New Game Releases 02/19/19 – 02/25/19

This week is a bit light compared to last week’s plethora of titles. I think most companies have ceded the week to EA and Anthem, but will that be a wise choice? All signs seem to point to a possible turkey on our hands, but we won’t really know until the 22nd. This is going to be an interesting week, and I’m sure many in the gaming industry, none more so than the folks at BioWare and EA, will be watching this launch with careful eyes.

Anthem (PC/PS4/Xbox One) – Releases Feb. 22nd

After a somewhat confusing release schedule that saw the game unlock for different people on different days depending on how you bought it and/or what subscription service you were signed up for, Anthem is finally releasing for everyone on February 22nd. Really though, who is looking forward to this game (well, besides me)? Don’t we already have enough multi-player shooters that double as a “games as a service”? Besides, isn’t this genre already played out; I mean, we’ve all moved on to the battle royal craze, right? It’s strange, because I feel like I need to defend this game for two reason, I really love BioWare and I’ve invested money into it, but do they really deserve my defense? BioWare’s last game, Mass Effect Andromeda, was a mess and killed most of the good will the company had built up over the years, and their parent company EA (continually ranked as one of the worst in the world) still seems to be licking its wounds over the whole lootbox controversy from Star Wars Battlefront 2. In a world with Destiny, The Division, World of Warcraft, Final Fantasy XIV, Overwatch, Fortnite, PUBG and EA’s own Apex Legends, does the world really need another big online shooter that demands hours of your life to fully enjoy? If you want to find out with me I’ll be playing this on Xbox One, gamertag is Lazerbot.

For even more in-depth talk about Anthem, check out the latest AVoCADo GamesCast.

Death end re;Quest (PS4) – Releases Feb. 19th

Speaking of over saturated markets, this is the, let me check my notes…roughly twelfth RPG to come out in the first 50 days of 2019. That means, on average, we get a new one every 4 days, and unless you’re some kind of strange creature that doesn’t require sleeping, eating, going to the bathroom, and human contact, then there is no way on Earth you could have played them all to completion. How do you decide what to play then? Personal preference, I guess? Try this on for size, the director of a popular MMO has gone missing and subsequently the game was shut down. Now the game is back online, but something isn’t right; what do you do? Well, this is a JRPG, so the first thing you do, naturally, is check to see if they’ve been made to be a prisoner in their own creation, and guess what, THEY HAVE! You can enter the game but be careful, or else the game may enter you…or something. The big draw here seems to be a blending of genres, actually, with JRPG turn based combat giving way to a hardcore FPS game.

STEINS; GATE ELITE (PC/PS4/Switch) – Releases Feb. 19th

STEINS; GATE: Linear Bounded Phenogram (PC/PS4) and 8-BIT ADV (Switch) – Also releases Feb. 19th

Normally I would have put this in the “Ports and Re-releases” section, but the two smaller titles associated with the main game are new, so here are. What is STEINS; GATE? Well, it is a visual novel about a group of high school college students who develop a form of time travel through e-mail text messaging & fruit manipulation, using it to alter events in the past, sort of like in that movie The Butterfly Effect. The game was originally released in Japan 2009 and made its way to North America in 2014. In 2013 a follow-up game was released in Japan called Linear Bounded Phenogram, that added 10 new stories to the game for you to read and very mildly interact with, and it is this game that is finally getting a North America release on the 19th, for PC and PS4. What about Switch owners? Well, you don’t get that short game, you actually get an entirely brand new game called 8-BIT ADV, another visual novel but made in that nostalgic NES pixel graphics style we keep seeing time and time again (particularly on the Switch). If you’re a fan of visual novels then this is all probably very exciting to you, but I’m rather indifferent to it all.

Devil Engine (PC/ Switch) – Releases Feb. 21st

You know what I’m not indifferent to, SHMUPS! I don’t really care who makes it, or really how good it is; if there’s a billion bullets on screen that you need to dodge I will feature it, period. The game was developed by Protoculture Games, a studio that I can’t seem to find very much info on, so this might be their first game, or it might not. They might be Japanese, or they could be American, or European, I have no idea. I do know that the game is being published and distributed by Dangen Games, a group of dudes (literally, there are no women on their website) who localize and release games in multiple languages. I can’t wait to blow shit up.

 

Ports and Re-releases:

Yakuza Kiwami (PC) – Releases Feb. 19th

The second entry in what I’ve officially dubbed The Birth of Kiryu trilogy, is also its weakest entry. When the game first came out I talked about how I thought it felt more like an expansion to Yakuza 0, and I can’t imagine this PC port will change that feeling. Despite being a weak entry, the game is still essential because it acts as a bridge between Yakuz 0 and the much more superior Yakuza Kiwami 2. You might be asking, “why is this an inferior game”, well I’m glad you asked. Despite being based on the same engine as Yakuza 0, the game removes almost all of the mini-games from 0, and while this may be more in line with the original PS2 Yakuza, it is a bit jarring when you expect to be able to do these things from 0 and you no longer can. It also suffers from having the best part of 0 missing, being able to play as Goro Majima; and although he features prominently in the game (including a somewhat frustrating and obtuse side story involving getting into fights with him), not being able to play as Majima really loses something. Still though, Yakuza Kiwami is worth picking up, all of the gonzo stuff you love about the series is still there, from karaoke, to crazy boss fights, to wacky side stories. If you don’t have a PS4 and you want to finally experience one of the best series that Sega has to offer, pick this up for the PC.

SNK Heroines: Tag Team Frenzy (PC) – Releases Feb. 21st

Originally released last September for the Switch and PS4, this all-female SNK fighting game is making its way to PC on the 21st. I played the Switch version for a couple weeks and found the fighting to be overly simplistic, lending itself to intense button mashing to win. Hey, that might be your thing, but I need a little bit more strategy to my fighting games. The game uses a rather unique, but odd, health gauge that also ties into how strong your attacks are. The more damage you take, the harder you hit. What also makes the health gauge so odd is that you don’t just keep beating up your opponent to defeat them, but you must instead get their health to a certain point where you can then execute a finishing move to knock them out. I’m struggling to find a reason why this game exists, I mean, on the one hand it’s really great that we have an all-female fighting game, but the outfits they put them in are so small that the girls might as well be naked. If you have a PC, you like the characters from SNK and don’t mind some exploitative costumes, then check this out.

 

Expansions:

The Elder Scrolls Online: Wrathstone (PC) – Releases Feb. 25th (PS4/XBone Mar. 12th)

If you’re one of the dozens of people currently playing ESO then get ready for a bunch of new content! This new expansion, either available for purchase with crowns or given for free if you’re an ESO Plus member, will come with two new dungeons, new gear, new relics, new achievements, and story quests that will lead up to the brand new Elsweyr chapter slated for release later this year.

 

Everything else:

Devotion (PC) – Releases Feb. 19th

This first person horror game looks quite nightmare inducing. Set in an apartment building in 1980’s Taiwan, you will uncover various mysteries surrounding a religious family, as the building around you starts to warp and twist into something unholy. I get Silent Hill vibes from this one, and that’s certainly good news for horror fans.

Almost There: The Platformer (PC/PS4/Switch) – Releases Feb. 19th

If you’ve played Thomas Was Alone, The Impossible Game, Geometry Dash, Super Meat Boy, VVVVVV and countless other games of that nature, then you’ve played Almost There: The Platformer.

Daggerhood (PS4/Switch) – Releases Feb. 19th, comes to Switch on Feb. 22nd  

Similar to Almost There, if you’ve played any of those games above, or Celeste, then you’ve played Daggerhood. What seems to set this game apart from those is the warp mechanic tied to your dagger. Throwing it and then pressing a button will cause you to immediately warp to wherever the dagger goes. Some puzzles require you to throw the dagger through portals and then warp, so there’s layers here people; layers.

Bannermen (PC) – Releases Feb. 21st

A real time strategy game that takes place in a vaguely medieval/fantasy world. That’s about all there is to this game.

Hell Warders (PC/PS4/Switch) – Releases Feb. 21st, has been in early access on Steam since 2017

The description of this game reminds me of Dungeon Defenders, a four player tower defense game with action RPG elements. Play as one of three different classes of heroes, keeping your base safe from the oncoming forces of hell. The game looks pretty fun, but ultimately seems quite forgettable. When I was proofreading this I had initially typed “…keeping your bae safe…” instead of “…keeping your base safe…” and now I wish this game was about keeping your bae safe.

King of Texas (PC) – Releases Feb. 21st

Sometimes you just need to let the Steam description do the talking, “Jon Bega’s dream has just come true, he’s been drafted as the new running back for one of America’s best football teams, the Dallas Sheriffs. What will happen to this athletic Louisianan when he moves up to Texas to join this new team? Will he fit in? Will he find love? Will he win the Super Bowl? Will he meet his forever Waifu? Only you can find out by playing King of Texas”. I guess if you think STEINS GATE sounds a bit too weird you can just come play this very grounded visual novel, and don’t worry, it’s also got anime style art; thank goodness. I’m also VERY surprised to see them using the term “Super Bowl”, I thought everyone had to refer to it as “The Big Game” because of copyright stuff. I’m sure they’ll fix it in a patch.

The Prometheus Secret Noohra (PC) – Releases Feb. 22nd

This game looks like a cross between Magic: The Gathering and the morph ball sections of Metroid Prime. I’m really at a loss as to what this game is about, and why you’re in a high fantasy world, playing as a disco ball who likes CCG’s, but there’s clearly a reason for all of it. According to the description on Steam the game gets harder as you lose, which sounds like a fun concept…

Notable Releases from 10, 20 and 30 years ago:

Let’s see, 10 years ago we got a JRPG, 20 years ago we got a fighting game, and 30 years ago we got a shoot em’ up and a funky platformer. It certainly does seem like games are released on a cycle, aren’t they?

Star Ocean: The Last Hope (Xbox 360) – Released Feb. 19th, 2009: Wiki Link

Back in November I highlighted the game The Last Remnant . In that week’s column, I mentioned that Square Enix and Microsoft were trying hard to make the Xbox 360 appealing to Japanese players, but despite their best efforts, it just didn’t happen. Alongside The Last Remnant, one of the early games to be released as an Xbox 360 exclusive was the fourth entry in the Star Ocean series, subtitled The Last Hope. In this game, players control a party of four as they “…travel through the ‘star ocean’, jumping across planets”. There seemed to be some initial pushback from the JRPG community as to why this game was being released on the Xbox 360 and not the PS3. In response, producer Yoshinori Yamagishi seemed to favor the 360 over the PS3, stating that the”…Xbox 360 was the first seventh generation console to come out, and its ‘extremely well-made hardware’, from a developer’s standpoint…”. The game was released in Japan to rave reviews, with well-known gaming publication Famitsu giving it a 34/40 score, leading it to be the best selling Xbox 360 game of all time in Japan. US reviewers were slightly less impressed with it, but still thought it was a big improvement over Square Enix’s previous 360 offerings, The Last Remnant and Infinite Undiscovery. PS3 owners would finally get to play the game less than a year later (featuring a Japanese voice track not present in the 360 version), and a 4K HD remaster was released for PC and PS4 in 2017. A 6th installment was released in 2016 to average sales, putting the future of the franchise in jeopardy.

Marvel Super Heroes vs. Street Fighter (PlayStation) – Released Feb. 23rd, 1999: Wiki Link

Released to arcades in 1997, the second installment in the Marvel vs. Capcom series of 2D fighting games was first ported to home consoles in 1998 for the Sega Saturn, but only in Japan. By 1999, the Saturn was on its way out and a new console, the Sega Dreamcast, was waiting in the wings. The Sony PlayStation, on the other hand, was doing remarkable in North America, so the decision was made to release that port instead. Taking elements from their previous title, X-Men vs. Street Fighter, Capcom replaced most of that X-Men roster with various characters from another one of their previous fighting games, Marvel Super Heroes. What makes this entry stand out is the introduction of the “Variable Assist” function, which allowed you to call in your partner to perform a special move without switching out your character. This feature would go on to be updated and tweaked for subsequent Marvel vs. Capcom games. The game featured 17 playable fighters, 8 Marvel, 9 Street Fighter, and featured Apocalypse as the final boss. Aside from the “Variable Assist”, this game, along with the previous titles in the series, would be slightly forgotten as Capcom would release the far superior Marvel vs. Capcom: Clash of Super Heroes in 1998, making this port a fun, but ultimately unnecessary title.

Gyruss/Q*bert (NES) – Released Feb. 1989: Wiki Link 1 Wiki Link 2

For those of you not old enough to remember, back in the mid 80’s there was a huge video game crash, brought on by money hungry publishers who flooded an over saturated market with garbage games, including poor arcade ports, outright clones of already released games, and whatever untested piece of junk they could release. When Nintendo entered the market in 1985 they had a few stipulations about who was allowed to release games on their system in the name of quality control. One of these was a strict policy in which third party companies were only allowed to release five games a year on the NES in the United States. Konami, which regularly released 10 or more games a year in Japan, were in a bind, so they did what any good company does, find a loophole. It was from this legal loophole that Ultra Games was founded; a subsidiary of Konami of America, their first title to be released was 1988’s Metal Gear. In February of 1989, Konami released two arcade ports to the NES through Ultra, their own title Gyruss, and the Gottlieb classic Q*bert, for which they owned the NES distribution rights. Both games were well received by critics and the public, calling them some of the best 8-bit arcade ports on the market. By 1991, Nintendo would relax their release policy and in 1992, no longer seeing a need for the company, Konami shut down Ultra, bringing an end to this funky little side operation.


I can’t really think of any life changing moments in relation these classic games, but for those curious, in Feb. 1989 I was learning to live with a 6 month old baby brother and was about to be upended from the only home I had ever known, in Feb. 1999 I was just a few short months away from both graduating high school and also dealing with my parent’s divorce, and in Feb. 2009 I was just one year away from losing my job as the manager of a video store. There’s always a calm before a storm, and things were about to get really stormy in my life in all three of these decades. I wonder what shit awaits me this coming year.