This Week in Games
Super Smash Salt
by Heidi Kemps,
We've got a pretty news-heavy Week in Games, but before we get started, I'll link you all to my preview/interview for Granblue Fantasy Versus! A big gallery of pictures from Granblue Fest are following soon, so keep your eyes peeled for that.
Now, are you ready for some HARD-HITTING NEWS? Because boy, we've got it!
SAKURAI'S NOT DONE GIVING YOU FIRE EMBLEM REPRESENTATION
A new Nintendo Direct has been rumored to be coming for a while, but Nintendo seems content to simply drop game-specific Directs this month. We had Pokémon last week, but this week, we got a new Direct related to that ever-present source of fan frothing demand: the next Super Smash Bros Ultimate DLC character reveal!
As soon as it was announced, speculation ran wild as to who the new addition would be. Sora! Dante! Hayabusa! Crash! Doom Guy! Arle! People saw Sakurai's three-finger salute up there and started concocting crazy conspiracy theories. In retrospect, though, that should have made it really obvious. Three fingers… three of something… three… houses?
Say hello to Byleth, your newest Fire Emblem sword character representative!
Yes indeed, the final DLC character isn't a third-party guest at all, but one of Nintendo's own. Byleth is the main character from last year's Fire Emblem: Three Houses, which has been quite a hit among fan circles since its release. In the sizable FE fan sphere, this announcement was met with much celebration. In the even bigger Smash fandom, where “add more Fire Emblem characters” is a running joke, things were… a lot angrier, to say the least. Don't convince yourself your favorite character is next in line for Smash, folks, it'll just lead to crushing disappointment.
Ultimately, I think people are forgetting one very important thing: Super Smash Bros is Nintendo propaganda first and foremost and everything else that gets in the game is just a goodwill gesture. If Nintendo sees a good opportunity to add one of their own over a third-party character, they will do it. That's just smart business, and that's what we're seeing here. Three Houses has been doing exceptionally well critically and commercially since release, and additional Three Houses DLC and the #FE re-release are due very soon. The timing to add another Fire Emblem character into the mix is ideal, and they seized on it.
Plus, it's hard to be too mad when we know we've got a whopping six more characters coming down the line. That's a lot of dudes!
There's more, too: last time, we got a bunch of new costumes for Mii characters, including Undertale’s Sans. This time, the hot new getup features the eponymous Cuphead. Neat! There are also more Megaman costume variants, along with getup based on the Rabbids and Assassin's Creed. Not too shabby if you're into in-game cosplay.
Also, I still haven't played Three Houses yet. I need to fix that, huh? Wait, I'm reviewing #FE? Oh dear…
SQUARE-ENIX CASTS SLOW ON THE FFVII REMAKE
Things have been a little weird with the FFVII Remake over the past month or so. A leaked demo version of the game was found online and shared in some seedy corners of the web (and, rumor has it, a build of the full game may have also leaked), but Square Enix has kept quiet about it – in fact, that demo still isn't available to the public, even though several folks have streamed and YouTubed it already.
Anyway, in spite of this, the FFVII Remake has suffered a delay of about a month, moving from March 3 to April 10 globally. The reasoning is the usual PR speak about “extra polish,” but I think the real reason is a bit messier, like some sort of catastrophic bug they can't fix in a day-one patch. Final Fantasy XV suffered a similar delay, which makes me think that Square Enix should just not promote Final Fantasy release dates until they know the damn game's actually done.
There's also a bizarre rumor floating around Twitter that longtime Final Fantasy character designer, director, and overall series guider Tetsuya Nomura may have gotten the boot from Square Enix, but there's little to corroborate that besides an odd, out-of-context quote of Nomura saying he was “booked through 2019.” I feel like there would be a lot more official PR about “We have decided to part ways at this time” if it were true, because quietly kicking Nomura to the curb would likely incite fan rage on par with Konami locking Kojima out of the office. We'll just have to see, I guess.
SONY'S PEACING OUT OF E3, AGAIN
Boy, do I ever not regret skipping E3 last year. Not only was the show lackluster, but the whole thing with the ESA leaking a ton of personal information about global press attendees is enough to make anyone wary of attending the event on official business ever again. And thankfully, it's looking more and more like I won't have to, because Sony's opted out of E3 for the second year in a row.
Sony bailed last year, too, but we all assumed that was because they were slowing down their upcoming PS4 releases as they ramped up for the launch of the PS5. Well, it's 2020, the PS5 is launching later this year, and… nope, Sony still doesn't see the value in attending E3, even with a massive console debut looming. Damn, that's harsh.
Microsoft, seeing an opportunity, took the time to re-confirm their presence at the event. Even with 2 of the three first parties still attending, at this point I feel that confidence in E3 shaken: press doesn't want to attend anymore, big companies like EA and Blizzard have dropped the show without any negative effects, and smaller exhibitors are evaluating less costly alternatives with better returns on investment.
Our team is hard at work on E3, we look forward to sharing with all who love to play what's ahead for us. Our artform has consistently been propelled by the cross-section of creativity and technical progress. 2020 is a milestone year in that journey for Team Xbox. #XboxE3 #E32020— Phil Spencer (@XboxP3) January 14, 2020
To use a modern metaphor, E3 is a dying shopping mall. Several of the big anchors have already left, the smaller exhibitors are still trying to stick around but know that something's inevitably going to happen, and the managers are frantically scrambling to find ways to keep up appearances and bring in traffic. The attempt to make E3 a public event to make up for the loss of exhibitors is messy: it makes it harder for the folks their on business to get work done, while the folks who pay to attend are only getting a fraction of the experience that E3 was in its glory years. (Plus, as anyone who has been to Anime Expo can tell you, the location of the LA Convention Center is not ideal unless you're ok with overpaying for a hotel room and still needing to walk 8 blocks in LA heat to get to the venue.)
Now, I know a lot of folks who are eager to overload themselves with gaming announcements and PR in a one-week period at the end of Spring might be worried about the potential death of E3, but it's really beneficial for everyone. Instead of companies focusing on one big show, you'll see more Nintendo Direct and State of Play-like presentations, more developer and publisher presence at local events like PAX, and perhaps even more small-scale things like those pop-up demo stations first parties plant around shopping centers for console launches and holiday promotions. What's not to love about that?
In short, please let the E3 dinosaur go extinct already. It's served its purpose for a long time, but the landscape has irreversibly changed.
TOUHOU + MUSIC + BUBBLES + TAITO = AWESOME???
So, here's a fun announcement you may have missed. My beloved publisher Taito is making a new Touhou game on Switch! No, it's not a shooter… or a fighting game… or one of the many other genres that Touhou has touched by this point. Rather, Touhou Spell Bubble is a puzzle game, and a familiar one at that.
Yes, it's Puzzle Bobble, aka Bust-A-Move, with a shiny new coat of Touhou paint. If you haven't played Puzzle Bobble/Bust-A-Move, you have no doubt played at least one of its jankier, uglier knockoffs, so you know what the drill is here: fire colored orbs up to pop them, make big drops, crush your opponent underneath. Since Taito -- the original creators of the concept -- are directly involved, you can expect only the highest-quality ball-dropping without the wonky physics or awful piece-color spawns typical of the many clones out there. What's particularly interesting, though, is the game's musical element. Previews mention that music will play a big part in the gameplay, and that Taito's in-house musical team ZUNTATA, along with IOSYS and Yuuhei Satellite, will be providing copious hot remixes of favorite Touhou tunes to keep you boppin’ while you're a-bustin’.
This all sounds pretty great, and fortunately, we won't have to wait too long to see if Touhou Spell Bubble turns out well: the game will debut on the Switch eShop in Japan sometime next month! No word yet on a Western release, but seeing as how Touhou stuff has been released in English on consoles before and Puzzle Bobble remains quite popular, I would rate its chances as “likely.”
Well, I think that's about it for this week's column. What do you think the biggest news of the week so far has been? Does FFVII's release date shift make your March gaming schedule any better? Chat about all of this week's news in the forums!
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