This Week in Games - Digimon World: Next Orderby Dustin Bailey,
No, not in a creepy way. I'm talking about hanging onto physical goods in a world increasingly dominated by digital media. The benefits of digital libraries are clear: no shelf space, portability between platforms, and increased accessibility. What's physical media got? Theoretically it has permanence, but the shelf life of discs and cartridges was always intended to be measured in years rather than decades. And in terms of video games, I have my doubts that those of us of a certain age will be able to hand down working Nintendos and Geneses to our children and grandchildren.
Yet, for whatever reason, I can't stop buying physical games. If you've paid any attention to the retro game collector's market in the past five years, you'll know I'm not the only one. Prices on ancient cartridges have exploded, and if you ever balked at the thought of paying $10 for an N64 on the Wii's virtual console, just have a look at those games on eBay today. You're looking at $20-$30 for even a cartridge-only copy of a common game like Mario 64 or Ocarina of Time. Looking for something rarer, like a Harvest Moon 64? Then you're looking at paying more than that game retailed for in the first place.
It's not long until those auction site prices have paid for a modern console with a virtual console service, and then you're not beholden to the cantankerous operations of decades-old hardware. If the games you want to play haven't been officially reproduced, it's not exactly difficult to find alternative means of seeing them.
So why do I keep buying expensive SNES cartridges, and diligently devote myself to picking up all the obscure modern releases from distributors like Limited Run Games? The honest truth is that it has nothing to with permanence, DRM, or preservation. It's just more fun to have a physical thing—a cartridge to blow on or a disc to carefully wipe clean. Who can say no to paying extra for extra fun? Not me, that's for sure. (I'm a sucker.)
Impressions - Digimon World: Next Order
The game opens with you choosing a male or female protagonist and suddenly getting thrust into a digital world where you're partnered up with a pair of Digimon and forced to fight to survive. Your partners fight autonomously in real-time battles, taking actions from their handful of predetermined moves. You can issue some direct commands, giving you the opportunity for extra attacks with more advantageous timing.
The hands-off nature of the fights might seem limiting, but there's a surprising amount of strategy in your limited control over the monsters. Your ability to give commands is limited by order power, meaning that you have to carefully choose when to give specific orders. Attacks have different ranges, so if you use a melee command when your pal is on the opposite side of the field from the enemy, it'll whiff. You can restore order power by cheering on your Digimon, and you'll get a significant bonus if you time those cheers alongside attacks.
You'll have the same two partners throughout the game—sort of. After your initial tutorial battle, they'll be reborn from an egg in a form of your choosing, and they'll level and evolve into different creatures based on their training and stat progression. I haven't got far enough to see this first-hand, but it seems that your Digimons' life-spans are limited, which means you'll be having them reborn into different monsters several times over the course of the game. Training mostly happens at a gym in the central town, allowing you to spend time improving the stats of your choosing. Things like time of day and day of the week offer bonuses to certain training types. You've also got to manage things like hunger, energy, and poop out in the field, giving the game an extra layer of digital pet management.
While all the core elements are pretty entertaining, it's already pretty grindy even just a few hours in. Progress means exploring the field and finding characters to recruit back to your home town, which gets new features, shops, and daily bonus items as it grows. Those quests involving a lot of “collect 5 X” and “defeat 3 Y,” and there's not much indication that this will change deeper into the game.
Though the game is a PS4-exclusive in the West, its original release had roots on the Vita, and those roots remain pretty obvious here. The environments are small, the characters lack detail, and the whole thing has the feel of a remastered PS2 game. At least it runs smoothly.
I've enjoyed my time with Digimon World so far, but I doubt I'll be digging in much further. The grind is already real just a few hours in, and though I'm charmed by the combination of battles and virtual pet ownership, I don't know that there's enough there to justify 40+ hours of adventure for me.
NINTENDO IS GETTING SOME LAST MINUTE RARITIES ON THE WII U VIRTUAL CONSOLE
For all that talk of collecting above, I'm still aware that the smart money is with official, digital editions of classic games. Especially when talking about games reaching exorbitant prices on secondary markets. I missed its release last week but it seems that Ogre Battle 64 made its way to the Wii U VC, and Harvest Moon 64 should be on the service as of today. The latter game was a long-requested addition, but Natsume said it wasn't feasible due to technical problems.
Of course, the question now is whether you should buy any digital games on Wii U considering that the Switch is out next week and Nintendo's history with cross-platform purchases is questionable at best. Leaked Switch info suggests that game purchases will now be tied to the account rather than the console, which is a good first step, but there's no reason to suspect that Wii U purchases will automatically make their way to the new service. At best, you could expect to pay a dollar or two to “upgrade” your VC games, similar to the process in moving from Wii to Wii U.
LOOKS LIKE CAPCOM HAS RENEWED THE DEEP DOWN TRADEMARK
Hey, remember Deep Down? It was that CAPCOM-made dungeon crawler with dragons and stuff. It was an early announcement for PS4, and “gameplay” footage they showed in its initial trailer was pretty impressive. You know, as far as “gameplay” goes.
There was supposed to be a public beta coinciding with the PS4 launch, but that obviously never happened, and we haven't heard anything about the game since. But it's not dead—at least not yet. It seems that CAPCOM has applied for a trademark on the title. So, you know, I guess that's something.
CAPCOM's one of the last standing major third-party publishers in Japan, and they've had a rough time staying relevant in the worldwide market. It seems that Resident Evil 7 has done alright, but Monster Hunter still isn't catching on outside its native shores and nobody's feeling great about where Street Fighter V is at. Is Deep Down the solution? I guess we'll see.
WHAT A STRANGE, WONDROUS WORLD WE LIVE IN WHERE PRINCESS MAKER GETS AN OFFICIAL TRANSLATION IN 2017
So, Princess Maker. It's a series where you raise a girl in a medieval kingdom up to adulthood, and based on your decision she could become a queen, an adventurer, a prostitute, or any number of things in between. It's a cult classic, but its sketchier themes made an English localization improbably, especially nearer its original release in the early 90s. There was an effort to bring Princess Maker 2 West back then, but an untimely bankruptcy prevented that from happening.
Until now, that is. Princess Maker 2 made it out here last year, and now the original game is on Steam as well. This is all frankly ridiculous. A 25-year-old game Japanese PC game just got an official translation for the first time, and while it's the (slightly) improved Refine edition it's still a comparatively ancient and obtuse piece of software. Lest you think that's all pejorative, no—that's fantastic.
I played a bit of the Steam release this week and it feels like a brand release from 1991, for better or worse. The game runs just fine in Windows 10, but it's stuck in original resolutions with the original interface. The localization is pretty bad, too, with with words that wrap around the text boxes in awkward ways and head-scratching translations like “morals” as “morale.”
Yet it's still oddly compelling. Your interactions are basically limited to determining how your foster daughter spends her time. That could be studying, earning money at odd jobs, or going out in a light RPG dungeon crawl. Every decision raises certain stats while lowering certain others, gently guiding her toward a career she'll pick in adulthood. It's barely more interactive than a typical clicker, yet it's still somehow compelling. Especially since it runs in a low-resource window that you can keep minimized as an occasional distraction during your workday.
Realistically, you're better off playing the existing and more substantial Princess Maker 2. But it still warms my heart to see a strange piece of history make it into this language even decades after it had any right to. Oh, uh, also—there's nudity. Bear that in mind if it concerns you or your potential Twitch audience.
NEXT WEEK'S RELEASES
HORIZON ZERO DAWN|
Developer: Guerrilla Games
Publisher: Sony Interactive Entertainment
Platform: PlayStation 4
Release Date: February 28
The reviews are already in, and they're mostly glowing. Horizon Zero Dawn is a techno-fantasy post-post-apocalypse story where you're part of a tribe hunting down robot dinosaurs to survive. It seems to be an especially well-executed take on the modern open-world formula, though if you've grown tired of that recipe it sounds like you might not like what you see here. But still—robot dinosaurs. Robot dinosaurs.
STORY OF SEASONS: TRIO OF TOWNS|
Developer: XSEED Games
Publisher: Marvelous Interactive
Platform: Nintendo 3DS
Release Date: February 28
Quick reminder: Story of Seasons is the new name of the Harvest Moon series, while games now titled Harvest Moon in the West are unrelated and made by entirely new developers. Trio of Towns builds on the previous game with—you guessed it—three new towns to explore, each with their own benefits to your farm. Though I was once upon a time a Harvest Moon fan, I found the last Story of Seasons game pretty dull and tedious—here's hoping this one doesn't share the same fate.
TORMENT: TIDES OF NUMENERA|
Developer: inXile Entertainment
Platform: PlayStation 4 / Xbox One / PC
Release Date: February 28
For my money, Planescape: Torment was the finest PC RPG of its era. Though mechanically limited, its psychedelic fantasy world was full of wonderful characters being beaten down in the most brutal of ways, both physically and psychologically. This spiritual successor was a Kickstarter project, and is made by the same studio that saw crowdfunding success in reviving old RPGs with Wasteland 2. I desperately hope they achieve similar things here.
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