This Week in Games
A Brief Respite
by Heidi Kemps,
All of a sudden, it's really quiet.
After some big anniversary livestreams last week, the game industry has collectively turned off the information pipeline and went into “get ready for BIG THINGS!” mode. This is, of course, all leading up to a series of early/mid-June announcements. Fine by me; I always like more time to actually play games instead of sitting on Twitter and gaming news sites constantly to absorb every single potentially newsworthy thing. (I've got Virtua Fighter strategies to practice, after all.)
It seems like a good time to drop disappointing news, at least: the new God of War game was recently pushed back into 2022. Considering we've barely seen anything of it, that's hardly surprising. It's not the only delay that was announced this week (we'll get to that in a bit), but it is the biggest.
What I find more interesting than the delay, however, is the sudden announcement that there will also be a PS4 version of the game. I have a feeling that wasn't originally planned, but with the PS5 shortage showing no signs of abating, there are going to be a lot of people who want to play a new God of War but can't due to not having anything to play it on. I wouldn't be surprised if more of the really big AAA games in the next year or so take this approach, since lack of next-gen console supply is dragging down sales potential. (I also wouldn't be too terribly surprised if the current-gen ports are rushed and buggy, either. Unfortunately.)
Things won't stay like this for long, though. In about a week and a half, we're due for the floodgates of NEWS to burst forth with livestreams and announcements in what looks to be a comically disorganized fashion. Oh boy.
THERE'S A VAGUE SEMBLANCE OF A SCHEDULE FOR THAT WEIRD ZOMBIE E3 STREAMING THING
It's almost time for that series of streams held together with virtual toothpaste and duct tape that the ESA is calling E3 2021! Just today, they released a schedule of all of the major presentations!
Real talk: everyone would love a complete schedule w/ every time listed on it. But announcing days/times is 100% the prerogative of the MANY partners participating in this year's show. So, we'll keep updating you on here as they choose to reveal so you stay in the loop, cool? pic.twitter.com/GVylq6MudN— E3 (@E3) June 3, 2021
… Though calling it a “schedule” might be charitable, seeing as how times for several events are vague or not listed at all. Y'know, just “yeah, Square Enix will be presenting today! Sometime! I mean, you can stick around all day to see a bunch of crap you don't care about to inflate our view numbers and make advertisers happy, that would be swell!”
But anyway, as we can see from the list, there's usually one big headliner each day: Ubisoft on the 12th, Microsoft on the 13th, Take-Two on the 14th, and Nintendo on the 15th. Nintendo seems to be the ones getting the most buzz, as renewed Switch Pro talk has folks anticipating a hardware announcement and a few games to go along with it. There's also the constant tease of maybe, potentially showing more of the next Zelda. If history is any indication, Nintendo consoles that launch with Zelda seem to do pretty well!
Other than that, we're likely to find out just what's in store for Bethesda now that they are fully owned by their new Microsoft overlords. There will likely be some Elder Scrolls, maybe just teaser footage, but they gotta keep people going with something, right? Take-Two is rumored to have a new Bioshock happening, though maybe we might get a first glance at Grand Theft Auto VI. Square Enix should provide us with more juicy FFXVI content along with Forspoken and Babylon's Fall. If we're lucky we miiiiiiiiiiight get some Final Fantasy VII Remake Part 2: Nibelheim Gets Toasty teasers, but don't hold your breath. CAPCOM… Resident Evil Village is already out, so I'm honestly not sure what they'll have beyond more footage of Pragmata. Maybe a fighting game announcement? Seems a little premature for that since Street Fighter V's season five is still going, but who knows. If Virtua Fighter can come back, Darkstalkers can't be dead, right?
A NEW RPG WITH A PEDIGREE IS COMING
So, uh, what the heck is this Monark thing?
Well, it's a “school RPG” from a whole bunch of folks who have worked on the Megami Tensei and Shin Megami Tensei series in the past. It's likely being published by Furyu – the folks who put out the Caligula games – and a full reveal is scheduled for June 10th, just a couple days before E3 madness.
Gematsu has a list of some of the developers, and there's nobody I recognize offhand – which is a little disappointing, as I was hoping this might be the long-awaited return of Koji “Cozy” Okada to game development. Okada was responsible for setting in place many of the elements that have turned the SMT series into a global juggernaut, but his attempt at making his own development company crashed and burned and he hasn't been heard from since. I'd love to see him come back, but sadly, it probably won't happen here. Anyhow, look forward to news on Monark soon!
TAITO ANNOUNCED A NEW MINI CONSOLE, AND IT IS EVERYTHING I COULD POSSIBLY WANT
Sega's release of the Astro City Mini late last year was quite a success, it seems! Turns out that if you give folks a chance to play a curated collection of arcade games that never got proper home console ports in a nice mini-console package, they will gladly snap it up. Well, good news, fellow retro arcade game lovers: Taito took a look at what Sega did with the Astro City Mini, said “this is good, but we can do it even better,” and planned out their own retro arcade mini-console package: The Taito Egret II Mini!
Oh my goodness, this thing. Speaking as a fervent Taito fan, everything about this is beautiful. The Egret II was a fairly popular arcade housing in Japan in the late nineties and early aughts, and is particularly well-suited to vertical games due to a mechanism that lets you rotate the monitor easily. That was its main selling point against its primary competitor, Sega's Astro City. And guess what? The Egret II Mini has that mechanism! You can actually play vertical games in their original aspect ratio! And you can switch the joystick from 4-way to 8-way for older games that don't process diagonal inputs correctly! That's SO COOL and I love it!
The full games list has yet to be announced, but what's there so far has some heavy hitters: besides obvious inclusions like Space Invaders and Bubble Bobble, there are more obscure fan favorites like Liquid Kids, Cadash, and Metal Black. And the game they chose to show on the promo image was none other than Kaiser Knuckle, the notorious fighting game you probably learned about by watching High Score Girl, which caused a minor buzz on Japanese Twitter. 40 games are in the base set and fifteen are announced, so there is a lot of room for more good stuff to make the cut. (There's at least one game that's very near and dear to my heart that had music playing in the trailer, but is still unlisted.)
But wait – there's actually an expansion set, too! Yes, you can purchase an additional control panel that includes a trackball and a dial controller to play games like Arkanoid, Cameltry, and a personal favorite of mine, Syvalion. How sweet is that?
Of course, all of this comes with a price tag: around 18,000 yen for the base unit and another 12,000 for the trackball set. Compared to what some of the original arcade boards go for, however, it's an absolute steal, so I'm sure the core audience for this unit (specifically, nutty fans like me) will gladly shell out for it. The Egret Mini 2 releases in March of next year, so you'll have plenty of time to save quarters for it.
FIGHTING GAME NEWS ROUNDUP: NO DELAY NETCODE, ONLY DELAYS
No King of Fighters announcement trailer this week. We did get an announcement, but… well, it's significantly less exciting than the potential return of the American Sports Team. King of Fighters XV is now officially delayed to Q1 2022.
[Announcement]— SNK GLOBAL (@SNKPofficial) June 2, 2021
Due to rising cases of COVID-19 within Japan, the development timeline for KOF XV was adjusted, with the release window changing from 2021 to Q1 2022.
We apologize and thank you for your understanding and patience. #KOF
News releasehttps://t.co/ZxJaprg6gc pic.twitter.com/1fUNfB0GG1
I don't get upset over game delays – I'd rather a game be good than rushed – but it does mean that, unless big things get announced at E3 this year, the tail end of 2021 might not have much in the way of new fighting games. Melty Blood Type Lumina is still slated for a nebulous “2021” but I think it's quite likely for that one to also get pushed back.
It's not the only fighting game getting delayed, either. Guilty Gear Strive has had yet another setback. Before you get scared, though, it only affects the arcade version of the game, which is Japan-exclusive. Due to the pandemic, Arc System Works has been unable to run location testing of the game in arcades. Until they are able to do that satisfactorily, the game's arcade release has been indefinitely delayed.
“Oh, that doesn't matter, there are still the PS4 and PS5 versions,” you might say – but you would honestly be surprised at how many fighting game players in Japan are strictly arcadegoers who don't have either of those two systems. (When VF5 Ultimate Showdown was announced, I saw several old-school Japanese players on my feed despairing, “Crap, I don't have a PS4! But at least there's an arcade version!”) It sucks for players and arcades alike. With vaccinations in Japan ramping up, hopefully the endless states of emergency will get called off and arcades can fully open again – but the Olympics are a big question mark with the potential to screw everything up.
Alright, well! I think that's all for now. Kinda slow news week, but still some interesting stuff. Unless something BIG happens between now and the E3 broadcasts, however, there won't be a TWIG at the usual time next week. Instead, you'll have an E3 “highlight reel” from me on the 15th where I talk about the most interesting reveals. I hope you'll enjoy it. Until then, stay safe and keep on gaming!
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