This Week in Games
Look, We NEED to Talk

by Heidi Kemps,

Hey. So… things got very serious over the past week across several gaming communities. A lot of really ugly stuff came out, and the effects have been very far-reaching. So, we really, really need to address this, because I'm pissed. Be warned: we're going to talk about some extremely nasty stuff, and I'm about to get more swear-y than usual.

THIS SHIT'S GOTTA STOP

Serious time here. There have been a lot of outings of abusive individuals in the game industry over the past couple of months, which is something that has been sorely needed. But gross abusive exploitative shit hasn't just been happening on the business side of games. Over the past week, many, many stories have come out about people in groups like competitive Super Smash Bros, the fighting game community, and speedrunning doing absolutely vile things: coercion, rape, exploitation of minors, abuse of women, and plenty of other disgusting behavior.

What's worse, the people who have been named as engaging in this activity have been people with power and standing in our communities. Smash Bros has been hit especially hard: Well-known player, Nairo, was exposed as initiated a sexual relationship with CaptainZack, another well-known player, when the latter was only fifteen years old. Cinnpie, another Smash player and commentator, has allegedly perpetrated sexual assault of minors. I don't even want to talk about the godforsaken Sky Mansion where a bunch of Smash players hung out because I'm still working to piece together all of the horrifyingly terrible things tied to that place and its “owner.” And that's just a few of the exposes that have come out!

But perhaps the biggest and most distressing revelation is that Joey Cuellar, the president behind EVO, may have done extremely inappropriate things with minors for actual, literal decades, using his position of power specifically to get things from young men in the fighting game community. After the allegations were made public, a huge shitstorm erupted, with multiple players, commentators, and sponsors threatened to abandon EVO if Cuellar wasn't ousted. He was quite quickly ejected the following day, but the damage was done, and this year's EVO Online has been completely cancelled, with the future of the event now in question.

How in the everloving fuck did we let all of this happen? Folks, let's face the harsh truth: our beloved gaming communities have failed on a catastrophic level to protect the vulnerable, and what's happening now is long overdue.

Nerd communities in general tend to attract a lot of starry-eyed teens and young adults. People who would love to meet and interact with their favorite players, artists, and online personalities. With gaming communities, these feelings are magnified since meeting your idols is much easier – you might simply run into them in a tournament bracket! And when one of the great names in your scene is showing attention and validation, a young person might not recognize signs of grooming and exploitation, leaving them vulnerable to emotional and sexual abuse. And it seems like a LOT of well-known community figureheads were eager to exploit their influence in this way.

Looking back, you can find rumors and accusations about many of these named parties stretching back years – things communities mostly ignored and wrote off. It's only now, in the middle of a goddamned global pandemic, that shit is finally getting done, that these terrible people are getting booted out of the positions of power they once held. Maybe it's because there's no fear of having to go to a tournament and stare your abuser in the eye. Maybe it's because, as a collective, we're seeing other people speak up and finally working up the nerve to do it ourselves. And maybe it's because we're seeing society at large begin to recognize its systems of oppression and deciding we're not putting up with this bullshit anymore.

And I'm fine with that. If we have to burn our communities, tear down the assholes in power, and destroy our institutions in order to rebuild a safer, better space for everyone, then that is what needs to be done. The FGC would be fine without EVO. Smash Bros will continue to thrive without certain players preying on others. Speedrunning will still be a thing if rapists’ records are erased and people are banned for life from GDQ. Getting rid of the rot will allow new games, micro-communities, and players to thrive who would have been otherwise stifled by predators on a pedestal.

Be a force for change. Confront and expose the shitheads in your communities. And most importantly, support victims.

God, that felt good to get out of my system. Let's move on to topics that don't inspire intense rage.

YES, OF COURSE I'VE ALREADY PRE-ORDERED AN ASTRO CITY MINI

Some folks were disappointed when Sega showed off the Game Gear Micro a few weeks back. Novel as the little devices are, their limited game selection and super-teensy screens are a turn-off to all but the most devout Sega fans. But, Sega being Sega, they've got another crazy little mini-system up their sleeves – and this one should be getting everyone excited. Presenting: the Astro City Mini!

What is the Astro City, you ask? If you're not a big arcade fan, you probably don't know, so I'll be happy to explain! Unlike in North America, where a lot of arcade games were sold in their own big wooden cabinets, many Japanese arcades games were sold as simply as printed circuit boards, which arcades would then put into a plastic-and-metal cabinet housing of their choosing, simply switching the signage to show what game was in the machine. Many companies -- including CAPCOM, Namco, Taito, Konami, and SNK -- manufactured these all-purpose arcade cabinets, but one model of cabinet was the most popular by far: Sega's Astro City.

The Astro City first hit the market in the early 90s, and it became insanely popular, defining the look and feel of pre-HD Japanese arcade games. After its introduction, many of Sega's competitors simply dropped out of the cabinet-making market – and those that did stick around used the Astro City as a base to design their own hardware. To this day, if you go to a Japanese arcade and see a retrogaming corner, you'll probably see the games running on Astro City cabinets.

So that's the basis for the Astro City Mini. The console itself looks very similar to the Neo Geo Mini released a while back, complete with built-in screen and embellished with the distinct neon-green-and-pink flourishes that define the Astro City aesthetic. What kind of games will be packaged with it? Why, arcade games, of course! 36 of them, to be exact. A handful have been revealed so far, and alongside no-brainer inclusions like Virtua Fighter, Altered Beast, Fantasy Zone, and Golden Axe are a few interesting surprises: Dark Edge, a pre-Virtua Fighter one-on-one pseudo-3D fighter from a time when Sega was trying to find a unique fighting game formula that worked; Golden Axe: Revenge of Death Adder, an arcade-only sequel that's never seen an official home port; Alien Storm, a bizarre action/comedy game from the Golden Axe development team; and Puzzle and Action Tant-R, a game that helped popularize the minigame-collection format in Japan.

Speculation abounds on what other games will be in the mix – I'm hoping for some Model 2 and 3 games to be included, though that might not be feasible depending on what core they use to power the Astro City Mini. Some folks are speculating that non-Sega games could happen, too, since the Astro City was a universal cabinet and the unit has a CAPCOM-style six-button layout. (Also, a suitably themed external USB controller has been announced, as well!) I think I'll be happy with more games that never got proper home ports finally being made more widely available, be they from Sega or other developers.

Speaking of being made more widely available…

GOOD NEWS, YOU DON'T HAVE TO PAY SOME JERK ON EBAY TRIPLE DIGITS FOR THE ORIGINAL SHANTAE ANYMORE

Limited Run Games had their big 2020 announcement stream earlier today. Since they tend to specialize in physical releases of otherwise digital-download-only games, their streams consist mostly of showing off cool collector boxes they're packaging other developers’ and publishers’ games in. Which is fine, that's not really my market, but lots of folks love their big boxes of gaming doodads. Every so often, though, they reveal a physical version for something that hasn't been announced yet.

Besides hinting at more River City Girls – yes please, I loved the original but felt like things wrapped up too abruptly – Limited Run also let everyone know that they're getting Shantae again. As in, the original Shantae, which is one of the most expensive games on the Game Boy Color on the collector market. They'll be re-releasing the game physically on the Switch (where it will also be on the eShop), but also on the Game Boy Color. Yes, they're making a new physical cartridge for it! Finally, an affordable Shantae on a cartridge on your choosing – provided the scalpers don't swoop in, of course, but you'll probably be fine if you pre-order. Also, Shantae and the Pirate's Curse Director's Cut will be released on Switch and Xbox One, with a Switch physical edition coming. More genie goodness for everyone!

NEWSBITS OF INTEREST

Square-Enix has trademarked "Live A Live" in Australia. Live A Live is an obscure but beloved RPG from the old Squaresoft days that celebrated its 25th anniversary last year. Its unique selling point is that it follows the story of eight different heroes in different times and settings, bringing all of their stories together towards the game's climax. Could a remake and official English translation be in the works? I'm really hoping yes, and if it's a full-on remake, I'm hoping it doesn't stray too far from its 16-bit gameplay and storytelling roots. Just please don't make it smartphone-only, I beg you.

Also in the “stuff I wasn't expecting to see localized” category: Everyday Today's Menu for the Emiya Family is coming to Switch in English! This is one of the many, many, many Fate series spin-offs, focusing on Shiro Emiya cooking food for a bunch of familiar faces in Fuyuki. Basically, it's Cooking Mama with your favorite Fate/stay night faces, though with considerably less drama surrounding its release than the actual Switch Cooking Mama. It feels like Aniplex is really working to get as much Fate series stuff out in English as they can, which has me wondering if an official localized release of the original visual novels would ever happen… but they'd probably have to get ports to current consoles first.

Alright, that does it for this week. So, what are you playing this week? I see from early reviews that Deadly Premonition 2 is just as polarizing as the original, but if I could survive the astonishingly awful framerate drops of Drakengard 3, I can probably handle DP2's performance quirks. I'll be back again next week, so until then, stay safe.


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