After a light release slate last week, the upcoming list of new games is pretty stacked, with a diverse set of titles that should have something for everyone. Does that mean you need to buy them immediately? Yes, obviously. I mean, how else will these game developers and publishers know that you’re a fan if you don’t slavishly devote yourself to every trinket and widget they produce? Hopefully Nintendo sees how much money I’ve spent on them and, like, let me pick the next Smash character, or something. PLEASE LOVE ME! You know I can’t believe it when you say that you don’t need me to pre-order all of your games.
Mario Golf: Super Rush (Switch) – Releases Jun. 25th
It has been seven years since we last got a new entry in the Mario Golf series (2014’s World Tour), but it’s been a whopping eighteen years since the last time we got one on a home console (2003’s Toadstool Tour). Personally, this is one of my most anticipated releases of the year, I had so much fun with the N64 and GameCube Mario Golf games, particularly while playing with friends, so the new Speed Golf multiplayer mode has me really excited. In Speed Golf, players will go head to head on the same course, trying to get their ball into the hole faster than their opponents, giving golf that frantic, kick in the pants its always needed. There’s also a new Battle Golf mode which is similar to Speed Golf, except that the courses are small arenas, and the first player to sink three balls is the winner. I have high hopes for Super Rush, let’s hope Camelot and Nintendo hit a hole in one with this game. Get it? GET IT!!!??!?!!?
Dungeons & Dragons: Dark Alliance (PC/PS4/PS5/Xbox One/Series X|S) – Releases Jun. 22nd
Billed as the spiritual successor to 2001 and 2004 Dark Alliance games developed by Black Isle Studios, the brand new Dungeons & Dragons: Dark Alliance is set to return players to the Icewind Dale region with old pals Drizzt Do’Urden, Catti-brie, Bruenor Battlehammer, and Wulfgar. Based heavily on The Legend of Drizzt series of novels written by R.A. Salvatore, fans of that author should be happy to see that he was heavily involved in the development of the game, with Dark Alliance taking place after the first book, The Crysal Shard. Fans of the D&D tabletop game should also be excited, as this game directly precedes the events of the 5th edition adventure module, Icewind Dale: Rime of the Frostmaiden. With your party of four, players can either go solo and switch between each character, or they can team up with other players for some good ol’ multiplayer adventuring. The original Dark Alliance is one of my all time favorite video games, will this new version live up to that game’s legacy? We’ll find out.
My buddy Victor was very upset at my shoddy reporting up above, here is his correction:
Umm Actually, Snowblind Studios developed the original Baldur’s Gate Dark Alliance while Black Isle was the Publisher. Snowblind also did not work on Dark Alliance 2 but went on to develop the EverQuest based Champions of Norrath.
Alex Kidd in Miracle World DX (PC/PS4/PS5/Switch/Xbox One/Series X|S) – Releases Jun. 24th
Like the recent Wonder Boy and Streets of Rage releases, Sega has once again let an outside developer come in and put their own spin on a classic franchise. This time the teams over at Merge Games and Jankenteam are giving us a remake of the Master System platformer Alex Kidd in Miracle World. While I personally find that old game to be tedious and poorly controlled, my hope is that the developers have improved said controls, and haven’t just slapped on a new coat of paint. I’m okay waiting for this since I still have the Monster World IV remake to get through.
Legend of Mana Remastered (PC/PS4/Switch) – Releases Jun. 24th
Hey look, two remakes in the top games section this week, not bad. I am much more excited for this one than Alex Kidd, if I’m being honest, however I don’t remember having fond memories of this when it came out on the PSX. However, I was comparing it to another one of my all time favorites, Secret of Mana, which is probably unfair, but I was hoping for something that felt the same and from what I remember, Legend of Mana is pretty different. In any case, I’m happy to give this one another look, even if I already have it digitally on my PS3, and am actively looking for a physical copy. Don’t judge me.
Scarlet Nexus (PC/PS4/PS5/Xbox One/Series X|S) – Releases Jun. 25th
Bandai Namco knows what we want, and it’s more third person action games with an anime art style. I mean, they at least know what I want. If you’re still sore that we don’t have any new Bayonetta 3 news then I suggest giving Scarlet Nexus a look; what do you have to lose (except $60 bucks)?
Ports and Re-releases:
LEGO Builder’s Journey (PC/Switch) – Releases Jun. 22nd
After being previously exclusive to Apple Arcade, the Captain Toad-esque LEGO Builder’s Journey is making its way to PC and Switch this week. Solve puzzles in tiny dioramas in order to advance to the next stage.
Worms Rumble (Switch) – Releases Jun. 23rd
The fast and frantic Worms Rumble is making its way to Switch this week, in case you haven’t picked it up on PS4, PS5, or PC yet.
Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1+2 (Switch) – Releases Jun. 23rd
While I’m sure the Switch version of this game will be the worst performing out of all the various releases, it’s the only one you can play while actually skateboarding in real life. Please note, I do not recommend doing this, I’m just pointing out that it can be done, so do it…but don’t.
Sea of Thieves: A Pirate’s Life (PC/Xbox One/Series X|S) – Releases Jun. 22nd
Labyrinth City: Pierre the Maze Detective (PC/Switch) – Releases Jun. 22nd
Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 – The Official Game (PC/PS4/Stadia/Switch/Xbox One) – Releases Jun. 22nd
Super Magbot (PC/Switch) – Releases Jun. 22nd
Out of Line (PC) – Releases Jun. 23rd
Notable Releases from 10, 20 and 30 years ago:
Shadows of the Damned (PS3/Xbox 360) – Released Jun. 21st, 2011: Wiki Link
Two of the most well known names in Japanese game development are Suda 51 and Shinji Mikami. Both have released high profile, big name titles, with Suda 51 behind the No More Heroes franchise, and Shinji Mikami being the mastermind behind the original Resident Evil, so what happened with their collaboration, Shadows of the Damned? According to Wikipedia, development can be traced back to 2005 during the production and release of the game Killer 7, where Suda 51 and Mikami became close friends. Suda expressed interest in making a survival horror game, so he started batting around ideas with Mikami and eventually came up with a concept for a game called Kurayami, which translates to “Darkness”. Contributing even more clout to the survival horror aspects to the game was the inclusion of famed Silent Hill composer Akira Yamaoka, who joined Suda’s studio, Grasshopper Manufacture, after leaving Konami. Suda pitched the game to publishers with EA finally agreeing to release the game, but they had some…notes. The original pitch for the game was much different than what we finally got, with the main character, Garcia Hotspur, going through at least five different design changes before EA approved of it. Shadows of the Damned was originally different in tone and difficulty, with Garcia initially entering The City of the Damned without a shirt and carrying no weapon. EA informed Suda that “Westerners love guns”, so he had to immediately enter the game with one. The gun, Johnson, was also not the first design choice for Suda either. In Shadows of the Damned, Garcia, a demon hunter, is ambushed at his home where a group of demons kidnaps his true love, Paula, sending Garcia on a journey through Hell to find her. Originally, Paula was going to be a little girl, or sprite/fairy, that lived in Garcia’s gun, and over time they would form a romantic relationship. EA balked at this idea too, saying it was too weird and that “in Hollywood we have a term called ‘an elevator pitch‘. If your idea is too complicated to tell someone in the span of an elevator ride, then it’s no good”. Going back to the drawing board, Suda changed the fairy into a wise cracking demon named Johnson (just one of several dick jokes in the game), who is Garcia’s unlikely sidekick. With all the pieces finally in place, Shadows of the Damned released on June 21st, 2011, was it the next great horror franchise?
Using a similar third person, over the shoulder view as Resident Evil 4, Shadows of the Damned finds demon hunter Garcia Hotspur journeying through The City of the Damned in search of his one true love, Paula, after she has been kidnapped by the Lord of Demons. Through 5 acts, and 20 levels, Garcia and Johnson fight a slew of ugly demons and tough bosses. One of the main gameplay components of the game is the concept of light and dark, with Johnson being able to shoot both regular bullets, as well as “light” that can be used to illuminate certain areas that have been overtaken by the darkness. While in this darkness, enemies are invulnerable and Garcia’s health will gradually deplete. There are several puzzles that you need to solve in this darkness, and are typically when you experience the most tension. A standard act revolves around a particular leader demon and tells a story about how they became one of Hell’s most feared, literally, as the story is told in a book format, recited by Johnson. The best thing about Shadows of the Damned is the presentation. The art design, world building, and all out craziness are what elevate this game to a higher spot that you might give another game. To be honest, the controls in Shadows of the Damned are rough; you have to aim before you can shoot, running might as well not even be in the game because you only go about five feet before Garcia gets tired, the camera can give you issues (in 2011, really, come on…), and there are A LOT of really frustrating sections that can lead to instant death, including some chase sequences, some QTE sequences, and a couple of mini game-esque detours. Critics were mostly favorable towards the game, with a lot of praise being given to the tone of the game, and praising the two auteurs who helmed it. Suda 51’s pop culture obsessiveness was a high point to, you guessed it, pop culture obsessed reviewers, particularly over at The A.V. Club which gave the game an A-. If you are a fan of horror movies then there’s a lot here to pick up on, particularly one level which is practically a rip off of the Evil Dead movies. Aside from the less than ideal controls, the game also features a heavy dose of gore and “bro” humor, not unlike No More Heroes. Garcia and Johnson continually make jokes about their dicks, about how ugly some of the demon women are, call them the C word, etc., etc., so if that kind of stuff bothers you then you might want to steer clear, or at least be aware of it before you start. I never found any of it to be particularly mean spirited, just more like…unnecessary. I kept thinking about how I’d like this game if I was a woman, as Paula is murdered by the demons over and over again due to a spell put on her by the Lord of Demons that keeps her from dying, so Garcia, and you, keep seeing her slaughtered in horrific ways, and it be a real bummer to watch. Still, I had such a good time playing through this (I’m on the last few levels of Act 5) and it’s too bad this didn’t take off as a franchise. A few months to several years after release, Suda 51 and Shinji Mikami lamented the final product, saying it wasn’t the game they had originally intended to make. Suda 51, who had to make tons of changes to appease EA, said that if he ever worked with EA again he would hope that they would accept his first design draft and not ask him to change it. Oh, in one of the levels Johnson become huge and takes on the name “Big Boner”, and when you shoot the demons Garcia cries out, “Taste my big boner!“, it’s awesome.
Sonic Adventure 2 (Dreamcast) – Released Jun. 23rd, 2001: Wiki Link
Ten years to the day after Sonic the Hedgehog debuted on the Sega Genesis, his last title on Sega hardware was released, 2001’s Sonic Adventure 2. Development on the game began shortly after the release of the first game, with Sonic Team wanting to give the sequel a more “American” feel. With stages modeled after the city of San Francisco and Yosemite National Park, Sonic, Knuckles, and Tails must battle a new threat named Shadow the Hedgehog, while also trying to clear Sonic’s name and, of course, stop Dr. Eggman from doing some bad shit. Played today, Sonic Adventure 2 is a mess, both graphically and control wise. The camera angles are terrible, you don’t move very well, you’ll fall off the stage multiple times, that is when you aren’t getting lost in them. Looking back on this, I am so stunned that Sonic even continued as a franchise, he must have survived on name recognition alone. I’m sure some of you reading this have fond memories of this game, and I did enjoy it on the GameCube, but for the most part, this game is just bad, bad, bad. There were so many other platformers out there that did it better, and the recent Sonic games still aren’t that great. Nostalgia is powerful, though, and if you have to play this then it is available as a digital download on the Xbox 360, PS3, and PC. Now, let’s talk about a better Sonic game…
Sonic The Hedgehog (Genesis) – Released Jun. 23rd, 1991: Wiki Link
1991 is the year that the 90’s began. You know how the beginning of a decade still kind of feels like the previous decade in terms of pop culture, well when Sonic the Hedgehog released on June 23rd, 1991, the 90’s were officially born, and it was rude, crude, and had ‘tude. The decade that would be defined as “Xtreme to the max” can, probably, be tied all the way back to Sonic’s “gotta go fast” mantra. Bright colors, in your face attitude, and “too cool for school” cynicism were fashion accessories, and Sonic displayed them all. Back in 1988, Sega wanted to have a mascot that could rival Nintendo’s Mario. They had previously used Alex Kidd as their mascot, but after deeming him too similar to Mario (and not nearly as popular), they wanted to make sure that their mascot was nothing like Nintendo’s. In 1990, after a sluggish launch of Sega’s 16-bit machine the Genesis, there was even more pressure to deliver on the new mascot and try to save the struggling system. After kicking around a few animal mascots, including a rabbit, a kangaroo, and an armadillo, one design in particular stood out, a blue hedgehog drawn by artist Naoto Oshima. Taking Felix the Cat’s head and putting it on the body of Mickey Mouse, Oshima settled on the color teal for the character, and made his shoes red and white, the same colors as Santa Claus, arguably the most popular character in the world. He called this creation “Mr. Hedgehog”, but after the team was formed they decided to change his name to “Sonic”, it was then that co-creator Yuji Naka stepped in and gave us all the character we know and love.
With an edict to make sure their new mascot was “fast” in order to show off the power of the Genesis, Yuji Naka decided to have Sonic’s walking speed match Mario’s running speed. However, when they play tested this, the team noticed a lot of problems, including frame rate issues and screen flickering, so Naka had to write a brand new algorithm that retained fluidity of animation, resulting in the fast Sonic animation we all know today. Still, there were those on the team that felt the game was just a little “too fast”, so over Naka’s objections the game was slowed down a bit (this might explain why some of the later 3D ones suffer from poor controls, as Naka gained more control…maybe). While the whole point of Sonic the Hedgehog was to beat Nintendo’s Mario, Naka still had a lot of respect and admiration for the character, as well as it’s creator, Shigeru Miyamoto. He was inspired by the simple gameplay design of the Mario games and wanted Sonic to emulate that, with movement using only the d-pad and a single button to jump. While we know now that Yuji Naka had a long and fruitful career with Sega in the coming years, his time working on Sonic the Hedgehog was tenuous and strained, with many of his ideas initially going uncredited, as Sonic was “Sega’s” character, not Naka’s. This led to him briefly leaving the company before being almost immediately re-hired after Sonic’s success. There was a lot riding on Sonic the Hedgehog, so Naka and the newly formed Team Sonic would redesign Green Hill Zone Act 1 multiple times, getting it absolutely perfect, as well as read Japanese gaming magazine Famitsu regularly to see where their competition was falling short in order to not make the same mistakes. Things were going well, but Sega of America CEO Tom Kalinske was worried that the character might not work in America and he wanted assurances that the game wouldn’t be a failure.
When Sega of America were first shown concepts for Sonic The Hedgehog he was part of a rock band, had vampire fangs, and a human girlfriend named Madonna. S.O.A. hated these ideas and wanted Sonic to be more normalized and simple, and they especially hated that he was a hedgehog, fearing that no one in America would even know what the animal was. They demanded an immediate redesign of the mascot into something more recognizable, but Team Sonic was not about to go through all of that again. A compromise was reached with Sega of America, with them having a bit more control over Sonic’s final look. One thing that S.O.A. didn’t want was the name “Dr. Eggman” for the villain, instead going for the much more radical and baditude name “Dr. Robotnik”. Still, Kalinske wasn’t convinced that Sonic was going to be a hit in America, so Sega’s global head of marketing, Al Nilsen, took the game on a cross country tour, asking self proclaimed Mario fans to try out both the latest Super Mario title and Sonic the Hedgehog. In their market research, they found that 80% of respondents preferred Sonic over Mario and it was then that Kalinske was finally convinced, leading to a show stopping demonstration at the 1991 Consumer Electronics Show, where Sonic the Hedgehog won the CES award for innovation. From that point on Sega’s marketing team in the U.S. played up the speed, power, and overall “cool” factor of Sonic. With pre-release hype at a fever pitch, Sega of America decided to replace Altered Beast with Sonic the Hedgehog as the pack-in title for the Genesis. On June 23rd, 1991, video games changed, and the 90’s started.
One of the most defining audio cues in all video games is the “Se-ga!” chant at the beginning of Sonic The Hedgehog, and it almost wasn’t part of the game. Since S.O.A. asked for the Sonic rock band to be removed, a sound test section was scrapped, so with the extra memory, Yuji Naka added in the little ditty and created a sound byte so lasting that I still can’t see the Sega logo today without thinking in my head “Se-ga!”. It was with this chant, and a brand new mascot, that the Sega Genesis was able to finally hit the mainstream in a big way; Sonic the Hedgehog was a massive hit. Gaining an overwhelming 90% positive rate from critics of the day, Sonic was seen as revolutionary, and the next step in gaming. Nothing had ever been as fast as Sonic, suddenly Nintendo’s 16-bit Super Mario World looked like it might not be that great (it was, more on that in August). Still, Sega’s Sonic was a worthy competitor to Nintendo’s Mario, gaining high praise from several reputable outlets including GamePro and EGM, while attaining 5 out of 5 stars from Dragon and an A+ from Entertainment Weekly, which also awarded it the best game of 1991 at the end of the year. Players were just as excited for Sonic, with the game selling over 1 million copies in the U.S. by the end of the year, and since it was bundled with the Genesis, Sega made over $1 billion in console sales by the end of 1991; it can’t be understated, Sonic was a huge hit. The popularity of the character was so great that it helped Sega gain a strong foothold in the U.S., giving Nintendo its first true competitor, and even leading the video game market at one point, taking over Nintendo’s reign at the top since its 1985 debut. The “radical animal” craze hit consoles pretty hard after that, with clones and competitors like Bubsy, Aero The Acrobat, Zero the Kamikaze Squirrel, Radical Rex, Crash Bandicoot, and Gex, just to name a few. Sonic would expand into other media as well, having his own Saturday morning cartoon, his own comic book, and of course there were sequels galore, with more still coming. While Sega’s reign at the top wouldn’t last, I’m happy to see that their beloved blue mascot is still with us, even if some (okay, a lot) of his games aren’t that great. Now, because I know you all want to hear and see it as much as I do, here’s Green Hill Zone:
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