You know what rules? When you expect nothing out of a game – or even expect the worst – and it turns out to be great. We all have times when we anticipate a game, movie, album, or whatever and are thoroughly let down, but when something surprises you with how enjoyable it is, it just feels so refreshing and uplifting. It’s a feeling we don’t get a lot of, and don’t reflect upon too often.
It’s what I’m seeing a lot of with Stranger of Paradise: Final Fantasy Origin.
I mean, after that initial E3 showing, everyone was prepared for this thing to be a complete trainwreck, but it turns out that the game’s kinda sorta really special! Instead of the edgelord, tryhard-to-appeal-to-Western taste trash fire everyone was dreading, we got a story that’s gleefully stupid in the most entertaining way. And it’s a solid game, too – Stranger of Paradise’s gameplay is based heavily on developer Team Ninja’s Nioh series, which has some excellent combat.
The demo that dropped last week for Stranger of Paradise managed to win quite a few folks over, including my partner, who’s currently streaming the game as I write this. Square Enix got us good: we went in expecting a cringey disaster packed with bad cutscenes to riff on, and instead, we’re now more pumped than ever to kill the SHIT outta CHAOS. You love to see it happen.
So, there’s not a whole lot of big news happening this week, but I’ve still got plenty of talk – specifically, I’ll be talking to the upcoming developers Switch/PS4 shooter Cotton Fantasy, releasing later this spring in North America and Europe. But first, let’s look at the assorted various news droppings that litter the gaming landscape this week.
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SONIC DROPS A NEW TRAILER AND A NOSTALGIA-FUELED POSTER: There are only a couple of weeks left before the next Sonic the Hedgehog movie hits theatres, and to give you a little taste of the Sonic and Tails vs. Knuckles and Robotnik showdown, here’s the final trailer:
What really got social media going, however, is this film poster, which is a delightful callback to the Genesis Sonic 2’s famous cover art.
Fantastic work, give that designer a raise, I say!
THE NEXT JAPAN FIGHTING GAME PUBLISHERS ROUNDTABLE IS COMING: Hey, do you like fighting games? Then you’re probably going to want to watch this roundtable discussion that’s coming up on Monday afternoon Japan time (late Sunday evening here in North America). This special broadcast will feature developers from the Namco-Bandai Tekken team (the notorious Katsuhiro Harada), Daisuke Ishiwatari and Akira Katano from Arc System WorksShuuhei Matsumoto from CAPCOMSeiji Aoki from SegaYasuyuki Oda from SNK, and Akira Nishitani from Arika. I’m assuming there will be an English restream as usual, though hopefully it won’t suffer technical difficulties this time around.
The discussion will focus on fighting game development and the eSports scene, and there are likely to be some announcements in the mix (Sega‘s here for the first time, please please please give me Virtua Fighter news). Interestingly, there will also be a bit where each company presents rare fighting-game related promo goodies and dev materials for a “treasure appraisal” portion of the show. Like Antiques Road Show, but for weird old Street Fighter stuff. The Japanese stream will be live on the ArcSys Twitch and the Sega VF YouTube accounts – no word where the English stream will be yet, but I’m sure it’ll pop up on social media.
NEW GAMES ARE COMING TO THE SWITCH GENESIS/MEGADRIVE LINEUP: Three new games are now playable for Switch Online Expansion Pack subscribers! Players worldwide can now enjoy Super Fantasy Zone, Light Crusaderand Alien Soldier whenever they want. Each of these games is cool in their own right, and Alien Soldier especially is a bona fide action game masterpiece by which others are judged, so make sure you play that one. These games might not have the most name recognition among mainstream players, but there’s a reason for these picks: the anime adaptation of the manga Uncle From Another World – which are heavy references Alien Soldier and other beloved Sega obscurities– will be airing globally soon. Might as well make those games available in preparation for the show’s premiere.
(Seriously, play Alien Soldierit’s one of my favorite games everrrrrrr)
KNIGHTS IN THE NIGHTMARE REMASTER LAUNCHES APRIL 7TH ON THE JAPANESE ESHOP: Hey, Knights in the Nightmare is also one of my favorite games! But there’s still no word of an English release and that makes me very sad 🙁
INTERVIEW: COTTON FANTASY PRODUCE SHINYA NAGATOMO AND DIRECTOR TOSHINOBU KONDO
A few months back I talked about Cotton Reboota remake of a cult classic arcade shooter about Cotton (a powerful but bratty witch) and Silk (her somewhat dishonest fairy companion). Cotton Reboot impressed me so much that I was quick to pre-order the brand-new Cotton series game, Cotton Fantasy – or Cotton Rock n’ Roll, as it’s called in Japan. I’ve been playing the Japanese version and enjoying it immensely: it’s a fun pick-up-and-play shooter with a delightful presentation and tons of replayability and gameplay depth. It also came with a Nendoroid figure of Cotton, which features the best faceplate ever.
Publisher ININ games is ramping up to release the game officially on PS4 and Switch in Europe and North America later this spring as both digital and physical editions (including a deluxe collector’s edition with the aforementioned Nendoroid and a bunch of stuff not in the Japanese set) . They kindly offered me the opportunity to chat with two of the game’s staff: Publisher SUCCESS corporation’s Shinya Nagatomowho was the producer for the game, and game director Toshinobu Kondō from Studio Saizensen (who is also one of the creative minds behind the cult classic Umihara Kawase series). And, of course, I jumped at the chance.
So, let’s hear a bit more about Cotton Fantasy ahead of its western debut! (Responses have been edited for clarity and conciseness.)
What was your first experience with the Cotton series? Did you play the original game in arcades when it was first released?
Nagatomo: When I was a student, I was working part-time at an amusement arcade, so as a clerk I saw the original Cotton game in arcade. I thought it was a strange but interesting shooter. I played it, of course. I was impressed with the visual scenes and the sound.
Kondo: Of course, I played first Cotton game back when it released. Games with cute girls as the main characters, such as Wonder Mom and The Legend of Valkyrie were very popular in arcades at the time. Cotton was another game in that vein.
Why have you decided that now is the time to revive the Cotton series?
Nagatomo: I like horizontal shooters, and no one else at Success was doing anything with Cotton‘s IP. I looked it up and it was the 30th anniversary, just as I was talking with Studio Saizensen about what to make next. The timing was right for all these factors.
How do you feel the shooting game genre has changed since the original Cotton’s release?
Nagatomo: I think including human characters as protagonists or cutscenes has become the standard.
Kondo: I agree. It seems to me that the number of shooting games with a character focus has increased over shooters where you play as inorganic machines.
Why did Success and Studio Saizensen decide to partner up for the development of Cotton Fantasy?
Nagatomo: I wanted to make the Umihara Kawase series at Successand this is what I have been doing since I started talking with Studio Saizensen. Studio Saizensen was an enthusiastic fan of Cotton. I asked them to help out.
Cotton Fantasy has a lot of characters with differing playstyles. How did you approach the gameplay design of each character? Were there any ideas you had for gameplay that were difficult to implement?
Nagatomo: At the beginning we decided to make an all-star shooting game featuring many references from other Success titles, so we incorporated those games’s features into Cotton’s system. Difficulties?…… Well, I probably shouldn’t speak here, so please ask Studio Saizensen about that (laughs).
Kondo: It was more difficult than I had initially thought because every character has a unique system, so I felt like I was making several games (laughs). Sanveinein particular, has a very different system, so it was difficult to adjust.
The limited edition of Cotton Fantasy comes with a Nendoroid figure. What was it like working with Good Smile Company to design this figure? (It’s super cute!)
Nagatomo: One of our IPs is a series called Touch Detective Rina Ozawa. In the past, we had Rina Ozawa as a Nendoroid. If we were going to make Cotton figures, we wanted to line them up in Nendoroid form. We asked the original Cotton character designer, Mr. Hideki Tamurato approve the settings and design, and I think it turned out to be the definitive version.
For players new to the Cotton series, where do you suggest starting?
Nagatomo: I would recommend Rock ‘n’ Roll/Fantasy, because of the way it was made for modern times. After that, if you revisit past games such as the Reboot of the first Cotton title, I think you will see that nothing has changed since the beginning: it’s still a lot of fun, and Cotton still acts like a gremlin. I think you’ll come to understand the series’ charm.
Kondo: I would also recommend playing from Rock ‘n’ Roll/Fantasy. I would be very happy if you could play the original games that inspired the other characters, too.
And that does it for this week! Thanks as always for your readership. There might not be much news, but that doesn’t mean you can’t chatter about games in general, so why not pop into the ANN forums for a spell? Link below, as always.