I don’t know about you, but the games industry has broken my heart before. No, not with the heinously unethical treatment of its workforce or conflation of journalism with studio-sponsored advertisement or the disproportionately vicious response every time a marginalized person asks to perhaps be treated a bit less like shit. That’s all normal, you see.
I’m talking about the release dates, man.
So how am I supposed to trust Square Enix when they say we’re finally getting a Final Fantasy VII remake on March 3, 2020? This is the game that began life as a tech demo for the PS3 over a decade ago, and—
Hold on, I’m getting word now that the release that’s been announced is only going to cover the characters’ time in the opening setting of Midgar. Which, if I remember my time with the original game correctly, should mean that we’ll have the entire FFVII experience in… about 37 discs.
In the meantime, we’ll have to find a few other things to get hyped about. Let me pull out my list of upcoming properties, so you can all have something else to look forward to in the meantime.
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1. Bloodstained Ritual of the Night
While it’s still possible to go back and play the original FFVII at any time, its themes still potent and its gameplay remarkably sturdy, sometimes a person wants to try out a game without having to struggle through random battles every five feet — something that captures the way we felt about a game from the ‘90s with the rougher edges buffed out.
Bloodstained is a overwhelming triumph out of a situation that usually only produces burning wreckage: a Kickstarter game serving as the spiritual successor to a beloved 90s franchise. Unlike Mighty No. 9 or NightCry, though, it would seem that this legally distinct Castlevania sequel really has the goods. If you’d like to wrap yourself in the comforting embrace of 1997 for a few hours, this slick Metroidvania adventure is available on both PC and Switch.
2. Death Stranding
When? November 8th, 2019
Even when a game is made with all the love in the world, any number of factors can still pull it off course: budgeting and timeline issues, executive mandates, tech limitations, industry politics, etc. But there are certain people who can always be counted on to deliver something that makes you turn to the person next to you and hiss “holy shit, did you just see that?”
FFVII Remake director Tetsuya Nomura is arguably one of those people, at least if you (like me) have a certain respect for his decision to bedeck his characters in preposterous number of zippers purely out of spite. But even he he can’t hold a candle to the king of video game weird, the man who still has not yet admitted that all he really wants to do is to make bizarre ten-hour interactive films with his friends — Hideo Kojima.
Trailers for Death Stranding have now been coming out for three years, provoking questions like “why is Norman Reedus pregnant?”, “Why is that tank covered in worms?”, and “when did Kojima develop a completely understandable crush on Mads Mikkelson?” But it’s only in the last few months that we’ve had any indication of what the actual game will look like.
We know that the theme is “connection,” and that there seems to be a lot of emphasis on world traversal. We know a little bit more about the tiny incubators called BBs now too, but the latest trailer raises as many questions as it answers. Still, it hardly matters. Kojima is a creator so thoroughly unmoored from the industry and any objective beyond pleasing his own whims that it’s something of a fool’s errand being angry with him anymore.
When FFVII inevitably recreates the Cool Scene Where Sephiroth Walks Into Some Fire, will it feature him shushing the audience while bleeding goopy black eyeliner and wearing the face of TV’s Hannibal? No? Well, there’s still time.
3. Boyfriend Dungeon
When? “When Weapons Are Beautiful Enough”
Art cannot be rushed.
Art that is sold for money is by definition a product, which is beholden to the expectations of customers and investors.
Some might say that this is the hurdle over which FFVII Remake will inevitably stumble. Artistic intent seems irreconcilable with the financial expectations surrounding a remake of one of the most popular video games ever. Perhaps we can never truly return to those halcyon days of our youths. Perhaps remakes would be better spent revisiting games that had good ideas but bad execution. Perhaps the endless reliance on and reuse of ideas that come with pre-established name recognition is increasingly at odds with the social, multiplayer-oriented bent of the AAA market.
Or, perhaps what we should really be worrying about is the fact that Boyfriend Dungeon is a combination of dating sim and roguelite dungeon crawler and therefore literally the perfect game, but does not yet have a release date.
I do not care that independent gamemakers often require longer development cycles because they must do more with less, or that a game only gets the chance to debut once in the public eye and a small studio’s prospects can be tanked by an unsuccessful launch. I am emotionally invested in this theoretical project that doesn’t yet exist and may not be completed for years to come and I will scream about it into the void until the game actually arrives.
4. The Epic Game Store Shopping Cart
When? “More Than Six Months”
As games begin a slow trend of adding in microtransactions after launch and “road maps” become the new norm for live service titles, it’s important to remember that just because a game is available to purchase doesn’t mean that it’s finished. Everything from bug fixes to core elements can now be patched in later, and it’s important that we train ourselves to accept that fact. Just as developers nobly work hundreds of hours without rest or support for their mental health lest they be labeled “difficult to work with” — which is fine, because it is not the same as a literal gun being pointed at their heads — we as consumers must train our minds and bodies to wait a nebulously-defined amount of time for features that may potentially appear in future. If they aren’t cancelled, that is.
With that in mind, Epic has helpfully begun to fit the form to the content, with a store that is as unfinished as many of the big-budget games it sells. Epic promises a better deal for developers, though at least one indie dev has alleged that they were offered an ultimatum to either be sold on the store exclusively or not at all. And it has yet to add a shopping cart. Don’t worry though, if you buy a bunch of games one at a time Epic will also block you.
It’s the worst possible situation — a frustrating experience in the present with the promise that things will get better down the line. So it’s the perfect way to set our expectations for the inevitable Yuffie and Vincent DLC and Gold Saucer season pass.
5. The Day the Clown Cried
When? June 2024
There are some things that should not be, readers. And yet we demand them. Something malingering in our souls cries out for rough cuts and early access, and at the bottom of that rabbit hole are eldritch horrors we need not know. Oh, only now does the game industry’s active refusal to archive its work begin to make sense. They were protecting us. Shielding us, even as we pilloried them for insidious, cynical planned obsolescence motivated by shortsighted capitalistic greed.
I say this with the absolute certainty that I will stab someone in a parking lot if it means I get to lay eyes on the movie where Jerry Lewis plays a clown used to lure children to a concentration camp.
Jerry Lewis’ supposed passion project about a disgraced circus clown and political prisoner who agrees to act as a pied piper and lure Jewish children onto the train car to Auschwitz to lighten his own sentence, only to walk into the gas chambers with them when the guilt overwhelms him, wasn’t so much delayed as barred from release. The film’s original writer fought hard to bury the project in response to Lewis’ rewrites that made the lead more sympathetic and the tone more comedic, and Lewis himself was vocally ashamed of the finished project.
But there is one thing Square Enix could learn from the whole affair: the film has been the subject of rumor for so long that it became the height of weird urban legend stories. And with that came a surprisingly robust number of defenders willing to go to bat for the film despite most having, at best, access to some version of the script. This movie is the Ark of the Covenant for Weirdness Cinephiles. Its mere existence so boggles the mind that to know it exists is to yearn to confirm it.
The only viewable copy is in the hands of the Library of Congress and forbidden from public viewing until 2024. The years until that unsealing are like a magic black box into which we can project any number of possibilities. There is an equal likelihood that it could be maudlin Oscar bait, a depravity of exploitation cinema on par with Salo: The 120 Days of Sodom, or just kind of mediocrely tasteless and noteworthy primarily because of the Streisand effect. As long as we can’t see it, it can represent all the hopes and dreams of a niche market — even long after the anticipation sours into bitterness, the audience will still be there resenting the broken promise and somehow still talking about it.
Now that I think about it, maybe Square Enix can just ask Valve for some pointers.