Dragon’s Dogma 2 and an Interview with SAND LAND Producer Keishu Minami – This Week in Games


Welcome back, folks! It’s a busy Spring, and I know folks are likely neck-deep in Dragon’s Dogma 2. But someone on Twitter went and reminded me that Touch Detective 3 + The Complete Case Files is out now on Nintendo eShop! It’s a shame it was seemingly tossed out the window; there doesn’t seem to have been much marketing for the game. It’s a tough time to be a smaller game getting released; hopefully, folks who need a break from Dragon’s Dogma (or other big RPGs) give it a look, it’s a great mystery series.

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Art by Catfish

Dragon’s Dogma 2 DLC Brings Lots of Grief

I want to preface this with a stern request to my readers: don’t go harassing people. I don’t care what kind of take they have, just ignore them and move on. You don’t have anything to prove. If you spend any amount of time around me I’m sure you’ll find me spouting some kind of ridiculous take (I sent a Discord acquaintance into a fit because I pointed out I preferred Vampire Survivors to Starfield). I ask you guys to be good to each other. I’d like to think you can do that.

It’s pretty astounding that Dragon’s Dogma 2 has been released to the widespread acclaim that it has. The original game languished in Skyrim‘s shadow back in 2012–partly because Skyrim was that big of a hit even one year out from release, but also because Dragon’s Dogma was pretty unfinished. And not unfinished in the “Bethesda” way where people excuse it all because the game is just so big, Dragon’s Dogma had a lot of jank to it. There were a lot of brilliant systems in Dragon’s Dogma, but you had to work to see the brilliance behind it and forgive bugs or errors that didn’t make for silly water-cooler talk. This is why so many people were so gosh-darn loyal to Dragon’s Dogma for so long: it was a phenomenal example of a game that could’ve been better if it just had one more chance. And then it got that chance, the vision was properly realized and folks could finally appreciate that vision… and then the vision got mired in tons of discourse.

Folks are rightfully complaining about how badly Dragon’s Dogma 2 is running on even top-of-the-line rigs. Fair’s fair: folks shouldn’t need a mortgage to run the latest games. The politics of a game running well at launch are beyond me, though. There’s a ton that goes into that and there are likely a ton of things that happen behind the scenes that I’m not privy to. So I’m not gonna touch on Dragon’s Dogma 2‘s performance at launch. For what it’s worth, it can only improve (though CAPCOM really should have known better than using Denuvo, that certainly doesn’t help matters).

The real issue with Dragon’s Dogma 2 was that it was launched with microtransactions! And they’re not even fancy outfit components, which would’ve made sense for a single-player game—the microtransactions were for collections of single-use items. These include Wakestones, needed for reviving dead characters; Riftstones, used as in-game currency for Pawns and the like; Harpy Lures, used to draw Harpies that can carry you higher; a Portcrystal, which is used to set a single destination as a target for teleporting Ferrycrystals; and items for changing your characters’ appearance.

Single-player games having microtransactions for in-game consumables isn’t new—I remember frowning years ago upon reading in the pages of Electronic Gaming Monthly that Tales of Vesperia would let players pay for sets of synthesis components or free level-ups. And a lot of CAPCOM‘s other single-player games have featured similar DLC, including Devil May Cry 5 and the latter-day Resident Evil games.

Does this justify their use? No, not in the least bit–I’ve been pretty against the idea of microtransactions since I first set eyes upon that god-awful set of horse armor ages ago. But I echo the sentiments of a lot of other people in that it’s weird that Dragon’s Dogma 2 was the tipping point for folks after all this time. Especially since, as many have pointed out, all of these are items you can find in-game without too much struggle. They’re certainly at a premium at the beginning but based on players feedback, you’ll eventually get way more of the DLC items than you even buy from the DLC itself.

Of course, not helping matters is that Dragon’s Dogma 2 is very particular with its mechanics. Specifically: the fast-travel. This was the real sticking point for some pundits. There’s a belief that mechanics in games can occasionally be worsened as a motivator for players to buy DLC to “skip the grind”. Things like items to help speed up grinding for ranks in games. The belief is that developers are intentionally making the actual gameplay a slog to sell players the solution. I don’t know enough about game design or game developers to weigh in on that; I know we all (rightfully) dunked on EA for that “pride and accomplishment” garbage back in 2017, especially considering how long it would take folks to unlock a character like Darth Vader in Star Wars: Battlefront. And it’s not like a game developer wouldn’t sell items for skipping straight to max level in an MMORPG (though even diehard MMO fans would point out that those items are for suckers). But the argument made by some is that the traveling in Dragon’s Dogma 2 was inherently “sabotaged” or made a chore to encourage fans to buy fast-travel DLC.

So… a couple of problems with this. The first problem: there isn’t any DLC that grants fast travel. The most you get is an extra waypoint for your Ferrystones. The second problem: Dragon’s Dogma 2‘s director Hideaki Itsuno was very upfront in his intention behind de-emphasizing fast-travel in Dragon’s Dogma. “Travel is boring? That’s not true. It’s only an issue because your game is boring. All you have to do is make travel fun,” Itsuno is quoted as saying. Ignoring how I feel about that statement (for the record, I agree with him), it’s clear that Itsuno and company had a specific vision for traveling in Dragon’s Dogma 2, having to navigate the land and potentially risk the dangers of traveling at night. Of course, if there was some ulterior motive, then they wouldn’t have any reason to tell us, but I’m inclined to take Itsuno at his word. Itsuno looked at an issue a lot of open-world games have (maps that get laborious to travel through) and looked for ways to make sure that getting from point “A” to point “B” is never boring—making people want to hoof it on foot. Your random encounters won’t just be measly wolves or crabs coming to nip at your heels; it’ll be roving gangs of goblins that’ll give you ample opportunity to teach Pawns the joys of defenestration.

Things like these are why I never write stuff about games from the perspective of “consumer rights”. Regardless of how you feel about the “games as art” argument, there’s no denying that there’s a lot of intention behind the many decisions that go into a game’s design. Are they just as likely to be fueled by monetary desires? Sure! But sometimes decisions that people consider adversarial to the player are a feature, not a bug. Etrian Odyssey gives you nothing but blank slates to serve as your party members, because director Kazuya Niinou wanted players to imagine the lives of their party members on their own. Similarly, boiling game design down to “what the fans/consumers want can bog folks down with a lot of garbage. “Giving fans what they want” is how we got a video game generation dominated by yellow-filtered military shooters. But nobody asked for a massive monster-collecting RPG on the Game Boy. Nobody asked for an action-RPG spin-off to Drakengard. It’s valid to dislike a decision in a game, but it’s kinda crappy to boil it down to devs being lazy or greedy.

Hopefully, the blowback was enough to make CAPCOM sweat a little under their collar and realize that single-player games don’t need microtransactions for single-use items. But also, hopefully, folks can get a clue and engage with video games in good faith. For what it’s worth: CAPCOM is working on fixing up Dragon’s Dogma 2‘s performance issues.

Early-2000s Bishoujo Game To Be Remade: Carnelian Brings Back Kao No Nai Tsuki

So here’s a bit of Jean-Karlo lore: my first column with Anime News Network was for This Week in Anime, back when we covered the Yami to Boushi to Hon no Tabibito anime. It was a slam-dunk: it was a slow week, there wasn’t much else going on, and the Yamibō anime had been released on a streaming platform. Also, I’m a huge fan of Carnelian, the artist behind the Yamibō Bishoujo game—so much so that well into my tenure as a writer for this column, I filled in for a column to help Chris cover the Touka Gettan adaptation. I’m a really big fan of Carnelian’s stuff if you haven’t noticed–heck, my first paycheck with ANN went to importing some anniversary goodies Carnelian was releasing at the time. And it all ties back to the early-00 Bishoujo visual novel, Kao no Nai Tsuki, which folks in America might know better as Moonlight Lady.

At the time, the artist Carnelian was working on several VNs, some of them even getting animated adaptations. The one that we’ll likely never cover in This Week in Anime, Kao no Nai Tsuki, was given an H-OVA adaptation—but it’s what got me into Carnelian’s work in the first place. Being an early-00s VN you’d be pretty justified in thinking it’s been abandoned to the realm of boomer VNs, remembered only by old weebs pining for the days when Bishoujo games were the source du jour for half-assed anime adaptations… but then Carnelian decided, “Hey, it’s been a quarter of a century, it’s not to late to get back in the saddle!” So here we are!

Carnelian’s proper return to visual novels was announced with Tokyo Gentou, which was revealed this past August. But last week Carnelian also revealed she and her team are working on a remake of Kao no Nai Tsuki, titled Kao no Nai Tsuki: Machiyoi no Futsubaki. There hasn’t been any word yet on the story, so we can presume that for the most part, it’ll be the same as the original game: young cynic Hayata finds himself at the manor of the Kuraki family, where supernatural shenanigans ensue.

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The ’00s were the era of some bishoujo games having at least some extent of decent scenarios or characterization. While there was no shortage of games that were boring harem set-ups (and these got a ton of forgettable animated adaptations), some were still pretty ambitious—2000 not only gave us the original Kao no Nai Tsuki, it also gave us Type-Moon‘s Lunar Legend Tsukihime. So sure, even if Kao no Nai Tsuki is still just Hayata going to a mansion and picking his paramour of choice, there’s still a ton of characterization to be had. And a lot of the cast goes wild. While the H-OVA only touched on some of the character backgrounds, there’s still enough meat on those bones to where you could have feasibly done like Touka Gettan or Yami Bo and just released the OVA as a work-safe series. Hayata himself is a good example: he’s a snide young man with prosopagnosia (face-blindness). His being able to see the faces of the women in the Kuraki mansion is the first step to everything. The paramours include a maid who might be a missing actress hiding behind the personality of a character she once played, the young priestess of the local shrine, or a handful of others. There’s even a designated boy’s love route option in the form of Io, the priestess’ swishy cousin. I don’t know how common “gay option” routes were in old Bishoujo games, but kudos to Carnelian and Root for including one.

While she could have stuck with just remastering the game with brand new CGs and called it a day, Carnelian revealed that the new Kao no Nai Tsuki game is going to be a visual novel with life sim elements. Hayata’s behavior towards the paramours affects the growth of camellias in the garden: decent, upstanding behavior grows the white camellias while being a lewd jerk grows the red ones. How far your actions fuel one or the other determines your ending.

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Are we likely to see the new Kao no Nai Tsuki game in the US? Not likely! The original never got released stateside and even the animated adaptations for its pseudo-sequels took a while to come to the US. (Not too long for Touka Gettan to reference the localized name for Kao no Nai Tsuki in the US, but I digress.) We live in a good time for adult VNs, what with MangaGamer and Shiravune putting in so much hard work to get them localized and released stateside. And it’s paid off: the Taimanin Asagi VN released on Steam last October, with other Taimanin games slated for US release. The WorkSafe versions of Lunar Legend Tsukihime and Fate/Stay Night are slated for American release. Even Witch on the Holy Night got a fairly high-profile release (though it’s likely because of the Type-Moon connection).

There’s an audience for those older Bishoujo games in the US, just as MangaGamer with their work on the Rance games. But circumstances being what they are, getting them released can be an issue, to say nothing of hosting them. I think there are enough old weebs in the fandom to merit releasing a lot of these old Bishoujo games, and we have platforms like DMM to facilitate it. Heck, make Media BlastersYara Naika happy: remaster Bible Black and release it on Steam. Who knows, maybe Fakku will help. But Kao no Nai Tsuki is such a specific thing that I don’t think I’ll be holding my breath for a US release. Carnelian reports that the new Kao no Nai Tsuki should be released sometime this winter.

Needless to say, I’m excited all the same. I’m lucky to live in times like these. A new Izuna game and Kao no Nai Tsuki getting a remake? Yeah, I think these are exciting times for me.

In Other Visual Novel News…

I try to shed as much light as I can on visual novels, if only because it’s such a misunderstood and under-covered subject in my circle. I’m no expert, but like I said: we’re in great times for VNs, and it’s best to spread the word. So here are a few quick bits of news for visual novel fans! Let’s start with the auspicious return of… la criatura.

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First up, Type-Moon. We were just talking about them! The hotly-anticipated Lunar Legend Tsukihime remake finally has a release date in the US: it’ll arrive on PS4 and Nintendo Switch this June 27th! Tsukihime has been the red-headed stepchild of Type-Moon‘s Nasuverse for a long time—not that I blame them, because jeez Fate/stay night made them money hand-over-fist and the Tsukihime anime adaptation was, uh, not good. I watched the Locomototion broadcast way back in 2007, dubbed in Spanish; the world and characters hooked me, but the story was still pretty dry. Set in a world of mages and vampires, young Shiki Tohno finds himself having to help the vampiress Arcueid Brunestud after, erm… following her home and cutting her up into 17 pieces.


Tsukihime nevertheless caught on and managed to set the stage for Fate/stay night, whetting appetites worldwide for Type-Moon‘s brand of urban fantasy and magical politicking. Tsukihime has plenty of twists and turns of its own—not the least of which being the machinations of the enigmatic Church or the order of Wizards. And you can read up on the wizards in the world of Tsukihime from its prequel, Witch on the Holy Night which I enjoyed reviewing two winters ago. This remake of the Tsukihime visual novel not only updates the twenty-year-old art from the original VN but also adds a few goodies… like the long-awaited (and memed-upon) route for hapless schoolgirl-turned-vampire Satsuki. Isn’t it great, Sacchin…?


Next up is SINce Memories: Off The Starry Sky. SINce Memories is the newest entry in the Memories Off series, a long and storied series of visual novels dating back to 1999’s Memories Off on the PS1. While much of the Memories Off series can be found on Steam, none of the games have been localized into English. SINce Memories would represent the first time one of the Memories Off games was actually made playable for an American audience. And it’s a great entry point too, since it takes place ten years after the main Memories Off games and doesn’t require any prior knowledge of the earlier games in the series. Taking place in a vague modern setting, the game centers around young Junya as he sets off to repair the dilapidated Hojo manor—while also delving into the mystery of his older brother’s death. The writers involved with the game include figures like Tsukasa Tsuchiya (writer of Anonymous;Code) and Hiro Akizuki (who collaborated on Fate/Zero).

Currently, SINce Memories: Off The Starry Sky doesn’t have a set release date in the US. While the trailer linked above is for the PS4 port, SINce Memories is also slated for a Nintendo Switch and Steam release.

Interview with SAND LAND Game Producer, Keishu Minami

This past March 14th, I had the pleasure of flying out to Orange County to visit Bandai Namco’s headquarters, for a special preview event for the upcoming SAND LAND video game. It was a fun trip but Akira Toriyama‘s untimely death did hang over the event. Many of my colleagues at the event (including former This Week in Games writer Heidi—Hi, Heidi!) were pretty gutted, since all of us had in some way or another grown up under Toriyama’s influence. Previewing SAND LAND now wasn’t just previewing a game based on one of Toriyama’s manga, it was now reviewing a game that served as part of an esteemed artist’s legacy. Keishu Minami, producer of the SAND LAND game, understands the importance of that legacy. We were lucky enough to sit down with him for a short interview.

What made the team want to expand on the SAND LAND world rather than focus on the manga’s existing stories?

Keishu Minami: “This was encouraged by Toriyama-sensei, so we decided to not only add to the story of SAND LAND but also add new features.”

Other action RPGs based on popular manga have struggled with pacing issues in the past. What about SAND LAND‘s gameplay do you feel will engage players more than other titles in past years?

KM: “We’ve focused on creating a game that users won’t get tired of—so we’re focusing on action. We have unique vehicle actions since each vehicle has certain features—as some vehicles specialize in melee combat while other vehicles have high power. Using those unique features, players can enjoy playing and not get tired through the gameplay.

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For players that finish the SAND LAND story and still want to engage with the combat and adventure, what challenges can players face?

KM: “After completing the main quest, [players] can enjoy the sub-quests, like racing and housing. Also, we have dungeons that players can explore to find stronger customization parts [for their Bots]. So players can look forward to those after they’ve completed all the storylines.”

In my time playing SAND LAND, there were some fun details for the vehicles where they required a bit of precision—like the jumper needed you to charge up its jump but you couldn’t over-charge or the vehicle would just fizzle. Or if you were driving the motorcycle and were driving too fast, you’d spill out of the vehicle. How did you find a balance between making fun quirks for the vehicles that required you to learn how to use them without making them too difficult to use?

KM: “We’re focusing on the differences between the vehicles. For example, the battle tank is very heavy while the motorcycle has exaggerated mobility. So we focused on creating these differences between the vehicles so users can enjoy [playing] and not get tired of a monotonous experience through the vehicles.

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Besides hostile creatures, what other dangers should players look out for in SAND LAND? Will there be harsh weather conditions like sandstorms or rain storms?

KM: There is a part [in the game] where you can experience a sandstorm, so you need to overcome those environmental changes. We also have a [day-to-night system], which affects what kind of enemies appear.

Will there be any multiplayer or social options to show off your housing or bot designs?

KM: “We have designed this game as a single-player game, so for now we don’t have those kinds of features.”

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SAND LAND isn’t quite as well-known in the US as it is in Japan. Are there concerns over how it’ll be received in America?

KM: “In terms of the IP’s development, we’ll have an anime series coming out soon, so we can expand awareness [of SAND LAND] to worldwide audiences. Also, if we look at it only as a game, we’ve taken it as an independent game you can enjoy [on its own].”

We’re doing this interview shortly after the passing of Toriyama; what did it mean for him to tell this story and what does it mean now for the rest of the team to be able to see his vision through to the end?

KM: “The scenarios [in the game] had all been checked by Toriyama-sensei directly, so what you see in the game is what Toriyama wanted to express. He wanted players to receive his message and rich worldview through the gameplay.”

If you could have just one of the game’s vehicles in the real world, which would you like to pilot the most?

KM: “The Battle Armor! It has the high power, so I can walk through [obstacles]. It’s the one I like to use the most in SAND LAND.

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SAND LAND releases this April 25th on PS4, PS5, Xbox Series X|S and Steam.

Let’s wrap up with some quick tidbits

  • Bad times ahead for Tales fans: a large batch of the games have been delisted from various services in the US. This includes Tales of Xilia 2 and Tales of Symphonia Chronicles. A few of the Tales games are still available in compilations on PSN, thankfully. Fans have made a handy chart illustrating which Tales games are still available for purchase (all 5 of them). No word from Bandai Namco on the reasoning behind the delisting. You’d think they wouldn’t axe a ton of Tales games in the wake of Mutsumi Inomata‘s death…
  • Super Mario Run is still around! …No, that’s not the news, the news is that it’ll be featuring some neat in-game unlockables as a promotion for Princess Peach: Showtime!. Sadly, some of the missions require levels that you need to pay for. The rewards are available until May 7th.
  • Ragnarok Online is still around! …No, that’s not the news either, the news is that Ragnarok Online will be featuring a collab with Sonic the Hedgehog. From March 26th to April 23rd, players can play themed quests, buy a set of Chaos Emeralds to float around their avatars, and get other Sonic-themed goodies!
  • Vampire-themed survival-crafting game V Rising will soon feature a collab with Castlevania. This includes letting players fight against Simon Belmont as a vampire while earning a new weapon type: the whip! Look forward to the expansion this May 8th!
  • SHIFT UP is putting in a ton of effort to make Stellar Blade a worldwide hit; at launch, it’ll feature voiceovers in English, Korean, French, Italian, German, Spanish and Latin Spanish and Brazilian Portuguese.
  • We saw some substantial updates come to F-Zero 99 this past week! Some folks are grousing about the new (optional) steering assist, but there are also new challenges and achievements, some quality-of-life improvements, vehicle rebalances—and the addition of mirror tracks with all-new obstacles and challenges!
  • That’ll do it for this week, I think. When you read this, I’ll be getting ready to go to the Sonic Symphony in my city. My SEGA-loving heart has been looking forward to it for months now. I hope everyone else has something nice to look forward to this weekend. At the very least, treat yourself to some jelly beans! 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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