It’s a far more manageable slate of new releases this week, with only a handful of titles coming out. The good news, though, is that it’s a handful of big, AAA titles that you can really sink your teeth into. Yes…sink them in and drink the blood that flows from their wounds…yes, YES!! Feed, my children, and grant me your youth and energy, for I must be…AWAKENED!!!!!!
Metroid Dread (Switch) – Releases Oct. 8th
After the surprise remake of Metroid II that released in 2017, Nintendo has once again teamed up with Spanish developer MercurySteam on another adventure for Samus, this time an all new one. Billed as Metroid 5, ignoring Other M just like the rest of us, Metroid Dread is a 2.5D side scroller that continues the series’ tradition of exploration, gaining new powers, and exploring some more. Dread is, according to series creator Yoshio Sakamoto, the conclusion to the “Metroid” story arc that began with the original NES game and will, supposedly, wrap things up in a satisfying way. The premise is pretty typical of most Metroid games, with a distress signal going out, Samus coming in to investigate, she’s attacked by somebody, and she needs to figure out what’s happening while at the same time, figuring out a way to escape. Fun fact, this game actually began life in the year 2005 as a DS game, but due to hardware limitations is was scrapped, twice. The main reason for this delay was that Sakamoto did not feel like the creatures that stalked you were scary enough, and it wasn’t until the Switch came out that he felt there was enough horsepower to make his vision a reality. It should be some very spooky fun this October. By the way, if you still don’t have a Switch and you want to play Metroid Dread, well, you might be able to play it on…
Nintendo Switch OLED Model – Releases Oct. 8th
…A BRAND NEW
CAR CONSOLE!! Yes, folks, there is a new Switch coming out. No, not that long rumored 4K Switch, it’s the OLED Model; wow! With a larger screen (7 inches vs. 6.2 inches) and greater on -board storage (64GB vs. 32GB), the device seems to mostly cater to people who play their system on the go. However, for those of you who spend more time with it docked than un-docked, the system does come with a new dock that contains a hard wired ethernet port to allow for better latency when playing online. What the OLED Model doesn’t feature is better resolution or a different CPU (possibly), so it won’t really run your games better, it’ll just give you a bigger screen to look at when you’re sitting on the toilet, playing Shovel Knight. One interesting tidbit, courtesy of our pal Lovely Bones, the new dock does support upscaling and can convert HDMI 1.4 to HDMI 2.0, meaning that it is capable of 4K resolution, perhaps making this thing future proof.
It’s probably no coincidence that the updated Switch Online features are coming out soon as well, with the announcement of “free” Nintendo 64 games a great selling point for the 235 people who may not already own a Switch. Having just recently purchased a new Switch only a few months ago, the prospect of getting another new one so quickly is not in the cards for me, but if yours is starting to overheat, or your kid put a big gash in the screen, this is probably an attractive offer. Will you be able to find one? Well, that remains to be seen.
JETT: The Far Shore (PC – Epic Games Store/PS4/PS5) – Releases Oct. 5th
I originally wrote something really negative and mean about this game based on the trailer, but after sleeping on it I decided to take it out. If you don’t have something nice to say, you shouldn’t say anything at all.
Nickelodeon All Star Brawl (PC/PS4/PS5/Switch/Xbox One/Series X|S) – Releases Oct. 5th
The Nickelodeon kart racer games were simple, but fun, letting players see their nostalgic favorites like Rocko and Spongebob mix it up with more recent characters like Lincoln Loud and JoJo Siwa. I won’t pretend that the game was good, it was just alright, and I’m not going to pretend that this Smash Bros. clone is going to be a good game, it’ll probably be awful, but it’ll probably be fun. Just like Nintendo’s Smash series, the appeal here is seeing characters you’d never expect to interact with one another suddenly being thrust into the same space, and beating the shit out of each other. Watching Zim fight against Reptar isn’t a fantasy I would have ever dreamed up, but knowing that I can make it happen is enough of a draw for me to eventually pick this up for $15 on sale.
Super Monkey Ball Banana Mania (PC/PS4/PS5/Stadia/Switch/Xbox One/Series X|S) – Releases Oct. 5th
With its 20 year anniversary quickly approaching in North America, I am very pleased to see that Super Monkey Ball has been remastered for modern consoles (making it easier for me to play for the Notable Titles section). However, not only do we have a remaster of the first game, but we are also getting a remaster of the second game, giving Banana Mania a whopping 300 levels to get through. The game has been updated with may quality of life improvements, and some stages have been updated to make them easier, but if you’re a true purist you can switch to “original mode” and play Super Monkey Ball as it was intended; completely frustrating. The game features not just the main cast of the first two games but also two characters from the later games, as well as some famous Sega characters like Sonic, Tails, Beat from Jet Set Radio and Kiryu from Yakuza. Future DLC will also add Hello Kitty, Morgana from Persona 5, and Suezo, the one-eyed yellow thing, from Monster Rancher. That’s it? No Donkey Kong?! Sad day.
Far Cry 6 (PC – Epic Games Store/PS4/PS5/Stadia/Xbox One/Series X|S) – Releases 7th
While I’d go out on a limb and say that all of the previous games we’ve talked about today are probably better than Far Cry 6,this is probably the game that will be played by the most people out of all of them. I’m not going to say that Nintendo and Sega aren’t making mainstream games, they are, but I doubt either of them have commercials playing during Sunday Night Football or The Walking Dead. Helped tremendously by the inclusion of actor Giancarlo Esposito, Far Cry 6 looks like it was manufactured in a marketing department to figure out the easiest way to sell a bad game to as many people as possible. While there is a contingent of gamers out there who despise Ubisoft for any multitude of good reasons, the average person doesn’t give a shit about what the Twitter-verse has to say, they don’t follow gaming news or keep up with the plight of rampant sexism and poor working conditions in the industry, they just see the bad guy from Breaking Bad shooting people and think, “that’s tight“. I recently had a Bud Light and thought, “yum, that’s tasty“.
Ports and Re-releases:
Alan Wake Remastered (PC/PS4/PS5/Xbox One/Series X|S) – Releases Oct. 5th
BOO!!! Did I scare you? Alan Wake will scare you.
LEGO Marvel Super Heroes (Switch) – Releases Oct. 5th
Just in case you didn’t get this on PC, PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, Xbox One, Wii U, DS, 3DS, or mobile devices, you can now get it on Switch, which already had its sequel.
Tetris Effect: Connected (Switch) – Releases Oct. 8th
Yet another game that is available on multiple other platforms is finally making its way to the Switch. Is there anything this little console can’t do?
Wasteland 3: Cult of the Holy Detonation (PC/PS4/Xbox One) – Releases Oct. 5th
Fans of Wasteland 3 will be able to continue exploring the Colorado back country, this time running across cults that are worshiping an atomic blast that is being held in stasis. Some people want to release it and destroy everything, while others want to harness its energy to give the people of Colorado Springs power. What will you do?
Notable Releases from 10, 20 and 30 (and sometimes 40) years ago:
You might notice a small difference this week. In an effort to help put us further into the pop culture climate that these games released into, I’ve decided to also include both a notable film and notable album release that came out around roughly the same time as the game I’m highlighting. I hope you enjoy!
Orcs Must Die! (Xbox 360) – Released Oct. 5th, 2011 (PC one week later on Oct. 12th): Wiki Link
2011’s tower defense game Orcs Must Die! was developer Robot Entertainment’s first release; well, sort of. After Ensemble Studios, best known for the Age of Empires franchise, was shut down in 2009 following the release of Halo Wars, a group of former staff went on to create their own studio, Robot Entertainment. Their initial job was to continue supporting Halo Wars and Age of Empires III, maintaining those games’ online servers, but their first proper game was Age of Empire Online. However, development of that game would eventually shift to another studio, Gas Powered Games, who would release it in early 2011. This hand off allowed Robot Entertainment to focus on their own original title, Orcs Must Die! While most tower defense games, particularly the ones released in the few years prior to Orcs Must Die!, the player’s view would be an overhead shot that clearly shows the pathway enemy units will take. What Orcs Must Die! did differently was put the player inside the playfield, giving them a third person view. Not only that, but players would be actively engaged in combat with the enemy units, and would be able to build traps and barriers in real time. Orcs Must Die! was not the first game to use this view, Trendy Entertainment’s Dungeon Defenders, and Uber Entertainment’s Monday Night Combat had used this concept as well, though both of those games tended to rely on multiplayer cooperation, whereas Orcs was squarely a single player game.
The game revolves around a character called “The Hero” who works with a group called “The Order”, helping them protect magical gates that draw energy into the human world. However, these gates lead to a world inhabited by warmongering Orcs who want nothing more than to conquer the human world. Using the powers of a War Mage, The Hero must lay traps and hire human units to keep the Orcs from passing through the gate. If too many Orcs make it through then the level is lost and players must start again from the beginning. Critical reception was mostly favorable, receiving high scores from Destructoid, Game Informer, Gamepro, IGN, and Joystiq. Players were high on the game as well, with the digital title selling very well on both the Xbox 360 and PC. Two numbered sequels would release over the next ten years, as well as a free-to-play multiplayer version (though it would eventually shut down). Orcs Must Die! is a fantastic game that I highly recommend, and it is easily available on PC through Steam or on the Xbox One/Series X|S through backwards compatibility. Give this game a try!
Castlevania Chronicles (PlayStation) – Released Oct. 8th, 2001: Wiki Link
This week’s notable title from 2001 was the North American debut of a rerelease of a port of a remake. Castlevania Chronicles was originally released as an arcade remake of the 1986 NES Castlevania in Japan, which was then ported to the Sharp X6800, a PC only sold in Japan. This port was then, well, ported to the PlayStation in Japan, and was then localized for North America, finally bringing the game to the West, even though a lot of people had already played it on the NES, albeit with 8-bit graphics. What was the point of this release, then? I mean, what’s the point of any re-release/port; to let more people play the game who may not have when it originally released, right? It also wasn’t like this port was just a copy of the original, it had some improvements, including a new intro and ending, improved graphics and effects, a more balanced difficulty level as well as the ability to adjust it, updated music and sound, and re-drawn character models for both Simon Belmont and Dracula by artist Ayami Kojima, best known at the time for her work on Symphony of the Night.
Critics were mostly positive towards the game, calling it a great update on a retro classic, but some critics felt the game had very little replay value and was graphically unimpressive. Honestly, there’s not a whole lot that’s special about Castelvania Chronicles, and unless you’re a hardcore collector or mega fan of the franchise, you can probably skip this. If you do want to play it then your easiest option is to pick it up digitally on the PS3, otherwise you’re going to have to hunt down a physical copy and still have your PSX or PS2. Seeing as this is just a remake of the first Castlevania, I don’t expect to see it come out on any modern platforms, but you never know.
Wolverine (NES) – Released Oct. 1991: Wiki Link
If I was to do an informal poll, my guess is that, at least pre-MCU, Spider-Man and Wolverine would hold the number 1 and number 2 spots on a list of most popular Marvel characters. Publisher LJN had already put out a game based on Spider-Man (more than once), and had even put out a game starring multiple X-Men characters, but for their follow-up they decided to just focus on the world’s most popular Canadian (no, not Bryan Adams). If you were to just take a look at the cover you might think that this was going to be the coolest game you’d ever played but, like 99% of the LJN library, you would quickly find out that it’s a big pile of shit. Wolverine is a very difficult game but that isn’t what makes it bad, necessarily, no, the difficulty comes from how badly the game was made. Poor controls, terrible hit detection, poor jumping, bad level design, and limited power-ups all contribute to this game being a slog. There’s nothing wrong with difficulty in a game, but if it isn’t fun then you’re not giving any sense of reward or satisfaction when you do well. Speaking of no fun, the most iconic thing about Wolverine are his long, metal claws (and saying “Bub”), but the Wolverine video game punishes you every time you use them by draining your health. If you keep them out for too long you’ll die. Not that it really matters, because there are so many enemies, flying projectiles, and traps on the screen that you’ll die from those hazards long before you die from having your claws out.
GamePro magazine gave Wolverine a pretty good score in its November 1991 issue, and I don’t know why. There’s nothing at all redeemable here, aside from any kind of love or attachment you have to the Wolverine character. As you might imagine, this game is not available on any kind of modern gaming device, with emulation being your best bet if you’re curious about just how bad it really is. A few Wolverine games would come out over the next few years, none of which caused much of a stir. A movie tie-in game with X-Men Origins: Wolverine would release in 2009 to minor critical acclaim, particularly shocking because of how bad the movie was, and we are expected to receive a brand new Wolverine game in the next two or three years from Insomniac, a game that might finally give ol’ Logan the treatment he deserves.
Tempest (Arcade) – Released Oct. 1981: Wiki Link
Just as the leaves began to turn around the country, players of all ages were retreating from the crisp Fall weather, finding shelter in the arcades, bars, and laundromats where you could find video game cabinets. One of the more compelling, and spooky, titles to greet them was a brand new joint from Atari, Tempest. Created by Dave Theurer, who also created Missile Command, Tempest was Atari’s attempt to create a first-person version of Space Invaders. After some failed starts, Theurer came up with the idea that instead of aliens coming down from the sky, they should be coming up from underground. Taking inspiration from a horror film that gave him nightmares as a child, Theurer used vector graphics to simulate the 3D effect of a deep hole, with the enemies scaling larger as they reached the top of the hole. These holes would be separated into individual lanes, or columns, in which players could navigate to and shoot directly down into. Some enemies are instantly killed, other break up into multiple other enemies, and some create spikes that will destroy your ship as it travels to the next level. Tempest is a strong product of its time, using the graphical limitations of the early 1980’s to its artistic advantage, crating abstract characters that give the whole game a slight futuristic feel, while also making it timeless. Tempest was also a pioneer in the gaming industry with two key features. The first was that players had the ability to start the game at a higher stage, allowing for them to “continue” where they left off. The second was that Tempest featured entirely unique stages. While games like Donkey Kong would have a few different stages, the game would basically repeat the same levels over and over again, increasing the difficulty along the way. Tempest’s levels were all different, no repeats, meaning that you would have to learn how to master all sixteen unique stages if you wanted to beat the game.
There aren’t a lot of resources out there that detail critical reception for Tempest, but according to Wikipedia, a 1982 review by Chris Crawford indicated that Tempest appeared to be intimidating to most players, with its slick 3D graphics and unique stages that you couldn’t memorize. However, Crawford noted, the game’s easy to learn mechanics and scaling difficulty made it one of the more accessible games of the day. Tempest has also been a key background player in multiple television programs and films, most notably in Night of the Comet and Twilight Zone: The Movie. If I had to guess why, it’s likely because of the game’s “modern” graphics, bright colors, and incredible sound design. When you think of “arcade noises”, you are probably thinking of the sounds made by Tempest. The original version of Tempest is available on modern consoles, but you typically need to find it some kind of Atari collection, but you can also pick up Tempest 4000, a new version of the game that tries to recapture the spirit of the original but put into a souped up package. I’ll always have fond memories of playing Tempest when I was a kid, getting lost in it’s endless black backgrounds and trying my best to keep the monsters from escaping their holes. Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to wipe DMK’s initials off the High Score board.
Since October is the spookiest month we’re going to celebrate by listening to some great tunes by the punk band The Murder City Devils.