After a somewhat lackluster release slate last week (at least in terms of big, AAA games), this week’s new games are HUGE with one of the most anticipated games of the year in Horizon: Forbidden West. You aren’t reading this, so let’s just get to the games, shall we?
Horizon: Forbidden West (PS4/PS5) – Releases Feb. 18th
Developed by: Guerrilla Games
Published by: Sony Interactive Entertainment
We’ve already had a few big titles release this year; Rainbow Six: Extraction, Pokémon Legends, Dying Light 2, but none of those really compare to this week’s top game, Horizon: Forbidden West. Developed by Guerrilla Games (the company behind Killzone), the first game in the series, Horizon: Zero Dawn, was a big hit for Sony when it came out in 2017 but was slightly overshadowed by the launch of the Nintendo Switch and the release of Breath of the Wild, to which some critics drew comparisons. It would find itself on several “best of” lists in 2017, cementing Horizon as a series to watch and now, after waiting five long years, players will once again venture back into the wilderness to fight some robot dinosaurs. The map in Forbidden West is much larger than in Zero Dawn, allowing you to really get lost in the lush environments but there is more that just running and climbing in this game, protagonist Aloy can now swim underwater, giving players even more nooks and cranny’s to explore. Everything about Forbidden West is bigger, with improved combat and climbing, better traversal options, and a more robust quest and reward system. PS5 owners will also get all of the perks that come along with that system, like faster load times and HDR graphics. If you haven’t bought any new games this year then wait no longer, Horizon: Forbidden West is the first must-own game of 2022.
Dynasty Warriors 9: Empires (PC/PS4/PS5/Switch/Xbox One/Series X|S) – Releases Feb. 15th
Developed by: Omega Force
Published by: Koei Tecmo
The Dynasty Warriors: Empires series isn’t quite a hack & slash musou game, nor is it a heavily strategic Romance of the Three Kingdoms game, fitting somewhere in between. Players will choose a character and try to make them ruler of China, using diplomacy and war to get what they so rightly deserve. In-between training troops and gathering food you can hang out with companions and build up your relationships with them then, afterwards, you can take part in a massive castle siege where your relationships will affect how well your team fights alongside you. I am approaching this game with extreme caution as Dynasty Warriors 9 was a complete shit show. Still, the strategic elements of Empires might be enough to make this playable; I guess we’ll see.
The King of Fighters XV (PC/PS4/PS5/Series X|S) – Releases Feb. 17th
Developed by: SNK
Published by: SNK
The King of Fighters XV, or KOFXV, is the latest entry in the now decades old fighting game series. Set after the events of KOFXIV, the game introduces two new characters who can, apparently, travel the multiverse, bringing a wide assortment of fighters together to compete in the King of Fighters tournament, because that’s what I’d do if I somehow transcended time & space. The game promises to bring back multiple characters who were presumed to be dead and yes, again, if I was brought back to life I would certainly return to a fighting tournament in which I had previously died. Come on, though, who is really playing this game for the story? We all just want to beat each other up with our favorite characters and play online with that sweet, sweet GGPO rollback networking code that I totally know all about and am sooooo excited for. I’m not sure which gaming buzzphrase I give less of a shit about, “ray tracing” or “rollback networking code”.
Total War: Warhammer III (PC) – Releases Feb. 17th
Developed by: Creative Assembly
Published by: Sega
The also now decades old Total War series made a name for itself over the years for its realistic portrayals of historic battles through world history, but in 2016 they ventured into the world of fantasy with Games Workshop’s massively popular Warhammer series. It was followed by a sequel a little over a year later and, now, here we are five years later with a third entry in the series, a game that critics are already calling one of the best games of 2022. Details on the game’s setting are sparse, but it is known that the game will take place in the Realm of Chaos, and that the campaign map will be twice the size of the one in Total War: Warhammer II. I’m almost certain that TW: WH3 will wipe the floor with Dynasty Warriors 9: Empires but this is a pretty great week for fans of strategy games, as two massive titles have just been dropped in your lap.
Voice of Cards: The Forsaken Maiden (PC/PS4/Switch) – Releases Feb. 17th
Developed by: Square Enix
Published by: Square Enix
Late last year, RPG fans were treated to a brand new game from YOKO TARO called Voice of Cards: The Dragon Isle Roars. It was a unique game that had more in common with table top deck-building games than a traditional RPG, with the entire game taking place on a board where you would flip cards. Now the series is back with yet another surprise release, the follow-up game Voice of Cards: The Forsaken Maiden. The team has also made it clear that this is not considered a direct sequel to the first game and can be played independently, without any need to play The Dragon Isle Roars. This should be a great diversion when you’re all explored out in Horizon and need something that’s challenging but not so demanding of your time.
Ports and Re-releases:
Shadow Madness (PC) – Releases Feb. 15th
I don’t think many of us expected to see a PC port of the 1999 game Shadow Madness arrive in 2022, but it has, so here we are. A “mature” RPG from American developer/publisher Crave Entertainment, Shadow Madness received mixed reviews when it was originally released, being called a decent clone of other, better, JRPGs. It would, however, be eviscerated for its horrible graphics, and was even named 3rd worst RPG of all-time by the show X-Play. I guess I’ll just throw this on the pile of other ports nobody asked for like Sphinx and the Cursed Mummy, Ty The Tasmanian Tiger, and Shadow Man. Hey, you know what they should port? Nightmare Creatures.
Assassin’s Creed: Ezio Collection (Switch) – Releases Feb. 17th
Originally released on PS4 and Xbox One in 2016, the Ezio Collection is now making its way to the Nintendo Switch, letting all you would-be assassins carry out your dark deeds from anywhere you like. There’s nothing quite like sinking a dagger into someone’s neck while taking a shit.
Notable Releases from 10, 20 and 30 years ago:
PlayStation Vita – Released Feb. 15th, 2012: Wiki Link
The Vita came out in 2012.
Maximo: Ghosts to Glory (PS2) – Released Feb. 11th, 2002: Wiki Link
Notable Film Release: Super Troopers – Starring Jay Chandrasekhar, Kevin Heffernan, Steve Lemme, Paul Soter, Erik Stolhanske, Brian Cox, Daniel von Bargen, and Marisa Coughlan
Notable Album Release: Piebald – We Are the Only Friends We Have
You might not have known it at first, and maybe you still don’t, but Capcom’s Maximo: Ghosts to Glory is considered to be part of the Ghosts ‘n Goblins series of games. If you’ve played the game then your first clue should have been that when protagonist Maximo is hit enough times, his armor flies off and you must fight in your underwear. Yeah? You getting it now? Yeah? Yeah? Okay, that’s enough. Yes, folks, today we’re talking about 2002’s Maximo: Ghosts to Glory, a 3D action platformer from Capcom’s American branch, Capcom Digital Studios. Co-directed and designed by David Siller, an industry veteran who also produced Aero The Acrobat and Crash Bandicoot, the game was Capcom’s attempt to create a game around the artwork of Susumu Matsushita. Another industry veteran, having done art for the games Adventure Island and Motor Toon Grand Prix, Matsushita had been an illustrator in Japan for over a decade when the idea was first pitched to him. The game was to be set in the Ghosts ‘n Goblins universe and would have been released on the Nintendo 64, however several project delays caused the game to miss its window for the N64, and so the decision was made to move it to the PS2.
During development, the team spent a good deal of time making sure that Matsushita’s art was represented as well as possible, devoting most of their resources to character models at the expense of the backgrounds. In designing the game, Siller would map out each level and area on paper first using pencils & pens, getting a feel for how things would be laid out. Contributing the game’s music was yet another industry veteran, Tommy Tallarico (who is now sort of a pariah…). Tallarico and his team wanted to pay homage to the Ghosts ‘n Goblins series, remixing the original game’s music and incorporating pieces of them into their own original tracks. With so many veterans on board you’d think Maximo would have been a slam dunk…well…
That was a bit misleading, Maximo’s was very well received by critics and players when it released, gaining near perfect scores from multiple outlets, but if you play the game today you can clearly see its imperfections. First off is the terrible camera controls, which is to say that you basically have no camera controls. This is such an unforgivable sin in a game that requires, at times, pin-point accuracy when making jumps, the last thing you want to do is fall off a platform because the camera angle was unfriendly, and this happens often in Maximo. Despite the fantastic character models, the game is really ugly to look at, with really generic backgrounds and environments. Finally, the game is far too difficult. I understand that Ghosts ‘n Goblins is supposed to be a tough series but that’s not really the problem, Maximo is missing things that make the game nearly unplayable.
There are two major grievances I have with Maximo. First, the game does not save after every level, either automatically or by prompt, you must return to a hub world, find a special pool of water and throw ten coins into it, prompting a save. Yes, you must pay in-game currency to save your game. If you forget to save, or you need to leave, your progress is fucked. Second is the utterly unfair continue system. This, again, requires in-game currency, but a different kind. You don’t use coins, you use DEATH coins, oh, and you can only get death coins if you collect ANOTHER different kind of currency; this isn’t even the worst part. Every time you continue, Death requires one more coin than before; so your first continue is 1 coin, the second is 2 coins, and so on, and so on. Maximo: Ghosts to Glory is most easily available on the PS3 where you can buy it digitally, otherwise you’re looking at trying to find an original disc & console, or emulating it. It’s fun, but you’ll never get past the first world.
Star Trek: 25th Anniversary (Game Boy/NES/PC) – Released Feb. 1992: Wiki Link
This week’s 30 year old game is actually three, how exciting! To commemorate the 25th anniversary of the classic science fiction series Star Trek (which was actually in 1991), three different video games, made by two different developers, would be released on three different platforms, you know, just really raking in the nostalgia money. First we’ll talk about the two games made by Interplay, starting with the PC version of Star Trek: 25th Anniversary. The game is multi-genre, with players taking control of the Enterprise during space combat, piloting the ship, shooting photon torpedoes, raising shields, etc. Once space combat has concluded you will then find yourself conducting away missions that play out in a point & click manner. On these away missions, the team always consists of Kirk, Spock, and McCoy, with eight different crew members all dressed in the iconic, and fateful, red shirts; yes, they can, and will, die. There are seven missions altogether, with the final mission basically being one long, extended ship combat sequence; later CD-ROM releases would extend this mission. Critics and players were caught pleasantly by surprise, as 25th Anniversary proved to be a fantastic game, one that finally lived up to the Star Trek name. It would become a commercial and financial success, selling over 350,00 copies by the mid 90’s.
Interplay’s second version of Star Trek: 25th Anniversary was released on the NES, the most popular video game console of its day. It was fairly similar to its PC counterpart, however the space combat was removed, only using the Enterprise to advance the story and allow players to customize their team. Away missions still consisted of just Kirk, Spock, and McCoy, but players would have the choice of swapping one or both out and replacing them with a specialist from the crew, such as a geologist or a security officer. Taking the right crew member down to a planet would often be a key piece of solving many of the game’s puzzles. While the PC version was played in a point & click style, the NES version, without a mouse to use, relied on players moving their characters around with the d-pad, while actions and inventory management was done using the various buttons. 25th Anniversary on the NES is a really decent, well made game that probably doesn’t get as much credit as it deserves. I couldn’t find a ton of era specific reviews for this game, though Nintendo Power magazine did score the game 4 out of 5, which is pretty good for a non-Nintendo published title.
Our last version of Star Trek: 25th Anniversary comes from developer Visual Concepts (yes, the 2K Sports people), and was released for Nintendo’s other popular system; not the Super NES, the Game Boy. Just like the PC version, 25th Anniversary on the Game Boy is split into two genres; the first takes place on the Enterprise (of course) but instead of sitting on the bridge, you must navigate through a long, side scrolling shoot ’em up level. In this section of the game you will first navigate on a grid map through space, moving into the side scrolling section when you bump into either an enemy ship, space amoeba, or asteroid field. Once you get through the map (taking on many, MANY, side scrolling sections), you will be transported to the surface of a planet where you will control Kirk as he looks for pieces of a weapon that will destroy The Doomsday Machine. I mean, I ASSUME that’s what happens because the side scrolling stages are fucking impossible to get through. not only are they tediously long and slow, but you have very little health, meaning your terribly controlled ship must somehow carefully navigate a level filled with dozens of hazards. Critics were not impressed with this version of 25th Anniversary, it’s clearly the worst of the three games. While the NES and Game Boy versions are no longer available, the PC version can be found at both GOG and on Steam, so give it a look, and may the force be with you! Wait.