This Week in Games - Direct Impact

by Heidi Kemps,

ME: Phew, I have to travel to Europe this week to give a presentation at the 1UP Conference in Belgium! That's going to keep me busy. Good thing it seems like a fairly slow news week –

ACTIVISION: *taps shoulder* Sorry to interrupt, but did you hear that we're terrible?

NINTENDO: *barges through the wall like Kool-Aid Man* OHHHHH YEAH IT'S DIRECT TIME BAYBEE! TIME TO INJECT ALL THE HOTTEST SWITCH CONTENT DIRECTLY INTO YOUR VEINS!

ME: *exhausted sigh*

SO LET'S GO DOWN THE LIST OF ALL THE NINTENDO DIRECT STUFF

  • Nintendo always starts these things off with a bang, and what better way to kick off the first Direct of 2019 than with a sequel to one of the most enduringly popular Wii U games? I think we all expected Super Mario Maker to come to Switch in some form, but a lot of folks expected an expanded port rather than a full-blown sequel.
    The teaser trailer was pretty revealing, starting off by showing Mario World-era Mario sliding down a bunch of slopes – a design element notably missing from Super Mario Maker that a lot of folks had asked for. Other visible additions included power suits (particularly the cat suit from Super Mario 3D World), special scrolling, rising/falling water, and a whole mess of new platform types. It's due out in June, so we'll be enjoying another wave of would-be YouTube superstars getting ultra-mad at absurdly hard levels within a few months.
  • BOXBOY + BOXGIRL! is a Switch version of HAL's minimalist puzzle platformer. The BOXBOY! games are really relaxed and charming, and the new co-op element being introduced in this game makes it an appealing choice to play with a younger family member or someone who doesn't play games all that much.
  • There wasn't all that much Smash news, surprisingly, though we do know a version 3.0 update is coming and that Joker will hit before the end of April. It was also hinted that Joker might come with some friends, as he's part of a character set rather than just a standalone fighter. Hmmm…
  • Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker is getting a bunch of DLC, including more co-op stages. The first bit of teaser DLC is already available, and more is going to be available on March 14th.
  • It's been a long time coming, but man, Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night is looking good. Like, really good. The latest trailer shows off a bunch of new areas and bosses, and man, some of these environments look amazingly fun. Curse of the Moon was fantastic, so I have a lot of faith that this is going to deliver.
  • Dragon Quest Builders 2 is confirmed for a Western release, as is Dragon Quest XI S. Some of the content from the 3DS version of the game, such as classic 16-bit style maps and battle scenes, is making its way into this version of the game, along with the much-demanded orchestrated soundtrack. (Don't think about how much money they had to give Koichi Sugiyama to make that happen, it's just depressing.) If you've been putting off playing the PS4 game, it's probably worth waiting for the Switch version.
  • I heard a lot of folks complaining about Disney Tsum Tsum Festival getting featured, which is like… you know that game is really, really popular on mobile platforms, right? It might not be a game for you, but a lot of people like it, and that's why Nintendo picked to highlight it – they want to show a big variety of stuff for all sort of players. Anyway, I'm not really interested, but I have no doubt people who love the mobile game and its little floppy Disney characters will enjoy this just as much.
  • More Starfox related content is hitting Starlink: Battle for Atlas on Switch… which I hear hasn't exactly been selling gangbusters, but at least it's still being supported by Ubisoft.
  • Rune Factory 4 is coming to Switch to scratch that on-the-go virtual-farming itch, and a Rune Factory 5 is already in the works. Nice!
  • ONINAKI is an action-RPG from the team at Square Enix that made Lost Sphear and I Am Setsuna, both pleasant little adventures that have gone largely (and sadly) ignored. Hopefully this will be the big breakout hit that team deserves, as it's both visually striking and has a cool concept of swapping between the world of the living and the dead to rescue the souls of the departed.
  • There's a demo of Yoshi's Crafted World. Go get it!
  • As promised when the Nintendo Direct broadcast was announced, there was a lot of information dropped on Fire Emblem: Three Houses, which is looking a lot like Fire Emblem meets Harry Potter.
    Your create-a-character assumes the role as a professor in an elite combat school and presides over one of the titular Three Houses, training the students in combat, spellcasting, and general Fire Emblemry while fending off the threat of… well, it's not really stated, but it's Fire Emblem so I'm sure there's an evil semi-political struggle that involves a malevolent force.

    After seeing the trailer, I'm honestly pretty pumped for Three Houses. Fire Emblem Fates left me cold, but I'm liking what I see here in terms of character micromanagement and customization -- elements that definitely keep me coming back to a strategy game. I'm sure you'll be able to influence which of your students shack up together, too. It's due out in June, which means that jeez this summer is already looking absurdly good for quality Switch content.
  • Tetris 99 is a multiplayer Tetris Battle Royale game. Yes, I'm serious. It's developed by Arika of Tetris the Grand Master It's free if you have a Nintendo Online account, and people who have already dived into it seem to be enjoying it a lot. Nintendo's been getting some flak for not providing enough value for Nintendo Online subscribers (which kind of puzzles me, given that it's much cheaper than XBox Live and PlayStation Plus), and I feel that things like this are being made specifically to bolster the service's image. Sounds like it's already working!
  • The first chapter of Deltrarune is hitting Switch for free. Given that it's basically a concept demo, I'm a little surprised… but it also makes me a bit hopeful that Nintendo might want to give Toby Fox some resources to flesh it out into a full game.
  • Hey, there's a Daemon X Machina demo out. If you like stylish mech games, go play it! You might even be asked to participate in a survey to influence the game's development!
  • You know what else is out now on Switch? Final Fantasy IX! And Chocobo's Dungeon: Every Buddy is releasing in a little over a month, too! And Final Fantasy VII hits not long after that! Dang, that's a lot of Fantasy Finality!
  • Hideki Kamiya's been a bit quiet since the cancellation of Scalebound on the Xbox One (except on Twitter, where his block-button finger is burning red), but we finally know what he's been working on now: a Switch exclusive futuristic buddy-cop action game called Astral Chain. He's producing the game while Takahisa Taura (who recently worked on NieR Automata) is assuming directorial duties. Check out the super slick trailer:
    Longtime anime fans will recognize Masakazu Katsura's (Tiger & Bunny, Video Girl Ai, I’’s, Shadow Lady) name under the character design credits: he's one of those artists whose designs straddle the line between stereotypical anime and a more realistic look, which makes him a perfect pick for a Platinum title. The composer isn't credited, but man, that sure sounds like Keiichi Okabe's NieR Automata work, doesn't it? Hmmm!
  • Finally, to wrap things up, we've got quite a surprise: a remake of Gameboy classic The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening.
    Link's Awakening is far and away my favorite Zelda game, but… honestly, I have some mixed feelings about a remake. Yes, I want more people to play and enjoy the game, but is a massive overhaul really necessary? I don't know, I have some complex thoughts about this that are perhaps saved for a longer essay. In any case, it's still quite a bombshell announcement.

And that pretty much wraps it up! There was a fair bit of wailing and gnashing of teeth over the lack of Animal Crossing and Smash news (particularly given that Masahiro Sakurai and Grasshopper Manufacture's Suda51 were seen palling around not too long ago), but I feel like Animal Crossing's going to be an E3 thing. Nintendo needs a motif for their booth, after all, and I can think of nothing better than a real-life Animal Crossing house.

DEBBIE DOWNER TIME: ACTIVISION ARE DOUCHEBAGS, LAY OFF HUNDREDS BECAUSE RECORD PROFITS AREN'T RECORD ENOUGH

Okay, now that we've got all the fun and excitement of a good Nintendo Direct out of the way, we need a reminder that the gaming industry is a cruel and unfair place.

Activision-Blizzard has record profits this year! I mean, that's great right? Yep, and CEO Bobby Kotick (who took home about 30 million dollars in 2017) gave a nice fat 15-million-dollar signing bonus to the new CFO. That can buy a whole lot of hookers and blow!* Unfortunately, those record profits aren't quite as high as anticipated. In other words, they made lots of money, but not enough lots of money, and so they're laying off 800 people.

The layoffs were first talked about over the weekend, meaning that thousands of Activision-Blizzard employees spent literal days in a state of near-panic, fearing for the safety of their jobs. As someone who struggles with crippling anxiety herself, that's a shitty situation I would not wish on anyone, but ATVI sure doesn't seem to care!

Once the layoffs actually started, plenty of former employees took to Twitter and other social media to share stories and express their grief. It's not easy for many of these folks to just get a job elsewhere: there aren't all that many big AAA devs out there, and new jobs often require relocation to another part of the country, which gets messy when family is factored in.

In short: screw Activision-Blizzard and the awful executives who get fat off the hard work of the developers and the people who support them.

*LEGAL DISCLAIMER: I'm not stating as a fact that Bobby Kotick or any ATVI exec partakes in hookers and blow, but I certainly wouldn't put it past someone who enjoys shafting hardworking employees like this!

NEW RELEASES

Boy, uh… Jump Force hasn't exactly made the best pre-release impressions, has it? Most of the reviews are pretty middling, and Twitter has taken to dunking on the game's cutscenes like crazy.

If that's not your thing, you've also got Nekopara Vol. 2 for PS4 and Touhou Sky Arena on Switch, along with some of the aforementioned Nintendo Direct surprise release drops.

Anyhow, that's this week in a nutshell. I'm going to go back to fine-tuning my presentation while you all attempt to chicken dinner at Tetris. Have fun!


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