Sunday, February 28, 2016

FEATURE - The Games of March 2016.

After the triple-A barrage of February saw Gravity Rush, XCOM 2, Dying Light: The Following, Street Fighter 5 and Far Cry Primal, March settles down to a more-standard, relatively lightweight month - par for the course, for this early in a year - but it also offers several of 2016's dark horse heavyweight contenders.  There are a nice handful of games this month that could be amazing... but we just aren't sure yet.

For starters, remember how Alekhine's Gun was supposed to come out February 9th?  Well, it got pushed - so I'm just going to copy-paste the spiel from last month.

March 1st
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 crowdfundagain 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 calledFarm 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. 

March 1st
Broforce - an endlessly patriotic sidescrolling platformer.
PS4 (already available on PC)
Hype-O-Meter: Free's a fine price, so Day One. I woulda' been hyped for a Vita version.

But naturally, the Vita version was quietly cancelled last year, so PS4 is the best we're gonna' get.  Boo.

Broforce is a gleeful send-up and celebration of American action bro-titude, with a variety of pixellated riffs on your favorite classic action stars and... actually pretty damned awesome trailers.  There's Rambro, B.A. Broracus, Bro Hard, MacBrover, Bro Dredd, Snake Broskin, the Brominator, Brobocop, Ash Brolliams, Bronan the Brobarian and Ellen Ripbro - to name but a few - and action sprawls across completely-destructible pixel-art environments, so you can literally carve your way through these levels in defense of freedom, or something.

It's at 100% approval on steam, with a Metascrore of 83 - and it'll be free with PS+, so why not give it a shot?

March 1st
Mortal Kombat XL - it's like a Game of the Year edition, except it's a fighting game.
PS4, One
Hype-O-Meter:  I'm no good at fighting games.

But Chamberlain assures me Mortal Kombat X is actually a super-solid one, to the point that it would be a reasonable tourney entry, and I'll admit I enjoyed my time with (the story mode of) MKX last year to a far, far larger degree than I'd anticipated.

XL collects all of the DLC and characters that have ever been released for the game (and that is a significant amount of stuff, for the record), all for... the same full price you'd expect to pay for a new release game.

A twin-stick shooter that's still coming to Vita (eventually).
March 8th - PS4 (already available on PC), Vita (eventually but not now) 
Hype-O-Meter: This looks fun! Day One.

Like Broforce, Assault Android Cactus also enjoys a 100% approval rating on Steam - its Metascore is a bit lower, at 79 - but I don't care, 'cause I seem to like everything I've ever seen of this game.  Just for starters, the developing studio is called Witch Beam - which is kinda' cool on its own, but their logo is just spectacular.

Anyone who doesn't love this logo is wrong.

Cactus is a rock, rock-hard twin-stick shooter with a small collection of heroic killer androids who each play vastly different from the next.  As you play through its linear series of levels (which are surprisingly well-presented, for an indie title), the floors will shift and rearrange themselves beneath you as an endless supply of robotic enemies pour out of the woodwork to end your little 'droid.  She, in the meantime, is just mowing down the things at a breathless pace, because as long as you're playing the game, her battery is draining - and the only way to obtain more battery charge is to kill as many enemies as you can, as quickly as possible.

It has your standard twin-stick shooter additions - pickups will significantly buff your heroes' main weapon, movement speed and so on, and each hero has a powerful but short-lived alt-fire you'll want to be switching to constantly.  Also they're all adorable.

Here, watch some gameplay (I suggest at least the first four minutes - it's charming).

March 8th
Tom Clancy's The Division
PS4, One, PC
Hype-O-Meter: I don't trust Ubisoft.

Or that's what I told the manager of my local EB Games last week - in the same breath admonishing myself for  picking up Far Cry Primal - when he asked me if I had a preorder down on The Division.  He told me hype for the game hadn't been very high, but there had been an open beta test lately, and after that preorders "absolutely skyrocketed," and told me the game was amazeballs.  Then he dropped some pressure about how it'll be impossible to find without a preorder on launch day, so - and I'm a bit embarrassed by this - I threw five bucks on it, on the off chance that in a week we're going to see an explosion of 9s and 10s proclaiming this, finally, to be the open-world third-person massively-multiplayer shooter/RPG we've been waiting for.

But I doubt it.  It's Ubisoft, and they are not to be trusted.  That being said, I'm pullin' for them to wiggle out from under that takeover bid.  Fingers crossed!

Wide-open-level stealth.
March 11th - PS4, One, PC - Hype-O-Meter: Day One.

Square Enix own quite a few storied western franchises, now, but I've found myself enjoying what they've done with 'em.  Deus Ex: Human Revolution was pretty darned good, the Tomb Raider reboot was spectacular, and despite its problems I absolutely loved Hitman: Absolution.  Still, being Squenix, there's weirdness, here.

The game won't be just released on March 11th.  Instead, you'll be able to pay 15 bucks - digital-only - for the first chapter.  A month later you can pay 10 bucks for the next chapter and so on until you've given Squenix sixty-five bucks.  Then, at the end of the year, they'll release it for the full price again on a physical disc (which I'm probably gonna' buy), because... despite all the confusion, despite the weirdness of making Hitman episodic... io Interactive have never let me down.

They've experimented, they've given me too much of this, on occasion, and not enough of that - and no Hitman game has been perfect - but they've all been games that I love.  Or at least, they have been since Hitman II: Silent Assassin.

And that's the important thing.  Agent 47 remains under the care of his creators at io Interactive, Hitman looks gorgeous on the new consoles, and I'm absolutely down for more sneaky adventures with the world's most stylish stoic.

March 15th
Aegis of Earth: Protonovus Assault - a tower-defense... puzzle... shooter... thing.
PS4, Vita
Hype-O-Meter: I don't understand how you play this game.

Okay, so imagine a city laid out in rings like a tree.  Smaller in the middle, big on the outside.  Placed in each of those rings are buildings that will transform into giant miniguns or rocket launchers or beam weapons, and it's laid out like that because this city is constantly beset by kaiju - giant monsters intent on wrecking the metropolis.

The rings can spin to aim your weaponry in the necessary direction to eliminate the threat, and I've seen footage of things going like first-person-turret shooting, but I have no idea who this game is for, what the genre is, or why Aksys Games (whom I adore) would see it and decide to localize it.

But they did, and that's most of the reason it's on this list.  Someone at Aksys thought this was good enough to spend money and time localizing.  It can't be that bad.  Maybe it's super-fun?

Superfun Titty-Brawler Part II: The Beach Episode.
March 15th - PS4, Vita - Hype-O-Meter: Day One.

If you had told me a year ago that in twelve months' time I would be preordering the next Senran Kagura game, I would have called you a liar and demanded to know why you would think something so patently stupid.  You would have then told me "because it's super-fun!"  And I would have incredulously barked "seriously?"

But last year - about nine months after Senran Kagura: Shinovi Versus landed on Vita in North America - after hearing over and over again from so many Vita players that yes, it is really fun, it wound up on sale on the PlayStation Network and I figured "why not, let's give it a shot."

And... well shit.  It is.  It is really fun.  It's a fun crashy-smashy brawler with graphics way better than you'd expect on Vita and a huge roster of actually, legitimately charismatic heroines.  Heroines with giant, totally-unrealistic, barely-concealed Jell-O-jiggling breasts.
"Ignoring the (fun, stylish) combat and (oddly successful) story, one could safely suggest that [Senran Kagura:] Shinovi Versus is a game which is entirely dedicated to boobs, and all the boobing they do." -from the review-
It's the whole #JapanBoobs thing that kept me away from Shinovi Versus for those nine months, because c'mon, Japan.  This is uncomfortable.  And Estival Versus, it's worth noting, is the series' beach episode.  It is the beach episode of a franchise that is essentially one big ocean-front holiday.

I agree that there are some very serious problems in our culture and worldwide surrounding the objectification of women and how they are valued - and if you think there aren't, go watch some Anita Sarkeesian videos and keep an open mind, because she ain't often wrong.

And it's fine to recoil at something that so brazenly ignores the sensitivity we've embraced.  It's healthy, I imagine.  Or at the very least normal - particularly in North America, where we refuse to think openly about sex, nevermind talk about it.  It's certainly what made me ignore the game as completely-unworthy of my attention for most of 2015 - but there's a further danger, there, of simply recoiling at sexuality.  This game was selling itself on sex appeal, so I ignored it.

But... when it comes down to it, I don't think that sex and sexuality are unhealthy.  It's good and correct to be thoughtful about and critical of the media we consume - and it's good and healthy to enjoy something fun and sexy for the sake of sexy fun.

like sex.  I like sexy stuff.  And I love a good brawler - so Senran Kagura: Estival Versus has been a day-one purchase ever since I got my head around the combat system of Shinovi.  It'll be a fun, sexy time.

"March", or that's what they said last year.
Day of the Tentacle Remastered - the classic comedy/adventure, now in HD.
PS4, Vita, PC
Hype-O-Meter: Day One, just to say "thanks Schafer, now Full Throttle please!"

Full disclosure: I never actually played Grim Fandango Remastered.  It's one of those the-Vita-actually-has-too-many-games-to-play situations, but I did make sure to buy it before it went on PlayStation Plus's freebie list in January.  It's like game development is a democracy, and I'm voting for more charismatic stuff from Tim Schafer & Co. with my cash money.

Between you, me and the world, the one I'm really dying for is Full Throttle - which I never got to play, back in the day, but I probably beat that demo like a million times.

March 18th
Pokkén Tournament - a fighting game, but with Pokémon.
Wii U
Hype-O-Meter: Look kids, games are still comin' out for the Wii U!

Better get it while it's hot, 'cause the thing will be discontinued come November!

But seriously folks, continuing the recent trend of third-party Japanese dev houses taking up Nintendo properties (see: Hyrule Warriors from Koei Tecmo), Pokkén Tournament is a straight-up fighting game from Namco Bandai - y'know, the dudes who make Tekken.

And this doesn't appear to be just a lip-service attempt.  The game's director is... the dude who makes Tekken - so it may have some genuine chops.  It's been out in the wild, in arcades in Japan since last July (where it was famously removed from arcades due to low profitability, as a single play could last 45 minutes) - but no reviews.  Unless you count this Forbes article with some anecdotal, negative comments from Japanese arcade-goers (less-than-perfect controls, not enough characters, no real bosses).

But y'know who won't give a shit about how it performed in Japanese arcades?  American kids with Pokéballs on their hats.

March 22nd
Trackmania Turbo - an infinite-player asynchronous racer with infinite user-generated tracks.
PS4, One, PC
Hype-O-Meter: Day one.  For Chamberlain.

I'm not much of a racer guy - lately I've been gently tempted by that Sonic racer that was supposedly not-bad on Vita - but the Trackmania series has been around for over a decade, now, and its fans are both loyal and ravenous.

The idea is you can have all these cards on the track together because there is no collision between them in Trackmania.  All it comes down to is who can drive this course the best - and then, of course, the 'mania' comes in to play, via an endless supply of increasingly-insane user-created tracks to race on.

There is definitely a market for this.

Co-op twin-stick shooter.  From Housemarque.
March 23rd - PS4 - Hype-O-Meter:  "From Housemarque."  Day One.

Housemarque are the folks who made Super Stardust, Dead Nation and Resogun.  They are the absolute masters of the twin-stick shooter, and their games are less pastimes than martial arts.

Alienation is simply the next thing from them, and therefor it gets an instant purchase and a zero-percent chance of buyer's remorse.  You're like a space marine and you shoot aliens in co-op or something.  Don't care.  Doesn't matter.  Housemarque.

March 23rd
Trillion: God of Destruction - a strategy RPG
Hype-O-Meter: Doesn't look like my kinda' thing,

but I love that the Vita is home to weird crap like this.  There's an RPG on there with the subtitle "Curse of the Great Curry God."  What with variety being the spice of life, the Vita is a terribly piquant portable.

Trillion is entirely based around levelling up a squad of demons (via training, practice and story choices) that prepare them to face off against the titular boss, Trillion - who naturally has 1,000,000,000,000 hit points.  It's from Compile Heart, who are responsible for the aforementioned Curry-themed Roguelike and the Hyperdimension Neptunia series - so expect something serviceable, solid but perhaps a bit lightweight - though heavy on charm.

An action-RPG.
March 29th - PS4 (no word on Vita localization) - Hype-O-Meter: I am interested...

...because it's the first action-RPG from Gust (Atelier, Ar Tonelico, Nosurge).  Gust don't do bad games - they do neat, comfortable and often interesting ones.  The story involves a warrior who's best friends with the lady who'll be sacrificed to appease some ancient evil, or something, and so I suspect the platinum-blonde badass above won't take that sitting down.

So you go out and beat the crap out of monsters and collect an arsenal of servans - demonic servants who assist you in battle (up to 4 at a time), attacking foes or acting in support roles.  So expect something solid, expect some rather byzantine game systems and some lovely art direction.

Definitely worth checkin' out.

And that's March!

Oop you thought you were getting out of here without seeing another SK image.  You thought wrong. 

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