Phew, the new console hype is finally over, we can breath easy and get back to focusing on the reason we all love this hobby so much, the games. That being said, there still isn’t a compelling title to pick up for the brand new consoles (aside from the fucking delightful Astro’s Playroom), so if you still haven’t had a chance to pick up a PS5 or Series X|S you aren’t really missing too much, trust me. At this time, not having a Switch is probably the biggest thing in terms of not being part of the zeitgeist, as they continually release quality software for that system week after week. Pause for a video and then it’s on to the games!
Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity (Switch) – Releases Nov. 20th
Hyrule Warriros, 2014’s surprise collaboration between Nintendo and Koei Tecmo, is one of the highlights of the Wii U, and is a welcome addition to the Switch library. Taking the fantastic settings and characters from the Zelda franchise and fusing it with the admittedly stale gameplay of the Warriors franchise could have been a massive failure, but instead it helped breath life into the “musou” games and did something different in the hack and slash series. A sequel was never something that I expected to see, but when it was announced it just felt natural, like “oh, duh, of course they’re making a new one“. Just in case you missed the first title, or you have no idea what a “warriors/musou” game is, Hyrule Warriros plays like Koei Tecmo’s Dynasty Warriors series. “What’s that?” you might be asking if you’ve never heard of video games before, well…in a warriors/musou game, players are dropped into a large map that is full of thousands of enemies to slaughter. While the goal of each map/game can be different, they usually involve you having to take over areas of the map to increase your army’s strength and will generally culminate with you having to defeat some kind of end boss. It’s repetitive and grindy, but there’s something so satisfying with mindlessly slashing your way through endless waves of enemies, collecting loot and taking control of different areas of the map. If this is your first journey into warriors/musou world then I hope you’ll enjoy it, as the Zelda stuff makes it all very fun to get through, and if this is your umpteenth time playing a Warriors game then you, like me, are probably very excited to jump back into this grind.
Mars Horizon (PC/PS4/Switch/ Xbox One) – Releases Nov. 17th
The prospect of colonizing Mars has been around since, well, probably the moment humans discovered it. In terms of video games, it’s also not a very new/novel concept. HOWEVER, that isn’t stopping developer Auroch Digital from giving it their best shot. In Mars Horizon, players will choose a nation and do their best to build up their space program and, finally, get their asses to Mars. Will this be a GOTY contender? Probably not, but it could be a fun little diversion to the more big budget fare clogging up the consoles right now.
Mortal Kombat: Kombat Pack 2 & Ultimate Edition (PC/PS4/PS5/Stadia/Switch/Xbox One/Series X|S) – Releases Nov. 17th
You know it’s a slow week when I highlight an expansion and/or re-release up here. Koming this week we get Kombat Pack 2, as well as a brand new “Ultimate Edition” that kontains everything already released, telling people who bought the last kollection, Aftermath, that they’re fucking stupid for jumping in early. Who are we getting with this new pack? Well, you’re finally going to be able to play as the klassic kharacters Rain and Mileena, as well as Right Wing anti-hero, John Rambo. If he thought the trauma of Vietnam was tough, nothing will prepare him for the living nightmare that is Outworld! (BARF).
Pac-Man: Mega Tunnel Battle (Stadia) – Releases Nov. 17th
Woah, a Stadia exclusive?! Following in the footsteps of Tetris 99 and Super Mario Bros. 35 comes the latest entry in the “they made that into a battle royale game” genre, Pac-Man: Mega Tunnel Battle. In this fight to the finish, 64 players will do their best to gobble up the most pellets, fruit, and ghosts as they try to survive in a maze that gets more and more difficult as time passes. Be the last person standing and you’ll be able to scream “wakka wakka, wakka wakka“!
Bridge Constructor: Walking Dead (PC/PS4/Switch/Xbox One/Series X|S) – Releases Nov. 19th
I guess Eugene is the main character of The Walking Dead now? Anyway, as if the title didn’t give it away, you build bridges in this game to help people get from one side of a thing to another. Zombies are in your way and you’ve got to somehow avoid them, or build elaborate, rube-goldberg style traps to kill them. This is the kind of game that the really, really, nerdy kids in high school were into. I, on the other hand, was into role playing games, which are so much cooler, thank you very much.
Ports and Re-releases:
Halo 4 – The Master Chief Collection (PC) – Releases Nov. 17th
We’ve now reached the 343 Industries era of Halo.
Halo: The Master Chief Collection (Series X|S) – Releases Nov. 17th
Who says the Series X|S doesn’t have Halo? Look, it’s right there!! THEY HAVE HALO, FUCK YOU FOR SAYING IT DOESN’T!!
Serious Sam Collection (Switch) – Releases Nov. 17th
Who says the Switch doesn’t have Serious Sam? Look, it’s right there!! THEY HAVE SERIOUS SAM, FUCK YOU FOR SAYING IT DOESN’T!!
Sniper Elite 4 (Switch) – Releases Nov. 17th
My favorite Nazi nutscak destruction simulator is finally coming to Switch. While the earlier Sniper Elite entries are fun enough, there was something about part 4 that put it above the rest. It just feels like a more complete game. With a pretty manageable run time it is also a smooth title to get through, I highly recommend it.
80s Overdrive (PC) – Releases Nov. 19th (Released on Switch back in May)
Originally released for the 3DS back in 2017, this Outrun inspired racing game hit Switch earlier this year and is now poised to make its Steam debut this week. Reviews are pretty average, but those graphics are really pretty. Style over substance? Probably.
Star Renegades (Switch/Xbox One) – Releases Nov. 19th (PS4 on Nov. 25th)
After hitting the PC a couple months ago, the rouge-like RPG Star Renegades is now coming to your favorite home console. No, not the Sega Saturn. Who are you?
Bloodrayne 1+2: Terminal Cut (PC) – Releases Nov. 20th
Hey, remember Bloodrayne? Me either.
Katamari Damacy Reroll (PS4/Xbox One) – Releases Nov. 20th
I was telling my daughter the other day that the Allstate commercial where the woman rolls down the street in her blankets is kind of like the video game Katamari Damacy. She started laughing and was like “That’s not real, I don’t believe you!“, so then I went to show her but the Liberty Mutual commercial with the Limu Emu (and Doug) came on and we both stopped to watch it and laughed. What are we talking about again? Jamie’s slide show in the Progressive commercial? No Alan, I practice Muay Thai; completely different skill set.
World of Warcraft: Shadowlands (PC) – Releases Nov. 23rd
Wow, WoW has been around for nearly sixteen years! Still going strong, the MMORPG is now releasing its eighth expansion, but with a twist. In an effort to streamline things and make it easier for new players to catch up, the level cap is being reduced, from 120 to 50, with a new cap of level 60. The choice is a bit odd for long time players, I’m sure, but it’s probably not going to change much in terms of how you play the game, i.e., level up to the cap, then spend all your time doing end game content for incrementally better gear/cool armor to glamour your toon with. There’s probably a story here, but I didn’t care to look it up.
Five Dates (PC/PS4/Switch/Xbox One) – Releases Nov. 17th
Captain Sabertooth and the Magic Diamond (Switch) – Releases Nov. 18th
Micetopia (Switch) – Releases Nov. 20th
Notable Releases from 10, 20 and 30 (and sometimes 40) years ago:
Donkey Kong Country Returns (Wii) – Released Nov. 21st, 2010: Wiki Link
Following the success of New Super Mario Bros. on the DS and Wii, Nintendo was keen to continue capitalizing on the side scrolling craze that was starting to litter the seventh generation of game consoles. With 90’s nostalgia about to begin, it seems the logical choice for a revisit was the popular Donkey Kong Country franchise. However, with Rare long gone it would fall upon another Western studio to take up the reins; enter Retro Studios. Known for their stellar work on the Metroid Prime series, Retro was going through a bit of a change in 2008. After the release of Metroid Prime 3, a few key members of Retro’s executive team would leave the company to found Armature Studio, leaving the rest of the team in a kind of unknown limbo. Luckily, DKCR producer Kensuke Tanabe was familiar with Retro Studios’ CEO Michael Kelbaugh and recommended the team to Nintendo’s higher ups as Kelbaugh used to work for the company in the 90’s and did extensive work on the original DKC, as a gameplay tester. No matter, because when Retro Studios got the call to make this new Donkey Kong game they were up to the challenge. Taking the design elements and graphics of the SNES games to a new level, the team put together a solid, gorgeous looking platformer that was tough, yet fair. As was the case for many Wii games, there was some intentionally shoved in motion controls, but overall the game functioned like a classic side scroller, with players taking control of DK and Diddy as they try to defeat the evil Tiki Tak Tribe. Critics were very kind to the game, calling it not just one of the best games of 2010, but one of the best games ever made for the Wii. Earning several awards from various game outlets in 2010, including “Best Platformer” and “Best Wii Exclusive”, Donkey Kong Country Returns was a smash hit with players as well. Despite the difficulty, players were quick to praise the title, and good word of mouth led it to sell roughly five million copies by the end of March, 2011. A 3DS port would arrive in 2013, and a sequel, Tropical Freeze, would come to the Wii U in 2014 (and later the Switch in 2018). For those looking to play this title today, well, you’re going to be a bit out of luck. Aside from the original Wii version, the only other way to get this is on the Wii U through the eShop, a feat easier said than done. However, if you are able to pick up a copy I say do it, you’ll have hours and hours of frustrating fun.
Banjo-Tooie (N64) – Released Nov. 20th, 2000: Wiki Link
While an update to their 90’s Donkey Kong Country game was being released without their input ten years later, in 2000 the team at Rare was still working hard with Nintendo to release quality 3D platformers. Following up their acclaimed Banjo-Kazooie, the sequel Banjo-Tooie was another feather in their cap, featuring a colorful cast of characters, solid(ish) controls, and the trademark Rare wit. Taking place two years after the events of the first game, the title opens up with Banjo, Kazooie, Mumbo Jumbo, and Bottles all playing cards together, when they are suddenly attacked by Gruntilda and her two sisters. Gruntilda, in skeleton form, is looking to take revenge on the group for killing her. In the chaos, Bajo’s home is destroyed and Bottles is killed, leaving behind only a ghostly visage. Banjo and Kazooie then embark on a quest to chase after Grunty and her sisters before they can drain the life force from the nearby lands and return the witch to her former self. Development on Banjo-Tooie began almost immediately after the first game was launched, allowing the developers to incorporate cut content from Banjo-Kazooie into this new title, including various locations and a multiplayer mode. As development progressed, the team realized that they would not be able to meet their proposed Holiday 1999 release (particularly as they were finishing up Donkey Kong 64), and made the decision to delay the game by a year. This might have been a slight blessing in disguise, as a highly touted feature of the game called “Stop ‘N’ Swop” had to be removed due to changes to the N64 hardware in 1999. Conceived as a way to transfer data between the two Banjo games, “Stop ‘N’ Swop” would have had players accomplishing various tasks in each game to unlock content. For example, if you got all 100 jiggys in Banjo-Kazooie you would get access to a secret world in Banjo-Tooie. This, at the time, revolutionary idea was highly publicized in Nintendo Power magazine and was touted as a big selling point for the game, but as I mentioned, the hardware in the N64 was updated in 1999, removing a particular piece that would have let the system store data temporarily while players switched their cartridges. What would have been a (still short) ten second window to swap games, was dropped down to an insane 1 second window. With this problem arising, Rare felt they had no choice but to ditch the “Stop ‘N’ Swop” feature, removing some content outright while automatically unlocking other things.
Critical reception to the game was overwhelmingly positive, with reviewers calling the game a worthy successor to Banjo-Kazooie, and a step up from the more critically panned Donkey Kong 64. High praise was given to the humor and tone of the game, and perhaps the biggest highlight was the graphics, being seen as some of the finest visuals the N64 had ever produced. It wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows, however, as critics did feel that the game worlds were a bit too large, and puzzles were a little more obtuse than they could have been, with on reviewer lamenting that it required a photographic memory to try and remember every little detail and character you come across. Despite the misgivings, the game did exceptionally well for Rare and Nintendo as it shot up the holiday sales charts, eventually leading to over 3 million copies sold worldwide. In 2000, Gamespot would name Banjo-Tooie the best platforming game of the year, while the Interactive Achievement Awards would nominate it for Game of the Year (where it would lose to Diablo II). Not long after the release of Banjo-Tooie, Rare would be purchased by Microsoft who were looking for studios that could help them make the Xbox a success. While that acquisition might not have produced the immediate results they were looking for, Rare has gone on to have a fairly fruitful relationship with Microsoft, releasing a handful of decent titles for the Xbox over the years, including a port of Banjo-Tooie on the Xbox 360 in 2009, and as part of Rare Replay in 2015. With only one more game released in the mainline series, Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts and Bolts, the franchise has gone silent, relying on nostalgia for the older titles to keep it alive, rather than focusing on new projects. However, the inclusion of the character in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate might give us hope that we’ll see the lovable duo again, there’s currently no plans to continue the series. Start writing those letters.
Yo! Noid (NES) – Released Nov. 22nd, 1990: Wiki Link
This is something only 80’s kids will understand. If you grew up in mid 1980’s America then you are undoubtedly familiar with the pizza delivery wars between Domino’s and Pizza Hut. Every kid had their favorite, and having the right or wrong pizza at your birthday party could make or break your social standing in the schoolyard. To help give them a competitive edge in the marketplace, Domino’s Pizza partnered with ad agency Group 243 and Wil Vinton Animation Studios to create a character that could act as a sort of mascot for the brand. Their idea, a pizza delivery thwarting asshole named The Noid. When this little fucker appeared in commercials in 1986 he, and the catchphrase “Avoid The Noid”, instantly caught on, being adorned on just about anything you could print something on. Domino’s was eager to continue growing The Noid’s popularity, and after a failed Saturday morning cartoon venture, they jumped into the world of video games. First with 1989’s Avoid The Noid on PC, with players taking on the role of a delivery driver as they attempt to…well..avoid The Noid. When it came time to create a game for the NES, the most popular console in the world, Domino’s was lucky enough to partner with one of the most respected names in software at the time, Capcom. Yes, the creators of Mega Man, Bionic Commando, and Strider, were now releasing a game that featured a pizza chain mascot, what a bizarre world. Using an existing game from Japan called Kamen no ninja Hanamaru, or “Masked Ninja Hanamaru“, developer Now Production updated the game’s assets to now feature The Noid and a modern, “U.S. city” setting.
Aside from the graphical changes, the game plays almost exactly the same. Instead of using a hawk to attack, The Noid throws a yo-yo (clever, as it also comes back to you); instead of using superior ninja skills to fight bosses, The Noid challenges them to a pizza eating contest; instead of a pogo stick, The Noid uses his trademark pizza crusher, and so on. It’s actually very weird to play through Yo! Noid and then see how Masked Ninja Hanamaru plays, because it is a nearly 1:1 copy, but with ninjas instead of noids. In one of the only reviews I could find, EGM gave Yo! Noid a score of 22 out of 40, calling it a “sleeper title” that was, basically, too hard for the kids it was aimed at while being too stupid looking for the adults who might actually enjoy its challenge. Not surprisingly, Yo! Noid did not have any sequels, but it does have the distinction of being one of the first in a long line of mascot based platformers that would riddle the gaming landscape through most of the 90’s. As for the mascot itself, it continued to appear in commercials until 1995 and seemed retired, but after a successful 2009 relaunch of the character it has remained a small, but noticeable, part of Domino’s advertising (mostly online) ever since.
Battlezone (Arcade) – Released Nov. 1980: Wiki Link
Since the early days of the video game industry, the ability to immerse the player in the worlds they were visiting was on most developers minds. Early attempts at a first person view can be found in the games Maze Wars and Spasim, but perhaps the most well known, and popular of the early 3D titles is Atari’s Battlezone. Taking the vector graphics from games like Asteroids and Lunar Lander, Battlezone is able to emulate a tank in the 3D space without actually being in 3D, its a marvel of computer programming ingenuity. When the original cabinets hit arcades in November of 1980, players were met with a large machine that had a periscope attached to, allowing you to look through it and really immerse yourself into this new, virtual, reality. While the game is best known for having the green vector graphics, players who used the periscope saw everything in red, giving an interesting contrast between playing and observing. The game was a critical and commercial success upon launch, earning high praise for its realism, so much so that the U.S. Army asked Atari to create a version of Battlezone that they could use to train their tank drivers. This news did not sit well with the game’s programmer Ed Rotberg, who was strongly against doing any kind of work for the military, but after some coaxing by his bosses at Atari he finally relented and created the new version of the game. Over the course of three months, Rotberg was able to develop two working prototypes, with one going to the U.S. Army and the other kept at Atari. Ultimately the Army declined to move forward with the project, but it wasn’t a total loss as the cabinet they built was the basis for their upcoming Star Wars arcade game, another pseudo 3D vector graphics classic. Battlezone has been enjoyed by generations of gamers over the last 40 years and has been ported to just about any console you can name. It’s been remade and rereleased countless times and even had a VR version made in 2016. Despite the simple looking graphics, this first of its kind game would be a huge stepping stone towards the games we all play today. If you’ve never tried it, give it a go, just make sure you disinfect the periscope before you stick your face into it.
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