The full effect of the COVID-19 pandemic on the gaming industry will not be fully clear for some time. Already, we’ve heard about some cancellations and delays, but a long term look ahead contains a lot of unknowns. There’s been some speculation that the next generation of consoles will be delayed, and I personally wouldn’t be surprised if some games on this list end up getting pushed back, too. Games coming sooner like Resident Evil 3 or the Final Fantasy VII Remake will most likely meet their targets, but beyond that – who’s to say?

I want to be clear: I don’t think video games are the most important thing right now. They’re helpful if you’re part of the millions of people around the world forced to stay at home under quarantine, but there are other things to be worried about. If possible, I suggest supporting artists by streaming their music, watching their shows on Netflix, or even talking about them online if you can, but please don’t get it mixed up. Video games are not, and will never be, what you’d call “essential business.

As one of countless people who’s had their job essentially suspended for the time being, money is tight. Going off this list, I see a few I’d love to check out – Final Fantasy VII RemakeDisaster Report 4, and Sakura Wars – but with much of society on lockdown, I’d rather just play what I have. Recently, I’ve fallen back in love with Crosswords DS, and have been slowly plugging away at Animal Crossing: New Horizons. In light of the recent announcement that Nier: Replicant will be remade for PS4 and Xbox One, I’m also finally playing through Nier: Automata. Between those three games I’m pretty happy. Everything else will have to wait.

Anyway, stay safe. Wash your hands. Stay home if you can. Remember to take care of yourself, practice social distancing, and be mindful of the people around you. if you’re working at an essential business: thank you for doing what you do.

I hope to see you all in May.

Irony strikes – several times this month.

Resident Evil 3: Nemesis / Resident Evil: Resistance

Publisher: Capcom | Developer: Capcom/M-Two/NeoBards Entertainment | Release Date: 4/3/20

What is it?
Resident Evil 3 comes back in town with a remake and a new online mode called Resistance. Continuing Capcom’s revitalization of the franchise after Resident Evil VII, this game should more than make up for the nearly-forgotten online shooter Umbrella Corps they quietly put out in 2016. Given the circumstances, releasing a game about a viral zombie outbreak will stir up a variety of emotions. Some might say it’s timely, while others will wonder why the game is still coming out. I’m in camp “timely,” as this pandemic isn’t Capcom’s fault, but I can see why people might be upset.

Why is it important?
DOOM Eternal and Animal Crossing: New Horizons were the first two major games to release in America during the pandemic. While game stores like Gamestop continue to deal with bad PR and anger over their refusal to simply close during the outbreak, game sales themselves will probably fare pretty well. Resident Evil 3 is the next game to watch, and its Resistance mode could be a huge help, as more people are playing games now than ever. Not everyone will be comfortable participating, but as someone who finds reading And the Band Played On: Politics, People, and the AIDS Epidemic by Randy Shilts comforting right now, I’d probably be all over this if I liked Resident Evil.

Disaster of another kind.

Disaster Report 4 Plus: Summer Memories

Publisher: NIS America | Developer: Granzella | Release Date: 4/7/20

What is it?
The first time I heard about Disaster Report 4 was about ten years ago when I was in high school. I thought it was strange that it came from R-Type developers Irem Software, and I started keep tabs on it whenever news came up. Months before its launch in the Spring of 2011, the game was suddenly cancelled in the wake of the Great Tohoku Earthquake that caused the nuclear meltdown at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant. Most certainly because the game resembled those real life events too closely. Irem subsequently left game development for pachinko machines, and a new team, Granzella, emerged. Granzella eventually purchased the Disaster Report IP and restarted of DR4 development on the PS4. The game came out at the end of 2018 in Japan, and has also been ported to Switch and PC. Now, as this game sees release in the West, it comes in the midst of a different kind of disaster, creating a unique link between two catastrophic events that bookmarked the 2010’s.

Why is it important?
I’ve been a fan of disaster-themed games for a long time, dating back to Disaster: Day of Crisis on Wii. I’m also a sucker for the weird and twisty stories that often accompany game development. Seeing this game come back after reading about it a decade ago is incredible, but, once again, I’m not sure how people will react. If April’s releases have any unifying themes at all, they’re about disaster and survival. And also how people love remakes.

A story about eco-terrorism, blown out to full-game length.

Final Fantasy VII Remake (Part 1)

Publisher: Square Enix | Developer: Square Enix | Release Date: 4/10/20

What is it?
Throughout the mid- to late 2000’s, before I began to follow the gaming industry, I was aware that people wanted a Final Fantasy VII remake. I hadn’t played the game, but I owned a Playstation; I knew what those graphics looked like. I could understand the appeal  of a remake. Seeing the highlights with voice acting, cinematic cutscenes, and highly specific detail would elevate the experience to a new level. Finally, that dream comes true as the first part of the Final Fantasy VII Remake (the Midgar section) comes out this month. There’s no word when the other parts will be coming, or if they’ll even be on PS4, but this is still an astounding event for RPG fans everywhere.

Why is it important?
If this game is received well, imagine the doors it opens to other major remakes of this caliber. I see the original Legend of Zelda being remade in the Breath of the Wild engine, or Monolith Soft taking another stab at making Xenosaga as they originally meant it to be. Remakes and remasters happen all the time, but this is something above and beyond the usual fare. It’s like when A Star is Born is remade every few decades. The core is there, but it’s all done from scratch to appease modern audiences.

A new board game for the hallway closet.

Billion Road

Publisher: Acttil | Developer: Bandai Namco Entertainment/Matrix Software | Release Date: 4/16/20

What is it?
Aside from Mario Party, digital board games usually need a name like Monopoly or Settlers of Catan if they want to succeed in the West. Larger companies will sometimes release new IPs that have been successful in Japan, like when Square Enix put out Fortune Street on the WIi, but they don’t usually work out. Billion Road is the latest attempt to recapture the Mario Party magic with more realistic ideas – Buy up property investments! Become the richest person in Japan! – but niche publisher Acttil has a steep mountain to climb if they want to make any impact.

Why is it important?
Bandai Namco’s involvement is an interesting wrinkle in this game’s release, but this is here mostly as a curiosity. At another point in my life, I might not have a problem with this game, but it’s weird timing to put this out when the downfalls of capitalism have been a looming factor in our major health crisis. Resident Evil 3 and Disaster Report 4 are fine with me, but I’d rather not act like Mr. Moneybag and pretend that accruing endless wealth is the best thing I can do.

Fifty years is a long time.

Later Daters

Publisher: Bloom Digital Media | Developer: Bloom Digital Media | Release Date: 4/16/20

What is it?
Later Daters is a romantic visual novel set a retirement community. Players inhabit the role of the newest resident, and are presented with various romantic choices and stories to pursue based on their interests. According to the press materials, the game offers various LGBTQ+ options and the opportunity to engage in polyarmorous relationships. The idea of playing as a “sexy senior” is, on the surface, one of those premises that’s easy to get mean-spirited about, but everything I’ve seen makes Later Daters seem as genuine and wholesome as Dream Daddy. I’m extremely here for it.

Why is it important?
Story is a defining feature of visual novels, so making sure the dialogue is emotional and plot points are poignant is important. In a world where most AAA-developed games still struggle to add gay characters and believable female roles to their worlds, it’s nice to come home to a game that doesn’t mind being a little more niche. Some might say it’s because visual novels don’t need the same amount of resources to get made, but it’s worth remembering that video games should be for everyone. Not just the lowest common denominator.

The Switch is becoming a popular home for visual novels these days.

Code: Realize – Future Blessings

Publisher: Aksys Games | Developer: Otomate (Idea Factory) | Release Date: 4/23/20

What is it?
Speaking of visual novels, Aksys Games is currently busy releasing Code: Realize – Future Blessings, a Vita title, on Switch. Code: Realize is an otome series set in a steampunk London, where the protagonist, Cardia, is cursed with a deadly poison but is able to find love among such figures as Abraham Van Helsing and Victor Frankenstein. Future Blessings is known as a “fandisc,” which is essentially an expansion pack to the original Code: Realize, Guardian of Rebirth. It adds additional stories and supplementary details, creating new routes that weren’t possible in the base game. You’ll need the original title to make sense of it, but you’re in luck! Aksys released Guardian of Rebirth on Switch back in February.

Why is it important?
Can you imagine finding out that André Aciman wrote another hundred pages for Call Me By Your Name? Or that David Foster Wallace wrote an addendum to Infinite Jest that was longer than the original book? It would be major news. I’m into the idea of fandiscs on a conceptual level, but selling additional material separate from the base story just seems weird to me. It’s important to note, also, that the PS4 version of Code: Realize collected the base game and Future Blessings together as a release called Bouquet of Rainbows. Why the Vita versions got ported to Switch instead of the PS4 collection is unclear, but – why sell one game, when you can sell two for more money, right?

Best wishes.

Trials of Mana

Publisher: Square Enix | Developer: Square Enix | Release Date: 4/24/20

What is it?
For years, Seiken Densetsu 3‘s localization was a white whale for RPG fans outside of Japan. It was one of several SNES Squaresoft games of that era to get similar treatment, but this one was significant because it was the follow up to Secret of Mana. Last year, during E3 2019, Square Enix stunned fans by not only announcing that the original game would see a release in the West on Switch, but the newly renamed Trials of Mana would see a full 3D remake too. Just like Adventures of Mana and Secret of Mana before it. Oh, wait…

Why is it important?
I would like nothing more than for this remake to turn out well. Mana fans have been unbelievably lucky this past year. Yet, we shouldn’t forget that the Secret of Mana remake was so bad, it beat out The Quiet Man as my Worst Game of 2018. I’m apprehensive about facing down the barrel of another Mana remake only two years later. And the trailer does very little to help me feel better. Yikes.

You know, this reminds me of another image I saw…

Daymare: 1998

Publisher: Destructive Creations / All in! Games | Developer: Invader Studios | Release Date: 4/28/20

What is it?
In its attempt to bring back the heyday of 90’s survival horror games, Daymare: 1998 is a bit of a zombie itself. It died on the vine three years ago with a failed Kickstarter campaign, despite lining up several experienced Japanese developers to praise the game and, in some cases, work on it themselves. The game then shambled to the Steam Greenlight program, where it stayed until its release last September. Despite reviews for the PC release being heavily critical, the developers still decided to release the console version just weeks after the Resident Evil 3 remake. No, I’m not sure why either.

Why is it important?
Kyle Hanson of Attack of the Fanboy calls out the PC version in his review for having “some of the worst writing and voice acting I’ve seen in a video game in some time.” He adds: “This does enhance the nostalgia somewhat as visions of Jill Sandwiches dance in your head, but it can be pretty cringe inducing for the most part.” Phillip Tinner’s review at ScreenRant is a little more positive, comparing the game to the Resident Evil 2 remake in how it “[drops] the tank controls and fixed camera angles in favor of the tight third-person perspective and streamlined gameplay across the board.” Everything I’ve read makes it seem like a game that’s too reliant on its influences to truly stand on its own. Plus, are the 90’s worth reliving that much? We have Yooka-Laylee. As a Kickstarter backer of that game myself, let me say: I’ve had enough of the 90’s.

Tactical gears has tact.

Gears Tactics

Publisher: Xbox Game Studios | Developer: The Coalition/Splash Damage | Release Date: 4/28/20

What is it?
Microsoft is taking Gears and opening it up to a PC-centric audience by marrying the franchise with turn-based strategy gameplay. This isn’t the first time an Xbox brand has made this transition – Halo dabbled in the RTS genre with Halo Wars back in 2009 – but it is part of a push to make Gears relevant again. Gears Tactics was announced with Gears 5 and Gears Pop during E3 2018 as an informal trilogy of projects to show where the series is supposed to go next. According to a preview at Gamespot, a console version is also in the works, but it’s not clear when it will come out, or if it will only be on Xbox One.

Why is it important?
Figuring out the future of the Gears franchise must be extremely difficult. The first Gears of War was popular in the late 2000’s, when Mountain Dew Game Fuel was novel, everyone played World of Warcraft on the side, and I could ignore my middle school English papers to play Halo 3 with friends all afternoon. We’re in a much different time, and despite all the franchise has done for third-person shooters, part of me thinks it should be left behind with those memories. Judging from the four and a half year development time quoted by design lead Tyler Bielman in the same Gamespot preview, Microsoft really believes in the project. That’s great, but Gears of War is no Call of Duty. Not every franchise is meant to dominate for decades on end.

A broom, my love.

Sakura Wars

Publisher: Sega | Developer: Sega CS2 R&D | Release Date: 4/28/20

What is it?
You’d be forgiven if you never heard of Sakura Wars. This combination dating sim/visual novel/mech RPG franchise first came about on the Saturn and had several releases on the Dreamcast in Japan. However, Sega evidently never felt comfortable localizing it for the West, even as they were throwing everything at the wall to see what might stick. One entry eventually made it out: 2005’s Sakura Wars: So Long, My Love, released in 2010 on the PS2 and Wii by NIS America. Despite good reviews, the game did not sell as well as expected, and the series has been on hiatus since. Until now, anyway.

Why is it important?
As I began following the gaming industry, I was naturally drawn to niche titles and Sakura Wars was perhaps the biggest release that solidified my interests. I cancelled my preorder for Final Fantasy XIII and got behind So Long, My Love, because its existence was so wild to me, I had to know what it was. As I learned more about how successful the series was in Japan (as detailed in this interview between RPGamer and NISA), I grew frustrated that no one was giving this game a chance. Older hardware be damned; this was still a game worth talking about, and people needed to know! Much has changed in the following ten years, but the fact that Sega took this long to make another entry is disappointing.

Don’t forget that Collection of Mana exists too!

Ten Games to Look For is a series that rounds up the most interesting releases of the coming month and tells you why they’re worth your time. They’re all based on my interests, so if I don’t include something you super wanted to see, sorry (not sorry). For more articles from A Gaming Life Pt. 2, you can head here. If you’d like to leave a comment, the comments section below is always a good option. You can also get in touch with me on Twitter, and by email too: dcichocki(at)tiltingwindmillstudios(dot)com.