This Week in Games
A Wooloo for You

by Heidi Kemps,

Oh god, E3 is next week, isn't it? The show hasn't even begun, but things are already happening: we've got the yearly Ubisoft leak (Watch Dogs Legions), teaser trailers announcing announcements (Square Enix's Outriders), and alleged upcoming hardware spec leaks (the PS5).

We've also got Pokemon Sword and Shield to talk about. If Nintendo's doling out Pokemon info before E3, then they've got to have something really big they want to spotlight in their E3 Nintendo Direct presentation, right…?

LET'S GO GO GO TO GALAR

I was so confident we'd hear more about last week's bizarre app announcements like Pokemon Sleep in the Pokemon Direct, but alas, it was all about the upcoming Sword and Shield.

Going by the online reactions, the best thing about Pokemon Direct was everyone's new favorite Pokemon, Wooloo.

It's a round, fluffy sheep that rolls! What's not to love about it? Don't you just want to bury your face in that soft, warm floof? Come on, you know you do!

Wooloo's clearly the standout here, but I'm also a big fan of Corviknight, an armored, evil-looking bird who… uh, pulls flying taxis?

Anyhow, wow, does the setting design in this game ever look fantastic! A lot of folks were saying they got a real Breath of the Wild vibe from the way the player character was running around the different areas, and I can't say I disagree. The shift from a semi-overhead view to a third person camera really does change a lot. Another thing I noticed is that there seems to be some indication of wild Pokemon roaming around on the map – could that signal the potential end of random encounters? It'd be a very welcome change: anyone who's wasted time running in circles in the tall grass trying to spawn a less-common Pokemon would certainly appreciate knowing what they're going to run into. (Same goes for shiny Pokemon hunters.)

I also joked when the game was unveiled about there being soccer stadiums in Galar, but holy crap, they actually exist! Granted, people are there to watch epic Pokemon battles rather than footie, but that's still pretty damn cool. (I wonder if there are drunken spectator Pokebrawls after the match?)

The “supercharge your Pokemon!” gimmick for this particular set of games is called Dynamax. For three turns, a selected Pokemon can grow from a cute little critter into a kaiju-sized monstrosity with hyperpowered skills to match. (I'm sure every furry with a giant fetish out there was positively squealing at this reveal.) Rather than being restricted to certain Pokemon or Pokemon types, it looks like you can Dynamax any of your critters, so I'm hoping somebody decides to try and beat the game with a massive Magikarp that flops foes to death. There are also raid battles where you and up to four friends fight against one giant Pokemon, and I'm personally eager to see more details about how those work in the coming months.

Oh yeah, we can't forget the legendaries either. Zamazenta looks like it's trying too hard, but Zacian?

My headcanon is that Sif from Dark Souls got reincarnated in the Pokemon world as Zacian where he has lived happily since. You can't tell me otherwise.

Both Pokemon games launch for the Switch on November 15th, meaning that many of us will attempt to avoid awkward Thanksgiving and Christmas family time with a trip to Galar. (Wooloo will never embarrass us by going on drunken political rants.) There's a bundle pack with both games available at select retailers, so if you're in a loving relationship with another Pokemon trainer, have a sibling, or are one of those crazy people with enough time to play two Pokemon games at once, you'll probably want to snag that edition.

THE FINAL GAMES FOR THE GENESIS AND MEGADRIVE MINI ARE REVEALED

How have I not been talking more about the Megadrive Mini for this column?! Well, usually the game announcements come right after I post this, and by the time the next column rolls around, there's more pressing things happening to focus on. Well, that ends now, because the last batch of games for both the Genesis and Megadrive Mini have been unveiled.

The final group of games for Japan includes some expected picks and some very cool surprises. I wouldn't have pegged Toaplan ports Slap Fight MD and Snow Bros for inclusion, but they're in there. Both were arcade games originally, but the MD ports offer enough different to make them worthwhile on their own. Lord Monarch is one of many Sega-made ports of Falcom PC games (You probably know about their Popful Mail Sega CD port). Monster World IV is an action/RPG classic, and Assault Suits Leynos jumpstarted a shooter series with a massive cult following.

But, just like in the 16-bit days, Sega has to one-up Nintendo and the inclusion of the formerly-unreleased Starfox 2 on the SNES Classic. The Megadrive Mini includes not one, but TWO unreleased games! In fact, they both technically didn't even exist until the MD Mini!

The first game is Darius, a port of Taito's incredibly influential 1987 shooter. The original triple-screen arcade version is being rearranged a bit for the MD hardware, but dang, does this ever look like a solid reimagining. I adore the music of the Darius series, and the thought of Megadrive sound chip remixes of all those amazing tunes makes me ecstatic.

The other addition is Tetris. You know, Tetris! There was a Tetris planned for Megadrive close to launch, but barely any copies made it to market because of the whole legal battle over who owned the rights. This version of Tetris, however, isn't the unreleased version: it's a port of the arcade version that Sega made and sold across Japan and Asia. This particular version of Tetris, along with its instruction-giving monkey, is still deeply beloved to this day.

Also, there's going to be a TOWER OF DOOM attachment available for the Megadrive Mini. It serves no functional purpose except to replicate the authentic experience of assembling Sega's hardware add-ons. In other words, it's tailor-made for Sega dorks like me.

Meanwhile, the Genesis and EU Megadrive Mini lineup is still pretty bland. Those territories also get Darius and Tetris, along with Eternal Champions, Kid Chameleon, and that awful Virtua Fighter 2 port that nobody likes but Sega puts on every Genesis collection anyway. The devs admitted that they mostly went with what's popular/sold the best for the Western edition, leading to a ho-hum device with only a few surprises.

Overall, I'm happy with the game selection for the Japanese MD Mini. I would have liked to have Rocket Knight Adventures and Pulseman, and Alien Soldier seems like a massive oversight—wait, Alien Soldier’s available on the Asian Megadrive Mini? Huh. So, uh... who do I know that lives in Southeast Asia that can do me a favor?

R-TYPE FINAL 2 IS ON KICKSTARTER… AND ALREADY FUNDED

I was wrong last week – R-Type Final 2 is, in fact, on Kickstarter, even though the campaign being run is only a week long! And when a lot of us saw that developer Granzella was asking for $420,000ish in seven days to make a new installment in the beloved shooter series, we were skeptical that they'd make it.

Boy, were we ever wrong! They hit the goal in just under two days and are still going. I guess a lot of us here in North America underestimated the strength of the R-Type name in Japan and Europe, where most of the pledges seem to be coming from. This is one of those cases where I'm extremely glad that my skepticism was unfounded. Here's hoping they'll hit at least one of those lofty stretch goals!

GRANDIA I AND II REMASTERS ARE HITTING SWITCH AND PC SOON

Y'know what RPG series doesn't get enough credit? Grandia, that's what! I will argue until I'm blue in the face that this series has the best combat engine in any JRPG ever made. It's the perfect mix of realtime and turn-based combat that always feels engaging and intense, and even when the game's story and characters kinda suck (Hi, Grandia Extreme! How you doin’, Grandia III?) it's still fun just to fight stuff. But hey, good news – the two best Grandia games are getting HD remasters, and they're coming to Switch and PC!

Grandia II's been out on PC for a while, but this will mark the original Grandia’s first wide availability since the 32-bit era. I'm wondering if the sprite graphics will be redrawn or just run through a filter – I'm really hoping it's the former, but seeing how many shortcuts HD remasters tend to take, I'm a bit skeptical. I'm also hoping for a new localization, because holy hell the PSOne version was iffy when it came out and has aged exceptionally poorly. We'll know more when the game is shown at E3 next week.

SHENMUE III GETS PUSHED BACK TO NOVEMBER

I'll admit, I'm a noted Shenmue III skeptic. Every time the game gets delayed, I feel a bit more validated in my cynicism. When you're trying (key word) to make a game on par with Shenmue I and II with a fraction of the team size and budget, you don't want to make too many promises, like an August release date.

So Shenmue III's release has now been pushed back to November 19th, which… uh, might not be the best idea, given that the month begins with Death Stranding and Pokemon Sword and Shield launch just four days beforehand. Basically, anyone potentially interested who's not a frothing-at-the-mouth Shenmue faithful isn't going playing this on release date, and I sure hope they're not counting on additional sales to become profitable. If I were the dev team, I'd just go, “Screw it, we're doing an early 2020 launch!” and make the most of the extra time. But what do I know?

KASUMI JOINS THE PHANTOM THIEVES

Dangit, I thought I was done writing the column, then Atlus goes and drops a new Persona 5 Royal trailer featuring new cast member Kasumi! Not much more to say here – how about you just check out the trailer?

I get the distinct feeling that we'll be seeing more of Persona 5 Royal and Persona 5 Scramble at the combined Sega/Atlus booth at this year's E3 alongside stuff like Project Sakura Wars. And hey, Persona Q2 releases on 3DS this week – I should have a review up over at Gamespot pretty darn soon!

Alrighty, I think we're caught up on stuff for this week! Tune in next week for at least two columns packed with E3 madness. See you all again soon!


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