New Game Releases 08/27/19 – 09/02/19

Well Rockstar games are hip…

I really dig those titles they make…

And the Ubisoft games with the way they work…

They knock me out when I play them.

 

The Microsoft Studios’ games really make you feel alright…

And the Naughty Dog games with the way they play…

They keep their fanboys warm at night.

 

I wish they all could be Japanese games…

I wish they all could be Japanese…

I wish they all could be Japanese games…

Astral Chain (Switch) – Releases Aug. 30th

From Platinum Games comes not only a new game, but a brand new IP. In our sequel/reboot driven entertainment world, it’s always nice to see a new property emerge, and from the pre-release buzz, this might be one of the best to come out in a while. Set in the…distant…I guess, future, you play two roles in this game; a rookie in the police force known as Neuron, and also as a giant robot called a Legion. These “living weapons“, as the Nintendo eShop describes them, features multiple types, “…each with different combat styles and abilities. Players can even strategically change between Legions at will during real-time battles“. Together with your Legion, you will fight against an invasion from interdimensional beings, which are not aliens, okay! It’s just like in Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, Indiana Jones was fighting interdimensional beings, not space aliens, so it’s not dumb, alright!

Ancestors: The Humankind Odyssey (PC – Epic Games Store exclusive) – Releases Aug. 27th (Console versions coming in December, Steam in 2020)

From Patrice Désilets, best known as the director of Assassin’s Creed 1 & 2 as well as Prince of Persia: Sands of Time, comes a brand new game and IP from his independent studio Panache Digital Games. Having shown an interest in time travel and history since his first release (the Playmobil tie-in game Hype: The Time Quest), Ancestors puts you in the role of an ape in prehistoric Africa. It is your job to hunt, gather and survive in this harsh environment. As you play through the game, your character will start to grow and evolve, showing more human-like traits as you progress their skills by developing the ape’s nervous system. If your character dies during the course of the game, you will switch to another member of your clan; that character dies, you’ll keep switching and switching until no one is left, at which point your lineage goes extinct and you start the game over with a new ape clan. There are a lot of really interesting ideas here, but coming from an independent studio I am not sure how well these will be pulled off, as the ambition could outweigh the quality of the product. I guess time will tell, eh…eh?

Control (PC – Epic Games Store exclusive/PS4/Xbox One) – Releases Aug. 27th

From Remedy Entertainment, the studio behind the original Max Payne, Alan Wake and XBone exclusive Quantum Break, comes a new story driven action game called Control. Following suit with their previous releases, the game finds you playing as a protagonist who must deal with crazy stuff going on around them, and through a mix of puzzle solving and action/combat, you will progress the story as it becomes more and more bonkers. The pre-release buzz around this title is pretty strong, and could be the sleeper hit of the Summer. I also found it funny that in the trailer above, they’ll show someone being executed with a gun to the head at point-blank range but they have to censor the word “batshit”. What a world.

Crystar (PS4) – Releases Aug. 27th

It’s a bit interesting that we’ve had two JRPGs in the last two weeks that both deal with reincarnation. In Oninaki, you play as a kind of protector and guide for those looking to reincarnate, and in Crystar (meant to be interpreted as Crying Star) you play as a lost soul who is trying to find their way back to the human world, and in the process accidentally sends their sister to, hell, I guess, and in a deal with the Devil to save her soul, you must use new found super powers to do his bidding and bring him more souls in order to save hers. It’s an interesting concept, to say the least, and has a somewhat well known name behind the story, Naoki Hisaya, best known as the writer for several adult visual novels, including Moon and One: Kagayaku Kisetsu e (okay, so maybe well known isn’t the right phrase…)

Blair Witch (PC/Xbox One) – Releases Aug. 30th

Set two years after the events “documented” in The Blair Witch Project, you are Ellis, a former police officer, who is on a journey into the Black Hill Forest of Burkittsville to search for a missing boy. As you journey into the woods with your dog, strange things start to happen, as the Steam page notes, “What starts as an ordinary investigation soon turns into an endless nightmare as you confront your fears and the Blair Witch, a mysterious force that haunts the woods“.

The Dark Pictures: Man of Medan (PC/PS4/Xbox One) – Releases Aug. 30th

Not content to let Blair Witch be the only horror game to come out this week, Bandai Namco is releasing the first title in Supermassive Games The Dark Pictures series, Man of Medan. Conceived as a series of stand alone horror titles connected by a character named The Curator, Man of Medan is about five friends who stumble upon a derelict ship in the middle of the ocean. As with most horror stories, the curiosity of the characters gets the best of them as they suddenly find themselves trapped on a ghost ship full of horrifying creatures and psychological terrors. Your choices will lead to the outcome of the story, as the smallest detail can cause the biggest of problems for you and your friends. Playable either alone or with five friends, it is up to you to decide the fate of these characters and discovery the mystery surrounding this lost boat.

 

Ports and Re-releases:

World of Warcraft Classic (PC) – Releases Aug. 27th

So, it’s come to this; 2006 is now nostalgia, making me officially feel old. Announced in 2017 after a few high profile “vanilla” WoW servers were shut down by Blizzard, World of Warcraft Classic is now the official way to play the original game that players remember. Set to play in its patch 1.21.1 state, players will be able to experience the game as it was thirteen years ago, ugly, block graphics, the original eight races, the original nine classes, and all that content and grinding they thought they remembered loving, but will instantly hate because of how long it will take to level up. Look, I’m all for nostalgia, I like playing old games, but I also love modern conveniences. When ports of NES and SNES games come out, they generally have a few modern bells & whistles like the ability to rewind the game, to save at any point, and sometimes even get upscaled for HD television sets (although your love of this feature may vary). This isn’t to say that there isn’t a demand for this classic version of WoW, quite the opposite, as Blizzard has already come out to say that the most popular world is so congested that it may take anywhere from several minutes to several hours to login. Blizzard has set up several new servers for people to switch over to, but MMOs are dependent on player count, and so while these new servers will be less congested, the perception is that the higher the player count, the more likely you are to find people to play with. Anyway, I’ll be over here playing Final Fantasy XIV, wiping crumbs off my chest, if you need me.

 

Everything else:

Decay of Logos (PC/PS4/Switch/Xbox One) – Releases Aug. 27th – Aug. 30th

This game looks like Breath of the Wild, but isn’t made by Nintendo, so pass.

Headspun (PC/PS4/Switch/Xbox One) – Releases Aug. 28th

An FMV/point and click adventure hybrid game, you are a coma patient who has just woken up. In order to piece your life back together you must use the two parts of your subconscious, named Ted and Teddy, to fill in the gaps.

Lord of the Rings: Adventure Card Game (PC/PS4/Switch/Xbox One) – Releases Aug. 28th

Based on the popular LCG (Living Card Game) from Fantasy Flight, this digital version of LotR: Adventure Card Game is coming to several modern platforms. For those unfamiliar with the physical game, you buy an initial base set of cards that you will use to go on pre-built adventures. Using specific decks of cards, you will then pick a set of heroes and in standard deck building fashion take their corresponding cards and use them to slay monsters and complete various objectives. Unlike Magic: The Gathering, there are no blind packs to buy, all sets that come out are expansions with the same cards in each, allowing you to swap out old cards for the new ones as they are more likely to work better with the new adventures than older cards. This digital version seems to be following suit, with you purchasing the base game, and then having the option to buy expansions to increase your deck building options, and have more adventures to go on. While I haven’t played this game, I do quite enjoy Arkham Horror: The Card Game, which has a similar set up. Another plus to this being digital, you don’t need to store physical cards anywhere, which will likely make your wives/husbands/significant others very happy.

Heave Ho (PC/Switch) – Releases Aug. 29th

This party puzzle game from Devolver Digital has you and four friends linking hands together and swinging your way across several hazards as you try to reach the goal. It looks like it’ll be fun for twenty minutes and then get put away forever as you all go back to drinking and smoking dope.

FUZE4 (Switch) – Releases Aug. 30th

Armchair game designers should be excited for this title, as FUZE4 allows you to create and share 2D and 3D apps and games. Want to build a 3D kart racer? Go for it. Wand to build the next great 2D run & gun? You totally can. The limits appear to be just your imagination, as the eShop store page boasts that it has “Over $1,000 worth of high-quality gaming assets” and “Includes more than 10,000 gaming assets across 2D, 3D and Audio“. You can make just about anything, from “…old-school RPG, JRPG, Arcade, Shooter, Platform, Puzzle, Dating, Strategy, War, Adventure, Underwater…medieval RTS to Sci-fi space shmups“. How intuitive and successful this all is has yet to be seen, but if they can deliver on everything they seem to be promising, this could be the greatest piece of software the Switch has to offer.

Kerfuffight (PC) – Releases Aug. 30th

Sometimes game titles are so fucking stupid that I wonder if I should even include them in my write-up. Then I sit there and I go, “No! Someone out there might really want to know about this title, and I can’t let them down, not today!“, so here you go, that one person out there. I give you, Krefuffight, a 3D brawler for the PC that is yet another party style fighting game in the vein of Super Smash Bros. but clearly not as good.

The Ninja Saviors: Return of the Warriors (PS4/Switch) – Releases Aug. 30th

Technically a re-release or re-boot, this title has apparently been updated enough that I thought it would be better off down here than up in the “ports” section. Remade by the original designers, Tengo Project, The Ninja Saviors is an arcade beat-em-up for up to two players as you battle your way through eight stages. This game is apparently going to be the first in a long line of Taito properties to be re-released or re-imagined over the course of the next few years, so if you want to see something like, I don’t know, Qix, get a new version, maybe buy this game…or don’t, I’m not your mother.

Tanky Tanks (PC) – Releases Aug. 30th

If you’ve been looking forward to a game called Tanky Tanks to be released, there’s probably a good chance we are not friends, because you’re either:

  1. A child
  2. A weirdo

 

Notable Releases from 10, 20 and 30 years ago:

Two games that have music on the brain, and one new console are this week’s notable releases. I am the ambassador, of fucking kick your assador!

Guitar Hero 5 (PS2/PS3/Wii/Xbox 360) – Released Sep. 1st, 2009: Wiki Link

Released in the last days of the rhythm game genre, Guitar Hero 5 would be the second to last title in the mainline series (before going on hiatus), and would even come with a free game, Guitar Hero: Van Halen, a notoriously bad title in the rhythm genre. Despite solid reviews and an overhauled game play experience, players did not embrace this title as well as they had previous entries, selling 50% less copies than 2008’s Guitar Hero World Tour. This might have to do with the fact that this was one of SEVEN Guitar Hero games to come out in 2009 (others released were Band Hero, DJ Hero, Smash Hits (a compilation disc consisting mostly of the PS2 era songs), Metallica, On Tour: Modern Hits, and the previously mentioned Van Halen). Activision doesn’t even release multiple Call of Duty games in a single year, so why they thought they could keep churning out Guitar Hero titles is baffling, but it is likely they were cheap to make, and the market (they assumed) would gobble them up to complete their libraries. Harmonix, despite also adhering to an annual release schedule for Rock Band, at least kept their output down by consistently releasing songs as DLC, but for some reason, Activision seemed to place less emphasis on this digital distribution model, sticking with the old school way of physical disc releases. The game, despite its critical love, wasn’t without controversy. As with previous titles, the team at Neversoft, developers of the game, included real world musicians in the game as playable avatars. They included people like Shirley Manson from Garbage, guitarist Carlos Santana, Johnny Cash, and Nirvana front man Kurt Cobain. His inclusion, which purportedly had the full support of Courtney Love (who provided the team with photographs and videos of Kurt), was seen as strange to some, as it is commonly understood that part of the reason he committed suicide was due to his fear of commercialization. For her part, Love claimed she didn’t give permission for Kurt to be used in the game and received no financial compensation (thus didn’t sell out), but Activision, in it’s own dickish/cheeky way said that Cobain’s estate had “cashed the cheque”. Love then backtracked and then went on to claim that any permission she gave didn’t mean that Activision could “denigrate his image”, i.e., it seemed to her that Kurt would only appear when Nirvana songs would be played. This was not the case, and Kurt could, once unlocked, sing any song in the game’s library, including seemingly odd choices like Bon Jovi’s “You Give Love a Bad Name”, Dire Straits “Sultans of Swing” and Vampire Weekend’s “A-Punk”. Kurt’s band mates from Nirvana, Dave Grohl (who controls the bands music) and Krist Novoselic were not happy with the portrayal, and too expressed their concern on how this would affect Kurt’s legacy, and wishing that he had only been shown performing Nirvana songs. It’s obviously unclear how Cobain would have felt about himself being a digital avatar made to sing songs like “You Give Love a Bad Name”, so it’s hard to say who is right; but as New York Times writer Seth Schiesel noted, Cobain and other artists “…are too big and too important to be damaged in a cultural sense by mere inclusion in a video game“, and I have to agree. As weird as it was seeing videos of Cobain singing these dumb songs next to a skeleton and an angel lady, it doesn’t cheapen his contribution to music, because at the end of the day, no one gives a shit about Guitar Hero 5 anymore, its cultural impact is just a blip on the radar. Cobain’s legacy is intact, no matter what stupid song some kid made him sing.

Gauntlet Legends (Nintendo 64) – Released Aug. 31st, 1999: Wiki Link

 

When Gauntlet Legends was released to arcades in October of 1998, it was a rather unique experience. Using a password system, players could come back to their local machine and continue their campaign with all of their accumulated stats and items intact. It was not surprise then, that a home console version would be made, as the game did feature a fairly robust leveling system that rewarded long term play. The Nintendo 64, with its four controller ports, was the perfect machine to release the game on. A subsequent port to the PlayStation a few months later would remove the ability to have four players, despite the existence of the multi-tap peripheral, causing it to be rated less favorably than the Nintendo 64 port. As with the original titles, players take on the role of one of four characters; Warrior, Wizard, Archer, and Valkyrie. Through the course of the game, you will move through several levels fighting a seemingly endless wave of enemies, as you destroy their generators and collect keys to open doors and treasure chests. I have a lot of fond memories of this title and its sequels, one of which had a very unfortunate marketing campaign in which it lamented the fact that one of your friends had to play as “the girl”.

TurboGrafx-16 – Released Aug. 29th, 1989: Wiki Link

  • Alien Crush
  • Blazing Lazers
  • Keith Courage in Alpha Zones
  • The Legendary Axe
  • Power Golf
  • Victory Run

On August 29th, North America saw its third major video game console release in just 30 days. July 31st saw the release of the Game Boy, August 14th saw the release of the Genesis, and then on August 29th, the TurboGrafx-16. Billing itself as the first “16-bit console” through it’s marketing, this was actually inaccurate in both regards, as the system actually used an 8-bit processor and was the second 16-bit console to hit North America, coming in two weeks after the launch of the Genesis. This second point could have actually been correct if the U.S. division of NEC hadn’t insisted on changes to the console before releasing in North America. While the Genesis was also changed from its Japanese counterpart, including the name and the console design, the changes were minimal at best and thus it allowed Sega to release much faster than NEC. Let’s rewind a bit, in the mid-eighties, Japanese electronics company NEC, a powerhouse computer manufacturer, was looking to break into the home video game market. Knowing that they lacked the expertise to design games and with an overall lack of knowledge in the home gaming market, NEC went out to various publishers to see if there was any interest. Coincidentally, at the very same time, game developer Hudson Soft was also looking to break into the home console market, so this happenstance meeting seemed like destiny. The two companies joined forces and in October of 1987 they released the PC Engine; a sleek, sexy little machine that was more powerful than both Nintendo’s Famicom and Sega’s Master System. With strong third party support from developers like Namco and Konami, the PC Engine was a huge success, beating both Nintendo and Sega in the home console market and was the dominate home video game machine in the country. With that kind of success, NEC was ready to take on the U.S. home console market, what could go wrong? Well, now we cut back to NEC’s U.S. division, and they were perplexed by this tiny little game box. First of all, the name was not at all sexy and didn’t drum up any excitement for the U.S. market, second was the size. In Japan, a tiny device is perfect, as homes are much smaller making shelf space limited, so the PC Engine’s tiny size was seen as a major selling point. In the U.S., however, tiny appliances were viewed as cheap and less powerful (case in point, the VHS beating out the smaller, but better looking, Beta Max). This redesign of the console took way longer than anyone expected, and with NEC starting to feel more cautious about entering the U.S. market, the system was delayed and delayed. As noted above, Sega used this delay to their advantage, getting the Genesis out to consumers before NEC could release the TurboGrafx-16, and in the process they took a lot of the steam that NEC was hoping to have.

Six games were available at launch when the system arrived and like the titles on the Genesis, they were a mix of various Japanese ports, with a focus on an older demographic, however there was no killer app on launch. Unlike the Genesis which had built in recognition with arcade titles like Altered Beast and Space Harrier, Hudson Soft didn’t have that kind of presence in the U.S., and were mostly known as a third party developer of the Adventure Island games on the NES. The two sports titles that launched with the system, Power Golf and Victory Run, didn’t feature known sports personalities like Sega, who had secured the likenesses of Tommy Lasorda and Arnold Palmer (the kids love Arnold Palmer). For its pack-in title, NEC decided to give players the game Keith Courage In Alpha Zones, but despite being a solid platformer, the game was a complete unknown in the U.S., and looked incredibly cheap when compared to Sega’s Altered Beast (and that dumbass name probably didn’t do it any favors). Initially NEC wanted to bill itself as a direct competitor to the NES, not the Sega Genesis, but their insistence on hyping on the 16-bits of their machine meant that the public would automatically compare them to the Genesis, which was also 16-bit, and its power was seen as lacking when compared to Sega’s machine. Plus, at $199.99 vs. Sega’s price of $189.99 the system was more expensive, further cementing its failure to compete. The hubris of NEC U.S. was so high that they manufactured 750,000 consoles thinking that they’d be sold out in record time, but instead it took them nearly two years to sell through that initial run of consoles. One major winner from all of this was Hudson Soft, who made money on every console manufactured, not just sold, turning the system into a huge money loss for NEC.

Despite their best efforts, and a decent catalog, the system just didn’t take off in the U.S. like it had in Japan, but it did carve out a niche market. In 1990, Hudson Soft released the then console exclusive title Bonk’s Adventure, and the system had its first “must-own” game in the U.S. The title was so popular that NEC eventually changed it the pack-in title with the system, and with its new found popularity, NEC continued to support the console in North America, releasing a CD add-on system, similar to the Sega CD, however, third party support started to dwindle as the 90’s progressed, with most companies moving on to the more popular Sega Genesis/Mega Drive and Super Nintendo/Famicom. The console has a fairly lasting legacy though, including being the rumored title of Kanye West’s 2018 album (the title was changed to Ye), and mimicking recent trends, a TurboGrafix-16 mini is in the works and should release on March 19th, 2020. Personally, I never owned one of these machines, I always thought the colors were too garish and the sprites were blocky and ugly. It seemed to lack the sophistication of the Genesis and Super Nintendo, and honestly, I though it was way too expensive for our family to own.