By Ronald Gordon
Hello and welcome back to the Roundup! It’s the Critics Circle’s method of gathering up stories from interns and members alike to give them a shoutout! Personally, while looking into the purchase of a new system because I’m a victim of Pre-Planned Obsolescence with my Day One Xbox One, I’ve come across many underappreciated gems to be played. From a HoloLive-inspired fighting game to a shiny and dazzling Metroidvania, there’s plenty of games to try out. Moving on, this week we’ve got news on the Circle’s mentoring endeavors, an intern’s review of Tchia, news on Activision paying Esports wages, and so much more!
To start us off, The Super Mario Bros. Movie reviews generally have not been kind. One even called it worse that the Super Mario Bros. movie, which was a debacle from 1993. But for fans, like the Circle’s Mike Andronico, it’s a brilliant homage to the franchise. In an interview for CNN Underscored with Nintendo America president Doug Bowser, Andronico called the movie, “a delight. Every frame of this gorgeously animated adventure feels like a love letter to fans…” The movie may indeed be review proof. In it’s first day, Mario earned just under $32 million. We’ll see if those numbers keep up through the holiday weekend and beyond. If it drops off by next weekend by 50% or more, that would signal that word of the reviews had spread beyond buyers who bought tickets prior to the critics’ negative opinions. UPDATE: It’s Monday, and Variety says the movie was quite the success, “dropping $204.6 million domestic and $377 million global debut over the long Easter weekend.” It’s not the biggest weekend of all time, but the Mario made a lot of firsts!
This week, the Circle celebrates the beginning of a new Journalism Course. Taking place over at the Hudde School near Brooklyn College, many young minds will once again be mentored in the ways of review writing and game narrative. Joined by the ever-great Sherri L Smith, and talented mentors Isaac Espinosa and Yours Truly, Harold Goldberg has this to say about the course so far: “Today marks our third class at Hudde, and we continue to be excited about it. Last week, for instance, students created a narrative about the game they’d always wanted to see. One of the students mashed up parkour with horror. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen a game in which parkour meets horror before. Some students even added artwork to their creations.” I for one am excited to be a part of another class being taught, and hopeful to see everyone show up each week, excited to learn about journalism in gaming.
Next, we have Jade Entien who talks about the masterpiece that is Metroid Prime Remastered. The Metroid series is always one that hordes of people can enjoy and play through, yet there never really was a game that brought fans together like Metroid Prime. Its release was heavily celebrated, Yet, since the,n not many games have come out that are very friendly to new players, until this remaster happened. “Because I never played the original Metroid Prime, I made sure to scan whatever Chozo hologram I could find to read further into the lore so as to better understand Metroid Prime Remastered. It wasn’t hard piecing together the story, and along the way, I felt a lot of sympathy for the raptor/humanoid Chozo, especially as they wrote of their coming extinction by the ‘Great Poison.’” Jade talks loads about how their first instance of enjoyment in the Metroid series evolved, and how the remaster did the series a great justice by revamping one of its greatest games.
Intern work doesn’t stop there. Jatin Gundara recently reviewed Tchia, a role playing game all about the environment. Having seen the plethora of open world games to surface after Nintendo’s Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, Jatin says. “As a high school student, my time is precious, and I’ve therefore developed a dislike for open world games which demand attention and give little originality in return.” Jatin’s words are truthful as he wrestled with the reasons for playing an open world nowadays, writing, “To me, however, Tchia represents the opposite end of the spectrum. It’s a wonderful offering whose originality, distinct identity, and caring execution have rekindled my spirit and willingness to get lost in the kind of world which I had grown to reject.” Jatin’s appreciation of Tchia’s Melanesian roots and tropical island aesthetic is relatable because not many games focus on the rich culture of tropical islands. Seeing an open world game with a focus on that culture is inspiring, and seeing a disliker of the overstuffed genre become engulfed by the characters and their roots is even better.
Stephen Totilo brings news about a recent development regarding Activision Blizzard’s handling of esports teams. Having been sued over antitrust allegations in terms of pay for esports teams, Activision-Blizzard settled with the Department of Justice about how things should be handled. “The suit and settlement revolve around a ‘competitive balance tax’ which fined teams if they exceeded certain spending limits on player compensation, and then Activision would distribute the collected fines to other teams. In the settlement, the parties agreed that that tax and any other ‘upper limit on Compensation for any player or players in any Professional Esports League,’ will be prohibited.” While Activision-Blizzard is slowly becoming infamous for shady dealings such as this, it’s refreshing to know that such issues are being properly handled by appropriate authorities.
In lighter news, Michelle Ehrhardt’s article on the Razer Edge console brings up the question of what kind of console it wants to be. Since the Nintendo Switch has been dominating the industry as a handheld console, many others have risen to try and challenge. The Razer Edge seeks to stake a claim in the handheld console department, as does Valve’s Steam Deck. So do others. Writes Michelle, “Handhelds like the Razer Edge and the Logitech G Cloud are trying to capture the middle ground, aiming to be more powerful Switches while not quite having the built-in power of the (Steam) Deck…At $400, though, the Edge costs even more than the G Cloud-as much as the base model Steam Deck, in fact. This instantly kills it as a middle ground device and is what makes it so hard to place.” While packing the same bark of the Steam Deck without the processing-power bite, the Razer Edge doesn’t seem to have much of a foothold in the mobile console department. Only time (and perhaps a pricing discount) will tell if its advancements push it towards holding a place among the competition.
Beyond the Circle
In a wholesome bit of news Kyle Orland, Senior Gaming Editor for Ars Technica, posted his corkboard of passes from various gaming events, including the recent GDC/PAX East events. Boasting a whopping 250 pieces, Kyle’s full corkboard features media tags and passes from 75+ events from all around the games industry. It’s not uncommon for a journalist to collect media tags like trophies (I for one have already started with the few events I’ve gone to). But having an entire corkboard full of them is simply astounding.
The concept of a game retelling a war story is a tale as old as games themselves. Yet when it comes to Andrea Valentino, a Journalist for BBC, and her article about The Great War, the idea of a game refashioning stories of conflict seems a bit more realistic. In a more serious and grounded way, The Great War: Western Front seems to handle both itself and World War I very well. “This is hardly the first game to use history as its frame. But it’s clear that the team at developer Petroglyph Games took its setting seriously. ‘We wanted to create that authentic World War One experience,’ says Chris Becker, The Great War’s lead designer, noting that Petroglyph worked with London’s Imperial War Museum to make their product as ‘plausible; as possible.” But looking at other games like Red Dead Redemption II, the story shows great depth as well. It’s good to see how some studios can take historical events as they are meant to be, gritty parts of a long and bloody history that can be a little dramatic but not played up super heavily.
Ronald Gordon is a New York Videogame Critics Circle senior intern. He was the first of our writers – or any intern anywhere – to complete an internship at Rockstar Games.