That's great news! It's so rare that the story of a developer shacking up with one of the big publishers ends in anything but "Everyone was fired and they closed down the studio and the IP is dead now". I wonder what this means for Destiny 3, whether it might end up being a lower budget thing with fewer microtransaction scandals or what.
It's Catherine Classic, mind you, which is not the Catherine: Full Body Edition that's about to release on PS4. That one has extra content, and this one seems like it's just the original PS3/360 game on PC. Still, though, that's pretty cool. I bought Catherine on PS3 for like $6 years ago, and of course never got around to actually playing it. Oh well, one of these days
And speaking of ports of Japanese games, the Final Fantasy re-releases coming to Xbox One and Switch have release dates now. April 16th for FFX/X-2 and April 30th for FFXII. I'm a big fan of big long RPGs coming to the Switch, because that's the only way I'm ever going to get through such long games. Now we just need that Persona 5 port and I'll have like five years worth of Switch backlog
And finally, a playable demo for Resident Evil 2 Remake is rolling out on the PS4 and Xbox One stores. It's time-limited, though: you only get 30 minutes to play through to the end of the demo. It looks like people are finishing it in well under that, though, and you can obviously play the demo once each on multiple different accounts if you want to.
"Devil May Cry 5 Demo #2 will come to Xbox One and Playstation 4 on February 7th 2019! Punch Line will be added to the lineup of Devil Breakers, so you'll be able to check out its new abilities, and furthermore Nico's shop will now be open!"
So it seems like it'll be basically the same as the current demo, just with a couple of added features. Punch Line is the detachable rocket arm that you can ride like a hoverboard, by the way, so we should get some good Nero's Pro Skater combo videos out of it:
Can you believe that this game is only two months away? I've been waiting ELEVEN YEARS!
Shadow of the Tomb Raider: At least I think that's the right title. Can't keep them straight. How come no one uses numbers anymore? Anyway, I still vastly prefer sexy stone-cold badass Lara Croft from the old games to the little (literally - she's so small!) girl-next-door reboot version, but what can you do. Game seems alright so far - at least it's not set in the snow like the last one. Jungle > snow. Also, I always thought they were turning Lara into Katniss from Hunger Games, but it turns out they were actually turning her into straight-up John Rambo this whole time. In addition to self-treating horrible wounds, she gets covered in mud and stabs people in the throat with ruthless violence. There's even a trophy that references First Blood. But I just have one question: can we please get a game without Jonah in it? He's the most boring block-of-wood "character" of all time and a terrible sidekick. Lara shouldn't have a recurring sidekick anyway. She's a solo act.
These new Tomb Raiders are like the ultimate realisation of the weird trope with reboots where they go back before the original thing started, make a big song and dance about doing it differently this time, but then awkwardly transform themselves right back into the status quo right before the end. I don't know why they do this but it happens like clockwork. Fant4stic ends on a bad comedy skit about the team coming up with the name 'Fantastic 4' right before a smash cut to credits. DmC Devil May Cry begins with a joke about old Dante's white hair, then ends with Nu Dante getting white hair and having a bossfight with Nu Vergil over an ideological argument that literally pops up in the final mission. Apparently that new Guy Ritchie Robin Hood movie ends on a dramatic post-credits stinger of the real Sheriff of Nottingham accepting his title. Tomb Raider 2013 ended with Lara picking up a second pistol to become... THE TOMB RAIDER.
Except she didn't, though, because she went back to the bow and they basically just did the same story all over again in Rise of the Tomb Raider. And now we're up to Shadow of the Tomb Raider, and they did it all again! Poor old Nu Lara is stuck in this Groundhog Day loop of eking out the tiniest little shreds of character development in each game, ending on a tease of her becoming the thing we used to like about her, only to have it all reset to zero as soon as the new one comes around. I've played all three of these games and, I am being 100% honest with you, I don't know if she's supposed to be 'The Tomb Raider' yet. Like, genuinely, no idea. I absolutely do not understand what the writers are doing with this series. Three games in, a full trilogy of cinematic, story-driven games, and they just haven't gone anywhere!
I don't mind them trying to give Lara a new support crew, but, yeah, Jonah ain't it. I mean he'd be fine if he was just one part of a squad, but, again, we're three games in to this baffling continuity that keeps resetting itself and he's the only recurring character other than Lara herself. There's nowhere to go when you just have two people who are, polite, platonic friends at best. I'm not saying they need to give Lara a love interest, but jeez do something with it. This is why the Uncharted games kept introducing every new character as an old friend/enemy from Nate's past with ambiguous morals, because that's just such fertile ground for interesting storytelling. In Nu Tomb Raider every character is someone Lara literally just met that day... or Jonah.
So at this point I don't know if they're even going to make a fourth "____ of the Tomb Raider", because it seems like Shadow bombed pretty thoroughly. I feel like it's time for Tomb Raider Reboot #3.
Anyway, I'm still playing Judge Eyes, and I'm still absolutely loving it. The Yakuza games are all really enjoyable games about brawling, finding side missions, ticking off enormous checklists of open-world content, but I think their greatest strength is in their storytelling, and particularly the command the writers have over characterization. Whether they're introducing a new character or taking an established one to a new place, whether it's a shorter vignette or a long, game-spanning story, they excel at writing these immediately well-realized, compelling characters. I honestly think they're some of the best in the industry, right up there with Naughty Dog and Rockstar. They'll introduce you to a dude and within like five minutes you'll have the measure of him; you'll know his motivations, you'll know what kind of a person he is, you'll know whether you like him or not, and you'll fall right into the writers' trap when a few hours later he turns out to be something completely different because they were playing you like a fiddle the whole time. Character arcs for days, baby. It's so good.
But, much as I love Yakuza, there's only so far the writers can go with the kinds of characters that fit in a story about organized crime. It's a lot of father figures, sworn brothers, traitorous second-in-commands making power plays, initially hostile dudes who come around at the pivotal moment. That's why Judge Eyes is so exciting, because we've stepped outside the bounds of yakuza business, and the writers are getting to try their hands at all new kinds of characters and relationships between them. And, you guys? They're nailing it. Judge Eyes is basically a season of a TV legal drama in video game form, complete with a cast of regulars, a compelling over-arching story and smaller subplots that wrap up within an episode or two, even a cheeky little flashback episode. It's so GOOD! I love it.
So, yeah, when this game comes out in English next year I really recommend you all check it out. I can understand being reluctant to get into the Yakuza series when there are just so many games, but with Judgment I'm not accepting any excuses. This is an entirely new story, no lore or continuity baggage, just an absolutely wonderful game that you can pick up and play and love as much as I do.
I'm playing a game by the name of Judge Eyes, the new game from the people behind the Yakuza series, which will be coming out in the West some time next year under the name Judgment. The Japanese version came out a week or two ago, though, and I'm at least halfway Japanese-literate now, so I imported it and I'm loving it so far.
Judge Eyes is about Takayuki Yagami, a former rising star lawyer who was forced out of the profession in shame after the client he won a much-talked-about Not Guilty verdict for... immediately went and killed someone else the very next day. These days the formerly clean-cut Yagami has swapped his bespoke suit for a stylish leather jacket and jeans ensemble and is working as a Private Eye in Kamurocho (the same city where every Yakuza game has been set). This has sounded like a dream game for me since the moment it was announced back at TGS: I love the Yakuza games, I love lawyering games, and I absolutely adore being a detective, so this is a match made in heaven. I've played up to Chapter 3 (of 13) so far, and I'm having such a fun time solving cases and getting into all kinds of police procedural shenanigans.
I don't think Judge Eyes is going to break the mould, but it does put a nice detective-flavoured spin on the well-established tropes of the Yakuza series. The wonderful Sub Stories (read: sidequests) have been replaced with Side Cases here, pretty much the same fun, well-written encounters with interesting weirdos as always, but now from the perspective of a detective working his cases. You'll tail suspects, chase down criminals, take candid pictures of clients' husbands meeting up with mistresses or illicit deals going down. You even have a drone now, which you can send up to surveil a situation from above, and since this is Yakuza there's an extra minigame where you race drones around the city, and of course you have a drone-racing rival who you'll finally beat in the end, teaching him the true meaning of friendship in the process.
They've also fleshed out the Friends system from earlier games, which was once really just a fetchquest/busywork mechanic where you'd say hello to someone standing in a certain spot in the city every time you passed by them in order to make a bar fill. Here they've turned the Friends into mini-Sub-Stories, essentially, where each of them has some kind of interesting thing going on in their lives that are actually worth visiting them to check in on. A lot of them are workers at the various eating establishments around town, too, so it all feeds into this loop of fighting random punks on the street, going to a restaurant or cafe to eat something and heal your wounds, and catching up with one of your buds while you're there. The Yakuza series has really nailed that "Just five more minutes" kind of feeling, where you're always close to reaching the next level of something, and it's nice to just jog around the city for a while.
What I'm not so crazy about is the combat, because Yagami just isn't a great character to play as. He has this self-taught wushu-ish style, punctuated by a lot of extraneous wax-on-wax-off animations that can't be cancelled, which is really bad news in one of these games. There's a lot of fun to be had in low-stakes brawls on the street, with a lot of goofy leaping, wall-kicking, lucha-libre-lookin' moves, but once you get into a serious fight you can't really get away with a lot of that good stuff. Yakuza combat has always had a problem with enemies reading your inputs and basically no-selling any of your fun moves; they'll counter any throws, they'll break out of your combos, they'll auto-aim lock on to you and spin around on the spot if you try to dodge to the side. It can be pretty irritating, but you usually have some way of cutting through it and dealing damage when you get an opening. Here enemies attack so often that you can't really count on getting openings, and when you do Yagami's attacks come out so slowly and last so long that he can be a real liability. I've unlocked the Tiger Drop, which is an instant counter move that does massive damage if you time it just right, so I always have that to fall back on, but it's a boring way to fight and I wish they'd balanced the regular attacks better.
But, oh well, I still really like this game. I'm on the trail of an unidentified suspect who's been killing Kansai Yakuza and cutting their eyes out, while a local Tokyo Yakuza is trying to stand in my way, and at the same time I'm trying to uncover the truth behind the events of three years ago that forced Yagami out of practicing law, and it's great! It honestly might end up being my GOTY, even if I only got to start playing it in the last week of the year. Never too late, baby.