What’s up, I started writing this at 5:30pm PT on Monday so I’m quickly running out of time, running out of time, running out of time…
Twelve Minutes (PC/Xbox One/Series X|S) – Releases Aug. 19th
*ALERT* XBOX CONSOLE EXCLUSIVE *ALERT*
This interactive thriller has been hyped pretty hard more than a few times at various Xbox events, and I can’t tell if it’s because the game is actually good or if its because James McAvoy, Daisy Ridley, and Willem Dafoe lent their voice talents to the game and Microsoft are just being a bunch of star fuckers. In any case, this looks pretty interesting, you take on the role of a man who is reliving the past twelve minutes of his life over and over, each time learning something new and putting together the pieces of a puzzle that will both keep his wife out of jail and save him from death.
Greak: Memories of Azur (PC/PS5/Switch/Series X|S) – Releases Aug. 17th
Greak: Memories of Azur is a 2D, hand drawn, platformer about three siblings who are trying to escape from an evil group of creatures called the Urlag. Taking a cue from the game Trine, players will control all three siblings at the same time, alternating between them as they solve puzzles and attack enemies. It looks interesting and is probably worth your time when it is part of a Steam sale.
Humankind (PC/Stadia) – Releases Aug. 17th
Not content to let Firaxis and 2K control the civilization simulation genre, Sega and developer AMPLITUDE Studios are putting out Humankind in a bid to compete for your time. I mean that literally, if you’ve ever played Civilization then you know how much time that game steals from you, and I’d expect Humankind to be no different. If you pick this up then prepare to tell your family that you love them and that you’ll see them again in six months.
Zool Redimensioned (PC) – Releases Aug. 18th
The original Zool: Ninja of the Nth Dimension was a launch title for the Amiga 1200, the latest model in the line of Amiga computers made by Commodore. Created as a competitor to Sega’s Sonic the Hedgehog, Zool was praised by the Amiga community for its superb graphics, but knocked for its poor controls. The Amiga 1200 didn’t do very well in the U.S., eventually sending Commodore into bankruptcy in 1994, still, the game holds some nostalgic value for 90s kids because of, I assume, its ports to the more popular Genesis and Super Nintendo consoles. If this holds any nostalgic value then I hope you have a great time with it, but lets hope they fixed those controls.
Arietta of Spirits (PC/PS4/Switch/Xbox One) – Releases Aug. 20th
Another Zelda style indie game for you to see on the Nintendo eShop, debate about buying for a few minutes; grab your phone, look up some reviews, see a few people say its good; put it on your wishlist, wait until it’s $1.99, pick it up and think, “wow, that’s a good deal“; play it for 30 minutes, realize it’s okay but not great, then never play it again.
Madden NFL 22 (PC/PS4/PS5/Stadia/Xbox One/Series X|S) – Releases Aug. 20th (Early access on Aug. 17th for pre-orders)
I’ll admit that I have no real connection to this franchise, as big as it is. The trailer above is slick and features people saying stuff on social media, but it does nothing for me. Do any of you play Madden, or sports games in general? I haven’t played a football game regularly since Sega’s ESPN NFL 2K5, a series I found to always be vastly superior, so I almost take Madden’s release for granted. The best thing I can say about this series is that it brings non-gamers into the fold and helps to continue legitimizing video games as a whole. Plus you can have custom end zone dances; which button makes me dougie?
Ports and Re-releases:
Space Invaders Invincible Collection (Switch) – Releases Aug. 17th
I bought this back in December when it was called Space Invaders Forever and featured four games, but apparently that was the “budget title” version. You see, I’m stupid, I should have waited for the full game, Space Invaders Invincible Collection, which contains the four games from Forever PLUS seven more games, for a total of eleven. Now, you’re probably asking yourself, “Is Andy going to buy this one too“, and the answer, of course, is yes, because I’m a sucker.
Ghost of Tsushima: Director’s Cut (PS4/PS5) – Releases Aug. 20th
Sometimes they are called “Game of the Year Edition“, or “Enhanced Edition“, or just plain old “Special Edition“, however the flavor of the month term appears to be “Director’s Cut“. I think this is, once again, showing the video game industry’s attempt to make themselves be seen as on the same level as films despite years of both financial and artistic dominance over the movie industry. Whatever, all this really means is that a great game that people love is getting a re-release with a bunch of new content and, in the case of the PS5, better graphics. On top of this brand new edition, players will also get access to the new expansion Iki Island, which sees protagonist Jin Sakai travel to a mysterious island where he’ll meet new people, gain new armor, and go on a bunch of new quests. Final note, it seems that Sucker Punch and Sony have removed the original version of the game from the PlayStation Store, meaning you can only purchase the Director’s Cut. This might not seem like much of a big deal, but if you ever want to play just the base, vanilla game again, you’ll need to own a physical copy.
Mortal Shell: The Virtuous Cycle (PC/PS4/PS5/Xbox One/Series X|S) – Releases Aug. 18th
Mortal Shell came out a year ago on the Epic Games Store and was seen as a so-so souls-like game that had promise, but was clearly made by a small, indie developer. Well that year long exclusive is over and the game is finally hitting Steam, along with it’s brand new expansion The Virtuous Cycle. Along with new armor and weapons, the big change is that you can now play the game as a roguelike, making an already tough game even harder.
Ambition: A Minuet in Power (PC) – Releases Aug. 18th
Hell Architect (PC) – Releases Aug. 18th
Recompile (PC/PS5/Series X|S) – Releases Aug. 19th
RiMS Racing (PC) – Releases Aug. 19th (Consoles over the course of the coming weeks)
The Vale: Shadow of the Crown (PC/Xbox One) – Releases Aug. 19th
Notable Releases from 10, 20 and 30 years ago:
Deus Ex: Human Revolution (PC/PS3/Xbox 360) – Released Aug. 23rd, 2011: Wiki Link
After the release of 2003’s Deus Ex: Invisible War, developer Ion Storm were keen to continue their popular franchise and immediately started work on a follow-up. However, due to financial issues that were starting to plague the company, Ion Storm would only release one more game, the 2004 title Thief: Deadly Shadows, before it was shut down by parent company Eidos in 2005. In the months leading up to its closure the team actually got pretty far into pre-production on a title that would have been called Deus Ex: Clan Wars, only to have it be reworked into the first person shooter Project Snowblind, a game that would be completed by another Eidos subsidiary, Crystal Dynamics. Two years would pass before we got any new Deus Ex news, when Eidos announced that they were opening a new studio, Eidos Montreal, and that their first game would be a third entry in the Deus Ex franchise. Essentially starting from scratch, a small team of core developers would brainstorm ideas for this new entry, figuring out what they liked and didn’t like from the first two games, and seeing what was even feasible with a small-ish team and a time crunch, as the game was initially expected to release in 2010. The goal of Eidos Montreal was to ensure that they kept the spirit of Warren Spector’s original vision, while rebooting the entire series.
Unlike the previous two games which were played over a series of levels, Human Revolution was a quasi open world game, where you would complete missions over a series of areas that were not connected to one another, meaning that you could miss quests if you didn’t finish them before moving to the next area. For game play, Human Revolution took inspiration from multiple other games and kind of melded them together into one; cover was inspired by Rainbow Six: Vegas, AI was inspired by F.E.A.R., weapons and obstacles were inspired by Bioshock, health regeneration was inspired by Call of Duty, inventory management was inspired by Resident Evil 4, and of course the stealth system was inspired by Metal Gear Solid and, surprisingly, The Chronicles of Riddick: Escape From Butcher Bay. With all of the greatest gameplay hits from the best titles of the last decade, Eidos Montreal got to work building all of their systems, and thanks to the team at Crystal Dynamics, they were able to leverage a lot of the engine from their upcoming Tomb Raider reboot (despite having to make multiple modifications). With programming underway, attention was turned to the story, and Eidos Montreal knew they wanted to have a game that was just as engaging during the cutscenes as it was while playing.
The lead scriptwriter was Mary DeMarle, who outlined the story of a former cop named Adam Jensen who was now the head of security at Sarif Industries. In the beginning of the game players move around the corporate headquarters of Sarif, learning all about their human augmentation technology, when a distress call comes in from their research and development lab. Knowing that both the company’s secrets, as well as his girlfriend, are in trouble, Jensen races down to the lab and witnesses the death of his girlfriend before he is mortally wounded. Through the magic of human augmentation, Jensen is brought back from the brink of death, sporting a ton of enhancements, including robotic limbs and a host of neural implants (all of which can be upgraded as you gain XP). After this introduction scene the game takes off in full, with players taking Jensen first around Detroit, then to Hengshen, China, where he learns what is really going on with Sarif and the future of human augmentation. While Human Revolution is a reboot, the game does take place in the same world as the first Deus Ex, acting as a prequel, of sorts, with various small Easter eggs that allude to characters and events in that original game.
Reception to Deus Ex: Human Revolution was generally positive, with many outlets praising the game for reinvigorating the dormant series. Particular praise was given to the story, not only for its main, linear story, but also in large part to its many branching pathways and side stories. Based on your choices, no two play throughs of Human Revolution will be exactly the same, allowing you the freedom to chart your own path and give Jensen your own voice. However, let’s talk about that voice. Some of the main criticisms with the game were its repetitive quest structure as well as Jensen’s voice actor’s stiff and bland delivery. The first time I heard him talk all I could think was that the actor tried to do their best “Neo from The Matrix” impression, and failed. Players were happy with the game for the most part, but some Deus Ex purists were very upset with the inclusion of health regeneration. Eidos Montreal countered that it was a necessary part of modern video game design and they couldn’t make a game without it. Speaking of director’s cuts, Human Revolution’s special edition was called just that, and it was even released on Nintendo’s then brand new console, the Wii U, as part of an effort to help rebrand Nintendo as a haven for third party developers. A sequel, Mankind Divided, would release in 2016, being the last major release in the franchise. Rumors would pop up every now and then that Eidos’ parent company Square Enix were disappointed with sales and they decided to put the franchise on hold. Eidos Montreal denied this, saying that they were just too busy with other games like Shadow of the Tomb Raider and the unannounced Marvel’s Avengers to devote any time to a Deus Ex sequel. Maybe one day we’ll get to travel around an open world cyberpunk game again, one that isn’t the open world game Cyberpunk 2077.
Armored Core 2: Another Age (PS2) – Released Aug. 20th, 2001: Wiki Link
While today’s gamer knows From Software as the Dark Souls company, in the early part of the century they were known as the Armored Core company. When the PS2 launched in October, one of the launch titles was From Software’s Armored Core 2, a souped-up version of their popular PSX titles of the same name. Since the series was so popular, From immediately started work on a sequel/expansion, Armored Core 2: Another Age. Featuring much of the same gameplay as their PS2 launch title, Another Age made small improvements to the game to help players control their mechs better, including the use of the left analog stick to walk. While an arena mode had been a popular addition to their PSX titles, Another Age opted to not include this mode, allowing the developers to add more missions, 100 in total, the most that any Armored Core game has ever had. There’s really not much else to say about this game; it sold well, critics enjoyed it for the most part, but were upset at the fact that there was no arena mode and that, for the most part, Another Age was basically the same game as Armored Core 2. I really enjoyed this game, and prefer it over AC2, mostly for the quality of life improvements and, surprisingly, the better graphics. It’s amazing what just a few extra months did for PS2 graphics. Sadly you can’t get this on any modern consoles, it’s strictly limited to the PS2 as a physical release. If you still have your old PS2 and find a copy at your local retro game shop I would highly recommend you pick it up, it’s well worth your time.
Super Nintendo Entertainment System – Released Aug. 23rd, 1991 (Though some records say it could have been as early as Aug. 13th or as late as Sep. 9th): Wiki Link
When Nintendo released the Famicom in Japan in 1983 it experienced a years long success in the country, and when it hit North America in 1985 as the Nintendo Entertainment System, it made them a global powerhouse, unmatched in the video game industry. While there was some competition from Atari, Sega, and I guess Commodore, the first true challenger to the Famicom/NES would be NEC’s PC Engine/TurboGrafx-16. Released in Japan in 1987, its 16-bit graphics were an improvement over the Famicom, but it didn’t unseat Nintendo from the top. However, with the release of the Sega Mega Drive/Genesis, Nintendo started to see their market share slip. While Sega and NEC’s new 16-bit consoles wouldn’t really be big hits out the gate, they were still scary enough for Nintendo to announce that they were, in fact, also working on their own 16-bit system and that it would have Super Mario Bros. 4 and Dragon Quest V (despite Enix not committing to one single console at the time). When the SNES finally released in 1990/1991 it was a massive success, selling out instantly in Japan, prompting the government to request that Nintendo release shipments on the weekend to keep people from skipping school and work in order to buy one. The console was in such high demand that the Yakuza would steal shipments and resell them, causing Nintendo to make their shipments in the middle of the night, in secret. While the system sold incredibly well in Japan, trouncing the Genesis/Mega Drive, in the U.S. it was a much closer contest, and in fact, until 2014 it was believed that Sega won the console war in America, until it was discovered that the Super Nintendo actually moved 2 million more units than the Genesis. Despite this final win in the war, Nintendo lost the battle for the 1991 holiday, with Sega’s Sonic The Hedgehog proving incredibly popular, giving the Genesis the edge for the next three years. However, over the SNES’ lifespan it would receive some of the most well received and critically acclaimed games of all time, including some of the greatest RPGs ever made. This had a lot to do with Nintendo’s strong third party partnerships with companies like Capcom, Squaresoft, Enix, Konami, Tecmo, and Koei. The Super Nintendo’s legacy has cast a long shadow on Nintendo, with many of its franchises appearing on their follow-up consoles. Then, starting with the release of the Game Boy Advance, and then with the Wii, you began to see Super Nintendo titles get re-released. Currently, Nintendo has been offering Super Nintendo games through their paid online service on the Switch, although some of the titles are far less impressive than the console’s library has to offer. Despite its popularity, the SNES is only the 8th best selling Nintendo console of all time, yet in a time where video games hadn’t quite gone mainstream, its 49 million units are pretty impressive. Nintendo would face tough competition from Sega through the first half of the 1990’s, and when the Sony PlayStation appeared in 1995 it would help usher games into the mainstream, and finally dethrone Nintendo from its perch. The next thirty years for Nintendo would be filled with ups and downs, but their revolutionary Switch console is currently at the top of the market. I wonder how the next 30 years will turn out?
Okay, so we know that the SNES didn’t do well against the Genesis (at least in North America) for its first four months on the market, but if people did pick it up on day one, what could they play on it? Let’s take a look; here’s Paul Rudd…
Super Mario World
In 1991, just like today, when you thought about Nintendo you immediately thought about Mario. While the NES had originally not launched with a Mario bundle, the 1988 “Power Pack” that came with Super Mario Bros. and Duck Hunt, really helped solidify Mario as Nintendo’s mascot. With such popularity, it was important to Nintendo to make sure that the SNES came ready with a brand new Mario game, and it would be called Super Mario World. What’s interesting is that at one point the game was supposed to be called Super Mario Bros. 4: Super Mario World, and that was its official name in Japan, but for reasons that I can’t find anywhere, it was shortened to just Super Mario World in the West. I mean, what can I say about this game that you don’t already know? If you were a kid in the 1990’s then you probably played countless hours of this classic game, and if you didn’t, or you’re a bit younger, then I’d hope you have at least given this a look on one of the countless re-releases Nintendo has put out over the last 30 years. Just in case you know nothing about this game, Super Mario World once again has Bowser kidnapping Princess Toadstool and whisking her away to his castle, this time in Dinosaur Land. Mario, our plucky hero, chases after Bowser, fighting goombas and koopa troopas along the way, while also dealing with a bunch of new dinosaur enemies, and of course the Koopalings. This time, though, Mario has help not just from his brother Luigi, but also a green dinosaur named Yoshi, making his first appearance in a Mario game. Series producer Shigeru Miyamoto had wanted to have a dinosaur companion in the series since the original Super Mario Bros., but technical limitations always stopped him. Critics were floored by the game, saying it was a beautiful game to look at and listen to. It was the perfect title to come bundled with the SNES, and while it didn’t feature some of the more “amazing” technical marvels that the other launch titles did, it was clearly the best game on the system.
While Super Mario World was the best launch title overall, the two most impressive were the next two games we’re going to talk about due to Nintendo’s famous Mode 7 technology. While there had been pseudo-3D racing games in the past, Nintendo’s F-Zero was the most convincing, making it, likely, the greatest racing game of all time up to that point. Produced by Shigeru Miyamoto, F-Zero is credited with creating the hyper fast, futuristic racing game sub genre. The game featured four unique racing machines and drivers; the Golden Fox driven by Dr. Stewart, the Wild Goose driven by Pico, the Fire Stingray driven by Samurai Goroh, and of course the Blue Falcon driven by Captain Falcon, a character who is probably known more for his inclusion in Super Smash Bros. than he is for F-Zero. The racing was fast and frantic, and the game’s killer soundtrack by composers Yumiko Kanki and Naoto Ishida really drove that feling of speed home. The music was so popular that the two of them even created Jazz remixes of each track and released it on CD in 1992. F-Zero was highly influential on the racing genre, and even prompted famed designer Toshihiro Nagoshi (creator of Yakuza) to say that F-Zero taught him “…what a game should be“, and led him to create Daytona USA. In a twist of fate, Nagoshi would go on to create his own entry in the series, 2003’s F-Zero GX on the GameCube. Nintendo has had a weird relationship with F-Zero over the years, neglecting to release a sequel on the SNES, instead waiting for the N64, then releasing follow-up titles on the GameCube and Game Boy Advance. It has been almost 17 years since we last got an F-Zero game, in the meantime you can make Captain Falcon beat up all of the franchise characters in Super Smash Bros. who keep getting games made about them.
Once again produced by Shigeru Miyamoto, Pilotwings was Nintendo’s other big Mode 7 game and was considered, at the time, a technological marvel. With Mode 7’s pseudo-3D graphics, Pilotwings was able to let players experience the joy of flying (and falling) through the air in a “3D” space. After joining the “Flight Club” (the first rule of Flight Club is…ehhhh, trix…), players must take on several aerial challenges, each of which impressively shows off the power of the Super Nintendo. There’s light plane flying, skydiving, rocket belt piloting, hang gliding, and finally, helicopter combat, where players must rescue their kidnapped Flight Club instructors from an enemy base. Pilotwings was described as “stunning” and “jaw dropping”, and I think this is why most critics overlooked the really bad controls. Still, I can appreciate what Pilotwings brought to gaming, and if this was one of my only choices for the SNES I would have happily tried to figure out the obtuse rocket belt and janky airplane, when I wasn’t playing Super Mario World…or F-Zero…or either of the next two games…
While I can’t quite find out if Miyamoto worked on this launch title, his team at Nintendo EAD (or R&D4) did develop the game with input from Maxis. It’s a bit strange that Nintendo would make a game originally created by a third party, but they did make their own version of Tetris, so it wasn’t uncommon for them. I wish I could find more information about the creation of the SNES SimCity, but there’s not a lot of info out there. All I can say is that I spent hours, and I mean HOURS of my late elementary school/early junior high years playing this game. My go to strategy was to build each zone in a donut shape, filling in the center with grass, and instead of roads I would make the entire city run on rail lines. My buddy and I would constantly name our cities Macross Island, then blow it up as if the SDF-1 had launched, then start over again. One of the most lasting elements of this game is the character of Dr. Wright, modeled after SimCity creator Will Wright, who helps teach you how to play the game, and is your overall advisor and cheerleader. This isn’t the most graphically intense or high powered launch title, but it did show the processing and computing power of the Super Nintendo, and that strategy games did have a place on the console.
Finally, our last launch title is the lone third party game, Konami’s arcade smash Gradius III. Originally released in Japanese arcades in 1989, Gradius III was, I think, most NES players first chance to see how the 8-bit games they knew and loved would make the transition into the 16-bit era. While we saw the evolution of the platformer with Super Mario World, the other launch titles were inventing something new. Gradius III was, for the most part, exactly the same as Gradius and Lifeforce, Konami’s big horizontal shooters on the NES, it just had much better graphics and music. Personally, I love Gradius III, and I think it rounds out the SNES launch lineup very well. Critics, and I think players, disagree with me, saying that Gradius III was too derivative of its NES counterpart and not worth the fifty dollar price tag. I say boo to that, Gradius III is a masterful game, one that might not look as flashy as Pilotwings, but is so much more fun to play. The Super Nintendo wouldn’t get as many shoot ’em up’s as the Genesis, but I’m hard pressed to find a more fun, and more beautiful looking, SHMUP on Sega’s 16-bit system. I’ll give you two guesses as to which side I picked in the Console Wars.
That’s it, the five SNES launch titles in North America, two of which, Super Mario World and F-Zero, that you can easily find on lists of the greatest video games of all time. Looking back on other console launches I’ve covered here, the Super Nintendo has one of the best lineups, I would have been really torn about which games to get if I picked one up on day one back in 1991. Thankfully we can get all of these fairly easily through the multiple re-releases each has gotten over the years. SimCity is probably the hardest to find, it’s not available digitally (at least not legally), but the retro game stores I go to will almost always have a copy, the trick is getting that working Super Nintendo, or picking up one of those modern clone systems. Where were your allegiances during the Console Wars? Did you have an SNES on day one or did your parents buy you the Genesis because Sonic was way cooler than Mario; or maybe they just thought it was too damn expensive and pissed off that your NES games wouldn’t work on it. Imagine that, people being upset that a console wasn’t backwards compatible. Good thing we’re not so shallow in the modern age…
If you like what I’m doing here consider supporting me on Patreon:
Here’s some AT-AT’s.