July’s Video Games Show Lotsa Love to Switch, Led by Skyward Sword HD
While it’s nice when the season officially turns into summertime and invites people to do lots of activities outside, there comes a time for both adults and kids where the choice to go outside in the radiating heat or to stay indoors – say, with exhilarating video games – becomes much tougher. For me, over time, July gradually turned into the month of Legend of Zelda. Long hot days frequently led into quiet evenings of getting immersed in hikes across Hyrule Field or sailing across the Great Sea.
Between still being in the scope of a pandemic and coping with a tough, prolonged heat wave, it sounds like a great time to grab up sword-‘n-shield and battle the forces of evil, and Nintendo has a semi-fresh experience featuring Link to fuel those demands. Otherwise, July’s a pretty standard summer month with a low volume of new releases and even lower-key presence to the ones that are showing up for battle. Let’s take a closer look.
Legend of Zelda Skyward Sword HD – July 16 (Switch)
The original release of Skyward Sword was a bit awkward. After the immensely successful debut of Twilight Princess as a launch title for the Wii – and the dramatic controversy that came when it didn’t get perfect review scores – expectations grew high for a follow-up. Once release date approached, it became clear that those who wanted to play Skyward Sword would have to buy a Wii MotionPlus controller or adapter, another peripheral for a rapidly declining console, and cope with amplified motion controls without a standard option. Coupled with some peculiar hoopla over Link wearing baggy pants instead of his signature leggings, it amounted to one of the lower enthusiasm releases for a Zelda game to date.
Thus, the opportunity for Nintendo to release a remastered version of Skyward Sword for the Switch also marks the ideal time for players to give it another shot, or perhaps give it their first shot if the controller aspects kept them from playing it beforehand. While the Joy-Con controllers will obviously be able to handle the motion responses, this version will also have the option for standard button controls, an appealing “downgrade” for more traditional players. Along with trimmed tutorials and new autosave functions, the game has been preserved with some quality-of-life upgrades, though those still bothered by Link’s trousers are out of luck.
F1 2021 – July 16 (PS4/5; Xbox O/S/X; PC)
While there will be some who are inherently interested in F1 2021 because of the specific racing format itself, it’s likely to generate more visceral enthusiasm by just calling it “the latest racing game from Codemasters”. For over 3 decades now, the studio has established themselves as one of the most reliable in the racing genre, to which they’ve settled into a comfortable stride by releasing two new racing games a year: one that rotates and changes between Grid, Dirt, and other ideas, and their annual F1 game.
F1 2021 marks the first installment released by Codemasters since being bought out by EA Games earlier this year, with the publishing giant affirming that the studio would maintain an independent presence underneath their umbrella. Whether that’ll stay true is unknown, of course, but F1 2021 does mark the last of the titles produced without much opportunity for outside forces to meddle with their process. This installment introduces a new two-player story mode, several classic drivers and new circuits, but aside from that F1 2021 seems to be business as usual from Codemasters.
Cris Tales – July 20 (PS4/5; Xbox O/S/X; Switch; PC; Stadia)
After a while, a lot of current turn-based RPGs start to blur together with their art styles, largely due to so many of them being designed in Japan or with anime-leaning aesthetics. Columbian indie developer Dreams Uncorporated clearly draws inspiration from both legacy and current entries among that genre in creating Cris Tales, showcasing similarities to classic semi-3D Final Fantasy titles as well as to the modern boldness of the Persona franchise. What’s different about this one can be found in the regional flare within the art style, reminiscent of a hybrid of Paper Mario and Guacamelee in its flattened, yet enlivened graphical presence.
Cris Tales follows a fairly standard RPG storytelling path, in which a female heroine is given a mystical glimpse at future calamities, discovers her powers and takes control of a powerful sword to fight evil. Through a turn-based combat system, the game takes on more of a distinctive presence as it uses the space of time as a tool for battle, transporting combatants to the past and future to attack enemies and launch spells. There’s something incredibly comfortable about the way Cris Tales seems to operate, existing as both a love letter to late-‘90s and early 2000s RPGs while also having a current panache that doesn’t come across as overly dated.
The Great Ace Attorney Chronicles – July 27 (PS4; Switch; PC)
The Ace Attorney franchise stands on the other side of cult appreciation: while its premise has something of a niche audience, it has thrived on Nintendo’s handhelds for 2 decades now. Starting with Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney on the Gameboy Advance, the titles have established a reputation of being one of the best examples of “visual novel” game design, where players interact with a courtroom atmosphere to investigate cases, decipher inconsistencies, and ultimately win cases based on decisions and observations.
Series creator Shu Takumi initially wanted the first couple of games to be it for the Ace Attorney franchise, but naturally popularity led into future installments for a period that didn’t directly involve the creator. He later returned to create new Ace Attorney stories, though, and this Great Ace Attorney Chronicles compilation features two of those contributions — Great Ace Attorney: Adventures and its sequel, Ace Attorney 2: Resolve – that center on a law-practicing descendent of series protagonist Phoenix Wright. The compilation will also feature both English and Japanese language tracks, all DLC and content galleries.
Neo: The World Ends With You – July 27 (PS4; Switch)
The World Ends With You came later in the Nintendo DS’s life cycle, but still remains one of the best titles to appear on the handheld. Ported over a decade later onto the Switch, its blend of anime and music flavored storytelling and outlandish side-scrolling brawling gives it a distinctly colorful and vivacious personality, tapping into a similarly self-aware and melodic attitude as Scott Pilgrim and No More Heroes. As is so often the case with niche popular titles like this, a sequel comes to fruition when there’s a spike in interest some decade or so later, and this one’s largely the result of the port to the Switch.
Regardless of the reasons why, Neo: The World Ends With You emerges as an unexpected, yet welcome sequel that overhauls the DS’s gameplay design without compromising its original attitude. Sure, the layout now has a more expansive three-dimensional presence to both the exploration of the Shibuya shopping district in Tokyo and the versatile, multi-character combat. However, from the vivid palette and panel conversations to the wild energy of the fights throughout the streets, it conveys the same intentions of the original DS title with the pure motivation to bring it to a bigger stage.
Fueling more nostalgic memories of sunbaked summer gaming sessions, July seems to be the month of the smaller-scale tactical and turn-based RPGs, as there are numerous entries into that genre hitting consoles and PCs. The Silver Case and its new sequel, The 25th Ward: The Silver Case, will be coming to the Switch from Grasshopper Manufacture on July 6, while Monster Hunter Stories 2: Wings of Ruin swoops in on July 9 on the Switch as well. On a more action-driven front, Tribes of Midgard storms onto the PS4/PS5 and PC battlefield from Gearbox Publishing on July 27, while The Ascent risers up on Xbox Series and One systems on July 29. Rounding out this category is Fuga: Melodies of Steel, a tactical RPG featuring tanks and anthropomorphic cats and dogs, which comes on July 29 across most platforms. A Plague Tale: Innocence will be making its next-gen port debut to PS5 and XSX on July 6, as will Microsoft Flight Simulator when it lands on Xbox Series X on July 27.