This Week in Games
Just Peachy

by Heidi Kemps,

Welcome back to another week in games. Hmmm… I was thinking we'd have some interesting game news out of San Diego Comic Con, but… there really wasn't much of anything announced, was there? We had big names from Kojima Productions, Capcom, Bandai-Namco, Nintendo, SNK all attending the show… but no news on the gaming front. Sucks, too, because it's a pretty slow news week otherwise.

Well, that's more space for me to talk about pinball boobies, I guess. But first, there are a few newsbits worth discussing!

POKEMON DEVICE DOMINATION CONTINUES UNABATED

Tired of walking all over the place with your phone to catch Pokemon? Well, good news: starting next month, you can fight your favorite trainers while sitting firmly in place! Yes, Pokemon Masters is coming soon, and a bunch of folks (but not me, sob) got a chance to play an early version of the game, and impressions from around the interwebs seem pretty positive! You can preregister for the game's release on August 29th, and since preregistering in free-to-play mobile games tends to give you bonus goodies, you might as well if you've any interest.

However! It seems that Singapore and Canada might be getting a “preview version” of Pokemon Masters for Android devices before the official launch other territories. Whether this is a “soft-launch” as we've seen with a handful of other mobile games or effectively an open beta is anyone's guess, but if you live in those areas, you may be able to grab the game a couple weeks in advance.

Meanwhile, China's unfathomably huge corporate conglomerate Tencent has announced that they're making their own Pokemon game. Getting a foothold in the Chinese market is a challenge for gaming companies, so it's not surprising that Pokemon Company is letting a local Chinese developer handle their IP – it's a lot easier to push into that market when you have a local firm on your side. Details like platform and game type are unknown, but I get the feeling this will be another mobile game, given that the Tencent division handling it is mobile developer Timi Studio Group (the folks behind Arena of Valor). Then again, Tencent is looking to do Switch distribution in China, so… hmm.

My stupid guess based on market trends? Pokemon Auto-Chess.

NINTENDO IS HERE TO STOP YOUR MULTI-STICK DRIFTING, FOR FREE

Uh oh! Did Rover mistake your limited edition Splatoon Joy-Con for a chew toy? Were you doing some hardcore restroom gaming and drop one right into the toilet bowl? Well, good news: Nintendo isn't going to charge to fix your Joy-Cons anymore!

… Well, okay, they'll still charge for those extreme cases, but an internal memo found by Vice seems to indicate that Nintendo is going to be far less strict about repairing your ailing Joy-Cons – in particular, ones suffering from an ailment called Joy-Con drift. If your Joy-Cons are starting to go all Initial D on you, you can send them in -- you no longer have to provide proof of purchase or confirm a warranty, they won't charge you, and they'll actually refund you for any previous repairs done, too! Nice!

So what is this Joy-Con drift, exactly? Over time, some players have discovered that the analog sticks of their Joy-Cons are registering movements when there are none. The problem appears to be rather widespread among frequent Switch users, and there was a class action lawsuit about it filed just a few days ago – which is probably why Nintendo's suddenly being really generous about repairs.

However, this only seems to apply to North America at the moments. I've heard conflicting reports about which branches in places like Europe and South America will accept repairs. If you live outside of the US or Canada, your best bet is to ask Nintendo yourself.

REVIEW: SENRAN KAGURA PEACH BALL

(Warning: content from here on might be considered NSFW!)

I live in Portland, Oregon – a place that could be called the pinball capitol of North America. Seriously, every bar, restaurant, amusement center – they've all got pinball machines here. Oftentimes they have a lot of them. We've even got Next Level, a pinball distributor and repair shop that runs a warehouse chock-full of freeplay machines on weekends. Pay fifteen bucks and you can play hundreds of tables and arcade cabinets to your heart's content. It rules.

So, I think you can understand when I say that moving here might have turned me into a bit of a pinball snob. Even with so many tables available around here, however, I still appreciate videogame pinball, because you can do lots of wacky stuff you can't do on a mechanical table. Like slowly wrecking the furry costumes of a big-breasted 3D anime girl lying in the middle of the playfield, as you do in Senran Kagura Peach Ball, which recently released on Switch. (A Steam version is forthcoming.)

The “plot” of Peach Ball is that a handful of the Senran Kagura shinobettes have been turned into animal girls, and only the magic energy of a pinball table in the arcade where said transformation happened can change them back. Yeah, it's just an excuse to get several of the girls in skimpy animal costumes, but if you were going into this expecting an emotionally complex story, you have clearly no idea what Senran Kagura as a series is about. (Hint: It's dangling in front of you and there are two of them.)

So you hop onto a table and do the usual pinball things: you smack a little furry ball around the playfield with flippers, aiming for various ramps and targets, all while one of the busty beasties wibbles around the center. Off to the right side of the screen, a list of ever-changing goals to try for appears, so you've always got some idea of what you want to be doing – though it can be hard to look in the middle of play, since the tables are fairly cramped. Hitting the right ramps and targets start various bonus modes, such as an item-giving slot machine, adding more collectibles or moving targets to the field, or even knocking the girl down so you can bonk her with the pinball a few times. Complete enough objectives, and you get a chance to enter “Sexy Challenge,” where you play one of several themed multiball minigames that inevitably ends with the girl in some sort of goofy, vaguely erotic pose.

The way you “win” each table is by activating Sexy Challenge three times, at which point it becomes SUPER Sexy Challenge and you get to play a very special mini-game that involves balls, flippers, and jiggly boobs. And occasionally a butt. Yep, that's about the level of class I expect from Senran Kagura! But honestly, all this is really too dumb to feel gross and/or offensive. My boyfriend and I were just laughing and groaning with each other as we played this game, seeing what sort of increasingly ridiculous fanservice we'd be getting next.

Unfortunately, there simply isn't much meat here. I mentioned above that the table designs feel cramped – mostly because there's a girl taking up a huge chunk of space – and there really isn't a lot to either of the two tables the game presents you with. Yes, there's only two tables – I was convinced there had to be more that would unlock, but alas, you only ever get seasonal/time variants for those two fields. Learning a table and figuring out how its various gimmicks work is fun, but you quickly realize that there's not a whole lot going on here. And even once you learn a table and start playing more skillfully, the sheer busy-ness of the graphics can be annoying: all of the colors, moving objects, and mini-events that shift the camera can make it hard to follow the ball at times, leading to some frustrating drains. (At least Peach Ball is generous with ball saves.)

So the pinball part is just okayish, but you're here for the fanservice, right? Well, even that isn't particularly great. The selection of characters to interact with is disappointingly limited: only six girls out of the series’ very large cast make an appearance. (Daidoji, who is far and away best Senran Kagura girl we're not going to argue about this, it is fact is among the absentees.) And while Sexy Challenge and Super Sexy Challenge and Secret Sexy Challenge are amusing once or twice, they get extremely repetitive as you play the two tables over and over again, grinding to get in-game money to buy more outfits and accessories for the girls. Or you can just drop a wad of cash in the eShop to get a bunch of exclusive clothes and goodies, which clearly fans are buying because they keep on offering this stuff and they keep on charging way too much for it. Peach Ball manages to feel barebones and exploitative at the same time!

To sum up: This game has two major components. The pinball is kinda passable, the fanservice is lacking, and together they make for a game that's amusing in a very stupid way for a brief amount of time, but doesn't offer much to keep you coming back. For the cost of this game, you could download Pinball FX and buy a bunch of really good virtual tables, and even some recreations of classic Williams offerings. Sure, you won't get the rude tiddies, but you have other ways to get those, right? Peach Ball is far from the worst video pinball game I've played, but with so many better options out there, it's tough to recommend.

Though I do have a suggestion for an appropriate DLC character: the weirdly horny dream catgirl on the backglass for the old Bally Mousin’ Around table.

Anyhow, that's about it for this week – though you can expect a review of Kill la Kill IF from me this Friday. See you next!


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