This Week in Games
Pikachu Didn't Like That
by Jean-Karlo Lemus,
Welcome back, everyone! It's been seven, and we've had some fun behind the scenes in this neck of the woods. Not only have we been able to get cracking on some fun projects I'm sure you guys will enjoy reading about over the next week, but we also got a chance to get back into Xenoblade Chronicles 3! It touched on something I really appreciate: characters wanting to return to the old lives they abandoned even when their old situation was inherently abusive. Xenoblade 3 does a lot about living outside of fascism, but the twisted thing about it is that as evil as it is, it's also banal. It's very easy to find yourself wishing you could be back into the routine of your old life. It's a good story detail to touch on. It really adds some humanity to these kids.
In other news, I hope people have checked out my recent article on the best games available on Nintendo Switch Online! It was a fun article to put together. It's also very timely: time is running out for anything and everything on the 3DS shop. Pick up your copy of Crimson Shroud while you still can because once the 27th rolls around, that's that. Also, it's that time of year again! March is the official anniversary of Granblue Fantasy, Cygames' amazingly-successful gacha game. They usually give out tons of rolls to all players for a week; if an elusive SSR-rank character has you by the heartstrings, there's no better time to try and roll for them!
The Pokémon Company International Is Now Eyeing NFTs
Well, this stinks.
Pokémon company posted a job opening that encompasses Blockchain, NFT's and Web3 technologies.— Pory (@pory_leeks) March 12, 2023
Oh no, please no 😨 pic.twitter.com/p0XrH0Eat3
According to a new listing on The Pokémon Company International's LinkedIn, TPCi is looking for a new Corporate Development Principal. The position itself is a very high-ranking strategic one: according to the LinkedIn page, the CDP "advises the President [...] on driving, assessing, and prioritizing the long-term strategic direction and operating priorities" and "building a platform to test big ideas and sources and build relations with co-development partners outside TPCi." So not only are they in charge of directing the company's big pushes, but they're also in charge of making connections with the people outside the company who can do it. As the tweet above reveals, they're also looking for someone who has a "deep understanding of Web 3", with "Web 3" being the coy name used as the umbrella for all things related to blockchain technologies: cryptocurrencies, NFTs, the Metaverse, and so on.
While many quickly point out that this doesn't guarantee TPCi will be going into NFTs, it's hard not to see the writing on the wall. This might be in response to recent legal action Nintendo took against an Australian company attempting to use Pokémon for an unlicensed pay-to-earn title; maybe TPCi is just hiring someone who knows about NFTs to know how best to defend their IP from other unlicensed attempts. But it's 2023, and we've seen GameStop and Square Enix completely obliterate what little goodwill they had left for NFTs. And crypto is a lot more popular in Asia than in the US.
The most important thing we can do is vote with our dollars... also bring out the pots and pans. Fans have been vocal (and respectful!) enough to shame many companies out of dabbling in NFTs before. Nothing to do but wait for TPCi to make their first actual move.
NieR:Automata Anime Inspires Pop-Up Shops In Japan; Also, Good News About The Anime's Dub
I haven't seen NieR:Automata 1.1a, this season's new anime that adapts the beloved NieR:Automata. I don't even know if it's good or not. I've seen some screenshots that imply it's adapting some of the major moments from the game, so it'll be wild to see Twitter going nuts over the "BECOME AS GODS!" scene. But for now, everyone who has space in their hearts for 2B and 9S (which is to say, everyone) can visit select locations in Japan from March 17th to June 4th to pick up some cute duds featuring the robotic duo in their cozy pajamas.
【 『NieR:Automata Ver1.1a POP UP STORE in ロフト』開催決定 】— 『NieR:Automata Ver1.1a POP UP STORE』公式 (@Nier_A_popup) March 10, 2023
TVアニメ『NieR:Automata Ver1.1a』期間限定POP UP STORE開催決定！
▶https://t.co/7B94wHuuqG#ニーア #NieR pic.twitter.com/MDGTbzVDwS
Most of the merch hinges around the image of 2B sitting with a cat and 9S holding his rabbit (although the cat blends in with 2B's pajamas really well, so it looks like a maternity photo). Fans have the option of a poster, keychains, a shopping bag, hoodies, ashtrays (remember: people still smoke in Japan), and pillows. Not a very diverse list of merch, but the poster is cute. I do kind of wish they'd bring back the adorable little bean-person versions of the NieR:Automata crew, as drawn by the Taiko no Tatsujin character designer and real-life spouse of Yokō Tarō, Yukiko Yoko. Nevertheless, this finally means that the most critical part of NieR:Automata is back: the all-important NieR:Automata t-shirt!
In other news pertaining to 328 lb (148 kg) posteriors, this week also gave us some news related to NieR:Automata 1.1a—specifically, its upcoming English dub. NieR:Automata very quickly found its way into people's hearts courtesy of its English dub, with Kira Buckland and Kyle McCarley taking the roles of 2B and 9S and making them their own. To the delight of fans across the nation, it was confirmed earlier this week on Twitter that they'll both be reprising their roles for the anime, along with the rest of the original cast including Cherami Leigh, Colleen O'Shaughnessey, Alexis Tipton, Erica Mendez, and others. This news also comes with a sigh of relief for long-time fans who were worried about Kyle McCarley being brought back for the dub; Kyle has been at the forefront of a push for better treatment of voice actors in anime, having launched the #justameeting hashtag in an attempt at starting discussions with Crunchyroll. Crunchyroll, for its part, declined the request and even recast McCarley in the subsequent Mob Psycho 100 dub—much to fans' displeasure. We held our breath for a while, hoping McCarley wouldn't be recast. I don't have insight as to how this happened, but I think not questioning miracles is part of the whole "NieR:Automata lore." That, and foul-mouthed women.
If You Had A Nickle For Every Beat-'Em-Up Based Off Of The Toxic Avenger, You'd Now Get A Fourth Nickle
Okay, so—oof. This needs a bit of an explanation. In the 1970s and 80s, a pair of buddies named Lloyd Kaufman and Michael Herz founded Troma Entertainment studio. Troma became associated with independent grindhouse films in the US, producing a slew of gruesome, bloody, sexed-up movies during the 1980s (all while exploding the same car over and over). Kaufman is still at it at the age of 77, too: his latest movies were released in 2019. While most of Troma's work is the sort of thing you'd only really know if you had a serious taste for bad movies along the lines of the RedLetter Media crew. Troma was also responsible for distributing certain films—like, of all things, the original theatrical release of My Neighbor Totoro in the 1980s. I actually saw that version when I was a kid.
Anyway, all that preamble is to set up for the one crowning jewel of Troma's filmography: The Toxic Avenger, a movie about a poor nerd named Melvin who's mutated into a horrid abomination by falling into toxic waste. As the Toxic Avenger, he protects his town of Tromaville, New Jersey, throughout three movies (with a fourth one currently in production) and a stage musical. Of course, there was also a Saturday morning cartoon. And this past week, we received confirmation that there's to be a new video game based on The Toxic Avenger coming out: Toxic Crusaders!
ANNOUNCING our newest title TOXIC CRUSADERS!!— Retroware @ PAX East (@Retroware) March 15, 2023
The Toxic Crusaders are back for an all-new, all-action beat 'em up for one to four local co-op players!
WISHLIST today on Steam!! pic.twitter.com/e4VfGKswun
This isn't the first time Toxie has been in a video game: the NES played host to a beat-'em-up back in the day (the Angry Video Game Nerd has further details, with Lloyd Kaufman himself making an appearance). But in the category of multimedia comebacks, this is an unprecedented one. Much like the NES game, this one is based on the cartoon. So not only is the content toned down (no people getting arms ripped off), but Toxie has his old buddies with him: Junkyard the werewolf, Nozone, Major Disaster, and Headbanger. The trailer also promises further references from other Troma films, so look forward to an introduction to such classics as Tromeo and Juliet, Sgt. Kabukiman NYPD and The Class of Nuke 'Em High. The game looks like the recent Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shredder's Revenge, but even if it's a phoned-in ripoff, it still means we're getting a very pretty-looking beat-'em-up. I look forward to Kaufman himself making a cameo in the game! Also, the Troma car, they need to blow up the Troma car!.
Cyber Connect 2 CEO Says "PSYCH!" on New .hack Games
This past weekend, Cyber Connect 2 held a concert in honor of the 20th anniversary of the .hack franchise. A multi-media franchise involving light novels, OVAs, anime, games, and drama CDs, .hack told the ongoing story of a mysterious MMORPG called The World and the comings and goings of players experiencing supernatural phenomena within the game, usually following a rash of players falling into comas after being defeated by unusual in-game monsters. .hack was a fixture of early 00s anime fandom, courtesy of .hack//SIGN airing on Toonami back in the day. There's also a very loyal fanbase for the two .hack game series that were released in the United States: .hack//IMOQ, a quartet of titles going over the misadventures of the player-character Kite and his mysterious Twilight Bracelet, and the .hack//GU trilogy, about the player-killer-killer Haseo and his own brushes with the unexplained entities within The World.
It's been a bit since the last .hack anything got released, so fans understandably got excited when the concert was streamed. When pressed, Cyber Connect 2's CEO Hiroshi Matsuyama seemingly confirmed a new .hack title was in development. Keyword: "seemingly"; upon further investigation, Matsuyama was kidding.
IMPORTANT UPDATE:— Noisy Pixel (@NoisyPixelNews) March 12, 2023
After some feedback following the .hack news and rewatching the exchange, we have determined that the CyberConnect2 CEO was actually joking about there being a new .hack project in development.
We sincerely and deeply apologize for the misunderstanding.
This one's a real disappointment. .hack has the reputation of being "the better Sword Art Online" (it's not, Log Horizon is), but its real strength was in its characters. Sure, they'd spend almost way too long jawing at each other, but it was fun to learn who the individual players were. .hack's casts included people from all walks of life: homemakers who were hardcore MMO gremlins (which, as a stereotype, is truer to life in Japan than you think!), hardcore Akira Kurosawa otaku, politicians who worked at the Diet, bratty kids who don't know how to make friends, high-schoolers with offbeat hobbies, or even models. It was bewildering to actually see the players behind the characters because you spend so much time with them as their in-game toon it just becomes their face. Yoshiyuki Sadamoto's character designs were perfect for the mundane depictions of these varied people in the real world and their fantastical representations in-game.
While navigating the story in .hack could be a chore for American fans, given how a lot of the source material was never released in the US, the games still struck a chord—I'd imagine there was a lot of cross-over with weebs that were into World of Warcraft in its early-00s heyday. In today's day and age, where many MMO players are significantly older, it would be fun to see a new .hack, maybe even one that brings back older characters. Think a new .hack by way of Recovery of an MMO Addict: old .hack stand-bys like Subaru and Tsukasa being roped back into shenanigans by Aura, only now they're older, so they balance fights against Cubia with mundane things like talking about their physical rehab therapists or taxes. Also, I'm just really interested in seeing the .hack//Legend of the Twilight version of Mistral all grown up—she was just a little kid taking on after her gremlin of a mother in those days. It'd be cute to see her wrapping up college or having kids of her own.
Is there any hope for .hack fans in the here and now? Well, .hack//GU Last Recode was released in 2017, a remaster of the original .hack//GU triliogy, plus a new fourth volume titled Reconnection. I ought to pick it up one of these days; I never got to play it back on the PS2. But the one thing .hack fans are still clamoring for, right up there with a new .hack game, is a re-release of the .hack//IMOQ games. A quadrilogy of PS2 games consisting of .hack//INFECTION, .hack//MUTATION, .hack//OUTBREAK and .hack//QUARANTINE (hence the "IMOQ" acronym), this series of PS2 titles were released over a year in 2003-04. The games suffered from the staggered release, with many critics pointing to their pacing feeling less like four connected games and more like one game stretched into four titles. A remaster could skip the pacing issues and even tighten up the writing. It would also be a ton of fun if the OVAs were included with the individual .hack//IMOQ games could be re-released along with them, considering they had plenty of fun character-based fanservice for the cast.
So far, there's nothing to do but carry on hope that .hack can come back someday. In the meantime, once it comes out, I'll support Cyber Connect 2's Fuga: Melodies of Steel 2.
XSeed To Release New Touhou Game In The US
The Touhou games have, in the span of my life, gone from super-obscure doujin games obsessed over by fans and insulated by the weirdest and most obscure memes to a fairly-well-recognized indie series with several officially-released titles across several platforms in the US. Created by a single man with a sweet hat and a bottomless stomach for beer named ZUN... actually, I need to reinforce this: the bulk of the Touhou games were made exclusively by ZUN. Like, top-to-bottom. Starting from the Breakout-clone Highly Responsive to Prayers to last year's 100th Black Market, ZUN was responsible for the art, music, and level design. He's humble enough to insist he's awful at all of it, but a quick look at Niconico Douga back in the day revealed tons of fun remixes based on amazing compositions like U.N. Owen Was Her (although Necrofantasia is my favorite). As for art, well, he's responsible for creating such beloved gremlins as Cirno, Inaba Tewi, Sakuya—and, of course, series protagonists Reimu Hakurei, the eternally-broke miko, and Marisa Kirisame, the totally-ordinary magic-wielding human who lives in a mushroom.
With that said, there have been tons of Touhou spin-off games, some of which have come stateside. We've had fighting games, puzzle games, and even Metroidvanias, and now XSeed will supply us with a new 3D action game! This is Touhou: New World!
Touhou: New World seems to take gameplay cues from the beloved Pocky & Rocky games: controlling Reimu or Marisa, players explore isometric levels while dodging and weaving through the bullet-hell patterns the Touhou series is known for. The twist for this game is in the title: while most Touhou titles take place in the magical realm of Gensokyo, this game appears to be based in Tokyo. What could have led our heroines to visit the real world? Well, we won't know until the game comes out. It's currently being worked on by Ankake Spa, who also worked on Touhou: Scarlet Curiosity. There's no word yet on ZUN's involvement; presumably, he's in the corner of the room nursing a frothy pint while giving the team an encouraging thumbs-up. So far, we know that the PC and Nintendo Switch ports will be arriving on July 13th; the PS4 and PS5 releases won't be released until "a later date." We'll keep you posted until then!
Let's wrap up with some quick tidbits:
That'll do it for this week. We'll be having a busy week, but I hope you guys have time to yourselves! Remember to pick up those 3DS games while you can; lots of them are going on last-minute sales. Remember to archive your media as best you can and that (outside of catastrophic failure) physical media is about as permanent as things get! 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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