This Week in Games
Strive for Greatness

by Heidi Kemps,

It's a good week to be a Sega fan. For decades, we have been eagerly waiting, wondering if this would ever happen. But just days ago, it became a reality. Finally, we have a release of a much beloved game that fans never dreamed would exist, a surprise-filled journey that resolves mysteries left lingering for years.

I am, of course, talking about Hidden Palace and The Cutting Room Floor's release of the earliest known prototype of Sonic the Hedgehog 3.

Holy crap, was Sonic 3's development ever a mess! We already knew that Sonic 3 and Sonic and Knuckles were meant to be one game originally, but Sega needed something to shove out the door in February 1994, leaving half of a game to be released later. This prototype (dated November 1993, but likely compiled in October) still has old placeholder Sonic 2 sprites and physics, unfinished levels and gimmicks, lots of cut and altered content, and… a drop dash for Sonic, years before it appeared in Sonic Mania. Weird! But what makes this release really special, however, is how it ties into one of the most fascinating gaming mysteries-slash-conspiracy-theories out there.

The theory goes like this: It's the early 90s, and Sonic is the hottest property out there. Suddenly, an opportunity to work with devoted Sega fan (and previous business partner) Michael Jackson (also a noted pedophile - see the film Leaving Neverland for more context on this) on music for an upcoming Sonic game drops into the company's lap. Given that MJ was one of the biggest celebrities on the planet, Sega immediately jumps on the opportunity to work with him. The biggest videogame star in the world and the biggest music star in the world together?!

So, Sega begins working with Jackson (or, perhaps more specifically, Jackson's composers and producers) to create some songs for the game, but at some point, something goes wrong. Some have said that MJ wasn't happy with the MegaDrive's sound capabilities (those Sonic 3 samples are pretty scratchy), others theorize that the allegations against MJ that came to light around this time made Sega eager to distance themselves from him.

No matter what actually happened, MJ wasn't credited in the finished game, though a bunch of musicians who worked with him were. Over the years, people begin to find similarities between some Sonic 3 tracks and Jackson's music, leaving us wondering if he was involved, and if so, how much input he had.

So, what does this prototype have to do with all that? Interestingly, this version completely lacks all of the tracks it's speculated that MJ and crew were involved with. In fact, the “new” music sounds just like the MIDIs from an old PC port of Sonic 3 and Knuckles – songs that, until now, people thought Sega created as hasty replacements for sample-heavy tunes. So what happened? When did the “Jackson tracks” get added in? If MJ was involved – and honestly, the evidence is really strong -- Sega plan to just drop MJ's involvement altogether, but run into contractual issues? Is this why Sega is reluctant to re-release Sonic 3 and Knuckles on modern platforms? The rabbit hole just gets deeper and deeper!

Anyhow, the ROM's out there now, so if you want to mess around with a very early version of Sonic 3 with weird graphics and a lot of stage elements not working as intended, knock yourself out! Game history is best experienced through play, after all. If you want to learn more about the Michael Jackson theory in particular, YouTube's got plenty of material.

Well, I've nerded out enough about this, so let's look at this week's fighting-game-heavy news!

STREET FIGHTER V IS BACK WITH A BRAND NEW EDITION AND AN OLD BOSS

Holy moly, there was no shortage of stuff to watch over the weekend if you enjoy fighting games! There was the Dreamhack Tekken World Tour event in Atlanta, Arc Revo in Southern California (we'll get to that!), and the CAPCOM Pro Tour North American finals in Las Vegas.   

With the knowledge that Arc System Works would have the upcoming Guilty Gear sequel on display this weekend, CAPCOM was well aware that most of the focus from the fighting game community would be on the newer, shinier game. But it's not a real fighting game match without counters, and CAPCOM had one of their own: a brand new version of Street Fighter V called Street Fighter V Champion Edition!

Besides the usual round of balance adjustments, the big new addition to Champion Edition is the second unique V-skill for each character. We only know a handful of these skills so far, and I'm sure more will be showcased in the coming weeks.

There are also new characters coming with the gameplay revisions, and one was revealed right after the announcement: Street Fighter III's infamous final encounter and wannabe JRPG last boss, Gill!

Sadly, he does not have Resurrection, but he's still got plenty of eye-rolling chuuni nonsense powers. Seraphic Wing? Buddy, leave that ultimate angel power stuff for the experts.

Street Fighter V Champion Edition will be available as an add-on or a retail package at a reduced price. You'll be getting access to all the already-released DLC characters, costumes, and stages in the deal. (If you spend money buying outfits piecemeal or grinding for Fight Money… uh, sucks to be you, I guess?) If you buy it now, you can get some of the Champion Edition content before its official launch next year! Gill isn't included, though – he's coming in December. If you don't give a crap about getting a bazillion weird outfits, the gameplay changes are still free of charge, so you'll get those new V-Skills even if you don't pony up.

So yes, good news for Street Fighter V players – the game's started to get a bit long in the tooth, so a shot in the arm like this seems like a smart move. I am, however, disappointed that CAPCOM missed a prime opportunity to reference one of the greatest memes in the fighting game community.

Street Fighter V Chamion Edition. Do it you cowards

GUILTY GEAR 2020 HAS A NEW TRAILER AND AN OFFICIAL NAME

This weekend saw the first-ever Arc Revo finals outside of Japan. This tournament was a best-of-the-best gathering of top-class players for various Arc System Works fighting games like Guilty Gear Xrd and Blazblue X Tag Battle. The tournament itself… well, I wasn't there, but I heard it had some issues. First-time fighting game events are always kinda rough, y'know? Especially if you're not used to putting them on in North America. The matches themselves were good, though!

The big draw to Arc Revo was a playable demo of Guilty Gear 2020. Most of the reactions I saw on Twitter seemed positive – some folks were a bit worried after the most recent streamed gameplay demo, but playing the game is very different from passively observing. Surveys were given to players after sessions, and one question stood out: asking if players really wanted rollback netcode. (Did anyone in their right mind say “no?”)

To top off the event, we got one new trailer showcasing two very important things:

That's right, we have a name now! Guilty Gear Strive! There's no X in the title, but see how that IV in Strive is highlighted? Clever! Even better: we have a glimpse of the delightfully mad doctor Faust at the end, with a promise of more details and another trailer at, appropriately, the Frosty Faustings tournament in January next year.

Also, shout-outs to all the wonderful nerdos singing along to Smell of the Game. Y'all make me happy.

I should point out: there's a really good interview with Daisuke Ishiwatari over on Ars Technica. Go check it out if you're into Guilty Gear, it's good readin’!

XBOX GAME PASS IS REALLY SWELL, ACTUALLY

Whatever you think of the Xbox One as a platform, it's hard to deny that Xbox Game Pass is a good deal. $10 a month to access a bunch of games on Xbox One consoles and PC? Including some high-profile new releases? That's pretty awesome! I mean, you don't technically own the games – you lose access to whatever you've downloaded if your subscription lapses – but if you're the kind of person who just likes to play a lot of different things and doesn't care about amassing a huge physical or download library, it's a great option.

At the X019 event in London last week, Microsoft announced a bunch of new games coming to the service. Generally, the XBone hasn't held much appeal to those whose tastes skew towards Japanese or anime-styled games -- since their target market is the West, those games tend to thrive more on popular Japanese-made platforms like the Switch and the PS4. So it was a surprise to see some high-profile Japanese titles announced for Xbox Game Pass, including…

Yes! The Yakuza games are coming to Xbox One and Game Pass, and I couldn't be happier that more folks will get the opportunity to experience this wonderful series.

Also coming to Game Pass: A whole huge chunk of the Kingdom Hearts and Final Fantasy library!

Including… Final Fantasy XIV?! Yep, apparently Microsoft has been talking to Square-Enix about bringing the top MMO to its platform (though likely not through Game Pass), and it should happen soon…ish. Hey, better late than never, right?

But yeah, I'm all for bringing more games to more platforms, and giving Xbox Game Pass players access to stuff like Yakuza is fantastic. And hey, you can play Final Fantasy XV if you missed it before, too! Beats paying $60 for a laggy Stadia version, right? (Oh man, is Stadia ever going to be a fun wreck to watch over the next couple years.)

Okay! That's another Week in Games in the bag. Thanks for reading, as always, and I'll be back next week with… whatever happens in gaming news before Thanksgiving, I guess. Bye for now!


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