There isn’t a whole lot that’s coming out this week that warrants much of your attention, heck, the biggest new release is a Switch exclusive DLC featuring Star Fox characters for a mildly successful game that came out last year. You can probably take this week (and if my notes are any indication, the next as well) to catch up on your back catalog.
Starlink: Battle For Atlus – Crimson Moon (PS4/Switch/Xbox One) – Releases Apr. 30th
This free update is coming to all Starlink owners this week, and features several new missions as well as brand new content, including ship racing, Colosseum battles, and of course, furries. The biggest thing to be added, however, is exclusively for Nintendo Switch, which (for a price) adds Star Fox content. Aside from new missions, this includes the ability to play as the entire crew; Slippy, Peppy and Falco. While I can’t say that Starlink is a great game (it’s merely okay), the Star Fox content is some of the best available for the game, so anything extra is a plus.
Tales of the Neon Sea (PC) – Releases Apr. 30th
Tech-Noir is probably one of my favorite genres, thanks to the 80’s classic Blade Runner. There was a fantastic point & click adventure game released in 1997 by Westwood Studios, and there have been more than a few other copycat, hard-boiled detective games to come along since then; the latest is this week’s release Tales of the Neon Sea. Taking cues from Metropolis, I, Robot and other “humans vs. robots” stories, Tales of the Neon Sea puts you in a world where tensions are rising between humans and robots, as you use your detective skills to uncover the mystery behind a grisly murder. Oh, this is also the first three chapters of a larger story that the developer says they will release, for free, later this year.
Precipice (PC) – Releases May 30th
After last week’s Imperator: Rome, we’ve got yet another map domination game, but this looks a bit less involved, and features more furries. It also seems to be a dueling game, with you playing against the computer, or another player, as either the U.S. or the Soviet Union, on your quest to become the dominant global super power. Achieve this by helping you allies and hindering your opponents, excelling in scientific achievements, and applying just enough military might to avoid causing nuclear war. Do you have what it takes to win the furry cold war?
Close to the Sun (PC) – Releases May 2nd, Exclusive to the Epic Games Store
Hey, have you heard of this game called Bioshock? Yeah, neither have I, so we should totally play this unique FPS game called Close to the Sun! It’s totally NOT going to be a huge disappointment like We Happy Few was, not even close! You know why; because it’s on the Epic Games Store, and, like, literally every game that releases on that store is a huge seller, HUGE! I’m sure it totally has to do with their rabid fanbase and is not at all a padding of the sales by Epic who probably has to guarantee X amount of copies are sold to retain the exclusive rights. Anyway, Close to the Sun looks sick AF, and it’s about Tesla, and I fucking love science. THEY HAVE A STORE! https://www.ilovesciencestore.com/
Ports and Re-releases:
Final Fantasy XII (Switch/Xbox One) – Releases Apr. 30th
Just like last week’s Dragon’s Dogma, I bought this for PS4 back in 2017, I even pre-ordered that shit…and I’ve yet to even take it out of the plastic. I have a problem. Well, now I can buy it all over again and play it on the go…maybe…unless they remaster it for the upcoming PS5.
Starlink: Battle for Atlus (PC) – Releases Apr. 30th
The latest update/expansion for Starlink isn’t the only big new for that game this week, with PC players will now able to play Ubisoft’s toys-to-life game (sans the toys, I’m afraid). As I mentioned above, I don’t think this game is all that great on its own, but it is a fun little diversion that you can certainly find yourself wasting a few hours in. It’s a little bit No Man’s Sky and a little bit Destiny, with just enough trinkets to collect and map quadrants to uncover that it’ll get your OCD spinning into overdrive.
For Honor Year 3, Season 2 – Sakura (PC/PS4 /Xbox One) – Releases May 2nd
Hey, look, For Honor was totally, like seriously, like for reals, ALWAYS going to release a cool Japanese warrior for the game that plays like a Sekiro boss, okay! This is totally just a coincidence, alright? Stop asking questions.
Purple Chicken Spaceman (Xbox One) – Releases May 3rd
As far as exclusives go, Nintendo has Mario Odyssey and Breath of the Wild, Sony has God of War and Spider-Man, and Microsoft has Halo and Purple Chicken Spaceman. You’re welcome Xbone fans!
Fade to Silence (PC/PS4/Xbox One) – Releases Apr. 30th
This survival FPS has been in early access on Steam since December, 2017, gaining mixed reviews from players. It looks a bit like Fallout, but the entire world is covered in snow and ice, and instead of mutated creatures, you fight Lovecraft monsters. The game can be played solo or with a friend in co-op mode.
Fell Seal: Arbiter’s Mark (PC/PS4/Xbox One) – Releases Apr. 30th
Yet another game that has been in early access on Steam (since August, 2018), this tactical RPG has been getting very positive user reviews, but those graphics are hideous. The game boasts a “…mature story…”, whatever that mean, and promises you will have a unique party “…with each character customizable from a wide selection of classes and abilities”. Cool.
Puzzle Herder (Switch) – Releases May 1st
Puzzle Herder is the first of two Switch exclusives of questionable quality to come out this week. If you had told me it was a port of a mobile title, I would totally believe you. From the very generic “cover art”, to the cartoony minimalist graphics, this thing screams mobile and/or shovel wear. Could it be good? Maybe, but with so many other gaming options out there, is it worth taking the risk?
Xtreme Club Racing (Switch) – Releases May 2nd
Our second Switch exclusive of questionable quality is an arcade racer, looking to replicate games like Crusin’ USA and Hydro Thunder. There appears to be an attempt at depth here, with the ability to train in the “racing simulator”, where you’ll need to pass four tests in order to race “…and compete with the great drivers”. Honestly, it just sounds like a time gate, a way to keep you engaged and playing long after you’ve grown tired with the game. What does sound interesting (and possibly very frustrating), is that all of the tracks are procedurally generated, which sounds like you’ll never have the same race twice. This could be cool, but it also means you can’t memorize the layout and cheese your way through. The game is also single player, which is a pretty odd choice for an arcade racer.
Black Paradox (PC/Switch/Xbox One) – Releases May 3rd, currently in early access on Steam
Oh look, another early access game from Steam, this time it is a rouge-lite SHMUP with pixel graphics. You play as the bounty hunter, Black Paradox, fighting your way across the galaxy, dodging tons of bullets and enemy ships as you try and take down a major crime syndicate. It doesn’t look so great, and will probably be $0.99 cents on the eShop in like six months.
Venture Kid (PC/Switch) – Releases May 3rd
Venture Kid is a pixel graphic platformer with a chiptune soundtrack, but according to the developers, the game is so much more than that. In what way, well, I have no idea, as even their description in the Steam store page seems to tout the fact that this has 8-bit pixel graphics and a chiptune soundtrack. The graphics are nothing to write home about, and are very reminiscent of some of the more boring and generic graphics you would see on the NES. However, the main character is named Andy, so I have to play it on that merit alone; yes, I’m that shallow.
Notable Releases from 10, 20 and 30 years ago:
This week’s notable titles include a cultural phenomenon, a first of its kind release, and a port of one of the most critically acclaimed arcade games of all time (yeah, I’m as surprised as you).
Plants vs. Zombies (PC) – Released May 5th, 2009: Wiki Link
Some of you might have thought PvZ was just a mobile game, but that’s not true. It came out for PC nine months before it hit the App Store. The highly addictive Plants vs. Zombies was created by the team at Pop Cap, makers of casual classics like Peggle, Feeding Frenzy and your mom’s favorite game, Bejeweled. Wanting to move past their more cutesey games, PvZ director George Fan wanted to do something with more grittiness, but as this is Pop Cap, the game still had to be kind of cute. The game was also an attempt to appeal to the hardcore gaming market as well, with deep, strategic options to help customize your ultimate team of photosynthetic units. Taking inspiration from a diverse line-up of games, ranging from Magic: The Gathering to the arcade classic Tapper, you would defend your home from an invading horde of zombies, using seed packets to grow an army of killer plants. Despite the appeal to the hardcore, the core gameplay and look were made simple enough to appeal to the casual crowd, making the game a massive success. It would be ported to just about every gaming device available, and even had a Facebook version. It would go on to become such a cultural phenomenon that it would get its own lottery scratcher, the true sign that you’ve made it! A sequel, Plants vs. Zombies 2: It’s About Time would come out in 2013 exclusively to mobile devices, while the console/PC sequel, Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare, would release in 2015. The last PvZ game to release would be the mobile exclusive Plants vs. Zombies: Heroes, a digital CCG, and fans of the series were happy to find out back in February, 2019 that a brand new title in the series will be coming to PC and consoles “soon”. Whether this is a new version of the original formula, or some other spin-off, it seems we won’t be rid of those pesky, traffic cone headed, zombies anytime soon.
Grand Theft Auto – Mission Pack #1: London 1969 (PlayStation) – Released Apr. 30th, 1999: Wiki Link
In my notable games retrospective back in December, I mentioned that Take-Two Interactive would create Rockstar Games out of the ashes of BMG Interactive, with founding members Dan & Sam Houser, Terry Donovan, and Jamie King. With the dissolving of BMG, this meant that their catalog would become the property of Rockstar, and as their first project, the Houser brothers would start work on an expansion to the hit game Grand Theft Auto. It seems fitting that the two British born brothers would set their expansion in London, a town, and culture, they were familiar with. Taking cues from such classic films as The Italian Job, Get Carter and the James Bond franchise, they set the game in 1969, doing their best to immerse the player in the world and era. Since they were using the same engine as the original GTA, there was only so much they could convey through its muddy art, so they had to rely on the audio, writing and cut scenes to make you feel like you were really living in this world. The radio stations, which played a wide range of period appropriate music, including old school reggae/ska, 60’s psychedelia & big band swing music, and jazz, were some of the most praised aspects of the expansion. Critics were harsh in other areas, particularly for this PSX version, which had horrendous graphics and clunky controls, both being relics of the original game. This was also the start of Rockstar and the Houser’s pushing the boundaries of what current gen technology can do. GTA: London is the first game on the Sony PlayStation to be an expansion, or what we’d now call DLC, and required you to own a copy of the original Grand Theft Auto, which you would insert into the console after first loading your expansion disc. This bit of history making was just one of the first things the GTA series would do to set itself apart from its contemporary rivals, and was the start of a long tradition of changing the way we would play console games. Only a few short months later we would get a proper sequel in the form of GTA 2, and then of course, in 2001, the console video game landscape would change forever with the release of Grand Theft Auto III. Rockstar and the Houser’s continue to release boundary pushing titles (albeit with a human cost that is part of a larger, industry wide problem), and show no signs of slowing or stopping. While it’s been nearly six years since the release of their last GTA title, the game still continually shows up in top sales charts, and through its online mode, has become one of the most profitable games in Take-Two Interactive’s history.
Operation Wolf (NES) – Released May 1989: Wiki Link
When Taito released Operation Wolf to arcades in 1987, a light gun shooter that used realistic uzi’s as controllers, it was a massive success. Not just with players, but with critics as well. Over the next two years it would win several awards for being the best in class, and would sit at the top of sales charts. It was only inevitable that a home console port would be made, and there were several, including PC, the Sega Master System, the Commodore 64 and of course, this week’s notable release, the NES. While most ports would not feature any light gun like the arcades, the NES version was notable for allowing you to play the game either with a controller, moving the cross-hairs around the screen using the d-pad, or using the NES Zapper to play. I am unsure how effective this was though, as the game is reliant on spraying bullets around the screen to eliminate your targets, and the Zapper only fires one bullet at a time. That’s tough when you need to pump lead into a helicopter before it takes you out. While it tried what it could do replicate the arcade experience, the game suffered from poor graphics, even worse sound, and finicky controls. The series would go on to have three sequels, with the final one, Operation Tiger, releasing in 1998. Operation Wolf for the NES would get a virtual console on the Nintendo Wii in 2008, and would only allow for controller support, and no Wiimote support, a grave misfortune. Sorry, but you are finished here.