Good night, 2014, the year I finally went to a Chinese buffet high and got so drunk in public I cried over an email about PaRappa the Rapper. The year I made it to Japan to see the site of the Hiroshima bombing and also to St. Jacobs, Ontario to see the Home Hardware museum. Good night, the year of video game lacklustre blockbusters, where some of the most memorable releases were a pet mountain and a literal advertisement. Let us welcome in 2015, then, a year I can't help but feel we're all crossing our fingers will be way way better, even though like hell Sony's The Last Guardian, which has now been nearly eight years in the making, is going to come out. Ever.
Oh sure, I'll probably be amongst the many ready to play Arkham Knight, Metal Gear Solid V, Witcher 3, and Hotline Miami 2 when they land, murmuring a sardonic "yeah they're fun, who cares I guess." But as easy as it is to be swept up for sequel hype—hell, the game industry fully depends on that—it's usually going somewhere completely new that gets me most excited even if Team Ico's intensely anticipated followup to Shadow of the Colossus may not even exist anymore. Here's to the new year 2015 and 15 new games that are probably real and coming out in the near future.
Certainly video games were within the social zeitgeist when I was in high school, but don't think I didn't find brand new ways to distance and alienate myself from general others by championing games people had never heard of instead of Tony Hawk's Underground. Before Harmonix blasted off with Guitar Hero and Rock Band, they had Amplitude, spiritual sequel to Frequency and predecessor to the corner of every pawn shop filled with fake plastic instruments. A rhythm game which broke each instrument into a different section to manage, having you leap-frog between radically different difficulties in a beat, Amplitude was an addictive, strategy-minded music challenge. Harmonix's interesting FPS Chroma has hit a snag, but the followup to Amplitude, funded on Kickstarter and slated for PlayStation, looks to be a sure shot. And with confirmed musicians like Anamanaguchi and Jim Guthrie, compared to the original's Blink-182 and P.O.D., it also looks like we've all grown up a little in the years since high school even though The Last Guardian never came out.
Each time we've subjected ourselves to Demon's Soul or Dark Souls or Sole Souls or Rubber Souls or Soul Position or whatever, we've entered hell. We saw gigantic titans made of iron, death and genitalia and they punished us, poisoned us, slaughtered us, and we returned over and over again because this is hell and in hell you suffer. Bloodborne, the new game from From Software, somehow looks even more like hell. Tagging out dark high fantasy hell for a bleak Victorian toxic devil smog hell, Bloodborne seems to be the most hell-equivalent game in a world full of hellscape hopefuls. And we'll play it because we want to go to hell, because we live in hell, a hell where The Last Guardian probably isn't coming out.
Actually, this is a little embarrassing. Artist Jordan Speer's destined and quietly talked about venture into gaming WAS one of the things I was most looking forward to in 2015. Then Speer, the jerk, had to release it just moments before it became 2015, making this freak of nature, too late to put on a neat list for 2014, too early to put on a fluff list for 2015. What a hyper-saturated, shareware homage enigma. Well, still, there it is. Guess you can pretend I wrote this blurb about Deer God instead. See, Team Ico, games CAN come out some time. Games come out all the time!
For the last little stretch of history, Nina Freeman has been releasing short, personal vignettes. Games about trying to decipher what sex is for the first time or more recently, Christmas. They have easily become some of the most interest things being made. Conflating one's own journal into creative work is such a comfortable mechanic for every other artistic space in the world, but for games is often put through a gauntlet of genre tropes to the point where they can be interpreted as wildly anything. Freeman's works feel as honest as they are clever. While her games pop up as quickly as they can be played through, her upcoming game, Cibele, promises to be her most ambitious piece. An autobiographical game about having your first sexual encounter with someone met over an MMO, Cibele could become a key illustration for the bold and introspective efforts often overlooked in game making. A refreshing contingency given that there's no news on The Last Guardian.
Everybody's Gone to the Rapture
After surviving an admittedly (and still lingering) harsh reaction to Dear Esther's lack of gamey explosions, games on masse have finally come around to accepting they can be comfortable with being encompassing storytelling device devoid of murdering tools. So, while Dear Esther was The Chinese Room's first spooky dip into the form, Everybody's Gone to the Rapture looks to be a style-dripping expansion of the experiment, with some new interactive features such as, according to Wikipedia, "opening and closing doors." With obvious Threads inspirations, Rapture is an eerie walk through the apocalypse, a dire fate nearly as bad as a world without The Last Guardian.
2014 proved me wrong on one thing. I thought for a good, serious while that Nidhogg, a game that was exclusively played in the game festival circuit, would forever remain that way, shying from ever becoming a commercial release, living entirely in stories and memory. Then, just as 2014 began, it just sort of popped up on Steam, and everything I thought I knew about the recent local-multiplayer movement was re-written. Of the two haughtily celebrated festival games last year, one being the poochie woochie playing sim Dog Park, Gang Beasts is the one slated for a wide-release, transforming it from "this thing I had heard about" into "a thing we should probably look out for." Gang Beasts is a drunken Smash Bros. A four-way brawl limited to worbly fighters, promising a fierce, weird competitive spectacle, which will be a fantastic way to not think about the vanishing of The Last Guardian.
News that we'd be getting all sorts of new Mad Max this year made me and a whole bunch of yous out there appropriately nervous. But then the trailers started hauling out and the George Miller-helmed return to the cult franchise looked so, utterly right. That same soothing certainty came a few months before that, too, when we learned that Just Cause chaos maestros Avalanche Studios would be doing their own take on the road warrior, one full of weapons and bandits out-intimidated only by surly monstrous vehicles. It feels so, rrrright, these projects. Wish I could say the same about The Last Guardian, but alas, I cannot. I just cannot.
Mighty No. 9
There was an ongoing, frustrating joke that other companies cared more about Mega Man than Capcom. Both Mega Man Legends 3 and Mega Man Universe were unceremoniously dumped mid-development, but boy will they start waving the banners around when lil' Blue Bomber is a guest character in the new Smash Bros. It's an in-joke that must have gotten to creator Keiji Inafune as well, because he just kind of said "well, fuck it" and left Capcom to make something that is Mega Man in everything but title. Mighty No. 9 is about a small heroic cartoon robot out to stop its peer robots that have gone on a robot rampage, so this is Mega Man, with a cool new coat of paint, a rabid audience in the waits, and not at all The Last Guardian.
No Man's Sky
One of the pleasant surprises of 2014 was how much of a shit the world gave about a game that's more about discovering alien species than killing them. Hello Games' inspiring cosmic voyage is all about managing resources, surviving intimidating encounters and seeing what's out there in the big crazy universe. It also has an intense colour pallet that's somewhere in-between your TV's colour saturation being off and getting really high and watching Heavy Metal again. It's also not The Last Guardian so it should come out for PlayStation later this year.
While I've always appreciated the philosophies behind much of Tale of Tales' work, none of their games have ever really stuck with me. Usually they've overplayed an artistic card into the realm of pretension, or the game doesn't entirely sync. But through that souring, for whatever reason, I still kind of found myself rooting for them, and maybe that's because I felt that something like Sunset would one day come along. A first-person game about a South American revolt, Sunset will take players far away from the action and into an an arguably more pivotal role, a housekeeper beginning to suspect their employer is a secret revolutionary. I'll gladly donate my enthusiasm to Tale of Tales, nabbed from other fandom deposits otherwise reserved for CERTAIN studios working on games about CERTAIN last guardians.
Horror survival doesn't really goosebump me like it used to, but Thralled, a game about being a runaway slave with her child through the dense brush of Brazil, could be the most horrifying game I'll play in a very long time. Gorgeously styled but paralyzingly tense, Thralled will be, and this sounds like a strange aspiration, one of the most uncomfortable experiences for players this year. Also capping a paragraph on a game dealing with the Portuguese slave trade is an inappropriate place to gripe about The Last Guardian being indefinitely delayed, but, you know.
I know I know, I already brushed off sequel hype as a stupid exercise, and, yeah yeah, the only thing we've seen so far is a picture of a bunch of chairs, but this teasing foreplay is probably what the devoted, anxious cult of Persona deserves, if not wants. After fighting games and idol games and other weird spinoffs, the next numbered Persona should usher in a new JRPG era of groovy subversiveness and weirdness we laugh about and lust over in the same sentence. Hell, even if it is literally about a bunch of wooden chairs, that could still be really cool. See, The Last Guardian, see how excited I am about a bunch of fucking chairs? Throw us a teaser image or a flower or a rock or some shit.
While Watch Dogs was the blockbuster version of a hacker's adventure (so, Grand Theft Auto sandbox, but with hacking) Quadrilateral Cowboy is the hacking game that tech fiends should truly appreciate. Centred around antiquated computers, you'll be planning and executing data heists using only the oldest, most whirring/clicking/loudest consoles to get the clunky, jobs done. Maybe if someone could hack Team Ico's databases sackishfrackishgrumblemumblefuckitwhatever.
Xenoblade Chronicles X
See, hahaa, LOOK, Sony, look at this followup to this wonderful Japanese game that no one even really heard about in North America until the main character popped into Smash Bros and look how excited we all are. Boy I can only imagine how anticipated a followup for an even MORE established fan base would be oh gee oh gosh gee golly how passionate would that be I mean pretty, pretty devoted I but you can only push them so much right, like make them wait, how long has it been now, five, six years? Wow that's a long time, well, guess we'll all have to buy the new Xenoblade on WiiU which should be great instead of some other game oh well whatever happy new year! HAPPY FREAKING NEW YEAR.
An Earthboundian-RPG about trying to navigate the Pets.com-era world wide web, made up of mysteries, GeoCities, and slow-loading porn, in order to find a missing person. It looks really great.
I don't need The Last Guardian.