This Week in Games - On the Verge

by Dustin Bailey,
Welcome back once again to This Week in Games! News is a little slight this week because of a substantial stack of new releases, but we've still got a pair of surprises including an appearance from Mario on a very big stage, and an out-of-nowhere release from the Pokémon people.

But that stuff doesn't really matter, because this week Axiom Verge is getting a Wii U port, and even though it's already available in other formats I feel like I need to take this opportunity to tell you that it's great. Really great. And hey, I've already spent two solid weeks talking about Metroid and Metroid-adjacent games, so why stop now?

Opinion: On the Verge

There are a lot of tracks I can take in praise of Axiom Verge. I could talk about the excellence of its level design, and how it manages to expertly pace your non-linear exploration of its world, with straight shots of alien-blasting action and wide stretches of hopeless, meandering lostness. I could talk about how smartly it hides away its secrets, not just locking them behind obvious “get this item to open this door” roadblocks, but carefully burying them with subtle hints in the environment. I could mention its tremendous variety of weapons and items which fill in the tropes of the genre while working in wild, original ways.

And yeah, those are all great. If you strip Axiom Verge down to the absolute core of its mechanics, it's still the best Metroidvania in years. But that isn't why I love this game.

I love Axiom Verge because it's nasty.

If you just look at a screenshot for the game, you don't necessarily get a great impression for what sets it apart. In stills, it just looks like yet another indie built to exploit your nostalgia with some solid retro-style pixel art, but it's so much more than that. It builds on the look and feel of the original Metroid, yes, but with the advantages of not being tied to the NES, it's able to build a world that's pulsing with the energy of some unknowable alien life.

The soundtrack is built on this bizarre cacophony of synthesized sounds that blends dissonant vocalizations, computer noise, and a driving heartbeat of a pulse into a series of tracks that draw you in and won't let go. Hearing the wails of synthesized voices against a rhythmic beat that's timed with the pulse of the blood-colored pieces of background makes the whole game feel like it's breathing.

Even the pixelized rendition of the world is a piece of the package. The analog distortions of digital effects aren't just a callback to gaming on cartridges, they help to build the game's surreal alien landscapes, giving you pieces of reality that can be manipulated and rearranged with the proper tools.

It all works together to build a world that's oppressive, frighteningly alien, and overwhelming to be lost in. If you want to play a new Metroid, you need to play Axiom Verge.

So what's new this week?

NEWS

MARIO (BUT NOT SONIC) AT THE OLYMPIC GAMES
The utter ridiculousness of the Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games franchise finally paid off at the closing ceremony of the Rio games. At least a little bit. The 2020 Olympics will be hosted in Tokyo, and a video package had Mario and Doraemon representing Japan for the announcement. Nothing's quite so Japanese as robot cats and Italian plumbers, it turns out.

Emerging from the warp pipe to Rio was Shinzo Abe, Japanese prime minister, dressed in full, breakaway Mario cosplay. I'd like to reiterate: the leader of Japan elected to represent his country on an international stage by dressing up as Italian plumber. In the pouring rain. I'm not sure whether that's terrific or terrifying, but I do look forward to seeing how heavy the Nintendo promotions will get four years from now. If they're even still making video games at that point. (I kid!)

YES, GAME FREAK MAKES GAMES OTHER THAN POKÉMON
Game Freak is mostly known as the studio that builds the mainline Pokémon series, all the way from Red and Blue to the upcoming Sun and Moon. But they made games before Pokémon and they'll make games after Pokémon, damn it. The surprising thing about Giga Wrecker is not that it exists, but that it was released with no promotion as an Early Access title on Steam.

It's a 2D action puzzle platforming game where you play a cyborg girl who can break apart scraps of metal and reconstruct the debris into a useful ball of rubble. It's not exactly similar, but the industrial feel of the title reminds me a bit of Game Freak's excellent GBA platformer, Drill Dozer. (Check that one out if you're unfamiliar with it.) Hopefully Giga Wrecker turns out a bit better than Game Freak's last non-Nintendo release, the confused and dull Tembo the Badass Elephant.

NEXT WEEK'S RELEASES

ATTACK ON TITAN
Developer: Omega Force
Publisher: Koei Tecmo
Platform: PlayStation 4 / PlayStation 3 / PlayStation Vita / Xbox One / PC
Release Date: August 30
MSRP: $59.99

Attack on Titan is finally getting a home console action game adaptation, courtesy of the folks at Omega Force and Koei Tecmo. While you won't quite be going full Dynasty Warriors, mowing down Titans by the thousands, you will still managing multiple objectives across big, open maps, rushing from point to point to keep the plates of warfare spinning.

It's surprising that it's taken so long for a full-sized adaptation to show up, not just because Attack on Titan is so popular, but because the concept behind its action scenes is so perfect for a video game. Spider-Man your way around these huge environments while tactically taking down giant monsters! Also, horrific violence! It's what video games are all about!

GOD EATER 2: RAGE BURST
Developer: Shift
Publisher: Bandai Namco Entertainment
Platform: PlayStation 4 / PlayStation Vita / PC
Release Date: August 30
MSRP: $59.99 (PS4) / $49.99 (PC)

The PlayStation Plus copy of Gods Eater Burst sitting on my PSP has forever ruined my ability to read the title of this series properly, so if I miss-pluralize it then, well, you'll know why. God Eater 2: Rage Burst is an enhanced update of the original PSP/Vita title that brought the game to home consoles. It's the first time God Eater 2 has been available outside of Japan, so it's basically a new game to us.

Like the other titles in the series, it's essentially a Monster Hunter-like, albeit one in a darker, post-apocalyptic setting. You'll equip yourself with some futuristic weaponry and head out to open levels to do battle with wild monsters both big and small.

HATSUNE MIKU: PROJECT DIVA X
Developer: Sega
Publisher: Sega
Platform: PlayStation 4 / PlayStation Vita
Release Date: August 30
MSRP: $49.99 (PS4) / $39.99 (Vita)

I can't even pretend to understand the media empire that is Hatsune Miku, so I'm just gonna stick with the facts, here. Hatsune Miku: Project Diva X is the first title in the rhythm game series to see a western release on PlayStation 4.

An original song called “Name of the Sin” by ryo of supercell will tell the dramatic story of Miku as she overcomes her lost singing ability and her building determination to save the world. I'm informed that, at some point “Voltage, the power of music, flows from the digital Clouds!” Will Miku be able to regain her voice? (My guess is yes.)

ALSO AVAILABLE:
There's a giant stack of smaller releases this week, as well. Assault Suit Leynos, the unlikely remake of a mostly-forgotten Genesis game, released digitally not too long ago, and gets a physical edition for PS4 on August 30th.

My feelings on Axiom Verge should be clear at this point. The game's already available for a wide range of platforms, but the developer himself says that the Wii U version, out September 1st, “is probably the best one.”

The 3DS eShop gets a duo of oddities this week, with Japanese Rail Sim 3D Monorail Trip to Okinawa, the title of which should be pretty self-explanatory, and the Legend of Kusakari, a game which puts Zelda-style grass cutting into a dedicated puzzle title, both releasing on August 25th.

They're not exactly new titles, but a new wave of reduced-price Nintendo Selects titles will be available on August 26th for $19.99 each. The Wii U will get Lego City Undercover, The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD, and Nintendo Land, while the 3DS will see Animal Crossing: New Leaf, Lego City Undercover: The Chase Begins, Luigi's Mansion: Dark Moon, Nintendogs + Cats, and Tomodachi Life.

Finally, speaking of old games, you'll once again have the opportunity to repurchase Resident Evil 4, this time on Xbox One and PlayStation 4. Look, it's a great game, but I'm pretty sure I already own enough renditions of it.

That's all for this week, folks! I managed to avoid mentioning Metroid: Other M this week, so you'll need to find a different topic to argue about in the forums this time around. Who knows, next week I may not even mention Metroid at all! What an accomplishment that would be! You'd better come back to find out if I can manage it.


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