This Week in Games
by Heidi Kemps,
Heyas, TWIG pals! It's Thursday, it's a week, and there's games to talk about!
Japan's big arcade show JAEPO was last weekend, and there was plenty of cool stuff on display… much of which you won't get to see unless you live in Japan, have a Round 1 near you, or have a group of local music-game obsessed buddies who have figured out how to hack Konami's various Bemani cabinets. (There's one of those groups in every metro area, but getting in with them requires connections and possibly secret blood pacts.) One announcement particularly caught my attention: Sega's going to start bringing a bunch of classic arcade games on demand to their All.net P-Ras Multi 3 network system!
M2's signed on to Sega's APM3 arcade platform, and they've announced a Fantasy Zone port as well as a new shooting game called "Senjin"🇯🇵 https://t.co/o8Bj0oXg0s— GSK🌭 (@gosokkyu) February 7, 2020
If that last part sounded like complete nonsense, I don't blame you! APRM3 is basically a networked system that allows cabinets equipped with it to offer multiple games selectable by the player. Think of those multi-game arcade cabinets, only with less copyright infringement and more new (and, in this case, old) stuff on offer.
The first classic Sega arcade game coming to APRM3 is Fantasy Zone, ported once again by the masters at M2. I'm hoping they can bring most of their pre-existing Sega Ages arcade line and Model 2 hardware emulation to the platform: playing networked Virtua Fighter 2, Fighting Vipers, and Last Bronx would be delightful.
M2's also doing an all-new shooter called Senjin for the hardware, which looks slick as hell from screenshots. Here's hoping that Round 1 can work out a deal to bring PRM3 Stateside like they did with Taito and Konami's networked systems.
Alright, that's my personal nerdery of the way, so let's get looking at some other news for this week.
BIOWARE'S ANTHEM IS GETTING A NEW TUNE
2019 was a great year for games, there's no denying that. But perhaps because all of the good stuff that released was so good, it makes the disappointments and disasters stand out even more…
Oh, Anthem. The game that was supposed to fix BioWare's image after Mass Effect Andromeda’s tepid reception wound up doing nothing of the sort, thanks to a messy, aimless, pressure- and crunch-intensive development that's been talked about extensively. Anthem sold decently, but a persistent-world game like this needs to retain a playerbase. Anthem was, uh… definitely not doing that.
So, it's time for something drastic to happen. It's time… to TOTALLY remake the core game! Yes, as BioWare General Manager Casey Hudson posts in this official update, BioWare is dropping any sort of content roadmaps or seasonal updates to revamp the core of Anthem into a game that's actually enjoyable. Small updates, events, and content re-runs will happen, but nothing big will happen with Anthem until the game has been overhauled. Drastic, but seeing how troubled Anthem was from the get-go, definitely necessary.
There are a lot of folks out there comparing what's happening with Anthem to what happened with Final Fantasy XIV's original release, which… yeah, I don't know about that. I'm not going to mince words here: Final Fantasy XIV in its current state is a goddamned miracle. Naoki-P and his team were tasked with making a shit sundae into a delicious parfait, and they pulled it off beautifully. What made FFXIV's reboot so successful was a variety of factors: bringing in the right people to helm the project, making sure there was a cohesive vision and goals among the staff, and giving the team as many resources as they needed to make the game shine. This is, honestly, pretty hard to pull off, and previous reports about the troubled development of other BioWare projects makes me wonder if BioWare – and perhaps more importantly, EA – are capable or willing to give Anthem what it needs to become really, really good. (By the by, if you haven't watched the NoClip video series on Final Fantasy XIV, I highly recommend doing so!)
What this sounds like to me is more of a No Man's Sky situation. That's a that game got tremendously overhauled a while after launch and became a far better product, but most of what was happening behind the scenes at developer Hello Games was kept rather quiet. Anthem, though? Anthem was such a black-eye embarrassment that EA and BioWare had to tell everybody that the game was getting revamped to save even a little bit of face.
Anyway, Anthem’s getting the reboot it and its players deserve. Hopefully a few other companies will follow that game's lead and significantly overhaul their lackluster 2019 productions…
FIGHTING GAME NEWS ROUNDUP: LET'S START WITH THE UPLIFTING STUFF
The Dragon Ball FighterZ World Championship took place this weekend, and it was a good time! The world's strongest warriors stepped up to do battle, and current EVO DBFZ Champion Go1 took home the trophy.
Usually these game-specific events come with expectations of character announcements, but this time, we got something a bit different: a lengthy video from producer Tomoko Hiroki about various game system changes in Season 3!
The biggest new addition here is undoubtedly selectable assists ala Marvel vs. CAPCOM, which go a long way in influencing character selection. This is a pretty big game-changer, and could do a lot to help re-invigorate the title. More non-specific updates are hinted at in the trailer, suggesting adjustments to certain skills/setups and new ways for someone to hold on longer if they're down to a single anchor character. We're sure to see more details on those in the coming months.
FIGHTING GAME NEWS ROUNDUP 2: A BIT OF A DOWNER
EXAMU was a company that was never a household name, but they managed to produce a handful of fighting games that won over the anime-fighters community. You may have heard of the Arcana Heart series – that's their big franchise – but their development team (called, fittingly, Team Arcana) has worked on other fighters like Nitroplus Blasterz, Aquapazza, and Million Arthur Arcana Blood. They briefly tried to produce their own arcade hardware back in the late-aughts, which flamed out pretty spectacularly, and since then have mostly worked on other folks’ platforms and IPs.
Alas, EXAMU's days are numbered. At the end of this month, the company will close its doors for good. Fortunately, Team Arcana – the folks who made everything of note for EXAMU -- will persist as an independent outfit. They now hold the Arcana Heart IP (and will continue to update the PC version of Arcana Heart 3), so it's not all bad news.
Honestly, even the biggest Arcana Heart fans will admit that EXAMU was not a very well-run outfit: they made numerous questionable business decisions throughout their existence. Honestly, I think Team Arcana becoming their own separate development team is the best long-term outcome, so even though a company is dead, this is news I'm not terribly broken up about. The next story, though…
FIGHTING GAME NEWS ROUNDUP 3: oh dammit this is really tragic :(
So, who here is familiar with the game Chaos Code? It's a pretty obscure little fighting game made by Taiwanese developers FK Digital, but it's got a nice little cult following in the West and Japan. It's pretty solid, with nice art, a fun fighting engine, and a neat cast of characters. For a while now, FK Digital has been teasing a sequel, called Chaos Code: Next Episode of Xtreme Tempest. They actually showed a trailer at EVO Japan, which was a bit of news I managed to overlook because it was shown during a Chaos Code side tournament I wasn't able to watch.
I regret not giving it proper attention now, because on Sunday it was announced that FK Digital was ceasing game development, including work on the next Chaos Code. This seemed like a very sudden announcement, seeing has how new footage of the game was just shown, so speculation was rampant as to what was going on.
Not long after the announcement hit, producer Mickey Lin took to Twitter to explain, in several languages, just what was going on. Just to warn you: it's heartbreaking.
It's easy to forget that there are human lives behind the games we love, and sometimes developers have to step away from things for reasons beyond business and finance. I wish nothing but the best for Mickey going forward.
Also, a port of Chaos Code: New Sign of Catastrophe is hitting the Switch eShop soon, so if you haven't played it and are looking for a new fighter to try, you can still give Mickey and the FK Digital team some support.
Well! Uh, yeah, sorry to end on a downer note, there. It's not always sunshine and rainbows in the games biz, I'm afraid. Anyhow, what are your thoughts on failed games getting radical revamps? Is there any disappointing title you'd like to see the publisher take back and fix? Chat among your peers in our lovely forums below! See you again in TWIG version 0.22020!
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