Last year was a monumental year for games. It was a rare one where about a dozen or so titles could be heralded as the best game of the year with the right argument behind it. It was the start of trends and the start of what's arguably going to be the end for this console generation.
And yet, 2018 is shaping up to be a whole different beast. It's the year of long in utero projects being either announced or released. At E3 2018, the long-known-about Resident Evil 2 remake was officially unveiled, even netting our best game of the show award. This week alone, Chasm and La-Mulana 2, two Kickstarter babies that made their development debuts years ago are out and about in the world starting today. Iconoclasts, a platformer that spent eight years in development, found release earlier this year and is on the way to Nintendo Switch this week at last.
As foretold by the success of Hollow Knight earlier this summer, this could be Iconoclast's moment to shine; no longer overshadowed by Celeste, Dragon Ball FighterZ, Monster Hunter: World, and the other games it released alongside. Summer, in general, is the perfect time for indie games to release. They're unrivaled by big budget games that favor the spring, fall, and winter. They have room to breathe, to be found, to be enjoyed by wider audiences. They have more room for the success they deserve.
When Hollow Knight released last year, it seemed like only a select few were falling in love with it. My friends who swear by PC gaming exclusively were yammering on and on about it, and then in 2018 after its release on Switch, it seems to have finally hit the big time. I'm sure that once game of the year discussions roll around, it will even land on some big lists somehow, disobeying the 2018-only cardinal rule for most lists. (In some ways, mirroring the very same "PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds shouldn't qualify" arguments for Early Access games.)
With Chasm, La-Mulana 2, and Iconoclasts out this year, it's an exciting time for the games we were hyped about in yesteryears. La-Mulana 2 is built on the legacy of its predecessor, a cult classic (and brutally challenging) platformer from 2005—or just 2011, counting its remake. La-Mulana 2 hosted a successful Kickstarter back in 2014, as did Chasm back in 2013. It's been a long road for these metroidvania-leaning games. Let's hope they end up being better than, uh, that other unspeakable throwback platformer.
I'm sure they will be though. I have Chasm in my library right now, and look forward to checking it out this week. I hope to finally dive into Iconoclasts too, since I was too distracted by Celeste and Dragon Ball FighterZ around its release to give it an honest shot. All in all, 2018's shaping up to be an excellent year for platformers, particularly those of the metroidvania variety (looking at you, Yoku's Island Express). While this year may not be as action-packed as 2017 was in terms of jaw-dropping triple-A releases, 2018 is one instead filled with plenty of quiet surprises. It's a celebration of the games that have been percolating as "what in the heck ever happened to that?" questions in the back of our minds. Finally, we're getting some answers.
This Week's Notable Releases
I can't believe it's basically already August. We're rolling into a busy, busy, BUSY time of the year. There's Gamescom, there's PAX, there's games, there's a bunch of things at the start of September that are already making me anxious. Oh well. Before that, here's this week's big releases, which is also surprisingly packed!
- La-Mulana 2 [July 30]: La-Mulana 2, many years after its successful Kickstarter campaign, is out today on Steam for PC. It's the long-anticipated sequel to the cult classic metroidvania from 2005, which was remade back in 2011. The metroidvania subgenre has been hitting in a big way these past few years, so it's a great time for a follow-up to one of the very best to release.
- Chasm [July 30]: In other news, Chasm, another metroidvania that is "procedurally assembled from hand-crafted rooms" is also out later today. Chasm also had a successful Kickstarter campaign back in 2013. After many delays, Chasm is finally here for PC, Mac, Linux, PlayStation 4, and (*gasp*) PlayStation Vita.
- Yakuza 0 (PC) [August 1]: Sega continues its pledge to bring more of its games to PC with Yakuza 0 this week. Arguably the best Yakuza game, Yakuza 0 will dance onto Steam for PC later this week. Yakuza Kiwami will also be coming to the platform in the future.
- Iconoclasts (Switch) [August 2]: The action-platformer Iconoclasts had a long-storied eight-year development cycle, and it finally released earlier this year in January. This week, it makes its way to Nintendo Switch, the platform that has made other small indies big successes. Is the same future in store for Iconoclasts? Guess we'll see.
- Picross S2 [August 2]: Just as the last entry was a surprise announcement, Picross S2 is coming to Nintendo Switch this week. It was only unveiled a few days ago, but the next entry in the Switch lineage of Picross games is sure to numb your brain some more. It comes with a new "Clip Picross" mode, and more in addition to its 300 existing puzzles. Unfortunately, it once again won't support touch controls, to my chagrin.
- WarioWare Gold [August 3]: It's been five years since the last WarioWare game, but this one is the biggest entry yet. It has over 300 microgames, featuring both old and new games to dive into for about a millisecond or so. In a way, it's kind of like a greatest hits of WarioWare. Unfortunately, it's only a Nintendo 3DS game, so keep on dreaming for a WarioWare game for Switch.
Nadia's Note Block Beat Box: The Lagoon (Ecco the Dolphin)
Well hey, it sure is Ecco the Dolphin's 25th anniversary on the Sega Genesis. Though the game kind of forgets to be any fun, it has one heck of a chilling soundtrack. The Lagoon is especially noteworthy because it plays as soon as Ecco's friends all get sucked up into a mysterious vortex. It's the ultimate "Oh no, something has gone terribly wrong" song. If I ever find myself trapped on open, hostile waters on a tiny raft, I expect The Lagoon will pop up in my head, unbidden.
The rest of Ecco the Dolphin's soundtrack is worthy of accolades, too. I especially like Ice Zone; it succeeds in making you really feel like you're thousands of miles from home. After all, you are thousands of miles from home by the time you reach this level, and boy howdy, everything wants to leave you floating upside-down.
Mike's Media Minute
This box office weekend should give people an understanding of how much the superhero boom has skewed perceptions. Mission: Impossible - Fallout, the latest entry in the Tom Cruise-led action series, made $61.2 million in its domestic opening weekend. This is the largest opening in the franchise's history, beating the $57.8 million made by Mission: Impossible II back in the day.
The worldwide box office came in at $155 million. The domestic and worldwide numbers aren't as high as some estimates, but it's very good for the Mission: Impossible franchise as a whole. Even better, the film doesn't have much in the way of competition coming up, so the legs should be fairly strong.
But if you've been following the box office, you might think $61 million was somewhat low. To put this in perspective, Ant-Man and the Wasp opened to $75.8 million, which was seen as a bit of a disappointment. Solo: A Star Wars Story is taken as a definite flop and opened to $84.4 million. Spider-Man: Homecoming was seen as just okay for an opening weekend of $117 million, but it legged out to a great final total. Justice League also flopped with an opening of $93.8 million.
And it's not as if Mission: Impossible - Fallout was much cheaper than these films. It was made with a budget of $178 million. Spider-Man: Homecoming was made for $175 million, while Ant-Man and the Wasp had a budget for $162 million. Which is to say, context and expectations are everything. Ant-Man is meant to perform like the other Marvel films, despite it being about Ant-Man. Mission: Impossible - Fallout just needs to match or beat its predecessors. Different strokes.
This Week's News and Notes
- No Man's Sky rocked the world again last week with its big Next update. I've already bounced off of it, but Kat says it has its hooks in her. She wrote last week about how it's a pleasant game to play in solitude (not with multiplayer, as per the update).
- Last week, the long series I've been working on since January (when I wasn't distracted by, y'know, day-to-day things and E3 and whatnot) finally published. When I first pitched it, it was going to be a light feature where I spoke to a few writers across the industry about what it's like to write games in today's era compared to the past. Over the months, I got a little carried away with it, and it spiraled into a three-part series. I'm in that "I'm glad I don't have to stare at a 23k word transcription document anymore" phase, and look forward to actually appreciating my hard work in like a year or something. You can check the series out here: Part One, Part Two, and Part Three.
- The inaugural season of the Overwatch League concluded over the weekend. It was a battle of the underdogs with London Spitfire, who were presumed to do well in the league and actually floundered for most of it, and Philadelphia Fusion, who overtook one of the top teams New York Excelsior in the semifinals in a shocking turn of events. I was rooting for Philly because of how exciting that semifinal was, but unfortunately London Spitfire came out on top. Here's to Season 2 of Overwatch League, where some new teams will join the fray and shake things up more.
- Gen 4 Pokemon are rumored to be coming to Pokemon Go soon. Piplup forever.
- A new Taiko Drum Master is for sure coming westward, after lots of datamines already hinted as such anyways. It will be coming to Switch and PS4 under two different names. It's confirmed to have music from Disney, Neon Genesis Evangelion, and more. (I hope it's not just "A Cruel Angel's Thesis" and has "Fly Me to the Moon" too.)
- Mission: Impossible - Fallout came out over the weekend, and let me tell you, it kicks ass. I'm still a big fan of the original De Palma movie, but Fallout is a very close second in my book. If you're a fan of the series, it's a must-see in theaters. But you know what isn't a must-play? The Mission: Impossible game for N64. Poor Nadia revisited it last week for us.
- The Banner Saga series concluded last week with The Banner Saga 3. Our resident expert (as in, the only person on staff who has played the series) Hirun reviewed The Banner Saga 3, and came out feeling rather disappointed about it despite its peaks.
- ICYMI: Kat went all-in on EA's upcoming suite of sports sims. She interviewed some of the devs behind NHL 19, investigating its newfound casual approach. She talked to the devs behind FIFA 19 about its biggest changes heading into this year. And finally, she played quite a bit of Madden 19, which will be out relatively soon. You can see the first hour of its Longshot story mode here.
- Axe of the Blood God: On this week's episode, we're joined by special guests Jason Wilson from GamesBeat and Divinity: Original Sin 2 writer Kevin VanOrd to talk our newly revealed #20 on our Top 25 RPGs of All Time countdown: Divinity: Original Sin! Hirun also joins us to discuss his review of The Banner Saga 3. Subscribe here!