The sun is beating down on the world, and the air conditioning is running full tilt in defiance of the Lord's superheated wrath. Summer is well and truly here. It's a sleepy season that resurrects a lot of good memories for me—many of which are video game-related because I wasn't the type of kid who found much pleasure in riding bikes at high noon and collapsing from heatstroke.
My job demands I play video games almost constantly, but my current passion for the pastime is nothing compared to the fervor I harbored when I was a kid. When I think about it, until the internet came along, there wasn't much for introverted kids to do. Consequently, we latched onto whatever we could. Comic books. Fantasy novels. And, in my case, video games. I played my favorites over and over. I would start a new game of Final Fantasy 6 on Friday and try to finish it by Monday. I was very popular.
Summer vacation starts late in Canada; if COVID-19 hadn't shut down the schools months ago, the rugrats would just be getting out. To this day, I associate the last day of school, the strengthening heat, and the smell of hot asphalt with summer vacation—and sinless gaming. My parents watched my marks like a hawk, and if they dipped below acceptable levels, my console would be confiscated. The day-to-day nagging was even worse. "Did you do your homework?" my parents would ask as I played Secret of Mana on Sunday evening. "Yes," I'd lie as the sun got lower and I started thinking about my untouched math assignments with budding panic.
When summer arrived, I could no longer be shackled by tests, assignments, and homework. I could No-Warp through Super Mario Bros. 3 while my parents were at work. I could binge Illusion of Gaia without fear of prodding questions. ("Oh, no homework today? Are you sure?")
Before someone reading this is prompted to kick up a rant?—"Damn, Millennials never go outside anymore!"?—I want to make things clear. First, I'm Gen X. Second, I didn't simply hole up indoors for the entirety of my summer vacations. I didn't go to camp, but my family went to the beach for a couple of weeks every year when I was young. The cabins we stayed at were a bit rustic (they still are), and the only television we had was the borrowed set from my grandmother. There was no cable. My father had to mangle several wire coat hangers to make an antennae that rivaled the Tower of Babel, but we could only pick up a public access station that offered a clown from Detroit and not much else. There was no gaming during these two weeks, but there was plenty of swimming. That's an OK substitute.
But the best days of summer vacation were by far the ones that involved friends, the outdoors, and games. I'd go to a friend's house bearing NES games (usually Mega Man 3), and we'd wait out the hottest hours of the day in a cool basement. When the worst of the heat had subsided, we'd emerge and go play baseball, go for walks to get ice cream, or visit the variety store at the nearby plaza.
One of my friends lived in a building that had a pool. We'd swim through the afternoon (the only way you're getting me out into full-ass sunlight is if there's a body of water nearby), then retreat indoors for lunch and gaming. This particular friend had a copy of Trojan for the NES, a competent Capcom hack-and-slash that mystified me by combining medieval and post-apocalyptic themes. I didn't even know you could do that, my then-tiny muse whispered to me in awe.
Of course, I never admitted my fascination outright. I just made fun of the game's goofy protagonist and kept my friend laughing while I played.
I've made it shamefully obvious that I tend to lapse into fits of nostalgia. I believe reminiscing can be therapeutic, as long as you're not seized by an impulse to tell anyone who'll listen how things were so much better when you were a kid. To hear some fellow Gen X'ers tell it, the yet-untranslated texts of the New-New Testament are buried in old episodes of Thundercats. That's not what I'm about. I miss my "sinless summers of gaming" because I miss the unique, weightless feeling that came with them. From the end of June until the day after Labor Day, I owed nothing to anyone. I visited friends. I swam, I biked. And I played games. Lots and lots of games.
Here's the thing about being an adult, though: It rocks. I wouldn't trade it back for childhood in a billion years. (Even though I wouldn't mind having a decent pair of knees again.) I have bills, taxes, and deadlines. Know what I don't have, though? Homework. Tests. Teachers. Parents telling me to go to bed when I exercise my God-given right to play Final Fantasy XIV at three in the morning. Hell yeah. It ain't perfect, but I'll take it.
My summer memories are just a pillow, a blanket—something to settle back into for another year when the weather heats up and I'm reminded of the days I spent chipping away at Castlevania 3: Dracula's Curse. It feels especially nice to sink back into those recollections as the disease-ridden summer of 2020 keeps piling on the good times. Try doing it yourself.
Major Game Releases: June 29 to July 3
Here are the major releases for the week of June 29 to July 3. Want to see the complete list? Check out our full list of video game release dates for 2020.
- The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel 3 [June 30 for Switch]: Trails of Cold Steel 3 is an excellent RPG—and it's long. Boy howdy, is it ever long. I can't think of a better RPG suited for a handheld system like the Switch. I'm eager to see how this carries over. Theoretically, it should be a good transfer. Trails of Cold Steel 3 is a good-looking game, but its anime style doesn't demand a whole lot of system resources. I'm eager to see how it turns out.
- Biped [July 2 for Switch]: Another Switch port; they're coming in fast, just in time for the inevitable summer quarantine! Biped is an adorable co-op puzzle game where you and a friend "cooperate and coordinate" to make progress across a rugged world. Do take note: You can collect and wear hats.
- Iron Man VR [July 3 for PSVR]: Are you Iron Man? If you have PlayStation VR, you'll get to find out for yourself next month. Iron Man VR suffered some delays thanks to COVID, but now it's coming out for realsies. Caty played a demo of the game last year and enjoyed zipping around quite a bit.
Five Things You Should Know Heading into This Week In Gaming
- Understand, understand, understand, understand Jet Set Radio is 20 years old. Senior editor Caty McCarthy has an excellent profile that includes quotes and insights from the game's producer, Masayoshi Kikuchi. Jet Set Radio was a huge hit on the Dreamcast; its bespectacled protagonist, Beat, might even be as recognizable a system mascot as Sonic the Hedgehog. Jet Set Radio's neon-splashed skater culture might look a little dated today, but its anti-authority message still rings out like a pirate radio broadcast.
- By the Pope! Castlevania: Curse of the Moon 2 is coming out very soon! This is a nice surprise from ArtPlay and Inti Creates. The first Curse of the Moon is an excellent callback to the earliest Castlevania games, like my beloved Castlevania 3: Dracula's Curse. This time around, the priestess Dominique and the sniper Robert travel alongside Zangetsu to do demon-killing stuff. Oh, there's also a corgi in a tank, because this game is historically accurate. Anyone else notice Dominque wields her spear exactly like Eric Lecarde in Castlevania: Bloodlines for the Sega Genesis?
- The Last of Us Part 2 is still part of social media discourse—and said discourse is still radiating plenty of radioactive heat. The game's ending is pretty controversial, and some players are down on it. Our own Editor-in-Chief Kat Bailey has explained why the ending for The Last of Us Part 2 is good, actually. Read it and choose your side, I guess.
- Hideo Kojima is working on something. I recognize the man's a genius in his own weird way, and yet I feel compelled to stand by his desk with the spray bottle I reserve for our cats when they're being bad.
- We're going to get our first look at Crysis Remastered this week, and if you're as old as I am, that's a weird sentence. When the FPS launched in 2007, it was infamous for being a resource-intensive game that was technically built for PC technology that didn't exist at the time. Believe it or not, the tech still doesn't really exist because the industry didn't grow in the direction EA anticipated. It's an interesting story. Will Crysis Remastered prove as interesting? We'll find out when new footage drops on July 1.
Axe of the Blood God for June 29, 2020
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