This Week in Games - Flipping the Switch

by Heidi Kemps,

Hello again, readers! I'm back from my brief hiatus to once again deliver my fresh takes on the gaming news that's been cooking over the last week.

The reason I didn't handle last week's column was that I was attending a preview event held by KOEI-Tecmo Games. These events tend to focus on three or four games that the company has upcoming: usually one or two “bigger” titles and a smaller release off to the side. In this case, the games being highlighted were Dead or Alive 6 and Warriors Orochi 4, with Nelke and the Legendary Alchemists off to the side.

And, frankly, I was sad to see yet another Atelier series title seemingly sidelined with little fanfare.

See, when KOEI-Tecmo Japan acquired developer Gust a few years back, they became the sole publisher for all of Gust's titles in the West. Gust is perhaps best known for the Atelier series of management sim/RPGs, though they've also done games like Ciel NoSurge and the Knights of Azure series. Atelier is the big one, though: the games have done very well in Japan since the release of Atelier Marie on the PSOne over two decades ago. It took a while for the series to start making its way Stateside, but NIS America got the ball rolling with some PS2 releases. They did a pretty solid job of promoting the Atelier games they licensed.

That all changed when KOEI-Tecmo took over. While every Atelier game gets a localization, it feels like there's only a small effort made to try and market these titles to Western customers.

It frustrates me greatly, because I really like the Atelier games and think that, with a proper push, they could become a very successful series in the west. The de-emphasis on combat, likable leading heroines, pastel-colored visuals, and management-sim elements are all things that could appeal to a very broad audience. Nelke and the Legendary Alchemists is especially marketable, I think, since it adds an interesting town-management element to the game, and we all know there's a lot of players out there who will eat that stuff up. Yet at every gaming event KOEI-Tecmo shows up to, it feels like the Atelier game is there almost as an afterthought: one or two demo stations, no Gust staff on hand to talk to, barely any promotion of note beyond a looping trailer and maybe a banner.

The lack of promotion and awareness for these games can be felt outside of events, too: half the time I don't know a new Gust-developed game is coming out in English until a press release saying it's available drops into my inbox. Localization is often an issue, as well: Tecmo-KOEI published Atelier games I have played suffer things like stilted translations and text box overruns. And while Nelke is still quite early (it's not even out in Japan yet), the demo I played had some really bad text formatting problems that I can only pray get fixed for the final.

So, KOEI-Tecmo: please, give Atelier more love. This is a gem of a franchise that has very rare crossover appeal to audiences outside your usual market. These games deserve quality translations and stronger promotion, not to be localized seemingly out of obligation to Gust.

Also: I really hope you all are working on sprucing up the textures on the Switch version of Nelke. The PS4 version looks great, but the textures on the Switch version… good lord, those are some blurry messes.

NINTENDO HAS AN UPDATED SWITCH COMING, MAYBE

Perhaps the biggest gaming news of the past week came from a rumor sourced from the Wall Street Journal. According to the report, which is sourced from “suppliers and others with direct knowledge of the plan,” the new-and-improved Switch model would come with a shiny new screen (though not one of those fancy-pants expensive OLEDs), and… uh, nobody really knows what else yet. Thus far, it's just “a nicer screen,” but I'm sure that if the report is accurate, there will be some other improvements under the hood, too.

Given that the WSJ is an internationally respected business news source, there's plenty of reason to believe that Nintendo may very well have a newer, shinier Switch waiting in the wings. It'd certainly be following the same trend as the Xbox One X, the PS4 Pro, and Nintendo's own DS and 3DS handheld families. The Nintendo faithful have proven many times that they're willing to buy a console they love more than once, so I doubt the company has any real fears about splitting the market between Old and New Switch platforms. Just please don't officially call it the “New Switch.” Please.

SUIKODEN SHOWS SIGNS OF LIFE

Hey everyone, Konami reopened their Japanese Suikoden portal site! They haven't touched that site or the official Twitter account for the series in years, and then suddenly, it's back!  WHAT DOES IT MEAAAAANN

Well, I hate to burst everyone's bubble, but I wouldn't get too terribly excited. The best outcomes from this would be remakes and/or a completely new console game, but I feel like the odds of that happening are slim. What's a lot more likely are modern console re-releases (think like the Dracula X set) or – sigh – a gacha-driven smartphone game. I know that sounds cynical as hell, but you don't honestly expect any better from modern Konami, do you?

SWORD ART ONLINE LOGS IN TO (Japanese) ARCADES

If you've been keeping up with Japanese arcade trends, you're probably aware that a lot of focus has shifted to big machines loaded up with all sorts of gimmickry: collectible cards, touchscreens, big seating setups for multi-user play, wacky control schemes – basically, stuff you couldn't hope to properly replicate on a home console. The best way to get someone to go to the arcade is to give them the sort of play experience they can't get at home, right?

In the past few years, we've seen hot otaku properties like Kantai Collection and Fate/Grand Order make the jump to these lavish arcade setups, and it looks like the next fan favorite to join the world of arcade gaming is Sword Art Online.

Details are still sparse at the moment, but Sword Art Online: Deep Explorer looks to be an isometric action game with (physical?) card-collecting, multiplayer co-op and touchscreen elements. The tentative release date is Spring 2019 in Japan, which means location testing will probably begin soon.

Of course, the Western arcade release prospects of this are… uh, iffy, to put it lightly. The localized Sword Art Online games do great on consoles, but the franchise isn't mainstream in the same way as something like Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles or Transformers is. There's a better chance an English version might be produced primarily for Southeast Asia, and mayyyyyyyybe some Round Ones here in the US will get it, but I highly doubt you're going to be going for romps with Kirito and crew at the local Dave and Busters. Sorry.

FIGHTING GAME NEWS ROUNDUP: MUSCLE POWER COMES TO DOA6 AND THE SOUL IS REALLY, REALLY BURNING

I got word that Bass, Tina, and Mila were joining the crew of Dead or Alive 6 a bit early, thanks to the Tecmo-KOEI event I went to, and boy am I psyched! Mila is far and away my favorite DoA girl, and I'm stoked to see her return.

Unfortunately, Mila wasn't in the build I got to play at the KOEI-Tecmo press event, so I can't really tell you all how she plays. (I did enjoy my session with the game, for what it's worth.) I'll have a follow-up interview with Yohei Shimbori for you folks on an upcoming TWIG, too!

Meanwhile, Soul Calibur VI’s release date is drawing very, very close, but we're still seeing new characters drop. The latest reveal, as of the time of this writing, is Inferno, the long-running series antagonist and manifestation of the Soul Edge's evil.

Does Soul Calibur VI still have any character secrets lying in wait? We won't have to wait much longer to see, thankfully.

THIS WEEK'S NEW RELEASES

Plenty of major re-releases this week. Disgaea 1 Complete comes to Switch and PS4 released just a couple days ago, making it the most definitive-est release of the oft-reissued SRPG classic. Folks looking for an appropriately spooky 3DS title for October will be able to grab the re-release of Luigi's Mansion tomorrow. Perhaps the biggest re-release this week, however, is The World Ends With You: Final Remix, which adds a whole bucketload of new post-game content to the much-beloved experimental RPG.

Also of note: while it's not a game release, the NieR Automata: Long Story Short novel is releasing through Viz physically and digitally this week. I know plenty of you love NieR (I do too!), and these novelizations of the game promise some as-of-yet unrevealed details about our favorite characters.

And that wraps up things for this week! I'm going up to Idaho this weekend to visit my boyfriend and cheer him on in a classic arcade gaming tournament. Hope your weekend plans are fun, too!


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