‘Tis the month for Square Enix and expansions, as they say. Well, they don’t actually say that. If there are any underlying themes though, you can find them in the stride Square has grooved into this month, as well as the still-growing trend of console game expansions and episodic games. First, there’s Square Enix –  they had a rough start to the year with titles like Dissidia Final Fantasy NT and the Secret of Mana remake. However, with the critical acclaim The Awesome Adventures of Captain Spirit has garnered (including from this very blog), and the spectacular sales of Octopath Traveler, they’ve turned things around. Not only do we see Dragon Quest XIShadow of the Tomb Raider, and the first episode of Life is Strange 2 this month, we still have The World Ends With You: Final Remix and Just Cause 4 still on the horizon before the year is out. And then, of course, Kingdom Hearts III in January.

Next, what continues to be important in the industry, in what will likely be remembered as one of the biggest trends of the generation, is the idea of games as a live service. There’s many levels to this idea, but the basic gist is getting players to return over and over to the same game, instead of having a one and done experienced with a boxed product. Some Ubisoft games exist on one far end of the spectrum, with titles like Rainbow Six: Siege still going strong after three years with no sequel or major retail expansion in sight. Then, there are games like Destiny that have constant updates and special events, alongside huge expansions. Games with regular traditional expansions still exist too – Xenoblade Chronicles 2 is getting one this month.

On the other end of the spectrum, then, are episodic games. Your Walking Deads and Life is Strange titles. Games that dole out their content in measured time frames so you have to keep coming back to play the new episode, but you also know there’s an end in sight. None of these ideas are particularly new, they were present last console generation and in many cases much longer than that. However, to see them bubble up and become the new normal, something we contend with without even thinking about it, remains pretty interesting to me. I’m curious to see where it goes.

Anyway, I already can’t wait to check back up with you all next month. See you then!

First up we have…

Destiny 2: Forsaken (PC/PS4/XB1)
Publisher: Activision
Developer: Bungie
Release Date: 9/4/18

What is it?
Destiny 2: Forsaken is the first large-scale expansion to Destiny 2 and the next general step in the Destiny saga. Like Rise of Iron and The Taken King before it, this addition promises to change up the gameplay and add new modes – all without changing that “2” in Destiny 2 to a larger number. As Year Two of Destniy 2 begins, this will be the introduction to a whole host of new content – until it’s usurped next year by the next major expansion.

Why is it important?
Destiny is still one of the largest shooters out there, and even in years where there isn’t a numbered sequel, the expansions get the same amount of reportage. The series manages to pump out major content like this on a regular basis. On a small scale with daily updates, and with large yearly expansions like this, too. It’s a brisk pace, one that World of Warcraft can’t even keep up with. From the outside looking in, it’s an impressive operation.

Second is…

Dragon Quest XI: Echoes of an Elusive Age (PC/PS4)
Publisher: Square Enix
Developer: Square Enix
Release Date: 9/4/18

What is it?
The latest in the longest running JRPG series ever (unless you count Dragon Slayer, which eventually evolved into The Legend of Heroes), this is the first proper console RPG in the franchise since Dragon Quest VIII on the Playstation 2. It’s a notable break in the direction Dragon Quest has gone in recent years, remaining on handhelds like the DS and 3DS, and a welcome one. In addition to the PS4 and PC versions, a Switch version is also planned and supposed to come to the West – at a later date.

Why is it important?
Dragon Quest is a huge deal in Japan to an actual mythical level, and has steadily grown brand recognition in the West during its time on Nintendo’s handhelds. While I would argue that localizing the 3DS version as well as the PS4 one would be a great transitioning moment, you can’t win them all. Either way, putting the series back on modern home consoles is a really good way to get the attention of a modern gaming audience, and to get people interested in a series as old as Dragon Quest for the first time, big steps like these must be taken.

Then we have…

Marvel’s Spider-Man (PS4)
Publisher: Sony Interactive Entertainment
Developer: Insomniac Games
Release Date: 9/7/18

What is it?
Somehow, since Sony still owns film rights to the Spider-Man license, allowing them to make a big budget game with the developers of Spyro the Dragon, Ratchet and Clank, and Sunset Overdrive seems right. Like, it’s the right thing to do – the kind of right thing that fans often think about and exclaim up and down makes sense, if only the major companies in charge would act on their hypotheticals. Well, here we are, with a Spidey game on the level of an Uncharted and God of War title. It seems too good to be true. Almost.

Why is it important?
Many would agree that Spider-Man games peaked with the Spider-Man 2 game based on the 2004 movie. Though there have been other decent titles, there’s both a high bar and a low bar when approaching making a licensed game like this. On the one hand, technology has advanced far enough to deliver an experience that should blow Spider-Man 2 out of the New York Harbor. On the other hand, many licensed games suffer from rushed schedules, bad decision making, and the demands of another company dictating how their licensed should be used. Let’s hope that this game ends up being a contender for the wall-crawler gaming crown, instead of a waste of space in a trash heap, when it launches on September 7th.

And these two…

Yo-Kai Watch Blasters: Red Cat Corps/White Dog Squad (3DS)
Publisher: Nintendo
Developer: Level-5
Release Date: 9/7/18

What is it?
While it might seem like cheating to include two titles in one entry, it’s important to remember that Yo-kai Watch games take heavily after Pokémon – down to releasing two versions of the same game at once. Now, while Nintendo has been working hard the last couple years to bring Yo-kai Watch to the West, we’re still very far behind. If Nintendo hopes to release Yo-kai Watch 4 on the Switch here any time soon, there’s still plenty of 3DS games to get to first, including Yo-kai Watch 3. Quite a predicament, considering the age of the 3DS.

Why is it important?
Yo-kai Watch Blasters originally releases in Japan in 2015 and already has a sequel out there. Its English debut has been delayed, but it’s also a sign Nintendo wants to play the long game with this series. If they wanted to get the West caught up now, they would have leapfrogged to Yo-kai Watch 3 this holiday season and put out the fourth entry sometime next year. Since they’re not doing that, I’m hoping they go the Yakuza route with these games, and try to start pumping them out every six months. If they want American audiences to get caught up, then let’s do it – it’ll only take until 2020. I just hope Nintendo has other ports and projects in mind to keep the 3DS alive until then. Kirby: Air Ride 3D anyone?

And then there is…

Nintendo Labo: Toycon 03 Vehicle Kit (Switch)
Publisher: Nintendo
Manufacturer/Developer: Nintendo EPD
Developer: 9/14/18

What is it?
The third Nintendo Labo kit to hit stores this year, this is the first we’ve seen of the project since it launched back in April. On the website, they list plenty of different vehicles that can be built, like a submarine and a car. This makes me wonder whether this will be on the easier side to assemble like the Variety Kit or more difficult like the Robot Kit. Either way, with the software they include in the box and functionality coming to other games like Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, I think it looks kinda fun, even if it isn’t for me.

Why is it important?
Nintendo’s line of creative cardboard kits for the Switch are as strange as they are fascinating. While I’m not too certain about their overall success, this new Vehicle Kit will help show how much staying-power the project really has. If there are any Kits after the Vehicle Kit, I think that will tell us a lot. We’re definitely on a wait-and-see approach with this one.

Plus there is…

Shadow of the Tomb Raider (PC/PS4/XB1)
Publisher: Square Enix
Developer: Eidos Montréal
Release Date: 9/14/18

What is it?
The third in the Tomb Raider prequel/reboot trilogy, this entry shows Lara Croft as more of the woman you met if you played the early Tomb Raider games. What will happen after this game releases is kind of a mystery – will it lead into remakes of the original games (again)? Will they skip in time past every other title we’ve seen? Will the old games get ignored completely in favor of a new timeline? My guess is the last one, actually, but it’s up to Square Enix and Eidos to decide.

Why is it important?
This is one of the largest AAA games releasing this month, and one likely to garner a lot of press coverage. Spider-Man is another large contender – and I’m sure many would fight me if I put either Destiny 2: Forsaken or Dragon Quest XI in that camp as well. However, Shadow of the Tomb Raider has the multi-platform approach working for it. That should go over well, as long as you own more than Nintendo systems, anyway.

Oh don’t forget this…

Xenoblade Chronicles 2: Torna – The Golden Country (Switch)
Publisher: Nintendo
Developer: Monolith Soft
Release Date: 9/14/18 (Retail: 9/21/18)

What is it?
An honest-to-god expansion – a first for Monolith Soft. This goes beyond the events of Xenoblade Chronicles 2, and offers more content, both as a retail package and a digital download. While I’m anxious to see what else Monolith has up its sleeve, I applaud them for doing something different. I hope it works out for them.

Why is it important?
Monolith Soft is Nintendo’s go-to first party studio for massive JRPGs that can match Western releases like The Elder Scrolls and Fallout. They may still feel like JRPGs perhaps, but before the advent of the Switch, there wasn’t much else to look forward to if you owned Nintendo consoles and liked that style of gaming. Sure, now we can get Skyrim and Wasteland 2 on Switch, but Xenoblade Chronicles 2 is no slouch either. The series as a whole is definitely worth the time if you have it, and this new expansion promises to give you even more to do. So perhaps it’s better to get caught up now, than wait for Xenoblade Chronicles 5 before jumping in.

Nor can you neglect…

Dragalia Lost (Android/iOS)
Publisher: Nintendo
Developer: Nintendo EPD/CyGames
Release Date: 9/27/18

What is it?
Nintendo’s continued foray into the mobile game market, this title ditches the brand familiarity of Super Mario Run and Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp to deliver a whole new IP. This is likely to be their riskiest move yet, and they recently dedicated a small Nintendo Direct to describing the project in detail.

Why is it important?
Nintendo’s entrance into the mobile market has been a slow but sure one. All of their titles so far have been buoyed by iconic Nintendo names attached to them. So, seeing a completely new project likely means Nintendo has some faith in the mobile market. Whether this is the complete embrace of the market I’m sure many fans would love to see, or another oddball in Nintendo’s history remains to be seen, though. It all depends on its success.

This is something too…

Life is Strange 2: Episode 1 (PC/PS4/XB1)
Publisher: Square Enix
Developer: Dontnod Entertainment
Release Date: 9/27/18

What is it?
Even though we’ve already gotten The Awesome Adventures of Captain Spirit and the conclusion of Life is Strange: Before the Storm this year, there’s something exciting about Dontnod returning to the series proper. Concerning the tale of two brothers on their way from Seattle to Mexico, this entry already looks to have more locale variety than the original game, and appears from the trailer anyway to be dealing with a lot more than the events in a sleepy coastal town.

Why is it important?
Dontnod has had so many coals in the fire recently that it seems amazing we’re getting Life is Strange 2 now. With Vampyr and Captain Spirit back in June, and their new noir story Twin Mirror coming in 2019, they’ve been busy bees for a studio that hasn’t put out a game since the original Life is Strange. It’s quite impressive – and worrisome if they end up spreading themselves too thin.

…And it all leads to this.

Jake Hunter Detective Story: Ghost of the Dusk (3DS)
Publisher: Aksys Games
Developer: Arc System Works
Release Date: 9/28/18

What is it?
I recently went in-depth on a mission to find out just what the Jake Hunter series is. Long story short, it’s a series of detective-themed visual novels that date back to the Famicom Disk System in Japan. In the West, the series has a spotty release history. Aksys Games has handled the series thus far, and their attempt to localize it the first time resulted in a do-over coming out a year later. Nine years have passed since then, and while the popularity of Ace Attorney and Professor Layton have waned, this series hasn’t really had its proper chance to spread its wings and fly here.

Why is it important?
Ignoring the debacle of their first Jake Hunter releases, enough time has passed for Aksys Games to try and reintroduce the series properly without much backlash. The idea almost sells itself in the right hands, but coming out as a 3DS exclusive in this day and age is bound to be difficult. If Nintendo is really going to invest in the system until they’re out of Yo-kai Watch games, perhaps Aksys will be right there with them, releasing the other 3DS game in the Jake Hunter series, before moving on to Prism of Eyesthe latest release for the series, and the first on PS4 and Switch.

Did you find this list exciting? Feel free to let me know! You can email me at dcichocki@tiltingwindmillstudios.com or talk to me on Twitter. Thanks!