This Week in Games - Steam Giveth and Steam Taketh Awayby Heidi Kemps,
Hey folks! I'm back after taking a week off. I'm fresh and ready to write about all the hot gaming news going on. Nothing on the Internet blew up in a huge cloud of controversy while I was away, did it?
… Oh, goddammit.
THE WHOLE HORNY GAMES ON STEAM DEBACLE
Late last week, a bunch of game creators started getting notices from Valve that one or more of their games was violating content guidelines involving sex and nudity, and they would either have to edit their games or face removal from the store.
Several of these notices went out for a few different titles, including Mutiny!!, Hunie Pop, Tropical Liquor, and Kindred Spirits on the Roof, among a few others: all games from small developers and publishers, featuring anime (or anime-styled) visuals and sexual themes. The games getting these takedown notices had already taken great pains to stay within Steam's acceptable content guidelines, so getting these notices came as a shock, and seeing all of them being levied at a very particular sort of game fueled speculation that Valve was singling out anime-styled sexy games by small devs in particular.
But then they all got messages from Valve essentially saying “actually no, we're going to re-review the games’ content, so you're OK… for now.” Problem solved, right?
Well, no, not really. If anything, it's a sobering reminder for small developers – especially developers who make Horny Games (or games with otherwise controversial subject matter) – that their entire existence can be jeopardized by the whims of a large company. Valve could wake up one day, decree “no more boobies!,” and bam, there goes all the fanservice, nothing anyone can do about it. What if they re-evaluate the content and find it unsuitable for Steam? Well, then we're back where we started with this whole mess.
Now, if it's not obvious by this point, I am wholly pro-Horny Games: this stuff has a fundamental right to exist and it serves an audience. It's also one of the few areas of gaming where you can find a decent amount of LGBT content, so it serves a marginalized audience quite well. However, games with even a relatively mild amount of thirst face a tremendous uphill battle: most physical and digital storefronts get skittish at the idea of a game showing any sort of nudity or overt sexual themes… unless it's a big-budget AAA game that's bound to be a success, leading to an obvious and frustrating double-standard. Small developers making sexy games get shut out, but you can have plenty of bare breasts in The Witcher and everyone's cool with that.
Steam is far and away the most popular digital storefront for PC games on a global scale, so small devs are eager to get their games on the platform, even if it means they must tone down or cut sexual content. There are other storefronts, sure, but they don't have nearly the reach Steam does. Recently, it felt like things were getting more lenient and more favorable to the developers of games with sexy content: It was a big deal when Kindred Spirits on the Roof got approved on Steam because it featured romantic (and pretty tame) sex scenes between lesbian couples. The fact that Kindred Sprits was one of the titles targeted felt almost like a betrayal – we seemed to have come so far, only to have Valve reel it back.
The worst part of all of this is Valve's complete lack of transparency. Why were these games singled out? What was the specific offending content? How is this re-evaluation process going to work out? Nobody knows why, and Valve isn't giving any real answers, leaving these small content creators in a state of unease.
Meanwhile, there was that weird rebranded religious anti-porn group that tried to take credit for getting the games removed in a desperate publicity stunt while this whole thing was happening. I don't feel like giving them more of the attention they so obviously crave, but watching everyone scream at them for a couple days just made me shake my head. They wanted that free exposure, and sadly, many gave it to them. They're not worth your time, folks.
YAKUZA REMASTERS ARE INCOMING
As it turns out, people really like Yakuza! It only took about 10 years for most folks to hop onboard the continuing adventures of Kiryu Kazuma and Company, but hey, better late than never. While Yakuza Kiwami 2's English release is still a ways off (and still no official word on Hokuto ga Gotoku's localization prospects), we do know now that we're getting additional remasters of Yakuza 3, 4, and 5… though they've only been confirmed for Japan so far.
The key word here is “remaster” – while Yakuza Kiwami 1 and 2 are extensive remakes that bring Yakuza 1 and 2 up to the graphical, gameplay, and content standards of the more recent Yakuza releases, these are going to be more like polished ports with maybe a smattering of extras at most. Still, you don't have to drag out the PS3 to revisit earlier Yakuza games (and Akiyama) now.
KINGDOM HEARTS III IS A REAL VIDEO GAME A FEW PEOPLE HAVE ACTUALLY PLAYED
So apparently there's more to Kingdom Hearts III than all the teasers we've been seeing, as a few select media (but not me, sob) were flown out to gets some hands-on time with the game. That's right, Kingdom Hearts III, in some form, is an actual, playable video game! I mean, we still don't know when it'll be done (and Squeenix is teasing a release date reveal next month), but it seems that its days in development hell may finally be winding down.
And y'know what? For all the jokes we crack about KH3's protracted development, the needlessly convoluted KH story, the spinoffs with weird titles, and Tetsuya Nomura in general… KH3 actually looks really good. The visuals are gorgeous, the environments capture the spirit of the source films perfectly, the gameplay looks to be fun and frenetic, and – perhaps most importantly -- there's a ton of Disney (and Pixar) fanservice.
Anyhow, if you want to see some gameplay, there's a lot of it on Youtube now. I embedded one video above, but you can find more easily.
MARVELOUS/XSEED ANNOUNCE A BUNCH OF STUFF
XSEED games is the American arm of Japanese publisher Marvelous, and this week they announced a bevy of brand-new titles.
First off is Touhou: Scarlet Curiosity, an overhead-view action/RPG that'll be hitting Steam this summer. People love those Touhous, yes? Then there's Gal Metal, a Switch game headed up by Tak Fujii, formerly of Konami and One Million Troops fame. (Having met the guy in person, yes, he's totally excited like that all the time and it's great.) It's a rhythm game about a band of Japanese high school rockers who have to defend the earth from an alien invasion using the Switch JoyCons’ motion sensing capabilities as triggers for wicked drum beats.
Then we've got Gungrave VR. Man, remember Gungrave? It's one of those properties controlled by Red Entertainment (a content-development company whose works include Bonk, Tengai Makyo, Sakura Wars, and Fossil Fighters, among many other things), and they pushed it hard in the early aughts. It had a lot going for it: Red's brand was pretty strong in Japan, they got Yasuhiro Nightow, fresh off of Trigun, to do a bunch of design work for it, and they had the whole “multimedia push” thing with a 26-episode anime tie-in… but the whole thing kind of fizzled out after a single sequel in 2004. Until now, that is – apparently a Korean company just really, really wanted to breathe new life into Gungrave, and the result is Gungrave VR, co-developed with Red. I doubt it'll be the game that'll convince anyone to buy a PlayStation VR unit, but it's neat to see this franchise get resurrected.
The game I'm most interested in, however, is the Steam release of Corpse Party 2. I love Corpse Party – or, rather, the initial Corpse Party game that got released here on the PSP (and re-released on other platforms). The games that followed… not so much. Corpse Party 2, particularly the overhauled version this release is based on, is looking like a return to form, with a new lead character, a new setting, and what appears to be a total divergence from the eventual mess that the Heavenly Host Elementary School stories became. What I'm concerned about, however, is that the Japanese release this is based on was labelled as part one of Corpse Party 2. What's going to happen when the other parts release… and will they be as bad as Corpse Party Blood Drive?
FIGHTING GAME NEWS ROUNDUP: TRAILER TIME
Hey. Are you a Dragonball FighterZ player? Are you craving some footage of Vegito SSGSS, who is coming as DLC next week alongside Zamasu? Well, you're in luck!
Meanwhile, Blade Strangers keeps on adding to its roster. Here we have Emiko, a side character from Umihara Kawase, and her giant cat.
I like this character, if only because that cat looks exactly like the kitty I just adopted, Rika. Here is a good picture of her. Please enjoy my cat.
There's also Lina, an original character who reminds me more than a little of Nu-13 from Blazblue:
Unless you're planning on dunking on David Cage's Detroit (which I don't recommend – sixty irony dollars spend the same as real dollars), or playing Dark Souls Remastered on a platform that's not the Switch, there's not a whole lot of big stuff this week. If you are a Switch owner sad that you aren't going to be praising the sun just yet, you can at least enjoy some classic platforming with Mega Man Legacy Collection 1 & 2 on Switch. If you own a PS VR unit, you can spend quality time with Luffy and pals in One Piece Grand Cruise. Finally, if you own a Vita and belong to the legions of the Otome Armada, 7'Scarlet will give you plenty of attractive dudes in a mysterious Japanese town.
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