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Backlog: The Embiggening – March, 2021

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By Nelson Schneider - 02/21/21 at 05:17 PM CT

Welcome back to another look into the near future! Corporations are people too! And just like all the rest of us, they ring in the (Fiscal) New Year in March! That goes a long way toward explaining the traditional influx of garbage from the Games Industry as “we” (read: “they”) turn the ledger page to another year.

We’ve got a lot of shovelware coming in March, and the publishers are trying to disguise some of it. But I’ve been watching the release slates for too long, and I’m going to call a Spade a Spade. Square Enix is porting their (critical failure) “Marvel Avengers” Live Service to the Xbox SeX, perhaps in an attempt to get some of that sweet, sweet (hypothetical) Gamepass money. There are plenty of officially-licenced games about watching vehicles go “vroom!” in “WRC 9,” “Monster Energy Supercross 4,” and “Monster Jam: Steel Titans 2,” but there’s also a no-name knock-off of monster truck… racing? game called “Monster Truck Championship.” And if you’re knocking off licensed swill, that makes you even worse than licensed swill! There’s also an official (and annual) release of “Tennis World Tour 2,” and we all know that the tennis world is in an uproar because the Williams Sisters suck now.

Outside of licensed swill, we’ve got some Casual swill! “Neptunia Virtual Stars” is a virtual pop-idol Rhythm game starring the nauseatingly moe cast of the ‘Neptunia’ RPG franchise, and is coming exclusively to the PlayStation 4. Then there’s the Switch, which is getting ports of “Plants vs. Zombies: Battle for Neighborville,” and the tryhard e-sport wannabe, “Apex Legends.”

No sooner do we wash the muck off our shovels than we must redeploy those increasingly-overworked tools to pick through the gigantic pile of ports, remakes, remasters, and rehashes we have all grown used to over the last decade. Once again, most of the blame for ports lies at the feet of the Nintendo Switch, which third-rate third-party developers and publishers just can’t stop targeting because of the hybrid system’s naïve audience, who haven’t been exposed to digital game markets for nearly as long as PC, PlayStation, and Xbox gamers. The Switch is getting the “Kingdoms of Amalur” remaster, a compilation of NIS Dungeon Crawlers, “Hades,” “Crash Bandicoot 4,” “Bladed Fury,” and “Hotshot Racing,” the latter two of which it’s sharing with Sony. With a new hardware generation and some staggered release dates, the old King of Ports, Sony, is still putting up a fight, with ports of “Cthulhu Saves Christmas,” “Yakuza: Like a Dragon,” “Control,” and “Hunting Simulator 2,” the latter of which it’s sharing with Microsoft and the Series X… which is also getting a port of “Samurai Shodown.” Expect to see some of the portage pressure come off of Nintendo as publishers try to wring more sales out of old products on Sony’s and Microsoft’s new platforms.

With all the crap and old stuff out of the way, it’s time to move onto new multi-platform releases! And there are actually quite a few of them in a diverse range of genres. “Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines 2” follows on the heels of last month’s new release in the ‘Werewolf: The Apocalypse’ line of tabletop RPG adaptations for edgelords and goths. “Sniper: Ghost Warrior Contracts 2” and “Harvest Moon: One World” are both self-explanatory sequels, though with polar opposite tones. Surprisingly, though, the rest of March’s multi-plats are all new IP! “Mozart Requiem” is a puzzle-filled murder-mystery Adventure game and the first in a planned series of ‘Persona Interactive’ titles by GS2 Games, a Eurojank developer known for Hidden Object games… so, yeah, I don’t expect this series to pan out. “Root Film” is another murder-mystery Adventure game, only with decidedly Visual Novel mechanics. “It Takes Two” is an EA Original (read: Indie game shackled to EA so the dev team can’t escape when consumption time arrives) platforming title with mandatory 2-player coop… which will REALLY limit its appeal and sales. “Kaze and the Wild Masks” is a throw-back 2D Platformer starring an anthropomorphic bunny, which was clearly inspired by the glut of platformers available on the SNES and Genesis… however, like most of the platformers on those… platforms, “Kaze” doesn’t really have anything about it that stands out. Finally, “Balan Wonderworld” is another throw-back platformer, only not quite as far back, with a mix of 2D and 3D elements reminiscent of “Sonic Colors.” “Balan Wonderworld” is also NOT an Indie effort, as it’s being developed by Square-Enix’s new Balan Studio, with some big Japanese names who previously worked on major Sega first-party efforts. But just looking at some footage of this game makes me wonder if Square-Enix accidentally transposed a couple of letters when they created their new studio, because everything about it looks incredibly cheesy and banal. I mean, when was the last time anyone though the art director for ‘Sonic the Hedgehog’ actually did good work, outside of tween furries on DeviantART? And what were they thinking putting their studio name in the title like that?!

Alas, there are only two exclusives coming in March and, alack, they are both going to the Nintendo Switch. However, anon, it hardly matters because one is a ‘Monster Hunter’ spinoff and the other is a new game in the ‘Totally Not Harvest Moon, Guys’ IP owned by Marvelous, “Song of Seasons: Pioneers of Olive Town.” Both are incredibly niche concepts, and I personally don’t fit into either one.

Too bad, so sad… not. I get to go another month without worrying about any release dates or inflating my already-oversized backlog.

Backlog Embiggened: +0

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