The X Button Remastered
by Todd Ciolek,
There will be no X-Button next week, but there will be more of it later this week, as I head to the San Diego Comic-Con once again. If you're attending, look for me by the Nintendo booth, where I shall ask—nay, demand--that they rename of one of the Koopalings after Mojo Nixon. See, they're all named after musicians and other celebrities, and Mr. Nixon played Toad in the live-action Super Mario Bros. movie. I think he's earned it.
It's also time to return to my latest pet cause: Aquario of the Clockwork. For those just joining us, Aquario is an arcade game that many thought lost after Westone canceled it in 1993. But Westone co-founder Ryuichi Nishizawa recently happened across the game's source code. He's now trying to rebuild it, and he pulled out these sprites of the three main characters.
I'm not just pushing Aquario because I'm fascinated by canceled games. This one looks like a genuinely good side-scroller crafted with the same polish that Westone put into the Monster World games. Nishizawa excavated other sprites, and they show the sorts of little details that make games endearing. You can throw enemies and the other player's character around (which makes Gash balloon up). You can use a jet pack. Defeated characters turn into angels and float off, but if you continue they'll yank off their wings and robes and return to the game. If you like the sound of all that, let Nishizawa know on Twitter.
TALES OF XILLIA COMING TO AMERICA, WHICH WE PRETTY MUCH KNEW
Here's how the Internet makes you less happy. In an age without online news, you would crack open the latest issue of EGM, GameFan, or Video Games & Computer Entertainment to read with joyful surprise that Namco Bandai had formally announced Tales of Xillia for a U.S. release. In this age, however, we all suspected that Tales of Xillia would come here. Websites discovered rumors and copyright fillings, and that lessens the thrill Tales fans will surely get from the news that Xillia is headed here.
However, Tales of Xillia is still worth some excitement among those fans. It's the latest major console RPG for the Tales franchise, and it did very well in Japan. Its cast follows RPG conventions: the part of the Average Guy is played by med student Jude Mathis, and the part of the Exotic Woman is played by Milla Maxwell. Players can pick either of them as a lead character, though the two inevitably join up to travel a fantasy realm called Rieze Maxia and investigate its mana-energy crisis.
In combat, Xillia's Double Raid Linear Motion Battle System lets two characters mix their attacks, all while using the direct control and quick pace typical of Tales battles. It's out on the PlayStation 3 with a nebulous 2013 date. Perhaps it'll arrive within a year of Tales of Graces F's release this past March, thus putting America just a little closer to Japan's heavy diet of Tales RPGs.
CYBERCONNECT2 MAKES JOJO'S FIGHTER, NARUTO NOT YET SPOTTED
JoJo's Bizarre Adventure casts a wide shadow. Hirohiko Araki's colossal manga series is still on the fringes in North America, but its detailed fashions influenced a number of video games, particularly those from Capcom; you'll see it everywhere from Cyberbots' Santana to Street Fighter IV's Juri. Yet Capcom isn't making the latest JoJo's game. That duty falls to Namco Bandai and CyberConnect2.
CyberConnect2 put out numerous Naruto fighters as well as the recent .hack//Versus, and they're showing similar flair with Jojo's Bizarre Adventure: All-Star Battle for the PlayStation 3. The game's first trailer depicts impeccably recreated versions of major Jojo's characters, right down to the words on Gyro Zeppeli's teeth. Also impressive is the trailer's promise of covering seven of the manga's eight story chunks. By comparison, Capcom's Jojo's fighter from 1999 only focused on the third segment, Stardust Crusaders.
Will Jojo's Bizarre Adventure: All-Star Battle make it over here? Araki's tendency to name characters directly after pop stars is enough to make a legal department panic, but the real problem lies in North America's general apathy toward most things Jojo's. Back in 2002, Capcom adapted the manga's fifth arc into a PlayStation 2 game and seriously considered a Western release, but nothing came of it. Namco Bandai might roll the dice again when All-Star Battle arrives in Japan.
THE ACTUAL PHANTASY STAR ONLINE 2 HEADS WEST IN 2013
Sega recently announced that Phantasy Star Online 2 will hit North American PCs in 2013, marking…what? No no, that Dreamcast game from 2001 was Phantasy Star Online Version 2. And all of those other Phantasy Star Online games since then weren't true sequels. No, not even the C.A.R.D. thing. But now Sega has Phantasy Star Online 2, a full-blown successor to the original, and it's a huge multiplayer RPG with giant monsters, detailed character customization, and all of the other things modern MMO players expect.
Phantasy Star Online 2 begins with Oracle, a space fleet dedicated to exploring new worlds. This, of course, opens up all sorts of territory for players to cover with their personalized avatars. Characters are divided first by races: the standard humans, the pointy-eared Newmans, and the robotic Casts. Their classes span hand-to-hand fighters, long-range gun-wielders, and sorcer—sorry, “Photon Arts Users.” From there, a character can be customized down to minute details on clothing, and then he, she, or it is set to band together with other players and roam the half-fantasy, half-sci-fi realms of Phantasy Star. The Japanese version's already out, and the beta phase opened last month. This makes for at least a five-month wait until North America and Europe get to control robot snipers on space-dragon hunts.
FEATURE: REISSUES AND REPACKAGINGS
Video games often seem older than they actually are. Their entire history is slight and spastic compared to film or television, but game companies are always willing to dig up and repackage that history for new systems and collections. Perhaps it's all an attempt to give this young little industry a broader heritage than it has truly earned. Or perhaps it's just easy to cash in when you're sitting on a game catalog that stretches back two decades. And that brings us to these three recent announcements.
FINAL FANTASY VII
Originally released in: 1997
Reissued on: PC
Release Date: TBA
In an ongoing effort to avoid remaking Final Fantasy VII entirely, Square is now updating the much-revered RPG for modern PCs. Just as Final Fantasy VII was a head-turner when it hit the PlayStation back in 1997, the original PC version was also notable for giving computer gamers a modern Japan-bred RPG (albeit with its own bugs and idiosyncrasies). Last week, Square announced a plan to re-issue Final Fantasy VII as a digital download for PCs. It'll feature such modern additions as achievements, cloud-shared saves, and a “character builder” that lets players easily increase their stats and money. And just as in 1997, they're promoting it with a trailer that mostly shows the game's CG videos instead of actual gameplay.
Is this necessary?
It's only fair that Square brings PC owners up to speed, since the PlayStation version of Final Fantasy VII is already available on Sony's PlayStation Network. What's more, this reissue allows kids who've never played the game to hatch terrorist plots in the depths of the industrial city Midgar, to watch the heart-rending death of Aeris (or will it be “Aerith” now?), and to see just how poorly the visuals have aged when it comes to the Popeye-armed characters. Yes, this will still be Final Fantasy VII mostly as it was in 1997, except it'll be even easier if you use this pointless “character builder” thing. Final Fantasy VII wasn't a particularly hard game in the first place, so it's baffling that Square's turning it into a complete pushover. Logically speaking, the only part of the game that should be easier is that slapping contest between a scrawny corporate henchwoman and Tifa, a trained martial artist.
MARVEL VS. CAPCOM
Originally released in: 1995, 1998
Reissued on: Xbox Live Arcade, PlayStation Network
Release Date: September-ish
There are fighting-game geeks whose days still revolve around Marvel vs. Capcom 2 and perhaps Marvel vs. Capcom 3. But Capcom's fighting-game collaborations with Marvel didn't start there. The company previously made X-Men, Marvel Super Heroes, X-Men vs. Street Fighter, Marvel Super Heroes vs. Street Fighter, Marvel vs. Capcom, and, of course, King Kong vs. Godzilla. And now two of those are headed to Xbox Live and the PSN. These revamps of Marvel vs. Capcom and Marvel Super Heroes get HD graphics, achievements, unlockable art galleries, and all the replays and spectator features that come with online multiplayer.
Is this necessary?
Well, the games themselves aren't bad. Marvel Super Heroes is a solid Capcom fighter that uses the comics' Infinity Gems to boost character stats (and, uh, inspire the ill-received system in Street Fighter X Tekken). Marvel vs. Capcom is a showcase for fighting-game excess that was only topped by its sequels. The problem is that they're obsolete: all of the characters from the games appear in Marvel vs. Capcom 2, and that's already available on Live and PSN. Competitively speaking, there's not much reason to play either game. Marvel Super Heroes has its gem system, and that's about it. Marvel vs. Capcom also has little that isn't in its sequel, though there's a lineup of B-list Capcom and Marvel characters (above) that players can call upon mid-battle, and they weren't carried over to Marvel vs. Capcom 2. But really, who cares about Lou from Three Wonders, Ton Pooh from Strider, or the short-lived Capcom mascots Pure and Fur? Certainly not me. Nope, nope. No sir. Not one bit.
NiGHTS INTO DREAMS...
Originally released in: 1996
Reissued on: Xbox Live Arcade, PlayStation Network, Steam
Release Date: Fall
The fall of 1996 was a mascot war the likes of which the industry had never seen before. The PlayStation had Naughty Dog's Crash Bandicoot, the Nintendo 64 had Shigeru Miyamoto's Super Mario 64, and the Sega Saturn had a new game from Yuji Naka, co-creator of Sonic the Hedgehog. But Naka didn't make a Sonic showcase. He made an androgynous jester named NiGHTS and put it in a curious game about two dopey kids and a world of dreams. NiGHTS into DREAMS... was a cheerful, strangely relaxing creation, a flying simulator done as cartoonishly as possible, and it was perhaps even more inventive than Super Mario 64. It wasn't very marketable, though, and Sega paid the price for not backing another Sonic game. But NiGHTS wins praise to this day, and Sega's releasing it for Live and PSN. It'll be a basic touch-up, with HD visuals, leaderboards, and those achievements that some people prize so much.
Is this necessary?
Yes. Far too many interesting Sega Saturn games drifted into nothingness, and it's good to see them revived. NiGHTS may not be the best of those titles; it's a bit short, and there's not much reason to revisit it beyond high scores. Yet the creative flight mechanics and candy-store stylings are easy to enjoy right up to the end (when the sappiest song ever written plays over the credits). It's also best that NiGHTS gets a visual upgrade, as the Saturn often struggled to support the game. But for those of you who want the original, it's also part of Sega's re-packaging. Besides, this reissue is one more step toward a Burning Rangers revival.
THE NEXT TWO WEEKS' RELEASES
HEROES OF RUIN |
Publisher: Square Enix
Platform: Nintendo 3DS
Multiplayer action-RPGs always make me feel rather old, because I reflexively liken them all to Gauntlet. Not even modern-day Gauntlet Legends, but rather the original four-player Gauntlet full of red valkyries shooting their food. Heroes of Ruin isn't so closely linked with Gauntlet, but it nonetheless has four fantasy stereotypes questing around together. They're apparently seeking to cure a gravely ill sphinx (?), but the real point of all this is that four players can team up at once. And Heroes of Ruin has a robust venue for that, as players can drop in or out as they please, trade items, or scream at each other over the 3DS microphone.
Much like a Warcraft-style online RPG left inside a fruit dehydrator, Heroes of Ruin emphasizes a player's choices in character growth. Your chosen mercenary can be customized and improved as new items and abilities are uncovered during quests. That's all rudimentary stuff for anything with RPG touches, though Heroes of Ruin also uses the StreetPass to trade items and weapons among players. Of course, that only applies if those players both own Heroes of Ruin. You might not find any trades by wandering the length of a subway car with your 3DS on, but you never really know.
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