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Hey Extra Life Community -
 
We have some exciting news to share! In an effort to help make fundraising more fun, more accessible and ultimately easier, we’ve added a new application to the Extra Life experience. Now you can fundraise through our mobile app made possible by a grant from the ESA Foundation! 
 

 
Extra Life Mobile App
Manage and share your Extra Life experience on the go with our new Extra Life mobile app. This free app lets you fundraise and connect with others through SMS, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn & Email. You can update your Extra Life page and check your fundraising progress all from the palm of your hand. Learn more in our best practices section!

Download the app here: iPhone | Android
 
We’ve also spent the last couple of months improving the mobile experience on the Extra Life website so give the new apps a try. We want to hear what you think so send any feedback and ideas to community@extra-life.org or comment below and let us know!
For The Kids,

Mike Kinney
Team Extra Life
Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals

Jack Gardner
If you've ever played a BioWare game, chances are you've played through a game written or designed by David Gaider. Gaider worked at BioWare for over a decade writing games, novels, and comic books for the company. He cut his teeth writing and designing for Baldur's Gate II and went on to play a major part in the creation of Neverwinter Nights, Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, and then wrote and conceived the fictional world of every single Dragon Age game. With that pedigree, Gaider definitely possesses a familiarity with the minds of the various characters spread throughout Dragon Age.
 
One of the biggest components of the fandom surrounding BioWare's modern juggernauts remains the shippers; people who become very invested in the fictional romances around the various companion characters the developer brings to life with so much care and attention to detail. After a Mass Effect or a Dragon Age releases, fans construct their own headcanons or write fanfiction, but the original creator always reigns supreme.
 
To that end, one of Dragon Age's fans asked Gaider, who is no longer a works at BioWare, what Valentine's Day dates would look like in Dragon Age. Gaider's response was an absolutely adorable and cute gift to the Dragon Age fandom. You can read the highlights of his date descriptions below:
 
 
There you have it! If your favorite character didn't have a described date, you'll have to hope a different BioWare writer tackles the characters that they wrote throughout the series' history. 
 
Don't forget to sign up for Extra Life to help sick and injured kids in hospitals around the US and Canada by playing games!

Jack Gardner
Nintendo gave one of their most announcement heavy Directs to date earlier today, revealing the release dates of games coming to the Switch in the near future as well as teasing some longer term projects and an entirely new action IP from the creators of Bayonetta and Nier: Automata. Sandwiched between the major announcements came a number of indie reveals and announcements. The continuing flow of titles onto the system has made it one of the biggest gaming juggernauts of this generation, able to bring in new players and those fond of classic or artsy games. 
 
Without further ado, let's dive into what Nintendo had to show for their extremely successful console/handheld.
 
 
Super Mario Maker 2 will release for the Switch this coming June. The sequel will bring all of the old features from the original that people loved and supplement them with a slew of new content for the best platformer builders to play with and construct their dream levels. There aren't a ton of details from the Direct, but it's likely we'll hear more as we get closer to E3 and Nintendo's customary announcements around that time. 
 
 
First, the company revealed Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3: The Black Order, an upcoming action-RPG starring a huge roster of Marvel's biggest comic book characters. This will be the first time the series has seen a release in a decade and it's bringing with it an entirely new story that pits the biggest heroes of the Marvel universe against Thanos and his Black Order. While Marvel Ultimate Alliance largely exists in its own universe, there will be some nods and references to upcoming films, like an updated look for Captain Marvel and a focus on her powers and abilities. You can look forward to seeing more details coming out about Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3: The Black Order as we get closer to its summer release window. 
 
A boxy new puzzle game will come to Switch on April 26. Box Boy + Box Girl continues the series by adding a co-op mode. Those who complete the game will find an entirely new adventure starring the tall box boy waiting for them. The title features over 270 stages, making it the most robust puzzle game in the series to date.
 
 
Super Smash Bros. Ultimate will be receiving its 3.0 update soon. The free update will add a chunk of new content to the Switch's premier fighting game and will include Persona 5's Joker as a new character for those who purchased the DLC. In addition to the update, new amiibo figures based on the designs from Ultimate are coming. There aren't too many additional details, though Nintendo has said more will be coming; given the most recent patch notes for Smash, we'll be seeing a lot of new things on the battlefield. Players should expect to see the update release sometime in April.
 
Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker's Switch version will be getting a 2-player co-op mode in a free update that launches today. In addition to that game-changing update, Nintendo will release paid DLC to add 18 new challenges across new maps like a sunken ship or a candy land. Additional challenges will come to existing courses, too. Titled Captain Toad: Special Episode, fans of the game can purchase the DLC today to get their hands on one new course with the rest releasing on March 14. A digital bundle of Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker also hits the eShop later today.
 
 
Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night has slowly been spinning its gears up for a launch and now we finally know when to expect it on Switch! The Nintendo Direct showed off a bunch of impressive gameplay footage, giving many their first looks at character customization, hints at sidequests, and a number of interesting abilities like controlling gravity itself. Ritual of the Night will release for Switch sometime this summer. 
 
Dragon Quest Builders 2 will be coming to Switch, too. The new title supports 4-player co-op locally or online. Among a number of other additions, DQ Builders 2 will also add a first person mode to fully complete the Minecraft comparisons. The construction RPG releases July 12.
 
 
Dragon Quest XI S: Echoes of an Elusive Age Definitive Edition comes to Switch this fall. The new version possesses some striking differences from the original release. Players can decide to play it in a classic 16-bit mode for a truly retro feel. The soundtrack has also been fully orchestrated across the entire game, though it includes both soundtracks for players to choose whichever they like better. There were some complaints about the English voice overs, so the Definitive Edition also includes the Japanese voiceover options. Finally, new companion quests and storylines will fully flesh out the backstories of the various party members that join the hero on his journey to save the world. Dragon Quest XI S: Echoes of an Elusive Age Definitive Edition launches this fall.
 
Disney found a lot of success with their stuffed tsum tsum toys based on Disney characters. That popularity has turned the toys into a game of their very own. Disney Tsum Tsum Festival offers a collection of multiplayer mini-games for people of all ages as well as a core puzzle matching game. This game will come to Switch sometime in 2019. 
 
Star Link: Battle for Atlas on the Switch will receive a free update in April of this year that brings the members of Star Wolf into conflict with all the members of Star Fox. Players will be able to play as Falco, Slippy, and Peppy, each with their own unique abilities to combat the nefarious plans of their evil mercenary rivals. 
 
The popular Harvest Moon-inspired series Rune Factory will be coming to Nintendo Switch later this year with Rune Factory 4 Special. This remastered version of Rune Factory 4 offers a light RPG experience alongside farming, trading, and socializing with various locals. Unique to the Switch version, players will be able to marry NPCs who become close to the main character.  Rune Factory 4 Special will release later this year. In addition to all of that, Nintendo confirmed that Rune Factory 5 is currently in development, though they didn't clarify anything more than that.
 
 
Oninaki appears to be the next indie RPG from Square Enix in the same vein as I Am Setsuna. Oninaki puts players in the role of an individual who can cross the line between life and death to save lost souls. The balance of reincarnation has been thrown off, with souls becoming lost and turning into monsters that roam the land. As players save souls, they will unlock new abilities they can use to more effectively fight monsters with the right weapons. The deep, single-player RPG launches this coming summer.
 
Yoshi's Crafted World will release on March 28. In addition to the platforming and puzzle-solving that players expect, keep your eyes peeled for the hidden costumes and minigames scattered throughout the worlds. These hidden costumes provide a bit of extra protection to Yoshi, too, so they're more than just decorative. Nintendo will release a demo later today that will allow players to go through the first course and experience its charm first-hand.
 
 
This Nintendo Direct revealed a great deal of information about the upcoming Fire Emblem title, Fire Emblem: Three Houses. The turn-based RPG looks like it might have received an overhaul in terms of both its systems and story. The player starts as a mercenary who uncovers a strange power and receives an offer to teach students at a strange monastery at the center of three great nations of a fantastical continent. As all of this happens visions begin to haunt the hero hinting at a grand future yet to unfold. Naturally, there are three factions of students, one from each country. Players will have to choose which faction to tutor, leading to a branching story line and three different campaigns. From the basic plot ideas laid out in the Direct, it seems like the new Fire Emblem combines the school drama of titles like Persona with the traditional turn-based combat and deep systems of Fire Emblem. Fire Emblem: Three Houses releases on July 26.
 
Nintendo teased a battle royale puzzle game called Tetris 99. Details were a bit scarce, but players will be able to hinder one another and battle to remain the last Tetris player standing in the online title that actually releases today!
 
Dead by Daylight will be coming to Nintendo Switch this fall, though it's unclear whether there will be Switch specific additions to the indie hunter-hunted game. 
 
Toby Fox's Delta Rune Chapter 1 releases for Switch on February 28. Much like it's PC counterpart, the Switch version will be free, though the remaining chapters that will fill out the title will not be free. 
 
 
Final Fantasy IX, arguably the best Final Fantasy game of all-time, will be available on Nintendo Switch later today. Additionally, Final Fantasy VII comes to Nintendo Switch on March 26.
 
The mecha action game Daemon X Machina has somehow managed to keep a low profile recently, but producer Kenichiro Tsukada hopes to change that with a demo releasing later today. The demo, a collection of missions titled Daemon X Machina: Prototype Missions, includes several sorties to acclimate and familiarize players with its gameplay and systems. The demo culminates in an encounter with a massive mechanical boss for a good final challenge. The demo also serves as a beta of sorts and some players who download it will be sent surveys to help the developers fine-tune the experience for the full release. Check out the demo and get hype for Daemon X Machina when it releases this summer.
 
Touting the most realistic racing title on Switch to date, GRID Autosport will be coming to Switch. Players will be able to use motion controls to drive or customize their own specialized control schemes. Players can race one another in split screen or online across a variety of real-world maps. This version will also include all DLC released for the title on other platforms, meaning there are over 100 cars and 100 circuits to race with. Expect GRID Autosport later this summer.
 
 
Chocobo Mystery Dungeon Every Buddy (March 20)
 
Hellblade Senua's Sacrifice (Spring 2019) 
 
Mortal Kombat 11 (April 23)
 
Unraveled 2  (March 22)
 
Assassin's Creed III Remastered (May 22)
 
 
To round out their Direct, Nintendo announced Astral Chain, a new IP from Platinum Games. Hideki Kamiya, the creator of Bayonetta, is supervising the creation of Astral Chain while the core direction duties have gone to Takahisa Taura, the director of Neir: Automata. The trailer provides nearly all of the details we have to go on: It's about police officers dealing with a terrorist threat in a crazy sci-fi world. They seem to have abilities or technology that allows them to summon mechanical warriors while also fighting themselves - connected by what one can assume is the titular astral chain. However, given the dialogue in the trailer, it's all too possible that their fight against the terrorists is inadvertently dooming the world. Astral Chain releases on August 30.
 
 
 THEY ARE REMAKING THE WIND FISH
 
Erm... *ahem* Nintendo closed their Direct by teasing a resurrection of the classic action-adventure Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening. The remake of the 1993 Game Boy title oozes so much charm and joy that it's, frankly, criminal. The revamped art style rivals some of the heaviest hitting cute aesthetics in all of gaming - and we get to play the new Link's Awakening before the year is done as this Switch exclusive will release sometime this year.
 
You can watch the entire Nintendo Direct for yourself below if you'd like to see all of the announcements for yourself:
 
 
Don't forget to sign up for Extra Life to help sick and injured kids in hospitals around the US and Canada by playing games!

Marcus Stewart
Shadow of the Tomb Raider has seen no shortage of DLC offerings, and fans have another new adventure for Lara Croft to dive into. Price of Survival sees the explorer racing to decipher codes tied to the leader of the villainous group, Trinity. It also comes with a host of stealth-focused goodies. 
 
The add-on features a new single-player tomb along with the Hunter's Array outfit. In addition to boosting the effectiveness of perception plants, the Trinity-themed costume muffles Lara's footsteps while running. Complementing Hunter's Array's is the Silent Sting silenced pistol. Lastly, Lara gains the Raptor's Eye skill, allowing her to outline enemies through walls for improved tracking. Take a look at the trailer below to witness these tools in action. 
 
 
Price of Survival also makes tombs from the base game's story playable in the Score and Time Attack modes. Season pass holders can jump into the DLC now while others can purchase it standalone for $4.99. Shadow of the Tomb Raider is available on Xbox One, PS4, and PC. 
 
Don't forget to sign up for Extra Life to help sick and injured kids in hospitals around the US and Canada by playing games!

Marcus Stewart
The benefit of using emojis is being able to condense complete sentences into easy-to-decipher symbols (assuming you’re not an out-of-touch old fogie like me). Can they work the same wonders for Kingdom Hearts’ complicated narrative? Disney puts that idea to the test by producing a short video titled "A Look at Kingdom Hearts III: As Told Through Emoji" that is exactly as it sounds. 
 
The 4-minute short shrinks the epic scope of the adventure down to the size of a phone screen. It cleverly translates key moments into bouncing heads, message bubbles, and commendable use of the calendar. As someone who’s played a fair amount of Kingdom Hearts III, the video does a solid job of getting general story points across and is entertaining to boot. 
 
Disney begins by summarizing the intro of the first game before delving into an abridged retelling of Kingdom Hearts III’s first half. This means some light spoilers lie ahead in terms of when Sora encounters the various Disney/Pixar worlds and why. If you haven’t played the game and want to be surprised on that front, you’ll probably want to avoid this video. Everyone else can check it out below. 
 
 
Kingdom Hearts III is available now on PS4 and Xbox One. What did you think of the video? Share your thoughts in the comments! 
 
Don't forget to sign up for Extra Life to help sick and injured kids in hospitals around the US and Canada by playing games!

Marcus Stewart
Depending on what platform you own and the subscription service you're signed up for, Anthem launches either February 15 for early birds or the 22nd for everyone else. Get hyped for Bioware's shared world shooter with a launch trailer designed to rocket anticipation to the stratosphere. 
 
The bombastic trailer doesn't reveal much that hasn't been shown already in terms of gameplay. It does, however, look very cool. Check it out to determine where the game sits on your excitement meter. 
 
 
Like Destiny, Anthem drops players into a shared alien world as Freelancers who pilot high-tech suits called Javelins. In addition to tackling enemy factions, Freelancers must also contend with dangerous fauna and violent weather events. Anthem recently wrapped up its open beta. It experienced several server issues, largely during its early VIP period for pre-order customers.
 
Looking forward to Anthem? Let us know in the comments!
 
 Don't forget to sign up for Extra Life to help sick and injured kids in hospitals around the US and Canada by playing games!

Marcus Stewart
FromSoftware dropped a new cinematic trailer for Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice showing off a bit of narrative as opposed to flashy combat. The beautiful flashback provides a glimpse at how protagonist Sekiro came under the tutelage of his grizzled mentor, the Owl.
 
We see the Owl adopting an adolescent Sekiro in the aftermath of a bloody battle. Though brief, the scene highlights Sekiro’s more straightforward approach to storytelling as opposed to the vague narratives of the Souls series. 
 
 
First teased at the 2017 Game Awards, Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice made its full unveiling during E3 2018. Taking place during the war-ridden Sengoku period of Japan, players control Sekiro, a one-armed shinobi who wields multi-functional prosthetic limb. After enemies leave Sekiro for dead and abduct a young lord he’s sworn to protect, the warrior must hunt down those responsible. Though it shares similar DNA to Dark Souls and Bloodborne, Sekiro's gameplay emphasizes speed, stealth, and verticality via a grappling hook used to scale structures
 
Look for Sekiro: Shadows Die twice when it launches March 22 for PS4, Xbox One, and PC. 
 
Don't forget to sign up for Extra Life to help sick and injured kids in hospitals around the US and Canada by playing games!

Marcus Stewart
Crackdown 3 releases February 15 (assuming it doesn’t suffer yet another delay). To both celebrate the occasion and prep fans for what’s to come, Microsoft is currently giving away the first game for free.
 
This promotion of course refers to the digital version, which is available via Xbox One backwards compatibility. The game also benefits from Xbox One X enhancements, meaning it performs a bit smoother than you remember. Microsoft’s Larry Hryb AKA Major Nelson announced the news on Twitter but didn’t mention if this would be a permanent giveaway or only last until the end of Crackdown 3’s launch window.  I would imagine the latter case to be true, so I recommend grabbing your copy sooner than later just to be on the safe side. 
 

 
Crackdown originally released for the Xbox 360 in 2007. Players control a superpowered Agent pursuing three crime lords in the fictional Pacific City. Bringing them to justice involves wrecking the sandbox world with tons of firearms while leaping around and chucking cars like the Hulk. It received glowing reviews at the time and was followed by a 2010 sequel that was less warmly received (and made by a different developer). Crackdown 3 was first announced at Microsoft’s E3 2014 briefing. It has hit numerous development potholes on the road to its release next week. 
 
Planning to give Crackdown one more go around before the third entry arrives? Or are you leaping into the game for the first time? Sound off in the comments!
 
Don't forget to sign up for Extra Life to help sick and injured kids in hospitals around the US and Canada by playing games!

Marcus Stewart
Those who enjoyed or missed out on stabbing British redcoats in the neck and palling around with Benjamin Franklin can have their fun with a Assassin’s Creed III Remastered. Arriving March 29 for PS4, Xbox One, and PC, the remaster includes the base game along with The Tyranny of King Washington and Benedict Arnold and Hidden Secrets DLC missions. It also throws in Assassin’s Creed III: Liberation Remastered for good measure. 
 
A new graphics engine boasts higher resolution textures as well as 4K and HDR for compatible PC's, PS4 Pro, and Xbox One X versions. Furthermore, developer Ubisoft Barcelona made improvements to general gameplay and ergonomics. 
 
Assassin’s Creed Odyssey season pass holders will automatically receive Assassin’s Creed III Remastered as part of that bundle. Otherwise, players can purchase the standalone game for $39.99. 
 
 
Set during the American Revolution, Assassin’s Creed III stars Connor, a half Native American, half English warrior fighting to protect his tribe from destruction. He finds his way into the mysterious Assassin order and swept up in the historic conflict between the American colonies and the British Crown. It also serves as the final game of the Desmond Miles era of the series.
 
Excited to play Assassin's Creed III again? Are you looking forward to checking it out for the first time? Let us know in the comments!
 
 
Don't forget to sign up for Extra Life to help sick and injured kids in hospitals around the US and Canada by playing games!
 

Marcus Stewart
In case you haven’t noticed, there’s a new battle royale in town from the makers of Titanfall. Apex Legends is a new free-to-play competitor to Fortnite and PUBG and is available now on PS4, Xbox One, and PC (via Origin). 
 
Apex Legends is a spin-off set in the Titanfall universe, taking place 30 years after the events of Titanfall 2. Though it lacks actual Titans, the hero-focused, squad-based game pits teams of 3 against 19 other teams (making 57 players total) in a last-team standing deathmatch. Players choose from one of eight Legends. These characters sport unique abilities, such as a medic and tracker, giving the game more of an Overwatch or Rainbow Six vibe in that assembling a balanced team is key. 
 

 
Other twists include the Jumpmaster system which allows players to manually pinpoint their exact landing zones prior to the start of the match. Respawn Beacons act as one-use locations that revive downed teammates. Additionally, an intelligent gear system automatically attaches accessories to their appropriate weapons, saving the player time in having to manually do so themselves.
 
The implementation of Seasons affirms Respawn’s commitment to making Apex Legends an engaging long-term experience. Season 1 kicks off in March alongside a purchasable battle pass that unlocks cosmetic items traditionally obtained through gameplay. Respawn states that future Seasons will bring new Legends, weapons, cosmetics, and more. Cross-platform play, while currently unavailable, is said to be in the works as well. 
 
 
As for what Apex Legends means for the development of Titanfall 3, the follow-up to the acclaimed 2016 sequel is apparently not in the works. According to a Eurogamer interview with Lead Producer Drew McCoy, Apex Legends has been the project that the studio has been quietly working on and not Titanfall 3 as many had assumed/hoped. It’s worth noting that Respawn is also developing Star War Jedi: Fallen Order, set to release this fall. 
 
Have you played Apex Legends? If so, what do you think of it? Let us know in the comments. 

Jack Gardner
The latest arcade flight sim with narrative aspirations from Project Aces, Ace Combat 7: Skies Unknown exists as a bit of an odd duck. The last couple attempts to bring the series into the modern day after its PlayStation 2 heyday fell flat and failed to gain much traction. This left Ace Combat in something of a limbo, only receiving support for the PSN exclusive and microtransaction-heavy Ace Combat Infinity. Ace Combat 7: Skies Unknown seeks to bring the series back to its roots by setting itself up as a canonical sequel to Ace Combat 5: The Unsung War, one of the most successful Ace Combat games to date.
 
Despite that positioning, Ace Combat 7: Skies Unknown doesn’t require players to be familiar with its predecessor or the history of the fictional world of Strangereal. There are certainly nods to events and characters that veteran fans will recognize, but for the most part, these moments aren’t necessary to enjoy the larger story.
 
That story details a war between the countries of Osea and Erusea stemming from economic and political contention regarding a space elevator constructed using Osean funds on Erusean soil after Osea devastated Erusea in a previous war. Into this situation are thrown all manner of crazy twists and plot threads including: Prisoners forced to pilot aircraft in the war, the assassination of a former head of state, the future of unmanned drone warfare in the skies, and a survival behind enemy lines narrative. If all of that sounds interesting, it should! Unfortunately, it never comes together into one cohesive entity and then just ends.
 
One of the biggest problems is the complete lack of a protagonist. This was somewhat solved in Ace Combat 5 by allowing the player to participate in radio conversations with pilots in their squadron. Allowing for a little bit of character development that wasn’t just, “Golly gee, [player] is really the best pilot!” And that’s a huge problem in Ace Combat 7 because the player is framed for the assassination of the former president of Osea and sent to an island to fly junk planes as a distraction for the enemy. He just happens to be such a good pilot that eventually everyone seems to forget that they all think he assassinated a former president for no apparent reason.
 

 
Ace Combat 7 squanders the unique opportunity it has with the concept of prisoner pilots by very quickly hand waving away that aspect. A bunch of criminals flying airplanes sounds like it should be a great mix for the series, but it never has a tangible effect on the gameplay outside of one mission where players are denied the ability to repair and reload weapons mid-mission. Limiting the choice of planes, putting players against hopeless odds, heck, maybe having the planes the prisoners are flying literally start falling apart mid-mission – there are so many interesting ways that Ace Combat 7 could have handled the disposable prisoner-soldier aspect.
 
Eventually, the war progresses and leaves Osea overly dependent on the squadron of prisoners – until a late-game twist cuts the squadron off from those higher up in the chain of command. This could have been a great opportunity to put the game into the player’s hands: Will the prisoner-pilots stay loyal to Osea of maybe they join the losing Erusean forces. Ace Combat 5 had several missions that diverged based on player choice and gameplay decisions. Instead, it becomes a story about survival behind enemy lines; admittedly still cool, but it doesn’t do much to revitalize the story.

Many of these interesting narrative beats ultimately fail because of the disconnect between them and the main focus of the story: Unmanned drones. Ace Combat 7 really wants to be a story about the dangers of drone warfare. All of its cutscenes and several of its missions deal directly with that theme and threat. It’s the only one that actually feels tangible in the gameplay itself. The threat of coming up against an AI-controlled aircraft that can outmaneuver a human pilot feels more real than anything else the flight sim presents players. It’s unfortunate that the game that the game doesn’t then focus itself entirely on that danger, flooding the player’s airspace with mass produced drones or recurring encounters against a squadron of AI aircraft that learn from the player’s maneuvers. If prisoner-pilots and being lost behind enemy lines weren’t going to help build the story around the threat of drone warfare, they should have been cut or reworked to include them. Instead, we have a bunch of half-baked ideas that lack full function or resonance.  
 

 
Something odd must have been going on behind the scenes of Ace Combat 7’s development to have led to the narrative being a hot mess. The game just ends with everyone realizing that the disagreement over the space elevator was based on a misunderstanding. The campaign stands at 20 missions long, shorter than Ace Combat 5 by 7-12 missions depending on how one counts them. It’s possible that many of these lingering questions or half-formed ideas will be expanded upon in future DLC that will be supporting the title, but not enough is known about the eventual DLC to say for sure. We do know that it will touch on story content, but we can only judge based on what’s there now and it’s not a terribly satisfying narrative package. On top of that, there’s no arcade mode like previous entries in the series possessed, which featured a series of flight scenarios designed to challenge players. The only thing that makes sense is that due to budget or time constraints much of the single-player content had to be axed out of the core game. Or, to be a bit cynical, it’s possible that it was cut out to serve as DLC later down the road.  
 
Ace Combat 7’s story might be a mess, but the visual design for the aircraft, skies, and even the detailed models of structures and vehicles on the ground absolutely nail what the series has always been about. For all of the craziness of its Metal Gear-like flying drone carriers, the realism and attention to detail instantly convey that this is Ace Combat. It’s so beautiful, I often wanted to simply fly and look to at the swirling clouds, missile trails, explosions, and gorgeous chaos going on in missions. Each mission has a recap camera that follows the entire mission from a variety of angles centered on the player’s airplane and I’d often watch that for several minutes after concluding a sortie. The replay feature could be improved by the ability to fast forward through the mission at more than just 2X speed.
 

 
The soundtrack created by longtime game composer Keiki Kobayashi does its best to replicate the music of Ace Combat, succeeding in some respects while falling short in others. Kobayashi has been composing since 2001 and worked in the music departments of all the Ace Combat games since Ace Combat 4: Shattered Skies. It makes sense that he would be able to nail the ambient background soundscapes of the Ace Combat series for Ace Combat 7. However, Skies Unknown desperately lacks a central theme to rally around. Even at its best, it manages to convey frantic or dramatic energy, but possesses little memorable thrust of its own. It’s good experiential music to fly to but not so much to remember after the fact.
 
The gameplay remains largely true to the Ace Combat formula of loading up a plane with an impossible number of missiles and sending it out to do battle against a variety of air and ground targets. The mission design feels tight with every mission offering a number of exciting and unique challenges. Whether it’s altitude restrictions, flying through canyons, a time limit to do as much damage as possible, getting close enough to identify a wide field of unknown potential targets, or finding smuggling trucks in a dust storm, players should expect the unexpected when gearing up for the next mission.
 

 
Dealing with a number of flying quirks on missions adds another unique wrinkle to the gameplay. High winds can make flying close to the ground or staying on target difficult. Flying through clouds can help block missiles while also threatening to ice over the engines. Rain can obscure vision in the cockpit view. The most dangerous weather condition of all stands out as lightning which can fry electronics and send a plane into a deadly tailspin.
Instead of a lengthy campaign or an arcade mode, Ace Combat 7: Skies Unknown boasts an online multiplayer mode with a couple different rule sets, pitting players against one another for intense aerial combat. The mode is… fine. It’s fine. It’s not fantastic due to the lack of gameplay modes and rule sets for players to choose from. This might be some player’s jam and it’s certainly necessary to include in a modern Ace Combat game. However, most people aren’t playing Ace Combat for the multiplayer and there’s not much beyond replaying the campaign for people who value that single-player experience.
 
Conclusion:
 
Ace Combat 7: Skies Unknown feels like a game that’s not sure about what it wants to be. It wants to be a gritty war story, but lacks the punch necessary to follow-through on that desire. The gameplay frequently feels disconnected from the story itself. It’s incredibly short, clocking in at only 2/3 the size of its PS2 predecessor. However, despite these narrative shortcomings, its ultimately nails the feel of classic Ace Combat. It’s a blast to play and part of the disappointment in the shortness of the game stems from the desire to play more of it. As a starting point for relaunching consistent Ace Combat releases, Skies Unknown feels like solid bedrock on which to build. For those who love multiplayer or want a unique VR experience (yes, the VR is cool, but you probably shouldn’t buy PSVR just to experience Ace Combat 7), Skies Unknown caters directly to those cravings.
 
 
It certainly isn’t the perfect Ace Combat game that sets a new standard for the franchise, but Ace Combat 7: Skies Unknown stands as an enjoyable entry that fans will appreciate. Maybe just wait for it to go on sale and see how the DLC roll out goes before you buy. 
 
Ace Combat 7: Skies Unknown is available now on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC.
 
Don't forget to sign up for Extra Life to help sick and injured kids in hospitals around the US and Canada by playing games! 

Jack Gardner
Today, Nintendo released a tweet to announce a new Dr. Mario game for mobile devices titled Dr. Mario World. The Dr. Mario franchise helped pave the way for the massive popularity of match 3 games with its fast-paced puzzle gameplay inspired by Tetris. The prospect of Dr. Mario's addictive gameplay making its way onto phones is certainly something that has a lot of long-time fans excited. 
 
Dr. Mario has been one of the more overlooked of Nintendo's core series. The puzzle spin-off of Mario got its start back in 1990 on the NES with Dr. Mario and has received a total of seven entries. The last Dr. Mario game was Dr. Mario: Miracle Cure for the Nintendo 3DS back in 2015. 
 
The announcement states that Nintendo will be teaming up with Disney Tsum Tsum mobile developer Line Corporation to create Dr. Mario World. Disney Tsum Tsum was one of the top grossing mobile games of 2015 and was based on a line of Japanese plushies of Disney characters. Dr. Mario World will release in early summer 2019 and will be free for everyone, though it will include microtransactions. It releases for iOS and Android devices in 60 countries including Japan and the United States. The game will be co-developed/published with NHN Entertainment Corporation, a South Korean company that has had a hand in creating games like Tera and the the Kingsman: The Golden Circle puzzle game for mobile devices. 
 
Dr. Mario World represents Nintendo's further development of its burgeoning mobile market. The decision to begin partnering with other companies to create mobile games based on their popular franchises they made back in 2016 has proven to be a colossally lucrative one for the big N. We can only expect this trend to accelerate as it continues into the foreseeable future. 
 
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