This Week in Games: Pokemon: Let's Go Pikachu!

by Heidi Kemps,

You can tell we're close to E3 season because the pre-announcement announcements are already coming in strong. I don't really understand why people watched hours upon hours of a dull as dirt Bethesda stream for the reveal of a game title, but that's the hype machine in action, I suppose.

Anyhow, there's a fair bit of news-that-isn't-really-news-but-news-about-upcoming-news this week. Let's get the big one out of the way first…

IN A SURPRISE TO NOBODY, POKEMON IS COMING TO SWITCH IN A BIG WAY

Y'know, I still don't quite get why everyone refers to Pokemon Go as a “fad.” Sure, maybe the game's not as big now as it was at its peak, but it's still making Niantic and The Pokemon Company boatloads of cash. I still see lots of folks playing it wherever I go, so it's succeeded in its goal of getting even more people into Pokemon games.

So now it's on to step 2: Getting the Pokemon Go players into a “real” Pokemon game. That's where Pokemon: Let's Go Pikachu and Pokemon: Let's Go Eevee come into play.

The games are inspired by – but not a direct remake of – Pokemon Yellow. That means original 151 Pokemon, Kanto region, and either a Pikachu or an Eevee following you around (which you can play dress-up with). There's slated to be some cameos from Alola Pokemon, as well as an all-new creature that it's probably safe to assume is a legendary Pokemon. You can play co-op with a pal, too!

Catching Pokemon in Let's Go is similar to Pokemon Go, in that you'll be using either a JoyCon or a specialized Pokeball controller to “throw” a ball to catch the critters ingame. The Poke Ball controller will allow you to carry a Pokemon with you, similarly to the old PokeWalker from HeartGold/SoulSilver. You can even use it to transfer Pokemon to and from Pokemon Go, though how this works is still not explained.

As if those two games weren't enough already, the surprise release of Pokemon Quest for the Nintendo Switch dropped. This “free-to-start” (Nintendo's wording and a lot more honest than “free-to-play” IMO) Pokemon game features very, very clearly Minecraft-inspired voxel visuals and tap-to-fight gameplay mechanics. You can pick it up on Switch now, and a mobile version will be coming later this summer. I downloaded it but haven't tried it yet, because I'm playing Bloodstained: Curse of the Moon on the Switch right now. That game's a super good traditional Castlevania-like and you should buy it.

Ahem, anyway. If the mechanics of Pokemon Let's Go put you off, don't worry, because a real “real” Pokemon game is slated for sometime next year as well. Place bets on what the naming scheme will be this time. (I'd like to see Pokemon Joel Version and Pokemon Mike Version.)

EVERYBODY'S SUPER SONIC RACING, BUT NO FEET ARE ON THE GROUND

Remember that Sonic “R” tease from a few weeks back? Well, we finally know what the game is, and it's exactly what we predicted: A Sonic racing game titled Team Sonic Racing. Except it's not Sonic and Sega All-Stars, it's just all Sonic and his buddies driving souped-up cars. Here's the teaser trailer.

So yeah, not a whole lot to go on yet, but Sumo Digital consistently knocks their racing games out of the park, so I expect good things here. I'm just sad we probably won't be seeing the Valkyria Chronicles crew racing in a modified tank or Kiryu driving a cab this time around. Look for more information at E3.

IMAGEEPOCH CEO RYOHEI MIKAGE RE-EMERGES FROM THE SHADOWS

If you're a JRPG fan, you probably remember Imageepoch: they essentially proclaimed themselves modern-day saviors of the JRPG genre back in the early part of this decade, and went on to produce games like Sands of Destruction, the Fate/Extra RPGs, Black Rock Shooter the Game, and the Luminous Arc series, among many other games. Some titles, like the sadly-unreleased-in-English Last Ranker, were fantastic, others, like the sadly-released-in-English Time and Eternity were legendarily awful, but most of their games were just sort of okay.

Anyway, the company's CEO, Ryohei Mikage, was a pretty visible figure in the industry, and when Imageepoch went under in 2015, he completely vanished along with them. Three years later, he's back with a new company, Mikage LLC, and focusing on making mobile and browser games, the first of which is called Clan Senki.

So what happened? In an interview (quickly translated in a series of tweets starting here), he discusses how he more or less knew the writing was on the wall for his company years beforehand, tried his best to keep things going as long as he could, went into a terrible depression when stuff came crashing down, considered leaving games entirely, and basically was rescued with the help of friends in the industry who cared about it. I'm honestly really glad he's getting all this stuff out there, as I'm sure him talking about his experiences with a business failure will resonate with others.

Anyhow, I hope Mikage gets back on his feet and his new mobile gaming endeavors do well. After all, Yoshiki Okamoto was able pay off all the debts from Game Republic's failure through his copious Monster Strike earnings, so I think Mikage should be able to find life after Imageepoch.  

FIGHTING GAME NEWS ROUNDUP: THE MAYOR OF OUR HEARTS

Somehow I missed Love Heart's announcement for SNK Heroines last week. I'm getting a wee bit concerned about the game's lineup, since what we've seen so far are merely repurposed KoFXIV models, and I don't think people have the same attachment to Love Heart as they do, say, Eri from Metal Slug.

But it's hard to miss this week's big fighting game news, given to us in spectacular fashion: Cody is joining the cast of Street Fighter V. I mean, we knew this was going to happen already, but we just didn't know when… or why he was looking so well-coiffed.

Well, now we've got the answers: Cody Travers is now the mayor of Metro City, having taken over the position from Mike Haggar, and he's dressed as he should be for the job. Man, he's had a wild life, huh? I mean, usually you go to jail after you get into politics and are exposed for corruption and illegal activities, not before!

What really made the reveal awesome, though, was the trailer Capcom made for it. New Japan Pro Wrestling star Kenny Omega has long been a fan of Street Fighter, maining Cody in the Street Fighter IV series. So who did Capcom tap to play Cody in a live-action reveal trailer? Yup, you guessed it! (Even cooler: the voice on the end of the line is frequent fighting game tournament rival and WWE wrestler Xavier Woods.)

It's nice to see Capcom stepping up their trailer game like this, as the last few character reveals have been pretty ho-hum – it's hard not to love this even if you're not a fan of SFV. Good work, guys.

But speaking of Street Fighter

MINI-REVIEW: STREET FIGHTER 30th ANNIVERSARY COLLECTION

Talk about conflicted feelings. Street Fighter 30th Anniversary Collection feels like it wants to do two things: present a whole bunch of Street Fighter games and related media as important pieces in the evolution of a genre, and allow (some of) these games to be played online to foster a new competitive appreciation for them. The former goal is accomplished pretty well. The latter… not so much.

This set contains a whopping 12 Street Fighter games, ranging from the original Street Fighter (which, if you haven't played it, is a lot worse than you expect), all five arcade versions of Street Fighter II (minus Hyper SF2), three Street Fighter Alpha games, and three Street Fighter III titles. All of the games are based on the arcade originals, meaning many of the balance oversights and weird bugs that players have come to love are present here: this is, to my knowledge, the only home port of World Warrior where Guile's handcuffs and other buggy maneuvers are intact.

All of the games come with a wealth of making-of and bonus material: artwork, character concepts, promotional goods, complete soundtracks you can listen to at your leisure, even oddities like the only extant screenshot of the mercifully cancelled NES port of Street Fighter. For the SF fan, there's a tremendous amount of fascinating ephemera and trivia to explore.

There are nitpicks with the historical presentation, though. Not every version of every game is present, which means the collection isn't quite as comprehensive as it could be. Some revisions, like Street Fighter Zero 2 Alpha and Street Fighter Zero 3 Upper, added new characters, balance changes, and features that make them a very different experience, but you won't find them here. Even some of the regional revisions contain differences that would have been good to include: Super Turbo’s Japanese version has some notable discrepancies that make it the preferred edition for tournament play. Some of the terminology used in the history pieces are puzzling, as well – SF3 Second Impact talks about “Grap Defense,” which is a Japanese term for a throw tech literally nobody outside of that country uses.

Then there's the online component, which is… well, it's messy. For starters, only four games out of the set – SF2 Hyper Fighting, Super SF2 Turbo, SF3 Third Strike, and SF Alpha 3 – have online play. While I doubt anyone's going to by crying tears over not being able to play SF3 New Generation online, the omission of fan favorite Alpha 2 is a bit puzzling, but after seeing how online actually runs, maybe that's for the best.

When you hop online, you're forced into “Street Fighter Roulette” in lobbies: you and your opponent pick a game out of the four you want to play, and if you don't want to play the same thing, the game randomly picks one for you – meaning you could come in looking for some Super Turbo and get Alpha 3 instead. (As several people have put it, “You can blind pick the game but not your characters.”) At least you can set specific games that can be picked from if you're the one running the show. While Ranked mode doesn't suffer this problem, it suffers from an inability to see an opponent's connection strength, leading to some incredibly laggy bouts that really should be avoidable. The netcode itself doesn't seem so hot, either -- reports are coming in now saying that connections are a bit better than on launch, but it's still not looking all that great.

Of course, in this day and age things can get patched, and it's not unlikely at all that Capcom might address some of the problems with online. Still, as of this writing, I can give SF 30th Anniversary Collection a recommendation as a good-but-not-perfect museum of classic Street Fighter stuff, but not as a means for playing these games online. Depending on what you're here for, you'll either love it or hate it.

NEW RELEASES

Harvest Moon: Light of Hope (PS4, Switch, Steam)

I grew up in Iowa, and let me tell you, people there absolutely lost their minds over Harvest Moon. Iowa's a big farming state, you see (if you eat corn in the US, it likely came from Iowa), so farming-themed games automatically had a very strong appeal there. There were bona fide shortages of certain titles in the series, too: One of the local game stores came across a bunch of new Harvest Moon 64 carts a few months post-release and priced them at $120 a pop. They all sold.

Anyway, Harvest Moon: Light of Hope! I, uh, don't really have too much more to say about it, as I'm not an expert on this series, but I know it's one of those “Natsume original” Harvest Moons, since XSEED/Marvelous localize the original Bokujou Monogatari series as Story of Seasons now. I generally feel like the whole farm/life sim genre really needs to step up with game to reach the high bar set by Stardew Valley.

OTHER NOTEWORTHY RELEASES: Hey, Ikaruga’s coming to Switch! If you don't already own it yet and now own a Switch now you can play it… on Switch! Though if you're running it in portable horizontal mode, I imagine some of those bullets might get hard to see. Sega Genesis Classics is also hitting PS4 and Xbox One, and while I am happy that more people will get to experience Alien Solider (an all-time favorite of mine) , the fact that it's basically repackaging the Steam Genesis releases minus mod-ability is a downer, given that those ports had some issues. Metal Slug XX hits PS4 as well – it's a port of a port (,MSXX on PSP) of a port (Metal Slug 7 on DS), but it might be worth checking out if you crave some run-and-run action.


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