How was your Fourth of July holiday? Did you play anything fun? I beat The Last of Us Part II and, unless something truly monumental comes out, that’s my top game of the year, without a doubt. While there are a few gems hitting this week, I can’t really see any of them supplanting TLOU2 as my number one. Anyway, I had drinks with a friend and listened to some Beyonce, like real men do. #dab
Deadly Premonition 2: A Blessing In Disguise (Switch) – Releases Jul. 10th
The first Deadly Premonition was Swery’s ode to the classic TV series Twin Peaks, and based on the trailer above I’d say he’s going for a True Detective homage this time. I haven’t played much of the first game, only a few hours, so I can’t really give much insight into how this game ties into that, sorry. Taking place in both present day Boston and 2005 era small Louisiana town called Le Carre, the game serves as both prequel and sequel, giving further insight into the events of the first game. Grab your skateboard, go bowling, and be sure to consult Diane…I mean Zach, as you solve a mystery in this brand new, open world adventure from one of gaming’s finest (and weirdest) storytellers.
NASCAR Heat 5 (PC/PS4/Xbox One) – Releases Jul. 7th
THE CARS GO FAST IN A CIRCLE!!!
Bloodstained: Curse of the Moon 2 (PC/PS4/Switch/Xbox One) – Releases Jul. 10th
When famed developer Koji Igarashi ran a Kickstarter campaign to create Bloodstained, his spiritual successor to the Castlevania series, one of the stretch goals was to create an NES inspired “mini” title that would act as a precursor to the main game. This led to 2018’s superb Bloostained; Curse of the Moon, a near perfect old school platformer that was, in this writer’s opinion, better than the “real” game. Clearly I was not alone in my assessment of Curse of the Moon, because here we are two years later and the sucker is getting a sequel. Featuring all of the previous characters, as well as three new ones, players will hack and slash their way through multiple levels of finger cramping, button mashing goodness. They also won’t have to go it alone, as the game now features two player co-op, leading to several ways to experience each level. If, for some reason, you skipped the first Curse of the Moon, I would highly encourage you to check that out, and then if you love it (and I’m sure you will) grab this too.
F1 2020 (PC/PS4/Stadia/Xbox One) – Releases Jul. 10th
Last year’s game featured a story mode in which one of the characters was named Devon Butler, which clearly made the game a sequel to Cop and a Half, #dab. This year’s version does not seem to feature that character again, which means this is likely the gritty reboot of the franchise; directed by Zack Snyder.
SWORD ART ONLINE: Alicization Lycoris (PC/PS4/Xbox One) – Releases Jul. 10th
Anime fans are likely excited about this title, as it is the first SWORD ART ONLINE to “…experience SWORD ART ONLINE’s anime storyline in game format…”, so that’s cool, right? I have zero experience with this show/manga, but reading the synopsis reminds of .dot Hack, where some kid from the real world gets sucked into an MMORPG. If you’ve already beaten the last giant JRPG, and need something to fill the void, then why not this?
Ports and Re-releases:
Catherine: Full Body (Switch) – Releases Jul. 7th
Atlus’ 2011 puzzle game/visual novel Catherine made its next gen debut, in a new remixed format, last September on the PS4. It featured new puzzles and a new character who was named, are you ready for this, Qatherine. Now Nintendo Switch owners will be able to join in on the fun! For those not familiar with the original game, you play as a young man named Vincent who is going through an existential crisis after being asked by his long time girlfriend Katherine when he plans on marrying her. Feeling confused and scared at the prospect of settling down, Vincent goes on a bender and finds himself waking up in bed with another woman who, as it so happens, is also named Catherine. As the story progresses, you learn that young men are ending up dead of seemingly bizarre circumstances and Vincent, who has strange dreams in which he must climb a tower of blocks, soon begins to suspect that Catherine may be the cause of this. With complex puzzles that can be quite unforgiving, and a unique, mind-bending story, Catherine: Full Body is a decent title that I would highly recommend checking out if you missed it the first or second time around.
If you thought you were going to get through this week without a Mega64 video, well, you must be new here.
Superliminal (PS4/Switch/Xbox One) – Releases Jul. 7th
The trailer for Superliminal was one of the most mind-bending, surreal things I’ve seen in a long time. For a few months now, PC players have had the honor of exploring this warped, mysterious world, but now all of us console players down in the dirt with all the mud people, just spewin’ bile and shit everywhere, finally get a chance to play this game.
Shakedown Hawaii (Wii) – Releases Jul. 9th (EU only)
One day, developer Vblank Entertainment had a crazy idea; what if they could take 2019’s Shakedown Hawaii, a sequel (?), spin-off (?), to the well received Retro City Rampage, and port to the Wii and Wii U? With this idea in hand, the team set out to see if it was possible and, to their surprise, it totally was! Unfortunately, though, most of us will never get the chance to play this on the Wii since it is both incredibly rare (only 3,000 copies will ever exist), and the title is only being released in Europe (womp, womp). Don’t worry, though, if you are one of the twelve people who own a Wii U, but didn’t buy a Switch, you’ll also get your chance to play this game in just a few short weeks.
Notable Releases from 10, 20 and 30 years ago:
We’ve got a semi-lost entry in a long running JRPG series, a colossally awful misstep in a long running fighting game series, and a one and done entry for a long appreciated action RPG for the NES. Let’s talk about old games!
Dragon Quest IX: Sentinels of the Starry Skies (Nintendo DS) – Released Jul. 11th, 2010: Wiki Link
JRPG fans waited in anticipation, axiously counting the five years that would pass between the PS2’s Dragon Quest VIII and the Nintendo DS’ Dragon Quest IX. Japanese players would receive the game a year earlier (as is usually the case), and their response was overwhelmingly positive, making the wait for North American fans even more unbearable as they patiently awaited their prize. Dragon Quest IX hype was so big that Nintendo spent tons of marketing dollars on the game, making a series of commercials starring Seth Green, holding major promotional events at GameStop and Best Buy, giving it prominent coverage in Nintendo Power magazine, and even dedicating two Iwata Asks segments to the game. The marketing blitz paid off, and Dragon Quest IX became the first title in the series to sell over five million copies (not including re-released versions of previous games). Pundits predicted that this would lead to a Nintendo monopoly of the franchise, which they kind of had, holding onto the series for seven years until Dragon Quest X and XI came to the PS4.
In terms of game play, Dragon Quest IX tried a few different things in comparison to its predecessors. The game had a heavy emphasis on multiplayer co-op, allowing you to play with either AI party members or your friends, and the game’s new treasure maps system allowed you to trade with friends and strangers alike. This multiplayer feature was so popular in Japan that they would open a cafe in the Akihabra district with the idea in mind that people would meet up there to socialize, play together, and trade maps. With this new emphasis on multiplayer, the game is also considered one of the hardest in the series, as Square Enix had found that most of their games had large, online communities, that would help each other out with tips and strategies. Finally, perhaps the biggest change to the gameplay was that there were no longer random battles, with enemies now wandering the map in plain view, allowing players to choose who they fought and when. This style of encounters wasn’t anything new to RPGs, but it was a big departure from the previous Dragon Quest titles, making them one of the only series out there that still employed this somewhat antiquated practice. While every Dragon Quest game is, for the most part, easily accessible on either modern consoles or emulation, part IX is curiously the only title that you can not find today. Perhaps the multiplayer piece is difficult to translate to modern consoles, maybe the controls rely too heavily on the touchscreen, who knows; but with a fairly lackluster DS digital store, your only option right now is to shell out anywhere from $50 to $100 bucks for a physical cartridge. It is what is is, I suppose.
I totally remember this commercial, “It’s a pancho…“
Mortal Kombat: Special Forces (PlayStation) – Released Jun. 30th, 2000: Wiki Link
When Mortal Kombat co-creator John Tobias and the team at Midway released Mortal Kombat Mythologies: Sub-Zero in 1997, they should have stopped there. Despite having decent sales, the title was an absolute mess, with poor controls and a lack of charm, this experiment into platforming was noble, but unnecessary. With a whole slate of titles in mind centering on the characters Jax, Liu Kang, and Baraka, Tobias would begin work on Special Forces, featuring not just Jax, but also Sonya Blade. What eventually shipped out was an even bigger mess than Sub-Zero, with Jax’s outing being seen as half-baked and incomplete because, spoiler alert, it was. Internal issues at Midway would eventually cause Tobias to leave the company in 1999 while development on the game was still going on, and his departure would lead to several things, including Sony Blade, being cut from the final product. I’m sure the team that ended up making the game didn’t want to put out a terrible product, who does, but from what it sounds like, they were basically forced to rush the game to completion so it could make the coveted pre-4th of July release date, I guess? Honestly, what were they hoping for? Would it have really hurt things to give them more time in order to make a Fall release? Maybe Midway knew they had a stinker on their hands and they just thought if they released it in the middle of the Summer it would be forgotten. Well, that mostly worked, it was pretty quickly forgotten but not before it was completely eviscerated by critics. Public reception to the game was so bad that Midway cancelled the Baraka spin-off, and made the team focus on a return to the fighting genre in Deadly Alliance. Eventually the Liu Kang spin-off, Shaolin Monks, would come out in 2005 under the direction of series co-creator Ed Boon (who had nothing to do with Special Forces). That game would release to positive reviews, but there hasn’t really been another action/adventure game in the Mortal Kombat series since then. Instead the games now seem to feature those play styles as features in their fighting games, taking a back seat to what we all really want to do, which is beat the shit out of each other and see buckets of blood spray everywhere. I can easily say to avoid Special Forces, it’s easily the worst game in the franchise.
Despite how bad the game is, this intro is really awesome, making the whole thing even more of a disappointment when it couldn’t live up to its James Bond-esque opening:
Crystalis (NES) – Released Jul. 1990: Wiki Link
Moments before a cataclysmic event plunges the world into chaos and ruin, a young man is placed in a cryogenic sleeping chamber, set to awaken him 100 years later so that he can come out of hibernation and liberate the land from the evil presence. Along the way he will gain guidance and wisdom from an old man, unite and fight for a scattered populace using the powers of Earth, Water, Wind, & Fire, scour a wild and untamed land in an open world full of secrets, and work together with a strong female companion to finally bring down the villain. Sound familiar? The story of Crystalis shares many similarities with Nintendo’s masterpiece Breath of the Wild, they’re clearly two different games, but it’s fun to make the comparisons. Crystalis is an action RPG developed by SNK who wanted to dip their toe into the world of Zelda-like’s. Taking inspiration from an earlier title called Psycho Soldier, the team worked to create an elaborate world that rewarded experimentation and exploration, like Zelda. Critical reception to the game was generally positive, with some critics comparing its themes and story to the Miyazaki film Nausicaä. Players didn’t quite seem to get it, however, and sales were less than stellar. Over the years, however, the game would receive a cult following, regularly showing up on “Best of the NES” lists, and was generally regarded as a hidden gem. The game would receive a Game Boy Color port to mixed reviews for its graphics and sound (both considered inferior), and would eventually end up on modern consoles as part of the SNK 40th Anniversary and the Nintendo Switch’s online NES app. If you’ve somehow avoided this title for the last 30 years I would say now is as good a time as any to give it a try. There is a real depth to the game that, while quaint now, was really special in 1990. Video games were just starting to find out what they could do in terms of story telling and design, with games like Crystalis being a glimpse of what was to come.
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