*IT’S LAUNCH WEEK!!!*
After months of speculation, rumors, anticipation, and pre-order SNAFU’s, we will all finally be able to get our hands on the brand new consoles from both Sony and Microsoft, well, as long as you have a good internet connection (and the bread to thrown down). Sony, Microsoft, and a few retailers including Wal-Mart, have all said that you will not be able to buy the consoles in stores through at least the holiday season, purchases must be made online and either shipped to your home or a store for pick up. This is a preventative measure to help alleviate long lines as we all try to play games in the time of
cholera COVID-19, but it could also be seen as a way to save face and control inventory for two items that are sure to be high in demand but sparse in supply. I don’t want to scare anyone away from trying to get one of these consoles this year, I’m sure you’ll be able to find one if you’re persistent but, based on all of the pre-release reviews, if you aren’t able to snag one quickly then it doesn’t appear you’ll be missing much if you already own a PS4 or Xbox One. Alrighty, let’s take a quick break for my weekly video announcement before we dive into the thick of it.
I’m going to do things a little differently this week for the Top Releases. For each new console I will separate their games into three categories; New Titles (may include releases also coming to PC and current consoles), Next Gen Ports (contains titles from the current gen that are being ported to the next gen), and Current Gen/Next Gen Ports (contains ports that are coming to PC, current gen consoles and next gen consoles). This will then be followed by what are, in my opinion, the games you should be picking up on day one if you happen to grab one of the new consoles this week. Unlike previous console generations, there are very little actual exclusives coming and, in fact, the PS5 is the only system this week to release games that are ONLY on the PS5. We’ve got a lot to get through, so here we go…
Xbox Series X & S – Releases Nov. 10th
Assassin’s Creed Valhalla – Releases Nov. 10th, The Falconeer – Releases Nov. 10th, Yakuza: Like a Dragon – Releases Nov. 10th, Just Dance 2021 – Releases Nov. 12th, Call of Duty: Black Ops – Cold War – Releases Nov. 13th
Next Gen Ports
Borderlands 3 – Releases Nov. 10th, Devil May Cry 5 Special Edition – Releases Nov. 10th, Dirt 5 – Releases Nov. 10th, For Honor – Releases Nov. 10th, Fortnite – Releases Nov. 10th, Maneater – Releases Nov. 10th, NBA 2K21 – Releases Nov. 10th, Warhammer: Chaosbane – Releases Nov. 10th, Watch Dogs: Legion – Releases Nov. 10th
Current Gen/Next Gen Ports
Gears Tactics – Releases Nov. 10th, Manifold Garden – Releases Nov. 10th, Observer: System Redux – Releases Nov. 10th, Planet Coaster – Releases Nov. 10th, Tetris Effect Connected – Releases Nov. 10th
You Should Pick These Up
We’ve reached an interesting point in the life of the Xbox. With the surprise success of Game Pass, and Microsoft’s commitment to backwards compatibility and the PC, the Series X & S have zero exclusive titles coming out on their machine. While the title Halo: Infinite was scheduled to launch with the console, it would have also been on PC, leaving Xbox supporters in a strange situation. Instead of saying “Buy the Xbox because it has games X, Y, & Z“, they’re saying “Buy the Xbox because Game Pass allows you play games X, Y, & Z for free“. Is this enough to keep them competitive in the Ninth Generation? I guess we’ll see. As for what you should be picking up, I think your top two choices are Yakuza: Like A Dragon and Gears Tactics. In a shrewd move, Microsoft got timed exclusivity on Yakuza, ensuring the PS5 version won’t arrive until next Spring, meaning that if you want to play Like A Dragon with the best possible graphics you’ll need to pick up a Series X. Gears Tactics is probably the highest profile Microsoft console exclusive, however you will still be able to play the game on your Xbox One, and it has also been available on PC since April of 2020. What else should you get? Check out Assassin’s Creed Valhalla, Devil May Cry V Special Edition, The Falconeer, and another timed console exclusive, Tetris Effect Connected.
PlayStation 5 – Releases Nov. 3rd
Assassin’s Creed Valhalla – Releases Nov. 12th, Astro’s Playroom – Releases Nov. 12th, Bugsnax – Releases Nov. 12th, Demon’s Souls – Releases Nov. 12th, Godfall – Releases Nov. 12th, The Pathless – Releases Nov. 12th, Sackboy: A Big Adventure – Releases Nov. 12th, Spider-Man: Miles Morales – Releases Nov. 12th, Call of Duty: Black Ops – Cold War – Releases Nov. 13th
Next Gen Ports
Borderlands 3 – Releases Nov. 12th, Devil May Cry 5 Special Edition – Releases Nov. 12th, Dirt 5 – Releases Nov. 12th, For Honor – Releases Nov. 12th, Fortnite – Releases Nov. 12th, Maneater – Releases Nov. 12th, NBA 2K21 – Releases Nov. 12th, Overcooked: All You Can Eat – Releases Nov. 12th, Warhammer: Chaosbane – Releases Nov. 12th, Watch Dogs: Legion – Releases Nov. 12th, WRC FIA World Rally Championship – Releases Nov. 12th
Current Gen/Next Gen Ports
Observer: System Redux – Releases Nov. 12th, Planet Coaster – Releases Nov. 12th
You Should Pick These Up
While the Xbox Series X/S is lacking in the exclusives department, Sony is able to actually give us brand new games on launch day that you can’t get anywhere else, sort of. If you pick up a PS5 then you should 100% get Demon’s Souls, the sole launch title that is 100% exclusive…unless you played it on PS3. Yeah, yeah, it’s basically a remake, but still, even the exclusive title isn’t even, technically, a new game. Still, Sony has multiple console exclusives, including Astro’s Playroom which, damn, that’s a brand new game too, so Sony has two, way to go! I also recommend picking up Sackboy: A Big Adventure, Godfall, and of course Spider-Man: Miles Morales. The good news for PS4 owners is that Miles Morales will also be available on that console, so it isn’t immediately necessary to go out and get a PS5 in order to play it. Of course I also want to recommend Assassin’s Creed Valhalla and DMC V: Special Edition, the delightful looking Bugsnax, and if you want more console exclusive ports you should check out Overcooked: All You Can Eat.
The OTHER Top Releases:
Destiny 2: Beyond Light (PC/PS4/Stadia/Xbox One) – Releases Nov. 10th
With it’s third major expansion for Destiny 2, Bungie is showing that they are still committed to their looter shooter and its audience. Set on Jupiter’s moon Europa, Beyond Light will have players embracing the darkness (similar to FF XIV’s Shadowbringer expansion) and interacting with characters and locations from the original Destiny. Bungie has said that this is going to be a new era for the series, one that will see content cycled in and out of play based on popularity and story needs. If you haven’t played Destiny in a while I’d suggest you jump back in and see what it has to offer. Hey, at least it’s better than Anthem.
Fuser (PC/PS4/Switch/Xbox One) – Releases Nov. 10th
Music game masters Harmonix are back with the DJ inspired title Fuser. Unlike their Rock Band games, this requires no fancy peripherals to play, just a regular controller and a wild imagination. Loosely based on their tabletop gam DropMix, players are able to take various musical instruments and combine them together to create a brand new mix. Splice together the vocals of “Rehab”, add the drum beat from “Bad Guy”, throw in the guitar from “Rock The Casbah”, speed up or slow down the tempo, and pray that the crowd goes wild for it. Maybe they hate it. That’s okay, just bring in the drums from “Can I Kick It?” and watch them go wild.
Sakuna: Of Rice and Ruin (PC/PS4/Switch) – Releases Nov. 10th
Developer Edelweiss, the team behind Astebreed, are back with a brand new side scrolling adventure. Players take on the role of Sakuna, a Harvest Goddess who has been banished to an island full of demons. Using techniques learned from her father, a Warrior God, and her mother, another Harvest Goddess, Sakuna must cleans the island of evil, while also taking the time to ensure that the rice harvest is completed without a hitch. It looks fantastic and I think will easily be one of the sleeper hits of the Fall.
XIII (PC/PS4/Xbox One) – Releases Nov. 10th (Switch version coming in 2021)
Originally released in 2004 for the PS2, GameCube, PC and Xbox, XIII has been completely remade from the ground up for a modern audience. Based on the 1984 graphic novel, XIII is the story of a man with amnesia who is thrust into a world of espionage and intrigue, culminating into a plot to overthrow the U.S. government.
Game & Watch: Super Mario Bros. – Releases Nov. 13th
What does Nintendo do when Microsoft and Sony release the most powerful home consoles ever made? They release a tiny handheld from the 80’s that can play Super Mario Bros.
Kingdom Hearts: Melody of Memory (PC/PS4/Switch/Xbox One) – Releases Nov. 10th
Harmonix isn’t the only developer to be putting out a music game this week, as fans of the Square Enix franchise Kingdom Hearts are in for a treat. With a story that is set after the events of KH III, players will find themselves pressing buttons in time to the music in order to defeat a host of monsters and villains as they try to uncover the ultimate truth about…something. Hey, if you want to just watch the cutscenes on YouTube I wouldn’t blame you.
Ports and Re-releases:
Need For Speed: Hot Pursuit Remastered (Switch) – Releases Nov. 13th
Last week’s top game of the week is now making its way to Switch, allowing you to play a high speed chase while actually being in a high speed chase. What a world.
The Sims 4: Snowy Escape (PC/PS4/Xbox One) – Releases Nov. 13th
In this latest expansion for The Sims 4players will be able to enjoy all of the wonder and majesty of living in a cold weather climate without actually having to LIVE in a cold weather climate. This game comes with a slight bit of controversy as a few items from Japanese culture that offended Korean players have been removed or altered. If you know anything about gamers it’s that they are easily upset when it looks like things are being censored to placate the offended, so expect your weird uncle to bring this up at Thanksgiving Zoom dinner because he knows you have a…what was it again, the Intendo, or the Xbox 2, or whatever? Do they still make Space Invaders?
Everything else (PS5 and Series X/S versions not noted here):
- Assassin’s Creed Valhalla (PC/PS4/Stadia/Xbox One) – Releases Nov. 10th
- The Falconeer (PC/Xbox One) – Releases Nov. 10th
- Gears Tactics (Xbox One) – Releases Nov. 10th
- Observer: System Redux (PC) – Releases Nov. 10th
- Planet Coaster (PC/PS4/Xbox One) – Releases Nov. 10th
- Tetris Effect Connected (PC/Xbox One) – Releases Nov. 10th
- Yakuza: Like a Dragon (PC/PS4/Xbox One) – Releases Nov. 10th
- Bugsnax (PC – Epic Games Store/PS4) – Releases Nov. 12th
- Godfall (PC – Epic Games Store) – Releases Nov. 12th
- Just Dance 2021 (PS4/Switch/Xbox One) – Releases Nov. 12th
- The Pathless (Apple Arcade/PC/PS4) – Releases Nov. 12th
- Sackboy: A Big Adventure (PS4) – Releases Nov. 12th
- Spider-Man: Miles Morales (PS4) – Releases Nov. 12th
- Call of Duty: Black Ops – Cold War (PC/PS4/Xbox One) – Releases Nov. 13th
Notable Releases from 10, 20 and 30 years ago:
Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood (PS3/Xbox 360) – Released Nov. 16th, 2010: Wiki Link
Ubisoft’s Assassin’s Creed franchise got a much needed shot in the arm when part 2 arrived in 2009. Not only did it have a wider variety of things to do in its open world, it featured the highly charismatic Ezio Auditore da Firenze as its new protagonist. With it’s follow up entry, Brotherhood, the team at Ubisoft Montreal continued to refine the series and delivered one of its finest entries. The opening minutes of the game pick up immediately after the events of Assassin’s Creed II, with Desmond and his cohorts fleeing the Templars’ attack and settling in the ruins of Villa Auditore. From there, Desmond re-enters the animus and players are taken back to the end of Ezio’s story from AC II as he exits the vault, confused about what he saw. With a new quest of finding the Apple of Eden, players are sent four years into Ezio’s future as he seeks the relic, which is key to the present as it will hopefully stop the impending 2012 cataclysm that threatens to wipe out much of humanity. As Ezio begins his search for the Apple of Eden, he realizes that this task is too big for him to take on alone and will require the help of many assassins. This is where the “Brotherhood” portion of the titles comes in, as Ezio spend much of the game recruiting and training multiple assassins who can help in battle, as well as go on various missions that lower Templar influence around Europe as well as increase Ezio’s fortunes. With a greater emphasis on a large group of assassins, Ubisoft took this as a chance to inject some multiplayer into the franchise, allowing players to take on the role of a “templar in training” as they enter the animus to live the memories of long dead Templars and gain their knowledge and skills. When it release, Assassin’s Creed Brotherhood was met with critical acclaim, even earning a perfect 10/10 from Eurogamer. High praise was given to the game’s multiplayer, in particular, helping to elevate the game as one of 2010’s best offerings. Not to be outdone, the single player campaign was rightly praised for its griping story and deftly handled mature themes. The writing was so impressive that the game even won the Writer’s Guild of America’s award for Videogame Writing. Ezio’s journey would continue in one more game, Assassin’s Creed Revelations, and the franchise as a whole is still going strong to this day (albeit with varying degrees of critical reception).
Final Fantasy IX (PlayStation) – Released Nov. 13th, 2000: Wiki Link
With 1987’s Final Fantasy, series creator Hironobu Sakaguchi had taken countless players to unique worlds filled with monsters, treasure, moogles, and chocobos. Telling engaging stories that made you laugh, cry, and think, his commitment to friendship and love as a driving force for good is what makes these titles so special. Perhaps sensing that his time at Square was coming to an end, and seeing as FFIX was going to be the last one in the franchise to come out for the PlayStation, Sakaguchi and his team decided to make a game that harkened back to the past and paid homage to all that they had done with the series up to that point. This celebration of the past also saw the franchise go back to its high fantasy, medieval roots, putting players into a world filled with knights and castles, as opposed to the more futuristic settings seen in Final Fantasy VI, VII and VIII. The opening hours of the game find players following a young bandit named Zidane who, with the help of gang, is on a mission to kidnap the princess of Alexandria. What they don’t know is that princess Garnet is getting restless at home and does not approve of her mother Queen Brahne’s erratic behavior, fearing it could lead to war. Garnet at first tries to escape, but eventually decides to go along with Zidane and the bandits in order to reach a friend Cid Fabool in the nation of Lindblum. As Garnet and Zidane plan their escape, a middle aged knight named Steiner makes it his sworn duty to rescue the princess and return her to Alexandria. When he learns that Garnet has no intention of going back he becomes agitated but agrees to help her as it is his job to keep her safe. Finally, in the middle of all this hubbub we are also introduced to a young black mage named Vivi who, through a series of circumstances, becomes wrapped up in the kidnapping/escape plot and heads off to Lindblum with the rest of the group. In an elaborate and beautifully animated scene, Zidane and his gang of bandits attempt to escape Alexandria in their airship, but are attacked by Queen Brahne’s army who shoot giant hooks into the ship. As they come crashing down, the four main protagonists join forces and begin the walk to Lindblum. Along the way the stumble upon a small farming town and learn that they are manufacturing an army of black mages for Alexandria, confirming Garnet’s worst fears that her mother is gearing up for an all out war against their friends and allies. What will follow is a nearly 40 hour epic that sees Zidane, Garnet, and Vivi all go through various existential crises’ that will test their courage, their will, and their friendships. It’s considered by many critics and players to be the finest Final Fantasy game ever made, with a story that resonates just as much now as it did back in 2000.
Development began on Final Fantasy IX in the middle of development on Final Fantasy VIII. When that title released in 1999, the team was able to see some of the negative feedback it received, including a confusing story and overly complex battle system. To combat this, the team decided to simplify things a bit and, once again, return the series to its humble roots. That isn’t to say there isn’t depth to the combat, but it felt more like a Final Fantasy game than perhaps part VIII did. For FFIX, the big change when it came to abilities and spells was its connection to the player’s equipment. Certain weapons and armor would bestow an ability on each player, for example, a magical rod would allow Vivi to cast fire, and a particular shirt would allow Zidane to mug. While that item is equipped you have access to that ability, and over time, as you defeat monsters, you’ll fill up a gauge that, when completed, allows you to use that ability even when that weapon/piece of armor is no longer equipped. Synthesis of new gear is also a major part of FFIX as well, allowing you to create very strong weapons and armor with unique abilities by combining old pieces, making selling that old sword for gil or keeping it in your inventory a big part of the strategy. Another part of making the game feel like a throwback is found in its art style and music. While the character models for VII and VIII were more realistic, the designs for IX were inspired more by cartoons and comics. While characters were more or less human, their bodies and features were exaggerated to be more comical. As for the music, since this game was leaning heavier on European fantasy, composer Nobuo Uematsu found himself writing songs that were softer and quieter, using more European motifs, and in a nod to the past, incorporated musical pieces from previous Final Fantasy games into this new score. Uematsu would go on to call Final Fantasy IX his favorite musical score in the franchise, despite some critics calling it dull.
As I mentioned above, critical reception to Final Fantasy IX was overwhelmingly positive, earning perfect scores from both GamePro and Next Generation magazine, and was only two points away from getting a perfect score from Famitsu. Critics loved just about everything the game had to offer, from its nostalgic return to its roots, to the simplified combat/ability system, to the deep story and character development, to the gorgeous art style and graphics. It wasn’t all roses, of course. Aside from the knock against the game’s music, critics did find that many of the story elements were similar to ones found in previous games (again, due to the nods to the past), a lack luster villain, and an utterly confusing and overall unnecessary card game within the game called Tetra Master. Players responded well to the game but did not turn out for it in the same numbers, with the game selling less copies than both FFVI and FFVII. How much of this was due to the recent release of the PlayStation 2 and how much was related to lukewarm reception to part 8, who know, but I’m sure it had some impact. Despite these misgivings, Final Fantasy IX holds the highest score for the franchise on Metacritic, and is often cited as one of the greatest video games ever made. Thankfully you can find this game on multiple modern consoles, as well as PC, meaning that you can join Zidane and his friends on their epic journey with relative ease. As we near the end of 2020, a year that seen it’s fair share of ups and downs, reflect on Final Fantasy IX’s main theme, “Melodies Of Life” and try to remember that no matter what obstacles you might face, it is your strength, courage, and friends that will get you through it.
Mega Man 3 (NES) – Released Nov. 1990: Wiki Link
Following the success of Mega Man and Mega Man 2, you would think that the team at Capcom would be happy to be moving on to Mega Man 3, but that wasn’t the case. Series creator and producer Akira Kitamura had quit Capcom after completion of part 2, so it was up to his partner Keiji Inafune to take the reins and get part 3 out the door. Despite a relatively fun and carefree development period for the first two Mega Man games, part 3 would be developed in a time of transition at Capcom, with Inafune’s new supervisor being much less receptive to his ideas, and demanding that the game release in a specific window of time. It was this more restrictive working environment, coupled with an overly intense work schedule where Inafune and his team were forced to, in our modern terms, crunch in order to get Mega Man 3 out on time. Inafune was particularly distraught during development, knowing that he and his team were putting out what they thought was an inferior product. At the end of the day Inafune would lament that his time working on Mega Man 1 and 2 were about the joy of creating something, while part 3 was less thrilling and felt more like a mandate.
Despite the behind the scenes turmoil, critics and players were enamored with the title, with Mega Man 3 receiving wide spread acclaim, gaining near perfect scores in just about every Western gaming outlet while, surprisingly, receiving only average reviews from Famitsu (23 out of 40). Critics were impressed with the new slide feature that allowed Mega Man to move quickly across the floor, and they were overly fond of Mega Man’s new robot dog Rush. Taking elements from the numbered items in the two previous games, Rush acted as a kind of assistant that allowed players to reach inaccessible areas and zoom past difficult areas with ease. Mega Man 3, while giving us eight new robot masters, also introduced players to the mysterious Break Man who, it turns out, was actually Mega Man’s brother, Proto Man. Named Blues in Japan, his theme song will likely conjure up many memories for players of a certain age. Proto Man’s inclusion was part of an overall effort by the development team to give the Mega Man franchise a more robust and fleshed out world. With such a positive reaction to the game, EGM would call it the best sequel of 1990, and Nintendo Power readers would vote it into third-place for the top games of 1990. While Inafune and his team might not have had a very good time making this game, it can’t be understated just how popular it was, allowing the “blue bomber” and his pals to continue appearing in games for years and years.
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