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This Week in Games
And The Nominations Go To....

by Jean-Karlo Lemus,

I'm back from Kumoricon, guys! Things were kinda weird at the convention, but it's always great to mingle with cosplayers. And I even got to make some good conversation with some older fans! It's always worried me that it's easier for me to interact with random strangers at a convention than in day-to-day life, but I guess that's what the Internet is for. As an aside, it's also nice to meet artists I bought merch from years ago and see them light up when I show them that I still have their pins and keychains on my ita-bag.

Xenoblade 3? Xenoblade 3. I got to play, like half an hour. But there were some cool Xenoblade 3 cosplayers at Kumoricon! There was a Eunie who was very pleased to know Taion is my favorite character, and there was a Noah who sadly was only recognized by one other person. We're out there! We're a tightly knit community! We wanna see Eunie completely pulverize Taion!

This is...

13 Sentinels: Aegis Rim To Celebrate Third Anniversary

13 Sentinels: Aegis Rim is one of those games I'm thrilled got a second chance. Originally released exclusively for the PlayStation 4, it saw a massive resurgence through its Switch port this past spring. And rightfully so—it's an amazingly written game that's immensely difficult to talk about because so much of its impact hinges upon you absolutely not knowing anything about it or where its twists go. About the most that fans agree you can mention to newcomers is that it's a story about a group of high schoolers brought together to pilot giant robots in a fight against kaiju. Also, it's a Vanillaware game, and the visuals are freaking astounding.

Vanillaware is also proud of 13 Sentinels, which is why they're hosting a YouTube stream on November 28 in honor of its third anniversary, featuring several of the game's Japanese voice cast. Officially, it'll cover some special anniversary merch and go over some survey results filled out by fans (presumably, "Best Character" and the like).

It's a pretty cut-and-dry affair, so I don't think we can expect anything too surprising—but it's nice to dream. A sequel to 13 Sentinels would definitely raise a few eyebrows, but what would really send people into a frenzy is an announcement for a port of another Vanillaware game. 13 Sentinels and GrimGrimoire: Once More are both very timely re-releases (especially GrimGrimoire, which was tragically overshadowed by Odin Sphere as the two released at the same time). But the other Vanillaware games are sadly imprisoned to older gen consoles. If 13 Sentinels can see success on the Switch, I hope we could see the same for all of Vanillaware's other titles. But it's way too early for that, I suppose...

New Sword Art Online Title To Come in 2023

A few months back, we covered Sword Art Online: Alicization Lycoris. And it was not good! And it wasn't just me because even when I had mentioned I was going to play it, some of our dear readers made sure to let me know in the comments that it wasn't a good game! I tried to give it the benefit of the doubt because I've been known to like things that other people don't. But I still didn't like it! Maybe it was my fault for diving into Sword Art Online with one of the later stories? I dunno. Point is, it was a disappointing experience. Nothing like a new game to potentially improve on your past mistakes!

Titled Sword Art Online: Last Recollection, this game picks up after the events of Sword Art Online: Alicization Lycoris: the virtual world of Underworld is headed towards its Final Stress Test, and the tensions between the virtual denizens and the humans in the Real World are at their strongest, so it's up to Kirito and his buddies to bring things back into balance.

As you can see from the trailer, the combat is as flashy as ever; hopefully, they're still using Alicization Lycoris's combat with a few tweaks; it has some really fun mechanics and ideas, but the game never feels like any of its numerous counters, over-skills or what have you ever really mattered. Combat just felt like a button masher: too loose and sloppy for timing-based combat systems like Xenoblade Chronicles 3, too structured for an action game like Devil May Cry. Also, if it wants to be an open-world game, it needs to not stick players in a freaking endless procession of cutscenes and properly pace its storytelling. Also, no gacha crap.

Streets of Rage Film Acquired By Lionsgate

As a life-long Sega fan, it breaks my heart to see countless Sega games left in the dust. Golden Axe, Altered Beast, Jet Set Radio, Space Channel 5, Ristar, Comix Zone... Sega lets these games languish in obscurity, packing them into countless Sega Genesis/Mega Drive compilations. It would be cool if the success of the Sonic the Hedgehog movies led to a whole slew of Sega-based movies (maybe even a shared universe, because everything needs a crossover these days), but considering how much it took for the folks at Paramount to get Sonic right... I'm not holding my breath.

But it seems someone else is listening because this past week we got an announcement: Lionsgate has acquired the Streets of Rage movie. Derek Kolstadt, creator of the John Wick movies, is writing the script, and Toru Nakahara is coming back as producer after having produced the Sonic the Hedgehog movies.

I'm concerned, but not in the "wow, this movie is gonna suck"-kind of way. Rather, the "can they nail the tone"-kinda way. Ignoring whether or not they bring in Yuzo Koshiro to compose the music (his house music has been central to the spirit and tone of the Streets of Rage series since its inception), the original Streets of Rage was a product of its time, based on films like Beverly Hills Cop, 48 Hrs. and—most importantly—the cult-classic "Rock and Roll Fable" Streets of Fire.

As an aside: Streets of Fire is one of those things that's massively influential to anime, even now. Even if you've never seen it, once you do, you will recognize certain scenes, shots, and tropes from countless anime that would go on to use them, kinda like how so many games and anime in the 90s were inspired by Twin Peaks.

And that's kinda my issue; Streets of Rage funnels the tone from a kind of action movie that doesn't really exist anymore. I trust Kolstadt to give the film the emotional weight it deserves, and that it doesn't drown in the excessive self-parody that Vin Diesel and Dwayne Johnson movies just won't stop overusing. If you ask me: the kind of tone a Streets of Rage movie needs is something akin to the intro to the 1990 live-action Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie. It's gritty, it practically celebrates the grimy, crime-ridden 1980s-era version of New York City that it takes place in, and there's a ninja. A good bare-knuckle "loose-canon cop" movie needs roving ninja gangs. Trust me on this one.

Like I said, I'm willing to accept Yuzo Koshiro not being brought in for the music—it'll break my heart, but I'll manage. I'm otherwise cool. I just really hope they give it a good '80s theme. And then! Maybe they'll make a 90s-themed Comix Zone movie and bring Howard Drossin back to give it a super-grunge-based OST! (Friggin' let me dream, man, I already know Apollo Snow ain't coming back to voice Ulala.) But also, temper your expectations. Remember, how long has there been a live-action Robotech film "in the works"?

New Hyperdimension Neptunia Spin-Off To Come In January 2023

Not entirely sure what to say about this one, because frankly I've never played a Hyperdimension Neptunia game before. And honestly, I do think they deserve some degree of credit, even if the games have never exactly burned up the Metacritic charts; it's not often that a single franchise has so many wild spin-offs.

So it goes that the new Neptunia: Sisters Vs Sisters game is based on the little sisters of the major Neptunia characters (which is to say, portable consoles). Starring Nepgear (a fictional portable Sega Neptune/Game Gear), Uni (representing the PSP), and Rom and Ram (both representing the Nintendo DS), they and their incarnates as Purple Sister, Black Sister and White Sister travel Gamindustry and handle their own adventures while, I dunno, Neptunia and her friends are off eating cake or whatever.

This game seems to have an extra twist in that the protagonists are face off against... mobile gaming, particularly the "rPhone." Idea Factory calls this game "a story about finding hope in the midst of despair," but I'll withhold judgment until I actually get my hands on it.

What I will say is that I appreciate the cheeky references the trailer throws at us: two of the characters introduced are based off of famous Japanese indie titles. The first girl seems based off of Rena Ryuugu from the Higurashi series (her outfit is based off of the in-universe maid outfit from that series, and she's got the same annoying-as-hell "yandere" face). The second girl, of all things, references ZUN's long-running series of bullet hell games, Touhou! She's wearing Reimu Hakurei's trademark red-and-white ribbons, and she's even throwing little paper talismans around!

So maybe there are other indie references? Maybe a weird, gluttinous blond girl referencing TYPE-Moon—or maybe even... la criatura?

Game Awards 2023: Local ANN Writer Has Thoughts On Awards Show

Aw crap, the Game Awards are coming up.

The Game Awards to me is kinda like Shrek: it's a thing that's been memed on by everyone around me so hard that it's looped its way back into legitimacy and people seem to have forgotten how dumb it was in the first place. So now this incredibly annoying thing is around and every year I see people somehow get excited for what's so much smoke and mirrors. This past week, we saw the nominations for the Game Awards; I figured I'd give my two cents on the matter.

First up, we have God of War: Ragnarok. Because the people making God of War finally had kids and realized that indulging violent braggadocio ain't no way to live your life, they decided to make a game where Kratos feels bad for doing the stuff everyone tried to keep him from doing in the first place while (and here I drop the snark) trying to raise his son right to make sure his own son doesn't make those same mistakes. Ragnarok seems to have finally understood how deeply embarrassing Kratos is as a stoic "badass," making everyone and their aunt dunk on the guy for trying to be the strong, silent type. It's like A Goofy Movie, only Max has a body count now.

There are things about God of War I respect, glimmers of absolute brilliance that showcase how this series became the influential powerhouse that it is. People worked their hands to the bone to make sure that this sequel not only lived up to its predecessor but surpassed it, making sure people fell in love with Kratos and Atreus while the father-son duo falls in love with each other. But, uh. The extent to which it's sweeping the nominations feels like a piss-take. Like, did it need two "Best Actor nominations? "Best Art Direction"—ah yes, I especially like the 42 shades of brown they use for the mud on Atreus's slacks.

Okay, okay, snark over for real. While God of War: Ragnarok's excessive nominations are easy for potshots, there is nevertheless genuine beauty to the game. Believe it or not, it getting nominated for "Game of 2022" doesn't actually get me, even when it's pretty much guaranteed to sweep over Xenoblade Chronicles 3 (and if it doesn't win, Elden Ring will). I hope the folks at Sony get the recognition they worked hard to earn.

But I do raise my eyebrow at Stray being nominated. Make no mistake: I loved Stray. Stray is cute. I especially appreciate that Stray doesn't overstay its welcome as a game. But it doesn't have much to go for outside of its cute concept. Yes, the cat walking on a keyboard is cute—but as stellar an environmental platformer it might be, it definitely feels like the least of its crowd. That said, the only reason Stray isn't a shoo-in for "Indie of the Year" is because we had so many awesome indies in 2022.

Elden Ring, like Dad of Boy, is similarly slated for a ton of nominations—but man, I can't argue with it. Elden Ring just hits different. Hell yeah, I'd hope it wins Best Score, because the moment the title screen smacks you in the face with the intro theme, you know that something is going to actually be epic and not just be a bunch of faffery. Also, I like how the intro fakes you out with those gentle piano notes that sound like Lord Gwyn's "plin plin plon", which is a really nice throwback even if Elden Ring has nothing to do with Dark Souls.

If I balk at any of Elden Ring's nominations, it's "Best Narrative." Can we stop pretending that tossing out half your script and sprinkling the rest of it into item descriptions is the platonic ideal of video game storytelling? I'm really not sure what part of Elden Ring benefited from George R. R. Martin's involvement because while the strife between the various demigods of The Lands Between was genuinely fascinating... it still felt more like the same kind of writing from previous Dark Souls titles.

"Best Adaptation," this one is something to get excited about! Let's ignore the Uncharted movie that got trailed in on some Sony exec's shoes: we had an amazing year of adaptations for games. I haven't seen The Cuphead Show, but hey, if there's any game that needed a cartoon, Cuphead was it! Arcane: League of Legends was good enough to make scores of people ignore their better judgement and give League of Legends a shot (or even a second shot). They all promptly remembered why they weren't playing it in the first place and quit within the month, but Arcane still deserves credit for its writing and visuals.

Similarly, Cyberpunk: Edgerunners pulled off some heavy historical revisionism for CD Projekt Red's overly hyped, badly managed and ultimately unimpressive Cyberpunk 2077, while also teaching the world that Latinos can slow down time apparently. It's also just a really amazing show that only the people at Studio Trigger could have pulled off. Sonic the Hedgehog 2 was a pure blast of fanservice for Sonic fans, who have had a great year between the fun kids' movie that not only made sure to give one of the original video game cast members top billing (kudos, Colleen O'Shaughnessey!). It's anybody's award, but this is one place where I'd say we all won.

I wanna give some love to "Best Content Creator"—honestly, Nibellion should be a shoo-in for this prize. Using Mob's image as a profile picture, Nibellion shared countless tweets concerning hard-hitting news in the game industry, and he was doing it for free. When Twitter changed hands, he wasn't able to continue anymore, and hung up his hat. His is a painful loss for our industry, and considering how much work he's done for so little reward, the least we can do is give him a bit of recognition for his hard work.

Then there's "Best RPG"! Or rather, "Best JRPG," given that the category is swamped by Japanese role-playing games. I was there in 2010 when people acted like Japanese games were a problem that needed to be solved, I've seen all of the think pieces on how "turn-based battles are obsolete" and "random encounters are bad gameplay design." But what a lineup of RPGs this year: Elden Ring, Pokémon Legends: Arceus, Triangle Strategy, Xenoblade Chronicles 3, and even the Live a Live remake! All falling under the "JRPG" category, all completely different games with different approaches to their wonderful storytelling and themes.

Elden Ring is a shoo-in for this category, because far be it for anyone to choose a game that features primary colors, but any of these games is amazing. Of course Xenoblade 3 is my favorite—but anyone who hasn't played any of the games on that list needs to pick one and start playing. And the next time people act like "Japanese Games" are some kind of stuck-in-the-past problem, I've got that list to show 'em.

You might be wondering, "What does Jean-Karlo think about Xenoblade 3?". Honestly... yeah, I can't in good faith pretend it's better than Elden Ring, but it's a very ambitious game with a very heavy story about life under fascism and finding your purpose in freedom, and in terms of mechanical design it's just amazing to see how it's taken gameplay elements from the previous two Xenoblade games and refined them.

At the very least, I'd want Xenoblade 3 to win "Best Music." The return of the amazing jazz piano first heard in Torna: The Golden Country is meshed with a very on-topic flute-based composition for most of the battle themes, which tie into Noah and Mio as protagonists (being that they're both flutists who play the final rites for the departed). Also, any JRPG that can make a battle theme that doesn't get tiring is an achievement, and not only does Xenoblade 3's "You Will Know Our Name - Finale tie in incredibly well to "You Will Know Our Names" and "You Will Recall Our Names" from the prior two Xenoblade games, that basic battle theme is just a thing of beauty.

In categories that actually made me mad: anyone wanna tell me what Diablo Immortal is doing being nominated for "Best Mobile Game"? A game that literally no Diablo fan I know likes, this mobile game was lambasted from the moment it was announced (anyone remember "Do you not have phones?"). Upon release, the game was slammed for its absolutely abusive monetization, with characters requiring well over $100,000 to fully spec. People play it and whale it, yes, but that's no indicator of a game's quality. And make no mistake, Diablo Immortal is a pretty weak mobile game otherwise.

But even if it was good: why are we giving Activision Blizzard the time of day? They're still under federal investigation for some pretty heinous crap. Geoff Keighly very famously took a moment out of the show a few years back to give what he felt was proper respect to Hideo Kojima, after his name was removed from the cover of Metal Gear Solid V. If Mr. Keighly is so concerned with the respect and well-being of developers in the video game industry, say Kerri Moynihan's name. The same way Geoff Keighly wanted to do right by Kojima being "wronged" for his name not being on a cover, I wanna see him do right by the Blizzard employee who (allegedly—a word carrying a ton of weight in this scenario) took her own life due to sexual harassment she experienced from Blizzard's other employees. Until the trials are concluded, the company deserves no reward or adulation.

"Most Anticipated" also seems like a real joke. To summarize, it's entirely too late to pretend anything connected to Harry Potter is something to celebrate. But past that—Starfield? The game that already had visible glitches in its trailer? How many times does Bethesda have to fail at delivering on its concepts before people just laugh them out of the room? It's not even about Skyrim anymore: Fallout 4 is the definition of contentious, and Fallout 76 was a complete joke, down to the infamous handling of its pre-order feelies. And we wanna give credit to another game made on the completely-broken Creator engine with famed industry clown Todd Howard at the helm? Okay, fine, just don't bring that stuff into my house. Also, shout-out to the people at Bethesda and how they messed with Doom Eternal composer Mick Gordon. It never ceases to bewilder me how Bethesda can be so completely clownshoes in their products and their management and get away with it.

That about covers all of the categories I could say anything interesting about. "Best Community" or "Best eSport Athlete" are a bit far from my wheelhouse. And I've gone on long enough about the awards show. I'll just be happy when it's over with and we don't have to think about trumped-up awards shows with their annoying WORLD PREMIERs.

Let's wrap up with some quick tidbits:

  • If you're like me and you're hard up for Vanillaware games on PC, you've probably played The Vagrant. It's not quite as good as Muramasa: The Demon Blade, but it's a fun side-scrolling RPG with a visual style that perfectly emulates Vanillaware's house style. It's now scheduled to get a ton of ports to PS4, Xbox One and Nintendo Switch in 2023, with a new title: Sword of the Vagrant. Look out for it!
  • Splatoon 3 is set to receive new DLC this December 1! Named the "Chill Season 2022" content, this will include the new X-Battle gameplay mode along with the requisite new outfits and weapons.
  • A closed beta for a Black Clover mobile game is to start soon! Titled Black Clover: Rise of the Wizard King, this game is set to be available in the US as well as other select markets. The most pressing question: what the heck is Black Clover?
  • That about does it for this week. Thanksgiving is already next week; I don't have many filial obligations, so you can expect me to be here, typing away for another column (hopefully a happier one than this week). If you folks have a moment to join me, I'd be much obliged to see you guys swing by. But we have a whole week before I have to worry about making a flan for folks. And hey, Pokémon should come out today! Keep your expectations measured, and remember—it's not worth doing something if you're not having fun. Be good to each other, I'll see you 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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