Woo-hoo, we actually have some new games to talk about! After a long holiday drought we are finally receiving what we, as gamers, so desperately crave;
a solid human connection games. Forget all about those pesky Oscar nominations and revel in the glow of Goku in 4K, as God intended.
Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot (PC/PS4/Xbox One) – Releases Jan. 17th
It only took 99 releases, but we can now, finally, play a Dragon Ball game where Goku kicks a fish (until someone tells me that an obscure, Japan-only mobile game also has this feature). In Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot, players will be able to relive the events from the series, while also spending time getting lost in menial tasks and side quests, some of which promise to answer your most burning questions about the Dragon Ball Z saga, like why does everyone still look the same age even though Gohan is clearly getting older? It’ll be interesting to see what Bandai Namco does with the open world concept in a Dragon Ball Z universe because, from what I can tell, they live in a vast wasteland of deserts and prairies. I really hope they somehow make this a world I want to explore and experience, otherwise this could end up being a colossal waste of time; just like life!
Atelier Dusk Trilogy (PC/PS4/Switch) – Releases Jan. 14th
It’s a big month (and year, it seems) for ports and re-releases, so expect to see a few of these pop up in the main section in the coming weeks. Today we will be treated to three previously released Atelier games, the 14th, 15th, and 16th games in the series, that comprise the Dusk Trilogy; Atelier Ayesha, Atelier Escha & Logy, and Atelier Shallie. Originally released for the PS3 between 2013 and 2015, these games continue the tradition of all the other titles in the series; collecting items and using alchemy to turn them into something useful. With the move to PS4 and Switch it means we are getting a nice upgrade in graphics, as well as everyone’s favorite new mechanic in JRPG re-releases, fast-forward battles, and of course you can expect to get a wide array of previously released DLC. It seems like I’m talking about a new Atelier release every four or five months, so perhaps I’ll finally get around to playing one. If you’re still on the fence then maybe give them a try as well, they don’t seem to be going away any time soon.
SELF (PC/Switch) – Releases Jan. 16th
We’ve got our first weird indie of the year, with the Kafka-esqe, Undertale inspired, SELF. In this text based adventure game, you are on a quest to find your father, but the twist is that you are the only person who seems to be able to remember him. On your journey you will find yourself existing in both the dream world and reality, sometimes without the ability to differentiate between the two, making this quite the surreal experience.
Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE Encore (Switch) – Releases Jan. 17th
Of all the Wii U games to get Switch ports this is one I probably expected the least. Not because it wasn’t good, but because it’s so niche. Well I’m glad to be wrong because this is a game I’ve been dying to finally dive into and give a try. Taking place in modern day Tokyo, a sinister group of beasts called Mirages are kidnapping humans and draining them of an energy force called Performa, because…why? Who cares. Cue the group of plucky teenagers who meet up with a few good Mirages, that just happen to be Fire Emblem characters, and start on a quest to rescue the missing people and restore their Performa. If you couldn’t tell by the description, this game is a mash-up of the Shin Megami Tensei and Fire Emblem series, however there were some critics who noted that the game seems to lean more into SMT territory than it does Fire Emblem; so keep that mind. As with most Western ports of Japanese games, particularly JRPGs, the game content can be altered, censored, or removed, and TMS#FE is no exception. Various localization changes were made, including the removal of certain outfits deemed too sexual, and the ages of other characters being changed. For those who might be expecting this content to be added back in, well, sorry, it isn’t. “Meh, so what, I’ll buy the Japanese version because it’ll have all that cool sexy content I love“, nope, sorry pal. In order to hit a simultaneous worldwide release date, Nintendo based the re-release on the Western version, meaning that all of the cuts and censored content is in every region now, womp womp. Furious Japanese fans were given the opportunity to cancel their pre-orders, and had Nintendo apologizing profusely because adults are children now who must be placated at every turn, lest they feel bad. Enjoy your race car beds.
Ports and Re-releases:
Squidlit (Switch) – Releases Jan. 14th
I’m not sure what was going on in 2018, because we got two cephalopod based games that wanted to look like they could have been released on the Game Boy. While October’s Save Me Mr. Tako was a simultaneous release on multiple platforms, the March 2018 title, Squidlit, is just now releasing on Switch. If you’re a fan of old school platformers, and the color green, then give this game a look.
Wizardry: Labyrinth of Lost Souls (PC) – Releases Jan. 15th
I had originally said this came out back in May of 2019, but it seems they delayed the game. Right now Steam lists it as “January 2020”, so maybe it’ll come out, or maybe it won’t, I don’t know. I want a milkshake. *UPDATE* – A couple hours after I wrote the previous sentence I went to the freezer and got a bowl of vanilla ice cream; it was divine.
To The Moon (Switch) – Releases Jan. 16th
Originally released in 2011, To The Moon is an interactive story in JRPG clothing. While you may expect the game to play and function like a typical SNES era JRPG, this is not Final Fantasy. Instead of turn based combat and melodramatic dialogue, you get a subdued puzzle game that challenges you to delve deeper into the inner thoughts of the characters as they grapple with big questions about life. The game was apparently highly criticized when it came out but as the years went by it was discovered by more and more people who understood what the developer was trying to do and say with the game, which has turned it into a bit of a modern classic. If you haven’t played the PC or mobile versions by now I would recommend giving this a try on Switch, just go into it with an open mind.
Total War: Three Kingdoms – Mandate of Heaven (PC) – Releases Jan. 16th
One of my favorite PC exclusives from 2019 is getting its first piece of major story DLC this week, bringing in multiple brand new characters, including six all new warlords to play as. On top of the new characters, the Steam description also indicates that there will be a slew of new objectives, events, and mechanics to experience in the campaign, which will be great, because there are now 40 new battlefield units to tinker with and learn how to play. If you’ve already exhausted your time with all of the current warlords and their stories then this should be a refreshing shot in the arm.
- Puzzle & Dragons Gold (Switch) – Releases Jan. 15th
- Super Crush K.O. (PC/Switch) – Releases Jan. 16th
- Red Bow (PC/PS4/Switch/Xbox One) – Releases Jan. 17th
Notable Releases from 10, 20 and 30 years ago:
This week’s notable releases are a mixed bag, as usual, with two titles that most of us will likely fondly remember, and one that you might not even know existed.
Dark Void (PC/PS3/Xbox 360) / Dark Void Zero (Nintendo DS) – Released Jan. 19th, 2010: Wiki Link
It’s often hard to predict what will be a hit and what won’t. Before it came out, could any of us have known that Gears of War would still be releasing new titles in the year 2019, or that it would influence game development for the next several years? Clearly Capcom was expecting Dark Void to be a huge hit with franchise potential when it was in development, but somewhere along the way that dream died and the world was left with this entirely forgettable heap of a game. Set during World War II, a pilot is transported to another dimension after flying through the Bermuda Triangle. When he arrives in this world, called ‘The Void’, the pilot, named Will, encounters a group of humans that call themselves ‘The Survivors’, including one Nikola Tesla (remember when Tesla was hot for a minute). Together with these other humans, Will must fight against an alien race called the Watchers, who just so happen to be helping the Axis Powers (otherwise how would you know they’re evil). While 99.9% of games after Gears of War employed a cover system, Dark Void took it a step further by adding a jet pack, which allowed you to take cover…in the air! Critics were not kind to the game, and blasted it as boring and derivative, and could have used more flying.
While in development, the game’s music composer Bear McCreary decided to make an 8-bit chip tune version of the main theme of Dark Void. When the team heard the song they thought it was cute and decided to pull an April Fool’s joke and declare that Dark Void had actually been a long lost Capcom game from the early 90’s. The joke, however, eventually grew into a full fledged idea and soon enough the team was putting together a simple Metroidvania style action game to appear on Nintendo’s DSiWare store, with a PC release to come later in the year. Again, it’s hard to predict what will be a success, and for whatever reason, Capcom really seemed enamored with Dark Void. While this title is, like it’s big brother, completely forgettable, it does have a couple of cool little tidbits. One is the fact that you have to blow into the DS’ microphone to get the game to work, like we all did to NES carts growing up. The second is that the game features an appearance by talk show host Jimmy Fallon as one of the characters you meet that, in a “twist of fate”, is only in the game because he won a contest as a kid. Capcom really went all out in trying to get people to believe this was an actual lost game, even going so far as come up with a complicated backstory on its development. This is a case where the behind the scenes story is actually more interesting than the game; click below if you’d like to read more:
Crazy Taxi (Dreamcast) – Released Jan. 24th, 2000: Wiki Link
In 1999, Sega released Crazy Taxi in arcades to widespread acclaim and success. With the game being developed on the same type of hardware as the Dreamcast, it was only a matter of time before a console port would come out. When it dropped on January 24th it went on to be just as successful as its arcade counterpart, becoming the second best selling game on the Dreamcast in 2000, and solidifying itself as one of the killer apps on Sega’s new system. The arcade version of the game is fairly simple, with just one map to drive around in, and that was fine if you were just plunking down a dollar to have a little bit of fun, but for $60 bucks the console version would need a little bit more to offer, so they added a SECOND map, and guess what, we loved it. In hindsight, Crazy Taxi is really lacking in stuff to do, with only its in-game timer keeping you from progressing further and further. Underneath the flashy surface there isn’t a whole lot there, but that doesn’t mean the game is bad. On the contrary, with it’s driving pop-punk soundtrack courtesy of The Offspring, and that aforementioned in-game timer, you really feel like you are in a no holds barred, white knuckle thrill ride, where every second counts.
River City Ransom (NES) – Released Jan. 1990: Wiki Link
Again proving that it is hard to tell what will be a success or not, here comes the NES cult classic River City Ransom. Part of the Kunio-Kun series, this was the third game in the franchise, originally titled Downtown – Nekketsu Monogatari in Japan. When the game was released in the East in 1989 it was a massive success, with multiple follow-up titles through most of the 1990’s. However, as we would see with other popular Japanese games released in the West, like Dragon Warior, sometimes a game was just too esoteric and/or complicated to grasp, with much of the game’s Japanese context lost on American audiences (despite an effort to localize it). This didn’t mean that the game didn’t have an audience though, as it was still fairly well received by critics and a certain niche group of players who enjoyed the game for its tongue in cheek humor. It wasn’t that Technos Japan didn’t know how to appeal to an American audience, as Double Dragon was a huge success in both arcades and consoles, but that game had a certain “realism” that River City Ransom shied away from. From it’s chunky, ridiculous looking sprites, to it’s silly death phrases (BARF!), the game was already fighting an uphill battle. Combine that with non-linear game play, RPG elements, and a lack of clear goals, and your average American gamer was just going to go back and play Ninja Gaiden or Mega Man 2. However, due to its cult following the game’s merits would spread through word of mouth, making it one of those mythical NES games that everybody supposedly loved, but actually never played. As time went on the game would be re-evaluated by adult gamers in the early 2000’s and it would eventually pop up on places like the Wii’s Virtual Console, and see releases of new Kunio games in the West on PC and the Nintendo DS. The saga of Kunio/Alex and Riki/Ryan in the West took some time to catch on, and we’re all lucky it did.