This Week in Games
The First Final Fantasy Rides Again
by Heidi Kemps,
THIS WEEK IN GAMES: The First Final Fantasy Rides Again
December 25th is just around the corner, but Christmas has come early for fans of certain franchises, it seems! If last week was a smorgasbord of news relating to big, well-known crowd-pleasing games, this week's more like an all-you-eat-buffet of announcements related to more niche titles that nonetheless have a substantial fan following. Not as overwhelming, but still very satisfying. Since I'll be off next week for holiday festivities, let's dig in!
Before we jump into the news, however, let's talk a bit of Final Fantasy. The original version of Final Fantasy hit Japan on December 18th, 1987. While it was most successful on the NES, there was also a lesser-known version on the MSX2 as well, as Square was hedging their bets on which platform would be more popular in the long term. (Enix did the same for the first two Dragon Quests). The game was the collaborative effort of several folks who would become legendary in the game industry: visionary director Hironobu Sakaguchi, musical maestro Nobuo Uematsu, inventive designer Akitoshi Kawazu, setting developer Koichi Ishii, debugger Hiroyuki Ito, sprite artist Kazuko Shibuya, and wunderkind programmer Nasir Gebelli - an Iranian in exile who landed at Square after some very hard times.
The US wouldn't see Final Fantasy until three years later, when Nintendo was thoroughly convinced that role-playing games could be “a thing” outside of Japan. After shoving Dragon Warrior down everyone's throats, Nintendo took up the publishing mantle once again for Final Fantasy, and its success convinced Square to open a dedicated US branch. While they had initially planned a localization of Famicom Final Fantasy II, those plans were scuttled in favor of bringing over Final Fantasy IV for the then-brand-new Super Famicom.
Plenty of folks are pining for some classic FF-flavored nostalgia right now, and to fill that need, the staff behind the Japanese version of mobile game Final Fantasy Record Keeper have released a mini browser game based on FF1. It takes the updated sprites for characters and enemies from Record Keeper and plops them back into the original Famicom version of Final Fantasy, which you can play up until winning the battle with Garland, challenging you to beat him with a fast time or a low-level party.
This mini version of FF1 is playable on both PC and mobile. Here's really the good part, though: you can play it with Google autotranslate. Turn it on, and the experience becomes extra magical.
(images courtesy of @_kimimi)
Will the global version of Record Keeper do something similar? It'd be nice, but I think we can all agree it can't possibly top the beautiful work of Google-sensei.
I'd also be remiss in my duties if I didn't talk a bit about another major RPG celebrating its 30th anniversary: the original Phantasy Star. Created by an all-star team at Sega (featuring, among others, Reiko Kodama, Naoto Oshima, and Yuji Naka, all of whom would later work in some capacity on Sonic the Hedgehog), Phantasy Star was a then-whopping four-megabit cartridge, packed with multiple planets to explore, maze-like 3D dungeons, and fully-animated enemies. On a sheer technical level, Phantasy Star was considerably more advanced than Final Fantasy, yet it didn't reach the same heights of success, mostly due to being restricted to the Sega Master System, a far less popular platform in North America and Japan.
The aesthetics of the original Phantasy Star remain unique to this day, blending a bit of Star Wars, a dash of PC RPGs, and character designs that evoke the flavor of Inomata Mutsumi's flowing fantasy art. Later games would oscillate wildly between sci-fi and fantasy imagery, but after the hugely successful Phantasy Star Online hit, both the gameplay and the visual style went off in their own directions for removed from the games that came before. There are still folks who hold out hope for some sort of main series Phantasy Star revival, but I'd be fine if Sega opted not go back to that well.
Also, one of these days I really want to replay Phantasy Star II with the fan translation. It's just that the first few hours of that game are really, really rough. (To say nothing of the last few hours.)
IT'S TIME TO PUSH SOME BLOCKS ONLINE IN CATHERINE: FULL BODY
In what's probably the biggest bit of news this week, the Atlus favorite Catherine is set to makes its return on the PS4 and Vita. The enhanced remake, entitled “Catherine Full Body” (a quite delightful play on words, I must say) once again puts us in the shoes of Vincent, who has to deal with the consequences of his extremely bad love life decisions through a series of horrific nightmares.
More details on the game are scheduled to be released tomorrow, but so far, we know that a new potential love interest, the pink-haired Rin, is going to be added to the game, and she has the potential to impact the story in interesting ways. Perhaps most interestingly, though, the competitive mode – once considered a throwaway extra, is going to be expanded upon significantly, with word coming that online play will be added because the mode found an unexpected audience outside of Japan.
Having followed the competitive Catherine scene for a while, this news makes me exceptionally happy – those folks have poured a lot of blood, sweat, and tears into the promotion of their game. Take lessons, folks: if you have a game you love, champion it from the high heavens to people willing to listen, because if enough people come to share your enthusiasm, great things can happen.
DB FIGHTERZ BRINGS THE HEAVY HIT-ERS
A bunch of new additions to the ever-expanding Dragonball FighterZ cast were announced right before last week's article went live. The fresh faces to the roster include some more recent fan favorites from Dragon Ball Super: Beerus, Hit, and Goku Black.
The announcement was very quickly followed by trailers and gameplay footage, both from the Jump Festa in Japan and from Bandai Namco Games America. A recent Twitch stream archive, featuring guests Maximilian and Perfect Legend, highlights not only the new characters, but several of the game's play modes. They've also been very active in putting together character highlight movies specifically for the North American audience, so if you want some solid gameplay information straight from the horse's mouth, following their channel is probably a good idea.
With about a month to go until the game's official release, BNG also announced another beta testing period for the game running from January 14th to the 16th. (Buyers who have preordered the game will be able to hop in a full day earlier on the 13th. The game will release on January 26th and will presumably (and likely deservedly, given the quality of what we've seen and played so far) sell gangbusters.
JUMP FESTA DELIVERS PLENTY OF TRAILERS
Speaking of Jump Festa, a whole mess of games made their debut in trailer and playable form at the event. For starters, there's Black Clover: Quartet Knights, a “4-on-4 Magic Action Shooting” game. Bandai-Namco was very quick to confirm this one for the West, which I find a bit surprising – I don't think Black Clover’s really taken off here yet. (Hell, I'll be the first to admit being almost totally ignorant about Black Clover.)
My Hero Academia: One's Justice is also now officially confirmed for a Western release – and, surprisingly, it's getting two extra platforms in its journey overseas. The game is now coming to Xbox One and Steam outside of Japan, so if you don't have a Switch or PS4, you'll still be able to engage in arena battles with all your favorite MHA personalities. There's just one little caveat: it's only been confirmed for Europe so far, but it seems like a North American announcement is imminent. You can see a shiny new trailer here:
New details on One Piece: World Seeker were revealed, as well. Developed by One Piece game veterans Ganbarion, World Seeker is… well, er… actually, we still don't know that much about it. It's a really pretty trailer that doesn't show a whole lot of gameplay beyond movement and a few clips of combat. At the very least, it looks like Luffy has a lot of movement options for getting around this open world, and he certainly seems like he'll be fun to control. We'll probably get more hands-on time with this one early in 2018.
STEAM IS GETTING INVADED
If you know me, you know that I loves me some old-school Taito games. But while modern Taito exists as a subsidiary of Square Enix (who, quite wisely, more or less lets them do their own thing), they're still putting out some really great stuff. You've probably seen the arcade edition of Groove Coaster if you've got a Round 1 in your area, and earlier this year, they released a revised version of Arkanoid vs. Space Invaders on Android and iOS that removed all the F2P gacha crap from the initial Japanese edition. They've been somewhat quiet since, but just yesterday, a mysterious website appeared that hinted at something Space Invaders-related coming to Steam.
Details are sparse at the moment. Could it be a port of Arkanoid Vs. Space Invaders? A Steam version of Space Invaders Infinity Gene? Maybe even a re-release of the amazing Space Invaders Extreme games? Then again, it could be something entirely new. Keep in mind, next year is the 40th anniversary of the original Space Invaders, so we're probably going to see quite a bit of our pixel seafood buddies from another galaxy throughout 2018.
STEEL TRAILS CONTINUE TO RUN COLD
Falcom is one of those companies with a relatively small but extremely dedicated Western fan base, the majority of whom appear to be folks I follow on Twitter because holy crap were people just losing their minds over the Sen no Kiseki IV on PS4 announcement last night. Better known in our neck of the woods as Trails of Cold Steel, Sen no Kiseki IV continues where the previous game left off… which I can't really say much about, because Trails of Cold Steel III hasn't even been announced for an English release yet. (XSEED, please throw folks a bone here!) It seems like this is the end to the Sen sub-series, as the subtitle is “THE END OF SAGA.”
I'd say the odds of this one seeing a Western release at some point in time are pretty darn good. Trails of Cold Steel might not have the biggest following, but the fans are intensely devoted to seeing the story through to the end. Just gotta be patient….
NEW RELEASES THIS WEEK
TODAY: Tiny Metal (PC, PS4, Switch)
Advance Wars-like Tiny Metal is finally rolling out to the public across multiple platforms. I wrote up my impressions of the demo on here not too long ago, and I'm interested in seeing how the finished game compares to what I played. (I'm also interested in seeing more opinions about the game from people who don't suck as badly as I do at Advance Wars.)
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