Rundown (5/10-5/16) Gacha Sin

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Wherein I discuss an impure purchase, getting older all the time, feeling younger in my mind, the next step in video game graphics, a Nintendo surprise unfolded before our very eyes, a repackaged rendition of veggie-based RTS, and the ghost ninja samurai game.

Forgive me oh mighty Zxkuqyb, for I hath committed a deed most contemptuous and foul. I sought power beyond the realm of mine fate and tarnished my reputation as a #TrueGamer by partaking in the purchase of digital goods in a server-based live service, earning something bereft of any tangible value by forsaking mine wallet. The lost bastion of the Dragonkin, more commonly addressed Dragalia Lost has tempted me and… I bought some in-game currency for $8 because I could get a character I wanted without gambling my freemium currency on RNG.

I have previously said that it is foolish for one to spend legal tender on goods that one lacks the right to, or exist in a fickle and ethereal state tied to a central server that one cannot control. And while I do not think I was wrong in saying that, this sentiment comes from the perspective of viewing digital in-game purchases as goods. The act of purchasing in-game ‘goods’ is honestly more comparable to paying to view an event, to get into an establishment, to partake in an activity. Doing so does not give a person anything tangible, but it does give them an experience, it gives them a thing and that thing, at least in theory, makes them happy.

This purchase made me happy, as I got a character who I’ve wanted for a while, and the price was, by genre standards, very reasonable. Besides, in making this transaction I was also able to support Dragalia Lost by spending money on it, instead of siphoning off of the developers’ content and infrastructure as I have for the past 9 months. And I freaking love this game, so I sure as hell don’t mind spending a couple bucks on it here and there.

Now, this does not mean I condone the purchase or randomized goods, as I still do believe that is a foolish endeavor due to a lack of certainty. There is no guarantee, so you are taking a risk that, based on the odds seen in these types of games, is not in one’s favor. But if the guarantee is 100% in your favor? Then… Dann Es ist alles gut mit mir!

…Not sure why I said that last bit in German…

Starting news for this week, I think the most curious title you’ll find when perusing through the highest-rated games according to Metacritic or a similar site is the Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater series. A set of annually released arcade-style skateboarding simulators that appealed to a vast audience during the late 90s and early 2000s, but eventually fell out of relevance after the series attempted to innovate while retaining a rigid release schedule, all of which culminated in a pair of two peripheral-based games that killed the franchise… before it was dug up again in 2015, only to be metaphorically murdered once more with the 9th mainline entry, Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 5.

Now, with remakes of the hottest games of the late 90s being met with widespread acclaim, it only seemed right for the series to make a comeback… again, with a remastered rendition of the first two games… again.

Yeah, back in 2012 an attempt was made to recreate and revitalize the series with a return to form via a remaster/redux of the first two titles that made this series relevant in the first place. However, this project, Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater HD, was met with a middling reception due to a lack of adherence to the source material, and the game overall failing to capture the spark of the original. I mean, they gutted about half the soundtrack and that… that is just uncalled for. The soundtracks for these games are seminal masterclass compilations of culture, and I still listen to them regularly… despite having never played any game in this series.

Anyhow, this second attempt at remastering/rebuilding/re-whatever-ing, dubbed Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1 + 2, is being handled by Vicarious Visions, who previously worked on Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy. Assuming this remaster/remake is as thorough as their past work, then I’m sure it will be praised heavily, while still bearing a few critics who prefer the aesthetic and sensibilities of the original. It certainly looks promising based on the in-engine footage shown in the trailer, but whether or not the game sticks the landing will be made clear when it launches on September 4, 2020, for PS4, Xbox One, and the Epic Games Store… because Epic pays well and remasters of games from 1999 can’t run on Switch.

Do you know what else Epic does well? Making engines! Yes, after developing Unreal into a multi-faceted go-to engine for developers of all sorts with Unreal 3, broadening and refining things greatly with Unreal 4, Epic is putting out yet another iteration, creatively dubbed Unreal Engine 5. The engine is designed to be forward compatible with UE4, will be available as a preview in early 2021, and will be fully released later on in 2021. But like most engine announcements, this also came with a fancy-dancy tech demo that I would normally roll my eyes at… except this one was running on a standard dev kit, and was either playable or at the very least presented like it was.

I will admit that all these triangles, hyper-detailed assets, physics, animations, and dynamic lighting wowed me to an extent. However, I always feel the need to question the value of these fidelity advancements, ask whether or not it is worth the extra work to make realistic lighting, climbing animations, or textures. When none of that necessarily enhances the gameplay or interactivity of the experience, given the excess of detail seen on screen at any given moment, so much so that the vast majority of the audience will not notice. But I guess this is the direction the industry is steadfast heading towards, and if they want to implode themselves with overly ambitious developmental nightmares, let them. I’ll just stick with my pretty and economically produced anime and pixel art games.

I mean, that and major Nintendo titles, which people have been starved for considering how other than Xenoblade: Definitive Edition, which releases on May 29th, there really is nothing on the horizon for Nintendo fans, as the second half of the year is completely barren for them. Recognizing this, Nintendo decided to jump the gun and show the world Paper Mario: The Origami King by sporadically dropping a reveal trailer.

As the title implies, Origami King once again doubles down on the paper theme seen in the past decade’s worth of Paper Mario titles, featuring a menace who, with the aid of arts, crafts, and paper folding intends on subjugating the Mushroom Kingdom and transforming its residents. This sends Mario across distant lands to seek a remedy of sorts, with the aid of a persistent partner to handle the talking, along with partner characters who may or may not function like the cast of the first two titles. Also, he has god arms that can manipulate the world and solve puzzles. Which I appreciate. After everything he’s been though, Mario deserves to be a 1,000 armed deity.

Personally, I am excited to see how the game fares when it launches for Nintendo Switch on July 17th (yes, in a mere two months), though I cannot help but share a few reservations voiced by diehard fans, who are chagrined that the game is not a pure return to form, as was rumored in the past. While I am excited based on the bombast, spectacle, adorable paper gimmick, and greater artistic ambition seen in the trailer, I really did not like the battle system of Sticker Star, and I am not filled with assurance with the new battle system they are implementing, partially due to how briefly it was shown off in the trailer.

It featured Mario in the center of a circular battle arena with enemies all around him. The player can twist various layers of the circular arena to line up and distribute enemies, with damage bonuses being granted if they land four in a row. It could be a cool and strategic affair, but it could also suck, and I need to see raw gameplay of a full battle or two before these worries are alleviated. Either way, I’m going to get the game at launch, so expect to see a review… sometime in 2020.

As the announcement of this new Paper Mario was making the rounds and outlets were reporting on it, VentureBeat chose to interlace a subtle reveal in their coverage of the story, ending the piece by recounting prior articles on Nintendo’s struggles to adapt to COVID-19 and working from home, along with the all-but-confirmed slate of 3D Mario remasters. However, they also slyly name-dropped Pikmin 3 Deluxe as a title that Nintendo has in the pipeline. While a re-release of Pikmin 3 has been rumored for years now, nobody outright said it was coming, let alone assigned it a name, and assuming this writer, Jeff Grubb, is as reliable as he seems to be, I guess we can believe that it is happening for-almost-realsies.

A title that is happening for definite realsies is Ghost of Tsushima, the samurai game from Infamous developer Sucker Punch that has been trotted out as a marquee PS4 exclusive for the past two years or so, all leading up to a scheduled release date of July 17th, the same day as Paper Mario: The Origami King, weirdly enough. Now, with the game titillatingly close, a game-specific State of Play event was hosted to hype up its various modes and features. Before giving my thoughts on the content of the event, I would like to claim that I vastly prefer this presentation style over Sony’s previous State of Plays. The showcase was narrated by the actual developers of the games, not just some random voice actress, and it was used sparingly, mostly consisting of gameplay and on-screen explanations.

As for the actual game though? …Meh. Nothing about it looks particularly bad, but it is yet another open world stealth action game with loads of incidental goodies to find through exploring, resources to harvest, outposts to secure, and quests to complete. If I did not know any better, I would assume this was the Japan Assassin’s Creed game that people have been pining for over the past decade, even if the more cinema-inspired twinge to it all and lack of waypoints in favor of a wind-based directional system don’t seem like the sort of thing Ubisoft would ever embrace.

While I can certainly admire and recognize what the game is attempting to do, it does not have much in the way of distinctive features from what I could tell. The world, while deliberately detailed and gorgeous from a composition perspective, is often at war with its lighting engine, causing many scenes of serene beauty to be muddied in grayish hues. The protagonist, despite having a slew of spiffy outfits, is this generic short-haired guy with a stubble of a beard, the Asian equivalent of the defacto white dude protagonist seen in a lot of less creative western productions. And the whole gameplay loop of choosing direct parry-driven samurai action or fear-based ninja action when infiltrating bases is reminiscent of a design trend a decade in the making, yet does not seem to feature many unique implementations or distinct ideas of its own. I would say that the soundtrack seemed nice and atmospheric, but I know that if I did play this game, I’d get bored with it and listen to some Wu-Tang instead.

Is that it? …Yeah, I think so. Until next time, see ya.

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