By Matt Gerardi
Welcome back to The Roundup, the New York Videogame Critics Circle’s weekly look at our members’ writing and news from around the world of videogames. This week, our critics was ashore in Nintendo’s new Link’s Awakening, hit the ice for EA’s latest hockey outing, and dive into Apple’s new gaming service. Plus, we’ve got some huge Circle news to share!
More than 26 years after the original Legend Of Zelda: Link’s Awakening hit the Game Boy, packing tons of charm and mystery into a true monochromatic wonder of a videogame, Nintendo has released it again, rebuilt from the ground up for the Nintendo Switch. Jordan Minor reviewed the game at Geek.com, pointing out the appropriateness of it being this particular Zelda to launch alongside the Switch Lite and this particular Zelda to help Nintendo keep obliterating the divide between console and handheld games. And the original’s strictly handheld roots still hold up, he says, giving the game density that shines in the modern update. “There’s a lot of satisfying Metroid-esque backtracking to make the most of the (then) cramped space,” he wrote. “This remake retains that brilliant economical design but now allows for a seamless, flowing overworld and dungeons packed with detail.”
Also this week, it was time again for Samit Sarkar’s annual review of Electronic Arts’ long-running line of hockey games. Last year, Samit praised NHL 19 as “the best-playing hockey game in years,” owing largely to its improvements to the moment-to-moment feel of skating. The updates to this year’s game, Samit says, are more subtle, but after enough time playing NHL 20, they start to add up. According to Samit, it’s all in the look, whether that’s the upgraded shooting animations—“a change that makes NHL 20 both look more lifelike and feel more like real-world hockey,” he wrote—or the new visual presentation, with tons of commentary and adventurous camerawork.
On top of all the major new releases hitting consoles, Apple this week launched its Apple Arcade subscription service, offering a curated selection of iOS, Apple TV, and Mac games for $5 per month. Felicia Miranda dug into a handful of the 60 games that’ll be available at launch, and while it’s hard to account for everything on the service, even just the few games she sampled had her feeling like the price of entry was “a steal.”
Nick Capozzoli, who’s the Chair for our Journalism Awards, dipped into his architectural expertise to for an essay about Remedy Entertainment’s Control, a game that, since its reveal, has been making waves thanks to the stark, monolithic look of its Brutalist-inspired setting. Nick, too, was intrigued, even mentioning plugging his architecture bona fides when pitching outlets on covering the game. But once it was actually in his hands and all those concrete walls and right angles were reduced to the mere staging of yet another third-person shooter, the luster began to fade. The look of it all is still “stirring,” Nick argued, but “it’s often the fate of architecture to outlive its original purpose.”
And now for a quick Circle news rundown. Last weekend, several Circle members and interns represented the group at the Henry Street Settlement Community Day Block Party. There was giveaways and gaming and lots of talk about the Circle’s community outreach. Harold Goldberg shared a few photos and videos from the day. It looks like everyone had a great time!
And the group delivered some major organizational news this week when it announced Reggie Fils-Aimé, the former President and COO of Nintendo, is joining our board of directors. As you might remember, Fils-Aimé joined us last year as a guest during one of our teaching sessions at the DreamYard Prep School. The beloved gaming executive grew up in the area, just a few miles from the DreamYard, and it was a heartwarming treat, both for the students and for Fils-Aimé, to have him spend this homecoming talking with them about the the opportunities and challenges of a career in games. Now, Fils-Aimé, who retired from Nintendo in April of 2019, has come aboard the Circle permanently and looks forward to helping us grow and improve our community outreach efforts. “Drawing from my years of experience in the gaming industry for having a big picture perspective, and from my roots as a kid from the Bronx, joining the New York Videogame Critics Circle board of directors feels like a natural fit,” Fils-Aimé said in our press release. “I have an admiration for the work that the NYVGCC has accomplished in giving back to communities since its inception and can’t wait to jump in and contribute to the success of the organization.” You can read more of his thoughts on joining the Circle board—and on the rest of his busy “retirement” schedule— from Nicole Carpenter at Polygon.
From Beyond The Circle
The Ringer ran a fun article this week with writer Ben Lindbergh talking to Michael Clark, a geneticist and videogame fan, about the (often laughably inaccurate) ways games employ the science of genetics. While most of the titles on his running list of “Games that use Genetics as a Plot Device or Gameplay Element” are scientifically absurd, Clark was impressed with what he saw in Ancestors: The Humankind Odyssey, which he says does a good job of drawing a distinction between evolution’s actual millions-of-years-long process and the pseudo intelligent design we so often see passed off as “evolution” in games like Spore and Pokemon. “Ancestors is really trying to give you some representation of reality,” he said. “Even though it doesn’t necessarily nail it, it gets a lot of it right.”
In some absolutely great New York gaming news, NYU Game Center this week put together a test run for a weekly Twitch broadcast hosted by professor and game designer Robert Yang. According to NYU professor Laine Nooney and judging by this first stream, it’ll feature department news and updates from around NYC (both games-related and otherwise), plus interviews with students, professors, and Game Center guests. The big guest on this inaugural episode was Marie Foulston, a curator at the Victoria and Albert Museum and the founder of The Wild Rumpus multiplayer gaming exhibition. Foulston was also at the Game Center last night giving a talk about the art of curating videogames.
That’ll do it for this week’s Roundup. Thank you for reading, and we’ll see you next week!
Matt Gerardi is a writer from New York, the former games editor at The A.V. Club, and a member of the New York Videogame Critics Circle.