Welcome back, folks! I’m still here, plugging away at stuff. Udon put out the word that they’re making another one of their comic book spin-offs for a CAPCOM series. On the one hand, I’m excited because they announced a Darkstalkers book featuring Jedah Dohma, my favorite Darkstalker! The bad news is, a bunch of the variant covers (including the one drawn by Alex Ahad, which I’d want the most) don’t feature Jedah. Far be it for me to refuse art from Alex Ahad—or art of Morrigan and Lilith in bunny-girl outfits (or a combination of both)—but it seems like such a waste to have variant covers that don’t even feature the character from the book. Heck, there’s even a gender-swapped Midnight Bliss version of Jedah that you could use (and who could use a lot more love and fan art). Now, there are a bunch of other covers that do feature Jedah (including one that even features Midnight Bliss Jedah). But if you’re making a book featuring Poison, maybe don’t have the fancy cover from a big-name artist showcase Rainbow Mika?
Not that I’m gonna pass on the Alex Ahad cover. I’m just bummed I missed out on Alex Ahad drawing Midnight Bliss Jedah.
Microsoft Lays Off 1900 Employees, Like Everyone Said They Would; Benefits To Consumers And Employees Inconclusive
This is infuriating. To the utter not-surprise of anyone who doesn’t bother getting involved in “console war” garbage, Microsoft‘s acquisition of Activision-Blizzard has come at the expense of 1900 employees getting laid off. This includes former Blizzard president, Mike Ybarra, and a great deal of World of Warcraft‘s game masters. This layoff represents about 9% of Blizzard’s former employees.
There isn’t much to say about this that hasn’t already been said. It’s not even the first lay-off we’ve seen this year; Riot brought the year in by firing 530 people. We’re at 57% of the number of layoffs from last year, and February only just started. Better yet is how many of these layoffs come after these studios enforced Return-To-Office policies, forcing many families to move to California (an expensive proposition). So now families have no job after an expensive relocation. Oh, and there’s the shame of not knowing if you’ve been laid off or not until after the news goes public and you get the shiny message in Slack letting you know you’re out on the street.
Last week, we saw a bit of a tempest in a teapot after some high-profile video game pundits went on a lark about how “artist opinions don’t matter” because “consumers only care about consuming fun games”. This opinion was publicly tarred and feathered for good reason. Nevermind how a lot of react streamers have no job outside of what actual creatives give them (you need something to react to), these artists are the ones who make sure whatever you enjoy works in any way. A lot of deliberate decisions go into media; not just games but movies and books as well. A lot of folks default to “oh, the devs were lazy” when a game isn’t good, ignoring that a lot of moving parts go into a game’s design (and many of the issues tend to come from upstairs).
Developers catch way too much garbage for stuff that, if anything, they’re trying to prevent, and it’s hogwild to me that folks will say with their whole chest, “Yeah, these folks should be left unemployed. A computer can do their job better.” Stuff like that is why I despise the whole “consumer rights” movement on behalf of gamers; there are way bigger issues with games than whether or not you’re getting your “$70’s worth” from a game. It’s not even that every game has to be Pathologic; “creative vision” doesn’t mean you want your game to be Catcher in the Rye, it can be as simple as “I want to evoke what my memories from my hometown feel like” or “I’m trying to make Larry Laffer funny”. And it’s that kind of personal touch that makes games good. It’s weird we have an industry that constantly celebrates Shigeru Miyamoto basing The Legend of Zelda off of his childhood of exploring caves in Kyoto or the debunked story of Michael Kirkbride writing The 36 Lessons of Vivec after going on a bender and still say, “Yeah, it’s okay if these folks get laid off.”
This round of layoffs has come with a lot of people once again holding up the example of the late Satoru Iwata slashing his salary instead of laying off Nintendo employees during Nintendo‘s lean years. Many have pointed out that there’s more to the story (apparently, Japanese labor law requires CEOs slash their budgets before getting a layoff approved). And many have pointed out that improvements in the industry won’t come from one Great Man being a hero. Both are very true and very important, we could use labor law that prioritizes executive austerity before layoffs. But also: Iwata nevertheless stood by his employees. He was a unique president for Nintendo because of his experience in the foxholes of game development; he believed that a company can’t make world-class games if developers are worried for their jobs, and I think he’s been more than proven correct at this point. Nintendo has the benefit of having tons of senior experience that many other companies don’t have.
Will the industry improve? Probably not. Things are going to get worse before they get better. But I definitely sympathize with the thousands of passionate developers chewed up and spat out by the predatory gaming industry that prioritizes that last goddamn percentage over the people making their games. I have never and will never refer to a game as “content” or refer to playing a game as “consumption”. Not much else I can do until the gaming industry at large unionizes…
It’s been a wild time for TYPE-MOON fans! A few years back, we were able to enjoy Witch on the Holy Night being brought over to the US (I was even able to review the Switch port. The Lunar Legend Tsukihime remaster is due to be released worldwide later this year—and now, we have confirmation that TYPE-MOON is going three-for-three!
Fate/stay night Remastered is coming to America!
TYPE-MOON‘s stuff has been massively influential in anime circles. The anime adaptations of their VNs are all-over the place in terms of quality (please spare me the tired jokes about the Tsukihime anime). And the visual novels are… well, I had a Tsukihime phase back in 2008, going so far as to import the complete artbook from Japan, but even then I still feel like at their best the novels read like stereo instructions. Still, Nasu’s got some skill in establishing urban-fantasy worlds. And there’s no better show of that than Fate; the original visual novel became a sensation, it’s had a ton of animated adaptations going over its various routes, and its gacha game spin-off is wildly popular and successful worldwide—practically a franchise all its own, even. And plenty of other Fate games had been brought over to the US, like Fate/EXTELLA, Fate/unlimited codes or the recent Fate/Samurai Remnant. But the visual novel itself was always trapped in an ivory tower, for some reason. And we never really had an answer why. For all we know, TYPE-MOON just didn’t grasp just how beloved Fate is in the US.
No more, I guess! I can only imagine that all the gacha-bucks from Fate/Grand Order and the successful reception for Witch on the Holy Night must have made them see reason. And honestly, even if Fate didn’t have a bunch of other spin-offs, it’s still possibly the best of TYPE-MOON‘s visual novels. I mean, it still has issues with being really stiffly-written, and Nasu has capital-I “Issues” with writing women, but it’s still a very rich setting rife with all kinds of fun possibilities.
Fate takes place in a world where mages conduct proxy battles between each other in order to earn the Holy Grail, which can grant them one wish. These proxy battles are carried out by Servants: incarnations of heroes from across folklore, mythology and history. And because heroes are multifaceted, different aspects of these heroes are summoned under different RPG-style classes. And because these heroes have whatever weaknesses they had in myth, Mages only refer to their servant by their class-name. Fate/Grand Order plays with the idea wonderfully: characters like Elizabeth Bathory can be summoned under different classes, with each one representing the character in a different part of their myth.
Much like with JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure, the true nature of the servants is supposed to be a big secret, leading to several massive twists. But, uh, considering this is the franchise that necessitated the coining of the phrase “Saber-Face”, and the fact that “Saber’s” many appearances in FGO have all spoiled her connection to Arthurian lore (not to mention there being a lot of non-Saber-face “Sabers”), it’s not much of a spoiler to reveal that the “Saber” of Fate/stay night is Arthur Pendragon. Or rather, Altria Pendragon. See, Fate likes doing a bunch of twists concerning the genders of its heroes: lots of myths “remembered the story wrong” or “hid the truth for Reasons™”, so the King of the Britons was a fifteen-year-old girl. Also, I’m gonna take a moment to wrinkle my nose at how “Arthur Pendragon”‘s official feminization in the localization is “Altria Pendragon”. Normally I wouldn’t care, but “Arthuria” seems like it would fit better? It feels like Hellsing‘s “Alucard” versus “Arucard” thing all over again.
Anyway, in spite of all the new beloved characters added in Fate/Grand Order and other Fate spin-offs, the original cast from the visual novel is plenty beloved. Heck, even as recently as 2018’s Today’s Menu for the Emiya Family, folks still come around to see the likes of Shirou, Saber, Rin, Sakura, Rider and such. And their actors are still very attached to their characters, too—I struggle to imagine how much mapo tofu Jōji Nakata has eaten because of his attachment to Kotomine Kirei.
A question many are wondering is whether or not this version of the Fate/stay night visual novel will include the sex scenes from the original. Because this version is based off of one of the remakes that excised the sex scenes, it likely won’t. And nothing of importance was lost, as far as I’m concerned; the less I have to read about Nasu’s weird shellfish obsession, the better. There’s some nonsense in the original visual novel about how mages have to supply mana to their servants but it’s easily retconned and forgotten and I don’t know many people who honestly have that much investment in that part of the story (that’s what Comiket is for). The more-important question is whether or not Steam is going to stand by releasing Fate/stay night later this year. So far it’s been announced for both the Switch and Steam but Steam has been iffy about games from Japan even when they don’t have sex (see: Chaos;HEAd).
The one downside is that Fate/stay night‘s little bad-ending bits have their own cast: Taiga Fujimura, one of the many freeloaders that protagonist Shirou makes friends with. Unfortunately, her co-star is Ilya, a mage in the body of a child. So sadly, there’s no room for that bastion of TYPE-MOON… la criatura
Alas, poor Neco-Arc. At least we have the Tsukihime remaster to look forward to later this year.
Sony‘s January 2024 State of Play
I find it a bit harder to muster up excitement for State of Play streams than Nintendo Directs. Sony really is too self-congratulatory, wanting prestige and the illusion of innovative tech even if its prestige amounts to “Violence is bad, innit?” and its innovative tech is overpriced unnecessary cruft. But this State of Play actually gave me stuff to look forward to. I mean, not all of it is stuff that will be exclusive to Sony, and there were still just a ton of shooters… but hey, there were some games with primary colors. Also Foamstars, man I feel bad for Foamstars…
So first up we have Stellar Blade (formerly, Project Eve). SHIFT UP, best known for Goddess of Victory: Nikke, has done a phenomenal job with the design of this game, they really deserve credit for it. But also… man, as much as I want to give Stellar Blade its due, it’s really gonna have to work hard to climb out of NieR:Automata‘s shadow. A lone surviving gynoid with her drone has to save a post-apocalyptic Earth from an aberrant species—all while questioning the nature of her mission and the validity of the species she’s sent to hunt? Eesh. Now, it’s not like Yokō Tarō has some kind of trademark on that concept, and it’s not like there can’t be two games about sexy robo-women slashing up monsters in a ruined Earth, but Stellar Blade needs to work really hard if it wants to set itself apart from NieR. Design-wise, it’s halfway there; the protagonist, Eve, looks stunning and the monstrous Naytiba look creative. And because SHIFT UP is like that, all of the named characters (male and female) are drop-dead gorgeous even if they’re supposed to be kinda frumpy. There also seem to be a ton of various outfits you can get for Eve.
Unfortunately, it’s up in the air whether the actual gameplay will stack up or not. Combat makes it seem as though Eve’s weapons are all assigned to a separate face button, with the D-pad for her consumables. But beyond Nikke, I don’t know if they have a track record for an ambitious action game like this. The Biblical references are also a bit on the nose, what with the cast being named “Adam”, “Eve”, “Lily” (like “Lilith”) and the central hub being named “Xion”. Full power to SHIFT UP if they can pull it off; the game looks stunning enough that even if it’s just okay, it still looks to be a great cult hit. But man, this game is never gonna shake off that NieR: Automata rap. Its tagline is even “Reclaim Earth for Humankind”. At least they’re exceedingly sincere about their work on this title; this might be just NieR: Automata with over-the-top gorgeous Korean designs, but a lot of passion and effort is in here. God help me, I wanna see these guys succeed. Look forward to Stellar Blade this April 26th.
Sega also made Sonic the Hedgehog fans very happy with the announcement of a new remaster for the beloved Sonic Generations. Originally released in 2011 as part of Sonic’s 20th anniversary (the credits feature a recording of a crowd of convention-goers shouting “HAPPY BIRTHDAY, SONIC!“), the game celebrated Sonic’s history by pairing him up with his rotund “Classic” self as they zipped through a grab-bag of Sonic’s most iconic Zones from throughout the franchise‘s history. Did this mean we had yet another rehash of Green Hill Zone and Chemical Plant Zone? Yes. But there was also a twist: because you swapped between both “Classic” and “Modern” Sonic, the stages would change to reflect the chosen Sonic. So Classic Sonic’s versions of the stages were all “traditional” side-scrollers that re-created the original layouts whenever possible, while Modern Sonic’s stages changed the perspectives and added all the grind rails and ziplines the Sonic Adventure titles are known for. So not only were we able to see Chemical Plant Zone reimagined in a “modern” Sonic style (with a kickass Crush 40-inspired re-arranged theme), we also get to see Sonic’s “modern” stages like City Escape re-imagined as classic 2D stages (and little Classic Sonic getting chased by the infamous G.U.N. Truck). All-around, a great time, and fans have made lots of fun mods for new stages over the years.
… But there’s a twist to this tale, because in addition to remastering Sonic Generations, Sega is expanding it to include everyone’s favorite wife-stealing, hot sauce-loving Ultimate Life Form, Shadow The Hedgehog. He was even given the honor of having his name awkwardly added to the title, an honor hitherto only bestowed upon Knuckles The Echidna of Sonic 3 & Knuckles fame. Hence, this new remaster is titled Sonic X Shadow Generations.
This is a cute addition! Shadow had a bad rap among non-Sonic fans in his early years, since he was so positively edgy. But by today, he’s just part of the gang. It’s unthinkable to have Sonic The Hedgehog and not have Shadow sulking in the corner somewhere. Also, the upcoming Sonic the Hedgehog 3 film is going to feature Shadow, so uh, gotta gas up the new guy. While Shadow hasn’t had nearly as many playable appearances as Sonic, Sonic X Shadow Generations will make sure to feature plenty of his more-iconic stages—as well as pitting him against the evil Black Doom last seen in Shadow The Hedgehog. Will Shadow get to wield guns, ride mechs, and finally find that damn fourth Chaos Emerald? Let’s hope so!
Now, fans are more concerned about how well this remake will play. I never got a chance to play the recent Sonic Colors remaster (because Xenoblade), but word on the street is that it’s apparently not the best. A pity, that. The good news is that Sonic Team is in charge of Sonic X Shadow Generations, so… fingers crossed, I guess? Fans are also worried about the original Sonic Generations being delisted from online platforms—a worthwhile fear, so nab your copies of Sonic Generations while you still can. Fans are also upset that SEGA will be laying off 61 of their employees in March. While AEGIS has successfully negotiated ways to soften the blow (all temporary employees are being given a severance package, at least), this layoff sucks about as much as any other. Bad move, Sega; if you have to layoff employees to maintain your bottom line, that’s no good.
Hey, Dave the Diver is coming to PlayStation soon! That’s neat, right? The kids like Dave the Diver…?
… Would it help if we tossed Godzilla into it?
I feel like an often-forgotten part of Godzilla’s lore is that he’s aquatic; he comes from the ocean, rampages on land for a bit, then goes back to the ocean to chill out in the depths until Professor Serizawa comes around with the Oxygen Destroyer and a death wish. Just one thing that Godzilla Minus One did well, having schools of dead deep-sea fish float to the surface of the ocean before the King of Monsters makes a horrifying appearance. So with that established, Dave the Diver is gonna have a Godzilla-themed expansion! So far, only Big G himself has shown up; Dave encounters some weird deep-sea monsters on his own, so it wouldn’t be out of the ordinary for some gigantic Ebirah-esque monster to show up that requires some radioactive intervention. But of course, it’s too soon to know if any of Godzilla’s buddies will also show up. They’re definitely digging deep; Godzilla appears in his “Burning” form, as seen in Godzilla Vs Destroyah, which… is definitely a choice, considering Burning Godzilla’s radiation threatens a meltdown that could render the entire Pacific continent uninhabitable in that movie. So, uh, good luck Dave…?
Well, Silent Hill: Ascension was bad, no time like the present for Konami to take another whack at reviving Silent Hill with Silent Hill: The Short Message. The idea is pretty solid: a woman suffering from harassment and abuse finds herself in what is likely Silent Hill following an attempt at self-harm, and she must now use her phone to try and find a way out. Akira Yamaoka is doing the music. But, uh… The Short Message feels pretty iffy because so much of it seems to be trying really hard to be P.T., the short playable teaser made by Hideo Kojima and Guillermo del Toro that was intended to serve as a trailer for their proposed Silent Hills game that Konami 86ed. And considering how sore Silent Hill fans felt after Konami did Kojima and Silent Hill dirty, they’re understandably a bit miffed at this—even if the game was a free download. For one thing, folks aren’t exactly buzzing about what The Short Message is setting up, where P.T. completely took the internet by storm. Nice try, Konami.
The next trailer didn’t make fans much happier. Konami‘s Silent Hill 2 remake was already on thin ice with fans, given how the original trailer hinted that many of the details from the original game (like the way James’ reflection in the mirror in that one iconic shot was no longer looking at the viewer) were lost along the way. And with Silent Hill 2 being such a beloved icon of the survival horror genre, along with Silent Hill fans being so passionate about the series, Konami really needed to step things up. So Konami… goes with a trailer showcasing the combat in Silent Hill 2. Eesh.
As anyone who’s played Silent Hill can tell you, the combat is very much supposed to be an afterthought. Sure, you can whack monsters with lead pipes or shoot at them with a pistol but you really don’t want to—you’re likely to lose a ton of health in the process, there likely isn’t any worthwhile reward, and your bullets are better used elsewhere. That, and combat in Silent Hill just feels bad, as a rule. You’re playing an average Joe haunted by shadows of their past, not Chris Redfield. So folks appreciate the janky combat; it adds to the terror of the scenario and forces you to really fret over what your next move will be—especially when you’re surrounded by monsters. So giving folks a trailer that focuses on James Sunderland running around, bashing monsters upside the head with nail bats, and gunning down the creepy faceless nurses really doesn’t give fans a lot of hope that the spirit of Silent Hill 2 is being preserved. Folks are comparing the footage to the Resident Evil 4 Remake—which, for a Silent Hill game, is a bad thing. Resident Evil is also a survival horror series, but it’s always had a bit more allowance for action. And it makes sense: the likes of Jill Valentine or Leon S. Kennedy have combat training. James Sunderland doesn’t. It feels wrong watching him swat at creeps. Let’s hope we’re not too disappointed…
What should have a ton of combat is Dragon’s Dogma. The original had a phenomenal combat system that was a fun blend of Devil May Cry‘s high-flying action with Monster Hunter‘s reliance on methodical placement and reading of the battle’s flow. Also, it had smart uses of being able to climb onto monsters bigger than you. CAPCOM gave us a trailer featuring Dragon’s Dogma II‘s combat ahead of its March 22nd release. It’s looking pretty great, and it looks like you can swap between weapons and magic on the fly.
Team Ninja also revealed some shots of their upcoming open-world game, Rise of the Ronin. Now, I’m gonna be honest: I wasn’t very interested in Ghosts of Tsushima (it feels too presumptuous), and I haven’t got a copy of Like A Dragon: Isshin. While I’m not massively well-versed in Team Ninja’s games, Rise of the Ronin has my eye. I mean, it has yet another Open World Glider but I dig the game’s eye for combat. The protagonist, a ronin, can swap between various weapons each with their own stances. Gaining an advantage against opponents isn’t a matter of attack values, it’s a matter of finding a weapon that can exploit the stance and moveset of your opponent. While I doubt I have the manual dexterity for that kind of deep gameplay, it’s an intriguing system. The trailer goes on to show all kinds of ramifications from this, like using a musket with a bayonet to parry enemy blows before shooting them at a distance or using a pair of katana with a chain to wrap up your enemy’s weapon. There are also fantastical inventions you can use like a flamethrower. Open world games are getting rather passé, from where I’m sitting, but at least the setting and mechanics of Rise of the Ronin look interesting. And the mood is straight-up chanbara, which I appreciate. I can’t find any info on any particularly famous Japanese actors involved with Rise of the Ronin—which would be a missed opportunity if they haven’t cast anyone. Go the whole hog, man!
God dammit. See, Sony is exceedingly “tryhard” with their stuff these days, focusing entirely on presumptuous “prestige” games that are trying way too hard to be smarter than they really are while going the extra mile for ostentatiously-realistic graphics. And that’s just not what I want in games. So when Hideo Kojima comes around with the news that he’s making another Death Stranding that’ll also have a ton of mocapped Hollywood actors (since Kojima desperately wishes he was a filmmaker), my first instinct is to sigh… but then I watch the trailer and I have to shrug off my misgivings because as much of a loon as Kojima may be at his worst, you need to give the man his flowers because unlike other would-be auteurs, Kojima knows what he’s doing.
I was worried when the first Death Stranding was in production that it would be a narrative and gameplay mess that folks would nevertheless insist was a classic because it had Kojima’s name on the box and people were so precious about him in the wake of Konami doing him dirty. But then the reviews came in and I realized that no, Kojima did know what he was doing—I didn’t realize the game he was playing. Death Stranding was a very divisive title upon release, not helped by its difficulty being very frontloaded and the concept being rather weird. But Kojima nevertheless delivered a phenomenal title about the nature of violence and the human need for connection. And now he wants to do it again. Also, he’s gonna do it with some weird dude with a laser-guitar that can shoot lightning. Also-also, George Miller (creator of Mad Max) is in this, because Kojima loves roping in Hollywood bigwigs.
The madlad did it again.
Death Stranding 2: On The Beach (the title refers to a 1959 film starring Gregory Peck about a group of survivors in Melbourne awaiting a wave of deadly radiation sweeping towards Australia in the wake of a nuclear war) continues the story of Sam Porter Bridges. Where the first game had him help the United Cities of America reconnect, here Sam is expanding into Mexico as he tries to expand the UCA’s network to whomever might be living outside of its borders. Immediately, the sequel looks to correct a major flaw from the first game: setting. The ruined American continent was certainly pretty and all those rocks and rivers meant you had to be very deliberate in your movement. But also, the entirety of the American continent was just mountains and rocks with little rivers everywhere under an overcast sky. Death Stranding 2 promises more varied locales, like rocky cliffs and sandy deserts. And there appear to be more subplots that complicate matters—but I’m not going to pretend I was smart enough to pick up on all of them. I’m definitely looking forward to this one. The madlad did it again. Look forward to Death Stranding 2: On The Beach in 2025.
The State of Play ended with another warning from Kojima that he will not be stopped, as once he’s finished with Death Stranding 2 he’ll be starting a new IP: a return to Kojima’s roots in tactical espionage action (he even dropped the term specifically). But of course, this new title will be produced in collaboration with Columbia Pictures. Kojima wants this to be as film-like in its quality as possible while still being an interactive game. I have a hint of hesitation because christ, am I sick of video games that are trying to ape movies for “validation points”… but again, Kojima knows what he’s doing.
Who knows, it might even be more Boktai than Metal Gear. Wouldn’t that be nice?
Let’s wrap up with some quick tidbits
That’ll do it for this week, I think. This February is gonna be the month of RPGs, between Like A Dragon: Infinite Wealth and Persona 3 Reload. So pace yourselves as not to burn out. Don’t be afraid to get a few rounds of Suika Game or Vampire Survivors in to refresh your palate. Games are long affairs, but don’t turn this into a job–this is supposed to be fun. Don’t push yourself into beating a game just so you can be part of the conversation. Take your time, enjoy it at your own pace, and let the pieces fall where they may. 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.