We, once again, just have a ton of new games coming out this week. The trend continues as well, with the majority of them being smaller, indie affairs or niche titles. This isn’t bad, it’s just not, like, exciting, you know? Still, video games are the perfect hassle, with their perfumed kisses. We love them, and we cannot, cannot resist.
Shovel Knight Dig (Apple Arcade/PC/Switch) – Releases Sep. 23rd
Developed by: Nitrome/Yacht Club Games
Published by: Yacht Club Games
The knight show shovels is back, baby, with a brand new game in the popular series. Where the initial games were a throwback to the 8-bit era, Shovel Knight Dig takes a “generational” leap, moving into the 16-bit era. The gameplay has also been tweaked a bit in this new game, with the side scrolling stages of the previous games being replaced with vertical scrolling. Hence the name “Dig”, players will guide Shovel Knight down a massive chasm, digging through the dirt and rocks, as he chases the Drill Knight and his minions in an attempt to recover the treasure they’ve stolen from him. There’s a lot of anticipation around this game’s release, hopefully it lives up to the hype.
Jack Move (PC – released Sep. 8th/PS4/Switch/Xbox One) – Releases Sep. 20th
Developed by: So Romantic
Published by: HypeTrain Digital
After getting a release on PC back on Sep. 8th, the cyberpunk RPG Jack Move is getting a wide console release. Since this is a cyberpunk setting, players are, of course, a hacker, and it’s their hacking skills that get them in trouble with the wrong people. Full of mystery, intrigue, espionage, and turn based battles, Jack Move might be a hidden gem.
Soulstice (PC/PS5/Series X|S) – Releases Sep. 20th
Developed by: Reply Game Studios
Published by: Modius Games
The action/adventure game Soulstice is the game for people who are too impatient to wait for Bayonetta. In this game, players take on the role of two protagonists, Briar, a battle-hardened warrior, and her sister Lute, who is a ghost. Together, these two must do battle with a horde of demons that have invaded their world. Full of fast paced, over the top action, and massive combos, Soulstice appears to have promise. If the gameplay is solid then I can imagine this becoming a franchise down the road.
Gundam Evolution (PC) – Releases Sep. 21st (Consoles on Dec. 1st)
Developed by: Bandai Namco Online
Published by: Bandai Namco
Well, here we go, another free-to-play arena shooter, but this time with Gundams. Yes, folks, if you’ve gotten tired of Overwatch and impatient for Overwatch 2 then you can use Gundam Evolution to pass the time.
The DioField Chronicle (PC/PS4/PS5/Switch/Xbox One/Series X|S) – Releases Sep. 22nd
Developed by: Lancarse/Square Enix
Published by: Square Enix
Square Enix has finally made their own take on the Fire Emblem series. It only took them, what, 30 years (this is where somebody tells me that they already did this in the 90’s). From Lancarse, known for the Etrian Odyssey series, as well as this year’s MONARK, The DioField Chronicle is a tactical RPG that, as mentioned, borrows heavily from the Fire Emblem playbook or, similarly, XCOM. Square Enix has been pretty loud this past year in terms of output, and it doesn’t look to be slowing down much in the coming months. Are we entering a new golden age of JRPGs?
Serial Cleaners (PC/PS4/PS5/Switch/Xbox One/Series X|S) – Releases Sep. 22nd
Developed by: Draw Distance
Published by: 505 Games
You may or may not have heard of the 2017 game Serial Cleaner, the top down stealth game where you play a crime scene cleaner for the mob in the 1970’s. It was well received by players and critics, becoming something of a cult classic. Color me surprised when I saw that a sequel was being released, not because I didn’t think it deserved it, I just wasn’t expecting it from such a small game. Players still control a crime scene cleaner for the mob, but this time there is a whole team of cleaners and, since the game is set in the 1990’s, you can have cool shit like computer hacking. Don’t sleep on this.
Session: Skate Sim (PC/PS4/PS5/Xbox One/Series X|S) – Releases Sep. 22nd
Developed by: Crea-ture Studios
Published by: Nacon
First announced in 2015, then put into early access in 2019, Session: Skate Sim is finally ready to come out of the oven. Fuck that Tony Hawk bullshit, this is REAL skateboarding with REAL music, none of that Goldfinger shit. I’m talking tracks by Captain Bukioe, Budda Kronic, The Indie Dudes Club, and Whisker Biscuit (only one of these names is fake).
Taiko no Tatsujin: Rhythm Festival (Switch) – Releases Sep. 23rd
Developed by: Bandai Namco
Published by: Bandai Namco
Sorry, no tracks from The Indie Dudes Club here, just a bunch of anime and video game music.
Ports and Re-releases:
Deathloop (Xbox One/Series X|S) – Releases Sep. 20th
Now you can almost bang your daughter on the Xbox! Sorry, spoiler alert.
World of Warcraft: Wrath of the Lich King Classic (PC) – Releases Sep. 26th
I thought about playing this and then I remembered I like having sex; pass.
Here’s the rest of this week’s games and, hoo boy, they sure do look like games!
- The Outbound Ghost (PC) – Releases Sep. 20th
- Beacon Pines (PC/Switch/Xbox One) – Releases Sep. 22nd
- No Place for Bravery (PC/Switch) – Releases Sep. 22nd
- Piofiore: Episodio 1926 (Switch) – Releases Sep. 22nd
- Potion Permit (PC/PS4/PS5/Switch/Xbox One/Series X|S) – Releases Sep. 22nd
- DreamWorks Dragons: Legends of The Nine Realms (PC/PS4/PS5/Switch/Xbox One/Series X|S) – Releases Sep. 23rd
- Monorail Stories (PC) – Releases Sep. 26th
- The Spirit and the Mouse (PC/Switch) – Releases Sep. 26th
Notable Releases from 10, 20, and 30 years ago:
Torchlight II (PC) – Released Sep. 29th, 2012: Wiki Link
Notable Film Release: End of Watch – Starring Jake Gyllenhaal, Michael Peña, Anna Kendrick, America Ferrera, and Frank Grillo
*Click here to watch the trailer*
Notable Album Release: Green Day – UNO!
*Click here to listen to the album*
2009’s Torchlight heralded the return of the dungeon crawler by being note just a stellar Diablo clone, but made by a lot of the same team that worked on that seminal game. I don’t know if it was a surprise hit, it was hyped up before release, but it perhaps did better than expected. Even modest success will eventually lead to sequels and in 2012, Torchlight II was released to the world. Like Diablo II, Torchlight II took everything players loved about the first game and expanded the scope. The first Torchlight, like Diablo, featured a single town with multiple dungeon levels to explore. Torchlight II, like Diablo II, features a large, interconnected world with many towns and locations, with players entering dungeons that they find along their journey. When people say Torchlight is a Diablo clone, they really mean it.
For those unfamiliar with a dungeon crawler, the main gameplay element of the game has players searching deep dungeons for treasure and loot. Along the way they will be attacked by various monsters and enemies, having to constantly tap a button in order to attack them. These types of games pride themselves on the varied amount of gear you can get. There are tons and tons of weapons and armor sets to find, each with their own little stat boosts. Sometimes a player must play as whatever character the developer wants you to play as while others, like Torchlight II, allow you to choose your character/class. Four classes are available to choose from when starting a new game of Torchlight II, one more than was available in the first game, with all four being completely new. There’s the Engineer, a heavy melee fighter, the Outlander, a nomad who uses ranged weapons and minor magic, the Berserker, a druid type that uses very quick attacks and special animal-based moves, and the Embermage, a highly trained magic user that can cast the most powerful spells in the game.
Torchlight II also featured, once again like Diablo II, a multiplayer feature. The initial idea behind the first two Torchlight games was to make them MMO’s. The developer, Runic Games, decided it would take too long to implement so they went with a single player game first. Then, seeing that it would still take too long to make, the team created Torchlight II with the idea in mind that by allowing multiplayer, they could kind of test the waters, so to speak, in terms of how an MMO in their universe could work. On September 29th, Torchlight II released on PC to an anxiously awaiting public.
Like its predecessor, Torchlight II received very positive reviews at launch, with critics once again praising the series for staying so close to the roots of the older Diablo games. If you remember, Diablo III had come out just a few months prior to Torchlight II and was PLAGUED with issues due to its online requirements, even for solo play. This led to some critics telling players to ditch Diablo and jump into Torchlight since it would, you know, work (Diablo III is doing just fine today though, don’t worry). Though the game was praised, it wasn’t necessarily because of anything innovative or new, Torchlight II is, really, just a run of the mill dungeon crawler. The key thing, though, is that it was just so well designed and fulfilled all that it promised, so it’s not the best game ever made, but it’s pretty damn good. A third entry in the series would come out in 2020 to tepid reviews and made by an entirely new team. It too was supposed to be an MMO but, you know, there just wasn’t enough time.
Sly Cooper and the Thievius Raccoonus (PS2) – Released Sep. 23rd, 2002: Wiki Link
Notable Film Release: Spirited Away – Starring Daveigh Chase, Jason Marsden, Suzanne Pleshette, Michael Chiklis, Lauren Holly, Susan Egan, David Ogden Stiers, and John Ratzenberger
*Click here to watch the trailer*
Notable Album Release: Beck – Sea Change
*Click here to listen to the album*
Before Infamous and Ghost of Tsushima, developer Sucker Punch was a plucky band of young developers who loved platforming games. Their first title, Rocket: Robot on Wheels, was an N64 exclusive, published by Ubisoft. The game failed to make much of a financial splash, however, critics adored the title, which gave Sucker Punch some clout in the industry. Taking what they learned making Rocket and cashing in on their good name, Sucker Punch decided to get a publishing deal first and THEN make their game (unlike their approach to Rocket). Still wanting to make a platforming game, Sucker Punch studied the market and found that most of the best selling platforming games were published by a major studio; Nintendo, Sega, and Sony. Having already kind of spoiled things with Nintendo on Rocket, and Sega bowing out of the console industry, their big shot would be with Sony.
When the Sucker Punch team met with Sony it was like peanut butter meeting jelly, they seemed to get along great. Sony was very excited about publishing whatever platforming game Sucker Punch was ready to cook up, as they were fans of their previous title, Rocket. With funding in hand, Sucker Punch took three years to create and produce their first game for Sony, Sly Cooper and the Thievius Raccoonus. In this game, players took on the role of a master thief named Sly, an anthropomorphic raccoon, who only steals from other thieves. He is aided in his heists by a hippo named Murray and a turtle named Bently. The plot of the game involves Sly retrieving pages from his family’s sacred tome, The Thievius Raccoonus, a sort of “how to” guide on thievery. The idea for the concept came to Sucker Punch because they thought kids might try to emulate a thief, so being a thief who steals from thieves was the solution.
Sucker Punch and Sony didn’t have super high hopes for Sly, in fact, the team at Sucker Punch was worried that people might find the characters and concept too weird. When it finally released, the sales figures arrived and…it was as they feared, sales were abysmally low. Naughty Dog’s Jak & Daxter was still tearing up the charts after its December, 2001 launch, and the promise of a new game from the creators of Spyro in November, called Ratchet & Clank, sucked all of the air out of the room and left none for Sly. Now, you might think that this is where I tell you that the story is over and we all wish there were more Sly Cooper games, well, things changed.
Like Rocket: Robot on Wheels, Sly Cooper was a big hit with critics. At the end of the year awards, GameSpot nominated it for “Best PS2 Game No One Is Playing”, while at the GDC Awards it won “Best New Character” and was nominated for “Best Visuals”. As the accolades and “best of” lists started appearing, as well as strong word of mouth, sales for Sly Cooper started to pick up in 2003 and, after a year on the market, the game had sold 400k units. This was enough to put the game in Sony’s “Greatest Hits” line, so a re-release of the game was done, with a lower price to match, and that’s when Sly Cooper really took off, selling over one million copies by the end of 2006. The unexpected success allowed Sucker Punch to stay afloat, releasing two more Sly Cooper titles before moving into more mature territory with inFamous on the PS3 and Ghost of Tsushima on the PS4. A fourth game in the series, Thieves in Time was released in 2013 on the PS3 and Vita, but failed to ignite much excitement, causing Sony to put the series on ice.
Despite owning Sucker Punch, Sony has yet to remaster or re-release the PS2 Sly Cooper games, making either owning an original disc, or subscribing to PS+ Premium, your only means of playing the game. On a personal level, Sly Cooper and the Thievius Raccoonus was part of a suite of games in the early 2000’s that caused me to think more critically about games as an artform. The stunning visuals in Sly, as well as the solid, incredibly tight gameplay were, to me, one hell of an artistic achievement. Sometimes I wonder if I think this about those games because it was the time I started college, but I also think there was just something really exciting and new about the industry in the early 2000’s. A wind change was happening, and it was very exciting to be there when it did.
Axelay (SNES) – Released Sep. 1992: Wiki Link
Notable Film Release: Singles – Starring Bridget Fonda, Campbell Scott, Kyra Sedgwick, and Matt Dillon
*Click here to watch the trailer*
Notable Album Release: Nine Inch Nails – Broken
*Click here to listen to album*
I can hear what you’re thinking, “Andy, WTF is this shit? Why are you highlighting this game nobody has ever heard of? You are literally scraping the bottom the barrel“. First of all, that’s not how you use “literally”, come on, second, I’ll tell you why I chose Axelay, okay, man. Yes, I admit, this is a kind of “bottom of the barrel” choice but, here me out, no, no, hear me out, there’s a reason why, okay. While Axelay was headed up by multiple Konami veterans, most of the support team were from a tight knit group of developers who had some big ambitions. Having already cut their teeth on titles like Bucky O’Hare, The Simpsons Arcade Game, Super Castlevania IV, and Contra III, this team was chosen to support what Konami hoped would be its next big shooter series, Axelay.
With two already established franchises with Gradius and Life Force, Axelay was seen as the next evolution in Konami’s shoot-em-up genre, incorporating experimental ideas that looked to push boundaries. Players could change out their weapon type while playing, cycling through each at will and, instead of gaining power-ups in the stage, after completing a level players would choose an upgrade for one of these weapons. Breaking from tradition, the “one hit” kill was eliminated (sort of), with the first bullet disabling whichever weapon you had selected, and the second shot destroying your ship. You would still, however, blow up in one hit if you collided with an enemy ship or flew into an obstacle. Upon death, instead of respawning at a checkpoint, players would respawn immediately in the same place they died. Aside from the changes in gameplay, the team would play around with the Super Nintendo’s graphics, pushing them to their limits, experimenting with pseudo 3D effects and parallax scrolling.
Initially, Axelay was intended to be a Japan only release but, due to a letter writing campaign, fans in North America were able to get Konami to greenlight a localization for release in the West. Critics loved the game, calling it a visually stunning game that was difficult but fair. Players were also happy with the game, though the niche crowd it attracted just wasn’t enough to warrant a sequel, so the ambitious young team behind it was told to get back to work on whatever the latest sequel to Castlevania or Ninja Turtles was about to come out. Feeling disenfranchised, this team met in coffee shops after work and drew up plans for a run & gun game that would be a new IP. They wanted to experiment with perspective, play around with sprites and really see what kind of crazy programming mischief they could get into. When the developers pitched the idea to Konami they were soundly rejected. Dismayed but determined, these developers left Konami and created their own company, calling it Treasure. That game Konami passed on was a title called Gunstar Heroes. We’ll talk more about that next year, literally, the week of September 19th, 2023.
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