This Week in Games - Final Fantasy XIV: Dad of Lightby Dustin Bailey,
An obscure but apparently cool tower defense title called Gotta Protectors hit the 3DS eShop last year, and the developers at Ancient also just released the ROM for a promotional game called Amazon's Running Diet. Yes, “ROM”—this is an NES game ready to be loaded up into your emulator or flashcart of choice. It's an ultra-simple runner, but it's got a giant sprite and some of the most impressive animation I've seen running on an NES. It's also a little skeezy so, uh, bear that in mind. It's just an incredible contrast seeing something like this take advantage of the NES's specifications, while a game like Unholy Night: The Darkness Hunter proved to be such an awful attempt to do the same on SNES. You can grab it here. Scroll all the way down to the bottom to the one button marked in English.
Final Fantasy XIV: Dad of Light
Final Fantasy XIV: Dad of Light is, at times, utterly bewildering. Not for any particularly complex plot point or or unusual character development—it's a straightforward tale of family relationships, through and through—but because it makes good on turning the titular game into a central piece of the story, referencing the MMO in ways that feel real, without losing sight of its human characters. Mostly, it's bewildering because it's good, a feat that should be nearly impossible for a live action-plus-machinima soap opera built for broadcast TV.
Loosely based on a series of blog posts from a real-life player, Dad of Light tells the story of Akio Inaba's attempts to reconnect with his father, Hirotaro, through FF14. The two were close when they used to play Final Fantasy together on the Famicom, but the years—and Hirotaro's closed personality—have caused them to drift apart. Things come to a head when Hirotaro, still a few years off from retirement age, quits his job, and Akio is determined to close the rift. His plan? Buy his dad a PS4 and FF14, secretly become friends with him in-game, and bond while adventuring throughout Eorzea. Then, once they've beaten the final boss together, Akio will reveal his identity, and the family will be united once again.
It's an elaborate scheme (as much for the show itself as for Akio), but Dad of Light mostly makes good on it. Most of the events that happen in-game are told via machinima, with puppeteered characters delivering voiceovers to represent text chat. But it never falls into the trope of pretending it's not a video game and, indeed, some of its best bits come from the moments it embraces how awkward interacting in games actually is. One early episode sees Hirotaro finally picking up a keyboard, and thus the ability to speak with others. Akio looks forward to the chance to finally see how his dad will act in-game, but after a lengthy build-up, all that comes out of Hirotaro's mouth is a seemingly anguished “aaaaaa.” Because the keyboard is broken.
The series is broken into seven 24-minute episodes, and each chapter typically sees Akio confronted with an in-game problem that he gains insight into solving by something that happens in real life, or vice versa. The second episode sees Akio tasked at his office job with finding out why so many female employees are unexpectedly quitting, while at the same time Hirotaro gives up early on FF14. Fashion turns out to be the solution in both cases.
Make no mistake: Dad of Light is a tremendous ball of often-overacted cheese, but it's that very goofiness which gives it charm and makes it endearing. The characters are just plain likable, and by the end of the first episode it's tough not to be rooting for Akio's silly plan to succeed. It's an easy watch whose charm is buoyed with a brief runtime, and it's well worth checking out on Netflix.
PROJECT OCTOPATH TRAILER IS A REAL VIDEO GAME, AND IT LOOKS RAD
Last night's Nintendo Direct was, as expected, pretty low-key, focusing mostly on stuff we already knew was coming for the rest of the year. (Xenoblade Chronicles 2 is out December 1st, and Mario Odyssey continues to look incredibly, by the way.) The one major thing we did see, however, was a full blowout on what Square Enix's gorgeous new RPG, tentatively titled Project Octopath Traveler, is all about.
If you've forgotten about the existence of Octopath Traveler, that's okay—it was quietly announced early in the year as a Switch exclusive and hasn't been seen much since. It's gorgeous, putting 16-bit sprites in 3D environments with amazing lighting and effects work, a style which has been given a predictably nonsensical name in “HD 2D.” But more than just looking good, it's got a very intriguing gameplay premise, with eight unique characters who each have their own ways of interacting with the world. One can challenge any NPC to a duel, while another can seduce those characters and drag them seemingly anywhere in the world.
Octopath comes from the team behind Bravely Default, and they're emphasizing “true roleplaying,” giving players the freedom to tackle problems how they want, which is a trait typically reserved for Western-style RPGs. There's a demo up on the Switch eShop now, and I'm eager to dig in. Apparently they'll be sending out a survey to players of the demo asking for feedback, which—in addition to the fact that this thing doesn't have a final title yet—suggests to me that they're not 100% clear on the game's final direction. Still, there's enough early promise here that this should be worth watching.
THE LOST CHILD WON'T BE LOST FOR MUCH LONGER
El Shaddai was a beautiful thing. I didn't get very far in it—something about the combat never quite felt natural to me—but its psychedelic take on Western religious imagery made it one of the most profoundly weird games I'd ever seen. It's getting a semi-sequel in the form of the Lost Child, and though it looks like this is a much more straightforward RPG, the thought of an El Shaddai follow-up is so absurd that I still need to see it.
The Lost Child will be seeing an English release courtesy of NIS, and it'll be hitting PlayStation 4 and Vita in 2018. It looks like they're offering a limited edition with the typical accoutrements for $60, so I'd guess the regular release will be a budget item. I remain concerned that this being a generic RPG follow-up to something that was way more than that but, I mean, I can't not take a look at it.
I HOPE YOU LIKE HD REMASTERS, BECAUSE NOW THEY'LL NEVER STOP
Do you just love playing games you've already played in slightly more attractive forms? Well, I've got tremendous news for you, because at least a half-dozen different HD remasters of major Japanese games are in various stages of rumor or announcement. Okami HD is the only one that officially, definitely, for real exists, and it'll be bringing the PS2 classic to PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC in December. It's not the first time Okami has gotten the HD treatment, but this time there's support for 4K resolutions. That's so many pixels.
As yet unconfirmed are a pair of double packs: one containing Platinum's Bayonetta and Vanquish, the other bundling the first two Shenmue titles. Both were dug up via early retail listings, and both appear to be bound for PS4 and Xbox One. The Platinum PC ports were already pretty choice, so I'm confident about those being worthwhile (though people without Wii Us really need a chance to play Bayonetta 2). But while I'll stop short of saying Shenmue is bad, those games were significantly more impressive 20 years ago, with the advances they made having been done significantly better by other games in the years that followed.
IN STUNNING POLICY REVERSAL, NINTENDO ELECTS TO SELL PRODUCTS THAT ARE IN DEMAND
Remember way back last year, when literally everyone wanted an NES Classic Edition? Remember how, when demand was at its highest, Nintendo suddenly shut down production without warning or apparent provocation? Now the only place you can find the tiny Nintendo is eBay, typically at triple the MSRP. But wait, what's that? Do I hear the faint sound of hope in the distance? Yes, folks, Nintendo is bringing back the NES Classic next year.
This announcement comes as both Reggie and various other Nintendo spokespeople are reiterating, again and again, that they plan to make a lot of SNES Classics. Like, a whole lot of them. Probably even enough to fulfil demand this time. Contrary to the initial announcement, SNES Classics will continue shipping through the end of the year and into 2018, with a new batch of NES Classics starting that summer.
Look, you and I both know that these mini consoles aren't the best way to play old games. Emulators are all over the internet, incredibly easy to use, and come with an unlimited library of games. If you want a TV-connected microconsole, it's trivial to put together a Raspberry Pi for that purpose. But there's a part of me that is incredibly happy to see so much demand exist for a legal source on these games, and I'm glad to see Nintendo is finally making efforts to, y'know, sell these products. Hopefully they'll be a little more communicative about it next time.
DIVINITY: ORIGINAL SIN II
Developer: Larian Studios
Publisher: Larian Studios
Release Date: September 14
The last Divinity was something pretty special, and if your RPG tastes overlap at all with the Western style, it's one worth checking out. Divinity: Original Sin 2 is doing more of that, with further turn-based tactical combat, a new story, and now four-player co-op. Old-school PC role-playing is apparently back.
METROID: SAMUS RETURNS
Developer: MercurySteam / Nintendo
Release Date: September 15
We're going to be playing a new, 2D Metroid this weekend. It's been 13 years since the release of Zero Mission, and despite the initial skepticism that came along with the announcement of MercurySteam as developer, I can't help but feel that we're finally closing a dark chapter in video game history. This is a full remake of Metroid 2, but a completely expanded one that takes the skeleton of the simplistic Game Boy title and reworks it into something fresh and new.
DISHONORED: DEATH OF THE OUTSIDER|
Developer: Arkane Studios
Publisher: Bethesda Softworks
Platform: PlayStation 4 / Xbox One / PC
Release Date: September 15
The “in” thing for single-player video games today seems to be small-scale, standalone story expansions, bigger than DLC but smaller than true sequels. Uncharted just did it, and now Dishonored is jumping into the game with Death of the Outsider. (I don't mean to spoil anything, but things sound bad for the Outsider.) It's still Dishonored, with all the free-wheeling, super-powered stealthy murder you could ask for.
MARVEL VS CAPCOM: INFINITE|
Platform: PlayStation 4 / Xbox One / PC
Release Date: September 19
Well, here it is. After a fundamentally solid Street Fighter V that nonetheless bungled darn near every ounce of community goodwill, CAPCOM is back with the next entry in their other premier fighting franchise. Marvel vs. CAPCOM: Infinite ditches the gorgeous art of the last game along with dropping the fighter count for 2v2 battles and getting rid of the X-Men in what's likely some sort of Disney-enforced focus on Avengers characters. Infinite could still be awesome, but at this point I'm not even sure there's room to recognize it.
I'd like to mention Ys VIII: Lacrimosa of Dana here, because it is pointedly not available this week—or rather, the PC version just suffered an indefinite delay. There are, however, a bevy of sports and licensed racing titles this week, including NBA 2K18, NBA Live 18, NHL 18, and WRC 7 FIA World Rally Championship, all of which are so far out of the purview of this column I can barely think of a joke to cover them.
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