Thursday, September 4, 2014

The Games of September 2014.


It begins.

September kicks off the Fall Rush with a pronounced barrage of great-looking games, from the next thing by the folks who made Halo to a Lord of the Rings game that doesn't look like butt - but Sony platforms have already had one heck of a great start, with the lineup they dropped a mere two days into the month.

September 2nd
Joe Danger, a racing/stunt/platformer.
Finally landing on Vita, (though it's been out on every other platform for a long time.)
Hype-O-Meter: Free is a perfect price point.

Now, that being said, you know the Vita is the place I'd like to try out Joe Danger, if I'm going to play the game at all - and I would like to try out Joe Danger, as it is the game that started developer Hello Games on the road to the ultra-hyped No Man's Sky.  To their credit it got rock-solid reviews and broke even after a single day of sales after its PS3 launch - so it must be a pretty great little game.

Sure, I'll give it a shot, when I've run out of other things to play - which might take a while...

A survival Roguelike.
September 2nd - Vita (it's been out on PS4 & PC for a while) - Hype-O-Meter: Day One.

I love Klei.  Love, love, love Klei Entertainment.  They gave me Shank and Shank 2 and Mark of the Ninja.

Don't Starve is a game I kept trying to love, but only ever liked.  I liked it on PC.  I liked it more on PS4, but couldn't bring myself to stick with it.  Now, on Vita - perhaps simply because I've been armed with those educational hours on the other platforms, and am able to pull it out of my pocket for a bit of surviving, anywhere - I'm really enjoying it.  I'm leading packs of ravenous wolves into herds of rampaging Beefalo, I'm reducing the local rabbit population through well-placed traps, and I just got killed by the mighty kick of a Tallbird, but that's okay, because I hit up one of those creepy touchstones early, and respawned - one of very, very few ways to live beyond death in Klei's randomly-generated survival opus of dark science and dark comedy.

I am, I find, falling in love with Don't Starve.  Finally.

September 2nd
Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair, a murder-mystery visual novel.
Vita
Hype-O-Meter: For many, day one.  For me?  Untouched.

Untouched simply because I never took the plunge on the last game.  Danganronpa is from the folks behind the critically-acclaimed 999: Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors, and it has a huge following in gamer circles.  I've heard nothing but great things about it, and it's one of those games I'll happily try out when I have time to spare and an irresistible price.  That said, if you're in the market for a dark, demented, narrative-driven murder mystery, you may want to check it out.

A sci-fi 2D space shooter/puzzler/teleporter/platformer... thing.  It's awesome.
September 2nd - Vita, PS4 - Hype-O-Meter: Day One.

FuturLab are a small, self-publishing indie studio who dedicate themselves wholly to deceptively deep games with simple mechanics.  They generally make arcadey stuff, but they'll happily dive into fast-paced puzzlers when they feel the need, and their games are reliably fun, fun, fun.

That's really all you need to know.  Velocity 2X is the sequel to Velocity, or "the game that got me back into 2D space shooters", which splits itself between "traditional" top-down shooting gameplay in your Quarp Jet, which can teleport through walls or inside enemy formations through a surprisingly intuitive control scheme, 2D sidescrolling platforming that sees hero Kai Tana blasting her way through alien installations, and cool spatial puzzles throughout.  The entire thing is grounded by lightning-fast gameplay and the constant need to race the clock.

This is one of the times I'm a bit sad a game launched on PlayStation Plus - because I would have happily paid Futurlab twenty bucks for it.

A tender taste of a 2D sidescrolling Metroidvania brawler.  
September 2nd - Vita - Hype-O-Meter: Day One.

The fourth and final piece of downloadable content that offers playable riffs on classic Japanese folk tales in the world of the sublime Muramasa Rebirth (following the wonderful Fishy Tales of the Nekomata, the not-bad A Cause to Daikon For and the excellent A Spirited Seven Nights' Haunting), Hell is Where the Heart Is will surely capture the cockles of my heart.

Developer Vanillaware excel at three things - their 2D combat has quickly become synonymous with excellence, their presentation is never less than luxurious and, when they put their mind to it, their narratives can be surprisingly funny and moving affairs.

I bought this the moment it became available and am seriously looking forward to spending more 2D time in Genroku-era Japan.


And that's just the first week!

A multiplayer co-op competitive kinda-open-world sci-fi  first-person-shooter RPG.
September 9th - PS4, PS3, One, 360 - Hype-O-Meter:  Yeah... Day One. 

Destiny is the first game Bungie has made in thirteen years that didn't have the word Halo in front of it.  The studio built its name on Microsoft's flagship - but it became a flagship because what Bungie laid down really worked.  Their games have a great sense of expression and license on the part of the player - movement and skill are king.  Their multiplayer practically established the online FPS genre as we know it today, paving the way for Call of Duty's success, and their player-versus-environment campaigns still hold up beautifully over time, thanks to their exceptional artificial intelligence.

As Halo wore on in years, I became increasingly disenchanted by its sparse environments - but the games' play remained great fun - and a sci-fi co-op online multiplayer first-person lootfest RPG that includes Bungie's exceptionally smooth, satisfying gameplay and AI?

Well yeah, I'm in.  Destiny may prove a victim of its own hype (Activision have literally thrown a half a billion dollars at the project), but that's too good a recipe to pass up.

September 26th
Ar Nosurge: Ode to an Unborn Star, a crazy-ass JRPG.
PS3
Hype-O-Meter: I've got enough to play.

You've got to hand it to Gust - they're kinda' keeping JRPGs alive in North America, what with the way their Atelier series is consistently getting localized (and ported to Vita!), and Ar Nosurge: Ode to an Unborn Star already has a lot of ravenous fans in North America, thanks to its connection to the cult-hit Ar Tonelico titles for PS2, which saw the player wielding music as a weapon in combat.

I kind of want to check out the game for it's celebrated weirdness alone, but, given that I'm me, I'll probably wait for the inevitable Vita port.

September 23rd
Arcana Heart 3: LOVEMAX!!!!!, a 2D fighting game.
PS3, Vita
Hype-O-Meter: Must... hold out... for Skullgirls...

The LOVEMAX!!!!! edition of Arcana Heart 3 is a bit like the Final Showdown version of Virtua Fighter 5 - it's the game that came out of all of Arcana Heart 3's time in Japanese arcades and the fan feedback that provided.   A capable 2D fighter, Arcana Heart is notable for being a sprite-based affair with a uniformly female roster and a crazy amount of potential combinations, as each of the game's twenty-three combatants may choose from twenty-three different Arcana, which affect their abilities, defense and offense in a myriad of ways.

Worth checkin' out, if you're a fighting fan - but you also might just wanna' wait 'till the 30th.

September 26th
Hyrule Warriors.  It's Dynasty Warriors with Zelda characters.
Wii U
Hype-O-Meter:  It's Dynasty Warriors with Zelda character.

If Mogs had a Wii U (does Mogs have a Wii U?) he'd be all over this game.  There are people out there who love the Dynasty Warriors formula, and brother, I ain't one of 'em.

An open-world multiplayer racer. 
September 30th - One, 360 - Hype-O-Meter: Myeh.  Day one for many. 

Developed not by (Forza lead) Turn 10 Studios, but by Forza Horizon devs Playground Games, Horizon 2 promises a wide-open world to race through with your friends and some nicely sexy presentation.  On the one hand, it's the Xbox One's answer to Driveclub.  On the other, Driveclub is Sony's answer to Forza Horizon. 

September 30th
Natural Doctrine, a strategy-RPG.
PS3, Vita, (PS4 eventually)
Hype-O-Meter:  I want the game this could be.

Natural Doctrine has received pretty mixed import reviews, with many praising the game's ludicrous depth and many lamenting its difficulty, which has been described as downright unfair.  It's also been described as "Dark Souls meets XCOM," which is absolutely a game I want.

I'll wait for reviews, methinks - but I've no doubt reviews, good or bad, will only make me more curious to find out for myself - 'cause "Dark Souls meets XCOM" sounds like a Game of the Year.

An action-adventure RPG.
September 30th - PS4, PS3, One, 360, PC - Hype-O-Meter: It's a LotR game that might not suck.

The enthusiast press has been pretty positive about Shadow of Mordor all through its development, and it's not hard to see why.  It's a decently good-looking game with the platforming of Assassin's Creed, a cool "nemesis system" (which sees the orcish sergeants and chieftans you chose to take down early in the game becoming more-badass and more dedicated to your destruction as the game goes on) and an attractive spin on the whole high-fantasy Tolkien mythology, as the hero seems bound to the soul of one of the cursed Kings of Men who received one of Sauron's rings.

I had Shadow of Mordor on preorder for a long time, but I'm trying to save money.  If reviews end up giving it solid 9s, I'll probably give it a second look.

September 30th
Persona 4 Arena Ultimax, a 2D fighter. 
PS3, 360
Hype-O-Meter: This'll be the best fighting game this Fall.

I can say that with near-certainty, because Persona 4 Arena Ultimax is (1) the sequel to the critically-acclaimed Persona 4 Arena, and is again developed by (2) Arc System Works, the crew behind ultra-hardcore fighters BlazBlue and Guilty Gear.  Yes, it features the stylish characters of Atlus's most-successful Shin Megami Tensei spinoff series, but it's also a deep, capable and razor-sharp fighter in its own right.

* * *

Oh, also, keep in mind we're likely to see like, four or five notable indies drop on PSN this month - for example, we didn't know Don't Starve's release date until literally a week beforehand. 

And that's September!  I hope I can resist the siren song of Natural Doctrine and Mordor, 'cause October is gonna' be craaazy.

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