New Game Releases 01/24/23 – 01/30/23

Woah, two big releases in one week? Does this mean that gaming in 2023 has officially started? Sure, why not.

This week’s video is on the long side, nearly twenty minutes, BUT, I think most of it is interesting. I added chapter breaks so if you just want to see my skit about Dead or Alive Xtreme Beach Volleyball then you can just jump right to it. Thanks for reading & watching everybody!

 

Top Releases:

Dead Space (PC/PS5/Series X|S) – Releases Jan. 27th

Developed by: Motive Studio
Published by: EA

When I first heard about a remake of Dead Space I though, “What? That game just came out, why remake it“, and then I realized that the original came out 14 years ago and I felt very, very old. EA could have just had one of their developers make Dead Space 4, but then there would be calls for the first three to be re-released on modern consoles and that would just take too much effort and time, so they can just start over from the beginning, make a bunch of money off of the name recognition, and then decide if they want to keep going or not. Now, not every remake has been terrible as of late, the Resident Evil 2 remake was one of the best games of 2019 (it’s probably not a coincidence that Dead Space is releasing on almost the exact same date), so I don’t think we should all immediately push this aside. Fans of the original might be miffed that this doesn’t continue the story, though they should be happy to know that Isaac is being voiced by the same actor form the previous trilogy, and it will, for the most part, follow the same events and story beats of the original. I don’t know if Dead Space will be regarded as one of the best that 2023 has to offer, but I’m certainly open to giving it a chance.

Forspoken (PC/PS5) – Releases Jan. 24th

Developed by: Luminous Productions
Published by: Square Enix

Okay, so, this is a new game and…I can…um, play it? Woah, did they just…remove all the Whedonesque dialogue form the latest trailer?! Uh, yeah, that just happened…awkward.

Mahokenshi (PC) – Releases Jan. 24th

Developed by: Game Source Studio
Published by: Iceberg Interactive

I’m a sucker for video games that try to emulate board game mechanics, so Mahokenshi, with its deck building gameplay, hexagonal board, and unit management, has my full attention. Developer Game Source Studio (if Moby Games is to be believed) has worked on two high profile games in the past, Marvel Avengers and The Outer Worlds, though in what capacity I’m not sure. Does this mean good things for Mahokenshi? I guess we’ll find out!

Neptunia: Sisters VS Sisters (PC/PS4/PS5) – Releases Jan. 24th

Developed by: Compile Heart/Idea Factory
Published by: Idea Factory

Your favorite video game consoles turned sexy anime girls JRPG is back with its latest release, Neptunia: Sisters VS Sisters. The four Goddesses of Gamindustri are missing and it is up to their sisters, the Goddess candidates, to save them and stop the latest threat to their world. I think I own three or four of these games and have never played any of them. Did I pre-order this latest one? What do you think?

OddBallers (Amazon Luna/PC/PS4/Switch/Xbox One) – Releases Jan. 26th

Developed by: Game Swing
Published by: Ubisoft

In last week’s column I had a conversation in the comments about how many live service/online multiplayer games Ubisoft has put out that have flat out failed; it was a lot. OddBallers, while not developed by Ubisoft, is published by the company and, after looking at this trailer, I don’t think their track record is going to improve.

 

Ports and Re-releases:

Risen (PS4/Switch/Xbox One) – Releases Jan. 24th

I gotta say, I was not expecting to ever see the long forgotten Risen series get ported to modern consoles. Risen is one of those AA action/adventure franchises that just kind of existed in the late 2000’s/early 2010’s, keeping a small group of fans happy and entertained. Did we need to have it ported to current gen consoles? I mean, no, but also, why not? That’s the great thing about video games, and just about everything you come across in life; you don’t have to engage with it if you don’t want to. For those of you super excited to play Risen on the Switch, go for it, I’m happy for you. I’ll just move on with life and do something I enjoy.

 

Expansions:

MechWarrior 5: Mercenaries – Rise of Rasalhague (PC/PS4/PS5/Xbox One/Series X|S) – Releases Jan. 26th

I’m just going to post the description from Steam because I read it four times and couldn’t make any sense of it:

In a conflict that pre-dates the formation of the Star League, Join Colonel Månsdottir and the people of Rasalhague in a fight for freedom and independence from the Great Houses, in a new 12 mission quest line. Rise of Rasalhague adds the Crusader ‘Mech chassis with 11 variants, the new Rival Mercenaries feature allowing you to interact with numerous other mercenary companies and the infamous Bounty Hunter“.

Stranger of Paradise: Final Fantasy Origin – Different Future (PC – Epic Games Store Exclusive/PS4/PS5/Xbox One/Series X|S) – Releases Jan. 27th

I looked around and tried to find some kind of info on this next expansion and all I could gather was that a moogle shows up, brings Jack and his crew to a new dimension, and then they fight a bunch of things. Hey, if you wanted things to make sense and give you solid answers then you wouldn’t be playing Stranger of Paradise.

 

Notable Releases from 10, 20, and 30 (and sometimes 40) years ago:

The Cave (PC/PS3/Wii U/Xbox 360) – Released Jan. 22nd, 2013: Wiki Link

Notable Film Release: Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters – Starring Jeremy Renner, Gemma Arterton, Famke Janssen, and Peter Stormare
*Click here to watch the trailer*
Notable Album Release: Tegan and Sara – Heartthrob
*Click here to listen to the album*

Following the success of the Double Fine Adventure Kickstarter (which would eventually bring is Broken Age), the interest in adventure games hit levels of public perception that they hadn’t in almost 15 years. Double Fine in particular received a lot of positive attention from the gaming community and suddenly people wanted to know what they were working on next. It turns out that they had already been working on a different adventure game with one of the genre’s most beloved creators, Ron Gilbert. Gilbert had joined Double Fine in 2010 after discussing his ideas for this new game, based around the concept of exploring a cave, with the company’s founder (and former LucasArts colleague) Tim Schafer. Gilbert had been kicking around this “cave game” idea for nearly twenty years, way back in his LucasArts days, where he would draw up a map for massive system of caves. Gilbert wanted to make a game that explored the darkness in each of us. Most people have deep, dark secrets that they want to keep buried and a cave is, by its very nature, deep and dark, the metaphor intrigued Gilbert. With a small team at Double Fine, Gilbert got started on his new title, eventually calling it, of course, The Cave.

The basic premise of The Cave is that seven individuals must go into a mysterious cave to retrieve precious artifacts in order to gain a precious artifact of their own. The concept is simple enough but, as players progress through the cave, they begin to see that the actions of the protagonists are less than honorable, particularly as you discover more about their backstory through a series of cave paintings. Though there are seven protagonists in the game, players are only allowed to complete the game with up to three of them at a time, meaning that you must finish The Cave three times in order to get the complete story. This harkened back to one of Gilbert’s earliest games, Maniac Mansion, where players had to pick three characters from a larger group and solve puzzles using their unique talents. One thing that Gilbert noticed with Maniac Mansion was that players would tend to pick the same one or two characters each time and never really give the others a chance. To combat this style of play in The Cave, gilbert opted to make each character’s special ability actually be useful, with a strong emphasis on balancing each of them out. Not only that, but having each character receive their own backstory and unique levels, The Cave awarded replayability far more than Maniac Mansion did.

For game play in The Cave, Gilbert wanted to make something that felt modern but classic, and was appealing to both casual players and the long time adventure game fan. To help break up the monotony of walking from room/screen to room/screen, a platforming element was added to the game, allowing players to run, jump, climb, and swim through various areas. Puzzles were fairly simple in order to fit in with both modern tastes and the skill level of casual players. Gilbert had noted that the audience for games had changed over the years (one that Gilbert helped change with his time at Humongous Entertainment) and that the demand for puzzles that required players to “bash their heads in” had passed, with puzzles in The Cave being much more forgiving and accommodating to players. Having played it, I don’t think this brings the game down in any way, puzzles can still throw you for a loop from time to time, so you can’t really play this on autopilot, you just spend less time feeling like an idiot for not knowing the answer.

Another effort used to keep The Cave simple is that there is no inventory system. Players can carry one object around with them (with three players that means you can have up to three objects…duh) and it is constantly kept in view so that you remember that you’re carrying it. When designing the characters, Gilbert and his team first came up with the various locations that would be found in the cave, adding characters that would fit in with these various areas, then fine tuning each space and puzzle to fit in with those chosen characters. Overall, Gilbert came up with around 20-30 common character stereotypes, with a couple of the rejected ideas being a CIA Agent and an Opera Singer. From that 20-30, the final seven characters were the Knight, the Hillbilly, the Time Traveler, the Scientist, the Adventurer, the Twins (as a single character), and the Monk.

Finding a publisher for The Cave proved tricky for Gilbert and Double Fine as, of course, the adventure game genre was not a money maker. However, Double Fine had shown over the previous three years that they were well adept to developing smaller, more focused, downloadable titles that were quite successful, those being Costume Quest, Stacking, and Iron Brigade. Sega, who were looking to jump into the downloadable game market, decided to publish The Cave (Double Fine’s newfound notoriety was likely a bonus as well), with the game releasing on January 22nd, 2013.

Critics were mostly kind in their reviews, making sure to give praise to Gilbert as an industry legend and auteur, but they were a bit disappointed with just how simple and “casual” The Cave felt. This, of course, was a bit of a push back against the “casual games” movement spearheaded by the dual attack of the Wii and Facebook/mobile games. To be perceived as a “casual game” was a badge of dishonor. Critics were happy with the tone and humor of the game, calling it as hilarious as Maniac Mansion and Monkey Island, but they felt that The Cave lacked the same brain teasing that those titles did. As far as being a platforming game, critics said it failed in this area, as there aren’t really any puzzles associated with it, nor is it very difficult, mostly for the fact that when players die they are instantly respawned. Another knock against the game was the vast amount of backtracking that players need to do in order to solve puzzles or get to a new area, made even more tedious by the fact that you had to move three characters to the same spot fairly often.

There’s not a lot of sales data out there to The Cave. According to VGChartz it sold almost 300k copies on PC, with no data reported for any of the consoles it came out on (PS3, Wii U, & Xbox 360). Ron Gilbert would leave Double Fine just two months after the game’s release. This was not due to any kind of ill will towards Double Fine or Gilbert himself, the split was amicable, with Gilbert saying that he got to make the game he wanted. His time at Double Fine was always going to be temporary, with him and Schafer knowing that he’d leave after The Cave was completed, with the door being open for any future collaborations Gilbert may want to do. After the release of The Cave, Gilbert would go on to make the more traditional adventure game Thimbleweed Park in 2017, followed by 2022’s Return to Monkey Island.

From my personal point of view, I tend to agree with critics on two things, The Cave is hilarious and the platforming is unnecessary (particularly climbing). Now, there are some platforming puzzles, such as using the knight to fall down deep pits (his special ability is he can withstand damage), but overall, it’s unnecessary. I think the puzzles are just right, not too hard, not too easy, and I did have to check online a couple of times for solutions (I must be an idiot…). If you want to play The Cave today you either need to have a PC or an Xbox One/Series X|S. I mean, you can still get it digitally on the PS3 and 360, but I imagine many of you no longer have those hooked up, and while it is still available on the Wii U as of this writing, the eShop is set to shut down in March, meaning you only have a very limited amount of time left to pick it up. I really loved playing The Cave and it evoked a lot of memories I had of playing Maniac Mansion as a kid. If you are a fan of Gilbert’s work, or just an adventure game fan in general, I strongly urge you to check out The Cave, even if it is for normie casuals.

Dead or Alive Xtreme Beach Volleyball (Xbox) – Released Jan. 22nd, 2003: Wiki Link

Notable Film Release: Darkness Falls – Starring Chaney Kley, Emma Caulfield, Lee Cormie, and Grant Piro
*Click here to watch the trailer*
Notable Album Release: Zwan – Mary Star of the Sea
*Click here to listen to the album*

One of the more, um, noticeable things about the Dead or Alive fighting game series was how, er, well endowed their female fighters were. In one very famous commercial form 2001 for Dead or Alive 3 on the Xbox, the actor at one point sheepishly exclaims, “She kicks high“, implying that he’s only interested in the game because of the sexy ladies it featured. Tecmo, it seems, was aware. Apparently, the idea for Dead or Alive Xtreme Beach Volleyball came from fans who insisted that Tecmo should put a beach volleyball minigame into Dead or Alive to give players something else to do besides fight, something that rival Tekken was already doing. Tecmo heard the fans “loud & clear”, but instead of only making a mini game, the company decided to create a full, stand-alone title that centered around the women from Dead or Alive taking a vacation on a tropical island, playing volleyball, buying swimsuits, gambling, and making lasting friendships. You know, a wholesome game for the whole family.

In the game’s story mode, players select one of the female characters from the Dead or Alive series and control them for a two week period. As beach volleyball requires two members per team, the game will automatically assign players their partner. Each day, players are able to perform three activities, once in the morning, once in the afternoon, and once in the evening. Typically, players will engage in games with the other girls during the day, such as a dexterity game that has the player jumping on floating squares in a swimming pool or they partake in the game’s namesake, beach volleyball. Before these activities, players are given the chance to meet with and talk to the other girls on the island. Your goal here is to befriend them, as doing so will allow you to dress the girls up in specific swimsuits (which become more and more revealing) and, eventually, join your volleyball team. These activities grant players money which they can use to buy gifts and swimsuits, though the best way to get cash is by gambling at night. At the resort players stay at, run by series character Zack, there is an elegant casino where you can play card games, slot machines, and roulette.

Critics were mostly positive towards the game, praising the phenomenal graphics and “high quality animations” (mmm-hmm). As you might expect, magazines Maxim and Playboy were very receptive to the game and especially praised its “jiggle physics” on “…the best-looking virtual women to grace a video game“. Continuing with the video game industry’s collective boner, Dead or Alive Extreme Beach Volleyball won “Best Animation” at the Spike VGA’s. However, not every gaming outlet was excited over this cheesecake title, with GameSpot calling it the “…most embarrassing game of the year…” and that “…Tecmo just…set the game industry back about five years“. As for sales, DoA Volleyball sold about 600k copies, with over half of them in North America. That’s an “okay” number for a niche “sports” title, but it had to be way below expectations, especially since Dead or Alive 3 sold over 2 million copies. A sequel would arrive on the Xbox 360 in 2006, dropping the “beach volleyball” name and just going by Dead or Alive Xtreme 2. A third entry in the series would arrive in 2016 on PS4, Vita, and later Switch, though it would fail to receive a North American and European release due to the desire by all involved parties to not court criticism from Western journalists and players due to the game’s portrayal of women (for what it’s worth, the game is easily available on import sites and is fully localized in English). I doubt we’ll ever see another one of these games again, and you’re certainly never going to see a port of DoA Beach Volleyball anytime soon.

Here’s a classic Mega64 skit to tie everything up:

The Magical Quest Starring Mickey Mouse (SNES) – Released Dec. 1992: Wiki Link

Notable Film Release: Nowhere to Run – Starring Jean-Claude Van Damme, Rosanna Arquette, Kieran Culkin, and Ted Levine
*Click here to watch the trailer*
Notable Album Release: Belly – Star
*Click here to listen to album*

Continuing their run of strong, licensed Disney games into the next generation, Capcom released the first of three platforming games starring Mickey Mouse. The first game in the series, The Magical Quest, finds Mickey searching for his dog Pluto who has been kidnapped by his long time nemesis, Pete. The Magical Quest takes place over six levels that range from forest treetops to underground, fiery caverns. To help Mickey in his quest, he is granted special outfits that allow him to pull of various special moves. In his magic turban, Mickey can shoot projectiles from his fingers and breath underwater. In his fireman suit, Mickey can put out fires, destroy/push blocks, and create icicles. Finally, in his mountain climber gear, Mickey uses a grappling hook to swing across pits, reach items, and attack enemies.

The game scored really well with critics who praised the game’s graphics and animations, with each of the end stage bosses receiving particular praise for their unique designs. Mickey’s various suits were also a high point for critics who found them to really help keep the game fresh and interesting as you played through it. Criticisms against the game included its short length and its difficulty. However, there appeared to be two camps in regards to difficulty; some critics thought the game was far too easy by allowing players to have unlimited continues, while other critics (whom I agree with) said the game was far too difficult, wondering how on Earth children were expected to finish the game.

The positive reviews, and Disney license, paid off for Capcom as the game would sell over one million copies worldwide. The game would receive two sequels, the first being The Great Circus Mystery Starring Mickey & Minnie and the second being Disney’s Magical Quest 3 Starring Mickey & Donald. While Great Circus Mystery would be the only SNES sequel we’d get in North America, Magical Quest 3 would eventually come West when all three games were re-released on the Game Boy Advance in the early 2000’s. The Magical Quest is not currently available on any modern console, making emulation or one of the original SNES or GBA cartridges your only means of playing it. I understand where the critics were coming from in terms of graphics and animation, they’re great, and I agree that the game is far too difficult, even with unlimited continues, as it can be a slog trying to get through the game when you respawn at the beginning of the level when you die. Overall, not a bad game, certainly worth checking out if you’re curious.

Time Pilot (Arcade) – Released Jan. 1983: Wiki Link

Notable Film Release: The Year of Living Dangerously – Starring Mel Gibson, Sigourney Weaver, and Linda Hunt
*Click here to watch the trailer*
Notable Album Release: Def Leppard – Pyromania
*Click here to listen to album*

While it might not be the best known arcade game of the 1980’s, nor is it the best known game by its creator, Yoshiki Okamoto, but damn if it isn’t one of the most solid, most fun video games ever made; Time Pilot. Taking on the role of a fighter pilot, players are transported to five different time periods where they must shoot down enemy ships, rescue stranded pilots and, finally, defeat the boss. Unlike other shooters of the era that had you going in just one direction, either up, down, left, or right, Time Pilot had players fighting off ships from all directions. Think Robotron but with a jet flying around the sky or, even better, Asteroids without the limit of a single screen. Time Pilot is a fast paced game that tests your reflexes and bombards you with enemies in a constant barrage. It’s magnificent.

The concept for Time Pilot came from a young designer named Yoshiki Okamoto. He took his idea to his boss at Konami but had it immediately rejected. Instead, Okamoto’s boss wanted him to work on a racing game, something that would make Konami a lot of money. Okamoto told his boss that he’d start on right away on the racing game, but it was all just a front. Feeling that his idea was better, Okamoto asked his programming partner to begin working on Time Pilot in secret, while Okamoto would pretend to be making the racing game on his computer, making sure his boss could see what he was doing.

Time Pilot released first in Japan in 1982 where it quickly became a popular title, reaching the fifth spot in highest grossing games of 1982. The game did okay in the U.S., being the top grossing arcade game in February of 1983, and was 13th overall in annual grosses for 1983. Critics enjoyed Time Pilot and gave it glowing reviews in the various gaming outlets of the day. Time Pilot would eventually be ported to the Atari 2600 and ColecoVision, as well as the Japanese PC MSX, with a sequel, called Time Pilot ’84 in, you guessed it, 1984.

As for the game’s creator, Yoshiki Okamoto, well he would go on to create one more hit game for Konami, Gyruss, before heading over to Capcom where he would create, produce, and supervise the biggest hits of career, including 1942, Street Fighter II, Final Fight, Resident Evil 1, 2, 3, & Code:Veronica, Marvel vs. Capcom, Capcom vs. SNK, Darkstalkers, Pocket Fighter, Mega Man 8, Breath of Fire III & IV, Rival Schools, The Legend of Zelda: Oracle of Ages & Oracle of Seasons, Auto Modelista, and Devil May Cry 2. Okamoto would leave Capcom in 2003 and form his own company called Game Republic who would make the Genji series for Sony.

I can’t say it enough, Time Pilot is a fantastic video game, one of my all-time favorites and will be one of those titles I play until the nurses at the home rip the controller from my cold, dead hands. If you’d like to play Time Pilot today, your easiest options are either on Switch or PS4 through the Arcade Archives line of releases. The game is also available from several different Konami arcade collections and, of course, you can try to find a working cabinet out in the wild. Please, please, play this game. Hey, you can even play it online in your web browser, just search for it, it’s really easy to find. Well, what are you waiting for? Go!

 


 

Andy Tuttle
Andy Tuttle

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