This Week in Games
Shibuya Style

by Heidi Kemps,

Heya folks! It's Thanksgiving here in the States, where normally we gather with friends and family over a big traditionally cooked dinner. However, in the hell year of 2020, a lot more of us will instead be cooking a frozen mashed potato dinner in the microwave to savor with our friends up in the Satellite of Love for the MST3K Turkey Day celebration before heading online to scoop up the year's deepest gaming deals. Just don't expect to score any of the new consoles, because, uh…

Personal anecdote: My sister lives and works in South Africa, and her husband has been looking forward to getting a PS5, but they want one shipped from here because, even with shipping and duty costs factored in, it's still less expensive than buying one natively. Of course, that's assuming you can get one here at MSRP, which you can't. I've told them they'll either have to get one locally or wait until spring 2021 or so.

Anyhow, last year, I did a big “Gaming things I'm thankful for” piece for the holiday. In this abysmal hell year, it might not seem like there's much to be thankful for, but I must strongly disagree. This year, I'm thankful for all of the folks who spoke up against abusers and bad practices in the game industry.

This year, we saw folks in gaming communities speak out about big names who had abused their fame to take advantage of others, major figureheads at companies like Ubisoft be exposed for harassing and degrading their workers, and huge events like EVO forced to reckon with their leaders being revealed as giant shitbags. It's a reckoning that's been long overdue, and something that hasn't been easy to do for those speaking up. These callouts are leading us – as smaller sub-communities, a larger hobby, and as an industry -- to a lot of introspection as to how we can do better and stop these kinds of gross abuses from occurring again. I truly feel that this wave of bravery is the most important gaming event of 2020, even more so than the new console launches. So, for those of you who have exposed all of these awful people and practices in our business – and continue to do so – thank you, for everything.

As for the news this week, we've got a happy announcement, and a very not-happy announcement to discuss. Let's have a look.

RETURN TO SHIBUYA IN NEO: THE WORLD ENDS WITH YOU

Congratulations, The World Ends with You fans, you are finally, finally getting a new game for Switch and PS4 next year!

The Reaper's Game is on once again, and this time you'll be controlling Rindo, a spiky-haired blonde in a funky trenchcoat-lookin’ getup. We also see a few companion characters: Fret, Nami, and Minamimoto. Is this game going to be split up into sections based on Rindo's partner character like the original? Doesn't seem like it – the battle footage indicates that combat is going to be team-based, rather than the unusual dual-screen/arena combat of the original DS game. We do see a few familiar enemies making a return, though – hard to forget those graffiti land sharks – along with some callbacks to favorite tunes and the return of pins. Looks pretty good to me so far! The style's been translated very well to 3D, the environments look great, and the soundtrack is almost guaranteed to be a banger. Barring any delays, we'll be revisiting Shibuya in summer 2021!

Something else I noticed is that, unlike the first TWEWY and a lot of other media set in Shibuya, they're not using made-up substitutes for famous Shibuya commercial buildings: you can very clearly see famous spots like Tower Records, MODI, and PARCO featured. Squeenix most likely shelled out for licensing at least a few of these locations… or perhaps it was the other way around, and they paid to be featured? No matter what, it's cool to see that extra touch of authenticity. I'm curious how they'll explain 104 being 109 now, though.

Also, there was some banter on Twitter upon the game's announcement because it was believed that Persona 5 fans were accusing TWEWY of “ripping off” P5's aesthetic and locations… thought the only evidence I could find of this were troll shitposts designed to get ratio'ed so people could go “lol P5 fans sure are stupid.” Because we can't just let people be happy in their fandoms, I guess…? *shrug*

Anyway, stuff like NTWEWY releasing throughout the next year should make waiting to do the console transition much more bearable. I know I'm definitely going to pick this one up.

NINTENDO DOES A NINTENDO THING, AGAIN

Serious question: who has the most hated lawyers in entertainment, Nintendo or Disney? I think most folks would say the latter, but Nintendo's legal eagles and their years of antagonizing the fandom are becoming more and more notorious, even outside the gaming circuit.

So, what's the latest fan project Nintendo lawyers have unceremoniously shut down? It's actually not a game this time – it's one of the biggest Smash Bros. tournaments, one that Nintendo was even planning on sponsoring at one point.

The Big House was originally going to take place next weekend as an online-only tournament featuring Super Smash Bros. Ultimate and Super Smash Bros. Melee. But wait, you say, Melee is a GameCube game, how could they run an online tournament? Ah, that's where things get unofficial – to run an online SSBM tournament, you need a ROM image of the game plus Slippi, a software program that's based on the famous Dolphin GameCube/Wii emulator. Slippi allows for online play and replay sharing, which is great if you're into competitive Melee… but anything involving “emulation” that doesn't come from the Big N themselves is bound to run into some trouble, particularly if it gets well-publicized or could be used for a commercial purpose.

Is a tournament a commercial purpose? Technically… well, probably, yes. If you're taking money and handing out prizes, I would think that counts, though I'm certainly no legal expert. Either way, Nintendo legal got word of the Slippi business and shut things down for The Big House really fast.

I feel like this is disappointing but not particularly surprising, given Nintendo's track record with fan projects. It would put them in a weird place legally if they sponsored an event running a fan modded-Melee, which could be construed as tacit endorsement. But couldn't they just withdraw sponsorship and let The Big House do their thing? Well, yeah, they could have, but this is Nintendo. They don't just let this sort of stuff slide, especially when it's so high-profile.

This, of course, has led to lots of angry hashtags and people flooding the twitter accounts of Nintendo and its employees with lots of “SAVE MELEE” stuff. Which, of course, your average joe working at Nintendo can't do jack about because that's all on the legal side, and those folks don't have Twitter accounts. (That we know of.)

But I can't say that it doesn't worry me. Fan mods updating older competitive games are becoming more and more of a thing. For example, Fightcade 2 runs all kinds of old arcade and console games with smooth rollback netplay, including several titles with commercial re-releases. It's re-invigorated active communities for obscurities like Dan-ku-ga and Breakers Revenge, which likely wouldn't exist without it. But a lot of the tournaments and communities being organized using Fightcade 2 could be killed without a second thought if the legal departments of current rights-holders get a whiff of what's happening. With online play through programs like Slippi and Fightcade 2 being the only way to play these games against others right now, it puts the fans in a situation of fear: the possibility having a means of socialization taken from them in the midst of a global pandemic is very real.

It's a crappy situation overall, and I hope most companies will turn a blind eye to fan mods in the interest of keeping communities alive and thriving through hard times. But Nintendo… well, they're just gonna keep being Nintendo.

Well, that's a nice helping of TWIG for the holidays, I think! Next week I'll be doing a mini-review of Umihara Kawase BaZooKa, which was sent to me by the rad folks at ININ Games, provided nothing else majorly newsworthy happens. Are you hyped for a new World Ends with You? Are you pissed at Nintendo? Are you still waiting in virtual pre-Black-Friday lines to buy games and consoles online? Voice your opinions and/or frustrations over in the forums below! See you all again soon!


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