By Ronald Gordon
Hello and welcome back once again to the Roundup, where we gather up the stories from inside the Circle and give writers a shoutout! After a long while of being rather unenthused about fitness, I recently started getting back into it thanks to a neat mobile game called Run Legends. It was recently released on Android and iOS, and I’d wholly suggest it to anyone looking for a chance to get themselves out of the house with a fun and interactive fitness game. Look for my review soon. Other than that, this week we’ve got reviews of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom, Apex Legends News on Trans Policies, Final Fantasy XVI’s “Game of Thrones” mimicry, and so much more!
To start us off, the Critics Circle would like to send our regards to an unfortunately ill student from one of our recent Gaming Journalism courses. After hearing the news from his twin brother, and then having the truth revealed by his teacher, many in the Circle were shocked to learn that one of the brilliant young minds from our 10-week course had been diagnosed with cancer. I myself was stunned to hear such news when it first came, but I of course volunteered to help in any way I could, which led to me delivering a gifted Nintendo Switch to his home and helping him set it up for him and his twin brother. His parents were lovely, despite my lack of Spanish knowledge, and while he seemed a bit weak he was happy to have a console and games to play. As of right now, he’s said to be back in the hospital for treatment, but we at the Circle wish him as much luck as we can, and hope that any efforts we can make will help in the end.
Circle Nintendo Expert Isaac Espinosa reviews the new Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom, and talks about how he loved it to no end. But, before the release, he was worried. “I watched gameplay reveals, extended trailers showing off brand new footage. But I wondered: would Tears of the Kingdom live up to the high expectations, or would it just be known as a $70 misfire?”. Yet as his words would later relate, it did more than just meet expectations, it far exceeded them in his mind: “Tears of the Kingdom is gigantic, and even after I’ve completed all of the main story quests I’m still nowhere near discovering everything the world has to offer. All the while, you get to view the incredible spectacle of this changed Hyrule in all of its glory. Even if it’s the same visual style as Breath of the Wild, the game not only has more color but the world just has so much more to see from a distance. You’ll find yourself stopping to gawk at the views for minutes on end before even trying to reach somewhere.”
Yet Isaac isn’t the only one awestruck by the game. Circle president Harold Goldberg, writing for The Observer, thinks Tears of the Kingdom is already probably set to become the Game of the Year: “Tears of the Kingdom comes almost 40 years after the original, and its brilliance is that the hundreds who worked on it know precisely how to lure players into fantasy worlds of excitement and emotion.” In his article, Harold writes about how, during its long stride through gaming history, the Zelda franchise has never ceased to find a way to excite its fans with something bold. His words assure both old and new players and enjoyers that TOTK has plenty to offer anyone who’d want to enjoy this masterpiece of a game, even if the building aspect can be a little tedious. “Putting three logs together to cross a broken bridge, as Tears of the Kingdom asks, takes too much time. I’d rather learn about the lore of Hyrule by talking to its varied, often lovable residents. The tales they tell are nuanced and considerable. It seems like every non-playable character has a personalized, compelling story. That’s what kept me going in ‘Elden Ring,’ the wildly idiosyncratic denizens.”
Next we have a review from Valeisha Jackson who became more appreciative of the world after playing the environmentally friendly After Us. Taking on the role of Gaia who explores and heals a dying landscape, Valeisha was left in shock by the true beauty of nature and the world itself: “While playing, you will face different enemies, including statues that come to life, creepy robots and difficult obstacles that will try to get in the way of your mission. There are a few features in the game that resemble real life such as abandoned cars, and desolate places with only rocks due to a drought, extinction, deforestation, and desertification. These remind me of actual life today because we, the people, are also experiencing the exact same global environmental issues that Gaia is planning to fix in the game.”
Alyssa Mercante’s article offers coverage on the recent news of Apex Legends and its policies regarding a Trans tournament player. Alyssa writes, “An all-women Apex Legends tournament with a $100,000 cash prize was steeped in controversy last week when it disqualified a team with a transgender player after previously confirming they could participate in the competition.” Referencing yet another moment in the arising conflicts of athletes in and out of Esports identifying as Trans, Alyssa talks about a step in the right direction being made by Apex Legends no less. “This scenario also sheds a stark light on a persistent issue for the trans community: the notion of ‘passing,’ and whether or not a trans person should be afforded more rights or acceptance if they depict their gender in a manner deemed appropriate by others: “A lot of people want me to talk a certain way or do certain things, said Gabe. “I don’t think anybody should be forced to do anything. How I’m talking right now? People are like ‘you sound like a man.’ Don’t do that.”
Last but not least, Stephen Totilo brings news on Final Fantasy XVI and how its aspects of gameplay feel very reminiscent of a certain popular book and streaming franchise. Final Fantasy XVI comes with a lot of new things to add to the franchise, some good and of course some bad. One of the most popular parts of this recent game that fans are noticing is its familiarity to the similarly long;running Game of Thrones series: “The story is a touch more expected but with the ‘GoT influence. As typical to the series, Clive is a man uncomfortable with his family, unsure how to express himself, eager to fight, but now in a drama that includes copious use of the f-word and multiple scenes that involve aggressive women mounting and/or wrapping their legs around equally tough men.” Outside of its story influences, GoT seems to be driving FFXVI into a more mature territory in terms of character interactions and such. We’ll see how that works in the long run.
Outside the Circle
Beyond The Circle
PlayStation recently had another showcase for their upcoming games, announcing many titles and features for the PS5. Fans of games such as Insomniac’s Spider-Man or FNAF VR were more than pleased to see the new editions of these games, as well as many others, featured in the showcase. Yet one of the most surprising games to be featured within the showcase is a Remaster of Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater. Now known as Metal Gear Solid Delta: Snake Eater, the game’s initial announcement brought both happiness to fans all over, but also gave rise to controversy soon after. In a long and insightful Twitter thread, user @WeAreJoel detailed the scenario around original MGS director Hideo Kojima’s dissolution from Konami and the various practices that led to his name being stricken from the records or how the company treated its developers. While it is great to see such a prolific game be remade, it’s also important to understand that it may not have the same soul as the original thanks to its creator being excised from the company. Also, check out the trailer for M-rated Phantom Blade Zero, one of the really thrilling new offerings (thankfully, not a franchise). It’s exceptional.
Speaking of trailers, George Fan, who created the signature look of the iconic Plants Vs. Zombies, is back with a trailer for a new game, brilliantly entitled Hardhat Wombat. Yes, there’s a pooping wombat; it’s part of gameplay. Check it out now!
Ronald Gordon is a New York Videogame Critics Circle Member & Mentor. He was the first of our writers – or any intern anywhere – to complete an internship at Rockstar Games.