This Week in Games - Bowsette Bows In

by Heidi Kemps,

Heya folks! TGS sure was a fun time, huh? Rather than spent too much time chattering on about it, I think I'll just point you over to the TGS coverage that Kim Morrisy has been doing for us. It doesn't make much sense for me to repeat everything here that's already been showcased over there and in the news roundup.

Of course, if you've been anywhere on the internet over the past week or so, you've probably realized that one of the biggest stories in gaming fandom this week had nothing to do with TGS and everything to do with fan imaginations running wild.

Yes, I am talking about Bowsette, everyone's favorite new Mario character who isn't actually a Mario character. That comic up there, drawn by Haniwa, is where this whole thing got moving along, and now it's become an out-of-control freight train barreling its way into every corner of the gaming internet. Who could have known that Nintendo's puzzling decision to give Toadette a magical crown that can turn her into a Princess Peach doppelganger would result in this.

And you know what? I think that's pretty darn cool. I mean, not only has Haniwa wound up getting a huge amount of attention for his work (which is everything you could hope for as an artist on the internet), but he's made an appealing parody-creation that's been embraced and shared by fans and pros across the world. Bowsette's appeal is universal, and it feels really good to see a massive global collective of artists and fans simultaneously embracing her as a fun thing to share with everyone. We're now seeing more fan-made takes on classic Mario enemies in the same vein as Bowsette, as well.

I've heard a few folks saying things to the effect of “Well, if Bowsette is popular, Nintendo should make her a canon character in the Mario games!” While that would certainly be a cool thing to have happen, unfortunately, the character's explosive popularity has rendered that near impossible. There are a bunch of legal hurdles in the way to Bowsette becoming “real,” and I'll try to explain them – though keep in mind that I'm hardly an expert on copyright law.

Despite the character being a derivative of Nintendo's own Bowser, Bowsette is technically a parody. If Nintendo wanted to use her in the Mario mythos, they'd have to get some sort of permission from Haniwa. Nintendo has two options: working out a contract with Haniwa to get access to Bowsette – which could be affected if her creator changed his mind about anything – or buy the character outright, an option I also don't see happening. This is like the situation that fan favorite character Geno is being held in: despite being a part of Super Mario RPG, he's owned by Square-Enix, and using him for *anything* means going through a lot of legal and contract work with Square-Enix. I don't see Nintendo wanting another scenario like this on their hands.

You might think that Nintendo could just do their own take on “hot Princess Peach/Bowser hybrid,” but that's also legally messy. Because Bowsette has spread so far and wide, any attempt Nintendo could make to create a character along those same lines could be grounds for a legal challenge that Nintendo stole Haniwa's idea and is profiting off it. You know how a lot of game companies actively discourage you from sending them your game ideas? That's a legal cover-your-ass move: if you send them an idea of yours and something coincidentally similar came out later, you'd potentially have grounds to assert ownership of that idea provided you could prove that they saw your concept.

But could Nintendo assert they have a legal right to the character since she's based on Bowser? Not likely – under most of the copyright laws I'm aware of, she's clearly a parody character, and Haniwa hasn't done anything commercial with her (though he has gained a lot more Twitter followers due to his work). Think of Dark Helmet from Spaceballs: the Darth Vader inspiration is blatantly obvious, but Lucasfilm doesn't have any authority over the character because it's clearly a goof on the original Star Wars concept.

So no, short of a miracle, Bowsette isn't likely to appear in a Mario game anytime soon. And that's perfectly fine. Part of the appeal of the Mario universe is how malleable it is, and there's plenty of room for fans to have fun with their own creations within the mythos. Let's just enjoy Bowsette (and her inspired derivatives) for what she is: a fun collective fandom collaboration.

Oh, and just as I write this, it appears that Sony has relented on their stupid, stupid policy that kept PS4 Fortnite players from playing with folks on other platforms. Could this be the start of more cross-platform gaming in genres like fighting games? Hard to say, since I feel like Sony wouldn't have budged if it wasn't for consumer and sales pressure: Fortnite is absolutely killing it on the Switch right now, where everyone can play with their XBOne, PC, and mobile buddies, and that bigger player base was no doubt a huge selling point. I'm not sure how many games would have that sort of sway over Sony policy.

THE SAD, INFURIATING TELLTALE CRASH

I usually try to keep the focus here on Japanese- and Japanese inspired games, but Telltale's horrific implosion really deserves some words here. Telltale, a company born of former LucasArts adventure game developers, seemed to many to be very successful: after The Walking Dead was a tremendous success, the company seemed to be scoring hot licenses left and right, ranging from Batman to Game of Thrones to Guardians of the Galaxy to Minecraft. Minecraft! That game practically prints its own money! Certainly, with all these hot licenses, the company must be doing great!

Except it wasn't. It was burning through cash, exhausting its most talented workers, and making employees engage in miserable crunches to make all those episodic adventures in quick succession … many of which apparently weren't making their money back. A report on all of this from earlier this year was a signal of trouble at the company, but late last week, the gaming industry was shocked by their sudden shutdown. Just days after Capcom Vancouver of Dead Rising fame was shuttered, around 225 Telltale employees were laid off without and sort of warning or severance, and numerous in-the-pipeline projects were cancelled.

Former employees were quick to take to Twitter, telling sordid tales of being left without a way to pay the next month's rent, of just-hired employees finding themselves jobless in the very expensive Bay Area, of hours upon hours of uncompensated overtime with no reward. To add insult to injury, just a few days later, Telltale's twitter account tweeted about wanting to work out a deal with “external partners” to finish the still-outstanding last two episodes of The Walking Dead's final season. Nevermind the fact that, well, they had just laid off a bunch of people who could work on The Walking Dead without severance.

Suffice to say, the whole thing is disgusting: hardworking employees got screwed with little notice and jackasses on social media seem more concerned that a game is being cancelled than for the livelihoods of the people who made it. It's clear at this point that Telltale became too big and expected to be buoyed by a handful of hit games for way too long, but – as usual – the people suffering from the dumb decisions to flood the market with Telltale product and churn out content on harsh deadlines aren't the ones who made said decisions.

So, rather than complain about future Telltale games not happening, may I suggest both A: getting the word out on social media about the crappy treatment of these developers, and B: perhaps looking into the wealth of other quality story-driven games currently on the market and supporting publishers that aren't complete trash? Hell, 428: Shibuya Scramble just came out, and I can tell you that game's fantastic.

DRACULA X IS COMING BACK IN PROPER FORM

There was a leak from the South Korean ratings board just before TGS that indicated a double-pack of Castlevania: Symphony of the Night and Dracula X: Rondo of Blood was coming to PS4. Well, the leak has just been confirmed: Konami wants to sell you SotN again, and to do so, they're tossing in the legendary Dracula X as well!

Some might remember that Dracula X saw a rather clunky 3D remake on the PSP, and still others will remember that it got a strange port to the SNES. This set's Dracula X, however, looks to be neither of those, which will no doubt please folks who want to play the PC Engine original but not pay out the nose for it.

Of course, this begs the question: Simon and Richter are in Smash Ultimate, so why no Switch version? The answer, as my friend GSK pointed out, might have something to do with whether or not Symphony of the Night is running via some sort of console emulation: some companies are wary of directly emulating a competitor's hardware on another platform. NEC's long since ditched the console business so they likely don't care about PC Engine emulation, but Sony's a different story…

FIGHTING GAME NEWS ROUNDUP: DRAGONBALL FIGHTERZ EXPANDS ITS NUMBERS

Yeah, I'm out of super clever jokes this week. Android 17 is coming to Dragonball FighterZ, rounding out the ranks of Dr. Gero's creations. He's launching alongside Cooler, and they're both available… today! Yes, today! Go get 'em!

THIS WEEK'S NEW RELEASES

VALKYRIA CHRONICLES 4 (PS4, XBOne, Switch, PC)

It's been a while since we've had a proper Valkyria Chronicles game arrive in the West, but Valkyria Chronicles 4 is here to make fans happy. It's something of a return to form, ditching the odd military school/interaction elements from the second game and going straight for tactical combat and war drama. Interestingly, it takes place in the same timeframe as the original Valkyria Chronicles, allowing players to see a different part of the conflict from the POV of the Atlantic Federation's Squad E.

Of course, it's worth pointing out that the PSP-exclusive Valkyria Chronicles III still has no English language edition, leaving a gaping hole in the series for folks outside of Japan. I have a feeling, however, that if VC4 and the Switch VC remaster do well, we may see Valkyria II and III come to modern platforms. Fingers crossed.

DRAGALIA LOST (Mobile)

Dragalia Lost is noteworthy for a few reasons: It's Nintendo's first 100% original mobile game (as in, not based on any other IP), it's a collaboration with Cygames of Granblue Fantasy fame, and it's launching as a global release.

Honestly, though… I saw the Dragalia Lost Direct Nintendo showed about a month ago and thought “this looks pretty darn generic,” so I'm likely passing on it until I hear some other folks give impressions before I give it a whirl. Still, the launch of any gacha-laden game is prime time to get free goodies, so if you just want to thrill to free spins of fate, now's probably the best time to jump in.

OTHER NOTEWORTHY RELEASES:

Metal Max Xeno, the latest installment in the Metal Max/Metal Saga series that has run for quite some time in Japan, is out this week. New Gundam Breaker also hits PCs, but, um… given the PS4 version's harsh global reception, it might be one to skip unless it's received a complete overhaul.

That's all for This Week in Games! I'll be out next week at a press event, but I will come back with some very cool previews for you folks, so please look forward to those!


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