Sony Has Me Believing in Japanese Development Again

Final Fantasy VII RemakeTo say that Japanese game development has been a letdown would be underselling it. The once bastion of brilliant original games had become lost in mediocrity, reliving exhausted tropes and dated mechanics. Games stuck in development purgatory as they never seemed to fully grasp how to actually build a game in a world filled with ballooning budgets, massive sales expectations and technology that managed to make the once thoughtful and artistic look dull and boring.

Rather than take risks, Japan became a nation filled with companies who were afraid to gamble, afraid to put themselves out there to recapture the illustrious magic that brought us all into gaming in the first place. With smart phones and tablets threatening to kill the home console we have seen names like Capcom teeter on the brink of oblivion, Konami give up on console development and Square Enix look west.

But then a trend developed. Brave developers soldiered on without their companies. Keiji Inafune brought Comcept to the forefront with Mighty No. 9. Koji Igarashi smashed through crowd-funding ceilings with Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night. And Sony brought life to the classics that made Japan the Mecca of gaming.

The Last GuardianThe Last Guardian. Final Fantasy VII. Shenmue III.

Three vastly unique games, each with their own story of development turmoil. One mired in mystery and cryptic messages, with many wondering if it would ever see the light of day. Another a standout classic of one of the most famed franchises of all time. And the last the concluding chapter to a game that the entire world had written off.

It was a simple, calculated move that ended up being a perfect storm for Sony. One that Microsoft never saw coming.

The tone was set early today with Microsoft’s frenetic whirlwind of a E3 presentation that had many feeling invigorated by their renewed focus on core gaming. They hit as hard as they could with refined peripherals, backwards compatibility, not to mention a pair of Xbox standards in Halo 5 and Gears 4.

But Sony didn’t even blink. They managed to trot out the games that everybody knew about in No Man’s Sky and Uncharted 4. They turned a few heads with Horizon: Zero Dawn. But by recommitting to Japanese development, they are going back to what made the PS2 a standout purchase.

Shenmue IIIWe are still a ways off to see how these investments pay off with The Last Guardian due next year and no solid date for the Final Fantasy VII remake. Shenmue III, while a glorious undertaking, will need to pass the public barometer of Kickstarter (a place where it is currently blowing past records) and is projected to release no earlier than 2017.

But the proof is out there that Sony is supporting these projects openly. The Last Guardian is an in-house exclusive. Final Fantasy VII will arrive first on the PlayStation 4, as will Shenmue III when its development finally concludes. Pair Sony’s bombshell announcements with their support of Street Fighter V and the pending releases of Metal Gear Solid V, Final Fantasy XV, the Kickstarter projects of Mighty No. 9 and Bloodstained and all of the work Nintendo is doing, it appears that Japan has finally recaptured the magic .

Ryu and Roy Join The Super Smash Bros. Fracas

Super Smash Bros.Super Smash Bros. is getting another pair of combatants in the form of Ryu from Street Fighter and Roy from Fire Emblem. The news of the pairs addition had been leaked yesterday after the update was mistakenly made available and introduction videos were mined out of the information. This also stands in line with a leak in April after theme songs were found in a 3DS update to Super Smash Bros. Ryu and Roy are available now in the form of DLC for both the Wii U and 3DS versions of the game.

Nintendo made the announcement as part of a Super Smash Bros. related video that they uploaded as part of their constant stream of E3 related coverage. Ryu is making his Smash debut while Roy is returning after his lone appearance in Super Smash Bros. Melee. Ryu’s moveset will be updated to the more simplistic Smash controls and he will surely have his Hadoken and Shoryuken in his arsenal. Roy’s flame sword will return as he joins the crowded sword-based fighters of the Fire Emblem series.

Ryu will also be receiving a Smash remixed version of his classic Suzaku Castle stage along with remixed music based on his theme as well as the theme of his lifelong friend and rival Ken.

The update also includes a slew of costumes to the customizable Mii Fighters including Mega Man, Isabelle from Animal Crossing, Splatoon’s Inklings and Heihachi Mishima from Tekken.

Roy and the previously announced Lucas are available now for $3.99 each or for $4.99 each for versions on both the Wii U and 3DS. Ryu will be packaged with his Suzaku Castle stage and will be priced at $5.99 for a single version or $6.99 for both versions.

Next Mirror’s Edge Gets Name, Timeline Confirmation

Mirror's Edge CatalystThe next entry in the cult favorite first person parkour inspired action series Mirror’s Edge will be named Mirror’s Edge Catalyst and will not be a sequel to the 2008 original. Confirmed by an announcement made by Electronic Arts following the leaked trademark filing for Mirror’s Edge Catalyst, DICE producer Sara Jannson confirmed the title and the relation of the 2016 game to its predecessor.

“This is not a sequel, this is not Mirror’s Edge 2. We have landed on a vision that honors the first game — pushing the boundaries of first person movement and diving deeper into the story behind our heroine Faith — but also brings a lot of great new, interesting gameplay and features to the experience for our players.” – Sara Jannson, Producer, DICE

The use of the subtitle Catalyst confirms much of the speculation that this Mirror’s Edge game would be a prequel, especially based on the E3 2013 trailer that showed series protagonist Faith getting her trademark digital tattoos on her arm along with developer statements focusing the game on the building blocks that made Faith. I think that a prequel is the right way to go because of the way that the original Mirror’s Edge unfolded, especially with the fairly open ending that had Faith and her sister Kate on the run from the government’s Project Icarus.

While we know where Faith ended up and are curious about her next chapter, explaining her origin is just as interesting. Faith, as a character was one of the more beloved identities of last generation, despite only appearing in one game where not much is known about her background. The idea of her becoming a runner, to becoming a part of the counter culture that essentially rebelled against the government’s constant surveillance is a story that can bring new audiences up to speed with the world and potentially set the tone for a true follow up to Mirror’s Edge.

Mirror’s Edge Catalyst has been targeted for an early 2016 release on PlayStation 4, Xbox One and Windows PC.

Polygon – The new Mirror’s Edge is called Mirror’s Edge Catalyst

I’ll Believe It When It Happens: The Last Guardian to Appear at E3 2015

The Last GuardianRumor has it that Sony’s Japan Studio will they/won’t they project The Last Guardian will be making an appearance at this year’s Electronic Entertainment Expo according to a report issued by The Guardian.

I’m going to stop the actual reporting there because, honestly, there is nothing to report here. The Last Guardian’s tumultuous history is incredibly well documented, so much so that Sony had let the trademark of the game lapse twice. Trademark deadline mishaps aside, while many want Japan Studio’s follow up to Ico and Shadow of the Colossus to be an amazing fantasy epic, they are unfortunately at the mercy of rumors and leaks. They may want to take their time in developing a game that could be amazing, but keep in mind the conceptual work of The Last Guardian began in the PlayStation 2 era.

We are well beyond the point in time that Japan Studio can ignore the outside noise and remain hidden in the dark on The Last Guardian. All we really know is that the game was supposed to come out on the PlayStation 3, it has a boy, it has a griffin, it is kinda shiny. Or maybe those statements are all “was” statements.

I guess we’ll find out in a week.

The Guardian – E3 2015 – Our 15 Most Anticipated Games

Inevitable 1080p Remaster of Uncharted Trilogy Coming to PS4 October 9

Uncharted: The Nathan Drake CollectionNathan Drake will be making his PlayStation 4 debut on October 9, just not in Uncharted 4. Naughty Dog Studios is putting together a 1080p remastered collection of the original three Uncharted titles in a collection dubbed Uncharted: The Nathan Drake Collection. It will contain Full-HD remasters of the PlayStation 3 entries of Drake’s Fortune, Among Thieves and Drake’s Deception. Purchasing the Nathan Drake Collection also provides access to the Uncharted 4 multiplayer beta.

Leaked in part to an internal error that had a listing appear on the PlayStation Store, Uncharted was probably the most likely candidate for an HD remaster, especially after the strong reception of Naughty Dog’s last game and subsequent remaster, The Last Of Us.

Uncharted was a powerhouse of a game visually, that managed to combine great animation and set pieces amongst terrific action directing. While the gameplay left a little to be desired with rooms full of swarming enemies, Uncharted was the definitive game of the PlayStation 3 and one of my personal favorites of last generation. A graphical fidelity upgrade from 720p to 1080p will certainly be welcome but it will be interesting to see if some of the mechanics are ironed out when they work on fine tuning the game. Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune certainly has aged the poorest of the three with clumsy shooting controls and awkward pacing at times.

The delay of Uncharted 4 into 2016 was one of the things that has kept me from purchasing a PS4 to this point. Maybe the idea of playing the first three titles again is enough to stave off Sony fans that are hungry for a solid console exclusive.

I’m trying not to read too much into the way that they are naming this collection as well. Titling the trio of games the Nathan Drake Collection is eyebrow raising with many wondering if A Thief’s End will permanently shut the door on Nathan Drake and introduce a new protagonist/antagonist. To me the Uncharted franchise ties into the charisma of Nathan Drake’s character, so moving away from Drake as the lead is hard for me to see past.

Please Stand By: Fallout 4 Unveiled

Fallout 4Strap on your power suits. Bethesda decided to drop an early bomb leading up to their first E3 press conference by officially pulling Fallout 4 out of the vault.

Too many references in that lede? Fallout 4 is expected to launch on Sony PlayStation 4, Microsoft Xbox One and Windows PC.

Set in a post-apocalyptic Boston, Fallout 4 is the first title in the long running RPG franchise sine 2008’s Fallout 3 spin-off, Fallout: New Vegas. Bethesda successfully married the themes and aesthetics of the old turn based, grid combat games of the late ’90s into a sprawling open world exploration game that mashes the mechanics of its RPG roots with modern shooter and adventure game elements.

It has been easily Bethesda’s biggest question mark following Fallout 3 and Fallout: New Vegas’ universal success. While only a little of information was delivered in the initial trailer, we do know one thing.

War. War never changes.

Rumor Alert: Microsoft in Talks to Acquire Silent Hills from Konami

Silent HillsRumor has it that Microsoft is in talks with Konami to purchase the cancelled Silent Hills game off of the restructuring publisher. The anonymous industry source comes by way of Rooster Teeth’s The Know program, with reporting done by the Funhaus team.

Lawrence Sonntag, the team’s resident reporter/podcast host, declined to reveal the source’s identity, but cited its past reliability in allowing their team (then Inside Gaming) to report on Microsoft’s plans to sell an Xbox One without the Kinect. The rumor turned out to be true, despite Microsoft trumpeting the Xbox One + Kinect marriage in the months leading up to the release.

As for Silent Hills, Microsoft is hoping to get a deal finalized before E3 so that they can trot it out during their press conference. Microsoft is hungry for exclusives, and rightly so. It is the one area that Microsoft currently has the leg up on against Sony and gaining a storied franchise, especially one with as much drama and clout as Silent Hills, would be a significant gain for the Xbox One. Say what you will about The Master Chief Collection, but the Xbox One’s exclusives have been consistently better and more numerous than Sony’s, which have been marred by mediocrity (The Order: 1886), broken gameplay (Driveclub) and lengthy delays (Uncharted 4).

Even better news is that Silent Hills is rumored to be about 80% complete and would put Microsoft on track to push the game out early in 2016 with a potential March target.

Even further complexing this twisted drama is that the removal of P.T. from the PlayStation store was done as a move of good faith for Konami to Microsoft. By removing the most talked about demo in recent memory from their direct competitor, Microsoft is putting themselves to truly benefit from the acquisition of Silent Hills.

Beyond the rumor, there is no word on how production of Silent Hills will progress moving forward. Whether or not either Guillermo del Toro or Hideo Kojima will be brought on or whether Microsoft will be taking the entire franchise from Konami or just the Silent Hills game. The deal is rumored to be in the billions so odds are that the deal would be for Microsoft to take the entire franchise which is ironic considering the game’s birth on the Sony PlayStation.

If Microsoft does acquire the game from Konami, it will be interesting to see if they are able to convince Kojima to partner up with them for the game’s completion. He is, after all, rumored to be out of a job at the end of the year. It might be a little tight, but he could conceivably be allowed to work as a private contractor if his status at Konami has indeed been changed. Even without Kojima involved, gaining Silent Hills or even the entire franchise would benefit Microsoft significantly. Microsoft is positioning themselves from a software angle to be able to combat Sony’s stronger hardware. It was a strategy that ultimately worked for Sony with the PlayStation 3 lagging behind the Xbox 360.