This Week in Games
by Heidi Kemps,
Hey folks! Sorry for the slight delay on this column, I had the kind of headache yesterday that made me want to hurl if I looked at a screen for more than a few minutes. Not very fun! It worked out for the best, though, because now I can populate the column with some of the stuff coming out of Tokyo Game Show 2019!
But before we get into some of the early TGS news, we should reflect on a very important anniversary. Earlier this week marked 20 years since the North American debut of the Sega Dreamcast. The huge hype and marketing blitz leading up to 9-9-99 transformed console launches forever: instead of “this will start showing up in stores in your area around this date”, a platform launch became a massive, line-up-outside-Best-Buy-for-days entertainment event. Everyone who was playing games around this time remembers the unique, downright weird advertising Sega was tossing around leading up to the launch, promising a virtual party in a console even when it wasn't turned on.
The launch lineup for the Dreamcast was absolutely killer as well: it's rare that so many of a console's most fondly remembered games are those that came out on launch, but Sega wanted to knock it out of the park on day one. Soul Calibur, Sonic Adventure, NFL 2K, and Power Stone are among the games remembered fondly by day-one adopters, and even lesser titles like Ready 2 Rumble and Trickstyle inspire good memories in many players. Of course, getting so many games out at launch meant that new releases were a bit dry over the next couple months, but most of us were fine just spending quality time with our chao in Sonic Adventure.
As a devoted Saturn owner, I was so, so ready for the Dreamcast's North American launch. I was already used to importing games at that point, but I didn't take the plunge on a Japanese console because I knew supporting Sega overseas at this time was absolutely critical. Once I got my Dreamcast, it was all I could think about for several days. I spent Dreamcast launch week at high school drifting through class so I could eventually go home and spend more time with Sonic and friends. I was so hyped to get the hell out of school and play my DC that, a few days after I got my system, I over-excitedly forgot to check my rearview mirrors while pulling out of the school parking lot and smacked right into another car. Oops.
Do you have any strong memories of the DC launch? I'd love to hear them, so pop on over to the forums and let's have a fun sharing session!
Alright, let's get a bit of news from TGS and elsewhere going. This won't be all the TGS coverage – the show's still going for a few days, so we'll talk more about things like Project Sakura Wars, Project Resistance (so many projects!) and more Death Stranding next week. For now, let's look at a few of the show's early highlights.
APPLE ARCADE WANTS YOU TO SPEND MOBILE MONEY ON SOMETHING BESIDES WAIFU ROLLS
Hey, there was an Apple event earlier this week! Despite owning an iPhone, I don't really get too hyped up for these things – mostly because I'm paranoid that owning the newest, most expensive cellphone tech will make me more prone to loss, theft, and damage. But besides unveiling the iPhone 11, Apple also announced a new gaming initiative: the much-rumored Apple Arcade.
For about $5 a month, you get unlimited access to a wide variety of games. Unfortunately, “mobile games” is synonymous with Candy Crush clones and gacha games to many, so to make Apple Arcade more appealing to the “serious gamer” crowd, they've brought some serious development talent on board.
For starters, there's the gorgeous-looking RPG Fantasian, which is being headed up by Final Fantasy creator Hironobu Sakaguchi. There's also Pac-Man Party Royale, which appears to be a pocket-sized spin on the formula established by the arcade Pac-Man Battle Royale. If you're a fan of Shantae, WayForward is bringing at least two games (including the upcoming Shantae 5) to the platform, as well.
CAPCOM's Shinsekai: Into the Depths exploration game looks right up my alley – I love underwater exploration, and weird deep-undersea stuff in particular, so it's probably the Apple Arcade game that interests me the most. And since we're all on a Dreamcast memory high this week, how about a Chu Chu Rocket revival from Sega? Yeah, that's here, too, and it looks really good! Hopefully Apple Arcade has some robust multiplayer features, though, because I do not care at all about puzzle-game Chu Chu Rocket, I just want to screw over my friends.
There's plenty of other noteworthy stuff, too – a new Steven Universe game, an RPG called Various Daylight from Square Enix, and even a new WayForward IP called Spidersaurus – but will it be enough to erase the mobile gaming stigma and get people to drop five dollary-doos every month? And given that it's iOS-exclusive, will there be enough of a playerbase to properly support it? We'll just have to see when Apple Arcade becomes available to the public on the 19th of this month!
NINTENDO'S GOT ANOTHER WEIRD SWITCH THING, AND IT'S GOT A REALLY BUFF DRAGON IN IT
It's easy to forget just how much stuff like Wii Fit boosted sales of the Nintendo Wii to folks who weren't “typical” game players, since a lot of the Nintendo Direct-era marketing is tailored specifically to the sort of devout fans that organize petitions to get Booster from Super Mario RPG into Super Smash Bros. But Nintendo knows that these casual consumers are still valuable, and devotes plenty of resources to make weird, interesting things to help bring them into the Nintendo fandom fold. The Switch Labo kits were one attempt at this, appealing to the sort of parents who want to build “educational” DIY projects with their kits. Now we've got a brand-new wearable fitness kit that consists of a leg strap and a ring-shaped device called a “ring-con.”
Okay, that's cool, but what does it do? Well, you slip the Switch Joy-cons into the holsters of the Ring-con and the leg strap, and, according to marketing, you do all kinds of hilarious fitness activities while your family and friends excitedly cheer you on.
The first game to use this new hardware is called Ring Fit Adventure, a unique fitness game/RPG hybrid where you're at war against a disturbingly buff dragon who I'm sure is already the subject of much furry art. Interacting with the game involves activities like jogging in place to move, squeezing and waving around the ring to move objects and fight enemies, and stretching the ring to suck up items in the environment. Sounds pretty neat, actually! I'm curious to see how this will turn out – there have been a few attempts in the past to blend fitness with more traditional videogame genres and elements, but unless there's more emphasis on the “game” over “fitness” (like in, say, Dance Dance Revolution), they haven't really taken off. If anyone knows how to make something like this work, it's probably Nintendo.
THE NEW FINAL FANTASY VII REMAKE TRAILER DELIVERS NEW TAKES ON FAMILIAR SCENES
Square Enix knows that they can dominate discourse on the internet for an entire day simply by releasing something related to the Final Fantasy VII Remake. As expected, they had a shiny new trailer ready to showcase for the opening of Tokyo Game Show, and it gives fans plenty of what they want to see: More Tifa, more Aerith, more Cloud being tormented by Sephiroth. There's even flashes of an all-new face during the bike chase scene. The biggest new reveal for many longtime fans, however, were the turks.
Well, let me be more specific: the biggest reveal was Reno's quality mantitties. Just look at them! He's got one of those fanservicey outfits that reveal inner cleavage, only it's on a dude instead. Squeenix knows how to work up their fujoshi base.
What I found most interesting about this trailer, however, is how it hints to how the FFVII Remake will handle some of the downright weird elements of Final Fantasy VII. We see glimpses of Tifa and Aerith preparing for the Don Corneo sequence, we see Cloud working out (including doing the squats), we even see Cloud turned into a frog and still trying to fight. Still no Cloud in drag, but Square Enix has got to keep some surprises for when the game comes out. I'm honestly glad they're keeping all of this in, because man, Final Fantasy VII got downright bizarre at points – it's full of the sort of stuff most modern game designers would look at and say “yeah, I don't know about this.” If you lose that, you lose some of what made the game special, so seeing that the devs are working to keep it all in is a good sign.
Also, I'm really wondering how bad the Tifa vs. Aerith ship wars are going to be after this thing hits. We're in an all-new age of fandom obnoxiousness thanks to social media, so I feel like the re-emergence of FF7 fandom's gonna get real ugly.
YAKUZA: LIKE A DRAGON REVEALS ALL THE DUMB STUFF YOU'LL WASTE TIME WITH INSTEAD OF ADVANCING THE STORY
Okay, so after he TGS presentation, any doubts I may have had about Yakuza 7 (now very-officially titled Yakuza: Like a Dragon in English-speaking territories) have been erased. Why? Because this game's new RPG combat system looks awesome, that's why. Just watch the new gameplay trailer:
I mean, holy crap! You've got strategic positioning! You've got Chrono Trigger-style team-up attacks with that distinct Yakuza ass-whupping twist! You've got a friggin’ job system! A job system! In Yakuza! How unfathomably cool is that? It's like they're trying to make this game appeal directly to me and I love it!
And even better, the game is filled with the sort of ridiculous and strangely compelling time-wasting activities the Yakuza series is known for!
Yes, that is Dragon Karts you're seeing up there. Yes, it rules. Yes, I will be spending way too much time getting good times on the courses. Remember, series producer Toshihiro Nagoshi worked on a ton of Sega's best racing games like Daytona USA, Super GT, and F-Zero GX/AX, so I don't think Dragon Karts is going to be some throwaway nonsense. I just hope it has its own online and local multiplayer.
There's also a movie theatre that shows a variety of films. No, it's not like the “movie theatres” from previous Yakuza titles, it's all good clean fun. But apparently this isn't particularly exciting cinema, as Kasuga will start to doze off in the middle of the film, and it's up to you to fight off sheep-headed sleep demons to keep him alert throughout. Finish the film while staying awake and you've got a nice ability boost.
Oh yeah, there's plenty of pachislot machines, too, including the manga-themed Fist of the Blue Sky machine. They're all based on the real-life models populating Japan's pachinko parlors, so you're getting the authentic gambling experience. Soon you'll be learning how to scope out which machines are on the verge of spitting out jackpots like a seasoned pachislot pro!
There's a lot more that's hinted at in the trailer, but these are the elements that have been showcased and explained in-depth so far. There's also a fresh new English-subtitled story trailer to chew on, too:
Yakuza: Like a Dragon has definitely shot up on my list of most anticipated titles. Can't wait to zoom zoom around Yokohama come 2020!
Anyhow! That's all for this week in games – next week, we'll be looking at more of the TGS stuff that's been announced. Has anything at the event caught your eye so far? Talk about it (along with your Dreamcast memories) in the forums below!
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