Welcome back, everyone! It’s been a week, so it’s time for us to sit back down and talk about video games. You might think I wanna take some time to talk about Xenoblade Chronicles 3, but I actually want to dedicate some space to Digimon Survive. The poor game came out on the eve of Xenoblade 3‘s release, almost got no promotion on Bandai’s behalf, and to my knowledge it doesn’t even have a Metacritic score. Worse yet, players have been review bombing it because it’s a visual novel with strategy elements. Digimon as a franchise deserves better, so this is me using my platform to encourage my readers to check out Digimon Survive if you have time. It’s a fun game, you can live out your fantasies of having a fire-breathing dinosaur as your best friend, and you can play it right now.

Also, Xenoblade Chronicles 3 is fun, I love Taion and I hope Eunie shows him absolutely no mercy. Get ya mans, girl!

This is This Week In Games.

Mario Kart 8 gets a second wave of DLC

Thursday saw the release of a new expansion to Mario Kart 8‘s Booster Course Pass. Players can now enjoy an additional eight courses across two new Cups, the Turnip Cup and the Propeller Cup. These include stages from all over the Mario Kart series, from the Super Nintendo original to even the Gameboy Advance entry—and of course, Mario Kart Tour.

Of the new courses, I honestly think Sky-High Sundae is my favorite. I’m a sucker for these candy-themed levels (I have a sweet-tooth IRL, so sue me). Waluigi Pinball also looks really cool, because I’m also a sucker for pinball. At any rate, there are another four waves to go for this game that’ll be coming in the next few months.

I know a lot of people are frustrated that Nintendo isn’t making a Mario Kart 9, but I’m not sure I understand the sentiment. Is it because people just want another game? I can’t imagine there’s much they can do to rebalance the driving or mechanics or otherwise differentiate the game. Is it because they want more levels? We’re getting that. New characters? Sure, that would be nice, but Nintendo could just as easily do that at any point after the new courses are finished. Considering how much people complain that Nintendo games are “too samey” and don’t offer enough differences between iterations, this is the best course of action: take what is already a great game, and just keep adding content onto it. Avoid the pitfalls of a game-as-a-service by ensuring the base game is worth $60 (and you’ll be hard-pressed to find someone who thinks Mario Kart 8 isn’t), then sweeten the deal with lots and lots of new content. Sure, a new F-Zero would be nice, but I’m getting a little weary of people who make bellyaching for a new F-Zero their personality. Don’t be like the Mother 3 crowd, folks.

Katamari Damacy Creator Announces A New Project

Hey, remember Katamari Damacy? You should! Starting as a completely-out-of-nowhere puzzle game on the PS2, it’s endured as a fantastic game series about rolling a ball around and collecting junk in order for your jerkass king of a father to use it to make stars in the night sky. It’s also got one of the best soundtracks ever used for a game. That Katamari Damacy creator Keita Takahashi didn’t become a household name afterwards like Suda51 or Yoko Taro is a tragedy, in my opinion. But you can’t keep a good man down! This past week, Takahashi and company released a teaser for their new project. And… well, it’s cute at least!

Coming from studio UVULA and published by Annapurna Interactive, it’s much too soon to tell what this game actually is. The project doesn’t have a title, all it has is a ton of charm. The main character looks a lot like Franklin from the Peanuts comics. Hopefully, the whole project looks this nice, because this trailer looks amazing. Again, no idea what it’s for or how this project will shake out, but we’ll definitely be keeping an eye on it. Hopefully, Charles Schultz looks down on it with approval.

Nasuverse News Incoming, “Buru-nya”s and “Umu”s To Follow

I’m only a passing Nasuverse fan: smart enough to know the memes and some of the bits of lore, not enough to bother burning up hours of my life playing Fate/Grand Order. But there are nevertheless a bevy of Fate characters I love a lot. But my lovely editor doesn’t pay me to list all of my favorite Fate servants and my favorite tags to see associated with them, she pays me to talk about games. So here’s some awesome news: Fate/EXTRA is getting a remake!

Originally announced during the Wada Arco exposition in Japan (currently running through August 9th), Fate/EXTRA Record is a remake of the PSP-exclusive Fate/EXTRA. A dungeon-crawling JRPG set in an alternate universe from the main Fate universe, the game features a number of fan-favorite Servants. While back in the day, they were originally known by their class titles (and their historical names were spoilers to an extent), Fate as a franchise has progressed to the point where these Heroic Spirits are old friends to the fandom. Among them are Rider, aka Sir Francis Drake; Berkserker, that is to say, Lu Bu; and the fan-favorite one-two punch of Caster Tamamo-no-Mae and (my personal favorite) Saber Nero Claudius. And lemme tell you, am I ever uguu for umus.

I never played the originalFate/EXTRA, but it represented a lot of really cool ideas. Mainly, it leaned into the concept of The Grail War and mages summoning Heroic Spirits in a variety of other classes (and hiding their names behind their class to obfuscate their historical weaknesses). Back in the day, “Rider” was Medusa. These days, Medusa alone has so many variants that you could have a whole party of nothing but Medusa alts—and that’s before you look at all of the Riders we’ve gotten since that aren’t Medusa. Having a Saber that wasn’t Altria Pendragon was a surprising headscratcher—I mean, she was a Saber-face but she couldn’t have been that Saber because for one, she was red, and for another, she had boobs. It also let us see newer Heroic Spirits that went on to become fan-favorites. Currently, there isn’t a release date for Fate/EXTRA Record or even any info on which consoles it’ll be out on, but I’m excited for a chance to play this game all the same.

In other Nasuverse news, we got some Melty Blood: Type LUMINA news this past week. Free DLC characters have been introduced to the game. The latter one is a surprise: Shielder-servant Mash Kyrielight is joining the Tsukihime crew for some fisticuffs. Considering her massive standing with the fandom and how much people love their little armored eggplant, it shouldn’t be surprising—I say “shouldn’t” because in my mind, I’d expect Altria Pendragon to be the one they go for. But I’m behind on my Fate lore, so eggplants it is. It’s the first new contender that has me excited and has the cowards running for the hills: Neko-Arc is finally back.

I’ve been quite amused at seeing new Melty Blood fans introduced to Neko-Arc; I was a huge fan of Arcueid during the height of her popularity and Neko-Arc amused me to no end. She has a ton of fourth-wall breaking attacks and a Neko-variant of Altria’s Noble Phantasm, according to her trailer. I will just about die laughing if she gets banned at Evo. If you’re not scared of true power, you can pick up Melty Blood: Type LUMINA right now on Switch, PS4 and Xbone. It’s on sale through the rest of the week, too!

Metal Max Finds New Home At Cygames

The Metal Max series isn’t exactly the biggest name in JRPGs in the U.S.; about the only other person I know who’s heard of it is my best friend from college, and we have the same tastes in JRPGs. But in Japan it’s a much more storied franchise, dating back all the way to the Famicom. The series has 16 titles in total. Up until now, the Metal Max games have been published by Kadokawa, but this past week the IP was snapped up by Cygames.

Cygames, best known for mobile games like Dragalia Lost, World Flipper, and the crown jewel of them all (in Japan), Granblue Fantasy, is dedicated to creating new Metal Max games—surprisingly, not as a mobile game series, though. While no doubt the desire to turn Metal Max into a live service is there, Cygames is committed to maintaining Metal Max as a console series, and they want to do it right. Series creator Hiroshi Miyaoka was also brought on board to serve as the director for the series and is reportedly at work creating a new Metal Max that’ll really set the world on fire—emphasis on “world,” as Miyaoka is quoted as hoping the new Metal Max “reaches the hearts of RPG fans around the world.”

This news is, at least to me, a little exciting. I had a chance to review Metal Max Xeno: Reborn for the Nintendo Switch earlier this year; it’s a fun game, but a bit janky and rough around the edges. There is definitely a lot of fun to be had driving customizable tanks around the ruins of Japan, but the storytelling wasn’t quite there and the gameplay itself lacked a necessary hook besides the allure of ever-bigger cannons for your vehicles. Cygames is flush with cash, and if Granblue Fantasy: Versus is any indicator they’re not afraid to share it with other studios to make special stuff. Metal Max could be a good way for them to cut their teeth on their own—and if it’s successful enough, we might actually see the Metal Max series break out from under the shadow of obscurity in the U.S. Folks interested in trying out Metal Max for themselves can try Xeno: Reborn, it’s been out for a while. And if you’re not afraid to do some legwork, track down Metal Saga for the PS2, Atlus‘ attempt at bringing the series out from the mid-aughts. You can stick machine guns on a Shiba Inu in it, like with the other Metal Max games.

Oni (not that one) Comes Home Late 2022

Anyone remember Oni? Old pre-Halo Bungie title from 2001 that tried really hard to look like a cross between Jin-Roh and Ghost in the Shell and succeeded at being a fun action game? Never got a sequel because Bungie later hit it big with Halo and became “The Halo Studio” for the next decade? If you don’t, then don’t worry—it’s not important for the subject at hand. If you do: forget what you know, this is a different game. That was plain old Oni, this is ONI: Road To Be The Mightiest Oni.

The story for this game is cute: you play as the demon Kuuta, who is on a quest to defeat the demon Momotaro. What we’ve seen of the visuals showcases a very charming, if a bit simple. I wanna avoid Okami comparisons because I don’t like using Okami as the end-all-be-all for colorful games based off of traditional Japanese folklore (even though CAPCOM really needs to give us a new game—come on, what’s a guy gotta do for Ammy to come back from her home planet?). Let’s call it “Pocky & Rocky by way of Bugsnax and a little Heart and Yummie thrown in.” There’s a lot of promise: ONI is being developed by Kenei Design, and boasts Masami Yamamoto as their producer. You should recognize Yamamoto’s name from that amazing PS3 classic, Tokyo Jungle, where you can play as a pack of Pomeranians in post-apocalyptic Tokyo. For their part, Kenei boasts ex-Mistwalker studios artist Kenei Hayama as their director. We still don’t know when ONI will release outside of a vague 2022 launch window, but look forward to it on PS4, PS5, and Steam.

It’s Not A D.U.M.A., It’s Star Ocean

Oh, they’re making a new Star Ocean game? Seems like every so often, Tri-Ace tries their hand at it. Bless their hearts, they really do try. This storied series of sci-fi-inspired JRPGs has a lot of fun concepts but always gets hampered by the fact that these futuristic space-age games inevitably spend the lion’s share of their time in generic medieval worlds. Xenosaga, Xenoblade Chronicles and the Phantasy Star series (both Online and classic) have done way more with the idea of science fiction JRPGs, it’s a shame that the new Star Ocean games can’t quite get that to work. At least bring back the dude with the two dragons on his back, games are fun with weirdos like that. Anyway, with Star Ocean: The Divine Force coming out on October 27, we were privy to a new trailer that showcases one of the key gimmicks for this upcoming title: D.U.M.A.

D.U.M.A. is a sentient robotic drone that your party encounters early in the game. It goes hand-in-hand with The Divine Force’s new open-world design: practically speaking, D.U.M.A. is a jetpack for your characters to help them fly around areas to facilitate exploration. Collecting crystals floating in the air earns you points you can use to customize D.U.M.A.’s abilities. Meanwhile, in battle, D.U.M.A. expands your roster of abilities by giving characters unique moves involving dashing. Some characters just get a flashy dash attack, while others were seen performing unique area-of-effect heals or even crashing into enemies to scan their data. As for the story implications, D.U.M.A. being a sentient robotic orb means that their advanced technology is going to make them a target for both the heroes and villains alike.

What really caught my eye were some of the pre-order goodies. Apparently, there’s an early-purchase bonus involving some in-game tchotchkes. That two of them are based off of Tri-Ace’s beloved Valkyrie Profile series, I should have expected; it wouldn’t be the first time the likes of Lenneth or Lezard made a cameo appearance in Star Ocean. It’s the other two figures that made me squeal like a schoolgirl:

IT’S MY BOY JACK RUSSEL AND HIS GIRL RIDLEY SILVERLAKE!! I didn’t wake up this morning expecting anyone to remember Radiata Stories (least of all myself), but Tri-Ace decided to throw that old PS2 fan-favorite a bone and pull Jack Russel out of the trash heap. Radiata Stories was a fun game, a JRPG where it was possible to recruit every single named character in the entire game, so long as you could unravel their personal quest—that’s 176 characters, by the way. Every character in the game had their own daily schedule, requiring you to pay attention to their day-to-day habits in order to figure out what they needed. Maybe that peppy girl in magic school secretly transforms into the songstress at a local bar at night. Maybe that knight needs you to get his contact lens from the sewer. Maybe you just need to kick that shopkeeper into making him attack you and best him in combat to make him join you. Radiata Stories boasted an absolutely amazing cast and I totally miss playing it now. It’s a shame it hasn’t been ported anywhere. Keep an eye out for it if you’re into old PS2 games. Oh, and maybe look into Star Ocean: The Divine Force when it comes out this October 27th, maybe?

Pokémon Direct: Tournaments, Cooking Events, Muddy Frogs And Bread-Dogs

This past Wednesday we had a big Pokémon Direct—at 6 am, long before I’m supposed to wake up for my nine-to-five where I pretend I’m a normal person and not a weeb. While we did get a lot of news for Pokémon Scarlet/Violet, we also got a lot of primers about the other facets of the Pokémon franchise. For starters: the Pokémon World Championship is back after three years hiatus!

The Pokémon World Championship will be held in London this year, from August 18 to August 21, in a move that I think would’ve made more sense if they could have held it when Sword/Shield came out (Galar is based off of the UK, remember?). It’ll not only cover the Pokémon Trading Card Game and the Sword/Shield games, but also Pokken Tournament, Pokémon Go, and Pokémon Unity. There will also be a pop-up Pokémon Store, which they’re planning on being the biggest pop-up store yet.

I really like the idea of this tournament. It’s a lot like a real-life Pokémon league. It’s cool that people of all ages from around the world can get together and share their love of Pokémon together. Even if Pokémon is the world’s biggest multimedia franchise to the tune of $90 billion, there’s something to be said about how so many people have stuck with it for so long. I like thinking about people who’ve made friends worldwide through Pokémon. That’s what this whole thing is about: going around the world and meeting new people.

Speaking of meeting new people, there’s Pokémon Go! They’ve been having Pokémon Go Festivals in select cities this past year: one in Berlin, and one in Seattle. The plan is to have one last worldwide Pokémon Festival—one where Sun/Moon‘s Ultra Beasts are unlocked. Nihilego, Pheromosa, Buzzwole and Xurkitree will all be available at the Pokémon Go Festival on August 27, as well as Shaymin (if you can accomplish certain tasks). You have to buy a ticket to join in, but the event will take place regardless of where you live so you don’t have to travel out to some urban hub to get your Legendaries. There will also be a new update in the form of the Daily Adventure Incense, a daily item that can spawn a wide variety of Pokémon around the player for fifteen minutes. Many of the Pokémon spawned can be from outside your typical environ, and can even include certain Legendaries! This would have come in handy back when Pokémon Go first came out and I was living in the mountains in Puerto Rico where nothing would spawn ever.

In anniversary-related news, Pokemon Unity is celebrating its first anniversary. The Pokémon-themed MOBA, made in collaboration with Tencent, is a game that I frequently forget exists but apparently has been doing well for itself. In honor of its anniversary, it’s introducing a new limited Quick Battle mode: Pika Party, where all Pokémon on the field are Pikachus. Those will be available from August 3 to September 1. In addition, Buzzwole will also be available as a new playable character in Unity. Meanwhile, the Pokémon Masters EX mobile game is celebrating its third anniversary—but so far, there’s little detail on what they’re planning outside of a “Trainer’s Lounge.” More information is to come, presumably.

Also, there was news on Pokémon Café Remix! Mewtwo is available as a limited event, as are Latios, Latias and Victini. I used to play Pokémon Café, and it seems to have gotten a huge set of updates in the time since I fell off last year; there are tons more options for leveling up your Pokémon—a definite upgrade, since Café used to be quite stingy with its perks.

But that’s not why we’re here. We’re here for the Scarlet/Violet news. Well, luckily for all of us, there’s a lot of it.

First off, the trailer confirms that Scarlet/Violet will be the first mainline open-world game in the Pokémon series. Legends: Arceus got a ton of positive acclaim for it, so here’s hoping that GAME FREAK can put what they learned from Arceus to practice with Scarlet/Violet. The good news is, they’ve made Paldea a lot more fun courtesy of the Legendaries on the cover. Koraidon and Miraidon don’t just look like motorcycles; they function as them, turning into mounts for players to cross maps with. Koraidon is a little goofy for using its legs instead of its wheels, and Miraidon has jet-boosters, but that’s the result of the past/future theming the games are going for. It implies we’ll be getting the Legendaries fairly early, as they won’t only be bikes but will also serve as our flying mounts, Surf-mounts and rock-climbing mounts. If we have to make friends with weird dinosaurs, that’s all the better for me; “Paldea” seems to combine the Spanish word for “village” (“Aldea”) with “Pal,” as in “friend.” So our best friend gives us rides everywhere. That’s worth a few berries for our dino-buddies. Fitting in with the open-world theme, the Direct promised us “three storylines.” The first is a “treasure hunt”, while the second is the typical gym battle challenge. In a unique twist, players will be able to tackle the gyms in any order. There weren’t any details on what that third story will be, but then again we haven’t heard what villainous Team we’ll be up against this time around.

We also got a few glimpses of new Pokémon, like the Paldean variant on Wooper. It appears to be Poison-type and people are going wild for its darker color scheme, even if they’ve taken to calling it… “Pooper”. I can neither support nor criticize that decision. Other cute Pokémon like Fidough (a bread-dog based off of Spanish baked treats) were introduced, but I think Paldean Wooper has stolen the audiences imagination. Just a guess.

We also got to meet some of the new Trainers. Following from your trainer being dressed in what are some pretty embarrassing school uniform shorts, your trainer will belong to either the Uva or Naranja Academy (please note that “Uva” and “Naranja” are Spanish for “Grape” and “Orange”). While studying at the academy of your choice and taking instruction from the sexy-as-hell Professors Sada or Turo, you’ll also be receiving guidance from the academy headmaster Clavell (er… as in “Clavos,” for “cloves” maybe?). We were also introduced to Mr. Jacq, your homeroom teacher who looks like a complete disaster (the character designers understood the assignment), the gym leaders Arven and Grusha… and most importantly, Penny. Penny, by and large, has been the star of this trailer. I mean, look at her. Just look at her.

Penny is a fellow classmate and apparently a truant. She’s also shy. Canonically. But the vibe the collective internet community has gotten is “she is an up-and-coming slash-fic artist/this woman is a fixture at Toroana perusing the BL aisle/this woman is gonna be a VTuber if she isn’t already.” So many people vibe with her, her mousy demeanor, her understated-but-stylish outfit, her Eevee backpack (which she takes everywhere—canonically), and her sleepy countenance from being up all night drawing smut for her Patreon (not-canonically but come on, just look at her, you know her commissions are top-rate). I want to respectfully peruse her stall at a local convention and buy her slutty, slutty Gligarman/Mighty Moltres fanart so she can afford to go to college and have a successful VTubing career while she collaborates with Tobey Fox. Speaking of good ol’ Tobey! It seems he’s collaborating with GAME FREAK once again and offered some of his music for Scarlet/Violet. The main field theme was composed by him, as well as numerous other tracks. I look forward to jamming out to them.

So, what else is new in Scarlet/Violet? Well, Dynamaxing has been updated and improved with a new feature: Terrastalizing. Akin to Sword/Shield’s Dynamax, Terrastralizing transforms your Pokémon while empowering them. The difference is that while a limited number of Pokémon could Dynamax into unique Gigantamax forms, Terrastralizing has benefits for the entire Pokédex. For starters, all Pokémon turn into these cool crystalline forms with silly adornments on their heads. But the adornments aren’t just for show, as it turns out some Terra-versions of Pokémon can have completely different types from the norm—and the adornments help reflect the new typing. An example the Direct gave was a Terra-Eevee that was a Water-type. Not a Vaporeon—a Water-type Eevee. This can completely change battles: you think you’re doing fine against a Pikachu, until it suddenly changes from an Electric-type to a Fighting-type. Terra-Pokémon will become the new Raid encounters for trainers, and raids are now completely real-time: trainers take actions independent of each other.

I love the Terrastralizing concept. Mega-Evolutions were cool—but only a select few Pokémon got them, and they could completely overrun a battle. Z-Moves were flashy, but ultimately useless: not nearly enough to turn the tide of a battle if you were losing, and complete overkill if you were winning. Dynamaxing was a cool idea and I’m always down for Pokémon showing off more of its Ultraman-based roots, but again: too few Pokémon benefited from those cool Gigantamax forms. Here, it’s the best of all worlds: all Pokémon have a cool new design courtesy of the glass look, while also adding enough of a strategic bonus to really make the gimmick shine. Also: whether intentional or not, it’s a good call-back to the anime. Episode 87 of the original Pokémon anime had a Crystal Onix that never got fully explained. And that episode… was set in the Orange Islands. Remember a few paragraphs ago when I taught you guys that “Naranja” was Spanish for “Orange”? Eh? Eh?

GAME FREAK is also making sure to make some other cute call-backs with Terra-Pokémon. For example: the early-purchase bonus for Pokémon Scarlet/Violet will be a Flying Tera Pikachu—and to denote its flying-type, this Pikachu has balloons on its head. Like the ones Flying Pikachu used to fly around in Pokémon Snap, Pokémon Stadium, and Pokémon Yellow. And people say Pokémon isn’t like how it used to be.

Of course, folks are complaining about the graphics, but some Pokémon fans are like Star Wars fans: they’re really only in it to bellyache about stuff. I skipped over Sword/Shield and Arceus because Xenoblade Chronicles 2/1 Definitive Edition bogarted my time, but I really don’t wanna miss out on Professor Sada, Koraidon, Penny or the sight of Terra Scizor—or Terra Shuckle. Please. Give me my glass-spun mold worm. I need to hug it.

As a final point to notice, sharp-eared fans picked up that Pikachu and Eevee have gone back to making their traditional videogame cries in Scarlet/Violet; no more spoken cries for them. The extra effort for Pikachu and Eevee was appreciated and cute, but a bit distracting when the other thousand-or-so Pokémon still have only sounds. But it sure was a cute detail in Let’s Go Pikachu/Eevee. I hope they continue to use it for spin-offs. Also, as a final parting gift: check out how Pop Team Epic‘s Bkub decided to commemorate Terrastralizing!

Let’s wrap up with some quick tidbits:

  • Neogeo Pocket Color fans, your ship has arrived! This week saw Mega Man: Battle & Fighters ported to the Nintendo Switch. It’s a fun portable version of the Mega Man fighting games. It’s left untranslated in Japanese, but it’s a lot of fun. We can also look forward to more SNK games via the Neo Geo Pocket Color Selection Volume 2 set, which was also announced and soon to be released!
  • Tactics Ogre: Reborn was officially announced this past week for PS5, PS4, PC and Nintendo Switch. Look forward to it this November 11.
  • Ace Combat 7: Skies Unknown has received a ton of skins and emblems this past week. [email protected] fans, you can now bedazzle your foes with your favorite Cinderella! If you use Jougasaki Mika, you get brownie points from me.
  • Fullmetal Alchemist gets a mobile game in Japan titled, er… Fullmetal Alchemist Mobile. It released on August 4 in Japan, no word on a U.S. release.
  • Record of Lodoss War Chronicles promises to collect nine classic games based off of the classic anime, including obscure titles for the PC-9801. I think a US release might be too much to ask for…
  • Esteened Chinese action-RPG series Sword and Fairy finally comes to America with Sword and Fairy: Together Forever! It’s also got a very snazzy collector’s set! Expect it early 2023.
  • Time-travelling action game Samurai Maiden gets a US release! Release is set for this winter, more to come…

    And that’ll do it for this week—and for my first month working for This Week In Games. I hope that you’ve enjoyed my writing. I’m still working at it; I’d like to think I have a defined voice and that you all enjoy my company. It might be a lot of work compiling all this stuff… but as I sit here writing it, I look back on it all and smile. I deeply enjoy my time compiling these columns, fitting jokes in here and there and sitting back to see how folks enjoy it. I like to think I bring some joy to you guys. I hope I covered some stuff you guys are excited for, and maybe introduced you guys to stuff you’re now excited for. Who’s excited for Keita Takahashi’s new game? How badly do the new Fate/Grand Order systems hose over your party? Any Sword and Fairy fans in the audience? Lemme hear your thoughts. 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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