2017 PlayStation Press Conference in Japan — Predictability in Tokyo

Expectations were remarkably low for Sony’s 2017 PlayStation Press Conference in Japan before it started, thanks to how their recent Tokyo Game Show conferences have turned out. For one, the show has lost importance in recent years thanks to the Japanese market slowly losing interest in dedicated device video gaming, though there’s still a noteworthy audience worth appealing to. Japanese publishers also like to announce their games in the leadup to the conference and convention instead of announcing them while it’s in progress.

The amount of games announced during that leadup this year was lower than previous years, which hinted at the event being underwhelming. Not to say there weren’t remarkable announcements, as titles like Dragon Quest Builders 2, Yakuza: Kiwami 2, the Fist of the North Star game from the Yakuza team, the Secret of Mana remake, and Attack on Titan 2 excited fans of Japanese games. But there’s typically a higher volume of titles announced before the Sony conference and show begin, which didn’t happen this year. The last big opportunity for publishers to announce titles was at this conference, and sadly, the suspicions about the potentially low number of announcements hinted above was sadly accurate.

Most of the show was dominated by publishers showing off new trailers for previously-announced titles, many of which are highly anticipated by those who like Japanese titles.

For instance, it’s been over a year since Earth Defense Force 5 was announced for PlayStation 4, revealed at the PlayStation TGS conference last year. It’s taken a little while, but D3 Publisher provided a December 7th release date along with a new trailer — which also has an English version. They also announced a new installment called Earth Defense Force: Iron Rain, developed by Yuke’s (who also handles the WWE 2K games) and will feature the efforts from “world-renowned artists” — whatever that means. They’ll assuredly give more details later, but this and the trailer featuring English voiceovers (even the Japanese version) hints at this being a worldwide-targeted effort. They’ll show more soon, well before it releases in 2018.

Koei Tecmo’s next big game is Dynasty Warriors 9, which will be the first new mainline installment in the series in around five years when it releases in early 2018. A new trailer was provided, which showed how they’ve polished the game since its messy prior showing.

Atlus and Vanillaware officially announced Dragon’s Crown Pro for PS4, a definitive version of the last-gen fantasy brawler released over four years ago. This would have been a nice surprise if it wasn’t leaked through an ad that surfaced on NicoNico late last week. This version will include all the DLC on disc, along with 4K support, a new orchestral soundtrack, and cross-play and cross-save with the PS4 and Vita versions. It will release in Japan on January 25th. Also, 13 Sentinels: Aegis Rim resurfaced though a new trailer after being announced at TGS two years ago. It’s a “dramatic adventure” that will star 13 protagonists who pilot mechs, accompanied by a sweeping art style from George Kamitani. More details about both projects will be shared on streams during the convention.

Since Gundam Versus has released in Japan (and will release in western territories a week from Friday), Bandai Namco announced “team battle action” game Mobile Suit Gundam: Battle Operation 2 for PS4. It’s a sequel to the free-to-play online multiplayer title that should inherit many of its features, but add more like a larger amount of mobile suits. It will release in 2018. They also announced The Idolmaster: Stella Stage for PS4, a new Idolmaster game that will release on December 21st. I’ll stop here, because I won’t even pretend I know a damn thing about the Idolmaster franchise.

Sega provided a new trailer for A Certain Magical Virtual-On, a game that represents a fusion between the A Certain Magical Index light novel and anime franchise and Sega’s Virtual-On series. Virtual-On fans who’ve wanted a new mainline installment for years weren’t happy, but perhaps they’ll like how this game is inheriting some of its gameplay combat features. Of course, that will be accompanied by a very anime story. It will release for PS4 and Vita in Japan on February 15th.

Sega’s provided a steady amount of information on the Yakuza team’s Fist of the North Star game since the announcement, including detailing returning characters from the series, new characters, and gameplay features. There’s a good reason why: It’s coming sooner than many expected. With its new trailer came the confirmation of a February 22nd release date, a mere two months after Yakuza: Kiwami 2 releases. The studio is working overtime.

Several VR games were also announced. The Gungrave franchise hasn’t received a new installment in a while in any entertainment medium, but it will return as a first-person VR shooting experience in the aptly-named Gungrave VR for PlayStation VR (and eventually Oculus and Vive). A Neko Atsume VR experience was also announced by Hit-Point, with absolutely no information. Though it’s not VR-only, city railroad simulator A-Train Express was announced for PS4, which will include several features from PC title A-Train 9. This will release in Japan on December 21st.

Though this was Sony’s show, they only had one big upcoming game to showcase: The remake of Shadow of the Colossus previously announced at E3. The remake, handled by Bluepoint Games, looks like a faithful rendition of the original PS2 game previously remastered by this same company. There are minor color palette and lighting changes bothering some fans, but they’ll have time to adjust those and get them right by the time it releases in early 2018.

Speaking of remakes: One of the most unexpected announcements came from Konami, of all companies, who revealed Zone of the Enders: 2nd Runner — M∀RS for PS4 (and Steam). This is a remake of 2nd Runner being handled by CyGames, of the overwhelmingly popular Granblue Fantasy and Shadowverse mobile titles, who announced several core-aimed titles of their own a little over a year ago. In addition to the enhanced graphics, this version will also have 4K support, current-generation surround sound, and VR support. More details will be revealed throughout the week, since it will be playable at the show. It’s due for release worldwide in spring 2018.

Square Enix made several announcements at the show. The existence of Final Fantasy IX for PS4 was leaked shortly before this show could start, which dulled the surprise of the announcement and quick release afterward. This is a port of the recent PC version, which includes enhanced graphics and options to increase the game’s speed. Also, a new trailer for Dissidia Final Fantasy NT was shown, which included the surprising reveal of Final Fantasy XV’s Noctis. Expect more characters to be revealed before it releases worldwide in January.

The biggest announcement from Square Enix was for a new game called Left Alive for PS4 (and Steam), a survival action shooter being directed by Armored Core’s Toshifumi Nabeshima, and will feature character designs from Metal Gear’s Yoji Shinkawa. It was initially thought to be a new IP, but it’s actually a spinoff of the Front Mission series that takes place between Front Mission 5 and Evolved. More info will be revealed on a stream held by the developers on the first day of TGS, though some was included in this week’s Famitsu magazine. It’s due for a release sometime in 2018.

The final announcements were related to Capcom’s Monster Hunter: World, no surprise considering the overwhelming popularity of the franchise in Japan. In something unusual for Monster Hunter, Capcom released a story-driven trailer for a primarily gameplay-heavy series, which further shows how World is an attempt to reach out to a new audience in addition to attracting established fans. They also announced a worldwide release date of January 26th, meaning it will release alongside titles like Ni no Kuni II and Dissidia NT in what will be a stacked month. In addition to the standard edition, it will also receive a Digital Deluxe Edition for $70, and a physical Collector’s Edition for $150, both of which will include all sorts of goodies you might need. It will also receive a Liolaeus Edition PlayStation 4 Pro in Japan, including a digital copy of the game. There’s no word on whether the Pro will release outside Japan, and you shouldn’t count on it leaving.

Sony will never top their 2011 TGS conference, where they showed around three minutes of gameplay, but this wasn’t one of their stronger shows. It’s possible this is less an issue with Sony themselves and more with the current state of affairs with the worldwide gaming industry. Some companies are starting to rely more on the worldwide market instead of the Japanese one, and are choosing more western-centric shows to reveal their games. Meanwhile, low and mid-tier games aimed towards the Japanese market are selling less, meaning publishers are making less of them; that means they have less to show at conferences like this. Future shows could be good, but there’s a bigger chance of this being the new norm from here on.

That is, unless they’re breaking the usual pattern by announcing more games during the actual convention. We’ll see soon.

If you want to watch the conference, feel free to do so here.

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