This Week in Games: Persona gets Funky and Shots get Fired

by Heidi Kemps,

Happy New Year, everyone! 2017 was a banner year for videogames, and 2018's already looking promising. Hell, January's already pretty stacked for fans of Japanese gaming – particularly competitive games, as we've got both Dragon Ball FighterZ and Dissidia Final Fantasy NT coming down the pipe. But let's not forget Monster Hunter World, either – I have a feeling that game's going to introduce a lot of new players to one of the biggest franchises in Japan. Right now, though? It's pretty quiet right now both here and overseas – but there's been some news that's trickled out.

But before we get into that, a bit of promotion. I'll be at MAGfest this weekend over in National Harbor, and if you're reading this on Thursday, tonight I'll be doing a panel all about Fist of the North Star video games. Kenshiro's adventures have inspired a lot of videogame adaptations, both good and bad (mostly bad), but all quite interesting. Did you know, for example, that the first Fist of the North Star game was a visual novel-like adventure game from Enix?

Anyhow, if you're there, come join us for a fun time at 7:00 PM today. The panel's called “You wa Shock!”, so look for that in the schedule. And hey, if you just want to say hi whenever, I'm also down for that.

But speaking of Fist of the North Star

HOKUTO GA GOTOKU SEES A MINOR DELAY

The much-anticipated adaptation of the FotNS universe by Sega's Yakuza team has seen a minor setback, as its former February 22 release date has been shifted to March 8. The reason was the usual: to “improve quality.” In other words, the game just needs a little bit more polish to iron out bugs and make everything just a smidge nicer. It's only a couple weeks’ delay, so it's not a huge heartbreaker – and besides, most of us are probably waiting for a potential English release anyway.

Delays – even ones as minor as this -- aren't something to be taken lightly by the publishers, though. Marketing of these products revolves heavily around carefully calculated pushes of awareness and hype leading up to eventual release, and any delay throws that into potential chaos. With patches now being a thing, it's easier than ever to simply say “we'll fix this later, just get it out by this day.” The fact that Sega's willing to delay Hokuto ga Gotoku shows that they really, really want it to be as good as possible right out of the gate. That's commendable.

PERSONA GETS ITS GROOVE ON WITH DANCING STAR NIGHT AND DANCING MOON NIGHT

As if Atlus isn't busy enough with Catherine: Full Body, they've also got a couple of side gigs as dancers going. Persona 3: Dancing Moon Night and Persona 5: Dancing Star Night are going to be hitting Japan on May 24th for both PS4 and PS Vita, and there's even a limited edition PS4 pack that includes a digital PS4 copy of the formerly Vita-exclusive Persona 4: Dancing All Night. (There's a similar Vita edition that instead includes costumes for the characters inspired by the larger Shin Megami Tensei franchise.)

These aren't just going to be throwaway spinoffs, either: they're doing extensive motion capture for the dancing portions, assigning a different dancer to bust moves for each character to lend them more individual personality. In addition, choreography and cinematics for songs will change depending on the duet partners you select. Disappointingly, however, Atlus continues to not acknowledge the Persona 3 Portable heroine (the best Persona protagonist, fight me).

I can't say I'm personally too excited about either of these games, as I really didn't care for Dancing All Night: the awkward, disjointed-feeling rhythm game and the dumb story made for an experience I didn't find fun. But there's always room for improvement, so here's hoping that these two games manage to fix the issues of their predecessor. I'm also wondering if they'll make the Vita voyage when they inevitably come to the West – I think there will be digital versions at least, but who knows about physical boxed copies?

Still, there's only one thing I will ever think of when I heard “Dancing Star,” and it's not Persona.

MOBILE SHOOTER AKA TO BLUE SWITCHES PLATFORMS

I've talked up Aka to Blue quite a bit both here in the column and on the recent year-end ANNcast. It's an excellent mobile shooter with a distinct visual style, challenging gameplay, and no microtransactions whatsoever. Basically, it directly addresses every complaint people have about mobile games being ugly, “casual”, and relying on free-to-play gimmicks, yet a few folks still won't even consider trying it because they have a stick up their ass about potentially enjoying a mobile game. Heaven forbid!

Well, now these people don't have an excuse, because it seems that Aka to Blue won't be a mobile exclusive for long. At the company party of the game's developer, Tanoshimasu, a Switch version of the game was shown, indicating that the game is likely coming to Nintendo's console.

Interestingly, the image shows the game running on the Switch's screen aligned in “tate” mode – in other words, running vertically, the same way it does on phones. This may make it the first Switch game to run using a different screen setup. Of course, this begs several questions – how will it run when docked? Can we use non-Joycon controllers to play it? – but I'm sure we'll get answers in time. I'm happy to see this game's reach expanding, and it makes for another unique Japanese indie title to add to the Switch's ever-growing library.

KETSUI'S RETURN IS IMMINENT

On the subject of vertical shooting games, developer M2 is ramping up to release Cave's 2003 masterpiece Ketsui: Kizuna Jigokutachi as the next installment of their “Shot Triggers” line of enhanced arcade shooter ports on PS4. Ketsui is widely considered to be one of the best Cave games, and by extension, one of the best shooting games ever made. It's a tough-as-nails game with a lot of depth in gameplay and scoring that also boasts some killer mechanical design and a truly rockin’ soundtrack courtesy of Manabu Namiki. It's also got a lot more fujoshi fans than your average shooter, because… well, just look at the poster:

The Shot Triggers line is a showcase of M2's astonishing attention to detail and accuracy in their retro ports, offering up arcade-accurate ports of classic games along with various extras and enhancements to create truly sublime retrogaming experiences. Thus far, we've seen re-releases of Battle Garegga, Sorcer Striker (aka Mahou Daisakusen), and Dangun Feveron from the series, but Ketsui might be the biggest release yet: it's had a strange and spotty history with ports over the years, including an odd boss-rush-centric DS version. Finally having an easily accessible, definitive edition of Ketsui without having to pay a huge sum of money for an arcade PCB has been something shooting game fans have craved for well over a decade.

To showcase how work on the title has been progressing so far, M2 took the game to Akihabara's famous HEY arcade, known for its extensive collection of shooting games (and skilled players) to showcase the quality of the port. While there still isn't a release date, it looks like development is progressing quite smoothly. We won't have to wait too much longer to enjoy what's likely to be the best version of Ketsui ever, and that's definitely worth getting hyped for.

SWITCH GAMES WON'T BE GETTING BIGGER ANYTIME SOON

According to recent reports, Nintendo has informed their third-party developers that 64GB capacity Switch cartridges won't be available until next year at the earliest, leaving 32GB cartridges as the highest size cartridge available for quite some time to come. While this doesn't sound too bad at first – there aren't many Switch games that even need 32GB yet – it could have some serious repercussions. If companies were developing games expecting 64GB to be available sometime this year, they face a tough decision to either scale back on content, delay the game, or resort to odd patching solutions. In the case of the recent Doom release on Switch, the cartridge only contained the campaign while multiplayer was a separate download.

It could also hurt the potentiality of multiplatform releases. Currently, Blu-Ray's max capacity is 50GB, while recently developed upgrades to the format reportedly go as high as 1TB. With only 32GB to work with, that could severely hamper efforts to bring larger games from the Xbox One and PS4 onto Switch. (Of course, that's not even considering the various performance cutbacks needed for the lower-powered Switch hardware anyway.) We'll have to see how this plays out, but right now, I don't think Nintendo is really hurting for compelling content on their platform.

New releases aren't happening this week, so I'll be seeing you again next week. By that time, I'll have experienced the majesty of a Jun Senoue live set first-hand. Am I hyped to Live and Learn? You'd better believe it. See you next week!


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