Earlier today, January 30, 2019, the Wii Shop Channel shut down for good. The Wii Shop Channel has been on life support for a while, with the ability to add Wii points, the Shop’s form of currency, being disabled last March, but today, Nintendo finally pulled the plug on the dying service. Purchases can no longer be made with existing Wii points, games can no longer be downloaded, and the channel can no longer be accessed.
Launching shortly after the Wii in 2006, the Wii Shop Channel was a pioneer in the digital distribution market. With the advent of online storefronts like the Wii Shop Channel, PlayStation Store, and Xbox Live Marketplace, people no longer had to leave their homes to buy video games. Not only that, but older, harder to find games that would run for upwards of a hundred dollars or more were now widely available for a low price, no original hardware needed. If you wanted to play Castlevania Dracula X, you could! It truly was the best of times.
The Wii Shop Channel also set a fantastic example for game preservation. Nowadays, if you’re looking to legally play Paper Mario, you’ll have to hook up your Wii U that’s been gathering dust since the Switch launched. And while that works now, the Wii U eShop will shut down eventually, and then I’ll have to write a “Saying Goodbye to the Wii U eShop” article, you won’t be able to play Paper Mario, and nobody will be happy.
Nintendo seems to have forgotten they used to the example when it came to classic game availability. The Wii Shop Channel not only had NES, SNES, N64, and other Nintendo console lineups readily available, but also NeoGeo, Genesis, and even TurboGrafx games. Compare that to the Switch, which only has about 30 NES games only available through a subscription.
Original content was also a centerpiece of the Wii Shop Channel. WiiWare allowed for smaller-budget experimental titles to exist alongside mainstream AAA games. Konami’s Rebirth series, Dr. Mario Online Rx, Pokemon Rumble, My Pokemon Ranch, all of these were only possibly because of WiiWare. Sadly, these WiiWare games were only available on the Wii Shop Channel, so now they’re no longer available.
The Wii Shop Channel, along with its contemporary counterparts, set a standard in digital distribution that led to the meteoric rise of digital video game sales. Its influence can be seen throughout the industry today. Unfortunately, its focus on making older games widely available hasn’t lived on in its successors or with any of its competitors, but Microsoft’s recent push for backwards compatibility is starting to bring that topic back into relevancy. Also, WiiWare helped pioneer the independent development scene, and today indie games are in the spotlight year-round.The Wii Shop Channel was an amazing service, and we’re sad to see it go.
2018 was a standout year for gaming. AAA games are in an incredible place right now (for the most part, Todd Howard is still on time out), there was a surplus of phenomenal indies like Celeste and The Messenger, and the industry is holding its breath waiting to see what new hardware awaits us in the coming years.
But now it’s 2019, so naturally, none of that matters anymore. What does matter are the games, and there sure are a lot of them, so without further ado, here are the most noteworthy titles releasing in the next 12 months.
Life is Strange 2
Dontnod’s Life is Strange is widely regarded as one of the best episodic games ever, and its sequel is already off to a strong start, arguably a stronger start than its predecessor. Life is Strange 2 is, at least for now, unrelated to the first, so feel free to jump right in. The first episode is already available, and and the next four will be released over the year. It’s a touching story about two young Hispanic brothers on the run, and it doesn’t stray from political themes. It’s a complex story that we don’t often see in video games, and this is sure to be one people will be talking about more and more as the story progresses.
Resident Evil 2
Originally announced back in 2015, the remake of survival horror masterpiece Resident Evil 2 is long overdue. Capcom has undergone a resurgence over the last two years, revitalizing and reinventing each of its key franchises. Resident Evil 7 brought the series back to its roots after the questionable 5 and 6, Monster Hunter World brought the niche series to consoles and it exploded in popularity, Mega Man 11 was a return to form for the Blue Bomber, and Devil May Cry is finally back. Capcom has proven to the world that it knows what it’s doing again, and everything they’ve shown of Resident Evil 2 looks amazing. The aesthetics, gameplay, and sound are all top notch, and that, on top of the already phenomenal source material, makes this one a surefire hit.
Kingdom Hearts 3
Kingdom Hearts 2 was released in 2006. Now, 13 years later, Kingdom Hearts 3 is finally upon us. There have been Kingdom Hearts game since 2, but they’ve seemed to cover every number but 3. 358/2, 1.5, 2.5, 1.5+2.5, 2.8 Final Chapter Prologue, and even 0.2 Birth by Sleep – A Fragmentary Passage, whatever that means. All jokes aside, Kingdom Hearts 3 is real, and it feels good to have a Kingdom Hearts game that doesn’t feel like studying for a calculus exam.
Ace Combat 7: Skies Unknown
Ace Combat games have a small but extremely devoted fanbase. They’re fun arcade air combat games with surprisingly interesting stories and great soundtracks. Essentially, they’re Metal Gear Solid with planes. If that doesn’t sell you on Ace Combat, nothing will. Pre-ordering Ace Combat 7 gets you a digital copy of Ace Combat 5 on PS4 or Ace Combat 6 on Xbox One. There’s also a VR mode for all you PSVR owners out there.
The poster child of development hell is finally releasing in February. Announced in 2014 and originally set to release in 2016, Crackdown 3 will finally be in the hands of Xbox gamers on February 15. This entry focuses on destruction on such a large scale that it uses Microsoft Azure cloud computing to make sure everything is destructible. It’s also got Terry Crews, if that’s your thing.
Far Cry New Dawn
Every Far Cry since 3 has come with a spin-off following it the next year that reuses assets and the general layout of the map but with a drastically different theme. Blood Dragon followed Far Cry 3, Primal followed Far Cry 4, and now New Dawn is following Far Cry 5. New Dawn is different in that it is a direct sequel to Far Cry 5, and the game’s existence itself is also a massive spoiler, not that Far Cry 5’s narrative was anything to write home about. New Dawn probably won’t have an award winning plot either, but the shooting will be solid, the setting is gorgeous, and there are moss covered bison and deer with scarlet red antlers. It’s dumb fun, but it’s good fun.
After two linear entries, the incredibly atmospheric post-apocalyptic Metro franchise is going open world. Metro games have a way of pulling you into their world, making you use a compass and lighter to navigate and having your gas mask crack and get dirty. Bullets are scarce, and mutants roam the outside world, so people spend most of their time underground in the metro. Venturing outside was always a tense moment in previous Metro games, but more open environments will require planning and vigilance even more so than before.
Bioware’s Iron Man Meets Destiny Looting Extravaganza, more commonly known as Anthem, was initially brushed off by many upon its initial reveal as a shameless cash grab orchestrated by EA to get a slice of the Destiny pie, but the more they show of the game, the more unique and inspired it looks. Bioware’s narrative prowess began to show itself more and more, especially in later trailers and the showing at The Game Awards, and now Anthem is shaping up to be not as big a disappointment as people thought it’d be. Of course, nothing is certain until launch, but Anthem went from Destiny clone to its own thing that could actually hold its own against today’s multiplayer offerings.
A Square Enix mech game wouldn’t garner that much attention under normal circumstances, but this is part survival shooter, part mech game, and the team behind it is incredibly talented. Toshifumi Nabeshima, director of Armored Core, Takayuki Yanase, designer of mechs featured in Mobile Suit Gundam and Xenoblade Chronicles X, and Yoji Shinkawa, character designer of the Metal Gear series are all working together on Left Alive. An all star team working with a completely original IP, there’s definitely a lot of potential here.
Devil May Cry 5
After the solid but bland reboot, Devil May Cry is finally back with a new mainline entry. It’s been a full decade since Devil May Cry 4, and it feels good to be racking up stylish combos again. The Devil Breaker system’s disposable arms spice up the gameplay and add a layer of strategy to the combat in which arms you bring with you and which you destroy. A fluid combat system, awesome music, and charming characters make Devil May Cry 5 a must play in 2019. There’s a demo out on Xbox One right now, so be sure to take a break from Forza Horizon 4 and go check that out.
The Division 2
While The Division wasn’t the tactical team-based experience many wanted it to be, it was a solid RPG shooter with interesting ideas like the dark zone that ultimately didn’t pan out in quite the way the developers intended. However, like Ubisoft’s other titles, The Division wasn’t abandoned, and it was elevated to a truly great co-op RPG shooter with an interesting story and a remarkably detailed world that was a joy to explore. The Division 2 looks to be starting off right at the level of quality The Division 1 ended on, and numerous quality of life changes like reducing the sponginess of certain enemies makes The Division 2 a joy to play, and a game you definitely shouldn’t skip.
Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice
From Software, creators of the Dark Souls franchise and Bloodborne, is one of the most talented studios in the industry. Now that Souls is over, From has the freedom to pursue a new IP and free themselves from the formula they’ve used since 2009. The result is Sekiro, a game that looks faster and more fluid than Souls with a focus on stealth, aerial combat, and free-flowing fighting. There’s also a grappling hook, which is a huge plus.
Mortal Kombat 11
There’s not much that needs to be said about this one. Mortal Kombat X was almost four years ago now, and people are hungry for a new Mortal Kombat. A surprise reveal at The Game Awards showed that Mortal Kombat 11 was happening, and very soon. The game is scheduled for April, launching day and date on the Switch, too. It appears classic characters will be a focus for this entry, and character customization will be included as well. More Mortal Kombat 11 news will come at the game’s full reveal event, but as it stands right now, Mortal Kombat 11 is shaping up to be a solid new entry in the series.
There’s not a lot of buzz around Days Gone. Since its reveal, it’s been written off as generic, forgettable zombie stuff by pretty much everyone, but as more and more people have been getting their hands on it, public perception is starting to change, but just barely. The gameplay is where this game shines. Maintaining the bike, scrounging for gas and supplies, and circumventing the truly massive crowds of freakers (the developers are very adamant about not calling them zombies) are the bread and butter of Days Gone, and while there is no shortage of open world zombie games, there hasn’t really been a high budget, quality, AAA open world zombie survival game other than maybe Dying Light, but Days Gone and Dying Light are aiming for completely different experiences. People love to be critical of Days Gone, and the marketing and demos of this game really haven’t helped its case, but just give Days Gone a chance. There are zombie bears, man. Sorry, freaker bears.
Nobody asked for Rage 2. Nobody wanted Rage 2. Rage was good, but forgettable, and it seemed like the only color that game knew existed was brown. It also came out 7 years ago, so the sequel window passed a while ago. However, Rage 2 looks awesome. It’s almost unrecognizable when compared to its predecessor. Much like Far Cry New Dawn, there’s color everywhere, and the game is practically bleeding character. The shooting looks wonderfully satisfying and the new movement amplifying abilities look to complement that perfectly. The development team is also perfect for this kind of game. The minds behind Mad Max and Just Cause teaming up with the creators of Doom to create an open world shooter with lots of driving and destruction? How did someone not think of this sooner?
Crash Team Racing Nitro-Fueled
After the success of the Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy, this was inevitable. Crash Team Racing is one of the few kart racing games that can stand shoulder to shoulder with Mario Kart and even top it in some aspects. Crash Team Racing Nitro-Fueled also features tracks from the PS2 games, Nitro Kart and Tag Team Racing. Nitro-Fueled looks like it’ll be the definitive Crash racing experience and the best way to play CTR, just as the N. Sane Trilogy was for Crash 1-3.
Shenmue 3 is similar to Kingdom Hearts 3 in that the last Shenmue came out forever ago. Shenmue 2 came out in 2002, making it a whopping 17 years between 2 and 3. Today, Yakuza has filled the void Shenmue left open, but Shenmue 2 ended on a huge cliffhanger, so that story needs to be finished. Shenmue was famous for its level of detail in its world, but nowadays video game worlds are filled with a mind-boggling amount of details and secrets to uncover. Just look at Red Dead Redemption 2, for example. Hopefully Shenmue 3 will be able to capture the magic the original games had back in the very early 2000’s. It’ll be difficult, but not impossible.
Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night
Castlevania: Symphony of the Night is a masterpiece. Ask anyone who has had the pleasure of playing it and they’ll tell you the same thing. Now that Castlevania has been long forgotten by Konami, Castlevania producer Koji Igarashi has taken matters into his own hands, turning to Kickstarter to fund what he considers to be a spiritual successor to the franchise. Originally planned to release in 2017, Bloodstained was been pushed back to 2018 and now 2019. Ritual of the Night is a spiritual successor to Symphony of the Night, but there was a bonus Bloodstained game called Curse of the Moon that released last year inspired by Castlevania III, and it’s great. A lot of people are wary of Kickstarter games, and they have every right to be after disasters like Mighty No. 9, but Bloodstained is shaping up to be everything that was promised, and Curse of the Moon helps prove the developers love the franchise and know what they are doing.
It’s been five years since Animal Crossing: New Leaf released on 3DS, and it’ll probably be six when this new Animal Crossing comes out on Switch. Animal Crossing on Switch was an inevitability, it was just a matter of when. And when Isabelle got announced for Smash, Animal Crossing fans thought that was all Nintendo had to say, but it was a fake out. Animal Crossing for Switch was happening, and so soon, too. The world needs a new Animal Crossing, and everyone will be able to partake in bug catching, fishing, and home decorating sometime this year.
This is another game a long time coming. Revealed alongside the PlayStation 4 and officially announced at E3 2015, Dreams is finally coming out sometime this year (hopefully). A beta was scheduled for 2016, and then 2017, and then 2018, and Media Molecule just barely met that 2018 deadline with the beta starting for a select few on December 19 and everyone on January 8. Dreams is the follow up to LittleBigPlanet, letting players create more than just platformer levels, but entire games. Media Molecule also claims Dreams can be used to make films and comes with a complete music creation suite. There’s VR support too, but there hasn’t been much said about it. It’s strange that this game was unveiled at the PS4 reveal event and still isn’t available despite the PS4 being on its last legs, but Dreams should be out in 2019.
Gears of War 4 was a solid entry in the series, but nothing truly spectacular. This was expected, though, as it was the first game in the franchise developed by The Coalition and not Epic Games. Gears 5 seems to be taking the franchise in a different direction, giving Gears of War a much needed change of pace. It looks like it will offer a wider variety of gameplay through vehicles and different locales instead of being a standard cover based shooter.
Fire Emblem: Three Houses
Fire Emblem is back on a console for the first time since 2007. Three Houses retains the same grid based tactical gameplay as the other games but features fully 3D maps and arenas, an upgrade from the 2D backgrounds of the 3DS games. The game’s world is also fully rendered and able to be explored outside of battle, similar to Fire Emblem Echoes’s dungeons but on a larger scale.
Ori and the Will of the Wisps
Ori and the Blind Forest took the world by surprise not only with its tight platforming gameplay and metroidvania elements, but also its gorgeous presentation and graphical style. Ori and the Will of the Wisps is the sequel to the Blind Forest and looks to be more of what people loved about the first Ori. It’s breathtaking, the orchestral score is sweeping and beautiful, and the gameplay looks solid.
Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3: The Black Order
Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3 took everyone by surprise. A sequel to a Marvel series that has been dormant for a decade, and it’s published by Nintendo and developed by Team Ninja? While it may sound like someone drew those names out of a hat, Ultimate Alliance 3 is real, and it looks like it’ll deliver the same Diablo-esque combat and cooperative gameplay that is right at home on the Switch.
A fully fledged mainline Pokemon game is scheduled to come to the Switch sometime this year. While the Switch already has a Pokemon game in the form of Let’s Go Pikachu and Eevee, those aren’t the mainline games that were promised. The new games will likely be the eighth generation of Pokemon and feature a more traditional experience instead of the more beginner friendly approach of Let’s Go.
Skull and Bones
When Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag was released back in 2013, a lot of people liked the pirate parts of that game and didn’t really care for the assassin parts of that game. Skull and Bones is just the pirate part of Black Flag, but fleshed out into its own game. Unfortunately, players cannot leave their ships and explore islands like in Black Flag, but the naval combat and gameplay have been expanded upon and improved. The game is primarily a cooperative or single player experience but there are “uncharted waters” where PvP is available, similar to The Division’s dark zone.
Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order
Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order is a Star Wars game being developed by Respawn, the studio behind the phenomenal Titanfall 2. Not much is known about this game other than that it is slated for late 2019.
Untitled Goose Game
Untitled Goose Game is the actual name of the game, not a working title. Untitled Goose Game is a stealth game, believe it or not. You play as a goose, and you are let loose to cause mischief in a small town. It sounds wonderful, and it’s out this year.
Doom 2016 is such a fantastic shooter. Nobody expected it to turn out as good as it did. It was the first game to follow Bethesda’s anti review copy policy, and people thought it was indicative of the game’s quality. It turns out the game was extraordinary and the review copy thing was unrelated. Doom Eternal is the sequel, and this one is set on Earth, just like the original Doom 2: Hell on Earth. This one has an energy sword and a grappling hook. It’s also coming to the Switch. It’ll be good.
The Outer Worlds
Obsidian Entertainment are the go to guys when it comes to RPGs. They made the incredible Fallout: New Vegas, the wonderful Star Wars KOTOR 2, and the Pillars of Eternity series. The Outer Worlds is their newest creation, a first person shooter RPG that looks like Fallout meets Borderlands. The reveal at The Game Awards was awesome and it was pretty much all everyone was talking about afterward (besides Joker being in Smash). Obsidian knows how to make a good RPG, and the Outer Worlds is one of the safest bets for 2019.
All of these great games in pretty much the first half of the year. There isn’t really anything dated for Q3 or Q4 yet, so there are still many more surprises to come. Did we miss anything big this year? Any indies we should keep on our radar? Let us know down below, and be sure to stay tuned to Circle Square games.
2018 is coming to a close, and man, what a year for games. Sony’s first party exclusive lineup was bolstered with another handful of critically acclaimed titles, Microsoft acquired a ton of new studios, and the Switch got a Pokemon game and a new Smash game. With the end of the year comes discussions of things like “best soundtrack”, “best RPG”, or “game of the year.” We’ll leave those to Geoff Keighley because we’re here to talk about what really matters: fishing minigames. 2018 really was the year of the fishing minigame, and there was such a wide variety of fish to catch and lines to cast, leaving no virtual angler disappointed. Without further ado, here are the absolute best of the best fishing minigames that graced our consoles this year.
5. A Way Out
A Way Out’s fishing is relegated to a small portion of the game. It’s short and incredibly simple, landing it a spot at the bottom of this list. It does make interesting use of the game’s forced co-op, though. One player has to splash to scare the fish toward the other player so they can stab one with a makeshift spear. You only get one each, and then you have to leave. A Way Out is full of varied and fun minigames, but its fishing segment is sadly the weakest of the bunch.
4. Yakuza 6: The Song of Life
Yakuza games have a reputation for their wacky side content, and Yakuza 6 is no exception. The Song of Life has stellar minigames, from a baseball management sim to karaoke to, of course, fishing. Rather than fishing with a rod, in this entry, Kazuma Kiryu dons diving gear and gets up close and personal with the creatures of the deep, armed with an oxygen tank and a speargun.
Yakuza 6’s fishing minigame earns its place among the angling elite because of its unique execution. Instead of some variation of casting, waiting, and reeling, Yakuza 6 lets you play a first-person rail shooter, complete with bonus pickups and boss battles. It even has a progression system, allowing you to unlock better spearguns and increase your lung capacity on repeated attempts. What really sets this game apart is how it weaves the fishing into the core gameplay. Completing certain substories and side quests will unlock new fishing locations and even exclusive spearguns. It drags you back into the depths to hunt down more piscine prey, and it gets better every time.
3. Far Cry 5
Far Cry 5’s fishing minigame is pretty standard. You have your rod, you cast, you wait, and you reel. It doesn’t do anything particularly exciting, but it’s a solid execution of relatively safe ideas, just like the core Far Cry experience. It doesn’t hurt that the game’s environments are beautiful, and the sound design is exceptional.
That’s not to say Far Cry 5 doesn’t have any substantial fishing content. There are established records for each type of fish, and turning in fish that break these records will get you rewards, eventually culminating in the elusive Old Betsy fishing rod. There’s also a fairly interesting side quest involving a legendary fish known as “the Admiral”. Co-op play is a bonus as well, letting you and a friend cast your lines side by side in the ultimate bonding experience. For a good time with bait and tackle, look no further than Far Cry 5.
2. Monster Hunter World
Monster Hunter World, much like our ancestors, features hunting and gathering as its two core pillars. Fishing falls into the gathering category, and it plays a significant role in making sure hunters are properly outfitted for their escapades in the Ancient Forest. There are several different types of fish in Monster Hunter World, each incredibly useful. Sushifish reward players with rations and herbal medicine, integral to fighting off hunger and poison during a hunt. Whetfish scales can be used to sharpen weapons faster than a traditional whetstone, which can mean the difference between life and death in a fight. Goldenfish are an easy way to make a quick buck, opening up the budget for more expensive and useful support items.
Monster Hunter World also has a pet system where players can use a net to capture small creatures to keep in their rooms. This system also applies to fish, letting hunters store their most prized fish in an aquarium. Part of the joy of fishing is showing off your trophies. Monster Hunter World is one of the few games that lets you do this, and the game’s focus on multiplayer makes comparing catches all the easier. An emphasis on gathering and crafting keeps fishing a core component of Monster Hunter World’s gameplay loop, and it remains incredibly satisfying even a hundred hours in.
1. Red Dead Redemption 2
Red Dead Redemption 2 has the best fishing minigame in recent memory. Everything about it is sublime. The game’s world is massive, leaving players with no shortage of options when it comes to fishing locales, whether they prefer the streams outside Valentine or the Saint Denis docks. Each of the game’s 15 species of fish inhabit different ecosystems and prefer different bait and lures. Each species also has a legendary version that will take patience, preparation, and skill to catch.
Part of what makes Red Dead Redemption 2’s fishing so great are the game’s visuals. It’s not hard to see that Red Dead Redemption 2 is a good looking game, but taking a boat just off the shore in the early morning, watching the sun rise over a foggy horizon with your line in the water is such a special moment every time. From moonlit casting at a lake in the mountains or evening angling near Blackwater, there’s an overwhelming sense of peace and serenity no matter where you cast your line in Red Dead Redemption 2.
However, what Red Dead Redemption 2 nails most about fishing is companionship. Fishing is a bonding experience, and bonding with Dutch’s gang is a key component of Red Dead Redemption 2’s narrative. Sometimes gang members will ask Arthur to go fishing with them, and they’ll share stories and advice, lines bobbing in the water without a care in the world. Fishing is also available in Red Dead Online, letting you experience companionship with your real life companions, making some much needed money in the process.
Red Dead Redemption 2 gets so much right, and the fishing absolutely does not get the credit it deserves. That’s why we’re crowning it the official Circle Square Games Fishing Minigame of the Year for 2018.
Look. I get it. You’ve never played a Yakuza game.
The Yakuza games have always had a small but dedicated following here in the states. Originating on the PS2 over a decade ago, the series has spanned 7 mainline entries, three console generations, and numerous spin-offs. Despite having been around for so long, Yakuza hadn’t really found its footing in the western world until last year’s release of Yakuza 0 on the PlayStation 4. Coming out at a relatively slow time of year and being a prequel to all of the other games, fans were quick to get word out about the perfect jumping on point for their beloved series, and the game blew up. It didn’t do huge western AAA numbers, but it cemented Yakuza as one of gaming’s greatest, and new fans were hungry for more. Now Yakuza is starting to get the recognition and appreciation it deserves, and SEGA plans to bring remasters of every mainline entry to the PS4. Yakuza Kiwami is the remake of the first game in the series, and luckily for you, it’s free with PlayStation Plus this month.
Now you have no excuse.
I know it’s a busy time of year. A lot of you are still working your way through Red Dead Redemption 2 or Assassin’s Creed Odyssey. Maybe some of you are enjoying some Hitman 2 or Spyro. But let me tell you why Yakuza Kiwami is still worth your time a year and a half after its initial release.
You can hit people with bicycles.
Yakuza is a lot more than that, but yes, you can beat up mean looking henchmen with bicycles. Not just bicycles, but pretty much anything. Traffic cones, swords, giant signs, fish, you name it. Yakuza’s combat is relatively simple – there’s a light and heavy attack, a block, and a dodge, standard brawler fare – but these items, along with heat actions, spice things up. Now you’re probably wondering “what is a heat action?”. A heat action is a devastating context sensitive move that uses a bar of “heat” which your character builds up as they battle. Unleashing a heat action rewards you with an incredibly satisfying animation depending on what weapon you’re holding or where you are in relation to certain objects, like ledges or microwaves. These moves are really powerful and always fun, and some of them get really creative, especially later in the series.
Alongside weapons and heat actions are four fighting styles that can be changed at any time during a battle. Brawler style is balanced. It’s somewhat slow but the moves pack a significant punch, and you can pick up items in the environment to use as weapons, like the aforementioned bicycles. Rush style is much faster, focused on quick dodges and sidesteps, preventing you from picking anything up but allowing you to nimbly avoid attacks and retaliate with rapid counters. Beast style is the slowest of the bunch, but hits the hardest, automatically using anything in your general vicinity as a weapon, covering the widest ranges possible while taking reduced damage at the cost of mobility. The fourth style is where things get a little interesting. Dragon style is built up over the course of the game, starting with few moves and a lack of viability but slowly becoming the most powerful style in the game. So how do you upgrade and improve Dragon style? The Majima Everywhere system.
See that guy? That’s Majima. And he’s everywhere. Goro Majima is a series mainstay and fan favorite due to his very colorful personality. Majima wants nothing more than to fight protagonist Kazuma Kiryu, and he will go to extreme lengths to do so. As Kiryu roams the streets of Kamurocho, he can run into Goro Majima at any time. Sometimes he’ll be hiding, sometimes he’ll show up in side activities, sometimes he’ll just be walking down the street. Whatever he may be up to, if Majima sees Kiryu, he won’t back down without a fight. Defeating Majima unlocks new abilities for the Dragon style, making what would just be a fun diversion a worthwhile investment.
Majima Everywhere is just one of the side activities in Yakuza Kiwami. Yakuza games are chock full of interesting and diverse side content. They all feature compelling stories, fun gameplay, and tangible rewards that affect your game. For example, Yakuza 0 has a bowling minigame. If you bowl well, one of the employees will reveal to you that she has a bowling form fetish and really enjoys watching skilled bowlers. She asks you to return frequently, and if you do so, you win a chicken (appropriately named Nugget) that can then be used as a manager for one of your properties in the game’s overarching real estate minigame. Each of the game’s substories are as wacky as they are endearing, and you’ll find yourself wanting to do nearly every single one you come across.
That is, unless, you get gripped by the main storyline, which can happen very easily. Sometimes the plots of these games are so captivating you’ll be sprinting through the sights and sounds of Kamurocho, ignoring substories and shops just to see the next story beat. The Yakuza games have phenomenal stories and some of the best Japanese voice acting I’ve ever heard. The performances are consistently stellar no matter which entry you choose, and the writing is filled to the brim with twists and turns that’ll keep you hooked for hours on end.
The boss battles are phenomenal too. You know how in action movies when people take off their shirts before they fight, things are about to get real? Every boss fight in Yakuza is that times ten. Lots of shirts get torn off in Yakuza. Not just shirts, but entire suit tops, jacket and all, in one fell swoop, and yes, everyone has tattoos all over their backs. Boss battles even have their own unique QTEs and heat actions that create these cool little cinematic setpieces mid-fight. All of this is set to the most banging soundtrack with guitars blaring over a sweet bassline. They even bust out the pianos for the more dramatic encounters. There’s a boss fight early in Yakuza 0 where someone is speeding towards Kiryu on a motorcycle with a lead pipe, and Kiryu stances up. That’s how insane these fights are. Sometimes you fight the same person repeatedly over the course of a game and the music changes and evolves each time. Every fight is a treat and the bosses are all memorable, partly due to the smart writing but mostly due to how cool the setups and showdowns are.
Yakuza games are also basically virtual tourism. Their representation of Japan is pretty much one to one. From hostess clubs to Don Quijote stores, exploring the worlds of Yakuza 0-6 is as close as you can get to Tokyo, Osaka, or Hiroshima without actually going there. The attention to detail in these games is absurd, and the localization holds nothing back, resulting in a truly authentic Japanese experience. People hand you pocket tissues when you walk down the street. You can go to SEGA arcades and play Outrun. These games do an incredible job of transporting you to another place and immersing you in another culture, and very few games achieve this to the degree Yakuza does.
The games are all, for the most part, set in the same fictional district of Tokyo called Kamurocho. The world is small, but dense, and you start to learn where certain businesses are and what is on each street. Setting each game in the same area might sound like it’d be a bad idea, but because each game is set in the same district of Tokyo and they’re set over a span of almost 30 years (1988-2016), Kamurocho evolves and changes from game to game. You’ll walk down familiar streets and find new stores there, you’ll see that a lot of the businesses from Yakuza 0’s 1988 Kamurocho aren’t there in Yakuza Kiwami’s 2005 Kamurocho, and that both of these differ greatly from the modern day Kamurocho in Yakuza 6. These changes make Yakuza’s world feel more real than it already does, which helps, because Yakuza games are just as much about the ever-changing climate of Japanese culture as they’re about the politics and rivalries of Japanese gangs.
Essentially, Yakuza games are gripping crime dramas with wacky substories and minigames and flashy combat. It sounds like these would clash with each other tonally, but Yakuza balances comedy and drama in a way few other games do. The games never take themselves too seriously while also being incredibly grounded at the same time. The result is a wholly unique experience you can’t get anywhere else, and with the first game being free right now, you have no excuse not to give it a try. It’s only free for two more days, so if you haven’t grabbed it by now for some reason, be sure to get on that.
And once you finish it, play Yakuza 0. And then Kiwami 2. And then 3 will be out next year. And then 4. You get the idea.
Will you be giving Yakuza Kiwami a try? Are you already a Yakuza fan? How about that Dragon Engine? Be sure to let us know your thoughts down below, and keep it here at Circle Square Games for everything Yakuza.
Hitman 2 is a game that took over two years to make. It only has 5 levels. I love it.
So many people slept on the original Hitman (the 2016 one, not the first one, thanks confusing reboot titles), but it’s understandable why. While 2012’s Hitman Absolution was a mechanically solid third person shooter, it wasn’t the methodical stealth game fans fell in love with in the first place. To further rub salt in fans’ wounds, Square Enix then announced that the new 2016 Hitman would release in an episodic format which made zero sense for the series. Regardless fans were still hopeful and ended up loving it. The problem is, nobody else gave it a shot.
Hitman Episode 1 released in March of 2016, one week after what would end up being Ubisoft’s biggest new IP launch ever, The Division. Hitman Episode 2 came out later that April, just two weeks after the launch of Dark Souls III and Ratchet and Clank. Hitman Episode 3 came out a week after Overwatch and Uncharted 4, Episode 4 came out right after No Man’s Sky, Episode 5 followed Recore and Forza Horizon 3, and poor old Episode 6 had to compete with Battlefield 1, Titanfall 2, Skyrim Special Edition, Call of Duty, and even Watch Dogs.
This game just could not catch a break. Whether a game was celebrated like Overwatch or criticized like No Man’s Sky, it seemed like whenever Hitman got new content, it was overshadowed by something bigger. Now, a full two and a half years since Hitman’s intro pack was released, IO Interactive has split from Square Enix and the game’s sequel is out. Unfortunately, it faces the same challenge. Red Dead Redemption 2 is still actively being enjoyed by just about everyone, Spyro made his triumphant return, Fallout 76 is a game that exists, and the Nintendo Switch is getting its first Pokemon game tomorrow. Please, I’m begging you all, do not let Hitman 2 fly under your radar.
Hitman 2 is a game about possibilities. When you start a level in Hitman, you’re not just starting a level; You’re starting a complex sequence of scripts and events that you can throw a wrench into at any time, and the situation will react accordingly. Except instead of a just a plain old wrench, Hitman 2 provides you with a socket wrench, allen wrench, combination wrench, and just about any other type of turning tool you could imagine, and more. Hitman 2 may only have 5 levels, but I’ve spent 3 hours in the first one alone, and I still have fresh new ideas that could easily double those my hours to 6.
The first attempt at an assassination in Hitman is never pretty. It’s usually sloppy, with hasty, reactionary decisions, and more often than not, you won’t see more than a 2/5 star rating if you’re lucky. However, Hitman’s levels are designed to be replayed. Even if you think you’ve done the perfect hit, you probably messed up somewhere along the line, and if you didn’t, the game still pushes you to try other things. When you finish a mission, the game shows you a wall of tiles, each representing a challenge for the level you just completed, and they’re all incredibly varied and force you to use drastically different playstyles and strategies. You might pull off the perfect sniper shot on a racer’s car, successfully killing your target, but then the game will say “Now try pushing her down an elevator shaft” or “Do it in the flamingo suit”.
“I wasn’t even aware there was a flamingo suit,” you might respond.
That’s what makes Hitman 2 special. Each level is a playground that lets you test whatever crazy schemes you can come up with. Pulling off a clean, discrete kill is incredibly satisfying, and calmly walking away from the scene while bystanders are still figuring out what happened never gets old. If you do end up making a mistake, Hitman 2 provides both automatic and manual save states at multiple points throughout missions that you are free to revert back to at any time. Even with practically unlimited checkpoints, plotting and carrying out an “accidental death” still requires a good amount of tact and preparation. The challenge is integral to the Hitman experience, and it makes a successful mission all the more fulfilling.
When I said Hitman 2 only had 5 levels, I was technically lying. For those of you who didn’t play the first game (read: pretty much all of you), the Hitman Legacy Pack makes the entirety of the first entry available to play in Hitman 2 with the new gameplay systems and graphical upgrades. For only $20, it’s a no-brainer for anyone who’s new to the franchise. With the legacy pack, Hitman 2 has a total of 11 missions, each with hours upon hours of creative gameplay waiting to be had. And that’s not all. Hitman 2 is a live game, best played with an internet connection. This is where Hitman 2’s best content happens.
Elusive targets are timed missions set in an already existing Hitman location but with twists like remixed guard and item placements, increased security, and things like that. While Hitman’s other missions are built with replayability in mind, Hitman’s elusive targets only give you one chance. If you mess up, you have to roll with it. After the one attempt, they’re gone. This makes for some of the most tense and memorable moments in franchise history, and the targets are all highlights. The first elusive target appears in Hitman 2 next week, and it’s “The Undying” portrayed by none other than Sean Bean. The first Hitman had a new elusive target every other week, and one of them was a Gary Busey assassination, so it’s safe to say Hitman 2 will deliver the same quality content for the forseeable future.
Hitman 2 is such a unique game. Few games have levels as tightly designed and highly replayable as Hitman, and the sequel works because it doubles down on what the first game did so well. Hitman 2 is just more Hitman 1, and in most cases that wouldn’t be a cause for celebration, but the gameplay is incredibly refined and immensely satisfying. It builds upon an already impeccable foundation, resulting in one of the best games I’ve played all year. Hitman 2 is the premier assassination experience, and it deserves more attention.
Have you been playing Hitman 2? Are you planning on picking it up? Be sure to let us know down below, and stay tuned to Circle Square Games for all things Hitman.