This Week in Games
Bring out the Big Guns
by Heidi Kemps,
Jeez, June has only started, and we've already got a veritable summer avalanche of news to tackle! So, let's cut to the chase and dive into all of the hot new trailers that have dropped over the past week!
STATE OF PLAY: EVERYTHING HAPPENS SO MUCH
When Sony announced that a State of Play livestream would be dropping on Thursday, most folks were predicting there would be a lot of small showcases and then maybe some new info about God of War or Street Fighter VI. But as it turns out, Sony was prepared to bring a lot more to the summer gaming news picnic.
The State of Play covered a lot of different games, and despite how much I want to talk about the good cat game, I'm going to focus on the stuff most relevant to ANN's scope. The presentation's only 30 minutes long, so if you haven't seen it, I do suggest checking it out so you don't miss games like the stylish Rollerdrome or the chill anthropology indie game Season.
Starting off, we have the incredibly badly kept secret that is the Resident Evil 4 remake. If you didn't want to make out with handsome young Leon Kennedy before, just wait until you see his beautiful high-poly face now!
Conveniently, the first thing we see is a trailer for a release date, so we don't have to speculate: March 24, 2023. Now, whether or not a RE4 remake is truly necessary considering how well the original has aged… well, I'm sure that debate will fire up as more gameplay details trickle out.
That's not the only CAPCOM title either. The speculation that State of Play would give us another look at the upcoming Street Fighter VI was right on the money. Here's the first look at “gameplay,” which is probably going to be tweaked a fair bit before the final release.
Boy, this game sure looks visually busy, huh? I'm not sure if that's a good or bad thing just yet. Besides Ryu and Chun-Li, we see character cinematics and some fighting snippets of a few other characters: a young girl who appears to be a protégé or admirer of Chun, and a drunken kung-fu fighter named Jamie who looks like Luke's buddy. We also get a look at what appears to be Metro City… and Luke running around it from a behind-the-back, third-person view, hinting that there will likely be some sort of open-world element to Street Fighter VI's story mode. Intriguing…
There's also some kind of eSports arena environment at the end because CAPCOM knows that they still have to promote SF6 as a competitive game. It seems like they want to reassure folks that this won't be a Street Fighter V situation where the game will launch as a barebones package with a primarily eSports focus and little single-player content. The release date is 2023, but I have a hunch that if you're going to big in-person fighting game events between now and next year, you'll likely get a chance to try out some early versions.
CAPCOM also showcased another SFVI trailer outside of the livestream, highlighting a new feature to versus matches: optional “live” commentary in English or Japanese. Have a listen:
Also note the platforms shown at the end of the trailer, which includes Xbox systems. Looks like SFVI isn't tied to Sony and Steam exclusivity anymore, which is good.
Hey, do you like anime? Of course you do—just look at the name of the site you're reading right now. It feels like every State of Play requires Sony to throw a bone of some sort to us unrepentant weebs, and this time it's in the form of Eternights, a heavily anime-inspired action game/romance sim fusion by Studio Sai, a development team founded by indie artist/developer fkkcloud.
And then… the BIG big one. It's finally time for another Final Fantasy XVI trailer.
Dang, that's a whole lot of summon namedrops! All those eidolons are definitely going to have a big role, judging by how much they're getting hyped up. And it looks like you'll be able to control them to some degree—if you look closely, you'll see monster-on-monster battles with big damage numbers popping up. It all looks gorgeous, though the combat snippets all but confirm that this is yet another nail in the coffin for traditional turn-based combat in numbered Final Fantasy games. (At least we know numbered Dragon Quest will never change.)
Summer 2023 is perhaps a bit further out than most folks would like, but considering the game's scope, COVID delays, and how director Naoki Yoshida is pulling double duty on this and Final Fantasy XIV, I think it's totally understandable. Plus it gives Square-Enix plenty of time to get the hype machine firing on all cylinders before release.
Those are some pretty big games, but State of Play is hardly the end of this week's major gaming reveals. Let's jump from one big JRPG to another.
POKÉMON SCARLET AND VIOLET: EVERYONE LOVES LECHONK
We've got fresh new Pokémon Scarlet and Violet gameplay to observe! The previous trailer was more of a teaser than anything, so this is our first glimpse at moment-to-moment gameplay.
Alright, let's see here. Two different professors, one for each version—that's an interesting idea. Open-world exploration looks like it's taking a cue from Pokémon Legends Arceus. Apparently the story doesn't have a big effect on where you can go, which makes me curious as to how they'll handle battle difficulty. Multiplayer exploration, that's a pretty big deal! And those gaudy rainbow-lighted Pokémon Centers definitely stick out.
We also get a glimpse of several new Pokémon in the trailer, including each version's exclusive Legendary Pokémon, Koraidon and Miraidon.
The Japanese words “korai” (ancient) and “mirai” (future) are the basis for their names, and their designs seem to reflect that. I usually base which version of Pokémon I buy on which Legendary I think looks cooler, but… I dunno, I like both of these. Even if Miraidon does kinda look like a dong.
Of course, you wouldn't know about any of this if all you did was dwell on social media, where everyone has immediately fallen head-over-heels in love with the new piggy Pokémon, Lechonk. I mean, just look at the little fella!
Irresistible. Of course, I'm sure the evolved form won't be nearly as cute, but does that really matter right now? Lechonk is the Pokémon we all need in these difficult times.
Unlike most of the big State of Play game reveals, Pokémon Scarlet and Violet are on track to release this year on November 18 globally. We can probably expect at least one more big Pokémon Direct with oodles of details between now and then.
SONIC FRONTIERS IS BEING EXHIBITED IN A MONTH-LONG REVEAL
Thanks to the curse of COVID, we've been waiting a while for another big-ticket 3D Sonic game, but the 2022 release of Sonic Frontiers draws closer with each passing day. As development has slowly progressed over the years, Sega has kept news about the game fairly quiet, dropping only vague teaser trailers every so often. However, it appears that this is the month when Sega finally raises the curtain on Sonic Frontiers’ many mysteries—in partnership with entertainment website IGN, who get to post a bunch of exclusive first-look gameplay videos. But that doesn't stop us from reporting on their reporting! Here's your first look at Sonic Frontiers gameplay:
The overall internet reaction to this video is “looks kinda empty, doesn't it?” I heard a lot of comparisons to Phantasy Star Online 2's environments, which… seems fairly spot-on, actually. But my personal takeaway was a bit different: I was pretty excited to see all of the different ways Sonic can zip around these big, open environments. I'm a big sucker for games with lots of fast, fun movement options, and it looks like Sonic Frontiers could scratch that itch quite nicely.
Folks also seem to be forgetting that videos and reveals for Sonic Frontiers will be happening throughout the month. I'm hearing that by the time this article goes up, there will be another video showcasing a lot more combat, which I'm certainly interested in seeing. I guess I shouldn't be surprised at the negative reactions—I know that the Sonic fandom is completely fractured and jaded by this point and fans and non-fans alike love to hate on the blue guy for… doing anything, really. But what I saw looked like it had elements of something I'd personally enjoy, so I'm intrigued and want to see more. But that's just me, and I've certainly reacted negatively to previews that get other folks hyped. Such as…
I AM IRRATIONALLY ANGRY ABOUT SAGA NEWS
Square-Enix held a livestream to talk about the SaGa series earlier this week—and, as we all know, where there's a livestream, there's an announcement. Given that the original Romancing SaGa is 30 years old this year, I was really, really pulling for an HD-2D remaster of the original SNES Romancing SaGa. As it turns out, the announcement was Romancing SaGa—just not the version I'd want.
Romancing SaGa: Minstrel Song, the 2005 PS2 remake of the 1992 Romancing Saga, is the next Square-Enix game up for the remaster treatment. It makes sense, as a remaster of a PS2 game is cheaper and easier than a full-on remake of a 16-bit title, and Minstrel Song does have some pretty substantial gameplay improvements over the original. It's just… I don't like that game very much.
My big problem with Minstrel Song boils down to personal taste: I loathe this game's art design. Yusuke Naora helmed the series’ artistic direction for a while starting with Unlimited SaGa, and his influence still lingers to this day. For Minstrel Song, Naora took it upon himself to redesign all of the main characters for a mid-2000s audience, and the results were not great. Maybe that's just because I'm a huge fan of original Romancing SaGa character designer Tomomi Kobayashi, but the redesigns just do not sit well with me in the slightest. Especially what Naora did to my girl Sif. Kobayashi's big glam warrior woman is just so good, and Naora's redesign, while hewing closer to her Norse-mythology-inspired background, simply doesn't have that same flashy appeal.
There's also the weird character proportions, as you can see in that image – everyone's not-quite SD but not-quite realistic either, sitting in this bizarre halfway place that's uncomfortable to look at. And the faces, argh. I try hard not to let visual styles turn me off, but this is one that just grates on me so much. I bounced off of it the first time I tried to play it, and as much as I like the weird, experimental nature of SaGa games, I may have to sit this remaster out. It's not you, Squeenix, it's me.
Yu Suzuki is making a new game called Air Twister? It's an arcade-y on-rails shooter starring a woman riding a giant goose? It looks absolutely awesome and crazy? Hell yes, sign me up!
- Shinji Hashimoto, a Squaresoft veteran from the 90s who's been a producer and brand manager for Final Fantasy for quite some time, has formally announced his retirement from the position. He'll still be hanging around the halls of Square-Enix as a corporate advisor, but it sounds like he'll be a lot more hands-off with the management of Final Fantasy.
- Likewise, GAME FREAK OG Junichi Masuda has announced that he's leaving his position as a producer there to move over to The Pokémon Company as a Chief Creative Fellow. This likely means he'll be less involved in development of Pokémon games and more invested in design and marketing of the franchise as a whole. But he'll still be a part of Pokémon, which is the important thing.
Whoa nelly, that's a lot of news! What's been your favorite reveal so far? Anything you found particularly surprising or disappointing? Do we all agree that Lechonk is extremely good? (Yes.) There's plenty to gossip about this week, so take your takes of assorted temperatures over to the forums (linked below) for scintillating discussions! Hopefully (for me) next week won't be quite as news-heavy, but it's looking like it'll continue to be a very hot start of summer for gaming reveals. See you all again soon!
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