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Tuesday, December 22, 2020

What we're looking forward to in 2021: Clark's big five


What an unmitigated nightmare of a year 2020 has been. Between the natural disasters that went large this year, over to COVID-19 and the horrors of a pandemic, very few people will look back at this year with fond memories.

Typically at the end of the year we look back at the highlights, but given that 2020 has been so unrelentingly miserable, we've decided to look forward instead. Each of the DDNet team is going to list the five things (related to games) that they're looking forward to in 2021. Whether that be new games, announcements, events or experiences. Be sure to let us know what you're looking forward to on the rebound, too! We'd love to knock this year out with a wave of positivity.

First up in this series is the DDNet anime editor, Clark!

Re:ZERO -Starting Life in Another World- The Prophecy of the Throne


As a sucker for tactics games and anime tie-ins alike, Re:ZERO is poised to scratch two itches. My love of the source material in question certainly helps matters further. There’s a possibility this will be the latest in a line of missed opportunities, as many anime games do wind up conspicuously undercooked, but I can’t contain my optimism. Here we have a game with visual novel levels of text launching in English the same day as the Japanese release (complete with the anime’s English dub cast for crying out loud). Re:ZERO has a serviceable fan base in the west, but this is still the type of niche experience that would’ve been glossed over for the umpteenth anime fighting game not long ago. What a time to be alive, huh?

Balan Wonderworld


3D platformers have seen renewed interest in recent years, but what was the last game with the lofty ambition of Balan Wonderworld? Helmed by Yuji Naka and Naoto Ohshima, this is game that reeks of the creative spirit Sega repeatedly showcased in the 90s. Its story revolves around musical theatre and that extends to its gameplay with appropriately themed levels and power-ups. Higher-ups have enough confidence in this project to name an entire company after it. It’s launching on just about every platform possible and there’s even going to be a novel. For me, the real kicker is a side-mode that looks like a successor to Sonic Adventure’s Chao Garden. It’s hard to believe Sega has been sitting on that goldmine for so many years, so I’d love to see another company surpass it.

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild 2


Nintendo has shared precious little about Breath of the Wild 2 at this juncture, but based on Zelda’s history with direct sequels, I’m intrigued. Majora’s Mask in particular was a game that I vastly preferred over Ocarina of Time. There, the developers had free reign to experiment artistically and it flew off the rails in a delightful way. It’s distinctly possible that Breath of the Wild 2 will simply iterate on the old game’s map and tweak old areas according to story necessity, but I’d prefer to see the game’s world tightened and then flipped on its head in some way. Either way, I’d like to see more of a concrete story. For whatever it’s worth, this game also has the minor advantage of being developed with the Nintendo Switch in mind rather than a cross-platform release.

Rune Factory 5


It’s rather cosmic to think Rune Factory 4 is nearly 10 years old. There was a bit of a scare in 2013 when developer Neverland filed for bankruptcy, but thanks to Marvellous, many of the same faces behind the last game are working on the upcoming entry. I always enjoy a good farming simulation game, but the presence of fantasy elements and more traditional JRPG trappings gives the series its own identity beyond what Story of Seasons or Harvest Moon offer. We’ve seen the series dabble in the home console scene before, but based on the level of quality that the fourth game achieved, there’s reason to believe this one will be the best.

Neo: The World Ends With You


A curious impulse buy in the spring of 2008 led to the discovery of one of my favourite games ever. Its emotional story leaves a lasting impression, its structure defies conventional JRPGs, and its dual-screen combat unfolds unlike anything I’ve played. The soundtrack is catchy enough that I find myself humming it 12 years later. Crucially, The World Ends With You is style and substance, leveraging all its unique assets such as said combat system to directly support the story’s central themes. I’d argue few titles marry all facets of game design so intimately. The prospect of exploring its world in 3D with fresh faces is absolutely tantalising. Did The World Ends With You really need a sequel? I have no idea, but I’m chomping at the bit to find out.

I wanted to focus on games that are confirmed or likely to release in 2021, but a quick honourable mention goes to Blue Omen Operation. The small team behind the upcoming JRPG seeks to evoke that childhood wonder we felt when booting up a game for the first time. It’s as if Paper Mario’s combat and humour fell down the stairs with Wario Ware and crash-landed into a pile of anime and manga. In other words, it’s the stuff of my dreams.

What we're looking forward to in 2021: Clark's big five
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