What’s going on, everybody! I just spent four days at the world famous San Diego Comic-Con International, so suffice to say, I’m pretty tired. I’m going to plow through these as quickly as possible, then take an Advil, lie down, close my eyes, and sleep. Don’t wait up for me.
Xenoblade Chronicles 3 (Switch) – Releases Jul. 29th
Developed by: Monolith Soft
Published by: Nintendo
Set in the distant future of the worlds from the first two Xenoblade games, this third entry is its biggest to date. Similar to the first two games, Xenoblade Chronicles 3 is set in a massive open world that is, quite frankly, incredibly intimidating to explore. However, while parts 1 and 2 would only limit you to three party members, XC 3’s massive world can be explored with a party of seven! That’s the six main characters and a seventh side character that changes every so often. If you were a fan of the first two games then I’m sure you’ll enjoy this one, but I’m not seeing anything here that will convince people who don’t like those games to suddenly pick this one up. I’m just going to keep playing Live A Live for now.
Azure Striker Gunvolt 3 (Switch) – Releases Jul. 28th (PC and other consoles later this year)
Developed by: Inti Creates
Published by: Inti Creates
Mega Man illustrator/producer Keiji Inafune is back with the latest entry in his Azure Striker Gunvolt series, with part 3. Players can choose to play the game as either the original protagonist, Gunvolt, or newcomer Kirin, a swordfighter, switching between the two on the fly. Nintendo’s website proudly boasts that Azure Striker Gunvolt 3 was built specifically for the Switch, though what the means is anybody’s guess (it’s probably also why it is Switch exclusive for a few months). This series is a bit of a hidden gem, if you’ve never tried it out, well, maybe now’s the time.
Bear & Breakfast (PC/
Switch) – Releases Jul. 28th (Switch version delayed, coming later this year)
Developed by: Gummy Cat
Published by: Armor Games Studio
Have you ever wanted to run your own bed & breakfast? Well now you can, as long as you don’t mind being a bear. In Bear & Breakfast, players will explore the vast wilderness, collecting supplies and building a quaint, charming B&B for guests who don’t mind giving money to wild animals. The game allows for deep customization, so you can really get down to the nitty gritty details and make the B&B of your dreams.
Captain Velvet Meteor: The Jump+ Dimensions (Switch) – Releases Jul. 28th
Developed by: Momo-pi Game Studio
Published by: Hitotsubashi Group
Manga fans are in for a treat this week, as characters from the popular Shonen Jump+ app are making their way to the realm of video games. Players take on the role of a shy young boy, Damien, who has just moved to Japan. With no friends to talk to, Damien begins to fantasize about going on adventures with his favorite Jump+ characters. As he takes part in fierce battles, Damien begins to learn how to cope with his loneliness and isolation in a strange, new place.
Lord Winklebottom Investigates (PC/Switch/Xbox One/Series X|S) – Releases Jul. 28th
Developed by: Cave Monsters
Published by: Cave Monsters/Wings
Well I say good fellow, Lord Winklebottom Investigates looks to be a quite right bit of fun and frivolity! Players will assume the role of Lord Winkelbottom, the “great giraffe detective”, as they attempt to expose the culprit of a serious crime. What say you, old chum, do you have what it takes to solve this query? Let us to the carriage, post haste!
Digimon Survive (PC/PS4/Switch/Xbox One/Series X|S) – Releases Jul. 29th
Developed by: Hyde
Published by: Bandai Namco
The world didn’t ask for a Digimon visual novel/strategy RPG, but it got one anyway.
Notable Releases from 10, 20, and 30 years ago:
Kingdom Hearts 3D: Dream Drop Distance (3DS) – Released Jul. 31st, 2012: Wiki Link
Few video game franchises are as convoluted and confusing as Kingdom Hearts. However, don’t take that to mean that the games are bad, they’re usually pretty good if you’re into action/RPG games. Still, the amount of characters clones, alternate realities, shifting alliances, and overall absurdity can make the game jarring for those who are not fully committed to the game’s story. 2012’s Kingdom Hearts 3D: Dream Drop Distance doesn’t really help things, as it’s one of the most confusing in the series. The game is a connecting thread between 2011’s Re:coded and 2019’s Kingdom Hearts III, with Dream Drop Distance’s ending being a direct segway to the beginning of KH III. Well, ACTUALLY, the game’s ending sets up Kingdom Hearts 0.2: Birth by Sleep – A Fragmentary Passage, which THEN leads directly to KH III (at least until they make another version of the game that happens in the mind of a side character, which lasts only seconds, but to the protagonist lasts several days).
Pushing the story to the side, this is still a fun game to play. Looking fantastic on the Nintendo 3DS, Dream Drop Distance was made to fully showcase the power of the handheld, with development beginning almost immediately after Square Enix got a prototype unit, as they were highly impressed with the capabilities of the 3DS. The team tasked with making the game were made up of several people who had just wrapped production on the DS game The World Ends With You, so it was decided to bring those characters into the Kingdom Hearts world, rather than use characters from the Final Fantasy franchise. Gameplay wise, Dream Drop Distance doesn’t stray too far from its predecessors, reusing the Command Deck system from Birth by Sleep. However, unlike Birth by Sleep’s three characters, players were only able to switch between two characters, Sora and Riku, and are joined by animal companions, similar to Pokémon.
Players initially only control Sora, with Riku joining the game later on. However, these two characters never interact, players must switch between them using the Drop System. Doing so will also change various things in the world you are currently playing, and each character has their own plot points and events. In order to move to the next world, players must complete it with both characters. As you may have guessed, Dream Drop Distance does feature several Disney properties, with worlds inspired by Pinocchio, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Tron: Legacy, Fantasia and Mickey, Donald, Goofy: The Three Musketeers.
Before its release, Dream Drop Distance received very positive buzz, including being called the best RPG and best 3DS game at the 2011 Tokyo Game Show, as well as multiple outlets, including Famitsu, IGN, and Official Nintendo Magazine calling it one of their most anticipated games of 2012. Upon release, Dream Drop Distance raked in the dough, selling over half a million copies, worldwide, by the end of August, 2012. Famitsu scored the game very well, giving it 38/40, however, Western journalists scored the game a bit lower, saying that while the gameplay was solid and engaging, the story made very little sense. Based on the reviews, it seemed like most of the Western journalists had not played, or paid much attention to, the previous games in the series. One reviewer in particular over at GameTrailers noted that a deep understanding of the previous games’ plots was essential to understand what was happening in Dream Drop Distance.
If you can believe it, Dream Drop Distance was the seventh Kingdom Hearts game, nearly ten years after it first debuted on the PS2. By this point, it had gone so far up its own ass that it could taste its own lunch, so the criticism against its story, I completely got. However, if you weren’t die hard enough to stick with the series through all of its incarnations, what would you expect? Perhaps the unconventional naming of each game is to blame, is it almost makes it seem like each game is its self contained story, but they aren’t. Each one plays a pivotal role in the overall plot, if you miss one, then you missed a piece of the puzzle. These games could have easily been numbered sequentially to help ease the burden of the player, but at the same time, why should they have to do that? At the moment, Dream Drop Distance is pretty easy to find online at a sane price (around $50 bucks), or you can pick up Kingdom Hearts HD 2.8 Final Chapter Prologue on any modern console, as it contains an HD remaster of the game. I’m tempted to go back and start this series over from the beginning, try to see if I can make sense of its plot. Then again, I have a life.
In case you need a refresher on the plot of the Kingdom Hearts series, Mega 64 & Bryce the Nobody have you covered:
Disney’s Magical Mirror Starring Mickey Mouse (GameCube) – Released Aug. 13th, 2002: Wiki Link
Emotions were high when word of a new Mickey Mouse game was coming to the GameCube. Not only would the game be developed by Capcom, who had some of the best Disney games under their banner, the game would be published by Nintendo, with famed developer Shigeru Miyamoto as producer. Initial images were shown off at Nintendo Space World in 2001, with many in attendance, and in the gaming press, assuming that it would be a platforming game, similar to the 16-bit Disney’s Magical Quest series. However, what players got instead was much different than they expected.
Disney’s Magical Mirror Starring Mickey Mouse (that’s a mouthful), bucked the trend of platforming and instead functioned more like a point & click adventure game. In Magical Mirror, as Mickey goes to sleep for the night, he has a strange dream in which he stumbles across a large mirror. Mickey is tricked into entering the mirror by a mischievous ghost who traps him in a surreal version of his house, then shatters the mirror into twelve pieces, scattering them around the house. In order to get home, Mickey must find these twelve pieces and repair the mirror. To do this, he must solve puzzles and use unconventional methods to avoid monsters and traps. This is complicated further, as players are unable to directly control Mickey, instead using a cursor to guide him around the house.
Critics, and players, were confused and probably a little disheartened to find out that Magical Mirror was not the Mickey Mouse 3D platforming game of their dreams. It wasn’t necessarily a bad game, it was mildly challenging and had a great presentation, but it just wasn’t what they were looking for or expecting. I remember being really excited about this game when it was announced, then feeling duped when I realized what it was. Magical Mirror is basically a kids game, there’s not a whole lot to sink your teeth into, but under the creative eye of Miyamoto, Magical Mirror is fun to play and is another testament to the experimental nature of his titles in the late 90’s/early 00’s. Sadly, Magical Mirror is unavailable on modern consoles, making emulation or a physical disc your only two options to play it, with used copies generally falling in the $15-$25 range (or $500+ for sealed copies). Give it a try, or watch a playthrough, you’ll be surprised by its charm.
World Heroes (Arcade) – Released Jul. 28th, 1992: Wiki Link
Believe it or not, World Heroes was so popular in North America that it actually outperformed Street Fighter II when it was released. This new fighting game developed by Alpha Denshi (later ADK), was, like most of the fighting games of this era, basically a Street Fighter II clone. However, World Heroes set itself apart from the competition by throwing in a unique twist; each of the characters were based on famous historical figures throughout the centuries.
There is Hattori Hanzo from the mid 16th century, based on the legendary ninja of the same name, he is the game’s main protagonist; Hanzo finds this new, modern world to be confusing. Kotaro Fuuma is also based on a mid 16th century ninja and is the rival to Hattori Hanzo. Dragon is a 20th century Korean martial artist and movie star who wants to be just like Bruce Lee. Jeanne D’Arc is a 15th century French woman who is adept with a sword, she is in the fighting tournament to find a husband (okay…). Julius Carn is a 13th century Mongolian warlord who wants to conquer the modern world. Muscle Power is a 20th century pro-wrestler who bears a striking resemblance to Hulk Hogan. You can’t have a time travel game without Nazis, apparently, with the evil Nazi cyborg Brocken thrown in the mix. Then we have Rasputin, who is based on the real life 19th century Russian mystic/holy man, having the powers of a sorcerer in World Heroes. Finally we have Geegus, who is an experimental, humanoid android from the future, created by a mad scientist to take over the world.
World Heroes was a big financial success for ADK and SNK, sometimes credited as the game that finally put the Neo Geo console on the radar of the general public. From July of 1992 to April of 1993, World Heroes was one of the most popular and highest grossing video games in arcades (only dropping down when World Heroes 2 released in April, 1993). Critics and players praised World Heroes after its release, claiming that the game was MORE than just a SFII clone (it wasn’t), saying that the addition of weapons and “death matches”, which had environmental hazards, made it stand out. Ports would eventually come to the SNES and Genesis, though they were widely panned by critics for being inferior versions that were often sluggish and hard to control. Three more World Heroes titles would be released over the next three years, each one doing better than the previous. If you want to play the game today, you can, very easily, on just about any modern console as a digital download.