THE 3DS AND VITA ARE HAND-IN-HAND

At this point, new releases on the 3DS and Vita are going to appeal to very specific audiences. No matter what the game is, they’ll automatically take on a niche status because the general audience reaction is “wait, who even plays that anymore?” On the other hand, I think it’s exciting to see both handhelds getting new physical releases this month. It’s kind of like going out for drinks with an old friend who’s back in town for the night. There’s going to be a point soon where handheld gaming will only be found on mobile devices and the Switch, so it’s nice to get a reminder of what dedicated handheld consoles can do before they’re gone forever.

In other news, there’s a very strange case of trilogies creeping up on this month’s list. Five entries are made up of threes – God Eater 3, Yo-Kai Watch 3, Crackdown 3, and the third entries in the Code: Realize and Metro series’. While this no doubt says a lot about the industry’s reliance on sequels over new IP, there are at least a couple of new titles, like Wargroove and Anthem, to pay attention to as well. Weirdly enough, half of this list is set to release the week of Valentine’s Day. This means we get to see three shooters go up against an anime fighting game and an otome visual novel for the love and affection of gaming audiences during the most romantic week of the year. It’s sure to be a bloodbath. The bright side is that Code: Realize Wintertide Miracles has a whole day head start. So, score one for the otome fans.

Happy Valentine’s Day and see you in March!

This image has strong GBA vibes, and I love it.

Wargroove (PC/Switch/XB1)
Publisher: Chucklefish
Developer: Chucklefish
Release Date: 2/1/19

What is it?
Wargroove is a new strategy-RPG from Chucklefish, who are best known for publishing Stardew Valley on Switch, and developing Starbound. In the vein of Intelligent System franchises like Advance Wars, but without the license, Wargroove continues the indie-revival spirit with its hi-res sprite art, its cheeky release on Switch before the next Fire Emblem game, and its place in a genre that could use some love. It literally comes out today on PC, Switch, and Xbox One if you’re reading this when I post it. A PS4 release is still scheduled for some eventual, vague date.

Why is it important?
If you’ve heard of SPRGs at all, chances you’ve heard of Fire Emblem, Advance Wars, Final Fantasy Tactics, or Nippon Ichi’s Disgaea series. The basic idea of plotting out war scenarios on a battlefield and moving characters around like pieces on a board has been a consistent genre over the years, but it’s been a long time since I’ve seen an entry in the genre get Wargroove‘s enthusiasm. There’s also online multiplayer, custom map-making, and an all-out campaign creator mode that makes Wargroove really advanced, and pushes it to the front of the genre. It may seem like just another indie game, but this is where SRPGs could be headed next.

2019 marks the year the 3DS was almost completely a JRPG machine.

Etrian Odyssey: Nexus (3DS)
Publisher: Atlus USA (Sega)
Developer: Atlus
Release Date: 2/5/19

What is it?

The basic idea of Etrian Odyssey relies on the two screens found in all DS-related systems: players engage in an old-school dungeon crawling RPG on the top screen, and mark their progress on the bottom screen as they chart out a map for each dungeon. If you’ve ever had to bust out graph paper to keep track as you’ve played a game, you’ll understand that this mechanic can make exploration fun, like you’re exploring unmarked territory. Billed as the last entry on the 3DS, Nexus features character classes from all the previous games, as well as a new Hero class, for a celebratory crossover of everything the series has done thus far. It’s a cool send-off, especially considering that Atlus will now have to rethink how this franchise works if they want to bring it back ever again.

Why is it important?
You have to admire Atlus’ willingness to be one of the few third party publishers still releasing 3DS games. They still have one more in them, as Persona Q2 comes out in June, but there’s no doubt Etrian Odyssey Nexus is important as well. It may not have the same recognition as Persona, but Etrian Odyssey’s identity has long been tied to the DS name for the past twelve years. Until Atlus makes their future plans for this franchise clear, this may be the last we see of Etrian Odyssey for some time.

I wonder how this monster would taste if it were cooked up by a Palico?

God Eater 3 (PC/PS4)
Publisher: Bandai Namco Entertainment
Developer: Marvelous Entertainment
Release Date: 2/8/19

What is it?
Starting on PSP in North America as Gods Eater Burst in 2011, this series is basically Bandai Namco’s answer to Monster Hunter. It’s an action-RPG about taking down huge monsters either alone or with friends, and reaping the benefits of the hunt. For this new entry, Marvelous Entertainment has finally moved away from designing these games around handhelds, and embraced the enhanced power of modern PC and console specs. It may not be Monster Hunter in name, but it’s close. Possibly better.

Why is it important?
Monster Hunter: World was the ninth best selling game of last year according to the NPD. Capcom has already tried to capitalize on that by releasing Monster Hunter Generations Ultimate on Switch in the West, but certainly another company has to try and go for broke like Capcom did, right? God Eater 3 might not have the mainstream recognition of its rival, but it could be the rival Capcom needs to keep evolving their formula. And hopefully vice-versa, too.

This banner is…not subtle.

Yo-Kai Watch 3 (3DS)
Publisher: Nintendo
Developer: Level-5
Release Date: 2/8/19

What is it?

Yo-Kai Watch is kind of like Level-5’s Pokémon, except all of the Yo-Kai are spirits, instead of monsters roaming about the lands that everyone can see. This particular entry changes locations, going from the familiar Springdale to a new region called BBQ, a not-so-subtle parody of America. If you’ve played previous Yo-Kai Watch games, you’ll know that they typically come in two to three different versions, and in Japan this was the case with YK3. For its international release however, Nintendo has decided to put out the definitive version only – which makes me wonder how the release of both Yo-Kai Watch Blasters: White Dog Squad and Red Cat Corps worked out for them back in September.

Why is it important?
I had a feeling Nintendo was going to start burning through the rest of the 3DS entries in this series to get international audiences caught up for Yo-Kai Watch 4 on Switch. So far, this seems to be holding true; Yo-Kai Watch Blasters and Yo-Kai Watch 3 released five months apart. Considering there’s still a couple more titles they could localize, I wouldn’t be shocked if we saw more before the year is out. Nintendo’s dedication to this series is kind of inspiring, but I’m wondering when this series will make its way into Super Smash Bros Ultimate. Jibanyan would be a great addition to the roster. Think about it, Nintendo!

She’s annoyed at all of the holiday spirit.

Code: Realize Wintertide Miracles (PS4/Vita)
Publisher: Aksys Games
Developer: Idea Factory/Otomate
Release Date: 2/14/19

What is it?

Code: Realize is a series of otome games developed by Idea Factory’s Otomate division and published by Aksys Games that tell the story of Cardia, the search for her father, and the deadly poison turns her deadly to the touch. Inexplicably, her story take place in the same world where a lot of hot literary guys hang out, which means her adventures are fraught with potentially romantic encounters with Victor Frankenstein, Abraham Van Helsing, Arsène Lupin, and even “Herloch Sholmes.” Billed as the second “fan-disc” in the series, this entry focuses more on the romantic chaos and fan-favorite characters in a winter-themed setting, and introduces some new characters into this universe as well.

Why is it important?
This game is here both because this is so far the only Vita game getting a physical release in North America this year not being handled by Limited Run (a Criterion Collection of sorts for video games). It will likely be the only Vita game of 2019 to get this distinction, so I think it’s best to celebrate while we get the chance. It also releases on Valentine’s Day, which is super cute and a good marketing decision.

Terry Crews’ likeness is really well done.

Crackdown 3 (PC/XB1)
Publisher: Microsoft Studios
Developer: Sumo Digital
Release Date: 2/15/19

What is it?

The oft-delayed Xbox One title that has been in the works for the last five years is finally upon us. With its Terry Crews star power, promised destructible multiplayer environments, and support from the all-mighty cloud, this release has a unique identity all its own, but whether that helps it or not is another story. Its development has been rocky, but this should be the exclusive that gives the Xbox One the shot in the arm that it needs for the next few months. In the best case scenario, anyway.

Why is it important?
This console generation in particular has seen a number of titles with long development histories get released – The Last Guardian, Final Fantasy XV, and Until Dawn among them. 2019 in particular has been a special case, with Kingdom Hearts III and Ace Combat 7 already out after years of anticipation, and Days Gone, Shenmue III, and Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night still on track for this year. Crackdown 3 fits in with this trend. Though it sucks to see games get delayed and delayed for years, it’s still (hopefully) better than releasing a trash game that no one wants to play. It’s good to see this game finally get out the door.

Gonzo imagery and pretty colors make this appeal to Mad Max fans everywhere.

Far Cry: New Dawn (PC/PS4/XB1)
Publisher: Ubisoft
Developer: Ubisoft Montreal
Release Date: 2/15/19

What is it?

Far Cry: New Dawn is a sequel to Far Cry 5 – taking place about twenty years in the future after the nuclear apocalypse that ends that game. Set in the same Montana locale (with the option to travel to different parts of America), and sporting some wonderful colors and punk vibes, it’s still Far Cry 5, just with some cooler looking protagonists and wilder scenery.

Why is it important?
I may have not enjoyed my time with Far Cry 5, and never got to the ending in question, but it sold very well. In fact, in the same year-end NPD report that called Monster Hunter: World the ninth best selling game of the year, Far Cry 5 made it in at number seven. Capitalizing on that just makes sense. Plus, New Dawn fits right in Ubisoft’s trend to make a more fantastical Far Cry experience after a numbered entry, like Far Cry Primal and Far Cry 3 Blood Dragon before it. It’s not a bad way to run a franchise – but they need to expand the gameplay and narrative ideas in future entries.

Henshin a-Goku, baby!!

Jump Force (PC/PS4/XB1)
Publisher: Bandai Namco Entertainment
Developer: Spike Chunsoft
Release Date: 2/15/19

What is it?

Do you like anime? Do you like anime fighting games? If not, there’s no point in playing this. But if you do, this title brings a lot of shonen anime favorites together to duke it out. You can have My Hero Academia characters face off against Naruto characters. Dragon Ball and Yu-Gi-Oh! can battle it out for best childhood anime. And there are plenty of other franchises involved too, like Hunter x Hunter, JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure, One Piece and Yu Yu Hakusho. I’d personally buy it day one if Shinji Ikari was included, but it’s still an impressive roster nonetheless.

Why is it important?
Jump Force was at one point supposed to release against Dead or Alive 6, but Koei Tecmo blinked and moved their release date to March just a few weeks ago. In a time where Dragon Ball FighterZ has been an extremely successful, there’s a higher bar set for future anime fighters. By the same token, it seems like a good time for a competitor to get out there and try to rack up similar sales. It’s not unrealistic to think the audience for this kind of game has grown – plus Goku and Vegeta are here too, so it’s basically a sequel if you think about it hard enough.

Such destruction…it’s kind of fascinating to get a closer look at how detailed it is.

Metro Exodus (PC/PS4/XB1)
Publisher: Deep Silver
Developer: 4A Games
Release Date: 2/15/19

What is it?

Metro Exodus is the third game in the series based on Dmitry Glukhovsky’s Metro novels. Set in the Russian Federation after a nuclear apocalypse, this franchise has become known for its exploration of the underground depths of metro stations, the human condition, and what horrifying creatures scuttle in darkest depths of those places. However, this Metro changes things up. Set aboard a continent traveling train, players will see how the wider world has been affected by nuclear fallout and do their best to survive in a constantly moving vehicle, kind of like Snowpiercer in a weird way.

Why is it important?
Though it is probably one of the less talked about releases on February 15, Metro games have been praised for their narrative and horror elements. This easily sets it apart from Far Cry: New Dawn, and and seems to be the polar opposite of Crackdown 3 in tone. There are so many shooters releasing this month – Anthem comes out just a week later – that it may be hard to decide which to get. But if you’re looking for something a little more narratively weighty like a Wolfenstein game, or scary like The Evil Within, then Metro Exodus might be for you.

They look like humanoid Evangelions to me.

Anthem (PC/PS4/XB1)
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Developer: Bioware Edmonton
Release Date: 2/22/19

What is it?

Bioware’s new game may seem a bit different than the Knights of the Old Republic and Dragon Age RPGs they’ve become known for, but it’s important to remember that development studios change over time. Whether this is a natural evolution, or the result of being attached to Electronic Arts at the hip is another discussion, but attempting to make a shared-world online shooter like Destiny isn’t a bad thing. A demo of the game hit last week, and has had mixed reactions so far. I think fans more than anybody want Bioware to pull it together in the end, so here’s hoping that happens.

Why is it important?
Anthem is the biggest release of the month and, like Fallout 76 just a little while back, seems like it could go either way. If it doesn’t turn out, it has a lot to lose; fan’s trust in Bioware to continue making games they love, even more lost trust in Electronic Arts to deliver a game focused on quality instead of chasing market trends, and the future of Bioware as a whole if Anthem really performs poorly. But if it succeeds, or at least takes a few months to get really good, then people will have a great new loot shooter to play, and an interesting new IP that can be expanded on with updates and constant tweaking, instead one boxed expansion after another. Bioware may come away as a different studio in the end, but it’s better to be different than to not exist at all. At least people still have jobs that way.

Anthem‘s artwork is striking, particularly this wonderful image.

If you’d like to contact me and tell me what games you’re excited for this month, you can do so via Twitter, or by emailing me at dcichocki@tiltingwindmillstudios.com.