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This Week in Games
Uguu Stocks On The Rise

by Jean-Karlo Lemus,

Welcome back, folks! Last weekend, I had a sudden pang of nostalgia, and I started missing Avalon Code. Avalon Code was one of the many offbeat RPGs released on the Nintendo DS, this one by Matrix Software (and released in the US by Xseed). It had a fun concept: the world is going to end, so you needed to go around the world and smack everything with a book to store their "concepts" to preserve them in anticipation of the new world. But each "concept" (say, a loaf of bread or a kind of monster) consisted of codes shaped like Tetris blocks. You could swap these codes around to modify objects or characters. With the correct codes, bread could become Berry Bread (healing more health), your generic sword could become a fancier weapon like a Shamshir, and you could progress your relationship with NPCs by using codes to delete the "negative" codes that ailed them. It was a fun RPG with a deluge of incredible characters like your four Spirits or Nanai, the town psychic (who was my favorite). It had problems, mind—there wasn't any search function for the codes, so you had to flip through your entire book to find that one dang code with the right shape. Also, swapping codes cost MP. But it was a fun game with a fun concept, and I hope it gets a do-over someday. Hey, if Rune Factory 3 and 4 can make it to the Switch, right? Sadly, my copy is in Puerto Rico with the rest of my collection; even if I could just make a trip across the hemisphere to get it, I do not have space in my room for all my stuff from home. Ah, well...

This is...

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Art by Catfish

Kanon Finally Comes Stateside

It's time to put another one on the board, folks! We've seen a lot of tiny miracles throughout this column: the Suikoden games getting announced for a remaster (even if it's been delayed), the return of the Another Code series, the return of Yggdra Union to the United States—and the release of major visual novels in the US. It's a big deal that the Witch on the Holy Night and Lunar Legend Tsukihime VNs are finally available to an American audience; it's been a long time coming. But this news is similarly massive: we've got another seminal industry-defining visual novel finally coming to the US. Get your snowboots: Kanon is coming stateside!

Jeez, man. Where do you begin? Visual Arts/Key's 1999 Kanon is a tremendously-beloved visual novel. While the basic story is fairly maudlin (the "Key" trilogy was not unfairly joked at for their over-reliance on "sad anime girl dying in the snow"), it's nevertheless a massively beloved game for its heart-wrenching story and beloved cast. The story is of young Yuichi Aizawa returning to his childhood town where his cousin Nayuki (and her toxic-jam-making mother, Akiko) live. He can't remember the past seven years of his life, but with the help of the girls he meets in town, he might not only regain them but make new ones as he connects with the people around him. And, of course, there's Ayu Tsukimiya, the wide-faced ingenue who loves taiyaki and became famous worldwide for her catchphrase: "Uguu~".

Key and Visual Arts have a pretty sizeable list of beloved tragedies, which include Air and Clannad (which are considered a sort of thematic "trilogy" along with Kanon). They've also got Little Busters! and Angel Beats!, which folks are also intensely ride-or-die for. But Kanon was the originator, man. Heck, there's a famous scene from 16bit Sensation: Another Layer where the protagonist not-unfairly jaws off at an old lady over how much of a masterpiece Kanon is. It put Visual Arts/Key on the map, they were instrumental to the development of "moé" for better or worse, and the animated adaptations from the mid-00s were required viewing back in the day. Your friend and mine Mike Toole has a phenomenal column from his old Mike Toole Show where he goes over some of the Visual Arts/Key adaptations (which is where I got that phenomenal tweet from). Kanon has been ported to consoles in Japan a whole bunch of times (I discussed the recent Switch port back in December of 2022). But this is the first time it'll finally be available to fans in the US.

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So, what will the US release feature? There's not much to add besides the art being reformatted to fit modern resolutions. It'll be available in English, Japanese, and Simplified Chinese. Most of the cast will remain consistent, so Yui Horie and Yukari Tamura will return as Ayu and Mai, along with Tomokazu Sugita voicing Yuichi. Players can also use touch gestures on Kanon if they play on a Steam Deck. The original Kanon featured some adult scenes, but subsequent console releases scrubbed those (and the anime omits them entirely); I have no clue yet if the Steam port will include them, but the Steam page warns of "sexual content." As for the release date, there is no word on it yet. The Steam page still lists a release date of "Coming Soon." We'll keep you guys posted. If there was ever a time to high-five that doujin-ka who's been making Akiko Minase doujinshi for over fifteen years, now's the time (last I checked, they were past 35 books for their series!).

In Other Visual Novel News...

It was a hefty weekend for visual novel announcements; Kanon wasn't even the end of it. There was also news about Ryukishi07's seminal Higurashi no Naku Koro ni and Umineko no Naku Koro ni, a pair of horror/suspense VNs that have also been adapted into a pile of other super-beloved manga and anime. MangaGamer announced that physical USB versions of the games will be released stateside. While this isn't the first release these games have seen in the US, it's a great way of getting your hands on these titles.

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The USB versions will come with a ton of goodies; Higurashi, the tale of a young man encountering a lot of supernatural comings-and-goings in rural Japan, comes with all eight chapters, plus Rei and Hou+, uncut content, a Steam key, a bunch of cute Steam Key cards featuring the cast, and the original music. It'll also have an option for swapping between the modern art style and the original "massive hands" art style.

Umineko, a supernatural murder-mystery taking place among a toxic family of rich jerks, also comes with all eight of its chapters, as well as the same deal with regards to swappable art, the original music, and uncut content. Look forward to them this July 5.

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Meanwhile, Spike Chunsoft's The Quintessential Quintuplets visual novels are also coming to the US! Both entries, Memories of a Quintessential Summer and Five Memories Spent With You, were released on PS4, Nintendo Switch, and Steam earlier this week. You can even get both games in a two-for-one pack. The Quintessential Quintuplets has also been adapted into a bunch of anime and manga; I admit I know precious little about it (the title makes me think of Seven of Seven), but it's essentially about a young man having to play tutor to a gaggle of fraternal quintuplets in danger of flunking out of school. Both games are point-and-click style, where the protagonist has to set schedules for the quintuplets as he tutors them. The second game adds an extra wrinkle to the formula by adding skills each girl must develop, like cooking or gathering ingredients. The first game features a whole 15 endings, while the second features 14. This alone could make for a good game to pad out the dog days of summer. You can get each game for $34.99 or both together for $59.99.

Call of Duty Announces Mobile Suit Gundam DLC

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It's a Gunda—wait a minute, Call of Duty? I never thought I'd have to bring that series up for This Week in Games. Fortnite has been seriously busy with its anime crossovers, what with its skins from Dragon Ball, My Hero Academia, and Naruto running around with all of its other crossovers like Metal Gear Solid or Silent Hill. But Call of Duty? Massive as that franchise is, it's not one you'd connect with most anime-viewing audiences. Yet laws of averages dictate that there have to be some folks who play Call of Duty and also like anime. Someone had to have bought last year's Hellsing-themed skin pack featuring Alucard (complete with Crispin Freeman's voice acting, even!). So Call of Duty is dipping its toes into another anime-themed collab... only this time they're taking more of a leap of faith because they're going with freaking Mobile Suit Gundam.

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Considering the endless battlefields that are the setting for both Call of Duty and Mobile Suit Gundam, the crossover isn't even that farfetched. You might be asking yourself, "Hang on—Gundams are big. How are they going to work in Call of Duty?" The answer is a little disappointingly pedestrian: we're not quite getting Gundams per se, just Gundam-themed skins. But they look pretty sweet! Think of them as particularly fancy powered armor that some jarhead on the Call of Duty battlefield decided to start wearing.

Two-thirds of the chosen Gundam models referenced with the skins are what you'd expect: good-ol' Grandpa RX-78-2 (a.k.a., the original Gundam) and Char's custom Zaku II are available as skins, with associated blueprints for stuff like the Gundam's beam cannon and shield (the latter modified to be a riot shield) or the Zaku II's Heat Hawk. The third model chosen is the real surprise; instead of going with something like the GM Sniper or the Gouf, they went with... the Gundam Aerial.

happy-birthday

Alas, poor Mobile Suit Gundam ZZ; that's the second time they've cannibalized your iconic pose for a different Gundam. Remember when they had the RX-78-2 do it in Ready Player One? Man, that movie... Anyway, they went with the Aerial, which is a total left-field choice. There are a lot of factors that led to this; it could've been that they wanted a "feminine" Gundam and didn't want to resort to the Noble Gundam from Mobile Fighter G Gundam because of the goofy sailor uniform look clashing with the military aesthetic. It could've been that Activision-Blizzard simply wanted to cash in on a more recent Gundam series. Or maybe it's because, despite what a lot of salty nerds might claim, Mobile Suit Gundam: The Witch From Mercury is freaking popular. Who knows! I think the Aerial comes out looking the best from the three Gundam skins; Grandpa and Char's Custom Zaku come off looking a little boxy around the shoulders, but the Aerial's svelte design makes it genuinely look like some sick military equipment.

These three skins will also come with a bevy of emblems, charms, special death effects, and challenges. You'll also earn extra EXP for completing challenges while wearing the Gundam skins. Players can look forward to picking these up starting June 5, but heads up: they'll only be available for two weeks, leaving the stores on June 19.

Nintendo Acquires Shiver Entertainment from Embracer

It's not every day you hear news about Nintendo acquiring a studio. While Microsoft has done almost nothing but buy folks out, and Sony has had their fair share of acquisitions to their name, Nintendo's mergers and acquisitions are few and far between—when they happen, they're major news. So it is that Nintendo announced earlier this week their acquisition of Shiver Entertainment.

Nintendo is purchasing Shiver from Embracer Group's little fire sale; since Embracer failed to get bought out, they're divvying up all of their acquisitions as best they can before the whole house of cards falls apart. Nintendo has got a good vested interest in wanting Shiver—while they developed Scribblenauts Showdown once upon a time, they're also responsible for porting Mortal Kombat 1 to the Switch. Folks have made a lot of jokes at the expense of Mortal Kombat 1's port to the Switch, largely because it came at a massive graphical compromise, but it's nevertheless a miracle that it managed to work on the Switch in the first place. And if you need to play Hogwarts Legacy, well, they made sure that that massive open world of browns and more browns runs on a Switch. That's no mean feat: a modern-day open-world game with modern-day AAA graphical standards running on the Switch is one heck of a feather in your cap. (Sadly, it's still Hogwarts Legacy.)

Again, Nintendo's acquisitions tend to be deliberate—usually not in service of just picking up some property, but rather picking up a studio that can help the company. Consider: GameFreak is just a partner to Nintendo, courtesy of the Pokémon games, but Nintendo has never acquired them. GameFreak is still free to produce games on other consoles like Giga Wrecker Alt. Nintendo did pick up Monolith Software Inc., though, the creators of Baten Kaitos and the Xenoblade Chronicles games. The decision has had significant repercussions for Nintendo's output: Monolith has worked as Nintendo's support team in between Xenoblade games, making them the secret sauce for a lot of Nintendo's recent major successes from Animal Crossing: New Leaf to The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds and Breath of the Wild.

This is why Nintendo's intentions with acquiring Shiver are pretty clear. With Shiver's expertise in porting to the Switch's hardware, their goal is to ensure they have a bigger team to set up for the Switch's successor's arrival and ensure they have an easier time getting third-party games on their console. Third-party games have been a Waterloo for Nintendo for a long time, and while the Switch has mostly fought against that courtesy of their expansive list of AA and indie titles, that still leaves out a lot of bigger titles that the more performance-minded audiences care about. With the claims that the Switch successor will be roundabouts a PS4 in terms of strength, it would theoretically have more wiggle room for a wider variety of games.

This is all forward-facing stuff. We likely won't see the results for a long time, but Nintendo's definitely sitting on a major war chest for its next console.

Let's wrap up with some quick tidbits

  • The Kingdom Hearts games are finally going to be freed from the Epic Game Store prison! Kingdom Hearts HD 1.5 + 2.5 ReMIX, Kingdom Hearts HD 2.8 Final Chapter Prologue and Kingdom Hearts 3 (plus the Clear Mind DLC) will all launch on Steam this June 13th. And wouldn't you know it, Utada Hikaru has re-recorded Simple And Clean...

  • Dave the Diver's Godzilla-themed DLC has launched as of May 23. But watch out—it'll only be available until November 23...

  • Vanillaware wants to keep up their pace after the success of 13 Sentinels: Aegis Rim and Unicorn Overlord; they're currently recruiting for a new "fantasy action-RPG"...!

  • Remember when we talked about IntiCreates' Card-en-Ciel, a universe-hopping card game akin to Mega Man Battle Network? It's finally got a release date! Look forward to its release on PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, Switch, and Steam on October 24! We also have confirmation that Card-en-Ciel will feature in-universe cards based on other IntiCreates games like Azure Striker Gunvolt! IntiCreates is also apparently developing a 2D side-scroller based on one of the in-universe games, the 90s-mecha-inspired Divine Dynamo Flamefrit.

  • We've got a new Picross! ...In Japan, at least! Picross S Namco Legendary Edition drops this May 30 for the Nintendo Switch, with puzzles featuring classic Namco games like Dig Dug, Xevious, The Adventure of Valkyrie, Splatterhouse and Mappy! No word yet on a US release...

  • That'll do it for this week. There is a lot of grousing about games at the moment, which is becoming distressingly perennial. Many people act as though they're fighting for the sanctity of games but don't seem to be enjoying any games. Remember that there are a lot of people working extremely hard on games, and it's becoming increasingly miraculous that any game hits the market. Even the most desperate, cash-grabby, bug-riddled content-empty title requires some degree of passion because there's no other reason you'd sit at a desk for ten hours a day making sure John Openworldgame's cheeks don't fly off into the horizon. There are plenty of wrongs and evildoings in the world in broad daylight; there isn't any need to invent boogeymen to tilt at. And for the love of God, watch The Fall Guy—it's charming and hysterical, and it's interesting to see a movie about making movies. 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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