THE END OF A QUARTER

As we move further into 2019, it’s apparent that March has the heavy hitters to keep it on track with the stellar turnout of January and February. We’ve got the latest sequel in the Devil May Cry series, the newest experience from Hidetaka Miyazaki, and Nintendo’s belated Yoshi’s Crafted World on the docket, among other curious titles. However, as positive as I may sound, I have my concerns. It’s important to remember that March is the end of the Q2 financial period – which means there could be companies out there looking to dump some games they no longer feel passionate about in order to make the numbers they show their investors look better. There are some entries here that will seem like easy targets for this category, but it’s possible some less obvious titles will surprise us instead. It’s worth being cautious.

I’m not saying that all of these March releases should be looked at suspiciously. MLB The Show usually launches in March, and I have my doubts that the 3DS port of Kirby’s Epic Yarn could turn that game into a catastrophe. But if you find yourself asking, “Why haven’t I heard of this game from this major publisher before?” you might have your answer.

Be careful out there, and see you in April.

This Minnesotan puzzle game launches today.

Treasure Stack (PC/Switch/XB1)
Publisher: Pixelakes LLC
Developer: Pixelakes LLC
Release Date: 3/1/19

What is it?
The surprise of Tetris 99 may have taken the puzzle world by storm last month, but another game out there promises to take the falling block scenario in a very different direction. In Treasure Stack, you play as an adventurer stacking up like-colored treasure chests that fall from above, and use falling keys of the same color to clear them from the well. Like Sushi Striker, it’s a game that’s probably best explained with visuals instead of text, but it’s nonetheless a game I’ve been looking forward to for a while. It’s suffered some delays in recent months, so I’m glad to finally put it on this list.

Why is it important?
Whenever I look for games for this list, I always find myself enamored with one or two special titles off the beaten path. I’m intrigued by the four player head-to-head mode, the push for 4K resolution, and the way both the in-game pixel art and the art style of the promotional materials compliment one another. This is the first game from the Twin Cities-based studio Pixelakes, and if their live action trailers are anything to go by, they’re up and running with a unique sense of humor. I’m curious to see where they go next.

Only Metal Gears Left Alive

Left Alive (PC/PS4)
Publisher: Square Enix
Developer: Square Enix
Release Date: 3/5/19

What is it?
Left Alive is a bizarre case. By all accounts, it looks like a decently-sized game that Square Enix would want to promote. It’s set in the Front Mission universe, has character designs by Yoji Shinkawa of Metal Gear Solid fame, and looks okay in its gameplay trailer, but I’ve barely heard a peep. Initially, I found out about this game by searching through the Playstation Network store, and assumed the date was just a placeholder – surely they’d delay it to mount a proper advertising campaign. Considering that Square Enix just released The Quiet Man a few months ago and they gave that game more of a marketing push than Left Alive – well, that’s just sad. No game should be sent out to die like this.

Why is it important?
Like I said, everything just seems weird. The trailers make it look like a stealthy cover shooter, kind of like Metal Gear Solid with story-driven choices, and that’s not something Square Enix usually makes. It’s coming to PS4 and PC, but notably not Xbox One, which might be interesting, but just feels like a cost-cutting measure. I don’t think Square Enix has much faith in the title, so I’m curious why they bothered to take it this far – are the names attached just too high profile to risk cancellation? I can’t believe the release date is just four days away – no last minute marketing blitz can save it now.

That sure is a Nero depth of field.

Devil May Cry 5 (PC/PS4/XB1)
Publisher: Capcom
Developer: Capcom
Release Date: 3/8/19

What is it?
Devil May Cry is one of the originators of the stylish action genre, and the series is finally making its current gen debut with the fifth entry in the series. Admittedly, I’m not very familiar with the franchise, but I know people are excited to play as Nero, intrigued by the new character V, and in general seemed pretty hyped for its release. After the launch of Resident Evil 2, it’s tempting to say that Capcom has been killing it so far in 2019, but I’ll reserve judgment on that for when they announce a physical release of Ace Attorney Trilogy on Switch.

Why is it important?
Seeing Onimusha: Warlords HD  and Resident Evil 2 return to form was cool, however given that the rest of Capcom’s upcoming library is steeped in Port City (check out Dragon’s Dogma: Dark Arisen and several Resident Evil titles coming to Switch in the next few months), I’d like to know what else they have planned for later in the year. I’m expecting some kind of big surprise – perhaps Deep Down being revamped for Switch (as unlikely as that seems) – but, we’ll find out soon. If Devil May Cry V, is the game for you, then I hope you enjoy it.

Stitched in there like a glove.

Kirby’s Extra Epic Yarn (3DS)
Publisher: Nintendo
Developer: Good-Feel
Release Date: 3/8/19

What is it?
Kirby’s Extra Epic Yarn brings the classic Wii title to the 3DS nearly a decade after its initial release. Why, you may ask? It’s usually tradition for Nintendo to release a Kirby game near the end of the life of their systems. Kirby’s Dream Collection came to the Wii around the launch of the Wii U, Kirby Mass Attack released on DS months after the 3DS launched, Kirby’s Dream Land 3 came to SNES after the N64 came out, and before it Kirby’s Adventure came to NES after the SNES hit shelves. To celebrate the end of the 3DS, it’s fitting to see this trend continue, but the interesting twist is that Nintendo elected to make another port, instead of letting last year’s Kirby Battle Royale remain the final word.

Why is it important?
By now, you know the drill: this game is here largely because it’s a 3DS game. However, it’s important to note that this is currently the only 3DS game Nintendo has on their release calendar. It’s also the only 3DS game so far to see a worldwide release in 2019. Perhaps it’ll be the only one, as the other 3DS game coming out, Atlus’ Persona Q2, released in Japan last December. (Though the latest Shovel Knight expansion is still coming to 3DS as of this writing, including it here feels like cheating.) If anything else gets announced, I expect it to be another late localization of a Yo-Kai Watch game or something similar – I don’t see active development continuing on the 3DS unless Nintendo has yet another port up their sleeve.

 

Ninja art!

Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice (PC/PS4/XB1)
Publisher: Activision
Developer: FromSoftware
Release Date: 3/22/19

What is it?
Sekiro is the next game from Hidetaka Miyazaki – architect of FromSoftware’s Souls series. However, this is an action game, not an RPG. There are no character classes or anything like that. It may visually share some blood with its Soulsborne brethren, but Sekiro is more akin to another FromSoftware franchise – the ninja stealth series, Tenchu. Published by Activision in its worldwide release, it’ll be interesting to see how MIyazaki’s latest stacks up to the games that made him a household name. It may seem like a change of pace, but it’s worth remembering that he was first a director of Armored Core games before Demon’s Souls ever came along. If anyone can pivot effectively, it’s Miyazaki.

Why is it important?
This is important not only because FromSoftware games have a large following, but also because of Activision’s role. They’re known for pumping their franchises on a yearly basis – see Tony HawkGuitar Hero, and Call of Duty as top examples. For them to change pace and release a game like Sekiro is very promising, but one has to wonder what the goal is here. To cash in on the FromSoftware fandom? To get another IP that can be used over and over until it dies? I don’t see FromSoftware iterating that much that quickly, so my best guess is to say that this deal came together in a very specific and special way and, barring evidence to the contrary, may be a one time thing. I’d love to be wrong, though.

From the Final Fantasy XV: Episode Ardyn animated prologue, natch.

Final Fantasy XV: Episode Ardyn (PC/PS4/XB1)
Publisher: Square Enix
Developer: Square Enix Business Division 2
Release Date: 3/26/19

What is it?
This month marks both the end of Telltale’s The Walking Dead, and the thirteen year saga of Final Fantasy XV. As much as I love Clementine, I think the release of Episode Ardyn is the bigger event. Square Enix’s overall DLC strategy for this game has been really innovative, extending the legs of a formerly single player game for over two years. Once upon a time, I wrote an article where I talked about my hesitance to play the game until all of the DLC came out, but that was back during the time when Hajime Tabata still worked at Square, and Episode Ardyn was just the first in a new wave of content for 2019. With those plans scrapped and the remnants being turned into a novel, I guess now is the best time to dig into my copy.

Why is it important?
Final Fantasy XV started out as Final Fantasy Versus XIII when it was announced in 2006. In the ensuing years until its release in 2016, it was worked and reworked until Tabata joined on as the game’s new director. He righted the ship, changed the name, and got the game out. Along with it came a cornucopia of multimedia projects, including movies, novellas, and other video games that tell parts of the story. Now that the story is over, it’s amazing to me how much has come out of this project, as if it were an apology for the long wait. On the optimistic side, cancelling the DLC could mean we’ll start seeing what Final Fantasy XVI looks like sooner than later. After the Final Fantasy VII remake finally comes out, that will most likely be the company’s next big focus.

Let’s investigate this mystery release – together!

Generation Zero (PC/PS4/XB1)
Publisher: Avalanche Studios
Developer: Avalanche Studios
Release Date: 3/26/19

What is it?
Generation Zero is the other super mysterious title on this list. It has an active Twitter account, I can say that much, but it’s just hard to believe that it comes out at the end of the month and there’s not more buzz about it. Avalanche Studios, the creator, is known for their work in open world design. Between Just Cause 4 releasing last December and Rage 2 coming in May, there’s no point in releasing Generation Zero unless Avalanche really believes it’s ready. Especially if they’re self-publishing it. On Steam, the game is listed at $34.99, so perhaps it’s a little cheaper and smaller than those other two titles, but even as a digital-only release, I would expect something more by now.

Why is it important?
Like Left Alive, it doesn’t make sense for a game of this caliber to be pushed out in the cold, but that seems to be what’s happening. Barring some kind of coverage overload, like a cover on Game Informer, I don’t see that changing. Set in 1980’s Sweden, with players working alone or cooperatively to take down some evil machines, it seems a touch more personal than their other projects. If it is, then it’s awfully peculiar to shoot themselves in the foot like this. Why not wait, work on it after polishing up Rage 2, and give it the ad campaign it deserves? Either they don’t have the means to do that, or something has to be up. It’s hard to speculate any other answers.

Like watching broadcast television.

MLB The Show 19 (PS4)
Publisher: Sony Interactive Entertainment
Developer: SIE San Diego Studio
Release Date: 3/26/19

What is it?
I’m not going to pretend I know a lot about MLB The Show, but it’s always gotten points in my book for having the correct year on the cover. I’m going to let this video from GameSpot talk more about the changes to fielding and hitting, since I haven’t played these games enough to tell you what these changes mean, but of interest to me is the new Moments mode, which lets players live through recreations of some of baseball’s most famous episodes. According to Samir Sarkar at Polygon, these Moments range from specific plays to playing entire games back to back, and feature detailed recreations of players at different points in their career. I’m not one to argue that a piece of art must be available for all audiences at all times, but it would be nice to see the developer focusing on more casual-friendly modes like this to keep the series interesting going forward.

Why is it important?
I continue to be fascinated by the prevalence of dominating sports games like MLB The Show and Madden. Exclusive contracts aside, there are so many sports fans out there and the gaming industry is only getting bigger. There should be plenty of room for another franchise to come in and steal Sony’s thunder, but other than the recent RBI Baseball games, no one’s really made a serious effort recently. I have a suggestion: forget about the MLB license, focus on nostalgia, and release a port of Backyard Baseball on Switch. I’d buy it in a heartbeat.

Anne Hathaway finally has some literary competition.

The Princess Guide (PS4/Switch)
Publisher: NIS America
Developer: Nippon Ichi Software
Release Date: 3/26/19

What is it?
Not to be confused with the episode of The Simpsons with the same name (thanks, Google), The Princess Guide is a niche action RPG from Nippon Ichi Software that follows a pretty typical story. The Relic Islands are divided into four nations, and they are ruled by four princesses. They struggle to fight an evil that terrorizes the land, and you must decide which princesses to play as. The Princess Guide website has a handy graphic that tells you how each playthrough should go, but it boils down to choosing two princesses over the course of the story, leveling up your main princess’ Faith level to get a certain ending, and replaying the game to see the other perspectives. I’m curious to know how long each playthrough is supposed to last, but it seems like a solid loop, provided everything works as it should.

Why is it important?
I became intrigued by this game because of its replayability, and because it stars a bunch of powerful princesses who hopefully have diverse personalities. I don’t imagine I’ll find the story surprising – The Relic Islands will probably wind up saved – but as long the gameplay is satisfying, the protagonists are competently written and the game steers clear of major creep territory, I’ll be happy. I don’t think that’s too much to ask, but I’ve been let down in many worse ways before. (I’m looking at you, Atlus.)

Hide and Seek Papercraft.

Yoshi’s Crafted World (Switch)
Publisher: Nintendo
Developer: Good-Feel
Release Date: 3/29/19

What is it?
The sequel to Yoshi’s Wooly World, but with a new paper aesthetic, Yoshi’s Crafted World is, like Kirby’s Epic Yarn, easy to play, and a fun, joyful experience. From my time with the recent demo, I saw that the levels weren’t focused on death and restarting, but simple puzzle solving and item hunting. Say what you will about wanting a challenge, but I’ve come to enjoy games that are cute and focused on giving you a good time. There’s room for all kinds of platformers in the world, and Yoshi’s Crafted World has the right to exist as the antithesis to a game like Super Meat Boy. Good-Feel has cornered an interesting part of the casual-friendly platformer market, and I want them to keep at it.

Why is it important?
The idea of having a relaxed, good time is appealing. Even if a game like Tetris is considered to be a stress reliever to many, I think Yoshi is one step removed from even that – it looks amazing, it knows where to raise the challenge, and most of all it wants you to focus on the joy of playing the game without much stress. All things I’m on board with. In a larger sense, this game is also important because it is the highest profile Nintendo game yet – at least as a boxed product. Tetris 99 might be bigger, but its selective availability makes that hard to judge.  I can’t wait to play Yoshi’s Crafted World at the end of the month, which is a sentence I never thought I’d be saying about a Yoshi game. Ever.

Yarn -> Wool -> Paper -> …Metal?

As always, feel free to contact me on Twitter, or email me at dcichocki@tiltingwindmillstudios.com!