September’s New Video Games Flex Muscle Before Next-Gen Takes Over
The strangeness of 2020 continues into September, as we’ve reached the first month where school’s trying to get started again in a variety of different shapes and sizes, virtual and in-person. To say that things are still a bit awkward and different right now would be accurate, and the distraction of new video games could be more valuable than ever while people – youngins and older folks alike – are trying to get it all figured out. Luckily, with the run-up to the release of new consoles in a few months, the releases that studios are trying to get squeezed in before this “changing of the guard” have a lot of strength to ‘em, through games both old and remastered involving heroes spread across fantasy, science-fiction, and comic-book franchises. Let’s take a closer look.
Marvel’s Avengers — September 4
Before the first Avengers movie came out almost a decade ago now – gasp! – those who knew about Marvel’s supergroup of heroes mostly resided within the comic-book culture. Now, it’s difficult to find people who haven’t heard of ‘em in some capacity … and while comic-book movies have been on the rise in popularity in the years leading up to Avengers, the franchise has actually made it pretty darn commonplace to be a superhero fan.
Knowing this, Square Enix and Crystal Dynamics have made another attempt at bringing many characters together for a multi-superhero game, Marvel’s Avengers, which tries to spin an interesting new story and tap into the strong desire for a co-op action experience. What’s often the problem with these types of team-up games is that dumping all these characters and their powers into one experience can result in safe and repetitive beat-‘em-up combat to accommodate for them all. The jury remains out on whether Marvel’s Avengers can overcome those odds.
NBA 2K21 — September 4
The folks at 2K were there to pick up the slack when popularity ultimately got away from EA’s NBA Live series, delivering a critical and commercially reliable substitute for the basketball sim subgenre. Over the past few years, however, this franchise has started to struggle with some of the same pitfalls as other sports franchises, getting dinged for duplicating the past year’s release too much and for microtransactions. Notably, 2K20 raised some red flags with its somewhat blatantly advertised “gambling” laced within the game.
Rumblings about the latest installment in the franchise, 2K21, have it pegged as being by and large the same experience both visually and mechanically as last year, with a few notable and potentially game-changing tweaks. The MyTeam aspect has been extensively deepened, currency and RNG concerns notwithstanding, and the controls for shooting have been made more complex … and promptly fixed for certain difficulty settings after early backlash from players.
Kingdoms of Amalur: Re-Reckoning — September 8
The story behind Kingdoms of Amalur is complex, full of baseball players, comic-book creators, government funding, abandoned MMO plans, and even the state of Rhode Island owning the IP at one point. Development and release ended up being a mess, and the game itself should’ve been as well. Yet, somehow, the end result turned out to be a surprisingly entertaining, customizable, and visually captivating action-RPG that stood toe-to-toe with other second-tier genre titles of its time: not as good as Elder Scrolls or Dark Souls, but worth doing a pros-and-cons list against Dragon’s Dogma.
THQ Nordic have given Kingdoms of Amalur the “remastered” treatment with Re-Reckoning, which leans much more into the spectrum of last-gen cleanup efforts instead of a reconstruction to feel current. That isn’t a bad thing, as the depth of the world-building and the sheer variety of character builds and atmospheres throughout the wide, explorable land will still speak for themselves.
Crysis: Remastered — September 18
Where does Crysis stand now, almost a decade and a half after its initial release? The hype around the game often reached ludicrous levels, with the highly advanced visual technology pushing the limits of people’s PC rigs, frequently beyond the point of properly rendering the graphics. It became something of a joke, but in such a way that it got a lot of gamers involved in the PC culture and, specifically, in upgrading their computers to maximize the visual impact.
Underneath the glitz in Crysis lies what’s often considered to be a pretty serviceable sci-fi military shooter, sporting a middle-of-the-road storyline and comparatively linear design than other more open-world stealth shooters coming out at the time. Those shortcomings don’t go away with time, but the hardware in both PCs and consoles have advanced enough to better handle the graphics, which Crytek has decided to accommodate with a remastered version of Crysis. After delays to better refine the graphics for current-gen punch, it’s coming into view.
Super Mario 3D All Stars — September 18
For many people, seeing Super Mario 64 in action – probably at a display in a game store, perhaps at a shopping mall — transformed their perception of video games. While there had been 3D games before that, the vividness and fluidity of Nintendo’s take on it while Mario moves in all directions really showed where at-home console titles were headed. Since, Nintendo has continued to explore modern takes on 2D Mario games, but anticipation always builds for the 3D releases when they arrive.
Super Mario 3D All Stars brings together the delightful nostalgia of Super Mario 64 with the second and third 3D titles released afterwards: Super Mario Sunshine for the Gamecube, and Super Mario Galaxy for the Wii. All three have had their visuals updated in one way or another, and the control schemes have been adapted for the Switch’s Joy Cons, specifically with the motion controls of Galaxy simulated with them. Super Mario 3D All Stars will be available only until March of 2021, so hop on it while you can.
WWE 2K Battlegrounds — September 18
Some sports franchises endure years where one installment gets lower marks than previous years, likely due to repeated features (read: a lack of improvement) and a sense that it’s the same game. When a title gets lanced the way WWE 2K20 suffered last year, both the core game itself and the game-breaking bug it inherited at the beginning of the year, it might be time to go back to the drawing board. While 2K figures out what to do with their realistic simulator, they along with Saber Interactive have developed a new, different wrestling game in the interim: Battlegrounds.
This is essentially the NBA Jam of wrestling games, where real stars are given the oversized bobble head treatment and the gameplay has a far more arcade, animated style to the action. What’s funny is that, in a weird way, the exaggerated facial expressions of the wrestlers seem to more realistically capture their presence and personalities, a stark contrast from the frequent “uncanny valley” issues that can arise with 2K’s series proper.
A scattering of other attention-grabbing titles are also coming out in September, including a pair of Vampire: The Masquerade visual novels, Shadows of New York on September 10 and Night Road on September 24, as well as the second and third installments in the Tell Me Why interactive narrative. The remastering of Mafia, the Definitive Edition, will be coming out September 25, and – lo and behold! – Serious Sam 4 will be storming onto the scene the day before, September 24. Also, for the racing fans, WRC 9 (World Rally Championship) zooms onto the scene on September 3.