Rundown (6/02-6/08) PRE3 2019: Hustle and Bustle

Gather your things, ready your streams, call off of work assuming you can, make a bunch of snacks, and get foked my sweet little chickpeas!  Because it is that marvelous time of the year where all the video games happen at once, meaning that nobody who likes video games is actually playing video games, and they are instead yucking it up on their internets, wallowing in the succulent juices of hype that encapsulate the industry many times in a given year, but never quite this intensely or fervorously!  Or in other words, E3 is starting in a few hours, so I probably should go through the news that came in the past week or so. But not the many leaks, since that’d just be redundant, yo!

Starting “strong”, Square Enix is looking to further monetize the beloved Dragon Quest series throughout its cultural homeland of Japan by introducing a new smartphone application meant to reinvigorate the series… which is another way of saying that they are making their own Pokemon Go in the form of Dragon Quest Walk.  A game that encourages people to walk around, complete quests, and battle monsters in what seems to be a far more gamey experience than Pokemon Go was at launch, meaning that this involves turn-based battles and is doused with series memorabilia.  It is something that I honestly doubt will leave Asia given how niche Dragon Quest is outside of the continent, but I still find it to be a smile-worthy announcement, if only for the live action trailer and silly name.  

Nintendo held a Pokemon Direct to further detail the upcoming Pokemon Sword and Shield, which has been devoid of any meaningful news since its reveal in February, causing a number of people to develop paranoia as they were not being given the information they craved, while complaining about how everything about these games are spoiled prior to release.  Yeah, Pokemon fans are insatiable like that.

Anyways, this Direct brought with it a small burst of new Pokemon, ranging from the adorable sheep Wooloo, the cool and monstrous turtle Drednaw, to the dark and edgy raven Corviknight, who is actually a steel flying type.  While the box art legendaries were revealed in the form of the sword wielding wolf Zacian and the shield faced wolf Zamazenta, both of whom are among the less immediately appealing Pokemon designs as of late, being a bit too busy for my tastes with their four primary colors and elaborate… fur-styles, which in turn leads to some very underwhelming box art, which is admittedly par for the course in the mainline series.

As for the content unique to Sword and Shield, early on this Direct answered the hotly contested roaming versus random encounters question with a mixed answer, offering the players random encounters in the more traditional and straightforward routes, while introducing the aptly named Wild Areas wherein Pokemon roam visibly around a large open environment.  A move that I am all in favor of, as I much prefer controlled encounters with Pokemon I actually want to fight, and not needing to constantly run away or use repels when I’m not in the mood to battle. Plus, it makes finding elusive Pokemon way easier. You might like the thrill associated with running around for half an hour to find a Pokemon that appears only 5% of the time, but I don’t.

Furthermore, despite initial questions it was revealed that the Pokemon gyms are, indeed, just gyms, with the only major distinction, beyond the bombastic and sports-like presentation, being how they implement this generation’s new gimmick meant to follow Mega Evolutions and Z-Moves by basically combining them into one and calling them Dynamax.  An enhancement that allows Pokemon to grow to kaiju size for 3 turns at a time, gives them boosted stats, and enables them to deal massive damage with Max Moves. Yes, it is gimmicky, but it does have a certain flare to it, and is tied to a new Raid feature.

In short, four players can connect online in order to hunt a Dynamax Pokemon, taking their shots at it, weakening it, and eventually trying their hand at capturing it as a means of getting one’s mitts on rare or powerful Pokemon.  It’s something of an evolution of the idea of Totem Pokemon or the Ultra Necrozma battle, and while I’m not big on multiplayer in general, I am all for more passive cooperative multiplayer engagements like this. Though something that will not be coming back from Sun and Moon appears to be Ride Pokemon, as the player character once again uses a bike for travel, this time with the aid of their Rotom-powered smartphone that allows the bike to move as electrifying speeds and also skim across the water, which is neat, but I kind of liked calling Pokemon directly for traversal more than just using one to beef up a bicycle.

Oh, and some new characters were revealed, which further goes to support the theory that somebody designing these characters is fully aware that people also play Pokemon game to see new husbandos and waifus.  The professor has a trendy waifu assistant who I’m sure will have 20 pages of lewd fan art on before the game comes out, the first gym leader is a good old thick boi with a body like a tree trunk, and the champion of the region is a traditionally handsome southern Asian (I think) hot guy whose knickers I want to rip off.  Seriously mate, you can have knickers or leggings.  Pick one. Also, the rival is called Hop, so I think that means that the player characters will be named Skip and Jump, which makes sense to me at the very least and is better than naming the two Sword-kun and Shield-chan.  Blarg, I’m getting pedantic here. Anyways, the game is coming out November 15th, and further details for those curious can be found in a leak that predicted a plethora of the content seen in the Direct among other things.  

Next on the docket, Google hosted yet another event for their upcoming Stadia streaming platform, dubbed Stadia Connect, where they answered the various questions that people have been asking since the service was announced.  Namely regarding the library, dates, prices, and so forth. What they ultimately showed was… very underwhelming, to the point where I wonder if they needed to even bother with an event like this, when this information could have easily be rolled into the Stadia launch event itself.

Anyways, Stadia will be available sometime in November, where it will be accessible via any desktop or laptop, TVs with a Chromecast Ultra, and Google’s own Pixel 3 smartphone, offering streamed games to players at 4K, HDR, and 60fps at connections of 35 mbps or higher, and 720p at connections 10 mbps or higher.  The service itself will have a free Base subscription where individuals may buy games off the Stadia storefront, in addition to Stadia Pro, a $10 a month subscription that grants players access to a select assortment of games, a la Xbox Game Pass. The library itself will consist of a variety of multiplatform titles from the foreseeable future or the past year, offering players without access to a PS4, Xbox One, or PC the ability to play games from a more accessible location… that will probably have spotty internet, which kind of defeats the purpose of the whole affair.

In its current form, the platform seems like yet another option, which I view as being completely fine in and of itself.  Admittedly, I am not too interested in buying games from a streaming service, as I would much rather own the license and download it to my own hardware, so if anything hearing that this platform will not be doing much else and will just be another one is good news for me, as the only reason to give it a glance would be for convenience or exclusive titles.  They did announce Baldur’s Gate III, developed by Larian Studios of Divinity Original Sin fame, but that is not an exclusive, as a PC release was also announced.  They also did not provide many concrete details on the game itself, just a CG trailer that depicted a TF sequence of a man into a tentacle monster.  Instead, the sole exclusive shown as the latest title from Rime and The Sexy Brutale developer Tequila Works with Gylt, a surreal horror game set in a middle school.  It’s something I would be interested in, but I’m not going to invest in yet another digital storefront to gain a temporary license to access the title for as long as Google chooses to support Stadia.

Following the resurgence of the Darksiders series last year with the mixed reception of Darksiders III, a title that I think people have turned around on following some careful patchwork, THQ Nordic has announced yet another Darksiders title from none other Airship Syndicate, the developer of Battle Chasers: Nightwar and home to many former members of Vigil Games, who developed the first two entries.  But rather than have them make the next numbered entry, they are instead working on an overheard action RPG by the name of Darksiders Genesis.  The game will follow the original series protagonist War along with the previously unseen character of Strife as they venture through the dominion of hell, slashing and shooting their way through a deluge of demons for… assorted reasons I am sure.  

Overall, the game looks like a fairly straightforward co-op affair that seems to adapt the fundamentals of the series into a new perspective, while being fairly conservative like most THQ Nordic productions.  The decision to only focus on two of the four horsemen is a bit of an odd decision in my opinion, as people have been wanting a game where all four are playable since the very first Darksiders, which teased as much in its conclusion, but I guess that’ll have to wait for the sequel or something.  The game is due out for PS4, Xbox One, Switch, PC, and Stadia sometime this year.

But that was not the only announcement made by THQ Nordic in the lead up to E3, as the publisher also announced a full remake of 2005’s Destroy All Humans!, a moderately successful AA open world centered around chaos, murder, and hi-jinks, with a pulpy 1950s sci-fi bent to it that the original THQ tried to push into a big franchise, but instead it petered off after a few unsuccessful titles.  Or in other words, not the most obvious choice for a remake despite its apparent status as a “cult classic,” but THQ Nordic acquired these licenses for a reason, and put Black Forest Games of Giana Sisters: Twisted Dreams and Bubsy: The Woolies Strike Back fame up to the task of rebuilding this game from scratch, and showed little to illustrate their work thus far beyond a CG trailer and some early screenshots that focused on the protagonist.  Destroy All Humans! will launch for PS4, Xbox One, and PC in 2020.  

Next up… okay, this is the first time I brought up THQ Noridc in months, so let’s talk about the whole 8Chan thing again.  I sort of followed up on this matter when I rambled about the sexuality of minors in media, but I will restate my thoughts on the matter as they apply here.  Those who enjoy smut involving, for all extensive purposes, ‘real’ children are deplorable individuals whose fetish leads to the suffering of minors, who cannot consent to sexually explicit activities.  The person who decided to associate THQ Nordic with 8Chan, a truly wretched abscess of humanity, was a complete idiot and deserves a litany of punishments. But an apology was issued, and the people responsible for making these games are so far removed from this puss mongrel, whose name does not deserve to be stated, that I honestly cannot view THQ Nordic, as a collective, as supportive of child slavery or anything even close to being as hyperbolic.  Now I am going to move on, and let this matter rest… unless I feel like making a cheeky little jab in the future.

XSEED recently held their usual semi-regular gush of titles they are working on this year, and as to be expected announced a few notable entries, and some very… odd choices.  I distinctly recall passing aside a trademark announcement centered around a game named Heroland, as I assumed it was the localized name of Work X Work, and lo and behold, that is exactly what it is.  For those who forget, this is a PS4 and Switch RPG centered around a theme park worker who must guide guests down a safe dungeon created to evoke a sense of faux heroism, all with the visual charm one would expect from the art director of Mother 3.  The game is due out in 2019, and is almost certainly going on the horrifying mass that is my wishlist.

While the Akiba’s Trip series is seemingly on ice after the developers botched things with Akiba’s Beat and found success in Octopath Traveler, Acquire and XSEED have, for some bloody reason, looked back to the original PSP title that was never localized… because it was a PSP game.  Renamed Akiba’s Trip: Hellbound & Debriefed, the game will be a full remaster and reconstruction of the 2012 title, which is a bit more than I would have expected, but I’m guessing that it is hard to sell a straight-up upscaled PSP game, and with the technology being so old, I guess rebuilding things and using a new engine is a sensible move.  But the decision to bring this title back is nevertheless an odd choice to focus one’s resources into, but for those privy towards this sort of stuff, the title will be released eventually for PS4 and PC.

But to mark the oddest of all of these announcements, XSEED is also bringing over BurgerTime Party!, a Switch exclusive reimagined version of the classic arcade game whose rights are a major cluster to try and explain in reverse chronological order, but in short XSEED’s parent company owns the IP now.  As the name implies, it is geared towards 4 player multiplayer and is attempting to be more of a party game, and one that I cannot help but look at and be surprised by how different it looks from BurgerTime: World Tour.  You know, that game that came out for 2.5 years before it was suddenly delisted and went offline?  …And was also pretty bad from what I recall… I don’t know why I remember that game, but I do.

But I do remember Yooka-Laylee, specifically its promising Kickstarter, disappointing launch, and mostly quiet attempts at reworking the game into something more in-line with people’s expectations.  However, they made something, have a team, and have an intellectual property to call their own, so it’s no surprise that another game in the series is coming, just the shape it has taken.  Yooka-Laylee and the Impossible Lair is a mellow-looking 2.5D platformer with an overhead 3D overworld that… honestly does not look like anything special, appearing competent but not groundbreaking by any means.  But this title probably has some former Donkey Kong Country staff on it, so maybe it could be something remarkable, but I guess the world will be the judge of that when this title launches for PS4, Xbox One, Switch, and PC later this year.  

Anything else?  Well, EA had their EA Play thing, but the only game they showed that is not an annualized iteration or continued support for the shooters they choose to support was Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order, their first single player AAA Star Wars title, and it looks… You know how the Visceral Star Wars game was cancelled for not being anything special or unique, devoid of any discernible hook?  I’m curious as to why that game was met with such criticism and not this one, because this just seems like Star Wars X Uncharted, being a story driven affair with a number of small gameplay segments and numerous setpieces.  Yes, the combat is a touch more involved than I was expecting, but everything about it feels very safe, reliable, and while expensive, fully functional and designed to get high aggregate scores in order to generate millions of sales.  

That’s all for today, but remember kids, E3 means that I’m going to try my darndest to get wet hot content out to you all in a reasonable timeframe, meaning a Rundown is going up on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday, followed by an overly elaborate review a few hours later, and a Rundown to wrap everything up the following Sunday.  It’s gonna be a crazy noisy bizarre time, but you can count on Natalie to deliver the goods that maybe 5 of you will actually read!

Header Image comes from Silicon Magic ~Umareru Mae Kara Anata Sen’you?!~

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