This is it folks, the mad dash to Christmas is finally upon us. The biggest selling games of the year are likely to be released over the next six weeks and I’m sure more than a few of them will be your loved one’s wish list this holiday. They might not be the most artistically important games of 2021, but they will surely be the ones that the most amount of people are going to play. Are you ready?
Call of Duty: Vanguard (PC/PS4/PS5/Xbox One/Series X|S) – Releases Nov. 5th
Here it is, folks, the brand new Call of Duty game, WHOOP WHOOP! Aren’t you excited? Have you already taken a week off from work so you can play online with your buddies? Does anyone still do that anymore? Remember when CoD would cripple national productivity? Remember when they stopped making World War II games and then went BACK to making World War II games? Anyway, Call of Duty: Vanguard is, as always, a first person shooter that, once again, takes place during World War II. In this game, players will take on the roles of four multi-national characters, all based on real people, who will come together to form one of the first modern instances of “special forces”. Developer Sledgehammer Games has made a conscious effort to use Vanguard as a way to highlight the untold stories of WW2 heroes that have been forgotten, particularly the female and non-white soldiers. I’m sure the guys on 4Chan are thrilled about that. My guess, however, is that most people will never touch the single player campaign and will instead spend all of their time in the multiplayer portion of the game where they will call each other derogatory names that allude to women and non-white’s. Prove me wrong, children. Prove me wrong.
First Class Trouble (PS4/PS5) – Releases Nov. 2nd
Hey, do you like Among Us? Well then you might also like First Class Trouble. It’s exactly like Among Us, but with Xbox 360 graphics.
Tunche (PC/PS4/Switch/Xbox One) – Releases Nov. 2nd
After a delay from Summer to Fall, the delight looking Tunche is finally coming out. Going either solo, or with up to 3 friends, you must save the rain forest in this rogue-like action/brawler.
Bloodshore (PC/PS4/PS5/Switch/Xbox One/Series X|S) – Releases Nov. 3rd
Just in time for the obvious Squid Game comparisons comes the latest FMV game from publisher Wales Interactive. In Bloodshore, players will follow the story of Nick, a washed up actor who has joined a televised battle royale that pits Twitch streamers, entertainers, and death-row inmates against one another in a fight to the death. It’s the kind of thing that former U.S. Senator Joe Liberman would have clutched his pearls at, and will probably make the rest of us roll our eyes.
Just Dance 2022 (PS4/PS5/Stadia/Switch/Xbox One/Series X|S) – Releases Nov. 4th
What, no Wii version?!
Mobile Suit Gundam: Battle Operation – Code Fairy (PS4/PS5) – Releases Oct. 5th
From the game’s official website, “MOBILE SUIT GUNDAM BATTLE OPERATION Code Fairy tells the story of the “Noisy Fairy” – a secret unit led by Alma and under the direct control of Kycilia of the Principality of Zeon. During the ‘One Year War,’ the unit struggles to break through the North America continent“. Ohhh, okay, makes perfect sense now.
Ports and Re-releases:
A Boy and His Blob (Switch) – Releases Nov. 4th
A Boy and his Blob is coming to Nintendo Switch.
Animal Crossing: New Horizons – Happy Home Paradise (Switch) – Releases Nov. 5th
Just when you thought you were going to head back out into society after a year and a half of isolation, Animal Crossing comes out with a bunch of free updates as well as a major piece of paid DLC to keep you inside…just like the New World Order wants you to. The lizard people are getting us fatter and fatter, letting our meat become tender and juicy as we spend endless hours on the couch playing video games and watching Dune on our cellular telephones. Yes, those very same phones that distort our vision, making it more difficult for us to discern just who is a lizard man from the planet Xybap and who is a human. Mark my words, fellow believers, the reckoning is nearly upon us, where will you be on Cleansing Day? Jumunga Galore!
There’s not a whole lot left to talk about for this week’s new stuff. We’ve got another visual novel, some retro inspired platforming, and some unique indies.
- Conway: Disappearance at Dahlia View (PC/PS4/PS5/Switch/Xbox One/Series X|S) – Releases Nov. 2nd
- Cupid Parasite (Switch) – Releases Nov. 2nd
- Demon Turf (PC/PS4/Switch/Xbox One/Series X|S) – Releases Nov. 4th
- Where Cards Fall (PC/Switch) – Releases Nov. 4th
Notable Releases from 10, 20 and 30 years ago:
Sonic Generations (PC/PS3/Xbox 360) – Released Nov. 1st, 2011: Wiki Link
After a little over a decade of 3D Sonic games, the series had hit a major slump, particularly after the disastrous 2006 release Sonic the Hedgehog. A re-branding/reboot of the series was kicked off with 2008’s Sonic Unleashed with Sega creating the “Hedgehog Engine”, a new suite of tools for the series that aimed to fix some of the problems people had with the previous games. Unleashed received unfavorable reviews, however the 2010 follow-up Sonic Colors was much more warmly received, appearing to be the hope that Sonic fans were looking for, and they were stoked to see what was next; the return of the old school Sonic.
Created as a way to celebrate the 20th anniversary of Sonic the Hedgehog on the Genesis, development on Sonic Generations began shortly after the completion of Unleashed. The game’s producer and father of the 3D Sonic era, longtime Sonic Team leader Takashi Iizuka, wanted to make a game that celebrated Sonic’s history and also offered a high replay value, something that he felt their recent releases had failed to do. The team’s response to this was to incorporate several challenges in each stage that varied from beating an imposter Sonic at a race or collecting a specified amount of coins before finishing the stage. As for celebrating the history of Sonic, it was decided to split the game up into two distinct playstyles, classic side scrolling stages similar to the Genesis titles, and 3D platforming stages similar to what began in Sonic Adventure. This also led to what excited fans the most, the ability to play as both the 3D era Sonic and the Genesis era Sonic. The promise of a return to the classic way to play Sonic was incredibly enticing, especially after years of nothing but 3D platforming. One big question remained though, how the heck can you have two Sonic’s?
The answer, of course, is time travel! You see, Dr. Eggman, after being defeated by Sonic, has been trapped in outer space with his henchmen. While floating aimlessly in the void they are conveniently discovered by an entity known as the Time Eater. Eggman is able to then use the Time Eater to travel back in time and, working together with his “classic” version, they are able to convert the Time Eater into a robot that erases all of their past losses. Classic Sonic is chased away by the Time Eater bot, while 3D Sonic is interrupted at his birthday party (the nerve!) where he and his friends are scattered across time and space. From here, 3D Sonic wakes up in a white void where he finds a portal to Green Hill Zone. He rescues Tails and then discovers that he can enter other portals that all lead to various points in his history. 3D Sonic eventually joins up with Classic Sonic (who doesn’t speak) to put history back together and defeat the two Eggman’s.
Sonic Generations released on November 1st, going up against Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception, where it was pretty much blown out of the water in both sales and critical reception. That isn’t to say Generations didn’t do well critically, it actually did pretty good, as far as Sonic games go. While it didn’t match the Metacritic score of 2010’s Sonic Colors, it did come close, within two points. Critics praised the graphics and presentation right away, calling this the best looking Sonic game to date since it was no longer tied to less powerful systems like the PS2 and Wii. There was also praise given to the game’s mixing of play styles as well as the replay value of each stage, which was probably the news that Sonic Team wanted to hear. While critics conceded that the 3D stages were still plagued with various camera issues and floaty controls, they were astounded with how much fun the classic levels were, praising their design. Since the game was a celebration of Sonic’s history, much of the soundtrack is comprised of new versions of original tracks, much to the delight of players and critics, and the old school sound effects were a welcome addition as well. Overall, Sonic Generations was a very serviceable 3D Sonic game; not the worst one ever made, but not the best. Personally, I hated this game so, so much. Maybe if I had played this before Sonic Mania I might have had a different opinion, but I didn’t, and Generations doesn’t hold a candle to that all-time classic. At the end of the day, though, my opinion doesn’t really matter, they still kept making Sonic games, including Sonic Lost World, Sonic Boom, the already mentioned Sonic Mania, and Sonic Forces. Three out of those four were critically panned and seen as some of the worst games in the franchise. Forces, in particular, while not seen as the worst, was unfortunately released alongside the critical darling Sonic Mania, as well as Nintendo’s Super Mario Odyssey, and drew very unfavorable comparisons to the two. Sonic has been on ice since then, but after a successful motion picture in 2020, the Blue Bomber is now set to return to consoles in 2022. Maybe you’re excited, maybe you’re not, whatever the case, let’s never forget this great Mega64 skit:
SSX Tricky (PS2) – Released Nov. 5th, 2001: Wiki Link
I’m going to be real with you here, I’m far more excited that it is the 20th anniversary of the Pixar film Monsters Inc. than I am that it’s the 20th anniversary of SSX Tricky. I played this game recently and I gotta tell you, it sure is a game. I mean, you race downhill against other boarders, and then you do tricks for points to earn medals, and wow, that’s that. If it looks like I’m grasping at straws in order to find something to talk about here, well, you’re right. What else can I say about SSX Tricky? It’s the second game in the franchise after 2000’s PS2 launch title SSX and nothing much has changed. Well, I guess the tone changed, as Tricky was part of the new EA Big line of games, which were supposed to be more arcade-y, in your face sports games, so they have a few, er, wacky characters, like Eddie with the giant afro; so funny. I’m kind of giving the game a bad time, but SSX Tricky isn’t a bad game at all, it’s pretty fun, there just isn’t a whole lot to do in it. Now, if I was a 13 year old kid who only got a couple games a year, then sure, I would probably have mastered SSX Tricky if that’s what me grandma gave me for Christmas, but with so many other great games out there to play, Tricky is something you can easily skip over in favor of just about anything else, even other, better, snowboarding games. Not that this is easy to come by, it’s not easy at all. You need to own a working PS2 (or an original Xbox or GameCube) and find a copy of the disc, or you can emulate it. That’s it.
Metroid II: Return of Samus (Game Boy) – Released Nov. 1991: Wiki Link
The 1986/87 release Metroid for the NES was unlike anything players had experienced on the console before. Most games featured a linear path that moved to the right with some occasional jumping, and at first glance so did Metroid, until you reached your first vertical shaft (some say that moving left to get the morph ball was the first clue, they’re probably right). From there you could go up and down, then left or right, following doors and exploring this dark, claustrophobic world as the bounty hunter Samus Aran. As you explored you would gain new weapons and abilities, eventually making your way to the lair of the evil Mother Brain. After defeating her, players would reach an ending screen where it is revealed that Samus is female, blowing the minds of children all across the world. While it’s lifetime sales of ~2.4 million copies seems paltry compared to how much modern games typically sell, that number was astronomic in the early days of gaming. To follow up such a successful game, Metroid’s producer, the legendary Gunpei Yokoi, decided to bring Samus to his new pride & joy, the Game Boy.
Yokoi wasn’t the only returning member of the original Metroid team, the first game’s artist and character designer Hiroji Kiyotake was back, this time in the director’s chair, and original writer Makoto Kano was also back, leading Metroid II’s design this time around. These key developers were also joined by the entire Nintendo R&D1 department who were also key to developing the original NES Metroid. With Gunpei Yokoi being so keenly aware of the inner workings of the Game Boy, you can really tell that Metroid II pushes the limits of the system. First off, the graphics are gorgeous for its day, especially for the Game Boy, setting a high standard for all titles that released after it. In fact, as a side note, when the Game Boy Color was released in 1998 it was worked on extensively by Nintendo R&D1, and one of the color palettes they included was a special “Metroid palette” that made Metroid II look astonishing on the device, and might be the definitive way to play it. Moving on from graphics, the team also sought ways to improve gameplay, like the ability for Samus to crouch and shoot enemies at floor level, as well as using battery powered memory to that allowed for save status, eliminating the massive passwords from the first Metroid.
Samus would also receive a few new power-ups in Metroid II, as well as a newly designed suit. These new items, the spider ball, spring ball, spazer beam, plasma beam, and space jump have become staples of the series, appearing in multiple titles since their inception. On top of those power-ups, items from the NES game were carried over, such as bombs, missiles, the wave & ice beams, the high jump boots, and a redesigned Varia Suit. In Metroid for the NES it was easy to show Samus in a new suit because you could just change the color, but because of the Game Boy’s black & white color scheme it was not as simple as a color swap. Instead, the team created a new look for the Varia Suit, adding the bulky, round shoulders that we all know today, making it perhaps the most important new change of all. Surprisingly, Metroid II is actually bigger than Metroid in term of explorable rooms, going from 117 to 201 (according to a Reddit post, at least), so having all this new gear came in really handy and made exploration a key factor in the game, more so than the NES title, in my opinion. Just why was Samus exploring this new area? Let’s find out.
Set “some time later”, after the events of the first Metroid (and, chronologically, after all of the Prime games), Samus is contacted by the Galactic Federation to help eradicate the Metroid species. You see, the Galactic Federation had been sending teams to SR388, the home planet of the Metroids, in an effort to destroy them once an for all, but they keep failing. Samus, having proven her self against the creatures is seen as our last hope in ridding the galaxy of the Metroid. That’s pretty much the whole story, from there it is up to players to explore the caverns of SR388, hunting down all 47 Metroids and dispatching them. What she didn’t expect was to see the Metroid’s evolving, growing larger and more ferocious. As Samus kills the Metroid, the lava that fills the caverns begins to lower, allowing her to reach deeper caves, until she finally has a confrontation with the Queen Metroid, destroying it. After the fight, Samus encounters a freshly hatched baby Metroid who immediately forms a bond with Samus, thinking that the bounty hunter is its mother. Samus reluctantly takes the baby Metroid with her as she escapes the exploding planet, eventually bringing it to a group of scientists and kicking off the events of Super Metroid on the SNES.
In a somewhat surprising move, Nintendo would release Metroid II in North America first in November of 1991, before releasing it in Japan in January of 1992; typically Japan gets the game first, but not this time! Critics in 1991 were mostly positive in their reception to the game, with Entertainment Weekly giving it a perfect A+ score. The Japanese magazine Famitsu, on the other hand, was not nearly as impressed, scoring the game 25 out of 40, but I can’t seem to find any reason why they scored it so low. In fact, reviews from other outlets of the day like GamePro and EGM seem to be non-existent. According to some modern critics, however, Metroid II is often listed as the worst game in the series. These critics, like 1UP’s Jeremy Parish, felt the game was too clunky and incredibly painful to play. His major points of criticism were directed towards the game’s graphics which he felt were ugly & repetitive, the poor music compositions, the stiffness of the controls (despite the efforts to make them better), and the lack of any “Metroidvania” esque backtracking. On the flip side, the modern review from IGN’s Lucas M. Thomas praised the game, but mostly due to its importance to the series and the genre. He conceded that many viewed the game as too obtuse and too dissimilar to future entries in the series, but he felt like the game’s unwillingness to hold your hand helped make it even more claustrophobic than even the first Metroid on NES.
I tend to fall somewhere in-between these two reviews. I don’t think Metroid II is a perfect game, the controls are pretty bad, try space jumping in this, it’s a fucking nightmare, and the Spider Ball is cool, but it can really bog things down when you’re exploring, and Jay Parish agrees. However, I think the graphics are exceptional for a Game Boy game, and while the sprites are rather large and may make the tiny Game Boy screen seem cluttered, if you’re able to play it on a TV screen then that helps immensely (not to mention if you can play it in color). As I noted earlier, Metroid II directly leads into the events of Super Metroid, and unlike the Mario and Zelda games, there is a solid connection between each title, a rarity in Nintendo franchises. The game is easily available today through the Virtual Console on 3DS, or you could try and find a cartridge and a working Game Boy/GBC/GBA (carts go anywhere from $18 to $60 on eBay), or at the very least you could emulate it. After playing through the recent Metroid Dread I have come to really appreciate where the series has come over the last 30 years in terms of playability and quality of life, but that claustrophobic isolation that you got from the first three Metroid games is still missing, so thank goodness we can still go back to titles like Metroid II and experience a different kind of dread.