We’ve got one of the biggest weeks of 2020 when it comes to the sheer number of releases, nineteen by my count, and yet the year still feels barren. Things should pick up in March, but for now you can tide yourself over with a massive amount of ports and indie titles.
Romance of The Three Kingdoms XIV (PC/PS4) – Releases Feb. 28th
The biggest release of the week is the fourteenth entry in the long running Romance of The Three Kingdoms franchise. Early Steam reviews seem a bit mixed on the title (it’s been available in Japanese since January), with many saying that this series has lost a bit of luster after 2019’s fantastic Total War: Three Kingdoms. Nevertheless, Koei are the kings of this genre, with 35 years of experience, and with over 1,000 characters and one of the most detailed maps in the series’ history, this should scratch your ancient Chinese warfare itch.
The Unholy Society (PC/Switch) – Releases Feb. 25th
My youth pastor would love this!
Space Channel 5 VR: Kinda Funky News Flash! (PSVR) – Releases Feb.26th
It’s nice to see Space Channel 5 release a new game in 2020, but like another long dormant series (rhymes with Salf Chife), this is being released exclusively in VR. I assumed this whole VR fad would be done by now, joining the ranks of the Kinect and rhythm games, but the game companies keep shoving it down our throats. I guess if enough of us buy it they’ll eventually make their money back and they can go back to making normal games again. The graphics on this thing are not that great at all either, so why not release it on the Switch? I have a headache, and I miss my mom.
One Punch Man: A Hero Nobody Knows (PC/PS4/Xbox One) – Releases Feb. 28th
If you’ve been waiting for a fighting game based on the anime/manga One Punch Man, well wait no more, because this week we are, in fact, getting a fighting game based on the anime/mange One Punch Man. I myself have never seen an episode of the anime One Punch Man, or read an issue of the manga One Punch Man, but I do like fighting games, but again, it’s hard to say if I’ll like a fighting game based on the anime/manga One Punch Man if I haven’t seen an episode of the anime One Punch Man or read an issue of the manga One Punch Man. I’m making oven baked chicken for dinner.
AvoCuddle (Switch) – Releases Mar. 2nd
According to Wikipedia there have only been three video games developed in Syria. Well, I guess now we can add a fourth to it. Created by one person, this game features a sentient avocado looking for what I assume is the only other sentient avocado in the world. While two of the games from Syria are currently seen as terrorist propaganda, this seems a bit more lighthearted…I hope.
Ports and Re-releases:
Mega Man Zero / ZX Legacy Collection (PC/PS4/Switch/Xbox One) – Releases Feb. 25th
From developer Inti Creates, we now have our third major collection of Mega Man games for modern consoles. Featuring six games in total, you get the entire Mega Man Zero and Mega Man ZX collections. Originally released for the Game Boy Advance and Nintendo DS, these games are considered a bit tougher and a bit faster than the mainline series it spawned from.
Rune Factory 4 Special (Switch) – Releases Feb. 25th
What do you get when you mix Harvest Moon and a traditional JRPG? No, not Harvest Moon, you get Rune Factory.
Samurai Shodown (Switch) – Releases Feb. 25th
While this game is currently available on almost every platform out there, if you’ve been sleeping on it then you might want to pickup the Switch version. Everyone knows that games are better when they’re portable, so why not annoy the guy on the airplane in the seat next to you every time you scream “FUCK!” when the computer beats you.
Two Point Hospital (PS4/Switch/Xbox One) – Releases Feb. 25th
While this game is currently available on PC, if you’ve been sleeping on it then you might want to pickup the Switch version. Everyone knows that games are better when they’re portable, so why not annoy the guy on the airplane in the seat next to you every time you scream “FUCK!” when a new disease appears.
Hero Must Die. Again (PC/PS4/Switch) – Releases Feb. 26th
In this unique JRPG, players must not level up their hero, but instead weaken him, as they make plans for his funeral. Originally released on mobile phones in 2007, and was most recently ported to the Vita in 2016.
Yakuza 0 (Xbox One) – Releases Feb. 26th
Beat up thugs in this 100% authentic karaoke bar/toy car racing/real estate management simulator, now on the Xbox One! Hey, since all XBone games will play on the Series X, you can think of this as building you future library.
Kingdom Under Fire: The Crusaders (PC) – Releases Feb. 28th
What if you had Dynasty Warriors, but it was about knights in medieval times? You’d get Kingdom Under Fire: The Crusaders. Originally released in 2004 for the Xbox, someone thought this was a good game to remaster and release for modern consoles. Meanwhile Croc just sits there, waiting for his turn.
Metro Redux (Switch) – Releases Feb. 28th
I recently bought this on PS4 for like $6.50; now I know why it was so cheap.
Here they are…
- Hayfever (PC/PS4/Switch) – Releases Feb. 25th
- Edgar – Bokbok in Boulzac (PC/Switch/Xbox One) – Releases Feb. 26th
- Warlander (PC) – Releases Feb. 26th
- Heaven Dust (PC/Switch) – Releases Feb. 27th
- Overpass (PC – Epic Exclusive) – Releases Feb. 27th, consoles in March
- Bloodroots (PC – Epid Exclusive/PS4/Switch) – Releases Feb. 28th
…there they were.
Notable Releases from 10, 20 and 30 years ago:
In today’s look at gaming history we have one of the greatest multiplayer games of all time, one of the greatest Dreamcast games of all time, and one of the weirdest game genres of all time.
Battlefield: Bad Company 2 (PC/PS3/Xbox 360) – Released Mar. 2nd, 2010: Wiki Link
With the Bad Company series, developers DICE finally brought a proper single player experience to their Battlefield franchise. Continuing in that mold, the sequel, Bad Company 2, would pick up directly after the first game (aside from a prologue that takes place during WWII), with players taking on the role of Preston Marlowe and his squad in the “Bad Company”. While old standby’s are still there, like destructible environments and a suite of vehicles to drive, there was also something, regenerating health, which was now the new standard in character life meters. While Call of Duty was still dominating game consoles when it came to first person shooters and online multiplayer, Bad Company 2 threw a little bit of shade on the competition by declaring that their game WOULD support dedicated servers, something that CoD wouldn’t. While this likely means nothing to console players, this was a big deal for PC players, who have a long tradition of setting up their own dedicated online servers with various rule changes and custom game modes. Not only were dedicated servers good news for PC players, but just the fact that the game was even coming to PC was something to celebrate. EA had made the rather odd decision to not create a PC version of the first Bad Company, in what I can only imagine was an attempt to make less money, because, really? In any case, the snub of PC players was so bad that DICE had to basically bend over backwards to ensure that PC players knew the game was going to be custom tailored to them, and would not just be a straight port of the console version. When the game finally released it got widespread acclaim from critics, who praised the game for its stellar online multiplayer battles, yet felt that DICE still hadn’t nailed the single player experience, which was criticized for being too bland and predictable. Despite the praise, with many critics calling it vastly superior to Modern Warfare 2, the game sold only a little more than half as well, with 12 million copies sold in two years compared to MW2‘s 22 million. The game would receive one piece of DLC, the (again) highly praised Battlefield: Bad Company 2: Vietnam, and a few other small items, including a new multiplayer mode. This would be the last title in the Bad Company line, with the game switching back to just numbered entries (aside from a couple deviations), and there doesn’t seem to be any indication they’ll ever bring it back.
Resident Evil: Code Veronica (Dreamcast) – Released Feb. 29th, 2000: Wiki Link
While Jill Valentine’s escape from Raccoon City got the honor of being called Resident Evil 3, it was Claire and Chris Redfield’s adventures in Europe and Antarctica that the development team at Capcom consider to be the true sequel to Resident Evil 2 and the third game in the story. What began as an attempt to port RE2 to the Sega Saturn, producer Shinji Mikami and his team quickly realized that it was not going to work, so they instead pivoted to create an entirely new game. Featuring a now more “grown up” Claire, hardened by her experiences in Raccoon City, she travels to Paris looking for her brother. Instead she is kidnapped and sent to a prison in the South Sea near Antarctica, and of course shit hits the fan and zombies appear. While the PlayStation games had a distinctly American feel and setting, Mikami and his team wanted to go for a more Gothic, European feel. They would achieve this by having Gothic inspired architecture, as well as a fairy tale/nursery rhyme quality to the story. The horror was also a bit more subdued, and relied less on the gore and brutality of American scary movies, and more on the classic European horror novels. Another major change from the first three titles was the way the game environment worked, ditching the pre-rendered backgrounds and instead opting to build out full 3D areas. This meant that camera angles could be more dynamic and it could move with the characters more easily. With a jump to a next gen console, the team was able to also create much more elaborate CG cutscenes, with an opening cinematic of Claire being chased by a squad of guards being hailed as some of the best 3D graphics ever produced on a game console. Critics were high on the game, showering it with praise upon release and declaring it the best Dreamcast game to date, and also the best Resident Evil game to date. Sadly, the Dreamcast wasn’t long for this world, and seeing the writing on the wall, Capcom would port the game to the PS2 a year later, followed by a GameCube port in 2003, and ports to just about every modern game console since. Despite not having “3” in its name, Code Veronica has stood the test of time as part of the mainline Resident Evil series, and is an absolute must play for fans of the survival horror genre.
Boxxle (Game Boy)/Kwirk (Game Boy)/Boxyboy (TurboGrafx-16)/Shove It!…The Warehouse Game (Genesis) – Released between Feb. 1990 and March 1990: Sokoban Wiki Page
As I archive and collect more and more classic games, and review their history, I start to notice trends in the industry. I was surprised to find out that in the early months of 1990, there was not just one, not just two…but FOUR games all about pushing crates, and each was made by a different developer. Generally, in this era, you’d see four Batman games all come out for each different system, but they’d almost always be made by the same company and called the same thing. That isn’t the case for crate pushing games, which, by they way, are actually all variations on a 1982 game called Sokoban. Created by Hiroyuki Imabayashi for Japanese PCs, this simple puzzle game had players moving boxes around the screen, trying to get them to land in specific points. Players would have to do this in, usually, a very specific order, else they risk trapping the boxes in corners, or stuck in various ways that they are no longer movable. The game has its roots in old puzzle games of the past incorporating elements of logic puzzles, slide puzzles, and transport puzzles, to create something wholly unique. Okay, so this genre had been around for eight years, why now release so many in such close proximity to one another? One word, Tetris. In just a few short years, the video game world had been transformed due to Alexi Pajitnov’s brilliant creation, leading to a demand for more puzzle games. This led to companies going out and finding old concepts and reworking them for modern video game systems.
With its casual appeal, the Game Boy was the perfect system for this kind of puzzle craze, but I want to discuss the console versions first. While the NES sort of had this type of game when Adventures of Lolo came out a few months earlier, the genre had TWO 16 bit versions, because you gotta have those sick ass graphics. Boxyboy for the TurboGrafx-16 was one of the few to actually be created by the original game developers, Thinking Rabbit, and would eventually lead to an arcade port. There were 250 levels here, with groups of them taking place in different countries; cool. The Sega Genesis version kept up with the more “adult” and “in your face” nature of the console, and developer NCS Corporation called their game Shove It!…The Warehouse Game. While this only featured 160 puzzles, they were seen as harder than the Boxyboy puzzles, with more elaborate room designs.
Getting back to the Game Boy, the one that seemed to come out before all others was Boxxle, developed by, hey, look at that, Thinking Rabbit. Well I do declare, I’m tickled, good to see them getting two games out based on their own idea. Like Boxyboy, however, the game is rather generic. Players control a nameless warehouse worker who must move boxes around a room, etc., etc., you know the drill. Seeing as this was the Game Boy, though, there seemed to be a bigger fervor for the puzzle game craze, so of course a second box pushing game was made, but this one was different. Featuring not just crate pushing, but also hole filling and turnstile rotating, with a funky, fresh 90’s mascot to boot, the delightful Kwirk was released in March of 1990. With his killer shades and spikey green hair, the tomato man Kwirk was a strange bedfellow to the rest of the Sokobon genre. However, you have to give developer Atlus credit for trying something different, because while Thinking Rabbit had the one idea and ran with it, Atlus went out of their way to not only add new elements, but give the character some personality. Atlus would support Kwirk and his vegetable buddies in a slew of titles, including a sequel called Amazing Tater, and an action RPG called Spud’s Adenture. Kwirk even makes an appearance Shine Megami Tensei: Nocture as a playable mini-game. Kids of a certain age may also remember seeing Kwirk, along with a string of other characters from Acclaim titles, in the short lived The Power Team cartoon show on Johnny Arcade’s Video Power. Sokoban games are also not dead, as this genre continues to see love, with the most recent entry being Push The Crate for Switch in November of 2019. Keep the dream alive, folks.
I was going to just try and post the opening to The Power Team, but then I found this full episode of Video Power (the second season would turn into a game show). I have so many fond memories of watching this before school in the 3rd and 4th grade, the nostalgia is thick: