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On With the Show

by Todd Ciolek,
This week brings the Tokyo Game Show, and with it some news I've wanted to hear for a long, long while. Before I get to that, however, Nintendo has a new leader up for discussion.

The tragic loss of Nintendo President Satoru Iwata left many speculating about a successor. Some thought that the company would play it safe and appoint a financially experienced executive like Tatsumi Kimishima. Well, they were right. Kimishima is Nintendo's new Managing Director and President, and he seems to be the opposite of Iwata in background.

Kimishima, a former Sanwa Bank executive, joined Nintendo in 2000 and soon headed up the Pokemon Company and Pokemon USA, and he became President of Nintendo of America in 2002. He became Managing Director of the company in 2013, which apparently put him in a strategic position for the top spot. While Iwata was a programmer who worked his way up from Balloon Fight and baseball games, Kimishima's resume suggests a money man. That may be why Nintendo's board went with him in the wake of the Wii U's rough reception.

This also means that we can't poke fun at Kimishima's game-related history as much as we could Iwata's. Kimishima pops up in the credits for a bunch of Nintendo games, but it's mostly administrative and special-thanks territory. Will he have the same presence as Iwata, who became Nintendo's jovial face and met with everyone from game developers to Game Center CX's Shinya Arino? We'll find out at the next Nintendo Direct, I think.

NEWS

STREET FIGHTER ADDS RASHID OF THE TURBULENT WIND
Some parts of the world go ignored in the supposedly cosmopolitan Street Fighter series. I can understand why no one represents Antarctica, but why aren't there more fighters from Australia or Africa or Oceania? At least the Middle East gets more notice with the latest Street Fighter V addition, a wind-powered traveler named Rashid.

Capcom describes Rashid as a gregarious warrior who's searching for a lost friend, and his fairly sensible attire is augmented by a green monocle straight out of Dragon Ball Z. His attacks involve fearsome gusts of wind, whether they're the waist-high whirls he kicks up like Mega Man's Air Shooter or the enormous vortex he summons to envelop his opponents. He seems to be a lot of fun to play, and I'm not just saying that because his super hearkens back to B.B. Hood from Darkstalkers.

Astute Street Fighter fans will note that Rashid is the second series entrant from the Middle East, the first being Pullum Purma from the Street Fighter EX titles. While the EX series had some memorable characters, including wrestler Skullomania and starey-eyed special-ops nut Doctrine Dark, I wouldn't count on seeing any of them in Street Fighter V. The original EX characters are tired to developer Arika, which means that Capcom would have to negotiate their inclusion. And let's face it: the EX gang never was all that popular.

DEAD OR ALIVE PLAYS IN FALCOM'S CLOSET
Dead or Alive 5: Last Round has many costumes for its players to buy and its curvaceous women fighters to wear, and most of them wouldn't merit news stories. Yet the latest additions go well beyond the Dead or Alive spate of cheongsams and cowgirl gear and whatnot. A selection of costumes from Tatsunoko Production's characters will appear before the end of the year, and this month sees new gear based on Falcom's games.

A promotional video shows off a wide selection of costumes, most of them from The Legend of Heroes. We see Dead or Alive's cast dressed as Estelle Bright, Tita Russell, Renne, and Scherazard Harvey from Trails in the Sky; Tio Plato, Noel Seeker, and Rixia Mao from Trails of Zero; and Altina Orion, Alisa Reinford, Fie Claussell, and Vita Clotilde from Trails of Cold Steel. Those are fine enough, but the more memorable attire comes from Ys Origin characters: Reah and Feena's costumes give their wearers giant angel wings, though Zava's garb is routine RPG heroine straps-and-cleavage. That also goes for Brandish's Dela Delon attire, which won't be censored as it was back in the Super Nintendo era.

The best by far is a Popful Mail wardrobe. My personal favorite Falcom title, Popful Mail is an upbeat side-scroller that alighted on the Sega CD, the Super Famicom, the PC Engine, and Japanese PCs with its amusing, self-mocking humor. Dead or Alive wouldn't be my first pick for a Popful Mail recipient, of course, but it's satisfying to see the game remembered alongside Falcom titles of more recent vintage. The cartoonish moneybags are a nice touch and make up for the costume's lack of authentic anime-elf ears. Yes, I know that Popful Mail is represented here because her leotard fashion sense fits Dead or Alive's persistently risque standards, but a Popful Mail reference is a Popful Mail refence, I say.

G-BIKE GOES G'BYE, I MAKE A TERRIBLE HEADLINE
Final Fantasy VII G-Bike sounded fun. It was yet another Final Fantasy VII spin-off, but it turned the game's crude highway duel into a full game. In the original, Cloud rode a primitively outfitted motorcycle and slashed his way through oncoming enemies, and the G-Bike remake turned it all into a Final Fantasy spectacle, with glossy scenery, varied enemies, and cameos by other Final Fantasy VII characters. Square Enix even announced it for North America…even though it never seemed to show up.

Well, there's a reason for that. Square Enix will yank G-Bike from iOS and Android stores in Japan this December 15, and they've said nothing more about a North American release. Those who tried the Japanese version were divided on its quality, but I think it might've done good numbers in America. We liked Road Rash, you know.

This isn't the first time that Square Enix canned a cell-phone game with an imminent U.S. release. Before Crisis: Final Fantasy VII, part of Square's four-part Compilation of Final Fantasy VII, had a date for North America and a place in Square Enix's 2006 E3 showings, but it never arrived, perhaps proving too complex for the America phones of the day. It's the only major part of the Compilation never localized, but now it can keep G-Bike company in that regard.

THE TOKYO GAME SHOW: THE SONY SIDE

GRAVITY RUSH 2 YES YES YES HAHAHAHA WHEEEE
I admit that I worried about Gravity Rush 2. The original remains the best thing on the PlayStation Vita, but Gravity Rush, much like the Vita itself, seemed bound for cult appreciation. Even as Sony announced Gravity Rush 2 and showed the briefest of trailers, much was unexplained. Sony and director Keiichiro Toyama offered few details about it, and we didn't know where or when it would arrive. Well, we know now, and I'm happier about it than I've been about any other video game unveiled this year. Or last year. Or the year before that. Gravity Rush 2 is coming to the PlayStation 4 in 2016, and Sony's bringing over the original as Gravity Rush Remastered.

Gravity Rush 2 (or Gravity Daze 2, going by the Japanese title) takes place shortly after the events of the first game, which ended on a low-key note that left most of its questions unanswered. We're still in the floating city of Hekseville, where neighborhoods orbit a strange pillar in an even stranger void. Kat, a young woman who controls gravity, remains the unofficial resident superheroine of the city. Most of her moves shown in the trailer are straight out of the first Gravity Rush, from her divekicks to her ability to soar through city heights and fall through its depths. And for me, it's enough that she does it all in a larger, prettier version of the city filled with a bigger variety of enemies. Plus she's apparently able to dash through the sky without making herself glow like a gummy bear.

The most intriguing part of the trailer is its implication that Raven, Kat's snottier and more efficient rival, might be playable. She teams up with Kat during a boss fight, and the game's promotional poster and other materials give her and Kat equal space. Also interesting is a snippet from Sony that revealed a Gravity Rush animation project, which is straight out of my daydreams. I hope it'll be some gorgeous movie or OVA and not a stiff TV series.

Gravity Rush 2's 2016 release date remains nebulous, but Gravity Rush Remastered has a more firm plan. It'll be out on February 9 in North America, and it'll include all of the original game's DLC chapters. And it'll look better, of course. Japan gets Remastered by the end of the year, and the special edition includes Kat and Dusty (the actual cat) figures made by Figma.

Sony also plans to release a special Vita edition of Gravity Rush 2. The box won't contain a game at all. It'll have only a small coffin to hold the Vita.

I jest, Vita owners, but it's not flattering that a sequel to the system's best game headed to the PlayStation 4 with no Vita version in sight. It's possible that Gravity Rush 2 started on the Vita; some parts of the trailer look like a Vita game prettied up for a fancier console. But Sony wants Gravity Rush on the PlayStation 4 now, and I have to accept that. I'm glad that more people will soon get to experience one of my favorite games from this generation, though I reserve the right to spend the next five months replaying Gravity Rush on the Vita and gloating in silence.

And so Gravity Rush 2 shoots to the top of my most-wanted games list, which I always keep open on my desktop.

I can't see anything knocking it down for a while.

THE NEW KING OF FIGHTERS ALREADY LOOKS OLD
SNK never really caught Capcom when it came to fighting games. Sure, Fatal Fury and The King of Fighters had sequels and merchandise and anime spin-offs, but SNK couldn't find a widespread hit like Capcom found with Street Fighter. And while Capcom reignited a fighting-game craze with Street Fighter IV, SNK's visually amazing The King of Fighters XII and XIII didn't have the same impact. So SNK changed things. After years of lettings rumors seep out, SNK announced that The King of Fighters XIV is headed to the PlayStation 4 next year. The Tokyo Game Show got only a tiny glimpse of it, but it looks pretty good for a fan-made game!

Wait, this isn't a fan-made game. It's the work of SNK proper. We get a 3-D render of protagonist Kyo, followed by some brief footage of Kyo and the antagonistic Iori clashing in an arena. Both of them look primitive, and their animation is less impressive than The King of Fighters: Maximum Impact, the PlayStation 2 sub-line which served as SNK's last flirtation with a 3-D version of the series. The Maximum Impact games are fun, even if they're crass and unbalanced. So maybe The King of Fighters XIV will turn out just fine. Maybe it'll bring back Kasumi Todoh and Eiji Kisaragi and all of my other favorite characters!

Well, that's what I'd like to think. I hesitate to kick SNK while they're down, since the company's shown little more than pachislot titles and old Neo Geo reissues for the past few years. Yet that The King of Fighters XIV trailer doesn't offer much.

VANILLAWARE JUMPS INTO A GIANT ROBOT
Vanillaware puts together some of the prettiest video games in all creation, though they've favored fantasy like the elegant Norse realms of Odin Sphere, the hardier quests of Dragon's Crown, and the feudal Japanese tones of Muramasa. Now they're at work on a modern-ish mecha title called 13 Sentinels: Aegis Rim. It's staged in a Japanese city where lumbering robots interrupt the daily routines of high school students, and it's gorgeous.

It's also largely unexplained at this point. Atlus and Vanillaware haven't said much about the storyline or gameplay for 13 Sentinels, and I'm a little disappointed in what the trailer shows. It's not the overlying artwork so much as it's the premise. No year rolls by without a new anime series that pairs schoolkids and giant robots in the heart of urban Japan, and our first look at 13 Sentinels just paints up those same clichés, including even a parting excuse for young women to lift their skirts and tops—and show the blue holograms that apparently let them pilot those battle-mecha.

PLAYSTATION VR LOADS UP
Sony's virtual-reality Project Morpheus sounded interesting at this year's E3, even if Shenmue 3 and the Final Fantasy VII remake overshadowed it. The Tokyo Game Show got Morpheus a little more attention and a new name: PlayStation VR. It still lacks a release date, but Sony embraced the concept in a new demo reel that showcased the diving sim The Deep and a Hatsune Miku exhibition. Spike Chunsoft even offered Cyber Danganronpa VR, though it wasn't confirmed as a full game.

The big PlayStation VR title so far is Summer Lesson, a simulation developed by Katsuhiro Harada and other members of the Tekken team. It casts you as the language teacher of two girls: the Japanese one learns English, the English-speaking one learns Japanese, and both of them have slightly unnatural mouth movements. The game's all about communication, as the player chooses yes-or-no answers and uses the VR headset to examine the environment. The trailer has a strangely disorienting aura. Some say that's because it resembles a dating simulator without any dating, though I find it disconcerting how the characters and the player's perspective tilt and wave around. VR headsets have been known to make some players motion-sick, after all. That's why Sega's VR expansion never came to market. Well, that and the fact that Sega was wasting money every way short of feeding rabbits with hundred-dollar bills.

DANGANRONPA, YAKUZA, OTHERS GET SEQUELS
If Gravity Rush 2's defection leaves Vita owners dismayed, they can take solace in other titles. Danganropa 3, vague as it may be, is headed to the Vita and PlayStation 4. The same goes for another new Spike Chunsoft's offering, One Piece: Burning Blood. Also on the Vita: Bandai Namco's Mobile Suit Gundam: Extreme Vs. Force, Square Enix's SaGa: Scarlet Grace, a new Seiken Densetsu: Final Fantasy Gaiden game (which we originally knew here as Final Fantasy Adventure), and several new colors for the handheld itself. Who needs Gravity Rush 2? Well...every living human, in my opinion. Yet I think the Vita will soldier onward.

Sega drew up the curtain on Yakuza Kiwami, a PlayStation 3 and 4 remake of the first game in the series. It'll add new scenes, develop Akira Nishiki further, give Goro Majima more time, and offer the player more combat techniques from the beginning. Sega also rolled out Yakuza 6, due out on the PlayStation 4 next year.

Kingdom Hearts, bracing players for its third proper installment, gets a new compilation called Kingdom Hearts HD II.8 Final Chapter Prologue. It contains an HD version of Dream Drop Distance, a slightly expanded version of Birth By Sleep dubbed Kingdom Heroes 0.2 Birth by Sleep –a fragmentary passage-, and a new movie called Kingdom Hearts X: Back Cover. I'd joke about a Kingdom Hearts 2.9 lurking in the future, but that's already rumored.

NEXT WEEK'S RELEASES

ANIMAL CROSSING: HAPPY HOME DESIGNER
Developer: Nintendo EAD Group No. 2
Publisher: Nintendo
Platform: Nintendo 3DS
Release Date: September 25
Tom Nook: Not to be crossed
MSRP: $39.99

How much time did you spend arranging your home in the original Animal Crossing? Hours? Days? Actual real-world hours and days instead of Animal Crossing units? That's understandable. Animal Crossing revolved around players building a life in a small town full of friendly creatures, and a comfortable house with sofas and wallpaper and an actual Nintendo system was a big part of that. Even if the only Nintendo game you had was Clu Clu Land.

Animal Crossing: Happy Home Designer is less about leading a complete virtual life and more about designing homes for friends and neighbors. The player's avatar works for Tom Nook's latest venture, an interior decorating and construction firm that gives you a nice red jacket and puts you to work laying out customers' domiciles. You're tasked with finding new clients, figuring out what they want, and placing things around their homes—all without any bothersome budgets. Since your clients include bears, cats, robots, pro-wrestler eagles, and other Animal Crossing denizens, discovering their tastes isn't always straightforward. Once you're established in the home market, though, you'll get to design schools, town halls, libraries, and more. And no, you can't burn them down for the insurance money.

Your catalog of design material has everything from common bedspreads and duvets to robotic desk chairs and artistically arranged T-shirts. Each satisfied customer reveals new decorating options, and the game follows the same night-and-day cycles as a regular Animal Crossing. Happy Home Designer also uses Amiibo cards (provided you have a New 3DS or an adapter) to invite familiar Animal Crossing characters to their homes or design houses for them. I'm not sure about seeing what Tom Nook does at home. He always gave off bad vibes.

Also Available:
Afro Samurai is one of those anime series far more popular in the mainstream than it is among devoted otaku. It's rarely talked about in anime-fan circles as much as Naruto or the latest Gundam show, and I recall that the Anime Insider with an Afro Samurai cover did lousy sales off the racks. But Afro Samurai lives on with a lot of people who might not watch that much anime, and for them there's a new Afro Samurai game. Afro Samurai 2: The Revenge of Kuma follows Afro's former friend and current rival, a samurai who wears the head of a giant mascot bear. It's a brawler heavy on the swordplay, much like the original Afro Samurai game, and it allows Kuma to switch fighting styles mid-fight. The first episode arrives digitally on the PlayStation 4 this September 22, with Xbox One and Steam versions lurking not far behind.


Todd Ciolek occasionally updates his website, and you can follow him on Twitter if you want.


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