So here we are, in 2021. After video games were one of the few bright spots of 2020, that trend is set up to continue this year – there is plenty to get excited about, whether that be announced games or whispers from the rumour mill. Joining me for this first Let’s Chat of 2021 is Ashley Harrison, as we go through it all and pick out our personal highlights and most anticipated releases. Without further ado…
William Robinson: Hey again Ash! It is time for the first Let’s Chat of the New Year of 2021 (blimey time flies!!). Naturally, a New Year means looking ahead to new games, so it seemed apt we go through our most anticipated releases – and predictions – for the year; we will start off with the games we know we have monthly release dates for, before descending into wild speculation as per! How was your New Year?
Ashley Harrison: It was as good as can be given the current situation, I guess. I’d bought myself a bottle of Vanilla Smirnoff to drink, and it went down so well I ended up drinking the whole bottle before I’d realised how much I’d actually drank, haha! So my New Year wasn’t exactly spent sober. How was yours man?
WR: A classic alcohol-fueled New Years then, aha! As I imagine was the case for most people in the UK, my New Year was spent at home with the family, involving a lot of eating and drinking, so perhaps not that different from yours… It already seems so long ago, and let’s hope 2021 is a much better year. Right, onto the topic at hand then, before this becomes a Let’s Chat about alcohol! We know a few release dates for the year, mainly in the first half, so let’s pick out the games with concrete dates that we’re most excited for. Starting in January, on the 14th (tomorrow!) is one we are both going to agree on…
AH: Were it not for a certain game I’m going to mention later on, this would absolutely be my most anticipated game release day of the year. Not having a PlayStation 3/Xbox 360 upon its original release, Scott Pilgrim vs. The World was unfortunately a game I missed playing the first time around. Having heard from multiple of my friends how good the game is though, I was so hyped when I saw that it was getting a re-release; knowing that this was finally my opportunity to play it.
WR: This game sort of became an urban myth considering how it disappeared from storefronts due to licensing issues, preventing people from being able to buy it. So when it was announced in a Ubisoft Forward last year as returning, it was very exciting! I have also never played the game myself, but with Scott Pilgrim vs. the World being my favourite ever film, I am eager to find out more on this game that is supposedly so fun. Scarily, Limited Run Games have an expansive selection of physical editions and merchandise which is going to empty my bank account on the 15th… Which edition are you going to get?
AH: As much as I would like to drop the money to get the KO! Edition that Limited Run are offering, I’m not sure I can justify the $140 (plus shipping) price tag to be honest with you. Therefore, I think I’m just going to get the Classic Edition instead, can’t miss out on having a physical copy. I feel I should give a shoutout to the Brian Lee O’Malley cover artwork at this point too, Sonic Adventure is genuinely one of my favourite games of all time, so I definitely appreciate the fact that the artwork for this re-release of Scott Pilgrim is VERY heavily inspired by Sonic Adventure’s.
WR: Oh, yeah, now that you say it I definitely see the similarities! I am considering either of those two more expensive editions; you are right, it is a lot of money. Either way, we shall be playing the fighting game very soon! Right, so the other one that stands out for me in January is The Medium, a for-now Xbox exclusive that I was actually surprised to see releasing so soon. The trailers seemed very atmospheric and creepy, so I am likely to give this one a go.
AH: Honestly, I’m not really sold on The Medium, even though as a horror fan it seems like it should be right up my street. So come on, it’s your turn now, try and sell me on it!
WR: Now, I am not a horror game expert, but The Medium stands out to me as a having a really unique, cinematic quality to it that appeals to me. The two worlds running at one time – one more expected, one the twisted version of reality – is really intriguing; and the demands of that on the hardware have pushed this to being only on next generation (no Xbox One version). That is potentially exciting, as it could mean that The Medium clearly shows why the new consoles are a step forward. Character and world design appears very detailed and well thought-out to bring on the scares and atmosphere, without falling into predictable jump-scares; that sort of suspenseful horror is much more to my tastes than gore-fests. It could go either way, but I am confident this is going to be a good one. Oh, and the music is by both Arkadiusz Reikowski of developer Bloober Team and also Akira Yamaoka-san, nicely reflecting the duality of the gameplay; the latter is the composer of Silent Hill, which is an amazing claim to fame!
AH: Not going to lie, the Silent Hill composer makes me interested. I’d genuinely argue that it has one of the greatest horror soundtracks of all time, so I’m definitely more interested in The Medium now.
WR: Any other games in January that appeal to you? There is Hitman III, but I have never gotten into the series.
AH: There’s only one other release in January that interests me, one that has already been released on the Nintendo Switch – the PlayStation 4/Xbox One release of Super Meat Boy Forever. For me, Super Meat Boy is the greatest indie platformer ever created, toeing the line perfectly between that “one more level” feeling whilst also being almost frustratingly difficult, so it’s always a great feeling when you do finish a level.
WR: Oh, nice, didn’t realise that was on the way; seems that the Super Meat Boy series is always getting a new release or console version somewhere! On, then, to February, where there are two standouts for me: Little Nightmares II, and Super Mario 3D World + Bowser’s Fury. For the former, I played the original on Switch a while back and really enjoyed it, a creepy horror platformer similar to a Limbo or Inside with unsettlingly oversized puppet enemies (shudder). The latter is a new release of a 3D Mario game that, in my opinion, did not get enough praise on Wii U – the added DLC is a nice bonus, including more levels and also an incredible-looking Kaiju-style fight with larger versions of Bowser and Mario!
AH: For me, there’s also two February releases I’m looking forward to, those being Ghosts ‘n Goblins: Resurrection, and Bravely Default II. For the former, I wish there was a reason I was actually interested rather than the one I’m about to give. Honestly, though, the truth is that one of my favourite episodes of Retro Replay is Troy Baker and Nolan North playing the original version of it on the SNES, so that’s what makes me want to play it. For Bravely Default II (which is the stupidest name ever, considering that there’s already two Bravely Default games on the Nintendo 3DS), it’s the closest we’re going to get to a turn-based Final Fantasy game for a long time given Square Enix’s obsession with (in my opinion) grossly inferior real-time battles. My only hope for this game, however, is that they don’t continue with the trend of making you replay sections of the game you’ve already played earlier, with just minimal changes, which was one of my biggest gripes with the first game especially.
WR: Aha, that is an okay reason! Yeah, I thought you’d bring up Bravely Default II here. It wouldn’t be an RPG without an illogical and ridiculous name though, Ashley (e.g. Final Fantasy or The Last Story). For years I have heard positive talk of the series, but never gotten into it; would I understand the story in this, or is it connected to the previous games?
AH: It seems like it’s set up to be a standalone story for Bravely Default II, though I would imagine it’ll definitely contain references to the previous two games in the series, and possibly even Octopath Traveler given it’s the same development team creating the game. If you can find the previous two games for cheap though, I would definitely recommend playing those first before playing Bravely Default II.
WR: Are they long games to get through? Would I have any chance of doing it in time?
AH: I don’t remember either of the games being particularly long, maybe around 25-30 hours or so on average. Bare in mind, however, I haven’t played either since the release of Bravely Second in February 2016, so that might be WAY off. So ignoring all of that, you should have enough time to play through the both of them, yeah.
WR: At this point, the release dates really start drying up. There is Monster Hunter Rise, a Switch exclusive, in March, that I may play as I have at least one friend who plans to get it who I could join up with in-game. I have not played an entry in the series since 3 Ultimate on Wii U, so it may be fun to jump back in and see all of the quality of life improvements.
AH: You can definitely tell just how much of an effect the Coronavirus situation has had on game development; usually we’d have at least a clear road of releases until the Holiday time by this point. For me, though, everything else I’m looking forward to now for this year only has a vague release date.
WR: In which case, let’s go onto those! There are some we at least know potential Quarters for; for example, Q1 should contain the stunning animated Kena: Bridge of Spirits, which is perhaps the first release that tempts me more to getting a PS5. Also, the hilariously named -breathes in- Nier Replicant ver.122474487139 is out on 22nd April, and I am keeping an eye on Deathloop and Far Cry 6. Though whether these actually release in those timeslots – who knows?
AH: For me, I’m also looking forward to Far Cry 6, though I’d imagine that’ll be a November release like normal and not any sooner, and I wouldn’t be at all surprised if that got a further delay. It wouldn’t be a Let’s Chat without me mentioning Image & Form Games’ upcoming seemingly Super Mario Sunshine-inspired action-adventure game The Gunk. Currently with no release date, I’m hoping that it arrives sooner rather than later. There’s also the next-gen console versions of Cyberpunk 2077 supposedly releasing this year, which I’ll wait for to actually play the game, despite having owned the Xbox One copy since launch. For me, though, the game releasing this year that makes me most want a PS5 is the incredible looking Ghostwire: Tokyo. After its initial showing and being able to see just how passionate about it Ikumi Nakamura was at the E3 unveiling, I’ve been sold since day one; although I’m now cautious given the fact that Ikumi Nakamura has since left Tango Gameworks. The one game I’m looking forward to over anything this year is NEO: The World Ends With You, the sequel to one of my favourite games of all time, The World Ends With You. I’ve been clamouring for a sequel ever since playing the original on Nintendo DS, so when it got its Switch port a few years back I was ecstatic; not only because it allowed more people to play the criminally underrated game, but also because it greatly increased the chances of a sequel. You should’ve seen me when NEO was announced, I genuinely lost my shit haha!
WR: I am sure it was quite the sight aha, we should have had a camera set up! The Gunk is currently listed as Q3, but as this is the first 3D game from Image & Form, I am okay to give them all the time they need to get it right; similarly to you, I am a fan of the developer and their SteamWorld games and very intrigued to see them make the move to the 3D third-person perspective. Would not be surprised to see it secretly be a SteamWorld game either! As for Cyberpunk 2077, yeah, if I do ever play it it will be when it gets a next generation console patch, for now I am not touching it whilst CD Projekt Red sort themselves out. Ghostwire: Tokyo was one I was going to bring up too – the imagery and tone of the trailers has been very appealing to me, and in terms of horror games I would say I am even more excited for that than The Medium. Speaking of horror, though; in my personal case the upcoming Resident Evil Village is a game I am incredibly excited for, probably my second most anticipated game of 2021 after another one I shall mention later. After educating myself on the series in 2020, I am now prepared for a new entry and the trailers have been fascinating, keeping the new first-person perspective of Resident Evil 7: Biohazard whilst additionally bringing in more elements such as a more prominent role for series regular Chris Redfield. Seeing how it all ties in is going to be absorbing and, I imagine, quite terrifying.
AH: Honestly, the Resident Evil series is a huge gap in my gaming experience. I’ve literally only played Resident Evil 4, so I don’t really think I’m the target audience for it. I will say that Resident Evil Village does look incredible though, I think I will have to play through Resident Evil 7 via Game Pass at some point.
WR: I was the same, which is why I set myself on fixing that and playing through the series last year. If you play 7 you’ll be quite set up for Village, as you play as the same character – Ethan Winters – in this one. I’d recommend you have a go! Right, now we are really in the wilderness of game release dates. Let’s go into some sci-fi first; there is the Mass Effect: Legendary Edition release, finally giving the original trilogy the remake treatment. I am excited to play those games again, with the prospect of a new entry on the horizon (announced at The Game Awards). Also, we have to mention Halo Infinite, which has a loose Q3 date for now. That game seems to be in a bit of development turmoil, just going by how long it is taking. I hope it is great when it finally launches… Thoughts on where that game stands?
AH: Honestly… I couldn’t be less interested in Halo if I tried.
WR: I’m not someone who has played much of the franchise either. I think we often hear people say it needs to be great for the Xbox to thrive, but does it? Exclusives such as Fable and Forza are a much more impressive prospect to me. Maybe we are just getting to the point where Halo is not as essential as it was.
AH: Honestly, I think it’s more of a case of keeping the “flagship” IP as the showcase of the console. Whilst there might be more impressive games available like those you mentioned, Halo and Xbox are synonymous with one another, and a poor showing for Halo doesn’t reflect well for the console overall.
WR: Do you think Halo Infinite is going to be well-received? I just have this gut feeling that it is going to be met with a lukewarm reaction, similar to the demo at the Xbox Games Showcase last year.
AH: I mean, the reception can’t be any worse than what it has been already, surely? I’d expect it to be received the same as you, not fantastic, but not awful either.
WR: We’ve spoken a bit about Microsoft exclusives; let’s do Sony now. It won’t surprise you for me to say that Horizon Forbidden West is my most anticipated game of the year – I absolutely adore Horizon Zero Dawn, and so a follow-up with even more world to explore and secrets to uncover (whilst fighting robot dinosaurs, of course) is a release I am counting down the days to. It may well be the day I get a PlayStation 5, too, as the first game is beautiful and if the sequel follows that trend, playing it on PS5 should be a treat. How are you feeling on the PlayStation side?
AH: Well, NEO: The World Ends With You is releasing on PS4 as well as Switch, haha. There’s also Shin Megami Tensei III: Nocturne HD Remaster and Shin Megami Tensei V in the same position, releasing on both PS4 and Switch. As far as PlayStation exclusives however, there’s only really one that catches my eye – Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart. It’s the one game that made me go “wow, this looks phenomenal”, and it’s absolutely one I’m going to be purchasing when I do also get a PS5.
WR: Are you in the same camp as me in thinking there is no way God of War: Ragnarok is out this year?
AH: Oh, absolutely not. The only thing we’ve seen so far is literally a teaser of the logo, I would be VERY surprised if it released this year. Personally, I can’t see it until the Holiday 2022 season.
WR: Putting 2021 on that trailer seems more in the vein of when Nintendo put a 2015 date on the game that would be The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild back at E3 2014. Very optimistic, aha! Before we get onto Nintendo, I am just gonna shout out Hogwarts Legacy, too. This is a game that could go either way, but has the potential to be an incredible experience if done right.
AH: I’ll give credit where it’s due – it definitely has the potential to be something good, but Harry Potter has never really interested me. The PS1 games were good enough, but it’s not a series I’ve ever fully gotten into.
WR: Didn’t you get the LEGO Harry Potter games though just recently on Xbox, aha?
AH: I mean, yeah, but that’s more of a case of the fact that I like the LEGO games and that was the cheapest, haha.
WR: Haha, fair. We have saved Nintendo for last, and there is a lot to predict even if we know almost nothing of their release plans. Seriously, the release schedule for Nintendo is very, very sparse. HOWEVER! We know that it is the 25th and 35th Anniversaries of Pokémon and The Legend of Zelda respectively this year, so you would imagine there are plans for those series; for the 35th Anniversary of Mario in 2020 we got lots and lots of merchandise, events, and more, including the Super Mario 3D All-Stars release. Perhaps we could get similar for these two series? I expect a lot of merchandise…
AH: With how much of a cash cow both series are for Nintendo, I’m fully expecting a lot of promotional material for each. On the Pokémon side of things, I’m expecting both the long rumoured Sinnoh remakes, as well as a Let’s Go Johto game. We’ve seen teases for both already in Nintendo Directs and social media posts, so I don’t think it’s too unrealistic to expect both as big Anniversary games, especially with it also being the 15th Anniversary of Pokémon Diamond and Pearl this year. As an outrageous guess, I’d love to see a new Pokémon Ranger game, it’s been too long since Guardian Signs in my opinion. As for the Zelda side of things, shock horror, you know what game turns 10 years old this year? Skyward Sword, aka the best Zelda game. Come on Nintendo, Skyward Sword HD when??
WR: With Diamond/Pearl/Platinum being my favourite Pokémon games, I am very cautious on the prospect of remakes, but it does seem inevitable at some point. I don’t see them releasing remakes and Let’s Go both in one year; I more see them being the next two years of games – Pokémon has never been a series to release multiple entries in one year. Spin-offs such as the upcoming Pokémon Snap 2 are exciting though, and I agree, a new Ranger game would be awesome! They are probably my favourite spin-offs in the series, and I enjoyed all three, even if they did destroy DS screens with the mechanic of drawing circles on to catch Pokémon. As for The Legend of Zelda, I would not be surprised to see that happen, perhaps as part of a new modern Master Quest HD Collection that consists of The Wind Waker HD, Twilight Princess HD, and a new Skyward Sword HD. That would be incredible value in one package! There is also the question of the sequel to The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, which was announced at E3 2019. It is possible that could launch this year, but knowing the series, it will end up getting delayed into 2022, aha!
AH: I’d rather a full, true remake of Skyward Sword honestly, rather than a simple upscale to 720p like Super Mario 3D All Stars. That art style absolutely deserves full 1080p 60FPS and pushing the Switch to its absolute limits, so personally I’d rather not see another collection, even though that probably is the most likely possibility. I’m fully expecting the sequel to Breath of the Wild to have been delayed until 2022, which – whilst it sucks as I imagine that would be the true Anniversary game release – is fully understandable given the current situation. Even though it’ll likely reuse all of Breath of the Wild’s assets, the universe apparently just didn’t want it to release this year. At least it means they’ll have time to remove the awful weapon durability mechanic.
WR: That’s an intriguing proposition, a lot of the smaller issues with SS could be fixed on Switch and that painterly aesthetic could shine even more – and they could even expand and add more content to the open-world sky section on your Loftwing to make it more like the sea of The Wind Waker. I personally did not mind weapon durability, but I do get why some people didn’t enjoy it. Yeah, I am okay with waiting for the sequel; I imagine that the very least we get is more information and news though, to go with that very tantalising teaser from before; I am hoping for Twilight Princess links and maybe even a Midna cameo. Other than Pokémon and The Legend of Zelda, how else do you think Nintendo is going to fill their currently cavernous release schedule this year? Say it with me… Mario Strikers?!
AH: The weapon durability mechanic is the one thing that made me sell the game, I absolutely hated it. I don’t want to have to “manage my inventory” or whatever rubbish people will say, I just wanna run through and slash through enemies like in previous Zelda games. Even the Master Sword isn’t immune from it ffs! Phew, rant over haha. For us to do an article on Nintendo hopes for the year and to not include Mario Strikers? That’s blasphemy. So of course I’ll join you in saying that, we’ve not had one since 2007! That’s 14 years now! Way too long. And since Nintendo have just officially acquired Mario Strikers Charged Football’s developers Next Level Games, what better way to to celebrate?
WR: Ah you’re right, it is clearly all connected! Seriously, I would be so excited for another in the series, we managed to will Spyro Reignited Trilogy into existence, so now it is time for Mario Strikers. Also, maybe Metroid news? We gotta get Metroid Prime 4 one day, right?! Just… something, Nintendo. Metroid Prime Trilogy has to be in the works for a remake, with so much demand for it. Other than these, any other leftfield Nintendo predictions?
AH: Nah, honestly I’m really not expecting too much from this year from any company. If I’m pressed to give one however, I’ll have to say a new Mario Kart. It just seems so odd to be coming up on 4 years since release of a Nintendo console, and to not have a new Mario Kart game. I know we’ve already had Mario Kart 8 Deluxe within the first couple of months of the Switch’s launch, but by now I really thought we’d have a brand new one.
WR: That seems fair, given the state of the world right now. Mario Kart is a decent shout; as you say, we have MK8D but that is a Wii U game from nearly a decade ago; surely there is going to be a Switch-exclusive Mario Kart at some point. I also reckon Super Mario Odyssey 2 is going to happen in the not-too-distant future, as that team have been very quiet since 2017. Ticking off Mario Strikers on the Let’s Chat bingo card reminded me; we have not mentioned The Last of Us yet! We have regularly discussed the idea for DLC for The Last of Us Part II, perhaps focusing on Tommy.
AH: I’m desperate for more The Last of Us content, if only for a reason to load up my PS4 haha. As you said, we’ve discussed the idea of a Tommy-focused DLC, outlining his own journey after leaving Jackson. Seeing as though chasing Tommy is a major plot point in Part II, it seems like it’ll be a guarantee at some point we find out about what Tommy was up to out on his own. I also think that Factions is almost guaranteed for this year, with the leaked gameplay having been public knowledge for a while now, and Neil Druckmann himself has basically said Factions is coming but they weren’t fully ready to talk about it yet. Nearly a year after going gold at this point though, it seems like it’s Factions time.
WR: I’d welcome that, and it would perhaps be motivation for me to go back and play through Part II for a second time. The off-screen Tommy content is genuinely fascinating to me, and it seems that there is story to tell there. Also, y’know, they have to tease Part III right, aha? Joking aside, I doubt we have seen the end of this series. We have gotten to the end of the games I planned to talk about, unless there are any others you’d like to bring up?
AH: …TWO Mario Strikers games?
WR: That’s a fair point. OK, to end this, give us your three most anticipated games from that lot!
AH: In reverse order, to build suspense even though it’s very obvious, here’s my top three. In third is The Gunk, second is Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, then most anticipated undoubtedly goes to NEO: The World Ends With You.
WR: Nice! My turn, and this is going on the prediction that the sequel to The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is not releasing this year. Third is Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, second is Resident Evil Village, and then my most anticipated is Horizon Forbidden West! On this note, we come to the end of our first Let’s Chat this year. Video games helped get us through the mess of 2020, and I imagine they’ll keep doing so this year.
AH: Oh for sure. Happy New Year man, here’s to more Let’s Chats in the future.
That brings to an end the first Let’s Chat of 2021! I hope you can continue to follow and read Let’s Chat this year as Ashley and others join me for speculation and opinions. You can let us know your most anticipated games and personal predictions in the comments below, it would be great to hear them! Also, you can go through the back catalogue of Let’s Chat here. Have an amazing day!