After a wan July, August sweeps in with a lot of interesting, high-profile or otherwise cool titles. Disney steps into the fray with their own riff on Skylanders and LittleBigPlanet, the Vita continues its recent trend as a lean, mean indie machine, Take 2 finally drops their controversial action-centric take on XCOM, Square Enix really hopes you'll forget how terrible their most recent MMO was at launch, Suda 51 returns and Nintendo, finally, releases a big, proper, triple-A 3D high-def game for the Wii U, nine months after the console's launch.
Pikmin 3, an action-strategy adventure-puzzler
Hype-O-Meter : This only took nine years.
Fans have been begging for a new Pikmin for nearly a decade, and those who've gone hands-on with Pikmin 3 insist it's gorgeous, and the first genuinely new-gen thing Nintendo's put out. It features an army of adorable, living floral agents under your (adorable) control as you make your way through the underbrush of a forest, collecting fruit for your home planet and fighting awesome bosses.
|A Golden Axe-like action-RPG.|
August 6th - PS3, Vita - Hype-O-Meter : Oh my God yesss!
Remember playing Super Nintendo or Genesis back in the day, looking at those big, gorgeous, animated sixteen-bit sprites and thinking "man, things are gonna' be so much better-looking next gen"?
Then the next gen happened, and polygons became the name of the game. But there's one studio that never stopped with the 2D. One studio that just kept getting better and better at it over the years, and its name is Vanillaware. Vanillaware's previous efforts include action-RPG Princess Crown for the Sega Saturn, weird RTS GrimGrimoire and sublime action-RPG Odin Sphere for the PS2, and most recently the orgasmic Muramasa for Wii and Vita.
GrimGrimoire I couldn't get into - it suffered the same console limitations as all RTSs, and couldn't really overcome them - but Vanillaware makes spectacular action-RPGs. Odin Sphere was a stunningly attractive, deeply melodramatic fantasy brawler of epic proportions, and I've put no less than sixty hours (so far) into Muramasa on my Vita - a game which proved Vanillaware are more than capable of making a slick, rich combat system of pleasing depth and tight control.
More than that, these guys are basically the Naughty Dog of 2D. Their games are nothing less than luxurious. Sumptuous titles so rich in detail, so spectacular in their presentation and so considered in design that it one almost gets a little choked up by how supernaturally beautiful the games are, in every single way.
Dragon's Crown is the single title dropping in August that I am all but guaranteed of adoring. It will offer dozens (if not hundreds) of hours of content, standard-setting production values, satisfying challenge, ridiculously deep mechanics and slick, gleeful combat.
If you don't have a preorder down on Dragon's Crown - I don't think I've ever said this before - you should get one. The game's already pretty hard to find in Japan, having sold out almost everywhere after its recent launch.
Payday 2 - it's kinda' like Left 4 Dead mixed with Heat.
PS3, 360, PC
Hype-O-Meter : Worth keeping an eye on.
Payday: The Heist was an interesting game, pitting a team of co-opping human players against a series of bank jobs and robberies against AI guards and police. It got some timed exclusivity on PS3, received a PC port, and enjoyed a modicum of success thanks to how damned different it managed to be, and the unique fantasy it evokes.
Payday 2 has received nothing but positive buzz when folks are able to lay hands on it. With deep stealth options for keeping yourself and your team hidden from scrutiny throughout heists and tighter mechanics, Payday 2 may end up providing the windfall developer Overkill has been gunning for.
Dishonored : The Brigmore Witches, campaign DLC for Dishonored.
PS3, 360, PC
Hype-O-Meter : I loves me some Dishonored.
The Brigmore Witches is the conclusion of the story begun in The Knife of Dunwall DLC this past April. You'll return to the boots of master assassin Daud, ferreting out the mystery of the supernatural powers that want you dead.
The Knife of Dunwall was a delicious dish at ten bucks, offering a welcome deeper look into the world of Dishonored - and I would definitely day-one this if I didn't expect to be eyeballs-deep in Dragon's Crown.
Disney Infinity, which is Disney-themed Skylanders meets LittleBigPlanet lite.
PS3, 360, Wii, Wii U, 3DS, PC
Hype-O-Meter : The kids will love it.
The starter kit comes with figures for Pirates of the Caribbean, Monsters Inc. and The Incredibles.
It works like this - each character brings their own "play set" into the game. You can run around the play set's pre-built Pirates levels as Captain Jack, but not as Sully or Mr. Incredible, for example. Because you have those three toy boxes, however, you can enjoy all three in "toy box" mode, which is where the LBP bit comes in.
You can build and design your own world with all the assets your play sets contain, and then run around them with any of the characters you've collected so far. Cars and The Lone Ranger content has also been announced, but you'll have to buy them separately in-stores starting at $12.99, just like a Skylanders figurine.
If this catches on, it's gonna' make a fortune.
DuckTales Remastered, a classic 2D platformer reborn in HD.
PS3, 360, Wii U, PC
Hype-O-Meter : See, I never really got in to the first one, so...
I mean, I played it. It was good. It was nicely hard core and had slick graphics, for back in the day - like Chip n' Dale's Rescue Rangers and Tiny Toon Adventures - and if you want a decent little platformer, you could do a lot worse. You could also do a lot better, but its price should be on the slender side - and who doesn't like a nice HD 2D platformer?
No one who counts, that's for sure.
The Walking Dead, the modern-classic adventure drama comes to
Hype-O-Meter : I do wanna' play Season 2 on Vita...
The glorious second coming of the adventure genre, replete with good art direction, a fine script and major emotional impact comes to Vita on August 20th. Season 1 was excellent and 400 Days was pretty damned good, but do I really want to buy TWD a third time?
Damnit, I think I do.
|An orgy of open-world action-craziness.|
August 20th - PS3, 360, PC - Hype-O-Meter : I really should try Saints Row: The Third one day...
I've got the free copy off PS+. It's just sitting there on my hard drive, but the Vita's kept me so busy lately I just haven't had the time. This wouldn't usually trouble me, but Saints Row: The Third enjoys exactly the type of reputation I value - the game is said to be fun, and who cares about anything else?
The Saints Row series first set out to challenge GTA's street-tough crown, and quickly changed course to present its own, zanier take on open-world shenanigans where absolutely nothing is off-limits for gameplay mechanics or storyline nuttiness. Saints Row IV looks to extrapolate even further on that strategy, given that a large chunk of the game takes place in an artificial reality constructed by evil aliens attempting to take over the earth - a false world which permits the player the sort of fantastical locomotion you'll find in games like Prototype and Crackdown.
It just looks... well, fun.
The Bureau : XCOM Declassified, a squad-based tactical third-person sci-fi shooter.
PS3, 360, PC
Hype-O-Meter : I'll look to like.
Full disclosure - I've got a preorder down on this. But not because I'm sure it will be a good, fun game. I've got a preorder down because I want it to be a good, fun game.
The Bureau began its life simply as XCOM, the classic isometric, turn-based strategy game re-imagined as a somewhat-samey first person shooter.
XCOM fans are passionate fans, and the public backlash was swift and severe. As someone who'd never tried the classic strategy exercise, I liked the idea of running around in a dapper 1950s hat, shooting aliens with an old pump-action shotgun - but then Firaxis (of Civilization fame) stepped forward with XCOM: Enemy Unknown, which was totally awesome and a huge success.
Taking feedback from the fans and leaning on the success of Firaxis's efforts, 2K Marin re-created their first-person shooter as a third-person, squad based, tactical sci-fi exercise that looks far more like Mass Effect than DOOM, replete with art assets and even the fonts used in Enemy Unknown. The jury is still well and truly out on how successful it'll be, but I've seen a gameplay walkthrough where the player cleared an entire area without ever firing a shot, relying entirely on canny squad movement and ordered abilities.
...it could work. And I want it to.
Divekick, a two-button fighter that started as a joke, but is said to be major fun.
PS3, Vita, PC
Hype-O-Meter : ...it's said to be major fun.
Divekick began with two guys joking about a fighting game that only used the heavily-abused "divekick" mechanics so common in fighting games - a leap into the air followed by a much faster descent with a foot on the business end. And lo, Divekick was born.
It got a bit of buzz around it, enough to get picked up by a large(r) game studio. As it's been shown around at game conventions, crowds will gather around this weird little fighter that only features three moves, and I've heard far too many tales of just how fun it ends up being. You can press the kick button to do a "kickback" and gain some distance from your opponent, you can jump, and once in the air you can press kick to perform the titular maneuver.
The game's ostensible simplicity hides the depth that I'm told comes from such a tight system, and it's very encouraging that everyone who's laid hands on it describes it with the F word. A two-button, one-hit-kill fighting game, in which the main characters are called Dive and Kick.
...wonder what the price tag will be?
Killer is Dead, a stylish brawler from Suda 51.
Hype-O-Meter : It'll definitely be different.
From legendary weirdo Suda 51 (No More Heroes, Shadows of the Damned, Lollipop Chainsaw), Killer is Dead appears to be something of a dark spiritual sequel to the No More Heroes games, with an ultracool secret-agent-lookin' hero with a transforming cybernetic arm who crisscrosses the globe to execute underworld figures with a samurai sword and to make it with hot, scantily-clad babes.
I enjoyed Shadows of the Damned and Lollipop Chainsaw far more than I did Suda's earlier work - but it's worth noting that both of those games were produced by him, not directed. He's back in the director's chair for Killer is Dead, and I fear that may mean the gameplay will be less than pleasing - but hey, at least he's still got Akira Yamaoka doin' the music.
Final Fantasy XIV Online : A Realm Reborn, Squenix's hard-done-by MMO.
PS3, PC (coming eventually to PS4)
Hype-O-Meter : Is it fixed? No, seriously, is it fixed?
Final Fantasy XIV Online crashed and burned when it debuted back in 2010, and A Realm Reborn is host to a litany of fixes, tweaks and improvements to the embattled game. Will ARR actually bring the game up to FFXI Online's level of respectability?
Only time will tell - but I'll admit, I still have a soft spot for Tarutarus and the exploits of an Elvaan Samurai named Chance who rolled through the hills of Sarutabaruta impressing Japanese players (a serious thrill), making friends and discovering my long-favored smilie : ^.^
Pushed to September. [/update]
Lone Survivor : Director's Cut, a post-apocalyptic 2D retro psycho-survival horror.
PS3, Vita (already available on PC, Mac & Linux)
Hype-O-Meter : more indie deliciousness on the go.
Single-handedly produced by a fellow named Jasper Byrne, Lone Survivor is another original, award-winning indie brought to the Vita via maestro Shahid Ahmad. Given that the platform is entirely devoid of survival horror (unless you count PS1 classics, which I don't), Lone Survivor is definitely worth checking out.
Luftrausers, a high-flyin' retro flight shooter.
PS3, Vita, PC, Mac, Linux
Hype-O-Meter : yet more indie deliciousness on the go.
Not to be confused with a shoot 'em up or bullet hell game (though you do shoot them up, and there is a helluva lot of bullets flying around), Luftrausers is the latest thing from Vlambeer, an indie darling studio responsible for Super Crate Box and the Apple Design Award-winning Ridiculous Fishing.
Your little custom-built plane (which has three interchangeable parts and a ton of possible combinations) swoops and loops around the game's 2D plane, taking out enemy fighters and laying waste to their ships. Looks like a nice, twitchy little actioner.
Starlight Inception, an open-"solar system" space flight/combat game.
PC, PS3, Vita
Hype-O-Meter : Man I want this to happen.
If you enjoyed classic spacefaring PC games like Wing Commander, X-Wing and TIE Fighter, Starlight Inception is like a wet dream come true. Successfully Kickstarted last year, the game's development has been (distressingly) quiet ever since. The most recent thing we've heard from the dev is a confirmation in early July that they're still on course to make the game's August release, but there's been no mention of the PS3 or Vita versions.
I reached out to developer Escape Hatch last week in hopes of an update, but have yet to hear back anything more solid about the game's progress for the PS3 and Vita. I'll update if I get anything!
[update] The August release is looking unlikely - but it sounds like it's still coming along with both PS3 and Vita versions, at least! Eee! [/update]
* * *
And that's August! A pretty smexy-lookin' month, if I do say so myself - but that may just be the Vanillalust speaking. Man I really want Starlight Inception to happen on Vita.