Like last week, there’s one big title and then a bunch of smaller games that all look pretty neat. I still don’t think there’s anything here that can take your attention away from Elden Ring, but, personally, if there’s anything that can, it’s Final Fantasy.
Stranger of Paradise: Final Fantasy Origin (PC/PS4/PS5/Xbox One/Series X|S) – Releases Mar. 18th
Developed by: Team Ninja/Square Enix
Published by: Square Enix
Wanting to take the Final Fantasy series in a new direction, Square Enix reached put out a call to Koei Tecmo’s Team Ninja to see if they would be interested in helping to create an action/adventure re-boot of sorts for the original Final Fantasy. Team Ninja jumped on board and, soon enough, an over the top action game began to form, featuring a protagonist named Jack as he travels through a strange world. Joining Jack in his quest to retrieve several crystals are a couple of fighters named Ash and Jed. Together, these three come to be know as the Warriors of Light. With multiple jobs to choose from and level up, Jack must take on hordes of enemies and fight massive bosses as he makes his way towards Chaos, who he MUST kill. At what cost, though? Will Jack be a casualty of his own flesh, afflicted by the disposition of others? Nobody ever knew, nobody’s felt like you; nobody.
The Cruel King and the Great Hero (PS4/Switch) – Releases Mar. 15th
Developed by: Nippon Ichi Software
Published by: NIS America
In 2019, Nippon Ichi Software released one of my favorite games of the year, a puzzle platformer called The Liar Princess and the Blind Prince. It was a beautiful looking game with a powerful story, though the gameplay wasn’t as tight as it could have been. Still, I wouldn’t ever forget how moved I was by its story, so when it was announced that the company was releasing a new game in the same style, I was overjoyed. In The Cruel King and the Great Hero, players take on the role of a young girl named Yuu as she heads out on a journey to become the world’s greatest hero. Joining her in this quest are a small fox and a big dragon. The game promises to be as heartwarming and uplifting as The Liar Princess and the Blind Prince, and I’ve got my hanky ready to wipe away the tears.
Dawn of the Monsters (PC/PS4/PS5/Stadia/Switch/Xbox One/Series X|S) – Releases Mar. 15th
Developed by: 13AM Games/WayForward
Published by: WayForward
From the game’s official website:
“Dawn of the Monsters is a co-operative kaiju beat ‘em up coming in early 2022.
Take control of four awe-inspiring playable behemoths in order to take on the evil Nephilim—a horde of creatures that are hellbent on destroying the planet. Liberate four major metropolitan areas, from Toronto to Tokyo, in this epic action game.
Featuring beautiful 2.5D graphics inspired by the works of Mike Mignola, bone-crunching combat with the depth of a fighter, RPG upgrades, and fully destructible environments. Couch co-op is bigger and badder than ever before.“
Phantom Breaker: Omnia (PC/PS4/Switch/Xbox One) – Releases Mar. 15th
Developed by: MAGES Inc./GameLoop Inc.
Published by: Rocket Panda Games
Technically a port, Phantom Breaker was originally released in 2011 for the PS3 and Xbox 360 in Japan. U.S. releases were scheduled but ultimately cancelled. While a 2013 re-release called Extra was released region-free, Omnia will be the first official North American release of Phantom Breaker. Do you need another anime style fighting game in your library? I don’t know, do you sleep with a pillow that has a picture of Rei Ayanami on it?
Tunic (PC/Xbox One/Series X|S) – Releases Mar. 16th
Developed by: Andrew Shouldice
Published by: Finji
Tunic is an isometric action/RPG that takes heavy inspiration from The Legend of Zelda. The sole developer, Andrew Shouldice, has been toiling away at the game for the last 7 years. During that time he gained the attention of publisher Finji, a Canadian company founded by a guy named Adam Saltsman, as well as a little company in Washington called Microsoft, founded by this guy named Bill Gates. A timed Xbox exclusive, Tunic looks absolutely adorable, though players should take note that the game is, apparently, quite difficult. Like Dark Souls and Elden Ring, the game is very vague about what you need to do and where you should go, with most of the text being in an indecipherable language and pages of the games “manual” hidden throughout the world as collectible objects. I need something to play on my Series X besides Nobody Saves The World (which I now hate), so Tunic will hopefully be a solid replacement.
ANNO: Mutationem (PC/PS4/PS5) – Releases Mar. 17th
Developed by: ThinkingStars
Published by: Lightning Games
From the game’s Steam page:
“Welcome to the neon-covered, 2D-meets-3D Cyberpunk world of ANNO: Mutationem. In this Action-Adventure game with RPG elements you become Ann: a highly-skilled combat-trained lone wolf on a personal mission in the giant Metropolis, full of sinister mega-corporations, mysterious fringe groups and creatures more bizarre than words can express.
This is a world full of surprises waiting for you to find out! While going thru the main story you can chat with a Cyborg corgi, take on a part-time bartender job, hunt down vicious criminals reveal the true face of a trending V-streamer! By exploring diverse locations such as neon Noctis Town, an off-shore cargo ship and huge underground structures, players are free to go as they please and act as they want.
A grand story, befitting a rich and dark cyberpunk décor, featuring our main hero Ann Flores and her trusty hyper hacker side-kick Ayane on a personal mission to find out where her missing brother has gone to. Little do the two know just what they will unravel…“
Ports and Re-releases:
Grand Theft Auto V (PS5/Series X|S) – Releases Mar. 15th
It has been nearly ten years since the release of Grand Theft Auto V and, if you can believe it, it was actually a PS3 & Xbox 360 game. Since that time the game has been ported to PC, PS4, and Xbox One, now it’s time for it to be ported to yet ANOTHER set of next-gen consoles, PS5 and Xbox Series X|S. Why does this game keep being ported, well, its online portal is a massive financial success for Rockstar and 2K. In fact, the online portion is such a cash cow that it is being given away FOR FREE on next-gen consoles, as 2K and Rockstar hope to syphon cash out of even more people’s pockets. In any case, if you haven’t had a chance to play GTA V since it released in 2013, I can’t recommend it enough. The game is a near masterpiece that was a perfect bridge between 360/PS3 generation and the XBone/PS4 generation. Will there ever be a Grand Theft Auto VI? Who knows.
Persona 4 Arena Ultimax (PC/PS4/Switch) – Releases Mar. 17th
The other big anime fighting game this week is from the masters at Arc System Works, creators of the BlazBlue and Guilty Gear franchises; Persona 4 Arena Ultimax. Set after the events of Persona 4 (I think), players will embark on yet another adventure involving the “Midnight Channel”. I currently have this game for the Xbox 360, but that controller’s d-pad sucks, so I’m looking forward to playing this on Switch with its most excellent d-pad.
Two Point Hospital: Speedy Recovery (PC) – Releases Mar. 15th
Wacky simulation game Two Point Hospital is back with its latest expansion, Speedy Recovery. All this time you’ve been making patients come to you, but what if it’s an emergency and they can’t get their on their own? You send the ambulance! However, because this is Two Point Hospital, the ambulances are a little…odd, just like the rest of the game. Monster trucks, clown cars, flying port-a-potty’s, and more are ready to be dispatched at a moments notice. Hey, they have fun here.
Mario Kart 8: Booster Course Pass – Wave 1 (Switch) – Releases Mar. 18th
Tired of waiting for Mario Kart 9? Well, sorry, keep waiting. In the meantime here are a ton of new courses for Mario Kart 8. A total of 48 remastered classic courses, spread out over 6 waves, will be available to players through the end of 2023. You’ll be able to purchase the full pack this week, with the first wave hitting on March 18th. Good news for current Nintendo Online Expansion Pass subscribers, you’ll get the entire thing for free (as long as you stay subscribed). I’m not sure I need to tell anyone this, but the courses are not available for the Wii U version of the game, which I’m sure is devastating to the 12 people still playing games on that console when they aren’t, of course, playing games on their favorite handheld device, the PlayStation Vita.
The rest of this week’s new releases include a new entry in the Monster Energy Supercross franchise, an FMV game about a potential murder, and the release of the new Syberia game after missing its original December 2021 date.
- Monster Energy Supercross 5 (PC/PS4/PS5/Xbox One/Series X|S) – Releases Mar. 17th
- Syberia: The World Before (PC) – Releases Mar. 18th
- Who Pressed Mute on Uncle Marcus? (Android/iOS/PC/PS4/PS5/Xbox One/Series X|S) – Releases Mar. 18th
Notable Releases from 10, 20 and 30 years ago:
Ninja Gaiden 3 (PS3/Xbox 360) – Released Mar. 20th, 2012: Wiki Link
What do you do when a game franchise’s long time leader leaves? Well, if you’re Tecmo, you just move on with more sequels and don’t even talk about how that person is gone. Following the contentious departure of Dead or Alive creator Tomonobu Itagaki and much of his staff, publisher Tecmo added several new people to Team Ninja to continue work on Itagaki’s rebooted Ninja Gaiden series. The new head of Team Ninja, Yosuke Hayashi, stated that Ninja Gaiden 3 would focus on making protagonist Ryu Hayabusa more “accessible” and “open” to players, allowing them to connect with the character in a “real” and “deep” way. Former head of the studio Tomonobu Itagaki was famously known for putting much of himself into the characters he created, go so far as to take on their persona when writing dialogue for them or plotting their actions. To me, Hayashi’s goal with Ryu was to kind of strip out Itagaki’s personality traits, further alienating him from the series (thought I’m just speculating). Further changes to the series would include removing the ability to sever the limbs of enemies but, in case you thought this meant less violence, you’re dead wrong. Ninja Gaiden 3 is brutally violent with blood flying out of your enemies like a geyser. In fact, while you can’t dismember anyone, the game does go into slow motion and show you slicing people in half, so there’s that.
In a fun throwback to the original series, Ninja Gaiden 3’s plot was written by Masato Kato who wrote the plotlines for the NES games, with various characters making cameo appearances in Ninja Gaiden 3. Critics were mixed on the game, calling the game incredibly shallow and linear, with much of the first two games’ charm and style missing. While Ninja Gaiden 1 and 2 were considered brutally difficult, the third game seemed to lower the difficulty in what critics perceived as an attempt to try and lure in a more mainstream audience. However, the game was still incredibly difficult, succeeding in only turning off hardcore fans while gaining nearly zero new fans. Of course, since this was the early 2010’s it was considered another instance of the “failure” of single-player games, which is hilarious to see, even in a post Dark Souls/Red Dead Redemption/Uncharted 3 world. The game would receive a minor overhaul when it released on the Wii U later in the year with Ninja Gaiden 3: Razor’s Edge, with this new version releasing on PS3 and Xbox 360 a few months later. Currently, the game is available on modern consoles through the Ninja Gaiden: Master Collection, and while I don’t love this game, it’s still a wild ride of chaos and mayhem that can be a great way to spend your Sunday afternoon.
Virtua Fighter 4 (PS2) – Released Mar. 17th, 2002: Wiki Link
By 2002, Sega’s Virtua Fighter franchise had been thrilling players with its unique fighting game style for nearly ten years. When the first Virtua Fighter hit arcades in 1993 it made jaws drop with its 3D polygon graphics, a first for the genre. However, in 2002, the franchise had multiple competitors from notable franchises like Tekken, Dead or Alive and Soul Calibur, just to name a few. Still, despite competition, Virtua Fighter 4’s arcade release in 2001 was met with high praise for its streamlined gameplay, return to simple stages, and its stunning graphics. When ported to the PS2, however, the graphics took a major hit in quality, though it still looked quite good. While the graphics may have suffered a dip in quality, that didn’t stop players and critics from enjoying Virtua Fighter 4, as it gained massive critical acclaim and was a major financial success for Sega. Critics hailed the game as a masterpiece of the genre and quickly named it one of the best PS2 games released up to that point. Perfect scores came in from outlets like Official PlayStation Magazine, G4TV, and GamePro, while gaming website GameSpot named it their top game of March, 2002. You might be thinking, “well if its so well regarded it MUST be available on modern consoles“, LOL, no. Virtua Fighter 4 and it’s follow-up Virtua Fighter 4: Evolution are only available as physicals discs for the PS2. Sega has, though, continued to support and produce modern remakes of Virtua Fighter 5, so at least the series isn’t dead.
WWF Super WrestleMania (SNES) – Released Mar. 1992: Wiki Link
Full disclosure, I got caught up in that movie Licorice Pizza and completely forgot I had to write about this game until it was over at 11:00pm on Monday; whoops. We’re going to speed round this, okay? Okay. Released first for the Super Nintendo, WWF Super WrestleMania shared much in common with its NES predecessors, but with the added power that 16-bit consoles had to offer. With a roster of 10 WWF Superstars, the game’s sprites were far more detailed, with Hulk Hogan and Macho Man looking very close to their real life counterparts. However, while the character models all looked unique, their move sets were exactly the same. That didn’t stop critics from praising the game, though, as they were completely smitten with the title. A later release on the Sega Genesis would reduce the roster, however it would include unique signature moves for each wrestler. There were also different rosters between the consoles; both received Hulk Hogan, Macho Man, and The Million Dollar Man, but the SNES had exclusive super stars Jake “The Snake” Roberts, The Undertaker, Sid Justice, The Legion of Doom, and The Natural Disasters, while Genesis had The Ultimate Warrior, Papa Shango, Irwin Schyster, The British Bulldog, and Shawn Michaels. Like Virtua Fighter 4, this game is not available anywhere today, making retro game stores, or emulation, your only chance of playing it.