Games to Watch Out For This Generation Part 1: 2015

Eighteen months into the new generation of consoles, and I've seen more negativity amongst fans than I have in a long time.   Announcements of new retail games have slowed to a crawl (fun fact: the only one so far has been Rock Band 4), while it seems like every week a new remaster is announced.   (Last week?  God of War 3.   This week?  There's a rumor about Batman: Arkham Asylum and Arkham City.)   It's lead to a lot of people either doubting the purchase of their shiny new PS4/XB1s, or even feeling justified for not bothering to invest in new consoles to begin with.

But is it really that bad, or are we overlooking a wealth of titles just over the horizon?   This week, I'll be talking about a list of games I'm personally looking out for.   I want to stress the part about "me", because there's going to be some obscure titles here.   So what I'd like you to focus on the most, is that if I'm leaving out a title you're excited about?   Realize that's just one more reason to be optimistic about the future.  

Witcher 3:  In my head, The Witcher 3 is the game representing next-gen.  Long before Sony or  Microsoft started hyping their new consoles, CDProjekt revealed the existence of this new title and explained how it would be on PC as well as consoles, but they had no intention of putting it on the aged PS360 hardware.   For me, this was the first game to stoke the fires of excitement for the PS4/XB1-era, and even in spite of this game's multiple delays, I haven't grown any less excited for it.

On the contrary, I look forward to testing CD Projekt's boasts of massive open-world regions and endless quests in a world that will take over 200 hours to fully complete.  I highly doubt anyone's completion time will go anywhere near that, but I have no doubt that the final adventure of Geralt of Rivia will take a much slower-paced gamer like me well into the triple-digits nonetheless.   The graphics are beautiful, the cities look like real cities instead of small villages we're simply told are cities, and there's a wide range of cool-looking monsters to challenge.   What's not to be excited about?

Release Date: May 19th, 2015

Batman: Arkham Knight: After beating both Batman: Arkham City and Arkham Origins in 2013, I was anticipating this game before we even knew about it.  It's Rocksteady's last outing with the Dark Knight, and a part of probably the best licensed IP game ever--how could you not be excited?   I expected it last year, but it seems the one thing you can't escape from this gen are delays.

In any case, though they've kept the game shrouded in mystery aside from the base plot line--Scarecrow shutting down Gotham City with threats of a chemical weapon attack while the rest of Batman's rogues work together to try and kill him--I have pretty high hopes for this title.  The Batmobile looks like the proper raiding instrument it needs to be for the most serious attack on Gotham yet, while things like fear takedowns and new enemies seem like they'll shake up the combat enough to warrant a new entry.  Really, the only way I could be more excited for this title would be if they added playable sections for Robin and Nightwing.  Sure, "Be the Batman" is the tagline, but we've done that for three games--time for some new blood.

Release Date: June 23rd, 2015.

J-Stars Victory Vs.: This game already came out in Japan, and it's an (at BEST) sub-par fighting game that was just made because Shonen Jump is the most well-known anthology manga.   So why am I looking forward to it so fervently?

Because one of the greatest debates you have as a kid is "Who's better, X or Y?".  X and Y could've been Power Rangers and Ninja Turtles.    X and Y could've been Marvel and DC.   (The answers are Power Rangers, and DC respectively.)  And the biggest of them all always seemed to be about anime, after it got popular in the States.  What would happen if Goku fought Yusuke?  Or Naruto?  Luffy?  And you don't ever truly let go of that, even if you aren't necessarily watching those shows anymore.

Moreover, this is the  game idea I came up with when I was a sophomore in high school.  Simply enough, I called it "Vs.", and the idea was everybody versus everybody.  You'd have Ryo of Wildfire throw down with the Red Ranger and Hiei and Vegeta could finally have their head-to-head, and it'd have new characters added almost constantly based on franchises old and new.  Because of rights issues (and frankly, the pure difficulty of creating games in the HD era), my game will never come to fruition.  But J-Stars Victory is close enough, and dammit I'm going to play the shit out of it, even if it IS average. 

Plus I was only going to play the (rather encompassing, I'm told) story mode anyway.

Release Date: Summer 2015.

Xenoblade Chronicles X: I played video games for years before I ever really considered myself "a gamer".   I owned an SNES and a Game Gear and I'd put a few hours into the games I'd been given, but for me being a gamer was when I evolved to the point where I was actively seeking out new games and new information about games, and that didn't happen until I became a fan of J-RPGs. 

The worldbuilding and developing characters and storylines of J-RPGs pulled me into the genre, and by extension (eventually) gaming itself.   My pre-pubescent years are filled with late nights and early mornings sitting in front of a screen, working my way through a dungeon before and after school, hoping I could beat the boss before I had to go to school or sleep.  

But sometime between the PS2 era and the PS3 era, J-RPGs started to fade away.  The popular franchises I'd held so close to my heart vanished, as development became too expensive for such niche products.   They retreated into handhelds, but for me it wasn't the same--it lacked the scope and the wonder I got from sitting down in front of the big screen...and in general I missed the times when a good RPG could be compared to any other AAA game graphically and not be laughed out of the building.

Xenoblade Cross takes me back to my childhood.  With its massive sprawling world that's supposedly five times as large as the original Xenoblade, it's unique characters, stunningly beautiful art design, and soundtrack.   And those gorgeous mecha.   It's like being teleported back to when I was a child, madly in love with that the J-RPG genre.  How can I not be on the edge of my seat waiting on this game to finally arrive in the States?  I'm expecting this in the latter half of the year, but the...earlier half of the latter  half, if that makes sense.  Xenoblade has been a pretty major part of Nintendo's marketing push in English-speaking countries, so I have to believe it's a priority to bring over here after its release in Japan next month.

Release Date: 2015

Rise of the Tomb Raider: I played Crystal Dynamics' Tomb Raider reboot back in 2013, and it was one of my more polarizing gaming experiences that year.  As a shootbang title, it worked very well--it had plenty of entertaining set-piece moments backed by challenging gun fights, and decent melee which meant I had tons of fun with each encounter.   At the same time, the game's graphics were beautiful, giving players a gigantic and gorgeous island to traverse as you attempted to save your crew from a murderous cult that worshipped a wrathful goddess.

What I didn't like is the way they told Lara's story of becoming an adventurer.  Playing a game where creepy characters threatening to beat or rape a woman is not the way I like to spend my nights and the fact that I can murder them only made me feel mildly better.  To their credit, I definitely felt as uncomfortable as Lara throughout most of the game--worried about what could be around every corner or atop every ledge.  Combine that with all the generally bad shit that happens to her over the course of the game, and Tomb Raider became a frustrating title to enjoy.  I loved the combat, but hated the actual plot--which just seemed like cutscenes designed to get Lara from one torture porn-y injury to another. 

Hopefully, with the whole "growth" part of her story out of the way, we can get to a game where Lara isn't crying or constantly in pain.  If so, Rise of the Tomb Raider will probably be one of the best games to come out this year.

Release Date: Holiday 2015

That's it for today.  For tomorrow's entry, we're going to talk about some games we don't quite know as much about--like the Tales series, Watch_Dogs, and the new Dragon Quest.  See you then. 

One last thing: I don't want anyone to think I'm excusing Microsoft, Sony, or even Nintendo of what's happened so far.   Whatever's coming down the pipeline, early adopters of their systems were left out to dry for an entire year, and that's really weak since the popularity of these consoles early on dictates what happens later in their life cycle. 


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