It Do Be Halloween Tho

It Do Be Halloween Tho

Updated: 1 month, 10 days, 7 hours, 36 minutes, 5 seconds ago

Hi, everyone! It's Halloween next week! The season crept up on me; I get blindsided by holidays really easily since I keep my head down for work so much. And speaking of work, I had a ton of it! We have a preview for the new Gungrave G.O.R.E., as well as an upcoming review for a game I was excited about: Ultra Kaiju Monster Rancher!

I'm gobsmacked that this game came to the US at all. I have some affection for the Monster Rancher games, but I seriously love Ultraman and all of the Ultra-fanservice in this game has me happy. (I like to think of Akane Shinjo gremlining out playing this game.) I get so happy seeing Red King and Sevenger and the like in this game, but the one kaiju I hope to see is Jamila. They're not only my favorite kaiju, they're from what I believe to be the best episode from the original Ultraman series, "My Home is Earth." No luck so far, but I'll keep checking! As for Xenoblade: I unlocked the Flash Fencer. I love Ethel. God help us if anything happens to her, I'll go ballistic.

In sadder news, I wanna take the time to point out some sudden tragic news we received. The Sega Mini Drive 2 released fairly recently—I wanted one, but I couldn't spare the cash for it. That's not the tragedy, mind—the tragedy is that the credits for the device memorialize longtime-SEGA developer Rieko Kodama.

Finally, the staff credits include a memorial message for Rieko Kodama. She started as an artist on games such as Alex Kidd In Miracle World, Phantasy Star and Sonic The Hedgehog, and was the producer for Skies Of Arcadia, 7th Dragon and most recently the Switch Sega Ages games.— Nick Thorpe (@HKT3030) October 26, 2022

According to IGN, "Phoenix Rie" Kodama had passed back in May, choosing to keep the news under wraps out of respect for Kodama's family. Rieko Kodama isn't a name many folks know, but she's a legend for SEGA fans: she was an important pillar for the Phantasy Star RPGs (the original ones, the ones that came before Phantasy Star Online), she helped helm fan-favorite JRPG Skies of Arcadia, and had stuck through with game development with hits like the 7th Dragon JRPGs and the Sega Ages line (available on Nintendo Switch!). She was one of the first prominent women in game development, right up there with the esteemed Roberta Williams, and her influence cannot be understated; Phantasy Star was the first JRPG released in the US (several months before Final Fantasy and Dragon Warrior released for the NES), and even years down the line it was a marvel featuring faux-3D first-person dungeons and a female protagonist in the form of Alys Landale. She will be missed terribly.

With that preamble out of the way, let's cover the rest of the news. This is...

Square Enix Releases New "Ambition" Trailer For Final Fantasy XVI, Local ANN Writer Stresses Making Sure He's Putting The Roman Numerals In The Right Order So He Doesn't End Up Writing "XIV" Like He's Used To

It's time for a new Final Fantasy! Square Enix has been very coy with any info concerning Final Fantasy XVI, it's easy to forget it's been in development—especially since Final Fantasy VII: Remake and all of its associated add-ons and continuations have been front-and-center in the mind of fans. Well, that and the obvious giant in the room that is Final Fantasy XIV, which has easily toppled World of Warcraft as the top dog in the MMORPG arena. But Square is still plugging away at XVI, and they released this dramatic new trailer to go with their release date!

First thing you'll notice is that this video is age-restricted. Square Enix said they wanted to take XVI in a darker direction, and they meant it. We see a poor kid named Joshua get his face doused in blood from someone getting decapitated right in front of him. While the world of Valisthea has a lot of color and charm to it, it nevertheless feels like a much darker take on Eorzea, the setting from XIV. And for good reason, because Naoki "Yoshi-P" Yoshida is playing double duty, taking the reigns of this project on top of the beloved MMO. Right off the bat, we're introduced to a number of isolated kingdoms, all huddling within the fading light of the last few crystals in a world where a blight robs more and more of the world's remaining magic. XIV already goes into surprisingly-heavy territory with its story; XVI takes the brakes off and goes tires-screeching into the violent battles these kingdoms wage. Also, it seems that two of the figures in the trailer are boning (unless there's some other reason to have a conversation completely naked in bed).

Right away, folks might be taken aback that a Final Fantasy game is playing hard into the high-fantasy aesthetic after years of the series leaning into anachronistic science fantasy. But I can't blame the decision; again, XIV is doing well enough to keep the entirety of Square Enix afloat. And, uh... Final Fantasy XV didn't exactly walk away with the best reputation.

The story appears to center around a group called the Eikons, humans who can channel the power of summon spirits. Only instead of summoning the traditional Summon Spirits, these characters incarnate them (kinda like Iceheart). One character summons a thunder-summon's spikes all over himself, and another woman summons what we presume to be Garuda's wings and claws (another bit of the trailer very briefly shows her in full Garuda-mode, it's awesome and sexy). But on top of it all: it seems the goal of the game is to subjugate the Spirits—if not just outright slaughter them. I dunno, maybe the game is exploring Gaius van Baelsar's plan of just completely destroying magic in the name of preventing the Primals from running roughshod all over the world.

In a Decision™ made by Square Enix, the game has continued the Final Fantasy series' move away from turn-based combat by embracing more of an action-RPG system. What glimpses of the interface we saw in the trailer makes me think they took the Final Fantasy VII: Remake battle system as a foundation to build upon. There might be some kind of "turn-based" option in the future, but eh—if I really need a turn-based RPG there are still plenty of options. The best part of Final Fantasy has been seeing it evolve, be it in aesthetic and world design or in mechanics. The entire series has been incredibly iterative with everything from one game going on to be remixed and revamped for the subsequent entry; IV's concrete character classes gave way to V's incredibly open-ended job system, while VI used it as a basis for the even-more-open-ended character development via the Magicite system. Then VII expanded on Magicite in order to create the Materia system, while VIII refined the Materia and Materia slots in armor into the Spell Junction system—and so on, and so forth. Just as how XII took XI's setting and battle system, XVI is taking a lot of the best parts of XIV and VII: Remake while aiming at a darker story. I'm for it! The trailer gives us a "Summer 2023" timeframe for the game's release. I just upgraded my PC last month, let's see if my game can run this, yeah?

Kickstarted RPG They Speak From The Abyss Promises To Deliver On First-Person Cosmic Horror a la Shin Megami Tensei

A few months back, we covered Necrosoft's Demonschool, an RPG inspired by the PS1 Persona games in terms of content, mood, aesthetic and execution. It looks like more and more people are taking that idea to heart, because we've got another RPG looking to fill an old, long-forgotten void!

I'm very excited to announce the launch of the THEY SPEAK FROM THE ABYSS Kickstarter!

Wander through the pixel art horror landscape that is the Abyss in this horrifying dungeon crawler RPG inspired by PS1 classics like Baroque and Shin Megami Tensei.— nikki kalpa (@TheFifthKalpa) October 25, 2022

They Speak From The Abyss looks gruesome and nasty, and I love it. It's a first-person dungeon crawler, more along the lines of Shin Megami Tensei: Strange Journey than Shin Megami Tensei: Nocturne, with plenty of its own twists. For one, battles have an active time meter where enemies can and will attack you if you're not quick in your decision-making—and if their health should drop low enough, they'll become even more desperate in their actions. The story is also interesting, giving us a female protagonist wandering through hell as she finds herself lost following a transition to a new city to be closer to her partner. So it's not all YHVH ruining everything for everyone (again).

I'm seriously excited for this game; its Kickstarter campaign is going pretty well, with the game being 58% funded at the time of its writing with still 28 days to go. With any luck, this game (made by one person) will get to be fully-realized. It's a fascinating concept set in a gorgeously-disgusting world and you can bet I'll be putting some money to support this project once I have a few bucks to spare. Look into it if you're hankering for some first-person dungeon-crawling goodness.

... Also, I just wanna give the devs a shout-out for name-dropping Baroque. Never played it, but I have a deep love for all of Sting's weird old games. Bring back the Department Heaven games!

Zelda Wiki Pulls Away From Fandom Ahead Of Tears of the Kingdom's Release

There are a lot of stories that I'm referencing now that I've been at this gig for four months. It's a weird feeling. Anyway! A few months back, I reported on Fandom acquiring several gaming websites, including GameFAQs. Fandom is far and away making itself very unpopular on the basis of its quality of service in terms of hosting wikis. It's pretty horrible, what with the massive ads, terrible layout, and the fact that it's so endemic to so many wikis. I can't tell you how frustrating it is to try and look up random information for, like, Gridman kaiju or Xenoblade Chronicles 3 materials and having to settle for a blurb on a page that's crammed full of stupid ads for The Office or somethings similarly stupid, all while an auto-playing video starts occupying the top third of my screen. It's garbage.

So the Zelda Wiki, one of the most extensive and beloved fan wikis out there for all things related to The Legend of Zelda, decided to take its ball and go home.

Our time has come to reclaim independence.— Zelda Wiki (@ZeldaWiki) October 19, 2022

The Zelda Wiki is now hosted on the Nintendo Independent Wiki Alliance (NIWA), who also hosts the phenomenal Bulbapedia wiki (which is flat-out the best archive of Pokémon information you'll find on the 'Net). This is an absolute win for, er, fandoms, as well as for any ongoing effort fighting against the monopolization of the Internet. The more fandoms that are free to curate themselves without some suit looking over their shoulder and deciding they need a few more ads for Raid: Shadow Legends when people just wanna discuss Puzzle And Dragons teams, the better. But with that said, there's one thing about the ordeal that leaves a sour taste in my mouth... In private messages with Kotaku, community staff member ModdedInkling explained that part of their impetus for the split was to leave Fandom over concerns of "mandated censorship." Er, okay, yeah, we don't want people not being able to pretend Tingle's Freshly-Picked Rosie Rupeeland doesn't exist because people still have it in for Tingle (and real talk, fandoms cutting whole games out of continuity like that always rankled my hide). But the specific example ModdedInkling gave concerned "the retroactive change of a character's traits, even if it was historically inaccurate to change it."

In the discussion with Kotaku, ModdedInkling went on to explain, "There was debate involving the naming conventions of someone identifying later as trans... The mandate was to retroactively change any of the names displayed for the person or character, even though that was not how they were referred to at the time. I don't remember if it was a real-life person or a fictional character. It did not cause them to fork, but it was one concern that NIWA had in potential examples involving character pronouns like Vivian from Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door, Sheik from Ocarina of Time, or Vilia from Breath of the Wild."

... Yeah, I don't know why wanting to deadname a character is considered "mandated censorship" either. And to be completely fair to ModdedInkling, he goes on to state that this decision doesn't align with the beliefs of either him and his team at the Zelda Wiki nor anyone else at NIWA, and that they echo NIWA's goal of "[handling] sensitive topics with care to prevent any sort of misrepresentation." So let's take them at their word, for now.

At any rate: I hope that more Wikis follow them. Between Zelda and Pokémon, you've got two of the biggest fandoms right there. I'm hoping the Kamen Rider and Super Sentai fandoms follow suit next, though really, any Wiki breaking away from Fandom is a win. And if Fandom doesn't like that, maybe they shouldn't cram their pages with so many bloody "HOT, SINGLE SOCKPUPPET ACCOUNTS IN YOUR AREA" ads. If I wanted to be lied to, I'd watch a Todd Howard interview.

Bayonetta Brouhaha Gets Messier, But The Point Nevertheless Stands

The controversy surrounding Bayonetta 3 and the claims from former starring voice actress Hellena Taylor was reignited earlier this week when the voice actress shared details clarifying her stance—and confirming former reporting from Bloomberg offered by Jason Schrier. In a series of tweets, Taylor revealed some information she hadn't clarified before: specifically, that she had been offered $15,000 for voicing the character (the original offer was $10,000). When she turned the offer down, she was later offered $4000 to voice a few cameos. Taylor goes on to claim that the "$15,000 for 4 sessions" number was a lie.

In the days from Taylor's original statements, her story has definitely been riddled full of holes. Between the lies by omission, the harassment levied against Jennifer Hale, and the revelation that Taylor may support a number of transphobic ideals, the new voice actress for Bayonetta, a lot of folks have taken Taylor's entire stance to be bunk. But I would still point to this being a case of "The Worst Person You Know Makes A Good Point." While a lot of people have pointed out that $15,000 is a lot of money, it only is in the specific context of video game voice acting. Past that, it's really... not. Remember: that $15,000 might be the only money any prospective Bayonetta voice actress would see for who-knows-how-many months, representing hours where they have to be in the booth and can't be doing anything else—like auditioning for other potential gigs. That's on top of the invisible hours not spent in the booth doing things like practicing your lines, seeing a voice coach, taking care of your voice so you don't suddenly snap a vocal chord a la Jessica Calvello (glad to hear she recovered from that, by the way)... it's one of those "It took me ten years to learn how to draw a chicken in ten seconds"-things. And again, the point that a lot of people don't seem to grasp is that outside of video games, $15,000 is nothing. You couldn't get anyone to appear in a sitcom for $15,000. You'd be laughed out of the room. Royalties alone would bring in several times that amount over a period of years—royalties that video game voice actors still aren't granted by default. And for a franchise as big as Bayonetta, yeah, anyone voicing the dommy-mommy witch ought to be getting residuals. Someone asked in the comments last week how that would work for videogames, and the answer is simple: same as with movies and TV shows. The same way Rob Paulsen still gets checks for his work on Animaniacs every time an episode airs, every time a game gets ported or sold a fraction of the contract fees or earnings goes to the voice actors and developers. There's a system in place for these things for other media, it's not rocket science to apply it to video games.

I do agree that it is a shame that things wound up the way they did with Taylor because a lot of bad-faith types are gonna be using it as ammo to claim that "everything is fine, keep your head down and keep consuming product." No; voice actors have been hosed over for too long and it's high time SAG reviewed the terms for video game voice acting. The "Performance Matters" movement from a few years ago didn't happen for nothing, and individuals like Ashley Burch didn't put their careers on the line for funsies.

Also, Kamiya still needs to ask his mum about how not to be a jerk on Twitter.

SINoALICE Closes Up Shop And Locks Up Behind Players

Not too long ago, we were bemoaning the status of Dragalia Lost, Nintendo and Cygames' mobile gacha RPG that'll be shutting down later this autumn, rendering it unplayable. Such is the fate for any mobile game or MMORPG that is shuttered; it seems that Yokō Tarō looked at that, snorted derisively, and uttered "Amateurs!"

With the upcoming shutdown of his mobile game, SINoALICE (specifically, for the Taiwan/Hong Kong servers) is prepping players for the end of the game—whether they like it or not. In a patented Yokō Tarō movie, beating the final chapter of the game forcibly logs you out of the game. Forever. As the unofficial Twitter page for the game puts it, "NieR fans will understand."

Once you reach the ending, the Library will be permanently closed forever. There will be no going back after this. Even if you want to help your friends clear the chapter, there's no way to help directly. Everything will be gone when it's over. Proceed with caution, and godspeed.

— SINoALICE English (@sino_english) October 25, 2022

It's already rather audacious to think that a game some people may have paid money for is simply locking up, with no way of accessing any of the content that players exchanged legal tender for. So all those SSR jpegs they whaled for are basically ripped out of their hands. But this basically pushes things all the way around into full-on hilarious. Of course Yokō Tarō would make a game that would permanently boot you out once you finish the story. It's not the first time Taro incorporates such heavy fourth-wall-bending decisions for the sake of making a point, but it's definitely the one time it feels most-pointed, especially given the coyly cynical attitude SINoALICE has had since he launched the game. For example, when it came time for the game to offer Summer versions of its cast as seasonal variants, Taro decided to stick with "swimwear" in the most-basic sense of the word and... dressed up one of the characters in an old-fashioned diving suit. Taro didn't hide his blatant contempt for the game, either. In an interview with Siliconera, Taro is quoted as saying, "[Writing is] my job, so none [of the character backstories] were enjoyable for me. I felt like a lowly laborer covered in mud, and as I typed my keyboard I was thinking 'I want to get this over with and have a drink. Wouldn't that be great?"

The game is still playable in the US, but I guess we now know what we can look forward to when SINoALICE wraps up in our territory. And honestly, I'm not sure what we should have expected from Yokō Tarō.

Halloween Games For Setting The Mood

When this column goes out, it'll be Halloween on Monday! Chances are, you're looking for a good game to celebrate the season; I've got a few here you can look into!

First up, we have Signalis from Humble Games! As a gynoid named Elster, you wander an abandoned extraterrestrial facility as you seek your missing memories—and only locate plenty of cosmic horror! The aesthetic has some of that really nice grainy PS1 vibe to it, it reminds me a little of Parasite Eve. At the time of writing, this will have just released on PS4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, Steam and Humble Bundle Store. I definitely recommend it, I see this game going places!

EA Games is working on a remake of the gory sci-fi B-game classic Dead Space, but folks who are interested in what the remnants of Visceral Studios have been up to ought to check out The Callisto Protocols. It's a true successor to the Dead Space legacy, and not just because Striking Distance studios is composed of Visceral's expats. Taking place on Jupiter's "dead" moon Callisto, players will guide Jacob Lee...

... Actually, hang on, lemme be That Guy™ for a minute—"Jacob Lee"? At least Dead Space's Isaac Clarke was named after esteemed science fiction authors Isaac Asimov and Arthur C. Clarke. You couldn't show "Jacob Lee" the same love? I mean, Dead Space wasn't exactly the smartest game ever, but a ton of effort was put into its lore and execution. At least name the guy... I dunno, "Stephen Guin"? "Harlan Bradbury"? "Kurt Barker"? Come on, gimme something to work with here!

Anyway, "Jacob Lee" (played by actor Josh Duhamel) is a prisoner interred at Callisto's prison complex. As it goes, weird undead aliens start attacking, and good ol' Mister Lee has to fight his way out while keeping all of the blood inside of his squishy body. All of your favorite Dead Space highlights are here, down to the diegetic interface system. I do wish this game channeled more of those old Event Horizon vibes a bit better, but I'm totally excited for it. This one doesn't land until December 2nd, but maybe you can boot up your old copies of Dead Space and Dead Space 2 and point and laugh at Dead Space 3 for good measure. Look for this one on PS4, PS5, Xbox, Steam, and the Epic Game Store.

And finally, for folks who haven't played Oxenfree, you have a new alternative! The phenomenal coming-of-age story starring teenaged Alex and her half-brother Jonas is coming to... Netflix. Yeah, I'm just as surprised as you. Netflix members can now download the game for IOS or App-devices through Netflix, with no further purchases or in-game ads. It's a weird system, to be sure; I'm definitely not used to the idea that Netflix is handling games. But Oxenfree is a good'un, a game about two teenagers messing with time as they explore an abandoned island where time has become loose and they encounter the entities known as The Sunken. Maybe some will find it a bit "hipster-y" in its vibes, but I dig it!

And that ought to do you for Halloween! I know The Callisto Protocol doesn't come out until December, but everyone knows horror monsters come back a few months later anyway. Just think of it as a late Halloween. You can keep your Halloween decorations up until December, there aren't any important holidays between October and December anyway. Remember to get your discount candy on November 1st!

Let's wrap up with some quick tidbits: There's a new trailer out for River City Girls 2, this one focusing on cameo character Marian! Originally from Double Dragon, she debuted a new (beefier) design in the first River City Girls. She looks a ton of fun and is definitely hitting those "Noi from Dorohedoro vibes. "Legendary abs" indeed! Similarly, we have a trailer out for Risotto Nero's appearance in JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: All-Star Battle R. Four more characters are pegged to join him in the game's season pack! Who could they be?!

Woof. (By the way, someone asked last week if me doing that is a reference to Lagrange - The Flower of Rin-ne; sorry, just a coincidence, I've never watched Lagrange.) I'm hoping you guys have a nice Halloween! It's a bit of a weird one for me, but let's all be sure to cozy up with a good spooky movie and some discount candy. Halloween on a Monday sucks for sure, so enjoy your spoops responsibly. But do have fun! It's a bit of a downer of a week with the Rieko Kodama and Hellena Taylor news, but we've got plenty to look forward to! Final Fantasy XVI looks great, Signalis looks great... there's always stuff to look forward to! And hopefully, some of you got your Sega Mini Drives! I wanna hear about it, the comments are yours! As always: be good to each other. I'll see you in seven.

And Happy Halloween~!

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.