This Week in Games
Death by Sleep

by Heidi Kemps,

Heyyyyyyy! It's another week! In games! Hot damn!

So what did you all do over Memorial Day weekend? I know a bunch of folks went to cons like Fanime and Anime North. I opted to stay in town and spend quality time with my significant other. And by “quality time,” I mean “we watched people play games at Combo Breaker.”

Combo Breaker was a fighting game tournament that happened in the Chicago area over the weekend, and it's known for having a broad selection of tournament fighting games both old and new, a massive mystery game tournament where each round brings a new and unexpected game to the table, and a truly unique “character auction” side tournament format.

The mystery game tournament ran for the entire weekend, and it did not disappoint. What other tournament has had players compete in the likes of Samurai Kirby, Twisted Metal 2, Dragoon Might, multiple Clayfighter games, bootleg Korean Tetris, and weird Brazilian indie PC games? I suggest checking the archives if you want to see just how nutty things got, because there's a lot to enjoy. And the final game – well, I'll just say that it's both the most obvious and the most unexpected thing.

Character auctions are also a hallmark of Combo Breaker's event lineup. In these tournaments, players bid real-life money to try and win the right to use a character (or characters) in the tournament, and the champion goes home with the bulk of all the money the auctions raised. But there's a catch – the auctions rarely actually tell you outright which character you're bidding on. Instead, potential competitors hear a very vague descriptor of the characters and furiously scream out bids, hoping that what they're dropping cash on is somebody they can actually play. A good chunk of the time they wind up getting hustled hard, which is supremely entertaining as they scramble to learn tech for characters they know nothing about. Even some famous, big-name players get screwed over!

There were character auctions this year for titles like Mortal Kombat 11, Dragonball FighterZ, and Tekken 7, but I feel like the Tekken 7 auction was the most entertaining. See if you can guess which characters descriptors like “Family Matters,” “Homewreckers,” “Hot Topic,” and “Blue Stuff” apply to!

Oh yeah, the Tekken 7 finals were pretty sick, too. Go watch that.


Hey, there's a Pokemon Direct happening next week!

Normally that'd just be the news, and I'd say, “look forward to more details next week!” But, as it turns out, we already know a fair bit about what's going to be introduced on that stream thanks to announcements at a Pokemon-related press conference.

First off is a new Detective Pikachu for the Switch. Given the film's solid performance, a sequel to the original game was a given. Details are scarce at the moment, but I wonder if it'll pick up from the previous game, or follow more of a movie-style plot? Hmmm!

But that's not all. Oh no, it seems that the Pokemon Company will not rest until they consume all of your soul, like a Haunter lurking behind you at every step. Actually, Drowzee is probably a better metaphor here, because now Pokemon will be a part of your life even as you sleep.

Pokemon Sleep is an app that works with a new peripheral, the Pokemon Go Plus Plus (which is somehow an even worse device name than Wii U and New Nintendo 3DS combined). This pokeball-shaped gizmo connects to your phone via Bluetooth and tracks the time you spend catching Legendaries in your dreams. How does this affect anything in any other Pokeproducts? Uhh… I'll get back to you on that after Pokemon Direct.

There's also Pokemon Home, which – sadly – is not a connected home device you can shout commands to. Just imagine how easy your life would be if you could just yell, “Pokehome, I need 50 Great Balls!” “Pokehome, put all the HM slaves in Box 15!” “Pokehome, go get my critters out of daycare because I'm too lazy to walk there!” No, it's just Pokemon Bank expanded to work across games like Pokemon GO, Pokemon Let's Go, and the upcoming Sword and Shield.

Finally, there's a brand new Pokemon app coming from Pokemon and DeNA. Called Pokemon Masters, this game brings together trainers from all the different Pokemon regions dueling it out. Again, details are a bit sparse, and we'll more than likely get more from the upcoming Pokemon Direct. What concerns me is if this game's going to have gacha-based monetization, as many of DeNA's titles do – given that's there's serious talk of legislation of lootbox- and gacha-style mechanics in games played by minors, having that in a new Pokemon game would be a bad look right now. Please don't put in anything that would make this game the subject of congressional hearings, I beg you.


E3 is just around the corner, but it seems like once again, all the biggest news is coming out right before the industry dick-waving contest in the LA Convention Center. Sony's presence at the show this year is miniscule, but seemingly out of spite, they have decided to drop some huge trailers for upcoming games on their own schedule. A couple of weeks ago we saw the FF7 remake, and now we have an extended glimpse at Hideo Kojima's Death Stranding – now with the first look at actual gameplay!

Oh goodness… um, that's a whole lot of stuff to try and unpack there. Lots of Hollywood talent, lots of elaborate cinematics, a whole heaping load of symbolism… and man, Kojima's not being subtle about a political bent to this one, huh? And wow, a November release date! I think we were all expecting this to be a long, drawn-out development like Kingdom Hearts III or Final Fantasy XV, so this is a pleasant surprise. I'm glad to see that Kojima can finish what he starts in a somewhat timely matter, even when he's given a lot of creative freedom.

No matter what your opinion on Kojima is – some people worship the ground he walks on, while others think he's a pretentious hack – I think we can all agree that it's nice that he's basically been freed from the yoke of Metal Gear to make something new and weird like this. Death Stranding looks to be a game that will have people thinking and talking. Hopefully it'll stick the landing and not go the way of the mostly-forgotten Bioshock Infinite.


When it was announced that movie Sonic would be getting a design overhaul, folks were elated but also worried. After all, honest-to-goodness real people have to make those effects and working them to the bone to meet a November release date so internet nerds can be somewhat appeased just seemed downright cruel. Well, the staff has some breathing room now, because Sonic the movie has now been pushed back to February.

My first reaction to hearing this news was “Man, Paramount execs must have really not liked what they were seeing online.” Pushing back a release date that's emblazoned on advertisements across North America only happens when there's a serious problem. That problem being, of course, the much-ridiculed Sonic design that was probably already being made into action figure molds and slapped on Trapper Keeper folders before the decision was made to do it over. I wonder how pissed off the licensors are.

My second reaction was “yeah, but this movie's still gonna be awful.” I mean… did you see some of the “jokes” from the trailer? I don't think even a perfectly rendered classic Sonic hand-rendered by Naoto Oshima himself could possibly make this thing watchable. I don't think we should be celebrating just yet, considering everyone involved with this film's making right now is running some mad damage control.


When Nintendo dropped the Super Mario Maker 2 Direct not too long ago, one of the biggest surprises was that you'd be able to enjoy online multiplayer! But... well, uh, they didn't specify who exactly you'd be enjoying online multiplayer with. Turns out that you can't play specifically with your friends: every online match is going to be against random other folks online. Why? Because Nintendo, that's why. Personally, I've always found four-player Mario to be too messy to enjoy… but given the uproar over this, I'm probably in the minority. I just want to make some stages, dangit!

Meanwhile, over at Momocon, Guest of Honor Goichi Suda, better known to fans as Suda51, announced that Travis Strikes Again is coming to both PC and PlayStation 4 in the nearish future. Travis Strikes Again was… divisive, to say the least, but I personally enjoyed it quite a bit. Then again, I tend to enjoy Suda's games despite their flaws because they are just unlike anything else out there. He also teased a potential new game announcement at E3, so that's something else to look forward to there.

Over in the realm of RPG news, Square-Enix is once again trying to revive interest in Star Ocean as a series, this time with Star Ocean: First Departure R, a remake of a remake. Remember when Star Ocean 1 and 2 were re-released on PSP, and the original Star Ocean was remade more in the style of Second Story? Yeah, this is that game. I'm not sure what other enhancements are coming, but I'm sure the game's plot will still be the hilariously awful time-travel mess it always has been. See, the writer and director, Yoshiharu Gotanda, also did the story for Tales of Phantasia, another game with a ridiculous time travel element to its plot. He's also the individual responsible for the infamous Star Ocean 3 twist. I think we can all agree he shouldn't be allowed to write scripts anymore. (Thankfully, he's mostly a director now.)

Hey, how about R-Type Final 2? The official crowdfunding campaign for the game is due to start early next week, according to the official website. There's no mention of where the campaign will be hosted, but given that it seems to be running for a fairly brief stretch, I feel like it might be on a different platform than Kickstarter or IndieGoGo. We'll just have to see.

Finally, remember when Squeenix announced an Avengers game? Yeah, I thought it had died, too, but in the wake of Endgame-fueled enthusiasm, it seems like it's finally due for a reveal.

Phew! That's a fair bit of news, isn't it? There's other little newsbits floating around (like the unique, mecha-based European Probotector variants coming to the Contra collection), but I think that's most of the big stuff. So did any of you get into the Granblue Versus beta this weekend? If so, who do you plan on playing as? I'm a big fan of Lowain and the bros, but man, if this recent GBF event doesn't make you love Ladiva you are just cold. And hey, if you didn't get a code, there's the Samurai Shodown demo on the 31st to tide you over!

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