This Week in Games
by Heidi Kemps,
Hey everyone. How's it going? Playing anything good? Me, I'm prepping for Sakura-Con next week while putting up with miserable Portland weather and the headaches (figurative and literal) that accompany it.
It's a slow news week, so there's not much happening for me to editorialize about – but that gives me ample opportunity to write about other goofy stuff! Strap in, folks, we're going to be taking another trip to the realm of gaming fantasy… after we talk a bit about Square Enix.
MORE BIG NAMES JUST BAILED FROM SQUARE-ENIX
We all know that Hajime Tabata (who managed all things Final Fantasy XV) left Square Enix late last year. This past week, however, has seen news of a couple other folks leaving the RPG giant.
The first departure that we're aware of is Hiroaki Iwano, the producer of Square Enix's Million Arthur series. We're not as familiar with the Million Arthur brand here in the West, but it's a fairly big deal in Japan and Asia, starting from a successful mobile game and branching off into other various forms of media. (In fact, if you do know the series, it's probably through the fighting game spinoff Million Arthur Arcana Blood.) On a livestream commemorating the franchise's seventh anniversary, Iwano took to the stage to announce that he'd left Square Enix and actually hadn't been involved with the franchise for a while now. A strange place to drop that news, but at least he got to say goodbye to all the fans.
The other big name that left Squeenix – and one that might be more familiar to Western fans – is Hideo Baba. Now, Baba's most famous work isn't a Square Enix title: before he joined the company, he headed up Namco's Tales Studio for a long period of time. He left after Tales of Zestiria became somewhat controversial to the Japanese Tales fanbase, and joined Square Enix not long afterwards. He was working with a newly-formed internal team called Studio Isotolia where he was working on Project Prelude Rune.
Well, um…. that's not happening anymore! I mean, Baba working on it. The game's apparently still happening, but Baba apparently bailed not long after Tabata. According to Hideo Baba's official statement: “Accompanying a change in Studio Isotolia management policies, I'm announcing that I resigned as representative director in December 2018 to make room for the next generation. Also, in March 2019, I resigned from Square Enix.” Take that as you will.
Some folks might look at all this and wonder if Square Enix is collapsing, but it seems like the company itself is doing fine. We can only speculate on what the internal management and work politics are like, however…
JUDGMENT'S “RECASTING” IS ALREADY DONE
Worried that the English version of Judgment won't make its scheduled June release date? Worry not, because according to Sega, the complete removal of any lingering stench related to shameful druggie outcast from society Pierre Taki has been successfully accomplished!
Yeah, I'm being sarcastic there, but it's good that we won't have to worry about the game being severely delayed. What we don't know, however, is how he's been replaced. Did they get a new actor to base the character model off of? (I bet Pierre's non-union Mexican equivalent hasn't touched contraband… that we know of.) Or did they just make a new, non-representative character that doesn't look like anyone in particular? We'll just have to wait and see. (Also, I'm wondering if Sega of Japan will force a patch on existing copies of the game to replace Pierre entirely, which would be awful but not entirely unexpected.)
Also, Yakuza Kiwami 2 is coming to PC, so that's pretty great! More people playing Yakuza games always makes me happy.
FANTASY FUNSIES: BATTLE ROYALE MADNESS
Not long ago, Nintendo unleashed Tetris 99 on the world. At first, there was disbelief and eye-rolling – this was how Nintendo was going to hop onto the battle royale bandwagon? However, once people got their hands on Tetris 99, they were absolutely hooked, playing session after session in a fierce struggle to come out on top. The game's a huge hit, practically selling the Switch online service by itself.
Which begs the question, “Hey, if a battle royale mode works for Tetris of all things, what other older games could benefit from the concept?” Obviously, some games fit the mold a lot better than others – you're not going to have an easy time making Harvest Moon Farming Royale. But with a little bit of creativity, you can make some pretty good game concepts through this unlikely marriage. Here are some of my ideas:
SPACE INVADERS: DOOMSDAY
If you were planning to attack planet Earth, you wouldn't just launch an assault on one area, right? You'd have your army hit a bunch of sites at once to drain the resources of humanity as quickly as possible. So how about a game about being the last one to fend off the encroaching alien hordes?
Like Tetris 99, every player in Space Invaders: Doomsday would have their own field. They could collect power-ups to enhance themselves and send hazards over to other folks’ playfields. If you've played the Space Invaders Extreme games – which you should, they're great – you'll know that mixing things up with different formations and types of invaders can get very challenging, very fast. Players will inevitably fall to the waves of invaders, leaving the surviving players to deal with tougher, faster aliens until only one brave defender remains. Also, the music would be a constant loop of Invader Girl.
F-ZERO: DEATH RACE EXTREME
I owe the folks at Stop Skeletons from Fighting for this idea, as they were chatting about it on Twitter a few weeks back. We've all heard that part of the reason we haven't seen a new F-Zero in ages is because Nintendo doesn't really know a good way to bring something new to the franchise. Well… a battle royale mode, while maybe not the most original idea right now, would certainly bring that extra spark of craziness to F-Zero’s futuristic high-speed races!
This would be an extension of the Death Race mode from the N64's F-Zero X. Racers would be run through a gauntlet of increasingly challenging, hazard- and trick-laden courses with very little opportunity for energy recovery. As racers crash and burn out – or are eliminated due to poor placement – the pool of opponents shrinks until it's just a pair of wannabe Captain Falcons jockeying to be on top. Also, any matter of tie would be decided by a sudden death Falcon Punch competition.
SUPER HI-TEN BOMBERMAN
Yeah, I know – Bomberman, by its very nature, is already a battle royale game. But we need to consider scope here. I'm talking gargantuan arenas populated by an incredible number of players all throwing bombs around, collecting powerups, and commandeering kangaroos.
Thus far, the biggest Bomberman game has been Hi-Ten Bomberman, a tech demo for early HDTV displays that had ten players vying for mad bomber supremacy. But imagine several times that many players – even a hundred players! – on a massive arena that shrinks every so often, forcing the remaining Bombermen and Bomberwomen to duke it out in explosive mind games in increasingly confined spaces. Sign me up!
GAUNTLET: BATTLE DUNGEON ROYALE
Gauntlet is an arcade multiplayer classic where you will inevitably die, thanks to a high degree of difficultly and the game's notorious constantly-depleting health. Ideally, you're supposed to be helping your crew of adventurers get as far as you can… but let's be real, we've all had fun stealing (or shooting) the food our friends desperately need. So how about we take those elements that make Gauntlet memorable – draining health, challenging mazes, tons of enemies and generators – and turn it into a competition to see who can last the longest?
Obviously, you'd have to make a few adjustments to the game – letting players fight directly would probably be a bad idea -- but adding things like player-created enemy generators and traps. Everyone who hasn't left a level within a certain time limit gets wiped out, and those who remain challenge the next area while trying to screw each other over by getting the good items, luring enemies to swarm another player, and hoarding keys.
Not only is it a slow news week, it's a slow release week, too. The biggest game to come out right now is Zanki Zero: Last Beginning, a very unique dungeon-crawling survival-horror just-plain-survival sci-fi character drama by (some of) the staff involved in the fan-beloved Danganronpa series. And hey, whaddya know, I've got a review of it over on Gamespot! There's also Earth Defense Force: Iron Rain, which attempts to make the EDF games prettier and more serious, which… yeah, I dunno, the inherent jank of EDF is part of its enduring charm, in my opinion, and I'm not sure a game about blowing up waves of giant insects with ridiculous weapons needs to be taken seriously.
On the download side of things, Japanese PC cult classic The Demon Crystal is out on Switch, marking the first time since its original 1984 release that the game is available to English-speaking audiences. (Though, looking at some of the screens, I'm not sure how good that English is…) If you're looking to point fingers at people, the Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney Trilogy has released on every console platform under the sun and features some lovely redrawn HD visuals to savor. Finally, GAME FREAK's supremely overlooked platformer Giga Wrecker is coming to Switch and PS4 as Giga Wrecker Alt.
And that wraps up a rather quiet week in games. Now I ask you, readers: what games do you think would benefit from a battle royale twist? Post your ideas in the forums!
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