Did 2018 Prove There Is Still Hope For Konami?
Ever since 2015, the word “Konami” is usually accompanied by either the words “my most hated publisher in the world is” or an f-bomb. I understand the origin of that hatred; as the once juggernaut of Japanese gaming decided to cancel Silent Hills, pull the phenomenal P.T. out of existence, release Metal Gear Solid V in a basically incomplete state, part ways with the series’ creator Hideo Kojima, and decide to shift the entirety of its focus to the Japanese gambling market all in a single year. No one in their right mind would dare to defend a company after such a tsunami of failures and terrible PR decisions. Hating Konami became a meme, something as mainstream to gaming culture as saying “your princess is in another castle” or admitting that EA’s 2017 was nothing short of a disaster. The year of 2018 ended on a different note for the company, however.
I’m not saying that Konami’s 2018 was amazing or as good as Devolver’s or Nintendo’s, but in a year full of much bigger scandals, poor business decisions, and severe disappointments from other publishers, Konami did far from terrible. In fact, I’d actually dare to say that their year was good enough to give me hope for 2019 and onwards.
Konami’s 2018 couldn’t have started in a worse way, as their first release for the year was one of the most pre-launch despised games in history, Metal Gear Survive. It is safe to say that absolutely nobody in the whole world was actually looking forward to it in the same way one would look forward to playing a brand new iteration of the Metal Gear saga. When our reviewer Kyle Nicol got his hands on the game, he was impressed by the fact that Survive wasn’t really as bad as he imagined. While the shift from espionage to a survival game with zombies couldn’t have been more generic, and while Konami’s decision to charge extra for a save slot was the absolute worst microtransaction in gaming history, he actually thought the game turned out to be okay, mostly due to the fact that the award-winning core gameplay and engine from The Phantom Pain were still there.
Metal Gear Survive ended up being the last fail from Konami in 2018. The rest of the publisher’s year went a lot more smoothly, with the release of a few good games, the ongoing (free) support of a 2017 title, and believe it or not, some actual good PR for once.
Konami released Pro Evolution Soccer 2019, Zone of the Enders: The 2nd Runner M∀RS, and Castlevania Requiem as new titles in 2018. The company also released Super Bomberman R, a former Switch exclusive, to other platforms and PC and continued releasing new free content for the game throughout the year, including new playable characters such as Gradius‘ Vic Viper, Silent Hill‘s Pyramid Head, and even Master Chief in the Xbox One version.
PES 2019 ended up being the best iteration of the franchise ever since the days it was still being called Winning Eleven, with the addition of more licenses, refined visuals and the constant inclusion of free updates with more leagues, stadiums, and so on.
Zone of the Enders: The 2nd Runner M∀RS could have just been an average at best re-release of the second Zone of the Enders game for the Playstation 4, but the inclusion of VR support for the entirety of its campaign was a fantastic surprise. The 2nd Runner M∀RS ended up being one of the most immersive games in my PSVR catalogue due to the fact it wasn’t trying to be excessively immersive in the first place. It didn’t force players to use a new control style in VR, as all it did was shift it to a first-person perspective with you inside of the cockpit at all times. No teleportation, no VR tweaks, just the same game as usual, with the same control scheme as before, just with the option of being able to play it in its entirety through a virtual reality visor.
Following the hype generated by the excellent Castlevania Netflix series, Konami finally decided to revive the franchise for the current gaming generation in 2018, although in very slow steps. First of all, there was the release of Castlevania Requiem for the Playstation 4, a bundle including both Rondo of Blood (the best pre-metroidvania game of the series) and Symphony of the Night (the best metroidvania game of the series) in one package. Finally, there was also the inclusion of a lot of Castlevania content in Super Smash Bros Ultimate, including two Belmont fighters, a recreation of the Dracula boss battle from Rondo of Blood in its entirety, and an entire section dedicated to the franchise in the game’s main story mode, World of Light, complete with classic tunes and a side-scrolling perspective.
Finally, in a very bizarre turn of events, at least for Konami, there was a hint of good publicity coming from the company in 2018. Back in July, a fan remake of P.T. got shut down by Konami, but instead of being sued or facing something else of the legal kind, the 17-year old amateur developer known by his nickname “Qimsar” got offered an internship at the American branch of the company, as well as free merch and games. Another very slight, but still positive PR move for the company was the inclusion of the Metal Gear Solid collection on the Xbox One’s backwards compatibility program.
One can only hope that Konami’s slight streak of hits keeps on outweighing its misses in 2019. There’s very little confirmation of what the company has planned for the year so far, as all that’s known is that we’ll get a new Pro Evolution Soccer, as usual, and Hyper Sports R for the Nintendo Switch. Maybe we will see the re-release of other classic games? Maybe the rumors about a Metal Gear Solid remake developed by Bluepoint, the same guys behind this year’s Shadow of the Colossus, will end up being true? Let’s wait and see. At the very least, 2018 proved there’s still a little glimpse of hope in Konami’s future. There’s still a lot to be done, but it has to start somewhere.