Wherein I discuss how I cannot complete a simple child-level task, a potential revival of a niche game series nobody actually cares about, a faux celebration by barons of incalculable greed, the Kotick-Epstein Connection, and a Semi-Dope Nintendo Direct.
Let’s see, what interesting thing happened to me this past week… Oh! I know! So, despite being a sensible person who worked in the medical industry for a few years, I don’t really go to the doctor all that much. In fact, I have not actually visited my usual physician since 2019 due to the whole ongoing global pandemic thing. My physician understands this, but they will not prescribe me more HRT without getting my labs done annually, and I got them done this past week.
This should have been a simple process: Head to a local Quest Diagnostics and get my blood drawn. But I am kind of an idiot, so I wound up grabbing the wrong documents when I left the house, and without the paperwork for my bloodwork, Quest couldn’t take my blood. I had the document in my email, but Quest could only accept documents via fax, because the medical industry still relies on faxes. So I was shooed out of the facility and spent 20 minutes fumbling on my phone, trying to find a way to fax a document from my phone, awkwardly waiting by and hoping that the fax actually went through.
After much worry, they finally received the fax, let me in, and drew my blood (which is always an ordeal for a skinny fool like me). It all worked out in the end, but situations like this are constant reminds of just how childish, dumb, and incompetent I am as a person. Because I cannot even do something as simple as bring a piece of paper to a place without making a mess of it. Yet somehow I have a job as a tax accountant.
While I consider retailer and ratings board listings to be largely reliable sources for game announcements (because pages are seldom ever put up without good reason) I am considerably less confident in trademark filings. Companies typically do these when they are considering a name they maybe, possibly, might use.
I bring this up because Bandai Namco recently filed a trademark related to the Klonoa series, Waffuu Encore. With Waffuu referring to Klonoa’s Japanese catchphrase, the noise the bunny boy makes while doing stuff. And Encore being Bandai Namco’s Japanese name for remastered titles. Such as Katamari Damacy REROLL, which was called Katamari Damacy Encore in Japan. This alone makes it easy to conclude that Bandai Namco is bringing back the series, potentially the first two games if the 1&2 Encore trademark is related, which would make sense.
For those not familiar with the name, Klonoa was a small-time series by Bandai Namco, formerly Namco, who wanted to create a mascot platformer to call their own. Things started with 1997’s Klonoa: Door to Phantomile, which was a solid and jovial 2.5D platformer that was slightly lost in the ruff for being a child-friendly 2D platformer when the industry was embracing maturity and the third dimension.
However, come 2001, Namco made a massive push with Klonoa, trying to strong-arm him into prominence while new mascots were hitting the scene as the sixth generation began. They put out a PS2 sequel, Klonoa 2: Lunatea’s Veil, a duology of GBA platformers, a PlayStation 1 Beach Volleyball game… for some reason, and a Japanese-only overhead GBA action game.
Sales figures from around this time are hard to come by, but all the games fared well critically, which makes it even more strange that the series went on something of a hiatus starting from 2003 until 2008. Right at the start of the retro-revival arc of games industry history, Bandai Namco released a full remake of the original title, dubbed Klonoa, which came out as a budget title, received positive critical reception, and sold poorly all around. Because it was a third-party 2D platformer for the Wii.
I actually bought Klonoa when it came out. I thought it was cute, pretty, solid fun, and had a dark ending for something so cheery. While I do not think it is an all-time great platformer, I was always interested in trying out the rest of the series, but never got around to it. Personally, I would rather see a proper Klonoa collection of all 8 games, but I should stop getting hopeful for these collections, and expect the bare minimum. Because, as I previously discussed, the revenue difference between a basic collection and an extraordinary collection is rather marginal.
Mind you, I probably would not check out this collection regardless, as I barely play any games nowadays aside from visual novels and my staple mobile game, Dragalia Lost. Now, I could justify going on a spiel about it, as the game is ramping up to its third anniversary, and the folks at Cygames put together a hype-ass Dragalia Digest. However, the world of mobile live services was recently shaken by the announcement of Genshin Impact’s plans for the game’s first anniversary.
In my January 2021 review of the title, I mentioned how I think Genshin’s summoning system is bad. The rates are crap, the game is super stingy with summoning resources, and I genuinely did not want to summon anything during my time playing the game, as it felt like such a waste. However, as I pointed out two weeks ago, Genshin Impact is doing exceptionally well in the mobile market, and is inching closer and closer to making 2 billion dollars. Because in order to get what you want in a game like Genshin, you cannot save your freemium currency. You need to spend real life money to get the monthly battle pass with extra summoning resources and buy premium currency.
The folks at MiHoYo are a bunch of greedy little dastards who psychoanalyzed their playerbase to find out how to get the most money out of them while keeping a sizable audience, and that has never been more apparent than their announced plans for Genshin Impact’s first anniversary. They are holding cosplay and creation contests, where winners receive 62.5% of a single summon, and are giving all players a free tenfold summon. Which has to be a record for the absolute worst anniversary reward for any gacha game. Let alone one of this caliber.
To those not familiar with this genre and its norms… imagine if you worked a job where you made $50,000 a year and in an industry where a large (!5% of your annual salary) bonus is considered the norm. Then, come end of the year, your boss gives you an envelope with a $50 restaurant gift card. It is better than nothing, but it is almost insultingly low and goes against a cultural expectation of being compensated for one’s dedication.
It is stuff like this that makes me glad that I avoided falling too deeply into Genshin Impact. Because at least when I spend hours upon hours on Dragalia, I feel like the decision makers actually appreciate its playerbase as more than just a source of revenue. It really makes me hope that some super geniuses will make Genshin Impact work as an offline title with none of this live service malarky.
When word broke about the sexual misconduct, abuse, and all-around awful things that have been happening within Activision Blizzard over the past few years, I was pessimistic that much would change. However, two months later, the company is still bleeding high-ranking staff, has been in the news for destroying evidence (which is the reddest flag you could possibly wave) and things have gotten so bad that the SEC is now involved in the investigation. And the SEC is so confident that something sketchy is going on that they subpoenaed numerous Activision Blizzard higher-ups, including Bobby Kotick.
Now, it is possible that little will come from this investigation, but the SEC is pretty good at their job, and if there’s dirt, they will find it and make it publicly known. What they find could easily get Kotick to lose his job and potentially a good deal of money, which would be lovely to see, as Kotick is a pretty reprehensible person who treats Activision Blizzard as a profit generating machine for himself and for company shareholders.
Now, I still do not think this will help the underlying culture issues at Activision Blizzard, as culture runs deep and once it is poisoned, you’re kinda screwed. Although, I hope that the SEC will dig up some major dirt on Activision Blizzard’s executives, and possibly follow up on how Kotick appeared in Jeffrey Epstein’s little black book, and I can imagine him taking a few visits to a certain private island.
Next up, the fine folks at Nintendo have blessed the masses with another deluge of glorious commercials, also known as a Nintendo Direct. You folks know the drill by now, I’m only covering highlights of interest, so let’s get this Katamari rolling!
The first announcement of note was the long-awaited sequel to a classic 1999 SquareSoft title, and not the one that you’re thinking of. I’m talking about the Final Fantasy spin-off Chocobo Racing. A PSOne kart racer that, despite having some interesting ideas, was not met with a particularly warm reception, as the title paled in comparison to other kart racers of the era. Still, it did well enough to get a asequel announced for the 3DS… only for it to be quietly canceled, like many other prematurely announced third-party 3DS titles.
Anyway, Chocobo GP is… pretty much just a do-over of Chocobo Racing. The cast consists of familiar Final Fantasy staples including Chocobos, Moogles, White Mages, Black Mages, and Gilgamesh. The gameplay is about acquiring magical spells to use while racing to boost oneself and inconvenience other racers. But something about the title feels a lot less… purposeful than the original.
The original game out back when the Final Fantasy series was relatively young, and functioned as the first true series crossover title, paying tribute to the more jovial aspects of the series with a cure kart racer, complete with a full story mode. It felt earnest, like something that the developers wanted to do for the sake of doing, and here, I get that impression, but it does not really evoke the vibe of what Final Fantasy has become and been over the past two decades. This could change with future trailers and more gameplay footage, but I have a feeling that this 2022 Switch (timed) exclusive won’t wind up being much more than a serviceable kart racer.
Moving onto something that is extremely promising, the key takeaway from this Nintendo Direct was the announcement of Kirby and the Forgotten Land. A Kirby game set in a post-apocalyptic urban environment where nature has reclaimed the world and ushered in a new life for this land as fauna covers the concrete towers and Kirby-style critters populate the world. This alone would capture my interest, as this is a bold and striking look to use for a series as vibrant and colorful as Kirby, but then the gameplay started and it became apparent that this is the first fully 3D Kirby platformer.
This is something Kirby fans have been wanting to see since the N64 days, and I have to say that it’s kind of magical to see it in a full retail title as the next step for the mainline Kirby series… even though this is exactly what I expected from a 3D Kirby game. The camera dynamically moves along with Kirby, the world appears to be divided up into mostly linear courses instead of something more open like Super Mario Odyssey, and while the camera does a good degree of moving and there are some open locales, it is clear that the designers are sticking true to Kirby’s simple platforming roots with this one.
It’s not a Super Mario 64 or Metroid Prime or Sonic Adventure where the way one interacts with a world is vastly different in 3D compared to 2D, but I also think that this simply shift in perspective and play could make for a fresh Kirby experience, and could help move the series in an interesting direction as the developers grow more comfortable with it. Not in the sense that I ever want it to replace 2D Kirby, but in order to help the series exist in both 2D and 3D, like Nintendo’s other flagship series. Kirby and the Forgotten Land will be released in spring 2022, and I’m almost definitely going to check it out… after tax season 2022-1.
As part of this Direct, Nintendo Switch Online received a secondary membership tier that will offer the same features, but grant players access to both Nintendo 64 and Genesis games, which I guess is a nice bonus. While I love older games being preserved like this, I do not enjoy the subscription model being tied to their preservation, as… those two things are inherently not compatible.
When you put a game on a subscription service, you do not revive it, you grant it a second chance at life temporarily. This factor, the subpar emulation quality, lack of feature improvements, and glacial release of new titles, all make it hard for me to justify playing games on Nintendo Switch Online, to the point where I just don’t even want to support the official release, because it is objectively inferior to the experience of emulating a game on PC.
Also, Nintendo is celebrating this event by releasing $50 wireless Nintendo 64 and Sega Genesis controllers for the Nintendo Switch… Yes, you read that right. Nintendo is charging $50 for a freaking controller with four buttons on it, but sold the NES Classic Edition for $60.
I get that the Switch Pro controller is expensive, and while I do not notice a discernable quality difference between it and my $25 wired Xbox 360 controller, I understand that it costs as much as it does due to the bluetooth, NFC, HD rumble, and other bits of tech crammed inside it. But these… they are just plastic controllers and buttons with wires inside them and a Bluetooth connector. If that costs more than $7 to manufacture, you are doing something terribly wrong. And while I admire the cojones required to upcharge a product that much, this is just kind of insulting.
Going back to the whole preservation thing, while I think unofficial emulation is almost always better than official emulation, I will buy a collection of titles that I want to play if they appeal to my interests. And there are few things more in my wheelhouse than Castlevania Advance Collection, a title announced and released on the day of the Direct. This title was leaked a while back by a ratings board, but it was formally announced here as a compilation of 2001’s Circle of the Moon, 2002’s Harmony of Dissonance, and 2003’s Aria of Sorrow. That alone would be a package I would happily pay $30 for, let alone the $20, but, for some reason, this collection also includes 1995’s Dracula X.
Okay, so… Castlevania: Dracula X for the SNES was an alternate version of 1993’s Castlevania: Rondo of Blood for the PC Engine. They recreated levels, the game was way harder, and they changed a lot of little things. While Rondo of Blood is widely considered the superior game, Dracula X does have a following of its own, but Konami has pretty much shunned the game. To the point where they did not even bother including it in 2007’s Castlevania: The Dracula X Chronicles for PSP and did not bother re-releasing the game until it hit the Wii U virtual console in 2014. Hell, Konami did not even include Dracula X with Castlevania Requiem, a 2018 PS4-exclusive compilation of Rondo of Blood and 1997’s Symphony of the Night. As such, the decision to include it here, alongside three Castlevania games with vastly different gameplay styles, is rather bizarre.
This entire situation is bizarre and makes me feel like Konami should have released a series of more structured collections for the series. I could imagine the hypothetical volume 2 of this series containing Rondo of Blood, Dracula X, Symphony of the Night, Castlevania Legends, and Castlevania Chronicles. Volume 3 could contain Circle of the Moon, Harmony of Dissonance, Aria of Sorrow, and Castlevania: The Adventure ReBirth (because where else would it go?). Then volume 4 could contain Dawn of Sorrow, Portrait of Ruin, Order of Ecclesia, and… I dunno, a console release of Castlevania: Grimoire of Souls?
But instead of doing that, they are doing this fragmented and baffling approach where the ‘best’ Castlevania game (Symphony of the Night) was only re-released on PS4… and mobile. Look, I just want Symphony of the Night, one of my all-time top ten, to be on Steam.
Moving onto something completely unexpected, the surprise announcement of this showcase was a remake of ActRaiser. A SNES action side-scroller that doubled as a city-building god sim that did not do especially well during its heyday, as I doubt many kids understood the dual-genre approach and merely rented the title instead. Though, the game gained a fair bit of popularity back when SNES nostalgia was at an all-time high, and became a go-to ‘16-bit gem’.
As such, it is not too surprising to hear that the title is being remade for a new generation. If anything, the very idea is quite exciting. But then I saw this remake, ActRaiser Renaissance, in motion, and… it looks like what I imagine a 2003 Korean remake of ActRaiser would look like. A game with positively gorgeous artwork, lush illustrated backgrounds, an almost painterly-looking overworld, and while this all makes the game sound gorgeous, its beauty is ruined by the inclusion of pre-rendered character sprites.
Something I can barely tolerate in games is pre-rendered sprites. They are never the result of artistic intent, are terrible for game preservation, and are the worst example of a game being held back by technical constraints that I can imagine. With pixel art, there is an artistry to them and they generally look great if given a direct nearest neighbor upscale. With low-poly 3D models, most games usually hold up wonderfully if given some anti-aliasing. Low-quality textures look like pixel art if unfiltered, and if not, they can probably be AI-upscaled. But then you have something like Donkey Kong Country, which looks like garbage, and simply CANNOT look better without remaking every element of its visual design.
ActRaiser Renaissance stealth launched for Switch, PS4, Steam, iOS, and Android this past week, and… I just get so sad when Square Enix messes up something so basic and fundamental. Which they seem to do all the damn time.
Next up, we have the final major game of the showcase as, after nearly 4 years of anticipation, Nintendo has finally released another trailer for Bayonetta 3, showing off what the game is in its current iteration, and how it sets itself apart from the predecessors. The answer to that is that the setting is now contemporary Japan, Bayonetta’s design went from a 9 to a gosh darn 11, and in addition to having the same character action combat the original titles did so well, the game now features full-on kaiju battles where Bayonetta summons her own catalog of giant monsters to beat the life out of other giant monsters.
While I think the color palette is bizarrely muted for a game of this sort, boasting the greyest Shibuya I have ever seen, I cannot deny that the game looks like both an interesting evolution of the series that is trying something obviously different, and looks like a high-quality action game. I actually would say that I was excited for this one, but I personally find the Bayonetta series to be intolerable.
I tried to get into the first game several times, but I bounced off it for the same reason why I cannot love any character action game. Because I despise their ranking systems. To me, a good ranking system is something that encourages the player to do better, and a bad ranking system makes people who are not good at the game not want to play any more of it. The latter of which has always been the case whenever I tried to play the first Bayonetta. I go until the combat gets too challenging for me to get quality ranks, obsess over playing the game better, and realize that I simply do not understand how to cater to these metrics. I cannot play character action games sufficiently well to earn good rankings which, to me, indicates that I should not play these games at all, as I do not play them properly, and the developers do not want me to play them.
Bayonetta 3 will launch as a Switch exclusive sometime in 2022.
Beyond these announcements I cared about, there were a lot of smaller things. Monster Hunter Rise got an expansion. That 3DS Disneyland game is getting a Switch port. Knights of the Old Republic is being ported to Switch, while the remake is hitting PS5, which will probably do terrible things to some people’s perception of the Switch’s power. Project Triangle Strategy is now just called Triangle Strategy, because why bother trying? Splatoon 3 continues to look DOPE, but I wish the series would ditch the multiplayer and just give me a focused 8-20 hour story driven adventure, which is what people actually want from Splatoon. The voice cast of the Super Mario movie was dropped, and people reacted to it. I didn’t though. Because I don’t know any modern Hollywood actors and I do not truly care about films in general.