This Week in Games
Bad Apple Wars
by Dustin Bailey,
Also, they delayed Summon Night 6 again.
First Impressions - Bad Apple Wars
Bad Apple Wars opens with you on your way to the first day of school, until you're killed by a car accident. But you end up in class anyway, since it turns out purgatory takes the form of NEVAEH Academy, an imposing high school with loads of masked teachers and prefects eager to make you follow the rules. But not everybody's keen to play by the law—no, there's a group of students who march to their own drummer, metaphorically singing that they don't need no education. The Bad Apples can't be constrained by your phony rules!
The entire drama of the school is framed as a conflict between the Good Apples and Bad Apples, with just a couple of Odd Apples in-between to complicate matters. The Bad Apples' devotion to rule-breaking is intense, but the PG-rated world means things never get too crazy, making this faux badassery cornily endearing.
There is a reason for the Bad Apples' devotion to rebellion, though, since they're looking to get expelled from the underworld academy, suspecting that this means they can return to their former life. The Good Apples, in turn, want graduation—which in this case implies both a rebirth and a loss of their former selves. So you pick a side early in the game. Are you a Good Apple or a Bad Apple?
Despite obvious the obvious visual inspirations from Danganronpa and Zero Escape, this is a much more straightforward VN without the puzzle or trial elements of those games. You get a flowchart to help guide you through choices toward various endings and that's about it. The only extra gameplay hook is the Soul Touch system, where you need to touch the screen to form a special connection with your partner, learning about their past along the way. Do it right and you can make extra-special connections where everybody's clothes disappear. (I dunno, man, video games.)
Bad Apple Wars doesn't exactly move beyond the prescribed limitations of the otome genre, but the characters and setting are charming enough that this doesn't really matter. It's a bizarrely earnest take on how cool it is go out and break rules, and even if its blend of aesthetics doesn't always mesh it's just weird enough to work.
THE GOOD LIFE ISN'T LOOKING SO GREAT
I love Deadly Premonition to a degree where I'm no longer sure if it's ironic. I liked D4, even if it ironically lost some of its charm by doubling down on its weirdness. And Swery is one of the most adorable people in video games. So I really want the Good Life to exist. Yet it's had a real rough time getting there.
The Good Life hit Fig with a $1.5 million goal, and it was clear pretty early on that it wasn't going to happen. Swery has a pretty prolific Twitter presence, and he spent much of the campaign's final days asking people to donate purely to show interest, since when the campaign failed—as it was clearly going to—everyone would be refunded. The campaign ended up at 45% funded, and Swery's promised not to give up.
The game will be hitting Kickstarter later in the year with a lower funding goal thanks to the assistance of some additional outside investment. This is… weird? This is definitely weird. I feel like every couple of months I'm writing a “boy, Kickstarter got strange” analysis, but Kickstarter really got strange. Now in video games it tends to be an elaborate way to gauge interest in risky ventures in order to show potential publishing partners that there's audience interest in the game, a fact that's not always well communicated to to the backers.
So the Good Life may yet happen, but it's happening with the bizarre pressure of another weirdo crowdfunding campaign hanging over it. Oh, and since the last time we rapped about the game there's now a separate dog version and it turns out the main character gets her animal transformation powers during her period. I don't even know, man.
FIRE EMBLEM WARRIORS WILL HAVE A JAPANESE VOICE UPDATE
The otaku crowd may squabble over subs or dubs, but one thing's for sure—we like to have the option. These days, it's pretty common for dubbed games to offer the option of the original Japanese vocals, but it's not always a guarantee. Breath of the Wild only offered the option with a patch months after release, and even Persona 5 only had the original dub as a consolation prize after its delay earlier in the year.
So, friends, its with relief that I report Fire Emblem Warriors will feature Japanese voice acting as a free downloadable update alongside the game's release this Friday. I didn't play a ton of Fire Emblem Echoes, but I did play enough to know I don't really want to listen to a Nintendo dub of a substantially story-driven game. But that puts me in a weird position with Warriors, since it's tough to follow in-mission dialog when it's presented in Japanese. Bad voiceover, or impossible to follow voiceover? What a choice to have to make.
THERE'S A FREE SHIN MEGAMI TENSEI METROIDVANIA WITH A TRANSLATION PATCH
A Metroidvania game featuring Shin Megami Tensei monsters is a terrific enough concept that I'd gladly pay for it, but Atlus has gone and put one out absolutely free. The beautifully-titled Shin Megami Tensei Synchronicity Prologue was initially promoted as a fake game, but it's not that—it's very much a real thing, and after about fifteen minutes with it I can confirm it's totally rad. Gorgeous animation and solid controls.
You play as Jack Frost and at a certain point add Jack O'Lantern to your party, with each character having unique movement abilities and elemental resistances to give them an advantage against whichever enemies. It's surprisingly fully-featured for a bit of promotional freeware, and it's on Atlus's website until December 24th.
Now if you're like me, you're probably wondering if there's an English translation. After all, despite the game itself being self-explanatory there's tons of text, and I just hate skipping dialog. Luckily, a translation patch is already out there, and easily installed. It doesn't fix names or item descriptions, but it does translate all the dialog—and it's come along at an impressively expedient pace.
THE FUTURE IS FPGA
When talking about the Switch last week, I completely glossed over the Virtual Console question. That's mostly because I'd forgotten about it, since I'm over here turning my nose up at emulation, official or otherwise. It just doesn't feel right, from the slight bit of input lag to the inability to use real controllers, and I need the real thing, man. I recognize that this is a totally insufferable snob thing roughly equivalent to being the guy who says “analog audio is so much warmer and realer” but, like, real video game hardware is so much realer, guys.
The part where that breaks down, of course, is that game consoles are manufactured for a markedly short length of time in the grand scheme of things, ultimately leaving a limited pool of hardware to pull from that will all eventually break. This is where third-party consoles like the Analogue NT Mini come in, which use FPGA chips to recreate original hardware at a much lower level than traditional software emulation possibly can.
After the NES-based console, Analogue is producing the obvious follow-up: a Super NT system for Super NES games. It works pretty much as you'd expect, but the notable thing is that it's less than half the cost of the original NT console at $190. Still not cheap by any means, but with HDMI built in it's certainly less expensive than the upscaler and artisan cables you'd need to get similar video quality out of a real console. (Never mind if you're crazy enough to go looking for a PVM.)
The extra-exciting part about this is that the NT Mini was officially jailbroken by its engineer to offer support for pre-NES consoles, and there's no reason suspect its successor won't follow suit. While it won't have the cartridge and card slots for Genesis and TurboGrafx games, if the obvious happens you will be able to play those consoles in a good-as-original format, and that's really exciting. You know, if you're not the type of nonsense person to keep a dozen old consoles hooked up, modded, and upscaled at all times. But who would do that?
Platform: PlayStation 4 / PlayStation Vita
Release Date: October 24
MSRP: $59.99 / $39.99
Steins;Gate might be the best-known and most successful of the Science Adventure series, but the remainder of the VN series is finally starting to see official English releases—however slowly. Chaos;Child tends to be the second-favorite in the series by reputation, focusing around a school student who experiences delusions amid a series of horrifying murders. Well-told VN sci-fi. What's not to love?
FIRE EMBLEM WARRIORS|
Developer: Omega Force / Team Ninja
Platform: Switch / New Nintendo 3DS
Release Date: October 20
MSRP: $59.99 / $39.99
Hyrule Warriors is one of few games in this genre I enjoyed without equivocation, so I would be interested in Fire Emblem Warriors—if I hadn't already played three Musou games to completion in the calendar year. Personal burnout aside, it's looking like a real solid one of these with all the crossover fanservice you'd want from a greatest hits of FE.
NIGHTS OF AZURE 2: BRIDE OF THE NEW MOON|
Publisher: Koei Tecmo
Platform: PlayStation 4 / Switch / PC
Release Date: October 24
As compelling a concept as “lesbian RPG Kameo” might be, the first Nights of Azure didn't do a lot for me—though admittedly I enjoyed it more than I have have most Gust RPGs. Bride of the New Moon features a new cast and presumably builds on the original's light monster-collecting mechanics. It's also coming out on the Switch, furthering my suspicion that Nintendo's new console is secretly a Vita successor.
YOMAWARI: MIDNIGHT SHADOWS|
Developer: Nippon Ichi Software
Publisher: NIS America
Platform: PlayStation 4 / PlayStation Vita / PC
Release Date: October 24
The follow-up to last year's improbably adorable survival horror title, Yomawari: Midnight Shadows is hitting just in time for the spooky season. You switch perspectives between two girls searching for each other in the midst of a haunted town, looking to survive the monsters and solve mysteries along the way. Just like some good young adult-focused horror protagonists should.
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