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Backlog: The Embiggening – December, 2023

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By Nelson Schneider - 11/26/23 at 04:08 PM CT

Welcome back to another look into the near future! As December rolls in, we’re rapidly approaching the end of another year in Gaming, and the Big Players in Industrial Gaming are desperately tossing out everything they can in a last-ditch effort to turn a profit – or at least mitigate some losses! What do we have to look forward to as last-minute Yuletide self-gifts? Let’s dig into it!

Ugh. “Dig” is the operative word, as there’s plenty of shovelware coming in December, though it’s all in the Licensed Swill category (and some of it overlaps with our other favorite category). We’ve got two ‘Lord of the Rings’ games incoming, one a Survival-Crafting-Sandbox-ClusterEFF called “Return to Moria,” the other a Switch port of one of the worst games of the generation, “Gollum.” There’s a PlayStation 5 port of the most recent ‘Transformers’ game, PlayStation (4 and 5) ports of that one weird cowboy game that just came out on other platforms, a Switch port of the new game based on a very old mecha anime, and console ports of the recent Nickelodeon ‘Smash Bros.’ knock-off. There’s a new game based on the ‘RiffTrax’ toy cars (and it has “The Game” in the title, so you know it’s good). The Switch is getting a compilation of ‘Star Wars’ games in a so-called “Heritage Pack,” a fitness boxing game based on the ‘Fist of the North Star’ anime, and a compilation of the ‘Batman: Arkham’ games. Then there are the multi-platform releases of a new game based on ‘The Walking Dead’ and an Ubisoft Sandbox based on James Cameron’s ‘Avatar’ movies, “Frontiers of Pandora,” which could actually be good, so long as Ubisoft doesn’t cancel it or fill it with too much monetization.

The neverending flood of ports, remasters, remakes, compilations, and other rehashes continues to overwhelm the release schedule, and, as has been tradition since it took the world by storm in 2017, the Nintendo Switch, specifically. The Switch will be receiving ports of “The Courier,” “M.A.S.S. Builder,” “Session: Skate Sim,” “Riverbond,” “Super Sami Roll,” “Guts ‘n’ Goals,” “Animal Hospital,” “Wildshade,” “Guns ‘n Spurs 2,” “Daymare,” a compilation of ‘Yumeutsutsu’ Visual Novel remasters (What? A port of a compilation of remasters! It’s too much all at once!), a compilation of Roguelikes in “Enter/Exit the Gungeon,” “Dolphin Spirit: Ocean Mission,” “Bomb Rush Cyberfunk,” some undefinable rehash of “The Binding of Isaac” with a colon and ‘Repentance’ in the title, “Windstorm: An Unexpected Arrival,” “OneShot,” “Redemption Reapers,” “The Last Spell,” “Vernal Edge,” a collection of ‘Train Valley’ games, and “Hammerwatch 2.” Compared to that massive burden, the PlayStation 5’s meager 2 ports – “Gunfire Reborn” and “Wizard with a Gun” – seems quaint. Lastly, there’s a multi-platform release of a remake of “Prince of Persia: Sands of Time.” *oof* That’s a LOT to… ignore.

Moving on, we come, once again, to actual new games that are coming to multiple platforms all at once (roughly)… and there really aren’t that many. Indeed, there are only THREE. First, we’ve got “Smalland: Survive the Wilds,” which is yet another Survival-Crafting-Sandbox thing, only with a “Honey, I Shrunk the Kids” aesthetic. Next, we’ve got “Flashback 2,” a sequel to a game that was considered a ‘cult classic’ when it came out in 1992, but which never impressed me in the slightest. Lastly, there’s “Skull and Bones,” Ubisoft’s knock-off of the Xbox Division’s “Sea of Thieves,” which has already been delayed multiple times over multiple years, and may or may not be canceled already.

In the realm of exclusive releases – which are all supposed to be top-tier system sellers to, you know, convince people to buy any given DRM-box – we’ve got… wow! Something for every platform! Steam is getting “Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines 2” (which will only be exclusive until the console ports are ready. Sony is getting “Pneumata,” a Survival-Horror thing that ChrisWouldLove. Nintendo is getting “Dragon Quest Monsters: The Dark Prince” from Square-Enix, and is supposed to be bringing “Metroid Prime 4” to the table, at long last, but we haven’t heard boo about it since before the pandemic, so I doubt Nintendo can pull of a Yuletide Miracle. Lastly, even Microsoft is bringing an exclusive from its plethora of unused studios: “S.T.A.L.K.E.R. 2: Heart of Chernobyl,” which was delayed by Putin’s War in Ukraine, and was on my radar… until I tried to play the original “S.T.A.L.K.E.R.” and couldn’t stand it.

Well, for an end-of-year release schedule absolutely BURSTING with rehashes and port-shuffling, there are actually a few games I wouldn’t mind playing. “Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora” could be one of those oh-so-rare good Licensed games if Ubisoft brings their Sandbox A-game and doesn’t sabotage themselves. “Dragon Quest Monsters: The Dark Prince” has me a bit dubious, as, while I loved the old 8-bit style ‘DQM’ games on the Game Boy Color, the more recent titles on the Game Boy Advance and DS really didn’t do anything for me. And, of course, “Metroid Prime 4” actually being a thing would be a great surprise release from the Big-N… but in hindsight, I didn’t particularly enjoy “Metroid Prime 2” or “Metroid Prime 3,” so it would have to get some significant word-of-mouth praise before I’d feel comfortable picking it up.

Backlog Embiggened: +3

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