Rundown (3/22-3/28) Animal Crossed

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Wherein I discuss the new social horizon, a much-awaited and underwhelming present, and some epicly good publishing deal.

This past week was home to the release of Animal Crossing: New Horizons, a title that benefited extraordinarily from its social sharing features and customization options, allowing players to easily share images, video clips, custom designs, room layouts, and encourage their followers to visit their developing towns. It was… overbearing seeing all of this pop across my Twitter feed last weekend, with many people making an insane amount of progress in the game within a short duration of time, and instilling a sense of FOMO that is quite possibly greater than any I had ever experienced.

Mind you, I am not playing Animal Crossing, nor do I ever plan on picking the title up, as I both lack the time for such a title and know that my creative aesthetics tend to be rather minimal, controlling, and anal. As in, I would probably not bother creating any designs, getting to know the villagers, or visiting other people’s islands. Instead, I would likely rush towards terraforming so I could make my island the perfectly symmetrical square with evenly spaced out housing and no elevated lands because… traversal and farming are easier if everything is flat.

But that was far from the only tidbit of Nintendo-related happenings this past week. Since the year began, fanatical Nintendo fans have been wild with rage over the lack of substantial news coming from their favorite video game maker, throbbing for a fully-fledged Nintendo Direct, as the last full general Direct was held back in September. And after months of rampant rumors and speculation, Nintendo shadow dropped a 25 minute Nintendo Direct Mini, wherein no substantial announcements were made, a lot of JRPGs got updated details, some ports were announced, and some updates are coming to a bushel of existing titles.

Xenoblade Chronicles: Definitive Edition is set to debut on May 29th, where it will launch with a new epilogue chapter dubbed Future Connected, various quality of life and UI improvements, and a plethora of visual improvements that one would expect from a remake of this scale. While I don’t plan on going through this game yet again anytime soon, after having embarked on a 90+ hour playthrough back in 2016, I am still glad that when I do want to revisit this title, I will be able to play a new, pretty, and fancy-dancey version. Where the only grievance I can think of is how certain character skin tones appear to have been lightened in the visual transition.

Ring Fit Adventure, Nintendo’s quirky exercise-based RPG, received a substantial update that added a rhythm game portion to the title, using songs from contemporary Nintendo successes like Super Mario Odyssey, Splatoon 2, and Breath of the Wild. A curiously timed update, as it is coming out right after the game was sold out around the world, mostly because of a popularity spike caused by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. But hopefully, the lucky folks who managed to snag the copy are able to enjoy this new, and surprisingly robust, mode as they hunker down and get their daily exercise in. Though personally I’ll just stick to Dragalia Lost X exercise bike.

Bravely Default II was shown in detail, and it looks to be… yet another Bravely Default game, as it follows four oddballs going on a globetrotting journey where they murder bad people, steal their powers, and cosplaying in their iconic garb in order to do better in the most traditional JRPG combat. That is, barring its titular twist of bravely using several attacks in succession, or defaulting to store up attack points. It all seemed familiar as somebody who only played the original Bravely Default, a title that I did not particularly like, and while this rendition is certainly prettier and looks to be more refined, I have a feeling that it still would not be my cup of tea.

In fact, I know this is not my cup of tea, as I did check out the demo they released in conjunction with this Direct, and… I had a pretty bad time with it. The art style is this eccentric mismatch of gorgeous backdrops, world designs, and expressive enemies that clash when placed against human beings whose proportions and general look remind me of porcelain figurines in the worst way. The combat teeters between aggressive and antagonistic and easily exploitable depending on the encounter and how prepared the player is for what they’re up against. The menus are simultaneously under-detailed with information and cluttered with visual trappings. And the overworld is one of the worst I have ever experienced, being this uncanny tilted overhead perspective that, when mixed with roaming enemies and a rotating camera, caused me to lose my bearings within a matter of seconds. Or in other words, the game is trash, go play Octopath Traveler, Dragon Quest XI, or Trials of Mana instead.

Speaking of trash (but not really) Pokémon Sword’s and Pokemon Shield’s mostly identical expansion passes were shown off as the final segment of this direct, and after being formally revealed via a Pokémon Direct earlier this year, they really had nothing new to show. Information that was previously conveyed through concept art was shown off using in-game models. It was nice to see that progress was being made, but aside from that, it was something of a wash. A notion that, unfortunately, describes most of this Direct, as they simply did not have the announcements or reveals that many people dream of seeing in these events.

Sure, they did announce Clubhouse Games: 51 Worldwide Classics, which releases on June 5th. But unless you are the sort of person who wants to play royalty-free tabletop games by yourself or with your friends digitally, it really has no appeal. Oh, and the next Super Smash Bros. Ultimate character is going to be a representative from Arms, but we’ll need to speculate as to who it will be until sometime in June. Here’s hoping they go with a waifu because… Smash needs more waifus… and I may decide to start writing weird ecchi body swap fan fiction based on Smash Bros. …I made a chart based on this idea back in 2018, and I still have not given up hope.

Moving on, it’s no secret that over the past few years Epic Games has been raking in copious amounts of money thanks to the continued success of Fortnite, which has granted them the clout and resources needed to do pretty much whatever they want while expanding their sphere of influence over the games industry with a very cushy money pit at their beck and call. And with their newfound resources, Epic has decided to enter the wild world of game publishing. Yes, in an admittedly pompous announcement video, the Tencent-affiliated company has announced three publishing deals with acclaimed developers genDesign (The Last Guardian), Playdead (Inside and Limbo), and Remedy (Control and Quantum Break). No word was given what these games would be, but Epic did reveal certain key details about their approach to game publishing, and they are quite beneficial to any independent game development studio.

Developers working with Epic will retain full creative freedom and 100% ownership of all intellectual property they create. 100% of all development and publishing costs will be covered by Epic Games. And once a game’s costs are recouped through sales, profits will be split 50/50 between Epic and the developer. While this may sound like nothing special, it’s actually very common, or was very common, to see developers sign on to far less scrupulous deals to get their games funded, and what Epic is pushing here is something akin to a gold standard of the sorts of deals that publishers should have been offering to developers. So, yes, good job there Epic.

That covers it for this week. The whole quarantine thing is going alright for me, though it has come with some awkwardness as my mother is working her job in the other room while regularly coming into my room to use the printer throw things my way, while I pick away at my many jobs, doing what I can whenever work is gently lobbed into my lap. It’s certainly an awkward predicament, but I’m keeping myself busy, my revenues are going up, my expenses going down, and I’m having fun during my downtime as I write wild stories, pen thoughtful reviews, and play cool games.

Stay safe, stay healthy, and stay fresh!

Header image comes from the delightful ONATaRT, who also made my spiffy avatar.

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