This Week in Games - Anime Expo Extravaganzaby Heidi Kemps,
For niche Japanese game loving folks like me, Anime Expo may as well be the E3 afterparty: there's just as many announcements from AX that I'm super-excited for than there was at the biggest game show on the planet. I mean, how many major visual novel announcements are there at E3? Basically zero, but go over to AX and you'll hear that of the most beloved and influential VNs ever created are finally getting their English debuts. That's pretty great!
So, if it wasn't obvious, this week's column is going to be very heavy on AX news. I was originally going to include a preview of Star Ocean Anamnesis based on the preview build I was given access to last week, but seeing as how the full game is out now it seems a bit pointless. However, you can look forward to an upcoming interview Zac Bertschy did with the game's staff that I helped write some questions for!
Since there's a whole mess of announcements, let's eschew our usual format and just drill things down company-by-company.
Hey, that Tokyo Ghoul:re game that was announced not long ago has been confirmed for a western release on PS4 and PC. Given the franchise's Western popularity, that was to be expected.
Black Clover: Quarter Knights will also have a closed beta test on Sunday and Monday of next week, but you had to have downloaded the client on the 9th, so if you're reading this now, you're out of luck. Sorry!
While not Anime Expo news, there have been some other announcements from Bamco recently, as well. The first is the return of Talim to the stage of history in Soul Calibur VI:
The other bit of news is that the promising-looking "Dark Souls of anime vampire games" Code Vein has been pushed back into 2019. This game's been getting a lot of hype, and clearly Bamco really, really wants to stick the landing and turn this into a lucrative franchise. Just, please, don't release it in January or February. That's just asking to be overshadowed.
Frontwing is a well-known Japanese visual novel publisher that's been making some strides into the English-language market thanks to a recent boom in the genre's popularity over here. So, you know that Island anime that's airing this season? Well, Frontwing's going to be releasing an English version of the visual novel it's based on. It's due out this summer for PC, with no console ports yet in sight… but who knows?
JAST has two new visual novels in the pipeline: Flowers -Le Volume sur Automne- by Innocent Grey, which is the third in the Flowers series, and Kimi to Kanojo to Kanojo no Koi, a Nitroplus game with art by Super Sonico designer Tsuji Santa.
JAST's biggest announcement, however, was the acquisition of three Nitro+CHiRAL boys' love games: Togainu no Chi, DRAMAtical Murder, and Lamento. These are among the most popular BL games ever made in Japan, so an English release is something a lot of yaoi fans have been craving for a very long time. Of course, many on Twitter were quick to point out JAST's habit of chronic lateness and of announcing things that have yet to materialize – specifically, Nitroplus's Sumaga and Zoku Satsuriku no Django – so, um, maybe don't get too excited just yet. Even if these games do come out, it likely won't be for a long, long time.
Otome game localizations have been gaining a lot of traction as of late: companies like Aksys and Idea Factory International have both found an audience eager to support the genre. Now XSEED is throwing their hat into the ring with London Detective Mysteria for Vita and PC. Developed by Karin Entertainment, Mysteria follows a young lady in 19th century London who just happens to be surrounded by hunky hotties inspired by famous literary thieves, scoundrels, and detectives.
Sekai Project always seems to have a lot on their plate, and they usually bring quite a few announcements with them to Anime Expo. This year was no different, as they debuted seven games coming to PCs:
- NEKOPARA Extra ~The Kittens' First Promise by Neko Works, which follows the Nekopara catgirls as “kittens”
- 9 -nine- by Palette, a modern drama featuring supernatural teens
- Last Stanza by InnocenceInnocence, an emotionally-laden dramatic story
- Re;Lord 2 ~The witch of Cologne and black cat~ by Escu:de, a fanservice-laden combat RPG
- Idol Connect -AsteriskLive- by CreativeFrontier, for everyone who somehow doesn't have enough anime idol girl games in their life already
- Harumade Kururu by Sumikko Software, a wacky harem comedy visual novel
- Witch's Love Diary by qoobrand, a visual novel about a gaggle of girls who stumble upon a bizarre diary
As is usual for Sekai Project, the games that have adult content will launch in an unedited version available through online retailer Denpasoft so you can get your fanservice fix.
I know exactly what you're here for - more details on the Kill la Kill game! It's coming to PS4 and PC, a playable demo will be at EVO 2018, and there's a new trailer. Enjoy!
The crew over at IFI announced that Death End re;Quest is coming westward. This fascinating-looking genre mashup has you taking the role of a programmer who's been trapped in their own game and has to hack their way out with the help of a friend in the real world. You're given a degree of freedom to change the game's rules and genre to explore and eliminate the bugs corrupting the game, and depending on what you do, you can see one of several endings.
I'll be real: this looks 100 times more interesting to me personally than the typical Idea Factory fare, so I'm pretty keen to see how it turns out. Please don't disappoint, IFI.
Aksys continues to be one of the most eclectic and interesting localization companies out there, and the new crop of new announced at AX offered up a variety of genres and content. Death Mark is a Japanese horror game for the PS4, Switch, and Vita where you and an NPC partner solve a mystery behind a strange skin marking that indicates a death curse. There haven't been a lot of horror games on the Switch, so this should be a nice change of pace.
Continuing their dedication to the otome game audience, Aksys also announced Code: Realize ~Wintertide Miracles~ for PS4 and Vita. It's the second Code:Realize fandisc and further expands upon the story and characters of Guardian of Rebirth.
Two more games inspired by popular Japanese genres are also being released through Aksys, as well. Dreamloop Games' arcade shooter Stardust Galaxy Warriors: Stellar Climax will be getting a Switch port, while Indonesian developer Lentera's platforming adventure Ghost Parade is stomping onto Steam, PS4, and Switch.
Boy, did Spike Chunsoft ever make me happy with their announcements. For starters, we've got a release date of September 4 for 428: Shibuya Scramble for PC and PS4, which is currently one of my most anticipated titles. Hey, that's super close to my birthday! I want to think of this as a special present from Spike Chunsoft – it's not just every day that you get to play a game that's often called one of the best visual novels ever.
But speaking of legendary visual novels, the big bombshell announcement from Spike-Chunsoft was a localization of the Yu-No: The Girl Who Chants Love at the Bound of this World remake for PC and PS4. Yu-No is considered one of the most beloved narrative games in Japan, and its system of parallel storylines had a profound influence on storytelling in visual novels in the years since its original release. While I don't know what the general fan consensus was on the remaster in Japan, it did include a bonus port of the original PC-98 game (minus the erotic content), so purists could stick with the original. Here's hoping that's also packed in with the English version. I love me some 256-color pixel art.
And if that wasn't enough for the visual novel crowd to lose their mind over, Spike Chunsoft also unveiled the new project by Zero Escape creator Kōtarō Uchikoshi. AI: The Sominum Files is coming to PS4, Switch, and Steam and features character designs by beloved No More Heroes and Fire Emblem alumni Yūsuke Kozaki.
Unfortunately, it wasn't all good news, as both Zanki Zero and Steins;Gate Elite have seen their English versions delayed into 2019. Still, I'm not too upset about the delays – more time to catch up on my backlog!
The house that Disgaea helped build came out swinging with some new game announcements. The Princess Guide is a Switch and PS4 game where you must train one of four different princesses in the art of war. It looks like an interesting mix of RTS, action-RPG, and Princess Maker-like simulation, and I'm eager to try it out.
For those who want to try their hand at making the next indie RPG hit, NIS is also planning on localizing the RPG Maker MV program for PS4, Xbox One, and Switch. Perhaps the biggest announcement, though was The Caligula Effect: Overdose, a much-revamped version of the PS Vita RPG (which inspired the anime of the same name) for the PS4. While Atlus published the Vita game, NIS will be doing duties on the PS4 localization, so it'll be interesting to see how the games differ in writing. (It'll also be interesting to see how they differ in gameplay, as I've heard Overdose attempts to fix a lot of the original game's issues. We'll see.)
This AX was absolutely packed with visual novel announcements, and MangaGamer added several more upcoming titles to the wave of VN localizations coming westward. First off is Rance IX and X from AliceSoft, concluding the saga of one of the longest-running eroge-RPG series out there.
If yuri is more your thing, however, they've got Lilycle Rainbow Stage!!!, an all-ages Girls' Love story by developer Particle that follows a whopping fifteen different girls as they navigate their complex feelings towards each other. But wait – if you want more bad dudes, Tennenouji's LuckyDog1 is a yaoi-filled mix of mob politics and prison break drama. MangaGamer's always been good about appealing to diverse tastes, and these titles look to bolster their library even further.
We've made through the deluge of AX announcements, but there's still a few new releases worth noting. Muv-Luv and Muv-Luv Alternative are finally out on the PS Vita, giving the Vita faithful yet more strong visual novels to add to their library. Shining Resonance Refrain for Switch and PS4 is the first Shining game to hit the west in quite some time, though those who remember the glory days of Shining Force might be turned off by how very different this game is from… well, basically all the 90s Shining series stuff. Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker for Switch and 3DS is an enhanced port of the Wii U puzzle game beloved by many, now accessible to more folks by virtue of not being on the Wii U.
The big release, however, is Square-Enix's Octopath Traveler, a Switch-exclusive RPG with gorgeous 2D art and a fair bit of influence from S-E's own SaGa series. It hits along with Captain Toad on Friday, making this week a pretty packed one for Switch owners.
Phew! That's a whole lot of stuff that happened. Join us again next week when we'll probably have far fewer visual novels to talk about.
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