Once again we have a lot of games coming out but only one really big release out of the bunch. Finding it hard to come up with a different way to say this each week, let’s just move on with it, shall we?
Star Wars Jedi: Survivor (PC/PS5/Series X|S) – Releases Apr. 28th
Developed by: Respawn Entertainment
Published by: Electronic Arts
Hey, April the 28th be with you; no, that doesn’t really work. Hey, look, more Star Wars! Pretty cool, huh? Remember the first game, Jedi: Fallen Order? Pretty sick. Will this one be just as sick? Probably.
Honkai: Star Rail (Android/iOS/PC) – Releases Apr. 26th (PS4/PS5 versions coming later this year)
Developed by: HoYoverse
Published by: HoYoverse
I can’t tell if this is an MMO or a regular RPG, but I do know that it’s free to play, which should tell you all you need to know about whether or not this game is made for you.
Fairy Fencer F: Refrain Chord (PS4/PS5/Switch) – Releases Apr. 25th
Developed by: Idea Factory/Compile Heart/Sting
Published by: Idea Factory
As if we didn’t have enough tactical RPG’s this year, Fairy Fencer F is here to join the deluge! This one is FUNNY though, but it’s supposed to be that way, unlike Fire Emblem Engage which is unintentionally funny with its terrible story & dialogue.
The Last Case of Benedict Fox (PC/Xbox One/Series X|S) – Releases Apr. 27th
Developed by: Plot Twist
Published by: Rogue Games
Perhaps even more played out that tactical RPG’s is the metroidvania genre and, get this, it’s using the works of H.P. Lovecraft for its plot, who’s doing that?! Oh, literally everyone, okay. There’s a card game called Smash Up and one of its expansion packs is called The Obligatory Cthulhu Expansion, which made me chuckle. Anyway, I’m still going to get this because I’m a sucker.
Afterimage (PC/PS4/PS5/Switch/Xbox One/Series X|S) – Releases Apr. 25th
Developed by: Aurogon Shanghai
Published by: Modus Games
Oh fuck, ANOTHER metroidvania? The hand drwn art looks really nice but, my god, do we need more of these?
Stranded: Alien Dawn (PC/PS4/PS5/Xbox One/Series X|S) – Releases Apr. 25th
Developed by: Haemimont Games
Published by: Frontier Foundry
This survival strategy sim has been in early access on PC since October of last year, with Steam user reviews calling it “Very Positive”. I’m intrigued, though I’m curious how well it translates to consoles. Like, how important are a mouse and keyboard to this game?
Strayed Lights (PC/PS4/PS5/Switch/Xbox One/Series X|S) – Releases Apr. 25th
Developed by: Embers
Published by: Embers
Strayed Lights is the debut game from French developer Embers, and it looks gorgeous. Will that translate into good gameplay?
Trinity Trigger (PC/PS4/PS5/Switch) – Releases Apr. 25th
Developed by: FURYU Corporation
Published by: XSEED Games/Marvelous USA
The involvement of XSEED immediately puts Trinity Trigger on my radar, though I’m not sure I dig the PS2 era graphics and gameplay. It’s so funny to now see that generation of game consoles be nostalgia, but all those kids who were 10 when stuff like Dark Cloud came out are now in their early 30’s and ready to recapture their youth. Meanwhile I’m over here counting down the days to my inevitable death. The other day I had one of those weird reminders that, yes, one day I will die and I am terrified at the thought of what comes next. I’m terrified that people will live on after I am gone, that my child will one day become old and pass on, and her children will grow old and pass on and nothing matters but at the same time EVERYTHING matters. I think I’ll make a sandwich.
Ports and Re-releases:
Live a Live (PC/PS4/PS5) – Releases Apr. 27th
One of the best games of 2022 is now making its way to PC and PlayStation consoles. Folks, if you haven’t played this multi-story RPG yet I strongly encourage you to check it out. It is an absolute classic.
Mugen Souls (Switch) – Releases Apr. 27th
Eleven years after it was released on PS3, the RPG Mugen Souls is making its way to modern consoles with a port to the Nintendo Switch. Just what is Mugen Souls? Well, it’s a turn based, open field RPG, similar to the Neptunia series, in which players are trying to rule an entire galaxy through subjugation, via ending all conflicts on each planet. Okay.
Monster Hunter Rise: Sunbreak (PS4/PS5/Xbox One/Series X|S) – Releases Apr. 28th
The full Monster Hunter Rise story is now available on all modern gaming platforms, which means the new one is probably coming out next year.
Xenoblade Chronicles 3: Future Redeemed (Switch) – Releases Apr. 25th
Get ready to embark on all new adventures with Shulk, Rex, and the whole gang as you weird swords and knuckles and other instruments of death, all while running around on the body of a long dead god/machine.
The rest of this week’s titles are all kind of neat. We’ve got the puzzle game Magical Drop VI, the Pokémon-esque Cassette Beasts, and..dear god…TWO tactical RPG’s Ash of Gods: The Way and Dungeon Drafters.
- Katana-Ra: Shinobi Rising (PC) – Releases Apr. 25th
- Magical Drop VI (PC/Switch) – Releases Apr. 25th
- Roots of Pacha (PC) – Releases Apr. 25th
- Cassette Beasts (PC) – Releases Apr. 25th
- Ash of Gods: The Way (PC) – Releases Apr. 27th
- Dungeon Drafters (PC) – Releases Apr. 27th
- Minabo – A walk through life (PC/PS4/PS5/Switch/Xbox One/Series X|S) – Releases Apr. 28th
- Welcome to Goodland (PC) – Releases Apr. 28th
Notable Releases from 10, 20, and 30 years ago:
Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon (PC/PS3/Xbox 360) – Released May 1st, 2013: Wiki Link
Notable Film Release: Pain & Gain – Starring Mark Wahlberg, Dwayne Johnson, and Anthony Mackie
*Click here to watch the trailer*
Notable Album Release: Streetlight Manifesto – The Hands That Thieve
*Click here to listen to the album*
Hold onto your butts, ladies & gentlemen, we’re about to take a trip into a 1980’s inspired future with the first person shooter Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon. Now, you might be wonder, “what the heck does Blood Dragon have to do with Far Cry 3“, the answer; NOTHING! Inspired by the Tyranny of King Washington DLC for Assassin’s Creed III, which told the story of an alternate universe USA that was not tied to the main story of ACIII, Blood Dragon takes place in a 1980’s retro futuristic world and has nothing to do with Far Cry 3 whatsoever.
Developed by a Ubisoft employee named Dean Evans, he wanted to make a game that played on the then popular “grindhouse” trend in films, seen in movies like Grindhouse, Manborg, and Hobo With a Shotgun. In fact, while doing research for the game, Evans contacted the director of Hobo, Jason Eisner, to get his thoughts on the game, prompting the two to become fast friends and Eisner getting credit as an informal advisor on Blood Dragon. Going back to the 80’s inspiration, the team wanted an action star from the era to play the main character, Rex “Power” Colt. Initially the team had considered Dolph Lundgren, but after a chance meeting with Michael Biehn, Evans knew he had his man.
Evans met Biehn at a Q&A session for another “grindhouse” film from 2011 called The Victim (written and directed by Biehn) which is where the idea of him voicing Rex Colt came to be. Biehn was reluctant because he had a really horrible experience with video game voice acting on the universally loathed Aliens: Colonial Marines. After speaking with Evans for an extended period of time, Biehn started to feel more comfortable about the project and thought that the 1980’s retro futuristic idea sounded intriguing and fun. Biehn’s was told that Rex Colt was like Kyle Reese, but if Reese was the Terminator (Biehn played Reese in The Terminator). Biehn took this a step further and imagined Rex as a grizzled, “I’m too old for this shit” kind of guy, a cynical soldier who just wanted to collect a paycheck. As such, the writers added in new dialogue to the game th reflect this type of personality.
To help get the development team into the right mindset, Evans would hold weekly “Cyborg Nights” in which he wold make the team pause their work to watch a classic 1980’s science fiction film, such as RoboCop and The Wraith. The keep with the game’s “grindhouse” feel, the cutscenes were made in 16-bit graphics with minimal animation. Character designs were kept intentionally poor, as if they were only give $150 budget on a film to create the costumes. Also keeping with the low budget aesthetic, the team regularly used “found objects” in the game’s environment and design.
On April 1st, 2013, Ubisoft released a trailer online, prompting many to assume it was an elaborate joke. However, things started popping up that led people to believe it could be real, including a listing on a Brazilian ratings website and the release of the soundtrack on Sound Cloud by the synthwave duo Power Glove. It became official on April 7th when the game was accidentally released on Ubisoft’s Uplay service, before being taken down, with Blood Dragon being listed on Xbox Live Marketplace the next day. On May 1st the game would finally launch on PC, PS3, and Xbox 360.
Critics praised Blood Dragon on release and really enjoyed the over the top, 1980’s retro futuristic look. Of course not everyone loved it, though, as some critics found the game to be “dumb”, but that dumbness is what appealed to most critics, as well as players, who launched Blood Dragon into the stratosphere with over 1 million digital downloads across all platforms. At the end of year awards shows, Blood Dragon was nominated for “Downloadable GOTY” by the DICE Awards and won “Best DLC” at the Spike VGX Awards.
Blood Dragon would receive an upscaled version for PS4, PC, and Xbox One in 2021, but it would never receive a sequel, despite Evans’ desire to make one. A spin-off called Trials of the Blood Dragon for the game Trials, and Blood Dragons would appear in DLC for Far Cry 5, marking the last time anything from Blood Dragon would appear in a game. The success of Blood Dragon went on to inspire Ubisoft to make other Far Cry spin off’s, including Primal and New Dawn. Most recently, an animated series for Netflix was announced, called Captain Laserhawk: A Blood Dragon Remix, though it has no release date.
Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon is a fantastic first person shooter. It’s a good mix of stealth and action that really captures that 1980’s sci-fi flick feeling. There’s a real sense of love and care put into the game and I believe that comes from the strong direction and passion that Dean Evans had for cheesy, 1980’s science fiction. If you haven’t played this game I would highly recommend checking it out. This is a bit of a spoiler, but all three games this week are absolutely fantastic and I hope you find time to play them all.
Please enjoy this music video my film school buddy Michelle made back in 2013, inspired by the Far Cry series:
Ikaruga (GameCube) – Released Apr. 15th, 2003: Wiki Link
Notable Film Release: Identity – Starring John Cusack, Ray Liotta, Amanda Peet, John Hawkes, Clea DuVall, William Lee Scott, Rebecca De Mornay, Leila Kenzle, John C. McGinley, Bret Loehr, and Jake Busey
*Click here to watch the trailer*
Notable Album Release: Yeah Yeah Yeahs – Fever to Tell
*Click here to listen to the album*
Following the release of their 1998 arcade/Sega Saturn release Radiant Silvergun, renowned Japanese developer Treasure wanted to release a sequel, but they didn’t want it to be just another conventional shoot ’em up. Playing by the rules of game design wasn’t really Treasures style so, for this Radiant Silvergun sequel they wanted to think outside the box and, bizarrely, combine a puzzle game with a shooter. The result was the not quite sequel, more spiritual successor to Radiant Silvergun, Ikaruga.
Like Radiant Silvergun, Ikaruga is a vertically scrolling shoot ’em up (SHMUP) in which players pilot an aircraft as they try to thwart the plans of a madman hell bent on ruling the world. What makes Ikaruga unique is the game’s dual polarity system, which has players alternating between light and dark. Enemies in the game carry a color polarity, white or black, and when players destroy an enemy matching their polarity they will be able to collect energy balls. These balls increase the player’s attack power, leading to an ultimate attack that resets the energy gauge. Another bonus is that players will not take damage from the color that they are currently assigned, i.e., black bullets don’t hit you when you are dark, white bullets don’t hit you when you’re light. This plays into the puzzle aspect of the game as players will need to constantly shift between polarities in order to avoid enemy fire, particularly during boss battles.
Arriving first in Japanese arcades in 2001, Ikaruga was not an instant success, with players complaining that the slow pace and constant thinking was not well suited for an arcade game. Treasure disagreed and noted that titles like Ikaruga were the future of arcades (game centers) and would only help them grow. Conversely, critics were highly receptive to the game and though that Ikaruga helped breath life into a dying genre. A Japanese Dreamcast port was starting to make the rounds in import circles in the West, prompting publisher Infogrames to bring their GameCube port to North America where it was met with overwhelming praise.
Critics were over the moon for Ikaruga, calling it not just one of the best games of the year, but one of the best games of all time. Treasure’s gamble on changing the way a SHMUP was played had blown critics minds, saying that Treasure had taken over 20 years of game design and put out the best version of a shooter that you could possibly make. As the years would pass, Ikaruga would make its way to the Xbox 360, PC, Switch, and PS4. Modern critics continued to sings its praises, calling it the “shooter’s shooter”, with some critics saying it transcended video games and was a work of pure art.
The few negative things critics had to say about Ikaruga was that it was brutally difficult and extremely short. These two knocks against still didn’t do anything to dampen the incredibly brilliant gameplay of Ikaruga and, in my opinion, add to its allure, because just as you start to master the game you find yourself at the end, just wanting to start it all over again and get better and better. With Ikaruga easily available today on multiple modern platforms I would strongly recommend experiencing this masterpiece for yourself.
The Lost Vikings (SNES) – Released Apr. 29th, 1993: Wiki Link
Notable Film Release: The Dark Half – Starring Timothy Hutton, Amy Madigan, Julie Harris, and Michael Rooker
*Click here to watch the trailer*
Notable Album Release: Porno For Pyros – Porno For Pyros
*Click here to listen to album*
Last this week is the all-time classic The Lost Vikings by the very famous and very prolific developer Silicon & Synapse. Oh, you say you’ve never heard of Silicon & Synapse? Of course you have, and I can almost guarantee that you’ve played one of their games before. Oh, maybe you only know them by their current name, Blizzard Entertainment. Yeah, you know who I’m talking about now? Yes, folks, the developer behind Warcraft, Starcraft, Diablo and Overwatch got their start as a small, 5 person company called Silicon & Synapse, with their first original game being the Super Nintendo title The Lost Vikings.
Initially, the team wanted to make a game that was a riff on the popular PC game Lemmings. However, instead of controlling a bunch of suicidal little creatures trying to get to an exit, players would control a bunch of Vikings that were trying to overtake a castle or raid a village, among other things, and was an idea that would eventually lead to Warcraft. The idea was that players could assign roles to the Vikings on screen to help them achieve their goal, however, as this game was primarily developed for home consoles, the tiny, 8 pixel high Vikings were too small to be seen on a TV screen. The team then decided to pare down the number of Vikings on screen down to three, giving each their own static set of abilities. Thus, The Lost Vikings was born.
The Lost Vikings is a puzzle platforming game where players switch between three characters, each with their own special set of abilities. As players move through a stage, they must alternate between each Viking in order to solve the puzzle that will lead them to the exit. The first Viking is Erik, a fast running athlete, Erik is the only character that can jump and also has the ability to break through walls due to his speed and heavy metal helmet. Second is Baleog, sporting a Hulk Hogan mustache, he is the group’s fighter, brandishing a sword and bow. If any enemy needs to be killed, or a switch behind a fence needs to be flipped, Baleog is your man. Finally, there’s Olaf, the loveable big man with the big shield. Olaf is able to block projectiles, stop enemies from moving past him, can hang glide with his shield, and can boost Erik up to higher platforms.
According to a post on Blizzard’s website The Lost Vikings was sort of the template they used for all of their future games. It’s a mantra they call “finding the fun”, where you take an initial idea and keep paring it down and paring it down until you find the core, root source of the fun and then build it back up from there. Another interesting point in the post comes from Blizzard co-founder Allen Adham who says that he had heard a local game store was displaying The Lost Vikings at their store in a playable kiosk. He ran down to the store to see how the public were reacting to the game, he mentions that a kid around 12 or 13 picked up the controller, started playing and immediately died by falling into a pit of electricity instead of jumping over it. The kid put the controller down and walked away, throwing Adham into an existential crisis, vowing that all Blizzard games moving forward would make the first few moments of their games easy and straightforward.
I could go over the story of The Lost Vikings but there really isn’t much to it. The three Vikings are abducted by aliens and will be forced to pose as living trophies for some alien mad man. The Vikings don’t want to do this, obviously, and break out of their prison and try to find a way back home. That’s it.
Despite that 12 year old kid at the video game store getting frustrated, The Lost Vikings was a critical and commercial success. Published by Interplay, the game had strong sales on the Super Nintendo with immediate plans to port it to Genesis and PC, and ensured that Silicon & Synapse/Blizzard could continue making games, following it up almost immediately with another SNES classic, Rock ‘N Roll Racing. Critics were very impressed with the game, calling it a unique mash up of the puzzle and adventure genres (note to everyone, if you want your game to be a masterpiece, combine a puzzle game with any genre). Critics were happy with the pacing, noting that levels weren’t too long or too short, and that the puzzles were challenging but fair, never really making the player feel dumb or incapable of beating the level.
During the end of year accolades, Nintendo Power magazine put The Lost Vikings in their Top 10 SNES Games of 1993, at number 7. As the years went on, the popularity of The Lost Vikings, particularly in critic circles, grew and grew. It would regularly show up on lists of “Top SNES Games”, “Top Genesis Games”, “Top PC Games” and “Top Games of All Time”. Most recently in 2022, website IGN placed The Lost Vikings at number 30 on their list of the Top 100 SNES Games of All Time. Sometimes I have the displeasure of telling you that a critically acclaimed game is no longer available, but that’s not the case with The Lost Vikings. In 2021, Blizzard released a collection of their earliest titles for modern consoles, which includes The Lost Vikings. Folks, I love this game, I really do. The Lost Vikings is one of those games that makes you sit back and truly appreciate what a video game is. Like Ikaruga, I think it transcends video gaming and stands as a true work of art. That 5-6 people could make a game with such lasting impact, and still be just as fun 30 years later, and feel just as fresh, is astounding. The Lost Vikings is among the greatest video games ever made, I hope you all get a chance to check it out.
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