This Week in Games
by Heidi Kemps,
Before we dive into this week's news, let's look at a recent announcement that took me by surprise.
That green-haired girl you see above is Asha, the heroine of Monster World IV, one of the later entries in the confusingly-named-and-numbered Wonderboy series. Monster World IV is a fantastic game, easily in the upper echelons of classic 16-bit action/RPGs like Terranigma, Link to the Past, and Secret of Mana, but it's not well remembered because it never got an official English translation until decades after its initial release.
But if you missed Monster World IV the first time around, there's good news: it's getting a HD revamp for modern consoles! No in-game visuals have been revealed yet, but if it looks as good as stuff like the Wonderboy III: The Dragon's Trap remake and spiritual-sequel Monster Boy, I'll be pleased as punch. Publisher ININ Games is also working with original Wonderboy developer Ryuichi Nishizawa to release Clockwork Aquario, a cancelled arcade game that was considered lost for quite some time, so clearly that publisher has some serious Wonderboy fans among its staff.
Anyway, I wanted to mention this upfront because Monster World IV is great, and I want more people play it. It's on the Genesis Mini – if you own one but haven't tried it, you should definitely give it a go. Trust me, you'll love it. Then when the remake comes out you can play it again and compare the two!
Now onto the headlines!
NINTENDO DIRECT'S MINI PARTNER SHOWCASE REVEALS SOME TASTY THIRD-PARTY MORSELS
Hooray, it's time for another Mini Direct! Still no first-party game highlights, but you know what? I think these announcements excite me more than a 1-minute snippet of pre-alpha Zelda footage would. Let's have a look at the newly revealed games!
A lot of people say that Sega is just a Sonic and Yakuza company now, but that's not really true! Besides finally giving the world Phantasy Star Online 2, they've also been making a BIG international push for Puyo Puyo. And it seems to be paying off! Puyo Puyo Tetris in particular has done quite well, appearing on multiple platforms and earning itself a devoted little competitive community. Well, good news, folks: We're getting another one!
The big addition to Puyo Puyo Tetris 2 seems to be Skill Battle: a mode where you assemble a party of characters with different abilities that can be used during versus play for various effects. (You can see Ringo using a technique to change a whole glob of Puyos red in the trailer above.) All of the modes from the original are present, as well! Is there more that Sega hasn't announced yet? Probably, but you won't have to wait too long to see everything – Puyo Puyo Tetris 2 is releasing on December 8th on Switch, and Xbox and PlayStation versions will be available as well.
And speaking of games finding an audience outside of Japan, there's more Taiko no Tatsujin on the way! However, Taiko no Tatsujin: Rhythmic Adventure Pack is a bit different from the other home console versions of the drum-banging arcade music game. The Taiko franchise got a lot of ports to different systems – including handhelds. But since Taiko no Tatsujin loses a bit of its appeal when stuck on a tiny screen, Bandai-Namco opted to take a different approach than just an arcade port with extras: they turned the games into full-on RPGs. And that's what we're getting.
The Rhythmic Adventure Pack is a port of two Taiko no Tatsujin RPGs that originally launched on the 3DS in Japan only. They're silly, playful little romps where combat outcomes are determined by your drumming expertise. Of course, if you want a more traditional Taiko no Tatsujin experience, you can play the classic mode, so you can get your drum on no matter how you're feeling.
Then there's Collection of SaGa FINAL FANTASY LEGEND, which contains two franchise names and the SUDDEN USE OF CAPS for maximum confusion! I mean, yeah, a lot of us know that the games released here as Final Fantasy Legend on the Game Boy were, in fact, the first SaGa series games… but surely there's a better way to convey that to consumers, right? I'd go with SaGa Origins: The Final Fantasy Legends or something like that. It's descriptive, has at least two game title buzzwords, and no weird caps lock!
Anyhow, as you've no doubt guessed by now, this is a collection of the Game Boy SaGa series games, ported to Switch for your enjoyment! There are a few extras like a high-speed mode to blow through random encounters (because OH BOY do these games ever have random encounters) and cute little borders to go around the emulated Game Boy display. I'm jonesing to play SaGa 2 again now – I spent so much time with Final Fantasy Legend II in junior high, you have NO idea. (FYI: the two mutants/two robots team build is the easiest. Stick at least one of the mechs with all your speed-based weapons and watch enemies melt.)
Unfortunately, the collection does not seem to include the two Japan-only DS remakes of SaGa 2 and 3, which I've wanted to play for quite some time. It feels like a missed opportunity, especially when the Collection of Mana launched Seiken Densetsu 3 in the West for the first time.
There were updates on other previously-announced titles as well – Jump Force Deluxe, Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles Remastered – and confirmation of Kingdom Hearts Melody of Memory's release date. All in all, not a bad little Direct! I know I'm eager to get my hands on a few of these (and music from SaGa 2 has been in my head since this morning).
Speaking of Switch…
THOSE UPGRADED SWITCH MODEL RUMORS ARE SWIRLING ABOUT AGAIN
People have been talking about an enhanced Switch model since… what, like at least two years ago? It's been heavily rumored for quite some time that more Switch models were in the works, and at least one – the Switch Lite – now exists. But it's the “Switch Pro” model that's been talked about the most: a theoretical Switch console with upgraded specs, like the New 3DS.
A new report from Bloomberg has breathed new life into the long-running rumors of a new and improved Switch model yet again. Apparently, the information first came from the Taiwanese newspaper United Daily News, and has since been corroborated through various anonymous sources.
Bloomberg also claims that this could be why we haven't heard much about Nintendo first-party offerings in 2020: with COVID wreaking havoc with development schedules and a new console model on the way, it makes more sense for them to focus on big titles in 2021 rather than waste any more time on the hell year that is 2020. While there's no definitive source on what an upgraded Switch model would offer, it's said that improved hardware specs and 4K display support have been discussed.
But are the rumors true? I'd say yes – Nintendo certainly wants to keep the spotlight on the Switch even with the Series X and PS5 vying for attention, and this could be a way to achieve that. As long as you don't have games that need the new Switch model to run, they won't run the risk of severely angering any current Switch owners. Personally, I'd probably get one if it exists – I play the hell out of my Switch and feel that investing in an upgrade would be totally justified. We'll see in time, I suppose.
THERE'S TURMOIL AT DEVELOPER LAB ZERO GAMES
Ugh, this one really hurts.
If you are unaware, Lab Zero Games are the developers behind Skullgirls and Indivisible, two gorgeously drawn and animated 2D games with brilliant combat and a fervent fan following. They're a team that's weathered difficult circumstances, including having to completely dissolve and reform as a new company due to legal issues with a publisher, which shows a lot of dedication to their teammates and projects. They've had some successful crowdfunding efforts, too, bolstered by a strong fanbase eager to help the team make their ideas a reality, Unfortunately, it appears that the once-beloved developer is now falling apart.
Earlier this summer, a pair of tone-deaf and disturbing public gaffes involving Mike Zaimont, one of the most prominent, public-facing figures at Lab Zero, gained a lot of negative attention. While most of the staff was silent about it at the time, shit was going down behind the scenes, and it did not end well. From Saturday to Monday, several senior staff members, including Mariel Cartwright and Jonathan Kim, have all publicly resigned from Lab Zero and publicly aired their grievances. It's perhaps best to link directly to their tweets and let them speak on the situation for themselves, rather than attempting to paraphrase:
I'm leaving Lab Zero Games.— EU03 (@ClickAgain) August 23, 2020
Mike Z creates an unsafe work environment for everyone.
He is the sole owner of Lab Zero Games, and removing him is difficult. He originally agreed to leave, but is unwilling to make a reasonable compromise, so I'm taking my exit now. pic.twitter.com/Uk4GjMt62k
Hey guys, I've resigned from Lab Zero Games. pic.twitter.com/9xlr3X0IHD— Persona 😎 (@personasama) August 24, 2020
I think we can all agree here: Y I K E S
It… hurts me to see everything go down like this. Lab Zero made great stuff with an extremely talented and dedicated staff and weathered some very tough times, but this looks like it could be the end. It's also painful because I'd interacted with and interviewed Mike Z a few times throughout the years when reporting on Lab Zero's games in development, and he was very cordial and friendly to me – to hear that all this stuff went on behind the scenes makes me feel like I've been fooled, in a way.
To sum up: this absolutely sucks, and I hope all of the folks leaving Lab Zero during a difficult job market manage to land on their feet.
UGH. I hate ending things on a sour note, so let's focus on the positives – did you see anything from the Mini Direct that you're really excited about? Does the thought of buying another Switch model get you excited, or would you just stick with your current system? What would you want to see in an improved Switch model? Come join the conversation in the forums! I'll be back next week with more news and editorial. See you soon!
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