Hello again for another fine Week in Games! It’s been a little while since I’ve done shameless self-promotion. So, before we begin, I’d like to point you over to my review of Eiyuden Chronicle Rising over on Gamespot, as well as mention that I wrote a big feature on one of my favorite retro games, Taito‘s amazing Bubble Symphony, for the UK magazine Retro Gamer (which your local Barnes and Noble might carry in the States). Please go check them out!
Anyway… you know what I love? Those times when everybody on social media comes together to do something fun. Like, remember Bowsette? That whole period when everybody was doing Bowsette art was delightful. Everyone was rallying around a concept and enjoying it. That was great! Oh, and Jack-O posing, that was fun too!
Why do I bring these things up? Because something similar happened last week. But rather than celebrating a fan-created character or a goofy animation, gamers of all stripes were drawn together to a different cause: mocking the latest stupid thing Activision-Blizzard did. And boy, was this one a doozy!
IT IS ALWAYS JUSTIFIED TO DUNK ON ACTIVISION BLIZZARD
Oh dear, where do you even start with this one. Okay, so, out of nowhere, Activision Blizzard made a blog post touting its latest technology, developed by their mobile game team King (the Candy Crush guys). Folks, I present to you: The Diversity Space Tool!
The internet took one collective look at the blog post and the accompanying pictures and stared at it in slack-jawed disbelief. Certainly, Activision Blizzard—who have been no stranger to controversy over the past year—are keen to start rehabilitating their image. And what better way to prove that they were committed to becoming better than to show everybody their proprietary diversity-creating technology? After all, diversity is a hot, positive buzzword!
But that’s not the reaction ATVI got. Instead, what they got was a resounding “What the actual shit is this?” followed by many, many, many dunks and essays explaining how absurdly stupid the very idea behind the Diversity Space Tool was.
Now, there are a lot of essays out there explaining how this sucks a lot, but what folks found most peculiar (and most painfully hilarious) was the existence of points assigned to various characteristics of a character, like culture, race, age, body type, sexual orientation… just look at that image up there and you’ll see what I mean. This is supposed to “delineate between token characters and true representation.” But how do these points work? Is there some kind of quota being aimed for? Is there someone manually grading this, or is there some algorithm looking at a design and judging based on data samples it’s been fed? (Probably the latter.) It all comes off as a real-life representation of this famous dril tweet.
I am now fully convinced that they have an emergency stock of overwatch characters that are contained in a glass case that says: “break in case of new scandal being brought to light”.
— Ebonic Plague @ Combo Breaker (@EbonicPlagueBB) May 13, 2022
But perhaps the most insulting thing about the Diversity Space Tool is that it’s a complex solution to a problem that is very easily solved. Here’s what you do: hire employees of different backgrounds, make sure you don’t create a hostile work environment for them so they stick around (this one’s important!), and then ask then for input and feedback about character designs. It works better than any kind of algorithm, and it makes employees feel like their input is valued and respected. Everybody wins!
The social media mockery was so swift and merciless that Activision very quickly edited the post to remove certain images and references to games in development like Overwatch 2, but this was long after everyone had already archived the hell out of everything. Several employees at the company had words about the whole thing, and now Activision, in its attempt to harness the goodwill of diversity, has come out looking even worse. That’s quite the accomplishment!
MIHOYO‘S ZENLESS ZONE ZERO IS LOOKING MIGHTY SLICK
Hey, have you heard about Genshin Impact? I’m sure you have, because it’s a massive global hit that rakes in literal millions of dollars each day for its developer, China-based miHoYo. miHoYo doesn’t seem content to just collect oodles of Genshin gacha money for the foreseeable future, however, as they announced a brand-new title as their new “HoYoverse” branding initiative. Here’s our first look at this new game, Zenless Zone Zero.
Aesthetically and settings-wise, Zenless Zone Zero is a marked departure from the fantasy worlds of Genshin and Honkai Impact. Instead, we see a pop-futuristic futurescape filled with wild architecture, wonderfully ridiculous weaponry, and striking fashion. It makes me think a lot of the “cheery apocalyptic” design sense of the Splatoon games, and I wouldn’t be surprised if miHoYo looked to those titles for some visual inspiration. It does look very impressive—the Genshin money is clearly being put to work.
The character designs are buck wild too. Catgirls, masked street punks, little girls wielding huge hammers, and furries all feature prominently in the trailer. miHoYo‘s clearly been studying which character archetypes have mass appeal to the wider internet.
We only know the name of one of the characters so far, though. Anby Denara is the gray-haired lass you see above. She lives in New Eridu, the last standing metropolitan area after a global apocalypse. Basically, everything’s been wrecked thanks to the Hollows, an alternate dimension that spews its supernatural spawn into the world to cause destruction. The only reason New Eridu’s survived is thanks to Proxies—specially trained guides and combatants that collect resources from these outer dimensions.
Anby’s a proxy, and she’s part of a gang called the Cunning Hares. She and her partners compete with various rivals (individuals, other gangs, and mega-corporations) for prime quarry and the rewards that come with them. And guess what—your player character is a Proxy too! Suffice to say, Anby and her companions aren’t the only crew you’re going to be hanging out with on your cross-dimensional adventures, but we’re going to have to wait until miHoYo doles out the deets to learn more about the other wonderful weirdoes the trailer introduced us to.
ZZZ is a live-service game, and much like miHoYo‘s other offerings, it will likely be free-to-play with gacha elements. Platforms aren’t specified yet, but PC and smartphones are obvious targets, given how much success other miHoYo titles have found in those spaces. There is currently a sign-up for a “tuning test” (basically a closed beta) set for some unspecified point in the future, so if you’re interested in trying ZZZ out early, click that link and give miHoYo your info!
Will ZZZ be as big a hit as Genshin? It’s hard to say this early, but miHoYo‘s development prowess and marketing power mean that this one will be on a lot of folks’ radars at the very least. I’m definitely hoping it’ll be as fun to play as it is fun to look at.
SONY LISTS A BUNCH OF GAMES YOU’LL BE ABLE TO PLAY ON THE NEW PS PLUS… YAY?
We won’t have to wait much longer until the newly-segmented PlayStation Plus service is available. As you might recall, the new PS Plus tiers are Sony‘s effort to compete with Microsoft‘s massively popular Xbox Game Pass, which gives subscribers a huge selection of downloadable games (including new-release titles) for a monthly fee on Xbox and PC. Sony‘s initial announcement was met with rather tepid reception, with many folks wanting to see what games would be available on the service before deciding if they’d want to spring for the more expensive service. Well, the list has come out, and it’s kinda… okayish?
Rather than post the whole list here, I’ll link you to an earlier ANN newspiece with the full listing of PS4/PS5 games. There’s certainly some good stuff in there, like both the Gravity Rush games, Demon’s Souls, Ghost of Tsushima, Patapon and Patapon 2, Resogun, Soul Calibur VI… but at this point a lot of those games are cheap and/or popular enough that most folks who want to own them already do. Sure, a service like this would lead people to try games they might not otherwise, and Sony‘s likely hoping that the timed demo service for new titles that also comes packed in with higher PS Plus tiers will help folks discover interesting new releases, as well. Compared to what Microsoft‘s offering, however, it feels pretty anemic. The PS1/PS2/PS3 games available on the highest tier (which you can check here) aren’t terribly exciting, either.
It feels like Sony is trying to play catch-up here, but they’re still lagging way behind. One of Game Pass’s biggest selling points is access to new releases, which Sony is unwilling to do, and they don’t seem to have much third party support beyond a few companies like Bandai Namco, CAPCOM, Ubisoft, and Square Enix. Most of those companies aren’t giving access to their “crown jewel” titles, either—where’s Final Fantasy VII Remake? Dark Souls 3? Monster Hunter World? Street Fighter V? If Sony wants this to be a viable competitor to GamePass, they’ve got a lot more work ahead of them.
- There’s a new Fairy Fencer F game coming. Fairy Fencer F was an RPG first released back on the PS3 (with later enhanced ports to PC and Switch) that was made by Idea Factory‘s Compile Heart studio. It was very much a Compile Heart game, and you can interpret that statement however you want. The follow-up, Fairy Fencer F Refrain Chord, shifts the genre to strategy-RPG and gains a new codeveloper in Sting, whose work I tend to enjoy but who’s been stuck doing contract work for the past several years. Maybe this’ll turn out good?
- Also announced: Project Code Name M, a new adventure from NOVECT (formerly Novectacle), creators of beloved visual novel The House in Fata Morgana. Not much to go on yet, but knowing this exists is enough to get a lot of folks excited.
- In an interview with website Noisy Pixel, producer Mei Erikawa stated that KOEI Tecmo would “definitely like to consider releasing English versions” of Ruby Party otome games to follow up Touken Ranbu Warriors, which is dropping on Switch and Steam next week. I’ve been crowing about the importance of Ruby Party‘s output to the history of gaming for a good while, so I’d really like to see some sort of organized campaign to get their titles localized. We can do it!
- There are a bunch of Silent Hill-related rumors that I don’t really want to dig to far into until something gets confirmed. Disappointment and Silent Hill go hand-in-hand, after all.
Another week draws to a close. Have any thoughts about this week’s topics? I welcome any and all mockery of Activision Blizzard and all the stupid, horrible things they do on the forums, linked below. But if you just want to talk about Zenless Zone Zero or whether or not you’re upgrading your PS Plus subscription, that’s cool too. Or anything else related to gaming, really. It’s all cool. Have a great weekend, and keep on gaming!
Ah yes, once again I am tasked with writing about videogames in the shadow of unimaginably awful bullshit happening in the world around us. It’s pretty tough, not only because the shadow of terrible things is weighing heavily in your mind, but it also feels extremely insensitive to be writing about “fun” stuff while people are out there suffering. I try to tell myself that if reading this column makes folks even a little bit happier in the face of misery that I’m doing a good thing, but perhaps I’m just in denial. I dunno. Shit sucks, man.
So, in my effort to try to stave off existential dread, how about we start off with Sega/Atlus news? Sega just surprise-dropped Hatsune Miku: Project Diva Megamix+ on Steam, making it the first official PC release of the long-running rhythm game series. It’s quite good! You can check ANN’s review by Jean-Karlo here, and my review over on GameSpot here.
On Thursday, Atlus shared a brief announcement video detailing their North American plans for Persona 25th Anniversary celebrations. Besides showcasing a bunch of new merch (including, for some bizarre reason, a $500 Persona-themed record turntable) and promoting a streaming live concert (which you can get tickets for even outside of Japan, as our mascot hosts note), they also announced a series of live events and venues that will be taking part in the celebration. Unfortunately, they’re pretty much all based in Southern California, including a big joint Sega/Atlus booth at Anime Expo. Maybe if we’re lucky a few other big cities in North America will get something later this year, because Persona fandom certainly doesn’t revolve entirely around one massive metro area.
But perhaps more importantly – we’ve got a new Persona 5 game! Don’t get too excited, though, because these Phantom Thieves are out to raid your wallet in Persona 5 For Reels.
Okay, regardless of your feelings on a Persona 5 slot machine, we can all agree that the title is amazing, right? Given that it’s a video slot machine rather than the pachislot machines that are common (and more importantly, legal) in Japan, I suspect this is geared more towards the international casino market. Will 21-and-older Persona fans be able to resist the allure of the slots? (I hope so.)
IT’S DRAGON QUEST DAY, AND YUJI HORII HAS SPECIAL ANNOUNCEMENTS
May 27th marks the date when the original Dragon Quest launched in Japan all the way back in 1986, which makes it a quasi-official gamer holiday. To celebrate, Square-Enix dropped a new video featuring series maestro Yuji Horii. And what would an anniversary be without a little bit of news? Here’s the YouTube video, which you’ll want to watch with captions turned on if you don’t speak Japanese:
To start off: Dragon Quest Builders has released on mobile platforms! You can download it on iOS or Android right now! If you haven’t played the Builders series, you should definitely give them a try: they’re very fun and charming spins on construction games with that signature Dragon Quest personality throughout.
We’ve also got a new trailer for spinoff treasure-hunting adventure Dragon Quest Treasures. No platforms announced yet, but at the very least Switch and PS4 seem likely.
While Dragon Quest XII is still under development (and likely will be for a good while yet), Horii reassures us that we’ll have plenty of slime-squashing goo-oodness to tide us over as we wait for more information. So hey, uh, about that Dragon Quest X Offline western release…
GODDAMN, THAT’S A LOTTA GUNDAM
Thursday afternoon saw Bandai-Namco games deliver the online Gundam Game Fest, a brief stream featuring a bunch of announcements related to videogame adaptations of the Mobile Suit Gundam franchise. The video, complete with an announcer who gives off big “fifth grade class educational video” vibes, can be viewed in its entirety here:
We start off with an in-depth look at the upcoming SD Gundam Battle Alliance, a massive multi-Gundam-universe crossover action game starring adorably super-deformed versions of all your favorite mobile suits. The video goes pretty in-depth into gameplay details, so I probably don’t need to repeat them here, but it’s looking like a surprisingly solid bit of fanservice for Gundam megafans. You’ll be able to take these Doozybot-wannabes out for adventure on PC and consoles come August 25th
Next is Gundam Evolution, the Gundam-themed hero shooter FPS which had a PC beta test last month. I heard a lot of people really liked what they played in that beta, which may bode well for the game’s future. But if you missed out on the PC beta test, fear not: A console beta will be launched soon, and you can sign up for it at this link.
Finally, after some updates about the ongoing free-to-play title Gundam Battle Operation 2, there’s a brand-new announcement: SD Gundam G Generation Eternal. This is a mobile strategy-RPG featuring SD Gundam units for iOS and Android, and will encompass the whole of the multiple Gundam universes. it’s still pretty early in development, so details are scarce, but we’re likely to learn more over the coming months.
FIGHTING GAME NEWS ROUNDUP: HAVE YOU HERD THE GOOD NEWS
Combo Breaker, one of the bigger not-EVO US fighting game tournaments, is happening this weekend, so it’s likely we’ll get some announcements there. New Guilty Gear Strive characters? More Street Fighter 6 details? Maybe more looks at Riot Games’ new fighting game? Could well happen! But even if it doesn’t, Combo Breaker is one of the most fun tournaments to spectate, especially the downright bonkers Mystery Tournament and the Character Auction Tournaments. I highly recommend checking the official schedule and streaming whatever catches your interest.
But even before Combo Breaker hits, we’ve got fighting game news! It’s been a year since launch, and Guilty Gear Strive is getting a major balance patch on June 10, which even the developers at Arc System Works are saying will introduce some pretty big overhauls for the entire cast. Which means Happy Chaos is probably getting some nerfs, to the relief of many. ASW has also announced a beta for cross-platform play sometime this summer. If you want to watch the presentation – which includes more details and information on the new DLC-included Guilty Gear Strive Starter Edition – you can watch the replay of the livestream here:
Meanwhile, cult fighting game favorite Them’s Fightin’ Herds is coming to consoles. This formerly PC-only fighting game began life as a My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic fangame before Hasbro lawyers brought out a cease and desist, forcing the devs to replace the ponies with legally distinct four-legged fighters. But that setback didn’t hurt the development team much – they’ve been working hard on the game for years, and have wound up making a surprisingly solid fighter with smooth rollback netcode (and, according to the trailer, cross-platform matches) for online play. If you’re curious, I do recommend giving it a shot when it hits consoles.
JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: All-Star Battle R has a release date: Sept. 2. Hey, that’s my birthday! Thanks, Bamco! The announcement is accompanied by a new trailer, which you can check out here:
Finally, we’ve got some Skullgirls news! Skullgirls is the fighting game that manages to keep on kicking no matter what, and its placement in EVO this year has brought even more of a spotlight to this fine game. Skullgirls 2nd Encore, the latest version of the game, has been announced for Xbox One and Xbox Series platforms later this year. A new character is also in the works: the arm-cannon wielding Black Dahlia. Check out her development trailer here:
On a stranger note, longtime Skullgirls character Valentine is getting a slight design change: all of the crosses on her nurses’ outfit are getting changed to be less… cross-y and more point-y. The reason? Likely the litigious nature of the Red Cross organization, who protects their signature iconography furiously. No big deal, really – it’s not a huge change, and I think the new design reflects her dual nurse-ninja nature a lot better anyway.
- Did Norman Reedus just accidentally reveal Death Stranding 2 in an interview? I think he did. Is anyone surprised Death Stranding 2 is happening? No, not really. Anyway, here’s Kojima “punishing” him.
- Kadokawa Games, the game publishing arm of one of Japan’s most storied media publishing dynasties, is divesting some of its business to a new company called Dragami Games. Current Kadokawa Games CEO Yoshima Yasuda will be stepping down and assuming ownership of the new company. Does this mean Kadokawa‘s starting to wind down its gaming business? Despite years of trying, they never really found success in that field, so it wouldn’t be terribly surprising.
- Raven Software’s QA division has officially thumbed their noses at Activision top brass and voted in favor of unionization. You did it, guys! Meanwhile, Activision-Blizzard continues to excel at finding new and exciting ways to suck.
I think we’ll call it here for this week. You know the drill – you got comments, we got forums, linked below. Remember to support your friends and loved ones – the news has been rough lately, and a lot of folks are only just hanging on, so your kindness can mean the world to them. Thanks for reading.