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Shacknews - Steve Watts

While the Xbox One turning on with the sound of your voice made for an impressive stage presentation, it didn't take long for the Internet to notice: doesn't that mean it's listening all the time? Today, in a bevy of new information that also included online checks and game licensing, Microsoft attempted to put fears at ease with more detail about the new Kinect's privacy settings.

In a detailed announcement, Microsoft stated that you'll personalize your Kinect during start-up. That will let you pick which settings are on from the start, and you can turn the sensor on, off, or pause it. When the Kinect is off, Microsoft says, it's only listening for the command "Xbox on," but you can disable that feature as well. When the Xbox One is in use, Microsoft is careful to note that it's not recording or uploading any conversation. Finally, you can use other inputs if you just want to turn off or pause the Kinect.

Concerning personal data, Microsoft claims that nothing will leave your Xbox One without explicit, expressed permission. It uses examples like a fitness game measuring heart data or a card game that views your face to determine the strength of a bluff.

This is all much more specific than the information we heard late last month, which simply promised privacy settings without going into detail.

Shacknews - Steve Watts

Almost as soon as the Xbox One announcement ended, we started hearing contradictory tales from Microsoft regarding the system's connectivity requirements. The last two weeks have apparently given the company a chance to get its messaging straight, as it finally clarified today just how often the system needs to check in.

As confirmed on the official site the system will require an online check-in every 24 hours on your primary console. If you're accessing your game library on someone else's system, that window gets narrowed to every hour. The page warns: "Offline gaming is not possible after these prescribed times until you re-establish a connection, but you can still watch live TV and enjoy Blu-ray and DVD movies."

This is similar to what Phil Harrison told Kotaku, which apparently let the cat out of the bag early. Microsoft quickly told Polygon he was merely describing "potential scenarios."

More mundane details include the recommended connection speed (1.5Mbps), and the ability to sign in and install games from your friend's house to play them there. That's certainly convenient, but the one-hour check-in time might make it less welcoming.

Shacknews - Steve Watts
Steam announced a new "Family Sharing" feature today, and is accepting beta applications to test it. When it launches fully, close friends and family will be able to play one another's games, while still earning their own achievements and saving their individual progress through the cloud.
Shacknews - Ozzie Mejia

Those that have played through the Persona series of games know that the story is a great part of the appeal. And though Persona 4 Arena Ultimax is primarily a fighting game, its story looks to be just as rich as its RPG counterparts. Not only that, but it'll also come with some new fighting mechanics to help push that story forward.


Publisher Atlus released a new trailer for the story surrounding its upcoming fighter. The land of Inaba has been plagued by a mysterious darkness and red fog. With much of the Persona cast now finding themselves abducted by an unknown antagonist, the only way to survive... is to fight. Some of the new features on display include the ability to select characters' shadow dopplegangers, as well as the new 'S Hold' system, which allows fighters to charge their attacks before striking.


Check out the trailer below to learn more about the game's story and its new mechanics.




Atlus also uploaded three new character trailers, including two for Tohru Adachi and Marie, which should not be confused with the last trailer that starred the DLC-exclusive twosome. There's also a third trailer for the heavily-armed Aigis, who shows off some pretty bonkers combos.



Persona 4 Arena Ultimax arrives on Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 on September 30.

Shacknews - Daniel Perez

Volition creative director Steve Jaros announced yesterday he will no longer be a part of the company, instead moving on to hopefully bigger and better things at Valve Software.


News of Jaros’ departure came from the man himself yesterday afternoon within a series of tweets published on his personal Twitter account. “The past 10 years at Volition have been life changing,” Jaros wrote. “I’ve gotten to work with amazing people and made friends that will last a life time. I’m super proud of the work we did on Saints Row, and am excited for what Volition does in the future, but it’s time for me to move on. I’m looking forward to new adventures at Valve Software.”


Jaros was the creative director for Saints Row IV and the upcoming Saints Row: Gat Out Of Hell. He didn’t go into specifics as to what will happen to the upcoming Saints Row title, although we think it’s safe to assume development of the title will go on without his creative input. We're hoping it'll live up to the expectations that Saints Row IV set. If it doesn't, then we'll all be keeping a close eye on what Jaros does for Valve as we would certainly be interested in seeing what he comes up with.

Shacknews - Ozzie Mejia

We've seen the rumors pop up over the last several months. Then leaks came pouring out last week, followed by official confirmation from Nintendo during their Nintendo Treehouse stream on Friday. That's it. The latest Super Smash Bros roster is now final, featuring a whopping 49 characters.


Even with such a huge number, though, there's the inevitable sense that Nintendo forgot to include some characters. It's easy to feel like a favorite character has been snubbed, given that Nintendo's rich history leaves room for hundreds of characters to get in on the fighting fun. But there are a few particular character cuts that Shacknews would like to break down, before explaining our sense of disappointment.


We make this examination with the full knowledge that these characters still have a chance of being included as DLC later down the line. In the meantime, here are some of the character omissions that disappointed us most.



Ice Climbers (from the Ice Climbers series)


We begin with the obvious polar bear in the room. The Ice Climbers have been beloved members of the Smash Bros. roster for the past two games, with Popo and Nana capably working as a unique tandem to bash their opponents around with their wooden mallets. They were considered an oddity of an addition when Melee first released back in 2001, but the abilities they brought to the table quickly made them a Smash Bros staple.


That's why it's incredibly sad to see the Ice Climbers left off the new roster. They had quickly become favorites of both casual and tournament-level players alike. In fact, pro players Wobbles had even rode Popo and Nana all the way to a second place finish at Evo 2013's Super Smash Bros Melee tournament. There's no one quite like them, either, as new tandem fighters like Rosalina & Luma don't quite fill that same void.





Mewtwo (from the Pokemon series)


As long as we're talking about heavy hitters from Melee, many of those fans had hoped to see Mewtwo make his triumphant return in this new edition of Smash Bros. His psychic attacks are still a favorite of that community and they would have fit in well alongside magic users like Zelda and Robin. Unfortunately, Mewtwo is once again on the outside looking in.


The omission is all the more baffling considering Mewtwo's return to prominence in last year's Pokemon X & Y, which is more than you can say for the returning Jigglypuff. With new audiences discovering just how much of a bad hombre the genetic freak is, it's strange that the developers wouldn't bring him back with some new attacks. In fact, with Charizard and Lucario both tapping into their Mega Evolutions, it would have been great to tap into Mewtwo's own Mega boost as well.





Wonder Red (from The Wonderful 101)


It's no secret that the Wii U has struggled, and that includes its software exclusives like The Wonderful 101. Platinum's Wii U effort languished due to the poor Wii U install base, and its unfortunate release date that put it head-to-head with Grand Theft Auto 5. However, the seeds for a franchise are still there (should Nintendo ever decide to pursue that course), and those seeds lay primarily with its frontman, Wonder Red.


Even without his friends to help him, Wonder Red is still a formidable fighter in his own right, who can fall back on his own hand-to-hand prowess and superheroic abilities. Miniaturized versions of the Wonderful 101 powers can be used for his specials, while his Final Smash could unite the entire team for a Unite Hand strike that would send opponents flying. The Smash Bros series is a great place to celebrate smaller franchises, with this installment honoring Xenoblade and Duck Hunt, among others. This would have been a grand opportunity for Nintendo to push one of its more underrated efforts, one that Shacknews enjoyed quite a bit.





Wolf (from the Star Fox series)


While Super Smash Bros Brawl isn't remembered too fondly by hardcore fans of the series, those players won't deny that Wolf was one of its strongest roster additions. So it's unfortunate to see that Fox McCloud's nemesis was left marooned in space.


Wolf was quick as a hiccup, with high jumps and some of the best air speed in all of Brawl. Not only were his attacks quick, but they also had a long reach. He could parlay his quickness into one of the best boost smashes in the game. While he shared many special moves with Fox and Falco, Wolf had enough of a twist on the moves to make them his own. The only true redundancy was his Landmaster Final Smash, which could just as easily been changed to have him call in his brethren in the Wolfen fleet, instead. Wolf didn't need to be cut, but rather… adjusted.





Amy Rose (from the Sonic series)


There's been a lot of female representation in Smash Bros, with some of Nintendo's most prominent leading ladies stepping out of their "damsel" roles to deliver the hurt just as capably as any male. So why couldn't Peach and Zelda be joined by one more? The Sonic franchise would be well-served with one more playable character, so why not feature his would-be love interest, Amy?


It certainly wouldn't be the first time Amy's been a part of the action, having taken part in games like Sonic Adventure and Sonic Heroes. Given her ability with a mallet, crafting a move set for Amy would hardly be any trouble. Amy is far from a helpless character she's better equipped to transition to a fighter role better than some of the other fighters on the roster. Sonic's band of heroes deserves some more representation and Amy would have made for a positive addition.





Simon Belmont (from the Castlevania series)


Super Smash Bros. is becoming more than a celebration of Nintendo's greatest franchises. This latest incarnation of the series is celebrating Nintendo's legacy as a whole, which is why we're seeing Mega Man and Pac-Man. If the idea is to celebrate the NES era of gaming, then there's more than enough justification to borrow a certain vampire hunter from Konami. Childhoods that were defined by Mario and Mega Man were likely also defined by Castlevania's Simon Belmont, who starred in much of the original NES trilogy. He also co-starred in the campy Captain N: The Game Master cartoon series, alongside Mega Man and Pit, meaning this game could have served as the scene for an unlikely reunion.


Simon's whip attacks would have fit in perfectly with the Smash Bros aesthetic, while he could have also tapped into his holy water, boomerang, and axe items for special attacks. He could have received a similar 8-bit restoration like Mega Man, giving his NES sprite a fresh coat of paint. Simon's exclusion is a sad one, especially since it wouldn't have been the first time Smash Bros had borrowed from Konami. They had done so for Brawl back in 2008 with Solid Snake, who incidentally, is not included on this roster, either.





Proto Man (from the Mega Man series)


Mega Man stands as one of the most prominent new characters of the latest Super Smash Bros, standing as a symbol of the bygone NES era. As the series went on, another mysterious character arrived on the scene to become a major staple. That was Mega Man's "brother," Proto Man, who made his debut in Mega Man 3 and has been a pivotal part of the series ever since.


Proto Man could utilize an entirely different set of robot master moves, while also using some of his abilities. What separates him from Mega Man is his Proto Buster and his Proto Shield, both of which would fit the Smash Bros setting just fine. Like Mega Man 10, Smash Bros could have seen Mega Man and Proto Man fighting alongside each other in a playable capacity once more. Unfortunately, Proto Man will remain in the shadows, as he so frequently does.




Of course, this is all scratching the surface. If there's anyone you feel missed the Smash Bros cut, feel free to let us know in the comments below. Super Smash Bros arrives on Nintendo 3DS on October 3, with the Wii U version expected to hit later this year.

Shacknews - Ozzie Mejia

Divinity: Original Sin is getting some new content, thanks to creator Larian Studios. Titled 'The Bear and the Burgler,' the free DLC pack will add in two new companions, as well as some new features.


Bairdotr is a female ranger, armed with a bow and sharp claws, on a mission to find the abducted druid of the forest. Meanwhile, Wolgraff is a silent rogue that had his voice stripped from him by dark magic. Both companions can be found in Cyseal.


Other new additions include new listening functionality for dialogs, meaning you can listen to ongoing conversations and see their complete history to better follow them. This is an addition to bug and crash fixes.


For more on the latest Divinity: Original Sin update, you can find the full changelist here. The Bear and the Burgler DLC is available now for free.


Shacknews - Steven Wong

I remember playing Gauntlet in the arcade as a kid. My favorite character back then was the Elf because it could fire off a stream of arrows (as fast as I could pound the button) while warrior characters kept the horde of monsters at bay by blocking off chokepoints. There have been a number of sequels and spin-offs since those days, but few captured my attention the way the original did. So, it's with equal parts enthusiasm and skepticism that I gave the early build of the newest Gauntlet reboot a spin.



The newest Gauntlet reboot plays similarly to hack-and-slash dungeon crawlers, except hopped up on coffee and amphetamines. Players take the role of four distinct heroes, each with their own set of specialized skills and styles of play. For example, the Elf (named Questor) has a handy dodge move, and can drop explosives while rapid-firing arrows. Of course, the downside is that stray arrows might destroy items like food and potions amid the chaos. The other three characters include the Warrior (Thor), who swings a heavy axe, the Valkyrie (Thyra) who wields a spear and shield, and the Wizard (Merlin) who casts range of powerful spells. The four of them come together to make their way through dark crypts and bring their full force to bear on the monsters hidden within.


Gauntlet is the kind of game that grows more fun with each player added. Although playing solo and hoarding all the money, but the experience isn't terribly exciting. Having friends who will watch your back only to stab it later for the sake of gold and food is critical to the gameplay dynamics. This is co-op gameplay with a healthy dose of greed, thrown in. Fortunately, having your pals loot your corpse like the greedy vultures that they are is all part of the fun. There are number of skills and benefits that can only be unlocked through dying, so maybe you'll be able to teach your friends a little lesson in friendly payback somewhere down the road. I also like how the game sometimes calls players on behaviors, like when a certain someone "accidentally" destroys the food or a potion.



Some parts of the dungeon maps are pre-set, while others are procedurally generated. So, replaying the same areas maintains simultaneously presents a sense of newness and familiarity. Most aspects of playing Gauntlet are pretty straightforward. Wipe out the hordes of enemies, which grow in number and difficulty, loot every bit of gold you can find, then move on to the next room. Money is used to purchase Relics - items with special abilities that can be upgraded. Although the dungeon levels are linear, even with the procedurally generated parts, a number of elements keep the action moving. For example, Death can show up to chase the heroes through the corridors. There's also an element of unpredictability when playing with others. For example, I had a key on me but didn't know it, so as I was backing away from the horde and firing arrows, my Elf touched on a locked wall. It fell away and unleashed an all-new wave of monsters to mob us.


Our one gripe about the game, at least in the early build, is that a number aspects need to be figured out. Characters gain access to new abilities by unlocking them. For example, my Elf gained the ability to turn into a intangible mote of light for a few seconds instead of being killed, and then return with one hit point. It's a Elf Mastery skill that is unlocked after receiving 2000 points of damage, and its cooldown is further improved through taking damage. Full descriptions for each ability is listed in the Masteries menu, but it's hard to take time out for that sort of thing when you want to keep the pace of the game going. So, it often seemed like we could suddenly do things, but couldn't figure out how. I didn't discover that my Elf had the ability to fire explosive arrows until after our play session was done.


So far, it looks like Gauntlet properly captures much of the spirit that made the 1985 arcade game so much fun. The game releases on September 23rd, and heroes from all over can come together and lay waste to a sea of monsters.




The preview of Gauntlet is provided by the publisher and does not represent the final game. Gauntlet will release on September 23rd for the PC and will cost $19.99.

Shacknews - Ozzie Mejia

Creator Terri Vellmann and publisher Devolver Digital have been pushing through the neon chambers of Heavy Bullets since it first hit Steam Early Access back in May. Today, the publisher announced that the game is ready to come out of beta and officially release this coming Thursday, September 18.


Heavy Bullets takes place along a multi-colored world, with the idea to reach a central security mainframe. Malfunctioning security drones and other enemies stand in your way and you only have six oversized bullets to stop them with. Permadeath means you'll be dying a lot, but you'll be able to bank any cash you've collected. Vellman has updated the game with tweaked AI, gamepad support, new music, and more since the game first hit beta.


If you're looking to get into Heavy Bullets before its official Thursday release, you can grab it right now on Steam Early Access. For more, you can watch the trailer below.


Shacknews - Ozzie Mejia

Torn Banner Studios has been engaging in honorable combat for about a year, but now they're about to take their armor-clad battles onto the console space. Publisher Activision has reached out to the studio and will work in conjunction with Mercenary Technology to bring Chivalry: Medieval Warfare to Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 as a downloadable game later this year.


Chivalry on Xbox 360 and PS3 will retain the first-person melee combat that made the PC game such an underrated hit. Yes, that includes all the maiming and dismembering that comes from slicing someone's arm with your sword or piercing an opponent's skull with a well-placed arrow. Death will come at the hands of one of the game's four classes: Knight, Vanguard, Man-at-Arms, and Archer. Each of the classes will wield weaponry authentic to the medieval period, meaning no pesky firearms.


No word on whether the game's Deadliest Warrior expansion will see the light of day for consoles, but this is a good enough starting point for those that haven't discovered the game's artful melee combat. For a refresher on Chivalry: Medieval Warfare, check out the trailer below.


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