Hey, that game Deathloop is finally coming out. It feels like we’ve been getting this game teased to us for ten years, but would you believe it’s only been two? The first trailer debuted at E3 2019, and then seemed to be EVERYWHERE afterwards. Now, finally, maybe they’ll show some trailers for different games at these Sony events, I mean, at least until the trailers for the Deathloop DLC start appearing.
Deathloop (PC/PS5) – Releases Sep. 14th
We’ve all sat through what felt like an endless eternity of vague trailers for Deathloop, a first person shooter with a 1960’s spy movie art design but, surprisingly, it was only two years, if you can believe it. Finally, though, players will get the chance to play this overhyped game and take control of an assassin named Colt who is, it seems, stuck in a time loop, giving Deathloop a very Majora’s Mask-y feel. Colt has been tasked with assassinating the eight leaders of this supposed never ending party utopia that, I assume, is worse than it seems. Given only a few hours to murder the eight leaders, if any of them are still alive when the clock strikes midnight you must start all over again, but with the gained knowledge of how the night plays out. However, while it might seem like you could easily memorize walk patterns and the leaders’ locations, you are not the only killer in this time loop. An agent of the eight leaders, named Julianna, has been tasked with protecting the time loop and will do whatever she can to stop you. Making things even more interesting is that Julianna can either be computer controlled or you can allow other people to join your game, letting another human take control of her. I think Deathloop has a lot of potential here, and I thought I was going to wait a few weeks before checking it out but it’s getting some of the best reviews of the year. Fuck…WHAT DO I DO?!!!? The FOMO is strong…
Cruis’n Blast (Switch) – Releases Sep. 14th
Your eyes are not deceiving you, folks, this is a brand new Cruis’n game. Well, brand new isn’t quite right, it came out in 2017 in arcades…well…let’s be honest, they probably only came to Dave & Busters because most arcades are dead. Still, since the last time you probably went to an arcade was in 2003, I’m going to guess that this is a new game for many of you out there. While original Cruis’n developer Midway no longer exists, the team that worked on this new title (Raw Thrills, co-founded by the legendary Eugene Jarvis) is the same one that developed the original Crusi’n games. Watching the trailer above you can easily see that not a whole lot has changed here, which is totally fine with me. If you’ve played a Midway/Raw Thrills arcade racing game in the last 25 years then you should know exactly what you’re getting into. Deathloop might be the big new release this week, but Cruis’n Blast is the title I am most excited to fire up.
Eastward (PC/Switch) – Releases Sep. 9th
From a first time Chinese developer called Pixpil, and publisher Chucklefish who put out Wargroove, Starbound, and Risk of Rain, comes the top down adventure game Eastward. Giving off a strong Earthbound vibe, I initially thought this was an RPG, so I was pretty surprised when it didn’t turn out to be one. To be honest, not being an RPG has put this at a lower priority on my “to play” list, but I can see myself picking it up for $3.49 in two years on the Switch eShop.
SkateBIRD (PC/PS4/Switch/Xbox One/Series X|S) – Releases Sep. 16th
I know, I know, the trailer says this came out in August, but I can assure you, it comes out this week, okay? I mean, what do I need to say about this game? It’s birds riding skateboards, and apparently there is a kingfisher bird named Sam that wears night vision goggles in the game. Looking forward to picking this up on sale in two years at the same time I get Eastward.
Aragami 2 (PC/PS4/PS5/Xbox One/Series X|S) – Releases Sep. 17th
According to the website for Spanish developer Lince Works, the company is passionate about ninjas and stealth games. Their only title to date is the 2016 third person action game Aragami, which is about a stealthy ninja, and their second title, you might have guessed, is Aragami 2, which is also about a stealthy ninja. Imagine that.
Ports and Re-releases:
Nexomon (PS4/PS5/Switch/Xbox One/Series X|S) – Releases Sep. 17th
Nexomon, the Pokémon game for people who don’t want to get a Nintendo console, is finally coming to consoles, including the Nintendo Switch.
Ni no Kuni II: Revenant Kingdom Prince’s Edition (Switch) – Releases Sep. 17th
The RPG I bought on day one for the PS4 and still haven’t beaten is now coming to the Switch, a console that makes playing RPGs far easier due to its portability. Don’t worry, I’m not going to buy it…I wont! Stop looking at me like that!!
This week is pretty much owned by Arkane’s Deathloop, with everything else being small titles or indie releases. I’m sure some of these might be worth checking out, like the deck builder The Amazing American Circus, the photo puzzle game Toem, or the action RPG Tails of Iron that takes place in a world populated by mice and frogs.
- Between Time: Escape Room (PC/Switch) – Releases Sep. 15th
- Flynn: Son of Crimson (PC/PS4/Switch/Xbox One) – Releases Sep. 15th
- The Amazing American Circus (PC/PS4/PS5/Switch/Xbox One/Series X|S) – Releases Sep. 16th
- Gamedec (PC) – Releases Sep. 16th
- Metallic Child (PC/Switch) – Releases Sep. 16th
- Severed Steel (PC) – Releases Sep. 17th
- Tails of Iron (PC/PS4/PS5/Switch/Xbox One/Series X|S) – Releases Sep. 17th
- Toem (PC/PS5/Switch) – Releases Sep. 17th
- Trap Genesis (PC) – Releases Sep. 17th
Notable Releases from 10, 20 and 30 (and sometimes 40) years ago:
Gears of War 3 (Xbox 360) – Released Sep. 20th, 2011: Wiki Link
Last week we talked about the game Warhammer 40,0000: Space Marine, a dark and gritty third person shooter about big fuckin’ guys with big fuckin’ guns who just, like, fuckin’ shoot bad guys all day, pow, pow. At the time, some critics, including a very particular critic at the website Venture Beat, thought the game ripped off a lot of its gameplay, tone, and style from Gears of War. While you can debate which influenced, as Warhammer 40k came first but Gears made that style of video game popular, what you can’t debate is that in 2011 Epic Games released their most anticipated game to date in the franchise, the finale of the trilogy, Gears of War 3. Set two years after the events of Gears of War 2, part 3 finds Marcus, Dom, Anya, Cole, Baird, Jace, Carmine, and Sam living on a large warship where they try to stay safe from both the Locust and the Lambent (or “glowies”). They live life as scavenging nomads, moving from port to port, trading supplies with whatever survivors they come across, who typically hate them for fucking up the planet with their failed assaults. One day, while Cole, Carmine, Baird and Sam are out looking for supplies, Marcus and Dom are called to the bridge of the ship to meet with Anya. It seems that their former leader, Chairman Prescott, is on his way to the ship with important news. When Prescott arrives he drops a bombshell on Marcus, his father, who they all presumed was dead, is actually alive; dun-dun-DUN!! I didn’t play Gears 2, so I have no idea if this was some Earth shattering revelation, but it’s basically the catalyst that drives the entire plot of the game. First, however, you need to defend the ship from invading Lambent, and THEN, you need to go back in time and play a huge mission as Cole Train, before you get to play again as Marcus and actually move the plot along. This is kind of where the game loses me, because visually and gameplay wise, Gears of War 3 is amazing. As a late generation Xbox 360, it looks fantastic, and while Space Marine had really impressive visuals, Gears 3 destroys it, easily. What really sucks is the story and pacing of the game. Gears of War 3 is a really boring game to play, like it is so painfully tedious I was often finding myself checking my phone while playing. To be fair to the game, though, I only got about half way through the second act of the game, so maybe it picks up. Still, that first 3 hours is agony, I hated it, unlike Space Marine which grabbed my attention from the get go. However, I appear to be alone in my disdain because this game was hailed as a fucking masterpiece by the gaming press when it arrived. It received multiple perfect scores, and was named Best Action/Shooter game by four different outlets. Players were all over it as well, with the game selling over 3 million copies in its first week, making it the most successful Gears game at the time. This would be the last mainline game to be developed by Epic Games, although they developed the spin-off Gears of War: Judgement, but it would be the last game that series creator Cliff Bleszinski had any involvement in, with subsequent games being developed by Microsoft, the owner of the IP. I don’t really recommend Gears of War 3, it’s not a good game. Just play Space Marine.
Lufia: The Legend Returns (Game Boy Color) – Released Sep. 20th, 2001: Wiki Link
In 2001, Japanese developer Neverland was finally able to release a third Lufia game, a series of RPGs that hadn’t had a new game since 1995’s Lufia II: Rise of the Sinistrals on the SNES. However, this was not the first attempt at a third game. In fact, the third game originally had a different name, Lufia III: Ruins Chaser, and was set to be developed by a company called Nihon-Flex for release on the PlayStation sometime around the year 2000. Unfortunately, Nihon-Flex shut down, leaving Lufia III in a limbo state, with Japanese publisher Taito not knowing what to do with the game. Eventually the series’ original creators at Neverland were brought in to salvage what was left, their first order of business…a console change. Taking the bones of what Nihon-Flex put together, Neverland significantly downgraded the graphics to get the game running on the Game Boy Color, making this the first game in the series to be released on a handheld device (with all subsequent entries being handheld titles as well). When writing about these notable titles I will typically try to start big RPGs two or three weeks in advance to give myself some time to really experience it but, unfortunately, with Lufia: The Legend Returns I didn’t have that luxury, so it’s hard for me to give a solid impression on it, or so I thought. I felt like I was still in the opening introduction to the game, seeing as how my party was only up to three out of the nine (or twelve) you end up with, but after reading the plot synopsis I realized I was well over halfway done with the game, despite the supposed 40 hour journey (must be all the grinding). Anyway, Lufia: The Legend Returns is a serviceable JRPG that I could see myself sinking hours into on the bus or subway back in 2001, even if the story and characters are cliched.
Set one hundred years after the first Lufia game (and two hundred after the second), players are treated to a brief synopsis of the first two games and the “Doom Island Wars” before they are introduced to the main character, a swordsman named Wain. Your character is a descendent of the protagonist’s of the first two Lufia games, and is protector of a remote village. One day, a mysterious young woman comes into the village and attacks Wain, testing his skills to see if he is worthy of going on an adventure. She declares him incompetent which infuriates Wain who goes off to fight some monsters on the overworld map. When he returns he finds out that one of the homes in the village was destroyed by fire from the sky, injuring the mysterious young woman. He nurses her back to health and stays with her all night, impressing her. She tells Wain that her name is Seena and she is a fortune teller who has seen visions of a great destruction and needs a strong fighter to help her stop whatever calamity is about to befall them. They travel to a nearby tower, the source of the fireball, and discover that one of the Sinistrals, named Gades, has awakened, and who promptly beats the shit out of them and throws them out of the tower. Wain and Seena vow to get stronger, defeat the awakened Sinistrals, and save the world. Lufia: The Legend Returns is pretty derivative of most other JRPGs, but its party management system was a unique highlight. By the end of the game, nine (or twelve) people will be in your party, and they are all accessible during battle, three at a time. You must place your party members on a 3×3 grid, with only the front three members able to attack. If someone in the front line starts to die, you can swap them with another person in the same column as they are, taking over as one of your three main fighters. If your front three all perish, it’s game over. While not exactly a brand new concept, the game also employs a “mystery dungeon” style layout to its dungeons. Every tower, cave, castle, etc. you enter will be different each time, complete with new enemies and new secret rooms and treasure to discover. Being a handheld game, I could see this as a really good selling point, as you could grind on the bus all morning before moving on to the boss fight during your lunch break. The Lufia series wouldn’t reach the same levels of success as Final Fantasy, or even some of the more niche series like Ys or The Legend of Heroes, with only two more games being released, the last in 2010 for the DS. Thankfully, this game is easily attainable on the 3DS eShop for only a few bucks. If you want to give it a try I fully endorse your decision. I think I’m done with it, though.
Streets of Rage (Genesis) – Released Sep. 18th, 1991: Wiki Link
With the success of Final Fight, a lot of game developers started looking to make their own beat ’em ups. Sega wanted to cash in on the craze as well, so two of its developers, designer Noriyoshi Ohba and composer Yuzo Koshiro, came up with the brawler Bare Knuckle which would be re-titled as Streets of Rage in the West. Designed using the same principles as Golden Axe, Streets of Rage was built to emphasize co-op play, with the goal of not letting yourself get surrounded by enemies. While the game is basically a Final Fight clone, Streets of Rage, like a lot of Sega Genesis games, had a grittier, darker feel than games on other consoles. It’s run down New York/Chicago/Los Angeles/Detroit-esque setting looks really seedy and lived in. It was the type of big city that you’d see in movies where gangs ran wild and regular people had to live in fear that they could be killed at any moment. The three protagonists look like they jumped right out of an 80’s action movie as well. There’s Adam, the street wise boxer who is great at jumping (mmm, okay); Blaze, a tough as nails judo expert who’s super fast; and of course there’s Axel, an accomplished “martial artist” who packs a mean punch. Each of these characters are ex-cops who are tired of having their hands tied when it comes to fighting crime, and they feel like the only way they’ll stop the evil Mr. X and his crime syndicate is to become vigilantes. What ensues is eight stages of bare knuckle, no holds barred fighting, as you fight tooth and nail to get to the headquarters of Mr. X and take him down once and for all. Like I mentioned above, composer Yuzo Koshiro was heavily involved with the creation of the game, and his music for Streets of Rage is often listed among the greatest video game soundtracks of all time. Critics praised the game upon release, citing the music, character sprites, and backgrounds as true highlights, what you don’t really see mentioned, however, is the game play, and I think I know why. It’s because it kind of sucks. There’s a stiffness to the characters that keeps things unintentionally difficult (probably intentionally, now that I think about it), and hit detection is pretty poor. Still, I could have easily seen myself spending hours with this as a kid in 1991 and, in fact, I spent a lot of time playing its sequel, Streets of Rage 2, with my friends in middle school (a title that is far superior). A third entry in the series would release on the Genesis before Streets of Rage would go into cold storage until 2020, when we’d get a fourth game in the series. It might not have reached the same level of success that its contemporary Sonic The Hedgehog would receive, but being released while the Genesis was having its best year ever, it’s easy to see how the franchise became a staple of the system throughout the early and mid 90’s. Like a lot of Sega published Genesis games, Streets of Rage has been in regular circulation since its initial release, even getting a re-release on the Sega CD only a couple of years later, and it continues to be easily available on Steam or through modern consoles in Sega Genesis Classics. I still think part 2 is better, but you need to give this game a try if, for nothing else, to at least hear the great music.
Wizardry: Proving Grounds of the Mad Overlord (Apple II) – Released Sep. 1981: Wiki Link
Back in June of this year we talked about the release of Richard Garriott’s Ultima, often credited as the first video game RPG, and is considered one of the most influential games of all time. However, good things often come in two, and just a few months later, another RPG video game was hitting the market, one made by two Cornell University students named Andrew Greenberg and Robert Woodhead; the D&D influenced Wizardry. While Ultima was focused on a single player, The Stranger, completing a quest and saving the kingdom, Wizardry allowed players to create an entire party of characters to go adventuring with. Players would chose their character’s race, alignment, and class, putting them into a pool of playable characters, choosing three at a time to go out and explore a terrifying maze beneath a castle as they attempt to slay the evil wizard Werdna. Greenberg started development on Wizardry in 1978, putting together the basic systems and structure of the game. In 1980, while on a break from school, Robert Woodhead, co-founder of a software company called Sir-Tech, had an encounter with Greenberg where he was shown a version of Wizardry coded in BASIC. Impressed with what he saw, Woodhead wanted to partner up and help make the game even better. They switched over to a UCSD Pascal programming language once BASIC proved to be too slow to run the game, and then had to wait a further year for a new runtime system to be built so that the game would run smoothly on an Apple II. Woodhead’s business partner, a man named Norman Sirotek, was ready to publish Wizardry, however Norman’s father (and the company’s main source of financing) insisted that Wizardry be packaged professionally. At the time, most PC games came in Ziploc baggies with carbon copied instructions stapled to it. Knowing that he had a quality product, the senior Sirotek wanted to make sure people knew they were about to embark on something serious, something real. With nearly two years of development, with a vast majority of the time spent playtesting, Wizardry was a polished, well crafted piece of software, putting it leaps ahead of just about every other game on the market, including its rival Ultima. When it officially released in September of 1981, Wizardry was a massive hit, becoming the top selling Apple II game of 1981 and beating out both Ultima and another early RPG, The Temple of Apshai. By 1983, Wizardry would go on to sell over 200k copies, making it one of the most successful PC games at the time, far surpassing its competition.
Players were overwhelmingly positive towards the game, allowing themselves to get lost in its immersive world. While the game was doing phenomenally well in the U.S., across the Pacific Ocean, over in Japan, Wizardry was gaining an even more devoted following. In 1983, a developer from the company Enix named Yuji Horii attended Apple Fest in San Francisco and stumbled upon a demo of Wizardry. Like many, Horii was instantly enthralled with it, and took a copy back to Japan with him. He would pour hours into it, becoming a Wizardry Stan, so to speak, and would incorporate random encounters into an upcoming Famicom game he developed called The Serial Murders At Port Pier. For his next game, Horii would pull heavily from Wizardry, creating the first JRPG, Dragon Quest. Wizardry would go on to have eight official sequels over the course of the next 20 years (there’s a whole slew of spin-offs and Japanese developed sequels that I won’t get into), with Greenberg working on the series until part VI, and Woodhead until Part IV. Wizardry I-V don’t appear to be available for purchase, however you can likely find the games on abandonware websites, or you can grab the NES cart and play that, assuming you still have an NES or a clone system. I can honestly say that I enjoyed playing Wizardry, it felt really close to the feel of a modern RPG, just much harder and much simpler. Even this week’s other notable title, Lufia, is just doing its own Wizardry impression. Still, that difficulty is what I think keeps it from being a fully enjoyable experience today, as its design is completely archaic by modern standards, and you can easily find other games that imitate it AND include amenities like save states. Everyone who plays RPGs today should be so thankful to Andrew Greenberg, Robert Woodhead, and the Sirotek family for putting together a polished, professional product, and of course to Yuji Horii for deciding to take a trip to San Francisco to attend an Apple computer convention. 1981 was a major year for video game RPG fans, ushering in the first slew of great titles. Nearly ten years later, in November of 1991, we’d get a game that would kickstart a new generation of great 16-bit RPGs, but more on that in a couple months.