The slugfest of the decade is finally upon us; who will win? On one side we have nerdiest sci-fi franchise of all time, not Dr. Who. It’s not Star Trek either. What the fuck is Discworld? I’m talking about Star Wars you nerds! Man, okay; then on the other side we’ve got Nintendo’s most popular franchise of all time…can you just let me finish before you start running off names of things, please? Sigh, it’s Pokemon.
Star Wars: Jedi Fallen Order (PC/PS4/Xbox One) – Releases Nov. 15th
After cancelling an epic single player, story driven, AAA Star Wars because the genre was dead, we now have one of the most hotly anticipated titles of the year; a new epic single player, story driven, AAA Star Wars game, because that’s what the people want (thanks EA). Set shortly after the events of Star Wars: Episode III, you take on the role of young Jedi named Cal Kestis, because apparently Andy Tuttle didn’t focus test very well, as he tries to evade the newly formed Imperial Galactic Empire. For those of you who haven’t seen Star Wars: Episode III but are for some reason paying a new Star Wars video game, Emperor Palpatine sent out an order to his clone troopers (the infamous Order 66) which ordered the eradication of all Jedi across the galaxy. With Cal able to avoid being murdered during the initial implementation of Order 66, he has spent five years in hiding, doing menial jobs and laying low. One day, after a freak accident, a friend of his is about to be eaten by a Sarlacc (watch Return of the Jedi if you don’t know what that is), and in a split moment he uses his Force powers in front of an Imperial Droid who sends word back to the Empire that a Jedi is alive. From here, Cal must go back on the run as he is chased by a ruthless Sith Inquisitor named Second Sister. Taking elements of Uncharted, Dark Souls, and Metroidvania type games, you will use your Force powers to either charge into a situation and murder your foes, or sneak past them to help keep your dark side tendencies at bay. Is it going to do better than Pokemon? You tell me.
Pokemon Sword/Shield (Switch) – Releases Nov. 15th
It has been three years since the release of Pokemon Sun and Moon, and while Let’s Go Pikachu and Eevee were fun diversions, we still haven’t received a proper Pokemon RPG on the Switch…until now! In Sword and Shield, like almost all Pokemon games, players take on the role of a young Pokemon trainer and embark on a quest to be the greatest in their region. In this game, players travel through the Galar region, which is said to be inspired by Great Britain and includes recreations/homages to many of their historical buildings. While the game will feature many things that long time players are familiar with, such as battling gym leaders, there are a few new features that Nintendo is hoping to entice you with. The thing they really seem to be selling the game on is the Dynamax and Gigantamax forms of several Pokemon, which essentially means that the little pocket monsters will grow to an enormous size which requires you to join other players online in an effort to take the creature down, similar to what you would do in a raid battle on an MMO. One change that caused a bit of controversy is that not all Pokemon will be available in the game, which means that, even though you can use the Pokemon Bank, you will only be able to transfer Pokemon that are native to the Galar region. While some are decrying this as a slap in the face, there are so many GD Pokemon out there that Game Freak has to do something to try and get people to use the new ones. In any case, I fully expect this to be a hit for Nintendo, selling tons of copies for the holidays.
Rune II (PC – Epic Games Store) – Releases Nov. 12th
Skyrim is finally coming to the Epic Games Store! I mean, I don’t know why they’re calling it Rune II, but that’s clearly Skyrim because the graphics look like they’re eight years old.
Sparklite (PC/PS4/Switch/Xbox One) – Releases Nov. 14th
Normally I’d put this game in the “Everything Else” section, but we’re low on titles, so here we are. Using those sweet, sweet nostalgia pixels, Sparklite is a action/adventure game with a top down, isometric view. The world you traverse through is procedurally generated, so no two play-through’s will be exactly the same. The world in Sparklite is dying, and has been taken over by a greedy Baron who does nothing but pollute and demand more profits. With his company poisoning the environment, it is up to a young mechanic named Ada to confront the Baron and stop his evil plans.
TOKYO GHOUL:re Call to Exist (PC/PS4) – Releases Nov. 15th
This hack & slash game is NOT based on the anime Food Wars, which I have seen several episodes of. It is instead based on the anime TOKYO GHOUL, which I have seen zero episodes of. I wish they’d make a Food Wars game. Oh, they made on for the 3DS in Japan, does it have English subtitles or dubbing? Then why are you wasting my fucking time? Don’t you know that I’m in Anaheim attending Mega64 GameDays with special guests Girard The Completionist, Dunkey & Leah, world famous comedian Neil Hamburger, and the boyz themselves Rocco, Shawn, Derrick, and Garrett? It’s like you aren’t even taking into consideration how I’m feeling, okay, and that’s what upsets me about this whole situation. No, it’s fine, I’m sorry; yes, yes, okay, yes, I love you too.
Ports and Re-releases:
Age of Empires II: Definitive Edition (PC) – Releases Nov. 14th
There’s a lot of stuff going on in the picture above and it probably means something to someone; the same person who would be excited for a remaster of Age of Empires II.
Notable Releases from 10, 20 and 30 years ago:
With the holidays fast approaching, including the all important Black Friday, video game companies tend to send out their heavy hitters during the first half of November. Below we will be discussing several games, including four major titles all released on the same day in 2009.
Assassin’s Creed II (PS3/Xbox 360) / Just Dance (Wii) / Left 4 Dead 2 (PC/Xbox 360) / Tony Hawk: Ride (PS3/Wii/Xbox 360) – All Released on Nov. 17th, 2009
The 2009 holiday gaming season was jam packed with big titles, which is a bit bizarre since it was pretty much smack dab in the middle of The Great Recession (in roughly four months I would lose my job when the company Hollywood Video went out of business). Yet despite Americans tighter pocketbooks, entertainment still made money, likely because we need that escape (booze remained popular as well, obviously). With this escapist mentality in mind, gamers and their parents were give four unique choices; an epic, single player, story driven adventure game, a party game to cash in on the rhythm game genre, a wonderfully balanced online co-op shooter, and the latest entry in the popular Tony Hawk franchise that hoped to offer a truly immersive experience.
While the first Assassin’s Creed was a decent hit on its own, the gameplay was pretty repetitive and the whole thing had a bit of a, I guess, half-baked feel, sort of. It seemed like there were good ideas there, but they were buried under a game that wasn’t as fun as it could have been, with a main character that was about as interesting as a basket full of rocks. However, when Assassin’s Creed II hit the market it was a revelation (not to be confused with Assassin’s Creed: Revelations). Gone was original protagonist, and dancing wooden puppet from that Mr. Show sketch, Altair Ibn-La’Ahad, replaced with the charismatic and aloof Ezio Auditore de Firenze. The game also changed location, moving from the (relatively) boring Holy Lands (roughly Israel, Palenstine, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria) to the much more colorful and interesting Renaissance era Italy. It didn’t take long for critics and players to fall in love with the character, and it is likely why he was the main protagonist for multiple titles. The game was wonderfully written and paced, and ran circles around the first title as young Ezio transitioned from uninspired playboy to hard boiled assassin fighting for the good of humanity.
If you mention the rhythm game genre you will generally here about four titles; Parappa the Rapper, Guitar Hero, Rock Band, and arguably the most successful, Just Dance. Originally conceived as a mini game for one of the Rabbids games, the idea was expanded upon and packaged as a full title that would be exclusive to the Nintendo Wii. Using the Wii remote players would mimic the dances shown on screen, however intrepid (i.e. lazy) players realized you could just as easily sit on the couch and move the Wii remote to whatever place it was expected to be moved to. When released the game was universally panned by critics, with many pointing to the (once again) major unresponsiveness of the motion controls. However, this critical drubbing was totally ignored by the public who happily gobbled the game up and turned it into the go-to party game for tween girl slumber parties. While only the first two titles were Wii exclusives, the game is so ubiquitous to the console that when the next annual installment comes out, Ubisoft will make a point, to this day, to release a Wii version.
The original Left 4 Dead was a huge success for Valve in 2008, so of course it would only make sense to develop a sequel…so they did. Featuring a brand new cast, this time the game left the northeast of Pennsylvania and moved down to the deep south as you travel from Georgia to Louisiana. While it was initially met with some pre-release grumblings that ranged from displeasure with the amount of graphic violence to concerns that Valve would abandon the original game, these both turned out to be moot points as the game would still release unaltered in countries like Australia, and Valve would still (and still does) continue to support the original Left 4 Dead with new DLC and multiple online servers. While not much different than the original game, there were three new zombie types added; The Charger, The Spitter, and The Jockey, as well as an updated version of The AI Director, which is responsible for spawning zombies and weapons based on player performance. Once again, Left 4 Dead 2 was a hit with both critics and players and continues to receive support from Valve as it keeps those servers running for all would be doomsday preppers.
Well, here we are. While video game peripherals that touted total immersion had been around since pretty much the invention of the past time, it seemed to hit a big stride in the late 2000’s with the introduction of Guitar Hero/Rock Band and their plastic instruments, and of course Nintendo’s highly successful Wii console and its motion controls. The ability to really be part of the game in a physical way was on everyone’s mind (at least according to the market research, I’m sure) so why not make a skateboarding game where you can actually skateboard in real life! Well, okay, neat concept, but let’s think about two things here; one, gamers are lazy fucks (don’t act like you aren’t) and two, is the technology really ready for something like this? Taking the first point in account, do you really think players will spend hours standing up on a fake skateboard pulling of tricks and pretending to push the board forward with their feet? Hell no! Give me a break. Unlike Rock Band which does a wonderful job of making you feel like you are actually contributing in some way to the success of the song being played, Tony Hawk Ride just didn’t feel like skateboarding, and if you’re an avid skateboarder in real life, you’d probably just rather go outside and do it. To the second point, the technology was nowhere near what it needed to be for this game to work properly. The board was difficult to maneuver, did not respond to movements very well, and was just an overall frustrating endeavor for anyone who tried to play it. It appeared on several “worst of” lists for 2009 and is generally regarded as a failure. Despite the rejection of the game by critics and players, Activision had already greenlit a sequel and was deep into development on it already, so in 2010 Tony Hawk Shred was released to a gaming crowd that was now so uninterested in what they were selling, that only 3,000 copies of the game were sold in the first week. This effectively put the franchise on hold for five years until the abysmally received Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 5 was released in 2015, officially putting a nail into the coffin of this once flourishing game series.
Tomorrow Never Dies (PlayStation) – Released Nov. 16th, 1999: Wiki Link
After the success of Goldeneye in both the theatres and on the Nintendo 64, James Bond was a hot property once again. It was absolutely expected that whatever film came next that there would be a video game tie-in, hopefully as good as Goldneye, well, things took a turn when it was announced that EA had bought the licensing rights to James Bond and that they would be making the next game, not Rare. In a move that I can not begin to fathom, EA decided to change the series to a third person view and remove the multiplayer deathmatch component. The company took a proven formula and said “nah“, people will enjoy a generic shooter that they have to play alone. Subsequently, the game was poorly received by critics and the public, although it still sold a shit load of copies on what I assume is brand name recognition alone. EA would eventually get things on track for subsequent James Bond titles, but to completely pull the rug out from under people with the follow-up to Goldeneye is, to me, still one of the most baffling moments in all of gaming.
China Warrior / R-Type / Vigilante (TurboGrafx-16) – Released Nov. 1989
Hey, remember when the TurboGrafx-16 came out a couple months ago in 1989? Well they released a fairly steady stream of titles in the ensuing months, with three…interesting…games making up their slate of November. Let’s get the garbage out of the way first; two beat ’em ups were released, China Warrior, which is almost like an updated version of Kung-Fu for the NES. As you move to the right, enemies just continually charge towards you, meaning you must punch and kick your way to victory in order to survive. The sprites used for this game were massive, with characters practically filling the screen from bottom to top. The controls are terrible and the sound is garbage; avoid. The second beat ’em up was called Vigilante, and was basically a Double Dragon rip-off, but not nearly as good or fun. In typical fashion for the era, your girlfriend is kidnapped by an evil street gang. Since the police won’t do anything, it is up to you to take matters into your own hands and save your girl Madonna. The game play is pretty similar to China Warrior, with enemies coming at you in waves, but the difference here is that they can come from both sides (very fine people on both sides). The sprites are much smaller as well, but not in the cute Kunio way, it’s like a, I don’t know, “stumpy” look? In any case, the game also sucks.
The best game of the bunch is the classic shoot ’em up R-Type. This early example of the shmup is also one of the most popular, and has endured through multiple consoles. I’m tired, good night.