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Reinvention is, as the word implies, never going to be easy. And it can come in myriad different forms. In this issue’s Super Play feature, we examine the current state of emulation. It’s been thrown into something of an existential crisis by the hardware-based Super Nt console, which upgrades the SNES for the 21st century in style – and at quite a price.
To lay eyes on a freshly unboxed Super Nt is to understand exactly where all your money has gone; it looks, feels and works like a dream, its maker’s labour plain to see. But around the world, game companies are reinventing themselves constantly behind the scenes, often in invisible ways. This month we head to Montreal for the Ubisoft Developer Conference, and find a publisher of videogames that is making potentially world-changing innovations in artificial intelligence behind the scenes.
The theme of rebirth runs right through this issue, and it’s by no means by design; it is simply a reflection of an industry that, while moving ever forward, is reaching a certain age. One where the past is as valued as the future. And one in which a mistake can be as important as success. Maybe it’s the crew behind Trailblazers, helmed by a former Bizarre Creations dev returning to console games after a spell in the smartphone wilderness. Or The Blackout Club, made by a team of veteran developers belatedly returning to what they do best. We hope, at some point, Konami will learn something valuable from Metal Gear Survive.
Dragon Quest encapsulates all of this. It is gaming’s purest expression of the battle between old and new: a series that has survived for three decades, and has had its ups and downs, but has always seemed to be hemmed in by its past. People love it for what it is, not what it might become; when they say they want a new Dragon Quest, they mean they want another old one. For years, this Japanese national treasure has struggled to win over western players. Beginning on p60, we find out how, with Dragon Quest XI, that might be about to change.
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