Wow, there’s A LOT of games this week which, once again, has me wondering why some of these couldn’t have released in the few weeks prior to this one. I mean, what would you rather buy, Monster Hunter Rise or Dandy Ace? There’s so much to get through so I’m just going to dive right in.
Monster Hunter Rise (Switch) – Releases Mar. 26th
After a very successful release with Monster Hunter: World on the PS4 and Xbox One, Capcom has decided to return to a Nintendo system for their next mainline game, Monster Hunter: Rise. Although this is the 6th game in the series, like World, it has ditched the numbering and instead opted to use a sub-title that references a major gameplay factor in the game. With Rise, players will now be able to take to the skies, flying around the vast, open worlds the game has to offer. How will they do this; by riding monsters, of course. In another first for the series, players will now have the ability to ride mounts, first with their trusty companion Palmute, and then with various monsters that roam the wilderness. Due to the portability of the Switch, the development team felt it was less taxing on player stamina to allow faster travel with a mount, something I’m sure anyone who has played a Monster Hunter game in the past will be happy to see. If you still don’t have a Switch by now, Nintendo is offering a special edition Monster Hunter themed console, but if you still don’t want a Switch (or don’t mind waiting for better graphics), a PC version is slated to come out in 2022.
Arkham Horror: Mother’s Embrace (PC/PS4/Switch/Xbox One) – Releases Mar. 23rd
Based on the hit table top game from Fantasy Flight, Arkham Horror: Mother’s Embrace is a hybrid investigation/turn based combat game. Similar to the board game, players will spend their time investigating a particular area, searching for clues, and will then have to do battle with horrific creatures and insane cultists. Try not to go mad as you attempt to stop the rise of the Ancient Ones!
Story of Seasons: Pioneers of Olive Town (Switch) – Releases Mar. 23rd
Hey, remember when a new Harvest Moon game came out a couple weeks ago? Well fuck that game, the REAL Harvest Moon game is finally here, and its called Story of Seasons. Seriously, this is the actual Harvest Moon, just with a new name, and in fact, this has been its name in Japan since the beginning. Moving on, Pioneers of Olive Town is your typical Harvest Moon game where you take over a dead relative’s farm, plant crops, raise livestock, explore the town, find true love, and in a new twist, explore the surrounding countryside and interact with forest spirits. I’m not going to lie, this sounds A LOT like the new Harvest Moon game that just came out, and it has me wondering if Natsume decided to throw together their own rip-off version and rush it to release before this (I assume) better game released. In any case, there’s a ton of stuff coming out this week so I think it’s a safe bet to wait on this title for a bit and let the reviews come in.
Black Legend (PC/PS4/PS5/Switch/Xbox One/Series X|S) – Releases Mar. 25th
We have another turn-based action/horror title this week, however Black Legend is more of an RPG than an investigation game like Arkham Horror. Set in a 17th century, European-esque city, Black Legend has players taking control of a group of resistance fighters as they try to liberate the city Grant from an evil cult that is using the power of alchemy to subjugate the people. It’s up to you to use their power against them and bring freedom to the people of Grant, can you do it?
Balan Wonderland (PS4/PS5/Switch/Xbox One/Series X|S) – Releases Mar. 26th
From Yuji Naka, creator of Sonic The Hedgehog and Nights Into Dreams, comes his latest action/adventure game, Balan Wonderland. Set in the fantastical Wonderworld, players take on the role of either Leo Craig or Emma Cole, two precocious little kids who have been summoned by the magical being Balan. Leo and Emma soon discover that Wonderworld is a place where adults with broken or troubled hearts place all their miseries, creating hazardous areas that must be fixed. To do this, Leo and Emma must wear costumes that grant them special abilities, but if they’re caught without a costume they are kicked from that world and must start over again. While the game features 80 costumes, players can only hold three at a time, however they do have the ability to retrieve already collected costumes as they reach certain checkpoints in each world, so there’s a bit of strategy involved. Pre-release buzz has been a bit negative, but with a pretty stellar team of developers behind the scenes I am hoping that there is still something worthwhile about this game, even if it has some flaws.
Genesis Noir (PC/Switch/Xbox One) – Releases Mar. 26th
In this brand new point and click adventure game, players will witness the creation of the universe when their love triangle leads to a gun shot that will be known as “the big bang”. With you and your rival, a musician named Golden Boy, both seeking the affections of a goddess known as Miss Mass, it triggers the events that cause all of creation to begin. However, humankind will only survive if you allow your love to be shot by the bullet from the big bang, so it’s up to you if creation is allowed to move forward or be destroyed. What will you do?
It Takes Two (PC/PS4/PS5/Xbox One/Series X|S) – Releases Mar. 26th
After a decade long career in film directing, Josef Fares leapt into the video game industry with his 2013 breakout hit Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons. He followed this up by creating his own company called Hazelight Studios and released another critically acclaimed title called A Way Out. Both games featured a unique two protagonist mechanic where players would control two characters simultaneously, or with the assistance of a second player, leading to some very interesting puzzles. In his latest game It Takes Two, Fares’ protagonists are an estranged couple named Cody and May who are turned into dolls and must work together to escape a mad fantasy world, showing them that in order to be together they must be able to solve their problems as a team. Fares has described the game as a romantic comedy and his insisted that the game must be played in co-op, there’s no single player component at all in the game. This might alienate a large group of players out there, but it is a unique and inspired concept that I hope brings couples together.
Spacebase Startopia (PC/PS4/PS5/Xbox One/Series X|S) – Releases Mar. 26th
Based on the 2001 PC game Startopia, developer Realmforge Studios and publisher Kalypso Media have created a follow-up title that has players taking on the role of the caretaker of a wacky space station. Part city builder, part guest management, and part RTS game, you will have a lot of plates to spin as you try and keep things on the base running smoothly while trying to avoid death at the hands of alien invaders.
Ports and Re-releases:
Octopath Traveler (PC/Xbox One) – Releases Mar. 25th
Microsoft’s Game Pass is probably the best deal in town for the gamer on a budget. Not only does it have a decent amount of day one release titles, but it will often get some of the best games from the last few years added to their library, giving people the opportunity to play some really great games, as long as they don’t mind waiting a little bit extra time. The first of two big additions to Game Pass this week is the Square Enix RPG Octopath Traveler. Originally released on the Switch in 2018, this flawed but fun title has players taking on the roles of eight different protagonists, each with their own unique set of abilities and gripping storyline. While I don’t believe they did a good job of integrating the characters into each other’s stories, I did find myself really drawn into each one. Be warned, however, that this game features a TON of level grinding, so much so that it makes the game really difficult to progress through due to sheer boredom of the combat.
Yakuza 6: The Song of Life (PC/Xbox One) – Releases Mar. 25th
The second big title coming to Game Pass this week is Sega’s Yakuza 6: The Song of Life. Featuring the final story of series protagonist Kazuma Kiryu, players will have to investigate why someone tried to kill their adopted daughter Haruka, and her infant son Haruto. Obviously the Yakuza are involved somehow and Kiryu, forever trying to escape that life, finds himself once again drawn into their world, and discovers one of the biggest secrets Japan has ever held. It’s a fantastic game that is as hilarious as it is action packed, and yeah, you’re probably going to cry a few times…or least Haruto will.
Tony Hawk Pro Skater 1+2 (PS5/Series X|S) – Releases Mar. 26th
This brilliant remake of the first two Pro Skater games was one of 2020’s best titles, hands down. While that release is backwards compatible with the PS5 and Series X|S, a brand new, fancified version of the game is now being released for next-gen consoles. Why? Who cares, just let them.
Immortals Fenyx Rising: Myths Of The Eastern Realm (PC/PS4/PS5/Stadia/Switch/Xbox One/Series X|S) – Releases Mar. 25th
Immortals Fenyx Rising was a surprise hit at the end of 2020. While most people were trying to get through Cyberpunk 2077’s myriad bugs and crashes, smart players were exploring the vast open worlds that Ubisoft so lovingly ripped off from Breath of the Wild. With its first expansion, Ubisoft has gone to their studio in China, Ubisoft Chengdu, to create a brand new open world based around Chinese myths and legends. If you passed this up back in December, 2020, do yourself a favor and give it a look, you’ll be pleasantly surprised.
Sanity of Morris (PC/PS4/Xbox One) – Releases Mar. 23rd
Love Live! School Idol Festival-after school ACTIVITY-Wai-Wai! Home Meeting!! (PS4) – Releases Mar. 24th
Paradise Lost (PC/PS4/Xbox One) – Releases Mar. 24th
Tales From The Borderlands (Switch) – Releases Mar. 24th
Barrage Fantasia (PC/Switch) – Releases Mar. 25th
Clea 2 (PC/Switch/Xbox One) – Releases Mar. 25th
Crash Bandicoot: On The Run (Android/iOS) – Releases Mar. 25th
Dandy Ace (PC) – Releases Mar. 25th
Evil Inside (PC/PS4/Switch/Xbox One) – Releases Mar. 25th
Kaze and the Wild Masks (PC/PS4/Stadia/Switch/Xbox One) – Releases Mar. 26th
Tank Brawl 2: Armor Fury (PC/Xbox One) – Releases Mar. 26th
Doom 3 VR (PSVR) – Releases Mar. 29th
Notable Releases from 10, 20 and 30 years ago:
Nintendo 3DS – Released Mar. 27th, 2011: Wiki Link
From the early days of home video games, Nintendo has always been the dominate force in handhelds. From the Game & Watch, to the Game Boy, Game Boy Advance, the revolutionary DS, so it was a bit surprising to see the somewhat lukewarm reception to its follow up, the 3DS. By 2011, Nintendo was in a major slump. Their cash cow the Wii was seeing its luster fade as the gimmick of motion controls started to annoy hardcore players, while casual players were moving away from both the Wii and the best selling handheld console of all time, the DS, choosing to instead play games (for free) on their smartphones. This put the 3DS in a tough spot, as the 3D aspect of the device was seen as just another Nintendo gimmick that no one wanted, and of course there was the touch screen component and the built in gyroscope, just more stuff that “gamers” didn’t ask for. Seeing as Nintendo is on top of the world right now with the Switch, it is sometimes difficult to look back and think that The Big N was ever a failure, so much so that many in the gaming world would often say that they should back out of the hardware business and just make games. When it launched in North America on March 27th, 2011, the 3DS did very well initially, but interest quickly faded, with Nintendo blaming it on an extraordinarily high price tag of $249.99. In an unprecedented move, on July 11th, Nintendo announced that after only 5 months on the market, the 3DS would see a significant price drop in August, 2011, to $169.99. This was a bold statement, seemingly showing that Nintendo had no confidence in its new machine, but at the same time they wanted to assure third party publishers that they were committed to the 3DS being a success, even if it meant taking a hit in revenue.
The gamble paid off, and by Christmas the 3DS had seen a 125% increase. However, this did anger the hardcore fans who bought the console on day one for the inflated $249.99 price, what about them? Well, as an olive branch offering, Nintendo promised to give original owners 20 free games through their virtual console service; 10 NES games and 10 Game Boy Advance games, with the promise that they would have an exclusive right to these titles, as they’d never be available to anyone else on the 3DS. It was a small peace offering, but to some it wasn’t enough, including James Stank at Nintendojo.com who said “This is the last time I let Nintendo rip me off. I purchased a 3DS because of the games shown at E3 2010, and we have none of them. The system is a failure, it has no original games worth a purchase…Nintendo is scared, and they should be. The 3DS is a joke right now, and they know it. Vita is around the corner, and will be launching with worthwhile games…I also guarantee that there will be more games worth buying on PS Vita in the first few months than there were on 3DS…I don’t want Nintendo to ever make another console. They make the best games, but buying a system for only their games is getting old…We’d be better off if Nintendo made PS3 games. Obviously they are having trouble on the hardware side of the business so now is the time to cut it out. They can’t keep up with Sony forever“. How did the Vita do? Anyway, enough of that, let’s talk about those “not worth a purchase” launch titles, shall we?
Nintendo First-Party Games:
You can usually count on Nintendo to come out the gate with at least one promising launch title for their systems, but their offerings for the 3DS were, well, a bit lacking. Nintendo has many, many well known franchises, but instead of releasing a new Mario, Zelda, Metroid, Donkey Kong, or even something like F-Zero, their biggest first party franchise release was Pilotwings Resort, followed by Nintendogs + Cats, and a sort of follow-up to their Game Boy title Radar Mission called Steel Diver. Out of these three the best game of the bunch was Pilotwings Resort, taking the fun of the first two games and really tightening up the controls. I had such a blast flying around the skies of Wuhu Island, first seen in Wii Sports Resort, and found it to be a perfect handheld title, allowing for short bursts of pure fun. For the casual crowd we had Nintendogs + Cats, a continuation of the series that started life on the DS back in 2005, and like its predecessor it came in three different versions; French Bulldog, Toy Poodle, and Golden Retriever (Shiba Inu in Japan). Gameplay wise, it didn’t differ much from the DS version, however, as the title states, the major difference here is that the game now features cats as well as dogs, with Shigeru Miyamoto coming up with the idea while he watched his pet dog and cat interact with one another. Well known Japanese gaming magazine Famitsu gave the game a score of 38/40, just two points shy of its predecessor which received a perfect 40/40. Finally, with Nintendo’s third offering Steel Diver, you can really tell that they were going all in with this game, using it as a way to showcase everything the 3DS could do. Despite being announced as a DS game back in 2004, Steel Diver was delayed several times due to both hardware limitations and scheduling conflicts, and by the time Miyamoto and his team started to work on the game, the 3DS was already well into its development so it was decided to switch consoles. Steel Diver has three main game modes, the first is Campaign Missions, played in a side scrolling view, players must use the touch screen to raise and lower their submarine as they dodge obstacles and shoot down enemy ships. Second is Periscope Strike, played in a first person view, players must physically move the 3DS and their bodies around in a circle, looking for enemy ships to shoot down as they tap the screen to fire torpedoes. Lastly is Steel Commander, a strategy game that has players moving around a hexagonal play field as they attempt to find enemy subs and ships, and like Periscope Strike, move into a first person mode where they must spin themselves around looking for someone to blow up. The game didn’t get very good reviews when it released, citing poor replay value, lack of content, and of course, Nintendo’s obsession with making you use just about every gimmick-y function the 3DS has to offer in order to play it. The first party titles might not have been everybody’s cup of tea, but they showed the promise the device had to offer, how did the third party developers do?
Aside from Nintendo, the only other company to release more than one launch title (EA had two actually) was Ubisoft. Seemingly going all in with Nintendo during it’s launch of the 3DS, they would release four titles; the racing game Asphalt 3D, the fighting game Combat of Giants: Dinosaurs 3D, the 3D platformer Rayman 3D, and the tactical combat game Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon: Shadow Wars (the above ad features a new Rabbids game, but this wouldn’t release in the U.S. until April 10th). While Nintendo’s offerings weren’t quite the slate of homerun titles we might have hoped for, Ubisoft’s were borderline offensive with how uninspired and run of the mill they were. The best of the bunch was Rayman 3D, a remake of 1999’s, I’ll say it, masterpiece, Rayman 2: The Great Escape. Based on the superb Dreamcast version, Rayman 3D was one of the biggest highlights of the 3DS launch lineup, for me at least. However, a somewhat poor camera make this a bit of a slog at points, and the fact that it was a port of a 12 year game didn’t really scream “must have”. Still it was so much better than what is, I think, the worst 3DS launch title, Combat of Giants: Dinosaurs 3D. This atrocious title is such a affront to fighting games, if you could even call it that. All of the action takes place with one button, and occasionally stepping to the side to dodge an attack. It’s a complete waste of time and, sadly, it was the hardest game for me to find as I hunted these all down at various retro game shops. Ubisoft, as a whole, typically releases games that skirt the line of tedium and mediocrity, usually being competent and “just fun enough”, but not really leaving a lasting impression. That’s the problem with their last two launch titles. With Asphalt 3D, Ubisoft took a hodgepodge of ideas from better racing games and tried to cram it into one title; it failed. Still, there’s enough stuff to do that you’ll at least be mildly entertained for a little while. In Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon: Shadow Wars, Ubisoft once again took ideas from better made tactical RPGs and dumbed it down into something that I found to be so boring and sterile. When it released, Shadow Wars received pretty favorable reviews, being seen as a unique entry in the launch line up. As time went on, however, its novelty wore off and is just a curiosity at best; not worth your time. Maybe James Stank was right, would any of these launch games be worthwhile?
The short answer, yes! My three favorite launch games on the 3DS were their action/adventure titles; Lego Star Wars III: The Clone Wars, Samurai Warriors: Chronicles and the must have, killer app, Super Street Fighter IV 3D Edition. Based on 2009’s Street Fighter IV and its 2010 follow-up Super Street Fighter IV, this 3DS port was the highlight of the entire launch line up. The graphics weren’t as sharp as the Xbox 360 or PS3, but they were damn impressive for a handheld device. True to form for the device, Capcom opted to make the game slightly easier in an appeal to the casual games market by including the ability to perform special moves by tapping buttons on the 3DS’ touch pad, something I found to be incredibly gratifying. Critics loved the game and were very impressed with the graphics and gameplay tweaks, although they said that the 3D functionality was a big distraction and recommended players leave it turned off. Speaking for myself, I was very excited to see a musou game among the launch titles on the 3DS with Samurai Warriors: Chronicles. A remake of Samurai Warriors 3, there isn’t a whole lot that is brand new, but to be able to take a full fledged musou game on the go must have been a real treat back in 2011. It really does show that the world was ready for console quality games on their portable devices, and in many ways, the 3DS (and the upcoming Wii U) was Nintendo’s trial run for the Switch. Getting back on track, the third action/adventure game was a new entry in the always delightful Lego series of games with Lego Star Wars III: The Clone Wars. Based on the animated series of the same name, The Clone Wars was a multi-platform release, coming to not just the 3DS but also the original DS, PC, PS3, PSP, Wii, and Xbox 360. Reviews were mixed, with the 3DS falling somewhere near the middle on the Metacritic scores (67), for what I assume are poor graphics and somewhat wonky controls. Still, The Clone Wars would have been such a blast to play as a launch title, as the Lego games are well known for their high replay value and high amount of content. Overall, these three titles bring the entire launch lineup higher up than it would have been without them.
You can’t have a console launch without at least one sports game, and the 3DS had three! My favorite out of the bunch was Namco’s Ridge Racer 3D, an always entertaining franchise, and it was leaps and bounds ahead of Ubisoft’s Asphalt 3D, despite less content. Critics weren’t too hot on the game, saying it felt too much like Ridge Racer 7, but the thing is, you couldn’t play RR7 on the bus, so in my book, that puts RR3D ahead. Of course you can’t have a console release without Madden NFL Football, the only Madden game to be released on the 3DS. Critics HATED this game, completely eviscerating it in the gaming press due to its lack of online multiplayer, because god forbid you just play by yourself. Other points of contention included the lack of a franchise mode and an over simplification of the controls and game modes. I, frankly, had a fucking blast with this game, it’s such a perfect, pint sized version of football (including a 5 on 5 mode) that I found myself wanting to play game after game. Time seems to have been kind to this game as it still fetches a high price on the used game market (the copy I bought was nearly $30). Finally, if you’re a fan of that other football, Konami put out Pro Evolution Soccer 2011 3D. Unlike Madden, PES 2011 got pretty good reviews from critics, also unlike Madden, Konami would continue to release PES on the 3DS up through the 2014 version, and finally, unlike Madden, I didn’t really care for this game. Maybe its because I’m just not that big a soccer fan, but I found the gameplay to be dull and tedious. The graphics, though, pretty dang good, and I can certainly see the appeal of having a solid soccer sim on a handheld device. In the end, these three sports titles did a nice job of giving fans competent, well made games for on the go play.
Once the dominate genre of handheld devices, puzzle/simulation games had kind of become less and less important, particularly, I think, because the processing power of handhelds had reached a level that put them more in line with their console cousins; plus people would rather just tap colorful shapes on their iPhone. Still, the genre wasn’t completely dead, as Square Enix, the owners of Taito’s back catalog, put out Bust-A-Move Universe, a new entry in the long running series. Critics were not too hot on the game, and I agree with them, there’s just not a lot here. Still, having Bust-A-Move on the go is a neat idea, the problem is that I’ll never play it again because of how bad it is. If you like your puzzle games a little more platform-y, Sega had you covered with Super Monkey Ball 3D, a new entry in their long running series that first found life as a launch title for the Nintendo GameCube back in 2001 (more on that in the Fall). Players had the ability to control their monkey by using either the circle pad or the 3DS’ built-in gyroscope (you can guess which I utilized). Ultimately, while the game is a fun diversion, it’s not that hot of a title and critics agreed, with a middle of the road 55 score on Metacritic. Finally, in another appeal to the casual crowd, EA released their second launch title, The Sims 3. Despite the PC version receiving near universal acclaim, the 3DS port was not greeted as lovingly, holding a pretty unfavorable 52 rating on Metacritic. Critics pointed out that the game was oversimplified and lacked any real polish. While there was a “full Sims experience” to be had, the unintuitive controls and clunky menus made it a chore to play. I could barely find the motivation to play this for more than 20 minutes, opting to instead go back to Street Fighter IV and Ridge Racer 3D. We were a far cry from Tetris on the Game Boy, and puzzle games weren’t the killer app they once were on handheld devices.
Pokémon Black & White (DS) – Released Mar. 6th, 2001: Wiki Link
As a bonus I will also go over the release of the second to last DS Pokémon game, Black and White. Coming out just about three weeks before the release of the 3DS, I can imagine many players opting to pick this up for their brand new, backwards compatible system to make up for the, I can admit, fairly lackluster launch lineup. Seen as a more mature Pokémon game, Black and White takes place in the Unova region, loosely modeled after New York City where a group called Team Plasma are trying to free Pokémon from what the see as slavery at the hands of human masters. Typical of Pokémon games, players take on the role of a teenage protagonist as they make their way across the region, catching and training Pokémon in an effort to become a champion. Black and White introduced two new ways to battle with Triple Battles and Rotation Battles. In Triple Battles, players must send out three Pokémon at once, with certain attacks only hitting the Pokémon directly across from yours. In Rotation Battles, players again call out three Pokémon, but instead of being side by side, they are in a circle formation, allowing you to rotate them at will. Critical reception was overwhelmingly positive, with Famitsu giving it a perfect score, the 14th title to receive such an honor. This critical reception, as well as the more mature tone, have helped the game receive a mystique among fans of the series. Used copies of the game can fetch high prices in the $70 to $80 range for just the cartridge itself. If you were rollin’ in dough back in 2011 when this and the 3DS released AND you got both, then you were having a pretty darn good end of Winter/beginning of Spring.
The 3DS might be Nintendo’s least successful handheld device, but it still sold 75 million units worldwide, making it the 12th on the all time list , so it’s not like it was a failure. Still, it did signal the casual crowd’s exodus from the traditional game console market, something that will be painfully obvious to Nintendo when they release the Wii U in late 2012. The 3DS would get five different versions over its nine year lifespan, and be home to a plethora of fantastic games, including some of the best JRPGs of the last ten years. On a personal note, I did not receive a 3DS until sometime around 2016 and then didn’t play it until 2018, missing out on most of the console’s best games and never getting to fully take part in the wonderful Streetpass service that made the 3DS one of the last, great social systems. While it has been discontinued, the 3DS is still pretty easy to come by in secondhand stores and at Game Stop, and it has quite a fantastic digital library of both modern and classic titles. Whether you have fond memories of the 3DS, or you’re just getting started, we can hopefully all agree that it’s a brilliant system, one that prophesied Nintendo’s future, both good and bad.
Zone of the Enders (PS2) – Released Mar. 26th, 2001: Wiki Link
Continuing its commitment to big budget, story driven single player action games, the PS2 got its first Hideo Kojima game…demo, as well as another title he produced, the full game Zone of the Enders. While ZoE is a perfectly serviceable game, I think most people bought this because it contained the demo for the HIGHLY anticipated Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty. It’s like when a bunch of people went to showings of Meet Joe Black in 1998 just to get a glimpse of the first trailer for Star Wars: Episode I and then walked out before the movie started. However, if people did decide to actually PLAY the game they bought, they would have been greeted with a fairly competent 3D action shooter with great controls compared to other games of the day, but piss poor compared to what we are used to now. Not only that, but they would have also had to slog their way through a pretty confusing story that didn’t really give you much guidance on where to go next. If you give yourself enough time to learn all of the game’s systems and don’t mind kind of meandering around from play area to play area, them you’ll probably have a good time with Zone of the Enders. Me, I don’t have time to fuck around with bullshit, so I kind of hated this. Written and directed by Noriaki Okamura, this looks to be his first big game, mostly doing work on Konami’s Beatmania series before this (he did a bit of programming on Policenauts as well). It’s perhaps this inexperience that brings the game down a bit, but his goal was to make the game a serious tone and present the player with real world problems that they had to work out on their own, so at least there was some kind of vision behind it. For the artwork, the team brought in Metal Gear artist Yoji Shinkawa to create all of the mechs, and another Metal Gear vet, Nobuyoshi Nishimura, to create the character designs. The story of the game is your kind of standard anime boilerplate stuff; some kind of alien force is attacking a space colony, and a young boy stumbles into a military facility and accidentally launches a giant robot called Jehuty. This boy, named Leo, must take Jehuty to Mars in order to fullfill its original mission. He decides, however, to stay behind and help the colony first, but refuses to kill any humans. Oh, and there’s a girl he likes that also hangs out in Jehuty, I think. It doesn’t matter, none of it matters, because the game is really tough and kind of boring, with you fighting the same handful of robots over and over in the same zones, over and over, with each zone all kind of looking the same. I can commend Okamura and producer Hideo Kojima for trying to do something interesting, but at the end of the day, ZoE is mostly style over substance. If they could fix the controls and the camera (which, I can’t stress enough, is still so much better than most other games released in this time period), it would be a much better title. Zone of the Enders would get a spin off on the Game Boy Advance in 2002, followed by a sequel called The 2nd Runner in 2003. Both ZoE and 2nd Runner would get HD remasters for the Xbox 360 and PS3 in 2012, and it is currently backwards compatible on the Xbox One/Series X|S, so check it out if you want to see what people bought the Metal Gear Solid 2 demo for.
Neverwinter Nights (PC) – Released Mar. 1991: Wiki Link
In the late 1970’s you started to see the first instances of text based online role playing games, by the late 80’s they started to get a bit more advanced, including a short lived beta graphical MMO called Habitat. However, the world’s first commercial, full blown graphical, online RPG was Neverwinter Nights, a new entry in the Dungeons & Dragons Gold Box series of games. The title was a joint effort between developer Beyond Software, game publisher SSI, D&D publisher TSR, and a newly rebranded internet service provider called America Online, or AOL. Taking the engine from earlier SSI Gold Box games, the team at Beyond Software were convinced that they could create an MMORPG with graphics, allowing players to party up take on savage monsters, or if they wanted to be jerks, fight one another. While the vast majority of us use as much internet as we want, whenever we want (including right now as you read this), back in 1991 it was a much different experience. To use AOL you would not only need to dial in using your telephone line, but you had to pay for it BY THE HOUR. AOL would generally give you one free hour a week either in the evening from 6pm to 6am, or anytime during the weekend. If you wanted more than that you’d have to pay anywhere from $5 – $10 PER HOUR. If you were a serious Neverwinter Nights addict then you could easily spend hundreds of dollars a month on internet fees. While your modern MMOs can kind be played at your own pace with or without friends when it is convenient, these high fees meant that it required a very tight schedule in order to play, and this is where Neverwinter Nights shined. Like a television schedule, well known guilds and factions within the game would post times for the various events they would host. PVP nights, dungeon raiding, chatting, whatever you wanted, it was just a fun place to hang out with friends and blow off some steam, just like any good MMO. The game ran for 6 years, shutting down in 1997, which by that time had a player base of roughly 115,000 people, with near 2,000 people online during peak hours. Developer BioWare would eventually pick up the Neverwinter Nights license and create their own seminal RPG in 2002, and that’s really the only one you can still play today. You can get the 1991 Neverwinter Nights from most abandonware websites, but there’s no way to connect it to the internet and play it as intended, leaving you with an odd single player experience that doesn’t come anywhere close to matching the original game. If you want some more first hand experience with the game I recommend checking out the comments section of this page, it’s a fun look back at what it was like to play games online in the early 90’s. Thank goodness we don’t have to pay for internet by the hour anymore, can you imagine only getting a few minutes a night to do all the things you normally do on the net? We’ve lost some of that ritual over the years, sitting down, looking at email, browsing message boards, chatting with a couple friends, it’s made the net a lot less special than it used to be. Thankfully, communities can still thrive online, just look at what all of us have done here at The Avocado. Thanks again for reading these every week and I look forward to chatting again soon. Please put your A/S/L in the comments.
If you like what I’m doing here consider supporting me on Patreon: