This Week in Games - All The News From Gamescom

by Heidi Kemps,

Gamescom is happening as we speak in fabulous Cologne, Germany. It's the biggest public gaming show in the world, and there's plenty of interesting news flowing out of Deutschland as we speak. There's plenty of news to cover… which is exactly why a huge chunk of the column this week is about a famous videogame mahjong series that's three decades old. It'll be interesting, I swear!

GRANDIA IS BACK!

I find it weird how Grandia II is more fondly remembered than the original Grandia in the west: while the sequel is by no means bad, it's not quite as interesting or ambitious as the original game. Of course, that could have something to do with the painful localization Sony Computer Entertainment America saddled the PlayStation version with…

But hey, if you missed either Grandia I or II, I have great news: remasters of these two great RPGs are coming to Switch and PC! (Actually, the PC already has Grandia II, but you get what I mean.) Here's hoping Grandia I gets a tolerable localization this time, because man, that game is great.

I'm hoping that these reissues will get people excited about the series again: it still has what is, in my opinion, the best RPG battle system out there, but the series basically died after Grandia III's ho-hum reception. Maybe this will be what we need for a Grandia IV to take shape.

LANGRISSER IS ALSO BACK, LIKE, ACTUALLY BACK THIS TIME AND NOT JUST SOME WEIRD REBOOT

Hey, do you remember Langrisser Re:Incarnation Tensei? Of course you don't, because it sucked a whole lot. It was a miserable attempt at rebooting the Langrisser series that was panned both in Japan and abroad for good reason. Thankfully, its failure didn't kill the series outright, as Chara-Ani and Kadokawa Games announced Langrisser I & II earlier this week. These are being presented as extensive, top-to-bottom revamps of the classic games, the first of which was released here on the Genesis as Warsong, and the second of which was left overseas. Some staff has been announced, as well: Ryo Nagi of Ar Tonelico and Dodonpachi Saidaioujou fame is revamping the character designs, while Noriyuki Iwadare returns on soundtrack duty.

It's a little disappointing that Satoshi Urushihara's not doing the designs this time around – I'd love to see some of his previous Langrisser character work transformed into gorgeous HD game assets. But since Urushihara seems content to only draw outright porn nowadays, I guess he was unavailable. We'll be seeing more of the game at a special event planned for the 29th of this month.

BLOODSTAINED DECIDES NOT TO CURSE VITA BECAUSE IT'S ALREADY DEAD (it's also delayed)

Okay, maybe that's a bit harsh, but it's true: Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night's Vita version is now off the table, mostly because it's been pushed back to 2019 and Sony's stopping production of Vita game cards and winding down things like PS Plus for the platform. I know folks love their Vitas – heck, I do too – but I'm going to be shocked if any physical releases come for it past this time next year. It's had a good life, but it's sadly time to move on.

And hey, at least Bloodstained had the guts to tell us the hard news. Mighty No. 9 for 3DS and Vita is allegedly still in the works, but come on, guys.

WINDJAMMERS 2 IS A THING

So, I'll be upfront: DotEmu is a company I give a real big side-eye to whenever I know they're involved with something. They're notorious for making some absolutely trash ports of retrogames to Steam and mobile, and have only recently begun to pick up some goodwill by funding LizardCube's sublime remake of WonderBoy: The Dragon's Trap and a Windjammers reissue. Basically, there's good reason to be worried when their name pops up.

Which is why I'm not terribly enthused about their latest announcement, Windjammers 2.

Nothing's been shown of this game besides this trailer, which feels off in that French-animation-trying-real-hard-to-be-anime kinda way, and a few screenshots that show that they're going with more traditionally animated sprites rather than pixel art. Basically, my hype is extremely reserved until I see this thing in action, because – as many attempts to clone Windjammers have shown – it's actually quite easy to make the Windjammers formula feel Not Right.

WE'VE GOT REAL GOOD FOOTAGE OF DEVIL MAY CRY 5 AND CLAIRE IN THE RESIDENT EVIL 2 REMAKE

So instead of babbling on, how about I embed some videos? I think the gameplay speaks for itself, especially in DMC5’s case.

FIGHTING GAME NEWS ROUNDUP: ARE THOSE MUMMY AND SKELETON SOULS DEAD... or alive?

Gamescom brings with it more character reveals for upcoming fighters. First off are Lei Fang and Hitomi, who are returning for Dead or Alive 6. Also: a stage with a giant squid who can toss people around. Man, that's cool.

Also cool: Create-A-Soul is returning to Soul Calibur VI, and this time there's a special, second story mode just for the dudes and dudettes you create! I can't wait to play as a skeleton, take lots of dumb screenshots, and caption them while pretending I'm admin for DA MFING SHARE Z0NE.

As for new characters, well… you can get series yandere Tira if you're buying the edition that comes with the Season Pass, otherwise, you're gonna have to get her as paid DLC later. It still really rubs me the wrong way when fighting games announce DLC this early on...

RETRO ANIME GAME HISTORY LESSON: SUPER REAL MAHJONG

Hey, did you know Super Real Mahjong P8 came out after a hiatus of twenty-one years?  I bet you didn't! I bet you're also wondering what the heck Super Real Mahjong is about, besides… well, mahjong.

Seta's Super Real Mahjong games were a staple of Japanese arcades in the late 80s up through the end of the 90s. The first Super Real Mahjong, as the title might suggest, was released in 1987 and aimed to present a “realistic” simulation of playing one-on-one mahjong: animated tile and hand movements, an opponent who reacts, and so on. Unfortunately, it kinda tanked hard, so Seta very quickly went back to the drawing board to figure out how to sell their game. They hit upon the obvious solution: nudity.

So Seta hired well-known animator Ryo Tanaka to animate a young lady named Shouko, and added her to Super Real Mahjong PII, which released only a few months after the original outing. Shouko (whose name is often romanized as “Showko” on merchandise, which makes me irrationally angry) is an attractive young lady who will remove an article of her clothing in exquisite detail whenever she loses a game, eventually getting to the point where you see boobage. The smooth animation and voice from Shouko was astonishing in 1987, years before CD-ROM technology had become viable and you could very easily summon naked breasts on a whim via the internet. Super Real Mahjong PII wasn't the first strip mahjong game, but it was definitely the best-looking up to that point. It also showcased how to present high-quality character animation within the era's hardware limitations, which set the stage for cinematics on early CD platforms like the PC-Engine CD and the Mega CD.

Super Real Mahjong PII was soon followed up by SRM PIII, which added a fair bit more content: more girls to play against (sisters named Miki and Kasumi), better visual quality, and even more animation from Ryo Tanaka. (You can see a sampling of the animation here – it cuts out the nipple exposure, but it's still probably not work-safe.) It was another big hit, and Seta had a huge success on their hands: not only were the games popular, but the girls were very merchandisable. It wasn't long before Shouko, Miki, and Kasumi were featured in an OVA: Super Real Mahjong: Miki Kasumi Shouko no Hajimete.

This is one of those tapes from the heyday of OVAs that's been forgotten for a reason: it's nothing more than a bunch of dull vignettes about the daily lives of the three girls. There's no mahjong, barely any nudity, and the budget seems comically low – compared to the detailed in-game animations, this OVA looks terrible. One of the only memorable bits is when Kasumi loses it over seeing megahunky Michael J Fox in, uh, Cock Sucker magazine:

Also, here's Miki tearing it up in another Seta game, Twin Eagle: Revenge Joe's Brother. (You are legally obligated to write the full title of that game every time.)

A second OVA got made as well: Konranteki Sento Mahjong, featuring the adventures of Shouko, Miki, and Kasumi as they fight an evil rabbit-man in a magical mahjong world. At least there's actual mahjong in this one, and the budget seems a bit higher… but it's still dull and cheap-looking, and there's even less cartoon nipples.

Both of these OVAs were animated by a company called Pictureland Film, who I can find zero information about. Going by their obscurity and the quality of their output, I assume they were a cheaply hired fly-by-night anime enterprise; The 80s and 90s had a fair few of those.

Despite peaking in popularity around PIII, Super Real Mahjong continued into the 90s, bringing more girls into the mix (and eventually letting Ryo Tanaka do the character designs as well as the animation). As home console technology improved, many of the games got ports – though they often had to stop short of showing the topless scenes of the arcade games due to console manufacturer restrictions on nudity. Alas, the last Super Real Mahjong release under Seta was in 1997 with P7 -- the late 90s and early aughts were not kind to Seta, and they were eventually acquired by pachinko maker Aruze. Yes, the same Aruze that famously destroyed SNK's original incarnation. A few attempts at rebooting the series with different characters and artstyles were made in the 2000s, but not much came of them. Seta stopped releasing games in 2004 and died completely by 2009.

Yet somehow, Super Real Mahjong endured in the memory of many, which led to a crowdfunding campaign in 2016 on the Japanese Campfire service to revive the series as a mobile and browser game. After some delays, Super Real Mahjong P8 is now out on Android, and it's updated its theming to match the times: it's all about idols! However, there's something missing in the newest game: clothing removal.

The reactions I've seen so far to P8 have been somewhat mixed – is it really Super Real Mahjong without any undressing? But a PC version is still forthcoming, so who knows, there might be some idols in their undies eventually. I'm glad that old games like these still have a strong fanbase, but I can't help but wonder how many folks are disappointed. There's a weird sort of charm in this day and age to having to work hard and get really lucky for the privilege of seeing a boob, y'know?

NEW RELEASES

There's a lot of old stuff debuting on new platforms this week. First off is Shenmue I & II HD, which allow you to search for sailors and blow off finding your dad's killer as long as possible to engage in frivolous nonsense in glorious high-def. Under Night In-Birth Exe:Late[st] also hits PC this week, so if you're curious about the most obscure property in the Blazblue X Tag Battle mix, now's a good time to check it out. A port of the PS Vita game Sword Art Online: Hollow Fragment is also coming to PCs, but if you feel like your Vita needs proper love after the Bloodstained breakup, you can always give it Punch Line, a visual novel based on the anime of the same name. (It's also on PS4, too.) If that's not enough to satiate your hunger for visual novels, Frontwing's ISLAND hits Steam in English this week.

That's all for now, folks – next week I'm hoping to deliver a really cool developer interview, so please look forward to it. See you again soon!


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