Battle Royale: The Last Generation Of An SNES-CD Saga

Winter 2013 (Part 1) - Year Of The Bat?
Batman: Dark Legend

An adventure/brawler game published by THQ for the Nexus (and later for the Virtua and Reality), Batman: Dark Legend is the sequel to Batman: Gotham Stories, and features dual protagonists Batman and Nightwing as they battle crime in Gotham while attempting to work together as partners to stop a dangerous enemy. Like its predecessor, the game plays more like a straight-up brawler than the OTL Arkham games, but does include more stealth and detective elements than Gotham Stories, particularly during the Batman segments. The game is also designed from the ground-up for next generation consoles, with a larger city to explore, much smoother animation, and more realistic looking buildings and characters. Batman and Nightwing both have their own unique skill trees and sets of gadgets, with Batman's gadgets focusing more on mobility and subterfuge, and Nightwing's gadgets focusing more on aggression and technology. The two do share gadgets between them as well, with both having the basic grappling hook/Batarang type equipment, with more specialization happening later on. Dark Legend also avoids breaking its action up into multiple individual stories, and instead has one flowing narrative. Batman and Nightwing each have their own parts in that narrative, which converges and then splits at least once over the course of the story, but the individual stories and character chapters of Gotham Stories are gone. There's also less of an open world feel to this game. Batman and Nightwing are both able to explore Gotham relatively freely, but the story is largely confined to certain areas, and there's not much in the way of side quests, with the game instead electing to tell a more unified and rigid story. The two also have their own brawling styles: Batman is a heavy puncher and a bit slower, while Nightwing is faster and works more kicks into his attack style, but is also a bit weaker in terms of absolute damage. The two characters each have their own distinct style, but rather than be asked to pick a favorite, the player will need to master both in order to progress through the game. Both also have their own ways of dealing with non-combatants. Batman uses his familiar fear-based approach and hiding in the shadows, while Nightwing is more direct and impulsive. The two do have a lot of similarities, but also plenty of differences, which cause them to clash at times throughout the game's story. As implied by the game's title, the tone of the game is somewhat darker than Gotham Stories, which was already a fairly dark game to begin with. The game's rating is a very strict Teen, with decent amounts of violence and blood (though there's not a lot of strong language). The game goes for a tone that somewhat combines the classic animated series with some of the more darker stories from the comics, creating a type of game that wouldn't be out of place among the contemporary animated films. Kevin Conroy reprises his role as the voice of Batman, and Kevin Michael Richardson, Cat Taber, and Grey Delisle reprise their roles as Joker, Batgirl, and Catwoman respectively. Harley Quinn appears in this game in a prominent role, voiced by Lyssa Fielding, while Will Friedle appears as Nightwing, replacing Mitchell Musso and making his first appearance in something Batman-related since his role as Terry McGinnis in Batman Beyond.

The game begins with a quick brawl segment in Bludhaven that serves as a tutorial for Nightwing. Then, after a few more scenes, Nightwing comes to Gotham, and the game begins. The main antagonist of Dark Legend is the Joker, with Harley Quinn as the secondary antagonist and several other members of Batman's rogues gallery playing somewhat minor roles. There are a few original villains and characters to speak of, and a couple returning characters from Gotham Stories, but for the most part, the game revolves around Batman, Nightwing, Batgirl, Joker, and Harley. Joker is no longer as feared as he once was, with several powerful crime bosses having taken hold of Gotham (emboldened by Joker's failure to kill all of them in Gotham Stories). Meanwhile, Harley Quinn, though still devoted to him, is slipping increasingly out of his orbit, and he feels he needs to bring her back to him by making himself one to be feared again. Dick Grayson and Barbara Gordon have been dating for several months now, something that both Batman and Commissioner Gordon oppose. There's still a rift between Batman and Nightwing, a rift that Joker would attempt to exploit as the game progresses (indeed, he feels that turning Nightwing against Batman would be the "ultimate joke", and becomes obsessed with this, putting all of his other plans aside). Harley believes that Joker is capable of destroying Gotham, and wants to see him achieve this goal, and while her plans are surprisingly pragmatic, Joker rejects them all, and eventually tries to control Harley through increasingly violent means. Though the main driving action of the game is Batman and Nightwing teaming up to take down a mob boss who happens to be an old enemy of Gordon's and who has exerted influence on a number of Batman's enemies, including Poison Ivy and Killer Croc (probably the two most prominent non-Joker or Harley villains in the game, with Poison Ivy trying to get revenge on a corporation responsible for killing a rare species of tree while also trying to save Harley from Joker, and Killer Croc playing a morally conflicted tough), the Joker's scheming plays into everything. Meanwhile, Catwoman, becoming increasingly disillusioned with her life of crime and trying to protect Batman, attempts to get close to him through Batgirl, and the two almost have a conflicted mentor-student relationship that develops in numerous story segments. This complex web of relationships and conflicts plays out across a tightly crafted nine chapter story, with four chapters seeing the player control Nightwing and four chapters seeing them control Batman, before having the player alternate between both of them for the final story segment. The first three chapters focus on Batman and Nightwing going after the mob boss but also forced to deal with an increasingly unpredictable Harley. The next three chapters see open war break out between the Joker and the mob boss, with Batman catching the Joker just after the mob boss is brutally murdered at Harley's hands (though Harley would come to regret this, with chapter seven featuring a harrowing sequence in which Nightwing and Batgirl chase Harley down, Poison Ivy and Catwoman both getting involved, and the chapter ending with Catwoman shot and feared dead, Harley Quinn and Poison Ivy captured, and Nightwing embracing a tearful Batgirl, who nearly killed Harley before being talked down). Chapter eight sees Joker executing a convoluted plan to escape police custody, but not before we see a very dark side of Batman. The chapter ends with Batman engaging in a brutal hand to hand fight with Killer Croc, who was forced to fight Batman by the Joker. Meanwhile, the Joker is able to abduct Batgirl, setting up the abduction to make it look like Batman was to blame. Chapter nine borrows somewhat from The Killing Joke, with the Joker attempting to drive Nightwing to madness and direct his anger at Batman. However, Batgirl throws a wrench in his plan by fighting back and preventing the Joker from crippling her, but she isn't able to reach Nightwing in time before Nightwing attacks Batman. Nightwing nearly kills Batman in anger, but Batman is able to disarm him, and the two work together to defeat the Joker. The game ends with the Bat-Family somewhat broken: Nightwing and Batgirl leave Gotham together, both of them somewhat traumatized by their experiences. However, there is a bright spot, as Harley renounces the Joker forever from her prison cell (and it's implied that she and Ivy have an escape plan). Batman has lost his companion (for now), but so has the Joker, while Gotham is saved for at least another day.

Batman: Dark Legend is released on February 5, 2013, and is originally a Nexus exclusive, though it would be released for both the Virtua and Reality at their respective launches in March and June. The game's detailed graphics, revamped fight system, and strong characterization are all highly praised, but its linearity and lack of scenario variety are both criticized, and the game would ultimately see reviews averaging right around 8/10, the same as Gotham Stories. Batman still doesn't have that Arkham-type game that made it one of the top OTL game franchises of its time, and it may never get it, but the Caped Crusader is still highly respected amongst gamers, and sales for all three versions of the game are fairly solid, with the Nexus version selling just over 150,000 units in its first week.

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Batman Revenger Ad Scores Strong Reviews During Super Bowl

Among commercials for several upcoming blockbusters that aired during the Super Bowl last night was the ad for Batman Revenger, the sequel to Batman Crusader, which was the most lucrative Batman film in several years. The upcoming film showed Batman locked in an escalating war with Two-Face, a villain who was once the heroic district attorney Harvey Dent, one of Bruce Wayne's best friends. Two-Face has murdered someone quite close to Bruce Wayne, while blaming Bruce Wayne for the accident that transformed him into a monster (and also for the death of his young daughter). The ad showed just how personal the struggle between Batman and Two-Face will become over the course of the film, and has the question of whether or not the Batman will break his "no killing" rule hanging over it. Batman Revenger is expected to be one of the year's most successful films, building heavily off the reception to Crusader and continuing the story of one of DC's most popular cinematic heroes. The film will release during a 2013 that many are calling the "Year Of The Bat", a year that will see not only the release of Batman Crusader, but also several video games and animated film spinoffs, and at least one DC feature film that will see Batman making a cameo. Batman is still having an incredible decade, and a number of projects featuring Batman and his various supporting characters are still expected to be announced before the end of the year.

-from an article on Tubehound, posted on February 4, 2013

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Be A Batman Villain, Only On Mobile (and Google Nexus)

Batman: Rogues releases this week for iOS and Android devices, and allows players to create their own unique member of Batman's iconic rogues' gallery. Customize your character's appearance, from their face and body to what kind of clothes they wear and weapons they use, give them a variety of skills, and give them a motivation for taking down the Batman. Then, battle it out with other rogues in a miniaturized Gotham City! Gameplay consists of completing various missions in the game's overhead perspective, which can range from setting up traps to robbing banks, or you can also choose to challenge other players for turf. It plays somewhat like a hybrid of a tower defense game and an RPG, and features in-app purchases that players can use to improve their character (with the game itself being free to play). It's fairly well crafted, and thankfully doesn't rely on the tiresome "energy" mechanic that some apps use to force players to pony up cash just to play. Players can complete a set number of missions per day regardless of whether or not they pay to do so, and the only things available for purchase are clearly defense upgrades and wearable cosmetics. It's also possible to earn points toward upgrades by completing missions, beating other players, or winning turf wars, and the graphics, while fairly simple, invoke classic Batman motifs and characters quite well, with guest appearances from classic heroes and villains from the animated shows and comics alike. Batman: Rogues is one of the year's most anticipated mobile games, and it's available for play on iOS and Android enabled devices (including the Nexus).

-from an article on Kotaku, posted on February 13, 2013

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Barbara Gordon Becomes Batman In Limited Comic Series

Bruce Wayne has gone missing, but Batman still stalks the streets of Gotham... because the former Batgirl, Barbara Gordon, has taken up the cape and cowl in this offshoot from the main Batman comic series. As many readers will recall, Barbara Gordon was paralyzed in the classic graphical novel The Killing Joke, a condition which carried over to the comics, making her the Oracle. That condition has become somewhat ambiguous in recent years, with Barbara disappearing entirely from the comics in recent months, rumored to be coming back as the Batgirl after a possible recovery. This new Batman comic series also takes place after the incident in The Killing Joke, but with Bruce Wayne gone, Barbara was forced to turn to "certain means" (the comic hasn't yet revealed how, but it's rumored that either Lex Luthor or magic was involved) to gain her mobility back so that she could keep Batman alive. Keeping Batman around is seemingly the only way to keep an as of yet unseen villain at bay, who would rage out of control if Batman were out of the picture. Barbara doesn't resort to physical transformation to make herself look the part (though the suit she uses has armor that resembles Bruce's musculature and hides her figure), she instead resorts to subterfuge, shadows, and a voice modulator to make villains see her as the Batman they fear. It's an incredibly clever take on the Batman mythos, and also an amazing exploration of Barbara's character, as she's forced to fight and act in ways she sometimes disagrees with for the greater good of keeping this mysterious evil at bay. Meanwhile, she also has to keep her father, an aging and nearly retired Commissioner Gordon, out of the loop. The series is expected to run for 16 issues, and we've seen three so far, with Barbara engaging in heated battles with Catwoman, Two-Face, and in the latest issue, a somewhat skeptical Harley Quinn. The comic is enjoying some of the best sales that DC has seen in the past several years, just behind sales of the main Batman comic series.

-from an article posted on the Comics Collected blog on March 1, 2013
 
Barbara Gordon Becomes Batman In Limited Comic Series

Bruce Wayne has gone missing, but Batman still stalks the streets of Gotham... because the former Batgirl, Barbara Gordon, has taken up the cape and cowl in this offshoot from the main Batman comic series. As many readers will recall, Barbara Gordon was paralyzed in the classic graphical novel The Killing Joke, a condition which carried over to the comics, making her the Oracle. That condition has become somewhat ambiguous in recent years, with Barbara disappearing entirely from the comics in recent months, rumored to be coming back as the Batgirl after a possible recovery. This new Batman comic series also takes place after the incident in The Killing Joke, but with Bruce Wayne gone, Barbara was forced to turn to "certain means" (the comic hasn't yet revealed how, but it's rumored that either Lex Luthor or magic was involved) to gain her mobility back so that she could keep Batman alive. Keeping Batman around is seemingly the only way to keep an as of yet unseen villain at bay, who would rage out of control if Batman were out of the picture. Barbara doesn't resort to physical transformation to make herself look the part (though the suit she uses has armor that resembles Bruce's musculature and hides her figure), she instead resorts to subterfuge, shadows, and a voice modulator to make villains see her as the Batman they fear. It's an incredibly clever take on the Batman mythos, and also an amazing exploration of Barbara's character, as she's forced to fight and act in ways she sometimes disagrees with for the greater good of keeping this mysterious evil at bay. Meanwhile, she also has to keep her father, an aging and nearly retired Commissioner Gordon, out of the loop. The series is expected to run for 16 issues, and we've seen three so far, with Barbara engaging in heated battles with Catwoman, Two-Face, and in the latest issue, a somewhat skeptical Harley Quinn. The comic is enjoying some of the best sales that DC has seen in the past several years, just behind sales of the main Batman comic series.

-from an article posted on the Comics Collected blog on March 1, 2013
That makes me wonder where Nightwing and Robin would be in all this. Speaking of the latter, was Grant Morrison's mid-00s run Batman butterflied away? If so, then so would Damian Wayne and Tim Drake would likely still be holding the mantle.
 
But I was looking for "Massively Multiplayer (Part 2)" so it was harder to find.

o_O..........
XD
Well I had been busy with the holidays and forgot about the thread lock. With the shutdown yesterday I was like hey why have I not seen anything from MM. So, I am playing catch up now. See you guys soon 😆
 
Well fuck, Ubisoft now owns Konami. Please tell me they're less evil than they are in OTL
I will say that Ubisoft is at a better place CREATIVELY than IOTL. Perhaps not from a business standpoint, though.

That’s quite a loss there that the Arkham games don’t exist ITTL, they inspired quite a few a games.
That is true, the counter-based brawlers inspired by Arkham may not come about like they did IOTL. Brawlers are more aggressive and strike-based. However, there are going to be three significantly influential games coming out before 2015 that might do for brawlers ITTL what Arkham did IOTL (and none of them is strictly a brawler, but will incorporate brawler mechanics to some extent). One of them has already been announced and is accumulating a fair bit of hype. The other one hasn't been formally announced yet but is sort of being looked forward to (and will be formally announced at E3 2013), and the final one hasn't even been hinted yet but will be announced at E3 2013. Two are console exclusives, one will be a multiplat.

That makes me wonder where Nightwing and Robin would be in all this. Speaking of the latter, was Grant Morrison's mid-00s run Batman butterflied away? If so, then so would Damian Wayne and Tim Drake would likely still be holding the mantle.
Nightwing is meeting with Barbara regularly during the Barbara/Batman series. Robin will be seen later on. As for Morrison's run, it wasn't butterflied but it was truncated to some extent, so his influence on TTL's Batman is less.
 
Winter 2013 (Part 2) - Ubisoft's RPGs Of Light And Dark
Child Of Light

Child Of Light is an RPG developed by Ubisoft Montreal as a digital exclusive title. Similar to OTL's game, Child Of Light depicts a young princess named Aurora who is seemingly killed before being transported to a magical world from which she must find her way back home. The game features an art style similar to that of OTL's game, with a 2-D aesthetic that heavily resembles a storybook. The game's development timescale is accelerated from OTL's. OTL's Child Of Light was released in 2014, the game's earlier release ITTL is due to more fiscal support given to the game by Ubisoft, which has more RPG developers on staff due to the existence of the series The Darkest (indeed, many of the programmers and writers from that team also worked on Child Of Light, with more similarities drawn between the two games). The gameplay has some resemblance with platformer and Metroidvania games, with Aurora able to find treasures and explore outside of battle, and she encounters enemies on the world map rather than randomly. The gameplay and combat system are almost identical to OTL's title, utilizing an active time-style sequence order for combat, and focusing heavily on the use of status effects and buffs during battles, with the player encouraged to weaken enemies before inflicting damage upon them. There are some special attacks that allow the player to cast from their HP to use especially powerful effects (similar to how the original Darkest games had players casting spells from their HP rather than from MP). The game's plot is also fairly similar, though there are some major differences regarding certain characters, including Aurora herself. The game's original plan to have Aurora age up from 5 to 20 (which was scrapped IOTL) is utilized here, with Aurora spending the very start of the game as a five year old, spending most of the first half as a 10 year old, spending most of the second half as a 15 year old, and then powering up in the game's climax and becoming a 20 year old as she leads her team to defeat the evil queen Umbra. Another of the game's significant changes addresses the character of Norah/Nox. In the original game, Nox was defeated and killed by Aurora after betraying her, but in TTL's game, Nox can be saved and can become Norah again if the player fulfills a certain number of gameplay objectives, and if so, Norah will rejoin the player for the final dungeon. The overall game itself is a bit shorter than OTL's game, though the ending dungeon itself is longer. Child Of Light, like OTL's game, is a charming digital RPG that gives the player a big adventure for a budget price. It's released to all of the next-gen systems (Reality, Virtua, Nexus, Connect, and Gemini) as well as the Nintendo Sapphire, and if the player purchases The Darkest (which is released a couple of weeks after Child Of Light), they get a code to download the Sapphire version of Child Of Light for free (a $20 value at the time of the game's release). The brand synergy between the two Ubisoft RPGs helps to raise awareness of Child Of Light, with more than 100,000 people taking advantage of the offer. Of course, the game, which achieves strong review scores, does well on other systems too, even if there's no free game offer on those platforms, becoming one of the Nexus' biggest digital exclusives at the time of its release.

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The Darkest

The Darkest is an action-RPG developed by Ubisoft San Francisco (in conjunction with Ubisoft Montreal, sharing programmers and resources between them). It's the fourth game in the RPG series The Darkest, which tells the story of demonic incursions into our world brought about by normal human beings dabbling with magic. The game's primary protagonist is Kris, a demon hunter and sorceress in her 30s who is now the leader of a small army of sorcerers in training who battle demons all across the world. Kris' followers can also be utilized in combat, and the player is able to control them as well, but for the most part they'll be controlling Kris, who can sling spells and physical attacks with incredible precision and skill. The game's format is significantly different from the previous three games, which were turn-based RPGs. The Darkest is an action-RPG that takes most of its gameplay ideas from titles like Bayonetta and Full Metal Alchemist: spell-slinging in real time, with brawler-esque combat. It's essentially Full Metal Alchemist's gameplay without the Law of Equivalent Exchange: Kris can cast spells for free (materially, at least, she does need to spend from her regenerating Ritual Point pool in order to cast them). Kris has also evolved quite a bit as a character, having gone from a somewhat grumpy and melancholy teenager to a confident and brash adult, with a personality somewhere between Bayonetta and Gogo Tomago. Instead of protecting a town (as was the case in the case in the first two games) or a small city (as was the case in The Darkest 3), Kris and her disciples travel the world wherever demons are sighted, battling them and using magic to seal up the portals from which they came. As Kris and her disciples defeat demons and complete missions, they'll gain experience points and UC (Underworld Currency), which can be used to buy new weapons and spells and power themselves up. Kris can take up to three disciples into battle with her (out of a total of eight), each of whom have their own quirks and battle skills, so depending on the player's style, they'll be able to mix and match Kris' companions to their liking. Kris herself can develop her magic in one of several disciplines, though instead of being related to the elements as they are in most RPGs, the magic disciplines are related to the magic's function: Slashing, Sealing, Scouring, Searing, Synergizing, and Submerging. Slashing spells can cause direct damage quickly and easily and can also sever enemies' limbs, Sealing spells weaken enemies and can also crush them, Scouring spells tend to be more explosive and can also melt certain enemies, Searing spells tend to cause burns of various types, Synergizing spells bring out more power from the magic of Kris' disciples and can also be combined, and Submerging spells tend to trap enemies or suffocate them. Each discipline of magic has its own style and uses, and again, it's mostly according to player preference how to power up and use Kris' magic. The Darkest features very good graphics for a Sapphire game. It's not one of Ubisoft's biggest budgeted games, but for a JRPG-style game it's had quite a lot of money and work put into it, and the backgrounds and character animations look gorgeous. Amy Lee returns as the voice of Kris, though the remainder of the voice cast isn't quite as high-profile as the cast of The Darkest 3, with a mix of Los Angeles and Toronto-based voice actors performing the roles of the other major characters in the game.

The Darkest takes place in a world around 15 years after the events of the original The Darkest Ritual, and five years after the events of The Darkest 3. Kris has now gotten fully over her friend Etienne's death and now confidently commands a group of demon hunting sorcerers in a world increasingly overrun by demonic incursions. The first half of the game introduces the player to this new, dangerous world, as well as Kris' eight disciples. The player begins with three and recruits the remaining five over the course of the game, four of which include characters from previous games (Kris' two companions from the second half of The Darkest Night, along with Caleb and Starr from The Darkest 3). The four new characters are teenagers, and they sometimes clash with Kris over her leadership, which reminds her of her own time learning magic as a teenager and also leads to some fun generation gap moments where the writers get to make fun of the differences between Generation X and Millennials. The game is fairly light-hearted in tone (especially when compared to The Darkest Night), though the game's villains can be quite nasty, especially the primary antagonist, who turns out to be a Lovecraftian-type demonic entity created from the malevolent hatred of humanity (basically, every time a spell was ever cast with malicious intent, it fed into this creature's power). Called Maliphage, the creature can shift forms between a horrific demon creature and a human, and is sometimes portrayed as a human corporate executive commanding his own army of sorcerers (who can shapeshift into horrible creatures as well). Kris and her disciples respond to a series of increasingly deadly attacks, only to realize about halfway through the game that they're actually making the demons stronger by fighting them. Kris then realizes that she needs to find a weapon that can sever the link between negative human emotions and the demon world, which would cut Maliphage off from his source of power. In order to do this, Kris needs to find a series of relics known as the Heavenly Runes, which have been scattered throughout the world and are being sought after by Maliphage's demon army. Kris and her disciples fight a series of battles to retrieve these artifacts, but Kris is unable to wield them due to her own corruption caused by her dark deeds (the weapon she needs to use burns her hands when she tries to use it). In order to use the weapon, she needs to visit heaven and be purged of her demonic energy. In a late-game sequence, Kris and her disciples figure out how to induce temporary death in Kris so that she can visit heaven, and there's a touching sequence where she briefly meets with Etienne, with the two discussing what it's like in heaven (Etienne is happy, but she's also bored). Etienne is able to purge Kris of her demonic energy long enough for Kris to wield the weapon and sever humanity's ties to Maliphage, which then opens him up to be defeated in a final climactic battle that takes place in a city very much resembling New York. Maliphage is beaten and the demonic threat to humanity is ended. Kris becomes a very reluctant hero, and decides to retreat back into obscurity, but promises to meet with her friends in secret to continue their magical training. The Darkest ends on a note of finality, with most of the developers believing that this game will be the last in the series.

The Darkest is released for the Sapphire in early 2013 as one of the last significant exclusives for the system. Reviews are decent, averaging in the mid to high 7s, but are still considered the worst in the series, with criticism toward the game's somewhat repetitive combat and Kris' characterization being the most prominent (many longtime fans think she's “too happy” in this game). Ubisoft hypes the game enough for it to see fairly strong early sales, but sales trail off somewhat quickly, as the game is being released on what many now consider a “dying” system. However, interest in the series remains, especially after Ubisoft begins porting the older titles to other systems like the Nexus and the Reality. Because of this, the hope for one last installment remains alive, and the game's writing team begins quietly brainstorming ideas, in hopes that they'll be given a chance to send the series off with a bang. Meanwhile, Ubisoft, thanks to the moderate success of games like Child Of Light and The Darkest, see the potential in JRPG-style games going forward. There won't be any Final Fantasy-style epics coming from the company, but digital and indie titles could be more likely to see the light of day going forward...
 
So Ubisoft acquiring Konami won't be a dumpster fire here after all, huh.
Remember, The Darkest is a legacy series from before Ubisoft was really Ubisoft as we know them today, the games in the most recent post represent a small (and arguably shrinking) part of the company's agenda. The next few years will be crucial to how Ubisoft moves forward as a company.
 
Late to the party again, but I just remembered you saying that Danganronpa doesn't exist ITTL, does that mean that DISTRUST actually got made?

 
Interesting Ubisoft is porting older titles to the Nexus and Reality but not the Virtua. Maybe something to do with backwards compatibility, maybe Virtua might be the 8th gen black sheep.
 
Late to the party again, but I just remembered you saying that Danganronpa doesn't exist ITTL, does that mean that DISTRUST actually got made?

Thanks for the info, we will discuss it. Ummmm
 
Winter 2013 (Part 3) - A Universe Of Animated Hits
The current state of the major kids' cable networks as of early 2013:

Cartoon Network: Cartoon Network enjoyed a major hit throughout 2012 with The Legend Of Korra, but the show was created to last only one season, and unlike IOTL, the show wasn't brought back for more (despite being a big hit in the ratings). Instead, the network agreed to commission another project from Bryan Konietzko and Michael Dante DiMartino, and in the meantime, gave the spotlight to a bright crop of young creators to put their next generation of cartoons together. Hero Quest, created by Pendleton Ward, has proved to be a hit (though not quite on the level of OTL's Adventure Time), and has become the most popular show on the network. In addition, 2013 will see the launch of two more shows: Steven Universe, created by Rebecca Sugar, and Acrotopia, created by Siena Avrodopolous (an original TTL creator). Steven Universe is quite similar to OTL's show, starring a young boy who fights evil alongside his caretakers, three magical space aliens known as the Crystal Gems. The show has a very positive message and features plenty of singing and emotion, and is expected to be somewhat of a contrast to the more combat focused Hero Quest. Then, there's Acrotopia, set in a sort of wacky version of ancient Greece and starring a young Athenian girl named Nora who goes on adventures and befriends the gods. It's a slightly more serious show than Steven Universe and is sort of a different take on the classic Greek myths, with a bit of modern world sensibilities thrown in. The two shows will be debuting in a block together in the fall, and the network will begin hyping them up throughout the spring and summer. However, the news from Cartoon Network isn't all bright and sunny. The "Brit Block" anchored by Thomas The Tank Engine petered out somewhat, as none of the shows apart from Thomas were able to score big in the rankings. Thomas itself is also seeing a slight ratings decline, though it's still the most popular preschool show on TV. As for Toonami and the network's DC-based shows, they've also seen somewhat of a decline in ratings and popularity. Even during the Year of the Bat, the network's superhero shows are struggling, and Toonami may see a revamp (or disappear all together) if things don't turn around. Cartoon Network does have one big project up its sleeve: The Iron Giant: The Animated Series is expected to debut in 2014. It's the network's biggest budgeted TV show to date, taking place after the events of the second movie and further expanding on the universe and lore. Brad Bird will helm the series, and it will introduce new characters alongside Hogarth (now a teenager) and his friends.

Nickelodeon: Nickelodeon continues to decline somewhat, though it continues to have hits in the form of Fifteen and Shibuya, both of which continue to pull down more than three million viewers an episode. It's also had some form of success with its Goosebumps anthology series, and there's talk that the network may actually do a sort of "crossover" with its classic horror series Are You Afraid Of The Dark?, bringing elements of the two shows together for a Halloween horror special later this year. Nickelodeon's lack of serialized fare has started to hurt the network, with Cartoon Network, Disney Channel, and Fox Family all airing serialized kids' shows at this time, while Nickelodeon continues to air episodic programming that isn't catching viewers' long-term interest. The network has also shied away from live action comedies for the most part, with Fifteen unique amongst their programming. Nickelodeon continues to leverage licensed properties, but with DC tied up in licensing with Cartoon Network, Fox Family having a monopoly on Marvel, and Dark Horse in an exclusive deal with Adult Swim for the time being, Nickelodeon is seeking out companies such as Image to create content for them, but with most of Image's properties intended for older readers, negotiations with that company have hit a number of snags. The company is now looking to create game shows and variety shows to try and bring in viewers, with 2013 seeing the introduction of three new game shows (including a Legends Of The Hidden Temple reboot) and two new variety shows. Nickelodeon is still in a tricky time of transition, and will need to find another major hit to avoid sinking to last place in the ratings.

The Disney Channel: Still in fourth place but nipping at Nickelodeon's heels, The Disney Channel is "back" and on the rise, with several new hits. Gamer Girl continues to be a massive success, and has recently overtaken Welcome To Riverdale as the top "kidcom" on cable, while Mickey Mouse And Friends also proved to be a major hit, anchoring the network's Animagic block alongside fellow rookie animated hit Rick And Morty. The latter show, a whacked-out science adventure series about a mad scientist and his young companion, majorly pushes the edges of what the network's standards will allow (It's a Y10 show pushing TV-PG), but has also pushed to the top of the network's animated ratings charts, and is starting to be a major merchandise driver as well. There's also The Magician, a show about a young magician who starts out doing regular tricks until he learns that magic is actually real and that he's part of a special order of magicians. It's the most successful of the network's new "dramedy" shows, serialized shows combining comedy and drama, and is starting to gain a major following. Disney Channel, for the most part, has recovered completely from the Smart Squad tragedy and is now poised to be the #1 kids' TV network, assuming it can continue to pump out new hits.

Fox Family: Fox Family has plateaued. While it's now the #1 kids' network on cable, its overall ratings have declined a bit, largely thanks to the relatively disappointing performance of its new slate of animated comedies, which haven't quite lived up to the hype generated by the network's animated action shows. The network's Marvel shows have done well, with Guardians Of The Galaxy proving to be the highest rated of the bunch, but the end of Spider-Man Evolved has left the network with a hole that it still hasn't managed to fill. Welcome To Riverdale has also plateaued a bit, though it's still the #2 kids' show on cable. All in all, Fox Family is mostly doing fine, save for a few hiccups with its 2011 and 2012 debut shows. Now that the network is mostly done debuting Marvel content, it's on to video games. Rayman debuted in the fall of 2012 and is doing decently well, and a new cartoon based on Mega Man is set to debut in 2013. Rather than the somewhat silly 1995 Ruby-Spears show, this is a more serious take on the Blue Bomber and will incorporate characters and situations from the original timeline, the X series, and the Next series. It's also a test for whether Capcom-based animated shows can succeed in the West. If they can, series based on Street Fighter and other Capcom properties will likely be headed to Fox Family in a show of corporate synergy between the two companies (Apple is also watching, and may debut shows from their own properties on the network as well). Fox Family is likely to be an action-focused animation network in the future, along with more mature live action shows aimed at teenagers. The network has always skewed slightly older than its competition, but it's been a winning strategy so far.

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Wendy Halpers: You mentioned video games as being one of your big influences in creating Steven Universe. What sorts of games were most influential to you?

Rebecca Sugar: Obviously the old school mascot games, Mario and Sonic, were really big influences, both in the design of their worlds and also just the general atmosphere, the characters and the music. I was so fortunate to find musicians familiar with the style of music in those games who would be able to adapt it to the series. And then there are games like Squad Four and Andrekah, really big adventures, and in the case of Andrekah, a lot of magical elements that I could incorporate as well. Andrekah was this old SNES-CD game with this cute flying witch protagonist who used all sorts of fun little magic on the bad guys, it was a really cute game and I paid homage to some of that game's design elements in Steven Universe, especially some of the earlier episodes. Fairytale was a big influence as well, especially thematically.

Halpers: With games being such a big influence on your design philosophy for Steven Universe, why not just make a game? There are a lot of creatives who are going into game writing and game development these days, and it is somewhat refreshing to see a lot of creative people making animated shows, but at the same time, with so many people going into games, what kept you in cartoons?

Sugar: I love the medium of animation, you can convey so much emotion and beauty through animation. You can do the same thing with games, but not to the same extent. I would like to maybe do a Steven Universe game someday, but that's only going to happen if the show is successful.

Halpers: What other influence did video games have on the development of the show?

Sugar: There were a few casting choices influenced by video games, or at least games raised awareness of some of the actors we brought in. Deedee Magno Hall, for example, who voices Pearl, she also plays Rebecca in the Squad Four games. Rebecca is one of my favorite video game characters of all time, she's this incredibly strong hearted person who's a member of this team of space heroes, and she's also a serious badass, and Pearl shares a lot of those traits. She's a different kind of character, but Deedee brings that same level of strength and I'm really looking forward to people getting to hear her. Then there's Amethyst, who... originally we actually cast Brittany Saldita as Amethyst, because I really wanted to cast her in something. She was the only woman host on GameTV for a long time before Lyssa came in, and she was this huge role model for so many girls in my generation, and getting to bring her in and hearing her voice Amethyst was just incredible, she had this real kind of laid back, very defiant kind of performance that fit Amethyst so perfectly, but then she got the cancer diagnosis and she had to back out of the role. We did find Michaela Dietz soon after, and she was... well, she has this amazing rasp to her voice that I felt fit Amethyst even better. As well as Brittany played Amethyst, her voice is really smooth and so Michaela brought in this sort of raw energy... but Brittany understood completely, I let Brittany hear Michaela's performance and we both agreed that Michaela fit the role even better. But I'd still love to bring in Brittany down the road. I told her that she's free to audition for any character that comes along, and so hopefully she is able to get better and we are able to find a place for her because I'd really love to have her voicing a character.

Halpers: On a more personal note, a lot of people know I'm not a huge fan of games because I just don't like the physical conflict aspect that a lot of games have, and I was just wondering because your show seems a lot more emotional than physical, do you think video games are going in that direction as well?

Sugar: I actually hope so, because games should be about more than just fighting and punching stuff. I do love a lot of fighting and brawling games for sure, but as the medium has evolved, I think games have gotten more focused on emotion rather than on combat and conflict. There's a game coming up this year that I'm really looking forward to, and that's Miraculous Ladybug, it's a brawling type game but the combat isn't the point, the creator of the game, who actually used to work on animation, has emphasized that the game's focus is on healing people and making friendships, and so the combat is designed to protect and help people and not to hurt the bad guy, which I think if they pull it off will be amazing. It could change the entire game, so to speak. I hope Steven Universe does the same thing for cartoons!

-from an interview posted on the Cressida Lane website on February 27, 2013

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Here are the ten most popular currently running kids' shows as of March 2013. This isn't in terms of absolute ratings, but a combination of ratings, reviews, and cultural relevance:

1. Gamer Girl
2. Welcome To Riverdale
3. Rick And Morty
4. Hero Quest
5. Mickey Mouse And Friends
6. Fifteen
7. Thomas The Tank Engine
8. Shibuya
9. Guardians Of The Galaxy
10. The Magician
 
Rick and Morty as a kids' show? ATL Rick must be somewhat less of an alcohol-fueled asshole, then - or maybe not, since OTL Gravity Falls was one of those shows that excelled at pushing a lot of crap past the radar, over the heads of most kids, and straight at the feet of its adult audience.
 
Rick and Morty as a kids' show? ATL Rick must be somewhat less of an alcohol-fueled asshole, then - or maybe not, since OTL Gravity Falls was one of those shows that excelled at pushing a lot of crap past the radar, over the heads of most kids, and straight at the feet of its adult audience.
How? Gravity was a by the books show, rocco modern life did have More adult jokes sneaked in
 
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