Summer time is over, the kids are back to school Starbucks is selling pumpkin spice drinks, and the video game companies are ready to turn the faucet on full blast. The slate of new releases doesn’t really have a major release we can all be excited for, hence the top pick this week being a port of a twenty year old PSX game, but what is coming out looks fantastic. With titles that will appeal to various niche audiences, and likely be really cheap in an upcoming digital games sale on your favorite gaming platform, there should really be something for everyone this week. Without further ado, welcome to Fall…
Final Fantasy VIII Remastered (PC/PS4/Switch/Xbox One) – Releases Sep. 3rd
When Final Fantasy VIII released on the PlayStation back on September 9th, 1999, it signified a major change in the series in a few ways. The first major difference was the fact that characters were models were now realistic as opposed to the cartoonish sprites of the 8 & 16-bit eras, and the blocky toy-like figures of FF VII. Another notable differences included the removal of MP, instead having a reserve pool of spells that you can purchase like items, or more accurately, draw out of your enemies using the, what else, “Draw System”. This wasn’t the only change to combat, wherein previous titles had you constantly buying the latest weapon to stay powerful, you will generally use the same weapon for long periods of the game, with the majority of your combat coming from summoning monsters. Previous games had, if at all, normally just one summoner who would call upon massive beats to come in and do a big attack. In Final Fantasy VIII it is expected that you and your entire party summon monsters to fight…every single time…and watch a long cut scene…every single time. I would hope that this remaster does away with that annoying point and adds a skip or fast forward button, as it drags the game down and makes even the simplest monster battles tedious. Looking at previous reviews from both critics and players, the game actually scored a lot better than I remember. In 1999, when this came out, I enjoyed it immensely (aside from the long battle sequences), but it seemed to me that the overall consensus was that this title was not nearly as beloved or well regarded as the others. It seemed to me that most people though Squall was a whiny emo-kid that was far too brooding to be relatable. Perhaps players were just too taken aback with the changes, after all, the formula had worked in seven previous titles, why change it, but I’m sure coming out just two years after the most popular/critically acclaimed game in the series was hard to do, and would have probably caused anything they put out to be regarded in a less than stellar in comparison. Can twenty years be enough time to make people forget about why they disliked the game to begin with? Is it now enough time after part VII for this title to finally have a chance to stand on its own? After all, there have been much, MUCH, worse Final Fantasy games to come out since then (even though I like XIII…), but don’t tell that to Squall:
Children of Morta (PC) – Releases Sep. 3rd, PS4/Switch/Xbox One on Oct. 15th
Generally RPGs have you playing as a single protagonist with a party of strangers, occasionally questing with a groups of friends of colleagues. In Children of Morta, your party is your family, and I don’t mean in some dumbass way that’s like “we’ve all grown so close as friends that I, like, totally consider you my family“, but an actual family. As with other RPGs, each character has a unique fighting style, some prefer close combat, others are ranged fighters, so mastering each will be part of the challenge. As for story, apparently a darkness is corrupting the land, but instead of going off to stop it and save the world, you are more concerned with protecting your family and making sure they survive in this harsh new reality of life. The game is coming to PC first, and will be followed by console releases next month.
NBA 2K20 (PC/PS4/Switch/Xbox One) – Releases Sep. 5th
Basketball season is almost upon us which means we are getting a new entry in the long running NBA 2K series. Play as all your favorites, LeBron James, Kawhi Leonard, Kevin Durant, Steph Curry, etc. Dominate the boards, tell people “not in my house”, and do that dance from Fortnite after you score a basket. This is the NBA at its best. Accept no imitators.
River City Girls (PC/PS4/Switch/Xbox One) – Releases Sep. 5th
The Kunio-Kun series of games have been going strong since 1986, starting with the arcade title Nekketsu Kōha Kunio-kun (roughly translated to “Hot-Blooded Tough Guy Kunio“), known in North America and Europe as Renegade, but the series wouldn’t really take hold in America until 1990’s River City Ransom, a game that, for years, was considered a cult classic, one of those games that only hardcore NES nerds knew about. While Japan would continue to get releases, many of which had nothing to do with fighting but instead sports; dodgeball, soccer and baseball, a lot of these would never come to the U.S., or if they did, they would never carry the River City name, instead being named things like Super Dodgeball, Nintendo World Cup, and Crash ‘N The Boys. It wouldn’t really be until 2010 that we’d start to see the Kunio games regularly released in North America, and once again carry the River City name, when River City Super Sports Challenge for the Nintendo DS was released. After that we got several more titles, River City: Tokyo Rumble, River City: Rival Showdown and River City Ransom: Underground, just to name a few. With the latest title in the series, River City Girls, Kunio and his pal/rival Riki are the ones who have been kidnapped, so it is up to their girlfriends, Kyoko and Misako to save them. This gender flipping title comes to us from WayForward, a studio that has been around since the mid 90’s, but has recently been responsible for games like Double Dragon Neon, Ducktales Remastered and the Shante series. I’m always happy to see a new Kunio game make its way to our shores, so I will certainly be picking this up when it launches.
Creature In The Well (PC/Switch/Xbox One) – Releases Sep. 6th
As with last year’s excellent Yoku’s Island Express, we have an action platformer that uses the ideas and design of a pinball game, but in surprising new ways. In Creature In The Well, you play as a robot named BOT-C, the last of his kind. You are tasked with restoring power to an ancient facility deep in a mountain, as it is the only way to save the people below who are being ravaged by a disastrous sand storm. As you journey into the facility, you soon learn that a giant creature inhabits this place, and it will stop at nothing to keep you from fulfilling your mission. With eight cleverly designed dungeons to explore, you must use your wits and skills to thwart the creature in intense boss fights, and uncover the mystery that the facility holds. Based on the trailer above, this is one of the most visually stunning games of the year so far, and I would wager is likely one of its best. Don’t sleep on this one.
Ports and Re-releases:
Catherine: Full Body Edition (PC/PS4) – Releases Sep. 3rd
Atlus’ 2011 puzzle game/visual novel Catherine is returning in a new remixed format, featuring new puzzles and a new character, the unfortunately named Qatherine. For those not familiar with the original game, you play as a young man named Vincent who is going through an existential crisis after being asked by his long time (and a bit long suffering) girlfriend Katherine, when he plans on marrying her. Feeling confused and scared at the prospect of settling down with one woman, Vincent finds himself suddenly in bed with another woman who also happens to be named Catherine. As the story progresses, you learn that young men are ending up dead of seemingly bizarre circumstances, and Vincent who has strange dreams in which he must climb a tower of blocks, soon begins to suspect that Catherine may be the cause of this, and that dying in your dream will lead to death in the real world. With complex puzzles that can be quite unforgiving, and a unique, mind-bending story, Catherine: Full Body is a decent title that I would highly recommend checking out if you missed it the first time around.
Spyro Reignited Trilogy (PC/Switch) – Releases Sep. 3rd
Reposting what I originally wrote about the PS4/XBone version: “Following in the footsteps of the Crash N.Sane Trilogy, Activision partnered with developer Toys For Bob to release a remastered collection of the first three Spryo games, all originally released for the PlayStation and created by Insomniac. I had the pleasure of attending a panel for this game at Comic-Con and the Toys For Bob crew were really enthusiastic about the project and consulted with the original team on a regular basis to ensure they got the feel and tone of the games right. All of the character voices were re-recorded (with Tom Kenny coming back to reprise his role as Spyro), but for music nerds like me it was a thrill to hear that Stewart Copeland’s original score would remain in the game, allowing you to choose between his music and the music of new composer Stephan Vankov. I’m not sure if this was just some advertising on his part, but Copeland said that he prefers the new soundtrack over his because they were able to do stuff with the music now that they wanted to originally but did not have the chance to, including having the style and tempo change on the fly based on what was going on in the game. Get your purple dragon wings out of the closet, sit down in front of the TV, and re-live your younger days!”
Torchlight II (PS4/Switch/Xbox One) – Releases Sep. 3rd
As far as Diablo clones go, if you’re going to make one, you might as well get people who helped make the original game. In 2009, indie developer Runic Games released Torchlight on PC. It was a big success, both commercially and critically, and led to the development of a sequel. 2012’s Torchlight II was a continuation, and improvement, on the original game, adding a larger overworld map and a long sought after multiplayer mode. The series was once again an critical and commercial success for Runic Games, and showed that the Diablo formula could be successfully emulated if done right. While the first Torchlight saw a release on the Xbox 360 in 2011, Torchlight II was not ported to any consoles after its initial release, and it is likely due to shake-ups in the company. In 2014, key members of the company started to leave, co-founders Eric Schaefer and Torchlight lead developer Travis Baldtree started their own company, and then in 2016, the another co-founder, Max Schaefer left to start his own company (taking many Runic staff with him). Runic eventually folded in 2017, dissolved by parent company Perfect World, and now it seems that the ducks are finally in a row, as Perfect World is the one releasing Torchlight II for PS4, Switch and Xbone. Hack & slash fans can now rejoice.
Monster Hunter: World – Iceborne (PS4/Xbox One) – Releases Sep. 6th
2018’s popular MMO action game Monster Hunter World is getting its first (and only) major expansion this week with the release of Iceborne. Set in a new tundra-like area, players will face not only fearsome new monsters to hunt either alone or with friends, but will need to brave the elements as well, dealing with freezing conditions and finding ways to traverse and explore the land. Thankfully, you will now have the ability to tame and ride smaller monsters, allowing you to venture further and further into this winter wonderland. New items, new monster ranks, and an update to the base game to make it easier to complete, make this the perfect jumping on point for new players, and a welcome re-introduction to a game that veteran players may have already put down.
UPlay+ (PC) – Releases Sep. 3rd
Following in the footsteps of Microsoft, Sony and EA, Ubisoft is now offering unlimited downloads of (select) titles for a monthly fee. Anyone familiar with EA Access or Xbox Game Pass will recognize the drill here; for a monthly subscription fee you will be granted unlimited access to a select number of Ubisoft published titles that range from newly released (Watch Dogs Legion, Ghost Recon Breakpoint) to the all time classics (Beyond Good & Evil, Assassin’s Creed). As with the various movie & television streaming services, Ubisoft is hoping that you’ll either choose their platform and stick with it for the long haul, or feel so left out that you’ll blindly shell out $15 a month for the chance to play any game you want, but eventually just go back to playing Super Smash Bros. or whatever. This is certainly a great deal, but as with other services like this, games can come and go, and honestly, you’re probably better off just waiting for these to go on sale at some point; but hey, you do you. You do you.
Gears 5 Ultimate Edition early access (Xbox One) – Releases Sep. 5th
As seems to be the norm for modern AAA titles, people who pre-order the incredibly expensive and unnecessary “Ultimate Edition” of Gears 5 get to play the game five whole days early; what a treat! I’ll have more to say about this game next week, but for now, if you’re super into chainsawing people in the face, then I hope you have a good weekend before all the dirty peasants with their, pffft, standard editions start clogging up the multiplayer maps. Side note, it’s good to see Justine Bateman still getting work. That’s her in the image above, right?
Sin Slayers (PC) – Releases Sep. 5th
From Steam, because IDGAF anymore, “Sin Slayers is an RPG with roguelike elements set in a dark fantasy world, where your choices determine how challenging the fights and enemies will be. Create, equip and lead a team of heroes“.
Space Cows (PC/Switch) – Releases Sep. 5th
From Steam, because see above, “Space Cows is a cheesy twin-stick shooter featuring weaponized toilet plunger and intense zero gravity combat. Shoot, dash and wobble in slow motion to save cows and lay vengeance upon an evil corporation“.
Notable Releases from 10, 20 and 30 years ago:
This week saw the release of not just one, but TWO new consoles (okay, I cheated a bit with the Lynx…), as well as a gaming achievement that many probably never though possible when Apple Corps agreed to not only license The Beatles music, but also their likenesses, as well as access to original master recordings.
The Beatles: Rock Band (PS3/Wii/Xbox 360) – Released Sep. 9th, 2009: Wiki Link
The fall of 2009 saw the release of one of the most stunning and beautiful games of not just 2009, but maybe of all time. For The Beatles: Rock Band, the genesis of the idea came from a chance meeting between MTV president Van Toffler and Dhani Harrison, son of George Harrison. The two were discussing some of their upcoming projects, and during the conversation Rock Band was brought up. The idea was intriguing to Harrison who suggested that perhaps The Beatles music would be a good fit for a stand alone game. It was here that Toffler put Harrison in contact with Harmonix president Alex Rigopulos, and the idea of a Beatles-centric Rock Band game started to come to life. After putting together a short five song demo, one being an early version of the song “Here Comes The Sun” and it’s stunning video, the team at Harmonix shared it with surviving members Ringo Starr and Paul McCartney, as well as John Lennon’s wife Yoko Ono. While the game would show the band playing live in various venues throughout their career, it was these “dreamscape” performances that would elevate the title above its competitors. While Neversoft’s Guitar Hero: Aerosmith and Metallica games featured the likenesses of each band, they were just that, digital puppets performing on a stage, sometimes even playing other band’s songs. The reverence wasn’t really there, nor did it seem there was an appreciation for either band’s history. Harmonix, on the other hand, seemed to painstakingly go out of their way to make it feel like you were playing a Beatles game, not a Rock Band game.
This respect also came through in the title. Where as Guitar Hero had their name first in both Guitar Hero: Aerosmith and Guitar Hero: Metallica, Harmonix named their game The Beatles: Rock Band, again, as if to say that this is a Beatles video game first and Rock Band game second. After gaining the approval of McCartney, Starr, Yoko Ono, and Oliva Harrison, Harmonix pushed full steam ahead, counting the four of them, as well as Dhani Harrison, as collaborators on the game, asking for their insight and opinions. In fact, Yoko Ono was so opinionated about how her husband and his music should appear that it was reported by some that Ono “…gave the designers hell“, a statement that Alex Rigopulos downplayed, suggesting that reports were looking for something salacious out of nothing. It’s good to hear that though, because if someone was making a game, movie, book, etc. about someone I loved deeply, I would want to be involved on as deep a level as I could. As part of their agreement with Apple Corps, Harmonix was to have music that spanned The Beatles entire career, from the early Ed Sullivan days, to their final concert on the rooftop of the Apple Corps offices. Apple had hoped that this would introduce the music of The Beatles to a whole new generation of listeners, and when the trailer appeared at E3 in 2009, reactions were very positive, particularly for the art direction.
Giving players their first glimpse of the game were Paul, Ringo, Yoko and Olivia. In comparison to previous band-centric titles from the Guitar Hero franchise, this looked far above what many were expecting. As noted earlier, these weren’t just digital avatars of the group performing basic routines to their greatest hits, these were full fledged digital recreations of their likenesses, mannerisms, and style, with faithful interpretations of their most iconic performances and looks. It had been rumored that Activision was also trying to get the rights to use The Beatles music in Guitar Hero, and after their abysmal treatment of Kurt Cobain, and the horrendous abomination that is Guitar Hero: Van Halen, Apple Corps was right to let Harmonix take control. After its release, the title went on to sell over 500k copies in the first month of release, with over 1.8 million sold by the end of 2009 compared to the less than 1 million copies of Guitar Hero 5 sold in the same amount of time. Critics were slightly divided over the game, with many praising the level of detail and the stunning art direction, but there were some who found the game’s library lacking in both number of songs, and depending on who you talked to, had either too many or not enough of their hits. There was also worry that with players unable to import their Beatles tracks to other Rock Band titles, the social aspect of the game would not be as great. One final point against the game was that with the addition of a new suite of plastic controllers that replicated each band member’s signature instrument, the game was too expensive for both existing players who wanted to add the game to their library, as well as casual Beatles fans who were coming in for the first time. As I mentioned last week when discussing Guitar Hero 5, the rhythm game genre was just about done by this point, and despite selling over three million copies worldwide and being called one of the crown jewels of the entire rhythm game genre, The Beatles: Rock Band is only considered a moderate financial success. Hey, if you’re gonna go out, you might as well go out on top though.
Sega Dreamcast – Released Sep. 9th, 1999: Wiki Link
- Air Force Delta
- Blue Stinger
- Flag To Flag
- House of the Dead 2
- Hydro Thunder
- Monaco Grand Prix 2
- Mortal Kombat Gold
- NFL 2K
- NFL Blitz 2000
- Pen Pen Trilcelon
- Power Stone
- Ready 2 Rumble
- Sonic Adventure
- Soul Calibur
- TNN Motorsports Harcore Heat
- Tokyo Xtreme Racer
Speaking of going out on top, ladies and gentlemen, the Sega Dreamcast! If you’re a regular reader you might remember in my Notable Events article last December, I had mentioned that Sega had pulled the Saturn off the market after only three years. A string of misfires starting with the Sega CD had put the once mighty hardware company in dire straits, and they knew they had to get something out there that would excite the public, and fast. By the end of 1998 Sega had fulfilled that promise and released the Dreamcast in Japan selling out every console in the country in just one day, but that wasn’t good news, not really. Due to a shortage of processors, Sega had to stop taking pre-orders, significantly lowering the amount of consoles it could have sold, couple that with a less than stellar launch slate, and things were off to a bumpy start. This seemed to kill momentum slightly in America, and the rumored PlayStation 2 and Nintendo Dolphin (GameCube), put Sega in a tough spot. Looking to not make the same mistakes at launch in the U.S. that it did in Japan, Sega entered a big partnership with Midway games to release several of their titles at launch. It was this partnership that led to a staggering nineteen games available on the first day. Bolstered, once again, by Sonic the Hedgehog, a cutting edge sports title with NFL 2K, and strong arcade ports like Hydro Thunder, House of the Dead 2, NFL Blitz 2000 and Soul Calibur (which sold over 1 million copies), the Dreamcast sold over 200k consoles in just 24 hours, and would have 500k consoles in homes by the end of the year. It looked as if Sega’s fortunes were turning around, and things looked good…for about 18 months. Sadly, facing increased competition from Sony and Nintendo, the emerging PC gaming market, and Microsoft’s announcement that they too were going to be releasing a game console, Sega pulled the plug on their hardware division to focus solely on software for consoles and arcades. What’s the reason? Well, it’s any number of things, so take your pick; lack of support from both EA and Squaresoft, too much focus on the “hardcore gamer”, PS2 hype, too much focus on online multiplayer when most homes had no internet, internal arguments of the direction of the company, lack of advertising, and of course, the four failed consoles in released prior (Game Gear, Sega CD, 32-X, and Saturn).
Atari Lynx – Released Sep. 1st, 1989: Wiki Link
- Blue Lightning
- California Games
- Chip’s Challenge
- Gates of Zendocon
Although released the previous week, I didn’t really feel like talking about two console releases at the same time, lol, so much for that! The Atri Lynx is an odd bird, released in September of 1989, it was the fourth major console release in roughly 30 days, and likely had many parents and gaming hobbyists wondering how the hell they were going to pay for all of this. It’s not at all surprising, then, that the two consoles that flourished were the first two to come out. Some of you might be wondering just what the hell this thing is, well, let’s go back in time a little bit to 1986. Epyx, a computer software company, was looking to make a splash. Made up of mostly former Amiga employees, two men, R.J. Mical and Dave Needle were tasked with coming up with a design of a handheld gaming system. Now as you know from reading my fantastic columns every week, Nintendo had been in the handheld gaming business for some time now with their Game & Watch series, but no one in 1986 was making a portable video game console, and Epyx wanted to be the first. By 1989, the company had its first working prototype, called the Handy Game, and showed it off at the Winter CES in January of 1989. After looking for a partnership with various companies, including Sega and Nintendo, they were continually turned down, but Atari, who had not seen much success in the home console market since 1985 for some reason *cough, Nintendo, cough* saw potential in the system and entered into an agreement with Epyx. In this agreement, Atari would handle marketing and production, while Epyx would handle the software, however, Epyx’s financial troubles were more than they could handle and the company went out of business by the end of 1989, giving Atari full ownership of, what was now called the Lynx, moving forward. In a twist of fate, since the console was based on Amiga hardware, Atari had to purchase machines from their arch-rival in order to make games for the system, ha!
The system had three types of cartridges throughout its life span; the first were flat cards that you could easily stack on top of each other, but their design made them difficult to remove from the system, causing them to get stuck. The second design added two small tabs on the end so you could pull it out of the system easier, but their storage proved to be difficult, and so that design was quickly abandoned for the third and final design, the lip. Lip cartridges were essentially the same, except they had a small lip on the end which made it both easy to remove and easy to store. As you can tell, I’m really grasping at straws here to come up with something interesting to say about this console, because frankly, it was unremarkable. As I mentioned with the Game Boy a few weeks ago, Nintendo knew that in order for the console to be successful it needed a sturdy design, a strong library of fun games to play, and most importantly, a long battery life. The Lynx failed in all three of these categories. While it was initially praised for being one of the first video game controllers to be ambidextrous, the cartridge debacle was a set back. The library of games was less than stellar, with only one relatively known title with California Games, but the real killer was the battery life. Despite having a high-end, backlit LCD display, the amount of power needed to keep the console running was atrocious, with only 4-5 hours worth of game play. Initially though, the console actually sold pretty well, even with it’s astronomic price of $179.99 (the equivalent of $372 today). It would go on to sell almost half a million units by the end of 1990, but could never match the level of the Game Boy, and by the time it went off the market in 1996, it had sold only a few million units worldwide, compared with the 19 million Game Boy’s sold in the same amount of time. I never played the Lynx, so I can’t really tell you if you’re missing much, but based on the library of games, I don’t think you need to lose any sleep for skipping over this.
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