Rundown (10/24-10/30) Game Box III

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Wherein I discuss ‘Peachy Cubed,’ a befuddling bloom, a likely-cyclical-produced deathmatch game with the words death and die in its title, and The Force of Divine.

Welp. Tax season is over, I finished the 2021 Dragalia Lost Ramble, and while I still have to finish Metroid Dread and do quite a bit of writing, I decided this week would be the best time for me to set up my new PC. Unlike my prior two computers, this one was a pre-built PC. Ordinarily I would not go this route, but the GPU market is pretty terrible at the moment, meaning it was cheaper for me to get something made by a progressional. After doing a bit of shopping around, I decided to gamble on a Zotac MEK HERO G1 A5636, updated that sucker to Windows 11, and now I am comfortably acclimated to my new ‘machine I use 12 to 17 hours a day’. 

I still have some quirks I need to iron out (such as how these darn LEDs turn on every power cycle), but I can do everything I need to and… now I have an older, bigger PC that I need to do something with. Unfortunately, you cannot really sell a 6-year-old PC to someone, and while my old custom build is still moderately powerful, it is also a dust magnet and needs to be cleaned every few months. I want to try and sell it to my former or current employer, but for the time being it is sitting behind my living room couch, where my family stores stuff we should get rid of, but want to sell, because it’s valuable. 

Nintendo’s mobile game pursuits have had a rather… mixed track record over the years. They have been scattered and experimental with which IPs they adapt, let alone how to adapt them, and while they have found some great successes, such as with Mario Kart Tour and Fire Emblem Heroes, other titles failed to catch on and, in the case with Miitomo and Dr. Mario World, were taken offline a few years after launch. 

While the creative part of me admires their gumption and drive, the financial and mathematical part of me does not see the logic in what they are doing, as there are plenty of ways they could garner higher revenues from mobile, without many long-term repercussions. And the best way to do so would be to do things such as, say, adapt Smash Bros. as a gacha RPG. But instead of pursuing something sensible and profitable, Nintendo instead decided to create a Pikmin mobile game. …Huh.

While it is a fan favorite, Pikmin has never truly gotten a chance to shine during Nintendo’s successful eras. But even if it did get a big Wii or DS title, I am still doubtful that it would have truly caught on, as it’s gameplay is not the most marketable. It is a timer-based RTS about controlling these wackadoo carrot monsters while pillaging the post-disaster ruins of Earth and scavenging whatever scraps, fruits, or whatzits the player can get their mitts on. They are not that easy for a new player to pick up and play, and lack the same appeal of a Mario, Zelda, Metroid, or Fire Emblem

Hell, the gameplay is so foreboding that I never actually tried playing any games in this series. Partially because of my aversion to RTS, but primarily because I have terrible anxiety with games that have a persistent timer. To me, systems like this discourage exploration and fun-having and prioritize robotic efficiency. It does not matter if the game is actually generous or forgiving with its limits, as I cannot escape the sense of dread I feel when I see a timer ticking away. It’s why I have never gotten more than a few hours into Majora’s Mask.

Tangent aside, Pikmin Bloom is a walking-based mobile game developed by Nintendo and Niantic (the developers of Pokémon Go). It was revealed with a mostly cinematic trailer that, in typical mobile game fashion, did a poor job of explaining what players do. Thankfully, this announcement trailer paired with a soft launch in Singapore and Australia on October 27th. Meaning that people were able to supply the gameplay footage Nintendo refused to provide themselves.

Looking at some gameplay footage and impressions… I really do not see what there is to this game. In Pokémon Go, the core appeal was to travel to places in order to find and catch rare Pokémon and visit landmarks for supplies. But as far as I can tell, Pikmin Bloom is all about walking and… that’s pretty much it. You walk, plant flowers, and gather resources you can use to get more Pikmin and ultimately spread more flowers. There does not seem to be a greater goal or real endgame aside from social feature, and the title just seems to be a reward for people when they go on walks. Nothing about it seems bad, but at the same time, the title seems to be largely devoid of what makes PikminPikmin.

Next up, Sony held another State of Play event— this one exclusively focusing on third parties. But as a prelude to the first announcement, I have to offer a bit of an addendum regarding a story from last week.

Last week, Grasshopper Manufacture announced their acquisition by the Chinese conglomerate, NetEase. In reporting this story, I theorized that this was likely due to issues between Grasshopper staff and their former owners, GungHo Online Interactive, who downscaled staff a few years after their acquisition. However, I failed to note why Grasshopper was downscaled by GungHo, as I apparently missed this story when it first ran. 

In 2018, GungHo effectively carved Grasshopper into two studios, and allocated the overwhelming majority of the staff to a new entity managed by GungHo, known as Supertrick Games. Grasshopper was left with only about 20 employees, led by Goichi Suda, who were free to work on smaller titles. Namely Travis Strikes Again: No More Heroes and No More Heroes 3.

Supertrick remained a subsidiary of GungHo after they sold Grasshopper to NetEase, and their first original title was revealed as Deathverse: Let It Die. A multiplayer melee deathmatch action game that immediately reminded me of PlatinumGames’ Anarchy Reigns (2013), but with a less enjoyable aesthetic that has hints of something creative and genuine, but feels like it lacks that much of an identity. And part of that might be because this is a spin-off to the 2015 soulslike, Let It Die, which did fairly well, had some of Grasshopper’s signature quirkiness, but was most remarkable for being a soulslike title before the industry became saturated with soulslikes.

Nothing about Deathverse looks particularly bad, but I struggle to imagine this title amassing, let alone retaining, a sizable audience in such a competitive genre. But I suppose we will just need to wait and see when Deathverse: Let It Die launches for PS4 and PS5 in Spring 2022.

Star Ocean is a series that I have basically zero familiarity with. It started back in the gold rush RPG era of the mid/late 90s, blended elements of sci-fi and fantasy, and while I am certain that it has some fans, it has gone through some… rough patches. Star Ocean 4: The Last Hope (2009) was treated as an example of why JRPGs were dead/dying during the Xbox 360 and PS3 generation, due to how it had scenes like… this. I remember it being the butt of jokes on various podcasts and the ilk, but glancing at the snippets from written critic reviews, it seems like it was a fairly typical JRPG with some good ideas, but an iffy execution. 

Then there was 2015’s Star Ocean 5: Integrity and Faithlessness which, despite having the BEST subtitle, was met with a mixed reception. Critics found the game to be lacking in unique features, new ideas, or anything to make the game stand out. Possibly due to how, instead of being a spacefaring adventure like prior titles, the game was set in a more standard fantasy setting. …Also, the developers at Tri-Ace indicated that the game would come to PC, but it never did, which was bizarre.

After spending the past few years remastering their past work for modern systems, Tri-Ace announced Star Ocean 6: The Divine Force. What exactly is the core hook of this game? Well, based on the press release, it is the fact that the game features a dual protagonist system (one space captain with a big sword and one medieval fantasy princess-knight). And based on the trailer, the core appeal is largely the title’s presentation and flair. 

The fantastical sci-fi environments are gorgeous, the flight ability seems like it will breathe life into its locales, and the action looks enjoyably frantic. While I have never played a game fully developed by them, I attribute everything that was good and weird about Final Fantasy XIII-2 and Final Fantasy XIII-3: Lightning Returns – The Clairevengeance to Tri-Ace. And hopefully they will follow through on this weirdness here… even though this looks like a super generic JRPG despite its mingling of sci-fi and fantasy. Star Ocean 6: The Divine Force is set to hit the expected 5-pack of PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series, and PC in 2022.

…Okay, that’s it for this week. No reviews coming on Wednesday or anything, because I have been just terrible at managing my time this past week. 

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