This Week’s Topics:
- The start of the Summer Game Festivities!
- Another preservationist rant
- Persona 3’s Remake and the importance of art direction
- Persona 5 Tactica’s uncanny chibis
Rundown Preamble Ramble:
Same Old Song and Dance
It’s that special time of year yet again! Where the AAA games industry announces a deluge of games with trailers and fills up the release calendar for the next several years. With E3 all but buried, game companies could truly announce things like this at any time of the year… and they do. However, traditions are slow to die, so a bunch of companies decided to hold their own segmented showcases this week, which I always consider the start of the summer. Mostly because primary school always ended in early June for me.
Personally, I would rather be writing character biographies for Verde’s Doohickey 2.0: Sensational Summer Romp. It’s something that I was not going to do initially, but after playing re:Dreamer, I realized I seriously needed to up my character writing game. Though, this is a traditional 11 years in the making, so I kinda sorta need to do this.
Actually, come to think of it, I have been doing these Rundowns for over a decade at this point. So long that I have morphed from a fervent fan of the games industry because they love playing video games to someone who followed the industry so hard that it became a lowkey obsession. It is a habit that will follow me until I die, and without it… what even am If? Without my fixations in video games and TSF, do I even have a personality?
I might be too much of a little bitch to show it all the time, but I’ve got personality for days. You don’t write stuff like [insert 80% of the stories Natalie has written here] unless you’re ripe fucked in the noggin. And fuckers make the world a place worth living in!
Physical Media is Not Preservation
(Everything Digital is On A Physical Device, Ya Dummy!)
It’s time for ‘Natalie Rants About Something Minor That Has Bothered Her For Years!’ Whenever I stumble onto a story involving digital delistings— which I see at least once a month— there is a 90% chance that I see the same comment. A comment from some schmoe who butts in to fart out a comment about how ‘this is why we need physical media.’ A comment that has always irked me because it fundamentally misses the point.
Do you know what physical media actually is? You know what a Blu-Ray is? You know what a flash memory ‘game card’ is? It’s a physical storage device for a digital file. It is about as physical as a file on a hard drive, server, or even a MicroSD card. From a preservationist perspective, do you know what the difference between these things is? It’s basically nothing. Because the thing you want to preserve, above all else, is the digital file.
And you know what that also means? That everything that is digital… is stored on something physical. Your PC’s SSD? Physical. Your phone’s flash memory? Physical. The cloud server your Dropbox files are uploaded to? Physical. The discs, tapes, and every other storage medium used by actual archivists? PHYSICAL! Everything digital is saved in a physical format.
The actual problem that these commenters are highlighting is that people no longer have direct access to these files. Instead of downloading a video or software, they can only stream it and their ability to do so depends on a central server. A physical object that can be taken offline, destroyed, or have its contents erased. The problem is not physical or digital, the problem is access and ownership.
This is part of why I tend to view a game console’s eShop closure as ‘not a huge deal,’ as just about every one of these files are dumped online and preserved without hours of their release. Digital only releases are not only preservable, but actually somewhat easy to preserve, as you just need to rip the digital files from the relevant storage device. You just need to figure out how to rip them.
Live services and streaming software though? Those can’t be backed up because end users do not have access to the essential files stored on a central server. They cannot be preserved without basically recreating something. And that is why they are the worst thing to happen to video games as a medium.
Generic Brand E3 – Let’s Go!
(Summer Game Fest Rundown Preamble)
Things got started on Thursday with the latest entry in the Summer Game Fest. An event that was birthed by the cancellation of E3 2020 as a bizarrely fragmented and drawn out series of announcements. Which transformed into something more structured in 2021, with a main showcase and several events that were… ‘related.’ Before basically becoming an E3 showcase in 2022, with some other related announcements after the main event.
For 2023, that same structure is being used, and… I honestly have very little in the way of thoughts about the event as an event. Much like The Game Awards, it is just a collection of announcements from various partners who offer announcements and new trailers in exchange for a large audience of tens of millions of viewers. It doesn’t really have a brand or identity, and because of that, I only picked up the interesting bits after it finished airing. Because unlike a Nintendo Direct, I knew I would be disinterested in the majority of what was shown.
That’s Not Sonic Mania 2! It’s Sonic The Hedgehog 4: Episode 3!
(Sonic Superstars Announced)
I swear, there has been about 5 years of discourse about how Sega should have immediately greenlit the development of Sonic Mania. The title was incredibly well received, cursed a new generation into becoming Sonic fans, and revitalized the brand for a few months… before Forces came out. Personally though, it was a game I was pretty much incapable of enjoying, and when I think back to it, all I remember is playing the special stages.
Specifically, coming home at 23:30 after three hours of college classes and one hour of waiting for the bus, taking a shower, and spending 00:00 to 01:00 chasing balls. Chasing girthy blue balls in a faux 3D room while the sound of hell plays in the background, screwing up, going through another map, and repeating the cycle every night for a week. Then, after I gathered a sufficient number of balls, I tried the real special stages, which made me feel like a cripple in both body and mind. Which, yeah, I sorta am, but you didn’t need to shove my face in it, ya shitbird.
Anyway, six years after Sonic Mania’s DLC, Sega has announced a brand new classic Sonic game, dubbed Sonic Superstars. A classic-flavored 2D Sonic title, but with three main elements to differentiate it.
- Rather than being another sprite-based throwback, the title is fully 3D, and looks approximately as good as Sonic Generations (2011).
- The title marks the first Sonic platformer to feature four player co-op, a trend that really should have taken off after New Super Mario Bros. Wii and Rayman Origins, because co-op gaming is great.
- And the game has a bunch of context sensitive gimmicks to add some extra flavor to each stage, which honestly just remind me of the wisps from Sonic Colors.
It ultimately looks to hit the necessary boxes for an at least promising new 2D Sonic title, but I’d say the quality of the title depends almost entirely on the developer. Based on GameInformer’s coverage of the title, it seems that this title is being developed by Sonic Team. Which ordinarily should not be a problem, but Sonic Team has undergone a significant drain of staff over the past decade. Many prominent leads from Sonic Unleashed, Colors, and Generations have moved on to new jobs at new companies, especially Nintendo. Which is part of the reason why Sonic Forces was… Sonic Forces, and why the 2D stages in that game weren’t that great.
Also, per a Sonic fan site Twitter account, Arzest is also supporting in development, which is fine, as they’re a decent studio. They messed up with Balan Wonderworld, but that really wasn’t their fault.
I would actually have far more confidence if a studio like Dimps, who developed the 2D Sonic games released from 2001 to 2013, were assigned this task, but I don’t think that is the case. Even then, what Sonic Superstars is attempting to do is really bloody hard. While I think most developers could handle making a four player co-op platformer, making one that emphasizes speed and feels like a Sonic game is a far harder task. Partially because it is so easy to screw up a 2D Sonic level design that arguably half of the stages from the original quadrilogy are ‘bad actually.’
However, I think that the death knell for this project comes in the form of two things. One, Sonic Superstars will cost $60, when people have been conditioned to view 2D platformers like this as worth less than a 3D game. I mean, it has one less D. Two, the co-op that this entire game is built upon is local only. Yes, this co-op multiplayer game, released in [CURRENT YEAR], will not feature online co-op.
Now, this is an easy thing for people to brush aside, saying that people should go out and try to make friends in their local communities and not rely on online friendships. That local community is what really matters. …And I consider that to be such privileged bullshit that it’s almost insufferable.
Not everybody lives in a city with adequate public transportation. Not everybody has the physical, mental, or financial ability to comfortably and regularly travel outside of their home. Not everybody lives in a community with resources needed to find friends and connect with others in-person. Most people, of all nationalities and ages, have at least a few friends who live in a different town, province, or country. And nowadays, more people are making more friends online. Sega has to know this, but… they just don’t care about people in general.
There is absolutely zero excuse not to have online co-op in a title like this, and the fact that Sega thinks they can get away with this is, frankly, insulting. I’ve seen loads of independent games with online co-op that work wonderfully, but you’re telling me that a billion dollar tech company can’t seem to make it work? Pathetic.
…Also, I have to say that the name ‘Sonic Superstars‘ messes with my brain hardcore. When I saw this name on my feed, I thought it was a reboot of Sega Superstars (2004) for EyeToy, a reboot of Sega Superstars Tennis (2008), and a reimagining of SegaSonic The Hedgehog (1993). All at the same time! Which, statistically, would be the best Sonic game ever created.
…Why does my mind always go off in six different directions whenever I talk about Sonic? My ramblings aside,
SegaSonic SuperSonic Sonic Superstars is set to release this fall for PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series, Nintendo Switch, and PC this fall.
Imagine If You Will… A Land of Sand!
(Sand Land Game Announced)
Sand Land was a 14 chapter manga created by Akira Toriyama in 2000… and something I knew nothing about beyond its name and cover. However, it was apparently a widely enjoyed comic, and saw a film adaptation announced back in December 2022. I would ask why, but the answer is pretty obvious. The past two Dragon Ball movies made over $100 million (which is a lot for an anime movie), so of course Bandai Namco would want to try to push out another movie based on an Akira Toriyama property.
However, because this is part of a broader revival effort, Bandai Namco also commissioned a licensed action adventure game based on this property, simply entitled Sand Land.
Based on this debut trailer, the title… actually looks pretty good. Gameplay is split up between exploration/traversal, stealth sections, character action lite combat, and vehicle combat when in a tank, car, or pudgy little mecha. The presentation, while a touch too ‘Unreal Engine looking’ for my taste, manages to beautifully render its characters to life, and I am particularly impressed with the level of detail afforded to the machines and monsters. Which I’ve come to appreciate as some of Toriyama’s strongest character designs.
So, what’s the catch? Well… the title is being developed by ILCA. The folks behind the soul-crushingly miserable Pokémon Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl and also the ‘good once you get rid of the crap’ One Piece: Odyssey. Combined with the fact that this is a budget Bandai Namco licensed anime game, it’s easy to adopt a cynical outlook on the title.
I could always be wrong though and, as is always the case with announcements like these, we’ll need to wait and see when this title launches for PS4, PS5, Xbox Series, and PC in “Stay Tuned.” Which I think means ‘2024.’
Final Fantasy VII: Ever Crisis? More Like Final Fantasy VII: Fuck Corporations!
(Get It, Because It’s AC, BC, CC, DC, EC, and Then FC?)
After being announced in February 2021, Square Enix has released a second trailer for Final Fantasy VII: Ever Crisis. A mobile game that aimed to be a compilation of the Compilation of Final Fantasy VII. A game that effectively remade and retold the story of Final Fantasy VII, Advent Children, Before Crisis, Crisis Core, and Dirge of Cerberus, but in a condensed uniform package. To me, it seemed like the modest budget Final Fantasy VII remake that people said they wanted. However, now that we have a second trailer… it’s 100% clear that this is a fucking live service.
You have a stamina system, multiplayer content, a gacha summoning system, unit unbinding, a tower that keeps content gated behind the power of one’s party, and oodles of cosmetics. It also will not have all content available at launch, will have its own bullcrap additional story, and Square Enix will make this entire game inaccessible in a few years.
I hate this. I hate what video games have become. And I hate that this monetization time-wasting bullshit keeps on tainting good ideas. Within 15 years, mobile gaming has gone from a promising disruptor to a place of relentless exploitation of people’s time and money, and I loathe it.
Never have hope, hype, or optimism, and remember that every corporation wants to do nothing more than fuck you for everything you’re worth . Steal shit, pirate shit, burn their property to the ground, and no matter what Romney quoting boomers like to say, corporations aren’t people. They don’t bleed, breathe, and no matter how much you shoot ’em, they don’t fuckin’ die .
Not a Rebirth, Not a Remake, Just a Re-Do!
Final Fantasy VII Rebirth Got a New Trailer
Okay, okay, let’s get back to the packaged games with Final Fantasy VII Rebirth. After Final Fantasy VII Remake warranted a largely positive reception, there has been a lot of hypothesizing and worrying about how things would be handled in the sequel. Changes to the story, incorporating more characters, but mostly if the game would have an action overworld, or if it would just be a bunch of linear hallways.
This trailer… pretty much shows that, yeah, this team at Square Enix knows what they’re doing. The overworld is lush, vast, and has roaming monsters. The chocobo barn is back along with riding, but possibly not breeding. There are a lot more obvious signs of industrialization throughout parts of the world that simply were not present in the original. Cutscenes look flashy, combat even more so, and it sure looks like Final Fantasy VII Remake – Part 2.
Final Fantasy VII Rebirth will debut on PS5 sometime in early 2024, which I’d generously read as late June and pessimistically read as November.
Prince of Persia is BACK, BLACK, and 2D!
(People Dislike Prince of Persia The Lost Crown Because They’re Racist)
So, my Ubisoft ban is still in effect, and I was not originally going to talk about this game because the company has made minimal changes after fostering abusers for over a decade. However, what I can talk about is controversies, and this newly announced title sure stirred one. Despite having their own event soon, Ubisoft chose to announce the first Prince of Persia game in 13 years at Summer Game Fest, dubbed Prince of Persia The Lost Crown. A title that, rather than reprising 3D acrobatics of the past trilogy, functions as a 2.5D spin-off with a stronger focus on flashy character action combat.
I will admit that the focus of combat is a bit unexpected, but the shift back to 2D makes all the sense in the world. The first two Prince of Persia titles were in many ways groundbreaking 2D platformers, and the series saw a wide number of 2D entries on handhelds throughout the 2000s. Prince of Persia The Sands of Time (2003) for GameBoy Advance, Prince of Persia: The Fallen King (2008) for Nintendo DS, Prince of Persia: The Forgotten Sands (2010) for Nintendo DS, and Prince of Persia: The Forgotten Sands (2010) for PSP.
So, a stylized reinvention of the series is nothing new, a 2.5D title is nothing new, and the only thing new about this title is its aforementioned change in gameplay focus… and its protagonist. Rather than playing as the titular prince, a character who has gone through at least four iterations since his debut, they play as a warrior on a quest to rescue the titular prince, named Sargon.
Still, not unusual for a spin-off, and while the art style has a bit of a stylized western comic thing going for it, things look good for a title launching on every major platform, including Switch. So, what’s the real source of this controversy— Oh! This Sargon guy’s got dreads, his skin is dark enough for him to be ‘black-coded’, and the trailer used a contemporary rap song as its main music track. Yeah, no wonder this got a negative reception from people who actually use the like and dislike function on YouTube.
Despite this… pretty clear conclusion, various outlets have spun this story as ‘Prince of Persia fans are mad that the game is 2D and an ill-fitting soundtrack.’ But, no, that’s not what’s actually going on. The people upset about this might say that this is their problem with the title. However… this reminds me of how ‘people’ criticized the initial trailers for The Little Mermaid live action remake for not being as colorful as the original. In a sense, they have a point, and that sounds like a valid criticism… but really, they’re just mad that they changed the protagonist.
Even though the protagonist of this series has always been Persian, i.e. Middle Eastern and not White, he always looked like a cracker, and it was easy for people to see him as such. A White royal with power and authority, voiced by a White man. Now they took him away, and replaced him with a new ‘setting inappropriate‘ character, and made him stronger than the Prince ever was.
Also regarding the soundtrack, yes it caught me by surprise, and yes, it does not seem to fit the time period. But if you actually watch the way the trailer is spliced, they are trying to use the fast-paced rapping to enhance the sense of energy and flow seen throughout the snippets of gameplay. Is it still a shift from an established aesthetic? Yes. But it is also a reboot to a series that has been dormant for 13 years, so a change to the audio aesthetic makes sense. Besides, gaming does not have enough hip-hop soundtracks, so I can’t say I don’t appreciate the effort, and anybody who complains about rap music is a racist. Sorry, I don’t make the rules, I just spit the truth.
You can be a card-carrying racist, a racist, an ‘anti-racist’, or you could be an anti-racist who acknowledges their own internal racism and works to better themself and educate themself. The latter’s the best one, it’s what I try to be, but I know I’m still dumb as a sack of rocks in a bag of poop when it comes too oodles of ish.
Shortly after the Summer Games Fest showings, Grasshopper announced the much expected Shadows of the Damned: Remastered, but delayed further details until June 14th. Meaning I’ll talk about that title once more details are revealed. However, Atlus West pulled an oopsie with the release of its trailers, and accidentally released full trailers for two projects that people have known about for a hot minute. Persona 3 Reload and Persona 5 Tactica.
Persona 3: Reload and Fire Your Evoker Into My Heart, You Bastard!
(Persona 3 Reload Announced)
The concept of a Persona 3 remake has been regularly tossed around and murmured about ever since the 2018 Persona 3 rhythm game spin-off, Persona 3: Dancing in Moonlight. However, even without that, a Persona 3 remake seemed like something of an inevitability. For it was the first Shin Megami Tensei title to really reach beyond its namesake and appeal to a wide audience. Not Shin Megami Tensei If…, not Revelations: Persona, not Nocturne. The breakout hit was Persona 3, and for good reason.
Its school day setting, anime aesthetic, and life simulation elements were so successful it reinvented the series. It offered something contemporary and relatable in a genre typically dominated by sci-fi and fantasy. And it offered a bold sense of aesthetic and vibe that was just not common in the era. Hell, I’m still amazed they managed to make a hip-hop soundtrack that appealed to anime fans. And the title even had appeal beyond Japan, being something of an immediate cult classic in the west, especially among anime fans. Truly, there was no other localized game that captured the feeling of an interactive high school anime like Persona 3 did.
The idea of a remake of such a successful and culturally relevant title makes sense, especially after Persona 5. However, I was skeptical of this idea after Atlus released a remaster of Persona 3 Portable, to the point where I doubted that an April 2023 leak of the title was real.
Now that we have a minute-long trailer of this remake, dubbed Persona 3 Reload, there is zero doubt this title is real, and… it’s not quite what I expected. It honestly looks like it was developed by an outside studio that wanted to honor Persona 3 while incorporating elements of Persona 5. Yet, in making this transition, the art department didn’t quite get certain elements, and also had to make compromises so the game could run on decade-old consoles.
How to explain this… You know how Persona 3‘s battle system used a revolver motif to select options? Well, instead of reprising that, Reload gives players four main options that are relegated to a blue circle next to a character’s thigh, and also a bunch of other options that are at the bottom of the screen. There is a style to this alternative approach, and I love the blue ‘command’ outline applied to characters, but I don’t think the person who designed this really ‘registered’ what the original was going for. Also, for some reason, they flipped the HP and SP bars, which not only goes against the norms for RPGs in general, but they changed the colors too.
While the character models look good, something about the environments look incredibly… flat. I can understand this concept, as flat colors and dull blues were a core part of Persona 3‘s aesthetic, but I would argue that the game looks worse than Persona 5 in some respects. Colors don’t pop, lighting is not as pronounced, and rather than looking deliberate, a lot of things look more… basic. Also, they did that one thing that I freaking HATE from remakes, as it dramatically changes the colors of certain scenes.
Instead of the mall’s main color being a soft earthy brown, the streets are lit up in a bright blue violet. Instead of having a muted and dark color scheme, the SEES HQ looks bright and inviting. They got the carpet design, but the brown leather couches are now a bright red. You took a place that felt like a dim professional office and made it look like an ‘economically priced’ hotel lobby. Hell, they replaced the studded leather arms of the sofas with this… wavy crap? The only way you can achieve something by this is through an active belief that the art direction of the original was flawed and should be changed. Also known as the exact WRONG mindset to have when making a remake.
This is all so frustrating to be because… remaining something that exists to look better is easy. A freaking computer can do it. Fans have been creating HD texture packs for YEARS, and most of them reverently respect the original art direction. Hell, somebody is currently working on one for Persona 3 FES and it looks incredible. But Atlus, with their tens of millions of dollars pumped into this project, aren’t able to match the quality of people with a budget of nothing.
…Needless to say, I don’t think this remake looks very good. And as if that was not enough, the footage only showed the male protagonist. A move that indirectly says that there will be no playable female protagonist, as introduced in Persona 3 Portable. I could be upset about this, and I should be, because why would your remake have less content than the base game. But then I remember Pokémon Brilliant Diamond. With remakes, I need to expect nothing, because no matter how low my expectations may be, the game industry will find a way to deliver less.
This all hits hard for me. Partially because I vicariously played through the game via a Let’s Play when the year before I started attending high school. But mostly because Persona 3 is a flawed game with ample things that could be improved from a thorough remaster or remake. However, Atlus put in the minimum effort into the remaster of Persona 3 Portable. So I was hoping they just released that as a bonus in order to make this the true definitive version of Persona 3 with modern production values. And they didn’t. They just didn’t.
Persona 3 Reload is coming out for PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series, Nintendo Switch, and PC in early 2024. Those platforms technically haven’t been confirmed, but I know a Switch game when I see one.
Edit 6/13/2023: HA! Shows what I knew! All of those platforms are confirmed except for Switch!
Persona 5 Tactics but They Made a Typo and an Awful Aesthetic Decision
(Persona 5 Tactica Announced)
Next up, we have Persona 5 Tactica. A strategy RPG spin-off that will seemingly complete Atlus’s long run of milking Persona 5. Conceptually, that idea is pretty neat. There has not been a strategy RPG in the Shin Megami Tensei universe since Devil Survivor 2, and there aren’t enough console anime strategy RPGs. However, much like with Persona 3 Reload, my problem with this game is how it looks.
While I have a certain fondness for super deformed and chibi aesthetics, Persona 5 Tactica manages to land squarely in an uncanny valley for me, and features some of the ugliest redesigns I have ever seen. The giant hands, tiny torsos, hoof-like feet, and even the approach to shading, all look deeply wrong to me. The bits of 2D animation and artwork look fine, but in the process of rendering these creatures in 3D, something went deeply wrong.
As always, I also need to ask why this approach was chosen in the first place. With Persona Q, the reason was obvious. They did not want to make fully 3D models of every character for a 3DS game, and chibi characters are easier to model and animate. But this is a Persona 5 spin-off, so they could definitely recycle models, animations, and effects from Persona 5 Royal, Strikers, and Dancing in Starlight. Instead, they chose to spend more money making a new cheaper-looking aesthetic, and… I just don’t get it.
I get that this is meant to tie in with a more storybook aesthetic and to facilitate the creation of more ‘unique’ environments. But the environments look like they are from a Vita game, so… either way, the new assets look bad.
P5T… actually, no, that’s not a 5. PST: Persona 5 Tactica will be released for PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series, Nintendo Switch, and PC on November 17, 2023.
Well, this post certainly had big “woah, gaming pisses me off, I should definitely get a new hobby” vibes (source: Things that Suck from Here Comes A New Challenger). I’d say that was unexpected, but it really wasn’t. I love video games, and when you love something, you want it to be as good as it possibly can.
Header image is from Happy Live, Show Up! by Favorite.