E3 2016 Reaction

With E3 winding down, it’s time I flush all these thoughts out of my brain. Who won? Who lost? Who cares?

If I had to say what conference was the best, I would say Sony. Sony’s keynote on Monday night was succinct and didn’t waste time to show games – overly long orchestra section to unveil the new God of War notwithstanding.  Sony had a couple of big announcements, showed more of games people expected to see, and generally did nothing but please. Oh, and we learned that Hideo Kojima’s new game will be called Death Stranding and stars Norman Reedus. Rest peacefully, Silent Hills.

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On the other hand, if I were to pick the one thing unveiled at E3 that was the biggest highlight, it would be Microsoft’s Project Scorpio. The rumored Xbox One upgrade was confirmed and is promised to be the most powerful home console in existence. If you’re apart of the PC master race that won’t matter to you. But for those of us in the console market, which I am proud to be apart of, the technical specifications of Microsoft’s new machine could make Xbox One the go-to system for multi-platform releases in the second half of generation 8.

Then again, even when Microsoft does have something cool to show at E3, they still can’t seem to get their house in order. There have been mixed messages regarding the future of Xbox. I’m focused on Phil Spencer’s comments that without a 4K television, the upgrade from a standard Xbox One to Scorpio isn’t worth it for current owners. This is despite the new system having been said to have a positive effect on games already released that have a varying resolution. Eurogamer’s Rich Stanton also explores what the divide in the Xbox family means moving forward.

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On Tuesday morning, Nintendo finally came out to play with its Nintendo Treehouse stream. The big N caught some flak leading up to E3 for choosing not to hold any sort of formal event and forgoing unveiling its new hardware – codename NX – set to release next March. Instead, Nintendo held its Treehouse stream to showcase its upcoming Legend of Zelda title which will release on both Wii U and NX. Now known to be fully named The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, the new Zelda looked nothing short of amazing. I’ve been a detractor from modern Zelda for quite a while; publicly chastising the last major entry, Skyward Sword, at every chance I get (despite its critical acclaim). When it comes to Zelda, I’m not easy to please because I hold it to such a high standard due to it once being the most creative and innovative series under the best game developer in the world. Breath of the Wild gives me hope to see Zelda return to a true open world experience seen in the original Zelda and Link to the Past while adding in new design philosophies. Hopefully the era of the ‘Zelda formula’ and trying to recreate Ocarina of Time is dead. Call it the Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Fresh Air.

The big three developers with conferences of their own – EA, Bethesda, and Ubisoft – didn’t do much to move the needle for me. EA wouldn’t shut up about sports. Bethesda is bringing back Quake and very subtly teased a new Wolfenstein. Ubisoft spilled the beans about Watch Dogs 2 leading up to E3 and was met with the public’s apathy.  

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Atlus brought Persona 5 to E3’s convention floor on Tuesday. I’ll cover everything that’s happened with P5 since the Tokyo Tower event last month at a later time. As far as E3 is concerned, floor goers were treated to new gameplay footage that dazzled.

Overall it was a good week. There are good games to look forward to, a shakeup in the console market, and best of all, P5 and Zelda looked awesome. Here’s my ranking of E3 games I’m looking forward to:

#10 Scalebound: Scalebound made the cut because I was afraid that if I didn’t include it, Hideki Kamiya would somehow find out and block me on Twitter. What was shown at Microsoft’s keynote didn’t blow me away, but I still think Kamiya and Platinum Games can deliver another great character action game.

#9 Watch Dogs 2: A lot of people think I’m crazy for not writing it off yet. Admittedly, some of Watch Dogs 2’s marketing is cringe worthy due to its outdated Internet culture references that just scream that it’s trying too hard. Still, I can’t help but wonder what if I had never given Assassin’s Creed II a chance just because the first game wasn’t great. Word is you can play through this game non-lethally. That’s a positive step. Hopefully Ubisoft can deliver the video game version of Person of Interest that I still want.

#8 Resident Evil 7: This is more a curiosity than anything else. RE7 looks more like a traditional survival horror game (ironically with P.T. influence) than it does a Resident Evil game – at least RE4 and onwards. The demo made available is getting mixed reviews. This is definitely a new chapter for Resident Evil and I applaud Capcom for taking a chance.

#7 The Last Guardian: TLG is coming in October of this year, which quelled suspicions that it would slip to 2017. The game continues to look artful and inspiring, just as Ico and Shadow of the Colossus were. It won’t be long before we learn just how it measures up.

#6 Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night: Koji Igarashi’s crowdfunded game quietly was present on the E3 floor. Everyone who donated $60 or more to the project received a download code for the E3 demo. I haven’t gotten to try it yet, but what I’ve seen looks great. IGA has truly continued the legacy he started while being the director of Castlevania.

#5 Cuphead: The 1930s Disney-inspired side-scroller didn’t get showcased like it did last year, but the latest gameplay video for E3 looks good. Its developer, tiny Studio MDHR, is still eyeing a 2016 release on Xbox One and PC. I look forward to experiencing their truly one of a kind game.

#4 Final Fantasy XV: This feels odd for me to write as a self-proclaimed “Not-a-Final-Fantasy-Guy.” FFXV’s decade long journey to release will end this September and I find myself being more and more impressed as I see it. I’ve never been a fan of Final Fantasy’s gameplay or storytelling, but FFXV is beginning to become a game that I feel I have to play in order to feel abreast with gaming as a whole. Hopefully all that Square Enix money and marketing will be backed up by a game worthy of it.

#3 ReCore: I’ve been quietly anxious about this game since it was revealed at last year’s E3. The Armature developed and Comcept guided title looks to be a unique addition to the Xbox One (and Windows 10) list of exclusive titles. I’ve been waiting to see the guys at Armature do a title this big since splitting off of Retro (makers of Metroid Prime). And while Mighty No. 9’s development has been a disaster, hopefully Keiji Inafune still has some creativity in him to aid to this project.

#2 The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild: What can I say that I haven’t already? The new Zelda looks great and we’ve only seen it on Wii U. I look forward to seeing how different and hopefully even better it is on NX. My excitement in Zelda and Nintendo has been restored.

#1 Persona 5: P5’s extended look at its average day gameplay left me hungry for more. Dungeon and battle gameplay is so much more alive than it was in P3 and P4. What has started as a grassroots movement among Persona fans is spreading to the general gaming world. Despite not getting shown on any conference or major stream, P5 rivaled Zelda for E3 buzz on Tuesday afternoon and nearly beat Zelda for Game of the Show. The hype is growing.

Sexism at E3: Real and Perceived

My goodness is that headline uncomfortable to write. Let’s be straightforward. I’m a man. Ethnically speaking, I identify as white because, while my bloodline isn’t completely true to that (hispanics are the fastest growing demographic if you haven’t heard), culturally, that’s what I am. I’m a millennial male devoid of any sort of significant ethnic heritage and fully assimilated to the American way of life. In other words, I am square in the middle of what’s considered to be the gaming industry’s key demographic.

So with that in mind, I have to be mindful of what I say regarding this topic. I don’t want to be misunderstood or have anyone put words in my mouth. On that note, at this very moment, there are people having heated discussions over sexism in the gaming industry in this country. I guarantee it.

There are a lot of ways to tackle this issue – a lot of instances and examples that can be covered. I’m focusing on one event (E3) and two games: Battlefield 1 and The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild.

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EA’s Battlefield 1 launches this fall as that series once again looks to dethrone Call of Duty as the most popular first-person shooter franchise. The game’s peculiar title stems from it being set during World War I – the first game of its stature to have the distinction of retelling one of the great wars in quite some time. Because of its historical reference point, EA let it be known that players would not be able to play as female characters in online co-op, as women largely (understatement) did not see combat during WWI. However, the game’s campaign mode, which is said to jump across multiple perspectives, will feature a woman’s perspective in some way.

Due to how relevant a topic sexism is in gaming today, EA quickly drew detractors. People were quick to point out women did serve in WWI.

During WWI, about 12,000 women enlisted in the United States Navy and Marine Corps. About 400 of those women died, though not necessarily due to combat. Keep in mind that the U.S. suffered over 116,000 military deaths during the war (over a third of which were directly in combat). So while it is true that there were women in the war, at least on the yankee side, it would be more correct to say that there were virtually no women.

Was EA’s choice to not have women in Battlefield 1’s co-op sexist? In my opinion, no it was not. Granted, co-op, in terms of storytelling, is a bit ephemeral. Are we to believe that each round of the countless co-op games that will be played in Battlefield 1’s history is an accurate representation of any given battle during the war? I suppose so, as ridiculous as that sounds. I’m not here to argue whether that’s feasible or whether the co-op should or shouldn’t be part of the ‘realism’ of Battlefield 1’s WWI inspiration. I merely think that is what EA would like you to believe and there isn’t anything necessarily wrong with that.

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That brings us to Zelda. Nintendo’s famed franchise saw its first extended gameplay demonstration and title reveal this week. Many questions were answered about the long awaited game’s identity. One of those questions was whether or not this would be the first main Zelda game to give players the option to play as a female incarnation of the series’ iconic hero, Link. The answer was no.

Admittedly, this caught me by surprise. Nintendo has been a fairly progressive company when it comes to equality in the gaming industry and there had been a noticeable push from their public to include a female Link. That push was fueled in no small part by the fact that a female Link, known as Linkle, debuted in Hyrule Warriors Legends for Nintendo 3DS earlier this year.

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And yet come time for the main game, Linkle is nowhere to be found. Naturally, people had questions. Zelda director Eiji Aonuma had this to say:

“So yes, there were rumors [about a female Link], and we did discuss as a staff as to what would be possible if we took that route… We thought about it and decided that if we’re going to have a female protagonist it’s simpler to have Princess Zelda as the main character… If we have princess Zelda as the main character who fights, then what is Link going to do? Taking into account that, and also the idea of the balance of the Triforce, we thought it best to come back to this [original] makeup.”

If I’m understanding him correctly, and to be fair, I and the rest of the English speaking world may not be because these words were through an interpreter, he and his staff are of the opinion that the only proper way to have a female lead in a Zelda game would be for Zelda herself to be the player’s character. However, doing so would apparently emasculate Link and leave him without a purpose. I guess that means in their eyes, you couldn’t have a game where the roles are reversed: where Zelda goes on a quest to save or aid Link. That may be what he was referring to when he noted the balance of the Triforce; where Link has always represented the Triforce of courage and thus, to stay true to the universe and Zelda timeline, you could not have a passive character holding the Triforce of courage. When thought of that way, I can see what he means.

However, this still does not answer the real question, which is why Link, the character that holds the Triforce of courage, cannot be female. There remains no good answer as to why the player cannot simply choose to have their Link be male or female other than Aonuma and his staff just not wanting that to be a reality. At this point, you can only ponder why that is and I struggle to find a logical reason.

It’s ironic to me. Here I am, examining two major games showcased at E3. One, Battlefield, is in my mind, very much at the center of uber-masculine, violent gaming culture just as its rival Call of Duty is. Zelda on the other hand, is a classic Nintendo title predicated on artful design and storytelling alongside inspired, cutting edge design philosophies. Yet somehow, Battlefield is the game I’m defending and Zelda is the one that is coming off as sexist. No offense to EA and Battlefield players, but that’s really disappointing to me because I expect a lot more out of Nintendo and the Zelda franchise.

It is shameful. This issue and Aonuma’s comments, are a blemish on what was otherwise a perfect coming out party for Breath of the Wild. It’s not too late. The game isn’t releasing until March at the earliest to coincide with the launch of the NX platform. How difficult would it be to make this change? Perhaps too difficult, but I can wish. Regardless, I hope Nintendo feels blowback from this decision and Aonuma’s comments. This decision and what was said, are both incorrect from an ethical standpoint and a public relations standpoint.

Does keeping it the way it’s always been mean Zelda has always been sexist? I don’t believe so. But acknowledging that you were well aware of the public’s growing desire to see a female Link in the game but choosing not to make that available based on illogical, gender-biased reasoning is definition sexism. That is disappointing to even write. I am in no way a white knight for gender equality in gaming. But as I’ve made clear countless times through social media, I hold Nintendo and Zelda in particular to a higher standard in gaming. Zelda has once again let me down – only this time, it isn’t because they’re trying to make another Ocarina of Time clone.

Persona 5 PV#04 and Hashino Interview with Subtitles

As promised, here they are together.

Thanks to TRADUKO Soft for the translation of Hashino’s new interview.

Reaction: I covered a little bit regarding PV#04’s translation in my crazy P5 theory post (read at your own discretion). Reading it all verbatim, nothing immediately stands out in the script. There are some interesting texts on the screen, like the dungeons apparently having side objectives that reward the player. Anything else is just speculation, such as what kind of trouble our Phantom Thieves have run into during this trailer and what the powerful organization that is referred to could be.

Hashino had a lot to say about the user interface. This has been one of the most striking things of the battle gameplay we’ve seen thus far. The old system of scrolling through menus and commands seems to be gone in favor of a highly stylized quick-menu meant to add to the overall experience of the game.

Not surprisingly, Hashino again alluded to how much more content has been put into P5 than originally expected. With the game originally going into to development for PlayStation 3 and then making the jump to PlayStation 4, there were likely expectations to make use of the new hardware and capacity, so it’s easy to see why this game has taken so long, even if the delays are still disappointing to some.

This is also the first I can recall from Hashino or anyone directly linked to the game talking about the moral dilemma of the Phantom Thieves’ actions. We know in some way that the cast will be ‘stealing the hearts’ of the evildoers in the story, but how much traditional thievery there will actually be is something I’ve been unsure of ever since the plot has become much clearer. It will be interesting to see how Hashino and his team allow the player to reconcile the actions taken in the game.

Persona 5 May 5th Announcement Reaction

Appropriately, it all started at 5 AM for me.

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For two and a half hours, that’s all we saw. A shot of Tokyo Tower in the skyline… and it was amazing. Why? The music, my friend. Two and half hours of Persona 5 background music as composed by the one and only Shoji Meguro. Granted it was a three song loop, but it was still incredible.

Then at 7:30 things began to pick up. We were greeted with reports from Tokyo Tower of the Phantom Thieves taking over. At 8, the lights went out and came back on to a bright glowing red. We heard the voice of Jun Fukuyama, the man behind the P5 protagonist and his Persona, and then PV04 began.

My. Goodness.

Three new characters, tons of music, and most importantly a release date for Japan: September 15th, 2016 – five days before the franchise’s 20th birthday (are you sensing a theme?).

Here’s what we know from the fourth trailer thus far. All three of the detailed new party members are ladies. The first, still unnamed, has dark short hair and is a combatant. She likely fights with her fists and her Persona would appear to be a motor bike. Yes, a motorcycle, for all of you Tatsuya Suou fanboys and fangirls.

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I don’t agree with the theory that she’s from another school (her skirt resembles the Syujin High School uniform), but that’s a good guess that she is the Priestess arcana. One translation I’ve heard is that she is student council president, meaning the emblem would likely be a symbol of status. If she is student council or class president, that makes me wonder if she’s a 3rd year student, which would make her the first cast member to hold that distinction since Akihiko and Mitsuru in Persona 3. What is apparent is she seems to be hyper aggressive and a total badass. Already she has a lot of fans.

Speaking of making a lot of fans…

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Our new navigator would appear to be named Sakura Futaba and is the Hermit arcana (according to observant Japanese viewers). She’s likely a hacker by trade, her Persona is a shaped like a UFO and seems to draw its influence from Eldritch/Lovecraftian horror given its name is “Necronamicon.” That is the coolest thing I have ever seen and the Internet is already head over heels for this girl. Also of note is that nowhere in the trailer does she appear to be wearing the Syujin uniform which may mean, like Yusuke, she doesn’t attend our protagonist’s high school.

Finally there’s the girl – also nameless – that refers to herself as the beautiful theif.

Note: I wouldn’t think her name is actually “Adieu.” (French for “goodbye”)

What an entrance. With these three ladies, alongside Ann, we now know our P5 main cast girls, so allow the waifu wars to begin anew. It would seem Katsura Hashino and his team have crafted four strong, unique female characters for us to get to know and welcome to the Persona family.

After PV04 came yet another director’s interview with Hashino. There isn’t an English subtitled version yet, but I’ll make another post when translated versions of this and the trailer are inevitably made by dedicated fans. Regardless, you can still check out all the awesome gameplay that’s shown during the interview. Dungeon crawling looks to be based on tearing the masks off of Shadows or whatever the monsters will be called, which frees the Personas inside and allows the real battle to begin.

The user-interface looks spectacular and commands/attacks are now mapped to buttons on the controller, allowing for a faster and more streamlined combat experience. As I’ve said before, it’s clear that when it comes to dungeon gameplay and combat, Persona 5 is going to simply crush its predecessors and make this aspect of the game something to be cherished and savored.

After this, the stream shifted gear to focusing on release information. Box art was finally revealed, which is in line with the covers of the original Persona 3 and Persona 4 in terms of style.

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Not surprisingly, a special edition was also announced. It will come with an art book, a special CD set featuring arrangements from Persona 1-5 to commemorate the series’ 20th anniversary, and bonus DLC. The DLC includes special P5 themed versions of Orpheus and Izanagi – the Personas of the P3 and P4 protagonists respectively -, Persona 3’s Gekkoukan High School uniform costumes, and Persona 4’s Yasogami High School uniform costumes alongside background music from each game to go with the costumes.

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You may also have noticed from the trailer and definitely from the cover art that there is also one more party member that has yet to be showcased. Nothing is known about the young man at the top right of the cover, but given his appearance with the rest of the Phantom Thieves as well as being included with the DLC previews, it’s safe to say he’s a party member and another combatant. That brings our party up to nine members: four guys, four girls, and Morgana. It also means that the Phantom Thieves are a larger group than P4’s Investigation Team and on equal footing with P3’s SEES (in its final incarnation, anyway).

Atlus also confirmed that the previously announced Persona 5 anime would be airing sometime in September. It will act as a prologue to the game and is called “Persona 5 the Animation: The Day Breakers.” Whether this is a one-off episode or will develop into a fully animated series further down the line, just like Persona 4 the Animation, remains to be seen. Personally, I’m greatly looking forward to this. Depending on the focus of this animated special, we may be getting a canonical (or close to it) name for the protagonist prior to playing the game.

Before the stream ended it was confirmed that we won’t have to wait long to hear from Atlus and P5 again. Persona 5 has been confirmed to be appearing in Los Angeles next month for E3.

Cross your fingers that this may mean P5 is apart of Sony’s keynote press conference and that we may be getting release information for the west next month.

Finally, after the stream’s close, news was reported that P5 will be featured in next week’s issue of Famitsu with details on the new ladies and their Personas. Persona Central also reports that there will be another interview with Hashino that will cover the inhabitants of the Velvet Room and Igor’s “double life” – whatever that means.

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Reaction: It’s hard to put into words. I loved it. All of it. Atlus clearly sat on this information and release date for a very long time just so that they could have the flair of announcing all of this on 5/5. That doesn’t surprise me, because that’s simply how Atlus rolls.

I love the girls. The three new ones as well as Ann. The main character aside, the ladies feel like the life of the team compared to what I’ve seen of Ryuji, Yusuke, and to a lesser extent Morgana (though Morgana is female too). The three girls that debuted today all seem unique but intimidating and awe-inspiring in their own way. All my Twitter timeline could do this morning was meltdown over how awesome they were and which one was each of their favorites. That may seem like dumb, ‘waifu’ culture, but it really was a reflection of just how good of a job Hashino and the P-Studio team did making appealing characters that I can’t wait to meet and get to know like I did with P4’s Investigation Team.

The release date was no surprise, as many had speculated that it would be exactly September 15th (which fell in line with the rumor/leak from last month). I would have preferred a larger buffer between Persona 5 and Final Fantasy XV, which releases on September 30th, but it’s clear why Atlus wanted this date. The question now is, when are Atlus USA and SEGA going to follow through with localization? The seven month window it will take for Shin Megami Tensei IV: Apocalypse to reach the United States doesn’t inspire a lot of confidence right now, but Atlus USA is still teasing something big for E3 and now we know for sure P5 will be in L.A. in some capacity. I wouldn’t hold my breath for simultaneous release or anything close to it, but I’m hopeful that the game will be out here in the fall with early December at the latest. It would be painful to see Persona 5’s localization to slip into 2017.

I am also very curious to read a translation of Hashino’s interview in Famitsu next week as it pertains to Igor.

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Those familiar with Igor’s Japanese voice will know he sounded much different at the end of PV04. The reason for that is actually outside of Atlus’ control, as sadly his original voice actor passed away in 2010. Atlus had been using recycled recordings of him from Persona 3 and Persona 4 ever since to fill out content in Persona 4 the Animation and the Persona 3 the Movie series in Japan. What’s interesting is that the new casting could not sound more unlike the original Igor. I’m curious if this somehow plays into the supposed “double life” of Igor we’re just now hearing of. Igor has always been a mysterious character in the Persona story world and his relationship with the new protagonist may be much different than the ones he held with previous heroes. You know, seeing as the Velvet Room is now a jail and the main character has been depicted as a prisoner there.

That’s all for now. Stay tuned for fan-subtitled versions of PV04 and Hashino’s interview and hopefully more translated updates next week from Famitsu.

Correction: It’s the first girl that is said to be a student president of some kind. Not much is known about the third girl, except that she seems to be recruited by Morgana directly and refers to herself as the Beautiful Thief.

Another note: On May 6th, publications state the proper spelling to be “Anne.” The first official releases have it spelled to be “Ann.”

Countdown to Persona 5 News

And so it begins.

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Atlus’ official page for Persona 5 has updated to show a countdown clock that begun at over 300 hours*. The end time? 5/5/2016.

This reveal comes just 48 hours after signs of P5’s release date began to show. This is just speculation on my behalf, but I imagine we’re about to get our fourth full-length trailer and release information for Japan. I’ll take it a step further and say with what Atlus USA has been teasing in regards to E3 this year (and the fact that release info on Shin Megami Tensei IV Apocalypse is already known), not only could we be learning Japanese release info in May, but we could be learning American release info in June.

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For those wondering.

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All aboard the hype train.

*Note: The time displayed on the site depends on your system. The countdown ends at 8:30 AM Eastern time on 5/5/16

Xbox 360 Officially Discontinued

Credit: Microsoft
Credit: Microsoft

After over 10 years in production, Microsoft’s Phil Spencer announced yesterday that manufacturing of the Xbox 360 has come to an end. Remaining inventory will be sold off and then it’s the end.

Xbox 360 means a lot to everyone in Microsoft. And while we’ve had an amazing run, the realities of manufacturing a product over a decade old are starting to creep up on us. Which is why we have made the decision to stop manufacturing new Xbox 360 consoles.

The release goes on to state that online support will continue, including servers for games connected to Xbox Live and apps that run on Xbox 360.

Of course this comes as no surprise, however, I find it odd that the 360 hasn’t had an official price cut in years. Perhaps prices will come down slightly for anyone out there looking to add a fresh Xbox 360 to their collection for the years of retro gaming to come.

Regardless, I bid you farewell, 360. You were a pioneer in bringing gaming into the online age… Even if your original design was incredibly faulty.

Persona 5 Release Date Rumored Between Aug 18 and Sept 30

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Today’s news comes way of ore-no-web4th,  a Japanese blog with connections in retail known for leaking release dates in strange and vague fashions. Their latest ruse is the following. 

  • Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End — May 10, 2016
  • Dragon Quest Heroes II — May 27, 2016
  • Super Robot Wars OG: The Moon Dwellers — June 30, 2016
  • Toukiden 2 — June 30, 2016
  • The Idolmaster: Platinum Stars — July 28, 2016
  • Tales of Berseria — August 18, 2016
  • Yellow children’s umbrella
  • Final Fantasy XV — September 30, 2016

As you can see on their site, each upcoming game is shown by its Amazon Japan listing, with a conspicuous yellow umbrella amidst highly anticipated games.

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What’s the connection? The pictured umbrella is for a TV show called Chikyu Sentai Fiveman. Readers are making a connection between the “five” and Perosna 5’s advertised release date of summer 2016.

August 18 –  September 30 is still a rather large window; nearly a month and a half (and the final week or so would technically be fall 2016). Still, this would fall in line with what we last heard from director Katsura Hashino in February: fans will get to enjoy P5 prior to celebrating Persona’s 20th birthday on September 20th.

Of course, this would also put P5 out prior to its prime competitor, Final Fantasy XV, with it still being on track to seeing English localization before the end of the year.