I got my first real hand-held
Bought it at the TG&Y
Played it ’til my fingers bled
Was the summer of eighty-nine
Me and some kids from school
All played Tetris and we battled real hard
Jimmy quit, Jody got Alleyway
I should’ve known we’d never get far
Oh, when I look back now
That gaming seemed to last forever
And if I had the choice
Yeah, I’d always wanna be there
Those were the best days of my life…
Madden NFL 20 (PC/PS4/Xbox One) – Releases:
Jul. 25th – EA Access Subscribers
Jul. 30th – Superstar/Ultra Superstar Edition
Aug. 2nd – Standard edition, for you peasants
I like to think of the annual Madden release as, less about seeing another entry in the stale, flaccid, and boring franchise, and more about “Oh boy! I hope John Teti writes more Block & Tackle!!”.
Lightstep Chronicles (PC) – Releases Aug. 1st
The first narrative text adventure game of the week, Lightstep Chronicles finds the player trapped on a space station…or ship…or something, and annoyed/terrorized by an manipulative AI that is not Wheatly from Portal 2, okay!
Dry Drowning (PC) – Releases Aug. 2nd (will come the XBone in 2020)
The second narrative text adventure game is about a hard-boiled detective who is on the hunt for a serial killer whose murders come straight out of Greek mythology.
The Church in the Darkness (PC/PS4/Switch/Xbox One) – Releases Aug. 2nd
Taking cues from the Jonestown Massacre and the recent Netflix documentary series Wild Wild Country, in The Church in the Darkness you play as the uncle of a young man who has joined a cult…in South America. Using skills you learned during a career in law-enforcement, you infiltrate the compound where these people live and either through stealth or savagery, you will find out what happened to your nephew, and just what this cult is up to.
Saboteur II: Avenging Angel (PC/Switch) – Releases Aug. 2nd
Not really a new game, but I thought it was too interesting to not highlight. Saboteur II was originally released in 1987 for a suite of PC platforms, including the ZX Spectrum, the Commodore 64, and MSDOS based computers. I find it interesting that many people believe this to be the first action-adventure game to feature a female protagonist, however Nintendo’s Metroid came out in Japan in 1986 which, as many of us know, features Samus Aran; a female protagonist in an action-adventure game. It can be argued that Metroid may have come to the NA market after Saboteur II, so the perception could be that it was the first game, particularly with Nintendo referring to Samus as “he” in the instruction booklet. Arguments aside, it is certainly a great achievement in its own right, and is clearly the first western game to feature a strong female protagonist in an action-adventure game.
Ports and Re-releases:
Mutant Year Zero: Road to Eden (Switch) – Releases Jul. 30th
Releasing late last year on PC, PS4 and Xbox One, this tactical squad shooter is now coming to the Switch and will feature all previously released DLC; including the one that also comes out today. This seemed to be a bit of a sleeper hit last year, so if you’re a fan of games like XCOM, give this title a look.
Pandemic (Switch/Xbox One) – Releases Aug. 1st
Based on the best-selling board game, Pandemic is a co-op game in which you and a group of friends must use your wits, skills and team work to cure and eradicate four viruses before they cause a world-wide global outbreak that threatens to exterminate humanity. That description is probably way more exciting than the game looks, and plays, but in person, this can get really tense as you wait to see what cities get filled with viruses and when the epidemics happen, which cause outbreaks and can set off catastrophic chain reactions. The upside to this being digital is that there is no clean-up or tear-down, no cards/pieces to get lose or damaged, and the ability to play with either the computer, or online when you can’t get your gaming group together on Friday night because Dan has to go meet some YouTube celebrity in Anaheim. We get it Dan, Adam The Woo is awesome, but we have a planet to save! I adore this as a tabletop game and am really excited to see it make the jump to the digital space.
Warhammer 40k: Inquisitor – Prophecy (PC/PS4) – Releases Jul. 30th
I already discussed this title a few weeks ago when it was originally supposed to launch, but dangit, they went and delayed the release to today. Here is that original description: This stand-alone expansion for last year’s Warhamer: Inquisitor – Martyr does not require a copy of the first game to play it, but you will be able to carry over progress from that game into this one. In the new expansion you’ll get a new class, new gameplay elements, a new campaign, new settings, and new enemies. The game is also rated ‘mature’ for graphic violence.
Forged of Blood (PC) – Releases Aug. 1st
A tactical fantasy game that doesn’t look half bad, but I bet it is.
The Black Widow (Android/iOS/PC) – Releases Aug. 1st
Yet another narrative adventure game, this one being unique in that it is based on a true story, and also uses a Ouija board to help you communicate with the dead. Can you solve the mystery of the The Black Widow killer, and determine if she was the psychopath they claimed her to be, or just a woman who was the victim of unfortunate circumstance?
Hamsterdam (Android/iOS/PC/Switch) – Releases Aug. 1st
The winner of the “dumbass title of the week” award. In this funky little platformer, you play as a young hamster who must save his town from a group of thugs who have wrecked everything and kidnapped his grandfather. It’s cute and quirky, perfect for that impulse buy when it drops to $0.99 cents during a sale.
Obakeidoro! (Switch) – Releases Aug. 1st
I’m a little bit worried that this isn’t coming out, as their website isn’t in English and there is no eShop page for the game, ah well. In this game, you are basically playing tag, from what I can gather. Ghosts, or other spooky things might be involved, but idk. It looks cute.
Shinobi Spirits S: Legend of Heroes (Switch) – Releases Aug. 1st
Another game for lovers of all things kawaii, in Shinobi Spirits (which has no relation to the Sega series) you and three friends must make your way through perilous stages full of traps and enemies, using your ninja skills to save the day!
One Year Ago:
Top Game – This Is The Police II (PC) – Released Jul. 31st, 2018
Things were pretty slow last year as well, with the biggest release being a quiet, somber sequel to a quiet, somber original. In This is the Police II, you continue the story of disgraced police chief Jack Boyd, living in a small border town in the northern United States. As with the original game, you are in charge of managing your station, including assigning shifts and cases, and responding to the various crimes happening in your jurisdiction. Unlike the previous game, where you just had to hope and pray that your officers made it out alive, you now take part in the action, giving commands and taking down perps in an XCOM style mini-game. I thought the first game had some major pacing problems, and the negative choices you were forced to make just left me with an unsettling feeling, so much so that I’ve yet to ever pick this up. I should give it a try though, since that first game, problematic as it was, left me with a haunting feeling that I just can’t shake.
What were we saying in the comments? There was some interesting discussion over the cover for Code of Princess in the US and Japan, regarding its strategic covering of the protagonist’s naughty bits. Blargg and I both shared the three available covers…
…and then Girard had this to add: “There’s some irony that the Austin-Powers-esque strategies of covering her chest and crotch with sword and logo make it seem like the character is straight-up nude rather than scantily clad…” By the way, the game is just okay; not good, not bad, just…there.
Notable Releases from 10, 20 and 30 years ago:
The titles from 10 and 20 years ago leave much to be desired, which is basically every week of the Summer drought. However, the gamers of 1989 had a wonderful new product from Nintendo to keep them busy while on vacation, and started a gaming revolution in the process.
Fat Princess (PS3) – Released Jul. 30th, 2009: Wiki Link
While both Microsoft and Sony had digital marketplaces for their respective consoles, the PlayStation Store just didn’t take off in quite the same way that the Xbox Live Arcade did. Yeah, they both offered the same kinds of indie titles and retro ports, with Sony even going the extra mile and offering both classic PSX and PS2 games for sale, but with the Xbox 360 being so much more prolific in North American household’s, the best exclusives went to Microsoft’s console, and gobbled up the most market share for everything else. It’s because of this exclusive drought that I think many were so enthralled with Fat Princess, a game that, while inherently offensive on the surface, became a bit of a crown jewel, reaching levels of acclaim at or near other PSN exclusives like Flower and Journey. The titular Fat Princess even became so tied to Sony that she was featured in the ill-begotten Smash Bros. clone, PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale. For those unaware, Fat Princess pits two 16 player teams against each other, as they both try to bring the princess back to their castle. In order to stop your opponents from doing this, you would feed the princes slices of cake, like A LOT of slices of cake, until she became so fat that it was hard for them to move her. There was other stratergy involved, including special abilities of various classes, but that’s the general premise of the game. I can’t say I really enjoyed it, because I never played it, I didn’t get a PS3 until 2011, long after the heyday of this title. There was a PSP version that had some features and got okay reviews, and a sequel came to PS4 in 2015 that was basically a hack & slash, but this seems to be pretty much regarded as a relic at this point, with no new games on the horizon that I can see. Do you want a new one? Does anyone?
The New Tetris (N64) – Released Jul. 31st, 1999: Wiki Link
By 1996, Nintendo no longer had the exclusive console rights to Tetris, but the title had become so ubiquitous with their hardware that they would still receive exclusive titles. After a Japan-only exclusive called Tetris 64 was released in 1998 (featuring a strange bio-feedback device), Nintendo decided to publish a new Tetris game for the world wide market, one that would push the title to new boundaries. There were some interesting ideas here, including a couple that still get used to this day such as the ability to hold a piece and seeing what the next three pieces are going to be. One other new feature, that I can’t say I’ve ever seen replicated, was the ability to create large blocks out of the pieces of smaller ones, kind of like the big gems in Puzzle Fighter. I don’t really have much to say about this title, it’s rather forgettable, however it will forever be immortalized by the rant that the lead programmer David Pridie hid in the code, the Tetris Rant, and soon, something he thought wouldn’t be discovered for years was instead discovered in just three days. In it, he praises some of his colleagues, and then really lays into a few people, calling one producer named D*N useless and basically telling him to enjoy faking his way to the top. There was a bit of fallout over it between Nintendo and developer H20 Entertainment, and then in an even more bizarre and sad twist, Pridie would die of a sudden heart attack two years later at the age of 29.
Game Boy – Released Jul. 31st, 1989: Wiki Link
- Tetris (Jul. 31st)
- Super Mario Land (Aug. 1st)
- Alleyway (Aug. 11th)
- Baseball (Aug. 1989)
- Tennis (Aug. 1989)
With the video game industry being so relatively new, starting in the late 1960’s, many of us were alive, and continue to live, to see revolutionary changes in the industry. Hand held gaming devices had been around since at least the late 1970’s with various sports titles from companies like Mattel, but what we consider the modern handheld gaming device was invented by a prolific designer at Nintendo named Gunpei Yokoi. It’s a fairly well known piece of folk lore, but the story goes that Yokoi was sitting on a train in 1979 and saw a man playing with his pocket calculator, just pushing the buttons to pass the time. It was here that he had his “eureka moment”, and came with an idea to build a pocket watch/alarm clock that could also be used to play a single game. This was what led to the beginning of the Game & Watch series, with its first title, Ball, being released a year later in 1980. Over the next decade, Nintendo would release several more Game & Watch systems (and of course the NES), with competition coming from various rivals, the most prolific being Tiger Electronics and their line of licensed LCD machines. With Nintendo riding high on the success of the NES, they decided that a companion device was necessary. Using his ideas for the Game & Watch line, Yokoi came up with a concept to put an NES inside a small device, but knowing that in order to be successful the console would need to be lightweight, durable and most importantly energy efficient, which led to its use of the dot matrix screen. Yokoi also knew that it would take a robust library to keep the system afloat, so a couple sports titles from the NES were ported over, as well as the Arkanoid clone Alleyway, and of course there had to be a Mario game, but what really seemed to be the key to the system’s success was the happenstance chance of getting the license for the Russian mega-hit Tetris. This beautiful yet brutal puzzle game had been delighting PC gamers for almost three years, and the idea that you could take this addictive game on the go was more than enough to entice people to buy the machine. In June of 1989, when released in Japan, all 300,000 units sold out in just two weeks. In the US, it would sell 40,000 units on launch day with a retail price of $89.95 or roughly $185 after inflation. Shortly afterwards, rival consoles appeared, including the Atari Lynx and Sega Game Gear, which, despite their graphical and processing superiority, could not overtake the Game Boy, a system that, on paper, should have failed miserably against such challengers. This would mostly be attributed to their horrendous battery life, poor library and shoddy designs. Over its life span, the Game Boy and Game Boy Color sold over 118 million units worldwide, and started not only a revolution in hand held gaming, but with its high appeal to female gamers, helped to usher in a new audience to the traditionally male dominated video game industry. The Game Boy was so successful that Nintendo didn’t have to make a follow-up device for nine years, with a color version appearing in 1998, and then didn’t even have a successor until 2001’s Game Boy Advance. From there the legacy continued, with the release of the DS in 2004, the 3DS in 2011, up to the Nintendo Switch in 2017. Rival Sony was perhaps the only company to ever truly challenge Nintendo in this realm with their moderately successful PSP, but failed to gain any ground after the dismal launch of the Vita. Of course, the biggest hand held device on the market now is our smart phones, but before all that, we just looked at a bunch of green and black pixels on a tiny dot matrix screen and listened to this music, over and over again…
I also listened to Bryan Adams.