*Five weeks until the new consoles arrive*
Last week’s big AAA title was from Star Wars, one of the biggest franchises in pop culture history. This week’s big AAA title features Spongebob Squarepants and Jojo Siwa, so, you know, maybe take a breather and catch up on some titles in your back catalog.
Nickelodeon Kart Racers 2: Grand Prix (PS4/Switch/Xbox One) – Releases Oct. 6th (PC in December)
When the first Nickelodeon Kart Racers came out in 2018, it was a bland, fairly boring entry in the cartoon racing mascot genre. It wasn’t as offensively awful as Hello Kitty Kruisers, but somehow couldn’t match the, surprisingly, tighter gameplay of Garfield Kart Furious Racing. One of the main complaints of the first game was that there wasn’t enough tracks, and the game only featured 10 or so characters, with four of them being Ninja Turtles. Well, they heard the fans “loud and clear” (my favorite video game buzz phrase) and have increased the track count to 20, the roster size to 30, plus an additional 70 characters to act as your pit crew, bringing the total number of Nickelodeon characters to 100. I want Donkey Lips, Stick Stickley, Marc Summers, and the pinwheel from Pinwheel to change my tires please, thank you.
Aery: Sky Castle (PC/PS4/Switch/Xbox One) – Releases Oct. 8th
Indie games are pretty sick, right? In this one you get to be a bird.
I Am Dead (PC – Epic Games Store/Switch) – Releases Oct. 8th
In ten years we’re all going to look back on these Annapurna games the same way we look back on the indie films of the mid 2000’s. Is that good or bad? Well, I guess it depends on your interpretation of the statement.
Piofiore: Fated Memories (Switch) – Releases Oct. 8th
People who have played the Japanese version of this visual novel, or Otome game, seem to have mixed feelings about it. It’s apparently a very violent story, with large amounts of gore and terror; perfect for Halloween, but maybe not what you’re looking for in a romance title.
FIFA 21 (PC/PS4/Switch/Xbox One) – Releases Oct. 8th (PS5/Series S/X TBA)
I wonder what they’re going to do with these sports games when the same year they’ve already released a game for comes back around. Like in the year 2120 will the game still be called FIFA 21? #foodforthought #makesyougohuh
The Survivalists (PC/PS4/Switch/Xbox One) – Releases Oct. 9th
The creators of the popular title The Escapists are back with a spin-off/follow-up to that series with The Survivalists. This time, instead of trying to escape prison, you must survive on a deserted island, crafting tools and shelters for you, your friends, and your trained monkeys. It’s a silly sandbox game that hides some fairly deep gameplay under a charming coat of paint.
Baldur’s Gate 3 (early access) (PC/Stadia) – Releases Oct. 6th
Charterstone: Digital Edition (Switch) – Releases Oct. 6th
A Game of Thrones: The Board Game – Digital Edition (PC) – Releases Oct. 6th
Ikenfell (PC/PS4/Switch/Xbox One) – Releases Oct. 8th
Ride 4 (PC/PS4/Xbox One) – Releases Oct. 8th
Ben 10: Power Trip (PC/PS4/Switch/Xbox One) – Releases Oct. 9th
Notable Releases from 10, 20 and 30 years ago:
Medal of Honor (PC/PS3/Xbox 360) – Released Oct. 12th, 2010: Wiki Link
If you play video games there’s a good chance you’ve played as a character who is a member of the military. From the early days of games where you drive tanks and pilot jets, to Konami classics like Jackal and Metal Gear, all the way up to any Call of Duty game, gamers have had to become a soldier. Sometimes there is a strong anti-war message in these titles, like in Kojima’s Metal Gear titles, and other times the military is literally endorsing it like in the America’s Army series. When Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare came out in 2007 it spawned a slew of copy cats, for better or worse, and put players into the shoes of soldiers who were taking part in battles that were still fresh in some people’s minds. In EA’s reboot of the Medal of Honor franchise, developers Danger Close Games and DICE took the series into the modern military world, basing the game (loosely) on a real life 2002 event called Operation Anaconda, specifically the Battle of Takur Ghar (AKA the Battle of Roberts Ridge). It was pretty bold to ask players to relive the events of an, at the time, eight year old battle that was likely still a painful memory for those involved, but EA has to make money, right? Making things slightly more problematic was the multiplayer component, which had one side playing as the U.S. and the other side playing as the Taliban. This real life terrorist organization was still in conflict with the U.S. and its allies, and if you were a member of the military, likely one of the key demographics of this title, why in the hell would you want to play as the enemy you’ve been facing and has, more likely than not, killed someone you knew. EA’s response was pretty boneheaded as well, saying that kids play cops & robbers, cowboys & indians, humans & aliens, so it’s okay to pretend you’re the bad guy every now and then. Reaction to this statement was, predictably, met with scorn and outrage, prompting EA to reverse their decision and refer to the Taliban players as the “Opposing Force“. This still didn’t stop the U.S. Army and Air Force from refusing to carry the game in their stores on base, saying, “Out of respect to those touched by the ongoing, real-life events presented as a game, Exchanges will not be carrying this product…I expect the military families who are authorized to shop the Exchange are aware, and understanding, of the decision not to carry this particular offering“. Despite this ban on military bases, the game still saw record pre-order numbers, and sold over 2 million copies in its first two weeks, but if EA was looking for a CoD killer, they didn’t find it, as the game couldn’t beat Activision’s latest title, Black Ops, and couldn’t even beat 2009’s Modern Warfare 2 in year-end sales. Not only that, but the game even failed to meet the sales of the tile at its height of popularity in the early 2000’s, but that didn’t stop EA from trying again, releasing a sequel in 2012 called Warfighter, to dismal critical reception and even more dismal player reception. The franchise is on ice for now, with EA and DICE focusing on Battlefield for their military shooter needs. It’s a bit sad to see this once beloved franchise spearheaded by film legend Steven Spielberg turn into this garbled mess of dude-bro machismo that hit just a little too close to home.
Ogre Battle 64: Person of Lordly Caliber (N64) – Released Oct. 7thth, 2000: Wiki Link
Despite having a glut of RPGs on the NES and SNES, the N64 was pretty barren when it came to them. With Squaresoft and Enix both moving their franchises to the PlayStation, N64 owners had to be satisfied with titles like Quest 64 and Aidyn Chronicles for their RPG fix. It’s a bit strange, yet wonderful, that they were able to get the next installment of the more niche, yet still beloved, Ogre Battle series. This third entry in the series, subtitled Person of Lordly Caliber, continues the series’ Star Wars homage by calling this the 6th chapter, despite there not being five games released before this (the second game is also the 7th chapter, to make it more confusing). Set around the same time as the events of the second game, players take control of a rookie knight named Magnus who, along with his rival Dio, are tasked with helping quell an uprising by a group of rebels. The prologue ends with Magnus trying to stop a superior officer from executing a rebel leader, but is pushed aside and told to follow orders. Magnus, becoming more disenfranchised with the kingdom he is sworn to protect, eventually joins the rebel’s cause and fights against those in power who would oppress the common people. Originally conceived by series creator Yasumi Matsuno as a more traditional, “main stream” RPG, the higher-up’s at developer Quest wanted to continue down the more niche route of the first two games, prompting Matsuno and much of his team to quit and join Squaresoft where they’d make Final Fantasy Tactics. With a new team on board, they started throwing in a bunch of new ideas, while at the same time taking some of Matsuno’s suggestions to heart, marrying the niche gameplay of the first title, and the more streamlined style of the second. The game is massive for the N64, holding the record as the second largest cart in the console’s library (the largest is debated between Resident Evil 2 and Conker’s Bad Fur Day).
As with most RPGs, players are able to create a party of characters with which to do battle, however these characters are leaders of a squad that consist of several types of troops. Basic knights and archers are available, as well as dragons and other monsters/beasts. Players can equip weapons and armor on everyone, and they can arrange their placement on a small grid for when they conduct battle. There are so many systems and things to check that it can be pretty overwhelming, but incredibly deep for people who are geeks about stats. The flow of game is, for the most part, story driven cutscene, mission briefing, squadron upkeep, area control, and battles. Unlike other RPGs, players have very little control over their units once they are in battle. You can tell the unit to move to a specific area, but once they engage with the enemy you are mostly just an observer in the battle. Your only choices are how they should fight, meaning do they focus on the squad’s leader, the weakest enemies, the strongest enemies, or make their own decision. It’s jarring at first, but once you understand how the system operates, you see how important the squadron upkeep phase is, because there’s not a whole lot you can change once the mission starts. Critical reception to the game was good, with the game receiving high scores from just about every major gaming outlet (GamePro seemed to dislike it, but, whatever…), and Nintendo Power magazine would call it the 111th best game in it’s 2006 Top 200 Games List. This would be the last console release of an Ogre Battle game, with it’s two follow-up titles coming out on the Neo Geo Pocket Color and the Game Boy Advance. In 2002, Quest would sell the rights to Ogre Battle to Squaresoft, and its teams would join up with some of their former colleagues to work on various Final Fantasy Tactics games, including series creator Yasumi Matsuno who worked as a freelance employee on the Tactics Ogre remake for the PSP. This series, like many others, is currently on ice. The only remnants of it left are virtual console releases of the two Nintendo titles and any physical copies of the other games that might be floating around second-hand stores. With Nintendo focused on Fire Emblem, and Square Enix focused on FF Tactics, it’s likely we’ll never see a new entry in this series again…but you never know…
The Secret of Monkey Island (PC) – Released Oct. 1990: Wiki Link
Riding high on the success of Maniac Mansion, Ron Gilbert would look to Disneyland for inspiration for his next game, the pirate adventure The Secret of Monkey Island. I’m not going to go into too much detail here as our good friend (and Patreon subscriber, TYVM) Singing Brakeman has already compiled a fantastic history of the game in Franchise Festival #47. Instead I’ll discuss CGA, EGA, and VGA graphics, how fun! Back in the 80’s, instead of figuring out the best amount of RAM in your video card to get optimal ray tracing, you had to decide if you wanted a processor that supported 8 colors, 16 colors, or 256 colors. As I mentioned last week in regards to Wing Commander, PC games were on the verge of adopting VGA (and soon SVGA) as the standard for graphics. However, many people still had older devices, so what would you do, tell them to fuck off and buy a new machine? Eventually, yes, progress is progress, but for those right on the edge of the line you still wanted to make sure they could play your game. Releasing first in October of 1990 were the 8 and 16 color versions of the game (CGA/EGA) allowing players with older machines to split their sides open at the hilarious writing of Gilbert and two new names to the gaming industry, Tim Schafer and Dave Grossman (we’ll try to forget that Orson Scott Card also helped write some of the game too…). If you watch the video embedded below you’ll see some striking differences between each game. The CGA version is hideously ugly, featuring backgrounds that look like a mess of black and blue, and making the ghost characters all but disappear when they are on screen. The EGA version, on the other hand, is much better looking than I would have anticipated, with a good amount of color differences and being much brighter than the CGA/VGA versions, but is lacking in fine detail and looks sort of flat. The VGA version, which would arrive in December of 1990, is a gorgeous looking game for the time, and is a living testament to just how good pixel art can be; need proof, just look at the close-up portrait of the fat pirate, it’s beautiful. The title was a critical smash when it released and spawned a long running franchise. Schafer and Grossman were praised for the writing and programming abilities and as a reward got to create their own game, a follow-up to Maniac Mansion called Day of the Tentacle. Ron Gilbert would leave LucasArts after the release of Monkey Island 2 to create Humongous Entertainment, with Grossman also joining him to create the popular children’s game Pajama Sam. Tim Schafer would continue on at LucasArts releasing the critically acclaimed Full Throttle and Grim Fandango, before leaving and starting his own company called Double Fine. Graphics have come a long way since the late 80’s, and just like then we’re finding ourselves on the cusp of a new era in audio and visuals that we will one day look back on and say, “man, that looks like shit“.
One final note…
If there’s anything I love more than video games, it’s music. Van Halen, and Eddie’s playing are some of my earliest memories. My mom would play 1984 non stop in the car when I was a toddler, and that music left a life long impression on me. So long Eddie, thank you for the memories.
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