We’ve ports galore this week! Wii ports, NES ports, Apple Arcade ports, PC ports, Sega Saturn ports, arcade ports, and much, much more! Hey, since this past weekend was a holiday do you mind if I kind of breeze through these? Oh wait, you can’t read this yet because I’m writing it BEFORE it goes live on Tuesday; LOL. I’ll just do whatever I want, ‘K byeee!
Xenoblade Chronicles: Definitive Edition (Switch) – Releases May 29th
JRPG fans should be rejoicing, as one of the most expensive after-market Wii games (sealed copies can got for as high as $90 bucks) is being ported to the Switch this week, which could, possibly, bring those prices down. Now, if we could just get a port of The Last Story…
Minecraft Dungeons (PC/PS4/Switch/Xbox One) – Releases May 26th
Finally, a Diablo clone for kids and their parents (and I guess weird, childless, adults who know all the words to the Teen Titans Go theme song).
Utawarerumono: Prelude to the Fallen (PS4/PS Vita) – Releases May 26th
If anyone can pronounce the name of this game correctly, in one go, I’ll give you five bucks.
Missile Command: Recharged (PC/Switch) – Releases May 27th
I think this is already available on mobile device, so technically it’s a port, but I already started typing in this block, so, you know. Happy Memorial Day!
Shantae and the Seven Sirens (PC/PS4/Switch/Xbox One) – Releases May 28th
Alright, now THIS definitely already last year on Apple Arcade, but I’m going to wager that since, until I brought it up just now, many of you have probably forgotten that service exists, we’ll just pretend this is a brand new game. Okay? Okay.
Ports and Re-releases:
Phantasy Star Online 2 (PC) – Releases May 27th
Seeing as how states are now starting to loosen restrictions on what can be open, giving all of us reason to once again leave our homes, the thought of playing an MMO right now feels like a prison that I don’t want to return to until the inevitable second, and most likely catastrophic, COVID-19 outbreak in the fall (assuming I’m still alive and not in a Mad Max style fight over water and food). Enjoy those walks on the beach while you still can!
F-117A Stealth Fighter (Switch) – Releases May 28th
The next few titles are all ports for the Switch, and man, if you still had any doubt that Nintendo’s latest console wasn’t one of the greatest retro gaming machines of all time then you haven’t been paying attention. Granted, each of these titles aren’t exactly the old games we’re all shouting for (i.e., Earthbound, Chrono Trigger, Clay Fighter 63 1/3), but they’re all pretty interesting in their own right, and shit, isn’t it just great to see some old, forgotten title get preserved? Take this game, for example. I can’t even remember seeing F-117A Stealth Fighter for rent in a Blockbuster as a kid, but developer Microprose has decided that all of us in the year 2020 deserve another chance to play their late era NES title, and I’m all in.
Game Tengoku: CrusinMix Special (Switch) – Releases May 28th
In case you don’t remember, Sega released their own 64 bit (eh, more like 32×2 bit) system in the mid 90’s called Saturn. It was a strange little system that skirted the line between 2D and 3D and was home to a litany of odd titles that couldn’t find a place between the adult oriented PlayStation and the family-friendly N64. One thing is for certain though, Sega was always the king when it came to SHMUPS, so to get one of the their classic Saturn era games on the Switch is a huge win for retro game enthusiasts out there.
Sega Ages: Thunder Force AC (Switch) – Releases May 28th
Speaking of shoot-em-up goodies, the fabulous Thunder Force AC is coming to Switch as part of the tremendous Sega Ages line of games. As I’ve stated in earlier columns, I don’t really know how much longer this line will continue to release classic titles, but if the last two games we get are this and Herzog Zwei, well, that’s one hell of a closing act.
BioShock/Borderlands/X-COM 2 Collection (Switch) – Releases May 29th
Continuing to show its versatility and ability to surprise with its capabilities, several high profile games from 2K are releasing this week. Now you have the ability to explore Rapture on the toilet; grab loot in Pandora while your S/O watches House Hunters: International; and save the world from aliens while you sit in your car and stare at the ocean from a good distance as you observe the unwashed masses congregate in a cesspool of their own bile, spreading disease and edging us closer and closer to oblivion through their own lack of self-control.
Age of Wonders: Planetfall – Invasions (PC/PS4/Xbox One) – Releases May 26th
I just killed a fly that was buzzing around me and as I was throwing the napkin away that I smashed it with, I got really depressed. Why was I able to destroy this living thing so easily? What makes the world so full of fragility and how come we have the right to destroy it at any moment? Who gave us this power and why are we able to wield it so forcefully and without any sense of the destruction we bring? Anyway, the next expansion for Age of Wonders: Planetfall arrives this week.
Elder Scrolls Online: Greymoor (PC) – Releases May 26th (PS4/XBone Jun. 9th)
Bethesda is probably feeling pretty weird right now promising a year long content drip for Elder Scrolls Online, but here we are. How many elderly people have died because someone wanted a helmet like the guy on the cover of Skyrim that they could glamour their avatar with? Like 75?
Mortal Kombat 11: Aftermath (PC/PS4/Stadia/Switch/Xbox One) – Releases May 26th
There’s a massive new story for Mortal Kombat 11 that I’m sure is just top notch, but all I care about is playing this game as RoboCop. “Dead or alive, you’re coming with me“, classic.
Many Faces (PS4) – Releases May 27th
Let’s Sing 2020 (PS4/Switch) – Releases May 28th
Synaptic Drive (PC/Switch) – Releases May 28th
Those Who Remain (PC, and probably PS4/Xbox One) – Releases May 28th
Notable Releases from 10, 20 and 30 years ago:
While we all excitedly await the release of Bayonetta 3 this week, or next week, or four weeks from now, or 20 weeks from now, or 3 years from now, or today, let’s read about some old titles that certainly helped shape a generation of gamers, much like the band Mudvanye helped shape a generation of dudes who live on Mt. Dew Code Red for breakfast.
Alpha Protocol (PC/PS3/Xbox 360) – Released Jun. 1st, 2010: Wiki Link
By May of 2010, the band Mudvayne had called it quits, creating a vacuum in pop culture that likely led to the title Alpha Protocol, developed by gaming legends Obsidian Entertainment, from reaching its full potential. Co-writer Chris Avellone, director Chris Parker, and producer Brandon Adler (who didn’t get the memo that all the leads should be named Chris) must have been incredibly distraught at the demise of Mudvanye, I mean, how else do you explain such a mediocre, forgettable title? Sure, Red Dead Redemption had just come out, and Obsidian was rushed to complete the project, and Sega seemed completely uninterested in the title, but I’m almost certain that it was the parting of ways between vocalist Chad Gray, guitarist Greg Tribbett, bassist Ryan Martinie, and drummer Matthew McDonough, collectively known as the band Mudvanye, that really brought staff morale to an all time low, leading to an ambitions, but poorly executed spy-thriller RPG. Tepid reviews and poor sales (likely attributed to distraught Mudvanye fans crying into their John Cena “U Can’t C Me” pillow cases) meant that Sega would not greenlight a sequel. While Obsidian generally likes to retain ownership of their original IPs, a previous deal with Disney to create a “dark and twisted” take on Snow White & the Seven Dwarves called “Dwarfs” (this is not a joke) fell through, meaning Obsidian was forced to sign less than generous contract with Sega in order to stay alive. Part of this lopsided contract was that Sega would retain all the rights to the Alpha Protocol IP, allowing them to do whatever they wanted to with it. Like Mudvanye, Alpha Protocol has gained a cult following in the ensuing years, but much to everyone’s disappointment, it seems that 2010 is that last we’d ever see of this strange, mediocre RPG, as well as the strange, mediocre band Mudvanye.
Wario Land 3 (Game Boy Color) – Released May 30th, 2000: Wiki Link
What can I say about this game that Nintendo Magazine System didn’t say about it in July of 2000? I mean, Wario IS fat already, so what’s the deal with a Fat Wario powerup? Maybe the team at Nintendo R&D 1 were so preoccupied with the upcoming release of Mudvanye’s major label debut, L.D. 50, to really think about the fact that they were just making a fat guy fatter; it’s literally the only explanation. While director Takehiko Hosokawa, and producer Takehiro Izushi were busy developing the game, and probably laughing about how their first names are so similar, Mudvanye’s original manager Chuck Toler was helping the band obtain a contract with Epic Records. Critics were very kind to Wario Land 3, giving it the highest ratings of all the Wario Land games, however critics were not so hot on Mudvanye’s debut album, calling it “…pathetic nu-metal drivel…”, and “…musical ebola…”. For what it’s worth, though, Wario Land 3 failed to win any MTV Video Music Awards, while Mudvanye took home the MTV2 Award, which I assume is given out to the band that sounds the most like shit.
Final Fantasy (NES) – Released May 1990: Wiki Link
Unfortunately, dear readers, the band Mudvanye did not exist in 1990, so that’s the end of that joke train. That’s okay though, because the game Final Fantasy did, which would go on to redefine a genre, and give birth to one of the most beloved video game franchises of all time. Final Fantasy’s creator, Hironobu Sakaguchi, was at a crossroads in his career in 1986. In his time at Square, an upstart indie developer and publisher, he had only released a handful of games to mediocre reviews and sales. Feeling like he had picked the wrong industry to work in, Sakaguchi decided that if this was going to be the end of his video game career he’d go out doing something he would enjoy working on; a role playing game. Sakaguchi had been trying, unsuccessfully, to persuade his bosses at Square to make an RPG for a few years, always shooting him down with the idea that RPGs just wouldn’t sell on a console. However, Square’s eventual rival Enix would go on to release their own RPG, Dragon Quest, to not only critical acclaim, but massive financial success. With that game out, Square’s bosses were finally on board with the idea and Sakaguchi went off to create his own game inspired by Wizardry and Ultima. Finding a team to work with him, however, was a bit tricky. You see, Sakaguchi had a reputation for being a bit of a “hard ass” and a tough boss, so working with him on yet another game that was destined to fail was not an enticing proposition. Despite the bad reputation, he was able to get three volunteers to join him on his quest, but that still wasn’t enough, so Square gave him an additional two employees. Calling themselves “The A-Team” this seven person team was poised to make history.
Assigned to design duties were Koichi Ishii and Akitoshi Kawazu, with Kawazu contributing heavily to the battle system. The idea of elemental magic having an effect on certain monsters was incorporated at his behest, taking that, and some of his other ideas (including character creation), from what was being done in Western tabletop RPGs (particularly Dungeons & Dragons). Ishii, however, might have contributed two of the most important aspects to Final Fantasy than any other person, when he suggested that the game center on crystals, and that the artwork be done by an illustrator & manga artist named Yoshitaka Amano. Sakaguchi was hesitant to use Amano for the art as he had never heard of him before, but through happenstance he was looking through a magazine one day and came running to Ishii saying that he wanted the art in the game to look like the images in this magazine; great, Ishii thought, because that’s Yoshitaka Amano’s art, thus the Final Fantasy look was born. Writing duties were given to a freelancer named Kenji Terada, who took a simple outline from Sakaguchi and fleshed it out into the game’s main scenario, and music composition was given to Square’s in-house composer Nobuo Uematsu, which would be his 16th game composition to date. Finally, lead programming fell to an Iranian-American named Nasir Gebelli, who was basically told to just follow the game design concepts and not worry about understanding what he was exactly doing, showing off that dreaded “hard ass” management style Sakaguchi was known for. This rag tag team of misfits set off on a journey to create the greatest fantasy ever known, and with things looking dire at Square, and Sakaguchi’s reputation, it would be their…Fighting Fantasy. Wait, what?
Yes, originally the game was going to be called Fighting Fantasy which, if history hadn’t intervened, would have been one of those Japanese game titles that Perfect Dark director Martin Hollis would have thought was hilariously obtuse. Saving all of us from a terrible name was a tabletop game that had already trademarked Fighting Fantasy, so it was back to the drawing board for a title. Now, the rumor/accepted story is that Final Fantasy got its name for two fairly similar reasons. The first is that if the game was a failure, Sakaguchi would leave the video game industry forever and never return, marking this as his “final” game; the second reason being that Square itself was in financial trouble after becoming an indie developer/self-publisher, and if Sakaguchi’s RPG experiment didn’t work that would be the end of Square, with this being their, quote, “Final Fantasy”. In Japan, Final Fantasy was released on December 18th, 1987. Seminal Japanese video game magazine Famitsu gave the game extensive coverage in the weeks leading up to Final Fantasy’s release, and when it finally hit stores they gave the game a score of 35 out of 40, which for the notoriously picky magazine this was about as good as you would hope to get. The response from Japanese players was overwhelmingly positive as well, with the game selling over 500,000 copies. Nintendo, who had seen a modest hit with their port of Enix’s Dragon Quest (renamed Dragon Warrior in the U.S.) was confident that this time they’d have an even bigger hit on their hands. Taking on the publishing rights for North America, Final Fantasy was released in the U.S. in May of 1990. Due to a strong marketing campaign by Nintendo, the game would go on to sell 700,000 copies in the U.S., making it a profitable, if only modest, success. What this really did, though, was finally cement the RPG, particularly the JRPG, as a viable genre on home video game consoles.
In the U.S., critics and players alike were taken aback by the grand scale of Final Fantasy, as it was unlike anything they had ever seen on a console. Granted, Dragon Warriror, Ys, and Phantasy Star were huge games in their own right, but each of those seemed to carry something that would hold them back from attaining mainstream appeal and acceptance. It wasn’t that Final Fantasy invented something new, per se, they just seemed to refine what was already there. With its brightly colored and more mature looking sprites, as well as a top notch story, Final Fantasy was able to finally give Western audiences a big adventure to sink their teeth into that was fun and engaging. While Japan would get two more Final Fantasy games on the NES (part III had released in Japan only a few weeks before the U.S. got part I), North America wouldn’t get another Final Fantasy title until the Super Nintendo’s Final Fantasy IV (renamed Final Fantasy II). From there the series would continue to flourish under the direction of “hard ass” Sakaguchi until part V, and as producer until part XI. Illustrator Yoshitaka Amano and composer Nobuo Uematsu have worked on every game in some capacity, however their contributions have dwindled over the years, with art duties going to Tetsuya Nomura and others with part VII, and music going to a variety of different composers starting around part X. For thirty years (33 if you’re Japanese), Final Fantasy has been a part of many of our lives, sending all of us to worlds we could only imagine in our dreams, and allowed us to live out our own personal fantasies of love, bravery, friendship, and triumph, against a world that, at times, has seemed poised against us. We can talk about “when the series went off the rails”, or whatever, until the cows come home, but Final Fantasy is part of an elite group of video game franchises that has lasted decades, and shows no sign of going away anytime soon.
If you’d like a totally 100% accurate story of how Hironobu Sakaguchi changed video games forever, check out this classic Mega64 video:
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