This Week in Games: Bayonetta 3, Death Stranding, and More!

by Heidi Kemps,

THIS WEEK IN GAMES: IT'S A NEWZAPALOOZA

Jeez, I expected to have a whole ton of news to write about this week, but somehow news kept on flooding in even after the Game Awards and the PSX keynote! (Which, by the way, I was totally wrong about – the Game Awards had far more interesting reveals than PSX. Oh well!)

Well, let's get started on everything that's been happening since last Thursday…

FIGHTING EX LAYER BETA MAKES SKULLO DREAMS COME TRUE

Street Fighter V, for all its glitz, glamor, and eSportsiness, left a lot of longtime fighting game fans a bit cold when it came to gameplay. A lot of these players have been looking to another upcoming fighting game instead – a game which, interestingly enough, also has a Street Fighter connection.

Fighting EX Layer (which everyone has agreed that, despite the word ordering, should be abbreviated FLEX) is developer Arika's return to the arena of fighting games. Despite the company being formed by Street Fighter 2 creator Akira Nishitani, they're best known nowadays for the Tetris the Grand Master series and various Nintendo outings. Back in the mid-90s, however, they got back together with Capcom to make the Street Fighter EX series.

SFEX didn't get a lot of love back in the day: the 2D and 3D fighting game scenes had a lot of animosity towards each other, and in a pre-SF4 age, the polygon visuals of SFEX were seen as a step in a direction many Street Fighter fans didn't like. As time passed, however, a lot of people warmed to the games’ fast, flashy combat system and unique characters – who Arika thankfully managed to keep the rights to. Essentially, Fighting EX Layer is a successor to the Street Fighter EX style of gameplay, minus the Street Fighter characters.

After debuting the game as an April Fool's “joke,” Arika has been demoing it at places like EVO and getting feedback from players. They've now put a public beta out on the PlayStation Network to download, which runs until Christmas. It's pretty bare-bones, offering only versus play and training modes, but it gives a good taste of what's to come. It also lets you mess around with the Gougi system, which is one of the game's new features: it's basically a pre-set array of boosts that can activate when certain conditions are met during the fight, like bestowing super armor after you get knocked down multiple times or getting guard cancel into special attack ability after blocking a bunch. Reactions so far have been quite positive, and people are already finding some crazy combos, the more egregious which I'm sure are going to be patched out in the final.

Sadly, the two most recent character reveals (Doctrine Dark and my personal favorite SFEX character, Blair Dame), aren't in this demo, but it does have Skullomania, and that might be all it needs.

FROM SOFTWARE REVEALS……… SOMETHING

During a trailer break at the Game Awards, we saw a brief glimpse of what looked like some sort of weird rope-covered artifact, a mysterious “Shadows die twice” message, and then a From Software logo. The words “From Software” are more than enough to get many peoples’ hearts thundering with excitement, which immediately made people eager to see what would come next.

The only problem is, nothing came next. The trailer ended right there, leaving everyone feeling like they'd just been strung up. Was this the long-rumored Bloodborne 2? A new game called Shadows Die Twice? Something else? Nobody knows, and the trailer gave us practically nothing to go on.

That didn't stop folks from getting their hopes up for a full reveal at the PlayStation Experience keynote the next day, only to experience crusing disappointment. I must say, though: sitting through an excruciating audience-aided playthrough of a David Cage game in hopes of a Bloodborne 2 reveal afterwards is the real Dark Souls.

PLATINUM GAMES AND NINTENDO REVEAL……… SOMETHING (THAT WE KNOW IS BAYONETTA 3)

During the Wii U era, Nintendo took a gamble in picking up games from well-regarded developers that were struggling in development for their (similarly struggling) platform. Sometimes it didn't pay off (see Devil's Third), but in the case of the Bayonetta series, it's been yielding serious dividends.

Beloved figurehead Reggie Fils-Aime was at The Game Awards to reveal not just a re-release of Bayonetta 1 and 2 for the Switch, but also showcase a new trailer. While it's similar to that From Software trailer in that it's short and doesn't show much of anything, it's a lot more obvious that it's for Bayonetta 3, which is presumably a Switch exclusive.

I'm pretty pumped to have multiple portable Bayonettas on the way, and I'm glad Nintendo is supporting this series so strongly: clearly they see it as their answer to the big AAA action game exclusives on Sony and Microsoft's systems. It's a shame the Bayonetta 2 re-release won't be out in time for Christmas though. I think we can all agree that it is, hands-down, the best Christmas game.

THIS SOUL OF MINE IS BURNING RED

Soul Calibur VI is another one of those games that's been rumored for a while, but it started to get whispered about more fervently in the last month or so. Namco-Bandai put all speculation to rest at The Game Awards, however, with a formal announcement and a brief gameplay demo (and another soon after at PSX).

Upon seeing a distinctly clean-shaven Mitsurugi and Sophitia sparring, fans immediately speculated that it might be a sort of “soft reboot” for the series – which was quickly confirmed. Moving backwards in the timeline is honestly a good idea, I think: a lot of longtime Soul Calibur fans didn't care for the new characters in SCV, and going back to the Soul Edge era allows Team Soul to re-introduce a few faces that haven't been seen in quite some time. (Remember Li Long and Hwang?) Hopefully they'll also include a more robust single player this time around: Soul Calibur V was planned to have an elaborate story mode like previous games, but it was scrapped for reasons unknown

Of course, there's going to be guest characters, and fans are already speculating about that. A lot of folks really want 2B from NieR Automata, but if I had to wager a guess, I'd think Sony would try to get them to toss in someone from the upcoming Ghosts of Tsushima on PS4, and Microsoft would let them have… um…. uh, well, anyway, rumors were also circulating before the program that the game would come to Switch with Link returning as a guest character, but nothing was said at the show. My speculation? A Switch version will likely happen, but it'll be Nintendo doing the announcement and Link reveal.

DEATH STRANDING SHOWS OFF A NEW TRAILER, PROVES THAT VIDEOGAME BABIES ARE STILL THE CREEPIEST

Seriously, though. Ever play Catherine? How about Blazing Star? Or, my favorite example – how about the Fetus of God in Vampire Savior? Videogame babies are the absolute worst things.

Well, as it turns out, Jedah's gestating deity might have serious competition for most unsettling gaming baby from none other than Hideo Kojima. Kojima dropped a lengthy cinematic trailer for Death Stranding at the VGAs, and in-between a lot of strange, symbolic, and extremely graphically impressive events, we're somehow cast into the esophagus of Uncanny Valley Norman Reedus and greeted with

And before we knew it, the internet was having a field day with creepy stomach baby. Somehow, I think Kojima expected this.

Of course, there's some trepidation that no actual gameplay has been shown for Death Stranding yet. Then again, a lot of early trailers for MGS games didn't show gameplay, either, and those turned out just fine. Clearly, Kojima Productions wants to raise our curiosity about Death Stranding's strange world first before dropping the gameplay details. And hey, it's working just fine.

STREET FIGHTER V REINTRODUCES SAKURA… AND SHE'S BROUGHT COMPANY

Capcom Cup happened over the weekend, and there was plenty of surprises, upsets, and drama to be had. Dominican player MenaRD took home the trophy in Street Fighter V over EVO champion (and heavy favorite) Tokido in a nail-biter of a Grand Finals match, which is worth watching if you haven't seen it.

Of course, you can't have a major Street Fighter tournament without Yoshinori Ono coming onstage to do a character reveal. Rumors had already identified the next to-be-announced character as Sakura, so what was really surprising was her clothes: she's finally, finally dumped the schoolgirl duds and is wearing something more befitting of a young woman – in this case, an outfit from her job at an arcade. (If you really want it, though, the schoolgirl outfit will be available – along with an outfit modeled after the uniform of actual Plaza Capcom arcade employees.)

The bigger surprise, though, was a trailer that aired afterwards that unveiled all of the upcoming DLC characters in Street Fighter V’s season 3. Capcom has been very secretive about SFV character reveals up until now, but a combination of frequent leaks and fan annoyance over a lack of returning favorites in season 2 likely contributed to a decision to just say “screw it, we've got a new edition of the game we need to sell, let's just show everyone what they're going to get.”

The very slick trailer shows us glimpses of not just Sakura, but five other characters. We've got everyone's favorite electric green mutant-man Blanka, Ryu's eternal rival Sagat, a strange bearded man in a top hat named G (who some fans speculate may be related somehow to Street Fighter III’s Q), and another Shadaloo doll named Falke. The big surprise, though, was Cody, who has ditched both his ratty Final Fight attire and his prisoner duds to look dapper as hell.

No word yet on exactly when the characters are coming, but it's safe to assume they'll be doled out over 2018.

NI NO KUNI 2 MARCHES BACK TO… MARCH

If you've been waiting eagerly for the heavily Ghibli-inspired sequel to Level-5 and Bandai-Namco Games’ Ni no Kuni, it turns out you're going to have to wait a little bit longer. The game was slated to release in mid-January, but it now going to hit March 23rd instead. The press release cites “needing more time to ensure the game meets our highest quality standards,” which basically translates to “we need to polish and squash some bugs, so hold your horses for a little bit longer.” Given that a lot of folks are still going to be working on their holiday backlog by mid-January, and more time to spruce up a game is always a good thing, I think this delay will probably work out for the best.

WE DON'T KNOW MUCH ABOUT ONE PIECE: WORLD SEEKER EITHER

Okay, we know a teensy bit more about it than whatever that From Software tease was, but beyond a few initial announcements and some astoundingly generic screenshots, we don't know much about what this open-world One Piece adventure contains. A trailer's due to drop at Jump Festa this weekend, so it won't stay too mysterious for too long. One thing we do know, however, is that it's already confirmed for a Western release in 2018. Bandai Namco Games America seems pretty proactive about this one, huh?

SUPER ROBOT WARS X CROSSES (PART OF) THE PACIFIC

Unlike One Piece: World Seeker, however, Bandai Namco Games America hasn't announced that Super Robot Wars X, the latest installment in the king of multi-crossover franchises, is getting a North American release. Fear not, however: if you crave lavishly animated, dialogue-heavy giant anime robot crossover games, BNG's Asian branch has your back.

They're bringing the game out in English in Asian territories about a month after SRWX's Japanese release in March, which makes getting your hands on SRWX as easy as ordering a copy from Southeast Asia or making a dummy PSN account and downloading it with some credit. Will it come out in North America, though? Given that this series is licensing hell and the previous two Asian English releases haven't hit, I'd say odds are unfortunately slim.

NEW RELEASES

OUT NOW: ARCANA HEART 3 LOVE MAX SIX STARS!!!!!!

Arcana Heart’s a fighting game that's always been a really, really tough sell in the West: Its pastel-colored cast of exclusively moe archetype fighters has the tendency to turn off even the “anime” game players who gravitate towards this sort of airdash-heavy fighting game. The constant updates the game would get hurt, too: Atlus and Aksys have put out previous Arcana Heart games in North America, but it's always felt like Japan was one step ahead, getting arcade updates that would render the console versions obsolete.

But now, things are different. A successful Kickstarter campaign and a devoted fan community has put what's likely the definitive, most up-to-date version of Arcana Heart 3 on Steam for the world to enjoy. There are even a couple of new fighters coming down the pipe, thanks to Kickstarter stretch goals. I don't know about you guys, but I'm pretty hype for as-of-yet-unnamed Shark Girl.

DEC 15: ROMANCING SAGA 2

Hey, it feels like I just wrote about this! Anyway, Romancing SaGa 2 is now hitting Steam, PS4, and Switch alongside the PS Vita. I'm planning on reviewing the Switch version here, so keep your eyes peeled for when that shows up.

Phew! That's a wrap for this week. Be sure to tune in to the next ANNCast, where we'll be having an end-of-year gaming hoedown. Yeehaw!


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