Game release schedules confuse me.
Let’s say you’re a kid/insane gaming addicted adult/barely functional manchild and you’ve received a brand new gaming console for Christmas and/or your Culturally Accepted Christmas Substitute. Now, there’s a good chance you will want games for this new console-- if you are lucky the person who bought you the console also kicked in you a game or two to go along with it, or collaborated with other people to give you game gifts, hopefully in some order that did not reveal your new copy of Call of Warfare Modern Duty 4 before you actually received your Xbox. If you’re exceptionally lucky then these people gave you a gift certificate or cash instead and you can buy your own games without being subjected to their wildly misinformed opinions. Either way, you’re going to want something of your own, and there’s a reasonable chance you already own the most popular games out for that Holiday.
So why do publishers resent releasing anything in the weeks following Christmas? It’s not like there’s any games cluttering the release schedule right now. So if a publisher would to say, push NeverDead up a couple weeks, they’d have the run of the field. Or let’s say your publisher is run by idiot Frenchmen and your amazing, adorable, wildly inventive 2d platformer just bombed: isn’t Michel Ancel just a little pissed that Rayman Origins was released alongside Sonic and Mario platformers instead of as a giftcard-friendly $40 title a week after Christmas?
A torrent of games will be released in a two month window that starting roughly the last week of January with Final Fantasy 13 Part II: The Apology and will last until the release of Mass Effect 3 in early March. And then we hit the Summer doldrums until Holiday 2012, provided there’s still a videogame industry left and every single publisher in business at the time of this writing hasn’t been sold off to nameless Chinese mobile gaming conglomerates.
To put this in perspective here’s a list of notable events that happened in between Christmas 2011 and the release of Final Fantasy 13-2 two weeks ago:
- Newt Gingrich, Rick “Santorum” Santorum and Ron Paul all managed a brief political renaissance before the Republican establishment realized in unison that they had come perilously close to nominating Newt Gringrich, Rick “Santorum” Santorum or Ron Paul to the presidency.
- America experienced Tebowmania, where the nation honestly believed that a poor QB with exactly one usable skill (an ability to scramble like a bastard out of a blown pocket) was visited with divine powers, leading rational thinkers to ask why Cam Newton, who can run just as well and complete more than 30% of his passes any given game wasn’t credited with these same powers as well as why God apparently cares little about starving children but so much about Denver professional sports.
- Scientists at CERN (maybe, possibly, hopefully) discovered the hiding place of the Higgs-Boson particle; scientists at the Russian Space Agency announced they had no idea where their fantastically ambitious Martian probe Fobos-Grunt had disappeared to; NASA scientists announced that they had found the most earth-like exoplanet yet found; scientists at the Russian Space Agency said they had rediscovered Fobos-Grunt and that it was crashing into the Atlantic Ocean in the very near future; a wholly invulnerable form of TB was discovered in India, and scientists in New Guinea discovered a fully-formed adult frog species small enough to fit on the end of a five-year-old’s finger.
- Rick “Santorum” Santorum inexplicably returned FOR THE SECOND TIME to possibly kill Mitt Romney’s political aspirations once and for all
- Everyone admitted, all at once, that LA Noir was sorta horrible and everyone felt ashamed for ever talking about it no wait that’s was what was hoping had happened. Sadly LA Noir still showed up on a distressing amount of GOTY lists despite being a horrible combination of the worst parts of GTA3 and the worst adventure game ever made.
But hey, we’re finally out of that crap and some honest-to-goodness videogames of note have been released in the past couple weeks, so it’s finally time to put aside my Saturday afternoons for the good of you, the gentle videogame public, and tell you of the horrible mistakes you’re about to make with your short-term discretionary income.
BlazBlue Continuum Shift Extend
Developer: Arc System Works
Publisher: Aksys Games
Platforms: PlayStation 3, Xbox 360
Release Date: 2-14-12
I have come to the conclusion that Aksys’ continued improbable solvency revolves around knowing two deep truths about their fanbase,
1: that anime fans, the deep alpha-geek weeaboo that drive their bottom line, are
completely insane and
2: at some point are going to realize that an industry that asks you to pay sixty dollars for two Gundam episodes is deeply flawed, possibly evil, and ultimately unsustainable.
So Aksys knows to maximize the dollars coming in from these fans and they have to release a ton of niche titles, they have to update those titles as often as possible, and they have to make those kids think that Aksys is doing them a favor by releasing any games at all.
Enter Continuum Shift Extend, or in the parlance of it’s native land, BlazBlu: Continuum Shift II Plus, what amounts to a balance patch and an extra character sold on disc for $40. If Capcom attempted this shit in America, it’s fans would sail out on Viking longboats to burn Osaka to the ground.
Of course, if you’re a heavy BlazBlue fan to begin with-- and as previously stated, these people are clearly fucking insane anyway-- you’re skipping the plebeian $40 box and skipping straight to the $60 LE package
Which, in Aksys’ defense at least skips a hump pillow case and boobie gel mouse rest.
One wonder if this is BlazBlue’s swan song. We thought four new characters on disc for the last update was pathetic and greedy, now Arc is reduced to selling single-character updates, balance patches, and story modes. EVO has dropped BlazBlue for it’s 2012 series (after puling in less than 200 participants for the last tournament), so there’s little apparent support in the hardcore fighting game community to see this series go any further. I don’t think anyone would mind seeing BlazBlue finally wander off and die if this means the studio can begin concentrating on Guilty Gear again.
Grand Slam Tennis 2
Developer: EA Canada
Publisher: EA Sports
Platforms: PlayStation 3, Xbox 360
Release Date: 2-14-12
The only thing more baffling than Sega and 2k’s trading off updates to Pong in alternate years is EA’s decision that this market is healthy enough to support new tennis games every single year. Shouldn’t this have been among the first genres to get relegated to Facebook and/or Kongregate along with rail shooters and shumps? Somehow there’s three different companies providing gradual increments to Tennis For Two, but Telltale is the only company able to make a profit off of adventure games?
Grand Slam Tennis 2 has the stink of traditional Electronic Arts villainy. Not only are they entering a market with a clear intention of making sure no one is capable of making money at it; they’ve abandoned the Wii completely and have hitched their wagon to the HD twins, although curiously they’ve ignored Kinect in the 360 version and yet support the Move on PS3.
Admittedly, being both an American and a geek I don’t actually follow tennis, but the roster seems thin--22 players, half of whom are long-retired legends such as Bjorn Borg and Martina Navratilova. Despite the best efforts of Günter Parche, all of GST2’s legends remain alive, which is why you can have an uplifting, feel-good game based around tennis greats, whereas Legends of Wrestling II makes you feel awful for ever following the sport.
Grand Slam Tennis 2, as the name implies, features all four Grand Slam venues and another four fictional stadiums given horribly generic names such as “EA Sports Dubai” or “EA Sports Shanghai”, the latter of which would only be interesting if the final boss of the stage were Rios and Salem from The 40th Day.
Hakuoki: Demon Of The Fleeting Blossom
Developer: Idea Factory
Platforms: PlayStation Portable
Release Date: 2-15-12
I know what you’re saying, you’re saying “Man, I really wish I had a sleeve of Chips Ahoy right now” and you’re right, you do, but what you’re also saying is “Mark, it’s 2012, it is both insane and grossly irresponsible to release a PlayStation Portable game in North America!”, and you’re also right! What’s even more insane about Hakuoki: Demon of the Fleeting Blossom is that it’s North America’s first ever Otome game, which is a sort of high-drama Japanese dating sim targeted squarely at young Japanese women. Which means that where young Japanese women are playing games where they play badass assertive female samurai who save both their family’s honor and future boyfriend at the same time, her typical Western counterpart finds herself obsessed with Mormon porn.
Hakuoki: Demon of the Fleeting Blossom is why Japan is better than we are.
The baffling thing here is not why Aksys chose to bring Hakuki to North America as much as why they chose to bring Hakuoki to America and keep it on the PSP as opposed to a system that you might actually see a woman play in public, such as the 3DS, or iPhone, or virtually any other system who’s entire American audience isn’t based around playing Need For Speed Pro Street anytime, anywhere.
Hopefully Hakuoki can succeed in spite of these limitations. It’s gorgeous (as it can afford to be, basically being a graphic novel with anime bits thrown in the middle), and who knows, maybe Japanese games targeted at young women are as universal as Japanese games targeted at young men.
Mario & Sonic at the London 2012 Olympic Games
Developer: Sega Sports Japan
Publisher: Sega of America
Platforms: Nintendo 3DS, Nintendo Wii
Release Date: 2-15-12
You know who Sega Sports Japan are? They’re Smilebit. The people who were responsible for Jet Set Radio are now stuck in and endless purgatory of Nintendo princesses and Sega furries. Fuck this, fuck this industry, fuck Sega, fuck Nintendo, fuck the Olympics, fuck London and fuck every last one of you who never played a Panzer Dragoon game. I hate everyone associated with this paragraph, myself most of all.
Rhythm Heaven Fever
Developer: Nintendo SPD Group No. 1
Publisher: Nintendo of America
Platforms: Nintendo Wii
Release date: 2-13-12
The juxtaposition of RHF and the above Sega-produced cash-grab is not lost on me. Whereas Sega casts aside beloved franchises the way Demi Moore churns though mini bars, Nintendo nurtures and grows even it’s most obscure properties until they reach the point where their fans are clamoring for every release. Sure, Rhythm Heaven Fever won’t crack the top ten of the NPDs, but it’ll probably outperform any single Sega North American release through the rest of the year.
Of course this theory also demands that you forget the bit where Nintendo would rather you forget that F-Zero and Metroid ever existed, but at some point Nintendo will shuffle both along to some internal developer for a handheld foray and care about both franchises again. Probably even Pikmin before all is said and done. As much crap as Nintendo (rightly) receives about rehashing perennial hits like Mario Kart and Zelda, the fact is they just won’t let a franchise die if they can see there’s still a market for it, and you can’t really blame them for that. As a Sega guy who’s seen everything from Shining Force to Streets of Rage to Alex Kidd lay fallow and forgotten, I know which method I’d prefer.
As far as Rhythm Heaven Fever the game goes-- I don’t think it’s unfair to say that if you’ve not already heard of it then you’re not in the target audience. You may be familiar with the DS game Rhythm Heaven, a collection of deceptively simplistic rhythm games that deserved to succeed where Guitar Hero DS failed, but sadly did not. The Wii version is that game writ large, something of what you might have expected Happy Action Theatre to be if it were an actual videogame and not a bunch of stuff you interacted with onscreen. It’s a worthy game, but also something you’ll probably hate if you’re just looking for a reason to drag the Wii out from wherever it wound up pushed back at in your entertainment center once you finished the first Mario Galaxy.
Tales of the Abyss
Developer: Tales Studio
Publisher: Namcai Bando
Platforms: Nintendo 3DS
Release DAte: 2-14-12
Well it was stupid of me to think my PS2 JRPG collection would ever accrue value anyway
Tekken 3d: Prime Edition
Publisher: Bancai CoNam
Platforms: Nintendo 3DS
Release Date: 2-14-12
It’s not really surprising that Namco would jump on the 3DS wagon with a cheap conversion of it’s most popular fighting game franchise; what’s odd is that it took so long to see the light of day-- even Tecmo managed to get Dead or Alive out on the 3DS within it’s first year, and it’s unclear if Team Ninja has a handheld development team as much as they have a guy who ports casino games to the PSP and splices in softcore hentai cutscenes every five minutes. (Also, if you guessed that this week’s SOE exploit term was “Softcore Hentai Cutscene” you’d be absolutely correct! SOFTCORE HENTAI CUTSCENE SOFTCORE HENTAI CUTSCENE C’MON ALEXA.COM PAY ATTENTION TO US SOFTCORE HENTAI CUTSCENE).
It’s not like Akira spent all this time making Tekken 3d: Prime Edition look nice-- screenshots have roughly as many jaggies per square inch as the first Crash Bandicoot game. T3DPE features a healthy roster of 40 returning Tekken favorites, but Tekken rosters have always been deceptively shallow. Sure, any given Tekken game might have dozens of characters, but at least 30% of those will be taken up by Armor King/King/Jack clones, another 30% characters who play strangely generically despite good character design such as Bryan Fury or Anna Williams, and the rest taken up by boss characters you’d never want to actually play for fun.
As is par for course with Tekken releases as of late, the T3D:PE cart comes with a copy of Tekken: Blood Vengeance on the cart, so if you’re wondering where all the memory for good texture resolutions went, you’ll know it was instead reserved for this godawful CGI anime you’ll never ever ever want to watch ever.
Developer: Eat Sleep Play
Platforms: PlayStation 3
Release Date 2-14-12
It has always seemed that Sony has over valued it’s trademark Playstation exclusive franchises. Whereas Nintendo’s evergreen titles evolve in an organic and natural way and Microsoft has paid exorbitant sums of money to make Halo and Gears of War culturally relevant, Sony has this wierd habit of just letting it’s franchises rest for years only to revive them for console launches and expect people to suddenly care about Hot Shots Golf or WipeOut again, only to go back into hibernation whenever something like PlayStation Network needs a marquee title to lead it’s launch lineup.
This creates a situation where something like Warhawk can be laid to rest for over a decade to be brought back for some obscure reason only for no one to care anymore because all the people who remember the old Warhawk have either left gaming entirely or have had their tastes in games shift significantly.
Something similar befell the Twisted Metal games-- much like Warhawk, Wipeout and Destruction Derby, Twisted Metal was a highlight of an exceptionally strong PlayStation 1 launch lineup. Sony tried to keep the Twisted Metal name alive through that generation, giving it three sequels (which was in honestly at least two too many), went back to the franchise for the PlayStation 2 launch window for Twisted Metal Black, and then forgot it existed save for the prerequisite PlayStation Portable launch window release. In the meantime no one has really given much thought to Twisted Metal save for lead designer David Jaffe, who is under the impression that the series has remained culturally relevant. When Sony first approached Eat Sleep Play for a followup to Twisted Metal as a $40 multiplayer-only PlayStation Network release, he responded with:
"Yeah, you guys don’t realize how many fans love the Twisted Metal universe, you gotta give us the stories."
Which is not a conversation I can remember any gamer ever hearing in my entire life, not in-person, on usenet, in chatrooms, messageboards, blogs or on Facebook nor Twitter. Nor fever dreams, nor imaginary conversations I’ve had with cats, nor from the lunatic homeless people who frequent the N-R- Q line through Manhattan. I’m sure, however, this was a conversation that was heard, many, many times in the halls of SingleTrac/989 Studios/Incognito/Eat Sleep Play or anywhere else where David Jaffe is able to corner some hapless soul.
Twisted Metal for the PS1 was a great game, but also simplistic and a product of it’s time, very 90’s, very grimdark, very much something you’d expect to see on the cover of an Image Comic release, of which I’m nearly positive existed in some form. Maybe a followup to Twisted Metal makes sense in a post Mortal Kombat 2011-world, but it’s hard to understand where a $60 on-disc Twisted Metal makes more money than a smaller, less-polished $40 downloadable title.
UFC Undisputed 3
Publisher: Toy HeadQuarters
Platforms: PlayStation 3, Xbox 360
Release Date: 2-14-12
Pay attention kids, between Dana White’s virulent dislike for Electronic Arts and THQ’s ongoing struggle with solvency ( http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/entertainmentnewsbuzz/2012/02/thq-lays-off-240-workers-docks-ceo-pay-restructures.html ), this may very well be the last UFC game developed for a long, long time and possibly the last MMA game to see the light of day for a while, to boot.
Which you know what, fine. Maybe we don’t need but two MMA games per generation. It’s not like there’s a tremendous amount of roster fluctuation in any given 3 year period and the first Undisputed was probably the best MMA game that could be expected on current hardware anyway. Anything past that point was just refinements upon a theme, much like Forza 3, Assassin’s Creed II or Fallout 3-- of course these are also all franchises that saw largely uncessary sequels churned out due to inertia more than any real ability to improve upon the formula.
Undisputed 3 is stuck in that mid-franchise rehash no-man’s-land where the only way to advance the series’ fundamental gameplay would be to leave behind any hope of gaining any more of the mainstream market, but calling to that same market would require dumbing down the game to the point that it’s old fanbase would feel betrayed. Yuke’s is riding this line by providing two different control schemes that attempt to cater to both audiences. Usually when a developer tries to do that they wind up with two different rulesets: 1: Indecipherable and 2: Control Pad Waggle. New to this year are fighters, rules and rings from Pride, which is sort of like UFC only with a four-sided ring and rules that allow brutal, sickening head stomps that can’t help but make one wonder exactly how many clones of Chris Benoit PRIDE has produced over the past fifteen years.
Dispite one of the major attractions of yearly sports updates being roster upgrades, Undisputed 3’s release apparently precluded the inclusion of fighters from UFC’s Strikeforce buyout. It would almost be worth having a fourth Undisputed game just to finally live in a perfect world where we finally get to witness Antonio “Bigfoot” Silva and Roy “Big Country” Nelson laboriously punch each other in the head for a solid fifteen minutes.
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Platforms: Xbox Live Arcade
Release Date: 2-15-12
W.A.R.P (alright enough of that foolishness, you’ll be Warp from now on and like it) is an interesting take on the puzzle platformer genre where instead of jumping or punching or shooting, you teleport into or between obstacles. For instance, in a normal platformer where you were presented with a series of waist-high pipes you would carefully jump over, in Warp you simply teleport between the spaces. In a normal platformer where you’d need to duck inside a corridor to escape detection from a gun-wielding good, in Warp you’d teleport inside of an innocent looking and conveniently paced garbage can. In a normal game where you’d need to finally dispatch said goon and you’d punch/stab/shoot into submission, in Warp you merely teleport within the bad guy, causing him to explode in a fountain of viscera.
It’s the best ten dollars you’ll spend all week. BUY THIS GAME.
METAL GEAR SOLID 3D SNAKE EATER is here to justify both the existence of your 3DS and Metal Gear Solid!
ASURA’S WRATH probably isn’t a videogame. This is doing nothing to stop Capcom of America from advertising it as such
SYNDICATE isn’t the same game you played in the early 90’s. That’s okay, because that game wasn’t going to be made in 2012 anyway. I’ll just be happy if it doesn’t kill the corporate-agent-cyberpunk-rpg-fps genre that inexplicably popped up six months ago.