This Week in Games
by Heidi Kemps,
Ahhhh… a slow news week, finally.
After the last few weeks of massive newsdrops, this might seem like a good thing… but whether there's news or no news, I still have a column that needs to be filled. Usually when this happens I find something off-the-cuff and interesting to write about that sort-of ties into recent industry events. Fortunately for me, Microsoft and Bethesda did a thing today, so we can talk about everything that was said there instead. (Or, perhaps more accurately, what wasn't said there.)
Also this week: ninjas. Lots of ninjas. Let's start with the family-friendly kind first.
GRAB SOME PIZZA AND TOKENS, IT'S TURTLE TIME AGAIN
A lot – and I mean a lot – of folks in North America have extremely fond memories of Konami's Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles arcade games, to the point where if you talk to somebody about beat-em-ups, TMNT (or the follow-up, Turtles in Time) will probably be one of the first games mentioned.
It has more to do with the fact that TMNT was in basically every pizza place and family fun center in the mid-90s than the game's actual quality: people love their childhood memories of playing alongside three buddies with pizza-and-cake stained fingers at birthday parties. As a beat-em-up, it's… fine, but put next to contemporaries like Final Fight, TMNT's luster dulls.
Still, it was a massive success, and Konami built off of it with the much better Turtles in Time (and the even better-er SNES port of such), the NES original TMNT3 Manhattan Project, and the odd quasi-port Hyperstone Heist before moving on to other licensed pastures with their beat-em-up efforts. And since then, 90s kids have been left with an intense craving for more side-scrolling, Foot-smashing Turtle Power. There have been TMNT games since in varying degrees of quality… and by “varying degrees” I mean “shades of mediocrity.” When not even PlatinumGames can make a good Turtles game, you start to wonder if the license is cursed.
Well, there may be hope yet, as indie developer Tribute Games – the folks behind last year's excellent throwback Panzer Paladin – have announced that they're working on a brand-new, retro-flavored Ninja Turtles adventure called Shredder's Revenge. And boy, did they ever shoot straight for the beating heart of nostalgia nerds with this trailer:
As much as we all have been burned as of late from modern TMNT games – does anyone even remember that odd arcade game based on the Nickelodeon Turtles reboot that came and went a few years ago? – I feel very cautiously optimistic about this one, since Tribute Games has a very strong track record of making retro-styled stuff. The focus more on the animated intro over showing gameplay footage is concerning, but what is there from the game itself looks great. I'll be keen on seeing how this develops, but it's quite likely to be the best TMNT game in a long time. I mean, that's not hard, but still.
FANSERVICE DIMENSIONS COLLIDE IN SENRAN NIN NIN NINJA TAISEN NEPTUNE
Senran Kagura's been in an odd place lately: tightening content restrictions from console makers have forced the toning down of the series’ most notable, uh, assets, and have even reportedly scuttled plans for some new projects in the series. But, fortunately for fans, it looks like the series isn't dead! But it is borrowing the energy of another fanservice-laden favorite to bring itself back.
Senran Nin Nin Ninja Taisen Neptune is yet another alternate-universe take on the crossover-heavy, multiple-reality-laden Hyperdimension Neptunia series. This time around, the CPUs are sucked into a world chock-full of busty female ninjas. Like Senran Kagura, the story centers around the conflict between warring Ninjutsu schools – but, because Neptunia is a series all about making game industry in-jokes, the girls are affiliated with game genres: One school favors RPG menu-driven ninjutsu, while another favors hack-n-slash button-pressing ninjutsu. And now they're both being threatened by the shooting ninjutsu school. (Third-person shooter games are kinda big in Japan right now!)
Despite this premise, the game appears to be heavily action-based, and frequent Senran Kagura collaborators Tamsoft are the ones handling development. More details on the game, including the full reveal of original main character Yuuki, are set for the April 8th issue of Famitsu. Given that Idea Factory International seems hellbent on publishing every weird Neptunia spinoff in North America, I don't think we're going to have to worry about this one not making the trip over. But the real question is: is best Senran Kagura girl Daidouji in it?!
MICROSOFT EXPLAINS WHAT'S GOING ON WITH BETHESDA, SORT OF
As of March 9, Microsoft's acquisition of Zenimax Media – Bethesda's parent company – has been completed. To celebrate the occasion, Xbox boss Phil Spencer sat down with a bunch of Bethesda staff for a lengthy discussion.
A lot of things are discussed, but for most people, the most important subject is “Are Bethesda games going to be multiplatform going forward?” To which Phil Spencer basically answered “Well, sort of” and dodged giving specifics. To quote:
"We have games that exist on other platforms, and we're going to support those games on the platforms they're on…There are communities of players. We love those communities and will continue to invest in them. And even in the future, there might be things that have either contractual things, or legacy on different platforms, that we'll go do… But if you're an Xbox customer, the thing I want you to know is this is about delivering great exclusive games for you that ship on platforms where Game Pass exists."
So, let's attempt to unpack this a little. There are games that need to be multiplatform or timed-exclusive due to contractual obligations, and some where the playerbase expects multiplatform releases, and MS doesn't want to alienate them. But, at the same time, they want some juicy exclusives with which to promote the Microsoft Game Pass service (which, it should be noted, is technically multiplatform).
Basically, it's the “case-by-case basis” exclusivity thing Spencer mentioned a while back, said more obtusely and without mentioning any specific titles that people might be concerned about. So, really, he hasn't said anything new or revelatory here. We still don't know if big titles like Elder Scrolls with a legacy of multiplatform releases will remain so, or that that's one of the jewels Microsoft wants to use to lure people to the Xbox Game Pass service. We know nothing more than we did when Microsoft first announced the acquisition. Cool!
FIGHTING GAME NEWS ROUNDUP: SKULLGIRLS IS STILL KICKIN’
After Lab Zero collapsed last year, many believed that it would be the end of support for Skullgirls outside of the mobile edition. However, this has turned out not to be the case, as the newly-formed Future Club studios (made up of former Lab Zero alumni) is making a completely new Season Pass for the game – and the first new character, Annie, is already available! Well, in Early Access on the Steam PC version of the game, at least – the full Annie package with Story Mode isn't coming until May. Still, this is great news for both Skullgirls fans and the displaced former Lab Zero crew.
The 2nd Encore Season 1 Pass is FINALLY almost here!— Skullgirls Mobile (@sgmobile) March 4, 2021
Why does this matter for Mobile players you ask? We can also finally announce that we are working with @futureclubdev to develop Annie and the other 3 mystery DLC characters!
Read more here: https://t.co/C0ayrICjpX pic.twitter.com/JX9v3GIIm3
And now, it's time for the weekly King of Fighters XV character reveal. It's another longtime favorite whose inclusion won't surprise folks, but who doesn't love Yuri Sakazaki?
Finally, during the Granblue Fantasy 7th anniversary live broadcast, the latest DLC addition to the Granblue Fantasy Versus roster was unveiled: Eustace! There unfortunately isn't much footage in this trailer, but another is promised on April 15th. Make me think they're still doing a bit of fine-tuning on him…
Looks like that's all for this week. To close things out, how about a recommendation? I reviewed the excellent Gnosia recently, and I highly recommend it – it's a very cool and different take on both the social-deduction and visual novel genres that kept me absolutely glued to my Switch. Do check it out if the review makes it sound intriguing! Meanwhile, if you're hyped for the return of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles – or Senran Kagura – why not let your fan fervor loose in the forums? Until next week, play games, stay safe, and don't forget to change your clocks!
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