Rundown (5/03-5/09) Natalie’s Not A Squid Kid!

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Wherein I discuss the merits of multiplayer, Muv-Luv Con, and the hottest games coming to an XSX near you.

Last weekend I spent some time with the recently revived multiplayer demo of Splatoon 2, mostly out of curiosity, and to gauge a potential future purchase. And based on two hours of early game experience, Splatoon 2 is an aesthetically rich title between the character-building animations, stylish character and environmental designs, and a creative score. The gameplay loop of maintaining territory and shooting opposition with varying different weapon types is both novel and fun, and the game features the same sort of polish (and subpar online systems) that Nintendo is known for. That being said, playing it also reminded me of just why I do not like competitive multiplayer games, and why I tend to ignore games that are not built around campaigns or progression.

I do not like competing against others. I do not like comparing myself to others. I do not like winning because I worry that my win was somehow unjust, and I do not like losing because it affirms that somebody is better than me. I do not like to put myself or express myself around others out of fear of being judged by them, and I do not enjoy making anything harder for anyone. This means that I simply do not gel with the core appeal of multiplayer shooters, or really any sort of player versus player interaction. If I am going to play with others, I would much rather we be working together against the AI.

I also have noticed and come to terms with the fact that I tend to play games with a focus on progress. I like seeing the story move forward, my numbers go up, the characters develop, and my collection grows in both size and scale. I generally do not enjoy pick up and play or arcade-style games as much as I enjoy games with a campaign, and when a game is strictly focused on simply playing it with no dramatic change in its mechanics, environment, or scale, I find it hard to remain interested.

I know this might make me a simpleton in the eyes of some, a person who does not appreciate truly in-depth or detailed mechanics or sound replayable game design— and I guess that is a fair point, as I tend to enjoy games more due to their aesthetic, world, and story. I like my gameplay simple, and while I can handle a challenge, I do not necessarily go looking for it. …Yeah, I think I opened a big old kettle of worms with this trail of thought, but I’ll save the details and fine explanation for a Ramble that I may or may not get around to, given the nebulous nature of this topic.

Throughout this summer, you can expect to see a lot of prolonged digital events from publishers and developers large and small given the relatively low costs of streaming and video production and the fact that all the physical events set to be held this summer have been canceled on account of COVID-19. Which has canceled everything from E3 to ComicCon, to Gamescom, to even the September-bound Tokyo Game Show. While I did not expect things to kick up until June, when convention season typically starts, that has not stopped some people, as it seems that we are already in the swing of things. Which I say because Muv-Luv series developer Âge recently held COMIFURI: I Don’t Want Dojin Circles to Get Hurt, so I’ll Max Out My Web Event. A fairly rough live-streamed showcase of the titles the developer is working on and promotes what the fan community has been working on as well.

The only project announcement from this event was that the multi-part interquel, Muv-Luv Unlimited: The Day After, will be released on Steam at an unspecified time, implying that an English localization is underway. The title is a multi-part expanded universe tale that, while wholly unnecessary like just about everything outside of the core Muv-Luv trilogy of Extra, Unlimited, and Alternative, nevertheless struck me as one of the more promising projects under the series mantle.

In addition to this, more footage was shown for previously announced projects, namely the upcoming anime adaptation of Muv-Luv Alternative, the PC and mobile mecha action game spin-off Project MIKHAIL, and an RTS/action game/twin-stick shooter dubbed Project Immortal. While none of these three projects are especially interesting to me, as I think Muv-Luv loses some oomph when its action is both glorified and presented as anything less than a cluster of frantic noise and ugly monsters, it is nevertheless nice to see the series branching out into new directions and broadening its potential audience like this. Also, I did a bit of digging and discovered that Mikhail, which is the most promising looking of these projects, will be released in Japanese, English, and Chinese in 2021, so chances are I will give it a whirl sooner or later.

Another web event held this past week was a special version of Inside Xbox that offered various third-party titles coming to Xbox Series X a good deal of exposure, either announcing them outright of showing them off in greater detail. In a sense, it was like a bite-sized E3 conference, with all of these high-fidelity AAA trailers of pre-rendered or scripted gameplay, but with no major first-party offerings or surprises, it was a pretty underwhelming display of things that I don’t especially care about. Only three things caught my eye, but for the sake of comprehensiveness, I will go over the other titles in brief detail.

  • Scorn looks to be a game about a team of artists who really liked the work of H.R. Giger and decided to make a world of flesh, bone, and alien objects in their own vision.
  • Chorus, or rather Chorvs, is a Deep Silver title that offers flashy space flight action which, admittedly, is something of a rarity nowadays, but despite the slick sci-fi art direction, the general tone of the trailer did not do a very good job of selling the game, with how faux serious it is.
  • Vampire the Masquerade Bloodlines 2 boasts a fidelity that surprises me considering it is coming from such an economical publisher and is based on a very niche series, but that has not stopped them from producing highly detailed tonal CG showcases.
  • The Ascent is a game whose grungy cyberpunk space world sets the expectation of a grander journey through a detailed world… but it was revealed to be a co-op twin-stick shooter, instead of a more narratively driven RPG affair. Because I guess that’s what kids want nowadays.
  • The Medium is the next psychological horror title from Bloober Team, who between Layers of Fear, Observer, and Blaire Witch (2019), has made a name for themselves in the world of horror games. And this new title, boasting the good old staple of dual world gameplay and also the legendary Silent Hill composer Akira Yamaoka, is certainly poised to titillate and satiate those zany goofs who like a good spooking.

Bright Memory Infinite looks like a game made to sell and showcase next generation graphical technology with rain, wind, and lighting effects that seem a bit too good to be true, and gameplay that, while exceptionally fast and stylish for a semi-futuristic first-person-shooter, all seemed a bit too polished and idealized to be believable. As demonstrated by how the trailer transitioned from setting to setting and had its protagonist just so happen to grapple beam their way into the right direction by going down a seemingly random pathway in a large environment.

I would bear a sense of doubt over this title, but after doing some digging about the game, finding out its a single man project from China, a sequel to an in-development game known as Bright Memory, it all made a bit more sense… while still being unbelievable considering the visual polish and spectacle on display here.a lot more believable. The developer, FYQD Studio, did manage to create a title as flashy and graphically impressive as something from a dev team of hundreds… even if the one-man disclaimer is likely a misnomer, as the developer almost assuredly utilizes store-bought assets, which eliminates one of the biggest resource sinks in AAA game development.

Bandai Namco as an entity just barely makes any gosh darn sense to me, and while their line-up has stabilized after a major worldwide and western push last gen, their scattered output and presence in the games industry still strikes me as odd. They co-develop games with Nintendo, publish and sometimes develop the only console anime games you see nowadays, have a library of reliable staple series that do well, yet are rarely the most prominent in their field, and they also like making these high production value anime-ass action games. You’ve got God Eater, Code Vein, the upcoming MMO Blue Protocol, and now this edgy stylish character action-ish game, that’s apparently an RPG, by the name of Scarlet Nexus.

The slightly disheveled streets of a futuristic Japanese cityscape, the fashionable character designs, the abstract monster designs, and the object-tossing sword-slashing action gameplay that all made for a game that I immediately gelled with my sensibilities, and marks the biggest takeaway from this showcase for me. However, I do have some slight confusion over the choice of using a predetermined character as the protagonist, given how Bandai Namco, makers of some dope-ass character creators, probably realize by now that players really like being able to customize their own waifu or husbando in-game, and here they’ll need to settle with some protagonist-looking guy-teen.

No release date was given, and because this is Bandai Namco, it will probably make its way to every platform major sooner or later. Yes, even the Switch. I mean, after they looked at the Jump Force port and decided it was okay, I’m sure that every one of their major releases is going to come to the Switch, quality be damned. …Yes, I know that they only announced that the game is coming out for PS4, PS5, Xbox One, XSX, and PC, but that does not rule out a Switch port after the fact.

Yakuza: Like a Dragon, was also shown off with a re-edited trailer that effectively established that the series is now a multiplatform one, as this trailer not only announced that this title is coming to Xbox One, and Xbox Series X, but also PC. Which would have been a bombshell of sorts if not for the fact that a SteamDB page for the game leaked three days earlier. No release date was given, but it was confirmed that Like a Dragon is coming out on Xbox Series X at launch, implying that Sega might try to push the title as a cross-gen launch game, which is a pretty good way to further the reach of a series.

…That’s it for this week. Stay safe and whatnot!

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