This Week in Games
Starting Over from Zero

by Heidi Kemps,

Hey everyone! It's the holiday weekend, and there sure is a lot going on! PAX West is happening this weekend alongside Crunchyroll Expo, meaning there's a lot of news happening for people who care about anime and games. Obviously, most of the game announcements will be coming from PAX, and a few have even squeaked out in advance, like Shovel Knight Dig. I'm interested in it, because hey, who doesn't love this brave little dude?

Of course, a few other announcements are likely to drop, so I expect to have plenty to report on next week. There's also a Persona 5 Royal-related event happening in Japan this weekend, so there might be some juicy details from that, too…

…wait, I totally forgot that the Ryu ga Gotoku Team was holding an event last night! Aw crap! The big news is already starting! Well, it looks like we've got our primary subject for this week's column…

IT'S ICHIBAN KASUGA'S TURN TO LEAD IN YAKUZA 7

We've known for a while now that Kiryu Kazuma wasn't going to be returning as the lead character in Yakuza 7. In fact, we were introduced to the new protagonist, Ichiban Kasuga, quite some time ago.

However, up until now we haven't seen Ichiban Kasuga in anything outside of the mobile/browser-based gacha-game spinoff Ryu ga Gotoku Online, so this marks his debut in a numbered Ryu ga Gotoku/Yakuza series game. I hesitate to call it a “proper” Ryu ga Gotoku game because… well, we'll get to that.

Anyhow, here's the first trailer for the game, subtitled “The Whereabouts of Light and Darkness:”

The new setting is in Yokohama, a suburb of Tokyo that is often overshadowed by the megacity it's stationed right next to. Much like Kiryu, Kasuga was a young yakuza who took the fall for a crime he didn't commit, and upon his release and return to Kamurocho, found it overrun by the Kansai-based Omi Alliance. And who's running the “new” Kamurocho but his old boss, Masumi Arakawa. Kasuga expected a tearful reunion, but instead he got gunshots and his body unceremoniously dumped in the slums of Yokohama. Kasuga's at rock bottom, with nothing to lose – can he claw his way back to the top?

The story feels similar to that of the original Yakuza, where Kiryu got out of prison and was immediately persona non grata among his old crew, and I'm sure that's not a coincidence – Kasuga's story is supposed to be a “reboot” for the series. But there's something else about Yakuza 7 that's got fans in a tizzy…

Remember that April Fools’ joke where Ryu ga Gotoku Studio was basically like, “what if Yakuza's combat was turn-based RPG style fighting?” and we were all like, “Haha, yeah, that'd be kinda awesome actually!” Well… it's real. Yakuza 7 is no longer a brawler, but a turn-based RPG. Bet you didn't see that one coming! What do you think of this turn of events, Tekken series producer Katsuhiro Harada?

I agree! I don't think anyone expected this sort of dramatic shift in a numbered Yakuza title, but Ryu ga Gotoku Studio wants to emphasize that new protagonist equals new gameplay style. Basically, aside from a few familiar places and characters, this is a completely clean start for the series. (Also, the team has mentioned that Kasuga is a fan specifically of Dragon Quest and mentions it in-game, which I'm sure is an effort to really hammer home that this is a whole different kind of Yakuza.)

While I love the fighting in previous Yakuza games, I'm honestly stoked for a Yakuza RPG! Some folks have compared the interface to Persona, but looking at it, I really get more Mario RPG-like vibes.

And that's not a bad thing, because Mario RPG is pretty great! If they can translate Yakuza's brawling into turn-based battles the same way Mario RPG expertly turned platforming action into command-driven fights, I'm all in!

…However, this lends fuel to my theory that a lot of “April Fools” jokes from game developers are actually testing the waters for crazy new ideas they're not sure if the public will like. Put it out as a prank, see if people are like “whoa, that's actually awesome and I'd want that for real!”, and then go ahead with it if reception is positive enough. It's sneaky, but it makes sense.

Reports from sources like Gematsu state that the Western release is going to drop the number from the title entirely, calling the game Yakuza: Like a Dragon. I wonder if they're worried that the combat shift might turn off people who would buy the game if it was called Yakuza 7? Also, the Japanese subtitle sounds awkward in English, so I'm not surprised Sega of America went with something totally different. We'll get this sometime in 2020, probably about half a year or so after the Japanese version hits in January.

Phew! That's a lot of news about crime boys. But that wasn't the only announcement we've had this week…

MEGAMAN ZERO AND ZX ARE ROCKING ON IN A NEW COLLECTION

For the last couple of years, CAPCOM has been on a mission to reassure fans that yes, they actually do care about Megaman. First came the classic Megaman series legacy collections, then Megaman X Legacy Collections, then Megaman 11. But CAPCOM isn't stopping there!

Yes, they're diving headfirst into the handheld era of Megaman spinoffs, packaging the Gameboy Advance Megaman Zero games and the Nintendo DS Megaman ZX games into a tidy little set across all major platforms. They made a nifty trailer for it, too!

This isn't the first time the Megaman Zero games have been reissued – there was a collection for DS a good while back – but it does mark the first time they'll be playable on your big screen without a GameCube GBA adapter. It's the first-ever reissue of the ZX games, however, and thankfully, CAPCOM's giving players a whole mess of options to choose from for presenting two low-res screens on a modern HD display.

My personal thoughts on the collection: The Megaman Zero games never really clicked with me, mostly because the ranking system in those games is punishing and frustrating. (Cool, I get to miss out on getting boss abilities – the entire thing Megaman is built around – by utilizing other beneficial gameplay mechanics, that's great.) I can't say enough good things about Megaman ZX, though. It's easily one of my favorite games in the whole series – a neat mix of Metroidvania-style exploration and Megaman shooting and platforming. ZX Advent is slightly less inspired, but still fun.

Hmmm, I wonder if CAPCOM will restore cut elements like voice acting to the English version of Megaman ZX? It'd be nice, but considering they still haven't fixed Megaman X6's notoriously awful translation after so many years, I'm not getting my hopes up. (Then again, it's not like X6 is worth the effort.)

REDISCOVER YOUR CHILDHOOD TRAUMA WITH THE ALADDIN AND LION KING CLASSIC COLLECTION

Ah, yes, the days of 16-bit, when developers and publishers were terrified of Blockbuster rentals eating into game sales, resulting in them making games stupidly difficult so little Timmy wouldn't beat it in a weekend and decide it wasn't worth putting on his Christmas list. It's weird how game rental isn't much of a thing anymore – it was a crucial part of my childhood, allowing me to play a bunch of games that magazines at the time were frothing over and realizing “uh, hey, this actually isn't all that great!” But that's what I was stuck with for the weekend, so I had to try to enjoy it. I distinctly remember one of those not-so-great games being The Lion King.

So imagine my, um, delight upon hearing that a whole new generation of players will get to experience the “fun” of being subjected to stupid difficulty spikes within The Lion King's first few levels in Disney Classics: Aladdin and the Lion King!

When word of this set first got out, I was kind of excited, because word was it would have both the SNES and Genesis versions of Aladdin. Which is the better version of Aladdin has been a subject of heated schoolyard and internet debate for over twenty-five years: The SNES game, an early Shinji Mikami project, didn't have the amazing animation and visual flourishes of the Genesis version, but it also didn't have BS hitboxes and imprecise platforming. Since most people only owned one console or the other, it would have been nice to see the version they likely missed and make up their own minds, but I guess the licensing powers that be couldn't work something out.

While SNES Aladdin’s omission is disappointing, ace retro restorers Digital Eclipse are promising other neat features like tightened-up gameplay (even specifically mentioning fixing the aforementioned Aladdin hitboxes), multiple versions of each game, and a “watch mode” that plays through the games and lets you pick up the controller at any point, because god screw those blind jumps in Elephant Graveyard I never want to play that awful stage ever again

I really do wonder how many people are going to get this collection, play these games, and realize that their fond childhood memories of Genesis Aladdin and The Lion King were more like “this was one of the only games I owned back then so I had to brute-force my way through all of this badly-designed nonsense.” At least the animation still looks nice, though!

Anyhow, that's our crime- and retro-filled gaming roundup for this week. Are you going to PAX or CRX this weekend, or do you just plan to stay home, catch news online, and play Astral Chain? Do you have any particularly strong feelings about Yakuza’s new direction? Chat away below in the forums!


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