In September, SNK and Manga Productions held a contest in the Middle-East asking for a character and a stage for SNK’s latest King of Fighters title, the surprisingly successful King of Fighters XIV. A winner has been declared and their character is being added into the game as soon as development finishes.

The winning character artist Mashael Al-Barrak of Saudi Arabia was chosen by a panel of judges of SNK staff, including character designer Eisuke Ogura, and Manga Productions staff. The character Al-Barrak designed is named Najd, pictured above, hails from Saudia Arabia herself. Other than her design, no details are known about the character, like how she will play or what backstory she is being given..

Zainab Al-Lawaty was chosen as the winner for the stage contest with his interpretation of Masmak Fort, a historical landmark in Riyadh. 

SNK has not given a timeline yet for when the character will be available, but the company did reaffirm support for King of Fighters XIV into next year. SNK also recently announced that they have become profitable again after pivoting back to video games.

King of Fighters XIV is available for PlayStation 4 and PC.

Fans of Breath of the Wild have created art pieces inspired by Guillermo Del Toro’s new film, and it hasn’t gone unnoticed by him.

Recently, fans of Nintendo’s The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild are creating Link X Sidon fan art inspired by The Shape of Water, an upcoming film directed by del Toro involving a romance between a woman and a fishman creature. Twitter users @cheneysin and @katiesimrell in particular created pieces influence by the films’strailer, incorporating fan art using Link and Prince Sidon. Del Toro seems to approve of the mashup, retweeting the pieces using his official Twitter account over the weekend.

Be sure to check out the artists’ Twitter pages for more of their content – but be aware that not all of it is as tame as the pieces above – and catch The Shape of Water when it launches on December 8. For those interested in seeing other ways fans have expressed their love for Breath of the Wild, check out a recreation of the opening plateau one fan made using Mario Maker.

Actress Melissa Benoist, best known for Supergirl but also Glee and The Longest Ride, sings all about Microsoft’s world-constructing game in this new video.

The Super Duper Minecraft Musical has Benoist performing in front of a green screen with the various sights and sounds of Minecraft’s world. The whole tune is surprisingly catchy, whether you have an affinity for the subject matter or not, and Benoist definitely has a voice that makes the whole thing gel really well.

Check out the video below and then pretend not have it stuck in your head all day.

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The Xbox One X and PS4 Pro are both out, but this is not the beginning of the next generation of home systems from Sony or Microsoft. Instead, we’re four years into the life of the PS4 and Xbox One, meaning we’re only halfway there. Sports franchises should be on the ascent, but instead it feels like we’re adrift. Modes have stagnated, fanbases have become jaded, and although many sports series offer a solid gameplay experience, I get the feeling this generation of sports titles has already plateaued.

Companies have settled into the practice of focusing on post-launch monetization whether that’s Ultimate Team, MyPlayer, MyClub, Diamond Dynasty or whatever. Along with this is the rise of the esports scene through online and in-person competitions. While these forms have indeed given players a reason to return to these titles after the initial release luster has worn off – and brought extra revenue – I think they’ve made the publishers comfortable with the status quo. New systems are always a convenient jumping-off point for new innovations, but if that point is three to four years away, sports fans can’t afford to just coast there.

Another reason for my cynicism is that we’re halfway through the generation and it still seems like we should have more to show for it. Looking at this year’s titles, I don’t see a lot of innovation happening. The games have gotten arguably better year-upon-year and added nice-to-have features like MLB’s sim features and NBA 2K18’s analytics, but it feels like monetization is the current big wave everyone is riding. Story modes are being included more and more – and these have been enjoyable – but I’ve wondered aloud if these have a limited future, and in the case of NBA 2K, we’ve already seen them folded into the monetization loop anyway. Furthermore, in the wider video game universe, this kind of story-based focus isn’t even new, as the tide of Mass Effects, Telltale adventures, and the ilk is already receding.

We’re halfway through this generation, and yet the term “legacy issues” has stuck around the necks of all the sports franchises to the point that our noses have become accustomed to the smell. I don’t have a lot of confidence that fixing these is all of a sudden going to be a big crusade. It would be a beneficial use of time until the next generation of home consoles, but with sim engines wonky, player and franchise A.I. still not smart enough, and bugs an ever-present fact of video games since time immemorial, I’m not holding out hope developers find the magic solutions they’ve already been searching for.

New toys like VR and the Nintendo Switch offer hope, but VR simply doesn’t have the install base to drag sports games forward. Also, in my sports VR experience, the gameplay and modes offered aren’t robust enough to compete with current standards. As for the Switch, its mobility benefit isn’t additive to the genre (only itself), and is just a different way to represent what’s already there. This is unlike the Wii, for instance, which while certainly limited, represented new gameplay. Besides, EA hasn’t even embraced the Switch yet, so it has had no impact on the sports genre to date.

Next year will bring a new wave of sports games that surely excite, surprise, and also disappoint. I’d love for 2018 to be a major jumping off point that introduces landmark features that carry us to the next systems the way that fantasy/microtransaction modes have taken us this far. But I’m hard-pressed to imagine what they would be.

Missed some of the previous Sports Desk entries? Take a look at the past installments via our Hub page by clicking on the banner below.

Have a suggestion or comment? Put it in the comments section below, send me an email, or reach me on twitter at @mattkato.

 

REVIEW ROUND-UP 

Madden NFL 18 
NASCAR Heat 2 
NHL 18 
Pro Evolution Soccer 2018 
FIFA 18 
NBA 2K18 
NBA Live 18 
Golf Story 
Project Cars 2 
Forza Motorsport 7 
NBA 2K18 (Switch) 
FIFA 18 (Switch)
GT Sport 
Mutant Football League  

 

THE TICKER
A quick rundown of some of the sports news from the week

NBA Live 18 Livestrikes Begin  
Franchise starts up its limited-time event challenges for apparel, shoes, traits, and more. This month features gear from companies like Undefeated and BAPE.

Madden 18 November Title Update Now Out 

FIFA Mobile’s Second Season Starts 

Ashes Cricket From BigAnt Studios is Out Now 

Steven Universe is a show that has cultivated a strong following thanks to its Venn-diagram overlap of immortal aliens and frequent lessons on the importance of empathy. It’s a strange combination that works surprisingly well, and though it has seen a few video game adaptions, Save the Light has been particularly exciting because it’s Steven’s first full-scale console RPG.

Save the Light is a sequel to the 2015 mobile game, Attack the Light, but it’s worth noting that playing that game is not a requirement for this follow-up. Being familiar with the show is helpful, but Save the Light stands on its own as an RPG inspired by games like Paper Mario. Unfortunately, it is held back by myriad technical issues that bring down the experience.

Save the Light is written by Rebecca Sugar, the show’s creator, and it is apparent throughout. The characters, lore, and world are consistent, and the narrative arc feels like it could be a lost episode. It also introduces a new villain, Hessonite. She doesn’t get as much screen time as I would have liked, but she has a backstory that is as interesting as the villains that appear in the show.

Hessonite comes to Earth in order to recover her thought-lost evil sentient weapon, the Light Prism, that Steven and pals were able to turn good in the first game. She makes her presence known by landing her ship on top of Steven’s dad’s car wash, effectively destroying it, which sends Steven off on his adventure. Steven and three other party members of your choice make their way through an assortment of locations in search of Hessonite. Steven’s home town, Beach City, serves as a sort of central hub and is particularly thrilling to explore as a fan since it is home to many familiar characters and locations. Overall, the story is light and satisfying in its finale, but the commentary from your party is really the highlight. I would especially recommend placing Peridot in your party when she becomes available as she offers up some of the best lines in the game.

While the writing captures the essence of the show, the visuals do not – but that’s okay. Save the Light has its own visual identity, but its elements are all instantly recognizable as belonging to the same franchise and it looks great. Moving the 2D character sprites through the assorted 3D environments looks especially cool.

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Combat is turn-based, with the option to augment your moves with timed-button presses. Your party performs attacks based on a shared pool of recharging points, which opens up interesting combat options, like saving all your points for a single powerful attack versus using the points to execute a weaker attack multiple times in the same turn. You can also team up characters to make their attacks more powerful. It leaves a lot of room for experimentation in the combat, and it helps that each of the optional party members are distinct. The system is functional, but unremarkable, doing little to separate itself from its Paper Mario inspiration.

The bosses do stand out, however, as each requires a different approach. They’re not stronger versions of familiar enemy types, and they have unique tactics like relying on underlings to power them up, or using a powerful wind ability to push you out of the combat space.

As fun as Save the Light can be, enjoying it is difficult due to numerous technical performance issues. Even after a post-release patch, I constantly ran into problems. They ranged from minor hiccups (like getting temporarily stuck on environmental geometry) to major infractions (like fully restarting the game after attack options disappeared in the middle of battle). Perhaps the most damning bug was after I beat the game and watched the final cutscene, the game hard crashed to the PlayStation 4’s home screen as the end credits scrolled, robbing me of a fully satisfying conclusion.

A number of quality-of-life issues also hinder the experience. Your inventory is difficult to navigate, and you have a lot of different items to collect. I instinctively moved the right control stick to adjust the poor camera angles, but the game does not give you a way to adjust your view. The circular menus used to select attacks and even selecting characters mid-fight is also inconsistent. The cursor is erratic, forcing far more accuracy than should be necessary to simply select something. These are smaller qualms that don’t hold the game back significantly, but those frustrations placed alongside the frequent bugs lead to the game feeling like a chore.

Without its many technical issues, Save the Light could have been a good video game adaptation of an excellent show. The involvement of its creator is apparent and the voice cast gave the game the same consideration they do the source material. I even liked the combat and storytelling, but it wasn’t enough to overcome the frustrations of having to frequently restart the game or watch helplessly as Steven’s run animation looped while he stood next to a rock.

Cuphead has one of the most visually distinct art styles in recent memory, so it’s no surprise that Studio MDHR’s unique vision has inspired fans to create their own Cuphead projects. As reported by Kotaku, one such project is animator hotdiggedydemon’s cartoon, which draws more from Ren & Stimpy’s visual style than Cuphead’s 1930’s cartoon aesthetic. 

The cartoon is short, but definitely worth your time if you want to see some quality animation and the realities of having a cup for a head.

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[Source: hotdiggedydemon’s YouTube via Kotaku]

A Nintendo eShop listing for the Gold Edition of Mario + Rabbids: Kingdom Battle has revealed some new information about the game’s next piece of DLC.

The listing says a new hero and world will be coming to the game in early 2018, but there are currently no details beyond that. The  $80 Gold Edition also comes with the Ultra Challenge Pack DLC, which was released last month.

What world do you think Mario and the Rabbids will be introduced to next and who do you want to join the current heroes in the upcoming DLC? Let me know in the comments below. If you’re jumping into Mario + Rabbids for the first time with the Gold Edition, be sure to check out our invaluable tips for newcomers.

 

[Source: Nintendo.com via Resetera.com]

Entertainment Weekly has released a set of The Last Jedi shots just a few weeks before the movie releases, showing new characters and interactions between characters we already know.

The shows show us Kelly Marie Tran as Rose Tico, standing with Finn and BB-8, as well as Jurassic Park’s Laura Dern as Vice Admiral Amilyn Holdo rocking some pink-purple hair.

Check out the shots below:

We found out last week that The Last Jedi is officially the longest movie in the Star Wars series, with director Rian Johnson also announced to helm a new Star Wars trilogy, as well.

The Last Jedi releases in theaters on December 15, but a lot of fans have their tickets for December 14 showings so they don’t get spoiled (or have to wait an excruciating 24 hours).

[Source: Entertainment Weekly]

Last month, Animal Crossing Pocket Camp was the focus of one of Nintendo’s in-depth Direct presentations. There, viewers learned a ton about the upcoming mobile game, though one detail was conspicuously absent: a release date. Last night, Nintendo revealed when we’ll all be able to head to camp.

Animal Crossing Pocket Camp is releasing worldwide on iOS and Android on November 22. That’s just a few days from now, in case you’re keeping track. If nothing else, it might be a valuable distraction if things get too political around the Thanksgiving table. That is, unless you’re dining with some weirdo who is completely on board with Tom Nook and his shameless extortion racket.

Trinket Games’ new PC and Switch game Battle Chef Brigade is a bizarre gumbo of Iron Chef-style cooking, combined with stylish-action combat, match-three puzzling, and a shake or two of Harry Potter. Sounds crazy, right? You’re not wrong! Join Leo Vader and me as Reiner takes us on a tour of this oddball experience.

Surprisingly enough, the ingredients seem to blend together nicely. At least, Reiner seems to be in love with it during his early hours with the game.Check out our latest episode of New Gameplay Today and see for yourself if this is a dish you’d be… willing to… eat? Look, I think I’ve gotten enough mileage out of this cooking thing, all right?

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