March 2019

This may or may not be new footage of the Ichiban Kasuga Yakuza game

Yakuza series general director Toshihiro Nagoshi has confirmed the next Yakuza game will star Yakuza Online's Ichiban Kasuga and this video may, or may not, be our first peek at it.

The reason I'm hesitant about the news is that it's April Fool's day right now in Japan, and this video appears to suggest the game has command-based RPG battles in it.

However, the video comes via the official YouTube account for Ryu Ga Gotoku Studio, and we do know a new Ichiban Kasuga Yakuza game is in development. As spotted by Gematsu, the video - simply entitled "ryu_new_0401" - appears to show "stolen" footage of the new Yakuza game. Here, take a peek:

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Yakuza Kiwami 2 is coming to PC

The ESRB has recently rated Yakuza Kiwami 2 a "M" for mature, revealing the previously PlayStation 4-exclusive title is likely making its way to PC soon.

The remake of 2006's Yakuza 2, Yakuza Kiwami 2 - which continues Kazuma Kiryu's story - first released in Japan in 2017, and then rolled out globally last August.

While it does not confirm a release window, the ESRB rating (thanks, PC Gamer) attributes its M rating due to the game's scripted special attacks "(e.g., bashing heads into walls; stabbing enemies with a knife; ripping off nails and teeth with pliers)" and the fact "combat is accompanied by screams of pain, large blood-splatter effects, and close-up camera angles".

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Sega joins Nintendo and Sony with its own mini console, the Sega Mega Drive Mini

Sega has confirmed its joining the mini-console bandwagon with the Sega Mega Drive Mini, a minature version of the Sega Mega Drive - or Sega Genesis, if you grew up outside of Europe - shipping with 40 pre-loaded Sega games.

Revealed yesterday during Sega Fes, the 16-bit console will include a host of "legendary games" although right now the publisher's only confirmed a quarter of them: Ecco the Dolphin, Castlevania: Bloodlines, Space Harrier 2, Shining Force, Dr. Robotnik's Mean Machine, ToeJam & Earl, Comix Zone, Sonic the Hedgehog, Altered Beast, and Gunstar Heroes. The ports have been handled by M2, the same company that worked on Sega Ages and Sega 3D Classics Collection.

GameSpot reports the box comes the replica console, two USB controllers, one USB to Micro-B power cable, one HDMI cable, and a power adapter in North America, whereas Amazon UK helpfully only says "console" on its UK listing. Pre-orders are now live for $79.99 US / £69.99 / €79.99 / AUD$139.95.

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Driveclub servers will shut down in March 2020

Sony has confirmed Driveclub will hit its end-of-life status on 31st March, 2020. The closure affects Driveclub VR and Driveclub Bikes as well as the base Driveclub game.

"Online servers for Driveclub, Driveclub VR and Driveclub Bikes will shut down on 31st March 2020, 23:59 BST," PlayStation confirmed via an update (thanks, Engadget). "All online features (including online multiplayer modes) will cease on that date. You will still be able to play and enjoy these games in single player offline modes."

The post goes on to confirm that players will not be able to use season passes online, represent their Club online in multiplayer events or tours, play online multiplayer and compete in challenges, create their own events, compete in leader boards, or share stats and player progress once the servers are shutdown. You will, however, still be able to use your season pass on all single player and offline modes, continue to play all game (DC, DC VR and DC Bikes) and DLC single player functionality in offline mode, and earn trophies in single player / offline mode.

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Analogue Mega Sg review: the best Mega Drive clone for flat panel TVs

In what has become somewhat of a tradition at this point, boutique console manufacturer Analogue has returned with a new machine focused on Sega's eight and 16-bit legacy - the Master System and Mega Drive/Genesis. The new Mega Sg is a beautiful piece of hardware designed to play Sega games with optimum compatibility while delivering pristine visual results on a modern flat panel display.

The Mega Drive or Genesis is Sega's most successful console. With over 30 million units sold worldwide, it was arguably the first system to challenge Nintendo's dominance in the marketplace and with a wide selection of superb games, it's not difficult to see why. From Sonic, Shinobi and Streets of Rage to third-party classics like Rocket Knight, Gunstar Heroes and Thunder Force 4, it was the place to be for fast-paced action.

For those wanting to revisit the system today with their original cartridge library, however, options haven't always been great with low quality clone systems, such as those from AT Games, failing to accurately deliver the original experience, sometimes with absolutely shocking results. The Mega Sg aims for absolute accuracy, using an FPGA (Field Programmable Gate Array) to accurately recreate the original silicon. While Mega Drive is the main focus of this review, an adapter in the box supports the 8-bit Master System, while further adapters are incoming to allow for compatibility with Game Gear, SG-1000 and more.

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Valve's VR headset is real - here's our first look at Valve Index

Valve has teased the announcement of Valve Index, seemingly its new VR headset.

There's not much to go on: just a single image and a pretty empty website (thanks, Ars Technica). Early reporting suggests the website initially included a date - May 2019 - but the image is now blank (at least, it is for me here in the UK). That said, a dig in the source code, however, reveals the website meta description tag still says: "Upgrade your Experience. May 2019".

The hardware matches the leaked images of an alleged Valve VR prototype headset that first appeared online last November (although the clock on the desktop computer in the background revealed the photos had been taken much earlier in July 2018). The images were completely unverified, but given their complexity, the number of units shown, and the authentic-looking Valve logo printed on the circuit boards, we said at the time that if they were not genuine headsets, they were incredibly detailed fakes.

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Sega's legendary Blast Processing was real - but what did it actually do?

Blast processing. Controversial in its time, Sega used the phrase heavily to market its Genesis/Mega Drive console in the US against Super NES - and it was so successful that Nintendo was driven to take out double-page advertorials in the gaming press to rebut Sega's claims. Many dismissed it as marketing hot air - which is true to an extent - but the fact is that Blast Processing is indeed real and today we're releasing a proof of concept demo, put together by talented coder Gabriel Morales.

But why do we need a demo at all? After all, Sega's marketing did seem to imply that the blistering speed and wonderful visuals of Sonic the Hedgehog 2 was indeed powered by Blast Processing. However, it turns out that this is not the case, and it seems that Sega of America's marketing team latched onto the term from a technical presentation, disregarding what the technology actually does and where it could be applied - probably because it sounded rather cool.

The fact is that Blast Processing is such a hardcore, low-level application of the Mega Drive hardware that, astonishingly, it was never used in any shipping games and only in recent years has the technique been successfully mastered. And even then, its actual application in games is severely limited, with some interesting, but not exactly game-changing results.

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Pocket City, urban deers and the rewilding of video games

There's a moment in an oldish film - I think it's Mad Dog and Glory but I wouldn't bet on it - where a guy is taking a photo of a New York street in the dead of night and a deer turns up. I can't remember the guy's reaction - I think it's De Niro but I wouldn't bet on it - and I can't remember how it fits into the plot. Yet I remember, even as it happened, realising that it was too much, too good, too brilliant and clear and luxurious a moment for the rest of the film to ever recover from. It was a birthday cake dropped in the footwell of a car. A city street at night and here's this deer, this ghost of the wild. There's an unforced surrealism to it, the same surrealism I felt a few years back bussing through Hove at midday on a Sunday - it is always Sunday in Hove - when I spotted a fox standing insouciantly outside a mobile phone shop as if pondering a trip to Nero's.

Urban deers must be deployed carefully, I think. They carry such a weight of obvious meaning and emotion that they can become trite. And yet even at their tritest they have such a wonderful effect, such an ability to lift the mood and break the narrative and distract. I've been playing The Division 2 off and on, mainly off, over the last few weeks. The Division 2 is set in a ruined Washington DC where mankind's grip has weakened and nature is making a tentative comeback. Fireweed and saplings sprouting through the sidewalk, moss growing on the bleached faces of the great and good and forgotten. Often at the beginning of a mission you'll be crouched low and racing towards an enemy camp and there it will be, the urban deer, rising to its tottering legs and bouncing off. Headed to the next mission, presumably, where it will do the same thing again and I will stop, again, the magic weaving its spell for the nth time and against all odds.

I have seen this deer in a number of games over the last few years. Anywhere that cities have fallen and norms have crumbled. In Crysis 3, walking through a flooded valley, beautiful water glittering in Manhattan canyons, I looked up from my bow and there was the deer, startled, moving away. I wonder if I saw it in Enslaved, darting around a tree that had grown up through the middle of a skyscraper. Maybe not. Maybe I just imagined it. Maybe De Niro just imagined it.

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