This Week in Games

This Week in Games

Welcome back, everyone! Y’know, I thought this would be a pretty calm week; I hadn’t had a game assigned to me, and it didn’t seem like there would be any big announcements this week. Then Nintendo had their Direct, and Sony immediately shouted, “ME, TOO!” right after. Almost an entire hour of gaming news this week! I’ll get back to Xenoblade 3 sooner or later…

This is…

Like A Dragon Gaiden: The Man Who Erased His Name To Feature Classic Sega Arcade Games

Once again, Sega is upping the ante with Like A Dragon. The Like A Dragon series has always been a lowkey phenomenal source of Sega history and worship, from featuring digitized recreations of Sega‘s actual arcades from Japan to even featuring classic Sega arcade games as playable minigames. Older entries in the series have featured such beloved titles as Out Run, Sonic The Fighters… and Sega‘s little-remembered interactive urinal mini-game series, ToyLets. (And I thought the SegaSonic Popcorn Shop in Sonic Mania was a deep cut…) With the upcoming Like A Dragon Gaiden: The Man Who Erased His Name, Sega has an interesting slew of mini-games announced…

I know these seem like some out-of-nowhere names, but they’re pretty important! First up is Sega Racing Classic 2—better known as Daytona USA 2. Daytona USA is one of the biggest Sega arcade classics. Between the trademark Sega blue skies, the addicting theme song that dominated arcades across the world (performed by long-time Sega collaborator Takenobu Mitsuyoshi)—and, of course, the famous Daytona USA seagulls. The most famous of low-poly animals in any game ever, forever flapping in place amid Sega‘s skies. There’s a reason they’re up in our banner for the weekly column (look closely at the top right corner of the text!).

Anyway, Sega Racing Classic 2 came about from unfortunate circumstances: Sega had the rights to the Daytona branding from the Daytona 500 for the first two games… but that license eventually ran out. Of course, Sega wouldn’t want to stop distributing an arcade game that was making them money, so they stripped the game of its Daytona branding, gave it the new title of Sega Racing Classic 2, and carried on as usual. As for Fighting Vipers 2, it was a sequel to one of Sega‘s oft-forgotten fighting games (obviously, Fighting Vipers). It was originally released on the Sega Dreamcast—but only in Japan and Europe, leaving us in America without the title. This is why the announcements for both of these titles as mini-games in The Man Who Erased His Name are so important—it’s the first time they’ve been available in the U.S. in a very long time, if ever. While many have pointed out that having them available as games independently would be much nicer than being tacked onto a different game… I and other Sega fans will take what we can get. If you think Nintendo is stingy with F-Zero or Earthbound, Burning Rangers fans have a few words for you.

At any rate, fans can look forward to playing these Sega classics in an in-game arcade in Like A Dragon Gaiden: The Man Who Erased His Name between their shmoozing with Kson when it drops this November 8th on PS4, PS5, Xbox One/Series X|S and Windows.

Japanese Streamer Arrested For Uploading Steins;Gate Let’s Plays

YouTuber Shinobu Yoshida was found guilty of posting a let’s play of Steins;Gate: My Darling’s Embrace, sentenced to two years prison (suspended for five years) and a one million yen fine.

It’s the first time someone has been found guilty of copyright infringement by posting gameplay videos.

— Kars (@KaroshiMyriad) September 7, 2023

This news rocked fandom last week, and it’s still quite galling even today. Japanese YouTuber Shinobu Yoshida was arrested last week for uploading a Let’s Play of Steins;Gate: My Darling’s Embrace. His punishment involves a five-year suspension, two years of prison time, and a 1 million yen fine. This was a pretty landmark case, as it’s the first time anyone’s been found guilty in Japan of copyright infringement by posting gameplay videos.

There’s… a lot going on with this case. And lemme preface it by stating that this sucks. This sucks. So, let’s start with a basic overview of the differences in laws between the U.S. and Japan (note: I am not a lawyer; I do not have one of those fancy golden Lawyer Pins they have in Phoenix Wright: Attorney At Law, this is not legal counsel). So, first off, the USA uses a common law system, where Japan uses a civil law system. What does this mean? It has everything to do with how laws are read and enforced. In the U.S., judges interpret the law as they’re written and apply it to cases. Every new case citing a particular law, in turn, becomes part of that law and how it can be interpreted. This is why you see lawyers citing other older legal cases during their argument, arguing over whether a specific interpretation serves as precedent in the current case—or not. Japan doesn’t have that; instead, going over the law as it is written, they tend to have a bit more authority when reviewing evidence or interviewing witnesses.

Because of this distinction, Japan doesn’t have the concept of Fair Use. In the U.S., scores of legal citations serve as a precedent and establish conditions by which it is legal to share and distribute someone else’s work—and while many shoutman on the Internet have made a ton of claims about Fair Use, whether something qualifies as Fair Use or not is exclusively determined in Federal Court, at the judge’s disclosure. The four qualities are the purpose and character of your use, the nature of the copyrighted work, the amount and substantiality of the portion taken, and the effect of the use upon the market. Note that all four of these qualities are considered, so it’s not necessarily open-and-shut. The United States also has parody law, which covers works that spoof or mock an original work in an attempt at commenting on it. While much of that is mixed in with Fair Use, you’re generally allowed to parody a work because it is generally considered transformative and commentative upon the original.

Japan doesn’t have any of that. Police can file criminal copyright infringement complaints without the input of the original creator. Without Fair Use or parody law, it becomes pretty harrowing to see just how much you can’t do in Japan without potentially infringing on copyright—and it begins to make more sense why Gintama censors people’s faces and bleeps out names and titles whenever they talk about other Weekly Shonen Jump manga, even though they’re in the same magazine!

“Now hang on, Jean-Karlo,” you may begin to ask, “How does any of that leave any room for Comiket? You said it yourself, a huge chunk of it is making fan-comics based on well-known properties like Fate, Azur Lane, and The Idolm@ster!” And that’s right! Part of my haul this year included a Heaven’s Feel doujinshi. The best I can gather is that Comiket and its many participating doujinshi-ka are afforded a ton of leeway while existing in the gray market. Legally speaking, the Powers That Be have every right to put the screws to them, but they don’t. Nevermind how arresting every artist at Comiket potentially means you’d have to put a ton of the anime and manga industry’s freelancers in prison, it also means a ton of established creators who still make doujinshi under a pseudonym would also get sent to the slammer. I’m not saying Shouji Sato has done a lot of porn under a particular circle, but I am saying that if Digital Accel Works goes down, we might not hear from the esteemed artist behind Triage X or Highschool of the Dead for a bit. To my untrained eye, a lot of doujinshi-ka also make sure to bend over backward for the original creators as a matter of respect. There’s also the scope of the thing; doujinshi tends to get printed in limited quantities, and any unsold stock from Comiket or Comitia or what have you tends to get sent to consignment stores like Toroana or Melon Books. Once they’re gone, they’re gone—it’s not often (if at all) that doujinshi-ka reprint their old doujin. More importantly, it’s rare to see them distribute digital copies of fan comics—usually, they only make digital copies of their original stuff.

So between Japan not having parody law nor the concept of Free Use, and much of these decisions coming down to a lot of hoary old goats in powdered wigs who likely think the internet is just a series of tubes (note: to any future Japanese judge who is reading this and is making an important decision on whether I see jail time: hi), you start to see how the Powers That Be in Japan might look at a Let’s Play of a Japanese text adventure game and decide that it isn’t nearly transformative enough to count as anything but infringing on someone else’s copyright. Provided, I hate that decision. Longplay channels in the U.S. have proven to be incredibly important to the longevity and archival of video games, especially since, even now, a game can vanish from availability quickly. Heck, just this summer gives us the example of God Wars: The Complete Legend getting yanked from the Nintendo eShop rather suddenly and without explanation.

I wish I could do more in this scenario or something I could say, but unfortunately, there’s little I can do in the face of another nation’s legal system. Tragically, the Powers That Be are behind the times in how media is created and consumed, yet they hold sway over how media is handled. It sucks to see people go to jail for wanting to share their passions.

Unity Decides On New Monetization Scheme, Makes Enemies Of The Entire Gaming Industry

An unfortunate side-effect of game development is the standardization of game engines. And for good reason: developing a new engine is an expensive, time-intensive process that could easily tank a game in the worst-case scenario. Sure, it sucks having to pay Epic money for the Unreal engine, but paying a fee for an engine is better than potentially going into the red on developing your own—you might end up with RE Engine on your hands just as easily as you end up with Crystal Tools. One engine used and enjoyed by many is Unity. It’s widely accepted and used thanks to its accessibility and relative ease of use, its versatility for both 3D games and 2D games (like Hollow Knight), and its cross-platform integration. And it looks like Unity decided “Nuts to that!” because now they’ve decided to charge developers per installation after a certain threshold.

Unity will soon charge devs per-install after a certain threshold. I want to express my concerns regarding privacy (tracking installs/downloads), preservation, and changing the whole business model while devs use the engine for their projects. 🫤

— Kenney (@KenneyNL) September 12, 2023

Folks… it’s been a very long time since I last saw something be so thoroughly reviled by the entire industry. Many have compared this to the recent (and well-deserved) outrage towards the new Dungeons & Dragons rights, where they were trying to claim ownership over any imagination towards their setting, but that was just one game making a boneheaded decision. This affects the entire industry because, as it turns out, there are a lot of games that run on Unity.

Let’s start with an obvious issue: data tracking. Unity would be charging each studio a fee per installation of each game. So the obvious question is, “How are they tracking that information?”. Their initial statements claim they needed to charge for potential re-installs of any games running Unity because “Unity doesn’t receive end-player information, just aggregate data.” This was quickly walked back with a contradictory claim that only initial installations would be charged. Regardless, this system had a significant flaw: any enterprising group that decides to harass a studio they don’t like could maliciously spoof a ton of installations, leaving the studio on the hook for a ton of money. It’s only a matter of time. In the end, Unity isn’t explaining because they’re using a “proprietary data model,” so all anyone has to go off of is “Trust me, bro.”

Next up was Unity’s subsequent clarification that “devs wouldn’t be on the hook for any game sales on Gamepass.” Again: how? Would Microsoft suddenly be on the hook for all of the installations? How could that be enforced? And what’s stopping Microsoft or Humble Bundle from deciding that Unity-based games aren’t worth supporting anymore? That kind of thing could ruin studios in other ways—nobody will want to work with Unity if it’s just a headache. And we’re already seeing this; plenty of developers are looking at their options to jump ship. Mega Crit, creators of Slay the Spire, already announced that their current project will be changed to another engine unless Unity’s policy is reversed. They also added, “We have never made a public statement before. This is how badly [Unity] fucked up.” Similarly, Cult of the Lamb‘s developers have warned fans to buy the game “now” because it’ll be deleted on January 1st of 2024. Unity also claims that demos “mostly” won’t trigger fees, whatever that means.

Oh, and there’s also the very suspiciously timed news that Unity’s CEO John Riccitiello sold 2,000 shares in the company a week before the news broke. Formerly CEO of EA, Riccitiello was the ghoul who proposed that gamers should be charged for ammunition in first-person shooters. Riccitiello is such a charmer, Suda51 has referenced him being a weapon in the form of “Damon Riccitiello” in Travis Strikes Back and No More Heroes III (with some especially pointed jabs at how Riccitiello sabotaged the development of Shadows of the Damned). With such quotes as the belief that developers who don’t bake monetization into their games being “fucking idiots,” small wonder Travis hits him.

Well, the joke is on Riccitiello. No doubt he looked at how some of the biggest games in the industry use Unity and wants in on some of that sweet, filthy lucre… but his eyes are bigger than his stomach because he’s messing with some of the biggest games in the industry. As it turns out, some well-known games that run off of Unity include Genshin Impact, Pokémon Brilliant Diamond/Shining Pearl, Hearthstone, Fate/Grand Order, Marvel Snap and Fall Guys. So among other things, Unity just pissed off the sleeping dragons that are The Pokémon Company, Disney, Activision-Blizzard, and China.

I use the phrase “more dollars than sense” a lot, but… woof, man, all I can do is sit back with my popcorn and wait for Riccitiello to find a horse’s head tucked into his bed sheets.

Sony‘s September State of Play

I think Sony kept their State of Play loaded in the chamber until Nintendo announced their Direct earlier this week, if only because they announced it within a few hours of Nintendo‘s tweet. And it’s not like they had nothing to discuss, but it’s not Earth-shattering.

First off, Sony is really dedicated to making their new PS VR 2 equipment work. They announced a handful of games for it, including a new VR version of Resident Evil 4‘s remake. And RE4 VR seems interesting… but I don’t think it’ll be the killer app Sony wants it to be. When CAPCOM adapted the original Resident Evil 4 to the Wii, it led to the best version of the game. And for a good reason: RE4‘s innovative aiming system works really well with motion controls, feeling like a natural fit. CAPCOM couldn’t have known that Nintendo would make a system with motion controls, but the stars aligned. RE4 on the Wii was one of the many highlights of the console, but also, the Wii was the everyman’s console, retailing for $250. Even with today’s inflation, that only makes it $387—still cheaper than a PS5 with the PSVR2 equipment, which costs almost $600 on its own. And that doesn’t include the console, so you’re looking at anywhere starting from $1,000 for a PS5 with the PSVR2. Call me crazy, but I don’t think that’s a very accessible price for anything. And pricing on these things matters. Your tech can be the fanciest, bleeding-edgiest stuff out there, but there’s a big difference between new tech existing and new tech being accessible for mass adoption. Almost any family could afford a Wii, but a PS5 and PSVR2 are much bigger investments outside of enthusiasts who have the money to burn. And regardless of how good Resident Evil 4 VR will be, it’s not enough to drag in tons of people.

Thankfully, CAPCOM still offers plenty of other non-VR expansions for Resident Evil 4. First is Separate Ways, a little DLC adventure starring Ada Wong. Set before the events of Resident Evil 4 and world-renowned babygirl Leon S. Kennedy getting stranded in the worst “eat-pray-love” trip ever, Ada goes into the village to recover a sample of the Ganados parasite—and according to the trailer, things go awry for her very quickly. There’s also the requisite “Mercenaries” DLC, where you can play as various Resident Evil characters fighting off waves of enemies; the trailer showcases Ada and Albert Wesker. Separate Ways will be available very soon, launching on September 21. Mercenaries mode launches along with it as a free update.

I also saw that Tales of Arise is getting a sequel, Beyond The Dawn. Not much to it outside of a cinematic trailer, sadly. I know a lot of people liked Arise, but I’m super behind with the Tales of… games. I never even beat Tales of Vesperia. For reference, my copy of Tales of Vesperia was for the Xbox 360 that is currently back home in Puerto Rico. I haven’t picked up the Switch port yet, and even if I did, I couldn’t play it because Xenoblade.

Final Fantasy VII: Rebirth got quite a bit of attention, too. Taking place where the previous Final Fantasy VII: Remake left off, Cloud and company set off into Midgard to stop Shinra from abusing the planet’s Lifestream—and maybe solve some mysteries about Sephiroth while they’re at it. This time, they’ve finally got Red XIII with them, playable and everything—and he does the cutest little sit when riding chocobos with his little doggy paws. Also, the ninja Yuffie Kisaragi finally joins the party, and Vincent Valentine is given cutscenes—they were both hidden characters in the original Final Fantasy VII. They didn’t even appear in cutscenes, which is wild considering how important they’d come to be. We also got our first glimpse at Cait Sith, the enigmatic cat (who now has a proper Scottish accent, as befitting the origins of the Cait Sidhe). Plenty more was teased, including Zack’s presence in the story, the fun-filled Gold Saucer and its minigames (one of which even alludes to the original blocky sprites from the PS1 Final Fantasy VII), the Weapons, and that fated mission to Niflheim where Sephiroth discovers his true origins.

The gameplay also has some updates. Chief among them, we finally have combo attacks. Many people theorized if Chrono Trigger-styled Dual Techs would be a part of Final Fantasy VII: Remake‘s battle system. They weren’t… but that seemingly put a bug into people’s ears at Square Enix. We see Yuffie and Barret combine ninjutsu and firepower; Aerith conducts her White Magic through Cait Sith’s weird mount… and a very curious X-Slash from Cloud and Sephiroth.

Currently, Final Fantasy VII: Rebirth is on track for its release on February 29th, 2024. There will also be a twin-pack with both Final Fantasy VII: Remake Intergrade (the version of Final Fantasy VII: Remake that included Yuffie’s side-stories) and Final Fantasy VII: Rebirth. It should be up for preorder soon.

While I don’t want to talk much about Spider-Man 2, as it’s a bit outside of my wheelhouse, I want to bring something up: the State of Play had Bryan Intihar talking about it! That name means a bit to me—Bryan Intihar was one of the many writers from Electronic Gaming Monthly I deeply respected. Many older gaming journalists went on to work in the gaming industry, and the alums of EGM and were no exception; Intihar, as it seems, went on to work for Insomniac Games. Shane Bettenhausen, IIRC, worked with Square briefly before settling with the PlayStation brand. Dan “Shoe” Hsu, formerly Editor-in-Chief at EGM (and a very outspoken man about his publication’s ethics and values) currently works for Blizzard and has a board game podcast. Jeremy Parish (whose writing was the subject of my college dissertation) currently works with LimitedRun Games. It’s easy to see why many old journos would go on to work with game studios, especially if they’ve become close friends with their PR folks. But it amuses me to see these people still around, working a bit closer on the games they used to discuss.

Nintendo‘s September Nintendo Direct

Ah, yes, Nintendo‘s Direct. People were chomping at the bit for this one. I mean, Nintendo fans always are, but people were full-on making conspiracy boards insisting that we were 100% due for a Nintendo Direct in September because there have always been Nintendo Directs in September. There were many surprises in this one, too, including throwbacks none of us could have foreseen. A lot of people seem to get disappointed that Nintendo never announces big AAA-type games in Directs… but if you wanted a self-congratulatory AAA game, Starfield is right over there, man. The games Nintendo announced here are plenty wild; it’s the last bastion of the mid-budget Japanese game library that we used to see on the PS2 and DS, and it’s there that the real jewels of gaming can be found. Speaking of, let’s start with talking about one of the wildest drops in the Direct: the one nobody could have seen coming.

We had a certain leaker teasing that the Direct would involve a remake of a DS game and a Wii game—ones that were connected. A lot of people predicted the typical stuff—one user predicted a very obscure Nintendo DS game, and I can only imagine they went to bed Wednesday night considering playing the lottery. The Nintendo DS was the home for many unique games that did a lot to take advantage of the DS’s touch screen; my longtime readers know that I wave the Izuna: Legend of the Unemployed Ninja banner hard, but other games did that better, like the DS version of Phoenix Wright: Attorney at Law and Time Hollow. One of the earlier examples of this, though, was the obscure Trace Memory: a very personal story about a young girl named Ashley who travels to an isolated island to solve a mystery about her father. Players control Ashley and a ghost-friend she meets on the island as they travel around and solve puzzles and find clues and tools to solve other puzzles. Critics didn’t know what to make of Trace Memory back during its debut; one reviewer from Electronic Gaming Monthly likened it to spending a rainy afternoon looking at old photographs of family members. But while Gamers™ in the early 00s didn’t know how to take Trace Memory, it built up a small fandom. These fans were crushed when the sequel never came to America—the Wii game mentioned earlier, Another Code: R – Journey Into Lost Memories, which details the adventures of an older Ashley. But now the games are back and remastered in the Another Code: Recollection set! While I miss the old art style for the game (it was a bit moodier, with much darker and pronounced shadows on all of the character models), the pale colors used on the models this time add to the somber, emotional tone from another angle. Look forward to Another Code: Recollection releasing this January 19th, 2024. It’s currently up for pre-order; definitely don’t miss out.

Let’s skip some of the deets, as there’s not too much to say about all of them. Splatoon 3 DLC, woomy. A SPY×FAMILY game, SPYxANYA: Operation Memories, waku-waku. Mario Vs Donkey Kong is back with co-op, oh banana—not a game I expected to see brought back, either. We have confirmation that Super Mario RPG will offer players the option of using either the new soundtrack or the original SNES soundtrack (great—the old version of Geno’s maze hits different). There are also new party attacks that players can use via filling a meter after consecutive successful Timed Attacks, which is a fun new twist to add to battles. Also, Culex is confirmed, and you can have re-matches against old bosses as post-game content. Mario RPG‘s remake is due November 17. The Detective Pikachu sequel is still coming—ooh, we have an actual brand-new Wario Ware game coming that’ll incorporate the Joycons much like Smooth Moves on the Wii. It’s called Wario Ware: Move It!, and it’s gonna be wild. Mario Kart 8 Deluxe gets four new DLC characters; Diddy Kong and Funky Kong are cool, but Pauline and even freaking Peachette getting included are wild. Luigi’s Mansion 2: Dark Moon is getting remastered for the Switch, and while it’s losing the “Dark Moon” subtitle, it’s keeping the online multiplayer. Look forward to Luigi’s Mansion 2 HD next summer—it should be Halloween 2024 if they had any sense, but oh well.

We have a two-fer for cool RPGs; first, Akitoshi Kawazu left his cave at Square Enix, which means we get another SaGa game. Titled SaGa: Emerald Beyond, the story is split between seven different protagonists, each with their own stories and ambitions. As you do with a SaGa game, Kawazu loves his ensemble pieces with concurrent storylines. The character design is phenomenal (special credit to them for designing a Middle-Eastern woman as a playable character), and the stories range from a King of Shadows to a robotic singer who’s lost her voice—and body. Emerald Beyond seems to take a cue from SaGa: Scarlet Ambition‘s timeline battle system with its own twist on it, including team attacks between parties. This one promises to be the biggest SaGa game yet.

Atlus and Vanillaware have teamed up for a new game! And it’s not trapped on a Sony console this time (alas, poor Dragon’s Crown)! The only other thing Vanillaware loves more than lavish, intricate 2D sprites is wild genre mixes, and their new game has plenty of it. Titled Unicorn Overlord, you play as a young prince trying to unite the land under the symbol of his Unicorn Ring. While it’s a strategy game, much of the system appears to take cues from the dearly departed Ogre Battle games. Not Tactics Ogre, those play a ton like Final Fantasy Tactics—I specifically mean Ogre Battle, where character classes matter almost as much as team composition. This game is coming at a great time; Vanillaware’s previous game, 13 Sentinels: Aegis Rim, recently surpassed one million units sold. Will they be able to hit those highs again? Let’s hope. At least the food is appropriately pornographic in its detail, as is Vanillaware’s wont.

We have more details about Princess Peach’s new adventure! And stunningly—Mario’s not involved! Super Princess Peach had Princess Peach setting off to rescue Mario, but here, Peach is simply helping a theater regain control of their plays after the evil witch Grape and her Sour Gang (get it?) put them all under a curse. The title is also rather cute: Princess Peach: Showtime!. Further details were given about the gameplay; while Peach can use the magic ribbon, Stella, to fend off the Sour Gang—the real central mechanic is much more Cutie Honey-esque: Peach can assume the starring role of the character in the play, using their abilities to solve the puzzles and fend off the challenges. Her “Swordfighter” role (a cute blend of Princess Sapphire from Princess Knight and Oscar from Rose of Versailles) can slash at enemies and cut vines, Kung Fu Peach can re-create Evo Moment #37, Detective Peach can solve mysteries… it’s all very cute! Even Peach’s hair is done up in a cute little ponytail, which is a cute touch for the game. I like that the game has much more of a puzzle-adventure bend to it. Look forward to it March 22nd, 2024; it’s currently available for pre-order.

Last but not least, Nintendo decided they had enough of the annoying people on the internet, so it decided to give them what they wanted.

F-Zero is finally back! If people don’t like that it’s one of those curious Nintendo 99 battle royale-type games, then I guess they didn’t want F-Zero to come back; F-Zero has always had a battle royale-styled twist to it. The original game back on the SNES gave your racer a shield meter; bumping against the sides of the track or other racers would deplete your shields, destroying your racer if you took too much damage. But you could also take advantage of this by intentionally crashing into racers with depleted shields to destroy them. F-Zero X on the Nintendo 64 and F-Zero GX on the GameCube leaned into this mechanic more, making aggressive driving a worthwhile strategy. This new F-Zero, titled F-Zero 99, balances defensive driving with resource management: your racer’s shields and boosts use the same energy meter, so you can drain your shield meter a little to give yourself a speed boost. Of course, if any of the other 99 racers pummel you to oblivion, that’s it—but also, you can take advantage of the violence by picking up energy orbs dropped by other racers bumping into each other to take a trip on a secondary track devoid of other racers, giving you a safer opportunity to get ahead. It’s pretty smart stuff! Winning races also allows you to unlock new color schemes for your racers, though sadly, because it’s all based on the original SNES F-Zero, only the original four racers are available. The wide selection of freaks from F-Zero X aren’t in.

Most people are understandably bemoaning this, some because it’s not a “realF-Zero, some because these “99” games don’t last for more than a few months. The latter is a very valid concern; this isn’t a game I can see lasting for more than a year. On the other hand, it’s a great take on F-Zero. If you were waiting for Captain Falcon’s return, this is your boat; get on or don’t.

Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door fans finally got the only thing that would make them happy: a Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door remake. It’s one of the best RPGs on the GameCube; make no mistake, a remaster is brilliant, considering how used copies go for outrageous prices. But also, I’m not happy to see the most annoying people get what they want. We actually did get good Paper Mario games after Thousand-Year Door, but Super Paper Mario wasn’t Thousand-Year Door, so into the bin it goes. The Mario and Luigi games all had excellent writing that delved into Mario, Luigi and Bowser (especially in the phenomenal and criminally-underappreciated Bowser’s Inside Story). But it wasn’t Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door, so into the bin it goes, along with developer AlphaDream. You almost expect people to bellyache that this remake won’t be enough like the original Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door. I can’t see why they would; it looks like the same game outside of an incredible remastering that makes those paper-like textures pop like they never have before. There are more dynamic camera angles in battles, as seen with the tease for the fight against the dragon Hooktail, and the effects are a lot more sophisticated… but it sure is Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door.

Two things have people raising eyebrows: for one thing, the computer TEC-XX’s single “eye” has its color in its original red coloring, as opposed to the blue it had in the U.S. localization (likely to avoid comparisons to HAL-9000 from 2001: A Space Odyssey. It’s a tiny detail, but it still stands out… because if that detail hasn’t been changed, it means some other parts of Thousand-Year Door might also differ from the localization we got on the GameCube. Specifically, everything to do with Vivian.

For folks who have never played Thousand-Year Door, Vivian is a put-upon shadow witch who joins Mario in his journey to recover the seven Crystal Stars before her evil sisters do. While the English localization has Vivian’s sisters belittle her for her perceived incompetence, the Japanese script, Spanish script, and German scripts have the sisters making fun of Vivian for being a boy who looks like a girl. The Italian localization goes the extra mile and declares Vivian as a trans-woman—and proud of it. Many fans, including Yours Truly, prefer this interpretation, and Vivian has been accepted as a trans representation by pretty much anyone who’s played Thousand-Year Door. Nintendo was in a very different place in 2004, and with the greater visibility and acceptance that the trans community has now, many people–again, including myself—are hoping that Nintendo actually Does The Thing™ and lets Vivian be trans in a new script. It’ll be very disappointing if it doesn’t happen.

The new Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door will be released in 2024—exactly 20 years from the first one. It’ll be hysterical if the game doesn’t cut the mustard on release. But I, at least, will pick it up because it’s been a while since I last played any Paper Mario game, and while I prefer the first Paper Mario, they’re all enjoyable enough to have on my shelf.

Let’s wrap up with some quick tidbits

  • Heads-up! Type-Moon‘s kinetic novel, Witch on the Holy Night, is slated for a Steam release this winter! Fans can pick it up on December 14, 2023. I reviewed it a while back; you can read up on it if you’re interested.
  • IntiCreates has dropped a surprising new spin-off for the Azure Striker Gunvolt series: GUNVOLT RECORDS Cychronicle, a rhythm game featuring the three Muses from the games: Lumen, Lola, and Luxia. It’ll be released on February 15th, 2024, on Nintendo Switch, PS4/PS5, and Xbox X|S/One. It’ll have a digital release for $15 with 15 songs, with an additional 20 songs released on five four-song packs for $4 each. I think we’ll see a physical release after that, like with Dragon Marked For Death.
  • Folks were sad to hear Sonic Superstars would only be getting cel-shaded models for its playable characters in Japan. Turns out, we can get them in the U.S… from Kroger’s, of all places.
  • On the Mario-side, you can get a neat pack of themed trading cards for pre-ordering Super Mario Wonder off of Walmart. They’re packs of 10 cards with a 1/10000 shiny holofoil of Elephant Mario; people will start riots for those packs…
  • Starting September 13 and ending on October 17, Phantasy Star Online 2 players can unlock items based off of Oshi no Ko! Uh… just watch out for weird fans, I guess?
  • That’ll do it for this week. Don’t let anyone say I don’t work for my pay! Our current slate has a fun game up for review later this month. I’m excited about it, and I hope you are too. I will be nine kinds of Not Okay if the Switch 2 comes out and I still haven’t beaten Xenoblade 3—especially if it’s not backward compatible. My Switch will have been a Xenoblade machine; I haven’t even touched Breath of the Wild yet! But we’ll cross that bridge when we get there. 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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