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This Week in Games
Nintendo Indies Showcase 2024

by Jean-Karlo Lemus,

Welcome back, folks! Does anybody know what to do when a snack you like isn't in production anymore? I used to look forward to Russel Stover's pectin jellybeans every Spring, but apparently, those aren't in production anymore. I've eaten Jelly Bellies, and they're just not the same, man. Pectin jellies just hit differently. Enjoy your snacks, folks, don't end up like me.

This is...

Art by Catfish

Former PS Vita Game Head Joins Nintendo As Third-Party Manager—Will Nintendo "Build A List"?

Folks need to remember that for all of the partisanship in the games industry, there is nevertheless a bit of a revolving door to matters. Advisors and executives who work at one studio or publisher can easily jump ship to another at the drop of a hat. Peter Moore, formerly President of Sega of America, went on to become vice president of Microsoft's Interactive Entertainment Business division. After years of almost exclusivity on Nintendo consoles, Square Enix jumped ship to Sony exclusivity for years and years. Rare used to be closely aligned to Nintendo—then Microsoft bought them (and stomped on their hats when they realized that didn't mean they owned Donkey Kong). That's why I don't normally make big waves when one particular figure goes from one company to another. But this is a major case.

Longtime Sony—or fans of Yakuza/Like A Dragon—will know the name Gio Corsi. Sure, you might know him from other stuff like his work at Iron Galaxy or having produced obscure Mainframe Saturday-morning cartoon, Action Man, but his biggest claim to fame was his work at Sony. Corsi did two major things at Sony: first, he was the head of global second-party games at Sony Interactive Entertainment, so he did a ton of work helping Sony build fruitful connections with studios for second-party titles from 2013 to 2019. This opened the door to the PS4 having a phenomenal number of second-party titles like Until Dawn. It seems that Corsi now works for Nintendo, having joined its AAA third-party games portfolio management team.

For clarification, publishers manage first-party titles, like how Sony of Japan made Parappa the Rapper or Legend of Dragoon. Studios make third-party games and license the titles out to everyone else to release on their consoles. It's how Ubisoft put Prince of Persia or Rayman Legends on every major console. Second-party titles tend to get overlooked a lot; while they might be exclusive to a platform, they're from a studio that the publisher doesn't necessarily own. Again, a great example would be Bloodborne: a PS4 exclusive produced by FromSoft, who released their other games on other platforms. Another great example that many folks overlook is Pokémon; while Pokémon is exclusive to Nintendo's consoles and Nintendo has a major stake in the franchise, studio Game Freak isn't owned by Nintendo. This is why Game Freak is tied to the hip with Nintendo when it comes to Pokémon but otherwise releases a ton of their other titles like Giga Wrecker Alt on a variety of other consoles.

Second-party titles tend to get blurred in with first-party titles because of their exclusivity, but they're an important part of a publisher's portfolio. You might think it's better for a publisher just to buy out a studio (see: Microsoft with Rare, Bethesda, Activision-Blizzard...), but simply signing a contract to keep a certain game exclusive while the publisher is allowed to remain independent is still plenty helpful. For one, you get a ton of guidance and funding for this one title (which can help when it comes to your future projects). For another, you're still open to benefit from being able to deal with other publishers.

This is where we come back to Gio Corsi. Corsi's time at Sony was extremely fruitful. Again, his tenure as head of second-party titles meant he was involved with many of Sony's big money makers during the PS4's tenure. Until Dawn was a captivating experience that not only paved the way for future cinematic slasher-horror-inspired build-your-own adventure games like The Quarry or House of Ashes, it also gave Sony a much-beloved hit and its bevy of enjoyable teen-slasher tropes. He was also responsible for the rise of the Like A Dragon games in the US.

The original Yakuza was a classic way back on the PS2—but even with the advent of a sequel, it took a while for Yakuza to catch on. The original was a phenomenal open-world game with tons to do and a great story. However, folks still tilted their heads at stuff like Kiryu not being able to punch anyone on the street (like the Grand Theft Auto games) or how unapologetically Japanese the game was. Yakuza would find a small, dedicated fanbase, but by the time Yakuza 5 rolled around, the franchise was on thin ice. Corsi's "Build The List" initiative was a pledge to respond to the PlayStation community and fund the development of games the fans wanted. This led to stuff like Sony's involvement with the production of Shenmue III, but it also let Corsi guarantee the release of Yakuza 5 in the United States. The result? Yakuza exploded in popularity in the US, with the series being practically a household name across the industry. Just this year, we saw Like A Dragon: Infinite Wealth release to great applause.

Now, we need to keep from getting ahead of ourselves: Gio Corsi coming to work at Nintendo in a similar position doesn't mean Nintendo is guaranteed to get the Yakuza games. But—it does mean that a figure who keeps his ear close to the community and isn't afraid to take risks is in a position of power at Nintendo. And this also means that Nintendo has someone with experience in arranging good deals for them. Many are quick to point out that this is exciting as a prospect for the Nintendo Switch's successor, and as much as I might want to be a contrarian, the writing is pretty blatantly on the wall. Nintendo doesn't have any problems selling Switches, but keeping up the rhythm with a new console will be hard. The best way to get folks to buy a Switch successor is by ensuring it has stuff they want in the form of must-have games. Nintendo can do that just fine on their own—if Nintendo has just one Super Mario Bros title at launch, they're gold. A Pokémon title, or a The Legend of Zelda title? They've got a license to print money. But Nintendo also needs stuff to pad out the library and give folks stuff to do between first-party releases. What better way than with a title other studios made—only on a Nintendo console? Meanwhile, the other studio can gain access to valuable assets like dev kits, making further third-party titles that much easier to develop.

A ton of ink has been spilled on how console exclusives are bad for consumers and the industry—the idea that people should be able to get anything on whatever. Folks want to play Breath of the Wild on their PC to put the game into ultra-wide perspective and run it at limitless framerates. But here's the problem: that proposition is killing Sony and Microsoft. Their consoles have no value they can leverage. Why get a PS5 for Spider-Man II if you can get it on PC? Who needs an XBox for Sea of Thieves if Sea of Thieves is also on Steam?

Nintendo doesn't just have arguably the strongest brand in gaming by nostalgia: their exclusives are exclusives. Do you want that new Pokémon? You're getting a Nintendo, no questions asked. Folks have also pointed out that exclusivity on a console "limits a game's sales to a smaller audience." There are good numbers to support this: games like Persona 4: Golden or Final Fantasy VII Remake enjoyed a veritable bonanza of sales once they were freed from their Sony-only prisons and released on Steam. But I don't think this is the end-all, be-all; there's something to be said about The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom selling 20 million copies. Sure, that number could have been much higher if there had been a Steam release, but that would come at the expense of future hardware sales, a short-term gain for long-term loss. And Nintendo has an easier time selling their $250-$350 consoles to mass audiences than Sony does selling a $400-$500 console.

Nintendo is building up a war chest for their future moves, and Corsi might surprise us with a lot of his insight. We'll see how this works out in the coming years.

Inugami Korone Stars in Horror Game, Coming Now to Consoles

So. V-tubers! It's been a while since I covered anything about VTubers in this column, and once again, we return to the dog-themed VTuber Inugami Korone. Best known for having done a lot of Sonic the Hedgehog collabs (and providing some sound-effect DLC for Sonic Frontiers in Japan), Korone is no stranger to horror games. Even if she's just as likely to get scared by soap as she is anything else, but now Korone gets to star in a horror game of her own!

So, this one has a bit of history. In October 2021, Korone played this game for her birthday event. It was later released on Steam worldwide on November 8. And it seems to have done well enough to merit a console release because it's now on PS4 and Nintendo Switch as of earlier this week. Titled Evil God Korone, you play as a down-on-his-luck student who's also a massive fan of Korone, taking a fateful walk home one afternoon...

Evil God Korone is based off of the Japanese indie game, Tsugunohi. Developed by ImCyan, Tsugunohi (which translates to something like "Day of Atonement") is a horror game with a simple concept: you walk to the left as things get creepier and creepier along your path. It's a fun concept, and it allows ImCyan to develop several episodes for the game. Tsugunohi even featured a special Steam-exclusive episode starring fellow VTuber Kizuna Ai for its original Steam release. Evil God Korone is a stand-alone episode about everyone's favorite Cavalier King Charles Spaniel. It's not weird for her to dip her toes into spooky territory, either; like many other VTubers, Korone has a (mildly forced) running gag about loving people's fingers. Y'know, because puppies like mouthing on people's fingers. Of course, Korone wants folks to cut their fingers off and give them to her—hence her common cries of "Yubi-yubi!", what with "yubi" meaning "finger" and the trailer having a PNG of a hand with a finger getting lopped off.

It's not often we get Korone stuff in the US. To my knowledge, the Korone DLC in Sonic Frontiers was kept in Japan. And hey, Evil God Korone has already been out on Steam for a while—but nothing expands a game's reach than console releases. Also, it's $4.50, and the pint-sized Korone looks down at you imperiously as if she's judging you while standing on a crate of oranges. Until someone decides to add a v-tuber mode to Suika Game, that'll do just fine for us needing a quick romp with everyone's favorite gaming dog.

Final Fantasy XIV Benchmark Details

Ahead of Final Fantasy XIV's newest expansion, Dawntrail, releasing this July 2, Square Enix sent its players a nice gift this past Sunday: a benchmark for the update. This is for various reasons—the first being that the character creator allows players to design new characters from the newly-debuting race, the female Hrothgar.

The only thing folks have been more excited about than female Hrothgar is the ability to put hats on their Hrothgars and Viera. Square-Enix originally introduced Hrothgar in the Shadowbringers expansion, but only as male characters—folks could instead make female Viera as an alternative. Eventually, male Viera were added to the previous expansion, Endwalker. The consensus is that the female Hrothgar are great: they generally avoid the issue of "default female nonhumanoid race design" (translation: Hrothgar women have muscle), and they're really expressive without having to resort to an overly-human face. There is no word on whether female Hrothgar can wear hats (I haven't seen any pictures of it, sadly), but hopefully, that comes along.


The other primary reason for the benchmark is because Final Fantasy VII: Dawntrail will introduce several graphical updates to the game and its engine. Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn (I'm not counting the base 1.0 version of the game because 1.0 was a hot mess) is eleven years old, and while it still looks stunning on its own, I do have to admit that a lot of that is because of Square Enix's art direction. XIV starts to look a bit dated compared to, say, the recent Final Fantasy XVI or Final Fantasy VII Remake. While Dawntrail isn't going through a total graphical overhaul, it is getting a few new graphical flexes. The full details of the updates make my eyes swim, I'll be honest, so the short version is that textures have been massively improved, and the lighting has been touched up. The texturing is mostly for background details: grass on the ground, flowers, that kind of thing. The difference is astounding; patches of grass are now dynamic and not just textures baked onto the ground.

The other side of the coin is that, apparently, the new lighting does a major disservice to the player characters and their models, washing out details and shadows while leaving faces looking a little "dead." A lot of explanations have been cooked up by FF14 vets who are likely a lot smarter than I am about them: while some of the problems are inherent to the benchmark's character creator, others seem to be because the gamma levels in the engine are a bit too high (note: I couldn't tell you what that means). Because Final Fantasy XIV fans are understandably very attached to their personal Warrior of Light and their designs, folks are a bit anxious about how this will shake out for Dawntrail upon release. The upside is that whatever issues folks report with the lighting can be repaired. The downside is that no matter what happens, the new Dawntrail expansion can and will mess with whatever graphical mods players are using—and FF14 players do love their graphical mods or so I hear.

Nothing to do but await Dawntrail's proper release this July 2. Let's give the team a chance to fix this stuff.

Nintendo Indie World Showcase February 2024

Man-oh-man. People will see announcements for remasters and remakes of beloved cult classics or titles that we haven't seen in over 20 years and have the gall to say that the Direct was a "lame duck" because we haven't seen a single pixel of Metroid Prime 4. And Hollow Knight fans are getting there, man. I'm surprised Hollow Knight fans can look in a mirror without flying into a rage because they don't see anything about Silksong. I get it: folks have been waiting for five years. I promise you, bellyaching about it every single freaking stream—be it for Nintendo, Sony or Microsoft—isn't going to make Team Cherry work any faster.


Anyway, Nintendo sprung this Indie World showcase on us out of nowhere—as they're wont to do. And there isn't much I was expecting out of it—but that's why they do these showcases so that we can learn more about upcoming games. And first up was the very charming Little Kitty, Big City. We'd seen some announcements for the game a while back, and we now have a release date for it: May 9! I've seen folks liken Little Kitty, Big City to being a mix of Lil Gator Game and Untitled Goose Game: playing as a little kitty, you wander around the city as you cross off tasks on your little to-do list. This includes pouncing on birds, bringing fish to crows, knocking stuff off of walls, or tripping passers-by as they're walking. It's a bit more twee than Stray, but also very charming. It also has a vital feature: unlockable hats for the main kitty to wear. Little Kitty, Big City will also be releasing on Xbox One, Xbox X|S and Steam on May 9.


Now, here comes a deep cut! WayForward Tech has reimagined a few beloved arcade classics for the modern era, like with Double Dragon Neon—or their recent sensational success, River City Girls (so famous that they even released a SNES Kunio-kun game in the US as River City Girls Zero). And it looks like they want to do it again, only with an even older franchise: Yars' Revenge. For the record: Yars' Revenge is even older than I am by a full seven years. It was originally released in 1982 for the Atari 2600, where it became the best-selling original title for the console. The original Yars' Revenge is a surprisingly sophisticated shooter: you control a little alien bug named Yars who has to chip away at the Qotile's shields to target and destroy them with the Zorlon cannon. There are a few wrinkles in the formula, like the "safe zone" in the middle of the screen that protects Yars from Qotile's attacks, the unavoidable Swirls that Qotile can fire at Yars, or the finer mechanics behind the Zorlon cannon's firing. Yars' Revenge has been ported and reimagined a few times over the years, but now WayForward is taking a crack at it—and taking their own spin on the matter, too. Hence: Yars Rising.

So, first off, Yars Rising is more of a Metroidvania title now. A little Atari 2600 shooter (featuring the original Yars sprite) works as a hacking mini-game. You play as Emi Kimura, who goes by the Internet handle Yar as she tries to infiltrate the pan-galactic corporation Qotech. Also, Emi is decidedly human in design, though the cute alien bug-woman standing behind her might be some "true form" for her. She reminds me a little of Psyme from WayForward's old GBA classic, Sigma Star Saga. As always, WayForward is acing the whole "cute monster-girl design" effort. No word yet on Yars Rising's release date beyond a vague "later this year" window. It will also launch on PS4, PS5, Steam, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X|S.


Refind Self: The Personality Test Game is a cute idea and reminds me a little of Yokohama Kidaishi Kikou. You play as a gynoid (complete with a little turn-key on her back, like Nano from Nichijou, who is searching for her purpose decades after her creator has died. The idea behind the game is that your interaction with the world and your decisions are all tallied up into a personality profile for you at the end, with over 20 different profiles. The personality profiles remind me too much of those hokey Myers-Briggs personalities. However, the idea is still cute—and Refind Self will even allow players to share their profiles to compare results. Refind Self will be a timed exclusive for the Switch; look forward to it this summer.

Sticky Business—unrelated to the 2005 Gizmondo title, Sticky Balls—is a shop simulator game where you'll design and ship stickers to a variety of customers. The sticker creator mode is surprisingly in-depth, with all kinds of elements you can combine with neat effects like glitter or sparkles. Sending customers neat sticker sheets also lets you learn more about them. It's a simple concept, but the robust sticker editor gets the nod from me—I think creative-minded people will have a blast with it. A pity we don't have a modern-day equivalent to the GameBoy Printer, these stickers are screaming for it. You can pick it up right now. On the other side of the spectrum is Antonblast, a wild and intentionally ugly (complimentary) platformer about an angry duo out to retrieve their stolen souls from the Devil. I had to check to make sure Antonblast wasn't made by Tour de Pizza, the makers of the recent indie-hit Pizza Tower, because the aesthetic is there—especially
since both games are heavily inspired by the Wario World titles. Antonblast is especially Wario-coded: levels are wild and frantic, Anton (or his distaff counterpart, Annie) has a hair-trigger temper, and the bosses are huge and stylized. There's also a neat twist to each level: upon beating the boss, the levels will explode, forcing you to speedrun your way back to the start before you're caught in the flames. Antonblast will also be a timed exclusive; look forward to it on the Switch this November 12.

Valley Peaks looks to be a more beige take on Lil Gator Game, where you play as a hiking frog exploring the wilderness and activating radio towers to make future hikes for other animals easier. It'll also feature mini-games when it launches "later this year." Lorelei and the Laser Eyes, from Annapurna, shot up to the top of my list; it's from the Sayonara Wild Hearts team, featuring a woman exploring a mysterious mansion and solving puzzles. Europa, meanwhile, really aims at the Studio Ghibli vibes as you control a robot boy exploring a vast wilderness. The movement in this game is what has my eye: you glide, run, and dash around using air currents to float, letting you cross vast distances at a time. Europa won't be available until "later this year," but the demo is out now on the eShop.

I'm with a lot of other people in that it's weird for a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles game to be considered an "indie" title (especially with the mega-millions the franchise has made), but Nintendo deemed it fit to cover Splintered Fate in the showcase. Players will choose one of the four titular tubular turtles to wade through randomly generated levels, beating up Foot Ninja in search of Master Splinter. Sega fans are looking at Splintered Fate with some hope, as it was formerly an Apple Arcade exclusive--if Splintered Fate can come to the Switch, there's a chance that Sonic Dream Team could as well. Splintered Fate also has co-op because what good is a Ninja Turtles game without co-op? Look forward to it this July. We also have Cat Game III, a pirate-themed adventure where you and a partner can team up and sail through several cute 2D islands to look for treasure. It arrives this August 8. stitch., meanwhile, is a much more sedate game: a puzzle game somewhat akin to Minesweeper: players will select and fill in squares within a shape to complete an illustration of a stitching pattern. The numbers on the tiles offer hints as to how many tiles are supposed to be grouped for one stitching. It's available now on the Switch.


The big jewel of the show was the announcement of SteamWorld Heist II! I've never played any of the SteamWorld games, but I do know that the SteamWorld games were indie-darlings on the 3DS. SteamWorld Dig had you controlling a steam-powered robot to explore an underground cavern, while the original SteamWorld Heist was more akin to a 2D XCOM with characterful steam robots instead of expendable soldiers. SteamWorld Heist II brings back the charming rustbucket world, steambots, and the massive collection of stealable hats. You'll play as a crew of steambots searching for sources of clean water to sustain the population of steambots. Each Steambot has unique abilities they can use in battle, acquired from leveling up. But the real meat of the game will be character customization! In addition to the wealth of hats you can get for your Steambots, you can also choose their unique classes and weapons. There will also be real-time naval battles to give you something to do when you're not storming enemy ships to make off with their hats. It's a delight to see SteamWorld Heist back, and folks can look forward to playing it this August 8. So much for this being a dead year for Nintendo...!

Let's wrap up with some quick tidbits

  • Sonic Dream Team will be getting some free DLC in the form of a new level: Sweet Dreams Zone. A new ranking system will also be added to Sonic Dream Team, scoring players on their clearing-level performances.

  • One Piece Odyssey is slated to come to the Nintendo Switch! Look forward to One Piece Odyssey: Deluxe Edition on July 26.

  • Nintendo added three new Super Nintendo games to the Nintendo Switch Online collection! Super R-Type is a fun old shooter, but we've also got Wrecking Crew '98 and Amazing Hebereke (both previously Japan-only releases).
  • That'll do it for this week. I try to have something witty for these end-of-column bits, but the well has run rather dry lately. As usual, 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 Anime News Network, Jean-Karlo can be found playing JRPGs, eating popcorn, watching v-tubers, and tokusatsu. You can keep up with him at @mouse_inhouse or @ventcard.bsky.social.

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