All month long we’ve been rolling out features highlighting Mortal Kombat 11 from NetherRealm Studios. Hopefully we’ve answered a lot of your questions about the game, but now’s your chance to fill in any gaps. On an upcoming episode of The Game Informer Show podcast, we’re speaking with Mortal Kombat 11 designer Derek Kirtzic and will be asking him as many questions as we can, pulled from the comments below. So please leave a question in the comments section, please dive in and ask specific things about designing Mortal Kombat 11… I doubt he’ll be revealing any new characters at this point.

You can subscribe to the podcast and get ready for this week’s interview by clicking here.

Anyone who’s seen the (surprisingly solid) 1995 Mortal Kombat film directed by Paul W. S. Anderson probably has its techno-laced theme pounded in their head.  The latest trailer for Mortal Kombat 11, due out next week, weaponizes the nostalgia attached to that ridiculous (and ridiculously catchy) theme song to great effect:

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For more on Mortal Kombat 11, check out our recent dive into the game’s story mode, a match between NetherRealm’s two best players, and more by clicking on the hub below.

Sega has teased out the next 10 games for its upcoming Sega Genesis Mini, and they include familiar names like Sonic, Earthworm Jim, and a little guy named Mickey Mouse. With today’s reveal, we now know half of the retro console’s lineup.

Here’s the complete list of announced games for the $79.99 console, with the newly announced entries bolded. The Genesis Mini includes two wired Genesis controllers, a power adapter and cable, and an HDMI cable, along with the mini console.

  1. Sonic the Hedgehog
  2. Ecco the Dolphin
  3. Castlevania: Bloodlines
  4. Space Harrier 2
  5. Shining Force
  6. Dr. Robotnik’s Mean Bean Machine
  7. ToeJam & Earl
  8. Comix Zone
  9. Altered Beast
  10. Gunstar Heroes
  11. Earthworm Jim
  12. Sonic the Hedgehog 2
  13. Castle of Illusion Starring Mickey Mouse
  14. World of Illusion Starring Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck
  15. Contra: Hard Corps
  16. Thunder Force III
  17. Super Fantasy Zone
  18. Shinobi III: Return of the Ninja Master
  19. Streets of Rage 2
  20. Landstalker

 The Sega Genesis Mini is hitting stores September 19, and you can see where you can preorder it here.

Publisher: Devolver Digital
Developer: Askiisoft
Release: April 18, 2019
Rating: Mature
Reviewed on: Switch
Also on:
PC

What’s the most terrifying thing about a samurai assassin squaring off against a room full of gun-toting goons? The sword. Out of all possible deadly weapons, the samurai chooses a blade that requires unerring precision and close range, even when facing a hail of bullets. That choice conveys a lot about the efficiency and confidence of the assassin; we all know who is walking out of that room alive. In Katana Zero, that’s you.

Despite a focus on frantic swordplay, this side-scrolling action game isn’t as chaotic as it first appears. Using just a blade (and a little help from time manipulation), players have the speed and power to clear out entire enemy strongholds unscathed. Each screen presents a puzzle-like arrangement of enemies, requiring calculated movements and careful attacks. Katana Zero is not about improvisation and reaction; if you try playing it like Hotline Miami, you won’t survive.

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Making plans and refining them through trial and error is the most entertaining part of Katana Zero. You open a door, but a guard immediately shoots you, so time rewinds and the screen resets. On your next attempt, you use your limited time-slowing power as you kick the door open, allowing you to slash the bullet and deflect it back at the guard. Except now you’re facing an enemy with a shotgun, and you can’t deflect that blast with your sword. Can you quickly roll past and slash him without alerting another guard? Or knock him into some lasers? Or lure him to a more vulnerable position? You die often as you find the answers to these questions, but respawning is rapid, so the deaths don’t feel punitive. When you finally clear a tough screen, Katana Zero makes you feel like a genius assassination architect, overcoming harrowing odds and emerging as the lone survivor.

The thrill of those moments propels you through the levels, but frustrating design can make it difficult to reach those peaks of joy. For example, executing your plans depends on repetition and precision, but guards don’t always go back to the same default positions after a screen reset. This randomness occasionally prevents you from mastering familiar sections quickly to get to the tricky bits, which feels like a pointless hurdle that only eats up time.

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Jumping around, slowing time, and deflecting bullets is fun, but your options never expand (apart from one exception that I won’t spoil). That static moveset isn’t a problem by itself, but after exhausting its repertoire, Katana Zero struggles to present you with interesting ways to use your powers. Enemy configurations get harder and the stages get more elaborate, but using the same strategies to progress gets old. A motorcycle chase, a memory-based enemy gauntlet, and a handful of boss fights are attempts to vary the formula, but they fall flat just as often as they succeed.

The other main disappointment is the story. It has fascinating hooks involving a mysterious drug, your dumpy apartment complex, and your shady psychiatrist. The first couple hours had me thinking, “I can’t wait to see how all of these cool concepts come together.” Unfortunately, most of them just cryptically meander without reaching any crescendo. The game also lays the foundations for big moments that never come, like a foreshadowed choice that feels completely meaningless, and an abrupt “to be continued” ending that left me with a sour impression as the credits rolled.

When Katana Zero is in top form, it is a satisfying and stylish action/puzzle hybrid that rewards your patience and persistence. But the longer you play, the more the effect diminishes. The assassination scenarios start blending together, and the cutscenes stop inspiring curiosity. That tipping point is what stops Katana Zero from reaching its full potential, but it doesn’t negate the pride that comes from a well-planned and perfectly executed sword-slashing rampage.

Score: 7.75

Summary: Katana Zero can be a satisfying and stylish action/puzzle hybrid, but the effect diminishes the longer you play.

Concept: Strategically slash your way through an army of bad guys, with a little help from time-altering powers

Graphics: Retro-styled visuals and a VHS aesthetic make the side-scrolling action look great

Sound: The music fits the game’s tone, serving as an effective background soundtrack whether the scene is brutal or quiet

Playability: Controls feel precise and responsive, though hit detection is sometimes inconsistent (which can work for or against you)

Entertainment: Katana Zero starts strong on all fronts, but it doesn’t evolve or cohere in ways that sustain the excitement of its early stages

Replay: Moderate

Click to Purchase

Introduction

During our visit to Media Molecule’s offices last year for our November cover story, the developer stood firmly behind its intentions with Dreams: Create the most accessible and deepest video game creation tool available to a mainstream audience. It was a bold statement, but one that the various demos (and later, closed beta) showed that maybe the developer of LittleBigPlanet and Tearaway could pull off its wild ambitions.

The creation suite of Dreams is now out in Early Access, meaning anyone who pays $30 while spaces are still open for the game can get their hands on the full toolset. For the next week, I’m going to be taking Dreams for a spin, work diligently with the tools to see what I can create in that period of time. The goal here isn’t necessarily to create something amazing (wouldn’t that be swell!) but instead to see what someone with little-to-no game creation experience can do with those tools if they’re willing to put in the work.

Just so you have an idea of where I’m coming from experience-wise: I’ve created and released a few text adventures and a visual novel for commercial purposes. I understand a little bit of Python and have experience creating word-heavy games based on choice and consequence. However, I have never created art assets, have never made music, haven’t experimented with artificial intelligence, and have never dabbled in Unity, the Epic engine, or anything similar. I imagine I’m likely going to be stumbling a lot and will be writing frankly about my follies (hopefully my screw-ups prove amusing). At the end, what I hope emerges is a fairly accurate portrait of what one can expect if they take the deep dive into Media Molecue’s Dreams.

With that in mind: it’s showtime, folks.

Day 1: The Land Of Tutorials

As soon as Dreams’ cutesy introduction sequence, letting you name your imp (the cute little cursor you’ll be using to manipulate the world) and teaching you the basics of moving the camera, I make a beeline for the creation toolset. My logic is that I already saw the ins and outs of how to move and manipulate objects in Dreams’ creation space during a few preview sessions at Media Molecule and thus should be fine learning on the go while messing with the tools.

I quickly pay the price for my arrogance.

Plucking a humanoid sculpture from the game’s huge collection of objects (both those made by Media Molecule and those crafted by Dreams users), I plant the body on top of the creation space’s huge tile of space. From there, I try to create shapes and shrink them down by manipulating the controller. However, this goes awry quickly for two reasons.

The first: Dreams’ shortcut interface is complicated, with you having to combine buttons like L1 with another to do certain things to objects (like shrinking them or spinning them in a space), so it’s easy to lose track of all the commands at your disposal. The second reason is that I’m just not used to literally moving around the screen yet. Unlike most games, Dreams requires you to navigate around the world using the motion control in your Dualshock controller. This makes sense because you’ll eventually be brushing objects, stretching them out, and manipulating them in other ways that are more suited to motion control than analog . However, my hands still get caught up in the unique scheme, my thumbs often pushing on a camera-controlling analog stick when what I want to do is move my cursor.

There’s really no way of getting around the motion control part except for getting used to it over time. However, Dreams’ commands and toolsets are so numerous and complicated that I quickly own up to the truth: there is no way I can skip the tutorials. I’m going to have to eat some vegetables before I get to the fun stuff. C’est la vie.

Heading over to the tutorial section, I see Dreams’ tutorials aren’t your bog standard tips or even quickplay videos showing you how to do whatever you want to do. Instead, Dreams’ presents its playable tutorials like a full on class for operating the game. There are several modules, filled with multiple lessons that average around 3-5 minutes, for basic things like manipulating the camera, sculpting objects, and creating artificial intelligence for your puppets (characters that you can fill your world with to either control or serve as NPCs).

It soon becomes clear that tutorials are going to be the rest of my night. However, the tutorials aren’t so bad. All of them are interactive, with you essentially watching a quickplay video that shows you how to do something and then following through on it yourself. Once you finish a lesson, it’s checked off, and you move on to the next one. And they are genuinely helpful too. Within the first four movement lessons, I learn shortcuts for zooming and manipulating objects that will make moving across the creation space less of a hassle.

As the lessons go on, I find myself less annoyed that I have take tackle these tutorials and more with the fact that I thought I could just bypass it all and learn on my own. Dreams’ toolset is ultimately generous in terms of how much it offers and how quickly it is to learn the ropes compared to taking several months or even years to learn C++, BASIC, Java, or an engine like Unity. Dreams is literally its own language: a set of procedures and elements that you can bend to express yourself in an exciting way. Of course there would be a learning curve.

My only concern now is that I hope that partaking in all of these tutorials pays off, especially when it comes to helping me commit maneuverability and manipulation functions to muscle memory, and that I can stumble just a bit less when I return to the creation space tomorrow, my head sloshing around with lesson after lesson on how to make the game of my dreams.

Check back tomorrow for day two of our adventures in Dreams!

Nintendo announced Joker from the Persona series as the first fighter included in the Fighters Pass last December, but we didn’t know exactly when he’d join the battle. Well fans of Super Smash Bros. Ultimate were treated to the surprise announcement last night that Joker is making his debut as a playable fighter today. But who the heck is Joker? If you only own a Switch (and thus haven’t been able to experience the joy that is Persona 5) then we’re here to give you a quick rundown on this character and just what the deal with Persona is. The announcement of Joker as a fighter as well as the recent tease of the upcoming Persona 5 S are both strong indicators Switch players may be able to see for themselves before too long. But who has that kind of time? If you have played both, then good job! You did it! For everyone else, here’s everything you need to know.

Who Are Joker And Arsene?

There’s a lot to sift through when dealing with a game and series as large as Persona, but the important details are that Joker is only the nickname of the game’s high-school student protagonist, Ren Amamiya (as you choose his name, this name only comes from the anime tie-in). Like any Persona game that came before, you must not only manage a stable of monstrous creatures that spawn from your heart – persona – but your stable of high school friends and responsibilities. When you take to the game’s dungeons, or palaces, you don a mask and adopt the Joker identity.

Joker and his friends all come together in this twisted, alternate world to expose people’s inner demons, and their squad is called the Phantom Thieves of Hearts. In the trailer we see Joker wearing his mask from his Phantom Thieves costume, but we also saw him dressed in his normal Shujin Academy attire. This means if Joker looks a little too cool for school, you can literally dress him in school-appropriate clothing.

The reveal also highlighted some of Joker’s more signature abilities from the RPG. Namely, Arsene. In Smash, Joker builds a meter as he fights that will eventually allow him to remove his mask and summon his original persona to fight alongside him and bolster his attacks. In Persona, your characters are essentially useless in battle until they awaken the power of these mystical beings, so it’s nice to see that represented in the combat.

What Are Joker’s Moves?

Outside of Arsene, Joker brings his knife and gun into battle as well. Persona 5’s combat added a gun into the mix that had you managing an ammo counter during the turn-based battles, but while the gun is present in Smash, it doesn’t seem like that exact mechanic is making the jump, thankfully. Appropriately though, Joker will be using Persona abilities, Tetrakarn and Makarakarn to reflect attacks when Arsene is present. In Persona those do exactly that: they reflect physical and magical attacks respectively. So, like any character on the SSBU roster, everything they do is in some way rooted in their character’s original abilities.

The video (below) gets into his full suite of moves in Smash, but he’s bringing over moves like Eiha (or the stronger Eigaon) which curses foes and inflicts some damage over time and Persona 5 finisher, All-Out Attack, brings the whole team together for Joker’s Final Smash.

Click here to watch embedded media

What’s Going On With Joker’s Stage?

Finally, the trailer showed off Joker’s dynamic new stage, Mementos. In the RPG, Mementos is the palace that represents the hearts of all the people. It isn’t specific to any one person, but people in general. It’s a great nod to Persona 5 players, as well as perfectly evoking the jazzy, gonzo style of Atlus’ game. What’s of particular note for fans of the Persona RPGs before Persona 5, the stage changes to be themed after either Persona 3’s Dark Hour, or 4’s Midnight Channel depending on the music that is playing.

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None of this is truly important to enjoy your time with a new Super Smash Bros. fighter, but it should provide a good framework to understand why he keeps summoning this ghostly force to fight with him.


Check out our review of Persona 5 or read our feature on the Top 100 RPGs Of All Time from issue 290 of Game Informer magazine where Persona 5 made number 19 and Persona 4 ranked at number 30.

Nintendo released a new trailer for Mortal Kombat 11 today, ahead of its release in just a week’s time.

The video shows off some never-before-seen story scenes, and it’s also interesting that the backgrounds in fatal blows look noticeably different than they did in past entries.

Watch the entire teaser below.

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Mortal Kombat 11 arrives on April 23 for Switch, PS4, Xbox One, and PC.

We learned last summer that Showtime would be producing a live-action Halo television series, and while we knew that Master Chief would play an important role, we didn’t know until now who would don John-117’s iconic green armor.

Showtime announced that Pablo Schreiber (American Gods, Orange is the New Black) was cast as the protagonist in the show based on Microsoft’s flagship series. The TV series is set during the timeline of the games, but will introduce new characters as well. Along with this announcement they revealed a new character named Quan Ah being played by Yerin Ha, an Australian actress.

Ultimately this means that despite dancing around this for over ten years, we finally have a look at least one incarnation of Master Chief’s face. It could still be obscured in the show, but we can never unsee this.

Pablo Schreiber in American Gods, Starz

The show enters production soon with a release planned for sometime in 2020. Don’t forget, 343 is still working on Halo: Infinite which is set to be a spiritual reboot for the game series when that eventually launches as well.

[Source: The Hollywood Reporter]

When it was reported last year, an Xbox One without the disc drive seemed like a potential home run for Microsoft. The Xbox One has lagged behind PlayStation 4 in sales through most of this generation, and a large part of that revolved around a botched launch and a steeper price point than its competitor. Microsoft has since rectified many of those problems, listening to its fans and adjusting its prices to compete with the PS4. The digital-only Xbox One could have landed as the best value console on the market, but not enough differential between it and the standard Xbox One S leads to it being a missed opportunity for Microsoft.

An Xbox One with no disc drive removes key functionality of the system. Not only does it lose the ability to play physical games, but it also loses one edge the Xbox One S has over even the PlayStation 4 Pro: a 4K Blu-ray drive. Losing the ability to play any physical media is a large blow, but with the right incentives, it could have made the case that it’s worth it.

Microsoft likely hoped to make up for this huge missing feature with a lower price point. By offering a more digestible point of entry to the Xbox One family of systems, the Xbox One could become the default system for families looking to buy a console without breaking the bank. Unfortunately, the Xbox One S All-Digital Edition is a paltry $50 cheaper than the standard Xbox One S with a disc drive. Not only that, but a simple search on third-party seller sites like Amazon or eBay reveals that you can easily find new, sealed, standard Xbox One S models for even cheaper than the All-Digital Edition as long as you don’t mind buying a game bundle that has been discontinued.

Microsoft tried to sweeten the deal by including three digital games, but the value those bring is questionable. Sea of Thieves continues to receive new content, but it’s far from a system seller. Forza Horizon 3 is spectacular fun, but it’s two and a half years old at this point and is regularly on sale in the digital storefront. As one of the most popular games of all time, Minecraft is arguably the most attractive game included in the bundle, but even that is an inexpensive purchase you could simply pick up independent of this system. Furthermore, Sea of Thieves and Minecraft are included in Xbox Game Pass, as is the newest edition of the Forza Horizon series, Forza Horizon 4.

Even from a cosmetic perspective, the Xbox One S All-Digital Edition does nothing to excite players. Xbox says changing the form factor would jack up costs, but with so little else incentivizing prospective console buyers from considering this model, something that looks cooler than a typical Xbox One S would at least catch eyes. With no optical drive, plus the fact that the more powerful Xbox One X is even smaller than the Xbox One S due to how technology shrunk in the time between those two models, the All-Digital Edition likely could have been significantly smaller, and thus given something else to make up for the lack of disc drive.

With a few adjustments, the Xbox One S All-Digital Edition could reach its full potential. At $250, the sweet spot isn’t far off. A $50 to $70 price drop could launch it into impulse-buy territory. If Microsoft is worried about losing too much money on hardware sales, it should focus on converting those who buy this Xbox One S to its Game Pass service. Scrap the free games and instead give buyers a few months of Game Pass for free, with a special offer to boost it up to a year at a lower price. Microsoft clearly has confidence in the service or else it wouldn’t continue to bolster its impressive lineup, so why not push that instead of three old games that offer no long-term return on investment to Microsoft? Hook people on Game Pass and the initial investment of bundling it with the system will eventually increase the service’s membership numbers as All-Digital Edition owners realize the massive value it delivers.

With the world converting to digital entertainment and streaming services, Xbox isn’t wrong to explore this direction. More people watch Netflix and Hulu than 4K Blu-rays, and there’s no denying the convenience of digital game downloads. However, you can enjoy those on a standard Xbox One as well, and still have the option to play physical discs (and enjoy their steep discounts). With digital games becoming more popular, game-streaming platforms looking like a new direction of the industry, and Game Pass becoming a better value by the month, the future is likely more focused on digital than it even is today. Microsoft is wise to eye the digital future, but it needs to optimize its plans to truly reap the benefits.

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By pre-ordering Mortal Kombat 11 you can play as one of the most frustrating bosses in the series. As the “konquerer of worlds,” you can crush adversaries with the fearsome Wrath Hammer or spawn spears that stun enemies to enable combo stacking. And, of course, the trailer wouldn’t be complete without showcasing his brutal fatality (we’ll let you see that for yourself). 

Mortal Kombat 11 launches for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Switch, and PC on April 23. For our extended list of confirmed fighters, head here or head over to the game’s hub to catch up on exclusive info.