This Week in Games
Everything Happens So Much
by Jean-Karlo Lemus,
Hey, everybody! We have a lot to cover this week. I would start with my customary Xenoblade Chronicles 3 report, but something came to my attention this past week: last week's column fell on 9/9! SEGA fan that I am (and appreciator that I am of Touhou, I totally failed in acknowledging two important holidays: the anniversary of the SEGA Dreamcast's launch in the US, and Cirno's birthday. The SEGA bit bites pretty hard, too, because I saw something earlier this week.
Test renders of a 3rd Eternal Champions game called Eternal successors running on Unreal 4. A few years ago, series creator Mike Latham planned to get the rights but was willing to continue the series independently if necessary. His untimely passing in 2021 ended the project. pic.twitter.com/uI4ebvyiWQ— Sega-16.com (@Sega16) May 13, 2022
This right here is a series of test renders for Eternal Successors, an attempt at reviving the old SEGA Mega Drive fighting games, Eternal Champions. Eternal Champions was SEGA's homegrown attempt at biting Mortal Kombat's style, a brutal fighting game with gruesome finishers and a cast of memorable martial artists (whose fighting styles reflected real-world arts like Jeet Kune Do). Eternal Champions' failure is a matter of lots and lots of cloak-and-daggery. And it's a pity, because Eternal Champions had a bit of character and charm to it; Shadow Yamamoto would go on to star in her own title, X-perts (which admittedly wasn't very good). The storyline was about a group of warriors from throughout Earth's history, who were all brought together to fight at a chance at avoiding their predestined death. Living meant changing the future in some capacity: caveman Slash's victory meant that humanity would evolve with a peaceful agrarian mentality, less inclined to wage war in the first place, while the ex-mobster Larcen Tylor's survival leads to the eradication of organized crime worldwide. Eternal Champions only got the two titles, but series creator Mike Latham was hard at work trying to bring it back on Unreal Engine 4... until he died last year.
Appreciate the series you love, folks, this stuff vanishes faster than you think—and once it's gone, it's gone.
With that downer out of the way, this is This Week In Games.
I don't normally like reporting on rumors or "leaks" or the like because all that guff just doesn't seem very helpful. In my book, rumors and $3 can buy you a cup of coffee in New York City. But this one seems a bit relevant to bring up, being that I'm knee deep in Xenoblade 3 and all that: Bandai seems to have re-registered the Xenosaga name.
Bandai Namco has apparently re-registered the Xenosaga name pic.twitter.com/oGWHkWDXt7— Bleshoo - Low Effort Xeno Memes (@MrBleshoo) September 9, 2022
Long-time Xeno-fans will know that this kinda-sorta-meta-series has gone through all kinds of struggles. The original Xenogears hoped to be a six-chapter epic, but it was far too ambitious and could barely put all of its own story into its multi-disk release. Xenosaga was a second attempt at combining space-operas with giant robots and a lot of religious nomenclature and iconography; it, too, was going to be a six-game epic, only on the PS2. But, it only made it to three games, and that third game had to condense a lot of story. Regrettably, a lot more people got to actually play Xenosaga, and in spite of its reputation for over-long cutscenes folks fell in love with its cast—not the least of which, KOS-MOS, the blue-haired robot-woman who may or may not be the reincarnation of Mary Magdalene? Kinda? It's complicated. We did get a Xenosaga anime out of the ordeal, as well as a DS game that condensed the first two games (that didn't come to the US).
Xenoblade Chronicles had to deal with a lot of obstacles before becoming such a huge series for Nintendo in the US, but it finally made Takahashi's concepts for the prior Xeno games work. Xenoblade Chronicles 1 focused more on the giant robots and the fighting against God through piles of gnostic imagery. Xenoblade Chronicles 2 leans more into the fascination of sexy anime robot women... and their complicated relationship with their purpose when they're given such human desires and minds. I'm still working through Xenoblade Chronicles 3, but I like what themeing it has so far.
Xenosaga is a flawed but ambitious attempt at a sci-fi epic, and it still nails the landing better than Mass Effect did years later, if you ask me. Fans have been clamoring for a way to play through the trilogy again, and there's never been a better time for it. I really do hope this leads to a Xenosaga revival. Katsuhiro Harada mentioned some time ago that Bandai Namco didn't think there was enough interest from fans for a new Xenosaga release, but I'd like to hope that the suits changed their minds. In the meantime, nothing to do but to wait and see. You can also try to unlock KOS-MOS in Xenoblade Chronicles 2, but uh... good luck with that 1% drop rate?
Among Us Teases VTuber Collaboration
Among Us definitely became a huge hit among gamers (although I am sick of people constantly shouting "AMOGUS", that's just getting obnoxious). VTubers especially had a lot of fun with it, setting up for lots of fun collaborations where they backstab each other in increasingly hilarious ways. Folks might claim Among Us is a "dead game", but developers Inner Sloth have kept on updating the game so just because it's not the hottest ticket out there doesn't mean they're not adding new stuff to it. And some of what they might add seems to involve the streamers of Hololive!
a new Crewmate collab is coming on board to help out with tasks soon... 👀 pic.twitter.com/Fj1bMZqEZw— Among Us (@AmongUsGame) September 13, 2022
Now, I do confess that I'm not the most informed connoisseur of Hololive—I have exactly 🌸one🐺 VTuber I obsess over and that's all I have mental space for and by the time you read this I may be enjoying a very nice shaker-cup that I got from their birthday merch. They're not from Hololive, begging the pardon of everyone that loves Hololive. But while the Among Us folks have been coy about who these beans are supposed to be, it's pretty obvious that it's the Hololive gang; that's very obviously the famous Devil May Cry-loving shark Gawr Gura in the bottom-left corner, and I'm pretty sure the time-travelling detective-slash-incognito space cowboy Amelia Watson right above her. And I strongly suspect that's the rapping grim reaper Mori Calliope in the top left. I had a friend hit me up asking if the top right was possibly VShojo's Silvervale watering one of her Petal Pals, in the chance that this was a VTuber grab bag (because I wouldn't know if there were Nijisanji streamers included too), but it looks like this one's exclusively Hololive: there's a good chance the top-left steamer is Shirakami Fubuki with one of her Ouruyanke as a pet.
No news yet on when this collaboration gets officially revealed, but once it does I imagine Among Us will see a big resurgence among VTubers and VTuber fans.
Eidos Montreal and Crystal Dynamics Regain Their IP
The legacy of what once were Square Enix's Western properties complicates further! When we last left the sad remnants of what was a collection of old Eidos properties acquired by Square Enix, they had been sold off by Square Enix and purchased by the Embracer group for $300 million—and the Embracer Group later acquired the former owners of the IPs. So now, the logical conclusion has occurred: under the Embracer Group's umbrella, the rights to these IPs has returned to their original studios.
Eidos Montreal has regained the rights to Thief and Deus Ex, while Crystal Dynamics once again has ownership over Tomb Raider and The Legacy of Kain. Square's acquisition of these studios and IPs was quite momentous when it had happened, but the results of their ownership was... mixed. The Thief reboot came and went, and absolutely nothing came of The Legacy of Kain besides the failed Nosgoth online game and a cancelled Legacy of Kain: Dead Sun. Anyone who's been hoping to see what happens next to our good buddies Kain and his spectral, soul-eating bestie/vampire heir/sentient sword Raziel got nothing out of the deal. Tomb Raider came out okay: it got a very successful (if a bit dull) trilogy that Square Enix famously claimed "didn't sell enough copies" (note: it sold 3.4 million copies within a month). Square Enix also produced a pair of Deus Ex prequels that I like fine enough for not playing like sloppy Metal Gear played with the Steel Battalion controller while someone pats themself on the back for namedropping Voltaire. Also, famously, Deus Ex: Human Revolution had a cheeky jab at Square Enix with a poster for "Final Fantasy XXVII". (It'll be hilarious if that poster informs the actual Final Fantasy XXVII once we get there.)
It'd be nice to think that these franchises will be better-treated by their original studios. Hopefully, we get Tomb Raider games that can combine the writing of the current games with some of the cheeky charm of the older ones, or a Thief that isn't a slog. Or, y'know, a new Legacy of Kain that finally lets Amy Hennig flex her writing muscles again. Of course, it'll all take time for the engines to get running—and it'll all be under that ever-expanding umbrella that is the Embracer Group. Still no word on what it is they want or what they're up to. Here's hoping.
Judgement and Lost Judgement Now Available On PC
There's other Yakuza news to be had, and we'll get to that in due time, but we need to set some space aside to talk about Judgement and Lost Judgement; spin-offs from the Yakuza series concerning the police officer Yagami as he trawls Japan's underworld to solve crimes. The games were beloved for their cinematic appeal, their amazing combat and their phenomenal acting—and now they're finally on PC. Now, the Judgement series has had a bumpy road in the past. Just before the first Judgement's US release, the actor Pierre Taki was arrested after failing a drug test. His character was essentially replaced in the game with a generic figure, as Taki had loaned both his likeness and his voice to the character. Thankfully, this didn't affect Judgement's US release otherwise. The other factor, however, was the lead actor Takuya Kimura. Now, Kimura hadn't done anything wrong... he was just represented by Johnny & Associates.
The name Johnny's would send many an idol fan cringing; it's an old talent agency that plays host to some of the biggest performers in Japan. And ignoring a lot of their own home-grown controversies and allegations of abuse, they're as hard-assed as you can get: you can't even show photos of people represented by Johnny's in media they're starring in. Ultraman Tiga fans know this pain, since it's part of why the series hasn't been re-released too often (the star actor was represented by Johnny's). Thankfully, fans won out and the Judgement games are finally on PC; Yakuza fans the world over can enjoy them now and thumb their nose at the out-of-touch executives trying to put the Internet genie back in the bottle. Here's hoping to more stuff from Johnny's escaping the old ivory tower.
Cannon Dancer Re-Released At Last!
A few weeks back, I reported on the planned re-release of the arcade classic Osman, an arcade side-scroller from the creator of Strider. Turns out, we're getting some of that classic arcadey love in the US: ININ Games is now bringing it back to the US under its old American localization title: Cannon Dancer!
A legend returns, after almost 30 years! 🎉— Strictly Limited Games (@RealStrictlyLTD) September 8, 2022
Our friends at @ININ_Games are bringing back the legendary arcade game Cannon Dancer! We're proud to announce a Limited and Collector's Edition for Switch, PS4 and PS5!
🎉Pre-orders will kick-off on September 18th, more info soon! pic.twitter.com/HCHQpobHTf
At the risk of sounding reductive, Cannon Dancer looks and plays like a Strider without a sword: your protagonist punches and kicks (as well as wall-climbs) his way through a futuristic world. It's an arcade title, so it's not terribly deep, but folks that love the old Strider school of gameplay design could do so much worse—especially since there hasn't been a good Strider in a very long time. ININ Games has a very fancy limited edition set planned complete with art books and an acrylic diorama. Pre-orders go live on the 18th of September. Look forward to picking this one up on the PS4, PS5 and Nintendo Switch.
Nintendo Direct: Heroic Bands, Farm Hands, And Bayonetta Reminding You To Mind Your Manners
So! Nintendo did that thing they do where they announce a Nintendo Direct the day before they have one.
This was a real monster of a direct: 40 minutes! And for some weird reason, it wasn't livestreamed in the United Kingdom. You'll forgive me if I skip over a few games or truncate some information, because I can make a whole column out of this one Direct alone. One thing I wanna call attention to was a common sentiment I saw from folks: we saw a lot of farm games and JRPGs getting announced in this Direct. Like, a lot: no less than 3 farm sims, and at least 6 JRPGs (one or two are also farm sims). And folks were rather amused by that. Me? I'm glad I'm finally eating well.
Look, I get it, it sucks when there are a ton of announcements and not one of them appeals to you. But I have first-hand knowledge of that because I grew up in that period of years where every major game release was a gunmetal-gray military shooter with cover-based shooting. I lived through the endless World War 2 shooters. I lived through the period of time where Japanese games were a problem, and pundits everywhere clucked their tongues and stroked their beards as they pondered what was to be done with those weird JRPGs with their blue-haired protagonists and their "power of friendship" nonsense. And I'm not gonna force people to give a rat's ass about SaGa Frontier, but... man, I'm just happy we're getting games with color in them. The Nintendo Switch has spoiled us for amazing Japanese games, same as the 3DS did before it, and the DS before that, and the PS2 before both of them. And it's a great second home to a lot of great JRPGs and shooters that got passed over before. We finally live in a time where people are starting to look at stuff like Sakura Wars and not just call it an "anime game"—people are finally getting excited over Story of Seasons. Sure, F-Zero would be nice, but we already have the looter-shooters covered. It's okay if the Switch isn't for that. After all, we had a nice long period of time where none of the other consoles were the place for farm sims.
So, with that said: who wants to go farming?
First up is Faefarm, a cute little farm-sim with a magic twist. Instead of tools, you depend on spells to carry out your tasks. You can, of course, craft items and decorate your house, while also exploring dungeons and fighting monsters. There also seems to be a multiplayer component at work, which is intriguing. Look forward to this one in Spring of next year.
Up next was Harvestella, SquareEnix's farm sim. This one has more of a JRPG bend to it: not only do you have your farm raising, but you also have more of a focus on dungeon crawling and monster-fighting. You also recruit a party of adventurers to travel with you as you discover the secrets of Quietus, the Season of Death, and fight to maintain the vibrancy of the world. At the risk of sounding reductive, it all sounds like Rune Factory by way of Final Fantasy, and the trailer does little to dispel that. But it's a good vibe: the moody melodrama helps Harvestella stand out.
And hey, speaking of Rune Factory! I'm a huge fan of Rune Factory, have been since Rune Factory 2 way back on the Nintendo DS. Marvelous has made sure that Rune Factory 4 has been freed from the constraints of its obscure release on the Nintendo 3DS (and good for that, since many fans of the series hold Rune Factory 4 to be the best entry). This year's Rune Factory 5 was a fun entry that succeeded in bringing in an attractive, loveable cast and cozy world to the Switch (even if you were too limited in dating options—lemme date Misasagi, dammit!). Rune Factory 5 was a real make-or-break for the series, as it apparently didn't do to well in Japan—but like that one kid who bred tons of Lapras in-game so that the species wouldn't be endangered, fan efforts came through! We have a Rune Factory twofer on our way! First off: Rune Factory 3 is getting ported to the Switch as Rune Factory 3 Special.
As evidenced by the trailer, the game still uses the old top-down perspective from the Nintendo DS original. This definitely dates the game, but those tiny little sprites have never looked better (they were so grainy on the DS!). There are still fun features like the protagonist's ability to turn into a monster, as well as a promised "new mode" for spending time with your in-game paramour. We'll have to wait until an undetermined date "next year" to see more. Hopefully, my lovely editor is nice enough to let me cover this one like I was able to for Rune Factory 5. We also received tantalizing news that that a new Rune Factory series is in development! This has me intrigued; it's not a new entry, it's a wholly-new series. We don't know anything else at all, whether they meant a new numbered entry and we're staring down the barrel remains to be seen. But like I said earlier: we won! We showed Marvelous we still care about Rune Factory, and more is coming down the pipes! The agrarian dream is alive! Always bet on Wooly!
But the real crown for farm sims this Direct went to a game that has been received with tremendous aplomb, one fans have waited twenty years to return home.
I shared the news tweet concerning Story of Seasons: A Wonderful Life with a friend of mine, and about all I could get out of her for a bit was the most excited of keysmashing. Harvest Moon: A Wonderful Life is considered by many to be the best in the series, and if not then it's tremendously nostalgic as the first Harvest Moon they ever played. It was also a game that got a very quick redux, Another Wonderful Life, which allowed you to play the game as a woman and romance some of the bachelors from the same cast. With Marvelous no longer involved with Natsume's Harvest Moon branding, the games had to retitle to Story of Seasons, but the excitement towards A Wonderful Life has been the most I've seen for a farming sim... ever. A Wonderful Life is certainly feature-rich with farming, animal husbandry, fishing, archeology (no monster-hunting, though), and crop fusing, but it's also just plain beloved. And the new version goes above and beyond: your character will age as the years go by, and the child you have with your chosen paramour will age and chose a path in life based off of your own choices in-game (although your paramour doesn't age—power of love, I suppose). But best of all: the game finally has a non-binary option. You can choose to play as a man or as a woman, or just be non-binary. You can romance whoever you want, the Harvest Sprites will take care of the whole "kid"-thing. It's the magic of love. Who knows, you might find the kid in the cabbage patch.
Now, there is some consternation from fans over the character designs: some of the men in A Wonderful Life are being redesigned from the Gamecube original. And while some cases make total sense (Murray being redesigned from a very dirty homeless person to more of a "flower child" avoids insulting the homeless population), others are just a bit of a downer. Gustafa, for example, has been redesigned from a reedy-looking man with a huge hat and a big nose (a Geddy Lee reference, perhaps?) to... a more-conventionally-attractive guitarist without a beard and with a much smaller hat. He at least keeps his big nose.
Shay🧠🔪🎃 (@JellyZombies) September 15, 2022
I won't blame the developers for making the men conventionally attractive, but it's definitely a shame considering how unique and characterful some of these men used to look. So folks who are attached to being able to date gremlins in A Wonderful Life... I hope you figure out how to mod the game. Art changes aside? This is definitely the belle of the ball as far as the farm games are concerned. No word yet on a release date; we'll keep you posted.
If this was the only remake we had to look forward to, that'd be one thing—but this Direct had a slew of other remakes that raised my eyebrows. Keeping with the GameCube-theme: Tales of Symphonia is getting remastered for the Switch! It's already been ported a few other times to PC and other consoles, and I admit it's hard to tell what makes this particular port any better (besides being on the Switch). Notably, this is just a release of Tales of Symphonia—it doesn't include the sequel, Dawn of the New World, which many fans don't like much but regardless would have been an appreciated bonus. But hey, Tales of Symphonia is nevertheless a nostalgic title. It was my first Tales Of... title and I'll never forget booting it up and discovering that Scott Menville—who I had just discovered courtesy of his work voicing Robin in Teen Titans—voiced protagonist Lloyd Irving. Also, Cam Clarke voiced Kratos Aurion, and I love Cam Clarke. He's my favorite voice actor and I'd just about flip if I met him at a convention. Also-also: Sheena Fujibayashi is such a cutie. This was a great game for budding weebs in the early 2000s, and I bonded very intensely with my friend Gerald over it back in college. It'll be nice to revisit it in early 2023.
And that's just one of the remakes! We have so much more! The resurgence of the SaGa series continues with the announcement of Romancing SaGa: Minstrel Song Remastered. The first three titles in Square Enix's Front Mission series are all getting remade for the Switch in 3D—and they look great. A strategy RPG series about a complicated war fought with bipedal mechs called Wanzers, Front Mission is vastly overshadowed by Square's other strategy series, Final Fantasy Tactics. Hopefully, this brings new fans to the series. We can expect Front Mission 1 this November; Front Mission 2, which has never before been released in the US, is coming early next year, and Front Mission 3 is set for a remake "in the future". And hey, how about some Kirby?
Kirby: Return to Dreamland Deluxe is a remake of an old Wii game, brought back to celebrate the series' 30th anniversary. (I'd also have liked Air Ride, but Sakurai presumably can only do so much.) There is four-player local co-op, a slew of fun minigames like Kirby Samurai, and the ability for all four players to play as Kirby. There is also a new Copy power: Mecha, which gives Kirby a good mix of long-range and close-range attacks. Fun stuff!
Let's talk JRPGs! Octopath Traveler 2 gives a sequel to the game that kicked off the HD-2D trend, giving us eight new protagonists that unite together as they weave their myriad stories. As expected, the game looks stunning, but it also adds a new wrinkle: each Traveler has two Path Actions now: one during the day, and one at night. In the trailer, we can see that the samurai, Hikari, can Challenge people to sparring matches during the day, whereupon he can learn new techniques. At night, however, Hikari can Bribe people for information or goods—underhanded for a samurai, maybe, but necessary in the ways of court intrigue. I never got a chance to play Octopath Traveler, but this sequel looks great.
Much more confusing is Various Daylife, another RPG from the Bravely Default team that originally released on the Apple Arcade. Its fate was unclear following its subsequent removal, but just as it was announced today during the Direct it was released for the Switch. The setup reminds me a bit of Level-5's Fantasy Life: you play a newcomer to an island, where you take on odd jobs to increase your stats and gain attacks. Making friends with the locals, you can explore the island in the name of adventure. I'm a bit wary, given that it was an Apple Arcade game, but sometimes you need a simple game to kill just a little time. It at least looks very nice, give it a look.
I really need to show Ib some love, if only because it seems like such an intriguing concept. It looks like an RPG Maker game—which shouldn't be a bad sign, because it channels a lot of Yume Nikki's vibes. A girl gets sucked into an otherworldly realm as she explores an art gallery, and must seek her way out from bizarre horrors. It's surreal and gruesome and beautiful, and I hope it doesn't get overlooked.
Hey, remember last week when I covered Gust teasing a new Atelier game to celebrate the franchise's 25th anniversary and I reported on some folks pointing out that the music at the end of the video sounded like music from Atelier Ryza? I hope those guys in the YouTube comments to that video got a nice cookie for that one. They're possibly the most-likeable YouTube commenters ever..
Titled Atelier Ryza 3: Alchemist of the End & the Secret Key, we once again join Reisalin Stout—aka "Ryza" to her friends—as she embarks on another summertime adventure, this time to solve the mystery of floating islands appearing around the countryside. The trailer promises 11 party members, so fans have deduced someone new will be joining Ryza's precious band of friends. There is also footage of Ryza riding animals to traverse the environment. The battle system seems to be a refinement upon the system in Atelier Ryza 2, with a dash of Atelier Sophie 2's Links for extending combos while swapping party members on-the-fly. There also appear to be a series of keys Ryza can collect for further powerups in battle.
This one's a bittersweet one to announce, as Atelier games tend to run in trilogies. Fans going into Atelier Ryza 3 will have to contend to this being our final summer adventure with Ryza and the gang. While I said last week that every game within the entirety of the Atelier franchise seems to be someone's favorite in a very charming "we're-all-friends-here" way, Ryza is no less beloved. Heck, I'd argue that Ryza is partially responsible for really bringing Atelier to the limelight in the US. Through her series, we've seen Ryza grow from a plucky young woman with a head full of dreams to a confident, adventurous alchemist—and she never once lost that sweet, sweet disposition of hers. I appreciate when a story has the stones to say "No, this is the end. This character's story is over. They're resting now." It's part of why I love SSSS.Gridman. Do you have any idea how amazing it is to see Trigger displaying the restraint needed to not even show Akane Shinjo in SSSS.Dynazenon when she was so wildly popular? So too with Ryza. We can look forward to her outfit being DLC in future Atelier games, but once the credits roll our girl is off on her own. So it's our job to send her off with a cheer. Summer starts early next year: Atelier Ryza 3: Alchemist of the End & the Secret Key comes out on February 24th, 2023.
So, here's one of the massive heavy-hitters from this Direct: a new Fire Emblem game: Fire Emblem: Engage. Kicking off a new setting, Engage establishes a world where previous warriors fought against a fell dragon with the power of Emblems (basically, the Lords of previous Fire Emblem titles—the tapestry in the beginning teases Lyn and Lucina). The protagonist is a Lord who's been asleep for a millennium, waking up just as the Fell Dragon is reawakened. With the help of a ring containing the emblem of the Hero-King, Marth, he embarks on a journey to wage war against the forces of darkness.
So, uh, right away, there was a lot of consternation over the new Lord. We can't deny that Fire Emblem has always been really, really anime (heck, all of the main lords have either blue or red hair). But, uh... homeboy (and girl) have both. It's what happens when you commission Mika Pikazo as your art designer; while their designs are perfectly stylish and engaging, this feels a bit "much" for Fire Emblem. Even the super-tropey Fates cast comes off as the cast of Dune by comparison; Carmilla is positively dignified next to our two-toned heroes.
任天堂FE最新作『ファイアーエムブレム エンゲージ』のキャラクターデザインを手がけさせていただきました。— Mika Pikazo (@MikaPikaZo) September 13, 2022
I designed the characters for the Nintendo's new FE title "Fire Emblem Engage". Please look forward to the game!#FEエンゲージ pic.twitter.com/nKhNx2YFTp
Not to say Pikazo did a bad job, but when you consider that their previous contributions were designing the vtubers Hakos Baelz and Kaguya Luna (who I like), you understand why the new Lords are so day-glo. I wouldn't have so much of an issue if I hadn't played Tokyo Mirage Session; these designs feel better-suited to that game and its bright palette, especially with how Fire Emblem: Three Houses set itself so down-to-Earth with its characters (while maintaining a vivid palette, I might add). There's also some consternation over the title: Fire Emblem: Engage makes the game sound like a gacha game. What it is, is a reference to the "Engage" mechanic: using an equipped ring, characters can fuse with their Emblem to acquire new skillsets and powers. We see our Lord merge with Marth to perform a critical hit on a foe, while a spell-casting girl fuses with Shadows Over Valentia's Celica to perform a flashy Ragnarok spell. Hopefully, we'll get more news to get us better-acquainted with the title; Fire Emblem: Engage comes out this January 20th, 2023.
I couldn't forget the Pikmin; we're seeing another collaboration between Nintendo and Niantic via Pikmin Bloom. It feels like Pokémon Go without the battles: you plant seeds that grow into Pikmin as your phone logs your footsteps. As you grow Pikmin, you walk around your city. Your path and steps are logged by the app in a loose journal; you can also happen upon Decor Pikmin (Pikmin wearing bits of rubbish as makeshift clothes) or Big Flowers created by other Pikmin Bloom players passing by. There are very valid security concerns to be raised about this game and how much of your travels it logs; I hope that they're addressed. Shigeru Miyamoto himself also introduced viewers to Pikmin 4, which is stated to be in development. Very little of the game was shown: the controls have apparently been simplified to make commanding the Pikmin easier, and the viewpoint is "lower to the ground" to immerse you in the world of the tiny little buggers. Past that: we don't know much else about Pikmin 4. We won't be seeing it until 2023.
Theatrythm: Final Fantasy Curtain Call was a game I was sad got landlocked on the 3DS, if only because of the wealth of music in that game. Featuring songs from the entire Final Fantasy series, the DLC was amazing—we had songs from SaGa, The World Ends with You, Live-A-Live, and lots of other Square Enix games. And sadly, with the 3DS shop shuttering, it'll all be lost. I'd always meant to get those songs, but it's almost $200 of DLC—I couldn't afford any of that! (For the record, I never managed to get any of the Fire Emblem Awakening or Fire Emblem Fates DLC either.) I'd always meant to get it once I had the money, but uh... I never did. And now it looks like I never will. Thankfully, we have Theatrhythm Final Bar Line to look forward to this February 16th of 2023! It'll not only feature extra songs from more recent Final Fantasy titles (so look forward to all that amazing Endwalker and Shadowbringers music!), but we were also guaranteed music from the aforementioned SaGa and NieR titles. There will also be a season pass guaranteeing us just over 500 songs for the game. I'm looking forward to this one!
SEGA-fan that I am, I have a particular love of Treasure's old bevy of shooters: from Gunstar Heroes to Alien Soldier, you'll not find a crazier series of wild, intense games. But many of them released on the Sega Saturn, and didn't exactly get a lot of ports. Guardian Heroes is an amazing brawler-RPG, but the only port it got besides its Sega Saturn release was on the Xbox 360. Thankfully, the Switch is here to help SEGA bring its babies back. Radiant Silvergun, another Treasure classic from the Sega Saturn, was made available on the Switch earlier this week after its announcement on the Nintendo Direct. It's a fun, hectic shooter where every face button has a unique weapon associated with it; players must position themselves carefully to get the most mileage out of each shot. There's also a fun color combo system that feels like something of an ancestor to Ikaruga's color-swapping mechanic: shooting down enemies of the same color sets up a Color Combo that boosts your score, while shooting consecutive enemies of different colors starts a Secret Combo. Now, Radiant Silvergun was supposed to be available as of its announcement this past Tuesday, but for whatever reason the store page is down: nothing but Wario's ugly mug (which I had quite enough of following the Xenoblade Chronicles 3 fiasco. At the time of writing, this hasn't been fixed. I'm counting the minutes before I can finally get my Treasure fix again.
Oh hey, so about Xenoblade Chronicles 3: progress is slow, I'm mostly messing around and grinding out the classes so everyone has optimal skills. Named enemies are giving me a hard time, like that big giraffe-thing that pukes on you. But I've got a lot of reason to get back once my schedule clears up, because... we have new DLC incoming!
First off: Xenoblade Chronicles 3 will now have Challenge Battles. First introduced in the previous two numbered Xenoblade titles, these timed fights will have you facing off against waves of enemies. Points earned from these fights can be redeemed for useful accessories—or swimsuits for the entire party. As always, fashion is the meta. But there's also a new Hero to unlock: Ino! Heroes are akin to what Xenoblade Chronicles 2 attempted with Blades: extra party members that unlock new abilities for the main cast. In Xenoblade Chronicles 2, Blades were integral to the plot and a lot of the major twists, but their practical use was a bit... much. Ignoring all the generic Blades, acquiring the cool, story-bearing Rare Blades was a pain in the ass based off of an in-game gacha system (that nevertheless didn't take IRL money—Xenoblade Chronicles 2 was weirdly merciful that way). Raising and empowering these Blades could be pretty weird, too: some just required lots and lots of money, others required ridiculously-long timers that would collectively outpace beating the entire story mode. Heroes try to simplify all that: they're temporary party members that unlock new Classes for your main party. Ino is a new Hero that can join the party after you beat a few quests. Their progression seems inspired by Poppy from Xenoblade Chronicles 2; rather than needing experience points to level up, Ino requires Ether Cylinders collected from the environment (which are a resource you already need to "activate" certain rest spots). Ino's mechanical design is no-doubt cool, and her title ("Noponic Champion") makes me wonder if she isn't another link to Xenoblade Chronicles 2—specifically Tora, the Nopon engineer who created Poppy. We were teased with the silhouette for the next DLC hero, and I can't wait to see who they are.
WIth that, let's round out with that one last announcement...
Yep. We finally got some concrete news on the Breath of the Wild sequel. The mural is cryptic, but it seems the world is massively expanded to include floating islands—I think the recent Skyward Sword ports put Nintendo in an aerial mood. We also have a release date: May 23rd, 2023. The title to this new Zelda adventure: The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom.
... O-o-oh, that's why they didn't wanna livestream this in the UK...
Anyway, the trailer is too cryptic to make much more of it, but I do wanna say I love the title. I already loved the title Breath of the Wild for its evocative nature: it wasn't about a gimmick of the game or some major tool Link had to acquire, it was about the game itself. It was descriptive of Link's need to explore his environment and the player's need to learn how the world worked in order to traverse Hyrule, and the quest to bring life back to a world ruined by evil. Tears of the Kingdom is just as evocative, and I hope that the story takes us to some serious tear-jerk territory. Some fans theorize that the magical dragon insignia that appears over the logo is a reference to something, banking on the resemblance to the magical circles used by the Twili. If this does lead to Midna's return, I'll be massively happy... but I'm not counting on it. I don't remember the Twili using dragons in their imagery.
So, that's everything on Nintendo's side of things! Now let's do the same thing for Sony because holy Christ, everything happened this week, please streamer say my name on-stream my brain needs the Serotonin™
Sony's State of Play:
It feels like yesterday when everyone was poo-pooing Nintendo's decision to pull back from depending on E3 to make its announcements in favor of some hare-brained "Nintendo Direct" streams. But then Nintendo's Directs became massively successful and helped engender a lot of goodwill between Nintendo and its fans (even if fans got completely ungrateful when their darling didn't get an announcement in a Direct or if a Direct was specifically for a game that "didn't deserve it"). So of course, Sony started doing its own streams: the "State of Play" streams, tying into Sony's famous taglines and their use of the word "Play". I still think "Live In YOur W×rld, Pl▲y In ■urs" is the best one they ever made, "Long Live Play" feels way too self-congratulatory, and "Play Has No Limits" is a laugh when most people can't even buy your console in the first place. Also, not using the PlayStation button symbols is a missed opportunity. But I digress. So, what did Sony try to build hype over? Well, thankfully, it wasn't another The Last of Us remake.
First off, we have confirmation that Tekken 8 is in development. We'd been teased a new Tekken game a few weeks back, so it's good to know we're getting a new numbered entry. Tekken 7 is a great fighting game and it's been massively successful... but at this point it's also getting seriously long in the tooth. The trailer boasted real-time rendered footage, so the trailer looks great but we'll see how the game proper turns out—hopefully, not too much worse. And hey: the fight between Jin and Kazuya is nine kinds of awesome, with Jin pulling off fancy Rage Arts and Kazuya countering with some brutal rib-smashing combos.
Following that, there were some PSVR2 titles; Star Wars: Tales from the Galaxy's Edge Enhanced Edition sure is a Star War, although traipsing ancient alien ruins while C-3PO and R2-D2 beep at you seems fun. Demeo is a VR simulation of a tabletop game where your minifigs can come alive as they carry out their actions. You can see your opponents/fellow players as masks with hands while also putting yourself in the perspective of your figurines. It's a cute idea, it reminds me a lot of Crimson Shroud.
Alright, time to unpin the promised Yakuza talk.
We had a bit of a bomb dropped on us with the announcement Like A Dragon: Ishin!. This title was formerly unavailable in the US and centers around Sakamoto Ryoma, ancestor to the famous Kazuma Kiryu. The game takes place in Feudal-era Japan, where Ryoma explores the city of Kyo in 1867. Unlike his descendant, Ryoma favors swords in combat: we saw him pulling off some wild spin-attacks to cut through a mob, while also showing some mariachi-level skill with a six-shooter. Apparently, his fighting styles swap between swords and pistols. We also saw a feudal-era ancestor for fan-favorite Goro Majima (who also sports an eyepatch in the 1900s). Most interestingly, the game isn't being brought over under the title of Yakuza: it seems SEGA is embracing a translation of the original Japanese title, Like A Dragon. I'm for it; Yakuza is an extremely evocative and to-the-point title that gets across what these games are all about (considering the PS2 era when the first game was released and how some critics reacted to the original Yakuza's extremely-Japanese writing, this minor title change was for the best). But the world is smaller now, and most Yakuza fans are probably aware of the series' original title, either having learned it on their own or after having it brow-beaten into them by our dearly departed Chairman Kiryu Coco. I look forward to seeing Ryoma drunkenly sing at some old-fashioned tavern in the near future—or rather, February 2023.
Pacific Drive is... interesting. The trailer doesn't give us much besides a first-person view as you drive your way through some kind of emergence phenomenon in the Pacific North-West causing the ground to shift and weird robot-things to float around. The trailer ends with the wrecked car vanishing as the title appears, possibly hinting at some rogue-like elements. We don't have a concrete date, either—just a vague "2023" release window.
Same goes for Synduality: this one's on track for release in 2023. I struggle to pin this game down; it's clearly got a science fiction bend to it, with the main character piloting a bulbous mechsuit called a "Cradle" and being helped by a floating AI-girl to shoot down crystal-faced dogs. There appear to be some open-world elements and maybe some resource gathering (which might mean crafting). But there is also an emphasis on shooting, as we see snippets of the protagonist gunning down other Cradles and other, much larder crystal-faced dogs. Synduality is also set to receive a tie-in anime from Bandai Namco Filmworks. We'll keep an eye on this one.
The formerly-announced Project Eve has finally been given a proper title: Stellar Blade. Set in a post-apocalyptic future, it centers around a young woman named Eve who has to find a way to revive the last bastion of humanity before their energy depletes. Standing in her way are NA:tives (read: monsters). I don't like being reductive in comparisons, but this one feels like it's trying really hard to be NieR:Automata. There's plenty of room for extra character action games about young women trying to save humanity in a dead world while kicking a lot of butt as a sad vocal tune plays. And we can't expect a trailer to transmit a game's writing or emotional weight, either. For now, we have Hyung-Tae Kim's beloved character designs to tide us over. This one's a PS5 exclusive, but it won't land until sometime in 2023.
In case Ghost of Tsushima and Like A Dragon: Ishin! don't give you quite enough Feudal Japan flavoring, we have another game set in Japan circa 1863: Rise of the Ronin. This one seems a lot of fun: it looks to be an open-world game where you rebel against the Tokugawa as Japan sees its culture and way of life changing. The titular ronin has the usual bevy of pistols and katanas at his disposal, as well as this totally-awesome retractable glider on his back when he jumps off of heights. In a weird way, I'm hoping the gliding controls are a lot of fun; I remember the PS2 Transformers title (aka Transformers: Armada: Prelude to Energon. That game offered a glider powerup, with suprisingly sophisticated controls: you couldn't just hold down the button, you had to time your dips with your tilts in order to maximize your airtime. It was far more intricate than anything else in that game, but relaxing and fun when you could pull off a good jump (and it was funny to see the beefy Armada-era Autobots ragdoll when they hit the floor inelegantly). Sony's fans of the Meiji era are being very well cared-for, I'm looking forward to this one! It's coming from Team Ninja, so I expect it'll have some controls akin to Nioh. Just don't expect this one too soon: it's a PS5 exclusive and we won't see it land until 2024.
It's a little outside the purview of our column but I think it would be a little unfair to not give good ol' Dad of Boi: Ragnarök his due. Folks are tremendously excited for this one (and I still really like Felicia Day's cute storybook reading that summarizes the first game). The action look a lot less heavyset than the first game: Kratos is still using his old Blades of Wrath to swing around, mixing platforming with his attacks. There was also this absolutely sick juggling combo he pulled on an enemy where he's just punching the dude and keeping him airborne with his shield—it's basically a Street Fighter 2 combo in a 3D game, I gotta give props. Atreyu and Kratos are still not quite seeing eye-to-eye as father and son, so mneah mneah mnheah "Cats in the Cradle" and all that (my preferred Kratos was Mr. Aurion), but I do need to give the game credit for its visual splendor. The trailer teased fantastical locales with giant jellyfish and cool mermaids. The God of War series has never done anything for me, but I can appreciate the craft that's gone into this one. Folks have reason to be excited. Expect this one to land on November 9th.
Sony also announced this cute Dad of Boi-themed limited edition controller. The wolves on it are a cheeky callback to Kratos and Atreyu, but it's a bit too low-key? I'm looking at my limited edition Xenoblade Chronicles 2-themed Joycon Pro and how it's got the cool tamp graphing that calls to mind the Aegis's mechanical design, the red coloring symbolizing Pyra, the green "X" for Xenoblade that references Pyra's core-crystal and how the entire thing may be a very subtle crack at the chest-design for Pyra's in-game swimsuit given the "X"s placement. The God of War: Ragnarök controller seems too low-key by comparison. Give it some Nordic filigree, hide some Greek lettering on the back to represent Kratos's Spartan origins, cover it in runes. God of War pulled way too many shenanigans back in th day to claim high-browed subtlety.
And that was all that was worth talking about with Sony's State of Play. It was a lot shorter than Nintendo's Direct, but I wouldn't call it insubstancial. "Who won?" Eh, I don't play the "console wars" game. Sony's been pretty slow to give us incentive to actually bother trying to track down a PS5, but Nintendo hasn't really addressed the allegations of workplace abuse. And regardless, they're both getting a lot of fun games. They don't pay me to pick a side, they just pay me to write a column where I find as many excuses as I can to talk about old games I love and maybe preview or review games. It's a good life. A good, sleep-deprived, game-filled life.
... Please don't schedule two press releases on the same day again, game companies.
Let's wrap up with some quick tidbits:
That just about does it for this week, I should think. This just might be my longest column yet. I hope you guys understand if I'm a bit tired right now. Hopefully, this should tide us over until Tokyo Game Show comes around and drowns us in more. I don't know who has time for all these games, but whoever you are: remember to touch grass and stretch your hands! I hope you guys enjoy what's left of summer. The heat was pretty bad this year, I'm just happy folks get some relief from triple-digit weather and wildfires. We had a lot of exciting news this week, so I hope you guys have stuff to look forward to! Are you ready to give Ryza her last send-off? Are you biting your nails in anticipation of God of War: Ragnarök? Do you still have hope for a new Soul Reaver game? Lemme know in the comments! Be good to each other, I'll see you guys in seven.
This Week In Games! is written from idyllic Portland by Jean-Karlo Lemus. When not collaborating with AnimeNewsNetwork, Jean-Karlo can be found playing JRPGs, eating popcorn, watching v-tubers and tokusatsu, and trying as hard as he can to be as inconspicuous as possible on his twitter @mouse_inhouse.
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