Directly To The Lands Between – This Week in Games


Welcome back, folks! What a week for news this has been. I imagine folks want to get right into stuff, but I had some fun stuff I wanted to show off!

I discovered Gigi’s art while I was convalescing in the hospital. She’s huge on Xenoblade art, which caught my eye. But once she made the KOS-MOS merch, I had to get stuff. Gigi has also spearheaded many cool projects with other Xenoblade artists, like a tarot deck and art books; good on them. I’m looking forward to my chance to pick up a copy of their Core Continuity art book.

This is…

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Sega Announces Live-Service Games Based Off Old Properties (Don’t Worry, Proper Remakes Are Coming Too)

I’ve complained plenty about Sega leaving a ton of its non-Sonic the Hedgehog franchises by the wayside—along with a ton of other people who really miss the likes of Burning Rangers, Billy Hatcher and the Giant Egg, Skies of Arcadia and any other number of Sega classics. (I’d make a “but not the Bonanza Brothers” joke, but for all I know, there’s someone out there who is desperate to see the Bonanza Bros come back, and I ain’t raining on their parade—go ahead, Yul Brenner, go get your palace.) Sega is finally doing something about it, and it likely will piss some folks off because it involves reviving Ca-RAAAZY Taxi and Jet Set Radio as live-service games.

Now, hear me out—Sega announced their decision to make some ca-raaazy money with Crazy Taxi and Jet Set Radio remakes last December, proposing to remake them as AAA open-world games (a statement that, to my tired ears, is just white noise). But there’s scuttlebutt going around that Sega will bring back Crazy Taxi and Jet Set Radio under a live-service model; the claim is that Sega will give Crazy Taxi something akin to the Tetris 99 or F-Zero 99 games over at Nintendo and feature a 100-player survival mode, which… honestly, sounds pretty true to the spirit of the arcade original? Crazy Taxi was one of those brilliant Sega arcade titles that was just oodles of fun on the Dreamcast, pointing to the Dreamcast’s strength as a console by delivering arcade-accurate versions of the beloved time-attack game back when that was enough to push a console. Upping the ante to 100 simultaneous players competing for fare seems like the next logical step. Let players choose some ca-raaazy outfits, give us a good Sega-blue sky, blast The Offspring‘s “All I Want,” sneak in some product placement by driving folks to Pizza Hut or KFC or what have you… yeah, I’d plunk $5 into that.


The Jet Set Radio live-service game scuttlebutt is less encouraging, admittedly; Sega is developing it with a Fortnite-esque model, maintaining the series’ trademark graffiti but incorporating shooting as a mechanic. I’m willing to hear them out if they can focus on the fantastical stuff, like how Jet Set Radio Future seemingly had folks boosting their skates with focused blasts of spray paint but put a TEC-9 in DJ Professor K’s hands and we’re going to have problems. And even then, eh, the rumor underlines that we’re still getting normal straight-up remakes of Crazy Taxi and Jet Set Radio before the reboots release, so even if the live-service versions are a dud we’re still coming out ahead.


This is all rumor—but I feel like there’s meat to this one. It’s a good way of staying honest to the arcade roots that many Sega games have. As much as I hate live-service games, it’s not a horrible idea for Sega to experiment with the model somewhat with games based around wide-open settings and urban exploration. The worst-case scenario is they don’t work. In the best case, it works out, and we get more Jet Set Radio. And Sega still hasn’t announced what their plans are for Golden Axe or Shinobi; they just might surprise us.

Will this turn out great? Eh, Sod’s Law says “no.” But it’s worth a shot, I say.

Digimon Games Loses Producer, Franchise Future Uncertain

I’ve loved Digimon for a long time. Lately, a lot of ink has been spilled about other monster-collecting titles and their “competition.” Digimon, I think, has suffered by being considered as “just” the biggest competitor to Pokémon. It’s a lot more than that—it’s a thriving multimedia franchise all its own. It’s not grossing anywhere near what Pokémon is, but that’s just because few things are grossing anywhere near what Pokémon is. It doesn’t help that what makes Digimon so great isn’t being brought to the US. And Digimon fans had another whopper of bad news dropped on their laps earlier this week when Kazumasa Habu revealed he is stepping down as producer for Bandai’s Digimon Games branch.

Habu had been working with Bandai on their Digimon games since 2010. Under his tenure, we saw the phenomenal Digimon World: Cyber Sleuth in 2015, with its similarly-beloved follow-up Hacker’s Memory released in 2017. He was also the chief producer for last year’s Digimon Survive, but that’s where the story turns sour. See, it’d be bad enough if Digimon Survive had just released at the same time as the much-bigger Xenoblade Chronicles 3—it was going to be hard to compete with that title. But Bandai also kneecapped the promotion for Digimon Survive, with many feeling bamboozled (or just unprepared) once it came to light that it was a visual novel with strategy game elements. And it’s not a bad title! But getting fans in America to play a VN is like getting a kid to eat their vegetables; they seem only to want it when a ton of Phoenix Wright cheese is poured on top.

And that was just the beginning of Digimon Survive‘s plight. One Matt McMuscles fully details the issues with Digimon Survive‘s development with an episode of Wha Happun?. Still, it was the old canard of the publisher giving the studio too small a budget and barely promoting the game at all. While Digimon Survive managed to chart in Japan during the month of its release, it never stood a chance in the US. It’s no surprise Habu cites personnel changes in his tweet as a reason for his departure, but it’s nevertheless tragic because Habu was someone who, as a lead, gave a crap and was trying.

The strength of the Digimon games is that they all play very differently. Some would point to that meaning that the games have an identity crisis, I point to that as the games being versatile. Between the first three Digimon World titles, only one was a conventional RPG—the third one. The first game was more of a PS1 adaptation of the original Digital Monster v-pet, and the second was a rogue-like with a turn-based battle system. While a few other Digimon World games have stuck with being conventional turn-based RPGs (the brilliant Digimon World titles on the Nintendo DS come to mind), the series has experimented plenty with incorporating the freeform life-cycles of Digimon as portrayed in the virtual pets. Of course, that’s a double-edged sword: death is a common occurrence when raising Digimon. The life cycle ends with the Digimon turning back into an egg and requiring you to start over. It’s annoying enough to be a bridge too far for folks who are more used to the more straightforward mechanics of your average turn-based RPG.

The other issue is the one-two punch of Habu being someone who very clearly cared about waving the Digimon banner at Bandai Namco headquarters, while Bandai Namco seems very content on just not doing much with Digimon. Anyone who’s a franchise fan can tell you all about how slipshot Bandai is with its handling. Look no further than the v-pets: fans in America have been chomping at the bit for the Digital Monster X devices (still waiting on the X3s to get released in the US) or the Digital Monster Colors (which finally feature backlit LCD screens). The Digital Monster Pendulum Color pets are soon to be released in Japan. Regarding the US, we only got the 20th Anniversary devices in 2019 and the Digital Monster X pet. Bandai released the X2 devices with factory defects, and swapped the rosters between the intended versions. And that’s it; no Digital Monster Revive, no Pendulum 20th Anniversary Edition, no Pendulum Z, and absolutely no Digital Monster Color. (I had to import one, and I’ve got the Pendulum Colors on pre-order.)

So what’s going to happen now with Habu out? Well, Habu says that a new Digimon Story is being produced “under the direction of a director we trust.” But it’s a murky future for the Digimon games; sometimes, these franchises live or die by having someone at a major publisher fighting for them. There’s not much we can do but wait and see—and hope.

Nintendo Partner Direct 2024

Ho-boy, I was dreading this one. In the wake of Nintendo announcing the Partner Direct, you had folks chomping at the bit for news on Metroid Prime 4 or the Paper Mario remake—y’know, games not made by Nintendo partners. We’re in a stellar era for the Switch—and fans certainly think so, too, considering the Another Code: Recollection set sold out at most major retailers upon release. Somehow, with Nintendo announcing all of these games, some think that Nintendo is just waiting out the clock until they announce the Switch 2, which seems incredibly short-sighted because are you not seeing all of these games being announced?!

The Partner Direct had a snazzy new intro for the new year, which was a pleasant surprise. We’ll fast past some Western-based games because they’re a bit out of our wheelhouse. We do have some follow-up on Microsoft‘s plans for shipping their games to other consoles; Honey, I Shrunk The Kids-inspired Grounded is coming to Switch this April. But it sure is a survival game with crafting elements. Pentiment is coming too. Epic Mickey: Rebrushed, a remake of the beloved platformer starring Disney’s eponymous mascot, is looking particularly great—better than the original, even. Star Wars: Battlefront Collection compiles the original two Star Wars: Battlefront games—they’re some of the best video game experiences of having all the Star Wars toys and bashing them together, I imagine that’ll make old Star Wars fans happy. South Park: Snow Day… sure is being made, I guess. World of Goo 2 is coming, and it looks charming as heck. Another Crab’s Treasure is coming to Switch; seeing a Souls-like that uses bright, primary colors is nice. Penny’s Big Breakaway is coming to Switch as well, and man, it’s doing a great job of reimagining and repurposing the speed and dynamism of 3D Sonic the Hedgehog games—I hope it manages to make a name for itself beyond being a “Sonic fangame”. Pepper Grinder is coming; Snuffkin: Melody of Moominvalley looks adorable (I’m keeping an eye out for it); Tales of Kenzera: ZAU looks like a great action game with a sorely-underutilized Bantu twist; Kingdom Come: Deliverance Royal Edition is… there, I guess, if you really need a mundane medieval game. Also, a bunch of Rare’s classic titles are coming to Nintendo Switch Online: for SNES, you can pick up Killer Instinct, Battletoads in Battlemaniacs. For NES, you can pick up Snake Rattle & Roll and RC Pro-Am. And if you have Nintendo Switch Online+, you can play Blast Corp.


Okay, now we can talk about everything else! First up is a sequel to Ender Lilies: Ender Magnolia: Bloom in the Mist. Ostensibly a Metroidvania, you play as a little girl wandering a ruined city while trying to purify an army of corrupted Homunculi. I’ve heard a lot of Ender Lilies, but I’ve never actually seen much of it or played it. Ender Magnolia looks very pretty, and its concept of using Homunculi feels a little like Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow crossed with Valkyrie Profile. Exciting stuff, but we don’t have a release date past a vague “2024.”


A Unicorn Overlord demo was announced today! For folks who haven’t heard the news, Dragon’s Crown and 13 Sentinels: Aegis Rim creators Vanillaware are working on a Ogre Battle-esque strategy game, melding their love of phenomenal 2D sprites with complicated real-time fantasy strategy. Also, lavish food—the trailer itself made sure to show off Vanillaware’s delicious dishes during the logo reveal. Full disclosure: I only ever rented Ogre Battle 64: Person of Lordly Caliber once to play on my uncle’s Nintendo 64. And I was entirely too young to wrap my head around its mechanics, so I didn’t enjoy it. I don’t have much of a frame of reference for this game because the only other Ogre Battle/Tactics Ogre game I’ve played is The Knight of Lodis, which doesn’t do the weird real-time strategy angle. But I’m an older man now, and I love these complicated RPGs, and hey—it’s Vanillaware, this game will be a stunner. I could play the demo, but I have a column to write and Xenoblade Chronicles 3 to try and catch up with. Alas…


Monster Hunter Stories is coming back! The sequel, Wings of Ruin, was released back in 2021, but CAPCOM released the original on the 3DS way back in 2016. It’s a fun take on Monster Hunter that replaces the active fights against wyverns with a monster-collecting angle; players steal wyvern eggs from nests (evading the angry adults) and hatch adorable baby versions of them they can ride around maps as mounts. These wyverns can also be used to solve environmental puzzles, with each Wyvern having unique abilities like the Nargacuga’s stealth. Battles occur in a turn-based format, with a rudimentary rock-paper-scissors dynamic behind your attacks. It’s a fun set-up and a cute take on Monster Hunter. This being a remake, fans can look forward to improved graphics and the addition of full voice acting. There will also be a wealth of in-game bonus material, like an in-game art book featuring development art and an in-game soundtrack. Fans can look forward to it this summer, landing on Switch, PS4, and Steam.


We have a new Sword Art Online game coming, Fractured Daydream. I’m not horribly excited about this one! I reviewed the Alicization Lycoris port for the Switch two years ago, and it did nothing but frustrate me. It’s not very accessible for anyone who isn’t knee-deep in Sword Art Online lore, and the game did a pretty lousy job of introducing you to what would be an entertaining action combat system. I don’t have much faith in Fractured Daydream doing any better, especially if we’re talking about a Switch port. I do not count frames, but man, Alicization Lycoris was rough on the Switch. I’d love to be proven wrong because I did want to like Alicization Lycoris, but I think I’ll leave it to folks who already love Sword Art Online—and even then, I don’t think Sword Art Online fans like the games very much.

Okay, next up—

newtype

—it’s a Gundam!!!

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I need to be honest: I don’t know much about Gundam Breakers. I’ve never played ’em! But the concept is fun: assemble your own Gundam gunpla model and gun down waves of enemies to collect new parts to gain new weapons and skills while assembling your own custom Gundam. So it’s roundabouts the best Gundam Build Fighters game you could hope for while also working as an ersatz Custom Robo. (Alas, you will have to supply your own Rinko Iori.) A wide selection of Gundams are available for use, too: not just the mainline units like the Destiny, but “weirder” units like the SD Gundams. There is also a lot of buzz about this new game because this new Gundam Breaker Crafts and Meister is making it, the developers of the first three Gundam Breaker titles. According to my research, this is important because fans did not enjoy Gundam New Breaker. Hopefully, this is the course correction the series needs! Also, you know Bandai is sweetening the pot by offering an exclusive IRL Gunpla model as part of the Collector’s Edition of the game. This looks like it’s going to be a ton of fun, and fans will be encouraged to make absolute Gunda-bominations. Or, you know, make a Guntank and rush in while screaming “Woooooo~!” in honor of the belated Gundam Evolution.


Super Monkey Ball is back! Banana Rumble has the usual offerings of a bunch of adorable monkeys trapped in gachapon balls rolling around obstacle courses—but thanks to the Switch having a gyroscope, you can now use motion controls to tilt and tumble the stages once more! I can’t imagine any other way to play Super Monkey Ball. We also have a slew of new multiplayer modes to enjoy, with up to 16 simultaneous players. Folks can scramble to collect bananas or team up to bash into robots. It’s a wild, fun arcade blast, and I can see this being a fun addition to parties. Look forward to Super Monkey Ball: Banana Rumble on June 25.


I have a lot of affection for the Fantasy Life games, even though I’ve never played them. A lot of the groundwork for Level-5’s Fantasy Life seemingly came from Dragon Quest IX: Sentinels of the Starry Sky, where players could swap between classes at a moment’s notice while wandering the world and seeking reagents for alchemization. Fantasy Life i: The Girl Who Steals Time appears to follow in the wake of Animal Crossing; you find your way on a mysterious island, hopping between past and present as you collect resources and create facilities. Each “Life” (read: job) has an entirely different play style, with some jobs exclusively for fighting monsters and others exclusively for creating certain items. It’s a fun dynamic, and I think there’s a lot of room for it in this survival game-with-crafting-elements-burdened time. But we won’t see Fantasy Life i until October 10.


Suika Game was a pleasant surprise last year, a cute puzzle game about combining fruit that captured the imagination of streamers and VTubers everywhere. It’s a fun time and very addicting! We’ve had a Switch port for a while (and the game has gotten some cute DLC for Halloween and Christmas). And now we’re finally getting co-op! Folks can play three varieties of head-to-head now with paid DLC; however, it’s still couch co-op. We won’t get online co-op until some point in the future. But for now, the co-op DLC is available right now.


So, does anyone remember Pocket Card Jockey? It’s one of the few games GAME FREAK has made in the past couple of years that isn’t Pokémon—but it doesn’t seem very well-known. Initially released on the 3DS, Pocket Card Jockey was a horse racing sim disguised with Solitaire. Yeah, the card game. The cards don’t even have horses on ’em—but the cards are integral to your performance in the race, along with your horse’s stats. Pocket Card Jockey can get as deep as Pokémon does when it comes to the mechanics of breeding your horses. This remake is subtitled Ride On!. GAME FREAK originally released it on Apple Arcade in 2023, but you can now pick it up on the Switch!


Here’s one of the bigger drops of the Direct: Shin Megami Tensei V is getting a second bite at the apple! I liked Shin Megami Tensei V a ton, but other folks seemed relatively cool on it; a lot of people couldn’t deal with its “terrible” performance, but a lot of other folks felt like the story was “incomplete.” I’m not going to claim either of these aren’t valid criticisms, but my experience with SMT has taught me that these games tend to be relatively sparse on story to begin with. At any rate, we’re getting a remake for SMTV, subtitled Vengeance. For folks who break out in hives at any game that isn’t ten-billion FPS, rest assured that Vengeance is coming to PC, PS4, PS5, Steam, Xbox One, and Series X|S. More importantly, ATLUS is adding more demons, including a cute Nahobino-themed Jack Frost named “Nahohiho.” I love it. But also, there will be a brand new story route that you can select at the outset of the game with its unique story, focusing on a band of humans as they explore the Da’at wasteland with the Nahobino. Look forward to this one on June 21.

Folks have been a little frustrated with Shin Megami Tensei V: Vengeance because the updates aren’t a straight DLC—if you already have Shin Megami Tensei V, you’ll have to buy Vengeance as a separate game. Oh, and you can’t transfer your save file—about the most you can do is transfer three demons from your Compendium. It feels weird, but I’m convinced there is a complicated behind-the-scenes explanation as to why you can’t just transfer saves. I don’t quite see this as the nickel-and-diming that many other folks do, especially since Atlus is adding so much extra stuff to the game. If anything, I feel Atlus wouldn’t have bothered doing any of this if Shin Megami Tensei wasn’t already successful. Most studios don’t dump money into games that aren’t making them money.


The real surprise of the Direct was this last announcement. Nintendo has been on a roll announcing the return of old, long-forgotten titles from their old “Blue Ocean” days. This last announcement is the return of another Nintendo cult classic from that era, Endless Ocean. Nintendo and Arika intended for the original Endless Ocean to be a high-profile release for the Wii, but this was the time when people despised so-called “casual games.” With no explosions or “lose” state, most folks overlooked Endless Ocean—and missed out on a delightfully relaxing experience, letting players explore lovely undersea areas while interacting with marine life. This remake, Endless Ocean: Luminous, lets players explore the Veiled Sea while cataloging over 500 marine animals—including prehistoric creatures like the freaking anomalocaris. If it were just all that set to Hayley Westenra’s music, we’d be on board—especially since I think folks are much more open to experiences like Endless Ocean. This is basically Subnautica without the crafting, which I imagine many folks would appreciate. But on top of everything mentioned, Endless Ocean: Luminous will also feature co-op with up to 30 scuba divers simultaneously!

This kind of experience will either appeal to you or won’t, but I’m excited. Who knows what else we’ll see brought back from Nintendo? We might get a new Hotel Dusk at this rate! But I’ll say this: Hotel Dusk won’t make the Game Grumps carry out an interpretive dance set to Hayley Westenra’s “Prayer.”

And that’s the Direct. I could bring up the Mother 3 thing—but this one’s on Mother fans. Folks barely handled Bridget’s new development in Guilty Gear Strive; why does anyone think Nintendo wants to get themselves into the tempest in a teapot that would be handling the Magypsies? Usually, I’m sympathetic towards folks holding out hope for a sequel—but Mother 3 fans have had alternatives for years and years now. It’s one thing to be that person holding out for a new Bonanza Bros, but there isn’t a new Bonanza Bros available to play in the first place. But if a Mother 3 fan hasn’t played Mother 3 yet, that’s on them.


Elden Ring DLC Finally Revealed

It’s a big week for game reveals! On top of the Nintendo Partners Direct, FromSoftware released a trailer for the much-anticipated Elden Ring DLC. We all know that FromSoft fans are a particular kind of dedicated, and they were frustrated at having to wait two years from the original announcement to see this DLC arrive. But FromSoft never lets their time go to waste; folks walked away from the reveal of Shadow of the Erdtree with nothing but excitement.


Alright, so I’m not VaatiVidya—I just watch his videos (and I have one of his hoodies because I love his take on Vaati from Minish Cap). So bear with me while I try to make heads or tails of this video. But anyone who remembers the boss Malenia will know of her brother, Miquela, who is just a withered corpse of a person in a makeshift egg courtesy of the Lord of Blood trying to forcibly turn him into a Demi-God. But Miquela nevertheless has powers of his own, being an Empyrean. After all, he’s in a cocoon because he’s trying to use his powers to purge the Scarlet Rot from Malenia. And even if his arm is hanging limp from the cocoon, it’s not because Miquela is dead—as it turns out, his soul is in another realm. This is the realm of the Shadow of the Erdetree, wherein the Tarnished will encounter all kinds of creepy new monsters, including a gross leech dude, a boss that reminds me of a monstrous Chinese parade lion, and the elusive Messmer.

In an interview with IGN, Hidetaka Miyazaki claims that the new DLC will be about as big as Limgrave is in the main game. The DLC trailer also hints at a ton of new stuff—most interestingly, new combat tools. We see characters fighting with fanciful hand-to-hand combat, which I’d hope would mean we have a “monk”https://www.animenewsnetwork.com/”martial artist” class, but it is likely just a specific move set for a new weapon. We also see some interesting new swords and what looks like a cool crossbow weapon.

Past that, I lack the insight into FromSoft lore to be able to decode this trailer any further. I leave that to the experts. The rest of us can look forward to Shadows of the Erdtree releasing this July 21. If you’re so inclined, there’s a Collector’s Edition for it, which includes a 40-page art book and a fancy statue of Messmer.

Let’s wrap up with some quick tidbits

  • Did you enjoy Pokémon Concierge? Good news—they’re hard at work making new episodes!
  • Remember Medabots? It’s still got a mobile app over in Japan—and it’s going to feature a Mega Man X crossover! Medarot S players can look forward to getting new Medabot models based on X, Zero, Vava (that’s what they call ‘Vile’ in Japan), and Sigma.
  • That’ll do it for this week. While I have people’s attention, I’d like to direct folks to my colleague Patricia’s great column on adventure games. I’ve talked a lot about how great it is that Another Code and other adventure games are being re-evaluated in this day and age—but also, I missed out on Trace Memory when it was first released. It’s great to hear from folks with more of an on-the-floor view of these games. It’s insightful stuff; I hope you guys show them lots of support. In the meantime: 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.



    Disclosure: Bandai Namco Filmworks Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Bandai Namco Holdings Inc., is a non-controlling, minority shareholder in Anime News Network Inc.





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