So, I did not talk about this last week, but I played a bit of Fallout 4 recently thanks to a free to play weekend deal. I was very critical of the game leading up to launch, objecting to a number of additions of changes made to the title, and after spending 4 hours with it, I feel that I was completely right to think that. The protagonist is severely limited by the inclusion of voice acting and a baked in backstory, the dialogue options are very poor at conveying the protagonist’s actual response, and the story begins with such a rapid and dramatic set-up that it all rings hollow. Then there are the overburdened crafting and town building elements that I know I would have invested 100 hours into if I actually purchased this title.
With E3 looming over and a day that I may need to take off of work looming along with it, there were a lot of companies who wanted to announce things before gaming news becomes flooded and before it dries up for about a month. Starting with several announcements made by Mages., owners of 5bp., the developers of the Science Adventure series of visual novels that I talked about last week. Firstly, Steins;Gate will be receiving a majorly updated and enhanced version by the name of Steins;Gate Elite. The upcoming Anonymous;Code, a visual novel about hackers and I’m not entirely sure what else, will be heading to the Nintendo Switch. The 2014 entry in this series, Robotics;Notes, is getting a sequel in the form of Robotics;Notes DaSH, though seeing as how the original was never localized, I doubt this will be brought over to the west. While the company as a whole intends on supporting PC gaming in the west by releasing more of their titles on Steam.
Speaking of Steam, the company recently clarified what the pricing model will be for their upcoming Steam Direct initiative, a way for developers to post their games on Steam after Valve’s internal metrics proved insufficient and Greenlight proved itself to be an exploitable mess worthy of mockery. Based on what details they have provided, anybody can sell a game on Steam if they submit a $100 fee. A move that will surely oversaturate the market because a lot of people have that kind of money to burn, but instead of curating what is added to their storefront, Valve continues to insist that they should work on algorithms to improve what titles a person sees instead. Or as they put it, “in the past, the challenge was to figure out what products should be on the Store. Now, we think the challenge is to figure out what products a specific player wants to see.” No Valve, your challenge should be both of those things.
Continuing along with foolhardy corporate decisions, Nintendo has finally revealed fine details on the Nintendo Switch’s paid online services. It will cost $20 annually, launch in early 2018, and will provide players with the following: Online play, voice chat, exclusive eShop deals, and exclusive access to a series of modified classic Nintendo games that have been modified to support online play. Classic titles that active subscribers can play without any constraint. However, the memetic ineptitude of this announcement comes in the form of how voice chat will be handled on the system.
Instead of natively supporting headsets and being able to mix in audio from other players through the game system itself, like every other console ever, in order to use the Switch online, players need to use a proprietary app on their smartphone, then plug their smartphone into an audio splitter that also connects to the Switch and to the player’s headset. A concept so backwards and alienating, even for Nintendo, that I struggle to understand how anybody thought his was acceptable. Requiring people to use their smartphone, assuming they own one, and an audio splitter in order to do something that has been firmly figured out for a decade now seems so utterly unreal that I cannot actually accept it as fact.
Shifting over to a happy place, Bandai Namco made the pleasantly shocking announcement of a PS4 game based on the Trigger created anime series Little Witch Academia. The game will be a full blown action adventure title complete with 3D visuals that beautifully evoke the look and feel of the source material. While I have not watched this series, I am quite interested in checking both it and this game out, assuming it even comes over to the west, which often does not happen for anime tie-in games such as this. However, if Digimon RPGs are localized annually now, I guess this may come to the west..
Following the release of I am Setsuna last year, Square Enix’s subsidiary, Tokyo RPG Factory, have announced their next title, Lost Sphear. Because Square Enix thinks that poor literacy is cool. Much like its predecessor, Lost Sphear will be a classic JRPG throwback, this time centered around a boy from a remote village going on a quest to save the world from fading away into nothingness. It will also continue with the same visual style as with the prior ittle as well, and it will feature a revised active time battle system. It will release sometime in early 2018 for the expected line-up of Switch, PS4, and PC.
In anticipation of E3, and the games they will have on the show floor, XSEED has announced two games they are bringing to the west. The first being Sakuna: Of Rice and Ruin, a Japanese doujin game from the developer of intense mecha shmup Astebreed that has the unique premise of being a side-scrolling action game and also a game about the intricacies of rice cultivation. I am admittedly a sucker for these kinds of premises, and with a credible developer behind them, I’m going to have to check this game out after it releases in 2018 for PC and PS4.
While the second game is Zwei: The Ilvard Insurrection, a cute-looking Falcom developed 3D action RPG originally released in for PC in 2008 as Zwei II and later as Zwei II Plus. The numbering was presumably dropped because the first title in the series, Zwei!!, was never released outside of Japan. The reason why XSEED is localizing this game first probably has to do with how Zwei!! came out in 2001, so it would take a lot of extra work to get it to run on modern hardware. Convoluted history aside, Falcom is a quality developer and so long as their name is attached to an action game, I am going to inevitably check it out. Though, probably some time after the game launches in summer of 2017.
To close of this week, this is not actually an announcement as much as it is a leaked series of images. Images that look like they are for a Life Is Strange prequel centered around Chloe Price, one that will tell the tale of her adolescence, and her relationship with the character of Rachel Amber. These were found on the website of Deck Nine Games, formerly known as Idol Minds, a small time game developer best known for, um, helping on the Ratchet & Clank Collection, I guess. While such a pedigree is not very impressive, I honestly cannot say that I have much interest in this game even conceptually. Seeing as how Chloe’s storey felt complete by the end of the original Life Is Strange, which I reviewed a few months ago. Regardless, a proper announcement is surely coming soon.
Splatoon image source.