We’re in post E3 territory, which is kind of like the gaming industry’s post all-star game time of year. It’s at this point we start to see most companies begin their long term game plans for the rest of the year, and we all talk and think about what we’re going to be playing up until Xmas. I’m wondering if I should do a half year check in, discuss the first six months of games and what to expect in the next six? We’ll see how things go, I’ll be pretty busy in the next couple weeks. This is also a week where we celebrate three video game auteurs, Koji Igarashi, David Cage, and Peter Molyneux. Anyway, on to the new games!
Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night (PC/PS4/Switch/Xbox One) – Releases Jun. 18th (Switch version Jun. 25th)
In 2015, after other gaming luminaries saw success with crowdfunding, including Double Fine’s Broken Age, and Obsidian’s Pillars of Eternity, famed Castlevania producer Koji Igarashi (Iga for short) went to the people in order to fund his latest title. When his pledge drive went live on Kickstarter, it quickly became the most funded video game in the platform’s history at $5.5 million dollars (it was eventually beat by another title coming out later this year, Shenmue III). Originally set to release on PC, PS4, Xbox One, Wii U and Vita, it was later decided that both of those systems would be removed, with Nintendo’s newest system, the Switch, being added. Okay, backstory is out of the way, so what the heck is this game? Well, as this is an Iga game, you can expect it to play like this most famous title, Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, a hack & slash title with a large, Metroid-Vania style map to explore and backtrack. While the game has some similarities to Castlevania in terms of tone and setting, it was decided not to include the character of Dracula in the game so as to keep from there being too much of a comparison to Iga’s previous work on the Castlevania games. It’s been a long, hard road for Bloodstained, but these four years have finally led up to this moment, and is also perhaps one of the last great games to be funded through Kickstarter, which has seen more than a few high profile misfires in recent years, and lack of any big names using it to fund their games. C’est la vie.
My Friend Pedro (PC/Switch) – Releases Jun. 20th
Indie bad boy Devolver Digital is at it again, with yet another in a long line of violent, action precision games like Hotline Miami, Not a Hero, Katana Zero and Ape Out. In their new title, My Friend Pedro, you find yourself going on a killing spree at the behest of a talking banana, running and gunning through several stages of high-octane carnage. The hook here is that you can slow down time and use split aiming to turn your dance of death into a beautiful ballet of bullets and blood. It looks like a ton of fun, so let’s see if it can continue Devolver’s track record of releasing hit after after.
Steel Division II (PC) – Releases Jun. 20th
WWII nerds rejoice, as the highly detailed and meticulously 1:1 scale turn-based war simulator Steel Division II releases this week on Jun. 20th. Featuring campaigns for both Russia and Germany, you find yourself taking on the role of a general during the Soviet offensive against the Nazi armies in Bielorussia (everyone’s favorite WWII conflict…). If you’re a nerd for intense realism, intense stats, and intense military battles, then you’d be hard pressed to sleep on this title.
Crash Team Racing Nitro-Fueled (PC/PS4/Switch/Xbox One) – Releases Jun. 21st
I thought about putting this in the ports/re-releases section of games, but this is a pretty major over-haul, in the same way that Resident Evil 2 and Yakza Kiwami were, that it might as well be a brand new game. In this re-boot of Crash’s PSX kart racing title, you get to choose from an assortment of very, very, famous characters from the Crash Bandicoot series of games, like Crash, and girl Crash, and the bad guy, and…that witch doctor mask? I don’t know, nor do I care. After the disappointment of Team Sonic Racing a few weeks ago, we’ll have to see if Crash and the boys can deliver the goods. If you want a more in-depth look, resident gamer Conan O’Brien recently sat down and played the game with comedian Billy Eichner.
Ports and Re-releases:
Heavy Rain (PC) – Releases Jun. 24th (Exclusive to the Epic Games store)
After initially being released for the PS3 in 2010, and then on the PS4 in 2016, David Cage’s first Sony Computer Entertainment title, Heavy Rain, is now coming to PC’s exclusively through the Epic Games store. This is also the second high profile Sony published PS3/PS4 game, after Journey, to be ported to the PC and released through Epic. Heavy Rain is a story-driven interactive drama, about four characters who are all searching for a serial killer named The Origami Killer, due to their penchant of leaving small, origami animals at the scene of their murders. As you play through the story, you will be faced with a series of quick time events that you must succeed at, or face potentially dying, eliminating that character from having any further input on the story. It was an ambitions script, with over 2,000 pages of dialogue and descriptions, and due to the branching storylines and possible characters deaths, featured a number of endings you could see. Come back the week of February 23rd, 2020 when I will most likely feature this game as the notable title from ten years ago, and also probably share this Mega64 video again:
“I gotta find Jason”.
Jurassic World: Evolution – Claire’s Sanctuary (PC/PS4/Xbox One) – Releases Jun. 18th
2018’s Jurassic World: Evolution was a fairly average, but somewhat enjoyable, zoo/theme park simulator, which critics seemed to agree felt slightly unfinished. Well that’s what post-launch updates are for! After receiving DLC in 2018 centered on Dr. Henry Wu, the game is now getting a new piece of DLC centered on the character of Claire Dearing and her mission to rescue dinosaurs from Isla Nublar. Expect more story missions, more dinosaurs to breed and display, and partake in the all new “paleobotany mode”, which allows you to breed and grow extinct plants. Jurassic World: Evolution – Claire’s Sanctuary, as much fun as watching grass grow!
The Sims 4: Island Living (PC/PS4/Xbox One) – Releases Jun. 20th
I’m surprised that after all these years, The Sims is still going strong. I would have thought that their core audience of casual gamer’s had moved on to mobile devices, but as evidenced by people like 2 Dope Queens’ Jessica Williams, the game is still a popular escapist paradise for casual gamer’s around the world. In this latest expansion, you will be able to live, work and play on a tropical island, living out whatever crazy fantasies you can think of. From the tourist-trap styling’s of building sand castles and riding a jetski, to the more “woke-centric” fantasies of cleaning up polluted beaches and posting about it on Instagram, you can do just about anything you want in the ultimate life simulator.
Citizens of Space (PC/PS4/Switch/Xbox One) – Releases Jun. 18th
From the makers of Citizens of Earth comes a, I guess, sequel? In this game you take on the role of the ambassador to Earth as they are accepted into Galactic Federation, but there’s one problem, Earth is missing! You will have to recruit various citizens to help you in your quest to find Earth and join the Federation.
Lovely Planet 2: April Skies (PC) – Releases Jun. 18th
From Steam, “A Very Cute First Person Shooter Game. Sequel to the most adorable and critically acclaimed FPS Gun Ballet of 2014“. It looks as good as this sentence was translated.
Luna (PS4/PSVR) – Releases Jun. 18th
Using the awesome power of PlayStation VR, you must help a small bird find their way home by solving various puzzles. This truly is the future.
Mini-Mech Mayhem (PSVR) – Releases Jun. 18th
Once again, an experience that can only be captured in the majesty of VR, you get to sit at a table and build tiny mech’s that do battle on a grid against your friends in online battles. The PlayStation Store page also features this line, “VR Games may cause some players to experience motion sickness“. Yes, yes they will.
198X, Part 1 (PC/PS4) – Releases Jun. 20th
Set in the dystopian future of 198X, “Kid”, citizen of “Suburbia”, must play games at the local arcade in order to find himself in this touching, coming of age story, where the lines between reality and fiction start to blur…
Muse Dash (PC/Switch) – Releases Jun. 20th
Mixing parkour and rhythm games, the developers of Muse Dash are super stoked on their title. It looks cute.
Scrap Rush!! (PC/Switch) – Releases Jun. 20th
This is a Bomberman clone, but instead of blowing up your opponents, you must crush them with blocks made of scrap. It’s 4 player, couch co-op, so you might get a smile or two out of your friends at a party before you just play Mario Kart 8 again.
One Year Ago:
Top Game – Mario Tennis Aces (Switch) – Released Jun. 22nd, 2018
After a four year absence, the Mario Tennis series returned with one of its strongest entries. With both a robust single player AND online mode, the game has been continually updated over the past year, with several free characters added over that time. A deep learning curve, and a deep roster, should ensure that this game remains a regular part of most Switch owners libraries, at least until the next one comes out.
What were we saying in the comments? Most of us were excited for Mario Tennis, with more than one person expressing interest in picking it up. Merve had some not so kind words for Anima: Gate of Memories – The Nameless Chronicles, “Apparently Anima: Gate of Memories – The Nameless Chronicles is the sequel to Anima: Gate of Memories. Dear game developers, if you’ve already got a colon in the original game’s name, don’t just add a dash and some other stuff for the sequel’s name; put something different after the colon so that we don’t get confused. (See also: Digimon Story: Cyber Sleuth – Hacker’s Memory)“.
Notable Releases from 10, 20 and 30 years ago:
A couple of fairly forgettable titles, and one that will most certainly never be forgotten due to its contribution to gaming; it’s time to talk about some old games!
The Conduit (Wii) – Released Jun. 23rd, 2009: Wiki Link
Due to its low power in comparison to the PS3 and Xbox 360, the Nintendo Wii had a hard time getting high profile third party action games on its console. Seeing a hole to plug, developer High Voltage Software set out to create their own engine, called Quantum 3, in an effort to produce graphics that were sort of comparable to the PS3 and 360. Initially announced with no publisher attached, it was eventually revealed that Sega, one of the few third party publishers who had strong support for the Wii, would release the game. Told through nine missions, players would find themselves taking on the role of Michael Ford, a Secret Service Agent tasked with helping to protect the U.S. from an alien invasion. A fairly ridiculous premise that was played up with all the seriousness of an HBO hour long drama, gave this game it’s own silly tone. The game received pretty decent reviews when it came out, with many praising the controls, game play, and online mode. However many seemed less than impressed with the generic tone of the story, enemies, and environments. The game would spawn a sequel for the Wii, and would then get ported to mobile phones a few years later. There don’t seem to be any plans to continue the series, meaning we can probably throw this on the pile of abandoned properties. Speaking of abandoned properties…
Heavy Gear II (PC) – Released Jun. 18th, 1999: Wiki Link
It wasn’t a very big week for games in 1999, and I’m becoming increasingly convinced that the industry was just giving up the Summer to The Phantom Menace, which, according to the-numbers.com, had grossed over $18 million the week of June 18th, for a total of $328 million over the course of five weeks, so it was still a pretty big cultural phenomenon (it should also be noted that Tarzan, Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me, The Mummy and The Matrix were all in theatres as well, taking much of everyone’s entertainment dollars). Okay, so what the hell is Heavy Gear II? Well, first, it’s the sequel to 1997’s Heavy Gear, imagine that! It is a mech-based, first person combat game that is based on the tabletop game of the same name. The plot, according to Wikipedia, revolves around the destruction of the city Peace River, which breaks a cease-fire agreement between the Northern and Southern Leagues. Due to this, a group of special operatives from around the world is put together, as they load into their mechs (or “gears”) and travel through an interstellar Tannhauser gate to take the fight to the bastards who committed the atrocity. The game was actually very well received by critics when it was released, praising pretty much every aspect of the game, from graphics to story to control. However, this critical praise did not lead to sales, and was a commercial disaster for publisher Activision. In 2002, Activision announced that it had no further plans to support the game or series, and after some time it was eventually abandoned by the publisher, making copies of the game easily available on PC abandon-ware websites. In 2013, amid a boom of interest in video games on the crowdfunding platform Kickstarter, developer Stompy Bot Productions tried to get people to give them money for a new title called Heavy Gear Assault. This was ultimately a failure, however they did not stop working on the game, and continued production, leading to an early access launch in February, 2017. Yet despite the release, the game currently has ‘mostly negative’ reviews due to the fact that all of the servers have been shut down and the game has (once again) been abandoned by its publisher.
Populous (PC) – Released Jun. 5th, 1989: Wiki Link
1989’s Populous was developed by Peter Molyneux and his team at Bullfrog Production for the Commodore Amiga, and is credited with creating the “God Game” genre. After cutting his teeth in the computer software industry in the early 1980’s, Molyneux started Bullfrog in 1987, and while their first title was a port of the game Druid II: Enlightenment, Populous was their first original title. After building a prototype of the game in which little creatures called “peeps” would walk around a map, only stopping when they would reach some kind of barrier, the team decided to allow for terrain manipulation to help them reach greater distances. After a while, there would eventually be too many peeps on the map, so to keep things running smoothly, the peeps would need to disappear somehow, this prompted the team to have the peeps build houses when they reached a flat piece of land. This idea of peeps exploring a map and building houses is what eventually led to the finished game of Populous, in which you take on the role of a deity who is looking down upon your followers, as you help guide and support them, with divine power and wisdom, on their way to building a thriving civilization. With 500 levels, your main goal was to have a large enough group of followers (peeps) to overtake a rival deity’s followers, however, during testing the team realized that they had no end game screen, so using a blank page that was still in the code, they hastily threw something together to congratulate the player. As Bullfrog was an independent studio, they needed a publisher to get their game distributed. As a way to entice them, the team built a “table top” version of the game, in which they used Lego’s to explain the game to prospective partners. While the “table top” demo had nothing to really do with the final game, it was successful in getting people to stop and pay attention to them. Eventually, the company EA decided to take a chance on Molyneux and his team, and published the title. According to Wikipedia, Molyneux was less than thrilled with the deal, saying the contract was atrocious, with Bullfrog receiving a paltry upfront payment, and only getting 10% royalties on every copy sold, raising to 12% once it hit 1 million copies sold. The game was a massive hit, selling over 4 million copies worldwide, going on to become one of the best selling PC games of all time. It was nominated, and won, several “Game of the Year” awards from various gaming outlets, and would solidify Molyneux as one of the biggest names in PC gaming, gaining auteur status. There would be two sequels to Populous, Trial of the Olympian Gods and The Beginning, the second title having no input from Molyneux, and receiving the worst reviews. With Molyneux now working from his new Lionhead Studios, he would go on to create yet another “god game” masterpiece, Black & White, and would form a partnership with Microsoft to create the Fable series. While the dreams of Peter Molyneux are kind of the butt of a lot of jokes from the modern gaming crowd, his contribution to the PC strategy/simulation genre is not to be overlooked, and will stand among the other pioneers of the genre like Will Wright and Sid Meier, for as long as we’ll all remember them.