Spring break is over so it’s time to head back to reality, all of those yesterdays are coming down. Thankfully we’ve got some video games to help put us back into that dream world, the places we long to be, because no matter where you are, I can still hear you when you dream. I’m standing outside your bedroom window…just kidding…or am I?
LEGO Star Wars: Skywalker Saga (PC/PS4/PS5/Switch/Xbox One/Series X|S) – Releases Apr. 5th
Developed by: Traveler’s Tales
Published by: Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment
I feel stupid saying this, but that trailer made me emotional. Early reviews have been pretty positive, with most critics calling this the definitive LEGO Star Wars experience, with developer TT pulling out all the stops for what might be their last ever foray into the world of Star Wars.
MLB The Show 22 (PS4/PS5/Switch/Xbox One/Series X|S) – Releases Apr. 5th
Developed by: San Diego Studio
Published by: Sony Interactive Entertainment/MLB Advanced Media
Fernando Tatis Jr. is NOT on the cover this year; pass.
Chinatown Detective Agency (PC/Switch/Xbox One) – Releases Apr. 7th
Developed by: General Interactive Co.
Published by: General Interactive Co./Humble Games
Forget it Jake, it’s Chinatown Detective Agency.
Forgive Me Father (PC) – Releases Apr. 7th
Developed by: Byte Barrel
Published by: 1C Entertainment
This frantic FPS title is finally coming out of early access, which I’m sure you’ve all been eagerly waiting for.
The House of the Dead: Remake (Switch) – Releases Mar. 24th
Developed by: MegaPixel Studio
Published by: Forever Entertainment
You’d think that more people would be talking about this.
Ports and Re-releases:
Chrono Cross: Radical Dreamers Edition (PC/PS4/Switch/Xbox One) – Releases Apr. 7th
A little over twenty years after it released in North America, the fantastic PSX game Chrono Cross is coming to modern consoles. As an added bonus, the previously released text adventure game, Radical Dreamers, will also be part of this re-release.
Godfall: Ultimate Edition (PC/PS4/PS5/Xbox One/Series X|S) – Releases Apr. 7th
An ultimate edition of Godfall is coming out, allowing you to ignore the game all over again.
Orcs Must Die! 3: Tipping the Scales (PC/PS4/Xbox One) – Releases Apr. 7th
For all you Orcs Must Die! fans out there, this latest expansion adds a new race of enemies to slaughter in a mass genocide with an arsenal of new horrific weapons and traps. These new items will be available in all modes, including five brand new scenarios and four new endless maps.
Notable Releases from 10, 20 and 30 years ago:
Xenoblade Chronicles (Wii) – Released Apr. 6th, 2012: Wiki Link
Notable Film Release: American Reunion – Starring Jason Biggs, Alyson Hannigan, Chris Klein, Thomas Ian Nicholas, Tara Reid, Seann William Scott, Mena Suvari, Eddie Kaye Thomas, John Cho, Jennifer Coolidge, and Eugene Levy
Notable Album Release: Bonnie Raitt – Slipstream
The seeds of Xenoblade Chronicles were planted in 2002, shortly after Monolith Soft’s parent company Namco installed a new head of the famous publisher/developer. Feeling pressure from the new regime to take less risks and focus more on safe, proven genres, a meeting with Nintendo’s Shinji Hatano would change the course of Monolith. Hatano encouraged the team at Monolith to not give up their creative spirit, telling them to keep making games that they felt passionate about. With Namco merging with Bandai, the pressure to make safe games only intensified at Monolith, so in a somewhat uncharacteristic move by Nintendo, they purchased an 80% stake in Monolith, with Bandai Namco retaining 16% of the shares, and the remaining 4% being divided among Monolith Soft’s three founders, Hirohide Sugiura, Yasuyuki Honne, and Xenogears creator Tetsuya Takahashi.
Their first two titles for Nintendo would be on the company’s popular DS handheld, the Japan only RPG Soma Bringer, as well as Super Robot Taisen OG: Endless Frontier (published in NA by Atlus). Shortly after the release of their third game for Nintendo, the Japan/EU only title Disaster: Day of Crisis, Tetsuya Takahashi had a vision of two giant gods standing frozen, mid-combat, in a wide open field. Takahashi imagined that these gods had been frozen for centuries, becoming just another part of the landscape, with people eventually settling on them. The idea was a big hit with the staff at Monolith, with Yasuyuki Honne being so impressed with the idea that he decided to purchase art supplies and create a physical model of the drawing Takahashi had made of the two gods. As interest around Monolith continued to grow, Takahashi took a story idea from an unrelated project and merged it with the giant god’s concept. What came out of it was the story of a young man named Shulk who lived on one god, finding a powerful sword that he could use to fight against his sworn enemies who lived on the other god. This game would be called Monado: The Beginning of the World.
While still partnered with Namco, Takahashi had created a follow-up series if Xenogears called Xenosaga. Initially envisioned as a six part RPG epic, poor sales led to Namco cancelling the series after only three entries. This led to a massive drop in morale for the Xeno team at Monolith, so when it came time to make a new RPG it was decided to not have it bear the Xeno name, as they were ashamed of it. When Takahashi presented his idea for Monado to Nintendo they were enthusiastic about it, but they didn’t like the name. Nintendo’s then president, the late Satoru Iwata, implored Takahashi to reconsider using the Xeno name. Iwata felt that it would both honor Takahashi’s legacy in video games, as well as help Nintendo in their investment in Monolith Soft. Takahashi took Iwata’s advice and changed the name to Xenoblade Chronicles. Takahashi was quick to point out that the title was only a call back to the previous games Monolith had worked on, as it would contain no links to these older titles. He further went on to explain that “Xeno” referred to something that was “different” or “unique”, while “Blade” was a reference to the game’s central plot.
With a concept and title, the Xeno team at Monolith began working hard on the game around 2006, with Nintendo sending over one of their creatives, Genki Yokota, to be co-director with his man focus being to help Monolith handle any issues that arose during development in regards to the Wii hardware. Having read criticism about his last few RPGs as being “old fashioned”, Takahashi was adamant about making a game that felt new and fresh. Taking an inspiration from Western RPGs, Xenoblade Chronicles would employ a more action oriented gameplay style, with combat taking place in real time as players explored the game world. This a massive, open world would be divided into sections, similar to an MMO. The grand scale of the game world, called the Bionis, would reward players for exploring all of the nooks and cranny’s it had to offer. As a side note, it was these massive, explorable areas that promoted Breath of the Wild’s producer, Eiji Aonuma, to partner with Monolith on the creation of that game’s map.
For the game’s story and scenario, Takahashi was joined by anime writer Yuichiro Takeda (Desert Punk, Xenosaga: The Animation) and a writer from Nintendo, Yurie Hattori (Fire Emblem: Radiant Dawn, The Legendary Starfy). Takeda initially had trouble in writing the game’s scenario as he was used to working in television where you’d write things in an episodic format and be done after 20-25 episodes. Despite doing small work on the Xenosaga games, he hadn’t worked fully on a game, or with Takahashi, before, and likened the experience to playing a game of catch. He’d have ideas, jot them down, send them over to Takahashi who would incorporate new ideas and take out things he didn’t like, before sending it back to Takeda who would do the same. While the bulk of the game’s scenario was written by Takahashi and Takeda, Hattori found herself as the kind of “Nintendo-izer” of the story. It was her job to review the initial concepts and ideas for Xenoblade and determine what would work for a Nintendo audience. It was this triumvirate that would put together an epic for the ages, and perhaps one of the best RPG stories of all time.
Opening up in a prologue, three soldiers, Dickson, Dunban, and Mumkhar fight against an oncoming wave of enemies called the Mechon. Mumkhar deserts his comrades and Dunban, wielding the Monado, has his arm paralyzed by the sword. Cut to one year later, a young man named Shulk is seen studying the Monado in a laboratory in Colony 9. After speaking with Dunban and a friend named Fiora, Colony 9 is attacked unexpectedly by the Mechon. Dunban attempts to wield the Mondao but is unable to, prompting Shulk to give it a try and, to his surprise, he is able to wield it with ease. As Shulk destroys Mechon after Mechon, a huge one appears, known as Metal Face. The beast grabs Fiora and murders her, enraging Shulk. He attempts to take down Metal Face using the Monado but finds that the sword causes no damage to the hulking beast. Metal Face eventually flees the battle, leaving a vengeful Shulk to head out on a quest to defeat the Mechon.
First released the Wii in Japan in 2010, Xenoblade Chronicles was a hit with critics and players. Selling 80k units in its first week, the game was one of the best selling titles in Japan in 2010. It would take two years for the game to be localized for the West and, when it finally dropped, the game was, once again, a critical and financial smash. Receiving nearly perfect scores from every major gaming outlet, Xenoblade Chronicles would receive the best reviews of any of the previous Xeno games, holding a very strong 92/100 at Metacritic. Players showed their support by making it one of the best selling games of April 2012, coming in close behind Mass Effect 3 and Prototype 2. Surprisingly, the game sold better in the West than it did in Japan, perhaps because Takahashi found his inspiration in Western games when making Xenoblade. Moving on, a spiritual successor called Xenoblade Chronicles X would come out on the ill-fated Wii U, with a proper sequel, Xenoblade Chronicles 2 arriving on the Switch. Xenoblade Chronicles, which would fetch astronomically comical prices on the secondary market (including GameStop who would be accused of opening up new copies to re-sell as “used” at a substantial markup) would eventually be released digitally for the Wii U before receiving a remastered edition on the 3DS, followed by the Switch. Currently, a third entry in the series, Xenoblade Chronicles 3, is set to release on the Switch in 2022.
Blender Bros. (GBA) – Released Apr. 15th, 2002: Wiki Link
There weren’t a lot of games released this week twenty years ago, hence why we’re kind of jumping forward in time. Release on Apr. 15th, 2002 for the Game Boy Advance, Blender Bros. is a side scrolling, action/platformer developed by Hudson Soft. In this game, players tkae on the role of Blender, a dog-like humanoid character who is the leader of a planetary defense force called the Cosmo Keepers. Blender is determined to save the galaxy from the clutches of the evil “Zooligans”, by exploring several planets and liberating them from a boss monster that keeps them enslaved. Along the way, Blender can find “mini bros”, small creatures that assist Blender in some way, such as increasing his attack distance, helping him float on water, refilling his health, etc.
Blender Bros. received average reviews from critics and was promptly forgotten by everyone until 2020 when retro inspired publisher Piko Interactive ported the game to PC. Looking at screenshots, it is, essentially, an emulated version of the GBA game, without any graphical upgrades or attempts to make the game look or play like a modern title. Maybe that’s part of the appeal, but to take this forgettable game, do nothing to it, and sell it to schmucks on Steam for $11 fucking dollars is atrocious. Blender Bros. isn’t a great game nor is it a bad game, it just is. What a ringing endorsement.
Super Adventure Island (SNES) – Released Apr. 1992: Wiki Link
When discussing notable NES franchises the greats usually come to mind, Super Mario, Mega Man, Double Dragon, Castlevania, Zelda, and, maybe, Hudson’s Adventure Island. Created by Hudson Soft in 1986, the series first released in Japan as Master Takahashi’s Adventure Island (named after a popular employee at Hudson, who would later become a top executive), the game was renamed and sent to North America in 1987. It did moderately well and was another in a long line of competent side scrolling platformers. A sequel would follow in 1991, then a Game Boy port in February of 1992, before Hudson Soft jumped into the 16-bit era with Super Adventure Island. Interestingly enough, Hudson had their own 16-bit console on the market, the PC Engine/TurboGrafx-16, but an Adventure Island title wouldn’t arrive on that console until August of 1992.
Super Adventure Island isn’t too far removed from its NES predecessors, featuring the same basic control scheme and gameplay, however the ability to ride animal friends introduced in Adventure Island II was not present. There were a couple of new gameplay features, with players able to use a boomerang as a weapon. Unlike the stone axe, which could only be thrown forward, the boomerang could be thrown upwards, allowing players to hit flying enemies easier. Going further with weapons, players could collect multiple instances of the same weapon that would increase their shots from one, to two, to three, with a fourth pick-up turning their weapon into a powerful fireball, letting them destroy rocks. The other new gameplay feature was a “super jump” that could be done after holding the down arrow on the d-pad to crouch.
Reviews for Super Adventure Island were mostly positive, however there were a few negative reviews that I think are the most accurate. By Spring of 1992, the SNES was still in its early months on the market so it was probably neat to see an NES franchise make the leap to 16-bit. This likely colored critics reviews, causing them to rate Super Adventure Island higher than they might have. Total!!, a UK magazine, probably says it best with their review, “Super Adventure Island is an extremely basic left-to-right platformer. Okay, it’s got some fairly attractive graphics, but they’re nothing amazing considering the potential of the Super NES. Boredom will beat you a long time before the game does.” Four more Adventure Island games would release over the next two years, ending with 1994’s Super Adventure Island II. Since then we have only gotten a remake of the first game on the Wiiware service. I’m not sure why Hudson Soft has abandoned Adventure Island, but if you’re going to try and go back and play them for nostalgia’s sake, maybe stick to the NES and TurboGrafx-16 titles.