TIME Video Games

Don’t Expect Batman: Arkham Knight To Work Well on PC Any Time Soon

The game was yanked from store shelves last week, and won't return until sometime this fall

Don’t expect the crippled PC version of Batman: Arkham Knight to run as smoothly as its console brethren for some time.

Game publisher Warner Bros. released the first of presumably several patches to come over the weekend, addressing several crucial issues. But the game’s community manager admits the work ahead is “significant,” writing:

[Developer] Rocksteady is leading our team of developers and partners as we work on the PC performance issues that players have been encountering. The work is significant and while we are making good progress on improving performance, it will take some time to ensure that we get the right fixes in place.

The PC version of Rocksteady’s sprawling Arkham finale arrived in tandem with the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One versions last week. But while the game works near flawlessly on both consoles, it was so catastrophically broken on the PC that Warner Bros. yanked the game from online and retail shelves altogether—an all but unheard of move in the triple-A gaming space.

Read more: 5 Things I Absolutely Love in Batman: Arkham Knight

The game remains unavailable for purchase on digital download service Steam, with a message stating that “Batman: Arkham Knight will be available on SteamOS, Linux and Mac in Fall 2015.” For all those who managed to buy a copy before sales were suspended (and thus still able to play the game), the first patch rectifies a design oversight that prevented players from upping a frame rate cap, fixes various bugs and crashes, and smooths out performance-related issues. You can read the complete fix list here.

The community spokesperson adds that Rocksteady will “continue to make interim patches available to address issues for those still playing the game on PC.”

TIME Video Games

Why Destiny Players Are So Mad About Red Bull

Bungie

Bottoms up, Guardian

Remember that old Red Bull slogan “Red Bull gives you wings”? Well now Red Bull gives you an exclusive quest in Activision’s Destiny, too.

The kicker: you have to buy specially detailed cans of the $2 to $3 popular caffeine, taurine, B-group vitamins and alpine spring water concoction. (You don’t have to drink it, of course.)

The quest, according to Red Bull’s marketing site, is “a never-before-seen, multi-stage mission in The Taken King that will test the speed and strategic abilities of Destiny players in new ways.” The Taken King is developer Bungie’s third expansion for the game, unveiled earlier this month at the E3 gaming convention in Los Angeles and due out September 15.

The cans will also include bonus XP (experience points) to “help players prepare for the epic quest,” says Red Bull, adding that the marketing push “leverage themes of speed, tenacity and strategy inspired by the energy drink.” Let’s think about the subtext for a moment: buying an energy drink makes you a better killing machine with the athletic output of a person in a chair pushing buttons. The medium is the message!

The bonus XP, which basically ups your XP grabs for a limited period of time, can be redeemed and used from July 1. The new quest itself should be available on or around The Taken King‘s release date.

Destiny, developed by an iconic studio (Marathon and Halo‘s creators) and mega-hyped by one of the largest game publishers in the world, started out as a slightly better than average shooter last fall. It has since, inch by grinding inch, developed into a pretty good one. It’s also sold a bazillion copies, with substantially more registered users (in the vicinity of 16 million) than World of Warcraft when we were at peak World of Warcraft (about 12 million). The Taken King is thus poised to be a major event by forces of numbers alone.

The trouble is, one of Destiny’s weaknesses is that it’s partly a game about doing the same thing over and over. Singular content is thus paramount. Maybe the new Red Bull mission turns out to be tedious rehash. Or maybe it’s totally fantastic. No one knows. But if it’s the latter, I suspect you’re going to have some pretty peeved players.

Is this the future DLC-ification of “leveraged” non-gaming IP? Is the future of nickel-and-dime gaming additives the subsidization of not-universally-beloved corporate mega-brands throughout the food, automotive, banking and big box retail industries?

To be fair, given Red Bull’s move into eSports in recent years — specifically its Red Bull Battlegrounds competition — the deal seems less out of left field than slightly irritating. In the world of inexplicable corporate gaming team-ups, this one has at least that connection to fall back on. And if you’d rather sidestep the Red Bull deal entirely, it sounds like the quest may be available after an exclusivity period that’ll run from September 18 to December 31.

TIME Video Games

Movie Theaters Are Turning Into Video Game Arcades to Make More Money

Full frame of movie audience wearing special 3D gl
J. R. Eyerman—The LIFE Picture Collection/Gett ull frame of movie audience wearing special 3D glasses to view film Bwana Devil which was shot with new natural vision 3 dimensional technology.

Imagine playing games with a few dozen of your closest friends

A few years ago, an old-school video games arcade called Rusty Quarters in Minneapolis closed its doors for good. I knew about it through a local close friend, who’d regale me with tales of the place’s retro pleasures: Centipede, Frogger, Donkey Kong, Jr., Joust, Ms. Pac-Man — “Our childhood,” as one of the owners put it in a 2013 Indiegogo pitch to keep the biz afloat.

I never got a chance to visit Rusty Quarters before it shuttered, and I’ve long recognized that the days of plunking quarter (or tokens) into imposing cabinets housing tube screens with vector graphics and devoted system boards are mostly well behind us. But the L.A. Times has an interesting piece up Wednesday about a theater-related gaming push that could fulfill a related longterm (and as yet unfulfilled) dream I’ve nurtured for decades.

Imagine playing Minecraft on a movie screen. And not just you playing by yourself in a dim lit theater, but you alongside dozens of other players, collaborating in realtime by way of laptops operated from the comfort of cozy theater seats.

Despite the annual record-breaking revenue figures you hear trotted out when blockbusters like The Avengers 2 or Guardians of the Galaxy arrive, movie theater attendance has plummeted over the past decade, reports the Times. That’s partially why ticket and concession prices are going up. What else to do with all those warehouses of multistory screened cinematic entertainment, then? Supplement with video games, of course.

The Times reports that some theaters are turning to video games, among other non-movie events, to get more people in the building. On the gaming front, think League of Legends, a popular online real-time strategy game (and mega-popular e-sports entry) in which teams attempt to destroy each others’ bases and champions by deftly plying elaborate offensive and defensive tactics.

My dream was always to play a game like Super Mario 64 on a screen the size of a small building, but therein lies a paradox: some of the most amazing single-player experiences would by definition be too indulgent to justify, contradicting the financial imperative to fill up the house. But multiplayer experiences like Minecraft, or League of Legends? It sounds like the sky’s the limit, and if the concept fires the imagination of gamers attracted by the more immediately social, face-to-face, event-style experience of “theatergaming,” maybe even coming soon to a theater near you.

TIME Video Games

3 Tips to Actually Enjoy Batman: Arkham Knight on PC

They're pretty basic, and won't provide the comprehensive relief PC players deserve, but they're all we've got until publisher Warner Bros. fixes its mess

Having trouble getting the PC version of Batman: Arkham Knight running optimally? You don’t say.

For reasons unclear to all save actual PC owners, sadly accustomed to studios releasing unfinished versions of games that work just fine on consoles, the PC version of Arkham Knight has all sorts of problems. Low-res textures, sluggish frame rates, and a cache-related glitch Kotaku claims can prompt the game to delete itself.

To Rocksteady’s credit, the studio’s Arkham community manager has acknowledged complaints are coming from enough people to warrant the following PC support forum disclaimer:

We’re aware that some users are reporting performance issues with the PC version of Batman: Arkham Knight. This is something that Rocksteady takes very seriously. We are working closely with our external PC development partner to make sure these issues get resolved as quickly as possible.

Note the part about an “external PC development partner.” Translation: Warner Bros. outsourced the PC port. There’s nothing wrong with that in principle, but in this case the disparity between platforms looms large: I can confirm that the PlayStation 4 version, which I’ve had for a while now (reviewed here), was blemish-free from start to finish, and I’m seeing the same reports from Xbox One owners.

If you’re stuck playing the PC version, the following fixes may mitigate some of the issues until Rocksteady (and that “external PC development partner”) gets a patch or three out to rectify the situation.

Update your graphics card drivers

Self-evident, but worth a double-check in case you hadn’t seen that both AMD and Nvidia released updated Arkham Knight-optimized drivers on Monday, June 22. Players have reportedly been experiencing performance issues on both GPU manufacturers’ hardware.

Tweak a simple game file to unlock the frame rate

For some reason, Arkham Knight for PC shipped locked at 30 frames per second. I prefer 30 fps for my own reasons (don’t bother arguing!). But options are our friends, so here’s how to unshackle the frame rate:

Locate the game configuration folder (C:\Program Files (x86)\Steam\steamapps\common\Batman Arkham Knight\BmGame\Config\), then open the following file in a text editor:

BmSystemSettings.ini

Scan for the line “MaxFPS=30″ then change “30” to whatever you’d like the frame rate cap to be.

Ix-nay the intro movies

The intro movie plays every time you launch the game, whether you button-mash or no. To fix this and get the game’s menu screen to load promptly after you’ve watched the intro, navigate to the game’s movie folder (C:\Program Files (x86)\Steam\steamapps\common\Batman Arkham Knight\BMGame\Movies) and locate the following files:

Intro_BM3Logo_fire.usm
nv_logo.usm

Slap new extensions on the end (after .USM), say something like .BAK, so you can easily find and restore everything if you change your mind down the road.

TIME Video Games

The Best Part of Sony’s New 1TB PlayStation 4 Isn’t the Hard Drive

The new PlayStation 4s include notable under the hood (as well as on-the-hood) changes

Answering Microsoft’s recently unveiled 1TB Xbox One with a refresh of its own, Sony has announced a new 1TB “Ultimate Player Edition” PlayStation 4, as well as revised 500GB model.

But the best part about the new PlayStation systems isn’t the extra storage space.

Unlike Microsoft’s Alcatraz-like Xbox 360 and One game systems, both Sony’s PlayStation 3 and 4 game consoles have been user upgradeable from the start, allowing owners to pop in new off-the-shelf hard drives at leisure. Thus if you already own a PlayStation 4, there’s no storage-related reason to buy a completely new console when you can just grab a much less expensive hard drive, then follow Sony’s own official installation instructions.

But the real reason to take note of the new models is that they’ll also be roughly one-tenth lighter and consume slightly less power than the original 500GB PlayStation 4. That, and if you find the current model’s fingerprint-magnetic glossy hard drive cover irritating, the new models—available in either “glacier white” or “jet black”—will come with a “grainy” matte finish across their entire exterior.

No word on prices yet, but Sony PlayStation Europe says the new 1TB model will be available on July 15 in Europe. Sony Japan says that the new 500GB models will be available in Japan by the end of this month, followed in sequence (though without specific timetables) by the rest of the world.

TIME e3 2015

These Are the 10 Most Promising Games of E3 2015

Check out our picks for the most intriguing game shown at this year's Electronic Entertainment Expo

They’re not the most popular games of this year’s show. Neither Doom nor Fallout 4 are on this list, nor game franchise all-stars like Star Wars: Battlefront, Just Cause 3, Call of Duty: Black Ops 3 or Uncharted 4. You can read about that stuff anywhere.

Here’s a look at the games you maybe didn’t see (or see as much of), a.k.a. the ones I’m at least as excited about as any of those others.

  • Beyond Eyes

    Imagine a game that let you guide a 10-year-old girl, who at some point lost her ability to see, through an amorphous, painterly world, a world that forms or dissolves in response to aural cues or interference. Beyond Eyes appears to be an attempt to craft an adventure that may, if successful, in some small but meaningful way manage to convey some of both the travails and epiphanies of experiencing the world absent visible light.

    PC, Mac, Xbox One

    TBD 2015

  • Cuphead

    Cuphead looks like Betty Boop meets a shoot ’em up meets miracle. Over the course of the game, its teacup-noggin protagonists do battle with giant paranormal carrots, boxing frogs, angry birds, queen bees, gambling contraptions and not-so-little mermaids, all staged and immaculately animated in the most astonishing hand drawn and inked, cel-based, and watercolor-painted backdrops in the history of video gaming.

    PC, Xbox One

    TBD 2016

  • Dishonored 2

    This long anticipated sequel to one of the better post-Thief sneakers transpires in a coastal city where you’ll hunt new adversaries, optionally playing as Dishonored‘s original (male) protagonist, or a new one (female) with her own abilities and retro-futura gadgets. Crucially, as in the original, you can experience the entire game, if you so choose, without killing a soul.

    PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One

    TBD 2016

  • Firewatch

    Firewatch, “a mystery set in the Wyoming wilderness,” lets you play a volunteer fire lookout officer circa the Yellowstone fires of 1988, “your only emotional lifeline” ongoing chats with an unseen supervisor by handheld radio. It’s anyone’s guess where that goes (Twin Peaks or Always?). But it’s the game’s striking look that’s been grabbing attention: vast, clear-lined, color-saturated backcountry, styled after 1930s National Park Service posters.

    PC, Mac, PlayStation 4

    TBD 2015

  • Horizon Zero Dawn

    Guerrilla Games (the Killzone series) is apparently making a post-post-apocalyptic action-adventure titled Horizon Zero Dawn, which with its cast of robo-dinosaurs and low-tech, archery-adept heroine had me thinking Transformers: Beast Wars meets Vikings.

    PlayStation 4

    TBD 2016

  • The Last Guardian

    The Last Guardian still exists, thank goodness, and stars a boy (controlled by you) and his giant sphinx-like companion, who both wend their way through vast, precipitous, architectonically elegant backdrops. As in Shadow of the Colossus (by the same director), you can cling to all aspects of your animal companion, clambering around its feathered bulk and guiding it between platforms to help buddy-solve environment-based puzzles.

    PlayStation 4

    TBD 2016

  • Mirror’s Edge Catalyst

    Finally, a Mirror’s Edge sequel…or technically prequel, since it transpires prior to the original game’s events and focuses on the futuristic message-sneaking protagonist’s backstory. The biggest change: instead of executing flawless first-person parkour maneuvers along linear rooftop routes, you’re handed access to a fully traversable, open-world version of the last game’s gorgeous but mostly off-limits alabaster metropolis.

    PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One

    February 23

  • Rise of the Tomb Raider

    Microsoft demonstrated a terrifying gameplay slice from this sequel to the 2013 franchise reboot during its E3 showcase. Yes, there’s no way anyone in human history could pull off those kinds of moves, but we’ll doubtless have fun pretending when the game ships this fall—so long, crucially, as developer Crystal Dynamics managed to carry along (and further develop) all of the character-building virtues that consistently elevated the last installment.

    Xbox One, Xbox 360

    November 10

  • Super Mario Maker

    Want to build your own side-scrolling Super Mario Bros. levels? Skin those levels to look like different Mario games, ranging in visual style from the NES’s 8-bit glory days to the Wii U’s slick, 3D, high definition New Super Mario Bros. U? Do all that from the comfort and convenience of the Wii U GamePad? The only catch: you have to first beat your own level at least once, before Nintendo will let you share your level with others online.

    Wii U

    September 11

  • Unravel

    It’s cute, and yes, too much in gaming gets by on “cute” these days, but Unravel–about a yarn-creature platforming through the world using string from its body to solve physics-related puzzles–looks like more than just a riff on Kirby’s Epic Yarn. Think LittleBigPlanet meets cat’s cradle (the string game) meets silk-spinning, and I think we’re close.

    PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One

    TBD

    Read next: This Nintendo Fan Took 800 Hours to Crochet a Giant Replica Super Mario Blanket

    Download TIME’s mobile app for iOS to have your world explained wherever you go

TIME Video Games

5 Things I Absolutely Love in Batman: Arkham Knight

Batman must once more save Gotham from a who's who medley of his worst enemies—including a mysterious new villain dubbed the Arkham Knight

Confession: I don’t like superheroes. Watchmen author Alan Moore once suggested their existence in American culture “might have something to do with a kind of an ingrained American reluctance to engage in confrontation without massive tactical superiority.” Nonetheless, superheroes are now pretty much ubiquitous in our entertainment, and I submit that at some point we’re going to have to grapple with some of the less pleasant particulars of why that’s the case.

But it’s also testament to how well the Arkham games work that the idea of playing a protagonist as sadistic, pretentious, and at times borderline sociopathic as Batman doesn’t really factor when the game plays this well (and if you are a Batman fan, all the better for you). Arkham Knight, which sees Batman square off against old enemies and one new (the eponymous and identity-unknown Arkham Knight) in a vast open-world playground, is developer Rocksteady at the top of its game, expressing a masterful, anted-up understanding of how and why its series finally broke gaming’s “awful superhero tie-in” curse half a decade ago.

Here’s the stuff I liked.

Is the Joker really dead?

I was prepared, upon Arkham Knight‘s announcement years ago, to toss it in the trash if it turned out the Joker’s demise in the last game was just an emotional exploit intended all along to preface another soap opera-worthy resuscitation. (Hey, just because the corporate comics do it doesn’t mean games can’t take the higher ground.)

But no, Rocksteady went and… Okay, I can’t confirm that the Joker is or isn’t in Arkham Knight. That would be telling. But I can tell you this: Rocksteady manages to get you thinking about the question in the cleverest possible way. In fact I’d argue it’s the narrative component in the game that’s pulled off best.

Arkham Knight‘s version of Gotham is a wonderland

No, not in the John Mayer sense, but consider all of the stops pulled and every pipe-blasting key depressed simultaneously. The reimagined version of Batman’s sprawling urban playground, which transpires on three brand new bridge-linked islands—you can see Arkham City and Asylum‘s haunts in the distance, but they’re off limits—is a gloom-fogged goth-tropolis with creepy art nouveau inflections.

Greasy light-source-lit curtains of rain descend from moonlit thunderheads onto commercial rooftops gone to wrack and ruin. Those rooftops crown buildings taller and more granular than ever, with more places to find refuge, more fleshed out internal areas and clever quick-entry grates that thrust you through ductwork mazes, letting you cruise like a missile into (and back out of) buildings.

The Batmobile rules

“Let’s even the odds,” growls Batman at the game’s outset. And so he does, conjuring the game’s taciturn sidekick, a sleek, weaponized behemoth thoughtfully integrated into every aspect of the game. It yanks open grates, lifts heavy cargo, grapples up the sides of buildings, speeds to your location with the touch of a button, and can transform with the pull of a trigger between speedy, straightforward roadster and a strafing, missile-lobbing tank.

You might as well call the game Arkham Ride, because you’ll cover way more ground tearing around in this thing, fully transitioned from Arkham Asylum‘s absurdly tail-finned post-Burton nod, to more of a Nolan-ish tumbler with 360-degree swiveling wheels. It’s an essential companion, whether solving environment puzzles or battling squadrons of the Arkham Knight’s tanks. Worries that the Batmobile would feel like a forced design element were definitely unfounded.

Every aspect of combat has been improved

And that’s saying something, because no one was complaining. At their core, Arkham battles are about stalking tactical playgrounds with asymmetric conceal or assail points, evaluating before engaging. In Arkham Knight, it’s more nuanced than ever, but without feeling overcomplicated. Rocksteady and Warner Bros. Montreal have been playing a long game of rock-paper-scissors with the series’ tactical battle system, iterating enemy types and behaviors with each installment to revitalize the series’ core virtue without radically rethinking it.

You can now throw thugs as part of a counter, for instance, and you have to stay behind alert enemies when stalking from floor grates, lest they spy you stalking (and if they do, they can detonate thermal charges that cascade through the ventilation system—if you don’t vamoose before they go off, it’s sayonara). And if you’re the silent type, quietly dispatching enemies at leisure, there’s a counter for that as well: enemies can now rouse fallen comrades, so you have to be quick and mindful of patrol trajectories.

Other improvements abound

Batbelt item selection, a hinky multi-tier affair in the prior games that sometimes led to erroneous weapon selection in the helter-skelter of combat, is now a single tier circle, placing everything in immediate, pinpoint reach. Some of the environment puzzles are exceptional, like a sequence that plays out high above Gotham, where you’re basically playing Super Monkey Ball with airship cargo.

Grate scurrying’s been simplified, too, minimizing the old first-person crawl by generalizing movement to broad swathes of a level’s subfloor, which speeds maneuverability. The sheer array of side activities this time, be they Rocksteady’s insidious new Riddler puzzles or the barrage of rogue’s gallery subplots, are almost overwhelming (suffice to say there’s an astonishing amount to do, and that’s before the imminent DLC).

It’s not the final installment in a trilogy

This one’s more a point of clarification than a like/dislike. It’s become an unofficial thing to call the Arkham series a trilogy, I guess because last year’s Batman: Arkham Origins was handled by a different studio. Warner Bros. as yet makes no such distinction, and since Origins was a strong and arguably essential entry in the quartet, it was nice to see Rocksteady scatter subtle references back to Origins‘ events throughout Arkham Knight. What’s more, you can draw a line directly from Arkham Knight‘s satisfying “survey the crime scene for evidence” reconstructive puzzles back to Origins‘ DVR-like “find the next clue” sequences.

And here’s the stuff that didn’t work for me…

Some of the quips fall flat

Like when Batman tells a recurring series ally “I’ve got a feeling,” and the character replies “Yeah, I got a feeling too. Doc gave me some cream and it cleared up in no time.” Yuk-yuk!

The police let all the bad guys go

You know all the work you did the last two games to clean up the psychotic super-villanous riffraff? Yeah, so Gotham City Police had to let all those folks go, because…well, you don’t need me to tell you. Batman’s real superpower, it turns out, is not going totally bat**** crazy having to fight the same opponents over, and over, and over…

Hacking security consoles is still boring

Remember the tedious, thumb-twisty way you had to swivel the gamepad’s thumbsticks to make one of Batman’s gizmos cough up phrases that unlocked doors in the last two games? It’s back! Yes, I suppose it’s better than stopping up the game’s pace by forcing us to work some sort of tortuous Captain Crunch decoder wheel, but it doesn’t feel very Batman-ish when hacking security consoles is just a rote test of finger dexterity.

“Fear” takedowns look cool, but feel like cheats

There’s definitely a strategic, predatory element to lining up two or three enemies and taking them out all almost automatically, and it can certainly help thin out dangerous clusters of thugs. But Arkham Knight‘s new “pinball KO” maneuver feels antithetical to the series’ modus operandi—a stylish cheat code to ease combat masquerading as a new Bat-skill.

A related cheat: team takedowns, where you’re battling a group of enemies aided by one of your sidekicks. It’s a stylish, penatly-free way to switch characters in the midst of battle, but that’s all it is: a tactically shallow freebie KO.

TIME Video Games

Nintendo Is Doing Something Totally Unexpected With Its Super-Popular Amiibo

Nintendo is adding its Amiibo figurines to Activision's Skylanders

Crazy, but true: Nintendo’s Amiibo figurines are about to join hands with Activision’s new Skylanders game in a deal no one saw coming, but in hindsight makes perfect sense.

Activision unveiled its latest Skylanders installment, Skylanders: SuperChargers, a few weeks ago, but breathed not a word about Nintendo’s involvement. Instead, we learned that the pioneering toy-to-life series’ fifth outing would see vehicles hit the franchise for the first time, paired with new Skylanders (the series’ quirky fantasy characters) to conjure “supercharged” versions of said characters and vehicles capable of more deftly navigating mammoth new land, sea and sky-based levels.

As of Tuesday, you can add two completely new and technologically singular Nintendo Amiibo figurines, with their own matching vehicles, to the dossier of Skylanders: SuperChargers derring-doers. Pick your jaws up off the floor and meet Hammer Slam Bowser and Turbo Charge Donkey Kong.

Activision
Activision

Yep, we’re talking bona fide Nintendo icons in a not-Nintendo-made game. What’s more, they work in both Skylanders and Nintendo Amiibo-supported games. How? With a twist of the base, you can cycle from Amiibo to Skylanders mode. It’s that simple.

In my demo with Skylanders developer (and Activision subsidiary) Vicarious Visions, the company illustrated how both figures are going to work in Skylanders: SuperChargers, which is to say, pretty much like all the other Skylanders characters, albeit with distinctively Nintendo-ish DNA.

Take Hammer Slam Bowser, who lumbers around meting out destruction with a giant hammer, a pair of flaming fists, and the ability to spit fire. But he can also summon koopas (the Mario-series turtle-thingies) which then operate as either minions or deadly pinballing weapons if you whack them with your hammer or stomp on their backs Super Mario Bros. style.

Pair Bowser with his de facto vehicle, the plane-like Clown Cruiser, which by default sports a koopa clown face (a nod to a Bowser battle in Super Mario World), and you’ll supercharge its abilities, conjuring a wooden version of Bowser’s head on its nose (a nostalgic nod to Super Mario Bros. 3‘s airships).

For Donkey Kong, the character’s dressed in a stunt man jumpsuit, iconic red DK tie and can transform into Super Kong, wielding giant barrels like boxing gloves on each hand. You can throw those barrels, of course, but you can also pound on a bongo to unsettle enemies, turn into a giant steamrolling barrel, or rain down girders and ladders (bright blue and red) modeled after Donkey Kong’s original arcade appearance.

Activision

Marry Donkey Kong with his optimal vehicle, the Barrel Blaster, and you get a souped up motorbike that looks a little like the fat-tired Batcycle from Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight sporting a cannon-saddled sidecar. And who’s in that sidecar? Diddy Kong, of course.

Both characters come in their own starter packs, which include the game, either Donkey Kong or Bowser, their corresponding supercharger vehicle and a Skylanders figurine for $74.99. The only catch: You’ll need a Wii U, Wii, or 3DS to use the special Amiibo with the game.

The new Nintendo figures will be available when Skylanders: SuperChargers launches on September 20 in North America.

TIME Video Games

Everything You Need to Know About Nintendo’s Skylanders Amiibo Deal

How (and why) Nintendo and Activision joined hands to bring some of Nintendo's most beloved characters to Activision's multibillions toys-to-life franchise

Nintendo’s Amiibo are about to rescue Activision’s Skylanders! No, not Activision’s epically successful $3 billion toys-to-life franchise, which is doing just fine on its own — but some of its perennially embattled in-game heroes. Let me explain.

The House of Mario just revealed that it turned not one but two of its iconic characters over to Activision to use in its upcoming annual Skylanders installment, Skylanders: SuperChargers. It’s a move you could comfortably call historically unprecedented.

I spoke with Nintendo of America President Reggie Fils-Aimé and Activision Publishing CEO Eric Hirshberg a few days ago. Here’s what they told TIME about the deal.

Activision and Nintendo have been talking about this deal for years

“All the way back when we were developing the first Skylanders game, about four years ago, Nintendo was one of the first groups outside of Activision that we shared Skylanders with,” said Hirshberg. “As early as all the way back then, this was in that space, and so it didn’t take too long for people’s imaginations to go there. It’s been discussed from both perspectives for a while, but it wasn’t until last year at E3 that it got more concrete, as Nintendo revealed its Amiibo plans, and that’s when we got more specific with it.”

Nintendo did none of the coding

Nintendo creatively consulted on the new figures, Skylanders developer Vicarious Visions told me during my demo, but all of the hands-in-the-code development for the new Bowser and Donkey Kong hybrid Amiibo/Skylanders was handled on the Activision side.

Activision

The biggest challenge was figuring out how to make the Amiibo figurines work in both games

“The one element that had a few rounds of creativity was switching between Skylanders and Amiibo functionality,” explained Hirshberg. “I think we wound up with a very elegant solution that’ll be intuitive to kids, which is just that simple twist of the base, which determines whether it’s a Skylander or an Amiibo.”

It was a genuinely collaborative process

“The bulk of the creative process, and this was very much a collaboration between the two groups, was figuring out how the characters should come to life in the game,” said Hirshberg. “Our team approached that as both an opportunity and a responsibility. We wanted to get it right, to honor these characters and have it be a great homage in addition to nailing the gameplay. Interestingly, the Nintendo team met us more than halfway, with equal admiration and collaborative spirit, because in some of the meetings, it was Nintendo saying ‘But is that right for a Skylander?’ So I think each team was very protective of the others’ characters.”

“As Vicarious Visions would be thinking about how should Donkey Kong move, how should Bowser move within this Skylanders environment, our developers were thinking about the history of the various Skylanders games,” added Fils-Aimé. “And so when Vicarious Visions would suggest a move set, or a set of experiences, our developers were always challenging and saying, ‘Is that the way a Skylander would do it? Is that the way it should be in this environment?’ And it was that type of discussion that led to the characters you’ve seen, which look so natural and the way it should be.”

It’s not a violation of Nintendo-first principles

Nintendo guards its IP like no one else in the video game industry, but Fils-Aimé said Nintendo’s collaboration with Activision is in keeping with its modus operandi.

“First and foremost, we’re an entertainment company,” he explained. “We exist to make people smile, to have people enjoy our experiences. And it’s with that thinking that the collaboration with Activision happened. It’s not us letting go of our IP, it’s us collaborating with a team that has such a respect for and knowledge base of these franchises, that it was easy to collaborate to create something that’s never been done before.”

Activision

You still call them Amiibo…sort of

“It’s true that Skylanders are still Skylanders and Amiibo are Amiibo in terms of their functionality,” said Fils-Aimé “But in the game, this is a special Donkey Kong and a special Bowser with special abilities and special moves, and that’s the way it exists within the Skylanders environment.”

“When you play the entire game through, you’ll also see that there’s an elegant piece of fiction where the Skylanders are on the ropes against Kaos’ most evil weapon yet,” added Hirshberg. “So they put out a clarion call across the dimensions for any assistance they can get, and Donkey Kong and Bowser come to their side, so it makes sense why they’re there.”

The new Amiibo work as you’d expect in existing Nintendo games

“Donkey Kong will work as a Donkey Kong Amiibo and Bowser as a Bowser Amiibo, whether we’re talking about Super Smash Bros. for Wii U, or in Mario Party 10,” says Fils-Aimé.

It’s the first time Bowser’s been playable in a 3D game

Nintendophiles are probably saying “What about Smash Bros.?” And granted. But the distinction lies in how you semantically define “playable.” In the Smash Bros. games, 3D Bowser is limited to motion along a 2D plane. Skylanders: SuperChargers marks the first time he’s been maneuverable unfettered by that stricture.

Activision

It’s not (yet) clear if the figurines employ multiple NFC chips

When asked how the tech works, Hirshberg (laughing) replied, simply “There’s magic in these figurines.”

The new Skylanders Amiibo are only available on Nintendo platforms

Skylanders: SuperChargers will be on pretty much everything when it launches this fall, but the new Nintendo Amiibo will only work with the Wii U, Wii and 3DS versions of the game.

“Our franchises live on our platforms,” said Fils-Aimé. “That’s what we do. And certainly we are experimenting with smart devices, so that might be an added element, but the core concept of our character showing up on competitive gaming platforms is just not something we believe in.”

The new Amiibo figures and vehicles are available in special starter packs

You can get Hammer Slam Bowser and Turbo Charge Donkey Kong in special starter packs priced at $74.99 each (for the Wii and Wii U versions), or $64.99 for the 3DS.

Activision

Nintendo and Activision hope to have plenty of the new figurines to go around

No promises, but both Hirshberg and Fils-Aimé indicated that they’re expecting high demand for the new figures, and hope to have enough to go around when the game and new figures debut on September 20. Nintendo ran into trouble when it launched its Amiibo figurines last November, in part due to a labor dispute that stalled cargo coming into the U.S. for months.

And the future could lead anywhere…

“As I’m sure you’d anticipate, we’re here to talk about this collaboration today,” said Hirshberg. “But you know, we’ll see what the future holds. We’re both every excited about it and feel very positive about it, and so we’ll see what happens.”

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