This Week in Games
Micro Machines

by Heidi Kemps,

Hey. So, uh, this is one of those exceedingly rare times when I really don't want to talk about videogames, given, y'know, everything going on here on Planet Earth at the moment. And I'm definitely not alone here, because a whole mess of announcements prepared for this week have been postponed: Sony's PS5 unveiling, IGN's Summer of Gaming, the PC Gaming Show 2020… just to name a few.

But, yes, there is still some gaming news happening, so it's my duty to report it. Just forgive me if things seem a little short this week. Gaming escapism during stressful times is great and all, but now's not the time to have gaming completely block out the harsh reality we really need to face.

DID ANYONE ASK FOR A RIDICULOUSLY TINY GAME GEAR, BECAUSE THAT'S WHAT WE'RE GETTING FOR SEGA'S 60TH ANNIVERSARY

Sega turned 60 years old today! Well, they turned 60 years old yesterday, since you're reading this on Thursday, but yeah. And with that big six-oh comes some crazy, crazy announcements!

First off, we have our conclusion to the Sega Shiro saga. As Segata Sanshiro's progeny, can Sega Shiro defeat the mysterious masked man and protect Sega for years to come!? Find out in the shocking ending to this amazing story!

Yeah, that was pretty great. Also: new Sega merchandise for the 60th anniversary! Alas, it's Japan-only, but… maybe the US Sega Store can import a few things? Though I doubt that hologram T-shirt effect will survive more than a few washes.

But there's still more! Sega's saved one big, bonkers, mindblowing announcement for this very special date…. Okay, scratch that “big” part, because this is the exact opposite!

It's a Game Gear! But not just any Game Gear, a Game Gear Micro! Yes, it's an itsy-bitsy Game Gear that's smaller than your cellphone! Why do we need a tiny Game Gear? Who knows! Who cares! Because its very existence is ridiculous and weird and embodies that old-school Sega spirit oh-so-perfectly!

For 4980 yen (about $50 USD), you can get an itty-bitty Game Gear in one of four colors. There are four games built into every Game Gear Micro, and each model has a different theme. The black includes “classic” (for Japan) games: Sonic, Puyo Puyo Tsuu, Outrun, and the end-of-console-lifespan Strategy/RPG Royal Stone. The blue model, implied to be for true-blue Sega fans, includes Sonic & Tails (aka Sonic Chaos), Gunstar Heroes, the action/RPG Sylvan Tale, and puzzler Baku Baku Animal. The yellow system includes all three of the Game Gear Shining Force titles, and, uh… Puyo Puyo spinoff Nazo Puyo? Sure, why not. Finally, the red system offers up two of the Last Bible games (a relatively lesser-known Megami Tensei spinoff RPG series) along with the excellent Game Gear Shinobi game and Columns. Well, maybe the themes are pretty loose, but at least they got a puzzle game and an RPG on each one of these!

The emulation for the Game Gear Micro is being handled by M2, who recently worked on both the Genesis/MegaDrive Mini and the PC Engine/Turbografx Mini. (I still need to get a Coregrafx Mini model, dangit!) Currently, there don't seem to be any plans for a Western release – and if a Western version emerges, I'm sure we won't be seeing as many of the RPG offerings (out of all the RPGs listed above, only one Game Gear Shining Force game got localized). Honestly, I'm, uh… hard-pressed to think of any Western-made Game Gear titles worth a damn that weren't Sega Master System ports haphazardly squished into a smaller resolution.

Now I feel like I want to bust out M2's 3DS port of GG Shinobi. If their Game Gear Virtual Console work is anything to go on, the emulation and options on these little guys is going to be rad. Despite being a massive Sega stan, I never owned a Game Gear, opting for the cheaper, more-battery-efficient Game Boy for my portable needs. (I have no idea how so many other kids convinced their parents to buy them a console that ate 6 AA batteries in a couple of hours.) I've never felt the burning need to explore the library outside of a few notable titles like Shinobi and some of the odd Sonic spinoffs (Tails Adventure, Sonic Drift 1 & 2). Maybe it's time to check out some of those exclusive RPGs! Though reading text on that tiny screen… hmmm, yeah, I don't know about that.

SEGA'S ALSO PLANNING SOMETHING BIG FOR (JAPANESE) ARCADES, AND MAYBE CONSUMERS TOO?

Last week, it was teased on a Japanese livestream that there would be a big Sega-related scoop in this week's issue of Famitsu. I wrote it up in the newsbits originally, but wound up cutting it because I wasn't really sure how big it would turn out to be… and because the rumors being built up by Sega fans were already setting up a lot of people for disappointment. First it was a Dreamcast 2, then it was Sega being bought by Microsoft, then it was Sega selling the Xbox Series X/S in Japan as Sega-branded consoles… it all turned out to be baseless speculation, because while it's still pretty big news about an interesting emerging technology, it doesn't seem to have much to do with consoles at all.

Anyhow, Sega is currently working on a new “fog gaming” service for arcades. What is “fog gaming,” you ask? Well, it's like Google Stadia's cloud gaming, but it sucks a lot less. That's because instead of just beaming inputs from a controller to a server running a game and waiting for the resulting audio and visuals to be sent back to you, “fog gaming” would use several nearby networked systems running in tandem to process and deliver game content through a better, lower-latency connection. While the specifics of how this will work haven't been revealed as of the time of writing, speculation is that this will allow arcades to earn income while machines aren't being used by letting their systems be utilized for the fog network. This could also let players enjoy games during hours when arcades are closed.

Wait, when arcades are closed? Could there be some sort of client to let folks enjoy certain arcade games on PC or consoles during off hours? It seems counterproductive to let folks not go to arcades when they're operating, so maybe it'd be restricted to specific times or areas… but the possibility is certainly intriguing, and the ability to let idle cabinets produce money by powering other systems is a lucrative one.

The whole concept of fog gaming could produce interesting results that extend far out of the arcade – imagine being able to buy cheaper systems with fewer pricey components that worked in tandem with other nearby networked devices, using their otherwise-idle GPU and CPU to help power a low-latency game experience. That sounds super cool!

(Of course, I'm no expert on the concept of fog computing, so I may be completely wrong about how parts of it work. Feel free to correct me in the forums if I'm waaaaaay off.)

While some folks might be disappointed that this big scoop only applies to Japan and arcade games, it could be the genesis (har) of some very intriguing tech. I'm quite eager to get more info on this future-fog!

EVO ONLINE SIGNUPS ARE COMING SOON, BUT READ THE FINE PRINT FIRST

It's easy to forget with everything happening that EVO is still, uh, happening. Sort of. EVO Online consists of a handful of “exhibitions” of the original planned EVO 2020 lineup (we still don't know how or when that's happening), but you'll still be able to compete in one of four games: Skullgirls 2nd Encore, Mortal Kombat 11, Killer Instinct, and Them's Fightin’ Herds. All of these games have superb netcode that can actually support long-distance online play, which is more than can be said for… er, all of the original Evo 2020 lineup. Registration begins on June 5th – tomorrow! – with each game's pools occupying a specific weekend in July.

However, you're not going to be playing cross-continent, as all of the tournaments for these games will be region-based. Region 1 includes all of North America (USA/Canada/Mexico), Region 2 encompasses Japan and South Korea, and Region 3 includes all of Europe. You won't be competing outside of your region, and if you live in South America, the Middle East, Africa, a good chunk of Asia, or Australia/New Zealand, you're pretty much SOL. I mean, I guess you could maybe try a VPN, but that's probably not a great idea for online gaming. Supposedly, the number of eligible territories is limited due to local laws and regulations, but, uh… what are these laws and regulations? Things related to competitions and prizes? Heck, we barely even know what kind of prizes are up for grabs. Some transparency (like an official explainer) would be nice, rather than a couple of tweets.

Since a lot of fighting games don't have inter-platform crossplay (Street Fighter V and Killer Instinct are notable exceptions), consoles have to be standardized as well. Mortal Kombat XI will be running on PS4, Them's Fightin Herds will be on PC (the only platform it's available on), Killer Instinct will also be on PC (but only Windows 10 systems, and no word if Xbox One crossplay with be allowed – I don't see why it wouldn't be), and Skullgirls is PS4-based. That last one mystifies me a bit, since I was under the (possibly incorrect) impression that a lot of the Skullgirls community plays on PC. It's certainly the easiest platform to start playing Skullgirls on, since it's usually on sale for super cheap, runs on fairly low-end systems well, gets patches first, and you don't need any additional service memberships to access online play. I dunno, it just seems like a bad choice to go PS4 with that one.

Anyhow… yeah, this is pretty messy, but it'll have to do for now. However EVO Online turns out, I hope two things come from it: that more games work to improve their netcode, and that other online fighting game tournaments will see what works and what doesn't here and use it to improve future events.

That does it for this week. Be a force for good in the world. I'll see you again soon.


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