New Game Releases 01/31/23 – 02/06/23

February starts off with a bit of a whimper and it doesn’t really get much better next week either (well, that’s debatable, I suppose). I would recommend either picking up one of January’s big releases like Fire Emblem Engage or Dead Space, trying out Persona 3 and 4, or clearing out your 2022 backlog. We can all get excited in three weeks when the new Like A Dragon/Yakuza game comes out.


Top Releases:

SpongeBob SquarePants: The Cosmic Shake (PC/PS4/PS5/Switch/Xbox One) – Releases Jan. 31st

Developed by: Purple Lamp Studios
Published by: THQ Nordic

I don’t have anything against SpongeBob, but you know it’s a slow week when your top game is a licensed one, based on a children’s television program. In The Cosmic Shake, players take on the role of the titular SpongeBob SquarePants as he moves through various “Wishworlds” with his best friend Patrick who has, it seems, been turned into a balloon. It seems Bob and Pat have come across a batch of mermaid tears and are unknowingly wreaking havoc, facilitating their need to fix everything. With a bunch of costumes to collect and special moves to master, The Cosmic Shake should be a great stocking stuffer in December when the price drops to $7.99.

Season: A Letter to the Future (PC/PS4/PS5) – Releases Jan. 31st

Developed by: Scavengers Studio
Published by: Scavengers Studio

I have no energy, here’s the description from Steam:

Leave home for the first time to collect memories before a mysterious cataclysm washes everything away. Ride, record, meet people, and unravel the strange world around you. Immerse yourself in the world of Season, a third-person meditative exploration game“.

Cuddly Forest Friends (Switch) – Releases Feb. 2nd

Developed by: Nippon Columbia
Published by: Aksys Games

This game looks so cute but I’ve already been burned by Aksys on Pretty Princess Party and Fun! Fun! Animal Park, I’m not going to let them do it to me again…I’m not…I promise…

Deliver Us Mars (PC/PS4/PS5/Xbox One/Series X|S) – Releases Feb. 2nd

Developed by: KeokeN Interactive
Published by: Frontier Foundry

Mass Returnal of the Wild is Strange.

Helvetii (PC/PS4/Switch) – Releases Feb. 3rd

Developed by: Team KwaKwa
Published by: Red Art Games

Finally, a game about fonts.


Ports and Re-releases:

Age of Empires II: Definitive Edition (Xbox One/Series X|S) – Releases Jan. 31st

Can’t wait to play this mouse & keyboard game with a controller!

Bust-A-Move 2 & Bust-A-Move 3 (PC/PS4/Switch/Xbox One) – Releases Feb. 1st

Stop going to the laundromat and pumping quarters into that old Neo Geo cabinet playing Bust-A-Move 2 and grab this new port for your favorite current gen console.

Life Is Strange 2 (Switch) – Releases Feb. 2nd

Eh, not sure this looks as good as Deliver Us Mars.


Everything else:

Here’s everything else…


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

Fire Emblem Awakening (3DS) – Released Feb. 4th, 2013: Wiki Link

Notable Film Release: Warm Bodies – Starring Nicholas Hoult, Teresa Palmer, Rob Corddry, and John Malkovich
*Click here to watch the trailer*
Notable Album Release: The Bronx – The Bronx (IV)
*Click here to listen to the album*

By 2010, Intelligent Design’s tactical RPG series Fire Emblem was starting to see its sales flounder. For its 13th installment, and first on the 3DS, Nintendo had suggested to the team at Intelligent Design that this would likely be the very last Fire Emblem game ever made if they team did not sell at least 250k units. It’s funny how things change.

Nintendo’s proclamation scared the hell out of Intelligent Design and the team scrambled for ideas on how to make the game a hit. Some on the team though about setting the game in modern times, others thought setting the game on a futuristic Mars was the way to go but, of course, they eventually calmed down and decided to set the game in the standard medieval setting that they’ve always been in, not wanting to alienate their existing fans. As this was the first Fire Emblem game for the 3DS, development was a bit slow to start, not really picking up steam until over a year later. In what seemed to be a trend in Japanese video games at the time, Nintendo and Intelligent Design were looking to make their games more popular in the West. To help with this, illustrator Yusuke Kozaki was tapped to design the characters, as the studio felt that his work on No More Heroes character designs were what helped make that game a success in North America and Europe. To lead the team and write the game’s scenario, two long time series veterans, Masahiro Higuchi and Kouhei Maeda, were brought on to get this new game on track, codenamed Fire Emblem Fin: Children from the Brink.

While in the early stages of “throw it all against the wall and see what sticks” mentality, the team didn’t appear to shy away from anything that people suggested. Eventually, it became clear that what the team wanted to do was create a Fire Emblem game that incorporated elements from all previous entries. The hope was that this would work in several ways; long time players would be happy or perhaps return to the series, the team could cherry pick the best elements from past games and, if necessary, serve as a final curtain call for a series that Intelligent Design clearly had a lot of love for. Aside from re-using old design elements, a few new ones were added as well, including a change to the permadeath system. In previous Fire Emblem games, when a player’s unit died they would be removed from the game. However, in this new title, players would have the choice to turn this feature on and off, a decision that has seemingly split the fanbase. On the one hand, it would be one of the key drivers of the game’s success with casual fans, while on the other hand, it made some long time fans feel like the game had lost some of its sharp edge.

Eventually, the team settled on a proper name for the game, Fire Emblem Awakening. The events of Awakening take place 2,000 years after the original Famicom Fire Emblem and focuses on a young prince named Chrom and his special forces army called “The Shepherds”. In the opening moments of the game, Chrom and his crew come across a young man or woman (based on player choice) named Robin. This character, a magic user, is the player’s avatar and acts as the groups tactician. With a case of amnesia, Robin agrees to work together with Chrom, fighting bandits and keeping the country safe, that is until a mysterious stranger named “Marth” shows up and upends Chrom and Robin’s worlds.

Fire Emblem Awakening was touted as one of the three major RPGs that would release for the 3DS in Japan in 2012/2013, with the other two being Monster Hunter 4 and Bravely Default. At launch, Fire Emblem Awakening was a massive success. The game had reached its 250k sales goal a little over one week after it was released, making it one of the best selling games in Japan for 2012. The game helped drive sales of the struggling 3DS, making it one of the consoles first killer apps. The excitement and buzz around the game was also felt in North America where Awakening would score another huge release (for a tactical, handheld game) selling 180,000 copies in the first month, with over a third of those being digital downloads from the 3DS eShop. By April, the game would hit 250k copies in North America and, after releasing in Europe, Fire Emblem Awakening would sell nearly 2 million copies worldwide. Not bad for a series that Nintendo had all but declared dead.

Critics heaped overwhelming praise upon Fire Emblem Awakening, being touted as the best game for the 3DS and, while still early, was already being considered a strong Game of the Year contender. Of particular note was how open and accessible the game was to new players while also being a solid challenge for long time fans who liked the more old school ways of playing. Critics were happy to see that the game contained several new options for maintaining relationships with your stable of characters which made the game’s social aspect feel like a fantastic, completely different game inside of an already fantastic game. With a strong emphasis on story and relationships, battles felt more intense and the victories even sweeter. By year’s end, Fire Emblem Awakening would be placed on several year end “Best of…” lists and be nominated by several outlets in various categories, including game of the year, though it would often lose to some game called The Last of Us.

With the success of Awakening, Nintendo walked back their cancellation stance, viewing Fire Emblem as one of their flagship franchises. The success of the game on the 3DS helped kickstart a JRPG craze on the machine, with heavy hitters Atlus and Square Enix giving heavy support to the system. As I noted earlier, Awakenings also helped the struggling 3DS finally find its footing and became the “go-to” system for JRPGs. Awakenings would be followed up on the 3DS by Fates in 2015/2016 and Echoes in 2017, before moving over to Switch with 2019’s Three Houses and the just released Engage. While these subsequent releases haven’t hit the same critical heights that Awakenings did, their sales numbers are just as impressive, ensuring that Fire Emblem will continue to thrive for years to come.

Unreal II: The Awakening (PC) – Released Feb. 3rd, 2003: Wiki Link

Notable Film Release: Final Destination 2 – Starring Ali Larter, A. J. Cook, and Michael Landes
*Click here to watch the trailer*
Notable Album Release: 50 Cent – Get Rich or Die Tryin’
*Click here to listen to the album*

After the release, and massive success, of 1998’s Unreal you would think that developer Epic Games would have immediately moved on to a sequel, but they didn’t. Instead, Epic was far more interested in the online multiplayer aspect of Unreal by creating a spin-off series Unreal Tournament. With online multiplayer games rally taking off in the late 90’s/early 2000’s, Epic didn’t have time to make another narrative entry in the Unreal franchise, so they would foist it upon another studio. Having been impressed with a narrative drive FPS game based on the Wheel of Time series, Epic’s founder Tim Sweeney tapped the team at Legend Entertainment, a studio well known for its…um, point & click adventure games.

Founded in 1989 by Bob Bates and Mike Verdu, Legend started out by adapting a lesser known text based adventure game called Spellcasting 101, a raunchy comedy that, for lack of a better analogy, combines 1980’s college based sex comedies with the Harry Potter series. Over the course of the next ten years, Legend would release a slew of text based and point & clock adventure games that would teeter between goofy comedy and high level fantasy/sci-fi. Seeing that the market for PC games was changing, Legend began to experiment more with the first person genre, working on DLC for the first Unreal as well as adapting the aforementioned Wheel of Time into a first person shooter/adventure game.

Development on Unreal II began sometime around 1999, with Legendary, Epic, and publisher GT Interactive hoping for a release in the year 2000. However, difficulties in development, as well as a general lack of knowledge about how to make a first person shooter, Unreal II would be delayed several times, finally releasing in January of 2003. The story of Unreal II centers around a former marine named John Dalton and his misfit crew as they patrol space as part of a peace keeping force. Typically, Dalton is given lax assignments, likely due to something that happened while he was a marine, but after receiving a distress call from a mining outpost, Dalton and his crew are thrust into a war with an alien race who are hell bent on retrieving pieces of an ancient weapon that could help them rule the galaxy.

Unreal II seems to come from the same mold as other late 90’s FPS games like Half-Life and System Shock 2, with the game having not just FPS combat, but a strong emphasis on storytelling and puzzle solving. Legend felt that this was where they could really make Unreal II shine, as they were seen as some of the best storytellers in PC video games. Playing through the game’s first two levels I can, without a doubt, say that the story and presentation are fucking OUTSTANDING in Unreal II. This game might be 20 years old but it is doing things that every modern first person shooter does today, using the environment to tell the story through impeccable set design, subverting expectations about how a level should flow, inserting characters to interact with in the level, pausing the action to tell you more of the story, using puzzles to more the narrative forward, and on and on and on.

Surprisingly, critics were NOT down with Unreal II. Where the first Unreal was a guns blazing “fuck you ya fuckin’ alien mother fuckers I’m gonna fuckin’ shove my gun down your throat and fill it with cum bullets you pieces of shit” fist fuck of a game, Unreal II was quieter, slower, more methodical and more interested in preserving an atmosphere than making sure you were continually stimulated. However, Unreal II might have looked like a prestige FPS game, but it was still fairly shallow when compared to Half-Life and its ilk. Once of the major complaints against the game was that it had a severe lack of multiplayer options, though I’d wager that has more to do with Epic and their Unreal Tournament franchise than anything else. It was the change in tone, coupled with the lack of online features, that ultimately doomed not just Unreal II, but also developer Legend Entertainment. Less than a year after the game launched, Legend would be shut down in January of 2004 by their new parent company, Atari.

Unreal II’s poor reception and sales ensured that we’d never get an Unreal III, with Epic happy to continue making multiplayer-only releases in the Unreal Tournament and Unreal Champions franchises which, of course, led them to their biggest game to date, Fortnite. Sadly, at the end of 2022, Epic would delist Unreal II from all digital platforms, claiming that it was “out-of-date”. Perhaps this is just being done so that Epic can bring it to their own digital store, or perhaps to put on a remastered version. Haha, no. They didn’t care about the series back in 2003 and they likely don’t care about it now. Too bad.

Aerobiz (SNES) – Released Feb. 1993: Wiki Link

This is certainly a “pre-9/11” cover.
Notable Film Release: Matinee – Starring John Goodman, Cathy Moriarty, Simon Fenton, Omri Katz, and Kellie Martin
*Click here to watch the trailer*
Notable Album Release: Willie Nelson – Across the Borderline
*Click here to listen to album*

Gaining success and notoriety in the 1980’s with their tactical strategy games Romance of the Three Kingdoms and Nobunaga’s Ambition, developer Koei went in a different direction for their 1990 strategy game Top Management. Released only for the Famicom and NEC PC-9801 in Japan, Top Management tasked players with taking a relatively small company and turning it into one of the most successful corporations in the world. In the game, players would take stock of employee performance, set salaries, and determine how many units to build and ship of whatever widget their manufactured. The game did well enough to not just warrant a sequel, but start a whole new line of games for Koei; the Executive Series.

Koei’s next game in the Executive Series is our notable title this week, Aerobiz. Released for the Super Nintendo, PC-9801, X68000 PC, and Sega Genesis (in Nov. 1993), Aerobiz would task players with being in charge of a small airline company with only a handful of local routes to manage. As the game progresses, players will be tasked with expanding their airline empire, securing routes to far off destinations through shrewd negotiations, building luxury hotels in destination cities, setting balanced budgets, and ensuring that they have the most up to date planes and ameneties.

Aerobiz received average reviews when it was released, though it did receive a glowing review from the trade magazine MegaTech which exclaimed that strategy fans would “cream their pants” over Aerobiz. I’m not sure about all of you, but I jizzed so hard when I played this, just, like, buckets of cum; good prediction, MegaTech. A sequel called Aerobiz Supersonic would release in 1993/1994 that appeared to be a bit more involved, while a remake for the PlayStation, Saturn, and PC would come out in Japan in 1996. While I’m sure you’d all love to shoot ropes as you play Aerobiz, the game is not available on any modern consoles, making emulation your only option. It’s okay, stealing it makes it just that much more exciting.



Andy Tuttle
Andy Tuttle

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