This Week in Games
by Heidi Kemps,
Man, so much of this week's gaming news is a downer. There's the Riot Games walkout to protest the company's awful policies on reporting harassment in the workplace, there's the allegations of human refuse pile Randy Pitchford stiffing money and getting physically abusive with David Eddings (Claptrap's voice actor in previous Borderlands titles), and now we're hearing that not only is NetherRealm Studios under near-perpetual crunch, but the process of creating some of Mortal Kombat 11's extra-gory moves might have actually given a few developers PTSD.
These are all subjects worth talking about, of course, and other people have done it better than I have. (Seriously, click those links.) I'm just not feeling like dwelling on the grossness this industry can produce. So, I'm going to try and write about some happier stuff.
For starters, there's a good speedrunning charity marathon going on – RPG Limit Break! If you like seeing JRPGs having their complex game systems exploited to often absurd levels, this is the marathon for you. As I'm writing this, a run of the astonishingly terrible Famicom RPG Hoshi wo Miru Hito just wrapped up, and it was incredibly entertaining. Go check out that one in the archives, and watch the live event if you can!
CODE VEIN IS STILL ALIVE
It's been a while since Bandai-Namco's anime vampire Soulslike Code Vein got delayed, but the game's come back into the public eye thanks to some fresh new previews. There's no current release date, but players can expect to finally enjoy this bloody spectacle “later this year.” Bamco really, really seems to believe in this game as the international success that the God Eater series hasn't been, and as a totally new IP, they know they have to nail it right out of the gate. Early impressions are positive, so that extra time in the oven probably hasn't gone to waste.
If you want to get a little taste before then, however, you're in luck: there's an online beta test happening sometime very soon, and you can sign up for a chance at access! It's quite likely that not everyone who signs up will get codes, but it's worth trying at the very least.
AZUR LANE CROSSWAVE SAILS TO WESTERN SHORES
I will confess to not knowing a whole lot about Azur Lane. It's a mobile game, it's about girl-boats like Kantai Collection, and it's got plenty of distinct, merchandisable designs to appeal to otaku, but it's actually made in China! Also, it's available outside of Japan, which definitely makes it an easier sell to a global audience. The most I've interacted with Azur Lane is when it briefly collaborated with mobile shooting game Gothic wa Mahou Otome and I got a cool outfit based on the sleepy girl-boat with the bunny ears.
To capitalize on Azur Lane’s growing international popularity, Idea Factory International has announced that they will be publishing PS4 action-game spinoff Azur Lane Crosswave in the west. There's not too much information just yet, but the official press release for the game has a bullet point labelled “Ships at Bae.” Note to Idea Factory bosses: give that person a raise. You can probably expect a proper trailer around Anime Expo, where IFI usually runs a panel.
PLATINUM GAMES TALKS ABOUT THE FUTURE
Everybody loves Platinum Games! With Bayonetta 3 and Astral Chain looming on the horizon, everyone's excited about what our Osaka-based action masters are planning next. A recent interview with Atsushi Inaba by Video Games Chronicle provides a bit of a glimpse into what Platinum has planned, and it's sounding quite rosy.
Up until this point, Platinum Games has relied quite heavily on publishing partnerships with other companies. That looks like it's about to change: they're working on two all-new, totally original games right now, and are hoping to self-publish them to avoid the messiness that developer/publisher partnerships often result in. One of the games he's teasing is “something that has never been done before,” in his own words. If whatever this is is as truly groundbreaking as he describes, well, sign me up! I'm always down to play more Platinum goodness, and even moreso if it's weird and experimental!
Inaba also describes the struggle of making what you want under a publishing deal, pointing out that even doing something like making a sequel requires a lot of discussions with rights-holders and needs a lot of pieces to fall into place to actually happen. (The fact that Bayonetta 2 and 3 exist at all is something of a small miracle owed to Nintendo's industry clout.) Platinum's attempted move into self-publishing would help with this and give them more control to pursue projects that the studio is truly passionate about. Of course, he's not averse to more partnerships, either – he points out how well NieR Automata and Platinum's collaboration with Yoko Taro turned out.
Finally, the topic of Scalebound is brought up. Inaba points out that Scalebound isn't Platinum's only cancellation, just its most public-facing: they've had a few games that weren't announced get the axe. Inaba doesn't offload the blame onto Microsoft, either, saying “when any game in development can't get released it's because both sides failed.” He actually feels quite bad that fan rage was primarily directed at Microsoft.
Anyhow, the whole interview is a great read and I highly suggest you check it out. Plenty of juicy nuggets in there for any Platinum fan to chew on!
FIGHTING GAME NEWS ROUNDUP: FUN SIZE GOKU, HARADA GUARD-CRUSHES DREAMS, AND GRANBLUE VERSUS BETA SIGNUPS
Hey! Today's May 9th, aka Goku Day! It's only fitting that Dragonball FighterZ gets yet another incarnation of everyone's favorite Saiyan this week: Kid Goku! Mind you, it's technically Kid Goku from Dragonball GT and not the kid Goku from the original Dragonball that everyone actually likes.
Meanwhile, Tekken overlord Katsuhiro Harada has basically spent the past half-decade trying to break it to hopeful fanboys that Tekken X Street Fighter isn't happening, but a recent interview by Video Games Chronicle is probably the most blunt about the game he's been since saying it was “on hold.” To paraphrase: Tekken 7’s still making a lot of money (especially via DLC), the initial deal was so long ago that he'd have to re-do all of the approvals from Capcom, and it doesn't really make sense to make right now from a business standpoint. There are also the unspoken facts that Street Fighter X Tekken didn't go over all that well and that they'd have to redo basically all of the work done on Tekken X Street Fighter, which was being made for the previous console generation. It could still happen, and Harada likes the idea, but as time passes it becomes less and less likely.
Finally, some great news for those eagerly awaiting Granblue Versus: There's a closed beta scheduled for the end of the month! You have to apply to get in, of course, but thankfully there's a form available in English to register. If you're itching to give the game a go, now's your chance!
It's kinda dead this week, but Puyo Puyo Champions is out now for almost every platform under the sun for incredibly cheap, so why not grab it?
Let's be real: the biggest gaming-related release this week is the Detective Pikachu film. As much as I want to go see it, I'm not eager to sit amongst a gaggle of squealing toddlers while I'm trying to soak in all the Pokemon references. (Yes, I know the primary audience for Detective Pikachu is kids. Doesn't mean I want to watch a movie surrounded by them – I got to see Wreck-It Ralph with a small audience of teens and adults and enjoyed it a lot more than I would have on family film night.) We've got a review up already, so go read it!
Speaking of Pokemon, did you see that study where the brains of adults who played a lot of Pokemon as kids have a special section of the brain devoted to reacting to Pokemon-related stuff? That's so fascinating! It's amazing (and rather terrifying) how malleable our brains are as kids and how those experiences carry over well into adulthood. That probably explains why I still remember about 75% of the dialogue in Tiny Toon Adventures: How I Spent My Vacation to this day.
And that marks the end of this week's column. See you all again next Thursday!
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