This Week in Games
The End of the World As We Know It

by Heidi Kemps,

As mainstream as games are nowadays, I'm still weirded out when a game manages to make national headlines. But when you're as big a force in popular culture as Fortnite is right now, almost any degree of shakeup is going to make some big waves.

Epic had dubbed what was going to happen in Fortnite this last Sunday “The End,” and when a ginormous black hole swallowed up the game's world, wiping out the history of the official Twitter account, showing players a dark screen when they tried to login, and leaving millions wondering if Fortnite was gone forever.

Then people found out you could do the Konami code to play a goofy minigame on that black screen, indicating that there was still something there. People watched an official Fortnite stream for hours on end to see if or when any news would be forthcoming. (Remember how people complained about that uneventful Pokemon nature-cam stream last week? It turns out that, in the right circumstances, you can get millions of folks to watch literally nothing happening for long stretches!)

Behind the scenes, this was Epic taking down the servers for maintenance in order to introduce numerous new features to the game, which required some time to do. But rather than just be like “hey servers are going to be down for a while,” they cleverly turned it into a shock event that had fans riveted. And regardless of your opinion on Fortnite, I think we can all agree that they pulled off this downtime and update in one of the coolest ways they could.

I must say, I absolutely love it when constantly-updated games get big, earthshaking events that make you feel like you're witnessing – and most importantly, participating -- in something special that forever alters the game's world. There's always a risk in shaking up what players are familiar with, but making these major game transformations into a you-had-to-be-there event not only gets folks onboard with the changes, but gives them a reason to keep playing until they hit and spurs more excitement

Perhaps one of the most memorable examples of this is pre-Realm Reborn Final Fantasy XIV. As Square Enix prepared to shut down the game's servers to work on the game's complete overhaul and relaunch, the moon Dalamud grew ever-larger in the sky, distorted music playing as the red giant loomed above. More and more powerful monsters swarmed the land, and on the last day of operation, as armies from across Eorzea gathered, players saw this:

Now that's how you scorched-earth reboot a game!

HALLELUJAH, FAT PIKACHU HAS RETURNED

For years, we have clamored for the return of the true Pikachu to Pokemon. And now, that day has finally come. Ladies and gentlemen: gaze your eyes upon the glory that is Fat Gigantamax Pikachu!

Yes, today several longtime Kanto favorites had their Gigantamax forms revealed for Pokemon Sword and Shield, and they're all great. For example, there's Longcat Meowth:

And Extra Floofy Eevee:

Charizard and Butterfree have new forms, too! (Jeez, it feels like Charizard is a Pokemon that gets a new variant every game.) You can check all of them out in this new video:

However, some of these Pokemon have strings attached. To get Gigantamax Eevee or Pikachu, you'll need save data from Let's Go Pikachu/Eevee on your Switch. If you don't have them, it's time to borrow the carts and at least get a save file. Meowth's Gigantamax form is an “Early Purchase Bonus” – you'll need to pick that up through the game's “Mystery Gift” function. Fortunately, you have until January to snag your longcat, so don't fret if you're waiting to get Sword/Shield for Christmas.

FIGHTING GAME NEWS ROUNDUP: ARCSYS IS BACK ON ITS BLAZING BULLSHIT

Southeast Asia Majors was this weekend, and boy oh boy did Arc bring the trailers! First off, we have the final two base characters for Granblue Versus: Zeta and Vaseraga!

Vaseraga fills up that “big hulking armor dude” niche, while Zeta… well, she's popular and has ties to Vaseraga, so it makes sense to show them together, right? While there are plenty of folks salty about the omission of favorites like Narmaya and the Tail Twins, the recently announced premium edition of Granblue Versus does include a character pass, so we at least know more warriors are coming. Be patient, guys, oneesan will come eventually.

But that's not all! More of the new Guilty Gear was shown, with a brief trailer showing some of Axl-Low's gameplay. This time there wasn't a new character reveal stinger at the end (something Arc kindly told folks in advance on Twitter); However, there was an announcement that the game will be playable at the Arc Revo USA event in a month and debut two as-of-yet-unannounced characters along with the four already shown!

Meanwhile, Riot Games has shown the first screens and footage of its recently announced League of Legends themed fighting game, tentatively titled Project L. There's a bit of trepidation around this one, though: Riot is owned by Chinese megacompany Tencent, and there's currently a controversy happening that involves China, censorship, and eSports. (Aside: I don't want to dwell too much on it, but holy hell was Blizzard's PR statement about the whole situation this weekend just awful) Riot's also been embroiled in a fair few controversies about treatment of its workers and toxic management. And… well, there's a worrisome feeling that Riot barging into the fighting game arena will push the scene into the realm of hashtag-eSports and away from its grassroots origins. We'll see, though: you can't just force a game to have a competitive scene; people have to like the game and want to play it… and so far, we know very little about the actual gameplay of Project L.

THE ANALOGUE POCKET IS BRINGING PORTABLE BACK IN STYLE

With the 3DS drawing its last breaths, the market for consoles that are exclusively handhelds has been yielded entirely to smartphones and tablets… right? I mean, yeah, you could dig out your old first-model Game Boy Advance with a Worm Light and attempt to play Castlevania: Circle of the Moon… or you could shove a packageful of batteries into your Game Gear to enjoy about two hours of Sonic on a blurry screen… but honestly, once you remember the sacrifices you had to make to enjoy portable gaming in the 90s and early aughts, you're probably going to give up on that endeavor pretty quickly. (Also, all the younglings playing Minecraft on their Switches will wonder what the hell you're doing with that ancient thing.)

Fortunately for you, there's a new console coming to the market. Well, actually, it's an old console. Several old consoles, in fact. It's portable, it'll play all Game Boy, Game Gear, Atari Lynx, and Neo Geo Pocket games, and it looks slick as hell. It's the Analogue Pocket.

Analogue has made a name for themselves in the retrogaming community by making stylish, high-quality consoles that support HD output and can play the libraries of older systems: The Analogue NT supports the NES/Famicom, the Analogue Super NT supports the Super NES/Super Famicom, and the Analogue Mega SG supports the Genesis/Megadrive/Master System/Mark III/SG-Series/Game Gear. With the Analogue Pocket, they're expanding into the realm of classic portable consoles in a very big way. While there will be a cartridge adaptor needed for Neo Geo Pocket, Lynx, and Game Gear titles, just being able to play every Game Boy game ever out of the box (and on your TV with a dock and HDMI out) will be enough to convince a fair few folks to drop $200.

Yes, $200 is pricey, but people have been eager to buy Analogue's similarly priced consoles before, and I'm sure the Pocket will do just as well. What makes Analogue's systems so beloved among retro fans – and worth their asking price -- is not just their stylish exteriors or modern HDMI output, however. The consoles are based around FPGAs (Field Programmable Gate Arrays), making them both incredibly close to the original hardware and highly adaptable. FPGAs are complex things, but I'll explain simply why they're an ideal emulation solution: they can be used to very accurately mimic original hardware. While a lot of the classic clone consoles you can find on shelves tend use somewhat unreliable “system-on-a-chip” type hardware that often doesn't play nice with certain games, FPGAs designed to mimic a console (or consoles) will run damn near anything you put in the cartridge slot.

Basically, if you want a fresh new way to enjoy all your old portable games, free of batteries and crappy screens and hefty brick-like form factors, you definitely want to get the Analogue Pocket. Even if it is a little on the pricey side, it's better than throwing away your cash on this monstrosity.

I think that about wraps things up this week. I'm curious, do any of you have strong memories of a dramatic or cataclysmic event in a persistent-world game? I'd love to hear your stories!


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