The countdown continues to the biggest event of 2020, as the Series S/X and PS5 both drop in seven weeks, oh, and of course the fate of our country, and potentially humanity.
Serious Sam 4 (PC/Stadia) – Releases Sep. 24th (Consoles in 2021)
Croteam’s Serious Sam franchise is almost 20 years old, and while you might think they’ve been slacking off with only four titles in the series, there are (roughly) fourteen games across pretty much every game platform that has been around since 2001. Not too shabby. However, it is nice to finally see a new numbered title, as opposed to a spin-off, it makes you feel like things are progressing, even though things haven’t changed too much. Serious Sam has always been about over the top, ultra violence that takes the original Doom’s formula and adds a bit of Duke Nukem humor without the sex stuff. In a world before Bethesda’s recent Doom entries, Sam was the go to place for fast paced first person shooters. Can they still find a place in this now crowded genre? Sure.
13 Sentinels: Aegis Rim (PS4) – Releases Sep. 22nd
Developer Vanillaware is well known for their gorgeous looking games that take place in fantasy settings, however with 13 Sentinels they are changing things up a bit. While the art style is still beautiful, the game take places in 1980’s Japan, where you control 13 different characters as they unravel a mystery that will take them across time. When the game released in Japan in 2019 it was initially a financial failure, but strong word of mouth kept it in the top 30 chart for several months and even led to shortages of the game. U.S. reviewers are already calling it one of the best games of the year, so maybe don’t sleep on this one.
Tennis World Tour 2 (PC/PS4/Xbox One) – Releases Sep. 24th (Switch TBA)
Which button let’s me nail a volunteer in the neck with a tennis ball?
Mafia: Definitive Edition (PC/PS4/Xbox One) – Releases Sep. 25th
The original Mafia was a decent, but flawed, GTA clone when it arrived in the early 2000’s, so normally I’d be glad to see a remaster. HOWEVER! The Mafia 2 remaster that came out a few months ago is one of the buggiest pieces of shit I’ve ever spent sixty dollars on, so the thought of playing this fills me with an existential dread that would make Lovecraft lose sleep. Might be good though.
Port Royale 4 (PC/PS4/Xbox One) – Releases Sep. 25th
It’s been a while since we’ve had a city-builder/sim style game come out, so I’m looking forward to putting this on my Steam wishlist and buying it in four years.
Ports and Re-releases:
Halo 3 ODST – Master Chief Collection (PC) – Releases Sep. 22nd
Bungie’s neo-noir, jazzy mystery game is making its way to the Master Chief Collection for PC this week. Now there’s just one more title left in the collection, Halo 4, which 343 promises will be out before the release of Halo Infinite.
Rebel Galaxy Outlaw (PC – Steam/PS4/Switch/Xbox One) – Releases Sep. 22nd
If you aren’t a fan of the Epic Games Store, or you like playing your games on consoles, the Wing Commander-esque Rebel Galaxy Outlaw is now finally available everywhere. A prequel to 2015’s Rebel Galaxy, players will engage in dogfights in space and meet a colorful cast of characters all with a wild west backdrop, kind of like Firefly.
Rollercoaster Tycoon 3: Complete Edition (PC/Switch) – Releases Sep. 24th
I was never a big fan of the 3D Rollercoaster Tycoon games, and I can’t imagine that will change with this remaster…HOWEVER, I am willing to give it a try on PC for the right price.
Panzer Dragoon (Remake) (PC) – Releases Sep. 25th
This remake of the Sega Saturn classic is now coming to a PC near you. Isn’t that great?!
Untitled Goose Game: Two-Player Update (PC/PS4/Switch/Xbox One) – Releases Sep. 23rd
I hope my daughter and I can look back on this game in 20 years or so and remember how much fun we had playing together. I mean, that’s assuming her government issued husband is okay with me talking to her.
Art of Rally (PC) – Releases Sep. 23rd
Unrailed! (PC/PS4/Switch) – Releases Sep. 23rd
Ginga Force (PC/PS4) – Releases Sep. 24th
Going Under (PC/PS4/Switch/XBone) – Releases Sep. 24th
Tears of Avia (PC/XBone) – Releases Sep. 24th
Vampire: The Masquerade — Night Road (PC) – Releases Sep. 24th
Trollhunters: Defenders of Arcadia (PC/PS4/Switch/XBone) – Releases Sep. 25th
Genshin Impact (Android/iOS/PC/PS4) – Releases Sep. 28th
Notable Releases from 10, 20, and 30 years ago:
Dead Rising 2: Case Zero & Dead Rising 2 (Xbox 360 & PC/PS3/Xbox 360) – Released Aug. 31st & Sep. 28th, 2010: Wiki Link
The success of 2006’s Dead Rising led to, unsurprisingly, a sequel. What was surprising, however, was that the game did not feature protagonist Frank West, nor was it being developed in Japan, as Capcom opted to have Canadian developer Blue Castle Games take over the project. Blue Castle was, at the time, only known for The Bigs, an arcade style baseball game for 2K, so it doesn’t really seem to make much sense at first glance, but over the top arcade-y fun is kind of Dead Rising’s schtick. As noted, the first game’s protagonist, Frank West, is absent from Dead Rising 2, with the game instead focusing on a motorcycle racer named Chuck Greene and his nine year old daughter Katey who harbors a terrible secret, she’s infected with the zombie virus. You see, like the first game, Dead Rising 2 has a timer mechanic, only instead of counting down the days before a chopper arrives, you must get Katey enough of the drug Zombrex before she turns. In the prequel DLC, Case Zero, Chuck and Katey find themselves in a small desert town outside of Las Vegas called Still Water, where Chuck must find some Zombrex before the military arrives to slaughter the infected. Any combo cards you collect transfer over to the main game, as well as your level (up to 5); hmm, what’s that? Oh, combo cards, you probably want to know what those are, well…over the course of both Case Zero and DR2, Chuck will come across a series of cards that are recipes on how to create unique weapons. This is a huge feature of the game, allowing you to tie a couple of chainsaws to a long pole, affix knives and swords to a golf cart, and create a bat full of nails, just to name a few. Again, like the first game, DR2 takes place in a confined area, this time a large shopping district and resort called Fortune City (basically Las Vegas), a tourist destination that has become a haven for people who want to have some fun during the apocalypse, including dozens of psychopaths that terrorize Chuck and the tourists. It’s a balls to the wall, bloody mess of a good time and is probably the last Dead Rising game worth visiting as part 3 went down a more serious path, and part 4, while bringing in some fun, ended up being a poorly made cashgrab that abandoned just about everything that made the original two games special. A 5th game in the series would have had players learning about what Chuck and Katey were up to between parts 2 and 3, but with the closure of Blue Castle (now called Capcom Vancouver) the game was scrapped, leaving the future of the franchise up in the air.
Pokemon Puzzle League (N64) – Released Sep. 25th, 2000: Wiki Link
Nintendo’s 2000 N64 game Pokemon Puzzle League is a follow-up to the 1996 Super Nintendo game, Tetris Attack. Seeing as how the gameplay has nothing to do with Tetris, and likely the return of the license to Henk Rogers and Alexi Pajitnov, Nintendo opted to rename the series “Puzzle League“, because Panel de Pon probably wouldn’t sound very appealing to Americans. Surprisingly, this is one of the few U.S. only Nintendo games, with the title never releasing in Japan, which is pretty strange. For those unfamiliar, Panl de Pon/Tetris Attack/Puzzle League, is played in a rectangle shaped well, similar to Tetris, only this time the blocks appear under you instead of dropping from the top. As more blocks appear, if you are not able to clear them out fast enough, and they touch the top of the well, it’s game over. To clear blocks, players must move a two-piece long horizontal rectangle around the well, swapping their places, in order to get at least three of the same color to match. When this happens they clear and the blocks above fall down, giving you breathing room and the ability to keep going. As the theme of the game is arbitrary, the addition of Pokemon is purely for decoration, adding very little to the actual core gameplay mechanic seen in its SNES predecessor. What did change, however, was the difficulty and speed of the game. With the N64’s higher processing power, developer Intelligent Systems (yeah, the Fire Emblem studio) were able to increase the number of blocks on screen and improve the CPU’s AI when playing battle mode. It’s no joke either, these AI opponents are tough. I played Gary, the first challenger, probably three dozen times and was not able to get past him. While critics loved the game, I can’t imagine too many kids had much fun with this in battle mode, it would have frustrated me to no end (it still does and I’m almost 40). The Game Boy would get its own Pokemon Puzzle League in December of 2000, and while the series would only release new titles up until 2016, it has appeared on every Nintendo console to date through re-releaeses, including the Wii U if (and it’s a big ‘IF’) you purchased Pokemon Puzzle League through the Wii’s Virtual Console. Yes, friends, Pokemon Puzzle League is no longer available for purchase, falling victim to Nintendo’s decision to wipe the Wii’s eShop and all of its games from existence. If you didn’t purchase and download it before the cutoff date, well, you’re screwed. Your only chance now is to play a pretty buggy illegal ROM (buggy depending on the emulator, I suppose). However, if you want to experience Panl de Pon in general, you can play it on the Switch’s Super Nintendo app, or grab the DS or 3DS versions from their eShop’s, or try to find a copy at second hand retailers. It’s an addictive series, and well worth your time if you’re into puzzle games.
Wing Commander (PC) – Released Sep. 26th, 1990: Wiki Link
Every now and then we discuss a game that forever changes the landscape of video games. Titles like The Sims, Final Fantasy, Red Dead Redemption, all of which were so monumental that they left not just an impression on the people who played them in their original release year, but helped shape the direction of the entire industry. This week’s thirty year old title, Wing Commander, is one of those milestone games, a crowning achievement that helped shepherd a whole new way of video game development, for better or worse. By 1990, the IBM PC and its much cheaper cousin the “compatible clone” were starting to enter more and more households due, and with the introduction of SVGA graphics earlier in the year, it was becoming cheaper for consumers to purchase the VGA graphics cards. Not only were graphics getting better, but audio was getting an upgrade as well, with Sound Blaster releasing next generation technology with their powerful audio cards. No longer constrained to the beeps and boops of a PC speaker, developers could now create masterful musical scores and intricate sound effects. This perfect storm of accessibility, cutting edge graphics, and improved sound were the catalyst for Wing Commander’s success. The game was the brainchild of a talented programmer named Chris Roberts, who joined Richard Garriott’s Origin Systems almost directly out of high school. Inspired by the space battles in Star Wars, Roberts decided to center his game on a rookie pilot who was joining the crew of a Strike Carrier called Tiger’s Claw. Players would create this pilot, have them move around the ship in an almost point & click style, gather information, and then accept their next mission. The game’s concept was pretty straightforward, you fly through space in a faux 3D environment and blast away at enemy star fighters. A wingman (or woman) would accompany you on your missions and will often request your help when the enemy has them in their crosshairs. Missions could be failed, and your wingmen could die, altering the storyline and leading you to one of two endings; a good one and a bad one (duh). To serve as the antagonist, Roberts created a race of feline aliens called Kilrathi, which were inspired by a similar race in the Known Space universe. The Kilrathi are a war mongering race that want to exterminate humanity, or Terrans, and in this first game you are tasked with destroying their headquarters in the Vega Sector, a key tactical area of space.
When the game released in September of 1990 it was a huge hit with both critics and players. The scope of the game, and the varied styles of gameplay, were seen as groundbreaking at the time. With a heavy emphasis on cutscenes, the game gave off a “cinematic” vibe, something that video games have been striving for since probably its earliest days. With a fairly deep (yet cheesy) story, this was one of the first times that players felt like they were in a movie. At 22 years old, Chris Roberts had done something remarkable. For its time, Wing Commander was a very expensive game to make, but the fruit of that labor translated into a superb finished product, showcasing the blood, sweat, and tears that he and his team at Origin had made (it should also be noted that video game luminary Warren Spector was a co-producer on the game as well). However, with this kind of success there are now new expectations from the gaming public, particularly on the PC. For most of the 1980’s, PC gaming had mostly been dominated by RPGs, story driven adventure games, and puzzle games, with action titles only making up a small part of the market. Wing Commander changed all of that. When other companies saw that if you threw a bunch of money into a project and gave it mass appeal, the rewards were bountiful. It was at this time you would start to see a shift in the market, with PC games gravitating away from the “thoughtful” games of the 80’s into the more “mindless” shooters of the 90’s. Another side effect of Wing Commander’s success was that with bigger budgets, developers and publishers were less likely to take a chance on something as there was a fear that if you didn’t make a hit, you’d be out of business. That being said, the PC would go on to have some stellar titles in the 90’s (like, a TON), but the niche market was starting to fade out, and by the end of the decade you’d start to see some of the titans of the industry fade away, including Wing Commander, but that’s a story for another day. For now, Wing Commander was the biggest thing in PC gaming, popping out two quick expansions, nine follow-up titles including three numbered sequels, and a big budget Hollywood blockbuster that totally bombed at the box office when it came out in…let me see…ah yes, 1999, the end of the decade. Huh, look at that? If this planet still exists in nine years then we’ll have some interesting stuff to talk about.
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