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The 20 Best Games of the Century (So Far…)

One year ago, a few intrepid young gamers took it upon themselves to start their own gaming website. That project eventually became Goomba Stomp.

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One year ago, a few intrepid young gamers took it upon themselves to start their own gaming website. That project eventually became Goomba Stomp. One full turn around the sun later, Goomba Stomp boasts nearly 50 writers across 4 continents, and we couldn’t have done it without that one little thing that gives us a reason to do this at all: that’s you, the reader.

So if you’re reading this, then thank you. You’ve helped to give us a voice, and though it may be something of a nerdy voice, it’s ours all the same. To say thanks, and, of course, to celebrate, we’ve crafted up this little list of our favorite games of the 21st century. Our writers and editors have pooled their votes, and the results are as follows.

We hope you love these games as much as we do. Here’s to another year of doing what we love, thanks for being here for the ride. (Mike Worby)


Best Games of the Century

20) Civilization V

The feeling we most commonly associate with Civilization V is confusion. It’s not because of the daunting array of systems one must navigate in order to play the game with any measure of success, and it’s not because of the various political and religious minefields you must negotiate in order to avoid your burgeoning civilization becoming little more than a footnote in the pages of history. It’s because this game, more than any other on this impressive list of titles, can cause you to look at your watch in bewilderment at 5 am when you could have sworn you’d only been playing it for an hour. Civilization V asks for a considerable time investment, but the rewards it yields is abundant.

At the start of each game you’re asked to pick a civilization – be it the English empire, the ancient Egyptians, or one of over a dozen more – and the aim of the game is to take their culture from a single settler looking for a place to hang their hat to a sprawling superpower that is considered enough of a cultural, spiritual, militaristic or technological marvel to win the game. As your village grows into a city, you’ll form new settlements, deal with political unrest, spread your cultural influence, research important scientific discoveries, and try to build awe-inspiring wonders before your competitors. You can build the hanging gardens of Babylon just outside of London, or the Pyramids on the outskirts of Paris. Perhaps Michelangelo will be born in Boston.

You make your own history in Civilization V, and it’s glorious. Just make sure you set plenty of time aside. (John Cal McCormick)

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19) Gone Home

With all the talk in more recent years of developers and publishers hoping to add a layer of emotional resonance to their games, very few games are able to actually achieve the kind of emotional response that players might get from some of their favorite films or television shows.

Gone Home is a game that bucks this trend almost effortlessly. The story of a girl who comes home from traveling abroad to find that her family has moved to a new house, Gone Home doesn’t exactly have a premise that would seem to work very well in the medium of gaming. However, with the advent of the walking simulator, a game like this can offer an intense feeling of immersion, as players feel like they are very much inhabiting the shoes of the protagonist, Katie, as she learns about all of the ways her family has changed and grown in her absence.

A quiet, solemn, and evocative experience, Gone Home is the kind of game that should be played by everyone who takes even a fraction of enjoyment from the medium of gaming. At a mere two hours to complete, Gone Home makes a similar case to a game like Journey: that a short game isn’t necessarily a waste of money. Quite the contrary, in fact, Gone Home is a game that can literally change your life. (Mike Worby)

Best Video Games of the Century

18) Final Fantasy X

Some people might point to Final Fantasy X as being the moment that the Final Fantasy series jumped the proverbial shark, but there’s a lot to like about the tenth installment in the long-running franchise. Upon release it was the best looking Japanese role-playing game ever made, and while the voice acting was routinely mocked (even at the time), fully voiced characters were a landmark achievement for games of this ilk. The golden age of JRPGs might have ended with the PSOne, but Final Fantasy X dragged the defiantly old-school genre kicking and screaming into the future whether we liked it or not.

Taking place in the magical land of Spira, Final Fantasy X tells the tale of an upbeat sports star named Tidus who is mysteriously transported 1,000 years into the future when his city is attacked by a gigantic, malevolent beast known as Sin. As he struggles to acclimatise to a brand new culture unaccustomed to his ways, he meets a girl destined to destroy the creature that left him stranded in a strange time and decides to help her on her quest for peace. Throw in some daddy issues, a villain with gravity-defying hair, and some giant yellow birds and baby, you’ve got a Final Fantasy.

The linearity of the game and the almost entirely humourless script might have left some Final Fantasy fans feeling alienated at the time, but looking back, Final Fantasy X did a lot of things right that future games in the franchise would get wrong. It was impressive on a technical level, but it retained some of the heart that the series was known for which later iterations of the series would lack. It’s got a fun battle system, a suitably moving story, and a largely memorable cast of characters. And it’s also famous for containing one of the worst cut-scenes in video game history, so there’s always that. (John Cal McCormick)

Best Video Games of the Century

17) Red Dead Redemption

What happens when you take Rockstar’s penchant for mature stories and huge, interactive open worlds and stick it in the twilight years of the American Wild West? Red Dead Redemption happens. Not only living up to the legacy of its Grand Theft Auto progenitors, but succeeding them in several ways, Red Dead isn’t just Rockstar’s best game, but one of the greatest games ever made.

The story and setting of Red Dead are nearly perfect for the Western film vibe it’s attempting to ape. John Marston is a former outlaw whose family is being held hostage until he can track down and kill his former gang members. Along the way, he’ll need to contend with lawmen, undesirables, and his former brothers in arms as he tears across the wild west. There’s gunfights, horse rides, and plenty of piano music to make any fan of John Wayne or Clint Eastwood classics smile with glee.

The open-world is one of the best ever created, full of dynamic events that make it feel alive and interesting landmarks to explore. When Marston’s not busy with one of the impeccably crafted story missions there’s plenty of side content like hunts to complete and bounties to collect that make you feel like you’re in the West yourself. There’s no need for anyone to make a video game out of HBO’s WestWorld, we already got it in 2010.

From its first moments to its heart-wrenching finale, Red Dead Redemption is gaming perfected. Its combat visceral and nerve-wracking, its story pointed and interesting, and its use of themes of fatherhood and the waning of the American frontier
incredible to watch play out. The Wild West is an untapped market in gaming, but there’s a decent chance that’s because it has been done perfectly already. You shouldn’t just play Red Dead Redemption because of the upcoming sequel, you should play it because it deserves to be played, and stands as one of the defining games of the last generation, or any generation. (Andrew Vandersteen)

Best Video Games of the Century

16) Mass Effect 2

As a devastating attack destroys the Normandy— Shepard’s ship— in the opening moments of the game, the dramatics hit light speed and never let up. Mass Effect 2 is an emotional investment, as much as it is a refined third person shooter, a well-crafted role-playing game, and a seemingly boundless universe to explore.

Shepard, the player’s created character, is not a one human show; a cast of new and returning characters round out the experience with their distinct personalities and backstories. As the game progresses, the player is given the opportunity to learn more about each crewmate, ultimately leading to an optional loyalty mission. These optional missions, as well as voluntary research upgrades and player choices, determine which characters live and die in the final chapter of the game.

Player decisions are not restricted to the last chapter however, the player makes several story choices throughout Mass Effect 2 that are often dichotomized between paragon — by the book — and renegade — who play by their own rules. For returning players, Mass Effect 2’s universe is altered by importing player’s choice from the first game in the series —a criminally underused feature in the industry. This feature assures that the time invested in the first game is meaningful, bettering the series as a whole. Newcomers to the series are still offered a highly tailored story experience, with short-term payoffs, and the promise of greater rewards in Mass Effect 3.

Player choices are not the only aspect to carry over from the first entry, as Bioware shows that they learned a few lessons from the original game. The series’ second entry keeps what worked for the first Mass Effect, while also refining every aspect. Gear and menus are streamlined, while class options offer better upgrades than before. The sequel also removes dull mechanics present in the original, like the Mako driving section, where the player explored barren planets in a land rover. Mass Effect 2’s biggest change comes in the form of its combat system, which emphasizes tight third-person shooter mechanics with a quicker pace than the original.

Mass Effect 2 is the fruit of Bioware’s experienced tweaking and experimentation in the RPG arena. Side quests and major story beats feel lovingly handcrafted, detailed and morally challenging. Combat feels fair, engaging and rewarding. From its explosive opening to its unmatched climax, this entry is the highlight of the Mass Effect series, and one of the best video games ever made. (Justinas Staskevicius)

Best Video Games of the Century

15) Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim

Stepping into the cold, delicate land of Skyrim is a breathtaking experience. A vast collection of stories emerging from a masterpiece of exploration and discovery; an RPG has never liberated the player quite so well as Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim has.

The beauty of Skyrim can never be overstated. There’s not a leaf, nor a rock, that seems out of place. From the alluring forests that withhold the darkest of secrets, to the towering walls of Solitude that give an illusion of safety before its peril at the claws of a dragon.

The player’s role as the Dragonborn throws them into political entanglements and engaging skirmishes that all have different impacts and consequences throughout the region. From giant mammoths in the treacherous grasslands to the falmer deep beneath the surface, conflict is never too far away. The role-playing opportunities are endless, the expansive map is mystifyingly vast, and the enriching cultures of the inhabitants are engaging.

The different mods available only enhance a wonderful vanilla version that shows little signs of aging. The combination of modding and endless role-playing puts this Bethesda classic truly into the hands of the player. And from there they add their own story to the fables and folklore that have sustained Elder Scrolls since its humble beginnings in 1994. (James Baker)

Best Video Games of the Century

14) Bioshock

At 20,000 leagues under the sea, Ayn Rand meets Lovecraft in this survival horror FPS from Irrational Games. At the bottom of the ocean lies Rapture, once an Eden of science, art, and free trade, it now stands as a nightmarish labyrinth for the insane and dangerously ambitious. The player finds himself thrown into this dystopian civilization during the final days of a civil war between the capitalist icon, Andrew Ryan and the mysterious voice on the other end of your radio, known only as Atlas. You are tasked with helping Atlas and his family escape the flooding city, inhabited by those corrupted and augmented by mad science run amok. Armed with only a combination of DNA modifying Plasmids and advanced weaponry, you must uncover the mystery behind the fall of Rapture and your role in this war between two men and their conflicting ideologies.

While technically BioShock is a first-person shooter, the lack of available resources and pure viciousness of the Splicers and Big Daddies position BioShock as a far cry away from your average run and gun Call of Duty game. Each encounter with a Big Daddy or Splicer group must be carefully planned and executed, or the player will face an overwhelming beat down. Being able to balance the right Plasmids and ammo for each situation is vital as you explore the depths of Rapture, especially on the higher difficulty settings, else you’ll end up sleeping with the fishes. Exploration is another key factor in discovering and surviving the harshness of life below the surface. The ability to unlock a secret area in order to gain the drop on an unsuspecting opponent is key to thriving in Rapture. The player must actively manage their resources (health, eve, ammo, and money) in order to hack, fight, and outwit their enemies in this unforgiving environment.

BioShock weaves its story, atmosphere, and gameplay together to create a unique sense of dread and isolation in this city deep beneath the ocean’s surface. And while the game is nearly perfect, it isn’t without its flaws. BioShock tacks on a morality system that ends up feeling half-baked, as though each option results in a different ending cutscene, it will only marginally affect the player during the actual game. This along with a strange tonal shift during the final act reminds the player that this is a game world, which would rather concern itself with final bosses instead of deep philosophical ideas about capitalism and free will that were expressed earlier in the game. That said, if you haven’t played this astonishing journey into the deep blue, please would you kindly do yourself a favor and pick it up. BioShock is one of the greatest titles to come out of the past generation, and frankly, the storytelling and atmosphere are unmatched. (Ryan Kapioski)

Best Video Games of the Century

13) Bloodborne

From Software’s fast-paced, action-RPG, Bloodborne, is a blood-soaked gem. The combat of Bloodborne hurls at you at break-neck speed, stripping the player of all defense as the shields and plate mail of Dark Souls are replaced with flimsy Victorian fashion and a health system, weaponry and blood-splatter effect that all create a desperate, gory melee. Powerful but well-telegraphed attacks from your foes, coupled with your fast, lengthy dodging, create a beautiful pace of alternating between intense close combat and hanging back and probing for openings.

Furthermore, a wide range of transforming weapons, each with their own unique attack palette, and diverse item effects allow each player to find their own fighting style. Admittedly the game is not without flaws; some of its elements will force players to grind on occasion, and Bloodborne can be frustratingly esoteric on where to progress to next. But stellar central gameplay means that even grinding isn’t a complete chore, and the game’s lore is so rich that incentivizing the player to inquire a bit more into it isn’t all bad.

Both inspired and original, Bloodborne’s love for Lovecraft had it craft a setting quite unlike any other. Strange alchemical rituals, nightmare realms and esoteric alien divinity are just a few of the rich pieces of lore hidden away amongst item descriptions and environmental design in a way only From Software can pull off. And with plenty of optional areas and bosses, Bloodborne was a game where you could plunge yourself as far in to the nightmare as you desired. Players could disregard all the game hid away and simply enjoy the visceral combat, or could thoroughly immerse themselves in peeling back every veneer, revealing every secret, and be rewarded for doing so.

Not only is Bloodborne a great game in and of itself, it’s also a bloody great sequel to From Software’s Souls series, having enough of the framework from Dark and Demon’s Souls to show a clear genesis, while also having a potent injection of adaptions to the gameplay Dark Souls polished, to begin with, to define it as its own game. Shine on, you crazy blood gem. (Liam Hevey)

Best Video Games of the Century

12) Super Mario Galaxy 

Space, the impenetrable blackness that smothers this planet’s existence in its dark embrace, has often been an object of fear in the human psyche. It is fundamentally disruptive to life and is, in a word, inhuman. It is beautiful, yet cold, serene, yet home to some of the most destructive forces in the universe. Evidence of humanity’s fear of space, and it’s frigidity, is present everywhere in our media and culture and few stop to consider the beauty of space without a heady reminder that its very nature is anathema to the human condition.

Leave it to Nintendo to redefine space and simultaneously make it as fun and inviting a place as has ever existed. Leave it to them to create a great, cosmic fairy tale amongst the stars and comets, and have it seem as inviting as a trip to a castle for cake or a vacation on a tropical island. Super Mario Galaxy redefined space, not just for the Mario series, but also for gaming as a whole. In contrast to its common use as a setting for games that attempt to alienate the player or leave them feeling nervous, Super Mario Galaxy presents space as simply the black canvas onto which a beautiful tale, of good and evil, of heroes and irreparably inept villains, can be told, their rise and fall accompanied by a glissando of grandiose melodies.

Super Mario Galaxy is more than just a game, it is an experience. Carefully crafted levels seemingly plucked straight from the imagination of Shigeru Miyamoto himself, accompany expertly balanced gameplay and a scale not seen before and rarely since. Accompanied by a narrative whose poignance tugs on the very fabric of human emotion and fed by an inconceivable amount of creativity, Super Mario Galaxy is nothing less than a masterpiece, not just in the sphere of gaming, but in all of art.

That is what sums up Super Mario Galaxy more than anything else; it is a work of art. From its watercolor cutscenes to its heart-warming explorations into Rosalina’s past, it is pure brilliance. Games will come and go, technology will advance, and gaming will evolve, but, much like how the works of the great artists of Antiquity are relevant even today, Super Mario Galaxy will remain a pillar of what defines gaming, an indisputably brilliant testament to its core tenets. (Izsak Barnette)

Best Video Games of the Century

11) The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask

After the groundbreaking Ocarina of Time, the next entry into the venerable Zelda franchise had to either be another masterpiece or risk disappointing millions of fans. The bar had been set perilously high by Link’s first 3D outing and more than one gamer probably wondered how Nintendo could possibly top such a watershed effort. As it turned out, Majora’s Mask would never compete with its massively successful prequel. Instead, it markedly deviates from the formula established by its predecessors and offers a different experience. It reduces the expected number of dungeons and focuses more on overworld adventuring. And, in what has proved to be its most controversial innovation, it organizes its quest around three repeating days, as players search frantically for relevant items and reset the clock, over and over again, before a massive moon crashes into the land of Termina.

This clever mechanic solves one of the oldest problems beleaguering role-playing and action-adventure games: non-playable characters with static, terribly boring lives, which consist only of waiting for player interaction. Thanks to the repeating days, it became logistically possible for the developers of Majora’s Mask to script wonderful, surprising, and exciting schedules and activities for nearly all townsfolk. The result is a living world where players enable love stories amidst the apocalypse, save old ladies from getting mugged, prevent aliens from stealing cartoon cows, and gain access to the most fashionable milk bar since A Clockwork Orange.

So much to explore – and so many different bodies to do so with! If Majora’s Mask is partly about uncovering the lives of others, it is equally about discovering the protagonist’s own identity. Ocarina of Time’s funny masks are here repurposed and used to transform Link into a forest Deku Scrub, an aquatic Zora, or a rolling Goron. It’s a twist that beautifully suits a game – and a franchise – with obvious affinities with (if no affiliation to) the role-playing genre, which is essentially about embodiment. Players don’t only grasp the outlying geography of Termina and deepen their knowledge of the eight million stories in the naked city of Clock Town, but also strengthen their mastery over the shape-shifting wonders of their digital bodies. (Guido Pellegrini)

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11 Comments

11 Comments

  1. Ricky D Fernandes

    December 14, 2016 at 10:36 pm

    I voted for Majora’s Mask although I do love The Wind Waker. Sad to see that Silent Hill 2 didn’t make the cut.

    • Mike Worby

      December 16, 2016 at 10:30 pm

      Honestly Silent Hill 2 was one of the Sophie’s Choice cuts I had to make, I love that game.

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Games

What’s love got to do with it? Link’s 5 Best Almost Romances in ‘Zelda’

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Editor’s Note: This article was originally published on February 14th, 2016. 

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For all the fairy tale aspects and emphasis on collecting hearts, the Legend of Zelda games aren’t exactly known for getting overly lovey-dovey. Despite having two characters who are clearly meant for each other, Link and Zelda have been basically all about business over the last thirty years, putting work before pleasure. Sure, there have been the occasional sideways glances or insinuations in between killing the pig monster that’s trying to take over their world, but otherwise the relationship has mostly stayed strictly platonic, full of the kind of stiff mutual respect that leads to underpopulation.

Zelda, of course, is burdened with the many responsibilities that come with running a kingdom constantly under siege by the forces of darkness, as well as presumably having to consistently fight the urge to give in to Stockholm syndrome during each of her many kidnappings. So basically, she’s pretty busy, really focusing on her career right now. She’s also royalty, so that’s intimidating (and most likely requires a similarly noble suitor). And Link? Don’t mistake his oversleeping for laziness. This guy needs his rest so he can slay monsters and push boxes that should be way too large for him to push. The Chosen One just doesn’t have time to play the Hyrule Field, and frankly, just like with a superhero, it’s probably best he doesn’t get to close to anyone.

Still, there have been hints of love over the last few decades, with Link’s opportunities extending to relationships of tenderness and awkwardness alike that have offered hope of a Happy Ever After for the hero in green. Unfortunately, he’s killed fans’ hopes by blowing every one of them, whether by tragic twist of fate or simply running away in embarrassment. Oh well. Here are the best of the “almosts”:

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Saria

Throughout all of the Zelda games, one thing has become apparent: Link doesn’t really do guy friends. This trait is on full display in Ocarina of Time, but while Link may never be bros with that jealous jerk Mido, that doesn’t mean he’s all by his lonesome. His companionship with an actual Kokiri is clearly a deep, meaningful one, and so Saria becomes one of the most endearing characters in the game. Sure, Malon is cute in that farmer’s daughter kind of way, but she seems more in love with horses than heroes, and besides, with a dad who can’t take care of himself, you know the honeymoon would be short. But Saria genuinely cares. She gives Link an ocarina, a pretty cool gift if you’re a forest person, and she teaches him a song so that they can always be in contact (hint, hint). Add to that the long, sad, lingering look on Saria’s face as she watches her “friend” cross the bridge to adventure, and you know there was something going on.

So after defeating Phantom Ganon in the Forest Temple and revealing Saria as the Sage of Forest, her resigned acceptance that their carefree days are behind them is a bittersweet acknowledgment (and reminder) that duty will always come before happiness. Mido’s revelation later that she had been waiting all this time for Link’s return doesn’t help with the melancholy, her unfulfilled pining just another casualty in the fight. But hey, at least she gets to hang out with a bunch of other misfits who are similarly trapped by their fated responsibility! Including…

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Princess Ruto

I’m not sure that anyone has thrown themselves at Link more than Princess Ruto. As a spoiled brat being carried around inside a giant fish that ate her, Ruto develops a one-way relationship that culminates in her believing the two to be engaged when she hands over Zora’s Sapphire, all while blushing profusely. These aggressive signals couldn’t be any more obvious, but Link does a great job of playing it cool and clueless. She really doesn’t pull too many punches though, and it’s hard to explain why he doesn’t bite. After all, who wouldn’t want to spend the rest of their lives with someone who’s rude, entitled, and bossy? So what that she’s an entirely different species and any offspring would be freaks of nature?

Even when older Link meets her later, she finds time to bring up their love life amidst all the seriousness of being a very important Sage, scolding Link for making her wait so long, then explaining how she can’t be with him until her duties are over. It’s all hilarious until you think about what would happen if Princess Ruto ever really did get free. Sorry fish lady, but the princess for Link is in another castle.

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Marin

With its tropical setting, one would think that Link’s Awakening would be one of the best chances for Link to find true love, but alas, even though he meets the girl of his dreams (who even looks like Zelda!), yet again it’s not meant to be. It’s hard not to instantly relate to Marin and her fascination with the young lad who washed up on Koholint’s shore. She has been trapped on an island her whole life, imagining a big exciting world out there beyond the vast ocean’s horizon, and yearning to see it. What kid (and many adults) can’t identify with that feeling? Link represents discovery, adventure, and the enthusiasm and verve she displays because of this is infectious. She definitely likes him, but does she like him like him?

Though quick to chide Link for hitting a cucco or smashing a jar, she’s rather shy about her feelings, but a couple of things slip. Sitting side-by-side on a log at the beach, she reveals her deepest desires and asks to know everything about him (before awkwardly laughing the question off), and later on top of a mountain, nearly confesses something before being interrupted by her father. The game itself even seems to think Link has a shot, asking after the hero “acquires” her and holds her high above his head like a treasure he just found, “Is this your chance?”

Sadly, however, Marin’s story may be the most heartbreaking of all Link’s ladies. She knows that when the Wind Fish wakes up, all of Koholint, herself included, might vanish into memory. She pleads with Link that “some day you will leave this island… I just know it in my heart… …Don’t ever forget me… If you do, I’ll never forgive you!” Marin just wants to exist, to feel, and Link, the person who has awoken that inside her, is destined to be the one that takes that from her. Getting the best ending to the game reveals some hope that maybe these two will meet again one day, in a magical land far away.

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Midna

Has Link ever had a more fully-formed relationship with anyone than what he shares with the impish former ruler of the Twilight Realm? Following the classic Hollywood arc, the two start out bickering and irritated with each other, Midna constantly hounding her wolfish companion, with Link begrudgingly powering through the pain in order to get to the princess he actually likes. Naturally then, over the course of many trials and monster-shaped obstacles, the two slowly began to develop a mutual respect and liking for each other, as tragic backstories are revealed and codes of honor are put on full display. By the end, when sassy beast turns into great beauty (a nice twist on a classic fairy tale trope), Link is left speechless (big shocker), much to Midna’s delight. “What? Say something! Am I so beautiful that you have no words left?” This is called flirting, people. If I was Link’s wing man he would’ve received a nudge in the ribs right here.

In fact, most of their interactions over the entire game comprise of her playful teasing, the type of schoolyard antagonizing that is akin to pulling someone’s hair and running away. If Link’s the kind of guy I think he is, these insults will only add to the liking. On top of that, her mysterious nature and later trusting openness can only strengthen the interest. Of course, what it could easily boil down to is just that really, they’re the perfect match: she’s funny and talks a lot, while he’s well, Link.

Unfortunately, he stays true to silent form, and after a brief pause at the end where she clearly wants to admit her feelings but (I’m assuming) feels awkward with Zelda around, Midna departs back to her own dimension, never to be seen again, all because a certain green-clad idiot just stands there and lets her destroy the Mirror of Twilight (with a tear nonetheless) having never told her how he actually feels! Stupid Link! Rookie mistake, pal. Live and learn, plenty of fish in the sea, and all that crap.

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Zelda

Ah, but which Zelda? Well, in the entire franchise, there are really only two with whom Link had any real chemistry beyond teaming up to save the kingdom, but the best of those is the one that wasn’t even a princess. In Skyward Sword, Zelda is a happy youth, the kind of spirited person that everyone is drawn to, a force of positivity and happiness. She also has had a crush on Link for years, as the two have been particular friends since they were kids, much to the annoyance of a jealous Biff-type schoolmate of theirs. This really is the boy-next-door meets girl-next-door story that has less of a fantasy feel than the other games, feeling more grounded and accessible.

Much of this realistic feeling is owed to the amount of awkwardness between the two whenever they’re left alone in the beginning and things start to get real. Zelda often fishes for compliments on her choice of clothes or weirdly, her harp, while Link stammers his way through the several “aw, shucks” responses. This is all highly endearing in a puppy love sort of way, but throughout the game we are reminded as well of how deeply these two really care for each other, with Zelda risking her life without a moment’s hesitation to save Link from falling, or the goddess’ plot exploiting the fact that Link would “throw [himself] headfirst into any danger, without even a moment’s doubt” to save her.

Still, though there are many acts of bravery and sacrifice on both sides that outwardly prove love, the beating heart of Link and Zelda’s relationship in Skyward Sword lies in the small moments, glances, and gestures that have players rooting for these two crazy kids to come through in the end. Zelda nervously folding her hands in his presence, Link’s embarrassment at the implication of a kiss, the playful way she is constantly pushing him off the edge of high places and endangering his life, etc. While the end makes no guarantees, as one of only three people living on the surface, this is Link’s best chance to make a life for himself outside of killing things.

Ten bucks says his “be aloof” strategy drove her straight to Groose.

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And that’s it! So, while romance has never been a main focus of the Zelda series, that doesn’t mean Hyrule doesn’t have a pulse. Link’s made a life out of collecting hearts, and despite all the misfires with the ladies and fish ladies, Link’s still young. He’s just got to get back on that horse and find someone that’s not his horse. After all, it’s dangerous to go alone.

Though you could always choose the bottle…

Link-romance

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Games

Indie Games Spotlight: Apple Arcade (Almost) All the Way

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Apple Arcade Indie Game Spotlight

We love indie games here at Goomba Stomp – after all, they can offer some of the most groundbreaking, creative experiences out there. However, with so many coming out every single week, it can be hard to know which of them deserve your attention. That’s why we’ve started our new Indie Games Spotlight series, where we’ll highlight some of our favorite new independent games every other week.

Our inaugural issue is dominated by the recently released Apple Arcade. Apple’s ambitious new service has brought with it plenty of standout titles to discuss, including some from respected creators like Devolver Digital and WayForward.

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Devolver Digital Joins the Arcade

Apple Arcade is upon us, coming with a slew of stylish indies from a variety of developers new and old. One of the service’s most immediately prominent supporters is the boutique publisher Devolver Digital, which is supported Apple’s platform with some exclusive new titles, two of which we’ll highlight below.

First is Bleak Sword, a compact brawler that takes place entirely in stylish dioramas. Inflicted with a deadly curse, players must traverse through the isometric black, white, and red environments to right the wrongs of their world. The action has been streamlined to work equally well on both mobile devices and traditional gamepads, although it has also been spiced up with some RPG elements like spells to cast and stats to upgrade. It’s available to play now for Apple Arcade subscribers.

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The second release is Cricket Through the Ages, which features “inarguably accurate recollections” of the game of cricket throughout human history. Some of its true-to-life scenarios include one prehistoric match between cavemen and dinosaurs, another taking place during a medieval joust, and of course, one in outer space. Featuring simple one-button controls and support for both single- and multiplayer, this historic romp may not be exactly accurate, but it certainly does look ridiculous and fun. It can be played now on Apple Arcade.

Indie Games Spotlight

Mosaic Paints a Bleak Picture of the Daily Grind

Mosaic is all about one of the most mundane aspects of existence: the daily grind. It takes place in a seemingly pristine world where there’s little more to life than clocking in and out of work and whiling away the idle hours with mindless mobile games. As reality becomes gripped in a “harrowing technological autocracy,” it tasks the player with becoming the lone rebel to shatter the façade.

With its polygonal 3D visuals and subversive narrative, it easily draws plenty of comparisons to Playdead’s iconic Inside, as well as more recent experiences in the same vein such as the excellent FAR: Lone Sails. For those looking for a more introspective, provocative experience, Mosaic should be well worth checking out. It’s available on Apple Arcade now and will come to consoles and PC later this year.

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Get your Zelda Fix with A Knight’s Tale

Between the remake of Link’s Awakening and the upcoming sequel to Breath of the Wild, Zelda fans certainly aren’t starved for content. However, if you want even more Zelda-like action beyond what Nintendo is offering, then A Knight’s Tale looks like it could do the trick.

A Knight’s Tale ticks all the Zelda-like boxes: stylized cartoon graphics, a massive world to explore, puzzle-filled dungeons, and simple action-based combat, to name a few. Powered by Unreal Engine and boasting of more than 30 hours of content, it’s looking like a hefty serving of Triforce-inspired goodness. Unlike most other games on this list, no Apple Arcade subscription will be required to play this adventure when it launches across all consoles (yes, including Switch) and PC this fall.

Indie Games Spotlight

Spidersaurs: Contra Meets Cartoons

Remember being a kid and waking up every Saturday, eagerly anticipating a morning full of colorful, action-packed cartoons? That’s the feeling that Spidersaurs aims to capture from its very first trailer. It presents a post-apocalyptic world that’s being ravaged by mutant dinosaur-spider hybrid and pairs this with a run-and-gun gameplay style that’s reminiscent of classic Contra games.

Perhaps the most notable thing about Spidersaurs is the pedigree behind it. It’s being developed by WayForward, the creators of all-time indie classics like the Shantae series as well as more recent hits like River City Girls. It’s safe to say that whenever WayForward is involved, a quality product is more than likely to result. It should be well worth a look, especially since it’s available now exclusively on Apple Arcade.

Go on an Emotional Adventure with Mutazione

Mutazione offers a completely different type of cartoon experience than Spidersaurs. This narrative-focused adventure game is a slow, laid-back experience populated by otherworldly characters and presented with a delicate hand-drawn aesthetic.

It tackles the topic of growing up, putting players in the role of 15-year-old Kai as she leaves home to care for her ailing grandfather in a mysterious, forested world. It teases a mixture of relaxing slice-of-life activities – making friends, playing music, going to parties – while also alluding to a broader spiritual journey. Like so many other games on this list, it’s available to play now on Apple Arcade. It’s also available for purchase on PS4 and PC, for those who haven’t dived into Apple’s new service yet.

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Game Reviews

‘Borderlands 3’ Looks to the Stars While Stuck on the Ground

After a long hiatus, Borderlands returns… pretty much the same as it always was, for better or worse.

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Borderlands 3

Borderlands 3 is one of the most bizarre gaming experiences of this generation, a highly-anticipated, long-awaited sequel clearly feeling the pressure of living in its predecessor’s enormous shadow. Both beholden to its past and searching for its future, Borderlands 3 is a strange amalgamation of abundantly familiar elements and a few new ideas, most of which never truly find harmony with each other during the game’s lengthy campaign.

Borderlands 3 is perfectly content to just be more Borderlands, with all the expected thrills and frustrations one would expect from that philosophy.

In its attempts to look forward and backward at the same time, Borderlands 3 ends up feeling like a series of half-measures, a collection of systems and story beats that, in the few moments they’re able to take evolutionary steps for the franchise, feel like there’s still room for the now decade-old series to grow. Unfortunately, across the 50+ hours I’ve spent traversing, shooting, and constantly marking items for junk in my inventory, Borderlands 3 hasn’t offered those moments nearly enough, too often falling victim to its old habits, using its legacy as a crutch, rather than a device to propel the franchise into its (admittedly uncertain) future.

Borderlands 3

It doesn’t help Borderlands 3 front loads some of its worst writing; the opening act of the game is gratingly awful, hammering away at the same few punchlines for its characters as players embark on the series of fetch quests that comprise the game’s opening hours. Beginning some unidentified amount of time after Borderlands 2, Borderlands 3 opens on a war-ravaged Pandora enraptured by its inhabitants latest obsession: the Calypso Twins, who have seemingly galvanized the majority of the Crimson Raiders in their quest to… well, we’ll talk more about the Calypso Twins, and their role in the story, a bit later.

Early on, Borderlands 3 is desperately trying to prove to the audience it is still the same ol’ Borderlands, interrupting its genitalia references to break the fourth wall and acknowledges that yes, we’re once again beginning with a series of annoyingly spread-out fetch quests to introduce characters and establish tone. But the delivery of the game’s typical blend of meta humor and pop culture references feels stale on arrival; the lengthy fetch quests just feel like simplistic mission design, and “big dick energy” jokes just don’t hit like they used to in 2019.

(There’s also an entire plot line built around Ice-T as a sentient teddy bear, who calls his in-game wife a bitch constantly, in between dick jokes. It’s as terrible as it sounds.)

Borderlands 3 quickly establishes these abundantly familiar rhythms – and then, surprisingly, doesn’t do much to expand upon them through the rest of the game’s main campaign. Though Gearbox has called this title “the big one” in the past, it doesn’t feel like a major step forward in any sense of the word – and at worst, Borderlands 3 occasionally feels like a regression of what it does best, a slow burn of slight disappointments which add up to a confounding experience.

Borderlands 3

There’s also Borderlands‘ absolute dismissal of Twitch culture; as the introductory chapters of the game catch players up on the Calypso Twins’ sudden accrual of power, Borderlands 3 has a strangely “old man yells at cloud” feeling to it (to myself borrow an overused meme for a moment), an odd feeling for a game that prides itself on its own (debatable) edginess and camp.

The Calypso Twins are built around the stereotypical cult of personality associated with the biggest streamers of the world – and boy, does Borderlands 3 not spare an ounce of vitriol for the admittedly complicated, often disturbingly regressive world of streamer culture (though they do have a weapon that is a direct Dr. Disrespect reference, and also feature some of the most elaborate Twitch integrations of any modern game). But Borderlands 3 admonishes creator and follower alike with an empty dismissal of the “influencer” – in a rather bleak application of its signature nihilism, it buries any kind of interesting exploration of the Twins- as either characters or societal critique – under a thick layer of cynicism.

It never really even contemplates their place as unifers in a galaxy full of corporations addicted to war profits, under a thin, cynical veneer of disregard for their place in any culture, Pandorian or human – its critique of streamer culture ultimately just feels empty. At times, it even feels hypocritical; unsurprisingly, Borderlands 3’s consistently been one of the most-watched games on Twitch since before its public release last week (plus again; there are multiple streamer-related references sprinkled through the game). It’s contradictory at best – and when considering how thin the public personas of Troy and Tyreen are actually defined outside of “shitty streamer people and their shitty followers”, it just feels weird.

Borderlands 3

Like the story, the shooting and looting of the game is immediately familiar, though it is a much more welcoming feeling: the single biggest improvement to Borderlands 3 is the shooting, which feels tighter and heavier than it has the previous three entries in the series. If there’s a truly transcendent evolution of the game’s formula, it’s found here: the shooting is simply magnificent from the word go, especially with the new traversal elements of mantling and power sliding, movement options that do wonders to bring life to the game’s many, many, many, many engagements with massive groups of enemies, hidden baddies, and massive (-ly lengthy, though mostly well-varied) boss encounters.

The class selection is also fantastic; there’s a distinct rejection of Borderlands 2‘s semi-linear class system, with each of the game’s four characters featuring multiple unique skill trees players can utilize to create an impressive diversity of builds with. There are hints of old characters in Fl4K, Zane, Amara, and Moze, but those elements are welcomely remixed and expanded upon, in creative ways I just wish the rest of Borderlands 3 would take a hint from; I’ve never had so much fun switching between characters in a previous game, experimenting with the intersections of their diverse ability sets, and seeing how the game’s Legendary and Anointed equipment rarities can further those builds is easily the most satisfying part of the game (though admittedly, all four classes take until about level 30 before they truly unlock their mechanical potential).

Borderlands 3

It is worth noting the game’s technical performance is as inconsistent as its narrative; for a game that’s been in development for so long, Borderlands 3 feels particularly unpolished for a finished product – hell, between writing and editing this review, I lost a collection of 50 legendary items out of my storage bank because of a widespread bug, kind of an unforgivable mistake for an entire game built around loot hunting.

Outside of the major performance issues widely-reported since the game’s release – including the virtually unplayable “Resolution mode” on Playstation 4 Pro – Borderlands 3 is ripe with the glitches of the past: broken mission objectives, inconsistent AI companion pathing – and, as an added bonus, the expected bevy of Unreal Engine quirks (like falling through the map multiple times). Though it seems like a small complaint, waiting 5-7 seconds for your in-game menu to load in every few minutes in a 2019 video game quickly becomes frustrating, one of many examples of Borderlands 3‘s many rough edges.

(Playing as Moze in multiplayer was a particular low light: from the gravitational physics of my character completely breaking, to glitches that rendered my player utterly unmovable, Borderlands 3‘s co-op modes are frustratingly janky, to the point split-screen co-op is almost unplayable in its current state.)

But the most frustrating part of Borderlands 3 is (outside of the character classes, of course) how risk-averse the entire affair is; in terms of mechanics and systems, it is mostly an integration of Borderlands 2 and the new elements of The Pre-Sequel, with a couple of light improvements around the edges. For example, there are now gear scores attached to every item a player picks up; there’s still no way to effectively manage an inventory, or even a consistency to how the scores are formulated, but hey, at least there’s kind of a way to compare gear (which one will do constantly, since inventory management is a still a hot mess).

Borderlands 3

For every tiny improvement, there’s a concession attached to it; a great example is the game’s map and mission tracking systems. While the map now shows the topography of each area, a useless mini-map and a thoroughly aggravating menu UI make juggling multiple missions an absolute chore (even though one can switch missions on the fly with a touch of the button, there’s no way to see multiple objectives on the map, or even switch between them while in the map menu).

This persists across the entire Borderlands 3 experience: and as the tale of the Calypso Twins and the Great Vault lurches through its interminably lengthy second and third acts, it begins to wear on the experience. For better or worse, Borderlands 3 further entrenches itself in the habits and rhythms of Borderlands 2 – which, after seven years, begins to feel stale in areas, frustratingly reluctant to change, or even reflect on its well-established sensibilities (or on itself; there are literal jokes made about CEO Randy Pitchford’s many controversies, which are… uncomfortable at best). And while the game certainly demonstrates the effectiveness of carefully refining its (rightfully celebrated) mechanics, its absolute reluctance to take creative risks begs the question of why it took so long to bring this game together (or, at the very least, begs the question of whether Gearbox really wanted to do a Borderlands 3 at all, and only green lit the project after the overwhelming failure of Battleborn).

As the game moves through its middle chapters, it just feels lacking in a way Borderlands 2 never did, even with its predecessors own inconsistent humor and pacing. Though ostensibly a journey spread across the galaxy, featuring a massive cast of familiar and new characters, so much of Borderlands 3 feels small and isolated. Every area of the game is broken up into tiny segments, covering small areas of these seemingly massive planets – an experience itself constantly broken up by lengthy loading screens and regular back tracking, which doesn’t exactly vibe with the game’s epic, world-hopping scope.

Borderlands 3

The absence of the player-characters in the central narrative is another head-scratching omission; despite the inclusion of unique dialogue for every character throughout the game, the four main personalities of Borderlands 3 feel underdeveloped – a problem that persists considering how little they’re seen during the most important moments of the game. They’re explicitly excluded from so many of the game’s cinematic moments, they almost feel absent from the game’s actual story (despite the inclusion of unique dialogue for every character throughout the game, an experiment that pays off to mixed results).

I think about the ending of Borderlands 2, and how much potential it held for the future of the series: the promise of exploring entire planets with friends, finding Vaults and hidden pop culture references was almost breath-taking in its ambition. With its series of linearly-designed, stunted “zones” and limited planet selection at launch, Borderlands 3 never really harnesses the long-gestating potential for growth; and as the story begins building towards its climactic moments, it only further highlights the creative dissonance that plagues so many aspects of the game.

The clearest distillation of Borderlands 3‘s identity crisis is found in the game’s story, which struggles to justify itself as something more than just “another” Borderlands game. It is torn between its desires to attempt something new (at least, at times), and the emotional attachment it knows the audience has with the characters, rhythms, and memorable moments from the first three games of the series. It leads to a story that often follows a template: travel to new area, meet familiar old character for a mission, fight through a series of gently-guiding corridors while constantly staring at the map, rinse, and repeat for thirty-five hours.

Borderlands 3

Save for the occasional interlude and amusing side story – though that often finds itself stuck in its own loop, with a collection of ancillary characters who either wants to remind you how funny poop is, or how much people in this world enjoy murder and death – to the point its cynical nihilism is no longer humorous, and eventually becomes exhausting.

Sure, there are a couple new characters introduced, but they’re left to the fringes of the main narrative, which is, for all intents and purposes, a retread of Borderlands 2‘s major beats. Yes, it occasionally attempts to subvert expectations, but mostly by presenting a mirrored version of the series’ previous events – where Borderlands 2 was about an evil father manipulating their disgruntled child and the Vault Hunters, Borderlands 3 is basically about mad children manipulating their father and the Vault Hunters – but it is satisfied to simply just be that story, and not much more (and at times, even becomes wholly illogical… remember The Watcher and their foreboding warnings? Neither does Borderlands 3, apparently).

There is one particularly strong section of story, however, and it comes in an unexpected place: after serving the role of enigmatic mission giver (and named member of the Borderlands 2‘s lamest DLC), Sir Hammerlock’s arc in the middle section of Borderlands 3, while disappointingly divorced from the central events of the game, is emotionally propulsive in ways none of the other story is, a moment where Borderlands 3‘s themes find their voice for a too-brief amount of time.

Part love story, and part exploration of the intersections of family and legacy, Borderlands 3‘s tale of Hammerlock and the Jakobs family is so satisfying,the one time Borderlands 3 stops screaming at the player in its desperation to be funny or surprising. For a few hours,the overwhelming nihilism of Borderlands‘ eternally cynical world view melts away, and the series truly offers something akin to hope and possibility in its world. It represents the beautiful essence of Borderlands expansive set of characters, companies, and legacies, and is the rare moment where Borderlands 3 finds harmonic brilliance between its shooting, looting, joking, and genuine attempts at emotional beats.

Borderlands 3

But like most of the other familiar faces in Borderlands 3, Hammerlock’s story is contained to his few chapters on his home planet; for a game that ultimately turns on a story of family and shared purpose, there’s so much of Borderlands 3 that just feels like it is missing the mark, or ignoring it altogether. Outside of Lilith and Claptrap (and for a brief time before her quickly-forgotten disposal, Maya) none of the game’s previously playable characters factor into the narrative in any way – hell, most of them, like Axton, Gaige, Salvatore and Krieg, don’t appear or are barely mentioned at all, which kind of takes away from the game’s attempts to be an all-encompassing adventure through the history (and theoretical future) of its surrogate family of bandits, adventurers, scientists, and adventure seekers.

Instead, there’s a lot of focus put on a handful of underwhelming new characters (including Ava, the game’s single biggest missed opportunity relegated to Whiny Teen tropes), only occasionally interjecting those sequences with familiar faces: multiple major characters of the series have precisely one mission dedicated to them through the story, which again feels like Borderlands 3 lacking confidence in its own identity, unable to commit to forging new paths, and instead peppering serotonin-laced doses of nostalgia across the story as a half-measure to cover up that Borderlands 3 really has nothing new to say about its world, its people, or the story it’s been telling now for a decade.

Borderlands 3 is perfectly content to just be more Borderlands, with all the expected thrills and frustrations one would expect from that philosophy. That doesn’t make it an abject failure, of course: it’s still a game I’m going to play for hundreds of hours with my friends, thanks to the sheer diversity of gun play and character builds (it is a sequel to one of my favorite games of all time, after all) – but there’s a distinct feeling Borderlands 3 could’ve been so much more than… well, just more of the same Borderlands. Seven years after its last mainline entry (and five after its forgettable, under cooked “pre-sequel”), just being Borderlands one more time makes it feel like a series stuck in the past, retreating to safe waters by simply remixing the old game… with a strangely newfound (and ultimately, superficial) hatred of streamer culture layered on top to feel relevant in 2019.

Borderlands 3

That allegiance to the past ultimately comes at a cost; it makes the few moments Borderlands 3 tries to evolve stand out in stark contrast to the rest of the game, complete 180’s in emotional tenor that are never met by equal risks taken in gameplay design, or the construction of the main narrative. When the dick jokes and meme references subside, there is an emotionally satisfying core deep inside Borderlands 3, one that highlights the spaces in between the game’s consistently enjoyable shooting and looting gameplay loop (there’s a particular photo I discovered in the game’s later moments that literally brought me to tears, a quietly poignant and beautiful moment this game desperately needs more of).

But that version of Borderlands 3 only comes out in fits and starts, often hindered by the series’ allegiance to its old identity, one that time, and most of the gaming industry, has passed by (at least, during the main story; I’ll be back next week with thoughts on the post-credits/endgame experience). There is a great version of Borderlands 3 somewhere, a more driven action-RPG with a tighter campaign experience, a more ambitious, fully-formed story, and a true expansion of its celebrated mechanics to marry to the game’s wonderfully diverse class set and enhanced movement options. It’s just not this inflated, safe iteration of the series, one that drowns its few iterative innovations in a sea of repetitive familiarity.

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Games

Could Apple Arcade Be the Best Gaming Subscription Service Yet?

Gaming has its fair share of subscription services, but with its flexibility and clarity, Apple Arcade could be among the very best.

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Apple Arcade

Gaming has moved beyond consoles and physical storefronts. The past few years have seen the birth of ambitious new projects like Xbox Game Pass and Google Stadia, which aim to change the way you play your games. Apple has now entered the fray with a subscription service of its own, Apple Arcade. This might look like little more than yet another effort from a major company to capitalize on major trends, but in reality, this new project has the potential to be the best gaming subscription platform yet.

So…what is it?

Apple Arcade is a basic concept: for $5.00 per month, you gain access to an expanding library of games that can be played across all Apple devices, including Mac, Apple TV, iPhone, and iPad.

Compared to other subscription platforms out there, Apple Arcade is refreshingly simple. Unlike Xbox Game Pass, you don’t need to spend extra money to play your games on additional platforms; for that one monthly price, every game can be played across every one of your Apple devices. And unlike Google Stadia, a solid internet connection isn’t required to play your games. Every title on the Arcade can be natively downloaded onto the device of your choice and played regardless of the strength of your WiFi.

Apple Arcade

The mention of iPhone and iPad may have already set some readers on edge – after all, the gaming community can’t agree on much, but it has generally determined that mobile games aren’t always the best. They rarely provide the same caliber of experiences as console or PC games, so why would anyone want to spend a monthly fee to play a bunch of mediocre mobile games?

However, Apple Arcade is intensely curated to provide a high quantity of stylish, memorable games from some of the most respected creators in the field. For instance, famed indie publishers like Devolver Digital and Annapurna Interactive are fully on board, with multiple exclusive games planned to launch with the service. That’s not to mention the sheer number of highly anticipated indie games like Overland, Sayonara Wild Hearts, and Shantae and the Seven Sirens that will be included in the Arcade. Appple’s website promises that more than 100 different games will be available to play over the course of the launch period this fall, so if the game library can keep up this quality, then it could be promising indeed.

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Sayonara Wild Hearts is just one of the many incredibly stylish indie games of Apple Arcade.

What makes Apple Arcade so special, anyway?

It seems like every company and their mother has a storefront nowadays. Ubisoft, Blizzard, Epic, and even Rockstar have all debuted platforms of their own, while Google Stadia is trying to remove traditional platforms entirely. In such a crowded environment, how can Apple Arcade possibly stand out? Simply put, Apple Arcade is already set to be the most flexible and easy-to-understand gaming subscription platform yet.

Every one of the many subscription platforms out there touts its “flexibility” in allowing you to choose what games to play and where to play them. Apple Arcade does the same thing but with one major difference: less limitations. As mentioned earlier, each game can be downloaded directly onto your device, and with save data being stored in the cloud, progress can be carried on between every one of your Apple products. Meanwhile, platforms like Google Stadia effectively shut down without constant WiFi access.

Apple Arcade
Apple Arcade offers a lot of games on a lot of platforms for a low price

In terms of price, Apple Arcade continues to stand out. For $5.00 a month, you can play over a hundred unique titles. Compare this with the $15.00/mo price of Xbox Game Pass or the $10.00 subscription price of Google Stadia Premium, and Apple Arcade easily comes out on top (that’s not to mention that you still have to pay for Stadia games individually on top of the monthly fee). For reference, a year of access to the more than 100 games in Apple Arcade costs the same as the retail price of a single triple-A retail title. You won’t need to invest in a new controller either, since PlayStation and Xbox gamepads are fully supported.

Even when it comes to the games included, Apple Arcade should stand out from the crowd. Stadia may already have some massive third party blockbusters like Cyberpunk 2077 and DOOM Eternal, but they don’t offer much incentive to be played on Google’s streaming service instead of traditional consoles or PCs. On the other hand, Apple Arcade’s low price point and more practical flexibility offer a compelling reason to play games on Apple’s service instead of purchasing them individually on other platforms. That’s not to mention the handful of exclusives available at launch or coming soon after, from famous minds like SimCity creator Will Wright and the father of Final Fantasy himself, Hironobu Sakaguchi.

The world of gaming certainly has more than its fair share of subscription services. Yet Apple Arcade stands out for its clarity, its accessibility, and its remarkable library. With these factors combined, it could become the very best gaming subscription on the market.

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Games

Sirfetch’d is the Leek ‘Pokémon Sword’ Needed

Fortunately, Pokémon Sword specifically, has given more reason than just filling the pokédex for future Galar trainers to go seek out this elusive duck. Meet Sirfetch’d!

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Sirfetch'd Pokémon Sword

Ever since we were chasing pokémon around the tall grass of Johto, it was obvious that among the Kanto pokémon given evolutions, Farfetch’d was the one that had been forgotten. A pokémon with more dishes than moves, Farfetch’d had the usability of a fork scooping water, becoming a time-dwindling nuisance due to its rarity. Fortunately, Pokémon Sword specifically has given more reason than just filling the pokédex for future Galar trainers to go seek out this elusive duck. Meet Sirfetch’d!

Sirfetch’d is easily one of the best-designed pokémon for Pokémon Sword and Shield that has already been announced. With a sword and a shield made from its previous garnishing, and a prideful stance that oozes confidence, Sirfetch’d genuinely looks like the next stage of evolution from the woefully inept Farfetch’d. What we don’t yet know is its stats and, as a consequence, what tier it will be in competitive gameplay. But what we do know is it will be a fighting type with the ability steadfast, much like the fellow knight Gallade. Its signature move, Meteor Assault, will be debuting in Pokémon Sword and Shield, which inflicts heavy damage that forces the user to recharge the next turn.

Farfetch'd and Sirfetch'd
Farfetch’d and Sirfetch’d

The announcement of Sirfetch’d only creates curiosity as to who its opposing pokémon will be in Pokémon Shield. It’s doubtful that there will be another evolution for Farfetch’d, as Sirfetch’d is shown already in command of a shield, so the play on sword and shield will not feature in a twin evolution. The likelihood is another pokémon that has been neglected for so long, and in dire need of a renaissance in the franchise; something like Dunsparce from generation two would be ideal, considering that, like Farfetch’d, it manages to be both rare and pointless.

What has made the addition of Sirfetch’d and some of the other Galar region pokémon so appealing is their alignment with the inspiration and theme behind Pokémon Sword and Shield. Sirfetch’d breathes the nature that the games are trying to convey, but so does Corviknight in its chivalrous demeanor. Crucially for Corviknight, it’s another hint at a Victorian England inspiration behind Pokémon Sword and Shield; the raven in the Tower of London is as iconic as the factory chimneys that tower above Galarian form Weezing. Even the possessed teapot is taking a less casual approach to the stereotype.

But honestly, it’s quite charming to see so much inspiration derive from a region of the world. Kalos was inspired by France, but the only pokémon that conveyed a French stereotype was Furfrou, which feels like a missed opportunity in hindsight. If Pokémon is to continue using regions of the world as the inspiration behind their generational games then, from what we’ve seen so far, Pokémon Sword and Shield could be ideal templates.

Impidimp
Impidimp in all its unwanted glory.

That’s not to say there haven’t been any poor designs. The two legendaries, Zacien and Zamazenta, are the rather generic canid legendary pokémon. Rolycoly looks like the love-child of Beldum and Minior, while Impidimp looks like it fell off the pages of a lost Atom Ant storyboard from the sixties. However, if there weren’t contemptuous new pokémon in Pokémon Sword and Shield, then the games would exist without reliable antagonists; getting through Pokémon Moon without the humorous Bananarama Dugtrio would have been an emptier experience. That is why it is easy to accept an Impidimp as long as there is a Sirfetch’d.

This is partly why it is easier to look forward to Pokémon Sword and Shield than it was to Pokémon Sun and Moon. There was a slight drop in pokémon design quality from X and Y to Sun and Moon, while so far, the designs in Sword and Shield have improved from Sun and Moon. The announcement of Sirfetch’d only confirms that designs have at least been slightly improved and we can await with great anticipation for what pokémon the opposing exclusive will be in Pokémon Shield.

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