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 fall into the familiar embrace of The Outer Worlds, work up a sweat with Ring Fit Adventure, share their love of Switch ports, and celebrate women with Sayonara Wild Hearts. Plus, Reggie Fils-Aimé debuts at Cornell and Blizzard’s Hong Kong blunder keeps getting worse.
Obsidian Entertainment’s The Outer Worlds launches today, bringing the venerable RPG house back to the style of the beloved Fallout: New Vegas. On Vice, Austin Walker mused about his first 15 hours with the game, coming away feeling that, ultimately, it might be a little too much like New Vegas. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, he’s quick to say, calling the game the equivalent of “a warm blanket”: comforting and enveloping. But when the game contains so many flashes of bigger, better ideas—and the potential to give players a chance at living out their revolutionary, anti-corporate dreams on a galactic scale—one can’t help but be a bit disappointed when it’s mostly more of the same.
One thing that definitely isn’t more of the same is Nintendo’s Ring Fit Adventure, a new spin on the company’s exer-gaming concepts that combines all the input possibilities of the Switch’s Joy-Con controllers with a big rubber ring for you to lift and stretch. Daniel Howley wrote about his experience with the game and was surprised by just how hard it got him sweating. “Ring Fit Adventure isn’t going to appeal to true gym rats, who spend hours and hours getting their swole on,” he wrote. “But if you’re just trying to improve your health and get tone without having to leave your house, this game should do the trick.”
Also new to the Switch is Overwatch, which makes its way to Nintendo’s little console after more than three years as one of the industry’s premiere online games. Mike Andronico dug into this new version to see how well it holds up. His verdict? No, it’s not quite as pretty or smooth as it is on other platforms, but it plays just fine. Plus, he says, “The Switch-specific perks, such as handheld play and gyro controls, don’t hurt either.”
Over on Geek.com, Jordan Minor wrote all about this phenomenon of big, shiny blockbuster games coming to Nintendo’s humble hybrid and the gatekeeping culture that might denigrate these slightly downgraded versions. Sure, they might not look quite as good, Jordan argues, but who cares when the upside is being able to hold the entirety of the Witcher 3 in the palm of your hands? “A games culture that prioritizes graphics and raw quantitative technical specs above anything else is prone to ignoring other, more experiential benefits you may gain from giving up some of those specs,” he wrote. “For players like me, sometimes shrinking down a game can have big potential new benefits.”
Any videogame fans who’ve watched The Late Show With Stephen Colbert [this author included] have surely noticed and been completely thrown off-guard by the show’s band, led by jazzman Jon Batiste, performing the occasional bit of videogame music. Well, for The Washington Post, Harold Goldberg spoke with Batiste about games, game soundtracks, and the influence they’ve had on him and the world at large. “These songs are almost like Disney soundtracks,” he told Harold. “You see people light up. Stories come flooding into people’s minds when they hear these songs.”
Finally, on the Circle site, senior intern Kimari Rennis penned a lovely essay about Sayonara Wild Hearts, the neon musical action game from eclectic Swedish development duo Simogo. She broke down her appreciation of the game’s look, music, and quickly shifting mechanics, but it’s the game’s celebration of women that informed her most touching point. “All the characters, even the narrator, Queen Latifa, is a woman,” Kimari wrote, “and when coupled with the theme of the game, you can see that this is a game that glorifies the beauty, creativity and emotions of women.”
From Beyond The Circle
In addition to taking on his newly appointed position on the Critics Circle board, former Nintendo of America President Reggie Fils-Aimé also joined the faculty of his Alma Mater, Cornell University, as the first member of its Leaders in Residence program. Reggie gave his first lecture this week, talking to the crowd of students and faculty about his “Seven Principles” for great leadership. Both Reggie and the university have said a video of the lecture will be posted online, but for now, you can get a taste of the talk from the university’s daily paper, The Cornell Daily Sun, which ran a story summarizing Reggie’s inspiring directives for “Next-Generation Leaders” and the warm reception the retired Nintendo boss received.
In addition to, of course, asking Reggie about Mother 3, one audience member at the lecture asked for his take on Activision-Blizzard’s decision to punish and ban a pro Hearthstone player for making pro-Hong Kong statements on an official Blizzard broadcast. We spoke at length about that situation last week, and in that time, the publisher issued a public statement about the decision, claiming its business relationships in China “had no influence” on its decision while also noting that it would reinstate the player’s prize money and reduce his ban—and that of the two announcers—to six months. Days after that statement was made, a bipartisan letter signed by two US Senators and three Representatives, including New York congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, was issued to Blizzard, condemning its decision to punish Chung “Blitzchung” Ng Wai. Circle member Joshua Rivera reported on its contents for Kotaku. Another Kotaku report this week took a bit of a well-deserved jab at Blizzard after a pro Magic: The Gathering player from Hong Kong used the broadcast of major Magic tournament to show support for the protestors fighting for civil rights in his hometown. As the story notes, he was not banned.
And finally, for a bit of New York gaming news. NYU’s Game Center is holding its always exciting No Quarter exhibition tonight in Brooklyn. This year’s games sound fantastic, and if you’re hoping to attend, you can register for free right here. Just as notable, though, is the fact that this is No Quarter’s 10th anniversary. To celebrate that landmark, the Game Center shared a few thoughts on the value of the event from developers whose games have been showcased throughout the years, including Mark Essen (Nidhogg), Nikita Mikros and Joshua DeBonis (Killer Queen), Holly Gramazio (Drawing Games), and Ethan Redd (MURDABOYZ).
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.