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Gaming News

Mario Kart Has Voice Chat Now And It's Very Wholesome

September 21, 2018 — by Kotaku.com0

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Screenshot: Mario Kart 8 Deluxe

This week, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe got online voice chat as part of Nintendo Switch Online. Before now, I didn’t think I would want to hear from any of my competitors in Mario Kart. Turns out, it rules.

I like to play Mario Kart online. Starting with Mario Kart 8, I’d lie in bed playing races in the “worldwide” online server on my Wii U gamepad before falling asleep. After Deluxe came out on the Switch, the routine continued. I’d look at the other racers’ regional flags from places like France, Canada, Italy, and the United Kingdom, and I’d see their Mii avatars’ friendly waves and smiling faces in the lobby where our avatars convene between races and vote on the next map. We couldn’t communicate with each other except for a few friendly predetermined text phrases, like “I’ll do my best!” and “Good luck!”

Even without voice chat, the game’s online multiplayer design felt like an international Mario Kart party. I loved watched everyone’s Mii run back into the lobby after a race, their faces glowing with excitement, no matter how badly they had done. If the Mii avatars are any indication of how players actually look, the Mario Kart player base is also quite diverse. But would we all get along so well, or be such good sports, if we could talk to each other?

When the Nintendo Switch Online service launched this week and included voice chat support for Mario Kart (via Nintendo’s smartphone app), I assumed the worst. I said as much when I guested on Kotaku Splitscreen this week, joking that my competitors would be cursing out my blue shells in French. I wasn’t looking forward to hearing what my fellow racers had to say. But I had to know.

Yesterday, I booted up the voice chat app and Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, selected the worldwide servers, and headed into a game. My first two races were quiet; only one other person had logged into the voice chat with me, and they didn’t have anything to say. On my third race, a couple of people had already logged into the chat. Conversation between the two strangers was well underway by the time I showed up, and they welcomed me with enthusiastic hellos. Soon after me, two more people logged in to join us.

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One of the chatters had designated themselves as an official welcomer, extending greetings to each person who joined and asking how they were doing. Another started up a running gag about Waluigi never getting any good items thanks to Nintendo’s unfair spurning of him. Everyone had different accents, as one would expect from the varied regional flags; a player who sounded British said “hello guv’nah” upon logging in, and I have no idea if it was ironic or completely genuine. Overall, though, the vibe with this group was genuine as heck.

No one swore; no one lamented their losses. The trash talk never went further than squeaky clean stuff like “Show me what you got” or “This is a race, isn’t it?” Players would exclaim “Ohh, good one!” upon getting hit with unfortunate items. One player excitedly announced their placement after every match, no matter how low it was. In the lobby between matches, players could advocate aloud for which maps they most wanted the others to vote for next, but it never got too heated. I felt like I had entered some sort of polite parallel universe. It resulted in the most fun Mario Kart online session I’ve ever had—almost as good as the in-person Mario Kart parties I’ve hosted at my apartment with friends.

Maybe I just got lucky and happened upon a good group. Or maybe Mario Kart’s multiplayer design has already encouraged politeness and so the culture is already in place. I’m not sure how long that’s going to last, or whether I’m going to bother to boot up my phone’s app every time I want to play a match. Still, it was nice to know that the friendly Mii faces in the lobby correlated with some real-life laughter and enjoyment from my competitors around the world, even if only this once.

Gaming News

Police Arrest Dad Who Sent Toddler Inside Prize Machine To Steal Nintendo Consoles

September 20, 2018 — by Kotaku.com0

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The father who sent his young daughter inside a vending machine to steal some Nintendo consoles has been arrested and charged after turning himself into police.

The Union Leader reports that Anthony Helinski, a 34 year-old from Lawrence, Mass, “surrendered himself, accompanied by his lawyer, after a warrant was issued for his arrest Wednesday.”

He has been charged with theft by unauthorised taking, criminal trespass and endangering the welfare of a child. Helinski, who works as a teacher at Doherty Middle School in Andover, is currently on “administrative leave pending the outcome of an investigation.”

He likely turned himself in because the video footage of the incident did a pretty good job identifying him; local police say “they received numerous tips identifying Helinski” after the posted a clip to their Facebook page. He’s out on bail awaiting arraignment at the end of the month.

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Don't Worry, Switch Online's CRT Filter Isn't Damaging Players' Screens

September 19, 2018 — by Kotaku.com0

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Nintendo’s online service for the Switch also grants you access to some classic Nintendo games, and the NES library even provides a filter so it looks like you’re playing them on an old school CRT television. Unfortunately for some players, playing those games with this filter on has left them with an afterimage on the screen.

Not every player has experienced this, but the ones who have are understandably concerned. The afterimage appearing for some looks a lot like “burn in,” which is a shorthand for describing when an image on a screen burns into the screen itself, permanently damaging it. Reddit user Matdave bought the Switch’s online service last night and began playing some old NES games right away, only to notice a discoloration on their Switch’s screen afterward.

“When I finally backed out to the home screen around midnight, I noticed there was a weird discoloration against the grey background,” they told Kotaku via Reddit private messages. Initially, they just let their console go to sleep, assuming it would go away. “A few minutes later I turned the Switch back on and the discoloration was still there. My first thought was that it was damaged. I started looking for cases of pixel stay in NS, which is when the ‘CRT mode’ glitch started trending on the internet.”

On both Reddit and and the gaming forum ResetEra, other players have also been reporting that playing the classic NES games in CRT mode has lead to discoloration in their screens. Another Reddit user called PCgaming4ever decided to test out the CRT mode and see if they could replicate it, and they could. After observing it in action, PCgaming4ever told Kotaku that they believe it’s a rendering issue.

“The reason I realized it wasn’t your typical ‘burn in’ and was in fact some type of rendering issue due to it actually displaying the color of the ladder still,” PCgaming4ever said over Reddit private messages.

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Another difference between this glitch and burn in: the pixels move. GIF: PCgaming4ever

Kotaku reached out to Nintendo regarding this issue and they did not respond in time for publication.

Luckily, if you boot up the NES games without the filter, the discoloration goes away. As PCgaming4ever noted, that suggests it’s a rendering issue: “The color from the ladder was still showing and when I re-rendered the scene with a different mode it went away almost instantly, which confirmed my suspicion.”

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This glitch is still worrisome for players, especially if they don’t realize that they haven’t permanently damaged their screens. Both players that talked to Kotaku said they hope Nintendo fixes this problem. Matdave thinks they should at least disable the CRT filter for the time being.

“I was born in the 80’s so having an old Nintendo game stuck on the screen is nothing new to me,” Matdave said, “but it is still pretty scary when it happens on your Switch the first time.”

Gaming News

Hackers Have Already Cracked Open The Switch Online's NES Library

September 19, 2018 — by Kotaku.com0

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Nintendo Switch Online hasn’t even been out for a day and hackers have already found a way to upload new NES games to its existing library.

Nintendo Switch Online, a paid subscription service required to play most Switch games online starting today, also included other features like cloud backup saves and a downloadable library of 20 NES games. These NES games, which include stuff like Super Mario Bros. 3 and River City Ransom, come with a new online multiplayer component. Otherwise, they appear to function very much like their original versions, many of which recently appeared on the NES Classic. According to recent reports by hackers, both emulators work in a very similar way, which makes it possible for people to add their own NES games to the Switch Online’s library.

Overnight, a Switch hacker who goes by DevRin uploaded a video to YouTube that appeared to show the opening of Battletoads running on the new Switch Online NES games app. This inspired a modder who goes by KapuccinoHeck to investigate further in conjunction with two others, OatmealDome and Master_F0x.

In a series of tweets today, KapuccinoHeck shared their findings, claiming the Switch Online app that houses these NES games treats them like plain .nes files, with a database file that lists in plaintext all of the other compatible NES games. In other words, there wasn’t a whole lot standing in the way of people hacking the emulator app and adding their own new NES games to it. “Here have the NES Classic emulator and a few ROMs lol go wild,” is how KapuccinoHeck described it in one tweet.

They also shared a video of the opening of Kirby’s Adventure, which is not currently one of the NES games included with the launch of Switch Online; in the video, it appeared to be running on the console via a ROM hidden under the River City Ransom box art section. Since then, DevRin has posted a video of of Battletoads actually being played on the Switch from within the app.

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It isn’t that easy to get these games onto the Switch. In an email, KapuccinoHeck told Kotaku the NES games can only be added to hacked Switches, which remains a complex undertaking and carries the constant threat of having your account banned by Nintendo. “I would highly advise against anyone else doing it as I’ve been told there’s a lot of data from the app being sent to Nintendo and that it has a fair few legitimacy checks that occur at random,” they said.

In the meantime, KapuccinoHeck doesn’t think the vulnerabilities in the Switch Online NES library will be easy for the company to quickly patch out. When asked for comment on the matter, a spokesperson for Nintendo of America told Kotaku, “We have nothing to announce on this topic.”

Gaming News

LEGO And The Nintendo Switch Go Very Well Together

September 18, 2018 — by Kotaku.com0

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Nintendo’s Labo system was designed for use with cardboard, but LEGO designer Vimal Patel (like, he actually works at LEGO designing) has other ideas.

He’s taken (via Gamasutra) some of Labo’s existing cardboard tools, like the piano and handlebars, and built them out of LEGO Technic instead. Which is more complicated and less accessible than Nintendo’s original idea, of course, but also way more durable.

Gaming News

Undertale Is Finally On A Nintendo Console Where It Belongs

September 18, 2018 — by Kotaku.com0

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Undertale is out on Switch today. It took three years for the excellent JRPG-inspired adventure to finally arrive on a Nintendo console. Now it has and, despite the sometimes clumsy Joy-Con controls, the game feels like it’s come home.

In Undertale you play as a kid who’s somehow ended up in the underground, a world that belongs to monsters, and has to find their way back to the surface. You can talk to the monsters, fight the monsters, or try to become friends with them. What you choose to do in any given situation can have consequences that cascade throughout the rest of the game. Add to that a story and characters that balance morbid tragedy and comic absurdity and you arrive at the magical alchemy that makes Undertale tick. Core to its appeal is the game’s aggressive subversion of classic video game rules, chief among them the idea that might makes right and the player is a god-like figure not to be messed with. On its surface Undertale feels like a middle finger to the naivete of early Nintendo games, yet underneath feels like a love letter to these classics.

When creator Toby Fox sent his creation out into the world in 2015 it felt like a revelation, the rare game that managed to marry high concept writing and themes with compelling mechanics. It was the full package, one whose third act reversals, multiple endings, and attention to detail made it continually worth revisiting, not unlike another cult classic that inspired it: Earthbound. Fox has confessed to making Earthbound ROM hacks while he was in high school, and Undertale, with its intimate, authentically human feel, seems like the obvious culmination of tinkering around under the hood of that masterpiece.

The Switch doesn’t have Earthbound, but now it has Undertale. I’ve played Undertale on PC, and last year on PS4 and Vita (thank you cross-buy). On Switch, wedged between portraits for new Mario and Zelda games, it feels like a natural member of the family. Playing Undertale on Switch in 2018 reminds me of playing Earthbound on my brother’s SNES in 1994.

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The Switch edition feels definitive for several reasons. The latest port includes a small but recognizable new piece of art in one section that die-hard fans of the game will enjoy. It also has an additional boss battle that’s hard but extremely fun, especially in the context of the rest of the game’s story and lore. Fox hasn’t said if this easter egg and boss will be added to the other versions of the game, so for now if you’re hungry for something else to discover in Undertale, the Switch version is your only choice.

Screenshot: Undertale (YouTube)

That’s not to say that there aren’t some frustrations. Undertale, particularly when played on hard or aiming for a pacifist ending, can be surprisingly challenging, and the Switch’s Joy-Con thumb sticks and lack of a D-Pad do it no favors in the twitchier boss encounters. As perfect a game for playing in your lap as Undertale is, there were more than a few occasions when I wanted to play docked with a Pro controller instead.

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That’s more a failing of the hardware than the game, and isn’t a reason not to check out Undertale on Switch, especially for those who never tried it on the first few go arounds. Undertale has quickly become a classic, and now it rivals anything else you’ll find on a Nintendo console.

Gaming News

Xenoblade Chronicles 2's New Expansion Improves On The Original, But Not Too Much

September 18, 2018 — by Kotaku.com0

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The lands are still vast, even if it’s just Torna and Gormott this time around.

Xenoblade Chronicles 2 — Torna: The Golden Country is a new standalone expansion pack that does away with some of the more inelegant and tedious bits of the original game.

Taking place 500 years before the events of Xenoblade Chronicles 2, Torna: The Golden Country follows new characters as well as some of the original game’s more long-lived faces through the events of the Aegis War.

The Aegis War is an event that literally shaped Xenoblade Chronicle 2’s world of Alrest. Powerful artificial beings known as Aegises clashed, raining destruction down upon the unsuspecting planet. Several massive floating Titans, which serve as continents on Alrest, died. That’s right, entire continents died. It was a whole to-do.

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Now players of the original game can experience that to-do first hand. They’ll take control of some of their favorite or most reviled characters during their early years. They’ll learn how key landmarks in the first game were named. They’ll witness historical events that hold great meaning to them, as veterans of Xenoblade Chronicle 2’s campaign.

What about players who decide to forego the 100-plus hours of the initial game, dropping $40 on a standalone copy of Torna instead?

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They obviously won’t get as much out of it. Being able to play as historical figures like Jin’s partner Lora or Addam, the original wielder of the Aegis Mythra, is only significant if you know their history. Otherwise they’re just another gaggle of pointy-haired characters wandering the countryside, getting into fights and racking up sidequests.

There are a lot of sidequests. Some of them are mandatory. Which I guess means they aren’t technically sidequests. Shut up. No, you shut up.

Plus, new players can’t possibly enjoy the refinements made to the game’s systems. While Torna is built from the same engine as Xenoblade Chronicles 2 proper, a couple of important changes were made to the expansion to make it less plodding and frustrating than the original.

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Take the Blade system, for example. Blades are artificial beings that characters known as Drivers can harness in battle. In the main game, players would spend hours collecting and unlocking cores, filling their roster with samey-looking common Blades in the hopes of getting the more powerful (and usually more attractive) rare ones. Some players really enjoyed this system. Good for them.

Torna gets rid of that bit entirely. The player’s party, at its fullest, consists of three humans (Lora, Addam and Hugo) with up to two Blades each. There’s no sifting through an inventory of dozens of collectible weapon people, trying to create the best possible party.

The party, and a couple of friends.

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Having a set group of Blades in the party also helps facilitate the refinement of the game’s combat system. Unlike the original game, where players only controlled Drivers directly, in Torna players can swap between Drivers and Blades in the middle of combat. All characters have a set of Vanguard Arts they use in the front ranks, as well as Rear Guard Arts that automatically fire when they’re in the back. There’s also a Switch Art, which goes off when the player swaps Blade and Driver.

The already combo-driven combat system from the core game becomes even more so with the new switching mechanic. Battles are faster, more dynamic and a lot more exciting then before.

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If you didn’t like Xenoblade Chronicles 2, don’t expect to fall in love with Torna: The Golden Country — the changes aren’t that extreme. There are still menus upon menus of minutiae to comb through. Battles still end in a cascade of crafting ingredients no one cares about. Players still have to camp in order to level up their party. There are skill points to upgrade affinities and WP to upgrade skills. There’s even a new Community system that rewards players for performing as many quests for NPCs as possible.

Insert your own Community reference here.

Torna: The Golden Country is all the menus and management fans of Xenoblade Chronicles 2 enjoyed, with a few neat tweaks to make the more unbearable bits a bit more bearable. With dozens of hours of new content and a whole new story, it’s certainly worthy of a standalone purchase, but to fully appreciate what Monolith Soft has done, you’ve got to knows what it did before.

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Its even got its own title screen.

Gaming News

Stormy Daniels Says Donald Trump Has “A Dick Like The Mushroom Character From Mario Kart”

September 18, 2018 — by Kotaku.com0

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Stormy Daniels, the adult performer at the centre of one of President Donald Trump’s larger personal scandals, has a new book out next month, and somehow there is room for an excellent Nintendo/dick reference in it.

An early copy of the book—called Full Disclosure—has been obtained by The Guardian, and amidst all the other details of her alleged affair with the President of the United States that have already been shared, is this:

He knows he has an unusual penis. It has a huge mushroom head. Like a toadstool…

I lay there, annoyed that I was getting fucked by a guy with Yeti pubes and a dick like the mushroom character in Mario Kart…

It may have been the least impressive sex I’d ever had, but clearly, he didn’t share that opinion.

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I’m glad she didn’t name him. Toad deserves better.

There’s more of the book’s early revelations over at The Guardian.

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Dad Gets Toddler To Climb Inside Prize Machine, Steal Nintendo Consoles

September 17, 2018 — by Kotaku.com0

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Left: a BarberCut Lite cabinet | Right: an image of the man being passed a Nintendo Switch by his daughter.

A man is wanted by police after being filmed sending his daughter inside a BarBerCut Lite cabinet, where she was able to get her tiny hands on some prizes and retrieve them before the pair (and another child, believed to be the man’s son) left the scene.

The Union Leader reports that security at the Mall at Rockingham Park in New Hampshire was alerted to the man’s scheme by a hostess at a restaurant opposite the machine, who told the site “Two people came in and I heard them say, ‘That’s so unsafe.’ So I went outside and all I saw was the toddler’s head peeping out of the front of the machine.”

She says the man made off with “multiple prizes”, among them a Nintendo Switch and “Gameboy DS” (going to guess that’s a 3DS).

Local police are now asking for help from the public to locate the man, who “is described as a bearded Hispanic, 20-30 years old”. You can see footage of the incident, uploaded and modified by the Salem PD, below:

Gaming News

The Nintendo Switch's Online Service Has Some Weird Details

September 17, 2018 — by Kotaku.com0

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Nintendo Switch Online launches tomorrow on September 18, and in the past few days, we’ve learned a bit about the new features coming as part of the service and how they will affect the games involved.

Switch Online is Nintendo’s version of Xbox Live and PlayStation Plus, and like both of those services, it costs money: $20 a year, or $4 if paid per month. Also, you’ll need it to play most Switch games online, as well as get access to other benefits, like the ability to backup your save files in the cloud as well as play classic NES games with modern online features. This is Nintendo, though, so while the service sounds similar to Xbox and PlayStation’s existing ones, there are some other hitches involved here—some good, some not so good.

You won’t need Switch Online to play Fortnite.

The most popular game in the world right now is exempt from Nintendo’s new online program according to an FAQ on the company’s support website. If Fortnite is all you play online on Switch, you might not need the online subscription. Tencent confirmed that Arena of Valor, a free-to-play MOBA that is currently in beta on Switch, won’t require a membership to play online either, and according to a forum post by Digital Extremes, neither will Warframe.

Screenshot: Nintendo

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The service is free to start.

When Switch Online launches, it will have the option for a seven day free trial.

You can use gold coins to pay for the subscription.

Every time you buy a Switch game, you get gold coins: five per dollar for digital purchases, and one for each dollar of physical goods. Nintendo has confirmed that those gold coins, worth $0.01 each, can be used to pay for Switch Online. 2,000 coins would pay for the annual $20 price, which is the equivalent of $400 in digital purchases. It’s not the same as free, but it’s still a nice perk, especially for people who already buy a couple of small downloadable games a month and have the coins saved up.

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Cloud save backups will eventually disappear if your subscription lapses.

Switch Online will automatically backup your save files for most games (notable exceptions include Splatoon 2 and Dark Souls Remastered). That’s only in effect while you’re subscribed, though. If you drop out of the program, those backups are no longer guaranteed. This isn’t surprising, but it is unfortunate, since the Switch doesn’t let you backup your save files yourself. For comparison, the PS4 keeps cloud saves for up to six months after a PS Plus subscription expires, and Xbox doesn’t require a paid subscription for the feature at all.

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The NES games that come with Switch Online can be played offline for up to seven days.

Switch Online launches with 20 classic NES games which can be downloaded and played through a single app. Others will get added to the lineup in the coming months. This library of games is stored locally and can be played offline, but you’ll need to connect your Switch to the internet at least once a week in order to access them.

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The NES classics will have HD resolution, save states, visual filters, and a cursor that can be controlled by another player.

The UK and Australia Nintendo websites mention “HD resolution, filters and special save states” as new “enhancements,” with no further details. Nintendo of America has also provided a screenshot of what the second player’s cursor will look like with a clue to how it’ll function. Basically, you can play a game like Super Mario Bros. with a second person who, when they aren’t playing, can move a hand-shaped cursor around to “applaud” you for being awesome and also point out (literally) all of the secret blocks and warp locations.

More games will be compatible with the voice chat app.

Nintendo’s solution to the Switch’s lack of a dedicated mic was to create a smartphone app so you can connect and talk with the people you’re playing with. If that wasn’t absurd enough, the only game that’s been able to use the app for the last year has been Splatoon 2. That’s about to change. Early patch notes for Mario Tennis Aces show the game will be compatible with the voice chat app starting September 19, and the NES games coming with Switch Online will also be able to utilize it. Nintendo has confirmed support will eventually be added to Mario Kart 8 Deluxe and Arms as well, but did not specify when or whether support will also come to third-party games.

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We’ll know a lot more when Switch Online finally launches tomorrow.