This Week in Games - The First Nintendo Direct of 2023
Jean-Karlo breaks down the biggest announcements from this week's Nintendo Direct, including new Pikmin, Metroid, and Splatoon news. PLUS: a look at the Final Fantasy X kabuki play!

Welcome back, everyone! Whole lotta disappointing news out there. Worst of all, I couldn't even play much Xenoblade 3, but that's because we have some coverage planned for an upcoming title. Look forward to it sometime next week!

We have a big'un this week, so let's get to brass tacks. This is...

A few months back, we broke the news that the Final Fantasy X kabuki show planned to go live in Japan later this spring. We were light on details at the time, but now we've got just about the best thing we could get to whet our teeth for this show: this teaser!

If there's an image iconic to Final Fantasy X, it's Yuna performing the Sending (heck, it's the art Yoshitaka Amano chose for the logo of the game). And this teaser demonstrates every bit of that stunning ritual through a combination of stellar choreography and fancy stage effects--that watery effect from the lighting reflecting off of the Yuna actor Yonekichi Nakamura V's staff is stunning. (For the record: kabuki is traditionally portrayed by men exclusively, so that's a guy playing Yuna.) I mentioned this way back when I mentioned this play for the first time, but there's no better choice among the Final Fantasy games for a kabuki adaptation than Final Fantasy X. Part of what makes kabuki fun is seeing the costumes adapted for the stage, which means seeing traditional Japanese takes on character designs. Final Fantasy X already had heavily Japanese-inspired aesthetics and wardrobes (Spira, specifically the starting town of Besaid, is based on Okinawa). And the main story adapts well to a stage show. At the core of the story about self-propagating cycles of destruction and religious orders literally staffed by the undead who scramble to maintain the smallest bit of control over the world is a love story between a woman who's all too ready to die and a man who doesn't have much left but doesn't want anyone to give up what little they have. Final Fantasy X got a lot of guff back when it came out for delving so deeply into the trauma of its main cast (that being the time when any degree of introspection was too "emo" for American audiences). A lot of Final Fantasy X's criticism boils down to that emotional aspect and the much-beleaguered "laughter" scene. But its heart rings true, and I'm looking forward to all the wild things they might do in this play. I mean, imagine how they'll handle Yuna's summons. Hell, imagine how they'll handle Anima!

The Final Fantasy X kabuki play will air from March 4th to April 12th. It's directed by Onoe Kikunosuke V, who is not only starring as Tidus but is also noted as the star of the Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind stage play. No word yet if we'll get some kind of stream of the play in the US, but here's hoping.

Last week I featured a Gungrave G.O.R.E. gameplay video from noted H-artist Maidoll. Obvious reasons aside, part of what keeps me following them is that they speak a lot about the games they play--for the most part, Forza and Phantasy Star Online 2. And through Maidoll, I've learned quite a bit about PSO2, mostly about how dedicated its players are to enjoying it as a virtual dollhouse and 3D chat program with a fancy MMORPG attached. PSO2's science-fiction aesthetic (and many deep cuts to other SEGA games) makes it pretty unique among other MMOs. While it's never going to topple Final Fantasy XIV, or even the now-massively-weakened World of Warcraft, it being free-to-play makes it a fantastic also-ran.

Twitter artists aside, folks know that I also really love VTubers--and while most of my hours on Twitch revolve around 🌸VShojo🐺, we appreciate all VTubers, be they signed on with a corporation or if they're indie. We've discussed Hololive's prior collaborations with Sonic Frontiers and Among Us. This time, we're covering talent from Nijisanji. It's a Phantasy Star VTuber collab!

The collaboration focuses on four of Nijisanji's talents: from the Japanese Nijisanji branch, we've got the occult researcher Kaida Haru, the high schooler Hakase Fuyuki, and Hoshikawa Sara. From the English branch, we have the sorcerer Shu Yamino. For February 2023 (ending on the 28th of this month), players are welcome to some cool goodies. First are the requisite costume components: players can get hair styles, voice tickets, accessories and outfits based on these VTubers from PSO2's Style Tickets. The downside is that they work off of a gacha system, so you'll need luck if you want to get all the items. (This is probably why Maidoll and their friends are so ride-or-die for PSO2--you'd have to be if you put in that much money to get all the outfits!) Completing specific tasks during the collab can get you music disks, and daily log-ins can net players autographs and logos. Central City will also feature decorations, logos, and music from the Nijisanji VTubers.

As always, it's great to see VTuber fans get fed more by games in the US. VTuber fandom has grown and changed a ton in the past three years, and it'll be cool to see it grow and expand further.

In the ongoing story of Microsoft's attempts at purchasing Activision-Blizzard for $69 billion, the Federal Trade Commission in the US is having its objections echoed by another group: the European Commission. As of February 1st, Microsoft has been served a "statement of objections" from the Commission, intended to serve as a prelude to negotiations with Microsoft. Meanwhile, the United Kingdom's Competition and Markets Authority has also voiced skepticism over the merger. While they haven't voiced direct opposition, they are at least willing to interrogate Microsoft. As of February 8th, the CMA has even stated that they're willing to let the merger go through provided Activision-Blizzard divest themselves of either the Call of Duty franchise, any of Activision's properties, or any of Activision and Blizzard's properties. The CMA reasons Microsoft's promises aren't worth the paper they're printed on: they could always find a loophole later or alter the deal outright.

The response from the FTC has been to try and hurry on with filing their suit against Microsoft; as early as December of last year, they were already going through the necessary paperwork to initiate their case against Microsoft, as Microsoft hopes it can negotiate with the European Commission and the CMA. Should those negotiations go well, the FTC might find less grounds to oppose the deal. Personally, I believe that if Microsoft can't afford to hang onto its business without laying off 10,000 employees, they probably can't afford $69 billion to buy a studio...

Well, someone earned a round of drinks this weekend--Nintendo had their first Direct of the year this past Wednesday (after announcing it on Tuesday). We got lots of stuff to cover, but there's one significant bit of news not covered in the Direct that we should touch upon first: Nintendo is giving its base workers a 10% pay hike. This comes after Japan's Prime Minister Fumio Kishida called for employers to pay their employees more to combat Japan's weakening yen and rampant inflation. Nintendo has also adjusted its annual sales projections to accommodate slimmer sales figures. That said, they're only considering raising prices for their games and consoles "if circumstances demanded it." This comes after the mass layoffs that have stricken much of the tech industry in the US, not the least of which Nintendo's rivals at Microsoft. It's not the first time Nintendo has stood by their employees: in 2014, Nintendo's then-president, the late Satoru Iwata, slashed his annual salary in half to help keep Nintendo solvent (his fellow board members also saw pay cuts within the range of 20-30%). The belief was that Nintendo could only produce decent games if their employees were reassured about their job security. I'm kind of beside myself that Nintendo took the Macaulay Culkin Richie Rich movie to heart regarding securing their employee's mental well-being to secure corporate value.

I do want to take a moment to point out that Nintendo nevertheless has serious issues regarding the treatment of their employees, particularly harrassment and mistreatment of their contractors. So it's not all peaches and creme at the House of N; they have plenty of skeletons in their closet. But credit where it's due: good on them for not laying people off. Folks need to remember that for your economy to work, money needs to circulate--and people can't spend what they don't have or can't earn.

Okay, so! Games! First up was something fans have been waiting to see for a while: we finally have a glimpse of Pikmin 4!

So far, it's the same Pikmin you love: a diminutive astronaut lands on a bizarre alien planet (read: Earth, which is several times bigger than he is) and is tasked with finding castaways. He can collect local relics (read: day-to-day objects) and find new Pikmin to fight the local fauna. Pikmin 4 sees the introduction of new Ice Pikmin, which can freeze enemies (making them easier to shatter) or bodies of water (making them easier to cross). We also got a glimpse of some of the bizarre new monsters that our astronaut and his army of plant buddies will face off against. We also have a dog in this game: Oatchi, a bizarre creature that looks like a cross between a Bulborb and Poochy from the Yoshi's Island games. Oatchi can break obstacles and help your astronaut and Pikmin cross bodies of water or locate hidden items. As a final massive update: Pikmin 4 finally lets you explore at night when monsters are that much more ravenous. Pikmin 4 is slated for July 21st, 2023.

In the first of several surprising twists: we have a game I never thought we'd see again! SEGA finally remembered one of its weirder franchises that isn't Sonic the Hedgehog. I remember first reading about Samba de Amigo in my very first issue of Electronic Gaming Monthly. A rhythm game for the SEGA Dreamcast, it was played with special maraca controllers: players would shake the maracas in tune with the music while making sure to take the appropriate pose as indicated on-screen. It was one of many beloved games on the Dreamcast that fell by the wayside and became just something to reference in SEGA games. It was later ported to the Wii, but as Klonoa can show, the Wii was where special ports for games went to die. Enter Samba de Amigo: Party Central! The Switch is the next best home, given that the two controllers are motion-detecting and have high-def vibration. For the most part, this port will play the same as the originals: shake the controllers like maracas in tune with the music at the right height. There's a minor twist where at random moments, the game will interrupt the sequence to challenge you with certain poses, which is a good way of keeping players on their toes; you won't be able to memorize the entire game's patterns to sleepwalk through them. There will also be 40 songs to play through. I'm just happy to see more SEGA properties come back, man. Maybe they'll bring Burning Rangers back. Or maybe even Daytona USA. Look forward to Samba de Amigo: Party Central later this summer!

We've got some DLC coming in for Splatoon 3. And it's a doozy: players can return to Inkopolis! Best known as the hub from the original Splatoon, players can see most (but not all) of the sights known to them from the original Splatoon. You can even see the Squid Sisters Callie and Marie chilling out and drinking tea, and they'll be performing their songs during Splat Fests. Dunno how they'll handle the Splat Fests now that they have three teams, though--the Squid Sisters didn't have a third wheel. There's no word as to whether or not we'll see Inkopolis Square from Splatoon 2 (or the Off The Hook singers, Pearl and Marina), but that would be cool. What we will get is a mysterious expansion: "Side Order." No word yet on what it entails, but it looks like a new chapter of single-player content. The Expansion Pass containing both DLC is available for sale now, but the individual DLC has yet to drop--those should be arriving starting this spring.

So next up, we have--

"Mickey Mouse? First of all...what the heck is up with this game?"

In the tradition of the beloved World of Illusion, Disney Illusion Island is a cooperative platformer in the style of Kirby: Return to Dreamland: you can play as either Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse, Donald Duck or Goofy, and you run and jump across Monoth Island. The comparison runs deep, too: you can even hug your fellow characters to restore a bit of health (just like Kirby kissing their party members). Most people might remember Mickey's stint into gaming with Epic Mickey or his appearances in Kingdom Hearts. Still, Mickey has a history of some phenomenal 2D platformers--specifically Castle of Illusion and World of Illusion. It's amazing to see Disney return to the "Illusion" series after all these years, especially with this game flexing its Disney animation. Undoubtedly, Mickey and his friends are rendered in the most stunning 2D animation due to exclusive Disney resources. Donald's temper tantrum face is as good as any of the recent shorts. Look forward to this one on July 28th!

If you've been waiting for Advance Wars 1+2: Re-Boot Camp, we have good news! Nintendo has confirmed that it'll be releasing on the Nintendo Switch this April 21st, approximately one year after its previously scheduled release date that was sadly overtaken by the conflict in Ukraine. Nintendo, not wanting to release a game about war while a war rages in another country, pushed the release back until things calmed down some. It's not even the first time this has happened with Advance Wars; famously, the GameBoy Advance original had its release pushed back a few months in Europe and Japan, given that the US release was on September 10th, 2001. Then the War on Terror happened.

Advance Wars, which is made by Fire Emblem-creators Intelligent Systems, is less a strategy RPG series and more of an actual tactical sim: you capture cities around a map and use funds to construct an army and attempt to rout your opponent. You can do this by destroying all of their units or capturing their headquarters. Using different Commanding Officers can change the properties of your units, though: going by the characters in the trailer, Andy can repair units with his Commander Power (which helps keep their firepower up), Max gives all tanks an extra tile of movement as well as a boost to power (at the expense of weakened artillery range and firepower), and Sami grants all infantry extra firepower and a bonus to their city-capturing potential. These aren't the first Wars games--the series had its start on the Nintendo Famicom in Japan as Famicom Wars, but the Advance Wars games were the ones that made it to the US where they became an instant hit with anyone who had a GBA. It's a shame the Re-Boot Camp doesn't include Advance Wars: Dual Strike, the third game in the series. It was on the DS, but there could have been some way to make it work on the Switch. But the Advance Wars games have always had very charming characters and visuals, even if the subject matter is... y'know... war. It'll be nice to see Re-Boot Camp finally released in the US.

Hey, so Bayonetta 3 was disappointing, yeah? Here's hoping this makes up for it: Bayonetta Origins: Cereza and the Lost Demon tells the story of Bayo back when she was just a little girl named Cereza. With her mother imprisoned by the other Umbra Witches, Cereza charges headfirst into an enchanted forest to look for a way to rescue her. I'm not into the whole "every aspect of a character needs some kind of prequel"-idea, so the notion that Cereza's old stuffed cat doll Cheshire was named after an actual cat demon she met on her adventure seems more pedantic than anything. But it at least leads to an interesting gameplay loop: young Cereza can't fight, so Cheshire handles the demons for her. Meanwhile, Cereza can help by binding enemies. It's an interesting set-up for a puzzle game, combined with a striking visual style. I embrace Cereza and the Lost Demon being so different from Platinum's other works. They get tons of lip service for their character action games, but it's great to see them branch out, especially since the whole "Platinum never loses its luster"-bit hasn't really held true...

We didn't get any news on Metroid Prime 4, and that's okay. I'd hope people have learned from Elden Ring and internalized that it's okay for games to go quiet while they're in development. In the meantime, Nintendo dropped a bombshell: the Metroid Prime remaster... is out now! The digital version is currently up for sale, with the physical version coming to storefronts this February 22nd.

Full credit to the original Metroid Prime, but I had to look closely to see any visual improvement. The GameCube original is a beautiful game and has aged amazingly after all these years; there are improvements, but it's easy to miss them because the base game was that pretty. For now, the most significant addition to Metroid Prime is proper modern-day twin-stick first-person shooter controls. If you're so inclined, you can also opt into the original GameCube-style controls, but even I have to admit that Prime must play leagues better with conventional controls. Definitely pick this one up; it's a highlight from a franchise with tons of great games.

Speaking of things also available today, there's the demo to Octopath Traveler II. The sequel to the game that made "HD-2D" a household term, Octopath Traveller II is the story of eight travelers who bond together as they seek a resolution to their personal vendettas. Each character has an ability that lets them interact with the world around them uniquely, with a second "darker" ability activating at night—the full game releases on February 24th. You can also look forward to the newest update to Mario Kart 8; part of their Wave 4 in their current DLC pack is a new stage based on Yoshi's Island (the location), plus the first new playable character in Mario Kart 8 in ages: Birdo! And also available today is...

Trust me; I bugged out plenty when I saw this trailer drop. The Etrian Odyssey games were some of the most challenging--yet enriching--JRPGs on the DS and 3DS. Tapping into the ancestral memory of old CRPG players making their maps on graph paper, the Etrian Odyssey games used the DS touchscreen to let players draw their maps as they explored expansive labyrinths. The first game was subject to scathing reviews from critics who didn't understand it, but Etrian Odyssey caught on by virtue of being easy to delve into. I mean, the game was rough, and the F.O.E. enemies were brutal, but having a party you could headcanon backstories into while you drew their maps made the games feel personal. Unfortunately, with the retirement of the 3DS, it didn't seem like we'd see Etrian Odyssey again. It shows what I know; we're getting a three-pack! The first three Etrian Odyssey games will be bundled, remastered, and redesigned to work on the Switch's screen. I don't know how they'll handle the map-drawing component, but there will be an automatic mapping function. Also, the graphics have been remastered to fit the bigger screen, and (most importantly) the skills have been rebalanced to utilize the skill systems from Etrian Odyssey IV onwards. This is a good thing: the first three games had very spartan offerings with strict requirements for your abilities, and with just one skill point earned from leveling up, it could take time for some classes to become useable in any meaningful context. And then there was Etrian Odyssey III, where character classes were extremely non-conventional. While you had interesting classes like the Prince/ss, who could heal as a bonus to their buffs, the game seemed balanced around its new sub-classing system... which meant Etrian Odyssey III could be even harder on players if they didn't use the handful of useful class combinations. God help you if you didn't run a Zodiac with a subclass in Ninja skills.

Etrian Odyssey Origins is currently available for pre-order on the Nintendo eShop and Steam. It'll release this summer on June 1st. Definitely an excellent way to kill the dog days of summer.

Kirby: Return to Dream Land is still slated for release this February 24th, but it seems there's a new story available for players: beating the game unlocks a playable epilogue starring Maglolor, titled The Interdimensional Travel. Weakened after the events of Return to Dream Land, Magolor will try to find their way out of a dimensional nexus. At first, Magolor will only have a basic jump and attack, but you can upgrade Magolor's abilities using an RPG system based on earning crystals farmed from defeated enemies. Kirby games are no strangers to upping the ante for releases; it's great to see an expansion to Return to Dream Land's story--especially since I know a lot of people love Magolor. I'm surprised that the epilogue requires you to beat the main story first (people tend to gripe about that kind of thing), but I'm all for unlocking stuff via gameplay.

New Emblems are coming to Fire Emblem: Engage, in case you need new friends! The second DLC wave reveals Hector from Fire Emblem: The Binding Blade, Soren from Fire Emblem: Path of Radiance, and Chrom and Male!Robin from Fire Emblem: Awakening serves as a two-in-one Emblem. They have some pretty good choices; Hector and Soren pair well, considering Lyn and Ike are already in the game. The final three Emblems raise my eyebrows, though. First is Camilla from Fire Emblem: Fates, the so-called "Emblem of Revelations." I mean, she's easily one of the most popular waifus from that game, so it shouldn't be surprising she was brought into the fold. Apparently, she has an AOE attack, and her skills can modify the terrain. But then there's Veronica from Fire Emblem Heroes. Her skillset appears to be based around... rolling the gacha and summoning new allies to help, complete with a five-star indicator for some. It's wild to me that the Fire Emblem games are referencing their mobile game. Sure, Fire Emblem Heroes is one of the biggest gacha games around and a massive earner for Nintendo, but it's still so weird to see it acknowledged as a canon Fire Emblem title. Note: I'm also rather sore about Dragalia Lost being tossed out of Nintendo's proverbial window.

Hey, have you played Windjammers? Because you should. It's basically Pong but framed as an extreme 90s anime frisbee-soccer. But unfortunately, fun as it is, there isn't much to it. Omega Strikers takes what Windjammers established and runs with the concept: now, not only are there more anime frisbee players to control, but you and two teammates can go in and compete against another team of three players in a competitive match. There's a lot to the game; presumably, your character's weight and throwing speed is a factor (thinner characters are probably faster but weaker, that old chestnut), but there's also some deviousness, such as pushing opponents out of bounds to remove them from play. It looks like a fun, competitive game, and it would be interesting to see it get picked up at game meets.

Alright, let's talk remakes! First up is We Love Katamari Reroll + Royal Reverie, a port of the beloved ball-rolling puzzle game from the PS2 on the Switch. But then Nintendo decided to drop some serious surprises on people, like--

Freaking Ghost Trick. A cult hit from the Nintendo DS, Ghost Trick hails from the same minds as the beloved Phoenix Wright series. While Ghost Trick never got as popular or memetic as Phoenix Wright, it stole the hearts of anyone that played it. You play as a dead detective whose ghost can possess objects. Using these objects, you can traverse the environment, solve environmental puzzles, and generally help the living move around and help you solve the mystery of your own (ignoble) death. There's a sequence where you can possess a pomeranian named Missile, famously named and styled after director Shu Takumi's actual pet pomeranian who had also appeared in Phoenix Wright. Sadly, the real-life Missile died a few years back; just another reason to love Ghost Trick. Missile will be in our hearts forever.

In another delightful twist, Baten Kaitos has been rescued from GameCube jail! A pair of JRPGs made by Monolith Soft long before Xenoblade was a twinkle in their eye. These games had a very unique concept: you, the player, were a spirit that the main character could communicate with as they sought your guidance across a world of floating islands. The whole game operates off of a card system: cards represent items or ways to transport them. There are factors like items going bad within a certain time frame and the battle system depending on weapon cards for attacking. These games, like the original Xenoblade, were cult hits that sadly suffered for being JRPGs on the GameCube at a time when the gaming world wasn't too keen on either of those things. Hopefully, with the reputation Xenoblade has given Monolith Soft, these two games can reach a much broader, more-appreciative audience.

Folks have been clamoring for GameBoy titles to be added to the Nintendo Switch's offerings--well, we're finally getting it. Nintendo Switch Online now finally offers GameBoy titles! The starting line-up is relatively small, so far mainly consisting of Super Mario Land 2: 6 Golden Coins, Metroid II: Samus Returns, and a few other titles, but we can look forward to other GameBoy Color titles like the The Legend of Zelda: Oracle duology and Kirby: Tilt And Tumble. Also, there are three filters: a monochrome green one to recreate the original GameBoy screen (if you want it), a greyscale filter for re-creating the GameBoy Pocket screen, and a color filter for re-creating the GameBoy Color screen. Nintendo Online customers who pay for the expansion pack also get access to GameBoy Advance titles, too! Now, all we need are GameCube titles...

Level 5 offered us a one-two punch of titles during the Direct. First, we have a new Fantasy Life to look forward to! The first Fantasy Life was a sleeper hit on the DS, and it was eventually given a mobile spin-off. Fantasy Life i: The Girl Who Steals Time lets players explore an island while they level up such classes as Cook or Blacksmith. You can use your skills to create a village--but the twist comes from being able to time travel between the present and the past. Whether your construction in the past affects the island in the future is yet to be seen.

Next is DecaPolice, a new detective RPG from Level 5. Playing as the rookie detective Harvard, you can team up with a crew of detectives to solve mysteries. You can dive into a virtual world to solve mysteries where you'll battle hackers and criminals in turn-based battles. DecaPolice brings tons of style with it; it looks like Level 5 is trying to make its next Inazuma Eleven. We'll know if a DecaPolice anime gets announced.

Finally, Level 5 brought cheers to many fans with the announcement of a new Professor Layton game: Professor Layton and the New World of Stream. We'll know more about this game in the coming months.

From the minds that brought us Danganronpa comes Raincode! The game stars Yuma and Shinigami, a detective and a supernatural demon-woman who solve mysteries (how very Majin Tantei Nōgami Neuro!) Belonging to the World Detective Organization, Yuma works with a team of eccentric and memorably-designed detectives. Each detective has a unique supernatural power that helps you investigate in novel ways--for example, one detective has post-cognition, which lets them see crime scenes in the past. Another can shapeshift and even change their voice (basically, they have the Khnum Stand). I'm hoping the off-kilter writing from Danganronpa also crosses over, but at least the cast seems cool, and the mechanics seem like a ton of fun.

I have to give Fashion Dreamer its time in the sun because I never thought I'd see a game like this again. In Fashion Dreamer, you explore the city as you learn, earn new outfit coordination, and help others expand their own wardrobe. You can also dress up your avatar in a massive number of outfits, fully customizable by yourself.

If this sounds familiar, it should: Fashion Dreamer comes from the same creators as the cult-classic Style Savvy games on the Nintendo DS. If it doesn't sound fun, it's because you haven't tried it. If you spend hours making sure your avatar looks just right in any game with a character creator, these games are a canvas. It's fantastic to see a spiritual successor to Style Savvy after all these years. Now, here's the big question: will there be expanded body types? A massive issue with Style Savvy was that, outside of height, there wasn't much in the way of body type diversity. It would be nice if Fashion Dreamer could fix that.

We finally have more news on The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom. While the trailer gives us tantalizing story hooks--like a storm of Blood Moons bringing an army of monsters with them--the biggest takeaway is that it's still due for a May 12th release. It seems that Matt Mercer is lending his voice in-game (possibly as Ganon, be it dehydrated or otherwise). Most teasingly, however, is that some folks believe the trailer hints at the influence of the Twili being a factor in Tears of the Kingdom. The music at the end of the trailer features a distortion effect which kinda sounds like Midna's garbled dialogue. It's much too soon to say (after all, we're not even sure if that is Ganon), but at least we know this: Zelda looks like she's been benched again. Just keep pulling that football away from us, Lucy...

Finally, we have Xenoblade Chronicles 3 news. The real reason for the season. The third wave of the DLC pack offers players a new Hero unit: Masha the Lapidarist. Collecting gems from around the world, Masha grants you the ability to craft accessories from the ores and gems you collect in the world. I like this. It's a great way of expanding the game's mechanics while also granting you something to do with all the chaff you collect running all over the map. There's also a new mode in the Challenge Battle arena: the Archsage's Gauntlet. Functioning as a rogue-like system, you control a single character as you mow down waves of enemies. Each victory grants you a new party member and a new perk. Earning points in this mode offers you fun fanservice outfits--fanservice in the sense of "the outfits are based on previous Xenoblade Chronicles characters," mind. Mio wearing Nia's jumpsuit, Taion in Jin's evolved outfit, Lanz in Reyn's crop top... fun stuff! Look forward to this stuff this February 15th.

But the real draw is the fourth wave of DLC content, coming later this year. It's a serious doozy... because the DLC focuses not on Noah and the gang but on Shulk and Rex. The DLC appears to be a prequel to the game, wherein an older Shulk (armed with the Monado replica) and an adult Rex (dual-wielding Pyra's and Mythra's swords) face off against Alvis. This is big in Xenoblade lore. I know enough about Xenoblade 3 to know that Rex's actions have a lot of waves, but there's been very little about Shulk's side of the equation--let alone Alvis. And Alvis was important; he's Pyra and Mythra's brother, with all of the world-creating possibilities that entail. The news that Grandad- that is, Rex's titan-friend Azurda- has been murdered doesn't help matters. I'm dreadfully behind in Xenoblade 3, so I'm far from being able to play this, but it won't be out until much later this year—something to look forward to.

And that's the Direct! 40 minutes. There were a lot of surprises this Direct, and even if there are still some projects folks were hoping we could see news for (some folks had their hearts set on Silksong, I hope folks give some of the "weirder" games in this Direct a try. For real, Fashion Dreamer looks like a lot of fun! Now, let's hope it's a while before we get another monster of a Direct like this one because this was exhausting to cover.

I don't know if it was the Direct or what, but this week feels like it's been particularly massive. I'm bushed... Good thing February is the shortest month. Hopefully, you guys have a good weekend! More than ever: be good to each other. I'll see you guys in seven.

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