This Week in Games
Announcementception

by Heidi Kemps,

Hey, here's something cool for manga and gaming fans: There's going to be an official anthology of Mother/Earthbound related manga releasing soon in Japan titled Pollyanna!

And by “official”, I mean “not only is it endorsed by Nintendo and series maestro Shigesato Itoi, but holy crap they got in some big-name talent to work on this.” Among the names are critical darlings like Inio Asano (Goodnight Punpun, Solanin), Taiyo Matsumoto (Ping Pong, Tekkon Kinkreet), Keiichi Arawi (Nichijou), and plenty more, including a familiar American name: Toby Fox of Undertale. Toby's certainly popping up in a lot of interesting places, huh?

The book releases next month in Japan, but there's no word on an English version. However, Dark Horse seems to be BFFs with Nintendo nowadays, publishing stuff like Hyrule Historia and the Splatoon artbooks, and Viz dabbles in Nintendo-related manga from time to time as well… so it's not totally out of the question! And an English version launching alongside the long-rumored official Mother 3 translation would probably destroy social media for at least a day. (Hell, “we'll never see this in its original form” Panel de Pon just released on the SNES Online service, and we know there's probably a GB/GBA online service in the works…)

IN WHICH I MAKE THE UNWISE DECISION TO JOIN THE PAPER MARIO DISCOURSE

Hours before this column went live last week, Nintendo did a surprise trailer-drop on social media. It was too late to amend it with coverage, so this week, we're going to talk about Paper Mario: Origami King!

Word on the internets was that something Paper Mario-related would be hitting Switch this year, and lo and behold, we have an all-new Paper Mario game! Origami King is introduced to us in a teaser trailer that starts out like something out of a Mario creepypasta before moving on to showcase a selection of in-game scenes. While it's hard to get a grasp on how exactly gameplay elements work in this footage, it does give a good overall feel of what you can expect in terms of visuals and atmosphere. After seeing the trailer, I'm feeling pretty good about Origami King and am eager to play it! I just don't want to say that on social media because oh jeez did things get really toxic really fast.

Paper Mario's biggest flaw, as a series, is that it peaked very early with the amazing Paper Mario: The Thousand Year Door, and the games since then… well, they're not as good as The Thousand Year Door. Intelligent Systems has since used Paper Mario as a vehicle to experiment with a lot of odd ideas, like with Super Paper Mario and Paper Mario: Sticker Star, and the end results have been rather mixed.

For the record, I've enjoyed all the post-TYD Paper Mario games to varying degrees. But TYD set a really high bar, and despite being fine games in their own right, the follow-up Paper Mario titles just can't reach those lofty heights. Exactly why these sequels haven't been quite as spectacular could be debated – I personally feel like certain ideas, like Sticker Star's inventory-driven combat, fell a bit flat – but there is an extremely loud contingent of people out there who insist that Paper Mario will be complete garbage unless it gives up all experimentation and goes back to the specific gameplay elements of TYD, and will stop at nothing to drag negativity into every single Paper Mario-related discussion until they get what they demand.

I know a lot of players would absolutely love to play a new Paper Mario that makes them feel exactly like The Thousand Year Door did the first time they played it, but even if we go back to those older gameplay concepts and mechanics, there's still no guarantee that the game you'd get would live up to your expectations. The Thousand Year Door is an amazing, unique mix of gameplay, aesthetics, music, humor, and charm, making an experience that's extremely difficult to replicate. I feel like Intelligent Systems could give the loudmouths on the internet everything they want and they'd still find something to be disappointed about because they've created a lofty, unassailable image in their heads of The Thousand Year Door as a near-perfect game. Of course everything that follows is going to disappoint when you set your expectations so high. I'd rather see Intelligent Systems continue their experimentation with Paper Mario, because these sorts of folks simply can't be pleased – and who knows, with creative freedom, we might wind up with something even better than TYD in the future.

Of course, a statement like that on Twitter is an invite to have the worst kind of fans all up in your mentions. Hell, I had a few random people show up in my feed to be jerks after I made a comment about the Paper Mario fanbase's clear toxicity problem. Way to prove my point! Anyhow, if you're one of the people actively searching social media to find any trace of people being positive about post-TYD Paper Mario to write pithy responses, you should probably stop. There's no good reason to harass people enjoying and looking forward a thing you're not, especially something as completely harmless as Paper friggin’ Mario.

NEW GAME + EXPO WILL PROBABLY DELIVER ALL THE JAPANESE GAME ANNOUNCEMENTS WE CRAVE

With E3 cancelled, every major anime con skipping 2020, EVO online only, and private announcement events being a no-go, publishers specializing in localizing Japanese games don't have a physical place to get their upcoming products in front of a lot of eyeballs. Even taking announcements digital isn't quite as easy as you might think, as most streaming events will choose to devote the majority of their showcase time to big AAA titles.

Fortunately for us, though, somebody had a really good idea: why not get all of these specialty publishers together for a big streaming showcase of upcoming titles that would have been announced at summer events? That's what New Game+ Expo on June 23rd is all about!

As you can see from the promo image above, this events will feature announcements from a lot of publishers, including Sega/Atlus, Idea Factory, Spike Chunsoft, KOEI-Tecmo, Arc System Works, Grasshopper Manufacture, SNK, and… WayForward? Okay, well, WayForward doesn't really localize games, but they have helped make new games in Japanese-born franchises, so I'm quite intrigued.

This concept is great for everyone involved – all of these publishers put out products targeting a similar fanbase, meaning that folks who tune in for one announcement or demo are likely to stick around to see what the other publishers are offering, too. I'm a little disappointed not to see Bandai-Namco or XSEED joining in, but there's time, they could still come to the party.

So, what are your announcement predictions? I feel like the debut of English Persona 5 Scramble is a given, SNK will likely show off another King of Fighters XV teaser, and somebody will announce a Ys IX localization. My total longshot hope is KOEI-Tecmo finally localizing one of their otome games like Angelique. How about you?

GAMESCOM IS TEAMING UP WITH SUMMER GAMES FEST

Gamescom, the massive German gaming expo, already mentioned that they were planning an online event to replace the cancelled 2020 show. Well, earlier this week, it was announced that Gamescom's original (physical) event dates would be shifting a bit to make the digital showcase easier for the folks at home (all of us) to watch. Instead of starting on the 25th, Gamescom will run August 27th through the 30th. It will also be the endpiece to wrap up Summer Games Fest, which is already proving itself to be a Big Deal for announcements and reveals.

Meanwhile, rumors continue to circulate about other online events, which may or may not be part of Summer Games Fest. According to VentureBeat, Sony -- who still hasn't shown much of anything regarding the PlayStation 5 -- is rumored to have an early June reveal event penciled in to debut more information about the new console. A PS5-centric State of Play is also said to be planned for August. Microsoft may also be planning something for early June involving either a closer look at the features of the Xbox Series X.

Unfortunately, for those who thrive on Nintendo Directs injecting hot surprise announcements into their veins, Nintendo might not have one ready to go for a long time, instead dropping single-game announcements like we just saw with Paper Mario: Origami King. Personally, I wouldn't mind, since it makes my job easier when I don't have to write up a dozen major announcements at once… but a lot of folks just love that high from a bunch of Nintendo surprises hitting all at once. Don't get too sad, we'll still get all the cool reveals in a drip-feed! Assuming this is all accurate – rumors and speculation, you know how it is.

Hmmm, there's a lot of announcements-of-announcements this week, isn't there? At least we know summer won't be a dull time for gaming news, even with all the cancellations. What rumored or confirmed presentations are you most looking forward to? Come join us in the forums for a healthy discussion. Just don't be a jerk about Paper Mario, please.


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