Starting Screen is our weekly column featuring news, commentary, and music to help you get over your case of the Mondays.
Tomorrow, we have four reviews launching on USgamer.
If you haven't been paying attention to a few changes around here, you may have missed that I'm the new Reviews Editor for USgamer. Matt Kim, who just joined us, is the current News Editor, taking over my position. As such, I'm jumping onto the position ahead of E3 2017, with a head full of plans and ideas for giving you folks more coverage of the best the game industry has to offer. I just need to find the time.
You'll be seeing reviews for Farpoint, Disgaea 5 Complete, The Surge, and Fire Emblem Echoes from us today and tomorrow. That's not counting the potential games that we could've reviewed if we had the time and manpower, like Akiba's Beat, or titles we need more time with, like Injustice 2. And there's a whole host of smaller games we're looking to spend some time with like Dead Cells, Block'hood, Mages of Mystralia, and Oxygen Not Included.
This isn't just a problem with for us though. 2017 has been a strong, strong year for gaming. In-between all of the major games I've reviewed and enjoyed this year, the industry decided to drop some absolutely amazing games on us. I'm still looking longingly at my backlog, which includes Yakuza 0, Horizon: Zero Dawn, Nier: Automata, Persona 5, Cosmic Star Heroine, Puyo Puyo Tetris, Nioh, Hollow Knight, Torment: Tides of Numenera, and Sniper Elite 4.
I do this for a living and I can't keep up. How is everyone else hanging so far?
It's the definition of a first-world problem, all of these amazing games and not enough time to truly play them all. The gaming industry has hit what amounts to an amazing stride. Developers have a strong understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, doing their best work tailored to those platforms. The Nintendo Switch provides a strong home for mid-range Japanese and Western developers, while also offering some great Nintendo titles. The PC is starting to see older re-releases more frequently, especially from Japan, in tandem with the excellent work done by PC-only devs and indies.
Even beyond that, major publishers have launched on this relentless march towards only offering the biggest titles and have adjusted their entire operations to suit. Activision has another Call of Duty this year, heading to World War II this time, which continues the series annual entries. At the same time, Destiny 2 is coming this year. Ubisoft looks like it'll offer the biggest Assassin's Creed yet soon, after a year off for the franchise, alongside a possible Far Cry game and further content for The Division, For Honor, and Rainbow Six Siege. After some period of trying out smaller games, EA is all big business, with Star Wars Battlefront II, Madden, FIFA, Need for Speed, and NHL.
The flip side of this relentless drive is a host of veteran developers who have called it quits from major publishers, only to find their way into their own smaller, more creative projects. Ron Gilbert and Gary Winnick revisited the magic they made at LucasArts in their own creation, Thimbleweed Park. The Sexy Brutale was partially developed by Cavalier Game Studios, which include developers from the now-defunct Lionhead Studios. Yooka-Laylee is from Playtonic Games, a studio founded by former Rare devs.
A cornucopia of gaming has already touched down this year. There are still a ton of unannounced titles incoming, some of which we will find out about next month. And while there are issues - huge day one patches and significant release bugs - I find that by and large, most of the games I play feel like they're of high quality. I find myself looking around and going, "Wow, this is all great, I just wish I actually had time to play them all."
But I don't because, developers and publishers have also learned to finally use the entire year instead of just the 3-4 months towards the end. Great games come out every month on every platform. The train never ends.
It's a good problem to have: too many great games to play. I wish I had more time or more me to go around.
Kat's Obscure RPG of the Week
This week's obscure RPG is Golden Sun, a perfectly decent GBA RPG that has lately tumbled out of the public eye. This is surprising given that it's a borderline first-party title, having been developed by Camelot Software--the same studio behind the various Mario Tennis and Golf games (and before that, Shining Force). Given its pedigree, you'd think it would be better-known. But next to the much more popular Xenoblade series, it's practically unknown.
In any case, Golden Sun is essentially a lost 16-bit era RPG in which you collect Djinn, Pokemon-like spirits that imbue the party with special powers. It was notable at the time for its excellent graphics—the pseudo-3D camera movement really stood out on the GBA—and the fact that it was somehow split into two parts despite having a wholly unremarkable story. It was for the latter reason that it ultimately had a hard time sticking in the public consciousness.
Still, it ultimately merited a middling sequel for the DS, and it has its share of fans, as evidenced by the sprawling wiki. It's a perfectly decent middle-of-the-road RPG, which in itself is something of a dying breed. It's not really worth going out of your way to play; but happily, you don't have to. Golden Sun can be found on the Wii U's Virtual Console.
Nadia's Note Block Beat Box: Mining Melancholy (Donkey Kong Country 2)
SNES soundtracks are justifiably subject to a lot of praise. Still, I feel like the Donkey Kong Country series doesn't get the props it deserves for its music, most of which is composed by Rare's veteran music man, David Wise.
When we do stop to remember the DKC series' music, we bring up Fear Factory from the first game, or Stickerbrush Symphony from the second game. That's fine; those are incredible tracks. But I believe nearly every track in DKC 2 is a work of art. I mean, Arctic Abyss! Lockjaw's Saga! Disco Train!
Alas, I must single out a favorite or else Kat will hit me with a stick. So here it is: Mining Melancholy. Man, I dig that metallic beat like nothing else. I also love how Wise incorporated Misty Menace from the first DKC game (listen 'til about a minute in).
Seems I'm not the only one who's in love with Mining Melancholy's chopping rhythm: Wise re-visited it for Tropical Freeze and combined it with Fear Factory. That man knows how to make his listeners happy.
Mike's Media Minute
We're wrapping up this season of television and next seasons pick-ups being to make themselves know. Of the genre television I watch, Arrow and Agents of SHIELD have both proven themselves this season, after previous seasons that ranged from bad to okay. Both shows knocked it out of the park this season and both are renewed for next season from their respective networks. Even Legends of Tomorrow, which was dire in its first season, found a groove as a Syfy-style romp through history that didn't take itself too seriously.
The Flash and Supergirl faltered over on CW, the former because it felt like it was spinning in place and the latter because it hasn't really figured out what it wants to be. The Flash needs to remember the joy and hope that is the show's strength, while Supergirl needs stronger villains, a trimming of the current cast, and a stronger focus on where they want Kara to be.
Given the improvement in Arrow and Agents of SHIELD, I'm not too put out, as theses show can always get better. The CW is adding another DC Comics show this season, with Black Lightning joining the crew. We'll see how that goes.
This current season is off to a great start with an absolutely beautiful adaptation of Neil Gaiman's American Gods on Starz. Coming from Hannibal showrunner Bryan Fuller, American Gods lives up to that pedigree, offering amazing visual style combined with sotrytelling that tends to leave the average viewer a bit lost. I love it and I believe it's already been renewed for a second season. Other genre TV to watch, like Sense8 and Mystery Science Theater 3000 on Netflix, the current season of Doctor Who, Samurai Jack on Cartoon Network, and Archer on FX. Like I worte for games above, there's a ton of great stuff out there. You just have to look.
Caty’s AltGame Corner
Dome-King Cabbage begins in an unsurprising way, given its minimal old school Pokemon-esque art on the game’s itch.io page. Upon launching the game, you’re placed in a typical 16-bit house. In the middle stands, or rather sinks, a monster named Clem. Clem wants to go battle alongside trainers, seemingly humans. But for Clem, a monster, it’s frowned upon. Yet Clem doesn’t let this dash their dreams, and fantasizes about this all the same. Then everything dissolves before the player’s very eyes. And the player isn’t playing a monster-controlling RPG at all: they’re playing a lushly illustrated visual novel in a world that exists around RPGs, even as they ebb into the subconsciouses of others.
Dome-King Cabbage isn’t what it seems, being the brief game it is. It’s a prologue of sorts, entitled “Chapter 0” for the adventures to come for Mush, a Dwayne Boy-addicted cloud boy who’s handy portable console has just run out of gas. According to developer Joe Bucholz, more is on the way eventually, the initial version designed during the latest TyranoBuilder Spring Game Jam where developers created visual novels utilizing the TyranoBuilder program. You can download Dome-King Cabbage: Chapter 0 for free on PC or Mac on itch.io.
Matt’s Monday Mornings
Hi, I'm USgamer's new, News Editor and this is my first Starting Screen Capsule on the citadel.
Despite a whole bunch of cool nerd stuff coming out this week—including Injustice 2—I still think the thing I'm most excited for is Ridley Scott's Alien: Covenant. I've heard some rumblings that the film is only marginally better than Prometheus, a gorgeous looking film that failed on several story benchmarks. But people have also been saying that it's the scariest Alien film since the first one, and that's music to my ears. Especially since I'm someone who argues that the Alien films have never been as good as the first one (Aliens directed by James Cameron is a cool action film, but it's jarring how much atmosphere it loses from Scott). Either way, Alien: Covenant is sure to at least be another visually stunning entry into the Xenomorph universe.
Musings on the News
- In case you missed it, I wrote this absolutely fascinating long-read, all about Omar Cornut. Cornut is one of the developers behind LizardCube, the team that brought you Wonder Boy: The Dragon's Trap. It's a great game and Cornut has a great story about how he got there.
- It seems that Nintendo's next mobile title might be an entry in the Legend of Zelda franchise. The Wall Street Journal's report does say how Nintendo will sell it though. You ready for a free-to-play Zelda?
- Alongside my review of Minecraft: Nintendo Switch Edition, Nadia delves deep and tried to figure out which version of Minecraft is the best.
- Contentious New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady is officially the cover star for Madden NFL 18. I do not watch football, so I don't feel any sort of way about it, but a bunch of people do.
- Caty continued her excellent musings on Nier Automata, taking a look the fashion of the rusted machines that live in its world, and how those clothes allow machines to reach toward a lost humanity.