New Game Releases 06/06/23 – 06/12/23

Welcome to another week of brand new video games! Now, some of you might be thinking “Andy, didn’t Diablo IV come out last week“, well, yes, technically. People who preordered the game got to play it early, but what was I gonna do, have two big titles in one week? No, that would have been dumb, and what was I supposed to do, feature Moto GP 23? Get real. Uh, no offense to Moto GP 23

Top Releases:

Diablo IV (PC/PS4/PS5/Xbox One/Series X|S) – Releases Jun. 6th

Developed by: Blizzard Entertainment
Published by: Blizzard Entertainment

The world’s most beloved and cherished video game company, Blizzard Entertainment, is back with a new entry in their long running Diablo series. Now, we all absolutely LOVED their last two offerings, Diablo III and its terrible launch issues, and Diablo Immortal, the predatory, money grabbing shit show that ranks amongst the worst games of 2022. Actually, maybe Diablo isn’t loved as much as it used to be, huh? That’s okay, because Diablo IV is, apparently, a magnificent game with none of the launch issues that III had, and is an ACTUAL video game, unlike Immortal. I’m dying to try this out (in 6 months when it’s $19.99 on PS5), and I feel like most of the gaming community is too. I mean, assuming you also forgot how terrible the executive team at Blizzard is.

Amnesia: The Bunker (PC/PS4/Xbox One/Series X|S) – Releases Jun. 6th

Developed by: Frictional Games
Published by: Frictional Games

Speaking of fourth entries in video game franchises, this week sees the release of Amnesia: The Bunker. This survival horror series began way back in 2010 and his just gotten bigger and bigger since then. While the games don’t seem to connect story wise (that I’m aware of), they are all thematically connected, with each being set in dimly lit locations set underground, with players being hunted by some kind of horrific monster. The Bunker isn’t that different, with players taking on the role of a French soldier in WWI named Henri Clement. Players are knocked unconscious by German soldiers and wake up in an abandoned, underground bunker that is, of course, home to a terrifying monster. The perfect Summer game.

Loop8: Summer of Gods (PC/PS4/Switch/Xbox One) – Releases Jun. 6th

Developed by: Marvelous
Published by: XSEED

Speaking of Summer games, we’ve got Loop8: Summer of Gods, a brand new RPG from the gang over at Marvelous. Set in the far, FAR away year of 1983, players take on the role of Nini, a teenager from another planet who has just happened to appear in a small, Japanese town. Nini will spend the Summer hanging out with the other local teens, having lunch, going shopping, getting into deep conversations and, of course, fight evil aliens who will destroy the Earth in August. Nini will, often, be unable to stop these aliens, meaning he will need to travel back in time to the beginning of Summer and try, try again. Remember when I used to make the intro of these articles parody lyrics to a popular Summer time song from June to August? Yeah, me too. Here’s some Don Henley:

Nocturnal (PC/PS4/PS5/Switch/Xbox One/Series X|S) – Releases Jun. 7th

Developed by: Sunnyside Games
Published by: Dear Villagers

Here’s the Steam page description for Nocturnal which should give you all the information you need to know just how excited I am for this game:

After years of traveling, Ardeshir finds his native island covered in a mysterious fog. Carve your way with fire and steel to find out what happened to your people in this action-platformer game. You’re the only one who can discover the secrets that lie beyond the Mist“.

MotoGP 23 (PC/PS4/PS5/Switch/Xbox One/Series X|S) – Releases Jun. 8th

Developed by: Milestone
Published by:  Milestone

Motorcycles are pretty sick.

Ports and Re-releases:

Raiden III x MIKADO MANIAX (PC/PS4/PS5/Switch/Xbox One/Series X|S) – Releases Jun. 6th

raiden iii mikado

Vertical scrolling shooters are pretty sick.

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

Animal Crossing: New Leaf (3DS) – Released Jun. 9th, 2013: Wiki Link

animal crossing new leaf

Notable Film Release: The Purge – Starring Ethan Hawke, Lena Headey, Adelaide Kane, and Max Burkholder
*Click here to watch the trailer*
Notable Album Release: The Lonely Island – The Wack Album
*Click here to listen to the album*

It’s a week of “4’s” as we discuss the notable title from ten years ago, Animal Crossing: New Leaf, the fourth mainline entry in the franchise. Released four years (there it is again!) after the Wii title, Animal Crossing: City Folk, New Leaf hit the 3DS and gave kids eh, let’s face it, mostly adults, something to do over the long Summer holiday. Being on a handheld console was perfect, letting players get creative no matter where they were; at home, on the toilet, on the bus, on the beaches of Cancun, free soloing Half Dome, at their grandma’s funeral, all the places you would normally take your 3DS.

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While the core gameplay of New Leaf mimic’s that of its predecessors, there were some fairly big changes. The most striking change was that players were no longer just another resident in their town, they were the mayor! Yes, long time town mayor Tortimer decided to retire to a tropical island, leaving care of the town to you and your trusty sidekick/secretary, Isabelle. This lovable, yellow shih tzu who would help players maintain their town, quickly became a fan favorite and has appeared in all subsequent Animal Crossing releases, as well the Nintendo franchises Super Smash Bros. and Mario Kart.

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Like previous Animal Crossing games, players start out on a train that is taking them to their new home. They are greeted by the character Rover who asks them questions about their appearance, as well as their name. Once finished, players arrive in town and are greeted by Isabelle and three residents, proclaiming that the player is the new mayor. From there, players begin their life living in a tent, eventually upgrading to a home. As mayor, players have more control over the design and layout of their town than they did in previous games, like promoting public works projects, like building a fountain or bridge, and enacting ordinances which can change how the town works, for example, when shops open/close and villagers wake up/go to sleep.

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Like City Folk, all of the shops are in a separate hub area, though this time they are connected directly to your town and do not require a trip on a bus. It’s here that players can buy furniture from Timmy & Tommy, purchase clothing from the Able Sisters, send and receive letters at the post office, and buy/pay for their home at Tom Nook’s realty office. Further shops and buildings become available as players progress in the game, including a night club where K.K. Slider performs as a DJ, and a garden shop that is run by a new character, a sloth named Leif.

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Reception to New Leaf was incredibly positive, being seen as a major improvement over City Folk, with all of its new features and stronger customization tools. It was a huge financial success for Nintendo and likely drove sales of the 3DS, with over 3 million copies sold worldwide, including almost 1 million units in Japan alone. The game would receive some minor updates over the years, including amiibo compatibility, but did not receive any DLC. A spin-off title, Happy Home Designer, would release in 2015 to lukewarm reviews, with critics and players suggesting that it would have been better suited as add-on content for New Leaf (that game’s sequel, Happy Home Paradise, would be DLC for the Switch game, Animal Crossing: New Horizons).

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While game preservationists and hard core fans may enjoy tinkering around in their towns on old consoles, Nintendo has never been shy about completely abandoning their legacy software for the newest entry, and Animal Crossing is no different. While I’m sure New Leaf still has a dedicated fan base, most players (and Nintendo) have moved on to New Horizons. Your only means of playing New Leaf are if you own a physical cart or you downloaded it digitally before the 3DS eShop shut down. With New Horizons picking up where New Leaf left off, with a boat load of new things to do, I’m not sure there’s much reason to go back and play New Leaf, but I am certain there is still a special place in many people’s hearts for this game; maybe you’re one of them.

Tomb Raider: The Angel of Darkness (PC/PS2) – Released Jun. 20th, 2003: Wiki Link

tomb raider angel

Notable Film Release: 2 Fast 2 Furious – Starring Paul Walker, Tyrese Gibson, Chris “Ludacris” Bridges, Eva Mendes, Cole Hauser, and James Remar
*Click here to watch the trailer*
Notable Album Release: Radiohead – Hail to the Thief
*Click here to listen to the album*

After the death of Lara Croft in Tomb Raider: The Last Revelation, she would suddenly appear alive in the fifth game in the series (not the fourth? bummer), The Angel of Darkness. Are you confused? Yeah, so were a lot of other people. After making a grand statement about the death of Lara in The Last Revelation and wanting to restart the series with a new protagonist, publisher Eidos and developer Core just went ahead and made Lara the protagonist again, but she was “different”, i.e., her character model was updated for modern consoles, and she was a bit more “edgy”, or whatever.

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Having seen the Tomb Raider franchise slip since its 1996 debut, Core was excited to move onto next-gen hardware, developing Angel of Darkness for the PS2 from the ground up. The team was heavily inspired by, what they considered, the two biggest action/adventure franchises on the planet, Metal Gear Solid and, what’s that, Shenmue? Alright. The team wanted to incorporate elements of those games into The Angel of Darkness, with Lara having more interactions with NPC’s, and incorporating a stronger stealth element to the gameplay. Core had grand ambitions for The Angel of Darkness and wanted it to be a grand epic with a massive scale. Their publisher had a different idea.

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In order to have a road map for their grand vision, Core enlisted the talents of a writer named Murti Schofield who put together a novel for the team, with The Angel of Darkness being just the first chapter. In this story, players would have been given a solid answer as to what happend to Lara at the end of The Last Revelation, but Eidos would have none of it. Core was taking far too long to make the game (over two years, can you imagine!?) and The Angel of Darkness needed to be out before the July release of the second Tomb Raider film, The Cradle of Life.

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To meet the deadline, Eidos forced Core to abandon all of their grand plans for an epic, sprawling game set across multiple locations with tons of characters. Core was also forced to remove several of the game’s narrative portions, including cutscenes and dialog that were integral to the game’s plot, including how and why Lara survived at the end of The Last Revelation. Despite having so little time left, the team was still obligated to put out a PC release along with the PS2 version and it was, as you might imagine, a buggy piece of shit. According to Core, the team had only come up with and finalized the PC control scheme just days before it was sent to manufacturers for print.

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The reception to The Angel of Darkness was abysmal. Critics called it one of the worst games of the year and, despite selling over 2 millions copies, left players with such a bad taste in their mouths that it, most likely, tanked the box office for The Cradle of Life where it debuted in fourth place behind Bad Boys II, the first Pirates of the Caribbean film, and Spy Kids 3-D. Despite some praise for the game’s graphics and story, it was the gameplay that received the most negative comments. It’s almost like Core was fully focused on the story and their shiny, next gen graphics engine, instead of trying to make a fun game. Maybe there was a good game there but Eidos forced their hand. In any case, The Angel of Darkness is a massive piece of shit and put the Tomb Raider franchise on hiatus until 2006. Don’t play it, your life is worth so much more than this game has to offer.

Syndicate (PC) – Released Jun. 6th, 1993: Wiki Link

syndicate cover

Notable Film Release: Life With Mikey – Starring Michael J. Fox, Christina Vidal, Nathan Lane, Cyndi Lauper, and David Krumholtz
*Click here to watch the trailer*
Notable Album Release:  RuPaul – Supermodel of the World
*Click here to listen to album*

After finding great success with Populous, British developer Bullfrog Productions jumped back into the real time strategy genre with Syndicate. Set in a cyberpunk future, Syndicate has players overseeing the wheeling and dealing of a major corporation. Players must retain control of their territory, while expanding into others territory to increase their size and influence. Along the way they must manage things such as tax rates, and use a team of cybernetically enhanced agents to conduct clandestine missions, giving the game an added tactical war game feel.

syndicate 01

Designed by Sean Cooper, a Bullfrog veteran who had worked on Populous, Populous II and Power Monger, and produced by legendary developer Peter Molyneux, Syndicate was highly anticipated by the gaming press and players. For the game’s story, not much was told in-game, with the plot and overall theme told in the game’s instruction manual. In the future, major corporations would continue to assert their dominance over the world’s governments and the people, eventually causing them to be seen less as companies and more like crime syndicates (hence the name of the game). Syndicate is unique in that players are, essentially, playing as the bad guys. Squashing rebellions and murdering their rivals, with the game’s end goal is for the player to become the emperor of Earth, ruling over everyone and everything.

syndicate 03

Despite the initial excitement, Syndicate was seen as being as good as they hype (a Molyneux trademark). Critics were put off by the poor enemy AI, repetitive missions, and lack of multiplayer, a new genre in PC gaming that was near mandatory for all action/adventure games. There was also criticism pointed towards the players actions, with some reviewers and players being wary of having to play as such a ruthless and evil corporation. The idea of asserting your dominance over the world and forcing people to obey you with mind controlling drugs was a hard selling point.

syndicate 04

While Syndicate had its detractors, it was hard to deny that the gameplay was outstanding. Bullfrog was no slouch when it came to RTS games and Syndicate was just the latest example of how much further ahead they were than the competition. Subsequent console ports, however, would be widely panned due to the just how confusing the game was to play with a controller. Console graphics were also criticized, with the graphics on the Genesis version being extremely bad, to the point that it was nearly impossible to play.

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Despite being a bit complicated and containing a dubious message, Syndicate was still a financial success for Bullfrog and publisher EA. A sequel, Syndicate Wars would be released in 1996, though Bullfrog were no longer the master of the RTS genre, having been surpassed by their competitors. A third game in the series was planned but ultimately scrapped. A reboot of the franchise would release in 2012, this time as a first person shooter, with players working to take down a syndicate rather than players being part of a syndicate. If you’d like to play Syndicate today, you can, very easily, as the game is available digitally from GOG. It’s not the best RTS game you’ll ever play, but it sure isn’t the worst. Give it a try!

Spy Hunter (Arcade) – Released Jun. 11th, 1983: Wiki Link

spy hunter

Notable Film Release: WarGames – Starring Matthew Broderick, Ally Sheedy, and Dabney Coleman
*Click here to watch the trailer*
Notable Album Release: The Police – Synchronicity
*Click here to listen to album*

If the major corporations of the 2090’s were able to run amok, it was likely because of deregulation put forth by U.S. President Ronald Reagan. Why am I talking about Ronald Reagan? Well, it’s because this week’s notable title from 40 years ago is the 1983 arcade classic, Spy Hunter.

spy hunter 01

If you were alive in the 1980’s then you probably remember the big conservative boom in Western politics at the beginning of the decade with the elections of Margaret Thatcher in the UK and Ronald Regan in the US. Their hardline stance against Russia and the threat of Communism led the two countries to ramp up tensions with the USSR, which would ultimately lead to their dissolution and the rejoining of East & West Germany into one united country. Again, why am I writing about this in a piece on Spy Hunter. Well, it’s the Cold War, stupid.

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After the end of WWII, the major countries of the world united under two umbrellas. There was the Western Bloc, which included the US, UK, most of South America, Australia, and the Western European countries, all of which believed in Democracy and Capitalism (to some degree). On the other side you had the Eastern Bloc, which consisted of Socialist friendly countries like Russia, China, and Eastern Europe. It was around 1947 when these two Blocs entered what we call the Cold War, a type of war that was not fought on a battlefield, per se, but instead fought in the shadows, through espionage, “diplomacy”, propaganda, and cultural influence.

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By the late 1970’s, the Cold War was beginning to take a toll on people around the world. Large scale protests of the Vietnam War in the U.S. led to civil unrest, while brutal dictators in Indonesia, Cambodia, and the African continent were using Communism as a means of genocide and domination. With Western leaders appearing weak, this allowed military hawks like Thatcher and Reagan to gain power, bringing a renewed interest to the Cold War in popular culture. With a nation suddenly interested in spies, espionage, and advanced military technology, you began to see films like WarGames, Cloak & Dagger, and TWO James Bond films in a single year (Octopussy and Never Say Never Again) be released. Video games wouldn’t be far behind.

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Over at Bally Midway, developer George Gomez, who had just wrapped up production on the highly successful Tron, found himself listening to audio cassettes containing music from the James Bond films. He came up with the idea of players taking on the role of Bond in which they would drive a technologically advanced super car that contained machine guns, missiles, and other gadgets, on a mission to eliminate rival spies. Bally Midway approached the company that owned Bond and asked them if they would like to make a licensed video game. The Bond people declined, so Bally Midway said “fuck it” and made their own spy game; Spy Hunter.

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A melding of two genres, Spy Hunter is, essentially, a racing game mixed with a vertically scrolling shooter. Gomez, along with his partner on Tron, Tom Leon, came up with the course for Spy Hunter on a long sheet of paper. For the in-game music, the team wanted to use the James Bond theme but, after failing to obtain the Bond license, Bally Midway instead bought the rights to the song “Peter Gunn” which was the theme song to a 1950’s TV show with the same name. You’ve probably heard a version of it a million times, with the tune being most closely associated with private detectives and spies.

In Spy Hunter, players controls a nameless protagonist as they drive the technologically advanced super car, the G-6155 Interceptor. Initially, players only have machine guns on their car but, as they progress through the endless course, they can drive into special trucks that outfit them with surface-to-air missiles, oil slicks, and smoke. Missiles are used to take down helicopters, while the oil and smoke are used to distract enemy cars and run them off the road. Occasionally, players will have their car transformed into a boat, where the oil slick becomes a rear flamethrower. There are no bosses and no end goal in Spy Hunter, with the only goal being to get the highest score.

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Released on nearly the same day as the James Bond film Octopussy, Spy Hunter was a big hit both critically and commercially. With the continued rise in conservative politics, anti-Russia sentiment, and films & TV shows containing both cool dudes and cool cars, Spy Hunter continued to tear up the sales charts through 1984. Home console ports would follow on just about every machine in the marketplace, but it was the 1987 release on the NES that shined the brightest.

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A sequel, also released in 1987, would arrive to tepid reviews. Was this because Reagan and USSR leader Gorbachev had reached a peaceful agreement? Who knows. What I do know is that Spy Hunter II took more inspiration from The Road Warrior than it did James Bond. The poor reception to Spy Hunter II was enough for Bally Midway to abandon the series for nearly 15 years, not releasing a new entry until 2001, just days after 9/11. It was a modest success and led to a sequel, Spy Hunter II, in 2003, notable for being developed by Angel Studios who would go on to be part of Rockstar, developing the Red Dead franchise.

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A couple more sequels and reboots would come out over the next decade but the series never really caught on again. Like other 1980’s arcade franchises, Spy Hunter is most fondly remembered as a nostalgia act, with the original game being the one, true, definitive version that doesn’t seem to require a follow-up, it’s perfect just the way it is. The easiest way to play the game today is on the Xbox One/Series X|S as part of the Midway Arcade Origins collection. Spy Hunter is 100% a product of its time, and while I might have painted it as some kind of weird game for conservatives, it’s not. It’s just a fun little racing/shooting game that keeps your reflexes sharp and your imagination running wild. Dunnnn…dun. Dunnnn…DUN DUN!!

Andy Tuttle
Andy Tuttle

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