This Week in Games - E3 Extravaganza: The Wrap-Up!

by Heidi Kemps,

E3 2019 is now officially over, and the overwhelming consensus seems to be… meh?

We all know the next gen of consoles is hitting in 2020, so it doesn't make sense for developers and console makers to tip their hands just yet. That being said, it's amazing how devoid of surprise this year's show was. Most of what we saw was something that we either knew was coming, could predict was coming, or were told would be shown at the event this year.

That's not to say there were no surprises. I mean, nobody expected Phantasy Star Online 2 to be a thing in 2019, but here we are. I don't think a full English localization of Seiken Densetsu 3 24 years later was anticipated by anyone, either! …Though, considering that the first 2 Mana games got overhauled modern versions, the announcement of the full-on Seiken 3 remake isn't that huge a shock, but the way the game's being remade from the ground up rather than just being given a modern skin was a bit of a shock.

Banjo in Smash impressed a lot of folks, too, but by this point it's clear that Sakurai is a man who can work miracles. We've now got Dragon Quest, Final Fantasy, and Persona characters fighting Simon Belmont, Pac-Man, Ryu, and at least three incarnations of Link. If he can give us Goku, then he will have truly transcended human limitations.

There was one big, big surprise that wasn't at any of the big press conferences, though, and it's something any Japanese retrogaming fan should be cautiously optimistic about.

THERE'S A PC ENGINE MINI COMING, AND IT COULD BE EITHER RAD AS HELL OR A DISASTER

The good news: We've got another mini-console coming, and it's a doozy! The PC Engine, better known as the Turbografx-16 in our neck of the woods, is getting the plug-n-play classics treatment. While the PC Engine was a big deal among Japanese game fans, it never caught on elsewhere – meaning that a lot of its best games, including some very historically important pieces, didn't get a Stateside release. And this would be a prime opportunity to fix that!

The bad news: The PC Engine's hardware design was done by Hudson Soft, who were huge in the 1980s but whose star faded fast in the 90s, leaving them to be bought by… Konami. And guess who's marketing this PCE Mini?

Yeah, the quality of this device could very well be determined by how much Konami wants to give a shit about making it worthwhile. With modern Konami being what it is, that's hard to gauge. There's some hope, however: Mollie Patterson of EGM reportedly spoke with a Konami exec who said that a “very, very good company” is handling emulation. Seeing as how Konami has been working with M2 for their recent game collections – and that M2 is behind most of the Megadrive Mini – that could potentially mean something really nice.

So, what games have been announced so far? On the North American side of things, we have R-Type (presumably the release that combined the Japanese R-Type I and II), New Adventure Island, Ninja Spirit, Dungeon Explorer, Alien Crush, and Ys Book I & II. Japan, meanwhile, is getting Super Star Soldier, PC Genjin (aka Bonk), China Warrior, Dracula X, Dungeon Explorer, and Ys.

Let's look at the game list a bit, here. One particularly cool thing is that PC Engine CD games are going to be supported, as evidenced by the inclusion of Ys and Dracula X. The lack of Mega-CD games is the only real disappointment I have with the MD Mini, so that's a pretty great selling point. The lack of overlap in the revealed games so far makes me wonder how different the North American and Japanese versions are going to be, too: the Japanese PCE was primarily known for shooters and adventure games, so I expect their library to be heavy on those. But seriously, Bonk wasn't announced for the North American system out of the gate? And we haven't yet corrected the grave injustice of Dracula X's North American non-release? Come on, guys!

Hopefully we'll see more in the coming months, and hopefully Konami will wisely pass over Camp California and It Came from the Desert in favor of perhaps localizing a few more Japanese releases. Can you all imagine an English Tengai Makyo Manjimaru? That would be incredible! And in today's retro-revival market, I feel like we should never say never…

Also, every territory's housing is going to look a bit different! North America is getting the TG-16, of course, while Europe is getting the CoreGrafx and Japan gets the legendary little white box. Funny thing is, the PCE and CoreGrafx “Mini” are the same size as the original systems! Those little shells packed a lot of punch back in the day. (Leave it to late-80s “bigger is better” Western electronics design to ruin a great thing.)

So yeah, this could be a great opportunity for folks to enjoy some of the gems of the PC Engine library for the first time. Do you all have any picks for games to include? I feel like in order to get the proper Western TurboGrafx-16 experience, you must have Last Alert.

Think the voice acting in your favorite old PSOne game is bad? Oh buddy, you have no idea. Sad thing is, Ys Book I and II have a really great localization for the time… but after that, NEC just stopped caring, giving us gems like this. Who names their helicopter, anyway?

POKEMON SWORD AND SHIELD MIGHT NOT HAVE YOUR FAVORITES

Nintendo's E3 festivities involve three days of “Treehouse Live,” a series of demos of upcoming first- and third-party games for the Switch. If there was anything you saw during the Nintendo Direct that you were curious about, I suggest crawling through the archives, as the demo will show you a lot more about the game and deliver some new info tidbits. For example, if I understood Takashi Tezuka correctly, they're already looking to fix the “you can't play with friends” issue in Super Mario Maker 2!

One thing that's been brought up, however, has Pokémon fans a bit steamed: apparently Pokémon Sword and Shield will not feature the full roster of Pokémon from all the previous generations. This issue could very well be remedied post-launch, but right now, it's looking like the initial Sword and Shield roster's going to be limited. That also means you won't be able to transfer a Pokémon that doesn't exist in Sword and Shield from another game via Pokémon Home.

While disappointing, it makes sense from a development standpoint: there are almost 1000 Pokémon now, and re-rendering and re-animating all of the critters to match the specs of the Switch is a Herculean task. We know that Nintendo delayed Animal Crossing so that they wouldn't put the team under crunch, which a lot of folks have applauded. I would hope folks would extend that same sort of understanding to the Pokémon team. Wrangling that kind of a zoo isn't easy!

SHENMUE III JUST TURNED INTO AN EPIC BOONDOGGLE

Remember back when I was like, “Hey, I wonder who the first Japanese developer to do an Epic store exclusive game will be!” I put my bet on Bandai-Namco being the first to put on the moneyhat, but booooooooy was I ever wrong. It turns out that the first Japanese Epic Store exclusive PC release will be none other than Shenmue III, which is Epic exclusive for a year.

This news is going over about as well as you'd expect.

We don't know who was responsible for this decision (YS-Net? Deep Silver? Both?), but clearly nobody learned anything from Shenmue II becoming an Xbox exclusive in North America back in 2002. People are righteously pissed, as this announcement came out of left field at an otherwise extremely dull PC game event and a bunch of the material released for the game up to that point had indicated that a Steam release was forthcoming. (While the game's Kickstarter page doesn't specify a PC platform, Shenmue III had a Steam page and several backer surveys listed Steam.)

Backers for the PC version are feeling quite shafted, and I don't blame them! Not spelling out specific PC store plans from the beginning of the Kickstarter was a dick move that deliberately left options like this on the table, and any Kickstarters going forward will have to spell this sort of thing out from the get-go for people wary of getting burned again.

Of course, we also heard that Shenmue III won't even take us 40% of the way through the Shenmue saga<, but after this tremendous breach of goodwill, I wonder what the odds of future Shenmue games happening is. Any future crowdfunding effort will be heavily scrutinized, and all this bad press doesn't seem to be helping a game that, from most accounts, seems to be more of the same of what you got in 2000. I still feel like we're heading for a major blowup with this one, and the fuse just got lit.

LIMITED RUN IS RUNNING WILD

As more and more people get priced out of physical retrogame collecting (most folks don't enjoy blowing a month's rent to get that complete-in-box copy of Flintstones: Surprise at Dinosaur Peak), attention shifts over to companies like Limited Run, who do low-volume physical releases for modern indie and download-focused titles. Lately, they've been stepping things up by partnering with developers globally for some pretty impressive limited edition sets, a few of which were unveiled at E3 this year.

One I know a lot of folks slightly younger than me will be crazy about is this Power Rangers: Battle for the Grid Limited Edition with a Power Morpher and replica coins built into the box. Pretty slick!

There were a few other noteworthy titles announced for physical release, too: Blaster Master Zero, Freedom Planet, Rogue Legacy, Transistor, and Night in the Woods, among many others. Interestingly, Limited Run is only now starting with 3DS publishing, releasing a collection of developer Atooi's games on the fading portable. We'll have to see how long they hold out as possibly The Last 3DS Publisher.

They've also got an exclusive limited edition of Shenmue III, which is separate from the limited editions of the Kickstarter. Yeah, that's… weird, but I feel like nothing involving that game makes any damn sense anymore.

Limited Run also revealed that they're going to be releasing limited edition versions of a whole mess of classic Star Wars/LucasArts games. I wonder if they'd be able to release the Japanese Famicom Star Wars game? That one's pretty amazing, and it can't damage the brand more than, say, Masters of Teras Kasi did.

What I'm most excited for, though, is Limited Run's collaboration with Retro-Bit on this NES re-release of Metal Storm! This is a completely new translation of the game with a bunch of cut story scenes re-added, though it's still the tough-as-nails gravity-shifting mech adventure you know and love. It also comes with a scale model of the main mech, all for cheaper than what the original release will fetch these days.

Kudos to Limited Run for getting a lot of really cool games for their lineup. Now please, please fix your online store to discourage scalpers.

NON-E3 NEWS: KING OF FIGHTERS GOES OTOME

Sometimes you won't find the most interesting gaming news of E3 week on the show floor. Case in point: King of Fighters for Girls.

What is KoF for Girls? Quite simply, it's the characters of King of Fighters starring in an otome visual novel for mobile platforms. In this game, you play as a young woman who find herself coaching a team for the King of Fighters tournament. Given the trappings of the genre, it's safe to say that you will be smooching a great deal of eligible bachelors from SNK's long-running saga.

To me, this feels like it's been a long time coming. It's no secret that KoF has had a big female fanbase in Japan from its very inception – hell, if you were a BL/Yaoi manga artist in the 90s, you probably drew Kyo and Iori doujinshi on the side. They've made some concessions to this audience over time – there's an older visual novel series by SNK called Days of Memories with some male character routes – but this really feels like they're finally going all-out in embracing that particular demographic. It looks to have been a good move: people seem excited for this game, and not just women, either! As a good buddy of mine said, “Everyone wants to bang Iori.”

However, there's one thing that concerns me. Where's the USA Sports Team among all the SNK hotties? I won't be satisfied until I've romanced Brian Battler, dammit.

Well, I think that just about wraps up an underwhelming E3. What were your favorite things from the show? Did you find any cool surprises I missed? Let me know in the forums!


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