Welcome back readers.
We squeaked this week’s issue in just in the nick of time–in my time zone, at least! So whether you’re a night owl like me or you’re checking in the next morning, kick back with us and tuck in to eleven cool and new picks.
This Week in Videogame Blogging is a roundup highlighting the most important critical writing on games from the past seven days.
This week we’re starting with a trio of critical reviews of heavy hitters, as the authors unpack long-running series to locate their beating (or is it bleeding?) hearts.
- Final Fantasy 16 is incredible when it doesn’t try to say anything meaningful | Polygon
Gita Jackson stresses that Final Fantasy XVI is fun of a strictly head-empty-no-thoughts variety.
- Final Fantasy XVI Review: A song of blood and chocobos | The Verge
Ash Parrish concludes that the action in Final Fantasy‘s turn to Action RPG is now firing on all cylinders, but that the pivot to grim and grit don’t really make account of itself.
- Diablo IV Loses Itself in a Gargantuan Live Service Hellscape | Paste
Dia Lacina reckons with a series that has shed all sense of the small-town intimacy and intrigue that made it appealing in the first place.
“Diablo IV turns Sanctuary into Disney World, and while the developers may be hard at work tuning the rides and attractions to play better and be more fun, the C-suite and shareholders are going to make sure it’s only going to get worse from here. That’s what we get from Games as a Service.”
What and Why
Here’s a little section on design, looking both at design choices in a specific recent game, as well as some meta-discussion on how we talk about design in criticism.
- Street Fighter 6’s World Tour Mode is a Lost PS2 Game | Kayinworks
Kayin is happy to see the latest Street Fighter offer up a rich and experimental meal the likes of which hasn’t been in vogue for two decades.
- Untitled | cohost
Bobby identifies a paucity of meaningful inquiry in design-focused criticism, seeing instead a trend towards surface-level reactivity.
“i wish it wasn’t always a rhetorical question when people ask “what were they thinking?” i wish it could be a conversation with some back and forth at all, rather than being boiled down to angry hot takes over what is or isn’t Objectively Fun.”
Got Some Fight Left in Ya
Lots of parallels to draw here in this next pairing: both slightly offbeat artifacts, both (mostly) consigned to Japan, and both bearing oblique connections to fighting games.
- A Look at Bandai Namco’s Mousou Controllers
Vidyasaur highlights a most unusual series of game controllers meant to be played without games.
- Tetris the Grand Master | canon fire
Amr Al-Aaser excavates a lost lineage of Tetris with fighting game influences.
“When you think of Tetris you probably think of Game Boy Tetris, the NES World Championship, or maybe even Tetris DS. What you probably don’t think of is Street Fighter, or Japanese comedy. But that’s exactly the lineage that led to the creation of Tetris the Grand Master.”
Types, Trends, and Tropes
This section is all about setting games, genres, and periods in context, looking at how key concepts and baseline assumptions emerge out of ideologies.
- The Post-Roe Re-Examination of P.T.’s Lisa | Videodame
Alina Kim submits the vaunted horror vertical slice to an examination of its themes of domestic violence and bodily autonomy.
- The “Roll” of Life in ‘We Love Katamari Royal Roll + Royal Reverie’ | PopMatters
Luis Aguasvivas thinks about where the sophomore Katamari installment fits in 2023, aesthetically anomolous for its time and at the mercy of a consolidating games press today.
- The ‘JRPG’ label has always been othering | Polygon
Kazuma Hashimoto examines the history of a fraught and contentious label, always mediated through its ups and downs by a narrow and fickle western lens.
“While the “Japanese” aesthetic has come back en vogue — and JRPGs have become a favored genre — it can just as easily fall out of favor among Western audiences once again. Even as the term itself remains contentious, being both used as a negative and positive descriptor even among Japanese developers, we are once again watching the cycle continue. It is still a term that “others” Japanese RPGS — whether the term is a source of discrimination, or signals an aesthetic to be fetishized.”
It was inevitable.
- An Objective Ranking of FFXVI’s Dominants Based on If I Would Date Them | Inverse
Willa Rowe rates the grimdark daddies and mommies by the only sensible metric.
“Final Fantasy games love a protagonist with mountains of trauma who needs fixing.”
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