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XBOX 2017 E3 Briefing Liveblog

14:02 – Scorpio Official Unit looks like a black Xbox One S

14:03 – Xbox One X is the official name of the Xbox Scorpio and launches November 7th, 2017

14:05 – Full backwards compatibility

14:06 – Supports super sampling for 1080p

14:07 – Liquid cooled vapor chamber and custom power management system

14:08 – Xbox One X is the smallest Xbox ever

14:10 – Forza 7 reveal

14:12 – Porsche 911 GT2 RS world reveal

14:13 – Live gameplay demo of Forza 7, native 4K at 60fps

14:14 – Dynamic weather, environments and more details in Forza 7 than ever before

14:15 – Forza 7 releases on October 3rd 2017

14:16 – 42 games shown during the press conference, 24 will be console exclusive to Xbox One

14:22 – Metro Exodus reveal

14:24 – Assassins Creed Origins world premier

14:31 – Live Assassins Creed Origins gameplay, you can use an Eagle to scout ahead for you, combat looks like it has some dark souls inspired mechanics.

14:32 – PlayerUnknowns Battlegrounds coming exclusively to Xbox One systems, Xbox One X version enhancements will launch with the system

14:35 – Deep Rock Galactic reveal

14:40 – State of Decay 2 revealed, zombie game featuring base building, survival and multiplayer.

14:43 – The Darwin Project, hunger-games like multiplayer game.

14:45 – Minecraft uniting of consoles, crossplay with all consoles, mobile platforms and VR.  Minecraft gets a free 4K update, new look for Minecraft (dynamic lighting, better textures, godrays)

14:49 – Dragonball Fighter Z, early 2018 release date

14:51 – Black Desert coming to Xbox One

14:52 – The last night, pixel + 3d modeled visual art style

14:53 – The Artful Escape, coming when its ready

14:54 – Code Vein, coming 2018

14:55 – Sea of Thieves extended gameplay showcase: underwater exploration and ship looting,  watch out for sharks, eat bananas, you can shoot yourself from your ship onto an island or even an enemy pirate ship.  Solve riddles to find treasure caches, you can dig up the ground to search for treasure, generally after you find treasure you’ll have to fight off enemies in order to secure it, trade treasure at outposts to turn a profit. Sea of thieves releases early 2018

15:04 – Tacoma, releasing August 2nd 2017

15:05 – Super Lucky’s Tale, November 2017

15:07 – Cuphead finally got a release date, September 29th 2017

15:09 – Crackdown 3, Ft Terry Crews, releasing November 7th, 2017

15:11 – Sizzlereel, showcasing a lot of different games released through the ID@Xbox program

15:13 – Ashen, unique art-style

15:16 – Life is Strange Before the Storm, 3 episode game

15:18 – Shadow of War gameplay showcase. October 10th, 2017

15:24 – Ori and the Will of the Wisps reveal

15:27 – Xbox Backwards Compatibility now supports original Xbox games, more to share when it launches later this year

15:29 – 4K updates to previous titles like Gears of War 4, Halo Wars 2, Resident Evil 7, Final Fantasy 7 and more

15:31 – Xbox One X will be priced at $499

15:33 – Bioware’s new IP Anthem, running on Xbox One Scorpio, World premier gameplay.  Exosuits, big open world, focus on multiplayer.  2018 release date.

15:42: End of Conference

 

Switchcore Podcast 012 – Xbox E3 2017 Predictions Special

Charlie, Scott, Drew and Jeremy get together for yet another betting special, this time for Xbox’s E3 press event.  Will Scorpio wow the industry?  Will Phil Spencer announce new Xbox One exclusives?

Afterwards, the team recaps and wraps up their thoughts and predictions on everything E3 related.

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Pokkén Tournament DX Coming to Switch

Following Nintendo’s tweet yesterday, we now know what Nintendo, The Pokémon Company and Game Freak have in store for Switch and 3DS owners in 2017.

Nintendo kicked off the eight minute direct announcing Pokkén Tournament DX, scheduled for a September 22nd release on Nintendo Switch.  The deluxe version of the Pokémon fighting game is getting a new 3v3 team battle mode, online ranked play and friend-only group matches.  The game will also feature local wireless multiplayer and the ability to play the game with a single Joy-Con.  Pokkén Tournament DX will also feature five new characters: Darkrai, Scizor, Empoleon, Croagunk and Decidueye.

Though we did not receive the mainline Pokémon game for Switch we were hoping for, we did get some information about the next 3DS outing.  Pokémon Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon will be hitting the Nintendo 3DS line of systems on November 17th.  The new titles will feature an alternate story, and new Pokémon not included in the original Sun and Moon games.

With E3 just around the corner, make sure to check back to Switchcore.net for more Pokémon news.

[via Nintendo Direct – YouTube]

Cave Story+ Nintendo Switch Review

Cave Story+ releases June 20th, 2017 on Nintendo Switch.

I was first introduced to Cave Story in 2010 as a downloadable demo on the Wii.  Before I knew it I was sucked in and had played the demo multiple times over, but despite my love for the demo, it wasn’t until about a year later that I received my own copy of Cave Story on the Nintendo DSi.  I don’t think I set my DSi down for more than a moment to grab something to eat before I was staring back at the small 3 inch screen, completely immersed in the colorful world of Cave Story.  Years later I received a copy of Cave Story+ for the PC as a gift from my dad.  A few years after that, I found myself again purchasing Cave Story from the Nintendo 3DS eShop, boasting original pixel art with some added 3D depth.  Now, seven years after I had originally fallen in love with the game and 13 years after the original release, we find ourselves with another version of the game; Cave Story+ for the Nintendo Switch.

As the name would suggest, Cave Story is a story about rabbit-like creatures (Mimiga) who live in a cave.  You take on the role of a robot named Quote.  With no memories of how you ended up there, you attempt to discover not only your own purpose, but the story behind the Mimiga and the entire cave itself.  In some ways Cave Story feels like a lost NES classic, and having been inspired by games like Metroid and Castlevania, it’s not hard to see why.  The game rewards exploration, choice-making and mastery of its controls, allowing the player to change the outcome of the story by how they play.  The world of Cave Story is filled with lovable characters and clever dialogue.  The game oozes with charm and you can feel that the creator really put work into making something that was special to them.  Right off the bat, Cave Story feels like a beloved childhood classic while also mixing up the formula with some of its own ideas.

The first thing you’ll probably notice that is different in Cave Story is the unique weapon system.  Unlike other 2D shooters where you collect ammo and level up your characters stats to move forward, Cave Story features a dynamic weapon leveling system.  Weapons feature three levels of strength, usually with level 1 being the weakest and level 3 being the strongest.  The weapons you collect level up when you collect Weapon Experience from fallen enemies, but will level down as you take damage.  This way Cave Story rewards skilled players who don’t take damage with greater weapon levels, while others may find themselves struggling to keep their weapon levels up if they are not careful.  Every weapon collected has its own unique strengths and characteristics, while your initial weapon, the Polar Star, may not drastically change upon leveling up.  The Bubbline offers a very different experience at each of the three levels.  Every weapon offers advantages and disadvantages in different scenarios.  Where some might succeed wonderfully in one area, it may not in another.  So while you might have your favorite weapon, it’s always helpful to explore the strengths of others in the event you find yourself in a challenging situation.

Cave Story+ PC
Cave Story+ Switch
Cave Story+ PC
Cave Story+ Switch

Visually, the original Cave Story features some gorgeous pixel art.  This is only improved upon in Cave Story+ with the addition of remastered graphics.  Moreover, Cave Story+ on Nintendo Switch is more visually advanced than even the PC version.  The Switch version features an overhauled water system that reacts to the players movement through the water rather than the static image of the PC version.  Along with new water physics, a new lighting engine is also present.  Characters, shots from weapons and other items placed throughout the world will emit light that will slightly illuminate the background and other elements around them – a subtle but welcome change. Along with the new lighting engine, some of the excess foreground has been removed replacing it with black space and some shadows around the elements.

Alongside these features, the Switch version of Cave Story+ features a true 16:9 aspect ratio, unlike the 4:3 aspect ratio of the PC version.  As performance goes, the game runs at 1080p and 60fps while docked, and 720p, 60fps in handheld mode.  All make for a very pleasant experience with flawless performance all around.  Even in the most hectic scenarios, everything runs buttery smooth, with no hurt to performance whatsoever.  All of these changes make the Switch version by far the most visually appealing version of Cave Story we’ve ever received.  Halloween and Christmas visual changes are also present in this version if you are playing during their respective time-frames.  That being said, as of now, the Switch version Cave Story+ does not offer the option to switch between the original and remastered visuals like the PC version, something we’d welcome back in a possible future update.

Cave Story has a wonderful and addictive soundtrack that feels right at home in the world that’s been created.  In the Switch version of Cave Story+ instead of being greeted with three different options like the PC version we’re greeted with four! “Famitracks” is a new audio option only present in the Switch version, and like the name suggests, sounds like the original tunes using the Famicon soundfont.  Everyone seems to have a different opinion on which Cave Story soundtrack is the best, but with all four different music options to choose from, you’ll have plenty of opportunity to decide for yourself.  Unlike previous versions of the game, the “Jukebox” is also unlocked in the menu right from the start, so if you want to sample music you’ve heard from the game from all of the different soundtracks, just select the option from the menu and listen to your hearts desire.

With a tight control scheme, every button press counts in Cave Story, and luckily all control options are present in the Nintendo Switch version (apart from touch screen functionality). Single Joy-con support will be especially helpful when a free multiplayer co-op update* is released this summer.  If you want to test your mastery of the controls even further, a challenge mode will be unlocked after you progress to a certain point in the game.  Modes like Boss Rush, Sanctuary Time Attack and Wind Fortress, as well Sand Pit, (a new challenge mode exclusive to Switch version) will push your skills to the limit. Online ranking support is also present so you can see how your skills compare to players all across the world.

*This review will be updated when the multiplayer update to Cave Story+ for Nintendo Switch is released.

So even after thirteen years is Cave Story+ for Nintendo Switch still the Cave Story game that’s been lauded for years? It’s that and more. With even further enhancements, a multiplayer update just around the corner and possibly even more, Cave Story+ for Nintendo Switch is a wonderful addition to the Cave Story family and the best version we have to date.

Pokémon Direct Coming Tomorrow

The internet is aflutter this morning with The Pokémon Company tweeting out from their official Twitter account that a new Pokémon Direct is coming June 6th at 7am PT/10am ET.

Additionally, on the official Pokémon website, a post has been added stating “Big Pokemon News on the Way.”  Following the Direct, coverage of the news will take place at Pokémon.com.

Could this be a new Pokémon title for the Switch that fans have been asking for, or will it just be information on the upcoming update to Pokémon GO slated to add new legendary Pokémon and PVP functionality?  Only time will tell.  In the mean time, mark your calendars for June 6th!

Switchcore Podcast 011 – PlayStation E3 2017 Predictions Special

PlayStation E3 predictions galore!

This week, the hosts discuss what they believe we will most likely be treated to during the E3 2017 PlayStation press briefing. Keeping in line with the Nintendo show from a week ago, the hosts make Yes/No bets, as well as play a bit of High/Low to determine the direction of PlayStation during this year’s big show.

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Fire Emblem Echoes: Shadows of Valentia Review

Around 14 years ago I still remember pushing a new game into my metallic red Gameboy SP, not knowing what to expect. The game was called “The Blazing Blade”, not a story about a swordsman with now increasingly legal pastimes, but the 7th installment in a franchise that at the time I had never heard of. Immediately I was hooked. The casual tactics franchise with hidden depths instantly became one of the my favorites. Since I have played every Fire Emblem game I could find. Despite this however, I was still unfamiliar with the entry titled “Fire Emblem Gaiden”, understandable given it never reached western shores. That was until recently, with the announcement of Fire Emblem Echoes: Shadows of Valentia, a modern day remake.

I must confess I went into Echoes with fairly low expectations. Everything I had heard about Gaiden has implied it was considered somewhat the black sheep of the Fire Emblem franchise. A heavily criticized collection of gameplay experimentation that had long since been exorcised from the games that followed it. That mistake you made one time when you were young and dumb and have been trying to forget ever since. Therefore, after spending a good deal of time beating Echoes’ campaign on the default difficulty, and staring at the game case smugly laying back in my quivering hands, a single bead of sweat rolling down my brow, I was taken off guard by the realisation that one of the best handheld experiences of the year so far was staring back at me.

The game follows characters Alm and Celica, two friends forced apart at childhood who later reunite only to find themselves at odds over increasing tension between the two surrounding regions. The story is fairly common faire, particularly to anyone with existing interests in Fire Emblem or just fantasy storytelling in general, but it suffices to drive the player forwards. This divide between the two central characters does open the door to one of the biggest differences in the Echoes campaign. After a few short introductory acts, players will be presented with the choice to act as either Alm or Celica and their respective forces interchangeably however they see fit, each character taking a different path on the game’s world map.

This divide of campaign works particularly well, not just as each army has a natural difference in composition and seems fairly differentiated from one another in play style, but also as it feels like an improvement over the traditional formula. When playing an entry like Fire Emblem: Awakening, over the course of the game you will end up with a sizable force, only a fraction of which you can take into battle with you. While the series has always been picking and choosing your favorite units, it has always left me with the feeling that I am missing out on content in a single play though, having to leave it behind for a second play through should I even get around to starting one. Fire Emblem: Fates provided players with both the Birthright and Conquest campaigns, allowing them a more focused look at each factions characters before heading into Revelations, but this came at a very real price to consumers. By the time I had finished Echoes, I felt like no character had gone to waste, a refreshing change.

The split campaign is interesting in other ways as well. Through exploration of locations such as villages, castles and dungeons players will find consumables and equipment to take with them. Even unit recruitment, none of which occurs in battle here, involves finding and talking to the character in question and being prompted with a decision to accept the newcomer into your force or not. At first this confused me, what purpose would rejecting new blood ever serve? The answer soon became obvious when the game offered a limited opportunity to take any units or items left behind by one force for the other, offering a whole new level of tactical consideration.

Further adding to the spirit of team building is the game’s take on the villager class. Each force will gain access to one or more villager characters and players are free to choose which base class they should advance into. As an example, from the 4 villagers I was provided at the start of Alm’s side of the campaign, I gave myself a starting point of a mercenary, a mage, an archer, and a pegasus knight, choosing to forgo the option of a soldier or cavalier. I could have had any combination of the above of course, a nice touch that had me feeling more of a personal attachment to my army right from the get-go. This could just as easily be seen as a double-edged sword as each character’s stats still lend themselves to some classes over others, and inexperienced players who may not know what to look for could be left regretting their choices as their close-combat Tobin bites the dirt time and time again. Overall though, given the franchise’s tendency to lump you with characters whose classes might not best suit their stats, having some degree of choice is welcomed. The only real disappointment here is that Celica gets handed far fewer villagers than Alm, with Atlas joining her party only after progressing some distance into the game.

Unit promotions do not require seals as you may now be used to, rather they are carried out at altars dotted around the game world. Promotions in Echoes, beyond initially deciding how villagers will progress, is now completely linear. Once a unit is ready to be promoted, you will be given no choice what they become. Archers will always become snipers, followed by bow knights, just as mages will always end up as either sages or priestesses depending on the characters gender. Players of newer Fire Emblem games may find themselves missing the additional customisation here, though every promotion does still feel like a substantial improvement.

Throughout Echoes you will also be handed quests to complete, resulting in varying rewards from currency to spend on weapon upgrades, equipment, and renown. Across the entire campaign you will only find a handful of quests to embark on, and the game seems to provide no means of tracking them such a even a basic log making them incredibly easy to forget. This is a shame as some of the quests are genuinely quite enjoyable, such as taking on especially powerful creatures to recover lost heirlooms, but on the whole I was left feeling the feature was underdeveloped. Even upon completing the campaign, I do not recall ever being told what effect renown has, though after searching for an answer it apparently its only relevant for a Streetpass ranking.

The other major noticeable change for Fire Emblem regulars will no doubt be the battle mechanics. The thematically suspect, yet highly functional, weapons triangle is nowhere to be seen. Your lances will be just as effective against axes as they are against swords. Actually, I do not even recall seeing a single axe throughout my play through with only a single exception, but not one that could be used to slay anything except firewood. Archers can all of a sudden counter-attack at close quarters, which is handy considering they no longer effortlessly pluck fliers out of the sky, at least not right away. There is still a little rock-paper-scissors at work here, you will want magic users to put any kind of dent in powerful armoured units for example. Despite the absence of these mainline staple mechanics, the combat in Echoes surprisingly does not feel any less tactical. The game actually felt more punishing if anything, forcing me to really consider some of my turns more than I would have in titles like Awakening or Fates, which by comparison can occasionally seem overly simplistic.

One feature I was convinced I would meet with disapproval is “Mila’s Turnwheel”, an item that allows a limited amount of rewinds per combat. I can myself, like many experienced Fire Emblem players I expect, be a little guilty of turning my nose up at anything that trivializes the challenge of keeping all of my units alive and kicking. However I now find myself convinced that this is a feature that needs to find it’s way into every future game form this moment on. You see when one of my units dies a most permanent death, what do I do? I restart, load back into my save file, re-enter the battle from the beginning, fight my way back to the point I reached and pray that a lucky critical doesn’t make me repeat the process again and/or through my console through a window. Mila’s Turnwheel doesn’t make it any easier to keep units alive, it just saves me an incredible amount of time when one dies!

Character skills, aside from spell casters, are not learnt after achieving set levels in Echoes. Rather the game employs a system whereby skills are eventually learnt through equipped weapons, shields, or accessories. Some skills are automatically bestowed simply through the act of equipping the parent item, others will be hidden and require you to unlock them through continually taking the item into combat. It is a system that I am particularly fond of, reminding me of days spent playing Final Fantasy 9, but its execution here is not as strong and left me feeling a little sour. Unlike for Zidane and friends, removing an equipped item renders the skills learnt from it unusable until another item with the same skill is held. This instantly devalues the use of a large number of the items found in Echoes. You will never need to bother using an iron sword for longer than you have to, regardless of skills learnt from it, safe in the knowledge that you will no doubt find something better with a completely different skill set anyway. All this said, I found myself using skills in the game very little, so their importance within the game as a whole seems of fairly minimal consequence, though this may change as players raise the difficulty level.

In the earlier Fire Emblem games I was exposed to, virtually every item had a limited number of uses. Every sword had a design flaw that would seem them crumble to dust after 40 or so swings. Later, thankfully, this was changed so that only healing staves expired. Echoes approaches this different still. No equipment, weapon, healing, or otherwise is restricted in how often you can use it per say. Instead, skills such as healing, offensive magic, or combat arts all carry a health point activation cost. While this may seem daunting at first, it adds a pleasant extra dimension to the tactics of the game, leading you to consider if and when you can afford to unleash a high powered attack. Where it really shines is in the knowledge that it effects enemy units just as much as it effects your own. Smacking down a mage to the point where they can no longer cast powerful spells, even if they wanted to, is an incredibly satisfying feeling.

Outside of the mechanics the combat animations, level design, range of enemies and music are all by and large exceptional. Some levels can be a bit tiresome, particularly ones that use cliff faces or similar terrain to extremely limit movement and arbitrarily increase the time it takes to move on. With specific regards to the combat animations, these are without question the finest ever seen in a Fire Emblem game. Attacks, counter-attacks, and dodges all flow into each other beautifully.

During your travels you will occasionally come across a dungeon. Entering one of these areas has you navigating either Alm or Celica through fully 3D environment, encountering enemies and looting chests. While visually one of the most unexpected shifts from traditional Fire Emblem games, this was also one of the features I found to have the most problems. Having to constantly readjust my view was a hassle and and getting a preemptive strike on enemies, rewarded with small bonuses in the resulting combat, often seemed hit-and-miss. None of the dungeons I traversed felt particularly interesting in design, and getting through some of the later ones felt like an outright chore. Furthermore, the fights you get into within dungeons feel heavily generic and at times identical when compared to the crafted combats you experience elsewhere. Fighting the same enemies, in the same formation, on the same map, tens of times in quick succession ends up having as much need for strategical thinking as deciding if you want ham or turkey in your lunchtime sandwich.

Then there is the stamina system. As you engage in combat, your units will tire through use. When their stamina depletes, they will become fatigued, and any combat they enter from that point on will be with penalties such as a rather large cut of their maximum hit points. To recover stamina, units must either be fed consumables found throughout the world, or one such consumable can be offered at an altar to restore energy to the entire party. Even as I write this review I cannot for the life of me understand what the intention of this system was. The obvious conclusion seems to be as a measure to restrict the level grinding possible in dungeons, but simply leaving and re-entering a dungeon seemed to fully restore stamina for me anything. I thought it might be a system designed exclusively to make the later, longer dungeons harder, but at this point I was carrying more oranges than the State of Florida and as such it was never an issue. It seems to me that the entire stamina system could just be dropped with no real negative impact on the game at all.

Echoes overall is a very faithful remake of an older Fire Emblem game and as such I would be remiss not to highlight the absence of some of the series newer, more beloved features. Notably there is no marriage options in the game. This is not to say the game is devoid of romance however, there is still plenty to be found in the support conversations that are available. Children and inheritance naturally are also not featured in the game at all. The game does support Amiibo however. Both Alm and Celica unlock special dungeons, and can be used to save a snapshot of each respective hero. They each, along with a wide range of other Amiibo, can be used to summon temporary AI-controlled units into battle.

The game’s DLC offerings certainly raised a few eyebrows when they were first announced, the season pass costing as much as a new game by itself. I personally take a fairly lenient stance towards paid DLC, either the content is worth the price or you just simply ignore it and move on. The one notable exception to this comes when the DLC in question has clearly been developed alongside the main game, raising the risk that the content on offer is cut from the experience you have already paid to play. Thankfully I can report that Shadows of Valentia does not feel incomplete before downloading additional content, the main campaign clocking in upwards of the 30 hour mark. Unfortunately it may also be the case that the game could be seen as better without the DLC, which can end up throwing balance out the window and resulting in an extremely easy overall gameplay experience.

Shadows of Valentia is far from the failure that was Gaiden, or at least how that game had been described to me. New players to Fire Emblem will be treated to a solid and lightly challenging strategy RPG, while series veterans will receive a fascinating glimpse of the ways this treasured franchise could be different.

Switchcore Podcast 010 – Nintendo E3 2017 Predictions Special

The crew gets together to talk about E3 2017. Specifically, predictions. This year, Nintendo has promised us a big year. We already know about some of the entities that will be present, like Super Mario Odyssey, but what about unannounced titles?

Will we see Metroid? Where’s Virtual Console. Is a new Pokemon game in the works? Scott, Jeremy, Drew and Charlie give their predictions on these plus many more in this special episode.

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Switchcore Podcast 007 – Bye Felicia

Scott and Jeremy are Charlie and Drew-less for this seventh installment of the Switchcore Podcast.

The dynamic duo have been playing a ton of Mario Kart 8 Deluxe and provide their impressions. Also discussed is a ton of news including Darksiders III, a New 2DS XL, Zelda and Fire Emblem DLC and much more.

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