This Week in Games
Don't Panic

by Heidi Kemps,

Heya folks! So, did you go see the Sonic movie this weekend? Because I didn't! I'm not saying that to be a contrarian asshole, I just don't see a need to go out and watch it immediately, especially when a. the trailers didn't sell me on it and b. I'd have to sit in theatres alongside a gaggle of loud, screaming kids. Still, people whose opinions I trust are saying it's entertaining enough, so I think I'll check it out at some point when the initial crowds die down.

What I do find exhausting is just how many folks are obsessing and arguing over the box office for this and other nerd-property-based films that they had nothing to do with. Since when did box office take reflect a movie's quality? Plenty of good stuff is criminally underappreciated, and lots of garbage makes money. Attaching a personal investment in a piece of media's financial take (which you see no dividends from) just seems so utterly ridiculous to me.

Anyhow, there's a fair few things happening in the gaming world this week, so let's take a look.

ANIMAL CROSSING: NEW HORIZONS GETS A LOW-KEY DIRECT

People have been complaining that it's been a long time since the last big Nintendo Direct online broadcast, but personally, I've been fine with the game-specific Directs that have been coming out every month or so. They keep the focus on whatever Nintendo is looking to promote in that timeframe and can go into much more detail on game features than a multi-announcement broadcast. (They also make my job easier since I don't have to write up twenty game announcements in a single column!)

This week, Nintendo dropped a Direct broadcast about Animal Crossing: New Horizons, which is clearly the Switch's marquee title for the spring, and possibly the year. (My prediction: this is going to be 2020's best-selling title in Japan.) And, much like the game itself, the Direct was a pretty chill affair: no huge bombshells, but lots of talk about the little things to look forward to in your island getaway.

That's not to say that nothing of interest was shown, but a lot of the quality-of-life stuff and additions revealed are really only exciting if you know and care about Animal Crossing already. The improved interface for decorating rooms in your home looks great, the navigation tools make it easier to get where you want to go, and the Party Play feature looks like a great way for families to enjoy some quality in-game time together. I also really like that you can pick whether you're in the Northern or Southern Hemisphere: a lot of calendar-based games forget that the seasons are reversed for a good chunk of the planet. (I'll probably go Southern Hemisphere simply because I like the idea of playing in a fantasy winter setting during real-life summer heat).

You only have a month before you set sail to your new home, so make sure you finish up all those other games before island life becomes your, uh, life. And hey, on your isolated island you won't have to worry about infectious diseases!

CORONAVIRUS KILLS SONY'S PAX EAST HYPE

You have no doubt heard about the Coronavirus by now. It's all over the news, who are breathlessly reporting about every confirmed case – which is feeding into a lot of fears and misinformation (and, sadly, anti-Asian racism) among the general public. Most of the virus's damage has been confined to China, and that's already having an effect on international trade: Nintendo's saying the supply of Switch consoles coming to Japan from Chinese manufacturers might be restricted, and various anime goods (notably, collectible figures) are having their release dates delayed because of concerns about international shipping from China. Even some anime broadcasts are being affected – I assume because some of the work has been outsourced to Chinese studios.

Japan, being a close neighbor of China, is being quite cautious about the situation – probably a little too cautious. Numerous events have been cancelled (including a big Final Fantasy VII Remake promotion), while others are necessitating the use of masks and copious sanitation procedures to participate. But while caution is admirable (and advised), some of the cancellations simply don't make any sense – like Sony opting to pull out of PAX East, where they had planned a big showcase event.

While the virus is a serious concern – and there has been a single confirmed case in Massachusetts – this announcement smells like a severe overreaction from a Japanese parent company about a pandemic panic that, so far, has been far less devastating than the seasonal flus that circulate yearly. It's telling that Sony is the only company to pull out of the event: everyone else who is planning to attend is still going. This particularly sucks for a lot of the indie studios who were counting on Sony pushing them at PAX East for a boost, and I'm hoping they can find other ways to promote their wares.

Anyway: Coronavirus is serious, but being overly paranoid about it doesn't help at all. You can protect yourself and others through common sense: wash your hands (especially if you're sharing controllers), make sure your spaces are adequately cleaned and sanitized, scoot away from that guy on the subway who's sniffling and coughing, and for the love of God don't go out in public if you have a serious fever. And if you're going to PAX East, have fun (and try out some small/indie games – they need all the attention they can get)!

NON-TROVERSY: CRAPPY GAY PEDOPHILIA JOKES IN PERSONA 5 ARE BEING REVISED IN THE ENGLISH VERSION OF P5 ROYAL

Today on “Things that don't matter that people are getting their panties in a twist about”: It was revealed in an interview that the English Persona 5 Royal script is getting tweaked (good, the original was really not great), and one notable effect of that is that some throwaway scenes where young Ryuji is hit on by older, predatory gay men is being rewritten to make the whole thing less icky. Cue the usual internet rage.

Really, though, these scenes are stupid and unnecessary, were a low point in the game for a fair few players, and just feel gross: pedophilia jokes (especially gay pedophilia jokes) are extremely not in vogue right now. According to this Gamespot article which talks to longtime Atlus localization lead Yu Namba, there was a fair bit of back and forth about it among Atlus staff both here and in Japan, and they decided to go ahead and change it. It makes sense to fix up that sort of thing for a mass-market product (which Persona really is now, its status as a niche game died a loooooong time ago), and it has zero effect on gameplay, the main story, or Ryuji's character, so why get upset about it?

Anyway, I think that's all that's worth saying about the matter. People in the company recognized something bad, discussed it, and changed it. Case closed. Move on.

STREET FIGHTER V'S LATEST PATCH CAUSES CONSTERNATION

A few weeks ago, a fan-made match to improve the netcode for the PC version of Street Fighter V hit, and folks were pretty happy about it! The (apparently simple) fix improved long-distance match quality for a lot of PC players, though it did cause some problems with PS4 crossplay (which was remedied in a subsequent patch). Not long after that, CAPCOM announced that they were working on their own netcode improvement patch, which made players excited – would they be officially implementing the fan-made mod?

Answer: no. In fact, the official patch disabled the mods entirely. And boy oh boy, were people PISSED.

But after a wave of initial internet anger, people seemed to calm down a bit and take a more critical look at the said-to-be-improved netcode. Some players were reporting that, yes, their connections did seem to be noticeably better, while others mentioned not seeing any real improvement at all. A close look at the code did reveal some changes under the hood, though the end result isn't quite what people were hoping for. My buddy mauve (who has written extensively on the subject of fighting game netcode) summed things up in this tweet:

So, yeah. It's kind of an improvement, but still has problems. Not quite worth the vitriol that came from the initial responses, but still, CAPCOM should be doing better (and should be communicating about what exactly gets changed in each patch a lot better). Hey, at least this patch isn't a PC rootkit this time, right?!

MORE FIGHTING GAME NEWS: HAVE A MINA TRAILER

You like Samurai Shodown? You like dark-skinned, silver-haired girls with ginormous bows? Well, do I ever have a trailer for you!

Mina will be out on Feb. 26. Also, I can't be alone in thinking that they should have changed Chample's mascot-animal look just a little, can I? He really sticks out like a sore thumb alongside all of the other visuals. I'm not asking for something like the original Sonic movie abomination, but maybe less cartoony would have been better.

Alright then, I think that does it for this week. As the ultra-packed gaming month of March approaches, which titles are you most hyped for? Did the Animal Crossing Direct get you pumped to go into debt yet again? Chat about it in the forums, and I'll see you again soon!


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