2016 Preview Day Six (Shadow of the Beast – Thimbleweed Park)

On to Day Six of my 2016 preview.  This is the second to last day of the preview, going through all games alphabetically from Shadow of the Beast to Thimbleweed Park.  I am one of those guys who puts games with a “The” under “T”, so that is why The Last Guardian, The Legend of Zelda, and The Banner Saga 2 didn’t appear in previous days.  Today’s list is an interesting one.  It has new entries in storied franchises, new games from storied developers, and games from some of the most critically acclaimed indie games.  It also has a game that I have already played and beaten.  This is Day Six, and Day Seven should be up before the weekend is over.

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Shadow of the Beast
Heavy Spectrum Entertainment Labs
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
Platform: PlayStation 4
Release Date: Q1 2016

I don’t have a whole lot to say about Shadow of the Beast.  However, what I will say is that it is awesome to see Sony digging into the vault to pull out IPs like this one.  Shadow of the Beast is an old Psygnosis, Psygnosis being the developer Sony renamed to SCE Liverpool before closing them in 2012.  The original 1989 game was most popular on the Amiga, and it was highly lauded for its visual prowess at the time.  I don’t think Shadow of the Beast has any resonance outside of a few people in Europe, but that didn’t stop Sony from pursuing the IP.  However, that reason alone is pretty much all that lands this game on this list.  Nothing about the game itself excites me that much besides being a remake of an Amiga game.  The developer, Heavy Spectrum Entertainment Labs, has almost no prior development history, and the gameplay so far seems fairly par for the course.  And despite pushing Amiga hardware at the time, this game, while not looking bad, is not doing the same on the PlayStation 4.  The gameplay looks like a fairly standard 2D brawler.  It looks fun enough, but not something I am jumping out of my seat to play.  I just hope the probable poor sales of this game doesn’t dissuade Sony from doing something similar in the future.  They own a lot of great franchises, and it would be cool to see some obscure ones make a comeback.


Street Fighter V
Publisher: Capcom
Platforms: PlayStation 4, PC
Release Date: February 16, 2016

Fighting games were always incredibly off-putting to me.  I respected the hell out of them, but I never wanted to play them.  The format just was not something that interested me.  The game that got me to give the genre a shot was the 2011 reboot of Mortal Kombat.  The reason that particular game grabbed me was because of the story mode.  I played through and loved that mode, and I expected to put it back down and only play fighting games with a story from then on.  However, I kept coming back to it.  I started playing the arcade towers and making my way through the challenge tower.  By the time I was done, I realized that I had fallen in love with the format of fighting games.  I’m a big sports fan.  And while I generally hate E-Sports, fighting games are the one exception.  I love watching EVO every year because competitive fighting games strike a great balance between technical sophistication and visual flair.  I respect what they are able to pull off and enjoy watching it happen.  Since MK9, I have been trying to keep up more with the major fighting game franchises.  However, this will be my first time experiencing a Street Fighter game at launch.  I can’t wait for that experience.  Being somebody who is pretty bad at fighting games, I hope that Street Fighter V can grab me.  Playing at launch will definitely help, but so will their ranking system which makes sure that you are matched against players of a similar skill level.  As a novice, I can’t really talk about the mechanics of the game too in depth.  However, I do think that it looks to have a great and diverse cast of fighters.  The fighters are all beautifully animated too, with my only visual complaint being the muddy backgrounds.  I am disappointed that the promised story mode is being delayed until June, but I hope this means it will be more than an after thought.  Street Fighter V is one of the most imminent games on my personal most anticipated list.


Superhot Team
Publisher: Superhot Team
Platforms: Xbox One, PC
Release Date: February 25, 2016 (PC)

The demo released a few years ago for Superhot was awesome, and I am happy that a full version of that game is getting a release this year.  The game has a great premise.  It is a first person shooter where time only moves when you do.  This makes it more of a puzzle game than a shooter as you have to pay attention to where the enemy bullets are coming from and move out of the way.  The only problem is that when you move out of the way, the bullets start to move as well.  The game would be great with this alone.  However, the personality exhibited in the demo really makes it stand out even more.  Tutorial and instructional messages pop up on screen one word at a time.  At the end of every level you throw your gun as the game repeats the words “SUPER. HOT.” over and over until you proceed to the next level.  I worry about how this mechanic will hold up over an extended period of time, but the time I spent with the demo back when it came out was a lot of fun.  Everything is in place, the team just has to focus on execution and level design to deliver on the promise.


Publisher: Fullbright
Platforms: Xbox One, PC
Release Date: TBA 2016

Gone Home was a game that elicited very passionate emotions out of people.  There were those who thought it was a breakthrough in story telling and those who thought it was not a game.  That is why it was weird for me as I was sort of sitting somewhere in between these two sides.  I think the “not a game” crowd is dumb and should not even be discussed.  However, I do get why people love this game.  Gone Home was the first game in its genre to really break out and be successful.  It just never grabbed me.  I appreciated what it was trying to do, but the story it was telling was not one that connected with me on any level.  Tacoma, on the other hand, looks awesome.  Fullbright is ditching the more simplistic setting of an abandoned home and moving their formula on to a futuristic space station.  The setting is what gets me most excited about Tacoma.  Not only does the station look beautiful, but it has some unique ideas as well.  The trailers have shown what looks to be recordings of people who were once on the space station.  This is a cool, visual way to address audio tapes in a game like this.  While I appreciate the fact that Gone Home played it straight without any sort of twist, murder, or ghost, I do hope that Tacoma has some larger mystery to discover.  That could be a mystery about your characters past or the past of this station, but I would be completely okay with it being some sort of outside force.  Regardless of what they do, I know that Fullbright has the ability to pull it off, and that is what makes me excited for Tacoma.


The Banner Saga 2
Publisher: Versus Evil
Platforms: PlayStation 4, PC
Release Date: TBA 2016

The Banner Saga was a great game in 2014.  It had an incredible art style, decent tactics gameplay, and a heartfelt story.  What I loved most about the story was that it never got better.  You were basically playing as a group of people who would never be able to succeed.  The Banner Saga 2 is a pure iteration on all of this.  The story picks up right where it left off with all of your choices and characters being carried over from the previous game.  You even have keep all of the upgrades that you earned.  I love the fact that everything carries over.  I hate when you play a sequel and don’t have upgrades that you earned in the previous game.  It is even worse when you have to earn them again.  Using Rise of the Tomb Raider as a recent example, I find it dumb that Lara forgot how to use rope arrows in between games.  However, I also like it when sequels evolve, and The Banner Saga 2 does not seem to be doing any of this.  It is an incredibly iterative experience.  In this instance though, I am okay with this.  There are no sweeping changes to The Banner Saga formula that they need to make.  I am almost viewing this as an episodic release.  They are telling one story over three entries that all share the same engine.  The only difference between this and the typical episodic game is that there will be multiple years between episodes.  Although with Kentucky Route Zero and Final Fantasy VII Remake, this is becoming a more common practice.


The Last Guardian
genDESIGN, SCE Studio Japan
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
Platform: PlayStation 4
Release Date: TBA 2016

The Last Guardian is finally coming out this year.  It has been a long road, but I hope it will all be worth it.  Shadow of the Colossus is one of my favorite game of all time.  For a long time I have been anticipating the follow up.  Fumito Ueda is one of the greatest creative minds in the gaming industry, and it is a shame that he has only brought two games to light and has been working on one project for eleven years.  It is absurd that this game has taken so long to develop.  But if it delivers, all will be forgiven.  And from what we’ve seen so far, it look incredible.  Watching the E3 footage from last year, I left with a ton of questions.  What is this creature?  What is the nature of this world?  How did this boy get to this place and meet this creature?  What is the overall objective that you are trying to reach?  I cannot wait to have these questions answered while playing the game.  The world looks absolutely beautiful.  I love the way that you communicate with this creature in some foreign language.  The fairly simple puzzle solving and platforming is a great format to work with these concepts.  I love the challenge of climbing a colossi in Shadow of the Colossus, but I am totally okay with a much more laid back experience for this next game.  Ultimately, I just want an emotional story, and I trust these guys to deliver on one.  The Last Guardian is my most anticipated game of 2016.


The Legend of Zelda
Nintendo EPD
Publisher: Nintendo
Platform: Wii U
Release Date: TBA 2016

I should clarify, I do not own a Wii U.  However, one way or another I will play the new Zelda game.  Whether it is ported to the NX, the NX is backwards compatible, or I finally have to buy a Wii U, I will make sure I play this game.  It is pointless talking about the history of the Zelda franchise.  It is one of the most storied franchises in gaming and retains a consistent bar of quality.  It was getting a little stale though.  I think that the last two console entries, Twilight Princess and Skyward Sword, are easily the weakest games in the mainline series.  But the next addition of the game is changing the formula for the better.  The big selling point is that Zelda is going open world.  This probably means that you can attack dungeons in any order, but I hope it means more than that.  I hope that there are towns with lively NPCs that send you on side quests.  I hope there are events you come across on your way from point A to point B.  I hope that Nintendo is both looking at games like The Witcher III for inspiration while also trying to put their own spin on the genre.  The Legend of Zelda is one of the original open world games, so I hope that the new entry can break ground once again.  The new game looks fantastic, with an art style that doesn’t completely copy Wind Waker but still captures a similar essence.  It is a shame that we haven’t seen more of this game yet, but I can’t wait until it comes out.  I just hope I don’t have to buy a Wii U to play it.


The Tomorrow Children
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
Platforms: PlayStation 4
Release Date: TBA 2016

The Tomorrow Children might be the weirdest game on this list.  Coming from Q-Games, a developer more known for their PixelJunk Games, The Tomorrow Children takes place in a soviet nation.  The core of the game is that you kill monsters attacking your city and then go mine the bodies of these monsters.  The game has a great sense of style, and the visuals completely match the tone.  There have been plenty of closed betas for The Tomorrow Children so far, which gives me the impression that Q-Games is very serious about getting the final game right.  It also makes me think that the game is fairly imminent.  Despite loving the premise, I do have some concerns about The Tomorrow Children.  I am concerned about the implementation of multiplayer and whether or not I will have fun playing this game without friends.  I am concerned that the game will take a page from Minecraft’s book and not have any sense of progression.  I am concerned that the core gameplay won’t be very engaging.  However, there is enough to love about this game that gets me excited, and it would be great to see Q-Games have a larger, breakout hit.


The Witness
Thekla, Inc.
Publisher: Thekla, Inc.
Platforms: PlayStation 4, PC, iOS
Release Date: January 26, 2016

Putting The Witness on this list is cheating because I already played the game.  However, I hadn’t when I first made the list, so I’m keeping it on regardless.  I plan on writing a review for this game once I finish these lists, so I am going to keep this entry brief.  However, I can safely say that Jonathan Blow has now created two of my favorite puzzle games of all time.  The Witness asks a lot from the player, but I love that about it.  It respects the player’s intelligence, and every puzzle can be reasonably solved based on the information you learn.  I have finished The Witness, but there are still things I don’t know about the game.  The Witness is an early favorite for Game of the Year 2016.


Thimbleweed Park
Ron Gilbert and Co.
Publisher: Ron Gilbert and Co.
Platforms: Xbox One, PC, iOS, Android
Release Date: TBA 2016

Ron Gilbert and Gary Winnick, the creators of Maniac Mansion are creating a game that is very much one of those games.  Thimbleweed Park looks like an old LucasArts adventure game.  It even has the same type of inventory UI.  Timbleweed Park is the closest thing to a known quantity in terms of what the game will be, but that’s a good thing.  Gilbert kickstarted this game with the intention of making an old school throwback.  In many ways, this game is what Broken Age should have been before it made a ton of money.  The pixel art in this game looks great.  The game is set in a small town off the highway that is all but abandoned at this point.  Two detectives are sent in to solve a murder case, meeting a very colorful cast of characters along the way.  We haven’t seen a lot of it, but judging by the pedigree I think it is safe to say that the writing in this game will be on point.  I love the setting, love the characters, love the style, and love the guys making this game.  Adventure games have made a comeback in the past few years, but none of them ape the old school style quite like this one.

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