This week’s new games feature a healthy mix of massive franchises and smaller, niche games. I don’t have much to say here…emptiness is loneliness.
Pokémon Legends Arceus (Switch) – Releases Jan. 28th
Developed by: Game Freak
Published by: Nintendo
After 25 years of putting out turn based RPGs, the team at Game Freak are changing the formula up for their next mainline Pokémon game. Called Legends: Arceus, this new game is still a turn based RPG, however the game takes place on a large, open world map where Pokémon roam freely in the wild. Some early impressions seemed to harken to Nintendo’s Breath of the Wild, so expectations are pretty high for this game. If you aren’t worried about spoilers, the game was released early by several retailers in their brick & mortar stores, so you can read a ton of impressions already. If you’d rather go in unsullied then just wait until the 28th.
Serious Sam: Siberian Mayhem (PC) – Releases Jan. 25th
Developed by: Croteam, Timelock Studio
Published by: Devlover Digital
Billed as a stand-alone expansion, Siberian Mayhem takes the titular Sam to the cold, Russian tundra as he does battle with hordes of aliens. The most recent game gave me intense motion sickness so I’m probably going to skip it, but don’t let me stop you from checking out what will probable be one of the most insane shooters of the year.
Please, Touch The Artwork (Android/iOS/PC) – Releases Jan. 26th
Developed by: Studio Waterzooi
Published by: Studio Waterzooi
This chill puzzle game looks beautiful and will probably be a great addition to your mom’s mobile device.
Gunvolt Chronicles: Luminous Avenger iX 2 (PC/PS4/PS5/Switch/Xbox One/Series X|S) – Releases Jan. 27th
Developed by: Inti Creates
Published by: Inti Creates
There is a new mechanic in this game called “break-shift” form, and I swear, for like a good ten seconds I thought it said “break-shit” form and I was kind of impressed. Anyway, this is a 2D platformer from the masters at Inti Creates, a developer that should be on the radar of every retro gaming fan.
Uncharted: Legacy of Thieves Collection (PC/PS5) – Releases Jan. 28th
Developed by: Naughty Dog, Iron Galaxy Studios
Published by: Sony Interactive Entertainment
Did you miss Uncharted 4 and The Lost Legacy when they dropped on PS4 5 and 6 years ago? Good news, they’re back and remastered for the PS5? Hmmm? What’s that? You still don’t have a PS5? Oh, then just buy the PS4 versions; they came out 5 and 6 years ago.
Cities: Skylines – Airports (PC/PS4/Xbox One) – Releases Jan. 25th
Relive all of your favorite scenes from Station Eleven with the new Airports expansion for Cities: Skylines. Just don’t let the passengers from Gitchegumee Air enter the building.
There’s a few interesting titles coming out this week that don’t quite fit into the “Top Releases” section, including a new version of Taiko Drum Master for PC and Xbox. I also wanted to point out the new VR game Wanderer because I’m all in on VR now, it is amazing and I love it and I want to pet it and bring it home and let it sleep in my bed and kiss it and nuzzle it and make it a sweater and call it a good boy and just give it all of my affection. What’s that, daughter? You want to play with the VR machine? No, go to your room and stare at the wall, I’m very disappointed in you.
- Reverie Knights Tactics (PC/PS4/Switch/Xbox One) – Releases Jan. 25th
- PopSlinger (Switch) – Releases Jan. 26th
- COGEN: Sword of Rewind (PC/PS4/Switch/Xbox One/Series X|S) – Releases Jan. 27th
- Taiko no Tatsujin: The Drum Master! (PC/Xbox One/Series X|S) – Releases Jan. 27th
- Wanderer (Steam Index/PSVR/Oculus Rift/HTC Vive/Windows Mixed Reality) – Releases Jan. 27th
Notable Releases from 10, 20 and 30 years ago:
Soulcalibur V (PS3/Xbox 360) – Released Jan. 31st, 2012: Wiki Link
When it comes to best selling fighting game franchises there are four that dominate the market; #1: Mortal Kombat, #2: Smash Bros., #3: Tekken, and #4: Street Fighter. In fifth place, sitting much lower than the rest in terms of sales, is SoulCalibur. Debuting in 1995 as Soul Edge/Soul Blade, this 3D fighting game series differentiated itself from the competition by placing a heavy emphasis on weapon combat. Each character wields their own unique weapon and can be anything from your standard sword, to whips and staffs. The story of each game typically involves one group of characters using the evil sword Soul Edge to cause mayhem and havoc, while another group of characters use a sword called Soul Calibur to put the evil into its place and restore balance.
After the release of SoulCalibur IV in 2008, it would take four years for Bandai Namco to release the next mainline SoulCalibur game. Thanks to an online petition started through Facebook, Tekken producer Katsuhiro Harada was able to convince the higher ups that the public demanded a new SoulCalibur game. Set 17 years after the events of part IV, SoulCalibur V’s single player story mode centers on a character named Patrokolos, the son of another well known character, Sophitia. The game opens with Patrokolos working under the guidance of a soldier named Graf Dumas with his goal being to kill “malfested” individuals, people who have come in contact with Soul Edge. Over the course of the game players learn that Patrokolos has a sister named Pyrrha, who has been missing since they were children, and she has become malfested. Shit goes down, alliances are tested, and familiar bonds are pushed to the brink. It’s a decent story, I guess, but nothing special.
While the story mode does its best to endear you to these new characters, most players just want to play their favorite fighting game as their favorite characters, but SoulCalibur V took out several fighters that players had grown to love. What made it even more egregious was that many of the series’ strong female characters were removed, including Sophitia (who only makes a cameo appearance), Talim, Cassandra, Xianghua, Taki, and Seong Mi-na. 10 new characters were added to make up for the removals including Patrokolos, Pyrrha, and the half-werewolf Z.W.E.I., as well as the obligatory guest character (a series staple since SoulCalibur II) Ezio Auditore de Firenze from Assassin’s Creed. Fans didn’t really take to these new characters and it clearly shows, as all ten failed to make any further appearances in the series since their debut.
Critically, though, SoulCalibur V was well received, for the most part. Critics were happy to see the game felt faster and more aggressive, feeling like it was a good starting point for newcomers to the franchise, and it was hailed, once again, for its robust character creation tools. Criticics did, however, acknowledge that the game was likely going to turn off older fans, stating that SoulCalibur V was simultaneously the best game in the franchise but also the worst. Alienating its fans likely cost the series, as it sold less than half as many units as part IV (or maybe it’s because IV featured Star Wars characters). It would take six years for the next SoulCalibur game to be released, a soft reboot of the franchise that I can only assume was in response to the poor player reception to V. If you want to play SoulCalibur V today it is easily available as a digital download on Xbox consoles (sorry PlayStation fans), or you can find a physical disc at your local retro gaming store. Should you, though?
Tekken Advance (GBA) – Released Jan. 28th, 2002: Wiki Link
Nintendo’s Game Boy Advance had just come out of the 2001 holiday season and was likely one of the major gifts that a lot of people got for Christmas. Of course, new consoles need new, exciting software and, in January of 2002, GBA owners were treated to something special; Tekken. With four games already on the market (and a fifth arriving later in the year), Tekken was fast becoming one of the iconic and profitable fighting game franchises in the world and, up to now, it had only appeared on the PlayStation (except Tekken Card Challenge, but let’s ignore that…). It was a really big deal, then, when a brand new game in the series would be coming to a Nintendo console; no, not the GameCube, silly, Nintendo’s most popular console in 2002, the Game Boy Advance.
Called Tekken Advance (logically), the game was considered outside the canon of the series, but the story is loosely based on the events of Tekken 3. Since the GBA couldn’t handle the intensive 3D graphics required of even the PSX versions of Tekken, sprites were used for each character, giving Tekken Advance a unique look. Other limitations of the GBA hardware also required special moves to be tweaked to accommodate two buttons, however there was one interesting feature added to the game, an ability to side-step that gave Tekken Advance a quasi 3D feel.
Critics were mostly impressed with Tekken Advance, calling it a major achievement for the Game boy Advance, especially since the game looked and felt pretty much like its big home console brothers. The graphics were so well loved, in fact, that video game outlet GameSpot awarded it the runner-up spot for “Best Graphics on Game Boy Advance”, losing to Yoshi’s Island, Super Mario Advance 3. Not all critics enjoyed Tekken Advance, with EGM calling it mediocre and, surprisingly, Nintendo Power granting the game one of its rare mid-tier scores (they typically scored everything high). Now you might be thinking, “where can I play this“, and the answer is, nowhere! After its initial launch in January of 2002, Tekken Advance would never see any kind of re-release or port. Is it because the game is so bad or is it because of license issues; who knows? All I do know is that you aren’t missing much by not playing it.
Golden Axe II (Genesis) – Released Jan. 26th, 1992: Wiki Link
Side scrolling beat ’em up’s seemed to be a dime a dozen in the late 1980’s/early 1990’s, with just about everybody releasing one. Sega had been somewhat on the forefront of the trend by releasing Golden Axe to arcades in 1989. It was a popular title, well liked by both critics and players, so of course a sequel would be made; but it would skip arcades? Yes, Golden Axe II was a Sega Genesis exclusive, continuing the adventures of Ax Battler, Tyris Flare, and Gilius Thunderhead as they battle against a new foe named Dark Guld. Similar to the first game, players can choose one of these three characters, moving from left to right on the screen, beating up bad guys. Most attacks are done with a melee weapon, axe or sword, but players do the option to use a magic attack that fills the screen and hits every enemy in sight. Like the first game, players rest between stages and are beset upon by thieves in the night who will steal their magic. A mini-game starts up and you can get your magic back, and more, by attacking the thieves before time runs out.
Golden Axe II was well received by critics, but was knocked for its low level of difficulty and lack of originality. Having recently played it on Sega Genesis Classics on my Switch, I completely agree. Golden Axe II is nothing special, it’s a run of the mill, standard beat ’em up. It’s not really bad, or anything, but it’s not groundbreaking. Out of all three games this week, though, it’s probably the one I’d come back to again, so at least it has that going for it.