It’s Tuesday which means…NEW GAMES! Now I know we’re all excited for the return of Scrunt to the Switch Online NES Library later this Summer, so until then you’re just going to have to make due with Nintendo Switch Sports.
Nintendo Switch Sports (Switch) – Releases Apr. 29th
Developed by: Nintendo EPD
Published by: Nintendo
While the Nintendo 64 and the GameCube were great systems with some truly outstanding games, Nintendo found itself losing the Console Wars pretty badly from the moment the Sony PlayStation hit the market. Cut to 2006 and the launch of the Nintendo Wii, a machine that was far less powerful than the PS3 and 360, but would offer something even better; really fun games. Perhaps the most popular Wii game was its bundled game Wii Sports, a title that used the Wii’s motion controllers to their fullest, turning living rooms across the world into virtual bowling alleys. Wii Sports was one of those “four quadrant” games, a title that appeals to all genders and all age groups, and it brought Nintendo back into the public eye, being the best selling console of its generation. Here we are, now, 16 years later and Nintendo is sitting high again with the Switch, and it’s ready to bring back all those great memories you had bowling in your dorm room with your buddies. Featuring returning sports Tennis, Chambara (Swordplay) and Bowling, while adding new sports Volleyball, Soccer and Badminton, this game should be a big hit during your Summer get togethers.
Dune Spice Wars (PC) – Early Access Releases Apr. 26th
Developed by: Shiro Games
Published by: Funcom/Shiro Games
Typically I don’t feature “Early Access” games here as they aren’t official releases, technically. However, Dune is a beloved property and I’m sure more than a few people are excited to finally get a chance to play this RTS game.
The Serpent Rogue (PC/PS5/Switch/Series X|S) – Releases Apr. 26th
Developed by: Sengi Games
Published by: Team17
According to Steam, The Serpent Rogue is a “botanical adventure”, whatever that means (Side note, just before my band broke up we were working on a song called “Life of a Botanist”). It looks like you’re some kind of alchemist, brewing potions to help you survive in this grimdark world by transforming into other creatures, I guess.
Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodhunt (PC/PS5) – Releases Apr. 27th
Developed by: Sharkmob
Published by: Sharkmob
After entering early access in Sep. 2021, Vampire: The Masquerade: Bloodhunt is ready to pounce into full release this week. The game is a free to play battle royale, because we don’t have enough of those already.
Rogue Legacy 2 (PC/Xbox One/Series X|S) – Releases Apr. 28th
Developed by: Cellar Door Games
Published by: Cellar Door Games
Another game leaving early access is the delightful looking Rogue Legacy 2. I was a big fan of the first game and am optimistic that this new entry will be just as good. It’s also a rare Xbox console exclusive, though the developer has not ruled out releasing the game on other consoles (my guess is sometime in late 2022/early 2023).
Ports and Re-releases:
Zombie Army 4: Dead War (Switch) – Releases Apr. 26th
One of the worst games on the PS4 and XBone is coming to Switch with worse graphics and load times. Should be fun!
The Stanley Parable: Ultra Deluxe (PC/PS4/PS5/Switch/Xbox One/Series X|S) – Releases Apr. 27th
The mind bending, indie classic The Stanley Parable is being remastered in this fancy “Ultra Deluxe” edition. I know very little about this game, in fact, the only knowledge I have about this game is from a Mega64 video:
Bugsnax – The Isle of Bigsnax (PC/PS4/PS5/Switch/Xbox One/Series X|S) – Releases Apr. 28th
The PS5 launch title Bugsnax is having a big week with the release of its first DLC pack, The Isle of Bigsnax. Not only that, but the entire game, base + DLC is coming to Switch and Xbox for the first time, how about that!
Three strategy games make up the rest of this week’s releases with one set in a non-descript “European city” during a bloody revolution, one set in space where you must deal with pirates and explore the galaxy, and finally, one set in the Victorian era (I think) that is basically Sweeny Todd.
- Kapital: Sparks of Revolution (PC) – Releases Apr. 28th
- Trigon: Space Story (PC) – Releases Apr. 28th
- Ravenous Devils (PC/PS4/PS5/Switch/Xbox One/Series X|S) – Releases Apr. 29th
Notable Releases from 10, 20 and 30 years ago:
Binary Domain (PC/PS3/Xbox 360) – Released Apr. 22th, 2012 (Console release was in Feb. 2012): Wiki Link
Many of us probably know Ryu Ga Gotoku Studio as the developers of the Yakuza and Judgement games, however, their first game under the Ryu Ga Gotoku banner was a third person, cover-based shooter that tried to appeal to a worldwide audience called Binary Domain. Initially released in North America on the PS3 and Xbox 360 in February of 2012, the game was ported to PC in April of 2012 so, yeah, this is kind of a cheat on my part, deal with it. Announced in December of 2010, Binary Domain was conceived by studio head Toshihiro Nagoshi who desired to make a game that explored what life is, as expressed through robots. While the game does feature several cutscenes, similar to what you might find in a Yakuza game, the vast majority of the gameplay is your standard run of the mill shooter.
Set in a distant future, Earth has been ravaged by the effects of climate change, leading to widespread flooding. To survive, the remaining human race would rebuild society on top of the existing, underwater structures. To do this, however, they needed a worker who as able to withstand grueling hours of non-stop, heavy labor; the answer, of course, was robot workers. Designed by an American corporation called Bergen, these robots did most of the work that humans would not and could not do. Eventually, the robots became so sophisticated that they could pass as human, prompting the US to create the “New Geneva Convention”, outlawing the creation of robots that could pass as human, and in the process they would create a global task force, nicknamed “Rust Crews, who’s job it was to eliminate human looking robots, called “Hollow Children”, as well as renegade robots used by humans.
When players first start the game, they find out that one of these Hollow Children had infiltrated Bergen, assaulting many of the people there. The thing, though, is that this robot had no idea it was, well, a robot. The leading scientist behind the Hollow Children is believed to be a Japanese businessman named Yoji Amada, who believes Bergen stole his plans for the robots, so the Rust Crew is sent to Japan on a covert mission to take out Amada and stop his plans for the Hollow Children. Yes, this is certainly a Ryu Ga Gotoken game, if you couldn’t tell by that absolutely bonkers plot, but like Yakuza, everything is played incredibly serious, even when it should be ridiculous, and that is the major charm of not just Yakuza but also Binary Domain.
Despite a targeted online ad campaign by Sega, Binary Domain was completely ignored by the gaming public in North America, with a a paltry 20k copies sold in the first 2 months. Critics were impressed with the game, however they directed heavy criticism towards the game’s use to voice activated commands which felt gimmicky and unnecessary. They were, however, very impressed with the game’s “consequence system”, which dictated how the members of your squad would react to you. Their attitude is mostly determined by responses you give, either with y our voice or by using a simple response with a button press, but they also react poorly to you if you accidentally shoot them (duh).
With Binary Domain being such a big flop for the studio, it was a major influence on their decision to fully embrace their Japanese culture when making new games. This appeared to be the right choice, as the team would follow up Binary Domain with Yakuza 5, before gaining mainstream appeal in the West with Yakuza 0. Personally, I had a ton of fun with Binary Domain, and you can easily pick it up for PC through Steam, or play it through backwards compatibility on the Xbox One/Series X|S.
The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind (PC) – Released May 1st, 2002: Wiki Link
Following the release of 1996’s The Elder Scrolls II: Daggerfall, developer Bethesda put three games into development. Two of these would come out first as kind of spin-off’s the series, 1997’s An Elder Scrolls Legend: Battlespire and 1998’s The Elder Scrolls Adventure: Redguard, but it wouldn’t be until 2002 that players would finally get a proper sequel, the beloved RPG The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind. Conceived during the development of Daggerfall, Elder Scrolls III was originally going to be set in the Summerset Isles and be called Tribunal, before deciding to move the game to Morrowind. The scope of the game was going to match that of Daggerfall, with the map encompassing the entire province of Morrowind, but the game was just too big and ambitious for PC’s the era. Not wanting to waste their work, a lot of the game’s engine would be used to make Battlespire, and after Redguard work on ESIII would start back up in earnest.
Seeing how poorly their games looked in comparison to their contemporaries, project leader Todd Howard made it his goal to bring Bethesda back to the forefront of PC gaming. They would ditch the engine used for Battlespire and instead license a 3D engine called NetImmerse (later called Gamebryo) that allowed for 32-bit textures and skeletal animation. Another change to the game, aside from engine, was the scope. Knowing that they just didn’t have the time or resources to create a massive province like they did in Daggerfall, the team opted to only create a small portion of Morrowind, specifically Vvardenfell, an island controlled by the Dunmer. While the previous two Elder Scrolls games had been in a typical European fantasy setting, Morrowind was a bit more robust and exotic with its locations, featuring areas that took inspiration from the Middle East, Japan, and Africa, with a heavy emphasis on Ancient Egypt.
To create this world, the team at Bethesda opted to handcraft the entire thing, unlike Daggerfall which relied on randomly generated objects and dungeons. The team had hoped for a 2001 release, but development was taking a lot longer than anticipated, mostly due to the creation of a suite of tools that would allow the team to make the game more efficiently, though this caused the delay, so was it more efficient? Anyway, Bethesda ended up tripling their ranks as a result of Morrowind, with around 40 people working on it. After missing their first release date, Bethesda brought a build of Morrowind to E3 in 2001 where it was very well received and, to a lot of surprise, announced that the game would eventually be coming to Microsoft’s new console, Xbox, sometime after the PC release (roughly 1 month later). Through the rest of 2001 and the early part of 2002, the team at Bethesda put in a ton of hours to get the game finished. By the end of it, the company esitmated that it took nearly 100 man-years to complete the game.
Bethesda’s 2001 presentation at E3 had already hyped the gaming public up for Morrowind, so when it finally released on May 1st, 2002, it was a big hit with both critics and players. By the end of June, 2002 (factoring in the Xbox release), Morrowind would sell nearly 100k copies, reaching 200k copies by September of that year. Three years later, the game had gone on to sell nearly 4 million copies. From June 2002 to October 2003, Morrowind would be in the top ten best selling Xbox games every month; it was huge. Like Grand Theft Auto III, critics were very impressed with the open world or, as Bethesda called it, a free-form world that Morrowind had to offer. The ability to go in any direction and do whatever you wanted was incredibly liberating and added to the game’s realism, made even more so by the high attention to detail and handcrafted nature of the world. Critics were also impressed with the amount of in-game text & lore, doled out in the guise of books, journals, and scrolls, that equated to roughly six full-length novels.
Despite the praise, critics and players did find things to complain about, for instance, the game’s combat was knocked upon release. Played in a D&D style, combat was reliant on invisible dice rolls to determine if a hit took place. This could lead to awkward combat where you stood there for several minutes, wondering if you were actually hitting the enemy. Making things even more confusing, enemies had no life bar, nor did you have any idea just how much damage you were doing. A later patch would add in health bars and combat feedback, but the core mechanic remained the same. Perhaps, though, the most hated part of Morrowind is the way it tracks your quests. Instead of a menu that listed out what you needed to do, players would read a journal in which their quests were added in as “written entries” by the player. This led to mass confusion about what the quest was, who gave it to you, and where you needed to go. It was a novel idea, but without anyway to filter or search for quests, nor to know which had been completed, it made things an exercise in “anal-retentive nightmare of confusion”, as one reviewer so eloquently put it.
The negative aspects didn’t deter most of the gaming press, however, where Morrowind would go on to receive multiple awards and accolades at the end of the year. Computer Games Magazine called it the third best PC game of the year, while PC Gamer called it the runner up GOTY, behind Neverwinter Nights, with GameSpy giving their best PC game of the year award, though readers picked, again, Neverwinter Nights. Finally, the DICE awards nominated Morrowind for CRPG of the year where it, yes again, lost to Neverwinter Nights. Bethesda would continue the Morrowind story with two expansions, Tribunal (named after the initial idea for the game), and Bloodmoon, which introduced werewolves to the game. The Elder Scrolls would continue with Oblivion and Skyrim, with a sixth entry set to release sometime in the next few years. Morrowind is still easily available today, either on PC or on the Xbox One/Series X|S through backward compatibility. While Morrowind might be a bit too dated for modern audiences, it laid the groundwork for what would be one of the biggest and most popular video game franchises of all time.
Aces of the Pacific (PC) – Released Apr. 1992: Wiki Link
Developer Dynamix’s 1990 flight simulator Red Baron was a big hit when it released, helping to put the company on the map and earn them some clout in the industry. To follow up that game, the team moved to a different part of the world in another world war with Aces of the Pacific. A technological marvel when it released in 1992, in fact, a little too advanced, as most commercially available PCs were unable to play Aces of the Pacific without experiencing some kind of performance issue. Thankfully, the game would eventually receive a patch to help with issues (one you probably had to send away for in the mail, can you imagine?), and it would go on to receive high marks from multiple gaming outlets, including Dragon magazine which gave it 5 out of 5.
If you aren’t familiar with the game, Aces of the Pacific is a realistic flight simulator that takes place in the Pacific Theatre of WWII, with Allied forces waging battle against the Japanese forces. In the game, you have the option to play as three US branches of the military; Air Force, Marines, Navy, or as two Japanese branches; Imperial Army or Imperial Navy. With a heavy focus on realism, Aces of the Pacific can be incredibly slow, requiring a lot of patience, a good memory and, most importantly, a PC joystick. Critics were astounded by the level of detail and realism, helping cement Aces of the Pacific as one of the greatest PC games of all time, though I think it is sorely lacking by modern standards. The game is unavailable for purchase today, making abandonware sites your only means of playing it, though I wouldn’t really bother.
In case you missed the big Scrunt announcement: