Hello again! Y'know what I want to do once I'm nice and vaccinated and most places open up again? Go to theme parks, that's what! It's been ages since I've had a good coaster ride, and watching theme park history videos on YouTube isn't cutting it anymore. And I'm OH SO ENVIOUS that folks living in the Osaka metro area get to go to Super Nintendo World at Universal Studios Japan right now!
A couple of folks I know actually visited on opening day and took lots and lots of photos. Even if you can't read Japanese, the pictures say plenty, showing all of the cool theming and souvenirs Super Nintendo World has to offer. Perhaps the only quibble I have is that right now it's more specifically Mario-themed than Nintendo-themed, but theme parks are always changing and evolving, so it's not out of the question that we'll see a Zelda adventure dungeon or an F-Zero dark ride coaster sometime down the line. (Please make an F-Zero ride happen)
Similar Super Nintendo Worlds are still planned for Universal Studios Hollywood and the bigger Orlando resort, but with the pandemic delaying everything we're not likely to see things open in the States for at least a few years. Until then, however, we'll have to be satisfied with photos and videos.
So, how about this week's news?
EVO IS UNDER NEW MANAGEMENT
2020 was a rough year for fighting game fans. COVID forced mass cancellations of tournaments and community gatherings across the globe, forcing players to play online… and revealing just how bad the online experience was for many popular titles. The prestigious multi-game EVO tournament had planned to move online, but when some very disturbing allegations surfaced against one of the event's primary organizers, players and corporate sponsors pulled out quickly, leading to the event's cancellation and putting future EVO events in limbo. Little has been heard about what would become of EVO in the future.
Wow, uh… I sure didn't see that one coming! Yes, EVO is now the property of Sony and a company called Endeavor. I hadn't heard of Endeavor before, but it turns out they have an extremely long history beginning as a talent agency stretching back over a century. (Also, they own the UFC.) Both Sony and Endeavor are hoping to use EVO as a way to entrench themselves in the eSports business. Also, EVO 2021 will take place online this August, with Street Fighter V Champion Edition, Tekken 7, Mortal Kombat 11 Ultimate, and Guilty Gear Strive as official games.
Of course, that raises the question: If Sony is involved, will EVO only feature PS4/PS5 games from now on? Representatives have already said that games on other platforms will be considered for official status on the roster, though I get the distinct feeling that if a game is multiplatform, you'll be forced onto the PlayStation version at EVO. (Xbox owners might want to invest in some Brook converters for their controllers, they're good stuff.)
But then there's Nintendo and Super Smash Bros. It's always felt like Nintendo allowed Smash at EVO out of obligation: the fans really wanted it there, and the bad publicity that would come from “Nintendo won't let Smash be played at EVO” headlines would be quite damaging. (Remember when Nintendo almost stopped Super Smash Bros Melee from being streamed in 2013?) But now that Sony's in the picture, well, that would be the perfect reason to pull out. Why support an event held by your direct competitor?
Nintendo has made a statement to IGN, saying “Nintendo has enjoyed engaging with fans at past Evo tournaments and wish the show organizers the best with their new venture. We will continue to assess Evo, and other opportunities, as we plan for future online and offline Super Smash Bros. tournament activity.” Which is yet more vague PR-speak that neither confirms nor denies anything regarding the future of competitive Smash.
Regardless of the Smash situation, I'm glad to see that EVO will remain a big and important event for fighting games. My only big worry is community interests being overruled by corporate mandates, but as long as fighting game community figureheads continue to have input in the event going forward, there's reason to be optimistic.
SQUARE-ENIX HAS A FEW PLEASANT SURPRISES, UNLESS YOU'RE A TOMB RAIDER FAN
Square Enix had an online presentation highlighting upcoming titles earlier today, and I honestly wasn't expecting much from it: it looked like it'd be primarily about their Western-developed stuff, which usually doesn't fit all that well with this column's focus. However, the presentation actually did offer a fair few pleasant surprises. We're not going to talk about everything, just what I want to comment on
Remember the Project Athia trailer from the PlayStation 5 presentation several months back? It's got an actual name now: Forspoken. It's set for a PS5 and PC release sometime next year, and it certainly looks impressive from trailers. How does it play? Heck, I don't know, we're not even sure what genre it is! But if you want to get a glimpse of more of the game, as introduced by lead character Frey's voice actress Ella Balinska, here you go!
You know what I love seeing? Taito games! My love for Taito's 80s and 90s arcade output is very well documented at this point. Square Enix acquired Taito nearly 15 years ago and has mostly let them do their own thing since. However, Square Enix hasn't really given them much in the way of advertising and visibility they give their own titles, either. But if this presentation is any indication, that seems to be changing!
Look, it's Darius Cozmic Revelation! A big Taito retro collection on a big Square Enix stream watched by hundreds of thousands of people! That just puts a big smile on my face. Even better is the announcement that Cozmic Revelation will be getting an update to add another game: an HD version of the very rare arcade release G Darius Version 2. This game's never been brought to any home consoles until now, and has numerous differences from the “standard” G Darius. Well, my deluxe collector's edition is already preordered, so now I'm extra sold!
That's not the only Taito classic featured, though! Space Invaders is perhaps the most historically significant game in Taito's catalog, and over the decades we've seen numerous new takes and revivals on the simple formula. I didn't expect the next frontier for Space Invaders to be a mobile AR game, though! And it's being developed by the Square Enix Montreal studio? Whoa, this could be a big deal!
But as intriguing as the concept is, the trailer doesn't show much, just highlighting the series’ history and saying “hey, we're making this new thing!” I'm definitely going to keep following this one, though I hope to see what the actual game will be like at some point in the near future!
Unfortunately, one franchise that isn't seeing a particularly exciting revival at the moment is Tomb Raider. It's the 25th anniversary of the original game's release, so a lot of fans were hopefully to see the reveal of some sort of reboot or re-release of Lara's PlayStation-era adventures.
So, what was announced? Well, we got… Tomb Raider: The Definitive Survivor Trilogy, a new package for PS4 and Xbox One that bundles together the three most recent console Tomb Raiders with all DLC at a value price. That's… nice, I guess? Also, Tomb Raider tie-in content will be appearing in Ghost Recon: Breakpoint and Final Fantasy Brave Exvius: War of the Visions. But wait, there's one more announcement… a cookbook!
Yes, a cookbook, because when I think of Lara Croft, the first words that come to mind are “domestic goddess.” To be fair, it's quite likely that a big Tomb Raider announcement could be set for later this year, but it seems so bizarre to introduce an action/adventure franchise's 25th anniversary festivities with a cookbook.
Balan Wonderworld is out next week, and… I was so hyped when this was announced, and I still think this game looks great and has so much potential, but going from the demo, it needs more time to be tweaked and refined. (Also, the Switch version just seems like a total mess.) Unfortunately, not only is Square Enix pushing ahead with next week's release, but it's also coming out the same day as Monster Hunter Rise. You don't put a game up against a giant of a series like Monster Hunter unless you are extremely confident in it or are sending it to die, and this feels like the latter. There are far too few colorful, original 3D platformers in the modern gaming market, just please take the time to make this as good as it could be arrrghhhhhhh
Finally, there's Life is Strange: True Colors, an all-new game in the acclaimed adventure series. Unlike the first and second Life is Strange games, True Colors will not be an episodic release, but a full story wrapped up in a nice little package. A collection of the original episodic Life is Strange for next-gen platforms was also announced.
Also, I just want to note that I'm really glad to see Square Enix sticking with Avengers, launching next-gen versions and supporting it with upcoming DLC despite the lukewarm critical and commercial reception. Fans were promised long-term support when they bought Avengers, and so far, that promise is being kept. Companies like EA and Activision would have dropped the game like a lead balloon after a month or two. Good on you for that, Square Enix. (But I'm still going to be miffed about Balan Wonderworld for a good while.)
OTHER FIGHTING GAME NEWS: WHAT'S IN THE BOX?
Working in games writing means that sometimes you randomly get boxes from FedEx containing mysterious promotional items, like this.
I got a lootbox! Wonder what's inside!
A… belt of some sort? And also a note…?
Oh, hmm. This appears to be viral marketing for Tekken 7's upcoming character! It seems her name is Lidia Sobieska, she just happens to be Prime Minister of Poland in the Tekkenverse, and the always-antagonistic Mishima family gave her a nice written middle finger. Well then, we can probably look forward to a full trailer of Lidia very soon.
But you know who has a full trailer now? Terry Bogard in King of Fighters XV, that's who!
Also of note is a nice little showcase of actual gameplay at the end of the trailer. KoFXV character reveals so far have focused on backgrounds, special moves, and appearances, but not quite as much on the actual flow of the game. Seeing the Fatal Fury team do actual combos like in a real KoF battle is a nice change of pace.
NEWSBITSScarlet Nexus, Bandai-Namco's ambitious sci-fi action RPG, is getting an anime tie-in that will start airing around the time of the game's release on June 25th. Sunrise is the studio doing the production, and Funimation's already secured the rights for North American streaming.
Phantasy Star Online 2: New Genesis will have a global open beta test sometime in the near future. A Japan-only closed beta will run this weekend. Here's a trailer with additional details, along with breaking down the survey results from Japan's first closed beta test from January.
Neo Geo Pocket Color Selection Vol. 1 surprise-launched on Switch. This set contains some of the best titles that were released on the fan-favorite handheld system, including SNK Gals Fighters, SNK vs. CAPCOM Match of the Millennium, and the two NGPC Metal Slug It's a really good mix of titles overall (if heavy on fighting games), but it leaves you wondering what top-tier titles are left that could potentially be put on a volume 2.
Alright! I think we're done for this week. Lots of hot topics to talk about! Are you eager to visit Super Nintendo World? Curious about where EVO is headed? Excited for upcoming Square Enix games? Come by the forums linked below and discuss to your heart's content! Enjoy the weekend, and we'll be back next week with plenty of gaming goodness. See you then!