Last week was NUTS, so it’s nice to have a bit of a breather this week. Still, a huge, HUGE game is releasing, so it’s not like we’re sitting here with another port as the top release. I tried to go out this weekend and everything was packed to the gills, it was kind of nice to see things getting back to normal a bit, but on the other hand I’m both annoyed that I can’t visit places without a giant crowd AND I don’t want to be around them. The retro game store I frequent had like ten people inside of it, and it’s a small store, I felt really claustrophobic. Anyway, what does this have to do with anything? Watch the video and/or read the stuff I wrote below. Byeeeee!!!
Outriders (PC/PS4/PS5/Stadia/Xbox One/Series X|S) – Releases Apr. 1st
According to just about every gaming outlet, Outriders is set to be the biggest, god damn game of the year, I guess. I had never heard of this thing until about three weeks ago, but apparently it’s akin to the second coming of Christ. In fact, this game is so amazing and poised to do so well that they’re giving it away for free (on Xbox…with Game Pass). If you had planned, or already did, spend $60 on Outriders, I would strongly suggest you don’t and/or cancel your pre-order. Even if this looter shooter is a decent title, it’s going to drop in price almost immediately, mark my words. I’m looking forward to thinking about picking this up at Target on Black Friday for $4.99, assuming I don’t get tickets to Comic-Con. Oh yeah, if you didn’t hear, Comic-Con is on Thanksgiving weekend this year.
Evil Genius 2: World Domination (PC) – Releases Mar. 30th
You might be wondering “how could so many people work for an evil organization”, well, maybe the pay $15 an hour, and the DEFINITELEY allow you to take regular bathroom breaks. If you believe tweets that say their workers have to pee in bottles, pfft, I feel sorry for you for being so dumb.
I Saw Black Clouds (PC/PS4/Switch/Xbox One) – Releases Mar. 30th
I have a headache so I can’t really think about this game right now.
Narita Boy (PC/PS4/Switch/Xbox One) – Releases Mar. 30th
See the previous game to understand why I didn’t write anything here.
Ports and Re-releases:
Disco Elysium: The Final Cut (iOS/PC/PS4/PS5/Stadia) – Releases Mar. 30th
One of 2019’s most celebrated games is getting a bunch of new content and is finally coming to next gen consoles with the release of a PS5 version (Series X|S is later this year, probably free with Game Pass). There’s new missions, new characters, new cut scenes, new outfits, full controller support, and probably the coolest new feature, the game is now fully voice acted. If you’re like me and totally slept on this game, now is probably the best time to pick it up.
Kingdom Hearts Series (PC-Epic Games Store) – Releases Mar. 30th
Coming exclusively to the Epic Games Store, Square Enix’s long running, and absolutely confusing, Kingdom Hearts series is now available on PC! Long time fans, or first time newbies, will be able to purchase HD I.5 + II.5 Remix, HD 2.8 Final Chapter Prologue, III – Re Mind, and the most recent release, Melody of Memory (confusing letters and numbers to be added at a later date).
TY the Tasmanian Tiger 2: Bush Rescue HD (Switch) – Releases Mar. 30th
Someone asked for this; was it you? Why?
Resident Evil VII: Biohazard – Gold Edition (Stadia) – Releases Apr. 1st
Stadia owners can now own one of the best Resident Evil games just months before the entire service is (probably) shut down.
Hitman 3: 7 Deadly Sins – Act1: Greed (PC-Epic Games Store/PS4/PS5/Stadia/Switch/Xbox One/Series X|S) – Releases Mar. 30th
If you haven’t had a chance to play Hitman III I would strongly recommend you stop whatever it is you’re doing and go grab a copy, it’s by far one of the best games of the year up to this point. If you’re like me and you already finished the game and are looking for a reason to dive back in, the team at IO Interactive have the first of seven DLC episodes ready to be explored. Based on the seven deadly sins, the first episode of this pack is called Greed and finds players returning to Dubai to partake in a ton of new challenges that will test their ability to stave of the temptation of the seven deadly sins. Over the coming months we’ll get the other six sins, as well as a boatload of new content drizzled out on a weekly basis. Like Arnold said, I was born to be bad.
The Binding of Isaac: Repentance (PC) – Releases Mar. 31st
According to the developer, The Binding of Isaac: Repentance is so big that they didn’t want to call it a sequel, so they’re calling it DLC instead; okay. Whatever this is, there is a ton of new content to play through, with new levels, new enemies, new bosses, new weapons, and over 500 hours of game play. You could play a Persona 4 or 5 times in the same amount of time it would take you to finish this DLC. Doesn’t that sounds great…
Notable Releases from 10, 20 and 30 (and sometimes 40) years ago:
The Legend of Heroes: Trails in the Sky (PSP) – Released Mar. 29th, 2011: Wiki Link
When it comes to JRPGs and North America, for every Final Fantasy there is a Shin Megami Tensei. Some JRPG series, for whatever reason (usually popularity) come to North America much sooner than others, despite how long ago they debuted in Japan. With the Legend of Heroes franchise, the first title in the series, Dragon Slayer, was released in 1989 for the PC-88 8-bit home computer. Surprisingly, we would get this game for the TurboGrafx-CD system in 1992, but despite several more entries releasing in Japan, we wouldn’t see another title until 2005 with the release of the PSP remake of 1996’s A Tear of Vermillion. After that game’s release we started to get entries on a regular basis for the PSP, including this week’s notable title, Trails in the Sky, the first entry in the Trails sub series that is still going strong today (the latest title, Trails of Cold Steel IV came out in 2020). The game’s main focus is on two protagonists, Estelle and her adopted brother Joshua. Raised in the small town of Rolent by their father Cassius Bright, Estelle and Joshua become heroes for hire called Bracers, following in the footsteps of Cassius who is considered the most accomplished Bracer in the group. When Cassius is called away on special assignment, it is up to Estelle and Joshua to take on his jobs and help the people of Rolent. As their journey continues, they start to become embroiled in an intercontinental mystery that threatens the entire world! Yeah, typical JRPG stuff, but while that might all sound like boilerplate nonsense, the real meat of the game comes from the massive story that is told over the course of anywhere from 60 to 80 hours (or more). You get to watch Estelle, who starts off as a pain the ass nitwit, learn to gain confidence and self worth, a really great character that become more endearing with each hour. Joshua, the orphan, learn more about his past; who he is, where he comes from, what his life was like before Cassius saved him at the age of eleven. There’s a ton of characters to meet and add to your party, giving the game an insane amount of dialogue, which all needed to be translated. Originally, Trails in the Sky was a PC release in 2004, with a PSP port arriving in Japan on Oct. 28th, 2006. When publisher XSEED Games acquired the rights to the game in 2010, it would take them nearly ten months to complete the translation for Trails in the Sky due to the amount of dialogue, which was rich with lore and contained intricate plot details that they didn’t want to mess up. When the game finally hit North America it was greeted with near universal acclaim from critics who praised the rich, incredibly detailed world. They found the game to be a love letter to JRPGs of the past, as well as the anime films of Hayao Miyazaki. Wired magazine put it in their top 20 games of 2011 list, and website RPGFan called it the best RPG of 2011. Despite the high praise from critics, the game was a huge flop in North America, which is a real shame. Not that it really mattered, the three game arc was finished and released in North America, and while the next two games wouldn’t hit our shores, the Trails of Cold Steel sub series is doing incredibly well, so all’s well that end’s well, I suppose. Trails in the Sky is readily available on PC through Steam, and if you have a spare 60 hours I’d highly recommend giving it a try.
The Simpsons Wrestling (PlayStation) – Released Apr. 3rd, 2001: Wiki Link
In the grand halls of The Worst Games of All Time, many of the titles on the shelf belong to The Simpsons. Since the release of Bart vs. The Space Mutants in 1991, it’s pretty much been unplayable slog after unplayable slog. Granted, there have been a few good ones in the franchise (more on that in a moment), but for a such a critically acclaimed show, its games have been mostly dog shit. Case in point, 2001’s The Simpsons Wrestling; a game that has you constantly scratching your head and thinking, why was this even made? Developer Big Ape Productions was tapped to make the game by Fox Interactive, in what appears to be the first in a line of “parody” type games featuring the famous family that would include Skateboarding, Road Rage, and Hit & Run. Before this game, Big Ape had made a well received action/adventure game called Herc’s Adventures, as well as the movie tie-in game, Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace (which was also kindly received). With their previous Simpsons titles doing well, Fox Interactive felt like they could do anything with the characters, so why not wrestling? Well, for starters, the Simpsons are a family with two adults, and three children. In the game you get to play as or play against two of the children. Now I know this is a cartoon, but seeing Homer beat the shit out of Lisa Simpson is a grotesque image I can never wash out of my mind. It’s horrifying to watch, and not just because of the god awful graphics and terrible animations, but because of how disgusting the idea is. I can’t believe someone thought it would be a good idea to have Ned Flanders pummeling children. It sounds kind of hilarious on paper, but in practice it is an exercise in bad taste. Now, is it the worst game of all time? No, it’s actually somewhat competent if you take the time to learn the terrible controls, but you’ll hate yourself long before that even happens, so what’s the point? Critics eviscerated the game, calling it one of the worst ever made, trashing the ugly graphics that looked worse than most PlayStation launch games, and basically describing it as a waste of time and resources. Unsurprisingly, however, the game sold pretty well (a theme for most Simpsons games), and it didn’t stop Fox Interactive from releasing their slate of Simpsons “parody” style games. Big Ape would putt around for a few more years before releasing their final game, 2003’s Celebrity Deathmatch, another licensed wrestling game that was similarly hated by critics. As far as I can tell there is no legal way to play this game aside from finding a used copy for your PSX, but I would strongly recommend you stay very, VERY, far away from this turd.
The Simpsons Arcade Game (Arcade) – Released Mar. 4th, 1991: Wiki Link
In order to go from the worst Simpsons video game to the best Simpsons video game, we need to travel back in time to the year 1991. Appearing in Chuck E. Cheese’s, liquor stores, 7-11’s, arcades, laundromats, and the Walt Disney World Denny’s, among other places, it was Konami’s latest beat ’em up simply titled The Simpsons (known colloquially as The Simpsons Arcade Game). Depending on who you talk to, The Simpsons Arcade Game is either the first or second video game to bear the Simpsons license (Bart vs. The Space Mutants either came out in February of April), not that it really matters much, the fact is that both came out around the same time and both were part of the huge, cultural zeitgeist that was The Simpsons in the early 90’s. Having had a major hit with their Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle beat ’em up in 1989, Konami tackled the Simpsons and came at the license with all of the love and care that they showed to the Turtles. Everything was there, from the fantastic art design that looked exactly like the show, to the easter eggs from not just The Simpsons, but also from Matt Groening’s Life In Hell, with Binky the rabbit appearing multiple times throughout the game. If you aren’t familiar with the game, the premise is that Smithers has stolen a large diamond for Mr. Burns, but as he flees the crime scene he bumps into the Simpson family, knocking Maggie’s pacifier out of her mouth and the diamond out of Smithers’ hand. The diamond ends up in Maggie’s mouth, so Smithers kidnaps her, leaving the family to chase after him. Along the way they are attacked by a slew of hired goons in suits, as well as zombies, bigfoots, giant donuts, and a bunch of other wacky characters. While I earlier mentioned how bad it was seeing Bart and Lisa get pummeled by adults in The Simpsons Wrestling was, but in this game I find it more charming. Maybe because the two of them appear to hold their own against these adults, maybe because it isn’t their own mother beating the shit out of them, I don’t know. You likely forgive it because the game is so well made, and it shows on every facet of the game. The graphics and stellar, the art direction is top notch, the stages are hilarious, the boss battles are memorable, and the sound effects & music are some of the best of any arcade game ever made. If you walked into a gaming parlor in the 90’s you would have been greeted to a symphony of “hadouken”, “get over here”, and the returning player sound from The Simpsons Arcade Game. Anytime we went to an arcade I was spending what little money my parents let me have on this game, it was both exhilarating and a comfort. It’s also home to two of my worst gaming memories, on a church outing to Chuck E. Cheese I threw in my token and hit start just as, I guess, a dad was jumping in to play with his kid. He was like “What the fuck, asshole” to me, an 11 year old boy. He took out a token, shoved into my chest and told me to beat it, so that was fun. Then on a trip to Walt Disney World with family, my parents decided to sleep in one morning, but the rest of my family decided to grab breakfast at the Denny’s near our hotel. I tagged along, because french toast slam, duh, but while we were waiting I noticed a Simpson’s cabinet in their game room. I scarfed down my food and then ran over to the machine, popping in my quarter and starting up a game. A few minutes into playing, my uncle walks up and yells at me in front of all my aunts, cousins, and grandma, saying something like “If you didn’t want to spend time with your family WHY DID YOU COME!“, to, at this point in my life, a 12 or 13 year old kid. I don’t know what the fuck is wrong with adults, and why we treat kids this way, especially in regards to video games, but these two events have been forever tied to this game that I love so much. I think it speaks to how good this game really is that I can still consider it one of my all time favorites, despite such traumatic events tied to it. Unfortunately, The Simpsons Arcade Game is not available in any format, as its Xbox 360 and PS3 ports were delisted years ago, meaning you’ll only be able to play this at whatever dingy arcade is still open. Hey, maybe its still at the Walt Disney World Denny’s.
Defender (Arcade) – Released Mar. 1981: Wiki Link
It’s nearly 11pm and I’m not really feeling this anymore, so let me just give you the facts here. Released in March of 1981, Defender was the first video game developed by Eugene Jarvis who, at the time, was a prolific pinball machine developer for Williams Electronics, having created all time classics like Pin-Bot, Space Shuttle, and F-14 Tomcat. For their very first video game, like many other game developers in the early 80’s, Williams and Jarvis took inspiration from Space Invaders, but he wanted to go further with the concept, so instead of sitting at the bottom of a single screen blasting aliens, Jarvis wanted players to be able to traverse a wide open space horizontally, while moving their ship vertically. As they moved around the screen, which was basically a big loop, players would need to defend a group of humans on the ground from alien ships that would fly in from the sky. These aliens would abduct humans, and if they were able to take them all the way to the top of the screen they would fuse with the ship, making it faster. Players would have to destroy the alien ship before this, and if the human was too high in the air they would need to catch them and safely set them back onto the ground, giving the game a ton of strategy and depth, unlike anything that had been done before. It was a solid gold idea, and Defender would go on to sell tens of thousands of units, becoming one of the highest grossing arcade games of all time. Like many arcade games, Defender is well known for its unique sound effects, including the scream as humans fell from the sky after a ship was shot down, to the buzzing, warp drive noise, to the strangle garble of noise as a ship abducts a human. Like most successful games back in the early 80’s, tons of clones would pop up. One of the best and most notable was Activision’s Chopper Command for the Atari 2600 in which players controlled a helicopter as it blasted aircraft out of the sky that were attacking a convoy of supply vehicles on the ground below. Like Pac-Man, Centipede, Galaga, and many of the arcade games we’ve talked about and will talk about, Defender was part of an elite class of games that helped shape and define our modern video game world. While its mechanics might seem archaic and outdated to some, there can be no denying how important its impact had on the creators we all admire, as well as the more “seasoned” gamers in the world. You can find Defender on just about any modern console or PC, including the fantastic Midway Arcade Origins on the Xbox One (or Xbox 360). Give it a try, I think you’ll be surprised at how much you’ll enjoy it.
I’m very tired, but you should check out this new song from the band Citizen; it gets me pumped as I take my morning walks:
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