TIME World

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

Talk about a labor of love

Most people have a hobby. And if you’re Norwegian Super Mario superfan Kjetil Nordin, that hobby us crocheting a scene from your favorite video game.

Nordin took 800 hours over the course of six years to recreate a scene from Super Mario Bros as a 2.2 by 1.8 meter (approximately 7-foot 2-inches by 5-foot 10-inches) crocheted blanket, the Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation (NRK) reports.

Nordin told NRK that the job included searching for yarn colors that exactly matched those in the game. “When the water was half way finished I saw that I had chosen the wrong shade of blue,” he said. “It was almost purple, and very ugly, so I had to undo all of it. That took an extra week.”

At the moment, he doesn’t know what his next project will be. “I can’t rush it. I’ll have a break, and think for a while,” he said.

[NRK]

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

The Shenmue 3 Kickstarter Campaign Soared Past $2m Goal in Less Than a Day

Sony Holds Press Event At E3 Gaming Conference Unveiling New Products For Its Playstation Game Unit
Christian Petersen — Getty Images Game designer Yu Suzuki and Sony Computer Entertainment America vice president of publisher and developer relations, Adam Boyes discus "Shenmue 3" during the Sony E3 press conference at the L.A. Memorial Sports Arena on June 15, 2015 in Los Angeles, California.

"I wanted to make it with the fans,” said developer Yu Suzuki

If there were any doubts whether gamers across the globe wanted another installment of the Sega adventure game Shenmue, fans of the franchise needed just a few hours to make their voices heard.

At Sony’s E3 press conference on Monday, the game’s developer Yu Suzuki announced that a Kickstarter campaign had been launched to collect $2 million to fund the development of Shenmue 3. Hours later the goal had been shattered.

As of the time of publication, the crowdfunding drive has raised more than $2.8 million thanks to donations from 36,000 backers. And this appears to be exactly what Suzuki envisaged for the project.

“If Shenmue 3 was going to get made, I wanted to make it with the fans,” wrote Suzuki on the campaign’s website. “Through Kickstarter, I knew that could happen. Together, with Shenmue fans everywhere, I knew we could build the game that the series deserves.”

TIME Video Games

Nintendo’s New Game Lets You Create the Mario Levels of Your Dreams (or Nightmares)

Super Mario Maker lets players build custom levels

Super Mario Bros. turns 30 this year, and Nintendo is celebrating the iconic video game character’s birthday in style with a new game that’s like a love letter to Mario’s legacy.

In Super Mario Maker, players can build their own levels using the warp pipes, question-mark blocks, piranha plants and other items that have become Mario staples over the years. Players can even skin their levels to look like the original Super Mario Bros., Super Mario Bros. 3, Super Mario World or New Super Mario Bros. U, complete with items and moves specific to those games. Levels can be shared with others online.

In an E3 trailer showing off the title, Nintendo revealed some particularly twisted worlds built with the level editor, featuring giant Koopa Troopas, a screenful of Boos and an entire wall of fireballs, among other obstacles. Players will be able to use Mario’s signature mushrooms to transform into other Nintendo characters, such as Link and Wii Fit Trainer, as well. The alternate costumes can be unlocked in-game or using Nintendo’s toys-to-life Amibo action figures.

Super Mario Maker debuts on Sept. 11 for the Wii U.

TIME Video Games

This Retro PlayStation Controller Is Drop-Dead Gorgeous

It's the 20th anniversary of the original PlayStation

Sony has revealed a special retro controller and headset in honor of the 20th anniversary of its original PlayStation console.

The 20th Anniversary DualShock 4 Wireless Controller ($64.99) and Gold Wireless Headset ($99.99) bring back the console’s signature gray colors, and will arrive this September in the U.S., Sony announced on Twitter. The controller is also rolling out in Europe and Asia in September, according to PlayStation’s blog, though there’s no word yet on whether the headphones will on sale as well.

The PlayStation was released in North America on Sept. 9, 1995, several months after it first launched in Japan on Dec. 3, 1994.

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.”

TIME Video Games

Watch Brand New Footage of Nintendo’s Next Star Fox Game

New Wii U title hits shelves during holiday 2015

The upcoming Star Fox game is going to place a big emphasis on vehicle variety.

Star Fox Zero, set to debut on Nintendo’s Wii U console by the end of the year, will let players transform Fox McCloud’s famous Arwing into a walking mech with the press of a button. The functionality was a feature in the never-released Star Fox 2 for the SNES, now resurrected for the new title.

Players will also be able to drive Fox’s landmaster tank and a gyro-wing copter in the new game, which appears heavily influenced by the on-rails dogfights of Star Fox 64.

The game will also make heavy use of the Wii U’s gamepad. Players will see a cockpit view of the action on the gamepad screen and a more cinematic, third-person view on their television screen. Aiming will be aided by the gamepad’s gyroscope controls.

Check out Star Fox Zero in action in the new footage above.

TIME Video Games

Watch Conan Get Dominated in Halo by the Stars of Silicon Valley

Conan is on the red team, of course

No one has gained as much notoriety for being terrible at video games as Conan O’Brien.

The late-night talk show host has taken his tongue-in-cheek celebration of the medium to a new level in a recent segment in which he (poorly) attempted to play the upcoming Halo 5: Guardians. Conan, along with Andy Richter and Aaron Bleyaert, squared off against Silicon Valley stars Thomas Middleditch, TJ Miller and Zach Woods in a multiplayer bout of the new first-person shooter.

Conan was predictably awful, spending one round trying to shoot out a pane of impenetrable glass to release a shark that’s actually just there for decoration. At one point the warring factions call a truce, only for Conan to “accidentally” take a potshot against one of the Silicon Valley stars.

Check out all the antics in the video above.

TIME Video Games

Watch Nintendo’s E3 2015 Event Live Right Here

We'll learn more about the company's plans for the year

Watch live video from Nintendo on www.twitch.tv

Nintendo is set to announce new games and other big news at its E3 2015 event Thursday starting at 12 p.m. ET. Expect new details about its upcoming Zelda and Star Fox titles, and perhaps more specific information about Nintendo’s plans to make games for mobile devices.

There’s a long shot chance we could hear about Nintendo’s next gaming console, currently referred to as the Nintendo NX, as well. But it’s probably not going to make an appearance.

Stay tuned to TIME for more E3 video game news as the week goes on.

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