Rundown (7/19-7/25) Saturday Morning Lewds

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Wherein I discuss a weekly ritual, the eternal battle between order and chaos, a non-definitive definitive edition, a wonderous world of wonderful wonder, the hotness coming to the neXt box, and a return of the plights of a hundred heroes.

It’s recently occurred to me how procedural my Saturday mornings are. I wake up at 6:45, prepare breakfast, do my gacha game dailies, do the basic hygiene stuff, get my weekly Rundown all scheduled to publish on Nigma Box, vacuum the house, wash my sheets, and I also do something else… what was it? Oh, right, scrounge through jolly old e-hentai to see what new “gender bender” and “body swap” comics are available in English, download any that look promising using HDoujin Downloader, and read them while enjoying an album from my illustrious library and an omelet sandwich.

I do this because I am a connoisseur of all things TG/TSF/Gender Bender, and one of the best places to get high-quality content through a simple search is e-hentai, and over the years I have found no shortage of wonderful and inspiring comics by perusing the site. Sure, I need to sift through the garbage to find the gems in the rough, but the same is true for anyone who is into something niche or weird, and it only makes it all the more delighting when I do find a comic like Ore, Bishoujo Senshi Yamemasu by Yoshida Gorou or a new artist like Shiyin.

Why do I do this on Saturday mornings? Well, it fits into my schedule, as I don’t vacuum until 10:00 or 11:00 (depends on when my family leaves the house), and I typically have nothing pressing to do on a weekend morning. So I routinely decide to check out some comics with lewd bits, and if I like the comic or at least a certain aspect of it, then it goes into the “Tomoko Goto’s Eronz & Dentais” folder in my disgustingly large “Arts” directory. Seriously, that ish is nearly at 50k GB and 50k files.

Okay, but why do I choose a random album to listen to while I read them? Well, it’s a habit I picked up from back when I was really into webcomics in the late 2000s, as I typically put my music library on shuffle whenever I was going through a comic’s entire archive. Because of this, I have little problem reading comics, articles, social media, or essays while listening to music in the background, and it doesn’t really matter to me if it fits, or if the music is lyrically-driven. If anything, I find a certain joy in the juxtaposition between reading something like Yokubou no Wazawai by Taniguchi-san while listening to the soundtrack to Parappa the Rapper 2.

Now that I have regaled you all with a personal detail that absolutely nobody wanted to know, let’s get into the video game news, as this week was fairly busy.

Things kicked off with a spontaneously announced Nintendo Direct Mini that showcased games by Nintendo’s various partners, rather than the company themselves, and the only real takeaways from it were two announcements regarding future Atlus titles.

After having garnered a very positive reputation, and being subject to many a meme on account of a sticker on its North American box art, an HD remaster of 2004’s Shin Megami Tensei III: Nocturne was announced for the Switch. While I do not know a whole lot about this title beyond its reputation and what the story is vaguely about, I am incredibly fond of the dismal yet stylish vibe the game gives off with its character and post-apocalyptic world design, and enjoy the more strategic turn-based combat the SMT series is known for. As such, I’ll almost definitely check it out sometime after it launches for the Switch and PS4 (and probably PC) sometime in 2021.

However, that was not the only announcement Atlus had to make, as, after having been announced as a Switch exclusive back in January of 2017, before the system launched, they finally offered a new trailer for Shin Megami Tensei V. …Which sure as heck looks a lot similar to Nocturne. Both titles involve the forces of order and chaos battling over the human realm, are set in post-apocalyptic urban Japan, and follow a high school boy who gains powers by mingling with one of the powerful entities attacking this world. Though I suppose those could just be tangential similarities done because of how every mainline SMT game is about Tokyo getting destroyed by demons, and teenage protagonists are the most marketable. Regardless, it looks neat, and I’m excited to check this Switch exclusive out sometime after its simultaneous worldwide release in 2021.

On the subject of JRPGs that have historically failed to get a foothold in the US beyond a narrow niche, Square Enix has announced that Dragon Quest XI S: Echoes of an Elusive Age – Definitive Edition is coming to PS4, Xbox One, and PC on December 4th. Yes, after being relegated as a Switch exclusive for the past year, the improved and expanded version of Dragon Quest XI is coming to all relevant platforms and marking this stalwart Japanese series’ first appearance on an American Xbox console, where it will be available via Xbox Game Pass at launch.

As with all ports, I’m happy to see the game to come to more platforms and more people, but this announcement is of relevant interest to me as I foolishly bought the original version of Dragon Quest XI for PC in 2018, before DQXIS was even announced. News of this announcement turned me off of playing the game, as I did not want to purchase it twice, but now I will be able to upgrade my existing copy for a small fee, kind of like how Square Enix handled World of Final Fantasy Maxima. …Or at least that’s what I assumed.

In actuality, DQXIS will be sold as a separate purchase from DQXI, and despite being the definitive edition, it looks notably worse than the original PC and PS4 release. The justification here is that DQXIS, on all platforms, is actually a port of the Switch version, rather than a true definitive edition of the game, customized for every platform it is released on, in order to look as good as possible. This is a massive shame, and I have no idea why Square Enix is going about things this way.

I understand that, logistically, it is easier to handle things this way, but Square Enix is a multi-billion dollar game company that employs no shortage of brilliant people who, if given the time and resources, could make this version of the game the best, without question. Instead, they aren’t, which is both stupid and lame. Oh well. Maybe some crazy person will mod the original graphics into DQIXS, or find that there is just a command prompt they need to enter to make the game look as good as possible. Like with Watch Dogs.

On the subject of Square Enix, back in January 2018, Yuji Naka (the original head of Sonic Team and programmer of original Genesis Sonic titles) joined up with Square Enix following an unsuccessful decade-long attempt at running his own company, Prope Limited. It struck me as an odd decision at the time, as Naka has retained a good relationship with Sega despite his departure, and it seemed odd for him to pair up with a publisher he never worked with before. Now, several years later, it finally came time to reveal his next project in the form of Balan Wonderworld. A vibrant and downright gorgeous 3D action-platformer that I would reductively describe as NiGHTS X Super Mario Odyssey.

I say this because the game involves a boy child and girl child who are taken to a magical realm by a dapper and androgynous figure who takes them to a magical dreamscape. Wherein the children must don magical costumes with unique abilities to explore the world and battle against giant bosses powered by the despair and sorrow that lurks within the hearts of those close to the protagonists. Also, the character designer behind this project is Naoto Ohshima, the director/designer behind NiGHTS Into Dreams, who has delivered no shortage of grade-A character designs for this project. Beyond the similarities, however, the game looks nothing short of fantastic, it appeals to my sensibilities, and I have no doubts that the seasoned team behind it will deliver something special when the game launches in spring 2021 for PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X, Switch, and PC.

This announcement preface, but technically was not a part of, Microsoft’s big summer Xbox Games Showcase, which offered a glimpse into what the first-party line-up will be for the upcoming Xbox Series X. Well, that, and trailers for multi-platform titles that will come to other systems, but will debut on Xbox Game Pass, which is becoming a better and better service as time goes on and the back catalog grows.

Now, the first title the developers had to show was Halo Infinite, which is meant to be the big marquee title to initiate the launch of the Xbox Series X and… it looks fine. The game is an open world first-person-shooter, one that gives the player a scattering of tools to play around with, and features enemies that have different attack patterns. However, nothing about the game strikes me as flashy, particularly interesting, or anything more than a mellow-paced shooter set in a big and pretty world with oodles of forests, mountains, and alien machinery stuff. The biggest innovation here appears to be the introduction of a grappling hook, but its inclusion only went to remind me of Doom Eternal and Bright Memory: Infinite, both of which are far more visually dynamic than this title.

Following Microsoft’s acquisition of Obsidian Entertainment, just about everybody jumped to the conclusion that Obsidian would finally have the resources to make AAA RPG without any of the development foibles or limitations that plagued the company since it was formed in 2003. This has led to the creation of Avowed, a first-person RPG that I imagine will be a lot like The Elder Scrolls, but better on pretty much every level. I mean, not that doing so would be very hard. Especially after Bethesda put the series on hold despite having released one of the most influential games of its generation.

Next up, we have a new title from Image & Form, the Swedish studio best known for the Steamworld series, who is reaching well beyond their usual scope by creating a mid-sized $30 3D puzzle/adventure/horror game by the name of The Gunk. A game that follows a tiny black lady who travels through space to a planet infected by an alien parasite that is eating away at its natural beauty and resources, and she takes it upon herself to restore the planet to its former glory. Which she accomplishes by sucking it up with her space vacuum glove. Considering this is the developers’ first true 3D effort, the game looks great, boasting a vibrant color palette, moody lighting, and fauna-rich environment that serve as constant reminders that the game takes place in another world. Unlike most other titles in this showcase, this one has a strangely optimistic launch date of September 2021, where it is set to debut on Xbox Series X, Xbox One, and PC.

The final game that I want to talk about from the showcase is the ending teaser for a ground-up reboot of the Fable series from Forza Horizon developers Playground Games. This title has been rumored for the better half of a year at this point and was revealed with a CG teaser trailer that did little to inform players as to what this game would be like beyond its basic visual iconography and tone. That is to say, it is a realistic-looking fantasy game with a slightly dark sense of humor but appears to be a loose interpretation of what Fable is, which, as somebody who was quite fond of the original series, I am perfectly fine with.

The series has been dormant for nearly a decade (cancelled games don’t count), and I’d rather the developers make the game they want to make than replicate what Lionhead made before they were shut down back in 2016. If I want that charm, I’ll go back and play Fable II and III. Both of which I still have a very real soft spot for, to the point where I have seriously thought about pirating the delisted version of Fable III for PC and playing it again.

Tangents aside, I am skimming over a lot of things in this recap, as a lot of what was shown was not of interest to me, or something that had been shown previously, and I had nothing of interest to say about the trailer. Despite this, I thought this was still a fine showcase. It built faith that Xbox Game Studios does have a strong line-up going forward, and considering how much their operations have been affected by the global pandemic, I honestly do not expect a whole lot from these things. They showed off games, some of them looked neat, and I look forward to playing a few of them in a few years.

To close out this week with another game announcement, Suikoden is one of the many JRPG series that fell by the wayside after the jump to HD, and one of the many game series to have been completely neglected, if not abandoned, by Konami. It’s a shame that there are no compilations, ports, or even a crappy Chinese gacha game to keep the series somewhat relevant, but at least many of the people who made the series are still active in the industry. Such as Yoshitaka Murayama, the writer/director/producer of the first three Suikoden games, who is now working on a Suikoden spiritual successor by the name of Eiyuden Chronicle: Hundred Heroes.

As is not particularly surprising, the title focuses on a group of a hundred or so heroes from all walks of life rallying together under a common goal of battling against a power-hungry empire who wishes to use the magic of the world for their own gain. Because diversity is good, power-hungry militaristic nations are bad, and even if a JRPG seems generic, it can be a grand time when handled by the right people. As for how Eiyuden looks visually, only a few snippets were shown, and they evoke a vibe similar to Octopath Traveller, just without any strict adherence to the visual iconography of a specific era. Polygonal environments are not especially blocky, textures are detailed, models are smooth, and while the characters are presented using sprites, they look like illustrations when viewed from a distance. It’s not what I would have expected from a game of this sort, but I think it looks pretty rad.

Currently, the title is set to launch on Kickstarter on July 27th, where it will sport a reasonable goal of $500,000 for a PC release, with console ports serving as stretch goals, and I hope it can make it and be something worthwhile. I mean, spiritual successor JRPGs have not had the best track record on Kickstarter, as epitomized by titles like Project Phoenix and Unsung Story, but this one could turn out great assuming additional finances are in place, ambitions are in check, and the management is on point.

Header image comes from Ideal and Reality by Kerberus TSF.

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