Alright folks, here it comes; the onslaught! You should expect to see big, major new releases every week until the end of the year. Sometimes multiple big games, like this week, as all of the top games are just about as anticipated as all of the other (yes, even the basketball one). The games this week fill just about every niche, well, except maybe shooters, but, if you want a good shooter game then I would highly recommend that you check out this week’s ten year old notable title, Warhammer 40,000: Space Marine. Alright, enough talking, let’s go to a video of me talking.
WarioWare: Get It Together (Switch) – Releases Sep. 10th
It’s been a good year for long awaited sequels and franchise reboots. From the recent Psychonauts 2 and No More Heroes III, January’s Scott Pilgrim, Sakaguchi making his return to gaming with Fantasian, Pokémon Snap returning from a long absence, Mass Effect getting a remaster, and of course Mario Golf returning to consoles after 18 years. Now we’ve got yet ANOTHER dormant Nintendo franchise making it’s return to consoles with WarioWare: Get It Together. While 2018 last saw Wario and his pals playing microgames in the 3DS game WarioWare: Gold, his last proper console release was the 2013 Wii U title Game & Wario, a game that almost nobody played, and due to its high prices, almost nobody ever will. That’s okay, though, because you almost certainly have a Switch, and all of its games are also available digitally, meaning you’ll never have to pay those high scalper prices ever again (unless you want Super Mario 3D All-Stars…). Okay, enough color commentary, let’s talk about this new WarioWare game. In Get It Together, players will once again be subjected to a series of microgames that they must complete in a set amount of time in order to advance to the next area. These games are typically ridiculous and gross (like Wario), and challenges even the most skilled player’s dexterity. While past titles in the series have had players either going solo or competing against one another, Get It Together’s main feature is that players now have the ability to attempt the microgames together. In this world where we are constantly being driven apart by disease, by political affiliation, by pop culture tastes, can Nintendo’s ugliest and foulest character bring us back together? WAHHHHHHH-y not!
Sonic Colors: Ultimate (PC/PS4/Switch/Xbox One) – Releases Sep. 7th
This week’s notable title from ten years ago…wait, sorry, we’re a bit early for that with Sonic Colors, but yes, this game did last release ten years ago on the Nintendo DS and Wii to fairly high critical acclaim (as far as Sonic titles go). While the game was praised for its visuals and overall style & tone, it was still criticized for its awful controls and camera. On that note, aren’t you excited to play a remastered version on modern consoles! However, this isn’t just a straight port of the Wii game, oh no, no, no; there’s new shit here. Improved framerates, a re-recorded soundtrack, the “jade ghost” wisp power-up from Sonic Team Racing, a racing mode where players compete against Metal Sonic, unlockable cosmetics that make Sonic look like his film counterpart (minus the gross teeth), new dialogue from the voice actress who plays Tails, as well as fully dubbed audio in French, German, Italian, and Spanish. Those are all great but, um, there’s two things missing that might actually make the game better, like, maybe, improved controls and camera? No? Oh, okay, okay.
The Artful Escape (PC/Xbox One/Series X|S) – Releases Sep. 9th
*ALERT! XBOX CONSOLE EXCLUSIVE! ALERT!*
Annapurna, the most important, beautiful, exciting, and dynamic film distributor in the history of cinema is back with another important, god damn, mother fucking AMAZING games with The Artful Escape. I swear to god, if anybody says ANYTHING shitty about this game I will go fucking nuts on you, okay? ANNAPURNA IS THE FUTURE YOU OLD FUCKS!!! GET YOUR BOOMER ASSES OUT OF HERE, WE RUN THIS SHIT NOW. This game has Jason Schwartzman, Mark Strong, Carl Weathers, and Lena Headey, because film actors make video games important, okay! Starfuckers! Starfuckers incorporated!! Starfuckers!
Life Is Strange: True Colors (PC/PS4/PS5/Stadia/Switch/Xbox One/Series X|S) – Releases Sep. 10th
Square Enix’s Life Is Strange series, formerly developed by DONTNOD Entertainment, is among the most popular games out today, much to the chagrin of (I assume) people like former Tripwire president John Gibson who recently tweeted his support of the new Texas abortion law, and of course, douchebag, incel gamers. Fuck ’em, we need more games like Life Is Strange out there and more studios like DONTNOD, and True Colors developer Deck Nine, where their titles are queer friendly, minority friendly, women friendly, and just good people friendly. Like the other games in the series, Life Is Strange: True Colors centers on a protagonist with supernatural powers, this time it is a young woman named Alex Chen who is able to see and feel the emotions of others, literally. These powers will come in handy as she investigates the death of her brother in a mysterious small town in the mountains of Colorado. Unlike previous entries, True Colors will not be released episodically, instead all five chapters will be released at once, letting players “binge play” the entire season all at once. I am thrilled to jump into another Life Is Strange game, and I hope you are too.
NBA 2K22 (PC/PS4/PS5/Switch/Xbox One/Series X|S) – Releases Sep. 10th
Basketball is back, baby, a full season this year, yay, yay-ee! It’s the end of Summer which means it’s time for a new entry in the long running NBA 2K series. Play as all your favorites, Kevin Durant, Giannis Antetokounmpo, LeBron James, Steph Curry, James Harden, etc. Dominate the boards, tell people “not in my house”, and do that dance from Fortnite after you score a basket. This is the NBA at its best; accept no imitators.
Tales of Arise (PC/PS4/PS5/Xbox One/Series X|S) – Releases Sep. 10th
Twenty Six years after it debuted on the Super Nintendo in Japan, Namco Bandai’s Tales franchise has kind of hid under the radar, playing third fiddle to franchises like Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest. Still, the series has a very dedicated following, and their seventeenth release has the potential to be one of their biggest and best yet. Featuring a team of both series veterans and passionate newcomers, Tales of Arise promises to be a darker in tone game, as you guide your party through a world where a wealthy, technologically advanced nation holds the people of a poor, medieval-esque as their captive slaves. Arise, brave heroes, and take your freedom!
Ports and Re-releases:
Final Fantasy IV Pixel Remaster (Android/iOS/PC) – Releases Sep. 8th
This week’s 30 year old game…wait, getting ahead of ourselves again, but yeah, if you can believe it the masterpiece Final Fantasy IV is thirty years old this year; wow. On a personal note, this was my very first RPG, a game that defined how I viewed storytelling & character development, and it was the first video game to make me feel an emotion beyond just simple excitement. At ten years old my eyes were opened and I never looked back. I’m more than happy to jump into Final Fantasy IV again, it’s time.
BloodRayne: Betrayal – Fresh Bites (PC/PS4/PS5/Switch/Xbox One/Series X|S) – Releases Sep. 9th
Releasing almost ten years to the day it first came out in 2011, the side scrolling hack and slash game BloodRayne: Betrayal has been remastered for modern consoles with the Fresh Bites edition. Co-directed by future Shovel Knight co-creator Sean Velasco and Shantae co-creator Matt Bozon, BloodRayne: Betrayal is more of the same from WayForward, making modern versions of classic game styles, particularly 8 and 16 bit side scrollers. The original release received somewhat average reviews and was noted for being incredibly difficult. Does that mean you should or shouldn’t get this? I mean, I guess that’s up to you. Does anybody want donuts? I really want donuts.
Toy Soldiers HD (PC/PS4/Switch/Xbox One) – Releases Sep. 9th
Originally released in 2010 exclusive for the Xbox 360, Toy Soldiers was a tower defense game with the unique twist that your units were replica tin-toy soldiers, armaments and vehicles from World War I. It sold reasonably well for an XBLA title and received positive reviews. I remember having a really good time with this back when it first came out, and I imagine the game is just as engrossing today; give it a look.
Surviving Mars: Below and Beyond (PC/PS4/Xbox One) – Releases Sep. 7th
The sci0fi city builder Surviving Mars was your typical Paradox Interactive release; a base game with very little to do, only made better by purchasing multiple expansions. It is what it is, I suppose, so if you’d like to have the option to do more stuff then I guess it’s time to pony up the bucks. In Below and Beyond, players will be to expand their exploration out further out than before, on places like asteroids, as well as begin to colonize underneath the planet, exploring the many caves and lava tubes under the planets surface. New buildings, vehicles, upgrades and locales should keep you occupied for several hours in this city building sim.
Bus Simulator 21 (PC/PS4/Xbox One) – Releases Sep. 7th
F.I.S.T.: Forged in Shadow Torch (PS4/PS5) – Releases Sep. 7th
Hindsight 20/20 – Wrath of the Raakshasa (PC/PS4/PS5/Switch/Xbox One/Series X|S) – Releases Sep. 9th
Residual (PC/Switch/Xbox One/Series X|S) – Releases Sep. 9th
Kraken Academy!! (PC) – Releases Sep. 10th
Lost In Random (PC/PS4/PS5/Switch/Xbox One/Series X|S) – Releases Sep. 10th
Notable Releases from 10, 20 and 30 (and sometimes 40) years ago:
Warhammer 40,000: Space Marine (PC/PS3/Xbox 360) – Released Sep. 6th, 2011: Wiki Link
When 2006’s Gears of War came out it started a new trend of dark, gritty, blood and guts filled action games. Fans of a certain table top war game, however, had already experienced much of Gears’ aesthetic with Warhammer 40k, a dark, gritty, blood and guts filled strategy game. It shouldn’t be surprising, then, that with the popularity of Gears of War that someone would make a Warhammer 40k video game that would look to capitalize on the new found interest of gamers. Unfortunately, because Gears of War was a worldwide, mainstream phenomenon and most passionate Warhammer 40k fans were guys who hung out in board game stores, people thought that Space Marine was a cheap rip-off of Gears. This point was driven in harder by the release of an article by Dean Takahashi at Venture Beat with the headline, “How many ways can THQ’s Space Marine rip off Gears of War?“. An incendiary headline, no doubt, followed by the writers quick observations that both games feature muscle head Marines, chainsaws, ugly enemies that scream, a dark & gritty atmosphere, and aiming reticles that were similar in design. The angry response from Warhammer 40k fans was swift and brutal (and I’m sure awful), pointing out that Warhammer 40k predated Gears by nearly 20 years, that all of the things in the game were from already established lore, and in fact it might have been Gears that ripped off Warhammer 40k. It got to the point that other outlets responded as well, with Destructoid’s Jim Sterling penning an article called, “How many ways can Space Marine NOT rip off Gears of War?“, giving developer Relic Entertainment plenty of ink to talk about how their game differs from Gears of War. Dean Takahashi would eventually post an update to his original story (which he called an “opinion piece”), apologizing but also defending his stance. Something he thought was going to be a throw away puff piece about some dumb new game copying another dumb old game turned into a mini-scandal. Alright, so let’s get into it, does Space Marine rip-off Gears of War?
Obviously the aesthetics are very similar, it can’t be helped. Both games are about overly muscular men shooting monsters, but what sets the Space Marines in Warhammer 40k apart from the Gears is that they are in huge, metal suits, almost mecha-like in their design. As far as gameplay goes, Space Marine is far more focused on melee combat than Gears of War is. Players start the game with a combat knife before finding a chainsaw sword, a battle axe, and finally a huge hammer that can cause major devastation. Shooting it still a major part of Space Marine, but it is another tool to help you defeat your enemies, coming in particularly handy when you want to clear out snipers, Orks with rocket/grenade launchers, and eventually other Marines who have been possessed by Chaos. As for enemies, Gears’ Locust are an alien race that come at you from under the ground, Space Marine’s main enemies are the Orks, a race that has long been in conflict with humans as they both try to rule over the galaxy. Later in the game you are confronted by the forces of Chaos, a dark, twisted race ruled by the Elder Gods of yore, similar to those you might read about in Lovecraft stories. I can assure you, though, that all of these different creatures yell at the top of their lungs ALL THE TIME. Story wise, both games follow a similar-ish path, moving from place to place in the hopes that you can liberate a planet from the evil that is overtaking it. Comrades dies, you get betrayed, it’s all very standard, very boilerplate stuff when it comes to video games, so I don’t think anybody was really ripping anyone off when it comes to story. That’s like saying every fantasy RPG ever made is ripping off the Lord of the Rings. They aren’t, it just set a template that everyone else kind of follows (including the original Warhammer fantasy universe). Getting away from the comparisons and looking at each game on its own, I prefer Space Marine over Gears on two things, I really like the melee combat and I’m just a fan of the Warhammer 40k universe. Gears of War is a great game, and gameplay-wise it is very different from Space Marine, with 100% of the combat focused on taking cover and strategically, methodically eliminating your enemies. Space Marine is very much in your face and demands that you get up close and personal with your enemies, giving it a feeling closer to a third person Doom. Unfortunately, with the closure of THQ in 2013, Relic’s two planned sequels for the game would never get made, leaving Space Marine’s cliffhanger ending unresolved. Sega currently holds the publishing rights and they do not seem to have any plans to develop any sequels. The easiest way to play Space Marine is on PC through Steam, but used copies of the game are easily attainable for PS3 and Xbox 360 online or at retro game stores (maybe even a Game Stop or two). You don’t need to play this game, but if you enjoy third person shooters with a strong emphasis on melee combat, you should certainly give Space Marine a try.
Advance Wars (Game Boy Advance) – Released Sep. 10th, 2001: Wiki Link
September 10th, 2001 is a unique day in modern American history, a kind of calm before the storm, the last normal day for many around the world, but especially for Americans. I’m sure you’re going to see a lot of articles, news stories, and documentaries surrounding the September 11th terrorist attacks this year, particularly because it’s the 20th anniversary, and we always like looking back at our past (why do you think this part of the column even exists). That a game called Advance Wars came out the day before one of the worst tragedies in American history is surreal. There are rumors that the game was delayed in Europe and Japan because of the attacks on 9/11, however there doesn’t seem to be any substantial proof of this (Nintendo claims it was to keep it from competing with a GBC titles called Game Boy Wars 3), but I don’t think it’s that far of a stretch. One of the main features of the game is capturing bases that resemble giant skyscrapers, with players stamping down on them until the crumble, not really something you wanted to remind a lot of people about in the wake of the Twin Towers falling down. Still, despite it’s ominous release date, Advance Wars received almost universal acclaim from critics, and is regularly listed among the greatest video games of all time. If you’re unfamiliar with the game, Advance Wars is a tactical war simulator that is actually the seventh game in the Wars series. First releasing in 1988 as Famicom Wars, the series would also release as Game Boy Wars and Super Famicom Wars, Advance Wars was not only the first in the series to release in North America, but was also the first to feature a story mode. Originally, Advance Wars was going to continue to be a Japan only franchise, but when Nintendo of America employees got a hold of copies hey lamented to their bosses that they wished the game could be localized for the West. Nintendo’s Japanese headquarters had long believed that American tastes in games did not include high strategy, turn based games, despite years of PC games proving that wrong, but still, they assumed that their core audience would reject such games, and is also the main reason why we did not receive any Fire Emblem titles in the U.S., either. Nintendo forced the developers to make the game far easier in the U.S. and to include a massive amount of tutorials to teach people how to play a strategy game. Players and critics proved to Nintendo wrong and made Advance Wars a major hit, a move that completely changed Nintendo’s perception of the U.S. market. It is only because Advance Wars was such a huge success that we even got Fire Emblem, so a big thank you to everyone who bought this game when it came out in 2001. After a few sequels on the GBA and DS, the series went dormant, with developer Intelligent Design focusing more on Fire Emblem, but this past year we were treated to the announcement that Advance Wars 1 and 2 were being remastered for the Switch, bringing us back to the battlefield. Sep. 11th, 2001 would change a lot of things in our world, and the games that come out each week after it were likely affected by it (especially a certain open world crime simulator from Rockstar). It might be somber in the 20 year notable title section for the next few weeks.
Leisure Suit Larry 5: Passionate Patti Does a Little Undercover Work (PC) – Released Sep. 7th, 1991: Wiki Link
A few weeks ago we talked about the VGA re-release of Leisure Suit Larry in the Land of the Lounge Lizards, a game that hasn’t really aged all that well, but mostly for how boring it it, rather than how outrageous or offensive it is. Leisure Suit Larry 5, on the other hand, is a completely different story. This game is atrociously offensive, and also terrible. The puzzles are either incredibly obtuse, or so easy that you’ll figure it out instantly. There’s also no way to lose the game, you don’t need any kind of walkthrough because you’ll always make it to the end, just fine. Sure, if you don’t fulfill certain requirements then you won’t get the best ending, but it really doesn’t matter, because you won’t care by the time you get there. None of the characters are likeable in this sleazy piece of shit, Larry is particularly disgusting here, with one gag involving you continually clicking on a woman’s blouse until her tits pop out, right before you give her a green card and she fucks you while doing gymnastics. You might think that because you play 50% of the game as Passionate Patti that maybe this is something that even women might enjoy, but no. Most of Patti’s time is spent thinking about the best ways to fuck dudes (including fake Donald Trump and Bill Gates characters), doing things in the service of men, and then using her breasts to kill a guy (it sounds funnier than it is). I was horrified by the end of this game, and felt like an awful human after it was over. Critics back in 1991 found the game to be enjoyable enough, as did PC players. I’m embarrassed to be talking about Leisure Suit Larry 5, it’s a stain on me that I’ll have to live with for the rest of my life. Don’t make my same mistake.
Frogger (Arcade) – Released Sep. 1981: Wiki Link
In 1981, player tastes in arcade games had started to change. With the release of Pac-Man in December of 1980, and then the phenomenon of Donkey Kong in July, the dominance of the space shooter was starting to wane, and the desire for more sophisticated, more inclusive games started to show up. Games that had characters, but more than that, characters that looked good, that made you feel like you were controlling someone that you could identify with, even if it was a frog crossing the road. The idea for Frogger came to a developer at Konami named Akira Hashimoto who, as the story goes, was on his way to work one morning when he spotted a frog jumping across the road as he sat at a traffic light. Hasimoto pulled over, picked up the frog, and walked him across the busy road himself, avoiding cars along the way. It was at this moment that Hashimoto conceived of Frogger, with players having to guide frog after frog across a road in order to get to the other side. He quickly threw the game together with his team and by January, 1981, Konami had published the game in Japan where it quickly grew in popularity, going into full mass production by June, 1981. For the international manufacturing rights the honor would go to Sega, however their American partners at a San Diego company called Gremlin were not impressed with the game and pretty much ignored it. It wasn’t until one of Gremlin’s market researchers, a woman named Elizabeth Falconer, who was reviewing the games that the company had licenses to manufacture, that Frogger was finally paid attention to. Falconer was immediately impressed with the game and asked her bosses if they had seen this potential new cash cow. She was shocked to learn that not only had her bosses seen it, they hated it. In their eyes it was another casual game for the female and children’s market, two groups that they didn’t think played enough video games. Falconer disagreed, and saw huge potential for Frogger to have cross over appeal in all markets (and also, I’m sure as a kind of “fuck you” to her males bosses), and she wanted to get a prototype built and tested ASAP. In a pitch meeting with executives from Sega, Gremlin, and Paramount Pictures (owners of Gremlin), Falconer was practically laughed out of the room, with executives continuing to scoff at the idea of release another women & kids game. Falconer, probably dressed as a fucking Valkyrie and wielding the spear of destiny, told those same executives that they had all said the same thing about Pac-Man, that it was a game for women & children and had zero potential to make any money. Sitting in stunned silence, the executives sat around the table, probably trying not to shit themselves, until one person, reportedly, said “Fine, let her have her goddamn kids game“.
Market testing for Frogger took place at a popular nightclub and bar in the Midway District of San Diego called Spanky’s Saloon. Falconer knew that Frogger had mass appeal and was only looking for a proper test of the game in public. Spanky’s was chosen due to its reputation as a club for hip, young professionals, as well as a popular hangout joint for the local sailors. Some at Gremlin were worried that Frogger would fail in this male dominated environment, and wrote the game off before the tests even began…and then something wild happened. As you might imagine, Frogger was a HUGE success at Spanky’s, with Gremlin representatives having to come by twice a week just to empty out the coin hold and adjust the DIP switches to alter the gameplay, but Falconer had proved her point, Frogger was not just a “women & kids” game, it was a game for everyone. Frogger’s success at arcades led to load of licensed merchandise, including a Saturday morning cartoon. With this popularity came, of course, the copy cat games, but unlike today where your grim-dark space marine game is similar to another grim-dark space marine game, companies would truly copy your game exactly and try to pass it off as their own. Sega wasted no time in taking legal action against anyone who tried to put out a Frogger clone, winning thousands of dollars in damages in the process. The bidding wars for the home console rights to Frogger were intense, with board game company Parker Brothers eventually winning out after failing to secure the rights to Donkey Kong. In 1981 alone, Frogger took in nearly $135 million in revenue ($384 million today), and was the highest grossing video game for Gremlin up to that point. Frogger has had a long and enduring legacy, with the character even appearing in his own series of 3D platformers in the 2000s. The original 1981 arcade game has been re-released multiple times over the years, and is easily available on any modern console, PC, or mobile device. What started as a simple act of kindness had spawned into an international phenomenon, one that people are still interested in today, with a game show on the Peacock streaming service set to launch this week. Not bad Mr. Hasimoto and Ms. Falconer, not bad at all.
Here’s an episode of the cartoon:
Here’s a trailer for the game show:
Finally, here is a Mega64 video, their first “public experiment” skit: