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The Nintendo 3DS’s best feature was the under-appreciated StreetPass

Ten years ago today the 3DS debuted in Japan. It followed the DS family and the big selling point for this third generation of Nintendo’s dual-screened systems was the addition of 3D graphics. And yet, what people remember most about the 3DS isn’t that feature; in fact, many folks just turned the 3D off once the novelty wore away. For myself and many others, the most memorable feature was StreetPass. Yes, StreetPass.

In case you’ve already forgotten, StreetPass was a social feature built into the handheld where, once it was enabled, allowed the 3DS to passively exchange information with other systems in the immediate area. Players could create a Mii character that would travel to other handhelds, and could then be used by the other player (and vice versa) within several games within the Mii Plaza and beyond. The dungeon-crawler ‘Find Mii’ was probably the most famous of these since it was included with the system, but I was particularly enamored of some of the ones you could purchase, like gardening title ‘Flower Town’ and ‘Feed Mii,’ a cooking simulator.

If you really have no strong feelings about StreetPass, it’s likely you’re one of the many people who got little use out of it. The feature worked great in densely populated areas like Tokyo, but less so in a country like the United States where most people drive to work.

I live in New York and until recently I was a regular commuter on the subway. During the heyday of the 3DS, I could expect to pick up a handful of StreetPass tags daily, loading them into my system and going through Puzzle Swap and other games on the way home from work. The gameplay wasn’t very deep, but it didn’t really have to be — it was perfect for a few minutes distraction on public transportation. Inversely that made it terrible for people who didn’t take public transportation, as their 3DS time was more likely to be at home, directly competing against consoles and computers with deeper gameplay. The Mii Plaza games just came across as shallow in comparison.

However, gamers are usually ripe for a challenge and, for many, StreetPass became a pastime in itself. My ex and I used to head out to McDonald’s on specially-announced ‘StreetPass Weekends’ to grab the Miis of celebrities and Nintendo employees from the stores’ SpotPasses, and sometimes we’d walk past playgrounds and gyms in the hope that teens would have a 3DS stowed away in their bag. Living in the same city as the Nintendo World store was a big plus. Airports were also a bonanza, especially internationally — my ex even lent me his 3DS on one of my solo trips to Europe, so I could snag him foreign StreetPasses. So I was carrying around two systems in my backpack for over a week, and I managed to link up with people from countries like Austria and Slovakia.

Of course, all of this paled in comparison to the bonanza that awaited us in the 3DS’s home country of Japan, specifically in Tokyo. The two of us would get on the metro and the notification light would go off; a train would pass in the opposite direction and the light would go off again. Yodobashi Camera in Akihabara ended up being a bonanza; we walked outside the store around noon and found a specially-designed area (with signage!) for StreetPass exchange. Dozens of people sat or stood in the area, loading up Miis, playing through the mini games, and then loading up even more. Once the deluge slowed to the trickle my ex walked around with his 3DS to grab any we missed and several Japanese people laughed out loud, because well, he’s a bearded white dude with a bearded white Mii.

This kind of joy of connection wasn’t something that people outside of Japan got a lot of mileage out of, unless they were the very specific kind of gamer who took their 3DS systems to conventions. Conventions were the mother load for StreetPass collection, from comic conventions like San Diego to video game-themed shows like PAX. In those cases the 10 StreetPass-at-a-time limit seemed less ambitious and more stingy as standing in one place for a few minutes could yield dozens, if not hundreds of tags. You could easily spend the whole event just clearing out your queue, and I did in fact, pass a lot of time on long lines or in boring panels doing just that.

Unfortunately, Nintendo realized the potential of these gatherings too late. While it did use events like PAX to release new Puzzle Swap art, the company didn’t introduce features catered toward dedicated StreetPass collectors until 2016, five years into the system’s lifespan — and one year short of the release of its replacement, the Switch. At that point you could pay to upgrade your StreetPass queue to 100 slots, allowing you to passively gather StreetPass tags at events and play with them later. This was a paid feature which certainly limited its appeal, but the kind of people who would take their 3DS to large events, and the kind of people who would go to video game shows, period, are also the type who wouldn’t mind coughing up an extra $10 for the convenience of better StreetPass management (probably also the type who pay for Pokémon Bank).

In the end I built a collection to be proud of: 50 states and territories in the US (only missing North and South Dakota), all of Canada, 30 prefectures of Japan, and parts of dozens of other nations, including Spain, France, Germany, Denmark, Mexico, Brazil and South Korea. I’ve also collected almost every possible birthday too (another feature added as a premium later on). And of course there are the Miis themselves, 3,660 tags of all variety of body shapes and colors and costumes — the more dedicated StreetPassers would even use the customized greeting to tag the events they were at, so you know you grabbed this Mii from New York Comic Con or that Mii from PAX South. In a way my Mii Plaza serves as a sort of digital passport, of the countries I’ve visited, the events I’ve attended and the people I’ve encountered, if only fleetingly. I love my Switch, but I miss the challenge and community of the 3DS StreetPass system.

Article source: https://www.engadget.com/nintendo-3ds-anniversary-streetpass-150026541.html

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‘Final Fantasy VII Remake’ will be a PS Plus freebie with a catch

After Sony’s latest State of Play stream, it’s clear why the company announced the next batch of free games for PlayStation Plus members a couple of days later than usual. Final Fantasy VII Remake headlines the March lineup. At State of Play, Sony showed off the PS5 version of the game, which will have upgraded graphics, higher framerates, other improvements and a DLC episode.

But here’s the rub. If you claim FF7 Remake through PS Plus, you won’t get a free upgrade. You'll still need to buy the current game for the upgrade or pay directly for the PS5 version, Final Fantasy VII Remake Intergrade.

The other games on the March slate look solid. First-person puzzle game Maquette is intriguing, with its recursive, mind-bending riddles requiring some out-of-the-box thinking. If you get stuck, you can call on the console’s Game Help feature for guidance. Like Bugsnax and Destruction AllStars, Maquette is making its debut as a PS Plus freebie for PS5 owners. It'll also be available on PS4 and Steam next week.

You’ll also get your hands on a pair of shooters: PS4 third-person survival game Remnant: From The Ashes and PS VR title Farpoint. Meanwhile, Destruction AllStars remains on the list for a second month. Sony will update the PS Plus offerings with these games on Tuesday, March 2nd, and they’ll remain up for grabs until April 5th.

You have until March 1st to snag the other games in the current lineup, Control: Ultimate Edition and Concrete Genie. There’s plenty to look forward to as well. PS Plus subscribers will be able to claim the PS5 version of the long, long-overdue Oddworld: Soulstorm at no extra cost when it’s released in April.

Article source: https://www.engadget.com/playstation-plus-march-free-games-ff7-remake-151050052.html

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New ‘Halo Infinite’ screenshots tease a more detailed world

The first footage of Halo Infinite gameplay didn't sit well with gamers, to put it mildly, but there are signs of progress. 343 Industries and Microsoft have shared a fresh batch of screenshots that give you a sense of how the Xbox Series X/S title's visuals have evolved over the past several months. While there aren't really any character studies ("Craig" is nowhere to be found), the Pacific Northwest-inspired Zeta Halo environment appears slightly grittier, realistic and... well, more next-gen.

Infinite is characterized as a "spiritual reboot" whose art and mechanics are meant to recreate the feel of playing early Halo games, even as they (hopefully) push the series forward. That includes redesigning enemies like Jackals and Grunts to look more like their initial versions, art lead Justin Dinges said. With that said, there are clearly touches that benefit from modern hardware, such as an environmental lighting system that can change the mood based on the time of day.

The delayed and troubled title is now slated to ship sometime in the fall. It's not clear just how much the new Halo's graphics will have improved by then, but it's evident 343 and Microsoft want the series' next-gen debut to hit the right visual notes.

Article source: https://www.engadget.com/halo-infinite-screenshots-show-progress-151219726.html

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‘Pokémon Diamond’ and ‘Pearl’ remakes are arriving on Switch later this year

The Pokémon Company had plenty to show off during its Pokémon Presents 25th Anniversary stream. Along with a deeper look at Pokémon Snap, the company announced remakes of the 2006 Nintendo DS games Pokémon Diamond and Pokémon Pearl.

It looks like the developers are taking full advantage of the Nintendo Switch's hardware as the visuals look much sharper this time around. These versions have a similar art style to games like Pokémon Sword and Shield.

The Pokémon Company says it has added the "easy-to-understand, player-friendly conveniences" it brought to recent games in the main series, along with close-quarters battles. You'll choose between Turtwig, Chimchar and Piplup as your starter Pokémon. Each game has its own legendary Pokémon to search for, too. In Brilliant Diamond, it's Dialga and in Shining Pearl, you can look for Palkia.

You won't have to wait too long to play these "faithful" remakes, which take place in the Sinnoh region. Pokémon Brilliant Diamond and Pokémon Shining Pearl will be released worldwide in late 2021.

Article source: https://www.engadget.com/pokemon-diamond-pearl-remakes-nintendo-switch-154100706.html

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‘Pokémon Legends Arceus’ is an open-world prequel coming early 2022

You won't have to settle for modernized versions of classic Pokémon games in the near future. The Pokémon Company has used the 25th anniversary of the franchise to unveil Pokémon Legends Arceus, an open-world (apparently moreso than past games, at least) action RPG for the Switch that's decidedly unlike the usual top-down experience.You play a trainer exploring the Sinnoh region (the home of the Diamond/Pearl games) in its early days, when it was a relatively untamed wilderness. As the name implies, you'll also learn more about the mythical Arceus creature and its creation myth.

Most gameplay details are still under wraps, but the developers are aiming for more "immersive" mechanics. You'll "seamlessly" enter Pokémon battles and sneak up on them to study their behavior. It's not going to share much the Switch's other big open world game, Breath of the Wild, although the expansive natural landscapes might be superficially familiar.

Pokémon Legends Arceus will be released sometime in early 2022. There's no telling if its approach will be compelling to fans of the series' well-worn formula, but it at least shows that the producers want to branch out and try experiences that are new to Pokémon, if not necessarily the game industry as a whole.

Article source: https://www.engadget.com/pokemon-legends-arceus-switch-154830350.html

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Right-wing site Gab responds to ‘alleged’ data breach

The CEO of Gab — the right-wing haven that lost mainstream tech backing after violent attacks in 2018 — published a curious blog post denying that the company has suffered a data breach. While it mysteriously went offline for a short time a week ago, at the time it claimed the only problem was some kind of bitcoin wallet spam affecting only a few accounts.

Now Gab's CEO writes that the site was contacted by reporters about an alleged data breach that may have leaked an archive of posts, DMs, profiles and hashed passwords. The CEO says there's no independent confirmation a breach took place, and claims the site doesn't collect much personal information about its users anyway, but still accuses the unnamed reporters of working with a hacker to smear its reputation. Andrew Torba admits the site is aware it had a vulnerability to an SQL injection attack and patched the flaw last week, followed by a security audit that is still ongoing.

Where this all leads is hard to tell, but a reporter linked to DDoSecrets tweeted "Yes, we have the data" and promised more information "soon enough."

Article source: https://www.engadget.com/gab-data-breach-ddosecrets-231959411.html

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‘Terraria’ will hit Stadia after all

Terraria will come out Stadia after all. In a state of the game post spotted by Android Police, developer Re-Logic said it had resumed work on the port after settling its differences with Google.

“After a month of pushing (and with the immense support of our fans), Google finally reached out and was able to provide a lot of transparency around the situation and to restore access to all of our accounts,” Re-Logic said on Friday. “Due to the hard work the Stadia team has put in — as well as our partners at 505 Games — we have decided that we will allow the upcoming launch [of] Terraria on Google Stadia to proceed.”

The “situation” the statement references broke out near the start of the month. Terraria co-creator and Re-Logic CEO Andrew Spinks took to Twitter to blast Google after the company allegedly suspended the studio’s YouTube, Gmail, Drive and Play accounts. “I absolutely have not done anything to violate your terms of service, so I can take this no other way than you deciding to burn this bridge,” Spinks said at the time. “Consider it burned. #Terraria for @GoogleStadia is canceled. My company will no longer support any of your platforms moving forward.”

In an interview with Engadget, a spokesperson for Re-Logic recounted the studio’s side of the story. They said Spinks and the team tried to resolve the issue over several weeks, but repeatedly hit a wall with Google support. The tweetstorm was a last resort by the studio to try and resolve the situation. According to a recent Bloomberg report, Google spent tens of millions of dollars to get games like Red Dead Redemption II on Stadia, so there may be financial reasons to get the port done too.

Article source: https://www.engadget.com/terraria-stadia-235456198.html

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NASA’s Perseverance rover carried a family portrait of its robotic siblings to Mars

Like any good piece of high-tech hardware, NASA’s Perseverance rover features an Easter egg hidden in plain sight. Since landing on Mars on February 18th, NASA has been sharing thousands of photos captured by the rover. And if you look close enough, as Space did, you’ll catch a decal bolted to the top of its body. That decal depicts Perseverance and every single other NASA rover to successfully make it to the surface of Mars.

From left to right, you can see Sojourner, Spirit and Opportunity, Curiosity and Perseverance lined up in the order they landed on the Red Planet: 1997, 2004, 2012 and 2021. On the far right of the decal is NASA’s Ingenuity helicopter drone, which caught a ride on Perseverance and will attempt to fly the skies of Mars later this year.

After people caught sight of the family portrait, Dr Moogega Cooper, a planetary protection engineer at NASA’s JPL lab, shared a photo of the decal taken before it left Earth. “For those wondering if it was biologically clean, yes… yes it was,” she said.

While it’s been stealing the hearts of nerds everywhere, Perseverance’s real job is to find signs of ancient microbial life. Sometime in the next few weeks, NASA plans to take the rover on a short test drive before exploring further into the Jezero Crater. Perseverance will start collecting samples once it finds a promising place to drill.

Article source: https://www.engadget.com/perseverance-family-portrait-decal-013708361.html

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A PlayStation Network outage is affecting certain games

Just a day after a massive Xbox Live outage, Sony's PlayStation Network has been experiencing issues for several hours. The problem on this end is a bit different, and based on reports may only affect certain games. Sony's PSN Status page reports that "You might have difficulty launching games, apps, or network features" on platforms including the PS Vita, PS3, PS4 and PS5.

Some people have had problems trying to go online to play Call of Duty: Warzone or Minecraft, while other games like Fortnite seem to be accessible. When I tried to access a few games on my PS5, Fall Guys worked, but Call of Duty and Destruction AllStars couldn't connect to matchmaking. The service status page says this issue started around 6:33 PM ET, but gamers online noted problems several hours before and a look at DownDetector shows reports of issues spiking as early as 1 PM ET. At least in this case, it seems like most people won't have to go offline to try to play their games, and may just have to switch titles until it's resolved.

Article source: https://www.engadget.com/psn-is-down-ps4-ps5-022654065.html

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Facebook’s BARS is an experimental TikTok-like app for rappers

Facebook's RD division, the NPE Team, has introduced another experimental app that's centered around music. It's called BARS, and it's meant to give aspiring rappers a way to record their rhymes with the app's studio quality vocal effects and professionally created beats, as well as to share their videos on social media. Users can select from the several beats available, and if they write in-app, BARS will auto—suggest words that rhyme with what they're typing

The app has audio and visual filters and an autotune feature that users can take advantage of to create a polished product. There's also Challenge mode, wherein users will have to rap freestyle while incorporating the auto-suggested word cues. As TechCrunch notes, BARS seems to be another attempt at a TikTok competitor, albeit a specialized one, seeing as each video can only be up to 60 seconds in length. The app even has a similar UI, with a two-tabbed vertical video interface.

Late last year, the NPE team released the experimental app Collab, which allows users to collaborate on music videos without having to get together in person. The team told TechCrunch that the pandemic played a role in the creation of both apps. "I know access to high-priced recording studios and production equipment can be limited for aspiring rappers. On top of that, the global pandemic shut down live performances where we often create and share our work," team member member DJ Iyler told the publication.

Facebook has launched BARS as a closed beta for iPhones, with its first videos uploaded by members of the team. It's currently up on the App Store, and interested rappers can now download it to reserve their username and sign up for the waitlist.

Article source: https://www.engadget.com/facebook-bars-tiktok-rappers-045004882.html

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