This Week in Games - Dragon Quest XIby Heidi Kemps,
Happy Easter weekend/spring break, everyone! After a deluge of news and work from GDC week, it's nice to enter a relatively calm period of releases and announcements. I'm keeping busy on my end, however: I'm writing up some previews of Spike Chunsoft's upcoming offerings while finding snippets of time in my schedule to squeeze in a couple of game playthroughs. (I've been so busy that I haven't been able to properly sit down with Kirby Star Allies yet! I feel like such a jerk, neglecting my pink poofball pal. I'm sorry, Kirby, I'll be sure to give you plenty of in-game hugs…)
My schedule's still pretty busy for the next few days, though: I'm going to be at Seattle's SakuraCon helping the ANN staff over the weekend with coverage. If you see me, don't be afraid to say hi! I always love chatting with other gaming fans, provided I'm not rushing to an appointment or anything. I might even have a favorite game of mine set up in the game room at some point!
NEWS: DRAGON QUEST XI VENTURES FORTH TO PS4 AND STEAM, 3DS LEFT AT THE TAVERN
Dragon Quest and videogames in Japan are practically synonymous with each other, and when Dragon Quest XI hit last year, it did predictably amazing, becoming a bestseller on both the 3DS and the PS4. Yes, it was a dual-platform launch on both the PS4 and 3DS. An odd combination, but it's typical for Dragon Quest to hedge its bets: the game is so big that Square-Enix wants it to be accessible to the widest possible audience. As a result, it appeared on both the best-selling console platform (PS4) and the best-selling portable platform (3DS), and it all worked out fine.
While we've known a localized version of Dragon Quest XI was in the works for a good while, we finally got more details this week on what that entails. We're getting the next Dragon Quest fix on September 4, and it'll include numerous enhancements over the Japanese release: full voiceover, an optional hard mode, and various UI and quality-of-life enhancements. It's also coming to Steam for the first time, allowing PC gamers to enjoy the quintessential JRPG series on their platform of choice.
Unfortunately, the 3DS version is nowhere to be seen – only the PS4 and the all-new Steam versions are getting English versions. We can speculate for days on why the 3DS is being passed over, but ultimately, I think it comes down to what I mentioned above: Squeenix wants their flagship franchise on visible, accessible platforms, and in the current global market, Steam has far more reach to the people they believe want to play Dragon Quest. To them, it makes more sense from a branding and financial perspective to do a Steam port instead of a 3DS localization. Of course, it does kind of feel like a slap in the face for DQ fans who bought all the recent 3DS re-releases… and yeah, if you were holding out for it on the portable, I understand your disappointment, but there's not much we can do.
There's still one question, though: what's going on with the Switch version Square-Enix said was coming? We've heard nothing of it for a while, and there was no indication given that it's coming anytime soon. That's a bit distressing.
THE GOOD LIFE IS BACK ON KICKSTARTER
Man, I was so bummed when Hidetaka Swery's The Good Life fizzled out in its first crowdfunding attempt on fig. A game where you play a young lady living in a weird British town taking photos? Sign me up! And you turn into cats and dogs at night? Sign me up about ten times more!
Thankfully, the crew at White Owls have come back on Kickstarter, with a more fleshed out look at the game idea, an improved visual engine, and a much lower goal to hit. If you enjoyed even a little bit Deadly Premonition or D4: Dark Dreams Don't Die, then please do consider chipping in for this. It's so refreshingly different from a lot of what's on the market right now, and I really want to see it happen.
SQUARE-ENIX'S LUMINOUS PRODUCTIONS COMES TO LIGHT, SORT OF
It was announced this week that Square Enix has set up a new development team called “Luminous Productions.” Given that the team is headed up by Hajime Tabata, director of Final Fantasy XV, which happened to run on the Luminous Engine, it probably isn't surprising that this studio is going to be focused on big-budget AAA games. In fact, a team developing the engine (then called Luminous Studio) existed way back, but they were absorbed into the FFXV team to develop the game and engine concurrently. Hmmmm…
Yeah, you're probably thinking what I'm thinking. Placing bets on a FFXV-II reveal at E3!
SWORD ART ONLINE: INTEGRAL FACTOR LOGS IN ON IOS AND ANDROID
Are you an SAO fan who's blasted through the Fatal Bullet content and is looking for an all-new fix? Well, you're in luck, because the mobile RPG Sword Art Online: Integral Factor just surprise-launched worldwide! This game takes us all back to the world of Aincrad, and allows you to play through the events of the anime and light novels as a created protagonist. What's particularly interesting, however, is that you can actually alter events of the plot through your action, diverting the story from the paths it took in other media.
I played a demo of this at a recent Bandai Namco games mobile event, and came away pretty impressed: it's a fully featured action/RPG with online elements that looks and plays extremely well. I'm not a huge fan of the virtual analog stick control scheme (my finger kept on slipping outside of the active area), but besides that, I don't have many complaints about the action: it flows well, it's fast, and your attacks and movement feel responsive and satisfying. If you're itching for an action/RPG on the go, you might as well check it out – it's free to play with cosmetic items available as gacha-style downloads, and there's a bunch of free currency being handed out to early starters, so it can't hurt to give it a whirl.
FIGHTING GAME NEWS ROUNDUP: BROLY AND BARDOCK DEBUT IN DRAGONBALL FIGHTERZ, DARKSTALKERS ARE SORT OF NOT DEAD STILL
If you're reading this, Bardock and Broly are now available to download and use in Dragonball FighterZ, priced at about $5 USD a pop. They're the first (but not the last) DLC characters for the game, so you can now officially start speculating who will be next.
Meanwhile, over in Capcom Country, the powers that be continue to perform necromancy with the corpse of the still-beloved Darkstalkers series with a set of Street Fighter V costumes themed after characters from the fan favorite franchise. Starting next week, you'll be able to pretend that Yoshinori Ono's tease of a new Darkstalkers game actually came to fruition with costumes for Juri, Urien, and Menat.
Gotta say, I'm not super feeling that Lilith getup. Oh well.
OUT NOW: THE ALLIANCE ALIVE (3DS)
Daemons have taken over the planet, separated the lands from each other, and blocked out the sun! For a millennium, humanity has lived under their oppressors’ thumbs, but a brave young team of heroes has banded together with the intent of throwing off the shackles of their daemonic overlords. That's the main concept behind The Alliance Alive, a semi-sequel to The Legend of Legacy.
Much like the SaGa series games than inspired it, The Legend of Legacy was a somewhat divisive RPG: some folks loved its unusual approach to combat and storytelling, while others didn't care for it one bit. The Alliance Alive is made by much of the same staff, but it's a lot more structured and has a whole mess of improvements to both overworld exploration and combat that might make it worth a look even if Legend of Legacy didn't float your boat.
I'm currently playing through this one for a review elsewhere, so I'll have some more detailed opinions on it sometime in the near future!
ATELIER LYDIE AND SUELLE (PS4, Switch, Steam)
When your dad tells you not to go in the basement, it leaves you wondering just what's going on down there... and makes you assume that it probably isn't good. Fortunately for young alchemist sisters Lydie and Suelle, they don't find a drug lab or horror house hidden in their dad's forbidden room downstairs – instead, they find a bunch of mysterious, beautiful paintings. The two discover a strange world contained within the art, and work to solve the mysteries of the universe beyond the canvas – all while trying to build up their humble little atelier into the best darn alchemy shop in the kingdom.
I really enjoy the Atelier games. Their generally relaxed atmosphere and warm, inviting pastel visuals make for a combination RPG/simulation experience that feels pleasant and laid-back. But if I can soapbox a little, I haven't been a huge fan of the way Koei-Tecmo has handled the game's localizations since they took over the duties from NIS. The dialogue always sounds strange and stilted, like a direct translation that hasn't been through a proper editing pass. I played this at a preview event a while back, and I got the exact same vibe from the snippets of dialogue I did see. It's frustrating, because these games deserve better.
THE WITCH AND THE HUNDRED KNIGHT 2 (PS4)
This one kind of snuck up on me – I thought its release was still a few months out! Oh well. This is the sequel to The Witch and the Hundred Knight, a bizarre NIS action-RPG from a few years back. While the titular Hundred Knight – a small, magical, supposedly unspeakably powerful creature – makes its return, the setting is completely different. Metallia and the world of Medea are gone, replaced by the fantasy realm of Kevala, which is currently experiencing an epidemic of the Witch's Disease. Young girls get infected with this, and suddenly they've got a third eye and magic powers. A pair of sisters, Amalie and Milm, find themselves in an odd situation: Amalie is part of an anti-witch organization, while Milm just got hit with the Witch sickness. Hijinks ensue as witches go wild and many hapless enemies get beatdowns at the hands of the Hundred Knight!
I'm one of those people who enjoyed the gameplay of the original while finding the characters and situations quite unpleasant, so given that they jettisoned the old setting entirely, I am rather curious about this one… though given how many RPGs have released in the past few months, I can't see myself having any real time for it, sadly.
OTHER NOTABLE RELEASES: Visual novels a-plenty this week! Beloved otome series Code:Realize gets two new games: Code:Realize ~Future Blessings~ for the Vita is a follow-up to the original game, which Code:Realize ~Bouquet of Rainbows~ combines both Future Blessings and the original game into one package for PS4. Sekai Project's crowdfunded visual novel, Fatal Twelve, also hits the Steam storefront this week. I want to mention MangaGamer's very adults-only visual novel Funbag Fantasy: Sideboob Story because whoever came up with that title deserves a raise. However, if you prefer your eroge on the warmer, more romantic side, FureRaba ~Friend to Lover~ is coming from recently formed localization company NekoNyan. It's available on Steam, though you'll need a patch if you want the game to have some of the racier content from the original Japanese release.
For non-VN releases, the original arcade Bad Dudes is available on Switch, so if you want to play a middling action game with some memetacular dialogue, you're in luck. If the lack of Cooking Mama releases in recent years has left you learning for virtual cooking, then you might want to look at obscure 3DS release Waku Waku Sweets, which is basically Cooking Mama with an extra dash of shoujo manga flavor (and what looks like a potentially "amazing" localization).
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