This Week in Games
Biohazard Battle

by Heidi Kemps,

Hi! It's another week… in games. I've been busy trying to impress visiting relatives, but when I'm not engaged in familial obligations, I've been poking away at Travis Strikes Again on Switch, which is… definitely interesting. I think I'll have a lot more to say about it in the near-ish future.

NIS AMERICA ANNOUNCES TRAILS OF COLD STEEL III… AND COOLS FAN ANGER SOMEWHAT

Literally the moment this column went live last week, news hit that NIS America was going to be publishing Sen no Kiseki III, aka Trails of Cold Steel, in the West. Oh boy, was Twitter a mess. See, a lot of folks weren't entirely enthused by this news because, uh, the NIS release of Ys VIII had problems, and nobody wanted to see a repeat of the multitude of awkward translation gaffes that plagued that title. However, at a PAX West panel, NIS America placated fans by announcing that many of the previous Trails localization staff (several of which had recently been laid off by XSEED) were coming onboard for ToTS3’s release.

While some folks are still pretty skeptical about the quality of the upcoming release, I think this is a genuinely great move by NIS: the old team knows these characters and settings inside-out, and having them onboard will help keep the writing and characterization quirks consistent with the older XSEED releases. It's also a way of saying “Yes, we know these games mean a lot to you and we kinda dropped the ball hard on Ys VIII, so here's our way of saying that we're working to be better.”

It makes me wonder, though, what's going on with Falcom licensing. The games seemed to do well for XSEED, so how exactly did these titles manage to get away from them? We may not know, but I feel like it's probably a situation similar to certain high profile anime licenses of the licensor expecting too much... But that's just my speculation.

STREET FIGHTER V'S PRO LEAGUE ANNOUNCED, KILLS EXCITEMENT IMMEDIATELY

So this isn't totally fresh news – the Street Fighter League was announced at Tokyo Game Show back in 2018 --  but earlier this week, Capcom announced that a North American Street Fighter League was happening. Great! More competition is always a good thing. Unfortunately, they also announced the league's rules, which left most folks just shaking their heads in disbelief.

It doesn't seem too bad at first. The League has players forming three-person teams to take on the other teams. The captains of each team are picked from the highest ranking Capcom Pro Tour players. The second player on each team is picked via online qualifiers. The third and final players are chosen through some manner of online voting: details on this are still sparse. (I fully expect trolls to come out and try to saddle teams with the likes of DarkSydePhil.)

Yeah, the recruitment is a bit odd, but the 3-on-3 format is a somewhat popular tournament variant, so that's not anything too unusual. But there's another rule in place: during each match, players can pick characters to ban.

Okay, so, if you're a big fighting game kind of person, I probably don't need to explain to you why this is such a terrible idea. If you're not, however, I'll give you a quick little rundown: most folks who play non-team-based games like Street Fighter V, Guilty Gear, and Tekken are character specialists. They find a single character they like and train really, really hard with them, putting all of their time and effort into mastering said character. If a character gets nerfed significantly in a patch or something, they may decide to drop them and train hard with somebody else, but for the most part, these guys stick with their mains. I'm like that, too: I main Vanessa in Virtua Fighter since 4, and she's a ton of work, so I've never put too much effort into anyone else.

A rule where everyone on the team uses a different character makes sense. A rule where somebody's main character – in some cases, their only character -- can be banned is ridiculously crippling. I feel like the only reason this rule exists is that, hey, other eSports communities have ban rules (League of Legends has Champion bans, Smash Bros. has stage bans, etc.), we want to be like them! Except… y'know, Street Fighter is different from those games.

I feel like, time and time again, Capcom keeps on making these embarrassing gaffes to try and achieve some sort of eSports “legitimacy,” but… guys, you're already there! EVO is a global event! Street Fighter is a recognized name! Just keep the Pro Tour going and don't release any more MvC Infinite-level disasters, and you'll be fine!

GUILTY GEAR SPINS TO SWITCH IN A 20TH ANNIVERSARY BUNDLE

Hey, Guilty Gear is 20 years old! Wow, the time flies, huh? But the game has grown beyond its humble beginnings on the PSOne, and publisher PCube has teamed up with Arc System Works to release Guilty Gear 20th Anniversary Edition this spring to celebrate.

While the title might call to mind the recent Street Fighter 30th Anniversary set – which included almost every 2D Street Fighter game ever made – the Guilty Gear package is a bit less extravagant, featuring only two games: The original Guilty Gear from the PSOne, and Guilty Gear XX Accent Core Plus R.

Man, the first GG is weird. It's interesting, yes, but trying to play it now just feels weird and a little offsetting, like eating a dish consisting of tasty sauce atop undercooked pasta. Anyhow, you can get the games together or separately, though if you plan to buy piecemeal you're probably just getting Plus R because it's the one everyone actually likes and still plays.

NINTENDO SOLD A LOT OF SWITCHES (AND SMASH) OVER THE HOLIDAYS

The NPD Group released its sales data for both December and all of 2018, and it paints a pretty clear picture: the Switch is doing great.

Total game sales in the US reached a record 43.4 billion dollars last year, which is quite impressive. The Switch lead sales in hardware, and while it didn't have the year's best-selling game (that is, unsurprisingly, Red Dead Redemption II) , Super Smash Bros Ultimate, Super Mario Party, and Pokemon Let's Go! all did spectacularly well, while games like Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, Zelda BotW, and Super Mario Odyssey just keep on selling. In fact, 6 of the 20 best-selling games of the year were Nintendo titles, and three of them weren't even 2018 releases. That's impressive!

Oh, and Smash Ultimate set a new earnings record for first-month platform-exclusive game sales, too. Looks like all the hype paid off well!

With this sort of success, I don't doubt that we'll be seeing some very high profile Switch games this year from both Nintendo and other publishers. But is there any truth to those upgraded Switch rumors, and if so, how are they going to affect sales, I wonder?

NEW RELEASES

This week we have our first massive AAA release of 2019 with Resident Evil 2. This game is a from-the-ground-up remake of the most beloved RE game that's not Resident Evil 4. Claire Redfield and Leon Kennedy are stuck in Raccoon City while zombies overrun the place, controlling both characters in intertwined scenarios to reach the game's thrilling conclusion.

You'll see plenty of familiar stuff here if you've played the original Resident Evil 2, but it's given a fresh new sheen: shiny HD cinemas, expanded story content, and gameplay works to meld the somewhat clunky (but arguably scarier) controls and survival elements of the original with the current Resident Evil focus on more action-y gameplay. And wow, do this game's graphics look really, really good.

That's all well and good, but I gotta say, I totally prefer the Japanese title for this one: Biohazard RE:2. Clever!

Senran Kagura Burst Re: Newal (a game with another clever title that's a lot funnier in Japanese) also hits this week after a delay. The Steam version is the one with the touching. You're welcome.

Also, it appears as though beloved Neo-Geo shooter Blazing Star is coming to the PS4 as a download this week. Blazing Star is a tremendously fun game filled with a lot of wacky English phrases, plus it's a good game for arcade shooter newbies to pick up and learn. That is, until you reach Stage 6 and its crushing difficulty spike. But the utterly bizarre last boss is worth it, trust me.

So ends another This Week in Games. I can't think of anything witty to say here to wrap this up, so let's just go enjoy our games, eh?


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