New Game Releases 09/13/22 – 09/19/22

I don’t really have anything to say here. There’s new games coming out, a lot of them, and I sometimes wonder, well, why? Does the world need this many new games every week? Who is going to play all of these? Maybe me? I’ll make the effort, love can last forever.

 

Top Releases:

Return to Monkey Island (PC/Switch) – Releases Sep. 19th

Developed by: Terrible Toybox
Published by: Devolver Digital/Lucasfilm Games

When Return to Monkey Island was announced back in April I figured we wouldn’t see it come out until sometime in 2024, 2023 if we’re lucky, because that’s just how video game announcements seem to work. I was shocked, SHOCKED, when I saw that its release date was in September of the same year, like, woah, who does that? Despite the short five month “hype cycle”, people STILL found time to be outraged at the “hideous” graphics, so much so that the Monkey Island’s creator, Ron Gilbert, stopped talking about the game entirely on social media (well, sort of). The plot of this new point & click adventure picks up directly after the events of Monkey Island 2 but is not considered a direct sequel, and all of the games released after Monkey Island 2 are still considered canon. I have no idea what’s going on here, which is about right for a Monkey Island game.

Sunday Gold (PC) – Releases Sep. 13th

Developed by: BKOM Studios
Published by: Team17

Sunday Gold is a point & click adventure where you play as three criminals but, like, the good kind of criminal, because you’re stealing from a rich guy who runs an evil corporation. You see, corporate America is a cesspool of greed and hate and they, like, turn Americans into zombies, man, and, like, your tax dollars are just going to fuel their ambitions because the government is, like, so far in with the corporations that they do anything they say, your eyes need to be opened, man, and then the truth will set you free, I’m sick of these politicians playing with our lives like we’re chess pieces, man, did you know that one of every five Americans is suffering from mental illness, you know who’s at fault there, the corporations, man, it’s all so clear to me now, we need to end this struggle and find the common thread as we burn down the institutions that put us here in the first place, corporations are bad, the proletariat is good, man.

Voice of Cards: The Beasts of Burden (PC/PS4/Switch) – Releases Sep. 13th

Developed by: Square Enix
Published by: Square Enix

I was pleasantly surprised by the release of Voice of Cards back in 2021 and did not expect that we’d be on our third entry in the series in less than a year. Created by Yoko Taro and the team behind Drakengard and Nier, Voice of Cards is a role playing game where everything is done by placing cards on a table. Players are represented by a game token as they move around a map made up of cards. As you flip over the cards you may encounter a monster, find a treasure, or discover a new location. In this new entry, The Beasts of Burden, players will also have the ability to trap monsters in cards, allowing them to use those creatures in battle. As with the second game in the series, The Forsaken Maiden, this new entry does not require you to have played any of the pervious games. Their stories are not interconnected, these are not sequels, you can play any or all of them in any order that you like. How refreshing.

Blind Fate: Edo no Yami (PC/PS4/PS5/Switch/Xbox One/Series X|S) – Releases Sep. 15th

Developed by: Troglobytes Games
Published by: 101XP

The influence of Cyberpunk 2077’s assumed massive success is still being felt nearly two years later.

Despot’s Game: Dystopian Army Builder (PC/PS4/PS5/Switch/Xbox One/Series X|S) – Releases Sep. 15th

Developed by: Konfa Games
Published by: tinyBuild

After about a year on the market as an early access game on Steam, the rouge-like tactical army builder Despot’s Game is finally getting a full release. Grow your army as you move deeper and deeper into the dungeon, with each step getting you closer to the truth of just who you are.

Metal: Hellsinger (PC/PS4/PS5/Xbox One/Series X|S) – Releases Sep. 15th

Developed by: The Outsiders
Published by: Funcom

Growing up, I remember playing Doom and Duke Nukem 3D while blasting my favorite music, in fact, I have a very vivid memory of running through a Duke 3D stage while Less Than Jake’s song “Krazy Glue” plays in the background. Anyway, what this is probably a common thing with a lot of gamers out there, sometimes even trying to fight bad guys to the beat of the music. This idea is put front and center in the new FPS game Metal: Hellsinger where you can only hit enemies if you fire your gun to the beat of the song. While I was doing this to ska punk, Metal: Hellsinger’s music is, well, metal. Featuring several well known metal musicians, and with vocals by Serj Tankian, the music in Metal: Hellsinger should sufficiently melt your face off.

Wayward Strand (PC/PS4/Switch/Xbox One/Series X|S) – Releases Sep. 15th

Developed by: Ghost Pattern
Published by: Ghost Pattern

Our third point & click adventure this week, Wayward Strand finds players taking on the role of a young girl as she wanders around a hospital that is set on a floating airship. Learn about the lives of the patients, discover long buried secrets, and come of age in this, um, coming of age story.

Whateverland (PC) – Releases Sep. 15th

Developed by: Caligari Games
Published by: Caligari Games/WhisperGames

Our last game of the week is ALSO a point & click adventure (talk about over saturating the market). In Whateverland, players take on the role of Vincent, a skilled thief who just so happens to steal a necklace belonging to a powerful witch. Using her magic, the witch sends Vincent to Whateverland, a bizarre dimension full of quirky characters and talking animals. Vincent must solve puzzles and take part in various mini games in order to try and escape, and with multiple endings you will likely find yourself hanging out in Whateverland a lot longer than you might have expected, should you choose to dive in.

 

Ports:

Radiant Silvergun (Switch) – Releases Sep. 13th

radiant silvergun

The 1998 arcade shoot em’ up Radiant Silvergun is now available on a modern console; rejoice! Initially unreleased in North America, the game was a popular title in the Sega Saturn import scene. A proper NA release was done in 2011 on the Xbox 360 but, now, eleven years later we finally have this classic shooter on the Switch! I’m having chest palpitations right now that I assume are because of this release and not because I ate a hamburger at 10:00pm last night.

Various Daylife (Switch) – Releases Sep. 13th

various daylife

Released three years ago (!) on Apple Arcade, and then unceremoniously pulled from Apple Arcade back in July 2022, the RPG life sim game Various Daylife has found a new home on Nintendo Switch. Critics were mixed on this game, with some calling it a highlight of the Apple Arcade library, with others calling it the worst game in the library. In the (very) short time I played it, I found it to be tedious and boring. Glad it’s back!

 

Expansions:

Fallout 76: The Pitt (PC/PS4/Xbox One) – Releases Sep. 13th

I recently bought Fallout 76 for $4.99 at a used game store and, well, I’m going to eat some crow here. I’ve talked shit on this game since the day it launched and, dammit, I actually love it. They’ve done a lot with this game in the last 3 and a half years, I’m excited to see how The Pitt shakes things up. If you’ve never played this because you heard bad things, or you stopped because it used to be bad, I fully endorse trying it out or coming back. This is a full on, 100% Fallout game now, you have to check it out.

Nobody Saves the World: Frozen Hearth (PC/PS4/PS5/Switch/Xbox One/Series X|S) – Releases Sep. 13th

I hate this game, but maybe you like it, and maybe you want more of it. Well, here you go. In the Frozen Hearth expansion, players will compete in something called “The Tempering”, which is a series of challenges and puzzles that require players’ utmost creativity and reflexes to survive. To help them, two new transformations are available, Killer Bee and Mechanic. I wish nothing but pain and suffering on this game and everyone who made it, but maybe this is your favorite game of the year, so who am I to judge?

 

Everything else:

There are so, so, so many more games coming out. Here they are.

 

Notable Releases from 10, 20, and 30 years ago:

Borderlands 2 (PC/PS3/Xbox 360) – Released Sep. 18th, 2012: Wiki Link

Notable Film Release: The Master – Starring Joaquin Phoenix, Philip Seymour Hoffman, and Amy Adams
*Click here to watch the trailer*
Notable Album Release: Title Fight – Floral Green
*Click here to listen to the album*

Gearbox’s Borderlands was a well received looter shooter when it released in 2009, selling 4.5 million copies in two years. This unexpected success led to publisher 2K to give Gearbox a massive budget of nearly $35 million to create the sequel, Borderlands 2. Set five years after the events of Borderlands, players once again take on the role of a vault hunter as they scour Pandora for treasure and glory. Standing in their way, however, is the narcissistic president of the Hyperion corporation, Handsome Jack. Drawn into a fight between Hyperion and a resistance group called the Crimson Raiders, the player must stop Handsome Jack from opening a powerful new vault.

After the surprise success of Borderlands, Gearbox found itself making three new games; Aliens: Colonial Marines, Duke Nukem Forever, and Borderlands 2. The teams working on these titles were spread pretty thin, with each game taking priority over the other at one point or another. The first of these to release was Duke, a sloppy FPS game that was pieced together with decade old code, spearmint flavored gum, and fishing wire. To help lighten their load a bit, Gearbox would work with other studios to help finish up Aliens, going full steam ahead on the release of Borderlands 2. While the first game was met with mostly positive reviews, some critics and players were displeased with the generic story and characters. To help alleviate this, Gearbox hired internet personality and sketch comedy performer Anthony Burch to write the story for Borderlands 2. Depending on how you feel about the humor in the game, this was either a great choice or a very, very bad one.

Despite the “cringe”, players and critics were very happy with the writing in Borderlands 2, praising the humor and the eccentric cast of characters. Unlike the first game, which had players reading large blocks of text when taking on missions and learning the story, Borderlands 2 has almost all of the mission text spoken to the player by NPCs, with them chiming in periodically to give you updates when you reach certain checkpoints. Aside from new characters like Tiny Tina and Ellie, players would also meet up with the protagonists from the first Borderlands, all of whom are now NPCs. This was done to help flesh out those characters and give them more of a personality, as well as seeing how they interacted with one another. Of course, Clap Trap was back, making wise cracks and being a bit of a pain the ass. In creating the main villain, Handsome Jack, Burch stated that he thought of the character as someone who doesn’t think they’re a villain. If the story were being told from his perspective, he’d be the hero and the vault hunters would be the villains. Burch said he was inspired by Portal villain GLaDOS when he came up with the idea for Jack, as well as himself, saying that Jack was a mirror to his own personality.

As for gameplay, Gearbox was very open to fan feedback, going so far as to send out surveys to players to find out what they wanted. They would take some of these ideas and incorporate them into DLC for Borderlands, testing out what worked and didn’t work, and by the time Borderlands 2 was ready to ship, the team felt they had the best version of the game on shelves. As I mentioned earlier, Borderlands 2 has an entirely new set of protagonists, ones that Gearbox felt were more diverse. Several quality of life improvements were also made, particularly when it came to the game’s UI and menus, two of the major complaints about the first game. The game zones were also given a spruce up, with better environmental cues, more diverse landscapes, and a stronger sense of “livability”, i.e., making the areas feel lived in and alive.

Perhaps the most notable and memorable thing about the Borderlands is the amount of guns you can collect. With each weapon procedurally generated, the stat possibilities are endless. However, in the first game, players were critical of the lack of styles of guns, with most looking nearly identical. To help combat this, Gearbox created several different weapon manufacturers for Borderlands 2, each with their own unique style. Maliwan featured sci-fi guns, Dhal featured realistic looking guns, Bandit evoked a feeling of “Mad Max” with homemade looking guns, Torgue featured guns that were inspired by 1950’s engine blocks, and Tediore were meant to look like cheap, throw away guns that evoked the look & feel of disposable razors and burner phones.

From “Tiny Tina’s Assault on Dragon Keep”, one the many, MANY, pieces of DLC released for Borderlands 2.

Before its release, Borderlands 2 was the most pre-ordered game in publisher 2K’s history. When it released in North America on Sep. 18th, Borderlands 2 sold exceptionally well, being the second highest grossing game of the month (losing to Madden). Critics and players gave overwhelming praise to the game, calling it one of the best releases of the year. The game felt bigger and better in every way when compared to the first Borderlands, and the game’s story and humor were a big hit. There was some controversy surrounding the game’s release, of course, with players decrying sexism when one of the game’s designers said they included a “girlfriend skill tree” for players who weren’t very good at playing FPS games. Gearbox’s CEo, Randy Pitchford, had to come out and explain that this was just an internal name for the skill tree and that it would be called “Best Friends Forever” in the full game. The character of Tiny Tina also had some players and critics calling out Gearbox for racism, as the character, who is white, speaks in stereotypical “black” vernacular and slang. Anthony Burch, writer and brother of Tiny Tina’s voice actress, was dismayed by the accusation and said he would revisit her dialogue in subsequent DLC releases.

Borderlands 2 is a fantastic game, one of my all-time favorites. I spent hours and hours playing this on Steam with my buddies, and there’s so much content that I could play this non stop for the rest of my life, probably. However, for some reason, the game has recently trigged intense motion sickness in me and I will, probably, never play it again. However, if you don’t get motion sickness, and you’ve somehow never played this game, I can’t stress enough how much fun it is. Yeah, we all know that Gearbox is a problematic company and yes, the humor can be grating, but if you can get past your reservations then I think you’ll have a fantastic time with this game.

Kingdom Hearts (PS2) – Released Sep. 17th, 2002: Wiki Link

Notable Film Release: Barbershop – Starring Ice Cube, Anthony Anderson, Sean Patrick Thomas, Eve, Troy Garity, Michael Ealy, Leonard Earl Howze, Keith David, and Cedric the Entertainer
*Click here to watch the trailer*
Notable Album Release: The Vandals – Internet Dating Superstuds
*Click here to listen to the album*

It’s been twenty years since the release of Kingdom Hearts, so while the idea of Disney and Final Fantasy crossing over isn’t such a strange concept to us today, back in 2002 it was mind blowing. Imagine, Cloud from FF7 and Squall from FF8 are going to hang out with Donald Duck and Goofy, that thought would have been considered utter nonsense in 1999, but it was made reality when Kingdom Hearts came out in 2002.

The initial idea for what would become Kingdom Hearts came from two big names at Squaresoft, Shinji Hashimoto (FF producer) and Hironobu Sakaguchi (FF creator). The two men had been discussing the possibility of making a 3D platforming game, similar to Super Mario 64, but they became dismayed. According to the two men, the only characters that could rival Nintendo’s were those from Disney. Nearby, a young artist named Tetsuya Nomura overheard their conversation and stated his interest in directing whatever this new game turned out to be. With the Disney idea still in mind, Hashimoto happened to bump into someone who worked at Disney (they shared offices with Square) and was able to pitch their idea of making a platformer starring their characters. The higher ups and Disney were intrigued, including then president Bob Iger, who gave Square the green light to proceed.

One of the conditions of working with Disney characters was that Square had to work with Disney Interactive. During their initial meetings with Disney, Nomura heard several ideas on what this game would be and who it would star. According to Nomura in an “Iwata Asks” interview, Disney appeared to be be under the impression that Square was going to make whatever game they wanted them to, starring whichever character they decided. About halfway through Disney’s pitch meeting, Nomura stood up and stopped the presentation. He flat out rejected all of their ideas and said he had no interest in making a game about a specific Disney character. From there, Nomura told the shocked Disney employees about his idea of all new characters visiting various Disney inspired worlds, meeting various characters from throughout the company’s history. Disney, surprisingly, gave it a shot.

During the early stages of development, which started around February of 2000, Nomura passed along concept art for his new main character, a teenager named Sora. In these early images, Sora wielded a gigantic chainsaw which, not surprisingly, raised eyebrows at Disney. In the same “Iwata Asks” interview, Nomura mentioned several times that he doe not read or understand English, so any negative notes Disney had, or ideas that they wanted to convey to him, were generally ignored, though he assumed all the notes on the picture of Sora with a chainsaw probably said “We hate this“. As for the gameplay, Nomura assumed that, since this was a Disney game, he would be catering to a younger audience and opted to fill the game with action and keep the story light. It was Sakaguchi who pulled Nomura aside and told him that Final Fantasy fans who would be buying this game would have a hard time accepting such a barebones story; so, in the end end, do we have Sakaguchi to blame for how convoluted the Kingdom Hearts story turned out?

Kingdom Hearts is an action RPG, with players controlling Sora in fully 3D environments. Battles happen in real time with characters hitting enemies with Sora’s weapon, not a chainsaw, but a large sword called a keyblade. Sora can also use magic spells and special moves, which are selected from a command menu, similar to Final Fantasy. Initially starting out on a small island where Sora and his friends live (as well as a couple of FF characters), the game moves players to various locations based on Disney films. In-between these stages is a mini-game of sorts, where players control a spacecraft, called a Gummi Ship, as they fly through the cosmos, shooting enemy ships and dodging obstacles. The ship can be customized to allow for greater fire power, and increased speed, mobility, and shield strength.

While the overarching story of Kingdom Hearts has gotten a bit convoluted over the years, the main story in this first game is pretty straightforward. Sora and his friends Riku & Kairi live an idyllic, if boring, life on Destiny Islands. Wanting to explore, the three of them build a raft, intending to sail out into the ocean and find something new. However, their plans are upended when a group of monsters, later learned to be called the Heartless, attacks the island, opening up a portal to another world, causing Riku and Kairi to disappear. Sora is aided by an unseen force and granted the keyblade, a powerful weapon that can destroy the Heartless. He uses it to open a mysterious door and ends up in a new place called Traverse Town. While here, Sora meets Squall, Tifa, Cid, and Aerith from the Final Fantasy series, and runs into Huey, Dewey, & Louie, Merlin, and Fairy Godmother from Disney. After exploring the town and fighting a few Heartless, Sora bumps into his two companions for the game, Donald Duck & Goofy.

With the help of Donald & Goofy, Sora takes the Gummy Ship to multiple worlds based on popular Disney films, including Alice In Wonderland, Hercules, Tarzan, Aladdin, Pinocchio, The Little Mermaid, The Nightmare Before Christmas, Peter Pan, and Winnie the Pooh. Each world features characters and locations from those films, with some worlds having the protagonist join your team, Tarzan, Aladdin, Ariel, Jack Skellington, and Peter Pan. On top of the famous Disney worlds, there are two other locations that were created specifically for the game. The first is Hollow Bastion, a castle where Maleficent resides and holds several Disney princess hostage, including Snow White, Cinderella, and Belle. The second is called End of the World, and is the setting for the final battle of the game, as well as containing the only appearance of Disney’s most popular character, Mickey Mouse.

Kingdom Hearts was announced at the 2001 E3 Expo, giving critics and players their first glimpse of this bold, new collaboration. It was also announced that the North Americanmn game would contain an all star cast, with Haley Joel Osment as Sora, David Gallagher as Riku, and Hayden Panettiere as Kairi. On top of that, other stars to lend their voice talents would include Billy Zane, David Boreanaz, and Christy Carlson Romano. Several voice actors from the Disney films also lent their voices, including the principal voice actors for Donald & Goofy (Tony Anselmo & Bill Farmer), as well as Jim Cummings as Pooh & Tigger, James Woods as Hades, Robbie Benson as Beast, Tony Goldwyn as Tarzan, Jonathan Freeman as Jafar, Jodi Benson as Ariel, Pat Carroll as Ursula, Chris Sarandon as Jack, and Russi Taylor as Minnie Mouse. Quite an impressive feat.

Kingdom Hearts first released in Japan in March of 2002, and was localized and released in North America in September of 2002 to widespread critical acclaim. Praise was given to the game’s visuals, score, voice acting, gameplay, story, and seamless mixing of both Disney and Final Fantasy. Not everyone loved Kingdom Hearts, though. Some critics were highly critical of the gameplay, calling it tedious and dull at times, with the Gummi Ship segments feeling completely out of place. Maps could be confusing, as could your next objective, and the camera was often a hinderance. Another point of contention with some critics was the game’s confusing story, particularly at GameSpy where they noted that the plot of Kingdom Hearts was a confusing mish-mash of vague terms and symbolism that probably made more sense to Nomura that it did to anyone playing it.

At the end of the year awards season, Kingdom Hearts received multiple nominations and wins, including Best PS2 Game, Best Visuals, Best Art Style, Best Story, and Best Crossover. Several sequels have been released over the years, the first being Chain of Memories, a Game Boy Advance exclusive that takes place directly after the events of Kingdom Hearts, giving players more of Sora and Riku’s backstory, while also setting up events and characters that would be seen in Kingdom Hearts II. This sequel would begin a long running theme of the series, forcing players to get each and every game, including mobile ones, if they wanted to understand the full story. Kingdom Hearts has been re-released a few times as well, first as an HD remaster for the PS3, and then once again as part of a massive collection featuring every game in the series, coming out on PC, PS4, Xbox, and Switch. I recently sat down and played through this game in its entirety and it’s just marvelous. It’s no masterpiece, the gameplay is pretty bad at times, I couldn’t help but be excited about what was going on. Exploring Disney worlds and meeting iconic characters never got old. The final battle(s) are tough, for sure, but getting through it leaves you with such a profound sense of accomplishment. If you’ve somehow missed this game over the last 20 years, well, now is the time to pick it up. Simple and clean is the way that you’re making me feel tonight.

Here a link to the “Iwata Asks” interview if you’d like to read it, I found it really fascinating:
https://iwataasks.nintendo.com/interviews/3ds/creators/11/0/

Art of Fighting (Arcade) – Released Sep. 24th, 1992: Wiki Link

Notable Film Release: Sneakers – Starring Robert Redford, Dan Aykroyd, Ben Kingsley, Mary McDonnell, River Phoenix, Sidney Poitier, and David Strathairn
*Click here to watch the trailer*
Notable Album Release: Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch – You Gotta Believe
*Click here to listen to album*

SNK found great success with their first fighting game Fatal Fury: King of Fighters, but instead of immediately following it up with a sequel, SNK decided to make a prequel game, calling it Art of Fighting. Set in the year 1978, about 10-13 years before the events of Fatal Fury (records are hazy), Art of Fighting tells the story of best friends Ryo Sakazaki and Robert Garcia as they look for Ryo’s sister Yuri who has been kidnapped by Mr. Big, a local crime lord. In order to find Yuri, Ryo and Robert must defeat various street level thugs, learning more and more about the whereabouts of Mr. Big and his criminal enterprise.

Art of Fighting was created by the same team that worked on Fatal Fury, most of whom had been part of the team that created the first Street Fighter game at Capcom. Having a profound attachment to the character of Ryu, the team at SNK decided to create their own version of the character, calling him Ryo. The character was modeled after the actor Patrick Swayze (Ghost, Road House), which is kind of funny due to his name being, well, Ryo, but his official bio states that he is of both Japanese and American descent. For Robert, the team at SNK used actors Steven Segal and Andy Garcia as models. The illustrator for Art of Fighting, Shinkiro, was said to have had a hard time coming up with a design for Robert, stating that he didn’t know how rich people lived. In a bit of a dig at SNK, and the characters of Ryo and Robert, Capcom created perennial loser Dan Hibiki to parody the two men.

The gameplay in Art of Fighting is typical of just about any fighting game; you punch, kick, jump, and do special moves. In the single player game, players are only able to choose either Ryo or Robert, with the other characters only being available in the game’s Vs. mode. To play as the bosses, players will need to reach that stage and then a second player can join in and take over as the boss character. Like Street Fighter II, Art of Fighting also includes bonus stages in-between some fights. These included Bottle Cut, where players must cut off the tops of 5 bottles, Ice Pillar Smash, where players must break through 5 blocks of ice, and Initiate Super Death Blow, where players must successfully pull off the death blow move, allowing them to defeat their opponents in one hit if done successfully. While the single player game makes you unlock the death blow, the move is already unlocked in Vs. mode.

I can’t really find any reviews on Art of Fighting, the one I did read said that the game doesn’t quite measure up to Street Fighter II, but it’s a good effort. I mean, I guess Art of Fighting is okay, I certainly don’t think it’s anything special. I played it on the Switch this past weekend and was underwhelmed. The graphics are okay for the era, and it apparently has way more memory than SFII, but it just doesn’t play as well. Heck, it doesn’t even play as well as Fatal Fury. Critics be damned, though, because Art of Fighting was a hit with players, with the game being the top arcade conversion kit in North America for the month of December in 1992. Art of Fighting received two sequels, released in 1994 and 1996, and characters from the series, mostly Ryo and Robert, have appeared in multiple King of Fighters games over the years. I don’t really recommend Art of Fighting, it’s far too generic and is surpassed by many other fighting games. Just play Street Fighter II.

 


 

Andy Tuttle
Andy Tuttle

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