For me, January has always been one of the most uninteresting months in terms of gaming. After the busy holiday season, January used to be the calm after a storm and was the perfect time to get rid of parts of one’s backlog. The same cannot be said about this upcoming January though which is about to become the most busiest January in video game history, especially for fans of Japanese games. In addition to games being released, there are also 2 major events to look forward to. So let’s see what January 2017 has in store for us!

Events

Nintendo Switch Presentation (January 12/13th)

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We are only 3 months away until Nintendo’s new hybrid console will launch world-wide and apart from the initial reveal trailer and other rumours and leaks, we still don’t know much about the Nintendo Switch. I am therefore super excited for the Nintendo Switch Presentation in January, where we will finally get to know the exact release date, the price and of course the launch(window) lineup. I will not be able to watch it live since it airs at 5AM CET, but I can’t wait to go through all the info that we’ll get!

Final Fantasy – 30th Anniversary Opening Ceremony (January 31st)

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Final Fantasy XV has only just released, but that does not mean that the Final Fantasy train will stop anytime soon. While the next main installment is probably still years away, Square Enix has been preparing itself for the series’ 30th anniversary in 2017 and will kick it off with an official Opening Ceremony on January 31st. I doubt that this date is a coincidence since the 31st of January 2017 is actually the 20th anniversary of Final Fantasy VII, so I am certain that we can expect new info and maybe even a release date/window for the first episode of the Final Fantasy VII Remake. Other announcements that sound realistic are a release date for the HD Remaster of Final Fantasy XII and and an announcement of a PS4 port of the new Dissidia Fighting game. There have been rumours floating around that they will release a huge FF Collectors Box for PS4 and Vita, but I would take that rumour with a big grain of salt.

Game releases

Hatsune Miku Project Diva Future Tone

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It’s weird to include this game in the preview since I have already played this game myself for months, but due to the fact that this is getting an official release in the West, it should definitely be on this list. Future Tone is a PS4 Port of the Arcade game of the famous Project Diva rhythm game series and is packed with a ridiculous amount of content. The game consists of 2 large song packs which contain over 220 songs in total (!) and over 350 modules and customization items. The gameplay is mostly similar to the console Project Divas with a few notable and important differences. Hold Buttons work completely different and don’t have a clear release point, but give more points the longer you keep holding the button. Multibutton-notes are not limited to Up+Triangle, Right+Circle, Down+X and Left+Square, but can take every variation possible and even include triple and all-button combinations which are hell especially in the beginning. The game also includes a practice mode that allows players to practice a certain section of a song over and over again and you’ll need that! Future Tone’s difficulty is fine until Hard, but Extreme is much more difficult than Extreme on the console titles! I enjoyed my time throughly with this game and considering all the content it’s a steal at this price. Too bad it wasn’t released on physical form though.

Platform: PlayStation 4 (digital only)
Developer/Publisher: SEGA
Release Date: January 10th

Fate/Extella: The Umbral Star

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This is probably the smallest title on the entire list and I am more or less only listing it because it features Artoria Saber (=P) Fate/Extella is basically another Musou clone and features 16 playable servants from the Fate universe including Artoria, Nero, Archer, Gilgamesh and Jeanne d’Arc. It looks like a pretty standard Musou clone to me, so I doubt I will get it for full price. Might take a look once it’s on sale though.

Platforms: PlayStation 4, PlayStation Vita
Developer/Publisher: Marvelous/XSEED(NA), Marvelous (EU)
Release Date: January 17th (NA); January 20th (EU)

Dragon Quest VIII: Journey of the Cursed King

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Dragon Quest VIII on the PS2 was my first foray into the Dragon Quest franchise (since it was actually the first Dragon Quest to release in Europe (!)) and I couldn’t have hoped for a better introduction to this legendary JRPG-series. DQVIII is a great game with a charming story, a nice cel-shading artstyle, classic turn-based combat and a huge world to explore. Unfortunately, the 3DS port doesn’t look as nice as the PS2 version imo and due to unknown reasons the orchestral soundtrack that was used in the Western PS2 version has been replaced with the original MIDI sounds again. The 3DS version comes with a few changes and improvements as well though, such as enemies being visible on the field and the removal of random encounters, a new character and a fast forward option in battle. Whoever hasn’t had the opportunity to play this on the PS2 should definitely take a look!

Platform: Nintendo 3DS
Developer/Publisher: Level 5/Nintendo
Release Date: January 20th

Gravity Rush 2

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The first Gravity Rush on the Vita was one of the most unique titles on the platform and while I really liked Kat as a protagonist and enjoyed moving through the very cool designed world, the gameplay didn’t convince me completely. Manipulating gravity to move around quickly and to fight enemies was a very unique and interesting idea, but I felt that it even with the gyro controls of the Vita it was difficult to pull it off. With enough practice the flow of movement and combat looked amazing, but for me it always looked a bit clunky. I heard that it’s easier to move in the PS4 port, but I haven’t played that one. I therefore don’t know yet whether I’ll play the sequel at launch, but from what I’ve seen the game world looks even more beautiful than in the first game and the addition of characters such as Raven (who will be playable in a free DLC as well) looks promising. The game is sitting in a hard place with so many games coming out at the same time and I hope that it won’t be forgotten since it would be a shame if a unique IP like Gravity Rush would bomb.

Platform: PlayStation 4
Developer/Publisher: Sony Japan Studio/Sony
Release Date: January 18th (EU); January 20th (NA+UK)

Kingdom Hearts HD 2.8 Final Chapter Prologue

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A new Kingdom Hearts game a new confusing title. After Square Enix already confused gamers with the 1.5 and 2.5 HD Collections, Kingdom Hearts HD 2.8 Final Chapter Prologue will be the last collection (except for the PS4 port of 1.5 and 2.5) leading up to Kingdom Hearts III. It includes the cutscenes from the browser game Kingom Hearts χ Back Cover and a HD Remaster of Kingdom Hearts: Dream Drop Distance which was originally released on the 3DS. In addition, a completely new chapter called Kingdom Hearts 0.2: Birth by Sleep – A Fragmentary Passage is part of the package. This new chapter is apparently set after the events of Birth by Sleep and features Aqua as playable character. I played a brief section of that new chapter at Gamescom and as far as I see it it gives us a nice glimpse into the gameplay that we can expect from KHIII.
Kingdom Hearts is probably one of the most convoluted franchises in gaming history, but with 2.8 as well as the upcoming PS4 ports of 1.5 and 2.5, all KH games will finally be playable on one console, which should make it at least a little bit easier to get into the series. I personally really enjoyed 1 and 2 back in the PS2 days, but never bothered to follow all the spin-offs that followed. These collections are therefore very much welcomed in order to prepare myself for Kingdom Hearts III.

Platform: PlayStation 4
Developer/Publisher: Square Enix
Release Date: January 24th

Resident Evil 7: Biohazard

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Before E3 this year I was certain that Resident Evil 7 would be unveiled there since the timing just seemed right, but I would have never imagined that the actual reveal would still manage to surprise me. Resident Evil 7 feels like a reboot for the series and what we’ve seen thus far is in stark contrast to the last 2 installments which ditched most of the horror elements in favor of action. With RE7 Capcom is trying to bring the series back to its Survival-Horror roots to a point that some people thought that it even looked too scary for a RE game (including me). The fact that the traditional 3rd person perpective has been switched with a first person view definitely adds to this feeling. It is therefore not surprising that RE7 will be fully compatible with PS VR (time-exclusive) and since this will probably be the first AAA VR game, a lot of hopes and expectations are riding on this game. Capcom recently released small tapes with gameplay snippets which featured known elements from the series such as saving via a recorder, herbs and inventory management. I am still not convinced that this game will be for me, since it still seems so different to what I am used to when I think about Resident Evil, but the small snippets at least give me hope that there is much more RE in it than we think.

Platforms: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC
Developer/Publisher: Capcom
Release Date: January 24th

Tales of Berseria

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The Tales-of Franchise was probably the only major JRPG-franchise last generation that has actually seen a steady flow of releases and that wasn’t slowed down by major development issues. Most of the time the games are not extraordinary, but I really enjoy those games for what they are, because AA-games like these made up the bulk of the vast JRPG library on the PS2. Nonetheless, the series has been declining in quality after Graces f and while Xillia was still fine, I didn’t like Xillia 2 and Zestiria at all. Because of that, the announcement of Tales of Berseria which kind of serves as a prequel to Zestiria didn’t excite me at all. It wasn’t until I played the Japanese demo and read some import impressions that I actually started to become interested in this title again. The combat in the demo felt really good (probably the best since Graces) and many importers have already praised it as the best Tales game since Vesperia. Import impressions can of course be wrong, but I really hope that Berseria will revitalize my interest in this franchise.

Platforms: PlayStation 4, PC
Developer/Publisher: Bandai Namco
Release Date: January 24th (NA); January 27th (EU)

Yakuza 0

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I admit that I am late to the party with this franchise, but better late than never. After having played Yakuza 3 and 4 this year, I am tremendously happy that the franchise is getting another chance in the West. The announcement of a localization of Yakuza 0 was already great, but at PSX a few weeks ago we even got confirmation that Kiwami (a Remake of 1) and Yakuza 6 will see a Western release as well. The delay of over a year after the Japanese release is harsh, but once again: better late than never. Yakuza 0 serves as a prequel to Yakuza 1 and follows Kazuma Kiryu and Majima Goro in 1988 Japan. Since it’s the first Mainline Yakuza title that was released on the PS4, the visuals are great and from what I’ve played during gamescom Kamurocho has never looked as realistic as it does now. The combat also felt like a huge improvement and much more dynamic than in the PS3 titles. I still need to play Yakuza 5 before this one since it might be difficult to go back to the PS3 after making the jump to the PS4, but I am really looking forward to playing this soon! Yakuza needs more love in the West, so anyone who is interested should check it out as well!

Platform: PlayStation 4
Developer/Publisher: SEGA
Release Date: January 24th

Digimon World: Next Order

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Digimon Story: Cyber Sleuth was one of the biggest surprises this year and Bandai Namco is following up on that with the localization of Digimon World: Next Order. The original game was a Vita exclusive, but the West will only get the new PS4 port of the game, which is unfortunate for all Vita owners. Fans of Cyber Sleuth should also be aware that this game is part of the “World”-Series which has a focus on Digimon raising/breeding in contrast to the “Story”-Series that has a more classic J-RPG structure in order to avoid disappointments. While I personally like playing around with Digimon Evolutions to some extent, I am not sure whether the focus around raising and breeding Digimon is something for me, but I will definitely keep an eye on initial impressions.

Platform: PlayStation 4
Developer/Publisher: Bandai Namco
Release Date: January 27th (EU); January 31st (NA)

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