Last week, FromSoftware released a cryptic teaser for what appears to be a new game. This teaser is all of 13 seconds long and doesn't provide much in the way of information, or even a title. Is it a sequel to Bloodborne? A sequel to Demon's Souls? A reboot of Tenchu? Or maybe a new IP altogether?

The teaser followed the announcement a few days prior that the Demon's Souls servers are finally going to be shut down -- for reals this time. The fact that every publisher (Sony, Atlus, and Namco/Bandai) announced a server shut down effective the same date -- the 28th of February 2018 -- has lead many to speculate that From may announce a sequel or HD remaster of Demon's Souls.

There's plenty that I'd like to see in a sequel (or remaster) to Demon's Souls, and also plenty that I'd like to see from any possible future Souls-Borne games in general. But I'm not completely sold on the idea of "Shadows Die Twice" being a Demon's Souls or Bloodborne sequel.

FromSoftware's "Shadows Die Twice" teaser from the The Game Awards 2017.

First off, the teaser has a very Japanese style. The music sounds very east Asian, there's Japanese script apparently chiseled into the background. Is it possible that this game could explore the fabled "Easter Lands" referenced in the Souls-Borne games? Every game has had such references. Demon's Souls includes Satsuki and the Magic Sword Makato. Dark Souls has the Eastern Armor and characters like Shiva of the East and the Swordmaster. Bloodborne even has allusions to an eastern land in the form of the NPC Old Hunter Yamamura, who traveled from an eastern land in pursuit of "honorable revenge" against a beast.

A game featuring an eastern land, in the style of the Souls-Borne series would probably add plenty of fuel to the speculation that all the games may have a shared continuity...

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Demon's Souls - title

With a new generation of consoles coming into their own, the lifespan of the PS3 and XBox360 is rapidly coming to an end. It's not quite as monumental as the end of the PS2's lifecycle, which is arguably the single best gaming console ever made! With the PS3 and XBox360, our console games started to have consistent online functionality, and with online functionality comes a sad side-effect: a game's life-span is finite. I can always go back and play my favorite PS2 games (like Silent Hill 2, Metal Gear Solid 3, Ace Combat 4, Ico, Shadow of the Colossus, Gran Turismo 3, and Devil May Cry) and have pretty much the same experience that I had the first time I played. But I won't be able to do that with some of my favorite PS3 games, because some of them have online features that won't remain active forever.

favorite PS2 games
As long as my PS2 is functional, I can always go back and re-play my favorite PS2 games.

PC gamers have been dealing with this problem since the dawn of the internet, but they have work-arounds. PC Games can be modded to support direct TCP / IP connections in order for their online communities to stay online. Hypothetically, you could keep your favorite MMO alive for yourself and your circle of friends in this fashion. But with console games, there are much more significant technical hurdles to overcome, and when the producer shuts down the servers, that is basically the end of that game.

And that is exactly what is going to happen some day with my favorite PS3-exclusive: Demon's Souls.

Every console has its defining games - those games that are reasons for owning the consoles. The original PlayStation had Final Fantasy VII and Metal Gear Solid, the Nintendo 64 had Goldeneye, the Dreamcast had Shenmue and Soul Calibur, the XBox had Halo, GameCube had Resident Evil 4 and Eternal Darkness, the PS2 had Shadow of the Colossus. For me, Demon's Souls is that game for the PS3: the game that makes owning a PS3 worthwhile.

Demon's Souls is a game that completely redefined the way that I think about gaming. My ideas about how a player can interact with a game world and with other players were completely turned on their head with this game. So I want to take a moment to pay tribute to this masterpiece of interactive art with a full review while its servers are still up and running. And maybe - just maybe - I can sell a copy or two to some new players.

Deep and addictive hack 'n' slash action

The gameplay is based on a simple control configuration in which weapons are mapped to the left and right hand and controlled with the left and right shoulder buttons (respectively). The design is reminiscent of a simplified version of FROM's other major game franchise: the mech-combat sim Armored Core. Weapons equipped in the right hand have a basic attack and a heavy attack, and weapons or shields in the left hand have a block and heavy attack (sorry, lefties, no left-handed characters for you!). These basic controls are very simple, and any player can start hacking and blocking away as soon as they pick up the controller. But more advanced controls and variations in weapon functionality make this seemingly-simple combat system very deep.

Each weapon class has different movesets, ranging from the slashing of a sword to the thrusting of a spear, to smashing of a giant hammer. And shields (and some off-hand weapons) have an advanced parry feature that allows you to stun and counter an attacking foe to land a critical hit. You can also attack while running or out of dodges in order to keep a foe guessing. Mastering these various features takes a little bit of time, but it is immensely rewarding when you finally have the skills to go toe to toe with a giant, butcher-knife wielding skeleton with confidence. But don't get overconfident, because this game will punish you for every mistake!

Demon's Souls - Vanguard rematch
With patience and practice, you'll soon stand confidently before the Vanguard that killed you in the tutorial.

If you die, you lose all your accumulated souls (i.e. "experience"), and must restart the level from the beginning! But there is a shining glimmer of hope: you have one chance to reach the spot where you died in order to recover your lost souls. If you get there...

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As previously reported, the Demon's Souls servers will be shut down as of midnight, May 31st, 2012 Pacific Standard Time. After only two-and-a-half years, the online functionality of this critically-acclaimed PS3 exclusive will be going dark. What a shame. Two years is nowhere near enough time for a game (particularly a console “Greatest Hits” title) to terminate its functionality. Heck, even annual released like Madden NFL and Call of Duty keep their online servers active for longer! But I guess that's the difference between having your game published and servers maintained by a little company like Atlus rather than a mega-publisher like EA or Activision.

Demon's Souls fan art - if only I had some friends
The sentiments of all Demon's Souls players as of June 1st, 2012.

While I, myself, have moved on to Dark Souls (Demon's Souls spiritual successor), I still know several friends who have yet to play Demon's Souls and still have interest in trying it out or buying it. But they have less than a month left to do it before the most appealing functionality of the game gets disabled permanently.

Even though the announcement isn't a terribly big deal for me (as I've already completed the game and have moved on), I still feel very sad that - if I wanted to - I won't be able to go back and be able to get that Platinum trophy with the comfort (or fear) of knowing that I'll still have the support (or opposition, as the case may be) of other online players. As such, I have compressed my feelings on the issue into a little piece of fan art:

UPDATE (June 1, 2012): Servers to stay online "indefinitely"

It was just brought to my attention that the online servers for Demon's Souls are going to remain active past the previously-announced May 31st deadline. I guess enough people went out and bought the game in the hopes of playing it before the shut-down that Atlus decided to keep things going! Keep up the good work, Demon's Souls fans!

Demon's Souls server extension (June 1, 2012)
Demon's Souls server operation has been extended by Atlus indefinitely!

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Demon's Souls - banner

Today is a sad day for fans of Atlus' critically-acclaimed PS3-exclusive game, Demon's Souls. Hot off the heels of my Dark Souls review, the announcement that Dark Souls will be ported to the PC, and new rumors that DLC is in the works for Dark Souls, Atlust just announced that the Demon's Souls servers will be shut-down at 11:59 PST on May 31st, 2012.

We knew it had to happen sooner or later, and the shut down was already delayed at least once (it was originally scheduled to happen shortly after the release of Dark Souls). It just seems like this is way too early. The game is only two-and-a-half years old!

It's also really too bad that FromSoftware and Atlus don't seem to have any plans to update the game to support some sort of P2P, direct IP/TCP, or proxy-server multiplayer set-up. I know it would defeat the idea behind the online components, but something would be better than nothing. Letting the fans connect to each other directly, or to set up their own servers would be nice, but I'm not even sure if it's technically possible given the structure of the PlayStation Network.

UPDATE (June 1, 2012): Atlus extends server operation indefinitely

Just found out that Atlus has extended the operation of the Demon's Souls servers "indefinitely!

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Catherine box art

Despite the over-corporatization of the video game industry, not every game is going to be a consumer mega-hit like whatever Call of Duty game that happens to be coming out any given November. Sometimes, these little-known, niche titles can be real gems in the rough (Demon’s Souls, Trine). Other times, they just barely get by. But more often than not, they are utter garbage.

Catherine is not a game for everybody. Not only does it have a very mature plot, but most people probably won’t find it’s gameplay very appealing either. But even though I wouldn’t consider Catherine to be a particularly good game, it isn't a horrible game either, and I have no doubt that its charmingly quirky nature will earn itself a very hardcore following from its niche fans (particularly among adolescent boys). And I definitely have to give the developers credit for really trying to create something that is new and interesting instead of just something that has mass-market appeal.

The entire game consists of pretty much 3 parts that loop a handful of times:

  1. Long-ass cutscene that the player has absolutely no control over.
  2. A scene at the bar in which you walk around with your hands stuffed in your pockets, talking to friends and fellow patrons, and sending/receiving text messages on your phone.
  3. A series of increasingly-long and increasingly-difficult puzzle/platforming sequences in which you push blocks around in order to climb to the top of a wall of cubes.

Rinse and repeat. Or not rinse. But definitely lots of repeating.

The first two parts tend to be the most interesting parts, while the puzzle sections start off being fun but quickly devolve into a frustrating mess of bad camera, twitchy controls, and unnecessarily escalating and cheap difficulty.

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Welcome to Mega Bears Fan's blog, and thanks for visiting! This blog is mostly dedicated to game reviews, strategies, and analysis of my favorite games. I also talk about my other interests, like football, science and technology, movies, and so on. Feel free to read more about the blog.

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