This Week in Games - Pokemon Fever!

by Heidi Kemps,

Hi again, everyone! I'm back at home and comfortably setting back into my normal routine. I also played through Deltarune part 1 last night. That game was very, very fun and I'm eager to see the full product… whenever it happens.

So one of this week's news stories is the Game Awards nominations, and… god, I just cannot bring myself to care one bit. Honestly, is anyone really invested in The Game Awards beyond seeing some trailers for new stuff that is interesting (and maybe giving the ceremony itself the MST3K treatment with a bunch of inebriated pals)?

Seriously, folks… when I took over this column, my goal was to center its focus more squarely on Japanese and heavily Japanese-influenced games first and foremost, because those are my key areas of interest… and this site is also called Anime News Network and focuses quite heavily on Japanese-pop-culture-adjacent things. It's nice to feel like I don't have to write about stuff like The Game Awards nominations, because you can read about that practically anywhere else that covers games. I'd rather spend the time and column space talking up some interesting little Japanese games or news stories that might otherwise get ignored on some of the bigger news sites.

Last week, I made the conscious decision to not discuss the Diablo Immortal brouhaha – I've never been a big Blizzard fan, I'm 100% okay with mobile games existing (you bet your ass I'm down on that Monster Strike/Sailor Moon collaboration), and the internet was already teeming with hot takes about it. What more could I have possibly said that would have provided any insight? Instead, I decided to talk about Black Bird, a weird little Japanese game from a great creator that must struggle for any scrap of attention from a news outlet. My stupid opinion on Diablo Immortal isn't going to mean squat to Blizzard, but me writing a couple paragraphs on Black Bird could help shine more light on a little game that deserves it.

Anyway, let's talk about some actual interesting stuff!

DETECTIVE PIKACHU ENTERS THE UNCANNY VALLEY, AND EVERYBODY'S INTERESTED BUT ALSO A WEE BIT WEIRDED OUT

As if this week's two big Pokemon games weren't enough to get people excited about critter-hoarding, we also had the trailer for Warner and Legendary Pictures’ Detective Pikachu movie drop. It's the story about a boy, a Ryan Reynolds-voiced Pikachu, and a whoooooooole lot of CG Pokemon.

Honestly, I feel like Detective Pikachu has the potential to be the best live-action videogame movie ever. I mean, that's not saying much, but everything I see here gives me a lot of hope: it's playing its goofy concept completely seriously, there are some cute little in-jokes for fans, it's got a lot of familiar Pokemon present in the trailer, and the CG looks… tolerable. I mean, yeah, there's a lot of uncanny valley realistic Pokemon going on here, and some look a lot better than others, but it's not a complete trainwreck by any means. I really like the setting design, too.

Poor Mr. Mime though. He was always a Pokemon nobody liked, and now he's like Poke-Pennywise. No thanks.

SINOALICE IS HEADING WESTWARD

I was rather puzzled as to why Square Enix chose mobile game Star Ocean: Anamnesis for localization over SINoALICE. One was based on a series that has had its share of ups and downs over the years, the other is based on a concept Yoko Taro, who's currently one of the hottest people in Japanese gaming and whose last game was almost universally beloved. Well, maybe we know why now: Nexon has obtained the international publishing/distribution rights for SINoALICE on Android and iOS.

SINoALICE is a dark fantasy that follows a bunch of reimaginings of favorite fairytale/fantasy figures like Alice, Snow White, Cinderella, and Dorothy… each of whom have a crippling personality trait that defines them. I've dabbled a bit in the Japanese version, though I never got into it too seriously, so this will probably change that. Be warned that the game is gacha-driven, though there are a lot of tongue-in-cheek jabs at the mobile gaming business (at least, in the Japanese version) that have that very Taro feel to them. Let's hope that survives the trip over intact.

SNK SAYS “MERRY CHRISTMAS,” UNLESS YOU ALREADY BOUGHT A NEO-GEO MINI

SNK released the Neo-Geo Mini this year in two flavors: a “domestic” (as in “Japanese”) and an “international” version. Both itty-bitty Neo-Geos came packed with 40 preloaded games, though which games were on there was determined by which territory you picked. You'd have to pick up the Japanese version to get the likes of Twinkle Star Sprites and more King of Fighters installments, while the international release got more Metal Slugs, the original Shock Troopers, and, uh… Football Frenzy. Yeah, there are a few trade-offs either way.

While the reception of the NG Mini in the West has been rather mixed, it seems to be doing quite well in Japan. So well, in fact, that SNK is releasing a Neo Geo Mini Christmas version just in time for the holidays!

Yes, this festive red-and-gold machine comes with decorative stickers for the unit, specially colored controllers, USB and HDMI cables, and… eight more games than the standard Japanese Neo-Geo Mini. Oh boy, what a holiday surprise!

So what new games are in the mix? Well, a whole bunch of the stuff from the International version of the console has been thrown in, including Metal Slug 4, 5, and X, both King of the Monsters games, all three numbered Fatal Furies and Real Bout Fatal Fury Special, the aforementioned Shock Troopers, The Super Spy, and… um, League Bowling. Among a few others. They took out some of the earlier KoFs to make room for a few of these, so sorry if you're a KoF96 fan, and sadly Burning Fight is still infesting the unit's memory with its concentrated suckage.

But hey, League Bowling is actually pretty fun… though still no Neo Turf Masters?

Anyway, if you've been waiting to get a Neo Geo Mini, this might be the one to obtain: It has more games and, quite importantly, more good games overall than the standard unit. It just kinda sucks for everyone who already bought one that a slightly nicer unit's already coming out, y'know? Then again, The Neo Geo People are used to constantly paying lots of money for stuff that has the SNK logo on it, so maybe I'm just looking at this from the wrong perspective (as in, the perspective of someone who hasn't paid $1000 for old AES cartridges).

NEW RELEASES

OUT NOW: SNK 40TH ANNIVERSARY COLLECTION (Switch)

Before the Neo-Geo revolutionized arcade hardware as we know it, SNK was a well-established arcade – and console – game developer who scored several major hits for in both coin-op and Famicom flavors. This retro compilation encompasses a whole chunk of SNK's early history, giving us the chance to look back fondly (and not-so-fondly) on several of the titles that set the stage for big things to come. As is the case with most retro compilations, there are some winners (Crystalis, Guerilla War, Prehistoric Isle) and stuff that has aged quite badly (trust me, Ikari Warriors is not as cool as you remember it being). There's also a host of free DLC coming to pack in more fun obscurities like Fantasy and Time Soldiers. The presentation of SNK 40th Anniversary Collection alone is worth it for folks like me, as it's jam-packed with lots of neat archival and development material, but if that's not your thing, Crystalis is still really, really good. (Full disclosure: several folks I know did work on this game!)

OUT FRIDAY: POKEMON: LET'S GO! PIKACHU and LET'S GO! EEVEE (Switch)

The first major Pokemon games to hit the Nintendo Switch are something of a departure from the mainline series. Let's Go Pikachu and Eevee bring us back to the familiar old catching grounds of Kanto to catch all of the Original 151 (plus Meltan from Pokemon Go) -- with one of the two title Pokemon constantly at your side. Battling and catching Pokemon is based more around the system seen in Pokemon Go, so prepare those Joy-Con wrist straps: you're gonna be mimicking a lot of ball tossing. (Alternatively, for that extra realism, you can buy the Poke Ball controller!) A welcome change – for me, at least, is that Pokemon are visible on the field, making hunting them less frustrating… and if you need a little extra help, you can even invite a buddy in for co-op catch-em-alling.

If you're wondering which version to get, Vulpix and Meowth are in Let's Go Eevee, and they're two of the best out of the original 151. Just a lil’ advice from me.

OTHER NOTEWORTHY RELEASES

Arcade Archives: Urban Champion is out for Switch if you're eager to play one of the worst things Nintendo ever made. It's real bad. I also forgot to mention The Tetris Effect last week, so I will remedy that immediately by pointing out that it's a tremendously cool game and well worth your download time. Now if only The Tetris Company would stop being phenomenal assholes about videos of Tetris the Grand Master online…

Anyway, that wraps up this week's column. What do you all plan to be playing over the weekend?


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