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This Week in Games
Dragon Gangster Drivers And Rusty Riding Rabbits

by Jean-Karlo Lemus,

Welcome back, folks! In honor of the Astro Bot announcement, I spent some time playing Astro's Playhouse over the weekend. It's a cute tech demo disguised as a platformer, helped by Astro being an adorable little mascot. The historical angle of collecting old PlayStation consoles and accessories as "artifacts" also serves as way better brand retrospectives than PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale did. Sure, it's all a bit tech-focused, as is Sony's wont, but I'll give them this much: the PS5 controller uses haptic feedback way better than the Switch does with the JoyCon Pro. It's amazing stuff.

That said, the smattering of PlayStation game fanservice comes off as weird. I mean, I won't deny Devil May Cry or Resident Evil were massively important to PlayStation's "identity" back in the day (and finding Cloud's buster sword embedded in the ground like in the Final Fantasy VII title menu screen was cute). But the references to Vib Ribbon, Jumping Flash!, or Patapon feel low, considering Sony shut down the Japanese studio responsible for them (let alone how many of those games didn't see new entries even in the PS2 days). Nintendo fans might bellyache a lot about Nintendo "ignoring their older franchises," but it's not Nintendo's fault if you turned your nose up at F-Zero 99. MediEvil fans deserve every ounce of indignant justice. How will you talk about the Analog Dualshock's importance for Ape Escape, showcase all these fun haptic toys in your new controller, but not make a new Ape Escape using those features because you shut down their studio?! Also, no Legend of Dragoon references (that I saw). Sort your crap, Sony!

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Art by Catfish
Majima Everywhere, Kiryu On TV: Like A Dragon To Get TV Series

The Like A Dragon series (otherwise known as Yakuza) has seen an explosive rise in popularity in the first few years. While the first few PS2 games were fairly niche, the games have become more and more popular as the years have passed. Now, they're practically Sega's other big franchise besides Sonic the Hedgehog. And with Sonic starring in his trilogy of films (plus a spin-off series for Knuckles the Echidna), it's only fair for the famed Dragon of Dojima to get his own time on the silver screen—even if it's on Amazon Prime Video.

kiryu-01

Going with the title Like A Dragon: Yakuza, the series is slated to go over the life and times of the yakuza member Kiryu Kazuma across two time periods: his younger days in 1995, where he established himself as a formidable and fearsome member of the Dojima family (hence his nickname, the Dragon of Dojima), and in 2005 after a decade-long stint in prison for a crime he didn't commit. It's an interesting idea for a series, mostly because we've seen Kiryu in 2005 (it's the basis for the first Yakuza game and its remake, Yakuza Kiwami), and we've seen Kiryu in his early days as a recruit to the underworld during the 1980s courtesy of Yakuza 0. But Kiryu's time in the '90s, where much of his fame comes from, is covered only in backstory. Considering how well the Like A Dragon games cover the minutiae of 1980s bubble-economy Japan, I look forward to seeing them cover Japan circa the bubble bursting in the 1990s. Provided, it'll also be interesting to see how the series handles Like A Dragon's famous tonal shifts from comedic karaoke antics to heartfelt standoffs at gunpoint.

The one thing that surprised me was the casting. So far, the only actor we know attached to the project is the star playing Kiryu Kazuma, a gentleman named Ryōma Takeuchi. You might not know them, but I'm familiar with them. That's Officer Shinnosuke Tomari, a.k.a. Kamen Rider Drive!

There's some serious cosmic irony that a man who kickstarted his career playing a kung fu bugman cop is now playing one of the most famous gangsters in gaming. For folks interested in other stuff he's done, he's got a cameo in Detective Pikachu, where he also dubs Justice Smith in Japanese. He's also in the The Girl Who Leapt Through Time TV drama, along with several other Japanese dramas like Black Forceps and films like Yell for the Blue Sky. It's going to be weird seeing such a wholesome dude best known for chomping on milk candies and arguing with a sentient belt with an LED face on it playing a dude best known for busting heads, dramatically ripping his shirt off and saying "trans rights". I'm confident in Ryoma, though! He's got a pretty face, but he's got the build for Kiryu (Ryoma is 6'1''), and at the very least he is guaranteed to nail the "comedic" moments in Like A Dragon (he was pretty hilarious in Kamen Rider Drive). I think the real test will be how famed number-one Kiryu Kazuma fan/VTuber Kson takes the news. We'll keep you posted!

Don't Worry, There's Some Takaya Kuroda News Too

Folks might know that the Dragon of Dojima is voiced by the Japanese actor Takaya Kuroda. He's also been in several anime like Natsume's Book of Friends, Durarara!! and Cromartie High School—and, to keep the tokusatsu connection with Ryōma Takeuchi, he's also been in Super Sentai three times across his appearances on GoGo Sentai Boukenger (a.k.a., "the one that got turned into Power Rangers: Operation Overdrive), Kaizoku Sentai Gokaiger (a.k.a., "the one that got turned into Power Rangers Super Megaforce) and Uchu Sentai Kyuranger (a.k.a. "the one Hasbro pilfered the robots from in favor of designing some ugly original costumes for Power Rangers: Cosmic Fury"—yeah, still mad about that one). It's not too late for him to also cameo in the Amazon Like A Dragon series, but we're not talking about Yakuza right now. We're talking about our good friend, Gen Urobuchi (bear with me). A while back, we heard news that good old Urobuchi was working on a video game that would be released on the PS5 titled Rusty Rabbit. With a title like that and a guy like Urobuchi involved, I had no idea what to expect from the project until the trailer came out...

... and what we have is Lost Planet crossed with (I presume) Watership Down, with a little bit of SoLaToRoBo for flavor. Taking place in a post-apocalyptic world abandoned by humanity, rabbits have become the dominant species. They are also cute and fluffy, although they occasionally have gruff, manly voices. Our protagonist is Stamp, an old explorer searching for his estranged daughter. And, he's voiced by Takaya Kuroda. They're playing the incongruousness of his manly voice and Stamp's cute Calico Critters-esque design to the hilt, but to be fair, it's a good shtick. The game will work as a puzzle-adventure game. Stamp will ride a little mech unit he can use to traverse the maze-like ruins in his world, seeking treasure and tracking down messages left behind by his daughter. Along the way, he'll encounter enemies he must defeat and machine parts he can equip to his mech to customize it. Pre-orders for the title went live on June 4. I'm checking it out, if only because the wild pedigree of this show means that it could potentially live up to its zonko concept the same way Kamen Rider Gaim did.

Internal Data Leaks At Google Leaked Nintendo Data, But...

A major bit of news this past week was the reveal that a bit of internal skullduggery at Google was the cause of some major Nintendo leaks in the past. Because Google still has to employ flesh-and-blood people to manage some of its systems (for now), it was possible to see private video listings for some of Nintendo's games once they were on their YouTube channel. According to several reports, these were at their worst between 2013 to 2018, though given the nature of these leaks, there isn't anything keeping anyone from still doing this to spread some good ol' gaming scuttlebutt. Many folks have been focusing on the Nintendo leaks, and it's easy to see why. Nintendo is infamously litigious when it comes to preserving their information, and a lot of retailers have seen stiff punishment for breaking street dates on their releases.

There are a lot of people waiting with bated breath to see what Nintendo's ninja will do to Google for this. For my money: I don't think Nintendo is going to do much, if only because it's freaking Google, and the prospect of Nintendo suing Google is as ridiculous as Microsoft going to Nintendo and going, "Hey, what if we were to buy you guys out hahaha just a joke, unless...?" All Google has to do is show that the leaker saw termination, and it'll likely be under the bridge.

My real concern is that the leak also includes a lot of personal information besides the Nintendo stuff—vocal data from children compiled on YouTube and people's addresses collected from Waze, that kind of stuff. And while I understand why folks have been focusing on the Nintendo angle, it's very worrisome that that amount of private data is in Google's hands. After all, if folks at Google can still leak Nintendo videos, nothing keeps them from scraping vocal data from kids for their AI. And Google has been in a ton of hot water for taking AI into their web searches. All the more reason for folks to really be careful with their data, especially if they have families, and not trust big platforms with too much of your information.

I wish I had something more conclusive to end this one with, especially since it's so heavy, but I guess all we can do is walk away with more caution.

Octopath Traveler Gets Some Goodies Tossed Out The Window

So, I know I might come off as this big defender of RPGs (especially ones from Japanese developers), but a combination of my regular freelance duties and Xenoblade Chronicles 3 being very, very long have kept me from playing many of them for the whole time I've owned a Switch. (God help me if and when Xenoblade Chronicles X gets a port.) The Octopath Traveler games are great, but I haven't been able to play either of them. Hell, I haven't even been able to play that awesome Live A ɘvi⅃ remake. But it feels great to know Octopath Traveler has done well critically and sales-wise. Once upon a time, Octopath Traveler would've been released on the 3DS and been completely overlooked by people who otherwise loudly pined for "classic RPGs" from Square Enix as they shook their fists at modern games not having purely turn-based combat. And there are hard numbers behind that—this past week, Square Enix celebrated the series selling four million units! Which is why they stealthily released some updates for the game.

First up: ports! Octopath Traveler (the first one) has now been released on the PlayStation 4 and PlayStation 5. You can also buy it in a digital combo pack with the sequel. Similarly, Octopath Traveler II is now available on Xbox through its GamePass service. In honor of the occasion, Microsoft has also put the first Octopath Traveler on GamePass, where they'll both be available until January 2026. The Xbox ports were announced last year, but it would've been nice if Square Enix had given more buzz to the announcement. They at least made this nice art to commemorate the releases. It's funny because the PlayStation uses blue, and Xbox uses green!

The other bit of fun that got stealth-dropped for Octopath Traveler II, over a year after it was released, is an update. While much of it consists of minor graphical updates and a few changes to the credits, there's also an extra battle that you can access after beating the game. Again, would've been nice to build some anticipation for this stuff, especially given the nature of the bosses in question.

So far, the fate of the Octopath Traveler series is up in the air. Square Enix is circling its wagon on bigger AAA releases and cutting out their "mid-range" titles. There is a bit of scuttlebutt going around that Team Asano, the team responsible for the Octopath games as well as Bravely Default, Various Daylife and Triangle Strategy, is currently working on a new sequel to one of their previous titles, but also, it's just a rumor so we're taking it all with a grain of salt. Hopefully, Square Enix doesn't leave Team Asano dangling in the air after they're done with their work on the current HD-2D Dragon Quest III remake (regardless of whether it does or doesn't include the first two Dragon Quest games).

Let's wrap up with some quick tidbits

  • Remember Metal Slug Tactics? Don't worry if you don't, I figured it came out years ago! It turns out that its development was just on a long hiatus. It's now looking at a release date of this Autumn on the PS5, PS4, Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One, PC, and Nintendo Switch. A limited-time demo will also be available on Steam between June 10 and June 17.

  • Love Live! School Idol Festival 2 Miracle Live! has reached end-of-service, which many folks aren't happy with. The official Twitter put up a cute image full of messages from fans, but uh... clearly, they didn't veto any of them first...

  • ZUN, the beer-loving creator of the Touhou series (also known for his sweet hat), has shared some updated guidelines for anyone who wants to make monetized fangames. The biggest takeaway: itch.io is now permitted as a platform, and folks will have to ask ZUN for permission if they want to crowdfund a Touhou-related project.

  • Tomba! Special Edition finally has a release date! Look forward to it this August 1 for PS5, Steam, and Nintendo Switch! It'll also release on PS4 at a later date. There will also be a physical release... from Limited Run Games.

  • Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night's new DLC mode is set to launch this June 11th! Titled Dominique's Revenge, it's a new twist on Classic mode. Playing as the evil, sexy nun, you'll fight your way out of Limbo following the main game's events. Dominique's Revenge is structured along the lines of Castlevania 2: Belmont's Quest, including a day-to-night system where characters change depending on the time of day. Look forward to it on PS4, Xbox One, Switch, Steam, iOS, and Android.
  • That'll do it for this week, I think. It's a slow week, but that's largely because all hell is about to break loose for Summer Games Fest right as this column goes up. Oh, sure, they say it'll be a "slow event," but that means "we don't have any major AAA titles to hype up in the wake of the industry making massive layoffs." I expect plenty of smaller games showing up and absolutely dominating conversation... and I'll be covering them. What the AAA industry ignores, I put a magnifying glass onto. It's the little weirdo games you really want to pay attention to, anyway—those are the ones that can rewrite your brain chemistry. Big press releases don't scare me as much after breaking—and healing—both my arms. 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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