August isn’t really starting off all that strong when it comes to new releases so this could be a good time to catch up on your back log. For me, it seems the harder that I try, the further I fall behind; falling behind. So many games I need to play. All these decisions; too little time to decide them. I wonder why I even try? It seems it’s happened once again, I do my best, but, in the end, what have I finished? Well, nothing.
- Dragon Star Varnir (Switch) – Releases Aug. 3rd
- Hunter’s Arena: Legends (PC/PS4/PS5) – Releases Aug. 3rd
- The Ramp (PC) – Releases Aug. 5th
- Dodgeball Academia (PC/PS4/Switch/Xbox One) – Releases Aug. 5th
See, I told you there wasn’t a whole lot coming out. I guess we can look at a trailer for Hunter’s Arena: Legends:
Notable Releases from 10, 20 and 30 years ago:
Temple Run (iOS) – Released Aug. 4th, 2011: Wiki Link
After the massive success of mobile games in 2010 with titles like Angry Birds and Cut The Rope, independent developer Imangi released another huge mobile hit, the endless runner Temple Run. While Imangi had been making games since 2008, they hadn’t really found much success. In 2010 they released what they though was their best game to date, a 3D adventure/shooter called Max Adventure, but players didn’t really take to it and the game flopped. Going back to the drawing board, the husband and wife team of Keith Shepherd and Natalia Luckyanova, along with artist Kiril Tchangov, came up with the concept of an explorer running non-stop, collecting treasure along the way. At first the game controlled with players rotating their phones in multiple directions as they followed the pathway, but while the team play tested it they found themselves becoming incredibly dizzy. It was decided to then keep the image in one orientation and allow players to swipe left & right to move, and up & down to jump/slide. For the setting they wanted to evoke the feeling of the Great Wall of China and ancient Aztec ruins, and as for why the protagonist, named Guy Dangerous, was constantly running, the team came up with the idea that he would be chased by monsters, in this case, Kiril came up with evil monkeys wearing skull masks. On its initial release, Temple Run sold for 99 cents, but as with most mobile titles it would eventually go free to play, with players given the ability to view ads or spend real money to buy upgrades or continue their game from where they died. While the endless runner genre wasn’t entirely new, with examples going as far back as the early 80’s and recent releases like Canabalt and BIT.TRIP Runner, Temple Run was the first one to achieve massive success. It is one of the most downloaded apps of all time, and in 2013 it became the fastest spreading mobile game when 50 million copies were downloaded over a 13 day period. Critics and players were obsessed with the game, calling it incredibly addictive, and they’re not wrong. I would spend a good portion of my morning after waking up, lying in bed, trying to get a higher and higher score. I’ve spoken a few times about how some gamers don’t think these types of games are “real” or whatever, and while Temple Run certainly isn’t as deep as something like Red Dead Redemption, it’s still very fun to play. We might have gotten better about being able to control how we waste our time (well, most of us), but there’s nothing wrong with firing up Temple Run and spending 5 to 10…to 20…to 30, oh god, has it been an hour already?! I was supposed to login to work at 8:30! Fuck, I have a presentation due in 15 minutes, what will I do!! Oh, nice, I got 1,500 coins in that run.
SAIYUKI: Journey West (PlayStation) – Released Aug. 13th, 2001: Wiki Link
By the start of the 21st century, developer Koei was best known for their deep, highly detailed strategy games like Romance of the Three Kingdoms and Nobunaga’s Ambition. While they would occasionally branch out into other genres, strategy games were its bread and butter. It must have been a bit of a surprise then when they release SAIYUKI: Journey West for the PSX, first in 1999 in Japan, followed by North America in 2001. Like Romance of the Three Kingdoms, SAIYUKI is based on a classic Chinese novel called Journey To The West. The novel is, according to Wikipedia, one of the most popular East Asian stories of all time, and based on how many times it has been adapted in just the last 100 years, this does not appear to be an understatement. Journey to the West has been adapted into films, TV shows, comics, stage plays, anime (including Dragon Ball), and countless video games. In Koei’s adaptation, the plot follows the story of the novel pretty closely, a young monk is tasked with making a pilgrimage to the West (i.e., Central Asia and India) where he must consult ancient religious texts to help thwart an evil entity. Along the way, the monk encounters several demi-god-esque characters who assist him on his journey. The game, like the novel, is both serious and funny, with the monk and his friends getting into all kinds of trouble, while also maintaining the seriousness of their journey. In SAIYUKI, game play is similar to Final Fantasy Tactics, with players moving their units around a grid in an attempt to wipe out the enemy forces. Due to the lengthy localization process, SAIYUKI came out while the PS2 was still in the early months of its release, making the game look very dated in comparison to what the next gen had to offer. Still, SAIYUKI is a decent tactics game, not really super impressive, but fun enough in its own way. If you’d like to play this you have a pretty decent shot as it is available on the PlayStation Store through your PS3. Give it a look.
Shining In The Darkness (Genesis) – Released Aug. 6th, 1991: Wiki Link
In a world before Final Fantasy II (IV), 16-bit RPGs were still in a bit of a dark period. While Sega was doing a good job of keeping the genre in the public eye with their Phantasy Star titles, it wasn’t really a game changer. In fact, a lot of RPGs still clung to the Wizardry first person dungeon crawler style of game play; case in point, the 1991 RPG Shining In The Darkness. Co-developed by Climax Entertainment and Sonic! Software Planning (later renamed Camelot Software Planning), the game was given a very modest budget by Sega due to its out of house production. The game’s writer and producer, Hiroyuki Takashi, recalled that, because the budget was so low, he was pretty much the only person who worked on the game. He was highly influenced by the game Wizardry (as were pretty much every JRPG developer), and he wanted to make a game that felt like it took place in a world that was real. Not “real” as in realistic to our world, but that the world was an actual real place that you could explore and inhabit. Aside from the first person perspective in dungeons, you also traveled around town in a first person view, moving into shops and other buildings and interacting with them in an almost point and click style. Places like the tavern would be bustling with people, and if you entered it after completing certain tasks in the dungeon you might find different people there. The plot of the game is fairly simple, the princess and your father have gone missing, and wouldn’t you know it, an evil wizard named Dark Sol just happens to show up and threaten the kingdom. Vowing to the king to find his daughter, you head out to a deep labyrinth in search of her, as well as a powerful artifact called the Arms of Light. From there it’s pretty much just one long grind fest as you meticulously chart your way on graph paper through the dungeon. Along the way you’ll be joined by two friends as well as up to three other companions if you happen to come across them while exploring. When it was released, Shining in the Darkness received high marks from the gaming press, with the magazine Computer Gaming World comparing it favorably to PC dungeon crawler RPGs, noting that it was the best of its kind on console. However, they said it still paled in comparison to PC games, likely due to its interface and graphics. While it did okay in the U.S., the series really took off in Europe, being one of the more popular 16-bit RPG series in the continent, likely due to the Final Fantasy series not arriving there until 1997 with the release of VII. This game is easily playable today on any of the several Sega Genesis compilations that have released over the years, most recently with Sega Genesis Classics on PC, PS4, Switch, and Xbox One. Having spent a few hours with it this past week I can see how it would have been really special in the early 90’s (especially before Final Fantasy II), but compared to more modern dungeon crawlers I can’t say this is any better than those. Still, if you want to see where this franchise started then you owe it to yourself to give it a look.
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