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Backlog: The Embiggening – March, 2024

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By Nelson Schneider - 02/18/24 at 05:08 PM CT

Welcome back to another look into the near future! Spring is here, and I have personally confirmed that MeltedJoystick’s in-house small, furry creature did NOT, in fact, see his shadow… probably because his eyes were glued to his phone. So let’s all look forward to yet another terrible docket of videogame releases so we can spend time outside without worrying about missing out on anything!

We’ve got a moderate amount of shovelware coming in March. Not a ton, but still too much for me. We’ve got Licensed Swill in the form of a new game based on the “PJ Masks” kid’s show, a new “South Park” game that is diverging from the turn-based RPG model that was actually pretty decent, and another “House Flipper” game. In the Super Cazual Swill category, we’ve got a port of “Lawn Mowing Simulator” hitting the Switch and an abomination of a Party game called “Atari (Delenda Est) Mania,” which you’d have to truly be manic to consider buying. Lastly, in the Annualized Swill category, we’ve got Baseball and Wrestling.

Unfortunately, the tide of ports, remakes, remasters, compilations, and rehashes is continuing its unabated rise. In March, old stuff masquerading as new stuff absolutely dominates the release schedule, outnumbering new releases and shovelware altogether. After a brief respite, the Switch is back on top (or is it the bottom?) as the preferred dumping ground for these titles. It’s getting 7 old titles all to itself, while sharing an additional 9 with other platforms: “Overdriven Evolution,” “Outward,” “Touch Detective 3+ Complete Case Files,” “Daymare: 1994 Sandcastle,” “NeoGeo Pocket Color Selection Vol. 2,” “OPUS: Echo of Starsong,” “Tokoyo: The Tower of Perpetuity,” “Revita,” “Shadows Over Loathing,” “Garden Life,” “Lost Ruins,” “The Legend of Legacy,” “Contraptions Collection,” “The Church in the Darkness,” “Pocket Bravery,” and “Gravity Circuit.” The old King of Ports, Sony’s PortStation, is no slouch, though, receiving all 9 of the previously mentioned shared Switch ports as well as… wait, what’s this?! PortStation is getting 7 titles as well, locking Nintendo and Sony into a dead-heat TIE: “TramSim,” “Pneumata,” “HappyFunLand,” “A Tale of Paper: Refolded,” “My Time at Sandrock,” “Train Sim World 4,” and the 2024 remake of the 2008 remake of 1992’s “Alone in the Dark.” Then there’s Xbox, the platform nobody ports to because nobody owns Xboxen or cares about them, getting “Smallworld.” For once, I wish the other consoles were treated like Xbox…

In legitimate, new multi-platform releases we’ve got… quite a decent looking list, actually! There are 7 titles, with quite a bit of genre variety represented. For World War II buffs and Strategy fans, there’s “Classified: France ’44.” For Car Guys who like to drive around in the mud, there’s “Expeditions: A MudRunner Game.” For super-nerdy boardgame fans (as in, so nerdy even D&D players tease them about their hobby), there’s “CATAN: Console Edition.” For people who like cats, fishing, and role-playing, there’s “Whisker Waters”… and goddammit I like all three of those things! For fans of sci-fi and open-world Sandbox games, there’s “Outcast: A New Beginning,” a sequel-noone-saw-coming to the 1999 alleged cult-classic that also allegedly forged the very foundations of the Sandbox genre… that I’ve never heard of… because… oh, it was a PC exclusive in the pre-Steam stoneage, with a canceled DreamCast port. Ehh… I don’t know about that one. But it looks like the same team already remastered the 1999 game in 2017, so at least this sequel should be all-new! Next is another game that pushes all the right buttons for me, and that’s “Unicorn Overlord,” a new Tactical RPG developed by my favorite Japanese Indie studio, VanillaWare. Unfortunately, VanillaWare still hasn’t gotten the memo about PC being THE place to be, but at least they’re releasing it on all of the consoles instead of being Sony exclusive. Lastly, for Dark Fantasy fans who can’t come to terms with From Software’s horrendous interpretation of and monopolization of the style within the framework of Action-oriented gameplay, Capcom has us covered with the long-time-coming “Dragon’s Dogma 2,” a sequel to their Anti-Soulslike 7th Generation Sandbox IP.

Finally, we come to exclusives, those system-selling titles that get console fanboys all fired up, and without which the Console Wars would all but dry-up and disappear. In March… yikes. It’s obvious that Xbox doesn’t care about exclusives and that PC typically gets ALL the games in the most permanent way possible, but Nintendo and Sony are still trying to peddle exclusivity to dubious results. Sony is bringing us “Rise of the Ronin,” the first open-world Sandbox title from Team Ninja, previously better known for the ‘Dead or Alive’ Fighting series, the 3D sequels in the ‘Ninja Gaiden’series, and, most recently, some of the worst Soulslikes in the ‘Nioh’ games and “Stranger of Paradise: Final Fantasy Origin.” Other than the busty women in ‘Dead or Alive’ (who really aren’t all that busty), Team Ninja has never made anything that appeals to me, so Sony can keep their half-assed first-draft of a Sandbox, thank you very much. Then there’s Nintendo with… a rather unexpected sequel to the DS’s “Super Princess Peach,” in “Princess Peach: Showtime!” which I will almost definitely be skipping.

While I’m gladdened to see ancient handheld-exclusive titles like “The Legend of Legacy” get another chance at life, I’m not particularly interested in it, as I have come to learn that the last few generations of handheld and handheld-inspired RPGs have been steaming mountains of crap. However, there are still a large number of games coming in March that do interest me to varying degrees. “Whisker Waters” looks cute and charming. “Outcast: A New Beginning” could be a good Sandbox experience, but I might have to buy and try the budget-discounted remake of the original game first. “Unicorn Overlord” got me to break my rule about never pre-ordering games, and ESPECIALLY never pre-ordering for a console in the event a PC version will be announced…but this is VanillaWare, so I won’t feel too bad about double-dipping if they ever do open their eyes to the Glorious PC Master Future. Finally, while I wasn’t completely enamored with the original game, I’m willing to give “Dragon’s Dogma 2” a look, in spite of Capcom’s newfound hostility to the modding community.

Backlog Embiggened: +4!

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