Shacknews - Matt Cabral

Capcom proved a console-quality fighter could be pulled off on a portable with Super Street Fighter IV: 3D Edition on Nintendo's rival handheld. With Ultimate Marvel Vs. Capcom 3 (UMvC3) arriving on the PlayStation Vita, it faces the challenge of standing out amongst Sony's strong day-one offerings. Despite the stout competition, UMvC3 reinforces the fact that players don't need a big screen and a fight stick to brawl with the big boys.

An extremely faithful port of last year's console version, UMvC3 offers exactly what I expected and little more. Because it stubbornly sticks to carbon-copying its big brother, some have been hesitant to recommend it. I tend to disagree with this stance (mostly). Sure, from its brimming character roster to its lack of solo modes, it's the same game fans played last fall. That said, it's safe to say many will be introduced to this amazing mash-up of Marvel and Capcom characters for the first time on their Vitas. For those who wouldn't know a Hyper Combo if it bit their backside, UMvC3 is a great fighting game that impressively puts Sony's new high-horsepower handheld through its paces.

It delivers the same eye-popping presentation as its console predecessor, minus a few lost details in the backgrounds. Fast, fluid animations complement equally quick combat and a rainbow-shaming color palette paints some of the prettiest visuals to grace the Vita at launch. In terms of showing off the Vita's graphical prowess, UMvC gives even the portable's poster-boy, Golden Abyss, a run for its polygons.

UMvC3 is more than just a pretty face, though; it plays nice on the Vita. Even with the lack of a second set of triggers, mechanics will feel comfortably familiar to anyone who's high-kicked behind a controller. Despite the smaller buttons and sticks, and their closer proximity, I had little trouble keeping up with the thumb-numbing action. I should, however, disclose that my fingers are freakishly small, so mileage may vary in this regard. The three-on-three tag team formula is a blast offline, but shines brightest in infrastructure mode where players can fight with up to eight friends in an online experience that's both lag-free and easy to set up.

While it remains mostly unchanged, this port's been tweaked with all its console counterpart's post-release patches; so it's technically better balanced than the PS3 version was on day one. It also offers some Vita-specific fun in the form of a touch mode. Unpopular with a number of players, this feature is admittedly underwhelming, but not a total wash. On top of being an effective way to showcase the polished production values, it provides an accessible option for rookie fighters to enjoy and easily get through the game. As noted, the controls are solid, but budding brawlers may want to test the waters in this more user-friendly arena.

As a seasoned fan of the franchise, I too wanted more from this port; adding DLC characters to the regular roster and including more single-player modes would have been a good start. Still, for super-fans looking for an on-the-go fight or newcomers who've always wanted to tear Spider-man a new one from behind Strider's Cypher blade, UMvC3 is one of Vita's best launch-day buys.


[This Ultimate Marvel vs Capcom 3 review is based on the retail PS Vita version of the game, provided by publishing partner Sony.]

Shacknews - Steve Watts

Sega has seen a shift in its corporate structure upon the retirement of its chief operating officer, Okitane Usui. The executive will leave on March 31, and Sega has announced a host of new positions in the company moving forward. Toshihiro Nagoshi, who headed up the teams that launched the Super Monkey Ball and Yakuza series, has been promoted to chief creative officer.

As CCO, Nagoshi will be responsible for "the overall look and feel of all materials, media, and branding" of Sega. That's a lot to look after for the man that recently helmed Binary Domain.

The COO position left by Usui will be filled by former managing director Naoya Tsurumi, GamesIndustry.biz reports. Tsurumi served as general manager of the international and global consumer business divisions. Meanwhile Shigeru Yamashita and Yuki Sugino have been promoted to managing directors, while serving their prior roles as general manager of Sega Japan and manager of research & development, respectively.

This corporate reshuffling comes in the wake of a poor nine-month financial report, which showed its consumer business in decline. Sega subsequently laid off 37 people from its Brisbane, Australia studio, which most recently worked on the London 2012 Olympics video game.

Shacknews - Alice O'Connor

Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning is getting its first proper DLC, silly weapon packs aside, with 'The Legend of Dead Kel.' It'll expand the world area by over 15% with new quests, enemies, items, and a special house for you.

The DLC is set on the new island of Gallows End, which is apparently having a bit of trouble with undead pirate Dead Kel and his Hanged Men. While the naughty skeletal buccaneers are your main problem, there'll also be side-quests to resolve. And, if you'll pardon the flood of figures, there are "multiple" new enemies and enemy variants, 18 new unique weapons, eight new shields, three new Twists of Fate, and one new dungeon type.

You'll also get to become Lord of Gravehal Keep, which EA describes as "a massive estate with multiple buildings and a full retinue of retainers, each with their own back stories, side quests, perks and quirks." Swanky!

The Legend of Dead Kel is coming to Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and PC via Origin and Steam "starting on" March 20. It'll cost $9.99 (800 Microsoft Points).

Shacknews - Andrew Yoon

As promised, the first DLC for Modern Warfare 3 that doesn't require a Call of Duty Elite subscription will be available on Xbox Live on March 20th. It is the first of four "Content Collections" that will be available for MW3. It will bundle all the content that Elite members have already received in January and February, as well as the content in March's drop.

The "Content Collection" will include four multiplayer maps: Liberation, Piazza, Overwatch, and Black Box. In addition, the DLC will add two new Spec Ops missions: Black Ice and Negotiator. According to Activision, this is "the first time Special Ops has been made downloadable online in franchise history." Additional missions are expected for Call of Duty Elite members in May.

While the "Content Collection" will be available on Xbox 360 on March 20th, it won't be available on PC and PS3 until later--likely April, given the pattern we've seen so far. Call of Duty Elite members on Xbox 360 will be able to download March's content drop one week before everyone else: March 13.

Shacknews - Steve Watts

SimCity 5 has supposedly been leaked by a German magazine. According to the rumor, Maxis is developing the game without series creator Will Wright leading the project. The game is scheduled for 2013, and will feature a spiffy new graphics engine and multiplayer mode among its various tweaks to the classic formula.

The Spanish-language site Rincon del Simmer (via NeoGAF) transcribed the alleged information from an article in Gamestar, a German magazine. Though unconfirmed, the details ring true and the supposed interview with Lucy Bradshaw lends further credence to the story.

If accurate, the new engine allows you to pan in close enough to read the signs on stores, or zoom out for a more traditional SimCity overhead view. Those buildings will be upgraded as you progress; catching 10 criminals upgrades the police station, for example. Roads can actually wind instead of being locked to a stiff grid, and you'll find complex relationships between various factors like population density and land value. Keeping an eye on crime will help quell the risk of fire and increase the value of land. Events in your city will be reported in the local newspaper in both single- and multiplayer.

That multiplayer mode lets you manage your areas cooperatively, and visit friends' cities to share resources and territory. You can visit a fellow player's City Hall to make an agreement that will spur job growth. The game will also offer global leaderboards for factors like economics or production of raw materials.

The game is reportedly only 30% done, so no screenshots are available yet. The source does show some concept art (above) that gives us a better idea of Maxis' graphical goals.

Shacknews has contacted EA and Maxis for a comment, and will update as more information becomes available.

Shacknews - Alice O'Connor

Blizzard Entertainment has revealed plans to cut around 600 jobs globally, saying it needs to align its workforce with "current organizational needs." It insists that its "current development and publishing schedules will not be impacted," though around 10% of the people affected are from departments "related to development."

"Constant evaluation of teams and processes is necessary for the long-term health of any business," Blizzard CEO Mike Morhaime said in the announcement. "Over the last several years, we've grown our organization tremendously and made large investments in our infrastructure in order to better serve our global community. However, as Blizzard and the industry have evolved we've also had to make some difficult decisions in order to address the changing needs of our company."

"Knowing that, it still does not make letting go of some of our team members any easier. We're grateful to have had the opportunity to work with the people impacted by today's announcement, we're proud of the contributions they made here at Blizzard, and we wish them well as they move forward."

However, the announcement notes Blizzard is still hiring for a number of development roles.

To put the 600 figure into perspective, back in September 2009 Gamasutra reported Blizzard had over 4,600 employees globally. Then, in December 2010, it told the Orange County Register that it had hired over 1,000 employees within the last twelve months. Furthermore, Blizzard's website say it has over 1,500 working in its European offices alone. While 600 is still a lot of jobs to cut, Blizzard is a huge company.

The layoffs are probably in support and customer service, especially considering World of Warcraft is slowly but steadily losing players. The support-intensive MMO was down to 10.3 million so-called "subscribers" in November 2011, from a peak of 12 million in October 2010.

Blizzard is also skipping BlizzCon this year, spinning the pro-gaming section off into its own event, the 2012 Battle.net World Championship.

Shacknews - Steve Watts

Pac-Man has been on a long hiatus from the TV format, after his short-lived Hanna-Barbera cartoon in the 1980s. But the allure of the spotlight is too much to resist, and so the Man of Pac is scheduled to star in a new TV series on Disney XD. Yes, the station that looks like an emoticon.

Namco Bandai, in conjunction with Arad Productions and 41 Entertainment, announced the new series today. It's tentatively titled Pac-Man - The Adventure Begins and is slated for fall of 2013. It will be presented in stereoscopic 3D, which seems like a perfect fit for a game character known for running around flat 2D mazes.

The show will be executive produced by Avi Arad (Spider-Man, Iron Man) and Rick Ungar (Biker Mice from Mars, X-Men Evolution). So far our sole look at the series is in a piece of promotional concept art showing Pac-Man with his bizarre little friends (above).

"I am very excited about producing Pac-Man - The Adventure Begins, the 3D animated series, with Rick Ungar. Pac-Man is one of the world’s greatest icons," said Avi Arad in the announcement. "He is funny and adventurous and will bring his tone and abilities to this beautifully executed animated series. For more than 30 years, Pac-Man has been a household name. Having this property on Disney XD is its rightful place to be."

Shacknews - Steve Watts

Baldur's Gate 2 came out over a decade ago, so the series seems due for a revival or at least an homage. A mysterious Web site appears to tease a new game in the series; it carries the series' skull image and several references to the lore, but no official announcement has been made.

The site BaldursGate.com launched yesterday featuring the familiar skull iconography and music from the original game. The site also quotes from the series: "The Lord of Murder shall perish, but in his doom he shall spawn a score of mortal progeny, chaos will be sown by their passage." Plus, Eurogamer points out that the source code of the site is packed with lore easter eggs.

GameBanshee received a statement from former BioWare designer Trent Oster, currently of Beamdog, who confirmed that an announcement is forthcoming.

So it appears that Beamdog is working on a Baldur's Gate something, but don't pin your hopes on Baldur's Gate 3. Beamdog previously worked with Interplay on an HD re-release of MDK2, so it could simply be a revamp of one of the classic titles.

Shacknews - Andrew Yoon

Gravity Rush was one of the more original titles we previewed on Vita before launch. The game has you assuming the role of Kat, a girl that has the magical ability to control the forces of gravity. Using the system's gyroscopic controls, you'll fly and fight enemies Inception-style in this cel-shaded adventure game developed by Sony's Japan Studio.

Sony has finally attached a date to the game: June 12th as a simultaneous PSN and retail release.

Here's a trailer that shows you what Gravity Rush is all about:

Shacknews - Steve Watts

Indie game The Binding of Isaac won't be coming to the Nintendo 3DS after all. Indie developer Edmund McMillen says that the game was considered by Nintendo, but was ultimately rejected due to "questionable religious content."

McMillen announced the news in a series of tweets. "Thank GOD Steam exists!" he quipped. In a reply to a fan, he said that Nintendo was "fine with the M rating" and didn't object to some of the heavier content like gore and suggested child nudity. According to his account, it came down to the religious aspect. The game is loosely based on the Biblical story of Isaac and Abraham.

The game always seemed like a long-shot for Nintendo's handheld system. In December, McMillen said that a publisher was "asking Nintendo if they would be OK with Isaac on the 3DS." Nintendo has a long history of being very protective of its family-friendly image. The company likely isn't keen on inviting the ire of religious groups, but it also sets a precedent of blocking controversial content.

Shacknews has contacted Nintendo regarding the rejection, and will update as more information becomes available.

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