Well, here we are folks. The end of 2019 is upon us and the book is about to be closed on another bang up year in gaming; wasn’t it exciting? As you begin to enter the holiday take one more chance on something new, because even though there might only be three weeks left in the year it probably won’t take you very long to beat Shovel Knight: King of Cards, right? Like what, maybe three hours, tops?
Shovel Knight: King of Cards/Showdown (PC/PS4/Switch/Xbox One, and apparently also coming to 3DS/PS3/Vita/Wii U) – Releases Dec. 10th
After a successful Kickstarter campaign, Shovel Knight hit consoles and PC in 2014 to widespread acclaim. Players and critics were captivated by the retro aesthetic which was seen as a love letter to the classic platforming games from the NES. Over the years there have been two follow-up titles, Plague of Shadows and Specter of Torment, and when combined with the re-named Shovel of Hope, formed the Shovel Knight Treasure Trove. Well, after five years the Shovel Knight saga comes to an end with a prequel. King of Cards tells the story of King Knight as he trains and battles in the Joustus card game tournament. With the three judges offering untold riches to the winner, King Knight decides to enter in the hopes that he can use the reward as a way to rule over his own kingdom. Featuring all of the platforming and frenzy of the previous titles, while adding in a collectible card game, King of Cards sounds like a real treat for fans of the series.
If you thought one game was enough, you were wrong, as there are TWO new Shovel Knight game coming out! In the second title, Showdown, players either compete or work together in various stages to collect gems. You might be thinking, is this just multiplayer? Hell no! There’s a single player campaign as well, telling one last Shovel Knight story for you, what a treat! Featuring 16 playable characters from across the Shovel Knight universe, you will run, jump, hit, kick, and spit your way to victory.
Finally, one more thing. There are also three brand new Amiibos coming out for each protagonist; Plague Knight, Specter Knight, and King Knight. Each will unlock a fancy new costume in their respective games, as well as in Showdown. With Shovel Knight coming to an end it is also a fitting tribute to the two consoles that gave it life as each appear to be, possibly, the very last games ever released for the Wii U and 3DS. Unfortunately there is no physical release for these consoles (those only appear to be for PS4, Switch, and XBone), but at least it’s something. While this may be the end of the Shovel Knight Treasure Trove, that doesn’t mean it’s the end of the series. Shovel Knight Dig has been announced and it sees the series take the leap into “16-bit”, so keep an eye out for that in…whenever.
MechWarrior 5: Mercenaries (PC – Epic Games Store exclusive) – Releases Dec. 10th
After almost ten years, the MechWarrior franchise has a single player campaign again. Set almost 1000 years in the future, humans find themselves in the last decade of the Third Succession Wars, using giant robots to assert their dominance over one another. Originally set to release in 2018, the development of this title has been somewhat troubled, and after another delay it was announced that the game would be exclusive to the Epic Games Store for one year, echoing the similar moves made for Metro: Exodus, Anno 1800, and Borderlands 3, among others. For some players this won’t be a big deal, but for others it just means that the game is delayed even further. At the end of the day this mostly means that some people got to keep their jobs as Epic probably paid through the nose to get the exclusive rights, so that’s good, right?
Transport Fever 2 (PC) – Releases Dec. 11th
Tired of spending long hours sitting in traffic, riding trains and buses, and standing in lines at the airport this holiday season? Then why not play Transport Fever 2 where you can take all of the great ideas you have about how to alleviate traffic congestion and put it into practical use in a virtual city! Does the family want to go Xmas shopping? Boring; you’ve got subway tunnels to excavate! The kids want to go ice skating and eat Christmas pudding? Tough shit; daddy needs to make sure that the municipal bonds trust has enough cash in the reserves to pay for the freeway expansion that promises to make commute times drop by 30 minutes! Grandma’s here and it’s time to eat the Christmas ham? GO FUCK YOURSELF I’M PLAYING TRANSPORT FEVER 2! How many times do I have to tell you this, Martha, okay; Jesus Christ! All I want is to play this game in the study while I have some free time, alright? I work very hard and I deserve to have some time to myself! Your mother is a terrible woman and I hate this family! LEAVE ME BE!
Transport Fever 2 (this is the second one? my god), hits digital storefronts on December 11th.
SuperEpic: The Entertainment War (PC/PS4/Switch/Xbox One) – Releases Dec. 12th
Set in the year 2084 in what I assume is the First Succession War, video games have been outlawed by evil, greedy pigs and it is up to one raccoon to save them! Described as a Metroidvania action/adventure game, SuperEpic is a humorous satire of corporate office culture and capitalism.
Wattam (PC – Epic Games Store/PS4) – Releases Dec. 17th
Keita Takahashi, the creator of Katamari Damacy, is back with a brand new game that appears to be just as strange and unconventional. In Wattam, you are (I think) an unseen protagonist who is controlling a vast amount of characters, starting with The Mayor who one day, after feeling incredibly depressed and alone, takes the hand of a friend and re-discovers the joy of running an laughing together with another person. As you move through the town, you’ll grab the hands of more and more people, bringing laughter, joy, and music wherever you go. I’m not clear what the goal of this game, or if it even has one, but the idea of bringing people together in a world that has been disconnected from one another is an interesting concept, and seems to be a lighthearted spiritual companion to Death Stranding.
Ports and Re-releases:
- Call of Juarez: Gunslinger (Switch) – Releases Dec. 10th
- Jamestown (Switch) – Releases Dec. 12th
- Princess Maker 3: Fairy Tales Come True (Switch) – Releases Dec. 23rd
- Princess Maker Go! Go! Princess (Switch) – Releases Dec. 23rd
Untitled Goose Game (PS4/Xbox One) – Releases Dec. 17th
I never expected Sony to do the “and it releases soon” bit to me, a la Nintendo, but during their State of Play presentation it was announced that Untitled Goose Game is dropping on December 17th. Now PS4 and XBone owners can be huge dicks to British people just like their PC and Switch brethren. I mean, I guess they could before the game came out, but it wouldn’t be under the guise of an adorable goose. One of the best games of 2019 is now available to everyone and that makes my heart sing. If you haven’t played this game yet then do yourself a favor and get to it!
The Talos Principle (Switch) – Releases Dec. 10th
Well thanks Nintendo Indie Showcase for messing me up AGAIN! Croteam and Devolver Digital are bringing their first person puzzle game to everyone’s favorite console the Nintendo Switch! Now you can curse at yourself on the subway and have a reason for it!
Hearthstone: Descent of Dragons (Android/iOS/PC) – Releases Dec. 10th
We are now at expansion thirteen for Hearthstone, a collectible card game that shows little signs of slowing down. Featuring five new Galakrond Hero Cards, new sidequests, some legendary dragons, and a new keyword “Invoke” which allows you to upgrade Galakrond until he reaches his ultimate form; wow! This is probably a bittersweet week for digital CCG fans, because while Hearthstone may be releasing a new expansion, Bethesda’s Elder Scrolls: Legends has announced that they will cease adding new content to the game and halt production on the game, which likely means we will not see those ports to the Switch, PS4, and XBone. C’est la vie.
Pinball FX3: Williams Pinball Vol. 5 (PC/PS4/Switch/XBone) – Releases Dec. 10th
Hey digital pinball fans, your Xmas wishes have come true as Zen Studios has added three more classic Williams tables to their library. This pack includes No Good Gofers!, Cirqus Voltaire, and one of my favorites, the beautiful Tales of the Arabian Nights, which features gorgeous art and sounds. I am a bit cautious here, though, as their last pack of Williams tables based on the Universal Monsters was a bit of a letdown, particularly compared to their Pinball Arcade counterparts, but Zen has a pretty good track record nonetheless so I’ll still give them the benefit of the doubt.
Borderlands 3: Moxxi’s Heist of the Handsome Jackpot (PC/PS4/Xbox One) – Releases Dec. 19th
Hey, remember when Borderlands 3 came out? Well it did, okay! Now you can get the first expansion which brings in two fan (service) favorites; Mad Moxxi and Handsome Jack. Moxxi is looking to pull of the heist of the century and she needs your help to do it. Enter Handsome Jack’s dilapidated casino and grab the loot, but this is Borderlands so expect to meet plenty of evil robots and psychopaths along the way.
Notable Releases from 10, 20 and 30 years ago:
With December releases it is sometimes hard to think of them as being part of that year, since we don’t get a lot of time with them we tend to either forget them or lump them in with the next year. Check out what came out in 1989, 1999, and 2009 but were more likely considered the hits of 1990, 2000, and 2010.
Angry Birds (iOS) – Released Dec. 11th, 2009: Wiki Link
After launching the App Store in July of 2008, Apple’s digital store had a few hits; Texas Hold’em, Plants vs. Zombies, Doodle Jump, etc., but none of those compared to the cultural juggernaut that was unleashed on an unsuspecting public on December 11th, 2009. The casual game craze was in a boom on Facebook with the game FarmVille exploding on that platform, and now Apple would solidify mobile gaming as a viable force in the industry with the release of Rovio’s Angry Birds. Now millions of people could sit on the toilet and make tiny birds crash into elaborate structures and murder pigs. Taking inspiration from a flash game called Crush the Castle (which itself took inspiration from a game called Castle Clout), the developers at Rovio took some simple sketches one of their people had made of several angry looking birds and transported them into the game we all know. With swine flu being a hot topic in the news, Rovio decided that the enemies would be pigs, and the birds were angry at them for stealing their eggs. This is about as bare bones a story you need to justify why these birds are launching themselves at the pigs’ fortresses.
Initially sales were sluggish, and it looked like the game might be just another forgotten piece of shovelware on the App Store, but after a February 2010 update, which added more levels, the game was the featured app on the UK App Store which sent downloads through the roof. The game caught on there first, with word of mouth spreading to the US, and by the middle of 2010 the game was a bona fide world wide hit, and not just any hit, but a god damn phenomenon. Suddenly the birds and pigs were everywhere, on t-shirts, in toy stores, and even making appearances on Family Guy and the Spike VGA’s. In 2011 the game would receive a tie-in for the film Rio, and even had a licensed Star Wars version release in 2012. Console ports followed, adding more story and control schemes, and of course there was the inevitable movie which was critically panned but still went on to make $352 million at the box office. A proper sequel to the first game came out in 2015, and several spin-off’s have been released over the years, with the latest one, Angry Birds Blast Island, soft launching in February, 2018. For a while there it looked like mobile games might be the death knell of the console industry, but as the years went by it seemed that mobile gaming craze, particularly the casual kind, was a bit of a passing moment. However, the success of Angry Birds can not be understated and it is likely due to this game that we even have a mobile games industry at all.
Gran Turismo 2 (PlayStation) – Released Dec. 23rd, 1999: Wiki Link
Released, bafflingly, just two days before Christmas in 1999, Gran Turismo 2 continued the solid game play of the first title, solidifying the series as a PlayStation staple. With the strong reception of the first game coming as a surprise to Polyphony Digital and Sony, a sequel was quickly put into production with the goal of making a better game. Taking what they learned developing Gran Turismo, producer Kazunori Yamauchi and his team refined the game, polishing the edges and adding just enough new content to make this the definitive version of the game for the PSX. The series is a celebration of motor vehicles and racing culture, and with that they continued the tradition of including real life, licensed, street vehicles with over 650 different cars to choose from. If you drove it in in real life there’s a good chance you could drive it in Gran Turismo 2, letting would be gear heads take their Toyota Celica from off the road and onto the track, allowing them to fulfill their morning rush hour daydreams. While Gran Turismo has been very proud of its ability to simulate real world racing, this title came with a bonus disc for a more arcade style approach to racing. The cars were a bit more forgiving on the track and allowed players to take some of the most expensive, hottest cars available, and race them around real world tracks at speeds they would never dream of reaching in real life. The beauty of the Gran Turismo series has always been its ability to make anyone feel like they can take any car, from the dumpiest hatchback to the flashiest Italian sports car, and win a race with it. Using a robust (and sometimes annoying) license system, players would learn the ins and outs of how to play the game and, for people like me, even learn how to become a better driver in real life. The game would also continue its tradition of filling the soundtrack with licensed music (at least in NA and Europe), and created a killer intro film that would highlight the beauty of the, at the time, cutting edge graphics set to a hard driving track from the game. In this case the song was “My Favourite Game” by The Cardigans, from their album (surprisingly) also named Gran Turismo.
Castlevania: The Adventure (GameBoy) – Released Dec. 15th, 1989: Wiki Link
Hey, remember when four new consoles came out in 1989? Clearly their games have all been dog shit because I’ve been mostly featuring NES and arcade titles since then, but not this week, nope! This week we are here to discuss the very first Castlevania game released for Nintendo’s famous hand held, Castlevania: The Adventure. Set 100 years before the events of Castlevania, you play as Christopher Belmont, a long related relative of Simon Belmont. As usual, Dracula has risen from the grave and is feasting on the blood of the living. You must travel through four rather long and tedious levels, jumping and whipping your way to the end where you face the big man himself, Dracula. Due to what I assume are technical limitations you do not have any sub weapons, only your trusty whip. That makes this one of the few Castlevania games where hearts actually refill your health. Critics were fairly impressed with the game, praising it for being about on par with its NES counterpart (I find that hard to believe, but okay…), and giving it high marks for its graphics. Modern critics are a bit more harsh on the title, noting its lack of many of the monsters seen in other entries in the game, and finding its rather large difficulty curve a bit unforgiving. A remake of the game called Castlevania: The Adventure ReBirth was released on the WiiWare service almost exactly twenty years later on December 28th, 2009 to positive reviews, saying that the game was a big improvement over the GameBoy original. Sadly the game is now lost to time as Nintendo shut down the WiiWare service on January 30th, 2019, making this game, and the other roughly 450 games (not counting the Virtual Console), completely unavailable. However, the original GameBoy game is still available today, either through the eShop on 3DS, or in the Castlevania Anniversary Collection for PC, PS4, Switch, and Xbox One.
Well, that’s going to do it for 2019 folks! Next week I’ll be posting the two part buyers guide on Tuesday and Wednesday, followed by a brief history in gaming from 10/20/30 years ago during Xmas, and then to ring in the New Year I’ll be posting a 2020 preview guide. Thank you again for spending your Tuesday morning with me talking about the latest new games, giving me grief when I make a mistake, and laughing at my silly jokes. It really means a lot, maybe more than you know. Enjoy the holiday everybody!