We’ve got a slow week, folks. That’s totally fine because I’ve been losing sleep trying to play Elden Ring, Gran Turismo 7, and Triangle Strategy at the same time. I could use a break from playing new stuff, but this column isn’t all about me (stop laughing), maybe you’ve been patiently waiting for one of these great new games to drop and, if so, I’m happy for you.
Chocobo GP (Switch) – Releases Mar. 10th
Developed by: Square Enix
Published by: Square Enix
It has been 23 years since we last got a racing game in the Chocobo series, I guess they were just waiting for the right time? Modeled heavily after Mario Kart, Chocobo GP is a kart racing game that features characters from both the Chocobo and Final Fantasy series, as they zip and zoom around colorful courses, beating each other to hell with power-ups. The game features both a single player story mode, as well as the requisite online multiplayer mode where you can race up to 64 other people, tournament style. This Switch exclusive doesn’t appear to have a physical release in the U.S., making collectors resort to purchasing international versions of the game. I don’t know if this game is going to be the must-have, Switch racing game of 2022, but for fans of Final Fantasy it might be worth it just to watch Squall form FFVIII driving a giant shoe, or whatever their karts look like in this game.
WWE 2K22 (PC/PS4/PS5/Xbox One/Series X|S) – Releases Mar. 11th
Developed by: Visual Concepts
Published by: 2K Sports
After years of, I hear, quality WWE wrestling games, developer Yukes was uncermoniously fired by 2K Sports in order to allow their in-house developer, Visual Concepts, to take things over. The result of this was the universally despised WWE 2K20, a game so bad that it may have ruined the franchise permanently. 2K and Visual Concepts took a year off to try and get things right, with their efforts leading to WWE 2K22. Will it be better than 2K20, or will it signal the end of an era? Oh please, they’ll never stop making these games, no matter how bad they are. If you’re wondering did I pre-order a physical copy of this game because it has San Diego, or to get even more granular, Chula Vista, native Rey Mysterio on the cover. Yes, of course I did. He will sit on the shelf next to my copy of MLB The Show 21 so that I can pretend that he and Fernando Tatis Jr. are hanging out, eating carne asada fries and listening to Mandatory Marley on 91X, perfect strangers down the line, lovers out of time.
Aztech: Forgotten Gods (PC/PS4/PS5/Switch/Xbox One/Series X|S) – Releases Mar. 10th
Developed by: Lienzo
Published by: Lienzo
The rest of this week’s games are, essentially, the “Everything else” titles of the week, but with so few games coming out I figured I should at least show you what they look like. Aztech: Forgotten Gods looks like a competent third person action game. Like something you’d see in the mid 2000’s on the Xbox 360 which, my god, is now nostalgia. Time flies when you’re having fun.
The Last Cube (PC/PS4/Switch/Xbox One) – Releases Mar. 10th
Developed by: Improx Games
Published by: Improx Games
This 3D puzzle game looks interesting, but it doesn’t have Rey Mysterio so I’m probably going to pass.
Hotel Transylvania: Scary Tale Adventures (PC/PS4/Switch/Xbox One) – Releases Mar. 11th
Developed by: Drakhar Studios
Published by: Outright Games
Hotel Transylvania looks like a Nintendo 64 game, and I mean that in both the most positive and negative way possible.
Ports and Re-releases:
Stone Protectors (PC) – Releases Mar. 9th
Just when you thought that old ports couldn’t any more obscure/weird, we’ve got Stone Protectors, a video game based on the eponymous television series/toy line. Stone Protectors, if you aren’t aware, were a line of figures created by the makers of the popular Troll dolls as a way to compete with the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. This PC port was originally released on the SNES in 1994 and, I promise, it will not be the notable 30 year old title in 2024.
.hack//G.U. Last Recode (Switch) – Releases Mar. 10th
If you’re a fan of mid 2000’s JRPGs AND you don’t have a PS4 or PC but DO have a Switch, then this is your lucky day! Originally released in 2006 and 2007 for the PS2, the .hack//G.U. games were a follow-up to the earlier .hack games on PS2. Critics were lukewarm on the games, calling them improvements over the original games, but still fairly bland. Players, though, really seem to enjoy the games, so if you’re into this sort of thing then I bet you’ll like it.
Dead by Daylight – Sadako Rising (PC/PS4/PS5/Stadia/Switch/Xbox One/Series X|S) – Releases Mar. 8th
Fans of The Ring (or Ringu) are in for a treat when the twisted Sadako joins the killing fun in Dead By Daylight. There’s also a new survivor to play as but, come on, we all just want to be the creepy lady climbing out of the TV.
Assassin’s Creed Valhalla – Dawn of Ragnarok (PC/PS4/PS5/Xbox One/Series X|S) – Releases Mar. 10th
The latest expansion for Assassin’s Creed Valhalla, called Dawn of Ragnarok, is, according to Ubisoft, the most ambitious in franchise history. Long removed from its early roots as a stealth-focused murder simulator, Valhalla has turned the franchise into a loud, bombastic action game where the idea of silently murdering your foes is thrown out the window. The game has also thrown out any semblance of historical accuracy, as I’m pretty sure giant flame gods didn’t roam Europe during the age of the Vikings, though I wasn’t there so I can’t say for sure. It’s also probably a total coincidence that this image above looks like something out of Elden Ring; totally a coincidence *wink*.
Notable Releases from 10, 20 and 30 (and sometimes 40) years ago:
Journey (PS3) – Released Mar. 13th, 2012: Wiki Link
For the final of three contracted games with Sony, Thatgamecompany put out what is arguably their greatest game, the emotional and uplifting Journey. Centered around a nameless, faceless, mute protagonist, Journey is an exploration puzzle game that has players marching towards a mountain with a single beam of light shooting out if it. Along the way they may meet other travelers who are on the same journey, turning your solo pilgrimage into a co-op trip. The twist, though, is that Journey does not allow you to speak to your partner, with all communication happening via a beacon. Journey is a minimalist masterpiece that pushed indie games in a new direction and, in some ways, helped to give the PS3 a bit more pedigree and respect in the West.
Development of the game, however, became rocky over time. Initially only given one year to complete the game by Sony, Thatgamecompany knew that they would need an extension, as Journey was going to be their biggest and most ambitions game to date. Their previous two games, Flow and Flower were both critically acclaimed in their own right, but they were smaller experiences. Journey was to be a grand epic, and the team had a ton of ideas they wanted to incorporate. They asked for a one year extension, then a two year extension, but by the end, Journey ended up needing a three years to be completed. During that time, Thatgamecompany would expand from seven employees to eighteen, and the prolonged development of Journey took both a mental and financial toll on the company and its employees. It was later revealed by Journey’s director, and Thatgamecompany co-founder Jenova Chen, that near the end of development the company almost went bankrupt due to the extensions given by Sony. They were running out of money and in order to keep the company afloat they even went as far as to defer salaries for some employees.
The financial burden wasn’t their only problem, morale at the company was getting low as the game neared completion. Knowing that they had to ship the product soon, heated arguments would arise in the office about which pieces of content to cut. Chen remarked later that the team would eventually have to let go of long held ideas about the game’s design and kind of swallow their own pride to ensure that Journey would actually be finished, as well as ensure that Thatgamecompany would still exist. When the game went up on the PlayStation Network on March 11th it was a smash hit with both critics and players. Journey was the fastest selling PSN game of all-time in North America and Europe, and the critical consensus was overwhelmingly positive. Critics were blown away by the sophisticated, beautiful story that Journey told, and were especially impressed with how well the game integrated co-op play, calling the experience incredibly emotional. Journey would go on to be hailed as one of the greatest games of 2012, winning a total of 8 trophies at the DICE awards, including Game of the Year. A physical release, bundled with Flow and Flower would release a few months later, and a PS4 remaster would come out in 2015. Journey is a phenomenal game that I hope everyone get a chance to play. Ten years later, it has rightfully earned its place among the best video games ever made; it’s perfect.
Mister Mosquito (PS2) – Released Mar. 13th, 2002: Wiki Link
Moving on from the sublime masterpiece Journey to the oddity of Mister Mosquito is a bit jarring. Released first in Japan in 2001, Mister Mosquito would come west in March of 2002, baffling audiences and critics. Called Mosquito: The Summer at Yamada Residence, publisher Eidos decided to change the name to Mister Mosquito, despite only female mosquitos as being the blood suckers. Now, you might be wondering just why a game about a mosquito drinking blood might be considered one of the weirdest of all time; where do I begin? First we have the game’s presentation, which start off with a lengthy description of what mosquitos are, which plays over the game’s opening title screen and can not be skipped (AFAIK). In-between levels you are “treated” to a conversation between the Yamada family, only seeing the top half of their heads as they either lie down on the ground looking up, or stare down into the game’s camera from above; it’s bizarre. The titular mosquito is also not anatomically correct, it’s massive, for one, and looks more like a mecha than it does an insect. Last, the game play is bonkers.
The goal of Mister Mosquito is to drink the blood of the three members of the Yamada family; father Kenichi, mother Kaneyo, and their 17 year old daughter Rena. To do this, players must fly around a single room, waiting for the perfect moment to stick their nose into someone’s skin and start sucking. In early levels this is easy enough, with the attack points clearly labeled. As the game progresses, though, it becomes more difficult to find the attack points, turning Mister Mosquito into a sort of puzzle game where you must interact with objects in the room to cause the person to expose their attack point. While flying and sucking, if the player is detected by the person, a battle begins, throwing up new attack points that the player must hit in order to calm down their victim, allowing you to continue to suck their blood. All of this seems fairly innocent until you actually play the game. The first level takes place in Rena’s bedroom, with players flying over her as she naps in her bed. She’s wearing very tiny shorts and as you fly around looking for the attack point, you start to feel like a voyeur intruding on this young girl’s private space. As if that wasn’t unsettling enough, a later stage finds you attacking her as she takes a bath with the suction point being, you guessed it, right on top of her breasts.
Mister Mosquito is weird and gross, but it’s not done in a particularly perverted way, I guess. It’s mildly harmless and the game is chock full of odd comedy, like sucking blood out of the father’s bald head, or watching the mother do ninja flips in the kitchen as she cooks dinner. Critics were mostly positive towards the game, calling it a fun Japanese oddity. A lot of praise was given to Eidos for having the courage to bringing something so weird over to Western audiences, and called Mister Mosquito one of those games that the import crowd would typically fawn over. Still, it wasn’t a big success in the West, or Japan really, but it did garner a sequel that would, sadly, not arrive in North America or Europe. Its poor reception is also probably one of the reason why this game is nearly impossible to find nowadays, with physical copies going for extraordinarily high prices, and digital versions being non-existent. If you want to play Mister Mosquito today then you’ll need to resort to emulation. I recommend it, but it’s certainly not for everyone.
Dragon Warrior III (NES) – Released Mar. 12th, 1992: Wiki Link
Originally released in Japan in 1988 as Dragon Quest III, it took three years for translators to localize the game, finally arriving in North America in 1992 after a year delay. Retitled Dragon Warrior III to fit the naming scheme of the previous two games, this new game was, chronologically speaking, the first in the series. Players once again take on the role of “The Hero”, only this time you are the her that the other two protagonists descended from. Starting off in the castle town of Aliahan, players are instructed to recruit companions to aid them on their quest to stop the evil Baramos from taking over the world. As the players embark on this 30 hour journey, they have the option to change out their party members or, if they reach level 20, they can change their party members class. This can lead to unique situations in which a wizard can become a soldier, having strong defensive stats coupled with powerful magic spells.
It took the team at Chunsoft nearly one year to complete the game, far longer than any previous game in the series. Dragon Warrior 3 was full of so much more content than the previous two games and, according to lead designer Yuji Horii, the team had perfected the Dragon Warrior (Quest) formula with the third game, hinting that it would be the standard moving forward. When the game was released in Japan it sold over 1 million copies in just the first day, with a total of 3 million copies in the first week of release. There was a rumor for many years that the Japanese government outlawed Enix from releasing Dragon Warrior (Quest) games on school days but, of course, this was not true. Enix decided on their own to release future titles on the weekend so as to not interfere with school and work. It was the best selling game in Japan in the year 1988 and was a major driving force behind Nintendo’s decision to bring the series to North America. However, as you probably know, the Dragon Warrior games were not nearly as successful in West, with only a small, niche group of people playing the game. It is also believed that with the release of the 16-bit consoles, 8-bit NES games were considered too archaic, falling out of favor with players. Sadly, they missed out on a great game (I missed out too). If I could go back in time I would use whatever birthday money I got to buy this game, but it’s the present and the only thing I can do is play the Switch remake. Another remake is set to release int he future, using the same 2D-HD style of Octopath Traveler, but until then, fire up your favorite NES emulator and give Dragon Warrior III a try.
Deadline (PC) – Released Mar. 11th, 1982: Wiki Link
Long time readers may remember our discussion of Zork a couple years ago, Infocom’s groundbreaking text adventure RPG. In the ensuing years they would release two sequels to Zork before branching out to do something different. Inspired by a 1930’s mystery novel called Who Killed Robert Prentiss, designer Mark Blank came up with Deadline, a game in which players would take on the role of a detective who is looking for answers in regards to the mysterious death of a wealthy tycoon. Taking place in Connecticut, players take on the role of an unnamed detective as they search the sprawling mansion and grounds of the tycoon, a mister Marshall Robner. As you explore the area you (possibly) come in contact with several people; Leslie and George Robner, the wife and son, Mr. McNabb, the gardener, Mrs. Rourke, the housekeeper, Mr. Baxter, a business partner, and Ms. Dunbar, the secretary. Infocom considered Deadline an expert level game but not because of a tendency to die, like in Zork, but because the game had a finite time limit and, unknown to first time players, you could miss out on events if you are not in the right place at the right time.
With an internal clock that seems to tick down one minute every second, you have very little time to explore and and solve the mystery, requiring players to play over and over again as they figure out the paths that NPCs take, as well as when and where events take place. For example, the first time I played I didn’t attend the reading of the will, which gives a crucial piece of evidence needed to arrest the culprit. Deadline contained several new phrases not seen in Zork and was generally considered to be the more “powerful” game. It could also be very short, and contains multiple endings depending on who you arrest or, as I found out, can lead to prison time if you decide to kill one of the NPCs (don’t do it). While players had to really stretch their imaginations to picture the world of Deadline, Infocom packed the game with multiple supplemental items, referred to as “feelies”. These feelies were tangible objects that came with the game and, in the case of Deadline, included notebooks, letters from NPCs, memos, lab reports, replica evidence, and a photo of the crime scene. These feelies would be a staple of Infocom’s games moving forward and ushered in a way way for PC game publishers to insert copyright protection into their games that were more than just “enter the first word on page 5 of the manual”.
Deadline would receive high praise from critics and players in 1982, being seen as a fresh new take on the text adventure genre. It would go on to spawn multiple follow-up titles at Infocom, as well as a multitude of copycats. Electronic Games magazine would give it the award for “Best Computer Adventure” at the 4th annual Arkie Awards, and it would go on to be listed among the greatest PC games of all-time by multiple gaming outlets over the years. I was able to play Deadline through my web browser at an abandonware website and I was not disappointed. Like Zork, it takes some time for your brain to kind of adjust to this old way of playing, but once you get into a groove you find yourself thoroughly wrapped up in the story and eccentric characters. As I was playing Deadline I kept thinking of that movie Knives Out, and how intricately plotted that movie was, and Deadline is just as clever. The game is a bit of a mess at times, and can be buggy, but wandering around the mansion and its gardens, looking at things, arresting different people, making mischief, made Deadline a fantastic time waster on a Saturday afternoon.