March’s New Video Games: Wonderworlds, Monster Hunters, Lotsa Ports
It’s essentially been a year since society has adopted the “lockdown” way of doing things, and we’re still in the difficult period after the launch of new video game consoles where they’re still very tough to come by. Both of those things make for a frustrating month in March, as the backlog of games to play might be running a bit dry and the inability to try out old favorite games on the new machines remains an issue. It doesn’t help that the admittedly long list of new video games hitting shelves this month remains lower key and underwhelming despite the volume, with many of them dedicated to next-generation upgrades of older titles. Best to keep digging through the backlog bin and looking out for sales on other titles, but let’s take a peek at the ones that might generate some interest.
Mortal Shell: Enhanced Edition – March 4 (Series X/S; PS5)
Leading into the release of Marvel’s Avengers and the remastered edition of Kingdoms of Amalur last year, Mortal Shell fell under the radar in the school-prep and Madden-dominated month of August. While it didn’t break any barriers, the third-person action-RPG from Cold Symmetry got many things right, blending credible battle movement, an ominous atmosphere, and a novel gameplay mechanic hinged on sporadically gaining control of several body types – “shells” – with different combat styles.
Comparisons to Dark Souls are not only merited, but intended and invited by the developers, who seek to fill the void left in the absence of further installments from the universe. Mortal Shell elicits those intended responses as it earns favorable comparisons to the Souls series, though its short length and sluggishness with enemies are a recurring critique. The Enhanced Edition for PS5 and Xbox Series X arrives digitally in March, but with physical goodies if you wait until April, including a reversible cover and an art book.
Mundaun – March 16 (Xbox One/Series; PS4/5; Switch; PC)
Every frame of Mundaun seems like it’s been lifted straight from the pages of an old novel with illustrations, heavy on the cardboard/sepia brown aesthetic as the backdrop for hand-drawn animation. Developers Hidden Fields utilize this vintage essence to tell a tale of horror, survival, and the chilly expanses of the Alps, applying artist sketches to 3D models of buildings, humans, and creatures alike to preserve the illusion throughout the icy landscape.
Mundaun acts like it’s wanting to tap into the same lingering sense of dread and ominous presence of the likes of Limbo and Return of the Obra Dinn, but with its own fabled lore pushing the first-person experience forward. Little is known about the game beyond its early promo footage and glimpses at the artistic process, but those are more than enough to raise the interest level in any horror, mystery, or survival gamer yearning for the next absorbing fix.
RBI Baseball 21 – March 16 (Xbox Series/One; PS4/5; Switch; PC)
The market for baseball games has been a tough one, and one of the few where a single console has held a monopoly over the official, most realistic and successful title: MLB’s The Show on PlayStation. That is, until this year when it finally debuts on the Xbox. This also marks the end of a long gap of opportunity for any other developers to make a worthy multi-console competitor, with Super Mega Baseball essentially becoming the Hot Shots Golf of the baseball video game realm; despite the cartoon designs, it’s an exciting and deep sports experience.
Despite many attempts, RBI Baseball has never been able to fill that void, always lagging one step behind in both the simulator and arcade aspects against its competitors. RB1 21 steps up to the plate for yet another attempt to make something happen in the space between those games, and while it doesn’t have the realistic pop of The Show or the flair of Super Mega Baseball, it does look like it has continued to take steps in the right direction by keeping its grounded gameplay tweaks and amplifying its personality with play-by-play commentary.
Balan Wonderworld – March 26 (Xbox Series/One; PS4/5; Switch; PC)
Yuji Naka has been involved with the creation of some of the most iconic platform games in existence with the Sonic franchise, but he also played a key role in developing the delightfully whimsical Nights Into Dreams, which had a hand in breaking people’s perceptions of where 3D gaming could go. A strong grasp on level design and a clear vision for characterization guarantee that just about project under his direction will, at the very least, have vibrance and personality laced through challenging environments.
Now under the Square Enix banner, he’s taking on his first completely new project in a while with Balan Wonderworld, in which a mythical maestro guides the player character through a musical wonderland filled with various costumes of creatures and other organisms. While the maestro evokes memories of Nights Into Dreams, the gameplay of Balan Wonderworld seems like it fits somewhere between Sonic, 3D Mario titles and Kameo: Elements of Power in the shifting forms undertaken by the character.
Monster Hunter: Rise – March 26 (Switch)
While many franchises tend to stick exclusively to one console or eventually make it onto all of ‘em, Monster Hunter has generous bounced around between both PlayStation and Nintendo consoles during its lifespan. The sixth proper installment in the Monster Hunter narrative, Rise, has been designed with the Switch in mind and will likely stay an exclusive on that format, though a PC version will trample onto the scene sometime next year.
As one can tell by the mere existence of the recent live-action adaptation starring Milla Jovovich – good or bad as it may be — Monster Hunter holds a lot of potential with its world-building and action-oriented extravagance, with a clear knack for the scope of strategic boss battles against huge enemies that need to be scaled to be defeated. Rise furthers the advancement of the previous installments as the Hunter pursues contracts for monsters to be slain, and players can both take the challenges on alone or get together with others online for a co-op hunt.
There are a lot, and I mean a lot, of ports and upgrades being released in March. Sea of Solitude: Director’s Cut hits on March 4, Kingdoms of Amalur: Re-Reckoning makes it way onto the Switch on March 16, and the vast majority of Kingdom Hearts titles are making their way onto PC at the end of the month. Yakuza: Like a Dragon gets its PS5 makeover on March 2, Samurai Shodown gets a nice spit-polish for the Xbox Series consoles on March 16, and Crash Bandicoot 4 arrives on the Switch and the other next-gen consoles on March 14. Meanwhile, for those still interested, the upgraded version of Marvel’s Avengers finally lands on March 18. And, at some point during March, certain consoles will be getting the highly-anticipated Disco Elysium: Final Cut … with others coming a few months later.