Happy Monthiversary: April 2013 In Review
Between EarthBound, the last real Wii RPG, three RPGFan podcasts and so much more, April was an exciting month.
05.01.13 - 1:36 PM
It's Month in Review time! We didn't get a ton of feedback on last month's debut, but what we did get was positive, so we hope you enjoy our second edition of this feature, looking back at the happenings of April around RPGFan.
The biggest change in April versus March was the amount of game announcements: I'm still amazed that 14 RPG/adventure titles were announced last month. In April, the only new game announcements – localizations aside – came from Nintendo's latest Nintendo Direct on April 17th. Instead of a dedicated 'Announcements' section this time, I'm including a list of the bevy of media updates we had: There was a ton of great eye candy released, from screens, to artwork, and plenty of videos.
Let's get to it!
Normally I'll talk about our Game of the Month in this space, but one of the most serious contenders literally just released yesterday, so we're giving everything a fair shake before we decide. It's been a tight race, but you'll see the results before the weekend!
We posted one special feature in April, Rob's Top 5 Underwhelming Storylines. Rob isn't as much of a negative person as some people see him, but if a developer lets him down, you'll hear about it.
On a more upbeat note, we enjoyed three podcast episodes this month. Our flagship podcast Random Encounter released episode 60, which was one of my personal all-time favorite episodes. "Story Time" got heavily into the importance of story, characters, narrative, and much, much more. Being able to have these kinds of discussions is part of what makes working here so much fun.
We also got Random Encounter episode 61, "Sniffle Direct," wherein a sickly Rob was joined by Stephen and Derek to talk about Nintendo Direct and the 'Soul' trifecta: Soul Hackers, Soul Sacrifice, and maybe a little bit on Dark Souls II.
Stephen and Derek of course host Rhythm Encounter as well, and they recorded the second part of their Phantasy Star music series, with episode 4: "IDOLA" The Phantasy. If you weren't completely sold on Stephen's street cred with Phantasy Star knowledge, you will be now.
April wasn't packed with releases, but what it had were a handful of games with a very passionate following.
The free-to-play Age of Wushu launched on April 10th, and if the idea of an MMORPG set in the Ming Dynasty and some different ideas (no leveling? no job system?) sounds interesting, you might want to take a look. The following week, we saw Southend's side-scrolling action RPG Sacred Citadel released for PC, PSN and XBLA. Also that week, Muteki Corp brought their iOS/PC/Mac retro RPG Dragon Fantasy Book I to PSN (both PS3 and Vita), upgrading from the original 8-bit styled graphics to a 16-bit style.
All of those are well and good, but it's the other four games that people were clamoring for the most. XSEED, as you may know, loves its fans. Apparently releasing one of the "Project Rainfall" trio last year with The Last Story wasn't enough, and they brought us the third and final game of the campaign: Pandora's Tower for Wii. I think most people had given up on the game, so thanks, XSEED, for being you. The same exact day, Atlus brought us the 3DS updated version of Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Summoner: Soul Hackers. The original game, released in 1997 & 1999 for the Saturn and PlayStation, respectively, never saw the light of day outside Japan, so MegaTen fans are glad to finally see an official English release.
NIS America's release of the Imageepoch-developed Black Rock Shooter was a surprise, as it didn't even have a release date until earlier in the month. Released exclusively digital via PSN, the game hit many countries, but notably will not be available in Canada or Mexico for unspecified licensing reasons. Of course, despite the game's marketing in Japan, Black Rock Shooter is much less of an RPG than we believed, but you'll hear about that in our review...
Capcom released a semi-expansion to last year's Dragon's Dogma with Dragon's Dogma: Dark Arisen. While offering new content and challenges, it also includes the full original game in the box, if you missed it last year. We should have a review on this shortly, so keep an eye out!
Lastly, yesterday we got Keiji Inafune and developer Comcept's Soul Sacrifice for the PS Vita. A very graphic action RPG with music by Yasunori Mitsuda, Stephen quite enjoyed his time with the game.
As you may have heard, John Tucker is apparently aiming to review all of the things now, so let's look at everything he reviewed in April:
We start with John's take on the four-game The Blackwell Bundle, quickly followed by our long overdue review... oh, actually, both John and Dave offered reviews of the Level-5/Studio Ghibli RPG Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch. Better late than never, right?
John next moved to write about Knights of Pen and Paper, a retro-themed iOS game that pays homage to the – you guessed it – pen and paper days of RPGs. Next up was his review of The Silent Age: Episode One, an iOS graphic adventure that (so far) offers many more questions than answers. Soon after came John's review of the iOS version of Bastion, that critically-acclaimed action RPG you may have heard of from, oh, the whole internet. Going in a completely different direction is BoxCat's unique iOS RPG, Nameless: The Hackers, wrapping up John Tucker's month of review domination. We're all impressed by his hard work.
Meanwhile, Bob reviewed Evoland, a delightfully compact adventure that takes us through the evolution of adventure RPGs with some tongue-in-cheek humor. Joe reviewed a game by some company named... Atlus? You may have heard of them. If so, read his Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Summoner: Soul Hackers review. The indie reviews continued when Kyle reviewed Instant Kingdom's Driftmoon, a PC-based action RPG that wasn't right for him, but might be right for some.
That OTHER John – the one who runs the site or something – took a look at Dead Island Riptide, Techland's followup to 2011's "like Borderland with zombies" game, Dead Island. Kyle tackled the just-released Dragon Fantasy Book I, AND the PC action RPG Mars War Logs. Stephen closed out the month with his Soul Sacrifice review.
RPGFan Music time! Derek, our favorite editor who's STILL (or "again") playing Final Fantasy XI, gave a listen to both the FFXI: Seekers of Adoulin OST and Final Fantasy XI Musicbox Adventures arrange album. Resident rock star Neal Chandran listened to and reviewed the Agarest Senki 2 Vocal Mini Album, and the guitar-loving Tsuyoshi Sekito's Guitarworks album. Finally, guest reviewer Brad Hayes-Raugh shared his thoughts on the Senritsu no Stratus OST, a lesser-known 2011 RPG featuring music not unlike the works of the wonderful Yuki Kajiura.
While not overloaded with new game announcements, we DID get some great and sometimes surprising news in April, which started early: On April 2nd, Atlus USA confirmed that Shin Megami Tensei IV will come to North America in July, with a limited edition version and exclusive pre-order DLC to boot. Also in MegaTen land, NIS America is bringing SMT: Devil Summoner: Soul Hackers to Europe this fall. Of course, before that, they're bringing European gamers Atlus' Etrian Odyssey IV this summer.
April was a great time for companies to announce limited editions, it seems. Aksys Games is giving the PS Vita-enhanced Muramasa Rebirth the LE treatment with a system face cover, skin, pouch and framed lithograph. Namco Bandai amazed many of us by not only bringing Tales of Xillia to North America at long last, but will be offering a stunning Limited Edition package complete with a detailed Milla figurine in tow. Another shocker is that we're getting crazy crossover Project X Zone at all, but it too will have a Limited Edition that includes a mini soundtrack, art book, and poster.
I have to single out Atelier Escha & Logy: Alchemists of the Dusk Sky in this, because not only did we update twice with game and character details for Gust's next Atelier title, it's getting a Limited Edition too, in Japan. Well, actually, it's getting eight, and I want them all. Or at least the most expensive one.
With the bankruptcy of THQ, its properties have been going to the highest bidder, and many wondered where the Darksiders franchise would end up. The answer? Nordic Games, who owns such franchises as Arcania, Spellforce and Dungeon Lords. Who'd have guessed?
Remember 2012's PSP otome visual novel Hakuouki: Demon of the Fleeting Blossom? It's coming to the 3DS in an updated port under the title Hakuouki: Memories of the Shinsengumi, courtesy of Aksys. The oft-delayed Dragon's Crown finally got a release date, and you can play it this summer. Blizzard announced preorders for the PS3 version of Diablo III, with a special helmet as incentive.
Oh, Nintendo. When you started doing these constant Nintendo Direct events, we had no idea what to expect. Sometimes low key, often times of less interest to the RPG community, this most recent event was so packed with things we're craving, it was remarkable. Not only did we learn that a new Zelda game – set in the world of the SNES' A Link to the Past – is coming to 3DS, it's coming out THIS year? The Capcom-made Zelda: Oracle of Ages/Seasons titles are coming to the 3DS eShop at the end of May, and the latest Mario RPG, Mario & Luigi: Dream Team, got a release date of August 11th. Professor Layton's final game, the 3DS Professor Layton and the Azran Legacy is coming in 2014.
Fans have been lusting after Square Enix's Bravely Default: Flying Fairy since 2011, and finally, we'll get a chance to play it, thanks to Nintendo, who is working with Square Enix to finally bring the title to both North America and Europe. With NA getting the title in 2014 and Europe later in 2013, it's caused some to speculate if Nintendo of Europe might be handling localization duties again, as they did with Xenoblade Chronicles. Finally, in what has got to be one of the most-requested Virtual Console releases ever, EarthBound (aka Mother 2) is finally going to see a release out West on the Wii U Virtual Console later this year. This too, leads to speculation, and whether EarthBound's success might make Nintendo re-evaluate Mother 3 for a western release. One can only hope.
Home stretch! There was a lot of new and exciting media in April. Now that its release is finally a tangible thing, we got a new gameplay trailer for Dragon's Crown. We debuted the gallery for New Etrian Odyssey: Millennium Maiden, and followed with a look at the game's Madhouse-animated cutscenes. Atlus released not only three Shin Megami Tensei IV gameplay videos, but more recently an English teaser trailer.
Square Enix really wants to win some hearts and get people interested in Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn, so here's the Final Fantasy VI intro re-created with FFXIV's Magitek mounts. Oh Square, you know just what buttons of mine to press. Also from Squeenix, we got both a behind the scenes look at Deus Ex: Human Revolution Director's Cut for Wii U, but also an official trailer. Lastly, we debuted our Drakengard 3 gallery and it features many dragons.
Our Dark Souls II gallery saw a couple updates, if you're curious about the myriad ways you'll be dying when you play this sequel. Also coming from Namco Bandai, we got to see a new trailer for Project X Zone.
From SEGA, we saw the 7th Dragon 2020-II opening movie, featuring Hatsune Miku. While Phantasy Star Online 2's North American release is still a mystery, a trio of videos for the Japanese version showcase the game's Shining Ark and 7th Dragon 2020 costumes, as well as this summer's release of PSO Episode 2. View all of these in our news story.
Gust's media blitz for Atelier Escha & Logy: Alchemists of the Dusk Sky is in full swing, as we not only launched, but already have over 75 images in our gallery, with more on the way. We got a new look at designer Jane Jensen's Moebius in both a trailer and screen shots. Speaking of Kickstarter-funded games, Obsidian gave us a first look at Project Eternity, and if you love detailed 2D art, you need to see the trailer (and in HD).
Rounding out the month on the final day, Daedalic released a small batch of Memoria screen shots that are so gorgeous they outdo many games' concept art. Frogwares also slipped in the first footage of Crimes & Punishments: Sherlock Holmes, its follow-up to last year's The Testament of Sherlock Holmes (which is 75% off on Steam right now, by the way).
And that, sugarcubes, was April in a nutshell. Even though it didn't have the shock value of multiple game announcements like last month, we're quite proud that we were able to bring you so many reviews and media updates in April, and we still have plenty more in the pipeline for the near future. May looks like it may prove light on releases, but who knows what surprises might be in store. Once again, I hope you found this retrospective useful, and hopefully you saw something you may have missed, or gave something another look. I still would love to hear your thoughts on this feature, so drop me a line via email or elsewhere and let me know. Thanks for reading!