I guess the usual July 4th slowdown continues this week, as the new titles aren’t exactly barn burners. Although, why would you want to burn down a barn? What’s wrong with you, huh, psycho? I bet that shit gets you off, you make me sick *Ptoo*. Go back to your sad machines where you’ll forever stay, desperate and displeased with…whoever you are. Now, let’s talk about Klonoa!
Klonoa: Phantasy Reverie Series (PC/PS4/PS5/Switch/Xbox One/Series X|S) – Releases Jul. 8th
Developed by: Monkey Craft
Published by: Bandai Namco
Hey, remember the 90’s? Big pants, Nirvana, Nicktoons, Ska, it was a great decade with some really great games like Superman 64 and Shaq Fu. One series that you may, or may not, be aware of is Namco’s Klonoa. This 3D platformer was first released on the PlayStation in 1998 and was regarded as a “sleeper hit”, which is a nice way of saying it sold a good amount of units but nobody really remembers it. A sequel would come out in 2001 for the PS2 and then, well, the weird little guy just kind of disappeared, making his games very sought after by 3D platforming enthusiasts. With copies of the original games going for ridiculously high prices, it’s great to see Namco remastering each game and putting them on modern consoles, allowing all of us to (legally) play them. It should be noted, however, that the first Klonoa game is actually a remaster of the Wii remaster; a remaster of a remaster, so to speak.
Yurukill: The Calumniation Games (PC/PS4/PS5/Switch) – Releases Jul. 5th
Developed by: Izanagi Games
Published by: NIS America
2020’s 13 Sentinels combined the visual novel with the tower defense/RTS genre. Now, in Yurukill, we get the visual novel combined with the bullet hell shooter genre. What a world.
Matchpoint – Tennis Championships (PC/PS4/PS5/Xbox One/Series X|S) – Releases Jul. 7th
Developed by: Torus Games
Published by: Kalypso
Oh look, a tennis game. Neat.
Arcadegeddon (PC – Epic Games Store/PS4/PS5/Xbox One/Series X|S) – Releases Jul. 8th
Developed by: Illfonic
Published by: Illfonic
Released in early access roughly one year ago, the online multiplayer shooter Arcadegeddon is finally “done” and is making its way to other consoles aside from the PlayStation. I’ve been trying to come up with a quip to write here for the last ten minutes but I’m just so uninspired by this bland game that I can’t even find anything fun to shit on it about. I guess go play it, or don’t, nothing matters.
MADiSON (PC/PS4/PS5/Switch/Xbox One/Series X|S) – Releases Jul. 8th
Developed by: Bloodious Games
Published by: Bloodious Games
Hmmm, no thank you.
Neon Blight (PC) – Releases Jul. 11th
Developed by: Bleeding Tapes
Published by: Freedom Games
The developer describes Neon Blight as a shop simulator mixed with a bullet hell shooter or, in their words, a mix between Moonlighter and Enter the Gungeon. Those are all words I’m familiar with and get excited over, so I’m going out on a limb here and assuming that this is a game I will like. If these words also get you excited…titillated if you will…then I surmise you’ll also enjoy Neon Blight. Why is everyone leaving? Come back! I’ll stop saying “titillated”!
Notable Releases from 10, 20 and 30 years ago:
Rhythm Thief & the Emperor’s Treasure (3DS) – Released Jul. 10th, 2012: Wiki Link
Just like 13 Sentinels and Yurukill, 2012’s notable title, Rhythm Thief & the Emperor’s Treasure mixes a visual novel with another established game genre, the rhythm game. Developed by the kinda-sorta secret Japanese developer Xeen (apparently a lot of their work is uncredited), and published by Sega, Rhythm Thief is a visual novel/rhythm game. Players take on the role of 18-year-old Raphael, as well as his alter-ego, the cat burglar, Phantom R. The game opens with Phantom R stealing a priceless artifact from the Louvre, a bracelet that bears the same mark as a coin that was gifted to R by his father. After this, R meets a young woman named Marie who plays a violin that ALSO bears the symbol, and is chased by not just the police, but also a man claiming to be Napoleon Bonaparte, someone who has been dead for 200 years.
I was pleasantly surprised by Rhythm Thief when I played it on my 3DS this past week. As a rhythm game fan, I was surprised that I had never heard of this title and, if it wasn’t for Nintendo getting ready to close the 3DS eShop, I probably never would have found it. Perhaps it was overshadowed by the previous week’s rhythm game, Theatrhythm Final Fantasy, as it didn’t have the name recognition that Square Enix’s massive franchise did. However, I found Rhythm Thief to be far superior in presentation, gameplay and, I can’t believe I’m saying this, the music. While the music in Final Fantasy is brilliant and iconic, I’m not sure those songs lend themselves fully to a rhythm game. The original soundtrack in Rhythm Thief, on the other hand, is full of mother fucking bangers from composers Tomoya Ohtani (Chu Chu Rocket, Sonic: Colors), Naofumi Hataya (Space Channel 5, Sonic: Colors), and Takahito Eguchi (Final Fantasy X-2, Sonic: Colors). I loved it so much that I immediately went out and bought the digital soundtrack on Amazon (yes, it exists and you should all get it).
Critically, Rhythm Thief was seen as “favorable”, with Famitsu giving the game a score of 32 out of 40 (just coming short of Theatrhythm’s 36/40). Despite the good reviews, Rhythm Thief failed commercially, only selling about 35k copies in its first week, with lifetime sales only reaching about 280k units. A mobile version of the game, renamed Rhythm Thief & the Paris Caper, was released for iOS devices, though it was heavily criticized it for it’s pervasive use of microtransactions. If you’d like to play Rhythm Thief you’re in luck, the game is still available on the 3DS eShop which, at the time of this writing, will still be open until March 2023 (though adding funds is tricky). After that, a physical copy will be your only chance (or that terrible mobile port). Super addictive, with a great soundtrack and a unique story, Rhythm Thief & the Emperor’s Treasure is a must play.
Bruce Lee: Quest of the Dragon (Xbox) – Released Jul. 2nd, 2002: Wiki Link
We’re going from the dizzying highs of Phantom Thief right down into the lowest, dirtiest, toilet of lows with Bruce Lee: Quest of the Dragon. I don’t want to spend a lot of time on this piece of shit, so I’ll just kind of give you the run down. Highly anticipated before release, the arcade-style brawler Bruce Lee: Quest of the Dragon was universally despised by critics and players. Among the many knocks against it were poor graphics, poor controls, a bizarre combat system which locked you onto one enemy until they were defeated, frequent & overly long load times, terrible voice acting, terrible story, and a lack of any tutorials. Typically, most people don’t want a video game to hold their hand as they play, but Quest of the Dragon does absolutely nothing to help you understand the game’s controls and mechanics, like, AT ALL.
In order to play this turd of a game I had to find an Xbox emulator, spend my entire afternoon figuring out how to get it to work, find a suitable ROM online, then troubleshoot on how to get it to load. When I finally had it all working I eagerly started to play and within minutes my smile turned into a massive frown. Used copies go for something in the range of $5-$20 bucks, though one jerk off is trying to sell it for $250; give me a break. There is no way to play this aside from emulation or a copy of the original disc and, you know what, that’s okay, because nobody ever needs to play this. Let it rot in the bin of forgotten games, I’ve got more Rhythm Thief to play.
Taz-Mania (Genesis) – Released Jul. 1992: Wiki Link
Speaking of things only 90’s (and older) kids will understand is the limited hours in which there were cartoons on television. Before Cartoon Network, and the U.S. Government got involved, cartoons were only show at two major time periods; Saturday mornings and weekday afternoons. Disney had dominated the weekday afternoons with their programs like Gummi Bears, Duck Tales, Tale Spin, Chip & Dale Rescue Rangers and, if you remember from a couple weeks ago, Darkwing Duck. Not to let Disney get all the attention, Warner Bros. also got into the cartoon biz with their hit show Tiny Toon Adventures. With that program being such a success, other shows were also put into development, including one that featured one of their most iconic characters, not Bugs Bunny, The Tasmanian Devil.
Taz-Mania was, like Tiny Toons, an irreverent, kooky show that was seen as kind of a counter against the more wholesome and grounded Disney programs. Set in the fictional land of Tazmania, the show centered on the life of Taz and his family, having them get in outlandish situations. The show was a big hit on Fox where it aired in North America from Septemeber of 1991 until May of 1995. A hit show, of course, means you NEED a video game adaptation, so Sega licensed the show and its characters. For development, Sega went to the San Franciso company Recreational Brainware who they had a working relationship with. RB had developed tools to help developers better understand the sound capabilities of the Genesis and their program, GEMS, was such a hit that it was used in over 200 Genesis games. Along with GEMS, RB had also worked on the Genesis title Spider-Man vs. The Kingpin.
For Taz-Mania, the team opted to make a platformer, not that big a surprise considering it was the most popular genre at the time. In the game, players control Taz as he goes on a quest to find giant bird eggs that, legend has it, can feed an entire family of Tasmanian Devils for one year. What ensues is multiple levels of Taz tornado spinning his way through enemies while jumping on platforms and riding water spouts to reach higher areas. That’s pretty much it, there’s not a whole lot to this game, but the graphics, music, and sound effects make it a treat to play through. While the game can be tough, it’s certainly not the hardest platformer ever made. In fact, it feels like the early levels are the toughest, to me at least, and that is perhaps a design choice that made sure the game couldn’t be completed in a typical three day rental period (remember renting video games?).
The game was a critical and commercial success, even going so far as to top the UK sales charts for two months in a row. A direct sequel, Taz-Mania 2, was in development but was left unfinished for unknown reasons. A semi-sequel was instead released in 1994, called Taz in Escape From Mars, which didn’t seem to have much connection to the animated series. Now, some of you might be saying, “Hey, didn’t this also come out for the Super Nintendo? I swore I played this on the SNES“, and you’re right, it did also come out for the SNES. However, it was a completely different game from the Genesis version. It was still a platformer but, in my opinion, was vastly inferior. Since Taz-Mania is a licensed title you should be able to guess at its availability; it has none. Your only means of playing this game are through emulation or by finding the original cart and playing it on a Genesis (or modern clone system). I have incredibly fond memories of this game from my childhood, would I still enjoy it if I had just started playing it today? I don’t know, maybe?
In some exciting personal news, I got a chance to be part of Mega64’s latest video, The Majin Buu Saga In Five Minutes. I spent the afternoon with the guys from Mega64 and about 30 other people shooting scenes, touring their studio, and just having a great time. I hope you all enjoy it, they put a ton of effort into it, and hopefully you spot me (along with a bunch of fantastic cameos).