This Week in Games - THANK

by Heidi Kemps,

Hey all! It's been a slow-ish news week in the wild and wacky world of videogames, but that's okay! We can enjoy a day full of food, family and/or friends, and MST3K marathons free of major controversies or big-announcement distractions. That doesn't mean I'm skipping the column, though – I've still got plenty to talk about, starting with Square-Enix's major upcoming release…

FINAL FANTASY VII REMAKE REVEALS MORE DETAILS

There were a few announcements regarding the much-anticipated Final Fantasy VII Remake earlier this week. It's mostly images of characters, summons, and places that have been redone for the game. If you're interested, the always-thorough Gematsu has a big feature about everything.

Several developers involved with the game included comments, and Tetsuya Nomura has announced that “we've already begun working on the next one.” Given that all we've seen of the game so far is Midgar, I feel like the FF7 Remake Part 1 (or whatever they wind up calling these installments) is only going to stretch a bit past Midgar.

That leaves me wondering… given that the game's scope expands dramatically once Cloud and company are out of the big city, and this part's taken something like five years to finish… how long is it going to be before we see Chapter II of the FF7 Remake? I doubt it'll be a PS4 release, seeing as how the PS5 is likely to launch next year, which means learning how to work on new hardware. Jeez, I feel like I'm going to be an old lady by the time this whole project wraps up.

BATTLEBORN? MORE LIKE BATTLEDEAD, AM I RIGHT?

Battleborn was basically a punchline upon release. It was overshadowed by Overwatch from the moment that game was announced, and Gearbox's poor marketing (alongside constant online antics by Randy Pitchford) didn't help it at all. Even a free-trial-mode-no-this-isn't-us-going-free-to-play-we-swear pivot didn't help matters: Battleborn was always the also-ran that tried to fight Blizzard head-on and failed.

The game's been quietly limping along since release, with most folks forgetting it existed save for the occasional “hey, remember Battleborn?” joke cropping up. But it seems like the game's death is inevitable now: 2K games has announced that the servers for Battleborn are shuttering for good in January of 2021.

…Wait, 2021? That's an awfully generous amount of time between announcement of impending game death and shutdown. A lot of dying games only get a couple of months, sometimes mere weeks. Hell, some even collapse overnight. But Battleborn gets a whole year? I find it odd that they'd keep it on life support (and draining money) for that long. I guess the handful of Battleborn die-hards have something to be thankful for, as the announcement will probably get a few players back into the game for a little bit.

Speaking of which, I've got something prepared for you all today!

THANKSGIVING TWIG SPECIAL

Here in the United States we're celebrating Thanksgiving, a day of being thankful for our blessings in life. It's a good time to reflect on the things we often take for granted. And you know what? We take a lot of things in the current game industry for granted. In a lot of ways, gaming is better, more convenient, and more accessible than ever before, and that's fantastic.

So today, I want to talk about things I'm thankful for in modern gaming. It's a rather eclectic list, but it's all stuff that I'm glad we have to make our time enjoying this hobby so much better.

THE END OF REGION-LOCKING AND EASE OF OBTAINING IMPORTS

Region-locking things sucks. Anyone who's wanted to watch a series legally streaming in another territory knows this. But for decades, console manufacturers thought it was a good idea to make the games of one console territory incompatible with that of another, be it through making different cartridge shapes or inbuilt software locks people had to find ways to get around. (PAL territories had it really bad – not only did you have the region-locking, you also had the PAL/NTSC incompatibility to worry about!) Even if you did figure out a way around region locking, getting import games often meant mail-ordering a game sight-unseen from an online retailer or a weird company in the back of a magazine, paying a premium surcharge, and hoping they weren't some fly-by-night outfit that would rip you off.

Now, though? Importing games is easier and cheaper than ever. Region locking is almost nonexistent (the 3DS was the last holdout), making games from all territories interchangeable. You also longer have to wait weeks to get physical copies of import games – just make an online shopping account for a different territory, buy some credit, and you can download that hot new import tonight! Getting the credit can sometimes be a pain if you don't know where to buy it – I use SEA Gamer Mall – but once you've got it set up, it's incredibly easy to get Japanese, Asian, and European releases. Thanks to this, we can now play the latest Super Robot Wars games in English as soon as they launch, even if they don't reach North America. How cool is that?

(By the by, mech fans – you'll probably want to get the Virtual On collection that just released on Japanese PSN the other day!)

INCREASED AVAILABILITY OF DIFFERENT CONTROLLERS

Remember when the dog ate your SNES pad, and the only choices you had to replace it were a drab old official gray-and-purple controller and a slightly more colorful (but manufacturally suspect) third party pad? Now you just walk into Target and see a rainbow of Dual Shocks to pick from.

But it's not just seeing a wave of controller colors that makes me happy. Nowadays, it's easier and more affordable than ever to get specialty controllers catered to very specific needs. There's mini-controllers, custom controllers, and classic-design controllers, and controllers for very hardcore players of specific genres.

I remember when getting an arcade stick in the PS/Saturn era meant plunking down a few hundred dollars for one of these beasts:

Compare that to now, where you can get a solid, sturdy arcade stick with reliable parts for around a hundred bucks – sometimes even less if you catch a good online sale – and have plenty of ways to add things like custom art and buttons for relatively cheap.

In addition, companies are starting to take the needs of players with disabilities seriously. Microsoft has been really good about offering a lot of different controller options for its playerbase, with the special customizable Xbox Adaptive Controller allowing players with various mobility issues to fully enjoy gaming like never before. No matter who you are, there's a controller for you – and if there isn't, you can find someone to make it.

NINTENDO DIRECTS

The introduction of Nintendo direct marked a dramatic shift in the way big first-party announcements are made. Rather than dropping bombshells at expensive press conferences at big events shown only to a select group of invitees, Nintendo decided to shift to a pre-made online presentation done a few times each year. This turned out to be a genius move, because over time, Nintendo Direct has become event viewing for gamers worldwide. For many of us, knowing there's a Nintendo Direct on the way means we clear a spot in our schedule to watch, because we all know there's going to be good stuff shown that the whole internet will be getting excited over.

I really do love how everybody gets excited before and during Nintendo Directs. Many of us who are entrenched in this industry can get really cynical (myself included!), but Nintendo Direct turns even the crabbiest of complainers into people excited to see what the company's going to reveal next. Whether it's a new Smash character reveal, a new game in a beloved franchise, or something totally out of left field, Nintendo Direct always delivers something to make the crowd go wild. I always have a big smile on my face after each video… until I realize how many announcements I have to write up for this column.

THE MERGER OF SEGA USA AND ATLUS

A few years back, Sega of Japan announced it was acquiring Atlus. I recall a lot of trepidation at the time, mainly because a lot of folks felt Sega's overseas branches were mishandling Japanese titles by not localizing them. It was also a bit worrisome that Sega of America and Atlus USA were going to be merged into a single entity. Was this the end of Atlus's stream of quirky niche releases?

Hardly! In fact, both Sega and Atlus have thrived under the corporate combination. The merged Sega USA and Atlus USA now has lots more localization staff, leading to faster turnaround times and more games getting released that the old Sega USA would have probably passed over. We've seen former-longshot stuff like Shining Resonance, Puyo Puyo Tetris, Fist of the North Star Lost Paradise, and soon Phantasy Star Online 2 and Project Sakura Wars getting Western releases – not to mention a more consistent release schedule and increased profile for the Yakuza series. Things on the Atlus side are swell, too, with news on Persona 5 Royal due to hit next week – and, hopefully, some details on the upcoming Shin Megami Tensei V soon.

THE STANDARD INCLUSION OF DUAL AUDIO

I'm old enough to remember the days of anime VHS tapes and subs versus dubs. It always irked me that I had to pay $5-10 more for a subtitled release. Thankfully, once DVDs came along, we could choose to listen to whatever audio track we wanted at no extra cost.

But strangely, even when games began to shift to higher-capacity media like the Dreamcast GD-ROM and the PS2's DVD-ROM, multiple audio tracks were rarely included. (I remember being shocked that the original Sonic Adventure let you switch to Japanese audio – I'd never seen that before in a game!) Nowadays, however, dual audio tracks in localized games is pretty standard. Not a fan of a game's dub? Just switch to Japanese audio in the options menu and enjoy! It's great for players to have the option to have voices (and often subtitles) in a language of their choosing.

There are, however, a fair few instances of licensed anime- or manga-based games forgoing a dub for their Western release nowadays. While a dub can be expensive – and sometimes the audience for a game isn't big enough to justify the cost – if you like having a dub, you should let the localization teams know. Respectfully. As in, don't DM the company's PR guy 20 times a day about it.

So, what are you all thankful for right now? Maybe that new VR Half-Life game? We all wanted Half-Life to come back in VR, right? Okay, maybe not. But if there's something in gaming you really feel grateful for, why not post it in the forums?

I'll see you again next week – have a fun weekend, everyone!


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