CONSOLE DATES WHEN

The game of chicken between Microsoft and Sony continues to escalate. News about their consoles comes out in drip-drop fashion. We learn more about PS5 backwards compatibility because of an Ubisoft leak. We see Microsoft announcing that at least one of their Series platforms will launch in November, without a specific date attached. Yet, big pieces of news continue to elude us – how much will these things cost, how many of them are there, and when exactly are they coming out? If both companies want to release their consoles this year, announcing this information during the coming month is the time to do it. This would still allow early-gen adopters a chance to pre-order their boxes ahead of time, though the two month window might be cutting it close for some. The bright side is there aren’t many ties in chicken. Eventually, one company will blink.

Until then, we’re reaching a point where the big releases coming now are sure to have PS5/Xbox Series versions, if not simultaneously at launch, then soon after. In the interest of not repeating myself in future lists, the games I talk about now will not be brought up again when these upgraded versions hit shelves. This list is about half major releases and half ports/remasters to help make this feasible. Talking about the same game over and over is rarely useful, and I’d really rather use this space to highlight new high profile and underground games alike.

That said, I’m still playing Xenoblade Chronicles: Definitive Edition, except – good news. I finally beat the base game (again) and am in the middle of the Future Connected epilogue as of this post. I’m also getting into Fall Guys and have embraced gaming for the sake of gaming again, instead of worrying about “completing” everything I play. A huge hurdle to cross if you care about games like I do, but hopefully something that will re-invigorate my interest in the months and years to come.

Anyway, that’s it for September. Hopefully by October we’ll have more news – talk to you then!

There’s reportedly some Legacy of Kain influence here, too…

Ary and the Secret of Seasons
(PC/PS4/Switch/XB1)

Publisher: Modus Games / Maximum Games | Developer: Exiin / Fishing Cactus | Release Date: 9/1/20


What is it?
Ary and the Secret of Seasons is designed in the vein of titles like The Legend of Zelda and Sly Cooper, combining action-adventure set-pieces with a degree of 3D platforming. Combat is in real-time and free-form, setting players in small arenas to use Ary’s weather powers to take down her enemies. Puzzles are often environment-based, usually dependent on defeating some boss or gaining a specific power-up before accessing a new area. Games like this used to be all over in the PS2 era, and even though they’ve receded, it’s still nice to see them come back once in a while.

Why is it important?
The launch of a new IP is always exciting, but launching so close to a new console generation (though it was meant to come out earlier) is risky. On the bright side it’s coming to PC and Switch, giving it the opportunity to be found by communities that aren’t worried about impending new hardware. However, there’s always the possibility that this game will get buried under new console hype anyway. If Ary gets a PS5/Xbox Series version, then it might not be so drastic, but the good news is it came out on Sept 1. You can buy it now.

Dontnod seems pretty in sync with what’s going on in the world today.

Tell Me Why Episodes 2 & 3
(PC/XB1)

Publisher: Xbox Game Studios | Developer: Dontnod Entertainment
Release Date: 9/3/20 (Episode 2) / 9/10/20 (Episode 3)


What is it?
As I write this, the first episode of Tell Me Why hit last week, and Episode 2 is hot off the presses. The response seems pretty solid – though whether review outlets are splitting it up into three reviews or just one is a bit unclear. It’s likely a mix of both. I have not played the game myself yet, but I’m most curious to see how criticism of the game develops over time, especially from the trans and Alaskan native communities. In the meantime, look out for the third episode next week – no schedule slips here!

Why is it important?
Tell Me Why is one of the only exclusives on the list this month, and would do well to jump to the Xbox Series as soon as possible. It makes sense: with Halo Infinite delayed, Microsoft needs to make a huge impact in its absence. Putting an XB1 game on the Series platform might not entirely do that, but releasing it as a disc alongside other games on launch day both shows the company’s commitment to diversity in its software, and gives the game an opportunity to be discovered by console owners with limited options. Obviously, Tell Me Why is also on Game Pass, but it’s the marketing here that matters – day one, on shelves, supporting the new console. I think it would elevate this game quite a bit.

Published by Bandai Namco, not Xseed Games surprisingly.

Doraemon: Story of Seasons
(PS4)

Publisher: Bandai Namco Entertainment | Developer: Brownies/Marvelous | Release Date: 9/4/20


What is it?
Doraemon: Story of Seasons is an extension of the usual Story of Seasons (aka: Harvest Moon) formula that trades in the romance options for legendary Japanese mascot Doraemon and elements of his world. Originally released on PC and Switch last October, this title is yet another showcase of Bandai Namco’s ability to get a variety of licensed anime games out in the West. Maybe they can work on an HD port of the Neon Genesis Evangelion N64 game next?

Why is it important?
I’m not familiar with Doraemon outside of name recognition, but the solid reviews for the PC/Switch version and the Story of Seasons name make this worth watching. Granted, there have been other recently announced games coming out this month I could put in this game’s place, like the just-announced Super Mario 3D All-Stars collection on Switch. To be honest though, I had this entire list laid out by the time the announcement came. If I had been suitably impressed, I might have swapped entries at the last minute, but the exclusion of Super Mario Galaxy 2 and the weird limited-time availability did not leave me suitably impressed. I’m only mentioning it here because I had to rewrite this section and had nothing else to say about Doraemon, unfortunately.

An Anthemic ode to comic book heroes.

Marvel’s Avengers
(PC/PS4/Stadia/XB1)

Publisher: Square Enix | Developer: Crystal Dynamics | Release Date: 9/4/20 (9/1/20 for certain editions)


What is it?
Avengers is the type of third-person live-service online co-op game that’s popular right now. Developed by Crystal Dynamics, it exudes big Marvel energy in the way it allows comic book fans to play as Ms. Marvel, Captain America, Hulk, and more as they become available over time. From the reviews that have popped up online so far (which I shouldn’t ignore, given how long it’s taking me to edit this), the game’s getting decent critical reception – better than Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3: The Black Order, which is unfortunately as close as Switch owners are going to get to a game like this.

Why is it important?
Avengers is the biggest game of the month, there can be no arguing that. It represents a hyper-popular brand in pop culture, and is developed by an iconic studio that’s touched everything from Tomb Raider to Legacy of Kain. While I’m not into superheroes as much as I used to be, the response to this game has surpassed my expectations, and I commend the developers for turning in something that makes fans happy. Still, the over-reliance on multiple currencies and user-spending to emulate an Apex Legends/Fortnite kind of experience while still being a $60+ game concerns me greatly. Expecting people to put a ton of money down on top of the base price is just greedy.

“Spending most of my days… learning how to kickflip.” (/shameless Petite League plug)

Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1 + 2
(PC/PS4/XB1)

Publisher: Activision | Developer: Vicarious Visions | Release Date: 9/4/20


What is it?
Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1 + 2 is a redo of the first two Tony Hawk games (as well as Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater HD) with a greatly expanded soundtrack, new skaters, and several innovations brought back from later sequels. Vicarious Visions has an excellent history with the Tony Hawk franchise dating all the way back to Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2 on GBA, and from all appearances they seem like the developer best poised to capture the feel of these games. Really though, the title is right – all things being equal, the best Tony Hawk of all time is Pro Skater 3.

Why is it important?
My love of Tony Hawk games extends to two specific titles (Pro Skater 3 and American Sk8land on DS), but I cannot overstate how much this franchise has been a part of my life. Getting to play the levels from the earliest games with all the bells and whistles of the later ones is a fantastic proposition. Alongside Tell Me Why, this is my most anticipated game of the month, and continues my curiously adult trend where the games I look forward to most end up being 80% remakes and 20% original. And that includes Animal Crossing.

I reckon even if this sells well, it’ll still take some luck for Copernicus to come back…

Kingdoms of Amalur: Re-Reckoning
(PC/PS4/XB1)

Publisher: THQ Nordic | Developer: 38 Studios / Big Huge Games / Kaiko | Release Date: 9/8/20


What is it?
The release of Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning in 2012 was the confluence of several notable names in and outside the gaming industry. With the involvement of R.A. Salvatore (world building), Todd McFarlane (art), and Grant Kirkhope (music) among others, including former MLB player Curt Shilling, following the game always remained interesting. The game itself is great, I quite like it, but between the very public bankruptcy process that 38 Studios when through when Reckoning didn’t sell enough, including comments from then-Rhode Island governor Lincoln Chaffee about the game, as well as Curt Shilling’s subsequent stint at Breitbart after being fired as an ESPN contributor due to his history of sharing transphobic (and otherwise offensive) content… there’s a lot of baggage associated with this game. It’s kind of a small miracle to see it back at all.

Why is it important?
I’d say I’m looking forward to Reckoning getting another shot, but with the baggage and publisher THQ Nordic’s history of strange and alarming Q&A collaborations, my excitement is tempered. I would love to see this franchise shake its history and re-emerge as the groundwork for the the Copernicus MMO it was meant to be, but there’s several factors in this situation that have to be considered and handled carefully. I’m not sure regular video game PR can pull it off.

A public display.

 


Spelunky 2
(PS4)

Publisher: Mossmouth, LLC | Developer: Mossmouth, LLC | Release Date: 9/15/20


What is it?
Derek Yu’s Spelunky is a seminal game in the history of roguelikes. The premise may seem a bit basic now, a spelunker going through randomly generated tunnels, but the game’s evolution from a freeware PC game, to XBLA classic, to a must-play on Vita has built a reputation few other indies can claim. Speedruns of the game still go up regularly. Spelunky 2 seeks to offer a bigger, more varied version of Spelunky, with multiple paths, mountable creatures, and more to keep each run unique. While this entry deals specifically with the PS4 version, it’s likely a PC version might be out before the end of the month as well.

Why is it important?
Announced three years agoSpelunky 2 attempts to follow up on not just an important indie gem, but a game beloved by many in its various iterations. Making such a sequel is tricky, and while all the bells and whistles of modern development can potentially add dimensions that weren’t previously possible, it makes the most sense that a game like this would try to balance what made the first title good with a host of genuine improvements. This is definitely one game to watch, no matter which way the critical reception goes.

Sadly, this isn’t a remaster of Cryostasis: Sleep of Reason.

Crysis Remastered
(PC/PS4/XB1)

Publisher: Crytek | Developer: Crytek / Saber Interactive | Release Date: 9/18/20


What is it?
While Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare energized the FPS genre and became one of the most important games of 2007, there was another shooter that year that carved a little niche for itself in the PC space. Electronic Arts and Crytek built Crysis‘ reputation on high-end graphics that few machines could run at max settings. Asking “but can it run Crysis?” about any kind of advanced technology became a meme. A Switch port of this remaster already launched in July, but without the new raytracing and 8K textures, there’s little separating it from the 360/PS3 port that popped up in 2011. To get the real Crysis experience, we need to see how it handles modern PCs.

Why is it important?
It may no longer be the de facto PC benchmark, but its history is nonetheless important. Originally, Crysis was a spiritual successor to Crytek’s previous project, Far Cry. When Far Cry got snatched up by Ubisoft, Electronic Arts stepped in and helped develop Crysis – eventually eschewing the reputation it received for a pair of console-friendly sequels, ending when Crysis 3 did not meet the sales expectations that were set for it. EA seems to be out of the picture now, so will we see more Crysis from Crytek? Or are they just trying to make the game a meme all over again?

David Shaw’s The Long Gate.

The Long Gate
(PC)

Publisher: Inductance, LLC | Developer: David Shaw | Release date: 9/22/20


What is it?
Reminiscent of other first person adventure/puzzle games like Return of the Obra Dinn and The Witness, The Long Gate could be the next indie puzzle darling to absorb the entire gaming industry. According to the Steam page, the game differentiates itself from other titles with its focus on digital, analog, and quantum-based machine puzzles. “Depictions of quantum circuits and a 4-bit quantum computer [are] verified by scientists at D-Wave Systems…” the page reads, promising as realistic an interpretation of quantum circuits as possible. While this runs the risk of turning off people who find anything with the word “quantum” in it to be confusing, I’m reminded of the appeal Baba is You had, even when people realized it baked programming language right into the gameplay.

Why is it important?
I like the aesthetic of The Long Gate and think the puzzle genre has died down just enough for something like this to come and sweep people off their feet. I also wouldn’t be too worried about the machinery aspect myself – as long as the concepts are presented in the right way, it’s possible to game-ify just about anything and make it fun, even if you have to teach people about a whole new subject to make it possible.

Vanillaware’s definitely evoking an Armored Core feel with this screen.

13 Sentinels: Aegis Rim
(PS4)

Publisher: Atlus | Developer: Vanillaware | Release Date: 9/22/20


What is it?
13 Sentinels is Vanillaware’s first original game since Dragon’s Crown in 2013, and with it comes significant change. The company’s 2D side-scrolling aesthetic is still present, but it’s mixed with an RTS-style battle system, turning this game into an adventure/RPG hybrid. So ends the longest gap Vanillaware has had between new projects (not counting remasters), clocking in at six years as of its release in Japan last November. It was also planned for the Vita, but that version was canceled in 2018.

Why is it important?
Vanillaware’s reputation for beautiful, artistic games hasn’t changed, but the development of 13 Sentinels is markedly different from what came before. To give some perspective, in the six years prior to the 2013-2019 gap between Dragon’s Crown and 13 Sentinels, Vanillaware created four of the company’s most popular games in the West, including Muramasa: The Demon BladeOdin Sphere, and GrimGrimoire. This perhaps shows how smaller companies like Vanillaware struggle to retain their aesthetic while developing for more expensive hardware. Interestingly, it’s also one of the few new projects published by Atlus this year. Now that the 3DS has gone the way of the dodo, their release calendar has been mostly ports – Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE EncorePersona 5 Royal, and Catherine: Full Body. I wonder if they’re going through the same struggle?

The Long Gate’s aesthetic is definitely cool.

Ten Games to Look For is a series that breaks down releases month by month, usually in lists of ten or so. For more articles from A Gaming Life Pt. 2, you can head here. If you’d like to respond to this list, please leave a comment below, or: get in touch with me on Twitter, or by email: dcichocki(at)tiltingwindmillstudios(dot)com. Thanks for reading!