December is usually a strange month for video game releases, and this year is no exception. Games coming out now need to get out there as quickly as possible, to give consumers enough time to buy them before the holiday season shopping is over. This results in a very front-loaded calendar, with only a couple heavy-hitters acting as buoys. There are a few games releasing closer to the end of the year, as there are games releasing somewhere pretty much every day. However, the real meat of this calendar is centralized in the first two weeks.

On the one hand, I don’t blame publishers and developers for doing this. Releasing games before the grand finale of the holiday season not only gives products a greater chance to sell, it also allows the people in charge of these games to relax, and enjoy the holidays with their families. In theory anyway – working on post-launch patches has become the norm in this industry, and it’s not as if games releasing a week or two later are still seeing active development in the same way a game trying to hit a February release date might.

That said, December and January are both traditionally dead months. Even with a handful of top-of-the-line titles to discuss, a lot of this article will be looking at re-releases, ports, and anything else I think might catch your attention. I’ve tried to keep things as diverse as possible, and go for the interesting story when I can. Whether I’ve succeeded or not is up to you – either way, see you next year.

On to January!

My brother, the Playstation.

Playstation Classic
Made By: Sony Interactive Entertainment
Games Developed and Published by Various Artists
Release Date: 12/3/18

What is it?
Sony’s answer to the NES Classic and Super NES Classic, the Playstation Classic is a console that comes preloaded with twenty games from the original Playstation’s library. While certain classics, like Final Fantasy VII, Metal Gear Solid, and Resident Evil: Director’s Cut, are included across the board, there are also games exclusive to Japan that North American and European regions won’t get, and vice versa. Where we get the first Grand Theft Auto and Syphon Filter, Japan gets Arc the Lad and Parasite Eve. Unsurprisingly, certain titles like Tony Hawk, are absent thanks to how expensive it’d be to license them. But then again, Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six is included for some reason, so licenses clearly don’t all work the same way.

Why is it important?
If I’m being completely honest, I’m not very excited about this. The reason I’m including it here is almost entirely personal. My birthday is December 3, 1994, and that also happens to be the day that the first Playstation launched in Japan. Technically, if this retro console is made for anyone, it should be for me, specifically. But here we are, and I’m less interested than an estranged sibling being invited over for the holidays. At least I don’t have to be bitter about my brother’s financial success here – I’ve seen better content line-ups at Thanksgiving dinners.

Catapulting into adventure.

Just Cause 4 (PC/PS4/XB1)
Publisher: Square Enix
Developer: Avalanche Studios
Release Date: 12/4/18

What is it?
Just Cause. Traverse an open world. Blow some stuff up. Ride in a helicopter. Do some tricks in a wingsuit. There’s something about an evil mercenary group and international politics going on, but really the focus seems to be on causing some just chaos as you search for information on your lost cause of a father. Apparently he worked with the evil people or something.

Why is it important?
Obviously, I’m not caught up with what’s going on in this franchise, but I do know that the new Just Cause will be one of the biggest releases of the month. The series has made a name for the developer, Avalanche Studios, and has only grown stronger in its decade-plus existence. Avalanche is also the studio behind the Mad Max game, as well as the upcoming Rage 2 and Generation Zero. They seem to know what they’re doing, so if these games sound like your kind of thing, Just Cause 4 might also be your jam.

One by one, he calls them to the stage, hoping they’ll keep up. They never do.

Persona 3: Dancing in Moonlight / Persona 5: Dancing in Starlight (PS4/Vita)
Publisher: Atlus
Developer: P-Studio
Release Date: 12/4/18

What is it?
For whatever reason, dual-game releases have become all the rage again. Yo-Kai Watch Blasters did it in September, Pokemon: Let’s Go did it last month, and now we have these – two Persona-themed rhythm games; one based on Persona 3, and the other on Persona 5. The first Persona rhythm game, Persona 4: Dancing All Night released on Vita a few years ago, and is also coming to PS4 in a package with the other two games this week. If you have a PS4 and you like Persona and rhythm games, I guess this counts as a triple-game release in a way, which is interesting. I hope they all sell well.

Why is it important?
The success of Persona 5 has elevated the franchise to a new level of recognition. These rhythm games will be the first titles to bear the Persona name after the launch of that mammoth release, and will be the only thing fans can get before Persona Q2 inevitably releases outside of Japan in 2019. No doubt, it’s cool to see fans get a lot of love in the form of spin-offs like these – but I think there will be a faction who want more of a meaty grind than these danceable titles can dish out.

One of the most beloved titles of 2004 returns.

Katamari Damacy Reroll (PC/Switch)
Publisher: Bandai Namco Games
Developer: Bandai Namco Games
Release Date: 12/7/18

What is it?
In 2004, a title was born that allowed players to roll balls around until they got so big, they turned into stars. This December, players can experience this unique premise once again, as a remastered version of Katamari Damacy comes to both PC and Switch on December 7. The fun is in seeing how big your Katamari balls can get, and now that experience is in HD. I’m actually surprised this is the first time it’s getting a remaster. It seems like the kind of thing Namco would have done ages ago.

Why is it important?
This is a strange case. Though it can be argued it targets a different audience, Namco has decided to release Reroll the same day as Super Smash Bros. Ultimate – a game Namco helped develop. At the very least, this game is also coming to PC, while Ultimate is only on Switch, but why is Namco counter-programming their own release? Any new Smash Bros is likely to do gangbusters, cratering most other new releases in its wake. Katamari is well-loved and I think the HD version will ultimately do well, but I’m certainly not buying it on launch day – not when a new Smash Bros is right there.

This is The Look of every battle royale game.

PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds (PS4)
Publisher: PUBG Corporation
Developer: PUBG Corporation
Release Date: 12/7/18

What is it?
The game that sparked the modern battle royale genre arms race. PUBG did it, then Fortnite stole PUBG’s thunder by including it as a free mode, and now battle royales are everywhere. It’s in Call of Duty. It’s coming to Battlefield. Faced with all of this competition, PUBG Corp. has decided to make its move – and it’s to bring the title away from Microsoft-exclusivity, and on to Sony’s platform. The game is apparently still buggy, especially on console, but better than it was before. I just wonder how much use it’ll be at this point – it’ll take more than this to bring PUBG back to the phenomenon it was in 2017. More, I think, than even a weird Switch port could offer, too.

Why is it important?

Considering that the PS4 Pro is less powerful than the Xbox One X the days of waiting for PUBG to get better are probably not over. As far as tying it to the same day Smash Bros Ultimate hits Switch – it’s a better choice than the new version of Katamari Damacy, that’s for sure. At the same time though, I still don’t think it’ll be that much of a blip on the radar. It’s both the fact that Ultimate is that hyped up, and that the relevancy of PUBG is the lowest it’s ever been. It’ll be hard to make an impression unless the PS4 version turns out to be bug free.

Daisy brings a whole new meaning to fight or flight.

Super Smash Bros. Ultimate (Switch)
Publisher: Nintendo
Developer: Bandai Namco Studios/Sora Ltd.
Release Date: 12/7/18

What is it?
The new Super Smash Bros. The once-a-console opportunity for Nintendo (and general gaming) all-stars to duke it out in one of the most complex fighting games ever made. Yes, it’s aimed at casual players, and yes it’s easy to pick up and play. When you consider all the work that goes into it though – nearly 80 characters, hundreds upon hundreds of remixed songs, and all the fascinating little touches that make Smash Bros what it is – it’s a towering monument to the development talents of Masahiro Sakurai. It is the most complex fighting game ever made, period.

Why is it important?
It’s nice to see Nintendo getting some of their once-a-console titles out quickly, and given the success of the Switch, I expect it will be a number of years before another Smash game is even necessary. This is the perfect opportunity for Sakurai to take another long-deserved break and perhaps work on something else. His work on the series is much appreciated, but you can’t ignore how frank he’s been about the health issues he’s had when developing this series. Whatever he decides to do, I just hope fan reactions to Ultimate don’t send him into early retirement.

A lot goes on in this series. A lot.

Earth Defense Force 5 (PS4)
Publisher: D3 Publisher
Developer: Sandlot
Release Date: 12/11/18

What is it?
Aliens invade Earth in the form of bugs. Giant bugs. You play as a soldier of the Earth Defense Force to take out these giant bugs in what is the most pure representation of B-grade classic sci-fi stylings this side of the 1950’s. This newest title seems to be adding some new wrinkles into the mix, but no matter. This series is mindlessly great fun and the developer, Sandlot, has been there for all of it.

Why is it important?
Though the series peaked in popularity a number of years ago, I have a soft spot for goofy, dumb sci-fi projects. Whenever I go to my local arcade, I still play a round of the Tank! Tank! Tank! whenever possible. There is always an argument to be made for the necessity of pulpy, mindless fun alongside medium-defining storytelling that titles like Red Dead Redemption II and The Witcher 3 provide. Sometimes you need one to balance your enjoyment of the other. At least, that’s what I tell myself to put EDF on this list.

Those clouds are honestly really nice.

Insurgency: Sandstorm (PC)
Publisher: Focus Home Interactive
Developer: New World Interactive
Release Date: 12/12/18

What is it?
Insurgency: Sandstorm first blipped on my radar when Walmart Canada accidentally leaked a number of games that were likely to be shown at E3 back in May. Alongside a number of exciting prospects, like Metroid Prime 4 and the Final Fantasy VII Remake, Insurgency: Sandstorm was also there, and the name happened to stick with me. Curious, I did some digging and found out that it’s a tactical FPS that’s a sequel to another game called Insurgency, which is itself a sequel to a Source mod called Insurgency: Modern Infantry Combat. It’s not exactly up my alley, but I do appreciate that it’s getting a big push from a known publisher like Focus Home Interactive (Vampyr).

Why is it important?
It’s releasing in the same manner as Overkill’s The Walking Dead – PC first in 2018, everywhere else in 2019. For Overkill, this did not work out too well, but perhaps it will be better for Insurgency. I don’t know if it’ll be an especially rad game, it’s really not my thing, but no doubt it’ll appeal to some of you out there. If it does, take the knowledge this entry provides and run with it. You’ll get more out of it than I will.

I’m enamored with how beautiful this game looks. It’s stunning.

Gris (PC/Switch)
Publisher: Devolver Digital
Developer: Nomada Studio
Release Date: 12/13/18

What is it?
Gris is an indie game releasing this month that looks like a moving masterpiece. Its use of color palette, animation, and space in the frame are all very striking and elevate this beyond just another small platformer. Though Devolver Digital is most famous for publishing titles like Hotline Miami and the more recent Serious Sam games, it’s nice to see them branch out into publishing something like Gris as well. I’ve never heard of the Barcelona-based Nomada Studio before, but it’ll be worth watching them from now on. Look at those colors!

Why is it important?
Remember when I wrote how the phrase “coming to PC and Switch” will become more common? This is what I’m talking about. Both Gris and Katamari Damacy Reroll are coming to PC and Switch this month. True, one is an indie title and the other is an HD remaster, but it shows that the Switch goldrush isn’t stopping. I would like for Devolver to include the Switch more often in their plans – maybe they could use it as a platform for the upcoming Metal Wolf Chaos remaster? Please?

Still a pretty good use of color, I’d say.

Borderlands 2 VR (PS4)
Publisher: 2K Games
Developer: Gearbox Software
Release Date: 12/14/18

What is it?
Borderlands 2 is a super-successful game already, and seems to be the guinea pig for Gearbox Software when they want to work with new hardware. They contracted Iron Galaxy Studios for a port to the Vita, and the entire franchise has seen re-release on modern consoles. This new VR idea could preclude a new title, or at least show an attempt at putting this series back on the map. Rez and Resident Evil VII already worked well in VR – so hey, why not Borderlands?

Why is it important?
Borderlands 2 is not only six years old, but has already been released on PS4 in the series compilation, Borderlands: The Handsome Collection. A VR mode may be a reason to buy a new version individually again, but I’d definitely classify this as a wait-and-see kind of game. If the VR mode doesn’t turn out, this could be a costly mistake to developers and consumers alike. I also don’t think the Borderlands formula necessarily lends itself to the kind of shortcuts you’d have to take to minimize motion sickness, but maybe I’m wrong. It could work out fantastically. I just have my doubts.

See you next year!

If you want to contact the author of this article, you can, as always, contact him on Twitter, or email him at dcichocki@tiltingwindmillstudios.com.