This Week in Games: April Foolishness

by Heidi Kemps,

Hey again, folks! I'm back from SakuraCon, which was a fantastic time. It was a pretty packed weekend for cons and tournaments, with SakuraCon in the Pacific Northwest, Anime Boston in the Northeast, and both Anime Ascension and NorCal Regionals running for fighting game funtimes. It's not looking to slow down any, either, because PAX East is this weekend! Yikes, I'm really feeling for all the folks who work cons and have to bounce from one show to the next so fast.

In contrast, however, there's not much in the way of actual game-biz stuff going on. know I've said “boy, this sure is a slow week” before, but this time it's a super slow week, lacking much in the way of both news and releases. While I'm relieved that I don't have to type out a bunch of newsblurbs and new releases during post-con exhaustion, I still feel obligated to give you all the capital-C Content you all crave. It looks like most of April is going to be like this, save for the release of Yakuza 6 (and God of War, but that's a bit outside the purvey of this mostly-Japan-focused column), so that means I get prime opportunity to editorialize and talk about the really obscure stuff.

So let's dive right into that with a mobile release that nobody knew was coming until it cropped up on the App Store: Shin Hayarigami.

The Hayarigami series is one of very few Nippon Ichi Software games that doesn't get any attention from the company's Western publishing branch. The games are spooky visual novels about bizarre crimes, paranormal phenomena, and the intersection between the two. The original Hayarigami trilogy originally debuted back in the heyday of the PS2 and had a pretty solid fan following. Years down the line, Nippon Ichi would release Shin Hayarigami for the PS3 and PS Vita, using similar concepts but a different staff.

Here's the thing, though: Shin Hayarigami is regarded as the black sheep of the series. In fact, many Japanese fans consider it to be outright kusoge, posting lengthy, scathing analyses of the title's perceived faults. I haven't read too much into these, since a lot of criticism is levied at the story itself – and, well, spoilers – but there's a lot of folks who feel really mad about Shin Hayarigami.

Despite the hate levied at it, however, Shin Hayarigami seemed to do well enough to get a sequel and a mobile port, the latter of which we now have available to us. All of this has sparked my curiosity, of course. Is this game really that bad, or is it simply bad in the context of the previous games being really good – meaning that players abroad who hadn't played the other titles might enjoy it more? That's something I want to find out. I just can't resist the warped siren call of notorious kusoge. I'll report back with my findings at some point…

NEWS: APRIL FOOLS DAY IS ALL ABOUT FAKE DATING AND BREAKING OUR HEARTS

Love it or hate it, April Fools is always an eventful time in the world of nerdy pursuits. There were a ton of April Fools pranks from our favorite game developers, of course, but rather than compile a massive list (there's already three pages on ANN for various anime and game related April Fools gags) I'm just going to highlight a few particularly noteworthy japes.

The success of Pop Team Epic has lead to Bkub Okawa getting a lot of requests to do guest art in his beloved “kuso-manga” style, as he's done here with our Final Fantasy XV bros Ignis and Noctis. I really like them doing the number “15” with their hands in place of the double-bird-flipping. (He also did some goofy new character art for Valkyrie Profile mobile spin-off Valkyrie Anatomia.)

There was a noticeable trend of “dating sim spinoffs.” Perhaps the two most visible were free-to-play PS4 dungeon-crawler Let It Die's new spinoff Let It Date and the Megaman spinoff Date My Robot Master. Y'know, guys, if you all came up with this ~*wacky*~ idea for a dating-game spinoff at the same time, maybe it's a sign. Perhaps… this could actually be a fun thing for fans and you should make it real? Just sayin’.

There were also a fair few “weird remakes on strange platforms” pranks. WayForward gave us The Mummy Demastered Remastered on the Turbografx-16, Sears Telegames system, and the Atari Jaguar. Yacht Club Games, meanwhile, debuted Shovel Knight 64… as in Commodore 64, not Nintendo 64. While it's pretty old by this point, I'm still sad nobody made jokes about their new games being on the Coleco Chameleon, because that thing's failure will never not be funny.

Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night pulled a prank about letting you mine for cryptocurrency while you're playing. After seeing how many crypto-related companies and booths were at GDC this year (none of which were forthcoming on how it benefits gaming at all), it felt almost a little too on-the-nose.

As a figure collector, though, my favorite is Pocket President Sato. Why yes, I do want to have the president of Platinum Games hanging around my apartment and chilling with my household goods! I really want that secret Kamiya figure, though, if only because if someone pisses me off I can dig him out of my pocket, say BLOCKED, and then leave like nothing ever happened. It's like a mic drop, but better!

FIGHTING GAME NEWS ROUNDUP: STREET FIGHTER V GETS ANOTHER SHAKEUP, FIGHTING EX LAYER GETS NEW CHARACTERS AND MODES

At this weekend's NorCal Regionals fighting game tournament (which ended in a rematch between fighting game legends Daigo Umehara and Tokido), Capcom announced that a new patch would be dropping for Street Fighter V in a couple days – meaning it's already live as I write this. No new characters are being added yet, but character balance is being rejiggered a fair bit. I'm no expert on SF5 meta, but the current analysis seems to hint that the current Problem Character (Abigail) has been toned down… and either Menat or Cammy might be ready to jump into his spot. Capcom can't seem to quash the problem of character dominance in this game: when they patch to solve one Problem Character, another inevitably emerges. Players tending to gravitate towards what's perceived as “the strongest” is just part of competition, though…

Meanwhile, Arika's Fighting EX Layer – a game which was announced on April Fools’ Day last year – is getting two new characters in Sanane and Hayate. More characters were teased if the game does well, including Street Fighter EX series favorites like Area, Pullum, and Volcano Rosso. They also teased… uh, Yasuyuki Oda, producer at SNK, paying tribute to one of the platform's more obscure fighters, Savage Reign. Talk about some deep cuts.

There's also a new single-player mode coming to the game: Expert Mode. This is like trial modes in other fighting games, where you'll be tasked with performing increasingly challenging moves and combos with all the game's characters. Given that this is Arika, makers of Tetris the Grandmaster, I'm wondering just how difficult some of the maneuvers are going to get by the end.

NEW RELEASES

OUT NOW: PENNY PUNCHING PRINCESS (PS4, Vita, Switch)

For ten long years, this little Princess has been itching to reclaim her throne from the wicked Dragoloans, a family of loan sharks – er, loan dragons, rather – that forced her father out of power. Our Royal Highness is packing a wallop, and she uses her punching prowess to smack the stuffing – and more importantly, the cash -- out of the bad guys standing in her way. But violence isn't the only answer: practically everything in this world has a price, and both enemies and obstacles can be bribed to your cause.

I've played just a little bit into Penny Punching Princess, and I've enjoyed it so far. The sprite artwork and animation are adorable, the top-down combat feels engaging and fun, and there's a surprising amount of depth to the bribery mechanic. I worry that the action might grow stale after a while, but it looks like you can get new combat skills and gear as the game goes on, so that has the potential to help a lot.

OTHER NOTEWORTHY RELEASES: Dangun Feveron, one of Cave's more obscure (and more accessible) arcade shooters, is appearing on North American Xbox One and PS4 storefronts for download. It's a superb port of a really fun and frantic shooter. King of Fighters 97 Global Match is an online-enabled version of the classic 3-on-3 fighter for Steam. Why KoF97, you ask? Because out of all the King of Fighters installments, KoF97 has the biggest player population in one of gaming's biggest markets: China. (There's a really good analysis of the popularity of the series – and KoF97 in particular – over here.) Rumor has it that the Shaq-Fu revival/spiritual sequel/whatever it's supposed to be might be out this week, as well, but we all know how follow-ups to retro memes seem to turn out (badly).


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