I’m here to tell you that we’re losing the battle, people. There’s not one but two games out this month that spell ‘colours’ without a ‘u’. Life is Strange: True Colors (“and that’s why I love you”), and Sonic Colors: Ultimate. Time to retire the Union Jack and become an offshoot of Texas.
More importantly, we made a long-list of potential games for this Up Next, and it ran to thirty titles long. That’s no exaggeration: we had to kill our darlings and leave some awesome games like Toy Soldiers 2 and Surgeon Simulator 2 off the table.
That tells you something about the quality of games in this Up Next and of those Xbox games looking to release in September 2021. They’re good, they’re varied, and they’re coming for your wallet.
The Chernobyl disaster has cast a long old shadow over gaming, with Pripyat being central to Call of Duty Modern Warfare and the STALKER series. It’s not a huge leap to also see its influence on the Metro and Fallout series, either.
Chernobylite feels like the midpoint of every game we’ve just mentioned. It’s the gunplay of a COD in a STALKER sandbox, with the same shades-of-grey morality and choices of Fallout, as well as the monstrous beasts of Metro.
While there’s an argument that this solo FPS is failing to show its originality, it’s a neighbour to some fantastic games. If initial PC reviews are anything to go by, it deserves to be in the same breath as them, too.
Sonic Colors: Ultimate
History has tended to lump Sonic Colors into the cold streak of Sonic games, largely kicked off with the disastrously pants ‘Sonic the Hedgehog’. It was the period where you’d watch a new Sonic E3 trailer from behind the sofa, worried they’d chuck things in like werehogs, 3D open worlds and Big the Cat.
That’s mostly unfair to Sonic Colors which, while it’s got some of the 3D hallmarks of games like Sonic Generations, was actually halfway decent. Enough to make us slot a remake into an Up Next at the very least.
This re-release – Sonic Colors: Ultimate – brings full HD graphics, with lush new lighting, a remixed soundtrack, a new Rivals Mode where you take on Metal Sonic, and some gameplay nips and tucks – stuff like an invincible super-ring when you get to a 100 rings, and a Tails checkpoint, both designed to make this spikily difficult (hur-hur) game more achievable.
Life is Strange: True Colors
With every game, we’re getting closer to the Arcadia Bay Avengers. We fully expect Max to turn up at the end of Life of Strange: True Colors in an eyepatch.
The proven formula of Life is Strange is present and correct in True Colors. It’s loaded with the mildest of indie ballads, a central character with a tragic history, the first days of some superhero-like abilities, and bucketfuls of melodrama. We’d be as snarky about the template as one of Life is Strange’s teenagers, if it didn’t draw us in every time.
This one is from Deck Nine (Life is Strange: Before the Storm), rather than DONTNOD’s in-house team, and it switches focus to Alex Chen, whose power is to experience the emotions of others. Like a walking mood ring, she sees people’s moods as primary colours, and uses that ability to solve the murder of her brother. Plus win the odd game of Texas Hold’Em.
Whenever a new iteration of a sporting franchise comes out, we imagine it as a courtroom drama. Case for the defence, why should your game exist as a full price product?
Well, Your Honour, we have some improved offence and defence mechanics, giving more control over how the player controls the ball, as well as how they counter their opponents without possession. There’s new signature moves and combos, which will make it easier to break down dribbles.
It’s also worth considering, Your Honour, that MyTEAM Draft is making a return in NBA 2K22, which allows players who haven’t spent all their parents’ cash on booster packs to participate on a level playing field. Matchmaking has been added, although only on Series X|S, while there are improvements for the Seasons feature, MyNBA and MyCAREER too.
Jury, you decide.
Tales of Arise
The much-loved ‘Tales of’ series gets a new instalment this September, which might be a surprise to fans. All was quiet until five months ago and then – boom! A trailer and release date.
It’s no quick cash-grab, either. Tales of Arise is the first proper next-gen Tales game, and my word does it look like it. This is far from a HD PS2 game, as the traditional cel-shading shifts to something more atmospheric and – dare we say – realistic. It’s Tales by way of a modern Final Fantasy, and it looks like money, darling.
The seventeenth in the series is still an action role-playing game, with the battles playing out in real-time, aka the Linear Motion Battle System. It’s set between the medieval world of Dahna and the magi-tech of Rena, with the latter treating the former as their slaves. You can probably see where the plot is heading, as you play Alphen, a native of Dahna, as he accumulates a ragtag team and probably drops a moon or god onto Rena. It’s a JRPG – it’s how it always ends.
Part of Aragami’s joys were the toys you played with. It’s as true now as it was then. Cloaking suits, grapples and other distraction techniques are at hand, and it means you always feel in control.
But the mouth-watering prospect of Aragami 2 is that it’s fully cooperative. It’s rare to play a Tenchu-like stealth ninja game that’s multiplayer, let alone collaborative, and this sequel has been built from the ground up for two players to complete. Distract so a friend can pass, or cover for a clumsy and noisy partner. We fully expect to be bailed out by the second player as we walk into an ambush for the umpteenth time.
Diablo II Resurrected
While it may just be a remaster, all eyes will be on Diablo II Resurrected this month. For all the wrong reasons, Blizzard have been in the headlines, and pretty much everyone will be eyeballing review scores to see if the behind-the-scenes fractions have had an impact on their latest release.
While World of Warcraft Classic has been a success, Warcraft III: Reforged has not. Blizzard’s seal of quality has rarely been in question, but we’re in a strange time where it very much is in question, and that’s without factoring in the faulty decision-making around Diablo Immortal.
But perhaps we shouldn’t worry. Diablo III has proven that Diablo very much has a home on console, while there’s no doubting the quality of the original. This is no quick and dirty remaster, either, as all cutscenes have been completely re-rendered, all DLC has been included, and a full graphical and lighting pass has given the game a 2021 sheen.
A multiplayer FPS has to do a hell of a lot to grab our attention nowadays. Splitgate has embraced portals to stand out, and now we have Lemnis Gate, a strategic FPS with possibly the most out-there premise of all: you are playing in a 25-second time loop, which means you’re playing the same time period, over and over, to create an unbeatable offensive against your opponent.
We can barely wrap our heads round it, but the Groundhog Day-meets-Halo approach to multiplayer is going to be fascinating. To give this unique shooter an even better chance of succeeding, it’s a day-one Xbox Game Pass exclusive, so you can be sure that a substantial player base will be giving it a go.
Similar concepts have been explored in Quantum League and Clock Blockers, but nothing like on this scale. You’re going to need to think in four dimensions to own your opponents in this one.
We’re in the fantastic universe where we’re not only getting sequels to Yakuza, but we’re getting sequels to its spin-offs. It’s the Yakuza Expanded Universe, baby.
Still wearing the same get-up from Judgment, Yagamo is back, and probably stinkier than ever. It’s only been six months from Judgment’s release on Xbox, but we’re getting treated to a sequel, and – oh boy – Lost Judgment looks astonishing. We’re getting dangerously close to reality with some of its cinematics.
The plot centres on Yagami, who is investigating a criminal accused of both sexual harassment and murder. The case takes him across Kamurocho and Isezaki Ijincho, recreations of real-life Japanese districts, and into deep combat with three different fighting styles.
As has become common with a new Yakuza release, it’s the details that get us most excited: you can now skateboard around the city, and there’s a full Sonic Fighters game hidden in Lost Judgment’s arcades. Now those are the reasons to buy.
Last, but absolutely not least, is the indie offering of the month. Sable is coming in September, and it’s bloody gorgeous. It looks like a Moebius comic brought to life, and it has impeccable gaming taste. There’s a bit of Journey here, some Breath of the Wild there, and it has all the ingredients of a seminal indie game.
Developed by Shedworks and published by Raw Fury (Mosaic, West of Dead), this is an open-world exploration game where you play a girl called Sable, searching for a mask that will induct her into the clan that she’s been banished from. There’s no combat or storyline here, just an experience that develops as you find things in the sand.
In a month full of death, irradiation and… um… basketball, it’s a welcome shift of gears, and we can’t imagine a more attractive world to ramble around.
If your anger over September’s use of ‘Color’ has abated, then I’m sure you’ll agree that there’s plenty of Xbox games to excite – and maybe even pre-order – in September 2021. As we mentioned up front in the intro, this is only the tip of the month’s iceberg, as there are at least thirty notable games being released.
October is looking similarly rammed. Far Cry 6, Back 4 Blood, House of Ashes – the next in the Dark Anthology series – and FIFA 22, otherwise known as Guaranteed Christmas Number One, are the headliners, while a number of others bubble beneath the surface. Good times ahead indeed!
Let us know what you’re looking forward to.