Portals, basketball, and Barbie
Instruction Set 2023/8/25
Welcome back to Multicore. This is Instruction Set for the week of Friday, August 25th.
I’m writing this one from Toronto and will be heading back to Tokyo in a couple of days. My recommendation for this week is The First Slam Dunk, which was a huge hit in Japan and is still showing in domestic theatres even though it came out last year. I inexplicably never got around to it back home, but it just got a release in North America so I went to see it on a spare afternoon.
Anyway, it’s unbelievably good; while I’m wary of recency bias, I think it’s one of the best sports movies I’ve ever seen. Much of the exposition is handled with fairly standard 2D anime art, but the (very) extensive basketball sequences are animated in 2D-3D CGI that isn’t a million miles away from the Spider-Verse movies. The style is intensely physical and muscular and feels very authentic to real-life basketball.
It’s ultimately about a single high school basketball game and everything that led the players to that moment in time. The plot isn’t without a dash of predictable anime melodrama, but overall I found it to be gripping and moving throughout. Highly recommended for anyone who likes dramatic sports action and world-class animation.
I also just saw Gran Turismo this afternoon. What a weird project! It’s well-made and would be a solid racing movie if it were entirely fictional, but the fact that it’s based on a true story somehow makes it less authentic — it ends up as naked corporate propaganda for Nissan, PlayStation, and much of the motorsports world. There’s even unironic Sony Walkman product placement. I was half expecting to see David Harbour use a Memory Stick Duo.
It did make me think I should play more Gran Turismo 7, though, so job done I suppose.
Okay, cinema corner over. Time for tech.
Sony gave its Project Q streaming handheld a full unveiling. It’s now called the PlayStation Portal, which is honestly a pretty good name, and it’ll cost $200. Still no release date, but it’s coming this year.
A lot of people seem to be confused by this device, and I am confused by that in turn. It’s clearly a niche product for existing PS5 owners who would otherwise consider buying another console for somewhere that isn’t their living room. $200 is a sensible price point — it’s meaningfully cheaper than another PS5, but the margin will be high enough that Sony will make more profit than it would on a just-about-break-even-maybe console.
Yes you can use your phone or a Steam Deck or any number of options for remote play, but look at how the Portal actually works. It has a bespoke UI and its own battery and the screen is big and the right shape and the controllers do all the PS5-native DualSense things and so on. Predicting that it will flop or fail is entirely missing the point. People who want it will buy it and then Sony will stop making it when there aren’t any more of those people left. Unlike the PS VR2, which is living up to all the obvious pre-launch fears, the Portal doesn’t have to support an ecosystem of its own.
The one thing that I do think is odd is that it won’t stream cloud games, even if you launch them from your PS5. That doesn’t speak well of Sony’s confidence in its ability to become a serious cloud gaming player — why wouldn’t they want PlayStation Now to work everywhere?
Another quirk with the Portal is that it supports a new lossless audio technology called PlayStation Link, which Sony is launching alongside a headset called the Pulse Elite and wireless earbuds called the Pulse Explore.
Sony says PlayStation Link “delivers low latency, lossless audio and easy switching between multiple PlayStation Link hosts such as PS5 with the USB adapter and PlayStation Portal.” That means a new dongle, though it’s built directly into the Portal itself.
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