New Game Releases 03/09/21 – 03/15/21

Well, there’s not really anything coming out this week, so I expect the comments to be somewhere around 25, but maybe we’ll all share our memories of Street Fighter II and get them somewhere around 50? I started drinking decaf coffee, it’s pretty good, I guess. What kind of coffee do you like? I keep getting these Dunkin’ k-cups, but they also make a McCafe decaf that I’d like to try. My grandpa used to drink instant coffee, which was like this powdered shit, I think it was made by Yuban or Sanka, maybe? He died of lung cancer on March 9th, 2004, only a few days before my birthday, while I was at a concert watching the band, and I’m not kidding, Grandaddy. I remember sitting in the hallway outside the room where the mainstage was and crying, thinking about all he had done for me and the pop culture he introduced me too, including video games on his Odyssey II. After a few minutes, I got up and walked back to the mainstage area and hugged my friends, and it was then that the song “Yeah Is What They Had” started up, perfectly on time. The band they were touring with was Saves The Day, so that night I was at a Grandaddy Saves The Day show. Maybe the instant coffee brand was Folgers?

The Releases:

Here’s the team from Inside the NBA discussing Charles Barkley’s reaction to this week’s new games:

  • Apex Legends (Switch) – Releases Mar. 9th
  • Stronghold: Warlords (PC) – Releases Mar. 9th
  • Doodle Devil: 3volution (PC/PS4/PS5/Switch/Xbox One) – Releases Mar. 11th
  • Monster Energy Supercross – The Official Videogame 4 (PC/PS4/PS5/Stadia/Switch/Xbox One/Series S|X) – Releases Mar. 11th
  • Crash Bandicoot 4: It’s About Time (PS5/Switch/Series S|X) – Releases Mar. 12th
  • Cyanide & Happiness – Freakpocalypse: Part 1 (PC/Switch) – Releases Mar. 11th

Notable Releases from 10, 20 and 30 (and sometimes 40) years ago:

Yakuza 4 (PS3) – Released Mar. 15th, 2011: Wiki Link

The Yakuza series has steadily grown in popularity and, dare I say, has begun to reach levels where it is considered beloved. That wasn’t always the case though, at least here in North America, where the fourth entry only sold a paltry 150,000 copies. Those who did buy a copy of the game were treated to yet another tale of Kazuma Kiryu, the reluctant yakuza who continually finds himself pulled back into the criminal underworld, despite his best efforts to try and leave it behind. Set one year after the events of Yakuza 3, long time fanes were in for a surprise when they found that they were not initially controlling Kiryu, but instead taking on the role of Shun Akiyama, and this is where Yakuza 4 sets itself apart from earlier entries, as there are now four different protagonists in this game; Kazuma Kiryu, Shun Akiyama, Masayoshi Tanimura, and Taiga Saejima. I wish I had more to say about this game, but like most American’s I was soundly ignoring this title back in 2011, I was too busy trying to play through Assassin’s Creed and Gears of War, you know REAL video games. I tried to play this a bit before I wrote this week’s column, but I still have like 50 hours left in Yakuza 3, so that wasn’t going to happen. Thankfully, I did pick the series up with Yakuza 0 when it released in 2017 and have been a fan ever since, picking up the Yakuza Remastered Collection, which includes parts 3, 4 and 5, when that released in 2019. One of these days I’ll get around to playing this, and I’ll astral project myself to March, 2011 and slap myself in the face for ignoring this series for so long.

Onimusha: Warlords (PS2) – Released Mar. 13th, 2001: Wiki Link

Back in October we discussed all of the PlayStation 2 launch titles, and while there were some highlights in there (Tekken Tag Tournament, Midnight Club) I am going to be controversial and say that you didn’t need to own a PS2 until March 13th, 2001, when the must-have killer app for the system was released; Capcom’s Onimusha: Warlords. It began a long, steady march of single player, story driven hit after hit that helped make Sony’s PS2 the best selling console of all time. Originally starting life as an idea from famed Capcom developer Yoshiki Okamoto, Onimusha was going to be called Sengoku Biohazard, and would find players exploring a “ninja house” filled with booby traps; it would have also been a Nintendo 64DD exclusive, imagine that. However, with Okamoto leaving the company later that year, the game was taken over by director Jun Takeuchi and producer Keiji Inafune, who would move development over to the PlayStation after the failure of the 64DD. Shortly after development, however, the team was introduced to the PS2 and instantly fell in love with it, moving Onimusha once more. It was soon after this move that the team severed the game’s connection to the Resident Evil/Biohazard almost around the same time that another famous Capcom developer, Shinji Mikami, was pulling his latest title, the October 2001 release Devil May Cry, out of the RE universe as well. Speaking of, in a fun bit of trivia, a bug in Onimusha that allowed players to juggle enemies in the air with their weapons inspired Mikami to add this as a feature in Devil May Cry (more on that in a few months). Onimusha was a big deal for Capcom, and they were fully committed to the series, anticipating it as a trilogy, and even hiring famous Japanese actor Takeshi Kaneshiro to portray the game’s protagonist, Samanosuke Akechi.

As noted earlier, Onimusha is set during Japan’s Sengoku period, following the death of notorious historical figure Nobunaga Oda. However, while there are real people in the game, Onimusha is hardly a historically accurate account of what happened in Japan during the Sengoku period. For starters, Nobunaga is resurrected by demons so that he can lead them to world domination, and protagonist Samanosuke fights all kinds of hideous creatures that have clawed their way up from the depths of the demon world, including the grotesque tentacle creature in the image above. Pre-release hype for Onimusha was high, yet we had just witnessed a colossal flop from Squaresoft with the release of The Bouncer, so PS2 owners collectively held their breath and hoped Capcom and Keiji Inafune could stick the landing; and oh boy, did they. Onimusha was universally praised when it released, going on to be an instant financial success in Japan where it would sell over 1 million copies, being the first PlayStation 2 game to reach that feat. Meanwhile, over in North America, the game was faring just as well, and while it didn’t quite reach 1 million copies, Onimusha was an extraordinary success. While Onimusha did feature some of the same puzzle and survival horror elements of the Resident Evil series it, like 2000’s Dino Crisis 3, leaned heavily into the action/arcade genre when it came to combat, emphasizing hack and slash over careful planning. A port of the game would come to Microsoft’s Xbox in 2002, and would be followed by three sequels and two spin-offs, but aside from a 2020 HD remaster of the first game, Capcom has abandoned the franchise. Perhaps Blake Fisher of Next Generation magazine was right when he said in his review that “It’s a pretty good ride, but one you’ll forget as new…games appear“.

Street Fighter II: The World Warrior (Arcade) Released Mar. 1991: Wiki Link

In 1991, Capcom redefined the fighting game genre, spawning countless copycats, reinvigorating the coin-op arcade industry, and laying the foundation for modern eSports. We’ve talked about groundbreaking titles in the past like Pac-Man, Tetris and Red Dead Redemption, games that were not just memorable to play, but completely changed HOW we play. Before the release of Street Fighter II: The World Warrior, in 1987, Capcom had released Street Fighter, a simple arcade fighting game with players taking on the role of either Ryu or Ken as they make their way through an international fighting tournament. It was a commercial success, but it didn’t set the world on fire, seen as a competent 1v1 karate game that you could play in-between sessions of other, better made games. One of those better arcade games was Capcom’s own Final Fight, which had taken arcades by storm in 1989, prompting developer Yoshiki Okamoto (who you might remember above) to resurrect the Street Fighter brand using some of the new technology advancements seen in Final Fight. If you were to see the original Street Fighter in action, you’d be treated to a fairly dull set of animations from stiff looking characters moving in near slow motion. To be better, Okamoto, along with Akira Nishitani and Akira Yasuda, made a heavy focus on graphical fidelity and smooth animations. To achieve this, Capcom had to develop a new piece of technology that allowed for different characters to take up different amounts of memory. The amount of money spent on development was a risky thing, particularly since it was being done for an unproven franchise in a genre that didn’t really exist. In 1991, after two years of development, Capcom was about to find out if their gamble would pay off.

Street Fighter II would hit Japanese arcades on Feb. 6th, 1991 where it would rock the coin-op business, dethroning the latest champ, SNK’s King of the Monsters, eclipsing that flawed title’s archaic style of fighting. Similarly, when Street Fighter II launched world wide in March of 1991, it was like a bomb was dropped onto arcades. Like you saw with the release of Pac-Man, Street Fighter II cabinets were EVERYWHERE; arcades, bars, liquor stores, laundromats, theme parks, recreation centers, restaurants, grocery stores, I mean, if your business had an electrical outlet, Street Fighter II was probably plugged into it. Critics were blown away by the game, noting that the six buttons and eight way control led to more moves than any other fighting game in arcade history. Particular praise was also given to the graphics, animation, and sound, being both a visual and auditory treat for arcade patrons, of who there were now plenty. As home consoles began to take over the gaming industry, the coin-op arcade business started to feel sluggish. While there were decent titles hitting the market like Final Fight, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and the impressive slew of titles for SNK’s Neo Geo arcade cabinets, mainstream, casual players just weren’t coming in like they used to. Now I wouldn’t call Street Fighter II a casual game, per se, but because of its easy to learn/hard to master style of gameplay, the title was immensely popular, drawing in crowds that hadn’t been there since the mid 80’s. Soon you’d have kids showing up after school to play against adults on their lunch breaks, college students getting a few matches against their friends in-between studying. Street Fighter II was a cultural phenomenon, and it was just getting started.

It didn’t take long for companies outside the video game industry to realize that Capcom was sitting on a licensing goldmine. One of the first companies to come knocking was Hasbro, who saw the colorful characters and decided to incorporate them into the G.I. Joe line of toys. Soon the eight world warriors, Ryu, Ken, Guile, Dhalsim, Chun-Li, E. Honda, Blanka, and Zangief, along with the four boss characters, Balrog, Vega, Sagat, and M. Bison, were molded into plastic and ready to drive outrageous vehicles as they battled for either the Joe’s or Cobra. There were comic books, an anime film, lunchboxes, backpacks, posters, t-shirts, all featuring the now iconic characters, and of course, the notorious 1994 film starring Jean-Claude Van Damme and Raul Julia. Street Fighter II’s legacy has a long reach, from starting the entire fighting game craze of the 90’s, to eSports. It helped build a new community of players, one centered around 1 on 1 competition over just gaining high scores. You might be able to rack up a high score al by yourself in Donkey Kong, but its passive, you aren’t going up head to head against an opponent. Street Fighter II made the arcades even more social than they already were, where to be the true champion of the game you had to do it right then and there against another person. It didn’t take long for Capcom to release updates to the game, with different versions arriving in 1992 and 1993, including the ability to play as the four bosses and also adding five brand new characters; Fei Long, T. Hawk, Dee Jay, Cammy, and a new secret boss Akuma. Street Fighter II has been ported to just about every home console in existence and has spawned numerous sequels and spin-offs, with their characters appearing in other franchises and games, solidifying it as one of the most important and well regarded titles in video game history.

Enjoy over ten minutes of Street Fighter II commercials from around the world.

Andy Tuttle (Earth) Released Mar. 12th, 1981

Yes, folks, that’s right, on March 12th I’ll be celebrating 40 years of being alive. It’s pretty crazy to think that I’m likely in the back half of my life (unless they invent robot bodies to put our brains into), but I’m happy to have been born in such a wonderful time in video games. I’ve seen its rise in popularity and been front row to all of its biggest moments as they’ve happened. Somewhere in that old house I’m sitting in there is a Magnavox Odyssey II that would eventually be the very first video game console I’d play, and like any good gamer, I’m already doing the hover hand technique. If only they had made baby fedoras back then.

I miss this guy.

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