This Week in Games - Death Stranding

by Dustin Bailey,
Ireland's a nice place. Good food. Great beer. Lot of sheep. But now it's time to put all that fresh air and beautiful country aside and talk about the things that really matter: video games! I had all these grand plans of playing through the Phoenix Wright Trilogy on those lengthy flights, but it turns out that eight-hour plane rides give me miserable headaches! Who knew? I did manage to finish one chapter, and I'm pretty sure that Turnabout Big Top is the most dull, tedious case in the series. So far, anyway. Many turnabouts remain.

There's a lot of news to cover this time, and not just because I want to talk about some major announcements from last week. The Tokyo Game Show will be opening the day you read this article, and a fair number of announcements have already made their way to the public. So let's get straight to the news!

NEWS

THE PLAYSTATION 4 IS GOING PRO
Sony announced a pair of redesigned PlayStation 4 consoles last week, both of which are pretty much exactly what they were rumored to be. The PS4 Slim (which found its war into journalists' hands and was fully reviewed prior to the announcement) releases on September 16th for $299, with a 500GB hard drive and a copy of Uncharted 4, which is a good video game. The Slim is a PS4, but it's smaller. Shocking news, I know.

The PS4 Pro is a much bigger deal. It'll have support for 4K resolutions and HDR, both of which are likely to be standard TV features in the next few years. Probably. It's more likely to happen than 3D ever was. But even if you don't have a 4K TV, Sony still wants you to buy a Pro. Most games in the future, and certain previously released titles, will boast improved visuals on the Pro, whether through better framerates or increased fidelity.

The Pro will release in North America on November 10th for $399. If you're keeping track, that puts it a full year ahead of the Xbox One's planned Scorpio release, and even with both these mid-generation refreshes pretty well detailed, we still don't have a clue what effect they'll actually end up having on the console market. Will there be a PlayStation 5 in a few years? Or will Sony and Microsoft just move to an Apple-style release plan of rolling hardware updates? Will that model work for game consoles? Will video games exist in five years? Will the earth still be here? Last night, was I a man dreaming of being a butterfly, or today am I a butterfly dreaming that I'm a man?

DON'T CALL IT AN ENDLESS RUNNER, BUT MARIO'S GONNA DO A LOT OF RUNNING
Boy, I'm gone for one week and suddenly both Miyamoto and Bill Trinen are making guest appearances at Apple press conferences. Super Mario Run is coming to iOS later this year, and I believe this is the first Nintendo-affiliated mobile title that can actually be described as a “real video game.” Mario runs. You tap the screen to jump. Is it a full platformer? No, but it doesn't have to be. It's the same concept that powered the excellent Bit.Trip Runner a few years ago, and there's no reason to suspect that Nintendo won't do good work under the limited constraints of an auto-scrolling platformer.

This announcement came well after I wrote last week's piece about where I think Nintendo's going for the next few years, but the thought still remains the same. Super Mario Run isn't a full Mario game for phones, but it is a title featuring that character and concept smartly adapted for a platform with an absolutely massive install base. If you want to play a real Mario game (or maybe a real Pokémon, or Animal Crossing), then let me tell you about this upcoming console that will be released next year…

SONY REMEMBERS THAT THE VITA EXISTS, RELEASES SNAZZY NEW COLORS
There are games on the Vita. We both know that and I ain't gonna front to the contrary. But it's fair to say that those are mostly niche titles and Sony's focus has moved squarely onto other ventures. That's why it's so surprising that they announced a pair of new colors for the system. Sony remembered that they manufacture a handheld game console! That's so neat!

Yeah, sure, a pair of new colors (even a lovely silver and red) for a handheld isn't exactly huge news, but this is the first time I can recall Sony publicly acknowledging their own portable platform for the better part of a year. That's cool! Vitas are region free, as well, so you can import one of these guys and tell all your friends how cool you are for playing your games on a Japanese handheld.

CONTRARY TO PREVIOUS REPORTS, DEATH STRANDING WILL BE A VIDEO GAME
This barely qualifies as news. But another Kojima-built marketing campaign is ramping up, and following that man's brand of promotional lunacy is sometimes more entertaining than the games themselves. No protagonist switches or mysterious bandaged producers yet, though, as Kojima has just revealed that Death Stranding will feature an open world and online elements, confirming that it is in fact a modern major video game.

The man that made Metal Gear also says that his upcoming game will take the focus away from combat and violence between players, vaguely hinting at a “new type of action” that will involve creating strands between players. What does that mean? We'll find out it 2018 or 19 or 20 or whenever this gosh-darned game actually releases.

THE LAST GUARDIAN SAILS PAST ITS RELEASE DATE ON A SEA OF TEARS
Remember when Sony played a trailer for the Last Guardian at their E3 conference and they put an October 25th release date on it and everyone was like “oh man this game is actually coming out” and it was crazy? Yeah, turns out that date was a little optimistic, and it's been pushed back to December 6th of this year, reportedly to apply some last minute bug fixes.

It's not a huge delay, but for a game that's very nearly into Duke Nukem Forever territory, that one last little slip is downright hilarious to me. I have no idea what to expect from the end product. Ico and Shadow of the Colossus certainly deserve the praise that they've received, but it's been over a decade since those games released and times have changed. That lengthy development cycle doesn't bode well for the cohesion of the final game, either. I really want to be proven wrong, but you can't help but be skeptical about a game living up to ten years of anticipation.

NEXT WEEK'S RELEASES

SHIN MEGAMI TENSEI IV: APOCALYPSE
Developer: Atlus
Publisher: Atlus
Platform: Nintendo 3DS
Release Date: September 20
MSRP: $49.99

It's been a good three years since we first explored the world of Shin Megami Tensei IV, so there's no better time to revisit it, right? Apocalypse takes place in the same setting and feature many similar gameplay elements, but it's not quite a sequel and not quite a reimagining of the previous title. I don't really understand what that means, but I think the general message is that you can enjoy this whether or not you previously played SMT IV.

The SMT series has always been weird for me, because while the Persona games finally managed to catch on in the West starting with 3, the series that spawned them has never quite managed to do the same. But hey, given the series' legacy and this game's position as the “ultimate” take on it, this might just be the right place to get started.

ALSO AVAILABLE:
After the flood of releases last week, things are looking a little slim this time around. A new release of Tokyo Twilight Ghost Hunters called Daybreak: Special Gigs! will bring the ghost hunting visual novel/strategy RPG to PS4 for the first time with an extended campaign featuring some thirty hours of additional content. Special Gigs! will also hit PS3 and Vita digitally when it releases on September 20th.


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