Unlike the mostly-barren wastes that were July, August is the first course of a coming five-star meal through sexy video game land. An appetizer - a petite amuse-bouche, if you will - to whet our appetites for what Fall 2014 has in store. Before we get down with some intergalactic action, some new-gen Rockstar, some French Assassins and some Himalayan hijinks, the games of August would like a word.
The Swapper, a critically-acclaimed, atmospheric indie puzzle-platformer.
PS4, PS3, Vita
Hype-O-Meter: Well I was gonna' give it a pass until Gio was like "it's soooo goood" and now I'm all "hmmm..."
A critical darling after its PC launch in 2013, The Swapper enjoyed a brief period of major buzz and universally-positive reviews, and disappeared from all radars. This year, it re-emerges on the PlayStation platforms as part of Sony's summer Play promotion. A short-but-sweet game that's long on atmosphere and short on playtime, I want to check it out - but between The Ratchet & Clank Collection and Rogue Legacy (both released on July 29th), I doubt my Vita will be hurting for games by August 5th.
Hohokum, a trippy-as-balls, adorable little... thing.
PS4, PS3, Vita
Hype-O-Meter: Kawaii, neh?
Hohokum isn't easily boiled down to your standard genre descriptors. It's very colorful, has a ton of personality and appears to consist of guiding a very long, color-shifting eyeball-sperm through a series of delightful scenarios, flying and looping around the game world like an acid-tripped Kohaku from Spirited Away. For a more informative glance at what the game actually is, click the link above and check out some trailers.
Then it'll make sense. Kinda'. Not really. It's a very Sony-doing-their-artsy-thing game.
|An open-world brawler, built on a foundation of an accurately-created world and constant sexual assault.|
August 12 - PS3, Vita - Hype-O-Meter: Yeah... Day One.
I shouldn't. I'm trying to spend less money on games and I doubt I'll be finished with Ratchet & Clank and Rogue Legacy by then, but Akiba's Trip wormed its way into a prominent position on my radar with this gameplay video during E3, and I've not yet come to my senses.
Lemmie' break it down for you. It's set in Tokyo's Akihabara district - where all the geeks go to buy insane shit like minature PVC women - which has been painstakingly recreated with the licensed likenesses of a crapload of real-life Akihabara shops. Those stores that let the game license them (see: most) will have their real-world signs up front, have proper layouts and will even play the actual music the stores play in real life - the others will have funny pun-laden signs that we won't get because we can't read Japanese - 130 stores in all that, yes, you can buy crap from.
It features a vast amount of character customization, from your combat maneuvers and clothes to your character's walk animation. Tons of items (I think 80) can be used as melee weapons, and you can kit out your character with any clothes your defeated foes wore.
Why, you ask? Because your enemies are science fiction vampires, of course, and they're taking over Akihabara! The only way to stop them is to punch them in their hat, shirt and pants until each item is weakened enough to be stripped off in a showy finishing move, exposing their unholy hearts to the purifying rays of the sun. That's the only way to kill a vampire.
- A game for your Vita that's not a PS2 port or an indie
- Fanservice (equal-opportunity)
Phantom Breaker: Battlegrounds, a retro 2D brawler.
Hype-O-Meter: Looks cool.
From the folks behind the (obscure-in-the-west) Phantom Breaker fighting series is Battlegrounds, a River City Random/Scott Pilgrim-esque retro-styled 2D brawler featuring some of the core series' ladies throwing down with monsters galore. It definitely looks like my cup of tea, but it's worth noting that western publisher 5pb Games said it was coming out on July 29th. Then they said it was coming out on August 5th. Apparently, there's some trouble with "the submission process" for Vita, and that's causing the delay.
Whatevs - I'll be strippin' Japanese hipster vampires raw, so I'm good.
|The most intimidating strategy JRPG in the world, now prettier!|
August 12th - Vita - Hype-O-Meter : I'm scared.
The Disgaea series was born on the PS2, and it took five years for developer Nippon Ichi to upgrade their sprites to something approaching current-gen-lovely with Disgaea 4. All Disgaeas, one should note, are available for Vita (D1-2 had PSP ports, and the PS3's Disgaea 3 got a Vita port), but 4 is the one that finally brought the series' simple, spritely presentation up to par with the high-def consoles - and so, is the one I find most appealing.
Disgaea, one should note, offers an absolutely ludicrous amount of content. It is a game in which you level up weapons by entering the weapon and taking on hundred-floor dungeons within. Ridiculously deep, willfully silly (the protagonists are always the bad guys) and wholly intimidating, I find myself gently lulled by assurances that the games can be beaten and enjoyed as your run-of-the-mill story-driven JRPGs without ever involving yourself in the obscene grinding and stat-perfecting the games permit.
I think I'll find out when it goes on sale - but if you want a JRPG this August, this is probably the one to go for.
Sword Art Online: Hollow Fragment - a single-player MMO. Kinda'. It's an RPG.
Hype-O-Meter: Buzz is good.
Import impressions of Sword Art Online: Hollow Fragment have been rather positive. It's a single-player RPG, but it's a single-player RPG based on an anime which takes place inside an MMORPG - so it's a single-player game that kinda' plays like an MMO, with an action-y, active-time battle system, tons of exploring to do and party members to recruit - which, I'll be honest, I find pretty appealing.
|An infinitely-replayable stealth action game.|
August 19th - PS4, PS3, Vita - Hype-O-Meter: Day One.
CounterSpy is my single biggest-hype game of the month, though I'll admit I say that with a tablespoon's worth of salt. I've played indie stealth games that were the best stealth that stealth has ever been, and I've played indie stealth games that felt more like work than play. There's no telling how good CounterSpy will actually be until I lay hands on it - stealth is distressingly easy to get wrong - but the simple fact that you can hurt enemies in it gives it a leg up over last year's disappointingly passive Stealth Inc.
On the surface, CounterSpy makes a compelling case for itself with a major dose of retro-cool cold-war era style...
...and promises longevity for those who find themselves seduced by its sneaky ways via that almost-ubiquitous trick - procedurally-generated levels. Not a Roguelike in any real sense, CounterSpy permits you to strengthen and kit out your Spy with a variety of upgradeable weapons and tools - and those unlocked items are what you can carry with you from the PS4 to the Vita, from randomly-generated campaign to randomly-generated campaign. You permanently level up, in a sense, and are always better-equipped to dive back in to missions against both Eastern and Western installations in your bid to stop the developed world from nuking itself.
I can dig it.
Diablo III: Ultimate Evil Edition - the big name in action-RPG lootfests.
Hype-O-Meter: I might be over Diablo III...
...but I want it. Running around a fantastical world, beating the crap out of monsters with fantastical abilities, earning fantastical gear - that's a formula that never gets old (cough Dragon's Crown coughcough). Whether or not it can stand a similar test of time on a couch console is another question, but perhaps the more pressing one is whether or not Diablo III commands any variety of real presence or importance now, over two years after its PC release.
Whether or not I take the plunge, I reckon, will depend on how my wallet is feeling at the time.
|Super-gorgeous super-powered open-world action.|
August 25th - PS4 - Hype-O-Meter: Day One.
inFamous: Second Son is not the best inFamous there's ever been, but it's still inFamous, damnit - and that makes it one of the better games of 2014 so far. It's cool that First Light, a stand-alone downloadable game (you don't need Second Son to play it), focuses on Abigail "Fetch" Walker instead of Second Son's rather douchey hero Delsin Rowe - she's more interesting, and actress Laura Bailey did an excellent job with the character.
It'll be nice, here, to see if Sucker Punch can get some of that old inFamous magic back - and I'll be first in line to find out. If nothing else, I can promise you First Light is probably going to be the best-looking action game you'll play in the second half of 2014.
Metro Redux - two last-gen atmospheric shooters for the price of one current-gen atmospheric shooter.
Hype-O-Meter : Myeh.
The Metro games have style, I'll give 'em that - but I didn't think much of Metro: Last Light when I played it in 2013. Beyond the style was a compelling, well-drawn post-apocalyptic reality - that's always cool! But I didn't find the game to be any funner than the average shooter, and its design was often needlessly obtuse. When I crossed an auto-save checkpoint and found myself in a boss fight with no ammunition, I tried, man.
I tried for like a half-hour to kill that goddamned boss. Then I came back the next day and tried again, and finally, with a knife, killed it. I walked into the next area so a checkpoint would fire, breathed a sigh of relief, and shut down the game for the night.
The next day I loaded it up again and found myself back, before the boss fight.
So no, Metro, I'll not play you again. You can fuck off.
Hyperdimension Neptunia Re;Birth 1 - a Vita port of the zany JRPG.
Hype-O-Meter: Akiba's Trip will provide quite enough fanservice, thank you...
The Hyperdimension Neptunia games take place in the world of Gameindustri, your player-character is the personification of a SEGA console that never existed, and your party members consist of similar characters based on the PS3, Nintendo Wii and Xbox 360. Now, I know all that sounds pretty cool, but it is at this point worth noting that critics universally panned the game. My dear Eurogamer gave it a two out of ten, saying "even the most ardent JRPG fan will baulk at the roughshod simplicity of the game's systems, restricting the game's audience to Japanophile anime fans who can overlook the experience's shortcomings as a videogame and approach it as a cultural curio. That is, a sexist, senseless and ultimately stupid cultural curio."
So yeah. Go with Sword Art or Disgaea 4 if you're in the JRPG market.
Minecraft - which needs no introduction.
PS4, Vita, One
The Vita is actually where I've been waiting for Minecraft to show up - perhaps, this year, finally, for $20, I'll be able to see what people were flipping out over almost four years ago.
Maybe. I think I'd rather play Diablo III.
* * *
And that's August! Some sexy indies, some (too) sexy Japanese stuff, some RPGs and a nice triple-A downloadable from Sony. Not too shabby.