The Duality of Games – This Week in Games

Welcome back, everyone! It’s been a long week, and we’ve had a lot of fun stuff come up. My review for RPG Time: The Adventure of Wright came out earlier this week; it was a very fun game to cover and I hope everyone gives the game a look. It’s not often a game that charming comes along. We’ve got plenty of fun stuff coming down the pipes and I hope you guys are as excited for it all as I am. In Xenoblade Chronicles 3 news… did I mention we have a lot of things coming down the pipes? Also, I finally got my copy of the Fatal Fury: The Motion Picture steelbox. It’s a fun classic anime from the 90s and it’s one of Masami Obari‘s best works. I covered it in This Week In Anime last year, along with former-This Week In Games hostess Heidi. It is still one of my favorite columns I’ve ever worked on, and it’s quite possibly the reason I’m here in the first place! Funny how life works.

At any rate: This is This Week In Games.

Goku’s in Fortnite now, this stuff writes itself

After countless leaks, sly references, and teases on behalf of Epic: it’s finally happened. We have a Dragon Ball/Fortnite crossover. I’m frankly as stunned as all of you are. It’s not the first time anime characters have appeared in Fortnite, because we had that Naruto crossover a while back. But Dragon Ball making its way in is a bigger deal. I mean, it’s freaking Dragon Ball. And Fortnite didn’t skimp out on the fun details for any of this!

For starters: players can select one of four skins: Goku, Vegeta, Beerus and—most shockingly—Bulma. It’s possible to equip the Kamehameha wave as a weapon, meaning Bulma can not only pack heavy armaments like she did in her teenage years way back in the OG Dragon Ball days, she’s finally learned how to channel Ki. Shenron the Eternal Dragon can be purchased as a mount, as can the Flying Nimbus or one of the space pods from Freiza’s army. You can get the Fusion Dance as an emote. And in an even deeper cut, Goku doesn’t seem to be voiced by longtime English voice actor Sean Schemmel—he’s sporting Masako Nozawa‘s Japanese voice, blessed be those lungs.

There’s also a Dragon Ball-themed Adventure Island with all kinds of hang-out spots based off of locations from across the franchise‘s storied history. To wit, the trailer reveals locations resembling Kami’s lookout and the Capsule Corporation building, while eagle-eyed viewers can spot teleport terminals for “Goku’s House” and “The Room of Space and Time.” The resort also has a big screen playing episodes of Dragon Ball Super on rotation.

Is this enough to make me want to play Fortnite? Not really. I only really downloaded it so I could get the Sakura (from Street Fighter) and Chapulín Colorado skins and not miss out on them. I already struggle to play the offline games I have, live service games are too much like a running job for me to earnestly get into them. But this is an undeniably fun crossover that’s captured the internet’s imagination and I can’t pretend I’m amused by it all happening. And hey, it gives us plenty of amusing internet fodder. Like Goku dancing to Psy.

Look man, sometimes video games are just good.

Former SEGA Arcade Closes

Well, this one is a bummer for a SEGA-man like me: Akihabara Arcade #4 is closing down.

Properly known as GiGO Akihabara Arcade #4, it seems that the closure is due to nothing more banal or tragic than a simple contract expiration: their lease is up at the end of September, and they’re set to close on September 25.

Now, the name can be a bit confusing: the SEGA arcades haven’t been “SEGA” arcades for a bit. SEGA Sammy had pulled out of the arcade business a while ago and Genda GiGO Entertainment had apparently bought out the stocks from SEGA‘s arcade branch; the arcades all kept the SEGA branding but they no longer actually belonged to SEGA. This is still a shame nonetheless; Arcade #4 is in a premier spot in Akihabara, and with it gone there are only three of the Akihabara Arcades left. COVID has been rough for a lot of these locations, so we can only hope for better days for them.

I’m kinda surprised by the Hyperdimension Neptunia series; all these years and all these games, and I don’t actually know many people who are honest fans of the series. But there’s clearly a fandom out there, and I tip my hat to them. Especially since there’s a new Hyperdimension Neptunia game on the way: Sisters Versus Sisters

Neptunia is one of those things that’s probably what people who hate anime think all anime looks like, even though it’s a series of extremely deep videogame industry cuts. It’s a series based off of anthropomorphic representations of videogame consoles as cute anime girls that can transform into older, sexier versions of themselves. Also, they’re Goddesses of their respective realms and they all represent the major console players in the game industry—such that their world is called “Gamindustri”. The titular Neptune is the Sega Neptune, a planned console intended to be a follow-up to the SEGA Genesis/Mega Drive that never actually got released and was instead passed over for the 32X add-on and the Sega Saturn. This game focuses on everyone’s little sisters though—while Neptune, Noire, and Verte are confirmed to appear, the game focuses on Nepgear (Neptune’s little sister—she’s based off of SEGA‘s Game Gear, get it?), Uni, and Ram and Rom. Idea Factory streamed the intro movie to tease the series release, where we also got to see the mysterious Maho and Anri introduced.

I’ve never actually played any of the Neptunia games, even though a bunch of them are in my backlog and I’m actually interested in the Hyperdimension Neptunia/Senran Kagura crossover. There’s definitely a charm to these games and I appreciate the nods to old SEGA lore. While the game is already out in Japan, fans in America can look forward to playing Sisters Versus Sisters on PS4, PS5 and Steam early 2023.

Sony Prepares For New God of War Game With The Help of… Felicia Day?

There’s a lot of “Nerd” media I never actually got around to watching, so Felicia Day’s popularity is one of those things that I never had any context for. But she seems to be a swell person (and she loves wolf-girls too), and certainly has a love for the theatrical. So who better to narrate a recap of the first Dad of Boi game than her, right?

It’s a snazzy production that speaks to a kind of kitschy charm on Sony‘s behalf that, in a weird way, reminds me of the 90s and early 2000s when you’d have Daxter trying to leverage his connections with Jak to flirt with women or a weird sheep in a city warning people of Spyro. The whole thing is in rhyme but Felicia’s clearly having a blast with the performance. It’s a big fat spoiler for the entirety of the previous God of War, so obviously don’t watch it if you still want to go back and play that game. In the meantime, it’s a fantastic setup for God of War: Ragnarok. The new God of War is planned for release this November 9th, so you can let Felicia Day read you this cute little Norse bedtime story until then.

Sunsoft Announces New Kusoge, Because Life’s Too Short To Not Make Funny Games

I was very interested in Sunsoft announcing, er… an announcement stream this week. Best known as the creators of classics like Blaster Master, anything that Sunsoft decides to make has to be worth a look. And what they’ve decided to make is… this thing!

Readers, this is Ikki Danketsu. Localized as Ikki Unite, it’s a sequel to a classic kusoge, Ikki—in fact, the very first kusoge, predating Takeshi’s Challenge and Transformers: Mystery of Convoy by as much as a year! Apparently playing like a version of Vampire Survivor set in Feudal Japan, it supports up to 16 simultaneous players. You walk in eight directions, shooting out bits of lumber or other primitive weapons as you march on a local lord’s castle to take back your rice after a bad harvest. As you level up, you can earn randomized upgrades that change your weapons or attributes. It’ll have a release on Steam in the US sometime later this year, and Sunsoft is taking applicants for an open beta.

The whole thing has too much love put into it to feel like a simple piss-take, especially since it’s channeling so much esteem for the original—I mean, the Steam page even references the old review for the original (“You can’t riot with just one or two people!”). For as bad as it is, Ikki is beloved by kusoge fans for its uncanny charm. Hence my genuine interest in seeing this made. It’s not quite a Gotta Protectors where the humor is so much nostalgia for classic game design (and music, in case you forget that Yuzo Koshiro was the composer for that game), nor is it quite a lazy “we made this game bad on purpose” project. Ikki Unite is a silly concept, but there’s genuine heart being put into it and I am thrilled that it’s coming out in the US. I mean, if anything, it’s the kind of time-waster that’d be perfect for folks who don’t quite vibe with Vampire Survivor. And hey, we can always use more kusoge-love.

Also, Sunsoft has a vtuber to help promote their games. Because of course they freaking do.

I guess it’s time we stopped holding our breath for a new Sengoku Basara. After an almost-30-year-long tenure at CAPCOM, producer Hiroyuki Kobayashi has left the company to join NetEase Games. Kobayashi had served as a producer for some of CAPCOM‘s biggest hits, including Dragon’s Dogma, Resident Evil 4, and Devil May Cry while also serving as a supervisor on the Sengoku Basara – Samurai Kings and Devil May Cry anime (people remember that last one, right? Or at least the “Put your guns on!” meme from Sengoku Basara? Right?)

This marks another acquisition from the China-based NetEase Games; they’ve also managed to headhunt the Yakuza creator and producer Toshihiro Nagoshi and Daisuke Sato, as well as Devil May Cry 5 designer Ryosuke Yoshida and Suda51’s studio Grasshopper Manufacture Inc. NetEase has formed a Japan-based studio, Nagoshi Studio Inc., so they aim to make some waves in the industry. In the meantime, nothing to do but wait and see what they plan to do with all that talent under their belt.

Embracer Group Continues Its Acquisition Spree In The Games Industry

If you don’t know the name “Embracer Group”, it might be time to start paying attention. First arriving on the scene in 2018, Embracer Group has also been making some pretty big waves in the games industry in the US. They first appeared on my radar this past May when they acquired Square Enix‘s Western-based studios, namely Eidos, Crystal Dynamics and Square Enix Montréal. This past week, they made more waves with a veritable storm of acquisitions. While this–somehow–includes the IP rights to The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit literary works from the estate of J.R.R. Tolkien, this also includes a number of videogame studios like Tuxedo Labs (creators of Tearaway); Tripwire Interactive (creators of the Killing Floor series)… and, most notably, Limited Run Games.

Now, Limited Run Games isn’t a video game studio per-se, but they are a boutique distributor that has handled more than a few fan-favorite titles in the US. They’re responsible for giving fancy physical releases for digital-only titles like the Blaster Master Zero titles or WayForward’s beloved Shantae games, and they’re currently at work prepping a release for IntiCreates’ Azure Striker Gunvolt 3. They’re also noteworthy for releasing older titles; this past June, they released Senran Kagura 2: Deep Crimson in the United States, even though it’s a 3DS title and the 3DS is basically being prepped for the funeral. Limited Run gives a lot of TLC to their releases and they’re particularly noteworthy for extending that kind of love towards obscure Japanese titles, is what I’m getting at.

Now, is Embracer Group going to mess with any of that? Well, tough to say. In fact, I’m not entirely sure just what Embracer Group does. Their website lists a bunch of quarterly interim reports and general meetings, but what it all means is still quite unclear. If this gives Limited Run Games an influx of cash with which to do weird stuff like… I dunno, drag Yoshida On out of whatever pub he’s drawing Inugami Korone fanart and get him to work on some snazzy new art for a new Izuna: Legend of the Unemployed Ninja game, hey, that’ll be pretty cool. It’d be nice if all of their business reports led to the development of fun new games and to a healthier video game industry where developers can be gainfully employed and cared-for. Wouldn’t that be nice…

A lot of breath has been spent talking about how Pokémon is the highest-grossing multimedia franchise worldwide to the tune of $90 billion. Ever since it started in the mid-90s, Pokémon has captured the imagination of kids around the world, such that Pikachu is more recognizable than Mickey Mouse. So The Pokémon Company International, the conglomerate tasked with handling all concerns related to the Pokémon brand outside of Asia, made a momentous decision this past week to pledge a minimum of $25 million over the next five years to children’s charities worldwide.

With Pokémon boasting a net profit of $170 million in 2020, $25 million over the next five years is relatively chump change—but then again, just $50 could change a family’s whole Christmas. TPCI plans to organize a three-pronged strategy with their charitable efforts, focusing on global efforts, regional efforts (that is to say, areas where TPCI has offices—Europe, Latin America, North America and Oceania), and local efforts (charities near their Bellevue, WA offices). These will take the form of both monetary support to a predetermined list of charities as well as the donations of toys, games, and other Pokémon-related products to families in need.

I’ve always maintained that people forget just how much Pokémon is meant to be for kids—not that “it’s a kids’ franchise, it’s supposed to be dumb” but that the franchise‘s main appeal is how much of it hinges around a child’s perspective of discovering the world for the first time. In a 1999 interview with Time Magazine, Pokémon series creator Satoshi Tajiri said, “When you’re a kid and get your first bike, you want to go somewhere you’ve never been before. That’s like Pokémon.” And I think that means a lot more to the franchise than how the battles are done or whether or not there are too many critters that look like food. So it definitely means a lot for them to put their literal money where their proverbial mouth is. Now, of course, which charities TPCI chooses are vital—it’s no good if they end up tossing money at charities with a history of bigotry or ableism (I will be quite cross if they give any money to Autism Speaks, personally). But as someone who’s never stopped liking Pokémon, it’s nice to see the brand doing stuff to make sure kids everywhere get to play. And a lot of people everywhere could have their lives enriched by meeting new people through Pokémon.

…Meanwhile, Nintendo Gets Embroiled In Allegations Of Hostile Work Environments

We’ve seen a lot of stories break out about toxic workplaces within the gaming industry. Quantic Dreams, Ubisoft, most infamously the cases at Activision-Blizzard (which fell under federal investigation)… it’s not a fun topic to cover but one that needs every bit of light we can manage to shed upon it. This past April there had already been a good bit of discussion about toxic workplace behavior at Nintendo of America, given some of the treatment given to contractors that worked for the company. This past week we were given some more details on it all courtesy of some breaking news at Kotaku, and it paints a pretty ugly picture at what is otherwise one of the pillars of gaming worldwide.

Not unlike the case at Activision-Blizzard, a number of sources who worked at Nintendo report conditions of a “frathouse-like work environment” including occasions of inappropriate humor on behalf of Nintendo staffers in front of female contractors, few (if any) opportunities for professional growth, low hiring for women, unfair treatment towards queer women, stalking, harassments, and significantly stunted pay for equal work (one account described a contract tester finding she was making only $16 an hour compared to a male junior tester’s $19). While much of this is due to contractor Aerotek’s endemic issues with regards to worker treatment (they had been named in the allegations of union busting at Nintendo back in April), much was also due to the toxic work culture at Nintendo itself where employees would make off-color jokes in front of women with little reprisal. Adding to that was what feels to many like a lack of opportunity for upward mobility; as one anonymous source said, “They’re usually all friends. They watch the Super Bowl together.”

The full story goes into much deeper detail, and it’s all heartbreaking stuff—not just for the many women who find themselves resorting to turning away from Nintendo to find better opportunities elsewhere but also for the few who had dreamed for so long of working at the esteemed company. Indeed, many video game studios predate upon employees by dangling the prestige of finally attaining “the dream job within the game industry”, burning the employee out with unfair treatment and inhumane conditions because there’s always a small army of recent Full Sail graduates willing to take your place if you burn out. And this is without the allegations of harassment and sexism. And before anyone pipes up with how this wouldn’t have happened if Reggie was around to prevent it: a lot of these anecdotes stretch as far back as the Wii U era; Reggie was President of Nintendo of America for much of this, so a lot of this would have happened under his tenure.

The fact is that these aren’t problems you solve with charismatic figureheads making memes at trade shows. These are problems that can only be solved with unions that can advocate for worker’s rights, and by cracking the whip at known offenders within the workplace. The Kotaku story lists several male employees acting as “missing stairs” within Nintendo, all with repeat offenses that never get properly followed up upon; as we saw with Activision-Blizzard, employees getting harassed can have quantifiable effects upon the staff of a game. How many brilliant ideas did we miss out upon because some clown just had to share that stupid “human sexual compatibility with Vaporeon”-meme?

We are at a time where the political economy of video games matters more than ever. There is a human cost to their design and construction. Crunch can no longer be looked at as a matter of “a downside of the job”, it is a failure of management. And we have absolutely no reason to tolerate this kind of news coming from Nintendo or any other company. The men and women that design the games we enjoy deserve better. The powers that be can do better. We deserve better. Empty vows and pledges to do better won’t undo the hurt that many have experienced, and it does nothing to prevent further harm without genuine action.

There is no joke to wrap this up with. We’re just plain-old past the point where this kind of thing is remotely tolerable.

Let’s wrap up with some quick tidbits:

  • If you’re a Metal Slug fan like I am, you were probably excited for Metal Slug Tactics. Sadly, you’re gonna have to wait a bit longer for it: it’s been delayed to 2023.
  • Falcom has released a new trailer for Legend of Heroes: Kuro no Kiseki II -Crimson Sin-. It’s got a September 29th release date in Japan—still now word on a US release.
  • OneShot: World Machine Edition, a curious fourth-wall-bending puzzle adventure game in the vein of Yume Nikki, finally has a release date for its upcoming Switch port! Look forward to it landing on September 22nd! (Personally, I will!)
  • Retro-game fans, heads up: Strictly Limited Games has a nice set including all 8 JajaMaru games! It includes both of the RPGs, finally translated into English. Pre-orders start on the 21st of August; you can reserve a copy for either the Nintendo Switch or the PS4.
  • Remember Wave Race? Looks like Nintendo finally did, too! Wave Race 64 has been added to the Nintendo Switch Online service this week!
  • Sky: Children of the Light has already been released on iOS, Android and Nintendo Switch; this past week, thatgamecompany announced a PlayStation port! Fans of Journey have a lot to look forward to.
  • And that’s that. I wish we could have ended on a happier note, but I’m a believer that just wishing well doesn’t actually guarantee good vibes; sometimes you got to do the work and acknowledge the elephant in the room when it keeps leaving heaping, steaming piles in the corner. But I hope the other news this week was fun for you guys! It’s hard not to be excited for Goku in Fortnite. What characters do you wanna see in that game next? Are you guys looking forward to Ikki Unite? Which game do you think is the best entry-point for the Hyperdimension Neptunia series? Were you amused by Felicia Day reading a story to you? Who do you wanna see making lavish trailers for games next? I wanna hear your thoughts; you guys have been pretty excited for stuff lately and it makes me happy to know I’m giving you guys stuff to look forward to. In the meantime: 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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