This Week in Games: Apply Nintendo Directly to the Forehead

by Heidi Kemps,

Sorry folks, no time for a witty intro sequence, we got a whole bucketful of news to get to from Nintendo Direct! Oh BABY. Let's start with the big stuff first:

SMASH BROS IS HEADED TO SWITCH

Well, what do you know, one of my throwaway joke predictions from last week actually happened! Nintendo is always one to save the biggest announcements for the end of their Nintendo Direct broadcasts, and what looked like something Splatoon-related at first very quickly transformed into an even bigger deal.

Such a simple but effective reveal soon had fans in a tizzy. It didn't take long for the memes to breed, either. (This one's my favorite.)

Alas, aside from “this exists and will have squid kids in it,” we know very little about Smash Switch. Is it an enhanced port of Smash 4? Something entirely new? More will likely be revealed at E3 this year. For now, though, you can annoy Sakurai by bombarding him with requests for playable Goku on Twitter.

SPLATOON 2'S GETTING A LOT MORE STUFF

Splatoon’s been a huge, huge success for Nintendo. Believe it or not, Squid Kids have outsold both Mario and Zelda on Switch in Japan! That's no small feat for a relatively new franchise. It's also helped introduce a lot of Japanese players to competitive shooters, which were mostly the domain of hardcore PC western game otaku for a long time.

But the beating heart of Splatoon, in my opinion, is its amazing world and distinct aesthetic design. Players just can't get enough of fashionable squids and their rival Octolings. Luckily for fans, they're about to get a lot more of the latter with Splatoon 2’s first single-player campaign expansion, which launches alongside version 3.0 of the game.

Titled “Octo Expansion“, the campaign has the player taking control of an amnesiac Octoling trying to figure out just what the heck they've gotten themselves into. The weird, moody trailer (which some folks believe contains a reference to famous rappers) was definitely one of the highlights of Nintendo Direct. Even better, you'll be able to play as an Octoling in multiplayer battles, which is something fans have wanted for quite some time.

TRAVIS TOUCHDOWN IS PLAYING ALL THE VIDEO GAMES

No More Heroes is one of those games that isn't really good in the traditional sense, yet it has so many endearing qualities to it and is just so friggin’ ballsy and out-there that it's hard to not appreciate it. So seeing that Grasshopper Manufacture and Suda51 are revisiting the No More Heroes universe with Travis Strikes Again makes a lot of folks feel pretty hyped up, simply because you know this game's going to be one helluva trip.

The trailer dropped on Nintendo Direct showcases some of the first gameplay we've seen of this title, and I don't think it's quite what anyone expected – in a good way, mind you. Titular character Travis Touchdown is in a world of videogames, and fights through a myriad of different titles and genres with his sick Beam Katana and wrestling skills. It looks like a Game Center CX game run through a filter of Suda51's trademark eccentricities, and that's more than enough to sell me on it. Even if the end product turns out disappointing, deep down, I'm just really glad Travis Strikes Again exists in the first place.

THE 3DS IS STILL KICKIN’

Don't own a Switch yet? Fear not, because Nintendo is still fervently supporting the 3DS hardware family. First off is WarioWare Gold, which is sort of a “Greatest Hits” compilation of the WarioWare franchise, including games from WarioWare Twisted and WarioWare Touched. I've always liked these games and their weird humor, and the fact that this game is happening gives me hope that the series didn't die with the aggressively mediocre Game and Wario and that we'll see more all-new microgame compilations at some point.

A new eShop game in the underrated Dillon series of tower-defense titles, Dillon's Dead Heat Breakers, is also hitting 3DS, and will allow you to turn your Mii characters into fursonas to help the anthropomorphic denizens of Dillon's world. A double-whammy of Mario is coming as well, with a port of the original Luigi's Mansion and an audiovisually-enhanced edition of Mario and Luigi: Bowser's Inside Story. Why Nintendo's skipping over Mario and Luigi: Partners in Time is a bit of a head-scratcher, but Bowser's Inside Story is probably the best-regarded of the series, so it's nice to see it coming back.

While some folks are keen to complain that these games aren't on the Switch instead, I think it's great that Nintendo's still putting their weight behind the 3DS. Rather than the sad, prolonged death the PS Vita is currently going through – where its parent company has all but abandoned it and it's up to small publishers to keep it on life support -- Nintendo wants to wind down the 3DS in a dignified manner, supporting it with great games until it's no longer feasible. Good on them, I say.

NINTENDO NEWSBRIEFS

Okami HD is coming to Switch. Hey, Okami on the go! Rad! Game's still too long, though.

Sushi Striker is an original game for Switch and 3DS that looks like simple but engaging fun. You'll be able to play it June 8.

You can get a Solaire Amiibo for Dark Souls. Sadly, it's a Gamestop exclusive, so you'd better preorder or you're SOL. Get it? SOL? Ha HA!

Octopath Traveler, a game that's part of the SaGa series in everything but name, will be releasing July 18 and come with a lavish special edition. Coincidentally, a port of formerly PS Vita exclusive SaGa Scarlet Grace for Switch was announced on the Japanese Nintendo Direct as well. Hmm!

Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker is coming to Switch and 3DS on July 13th. It has more levels based on Mario Odyssey and it's still heckin’ charming.

Hyrule Warriors Definitive Edition hits May 18th, so you won't have to wait much longer for your dreams of HD Linkle to come true.

And yes, Undertale is coming to Switch. No date yet, but I suspect we'll see it before the year's out.

NON-NINTENDO NEWS:

FIGHTING GAME ROUNDUP: BROLY'S DRAGONBALL FIGHTERZ TRAILER IS LOOKING PRETTY BRUTAL, NOCTIS IS HERE VERY SOON, VAYNE INFILTRATES DISSIDIA

Last week saw teasers for Bardock and Broly in Dragonball FighterZ. Now we have a longer trailer for Broly that showcases a bit more of what the character's about. He's looking mighty fierce!

In related news, apparently DBFZ is leading Street Fighter V in EVO tournament registrations. Can't say I'm surprised.

But while we don't yet know when we'll be able to load everyone's favorite roided-up Saiyan onto our consoles, we do know when Final Fantasy XV’s Noctis is making his playable debut in Tekken 7… and it's sooner than expected! In fact, you'll be slicing and dicing with the Prince on March 20th, just five days from now.

Meanwhile, remember that tease of a new character for Dissidia? Well, it's not Balthier, but I'm still pretty pleased to hear that Vayne Solidor is making his appearance in both the arcade and home versions. Nice to see him get some proper respect, as the "villain" role for FF12 is usually represented with Judge Gabranth instead.

CANADIANS ARE MAKING A NEPTUNIA GAME

There's a sentence I never thought I'd be writing. Idea Factory seem to have a new Neptunia game coming out every few months, and in order to maintain such a busy release schedule, they've often shunted work on the various Neptunia spinoff games onto other developers. Up until this point, it's mostly been other Japanese developers, but in a true surprise, one of the most otaku-oriented franchises out there has been entrusted to Artisan Studios in Quebec City. They're making Brave Neptunia, a game we know very little about besides its title.

So who are Artisan Studios? That's something of a mystery, because going by their website, this looks like their first game. That isn't to say they don't have experience, though -- they may have done uncredited contract work on other titles, or the staff may have previously worked at other big studios. (Ubisoft, EA, and Square Enix all have a strong presence in Quebec province, after all.) The founders do seem to have a history in the game industry, so that's a good sign.

Still, even without much visible development history, I'm quite interested in seeing what these folks can do with Neptunia. (And I'm especially glad Tamsoft's not involved.) I also wonder if this means we'll see moe versions of famous Western developers. I really, really want an id-chan who screams RIP AND TEAR constantly.

INTERVIEW: Viz Media Director of Business Development Eric Eberhardt

A couple weeks back, legendary publishing houseViz Media made the announcement that they were taking a big bold step and moving into the exciting and risky world of video game publishing along with freshly-minted partner Rose City Games. The plan: pump out indie games that speak to Viz's manga-devouring audience, a natural fit. Their first announced project is The World Next Door, a " narrative-driven game that centers around Jun, a rebellious teen girl trapped in a parallel world inhabited by magical creatures." We had the chance to chat up Eric Eberhardt, Viz Media's Director of Business Development, about their strategy, timing, and licensing Japanese indie games.

What made VIZ decide that now was the time to move into game publishing?

It's something that we've been talking about informally for a long time, and more seriously for the past year or so. Since there are so many platforms and approaches to consider, we wanted to make sure we picked the right ones for VIZ, and that we found the right people to help us execute our plans. We're really excited about working with the team at Rose City games, and with indie game developers in general, because with all the new tools, platforms and opportunities available to devs, we're expecting to hear from a huge influx of new and exciting voices in the coming years.

What sort of scope can we expect from Viz games? Visual novels and adventure seem like an easy fit, but will you eventually expand into other genres, like character action games or RPGs?

We're interested in creating and publishing games from every genre, with the only real requirement being that the games should tell an original story full of compelling characters. We've seen tactical RPGs like Fire Emblem do a great job of this, and even platformers like Cave Story and Celeste. And we're also really interested in new forms of interactive fiction seen in “chat story” apps like Hooked or Wattpad's Tap.

Out the gate you're publishing stuff from mostly Western developers - would you be open to licensing Japanese indie games for release in the west?

It's definitely something we're interested in, and we're well-positioned to do so. While there are already several Western companies doing great localization and publishing work on visual novels, RPGs and mobile games, we think there is still plenty of opportunity for more cross-pollination between the indie scenes in the US and Japan. So far we don't have any specific plans to announce around this, but VIZ is going to publish a pair of Neko Atsume tie-in books this spring, and we'll continue to evaluate more opportunities in the coming month as well.

Would VIZ ever consider moving in to publishing games based on Shueisha or Shogakukan properties? A lot of that is already handled by Japanese developers and publishers, but surely there are opportunities here.

This is absolutely something that we would like to explore, especially given how many of the indie developers and artists that we've been working with are already huge anime and manga fans! While many of our anime and manga properties do have ongoing relationships with Japanese devs and publishers on console and mobile platforms, we see lots of potential opportunities to complement this with indie games and other new channels. Pokemon Go is a great example of a Western developer bringing an entirely new mode of gameplay to an established franchise, and we've also been really excited to see how Adult Swim and Cartoon Network have embraced the indie scene through events like the OK K.O. game jam that was organized by Rose City Games.

Are you actively looking for artists and game developers to work with? Do you intend on growing talent or are you looking for projects that are largely just looking for a publisher?

Right now the emphasis is on finding “in-progress” games, or established teams that are ready to start work on games right away, but we definitely want to support the development of new and upcoming talent too. A big part of our overall strategy in working with indie devs like Rose City is giving fans a behind-the-scenes look at how games like “The World Next Door” come together, and we hope that it inspires lots of artists, writers, animators and coders to become part of the indie game community and start building their own games. And I would encourage everyone who's interested in this stuff to follow VIZ & Rose City on social media, because there will definitely be opportunities to get involved in game jams, art contests and other community activities as we move forward.

Who would you say your intended audience is? Are you chiefly looking to sell games to VIZ's manga audience?

Making games that anime and manga fans will love is the #1 priority, but since there's already such a huge demographic overlap between that audience and the broader gaming one, we also want to make games that everyone can enjoy, and hopefully introduce more people to our anime and manga titles as well.

NEW RELEASES

OUT FRIDAY: KIRBY STAR ALLIES

I feel like I could sum this up by saying “It's Kirby and Kirby is always really good,” but that feels like something of a cop-out. Kirby: Star Allies is the first Kirby on Switch (there will undoubtedly be more), and much like Return to Dreamland, its focus is on co-op play. You can certainly play through single-player, but special care has been paid so that multiplayer becomes a unique and fun adventure on its own. It's also the first game where you can control many Kirby enemies (including a few famous Kirby villains) directly. I should have more to say about this game soon, so look forward to impressions soon.

OTHER NOTEWORTHY RELEASES

Speaking of Suda51, The 25th Ward, a sort-of-sidestory to The Silver Case, hits Steam and PS4 this week. Fans of historical hotties will definitely want to make note of Hakuoki: Edo Blossoms, the latest in the long-running otome game series, as it hits Vita and PC. If bullet hell is your thing, you'll most certainly want to look at Danmaku Unlimited 3 on the Switch eShop – but if a somewhat more sedate arcade shooter is more up your alley, a port of Aero Fighters 3 is hitting all three major consoles. (Spanky the Dolphin is my favorite pilot.)

And that wraps up another This Week in Games! Next week's installment will be a bit later than usual due to Game Developer's Conference, so look for it Friday morning. Lots more news will be happening, so don't miss it!


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