By Matt Gerardi
Welcome back to The Roundup, the New York Videogame Critics Circle’s look at our members’ writing and news from around the world of videogames. In this installment, our writers review Mario’s latest Switch adventure, fills us in on the big news from Nintendo’s latest direct, and find small ways that new consoles are making favorites even better. Plus, a look at The Medium and some thoughtful poetry courtesy of our scholarship contest!
Scott Stein dove into the new Switch re-release of Super Mario 3D World for CNet. Of course, he also reviewed the original, underplayed version on the Wii U all the way back in 2013 and adored it then for its endless creativity and interesting melding of 3D environments with 2D platforming trappings. The new version has all that and a whole lot more, including added online multiplayer and an experimental new Mario adventure called Bowser’s Fury that’s “nothing like Super Mario 3D World, and changes perspective to a more open-exploring Super Mario Odyssey style.”
A game that good is going to be one of the few bright spots in what’s an otherwise sparse 2021 release calendar for Nintendo. But the company did give folks some things to look forward way off into the future, as it aired its first Nintendo Direct in what felt like forever. Joshua Rivera, writing for his new gig at Polygon (congratulations, Joshua!), filled us in on the biggest surprise announcement coming out of that broadcast: a full-on new Splatoon game coming in 2022.
At The Daily News, Ebenezer Samuel got to share some thoughts on the latest incarnation of one of his favorite new franchises, Team Ninja’s Nioh. The Nioh: Complete Edition collection combines both games in the challenging samurai-combat series and, if you’ve managed to get your hands on one, can be played on the PlayStation 5 with some small but life-changing improvements. Specifically, Ebenezer calls out the improved load times of the PS5 version as a game changer, which makes a lot of sense. After all, when you’re dying at the drop of a hat, like in Nioh, sitting through a length load screen puts a real damper on the situation. “The Nioh collection solves that for both titles,” he writes. “Suddenly, both the original Nioh and Nioh 2 require just seconds to load you into the action. That speedy reentry into the game world keeps you mentally focused on the battles at hand, which is especially valuable when you just figured out a boss’s attack pattern.”
On the Circle site this week, Senior Intern Ronald Gordon wrote about The Medium, the new game from the Polish horror-game studio Bloober Team. Its latest thriller plays with the familiar idea of a spirit world existing just on the other side of our own, but Ronald thought its approach to this well-worn concept was quite a clever and original one. “The Medium is a thoughtful, engaging horror game,” he declared. “In addition to setting the tone precisely right, it puts a new spin on an established spine chilling story.”
The Circle’s Level Up Now scholarship contest asked city students to write poems that married themes of gaming with social justice. And on the site this week, Harold Goldberg shared a few of the wonderful, thoughtful entries we received. As always, please give them a read, and stay tuned for the announcement of the scholarship winners!
From Beyond The Circle
Usually, we reserve this space solely for stories written by authors outside the Circle, about gaming subjects that have nothing to do with the Circle. But this week, we have a bit of a special story to highlight from The City. Claudia Irizarry Aponte, writing for the local nonprofit outlet, took an inside look at the Circle’s mentoring work, particularly the programs it has run to bring collaboration, learning, and a little light to students in two Bronx homeless shelters. It’s a lovely piece that provides some especially great insight into the hard-to-see benefits that these programs have brought students.
The big conversation in “games discourse” over the last few weeks has revolved around the unexpected revival of Six Days in Fallujah. Based on the events of the Iraq War’s second battle of Fallujah—a horrible assault that left hundreds of Iraqi civilians dead, much of the city’s buildings decimated, and the US military fending off investigations over its use of nightmarish chemical weapons—the game was a lightning rod of controversy when first announced in 2009 but went dark after Konami, then its publisher, dropped its support later that year. Peter Tamte, president of the game’s original development studio and the title’s longtime advocate, never ceded that it was canceled, and now, he’s working with a new team called Highwire Games to finally bring Six Days to market.
It would probably be fair to characterize Tamte’s press tour alongside the announcement of Six Days’ revival as “disastrous.” In interviews with Polygon and GamesIndustry.Biz, he parroted the usual “this game isn’t political” line, instead emphasizing that the studio’s ambition is to apolitically portray the events of the battle by making the game as realistic as possible and flanking gameplay with testimonies from servicemen who were at the scene. According to the Polygon interview, roughly “10 percent” of the game’s missions will put players in the perspective of the city’s civilians. (This, even though, going by the International Red Cross’ reporting, Iraqi civilian casualties were approximately 800 percent higher than those in the coalition forces and the fact that a handful of interspersed breaks in the American action could never portray the true scope of the multi-generational horror and loss the Iraqis suffered thanks to this entire Iraq War conflict.) Naturally, this Six Days revival and Tamte’s insistence on viewing the game merely as document of this illegal war’s most bloody battle and a celebration of the coalition forces’ grit has led to a ton of criticism. Vice’s Rob Zacny did a great job of summarizing why so many people, including people of Arab descent and former servicemembers, are so skeptical, or flat out disgusted, by this game’s direction. And for a broader view of the connection between modern military operations and gaming, I would recommend checking out the two-part “War Games” episode of RESET, Vice TV’s new videogames docuseries, and its accompanying Roundtable podcast.
That’ll do it for this Roundup. Thank you for reading, and we’ll see you again soon.
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.