Replay – Ape Escape 2

We recently played through all of Ape Escape in one sitting, and have been itching to see how the second game in the series held up. We usually try to space recurring game series out over time, but a recent hour-long discussion about apes in the office made us go back on our stance.

In this video, we explore the opening moments of Ape Escape 2 on PlayStation 2. As we marvel at the significant boost in graphics between series entries, we do our best to capture as many agitated apes as we can. And oh man! Do we catch a lot of them! We even run into some apes that we end up calling the “Dark Souls Apes” of the series.

Enjoy our dumb video, and we’ll see you again in seven short days!

If you were on the internet circa 2011, you might remember the fan project Card Sagas Wars. The fighting game brought together 2D pixel art representations of Young Link, KOS-MOS, Mega Man X, Cloud, Lenneth, Master Chief, and more and then went quiet. You can find one of the last trailers for the game, released nine years ago, below.

The two developers of the game, Alberto Hernández and Dani Oliver, have announced that they plan to release a seven year-old build of the game on to the internet with four characters; Young Link, X, Cloud, and KOS-MOS. Hernández and Oliver will support the game with post-launch content, namely the eight other characters they finished, but this is not intended to be a resuscitation of the project.

Both developers have moved on from the game, but want to show what they have done while they work on new projects that they can actually make a living off of. As such, Card Sagas Wars is going to be buggy, but playable at the minimum.

Oliver says there should be more news on the release later in the week.

 

It’s a bit of a nostalgic trip for people who followed the project at the time, like me, but also fans of pixel art in general. I am excited to see Oliver’s original project as a fan of the art they produced for Card Sagas Wars, but I won’t lie that I enjoy seeing pixel art representations of a lot of these characters.

We recently got rumors about Castlevania’s third season, despite the fact that the second season doesn’t even have a date yet. Still, showrunner and writer Warren Ellis has at least narrowed down the date to the next six months.

Ellis says that the second season will be eight episodes long and, while he doesn’t know the exact date quite yet, it should be sometime later this year. The second season seems to focus on the interplay between Alucard and Trevor Belmont while following a loose story structure of Castlevania III: Dracula’s Curse.

This weekend, the Game Informer staff is finally getting a chance to kick back and relax after the E3 content rush. That means catching up on the old backlog, seeing some movies, and playing a whole lot of Overwatch and Destiny 2.

What are you doing this weekend? Let us know in the comments below!

Kyle Hilliard (@kylemhilliard) – After a hectic two weeks and weekends all revolving around E3, this weekend is thankfully a little more laid back. I’ll probably go see Incredibles II again and play some Pokémon Go to dig into the new friend and trading stuff. Oh! And I will do some laundry, too. That part is going to be great.

Imran Khan (@imranzomg) – I’m starting Uncharted: That Chloe One this weekend! I also bought Hollow Knight on the Switch so I am eager to let that beat me down until I learn to love it.

Suriel Vazquez (@SurielVazquez) – I’m going to do daily Iron Banner challenges because I hate myself. I don’t even like this Season’s ornaments for the Iron Banner gear. I just want to collect them all because I’m a stupid idiot. Other than that and laundry, I’m really not sure. Do I replay Red Dead Redemption, start playing Hitman to prepare for the sequel, or make time for a few fighting games? We’ll see! 

Brain Shea (@BrianPShea) – This weekend, I’m still recovering from E3 and the work resulting from it, but I’m going to relax with a hearty dose of Overwatch. I’m also looking for a new single-player game to dig into, so who knows what I’ll land on.

Jeff Cork (@gijeff) – This weekend is all about primary colors. At least, that’s what I think the prevailing theme is? I’m going to play some Overwatch, and then I’ll shift over to Kingdom Hearts 2 Final Mix. Other than that, I’ll be plugging away at the Westworld mobile game because my life is hard. I don’t want to spoil anything, but if you’re considering playing the Westworld mobile game I would recommend reconsidering playing the Westworld mobile game. Stick to the show.

Camden Jones (@CCJ1997) – I’m going to spend all my free time playing Destiny 2. I put a good amount of time into the original Destiny, but I just picked up the sequel about a week and a half ago (thanks, Derek, for letting me borrow your PS4). So far, I’m really, really enjoying it.

Derek Swinhart (@Derek_Swinhart) – This weekend I will join the horde of other staff playing Destiny 2 and Overwatch. My plan is to keep playing Hunt: Showdown with my buddy, and getting some time into Hollow Knight on Switch. I played it on PC when it came out and it is an all time favorite of mine. Also, you are welcome Camden.  

Jacob Geller (@yacobg42) – I will spend his weekend sinking even deeper into Nioh, because I’ve devoted my life to samurai games at this point. Also maybe some mecha anime trash.

It’s no secret that YouTube really wants to get into the streaming game. It might be because parent company Google doesn’t want Amazon, the parent company of Twitch, to exist mostly unopposed in this region. Or it’s because it’s a medium that can make a lot of money for the platform. The next step in YouTube’s attempts to woo more creators to YouTube streaming is including a subscription plan and features that mirror Twitch’s feature set while also leveraging YouTube’s brand for pre-recorded videos.

Polygon reports that YouTube creators with over 100,000 subscribers and enrollment in the YouTube Partners Program can have subscribers enroll in a $4.99 recurring premium subscription. This enables access to special emojis, members-only streams, a community forum, and more. The model also takes some inspiration from Patreon by allowing creators to make videos for paid subscribers with a scheduled go-live date for public consumption.

The new monetization plan is a response to YouTube creators bemoaning the ad-dependent payment model that has been at its foundation since the inception of the video platform. With YouTube taking an aggressive stance on demonetizing videos by funneling their ad money to content holders based on copyright claims and a fuzzy Content ID algorithm, creators have seen the one fruitful platform descend into a struggle for every single video. Now, theoretically, even if Nintendo does demand all the ad money for a Let’s Play of Donkey Kong Country 3, subscriber money goes to the creator regardless (though YouTube still does take 30 percent for themselves).

[Source: Polygon]

 

It’s good to see YouTube figuring out how to handle the demonetization problem, though ideally they would have figured this out two years ago. Competition in the streaming and creator content market will probably help all parties in the end.

Ni no Kuni II: Revenant Kingdom has had a difficulty problem. Our own review talked about how the side quests only served to make an already easy game even easier. People use cheat-enabling software on the PC to make the enemies more difficult to wring out some challenge from the game. It turns out, Bandai Namco has heard you. 

In a patch that’s out now, Ni no Kuni II has added two harder difficulties for new games, Hard and Expert. Obviously Expert is for the hardest challenge currently available. It doesn’t sound like you can adjust a game that’s already in progress, but the patch also has some bug fixes and rare items.

Playing on harder difficulties also increases your drop rate for rare items, so it has benefits beyond fixing what is commonly called out as the game’s biggest flaw. The patch is out now for PlayStation 4 and PC.

Final Fantasy Brave Exvius is known for having a lot of guest crossovers, including singer Ariana Grande, so it only makes sense that Square Enix’s own properties also make the leap at some point.

Just Cause hero Rico Rodriguez along with Just Cause 3 compatriots Mario Frigo, Teo, and Annika Svennson are being added to the mobile game with 2D SNES-style sprites. Rico, Mario, and Annika are being added through the featured summon function, while Teo will be a raid summon.

Just Cause 3 x Final Fantasy Brave Exvius

Final Fantasy Brave Exvius will be having an anniversary event starting next week that, among other things, halves the stamina cost for playing the game. 

Mario Tennis Aces lets friends play friendly games of tennis in a variety of friendly courts across the Mushroom Kingdom. Kyle and I aren’t friends, however. I think he is bad, so we decided to settle our differences in a best-of-three series. Leo was the arbiter of the event, doling out real-world consequences to the loser.

To keep things fair, we enabled random character and court selection, so we wouldn’t be tempted to rely on characters like Toad, who is good and fast and helps players win. Instead, Kyle and I could potentially be stuck with broken characters like Daisy or Boo, who are designed to lose and prevent players from winning even though they are better at the game. I don’t want to spoil the outcome of this series, so I’ll just leave it at that.

Mario Tennis Aces is out today on Nintendo Switch.

E3 is a magical time for the video game industry, as developers, the media, and fans who aren’t afraid to wait in absurdly long lines all smash into the Los Angeles Convention Center (henceforth referred as “hell on earth”) for a weeklong look at the exciting things to come. For us at G.I., the event entails scrambling to an endless series of appointments, writing up and posting as many hands-on previews as we can before passing out each night, and then flying home and writing everything again for our E3 Hot 50 feature.

That last venture also involves us fighting over our Best of E3 Awards, where the rest of the staff remains annoyingly insistent that we come to some kind of group consensus instead of just accepting my obviously correct opinions as gospel. Lucky for me – and you, when you think about it – I came to a brilliant solution last year: I launched my own competing awards. Not only do I handpick all of the winners of the Dubious E3 Awards, I also make up the categories, which are customized to each year’s show. I told you they were brilliant! So without further ado, here are this years Duby winners.

Glad to see some Donkey Kong Country TV show-inspired “expressive new facial animations” for Diddy Kong.

Skating By On One Game Award: Nintendo

Nintendo has been taking its own laissez-faire approach to E3 for a number of years, opting for a prerecorded Nintendo Direct video instead of a traditional how-many-sweaty-bodies-can-we-cram-into-an-auditorium press conference. While last year’s Direct won Nintendo the coveted Best Gobbledygook Worthy Of A Silicon Valley Exec Award for Reggie Fils-Aime’s nonsensical soliloquy about “The Game®,” this year’s video was all about Smash Bros.

To be fair, if you’re going to show up to E3 with only one game, Super Smash Bros. Ultimate is the game to go with – Nintendo’s booth was packed with people all week clamoring to play it, even if it is basically the same as all the previous ones AND I DON’T CARE TO HEAR WHY I’M WRONG ABOUT THAT.


Best Lip-Smacking Award: The Last Of Us Part II, Naughty Dog

No this isn’t some sensationalistic MTV Movie Award category, and I don’t care about the “politics” surrounding it. What floored me about Ellie and Dina’s kiss during the Last of Us II demo was the actual technology behind it – instead of just phasing through one another like character models tend to do games, their lips actually mashed together like big, squishy…worms? Remind me not to write a romance novel anytime soon…

Anyway, The Last of Us Part II looks great!


Is This Real Life? Award: Sony Press Conference Intermission

Hey, remember when Sony showed off that killer Last of Us Part II demo during their press conference and then immediately cut to host Shawn Layden reminiscing about how awesome said Last of Us Part II demo was with the PlayStation.Blog crew? Then they analyzed their own press conference, even though they were only 10 minutes into it. That was all super weird!

To be fair to Sony, I missed the mention that the delay was because the audience was moving to a different venue, so some of that confusion is on me. To be fair to me, however, deciding to move your entire audience to a completely different building 10 minutes into your globally broadcasted press conference is CRAZY. Sony recovered nicely after the transition and showed some more amazing-looking games, but for a while there Sony had me questioning my own reality – which I’m not sure is what they were going for.

I know the flute guy was technically from the Ghost of Tsushima presentation. I just needed a funny picture.


 

Best Abuse Of A Captive Audience Award: Andrew W.K., Bethesda

Speaking of strange press conference decisions – who could ever forget Andrew W.K.’s surreal performance Andrew W.K. during Bethesda’s showcase, where he repeatedly screamed “You better get ready to die!” at an audience full of blank-faced journalists? I know I won’t! Andrew W.K. probably will though…


Most Superlative Title Award: Halo Infinite and Doom Eternal

Behold: The first-ever tie for a Duby! Can we even do that? What am I saying – of course I can, I make all the rules! Anyway, can these two jokers get any more hyperbolic? Though now that I think about it, aren’t all halos technically infinite since they form a never-ending ring? And doom typical lasts forever anyway too – it’s not like you can fall to your doom and then just dust yourself off and go on your merry way. I think we might getting ripped off!

Regardless, all I know is I can’t wait until next year’s announcement of Sonic The Hedgehog Foreva & Eva. Actually, I can wait.


Best Odd Couple Award: Tim Willits and Bigfoot Magnus Nedfors, Bethesda

There’s no question that id Software and Avalanche Studios are a match made in heaven for developing Rage 2 together – but so were the studios’ respective directors when they took the stage during Bethesda’s press conference. Seriously, just look at them! And they spent half of their stage time just smiling and staring at each other. I know it was probably just a teleprompter mishap, but I’d like to believe it was the beginning of a beautiful friendship that will last them the rest of their lives – like Bert and Ernie, only one of them isn’t a pigeon-loving jackass.


Just Show Your Damn Battle Royale Mode Already Award: Battlefield V/BLOPS IIIIIIIIII

Our second tie goes to this year’s upcoming Battlefield and Call of Duty installments, which both felt the need to announce battle royale modes in the run-up to E3, but not the need to actually show them. I’m guessing it’s because DICE and Treyarch are still trying to figure out how the hell to implement them. Granted, Battlefield already sports huge maps and player counts, but Call of Duty? Hoo boy…

That said, while I’m not one to defend Call of Duty (actually I totally am), a battle royale mode could be awesome – marrying the series’ silky-smooth gunplay with a huge open-world environment and vehicular combat could be just the shakeup the series needs. It’s super easy to be skeptical about both franchises jumping on the battle royale bandwagon, but I’ll reserve my judgement for the time being – at least until they show the damn modes!


Didn’t They Already Own That? Award: Microsoft

Microsoft announced a number of studio purchases during its E3 press conference this year, but they weren’t particularly surprising.

The first was Undead Labs, the makers of State of Decay. I could’ve sworn Microsoft already bought Undead years ago, but apparently not – hopefully they can actually fix State of Decay 2’s bugs now. Zing!

The second was Forza developer Playground Games. How did Microsoft not own Playground already? They’ve been making racing games for Xbox for years! Was their previous exclusivity the result of some sort of voodoo curse?

And finally, Microsoft purchased Compulsion Games, the developers of We Happy Few. They announced exclusivity years ago too, so apparently Microsoft is in put-a-ring-on-it mode.

The one studio purchase that actually was a surprise was Ninja Theory, the makers of Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice. There are two ways you could read this move. One is that Microsoft saw that Ninja Theory created a great game on a shoestring budget and wants to see what it can do with a multimillion dollar budget and the full support of a major publisher. The other is that Microsoft saw that Ninja Theory created a great game on a shoestring budget and now wants them to make more games on a shoestring budget for Xbox. Feel free to choose whatever narrative fits your world view.


Most Ridiculous Backpack Award: Death Stranding, Kojima Productions

We got a longer look at Death Stranding during Sony’s press conference this year, and that look was still weird as balls. From what I could tell, the actual gameplay in Death Standing involves endlessly lugging absurdly huge backpacks up and down mountains like a sci-fi Sisyphus. Seriously, look at that backpack! What does Norman Reedus have in there? All the toys from Whoville? Aaand, that’s all I’ve got. Moving on!


Jealous Jeff Award: Cyberpunk 2077, CD Projekt Red

I saw a lot of cool and promising games during E3, but I’m still jealous about one particular title I didn’t see – Cyberpunk 2077. The brief trailer shown during Microsoft’s press conference short-circuited my brain and verged into looks-too-good-to-be-real territory. But then my fellow editors started filing out of an hour-long behind-closed-doors demo and gushing about how amazing the game looks. Seriously, it was like Invasion of the Body Snatchers – they looked like the people I worked with, but they were acting strange. Part of me still suspects that CD Projeckt Red wasn’t showing a game at all, and was just using that M.I.B. brain wiper to reprogram people.

Anyway, Cyberpunk 2077 sounds really cool – maybe even enough to justify walking out of their meeting room with that embarrassing nudie statute that people are surprisingly cool with.


Let’s Get Stupid Award: Just Cause 4, Avalanche Studios

As faithful readers of this column are well aware, I’m what you might call a connoisseur of stupidity. I can sit down with even the most mundane or serious game and turn it into something absurd. Just Cause is one of the few blessed series that does the heavy lifting for me – it’s stupid right out of the gate, and that seems doubly true for Just Cause 4. You can attach giant floating balls to people before you make them explode, for crying out loud! And yes, I know an inflatable ball is technically a balloon – just work with me.


Still Don’t Know What It Is But I Want It Award: Dreams, Media Molecule

I’m a huge fan of Media Molecule, and apparently one of the few G.I. staff members who can look past LittleBigPlanet’s admittedly floaty physics and enjoy the INSANE creation tools and user-created content that the series offers. As such, I’ve been anxiously awaiting Dreams for…30 years now? I can’t quite remember when the game was announced, but 30 years feels right anyway.

Media Molecule showed off more of Dreams during this year’s E3, I think mainly as an attempt to convince Sony the game is real so they don’t stop mailing their paychecks. If the game can deliver on even half of what the developer promises, then it will be a … dream come true? OH, MAKE UP YOUR OWN PUN IF THAT’S NOT GOOD ENOUGH FOR YOU!


Too Damn Early Award: Starfield/The Elder Scrolls VI, Bethesda

I know this year’s Dubys have a serious problem with ties, but I needed an epic award to end on, and back-to-back Bethesda RPG announcements certainly fits the bill. Unfortunately, announcements is all they were – both seconds-long teasers were basically just shots of their logos over dramatic music. You can’t do us like that, Bethesda! I mean, yeah, it still beats the time Pokémon Company’s CEO announced their new game in his undershirt, but non-Nintendo fans need more than that to go on! Maybe next year Todd Howard can announce Elder Scrolls VII with a doodle on a cocktail napkin. In fact, I’ll just do it for you:

Next Elder Scrolls confirmed!

Want more laughs? Check out the showfloor photo tour Jeff Cork and I put together, which is basically another Funny To A Point without the exclamation block: Seen At E3: Two Dumb Jeffs Edition.

A Successful Return Serve

Nintendo and Camelot released Mario Tennis Ultra Smash for Wii U in 2015, and it was a shallow impersonation of the other games in the franchise. It did not have a campaign or interesting modes, and the one thing that set it apart, the Mega Mushroom power-up, was lame. Mario Tennis Aces rights the ship in a big way by adding a full story mode with RPG elements and the new Zone Shot mechanic, which is satisfying to pull off and integral to play.

The star of Aces is adventure mode, in which the people of Mushroom Kingdom inexplicably get obsessed with tennis, and Mario deals with a mystical racket that turns Luigi evil and Wario and Waluigi slightly more evil than usual. As you make your way to the final villain, you partake in mini-games, level up, collect new rackets, solve puzzles, and fight bosses that all revolve around tennis.

Leveling up increases stats like your movement speed and power, and I enjoyed seeing them climb even if the upgrades didn’t result in huge boosts. More so than standard leveling, acquiring new rackets is the main draw. Every racket you collect has a strange design, is more powerful than the previous one, and you get to take every racket into every match. If you don’t counter powerful shots correctly, your racket takes damage and eventually shatters, and you can perform the opposite trick on opponents to shatter their rackets. The more rackets you have, the more you can afford to break, which lets you play longer against the stronger opponents.

The bosses are a highlight, requiring Mario to aim for specific weak spots on large enemies, avoid Petey Piranha’s fireballs, or dodge a giant tentacle in a fight against a giant squid. I enjoyed all the non-traditional tennis minigames, too, like taking out a certain number of Koopa Troopers by whacking them with tennis balls, or figuring out which mirror to hit in a haunted mansion. The standard tennis matches against A.I. spike in difficulty frequently. Beyond the A.I. getting increasingly better, other frustrations make matches feel unfair, like explosive mechanical Bowsers appearing only on your side of the court.

The core tennis hasn’t changed much compared to previous entries. Aces adds a new power meter for pulling off trick shots with the right control stick, slowing down time, and executing the new Zone Shot mechanic. When you’ve powered up enough, you can jump in the air to hit the ball and the camera moves to first-person to give you hyper-accurate aim. Pulling off a high-speed Zone Shot is satisfying, and enough counters are in place to prevent it from being overpowered when used against you. The Zone Shot is integrated well and I was excited to use it during every match.

The smart move with the Zone Shot is to fire the ball just out of reach of your opponent, but you can also use it to break your opponent’s rackets to make them lose automatically. This strategy was my favorite way to win a match, and it also became my best option when the difficulty spiked during the campaign.

 

Multiplayer options are plentiful with online play, local multiplayer, and even offline Switch-to-Switch play. The option to play four-player doubles on two Switches is welcome. I had the most fun going one-on-one, as it keeps the court clutter-free and dials down the chaos. The Zone Shot mechanic is also simple enough that quickly getting a newcomer opponent up to speed on how it works isn’t too time-consuming.

A separate Swing Mode lets you swing the Joy-Con like a tennis racket to play. Pantomiming a true swing drove the ball out of bounds more often than not, but I also found that simply tossing the Joy-Con up in the air when the ball was near would usually execute a successful volley. I am glad Swing Mode is an optional mode. It may allow you to relive your favorite Wii Sports tennis memories, but the inconsistency of swinging is more annoying than novel or fun.

Aces delivers as a competent arcade tennis game, and the new mechanics are fun and important enough that I would be surprised to see them removed in a future Mario Tennis. The difficulty spikes in the campaign are frustrating, but not impossible to overcome. Leveling Mario even as you fail makes the losses sting less (though I would have killed for a quick retry option) and I was always eager to see what I would be doing next.