If you’ve got an Xbox…
Well go play it
If you’ve got the NES…
Well go play it
‘Cause you need it…
You want it
Yeah, Mario needs it…
He’s gotta have it
Just like you need it..
You want it
Yeah Master Chief needs it..
He’s gotta have it
Summer’s almost over, baby…
I might learn to spend less, maybe
One weekend you’re playing crazy…
I’m certainly spending way less, baby
This ain’t what I thought it would be…
This is the saddest summer ever
Metal Wolf Chaos XD (PC/PS4/Xbox One) – Releases Aug. 6th
Before From Software were known as the Soulsbourne developer, their best known property was probably the Armored Core series. After a string of releases on PSX and PS2, they partnered with Microsoft to make a game for the struggling Xbox console. What sprung forth from this partnership was a hyper-stylized, over the top mech game featuring a bombastic blast of American patriotism that bordered on the satirical. Getting a Japan-only release in 2004, the game started to get a reputation in America for it’s content, and the fact that this was a rare instance of an Xbox game being exclusive to Japan. According to Wikipedia, publisher Devolver Digital began to express interest in localizing the game for North America for release on modern consoles. After seeing the fan response, original producer Masanori Takeuchi began talking with the studio to see how this could be done. This game looks really bonkers, but I’m not really sure I want a game right now where the President is supposed to be a bad ass. It feels…gross.
Age of Wonders: Planetfall (PC/PS4/Xbox One) – Releases Aug. 6th
The turn based strategy/simulation genre continues to churn out the goods with yet another title this week. Developer Triumph Studios has been making Age of Wonders games for twenty years, and their latest entry brings the player to an alien planet, chock full of strange and unique creatures, like dinosaurs and giant penguins. Did i mention that the dinosaurs have lazers on their heads?
Silver Chains (PC) – Releases Aug. 6th
The Steam description for this new first-person horror game says it has a “…strong emphasis on story and exploration“, which I decipher as, “little to no combat”.
Run Roll Rumble (PC) – Releases Aug. 7th
This Smash Bros. clone has you and three friends battling it out on the rooftops of the strangest neighborhood in the city. Not much else to say about this one.
Tactics V: “Obsidian Brigade” (PC/PS4/Switch/Xbox One) – Releases Aug. 9th
I’m not sure what’s up with this title, but my guess is that the developer was hoping you’d buy it without doing any research and just assume it’s a Tactics Ogre sequel. According to the Steam Page, the roman numeral ‘V’ is to denote that this is the fifth tactics game that designer Paul Metcalf had made…but what were they? There have been a few games to come out that tried to replicate the look and feel of classic SNES/PSX style tactics games, but I haven’t really seen or played one that could really stand up to them; this one doesn’t seem to either.
Ports and Re-releases:
DC Universe Online (Switch) – Releases Aug. 6th
Originally released on PS3 and PC back in 2011, this super hero MMO set in the DC universe is now making its way to Switch and, as with the Xbox One version, it will not feature any cross play with PC or PS4 (the PS3 version has been shut down). I spent a lot of time with this back when it first came out, and while I would probably benefit from starting the game over (it’s been nearly eight years since I played it), I’m not sure I want to grind to whatever level I used to be at. However, if you’re a DC fan and you haven’t picked this up in the last eight years (it’s free to play now), well, give it a look! You’ll be happy with it, but your hard drive on the other hand…
Guacamelee! One-Two Punch Collection (PS4/Switch) – Releases Aug. 6th
Lovable luchador Juan Aguacate’s two big Metroidvania titles are being combined into one package for all you platforming fans out there. Plus, not only do you get the two games, but you also get all three DLC packs for free! This is a rare physical release for a small indie title, so you collectors out there may want to take note and jump on this while it is still available.
Pillars of Eternity: Complete Edition (Switch) – Releases Aug. 8th
The Switch port train keeps chugging along, this time giving owners of Nintendo’s latest console the chance to play a really great isometric RPG from Obsidian. Since this is the complete edition, you will get several pieces of DLC, including The White March I & II, all major updates from the PC version, a raised level cap, more party options, and various new difficulty levels.
Turok 2: Seeds of Evil (Switch) – Releases Aug. 9th
Switch port number three of the week sees the return of a Nintendo 64 classic. This sequel to the original Turok: Dinosaur Hunter has already been re-mastered and released on PC and XBone, but with the title originating on Nintendo hardware, it’s nice to see the classic come home. Despite the re-mastering, the game still looks pretty bad graphics wise, and I’m sure the controls are a little funky if you’re used to modern FPS games, but from a preservation standpoint, it is nice to see a few companies do what they can to keep these older games alive. For you collectors out there, Limited Run Games is going to be releasing physical versions of both this and the first Turok on Friday, Aug. 16th at 10:00 am Eastern Time.
Hearthstone: Saviors of Uldum (Mobile Devices/PC) – Releases Aug. 6th
This is the third game this week to feature dinosaurs, so if you’re a fan of terrible lizards then you must be in heaven right now. Set in the obligatory “desert/ancient Egypt” style setting that just about every game series of notable length has used, you will certainly have a great time buying pack after pack of digital cards, hoping for the best ones to min/max with. You think your meta game is better than mine? Prove it on the field, brah. Prove it.on.the field.brah.
One Year Ago:
Top Game – We Happy Few (PC/PS4/Xbox One) – Released Aug. 10th, 2018
In this age of hyperbole, saying something is “the worst thing ever” holds about as much water as a thimble. Suffice to say, when I tell you that We Happy Few is one of the worst video games of all time, I really mean it; it’s awful. What makes this even more egregious is that on the surface this game looks awesome. There’s a really great style and aesthetic, and the trailer shows a grand, ambitious story that should captivate you the entire time. Phew…it squanders all of that. Incredibly boring gameplay, a staggering amount of bugs for a title released by a major publisher (okay, so maybe that one is expected…), these things together were the recipe required to make slog soup. Avoid this game like the plague.
What were we saying in the comments? I noted in the comments that I was removing Minecraft Story Mode Season 2 from the list of upcoming games for the week, and was curious why it would be announced, and then quietly removed from the slate of new releases. Well, in about a month and a half we would find out the answer, Telltale Games was shutting down, leading to several titles being cancelled, and the future of The Walking Dead’s final season being put into question (it would eventually be finished and released by Robert Kirkman’s Skybound Studios).
Notable Releases from 10, 20 and 30 years ago:
The older releases this week feature an Xbox Live Arcade staple, and two titles that received a lukewarm reception upon launch, but have since become some of the most beloved games of all time. Let’s go!
Trials HD (Xbox 360) – Released Aug. 12th, 2009: Wiki Link
After two earlier entries released on PC using rudimentary Java and Flash, developer RedLynx made the leap to consoles with a new engine and HD graphics. Released as part of the 2009 Summer of Arcade on the Xbox Live Arcade, the game was received warmly by both critics and the public, selling over 300,000 copies in its first month of release. Players were drawn to this unique title, and despite being about a motorcycle rider, this was not a racing game, so to speak, but was instead a kind of puzzle game that required you to complete zany obstacle courses as fast as you could while dealing with the less than ideal physics. An easy to learn, hard to master, play style would secure this title as one of the more well known and popular games in the XBLA library, and its legacy continues to this day, as the most recent title (Trials Rising) was released just a few weeks ago.
System Shock 2 (PC) – Released Aug. 11th, 1999: Wiki Link
In 1997, three employees of Looking Glass Games left the company to form their own company; Jonathan Chey, Robert Fermier, and Ken Levine. They would go on to form Irrational Games, a small company that would go on to make three games that would help change the direction of the industry (System Shock 2, Bioshock and Bioshock Infinite). A few years earlier, in 1994, Looking Glass Games would release a title by renowned video game producer Warren Spector called System Shock, which at the time was a stark departure from the majority of FPS games. Instead of being a Doom clone, Spector and his team wanted to do something different, something that was more immersive and had more in common with Looking Glass Games’ Ultima titles then with id’s popular Wolfenstine and Doom games. What players got was a unique hybrid of the FPS and RPG, set in a world that they hadn’t really seen before in games, more cyberpunk and less fantasy/horror. After making a splash in the industry, and helping to shape the direction of the genre, Spector was contacted by both EA and a new company called Ion Storm started by famed Doom developer John Romero. Spector chose to leave Looking Glass Games to work with Romero where he would go on to make and release Deus Ex in 2000. Cut to 1997, Ken Levine and his partners at Irrational Games were in talks with their old employers about making a new game based on the novel Heart of Darkness, but set in the distant future. The player would be tasked with finding and killing a starship commander who had gone insane. This idea was greenlit and progress was moving on it, but as Looking Glass continued to look for funding on this project, called Junction Point, they went to everyone’s favorite company, EA, and the behemoth opened its maw and said “feed me a sequel to something we already own…how about System Shock“? The powers that be obliged, which meant that Levine and his team had to change course a little bit. While the original System Shock was groundbreaking, it was still considered a bit of a Doom clone, despite the effort to not be. The team at Irrational Games wanted to add an even stronger role-playing feel to the game, and used pen & paper RPGs to power their character creator, giving players a wide variety of play styles to choose from, and a high amount of customization. With a gripping story, unique gameplay, and horrifying setting, System Shock 2 was a massive success…with critics. Players on the other hand greeted this title like it was covered in ants and ran away from it has fast as they could. Content more with the sci-fi offerings of George Lucas and The Wachowski Brothers, most people ignored the title upon release in 1999. Those that did play the game were enthralled, and the critics showered the game with awards and nominations, gaining a few PC Game of the Year awards, and usually coming in as the runner-up for Game of the Year (I think this is because it was a financial failure). Despite the public’s reception, the game has gone on to establish a lasting legacy, being continually brought up as one of the all-time greats. As mentioned earlier, original producer Warren Spector would release Deus Ex in 2000, what he considered his follow-up to the original System Shock; Ken Levine would go on to write and direct Bioshock in 2004, the game he considered his sequel to System Shock 2; then in 2017, Arkane Studios said that they considered their new title Prey to share thematic elements with System Shock 2, naming various things after game characters and original developer Looking Glass Games, as well as taking cues from another Bethesda title, Dishonored, which was a thematic successor to another Looking Glass Games title, Thief, which was also an inspiration on System Shock 2, oy!! That was a mouthful.
Dragon Warrior (NES) – Released Aug. 1989: Wiki Link
Like System Shock 2, we need to go back a few years to really understand where Dragon Warrior (or as it was known in Japan, Dragon Quest) came from. In 1983, a young man named Yuji Horii (a former Shonen Jump Magazine editor turned game designer) created a title called The Portopia Serial Murder Case, one of the first visual novel games, for the NEC PC-6001. While porting this game to the NES, Horii had started to become obsessed with the western RPG games Wizardry and Ultima, and decided to add some dungeon crawling elements to the NES version of Portopia. Feeling like this was something that had merit, and realizing that there wasn’t really anything like it on the NES, Horii decided to create a game that mixed the first person view of Wizardry with the top down view of Ultima, however, knowing that the NES was a more casual gaming system than a PC, he knew that the game had to be simplified for a broader audience. With less reliance on statistics, and a higher emphasis on exploration and simple combat, the beginnings of Dragon Quest was born. In an even larger bid for a broad audience, the team at Enix hired famed Dragonball creator Akira Toriyama to do the artwork for the game. His blend of strong characters with cute features was perfect for this kind of watered down, mass appeal version of a Dungeons & Dragons style of game; a good mix of seriousness and playfulness. Initially the game’s sales were very low upon release in Japan in May of 1986, but after penning several articles about the game Shonen Jump Magazine (gee, how did he get to do that, I wonder), Dragon Quest started to see an uptick in sales. As word continued to spread, there was also mass appeal from Toriyama’s beautiful work on the game, drawing in an even larger fanbase. The game soon reached stratospheric levels of popularity, making Yuji Horri a household name, and would go on to sell over 2 million copies, a huge achievement for a video game at the time. This game, along with 1987’s Final Fantasy essentially spawned the entire JRPG genre that we know today. In 1989, famed Japanese magazine Famitsu put Dragon Quest on it list of all-time greatest games, but failed to win the overall award, losing to its second sequel, Dragon Quest III.
With this much success in Japan, Nintendo decided that they wanted a piece of that pie, so they snapped up the publishing rights in North America and thought they would strike gold, after all, it’s sensibilities lied in the RPGs popularized in the West. Well, they must have know something wasn’t going right, because they decided to not just release the game in stores, but give it away for free if you subscribed to Nintendo Power. Thus began the great Dragon Warrior giveaway (the title was renamed in NA due to a previous copyright hold on the name Dragon Quest). Hundreds of thousands of postcards would arrive at the Nintendo of America headquarters in Redmond, WA, and beleaguered employees had to pack and ship all of these games in what turned out to be a bit of a logistical nightmare. When these carts started arriving in subscribers mailboxes they were, well, confused. This was not like any of the games they had played before; there was no jumping, no levels, you had to select commands on a menu instead of pressing a button to attack, it was confusing, hard and way too much for the most people to handle. However, there were fans, and the game did sell well enough that Enix would release all three follow-up games in North America. Of course we all know that the JRPG would eventually flourish in the West, but it would be Squaresoft’s rival series, Final Fantasy, that would resonate more with American players than the Dragon Warrior games. Despite its initial failure in the US, the Dragon Warrior series remained incredibly popular in Japan, causing near riots when the third title was released, and Nintendo’s gamble paid off, eventually, as the series is played and beloved in the West to this day, with part XI coming out on Switch later this year.