The Great Sanic Swindle!
It takes a very special publisher to be able to turn something special like Sonic Mania into a black mark of controversy, yet this is precisely what Sega has managed to achieve with the PC release of the game. Sega had arguably not released a good Sonic game since 1994’s Sonic & Knuckles, and not only does Sonic Mania sit comfortably along-side the classic Genesis releases, it might also be the best Sonic game ever created. So what could spoil such an important release?
Extremely late into Sonic Mania‘s development it was announced that the PC version would be delayed for precisely two weeks. But why two weeks? People did not really think too much about it at the time, but Sega were actually doing something extremely sneaky here.
The PC version of Sonic Mania launched with Denuvo DRM, which is pretty much the worst practice model for PC DRM. Denuvo is always online DRM which slows the loading of levels, causes framerate drops, and is generally regarded as malware because it installs a bunch of spyware which remains in place even if the consumer deletes the game. Many people would not have bought Sonic Mania if they knew that Denuvo came with it, yet the Steam product page mentioned nothing about it.
And here is where the delay factors into the situation. People who pre-ordered Sonic Mania were gifted with a free Steam copy of the original Sonic the Hedgehog Genesis ROM. Crucially, receipt of this game ROM is regarded as the point of original purchase, so when Sonic Mania actually released with highly controversial DRM two weeks later it was already too late for people with pre-orders to seek a refund! Never, ever, ever, pre-order digital games!
This is precisely the sort of thing that the Stream refund system was put in place to protect consumers against, yet Sega deliberately delayed their game by two weeks in order to lock their most diehard supporters out of the refund process. Of all the shitty anti-consumer practices we have seen adopted in the industry, deliberately gaming Steam release mechanics in order to strip consumers of their rightful protections really takes the cake!
Sega has since allegedly adjusted the DRM so that the game is at least playable in offline mode, but even here they have the bloody gall to call it a ‘bug’ rather than the deliberate Denuvo feature that it obviously is:
“The Sonic Mania PC offline play bug has now been patched. Thanks for your patience and let us know if you experience any further problems.”
This has Sega of Japan written all over it. After all these years Sonic is finally relevant again, and then some out of touch suits in Japan have to go and turn its release into a trash fire. Nice going!
Street Fighter II Reprint Looks to Be a Hot Collector’s Item!
It always pays to cherish and celebrate your history, but Capcom is expecting this payoff to be quite literal. Classic gaming has been in vogue for the last several years, and Capcom is looking to cash-in on this big time by teaming up with Iam8bit in order to release an extremely limited run of 5,500 reprints of Street Fighter II at $100 a pop to mark Street Fighter II‘s thirtieth anniversary. Of those 4,500 will ship with the standard red cartridge shell, while 1000 games will ship with a really cool glow in the dark green cartridge shell. These carts will be randomly allocated, so congratulations to Capcom on finally being able to bring gacha mechanics into RL pre-order culture!
Release shenanigans aside however, Capcom’s gacha pre-order scheme does not seem to be the most remarkable feature of the game. Expensive reprints like this basically trade on the warm glow of nostalgia, and Capcom seemingly expect Street Fighter II to so warm the cockles of people’s hearts that they are advising that people not play the game unless they happen to have fire fighting equipment at the ready!
“WARNING: Use of this reproduction game cartridge (the “Product”) on the SNES gaming hardware may cause the SNES console to overheat or catch fire.
The SNES hardware is deemed a vintage collectible, so please exercise extreme caution when using the Product and make sure there is fire extinguishment equipment nearby. Use of the Product is at the sole risk of the user.”
Well, OK then! Do not play the game unless your insurance policy covers game repro catastrophes! On one hand this is likely them covering their butts owing to the extreme age of the hardware. On the other hand playing SNES still feels infinitely safer than operating an Xbox 360.
Regardless, one has to wonder why this is even a thing. Super Street Fighter II may be an acquired taste, but Street Fighter II Turbo was universally regarded as a massive improvement over the original Street Fighter II, so why not re-release that one? The justification may be that they are celibrating the thirtieth anniversary of the game in its original form, only it is not really Street Fighter II‘s anniversary. Street Fighter II was released in 1991, so the game’s thirtieth anniversay is not until 2021, while this reprint is set to ship in November. 2017 is actually the thirtieth anniversary of the original Street Fighter, of which Street Fighter II was a sequel, but Capcom do not even like to mention that game, much less promote it.
If Capcom wanted to be a stickler for properly respecting the anniversary of the franchise then they could re-release Fighting Street for the PC Engine, but that is not the case. As such the point remains: why not reprint the vastly superior Street Fighter II Turbo? The vastly superior Turbo can be found for well under $100 on Ebay, and comes with the added nostalgic benefit of actually being manufactured on an authentic 90s era plastic cartridge!
Additional Storage Media Required For Physical Switch Games
This week in advertising their partnership with SD card manufacturer SanDisk, Nintendo let slip that multiple forthcoming physical Switch games would require additional storage and a download in order for customers to access the full game. This precedent had already been set on the Switch at launch for logistic reasons, but now it looks to be formalised with Nintendo unveiling a special cover warning label designed to alert customers to the fact that the games would not be directly playable in their entirety from the game card. Rather they will operate in a limited state with certain game modes locked until the customer is able to download the additional data.
“If you purchase a physical version of a game that requires an additional microSD memory card, you will be able to play a portion of the game right out of the box (for example, specific levels or modes),” a representative for Nintendo of America told IGN.
To enjoy the full game, downloading additional data is required. Depending on the storage requirements for each game, it may be necessary to purchase a microSD card to expand storage space. When purchasing a digital version of the game, it may also be necessary to purchase a microSD card depending on the game’s storage requirements and the storage available on the consumer’s Nintendo Switch console.
Some Nintendo Switch games will require consumers to purchase an additional microSD memory card to play them. Our expanded storage solution offers flexibility for those who need it to play these games. People can choose exactly how much additional storage space they want to buy, depending on the number and type of games they play, and the amount of content they plan to download.”
Wow, such flexibility! And here one was feeling so constrained by the uniform 500GB hard drive that was included as standard with the PS4! The fact that Nintendo is offering the ‘flexibility’ of utilising far smaller storage devices in their much more expensive console really is a game changer!
The thing is Nintendo right here is presenting the problem as games actually requiring this extra storage due to the limitations of the cartridge medium, and if this were the case then one would still be frustrated at Nintendo for designing a technologically insufficient console. It is not actually the case though. The next game coming out that will ‘require’ additional storage media is NBA 2K18 – a game with a filesize of 25GB. The maximum size of Switch game cards is 32GB! This policy has not been brought about by the existence of games that are so ambitious that they simply exceed the specifications of the Nintendo Switch, rather this policy has been brought about by publishers who are too cheap to put their game onto a larger Switch Game card – and Nintendo is letting them get away with it! Nintendo is obviously so desperate to have third party software on their platform that they are willing to let publishers get way with absolutely anything, but at what cost?