This Week in Games
(Re)Make it So
by Heidi Kemps,
Usually I expect Nintendo to be the ones who immediately outdate my news column, as they're prone to dropping Directs at the worst possible times. But last week, it was actually Sony who made internet nerddom erupt in a flurry of excited squealing and hot takes by surprise-dropping a Final Fantasy VII Remake trailer in the middle of one of their State of Play broadcasts. I feel sorry for the guys at Illfonic, because no matter how cool Predators: Hunting Grounds could be, you just can't compete for attention with Final Fantasy VII.
But FFVII isn't the only newsworthy item this week, oh heavens no! We've got a lot to discuss here, because Nintendo also delivered a (short) Direct. But let's get the big thing out of the way…
HEY GUYS, THE FINAL FANTASY VII REMAKE IS STILL HAPPENING
It's been literal years since the last time we saw anything out of the Final Fantasy VII Remake. During that time, the original co-developer (CyberConnect2) has been unceremoniously booted, putting the game solely in the hands of Square-Enix and the notoriously slow Tetsuya Nomura. That… didn't seem like a good sign, to put it mildly.
However, the game is still very much in the works, and Square Enix put out a trailer to prove it. You have no doubt seen this by now, but here it is again!
A whole bunch of diehard FFVII fans have already dissected and analyzed this trailer to bits, pointing out tiny minutiae that I have no doubt forgotten about in the years since I last played the game. As someone who doesn't have a super-intense FFVII fandom, what I found most striking about this trailer was just how hard it played to the nostalgia element: it starts with the intro scene of Aerith walking through the slums, shows off the other Avalanche members, gives us the scene where Cloud and Aerith meet in the church, and even shows off some familiar enemies and the first boss encounter in the new engine.
However, the fact that this is all early-game stuff is somewhat frustrating, because people are just dying to see other favorite FFVII characters in shiny new graphical detail. Hell, even though we've only seen Midgar, we still haven't seen Tifa yet! Though maybe that's a good thing, since no matter what Squeenix does with that character's design, somebody's going to be unhappy and will whine incessantly on social media about it.
Also, I don't know if they're sticking to the original concept of releasing the game in an episodic format, but seeing as how the trailers have only shown Midgar so far, that could well be the case – Midgar might just be episode one. Heck, as best I can tell, Squeenix may have seriously spent the past four years just working on the Midgar part that takes up the first few hours of the game. Of course, there's a good chance things are being expanded: Midgar is supposedly a massive city, but you only see small chunks of it, so it'd be neat to see Midgar as a huge, explorable environment. They also could have just tossed out CC2's work and started bits over from scratch, which would also cause a considerable delay.
Anyhow, my gut tells me that it's going to be a very long time before we see more of the FFVII Remake's world beyond the city limits. Square-Enix promises more FFVII Remake details in June at E3. That's one thing that might save the show from being a complete snoozer. (Watch as they prove me wrong and show the new version of Mog House with microtransactions.)
MEANWHILE, PROJECT PRELUDE RUNE IS DEAD
Yeah, remember not long ago when I reported that Hideo Baba left Square-Enix? He was heading up the Project Prelude Rune game. Now that he's out of the picture, it appears that development on the game has officially halted: It was confirmed to USGamer that Project Prelude Rune is no longer in development, Studio Istolia has dissolved, and the staff are working on other things (probably the FFVII remake).
I hope some more development material for this game leaks out someday, because I really want to see more of what this game could have been beyond its very ambiguous trailer of a young warrior staring wistfully over a lovely landscape. Godspeed into the night, lad, for your life was over before it had even truly begun.
SUPER MARIO MAKER 2 EXPANDS ITS PLAYGROUND
Super Mario Maker was one of the highlights of the Wii U's library, but its potential was hampered by the fact that the Wii U kinda sold like crap. There was a 3DS port, but its limitations just didn't make it anywhere near as robust and fun. But now we've got Super Mario Maker 2 coming to the Switch: a vastly more powerful platform with a huge install base. Nintendo knows they have a potentially massive hit on their hands, and they are going all out by packing an absurd amount of STUFF into the game.
Just yesterday, Nintendo aired a Direct broadcast focused on Super Mario Maker 2 that goes over a lot of the game's new additions and improvements. Here's the link if you missed it:
Right off the bat, Nintendo lets you know that they have packed a ton of new parts to use in this. Angry sun from Mario 3? YES! Snake blocks from Mario World? YES! Banzai Bill? YES! Conveyor belts?! SEESAWS?!! YES!!! And SLOPES, so many SLOPES!!! They're really going nuts with the stuff you can use. Hopefully we'll get a couple Chargin’ Chucks as well. The new formats are great, too: variable-speed and angle autoscrollers are a welcome addition, as are vertical sub-areas and terrain like desert and ice levels. The ability to wall off part of the level from view is nice, too, though I wonder how many people making super-impossible courses are going to use this feature to hide their “win button.” Oh, and night variants that screw with gameplay in fun ways, that's gonna rule!
I like the addition of a story mode, too: if you don't like wading through the morass of bad user-made Mario Maker stages to find something playable, you can enjoy a bunch of stages designed by people at Nintendo who know what they're doing. It's also got NPC Undodog, who I certainly hope we can pet.
Of course, online's a big part of Mario Maker, and you can still upload and download levels in the sequel – provided you're a member of the Switch online service. I'm hoping search functions will be a bit better this time around: the addition of tags helps, especially since there's 4-player multiplayer this time around, too, and it'll let you tag stages designed specifically for multiplayer sessions.
Oh, and there's a Super Mario 3D World style, too! Unfortunately, you can't swap 3D World style courses with other styles, and the stages are still sidescrolling, but they include extra elements like use of background/foreground elements and the beloved Cat Suit.
You know what really makes me excited, though? There's some extra space under “Extra Game Styles.” Which means that maybe, maybe we might get a Mario 2 Maker. You guys have no idea how long I've wanted Nintendo to make another game with the mechanics of Super Mario Bros. 2. If they're not going to make it, though, I'd be glad to play what other folks can create from it. Fingers crossed…
OMEGA LABYRINTH BOUNCES BACK WITH TWO VERSIONS
Man, remember the shitstorm about Omega Labyrinth Z's English version getting canned? That seems like ages ago. But D3 publisher isn't about to leave the series to be forgotten. In fact, there's a new Omega Labyrinth coming! In two versions, even!
Omega Labyrinth Life is the latest in the highly suggestive, boob-centric, fanservice-laden roguelike series, and it's coming to the Nintendo Switch. The “notable” feature of these games is that when the girls level up, their breasts balloon in size, leaving their chests to showcase their battle prowess. Yeah, it's pretty dumb, but in a weird way I kind of admire the dedication these games have to being shameless. It takes effort to be this crass!
There's a PS4 version coming too, but this one is just called Labyrinth Life. Gameplay-wise, it's mostly the same as Omega Labyrinth Life, but it's been toned down a fair bit with regards to the fanservice. Gematsu has a list of what is and isn't in each version of the game, but long story short: you still have big boobs in the PS4 version, just less suggestive sexual animations and no touch features. Also, the Switch version costs 2,000 yen more. (I'm going to refer to that as a “Titty Tax” and pretend I'm clever.)
Y'know, I actually kind of like the idea of having a fanservicey and non-fanservicey version of the same game. I'd prefer it be via some sort of options toggle rather than buying a separate game, but I know I'd feel a lot better playing certain Switch games in portable mode if I could disable fanservice. Then I wouldn't have to worry about someone looking over my shoulder, curious to see where I am in Zelda, and seeing an anime girl in a compromising position instead.
So will these be released in the West? I rather doubt it – after Omega Labyrinth Z's cancellation, this franchise is probably poisoned anywhere outside of Asia. (Remember: a few countries outright banned Omega Labyrinth Z from release. Nobody wants to deal with that kind of bad press.) Of course, surprises can still happen.
FIGHTING GAME NEWS ROUNDUP: A DATE OF DEATH AND A NEW CHALLENGER COMES
Rejoice, SNK fans, for Samurai Shodown finally has a release date! You'll be busting and slashing in just a little over a month on June 25th. That's just a few days before Super Mario Maker 2 releases on June 28th, so you get to decide if you want to die a bloody death by the blade of Haohmaru counter-hitting you for half your life, or a series of repeated deaths due to a pixel-perfect jump in a Mario World stage made by some sadistic asshat. Also, if you pre-order Samurai Shodown, you get the game's DLC season pass for free, which sounds like a pretty slick incentive to me.
In the world of Granblue Versus, we've got a new challenger in the lovely, love-filled grappler Ladiva. She's a really fun character in Granblue Fantasy proper, and it's nice to see that we now have a confirmed throw-focused character. Then again, considering Arc System Works's general history with grapplers, she might just wind up being a low tier hero. But hey, low tiers deserve love too, and she'd make a great low tier waifu. Ferry and Lancelot (who were previously announced) also have new trailers, so check those out as well!
Another pretty dead week. Death End Re;Quest finally hits Steam, so if you're looking for a JRPG with a dark undercurrent, that's definitely one to try. On Switch, there's the weird double pack of Guilty Gear XX Accent Core Plus R and the original, fascinatingly janky Guilty Gear. Somebody's actually running an original Guilty Gear side tournament at EVO this year, and that's going a be a very interesting little contest to see who can execute the most broken stuff first. Finally, Castlevania Collection delivers some of the best action games of yesteryear, including the Western debut of NES Kid Dracula.
Anyhow, that should wrap things up for this week! I'm going to have a preview of Koei-Tecmo's Attack on Titan 2: Final Battle up for you all to read soon, so look forward to it!
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