Rundown (8/08-8/14) No Power; No Life

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Wherein I discuss my crippling reliance on electronics, the eighth Xeno, Shining Force the mobage, dracula’s latest resurrection, and a return to the definitive series of the early 2000s.

This past week, my house lost power for 8 hours, and this power outage reminded me of just how hopelessly dependent I am on electronics to do… anything, really. I spend most of my waking hours on a computer. I do not even like reading things off of paper, let alone buy paper books anymore. While I have a vast deluge of stuff I can work on or things I can enjoy without internet access, I have absolutely nothing to do when things go dark. 

As I went to sleep two hours early that night, I asked myself what I would do if the power just went out and never came back. After much deliberation, the only valid answer I could reach was to kill myself. Now, I have a strong philosophy on killing oneself: Only do it if you think that there is a near-zero percent chance of experiencing happiness in the future. Yet I seriously cannot imagine a future where I do not have electronics and am happy. Because the overwhelming majority of things that made me happy throughout my life have been related to electronics. And without those things, then life just ain’t worth living.

There are three reliable sources for game announcement leaks. Ratings boards that post information about a game too early. Online stores that put up store pages for games too early. And voice actors who, either by accident or due to a lack of awareness, talk about projects too early. The latter one is the least common, but it happened back in June when a fan asked voice actress Jenna Coleman about her involvement in Xenoblade Chronicles, where she voiced the main character Melia.

The video was uploaded to a small gaming channel and went unnoticed until this past weekend, where people took note of how Coleman let it slip that another Xenoblade game was in development, and one that would involve the character of Melia returning in some capacity.

Fanbyte looked into this news, contacted their sources, and was able to confirm that, yes, a new Xenoblade game is in development at Monolith Soft, and they were able to piece together a few details about the title, which Fanbyte named Xenoblade Chronicles 3. The game will be a sequel to both Xenoblade Chronicles 1 and 2, will be set in the far-flung future, and will feature a few returning characters. Apparently, this project was originally going to be announced earlier this year, but they pushed this announcement back due to pandemic-related development delays and optimization. Neither of which are any surprise, considering the development timeline and the laborious task of creating an open world game for Switch.

This is to be expected, as Xenoblade Chronicles 2 was the best performing game in the series, new plot threads were introduced in the secondary campaign added in Xenoblade Chronicles: Definitive Edition. However, this news makes me a bit miffed, as I never did get around to playing Xenoblade 2. Plus, despite having invested a combined 140 hours across two playthroughs separated by 4 years, I never did beat the original Xenoblade Chronicles. Meaning that this is a series that I, in all likeliness, will probably never have the opportunity to become invested in. Even though I know I do like it based on my experience, and even though it does suffer from the all-too-common open world bloat.

Honestly, one of the biggest issues in modern gaming, aside from the prevalent abuse culture and a lack of preservation, is how long games can be, demanding dozens of hours from players. Or, in the case of live services, asking players to play a significant amount on a daily basis. This leads people to play fewer games, encourages them to buy fewer games, and limits how many unique worlds, mechanics, and stories they are exposed to. 

There is value to a game that is long enough to last players several weeks, or a game that becomes part of a daily routine. But the market is so flooded with these time-consuming experiences that I wonder how anybody manages to get invested in new titles, or if this live service market is going to eventually burst. 

Anyway, the reason why I bring this up is because Sega, continuing their recent streak of loaning out their neglected series, has recently licensed the Shining Force name to a Japanese company by the name of Hive Co., Ltd. A mobile game developer who plans on taking this tactical RPG subset of the Shining series and turning it into a free-to-play title with item-based in-app purchases. Which I think translates to being a gacha game, because that market is totally not oversaturated to hell and back.

While I am not surprised that even a lesser known series like the Shining series is getting a mobile game, I am a bit miffed that Sega is doing this instead of giving the IP to another company so they can make a proper Shining Force game. While the heydey for tactical RPGs has passed, the popularity of the Fire Emblem series has opened the door for similar games, and Shining Force could very well fill that niche, as the series were always similar to each other. 

Hell, I have been saying that they should make a new Shining Force ever since Nintendo committed to making Fire Emblem a major series, after the success of Awakening and Fates. But no, instead of a new title or a remake, game-likers are getting the mobile game Shining Force: Heroes of Light and Darkness, which is currently slated to come out in 2022 for Japan, South Korea, other Asian countries, North America, and Europe. 

Sticking to mobile gaming, back in April, I talked about the ill-fated PlatinumGames and DeNA project, World of Demons. A title that was soft-launched in June 2018, disappeared from storefronts in September 2018, and went offline in October 2018. Its story was one all-too-common in the world of mobile gaming. Then, out of nowhere and with no indication that the title would come back, it was reworked into an offline title with no monetization and landed on Apple Arcade on April 2nd.

I viewed this release as an anomaly, something that only happened due to miraculous circumstances, but this past week Apple announced that Castlevania: Grimoire of Souls is heading to Apple Arcade. For those who forgot, Castlevania: Grimoire of Souls was announced in 2018, soft-launched in Canada in September 2019, but was delisted about a year later. From what I recall, the game was received fairly positively for offering a deluge of Castlevania fan service and gameplay. Unfortunately, due to its limited release, relatively few people got to experience and, based on this detailed write-up I found, the game did have plenty of finer features. Which makes it all the more delightful to hear that the game is indeed being preserved in some capacity, and that some of its lesser aspects are going to be carved out in order to make the game a better experience.

Now, keeping this news in mind, I need to ask a question: Could Apple Arcade save delisted mobile games? Because this marks the second, at least that I’m aware of, time the service brought back a delisted gacha game from the graveyard. And if they can do this with two titles that never fully launched, then what is stopping them from turning their service into a home for dead gacha games? Well, the answer is that it takes money to bring these titles to Apple Arcade, and the process of reworking a game’s monetization is an intensive process. 

In an IGN interview about World of Demons, Atsushi Inaba and Koji Tanaka of PlatinumGames said that they needed to rebuild the game for Apple Arcade. While part of me is inclined to believe that just means optimization and rebalancing, I’m sure there is a lot of work that one needs to put into titles like this. 

As such, the sheer economics of this all might prevent re-releases and rebuilds like this from becoming common. I mean, Apple can afford it, but they have a limited budget for Apple Arcade, and they only want to invest in projects that they believe will attract and retain subscribers. Such as games like World of Demons, Fantasian, World’s End Club, or Castlevania: Grimoire of Souls. Titles with a strong following amongst an audience of ‘gamers’ who might not play mobile games.

The PS2-era GTA trilogy is one of the many major gaming touchstones that I lack much familiarity with, as I never played them. At first, it was due to a sense of smug immature superiority. But after checking out the Saints Row series, which continued down the wackier streak of these titles, I retroactively gained the ability to view these sandbox games for what they are: Goofy adolescent urban fantasy simulators. A genre that has not seen much support over the past decade, and I’m not really sure why… Maybe because GTA Online is still seeing massive support and has throughout the entire generation.

Anyway, the purpose of this preamble is to introduce the story that Grand Theft Auto III, Grand Theft Auto Vice City, and Grand Theft Auto San Andreas are all being remastered by the newly formed Rockstar Dundee. This has not been confirmed by 2K Games or Rockstar, but Kotaku, VGC, and Gematsu have all corroborated that this is indeed happening.

These remasters are supposedly going to be full conversions to the Unreal engine and will feature a mix of old and new content (hopefully some QOL updates and significant visual improvements). However, when and how these remasters are going to come out is not currently clear, as plans have changed several times throughout their development, and the project has been delayed repeatedly. Probably because the devs are aiming to release on PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series, Switch, PC, mobile, and even Stadia. Which sounds like a pretty tall order even for games that are 17 to 20 years old.

While I likely will not check these remasters out, I think that their release would make for a good opportunity for people to revisit these titles. Whether it be for nostalgia purposes, out of curiosity, or as a means of reconciling their place in the gaming industry both culturally and technologically. Seriously, it would not be a stretch to say that GTA was the most important series of the PS2 generation. 

Header image comes from Bishoujo Factory (Cute Chick Factory) by Yonoi Seiichiro. Which is one of those wild and wacky TSF comics that reminds me of why I love this genre so much, because of the sheer creativity it inspired in creators. It’s a comic about some factory with a pit of toxic ooze floating in the middle of it that either turns men into corpses or into hot ladies. After one guy gets gang banged, and told that he will never need to work his arduous factory job ever again, a bunch of other workers decide to risk their lives to become hot ladies. Once the survivors become hot ladies, they go out and have sex with their co-workers, killing them in the process because they are still covered in toxic goop.

It is literally the sort of thing I WISH I had the foresight to create, and the sort of thing I want to plagiarize one day… One day.

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