This Week in Games: World of Demonsby Heidi Kemps,
Hey all! This week, I want to write a bunch about a mobile game that looks super cool and promising… but before that, let's take a moment to fully grasp the harsh reality of the free-to-play, games-as-a-service model.
Y'know, it doesn't feel like I've been writing This Week in Games for very long, but I remember trying out the mobile Puzzle Fighter specifically for a very early column. I said something about waiting to see how the game evolves, but as fate would have it, we won't get to see it evolve because it's already dead.
The announcement comes as a surprise to many: it looked like overseas branches CAPCOM were actually trying to scale up the game, having expanded servers to areas outside of North America. In fact, versions of Puzzle Fighter were rated for Xbox One and PS4 in certain territories, though those now appear to be withdrawn. This reeks of a game where the staff was blindsided by the shutdown order.
Personally, I suspect the heads at CAPCOM Japan unceremoniously pulled the plug when they didn't see everyone immediately rushing to acquire lootboxes, despite the fact that the game needs to earn players’ engagement and trust before they go and open their wallets. For a game like Puzzle Fighter that had some mixed reactions out of the gate, that can take a while! It may have had its problems, but it feels like it was smothered before it had a chance to actually do anything, and that's disturbing. Why should I even bother investing time in a new free-to-play game if they're going to turn off the lights after a few months?
But hey, I guess this means more Dead Rising. I get the feeling whatever Frank West does next is CAPCOM Vancouver's do-or-die project, and if I'm right, that would really be a terrible position to be in. Jeez, I forgot Dead Rising 4 even released until I heard this. I feel like nobody was talking about that game…
THERE'S A NEW LEGEND OF DARK WITCH COMING, AND A DESIGN CONTEST TOO
I'm sure a lot of you haven't heard of the Legend of Dark Witch series, and that's fine – this is my opportunity to make you aware of this delightful little indie series by Inside System.
The Legend of Dark Witch follows Zizou Olympia, the titular Dark Witch, as she battles through several action-platform stages, conquers challenging boss encounters, and gains new and exciting powers along the way. I know, that sounds painfully generic, but these games are very solidly designed and have a lot of personality. The Megaman influence is extremely obvious, but hey, at least they're cribbing from and building on the good Megaman mechanics, which is more than we can say for some other titles our blue buddy has inspired.
If you're not convinced, why not watch some speedrun gameplay?
Most of the Dark Witch series is available on 3DS, though some of the earlier titles have been ported to Steam and other platforms. An RPG spinoff, Brave Dungeon, is available on Switch (along with a card battle game).
Anyhow, there's a new game in the series coming. No word as to whether it's an action game or another odd-genre spinoff, but I'm excited nonetheless. While details are sparse, we do know that the character Blad will be in the game, and Inside System wants you to help design a new outfit for her. You can post entries for the contest on pixiv and/or Twitter, so if you're feeling artsy and you like the games, you should try your hand at it.
AND THERE'S MORE TOUHOU COMING TO PS4, TOO
There's still something deeply weird to me about seeing Touhou games at GameStop. I mean, I remember back way back at Winter Comiket 2002, when ZUN was still a relative unknown selling Touhou games at an end table at Comiket… when I awkwardly picked up a copy of Embodiment of the Scarlet Devil and asked him if the game had smut in it. Yes, I asked ZUN in person if Touhou was porn. It must have been crazy awkward to have some weird white chick inquiring about whether or not your product was filthy smut. (He very emphatically said it wasn't. I bought it.)
Wait, what were we talking about? Oh, right – it looks like another Touhou game's getting a Western release. Titled Touhou Azure Reflections, the game is a one-on-one versus bullet-hell battler. Here's a Japanese trailer:
While there's been no official announcement of the game, a list of PS4 achievements has leaked online, indicating that it's likely fairly far along in localization. No word yet on the publisher, but I'd say NIS is a probable candidate.
KETSUI IS LOOKING SUPER DUPER SLICK
While we're on the subject of bullet hell, the Cave Matsuri happened last weekend. The event was primarily focused on Cave's free-to-play offerings (Gothic wa Mahou Otome, Sangoku Justice, and Lord of Dungeon), but they also had a special presentation of M2's upcoming Ketsui port for the PS4.
Ketsui is widely regarded as one of the best shooters ever made, and M2's usual attention to detail. It's packed with presentation options, additional onscreen widgets (if you're not playing in vertical mode), and both original and arranged soundtracks. The speed will be 100% accurate to the arcade, so the most nitpicky of purists shouldn't have anything to complain about… except maybe their PCBs being devalued oh-so-slightly. Oh, boo friggin’ hoo.
There will also be a sort-of-new (as in “it was only playable for one day in 2007”) arrange mode in the game made by Cave head Tsuneki Ikeda, which I'm eager to try out. Finally, the game will be available as a physical release. While there was a “physical” release for M2's PS4 port of Raizing's Battle Garegga, it consisted of a box with bonus tchotchkes and a download code, annoying the shooting-game fanbase whose fetish for touchy-feely media must be satiated. This time, you're getting a shiny disc, so… yay!
Still no word on release date or pricing – it probably won't be cheap, but M2 releases are like fine retrogaming caviar. You can bet I'll be there day one with my PSN yen in hand.
FIGHTING GAME NEWS ROUNDUP: GUILTY GEAR XX ACCENT CORE PLUS R HITS NINTENDO SWITCH, MORE CROSS CHARACTERS, AND ZAMASU AWAKENS
In a surprise announcement at a Nexon event in Korea, Guilty Gear XX Accent Core +R, the final revision in the Guilty Gear XX series, is coming to Switch, complete with its unique Korean-territory soundtrack. Some might wonder why the Switch is getting this instead of Xrd, but GGXXAC+R (whew) still has a very loyal playerbase. (They're basically the anime equivalent of the guys who insist nothing will ever beat Street Fighter III Third Strike.) Here's to hoping the online is decent. Ha ha… ha :(
The hits keep on coming from ArcSys, though, and they've since unveiled three more DLC additions to the BlazBlue X Tag Battle cast: Naoto Shirogane from Persona 4 Arena, Vatista from Under Night In-Birth, and Hakumen from Blazblue proper. The release date is getting ever closer!
Finally, we've got our first footage of Fused Zamasu in Dragonball FighterZ. We'll likely be seeing more of him in the weeks to come.
INTERVIEW: WORLD OF DEMONS PRODUCER ANDREW SZYMANSKI
When you think of Platinum Games, you tend to think of bombastic action, thrilling setpieces, and engaging combat. With last week's announcement of World of Demons for iOS and Android, DeNA and Platinum are looking to deliver a graphically rich mobile adventure with swordplay and monster-slaying action that feels just as engaging and intense as their console offerings. I talked a bit with Andrew Szymanski, the game's producer at DeNA, about the upcoming mobile title.
How did the idea for World of Demons form?
SZYMANSKI: When I joined DeNA, I had the idea to try and bring classic console action gaming to touch devices. Since DeNA is a big mobile game publisher, I was able to take my pitch to Platinum and asked if they'd be able to translate the sort of action gaming they're known for over to mobile devices. That was three years ago, and here we are now!
So this is a 100% original DeNA IP?
Yes, an original IP co-developed with Platinum.
Was it difficult to convince Platinum to work on a mobile game?
“Difficult” isn't the word I would use. It definitely required a lot of discussion. When I first approached them, I had written a two-page brief on what I was looking for: sword-based combat, responsive touch-specific controls… basically, I said, “you need to help solve the problem of how to do a quality action game with touch controls. Here are some ideas I came up with, but you guys are the experts. We don't want compromises, no ‘that's pretty good for a mobile game – it needs to be full-on quality.” It took months and months of discussion and prototyping before we came up with a control scheme that felt the way we really wanted it to feel with the right balance of responsiveness and fine control.
I think Platinum saw this as a gauntlet being thrown. One thing in their philosophy that they've always told me is that they consider a platform just that – a platform. It's all about making the best experience for that device, no matter what that device may be.
Who is the director of the game at Platinum?
The director is Masaki Yamanaki, who is the head of Platinum's game design department. He's worked on practically everything they've done. His best known game, however, would probably be Madworld.
The combat looks very robust for a mobile game. You've done a really impressive job translating frenetic action gaming to touch controls, but is there an option to play with a Bluetooth controller for those who just can't separate themselves from traditional controls?
We've not currently supporting controllers simply because all of the inputs are based on touch. Honestly, we could probably put movement on a stick, but everything else you need to do – like, for example, switching your helper yokai minions in battle – actually requires a screen tap. We're super laser focused on providing the optimal touchscreen experience, but it might be something we'd examine moving forward. For right now, though, our focus is making the best experience we can for touch controls.
Is there any sort of multiplayer?
You can borrow helper minions from your friends, but we don't have any synchronous, realtime multiplayer. That's something we're investigating for the future after launch. We do have two multiplayer modes: Yokai showdown, which is your character versus a computer-controlled character pulled off the server… there's also a Samurai Stronghold mode, which is a series of successive raids against your base. You can actually bring two [friend characters] to fight, and there are certain enemies that only appear in that mode.
Will the servers be global?
You'll be able to friend and play against people from around the world.
Who's doing the music for this game? What I've heard so far sounds very Okami-like.
It's actually the same composer, Hiroshi Yamaguchi.
Can you tell me a little about the pricing format? Will there be gacha elements?
It's a free-to-play title. You have the ability to summon minions you can use in battle [for a premium], but one thing we felt was important was that of the collectable minions you can summon in-game can also be obtained through normal play. None of the minions are just 2D cards or assets, we want them to be fully animated and part of the action. There are four different difficulty settings for each mission, and the higher difficulties have a greater chance for minions to drop.
This is a globally-focused game, and the last thing we want is for someone to come in who's a fan of Platinum action games and be immediately turned off [by monetization]. For me, the monetization was about two things: was it appropriate for this game, and are we providing good options for players? There are no paywalls, no gates that you can't access. If someone wants to play the game and enjoy it, they should be able to. Our hope is that people will enjoy the experience so much that they want to contribute, to give back to the people who made it.
Do you have any final comments about World of Demons for our readers?
We really want to put something out there that feels like a Platinum game. It's for mobile and touch devices, but it hasn't been diluted… The game's theme and content are [very] compelling.
GAL*GUN 2 (PS4, Switch)
Good gravy! There's a demonic invasion at school! Fortunately, our hero has a pair of Pheromone Goggles to suss out where demons are hiding. Unfortunately, they make every girl at school want to jump the hero's bones! Fortunately, our sudden stud is also equipped with a mythical pheromone gun to shoot the lasses trying to shower him with affection, sending them into an ecstasy-addled stupor.
Gal*Gun 2 wears its stupidity on its sleeve, proudly proclaiming its intent to deliver over-the-top anime fanservice at every turn. (The box back even mentions “pantsu,” for crying out loud. Who except weebs is going to know what that word means?) I find that strangely respectable: if a major selling point of your game is anime boobs and booty, then by god, just say it loud and clear. That way people who want it can get it, and the people who don't want it can steer clear.
Also, apparently a couple of PSD files got mixed up at the cover art printer for the Switch version. It seems someone didn't see which “guns” went where. Whoopsies!
SUPER ROBOT WARS X (PS4, VITA, Asian release)
This technically isn't available in North America, but it's a friggin’ Super Robot Wars game in English, so it's definitely worth talking about. SRWX is the latest entry in the long, looooong-running crossover strategy-RPG extravaganza that mashes up all manner of robot anime into a convoluted yet engaging fanfi- er, professionally written story created expressly for these games. SRWX gives us the usual Gundam and Mazinger mecha/character picks, but there are some other noteworthy anime franchises in the mix: Code Geass, Gurren Lagann, Aura Battler Dunbine, and numerous others. New to this installment are Buddy Complex, Nadia, and Wataru, a series best known in North America for being the game that became Keith Courage in Alpha Zones on the TurboGrafx-16. I feel like this game's probably going to be a fair bit better than that.
If you're looking to play this, it's easy to make a dummy Singapore PSN account and grab some cards over at SEA Gamer Mall for a download. I'll be getting a download copy myself later today.
OTHER NOTEWORTHY RELEASES
Before there was Bayonetta, there was Bullet Witch, an interesting but really, really janky Cavia game that now has a PC port for reasons unknown. The Naruto Shippūden: Ultimate Ninja Storm Trilogy is also heading to Switch, so if you need your anime ninja fix on the go, you can grab that. If you're in the mood for a Vita RPG, the port of JRPG-influenced Cosmic Star Heroine is finally available on the platform, while otome game fans can grab Psychedelica of the Black Butterfly. A weird arcade shooter spinoff of cult-favorite giant-bug-killing series Earth Defense Force, titled Earth Defense Force 4.1 Wing Diver the Shooter, crashes on Steam this week along with Neko-nin exHeart 2 for the visual novel crowd.
That's all for this week! If you're not busy Friday night, I'll be doing my annual Kusogecast over on my Twitch channel starting at 4 PM PST until midnight. You'll have the opportunity to watch me flail through the legendarily terrible Sherlock Holmes Famicom action/adventure game. It should be a very "good" time!
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