Rundown (6/14-6/20) Ramble Hiatus!

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Wherein I discuss a schedule change, a spacefaring VR motive, and a preposterous pile of Pokémon projects.

Before beginning this Rundown, I would like to make an update regarding future content for June and July. Due to the fact that I am working from home, I have been able to play through more games at a faster rate than I usually do and have been able to prepare game reviews at a faster rate than my 2020 schedule demands. Because of this, I do not intend on publishing Rambles on June 24th and July 29th and will instead publish game reviews on both days. Rambles will resume on August 26th with Natalie Rambles About The Malice of Abigale Quinlan.

For those worried that this means I will be putting out fewer words into the ether, I would also like to announce that July’s short story, Random #010, will be a proper novella in length and will be released in parts throughout July. Mostly because I find it hard to justify releasing what is shaping up to be 20,000 words as a single post, and because I will need to create header images for every part.

Now then, let’s get on with the news.

Following the collapse of Visceral Games’ Star Wars title, Project Ragtag, and the cancelation of a Battlefront spin-off, EA began putting their Montreal-based Motive Studios to work on a smaller title they could push during the anticipated launch of the PS5 and Xbox Series X. And seeing as how EA needed something of a major for their annual EA Play showcase, they naturally took this opportunity to reveal this not-so-well-kept secret as Star Wars: Squadrons. A space combat title where players battle in iconic Star Wars locales with iconic Star Wars ships that emit iconic Star Wars sound effects. Whether it be in the form of prolonged challenges, 5 versus 5 team battles, or a likely limited single-player campaign, all of which are supposedly playable using VR.

While I am skeptical of this title, because EA is EA, I do admit that it does look like a promising and fun time that takes the VR demo seen in Star Wars: Battlefront (2015) and fleshes it out into a full game. I just hope that between the loadouts, character customization, and cockpit customization don’t open the door to a bevy of microtransactions and monetization in this $40 budget title. But knowing EA, it probably will be soiled over time or made prohibitively expensive through premium content packs released over the life of this live service. Star Wars: Squadrons is currently set to release on PS4, Xbox One, and PC on October 2, 2020.

After having co-opted the mantle of Pokémon Direct over the years, the Pokémon Company International has rebranded their sporadically held promotional packages as Pokémon Presents, the first installment of which was held this past week, and was home to three newly announced projects, and reminders that the Pokémon Sword and Shield Expansion Passes are now available. All of which made for a fine showing, but one that bizarrely is being divided into two parts, with the second Pokémon Presents being slated for next week. I mean, the entire point of these showcases is to lump together a lot of announcements as part of a single celebration, and dividing them up like this is kinda missing the point… but sure, go and do whatever.

Pokémon Smile was the first of these announcements, a smartphone app that is meant to make oral hygiene more enticing to children as they can catch Pokémon while brushing their teeth, turning “a stressful time into a fun and exciting adventure.” Because I guess this is the best way to teach children about the importance of brushing their teeth, by making them depend on extrinsic stimulation while still viewing the act itself as a chore. I do not quite get why the Pokémon Company International thought this was a project worth pursuing or advertising like this, but sure, I guess this is fine.

Announcement number two was Pokémon Puzzle Mix, a title that reminds me of LINE: Disney Tsun Tsun if it was mixed with Pokémon Ranger. As it is a puzzle game that recycles the icons used in Pokémon Trozei and Shuffle that has the player spin around the screen in order to amass large clusters of the same Pokémon in order to get big combos and big points in order to complete the puzzle challenge. All of which is built around a cute cafe theme and the idea of expanding your base of operations and customers through a gradual leveling system that can be expedited through the use of monetary purchases. The title is coming to Switch and mobile platforms on June 23rd, and honestly just looks like another drop in the mobage bucket. It’s cute, but I do not see it lasting more than a year, not unlike titles like Pokémon Rumble Rush.

The final major announcement is something that people have been clamoring for over the past decade or so, partially due to nostalgia, and also due to a desire to see the Pokémon series taken to the next level visually by realizing and actualizing the world of Pokémon. Yes, the maniacs have finally done it and announced New Pokémon Snap. A title that takes the same premise and appeal of Pokémon Snap, going on a nature tour and snapping photos of Pokémon as they go through scripted animations that can be triggered by throwing things at them. Except this time the animation detail, quality, and overall visual flair are aiming to match contemporary standards for HD graphics.

It looks neat, it looks pretty, and it looks to have all the animation and reactive details that people wanted and expected from Pokémon Sword and Shield but did not get. It is not a title I am especially interested in, as its rewards are largely visual and obtaining them is based on luck and careful timing, but I am nevertheless glad to see this title be made, as fans, lapsed or otherwise, have been begging for a sequel for the better half of a decade at this point.

It actually begs the question why now of all times this project was greenlit and approved as, back in 2013, 2014, and 2019 Junichi Masuda was not very enthused about the idea of a new Pokémon Snap, claiming that they needed new ideas or unique features in order to justify this project. I’m curious what this means for New Pokémon Snap considering how it strikes me as a safe iteration on what the N64 original did, but prettier and with more than 63 Pokémon. Perhaps this was simply greenlit because of the nostalgia boom the series underwent after the release of Pokémon Go, or perhaps the developer, Bandai Namco Studios, does have some unseen new innovative feature that they’re waiting to reveal until trailer 2. Nevertheless, New Pokémon Snap is currently in development for Nintendo Switch, and no release window was specified.

Anything else this week? Well, EA announced Skate 4 by way of a short video of two developers saying that the project is happening. It Takes Two, the latest game from A Way Out developer Hazelight was announced with a video of game director Josef Fares talking about how amazing the title is while providing very few details on the title other than how it will follow two dolls created by a child whose family is undergoing a divorce. While Crash Bandicoot 4: It’s About Time was leaked by the Taiwanese game ratings board before its official reveal, and while I could muse about the very idea of the game, the true announcement is supposedly coming next week, so I’d rather wait for that.

Until next time, see ya!

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