Now this is my kind of week; three cool Japanese games, an indie title with unique graphics, and expansions to games I really like. Please don’t tell my girlfriend how much money I spend on video games.
Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice (PC/PS4/Xbox One) – Releases Mar. 22nd
From Software have a pretty solid reputation for having some of the most unforgiving and brutally punishing games ever made. Best known for the Dark Souls series of games, they have also done stand-alone titles such as Demon’s Souls and Bloodborne. This new title, Sekiro, is another stand-alone game, but has shades of another previous From Software series, Tenchu (to be fair, Tenchu was not created by From Software, they purchased the rights in the mid 2000’s). Initially From Software was toying with the idea of making a Tenchu sequel, but after thinking it through, they felt it would be more satisfying to create a brand new title that just took inspiration from the Tenchu series. According to the Wikipedia entry, the game deviates from previous From Software titles, in that there are no RPG elements here, meaning you do not level up or choose a class. There is no multiplayer option here either, and when the character dies you can actually re-spawn in the same spot if certain conditions are met, otherwise you’ll re-spawn at a previous checkpoint. This game looks beyond rad, and I am really looking forward to running though 16th century Sengoku period Japan, slicing and dicing my way through hordes of demons and other abominations.
Fate/Extella Link (PC/PS4/PS Vita/Switch) – Releases Mar. 19th
You don’t really see a lot of musou games not made by Bandai Namco, so it’s interesting to see what other game companies do with the genre. The..hmm, er, I don’t even know what you’d call it, I guess the ‘Fate/’ series, yeah, so this Fate/ series is about 4 or 5 games in, depending on how you feel about mobile entries and spinoff’s, but Link appears to be a sequel to the previous musou-like title The Umbral Star. You continue as “the master”, taking part in his (or her) adventures/relationship with various servants (mostly women…). It’s a bit of a cop out to say “well no one plays this for the story”, but honestly, you shouldn’t be playing this for the story, because it makes no sense. If you’re a fan of hack and slash games that don’t require much brain activity, then pick this up. Story time; back when my daughter was born, my girlfriend’s mother, who lives in Japan, came to stay with us for a week. While she was here I of course played video games, because duh, I like video games, and she thought The Umbral Star was really stupid because the girls kept calling me senpai and talked in these really awful, high pitched voices, and she just laughed and laughed, then looked right at me and said (more or less), “Oh, this is for nerds. You’re a nerd”! Yeah, she hit that nail right on the head.
Chocobo’s Mystery Dungeon Everybuddy! (PS4/Switch) – Releases Mar. 20th
The popular chocobo creatures from Final Fantasy have been starring in there own titles since 1997’s Chocobo’s Mystery Dungeon on the Sony PlayStation, and surprisingly, it has shown incredible staying power, with this being the (roughly) 7th game in the series. In the Chocobo Mystery Dungeon (or Final Fantasy Fables) games, you play as a chocobo who must navigate through multi-floored dungeons, looking for treasure and fighting monsters. The game is kind of a cross between Diablo and Final Fantasy Tactics, with battles happening in real time, but on a grid; so you’ll need to take things like position and distance into account when attacking. I’ve had a lot of fun with the PlayStation and Wii titles, however they tend to feel a little repetitive and hollow after a while. I’m sure this one will give the same amount of joy as the other games in the series, but it’s probably not going to give you the rich, JRPG experience that you would get from other Square Enix titles.
We. The Revolution (PC) – Releases Mar. 21st
This is quite an interesting looking title. You play as a judge in 1790’s France, a time of great tumult in the country, specifically in the year that this game takes place, 1794. According to Wikipedia (they’re always right!) a man named Maximilien Robespierre was in power, and he ran something called The Reign of Terror which started in either 1792 or 1793, but for sure ended in 1794, during which 16,594 people were sentenced to death. This is where you come in, as a judge it is your job to determine who should live and die. I’ve seen some screen shots and a couple videos, and the game looks like a really interesting courtroom simulator. I get shades of This Is The Police and Papers, Please from all of the promotional material, so if this game is anything like those then we should be in for a treat.
Ports and Re-releases:
Unravel Two (Switch) – Releases Mar. 22nd
EA announced this title during their 2018 E3 press conference, giving it the “available today” treatment, but only for PS4 and XBone. Now Switch owners can play this charming platformer about two little characters made of yarn, who must use their wits and finger dexterity to solve puzzles and reach the end of each level.
Penny-Punching Princess (PS Vita) – Releases Mar. 19th
I mentioned that this was one of the games to avoid in my 2018 buyer’s guide, but when I wrote that I felt slightly cheap in doing so. This isn’t really a bad game, it just isn’t great, and unfortunately suffers from repetitive game play, mostly due to constant grinding of earlier levels, which you will need to do in order to increase your stats. For Vita owners (who are also not Switch owners) this should be a fun title to play on the go, getting a few hits in while you ride the bus or train to work/school.
SNK 40th Anniversary Collection (PS4) – Releases Mar 19th
Switch owners have had access to this gem since December of 2018, and now PS4 owners can finally get their hands on what I think is one of the best curated classic game collections you can find. Featuring 24 titles from SNK’s early arcade and home console library, this is a must have for retro-game enthusiasts.
Ni No Kuni II: Revenant Kingdom – The Tale of a Timeless Tome (PC/PS4) – Releases Mar. 19th
The 2018 JRPG Ni No Kuni II is receiving a new expansion this week, offering new memories, new locations, new characters, and a new fighting style that is reminiscent of the first Ni No Kuni title. Studio Ghibli’s animation is as charming as ever, and the addition of a humanoid rabbit in a tuxedo is classic Ghibli.
Battlestar Galactica Deadlock: Sin and Sacrifice (PC/PS4/Xbox One) – Releases Mar. 19th
This is the first I’ve heard of this game existing, but the few videos and screenshots I’ve seen remind me of Battlefleet Gothic: Armada; a big tactical space battle simulator. This new expansion, which will effectively end “season 1”, adds new missions, new “radio chatter”, and new ships.
Pinball FX3 – Williams Pinball Vol. 3 (Android/iOS/PC/PS4/Switch/Xbox One) – Releases Mar. 19th
Pinball FX3 continues to release classic Williams tables for their platform (tables that were, once again, already available on The Pinball Arcade). In this latest volume you’ll get Theatre of Magic, The Champion Pub and Safe Cracker. I don’t think I need to tell you all this, but I will; digital pinball is siiiiiiiiiiiiiick!
Battlefield V: Firestorm (PC/PS4/Xbox One) – Releases Mar. 25th
The under-performing Battlefield V continues to release content for the faithful, with what might be their last chance to bring in a wide audience, a battle royale mode called Firestorm. Like other royale games, the concept is pretty simple, get air dropped into a vast playing field and fight to be the last person/team standing, while a storm slowly creeps in, making the playing field smaller and smaller. Will this new mode win over the incels who initially shunned this game for making you play as a woman, or is this title destined to have an early retirement on the clearance endcap at Target?
American Ninja Warrior Challenge (PS4/Switch/Xbox One) – Releases Mar. 19th
This is a bargain title, and it certainly looks like it. The ugly character models look like slightly better Xbox Avatars, but are well below what actual human beings look like (although the guy hanging onto that red thing looks like a skinny Tracy Morgan). For those not familiar, this is based on the television series of the same name, in which contestants must make their way through increasingly difficult obstacles before climbing a tower and slamming their hands on a button, signifying that they’ve completed the course. Hardly anyone completes this obstacle course, which is hilarious when they do a 5 minute segment on a competitor in which they are shown doing intense training, playing with their kids, and going to church, only to have them fail the course in 10 seconds. Anyway, if that sounds interesting to you then maybe pick this game up.
Super Kickers League (PS4/Switch) – Releases Mar. 20th
This is an arcade soccer game that looks to be geared towards kids, with characters models that wouldn’t be out of place on PJ Masks, Paw Patrol or any of the other dozen shows currently airing on Nick Jr. and Disney Junior. I can’t imagine this game is very deep, but that could just be the art style, perhaps there is a lot of meat on this, but I’m not about to spend money to find out. For those of you looking for a new Super Mario Strikers, you’ll probably be waiting for a long time, but this might tide you over until Nintendo remembers that they have a soccer game.
Out of the Park Baseball 20 (PC) – Releases Mar 22nd
Damn, look at that hot action in the screenshot above! Are you as fucking pumped to look at hardcore baseball stats and hot player profiles as I am? This game is for people who thought the movie Moneyball was the most intense thriller of all time. If you are one of the commoners who play barbaric trash like MLB The Show don’t bother getting this title, it is for people who understand the passion and commitment of playing fantasy baseball on paper spreadsheets, ya know, real fans.
Notable Releases from 10, 20 and 30 years ago:
This week’s titles from yesteryear are a title you’ve probably never heard of, one that only 90’s kids will understand, and one whose series didn’t start to gain notoriety until almost 30 years after it released.
Major Minor’s Majestic March (Wii) – Released Mar. 24th, 2009: Wiki Link
In 2009 we were at an apex when it came to rhythm games, with massive hits like Rock Band and Guitar Hero, but the games that seemed to start it all were not reaping the rewards. Titles like Guitar Freaks, Dance Dance Revolution, Bust A Groove and Parappa The Rapper were either long forgotten, or only catering to a niche audience, but with Harmonix and Activision making the genre big again, it’s not hard to see why Parappa creators, Masaya Matsuura and Rodney Greenblat, would want to strike while the iron was hot. The Wii was also at a high point in its lifespan, so with that in mind Matsuura and Greenblat came up with a novel idea based on the Wii’s motion controls, turn the remote into a drum major’s staff. The idea of leading a marching band was apparently so enthralling to the team at Majesco, that they were more than happy to distribute the game. That turned out to be a bad idea. Despite a vibrant world and unique idea, the game was a complete mess. The characters were nowhere near as interesting as they were in Parappa The Rapper, and like many (MANY) Wii games, the controls were so bad that the game was practically unplayable. I picked up a brand new copy of this on Amazon last year, which tells you how well it sold (600 copies were sold in Japan in the first week of release), and when I fired it up I found myself instantly frustrated with the controls. In this game, you are tasked with moving your drum major staff up and down to the rhythm of the music, but the problem is that it just doesn’t work. In fact, the game basically has you pantomiming the ‘jacking off’ motion, because god knows I don’t have enough practice doing that. I don’t know how this ever got past the QA stage, it’s an embarrassingly poor game. This is one of those beautiful disasters, a game so truly awful that you have to experience it just to appreciate what a good game is. I wish Nathan Rabin liked video games, I would love to get his take on this title for a My World of Flops entry, it’s an abysmal failure, but an interesting failure at least.
Gex 3: Deep Cover Gecko (PlayStation) – Released Mar. 23rd, 1999: Wiki Link
Ah, the video game mascots of the 90’s, who doesn’t love ‘em, huh? You’ve got the big dog Sonic, but of course there were the lower tier characters, like Bubsy, Bug, Aero The Acro-Bat, and everyone’s favorite gecko, Gex. In 1995, Crystal Dynamics released a side scrolling platformer starring Gex and named, well Gex. It was pretty successful title for the 3DO, selling over 1 million copies, but that system wouldn’t last, so Gex was eventually ported to the Sega Saturn and the Sony PlayStation. With these new systems came the promise of massive 3D worlds to explore, and Crystal Dynamics wanted in on this new genre. They released a follow-up title called Gex 3D: Enter The Gecko to average reviews, but that didn’t stop Crystal Dynamics, who believed that Gex was as strong a mascot as Mario and Sonic, and in 1999 they released the third (and final) title, Gex 3: Deep Cover Gecko. The game was once again a 3D platformer, but Crystal Dynamics really wanted to push the boundaries of the PlayStation, making levels that were not only much larger then Gex 3D, but also had more enemies to deal with. Once again, the game was released to mostly average reviews, with reviewers mostly praising the graphics. This game is also notable for the human woman that Gex is in a somewhat romantic relationship with, who, the game implies, has sex with at the end of the game. This character was played by Baywatch actress and Playboy model Marliece Andrada, and one of the promotions for the game was a parody of the Janet Jackson topless magazine photo, with Gex holding Marliece’s breasts. It’s not cute. I’m not really sure why Crystal Dynamics put Gex on ice, but two things that happened around the release of this game was that the company got a new president in 1997, and were acquired by Eidos Interactive in 1998. Gex might have been done, but Crystal Dynamics was able to continue by working on another 90’s 3D adventure game, Tomb Raider, a title which they still work on to this day.
Obligatory Mega64 video:
Ys I: Ancient Ys Vanished (Sega Master System) – Released Mar. 1989: Wiki Link
Originally released for the various Japanese PC game systems in 1987, Ys I was ported to the Sega Master System in 1988, making its way to the US in 1989 (it would also come out for MS-DOS in 1989, but I can’t find a month of release). Ys I was unique for its time, using a battle system that was referred to as ‘bump attack’. Instead of pressing a button to activate a weapon, or attacking with menus in a turn-based battle system, you would walk directly into your foes, causing damage, but also hurting yourself in the process. There was strategy to this, however, as hitting your enemies from behind would cause more damage to them, and less (or none) to you. Hit your enemies head on and you’ll still hurt them, but take much more damage from them. Another thing that sets Ys apart from other RPGs is that you play as the same character in each entry, a young man named Adol Christin, as he learns about the ancient land of Ys. Like most of these anime style Japanese games, the story doesn’t quite make sense, nor is there much stock put into it; you just play the game, have fun and move on. There are currently eight entries in the main series (a ninth is on the way), with a couple of spin-off’s, but it has a kind of strange release schedule here in the US. While the first three games were released on various US consoles, parts 4 and 5 did not release here, with part 6 in 2005 being the first game in the series to come to North America since 1991. This is a really fun series of games, and in my opinion it can stand alongside Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest in the JRPG hall of fame.