As part of a mini press conference at GDC 2017, Japanese developer Spike Chunsoft had two big announcements that made many fans quite happy.
The first was Fire Pro Wrestling World, the latest chapter of what is often considered to be one of the best wrestling game franchises to ever exist. With nearly 10 years having passed since the previous game hit our shores (Fire Pro Wrestling Returns on the PlayStation 2), this is a hugely exciting—and long-awaited—announcement for plenty of people, myself included. While the classic Fire Pro-style gameplay will still be in place, the team at Spike Chunsoft is beefing up the game in other ways. The 2D sprites used to create all of the wrestlers are being given a new filtered look, players will be able to jump into matches or even tournaments online, and there promises to be even more depth to the typically huge amount of customization options offered for creating wrestlings, arenas, and match types.
If you’re not familiar with Fire Pro, that last part is what’s made the series so popular over time: the ability to reach levels of customization and modification that most other wrestling games never get anywhere near reaching. That, in part, is why I expect Fire Pro Wrestling World to continue with the tradition of having no licensed wrestlers or federations present in the game; Fire Pro is about you making whatever you want, not about playing within the limits that would come from partnerships with any particular organizations. (However, the games have often sneakily featured many famous wrestlers from around the globe by not actually calling them by their real names or using their exact likenesses.)
Fire Pro Wrestling World is scheduled to hit Steam Early Access in early summer, and PlayStation 4 later in the year.
While a new Fire Pro didn’t come as a complete surprise thanks to an earlier tease from Spike Chunsoft, the company’s next announcement absolutely did: an English-language release of the Japanese murder mystery visual novel 428: Shibuya Scramble. 428 is something of a unique game in an already unusual genre, as it uses real-life footage and still photography to craft its narrative instead of the usual hand-drawn artwork or 3D character models.
Why 428‘s release in the West is such a surprise is that this is one of those titles that folks like me just assumed had been lost to time. The game originally saw release on the Wii in 2008, and then shortly after on the PlayStation 3 and PSP, but was seen as too “Japanese” of a game to localize for other countries on any of those platforms. If there’s any one perfect example of just how times have changed—and how even the most obscure games can now find life beyond the shores of Japan—428 absolutely fits that category.
428: Shibuya Scramble will be released for PlayStation 4 and Windows PC next year. Yes, sadly, for those of us who consider the Vita the perfect visual novel platform, we’ll have to play the game on something a little less portable.