This Week in Games
Attack on Titan 2: Final Battle
by Heidi Kemps,
Sometimes you have a week that's just bursting with big news about big games, and other weeks you have a lot of news that, while interesting, doesn't particularly lend itself well to extended discussion. This week, we've got a lot of the latter: there's cool news and rumors floating around, but there either aren't many details yet, or there's just not much to say about it beyond “hey, this is happening and looks kinda neat!” So, this week, we'll basically have a bunch of newsbits, rather than me going into longform commentary – instead, I'll save my rambling for the Attack on Titan 2: Final Battle preview.
Oh, I should also note that we're moving most of the New Releases discussion over at the Shelf Life column, which has expanded to cover more than just anime discs. If you need to know every game that's due out for release each week, have a look over there!
GEORGE R. R. MARTIN IS COLLABORATING WITH A JAPANESE STUDIO
The Game of Thrones TV adaptation might have ended, but the novels are still ongoing… sort of, because creator George R. R. Martin is the busiest fantasy author alive. There are numerous things distracting him from finishing the next book, among them, as he writes on his personal site, a collaboration with a Japanese game company. Hmmm!
We really don't have much to go on here (and I doubt GRRM will say much more), but speculation is that he was working with From Software on a new game setting. We'll see in due time, possibly as early as E3… unless the game gets canned in the meantime.
As skeptical as I am of Google's push into cloud-based game streaming services, it has a lot of folks in the greater industry a bit worried – there are few companies on the planet that can throw their weight around like Google can. Even a massive entity like Microsoft is tugging their collar a little hearing about how Google wants to conquer games through a streaming platform. So, what's a massive corporation to do when faced with a threat from another massive corporation? Why, team up with yet another massive corporation, even if they're perceived as enemies!
Yes, Microsoft and Google are doing the fusion dance to create a game streaming and AI platform to compete with Stadia, presumably using Sony's already-established PlayStation Now technology. MS seems to be OK with cozying up to competition when it's mutually beneficial: we've already got XBox Live on Switch thanks to Minecraft, and now this is happening. Of course, if game streaming turns out to be a non-starter, the two firms will doubtless be at each other's throats again.
THERE'S A BUNCH OF COOL SHOOTING GAME NEWS OUT OF JAPAN
Hey, who here (besides me) likes tradition arcade scrolling shooters? I know you're out there, and let me tell you, there's some great news this week.
First off, City Connection, a holding company that owns IP from a few defunct gaming companies (namely Jaleco and Psikyo), announced that they're working on a new game in the Strikers series, Strikers 2020! Strikers has always been an easier sell to a mainstream audience than Cave-style bullet-hell games, thanks to its more traditional mechanics and military-themed aesthetic. You can expect this one on Switch and PS4 at the very least, probably sometime next year.
Secondly, Akihabara- and Saitama-based super-hardcore game store BEEP has made a move into actual game publishing, and their first release is a PS4, Switch, and PC port of the classic cute shooter Fantastic Night Dreams Cotton. Cotton was originally an arcade release, but it was ported to numerous platforms including the beloved Japanese X68000 PC. This re-release is based on that version, which featured numerous enhancements over the arcade original. In keeping with their reputation for being a hardcore gamer's company, BEEP is also re-releasing the X68000 version on floppy disk. Jeez, who even makes floppy disks in 2019? That's nuts. Then again, if you've ever been to their stores and seen the myriad of old Japanese PC systems on display, it's not terribly surprising that they'd go to those lengths.
Finally, M2 showed off a bit more of their upcoming port of Cave's ESPrade (including several user-suggested “gadget” enhancements) and it's looking fantastic. Even better – they announced it's coming to Switch, too! Oh man, that Flip Grip I bought is about to get some serious use. There's still not a firm release date, but we can expect ESPrade sometime in late 2019.
FIGHTING GAME NEWS: BLAZBLUE X TAG BATTLE JUST GOT UPDATED
I know this because every anime fighting game player I follow on twitter is frantically tweeting out all of the new tech and changes they've noticed. Anyway, yes, the latest revision of BBTAG is out across all platforms, and it adds Naoto Kurogane, Seth, Teddie, and Aino Heart from the Arcana Heart series. You'll have to buy these characters to get them in your roster, of course, but if you bought this game you already know what to expect for DLC pricing. Enjoy your matchups/team-ups between Naoto Kurogane and Naoto Shirogane.
PREVIEW: ATTACK ON TITAN 2 FINAL BATTLE
Omega Force's second Attack on Titan game is, in my opinion, one of the best licensed anime games currently out there. Yes, it's not perfect, but it does a fantastic job of making movement and titan-killing feel satisfying. It also successfully brings key elements common to Omega Force's Musou games to a very different style of gameplay: rather than frantically running around killing hundreds upon hundreds of dudes to put out metaphorical fires across a big map, you're frantically flying and riding around carefully killing individual titans to put out metaphorical fires across a big map. It's a nice twist to an established formula, and, most importantly, it's fun. And it's about to get better: we're getting an enhanced version called Attack on Titan 2: Final Battle come this July. I got some hands-on time with it thanks to KOEI-Tecmo, and I came away pretty impressed.
So what's new in this package? Well, aside from all of the content in the original Attack on Titan 2 release, there's a whole new set of missions based on the currently-airing third anime season of Attack on Titan. These are presented in a multi-timeline format, allowing you to see what's going on from the viewpoints of multiple characters. (The create-a-character from the story modes of the original release doesn't really seem to come into play here, which is understandable but unfortunate). Mission types and characters vary wildly here, giving fans of the series a lot to chew on – unfortunately, I can't give out too many details here on specific content because, well, spoilers. You'll just have to take my word for it: it's a pretty solid adaptation of current events.
But that's not all Final Battle offers in terms of fanservice. There's a brand-new mode called Territory Recovery where every single character of note in Attack on Titan – good, bad, and morally ambiguous, dead or alive – comes together to form a unique squad with one goal: take back the territory the Titans have claimed. You can pick from missions on a map, fighting and killing titans to reclaim territory (and the resources contained within) for humanity. As you play and team up with the massive cast of characters, you can unlock special interactions with individual members at the base. This is obviously non-canon, of course, but it's a very cool way to make sure players can enjoy using every character – and seeing interesting little “what if” scenarios.
In terms of core gameplay, there are some very cool new additions that add a new spin on Titan killing. The big one is… guns! Yes, you can drop the slashing gear at outposts scattered across maps and instead equip yourself with some heavy artillery. The shooting controls are similar to that of a standard third-person shooter, and you can do some fun stuff you can't do with the slashing gear, like plink away at Titan body parts from a safe distance to aid your teammates. Of course, shooting generally isn't quite as damaging as ripping off titan limbs with a full-speed slash, but there's still a lot of fun stuff you can do with the combination of guns and the extra speed and damage a proper Omni-Directional Mobility Gear setup provides.
Finally, there's the Thunder Spear, a limited-use weapon that's this game's equivalent of a tactical nuke. Once you've got access to it, you can drop the Thunder Spear and watch all titans in a set radius get absolutely vaporized in a very satisfying way. Of course, something this powerful can't be used constantly, so you'll want to use this powerful weapon strategically to cause as much damage as possible before its use runs out.
I had a lot of fun playing around with the new modes and weapons in Attack on Titan 2: Final Battle during my hands-on session. I liked the original game quite a bit, and all of the new additions in Final Battle felt interesting and substantial – particularly the guns, which change up the standard gameplay in a very cool way. Final Battle drops on July 5th as both add-on DLC for the original Attack on Titan 2 and as a standalone package. If you want the best game adaption of Attack on Titan out there, this is not to be missed.
That wraps things up for this week! See you – wait, I forgot to talk about the Playdate, didn't I? Ah jeez. Honestly, it looks neat, but it's an artsy-boutique kind of thing that I doubt is going to have any sort of real mainstream success, though I'm sure some creatively minded indie devs will do neat things with it. I'm definitely interested to see what folks like Katamari Damacy and Noby Noby Boy creator Keita Takahashi manage to produce. Plus, it's made here in Portland!
About those games. We reached out to some of our favorite people, like @KeitaTakahash, @bfod, @helvetica, @shauninman, and many more.— Playdate (@playdate) May 22, 2019
Here's a peek at one: Crankin's Time Travel Adventure, from Keita. It's fun and funny. pic.twitter.com/0Ibwqr5k3I
Anyhow, see you all again next week! I'm going to play a certain review game that accidentally got sent to a bunch of folks weeks early because Amazon does dumb things. Later!
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