Summer hasn’t quite started to heat up in terms of hot new games (2022 has been kind of lacking so far, eh), but a new Fire Emblem game is certainly a reason to pay attention, even if it’s a musou game. Does it make you happy, you’re so strange?
Fire Emblem Warriors: Three Hopes (Switch) – Releases Jun. 24th
Developed by: Omega Force/Intelligent Systems
Published by: Nintendo
Fans of the recent Fire Emblem game on Switch should be pretty excited about this week’s top release, Fire Emblem Warriors: Three Heroes. Yes, I know it isn’t a strategy game like we’re used to, it’s a beat ’em up musou game, but the first Fire Emblem Warriors was a great spin on the tired formula, successfully mixing in the “rock/paper/scissors” aspect of the mainline games. Couple that with some extraordinary (and difficult) boss battles and you had one of the best musou games ever made. Will Three Heroes rise to that level as well? I guess we’ll find out.
River City Saga: Three Kingdoms (PC/PS4/Switch) –
Releases Jun. 21st WHOOPS! July 21st
Developed by: APLUS Co., Ltd.
Published by: Arc System Works
*UPDATE* This actually comes out on July 21st, not June 21st; my bad.
If you like beat ’em up games then this week is definitely for you! River City Saga: Three Kingdoms follows the same formula as other River City games, a 2D brawler with chibi graphics and people shouting “BARF!”. The setting, however, leaves the streets of Japan and puts the characters you (probably) know into China’s Three Kingdoms period. I hope coins still fly out the bad guys when you beat them up.
Sonic Origins (PC/PS4/PS5/Switch/Xbox One/Series X|S) – Releases Jun. 23rd
Developed by: Sega
Published by: Sega
Ah yes, yet another collection of the 2D Sonic games. This time you get, like, little bonus challenges, or something? I don’t know, it doesn’t matter, most of us probably already own these in some capacity, even for modern consoles, so do you really need to buy this? Probably not, but you will. Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but someday you will.
AI: The Somnium Files – nirvanA Initiative (PC/PS4/Switch/Xbox One) – Releases Jun. 24th
Developed by: Spike Chunsoft
Published by: Spike Chunsoft
Hey, remember the 2019 game AI: The Somnium Files? Sure you do, stop looking at me with that blank stare. You’re probably excited to see that it now has a sequel, why wouldn’t you be, the Steam page says the first game was “…critically acclaimed…”. Anyway, I own the first game, never opened it, will probably pick this one up too and never open it. If retro game prices continue to go up then I’ll probably have a decent nest egg when I retire in 25 years…or we’ll all be dead from famine/nuclear war/civil war/water shortage/climate change/alien invasion/a portal to Hell opening up and unleashing cacodemons everywhere/etc.
Capcom Fighting Collection (PC/PS4/Switch/Xbox One) – Releases Jun. 24th
Developed by: Capcom
Published by: Capcom
Hey look, another game collection! This one, though, I think is far more worthy of your attention than the Sonic one. Capcom Fighting Collection bring together ten old school fighting games from Capcom’s arcade heyday. While we’re getting yet another release of Street Fighter II, the other nine titles are much harder to come by, even featuring a game that has never seen a home console release. Here’s what you’ll get:
- Night Warriors
- Vampire Savior
- Vampire Savior 2
- Vampire Hunter 2
- Red Earth (first time on home consoles)
- Hyper Street Fighter II
- Super Puzzle Fighter II Turbo
- Super Gem Fighter Minimix
Pocky & Rocky Reshrined (PS4/Switch) – Releases Jun. 24th
Developed by: Tengo Project/Natsume
Published by: Natsume/Taito
Continuing the old school trend we see happening this week, the cult classic series (in the West at least) Pocky & Rocky is finally back with a new entry. Well, it might be new, or it might not. The game’s official website calls it an all new entry, but some gaming outlets are referring to it as a remake of the SNES game from 1992/1993. Whatever the case, this game looks great, with fantastic pixel art and engaging gameplay. I’m not sure you need to run out and get this game immediately, but if it pops up at a nice price then I say give it a shot.
Ports and Re-releases:
Fall Guys (PC – Epic Games Store/PS4/PS5/Switch/Xbox One/Series X|S) – Releases Jun. 21st
You paid for Fall Guys? Pfft, idiot, didn’t you realize it would eventually go free to play? I bet you feel so stupid now.
Blade Runner: Enhanced Edition (PC/PS4/Switch/Xbox One) – Releases Jun. 23rd
I guess this is finally coming out, maybe? It was noted as “available now” during the Limited Run presentation last week, so was that just premature? In any case, if you like point & click adventure games, Blade Runner is supposed to be one of the greatest ever made, so check it out if you haven’t already.
Naraka: Bladepoint (Series X|S) – Releases Jun. 23rd
If you want to play this on Xbox One you’re SOL, sorry.
Damn, even the “everything else” games feature a collection with Shadowrun Trilogy. I guess this is also the first time they’re being released on Xbox, so that’s cool. We’ve also got a puzzle platforming game called Ruggnar which features no enemies, just an unforgiving environment. Rounding things out is an enhanced version of the PC game Firegirl: Hack ‘n Splash which is now making its way to consoles.
- Shadowrun Trilogy (PS4/PS5/Switch/Xbox One/Series X|S) – Releases Jun. 21st
- Firegirl: Hack ‘n Splash Rescue DX (PS4/PS5/Switch/Xbox One/Series X|S) – Releases Jun. 22nd
- Ruggnar (PC/Switch) – Releases Jun. 23rd
Notable Releases from 10, 20 and 30 years ago:
Quantum Conundrum (PC) – Released Jun. 21st, 2012: Wiki Link
The release of Valve’s Portal was a watershed moment in gaming. its mix of humor, puzzle solving, platforming, a “shooting” made it an instant success with players and critics, spawning countless jokes about cake; hilarious. The game’s lead designer, Kim Swift, had a very prolific career at Valve, being part of not just Portal, but also Left 4 Dead and its sequel. In 2009, during pre-production Portal 2, Swift would leave Valve to join Airtight Games who were keen to help her make a new puzzle platformer; Quantum Conundrum. In its design, though, Swift wanted to make sure that the game didn’t directly copy Portal as she didn’t want to draw too many comparisons between the two. What came out was fairly similar, but unique enough that it couldn’t be called a copycat.
In Quantum Conundrum, players take on the role of a twelve-year-old boy who, from what I can tell, has no name and never speaks. This silent protagonist is the nephew of a world renowned (mad) scientist named Professor Fitz Quadwrangle. For reasons unknown, the silent protagonist is sent to live with Quadwrangle and, upon arriving at his uncle’s mansion, finds himself caught up in an experiment gone awry. In this experiment, Professor Quadwrangle has discovered alternate dimensions, but due to an accident, these dimensions flicker in and out, with players moving in-between them. This is the crux of the puzzle aspect of the game as, for example, in the “Fluffy Dimension”, objects that are heavy in our dimension become very lightweight. This allows players to move heavy things like furniture or safes (there are A LOT of safes) onto buttons that will open doors and turn on machines. As players navigate their way through the giant mansion/laboratory, they discover more dimensions and learn a bit more about their uncle. Eventually, after finding the Professor, the game ends on a bit of a cliffhanger, which I don’t think was ever resolved.
Critical reception to the game was favorable, but it wasn’t Earth shattering, except for the team at Destructoid who gave it a perfect 10/10 score. Despite her best efforts, most critics compared the game strongly to Portal. The general consensus was that Quantum Conundrum’s puzzles would appeal to Portal fans, but that it lacked the overall humor and charm of Valve’s game. Critics were also unimpressed with the game’s visuals, calling the backgrounds uninspired and generic. I tried playing this game on my PC a few days ago and could barely get through the first few puzzles before I started to get motion sickness. The drab, texture-less backgrounds were not a good fit for a game that requires a lot of quick camera movements. That being said, the controls and puzzles are really good, but I just couldn’t make it through more than hour of gameplay before I had to shut it off.
Swift, who was named one of the 30 mots promising young people in the gaming industry, would work on two more games for Airtight, the mobile title PIXLD and the Ouya exclusive Soul Fjord, before moving on to EA where she was lead level designer for Star Wars Battlefront II. She would leave EA to head up game design at Amazon, then heading to Google to help lead the direction for Stadia, finally ending up at Microsoft where she works in the cloud gaming division. It’s unclear if Swift will ever work in game design again, I’m not sure what happened in-between her time on Quantum Conundrum and the present, but the gaming industry is missing her unique design aesthetic. Oh, one final note, the game actually spawned a fake game show/ad campaign called The Super Dimensional Quantum Learning’s Problems and Solutions Gametime Spectacular!!. Hosted by NFT aficionado Kevin Pereira, “contestants” would take part in a series of challenges designed around the four dimensions seen in Quantum Conundrum. Here’s the first episode:
Eternal Darkness: Sanity’s Requiem (GameCube) – Released Jun. 24th, 2002: Wiki Link
One of the more promising game studios from the 1990’s was the Canadian developer Silicon Knights. Founded by Dennis Dyack in 1992, the company became well known for their unique PC strategy games Cyber Empires, Fantasy Empires, and Dark Legions, but it was their first foray into console gaming, Blood Omen: Legacy of Kain, that really got people talking. After the release of Blood Omen on the PlayStation, Silicon Knights opted to work on another horror game, made exclusively for the Nintendo 64. Inspired by Resident Evil, this N64 title, published by Nintendo itself, would feature multiple protagonists in a cosmic horror setting, inspired heavily by the works of H.P. Lovecraft. Some early development footage was shown off at E3 in 1996 but, after some deliberation, the decision was made to shift their focus on Nintendo’s upcoming console, the GameCube.
The team originally wanted to have the game, called Eternal Darkness, be launch title for the GameCube. However, delays in development caused them to miss the launch window, opting instead for a Summer 2002 release (about 7 months after the console’s launch). Written by Dyack, the game went through several iterations before they settled on the final story, however the team needed to make further story revisions after the terrorist attack on 9/11. One of the game’s characters, a templar knight named Joseph, had his storyline cut due to his ties to the Crusades. This storyline felt inappropriate after 9/11 so a new character was created, Karim, who’s story had nothing to do with the Crusades. Plot wise, Eternal Darkness is told from multiple viewpoints and time periods. Players initially control a young woman named Alexandra Roivas in the year 2000 AD, as she investigates the murder of her grandfather Edward. Exploring his mansion, Alexandra discovers a secret room containing a book, bound in human flesh, called The Tome of Eternal Darkness. As Alexandra reads from the book, players are transported to that time period and take on the role of the character in the story.
While Dyack and his team made pains to say that they didn’t want to make a Resident Evil clone, the game still contains several elements from that series; a giant mansion/building to explore, fixed camera angles, multiple protagonists, heavy emphasis on puzzle solving, and clunky combat against undead creatures. The combat, though, in Eternal Darkness is vastly superior to Resident Evil, even with the weird aiming mechanic. Yes, in Eternal Darkness you can choose which body parts to attack on your enemy, changing how they fight. For example, if you chop off their head, the enemy will become confused and start flailing their arms around wildly, hitting other enemies nearby. If you can chop of their arms then they’ll be powerless to hit you. Take too long to kill them, however, and their limbs and/or head will regenerate.
Aside from the core gameplay of switching between Alexandria in the present day and protagonists from the past, Eternal Darkness features a very unique gameplay aspect tied to your sanity. In the game players have a “sanity meter” that is drained every time they encounter enemies and look them in the eye (also a reason to chop off their heads). Once a player kills a monster and performs a “finishing move”, a portion of their sanity is restored. However, as their sanity level drops the player will experience strange things in the game. There are a lot of really unique and interesting things that can happen, though I won’t name them all to preserve the surprise (if you ever play it), but you may see blood start to run down the wall, voices may start calling out to you, you might see Andy Kaufman-esque “glitches” that break the fourth wall and, in one of the shocking ones I saw, a healing spell may instead look like it has disemboweled you. These sanity effects were one of the biggest selling points of the game, bringing a bit of sexy controversy to the game.
Eternal Darkness was notable in the history of Nintendo for two reasons. The first is that it was Nintendo’s first M rated title (after declining to publish Conker’s Bad Fur Day) and was also the first game released under the leadership of Satoru Iwata. Critical reception to the game was through the roof, with critics and players calling it one of the best games of the year. IGN gave Eternal Darkness its Editor’s Choice award calling it an amazing achievement. During the awards season, Eternal Darkness took home several, including Best Sound (GameCube), Best Story (GameCube), and Best Graphics (GameCube)from GameSpot, and Outstanding Character/Story Development at the Interactive Achievement (DICE) Awards, where it was also nominated for Game of the Year.
Despite great reviews, the poor install base of the GameCube kept the game’s sales numbers low, with only about 500k copies sold worldwide. Silicon Knights and Nintendo weren’t done with the property though and, despite only envisioning Eternal Darkness as a stand alone game, Dyack said that he would be open to revisiting the world of the Ancients at some point. However, after a string of failures and a crushing lawsuit brought on by Epic Games, Silicon Knights would go bankrupt in 2014, cancelling a rumored Wii U follow-up. Dyack would try to Kickstart a spiritual successor in 2013, called Shadow of the Eternals, but controversy surrounding a toxic work environment and Dyack’s potential involvement in misappropriation of funds sunk the game’s chances. Nintendo has kept renewing their claim to the game’s IP and name, though it is unclear (and probably unlikely) we’ll ever see a new entry in the series (particularly not from Dyack or Silicon Knights). Your only way of playing the game is to find a used copy or emulation, which is a real shame as Eternal Darkness is a solid game with great ideas.
Darkwing Duck (NES) – Released Jun. 1992: Wiki Link
It’s funny that Darkwing Duck and Batman Returns both released around the same time, as the titular hero is clearly a parody of Batman and, maybe even more so, The Shadow (and The Green Hornet…and Doc Savage, The Lone Ranger, etc., etc.). Superheroes with dark undertones were all the rage in the early Nineties after Tim Burton’s Batman was a blockbuster smash in 1989, with Disney jumping on the bandwagon with their weekday afternoon hit series, Darkwing Duck. A spin-off of the mega-popular Duck Tales, Darkwing Duck is the story of an average citizen named Drake Mallard, single father, who takes care of his daughter by day and fights crime by night. Aided by his sidekick Launchpad McQuack, Darkwing or “DW” thwarts the evil plans of the various villains that run amok in the city of St. Canard.
For the video game adaptation, Capcom (the license holder for Disney games) created a platforming shooter using a modified version of the Mega Man 5 engine (allegedly). In the game, players can choose from one of three levels to complete. Once those three are completed a third set is unlocked, followed by a final seventh level. Darkwing Duck is a typical NES platformer with enemies to shoot, platforms to jump on, and various ledges & hooks to hang from. Players can use Darkwing’s stock gas gun to defeat enemies but can also collect special gas canisters that do extra damage and fire in a different direction from his normal attacks. Players can only carry one type of special gas canister at a time and alternate between it and the standard canister by pressing select. The final special move is the ability to use Darkwing’s cape to block certain projectiles, a helpful tool for some of the more insidious/annoying enemies you encounter.
Darkwing Duck was well received by critics in 1992, calling it another quality entry in the Capcom Disney library of video games. Regardless of whether it used the Mega Man 5 engine or not, critics still cited the Mega Man series as a strong influence on Darkwing Duck, finding many similarities between the two. A Game Boy port would release in early 1993, though it wouldn’t reach the same critical consensus as the NES version, it was still well liked and pushed the little machine to its limits. In 2018, a sequel/re-make was pitched to Capcom and Disney from the studio Head Cannon, known for their work on Sonic Mania. This would have been a “16-bit style” game that would either serve as a story bridge between the show and a comic-book series that was out at the time, or a full-fledged remake, similar to Way Forward’s Duck Tales Remastered. The sequel was rejected by both Capcom and Disney, so Head Cannon released the prototype they built, for free, on their website. The NES Darkwing Duck is, I’m happy to say, currently available on modern consoles as part of the Disney Afternoon Collection, which bundles six of Capcom’s NES Disney games in one package. Darkwing Duck isn’t my favorite of the bunch, but it’s a solid platformer, though much too hard for me (I used the rewind feature A LOT). Go ahead, play this game, get dangerous.