FALL DAYS AND STEALTH DELAYS

In the midst of my research for this month’s list, I came across something curious. Two months ago, I included the game Killer Queen Black on my Ten Games to Look For in August 2019 list. I did my usual research, checking every source I had to be reasonably sure the game would hit its August 20 release date but, evidently, something went wrong. August 20 came and went, and the game did not come out. On September 12, an official trailer dropped to announce a new release date: October 11. With no messaging indicating a delay had happened, I’m left to think that this was either the sneakiest stealth delay I’ve ever seen, or my information was wrong.

I’m inclined to think I was wrong. I deeply apologize for providing bad information.

This is a good opportunity to talk about how difficult it can be to cover indie releases. Obviously, I should have been more rigorous in my sourcing, but public release dates, especially for smaller games, can sometimes be different from site to site. For example, this month I was considering covering Ghost Parade, an Indonesian indie platformer published by Aksys Games. Only, a post on the Playstation Blog from Aksys’ marketing team says the game is coming out on Halloween, October 31. On their own website, Aksys lists an ambiguous Fall 2019 date. The Steam page says it’s coming October 2019. The marketing team said it was coming out on Halloween, but how can I be sure if Aksys’ website doesn’t back that up? Or a storefront like Steam? Over the last week or so, Amazon and Metacritic have backed up the Halloween date, but at this point I’ve gotten enough conflicting dates to still have doubt. It’s probably difficult to coordinate messaging across all of these sites, but if they don’t have the right info, who can consumers really trust?

Anyway, I hope everyone’s enjoying the swell autumn weather. My allergies certainly are. See you in November!

These large vistas looked so cool on 3DS.

The Alliance Alive HD Remastered
(PS4/Switch)

Publisher: NIS America | Developer: Cattle Call/Grezzo/FuRyu | Release Date: 10/8/19


What is it?
I reviewed The Alliance Alive last year on 3DS. At the time, I called it “accessible” and “the equivalent of a good summer action movie.” It tells the story of Daemons, Beastfolk, and Humans; three races that were at war long ago. When Daemons eventually won out, Humans were pushed to the lowest class with Beastfolk serving as an intermediary. As these stories go, it falls to Galil, an indecisive Human boy, to rally the members of the Human resistance and his growing band of adventurers from all parts of society, to defeat the oppressive Daemon rulers once and for all. It’s not the most amazing RPG story, but it’s solid and has enough variety to keep you interested.

Why is it important?
I think it’s wonderful this game is getting remastered so quickly, but I’m surprised by the change in publisher. Atlus released the title in the West last year, continuing a relationship with Cattle Call, the primary developer, that extends all the way back to their first game, Tsugunai: Atonement in 2001. Not even two years later, NIS America has swooped in to take over this HD version, and I’m curious to know what they’ll do with it. Will they use Atlus’ translation? Will they put in some voice acting? Games don’t normally change hands so quickly, which makes me think there might be a story here that’s worth investigating.

It’s still unconfirmed if Keanu Reeves will provide John Wick’s voice.

John Wick Hex
(Mac/PC)

Publisher: Good Shepherd Entertainment | Developer: Bithell Games | Release Date: 10/8/19


What is it?
Mike Bithell has become an icon in the indie game community for both his outspoken personality, and titles like Thomas Was Alone and Volume. His new project is a strategy game called John Wick Hex, based on the movie franchise. Players watch the action as if viewing it from a video editor, guiding Wick through enemy encounters decision by decision. After navigating through a successful level, players are then treated to a brutal scene of their decisions playing out in real-time, reminiscent of fights from the films. It’s an intriguing premise; one that took me some time to wrap my head around. Yet it sounds like the kind of hook John Wick fans would want from a game tie-in, even if the story doesn’t connect to the movies all that much.

Why is it important?
It’s rare to see such a noted developer given the chance to tackle a license this big. It’s a little like letting Hideo Kojima make a Mission: Impossible game. Whether or not I have a huge interest in playing it myself, I’m happy that Bithell was given this opportunity. It’s good for the industry and, should it prove successful, just might convince another license holder to trust a big name with one of their properties. An open world Demonlition Man RPG spearheaded by Todd Howard? It probably wouldn’t come out until 2030, but I’d love to see it.

What’s the NG stand for? NeoGeo?

Spirit Hunter NG
(
PC/PS4/Switch/Vita)

Publisher: Aksys Games | Developer: Experience | Release Date: 10/10/19


What is it?
Death Mark (later retitled Spirit Hunter: Death Mark) took me by surprise last year. It’s an Aksys Games published visual novel with a physical release on Vita, totally my jam, but I didn’t know about it until after it came out. So when Aksys announced they were bringing the follow up to the States, I paid attention. Despite my criticisms of past localizations, I think one thing the writers at Aksys are really good at is crafting the text to convey the emotion or mood of whatever situation is going on. So to hear that Spirit Hunter: NG is this gory horror game that explores urban legends is pretty exciting to me. With this and Ghost Parade coming out this month, Aksys seems to understand what appeals to people in the lead up to Halloween. Good on them.

Why is it important?
By now, I think it’s pretty clear that whenever I get wind of a new 3DS or Vita game, I need to talk about it. NG may be digital-only on Vita, but I’m glad to see Aksys is putting that version out alongside the usual PC/PS4/Switch editions. I doubt they’ll be able to garner interest in Vita games for much longer, considering how quick Sony dumped it, but Aksys has a history of supporting platforms long after others have left them. Hopefully they have more in store for 2020.

Man, not monster.

Little Town Hero
(Switch)

Publisher: Game Freak | Developer: Game Freak | Release Date: 10/16/19


What is it?
Every so often, Game Freak finds the time between yearly Pokémon titles to make something a little different. In Little Town Hero, players take on the role of a boy named Axe, who must defend his town from monsters in one-on-one fights. These fights play out like a game of War, except the opponents can see each other’s cards. Individual commands like “Throw” and “Improvise” have attack and defense stats, and players must decide which they should deploy against the opposing monster, who has their own list of commands to choose from. To call this a war of ideas might be too on the nose, but it’s an interesting blend of strategy and traditional RPG mechanics that shows Game Freak is just as creative as ever.

Why is it important?
It’s digital-only and retails for $24.99, reinforcing that this is a side project, but one that’s a bit beefier than something like Tembo the Badass Elephant. Also important is that Undertale and Deltarune creator Toby Fox composed most of the music for the game. It’s rare enough to hear about Nintendo or Game Freak working with noted outsider talent on this level, but to see Fox specifically brought in, after his games have taken inspiration from RPGs like Earthbound, is very heartwarming. I’d love to see him release his own version of the soundtrack on vinyl.

Oh, Ghost Recon: Breakpoint also comes out this month. Just so you know.

The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel III
(PS4)

Publisher: NIS America | Developer: Nihon Falcom | Release Date: 10/22/19


What is it?
Nihon Falcom’s Legend of Heroes series has never had a lot of luck with Western releases. Passed from Hudson Soft back in the day, to Bandai Namco, then Xseed Games, and now NIS America, this franchise can’t catch a break. These games have a lot of text, so it’s understandable why this happens. As a fan though, it’s annoying. Xseed pushed out what they could, covering the Trails in the Sky trilogy and the first two Trails of Cold Steel games, before NISA took over with this next entry. Trails of Cold Steel III is the first Legend of Heroes game to be developed exclusively for the PS4, and already has a sequel in Japan, Trails of Cold Steel IV. There’s no word if NISA plans to bring that over yet.

Why is it important?
After NISA’s first crack at a major Falcom game, Ys VIII: Lacrimosa of Dana, resulted in two controversies over the quality of its localization, fans have been hesitant to trust them again. If they stumble on Trails of Cold Steel III, then the question they’ll ask is: why take over localization duties from Xseed if they can’t do a good job? Aside from Xseed’s recently unearthed issue of not properly crediting employees no longer at the company, their work on the series only ran into issues during the localization of the notoriously long Trails in the Sky SC, which is a complex matter all its own. For NISA to win over fans once and for all, they need to not only nail this localization, and get out Trails of Cold Steel IV out in a timely and accurate manner, but also localize the games in the Crossbell saga, which came out between Trails in the Sky and Trails of Cold Steel, should Falcom ever port them to the PS4. If NISA provides a safe and stable platform for Falcom’s brands to grow, then fans will be happy.

Why not ditch the Call of Duty name altogether?

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare
(PC/PS4/XB1)

Publisher: Activision | Developer: Infinity Ward | Release Date: 10/25/19


What is it?
It’s Modern Warfare, again. Not another remaster of Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare, but an update to the series in general. A response to what the term “modern warfare” means today, instead of twelve years ago. Likely to be the last Call of Duty exclusive to this generation of consoles, this reintroduction to the franchise’s most popular brand brings in new stories, new takes on old characters, and a new graphics engine. The single player campaign is back after a year off, zombies are out, and multiplayer is just as prevalent as ever. However, whether or not it’ll connect to the Blackout battle royale mode in Black Ops 4, or have its own at some point, is unclear.

Why is it important?
Call of Duty still sells amazingly well, but it’s not quite the all-consuming cultural phenomenon it used to be. First-person shooters don’t have the same market share they used to. Activision has tried different things to keep Call of Duty relevant, but this year will be an important step in understanding how the series will be perceived in a new console generation. Will yearly releases still matter? Do these games need to switch to a live service model to keep up with the speed and cost of development? If Modern Warfare continues to sell as well as other titles have, Activision will see that as a reason to keep going. But, how long can they expect this to last?

MediEvil: Re-Animated Edition

MediEvil
(PS4)

Publisher: Sony Interactive Entertainment | Developer: Other Ocean Emeryville | Release Date: 10/25/19


What is it?
MediEvil is a remake of the PS1 title of the same name, developed by a division of Other Ocean Interactive (Minecraft for the New 3DS). It comes fourteen years after the last game in the series, MediEvil: Resurrection, which was also a new take on the first game. Once again, Sir Daniel Fortesque, a knight from the Middle Ages brought back to life as a skeleton man, is out to destroy the evil Zarok in hack ‘n’ slash fashion. This may be a stricter remake than Resurrection, but wouldn’t a brand new introduction to the series be more fitting? Setting it up as just another remake will make people look at it through a nostalgic lens rather than strictly as a new game in 2019. I don’t think it’s going to hold up that well. Maybe Sony realizes this, and they’re not giving this project the same attention they’re giving Death Stranding and The Last of Us Part II for a reason.

Why is it important?
I’d like to think I’m wrong in sensing something’s up with this remake, but this may be another Crackdown 3. Granted, I thought Gears 5 would be disappointing and that ended up doing pretty well, but Gears 5 and MediEvil are very different. Like CrackdownMediEvil originally worked for what it was when it came out. To work now, there’d have to be some sense that the developers worked on ways to keep it relevant with newer titles the genre. I don’t sense that with MediEvil, and that certainly wasn’t the case with Crackdown 3. It worked with Gears 5, but that series has seen consistent innovation since its introduction. Some might enjoy MediEvil, but others will likely look at it and wonder why it was even made.

Confirmed: at least one Outer World.

The Outer Worlds
(PC/PS4/XB1)

Publisher: Private Division | Developer: Obsidian Entertainment | Release Date: 10/25/19


What is it?
Despite being bought by Microsoft last year, the deal to make The Outer Worlds was inked when Obsidian Entertainment was still independent. It’s billed as a reunion between the creators of Fallout, Tim Cain and Leonard Boyarsky, and though it was in development long before Fallout 76 came out, it’s poised to be a safe haven for fans who were let down by that title. It’s also being promoted as a comedy, which is very hard to do in games. Most “funny” video games just make me cringe.

Why is it important?
Private Division is a subsidiary of Take-Two Interactive, created with the goal of being a publisher of larger-scale indie games. They’ve already taken over publishing duties of Kerbal Space Program and its sequels, but The Outer Worlds is part of the first wave of games to come out under the banner proper. Between this and Ancestors: The Humankind Odyssey, the imprint has been putting their money where their mouth is, but it feels like they haven’t hit their stride yet. Ancestors got mixed reviews, and the Microsoft acquisition leaves The Outer Worlds in their hands. Private Division won’t have anything to do with a sequel, should it get made. They are exactly the kind of publisher we need in games right now, but we need to make sure they’re supported. Otherwise, there may not be more to see than a handful of titles and a lot of broken hearts.

The series is always quite colorful and anime-inspired.

Atelier Ryza: Ever Darkness & The Secret Hideout
(PC/PS4/Switch)

Publisher: Koei Tecmo | Developer: Gust | Release Date: 10/29/19


What is it?
The Atelier series is a long-running alchemy RPG franchise developed by Gust. Originally published by NIS America outside of Japan, the series shifted to Koei Tecmo after they purchased Gust in 2011. Over the last console generation, Koei Tecmo has done an admirable job bringing as many entries to the West as they can, and that’s actually a larger feat than you might think. In the last year alone, they’ve released: a port of the PS3/Vita Atelier Arland games to PC/PS4/Switch, the side game Nelke and the Legendary Alchemists: Ateliers of the New World, the newest Arland title, Atelier Lulua: The Scion of Arland, and now Atelier Ryza: Ever Darkness & The Secret Hideout. There are additional plans to port more older titles to modern consoles, but no dates have been set yet.

Why is it important?
In a larger sense, Atelier is important as a series in that it focuses on female characters and, depending on the title, may be more about alchemy, and less of an RPG. To some people, these facts are incredibly important to mention and I want them to know this series is out there for them. I also think it’s important because I’ve skipped out on covering this series three times already, and would like to do it at least once while I have the chance. I don’t know why there are so many of these games in recent years, but evidently they sell well. If you like anime aesthetics and brightly colored games, this series might be for you.

Hotel Mario meets Super Mario Sunshine?

Luigi’s Mansion 3
(Switch)

Publisher: Nintendo | Developer: Next Level Games | Release Date: 10/31/19


What is it?
Mario, Princess Peach, and the Toads are on vacation, and something’s gone wrong! However, instead of Mario stepping up to the plate with the latest F.L.U.D.D., we’ve got… Luigi to save the day. With his Poltergust 5000. I mean, I know he has some experience with ghosts before, but really? Luigi? That coward may drive a mean Mario Kart, but he has to practically beg Nintendo for attention. They thought they’d shut him up when they did that Year of Luigi thing awhile back, but he’s been pestering them ever since. Where’s that new Luigi’s Mansion? Where’s that new Luigi’s Mansion? Clearly, the 3DS port of the original wasn’t enough, because we’re back here a year later with another one of these titles. Yeesh. Can’t a guy take a hint?

Why is it important?
In all seriousness, I like Luigi, I think he’s a great guy, and I’m glad Next Level Games lined up another game for him because things were looking grim after they put out Metroid Prime Federation ForceLuigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon was a great 3DS game, and there’s plenty of places for this series to go. It’s also just good to finally see the series in HD. As Nintendo’s biggest game of the month, that almost warrants it a spot on this list alone, but come on. It’s Luigi. Luigi! He’s at a hotel, they’re on vacation, Nintendo is clearly doing some homage to either Hotel Mario or Super Mario Sunshine, I can’t tell which…


Ten Games to Look For is a monthly series that rounds up some of the most exciting releases of the coming month and tells you why they’re worth your time. If you’d like to leave a comment, perhaps a nice note, 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.com.