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Animal Crossing is, like Tetris, a game that is constantly evolving in quiet ways while seeming - superficially and to outsiders - to be a game that never changes at all. Holding a piece, the instant drop, even the number of pieces visibly queued up ahead: these are all elements that have fundamentally changed the way Tetris plays. Equally, in Animal Crossing a new type of store, a new focus for your collecting, a subtle tweaking to the economy can transform the overall experience of living in a village and trying to get Spike to come back home.

Inside the Pokémon black market

We speak to the breeders, genners and hackers who trade in perfect Pokémon.

Perfection is something many strive for but few obtain. In the world of Pokémon, perfection is shrouded in hidden mechanics and obscured by a meta-game often seen as tiresome by hardcore players. For the Pokémon breeders, genners and hackers, perfection lies in the unravelling and recombination of digital DNA in a bid to create flawless replicants. Welcome to the Pokémon black market, a community built on ethical reproduction with more than its fair share of grey areas.

Digital FoundryTech Evolution: 25 years of Super Mario Kart

Nine games analysed across nine consoles: Digital Foundry charts the evolution of the classic series.

Can you believe it? This week marks the 25th anniversary of Super Mario Kart - the original, pioneering Super Nintendo release. Many imitators have come and gone, but that 1992 release set the template for seven sequels - eight if you count the excellent Mario Kart 8 Deluxe on Switch - and we felt that was worthy of celebration. But beyond the anniversary itself, the importance of Mario Kart's evolution across the years is significant - each series entry defines the strengths and weaknesses of its host platform, and demonstrates the values, practises and philosophy that set Nintendo apart from its competition.

Why are Sonic's eyes green in Sonic Adventure, the franchise's first serious crack at a fully 3D polygonal platformer? It turns out there's a lovely little story behind that. Ristar creator Yuji Uekawa was the man tasked with revamping Sega's mascot for his debut on Dreamcast. Some of his decisions were practical: shrinking Sonic's enormous, swept-back skull and elongating his limbs, for instance, so that he doesn't look like a fuzzy joystick when viewed from the rear. Others were a touch more poetic. "He is always seeing these green pastures around him, like in Green Hill Zone," Uekawa explains in an interview conducted for Sega's 25th anniversary artbook. "I thought it would be nice to reflect that in his eyes."

It's been coming up to a decade since we last saw Advance Wars, the brilliantly characterful turn-based strategy game from Intelligent Systems, and it seems it might be a little while longer until there's a new one. We at least have some insight into why it's taking so long, though.

The case for a video game musical

Here's to the fools who dream.

After years and years of protestation, I have something to admit: I bloody love musicals. I'm not sure why I've felt it hard to tell people about my love of a good old-fashioned story-driven sing-song - it's probably a combination of schoolyard intimidation and terrible memories of one production of Yeoman Of The Guard.

All work and no play

In praise of video game rest.

Few video game protagonists keep to strict working hours, and how could they? When there's a war to win, a world to save, a lover's heart to ensnare and all the other grand and arduous problems that a game designer asks us to solve, it would be practically irresponsible to clock off a five for a pint of lager, a packet of crisps and a prestige TV box set. Even if they did have time to unwind then, just as we rarely see Tony Soprano bobbing away at the urinal, or Donald Draper questingly exploring a nostril, surely these parts of the game would be first for the editor's chop. What Lara Croft does to relax (eating caviar off her butler's extended arm while listening to Brahms, I like to imagine) is rarely relevant to the story at hand. Aside from the indulgently barmy Final Fantasy XV, what your character eats for dinner rarely has a place in the core gameplay loop.

PokéManiacs: the grownups who love Pokémon

Wild Pokémania used Return!

Midway through last year, I moved house. That's not hugely interesting in itself I know - everyone moves house at some point - but this was a big one, out of my old, rural family home and into a place of my own. Little country boy Chris in the big city, fresh off the tractor, all dewey-eyed and open-mouthed at the bright lights and bustling noise of the metropolis.

Diddy Kong Racing's second canned sequel unearthed

Back in 2004 Climax pitched Diddy Kong Racing Adventure.

The 1997 N64 racer Diddy Kong Racing almost had a couple of sequels. There's the well known Donkey Kong Racing, a title Rare announced at E3 2001, which failed to see the light of day once Microsoft acquired the series developer. But there was another one too. This second stab at a gorilla-racing sequel was called Diddy Kong Racing Adventure and it was being developed for the Gamecube not by Rare, but by Climax Studios (Silent Hill: Shattered Memories, Sudeki).

Escape-the-room visual novels Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors (or 999 for short) and its sequel, Zero Escape: Virtue's Last Reward, are coming to PC, PS4 and Vita in Q1 2017 as a bundle called Zero Escape: The Nonary Games.

Japan's Prime Minister just rocked up to the Olympics dressed as Mario

Shadow the Hedgehog, meanwhile, was nowhere to be seen.

Back when Beijing was handing the Olympics over to London in 2008, we were treated to the spectacle of one-man omnishambles Boris Johnson sheepishly taking on the flag to mark the handover before London 2012. Japan, which is cueing up 2020's games in Tokyo, has done things a little differently - and with a little more style.

I read a great theory once, arguing that the universe is elegantly wasteful. Is it even possible to be both wasteful and elegant? Whatever: when the universe wants to do something, according to this theory, it gets the job done, but it gets it done in the way that will use up the most energy. If the universe wants to get over a wall, it doesn't build a ladder, it builds a jetpack.

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