with all current Nintendo Switch games. However, due to the size difference in the screen, it may not be compatible with some existing Nintendo Labo sets.

The Nintendo Switch (OLED model) will launch on October 8 in a White model as well as the Neon Red and Blue model at a price of $349.99USD

Pokémon Company Lawsuit Settles Sword and Shield Leakers Ordered to Pay $150,000 Each

This week the news came out that the 2019 lawsuit that The Pokémon Company had filed against two people responsible for leaking information from the Pokémon Sword and Shield video games ahead of their release.

In the weeks leading up to the release of the games in November 2019 critical details from the game were posted online including revealing game mechanics such as the Gigantamaxing feature. It turned out that these leaks came from two people that were working at a company that TPCi had hired to print the strategy guides for the games. The leakers took photos of the guides as they were printed and posted that information online.

In the suit The Pokémon Company claimed that the leaks caused irreparable damage to the upcoming release causing losses of countless profits and doing damage to the brand overall. Due to these damages the judge decided that the defendants would pay a fine of $150,000 each.

The decision can be read here.

Advance Wars 1+2 Re-Boot coming to Nintendo Switch December 3rd

In a surprise announcement during the Nintendo Direct E3 stream Nintendo announced Advance Wars 1+2 Re-Boot is coning to Nintendo Switch this December.

The game will be an HD remake of Advance Wars and Advance Wars 2: Black Hole Rising, the fourth and fifth games in Nintendo’s Wars series that started with Famicom Wars. Advance Wars was the first game in the series to see release outside of Japan.

The game is a strategy RPG from Intelligent Systems, the same team behind the Fire Emblem series. In the game you play as the COs of the Orange Star army and watch in strategic military battles to protect the nation from various threats of other nations armies.

The last entry in the series was Advance Wars: Days of Ruin for the Nintendo DS in 2008. With the success of Fire Emblem, Advance Wars has taken a back seat as most of Intelligent System’s efforts have been put into the more popular franchise. If this remake is successful it could mean a revival for the series with more new titles in the future.

Advance Wars 1+2 Re-Boot releases on December 3rd for Nintendo Switch.