Compared to the trickle that came before, June is a tidal wave of noteworthy titles. I wonder why? Perhaps it's because it's in such close proximity to E3 - indeed, this month's highest-profile game launches during the expo - and titles may hope to be buoyed by the general video game hype.
Things kick off, however, with a little nut-punch of a game.
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Mega Man Legends 3: Prototype Version
Hype-O-Meter: "You've got to be fucking kidding me."
The Mega Man Legends franchise has a small but ravenously loyal following. The games are, essentially, action-RPGs set in a slightly non-canonical Mega Man universe - and the original title is said to be (Mega Man co-designer and legendary producer) Keiji Inafune's favorite game.
Legends 3: Prototype is... sort of a demo. It's also sort of a beta release of Mega Man Legends 3 so the developers can (a) see how much interest there is in the the game, (b) have gamers test out their new mechanics and tell them they suck, instead of - y'know - playtesting their game - and (c) charge said gamers for the privilege.
Dick move, Capcom. Dick move.
Hype-O-Meter: This is my single most anticipated game of the year.
Above, greened and suitably bolded, you will find a bold statement. 2011 boasts Dead Space 2, Uncharted 3, Gears of War 3, Dark Souls, Elder Scrolls: Skyrim, Batman: Arkham City and other hugely noteworthy titles - so why would I put inFamous 2 ahead of that exemplary pack?
Gameplay. That's it. Unless Sucker Punch have seriously screwed the pooch on this one - and they haven't let me down yet - I expect inFamous 2 to be the single funnest game of 2011.
I feel no other developer working today has such a masterful handle on three-dimensional platforming. No, not even the folks who brought us the Super Mario Galaxies can really plug in to the pure platformy pleasure Sucker Punch provides. There is a wholesome, tactile, deeply immersive quality to their games. Pitch-perfect controls elegantly and instantly translate intention to action, and you never fumble with their mechanics or execution.
It's also an open-world game. It's also a fantastic third-person shooter with none of the stumbly bits that genre is prone to. It's also got a graphic-novel bent. Fantastic animation. An above-par story - but who gives a shit about all that?
I expect inFamous 2 to be the funnest game of the year, and that's all that matters.
Alice: Madness Returns
PS3, 360, PC
Hype-O-Meter: Day One. Medium.
I'll be honest, I already have my preorder down on Alice - but lest you get swept up in my personal wave of hype, I should warn you that by all reports, it will be a merely fair game. It won't play sweetly, it won't satisfy your platforming appetites or puzzle propensities, as its mechanics will feel rather stiff and unwieldly - but it will be gorgeous. And interesting. And emotionally thrilling.
I look forward to it.
Duke Nukem Forever
PS3, 360, PC
Hype-O-Meter: Day One. Medium-high.
The unshippable game - so long in development it became an industry joke - has recently gone gold, and will actually appear in stores on June 14th.
Thirteen years in the making, DNF was constantly hamstrung by a creative director who wanted to make a perfect game instead of a great one. Whenever a new mechanic or action style was introduced as other new games hit the market, he would go to his team and insist it be included - which essentially required them to constantly re-make sequences over and over and over.
Don't expect Duke Nukem Forever to be a revelation of gameplay and design thanks to its unthinkably long gestation, but welcome it for what it is - a tongue-in-cheek, self-aware, wholly indulgent throwback to the days when first person shooters were played predominantly by near-children who had recently discovered the thrill of masturbation.
Also, it has boobs.
Child of Eden
Hype-O-Meter: For me? Meh. For fans of Rez? Day one.
Child of Eden is the spiritual sequel to cult classic psychedelic rhythm shooter Rez, which saw a resurgence of interest with its HD up-port on Xbox Live in 2008. The game can be played with the Kinect or a standard gamepad - and actually tweaks its difficulty depending on your method of choosing (Kinect = easier, gamepad = harder).
Child of Eden is a gorgeous current-gen re-imagining of Rez's mechanics, and is certain to find an instant audience with those who fell in love with Rez - but PS3-centric gamers will have to wait until September to give it a spin.
American McGee's Alice
Hype-O-Meter: Oh, it'll be a treat.
The high-def up-port of 2008's American McGee's Alice is actually included with new copies of Alice: Madness Returns as part of EA's Project Ten Dollar. You've got to hand it to EA - they come up with some pretty creative solutions for implementing the plan with single-player titles.
Personally, I couldn't be more pleased with this - despite its gameplay gubbins, I've always wanted to own a copy of Alice - but it works out well in my case, as I tend to buy games new and sealed. For folks who won't want to take a sixty-dollar plunge on Madness Returns, the original Alice will be there to tempt them on XBL and PSN for ten dollars worth of virtual cash.
The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D
Hype-O-Meter: "All of them. Over and over."
Ocarina of Time remains one of the top-ten most critically acclaimed games of all time, and the flag bearer of Zelda quality. Personally, I'm partial to Link to the Past - but it's no wonder the title has had (sometimes multiple) ports on every Nintendo console since its launch. Folks love this game - and it's probably the single most-anticipated title for Nintendo's new handheld.
At the same time, I can't help but be cynical about it. There's something pathetic - something distasteful - about the most important game on a new platform being thirteen years old. The 3DS's launch lineup should have included something new - something thrilling, something inspired, something surprising - but Ocarina 3D is merely the latest in a growing list of good-old-game ports.
That said, improved ports of classic, beloved titles certainly have a place in my library - and if you own a 3DS, this one likely has a place in yours.
PS3, 360, PC
Hype-O-Meter: Low as a snake's belt buckle.
This game was supposed to come out last month - so I'm just going to copy-paste what I wrote then:
"I have friends who are hyped for this game, but I still just don't get it. These have always sort of seemed like... well... shitty games to me - but maybe I'm a nutcase and F.E.A.R. titles have always been landmarks of quality entertainment, packed tight with thrills, chills and spilled blood. Either way, it's dropping this month and I predict a Metascore in the 70-85 range."
Shadows of the Damned
Hype-O-Meter: Medium - and rising.
Two weeks ago, I was more than a little worried about how much consumer-friendly influence publisher Electronic Arts had wielded on Shadows of the Damned - a title which represents the teaming-up of legendary game stylemeister Suda 51 (Killer 7, No More Heroes) and legendary action game director Shinji Mikami (Okami, Resident Evil 4, Vanquish).
Today, I am much less worried. More than that, my interest in the title has skyrocketed thanks to this preview article, which lays it out so simply I'm a bit ashamed I didn't think of it before: Suda 51 has always been long on ridiculousness and style, and short on gameplay. Mikami has always created exceptional gameplay, but is less interested in the context.
Together, they form a singularity of video gaming ridicul-awesome that threatens to tear the universe asunder. Color my interest piqued - and piqued hard.
Hype-O-Meter: It's Double Fine, so day one.
Trenched is a WWI sci-fi third-person steampunk-mech-piloting shooter which wages you against some crazy onslaught of neon-colored creatures. That's all I can tell you, because I only heard about this game two days ago.
That said, I can't say my (remarkable) ignorance of the title has much of an effect on my interest level. This is the next thing made by Double Fine - and so, it gets a purchase. Double Fine, in the unlikely event you're unaware, is one of the single most creative, funny and entertaining developers in the business - who are tragically unappreciated in a commercial sense. The only game of theirs I'm aware of that I won't be getting is that Sesame Street game - because I don't have or want Kinect.
Resident Evil: The Mercenaries 3D
Not just a port of an old game - Mercenaries 3D is a port of a part of a game - and not even the best part.
There's no denying it's the single best-looking game coming to the 3DS, however. How they'll match those awesome screenshots on Nintendo's new handheld is beyond me, but the platform could use a solid action title - whether or not Mercenaries is that title remains to be seen.
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There you have it. We shan't see a flood of games like this until the Fall tsunami of releases heats up. "June 2011: like September, October or November - except it's June."
I've trademarked that tag line, but you can use it.