This Week in Games - What's up with Sekai Project?

by Heidi Kemps,

Hey, you know what makes any day more exciting? A whole lot of exploding Fist of the North Star heads. Thanks, Sega!

Now that we've had our dose of Kenshiro, let's move on to the news.

DIABLO III IS COMING TO SWITCH, NOW WITH MORE ZELDA

Oopsie doopsie, looks like another of those industry leaks happened and information got out before it was supposed to! All the better for me, because apparently this was supposed to be revealed Thursday morning (as in, the time you're reading this), so it means this column won't be immediately outdated upon publication. Yay!

Diablo III is six years old at this point, but it's still popular enough to be considered for a Switch console port. Of course, much like Skyrim before it, Blizzard's trying to make the third or fourth time you've bought Diablo III special with a bit of extra Nintendo-ness. Included in the Switch version are a handful of unique and ~exclusive~ items:

  • “Legend of Ganondorf” cosmetic armor set
  • Tri-Force portrait frame
  • Chicken pet (It was phrased this way in the now-removed Forbes article that leaked this, though I assume it's a Cucco)
  • “Echoes of the Mask” cosmetic wings (I assume this is something that looks like the mask Skull Kid wears)

Well, that's neat, huh? But perhaps even more interesting are the local multiplayer options: You can play with 4 players on a single Switch, connect multiple Switches ad-hoc, or play online. But let's be real here: that Ganondorf armor is going to move more copies than anything else they could throw in.

ETRIAN ODYSSEY NEXUS IS CONFIRMED FOR A WESTERN RELEASE

Earlier this month, Etrian Odyssey X – the last of the series on the 3DS console family – dropped in Japan to an enthusiastic reception. I was a little worried about a Western release when it wasn't shown at E3, but thankfully, Atlus just announced the English version, titled Etrian Odyssey Nexus, due out this winter. And we've got a box image to boot, hot damn!

However, Atlus's US side is still silent about Persona Q2, the other major dungeon-crawler they're releasing this year in Japan. My gut feeling says it'll come out here, but it's very likely to be one of the last – if not the last – major 3DS release we get.

MANGAGAMER TELLS ITS OTAKON AUDIENCE TO GET FXXXED

While a lot of smaller game localization companies tend to drop their big release announcements at Anime Expo, MangaGamer came to Otakon with a handful of new titles that should please a wide array of fans.

First off is the The Expression Amrilato, a cute-looking all-ages yuri visual novel about two girls who don't speak the same language in their relationship. Literally.

They're also working on an English version of Chuablesoft's Farther than the Blue Sky, an 18+ sentimental romance game about members of a school rocket-building club as they work to build a mini rocket for an upcoming competition. I don't think I've seen the combination of “young, budding co-ed romance” and “aerospace” in a visual novel before, but this game's definitely gonna raise some rockets high, if you get my drift.

Beat Angel Escalayer R is announcement longtime eroge fans are likely happy about. It's another old favorite from Alicesoft's library, and its goofy story that mashes up sentai and hero tropes with a “save the world through salacious acts!” angle makes it pretty memorable.

The biggest announcement, however, might be the incredibly amusingly titled FXXX Me Royally! Horny Magical Princess. Despite what you might think from the title, this is actually a game aimed at women: You take control of a princess from a magical fantasy kingdom where sex just seems to happen a whole lot, make the journey to modern-day Japan, and try to find a foreign hottie to wed and take home. This involves – surprise! – a lot of fxxxing.

I must say: I like to see an otome eroge with a sexually aggressive heroine. A lot of media – even female-oriented stuff -- positions women as needing a big wonderful man to convince her that she might enjoy sexytimes. It's refreshing to see something that just outright says, “Hey, girls get horny too!”

EDITORIAL: WHAT IN THE FRESH HELL IS GOING ON WITH SEKAI PROJECT?

There's more happening in the world of visual novel localization this week than the MangaGamer announcements, however. On Monday, several staff of Sekai Project were tweeting that they were being abruptly laid off, which Sekai Project later confirmed. You can read the official company statement here and their updates on ongoing projects in the wake of the layoffs.

When I looked at their statement, laden with PR-speak like “In the coming days, the company will be going through a restructure so we can be more nimble, focused, proactive and more like the company we were when we first started,” my gut immediately said to me Oh no. This is BAD. And while I don't have any means to directly confirm that the situation there is growing dire, there's a lot that certainly seems like bad news.

I mean, you don't just lay off the vast majority of your staff without a damn good reason like “the cash crunch is coming and we really need to slim things down, especially when you're trying to do as much as Sekai Project does: publishing manga, publishing all-ages games on Steam and consoles, heading up a separate online label and sales service for adult games (Denpasoft, no relation to new manga publisher DENPA), travelling to a bazillion cons with Japanese guests in tow, managing Kickstarters for a substantial chunk of their library… that's a lot for just a handful of people to do, so that “nimble and more focused” stuff doesn't seem to hold water.

One only needs to look at the list of unreleased games on the Sekai Project Wikipedia page to see just how much work they have yet to do. Even if a lot of that work is being sent out to freelancers, that's a whole lot of plates for Sekai Project to be spinning! Many of these announcements, like Baldr Sky, haven't been talked about in ages, leaving fans frustrated about what's going on, and without extra staff on hand, I don't see that communication getting any better.

Even more eyebrow-raising: a bunch of the big games they announced back in 2017 aren't even on their website. Nanairo Reincarnation’s not on there, NarKarma EngineA isn't on there, friggin’ Rewrite+ isn't on there! These are all big games from well-loved VN developers, you think they'd want to make an effort to promote them, right?

What they do promote, however, is Kickstarters. Why, there's one of them going right now, and they definitely want to you know this and contribute! Another game for the “to be released” pile, only now it's completely prepaid by backers!

All of this indicates to me that the company is in serious disarray. Projects delayed for years, an overreliance on Kickstarter, a bunch of layoffs, and a generical lack of transparency with regards to project progress and internal company stuff – not to mention botched releases like Hoshizora no Memoria and the adult version of Maitetsu… yeah, this reminds me a lot of what's currently going on with the embattled Digital Manga Publishing, who seem to exist solely on the hopes and prayers of backers of Kimagure Orange Road and Kodomo no Jikan. (At least Sekai Project is still a legal business, so that's one thing they have going in their favor.)

Much as I love seeing more obscure Japanese and Japanese-influenced games and visual novels get released, I don't have a lot of confidence in Sekai Project at this point to actually finish what they've started, or even to survive the next couple years. It's a shame, too: The English visual novel market probably wouldn't be where it is today without Sekai Project's efforts, but nowadays, other companies like MangaGamer are doing what Sekai Project does a lot better in every way. I hope for the best, simply because I know a lot of the games they've announced have eager fans, but I feel it may be time to prepare for the worst.

NEW RELEASES

Another sparse week, except there's a really cool arcade port on Switch I'd like to direct your attention to.

You likely don't know about Data East's old arcade game Nitro Ball, but it's a real treat. Basically, take Smash TV, throw in some weird concepts lifted from pinball, add some extra action-movie nuttiness, and BAM, that's Nitro Ball. Watch like five minutes of that playthrough above and I think you'll be sold. Grab it on the Switch eShop!

Also on Switch: 2064 Read Only Memories Integral and Cosmic Star Heroine, two games that are very much inspired by popular Japanese titles. Gotta love those Switch ports.

That wraps things up for this week. See you all again soon!


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