ONE MORE FINAL – AS IF THE WORLD HASN’T CHANGED

Playstation 5s and Xbox Series consoles are now out in the world. Things may be a little strange however, because the only way to get a PS5 is online, and scalpers are out in full force, gobbling up limited supply to resell to people with an overwhelming zest for the new generation. But nevertheless, new consoles are here, and lots of people have been talking about the new games. Spider-Man: Miles MoralesAstro’s PlayroomDemon’s Souls, and Yakuza: Like a Dragon to name a few. 

This is only my opinion, but the PS5 seems to be doing extremely well out of the gate. Not only because of the scarcity of the console, but also because it has most of the big games. Microsoft went a different direction this time around by relying on timed exclusives like Yakuza to carry their launch lineup, while major first party games were absent. However, Sony went the more traditional route and profited off of the strategy.

You wouldn’t know that going into December, however. While many of the PS4 and XB1 games coming out this month can be played on the new consoles with enhanced features, the majority of what’s here hasn’t caught up yet. Cyberpunk 2077 will eventually have builds of the game specifically designed for the PS5 and Xbox Series consoles. But we’re not there yet. Games like Immortals: Fenyx Rising and Puyo Puyo Tetris 2 straddle the generations, but they’re the outliers. Most of the games this month act as if nothing has happened. There’s no new console generation here. It’s all about the PS4, Xbox One, and Switch, baby.

Anyway, I should say, this is unfortunately my last blog post for the forseeable future. While I’ve enjoyed making Ten Games to Look For, my life has significantly changed over the last year and I just don’t have time for it like I used to. That’s been the whole story with this blog this year, really – I love doing it, but my available time to work on it has plummeted to zero. As I’m sure you can see by the lateness of this post.

I hope you all have a safe rest of the year and a better 2021. If I had to say my game of the year for posterity’s sake, I’d probably go with Animal Crossing: New Horizons in terms of new releases. However, if we’re being real here, the answer is truly Xenoblade Chronicles: Definitive Edition. I know I’ll need that factoid in future – better to record it here than nowhere!

Just in time for The Godfather: Coda!

Empire of Sin
(Mac/PC/PS4/Switch/XB1)

Publisher: Paradox Interactive | Developer: Romero Games | Release Date: 12/1/2020


What is it?
Empire of Sin is a take on strategy RPGs set in Prohibition-era Chicago. With turn-based combat that puts it in the same arena as X-COM, and 4X-like gameplay that has you running your own empire outside of skirmishes, it is the kind of bold premise you’d hope for from a game with the name Romero on it. It’s also the kind of game I’d expect a PC-centric publisher like Paradox Interactive (Crusader KingsMagickaCities: Skylines), but it may struggle to find a large audience in the console space, where strategy games are fewer and farther between.

Why is it important?
While some in the games press might focus on John Romero’s (Wolfenstein 3D, Doom) attachment to this game, the real focus should be on his wife, Brenda, the lead designer. While her pedigree isn’t as well-known, it’s still pretty notable: Jagged Alliance 2Wizardry 8Dungeons & Dragons: Heroes, and Playboy: The Mansion. She’s worked with some of the most important IP in role-playing, and even used her time and research designing the infamous Playboy game as the basis for her book Sex in Video Games. While she’s mostly been focused on mobile games for the last decade, I’d like to think this game will bring her back to the PC space, where she can user her expertise and historical knowledge to make more interesting games like Empire of Sin for years to come.

Feast your eyes on the Blue Ocean Strategy.

Twin Mirror
(PC/PS4/XB1)

Publisher: Dontnod Entertainment | Developer: Dontnod Entertainment | Release Date: 12/1/2020


What is it?
Twin Mirror is the latest adventure game by Dontnod Entertainment. While many people may have grown familiar with them thanks to their work on the Life is Strange series or Tell Me WhyTwin Mirror establishes its own identity in a couple of important ways. First, it represents Dontnod’s first attempt at self-publishing their own game (though Bandai Namco Games will help with distributing, and Shibuya Productions is listed as a co-producer). Second, it gets rid of the episodic structure of their other adventure games in favor of showing the narrative as one cohesive whole. It also eschews the supernatural in favor of a more psychological twist.

Why is it important?
This game is an important milestone in Dontnod’s history, but I wonder if it’ll be remembered for anything else. The game was, at one time meant to be published by Bandai Namco (but not in Japan) and feature an episodic narrative, but those things changed during production for reasons we don’t know. There also just hasn’t been that much buzz for this game; months would go by without hearing much of anything, while other games like Life is Strange 2 and Tell Me Why ate up the spotlight. Something tells me this was a struggle to finish and, while they might be proud of it, there’s a chance they simply finished it as best they could to cut their losses and move on.

Just in time for the game’s tenth anniversary.

Shiren the Wanderer: The Tower of Fortune and the Dice of Fate
(PC/Switch)

Publisher: Spike Chunsoft / Aksys Games | Developer: Spike Chunsoft | Release Date: 12/2/2020


What is it?
The Mystery Dungeon series of roguelikes has adopted a number of names over the years. While many of them have been licensed, like Pokémon Mystery Dungeon or Dragon Quest‘s Torneko: The Last Hope, the Shiren the Wanderer games are based on nothing; it’s Spike Chunsoft’s version of their own IP. This sometimes means that certain Shiren games get left behind in Japan for lack of name recognition, while others get their shot with a Western audience with little to no coherence between titles. This particular Shiren is a port of a Vita title that Aksys Games localized in 2016, which was itself a port of the original Japan-only DS version.  Surprisingly, it is still the most current game in the Shiren series to date.

Why is it important?
it’s likely thanks to the success of Pokémon Mystery Dungeon that other Mystery Dungeon games got localized, but it seems like Shiren went through just about every niche publisher, from Sega to Atlus to Aksys. Now that Spike Chunsoft themselves is stepping in to provide publishing support, the series will hopefully stabilize and we can get the other games that never made it here, such as the Cavia-made Dragon Quest VIII spinoff, Young Yangus and the Mystery Dungeon. One can hope, anyway.

The moon has never felt so close.

Immortals: Fenyx Rising
(Luna/PC/Switch/PS4/PS5/Stadia/XB1/XBS)

Publisher: Ubisoft | Developer: Ubisoft Quebec | Release Date: 12/3/2020


What is it?
Originally titled Gods & Monsters before Ubisoft (regrettably, one might say) changed the name, Immortals is the next new open-world IP from the AAA studio – this time with a more animated and kid-friendly approach that, at least on the surface, harkens back to The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. Created for a wide breadth of platforms by the same team that made Assassin’s Creed Odyssey, this game is told as if it were a story narrated by the Greek gods (namely Zeus) themselves. Where Assassin’s Creed is for the most part a drama with some funny moments, this is supposed to be the more light, breezy, and comedic open world game. A tall order, if you have experience with games meant to be “funny.”

Why is it important?
Aside from being yet another major Ubisoft release in a time when several controversies surrounding the company make it hard to give them full-throated support, this release clued me into the soft-launch of Amazon’s Luna cloud gaming service. As Ubisoft tends to do, they’ve embraced the new service, and have already set up new releases like Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla and Watch Dogs: Legion over there as well.

The highest peak of drama: black voids.

Fire Emblem: Shadow Dragon & The Blade of Light
(Switch)

Publisher: Nintendo | Developer: Intelligent Systems / Nintendo R&D1 | Release Date: 12/4/2020


What is it?
Fire Emblem: Shadow Dragon & The Blade of Light is a port of the original NES Fire Emblem released in Japan in 1990. Sold for $4.99 on the eshop (with a $49.99 Special Edition that sold out instantly), this Fire Emblem is one of an increasing number of Nintendo titles that will only be available for a limited time – until March 31. If you want to see where Marth from Super Smash Bros. Melee truly originates (and don’t want to pay exuberant prices for the DS remake, Fire Emblem: Shadow Dragon), then this is the easiest way to check out the game. Better to get it now than later.

Why is it important?
I am not at all a fan of Nintendo’s decision to make this game temporarily available (perhaps it’ll get added to the list of NES games available to Switch Online subscribers?), but their willingness to finally bring this game to the West still leaves me excited. I can think of so many Nintendo games I’d love to see brought to the West for the first time: Doshin the Giant, F-Zero Climax, ASH: Archaic Sealed Heat, and of course Mother 3. Nintendo pulls out these new-old translations every so often, but I don’t see why it can’t become a regular part of their lineup. With positive reaction to Shadow Dragon & The Blade of Light, perhaps it could be.

This month, Nintendo celebrates the two F’s: Fitness and Fire Emblem.

Fitness Boxing 2: Rhythm & Exercise
(Switch)

Publisher: Nintendo / Imagineer Co. Ltd. | Developer: Nintendo / Imagineer Co. Ltd.
Release Date: 12/4/2020


What is it?
Fitness Boxing 2 is a follow up to the first Fitness Boxing, and as the title suggests, it’s an exercise game where players punch the air with their Joycons to get fit. Featuring several instrumental versions of hit songs, this game offers expanded accessibility options over the original game, such as the option to turn off punches completely (in favor of other moves), and the ability to carry save data over from the first game. It may feel familiar to fans of the series, but that’s kind of what they want. More workouts and songs. Not a radical reinvention of the wheel.

Why is it important?
While the success of Ring Fit Adventure in 2020 became news thanks to the massive, global quarantine this year, it was not the only Switch-exclusive exercise game to do well. Combined sales between Japan and the rest of the world show that the orignal Fitness Boxing sold over a million copies, making this all but a guaranteed sequel – and cheaper too. At $34.99, it’s half the cost of Ring Fit, and doesn’t require any extra peripherals. Just strap it on go – keep it simple, stupid.

Debut to debut, ashes to ashes, Tetris to Tetris.

Puyo Puyo Tetris 2
(PS4/PS5/Switch/XB1/XBS)

Publisher: Sega | Developer: Sega | Release Date: 12/8/2020


What is it?
Puyo Puyo Tetris was a highlight of the Switch’s early software lineup, so seeing its sequel release a month after the next major consoles is no surprise. With new modes, a JRPG-style progression system, and more to justify its existence, this is still at its core Tetris mixed with Puyo Puyo. The only thing that’s changes is that this game now comes out in a world where other unique takes on Tetris, like Tetris Effect and Tetris 99, also exist.

Why is it important?
Surprisingly, despite the new consoles only being out for a handful of weeks, the new Xbox Series already has Tetris game with Tetris Effect: Connected. An expansion of the original PS4 game with multiplayer and co-op added on, it brings a whole new dimension to what that game’s version of Tetris is. To some, the idea of getting together with friends and connecting with the music on an emotional, transcendent level will be a unique and humbling experience whether or not they’ve played Effect before. Puyo Puyo Tetris 2 is still there for people who just want to have fun, but it’s amazing they’re different enough that one doesn’t feel threatened by the potential sales of the other.

More like Nice City, am I right?

Cyberpunk 2077
(PC/PS4/Stadia/XB1)

Publisher: CD Projekt  | Developer: CD Projekt Red | Release Date: 12/10/2020


What is it?
Cyberpunk 2077 is the oft-delayed gigantic open-world RPG made by Witcher 3 developers CD Projekt Red. It’s this month’s Big Cheese; undoubtedly the largest game coming out this month, and even then it’s only coming to PC, PS4, Stadia, and Xbox One. Yes, those console versions will also be playable on Xbox Series and PS5 with better performance, but they’re not the true next-gen experience; those versions will be out sometime in 2021. This game also stars Keanu Reeves as Johnny Silverhand, and has gone through several years over the eight years since the game’s announcement. The transphobic comments of one of GOG’s community managers (note: CDPR’s parent company also runs GOG) is just the tip of the iceberg. (Yes I am well aware of what’s happened post-release with this game, but this entry was written before that and is so innocent – I just had to leave it alone.)

Why is it important?
In addition to being one of the biggest games to come out this year, it’s one of the last big games launching first on PS4/XB1. It fills a void left by the lack of a follow up to Grand Theft Auto V, and comes from one of the most beloved RPG studios in recent memory. This is not to explain the history of transphobia, or the way the studio talks about crunch, or in any way excuse any of this game’s faults – they just co-exist together, and for worse.

Just like its developer, Above and Beyond.

Medal of Honor: Above and Beyond
(PC) (VR)

Publisher: Electronic Arts | Developer: Respawn Entertainment | Release Date: 12/10/2020


What is it?
Above and Beyond is a reboot of the venerable Medal of Honor franchise as told by Respawn Entertainment, and through the eyes of a VR headset. That is to say – it’s still published by Electronic Arts, and the setting is back in WWII, but this series is pivoting in a whole new direction. Coming a year after Respawn had back to back hits in 2019 with Apex Legends and Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order, the decision to tackle a full-throated VR game is an encouraging sign of growth, but it is curious there’s been little marketing about it before its release…

Why is it important?
Medal of Honor helped create the modern console FPS. As the first title in the franchise in eight years, it’s natural to wonder – can it do for VR shooters what the series originally did on the Playstation? Create a game so fun, immersive, and easy to control that people genuinely believe that all future shooters should be made in its mold?  If any team can do it, it’d be Respawn. After the critical success of games like Half-Life: Alyx, the stage is set for the next big VR title. All it comes down to now is the technology: is VR capable of making this game feel immersive and fun without feeling jarring or making people sick? If it is, then great. If not though, then maybe VR still isn’t truly ready.

Did you know the first game sold over a million copies?!?

Collection of SaGa: Final Fantasy Legend
(Switch)

Publisher: Square Enix | Developer: Square Enix | Release Date: 12/15/2020


What is it?
The Final Fantasy Legend trilogy on Game Boy was a groundbreaking, underappreciated effort developed by Square before the series jumped to the SNES with Romancing SaGa. This collection brings those initial Game Boy games together and puts them on Switch – kind of like the Collection of Mana from last year but on a smaller, more surprising scale. It’s interesting to see Nintendo promoting that the initial FF Legend/SaGa game sold over a million copies when it came out – granted it was pretty much the first RPG on the Game Boy, but leaning on thirty-year-old sales figures makes it seem like they don’t have much else to say. 

Why is it important?
I don’t know if it’s that the SaGa series started selling well in the West or what, but Square has been pumping out remasters over the last few years, localizing a number of them for the first time, that have kept longtime fans on a short leash. First came Romancing SaGa 2 in 2017, then Romancing SaGa 3 in November of last year, and SaGa Scarlet Grace Ambitions last December. A year later, we have this new collection of the Game Boy games, and already an announcement that the first PS1 entry, SaGa Frontier, will receive a remastered release some time in 2021. One wonders if Square will touch the much maligned Unlimited Saga from the PS2 era, or just ignore it in favor of the remake of the first Romancing SaGaMinstrel Song, from the same era instead.

I can’t tell which I want more: to date him or BE him.

That’s a wrap for Ten Games to Look For everybody, have fun! You can read last month’s post here, if you wish.