It’s a slow Thanksgiving week, which is fine by me. I’m tired, I constantly feel like I’ve got some catastrophic disease, and I’m just worn out. I hate being stuck inside all the time, I miss my friends, I miss my family, I miss going to concerts, I miss going to the movies, I miss eating at restaurants, I miss going to the gym; I’m so sad all the time and I don’t know how to make it better. Enjoy this video!
Picross S5 (Switch) – Releases Nov. 26th
I thought my girlfriend would be more excited by this, but then she reminded me that she only likes the 3D picross games, not these 2D ones that you can get for free on the internet.
Professor Rubik’s Brain Fitness (PC/PS4/Switch/Xbox One) – Releases Nov. 24th
Then I showed her this and though for sure she’d be into it, but she took one look and said “Rubik’s?! Hello no, I hate those things“. Guess we’re passing on that.
Axe Cop (PC) – Releases Nov. 26th
Based on the popular web comic, Axe Cop is a retro-inspired RPG that seems to crib liberally from multiple NES games, and even looks to emulate other genres including racing and platforming. If you’re not familiar with the property, Axe Cop was created in 2010 by Ethan Nicolle and his (at the time) five year old brother Malachi. Over the course of the next few years, Axe Cop would grow from a small webcomic to being published as a monthly series by Dark Horse, and then eventually turned into an animated series for Fox. Now, after what appears to be more than a few delays, the video game will be releasing this week on Thanksgiving to chop a bunch of heads off.
EDIT: Well, after being alerted to some troubling news in the comments here, it turns out that Axe Cop creator Ethan Nicolle is a right wing bigot who writes for the ultra conservative satire website The Babylon Bee and hosts a podcast with Doug TenNapel, a guy who has spouted some rather disturbing views about the LGBT community. I had no clue, and I wouldn’t have sung so much praise on Axe Cop if I knew about the creator’s past. This puts us all in a tricky spot (although it probably isn’t that tricky). Is it okay to support these developers who, possibly, don’t share any of the same beliefs as Nicolle, or is this game completely dead on arrival. Personally, I don’t think I can play this, or ever enjoy another piece of Axe Cop media again. Buyer beware is the message here.
Nekopara Vol. 4 (PC) – Releases Nov. 26th
If there’s one thing to be thankful for this Thanksgiving it is that you don’t have to find an excuse to leave dinner early so you can go home and play Nekopara Vol. 4 in the privacy of your own home. One of the more popular hentai video games on the market (so much so that you can even get it on Switch), Nekopara takes place in a world where cat women are bread from birth to learn how to be subservient sex slaves to humans. It’s pretty fucking gross, but then again, you aren’t playing this because of its strong social commentary. Featuring cat girls from each previous entry, Vol. 4 will have you continuing to run your various bakeries and restaurants, making sure the girls do as they’re told, and of course have sex with you. To be fair, the only way to really perv out with this is to buy the official patch from Denpasoft themselves, and yes, I do know this from experience, okay! I admit it, I play this game, you know, man, it’s not like you’re any better than me, okay. Remember how I said I’m sad all the time?
Ponpu (Switch) – Releases Nov. 29th (PC/PS4/XBone in “early December”)
While Picross S5 is the top release of the week, I think the game with the most potential is Ponpu. Playing as one of four different Duck-Gods, called “Ponpus”, this multiplayer party game looks a bit like Bomberman on acid. As you and your friends run around various mazes, you will use your bombs and other powerups to be the last ponpu standing. There also appears to be a single player campaign mode that seems just as bonkers. If, and I hope to god you aren’t, but if you decide to see people this holiday, I bet Ponpu will be perfect to blow off a little steam, or at least give you a break between Nekopara sessions.
Ports and Re-releases:
Star Wars: Jedi Fallen Order (Stadia) – Releases Nov. 24th
You can’t say Google isn’t at least trying with Stadia. I mean, getting a game over a year after release is kind of bare minimum, but they did get that exclusive Pac-Man game last week, and they’re sending out free Stadia compatible devices to YouTube Premium subscribers, so is this point where Stadia finally turns the corner?
Football Manager 2021 (PC) – Releases Nov. 24th
My Aunt is a Witch (Switch) – Releases Nov. 25th
Strike Force 2: Terrorist Hunt (Switch/Xbox One) – Releases Nov. 25th
Notable Releases from 10, 20 and 30 years ago:
Epic Mickey (Wii) – Released Nov. 30th, 2010: Wiki Link
Legendary video game designer Warren Spector, well known for his work on dark and brooding titles like System Shock, Thief, and Deus Ex, seemed like an odd choice when he was tapped to bring a new Mickey Mouse game to the Wii, but that was the point. Disney was going through a bit of a phase in 2010, releasing dark and brooding reimaginings of their properties in titles like Alice In Wonderland, The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, and Tron: Legacy, but what about their most popular creation? To see where this all started we have to go back to the year 2003. Bob Iger, then COO and president of Disney, was pitched an idea for a video game in which Mickey Mouse would interact with one of Walt’s earliest co-creations, Oswald The Lucky Rabbit, except for one problem, Disney didn’t own the character. Flashback the 1920’s; working with renowned animator Ub Iwerks, Walt and his team created a rabbit character for Universal Pictures who were trying to get into the animation business. With Universal being the owners of the character they got to decide what his name would be, and so, one fine morning, the crack team of executives at Universal put a bunch of names in a hat and pulled one out…Oswald. Appearing in several animated shorts for Universal under the supervision of a man named Charles Mintz, Oswald grew in popularity and, over time, Mintz would began to gain more and more control over not just Oswald, but Disney’s entire animation team, leaving Walt and Ub in a precarious spot. They could either continue to make Oswald cartoons for Mintz and Universal, but lose any kind of creative control, or they could gamble their careers on a brand new character…Mickey Mouse. Obviously we all know that the gamble worked and Mickey would become the biggest cartoon star on the planet, making Walt Disney a very, very rich man (Ub Iwerk on the other hand, well, that’s another story…). Coming back to 2003, when Bob Iger heard the pitch for this new video game he was very excited, but knew it could never happen because of the rights to Oswald being owned by Universal, undeterred, he vowed that Oswald would return to Disney while under his tenure, he just didn’t know how.
In 2006, three years after being pitched the Mickey/Oswald video game concept, a chance encounter between now Disney CEO Bob Iger and sportscaster Al Michaels would finally provide Disney a chance to gain ownership of Oswald. With the upcoming 2006-2007 NFL season a couple of changes were made to how the games would be broadcast on television, as ESPN would lose the rights to Sunday Night Football to NBC, causing Disney to move Monday Night Football from ABC to ESPN. In their chance meeting, Michaels would tell Iger that he had hoped to stay on broadcast television and was interested in going over to NBC Universal, the only problem was that he was still under contract with Disney. I’m not sure what the inside of Bob Iger’s head was like in that moment, but it was probably the same feeling a poker player gets when they have a royal flush. Seizing on the opportunity, Iger said he would agree to release Michaels from his contract if Universal was willing to give the rights to Oswald and a handful of other small characters to Disney. The trade was approved and Oswald The Lucky Rabbit was now, officially, part of the Disney family. Now, who the hell was going to make this game?
During the time between the Mickey/Oswald concept, and the acquisition of the character from Universal, Disney Interactive Studios started to have developer issues. Unable to find a suitable studio in their roster, they put out a call for any teams that were looking to work on a project that featured “classic Hollywood cartoons“. Having just lost out on a proposed continuation of Half-Life 2, Warren Spector’s Junction Point Studios threw their hat into the ring and, ultimately, won the gig, getting acquired by Disney in the process. Work on this new dark and brooding Mickey Mouse began immediately, with Spector working closely with Walt Disney Animation Studios to craft the story and world of Epic Mickey. Thinking that Disney would balk at his ideas, Spector was pleasantly surprised to see that the company was anxious to re-invent Mickey as an edgy, slightly more mischievous and cynical character, something a bit more in line with his personality in the early cartoons. Originally the game was planned for release on the PS3, Xbox 360, and Nintendo Wii, however Spector was skeptical that his game would function on the Wii. Worried that he’d have to have to either severely hamper the PS3/360 version or create a simplified Wii version, it was suggested by executives at Disney Interactive that Spector and his team should scrap the more powerful consoles and focus exclusively on creating the best version possible for the Wii, after all, it was the most popular video game system on the planet at the time. With a new directive in hand, Spector and his team at Junction Point would dive head first into major development on the game to make sure it met its 2010 holiday release.
Pre-release hype for Epic Mickey was through the roof. Aside from appearances in Kingdom Hearts, Mickey Mouse hadn’t been the star of his own video game since the Magical Quest series in the 90’s, and with Warren Spector on board to help usher Mickey into the modern age of consoles, what could possibly go wrong? Well, what always goes wrong with bad Wii games? The controls. Now, it should be noted that Epic Mickey got pretty decent reviews, with many outlets finding a lot of heart and charm despite the problems, with gaming network G4 even giving it a perfect score and calling it the best Wii game of 2010. However, serious players and critics were not pleased with the final result, seeing it as a poorly designed, badly controlled mess. In another case of style over substance, the art direction and the story were superb, with the game looking absolutely gorgeous on the Wii and delivering a moving narrative that saw the forgotten cartoon characters of years past fighting for their place in the modern world. Perhaps with a few more months of development, and maybe not forcing the game to be Wii exclusive, Spector and his team might have been able to put out a more polished game. Despite the average scores the game still sold very well, selling over 1 million copies in the first month of release. For the game’s Japanese localization, industry titan Nintendo actually took over publishing rights, and in doing so they vowed to fix the game’s problematic camera issue, leading some players and critics to consider this version the superior release. With Epic Mickey a success, Spector and the team and Junction Point got to work on a sequel for release in 2013, and this time they got to make it for the PS3 and 360, but that still didn’t fix the problems. The same camera and control issues persisted, and this time it was exacerbated by a frustratingly ineffective AI controlled Oswald that would accompany players on their journey. Poor sales of Epic Mickey 2, along with other failed ventures, including Disney Infinity, would lead to the closure of Disney Interactive Studios and their subsidiaries, including Junction Point Studios. Despite being back at home, Oswald The Lucky Rabbit couldn’t catch a break, and it cost a lot of people their jobs. At least Al Michaels is still doing sportscasting for Sunday Night Football.
Breath of Fire IV (PlayStation) – Released Nov. 28th, 2000: Wiki Link
Despite the release of the PS2 in October of 2000, the original PlayStation (slowly being referred to as the PS One) continued to get stellar releases in North America and Europe, particularly in the JRPG genre, likely due to the prolonged development time and lengthy localization process. Having already capped off a fantastic Summer filled with some of the finest JRPGs ever made, and a strong swan song on the PSX for Final Fantasy with part IX, JRPG fans were treated to another grand tale with the release of Capcom’s Breath of Fire IV. Similar to the Zelda series, a new incarnation of franchise protagonists Ryu and Nina are thrust into a lengthy journey to defeat an evil entity from trying to take over the world, usually with dragons. Seen as a companion piece to the previous PSX entry, BoF IV uses many of the same elements, including a similar art style, use of 2D graphics in 3D environments, the ability to learn new skills from enemies, the ability to learn new skills from “masters” who you meet in various parts of the world map (like Rwolf pictured above), the fishing mini-game, and the faerie village construction building mini-game. While Breath of Fire IV was originally rumored to be a PS2 launch title, it was decided to build it for the original PlayStation in order to save time. This meant that some planned features had to be scrapped, including a proposed “network connectivity” feature, and some additional story content. In the end, Breath of Fire IV would release on April 27th, 2000 in Japan, with a fairly heavily censored version hitting North America on November 28th, 2000. Despite the gaming audience growing older and older each year, the hobby was (and I think still is in some ways) seen as something for kids. In an effort to protect the children (and probably secure a T rating) several scenes of graphic beheadings were removed, as were a few scenes that contained nudity or strong sexual innuendo, and finally the drunken mercenary Scias was no longer depicted as a booze-hound that slurred his words, but was instead insinuated to have a stuttering speech impediment. None of these, however, detracted from the enjoyment of the game, and I found it to be another gem in the crown of 2000’s JRPG releases. Critics were pleased as well, but did find the game a bit derivative and lacking in innovation like many of the other JRPGs in 2000 exhibited. Still, it was held in high esteem, even gaining a perfect score from GamePro magazine. A PC version would release in Japan and Europe in 2003, and a sequel would arrive on the PS2 in 2003 for North America, but sadly that would be the last title to come out in the West. A free to play sequel, Breath of Fire VI would come out in Japan for PC and mobile devices in 2016, with no plans to localize for the West. As for the fate of Breath of Fire, it seems Capcom is not interested in making anymore entries, putting this classic series to rest in the warehouse of forgotten franchises. Rwolf is right, the world is full of fools.
Punisher (NES) – Released Nov. 1990: Wiki Link
Silver Surfer (NES) – Released Nov. 1990: Wiki Link
I’d forgive you if you had immediately dismissed both of these games as licensed trash. Not only are they based on existing Marvel Comics properties, one of them was even published by the notorious LJN. However, as flawed as these two titles may be, they both deliver an entertaining (but frustrating) experience.
Based on the well-known comic book series, The Punisher is a third person, on rails shooter that has the player taking on the role of lone vigilante, and mass murderer, Frank Castle. Depicted as a former NYPD detective instead of a former Marine, Castle, known by many as The Punisher, takes to the streets of New York on a quest for vengeance. While the layout of the screen and the perceived gameplay suggests that this might be a light gun game, The Punisher is actually played with a standard NES controller. Using the d-pad, players can move Frank left and right on the screen, but if they hold the fire button they can control the aiming reticle to either eliminate their enemies or destroy objects in the background. In fact, one of the defining features of the game is the ability to leave “permanent” bullet holes in the walls, allowing players to spell out words or draw simple pictures if they’re talented enough. Featuring an array of characters ripped from the pages of The Punisher, Frank must fight his way through waves of thugs and gangsters before squaring off against bosses like Jigsaw, Hitman, Kliegg, and of course The Kingpin. While the stages are generally made up of shooting bad guys over and over, boss battles can be a bit different, requiring you to solve them in an almost puzzle like fashion. Instead of just blindly firing at the bosses, players usually need to figure out a specific pattern or find a weakness in order to advance. Critics were impressed by the game, but ultimately found it to be too hard to control to make it truly great. In later years, new critics would be a bit more forgiving of the game, perhaps bolstered by the fact that emulators now allowed you to save and load your game at anytime, but still finding that many of its ideas were a bit ahead of its time, allowing for a greater appreciation by modern audiences.
Speaking of a game that is easier to enjoy with an emulator, the second Marvel Comics property to receive a video game in November of 1990 was Software Creations’ Silver Surfer. Based on the comic book of the same name, players took on the role of the Surfer himself, flying through several stages of horizontally scrolling SHMUP madness. Notorious for being one of the hardest video games ever made, Silver Surfer makes no apologies for the way it treats players. With enemies that take multiple hits to defeat, along with environmental hazards that seems to change based on the whims of the developer, players could find themselves playing Silver Surfer for hours and not make it past a single stage. Thankfully, being stuck on the same stage for hours and hours allowed us to all appreciate the fantastic musical score that Silver Surfer composers Tim and Geoff Follin wrote, burning those tunes into our heads for eternity. Featuring a rogues gallery of villains, including Mephisto, Fire Lord, and the Skrulls, the Silver Surfer must collect pieces of a “cosmic device” in any order the player desires, before facing off against the final boss who, some speculate, is Mister Sinister. While the game is very difficult, you are able to collect power-ups that will increase the strength of your shots and also add to the amount of cosmic energy beams you fire. However, in keeping with the game’s brutal difficulty, you will lose all of your power-ups if you die. There are some freaks out there who can beat this game without using any kind cheats or emulation tricks, but for guys like me it takes a lot of saving and loading just to get past the first stage. That’s fine with me.
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