Meet the new games; same as the old games. If you’re a fan of tactical shooters then these past two weeks must be heaven for you, otherwise this week is just a copy of a last week. I had to shoehorn in a NIN reference somehow.
Gears Tactics (PC) – Releases Apr. 28th
For a while there it looked like Gears Tactics would be the only major isometric turn based tactical shooter on the market in 2020, then Firaxis had to come out of nowhere and release a brand new XCOM game just four days before the release of the Gears franchise’s first foray into the genre. Based on the pre-release chatter, however, there are some differences between this game and XCOM. In Gears Tactics there appears to be a bigger emphasis on speed, with your units being given three actions instead of two, and their movement is not beholden to a grid (sort of), allowing for a greater sense of movement and freedom. Finally, while some of your units can be killed and permanently removed from the game, there are two core main characters that will never leave the game if they die, meaning that you’ll have at least two high level characters all the way through to the end. It’s a bold move for the franchise, going from a third person action game to an isometric tactical game, but I think this is going to be a nice little shot in the arm to the Gears series, which has, surprisingly, lasted this long.
Moving Out (PC/PS4/Switch/Xbox One) – Releases Apr. 28th
I swear I thought this was that Stadia exclusive game that came out when the platform launched last year, but nope. It turns out that two different companies were making physics based games about moving furniture out of houses. It really is a Copy of A week.
Sakura Wars (PS4) – Releases Apr. 28th
The copies continue with a re-boot of the Sakura Wars franchise. A few weeks ago I talked about the last Sakura Wars game to come out in North America, and how poorly it sold, so is this re-boot going to turn the franchise’s fortunes around?
Streets of Rage 4 (PC/PS4/Switch/Xbox One) – Releases Apr. 30th
I get older but the games stay the same, all right, all right, all right. Sure, this looks pretty rad, and I’m certainly going to buy it…and what was I talking about? Who cares, this game has a mode with “retro” graphics and music, so I’m fully on board. #nerd #gamer
Ports and Re-releases:
Indivisible (Switch) – Releases Apr. 28th
One of my favorite hidden gems of 2019 has now been ported to the Switch, which is apparently a surprise to the original developer, Lab Zero Games. I’m sure they knew a Switch port was in the works, how could they not, but it seems they were not privy to any information about a release date, nor was the public at large. This game came completely out of left field today, but hey, at least its finally here! One thing to note, while the game looks and plays great, it is apparently based on an old build of the game which lacks a few new features available on other platforms, and it might have the wrong cover art on the eShop, but it is currently 20% off!
Telling Lies (PS4/Switch/Xbox One) – Releases Apr. 28th
No, that’s not a Zoom meeting on your PS4, it’s the critically acclaimed interactive film Telling Lies by the newest master of the genre, Sam Barlow. Using the power of NSA surveillance, can you figure out why all of these strangers are connected?
Sega Ages – G-LOC: Air Battle (Switch) – Releases Apr. 30th
Pointing to the immense popularity of this column, Sega is doing it’s own entry in the “Notable releases” section, with a nod to their 30 year old arcade hit G-LOC: Air Battle. A spin-off of their already immensely popular After Burner series, G-LOC: Air Battle is a graphical improvement over that title, as well as being touted as the more “extreme” game, with G-LOC standing for “G-force induced Loss Of Consciousness”. That’s pretty sick, bro. The game is mostly played from a first person perspective, but will occasionally switch to the classic third person, Afterburner, view of just behind the jet. In this Sega Ages version, you can also play the game in a mode that is supposed to simulate the unique moving cabinet that you would find in some arcades, which I find very delightful. On a side note, the Sega Ages line of games is wonderful, but reportedly not selling well. If you’re a fan of classic games I would highly recommend picking a few of these up to show your support, we need game history to be celebrated just as much as film and television. Recent notable release Herzog Zwei is slated to be released under the Sega Ages line, but right now has a date of TBD. Let’s do what we can to make sure that classic makes its way to a modern console, what do you say?
Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot “A New Power Awakens – Part 1” (PS4/Xbox One) – Releases Apr. 28th
Hey all you DBZ heads out there, did you finish Kakarot already? Need even MORE content? Well, now’s your chance! Featuring story moments and characters up through the Super Saiyan God Transformation from Dragon Ball Z: Battle of the Gods, the DLC mostly focuses on Goku’s efforts to train for his battle against Beerus. However, while this content technically takes place after the events of the main story, you can take on the challenges at any time meaning that, if you haven’t beaten the game yet, you can create your own remixed version of DBZ with Goku going Super Saiyan God much earlier than normal. Oh, and this content is not available to purchase by itself, you must purchase the season pass if you want access to it right away, otherwise you’ll need to wait a few more months to purchase A New Power Awakens part 1 and part 2 as a complete package.
Snowrunner (PC – Epic Games Store/PS4/Xbox One) – Releases Apr. 28th
Ministry of Broadcast (Switch) – Releases Apr. 30th, already available on PC
Notable Releases from 10, 20 and 30 years ago:
I’m going to be honest with you, only one of these three games is worth playing. Sometimes “notable” doesn’t exactly mean “good”, as you’ll see…right…now…
Iron Man 2 (DS/PS3/PSP/Wii/Xbox 360) – Released Apr. 28th, 2010: Wiki Link
Hey, look, it’s Iron Man 2, one of those notorious movie tie-in games that, surprise, surprise, is a complete piece of shit. Created to coincide with the release of the film, Iron Man 2 follows Tony Stark and his pal James Rhodes, AKA War Machine, as they battle Roxxon and A.I.M. in a series of events that take place after the film. Featuring a story written by Invincible Iron Man comic book scribe Matt Fraction, and voice work by actors Don Cheadle and Samuel L. Jackson, this had a pretty good supporting team. However, while those names are pretty big, the core gameplay is absolute dogshit, as you would generally expect from a rushed, movie tie-in game. You see, folks, video game tie-in’s had been a regular part of gaming since at least the early 1980’s, with the most notorious example being the spectacularly awful E.T. for the Atari 2600, which very nearly destroyed the entire video game industry. Why, then, would companies keep making these trash games? Money, of course! It was a marketing tactic, meant to drum up hype and excitement for the movie it was based on; they didn’t give a shit about the game. If you had a brand new kid friendly property, making a cheap video game was a great way to get your brand in front of the key demographic, and also give your marketing team another thing to brag about when selling ad space. Fox has a new Peter Pan cartoon? Make a shitty NES game. Wayne’s World is a new movie? Make a shitty SNES game. There’s a new Marvel movie coming out? Make a shitty 360 game. The cycle continued like this for about 30 years, then in 2009 something amazing happened; we got a really, REALLY good Batman game. Now I can’t say with 100% certainty that Arkham Asylum broke the cycle, but it did seem that soon after that game you would start to see these cash grab tie-in’s start to fizzle up. Marvel, in general, would only make two more movie tie-in games, Thor and Captain America, while Sony would make two based on their Amazing Spider-Man films, but it did seem that the team at Rocksteady were able to show that you could have a license and ALSO make a good game out of it. While the console movie tie-in’s might have died, they did seem to find some life on another platform, mobile devices, where the games were much cheaper to make, much more lucrative, and much, much less critically scrutinized. Hell, even the Iron Man 3 tie-in game was exclusive to iOS, so until that new Iron Man VR game comes out, the last console game featuring ol’ Shell Head is this crap. You know a game is bad when I long for the flight controls of Anthem, so please trust me when I say to stay the hell away from this garbage.
Wild Arms 2 (PlayStation) – Released May 2nd, 2000: Wiki Link
If you’re in desperate need of a palette cleanser after that awful Iron Man 2 write-up, let me introduce you to a game that I can’t recommend enough, Wild Arms 2. When the first Wild Arms game released in 1997, it was a big hit with players and critics who had been dying to finally play an RPG on the still relatively new PlayStation. For some reason, Sony had a strict “no RPG” policy for the PlayStation in North America, which likely coincided with their aversion to 2D, sprite based games. RPGs weren’t as flashy as 3D action/fighting games, I guess, but eventually demand from players forced their hand and Wild Arms was released. Critics adored the game and said that if it hadn’t come out the same year as Final Fantasy VII, it would have easily been the best RPG of 1997. Well success usually means one thing, sequel, so three years later we’d be treated a bigger, more technically impressive follow-up with Wild Arms 2. Set in the same world as the first game, but having no real ties to it, you play as three different characters: Ashley, a soldier with a heart of gold; Brad, a war hero turned unwitting enemy of the state; and Lilka, a young woman who has just learned how to use magic. The game opens with the three characters all on their own solo adventures that you can play through in any order. After that, you play as Ashley who is recruited into the ARMS program, an elite group of fighters who defend the planet. During the induction ceremony, the ARMS base is attacked by terrorists who turn everyone into demons. Ashley has to then pull a legendary sword out of a stone in order to become human again, typical story. He then, by chance, meets up with the other two characters and they embark on a 40+ hour journey to defeat the terrorists who want to destroy the world. The game plays like any other JRPG, you walk around the overworld map, fight some monsters, go to towns, explore dungeons, and take on massive bosses. There’s isn’t a whole lot different here, it’s pretty basic, but there is an interesting special move mechanic. In order to do spells or special attacks with your ARMS weapon, you must charge up FP either by performing standard attacks, or getting hit by enemies. Once you have enough FP, Lilka can cast spells, and Brad & Ashley can unleash powerful weapon attacks. This seems convoluted, but it’s actually really nice, as you are never beholden to keep your MP up to make magic attacks, your enemies will gladly fill your meter for you when you feel like unleashing devastating elemental attacks. The ARMS, however, do require bullets, so you’ll need to keep Ashely and Brad stocked up on that, but at least their basic attacks are good enough. Reviews were about as good as the first Wild Arms, but did suffer a bit from what some critics viewed as an overly simplified game without a ton of new stuff to offer. It’s middle of the road, but that’s okay with me, sometimes you just want the comfort of the familiar, and Wild Arms 2 gives you just that. One final note, Wild Arms 2, like its predecessor, couldn’t catch a break, as several other high profile RPGs would release in the coming months, including Square Soft classics Vagrant Story, Chrono Cross, Legend of Mana, and Final Fantasy IX, while Enix would out out one of their all time greats, Valkyrie Profile. Add to this the upcoming PS2 release and Wild Arms 2 didn’t stand much of a chance.
Nemesis (Game Boy) – Released Apr. 1990: Wiki Link
Let me clear something up, okay. I know I said only one game was worth playing out of these three, and I stand by that, as Wild Arms 2 is a wonderful hidden gem, but while Iron Man 2 is absolute trash that you must avoid at all costs, Nemesis is only guilty of the crime of being forgettable and generic. In fact, the game is so forgettable and generic that it was renamed Gradius in a subsequent Konami Game Boy collection. Why call the game Nemesis at all then? Well, it’s an international title that was, surprisingly, kept for the North American release. You see, Nemesis is the name given to Gradius in Europe and other territories, and there was an MSX exclusive series of games that only go this title, so seeing as how the Game Boy version held a couple of similarities to those MSX games, the title of Nemesis was chosen; got it? Anyway, while Gradius is well known for it’s extreme difficulty, Nemesis is one of the easiest SHUMPS I have ever played. Not only can you start off the game with 99 lives, the enemy AI is dumb as dirt and there are far less projectiles on screen than is normal (probably due to the memory limitations of the Game Boy). Still, in 1990, to be able to take Gradius on the go must have been a real treat. Just like we see today with the Switch and its convenience of playing our favorite franchises on airplanes, taking NES staples and putting them in the palm of your hand with relative parity in terms of power and graphics must have been mind blowing. Unfortunately your only way to play this is by grabbing an old cart (or emulation), as it has been seemingly scrubbed from existence by Konami.