Last Friday the Student Transfer development team announced that Version 4 will be coming before the end of February, boasting that this version will contain roughly twice the content as Version 3. A surprising bit of news that I find to be simultaneously exciting and intimidating to me, as I have taken on the duty of creating the flowcharts for sprawling choose-your-own adventure style visual novels about TG, body swapping, and more. I very much want to enjoy the game and take my time with it, but Version 3 took me a good week to get through, so I am a bit concerned about getting a flowchart ready in a timely manner, especially with work and grad school keeping me so busy. As such, I decided to do my homework in advance and download what I can off of the public Student Transfer GitHub in order to get cracking on a rough flowchart for V4 at the risk of spoiling myself. Only to discover that with the way this game is developed, I would basically need to consolidate the builds available myself and… yeah, that sounds like more trouble than it’s worth.
Last week there were some very loud murmurs about Activision Blizzard reporting massive layoffs to close out the 2019 fiscal year and, like clockwork, roughly 800 people lost their jobs while Activision Blizzard reports record earnings. According to Kotaku’s Jason Schreier, these layoffs affect many non-developmental staff members and promise to offer “a comprehensive severance package” along with some profit sharing bonuses. Meaning that they are not being completely screwed over, but this type of behavior is still reprehensible and another stark reminder that so many major companies exist as money making vehicles for already wealthy executives and shareholders who which to grow, expand, and consume, with a degree of reckless abandonment for the fallout.
Actually, on the subject of Activision, I recently came across a video that shed some light on the development of Spyro Reignited Trilogy, and many of the development issues it had due to poor planning on Activision’s part. Now, I am not familiar with this source, who goes by the handle of RACROX, and his video has not garnered much attention, so I would only view this as an elaborate rumor. Anyways, RACROX states that Spyro did not start development until after the Crash Bandicoot N.Sane Trilogy, where its various developers were thrust into near perpetual crunch time as they worked 12 hour days, scrambling to get the game done, even with the help of an entirely separate studio.
Yet even with their aid, the game was supposedly in a very buggy half-finished state prior to its delay, making it surprising that the title wound up being as polished as it was if this rumor is to be believed. While the developer, Toys For Bob, was not specifically highlighted among those affected by the mass layoffs, I can barely imagine how heartbreaking it must be for someone to invest themselves into a project like this, only to be laid off despite the project being successful, and the company reporting record profits.
As a palate cleanser, this week also was home to a Nintendo Direct that revealed a somewhat surprising quantity of new titles, and further outlined Nintendo fans’ future purchase history, and I can foresee ‘gameless’ Switch owners having very light wallets by the end of the year with the line-up shown here. As I typically do in these fully fledged Directs, I’m going to rearrange things based on their release date, as I find the information easier to digest and comprehend that way.
First and foremost, a number of titles launched simultaneously with the Direct, including demos for Daemon X Machina and Yoshi’s Crafted World. An update to Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker that added in co-op. The release of Final Fantasy IX, which is coming first because NIntendo knows it is the best one (I say having yet to play it). Along with an idea that honestly made me burst out in laughter due to how simultaneously amazing and absurd it is. Tetris 99, or to give it a more explanatory title, Tetris Battle Royale. Yes, a 99 player Tetris game where players must outperform one another in the OG king of puzzle games, and it is available as a Switch exclusive free to play game for Nintendo Switch Online subscribers.
Shifting out into the rest of the year, Delta Rune Chapter 1 is coming to the Switch on February 28th in a move that I honestly did not anticipate, given how it is already a free game compatible with PC, Mac, and Linux. Regardless, the title will be free to all Switch owners, and in doing so a bunch of people are going to inadvertently wind up playing Delta Rune before Undertale, which is bound to cause an excess of confusion.
March brings forth another pair of Final Fantasy titles in the form of Chocobo’s Mystery Dungeon: Every Buddy! and Final Fantasy VII on March 20th and 26th respectively. With the rest of the month being dedicated to a plethora of cutesy games with co-op elements. Including Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker – Special Episode, a piece of paid DLC that provides new stages and challenges for the adorable puzzle platformer on March 14th. The release of Unravel Two on Switch, a match made in heaven so obvious one would have sworn the game was a Switch exclusive by looking at the Switch and the game cover, yet is not coming until March 22nd. Yoshi’s Crafted World, which has probably been done for several months now, with the only remaining staff working on adorable unlockable costumes, will unfold into our reality (but not really) on March 29th.
This trend continues into April, with the latest release in the Box Boy series, Box Boy! + Box Girl!, which promises to offer 270 new stages, a dedicated co-op mode, and alternate playable characters, and will be available on April 26th. Which may or may not be before Starlink receives its April update that will introduce Falco, Peppy, and Slippy as playable characters, along with new story content focused on Wolf’s cronies. It honestly makes me wonder when, but mostly if, Nintendo will let Ubisoft make a fully fledged Star Fox game given how far they could go, but presumably they don’t want said potential title to compete too much with Retro Studios’ all-but-confirmed Star Fox title.
Ubisoft will continue their support for the Switch with a fairly choppy looking remaster of Assassin’s Creed III. While that is far from exciting, this release also contains the mode where the protagonist gains the ability to turn into animals and fight evil George Washington, along with the entirety of Assassin’s Creed III: Liberation (the one where you play as a societally fluent black woman) so perhaps it may be worth taking a glance at come May 21st.
This in turn closes out spring, but not before the release of the loosely detailed Version 3.0 of Super Smash Bros. Ultimate that will introduce Joker in addition to unspecified other content. I’m hoping for an Echo Fighter, but I might be delusional, as I was a bit taken aback by the other spring announcement of Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice, the latest game from Microsoft subsidiary Ninja Theory, which does initially seem incredibly odd, but apparently this port is being handled by QLOC and was in place before Ninja Theory’s acquisition, so it’s not that odd. Besides, it is already on PS4, so it’s not like the game is an actual exclusive or anything.
Shifting into the summer, the Switch is going to have one of the biggest summers I can recall ever seeing for a Nintendo system, though it is entirely possible that a lot of these “summer” releases are intended to cover the entirety of the pre-holiday season, as Nintendo is the only company, other than XSEED, that I recall considering October to be a summer month… They said Super Smash Bros. for 3DS was going to come out in summer 2014, and it came out in early October… am I the only one who remembers that? …Eh, whatever.
June kicks things off with Super Mario Maker 2, which takes the form of a widely expanded and revised rendition of the original Wii U title, with much requested features, a new style based on Super Mario 3D World, and maybe some greater emphasis on co-op play considering how Luigi is present in much of the promo art. Personally, it is hard for me to not highlight the lack of Mario 2 in Mario Maker 2, but that is mostly just me being contrarian for the sake of it. Personally, I am not too into 2D Mario games, and if I do get an itch to play something with more of a building-based focus, I’ll probably gravitate towards something like Dragon Quest Builders 2, which is basically just Minecraft X Dragon Quest, and will hit the Switch on July 12th.
July 26th will see the release of Fire Emblem: Three Houses, which was revealed to have a school focus like so much of Japanese media, with the player character serving as a professor responsible for teaching one of three houses within the international academy the art of war. All of which will eventually lead these bright eyed youths into the heat of battle to prevent some sort of to be determined cataclysmic event. It seems to be aligning itself well within the boundaries of what makes a modern and successful Fire Emblem title, though I still think that the game looks rough and could benefit from a different art direction.
While I think the models look quite good, there is a degree of dissonance between them and the realistic environments, and the battle screen just makes me ho-hum about the visual clarity seen in the prior titles, including Fire Emblem Heroes. Quite simply, if overhead character models in a tactical RPG require a portrait above their head to be visually distinct from one another, something is wrong. Also, giving each character a unit of generic grunts detracts from the uniqueness of each character, and makes the conflicts seem like less personal struggles. Even though the class progression, bond mechanics, and character storylines all encourage the player to become very personable with their party members. Regardless though, I’ll check it out, because if I want to get my Fire Emblem fix otherwise, there are very few options available to me due to how I really do not want to play through another 100 hour RPG on my 3DS.
August 30th will see the release of the latest game from PlatinumGames, Astral Chain, a “Synergetic Action game” involving a super police force fighting transdimensional demons in a cyberpunk city using a variety of weapons of their own, including their own cybernetic stands, and a robot wolf-dog. It looks to maintain the expected breed of craziness that Platinum is known for, and while it was not officially stated, a co-op focus was heavily implied, which would be quite interesting to see. Either way, this is easily etching its way into my list of Switch games to pick up.
Other summer releases include the long awaited Castlevania successor Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night, Team Ninja’s Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3: The Black Order, and the mecha action of Daemon X Machina, along with the latest from Square Enix’s Tokyo RPG Factory, which has been known to churn out bland JRPGs in a very factory-like manner. This remains evident with Oninaki, a title that despite having the novel concept of travelling between the light and dark world to retrieve lost souls before they morph into monsters, and using those souls to become more powerful, it looks like a pretty standard sorted affair with chibi-styled graphics for basically no reason. Also, it’s technically an action RPG this time.
Fall will bring the long awaited, as in it was discussed all the way back in 2015, Switch version of Dragon Quest XI, dubbed Dragon Quest XI S: Definitive Edition. A title that seems comparable to the Playstation 4 version of the game, but with a lot of additional features that Square Enix may or may not bring over to the PC and PS4 versions. Such as orchestrated music, a 16-bit visual style, and new side stories that flesh out the beloved cast of characters. As somebody who snagged the PC version for about $25 on a sale a while back, I am a bit miffed to hear this news, as I like to play the best version of games to get the best experience, and I would rather not pay the Nintendo premium and buy a game twice, even if it is a long enough game to warrant a double dip.
On the subject of dipping, I have been interested in dipping my toes into the Rune Factory series for quite a while, as Harvest Moon Story of Seasons X Action RPG is a very enticing concept to me. Though 2019’s Rune Factory 4 Special for the Switch does not look like a very good opportunity to do so, as the game looks… pretty ugly in all honesty. A lot of 3DS games made visual compromises to look good on their original system, and they just do not look that great even when upscaled like this. Though, Rune Factory 5 is being worked on, so perhaps that will be a more attractive entry.
On the subject of speaking ill towards 3DS games, I remember being more than a trifle miffed upon hearing the well supported rumor that Link’s Awakening will be getting a 3DS remake, when I, being a selfish little dastard, would rather play one of the best games in the series on Switch. And wouldn’t you know it, The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening is being remade as a Switch exclusive. Back when I reviewed the game in 2016, I was very positive towards it, only citing some minor annoyances such as the elongated backtracking and that bloody ‘are you trying to pick up this pot?’ message. Which will hopefully be addressed here.
Based on the trailer though, this is a straight tile by tile remake of the 1993 original, with the biggest difference being how everything looks like it is an adorable little toy, a visual style that I am fine with for this Zelda game and this game alone. A new coat of paint and some minor fine tuning would be enough to further cement the game as an all-time classic, and I look forward to seeing how it dares when it comes out in sometime in 2019… probably December if I had to guess.
Overall, I was very happy with this Direct, as it showed off a number of promising titles, and I was left excited about the numerous toys I can buy from Miss Nina Tendo’s shoppe of digital happiness and electronic delights before the end of the year. Though, there is some salt over the lack of Luigi’s Mansion 3 and Animal Crossing, both of which were announced in the last normal Nintendo Direct, the one held on September 13th 2018. Pokemon Generation 8, though Pokemon games tend to be announced on their own, because they are Pokemon. While Star Fox: Grand Prix is almost certainly still happening, but with Starlink getting more Star Fox content and Retro taking on Metroid Prime 4, I’m guessing that it is not the highest priority at the moment.
But just as the day after hype was about to swell around this Direct, Team Cherry burst down the door, shouted, tore off their pants, and revealed their sequel to Hollow Knight, dubbed Hollow Knight: Silksong. An entirely new title centered around secondary lead character Hornet that comes with a variety of new locales, enemies, and mobility options. I admittedly was not the biggest fan of Hollow Knight, meaning I would give it a solid 8, but the developers have cemented themselves as a very talented trio and metroidvanias are kind of my favorite genre of game to play, so I’m jumping on board this hype beetle and will eagerly await the exact form this game will take when it launches in… well, people said 2019, but no release date was given, not that release dates mean much to a person like me.
Catherine: Full Body is a title that I have been looking at with reserved interest since it was announced, mostly due to how the early marketing made me worried that the game would be… incredibly transphobic. This week the game was given a proper western reveal, declaring that the fame will be released exclusively on PS4 on September 3rd. However, it also released in Japan this same week, meaning that people have played through the game and were able to assess its content, and… it’s somehow far worse than I thought it possibly could be. Also, sorry, but I need to spoil this game.
There are two incredibly problematic and thickheaded things Catherine: Full Body does. One is the new character Rin is an alien of sorts that identifies as male, simply enjoys crossdressing, and has a penis, meaning that all the marketing that made it seem like a game where you could pursue and bone a “trap” was actually completely accurate. Two is in the form of an ending that has Catherine, the succubus one, travelling back in time in order to give the various characters seen throughout the game better lives. One of these characters whose life she ‘changes for the better’ is Erica, a transgender woman who was mishandled and misgendered in the original game, and in this new ending, she is presented as a man. Or in other words, Catherine travelled back in time in order to make Erica detransition, because Catherine thought Erica’s life would be better if she was never trans to begin with.
Now, I could easily blame Atlus for allowing this kind of thing to go unimpeded, or throw shade towards Catherine and Persona 5 director Katsura Hashino, who injected this game with his apparently horrific views on the LGBTQ community. But I genuinely do not want to develop a level of disdain for this company, or feel a degree of resentment that would impede my enjoyment of the Persona series. Blame and hatred are non-constructive reactions, and really, I just want this mistake to be recognized and rectified, hopefully in time for the western release. But I doubt it, and instead all that I can do it try to cope with this unpleasant reality. Or construct an artificial reality in my head, and hammer it in hard enough that I begin to blur the lines between the two.
That about covers it, but what better way to close out this emotionally turbulent week than another announcement about THQ Nordic acquiring something. This time, they acquired eastern European developer Warhorse Studios, known for their work on 2018’s Kingdom Come: Deliverance. They are a talented mid-tier studio based in a part of the world where the cost of living is kept rather low, and have seen major success with their first title, selling approximately 2 million units since it launched last year. This acquisition is technically being made by THQ Nordic’s subsidiary, Koch Media, or rather Deep Silver, who previously published the title, so this actually makes a lot of sense. Studio releases a game that was successful to a company, and as such, they are bought to continue their presumably positive relationship in a closer, more secure, and more cost-effective manner.
I often wonder how the company can afford to operate in such a manner, but the real answer is probably due to how the company is run by a billionaire CEO, Lars Wingefors, who presumably looked at the dwindling middle of the game industry and decided to establish a middle-shelf company that was content with doing what it does but also has an incredibly diverse product line spanning numerous IPs, all while never investing that much, in game budget terms, on specific projects. It has led to the company seeing great financial success, and in a position where they have 77 games in development. Most of which are probably just ports or remasters, but embarking on a large number of low cost products that will almost assuredly make back their development costs is far from a bad business practice.
Header image comes from the currently unreleased build of Student Transfer.