April continues to be a slow month, with this week’s top release being a modernized port of the eleven year old Nier. Not a lot to talk about up here so let’s just get right to it, shall we?
Nier Replicant ver.1.22474487139 (PC/PS4/Xbox One) – Releases Apr. 23rd
Yes, it is true that Nier Replicant is a re-make/update to the 2010 game of the same name, but what you might not know is that we didn’t actually get this game in North America. You might be confused, sorry, we did get a game in North America called Nier, but it is not the same game as Nier Replicant, it was a follow-up title called Nier Gestalt in Japan. If you remember my write up on it a few months back, Replicant was considered too “kiddie/anime” for us badasses in the U.S., so SquareEnix decided to only port Gestalt, which featured a more grizzled and mature thirty-something year old man. To recap, this new port of Nier Replicant is old to Japanese players (and Westerners who imported it), but it will be brand new to all of us in North America, so hooray! Finally, this is NOT a port of the PS3 Nier which was called Nier Gestalt in Japan. Why are you looking at me like that? This all makes sense, just read it again.
MLB The Show 21 (PS4/PS5/Xbox One/Series X|S) – Releases Apr. 20th
Fernando Tatis Jr. is the cover star for this year’s MLB The Show, which as a San Diego boi I am VERY excited about. FLIP THAT BAT, MOTHER FUCKER!! It’s not Tatis in this clip below, but it’s still the greatest moment I’ve ever experienced in a live sporting event. If you know anything about San Diego sports you’ll know that our home games are generally about 70/30 in favor of the opposing team, so to be in my home town, surrounded by, literally, 3 or 4 dozen Dodger’s fans, this was such a wonderful moment. You might have won the World Series, but you’ll never take this experience away from me.
Buildings Have Feelings Too! (PC/PS4/Switch/Xbox One) – Releases Apr. 22nd
I originally posted a version of this back on January 28th, 2020 when I thought the game was coming out.
The city building simulator has been a long staple in the video game industry since Will Wright brought us SimCity in 1989, however, none of these games have ever stopped to ask just exactly how the various buildings feel about being built. Well now we can wonder no further, as the developers at Blackstaff Games are finally giving these buildings a chance to tell their side of the story as they lament the passage of time and their own obsolescence with the release of Buildings Have Feelings Too. In a city where every building is alive and sentient, you are tasked with discovering just what each of them needs in order to be happy and fulfill their personal goals. You start off in a small industrial community from the Victorian era and eventually make your way to modern times, having to keep up with all of the changes that happen along the way. I’m excited to give this game a try, it’s quirky and irreverent, while at the same time giving me something I am familiar with. I hope it’s actually coming out this time.
Moto GP 21 (PC/PS4/PS5/Stadia/Switch/Xbox One/Series X|S) – Releases Apr. 22nd
It’s a motorcycle racing game, there’s not much to it other than that. If you like the “vroom-vroom crotch rockets“, then you’re probably going to like this game. Unlike last year’s “historic” mode that allowed you to race and compete in various real life scenarios from motorcycle racing’s past, in this year’s game you’ll just have access to “historic” racers and their bikes, from what I can tell. I have to say, though, that these graphics are really impressive and it seems like racing games are always kind of on the forefront when it comes to cutting edge graphics. Am I wrong?
Smelter (PC/PS4/Switch/Xbox One) – Releases Apr. 22nd
Thank goodness the character in this 2D platformer has jiggle physics for her boobs, I wasn’t sure how I was going to be able to justify jacking off to this when my wife walks into the bedroom.
Ports and Re-releases:
Atelier Mysterious Trilogy Deluxe Pack (PC/PS4/Switch) – Releases Apr. 22nd
After the release of the Dusk Trilogy in 2020, JRPG fans are in for even more Atelier fun with the enhanced versions of the Mysterious saga. Available as a complete bundle, or separately, old players will be happy to know that each game contains new content to experience, and for new players you’ll be treated to three great JRPGs that you’ll probably never get around to playing because life is short and you should probably clean out the garage one of these days.
Shantae (Switch) – Releases Apr. 22nd
Originally released in 2002 for the Game Boy Color, Shantae has become somewhat of an indie star in the platforming world. Mostly known to hardcore retro game enthusiasts, the last decade has seen her stock rise thanks to a handful of really great, fun filled adventures. With copies of the original game going for insane amounts of money on eBay ($2,000 to $8,000), new fans finally have a chance to play her very first game (without emulating it). As a nice bonus, the port even includes an enhanced GBA version of the game, as well as containing a lot of the things these modern ports of retro titles tend to include (save states, rewind, etc.).
Judgement (PS5/Stadia/Series X|S) – Releases Apr. 23rd
This sort of spin-off to the Yakuza series is much more serious in its tone, with players taking on the role of an ex-lawyer turned private eye. You’ll spend a lot of time investigating with your drone and tailing criminals, and, wait, why am I talking about this game, just check out this Mega64 video that explains it all:
Maskmaker (PC VR/PSVR) – Releases Apr. 20th
Moon Raider (PC/PS4/Switch/Xbox One) – Releases Apr. 23rd
Notable Releases from 10, 20 and 30 years ago:
Mortal Kombat (PS3/Xbox 360) – Released Apr. 19th, 2011: Wiki Link
In the years preceding the release of 2011’s Mortal Kombat, the series had suffered through almost 15 years of terrible spin-off’s and lackluster releases that were a fry cry from what the original three games were. While the 2000’s did give us main line entries that continued the story, it didn’t feel like many people were paying attention, and it’s tough to say if that was the fault of developer Ed Boon and his team or publisher Midway. Still, despite its fading luster we would keep getting MK games, and in 2008 we finally got a title that brought the series back to its roots with Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe. While Boon’s team had to make that game with a T rating, they had been tossing around ideas for an ultra violent version of Mortal Kombat after seeing the success of Gear of War and it’s intense levels of gore. With this idea still in their back pocket, Ed Boon and the team moved ahead on Mortal Kombat 9, hoping to bring back all the blood and guts fans loved; then Midway went out of business. However, it didn’t tae long for someone to see the huge potential in Midway’s back catalog, and in its most popular and successful IP, Mortal Kombat, just who was that company? Why it was Warner Bros., the company that just so happened to own the DC Universe, who Midway had just partnered with on the most recent Mortal Kombat game; imagine that! With a new boss, Boon and his team created NetherRealm out of the ashes of Midway’s Chicago studio and moved forward with their gritty reboot of Mortal Kombat.
Making a “gritty” version of Mortal Kombat sounds redundant, but while the original three arcade games were controversial for the level of violence depicted, in hindsight it looks really cartoonish and, frankly, tame. Again, taking inspiration from Epic’s Gears of War, NetherRealm went overboard with the extreme violence in Mortal Kombat, making those first three games look like something you’d play in Sunday School. While the original games used digitized images of real people, video game graphics had come a long way in terms of realism, so even though these models were completely fabricated, they looked more real than the old sprites, and NetherRealm really made you feel the excruciating pain that the fighters felt. Since the fatalities were generally the most beloved parts of Mortal Kombat, the team introduced “X-Ray Moves”, special attacks that show you what is happening to your opponents insides, i.e., bones shattering, organs exploding, teeth flying, muscles severed; it was fucking disgusting…and cool. Seeing this as an opportunity to start fresh, Ed Boon decided that this would be a complete re-do of the franchise, combining the stories from MK 1, 2 & 3, allowing NetherRealm to come up with new stories for each of the characters without having to adhere to previously established canon. When it released, Mortal Kombat received universal acclaim from both critics and players, many of which were enthusiastic about the franchise’s return to ultra violence. The game was a massive financial success, with Warner Bros. stating that sales of the game were so good that it completely covered the cost of their Midway purchase, a solid investment indeed. To capitalize on this new success, NetherRealm poured a ton of resources into DLC for the game and birthed one of the most controversial elements in video games; the season pass. While Rockstar’s L.A. Noire would technically be the first game to have one, Mortal Kombat’s is the one that kind of set the standard for how they’d be rolled out, and it was particularly influential on all fighting games moving forward. Not only did their season pass influence fighting games, but it’s movie-like story mode was also seen as a major shift in the genre, with many games afterwards having one, including Street Fighter V, Tekken 7, and Marvel vs. Capcom: Infinite. NetherRealm’s return to form was a huge win for just about everyone; the studio, the publisher, the online marketplace vendors, and of course, the players. NetherRealm would follow it up with two more titles, Mortal Kombat X & 11, and thanks to the WB connection they even created the successful Injustice franchise, a fighting game featuring multiple characters from the DC Universe. It took a little over 15 years, but Mortal Kombat was finally back in everyone’s good graces, let’s just hope they don’t try to make any spin-off’s.
ALSO! Shout out to my buddy Rolan and his special edition:
Silpheed: The Lost Planet (PS2) – Released Apr. 23rd, 2001: Wiki Link
From well known Japanese developers Treasure and Game Arts comes the PS2’s first bullet hell shooter, the very fun, very underrated Silpheed: The Lost Planet. A sequel to the 1986 PC game (which was eventually ported to DOS in the US, before coming to the Sega CD in 1993), Silpheed: The Lost Planet is a vertical scrolling shoot ’em up where players must defend the remaining human colonies from a race of evil aliens called the UTOO. Published in North America by Working Designs, they made a few small changes to the title (as they were known to do) including adding analog support and controller vibration, while also optimizing the game a bit, which eliminated most of the slowdown issues present in the Japanese release. Silpheed isn’t perfect, it’s not the most in depth SHMUP ever made, and despite it’s rather easy levels, losing in the stage requires you to start all the way over from the beginning, with no save feature (that I’m aware of). Still, in the early life of the PS2, this was certainly a game that you could easily play in-between some of the heavier games like Onimusha and Zone of the Enders. Critics weren’t overly impressed, particularly in Japan (I’m sure that slowdown issue was to blame), but with its, for the time, impressive graphics and crisp soundtrack, Silpheed: The Lost Planet was considered a worthy addition to the early PS2 library. Should you play it now? Sure, if you can find a copy and own a PS2 because (of course) it is nowhere to be found on any modern console. I’m not sure what is going on with Treasure, but it seems like they’ve given up on releasing any ports of their games, it’s a shame to see such a beloved developer fall by the wayside, taking their games with them. If you do happen to run across this game in the wild then I’d highly recommend you pick it up or, you know, just emulate it.
Game Gear – Released Apr. 26th, 1991: Wiki Link
Nintendo’s 1989 foray into the handheld video game market, the Game Boy, was a massive success, selling millions of units around the world. Sega also made a big gamble in 1989 with the release of the Genesis/Mega Drive, hoping to replace the NES as the home console of choice. They were doing okay with their 16-bit system, and things were about to take off in a big way with the upcoming Sonic the Hedgehog (more on that in June), but they were still trailing Nintendo. With their efforts to try and overtake the Big N, Sega continued to cater their U.S. marketing towards teen boys and adult men, positioning the Game Gear as the “cool” alternative to the Game Boy (Japan had a different approach, and they heavily marketed the device towards adult women, the Game Boy’s primary audience). Just like the Game Boy, Sega created the Game Gear out of pieces from their 8-bit console, the Master System, but unlike Nintendo who opted to make their handheld display monochrome, Sega wanted to blow their competition out of the water with a brightly lit, full color display. It was an impressive feat, and clearly looked better than the Game Boy, but like Atari found out with the Lynx, consumers preferred value over optics. Requiring an astounding six AA batteries, the Game Gear was a beast of a machine, not to mention it was gigantic in comparison to both the Game Boy and the Lynx. While you might be playing games in color, you’d only get to enjoy those titles for about 2 to 3 hours before having to replace all six AA batteries again (and you thought replacing the 2 batteries in an Xbox 360 controller was annoying). This made the system almost unplayable without using an AC adapter (sold separately), and was partly responsible for its slow acceptance and eventual discontinuation. Like Atari’s Lynx, the Game Gear suffered from low third party support, with most developers in contracts with Nintendo (or likely threatened to stay away from other handhelds if they wanted to keep releasing titles on Game Boy). However, unlike Atari, Sega had very good in-house development teams and a brand new mascot in Sonic. This allowed the Gear Gear to eke out a low, but respectable, 11 million units sold over its lifespan, that’s more units than the Vita (possibly), Master System, TuboGrafx-16, Saturn, Dreamcast, Lynx, and TurboExpress. By 1997, Sega would cease all support for the Game Gear, focusing on their portable Genesis called Nomad, but in reality, Sega just had too many irons in the fire with the Genesis, Sega CD, 32X, the newly released Saturn, and their upcoming last ditch effort, the Dreamcast. Like a lot of Sega’s consoles in the 90’s, the only kids I knew with a Game Gear were the “rich” ones, until about the mid 90’s when the only kids who had one were the ones that got it on clearance from Sears. Alright, enough about the device, let’s talk about those launch games; show us what you’ve got, Sega!
The main thing you’re going to notice about all of these titles is that they are already available on other Sega systems in one form or another. Our first title was also the pack-in game for the system, Sega’s Tetris clone, Columns. Created by Jay Geertsen in 1990, he sold the game to Sega in the same year as they wanted to make sure they had a puzzle game to challenge Nintendo’s massive hit in Tetris. Columns on the Game Gear played almost identically to its Genesis counterpart, with most of the big changes coming in the audio/visual department. The goal as exactly the same, line up three gems vertically, horizontally, or diagonally, and make them explode. Keep doing this over and over again until you fill up the play field and receive a game over. While I don’t find Columns be as addictive or replayable as Tetris, it’s a solid game that would certainly help you pass the time in class while the teacher talked about some stupid shit like the Panama Canal, or whatever.
It’s strange to think about this, but before the release of the Switch, if you wanted to play a home console portably you would have to purchase not only two systems, but two copies of the game. Case in point, the Game Gear launch title Dragon Crystal is a portable version of a Genesis game called Fatal Labyrinth, released roughly around the same time as this. Dragon Crystal is a top down, rogue-lite RPG with procedurally generated dungeons and bears a striking similarity to ChunSoft’s Mystery Dungeon series. Players take on the role of a young man who has seemingly stumbled into another dimension after walking into an antique shop down an alley he’s never seen in his town before. Players must search maze-like dungeons for an exit, fighting monsters and collecting treasure along the way, before they die of hunger. They are also tasked with watching over a dragon egg that, as you gain levels, eventually hatches and spawns a baby dragon that grows over time (and seemingly does nothing). Players must make it through 30 (I think) levels, or get to level 30, at which time they fight a big dragon and collect some kind of chalice that transports them back to the real world. Idiotic premise aside, this is hands down the best launch title on the Game Gear. I spent a good 2 hours last weekend playing this, having a fucking blast with it, trying to figure out what each potion did, gawking at the ridiculous easter island faces that make up one of the dungeons, and getting lost in nostalgia. If you only get one Game Gear launch title, make it Dragon Crystal (its counterpart Fatal Labyrinth is currently available on Steam and as part of the Sega Genesis Classics collection on PS4, Switch, and XBone).
G-LOC: Air Battle
Sega’s After Burner series was an arcade staple in the late 80’s/early 90’s, and its follow up series called G-LOC was the latest and greatest in the franchise. It was a sleek, sophisticated title that really pushed the limits of realism in 1990. That doesn’t really translate too well into the 8-bit world, however. G-LOC: Air Battle on the Game Gear isn’t really a bad game, it’s just kind of bland, which is almost worse than being bad. Still, compared to what the Game Boy was offering, G-LOC was mighty impressive, certainly something I would have personally played the hell out of at ten years old. At the end of the day, this port is god awful, you’re better off playing the Genesis version, or even better, playing the arcade port they released on the Switch last year.
The lone platforming title in the Game Gear’s launch lineup, Psychic World is a very generic, very boring game that I can not, in good conscience, recommend to anybody. It’s painfully boring, controls like shit, and is incredibly confusing and obtuse. Still, it’s got anime cutscenes, so that’ll probably do it for some people.
Super Monaco GP
When it comes to arcade racing games, Sega’s 1980’s/1990’s offering are among the best. Using the same standard look as Hang-On, Outrun, and many others, Super Monaco GP is a formula car racing game which has players taking part in the real life event, the Monaco Grand Prix. While that race is considered one of the most important and prestigious in all of auto racing, this Game Gear port is far from it, looking more like a race around the block on your Huffy bicycle. While I may be judging this harshly, the game is pretty competent, and taken in the context of a handheld title in 1991 I would argue that it’s one of the better launch releases on the Game Gear. When it’s all said and done, if someone had bought me a Game Gear on launch day and supplied me with Dragon Crystal and either G-LOC or Super Monaco GP, I would have spent hours sitting on the couch (with the AC adapter plugged in) and had a ball.
In hindsight, most of these games are garbage, and it didn’t really get much better over the years for the Game Gear, but it did get some decent Sonic games, so it has that going for it. If you had one of these growing up I was probably very jealous of you for a couple years, then I was making fun of you because I was a shithead Nintendo fanboy. Game Gear units are pretty hard to find nowadays, and even if you do happen to see one, chances are it’s probably broken, as the system was also notorious for being cheaply manufactured (see also the TurboExpress and Atari Lynx). There are other options out there, like Hyperkin’s Retron 5 with the Game Gear add-on peripheral, but your best bet is probably emulation, or I guess the 3DS’ virtual console.
Happy Tuesday, folks!
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