How Zygarde Got His Game – This Week in Games


Welcome back, folks! It’s been a fun week on my end; some good stuff came in the mail (I finally have a nice copy of the Valis collection). I still really want that one LGR physical edition of VA-11 Hall-A; it sure would be nice to find one at not-price-gouge-y prices. I also need Luminous Avenger iX to complete my Gunvolt collection. Also, I completely forgot as of last week’s column, but my review for the newest Shiren the Wanderer came out last week! The Mystery Dungeon of Serpentcoil Island is a great game. Bit of a shame that we’re in such a deluge of great RPGs because Shiren the Wanderer makes for a phenomenal also-ran when you need a break from Persona 3 Reload or Like A Dragon: Infinite Wealth. If folks are curious to try a Mystery Dungeon game, and you’re not feeling the Pokémon-themed Rescue Team DX one, hey, look no further. This isn’t a “prepare to die” scenario; it’s a “it’ll always be there when you want to take a stroll”-scenario.

This is…

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Sweet Home Film Restored By Fan Efforts

It’s not often that a video game based on a licensed property becomes a big deal. While many of the biggest games today are licensed deals, like Dragon Ball FighterZ, it used to be that a licensed game was the kiss of death. The few that were good were really good—but they were few and far between. Goldeneye, Ecks Vs Sever, Little Nemo: The Dream Master… you probably know a bunch of these. You might have also heard of Sweet Home. And if you haven’t: Sweet Home was a Japanese horror film from 1989 (it’s as old as me, cool!). The film was the story of five people making a documentary about an obscure artist whose life was shrouded in mystery; going to his old mansion and studying the remaining frescoes, they find a lot of spooky things happening, all surrounding the artist’s wife…

Sweet Home is better known for its video game adaptation: an RPG released exclusively on Famicom. Given its unique rules, Sweet Home is also considered the grandfather of survival-horror games. You have five characters, all of whom have a unique ability to solve puzzles (using a lighter to burn things, using a camera to take photos of frescoes, etc.). You can split these five characters into two parties, swapping between them as you wander around solving the mansion. You can gather hints of the truth of the mansion’s tragedy from the frescoes while being attacked by bisected zombies and creepy worms in random battles. While it’s possible to call for a rescue in a fight, giving the other party a chance to rush to your location and support you in battle, it’s best to keep the parties divided as some traps require two parties to save each other. Also, the game has stringent rules on health. You can only regain health from leveling up or using a health potion (that thankfully restores everyone to full health). But there are only so many potions in-game, littered throughout the mansion. You could go a long stretch without any backup if you’re not careful. And once a party member dies, they’re dead—no resurrection. The ending even changes depending on how many survivors leave the mansion. Sweet Home was a significant inspiration to CAPCOM‘s developers later in the 1990s, particularly Shinji Mikami while he was working on the original Resident Evil. Now, Sweet Home was never licensed for release in the US—it was never going to fly on a pre-Mortal Kombat NES, with its gore or horrific death scenes. Also, it was an RPG: those were an even bigger risk at the time, especially since localizing them took so much effort for such an uncertain market.


The good news is that fans have enjoyed Sweet Home in the US courtesy of fan-based efforts to translate the game, so you don’t have to bug Nintendo every Direct for it to be released in the US. The bad news is that the original movie was never released in the US. It’s a shame: 1980s Japanese special effects hit different, man. For special effects connoisseurs, Sweet Home features the works of noted special effects artist Dick Smith, best known for his work on Scanners and The Exorcist. Also, the soundtrack was composed by Masaya Matsuura, who would later go on to create Parappa The Rapper It’s the kind of shock flick Media Blasters would have licensed alongside Tokyo Gore Police or Alien Vs Ninja back in the day. But alas, the movie fell out of circulation: Sweet Home was never re-printed following its 1989 VHS and Laserdisc releases. Why? Well, best as I can find (courtesy of Land of Obscusion), an old lawsuit between TOHO (the studio that released the film) and its director Kiyoshi Kurosawa might be at fault. The reasons behind the lawsuit are a mystery, but ultimately, TOHO wasn’t in a hurry to re-release a movie they got sued over, even if they won the case. Hence, there are no re-releases after the Laserdisc and no licensing in the US.

… But here at This Week in Games, we like talking about RPGs, Izuna: Legend of the Unemployed Ninja, and tiny miracles. So good news for horror aficionados who wanna trace the roots of the Resident Evil series: there’s a new cobbled-together remaster of Sweet Home floating around, as a result of fan efforts! This isn’t the first time that Sweet Home has been distributed or remastered by fans, but it’s the first time it looks this good; the old copy floating around the Internet was based on a very-poor-quality VHS rip (and the subtitles weren’t much better). This new copy resulted from stitching together footage from three different Laserdiscs, complete with a brand new fansub. I haven’t had a chance to watch it yet (this column takes up a lot of my time), but I’m glad to see restorative efforts for obscure media like these. As that guy on “The Satellite of Love” once begged his viewers, the best way to keep this media alive is to “keep circulating the tapes!”. The Powers That Be will always let these kinds of projects fall through the cracks, even in the best scenarios where they didn’t get caught in a lawsuit. I wouldn’t call Sweet Home “lost media” (because I know what words mean), but it’s good that a better-quality version of the film is now available for folks. Who knows, you could have a nice horror marathon between Sweet Home and the borderline-experimental Resident Evil films!


Sony Takes An Axe To Its Workforce…

It never stops being infuriating to cover these kinds of stories. Even with massive mainstream successes like Spider-Man 2 on PS5, Sony still found it necessary to lay off 900 employees worldwide. This includes drastic and unnecessary measures like outright shutting down its London branch and laying off employees from studios like Insomniac, Naughty Dog, and Guerilla.

For once, people on social media are also getting quite sick and tired of this. Bad enough that industry clowns like Geoff Keighley keep mum about the decimation of the industry (don’t worry folks, Game Scent is coming!). It’s also laid bare the horrendous state of the job industry in the United States. While the layoffs are affecting many Sony employees abroad, many of these employees have some kind of safety net including next-career support programs. Employees in the US live in fear of that email coming in that upends their entire lives.

It’s also becoming more evident how detrimental all these layoffs are for the industry. For folks who “just want games to be good,” these layoffs get right in the way. Folks will remember Sony‘s PlayStation VR 2 add-on. They’ll note that Sony‘s London station, which they now closed, was one of the major studios producing VR games for that add-on. They’ll also note that Insomniac and Naughty Dog are practically household names in the gaming world, with their games being both major successes and lightning rods for the consumer base.

As always, it’s evident that these layoffs result from greed, not need. Video games are making more money than ever and boasting sales figures like never before—and yet studios still report losses and require mass layoffs to remain solvent. It’s like Nintendo is the only publisher recognizing that not using the latest tech might be needed to keep afloat. These layoffs also result in horrible working conditions at studios: leadership and teams are ever-shifting. Last year’s Super Mario Wonder was such a success because Nintendo has senior staff that can help train the newer employees.

At the current rate of going, 2024 is just about to surpass 2023’s 10,000 layoffs—and March has only just started (by the time this column goes live). Things will get worse before they get better. It’s on us to make sure devs are adequately supported.

… And Nintendo Also Decides To Be Crappy And Sue Emulator Creator

Aw, god dammit, Nintendo!

So, like, Nintendo may not be shitty to its employees the way other studios might be (especially since contractors are the ones who get it the worst), and they’re the last bastion of mid-budget gaming in general. And while I don’t feel sorry for folks who decide to poke the dragon and announce to the world their shiny new Metroid fangame, or Team Xecutor for that matter, Nintendo‘s heavy-handed approach to ROMs and emulation is a major knife in the industry’s back. Just earlier, we showed how fan efforts are what is keeping Sweet Home available to fans in the US; Nintendo would rather folks not have any access to Fire Emblem Fates‘s Revelations path. So it goes that Nintendo has decided to take legal action against the creators of the Yuzu emulator.

Okay, so let me get something out of the way: Yuzu’s devs are absolute numbskulls for having a bloody Patreon up to fund their development of an emulator. These guys painted the target on their backs. Congratulations on the Darwin Award. But this case is also scary, not the least because Nintendo really wants to shut down emulation, and this case going to court could give them a foot in the door to do it. Their case has several weird and puzzling claims, like how the leaking of games like Tears of the Kingdom led to folks “getting spoiled about it online” (another reason to take “Spoiler Culture” out behind the shed). But the other primary concern they’re citing is the ability to play older Nintendo games; rumors abound that the Switch’s successor will feature backward compatibility with enhanced performance, giving Nintendo a reason to be leery of an illegitimate competitor.

The other factor is that the Yuzu emulator perfectly emulates Switch games while the Switch is still available. With the Switch so easily “cracked,” Nintendo could be at risk with the Switch 2. But emulation is also very important to these games’ longevity once Nintendo abandons their old consoles. There are a lot of games available on Nintendo Switch Online. However, we’re still only up to the Nintendo 64 in terms of console availability—and even then, only a handful of releases are on the service. When it comes to more obscure fare like, I don’t know, the Nintendo 64 Beast Wars game or Buck Bumble, you’re pretty much SOL. Even if I were to go out and purchase an old copy of Fire Emblem Awakening or Fire Emblem Fates, anything on the DLC is out of my reach—those games are effectively incomplete. Fun fact: you can’t unlock Falcon Knights in Fire Emblem: Shadow Dragon because you could only buy those via a special shop available through the now-defunct Nintendo DS WiFi channel. It didn’t even cost real money, just in-game gold.

Many folks point out that Nintendo doesn’t have a case in this matter; they point to the battle between Sony and Bleem!, a commercial emulator that allowed users to play PlayStation games on PC. Bleem! won their suits against Sony, with emulation gaining legal protection (even though the legal fees drove Bleem! out of business). Of course, all it takes is one case to set a precedent—and with emulation gone, there’s a good chance that decades’ worth of old and abandoned games would be lost.

There will always be bad-faith types who insist that piracy “is a service issue, not a cost issue,” only to never really put a cent towards anything. But Nintendo puts out a good product, and their consoles are a good value. Man, you don’t gotta be like this and put game archival at risk. Yuzu gets a wag of the finger from me because why the heck are you charging money for stuff from Nintendo (also, there are claims they were breaking street date with Nintendo releases—really smart of these mental giants). But as a good friend put it, Yuzu’s a big fish in the aquarium, and if they go down, the whole fishbowl goes with them. We’ll keep you posted on further updates.

Pokémon Presents, February 2024

So, real talk: I hate “nerd holidays.” I’m one of those folks who hates how “May Fourth” has become a “thing.” I don’t mind Pokémon Day as much because, at the very least, it’s just the anniversary of the release of the original Pokémon Red/Green games. But also, The Pokémon Company International takes that day to announce big stuff for the franchise. People will gripe and bellyache about Pokémon, but at the very least, it’s not to the same extent as Star Wars, where I genuinely think more people enjoy complaining about the series than just enjoying it like a healthy person would.

At the very least, we can say this: this year’s Pokémon Presents stream was very reserved, which has folks happy. Yes, that means that there won’t be any new Pokémon games in the immediate future (that we know of), but that also means that we’re still a long way out from any “tenth generation” for Pokémon. And a lot of people are happy about this! The biggest takeaway from the Pokémon fandom is that the games are coming out entirely too quickly, and a single year is not enough time for the games to shine. Look no further than Scarlet/Violet; the games do have a ton of great ideas, but they’re executed pretty poorly on a game that just doesn’t run well. Even TPCI’s COO, Takato Utsunomiya, agreed that something’s got to give when it comes to how new titles are produced. So while there isn’t anything huge planned this year for Pokémon (again: yet), fans are glad that whatever new developments are coming down the pipe are at least pushed back until at least 2025.

So, let’s get some minutiae out of the way: there are going to be a series of Tera Raids in Scarlet/Violet for the next few weeks wherein players will be able to get Tera-versions of Venusaur, Charizard, and Blastoise. Pokémon Go is going to collaborate with the Pokémon: Horizons: starting on March 5, trainers can find Captain Hat Pikachu (who will come with the unique Volt Tackle move) and their snapshots can have filters featuring Liko and Roy from Pokémon: Horizons.

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Pokémon Sleep will get an update in March featuring the Johto legendary trio: the… dogs? People call them “dogs,” but they seem more cat-like to me. Anyway, it’s the trio of Entei, Suicune, and Raikou; Raikou comes first, with the other two following soon after. At the time of writing, Geeta and Glimmora will have joined Pokémon Masters EX (their event started February 28). Silver and Tyranitar will join on March 1, along with special-edition versions of Lusamine and her kids Lilie and Galadion. Also, a photo creator mode is finally coming if you want to make cute shipping photos of Skyla and Elesa. Gimmighoul, Koraidon, and Miraidon are coming soon to Pokémon Café. Miraidon, Falinks, and Ceruledge are slated to join the Pokémon Unite roster.

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Okay, so that leaves the bigger reveals! First up is one that excites me: Pokémon Trading Card Game Pocket. Not to be confused with the Pokémon Trading Card Game game that was made for the GameBoy back in the day: this is a new app developed between TPCI, Creatures (creators of the Pokémon Trading Card Game), and DeNA (who help with Pokémon Masters EX). The idea is simple: Pokémon Trading Card Game Pocket will be a mobile app wherein players regularly receive two free card packs daily. You’ll simulate the experience of opening a pack and shuffling through the cards, which will be assorted into a virtual collection the game cheekily refers to as a “binder.” From there, you can appreciate the card artwork, trade cards with other users, and even play a simplified card game version. The real draw is the artwork: players can enjoy full-screen cinematics featuring the card artwork.

I like this on a lot of levels. The Pokémon Trading Card Game was something of a rite of passage for younger Pokémon fans, and everyone had a binder of their favorites. Getting cards is a lot harder these days, no thanks to speculators trying to turn a profit and making off with every pack at a local Target (these folks never heard the wisdom of good ol’ Dan Larson: “If you see two, take one and leave one for the next guy!”). Also, folks will pay space-bucks to get a digital version of the old Charizard holo-foil card (you know, the one). On the one hand, folks can passively collect cards courtesy of the two free daily packs or whale if they want the rarer ones. Conversely, this makes it easier to get into the Pokémon Trading Card Game without worrying about complicated rule sets or set rotation. Any good card game nowadays needs a mobile counterpart because it can help younger players get into the game. Pokémon had the PTCG on GameBoy, YuGiOh had tons of games on GameBoy, GameBoy Advance and Nintendo DS, along with the current Master Duel and Duel Links apps, and even Magic: The Gathering has the Arena app.

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But the other key aspect is the artwork. The PTCG has always been esteemed for the phenomenal artwork used on its cards—even the relatively common cards have cute and charming artwork displaying all sorts of Pokémon in various styles. My favorites include the cart art by Yuka Morii, who has depicted Pokémon as charming little clay models photographed in real locations for years. I also like Miki Tanaka, who, in addition to hundreds of other cards, drew the legendary (and hilarious) art of Fossil-set Slowpoke in an endless green prairie. Being able to interact with the card art is a great plus. I don’t know if all of the cards, commons, and what-not will feature the full cinematics… but it would be nice if they did. Don’t you want to hang out with Slowpoke in an endless green prairie? Some say he’s still standing there, yawning to this very day…

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The final announcement has fans (and myself) excited: a new Pokémon Legends spin-off! The previous Pokémon Legends was well-received by many, as well as the alternate glimpse at the Sinnoh region in its antiquity (back when it was named “Hisui”). Fans also enjoyed seeing the ancestors of later Pokémon characters, as well as unique Hisuian forms of beloved Pokémon like Typhlosion and Voltorb. And many were disappointed that Scarlet/Violet didn’t take more cues from Legends.

So, a couple of things about this new Legends game! First, it’s set in the Kalos region—specifically, the Paris-inspired Lumiose City. This decision is very appreciated by many fans: Pokémon X/Y felt unrealized and underwhelming as games. And following up on the open-world aspect of the Legends games, it’ll be fun to see a bustling metropolis in the world of Pokémon. The other aspect is the time frame: this version of Lumiose will be set in the past. While there are some techy 3D features in the trailer, it’s all going off of a series of schematics—what the trailer calls Lumiose City’s Urban Redevelopment Plan. Going back to how Lumiose City is based on Paris, this could mean that cues will be taken from Paris’s reconstruction era: in the wake of WW2 and the 1960s when Paris was being rebuilt. This was an era of rebirth for Paris, leading to a lot of great art and fashion. Some trendy 1960s inspirations in a Pokémon game could be great—and hey, we might see one of Looker’s ancestors!

Now, remember when I said that X/Y felt “unfinished”? Part of that is because it never got any follow-up—no updated re-release in the style of Pokémon Crystal or Pokémon Platinum, no “sequel” in the style of Pokémon Black 2/White 2 or Ultra Sun/Ultra Moon. We went right from X/Y to Omega Ruby/Alpha Sapphire, leaving Kalos with a lot of great ideas but not a lot of execution. This also left one of Kalos’ legendary Pokémon in the lurch: Zygarde. With Yveltal and Xerneas representing “X” and “Y,” Zygarde was meant to represent “Z.” There’s even a gimmick with Zygarde which could have been used for a whole game: Zygarde is a Pokémon composed of 100 cells, and the more of his cells you find, the stronger he becomes, with the Pokémon gaining new forms at 10% (a dog-like forme), 50% (his traditional “Z”-serpent forme) and 100% (his humanoid forme). This wasn’t implemented until Pokémon Sun/Moon, where Zygard and his sidequest were there… but had no real connection to anything else going on in the Alola region. No more: the new Legends game is titled “Z-A,” implying that not only is Arceus going to be involved once more, but finally giving Zygarde his long-awaited time in the spotlight.

Oh, and Mega-evolutions are back. The Gen VI Pokémon games introduced Mega Evolutions: powerful temporary forms Pokémon could attain during battles, assuming they had found the right Evo-stone. Mega Evolutions granted several older Pokémon some much-needed buffs while giving other overused Pokémon even more reasons to be overpowered. And then Charizard got two Mega Evolutions because Reasons™. Anyway, the Pokémon games only used Mega Evolutions as a central gimmick for the duration of the Gen VI games; the Alola region kept them as an option in the post-game but focused on Z-moves instead (big limit break-style attacks). Then the Galar region introduced Dynamax, the ability to make any Pokémon Ultraman-sized (they even did the Ultra-style “rise”), along with certain Pokémon attaining unique Gigantomax forms. And now we are with Paldea with Terastralizing, where Pokémon turn into giant glass statues of varying types.

People got attached to Mega Evolutions for some reason, but I can see why GAME FREAK stopped using them. Frankly, Mega Evolutions were busted. One well-placed Mega Pokémon could tank your opponent’s party (my Mega Scizor could take fire-type attacks to the face and keep on kicking). Mega Pokémon also had unique Hidden Abilities that could make them even stronger. And once a Pokémon Mega Evolved, it would stay that way for the whole fight. Z Moves were comparatively useless because of their single-use nature. Dynamax was a good stand-in for Mega Evolution: it kept the idea alive and restricted it to three turns. Because, see, Ultraman can only stay giant-sized for three minutes, and Pokémon has always been Ultraman, see? But also, it was a suitable balancing mechanism: you can’t just ride one Dynamax to victory. Then Terastralizing came around and gave even more versatility because Pokémon can change their whole typing through Terastralizing, which can come in clutch at the right moment.


All this is to say that bringing Mega Evolutions back is unnecessary. Sure, it’s Kalos’ “gimmick,” so they might as well, but the Pokémon games have honestly touched on better gimmicks since (Z Moves notwithstanding). And really, there are only so many Pokémon that can Mega Evolve. There will surely be a slew of new Mega Evolutions for Legends Z-A, but I’d rather see more unique Kalosian forms.

Because folks love making Pepe Silvia boards, some things about the Legends Z-A trailer has folks buzzing. First, it mentioned its “simultaneous worldwide release” on the “Nintendo Switch family of consoles.” Legends Z-A is scheduled for release in 2025. Folks are looking to that 2025 date to mean that Legends Z-A will be a launch title for the Switch 2. I think folks need to stop reading too deeply into things. For one thing, Pokémon games have had “simultaneous worldwide releases” since—ironically enough—Pokémon X/Y. It’s just how they do things: it helps prevent spoilers, and it helps the worldwide fanbase together. So worldwide launches are just business as usual for Pokémon. Folks have also latched onto the “launching on the Nintendo Switch family” bit… but again, this is people reading too deeply into things: Nintendo has been referring to the Switch OLED, Nintendo Switch, and Nintendo Switch Light as the “Nintendo Switch Family” since Sword/Shield.

The Switch 2 is the worst-kept secret, but until the Big N says what the Switch’s successor will do, all of the “reported” updates from pundits, insiders, and leakers are just hot gas. We don’t even know if the Switch’s successor will actually be called “Switch 2”. A Pokémon Legends game would make for a phenomenal launch title for a new console, but also, let’s get a hands-on look at that console before we whip ourselves into a frenzy about what it is or isn’t. Remember, we have years of “Switch Pro” claims worth bupkis.

Those are the major takeaways from Pokémon Day! GAME FREAK is taking its time, and a new game is slowly being worked on… things are looking good, I think!

Let’s wrap up with some quick tidbits

  • Sword Art Online: Last Recollection is getting a new DLC character in the form of VTuber and Sword Art Online-megafan Minato Aqua! She’ll be part of the Version 1.15 patch, due out on March 7.
  • Move over, Catboy Jerma! Nissin has unleashed Fox-boy Sephiroth… and he wants to bring Cloud instant Donbei udon. The sodium will never be a memory.
  • Good news, Gundam fans! Gundam Breaker 4 is slated to feature English voicework featuring veteran Gundam voice actors! No news yet on who this includes; the new cast for Gundam Seed seems pretty likely, but I’m holding out for some of the old Ocean Studios crew…
  • Arc System Works is gearing up for the Arc World Tour Finals this March 21-23—and they’ve announced that a new mystery DLC character will be playable at the venue. Look forward to further updates…
  • Spread the word: as of February 29, Dragon Ball FighterZ is now on PS5 and Xbox Series X|S—with rollback netcode.
  • Sting’s seminal RPG (and originator of the Dept. Heaven games) Riviera: The Promised Land is now on Nintendo Switch! The Switch remaster just released in Japan earlier this week. No word on a US release—yet. If we got Yggdra Union, then it ought to just be a matter of time…
  • That’ll do it for this week, I think. With Final Fantasy VII Rebirth on the horizon, I hope folks are getting enough sleep between the RPG grinding. I can’t stop folks from no-lifeing a game, but I can hope they don’t put their health at risk. And while you’re at it, spare a moment for the developers getting laid off. Many people work hard on the games we enjoy; they deserve better treatment for their hard work. It falls to us if their employers can’t and won’t do it. Be good to each other, I’ll see you in seven.


    This Week In Games! is written from idyllic Portland by Jean-Karlo Lemus. When not collaborating with Anime News Network, Jean-Karlo can be found playing JRPGs, eating popcorn, watching v-tubers and tokusatsu. You can keep up with him at @mouse_inhouse or @ventcard.bsky.social.






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