It’s been a full week since the sun has set on the 2018 rendition of the NISA Press Event in San Francisco. With the Folsom Street Foundry as gracious hosts, the night was full of cocktails, competitive gaming and colorful game announcements. We’d be receiving a Switch version of Ys VIII: Lacrimosa of Dana some time this Summer. Touhou Genso Wanderer Reloaded will be hitting the PS4 and Switch at a later date and The Witch and the Hundred Knight 2 will grace the PS4 in late March. And that’s just a small bit of what NISA has in store for gamers in 2018.
While there was palpable enthusiasm and excitement for upcoming releases being shown over the NISA live stream, media members had the rare treat of testing some of the games on the floor of the venue. I’m going to be taking a look at each of those games, giving some thoughts and telling you what you can expect before they arrive. First up, the main event of the evening…
SNK Heroines: Tag Team Frenzy
Growing up, I was always a big fan of the fighting game genre. I took frequent trips to local arcades just to be able to throw coins at whatever Street Fighter or Mortal Kombat machine I could get a few minutes on. In many ways, it’s the perfect genre of game. It’s fast-paced, violent, easy to pick up and play and requires you be ultra competitive. Kids can enjoy it. Adults can attempt to master it. It just works.
Over the years, SNK is a brand that has been synonymous with fighting games for me. I’m a big fan of The King of Fighters series and always felt it was like a less commercialized version of successful stateside brands. It packed unique fighters with stunning visuals and gave you something a little different, but not too different. I mention that because that’s the feeling I got playing SNK Heroines. It gives you an all-female roster of fighters (an obvious difference from most of its competition), tinkers with way you can beat your opponent (there’s an SP gauge to go with an HP gauge) and looks extremely impressive. As game producer Yasuyuki Oda said to me in an interview that evening, “The King of Fighters fighters are very cool but SNK Heroines characters are very cute.” He’s not wrong.
The game features a growing stable of female fighters that can be customized to your liking. All sorts of costumes and accessories are available for you to make the aesthetic of the characters as appealing as you’d like. Personally, I didn’t get a chance to tinker with this very much as I was more concerned with not getting my butt handed to me by the CPU and fellow media members. What I can speak to is that the game doesn’t reward button mashing the way I’m used to seeing in fighters. This will be one of those titles that requires patience and second helpings to master. While I was a little disappointed to see they only had a PS4 build available to try, what I did play was fun. I can imagine a future Switch version will be a nice “on-the-go” experience.
It’s impossible to say how successful this title will be but it’s nice to see SNK back to doing big, bold things with their resources. And heck, who knows – you could see cross-platform play eventually and a ton of DLC as well. There are some real possibilities there. If you’re a fan of the genre, I think this is a game to keep an eye out for.
The Lost Child
Vita owners rejoice! Alongside PS4 owners, you will be getting a chance to play The Lost Child in the Summer. That’s right. This thing is seeing a Vita release. In 2018. What a time to be alive. What is this “thing,” exactly? Well, it’s billed as a turn-based RPG but ultimately, it feels a little more like a visual novel. And that’s just fine. It looks pretty. The art style is gorgeous and I actually think this will be a really awesome game to add to the Vita collection.
However, my time with it was limited and I only had a chance to play the PS4 build. Was it fun? Sort of. I think I would have enjoyed this much more had I been focused on it. When review time comes around and I get to dig my feet in and give this another go, I’m sure I will find myself liking it. But you have to understand, at an event with so much enthusiasm buzzing around, free food, copious games to play and tons of questions to ask, a visual novel is a little bit of a buzzkill. That’s not an indictment of the game at all. Just a case of “wrong place, wrong time.” When it comes back around to being the right place and time to give this another try, I’m excited to bust out the Vita and fire it up.
Happy Birthdays was the first Switch title I was able to get my hands on at the event. I walked into it blind and saw a little character floating in the sky that I could have sworn I had seen before. And then it hit me like a bolt of lightning – this must be a new NiGHTS title! Holy cow! Seriously, the guy standing next to me looked at me with a stupid look of excitement on his face. We both thought we hit the gold mine. NiGHTS on the Switch was that thing I didn’t realize I needed. And then, sadly, I realized I wasn’t at a SEGA event. I came down from that high, crashed, dusted myself back off and came in with fresh expectations.
Hokay, so what was I looking at? I asked the game attendant. “Happy Birthdays,” I was told. Well, that’s too kind, I thought, but it’s not my birthday. Oh. Wait. That’s what you’re calling the game? Alright. Turns out, Happy Birthdays is already out on PS4 and PC and the Switch build was probably pretty close to being complete. If it feels like I’m dragging on here and not getting to the meat and potatoes of the game, I can give you a good reason why – I didn’t get it. It’s being billed as a “God game” or a toybox game. I understand that what I was playing and looking at allowed me nearly limitless ability to do as I pleased. I got all that. I just didn’t understand what the goal was.
Call me old-fashioned, but there was a time before Minecraft where games had objectives. And then Minecraft sort of shook all of that up in a sense. You could then do what you want, build what you want, harass who you want, etc. That had merits for a while. And then I got a chance to play Dragon Quest Builders and felt a sense of euphoria. A building game with a purpose. Loved DBQ. Really great game. Stepping away from my soap box, Happy Birthdays just lacked the direction I need to really have a good time. I came back to it a few times to give it another try. I probably spent six separate occasions tinkering with the game. I did this for two reasons. First, it’s a Switch game and second (and most importantly), I was frustrated that I didn’t get it.
Ultimately, I don’t think Happy Birthdays will be for me. However, if you like the “God game” genre, you might like it when it arrives on March 29 for the Switch. It’s cute, actually looks pretty cool and might also make you think of NiGHTS for a brief moment. And honestly, a game that even slightly makes you think about NiGHTS can’t be the end of the world, right? I think we just need a new NiGHTS game already.
Labyrinth of Refrain: Coven of Dusk
Labyrinth of Refrain: Coven of Dusk (or LORCOD) is a dungeon crawling RPG that will be seeing a Fall 2018 release for the Nintendo Switch and PS4. I got a few minutes on the PS4 build and I’ve got to say, I kind of liked it. I’m not used to the dungeon crawling genre and this was a fun debut of sorts for me. The unique aspects of what I played just dug into my skin a little bit and made me want to push a bit further into the game. It’s neat and refreshing.
LORCOD is a good example of the upside to bringing new genres to the gaming masses via the Switch. I don’t know that I would have given it much of a chance on a normal day. But with the opportunity to sit down with it for a few minutes, you get a sense of the charm and what the game has to offer. I think I’d file this game under the “Dark Horse of the Event” label. There’s potential here and it could very well surprise some people.
Penny Punching Princess
Ah, yes. A video game that would even make Wu Tang proud. “Cash rules everything around me. Get the money. Dolla, dolla bill ya’ll.” Words to live by. Penny Punching Princess not only acknowledges our most basic Capitalistic instincts, it rewards us for them. Would you like to bribe enemies to fight for you? Recruit mercenaries to your cause to unlock better equipment? Pay off enemies to advance to the next area or smash them with your bare hands? Yea, this game is going to be your cup of tea.
Switch owners will be able to get their hands on this cute title on April 3. Shockingly, so will Vita owners, albeit digitally. In the time I put into it, I had a good time. I would like to play it some more and be able to look for all the nuances of the game. But at the end of the day, it’s a beat ’em up. You are going to run around, being cute and kicking tail. That will probably play very well on mobile platforms like the Switch and Vita.
The 25th Ward: The Silver Case
Immediate disclaimer – of all the games on the floor, the game I had the least amount of time with was this SUDA51 remake. This game is being made available for the first time ever outside of Japan and comes with some new content. Expect to see it out on March 13.
What can I tell you about The 25th Ward: The Silver Case? Stunning looking visual novel due out for the PS4 and it’s set about seven years after its predecessor The Silver Case. Based on the way the game looks, this is the kind of visual novel I think I might try and sink my teeth into when the time comes. It looks great, it has SUDA51 flair and feels like a mobile game on steroids. Probably a recipe for success.
Fallen Legion: Rise to Glory
With all due respect to SNK Heroines, this title was, for me, the slam dunk of the NISA Press Event. Fallen Legion: Rise to Glory was not only the most impressive Switch build made available, it stood out as just being a really awesome entry into the Switch catalog of games. Single-player, Action RPG at its finest. Control four characters, choose a side and decide the fate of Fenumia. I had to put it down a few times to go do something else and was always sad to see a line of people waiting to play it once I had returned. I think it left quite an impression.
The 2D artwork on display was brilliant. It’s a beautiful, colorful game. It’s cool as well. While I noted that the game was fun, I enjoyed the story and aesthetics of the game quite a bit too. It reminded me of Radiant Historia: Perfect Chronology in some, small way. Lots of nodding and smiling on my end. And the limited edition is going to come with art books and a soundtrack? Yep. This might end up being a must-play on the Switch when it drops later this year. Really looking forward to Fallen Legion.
The Witch and the Hundred Knight 2
Having spent a few minutes with The Witch and the Hundred Knight 2, I lament that I had never heard of or given the first game a chance. We all miss games or they slip through the cracks and we pick them up years later and enjoy them. This series feels like it could be like that for me. Another NISA Action RPG that looks great, has a solid story and was fun to play.
The Witch and the Hundred Knight 2 was popular among the media members in attendance. I didn’t have as much time with it as I probably should have but it definitely stands out. I’ll be keeping an eye out for it on PS4 when it releases in the Spring. Much like Labyrinth of Refrain, this game was also oozing potential.
So that pretty much covers it. The 2018 Press Event was a blast. I had a lot of fun, met some cool people, played some awesome games and left with a new appreciation for gaming media. It was immensely fun watching SNK Heroines designer Kaito Soranaka wipe the floor with everyone in attendance while competitively playing SNK Heroines. I briefly thought about stepping up to the plate and challenging him but the guy was an absolutely machine. Practice obviously makes perfect. And Soranaka-san has had plenty of it, I’m sure.
Also – it’s hard not to be impressed with NISA. Would I have enjoyed playing a Switch build of Ys VIII? Absolutely. But they have to keep some of those cards close to their vest. The offerings given were more than enough to say that 2018 promises to be a good year for fans of NISA products. I look forward to checking all of these games out in more detail when they hit store shelves and you can follow NintendoSoup for any future reviews. Can’t wait for the 2019 NISA Press Event!
Special thanks to NintendoSoup and NISA for making my appearance at the event a reality. Thank you to Oda-san and Soranaka-san (and their fantastic interpreter whose name sadly escapes me) for the wonderful interview. Thanks to Folsom Street Foundry for being an awesome host and a parting thanks to the fellow media members who were in attendance and enjoyed the games with me. Cheers.