A complete edition of Destiny 2 comes bundled with the Stadia Pro subscription, which is included with every Stadia package since the platform’s launch. It is, effectively, the streaming service’s flagship launch title. But not many people are playing it, according to the latest Destiny 2 player count.

Roughly 9,960 Stadia players logged into Destiny 2 on November 20, according to the stat-tracking Charlemagne bot. On the same day, 1.37 million players logged into Destiny 2 across all platforms, and 550,000 logged of those were on Steam. Naturally, there are many more potential players on other platforms – and some early Stadia purchasers had their access delayed – but it does not bode well for the state of big multiplayer games on Stadia.

The vast majority of those Stadia players are in PvE, and things are much worse in matchmaking and raid content. On November 20, Stadia had 44 players in Crucible, 13 players in Gambit, and 52 players in raids. Yes – that’s barely 100 people in all non-PvE modes.

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Bandai Namco has shared new details and media for Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot.

Featured above as well as below, the new screenshots and details go over the recently announced Dragon Ball collecting mechanic. You’ll also get a look at various enemies in a new key visual:

Here’s the new details:

In Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot, the seven Dragon Balls are scattered across different areas throughout the game.

By locating and collecting them, players will be able to summon the mighty Shenron to revive previously defeated enemies!

By meeting and fighting those former foes, players may unlock new dialogue options based on the situation.

For example, if players revive Frieza once they have unlocked Goku’s Super Saiyan 3 transformation (a transformation Frieza did not witness in the original anime), the two characters will share a short never-before-seen conversation.

Upon defeating these enemies, players will gain XP and unlock their Soul Emblems to use in the Community Boards to unlock new skills and abilities.

In case you missed it, you can find our thorough hands-on preview for the game here, straight from this year’s E3!

Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot is launching January 17th, 2020 for Windows PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One.

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This article was originally published November 2014. We’re running it again here to celebrate its 25th anniversary.

Ever since Mattel chose to sell the Intellivision platform by proclaiming its incredible graphical realism relative to Atari’s 2600—our stick figures are better!—technology has been the gaming business’ preferred battleground. But technology marches ever onward, and while this year’s system may trump the competition with its jaw-dropping power, next year it’ll be nothing more than a dusty relic. So it went for Nintendo, whose Super NES offered the slickest graphics and most convincing audio of the 16-bit era… right up until the point at which it didn’t. By 1994, a mere three years after the console’s American debut, the Super NES had grown long in the tooth, and enthusiasm began to wane.

All throughout the 16-bit era, Nintendo had managed to fend off threats to the monopoly it built in the ’80s with great software and some ruthless business decisions. Sega made headway with its Genesis, but even that juggernaut couldn’t quite dethrone Nintendo as the industry’s big player. The looming specter of Sony’s PlayStation, however, painted a different picture. Its awe-inspiring 3D capabilities were a far cry from the clunky visuals produced by limp also-rans Atari Jaguar and 3DO, and even early glimpses of the likes of Ridge Racer absolutely shamed the meager polygons Nintendo’s FX chip produced.

While it doesn’t look quite as impressive in hindsight, the dusky diorama graphical stylings of Donkey Kong Country didn’t just make it look better than its 16-bit competition — it trounced most early 32-bit software as well.

Unfortunately, Nintendo’s own Super NES successor, the Ultra 64, was still a year away from prime time (actually, as it turned out, two years). All the company had to combat the promise of PlayStation and Sega Saturn was an aging console and increasingly expensive add-on chips that couldn’t begin to measure up to what the competition had in store. So Nintendo, a company that got its start as a playing card manufacturer, did what any card player would do with a losing hand: It bluffed.

Nintendo’s bluff came in the form of Donkey Kong Country, a total reimagining of the franchise that had catapulted the company to the big leagues in the first place. It was a game a long time coming; outside of that summer’s largely overlooked remake of the original arcade title for Game Boy, Donkey Kong hadn’t featured in a new game since Donkey Kong 3 a decade prior. In fact, besides the occasional cameo in unrelated works and the mysterious Return of Donkey Kong for NES (announced but never shown), the former arcade superstar had all but vanished. Kong’s disappearance was quite an ignominious twist for a character who had once been one of the medium’s most recognizable faces.

Perhaps Nintendo was simply holding him back for the right moment. Certainly DKC had profound impact. It brought back an ’80s arcade staple in true ’90s style: As the furry hero of a snarky platform action game. DKC was no mere Sonic clone, though. Not only did Kong have a valid claim on the genre despite his lengthy absence—the original Donkey Kong being one of the format’s seminal works—the game was nothing short of astonishing from a visual perspective. Somehow, developer Rare managed to squeeze graphical fidelity from the wheezing Super NES that put the game’s visuals on par with anything yet seen on more advanced hardware… and all without the use of one of those fancy add-on processors Nintendo was so fond of.

Of course, it was simply an illusion, a trick of clever graphical design. But what a trick! Rare fostered the perception that DKC was a game running on an advanced, 3D-capable system, despite the fact that under the hood DKC was arguably a step behind launch titles like Super Mario World and Super Castlevania IV. It eschewed the Super NES’s built-in graphical modes, foregoing the platform’s standard bag of gimmicks (rotation, transparencies, etc.) in favor of a game that impressed strictly with its basic visual design.

But that design really was impressive. Quibbles about the main character’s radical ’90s redesign aside, DKC banked on the public’s general inexperience with 3D graphics to wow the masses with a game whose technological advancements happened entirely on the development side. There was nothing special under the hood of the DKC cart or the Super NES. Instead, Rare put cutting-edge computer techniques to use in the crafting of the game.

Never mind that DKC was, at heart, a fairly standard platformer. Kong and his sidekick Diddy could run and jump per usual, attack with an open-palmed ground slap, roll into foes like Sonic, and ride around on a variety of animal pals. There was really nothing about DKC that hadn’t been done dozens of times before by dozens of other platformers, often in a much more fashion. But it didn’t matter. DKC wasn’t about revolutionizing the way games played; it was about convincing gamers not to trade in their Super Nintendo systems for something better. And it worked.

For everyone who ever wondered what Myst would be like as an action platformer starring monkeys, Donkey Kong Country held the answers.

It worked because Nintendo and Rare’s hunch was right. Most people didn’t have real experience with true 3D game worlds in 1994, so DKC’s fixed perspective didn’t betray it as a relic of 16-bit hardware. When people thought of advanced computer graphics, they thought of the dinosaurs in Jurassic Park or the previews they’d seen of the upcoming Disney cartoon Toy Story. DKC looked much more like Buzz Lightyear than the boxy dominatrices of Toshinden did; in many ways, DKC’s 3D fakery was better than actual 3D. Certainly it was more satisfying to look at.

DKC’s design and legacy have left it open to considerable criticism over the years. The flimflammery of its visuals and the relative mundanity of its actual game design make it easy for critics to paint it as a classic case of style over substance. There’s also the (seemingly apocryphal) claim that Donkey Kong creator Shigeru Miyamoto found DKC lackluster and amateurish, leading to the creation of the elaborately lo-fi Yoshi’s Island as a reactionary piece.

But while those criticisms have some merit, they’re not entirely fair, either. Sometimes, style is substance, and DKC is a masterful example of that axiom in action. This was no slapdash half-effort; Rare’s designers didn’t simply punch some numbers into a supercomputer and wait for the game to emerge fully formed from a slot on the side. On the contrary, DKC exudes craftsmanship. Rare went to great pains to create a consistent, seamless world that managed to convey trompe-l’oeil immersion despite being made of the same flat bitmap tiles that every other 2D platformer on the market used. This was no trivial matter, as countless games that attempted to borrow DKC’s production techniques would prove: Few looked as clean or consistent as Rare’s work, which committed to the illusion and pulled it off impeccably.

Before too long, actual 3D games would become commonplace, and “2.5D” platformers like Crystal Dynamics’ Pandemonium! would expose the illusion upon which DKC was built. But in 1994, it didn’t matter. Nintendo stood at the brink of obsolescence and made the biggest bluff in its century of existence. Incredibly, it worked. As Sony and Sega ushered in the 32-bit era, the creaky old Super NES enjoyed its strongest sales ever. Perhaps even more amazingly, people cared about Donkey Kong again for the first time in a decade. Not bad for a crazy handful of nothing.

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Pokemon Sword and Pokemon Shield introduce a number of new evolution methods for some of its quirkier Pokemon, while tweaking some of the location-based evolution methods from previous games.

Our handy Sword and Shield evolution guide covers them all to help you get those elusive ‘mons you want.

Applin Evolution Methods — How to Evolve Applin

Applin is the Grass/Dragon Pokemon that’s basically a Dragon worm living in an apple. You can find it in the Wild Area, but the easiest way to find it is Route 5 as a surprise encounter.

Applin’s evolution split is version-dependent, because each version gets a different evolution item for Applin.

In Sword, it evolves into Flapple after you use the Tart Apple on it. 

Alternatively, in Shield it gets Appletun after you give Applin a Sweet Apple.

Where to Find Tart Apple and Sweet Apple

Both items are found in two specific places in their respective versions.

The surefire way to get a Tart Apple or Sweet Apple is by heading to Hammerlocke. Near the Route 6 exist is an NPC who tells you how much he wants to show his love to his beloved — with an Applin.

He asks for yours, but fret not. He eventually gives it back, gets his own, and in return, gives you a Sweet Apple (Shield) or a Tart Apple (Sword).

These also randomly spawn on the island in Axew’s Eye in the Wild Area near the tree, and there’s a small chance you’ll get one by visiting a Battle Cafe and battling the owner, but the Hammerlocke NPC is your best bet if you just want one.

From there, give the item on your Applin as a hold item, and the evolution will start.

Sinistea Evolution Methods — How to Evolve Sinistea

Sinistea, the Ghost-type teapot, also requires an item, though it’s available in any version. You’ll use either the Chipped Pot or the Cracked Pot, but it gets a bit confusing here.

There are two kinds of Sinistea: normal (Forged) and rare (Authentic). Both are found in Glimwood Tangle as surprise encounters, and the only way to tell the difference is a little stamp of authenticity on the bottom. You can see it when you Dynamax Sinistea, but the easiest way to tell which kind you have is just by checking the evolution item required.

Normal/Forged Sinistea can only be evolved using the Cracked Pot item.

The Rare/Authentic Sinistea can only be evolved using the Chipped Pot item.

Once found, give it to Sinistea as a hold item for it to evolve.

Where to Find the Cracked Pot and Chipped Pot

Finding the Cracked Pot to evolve a normal/Forged Sinistea is simple.

In Stow-on-Side, there’s a ladder on your right as you’re heading towards the Gym. Climb it and follow the path to get a Cracked Pot. Alternatively, you can sometimes find them for sale at the Bargain Store in Stow-on-Side.

The Chipped Pot for evolving a rare/Authentic Sinistea can only be found in Stow-on-Side’s Bargain Store. The shop’s selection rotates daily, so if you don’t see it one day, there’s a high chance of finding it the next day.

Milcery Evolution Methods — How to Evolve Milcery

Milcery’s evolution method is a bit of a doozy, with a bunch of different outcomes depending on how you go about it. It has seven different evolution options!

Just to note: Milcery itself can be found on Route 4 as a surprise encounter or in Max Raids, the Bridge Field, or Giant’s Mirror sections of the Wild Area.

After that, head to one of the game’s Battle Cafes. These can be found in

  • Motostoke
  • Hammerlocke
  • Wyndon

You can challenge the Cafe Master in these once per day, with a chance of getting a special evolution-related item. Some of these are for Pokemon like Swirlix, but there’s also a chance you’ll get one of seven different Milcery evolution items.

  • Strawberry Sweet
  • Berry Sweet
  • Love Sweet
  • Star Sweet
  • Clover Sweet
  • Flower Sweet
  • Ribbon Sweet

Any of these items will work for evolving Milcery into Alcremie, with the only change in outcome being what Alcremie has adorning its head and its eye color.

With sweet item in hand, give it to Milcery as a hold item. Then, spin to whip its cream up and evolve it into Alcremie.

Alcremie Forms Guide

You’ve probably seen videos of the cute little spin your avatar can do, where you rotate the left stick continuously to put them into a spin, and then when you stop, they strike a pose like Champion Leon’s.

For evolving Milcery, when and how you spin determines what Alcremie will ultimately look like.

Alremie Result Spin Requirements
  Vanilla Cream (plain white) Spin clockwise during the day.
  Ruby Cream (pinkish tinge)  Spin counterclockwise during the day.
Matcha Cream (greenish tinge) Spin clockwise at night.
Salted Cream (pure white) Spin counterclockwise at night.
Mint Cream (blueish-green tinge)  Spin counterclockwise for more than five seconds at night.
Lemon Swirl (white with yellow streaks) Spin clockwise for more than five seconds at night.
Caramel Swirl (white with light brown streaks) Spin clockwise for more than five seconds during the day.
Ruby Swirl (white with pinkish streaks)  Spin counterclockwise for over five seconds during the day.
Rainbow Swirl (all possible colors) Spin counterclockwise for over 10 seconds at dusk (between 5pm and 5:59pm).


Farfetch’d Evolution Method — How to Get Sirfetch’d

Farfetch’d finally gets an evolution, but it’s exclusive to Pokemon Sword.

You’ll need a Farfetch’d obviously, so head to Route 5 for that, and then you need to get three critical hits in one battle.

The easiest way to do that is to teach Farfetch’d Focus Energy. To do that, go to Motostoke and speak to the NPC outside the record store. He’ll give you Technical Record 13, which teaches Focus Energy, but only once.

If you’ve already used TR13, you’ll just have to hope you get lucky in a Max Raid battle in the Wild Area.

From there, get into a fight with a sturdy opponent. Use Focus Energy, then choose a weak attack like Peck. Repeat until you score three critical hits.

Alternatively, you could use False Swipe instead of a weak move. It never knocks your opponent out, and you can buy the TM94 for it early on.

Clobbopus Evolution Method — How to Get Grapploct

Grapploct is one of Sword and Shield‘s more popular new Pokemon. You can technically catch one outright in the Wild Area as a possible strong spawn, but it’ll probably be way too high level to catch and/or demolish you with a suction cup.

So, the easiest way is just to raise it from a Clobbopus. You’ll find these on Route 9, or you might get lucky and come across one in a Max Raid or the Wild Area’s Dusty Bowl and North Lake Miloch.

Clobbopus evolve into Grapploct once it levels up while knowing the move Taunt.

You can do one of two things:

  • You can raise it to level 35, when it learns Taunt naturally, then level it up once more (EXP Candies from Max Raids would help here).
  • Or, if you can check the Watt Vendors in the Wild Area to see if any of them are hawking TR37, which teaches Taunt.

Toxel Evolution — How to Get Each Toxitricity

Toxel’s evolution branch isn’t quite as complicated as Applin’s. Like Milcery, the changes are largely aesthetic.

Toxel is the adorably sullen Poison/Electric baby-looking Pokemon, and while you can find it on Route 7, you can also get a level 1 Toxel free of charge by visiting the Day Care on Route 5 and speaking with the NPC in the lobby.

Toxel needs to level up to 30 to evolve into Toxitricity, and its nature determines which kind of Toxitricity you get.

The only difference apart from how they look is that Amped Toxitricity can learn Venoshock, while Low-Key Tocitricity learns Venom Drench.

Amped-Form Toxitricity

Level Toxel up to 30 if it has any of the following Natures:

  • Adamant
  • Brave
  • Docile
  • Hardy
  • Hasty
  • Impish
  • Jolly
  • Lax
  • Naive
  • Naughty
  • Rash
  • Quirky
  • Sassy

Low-Key Form Toxitricity

Level Toxel up to 30 if it has any of the following Natures:

  • Bashful
  • Bold
  • Calm
  • Careful
  • Gentle
  • Lonely
  • Mild
  • Modest
  • Quiet
  • Relaxed
  • Serious
  • Timid

Galarian Yamask Evolution — How to Evolve Yamask

Galarian Yamask lives in Route 6, and its evolution is as finnicky as Farfetch’d’s.

You’ll need it to take 49 points or more of damage in one hit, and then walk under the Giant Arch in the Dusty Bowl portion of the Wild Area. After that, it’ll evolve into Runerigus, a Ground/Ghost type.

Pokemon with Changed Evolution Methods

There are a few Pokemon who evolve differently in Sword and Shield.

Eevee — How to Get Glaceon and Leafeon

Since there aren’t any location specific evolution methods in Gen VIII, you just need to use an Ice Stone to get Glaceon and a Leaf Stone to get Leafeon. The Digging Duo near the Wild Area Day Care is the best way to get elemental stones.

Galarian Darumaka — How to Get Galarian Darmanitan

This one’s equally as simple. Use an Ice Stone on the Sword-exclusive Galarian Darumaka (after catching one on Route 8 or Route 10), and you’ll have your Galarian Darmanitan

Charjabug — How to Get Vikavolt in Sword and Shield

Charjabug might pop up in the Wild Area, or you can just find Grubbin on Route 1 if you’re lucky. Either way, once you’ve got your Charjabug, you’ll only need to use a Thunderstone to get Vikavolt.

That’s it for Pokemon Sword and Pokemon Shield‘s weird evolution methods, but be sure to check out our other Pokemon Sword and Shield guides for more tips and tricks to make you a Pokemon master.

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There’s “hardly anyone” working on Team Fortress 2, and that’s “kind of obvious,” according to long-time Valve employee Greg Coomer. It’s been ages since the venerable shooter has seen any major updates, and the devs don’t seem to have any big plans for the future – but there are no current plans to pull the plug entirely.

“There are very few people working on Team Fortress,” Coomer tells Valve News Network. “I don’t know the exact number, but it’s you know hardly anyone anymore. I think that’s kind of obvious, because we don’t have big updates for that game really anymore. We’re just kind of keeping it going, and we’re just gonna try and not shut it down or anything. But there’s hardly anyone working on it.”

While Team Fortress 2 player count appears to remain healthy – it even hit a new record last year – as VNN notes, that number is heavily inflated by bots idling for marketable goods. The real player count tends to settle in the four-digit range, which is enough to easily find matches, but not necessarily enough to justify continued development.

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Rejoice! Hell has frozen over, because there’s a new Half Life game announced named Half-Life: Alyx.

Earlier this week, a Valve Software Twitter account made in June (and already verified) tweeted out that very unexpected announcement. Two days later, right on time, the account made several more Tweets pertaining to the announcement.

Included was also an almost two-minute announcement trailer that showed off a lot of what can be expected from this VR-centric installment in the series, also available on YouTube.

A Steam store page has been prepared for users to Wishlist or Pre-Purchase the game, with the page citing a release date around March 2020.

As you may have noticed, this next installment in the Half-Life franchise sadly isn’t called Half-Life 3, but instead is a VR-exclusive prequel centered around Alyx Vance, the deuteragonist of the renown series who’s now set to become a full-fledged protagonist herself. According to the Steam page, the story takes place between Half-Life and Half-Life 2.

From what we can tell by the trailer, the game will feature a tense atmosphere unique to the Half-Life series, complete with iconic headcrab jumpscare and frequent firearm combat with the Combine, the main antagonist faction seen from Half-Life 2 on forward. There will also be puzzles reminiscent of the hacking system seen before in the Watch Dogs series where the player must complete a holographic circuit to power an object or in some other form unlock progress. And of course, there’s plenty of interaction with physics, ranging from scrounging through cupboards looking for spare ammo, to using a special gravity-glove of sorts to grab items from a distance and even grenades straight from enemy pockets.

Valve themselves call the game their flagship VR game, quite possibly developed with at least part intent to boost the sales of their own VR Headset, the Valve Index, which is now also made available for purchase in Canada. Additionally, the game will be free for all Valve Index owners, although it will also be available for other other headsets that support Steam VR.

Quick Take

Being a fresh owner of a Valve Index myself, I definitely feel that the tech is more than ready to be taken serious for future gaming development. There are only two things that hold the scene back right now: Price and Game length. A VR headset is an expensive piece of hardware, but the largest part of games available for VR right now range from proof-of-concept to short-but-sweet. Very few (yet very good) VR games feature a length and complexity that feels like a full-fledged game. The way things appear now, Half-Life: Alyx seems ready to be one of the (currently) few to compete for this lofty title.

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After 18 years, Shenmue III is finally upon us. Picking up from where Shenmue 2 left off, players take control of Ryo Hazuki, an 18 year-old martial artist from Japan hot on the trail of his father’s killer. While previous entries shuffled Ryo throughout Japan and Hong Kong, this entry spans both rural and urban China during 1987. You’ll have to balance detective work, brawls and part-time jobs in order to get closer to the Chinese Cartel. Torn between a life simulator and an action RPG, Shenmue is the epitome of a niche game. Combining gameplay straight from the early 2000s with cutting edge graphics, Shenmue III manages to feel nostalgically familiar, even with a fresh coat of paint. While this helps the game remain authentic to the cult classic franchise, new players will struggle to understand the appeal of Shenmue. Can the series stand the tides of time, or will its refusal to evolve be its own downfall?

Shenmue III
Publisher: Deep Silver
Developer: Neilo, Ys Net
Platforms: Windows PC, PlayStation 4 (Reviewed)
Release Date: November 19th, 2019
Players: 1
MSRP: $59.99

Shenmue 2 concluded with series protagonist Ryo Hazuki arriving in Guilin, China. Filled with rage, Ryo is hellbent on murdering the head of the Chinese Cartel, Lan Di. This stone-cold antagonist on his own quest for revenge, murdered Ryo’s father.

Watching his father’s final moments helplessly, Ryo swore revenge, setting in motion the events of the series. Even with a gap of 18 years between entries, Shenmue III doesn’t miss a beat.

Kicking off with a stunning recreation of Shenmue 2’s infamous cliffhanger ending, a freshly rendered Ryo discovers that his odyssey has been prophesied since ancient times. This revelation is made possible thanks to the guidance of a village girl named Shenhua.

Fated to lead Ryo, Shenhua appears to him in dreams throughout the series, becoming a main character with this new entry. As it becomes clear that the true purpose of Ryo’s journey is much greater than a quest to avenge his father’s murder, Shenhua discovers that her own father has gone missing. Noting an ominous feeling of danger lingering in the air, Ryo and Shenhua set off to find her father.

Upon exiting the quarry, a lens flare from Unreal Engine 4 transitions Shenmue III a whopping two console generations forward. Traversing a dirt path towards the nearest town, I found myself in awe looking at the textures on environmental surfaces.

In just one minute of controlling Ryo, you’ll notice ebbs and flows ripple throughout streams of water, craggy cliffs erode with wind gusts and flower petals blow in meadows.

As Ryo and Shenhua converse, you can see the porous texture on Shenhua’s shirt, the tapered fabric sleeves on Ryo’s bomber jacket and Ryo’s signature facial band-aid in a glorious 50 frames per second at full high definition (on PS4 pro).

Shenmue III is a beautiful game. Crossing over the Verdant Bridge into the isolated Bailu Village, the game burst full of life. A myriad of children practice martial arts under their obese instructor. Bookies run familiar games such as Lucky Hit along a back wall. Adults gather and gossip in the central seating area.

Each of the dozen NPCs have their own name and scheduling. The best part? This tiny area and it’s citizens makes up just one of many that you’ll become familiar with as the story goes forward. It’s details like an entire living society that made Shenmue a revered name in the first place.

Shenmue III is no different. While character models are detailed, their appearance and animations are cartoony, juxtaposing the realistically crafted environment around them. Over time, the two styles diffuse into eachother other and create a style only Shenmue could pull off.

Gameplay is a natural transition from Shenmue 2. As the introduction comes to an end, you arrive in Bailu Village Square. This location serves as the hub for the first half of the game, connecting to crossroads that take you to different settlements on the map. Exploration is as hands-off as it’s ever been.

Your trusty journal captures important information and helps point you towards what to do next. Most of the time, this involves conversing with anything with a pulse to move the main plot along. While this is fine for the first 15 hours of the game, repetitive unskippable dialogue made detective work a chore.

Pry a bit further after you believe a conversation to be over for new leads in order to avoid hearing the same information. If you’re into side stories, you can assist villagers with requests that will appear on a separate tab of your book. Improving upon the highly specific event triggers of older games, you’ll easily stumble upon various events and side quests as you play the game.

While you’ll be walking everywhere, travel time is nowhere near as tedious as previous entries thanks to smart level design. Each area feels unique and spacious thanks to a variety of people, stores and activities, while in close proximity to other settlements on the map.

Simplifying things even further, Shenmue III adds a location jump and wait system that cuts out backtracking the series is notorious for. Did a conversation reveal that a key character only comes home after 7 P.M. on the other side of town? Not a problem, quick jumping automatically moves Ryo to the location at the correct time, moving the story forward quickly.

While this mechanic is a huge timesaver, Yu Suzuki and his team barely tweaked the core experience of Shenmue. For fans of the series, these incremental changes keep the game pure, just a bit easier to play. This authenticity helps Shenmue III feels like it could have come out directly after its predecessor. Capsule machines, forklifts and quick time events are ever present.

The deliberately slow pacing creates rich plot beats, however it may deter players from seeing the game through. You’ll still need to interrogate everyone you cross paths with, using context from conversations to figure out your next steps. Yes, you will again comb through drawers and rooms in a first person view to find clues of interest.

Yet again you’ll find yourself working part-time jobs or gambling in order to save up money to travel to the next area. Last but not least, you’ll still need to train up your skills and workout to become stronger for when you eventually do get into fights. 

You can master your moves at dojos to raise your overall kung-fu level. Progression levels reward your efforts to perform exercises like the horse-stance or spar with local fighters.

Practicing your one-inch punch and footwork feels like a training montage out of an 80s martial arts movie, complete with motivational music. Just like the movies, practice pays off, raising your endurance and attack levels which reflect in your health bar and attack power.

Fighting in Shenmue III feels tighter than previous titles as pulling off complex moves is reliant on skill and muscle memory from your training. Striking distance feels realistic and making contact with an enemy creates a satisfying fleshy thud. These subtle touches aren’t very complex, but add more depth to the experience.

Speaking of depth, a new survival mechanic affects Ryo’s health and stamina. Forget to eat throughout the day and your performance suffers for it. The hunger status ailment not only affects your ability to fight or train, but limits the game’s draw of exploration.

Ryo will only be able to jog for a bit, then slow down to a crawl while commenting on his hunger. On several occasions, I arrived at a destination just to be recalled to another location due to time constraints.

Other than impeding active investigations, the amount of money required to feed Ryo throughout the day forced me to spend days working rather than moving the plot forward. The work-life balance is reflective of surviving in real life.

Immersive would be an understatement. I lost 12 hours straight to Shenmue III on my first day with it. In that time span I lived two full weeks as Ryo Hazuki. I interrogated the citizens of the rural village, picked herbs in the countryside and took on part-time work as a log cutter.

After arduous days of labor, I’d kick back at either Panda Market or Sunset Hill, Bailu’s nightlife hotspots to catch a drink, fill Ryo’s stomach and play arcade games at Hi-Tech Panda. Even in remote Chinese villages, people love to gamble. You’ll need to exchange cash for tokens in order to pay the variety of betting games.

You can cash out your winnings at a prize redemption shop, then sell the redeemed item at a nearby pawnshop for cash. During my time at the prize redemption shop, I discovered that I could buy or win new outfits and accessories for Ryo, a series first.

After progressing further in the plot, my simple rural life was cast aside as Ryo once again became a city detective. With a setting change to Niaowu, the serene village is traded for a neon urban sprawl similar to Shenmue 2’s Hong Kong area.

Sounds of streams, wind gusts and children playing are replaced by the horns of an encroaching ferry, buzzes of signs and sprinklings of city pop near the swanky parts of town.

With my headset on, the surrounding sounds transported me from my Long Island apartment to a Chinese port city in 1987. In addition to life-like sound effects, Shenmue III has a killer soundtrack heavily influenced by the strings and wind instruments used in past entries.

Is Shenmue III a good game? While it’s repetitive dialogue may be unskippable and the survival mechanic is a bit of a damper, Shenmue III is an experience unlike any title to release in recent memory.

It’s an immersive game that plays out like an 80s action movie, montage training sessions and all. Yu Suzuki stayed true to fans of the series and delivered a seamless transition for a series last seen two decades ago.

The game is damned if it does change to welcome new players and damned if it stagnates. With this new entry, only 40 percent of the entire Shenmue story has been told according to the game’s creator. While Shenmue III doesn’t move the plot as far as I’d like, I’m hungry for more.

Shenmue III was reviewed on PlayStation 4 using a review copy provided by Deep Silver. You can find additional information about Niche Gamer’s review/ethics policy here.

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While we’ve gotten plenty of good, bad, and so-so games based on James Cameron’s Aliens, folks who prefer Ridley Scott’s Alien—myself included—still just have the one game that makes a lone Xenomorph feel like a nigh-unstoppable threat. Creative Assembly’s Alien: Isolation is that game, and now it’s confirmed for a Nintendo Switch release on December 5.

Feral Interactive is handling the port, and has released a new short trailer to accompany the release date announcement. If you’ve played Alien: Isolation or followed coverage of it when it was released in 2014, you won’t glimpse anything new here, but it’s a short and effective reminder of how dedicated Creative Assembly was to recreating the atmosphere and aesthetic of the original 1979 film.

Isolation tells an original story starring Amanda Ripley, daughter of Ellen Ripley (Sigourney Weaver), that takes place between the events of Alien and Aliens. The campaign itself is pretty long, and Feral has confirmed that all of Isolation’s DLC content will be included with the Switch port.

That means Crew Expendable and Last Survivor, the two story DLCs that reunited the original Alien cast including Weaver, are part of the package. As great as Isolation can be, these short missions taking place on the Nostromo, complete with its crew (Harry Dean Stanton! In a video game!) may just be the main attraction for diehard Alien fans.

Alien: Isolation will set you back $34.99 USD on the Nintendo eShop. If you’d rather not take the Xenomorph and those dead-eyed Seegson androids on-the-go, you can still get Alien: Isolation for PC, PlayStation 4, or Xbox One (where you can play it on Game Pass).

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The next Half-Life game is a VR exclusive. That means you’re going to need a pretty expensive hardware setup beyond your existing gaming PC to enjoy it. If you’re holding out hope for a non-VR version of Half-Life: Alyx, Valve’s got some bad news: this is a game that straight-up would not work with a mouse and keyboard.

“We would love to be delivering a version of this that you could play with a mouse and a keyboard,” Valve’s Dario Casali says. “But as we said, it began as an exploration of VR. The more we used the controllers and the headset, the amount of possibilities these things give us, the more we realized that there’s so much opportunity that we can’t really translate back to the keyboard.”

With your head, hands, and feet measured in 3D space, “all simultaneously tracking and moving, you just can’t really get that with a mouse and keyboard. And when you put that into game mechanics, the kinds of interactions that we can do now we couldn’t possibly do with a mouse and keyboard. Like interacting with doors is one of the most obvious things.

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