It’s another slow-ish week for new releases. Our top game is a port and the rest of the games are all smaller, indie-ish affairs (though put out by companies like Square Enix and Atari). This is all fine because I’m still trying to catch up with games that came out in January and February. How about you, dear reader? Are you excited for the flood of smaller games or are you also playing through your backlog? Let me know in the comments, like & subscribe, smash that like button, share with your friends, etc., etc. etc. How do influencers do that every day?
Fatal Frame: Mask of the Lunar Eclipse (PC/PS4/PS5/Switch/Xbox One/Series X|S) – Releases Mar. 9th
Developed by: Tecmo/Grashopper Manufacture
Published by: Koei Tecmo
You know the week is slow when the top release is a port, BUT, it’s a port that we haven’t gotten in North America, so it’s like it’s a new game! Originally released for the Wii in 2008, Fatal Frame: Mask of the Lunar Eclipse is the fourth entry in the long running survival horror series. Mask of the Lunar Eclipse follows the story of four different protagonists who are all connected to a grisly kidnapping/murder plot from a secluded sanitorium. As with previous games in the series, players use a vintage camera obscura to take photographs of malevolent spirits that are trying to kill them. I have always been terrified of the Fatal Frame series and, after watching footage of the game for this week’s video, I don’t think that is going to change. This looks terrifying.
Melon Journey: Bittersweet Memories (PC/PS4/PS5/Switch/Xbox One/Series X|S) – Releases Mar. 7th
Developed by: Froach Club
Published by: XSEED Games
I don’t really know much about this game, so let’s just read the description from the official XSEED website:
“A brand-new story-exploration game from developer Froach Club, Melon Journey: Bittersweet Memories puts you square in the shoes of Honeydew as they search for their friend in a town full of adorable animals with eccentric personalities. Yet under this sweet surface lies a tale of crime and corruption… Where did Cantaloupe disappear to? Is the Cavity Crew as dangerous as Captain Hamley believes? How does the Kitten King fit into Hog Town’s struggles?
Explore this charming, pixelated narrative adventure filled to the brim with clever characters, endearing encounters, and dangerous delinquents. Will you be able to find your friend and save the day in this monochromatic mystery?“
PARANORMASIGHT: The Seven Mysteries of Honjo (PC/Switch) – Releases Mar. 8th
Developed by: Square Enix
Published by: Square Enix
Oh boy, another spooky game? I thought Halloween was in October, LOLOLOL HAHAHAHA. Anyway, PARANORMASIGHT: The Seven Mysteries of Honjo is a visual novel, mystery adventure that tasks players with solving seven mysteries all revolving around curses in the town of Sumida. Apparently, the game features real life scenery from the real town, with the full cooperation of their tourism board and local members of the community. Yeah, nothing says “come visit our town” quite like a video game about how you will get cursed if you go there.
Caverns of Mars: Recharged (PC/PS4/Switch/Xbox One) – Releases Mar. 9th
Developed by: SneakyBox
Published by: Atari
Caverns of Mars: Recharged is a modern day remake of the 1981 Atari game called, you guessed it
Frank Stallone Caverns of Mars. Taking heavy inspiration from Konami’s Scramble, Caverns of Mars turned the screen 90 degrees and had players moving vertically, from top to bottom, shooting enemies and collecting fuel. This modern remake doesn’t stray too far from that formula, with players still moving vertically from top to bottom, destroying things and collecting fuel. What a time to be alive!
Clash: Artifacts of Chaos (PC/PS4/PS5/Switch/Xbox One/Series X|S) – Releases Mar. 9th
Developed by: ACE Team
Published by: Nacon
Hey, you remember the Zeno Clash series, right? Yeah, sure you do. Well, the third entry in the long running series is finally here but, in a twist, does not feature a first person view, opting for a third person view. I’m sure this will be a bonkers proposition for the 200 people who are excited for this game.
Figment 2: Creed Valley (PC/PS4/PS5/Switch/Xbox One/Series X|S) – Releases Mar. 9th
Developed by: Bedtime Digital Games
Published by: Bedtime Digital Games
I’m sure there are people who think of this game franchise when they see “Figment”, but all I see is the character made popular at the “Imagination!” pavilion at Walt Disney World’s Epcot.
Ports and Re-releases:
Record of Agarest War (Switch) – Releases Mar. 9th
Ugh, I already have the Xbox 360 version of this game but I’ve never played it. Do I get it again for Switch and also never play it?! Life is hard.
Dead by Daylight: Tools of Torment (PC/PS4/PS5/Switch/Xbox One/Series X|S) – Releases Mar. 7th
After a bunch of licensed killers and survivors for Dead by Daylight, the team has come back with an original group of characters. Will they be as popular as Pyramid Head, Wesker, and the little girl from The Ring?
The Good Life – Behind The Secret Of Rainy Woods (PC/PS4/Switch/Xbox One) – Releases Mar. 9th
I’ve heard nothing but bad things about this game, but clearly it had enough of a following to warrant DLC. I mean, Swery is a unique developer, there has to be SOME redeeming qualities to The Good Life, right? At least it gave us some cool Mega64 videos.
Wow, that’s a lot of new games, and I’m sure that ALL of them are good; right?
- Hotel Renovator (PC) – Releases Mar. 7th
- Pronty (Switch) – Releases Mar. 7th
- Chippy & Noppo (PC/Switch) – Releases Mar. 9th
- The Last Spell (PC/PS4/PS5/Switch) – Releases Mar. 9th
- Monster Energy Supercross – The Official Videogame 6 (PC/PS4/PS5/Xbox One/Series X|S) – Releases Mar. 9th
- ONI : Road to be the Mightiest Oni (PC/PS4/PS5/Switch) – Releases Mar. 9th
- Tiny Troopers: Global Ops (PC/PS4/PS5/Switch/Xbox One/Series X|S) – Releases Mar. 9th
- DC’s Justice League: Cosmic Chaos (PC/PS4/PS5/Switch/Xbox One/Series X|S) – Releases Mar. 10th
- Mato Anomalies (PC/PS4/PS5/Switch/Xbox One/Series X|S) – Releases Mar. 10th
- Rough Justice: ’84 (PC) – Releases Mar. 13th
Notable Releases from 10, 20, and 30 (and sometimes 40) years ago:
God of War: Ascension (PC/PS3/Xbox 360) – Released Mar. 12th, 2013: Wiki Link
Notable Film Release: Oz the Great and Powerful – Starring James Franco, Mila Kunis, Rachel Weisz, and Michelle Williams
*Click here to watch the trailer*
Notable Album Release: David Bowie – The Next Day
*Click here to listen to the album*
With God of War III ending the trilogy started by David Jaffee, it looked like Kratos had perhaps swung his last sword attached to a chain and Sony was ready to end the franchise. LOL, just kidding, Sony would NEVER stop making God of War games, they like money too much. Still, God of War III had a pretty definitive ending to the trilogy, so what would Santa Monica Studio do? Oh, they would just take the George Lucas route and make a prequel! Of course, who wouldn’t want to see how Kratos rose up from obscurity to become one of the most feared demigods in Greece? For those who just need to know, God of War: Ascension takes place six months after Kratos killed his family and ten years before the first God of War, and an unknown period of time before hte PSP title Chains of Olympus.
The game was first announced with a cryptic image on the PlayStation Facebook page in April of 2012, with the official reveal happening a week later with a trailer. The Ascension title has a double meaning here, the most obvious being that players would see how Kratos ascended to his place of power, but it also referred to the multiplayer portion of the game in which players would take their unknown avatars and turn them into powerful gods of war. Yep, it was 2013, so of course this single player game needed to have a multiplayer mode slapped onto it.
While you might think that God of War: Ascension might have been marketed as the next great, single player adventure in the franchise, Sony instead went heavy on the multiplayer aspect of the game, really pushing it hard in marketing materials. Sony released four trailers over the course of 2012 that showcased the four different gods that players could align themselves with and rise in their ranks. It would take eight months for Sony to finally, FINALLY, put out a new single player, story focused trailer, clearly they had their priority.
It’s so funny, then, that when God of War: Ascension released, the multiplayer portion was mostly panned by critics for being unoriginal and boring. Some critics were even miffed that it seemed to be somewhat integral to the game’s single player story, as the events of the multiplayer game somehow tie into the single player story. Speaking of the single player mode, critics were mostly happy with how it turned out, calling the new gameplay mechanics interesting, like the limited use World Weapons (which players can pick up from defeated foes) and the tether/grapple system where Kratos can hold an enemy on one sword while he uses the other sword to kill a different enemy.
During the awards season, Ascension received a few nominations but, unlike its predecessors, failed to win anything. The lukewarm reception to Ascension put the nearly annual series on hold for five years until the soft reboot God of War released in 2018 to massive critical and commercial success. This was also the last game in the series to feature Kratos’ original voice actor, Terrence C. Carson. Despite being one of its most popular franchises, Sony has kind of dropped the ball on keeping the God of War games easy to play. While there was a PS4 remaster of God of War III, all other titles have never made it past the PS3 (well, I & II came out on the Vita but, lol, come on). As it stands, the only way to play Ascension on a disc is with your PS3, though you can play it on the PS4 & PS5 through the PlayStation Plus cloud service, if you’re paying for the correct tier. Maybe one day we’ll get a proper re-release of these first four God of War games…maybe not.
Sonic Advance 2 (GBA) – Released Mar. 9th, 2003: Wiki Link
Notable Film Release: Bringing Down the House – Starring Steve Martin, Queen Latifah, Jean Smart, Eugene Levy, and Angus T. Steakflower
*Click here to watch the trailer*
Notable Album Release: AFI – Sing the Sorrow
*Click here to listen to the album*
Immediately after the release of Sonic Advance in North America on Feb. 3rd, 2002, the team got to work on its sequel, the faster, more powerful, and bigger Sonic Advance 2. Taking that they learned from making the first game, developer Dimps wanted to make sure that their next entry made players feel the super speeds that Sonic can achieve (a common complaint about the first game). With this increase in speed the developers had to increase the stage size, making them six times bigger than their predecessor’s stages. Sonic Advance 2 is, of course, a 2d side scroller with players taking control of Sonic, as well as four other unlockable characters; Tails, Knuckles, Amy Rose, and newcomer Cream the Rabbit.
Originally designed for the 3D game Sonic Heroes, the team decided to add her to SA2 to function as a character for beginner players to play with, as she has the ability to fly short distances using her ears, making it easier to reach platforms and avoid spike traps and enemies. While Cream was intended to make the game slightly easier, Sonic Advance 2 was still considered a very hard game by critics in 2003, and was one of the major knocks against it.
Difficulty aside, SA2 received favorable reviews from most critics who found the title to be a major improvement over the first Sonic Advance. They praised the level of speed, the massive stages, and the high replay factor. Aside from the criticism about the difficulty, some reviews how short each level felt (despite the increase in size), and found the designs to be uninspired and bland.
As of today, the only legal way to play Sonic Advance 2 without an original cartridge is to download it from the Wii U eShop (which closes on March 27th, 2023). The real question, though, is it worth playing? Hmm, I’m going to say a soft “yes”; this isn’t a masterpiece or anything, but it is nice to look at and the speed is off the charts. If you need a bit more substance than play one of the Genesis titles or the recent Sonic Mania, those offer a bit more to do than SA2 does.
Fire ‘N Ice (NES) – Released Mar. 11th, 1993: Wiki Link
Notable Film Release: Swing Kids – Starring Robert Sean Leonard, Christian Bale, Frank Whaley, and Barbara Hershey
*Click here to watch the trailer*
Notable Album Release: Lenny Kravitz – Are You Gonna Go My Way
*Click here to listen to album*
Sometimes it’s hard to gauge how beloved an older series really is. Take Solomon’s Key, for example. A massive hit in Japan, the game was also well received in North America when it came to the NES, and I know a few people who loved it, but it doesn’t really come across as one of those titles that every kid had for their Nintendo. Still, it was a big enough hit that it warranted a sequel, so Japan and Europe got Solomon’s Key 2, probably because the first game was more well known in those territories. Over in North America, however, when it came time to release the game on our shores, Tecmo decided to change the title to Fire ‘N Ice, putting blocks of ice on the cover that are not unlike those you’d see in Tetris, while also slapping a faux warning label indicating how addictive this new puzzle game was.
If Tecmo was going for the casual Tetris crowd, I’m curious how those people felt about playing a game that was half adventure platformer and half puzzle game? You see, Tetris doesn’t make you run and jump around, you just move and drop blocks. Fire ‘N Ice requires you to move a character around the screen who can manipulate ice blocks by moving them, creating them, and destroying them. This is the crux of the puzzle gameplay, as players must put out fires using these blocks of ice. Once all of the fire in a level is extinguished the player moves onto the next stage.
I could only find one review for the game, it was from EGM where they called it “…the best puzzle game in years” and then scored it 28 out of 40. I wish I knew how well this game sold because I’m curious how this late era NES game fared against the stuff coming out on Genesis and SNES. While I didn’t play this as a kid (that cover is just NOT exciting), I recently played it on Switch (through the NES online service) and had such a great time with it. The graphics are vibrant and cute, the music is catchy and, like the warning label said, it is incredibly addictive.
Journey (Arcade) – Released Mar. 1983: Wiki Link
Notable Film Release: Local Hero – Starring Peter Reigert, Dennis Lawson, Fulton Mackay, and Burt Lancaster
*Click here to watch the trailer*
Notable Album Release: ZZ Top – Eliminator
*Click here to listen to album*
The idea of a licensed video game was not entirely uncommon in 1983, with titles based on films like Indiana Jones, Tron and, of course, E.T.. These titles were (for the most part) easy enough to make as the contained stories and events that the developers could turn into video games. What if your licensed game was about a band, though? Bally Midway was about to find out when they opted to create a video game based on the mega star rock band Journey.
While there hadn’t been any video games based on a band by 1983 (at least not that I could find), rock & roll bands & artists had graced pinball tables multiple times in the previous decade, with tables based on Kiss, Ted Nugent, The Rolling Stones, and Elton John, just to name a few. As one of the leaders in the pinball industry, it really isn’t surprising to see Bally Midway try and emulate the success of those tables in the digital realm.
Saying the story in Journey has a plot is an offense to writers everywhere, but the basic gist of it is that Journey’s instruments have been stolen by aliens (who happen to be fans of the band) and scattered across five different planets. In order to get their instruments back, the band hops into their scarab space ship, you know, the one on all their album covers, and head into outer space.
Each band member has their own stage that is divided into two parts. First, the player must guide the member to their instrument in a skill of dexterity and light platforming. Once the instrument is recovered, players must return the band member to the scarab ship, with the stage warping into a shooting gallery, as the instrument becomes a weapon. To help immerse the player in the world of Journey, each stage features a short, digitized version of the band’s most popular songs; “Don’t Sop Believin'”, “Wheel in the Sky”, “Stone in Love”, “Chain Reaction”, and “Keep On Runnin'”. Not only that, but the heads of each member was digitized and placed on top of an animated body (more on this later).
Once all five instruments have been recovered, Journey puts on an intergalactic concert for their alien fans, playing the song “Separate Ways (Worlds Apart)”, which was the album recording, played on cassette through a tape deck built into the cabinet. However, these fans are still CRAZY and try to rush the stage in an attempt to steal the instruments, again. Players take control of a massive roadie who needs to block the entrances to the stage. If a fan happens to get by the roadie, they entire crowd rushes the stage and steals the instruments, restarting the whole ordeal again but with increased difficulty.
The technology used to digitize the heads of the Journey band members was actually used on a prototype game called Clone. I don’t really know what you did in Clone, but it came equipped with a camera that players were supposed use to take a picture of their face, thus putting them into the game. However, it turns out that when you let a bunch of rowdy people in an arcade gather around a camera, they’ll just take pictures of all the funny body parts you can think of (ass, titties, dicks, etc.). This obviously didn’t fly and Clone was scrapped, but the technology was too good to waste so they had Journey come by the Bally Midway office and snap a picture of their faces.
I can’t find a lot of reviews for Journey, but the few I did find concluded that while the game is technologically impressive (for the time) and looks gorgeous (for the time), it just wasn’t fun and was completely unnecessary. The high cost of production and poor reception from fans and critics doomed the game and it was seen as a massive flop, perhaps being the reason why we don’t see a lot of games based on bands. Having played this on an emulator, I can tell you that Journey is one of the most bizarre ideas for a video game I’ve ever seen. it’s not particularly good, but the content is what makes it so strange, from the ugly digitized heads to the space travel to the ridiculous stages. I can’t, in good faith, tell you that Journey is a good game, it isn’t, it’s terrible, but you have to check it out for yourself. Even if it’s just for a laugh.
Journey is just too bizarre to talk about, you have to see it in action:
On a separate note, one of the first shorts I ever made for my college video production class was about this video game. A friend of mine got the book The Ultimate History of Video Games and it had a section on Journey and Clone’s camera debacle. I wish I had a copy of it but the short has been lost to time. I remember that I had my friends just move their mouths and then I dubbed in the audio later. When the professor asked why I did that I told him “because it’s funny”. I got a C. OH! I also remember that over the end credits, which I made comically long, of course, I put in The Cure song “Close To Me”, just to make it even more bizarre. Nothing has changed.
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