This Week in Games - PlayStation VR

by Dustin Bailey,

After last week's dry spell, holy cow the floodgates are open now. We've got a ton of new releases, a good bit of news, and the launch of a new platform. Or platform-ish. We'll get to that.

Amid that flood of new stuff, I'm still working my way through a 2015 release in Yakuza 5. That game's long! And I think it might actually have too much stuff! But so far I've broken up a street racing syndicate while driving a taxicab, had a fist fight with a bear, and now I'm well on my way to being the greatest pop idol in Japan. So far, I'd say it's been a pretty worthwhile experience.

Japan is gearing up for the release of Yakuza 6 and we're all set for Yakuza 0 early next year, so it seems the multi-year localization delay will still be affecting us for the foreseeable future. But whatever! At least these games are coming out, and we're continuing to see the adventures of weirdly kindhearted yakuza. I'm excited to see 0! If I can manage to finish 5 in the next few months, that is.

Opinion: PlayStation VR

PlayStation VR is out October 13th, and a whole host of sites posted hands-on impressions and lengthy streaming footage as of yesterday. The verdict? It's pretty good, but not as good as the Vive or Oculus, and there might be some tracking issues, but we don't know if that's widespread, and the games are okay, but there's not a lot of depth to them, and it's still pretty expensive, and we don't know what effect the PS4 Pro will have, and, and, and…

Virtual reality has been a super weird thing to keep track of these past few years, especially looking at it from the gaming side. Every E3 or GDC, your usual crop of gaming podcasts would have these lengthy VR tangents where, after some hands-on time with the headsets, they'd talk about the revelatory nature of being in virtual reality. The technology's incredible, especially on the high-end sets, and digital graphics are now at a point where assets can be rendered at fidelity that makes sense for up close viewing.

There are so many incredible uses for VR. Virtual tourism. Home walkthroughs. Job training. But the question has always remained--will it make sense for home users? Is there a reason for people to have virtual reality headsets in their homes? Gaming seemed like the obvious proving ground for the technology, since we're easy marks with a penchant for buying into new technology early. But the Vive and the Oculus, when paired with appropriately powered PCs, are still too expensive to be wide-ranging hits even within the enthusiast market.

Sony's PSVR headset was supposed to be the cheaper answer, the one that would prove whether or not home VR is viable. But with a ton of reviews out all at once, it seems like the answer is as hazy as ever. I haven't had the chance to try Sony's headset for myself, but the big pre-launch concerns--the low resolution of the screen and the PS4 hardware's ability to produce VR-appropriate framerates--have turned out to be non-issues. The bigger problem, at least for some, has been a lack of tracking fidelity that's had some downright nauseous results.

Then, of course, there are the games, which are still a question mark. It seems that PlayStation VR has managed to claw together a stronger launch line-up than either PC headset, but titles like Batman: Arkham VR and Until Dawn: Rush of Blood are single-sitting experiences without much depth. VR has been on the market for most of this year, and developers still haven't cracked the code on what makes a good virtual reality game. It sounds like the best PSVR title is likely to be Rez Infinite, and that's such a weird, unique thing that nobody else will be able to take many lessons from it.

For now, PSVR seems like it's best for the social and casual spaces. SuperHyperCube and Job Simulator are two of its strongest launch titles, and those are simple high score and “just mess around” titles. Sony was smart enough to have the headset output its display back to the TV, allowing folks outside the headset to see what's going on, making a pass and play session seem pretty viable.

But is that enough? For developers to invest the time and money to make “real” VR games, there's got to be a headset that achieves a pretty big market. The Wii certainly became a success with casual games lacking in depth, but even for the relatively accessible PlayStation VR, it's still an order of magnitude more expensive than Nintendo's console ever was.

I find myself pretty disappointed. Not by PSVR. It seems fine. But I'd hoped that its release would finally put the question of VR to rest, either by proving the tech made sense in games or by putting a bullet in the entire idea. But we've got no such answers, and everyone is left still trying to figure out what form VR games should take. Now we spend another few years figuring out if there was anything to this VR gimmick in the first place.

NEWS

AFTER INFINITE DRAMA, DIGITAL HOMICIDE CRASHES AND BURNS

This isn't within the typical wheelhouse of ANN games coverage, but this is such a weird, long-ongoing story that I really feel like I need to talk about it here. Digital Homicide is a developer and publisher which specializes in putting very bad games on Steam. Jim Sterling, a Youtube personality who specializes in trashing very bad Steam games, played one of their titles and made a video about it.

The ensuing drama saw Digital Homicide take Jim Sterling to court for defamation, in a lawsuit that I believe is still ongoing. Things got even more ridiculous when the company attempted to sue 100 Steam users who, they alleged, had harassed and harmed their business. They subpoenaed Valve for those users' identities, Valve said “nah,” and instead elected to remove all of Digital Homicide's games from Steam. The suit against the Steam users has since been dropped. Digital Homicide's James Romine says that the company is basically done for as a result of Valve's removal of their games, and the dismissal of their suit is only the result of their inability to pay for it.

There's nothing stopping developers from flooding Steam with absolutely terrible games, and that's an issue Valve is willing to have in exchange for an open platform. But look, guys, be honest with yourselves. You can make a bad game and know it's bad, and not get angry when other people realize it's bad, too. Maybe I'm a bit biased, being in the business of rendering opinions on video games, but I'm pretty sure you can't just sue people for evaluating your product. Yes, even if they're mean about it.

THE NES CLASSIC IS TINY, CHEAP, AND LOOKS FANTASTIC

Nintendo announced the NES Classic a few months ago. It's a tiny NES with an HDMI port and 30 games built-in. People (which, sadly, doesn't include me) got some hands-on time with it this week, and it sounds like the mini console is actually very cool.

If you're a current Nintendo fan, you might be asking what advantages this thing has over the Virtual Console on Wii U. The answer is that NES emulation on the current console is pretty bad, with washed-out colors and blurry visuals. These issues don't seem to exist with the NES Classic. You've also got the benefit of four save state slots for each game, which can be locked to prevent overwriting.

With a static list of games, the NES Classic won't quite be the end-all, be-all for NES fans. But if you want a legal way to play these games, it really does seem that this will be a great option. And at $60, it's certainly going to be more affordable than an Analog Nt, a Hi-Def NES mod, or an RGB mod with a proper upscaler.

POKEMON SUN AND MOON ARE GETTING A DEMO WITH AN EXCLUSIVE POCKET MONSTER

Another new trailer for Pokémon Sun and Moon hit this week, showing off the evolved forms of each starter. Dartrix looks like a hipster, Torracat is getting uncomfortably close to Garfield, and male Brionnes are going to have rough time making it through middle school. I kid, I kid. You're all beautiful and I love you. No haters aboard the Pokémon train!

More to the significant, however, is that the upcoming pair of games are getting a demo. That's a series first! The demo will be available October 18, and it will have you travelling in the company of a very special Greninja, which can transform into Ash-Greninja and will transfer into the full version of the game. (If you haven't followed the anime in a while, yeah, Ash-Greninja is totally just Ash's Greninja.)

There's no word yet on what the content of the demo will be, but hey. It's an exclusive Pokémon variant. Catch 'em all!

NEXT WEEK'S RELEASES

CRIMINAL GIRLS 2: PARTY FAVORS
Developer: Nippon Ichi Software
Publisher: NIS America
Platform: PlayStation Vita
Release Date: October 11
MSRP: $39.99

Look. There's no way to say this other than “it's a Vita game.” Criminal Girls 2: Party Favors has you in control of a party of dungeon explorers whose leveling and growth you'll guide throughout. This party happens to be a group of “Delinquents” trapped in Hell, and your ultimate goal is to guide their redemption and journey to the end of the Hell Spire. Each of those party members is, naturally, a pretty lady adhering to the usual harem tropes.

Touch screen minigames--referred to as, sigh, “punishments” in the Japanese version and “motivations” here--will have you scrubby those dirty girls, flinging slime at them, and with an almost admirable lack of restraint, applying electric bondage and spanking them. New to Criminal Girls 2 is the S and M system, where girls coached down the S path deal increased damage and M girls have higher defense.

So yes, please enjoy Criminal Girls 2 responsibly: in the privacy of your own room, thanks to the powerful portability of the PlayStation Vita.

DRAGON QUEST BUILDERS
Developer: Square Enix
Publisher: Square Enix
Platform: PlayStation 4 / PlayStation Vita
Release Date: October 11
MSRP: $59.99

The melding of the very traditional JRPG series with the new Minecraft hotness all the kids are into might seem like a cynical grasp at popularity, but the end result in Dragon Quest Builders actually manages to be a very cool blend of disparate genres. The initial reviews have been very positive, and I had a terrific time with the demo that's up on PSN.

It's a structured take on sandbox construction, and you've got quests to fulfill as you rebuild a dilapidated kingdom. Building up a town will attract new citizens with new tasks, finding new materials opens new blueprints, and everything feeds back into your kingdom-restoring quest. We'll be getting a copy in soon, and I'll have impressions together for next week's column. Please look forward to it!

PAPER MARIO: COLOR SPLASH
Developer: Intelligent Systems
Publisher: Nintendo
Platform: Wii U
Release Date: October 7
MSRP: $59.99

RPGs featuring Mario have been among my favorite games of all time. I even liked Sticker Star, despite the concerns I had over its reductions in story. The idea that the new Paper Mario would be following in those stripped-down steps had me more than a little concerned, however.

But the early reviews are in and it sounds like, against all odds, Color Splash is actually pretty good. It features an item-based, no-leveling combat system similar to its predecessor, but seems to focus on more in-depth level design and a colorful cast backed up by strong, weird writing. It might not be Thousand-Year Door, but I'm looking forward to seeing it for myself.

THE SILVER CASE
Developer: Grasshopper Manufacture
Publisher: Grasshopper Manufacture / AGM Playism
Platform: PC
Release Date: October 7
MSRP: $19.99

This certainly isn't the biggest game out this week, but it's one that's been a long time coming. The Silver Case is one of the first titles by Goichi Suda, released in Japan for the PlayStation back in 1999. The director, better known as Suda51, would go on to make such titles as Killer7, No More Heroes, and Lollipop Chainsaw, games which aren't so much great as they are all-encompassing in their weirdness.

This is the first time that the Silver Case has been officially translated into English, and the visual novel/adventure game hybrid is just as bewildering as you might expect. There's a recently-updated demo available on Steam which showcases the serial murder-mystery, and it is something else. Good? Uh, maybe. But definitely fascinating. It's fantastic to see such an obscure old release finally get an official translation.

ALSO AVAILABLE:
There's a whole mess of PSVR games out this week, with far too many to cover comprehensively here. The one I'd want to mention is Rez Infinite, an updated edition of the original Mizuguchi classic, which also happens to be playable without VR. It will be available October 13th.

There are a pair of big Western releases this week as well, and I'm cautiously optimistic about both of them. I've always had a fondness for the meatheads of the Gears games, and the things I've heard about Gears of War 4 have me pretty excited to return to that universe. Mafia III is teetering dangerously close to being “just another” open world crime game, but there's so much that could be done with its setting that I'm desperate for it not to be.

Metal Gear Solid V: The Definitive Experience packages together Ground Zeroes, The Phantom Pain, and Metal Gear Online along with all their respective DLC, making it a great jumping-on point if you missed out on last year's best game. (Yeah, I said it.) Rise of the Tomb Raider hits PS4 this week as well, and I really enjoyed the original release despite not caring for the 2013 reboot at all.

There's also Valkyrie Drive: Bhikkuni, which I covered when it was originally supposed to release last month. There are anime lesbians. They turn into swords when they get horny. Look, I ain't a cop. Put whatever you want in your Vita.

See you next week, when I'll have a full rundown of Dragon Quest Builders!


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