WOW!!! There’s, roughly, 25 brand new games coming out (not to mention the other 15 shovelware pieces of shit on the Switch eShop). If you can’t find something new to buy this week, well, you just aren’t looking hard enough. You see, I’m a material boy, there’s nothing in this world I don’t think I need. Now I’m shopping, and I’m not stopping because there will always be new games to buy and I will expand my library somehow; I swear.
The Great Ace Attorney Chronicles (PC/PS4/Switch) – Releases Jul. 27th
Originally released in Japan for the 3DS in 2015 and 2017, two previously Japan only Ace Attorney games will finally make their North American debut. Combining the games The Great Ace Attorney Chronicles Adventure and Resolve, players will solve mysteries and defend clients in Victorian era England and Japan. It features all of the same great gameplay that you love from the Ace Attorney series, while giving you an exciting new setting to explore. I hope you don’t OBJECT! to this release.
Dariusburst: Another Chronicle EX+ (PS4/Switch) – Releases Jul. 27th
I’m a sucker for shoot ’em up’s, so there wasn’t any doubt in my mind that I’d be featuring this Darius title in this week’s list of top games. This is an enhanced remake of the original 2010 arcade title, which was, itself, a remake of a 2009 PSP game. Does this copy of a copy have what it takes? Does the phrase “copy of a copy” remind me of Nine Inch Nails? What do you think?
NEO: The World Ends with You (PS4/Switch) – Releases Jul. 27th
A sequel to the first The World Ends With You, NEO finds most of the original development team back again, including producer & character designer Tetsuya Nomura, composer Takeharu Ishimoto, and previous game designer, now director, Hiroyuki Ito. With better graphics and a revamped battle system, the team is hoping that this tale of a new group of students playing the Reapers’ game will surprise and delight fans.
Samurai Warriors 5 (PC/PS4/Switch/Xbox One) – Releases Jul. 27th
My personal favorite this week, Samurai Warriors 5 is the latest entry in the long running musou series. We’ve covered plenty of musou games here before, but if you are still unfamiliar, the musou style games got their start with Dynasty Warriors 2, a PS2 launch title, and eventually branched off into multiple spin-off’s, including Hyrule Warriros, Dragon Quest Warriors, and Fire Emblem Warriors. In a musou game you must defeat massive waves of enemies, occasionally capturing strategic points on a map, and almost always having to defeat some kind of enemy general. The Samurai Warriors series takes place during the Sengoku period of Japan’s history, and while it contains some real life, historical figures, it is far from an accurate portrayal of Japanese history. These games are mindless, hack and slash fun that are perfect time wasters on a lazy afternoon.
The Forgotten City (PC/PS4/PS5/Xbox One/Series X|S) – Releases Jul. 28th
Originally released as a mod for Skyrim, The Forgotten City is a mind bending, time travelling mystery game that won numerous awards back when it was still just a mod. Made with a core group of only three people, The Forgotten City is a labor of love that contains not just all of the content from the original mod, but tons of brand new content, including new lines of dialogue and new endings to obtain.
The Ascent (PC/Xbox One/Series X|S) – Releases Jul. 29th
**ALERT!!** **ALERT!!** XBOX CONSOLE EXCLUSIVE!! **ALERT!!** **ALERT!!**
Once again we have a brand new cyberpunk themed game coming out, one that probably presumed it would be riding on the coattails of 2020’s biggest, most successful and well received game, Cyberpunk 2077. Instead, The Ascent now has the honor of trying to surpass one of 2020’s most hated, critically maligned, and poorly received games…Cyberpunk 2077. Will this isometric strategy game FINALLY be the one that fans of the cyberpunk genre can be proud of? Possibly.
Blaster Master Zero 3 (PC/PS4/Switch/Xbox One) – Releases Jul. 29th
I am very surprised and very happy to see that Inti Creates are so committed to the Blaster Master series, with their third and, it seems, final entry. Join Jason, Eve and the SOPHIA as they explore even more exotic planets and take on some of the biggest bosses you’ll see in a video game.
Ports and Re-releases:
Microsoft Flight Simulator (Series X|S) – Releases Jul. 27th
Enjoy breathtaking views from the cockpit of your favorite airplane all while sitting on your favorite spot on the couch.
Final Fantasy Pixel Remaster I/II/III (Android/iOS/PC) – Releases Jul. 28th
Square Enix has said they’ll port this to consoles if the “demand is there”, so, uh, I guess buy this on PC to show them that you also want to buy it on Switch…or don’t buy it because that shows there’s no demand on mobile devices and PC? I don’t know, they’re being dumb. Can’t we just get straight ports of the old NES/SNES versions? Oh, and only parts 1, 2 and 3 are coming out this week, the rest will arrive later.
Minecraft Dungeons: Echoing Void (PC/PS4/Switch/Xbox One) – Releases Jul. 28th
Playskool’s “my first dungeon crawler” is still going strong with its latest expansion Echoing Void. I’m actually really happy to see this game continue to get supported, I’m sure there’s a ton of kids (and their parents) who are stoked to keep diving into this world.
- HighFleet (PC) – Releases Jul. 27th
- Idol Manager (PC) – Releases Jul. 27th
- Night Book (PC/PS4/PS5/Switch/Xbox One/Series X|S) – Releases Jul. 27th
- Tribes of Midgard (PC/PS4/PS5) – Releases Jul. 27th
- Fuga: Melodies of Steel (PC/PS4/Switch/Xbox One) – Releases Jul. 28th
- Unbound: Worlds Apart (PC/Switch) – Releases Jul. 28th
- B.Ark (PC/Switch) – Releases Jul. 29th
- Eldest Souls (PC/PS4/PS5/Switch/Xbox One/Series X|S) – Releases Jul. 29th
- Nothing To Remember (PC) – Releases Jul. 29th
- Omno (PC/PS4/Xbox One) – Releases Jul. 29th
- No Longer Home (PC) – Releases Jul. 30th
- Super Squidlit (Switch) – Releases Jul. 30th
- GRIME (PC/Stadia) – Releases Aug. 2nd
Notable Releases from 10, 20 and 30 (and sometimes 40) years ago:
Catherine (PS3/Xbox 360) – Released Jul. 26th, 2011: Wiki Link
After the completion of Persona 4, the team behind the development of that game wanted to take a break from RPGs and try something different. What they came up with is one of the more unique puzzle games of the last ten years, the quirky, sexually charged game Catherine. Taking on the role of unambitious bachelor Vincent Brooks, players will find themselves embroiled on a sort of sexual comedy of errors when Vincent gets drunk and ends up sleeping with a woman who is not his girlfriend…and who also happens to share her name. You see, Vincent likes being single, but his girlfriend, Katherine, knows that they can’t stay un-married for much longer. At the age of 32, Katherine is ready to settle down, stop drinking every day, and have a family. Vincent, not wanting to commit to anything, ends up pushing her away and lands in the arms (and bosom) of a beautiful 22 year old woman named Catherine. You might be wondering, “how does any of this turn into a puzzle game“, well, Mr. or Mrs. impatient, I’m getting there! After he finishes with work, Vincent wastes away his life drinking at a bar called The Stray Sheep, talking to various people and looking at pictures of Catherine while sitting on the toilet, but when he goes home at night he has strange nightmares that, from what it seems, can kill him in real life. How does he die? Well, that’s where the puzzle comes in! In his nightmare, Vincent must climb a very tall tower by moving blocks, creating staircases that he can use to move up. As he climbs the tower, the blocks below him start to fall, and if he doesn’t climb fast enough or, in some cases, if he is caught by a giant monster that is chasing him, he’ll fall down and die. These are the two basic gameplay mechanics of the Catherine. During the day, Vincent talks to people and progresses the story, then at night he must climb the tower and escape the nightmare, waking up in the morning and starting the cycle all over again. When the team started making the game they felt it was too weird (and probably too sexual) for Western audiences and figured they would only release it in Japan, but taking a chance on it, Atlus decided to have the game localized for the U.S. and Europe, finding that the translations were a lot easier to do than they would be for a Persona game. Speaking of Persona, with Catherine being the team’s first HD game, they used it as a kind of test run for Persona 5, using what they learned during the making of Catherine when it came time to start development on P5. As the time for release approached there was one big problem, retailers didn’t want to carry it.
In America the two major retail chains, Walmart and Target, initially refused to carry Catherine due to its sexual nature, assuming it would be an Adult game. Knowing that their game would certainly fail if it didn’t get distribution in, at the time, the two biggest retail stores in the U.S. To pitch their case, the team at Atlus USA put together a video that showed scenes of graphic violence and sexuality in many of the AAA games they already carried on their shelves. Their argument was that Catherine did not contain any of the horrifying realistic violence that these other best selling games did, and therefore it was not nearly as bad. The pitch convinced the retailers to allow Catherine onto their shelves, while also causing them to take stock of what they actually were allowing to be sold in their stores. When Catherine released it was well received by critics and players, becoming Atlus’ biggest debut in the U.S. and selling over 500k copies by the end of 2011. Still, there were certainly critics who did not like the game’s content. Not just because it was overly sexual, but because of how it portrayed women (very negatively, as you might imagine), how it portrayed relationships (also negatively), and how you were supposed to feel about Vincent. One reviewer in particular, David Auerbach of Slate, said that Catherine was a game that seemed to embody everything that was wrong with the male dominated gaming and tech culture, that it was “a safe playspace from the realities that they believe women force upon them“. Ultimately, Catherine is a game about people you just don’t really like. While the plot does eventually try to make some kind of message about relationships, growing up, and monogamy, Vincent is a sleazeball, Catherine is evil (literally), and Katherine is an overbearing ice queen. Still, I was interested in where the story was going and I wanted to see what happens to Vincent. A PC port arrived recently, and an updated version of the game dubbed Full Body was released on P4, Switch and Xbox One and carried even more problematic gender issues, but was an even bigger financial success, selling over 1 million copies on Steam alone (can you say “a safe playspace from the realities that they believe women force upon them“). At the end of the day I can easily say that Catherine is a really fun game to play, its puzzle aspects are fantastic and addicting, so much so that it has even become an eSport. However, when you look back on what you’ve played, what you learn and feel about these characters, and what lessons you are supposed to learn, a single quote comes to mind, “To improve is to change; to be perfect is to change often“, Winston Churchill. FUN FACT ABOUT WHISKY; Whisky comes from the Gaelic word which reads ‘uisge beathe’, which translates as ‘water of life’. It later came to be pronounced as ‘uski‘ , which then turned into whisky! Here’s a Mega64 video:
Pokémon Crystal (Game Boy Color) – Released Jul. 29th, 2001: Wiki Link
Like the previous generation Pokémon games, Crystal is the special edition version of Gold and Silver. Featuring near identical game play and plot, Crystal’s big claim to fame is that it is the first game in the franchise to allow you to choose your gender, letting girls across the world finally see themselves fully represented. Other differences include the Battle Tower in which players can compete in colosseum style battles against multiple trainers, and two new subplots; one involves the mysterious Pokémon Unown, while the other revolves around the legendary Pokémon Suicune. There is a new gym leader that will only appear once you are able to awaken all three legendary Pokémon, Suicune, Entei, and Raikou. Critics were positive in their reception to the game, but they admitted that the new content wasn’t enough for them to fully endorse it if players already owned Gold or Silver. Having just bought Gold last year on my 3DS, and then picking up Crystal for this week’s column, well, I 100% agree, this game is absolutely non-essential if you already had the previous version. Unlike Yellow which allowed you to start with Pikachu and kinda/sorta followed the plot of the animated series a bit closer, Crystal really doesn’t give you a lot of new stuff to do. Still, as the swan song Pokémon game on the Game Boy Color, it did its job and, of course, sold incredibly well. If you’ve never played Gold, Silver or Crystal, just jump right into Crystal and save yourself some money.
Castlevania II: Belmont’s Revenge (Game Boy) – Released Aug. 1991: Wiki Link
The first Castlevania title on the Game Boy, The Castelvania Adventure, was a fun little game, emphasis on “little”. It’s sequel, Belmont’s Revenge, is still pretty short, but it packs a lot more into the cart than its predecessor. Set fifteen years after the events of the first game, protagonist Christopher Belmont is happily celebrating his son Soleil’s coming of age party when, suddenly, Dracula appears and kidnaps Soleil. Turning him into a demon, Dracula is able to use Soleil’s magical powers to turn human and rebuild his castle (why does Dracula want to be human?). Christopher, of course, can’t have this shit, so he embarks on another journey to slay Dracula and bring peace back to Transylvania. Setting itself apart slightly from the first game, Belmont’s Revenge allows players to choose the order in which they beat the levels, not unlike Mega Man. Another big change to this title is the inclusion of sub weapons, a feature that fans of the NES titles were very familiar with. However, the only ones available were the holy water and the axe. Critics enjoyed the game well enough, but it still didn’t compare to the NES versions, particularly with how slow your character moved around the screen. If you really want to play this game you can find it on the Castlevania Anniversary Collection released on PC, PS4, Switch and Xbox One, but don’t go in expecting much.
Donkey Kong (Arcade) – Released Jul. 31st, 1981: Wiki Link
Back in February we discussed one of Nintendo’s early arcade games, Radar Scope, a Space Invaders clone that, while technically impressive, failed to gain much of a following outside of a few select fans. With thousands of unsold cabinets sitting in a warehouse in Washington, the newly formed Nintendo of America was desperate to get a new game to replace all of the unwanted Radar Scope’s. NOA’s President and founder, Minoru Arakawa begged his boss in Japan, CEO Hiroshi Yamauchi (who also happened to be his father in law) to have the team develop something new. Yamauchi polled his entire creative staff and solicited ideas from them. Most of the staff was busy working on other projects and didn’t have much free time, but a young artist/designer named Shigeru Miyamoto didn’t seem too busy, so Yamauchi tasked him with coming up with their new game. With his mentor Gunpei Yokoi supervising the project, Miyamoto was given $100,000 (roughly $280k in 2020) to create whatever he wanted. With a proposed Popeye video game shot down by the license holder, Miyamoto decided to take their existing idea of a love triangle video game, but create new characters that Nintendo would own, opening up all kinds of roads towards licensing and merchandising. The protagonist would be your average everyman, sporting a red baseball cap, workers overalls, and a bushy black moustache to give the impression of a mouth. The damsel in distress would be your typical female character, pink dress, blonde hair, and not a whole lot to do except scream “HELP!!”. Finally, to represent the villain of the game, the Bluto type character, Miyamoto decided to settle on an ape, both for its large size as well as it’s somewhat gentle and non-repulsive demeanor. While the protagonist and damsel would initially be “Jumpman” and “Lady”, the ape, and the game, received their name rather quickly; Donkey Kong.
There is some debate over how the character got its name, but the most widely accepted answer is that, like all the other Nintendo arcade games, CEO Hiroshi Yamauchi wanted their games to have an English title. Looking in a Japanese-English dictionary, Miyamoto tried to find something that would translate into “silly” or “stubborn”. Finding the word “Donkey”, he combined it with “Kong”, a popular term in Japan for a gorilla, and thus Donkey Kong was born. In an interview from 2001, Miyamoto lent some credibility to this story by stating that he wanted a title that would convey the meaning of “stupid ape”. Without much programming knowledge, Miyamoto relied on the stable of programmers working at Nintendo, and it is this lack of programming that likely led to some of Donkey Kong’s most pioneering elements, including character sprites that were different sizes, the concept of multiple stages that were different, and most importantly, the addition of a plot. The programmers were not happy with the amount of work that Miyamoto was giving them and complained often, but the intrepid designer knew that he had something special on his hands. After seeing how poorly Radar Scope did, Miyamoto wanted to make sure that his title wasn’t a banal snoozefest that made you play the same thing over and over again. With his unique levels, characters, and story beats completed, the team delivered 20kb of content; 20kb that would change the world.
In building the boards that would replace Radar Scope, the engineers at Nintendo were able to reduce the size of the board itself by replacing many of the components that were no longer necessary, such as extra chips to power the high number of enemies on screen. The team then swapped out the old ROM chips with new ones to power the enhanced graphics and gameplay, but left the CPU, sound board, and monitor from the original board. With the new boards arriving in Washington, the Nintendo of America team began playtesting and, well, the hated it. Donkey Kong was nothing like the maze and shooter games that were all the rage at the time. Namco’s Pac-Man was a bona fide hit and considered the future of video games, and William’s Defender was one of the highest grossing arcade titles of all time, what the hell was Miyamoto thinking making a game about a guy in overalls jumping over barrels? One fan of the game, though, NOA President Minoru Arakawa who predicted that the team had a major hit on their hands. Setting about localizing the game, the NOA staff didn’t really like the name’s “Jumpman” and “Lady”, so they decided to name the damsel “Pauline” in honor of warehouse manager’s wife, Polly, and the protagonist was named “Mario” because he looked like NOA’s landlord, Mario Segale. Nintendo of America’s distributors, Ron Judy and Al Stone, had to practically beg two Seattle bars to soft launch the game in their establishments. Thinking it would be a huge dud, the owners reluctantly agreed, thinking nothing would come from it. However, the owners quickly discovered that not only did people play Donkey Kong, they played it A LOT. Seeing that the game was making roughly $30 a day for a solid week, the bar owners called up Judy and Stone and asked for more cabinets, immediately. With only a skeleton crew of six, Arakawa, his wife Yoko, Judy, Stone, warehouse manager Don James, and their attorney Howard Phillips, all 2,000 unsold Radar Scope cabinets were swapped with Donkey Kong, and were almost instantly sold out.
When it finally hit arcades in July of 1981, Arakwa’s prediction came true and Donkey Kong was a massive, MASSIVE success. After a year on the market, in June 1982, Donkey Kong had sold over 60,000 units, earning $180 million dollars, allowing Nintendo of America to expand its operations, with Arakawa buying 27 acres of land in Redmond, Washington where the company is still headquartered. Judy and Stone, the doubting distributors, worked strictly on commission, and became instant millionaires. Donkey Kong was the top earning game in Japan in 1981, and was the top earning game in the U.S. in 1982. Like Pac-Man fever before it, people were “going ape” for Donkey Kong, and it wasn’t long before the game would be ported to home consoles, with the Commodore 64 getting the honor of bundling the game with their hardware. Another company, Coleco, made miniature arcade machine ports, with Donkey Kong being one of their most popular. Donkey Kong, along with other Japanese titles like Pac-Man and Frogger, were considered novelty acts at the time, with many in the Western games press assuming that we’d all get our laughs at the silly games from the East before moving on to something that was serious, but they were dead wrong. The more story driven, character based games from Japan were gaining more and more clout in the U.S., introducing players to brand new gaming concepts, and bringing in audiences that were more than just the “typical gamer”, i.e., young males. With success, however, comes pitfalls, and in 1982 there would be a legal case brought against Nintendo by the film company Universal Studios. I won’t go too deep into it here as I’ll have a lot more to say about it next Christmas, but the gist of it is that Nintendo’s lawyer John Kirby was able to prove that Nintendo did not infringe on any of Universal’s copyrights. The legacy of Donkey Kong helped pave a long road for Nintendo’s future success. After the video game crash of 1983, Nintendo was able to resuscitate the dying industry with their Family Computer, AKA Nintendo Entertainment System, a device built on the idea of taking a Donkey Kong motherboard and tweaking it to work for multiple games. As mentioned earlier, Donkey Kong’s inclusion of a plot and named characters was groundbreaking at the time, and surpassed the genre’s earlier pioneer, Pac-Man in terms of storytelling. With his ability to jump, Mario made Donkey Kong one of the earliest instances of what we consider a platforming game, and laid the groundwork for his eventual solo titles Mario Bros. and Super Mario Bros. Nintendo would follow up Donkey Kong with two sequels, Donkey Kong Jr. and Donkey Kong III, and then sort of retired the character until his reappearance in Donkey Kong Country in 1994. Recently Donkey Kong has existed as another Nintendo franchise that receives periodic, if not sporadic, new entries. His last title was the 2014 Wii U release Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze, which then got a Switch port in 2018. For those of us who love this hobby, and particularly those of us that love Nintendo, we owe a lot to the success of Donkey Kong. Nintendo’s “stupid ape” was the start of a revolution, and I feel lucky to have been able to live through its beginnings, even if I was only four months old at the time.
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