There aren’t a ton of really great games coming out, but there are a couple of really interesting ones, so keep an open mind and you might find something that you’ll pick up in two years when it drops to $19.99 on Amazon.
Earth Defense Force: Iron Rain (PS4) – Releases Apr. 11th
Just in case you were getting tired of last December’s Earth Defense Force 5 (that was four months ago), don’t worry, the studio behind the WWE 2K has you covered. This title appears to be a deviation from the standard norm for EDF, stepping away from the campy, 50’s sci-fi nature of the main series and taking a more “serious” approach to giant bugs invading the planet. This new approach is apparently a push by D3 to make the game more broadly appealing to players in North America and Europe, and apparently you do that by being fucking real, bro. There’s apparently giant, Godzilla-esque monsters in this game as well, so thats pretty cool.
Dangerous Driving (PC/PS4/Xbox One) – Releases Apr. 9th, PC version exclusive to Epic Games Store
Back in the early 00’s, players were introduced to the Burnout series. A racing game that had an almost fetishistic fascination with car crashes. It’s like if Elias Koteas from the movie Crash decided to make a video games. No, not that Crash, the other Crash. Anyway, a few people from the studio who made that game, left to start their own company, and guess what? They made a racing game with an almost fetishistic fascination with car crashes! What a coincidence! Billed (by the developers) as a “spiritual successor” to the Burnout games, Dangerous Driving has you zipping around the highways and byways, racing other cars, and causing a whole lotta vehicular carnage. No word on if you can bang Rosanna Arquette in the open wound she has on her leg (Crash is a fucked up movie). You can also integrate your own Spotify playlists as you race, so get ready for the wildest car chase music of your life!
Zanki Zero: Last Beginning (PC/PS4) – Releases Apr. 9th
Just because your backlog is full of games that take 60-100 hours to complete, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t add ANOTHER one to the list. The good people at Spike Chunsoft know this, and that is why they’ve given us the game Zanki Zero: Last Beginning, a new first person JRPG dungeon crawler that has you playing the roles of several people who are all, it appears to be, clones. You will take these clones and have them go on adventures and form relationships. Die in the game, that’s cool, just make a new clone, but be careful, your girlfriend might not be into you if you’re a little kid, or worse, you might not like them if they’re…OLD! The game looks bizarre, and I’ve already pre-ordered it.
Corpse Party: Sweet Sachiko’s Hysteric Birthday Bash (PC) – Releases Apr. 10th
Weird Japanese game #2 comes to us courtesy of MAGES. Inc. and XSEED. The survival horror/RPG/visual novel (?) title Corpse Party (which is not the title of a Misfits album, surprisingly) was originally released in Japan in 1996 using the RPG Maker software. A remake was released in 2008 (in NA? No idea) and since then there have been a few other titles, mostly spin-off’s. This latest title is just that, another spin-off, and features a demonic girl named Sachiko who is forcing the characters from the original game to attend a birthday party in her honor, taking part in sick and twisted games, lest they should die…again. Yeah, there’s time travel involved.
Weedcraft Inc. (PC) – Releases Apr. 11th
I like Devolver, but I don’t really care for weed. I’m not against it, and I certainly don’t think it needs to be illegal, but like Rick & Morty fans, I just find people who are super into weed culture to be insufferable, and this game seems to be full of those kinds of people. In this game, you are a marijuana grower, and you will grow, sell, trade and expand your weed empire all across America, to the most annoying looking people I’ve ever seen. Going back to the Rick & Morty analogy, for me, playing this game would be like playing a game in which you create a hit cartoon and must deal with pleasing your moronic dickhead fans in order to succeed. That’s what being a weed entrepreneur is like, growing a popular product and then having to sell it to moronic dickheads, because even if normal people are into it, those frothing at the mouth dunces are the ones who fill your pockets.
Ports and Re-releases:
Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney Trilogy (PC/PS4/Switch/Xbox One) – Releases Apr. 3rd
I’m really excited about this release, mostly because I was never a big handheld fan and the DS (and 3DS) just kind of passed me by like two (or three) ships in the night. In fact, the only experience I have with this game is the Harvey Birdman game, which takes the absurdity of that show and slaps it onto the Phoenix Wright engine like some kind of total conversion mod. For those not familiar with the series, you play as an (ace) attorney named Phoenix Wright, who must investigate crime scenes and use his snap judgment and keen intellect to sway the jury’s favor and get our witnesses to cave in when they’re clearly lying. This collection contains all 14 episodes from the first three games in the series, and is, probably, the best thing coming out this week.
Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice (Switch) – Releases Apr. 11th
Okay, maybe I spoke too soon, because Hellblade is supposed to be, er, one hell of a game. Releasing for PC and PS4 in 2017, and Xbox One last year, the title is finally going portable on the Nintendo Switch. Developed by the studio Ninja Theory (who were recently acquired by Microsoft), makers of Heaven’s Sword and the DmC reboot, this title features a woman named Senua, a warrior who is on a journey to save her dead lover’s soul from the goddess Hela. I hear it is very, very cool.
Shadowgate (PS4/Switch/Xbox One) – Releases Apr. 11th
The classic PC/NES point and click adventure is getting a 21st century make-over, with rad 3D graphics and killer sound. This remake came out for PC in 2014 and is now finally making its way to consoles. Like the original, you are a warrior who must explore a dark and mysterious castle, on your quest to defeat an evil sorcerer (warlock? whatever). Venturebeat says, “The game has many ways to kill you, and seeing them all is part of the fun”. Tight.
Hearthstone: Rise of Shadows (Android/iOS/PC) – Releases Apr. 9th
Fans of successful digital CCG’s will be happy to know that the latest expansion for Hearthstone will release this week. Featuring a bunch of card that have to do with The League of E.V.I.L., a shadowy group of…thieves? Assassins? Rogues? All three? In any case, it doesn’t really matter, you’re getting a bunch of new cards (while also losing access to a ton more…in the main game, they still exist for play in Wild matches). Sometimes you back the wrong pony (Artifact) and you lose it all. Oh well, I guess if I really wanted to I could just install…a new game launcher…and spend even more money…and put my credit card number on another service…and look at another icon on my toolbar…sigh…it’s downloaded. I feel dirty.
Falcon Age (PS4/PSVR) – Releases Apr. 9th
Be a falcon tamer, in VR! Nothing says “fun” quite like being the person who holds a falcon and tells it what to do. Finally, my lifelong dream of being a falconer are coming true.
Apparently all of Will Forte’s “Falconer” sketches are illegal to view on YouTube in the United States, so enjoy this collection of skits about how racist MacGruber is:
Shards of Infinity (PC) – Releases Apr. 9th. Android and iOS versions are also announced, but I can’t find a release date
Digital card games might be all the rage right now, but never forget that this did start as a physical hobby. The deck building game Ascension, created by a couple of pro Magic: The Gathering players, hit the tabletop scene in 2010 to pretty wide acclaim, being nominated for several game of the year awards. Last year, one of the Ascension designers decided to make a new game that took elements of that game (as well as several elements from another game, Star Realms) and create this new title, Shards of Infinity. To quickly summarize, you will pick a character, take your starting hand of cards, and then use those to purchase new cards from the center row (sort of like a shop), to make your deck stronger and eventually wipe out your opponents before they take you out. Ascension is a lot of fun, and I’ve heard good things about Star Realms, so if it takes the best parts of both of those games, then this could be a fantastic deck builder.
Hunt ‘n Sneak (PC) – Releases Apr. 10th
This games looks boring, so I’ll let Steam take it from here, “Light is both friend and foe in Hunt ‘n Sneak – a manic party game set in a world where mystical creatures dwell. Threatened by the fearsome Gobblers, the Pixies’ struggle for survival has begun. Will you use your wit to sneak past the Gobblers, or use your cunning to hunt the elusive Pixies”?
The Mystery Of Woolley Mountain (PC/Switch) – Releases Apr. 10th
The point & click adventure genre has so few auteurs, that TWO 2019 entries in the genre have used Ron Gilbert in their marketing. He had nothing to do with The Mystery Of Wooley Mountain, but he backed it on Kickstarter, so it must be good, right? The game is being developed by a company called Lightfoot Brothers, and this appears to be their first game, so we’ll see how it goes. The game is about a group of time traveling scientists, and it’s funny.
JetX (PC/Rift/Vive) – Releases Apr. 11th
Futuristic racing in VR. Prepare to vomit.
PROZE: Enlightenment (Rift/Vive) – Releases Apr. 11th
ANOTHER VR game? Take it away Steam, “Enlightenment is the first episode in PROZE series. PROZE is a VR survival adventure set in both past and present. It’s a story of friendship and duty, fear and dignity of the people facing the Soviet government and its echoes”.
Nintendo Labo Toy-Con 04: VR Kit (Switch) – Releases Apr. 12th
Oh wait, Nintendo is doing VR?! I take back every terrible thing I’ve ever said about it. Nah, just playing, VR is still a fad that makes me throw up, but maybe, just maybe, Nintendo can pull it off for me. For starters, this isn’t a crazy headset, it’s basically Google Cardboard, but instead of using your phone you use your undocked Switch console. There are 64 games in the basic set, and a bunch of others if you buy the accompanying add-ons, like the big blaster. I could see this being a lot of fun, but they just dropped the price of all their other Labo stuff, so maybe wait until Black Friday to see if Target clearances this shit out too.
Street Basketball (Switch) – Releases Apr. 12th
If there’s one thing we all know about Nintendo fans, it’s how much they love sports titles, which is why I’m super stoked to see this brand new basketball game come exclusively to Switch! Plus, the graphics look so good, oh my gosh! Little Rayman looking people running around a 2D court that looks like an iPhone game from 2010? Sign :clap: me :clap: the :clap: fuck :clap: up!
Notable Releases from 10, 20 and 30 years ago:
Two games you’ve probably never heard of, and another game that you’ll surprised to find was (probably) the first exposure many in North America had to the series. Read on…
The Dark Spire (Nintendo DS) – Released Apr. 14th, 2009: Wiki Link
JRPGs exist in this funny place in gaming, here in North America. For every well-known series like Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest, there is a smaller series that only has one or two titles, something like Illusion of Gaia, or this week’s ten year old game, The Dark Spire. Developed by a company called Success and published by Atlus in NA, this first person dungeon crawler was seen as a throwback to classic RPGs like The Bard’s Tale or Wizardry, and even came with a feature to make the graphics look like a 1980’s PC game. Going back to the popularity of these games, I would be hard pressed to find anyone in 2009 who had this game on their radar, maybe you did, if you were a hardcore JRPG fan, but most likely it wasn’t even a known entity, meaning sales must have been quite low. Cut to 2019, where a complete in box listing on eBay can go for $120. That’s insane, $120 bucks for a game that no one cared about ten years ago! This is why I pre-ordered Metal Max Xeo last year, because in ten years some weeaboo dork is going to want to play it, and I’ll be like, “I have a copy on my shelf if you want it; $300 bucks” and they’ll buy it and I’ll get a bunch of water because by 2035 the world will be ending and I’ll need it to barter with the spice fiends in Sector Z so they don’t murder me and my family. Sounds like the premise to a JRPG.
Warzone 2100 (PC) – Released Apr. 10th, 1999: Wiki Link
Speaking of games that didn’t make much of an impact until later in its life, Warzone 2100 was released this week back in 1999 to okay reviews and, I assume, okay sales. It clearly didn’t leave much of a mark, as I don’t see any HD remakes being touted at E3 press conferences, or Pop figures of the units at Target. However, what makes this run-of-the-mill RTS game so interesting is what happened to after release. By 2000, the game would lose all studio support, being essentially abandoned by Eidos. In 2004, one of the original developers from Pumpkin Studios (then re-named Pivotal Games, now defunct) uploaded the source code of the game to the internet, and it’s then that people went nuts for it. They turned the game into an open-source project, adding a bunch of new content to the game, fixing bugs, and generally keeping it alive long after the original publisher had abandoned it. According to the website wz2100.net, the game is still being modded and supported by the community to this day; a true testament to the power of fans to reclaim something they loved for themselves.
Fist of the North Star (NES) – Released Apr. 1989: Wiki Link
If you can believe it, Fist of the North Star for the NES might have been most North American audiences’ exposure to the series. The manga would also release this year, but I wager there were more people wandering the video game aisle at Toys R Us than were browsing the manga endcap at their local comics shop (if their town even had one). While it isn’t the best adaptation that could have been made, it wasn’t a complete mess. It had some pretty interesting controls, with jumping relegated to the d-pad, the developers were able to use the A and B button to great effect, for punches, kicks and special moves. This was also useful in giving players a better sense that they were really pulling off Ken’s unique attacks, with most bosses having weak points that must be hit with a specific attack before landing their next blow. Funny enough, the game was originally previewed in 1988 under the title Ken the Great Bear Fist (which, holy shit, can you imagine), but was changed to Fist of the North Star so as to match the announced title of the English adaptation of the manga. Funny enough, this was NOT the first game to be based on Fist of the North Star to come to North America. A 1986 Sega Master System game called Black Belt was a Fist game in Japan, but due to licensing they had to change all of the art and character names for the NA release. There have been several Fist of the North Star games released over the years, and after ANOTHER Fist game made by Sega that had to be scrubbed in North America due to licensing, they would finally get to release a proper licensed title in 2018 with Fist of the North Star: Lost Paradise.
I didn’t find out about Fist of the North Star until the movie came out on VHS in ’92 or ’93, but I was instantly taken aback by it. It, along with Akira, Vampire Hunter D and Robotech, solidified my long love affair with anime. I liked the movie so much that I named my Japanese fighting fish (or betta fish if you’re a nerd) Kenshiro. One day, while cleaning Ken’s bowl, I moved him to a small Tweety Bird mug, as a temporary bowl. I sat down at our dining room table, cleaned the bowl, and when I went to put Ken back in, I noticed the mug was empty, and on the floor was my poor, sweet little Kenshiro. Lifeless and still. I was so distraught that I haven’t owned a pet fish since then.