By Matt Gerardi
Sidescrolling beat-’em-ups have been out of style for many, many years now, mostly going the way of the arcade. But three studios, each masters of classically styled 2D games, have teamed up to bring one of the genre’s most beloved series into the modern age with Streets of Rage 4. Christopher Byrd reviewed the game at The Washington Post, and from the sounds of it, this update delivers exactly what you might expect: slick art, cool beats, cooperative fun, and a jolt of nostalgia.
Meanwhile, playing Final Fantasy VII Remake ignited a nostalgia of a different sort in Joshua Rivera. This wild reimagining of the Square classic retains a mysterious billboard from the original game, bearing the word “Loveless” and what appears to be “My Bloody Valentine.” Naturally, anyone who knows a thing or two about ’90s rock music would take this as a nod to seminal album Loveless by shoegaze pioneers My Bloody Valentine, and this Easter egg—and its recurrence throughout Final Fantasy VII’s various sequels and spinoffs—has been driving Joshua nuts for years. So, with Remake on everyone’s mind, he took this perfect opportunity to tear this mystery apart and even attempt to get some answers out of the game’s creators and the infamously reclusive band.
It’s hard to believe it’s been more than a year since Respawn and EA dropped one of the best shocks in recent gaming history with the surprise-launch of Apex Legends. The game has remained popular and been expanded in major ways during that time, and now, it’s celebrating the launch of its fifth season. Just in time for that big update, Whitney Meers has teamed up with two of her The Gamer compatriots to launch a weekly podcast called Pexin’ with the Legends that’s chock full of Apex news and analysis. Of course, they couldn’t have picked a better time, with the crew’s first two episodes going deep into what this new season has in store and how it’s already affecting the meta-game.
On the Circle site this week, Isaiah Soto, one of the young writers in our Lower East Side mentoring program, tells us about playing Uncharted 4 after his mother whisked him away to Florida for fear of the viral outbreak in New York. Florida is “too hot and muggy,” so this is his real vacation, he wrote. And through all the danger and twists and turns, it is the beauty of the game and its natural environments that provides the greatest escape. “Yeh, you’re still searching for clues with Sam for emblems and such and pieces of a map. But I stop to check out the peacefulness. This place is beautiful. For a minute, I thought I was there.”
From Beyond The Circle
Ubisoft’s announcement of Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla came with an odd historical rejoinder aimed at quashing bad-faith arguments about the game’s playable female protagonist. It was a nice gesture, but also a sad reminder of the toxicity that continuously hides behind a defense of “historical accuracy” to veil its misogyny (and that’s to say nothing of it doing the same for racism). At The Ringer, Ben Lindbergh used this moment as an entryway to examine the question of representation in games, the antipathy toward women the industry and culture has often displayed, and one particular moment at the turn of the millennium when the first-person shooter genre, the most testosterone-addled corner in all of gaming, saw a spike in female protagonists that we’ve been fighting to get back to.
Earlier this month, a version of Super Mario 64 completely rebuilt to run on PCs—with no emulation required and full support for modern controllers, resolutions, and visual effects—showed up on the internet. Nintendo tried to make sure it was taken down just as quickly as it spread, but the story of how this fan-made port came to be and all the arduous work that went into it is a fascinating one that won’t be forced down anytime soon. Ars Technica’s Kyle Orland wrote about the N64 reverse-engineering effort that led to this PC release of Mario 64, detailing all the tricky technical hurdles these fans have overcome as they try to deconstruct the code of N64 game ROMs and translate it into parsable C code. For these fans, though, it’s not about building ports or defying Nintendo or anything like that; it’s merely about better understanding and preserving these games they love.
It’s the end of the college year, which means NYU’s Game Center would normally be getting ready for its big annual showcase of graduate and undergraduate projects. Every year, this is one of the best events on the NYC gaming calendar, but, like all other gatherings, it’s been thrown off the rails in 2020. Luckily, the Game Center has been seriously growing its livestreaming operations as of late, and next week, on May 21, it’ll be holding its 2020 Showcase live on Twitch. The event will be hosted by Game Center professors and feature trailers and demos of projects from graduating students, as well as interviews with the designers. You can find a schedule of the six-hour show here.
That’ll do it for this week’s Roundup. Thank you for reading. Stay safe. Stay healthy. 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.