Just two weeks left of regular games coverage, and yet we’ve still got some really interesting stuff coming out. While there aren’t any titles as big as last years Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, we are going to find ourselves with at least a couple AAA (maybe AA) titles and a handful of indies that will probably be worth your time.
Life is Strange 2: Episode 5/The Compelte Season (PC/PS4/Xbox One) – Releases Dec. 3rd
Brothers Sean and Daniel Diaz continue their journey to Mexico as they outrun the authorities. Expect plenty of emotional moments and pontificating on the trials and tribulations of being a teenager when the final episode drops on December 3rd.
Darksiders Genesis (PC/Stadia) – Releases Dec. 5th, consoles in February 2020
Hey all you Sider-Heads out there, the latest entry in the Darksiders series steps away from the third person action realm and into the isometric dungeon crawler world. You’re still hacking and slashing, but on a smaller scale. This is only coming to PC for the time being, so if you were hoping to play this on console you’re going to have to wait until February of next year.
Mosaic (PC) – Releases Dec. 5th, already available on Apple Arcade
In a world where society is obsessed with their cell phones and does everything it can to strip you of your individual identity, one (white) man will turn against his masters and discover that pushing back against the system will help turn this drab, lifeless world into one of limitless possibility and wonder. Okay, so if you’ve ever been 22 years old then you’ve had this same idea for a movie/book/game/podcast/comic strip/interactive CD-ROM/whatever before, but while this seems to veer dangerously close to “society sucks maaaaaaaan” territory, there still appears to be some interesting visuals, and while it’s a story anyone over thirty has heard dozens of times before, it doesn’t mean that the message is any less relevant. Will this be 2019’s Gris; a small indie that swoops in at the last moment and gives us that last bit of oomph before the next year starts? I don’t know, maybe.
Star Ocean: First Departure R (PS4/Switch) – Releases Dec. 5th
I know this is a remake and should technically be in the next section, but since the original SNES game didn’t come out in North America, and the PSP version is eleven years old, I’ll make an exception. When the PSP version came out in 2008, it was built on an enhanced version of the engine that powered Star Ocean: The Second Story, and now that we live in the age of HD television sets the graphics have been updated once more to make this the best looking version of the game available. I have never played a Star Ocean game before, so having this on the Switch is a real treat and I can’t wait to play it while I ride the exercise bike.
Ports and Re-releases:
- The Blair Witch (PS4) – Releases Dec. 3rd
- Halo: Reach Remastered (PC/Xbox One) – Releases Dec. 3rd
- Neverwinter Nights: Enhanced Edition (PS4/Switch/Xbox One) – Releases Dec. 3rd
- Alien: Isolation (Switch) – Releases Dec. 5th
- Ancestors: The Humankind Odyssey (PS4/Xbox One) – Releases Dec. 6th
- Assassin’s Creed: Rebel Collection (Switch) – Releases Dec. 6th
- Farming Simulator 20 (Android/iOS/Switch) – Releases Dec. 3rd
- Arise: A Simple Story (PC (epic)/PS4/XBone) – Releases Dec. 3rd
- EarthNight (PC/PS4/Switch) – Releases Dec. 3rd
- Skellboy (Switch) – Releases Dec. 3rd
Notable Releases from 10, 20 and 30 years ago:
Andy: I’ll take “Notable Releases” for $200
Alex: A Zelda game you’ve never played, a PC game you’ve never played, and an arcade classic that you used to steal quarters from your parents to play.
Andy: What is…
The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks (Nintendo DS) – Released Dec. 7th, 2009: Wiki Link
I’ve always seen the Zelda handheld games as supplemental to the console releases, and therefore never paid them much attention. While I’ve given some time to Link’s Awakening, Minish Cap and Oracle of Ages, none of those have grabbed me in the same way that LttP, OoT and BotW have. It’s this reason that I ignored Spirit Tracks upon release, and it’s hard to say if that was a good decision or not. Like Windwaker, Link traverses the overworld in a vehicle, this time a train vs. a boat, and only gets out when exploring towns and dungeons. Since this was a DS game there is heavy emphasis on using the stylus which does just about everything in the game. You control Link by tapping where to go, attack enemies by tapping on them, solve puzzles by tapping on blocks, etc., etc. I’ve never loved Nintendo’s strict adherence to their console’s various gimmicks, and Spirit Tracks sounds like peak gimmick to me. As for the story, the game is set one hundred years after the events of Windwaker and Phantom Hourglass in the land of New Hyrule. Link, an apprentice train engineer, is ready to step up and become the real deal. To do this he must receive a special certificate from Princess Zelda, so off he goes to start his adventure. Zelda is, surprise, kidnapped, so it is then up to Link to save her while also solving the mystery of why the Spirit Tracks around New Hyrule are suddenly disappearing. While a used copy on Amazon might fetch around $80 bucks, you can buy a digital copy on the Wii U for $9.99, meaning that the five of us who still own that console are the lucky few.
Planescape: Torment (PC) – Released Dec. 12th, 1999: Wiki Link
Planescape: Torment was not content to follow the pack. As with other titles in the late 90’s like Half-Life, System Shock 2 and Deus X, writer/designer Chris Avellone wanted to make something that went against the established rules of the genre and subvert expectations. Using D&D’s Planescape setting, Avellone and his team created Torment, an isometric CRPG that used BioWare’s Infinity Engine from Baldur’s Gate. While most role playing games were standard high fantasy fare that featured dragons and morally good heroes, Torment went out of its way to not include any dragons, and your character, The Nameless One, is truly neutral with his alignment being shaped and molded by your actions. The game was very well received when launched, with critics praising the game’s story and content. The game was less combat focused than the previously released Baldur’s Gate, placing greater emphasis on story and NPC interaction. Torment made its way onto many “Best of” lists for 1999, and was named RPG of the year and PC game of the year by several gaming outlets. While it didn’t quite catch on when released, the positive accolades and strong word of mouth helped the game to grow in popularity, reaching cult status among CRPG fans. Over the years various gaming websites and magazines would include Torment in their “Greatest Games of All Time” lists, helping its status to grow more and more. The game found some new life in 2010 when it was re-released through G.O.G., and after a successful Kickstarter campaign, the spiritual sequel Torment: Tides of Numenera was released. The game was recently re-released again in 2019 for modern consoles as an “enhanced edition”, which includes many quality of life updates to the title, as well as HD graphics. Many of our modern RPGs likely owe a debt of gratitude to Torment, as it showed that a compelling story and flawed characters can carry a game, and you can see the effects of this in multiple titles, including Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, Mass Effect, Dragon Age, and more.
Final Fight (Arcade) – Released Dec. 1989: Wiki Link
After the success of Street Fighter, Capcom was eager to make a sequel. Designer Yoshiki Okamoto, however, was more interested in making a game similar to the wildly popular Double Dragon II, and transitioned the game from a 1 v 1 fighting game into a beat ’em up brawler. Originally titled Street Fighter ’89, the name was eventually changed to Final Fight since the game had very little resemblance to Street Fighter. When it hit arcades the game was an instant success as players pumped quarter after quarter into the machine, picking their favorite of three characters; Former Pro Wrestler Mayor Mike Haggar, ninja in training Guy, and expert street fighter Cody Travers. The game, which by no accident follows the plot of the film Streets of Fire, is a story about rescue and revenge. Mayor Haggar’s daughter Jessica has been kidnapped by The Mad Gear gang, a ruthless band of thugs who demand that Haggar lay off their criminal enterprise. Not content to allow thugs to tell him how to run his city, Haggar recruits Jessica’s boyfriend Cody, and his pal Guy, to help him both clean up the streets and rescue Jessica. With six pulse-pounding (and quarter munching) levels, players would make their way through Metro City, watching their progress on a makeshift subway map. Like other Japanese games about America, the game is like a lens into how other cultures viewed the country. Like Earthbound, Final Fight is a mish mash of popular American culture, specifically the city of New York, with its out of control criminal element, run down buildings, and seedy underbelly. As for the enemies, they were named after various rock stars, and of course one in particular, Andore, was named and modeled on wrestler Andre the Giant. As with other pieces of entertainment from the past, there was some questionable content when it comes to the LGBT community, as the game does feature one female enemy named Poison. However, the developers thought players would feel bad for beating up a woman, so they went out of their way to tell everyone that Poison was actually transgender, and you were fighting a man. Despite this questionable choice, the game is still fun as hell to play, and I spent many, many, many mornings at the local convenience store playing this game with the quarters my parents kept in a mug for doing laundry. I’d swipe two or three a few times a week until I was eventually caught. Now, with the release of the Capcom Beat ‘Em Up Bundle I can play this as much as I want, so take that mom and dad (also, thank you mom and dad for doing my laundry as a kid, I love you).
As I mentioned up top, there are only two weeks of regular coverage left (which includes this one). After that we will have three weeks of special coverage as follows:
Week of Dec. 17th – 2019 Buyers Guide Part 1 and Part 2
Week of Dec. 24th – Notable events in gaming for 1989, 1999, and 2009
Week of Dec. 31st – 2020 Games Preview
I’m looking forward to spending the holiday’s with all your happy smiling faces!