What’s going on everybody! It’s been a crazy busy week at my real job so I didn’t have a lot of time for my fake job where I pretend to be a video game journalist. No time to mess around, let’s just get to the games.
WWE 2K23 (PC/PS4/PS5/Xbox One/Series X|S) – Releases Mar. 17th
Developed by: Visual Concepts
Published by: 2K Sports
After taking over the WWE2K series from longtime developer Yukes, Visual Concepts stumbled out of the gate with, quite possibly the worst video game ever made, WWE2K20. Fearing that they might lose one of their biggest cash cows, 2K made Visual Concepts take a year to get their shit together and put out a game that wasn’t broken and played like ass. They stepped up to the plate and hit a home run because WWE2K22 was FANTASTIC; one of the best fighting games of 2022. With one piece of dog shit, and one gold standard under the belt, what will Visual Concepts serve up with WWE2K23? Well, I just spent $100 bucks on the deluxe edition so it better be good.
Bayonetta Origins: Cereza and the Lost Demon (Switch) – Releases Mar. 17th
Developed by: Platinum Games
Published by: Nintendo
After three high octane, action packed games in the Bayonetta franchise, developer Platinum Games is slowing things down and heading to Bayo’s past with Cereza and the Lost Demon. Instead of pulling off sick ass combos, killing monsters with your hair and guns, Cereza and the Lost Demon is a puzzle/action game with players controlling a young Bayonetta (AKA Cereza) and her very first demon, a little plush toy named Cheshire (who just so happens to transform into a hulking beast).
The Forest Cathedral (PC/Xbox One/Series X|S) – Releases Mar. 14th
Developed by: Brian Wilson
Published by: Whitethorn Games
Back in 1962, a very important book was published by a scientist named Rachel Carson, Silent Spring. It was a first person account of the dangers that pesticides, particularly DDT, posed to both humans and the environment. Her book was a landmark achievement in the scientific community and helped to spur a national conversation in America about the importance of keeping the environment clean and safe. Why am I bringing this up; because some fucking nitwits decided to adapt the book into a video game where you solve puzzles by playing a retro inspired platformer when you aren’t walking through a forest talking to fish. This is pretentious bullshit of the highest magnitude and I’m only highlighting it here to tear it down. Anyway, it might be good.
Hot Wheels: Rift Rally (iOS/PS4/PS5) – Releases Mar. 14th
Developed by: Velan Studios
Published by: Velan Studios
Hey, remember Mario Kart Live: Home Circuit?! Remember how you didn’t buy it?! Well Mattel is hoping you don’t, because they’ve got their own AR racing game for the PlayStation and iOS devices. FUN!!
The Legend of Heroes: Trails to Azure (PC/PS4/Switch) – Releases Mar. 14th
Developed by: Nihon Facom
Published by: NIS America
Like Yakuza and Shin Megami Tensei, the Trails series has steadily grown in popularity in the West over the last 20 years. Originally released in Japan in 2011 for the PSP, The Legend of Heroes Trails to Azure is an RPG developed by Nihon Falcom, who are also responsible for the Ys series of games. Trails to Azure is the sequel to Trails From Zero and makes up the two part Crossbell Arc. The events in Trails to Azure also set up events in the Trails of Cold Steel series, giving fans of those already released titles some backstory on events they’ve already taken part in. Now, if this all sounds very complex and time consuming to you, well, that’s because it is.
Vernal Edge (PC/PS4/PS5/Switch/Xbox One/Series X|S) – Releases Mar. 14th
Developed by: Hello Penguin Team
Published by: PID Games
“Vernal Edge is a 2D action-packed Metroidvania featuring an intense combat system, tight platforming sequences and a powerful story of rivalry, revenge and growth.“
The Dark Pictures: Switchback VR (PSVR2) – Releases Mar. 16th
Developed by: Supermassive Games
Published by: Supermassive Games
Developer Supermassive Games is back with another spooky VR game, this time set in their Dark Pictures universe. Playing very similarly to their PSVR title Until Dawn: Rush of Blood, Switchback VR sends players ona terrifying ride on a roller coaster as it passes through creepy locations found in the Dark Pictures series of games, where you will encounter familiar characters and horrifying creatures. Apparently, one portion of the game has monsters that will get closer to you if you blink, like, in real life, kind of like that Doctor Who episode, so, um, have fun with that.
Ports and Re-releases:
Valheim (Xbox One/Series X|S) – Releases Mar. 14th
People are really excited for this game *Shrug*.
Anno 1800 (PS5/Series X|S) – Releases Mar. 16th
Nothing shows off the power of your new PS5 or Series X|S like a city simulator. These also work GREAT with a controller…
Session: Skate Sim (Switch) – Releases Mar. 16th
Two Point Campus: School Spirits (PC/PS4/PS5/Switch/Xbox One/Series X|S) – Releases Mar. 15th
OMG, that title is hilarious. I totally get it, because you can have school spirit, and spirit is another name for ghost. This is really, really funny!
Well, you’ve made it to the bottom. How does it feel down here, in the muck and the mire? Are you having fun, little piggy, squealing in delight at the trash being poured into your slop bucket? Eat it up, fuckers. Eat it up.
- The Wreck (PC/PS4/PS5/Switch/Xbox One/Series X|S) – Releases Mar. 14th
- Backbeat (PC/Switch/Xbox One/Series X|S) – Releases Mar. 15th
- Alice Gear Aegis CS: Concerto of Simulatrix (PS4/PS5/Switch) – Releases Mar. 16th
- Sixtar Gate: STARTRAIL (Switch) – Releases Mar. 16th
- Flame Keeper (PC/Switch) – Releases Mar. 17th
- Peppa Pig: World Adventures (PC/PS4/PS5/Switch Xbox One/Series X|S) – Releases Mar. 17th
Notable Releases from 10, 20, and 30 years ago:
LEGO City Undercover (Wii U) – Released Mar. 18th, 2013: Wiki Link
Notable Film Release: Spring Breakers – Starring Selena Gomez, James Franco, Vanessa Hudgens, Ashley Benson, and Rachel Korine
*Click here to watch the trailer*
Notable Album Release: Justin Timberlake – The 20/20 Experience
*Click here to listen to the album*
By 2010, the team at TT Fusion, a subsidiary of Traveller’s Tales, the team was going a little stir crazy making handheld ports of licensed LEGO games. They began prototyping an open world game set in the LEGO City line, mostly just small open spaces with obstacles that you could drive around. In 2011, Nintendo reached out to TT Fusion to see if they would be interested in developing games for their new system, Wii U. TT Fusion had a good relationship with Nintendo and, after demoing the Wii U, thought it was a great system with big potential. The agreed to develop a new LEGO game with Nintendo on as publisher; LEGO City Undercover.
Unlike most of the other LEGO games made by Traveller’s Tales, LEGO City Undercover would be a wholly original title that would not be based on any existing property. Using the LEGO City line as the backbone, TT Fusion opted to have players take on the role of an undercover police office named Chase McCain. Like other titles in the LEGO series of games, players can unlock new characters, swapping between them. however, the gimmick here is that players are still Chase, he’s just going undercover as one of many stereotypes; a construction worker, a samurai, a taxi driver, a sumo wrestler, a soccer player, a mafia goon, a Viking, etc., etc. With these disguises, Chase is able to enter locations he might not otherwise, leading players to hidden treasures, unique items, or story mission locations.
For their part, Nintendo remained fairly hands-off when it came to LEGO City Undercover’s development, giving TT Fusion free reign. The game takes place in Lego City which is a vast, sprawling metropolis that is basically New York City, San Francisco, and London all mixed together. While LEGO City Undercover is not based on any particular IP, it does borrow themes and tropes from several different crime films & television shows, and is most strongly influenced by Rockstar’s Grand Theft Auto series, the prototypical open world video game. Like GTA, LEGO City Undercover is mission based, with players meeting with a contact, going on their mission, and then moving on to the next contact. In between, players can choose to explore Lego City, taking on side missions, look for hidden items, and cause havoc, LEGO style.
Released in the Wii U’s launch window, LEGO City Undercover received high marks from critics, praising the game’s humor and design, with some outlets calling it the best LEGO in the entire TT franchise. Still, some critics found fault with the game, bemoaning it’s incredibly long load times, generic story, and lack of any kind of co-op play, breaking from a long standing tradition in LEGO games by TT. Criticism aside, it was still hailed as one of the best games on the Wii U (though that wasn’t saying much), and was highly recommended to all 17 owners of that console.
Four years later, Warner Bros. Interactive was able to gain the publishing rights from Nintendo and they re-released LEGO City Undercover for the PC, PS4, Switch, and Xbox One, improving the load times and graphics. LEGO City Undercover was a turning point for TT and their LEGO franchise, with subsequent games becoming more and more open world/mission focused. I really like LEGO City Undercover a lot, but it has its quirks, like most of TT’s LEGO games. Critics weren’t wrong either, it’s fairly generic, but dammit, it’s still fun. Oh, and ACAB, duh.
Pokémon Ruby and Sapphire (GBA) – Released Mar. 19th, 2003: Wiki Link
Notable Film Release: Agent Cody Banks – Starring Frankie Muniz, Hillary Duff, Angie Harmon, and Ian McShane
*Click here to watch the trailer*
Notable Album Release: The Cardigans – Long Gone Before Daylight
*Click here to listen to the album*
Well, it’s not every week that we get to talk about a game that is the best selling title for an entire console, but we do this week! Yes, folks, Game Freak’s third entry in the Pokémon series, Ruby & Sapphire, hold the distinction of being (combined) the best selling video game of all-time on the Game Boy Advance. How about that?
Pokémon Ruby & Sapphire also holds the distinction of being the first game published (in Japan) by The Pokémon Company, a joint venture between Game Freak, Nintendo, and Creatures. The games were directed by Junichi Masuda who had previously been a composer and sound effect designer on Red & Blue, as well as on Gold & Silver (where he was also co-director). His goal with Ruby & Sapphire were to really play up the connectivity aspect of the game, putting a strong emphasis on trading and battling. This was enhanced over previous versions by allowing up to four players to battle at once in a 2v2 team format. Continuing with the idea of increased/unique battling, players could create a secret base underground, which could be decorated and personalized, with an NPC version of the player waiting there to do battle against another trainer who came to visit them.
To further enhance the connectivity side of the game, Ruby & Sapphire were able to connect to future titles on the GameCube, Pokémon Colosseum and Pokémon XD. Interestingly, Ruby & Sapphire were the first games to be compatible with something called Pokémon Home, exclusively available at Nintendo’s flagship store in New York City, or through their online store. This allowed players to connect their GBA to the GameCube and easily sort, transfer, and breed their Pokémon, though it wasn’t really well received by critics at the time, shurgging it off as unnecessary (look where we are now).
However, for the actual games themselves, Ruby & Sapphire, critics were in love. With high scores across the board, Ruby & Sapphire was the best reviewed Pokémon game to date and would, as I mentioned earlier, become the best selling Game Boy Advance game of ALL-TIME. I’ll admit, it got me back into the series (briefly) as I skipped out on Gold & Silver. I loved my GBA and Pokémon Sapphire is one of the reasons. Now, you might be thinking, “Andy, can I play these critically acclaimed titles on a modern Nintendo console?“. LOL, no, of course not! There was, however, a 3DS remake of both games did come out in 2014, so if you’ve got the ol’ 3DS lying around you can probably find a copy on Amazon for $40 bucks (for now…). There is some good news on the horizon, though, as Nintendo has recently added GBA games to the Switch’s online service, meaning we could, possibly, maybe, perhaps, see Ruby & Sapphire on the Switch in the near future. Stay tuned…
Freddy Pharkas: Frontier Pharmacist (PC) – Released Mar. 1993: Wiki Link
Notable Film Release: Fire in the Sky – Starring D.B. Sweeney, Robert Patrick, James Garner, and Henry Thomas
*Click here to watch the trailer*
Notable Album Release: Geto Boys – Till Death Do Us Part
*Click here to listen to album*
Our last notable title this week is 1993’s Freddy Pharkas: Frontier Pharmacist. Co-designed by Al Lowe and written, directed, produced and co-designed by Josh Mandel, Freddy Pharkas is a point & click adventure game that fits neatly into the mold of it’s contemporaries at Sierra On-Line. Players take on the role of Freddy Pharkas, a former gunslinger turned pharmacist after losing an ear in a gunfight with Kenny the Kid (likely named and modeled after Sierra’s Ken Williams).
Set in the real life town of Coarsegold, California, Freddy has settled nicely at a local drug store mixing up medicines and tinctures for the townsfolk, and are some of the earliest puzzles in the game (also acting as the game’s copy/protection). As players progress through the game they learn that someone is buying up property all around Coarsegold, including many of the homes, shops, and services. As Freddy digs deeper into the mystery he finds himself confronted by ne’er-do-well’s and outlaws, including his dreaded nemesis Kenny the Kid.
This boilerplate Western story is all just a vehicle for gags and jokes, including several regarding alcohol, farting, sex with women, sex with animals, and racial stereotypes (of course). I really enjoyed this game when I was a kid in middle school, so much so that for my 8th grade project about American settlers in the West, I wrote a story about Freddy and all the townsfolk of Coarsegold. Critics enjoyed the game, calling it better than all of the previous Leisure Suit Larry games, and commenting that it was one of Lowe’s greatest games, an achievement he humbly places at the feet of Josh Mandel’s writing.
However, when it came time to port the game to CD-ROM, Lowe found himself getting bored in the recording studio and decided to cut several lines of dialog that still needed to be recorded. This not only removed several jokes, but also key clues about how to solve various puzzles. While we still (for now) can’t play Pokémon Ruby & Sapphire, playing Freddy Pharkas: Frontier Pharmacist is very easy today if you have a PC, as the game is available digitally from GOG. I don’t think Freddy Pharkas is as crass or in poor taste as Leisure Suit Larry, nor is it as racist as other Sierra games I’ve played, like Heart of China, so it’s aged just a bit better than those titles. I strongly recommend it, but just remember that this was a game from a “less enlightened” time.
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