Rundown (8/25-8/31) The Pursuit of Hard Work

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While working at my office job I frequently catch my assorted co-workers ceasing whatever task they were in the midst of or simply passing time by socializing with others.  It is an activity that I understand in small instances, but many of their conversations go on for 15 or more minutes, and center around unrelated minutiae rather than anything work-related.  Which I personally find to be… wrong at least to some degree. I approach work with a very regimented and task oriented mindset, and while I do take time to check my email or RSS feeds on occasion, I always go back to whatever needs to be done, and try to finish the task in an efficient manner.  I suppose this is just due to how I have a more serious work ethic, but it regularly surprised me to see people take such a lax approach to their professions, especially when they have families to take care of. Maybe that’s the right approach to take, and I’m just a fool for working so intently, or maybe they’re just a bunch of slackers.  I dunno.

Video game preservation faces a number of issues more insurmountable than those experienced by the likes of books, music, or really any form of video, all of which can be neatly preserved in the form of widely recognized digital file format so they may be enjoyed by successive generations.  Video games however are software developed for computer hardware and as a medium lack any sort of truly universal file format, thus necessitating the use of hardware emulation along with ISO and ROM files for many people to play games on modern computers or systems. However, emulation is really quite hard, and has something of a mixed reputation.  Either from puritans who prefer original hardware due to its authenticity, or companies who would rather repackage and reintroduce older games to a new audience, and make them seemingly more accessible by virtue of receiving an official release.  

…What the hell was I talking about?  Oh, right. Another Capcom project leaked prematurely, and it is the Mega Man Zero/ZX Legacy Collection.  Yes, after four prior volumes of these Mega Man Legacy Collections, and a total of 18 games brought to modern systems, Capcom has opted to re-release the 6 Mega Man titles headed by IntiCreates in the form of one convenient package.  I’m actually slightly interested in this re-release, as while I was never a big fan of the stage based affairs of the earlier sub-series, I was quite partial to the world construction and alternating forms seen in the ZX titles, which were almost metroidvania titles from what my foggy decade old memories tell me.  Plus, I really did adore the gimmick of becoming the bosses, as seen in ZX Advent… for obvious reasons.  Anyways, the compilation will launch for the anticipated quadfecta of PS4, Xbox One, Switch, and PC on January 21, 2020.

That being said, I do feel a bit of melancholy upon hearing this news, as it makes me worry about what fate befalls the many other titles in the expansive Mega Man series.  The other modern compilations staunchly focused on mainline games over other titles, such as console spin-offs and the GameBoy iterations, and as for the other subseries such as Legends, Battle Network, and Star Forces… you’d need to do some reworking in order to get some of those titles up to snuff.  I mean, Legends is a series begging for ground-up remasters, while the RPG entries split their titles up into differing versions, and if you were going to put them out again, you should probably consolidate them into one definitive package.

Though that was not the only collection of retro games leaked and announced the following day (the DS is a full generation removed from relevance, so it is retro, deal with it) as Disney announced Disney Classic Games: Aladdin and The Lion King.  A compilation of the GameBoy and Genesis versions of Aladdin along with the SNES, GameBoy and Genesis versions of The Lion King.  Looking over this list one may notice that is strangely omits the SNES version of Aladdin, which was handled by Capcom.  This initially seems like a perplexing move, at least one looks a bit deeper and realized that all 5 of these titles were handled, at least in part, by Virgin Interactive, which makes negotiations a whole lot easier than they would be if multiple publishers and rights holders were involved.  

I personally believe that the SNES version of Aladdin, and several other Capcom/Disney collaborations, will eventually be re-released at another time after The Disney Afternoon Collection did seemingly well, but that is all speculation.  The substance of this announcement is that this re-release will contain some emulated extras that were seen in other collections released by Digital Eclipse, such as cheats, rewinds, filter choices, a number of extras to indulge in, and a trade show demo that was presumably lost to time, according to the trailer anyways.  Now, the most synergistic time to put out this collection would have ideally been during this summer when the lukewarmly received remakes released, but instead they are coming out on October 29th for PS4, Xbox One, Switch, and PC. Which seems like a good time to release a game like this, if you want it to either die, or be a half priced Black Friday stocking stuffer.  

But these were not the only old haunts from the game industry to come creeping from the dark abyss as LCG Entertainment has bought the rights, trademarks, and assorted assets of Telltale Games, and will be doing business as Telltale Games going forward.  Yes, after investors pulled their funding, contingency plans fell through, hundreds of jobs were lost, and the rights for many titles were left in limbo before being delisted from digital storefronts, what remained of the company has finally been acquired.  Specifically by a holding firm founded by some businessmen who intend on re-releasing the studio’s back catalog while developing new titles with Telltale’s ‘brands’ and continuing the Telltale name, despite the fact that everybody from Telltale has left, moved onto new things, and everything associated with The Walking Dead was picked up by Skybound Games.  

Or at least that’s what I thought, but apparently some former staff are being brought back as freelancers, who may be made full-time employees once the new Telltale gets things organized.  This is an instance of a smaller unrelated company buying the name and assets of a fallen giant to strongarm themselves into the cultural mindshare, which some people are upset about, but… really, is this in any way worse than the alternative?  Would you rather have these games and this name be erased and for these jobs to not exist at all? Because this provides an opportunity for certain games to be sold once more, and for more games to be developed by a mid-tier studio. But the fact that they are daring to offer former experienced workers to come back as contractors is reprehensible?  This all sounds to be in the very early stages, so they might not have benefits available yet, and they might not need many full time game developers. Also, name aside, this is a completely new company, and they should not even need to feel obligated to make right on what the old company did.

Continuing the established trend of good things coming back and everybody being happy about it, a new Shovel Knight game is on the way, developed through a collaboration between Yacht Club Games and Nitrome, a developer whose origins harkon back to flash games, and whose most well known title is probably the quirky platformer Bomb Chicken.  This new title, Shovel Knight Dig, centers on the established darling of independent gaming striking deep into the procedurally generated confines of the Earth to toil and fight his way through a downward platformer in pursuit of his stolen riches.  All through a gameplay system that seems far less designed around precise and deliberate platforming as much as it is built to accommodate a free flowing platforming title that, combined with the lush limitation-free sprite work, makes the game look familiar yet entirely new.  

No platforms or release windows were given for this project, but given the small teams working on this production, it might take a while before everything is fully polished and fine tuned, but I’m sure that it will delight many once it comes out.  Though I probably won’t be one of them on account of my experience with the original title, which I detailed in a review I wrote back in 2017.  But the short and simple version is that while I thought the main campaign was truly excellent, the Plague Knight DLC made me feel utterly terrible because I simply could not wrap my head around the controls.  Which sounds absurd for a 2D platformer, but so is using three unique buttons for a quadruple jump.  

Oh a lighter note, it is no secret that one of my favorite types of “announcements” nowadays come in the form of ratings board leaks from around the world, as it can be so gosh dang hard for companies, large and small, to keep these things under wraps.  This time the nation that made a big oopsie was good old Australia, and the title in question was Steins;Gate: My Darling’s Embrace.  A spin-off of the 2009 Science Adventure visual novel that takes more of a romantic comedy spin on things, and focuses on the slice of life shenanigans the lab mems manage to get themselves into, while recycling the assorted assets from the base game, because that is how you keep spin-offs profitable.  I loved Steins;Gate (for the most part), I hope to get to 0 soon, and Linear Bounded Phenogram is on my wishlist, so I’m certainly in no rush to see what this iteration has to offer, but will almost assuredly give this a while after it is formally announced, released, and has been significantly discounted.  Because that’s how Natalie rolls!

Speaking of things I really want to get into, and need to schedule, I hope to get to Yakuza 0 sometime this January, but it will inevitably take me a good decade to truly get current with it, especially after Sega provided details on the next entry in the illustrious series.  Firstly, the title will be called Yakuza 7: Whereabouts of Light and Darkness in Japan but in the west will be given the slightly confusing name of Yakuza: Like a Dragon, which makes it sound like a remake of the first game, as the Yakuza series is known as Ryu Ga Gotoku, or Like a Dragon.  Though I do appreciate that the number is being dropped for a western release, as it makes the series seems more approachable, and helps better signify that this is meant to be a new beginning and era for the series going forward.

This is expressed in the change of protagonist from the ideal Japanese man (who doesn’t know what sex is) of Kazuma Kiryu to the more seedy and aggressive Ichiban Kasuga.  Change in setting from the familiar few blocks of Kamurocho to the more expansive Yokohama. And most notably, change in gameplay from an environmental brawler to an environmentally driven turn-based RPG where the player controls a squad of characters in a reactive environment that changes the options available to the player, and is meant to be a mark more reactive than your typical JRPG… which was actually teased in an April Fools video earlier this year.  

This naturally upset a subset of fans, as there is always a contingency who view turn-based combat as lesser to real time combat, but this new gameplay format is ultimately an experiment by the developers, and if they are pushing the boundaries on what Yakuza is.  I respect and encourage experimentation, and after putting out… 16 titles with very similar gameplay over the past 14 years, I can only imagine that the designers wanted to do something new.  Even if you are a big fan of melee combat action games… 6 Yakuza games, including spin-offs, came out in the west over the past 3 years.  Most people in your privileged position clamor for something new…

Header image comes from Yuutai no Mahoujin ~Anoko ni Hyoui Shite Kanojo to XXX~  by Kouji and Minaduki Nanana.

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