Of Hell and Witches – This Week in Games

Hey, everybody! So, last week, I didn’t expect for Iono to reveal her new Pokémon as quickly as she did. I was kicking myself when Friday rolled around and she revealed Bellibolt. That’s deadlines for ya, I guess, but it was still a little annoying.

Anyway, Bellibolt is adorable and ugly-cute and it’s the perfect Pokémon for Iono. I love its design and I hope it makes tons of appearances in whatever it is GAME FREAK decides to do with Iono.

In Xenoblade News—hey! Finally getting some more insight into Ethel’s storyline! And the game has finally introduced Interlinking properly! What little nuggets of story I’m able to get are really good. But chances are, you guys probably already beat Xenoblade 3, so I’m just preaching to the choir. Ah, well!

This is…

Voice of Bayonetta Calls For Boycott of Bayonetta 3

It can be a little hard to work on this column because, as mentioned earlier, big stories can break right after the deadline and we gotta wait a whole week to talk about them. And I definitely wish I could bring this stuff up earlier, but I can’t write this column every day (and my editor couldn’t afford that, anyway). But at any rate, imagine my surprise when I woke up to the big Bayonetta brouhaha this past Saturday.

When we last discussed Bayonetta 3, we had mentioned that Platinum Studios explained the absence of longtime leading voice actress Hellena Taylor from the starring role; according to them, it had been “overlapping circumstances” that kept Taylor from reprising the role. Taylor took to Twitter to set the record straight: in her words, she had “nothing but time”. The real reason she wasn’t voicing Bayonetta? Platinum wanted to pay her a paltry wage for it.

In a series of very emotionally-charged tweets, Taylor explained the situation (from her perspective): she had to re-audition for the role of Bayonetta (which is entirely justified—people’s voices change as the years go by). She passed the audition with flying colors, but their first deal was “insulting”. After personally appealing to Hideki Kamiya, the creator of Bayonetta, she was given the “bigger” offer of $4000.

Taylor had explained other things about her situation: she’s in the UK, where people are going through some extreme economic struggles. Taylor, as she put it, “can’t afford to run her car”. The low wage allegedly aggravated her depression and anxiety, triggering suicidal ideation. And, of course, the cherry on top was Platinum going and saying that Hale was hired as a stand-in due to scheduling conflicts.

Now, there were some miscommunications involving the whole thing: Taylor says she was offered “$4000, buyout”. Some people took this to mean she was to be paid only $4000; in a later article on Bloomberg, anonymous sources close to Platinum claimed that they instead offered $3000-$4000 per recording session, for a total of $15,000.

There have been many responses to these things. Some have pointed out that giving royalties to voice actors before the devs at studios is unfair. True: they should all be earning royalties, plain and simple. Folks like Bobby Kotick or Andrew Wilson don’t need extra kickbacks for doing jack-all to develop these titles. Some have questioned Taylor’s math in the $450 million claim; that is, in my opinion, immaterial. Taylor could have worked for two hours, she still made that role. Everyone could tell she wasn’t voicing Bayonetta the moment the witch opened her mouth for the first trailers of the third game; everyone was asking where she was. Talent that fans can recognize on that level isn’t something you can just brush off lightly. Some people have pointed out that $15,000 isn’t actually that bad for game VA; the fact is, it’s still quite paltry for anyone working a Union gig, especially since it doesn’t include royalties. As excessive as six figures and royalties may sound… that’s about what you’d pay an actor for a similar role in film. Some folks have dug into Taylor’s follow history and dug up some of her political leanings; these don’t diminish her argument that Platinum did her dirty.

This is just the latest in a very long list of recent news concerning voice acting and the poor compensation many voice actors receive for their high-profile fan-favorite roles. There was the recasting for Mob Psycho‘s third season with Kyle McCarley just wanting to open the door to discussing better pay for his colleagues; there was the mass consternation over Charles Martinet getting overlooked in favor of Chris Pratt for the Super Mario Bros. movie from Illumination; there was a GoFundMe for Carey Means, best known as the voice of Frylock from Aqua Teen Hunger Force, so he could afford some treatment for his Congestive Heart Failure (he has never earned royalties for his work on ATHF). More and more, voice actors are demanding better treatment and equal pay.

Further complicating things is Jennifer Hale having taken up the role in Taylor’s place. Hale released a statement that calls for understanding from fans. Hale, no stranger to supporting the rights of fellow voice actors, sympathizes with Taylor but also doesn’t say much about the situation as she’s under NDA. Evidently, though, she’s not really to blame for any of this, and any vitriol aimed at her is wholly unfair. I’ve seen some folks theorize Taylor was intentionally lowballed in favor of casting Hale from the get-go, which is pretty ridiculous from where I’m sitting. But folks have pointed out that someone who’s argued in favor of voice actors probably wouldn’t accept “just” $4000 for a big role like this one.

As for Platinum? Well, they had a complete garbage fire to handle. Hideki Kamiya, firebrand of their studio who made infamy for himself with his ostentatious way of blocking people he didn’t like, went on a serious warpath blocking people who confronted him on Twitter. He was quoted as saying “Sad and deplorable about the attitude of untruth. That’s what all I can tell now.” He also reminded folks to “BEWARE OF [his] RULES”. Fair enough, you can be a jerk on Twitter if you wanna, but a good number of the people in Kamiya’s mentions were other voice actors. And, uh, it might be a really bad look for your studio if you start blocking high-profile VAs. Kamiya’s blocking got his account restricted and then even deleted temporarily before coming back earlier this week. I’ve never been a fan of Kamiya’s internet tough-guy shtick, and I think it’s fair to say his Twitter showboating has done Platinum way more damage than even Taylor pointing out just how little she was being offered.

So here’s the big crux of the matter: what to do with Bayonetta 3? A lot of people have been waiting years for this title. On the other hand, as one Twitter use puts it, “When Bayonetta tells you to boycott Bayonetta 3, you listen to Bayonetta.” Boycotting a thing you care about is a hard stance, and I’m Autistic so I know it’s a thing folks struggle with. But as I’ve put it before, no thing that I love is ever worth harm coming to other people. I love Dragon Quest, but I wasn’t letting Koichi Sugiyama get so much as a dime of my money to invest into promoting bigotry and historical revisionism. I love Ruroni Kenshin, and I know the words to Freckles; haven’t so much as looked at it since Nobuhiro Watsuki got convicted. I can’t hold other people’s feet to the coals and make them make choices they don’t wanna make, but at some point I’d like to think people will look up from their shiny new toys long enough to think about whether it’s worth people getting stepped on. I don’t care if people decide to boycott something or not; I’d just like to see people finally care about people more than they care about Content™. I stand with voice actors who make the call for better pay and better treatment. SAG needs to update its terms and conditions for video games and anime.

In the meantime, if Kamiya needs to learn how to not be an absolute trash-fire, he should go ask his mum.

Nintendo Settles With Fired QA Contractor

In other work-related news, we have an update on an ongoing situation with Nintendo; a few months back, a QA tester by the name of Mackenzie Clifton filed a wrongful dismissal charge against the Ashton Carter staffing agency. Clifton claimed that her dismissal was related to her trying to initiate discussions about unionization among the other contractors.

After some deliberation, Ashton Carter has settled and will pay Clifton about $26,000 in unpaid wages and damages. Nintendo alleges this was all done in order to protect their corporate secrets, but it’s not the first controversy we’ve had this year in regards to QA contractors and their rights. Much like with voice actors, I’m hoping we soon see better rights and some proper unions for them soon.

Oh man, I hope we get some lighter news, this is exhausting me…

Summer Time Rendering To Get A Visual Novel Adaptation Where Players Solve The Mystery Of Their Friends’ Death

Ah, there we go, perfect!

I don’t actually know much about Summer Time Rendering, because the first I heard of it was as one of the manga that appeared in Captain Velvet Meteor in the Jump+ Dimensions. But it’s a very successful manga series on Shonen Jump+, and it’s apparently gotten a pretty good anime to go with it. And now it’s going three-for-three with a visual novel!

Titled Summer Time Rendering: Another Horizon, the visual novel will aim to retell the story of the manga and anime. New systems called the TIPS Branching and the Adventure Branching will help the story diverge a little, hopefully granting alternate storylines. There will also be a brand-new character designed for the game: the idol Kaori Koyuba, who’s designed by Summer Time Rendering-mangaka Yasuki Tanaka.

There’s no word on whether Summer Time Rendering: Another Horizon will get a US release; we’ll keep you guys posted in the meantime.

I really loved The World Ends with You, but I’ve never watched the recent anime nor have I had a chance to get around to playing the sequel, NEO: The World Ends with You. I know it has some ties with the anime that I didn’t watch, and I know it reworked the original TWEWY‘s combat to function on a single screen. That’s about it. There’s one thing not a lot of other people knew, though: NEO: The World Ends with You released on Steam!

NEO: The World Ends with You and its predecessor got heavily overlooked, and folks had to wait years between the first The World Ends with You and its sequel. This is bad enough, but NEO: The World Ends with You getting quietly shunted out the window is basically leaving it to die on the vine—especially since Persona 5 came out on Steam the very next day.

Nevermind how bizarre it is to see a Square Enix title be overshadowed by an Atlus title, it’s a shame to see NEO: The World Ends with You so overlooked. Don’t sleep on this one, folks: I don’t wanna wait another decade and change for a sequel to NEO: The World Ends with You.

Konami is bringing back Silent Hill

Silent Hill is one of the most beloved horror game series ever made that you can’t really play in any ideal format. The games have all been landlocked on the PS1 and PS2—at least, the ones you’d want to play, because outside of Shattered Memories on the Wii the other Silent Hill games aren’t very good. The HD remasters available on PC are less than ideal, owing to the fact that Konami lost the original masters of the game. And the one shining light for fans, the proposed Silent Hills that was revealed to be the true purpose behind that enigmatic playable teaser that was P.T., is deader than dead. At least P.T. has gone on to become an incredible influence on horror games? Goes to show, short concept-games can be more influential than AAA releases (what up, Anthem). With Konami completely embedding its metaphorical head within its metaphorical rear end, Silent Hill seemed doomed to oblivion, forever doomed to the hell of pachinko parlors.

But then CAPCOM started making mint with Resident Evil and Konami picked up the phone and shouted, “We’re leaving how much money on the table? Get Mary Elizabeth McGlynn and the guy with the banjo back in here this instant!”.

So, uh. Silent Hill is back? And with a number of projects?

First up: a Silent Hill 2 remake! Featuring Masahiro Ito’s monster design and Akira Yamaoka‘s musical stylings, this is a top-to-bottom remake of the psychological horror classic made by Bloober Team. There is much excitement, as Silent Hill 2 is such a landmark title for an entire generation of fans. Silent Hill fans are almost exhausted of how desperately Konami tries to appeal to nostalgia through it, bringing back Pyramid Head over and over even though there’s literally no reason for him to be showing up… but then again, Silent Hill 2 completely overshadows its predecessor in breadth, scope, and impact.

Now, two things damper the excitement. First: Silent Hill 2 was a very particular kind of game. To put it bluntly, it had a lot of jank—and unlike, say, NieR: Replicant, it’s not a case where its ardent fans will tell you how much the jank sucks and tolerate it in a bizarre form of affection; the jank in Silent Hill 2 is wholly necessary. Combat sucks, the limited resources are horrible, and the puzzles can be outrageous on harder difficulties… and it’s all the point. So much of Silent Hill 2 hinges on all of its little details, it’s part of what ensures that the game is such an effective horror classic. So too have the revamped visuals made people a bit leery: some of the game’s texture is lost with the new (admittedly phenomenal) graphics. The game is almost… too clean. There are also some minor details that are lost, such as the famous mirror scene.

The other problem is that Blooper Team is handling the remake, and uh… as a famous Bostonian meow-meow once showed, Blooper Team can leave a lot of loose ends that ruin a game’s mood.

So far, there’s no word yet on when this remake drops, but we do know it’ll be a timed exclusive for the PS5 for the first year of its release, with a PC port to follow once the year is up.

There was also news that Silent Hill 2 will be receiving a film adaptation, courtesy of the original theatrical Silent Hill‘s producer and director. This could go either way; Silent Hill: The Motion Picture was (in my opinion) a fairly solid take on the first game that nevertheless had to contend with a shoved-in presence from Pyramid Head. It’s got plenty of legitimately creepy scenes, and a few really good performances. The later sequel apparently wasn’t very good? I dunno, I never saw it. But the first Silent Hill movie used Akira Yamaoka‘s music, and that alone is worth the admission price. Hopefully, they nail this one. We’ll have been robbed if they don’t use the Dog Ending™.

Next up, we have Silent Hill f, and I must warn folks: this trailer is a massive trypophobia trigger.

This Silent Hill spin-off is set in rural Japan during the 1960s. It’s also legit the creepiest horror trailer I’ve ever seen. Few trailers get under my skin the way this did (again: it was the trypophobia and the plants growing out of people’s skin). When the Silent Hill theme started playing on the shamisen, I felt freaking chills up my spine. This is a very auspicious trailer for what I hope is a very creative take on the Silent Hill mythos—especially since, in a massive surprise to everyone, it’s written by Ryukishi07, best known as the creator of the Higurashi franchise. If there’s anyone that can perfectly nail that supernatural horror of sleepy rural Japanese towns, it’s him. No release date for this one, either. We’ll keep you posted.

Silent Hill: Townfall is far more cryptic; the trailer doesn’t illuminate much, but it’s got a lot of shots of a blood-red shore so maybe it takes place in a creepy town by the shore? Maybe Maine, for those Stephen King vibes? Yes? This one is also set to be a crowd-pleaser, as it’s got Annapurma Interactive’s involvement. Their titles are already massively influenced by Silent Hill, it’ll be interesting to see what they pull off with the actual backing of Konami.

Last, and certainly sure to be least, we have Silent Hill: Ascension. It’s definitely the weakest showing of the bunch. We absolutely don’t know what this one will be; folks theorize it’ll be some kind of ARG, given how the trailer ends on “LIVE 2023”. What dooms it for me is the involvement of Bad Robot, J.J. Abrams’ film studio. I struggle to think of someone I’d want less to be involved with Silent Hill, given his hackneyed “puzzle-box” approach to storytelling and his terminal inability to pay off what he sets up. Everything about this game, from its uninspired title (sure, let’s toss “Ascension” into the title to make it sound dramatic, even though it’s wholly non-descriptive of the story) to the hackneyed “FACE YOUR TRAUMA TOGETHER” tagline. Give us an AK-47 and have us gun down Pyramid Head while he’s wearing cowboy boots emblazoned with the American flag and eating a hamburger, why don’t you.

Between this and the recent Suikoden ports, it seems like Konami is on the upswing lately. I’ll be watching them carefully—very carefully indeed, because we Boktai fans have been spurned by Konami much harder than words can describe. You guys at least got Silent Hill pachinkos, Boktai ain’t got nothin’.

Well, that was certainly a lot of horror games to cover for this week, sure glad I’m done discussing such a heavy load of news related to horror games–

Local ANN Columnist Not Finished Talking About Horror Games: CAPCOM‘s Resident Evil Showcase Livestream Makes Writer Earn His Pay

Ah darn, they got me again.

Well, after Konami had their fun with the Silent Hill announcements, CAPCOM stepped up to the plate with their own fair share of Resident Evil news. And there’s quite a bit! Best of all, it’s coming after a slew of really good Resident Evil games. While some of the recent remakes are definitely better than others (I think everyone found Nemesis a bit lacking), there’s no denying that CAPCOM has put a ton of effort into bringing these games into a new era… even if it means missing out on a lot of the campy George Romero-esque vibes from the originals.

Which is part of why the first bit of news—that of Resident Evil VII: Biohazard, the Resident Evil 2 remake and the Resident Evil 3 remake getting Cloud remakes—isn’t terribly exciting. Again, every last one of these is totally worth playing; Resident Evil VII: Biohazard saved the Resident Evil series after years of floundering and charted the course and aesthetic for the new games while keeping in the low-key grody tokusatsu-inspired zombie design that always lurked in the backgrounds of Resident Evil‘s DNA (look at Heisenburg’s Soldats, then imagine them fighting a team of Sentai–they totally fit). The remakes for 2 and 3 continued those themes while polishing up a number of the factors from the original game; while it misses out on some of the original charm, again, they’re still great. But… cloud gaming? Didn’t we just see the complete collapse of the Google Stadia? How are games this graphically intense going to work via the cloud? People need to stop trying to make “fetch” happen with these.

Much more exciting is the prospect of Resident Evil VIII‘s goodies—and there are a lot of them! First off is a new third-person view for Resident Evil VIII. While I personally believe that the first-person view is a valid design choice that helps with the cinematic tension and fear (just like the original Resident Evil games with their tank controls), the new third-person view seems very well-implemented. Also, they’ve gone the extra mile: you can’t get a bead on Ethan’s face at all. He’ll personally turn his face away so you can’t get a good look at him.

There’s also the Winters’ End DLC which picks up where the base game left off. Playing as a teenage Rose Winters, players will return to the spooky village to unravel mysteries. Rose seems to have powers that lets her destroy bioweapons, it seems. In a sad twist the affable Duke (the merchant from the base game) is now antagonizing Rose while donning some kind of Char Aznable mask. The title is ominous; I’m gonna be really sad if Rose dies by the end. But I’m looking forward to seeing a proper conclusion to Resident Evil VIII.

Finally, Resident Evil VIII‘s base game will be sold soon with the third-person mode, the Winters’ End DLC, the Resident Evil VIII Mercenaries mode, and Resident Evil: ReVerse. It’ll be available for PS4, PS5, the Xbox Series and Steam. Hilariously, it’ll also be available on Google Stadia, as well as the Nintendo Switch via Cloud.

So, last but not least, we have this new trailer for the Resident Evil 4 remake. For sure, it looks amazing but as many have noticed, it’s definitely focusing more on the dramatic tone that the previous Resident Evil remakes have gone for. Many have opined (and I agree) that Code Veronica would have been a better choice for a remake, especially with how much it gets overlooked. That, and part of what made Resident Evil 4 so beloved was how unapologetically cheesy the dialogue was. There are claims of some of the old tone is still there; there was a demonstration of Resident Evil 4‘s gameplay where Leon blows up a cow and has a pithy one-liner about it. But I definitely miss the old cherry-boy Leon Kennedy who is definitely hiding a tramp stamp under that tight shirt. There is also a valid concern about the game being a bit too edgy; the original Resident Evil 4 allowed players to rescue a dog from a bear trap (doing so would allow the dog to assist you in a later boss fight). In the new version, the dog is dead. We’ll see how this goes; I’d love to be wrong about this game.

Let’s wrap up with some quick tidbits:

  • Ultra Kaiju Monster Rancher released in the US on the 20th! This mashup of Monster Rancher with Ultraman kaiju is an inspired crossover. Expect a review from us in the next few days!
  • Akiba’s Trip: Undead and Undressed Director’s Cut was announced for a release in Japan on April 20th, 2023! In a surprise twist, anyone who already owns the title on PS4 or Steam can simply pay for an upgrade patch for their copy. There’s also a Switch port incoming. We reviewed the Switch port of it’s predecessor, Akiba’s Trip: Hellbound and Debriefed, in July of last year. Maybe they’ll release this one in the US next summer? We’ll keep you posted.
  • Nintendo Switch Online is adding two new Nintendo 64 games this November 2nd; look forward to Mario Party and Mario Party 2!
  • If you like Stranger of Paradise: Final Fantasy Origin and the recurring Final Fantasy character Gilgamesh, good news! The Stranger of Paradise DLC “Warrior of the Rift” adds new dungeons, a new class in the form of Blue Mages, and a new side quest starring Gilgamesh himself! It’ll drop on October 26th!
  • Woof, what a week! I’m hoping next week gives us something nicer to talk about. I do apologize for getting so heavy sometimes with the topics, but needs must; some anvils need to be dropped. More than ever, I’m hoping folks are civil and polite to each other in the comments! Don’t go disappointing me with your words, folks! Hopefully, any one of the Silent Hill-related drops is to your fancy, or you guys pick up the NEO: The World Ends with You steam port. I can only imagine what modders are going to do with that one! And hopefully, they keep Leon’s “You’re small-time, Salazar!” line in Resident Evil IV. In the meantime, I’m headed back to the Xenoblade mines. 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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