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In case the contents of this blog don't make it obvious enough, I have something of an affinity for slightly "offbeat" titles, so if there's something out there that few others cover, there's a fair chance I'm at least somewhat up on it.
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Below are a handful of recaps and other links (oldest listed first by section), in case you're interested - asterisks mark promoted articles.
Hello everyone, or at least everyone who still remembers me. It’s certainly been awhile since I last had the time or inclination to submit a proper blog post here, hasn’t it? Granted, what you’re reading now still isn’t one, really, but it IS something that I’m finding it tougher and tougher not to spout about a bit. I guess you could sort of call it rant, but a “positive” one, if such a thing exists. Anyway, here’s the story, such as it is:
Like a lot of long-time gamers, whenever a new calendar makes its way to the wall some part of me starts wondering “will this finally be the year?” You may well have done the same, if only in passing, mulling over the previous twelve months’ worth of unsavory developments, botched releases, PR disasters, anti-consumer espionage, and outright incompetence, and thinking to yourself, “Maybe this is when I’ll finally just stop buying new games and stick to playing my old ones.”
And shortly thereafter, if you’re like me, your first new purchase of the year ends up being a new DVD rack to keep all your upcoming pre-orders in.
You might recall that I did something like this around two years ago (man, it really has been awhile); since then, naturally, my utterly shameful backlog has only metastasized into an even blacker, more noxious blight upon humanity, and is poised to get worse still in 2013. How does this keep happening amidst a gaming climate so constantly awash in negativity, and thus seemingly less and less inclined to bother catering to a niche customer like myself?
It’s a question for the ages, certainly (well, maybe not), but before delving any further into it, here’s a brief-ish overview of how things are looking to play out in my increasingly-overgrown neck of the gaming woods over this coming year. Feel free to compare notes with your friends, and see who manages to get farthest in before throwing up their hands in utter disgust!
Compared to the last time around things have, if nothing else, ramped up a bit more gradually; for one thing I’m currently holding off on the generally well-received Ni No Kuni, which despite its charms still doesn’t seem to have bucked Level-5’s ally AI legacy issues…eh, maybe when the price comes down. On the flipside, though my previous brushes with Namco’s “Tales” series didn’t leave much of an impression on me, a cohort finally convinced me to give fellow PS3 JRPG Tales of Graces f (which, in case you haven’t heard, can now be downloaded from the PSN if you can’t find a physical copy) a try, and against all odds I enjoyed the bugger quite a bit; enough, in fact, to persuade me to plunk down for Tales of Xillia, due out this summer. So, that’s at least one more to add to the list, assuming I resist the urge to go back and give Vesperia another shot in the meantime.
Not too long after the aforementioned episode two more JRPGs came down the pike/in the mail: first there was Tecmo-Koei’s rather disappointingly quiet release of Atelier Ayesha (advisory: there be some rage in them comments), though it should consider itself lucky, as the company’s concurrent PSN upload of Atelier Totori Plus wasn’t even formally announced. Then came NISA’s localization of the increasingly-bonkers Hyperdimension Neptunia Victory, whose LE came in a “time capsule”, better known to regular humans as a “lunchbox”. Oh, and there’s an app for it too.
Oh, and then there’s that…other company that makes JRPGs, sometimes, that I’ve forgotten to touch on…I think they have one or two projects of interest in the works someplace. Maybe even three.. That being what it is, since I don’t have the time or patience for strategy titles that I used to, at least I can state with confidence that The Guided Fate Paradox and Disgaea D2 hold no interest for me. None at all. I think…
Now, of course, is the time that I suddenly and inconveniently remember surrendering to temptation and bringing home both a 3DS XL and a Vita over the previous few months.
Even this rather momentous event, however, pales in comparison to the recent revelation that the next numbered Megami series installment, Shin Megami Tensei IV, will also be nipping at its heels later in the summer; the third “main” SMT game, subtitled Nocturne in the USA, is one of my all-time favorites, so you know very well that I’ve already plunked down the (fifty!) pre-order dollars for this one.
So yeah, the RPG-ish realm looks a bit packed of late; surely there can’t be quite so much going on in terms of finger-twitching action games, can there? Heck, Dragon’s Crown and Muramasa have already been referenced, and Sly 4 is already out (and, yes, on my shelf), so what else looms on the horizon, exactly? Sure, Sony has been making a bit of a push in this area, as I am looking forward to Puppeteer in September, and am keeping an eye on Tearaway, whenever Media Molecule get around to that. Ah, and Pandora’s Tower, aka “oh, right, there was a third Project Rainfall game, wasn’t there?” is ushering the Wii out soon too (see you on the other side, Earth Seeker and Captain Rainbow), whilst Donkey Kong Country Returns is hoping to grace the 3DS with a bit of a boost.
Naturally, Nintendo could use the help after losing the exclusivity of the lovely-looking Rayman Legends (which, yes, I will also be buying in some form, having enjoyed Origins thoroughly), though the announcements of an Epic Yarn-esque Yoshi game, a prettied-up Zelda: Wind Waker and a new Mario + Luigi portable saga ought to get the nostalgia flowing pretty capably even without it. On a separate wavelength altogether, I’m having a tougher and tougher time ignoring Remember Me, if only for the fleeting flashes of Mirror’s Edge that it throws our way from time to time. What a tease!
Speaking of teases, the fighting game sector has gone somewhat quiet of late, at least compared to the past few announcement-packed years; that said, Mortal Kombat fans do have Injustice: Gods Among Us right at their doorstep, and though I’m not personally much for the NetherRealm brand of brawling, I would be forced to acquire the game if Komrade Kielbasa ever joined the kast (imagine the beautiful, beautiful trolling he could incite! If nothing else, Divekick could use a tag partner).
Tekken vs. Street Fighter, meanwhile, is still a good ways off, as is Blazblue: Chrono Phantasma and whatever Guilty Gear-related project Arc System is hacking away at, but of course the most noteworthy pugilistic news of recent months has been the runaway success of the Skullgirls IndieGoGo campaign, which garnered enough support to add several new characters to the game’s modest roster (not to mention use of the game’s engine by the guys who were doing the My Little Pony fan fighter). Of the most personal concern to me, oddly enough, is the seemingly-neverending limbo of Phantom Breaker, which to the best of my knowledge was never officially cancelled, though we do at least have beat-em-up spinoff Battle Grounds on XBLA to help ease the pain a bit.
At this point in the pseudo-article, brace yourselves, you knew it was coming: BM always has to say something about those silly 2D arcade-style shooters that only he plays, even though nobody actually makes them anymore (he totally just pulls all those supposedly new releases out of his backside; just smile and nod until he wanders off). Well, it’s high time for me to yank out a few more, so breathe deep; for starters, in February there was the region-freeGinga Force, from the makers of Eschatos, which maintains the genre’s famously demanding challenge level whilst inserting a few concessions for newcomers, such as a weapon shop (everything’s unlocked with in-game currency, don’t worry!) and the gradual granting of extra lives in stages you’re having trouble with.
You might have also heard of the recently-released Cave Shooting Collection, which packs together every X360 shmup published by the illustrious arcade developer Cave (note: the two licensed releases published by 5pb are not included) alongside a load of replay DVDs, a pair of artbooks (which, while we’re on the topic, are likely to give my wallet its own set of issues this coming year), and even a soundtrack collection if you get an early copy; if you’re just now thinking of importing a Japanese 360 to see what these games are all about this is an excellent way to catch up.
The biggest news out of Cave, though, is none other than DoDonPachi Sai-DaiOuJou, their final 360 masterpiece, which has been getting rave reviews in the arcades (and features art by The Ar Tonelico Guy, for an extra layer of nerdiness); there are not one, but two Limited Editions to lust after, so you know this one’s gonna be pretty darn big if you’re a bullet hell fan.
That said, Cave isn’t the only one out for the hearts (and coins) of the shooting faithful, though most of the “official” home-front action remains on the XBox 360; Moss, makers of the most recent Raiden games, are sending out the Gothic-themed Caladrius (this time featuring artwork from The Devil Survivor Guy) in short order, and the tiny Triangle Service (perhaps best known for Trizeal) is coming out of nowhere with a two-game collection rather cumbersomely known as Shooting Love 10th Anniversary: XIIZeal and DeltaZeal. If you’ve never heard of either game there’s a(n additional) reason for this: they’re actually renamed versions of XIIStag, originally published by Taito, and the even more obscure G-Stream 2020, which was first put out by the now-defunct Oriental Soft and never saw a home port.
Over on the PS3 end of things rumor has it that the rather cutesy ground-based shooter Mamoru-kun is Cursed! might be following Under Defeat to our side of the Pacific, and on XBLA indie games you ought to check out the recently-released Cave tribute Chronoblast if you haven’t already. Finally, the Dreamcast faithful can look forward to not one, not two, not three, but FOUR homebrew shootersm coming soon: it’s STILL thinking, people!
Just in case the outlook isn’t overwhelming enough, I’ve found some of my other trademark resistances slowly crumbling of late. To wit, I’m one of those people who has always had VERY mixed feelings concerning digital distribution: as much as I applaud the relative freedom it grants to small developers who could never land a physical publishing deal, not to mention the potential (though largely unrealized, at least on the consumer end) cost savings on materials and environmental concerns, its prominent place within the campaign to transform games from products to services (given and taken away at the seller’s sole discretion, paid for or not) always leaves a very bitter taste in my mouth.
Notwithstanding, despite not being much of a PC gamer I’ve begun to see what all the people raving about Steam sales are frothing about; lately a sizeable portion of the deals on Playstation Plus in particular have been hard to resist (between the ten bucks back and three months extra I got just for surrendering and picking it up earlier this year, not to mention the half or more off I’ve gotten on several titles since, it’s just about paid for itself already, and I’ve got more than a year of it left). If the overall marketplace keeps this up, it’s gonna be mighty hard for me not to plunk down for Guacamelee! or Shantae and the Pirate’s Curse somewhere down the line, let alone the next Humble Bundle.
So, if you’ve managed to read this far in you should have a pretty good idea of what my year in gaming (and spending) is going to look like (notwithstanding whatever else might get announced in the coming months), and it’s more than a bit nuts, especially for someone whose existence most of the industry barely acknowledges. On the surface it hardly makes sense, even, but methinks one last game I’ve felt compelled to reserve recently rather succinctly sums up why it’s all happening just the same. Which game could it be, you ask?
Let’s back up a minute. I am, for whatever it’s worth, a straight male. This is a game, among other things, about being a girl and quite possibly getting cozy with one or more dudes. In short, no, I am not the target market. But yes, I AM buying the daylights out of it. Why?
Because, dear reader, it stands proud as perhaps the most utterly insane release of the year.
Let’s break this thing down, piece by piece.
- Sweet Fuse is, as previously noted, an “otome” game, a largely action-free visual novel aimed at a female audience.
- Not only do you play as a girl, but she is the fictional niece of the real-life Keiji Inafune, creator of Mega Man and several other Capcom classics.
- The plot involves Inafune-san opening up an amusement park (well, why not?) and inviting you to visit: unfortunately, it’s taken over by a not-at-all-predictable villain named Count Hogstein, and you’ve got to read a bunch of text, make a bunch of decisions and solve a bunch of puzzles to get out in one piece.
- Along the way, you encounter a herd of eligible guys, all of whom you’ll have a chance to romance, should you so choose; part of the process is the “sweet fuse” mechanic of the title, which allows you to either be patient with a given fella when he does something stupid or completely blow your stack at him.
- This game is being localized for release in the United States.
- On the PSP.
- As a physical UMD.
- In late 2013.
If all of this doesn’t make Aksys the most bat-guano bonkers publisher on the face of the Earth, I don’t know what does (y’know, since having previously brought over an “otoge” which allowed you to date historical Japanese samurai was totally run-of-the-mill. Not to mention using an Idea Factory title to troll Atlus).
And you know what? In an era where strong reviews and millions in sales are still not good enough, dammit, I’m more than willing to take a step or two outside of my comfort zone and throw them, and anyone else willing to take at least some measure of risk in this age of caution, to go just a bit against the grain, a few bucks of support, even if they’re not aiming their efforts specifically at me. Sure, as Herr Sterling has said it’s true that “innovation” alone doesn’t make a game good, but the sorts of games I like to keep my eye on are, I hope, more than a “see what sticks to the wall” brand of product.
These are, to my eye, entries into “passé” genres (who pays more than a buck for an arcade game?), often featuring “foreign” aesthetics (Too cartoony! Not enough blood!) and “unapproachable” mechanics (No regenerating health?!), games which will never make its creators millionaires or spawn much in the way of imitators, but are made, meticulously, for a specific audience, and are not ashamed of that fact. Not every game can or should be like them, but the mere act of being them, in a world out to mercilessly smother them from existence is, in my opinion, itself worthy of a bit of praise and acknowledgement. Moreover, I’m not inclined to wait for someone else to stand up and give it to them.
These games and their creators are why, in the face of a million bald space marines, quick time events, unskippable cutscenes, freemium pay models, always-online DRM, day one DLC, tacked-on multiplayer, invasive social aspects, unfixed bugs, shoddy ports, anonymous slurs, brand elitists, painful E3 presentations, corporate asshats, and everything else that’s screaming in my ear for me to finally cut myself off and for Pete’s sake get to that god-awful backlog, I’m still keeping my gaze fixed firmly upon the industry and slipping a handful of my dwindling dollars into its crumbling, oft-forgotten corners. There aren’t a whole lot like me, I’m sure, but we are indeed here, and we are paying attention. And (very) occasionally blogging.
Heaven only knows what the future holds, of course: maybe next year, if the DS and Vita are crushed underfoot by the likes of the iPad, if the Wii U never finds its footing, if the PS4 is above all a Facebook/Youtube pseudopod and the Durango further chains us to the whims of our ISPs and their servers, I’ll finally bid the industry a fond farewell and retreat to video games as I want to experience them, ignorant of any and all protest the current gatekeepers care to disseminate. Sometime between now and then, however, I’ll be strolling out of that booby-trapped fun park with a hunky new squeeze on one arm and Uncle Keiji on the other.