Woah, did you know a brand new console was coming out this week? Yeah, neither did I. This week is incredibly light which is pretty typical as the industry seems to carve out this time of year to focus on their E3 announcements. This also means that by the time you are reading this I’m almost certain that Nintendo will have announced three or four games that “drop today” during their latest Direct. This faux E3 is winding down, but time means nothing, just say that you’ll stay and talk about new games with me.
Atari VCS – Releases Jun. 15th
Atari were once the kings of the video game industry. Their insanely popular Atari 2600 was the top console of choice in homes across America, but a lack of quality control that led to massive market saturation, as well as poorly made, rushed games, would cause the games industry to crash, hard. Famously, the Nintendo Entertainment System would cause the market to bounce back in 1985, rescuing the hobby we all love. Unfortunately for Atari, they wouldn’t really ever recapture their dominant share of the market. Despite several more iterations of the Atari console, as well as personal computers, they just couldn’t beat Nintendo and Sega in the 80s and early 90s. After years of fumbling around, changing ownership, going through bankruptcy, Atari now finds itself with its first brand new console since 1993’s Jaguar, the Atari VCS. Billed as more of a computer that you can hook up to your television, the VCS isn’t your typical PlayStation/Xbox/Nintendo console, you won’t really be playing the next major AAA title on this thing. Instead the console will play a slew of classic Atari games that range from some of their arcade hits like Crystal Castles and Gravitron, to console ports that you probably already have in some kind of Atari collection. That’s the big problem with the VCS, for me at least. Everything you can play on it you will likely already have somewhere if you’re a fan of Atari games. The steep $399.99 price tag is also fairly laughable, even if it is considered a somewhat decent PC (that runs Linux). Honestly, the main reason to maybe buy one of these is for its ability to run emulation software, making the VCS a really good option for people who want to play classic NES, SNES, Genesis, etc. games on their TV without having to pay for those old games either on the original hardware or as ports. If this was a Retron style console that let you play the old Atari 2600 cartridges, as well as allow for digital downloads of classic games, I might go for it, but as a $400 mini PC this is something I have zero use for, unless you want to buy me one for my birthday, or whatever.
Speaking of Crystal Castles…
Bakumatsu Renka SHINSENGUMI (PC/Switch) – Releases Jun. 17th
Hey there, otome fans. This 2008 DS game is making its way to the Switch, letting you live out your wildest Japanese girl soldier fantasies. Which of your comrades will you date? The story changes depending on your love interest, so make sure you replay the game with each!
Red Solstice 2: Survivors (PC) – Releases Jun. 17th
From Steam, “Sequel to the best-seller The Red Solstice. Plan your strategy and infiltrate a real-time tactical battlefield – alone or with up to 7 squad members. Can you demonstrate the combat prowess to survive and secure a future for humanity?“, tight.
Ender Lilies: Quietus of the Knights (Switch) – Releases Jun. 21st (Currently in early access on Steam, coming to other consoles later this year)
A little bit Metroidvania, a little bit Dark Souls, and an art style that eschews closely to the Vanillaware style. Does that mean this game is any good? Sure, or no, whatever.
Ports and Re-releases:
Elder Scrolls Online (PS5/Series X|S) – Releases Jun. 15th
I played the beta of this on PC, didn’t like it. I want some cheese.
Metro Exodus: Complete Edition (PS5/Series X|S) – Releases Jun.18th
In case you were wondering, yes, this game does feature ray tracing; FUCKING FINALLY. Oh, and if you own this already on PS4 or XBone you’ll get the new version for free.
Dead By Daylight: Resident Evil (PC/PS4/PS5/Stadia/Switch/Xbox One/Series X|S) – Releases Jun. 15th
The Dead by Daylight series continues to chug along and release genre appropriate DLC. After giving us a Silent Hill scenario last year, the team at Behaviour Interactive have partnered with Capcom to bring us a new scenario focused on the Resident Evil franchise, namely the two most recent remakes of Part 2 and Part 3. Taking the typical Dead By Daylight gameplay style, the survivors, or whatever, take on the roles of Leon and Jill, while the killer takes on the role of the Nemesis. I’ve always been very intrigued by this game, but the fact that you have to play online is a big drawback for me. IDK, maybe I’ll give it a look if it ever drops to ten bucks or something.
Call of Duty Black Ops: Cold War x Warzone Season 4 (PC/PS4/PS5/Xbox One/Series X|S) – Releases Jun. 17th
Hey, do you like murdering people? Tight, here’s some more of that.
IdolDays (Switch) – Releases Jun. 17th
Metal Unit (Switch) – Releases Jun. 17th (Released on PC back in January)
Monobot (PC) – Releases Jun. 18th
Notable Releases from 10, 20 and 30 (and sometimes 40) years ago:
Dungeon Siege III (PC/PS3/Xbox 360) – Released Jun. 21st, 2011: Wiki Link
By 2011, the Dungeon Siege franchise, which had debuted on PCs back in 2002, had received two mainline entries, one expansion, and one spin-off, with all of them made by developer Gas Powered Games. However, in 2010, Square Enix announced that they had decided to purchase the rights to the Dungeon Siege franchise and would be hiring developer Obsidian to create the next game in what they hoped would be profitable new series to add to their repertoire. Using their proprietary Onyx Engine, Obsidian set out to deliver a game that was similar in vein to their other isometric RPG Neverwinter Nights 2, as well as some of their Black Isle titles like Baldur’s Gate and Icewind Dale. While critics would have high praise for the graphics and art design, the game was met with subdued interest and somewhat mediocre reviews. While the story was good, it didn’t compare to some of Obsidian’s best, including the recently released Fallout: New Vegas, although there was praise given to the characters backstories. Speaking of, Dungeon Siege III allows players to pick from four different characters at the start; swordfighter Lucas Montbarron, arcane wizard Anjali, mage Reinhart Max, and gunslinger Katarina (is it weird that the two men have full names while the women only have one?). While the overarching story remains the same, certain dialogue choices and character interactions change depending on who you start the game with, and it should be noted that over the course of the game, the three characters you didn’t pick will eventually join your party as AI controlled units. My few hours spent with this were fairly lackluster, it’s one of those games that you just kind of play to pass the time, getting incrementally stronger as you go along, talking to people and finishing up quests. In comparison to the other big fantasy RPGs of early 2011, Dragon Age 2 and The Witcher II, Dungeon Siege III is the weakest, by far, however you should not take that to mean it is a bad game. Still, do you need to play this? No, not at all, it’s entirely forgettable and so many other games do this genre better. It’s okay, Square Enix did just fine after this, and Obsidian is sitting pretty as a first party developer for Microsoft, so let’s just call Dungeon Siege III a mild bump in the road.
Twisted Metal: Black (PS2) – Released Jun. 18th, 2001: Wiki Link
The Twisted Metal franchise was one of the most popular and best selling on the original PlayStation. 1995’s Twisted Metal was a smash hit, selling over 1 million copies, with the franchise as a whole selling just over five million units across four games. For longtime fans of the series, the promise of a new entry on the brand new PS2 had them waiting with bated breath, hoping that developer Incognito, who were made up of former SingleTrac employees (makers of the first two Twisted Metal games), could deliver a smash hit, next gen title. What arrived was far less…mmm, colorful, than was expected. Now, you can debate if this was good or bad, but the general tone and aesthetics fit with what popular culture was embracing in the early part of the 2000s. While the PSX Twisted Metal game featured a grim premise, it was still slightly goofy, veering off into full on arcade parody with it’s third and fourth entries. In Black, depending on which character you pick, players could be immediately beset with gruesome images of death and violence, such as Sweet Tooth, shown to be an insane murderer who is let out of an asylum in order to compete in the car combat carnage. Critics were in love with the game, giving it some of the highest scores of the year and praising the darker, mature tones. Players seemed to enjoy the game, however by 2006 it would only sell about 950,000 copies, not even matching the lowest selling PSX title. When it came out I remember the discourse online being notably turned off by the dark themes, with some players wishing they had stuck with the more outrageous and silly aspects found in the previous games. There seemed to be a sense that they were trying to “Bro up” the series by making it dark and brooding, but with twenty years to step away from that talk I can easily say this is my favorite in the franchise after the first game. Yeah, the controls are still kind of shitty, and the difficulty balance is skewed, but I had such a good time driving around, trying to hit the other cars with my missiles that it took me back to the mid 90s, sitting on the living room floor looking up at Sweet Tooth, Mr. Grimm, and the others. Thankfully, Sony has kept this title easily available, with a PS4 port ready to buy and download from the PlayStation Network. Even with subpar controls, I still highly recommend this game, just make sure you put on some Slipknot while you play.
Lemmings (PC) – Released Jun. 1991…probably: Wiki Link
If there’s one game series that is synonymous with Valentine’s Day, it’s Lemmings, right? Originally released in Europe on Valentine’s Day for the Amiga, North American players would receive a DOS port just a few months later in, what I’m going to assume, was June, 1991. Mid June, those early days of Summer, just as school was ending and kids were starting to find themselves stuck in the house, bored, and in need of something to do. Then, like a bolt of lightning across a dark black sky, Lemmings appeared, in all of its puzzle-y glory, ready to make those lazy afternoons at home slip away into suppertime, but not before eating a bunch of chips and cookies, giving us all that adolescent gut and hunched shoulders. I mean, that’s what it did to all of you, right? Created by developer DMA Design, Lemmings was inspired by an animation by programmer Mike Dailly, a simple 8×8 sprite of a character walking, who was then able to take this sprite, duplicate it several times, and have them walk endlessly around a playfield. One of his co-workers, a guy named Russell Kay, saw this demo and said “There’s a game in that“, and the team quickly set out to create rudimentary levels of what we would all know as Lemmings. For those unfamiliar, Lemmings is a puzzle game in which players must guide the titular creatures, named after the infamous animal of the same name, across a stage, from the entrance all the way to the exit. While this may sound simple enough, Lemmings makes things difficult by incorporating various traps and pitfalls into the stage, and since your little lemmings will walk around endlessly, without stopping, they could very well fall into these traps and you’d get a game over. To help your lemmings out, players can assign individual lemmings jobs or tasks, such as digging a hole to a lower level, acting as an obstacle to reverse your lemming’s direction, to giving each an umbrella to safely guide them down the edge of a huge drop off. The reception to Lemmings was phenomenal, with the game selling 55 thousand copies on the first day, far outpacing everything else that DMA Design had put out. Critics were enamored with the game, calling it the best puzzle game since Tetris and one of the most fun and addicting video games ever made. Lemmings was such a smash success that it would be ported to nearly two dozen video game consoles and PCs, with each version getting just as much praise as the last. Lemming’s critical success also had it appearing on several “Best of…” lists over the years, including in 1996 when one outlet called it the 12th best PC game ever made, and another calling it the 8th greatest game of all time. The legacy of Lemmings should not be counted out, as it was even one of the inspirations for the RTS genre. Over at Blizzard, developer Bob Fitch indicated that the team was inspired to make Warcraft: Orcs vs. Humans based on a desire to take Lemmings and their title The Lost Vikings, and use those as a springboard to create a competitive, multiplayer, RTS game. Sadly, as hard as I looked, I could not find Lemmings original release ANYWHERE, which is fucking mind blowing. There are various copycat games you can find, and there appears to be a mobile version, but otherwise this is a completely lost and abandoned game. Oh well, I need to work on my posture anyway.
Ultima I: The First Age of Darkness (Apple II) – Released Jun. 1981: Wiki Link
We’re going from groundbreaking PC games from the 90s to groundbreaking PC games from the 80s with Richard Garriott’s RPG masterpiece Ultima. While Ultima looks primitive, even laughable, above, these graphics were a major improvement over Garriott’s previous game, Akalabeth, which had come out in 1980. It was because of the success of Akalabeth, often cited as the “first” Ultima game, that Garriott was able to pursue game making while studying as a student at the University of Texas. Taking large parts of Akalabeth’s code, Garriott, along with friend Ken Arnold, would put Ultima together in just under a year, fleshing out a rich, open world for players to explore, and deep, labyrinthine dungeons to conquer. Ultima’s game play follows the same basic rules as almost all other video game RPGs because, well, it pretty much invented it. At the start of the game, after creating your character, players will find themselves on a large overworld map with a few landmarks to visit. When the players enter these landmarks they’ll find themselves either in a town or in the castle of Lord British, where they will be given a quest to complete. To complete the quest players will need to travel to underground dungeons, giving us the next perspective, as all dungeons are played in a first person view. Crude by today’s standards, these simple vector graphics were some players first experiences with digital dungeons and “terrifying” monsters. Ultima requires a great deal of imagination to play, just like its most obvious inspiration, Dungeons & Dragons, but unlike D&D, players didn’t have to come up with all of the images in their mind, they could see the forest, they could see the catacombs, they could see the skeleton, even if it was just a simple stick figure. When Ultima released for the Apple II it was a major success, both critically and financially. Multiple PC and video game magazines praised Ultima, calling it the best RPG ever released and had (for the time) some of the best PC graphics anyone had ever seen. Ultima’s legacy is far reaching, we likely wouldn’t have the RPG genre without its success and influence. If you were to play Ultima today (like I did this past weekend) you’d likely immediately know what to do in it because we’ve all played it; Dragon Warrior, Final Fantasy, Baldur’s Gate, Dragon Age, Mass Effect, literally everything that we see in the RPG genre can be traced back to Ultima (and by extension D&D). Ultima would eventually get ported to just about every type of PC you can imagine, and it’s 1986 DOS port is readily available to play through GOG as of this writing. It’s primitive, and takes a bit of time to get used to, but if you want to see where the RPG genre started, Ultima will have you glued to your screen for hours.
If you like what I’m doing here consider supporting me on Patreon: