This Week in Games
by Todd Ciolek,
Yes, it's me again! Heidi's off this week, so Anime News Network turned on the Todd Signal and tilted it to the sky. Instead of a Batman logo, it showed the words TALK ABOUT GRAVITY RUSH. And I came running.
I'm afraid there isn't much to say about Gravity Rush at the moment, though. Sony shut down the game's online servers, and a Gravity Rush manga wrapped up after only a year of serialization in Monthly Comic Alive. There's nothing to do but sit and play and wait for the big Gravity Rush comeback that I'm sure we'll see in a decade or so.
I could talk about Valkyrie Profile instead, as it's at least surviving. Valkyrie Anatomia is still chugging along with crossovers, and I presume that any mobile game not canceled after eight months is a healthy one. You can also buy the original Valkyrie Profile on Android and iTunes for eighteen bucks, which is a lot for a mobile release but not so much for an old RPG turned eBay extravagance. I'm not sure it's that's a comeback, though.
Mega Man, on the other hand, has a comeback underway right now, what with Mega Man 11 upon us. It's made me realize that as much as I try to evaluate the Mega Man games on all merits, a lot of my opinion comes down to how much I like the designs of the robot masters. Mega Man 5, for example, tends to garner disdain or disinterest among fans, but boss robots like Napalm Man and Gyro Man are among my favorites in the series.
And my favorite robot master of all? Galaxy Man from Mega Man 9.
Common picks like Quick Man and Splash Woman also rate high with me, but I'm picking Galaxy Man. I like how he resembles a goofy smiling UFO by way of Daft Punk. I like how the designers avoided calling him UFO Man, instead naming him after, I assume, a seldom-mentioned Curve song. The only thing I don't like about him is that he's one of the easiest bosses to beat in Mega Man 9, so I always feel bad for him.
And who's your favorite robot master, gentle robot-rating reader? Wood Man? Centaur Man? A boss from Mighty No. 9? Surprise me.
Some may grumble that the Nintendo Switch Online service is a poor substitute for the old Virtual Console and its healthy multi-system lineup of old games, but we can look on the bright side: you get free access to a bunch of NES titles with your subscriptions, which boil down to about twenty bucks a year. Heck, the cable company charges me a lot more each month, and they don't even have the decency to let me play Ice Hockey on my modem.
Nintendo Switch Online has a bunch of NES games already, with Super Mario Bros. 3 and River City Ransom being the standouts. We'll get more on October 10: NES Open Tournament Golf, Super Dodge Ball, and Solomon's Key(above). They're all decent games, though I doubt they'll do anything to assuage criticisms of the online service. Still, if Nintendo adds The Guardian Legend to the lineup, they'll have my money as long as the Switch lasts.
LAST LABYRINTH LAUNCHES LONG LOOK
What's this? A PSVR game based on the little-known and little-loved '90s anime OVA Princess Rouge: Legend of the Last Labyrinth? Well, no. It's a locked-room game for the PSVR and similar setups, and it turned heads at the Tokyo Game Show partly for its pedigree, coming from the creator of Sony's Toro demi-mascot, and partly for being a room-escape game with undertones of Silent Hill.
The latest trailer for the game shows off plenty of those echoes, from the dank, metallic confines to the multi-TV shot that distantly recalls Silent Hill 2's Dog Ending. Last Labyrinth wakes up the player without explanation in a strange mansion, aided only by a girl who looks vaguely like she's cosplaying Cassandra from Soul Calibur 2. She doesn't seem to talk, but she's apparently not one of those all-in-your-head guides, as the trailer shows her pulling boxes and lifting grates. But why can't the player do that? Is the player really…a ghost? Or a dog? Probably not, but there'll be more to find out once Last Labyrinth arrives on the PSVR, the Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, and Windows Mixed Reality sets next spring.
IMPORTANT BOWSETTE UPDATE
At this writing the Internet continues to lust after Bowsette, a human princess version of Bowser envisioned by artist Haniwa. Heidi wrote about this new character's wildfire popularity last week and thoroughly explained why Nintendo won't her into actual Mario games. However, a revelation emerged recently: Bowsette was in Nintendo's canon all along.
Twitter user Sakusuru laid hands on a new Super Mario Odyssey artbook, and it includes a comic where Bowser's magic cap creates a weird hybrid of himself and Princess Peach. She looks more like a Breath of Fire character than something DeviantArt wouldn't show you without age verification, but there we have it. Nintendo could conceivably use this version of Bowsette in a Mario game, even though that would leave fans caviling that she isn't the right one.
ANIME MEETS YAKUZA
Fist of the North Star: Lost Paradise arrived this week, uniting the meticulously detailed gangster experience of Yakuza with the blood-spraying morality plays of Fist of the North Star. They're a great match, so much so that I can't help wonder what other anime and manga properties would fare well in a Yakuza-style game full of criminal theatrics, dark secrets, nonsensical side stories, and diversions from hostess clubs to well-stocked arcades.
ONE PIECE: PIRATE UNDERGROUND
Yakuza fiction may romanticize the criminal underworld, but it has nothing on how pirates go from the reality of murderous scum to the fantasy of honorable, free-spirited swashbucklers roaming the seas and shilling alcohol. And few pirate tales are more popular than One Piece, saga of a rubber-limbed hero and his loyal misfit crew. It's an unstoppable juggernaut of the manga and anime industry, and I would lay down good money that someone on Sega's Yakuza team has already toyed with the idea of an open-world One Piece devoted to the criminal underside of a city.
But would it work? A number of previous One Piece games have plenty of side attractions and subquests, though it'd be a different sort of adventure that turned Luffy and the Straw Hat Pirates loose in an city wonderland of organized crime and highly unrealistic hostess clubs. The One Piece: Pirate Warriors series (above) already pulled off the crowd-scale combat that Fist of the North Star: Lost Paradise employs, yet the game would lose that cartoony One Piece appeal if constrained to the somewhat more realistic combat system of Yakuza.
SPACE DANDY: LAWLESS GALAXY
Cowboy Bebop seems a natural fit for a game in the Yakuza fashion, with its bounty hunters strolling through worlds of unsavory criminal targets, comical plot turns, and strangely anachronistic firearms. Yet we'll tap Space Dandy as the piece of Shinichiro Watanabe's oeuvre that most deserves a Yakuza-esque romp—partly because we feel bad that it never took off even as much as Samurai Champloo, and partly because it fits Yakuza's gameplay very well.
Space Dandy, not unlike Yakuza, wraps itself around an outsider often forced into heroism, even if the almost comically forthright Kazuma Kiryu is pretty much the polar opposite of the shiftless, lecherous Space Dandy. More importantly, Space Dandy's world is a galactic smorgasbord of weirdness where just about anything can happen. That lends itself to Yakuza's brand of odd side-stories and side attractions, and even Space Dandy's worst joke, a restaurant named Boobies, lines up with the Yakuza tradition of hostess clubs to visit and manage. A Space Dandy game would have to integrate spaceships and perhaps disrupt the smaller focus that Yakuza titles wield to such fine effect, but it'd be worth a shot. No one's really doing anything else with Space Dandy right now.
BLACK LAGOON: DEAD END CITY
Remember Black Lagoon, that marvelously violent chronicle of South-Seas mercenaries and criminals? Well, creator Rei Hiroe does! Sometimes. The manga series goes on hiatus as though it's built up vacation time, and the anime is MIA alongside it. But what better way to pass the time between chapters than with a game about exploring its sleazy hellscape?
Black Lagoon is ideal turf for a game with semi-realistic gangsters and fringe oddities. Heck, someone even made a Civilization V mod for the city of Roanapur. The clashing syndicates there range from Russian mafia to South American drugrunners, leaving straight-laced protagonist Rock and maniacal gun-nut Revy in the middle of gang wars with each chapter. What's more, Black Lagoon would play out a criminal adventure game in much seedier surroundings. Yakuza titles unfold in bustling first-world cities where the nightclubs are spotless and the arcades well-kept. Black Lagoon would play out in much less glamrous terms, and the arcades would have no high-end Sega games, just battered old cabinets running bizarre bootleg titles.
And what anime series would you want to see get the Yakuza treatment, dear speculative readers? Sailor Moon? Mad Bull 34? Haruhi Suzumiya? You can pick Angel Cop to get in my good graces, but try to be honest.
THIS WEEK'S NEW RELEASES
FIST OF THE NORTH STAR: LOST PARADISE
Not so long ago, Fist of the North Star games weren't likely to come out in North America, and the same went for Sega's Yakuza titles. What times we live in. Behold Fist of the North Star: Lost Paradise, a fusion of the two series, handily released over here and dubbed at that. It's an alternate spin on the basic Fist of the North Star tale, finding Kenshiro wandering into the city of Eden as he searches for poor lost Yuria. He sets into his usual routine of pounding on murderous thugs until they explode, but he also finds time for mixing drinks (glowing all the while), chatting with club hostesses, playing ultraviolent baseball, and perhaps even playing Sega's old 8-bit Fist of the North Star game. I doubt there's a Fist of the North Star fan alive who can resist that package.
MEGA MAN 11
(PS4, Xbox One, Switch, PC)
Yes, it's a new Mega Man game. A real one, too! Not a cheap mobile toss-off or some classic reissue! True, Mega Man 11 really wants to evoke an old Mega Man title: it's a side-scroller with crisp modern graphics, and it follows the usual route of pitting
Blue Astro Boy Mega Man against Dr. Wily and eight hijacked robots. It's a longer and more brutal affair than earlier Mega Man titles, and it stands out further by giving its hero two new techniques: a Speed Gear slows things down, and a Power Gear boosts his attacks. You can read more about it in my full review, but if you want the short version, I'll say this: it's not the best Mega Man, but it's a darned good one.
SUPER MARIO PARTY
If Fist of the North Star is too bloody and Mega Man 11 is too solitary, you can revel in Super Mario Party for the Nintendo Switch. After all, it's only as violent as the people you play alongside. Four players hop around a board where just about every stop reveals some new mini-game, and this new installment lets you run two Switches side by side. And no, Bowsette is not in this game.
OTHER NOTABLE RELEASES
Agate's hybrid RPG Valthirian Arc: Hero School Story comes to the Switch with its blend of academic management and RPG action. You'll also see Assassin's Creed Odyssey for the PS4, Xbox One, Switch, and PC, but I don't think that series is going anywhere. It's not like they'll ever make it into a movie starring Michael Fassbender and Jeremy Irons.
Well, that's it for my guest column! You can catch me on my website, on Twitter, and even on Discotek's newly released Angel Cop Blu-Ray and DVD, for which I wrote an essay and interviewed the dub scriptwriter. It's fun for kids and self-righteous, moralizing commie scumbags alike!
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