While the summer is traditionally seen as a quieter period for video game releases before the rush of major new releases at the tail end of the year, 2020 is far from a typical year. Not only has the coronavirus pandemic had an impact on game releases and pushed some titles planned for earlier in the year into the summer months and beyond, but the fact that new consoles from Sony and Microsoft are on the horizon also changes the complexion of the release calendar as smaller titles not scheduled to release on the PS5 and Xbox Series X generally avoid the risk of being overshadowed by the launch of these new consoles.
Couple this with the summer’s major releases typically always belonging to mid-tier Japanese games in regular circumstances and the result is a rather large and varied selection of Japanese gaming releases of all genres from June and throughout the summer months until the end of September. The aim of this article? Recap the slew of major gaming releases from the past month and look forward to what is set to be an interesting collection of Japanese games releasing over the course of the next few months. From life sims to action games, RPGs and everything else in between, there’s surely at least something here worth your time.
With that, here’s Otaquest’s official round-up of the upcoming major Japanese gaming releases of summer 2020.
Before getting into that, however, it’s worth looking back on the sheer number and variety of Japanese games that released last month.
Kicking off the month was two major JRPG franchises in the form of the Ys remake, Memories of Celceta for PS4 and the high-profile port of Persona 4: Golden to PC on June 9th and 13th respectively. The end of the month was even more packed, as the first DLC for Pokemon Sword and Shield, The Isle of Armor, finally released, before GungHo Online Entertainment released the entertaining free-to-play multiplayer arena action game Ninjala. That game even featured a Steve Aoki remix of Ninja Re Bang Bang from Kyary Pamyu Pamyu as its theme tune, and it’s well worth checking both out when you get the chance.
This was followed by Danganronpa creator Kazutaka Kodaka‘s FMV title Death Come True on Nintendo Switch and mobile devices, with a PC and PS4 port to come, and the release of Mr Driller: Drill Land, a remake of the GameCube entry of the same name, on Nintendo Switch. This is all before considering NIS America’s release of Trials of Cold Steel 3 and the mobile releases of Kingdom Hearts: Dark Road and SINoALICE.
It’s fair to say June was a packed month, and though the summer isn’t quite as busy as this, it’s still looking to be an exciting time for anyone who’s a fan of Japanese video games.
Catherine: Full Body
Catherine has remained one of Atlus’ most beloved hits in recent years ever since it was originally released on PS3. It’s also one of the company’s more controversial releases, as for all the praise the game receives for its puzzles and the uniqueness of its story within the context of the games industry, it has also been rightfully criticized for how it handles its transgender characters.
This was criticism that was amplified following the release of Catherine: Full Body on PS4. For all the game was seen as an improvement over the original with an abundance of new content not found in the original game, one of the release’s main new additions, the character Rin, has incited heated debates on the topic of transphobia ever since they were first unveiled to the public in 2017. This debate has never truly subsided as players digested the new game’s content, making people such as myself wary about the game’s content and the potential harm this has. It certainly is an issue that has to be brought into consideration when thinking about whether to purchase the game.
Nevertheless, after strong sales of the enhanced rerelease on PS4, the game was announced for Nintendo Switch, bringing the Catherine experience to portable devices in the West for the first time (the PlayStation Vita release of the original Catherine remained a Japan-only experience). Having only been announced for Nintendo Switch in March the turnaround between announcement and release has been swift, but Catherine: Full Body will be released on the console on July 7th.
Deadly Premonition 2: A Blessing in Disguise
SWERY’s Deadly Premonition has earned itself a cult following ever since the game’s original release on PS3 and Xbox 360 back in 2010. To call it a polarizing horror game upon its release would be an understatement, and all of the praise the game’s atmosphere, character and settings received can do nothing to hide the game’s technical issues that even its most ardent defenders couldn’t shy away from.
Following a port of the original game to Nintendo Switch it was soon announced that a sequel was in development exclusively for the hybrid console, titled Deadly Premonition 2: A Blessing in Disguise. While the original game was set in Greenvale, Washington for its murder mystery tale, this new game moves the action to Le Carre, Louisiana to investigate a new murder in the rural town.
Promising more of the same for series fan but with new gameplay showcasing many of the technical issues of the original, Deadly Premonition 2 is set for release this summer on July 10th 2020.
Story of Seasons: Friends of Mineral Town
Story of Seasons is the name given to the series formally known as Harvest Moon in the West before licensing disputes regarding naming rights for the series outside of Japan. Due to these disputes, Natsume have continued to release new games titled Harvest Moon while the original series has been rebranded and continues under the name ‘Story of Seasons’. Friends of Mineral Town is a remake of the 2003 entry entry in the series of the same name originally released for the Game Boy Advance.
The game is widely viewed as one of the best entries into the Harvest Moon franchise and a pioneer of many mechanics that later became series staples. This new remake isn’t looking to reinvent the wheel so much as update the game in 3D with the various quality of life improvements that have been introduced into the series in entries to the series which followed it. For many fans, this is more than enough to make them invest in the remake, and the positive reception that followed its Japanese release only helps things in this regard.
Story of Seasons: Friends of Mineral town is set for release on Windows PCs via Steam as well as Nintendo Switch this summer on July 10th in Europe, and July 14th in North America.
Sword Art Online: Alicization Lycoris
The first of a number of anime games releasing this summer, Sword Art Online: Alicization Lycoris is the latest in a series of games based on the popular light novel and anime franchise.
As you may assume from the name, this game takes place during the Alicization story arc of the Sword Art Online series, but unlike previous video game adaptations that have told a side story or alternative retelling that runs concurrent to the main story, this game promises to allow players to relive the events of the series through gameplay. Playing as Kirito, your role is to immerse yourself in Underworld, the virtual setting of the Alicization story arc, as you uncover the truth of this mysterious setting and the people you adventure with. This action RPG allows players to take charge of the adventure of Kirito, Eugene, Alice and more.
The Sword Art online video games have a dedicated following thanks to how they recreate the atmosphere of the series in video game form, and trailers suggest those fans won’t be disappointed when Sword Art Online: Alicization Lycoris launches on July 10th for PS4, Xbox One and PC.
Death Stranding (PC)
One of the most highly-anticipated releases of summer 2020 for games isn’t a new game at all, but a PC port of Hideo Kojima’s latest oddball big-budget project, Death Stranding.
While personally not my cup of tea, I recognize I’m seemingly in the minority when it comes to having a mixed experience with Death Stranding. Players have loved the game’s unique mix of Hideo Kojima’s approach to storytelling with an open-world exploration across the ruins of what was once the United States of America, forcing the people into small isolated communities and turning postman such as Sam Porter bridges (Norman Reedus) into the only people capable of connecting these isolated communities together. As a player, your job requires you to go on a cross-country journey to reconnect America and rebuild the country.
There’s an ambition to the experience that you can’t help but respect, and no easy comparisons to any other major game of this size that’s willing to take such bold decisions in its game design. Whatever your view of the rest of the game, you can’t help but respect its ambition and one-of-a-kind nature. The issue for many gamers, however, is that unless you owned a PS4, you were locked out of experiencing Hideo Kojima’s latest project for yourself… until now.
Death Stranding will release on PC via Steam on July 14th.
Paper Mario: The Origami King
As things stand, Nintendo’s summer release schedule for new games is looking rather barren, with the recently-announced Paper Mario: The Origami King the only major Nintendo-published game set for release during the summer 2020 gaming season. In saying that, with the promise of an open world RPG entry into the Paper Mario series more reminiscent of the older N64 and GameCube entries into the spin-off series will certainly make it a desirable purchase for Nintendo Switch owners.
In this latest Paper Mario adventure, the papercraft world is being disrupted by the origami factions and King Olly, who wishes to turn the world and all its subjects into origami subjects. In even more tear-able news, Olly has already succeeded at turning Princess Peach into an origami puppet. With the help of Olivia, Paper Mario sets out to stop King Olly and save the Mushroom Kingdom. With a reworked battle system aping The Thousand Year Door on a circular battle arena and the transformative ability of paper being used to augment exploration, there’s a lot on offer to mix things up while retaining what people love about the Paper Mario games.
Paper Mario: The Origami King is releasing on Nintendo Switch on July 17th 2020.
The Fairy Tail anime and manga series continues to endure a high level of popularity despite the original manga having ended 3 years ago and the anime series finally coming to an end last year. The characters are endearing to series fans that they continue to live on, and they’re recognizable even to those with only a passing knowledge of the series and what it’s about.
Perhaps the most surprising thing of all is that, in spite of the series’ popularity and the recent rise in worldwide releases for anime tie-in games, especially ones based on shonen properties, no console tie-in video game has ever been released based on the franchise. Aside from a few portable and browser-based games, video games on the property have been scarce. This game is a 3D turn-based JRPG developed by Atelier series creator Gust, covering popular story arcs from the series such as Tenerou Island and Tartarus.
Having been delayed twice for extra development time and as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, Fairy Tail is finally set for release this summer on Nintendo Switch, PS4 and PC on July 31st 2020.
Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: Remastered Edition
To play Final Fantasy: Crystal Chronicles back when it was first released on Nintendo GameCube was a Herculean effort which required multiple GameCube-GBA link cables and a bunch of friends in the same room to bring together a party that could progress the story. While it’s always been seen as a fun JRPG, the difficulty playing the game with friends always held it back from reaching a larger audience.
Now, the game is being ported to mobile devices and modern consoles with online play, allowing players to go through the entire game with friends online and set out on an adventure which sees a group of plucky young ill be combining adventurers embarking on a journey to collect ‘drops of myrrh’ that could purify the crystals that protect their home from deadly miasma. As well as offering online play to allow friends to play together from anywhere in the world, cross-platform support means players on PS4, Nintendo Switch and smartphone devices can play in the same lobby together, with saves freely-transferable between versions. There’s even a Lite version of the game that allows players to play the first 3 dungeons alone or with others or even connect with someone who owns the full game to play through the entire main story for free.
Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: Remastered Edition gives this unique and engaging JRPG a second chance, and will release on PS4, Nintendo Switch, iOS and Android on August 27th.
Captain Tsubasa: Rise of New Champions
Although Captain Tsubasa has never quite reached mainstream popularity in English-speaking countries outside of Japan, the series has found success in Asia and Europe as well as South America while being seen as an iconic manga and anime franchise at home in Japan. Multiple video games have been released based on the soccer franchise in the past, with the most recent title receiving an English release this summer.
Captain Tsubasa: Rise of New Champions takes the exaggerated, over-the-top special moves that define the soccer action of Captain Tsubasa and transform it into a fully-fledged story-driven soccer game that stands as unique within the sports genre yet in tone with what the series has become known for. This is no FIFA game, this is a extravagant soccer game that’s reminiscent of shonen action video games while being a soccer game.
Captain Tsubasa: Rise of New Champions will release on Nintendo Switch, PS4 and PC this summer on August 28th 2020.
Giraffe and Annika
Compared to all the other Japanese games I’ve chosen to highlight that are set for release over these next few months, this is the biggest outlier of the group. While all the other games are anime tie-ins or larger-scale releases, this is an indie game made on a far smaller budget. Having been initially impressed by the game last year at Tokyo Game Show 2019, however, the news that the console versions of the game will receive a physical release from NIS America made it a title worth bringing up as a wildcard game for the next few months.
In this game, you play as Annika who awakens with no memories on the mysterious Spica Island. There, she meets a boy named Giraffe, and together they go on an adventure to recover special star fragments to unravel the mysteries of her forgotten memories. With a mix of 3D plat forming and rhythm-based boss battles, I rather enjoyed my time with the game, and the upcoming console release should open the adventure up to new players.
Giraffe and Annika will be released by NIS America on Nintendo Switch and PS4 this summer on August 25th 2020 in the US and August 28th in Europe.
13 Sentinels: Aegis Rim
Finally for this summer, it’s worth bringing attention to the long-awaited release of 13 Sentinels: Aegis Rim by beloved Japanese development studio Vanillaware, known previously for their work on games like Dragon’s Crown and Odin Sphere.
Unlike the fantasy or historical settings of many of the company’s previous works, 13 Sentinels takes place in a fictionalised Tokyo setting as it tells the story of 13 characters as they each aim to avert the destruction of mankind through war. Gameplay is split up between exploration and real-time battle sequences against the game’s enemies. The game underwent a difficult development cycle as the much more ambitious scope of the game proved challenging for the studio, but the reception from the game’s release in Japan last year has been mostly positive. Retaining the 2D art style of the company’s fantasy works also sets it apart from its contemporaries.
13 Sentinels: Aegis Rim will release on PS4 on September 8th 2020.