This Week in Games
Pokemon Sword and Shield
by Heidi Kemps,
This has certainly been an interesting week! I feel like diving right into all of the big news that's landed, so let's go!
SO LONG, REGGIE
Nintendo has a habit of dropping big news almost immediately after this column gets set to publish. Just a few hours after last week's outing, Nintendo pulled us all aside to tell us that Reggie Fils-Aime is leaving. This is a big deal, as it represents the departure of another one of Nintendo's most visible figureheads from recent times.
It doesn't seem like all that long since Satoru Iwata's passing, either, which makes this feel more significant. The loss of Iwata was devastating because Iwata was exemplary in the industry: when it came right down to it, Iwata was ready to roll up his sleeves and take one for the team, be it doing gritty coding work or docking his own salary to avoid layoffs. Reggie was a lot more of a pure “corporate” type: his background was at places like Pizza Hut and MTV rather than Iwata's computer-nerd career. But Iwata wasn't always great as a speaker, and that's where Reggie came in.
Reggie proved to be a good “face” for Nintendo as a whole. Most Nintendo executives prior to Reggie and Iwata were either out of the public spotlight for the most part (Minoru Arakawa) or had a public image of a bitter, stubbornly conservative old Japanese mogul (the late Hiroshi Yamauchi). Reggie's whole image was “Yes, I am a big dude who can kick ass and take names… but actually, I'm more interested in playing hot new Nintendo products. My body is ready!” He was competitive, but lacked the air of arrogance that makes so many industry execs feel so utterly punchable. Reggie had a friendliness and approachability to him that felt like you could meet him randomly at a bar and talk about the potential future of Advance Wars over a few drinks.
So who is Reggie's replacement? Get this – his name is Doug Bowser. I'm not kidding. Frankly, if he doesn't come in in the next Nintendo Direct dressed like Christopher Hewett in this clip from the 80's Mario Ice Capades show, I'm going to feel extremely let down.
POKEMON DIRECT GIVES US A TEASER TASTE OF A BIG JOURNEY TO COME
We've been hearing for a while that there's a mainline Pokemon series entry being developed for Switch – something more in line with the long lineage of Pokemon portable RPGs than the Pokemon Go-style hybrid of Let's Go Pikachu/Eevee. Well, Nintendo just dropped a Pokemon Direct on us, and we finally know what the game looks like. Introducing: Pokemon Sword and Pokemon Shield!
Okay, let me get my dumb nitpick-whining out of the way. Sword and Shield? That's the pairing you're going with? Yeah, I don't know, something about that just feels really uninspired. I mean, you could have released Pokemon Sword and Pokemon Lance, then done a later release of Pokemon Axe, and you'd have the entire Fire Emblem weapon triangle! Brand synergy, guys!
Also: I am not feeling the starters. This has to be the weakest batch of initial Pokemon since… well, ever. Scorbunny's basically the winner by default, because I am not dragging around a weepy tadpole and a freakish monkey-beak-thing for my multi-hour journey. Yeah, I know, they'll look cooler when they evolve… maybe… but ughhhhhhhhh just look at this little jerk
Monkey pokemon are the worst. Except Aipom, that one gets a pass.
What does look cool, however, is the setting. Galar appears to be based on the United Kingdom: tall clock towers, idyllic countryside My goodness, there's even a footie stadium in the trailer! How much more British can you get? Now I hope the new villains are a thinly veiled metaphor for FIFA.
Unfortunately, the Direct is pretty short, so we don't know a lot about gameplay just yet – we'll probably get more details on that around E3 time. But hey, we know Pokemon’s coming before year's end, and that's enough to get excited about, right? Plus, we're told that there will be more new Pokemon spin-offs coming this year, so we'll certainly be able satiate our need for cute critter collecting over the next few months.
Oh, a new Detective Pikachu trailer dropped, as well. Watch it to hear Pikachu say “h*ll.”
THE EVO 2019 LINEUP WAS ANNOUNCED, AND THE SALT FLOWETH FORTH
On Tuesday night, EVO announced the game lineup for its flagship tournament in Vegas. Rather than just recap it game-by game, I'm going to post the official lineup image, and talk about the odd games that are (and aren't) present in the list.
Okay! Now that we've had a moment to take that in, let's discuss. Tekken 7, Street Fighter V, Smash Ultimate, Mortal Kombat 11, BBTAG, and Soul Calibur VI aren't particularly surprising. Dragonball FighterZ thankfully made it in, I'm sure after a tremendous amount of legal wrangling. Those last two, though… those have people talking.
Under Night In-Birth .EXE:Late[st]. UNIST (I'm not typing that whole name out again, ever) has a very, very devoted following – it's never been the most popular fighting game out there, but the people who support it do so with a fervor that most larger games only wish they could inspire, and that's what made EVO staff pick it as a main game this year. I'm just imagining all of the eSports types trying to explain to casual watchers why they should care about the weird anime thing with the inexplicable name and failing miserably. Hopefully the quality of gameplay will speak for itself.
And Samurai Shodown! Given that we haven't seen much of the game so far, this is the most surprising inclusion. Mind you, I always enjoy seeing SNK get some shining time in the spotlight, but it's a case similar to that of BBTAG last year: the game will have only been out a very short time before it makes its EVO debut, meaning the game's meta will not have shored up by that point. We'll just have to see how it turns it, but in the meantime, here's a new trailer:
My god, look at that damage! Now that's what the mid-late 90s were like in fighting games – make mistake, get punished hard. All the SNK-heads in my twitter feed were applauding seeing lifebars melt like these fighters were action figures placed next to a blast furnace.
And now there's what's missing: Guilty Gear Xrd and Super Smash Bros. Melee. Personally, I find the omission of GGXrd a lot more surprising than Melee – that game resulted in EVO getting a lot of its first mainstream exposure – but a lot of the online wailing and gnashing of teeth involves Melee’s booting from main game status. I think the writing really was on the wall with Ultimate’s release and blockbuster success. Nintendo has no more interest in supporting Melee, longtime players are slowly starting to migrate over to Ultimate, and the tournament will be easier to run since you don't need a small army of heavy CRTs and GameCubes.
EVO also dropped the equivalent of a Melee postmortem reel, and it's sort of unintentionally hilarious in how awkward it is. Thanks for the memories, Melee! Now drag those CRTs somewhere else.
As for Xrd, well, a lot of folks who play that also run a few other titles, so it stings a bit less. Most of what I've seen on social media from Guilty Gear folks is congratulations for the UNIST community for having "made it." I guess smaller game communities understand what it's like to be in the shadow of the juggernaut titles, and would rather lift each other up than complain. Besides, we all know Xrd is going to have a killer side tournament.
If, for some reason, you still haven't player NieR Automata – you poor, deprived soul – you can now pick up the definitive version of the game as the Game of the YoRHa Edition on PS4, XBOne, and PC. But the big, big release this week is undoubtedly Dead or Alive 6, which hits XBOne, PS4, and PC on Friday. I'm putting the last touches on my review for GameSpot, so you can check out my impressions there on March 1st!
That wraps up the last TWIG of February, as winter fades into a chilly memory. March is set to be even crazier for new releases, though, so you should be able to keep out of the spring rain for a while longer, at least! What are you all planning on playing next month?
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