Welcome back, everyone! Great news: I was actually able to get some Xenoblade 3 in this past weekend. With any luck, I’ll finish Chapter 5 by the end of summer!
Before We Begin…
There’s something I wanted to get off my chest, as it’s quite important to me. This past May 21st was the third anniversary of the passing of our good friend, Zac Bertschy. Once the Executive Editor of this very site, Zac was very involved in his tightly-knit community of friends. He loved anime, but he also deeply loved film in all its forms–good movies for ruminating on, bad movies for laughing at with friends. His work for the Answerman column was very inspirational to me as a writer, serving to inform my own search for my own writing “voice”. But also, through him, I learned to consider other viewpoints and ideas when it came to the media I consumed. I was sadly never able to meet him, and he was taken from us before I joined ANN’s team as a member of This Week in Anime–but he was nevertheless part of the reason why I was able to join this great team, courtesy of his decision for my old column on anime fandom in Puerto Rico (which was later published under the eye of our lovely editor, Lynzee).
Zac was a special guy. He was proud to have a group of goofy misfits around him, likening it to the Happiness Hotel (fittingly, Zac was a tremendous fan of The Muppets). More importantly, as much as he urged writers to develop their own voices, he worked hard to uplift the voices of misfits. It’s thanks to him, in a roundabout way, that I get to write for ANN and cover video game news just like I dreamed about as a teen reading Electronic Gaming Monthly back in the early 2000s. I dunno how much you guys know about ikigai, but writing this column is definitely at the intersection of “what I love”, “what I’m good at”, and “what I can be paid for”. Dunno if it’s what the world needs, but we can figure that part out later. Writing this column is my pride and joy, and it’s all I can do as That Bitch™ to do right by you guys in my coverage. There’s no better tribute I could render to Zac than that.
We still miss our friend very much, and there’s no justice in a world that gave us Evangelion 3.0 + 1.0: Thrice Upon a Time, Bill & Ted Face The Music and now Good Burger 2 when Zac’s not here to enjoy them with us. I’d like to ask you all to send some love to your favorite creatives–your favorite composers, character designers, artists, voice actors, or streamers. Use the power of community for good. That’s what I learned from Zac, and that’s what I’d like to impart to the world.
Okay. Now, let’s talk video games.
Nintendo Adds Gameboy Advance Ports Of Beloved SNES Titles To Nintendo Online+ Service
The Gameboy Advance being powerful enough to run SNES games was a revelation back in the day. It opened the doors to folks playing all kinds of classic games that likely came out before they were born. I never had a SNES as a kid, so the GBA was how I played tons of classic RPGs like the Breath of Fire games or Sega‘s Phantasy Star. Nintendo capitalized upon this: when the GBA came out, Nintendo ported a few of their classic Super Mario Bros. titles to it, with all kinds of updated features. The naming scheme was bizarre, as we’ll see, but the long and short of it is: three of these beloved GBA ports are coming to the Nintendo Switch’s Nintendo Online+ service!
First off is Super Mario Advance, which in spite of its name is actually a port of Super Mario Bros. 2. And if you really wanna be pedantic about it like Scott Pilgrim: we’re talking the American Super Mario Bros. 2, the one that was actually Doki Doki Panic in Japan. This version of the game uses graphics more in line with the SNES Mario games, with the added feature of voiced dialogue. This feature is somewhat divisive: on the one hand, Mario and Luigi make all of their famous “Yahoo!” noises when they jump, courtesy of Charles Martinet, as well as voice clips for Birdo and King Wart. On the other, Toad is making “Toad” noises.
Then there’s Super Mario World: Super Mario Advance 2, a port of the seminal Super Mario World. If you must play Super Mario World, the SNES original is probably best–but the GBA port adds extra levels, held over from Nintendo‘s aborted E-Reader add-on. The Advance version also updates Luigi into playing as he does in Super Mario Advance, so he jumps higher than Mario at the cost of having worse traction when sliding around. The E-Reader levels are an especially big deal: those were considered “lost” for ages due to how later ports didn’t include them. For the longest time, the only way to play those levels was with an old copy of Super Mario Advance 2, an E-Reader, and the appropriate cards. While ports with those levels were later made available, those were on the 3DS/Wii U’s eShop… and that was shut down a few months back. So it’s nice to see that back.
Last is Yoshi’s Island: Super Mario Advance 3–though if you really wanna be granular, it would be Super Mario World 2: Yoshi’s Island: Super Mario Advance 3. Yoshi’s Island has long since been beloved by fans of platformers for its striking visual art style; the old SNES game utilized the Super FX 2 chip to amazing effect, making the game look like it was drawn in crayon. Nintendo got their mileage out of the Super FX 2’s ability to stretch and squash sprites, especially with Kamek constantly growing critters giant-sized to serve as bosses. This one doesn’t have many extra goodies, it’s just a fun game to play–but again, given the lack of goodies, it might be best to play the SNES version. This is a game that needs a big CRT screen to really appreciate those visuals.
It would be a lot nicer for these games to be available for purchase and download, but hey: we have three beloved SNES classics in a revamped form coming back to the Switch. I’ll take my victories where they lay. These games were set to go live on the 25th, so as of yesterday (at the time of publication), anyone with Nintendo Switch Online’s expansion pass can play them.
Nintendo Releases After-The-Fact Firmware Update For 3DS
In other Nintendo-related news, earlier this week Nintendo announced a firmware update for the Nintendo 3DS. This surprised quite a few people, as the 3DS’s online storefront was shut down permanently earlier this year–there isn’t much online gameplay going on with the 3DS these days, and it’s hard to think of there being much to go off of in the future. Nevertheless, Nintendo released update number 11.17.0-50, which is positioned as a “stability patch”. Why is Nintendo so concerned with the stability of an abandoned console? Because Nintendo is aiming at the homebrew community on the 3DS. Many homebrewers have noticed that the update locks off many means of hacking a 3DS.
For a long time, the 3DS has had the reputation of being “surprisingly easy” to hack. With the shutdown of the eShop a few months back, the homebrew community basically ran a victory lap: the homebrew community was the only way to preserve a great many Nintendo title that was otherwise left orphaned in the shutdown. Digital-only titles like Dillon’s Rolling Western or Rusty’s Real-Deal Baseball–or, my favorite, Crimson Shroud, simply can’t be acquired or enjoyed anymore, just like PT. And unlike PT, where fans simply re-created the game on their own, there really weren’t any other alternatives to playing these games. Remember: a ton of 3DS games were basically left incomplete. Even if you get both versions of Fire Emblem: Fates (Birthright and Conquest), you still can’t get the “golden” ending without the now-unavailable Revelations DLC.
In the eyes of many, this update is beating a man while he’s down while also beating his dead horse: the 3DS no longer has any titles in production, and its online services are all shut down, making many people wonder if nailing the coffin shut was really necessary. Many wonder what the value is in protecting software that can’t even be legally purchased anymore.
The battle for the archival of software and the preservation of digital media and the protection of IP rages on, I suppose. There are many other consoles that to this day enjoy thriving homebrew scenes and even unofficial new titles, but with firmware updates now being a perennial fact after a console’s death, those are gonna be a lot harder going forward I guess…
Fate/Grand Order Arcade Says, “No More New Servants!”
Fate/GO is currently one of the biggest mobile games around. Because they have the entirety of human history and folklore to mine for inspiration, there’s seemingly no end to the characters they can bring back into the story. From the original Fate/stay night‘s handful of servants (that mostly skewed towards Greek mythology) onwards, the franchise has continued to “wow” fans with its creative interpretations. The Arcade version of the game was able to rope in new fans by offering new, remixed variants of older, existing Servants, like the Whore of Babylon (an evil version of Nero Claudius–long story). Shocking news came out from Chaldea this week: with the energy of Ringo Starr, Fate/GO‘s devs announced that with peace and love, peace and love, there will be no more new Servants added to the game. With the current roster at 120 servants, the developers will be focusing on improving the roll rates for the current batch of heroes while bringing in older limited-edition Servants on a rotating basis.
This is good news for Fate fans who bemoan how long it takes the Arcade-only servants to make the jump to the mobile game. The news that they’ll be improving the rates for the remaining heroes in the Arcade game inspires confidence, at least; our very own Richard Eisenbeis reviewed the game back in 2018, and while it’s totally nifty that you can get physical versions of the Servant cards that are so integral to Fate‘s iconography (the things I’d do for a Nero card…), the value proposition sounds nasty. Hopefully, this evens things out so folks don’t have to shell out triple digits for their favorites.
Many fans also seem to think this marks the beginning of the end for Fate: Grand Order Arcade. It’s never a good sign when development halts on new content. We’ll see how long Fate: Grand Order Arcade lasts from here.
IntiCreates Twofer: Gal Guardians: Demon Purge Special Edition Set, and New Game Umbraclaw
It’s been a while since we last talked about IntiCreates! The creators of some beloved 2D action games (and Gal Gun), they’ve been quietly busy getting their Gal Gun spin-off ready for its June 15th release! In advance of that, they released a new trailer detailing the Collector’s Edition for the game!
Gal Guardians: Demon Purge‘s collector’s edition will feature a physical copy of the PS4/PS5 or Nintendo Switch version of the game, along with a 40-page artbook and stickers. There will also be an acrylic keychain, along with a holographic standee (with the same art, but oh well), as well as the most interesting bit of merch: origami instructions and origami paper, for making a cute little origami crane and… a penguin, I think? I think it’s a penguin, that tracks for Gal Gun. Also tracking for the Gal Gun series is the set of five art cards packed in with the collector’s edition. I remember when Izuna 2: The Unemployed Ninja Returns had the pre-order bonus of rice-paper posters packed in with the game, with the images exclusive to each retailer. I’m glad folks don’t have their FOMO trodded over and just get all the art cards these days.
IntiCreates also unveiled a new action platformer they currently have in development: Umbraclaw. The trailer makes it come off as a little like Ghost Trick by way of Stray with a little Okami for visual flair: you play as a cat named Kuon who is fighting to escape the afterlife in order to return to their owner. It’s a fascinating concept, and I hope it hits with the Okami crowd; right away, the visuals look stunning, and the possibilities of playing a side-scroller as a cat are intriguing. According to the YouTube descriptor, Kuon can use their Anima Revive ability to earn new abilities from other animals; maybe there’s going to be a Metroidvania twist. Umbraclaw comes to us from Satoru Nishizawa, director of the fan-favorite Blaster Master 0 trilogy, so this game is coming from a good pedigree. For now, Umbraclaw only has a Steam page up. We’ll keep you posted on further updates for this game.
The big highlight of this week was Sony‘s PlayStation Showcase 2023! Not to be confused with the PlayStation “State of Play” streams, which more intensely ape the Nintendo Direct format of shotgunning a variety of trailers for upcoming titles, the Showcase is a more-generalized look at Sony‘s plans for the next few months. Sony really blew off the hinges with this stream; their presentation went on for a little over an hour. So let’s just dive into things.
The showcase started with Fairgame$, a multiplayer co-op shooter where you play as part of a team carrying out a heist. The game looks interesting… but the trailer mostly seemed to be more of a projection of what the game should play like more than anything else. It definitely looks colorful and frantic, and it looks to have plenty of room for monetization through unique characters, animations, skins, and tags… but I’d be lying if I said it looked terribly engaging. It’s very early in the hype cycle, so let’s hope for better news.
Next up was Helldiver, which… didn’t exactly set my world on fire, either. For one thing, the heavy satirical “Hahaha, let’s FREEDOM these alien bugs into extinction!”-angle is fair but it’s biting Starship Troopers‘s style but hard. All they were missing was asking, “Do you want to know more?”. And it doesn’t help that we have an actual Starship Troopers game available now, Starship Troopers: Extermination. It even plays much the same way: players will congregate into teams that fend off hordes of bugs while they collect resources, upgrade local encampments, and satisfy victory conditions. Helldiver 2 is expected later this year on PS5 and PC.
From EA Games, we have Immortals of Aveum, a first-person fantasy shooter that seems to be about an immortal taking his revenge on his enemies. The fantasy angle is interesting; replacing a gun with rapid-fire spells does loads for a game’s identity. There also appear to be plenty of fun twists like a grappling hook, which definitely makes a first-person game a lot more fast-paced. Look forward to it on July 20th.
Ghostrun is next, and… well, there similarly isn’t too much to say about it. A lot of these trailers are for games that just got announced, and Sony seemingly padded out a lot of this presentation with sizzle reels for these games without going too deep into details. Ghostrun is hitting the cyberpunk vibes really hard, at least, and the protagonist strikes an impressive figure with his souped-up cyber-cycle (especially with that bit in the trailer where his bike rides down the side of a building). Sadly, there isn’t much else to say. It looks cool, I like the vibes, I hope someone mods the PC version so I can play as Kamen Rider. It’s scheduled for later in 2023.
Ah, this is more like it! Phantom Blade 0 seems to channel the same Wuxia vibes that Wo Long used, and honestly I’m a sucker for a good Wuxia adventure. Playing as a wandering swordsman with only 66 days to live, you set forth to regain your heart. The game seems to be an action game; I feel like it might be Souls-like, like Wo Long, but many of the fights are fast-paced setpiece fights that don’t seem like they’d work well in a Souls-like format. There’s no release date yet.
From the creators of Journey comes Sword of the Sea. Like Journey, much of the game seems to revolve around traveling a dying world–in this game, it’s even called the Necropolis. The twist is the titular sword; the player can ride it around the sand dunes of their dying world, leading to tons of fun sections like the halfpipe shown in the trailer. I love games with fun movement mechanics, and the visuals are stunning. Similarly, this one has no release date yet.
We have a sequel to The Talos Principal coming out soon; while the sizzle reel didn’t go over much, folks can likely look forward to more first-person exploration. Cat Quest: Pirates of the Purribean looks to be a colorful action RPG with cute little cats in pirate outfits, it’ll be coming in 2024 for PS4 and PS5. Later this year, we can also look forward to The Plucky Squire. At first blush, The Plucky Squire looks to take a ton of cues from RPG Time: The Legend of Wright, featuring cute cartoony fantasy characters exploring a world in a picture book. But there’s a twist: the characters can escape the storybook and explore the entire bedroom in 3D. There are lots of cool cross-format mechanics like the characters turning into 2D to scale walls and then popping back out into 3D to continue exploring a doll house, along the lines of A Link Between Worlds. I’m keeping my eye out for it. We can also look forward to Teardown being ported to PS5. Playing something like Hitman crossed with Driver (with Minecraft‘s aesthetics), I was introduced to Teardown via Vargskelethor Joel’s hectic gameplay. You’re instructed to go into levels and steal or destroy a certain objective, using any vehicle available. But once you do this, you need a hasty getaway; part of the strategy is finding your way back out of the police’s pursuit. It’s a fun game, and it’s nice to see it coming to PS5 later this year.
Towers of Aghasba caught my eye. Set in a ruined world, you explore the realm as you try to restore both civilization and the natural world it inhabits. In a way, it feels like Dark Cloud crossed with Horizon: Zero Dawn. I’m very interested in its fantasy world, but I’m very distracted by the player character having a glider that’s just identical to the glider from Breath of the Wild. Somehow, I feel like Dreamlit Games was gnashing their teeth when Tears of the Kingdom unveiled the Ultrahand and Fuse abilities… At any rate, look forward to it in 2024.
We have another trailer for Final Fantasy XVI. While I’m still horribly not a fan of its refusal to incorporate racial diversity and its God of War/Game of Thrones-inspired tone make me wrinkle my nose, the dialogue still feels like Final Fantasy. This game really does want to lean into destroying crystals, which for a Final Fantasy game is a big deal. Crystals have been a central part of Final Fantasy‘s lore since the very first game. I kinda hope this doesn’t become the norm for the series going forward, but I think they might actually pull off the writing? And while I miss Final Fantasy being an RPG and have misgivings about the shift to character-action, a lot of the buzz about Final FantasyXVI feeling like a PS2 game has me hopeful. Anyone who thinks being compared to a PS2 game is a bad thing needs to play Final Fantasy X-2 or Final Fantasy XII. PS2 had some righteous games, dude.
In a surprise twist, Epic Games unveiled Alan Wake II–certainly a hotly-anticipated sequel, especially in the wake of the teases featured in Control. Players will investigate a series of murders in a sleepy town that looks to be set in the Pacific Northwest. Plenty of bizarre abominations burst out from the walls to do people a spoop; if the Alan Wake games are trying to feel like a cross between a Stephen King novel and Twin Peaks, they’re nailing the vibes. There was some consternation from fans concerning the release of Alan Wake II; it was announced that the games would be digital-only; this, according to Epic, is to ensure the game can be priced fairly. The Sony version will be retailing for $59.99, while the Epic Store version will retail for $49.99. While I frown on digital-only releases, at least these versions of the game will retail for cheaper than physical copies. It’s always been a bit galling to me that digital versions of games retail for the same price as physical copies (especially since digital copies don’t need to factor in matters like physical distribution or production). Here’s hoping this starts a better trend for digital releases in the industry.
We have a new Assassin’s Creed game coming in the form of Assassin’s Creed: Mirage. While I thought this game featured the return of Altair, the original hero of the series, it turns out this game features a newcomer: Basim, a street urchin suffering from bizarre nightmares. So far, it definitely looks like an Assassin’s Creed game. There’s also Revenant Hill, a side-scrolling platformer where you play as a cat. It seems you’ll play witness to all kinds of societal upheavals–and skeletons.
In a twist that makes me happy, we’re getting a 3D action game spin-off for Granblue Fantasy. Titled Granblue Fantasy: Relink, you’ll play as Gran and his crew as you travel the sky-ocean and its many floating islands. The party selection seems to revolve around the base characters, so don’t expect any more exotic characters than Vaserga or Zeta. (No Khumbira for me, I guess.) I love the world of Granblue Fantasy, but outside of the annual anniversary gacha rolls I don’t really play it much; it’s just a bit too “involved” for a gacha game for my taste, especially with all the grinding involved. Also, I’m not too keen on the fighting game. I’m looking forward to an honest-to-God action-game version, especially if they can add more characters down the line. I don’t expect them to add Fediel, Khumbira, or Danua, but it’ll be weird if they don’t add any of the more-popular side characters like Sturm and Drang, Ferry, or Narmaya.
I’d say we have more info on Street Fighter 6, but uh… we kinda don’t? There were some lore teases for the single-player mode, and some further insight on the pre-order goodies, but that was about it. Pre-ordering the game ahead of its June 2nd release will grant you some alternate colors and costumes for Chun-Li, Jamie, Manon, Dee Jay, Juri, and Ken. You’ll also get some unique stickers and titles in-game. Also: full disclosure, but I didn’t know Street Fighter 6 was bringing back Dee Jay. It’s good to see him again, he was one of the original World Warriors and it was always weird that he was so overlooked for so long.
From the creators of Gris comes Neva, a beautiful game about the cycle of life and death. There’s a wolf in it, too, for extra Okami points. Nomada Studio’s gorgeous visuals are on full display here, this one is definitely going to be a game to look out for.
We have a new Metroidvania coming, Ultros. I love the art style, and it seems to operate off of a unique mechanic where spreading the organic growths around the caves allows your player character to platform off of new places, including ceilings. Combat, on the other hand, seems to be inspired by Hollow Knight: fast-paced and focused on melee combat. Look forward to it in 2024. Mobile game Tower of Fantasy is making the jump to consoles, bringing its futuristic multiplayer action to the PS5. Five Nights at Freddy’s: Help Wanted 2 continues the jumpscare-laden horror series, this time bringing in more of a Portal-inspired sense of humor that’ll either charm you or turn you off entirely (I thought we agreed Whedonisms were tired by this point?). Look forward to it in “late 2023”.
Continuing the trend for the latter-day Resident Evil games, Resident Evil 4 makes the jump to VR courtesy of PlayStation VR 2. The VR versions of the Resident Evil games have all been pretty great, so everyone with a PS VR kit has something to look forward to. Arizona Sunshine 2 keeps up the “zombie” theme, though with a much more irreverent theme. I think the whole game can be summed up by the scene where your character grabs a severed zombie head and puppets it as he goes “Blah-blah-blah”. Then Crossfire: Sierra Squad lets you play a squad-based military shooter in VR. Synapse has you delving into a criminal’s mind as you engage in heated firefights. There’s a fascinating art style wherein much of the game is monochrome but your weapons and interactable objects are colored-in. It takes great advantage of VR, allowing you to grab objects and use them as shields before throwing them at people.
In a surprise twist, Bungie will be bringing back a long-forgotten hit of theirs. Not Oni, sadly–it’s Marathon, the original first-person shooter that put them on the map long before they made Halo. It’s amazing to see Marathon back in any capacity… but anyone looking for a classic FPS experience needs to temper their expectations, as Bungie is planning on the new Marathon to be a “PVP extraction game”. So, it’s an arena shooter, I guess. “Sign of the times”, I guess. Bungie also revealed a new DLC for Destiny 2, The Final Shape. This one has Destiny fans abuzz, as it marks the return of fan-favorite character Cayde, voiced by Nathan Fillion. Finally, there was a glimpse at the upcoming Gran Turismo movie. I say “glimpse” because that’s all we get: we see a player projecting himself into a car through the game, which implies some kind of VR twist, I guess?
So, let’s get into the bigger news! First off, Sony unveiled their Project Q, a WiFi-powered streaming handheld that is compatible with the PS5. It’s a bold new venture for Sony, making a streaming-only handheld to test the cloud-gaming waters. It’s also, to the amusement of many, Sony‘s attempt at biting Nintendo‘s apple (again) in aping the concept for the Wii U. The big issue with Project Q: we have no idea how well this thing will hold up as far as connectivity is concerned. Cloud gaming’s technology is just not there yet, man. And it’s not the first time Sony has over-extended itself with its ventures, as the failure of the digital-only PSPGo can attest to. On the other hand, Sony did have its connectivity between the PS4 and the PSVita–anyone who bothered getting a Vita can attest to the convenience of being able to play your games across both consoles. Now: will this be a good-enough approach compared to the Switch, which does away with the inconsistency of cloud streaming and simply is a handheld console with a dock for connecting to TVs? We’ll know when Project Q releases. We also have wireless earbuds designed for the PS5, which… I dunno, man, I can just connect my ten-year-old headphones to a PS5 controller’s headphone jack if I wanna hear things on headphones.
The Nintendo-aping continues with Foamstars, Square Enix‘s answer to Splatoon. And this isn’t said lightly: Foamstars is just Splatoon with trendy teens and foam replacing the squid-kids and ink. Now, this isn’t inherently a bad thing–it’s a tribute to Splatoon‘s mechanics that people can try a different take on the formula. But the trailer doesn’t give us any indicator of what Foamstars does to differentiate itself from Splatoon, outside of its very pretty idol-singer popping that bubble at the end of the trailer (I look forward to her becoming very popular among artists). Hopefully, Square Enix can give us more to get excited over with this game.
We were given a first look at Dragon’s Dogma II, and connoisseurs are excited. The original Dragon’s Dogma is a secret handshake amongst RPG fans. It’s admittedly the most 7/10 game to ever be a 7/10, particularly because of how janky it is and how desperately it needed a few extra months in the oven. But the parts of that game that work are some of the best mechanics in RPGs and open-world exploration. The melee combat is the best part of Devil May Cry, for one. Fighting larger monsters is along the lines of Monster Hunter, requiring you to study enemy behaviors and focus on taking advantage of enemy weaknesses. The Pawn system is also astounding: your characters could develop whole personalities, and loaning them to other players over the Internet had the possibility of them learning secret mechanics and imparting them to you. So much of this is sadly unpolished or badly implemented, but when it hits, it hits; there is nothing quite like when Dragon’s Dogma: Dark Arisen manages to hit those high notes. So a sequel that manages to bring back all of the things that made the first Dragon’s Dogma great, while also making sure that things actually work? That’s plenty of reason to be excited. The first Dragon’s Dogma was sadly overlooked, which is a crime against God–don’t miss out on the sequel.
It might be time for us to remember the basics of CQC: we’re getting a remake of 🎵 SNAKE EATER~ (doo doo doo do doooo) 🎵. Utilizing the Fox engine that helped make Metal Gear Solid V look positively stunning, this remake comes just in time for Snake Eater‘s 20th anniversary next year. Snake Eater just might be the best of the Metal Gear Solid games; while the constant need to go into menus to change Naked Snake’s camouflage paint or heal his wounds was annoying, it was some of the tensest and in-depth stealth action ever. It helps that the story is some of the most powerful in the entire series; I’d argue that it renders Metal Gear Solid V redundant, as it ends on a tragic note that sees the birth of Big Boss–and sows the seeds of dissent that’ll later lead to him trying to found Outer Heaven.
Now, there are some things that raise consternation. For starters, this version of the game carries the official title Metal Gear Solid Δ: Snake Eater. Someone at Konami must’ve thought that they needed to shove a Greek letter into the title, which doesn’t seem very fitting with the game. For all his weird decisions, Kojima wouldn’t do something that weird. But that’s the other problem: this is a remake of the best Metal Gear Solid game… without series luminary Hideo Kojima at the helm. After being ousted from Konami, Kojima has officially washed his hands of the series–he officially does not care about Metal Gear Solid anymore (at the time of the announcement, Kojima tweeted about eating spaghetti with Sprite for lunch while working on mocap stuff). The only other Metal Gear game made without Kojima was the disastrous and despised Metal Gear: Survive. Can a Snake Eater remake survive without Kojima’s keen eye? I honestly don’t think so. For all of the dissonant decisions Kojima could make, his stories still work. He might be a frustrated filmmaker, but he has an eye for direction–as the old Metal Gear Solid 4 teaser trailer from E3 2005 proudly pointed out, there’s “NO replacement for Hideo!!!”. A lot of people really don’t like the idea of Metal Gear without Kojima… and I’m with them. Nuts to Keighley’s histrionics during the Game Show Awards, but Kojima got done dirty, and Metal Gear without Kojima may well be The Matrix without the Wachowski sisters.
At the very least: we have confirmation that Metal Gear Solid Δ: Snake Eater will feature the original voice cast. So there’s that: David Hayter will finally come back to voice Naked Snake, as God intended. There had been many accounts that the “Snake” voice was getting very difficult for Hayter to pull off, as it required he down a ton of whiskey just to hit the right amount of raspiness. But if Hayter is up for it, we’ll welcome him with arms wide open. He definitely kept us waiting.
There was also the announcement that Konami will be releasing a compilation of the Metal Gear Solid games. Titled the Metal Gear Solid: Master Collection Vol. 1, this collection features the first three Metal Gear Solid games, remastered and otherwise portrayed as they originally were for their original releases. Considering the “volume 1” part of the title, we can presume the PSP Metal Gear games like Ac!d and Peacewalker will eventually get ported too, as well as Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots, which has been landlocked on the PS3 since its original release. Fingers crossed that there isn’t some kind of Monkey’s Paw scenario, like say, The Best Is Yet To Come not being in the game because of rights issues or something like that.
Oh yeah, and there was Spider-Man 2 stuff too.
The hotly-anticipated Spider-Man 2 was featured, allowing us to finally see some of the gameplay. We know Kraven the Hunter is being brought in, which uh… might mean Sony is trying another attempt at bringing the Sinister Six into a Spider-Man thing. Like, I get it, the Sinister Six are a big deal for Spider-Man, and the story where Kraven “buries” Spider-Man is one of those seminal moments in Spider-Man history. But also: please stop trying to make the Sinister Six a “thing”. You’ve tried enough times to where it’s almost as annoying as seeing Uncle Ben die for the umpteenth time. That aside: Spider-Man 2 shows that we’ll be able to play both Miles Morales as well as Peter Parker. I’m glad that Miles is getting some of the spotlights this time; for way too long, he was just considered “the Black Spider-Man”. After the phenomenal Enter the Spider-Verse, folks are finally coming around to him as a hero. He also has his own unique abilities in-game to differentiate him from Peter: we were able to see Miles use his unique Venom Blasts (wherein he uses electricity, not the famed Symbiote), as well as his ability to turn invisible. As for Peter… well, we’re doing Symbiotes again: Peter has his black suit, and all of the associated powers: increased strength, tentacles, and a serious aggressive streak that nobody can explain. Traversal seems to now allow for some degree of gliding: swinging in just the right path allows Miles to glide short distances without needing to swing. The combat is every bit as refined as in the first Spider-Man game, but much of the game feels too scripted now. I never played the first Spider-Man, but did it always have so many quick-time events during story missions? I dunno, when I’m playing a game as the acrobatic Spider-Man, I wanna perform the acrobatics, not just leave it to a timed button press during a canned cutscene.
And that was the showcase: a ton of very quick sizzle reels and a handful of big drops. I won’t lie, this was a bit of a letdown: there are a lot of games here, but it’s hard to get excited about everything. Too many releases and not enough info for why we should be excited about them. The other issue is that many of the titles announced aren’t exclusively for Sony‘s consoles. Many are also planned for release on PC or Xbox consoles as well–Microsoft took advantage of the showcase to tweet out all of the games announced that were also releasing on XBox. On the one hand, a lot of people celebrate this–for good reason. Exclusives suck if you’re a consumer; there are a lot of games that were on PS3 or PS4 that I never got to play because I didn’t have a Sony console for the longest time. I missed out on the original 13 Sentinels: Aegis Rim release, Odin Sphere: Leifthrasir, Dragon’s Crown, and plenty of others. But on the other hand: I grew up in the 16-bit era. Part of why so many people have such fond memories of 16-bit games (besides that era of gaming not being flooded with poorly-designed Skinner boxes masquerading as interactive media) is because Sega and Nintendo really were constantly neck-and-neck trying to one-up each other. Nintendo had Final Fantasy, and Sega had to counter with Phantasy Star. Sega puts out the Streets of Rage games, and Nintendo could boast of being the home of the Final Fight series. Multiplatform third-party titles are the lifeblood of any console, but the PS5 is a rough value proposition right now. Ignoring the availability of a PS5 (because those are still hard to get), spending $500 on a console that doesn’t really have anything the others don’t is a hard bargain for anyone not horribly concerned with brand loyalty or raw performance. And even then, I struggle to imagine people being that interested in a cheaper variant of the PS5 that doesn’t have an optical drive. You can’t claim it’s a multimedia center, especially without the disk drive, and it’s not like people don’t have plenty of other devices that they can use to stream from Netflix. And ironically, the biggest value proposition of the PlayStation Plus… is Sony‘s old exclusives.
For something that’s supposed to be a showcase of Sony‘s commitment to its console, this showcase was a ton of sizzle but no steak. I really wish I could figure out what kind of shot in the arm they need, but they definitely need one.
Marvelous Showcase 2023
Oh boy. It’s not often that Yours Truly has to cover two showcase streams in one week, but this was one of those weeks. Don’t cry for me, I’m already sleep-deprived. But–this one is from Marvelous. And the difference in tone between it and Sony‘s showcase streams is immediately noticeable: the Sony stream just shotgunned sizzle reel after sizzle reel and it’s hard to find any reason to care about these constant games. But this showcase was much more deliberate; they only covered a handful of games, but we walked away with a much better impression of them.
For one thing, Marvelous president Suminobu Sato is well aware that Marvelous’s games have the reputation of being “cozy”, and they’re totally cool with maintaining that image. I mean, they’re also the folks that made Akiba’s Trip, so they have a lewd streak (which I ain’t complaining about). But they know people love their Story of Seasons games and Rune Factory games–and it says a lot that the love for both series individually necessitates them being mentioned separately even though Rune Factory is a Story of Seasons spin-off. But let’s go over what we were introduced to.
First up was Loop8: Summer of Gods, a “coming of age RPG” about a group of teens fighting against monsters. The game is still early in production, but Sato promised the game would be fueled by an “emotional AI” called the Karel System. We’re gonna have to deal with “AI” being the new buzzword for a lot of games moving forward, I guess, but thankfully the Karel System seems to have more to do with how the game reacts to your in-game decisions relating to your fellow party members instead of stealing art from the Internet and Frankensteining it into some new over-exposed looking with jacked-up fingers. We’ll keep an eye on it: it’s an RPG set in a seemingly post-apocalyptic world, and even the ruined city looks cozy.
Next up was Fashion Dreamer, coming from Marvelous and syn Sophia. Fashion Dreamer is a game about fashion, feeding off of the philosophy of “sharing and playing together”. If it looks familiar, it’s because syn Sophia made their name with the Style Savvy games. Fashion Dreamer can be considered a spiritual successor; it’s all about going around the virtual world of Eve and sharing fashion tips with each other. You can “Like” outfits from in-game inhabitants to earn new outfit components, while also designing outfits for NPCs through the “Lookit” function. While at first blush, this is a very simple concept (there isn’t any word yet on an ongoing story or the like), I think this is enough for a lot of people. There was a very dedicated fanbase for the Style Savy games way back when; while many people bemoaned the lack of skin-tone options, gender pronouns, or body diversity, people really enjoyed the ability to make an in-game facsimile of yourself that you can treat as a virtual doll. I remember reading a number of write-ups from genderqueer players who especially enjoyed being able to do all kinds of in-game fashion experiments. Fashion Dreamer doesn’t improve much on the body diversity front (everyone is rail-thin), but at first blush, it does a much better job of offering a variety of skin tones for characters. So I’m confident in Fashion Dreamer reaching a wide audience when it releases later this year.
Next up is Project MAGIA (name pending, I suppose). Similarly to Fashion Dreamer, its product manager Takehiro Ishida summarized the philosophy of this game as “A New Frontier”. This project is being worked on in collaboration with Rave Master and EDEN ZERO creator Hiro Mashima, who is handling character designs. Not much else was said about the title, other than that the story will also explore the villain’s perspective.
Then there’s Project Life is RPG. As the project name implies, the philosophy behind this game is the vague-sounding idea of “Life”. Marvelous promises an experience unlike any other that they’ve made before, albeit one that renders tribute to the classic Japanese RPGs of yesteryear that have become so iconic of the industry. The idea behind the name is that all these games are unforgettable adventures that mark people’s lives (a claim I can agree with, after seeing the way classics like Dragon Quest V: Hand of the Heavenly Bride or Romancing SaGa touch people). The vibes of this in-development remind me of the DS RPG, Nostalgia. Sadly, that’s about all we have to go on. Nothing to do but sit tight and keep waiting.
Up next is Story of Seasons. Most people might best recognize the series under its old localized title, Harvest Moon (Natsume has since parted ways with Marvelous and is making new games under their Harvest Moon label, which is why the A Wonderful Life remake is being rechristened with the Story of Seasons branding). The Story of Seasons games are iconic of the whole “cozy game” movement; while they’ve been snubbed by critics and “hArDcOrE” gamers for years, they’ve got a very passionate and loving fanbase that’s stuck with them for years. When Marvelous describes these games as being built off of the concept of “Experiences”, they’re definitely hitting the nail on the head: the joy of Story of Seasons is living as part of a community, the simple joys of living off the land, and the quiet joy of falling in love and starting a family. While we have the upcoming A Wonderful Life remake to look forward to, Marvelous also announced a new title currently in development. So far, there’s no name for it; we just know that Marvelous is working on updating the visuals. Their goal is a Story of Seasons game that “you can play with everyone”. Apparently, one of the most-demanded features from fans is co-op, and Marvelous wants to make that happen. The title was marked as “Diligently under development”. More to follow.
Next up is Rune Factory! As mentioned earlier, Rune Factory was originally just a fantasy spin-off for Story of Seasons featuring an RPG twist; your in-game stamina now fuels your ability to fight monsters, and raising crops now comes with the benefit of granting your character Rune Points that can allow you to get more done in a single day. I do feel like something of a fake Rune Factory fan–I’ve mostly played the second game, with the beloved Rune Factory 4 in my pile of shame. I was lucky enough to cover Rune Factory 5 for ANN, though, it was a delightful experience. Rune Factory 5 was in a bit of trouble, as it apparently didn’t sell all that well in Japan and the future of the series was in jeopardy. But it looks like they managed to clinch it in the end because there are now two Rune Factory games in development. Marvelous describes Rune Factory as a cross between “East and West”.
The “East” part comes from Rune Factory: PROJECT DRAGON, which promises to take the beloved Rune Factory formula and place it into a fantasy Japanese setting. Rune Factory has always dabbled with its Japanese-esque elements, like the trees having pink blossoms in Spring or with the mandatory single paramour in a kimono (or Rune Factory 5‘s werewolves all wearing kimonos–alas, my beloved Misasagi). PROJECT DRAGON promises to be set in the long-hinted Eastern nation that so many Rune Factory titles have alluded to. It’s interesting to see the game placed in a new setting. While the trailer focused on new monsters based on Japanese yokai like a tengu monster, rest assured–the sheep-like Woolies are still present.
Curiously, PROJECT DRAGON is just a spin-off, because Marvelous also announced the actual Rune Factory 6 as part of the “West” concept, being that it takes place on the Western continent of Adonea. All we have to go off of so far is a logo, sadly, but hey: two Rune Factory! I am very much looking forward to covering these games for you guys.
Finally, Marvelous dropped a bomb on fans with the announcement of a sequel to Daemon × Machina, subtitled Titanic Scion. I… don’t actually know anything about Daemon × Machina, sadly–that title came and went and I never met anyone that played it. And that’s a tragedy because it looks like a wild and fun mecha game, like a less-intensive Armored Core, only instead of complicated political proxy battles you’re kitting out a mecha to fight against demons. The original Daemon × Machina offered single-player and online multiplayer, and it seems the reception warmed up after some DLC. I hope this helps Daemon × Machina reach a wider audience, it was a shame to see such a cool idea languish in limbo. Hey, it took Armored Core a while to really stick with people, didn’t it?
And that was Marvelous. While much of it was hosted by some Japanese businessmen that were clearly reading cue cards, there was a very deep understanding of their titles on display. Marvelous knows that folks really love their titles, but more importantly, they know why. Even with their weirder, lewder titles like the aforementioned Akiba’s Trip, Marvelous wants to do right by their fans and I appreciate them for it. The spirit of mid-budget games of the PS2 era lives on through the likes of Marvelous, Gust, and Idea Factory, I’m always excited to cover their stuff again.
Let’s maybe skip the tidbits this week, this column has gone long enough methinks
That’ll do it. What a marathon of a week! I definitely hope there’s something here that left you excited. I’m very happy to hear we’ve got two Rune Factory titles in the works, but Neva also has my eye. I normally try to have something deeper to say, but I think I said everything I wanted to earlier. So, as always: 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.