Ask Yourself, “What Would Shadow Do?” – This Week in Games

Welcome back, folks! Last week, I saw a bit of consternation from folks with regards to SaGa Emerald Beyond, specifically since SaGa games can be rather impenetrable. It’s a tall order, but I still vouch for the SaGa games. Missing out on quests or characters means there’s more to see on a second playthrough. Perhaps the game’s producer, Masanori Ichikawa, can sweeten the deal with adorable pictures of his pet cat.

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Art by Catfish

Nintendo Pulls The Plug on 3DS and Wii U’s Online—What Now?

Sad times for Nintendo fans—this past Monday was the last day for Nintendo‘s online services for its 3DS and Wii U titles. April 3, 2023 saw the closure of the 3DS and Wii U’s eShop services, binning countless digital-only titles. This shutdown takes everything else offline: no more multiplayer servers for any 3DS or Wii U titles. Players the world over scrambled to get one last round of Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate or the original Splatoon before the end. We can consider this the end of the 3DS and Wii U, especially with the rumblings of Nintendo‘s next console being over the horizon.

This not only marks the end of several online services for Nintendo games but also marks the end of several beloved services. Swapnotes and Swapdoodles, charming little art apps where players could draw or manually write notes to each other via the 3DS touchscreen, are gone. Nintendo already had to shut down Swapnotes because too many people were drawing dicks in it and sending the phalli all over—Swapdoodle was its nerfed equivalent wherein you could only send notes to friends. It was, however, a fun experience: the natural evolution of the oft-overlooked DS app, Pictochat. With the added advantage of attaching voice files, Nintendo even experimented with using Swapnote to transmit messages from Shigeru Miyamoto himself in anticipation of certain games.


There was also Miiverse, a charming social platform where people’s Miis would chat in a rudimentary bulletin board system based around specific games. Artistically-inclined users could make all sorts of detailed sketches of related characters; people could share their favorite screenshots or chat with each other. One famous user, a balding man known only as MARIO WiiU, became quite renowned for sharing his love of water rendering on Nintendo Wii U titles. We can only hope that MARIO WiiU is someplace comfortable, with lovely streams and picturesque ponds and lakes…

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Miiverse also factored into some of the games on Wii U. Splatoon had fun with it: passers-by in the city would “quote” Miiverse messages at you, which fostered the sense of community behind Splatoon. That’s what the whole thing comes down to. Even though the Wii U was a lame-duck console, it and the 3DS showed off all kinds of fun community-building functionality via the Miis, Miitopia, and SpotPass. And sadly, a lot of these weren’t carried over to the Switch. Even Miis, charming and marketable as they are, have been largely phased out of many of Nintendo‘s branding. Splatoon 3 had to make its in-game replacement for Miiverse because what is Splatoon without random squid-kids sharing squid-y recreations of The Creation of Adam at each other? It’s heartbreaking to see some of the folks’ final messages in Splatoon as the servers go down—again, there was a great sense of community in the game.

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And that’s what the frustration boils down to: community. These are games that folks still love so far out from their original release. People don’t just stop loving a game because owners shut down the servers—hell, folks are still playing the original Phantasy Star Online on some private servers. These server shutdowns were bound to happen sooner or later, but the gaming industry isn’t prepared to handle communities outliving their games. Meanwhile, Nintendo hasn’t offered any alternative to many of these online games or functions. Liked swapping bases and making offspring in Fire Emblem Fates? Can’t do that anymore! Everything about Fates is gone-baby-gone. Wanna explore old Super Mario Maker 1 levels? Too bad—thankfully, players like Twitch streamer and Kaizo Mario expert TheRileyC have documented every last Mario Maker level and made sure to beat them at least once. And if you love Splatoon, well, maybe the third game just doesn’t do it for you as much as the first one does.

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I think that’s part of what disappoints people about the Switch. There is a lot of charm that the Switch seemingly lacks, like how the Switch doesn’t have themes or anything resembling SpotPass. There are a lot of technical reasons why these things aren’t available on the Switch—SpotPass is problematic, considering the Switch is too big to be as conveniently portable as a 3DS. The Switch lacks Themes because those can gum up transitioning to the Home screen (you’d be surprised how much RAM the PS5 and Xbox Series consoles can’t access because those detailed Home screens have to run in the background continuously). But that still leaves a big hole in the experience of using a Switch. For now, there are a lot of private fan-run efforts to keep certain online features on the 3DS and Wii U active. The industry has a long way to go regarding addressing what to do when the End Of Service comes along—looking forward to having this talk again when the Xbox 360’s XBox Live services go offline on July 29.

Shake-Up At Square Enix: Dragon Quest Producer Steps Down, NieR Producer A Possible Replacement

It’s a very tumultuous time for Square Enix regarding the Dragon Quest series. With Akira Toriyama‘s untimely passing, the only remaining figure attached to the series from its inception is series creator Yuji Horii, who’s been serving as the general director for the games. Dragon Quest XII is still in development, and the series has to deal with corporate restructuring. Yū Miyake, who’s been serving as the producer to the Dragon Quest games since Dragon Quest Monsters: Joker in 2006, has stepped down from his position according to news from Bloomberg last week. The change comes in the wake of Square Enix‘s recent decision to focus on “AAA games” and mobile titles. Fittingly, rumors allege Miyake will transfer to the mobile game department at Square Enix.

Usually, I’d try to remind folks that this isn’t bad or good news, just news. But big leadership changes can potentially be the kiss of death for a big title. It doesn’t help that Square Enix looks to be in a bizarre spot regarding its projects. I’d point out that Square Enix also tends to be extremely careful about Dragon Quest games. They’ll do anything with Final Fantasy in the name of being an industry vanguard (for better or worse). But Dragon Quest? You’re talking about a national institution. The last time Square Enix even considered a major shake-up with the series (that being real-time combat for Dragon Quest IX: Sentinels of the Starry Sky), they got shamed out of it. Square Enix does want Dragon Quest XII to be a “darker” entry in the series, but a different tone isn’t as big a deal as Final Fantasy XVI trying to be a character action game. They’ll always try new things with Dragon Quest, but they will not rock the boat too hard.

Scuttlebutt has it that Miyake’s replacement will be Yosuke Saito, best known as the NieR games producer. While NieR is undoubtedly a long way off from Dragon Quest in terms of tone and mechanics, I find this to be heartening news. NieR is a lot, but it takes a careful mind to wrangle all its dissonant themes and mechanics into a cohesive whole. And as weird as it might be, NieR has blossomed into a solid brand in gaming in recent years. Much of that might be off the back of NieR: Automata, but even outside of gags about 2B and her massive butt NieR: Automata demands respect for its stellar writing and themes and captivating characters. It takes a keen eye to bottle lightning like that during development; I can see that being a tremendous asset for Dragon Quest.

So far, Saito’s involvement with Dragon Quest hasn’t been confirmed or denied; we’ll keep a close eye on this story. With Dragon Quest being Square Enix‘s crown jewel, this could easily spell their fate for the next few years.

Sega Announces The… Year of Shadow?

Little anecdote before we start this one. I mentioned I went to the Sonic Symphony in Portland a few weeks back. The show was divided into two parts: the first part was dedicated to purely orchestral renditions and medleys of Sonic music. Then there was an intermission. For a minute, I was a little bummed that there weren’t any orchestral renditions of any of the Sonic games after Sonic Adventure (outside of a cute medley for the Chao Garden songs). But then the band struck up, the intermission ended, and everyone collectively lost their shit as an electric guitar started playing the opening riffs to I Am… All of Me. Shadow the Hedgehog—the game, not the character—is rightfully maligned for being a hot mess of a game, with Shadow the Hedgehog—the character, not the game—getting a lot of backlash for his over-the-top edge, but like with a lot of other things in Sonic the Hedgehog, we still love him because how could you not? A lot of “bad games” wish they could get the cheers that Shadow the Hedgehog does when he decides to take on both aliens and the military-industrial complex after cocking an M5 like it’s a shotgun. So, with that out of the way, Sega announced that 2024 is the year of Shadow the Hedgehog.

Or, rather, it’s FEARLESS: Year of Shadow. Their reasoning for this “event” is sound: much like in 2013 when Nintendo released Mario & Luigi: Dream Team and Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon at the same time (and wanted to capitalize on that), 2024 is a big year for The Most Famous Edgehog In The World™. SEGA will release Sonic × Shadow Generations, a remaster of Sonic Generations that adds a new side story featuring Shadow, in autumn, followed by Shadow’s big-screen debut in Sonic the Hedgehog 3 on December 20. Sega is at least using it for some good, featuring a cute video where a girl imagines Shadow bursting in on his motorcycle and giving her a pep talk so as not to be intimidated by kids in her new neighborhood. Shadow giving kids the mantra of “BREAK BARRIERS! BE UNAFRAID! BE AT YOUR BEST AND DO IT WITH CONFIDENCE! (as shown on the official FEARLESS: Year of Shadow website) is weird on its face for about five minutes until you remember that he would give kids the Vegeta-esque pep-talk before sending a few G.U.N. soldiers to the emergency room. I want to think that “BREAK BARRIERS!” will become Shadow’s version of Sonic’s famous “Don’t just sit there and waste your precious time!” speech.

As mentioned earlier, the obvious comparison is Nintendo‘s Year of Luigi. The Year of Luigi was a curious experiment. Because of Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon‘s and Mario & Luigi: Dream Team‘s concurrent development, and because 2013 was the 30th anniversary of Luigi Mario’s creation, it eventually went on for a year and a month and brought the world a handful of Luigi-themed video games that did fair on average. Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon was an anticipated sequel (and an updated remaster for the Switch comes out this June 27). Dr. Luigi was Dr. Mario with “L”-shaped pills, and New Super Luigi Bros. was at least an interesting take on New Super Mario Bros. with its revamped levels. But there’s a reason the Year of Luigi gets meme’d on so much: Nintendo lost $456 million that year. Was it Luigi’s fault? Not entirely, but you can see why Nintendo later gave Princess Peach just a month (and it was more of a tie-in with the actual fruit than everyone’s favorite princess). So obviously, there’s a lot of concern over whether Shadow’s year will fall on its face.

For what it’s worth, Sega‘s filling up Shadow’s slate for the year: according to the FEARLESS: Shadow the Hedgehog website, there will be the aforementioned Sonic × Shadow Generations along with themed events in Sonic Dash and Sonic Forces Mobile. There will be a neat LEGO set featuring Shadow and his motorcycle, along with a real-life replica of his motorcycle that’ll be touring the US at auto shows. There are also events slated for the Sonic Speed Café in California, which I didn’t even know existed: it’s a Sonic-themed café with themed dishes and merch (the Black Market chao t-shirt is my favorite). More events are also slated, most likely leading up to the release of Sonic 3 in theaters this December.

On the whole, I can’t hate this more than I would “hate” anything else in Sonic the Hedgehog. People love Shadow! He’s been a part of Sonic’s world for 23 years and has long since become part of the gang. He’s much harder to take out of the picture than the old Freedom Fighters. Even when the Sonic universe was re-imagined in Sonic Boom, they made sure to leave room for Shadow because, as far as most kids know, he’s always been there. Who knows, we might even see a rotund little “Classic” Shadow pop up. And hey, it looks like Sega will be having fun with the idea, so we might as well enjoy it, too. There are worse things than letting a black-and-red hedgehog with hot sauce on his head motivate you. I’d file that away in the same category as using the intros to Shonen sports anime during your workout. Embrace the edgehog, folks! Let him into your life.


In Other Sonic the Hedgehog 3 News…

Sonic fans on Twitter were abuzz when a post began making the rounds relating to the Sonic the Hedgehog movies—specifically, their licensing agreement. Some of these contracts are public records, and any time a licensing deal for these kinds of media happens, there are agreements on subject matter that can and cannot be touched upon. And when it comes to the Sonic the Hedgehog games, the movies can only touch upon what looks to be a small part of the Sonic games—specifically, only ten of the games, out of 69 titles (not including arcade releases, compilations or Mario and Sonic At The Olympic Games titles).

Now, the list is somewhat comprehensive with regards to all your “basic” Sonic titles. All your major beats are there: the first three Sega Genesis/Mega Drive titles, since those are the bedrock for the whole thing; Sonic CD, since it’s so closely associated with the Genesis-era games; both Sonic Adventure titles since they expand on some of the mainline characters while introducing other major players (like Shadow the Hedgehog, Gerald Robotnik, Maria Robotnik, G.U.N. and Rouge the Bat); Sonic Heroes, since it may as well be considered the third Adventure game (and it does incredible stuff with Metal Sonic/Metal Overlord); Sonic ’06 since it’s expanded on a lot of the basic cast and establishes Silver the Hedgehog; and Sonic Colors, which establish the Wisps, who have been somewhat prevalent in the subsequent 3D Sonic games as power-ups. I’m not too clear on why Sonic Riders is listed there, but I guess it rounds out the number of games to a nice, even “10”—but I would have expected Sonic Lost World over Riders if only so the Deadly Six could be used as villains.

Now, people do need to temper their expectations when it comes to this list: while the contract lists ten games and gives Paramount a lot of toys to play with, it’s also pretty clear that Paramount isn’t afraid of being picky with what they use. So maybe don’t expect the next movie to deal with Metal Overlord—for one thing, as many have pointed out, the movies are introducing Shadow the Hedgehog before even mentioning Amy Rose. We’ve got Knuckles the Echidna and the rest of the Echidna Tribe, but there’s no mention of Angel Island. For that matter, we’ve got the Chaos Emeralds, but Sonic the Hedgehog 3 is skipping right to introducing Shadow to adapt the events of Sonic Adventure 2. There is not even a peep about Tikal, the Chao, or Chaos (the big water dragon demon). I’d genuinely be surprised if there was any kind of Easter Egg related to Big the Cat. They have the right to adapt stuff from Sonic ’06, but I think Paramount knows better than to put people through a human girl kissing a dead hedgehog on-screen.

There’s also the apparent fact that this contract is five years old—it was recorded in 2019, after all, in the wake of the first movie. Maybe it’s been updated, maybe not. Regardless, temper your expectations. It’s a shot in the dark as to whether we’ll see the Chaotix Crew or Cubot and Orbot. The film’s producer has gone on record that he wants the Sonic movies to feel like “events” akin to the Avengers movies, but they still need to deal with everything that comes after Sonic and Shadow defeating the Biolizard falling off precipitously in terms of massive audience appeal. Hardcore Sonic fans are clamoring for Jet the Eagle; the jury’s out on whether John Q. Public would even care.

Sunsoft Is Back!” Proclaims Sunsoft With New Compilation

Sunsoft is a name you don’t hear much these days, but fans of 8-bit games likely remember their output on the NES. Sunsoft was responsible for several beloved titles like the NES Batman or Journey to Silius. They also knew how to rock that old NES soundboard with their chiptunes! Sunsoft also had its bevy of original titles like the original Blaster Master, which themselves have a whole host of old-school fans. And courtesy of a successful crowdfunding campaign, we’re gonna see them re-released soon! Titled the SUNSOFT Is Back! Retro Game Collection, fans will be able to play three classic Sunsoft titles: The Wing of Madoola, Ripple Island, and Firework Thrower Kantaro’s 53 Stations of the Tokaido.

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The Wing of Madoola is easily the crown jewel of the set, hearkening back to the “babe in a metal bikini” style made famous by Leda – The Fantastic Adventure of Yohko (RIP character designer Mutsumi Inomata), the game stars an adventurer named Lucia who must defeat the evil Daruto and retrieve the statue of the titular Wing of Madoola from him to keep him from summoning demons into the world. It’s an early action RPG in the old Athena side-scroller style: Lucia can fight monsters while collecting power-ups to increase her stats. It’s also a very tough game, with enemies having loads of health and Lucia herself being very susceptible to being stun-locked. It’s still rather beloved by retro enthusiasts, even though it hasn’t been released in the US. 3DS fans could play it on Nintendo‘s Virtual Console in 2013. And exclusively in Japan.

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Ripple Island is a bit more esoteric but charming nonetheless: an old adventure game starring a pint-sized hero named Kyle on a quest to rescue a kidnapped princess. Along the way, Kyle will talk to animals while solving puzzles to help him explore his island. It’s a cute idea for a game; a little bit of Little Nemo: The Dream Master, a little bit of The Frog For Whom the Bell Tolls by way of Shadowgate. I know it’s a little hard to get folks excited for an adventure game (the tepid reception to the Famicon Detective Club games is proof enough of that), but it’s a cute game. I look forward to trying it out.

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Firework Thrower Kantaro’s 53 Stations of the Tōkaidō is another action-adventure game with a bit of a twist. You play as Kantaro, a firework-maker off to meet his beloved girlfriend in Tokyo while keeping an unscrupulous merchant from unlocking the secrets of firework-making (which he wants so he can make guns). There’s a lot of strategy involved: you can throw fireworks to hurt enemies, but some enemies can only be hurt by exploding fireworks that have already been thrown onto the ground (think the Crash Bombers from Mega Man 2). There are also tons of items that Kantaro needs to collect to protect himself from certain enemies, such as amulets to protect from ghosts or katanas to protect from thieves. And because the game is named after an important sea route through Eastern Japan, Kantaro has to worry about the checkpoints at each stop in the road, collecting enough coins to pay the tolls for bridges—or even to construct bridges where there are none. It’s a simple action game but a very creative one.

All three games will be available in the SUNSOFT Is Back! Retro Game Collection this April 18 on Nintendo Switch and Steam—in Japan. Only a Steam release is being considered for the US sometime soon.

Let’s wrap up with some quick tidbits

  • Recently we covered V-Rising+ getting a Castlevania crossover. It looks like Vampire Survivor also managed to grease Konami‘s hinges because now they’re getting a… Contra cross-over…? (Uh, are you sure you guys got the right Konami game there?) Also: Vampire Survivor is coming to PS4 and PS5!
  • Crypt of the NecroDancer is still getting DLC! This time, everyone’s favorite singer, Hatsune Miku, is coming to the Crypt! Miku’s armor sets will be changed to reference some of her official outfits, and her DLC includes 15 of her songs—including two new tracks made for Crypt of the NecroDancer!
  • Telnet is teasing a revival of the old PC Engine Tenshi no Uta games, with Wild Arms alumni Akifumi Kaneko and Michiko Naruke brought back into the fold. More to follow…
  • The Touhou Spell Bubble team over at Taito has announced that they’ll be ceasing the regular monthly updates as of March of 2024. Any future DLC is still planned for release in the US, but they’ll be winding things down now. Hey, good on ’em, I say. It’s not like the game is lacking in characters or levels—there is over $400 in DLC for the game at this point!
  • That’ll do it for this week, I think. With Spring in full swing, I’m hoping folks are also enjoying the new season of anime and the new RPGs! 2024 will be a great year for RPGs and a great time for folks to learn to appreciate some lesser-appreciated game mechanics. Hopefully, I can get some time to play Xenoblade Chronicles 3, yeah? Be good to each other; I’ll see you in seven.


    This Week In Games! is written from idyllic Portland by Jean-Karlo Lemus. When not collaborating with Anime News Network, Jean-Karlo can be found playing JRPGs, eating popcorn, watching v-tubers, and tokusatsu. You can keep up with him at @mouse_inhouse or @ventcard.bsky.social.