I blame Chamberlain. I think doing the podcasts may have energized me a little bit.
So! 2016 is shaping up to be a pretty fabulous year in general, but aside from a few little drops in January (Banner Saga, Atelier Escha & Logy Plus) and one huge one (Darkest Dungeon!), 2016 in gaming doesn't really start until February. February is pretty darned packed with good-looking stuff - particularly for a month so early in the year - running the gamut from promising indies to acquired-taste Japanese titles to the very triplest of triple-As.
But let's start with some indies.
Not A Hero, a 2D zany-action sidescrolling shooter
PS4 (already available on PC & OSX)
Hype-O-Meter: Totally woulda' bought it on Vita.
Roll 7 don't make bad games. Skateboarding titles Olli Olli and Olli Olli 2 are condensed, razor-sharp arcadey gaming goodness, and I was absolutely ultrahyped at the thought of the studio turning their attention to some stylish shootie action. Not A Hero was announced as coming to PS4 and Vita back at E3 2014. On January 12th 2016, they changed their tune, announced it wasn't coming to Vita, and my interest deflated like a perfectly-pressurized whoopie cushion.
Sorry, Roll 7. I loved your games on my Vita. If you're willing, I'll love them there again some day.
Or when it's like three bucks on a Plus sale.
|A rhythm-action dungeon-crawling Roguelike.|
February 2nd - PS4, Vita (PC/Mac/Linux already out) - Hype-O-Meter: Day One.
Crypt of the NecroDancer was one of those lovely little indies that explodes on the PC scene rendering half of the gaming press unable to write about anything else for months, wayyy back in the simpler, halcyon days of 2015. You play as a hero determined to rescue her father from the titular dungeon - a procedurally-generated gauntlet of terror-rooms, bursting with weird, wild pixel-art enemies, and here's the hook - every move, attack and spell of yours (and your foes) is tied to the timing of the game's specacular soundtrack (I started listening to the OST when I began writing this, and just left it on as I wrote the entire post because, y'know, spectacular).
With general critical acclaim, energetic presentation and that whole Roguelike thing I find myself to be so fond of (Darkest Dungeon, Galak-Z, Rogue Legacy), I'm absolutely gonna' have to day-one Crypt of the NecroDancer.
Digimon Story: Cyber Sleuth - a JRPG
Hype-O-Meter: This actually looks pretty good!
...but my Vita plate (currently and for the forseeable future) runneth over, so I'll let this one chill out for a while. Import reviews of Cyber Sleuth have been reliably positive, and the game's presentation enjoys a lot of style. If you're hurting for a new JRPG on PS4 or Vita (how have you already finished Trials of Cold Steel?), you might wanna' keep an eye on Bandai Namco's answer to Pokemon.
Gravity Rush Remastered - an amazeballs open-world high-flying adventure.
Hype-O-Meter: Alright, fine. I want it. Happy?
And it's not so much that I want it - I want that box with that cover art. Look at this cover art!
Glorious. It's the type of thing Insomniac used to put on the inside of the reversible covers for Resistance. Simple. Artful. Gorgeous.
So - oh, I guess I should explain what Gravity Rush is. It was originally meant to be a PS3 game, but they switched development to the Vita back when Sony still cared about the Vita. It's an open-world adventure/platformer, basically, but the hook is (beyond the incredible art style and incredible music) the fact that Kat - our blond friend up there - can alter her personal gravity at will, thanks to the superpowers of Dusty, a tempermental cat-shaped tear in time and space that accompanies her. If she walks off a ledge, she'll always fall - but which direction she falls is at your complete control - so "down" can be straight up, if you wish, launching her into the sky, or it can be sideways, allowing her to prance along the sides of buildings, or down and a little to the left. Any direction you can point your view at (see: all), you start falling in.
If controlling that sounds complicated and weird, don't worry - it actually works amazingly well. Think of Gravity Rush as a game that controls like a third-person shooter, but Kat is both the gun and the bullet - and as she blasts along sideways, threading the needle between the skyscrapers and among crisscrossing underbelly of the (beautiful) floating city of Hekseville, you can re-aim and re-shoot her in any direction, at any time.
|Falling with style.|
It ends up feeling, at the end of the day, like a kind of phenomenal open-world platformer. Gravity Rush got the feel and speed and glory of flying so right, one boggles at how so many other games got it so wrong, and it's also one of the loveliest let's-just-faff-around-this-open-world-collecting-powerup-gems games since inFamous: Second Son.
If you don't have a Vita or just never tried Gravity Rush, you can have this hot up-port (handled by the excellent porting studio Bluepoint) on your PS4 for just thirty bucks. If - like me - you love that box art and want a physical copy for your very own, good news! It was going to be digital-only until fan backlash encouraged Sony to step up, so now a physical release exists!
Bad news (sort of)! It's exclusive to Amazon.com. You can't get it at your local Best Buy or GameStop, and I can't buy it from Amazon.ca. So if you want a physical copy for your physical shelf, clickie el linkie.
Oh, it also has all the DLC from the Vita version (some new missions that net you new costumes - but about a third of the way through the main game you'll find a nice collared shirt, sweater vest and skirt outfit that you'll never want to take off). So yeah. It was a nine out of ten on Vita, I'll predict it'll be a solid seven-point-five on PS4, leaning towards an eight.
Oops, reviews are already out. It's an eight point one.
Megadimension Neptunia VII - a JRPG.
Hype-O-Meter: These games definitely have their market...
...and I'll admit, I enjoyed what little I played of that Neptunia game I picked up for my Vita last year. The Hyperdimension Neptunia games started out as almost-joke games, in which anthropomorphized personifications of gaming systems (the PS3, Wii, Xbox 360, and the Neptune - a console that SEGA was going to make, but never did), in the guise of adorable teenage girls, fight to save their world of video games from, y'know, JRPG bad guys.
They're decent, funny, cute games, but they'll never show up on Game of the Year lists. Word is Megadimension Neptunia VII makes some heavy changes to the battle system, and positioning has become hugely important. What little insight I could find from importers and folks prepping their reviews for the 2nd seem pretty positive! It got a 32/40 from Famitsu when it launched in Japan last year.
|The best tactical strategy game of all time is back to beat the shit out of you.|
February 5th - PC - Hype-O-Meter: Oh, God I want to play it so bad.
Firaxis's XCOM: Enemy Within was one of the Games of the Decade when it dropped on PCs and consoles in 2012. Abundantly simple to learn and gloriously complicated to master, it is the alpha and omega of combat strategy, where ease of use meets absolutely towering tactical challenge, and supreme satisfaction on the part of the player.
Easily one of my favorite games of all time.
And the sequel - which adds so many layers of new depth and strategies - is PC-exclusive because they wanted to heavily support the modding community.
So... Alex will let me know how awesome it is, I'm sure. I need a sad GIF in here...
|All console gamers are Jin, in the rain, staring at XCOM 2.|
Which reminds me, Alex's Darkest Dungeon review is excellent and you should read it.
Alekhine's Gun - a stealth-action attempt.
PS4, One, PC
Hype-O-Meter - stand back. We know nothing, John Snow.
Far too little is known about Alekhine's Gun to make any sort of prediction on its quality. What we do know is that it's been in semi-active development for far too long, and back when it was going to be called Death to Spies 3, the game tried to get crowdfung through Indiegogo (which failed). Then it tried to crowdfund again through Kickstarter (also failed), and then it got kind of picked up by a developer/publisher called Maximum Family Games whose greatest claims to fame are called Farm Simulator (they've since rebranded to 'Maximum Games'.)
So. Third-person stealth/action. That's easy to fuck up on a good day. A developer with no cred, a publisher with no cred. Stay back. Stay farrr back.
This one might surprise us - but it would be a surprise, because nobody in their right mind is expecting the next Hitman, here.
|The awesomest rootin' tootin' parkourin' open-world co-op zombie game evarrr.|
Now with improved everything. And more of it.
February 9th - PS4, One, PC - Hype-O-Meter: Day One!
I'm not usually one to buy "complete" or "game of the year" editions until six months later, on sale in a bargain bin (unless we're talking a Souls game) - but Dying Light is definitely an exception to that rule. It is, without question, my favorite zombie game of all time, and you can click that link above to discover why. It's wonderful, and one of those games I am exceedingly thankful for.
The Enhanced Edition - beyond offering the colossal The Following addon, which boasts a new map that is literally twice the size of the entire original game - offers a slew of, well, enhancements.
- Legend System
- Nightmare Difficulty
- Bounties System
- New Parkour Moves
- New Enemy Attacks & Behaviors
- New NPC Models
- Enhanced Facial Expressions
- Improved Human Enemy AI
- Improved Volatile AI
- Greater Firearm Variety
- HUD and Video Filter Customizations
- Audio Upgrades
- Console (PS4/Xbox One) Performance Upgrades
- Overall Game Look and Feel Improvements
Unravel - an adorable little platformer.
PS4, One, PC
Hype-O-Meter: If this month were a dry spell, I'd probably check it out.
Unravel is da kyootest widdow physics-based pwatformer you've ever seen. Or at least da kyootest one since LittleBIGplanet. Indie studio Coldwood have not... done... much. Or at least not much that we care about. They made some (kinda' bad) games in the past (Move Fitness and The Fight: Lights Out for Sony's doomed peripheral), but Unravel showed enough promise for Electronic Arts to step in and pick it up as publisher.
And they don't do that much. Nothing I've seen indicates that Unravel is less than enchanting, so this is definitely one to keep an eye on.
Assassin's Creed Chronicles: Russia - a 2D stealth platformer.
PS4, One, PC (and eventually Vita)
Hype-O-Meter: ...dare I?
Chamberlain tried to tell me (see: the podcasts) that Assassin's Creed Chronicles are an easygoing version of Mark of the Ninja that he can get behind. Which, naturally, made me lose my shit.
I want to be believe that, so I watched gameplay. And it doesn't look like something I'd enjoy. I'd love to love a game like this, but dare I spend a whole ten of my dollars to find out?
Well, I wasted that much on Saturday Morning RPG last week, so perhaps I do dare. Perhaps I do...
Firewatch - a first-person adventure, set in 1989.
PS4, One, PC, OSX
Hype-O-Meter: This is an indie to watch.
So. In Firewatch, you're a fire warden in the Wyoming wilderness, and there's some sort of mystery afoot! Someone may be watching you, or something, and someone trashed your lookout post! And the only person you ever speak to is this lady Delilah on the radio (your relationship with her is affected by dialogue choices), but are we sure Delilah is even real?
Fledgling studio Campo Santo may not have many (see: any) previous games under their belt, but the studio is comprised of some talented dudes. We're talking Jake Rodkin and Sean Vanaman, the creative leads on Telltale's The Walking Dead, Nels Anderson, lead designer on Mark of the Ninja, and celebrated artist Olly Moss.
Those names alone are enough to pop a huge ping on my gaming radar, and nudge Firewatch up on my hype list - but am I going to be playing this when I could be playing an enhanced version of Dying Light?
No. Will I try it later in the year when there's a dry spell?
Arslan: The Warriors of Legend - a Musou game.
PS4, PS3, One, PC
Arslan: The Warriors of Legend is a Musou game (Dynasty Warriors, Samurai Warriors, et cetera until the end of days), based on the anime adaptation of the manga adaptation of the celebrated series of fourteen fantasy novels which began publication in 1986.
It looks very nice. There's a demo up on PS4 if you're into that sort of thing.
Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm 4 - a gorrrgeous but lightweight fighting game.
PS4, One, PC
Hype-O-Meter: This will end up in my library. One day...
...because they're not the best fighting games in the world. They're not the best adventure games in the world. They're not the best narratives, but oh my God these are the most gorgeously-realized anime-style fights you've ever fucking seen.
Now I do do hyperbole. I do. I know that. But it is not hyperbole when I tell you that these games look and animate better than anything I have ever seen out of actual Naruto animation. They're just insanely gorgeous, and worth playing for the spectacle and art alone.
And so, one day, I will.
|Poppa's got a brand new bag.|
February 16th - PS4, PC - Hype-O-Meter: I'll look to like, if looking liking move.
I haven't loved a fighting game since Virtua Fighter 5: Final Tuned, but I want to, man. I love them. Or at least I used to.
Chamberlain - who I absolutely defer to, when it comes to fighting games - assures me that with Street Fighter V, Capcom have dialed back the barrier to entry after the repeated complexities added to SF IV. I've heard the game is a bit slower-paced than its predecessor, and more tactical - which appeals to me. But I've heard that shit before. The thing is, I still want to believe it.
I want to believe that maybe - just maybe - I can spend enough time with Chun Li to actually express myself the same way I could with Lei Fei in Virtua Fighter, and if nothing else, five is so goddamned gorgeous that I'm willing to spend eighty bucks to find out.
Even if it's not for me, if you're a fan of fighters, you probably already have your preorder down. This is gonna' be where all the cool kids fight for the next half-decade, so you might wanna' get in on the ground floor.
Layers of Fear - a "psychedelic horror" game.
PS4, One, PC, Mac, Linux
Layers of Fear is one of those creepy games where you like, go into a room, but when you turn around the door is gone! And when you turn back to the room something has moved or is now twisted and weird - and you stumble, ranting and bawling, through this maddening fun house as you try desperately to paint your masterpiece. Also weird - this is from Bloober Team, which made the most infamously-horrible PS4 game ever released, Basement Crawl.
Media has been going hands-on with Layers of Fear for a while, and have had pretty darned positive things to say about it. Perhaps their luck has changed..?
|An open-world first-person action game.|
February 23rd - PS4, One, PC - Hype-O-Meter: ...alright fine, Day One.
I love the last two Far Cry games. I love Far Cry 3 and I love Far Cry 4, but I am very... cautious about Primal. It's coming out just over a year after the series' last installment - as if Ubisoft is trying to pull an Assassin's Creed with their other successful triple-A franchise - and that never ends well.
I can't imagine many stone-age weapons (beyond a bow) that I'm excited about using, this thing feels very cash-in, but...
...man, I'd like this to be awesome. As awesome as it could be. As awesome as a game in which you get to like, tame cave bears and sabre-toothed tigers and explore a vast primordial wilderness. That could be an amazing game, and the basic structure and mechanics of Far Cry 3-4 could do very well there.
Recent gameplay and story clips have encouraged me, a bit, to not be so suspicious of Primal - and the fact that the first books I remember my father reading to me, as a child, were Jean M. Auel's Earth's Children series, in which the heroic Ayla became the first human to tame a horse, and fighting cave bears and taking down mammoths were a matter of course. There is a great romance in me, for that era and those creatures and... I'd love to wander that world.
So yeah, Far Cry Primal. You're in.
Also Plants Vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare 2 is gonna' be out on the 23rd but seriously who cares?
* * *
And that's February!
I'm almost glad XCOM 2 isn't coming to consoles, 'cause I have way too much to play coming up.
Wait, I didn't mean that. That was an awful thing to say.
I didn't mean it, Firaxis.