Welcome back, everyone! Another week, another batch of news! I’ve been swamped prepping stuff this past week, so I didn’t get to play Xenoblade, but something cool did happen:
— 齋藤将嗣 (@_saitomasatsugu) November 8, 2022
That there is saitom, the artist/character designer for Xenoblade Chronicles 2 and 3. According to him, the games reached 480,000 units sold in Japan and 1.72 million overseas. It’s amazing that Xenoblade is selling so well, especially in the U.S.! And to think, Nintendo really didn’t want to release Xenoblade Chronicles in the U.S. in the first place and now, it’s a whole trilogy with a following. Who’d have thought it would sell better in the U.S. than in Japan? (Though heads up, because that’ll be important in a later story…) For folks who haven’t played any of the Xenoblade games: please do. They’re some of the boldest JRPGs you’ll get your hands on. The character writing is unforgettable, and the music is bitchin’.
Also, I checked out Goddess of Victory: Nikke, which is a pretty fun gacha game. The shooting mechanics are fun, if a bit simple. Of course I’m bummed I haven’t been able to roll Ruppe the gyaru, which isn’t fair. (Kudos to Amanda Lee for voicing her; if we had a nickle for every time she voiced an awesome gyaru, yadda yadda yadda.)
I’m excited for the Tales of Symphonia remake! Tales of Symphonia was one of those things that came out at the perfect time to help introduce young early-00s kids into anime, especially since Scott Menville voiced protagonist Lloyd Irving—right at the same time as his role as Robin in Teen Titans. (And he still voices Robin in Teen Titans Go!, which people need to get over.) Symphonia might have been overshadowed in later years by Tales of the Abyss and Tales of Vesperia, but it’s still endured as a fantastic JRPG with great tunes, a loveable cast, and some stellar performances. And if I hadn’t already fallen in love with Cam Clarke‘s voice acting through him voicing Leonardo, Prince Adam/He-Man, Max Sterling, and “Liquiiiiiid~!“ Snake, I’d have been won over by his world-weary performance as Kratos Aurion. Also, this was another game I bonded with my high school buddies over.
Tales of Symphonia has been ported before, but this is a full-on remaster—and it seems to address one of the most critical problems with Tales of Symphonia, the blurring. Long story short: the game used a blurring filter in many of its shots to simulate distance, but the result just made the whole screen fuzzy and ruined the detail on all of those lovely cell-shaded graphics. And with this new trailer, we finally have a release date: February 17th, 2023!
The remake looks excellent, even if the audio sounds tinny after all these years. But we’ve got plenty to be excited about! It’s coming for everything except PC: PS4, Xbox Series, and Nintendo Switch. Although eagle-eyed viewers have noticed some minor graphical differences: the PS4 version is very bright, the Xbox version is very dim, and the Nintendo Switch version is somewhere in-between.
There are also some visual differences in the screenshots on each store.
Order is as follows: PlayStation Store (PS4 version), Microsoft Store (Xbox One version), Nintendo eShop (Switch version). pic.twitter.com/I2vdNSKE2X
— Gematsu (@gematsu) November 9, 2022
I’m not entirely sure what to make of this; I feel bad for the Xbox owners because that dimness is really noticeable. But I hope folks are still looking forward to exploring Sylvarant this February!
Final Fantasy XVI Producer Cites “Realism” And “Historical Accuracy” In Explanation Of Lack Of Diversity In Game, Medieval Historians Slap Foreheads En Masse
Naoki Yoshida, alias “Yoshi-P,” has earned his reputation among Final Fantasy XIV fans for how much he and his team have done in redeeming that game, turning a fledgling and incomplete MMO into the king of the MMO mountain while also crafting what some believe to be some of the greatest and most-compelling narratives in the industry courtesy of its many expansions. Themes of faith, nationality, and personal betrayal ring true among the politicking that the Scions get up to. Final Fantasy XVI strives to tell a darker, more-mature story.
So imagine how I felt when Yoshi-P decided that an ethnically diverse cast couldn’t be a part of this mature story.
In an exclusive interview with IGN, Yoshi-P explains that the narrative to Final Fantasy XVI required a tight focus upon a localized area (that being of Valisthea). To reinforce its themes, the story was limited to a localized landmass instead of a “globalized scale.” Fair enough, that’s actually a very sound decision. But his reasoning for why that bars any kind of racial diversity is complete clown shoes: Yoshi-P goes on to claim, “Our design concept from the earliest stages of development has always heavily featured medieval Europe, incorporating historical, cultural, political, and anthropological standards that were prevalent at the time,” and that “due to the underlying geographical, technological, and geopolitical constraints of this setting, Valisthea was never going to realistically be as diverse as say a modern-day Earth…or even Final Fantasy XIV that has an entire planet […] at its disposal.” Having Black people in their story apparently violates those kinds of standards.
Let me be frank: this is some old bullshit.
Let’s ignore the fact that this is freaking Final Fantasy and that the story hinges on the idea of magic energy from giant crystals running out and people having to hunt down and kill people that can incarnate entities of immense magical power. ‘Cuz, y’know, giant magical shiny rocks weren’t a factor in Charlemagne composing the Magna Carta. With that alone, I struggle to imagine any interviewer in the room with Yoshi-P wouldn’t have laughed him out of the room. Citing “historical accuracy” to Medieval Europe while talking about why your fantasy game can’t have people of color is damned ahistorical, to say nothing of insulting.
Now, my experiences are weird because from middle school to the end of my college years, I studied in Puerto Rico, where kids get to eat breakfast and lunch for free at their school, and nobody thinks twice about it. So bear with me. But if there’s one thing we touched upon very often in our Spanish classes, it’s that a massive chunk of Spanish language and culture has an Arabic origin. This is because the Iberian peninsula (modern-day Spain) was under Moorish rule from the 8th century to the 15th century. Much of that influence is also seen in modern-day Andalusia, as the Muslim-owned territories in the Iberian peninsula were referred to as “al-Andalus.” Even when the Muslim empire weakened and Christian rulers reclaimed Spain, the Arabic influences remained—including a massive chunk of Spanish vocabulary and, I shit you not, coffee. This isn’t even that obscure a part of Medieval history; many paintings and writings illustrate this era. Again, our third-world Puerto Rican schools were weird; we were talking about the Moors in Spain instead of how to use a bandsaw in woodshop, so pardon my backward education.
The worst part is that this isn’t even an isolated phenomenon for the Iberian peninsula; for crying out loud, there were Black Vikings. The Greek and Roman empires reached far into Northern Africa and the Middle East, bringing them into contact with the black Egyptians and a wide variety of ethnicities in Asia.
Now, look me in the eye and tell me to my face and heritage that people of color in Europe are “unrealistic” or “ahistorical.”
Now, Yoshi-P argues that Valisthea is an “isolated landmass.” This digs the problematic arguments deeper because about the only place that’s ever had that kind of geographic and ethnic isolation… is Japan. And even then: tons can be written about the erasure of the native Japanese people like the Ainu, the Ryukyuan, the Jōmon, and the Matagi (a discussion unto itself). And, to be frank (again), I’m not going to blame a guy for not knowing what he doesn’t know. But you can’t sit there claiming to have done your research and then claim that a mono-ethnic culture is accurate to an “isolated” setting based on Medieval Europe. That’s just asinine, D-; see me after class. It would have been less insulting if Yoshi-P had said, “We didn’t want to have to design various cultures for this individual setting. It was too much work to factor into the story.” It would still be pretty egregious in this day and age, but he’d be within his right (just as much as we’d be within our right to respectfully criticize his poor decision). And for folks who take it as “cruel Western journalists harassing the innocent Japanese game dev—remember, plenty of Final Fantasy games have had actual POC rep without any issue at all. Barrett Wallace exists. And remember when I mentioned Xenoblade Chronicles 3‘s sales? Taion, a dark-skinned man, is one of the leads. It’s not hard to put people of color into your game.
Even if it were the case that the real world somehow wasn’t as diverse as it actually was, it behooves a fantasy setting to be diverse because what’s more fantastical than a setting filled with people that aren’t like you? An entire world of people that don’t look like you, don’t talk like you, don’t eat the same things you do, don’t love the same way you do… all of that is what fantasy is built upon. And the idea that these things would make a story too “alien” for readers to identify with is complete bunk when you remember some of the most-compelling manga of the past few years are To Your Eternity and Yokohama Kidaishi Kikou, which star a shapeshifting orb and a robot respectively. If you can’t write your story to resonate with people, that’s your failure as a writer and not on your weird blue-furred four-eyed scorpion-tailed mouthless centaur that eats through his hooves.
Also, people framing this as Yoshi-P “not kneeling to the West” are weirdos.
In other news, FFXVI is slated to be a timed exclusive; it’ll release on the PS5 and only be available through that console for “at least” six months. Later release for other consoles, including which platforms, is still unknown.
Nintendo and DeNA Band Together For New Ventrure
Nintendo‘s decision several years back to venture into mobile territory wasn’t quite what people expected, but they ventured into those waters with DeNA‘s help. The first app made from their partnership was the sadly short-lived Miitomo; it channeled a goodly amount of the Tomodachi Life series’ charm, but it couldn’t quite produce enough stuff for people to do daily. But the partnership has held, courtesy of Nintendo‘s other venture: Mario Kart Tour did well enough for its stages to get imported back into Mario Kart 8, Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp has a stable and loyal fanbase even with Animal Crossing: New Horizon having released, Pokémon Masters EX has been quietly fueling tons of fanart courtesy of giving Cynthia plenty of fancy new outfits (and naming everyone’s favorite Hex Maniac “Helena”) and Fire Emblem: Heroes is the single most-successful Fire Emblem game in the entire franchise at over $1 billion in earnings. So yeah, I think Nintendo is pretty happy with their partnership with DeNA, which is why they’ve joined forces to establish Nintendo Systems Co., Ltd this coming April 3rd.
In a statement shared with Gematsu, the objective of the partnership is “Research and development, as well as operations to strengthen the digitalization of Nintendo‘s business, in addition to the creation of value-added services.” In other words, it sounds like Nintendo Systems Co. will focus on producing more mobile games as “live-service” titles. This tracks with how Nintendo and DeNA‘s relationship has worked: DeNA‘s mainly been offering Nintendo help on the backend, offering infrastructure, while Nintendo‘s made the games and their systems.
This is one of those things that’s way too premature to see how it’ll go. It could give us another Fire Emblem: Heroes, but it could also give us another Super Mario Run. Hopefully, it won’t give us another Dragalia Lost that just gets tossed out the window to wither on the vine. We’ll let you know.
Nintendo Indies Showcase Special
We had a Nintendo Indies Showcase this week! It’s wild to see Nintendo roll out the red carpet for indie games, especially after years of people griping that Nintendo “didn’t have enough indie games.” This stream covered a ton of games (and a lot of viewers got very obstinate that none of them were Hollow Knight: Silksong). But I want to put the focus on a handful that caught my attention from the showcase!
First up is Sports Story! A sequel to the sleeper-hit Golf Story, this game expands upon its predecessor by not just giving folks one sport to play but several. On top of golf, there’s soccer, tennis, and a few glimpses of fishing. The game also promises all of the fantastic writing from Golf Story, which was—from what I hear—one of its highlights. I’ve yet to play Golf Story, but I’ve regularly heard of it as one of the better indie titles on the Switch. So don’t miss out on Sports Story! Look forward to it in December of this year.
Several months ago, we talked about ONI: Road to be the Strongest Oni. Coming from Shueisha Games, this story covers a young Oni out for revenge upon the swordsman who trounced him. There’s an enjoyable system at play where your warrior partner slays your enemies while you, as the Oni, absorb their souls. Some enemies are too powerful to fight, requiring you to find a way to escape them intact. The game looks really charming and fun. I’m definitely looking forward to it.
Venba seems a bit like Cooking Mama mixed with the animated short Bao: a South-Indian mother peruses through a journal of old cooking recipes, and you try to re-create them to help her reconnect with her heritage. It’s a touching idea for a story, and hey, Indian cuisine is incredible. This one is set for spring of 2023.
A Space for the Unbound, set in a sleepy Indonesian town, focuses on a pair of students as they explore supernatural comings and goings in their village while also dealing with the mundane matters of their neighbors. It seems like a cute, personal game, and I’m glad to see more games explore South-East Asia as a setting. This one doesn’t have a release date yet.
Finally, we have Coffee Talk Episode 2: Hibiscus and Butterfly. I’d never even heard of the first Coffee Talk, and I feel like I missed out; this feels like a VA-11 Hall-A set in a café, with more fantasy elements thrown in to replace the cyberpunk. Much like VA-11 Hall-A, Coffee Talk requires you to experiment with your recipes to create the perfect cup for your customers. You can even do funky stuff like latte art. It’s a cute idea, and it makes me wanna check out the first episode. I don’t mean to be reductive with the VA-11 Hall-A comparisons; this seems like an excellent set-up for a visual novel. Maybe they can make a new version set in a deli owned by some gruff New Yorker named Vinny? Eh? Eh?
There were a lot of other cool indie titles showcased. I’m glad the Switch can be home to so many smaller games. I’ve said it before, but we’re hurting for the smaller, weirder titles in the gaming industry. I hope these studios find success with their titles!
Final Pokémon Violet/Scarlet Trailer Ahead of November 18th Release
Well, we’re winding down to the last week before the release of Pokémon Violet/Scarlet! Nintendo doesn’t have much more new stuff to show, but they have ways of building expectations for the latest games. While there is still plenty of preemptive criticism regarding animations, frame rates, the lack of voice acting, or other associated matters, GAME FREAK is set to make this one of the biggest Pokémon games. And to illustrate that, they… promote the game with an Ed Sheeran song?
I mean, it’s still not as weird as Post Malone getting brought in to promote the games, but to be entirely fair: I have no idea who this Ed Sheeran character is, and this completely-generic-sounding Top 40-bait pop song probably isn’t the best introduction to him. Snark aside, it’s not unlike Pokémon to go for pop music; Pokémon: The First Movie went with Don’t Say You Love Me for the credits roll (a decision I wholeheartedly defend). So even if Mister Sheeran isn’t doing it for me… it hits the vibes?
The trailer covers a lot of what we already know: it shows off some of the revealed Pokémon like Wiglett, Farigarif, Klawf, Koraidon, and Miraidon. It shows off some of the Raid Battles against Terrastralized Pokémon. It gives us a final glimpse at the introduced characters like Penny, Geeta, the Gym Leaders, and the new Professors Sada and Turo. But it also teases something else and uses a very interesting Pokémon: Donphan. (Hey, remember how Donphan debuted in Pokémon: The First Movie and was the first Gen 2 Pokémon we saw, and now we’re using Donphan to tease new mechanics in Gen 9? See what I did there? Eh? Eh?)
So what we have here appears to be two divergent forms for Donphan: one that looks like a primal version and a robotic version. Fans have taken to calling these “Paradox Forms.” It seems to be in line with the “Past/Future” theming as seen with Professors Sada and Turo, as well as the Legendaries Koraidon and Miraidon (remember: those two Pokémon are named after the Japanese words for “Past” and “Future”). It’s a cool way to breathe new life into old Pokémon while also hinging on the old compulsive collecting for longtime Pokémon fans. I’m all for it. Mainly because, as much as I prefer Koraidon and Professor Sada, I’m interested in seeing what the futuristic Pokémon will look like!
That’s about it, though. Nothing to do but wait out Pokémon Violet/Scarlet‘s release next Friday. See you guys on the other side.
Let’s wrap up with some quick tidbits:
As you read this, it should be Veteran’s Day. It’s incredibly un-anime, but Veteran’s Day makes me think of Snoopy comics. I have a heads-up for anyone that might be going to Kumoricon in Portland, Oregon, this weekend: I’ll be there! While I won’t be hosting a panel this year (going was a very last-minute decision—I didn’t know how tight the convention would be with their COVID protocols), I will be going and mingling with folks on Saturday. If you see me, don’t be afraid to say “Hi!” In the meantime: don’t be weird in the comments this week. I hope you guys waiting for Pokémon don’t have too hard a time waiting that vital last week! Be good to each other; I’ll see you in seven.
This Week In Games! is written from idyllic Portland by Jean-Karlo Lemus. When not collaborating with AnimeNewsNetwork, Jean-Karlo can be found playing JRPGs, eating popcorn, watching v-tubers and tokusatsu, and trying as hard as he can to be as inconspicuous as possible on his Twitter @mouse_inhouse.