Tuesday, October 3, 2023
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This Week in Games – Pokémon Strike Version and Protest Version

Well, that’s an egg on my face—I finished Chapter 5 of Xenoblade Chronicles 3 over the weekend. So much for “July”! They sure played us like a fiddle with that chapter. But we can talk about that later; in more important news, I picked up a Japanese copy of the Xenoblade Chronicles 2 art book over the weekend. The edges of the pages have a neat effect; look at them one way, they spell out a message written in the in-game language (no idea what it says though). Look at it the other way, and…it’s Pyra’s sword! The art book also includes a ton of neat stuff, from old rejected designs (Pyra once had twin-tails) to stuff from the Torna: The Golden Country DLC. It’s catnip for me. But the real draw? The real treat in this art book?

We get to see Turters. Thank you, Saito-sensei. This is the Content™ we needed.

This is…

Everybody 1-2-Switch Gets A Release…?

A lot of times, a game will get a sequel or a port that is received with much consternation because, according to some, “Nobody asked for this.” I’m reluctant to give any of those claims any kind of validation (if only because I’ve seen people toss it at stuff like the SaGa Frontier remaster on Switch). But this is a case where it applies: we have Everybody 1-2-Switch, a sequel to 1-2-Switch, coming out in about a month. What? Don’t you remember 1-2-Switch? It was one of the first games released for the Switch! Mostly serving as a tech demo for all of the fancy features packed into the Joycons like their motion control or infrared detection, this bundle of minigames was a decent enough time-waster in the early days of the console, but it wasn’t any Wii Sports—especially now that Nintendo Switch Sports exists and fills that void perfectly.

The basic idea for Everybody 1-2-Switch doesn’t sound horrible; it’s Nintendo‘s attempt at cashing in on party games like the Jackbox collections. But the real issue is…even Nintendo didn’t want it. Reports had been floating around that Everybody 1-2-Switch had already been in advanced stages of completion for over a year (allegedly, enough so that physical packaging had been completed). Nintendo is finally going through with releasing the title—albeit, as a digital-only release. Heck, the game will even be released at $30, way cheaper than its predecessor (1-2-Switch still retails for $50).

So why did Nintendo sit on the game for so long? Because according to the rumors… Everybody 1-2-Switch was just that bad. Apparently, the testers outright hated playing the game. Few people even bothered with finishing a round of the tedious minigames, and even the idea of such massive multiplayer lobbies held no appeal for players.

Nintendo‘s philosophy on game releases is a weird one. After all, Everybody 1-2-Switch isn’t the only time Nintendo has sat on a game. There’s scuttlebutt that the Metroid Prime Remaster had been completed long before Nintendo finally released it to the public, similar to some claims that Fire Emblem: Engage had been finished back in 2021 (which pairs quite nicely with the scuttlebutt of a missing “Iron18” game).

There is one argument many people are making that leaves a sour taste in my mouth. Many are surprised that a sequel to 1-2-Switch came out just a little over six years after the fact when there still hasn’t been a sequel to other “better” titles like Super Mario Odyssey, Wario Land, or Donkey Kong Country. (This is also where the peanut gallery steps up to the plate to bellyache about F-Zero.) My response: “Nintendo works in strange ways.” Who knows, maybe there is a Wario Land game being worked on right now and you don’t know because nobody has leaked it yet. Maybe there isn’t. Roll with the punches, it’s entirely too late to be upset about Nintendo‘s weird decisions now.

With The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom‘s continued popularity in the gaming space (even Diablo 4 and Street Fighter 6 haven’t done much to stem its popularity), Nintendo could probably afford to toss a wasted game out the window and eat a minor loss. Tears of the Kingdom alone could carry the company well until Christmas. Regardless, the morbidly curious among us can look forward to Everybody 1-2-Switch this June 30. It’ll make for some fun Vinesauce or Yo! Videogames streams.

White Album To Be Released in the United States, Local This Week in Games Writer Kicking Himself

So, lemme preface this with a bit of info on how the sausage is made around here: our official deadline for this column is early Thursday evening. I usually try to have this column wrapped up the night before because I don’t like making my editors do stuff at the last minute and because my 9-5 means I’m usually only just settling in from my day at work at around that time. So unless there’s big news dropping on Thursday afternoon like a big showcase stream or a State of Play, Thursday nights are for me cooling down after writing up a storm on this column.

Now, in last week’s column, we talked at length about Shiravune, a localizer that is currently working on ONE. and Kara no Shoujo. As one of my kind readers pointed out last weekend…we missed a possible three-fer. Last week after the cut-off, Shiravune revealed it was localizing White Album.

I think it’s for the best I didn’t talk about this one last week. Kara no Shoujo took up a big chunk of the discussion and there’s a lot of ground to tread with White Album. That doesn’t mean I’m not bummed out about missing the opportunity to talk about this one earlier. There’s some precedent to this one, too! Back in February, we reported on an interview with AQUAPLUS‘s COO Naoya Himokawa and his desire to see some of their properties revived for a modern audience. Being a huge fan of Tamaki Kousaka from ToHeart 2, I’m always down for some of those classic and beloved characters being brought back. And not just the loveable gang of charming friends from ToHeart 2, but also the casts of Comic Party and White Album. Remember, all of these shows were big enough back in the day to get anime adaptations—and in the case of White Album, it was popular enough to merit a console release without the adult content of the PC release.

Despite its title being a reference to a Beatles album, White Album is the story of a college student falling in love with a classmate who leads a double life as a famed idol singer. The story may not sound like much, but it’s the character writing that makes these games shine. I mean, look at ToHeart: Konomi and Tamaki are both childhood friends, one with a babyface who is sweet and innocent and the other the mature “onee-san”-type who has as much attitude as you can have without being tsundere. Their characterization doesn’t sound terribly riveting until you see the relationship develop. (Takaaki, Tamaki, and Konomi are an underappreciated throuple in anime.) So with that in mind, yeah, White Album definitely has some writing chops in its legacy.

The original White Album was released in 1998, but you don’t have to worry about playing a crusty old game with an ancient interface; this version of White Album is based on a remake released in Japan in 2010. This version has a ton of updates, particularly some lovely HD art. There is also a stellar voice cast; the main love interest Yuki Morikawa is voiced by Aya Hirano, best known as the voice of Haruhi Suzumiya, Konata Izumi from , and a bunch of other beloved anime characters. Meanwhile, fellow love interest Rina Ogata is voiced by fellow anime-voice-actress-slash-singer Nana Mizuki. Like…do I have to introduce her to anime fans? Nana has been a fixture of anime fandom since the ’00s. I know her best as the voice of Nanoha’s wife, Fate Testarossa, from , and Hinata from the anime. I dunno, maybe modern fans know her best as Art Club President from or Tsubasa from ? I guess? Maybe folks remember her from ? The point is, she’s no stranger to the anime industry and has been around for a long time—and much like Aya Hirano, Nana Mizuki is also a musical powerhouse. So there’s no better choice for a leading cast than these two.

Shiravune will be releasing White Album sometime in the third quarter later this year. If you’re interested in trying AQUAPLUS‘s brand of visual novel writing, the Utawarerumono series is available now on Steam from Shiravune—they’re a series of visual novels with strategy game elements, and it also has an anime adaptation. Lotsa cute girls with animal ears.

Incoming News on Armored Core VI: It Sure Is An Armored Core Game!

To the delight of obsessed people over the world, Armored Core VI: Fires of Rubicon is still on track for an August release. But there was a major concern among fans: because it’s been a good while since the last Armored Core—and because Elden Ring was such a generation-defining smash hit—many were concerned that many of its design choices would find their way into Armored Core, at the cost of Armored Core‘s own unique identity and “feel.” It would be like replacing the deliberate, methodical, and visceral gunplay in Dead Rising with run-and-gun gameplay for Twitch streaming because hey, Doom is big. Worry no more, fellow Valsione lovers! In an interview with Ruliweb (translated into English by Exputer), the devs at FromSoft have confirmed that they intentionally avoided going with an open-world design for Armored Core.

The reasoning is simple: While there’s a ton of fun to be had with open-world exploration, FromSoft’s devs feel that these would be at odds with the deliberate decision-making that goes into your mech’s construction. As with other Armored Core titles, your unit’s movement hinges on the particular parts and limbs you choose to kit yourself out with—and part of the fun is making your mech move and control in just the right way that feels right to you. Having to account for varying mech specs and dexterity in world design would be too complicated, and much of the strategy in Armored Core hinges around you tailoring your loadout for every mission instead of just sticking to just one preferred loadout.

Instead of an open-world design, Armored Core will use a mission-based structure. While this does mean that maps will be much smaller, this is FromSoft we’re talking about: these maps will be intensely feature-rich. What you lose out on wide expanses will likely be replaced with a very deliberate design that accommodates a variety of load-outs and playstyles…and I think that’s great. Ignoring how true to the Armored Core spirit that is, I think we need to acknowledge that open-world design isn’t inherently good design—the extent of burnout people feel towards Open World Ubisoft Games™ or the Assassin’s Creed games goes to show that your big open maps are a waste if all you do is fill them with busywork.

Xenoblade Chronicles 3 does a good job of making the open-world exploration feel fresh with just a handful of abilities that encourage you to go back and explore old areas that were barred off by some obstacle or other; you can, as I have, spend hours exploring older areas of the game in search of lost payloads that contain all kinds of Nopon Coins useful to your progress. Breath of the Wild and Tears of the Kingdom are designed in a way that just traversing the map is a game unto itself, from launching yourself on rocks like the pioneers of old to designing in-universe Green Goblin hover gliders. But if your game is open world just so you can put that on the back of the box, and you have nothing better to show for it than a bunch of towers to unlock the map or a gazillion doohickeys you need to kick, then thanks for giving us a game with the list of chores we paid $70 for.

For now, Armored Core VI: Fires of Rubicon is still on track for an August 25 release.

Coming Soon: Pokémon Picture Books!

It’s funny to think of how people were convinced that Pokémon was just a short-lived fad back in the late ’90s, only for it to be the biggest multimedia franchise worldwide for several years running now. Anyway, Pokémon continues to take advantage of being a franchise aimed at general audiences by creating a new thing for people to share with their young children: picture books!

Pokémon Primers are a series of books that look to introduce young readers to 100 Pokémon of the Fire, Water, and Grass types. The books themselves are interactive, with little lift-and-reveal flaps on the pages hiding Pokémon and neat facts about them. Best of all, it’s likely that these books will cover Pokémon from all over the franchise, so the Genwunners can’t stop kids from falling in love with “weird” Pokémon like Basculin or Snivy.

I question the idea behind the books slightly because Pokémon are fictional creatures; it’s not like you’re giving a kid a book about dinosaurs and they learn about how Triceratops was named that way because of its three horns, or how Edmontosaurus had up to 1,000 teeth in its duckbill-shaped mouth. Like, yeah, I love Shuckle. Shuckle is my bro. That’s why we have a Shuckle up in the banner for the column. Civilization has achieved a symbiotic relationship with Shuckle because it can ferment berries in its shell into Berry Juice, and if there’s anything you learn in archeology it’s that a massive chunk of human culture hinges off of the production of fermented food and drink (for further reading, check out ). That’s fun to think about, but that’s a bit over the heads for the kind of toddler you’d be reading this to.

With that said, I still think these books are a great idea. It’s not like kids aren’t going to experience Pokémon at some point or other, and even fictional critters can inspire interest in actual animals. I can see a lot of kids getting interested in real fish by learning about Staryu’s color-changing gem or Stunfisk’s ability to generate electricity from its antennae. Heck, some real-life animals are wilder than Pokémon—just look at the scaly-foot gastropod and its ability to produce actual iron-based scales from its fleshy body.

And even besides that: dude, it’s a book that parents can read to their kids. Considering how under-appreciated comics and manga are as things that get kids into reading (kids seriously love Dog Man and ), I’m not above Pokémon picture books as a way to entice kids into reading. Get ’em while they’re young and let them have their fun; there’s always time for them to read Slaughterhouse-Five later on in life.

Korean Pokémon Team Protest Tournament with Metronome

In other Pokémon news, the top four players in Korea’s Pokémon league were disqualified this past week for protesting the tournament by hacking their entire teams into knowing nothing but the move Metronome.

…See, this is why I don’t use the inverted triangle for this column. The conversational tone just makes the whole thing flow better without feeling like I’m bludgeoning people with proper nouns. Anyway! Nash, one of the four participants who was disqualified for his acts of protest, explained the story on his Twitter page and in an interview with TheGamer. To summarize: Korea’s Pokémon tournament scene runs things differently from the Japanese league. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, there was a trio of live events players could participate in that could guarantee your participation in the Korean Trainer’s Cup. Understandably, these weren’t carried out during the pandemic; once the tournaments were announced as returning last year, the Korean Trainer’s Cup announced an online tour where the top four players would be invited to play in the best-of-one matches. Of 150 players, 16 would go to the semi-finals and just four would go to finals.

This was inefficient for a variety of reasons: ignoring match manipulation, just plain bad luck could knock you out of the running. This is why most tournament matches are best-of-three: luck is still a factor, but you can still mitigate it over three matches. There was also much consternation over the absence of youth matches; because of the wide range of players in the competitive scene, there are usually Junior Leagues where younger players can be allowed to compete without having to worry about adults waltzing in with their perfect-IV-perfect-EV Garchomps to gar-stomp them. This time around, there was no such Junior League, leaving the younger players—arguably, the actual demographic for the Pokémon games—out in the cold.

Of course, the tournament went to the pot so Pokémon Korea simply said “Deuces” to the Top 16, offering nothing in compensation but an invitation to next year’s cup. The top four finalists, being massively dissatisfied with the outcome of events, protested by submitting teams that all had been filled with Pokémon hacked into knowing the attack Metronome. Metronome is pretty infamous as a Pokémon attack, as it has a completely random effect: it effectively lets your Pokémon know and use any attack at random, from something relatively useless like String Shot to something absolutely freaking devastating like Roar of Time. Considering how many Pokémon are competitively balanced by their stats or move lists, Metronome is just one big middle-finger to the game’s balance—which is why it’s banned. That the animation for Metronome involves the Pokémon wagging their finger is also fitting.

Even in the anime, Metronome was full of shenanigans.

Anyway, Nash goes on in his interview to explain that this protest is due to what he and other fans feel is a “lack of respect” from the Korean Pokémon League. “As a fan who’s loved Pokemon and the competitive scene, what I personally think of as the most important factor of the franchise is mutual respect and in the end, becoming friends,” he is quoted as saying. Other players have chimed in, critiquing the best-of-one ladder as completely inefficient compared to the best-of-three Swiss rounds held in person here in the U.S. While there are some concerns that these protests could lead to Korea’s Pokémon League being shut down entirely, there’s a lot of support for the protests.

The four Metronome players were subsequently banned from their teams. The official reasoning is that the teams were banned because each Pokémon only knew Metronome; this reasoning was also extrapolated into what the Korean Pokémon League considered “an act of causing harm to other participants or causing an offensive image” and the much vaguer “other acts that Nintendo Co. Ltd. and The Pokémon Company […] deem inappropriate.”

This isn’t the first bit of consternation over tournament-level play with video games. Just earlier this week, there was a strike among professional League of Legends players due to Riot Games no longer requiring teams competing in the top-level LCS league to also field a team for the developmental-level NACL league, itself also an exclusionary move that hurts lower-level professional League players. It’s heartening to see professional gamers vouch for their community; while there’s much teeth-gnashing over the idea of “e-sports” and “virtual athletes,” I commend the players that are moving in support of their communities in the hopes of nurturing new talent in fair tournaments that properly compensate players of all ages and backgrounds fairly.

Mega Man Mobile Game Ends Service–in Japan and on PC

Can we still say that it’s slim pickings for the Mega Man games? There hasn’t been a new “official” game since Mega Man 11, but all of the Legacy Collections have been selling like mad (the recent Battle Network compilation could barely stay on store shelves, even). Sure, what people want is a new game, but the games are still getting plenty of love.

And if there’s something that can tide fans over, it’s Mega Man X DiVE, a mobile game on phones and PC that lets players explore the beloved legacy of the Mega Man series. You can play through remixed versions of classic levels featuring out-of-place bosses like Chill Penguin, Yellow Devil, or Magna Centipede. Best of all, it includes everyone from the Mega Man games. While there are plenty of variants on Rock and X to accommodate, say, Mega Man equipped with the Thunder Beam or the various armors that X can equip, they avoid an “Oops! All Gokus!” scenario by including plenty of obscure Mega Man characters. Ignoring the sexy swimsuit variants or cute holiday outfits, you can roll the gacha to unlock fan favorites like Servebot and Tron Bonne from the Mega Man Legends games; Palette and Layer from Mega Man X8, Aile and Pandora from Mega Man ZX; or an assortment of Net Navis or the like from Mega Man Battle Network and Mega Man Star Force.

More importantly: this is the only game that acknowledges Cinnamon, Massimo, Marino, and Fehram from Mega Man X: Command Mission. You can even get the flame-scarf-wearing version of X from that same game.

I don’t play X DiVE as often as I’d like, if only because it feels a bit too involved (stages can go on for a bit too long), as well as just way too imprecise. Touchscreens are not an appropriate control method for an action platformer like a Mega Man game, and while the games are very generous with their controls and stage layouts it can still be a pain to play well. Regardless, it’s a fun game with tons of Mega Man fanservice, and I do recommend it to anyone who is dying for more acknowledgments of their favorite unloved Reploids.

…Assuming you don’t live in Asia, that is. Earlier this week, we were hit with the news that the Asian servers for the game would be shutting down in September. The sale of in-game items ceased this past Wednesday. In exchange, a new “True Favorites” gacha is enacted where players can roll for a free S-Rank character every day until the game shuts down on September 27 (which I wish more mobile games would do). This also covers the PC version of the game in the US, which means the only remaining way to play is the hobbled mobile version.

But that leads to the other thing: NebulaJoy is very keen on underlining to American and European players that because the American servers are considered a different game entirely, they are thus not earmarked for shutdown “indefinitely”—for now. So far, the American community for X DiVE appears to be going strong, but this doesn’t exactly bode well for the American game, especially if this means we’re running out of new content for the American game, like events or limited-edition collabs.

For now, if you’ve wanted to try the game out and maybe roll with the Command Mission crew, now’s your time to check out Mega Man X DiVE

Let’s wrap up with some quick tidbits

  • Pikmin fans, this is your summer! Pikmin 4 is scheduled for release on July 21! There’s even a new trailer out!
  • Turn-based RPGs are decidedly not dead! This past week, Square Enix announced that Octopath Traveller II has shipped 1 million units worldwide!
  • That about does it for this week. Join us next week as we cover the CAPCOM Showcase on the 12th! It’s sure to be a long one, ho boy. We’re hoping that everyone on the East Coast is keeping safe from the bad air quality; I’ve dealt with that in my neck of the woods, given the many fires that pop up during the summertime. Drink lots of water, and don’t go outside if you can avoid it. If there’s ever a time to curl up with a nice game, it’s now. 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.



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